Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

A Collection of 12 Stones May 18, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 8:09 am
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I have  a small stone collection. Nothing fancy. They aren’t gemstones or even pretty polished stones, but each one means something to me. Each one has a story. Stones from streets in foreign countries. Stones from youth retreats. Stones from a class. Each stone reminds me of an important time and lesson in my life.

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ Joshua 4:20-22

Joshua had a rock collection too. Well really, it was the Hebrew people. But it was so much more than just a rock collection.

The back story: The first generation of Hebrew people brought out of slavery had died. Their rebellion had a consequence. Moses didn’t get to see the fulfillment of the promise he was given by God. So the next generation, who had been born in the wilderness and knew nothing of slavery, was getting the chance to cross the River Jordan and see the land promised to their ancestors. That generation would receive blessing of God’s faithfulness to their parents and grandparents. Not because they were great – they were rebellious people too – but because it was God’s faithfulness that brought them to that point.

Yes, they would have to fight for the land. Yes they would have to continue to seek God’s direction in the midst of hardship and battle and chaos. They had their own faith to live out now. But I wonder if that is why God instructed Joshua (the leader that followed Moses), to have the leaders of the tribes to get a stone and build an altar. If you read the story closely (Joshua 4), it looks like Joshua also built an altar, right in the middle of the River Jordan, one that would be covered by water, but ever-present. God knew that when times got tough again, the people would falter, would doubt their God, would find it easier to place their trust in the ways of the culture than the ways of God. And yes, when times were so bad, that even the rushing waters of the river seemed dried up, there would be a deeply revealed reminder of God’s deep love.

You see, the 12 bank stones and the 12 stones at the bottom of the river are a reminder that God’s faithfulness began long before us and is a part of our story, our faith. God knew that when we are in the midst of the battles of today, we need a reminder that God has provided for us, protected us, guided us and remained ever faithful to us.

We need reminders of God’s work in our own life and in the lives of our family. As new generations of family grow in faithfulness to God we must tell the stories of how God worked in our life and in the midst of our family.

FullSizeRender (11)You see, one day, my kids will ask me what my stones are all about and I will tell them the stories. Joshua explained the same thing. He told the Hebrew people who one day their children would ask what the pile of stones meant and we are to tell the stories.

We need to tell the stories of our doubts, our struggles, our rebellion and God’s faithfulness. We are to tell the stories to others, not because we’ll get some kind of accolade, but because those stories give others hope that if God could be that for us, maybe God would do that for them. We need to leave visual reminders for ourselves and for others so that in the midst of the hard battles of life, we are reminded that God is faithful and God loves us, even in the midst of our rebellion, our doubts and our life chaos.

So today, leave a stone in your life. Think about the times God has been faithful and leave a stone reminder. Tell those stories to you children, to your friends, and yes, maybe even on social media.

And take the time to ask your parents and your parents’ parents about their stories.

May God’s faithfulness and goodness abound.

 

Book Reviews: #HeadScratchers and #Solve May 11, 2016

One of the perks of ministry is having colleagues who write books. Since I LOVE books, reading the work of pastors around me is fun. And when I get personalized signed copies, or advance reading copies… well, let’s just say that this preacher girl spends a few hours in a happy place!

One of my colleagues and tweeps (you know, a Twitter peep) is Talbot Davis. He has several books out right now. I first “met” him in some interesting Twitter discussions. Then, at our annual conference last summer, I met him in person for the first time. You know what impressed me most? We’d never met in person, but he immediately recognized me and knew my name. He personalized the copy of Head Scratchers that I bought and since then we continue to interact on social media. Bonus: we both are English Majors turned preachers, so there has to be something good about him right?

Recently, Talbot has finished a new book – Solve. When he was looking for advance readers and reviews, I jumped on the chance! So he sent me a copy in exchange for my (hopefully) good review (brave and trusting guy). Below are my reviews of both Head Scratchers and Solve. Since Head Scratchers is signed (and I bought it), I’m keeping that one! I’ve giving away my copy of Solve though, so leave a comment at the end of the post and you’ll be entered into the random drawing! People who follow my blog via email will have a second entry into the drawing, so make sure you sign-up to follow via email AND comment below for two chances to win!

