From the ashes

Josh Medlock, Director of Missions and Student Ministries

What is the most beautiful sight in nature that you have ever seen?

For me it would have to be the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

I spent my childhood in Colorado and never fully appreciated the majesty, the magnificence or the sheer magnitude of those mountains.

We would go camping, climb rocks at the Garden of the Gods in Red Rocks, and fish the streams and lakes for rainbow trout.

I remember there was a road we took that was often referred to as the “Road of All Seasons” because you could drive through snow in the spring and see leaves changing around the next corner, and the temperature was 85 degrees when you reached the campgrounds. 

I have not been any place since where I felt I was truly witnessing creation.

It was as if the modern world simply ceased to exist, and I could become one with nature and enjoy it exactly as God created it.

Then I had children … 

I saw God so clearly in the birth of both of my children.

To know that life had been created, a gift that I was a part of, the magnitude and awesomeness was not lost on me.

I have never been so humbled.

When I afford myself the time to actually reflect on this gift it still humbles me.

It makes me realize how precious and fragile life and creation really are.

Even in nature, life is precious and fragile.

Forest fires can bring the tallest and oldest trees down and reduce them to ash.

Volcanoes can erupt and level the tallest mountain.

Glaciers can march their way toward oceans and strip the land, leaving behind nothing but smooth rock and sand.

Yet creation and life endure.

From the ashes new life springs forth bursting with color, and with enough time will cover the landscape with the lush green colors of summer.

Eruptions make way for new landscapes to form and with it, given enough time, life returns in abundance.

Glaciers clear the landscape and allow new places for life to take root and new valleys to be formed that can give birth to fish, animals and birds.

Our church is part of this creation. Right now we are in a place that reminds us how fragile and precious we are.

Many are fearful the fires will come, the earthquakes will rumble, the volcanoes will erupt and the glaciers will march through, and we simply won’t recover.

Others are fearful simply because change is here, and cannot process where they will fit into what comes next.

Still others are choosing not to look ahead, remaining in the past and present and simply trying to “wait it out.”

One thing I have learned from watching creation in all its wonder and majesty is this:

From the ashes new life is born.

From the rubble endurance and perseverance prevail. 

Life goes on. It will sound different. It will look different. It will feel different. It will be … different.

Our church will be different.

However, it will be what God needs it to be for the next step in creation.

We are all part of the same big world. We are all the children of God and the love that God has for us all is the same. We all struggle with showing that same love to our neighbors.

Rest assured no matter where you are at on this journey God loves you. Nothing will ever change that.

From the ashes the church will rise and God will be there with us.

Take some time to watch a sunrise or sunset.

Enjoy a thunderstorm or the rain.

Revel in this wonderful creation that we are all a part of.

Take a breath. God is there with you.

Time and our bubble

Josh Medlock, Director of Missions and Student Ministries

As we take time this season to explore the concept of “Holy Rhythms” during worship, my mind is drawn to how our days are divided up.

We typically think of our days as being divided up into parts. Every person views these parts a little differently.

I have heard them divided up like this: morning, noon, evening, night. I have also heard them divided like this: day and night, light and dark. Waking hours, sleeping hours.

I am sure right now you are probably thinking of how you would divide the times of your day and what you would call them.

We all have the ability to look at any given day and break it up into clear and defined parts. We all do this. And by doing this we are convinced we can tackle any one part more efficiently.

When we break something down into smaller parts, it becomes less overwhelming, less exhausting and easier to plan around.

Admittedly I do the same thing. I try to break down tasks and compartmentalize them into morning, afternoon or evening.

I try daily to commit two of these three parts to my ministry at First United Methodist Church Garland. The other part I reserve for myself and my family.

This usually works. I say usually because as most of you know, you can plan all you want but life happens, and we are constantly having to change things around to accommodate for this. 

I started thinking recently about how our days are broken down and how that affects our relationship with God and with each other.

If we are really good at breaking down our days and the tasks we have to accomplish into smaller parts, are we making time for relationships?

Think about it this way: Are we trying to break down tasks so much that God becomes just another part? Are the parts so small that we don’t pay attention to them like we should?

