Thankfulness

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought I would share the things that I’m most grateful for in my life right now…

  • My faith and the ability to have a vocation that allows me to share it openly.
  • My family that supports and encourages me and made me who I am.
  • Soul friendships that encourage and support me. Friendships that are authentic and genuine.
  • My sense of adventure and desire for out of the box experiences that push me to think differently.
  • Beautiful mountains all around me.
  • For knowing what I’m supposed to be doing for this season of my life.
  • The community I live in and the ways in which I’m able to contribute to this beautiful place.
  • Coffee… need I say more.
  • The presence of love in a world that can be full of hatred in discord.
  • Good food. Bring on Thanksgiving!
  • Laughter and a sense of humor. The ability to find humor nowadays keeps life from getting too dark and feeling hopeless in many situations.
  • Kindness and it can be a gift from those you know and those you don’t.
  • For the curiosity and purity of children, who can and will change the world!

In the coming days as you consider what you are most thankful for consider these words from Anne Lamott, “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, how about you?

 

 

We’re in This Together

Published in The Sylva Hearld, Letters To the Editor section on November 15, 2018

Over the past month I’ve had the opportunity to attend several Sylva Town Board meetings. At each meeting there have been individuals in attendance that have spoken during the public comments section of the meeting. This time allows the board to hear from community members. These individuals typically make statements and/or ask questions about the N.C. Department of Transportation 107 project, present issues surrounding ordinance violations in their respective neighborhoods, and so on.

However, there is typically a mass exodus from the room of those individuals who presented during public comment. Why is this? I would like to ask those who attend Town Board meetings to stay for the duration of the meeting. Stay to hear the reports from Commissioners. Stay to hear the reports from the Public Works Department. Stay to hear the reports from the Town Manager. Stay to hear the reports from the Police Department. Stay to hear the reports from the Main Street Sylva Association. These reports provide vital and factual information to what is happening in our town and community.

While we all believe our cause is the most important cause, it is vital that we, as citizens, hear about all of the good work that is happening in our town and that we are engaged in our community on a deeper level than just showing up for the public comments section of meetings. This requires us to stay for the entire meeting, get to know our town employees, spend time downtown at festivals and community events, join committees, volunteer for events, consider the Sylva Police Academy, learn about the Main Street Sylva Association, ask questions, and be involved.

I hope to see community members at the next Sylva Town Board meetings Thursday, December 13that 5:30 PM at the Sylva Town Hall.

 

Together we can build a stronger Sylva, if we are engaged in working together.

Kelly Brown

Election Day is Here!

Congressman John Lewis said “Never give up, never give in, never give out. Keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. Each and every vote matters. Do your part and vote like you’ve never voted before. Believe in the power of love and together we will build the Beloved Community here in America.”

Today we have the opportunity to vote and build beloved community here in our great nation, please if you haven’t voted already please do!

Here’s a link to the North Carolina State Board of Elections for information you might need: http://www.ncsbe.gov

You deserve to be heard. Your voice matters. You are powerful beyond measure…

 

 

Hope

To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a national organization I was introduced to a few years ago, TWLOHA is an organization that was born out of providing hope for a friend that was struggling with several issues to include addition and self-injury. After hearing Renee’s story and participating in a TWLOHA event where we literally wrote love on each other’s arms, it changed my life it allowed me to see the world differently, it allowed me to know that on my hardest and darkest days when I feel alone and hopeless that I’m not – the event changed my life and I know my introducing it to others has done the same.

I can’t say that I’ve had any significant struggles with addiction, depression, self-injury and/or depression and I can say I’ve known many people who have, and I’ve been blessed to walk the road to recovery with many individuals. As I reflect on those experiences several words that have been at the center of those conversations have been “hope, love, and respect”, those seem like generic words for what I’m writing about but they are powerful words, they are words that should elicit action in us to ensure that all people are loved, respected and that we collectively share hope with one another that things will improve and get better in time.

As I sit here write and drink coffee there’s only one place I can land as we go forward and that is hope, last week TWLOHA tweeted“If the road ahead seems daunting, pause to remember just how far you’ve already come” – I’ll first to admit that the road ahead can seem dauting and dark often, but we are called to share hope, light and love – we are the hopeful. Let’s mean it when we ask someone how their day was, say kinder words (I’m working on this myself), be the good, be gracious and don’t make assumptions, seek to understand, be honest about what you can’t handle and do it all with love!

