All the Paths

Psalm 25:10 – “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

I don’t know about you but sometimes words of Scripture that I have read over and over jump off the page of my Bible in a new way.


This morning I was reading Psalm 25 – a text that I’ve read many times. Verses 4 & 5 often grab me: “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me.” It always brings to mind the short chorus that my hometown choir would sing after or before the pastoral prayer time. “Lead me, Lord . . .”

Or verse 7 – “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” – a reassuring word when I think about some of the mistakes and craziness of my life.

This morning, the words of verse 10 leapt off the page: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

God highlighted the word – ALL – for me. All means all, not some of the paths but all of the paths. Those paths that are easy and smooth, those that are rocky and difficult and those that are uncertain – ALL of them. The nature of the path doesn’t matter. It’s the nature of our loving and faithful Lord that matters.

Thank you, Lord, that no matter the path before me, You are ALWAYS faithful and ALWAYS extending Your steadfast love.



Christmas “Wants”

“What do you want for Christmas?”

As a little girl, the question of December was always “what do you want for Christmas?” It was Santa’s main question but it was also a question of my family and friends.  Maybe it was a way to get hints for gift-giving. Maybe it was a comparison of “want” lists. Did Deborah’s list have something on it that I had missed in my thorough examination of the Sears Christmas catalog?

Ah!  The Sears catalog – now THAT was sheer joy – an examination from first page to last of the possible new toys for the list! Sure, there were clothes in the front part of the catalog: matching Christmas pajamas, lovely red velvet Christmas dresses for Sunday School and maybe a new pair of black patent leather church shoes!  But the real fun? The pages of dolls, trucks, games, and chemistry kits (yes, already embracing my nerd-dom – never got one!) gave so many ideas for the “want” list!

Then on December 25, the question shifted to “what did you get?” Early in the morning, brother Gene and I would “patiently” wait for the ok from Mama and Daddy that we could take a look under the tree. Ever wise, my parents did not get us everything on our lists but we were always overjoyed with what we did get!

In the afternoon, we made the trip to Grandma’s house where the question could be asked of cousins: “what did you get for Christmas?” As I got older, I made the call or the ride to see what Elizabeth got from Santa. When we went back to school, we continued to ask the question of classmates. Everyone was comparing, admiring – maybe with a little jealousy – the gifts of Santa!

What do you want for Christmas?
As I’ve talked with clergy and laity this week in my role as ministry coach, I’ve asked each of them: What do you want more of during this Advent and Christmas season?


Well, one answer may be like the little girl from the Today show story: “a nap” – true story of a little girl (2 or 3 yrs) who when asked the question answered with this wish. Santa was happy to oblige as he reclined and cuddled the little girl for the Christmas wish nap. My guess: it was also the parents’ wish!

What do I want more of this season?
For me: less rush, more quiet, less fixing, more trusting, less activity, more family time

The second question I asked this week: What do you need to do to make this happen?

For me: intentionality, willingness to say no, acceptance that less is more (every Christmas decoration does not have to be put out!)

The third question is an adaptation of “what did you get”: How will you know that it happened?

For me: less frantic running around, a decorated house that brings joy instead of exhaustion, time with family and friends that is easy, and time to actually sit down on Christmas Day!

Most importantly, I want time with God to enjoy his Presence.
I need to spend time each day in moments of gratitude, reflection, reading and writing.
I will know that I’ve gotten my “want” when Advent and Christmas season brings me closer to the greatest Gift that I will ever get for Christmas!

On this first Sunday of Advent:
What do you want for this Advent and Christmas?
What do you need to do to make that happen?
On December 25, how will you know that you got it?

May the joy, love and peace of Jesus Christ, the Gift, be with you!

Stuff, Storage and Simplicity

It’s amazing how much stuff one can collect in 10 years in one office – 15 years in one appointment.

Last week I finished my time at Pine Valley UMC by packing up my office and bringing it all home to my garage. (Of course, now my two-car garage is a one-half car garage.)

