Friday, June 30, 2017

10 Years, One Decade, No matter how you say it...Thank you!


 It is hard to believe that a decade has passed since I stood in front of a church filled with my family and friends and said the vows that brought me into the Order of Christian Ministry. Time flies even if all of it hasn’t been fun. The past 10 years have been a roller coaster. The past 10 years have been terrifying. The past 10 years have been exciting. The past 10 years have been exhausting. The past 10 years have been overwhelming. The past 10 years have been amazing.
I thought on my 5th anniversary I wrote a blog about the top 5 things from the first 5 years but I must have dreamed it or not posted it or somehow lost it on the inter-webs (according to some people that can happen you know hahaha).

So this year in honor of my 10th anniversary I would like to share 10 of my favorite memories from the last 10 years. It’s a pretty generic list because there is no way to boil 10 years of ministry into 10 exact memories, so here they are.

10 memories.   
     
        1. Accepting my first call to serve Big Run and Fork Ridge Christian       
             Churches

        2. Directing Camp Campbell for the West Virginia Region

        3. Serving on the Board at Christmount

        4. Being on the planning team for Quadrennial

        5. Accepting the call to serve as the Associate Pastor at First Christian 
             Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa

        6. The more than 30 weddings I have had the pleasure officiating

        7. While this one might sound strange, the more than 50 funerals I have 
             had the honor of presiding over

       8. The 15 or so babies I have gotten to dedicate and the unfolding of their live

       9. Accepting the call to serve as the Senior Pastor at First Christian Church 
            in Perry, Iowa

      10. All the incredible people in my life. Family, friends and colleagues those 
             who have been with me from the start and those I have made along the 
             way.


Number 10 is the most important. Without the support of family, friends, colleagues, and church members (past and present) I know that I would not survive in ministry. Ministry is a team activity and while through my Ordination vows I have been set a part to serve the Church differently than others, I know now just like I knew 10 years ago, without you (if you’re reading this you are part of the you just mentioned) I would not be.

I would not be the kind of minister I am today.
I would not be able to figure out what hymn you are talking about based solely on humming the last lines chord progression or random phrase from the middle of the second verse, yes that happened.
I would not be able to recall all the silly camp songs and skits that come in handy when you don’t know what else to do
I would not be able to share in the intimate parts of people’s lives
I would not be able to offer compassionate words or sarcastic comments.

Of all the memories and all the things, I have learned in the first 10 years of Ordained ministry the one thing that will never change no matter how many years I serve the Church, the most important thing I will always know to be true is that I would not be the minister I am today, without you.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Here’s to another 10 years!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent 4, Worship from Home

Listen to this Playlist as you read! Advent 4 Playlist
Or you can search for your own version of the songs from this list:
Angels, from the Realms of Glory, Away in a Manger, It Came upon the Midnight Clear, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, O Little Town of Bethlehem, First Noel

Call to Worship and Invocation

One: Our souls proclaim your greatness, O God.
All: And our spirits rejoice in you.
One: We will praise you as long as we live.
All: We will sing praises to you our whole lives long.
One: We will not trust in the powerful of this world,
All: But will trust in you–Creator of heaven and earth,
One: the One who gives food to the hungry,
All: the One who enacts justice for the oppressed.
One: Our souls proclaim your greatness, O God
All: As we worship you in this place.

God of miracles, There is no miracle as grand as birth. As we prepare for the coming of your son, Jesus, create in us new life. Transform us so that we may reflect the light of your son, and become beacons of goodness, kindness, compassion, generosity, honesty, patience, and peace, for the sake of the one whose name brings deliverance and life to all the world, Jesus Christ, infant king. Amen.


Scripture and Meditation
Have someone read the scripture aloud before sharing the meditation.

Luke 1:26-55

It is no accident that Mary takes center stage this time of year.  Mary is venerated by some, ignored by others, and misunderstood by everyone else.  At times Catholics, have transformed the peasant Jewish teenage girl into an otherworldly Queen.  At times Protestants and Evangelicals have pretended that she never existed, or they have missed the truth that she is the first disciple, that she displays radical faith and trust in God. Now outside this story we don’t know a great deal about Mary. Mostly from context clues it has been determined well assumed that she was a teenager, betrothed to a man probably much older than she was, she was devout in her faith.