Friends, you matter, you are important, you are loved, and you are of worth. Share the spirt of love, grace and worth with others as much as you can!

Monday, September 9this World Suicide Prevention Day – if you have a story, share it, it just might save someone’s life. For information check out the To Write Love on Her Arms site here.

The feature photo is a picture of a poster I purchased from TWLOHA and is a quote by Jamie Tworkowski, Founder of TWLOHA

 

What Matters The Most

Today we meet Paul as he writes from prison to the Philippians encouraging them on the good work they have been doing in Christs name. Throughout Philippians Paul emphasizes his commitment to serving Christ and you’ll notice how Paul offers grace to the Philippians in the beginning of the letter, this form of grace is one that describes a new and fresh relationship between God and the believer. Paul’s prayer here is one of thanksgiving, he’s thankful to rejoices with the Philippians in the work they’re doing and will do in the name of Christ, so Paul writes:

 “Toall the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishopsand deacons.Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heartfor all of you share in God’s gracewith me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

As I reflected on these words I thought of our own church and wondered what Paul would say to us, what would he encourage us to do better, what he would ask us to think deeply about, what he would be critical of us for doing and/or not doing. And how do we as this community of faith allow these words to fall on our hearts and minds as we work together to share Gods love with those around us.

Two questions among many others arose in my contemplating: first, “who are we called to be in our corner of the world!?”, and second “what can we do with the gifts we’ve been given here?”.

First Baptist we’ve seen our church grow in ways we could have never hoped or imagined, we’ve seen countless children and their families make professions of faith and be baptized. We have felt the electric move of the spirt through our programming and offerings. We see growth in our children, youth and family Sunday school classes. We see 1stExplorers offerings and how they continue to impact our community. We see the beauty of our children learning about God being at work in places far in near through our mission friends, Royals Ambassadors, Girls in Action and ActTeens. We’ve seen Gods uniting love at work as we continue to learn and partner with our friends at Kerygma Baptist Church in Holguin, Cuba. We’ve seen what it looks like to provide clothing for individuals in Kentucky. We’ve seen what it looks like to journey together in the hardest of times as we’ve mourned the loss of several church members over the past few weeks.

When we look around us we can see the harvest from plenty of seeds that have been planted and bloomed and can see many seeds beginning to sprout, but now, we must ask ourselves as we reflect on all of the good work to this point “where do we go from here?” do we get lazy and rest on the good work we’ve done up to this point or do we dig deeper and begin to reimagine and question what God is calling us to now.

Reimagining and digging deeper means that with childlike faith we ask the question of our Summer Explorers bible study theme ask this past week “What if We Change the World?”, “What if We Change the World?”,  “What if We Change the World?”.

In order for us to change the world, in order for us to hear how God is calling us, we must have “holy discontent with the status quo”[1]meaning we have to recognize that we are calling to do more than we are doing now, we have to recognize that we are called to do exceedingly and abundantly more. We can’t think well we’ve done enough. We have to recognize that we are in the work of changing lives and having our lives changed.  This work calls us to digging deep within our souls and allowing ourselves to experience God in new and challenging ways. This work requires us to notice the gifts we have within this very sanctuary today. This work means we must be willing to work together. This work means we must be willing to share Gods love with those who don’t look like us. This work means we must be willing to be in community with those who believe differently from us and those who we quite frankly can’t stand.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said “we must discover the power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of the old world a new world. Love is the only way.” Y’all its time for us to have some holy discontent with the status quo. It’s time for us to hear how God is calling us to do more and hear the words of verses 9 and 10 and think of our own church, when Paul says  “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,”

 