We allow ourselves to become so consumed with the day, the tasks and how much time we have or don’t have that we can simply forget to make time for relationships.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you made time to sit for more than five minutes to visit with someone you care about who doesn’t live in your house?

When was the last time you intentionally made time to reach out to someone to invite them over for a “hen party” or to “just catch up on things”?

We become so enslaved to the everyday grind that often we find ourselves living in a bubble. We only see and pay attention to the things in this bubble with us. 

I recently had a friend send me an email that caught me off guard.

The title of the email said, “Why I am cutting you out?” It went on to talk about how they felt they were the only ones reaching out to me and that I do not ever reciprocate.

They invested time and effort into the relationship but felt like I wasn’t doing the same. They even used the phrase “living in your own little bubble.”

Although this email was hurtful at the time, it made me analyze my part in all of this. Am I living in a bubble? Have I become that person I have so often cautioned others not to become?

The truth is I have been living in a bubble. If you don’t live in my house or attend my church, I haven’t been making time for you. That was a hard pill to swallow. I was ashamed and unsure how to address this.

But it wasn’t just people I had grown apart from for whom I wasn’t making time. I realized I also wasn’t making time to work on my relationship with God. And I certainly haven’t been praying about my relationship with anyone outside my bubble.

The fix is easy, but so hard to do. The fix: I need to intentionally make time during my day to be in relationship with God and others.

That means giving up on breaking down my day into such compartmentalized details and time slots, and opening myself up to allowing relational work to take place.

This is not easy for me. Those who know me realize I so desperately want everything done in advance and finalized … right now. So this is obviously a work in progress.

As I grow older I learn that time is fleeting and I can’t control it. I am starting to learn how to let go, and to allow relational work to happen by being intentional and not staying in my bubble.

God years for a relationship with us. If we live in a bubble, allow ourselves to be consumed with breaking down our time into small pieces, and do not allow room for relational work to happen, then our relationships suffer.

God’s love is given freely. God’s grace is abundant and available for all. But we do have a part to play in this.

Our art is to seek God, and to be intentional in our relationship with God. “Love your neighbors” means we have to be in relationship with all those in our lives as well. Especially those who are not in our bubble.

This is a challenge. If you are anything like me, it will most likely continue to be a work in progress.

I challenge you this week to take time and be intentional with your relationships. Set aside time for your relationship with God. Call a friend and invite them over. Call your brother and sister and ask them how things are in their spiritual lives. Don’t wait.

I know this much to be true: God loves us. God is always with us. And God meets us where we are. Even when we are living in our bubble.

The neighborhood of Bridgeport

Josh Medlock, Director of Missions and Student Ministries

Growing up I remember sitting in the morning with my bowl of cereal watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

I vividly remember episodes where I would walk away feeling like things were better somehow. Things young as I was, I couldn’t put into words or understand.

Now that I’m an adult and can reflect back, I realize that’s what Mister Rogers was doing – reaching out to children in a way they could understand and that would help transform their lives. 

This week I’ve had the pleasure of attending Senior High Summer Camp at Bridgeport. And once again I am reminded of a neighborhood that encourages transformation.

The work done here is work I have not witnessed anywhere else.

Perhaps it’s the environment or maybe the adults and teenagers that are here seeking the face of God, but I do see God at work here.

Very much like Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, this is a place where people are welcoming and want to be on this journey with you. 

For me, Bridgeport is a neighborhood that welcomes all regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation or faith.

All are welcome here. And those who are here want you to know that nothing will separate you from the love of God.

Mister Rogers expertly crafted a neighborhood where every child in the world was welcome.

It was a safe neighborhood. A neighborhood where understanding and transformation happened. 

I thank God every day for visionaries like Mister Rogers, and for those who reach out in ways that are unexpected and truly magnificent for the glory of God’s kingdom here on Earth.

Our children truly are the future and are constantly seeking that relationship with God.

We must continue to be the face of God for them and for all those we meet. 

I hope and pray we never lose sight of our incredibly important ministry to children and teenagers. 

May God bless each and every one of you on your journey, today and always.