Day 28: Happy Thanksgiving!

*I’m thankful today for my pastor, Paul Seay, who wrote Day 28’s post for the Dear Gratitude project.*

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”—Philippians 4:6 NRSV

Dear Readers,

Pastor Paul at my daughter's christening, March 2013

Pastor Paul at my daughter’s christening, March 2013

I don’t know why I am a reluctant blog writer, but for whatever reason, it is difficult for me to take the time to write what’s on my mind.  I do have my own blog, “Circuit Writing,” but I write more for “Daily Dose of Gratitude” than I do my own.  I think it’s because Bethany gives me a deadline that I have to meet.

Since my assignment is for Thanksgiving Day, I have had the opportunity to read many of your ‘thank you’ letters here and have been reminded of things for which I am thankful.  So thank you, dear readers, for opening your hearts and sharing a little about your lives with us.

Paul Seay and his wife, Rebecca, at the River Jordan

Paul Seay and his wife, Rebecca, at the River Jordan

First of all, I want to thank my wife, Rebecca.  When we married she didn’t realize that being the wife of a United Methodist pastor was going to be in the cards, but she has supported my ministry in more ways than most people realize.  I certainly have not been the perfect husband, but I try to do better every day.  She has forgiven me more than seventy times (or seventy times seven as the King James Version reads), and I am grateful for that.  Earl Thomas Conley and Emmylou Harris sang a song, “We Believe in Happy Endings,” and I think that is how Becca and I believe about our marriage and our life together.  Our children, Ed and Jeff Seay and Allison and Jeff Chandler are special also.  I am proud of the success they have had in their lives and in the ways that they have helped others.

Most of all, I am thankful for God’s Grace.  Without His Grace it would have been impossible for me to be doing what I do today.  I was called to ministry as a teenager, but ran from my call for nearly 30 years before giving up on myself and allowing God to be God.  There were many times that He could have given up on me but our God is a loving and forgiving God who allows us to make mistakes, to fail, and to even turn our back on Him.  But as the Apostle Peter discovered as he was trying to walk on water and began to sink, all he had to do was cry out, “Lord, save me!” In our desperation, God is always there, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to reach out and pull us from the deep.

Harold Bales, a retired United Methodist pastor in North Carolina writes a “Daily Nugget” that I read on Facebook each day.  This past Sunday he wrote, “Every person is a preacher of one sort or another.  How we are observed living is the most genuine indicator of the gospel we embrace.  This isn’t only true of clergy.  It is true of everyone.  Our value systems are always on display.  And Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on these values, give thanks to God for our abundance, and push the reset button on our lifestyles.”

So, Dear Readers, on this Thanksgiving Day as you take a moment to be thankful for the ways you have been blessed.  Be thankful for those who God has put into your path for you to influence, and I pray that you influence them in a good way.

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

 

Mothers and more mothers

*Thanks to my pastor, Paul Seay, for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

“For women, though, without children of their own, who like mothers have nurtured and cared for us, we pray to the Lord…”—Book of Blessings, USA., United Methodist Book of Worship, page 438

My own mother, Clora Lee Walker Seay, went home to heaven a little over 30 years ago.  She was a saint of a lady who put up with my father longer than she should have, but that’s the way she was.  She vowed before God that she would take him for better or worse and she lived that commitment until her death.  She also put up with my five brothers and sisters and me, which I know had to be a struggle also.  In the years since her death I have been able to witness other women who have been wonderful mothers although they never had children of their own.  I want to mention a couple of them.

Paul and his sister, Sue

Paul and his sister, Sue

My older sister, Sue Ann Seay Smith, has always been a rock for our family.  Although she and her husband, Larry, have no children of their own, they have helped raise us younger brothers and sisters along with countless nieces and nephews on both sides of the family.  Sue Ann also taught fourth grade in the Jackson, Missouri, school system until she retired after 30 years of service.  When I visit her, we run into former students in the grocery store or Wal-Mart, and I am amazed how they always want to visit with her and share with her about their lives and the influence she has had on them.

Another lady is our Children’s Ministry Director at Central Avenue United Methodist Church, Dennie Story Baker.  Whether it is the children’s message on Sunday morning, directing the Ringing Cherubs or Allegro Ringers Bell Choirs, or the Heavenly Hallelujahs children’s choir, she is always on the top of her game.  The girls and boys love Ms. Dennie, they pay attention to her, and they learn from her.  In the many years she has worked here at CAUMC, she has been a wonderful influence on hundreds of our children, youth, and young adults.

Dennie with some of her kids

Dennie with some of her kids

As I was writing this there were many others just like Sue Ann and Dennie that crossed my mind.  I just want to say that mothers are not always defined as those who have given birth, and we should thank God for them all.

Day 21–Count it all joy

*Thank you, Alison Valderrama, for writing such an inspiring piece about an amazing woman. And for being a constant source of encouragement for me as well!*
Sometimes we get a wake up call in life that shocks us to the core and leaves us wondering how to put it in the box of faith. For me recently, it’s been watching someone I love and admire get beaten up by an ugly, painful and frustrating disease. Our beloved pastor was diagnosed with ALS in November and has had a quick and shocking decline since.  I am merely a church member witnessing this from my comfortable seat, while church brothers and sisters said kind and honest words that brought our leader and her daughters to tears, week after week. What does one even say to comfort a pastor, who counsels and loves and shows US the way to God?

Alison V blogIn December, Pastor Julie gave one of the most emotional and powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. This was no surprise, because she is a very compelling, interesting and down to earth speaker who has always given us realistic, honest insight. But this sermon was different, because it was two weeks before her retirement, which was another unfair result of ALS. Her speech had begun to slur and she spoke from a wheelchair, but between laughter and tears, gave a sermon called “Count it all as Joy.”

Joy?! Here we had seen her sickness take over a healthy person, young and alive and vibrant…and she wanted to talk about joy?! In typical Julie style, we saw that her spirit would not be crushed.

Her message focused on Philippians 4:1-13.

(You can read the sermon, and her other sermons here if you’d like: http://www.firstunitedoakpark.com/files/sermons/12-16-12_Count_It_All_Joy_Julie_R_Harley.pdf).

One of the points that stands out to me still is that Julie says she knows she is deeply loved, and feels it even more now, than when her body was healthy. It’s been uplifting to see how Julie has been able to make positive and joyful and bittersweet conversations out of what has happened on her journey. But I’m not surprised; she is an amazing person, deeply loved by God.

Like we all are.

It’s been hard for us as a church to go through this, but it’s not about us, not wholly. And where it is, we are believing that God is going to meet us in our wilderness. We are trusting that God has all the answers, and holds us in his arms. It’s been hard to remember the love of God sometimes, especially when we see those tears, and the wheelchair, and the pain on Julie’s daughters’ faces. But I know this is the challenge: finding joy in struggle and the rejoicing in the love of God.

“The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.” -Teresa of Avila