"I love to tell the story..." I am paid to tell the story of NASA Science, but I feel most fully alive when I tell God's story. I believe that "threads of glory" from that larger Story weave their way through all the other stories we tell. My writing is a quest to discover those threads and expose them. I live in Waldorf, MD, with my wife Laurie (a United Methodist pastor), son Brady (10) and daughter Becca (8).
Rolling With the Spirit: Welcome to Waldorf Y'all!
Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. —Ruth 1:16
Derecho! Oh no!
An intense windstorm whipped through Waldorf this past
Friday night just one week after our arrival at our new home. While our home was spared damage—and we even
kept our power—millions in our area were not as fortunate. Good Shepherd UMC, where our family was to
have our first worship with our new congregation on Sunday, lost power as a
result of the storm.
“Houston, we have a problem. How will God’s people
respond? Houston, can you read me? Or is your power out just like everyone
Here’s how the people of Good Shepherd responded:
The youth of the church had planned a car wash for Saturday
to raise money for a missions trip, but the power outage made that
impossible. So what did they do
instead? Well, they could have all just
gone home, or gone someplace cooler like the mall or the pool. No one would have blamed them, really. It was a stinking hot day! But that’s not what they chose to do. Instead,
they saw what needed to be done and they did it. They noticed that a good-sized tree limb had
fallen in the parking lot, so the youth and their leaders went to work and
removed it—so it wouldn’t obstruct traffic flow on Sunday.
While that was going on, others were working to make
alternative plans for Sunday worship.
Good Shepherd has a beautiful sanctuary but it is quite dark when there
is no power. The people could have
thrown up their hands and said, “Well, I guess church is canceled this
week.” No one really could have blamed
them. Other churches in the area made
that choice. But Good Shepherd
didn’t. No, instead, they simply moved
to “Plan B." While the sanctuary would not work as a worship venue with no
power (too dark without electricity) the fellowship hall was well lit and could
be used—and in fact we later found out that this was the original worship space
for this congregation. A generator was
set up outside that provided enough power to run Power Point and a small sound system (used at the early “contemporary”
service); chairs were set up in the fellowship hall. The communion table and hymnals were bought
in from the sanctuary. The people did
what needed to be done when it needed doing.
All was in place to have worship.
And so, on Sunday morning that is precisely what we did.
Yes, it was a little chaotic; yes, it was a little uncomfortable; no, it was
not exactly how we planned our first Sunday to be—but we the people of Good
Shepherd worshipped God together. The electricity was out but God’s power was
not! I think we had a good first
Sunday together. (And the electricity
came back on mid-way through the second service!)
The text for the day was Ruth 1:1-18 and it was quite fitting. Things didn’t go according to plan for Ruth
either. Her father-in-law died; not long
after that, her own husband died (as did her brother-in-law); life was
spiraling out of control. She would have
had every right to walk away from Naomi in that moment, her mother-in-law even
encourages her to do just that—but she doesn’t choose to. Instead, Ruth stays.
Even though the decision will be cost Ruth a great deal
personally, she remains loyal to Naomi. She wants Naomi to have a chance at a
better life and she knows she will not find it in Moab. Thus Ruth forsakes her
identity, her home, and all that is comfortable and familiar so she can embark
on a journey with Naomi to Bethlehem.
Ruth is stepping out in faith.
She does not know what lies ahead for her; but she trusts there is
someone who does. She does not even
worship the God of Naomi’s people,
and yet she utters the unbelievable words of loyalty to Naomi written at the
top of this post.
Ruth is willing to do
what it takes, when it is needed, for as long as it takes, and wherever it
takes her, to support her mother-in-law.
In her we see the essence of what it means to follow God.
I think I saw a glimpse of that kind of loyalty on display
this past weekend as the people of Good Shepherd rolled with the Spirit to make sure that worship happened on Sunday
and that the new pastor had a proper welcome this past week. They did not know
her yet, but they wanted to make her—and her family—feel welcome to their new
community. They came and brought meals,
they came and helped us unpack, they welcomed us and our children at Vacation
Bible School, they rallied to make sure that worship went off without a hitch
despite unexpected occurrences. They
treated us as if we had been “part of the family” for years.
The congregation embodied the spirit of Ruth 1:16
The church sign currently
reads: “Welcome Rev. Laurie, we are your
people.” Nice words of welcome for
the new pastor, yes, but this week they became much more. Through their kind and hospitable actions,
the people of Good Shepherd lived these
words. What a remarkable
I’m sure it wasn’t easy or convenient for anyone involved;
some no doubt had to make personal sacrifices to do what they did, but they
chose to do it anyway. Each pitched in
and did what they could, so no one person had to do more than they could bear. Together, they embodied discipleship—working together as a team to do what was needed for
the Kingdom of God, when it needed to be done, for as long as was needed,
placing the needs of the community on par with or even above their own
needs. The common good was served!
Laurie and I are
thankful for the welcome we have received thus far and looking forward to
discovering what God has in store for the Ward family in a place called Waldorf
at a church called Good Shepherd.