Head Scratchers looks at five odd, hard to understand and sometimes scandalous things that Jesus says. As a preacher, I have a hard time making sense of Jesus’ hard sayings sometimes, so it was helpful for me to hear what someone else had to say. For each saying, Talbot reminds us that “Context is Everything.” We can’t take one statement in isolation, but must back up and see it within the bigger picture. So what does it mean to hate your mother and father? What is the unforgivable sin? Why wasn’t the disciple supposed to bury his father? Each chapter was easy to read, gave some great “real life” stories and examples and ended with thought-provoking discussion questions for personal reflection or small group discussion. A couple of times, there seemed to be some rambling (we preachers do that sometimes), but it always came back around. For me, the last chapter was the most powerful (seriously thinking about that one for a while) and I hope you’ll join me in praying Talbot’s prayer:

Lord, let there be revival through hard words. Don’t fill us with false promises of prosperity, but enliven us through truth. Let new Life break out among your people and your churches not because of wine and roses but because of flood, sweat, and tears. (Head Scratchers, p103)

In Solve, Talbot takes a conversational approach to the person and work of Nehemiah. Another easy to read, filled with background study, Solve helps the reader think about how to move from being one who point out problems toward being a “solutionist.” I loved all the historical context Talbot gave and hoped for an additional footnote or two that might have pointed me toward additional reading on the subject (I’m a nerd like that and know that others might be too). Each chapter shared good stories/examples from the Talbot’s ministry at Good Shepherd UMC. The addition of some “non-church” examples or “other church” examples may have helped me connect even further with the main points. I do know some people who are really struggling with conflict in their life and Solve would be a good read and guide to help them reflect upon Nehemiah’s lessons for their own life. For me, it was again the last chapter (although the least exciting biblical read) that was meaningful and leaves me thinking about who bears my mark.

Overall, I recommend either book to people to read for specific times in their lives. Head Scratchers for those wanting to delve deep into Jesus and Solve for those in the midst of church or family or work or life conflict. Both are easy enough for a person unfamiliar with the Bible, but contain enough “meat” for those further along in their faith journey.

Remember, if you want to enter to win my read copy of Solve, please comment below and sign up to follow my blog via email! Drawing will be on May 15th!

(Note: The links above are affiliate links.)

 

A Digging Place May 4, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 7:19 am
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There is this little spot on the church grounds that I love. It is right next to the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. It’s a little space, where at the end of winter, signs of new life begin to emerge. Daffodils begin to poke through the ground, reminding me that New Life always comes. A couple of years ago, a kind person took the time to make that area lovely for the summer. Weed tarp went down, mulch went down, stepping-stones and new plants went in. The daffodils were covered and while I was grateful for the kind-hearted generosity, I was sad about the daffodils.

Next spring though, the daffodils came back up! I was so happy and it was a small grace of God, a reminder that sometimes people try to cover over signs of New Life, but New Life always wins!

After a couple of years though, the work of the kind person and the tenacious daffodils have continued to battle and we had to change the area. It just didn’t look good and so it was time to dig.

The space is now a real mess and the work was sweaty. I used a good shovel, dug deep and salvaged the bulbs. The weed tarp was pulled up and the space will be ready for something new. We’ll be transforming that little space into the entrance of a small prayer garden.

You see, sometimes, in order to make room for the new thing God is doing, we have to dig deep. We have to dig deep into what we thought we knew about God. We have to dig deep into what we think we see in scripture. We have to dig deep into the traditions we hold so dearly close. We have to dig up what seems good in order to make room for God.

But that doesn’t mean the good has to go. Sometimes, it just needs worked over and replanted in a new place at the right time. Those daffodils will still be a sign of new life each spring. In the fall (at the right time) they will be replanted in the prayer garden as a reminder of the deep traditions of the congregation. Each year, as they break forth from the cold winter soil, the daffodils will remind those that come to pray that New Life does indeed break forth from the long, cold, dark nights of the soul.

“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Sing to the Lord a new song,
Sing His praise from the end of the earth!
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it.
You islands, and those who dwell on them. -Isaiah 42:8-10 (NASB)

Sometimes, the work of ministry is allowing the Holy Spirit to do some digging up. Digging up unhealthy notions of self. Digging up judgemental attitudes about others. Digging up ungraceful images of God. Digging up the “former things” to make room for the “new things” that are to come.
Maybe you are in a digging place right now. If so, I know the digging part is really hard. It hurts. It seems lonely. It leaves you all a mess, not sure if anything good will actually come and frustrated that nothing looks like it’s supposed to.
Take comfort friend. Even though you are in a digging place, New Life will spring forth.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” -Revelation 21:5 (NASB)
It may be sometime before it happens. That New Thing has to be planted in the right place at the right time. And even then, there may be a wait before the promise comes. But it will come. Until then, perhaps a small comfort can be found in the strength you are gaining through the digging.
If you are in a digging place and would like prayer, please comment below. It would be my honor to pray for you.
 

