Thursday, December 17, 2015

Exciting News!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s an exciting time at PCC!  There’s a new service time at our Riverside Campus; the Midlothian Campus is busting at the seams; the Powhatan Campus is getting a jolt of energy with new staff. 

I am excited to announce that, beginning January 1, our Powhatan Campus will have a new Student Coordinator, Josh Malave.  Josh is from Louisville, KY, and while he’s a new face to our Powhatan Campus, he’s not new to PCC.  Last year Josh did an internship as a Chaplain Assistant at Fork Union Military Academy, just minutes away from our Riverside Campus, where he got involved singing with our band. 

When we started looking for who the next leader of our student ministry at Powhatan would be, we looked within PCC first, as we often do.  We had already identified Josh as a potential leader, and after much prayer and several interviews, we felt led to invite Josh to join our team.

Josh feels called to ministry and is currently a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond.  Like me, he was very involved in leadership at his Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) in college.  He graduated from Western Kentucky University, where he ministered in positions from Outreach Coordinator to Campus Pastor Intern. 

Josh is a self-proclaimed Outgoing Introvert with high energy and excitement for students.  He will be the energizer bunny you want in events and experiences, but is also the relational type who likes one-on-one time and cares about building strong relationships with those around him.  Josh loves Jesus and student ministry, but there are other things that he loves as well.  You will often find him itching to be outdoors.  Josh enjoys playing sports, going to music events, taking day trips to explore new places, and doing what he calls “coffee shopping,” which is just hanging out at a coffee shop.

"I genuinely look forward to having the opportunity to meet you in person, and am excited about leading the group effort in ministering to our students at PCC's Powhatan Campus.  Please feel free to stop by my office at any time, or contact me for any reason (  I will frequently be available to meet and enjoy life together.  Is it Jan 1st yet? I’m ready to get started!"

PCC, as you have been a safe, nurturing place for me to grow up and into my role as a pastor, I hope and trust you will offer Josh the same grace, trust, support, and encouragement!  Please begin praying for him as he gears up for a great year with PCC Students and consider joining him for a cup of coffee! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sammy, School Board, and Election Day Reflections

I’ve looked up to Sammy Frame for as long as I can remember.  Literally and figuratively.  He’s 14 inches taller than me.  He was always one of the tallest, and I was always one of the shortest.  We’ve been kids, teenagers, and adults together, and Sammy has always been a good guy.  He just is.  

I’ve always looked up to him because of his character and his intelligence.  If you know me, then you probably know that admitting someone is smarter than I am is not easy for me.  But, with regards to my husband, it’s true.  He beat me on the SAT’s (Yes, I still remember the margin.).  I may not have liked it, but I respected it.  Now, I get to work with him, to make high-level, hard, leadership decisions on a team with him, and I am still a bit in awe of his brain.

Today, I voted for someone else to take his place on Powhatan’s School Board.  As Sammy’s term comes to an end, I am reflecting on his short tenure in elected office.  Once again, I find myself looking up to him.

Sammy ran for School Board, because he wants to be an agent of justice in his world, and because he cares passionately about his county and his kids’ education.  I’ve always been at work/church or home with the kids during the School Board meetings; I’ve never seen him in action.  But I’ve seen the behind-the-scenes work and heard the after-meeting reflections.  All of it has further increased my respect for him. 

Sammy is the kind of thoughtful, intelligent person we need in elected office.  Some of the issues are complex, and a brain like his that can absorb, sort, synthesize, and analyze lots of information is key to success. 

Part of leadership in any realm is making hard decisions.  Rarely is it making decisions between something good and something bad; those are easy decisions.  Many of the issues before our boards are complex and costly.  Sammy’s abilities to see the big picture from multiple vantage points, to appreciate the complexity, and still to be able to discern what is right have, in my very biased opinion, made him an asset to our county.

And he’s still a good guy, and we need good guys (and girls) leading us.  Men and women of composure, character, and respect are vital for the kids of difficult, constructive conversations that are necessary to move our county forward.  Hyperbole, temper tantrums, name calling, and backstabbing are not what we want or need to see or hear in our leaders.  Unfortunately, it’s what we get too often. 

Tonight, I look forward to learning who will lead our county forward.  I look forward to having my husband home (a little) more often.  I’ll keep looking up to the man I’ve looked up to most of my life.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

For Sarah, on her wedding week

Summer 2004.  I went to church and sat in my usual, near-the-front row with my sister.  There was a family sitting in front of us—a dad on one end, a mom on the other, and five precious kids between them.  There was a redhead with freckles cuddled up with the dad.  The youngest was a cute boy with a cowlick cuddled up with the mom.  The oldest looked like she might be student ministry age, so at the end of the service, I introduced myself to the family.