God has been unseen but very real, invisible to the human eye.
So how did this seemingly invisible God who only ever became known “face to face” by a few prophets…male prophets, become known to this teenage girl.
This “invisible God” made know to some in burning bushes and parting seas, made known through the still small voice after the earth shook and the winds roared.
This invisible God who spoke through rambling prophets who wore sack cloth and fasted for days, weeks, months on end, who some listened but most ignored.
How is it that this “invisible God” became visible to this girl and yet we still have trouble seeing God today?

From the angel’s announcement to Mary song of praise we are reminded of some (not all) of the attributes of God that visible or invisible we commonly and continually hold to be true
God saves
God blesses
God does great things
God's name is Holy
God is merciful
God desires reverence
God is strong
God hates those who are proud
God is on the side of the oppressed
God feeds the hungry
God remembers
God keeps promises
We believe these attributes because our life experiences have grounded our faith and given us hope. We have hope in these attributes of God not because we can always hold the tangible evidence in our hands but because visible or invisible, God’s promise of unending love has gotten a hold of us.
Once we remember this- that God has God’s hand on us and what is impossible for us is possible for God. We could be an unstoppable force in the world. We tend to fall short, we tend to beat ourselves up, we tend to run and hide when someone asks us about our faith.
What if after the angel came to Mary, she had run away; hid until the baby was born and then started a new life somewhere far away, where no one knew her? What would have become of Jesus Christ; Son of God?
I am certain if Mary had responded in that way God would have worked it out, we could very well be hearing an entirely different story about how Christ, Our savior was born. God would have become visible in another way.
Fortunately, Mary reacted much better than any of us ever have. She, after she processed what was happening and the dust from the angel’s announcement had settled, she turned her heart over to God again and responded, out of faith and trust, that God’s unending love would not fail her.
In true Israelite fashion, many had started to turn away from God again this “invisible God”, who they had no tangible evidence for. But because of Mary and her response, God was becoming visible, as a baby, a face with a name, the Most High made lowly.
God’s love made visible in a stable, on a hillside in the country, out of the way, a baby born to two scared people who didn’t know what to do.  They had nothing but themselves to offer.  They heard the call of God, each in their own ways.  And they responded in faith.
Christmas, for us, twenty-plus centuries later, is no different.
If we really hear the gospel, if we truly perceive the voice of the One who calls us, there is encouragement--you have found favor with God--but there is always one more thing and that is how you respond. Will you respond as Mary, so that you reflect in your own life the very nature of God:
to save
to bless
to do great things for God
to make God's name Holy
to be merciful
to be reverent
to be strong
to put away pride
to remember that God is on the side of the oppressed
to feed the hungry
to serve, and
On this fourth Sunday of Advent when weather prevented us from worshiping together, how will you sing praises to the one who calls you with a promise of unending love?
Amen.
Talk with one another about how you will live out the promise of God's unending love this week!

Communion

Share in a meal with your family today remember the time Jesus gathered with his friends and family broke bread and share it with all. Communion doesn’t have to be bread and wine, it only needs to be a meal shared in love.
If you are single or live alone, say a blessing for those you wish to be around the table with today.

Benediction
May the God of surprises go with you.
May the promise of God's unending love, through Jesus Christ surround you.
May the Spirit of peace enfold you.
Go this week, to love and serve The LORD. Amen!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Will We Ever Find Joy?

The weekly devotion I have been using this Advent seasons ends with this blessing each week:
May God bless us with mornings when we find (hope, peace, joy) in aligning our ideas with God's ideas.
May God bless us with noon times when we find (hope, peace, joy) in aligning our work with God's work.
May God bless us with evenings when we find (hope, peace, joy) in reflecting and giving thanks to God.
You can find more information about this devotion here (thanks for this great resource!)
 
As I reread this week’s meditation again this morning I can't help but find tears in my eyes. 
The scripture for this week’s meditation time came from Isaiah 35:1-10. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad…” 

As I read this same scripture again this morning my heart is aching for those who are in a dry land with no hope. War torn countries, broken families with no chance of reconciliation, nations devastated by famine and illness at epidemic levels, just to name a few. In these places it is difficult to see the promises of Advent. The coming of a child, who will bring hope to the hopeless, peace to the oppressed, and joy to the distressed. In a world broken and fragmented by hatred and hostility; blinded by greed and power we grasp for even a glimpse of the promise this child might offer. We mask our fear by doing "Christmas stuff", turning off the news and turning on a Holiday Classic, making gingerbread houses and giving money to local charities. All the while the broken world screaming for hope, crying for peace, shouting for joy spins on further out of control. 