And with that in mind we with holy discontent that challenges the status quo, here this story from the mid 1940s, a Caucasian Baptist New Testament Greek scholar who also was a farmer named Clarence Jordan and his wife Florence along with another couple moved their families to a 440 acre of tract of land outside of Americus, Georgia, because they felt called to start an interracial Christian community that they eventually named Koinonia Farms. Koinonia is a Greek word that means partnership, communion, togetherness and it’s a fitting word to use to describe the type of community they were trying to create here.  Those that were part of this unique community bound themselves to the principles that all people should be treated equal, they rejected violence, cared for the land and shared what little they had with each other.  In the beginning the residents of Sumter County were supportive of this ministry and farm, then as the Civil Rights Movement began to grow these faithful Christians became the target of violence, they were bombed and investigated by the state of Georgia and the federal government refused to assist them. The partners of Koinonia Farms were making good and holy trouble and they weren’t content with the status quo. They responded to the separation and mistreatment of people a way that was risky and begged of them to see the world differently with new eyes, it also begged of those in Sumter County to see the world differently. In the 1960s, after things had “calmed down” Jordan wrote the Cotton Patch Gospel (some of you are probably familiar with the musical), it’s the New Testament with a southern twist, for example Jordan converted references of the “crucifixion” to “lynching”, Rome became Washington, D.C., Judea became Georgia, and Jerusalem became Atlanta to name a few of the interpretations. This translation allows the reader (good southerners like ourselves) to kind of put things in perspective if you will, here’s his translation of the Philippians, however he wrote it as:

The Letter to the Alabaster African Church of Smithville, Alabama:

  1. From two of Jesus Christ’s slaves, Paul and Timothy; To all the loyal Christians at Alabaster, especially the ministers and church officers.

Grace and peace to you from our Father-God and from our Master, Jesus Christ.

3.Every Thought of you makes me thank God for you, and all my prayers for you are flooded with joy because of your partnership with me in good news from the very first moment you heard it until the present. And I can assure you that, having started you off on the right track, I will follow you through until Jesus Christ has his day. it is nothing but right that I should feel this way about you all, for I have a very warm spot in my heart for you. All of you are my fellow partners in God’s grace, whether I’m in jail or preaching and explaining the gospel. I declare before God that I have the same tender feelings toward you as Christ Jesus himself does. And this I pray: that your love may keep growing until you have such understanding and keen perception that you can sort out the truly important matters. I pray too that you may overflow with the goodness that comes from following Christ, to God’s credit and honor. [2]

Did you hear that last part, spoiler alert that last part is what I’ve been trying to get at, so wake up and hear it again “And this I pray: that your love may keep growing until you have such understanding and keen perception that you can sort out the truly important matters.”

What matters the most is that we:

  • Share the stories of our faith with those around us.
  • That we pray for one another.
  • That we share with one another despite our differences.
  • That we advocate for children and youth.
  • That we work hard to leave this world a better place for generations that follow.
  • That we speak truth to power, even when we are in the minority and everyone else doesn’t agree.
  • That we are kind to one another.
  • That we care for the least amongst us.
  • That we love and that we love openly and freely.
  • That we stand up and have something to say about the opioid epidemic that is effect so many in our communities and families.
  • That we listen for where God is calling us and respond.
  • That we are a light in a dark, hurting, broken and messy world.
  • That we dedicate our time and attention to the work of the church and find our place in the work.
  • That we stand up for those that don’t have access to quality education, health care, food and/or housing.
  • That we live simply rather than in excess.
  • That we have open hearts, open minds and open spirts to experience God in new and unimaginable ways.

What matters is that we must that we get sick on the status quo and shake things up making holy and good trouble that shares Gods loves. Amen.

[1](Queen and Davis 2014)

[2](Jordan 2004)

Books referenced in this sermon were Hopeful Imagination by Mike Queen and Jayne Davis and The Cotton Patch Gospel: Paul’s Epistles (Volume 3) by Claraence Jordan.

Making Good Trouble

Last weekend, I traveled to Washington, D.C to protest the separation of families. I’ve not found words to fully describe my experience or the many beautiful stories of individuals who came to this country for a better life and in turn to be immorally and unethically treated. My hope is that we all can join together and recognize that all people deserve to be treated fairly no matter the circumstance and if you can’t agree with that then…I have no words.

I remain inspired by the words of John Lewis, “you must be bold, brave and courageous and find a way…to get in the way” I hope WE ALL will get in the way in the name of justice and making things right in this broken and fragmented world. For me that means having conversations that evoke change, writing letters to leaders, protesting, researching political candidates, being involved in my community, being kinder and caring about those who are different.

Every human matters, including the ones you don’t like!

 

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#RedforEd

 

Today teachers across North Carolina have traveled to Raleigh to March for Education! Teachers are demanding better conditions for students, better pay, better support from legislators and many other issues that plague our schools. I’m thankful for the teachers I’ve had in my life that have shaped and form me into the person I am today.