And the rest is history.

summer mission trip--where hair and makeup don't exist
That week I took those oldest two girls to ice cream at Friendly’s.  They talked nonstop, interrupting each other, fighting for the floor...and it reminded me of my sister and me...and I may have grown to love them that first day. 

They were in Powhatan, because their family was facing all sorts of changes and challenges.  And I will forever be grateful, not for the challenges they went through, but for the fact that God worked through those challenges and brought them here, to Powhatan, and to my life.

I was in seminary at the time.  There was one course I was most worried about—Basic Pastoral Care.  I just knew I would be awful at that.  But it turns out, God had created me for that kind of ministry, and those two girls would become two of my first victims of pastoral care.  They needed a pastor, and even though those were plentiful in their family, they needed a safe person outside the family.  I needed to learn what it meant to be a pastor—not just a leader or teacher or event planner—but a real pastor.

In the last eleven years (11?!  Really?!  I’m getting old...), a lot has changed.  I’ve gotten married, moved back to Powhatan, and had two kids.  That redhead with freckles has gotten married.  That boy with the cowlick is 16.  And that oldest girl gets married on Saturday.

Sarah.  The oldest.  The one who sometimes knew too much, too soon, because that’s what happens with the oldest.  The one who sometimes took on too much responsibility, too soon, because that’s what happens with the oldest.

Sarah.  The artist.  The one whose voice stills my body and catalyzes my tears.  When I watch her worship God, I am reminded of that broken little girl who sat across the booth from me at Friendly’s, and I am overwhelmed at His goodness and grace in her life.  He has gifted her with an abundance of voice, passion, and creativity that overflows out of a tiny person.

Sarah used to take lots of photographs.  She once told me that when she takes photos of other people, she tries to help them see the beauty within, the beauty she sees that they don’t.  I wish I could give Sarah that gift.  I wish I could help her see the beauty I see when I look at her.  But I think, I trust, that God has sent someone else to do that for her—the love of her life, the man who becomes her husband in a few days—Max.

I am so grateful for this man I barely know who loves Sarah, who’s seen her at her best and worst, who shares her artistic zeal, who points her to God, and who grounds her.  And I trust that he sees just as much, maybe even more, beauty when he looks at Sarah as I do.

Sarah and I have been through lots of seasons in eleven years.  We’ve seen each other excel, and we’ve seen each other fail.  We’ve shopped, traveled, ministered, eaten ice cream, drunk lots of coffee, cried lots of tears, shared lots of hugs, and talked on the phone at all hours of the night.  At times I’ve disappointed her, and at times we’ve had hard conversations—some of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever had. 

But a few things have never changed—my love for her, my pride in her, and my hope for her.

Sarah, you are a beautiful woman of God who deserves the full richness of his blessings.  He has uniquely created you to be who you are.  I am better for having known you, loved you, and served God with you.  Thank you for entrusting me with your secrets, your fears, your hopes, and your story.  Being your pastor and friend has been an honor, and I'm grateful for the blessing of knowing you.

Last Summer's Brawley Wedding

(Yes, this post will be followed by one about THIS year's--this WEEK'S--Brawley wedding:)

Last summer I officiated a wedding with my husband.  It wasn’t the first time we’d done that, but it was the first time we were officiating the wedding of a couple that we had counseled—together—not just in a few pre-marital sessions, but over a period of years.

The previous summer Travis Wagner had proposed to Shannon Brawley, and there was a celebration at her mom’s home that evening.  I was there.  I got to pray over the newly engaged couple.

Sammy and I got to meet with them as they worked to get as ready as two people can get for marriage.  They took that work seriously.  They dug in, had hard conversations, cried, laughed, and prayed for their marriage.  Despite their ages, they were as prepared as any couple I’ve worked with.

And then I got to stand with them before God as the God of creation created a new family.
I cried then, and I cry now, at the holiness and awesome opportunity of that moment.
I started from scratch when I wrote that wedding.  It was no ordinary ceremony, and these were no ordinary people—five-foot-nothing girls who fell in love with men whose heights are only surpassed by their IQ’s, couples who believed in the purity of the wedding night. 

As I prepare for another wedding with this family this weekend, I’m also thinking back to the worship we shared a year ago.  Here are some words I got to share that day:

Shannon and Travis, you are standing before two pastors who love you…and who know a bit about those long-term, long-distance relationships that begin at Powhatan High School, continue across separate college campuses, and culminate in marriage.  We know the maneuvering and posturing required for a simple kiss between a giant and shrimp.  We know how annoying it is to hear, “Long distance relationships don’t last,” and, “Nobody actually marries their high school sweetheart,”…and we also know the pride of proving those people wrong:)  We know the frustration of fighting for purity, and the blessing of protecting it.  We know the fear and chaos of getting married in grad school with no money.

