Take On: A Moment of Silence

Every year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

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17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Romans 10:17 (NIV)

There are four main types of spiritual and faith practices – social justice, head, heart, and mystic. The first two practices in this series focused on heart (loving your-self) and social justice (earth care). This week, I want to move toward the mystic corner of this spirituality and faith wheel.

I have to admit that this will likely be one of the harder weeks of Lent for me. I live a very busy, noisy, and fast paced life. Even in the car, I tend to have the radio on or call my sister to talk. Mystic spirituality leads an individual to slow down and bring more focus into their life.  In some cases, it encourages the individual to find silence in the midst of chaos. It is both a dream of mine to enjoy this and a great fear!

While in seminary, a classmate made it a regular habit to take Saturday mornings to be quiet and have Sabbath time. As I think about how this might play out in my own life, I wonder how and when I can find the time to just be quiet! I think that is the challenge though – what am I doing in my life which can be set aside for a time of quiet, focused on listening to God through scripture and my life?

Over this next week, I hope to take 30 minutes of each day
to sit with one verse and simply listen –
not to the TV or radio, not to someone on the other end of the phone –
to God.

It can be quite difficult to have faith when God can’t be heard. So often we say that God isn’t listening or responding to our prayers. I have even found myself complaining about that recently. I wonder though, how much of God’s response do we miss because of the noise around us? How much of God’s Word for us do we miss because we only open the Bible on Sunday morning or when we are preparing to teach and preach?

A colleague recently suggested that the area of spirituality which makes us most uncomfortable might be where we need to spend the most time during Lent. I would venture to say that as our world grows busier and noisier, many of us might find that discomfort in the silence even as we crave it. I invite you to join me this week as we listen through the noise for God’s Word for us today! We just might be surprised at what God has been trying to say to us all along.

In the midst of the cheers and the laments,
You called back to us.
In the midst of the emails and the writing,
Your Word waited for us.
Calm our minds and open our ears,
quiet the storms and speak through silence.
We are listening, we want to hear.
Remind us that you are indeed near.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

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Take on: Caring for Creation

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Every year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Genesis 1: 26-28 NRSV

Several years ago, I accidentally started a new Lenten practice. One beautiful Sunday afternoon, I planted the seeds for my first garden at our new home. Over the next six weeks, I watched over my seeds sitting in the dining room and celebrated every change I saw. On Easter, they were finally ready to move outside where they would eventually become the most productive garden I have had. Since then, I have tried to stay as close to this schedule as possible, even though I have yet to have the “perfect transplant” on Easter that the first garden had.

Gardening can be such a peaceful practice. There is something about working with the soil and excitedly checking the growth of the plant every day that both matches and contrasts so beautifully with the season of Lent. Just as we walk with Christ and anticipate his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection every year, a gardener first plants the seed and then watches with anticipation for that seed to root, sprout, flower, and finally produce. There is an element of grief when sprouts die and is a sense of great excitement and praise those tiny sprouts are successfully transplanted into the garden soil where a new life will take hold and flourish.

This year, I think it is a wonderful coincidence that we celebrate the new, risen life of Christ the day before Earth Day. As those entrusted with the care of God’s creation, we are becoming more and more aware of the damage and slow death that is taking place throughout this creation. Reports and predictions about “how long” we have left with the natural resources available are grim and people all over are trying to figure out what to do to save creation. We are challenged with not only maintaining the resources we do have, but finding ways to recover what has been lost through our collective carelessness throughout all of God’s creation.

Just as we learn to love God by loving the way God has created us, we also learn to love God through working with and nurturing God’s creation. For some, that might be done through gardening while others might invest their time in cleanup efforts. How can you take on caring for creation this Lent? Maybe you are already taking several steps using “green” products and limiting waste. Maybe you are so overwhelmed you do not know where to begin. I have found this to be a great place to start as I look for my own ideas for caring for God’s creation and ways to teach about caring for creation.

In the beginning, you created the world and said that it was good.
In the midst of our lives, you came and taught us of your love and grace
through the lens of that which was good.
We have neglected that goodness for our own,
forgetting that it is dust that we are made of.
We now turn our hearts and our hands back to that dust, back to the soil.
We dust off the good and make room for new sprouts
so that we might see your love shine around us
in its fullest beauty once more.
Amen.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Take on: Loving Yourself

0e7002088_1518705936_ash-wednesday-loveEvery year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

Over this past year, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ways which God’s Word for us shapes my own self-understanding. Throughout this confirmation year, I have really sought new ways to spin the understanding of personal faith in a way that really focuses on self understanding and self love through faith. During a recent discussion about grace, we looked at the greatest commandment,

30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself.
No other commandment is greater than these.”
Mark 12: 30-31 CEB

So often we focus on “love your neighbor” and miss what I think might be the most important part here in verse 31 – “love yourself”.