Someone asked me if I had purged my office. Uh, yes. At least a “ton” of paper in the recycle bin or shredded. Three boxes of books donated to the Conference Media Center.   Another 3 boxes will soon go to the Rescue Mission. Some of my treasures were given to folks and I’m working on at least another two boxes for the UMW yard sale.

Where did I get all of this stuff ???

I will admit I have this thing for books. More is better. Maybe it makes me feel more intelligent. Maybe I fear that by NOT finishing a book I have somehow failed. So I hold on to it – just in case I finish it. Maybe I need to realize that I will not meet the goal of reading all of the books that I was SUPPOSED to read in seminary. (Note: this May is the 25th anniversary of my graduation from Duke Divinity School.)

The question: what do I really need?

In the midst of this cleaning out, purging, finding a new spot for my things, I’ve thought about simplicity. The pattern for me is usually buying more storage bins to store more stuff.  Maybe I should just rent another self-storage unit!

Simplicity. It’s not just our physical stuff. We carry around all sorts of emotional stuff – never getting rid of the clutter that overwhelms us. We just take on more and more, pushing emotions deeper and deeper.

Maybe what we all need – wait, what I need – is a cleaning out of the emotional stuff, not just the physical clutter of my life. Are there resentments that I’ve packed up and stored for future use? Are there hurts that have never healed – just have been “band-aided” with dust?

I remember the words of a PVUMC saint who told me near the end of his life: “Trish, everything gets a lot simpler at the end.”

Wise words – but there’s no need to wait until the end. Right, Roy?

Elizabeth’s Lucky Day

Friday the 13th usually brings fear of an unlucky day for folks but for Elizabeth, Friday, May 13, 1960 was her lucky day! It was her birthday!

Five months ago, Friday, January 13, Elizabeth died from a long battle with cancer. All of us who loved her were shocked and left wondering why. Certainly this was not a lucky day for us. How could this woman who was so filled with life and love be gone from us?

Elizabeth was one of those people who loved life, who loved her family, who loved her friends and most of all, loved God. She had a way of making everyone around her smile and feel better about their day. She was a bright light of love and friendship!

“LizBeth” was my oldest friend – since the nursery at Norlina United Methodist Church. Most of my childhood and teenage memories involve her – Sunday School, hours and hours of playing Barbies, UMYF . . .

Most of my “firsts” were shared with her:

  • first day of kindergarten and first grade,
  • first time singing special music at church (5th grade duet of “Fairest Lord Jesus”),
  • first dates (double-dating that was approved by my parents ‘if Elizabeth going’),
  • first time seeing a big city (New York City – big deal from 2 teenagers from small town Norlina!)
  • first time being away from home at Conference youth events
  • first rock concert

We were even pregnant at the same time though we were living 800 miles apart. Our sons (Will and Samuel) are graduating on the same day (today) from NCSU School of Engineering. Younger son, Barnes, graduated this week from Louisburg College.

Many women called Elizabeth their “best friend” because that’s who she was! She made all of her friends feel special.

When Elizabeth died, so many of us were shocked because we didn’t know how sick she really was! She attended my Dad’s funeral in August and came over to my Mom’s house after the services. She didn’t look sick. She didn’t act sick. She didn’t want to be sick! She always wanted to concentrate on how others were doing instead of thinking of her self. She only told me about her illness if I specifically ASKED her. Sometimes folks approach illness with an attitude of “enjoying poor health” – telling everyone how bad they feel. Not Elizabeth.

I was privileged to share some time with her in the last two weeks of her life. I watched as her husband, Henry, cared for her. What a testament to his deep and abiding love for her!

We laughed together, cried together and talked about the hope found in Christ’s resurrection.

Elizabeth asked me the week before she died: “Tricia, what do you tell your church members when they have a terminal illness?”

I said, “There’s always hope. But hope doesn’t mean that everything turns out the way we want it to. Our hope is in Christ. Our hope is in the resurrection. Our hope is in the love that we have for one another and the love God has for us.”

I noticed, during this last week, a sign hanging in Elizabeth’s kitchen with a verse from Hebrews: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Yes, this hope is Christ – our anchor!