We know a bit about the road that’s brought you here.  We’ve spent time with you preparing not just for this day but for the marriage that awaits you.  And we tell you again—We are proud of you.  You have worked hard, prayed hard, sought wise counsel, and put God first.  You may be young and poor, but you have a rich relationship, one that you’ve invested in heavily and wisely...

“You are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.  Therefore, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  ...

Shannon, when Travis is weighed down with studying, exams, long hours, budgets, and bills, respond with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  He carries a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders—responsibility that he craves.  His dependability, responsibility, and stability are essential to your relationship.  Remember that you love those qualities in him; remember that he carries that responsibility, because he wants to take care of you.

Travis, when Shannon is crying and talking at mach speed and there’s not a rational argument to be found in all the words and tears, when she’s begging to take you out on a date, when she wants to push aside the books and bills to carve out her spot beside you, respond with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  She brings joy, energy, passion, and love into every relationship and every room, and she wants to lavish all of that on you.  That red-headed fiestiness and love of life and people are essential to your relationship.  Remember that you love those qualities in her; remember that more than anything else in the world, she wants to be with you.
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and…patience.”  You have proven to each other and to all of us that you can be patient.  You’ve waited for this day for six years.  You’ve waited for college degrees to be earned, for internships to be completed.  You’ve waited to make sure this relationship was God’s plan for you.  You’ve waited for the morning when you could wake up beside the love of your life. 

You’ve waited for the end of the goodbyes.  Your summer and Christmas breaks, your weekends at home, your dates have ended in “goodbye” for six years.  The last “goodbye” has been spoken.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The End of Mary and Jesus' Story

Today I was in a somewhat unique position; I got to deliver a Mother’s Day message as a mom who is a pastor.  I tried to redefine Supermom, whom we all seem to want to be, not as a mom who does everything but as one who shares with, shows up for, and suffers with her kids.
But there was more I wanted to say today about the lessons we can learn from Mary and Jesus as mother and son.

The story didn’t end with Mary at the foot of the cross, suffering with her son as he was dying.  Jesus had final words for his mother:

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ 27 and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)

As Mary and Jesus suffered together, as they realized their time together on earth was ending, Jesus had important and powerful words for his mother and his closest friend.  Mom, here is a new son for you.  Friend, here is your mom. 

On one hand, this seems strange.  No matter how much Mary loved this disciple, he wasn’t her son, Jesus, and she had other sons.  Undoubtedly, if given the choice, Mary would’ve chosen Jesus over this disciple every time.  No one could replace her son!  Yet, here was a young man who was watching his closest friend die.  Here was a young man who needed a mom to share these feelings with him, to show up, and to suffer as he suffered.  And here was a mom who was a great mom, a supermom, a mom who experienced every parent’s worst fear—but a mom still.

Today is a difficult day for many people, especially women who can’t have kids, for moms who’ve lost kids and kids who’ve lost moms—no matter how old the kids and moms are.  No one and nothing will ever replace your mom or having your own child!  That’s impossible. 

But could it be, that on this Mother’s Day, there still sharing, showing up, and even suffering to do?  Might Jesus be suggesting to you, that there is a child who needs you?  Or that there’s another man or woman who could share with you, show up for you, and suffer with you?

For all those who experience heartache today, know you are not forgotten.  And, you are never alone.  When we selected songs for today, we selected these words for you:  Never once did we ever walk alone.  Never once did you leave us on our own.  You are faithful, God; you are faithful.

God has always been with you, even if your mom has not.  You are not alone.  Your church wants to be your family just like Jesus created when he asked his disciple to make his mom family.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Behind the Marriage Message

A month ago, as I started thinking about this past message on marriage, a few things were on my mind. 
Reverends Frame
at the marriage retreat

#1—PCC’s annual marriage retreat was a week before the message.  We didn’t want to duplicate material from the retreat in this message.  And, as a pastor who was helping teach at the retreat (which ended up being a lot of fun, but was crazy intimidating), I was freaking out about how I would come up with enough material.  So, I started reading.  I read books for the marriage retreat sessions.  And I kept reading, looking for other material that might help with a message.  I stopped reading one book halfway through; it was like a never-ending blog post, and I wasn’t connecting with the author. 