As we learn to truly love God, we learn to love ourselves through the understanding that we are created in God’s image. It is an incredible thing to consider that God, the purest form of love there is, created each and every one of us in that same form of pure love. It is so simple and so complicated.

To ask an 8th grader what it means to be created in pure, beautiful, flawless love is a powerful thing. The self-critique of an adolescent is really no different from that of an adult – we focus so much on our flaws that we forget how we really came into being. We focus on everything that could be wrong with us that miss the beautiful and intentional marks which God has added to our beings through this perfectly pure love.

As we begin this Lenten season and remember the pure love from which we came and to which we will return, I pray that we can find it in ourselves to love ourselves the way God loves us. Until we learn to do this, until we see the beautifully and lovingly marked children of God that we are and embrace that, we will not be able to see and embrace the same in our neighbors.

During this first week of Lent, I challenge you to join me as we take on loving ourselves as we have been created and formed in the image of God.

From dust we have come and to dust we will return;
from pure love we come and to pure love we will return.
Embrace the dust of today, rather than sweeping it away;
Love who you are today, rather than hiding your beauty away.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Creating Space

There is a Facebook group which always makes me laugh as I realize I am not alone trying to understand the many lessons which fall in the category of “Things They Didn’t Teach Us in Seminary.” When I reflect on the last ten months of my job, I can add interior design to that very long list which as been created through the group of the same name.

My congregation recently moved into a brand new education building which has been both very exciting and very stressful. Thankfully, I was not involved in the original planning and architecture design because figuring out which area rugs and paintings will go into my classrooms was challenge enough! On the flip side, somewhere along the way it was decided that fresh white walls wasn’t challenge enough either…

Standing in the middle of a framed building and imagining what it would be like with walls and people, I realized that the original plan for the youth just wasn’t going to work. The youth ministry had outgrown the space since the original design was created and the energy would break down the walls. After several conversations, measurements, and digging deep for everything I had learned while watching home design shows on Saturday mornings, it was decided that the best idea was to move the youth into the current nursery and preschool space (which would be moving into the new building).

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No exegesis or Presbyterian Polity class can prepare you for how to transform dingy and stained preschool floors, walls painted with clouds and fish, and bathrooms with tiny toilets into a space which isn’t just a containment area for 6th-12th graders, but a place where they feel welcome and at home.

With the help of a college student and youth ministry alum, we set pencil to paper and we began to look at different ways to transform the space on a limited budget. We made lists of pros and cons of folding chairs vs. couches vs. bean bag chairs. We spent hour upon hour searching the internet for fun decorations. I asked colleagues for pictures of their youth space.  I asked the youth what they wanted to see – a question which was hard to answer as they struggled with the idea of going to the “nursery” instead of the new building.

Finally, with design sheets dropped into recycling and the hammer put back into the drawer, we have our space.

20190224_095237We have a space where the teenagers can be themselves, where emerging adults can hold onto their childhood memories. We have a space where exhausted students can relax and where aspiring athletes can run the hallway. Their faces line the walls and their thin places take them away from the every day. The struggling teenager finds encouragement as they look in the bathroom mirror, rather than being faced with their perceived flaws. The emerging leaders gather around the table to dream and plan for ministry to and with their peers.

Our teenagers are faced with challenges every day and it was important to us that they find encouragement and empowerment within the challenge while they are at the church. It was important that they have a place where they not only feel comfortable, but where they can bring their friends.

During all of this, I witnessed (and really learned) something that will carry me further into ministry – the power of people with shared dreams can transform absolutely anything.

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Countless volunteers came to move furniture, paint walls, donate and install new flooring, help hang pictures and clean dingy whiteboards. With the combined effort of those who shared a dream for a vibrant youth ministry with a space to call their own, our youth now have a hallway which (in my opinion) exceeds the beauty of our new building. It was the dreams and the time invested by the congregation which made this space so special. No amount of money could have transformed this space to the point where it is today. Every drop of love can change even the worst spaces into the most beautiful.

Is there a space in your building which needs a facelift? Will a little extra love and work transform a space for a ministry to grow and flourish? I encourage you to find a space and pray in it. Find others who might have a dream for the space. Dream and pray together as you find a way to reinvigorate the space with love and energy for a new day!

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

God’s Good Time

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Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Standing between my current head of staff and former supervisor, I had to take a moment to thank God.

Two years ago, in the period of three days, I received five emails and phone calls along the lines of “you have wonderful gifts for ministry and will do a whole lot, just not with us.” I was devastated, questioning everything about my call, and trying to figure out where to turn to take my next step while frozen in shock.

After a long drive to a meeting and lots of yelling at God, someone let me know about an opening coming up with a congregation I had always been interested in. I immediately made a phone call and started scheduling meetings in hopes that this would lead to a very different phone call than I had been receiving most recently.

