Choosing Words

“I don’t like myself when . . .”

Some will read this statement and say:

“Trish, this is not a very positive way to start out a blog!”

“Trish, why don’t you like yourself?”

“Trish, you teach appreciative inquiry and this is NOT an appreciative statement.”

Well, that’s true and that’s why I’m writing it. It’s NOT a statement that should be my focus and thus, I have the opportunity to change this reality.

We get more of what we focus on.

I returned home yesterday after four days at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center helping to facilitate coach training with ministry colleagues from Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia. We’ve been working together since last fall (as Hurricane Florence was approaching – yikes!), meeting each month in online learning and this week concluding our training time. Every day we spent time reviewing theories, practicing coaching and reflecting on what we were learning together. We started and ended each day in theological reflection and prayer, drawing upon words that have guided our training together. Listen. Be filled. Love. Prepare. Learn. Conspire. Trust.

For sometime, I have had some angst in my soul. I couldn’t put words to the way I was feeling. It has just been there. This feeling that something was just not right. Someone looking onto my life would say: “What?!? You have a wonderful loving husband, son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law.” Yes, all that is very true. I am blessed beyond measure! Yet, inside . . . angst in my soul.

The word “authenticity” has been swirling in me. Authenticity in life, in practice and in faith. Does this word describe who I am?

On Tuesday morning of the retreat, my colleague was sharing in our morning devotional time and said, “I don’t like myself when . . .” That phrase just stopped me in my thought tracks. I really don’t remember what was being said before that statement or what was said after the statement (sorry, coaching friends!). It was a moment of understanding that became clearer as I reflected with my practice coach. I don’t like myself when I am inauthentic, when I’m fake, when I’m not true to my convictions and my desire to follow God’s leading. I don’t like myself when I focus on the negative, when I’m judgmental, when I expect things of others that I’m not willing to do myself, when I’m filled with resentment . . . I could continue for a while with these statements.

So . . . I can continue in this place or I can choose other words and actions to define who I am – who God says that I am.

I am choosing new words.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote the statement: “I choose to rejoice in You, Lord!” as my prayer for the year. I have not done a very good job. I have not done a lot of rejoicing. Sure, I can blame lots of circumstances, other people, the denomination, politics – again, the list could go on. YET, in the midst of this I have choices to make. What is my focus? I get more of what I focus on.

Friends, I’m choosing joy. Joy does not mean that I will be happy all of the time. That’s not joy. Joy means that in the midst of the junk of life, I can choose to be authentic, I can choose to be true to God’s leading, I can choose to be thankful, I can choose people and circumstances that bring joy to me. Yes, there will be circumstances and people who will “try me” (as a child, I heard this phrase when I was getting on my mom’s last nerve!), yet I have choices in my response.

I choose to rejoice in You, Lord!

 

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”                                 Matthew 16:26 NLT

A Younger Me

“What would I say to a younger me?”

What a thought-provoking question! and what a question to be asked immediately before the start of a worship service in which you are the guest preacher.

Recently I had the opportunity to preach the Homecoming service in a United Methodist Church in the area. Prior to the service, I walked around the sanctuary and met a few folks already seated, waiting for the service to begin.  Ted, an older gentleman and Dylan, a younger man were seated on the second row. My first thought? – grandfather and grandson. How special for them to be in church together!

No – not the case. Dylan was a visitor from South Florida who was in the area working with FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Dylan and his dad, another FEMA worker, were staying in the bed and breakfast owned by Ted and his wife. We exchanged greetings and I went back to my seat.

A few minutes before the service started, Dylan came over to my seat and began to talk some more. Then he said: “I’ve asked Ted this question and I wanted to get your thoughts as well. What would you say to a ‘younger you’? What would you say to me – a young man who is seeking God and trying to build a relationship with God?”

Ok, Trish, answer that in the 2 minutes before the prelude starts!

My words to Dylan?  “Don’t limit God.  Follow God’s imagination for you”

This was actually the point of my sermon for the day using my favorite scripture:

“Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” – Ephesians 3:20

“Imagine all that God might have for you – far more than all!”

Dylan’s question has stayed with me since that service. What advice would I give to a younger me?  What words might encourage or guide me, especially in my relationship with Christ?

As I wrote this blog, I remembered that I asked a retired pastor a similar question in my first Duke field education experience. “Rev. Culbreth, what would you say to a clergyperson just starting out in ministry?”  His words have stuck with me for 27 years: “Love the people. If you can’t love the people, you need to get out.”

[It’s funny how words stay with you. Words that can guide and encourage or words that can hurt and destroy.   That’s a blog post for another day.]

What would you say to a younger you?

What word of advice, challenge, affirmation, or encouragement would you give to a younger you?

Tell me.

 

“Dear younger me, I cannot decide.

Do I give some speech about how

to get the most of your life? 

Or do I go deep

And try to change

The choices that you’ll make

‘cause they’re choices

that made me.”

Lyrics from the song, Dear Younger Me, by Mercy Me © 2014