This is past Sunday was the Sunday of Joy in the season of Advent and for me it felt anything but "joyful". Worship was lovely we sang hymns of joy, we lit the joy candle, I think I offered a word about being people of God's joy in my sermon. We shared in communion and a fellowship meal. But at the end of the day joy was not what I was feeling.  Hope and peace weren't really in the running either and as I read the text from Isaiah one more time, I realized while I see the dry land coming into blossom in my little corner of the church world it isn't happening everywhere. As I urge my congregation to think further outside the walls of our building, I know we will struggle with how we live the gospel when questions like these:
Where is the joy in innocent people being killed by their government? 
Where is the joy in children not having enough when grown adults have far more than they need? 
Where is the joy when families are ripped a part by a system that is stacked against them? 

We will struggle with how to live the gospel as long as there are questions like this in our world. 
  
In a world that so needs to hear and proclaim a gospel of hope, peace, and joy but isn’t because of being too preoccupied in our own little worlds (I’m guilty of this myself). 
We are so preoccupied with finding the perfect gifts or making sure the tree looks just right or getting all the baking done. We are more concerned about who will be upset if they don’t get a Christmas greeting in the mail from us or who will hold a grudge if their plate of cookies is a little smaller this year because the budget is tight. In the scheme of things, the “problems” that concern us this time of year pale in comparison to problems around the world.

In the midst of portraying an Advent season full of Joy and preparing for the coming Christ Child, my heartaches for a world that stands in contrast to everything this season should offer. 

I have no answer to any of the questions posed here. 

My only hope as this Advent season continues is that we will get out of our own way so that the Christ Child may fully enter our lives. 
That we might be transformed into people of hope, peace, joy and love. 
That we might learn how to do better, be better, live better, love better; in the name of the One who calls us to follow him.
 
May God bless us with mornings when we find (hope, peace, joy) in aligning our ideas with God's ideas.
May God bless us with noon times when we find (hope, peace, joy) in aligning our work with God's work.
May God bless us with evenings when we find (hope, peace, joy) in reflecting and giving thanks to God.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

There is No Easy Answer

I wrote this for the local paper...it isn't much and it is very "politically and religiously safe" because I don't think my little spot in the paper should be used for tearing the community a part. We all struggle in our own way with the state of the world. These are just a few of my thought on how we can maybe struggle together...without beating each other up about it.

Pasrson to Person  “There is No Easy Answer or Solution?”
Rev. Andrea Brownlee First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The work of ministry is nothing short of finding the balance between absolutely crazy and astonishingly beautiful. In the course of a week it is not unlikely for me to sit at someone’s beside in the hospital, spend time with children and youth discovering what it means to be a follower of Christ, visit with a couple preparing to start their life together, help someone figure out how to pay an overdue bill or find food to feed their family until next month’s check arrives. The work of ministry whether we are pastors or layity is not easy and is not for the faint of heart. It is sometimes difficult work in difficult places with difficult people and we can struggle to find the balance. The good news is that in our faith journeys and our “ministries” Christ doesn’t call us to walk or work alone. Jesus calls us to follow him, learning the steps it takes to live in a world that so desperately needs God’s love and grace. More than Jesus’ calling to follow is his calling for us to go out on his behalf. “Go and do likewise” he says over and over in the Gospels. Share God’s love with anyone we might encounter, not because they “deserve” but because you know I did the same for you first.
There is enough polarization in the world that I do not need to add to it by writing words that can’t be taken back. The world, as of late, has become a much crueler place than ever before and we (each and every one of us) struggle to find the correct words to say, the correct thing to do, and the correct meme to post on Facebook. It is becoming increasingly obvious that unchecked fear leads to widespread panic. Widespread panic leads to irrational actions. Irrational actions lead to a continued cycle of more irrational actions. There is not an easy answer or solution. Closing boarders to refugees who are not connected to terrorist organization won’t keep those who choose to inflict terror from finding ways to infiltrate. Offering asylum to people who have been cast out by their own country does not excuse us from taking care of our own citizens who struggle to have to basic necessities for living.  There is not an easy answer or solution.
As we strive in this community to live into Christ’s call to follow him, his words from the Gospel of Matthew ring loudly in my ears.
Matthew 25: 35-40 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

You should know I struggled to write this article as I try to warp my own head and my own heart around recent world events. I pray that as community we will be willing to work together, for the greater good of God’s world. I pray the even though we might not agree on everything we are able to find common ground in order to live and work and “do ministry” together. Let us hear Jesus’ words and live them out together “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Blessings to you and yours, Pastor Andrea

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Holy Cow, 5 years already!!