Fast forward two years and I am taking a Sabbath day from that position which I called about while wiping tears from eyes.

We never know how God is working and I was reminded of that this past weekend. A wonderful member of my congregation is known for offering comfort in times of stress and uncertainty by saying, “All in God’s good time.”

Indeed. All in God’s good time.

Well into a new year, many of us are faced with new challenges. Budgets are being finalized while many are considering upcoming transitions. Capital campaigns are beginning and congregations are dissolving. New year’s resolutions are long forgotten and answers are still being sought. We are faced with struggle of yearning for an answer NOW while we try to remember that God is at work and the answer will come only when God’s work has ushered in the next step.

We pray. We yell. We weep. We watch. We wonder if what we are doing is enough.

We hang on to every ounce of faith that we can, and in so many cases we might wonder if that amounts to even the size of a mustard seed.

Through it all, God works. God shapes and molds every action and every prayer. God carries us and comforts us, sending us reminders that an answer is coming (even if it isn’t in the way we are looking for).

All in God’s good time.

As I encounter challenges and struggles in both my professional and my personal life, these words echo in my heart. These are the words which calm my racing heart and help me to take inventory of possible next steps. I am reminded of the many ways God’s good time may have taken longer (and even shorter) than I had planned, and how every time the end result was more than I could ever hope for.

The late Rev. Billy Graham says it in a way which truly resonates with me – “Never forget that God isn’t bound by time the way we are. We see only the present moment; God sees everything. We see only part of what [God] is doing; [God] sees it all.”

Whatever is challenging you in your ministry today, whatever answer you are looking for, whatever chance you are waiting on – seek peace in knowing that all will happen in God’s good time.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

A Prayer for the New Year

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

We have waved goodbye to our families and packed up the trees.
The magi still follow the star, but we are returning to the light of our calendars.
Bring us pause, Gracious God.

Before we plan for what is next, help us to give thanks for what has been.

For the family and friends,
for the health and recovery,
for the struggles and the achievements.

With our blinders and our knowledge telling us what to do,
you still found ways to fill us with your wisdom.

In the dark and hurting world, when we did everything to stop you,
you still sent your Light to break through and shine on our path.

In the midst of our destruction and development,
you continued to create beauty and life.

We have grieved and argued, we have celebrated and grown.
We have turned our eyes and ears to you as we rejoice and pray for strength and life.
You have stood firm, reaching out and embracing us with always open arms.

As the countdown comes to an end,
the calendars turn to another filled page,
as demands set in,
joy gives way to grief,
the new child so quickly grows –

Continue to fill us with your Wisdom,
continue to guide us by your Light,
continue to create in us so that we might live through you.

As the year twists and turns, stand by our side and hold our hand.
As the weight grows, fill us with your strength to press forward.
As the plans shift, open our ears to your call.
As life continues, may your Word continue
showing us that there is more, and calling to us to share.

Filled with your Love, led by your Son, and guided by your Light
from one day into the next, from one year to another,
so that all might know your love and grace. Amen.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Sitting in the dark of Advent

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This Advent, I am painfully aware of so much grief which surrounds me. The grief of lost loved ones, the grief of lost jobs, the grief of lost chances. This season, which is typically billed as one of joy and celebration, is anything but for so many.

We rush around in an attempt to cover the pain brought on by mentions from others about family parties, vacations, and work schedules. We decorate our homes and light candles, reciting a script that we just can’t completely stand behind right now as we struggle and wonder what plan God has for us.

Why?

This is the time when we should celebrate that in all of our fault, doubt, confusion, and grief, God sent Christ for us. There was no list of requirements to receive the love and grace which the Christ child came to share. No decree went out that we must have everything pulled together in order to visit that stable and meet the Christ child.

Christ came to each of us in the middle of the night. If our savior came in the midst of the dark, why are we so afraid to sit there? Why are we ashamed to admit that the dark is where we find ourselves right now?

I wonder what this season would look like if we shifted our focus away from the scripts and the decorations, away from the masks we put on. I wonder what meaning this season would take on if we acknowledged the ways we struggle and instead of hiding them away in the empty decoration boxes, put them out beside the tree. What if we took time to sit in the dark of Advent for a while, openly and together, and listened for those angels to sing and announce Christ’s birth?

This season, I encourage you to remember that if we had everything together and perfect, there would have been no need for God to send his Son. I encourage you to allow others to see all that decorated your home – the twinkling lights and the struggle. I encourage you to embrace all that this season is for — the joy and celebration and the struggle and doubt.

If you can only sit in one part of Advent right now, sit where it is most true to you and remember that Christ was sent to us because God saw the ways in which we struggled and felt separated; God heard our cries in the wilderness and created this new way for us.

May we all find find strength and comfort as we sit in the dark of Advent and may we all find warmth by the fire with which we light each Advent candle.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)