On the day of her funeral, my friend, Angie, sent me this text: “God loved you big through Elizabeth and that love reminds us of His faithfulness to care for His children until the end.”

So true – God loved us BIG through Elizabeth.

Today on her birthday – I give thanks for the love, the friendship and the witness of Elizabeth. I know that she’s continuing to celebrate her lucky day in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Happy birthday, LizBeth!

Next Step on the Journey

It is hard to believe that Will started his last week of undergraduate classes at NCSU today.   It was just yesterday that I was in full “mother hen” form, gathering those things I just KNEW he needed for life away from home.  Don’t worry! – I didn’t write his name in his clothes but I’m sure I thought about it. Then I snap my fingers and he is a senior at NCSU, graduating in less than 3 weeks.

Now the next step on the journey for him . . .

It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s the unknown. Next steps are all of those things for Will.

And the same is true for me.

After serving for 15 years at Pine Valley UMC, I will be leaving this appointment at the end of August. I will begin a new appointment as a full-time ministry coach, serving with Passion in Partnership. It’s exciting. It’s scary to leave the known for the unknown. But that’s what following God’s call on your life is all about.

Several weeks ago, I found a copy of my application to Duke Divinity School, along with my acceptance letter from the Admission office (dated May 25, 1990). I remember how scared I was to leave the profession I loved to pursue this call that I didn’t understand. I was single. I didn’t have any savings. I had just paid off the loans for my Masters from UNC-CH and now I was biting off even more debt to go to Duke. What was I thinking?!?

I wasn’t really “thinking” as much as I was trusting – trusting that this call to full-time ministry was the next step in God’s plan. I had no idea where God was leading me. I just knew that I needed to take the next right step.

Noah came into my life a few months later and by November 1990 we were engaged.   He finished residency, I finished seminary and then we were off to the next step on the journey. Will arrived in May 1994 and the journey continued.

And now all these years later . . . God is calling again.

This week while reading the book, Know Your Story and Lead with It by Richard L. Hester and Kelly Walker-Jones, I came across a quote by Albert Einstein: “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.” It leapt from the page because it applies to more than just research. I might rewrite it: “If I knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t be called faith.”

Sounds a lot like Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

All I can do – all anyone can do – is take the next right step.


For anyone who wants to know more about ministry coaching, check out the Passion in Partnership website:

Holding on to Daddy

Grief is weird. It comes to you in the midst of life.

I realized this morning while sitting in the Starbucks on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, that today is second month anniversary of Daddy’s death. For several reasons, I haven’t been able to write anything about his death yet. Today seems to be the day. . .

When someone you love dies, there are parts of the experience that you do not want to remember. There are also parts of the experience that you want to hold on to. Mostly those parts are about the person. You just don’t want to forget.

That’s where I am right now. I want to remember.

Friday morning, August 26, 2016, at 3:25 a.m., my father, Clifton Rogers Hicks, died.

People often ask me how I’m doing. Fact: I don’t know. I’m learning a new way to live and in the process of learning this way, I want to hang on to as much of Daddy as I can. For me, this hanging on happens as I write down my thoughts – my long-time spiritual discipline. My written words may speak to you. You may consider how you want to be remembered. If so, that’s good but mostly I’m writing to process my grief, to remember – to never forget.

I want to remember:

Daddy praying for me when I went away to Carolina. We were like many families. We prayed at meals and at bedtime but the prayer leaving a lasting impact happened on the morning that I left to go to UNC-CH.  Just before we left home, he gathered Mom, Gene and me in the kitchen and prayed for his oldest child who was about to venture out into the college world that he had not experienced. I don’t remember his exact words but his very act of prayer is the reason that I pray for Will at the beginning of every school year,  preschool through this last year as a student at NCSU.

That if you’re going to do something, you should do it correctly. Daddy did not believe in “guess work” but rather precision.  Example: If the package said plant the flower bulbs 18 inches apart, then Daddy used a string, stakes and a yard stick to make sure they were planted accordingly. Of course, he laughed later that his precision created a perfect map for the mole who ate all of the bulbs.