Holy cow, it's been 5 years! 

When I decided to begin writing a blog I wasn’t really sure what it would look like. I sent several possible “this is what/how I am going to do with this blog” to some friends to get their opinions. They all responded with “these all sound good, just pick one”.  I guess I never really picked one. For a while I tried to write every day but something always came up that didn’t allow me the time I needed to get it done. So then I tried once a week, that didn’t always work either. Over the past 5 years I have written very sporadically mostly when something significant happened in my life(important anniversaries, ridiculous or ironic conversations in grocery store lines, unexpected death or change) Never consistent and never what any of my original plans looked like.

I decided to look at the stats. There are at least 15 people who read this blog every.single.time something is posted. That is awesome, thanks for coming back! As I looked at the stats and reread some of my posts I was reminded that even if only one person reads this and it offers them something to think about or encourages them to come up with their own “Hope for the Week” then it has served its purpose. I will keep writing if you will keep reading(if you like it and want to share it with others I wouldn’t be upset if more than 15 people read it on a regular basis).

A lot has happened in 5 years. I’ve gained many new friends and have lost a few as well. I have gained 2 nieces (one by blood and one by friendship) who are both 4 years old now. I have, in my opinion, gained confidence in myself as a pastor and preacher.  I have earned thousands of frequent flyer miles and Amtrak points and put 70,000+ miles on my car. I have moved from one house to another and have rearranged my current place more times than I can count. I have laughed and cried and sat in silence with some of the greatest individuals God’s ever created. I have had countless deep and crazy conversations over cups of coffee, pints of beer, and glasses of wine. I have done a great deal of living in the past 5 years.

So to those of you who have been reading and following from the beginning, thank you for always being here! For those of you who have more recently joined the party, thank you for joining me!

I plan to keep braving the waters far into the future, who knows maybe someday enough people will read this that blogger will send me a check for $0.50!!! Either way, I hope you’ll keep braving the waters of life and love and following Christ!

Blessing to you and yours,

                                                Andrea J

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Something's Missing

This week seemed “off”. I couldn’t put my finger on what was not right but I just felt out of rhythm. I went through a mental check list but still wasn’t sure what was missing. It hit me on Wednesday night after a great day with fellow clergy women and a fantastic church Halloween party…I didn’t post last Saturday. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to post it simply didn’t happen. It wouldn’t be impossible to come up with a handful of excuses to why I didn’t take the time to do it. There is no excuse, I mean honestly the week before I made time to post while at the wedding reception of one of my best friends...no excuse.

I asked myself a few weeks ago if I had gotten enough into the “habit” of writing while on sabbatical, I was certain I had. By not writing, even a simple prayer, my entire week was thrown off. While I was on sabbatical I “resurrected” this blog was for others, so people would know where I was, what I was doing, and what I was learning.  Now, I am not longer on sabbatical and people generally know where I am and what I’m doing, it would be easy to make excuses like “maybe no one would want to read it now” or “It’s been a long week, I’ll do it later.”

But because of the strangeness of this week I have learned that is all the more reason to keep writing. Writing has become for me as normal as daily morning yoga, Friday night couch snuggling with Bartholomew, and Sunday morning worship.

Hope for the week:  I hope November is as life giving as October has been!

Is there an Answer:  There was no blog so there was no question…
  
Question of the Week: Where can God use me in a new way this week?

Thought for the week:  I will have to go to Maid Right for lunch sometime this week.

I invite you to join me daily in the Prayer for the week: God of “old hat” and new creation remind me to find you in all things this week. Give strength in those times when giving up seems easier. Give hope in those times when despair seems over powering. Give grace when others turn away. Move me this week O God, into your service. Amen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Crazy beautiful

The work of ministry is nothing short of finding the balance between absolutely crazy and astonishingly beautiful.
This week I sat beside people in hospital beds, I also spent time with children and youth discovering what it means to be a follower of Christ, and today I was blessed to perform the wedding ceremony of my of my best and oldest friends.

Life- whether you are realizing that your health is fading faster than you want it too, are discovering things for the first time, or stating something new with the love of your life, is crazy and beautiful and exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time!

Take time this week to embrace life whenever you find yourself on the journey!!

Blessings-  Andrea :-)