Then I found this book.  I referenced it in my message Sunday.  It’s short, accessible, and written by a man, which was refreshing after the rambling female voice in the never-ending blog post book (Yes, I’m aware of the irony that I am a female who writes with a female voice in blog post form.).  It’s one of those short books that references lots of other books, articles, and studies; I found the “Notes” in the back very helpful.  This book doesn’t lay out secrets to a successful marriage, or a recipe for relating to the opposite gender.  Thank goodness!  I’m so tired of those books.  If you’re like me and looking for a fresh approach to marriage, then check it out.  This is the guy who talked about 5 years of marriage behind like kindergarten, which gave me the idea to extrapolate out the Terrible Two's and Tantrum Three's of marriage.

#2—Not everyone is married.  Shocker, I know.  I consulted with two young, single people, one male and one female, about what I could discuss related to marriage that could help them.  They both said expectations.  Coming from a generation with a less-than-positive perspective about marriage, they wanted help forming realistic, God-honoring expectations of marriage.  They wanted a chance to start forming expectations now, before they’re married.  So, that’s what I set out to do.  While I didn’t explicitly address the unmarried population in my message, and I should have, I did consider them; actually, I let them inform the direction I would take. 

The direction I took with Scripture, well, that was all mine.  Maybe I’ll do another blog post about that...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Best Year of Your Marriage

We’re starting our year talking about how to have The Best Year of Your Life.  If you’re married, then the best year of your life must include the best year of your marriage.  If everything else is great—your time management, your parenting, your finances—but your marriage is awful, then it won’t really be the best year of your life.

Throughout our marriages, we go through different phases:

I.   Naked and Unashamed (Genesis 2:25).  In this early phase, we are bare before our spouse, emotionally and physically, and we are not ashamed.  We feel safe, vulnerable, and secure.  If you’re in this phase, then...
1.       Enjoy it!  Enjoy your partner.  Keep having the late night talks; be sappy and romantic; sit close and hold hands.
2.       Learn how to fight fairly.  When your relationship is still in a good place, start learning how to fight fairly.  Even though you’re in this phase, fights will rear their heads.  Start learning how to stay on topic and NOT bring up the past.  NEVER say the word, “divorce,” or call names or spew foul language at one another. 
3.       Learn communication skills.  Reflective and active listening books and seminars abound.  Start learning these critical skills that will aid you your entire marriage.  One key aspect of communication is speaking your spouse’s love language.  Identify their love language, and start learning how to “speak” it.
II.    Naked and Afraid (Genesis 3:10).  This difficult phase of marriage lasts varying lengths of time.  In fact, some marriages get stuck here forever, and many marriages dissolve or explode during this time.  But they don’t have to!  Just like the Terrible Two’s are a phase for our kids, this is just a phase for our marriages.  If you’re in this phase, then...
1.       Go to counseling.  Find a counselor that works for you.  We found a calm, compassionate counselor who gently cared for us and diffused the pain.  Others prefer, or need, an in-your-face approach.  So, if you go to a counselor, and it’s not a good fit, try another!
2.       Build a support system.  Find a couple who can be trusted confidantes, a couple who believes in marriage and specifically believes in YOUR marriage, and invite them into your struggles.  You don’t have to go through this difficult phase alone; find support in community.
3.       If you haven’t already started going to marriage retreats, seminars, and/or small groups, then go!  Learn about common issues in marriages and how to address them.  Spend the day or weekend with your spouse, away from your regular responsibilities and stressors.  PCC offers a marriage retreat each year; over 120 of us went away a week ago to strengthen our marriages.  Come with us next year!
III.    Known and United (Genesis 4:1 and 2:24).  This phase is when you know your partner and know that, together, united, you can face anything.  Conflicts still arise, and your marriage will still go through ups and downs.  But your marriage is strong and grounded.
1.       Find a younger couple to take under wing.  Many young couples don’t have examples of lasting marriages to aspire toward.  Imagine the difference it would have made to your marriage to have a mentor couple to guide you and help you through struggles!
2.       Continue investing in your marriage with retreats, seminars, and books.  You know a lot, but if you’re like me, you don’t put into practice everything you know.  Brush up on the basics.  Do the things you know to do; keep dating; keep learning your spouse as they grow and change; keep loving intentionally; keep communicating.
3.       Celebrate and reminisce.  Celebrate getting to this phase and getting through phase two.  Consider renewing your vows.  Save for a second honeymoon.  You are experiencing what God designed since he created man and woman; don’t take it for granted!

*Issues like addiction, abuse, and infidelity need professional counseling, and often, ongoing support and care even when crisis stages are over.  Other issues like loss of a child can rock even the strongest of marriages.  Seek out the care you need.