Today we pray April 27, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 8:19 am
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Sometimes, conversation goes nowhere. Sometimes, the listening stops. Sometimes, the political wrangling goes too far. Conversation is good. Listening is vital. Wrangling is questionable.

I am already tired of the conversation surrounding my chosen denomination’s major quadrennial gathering for budget setting and decision-making. I am already tired of the typed shouting declaring which side is right. I am already tired of the variable guessing of what will happen if…

So today, today we pray. Will you join me?

Gracious, holy, loving God. You are giver of all good things. You built the church on the one true Cornerstone. We, as a Body, are the bride of Christ, waiting in anticipation until you come once again to bring us into the fullness of restored creation, restored relationship. We wait, Lord. We wait for you.

And as we wait, we admit that we get so much wrong. We talk when we should listen. We do nothing when we should act. We busy ourselves with playing church when we should be sitting with those who you call “blessed” and “the least of these.” Forgive us. Forgive us for doing things our way and failing to “seek ye first.” Forgive us for creating a structure of church that resembles the ways of the world. Forgive us for assuming to know what your will is without first seeking You. And yet, in the midst of our lacking, you are enough. You are faithful. You will not leave us as orphans. Thank you God, for loving us enough to listen to our cries, to listen to our laughter, to listen to our wrangling, to listen to our silence.

Hear us God as we lift up those who will gather in Oregon. Hear us as we lift our clergy and laity leaders to you. We thank you Faithful Father for their “yes” to serving you, the church and others in this way. We thank you Wise Mother for the ways they have sought and continue to seek you. We ask you now to change them. Change their hearts from what is impure to what is noble and right and good. Change their minds to be as the mind of Christ. Change them from who they were and who they are into who you are calling them to be. Keep these servants and their families safe as they prepare to travel and gather and serve. Give them a supernatural covering of protection and good health.

Hear us God as we lift up those who live and work in Portland. Give them patience for travelers, servants hearts and open hearts to hear the Gospel proclaimed through the lives of those they meet. We ask that travel systems run smoothly, infrastructures remain sound, and computers don’t have glitches during hotel check-ins.  We ask that you keep waterworks flowing, power running safely and give first-responders a supernaturally easy week, with way fewer emergency calls than anticipated. And we pray God, that those human traffickers who may try to take advantage of a large gathering of people instead find their efforts frustrated and their “workers” freed from the bondage of their circumstances. 

Hear us God as we lift up those of us who remain behind, who remain in the pulpits, in the pews, in church offices, in the workplace, in our homes. Nudge us continually to pray. Remind us over and over again to intercede on behalf of this gathering. Speak to us as we too listen for your call, for your wisdom, for your direction, for your comfort. 

We trust that you hear us. We trust that you answer us. We trust… In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

Beyond the food April 20, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 2:57 pm
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This week, our local food bank put out a message that they are in “urgent need” of food for the food pantry. I’m sure you’ve seen it before in your community. Certain times of the year are great for people giving food and volunteering, but then the warmer weather comes, people are still hungry and we forget about them. Many times, when a request for food donations is made, this passage comes with it:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40, The Message)

Maybe you’ve read it before. It’s what we often use to tell people that they need to give to the ministries that do these things. Give food. Help build the shelter. Donate school uniforms. Send prison missionaries.

But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond the food. Jesus is the one talking in the passage above. How did people feed Jesus? They invited him to sit around their table. Table fellowship is exemplified over and over and over in the Gospels. Jesus and the disciples gathered around the table and shared a meal with all kinds of people. Their friends, tax collectors, children, sinners.

Feeding the hungry goes beyond the food. Yes, donating food/money to the local food pantry is important. Please do, but also consider how you can go beyond the food. Consider how we might share around the table with those who are food insecure. Instead of just handing the drive-thru bag to the person on the corner with the cardboard sign, how about parking, walking over, and inviting him/her to join you inside for a meal as your guest? Instead of just dropping off a bag of groceries to that neighbor anonymously, what about inviting that family over for dinner once a week and sending the plentiful leftovers home with them? Instead of just giving a box of food to the pantry, what about giving time to help distribute the food, serve a meal, or sit and have conversation while eating with the guests at the shelter?

