A Living Faith

A Living Faith

Wednesday is coming! For students, teachers, and school officials, it marks the beginning of a new school year. Noah has been looking forward to this day since the middle of May when school ended for the Caldwell County Kindergarten. He is ready for school to begin.

Personally, I am ready for a season of normality. I’m also ready to live into our usual family tradition of dropping off Noah at school and quickly running to a restaurant that he will not eat at for breakfast. Suggestions are more than welcome on where we should go Wednesday.

While there is excitement and joy for a new year and the possibilities that it will bring, I cannot help but admit that I have some anxiety about this school year. It is the same anxiety I have felt for several school years and will probably always have. Will Noah receive the care he needs from his teachers and school therapists to thrive? Will other students respect him and recognize that he, too, is a child of God and a person of worth? What will we do if this doesn’t work out?

Those questions weigh heavily on my mind. Even though we have always had a good working relationship with his school, his therapists, and his support systems, I have that fear. Even though I have seen him thrive at every school he has been at and treated with kindness by his peers, I have that fear. Why? Because, as we all do when we are faced with an unknown, we are more focused on the negative possibilities than on what has carried us before and what will lead us moving forward. When life gets difficult, both in our homes and in the life of the church, it is easy to get discouraged, throw up our hands, and say, “I’ve had enough” or “nothing will ever get better.”

Ever feel that way? Maybe that sounds familiar to you with where you are in your faith or the how you see the church this morning? When we come to these moments, what can we do? Should we just give up and say, “Faith shouldn’t be this hard, and it’s hard for me, and I don’t like it, so I quit.” Or should we claim a way that reminds us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going? Continue reading “A Living Faith”

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How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?

How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?

I like to think of things in terms of: “What kind of world will Noah inherit one day?” As a parent, that seems to be an important way of thinking about our world and my contributions to it. One day, as hard as it may be to realize, I won’t be there to protect Noah, care for him, and make sure that he is growing into the person God has called him to be.

Noah is 6. I’m anxious for the world that he will not only inherit, but that he is living in today.

Since arriving in the world in 2013, Noah has witnessed more mass shootings than I care to admit. The other day, I took a look at how many mass shootings have occurred since his birth. I took advantage of research that was readily available that look at. Essentially, did a shooting event have multiple victims and receive media coverage? Since Noah was born, there have been 88 mass shootings, which killed 564 people and injured 1,1,45 people. Taken all together, the death toll is as if everyone in the town of Matewan was shot and killed since 2013.

That is too much.

It is hard to get a clear definition of what counts as a mass shooting. Different organizations use various standards to determine what mass shootings are or are not. A 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service suggests defining mass murders on whether four people were killed during the attack. Others, such as the organization Gun Violence Archives, defines a mass shooting as any event in which four people were shot, not including the alleged shooter. By the Gun Violence Archives count, there have been 255 mass shootings in 2019.

No matter how you define a mass shooting, it is clear we have a problem, and it is only getting worse. Continue reading “How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?”

True Riches

True Riches

I’m always on the lookout for things that make me laugh or brings a smile to my face. Life is too difficult and challenging to go through these years without a sense of joy and a chance to pause and laugh.

I still have to laugh when I am reminded of a trip to Abbi’s family in Chincoteague, Virginia. Whenever we go to the island, it seems that I have to go to the store to pick up extra food for Noah. Not only does Noah eat like a teenager at times, but he also has a very specific diet that is a result of his autism. He eats the same food nearly every day, and Lord have mercy on the parents who do not have that food readily available.

On this specific trip, however, I made an excursion to the Food Lion that is located off the island. As I did, I happened to look over and noticed the Sonic across the parking lot. It was there that I saw a hearse in the drive-thru. Yes, I said a hearse in the drive-thru line. I couldn’t stop laughing and took a picture that I have somewhere. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that even the dearly departed still want their mozzarella sticks and corn dogs.

That moment has been on my mind this week, as I’ve reflected on our passage from Luke 12:13-21. This imagery connects to what Jesus is saying to these two brothers who approach him to settle a family inheritance dispute. We’ve probably all heard preachers who have shared how you never see a hearse go to the grave with a U-Haul attached – “you can’t take it with you.” We’ll talk about how we shouldn’t be concerned with possessions and then move on without discussing the deeper realities that connect to the life Christ calls us into through these words. This parable is concerned with more than just our possessions. It calls us to consider the anxiety that often holds us back from being the people God calls us to be through faith. Continue reading “True Riches”

What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child

What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child

Every new pastor receives several questions when they arrive to a new church. Who are you? Where are you from? How will you preach? Will you root for my favorite team?

If a pastor and their family have young children, there are additional questions that you get asked week to week. They focus around the idea of how can we love your child? Those are some of my favorite questions to answer, because there is nothing like seeing your child loved and cared for by the family of God. Your immediate thought is to say, “Well, love them like they are your own.”

For me, though, I have to think about how to answer that question. It’s a lot harder to answer, because of our son’s autism.

With each new community, there are additional questions, concerns, and needs that come in welcoming a new pastor kid let alone one who is on the spectrum. While autism has been part of the general consciousness since 1943, there is still a lack of understanding and awareness of what autism is and is not. I include myself in that conversation. Questions about the basics of autism, what needs to be done, and everything that falls in between are welcome for not just our son but the general community of how to love all of God’s children.

While most conversations about our son focus on worship and interactions within the church – that is, after all, where the majority of people will see him – it only scratches the surface of what is involved in raising a child on the spectrum, especially as a pastor.

So, what is it really like to raise a child on the spectrum disorder as a pastor? Continue reading “What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child”

The Better Way

The Better Way

The last few weeks have been, well, crazy. I think that is the holiest way you can describe what it is like to move from one state to another, deal with movers, and to make new friends with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It feels like these last few weeks have been a case of constantly going from one thing to the next. A series of events of making sure Noah is getting enrolled in school and has the proper therapies. A series of trying to figure out what is going on and where things are. A series of learning all I can about the church and meeting as many of you as I can.

I want to thank you for how you have made us feel welcome, the stories that you have shared, and the information you have provided. They have all been welcome and appreciated. I want to be honest with you. It is easy to feel like my head spinning around like it was on a swivel. It is easy to get overwhelmed by everything.

Do you ever feel that way? Do ever feel so overwhelmed by life that, at times, you’re not sure which way is up? Even when what you are doing is good and necessary, do you ever feel so caught up in life, in busyness, in craziness, that you’re not sure what is going on and feel distracted by trying to get it all done?

Now, do we ever feel like that in the church? Do we ever feel overwhelmed in the church? I’ve been thinking about my previous churches I have had the pleasure of serving. Each of these congregations have done some amazing things, but they all held in common a sense of anxiety and nervousness. Anxiety about the future, of trying to hold on, or of trying to make sense of the world. They all seemed to be caught up in busyness to a point it distracted them from the main thing.

I don’t know about you, but when I am overwhelmed, I am not able to accomplish the things that I want to do with all of my focus. Can you imagine how much more than statement is true for a community of 60, 70, 80, 90, or even 100 people?

I wonder if this is how Christ desires for us to share life together. Is there a better way for us to live that is absent of the anxiety that often consumes us? A way that leads us to discipleship in Christ that forms who we are, what we claim, and we do in response to our love of God. Continue reading “The Better Way”