Laughter makes everything better. Daddy was the king of the corny joke. He loved to tell a joke or say something silly.  Noah and I sometimes say to one another, “that sounds like something Cliff Hicks would say”.

Family time came first. Every Sunday we went to Grandma Ella’s house, playing with whatever cousins also there, sitting by the hot wood stove and reading the “funny paper”. I didn’t realize then that one day I would long to have that opportunity once more.

“Place” or home is foundational. Daddy’s family were tenant farmers, never owning their home or property. His family lived on the Boyd farm in Warren County, the longest of any place. This was “home” for them – filled with memories and stories of life on the farm. I drove Daddy down the Boyd farm road just this past March. To the unknowing eye, it looked like woods, a few over-grown wooden structures that once were barns or a farming shed. To Daddy, it was home.

The discipleship (membership) vows of the UMC were promises to be fulfilled. I don’t remember there ever being any question of whether we were going to church – Sunday school and “preaching”. If it was Sunday, we were there. Every Saturday, Daddy wrote a check to the church. It may not have been a large sum but it was faithful giving. Every Saturday night, he’d go “check on” the heat in the winter and the a/c in the summer. That was his service as the Sunday School superintendent – for over 30 years.

Life is for living. Daddy never got to the point that he said “ok, I’m ready to go.” Yes, he was ready to see Jesus. He had committed his life to Christ a long time ago but he loved being here. In those last weeks before he died, we cried together as he said “I just don’t want to leave you all.” We told him that we didn’t want him to go but he should not be afraid – that in the twinkling of the eye, we’d be with him. Every time I left him to drive back to Wilmington, not knowing if it was the last time that I’d see Daddy, I’d say: “remember Daddy:  In the twinkling of an eye.”

In the last days of Daddy’s life, he often would look at us and say “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” I like to think Daddy was in that place between heaven and earth. Should he take the next step in heaven? Should he stay here? I asked him:  “Daddy, what do you want to do?” Maybe he thought he was supposed to do something. He was a hard worker all of his life but now, there was nothing else to be done. He just needed to let go. Finally he did.

“Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

25 Years of Love, Diamonds and Umbrellas!

I was just being practical. I WAS listening to Noah when he said he needed an umbrella. Shouldn’t you give someone a gift they need?

Well, yes . . . but not as a wedding present to your future husband!

Twenty-five years ago today, I married the love of my life, Noah Archer. Maybe more surprising? He married me after receiving probably the worst wedding gift of all time – a brown umbrella. How was I supposed to know that wedding gifts to your future husband should be a little more romantic? How was I supposed to know that he was having his grandfather’s ruby and diamond tie tack made into a pendant necklace for me to wear on our wedding day?

It’s hard to believe that Noah and I have been married 25 years! I will not go through the entire meeting and courtship but let’s just say it was a God-thing. We met at Orange UMC. I was teaching school in Chapel Hill. He was a pediatric intern at UNC-CH. He was sitting behind me in church one day and after worship, I told him that he had a nice singing voice. Then we didn’t speak for another year.

By the next summer, I had resigned from teaching and was preparing to enter Duke Divinity School in the fall. Noah had survived his first year of residency as an intern and now had a little more time outside the hospital. I needed a pianist for the early service choir that I was leading. He happened to play the piano.

Sunday, Labor Weekend, 1990, early morning choir turned into lunch, an afternoon at the Symphony in the Park and by Thanksgiving weekend, we were engaged.

On August 10, 1991, at Orange UMC, we were married, surrounded by our family and friends.

Through these 25 years, our love has changed and grown in ways that we could never have imagined. Through the joy of the birth of Will, through the pain of miscarriage and infertility, through the challenges of busy professions or rather callings, through family and friend ups and downs . . . in everything, God has been the source of our strength and the foundation of our marriage.

Every day has not been rosy. Really, who has that kind marriage? But every day has been a recommitment to one another, to our love for one another and to our marriage.

Happy Anniversary, Noah! I love you and look forward to the next 25 years. Thank you for giving me your heart all those years ago – even after a brown umbrella!

P.S. Maybe on the 25th anniversary, I’ve done a better job with the gift. TBA