Another week down and I’m falling more in love with this little town. The people are friendly and the food is pretty good. But there seems to be something that continues to warm my heart. I don’t know how to explain it but this place is becoming a part of me.
This past week has been full of so much to do. It started off with the Texas Annual Conference in the Woodlands. It’s basically a family reunion for all pastors which is something I find extraordinary about the United Methodist Church. Sure, it may be hard to move congregations and cities often, but it’s also humbling to be reminded of the work God does pastors, even after they leave. During the first night of worship at the conference, I was attending the contemporary worship service and I can honestly say that I felt touched by the Spirit in a way that I hadn’t in a while. I felt refreshed and whole again. Mark Swayze, the contemporary worship leader at The Woodlands UMC, shared a story about what
Mark Swayze, the contemporary worship leader at The Woodlands UMC, shared with everyone present a story from earlier that day about a woman who had just come to pray over the space. This woman went through every row and prayed for God to meet us there and to shower us with God’s presence. Then she heard God speak to her and say “someone here tonight is experiencing a burden that is holding them apart from God. They need must be told that God is with them”. That was it. That was what she heard and that was what Mark shared and before I could realize it, people were kneeling at the altars and people were being prayed for. And I looked around and realized, we were all experiencing a burden that we didn’t want or know how to let go of. And I began to pray for God to reveal to me what I was holding on to and my prayer was answered. And I realized that there was a lot within me that God was beginning to work on.
I have always struggled with understanding or comprehending how to know when an action was caused by the Holy Spirit. I mean, is the goosebumps you feel on your arm the Holy Spirit entering into you or is it because you’re cold? Is that the Spirit that is causing this person to speak in tongues or is it them just speaking so fast that the words of their mouth cannot be understood? Although I do not have an answer to this question, I believe that the Spirit is working in us when we realize the need for change in ourselves and our community.
But that is getting a little off of what I wanted to talk about. Although annual conference was boring at times, it was definitely a great experience to get to see how the church is run from an organizational structure with a few controversial moments (which I won’t get too much into). Besides being in some sessions at annual conference, I spent my time writing my sermon for this past Sunday. I wrote about Pentecost and the church only to throw it away because I felt as if I should go another direction. Instead, I went in a direction that was a little more convicting of the church as a whole today. I felt well about everything until the moment I got up to speak and my heart began to pump as if I just ran a marathon. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” started playing in my head but I knew I had to begin. I prayed for the Spirit to lead me and it happened. In what felt like an hour only ended up being 30 minutes, but I felt at peace about it all. I love audience feedback so of course I had to crack a few jokes and share stories that would not only engage the congregation but also allow them to get to know me better. As challenging as my message may have been, I felt as if it needed to be heard.
My blog post is titled “I’d be lost” which has been my phrase for the past week or so. It’s from an acoustic remix of “Scandal of Grace” by Hillsong. It simply goes “I’d be lost, I’d be lost, I’d be lost without you, but now I’m found singing your praise.” This has been my prayer and praise. I have begun to reflect on my life as a Christian and seeing how far I have come in the past 5 years continues to give me hope and passion to serve the current and next generations to come in a life of servanthood.
To whomever is reading this, all I ask is for prayers that I would experience all God has to offer here in Athens, Texas. Prayers for this town and church to continue to work together and form a relationship where all can benefit. Amen.