That whole “you did it to me” thing goes beyond the food. It goes to relationship. If giving food to the hungry means that we gave food to Jesus, then perhaps being in fellowship around the table means that we’ve actually been in fellowship with Jesus.

Think about that one.

Hanging out with the overlooked and ignored might just mean we’ve hung out with Jesus.

It’s time to go beyond the food.

 

Bookends of Life April 13, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:05 pm
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In the era of e-books and e-readers, I wonder how many of us remember bookends. You know, they are the items used at either side of a row of books to hold the books up and keep them from falling/sliding down. You can have really fancy ones that are sculptural or plain-Jane ones that are nothing more that a piece of plastic in a L-shape. Whichever the case – fancy, plain or somewhere in between – they serve the same purpose. Bookends tell us where the start and the stop of the row of books are, defining that section and keeping what’s in the middle from falling down.

13015462_468607336661551_1518488740345887161_nYesterday, I got to see the bookends of life. I snuggled an infant and hugged an elderly woman. Each person, fully formed and unique and valuable and worthy of love and needing grace. Each person, in very different seasons of life, to be celebrated and loved.

You see, babies remind us of life that is still yet to be lived. Of hope that goodness and love and redemption is still out there. Babies remind us that even though we will one day die, we can leave a legacy behind in the ones that we love.

But the elderly, they remind us that life on earth is not the end. That there is something more to what we are doing here on earth than simply accumulating stuff and punching the clock and going through the motions. The elderly remind us that even though we will one day die, we still have the chance to leave a legacy behind in the ones that we love.

Babies. Elderly. The bookends of life, holding us up to a greater standard. Holding together the chapters of our lives, reminding us that there is more to life than the beginning and the end. There is purpose beyond flesh and earth. There is something eternal, that lives before us, through us and beyond us.

And that Eternal calls us into life together, with others and with our Creator.  That Eternal gives us purpose beyond doing good unto others. The bookends of life remind us that the chapters in between birth and death tell a story that is greater than any one of us alone and we get to be a part of that story, living it and preserving it and telling it to future generations.

Today, I invite you to live into that eternal story.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8

 

The Funny Thing About God October 21, 2015

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:02 pm
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When God calls you to something, a funny thing happens. Not funny haha, more like funny interesting/odd. You see, for sometime, I have felt God’s nudging in a particular ministry area. Since I’m not really sure how to go about it, I’m not doing anything about it. Yet time and time again I feel God’s nudging in this particular area. Recently I was at a leadership development training and I felt the nudge again.

As a part of the training, we were to list what we felt God calling us to do, the things that stand in the way of us doing it, and then a few small steps that we could take to move forward. So I did. One of those steps was to lessen the times I spend with like-minded friends and to increase the times I spend with people who are different from me. So, I committed to joining my like-minded clergy group lunch twice a month and to try to meet with people – some who are clergy – who are different from me. They may be different because of their religious association, because of their income level, because of their skin color, because of their sexual orientation, because of their _______ (you fill in the blank). In an effort to build relationships, listen to experiences and be present in the world, I need to spend time with the “other,” those different from me.

So, this was my first week to try to schedule that. Last week, I made some contacts and nothing came to fruition. Instead of meeting with the “other,” I visited some church folk and went to the library to catch up on some note writing and study reading.

And then a funny thing happened.

I had conversations with two people who are different from me. Both were African-American men – one older, one younger. They came up to me separately and for different reasons. At first, I’ll admit, I was annoyed that my “work” was being interrupted. But we chatted about school, about fast food work, about how rude people can be, about God’s goodness and doing everything in service to the Lord.

As I left the library, it hit me. As I got in my car, I realized what had just happened during that time slot I had planned for “other” conversations but didn’t get anything scheduled so I tried to do some other work instead.

That’s the funny thing about God. When God calls us to something, God will help us make it happen. Even when our efforts fail, if it is God ordained, God will provide a way.

So that thing you feel you need to do but don’t know how? That change you need to make but it seems too scary? That leap you need to make but you don’t want to fail? Say yes, do your part and see how all things work together for the Glory of God.

And pray. I will be in prayer for this thing God is calling me into. I will be in prayer for the men I met. Will you pray for them too? Mr. V’s education and Mr. J’s employment.

And will you pray for me? God may just be up to something funny and I want you to be a part of it too.

 

 
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