And we’re back…

I’ve been away from the blog for a while – well to be honest the last year (or more) I’ve struggled to keep up because life is busy, and my constant thoughts rarely make it on to paper (or a word doc).  However, a lot has happened over the past few months/couple years, so I DO have good reasons for my absence.  Instead of telling you, I’ll show you life in photos…

I shall soon return (I promise).  I can’t NOT blog… with my constant stream of theological thoughts and discussions forever in my head, or out loud with my husband.  I’ll be back!

Malaysia, January 2016IMG_2998.jpg

Home in KoreaIMG_3584.jpg

Looking down from BukansanIMG_3127.jpg

Family, December 2016IMG_6701.JPG

Scott and I at the North Korea boarder, Spring 2017IMG_7299.jpg

Saying goodbye to Korea, my home for 2 years, June 2017IMG_1310.jpgIMG_8231.jpg

Most certainly the best day of my life, with many more to come, July 8, 2017AnnabelMayPhotoArt-134.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-293.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-267.jpgannabelmayphotoart.com 

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instead, pray

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray.” Philippians 4:6 (The Voice)

I love trees.  Green, vibrant leaves.  Tall, dark brown trunks.  Nestled in a quiet forest.  This is calm: staring and examining them in stillness.

Growing up in Oregon only fostered my love for trees, and I am still fascinated by the redwoods – the tall, strong redwood trees.  Standing still and ageless, lining the long, winding roads between central Oregon and the coast.  (I confess my obsession with these trees could also be because Return of the Jedi was filmed in Oregon in the redwoods.. I digress.)

When I turned ten we moved into a new house with a backyard full of cherry trees and apple trees.  I dreamed of waking up early and picking fruit each morning – of course this dream quickly dissolved when we discovered birds ate all the cherries, which were only really ripe about two weeks out of the year, and the apples were filled with worms and all sorts of other creatures that shouldn’t be consumed.  The fruit produced by these trees remained uneatable.

Anxiousness often overcomes us and we discover the fruit born of our anxious thoughts are fruits of worry and fear. Thoughts planted in our minds blossom into something – thoughts of lust, fear, greed, pride, and a whole host of other fruits that are more flesh than spirit.

Instead of anxiousness and worry, Paul tells the Philippian believers to instead pray. No formula, no article entitled: “10 Steps to Worry Less.” Just a simple solution: pray. And the fruit of this action?  Peace.  A peace that “(is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” Philippians 4:7 (The Voice)

Paul goes on to list what the seeds of our thoughts should be: the seeds to plant that will produce the fruit of peace: “Fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praise worthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me – do it- and the peace of God will walk with you.” Philippians 4:8-9.

Seeds of beauty, truth, that which is lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy produce those fruits, which ultimately guards us with the peace of God.

Picturing those tall redwoods, or imagining the cherry and apple trees of my childhood, I see wormy apples and cherry pits left behind by the birds.  Uneatable fruit.  But today in my own anxiousness and worry, I pray.  Seeking to plant seeds of truth and goodness, producing not fear or multipied anxiousness, but instead peace.

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A weekend to remember.

This weekend is one of those weekends that will forever be etched into my memory; forever tucked away into my heart.

I was practically born in the nursery here at First Baptist Church of Medford, Oregon.  My story, as the stories of many others, is weaved into FBC, and our stories make the story of this church.  But the beauty of it all is that none of this is about us, it is all about Him.

My calling to ministry came at a young age, and a dream was born in the halls of my middle school as I began being a ministry leader at age 13.  This weekend I got a chance to look into the kind, yet more wrinkled eyes of my dear youth pastor from those years, and as I told him, “I think of you guys all the time”, he kindly smiled and said, “Meridith, I pray for you”.  Nothing else mattered at that moment.  It was humbling, and gave me strength.

This weekend FBC Celebrated 125 years of ministry, and it made me grateful for those who have gone before me, and paved the way, and gave me an even greater understanding of my place and calling here at First Baptist Church.

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Haddon Robinson, a former Associate Pastor of FBC in the 50’s, and he later went on to be a Professor, and author books on the subject and topic of preaching.  And let me tell you, he did not disappoint, He knows what he’s doing.  At first glance, this elderly man of perhaps 80, or so, gives no spectacular impression.  He is someone’s grandfather, some woman’s husband.  But as he slowly, step by step climbed the steps on Saturday night, and then again on Sunday morning, the audience was captivated.  You could have heard a pin drop in the building, and you couldn’t help but lean in and closely listen to every word he spoke, filled with wisdom of a long life lived serving the Lord.

“Habakkuk 2:4b “But the just shall live by his faith”, and in the faithfulness of God.”  He repeated.

Another theme of the evening was a short paragraph read that a woman wrote in the 1920’s, reflecting on where the church had been, and what was to come.  It spoke of the fact that things had not been done perfectly, but by God’s grace the church would continue, and that they would perceive even greater opportunities for the future.  How timely those words were.  There were individuals in that building that night who needed to be reminded: we must forgive.

Many things spoke to me that night, I wish I could tell you about all of them.  Even Sunday morning.  I confidently walked onto the stage as a prayer was being prayed, and I fully knew that I needed to proceed with the confidence that God has placed me here, at this church, for his purposes.  I knew full well as I glanced over the faces of closed eyes, that some of the people in this building had come with preconceived ideas of how our church was in the past, and how it was now, especially in regards to worship and music.  I knew that many had doubts in their minds that a woman could be standing on stage, guitar in hand, and be leading this congregation in worship.  But, I pushed the doubts and questions aside, and prayed that God would fill me with his Spirit and with the words he wanted me to speak.

I educated those on worship, in an interesting way yesterday.  If you were there, you probably had no idea what was running through my mind, but as I began to exercise within my calling and skills, I had no more fear.

I was struck, as I looked at the words of some of the old hymns or songs sung in the 20’s and 30’s, as we had several worship folders from that time, preserved.  It is profound thinking that those before us sang the same words and prayers that we sing even today.  This was the heart of what I prayed people would see on Sunday.  That we can look at the past, honor those who have paved the way for us, but to also function in the current culture, and find a profound humility that our God is unchanging, and we can sing those timeless things to him, even know.

I teared up as I looked out and saw how people sang with their whole hearts.  “Oh, praise Him, Oh, praise Him!  He is Holy!  He is Holy!”, right after singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  It was beautiful to see voices being lifted up to our God, and hands raised in surrender and agreement with words of truth.  In that moment, I knew my job was done.  People were worshipping, and they didn’t, by any means, need me to do that.  It was beautiful.  My heart was touched, and it was reaffirmed in my heart that: this isn’t about me (even though there were a NUMBER of things trying to distract me and cause me to be selfish about MY title, and MY position, God humbled me really quickly about that!).

Here are a few pictures, and a partial video of the song we did.  I love the words: “Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say, yes our hearts can say.  Never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you leave us on our own, You are faithful, God You are faithful…”

I’m sure there will be more to share about this weekend, but for now, that’s what I got!

Here is a link to a short piece I wrote on the stones of remembrance (Joshua 3, 4), that also shaped part of Saturday night as well.