While I’m not sure how to support our teachers on the state level I thought I would offer some ways that I think we all can support our teachers:

  • Volunteer at a local school. Consider volunteering at the school(s) in the district you live in. Testing season is among us volunteer to be a proctor.
  • Get to know a teacher and listen to their concerns.
  • Know your local school board members and district administrators.
  • Vote for qualified school board members.
  • Push your school board members to visible in schools and get to know the children and families in the district they represent.
  • Pick-up supplies form the dollar store and drop them off in the school office.
  • Pray for those who work in education.
  • Ask questions and be informed.
  • Ask questions about funding.
  • Write letters to state and national lawmakers encouraging them to visit schools without press.
  • Ask County Commissioners what they do to support local schools. Ask them when they visited at school last.
  • Think of the many people that aren’t teachers. Think about bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, administrative assistants, buildings and grounds crews, bus mechanics, nurses, teacher’s assistants, media coordinators, guidance counselors, social workers, and many others that work tirelessly to support OUR children.

There are many champions for children across our state and nation who work hard to support our children and don’t get respect and support they deserve. Let’s engage in authentic conversations that include those who are actually working with our children.

Teachers, I’m grateful for each of you and am thankful for the hard work you do each day!

 

 

Self-Care

For a long time, I used to think making time for myself to “recharge” was selfish and that sleep served as the best way to do that however my views on that has changed I’ve learned and grown more from listening to my body say its tired and what it needs to be well again. I thought I would share some of my practices with you.

  • Writing – I love writing stories, poems, prayers and my blog posts the give me a sense of release.
  • Sitting on the porch – I love sitting outside and watching the world go by and hearing all of the sounds outside has to share.
  • Making things.
  • Being in the woods whether that be hiking or biking.
  • Listening to music that tells a story.
  • Warm cups of coffee.
  • People watching – I find it very interesting to see how people communicate and interact with each other.

These are the few practices I’ve learned that make my soul well again and I’m sure as I grow and navigate life I will learn more. Friends take care of yourselves – it’s good for you and all involved.

Learning Along The Way

This month I celebrate having served in my current role for 5 years and as I’ve tried to wrap my mind around what these past few years have meant to me and what I have learned the only thing I can say is I’m glad I answered the call. The past five years have been full of learning, sharing and growing with me and the church as we have journeyed together. We embarked on a grand adventure to discern how we could serve children and families in our community and I’m so grateful I have been part of that journey and able to walk with children and their families.

My personal growth as a leader, church member, and community member has been a blessing to me and allowed me to grow in my ways but also has challenged me as I’ve sought to understand what my contribution to our world is and will be – I found the answer to that question here in these mountains and am forever grateful that this place took a chance with me and continues to take chances with me.

I’ll share a few things that I’ve learned along the journey that has shaped me and made me a better leader and person:

  • Stay positive even when there is negativity floating all around you.
  • Laugh and enjoy the moment.
  • Listen and reflect.
  • Self-care is essential and is not selfish.
  • Be respectful, especially when someone isn’t respectful of you.
  • You don’t have it all figured out and never will.
  • Reflection is important.
  • Apologize, admit your faults and wrongs.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Spend time with people and try to understand.
  • Be honest about your feelings.

While there are many more things I’ve learned these are some of the top things that have made me a better person and an even better leader. I’m so grateful my journey led me to Sylva and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

 

As We Go Forward

On today, we remember the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. This week, I have found myself reflecting on my trips to civil rights museums, thoughts on civil rights and even my trip to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was assassinated. The question for myself has been how I honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other civil rights giants so I thought I would share my thoughts on how we can move forward.

 

  • We need to think of ways that we can do a better job of advocating for justice and social change.
  • We need to ask ourselves what we can do to better this broken and fragmented world.
  • We must be change agents.
  • We must listen and respect one another.
  • We need to seek ways to bring individuals with different beliefs and opinions together.
  • We should be constantly trying to make things better for future generations.
  • We need to look for ways to create change in our community.
  • We have to vote in every election.
  • Ask tough questions.

 

As I’m sure I didn’t scratch the surface in all the things we can do to be change agents, I hope you will ponder these words from Dr. King as you go forward “Let us all hope that…in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” Now, go change the world…