Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Be Brave – with what you want to say July 31, 2013

Filed under: Adolescence,Identity — billmacphee @ 11:51 am
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This is my favorite song of the summer for several reasons:

  • Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can maim and kill.
  • Bullies intimidate thoughtful people into silence.
  • Open dialogue is the pathway to understanding.
  • Fear is paralyzing but can be overcome.
  • I need to hear what you have to say.
  • Sara recruited regular people to dance in her video; there is hope for me.

I am one of those people who needs more than a moment to construct my thoughts so that my words offer wisdom instead of nonsense. The fear of saying the “wrong” thing sometimes causes me to stay silent when what I am forming in my mind is actually kind of helpful. It is frustrating missing the moment and then feeling poorly because I withheld a valuable word. I just need to be brave [in the moment], and also risk coming off less prepared, and even a little foolish. “My history of silence” won’t do me any good, and actually I don’t mind if others think I “took the wrong pill.”

I wonder how many young people around me want to say something but fear judgment, disapproval, or laughter. I’m going to be brave and listen in a way that invites others to say what they want to say.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply–and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23


Celebrating Life after Confronting Death August 18, 2009

Filed under: pastoral leadership — billmacphee @ 6:56 am
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I stepped into the privilege of officiating a memorial service yesterday. Facilitating a sacred space for processing grief is never easy, but can’t be compared to the heartache of family and friends who have just lost one they¬†deeply¬†love. Preparing the words and then moments for quiet reflection for a memorial gathering is a challenge not to be entered into without humble and thoughtful trust in God.

Sometimes there is a tension brought into the worship setting. Some present are downright angry as they wrestle with the hurt and confusion of loss, and their anger is thrust outward toward God, the church, the minister, family members. They need care and a resilient environment of grace–sometimes just silence in which to sit and wrestle. Others are hoping a message on sin and forgiveness will fix all the hurt and right all the wrongs surrounding the relationships of those present. Often these two emotions and expectations can complicate an already difficult worship environment.

I chose to bring the presence, hope, and grace of Christ into the room through prayer, key Scriptures, and family remembrances [I know the grace of Christ was already present, I sought to be a reminder of that grace]. I acknowledged the power of community as we collectively waited on God to help us move with hope into tomorrow. We read Psalm 23 – God is our very present companion on this journey. We reminded ourselves that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and lays down his life for the sheep – John 10:11. Jesus’ invitation still stands – all who are weary and burdened can come to him – Matthew 11:28.

I led the crowd in a prayer based on Psalm 124:8 – “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

A beautiful and respectful eulogy was delivered by a personal friend.

We sang “Amazing Grace.”

Family members spoke their intimate, sometimes funny, and meaningful remembrances. It is so helpful to laugh through tears.

A message of hope was mined from Romans 8:1, 28, 31-39 – God is the God who is for us and with us-demonstrated most clearly by his choosing the cross of Christ.

We sang “The Old Rugged Cross” and then a final prayer/benediction was offered: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” [Numbers 6:24-26].

I sought to keep the focus on Christ as a demonstration of God’s extravagant grace. If God is for us, who can be against us? I wanted to be faithful to honor both the reality of allegiance to the cross of Christ and also represent his gentle and gracious compassion. I hope I did both well. We need more honest and loving conversation about life’s deepest mysteries.