Bullet-Point Blog Post

At the moment we are up to our eye-balls in moving boxes, so I’ll skip the narration and fluff and get right to the point with a handful of bullet-points about the next week or so:

  • We are currently in the throws of packing…lots of boxes, bubble wrap, and paper!
  • We’re moving in to Murphy on Saturday 6/30.  If you want to help unload, we’d love the help!  We’ll get in around 1…we think.
  • The week of July 1, we’ll be settling into the house, and I’ll be settling into the office.
  • July 9 is my first official day in the office.
  • July 15 is my first day preaching and in worship.
  • Did I mention we are swimming in a sea of boxes?
  • We are excited to meet you and get rolling in life and ministry in Murphy!
  • This is a full and busy time–you are in my prayers, and we ask for yours as well.

Ok, that’s the end of the bullet-point blog post.  We look forward to meeting you, and can’t wait to jump in at Murphy FUMC.

See you Saturday!



Our Story

In a previous post I took some time to tell you some of my story–where I’ve come from, growing up in the faith, and how God got me into ministry.  In the FAQ post I tried to answer and anticipate some questions you might have about me, my ministry style, and a little about my family.  So you’ve gotten a sense for some of my story.  Now I want to tell you a little more of our story, so you can get to know Lea (my wife) and Nathanael (our son).


View More: http://kathryncookephotography.pass.us/lea-posey--1st-24-babynathaneal

Lea and I started dating on my sixteenth birthday.  I waited until then to ask her out so I could drive and we could actually go out.  I was a sophomore and she was a freshman at Suwannee High School.  (When I’m telling this story to people, some groan and others say “awe”, depending on how much you like sappy love stories.)  We only ever dated each other.  All the way through high school and during college, even though we didn’t go to the same colleges.

After high school, I went to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL where I earned a B.A. in English.  After Lea graduated, she went on to play softball at community college and then landed at Florida Gateway College where she completed the Physical Therapy Assistant program. She has been a practicing P.T.A. for 8 years.

We became engaged at the end of my junior year and her second year in college, and got married 1 1/2 years later on December 19, 2009.

IMG_1704Lea and I both are passionate supporters of ZOE Ministry, a mission that grew out of the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.  ZOE is a 3-year empowerment program that helps some of the most vulnerable children in the world move from desperate poverty to a self-sustainability and dignity.  We traveled to India a few years ago to visit the group of vulnerable children FUMC Hickory was sponsoring at the time.  Lea is a good photographer, and some of her photos are on ZOE’s website and other materials.




Our first babies had fur and four legs.  We have two good, sweet dogs: Zoe and Tilly.  We rescued Zoe during seminary.  She’s a labrador-mix.  A few years later we added Tilly, a golden-labrador mix.  They love going for walks and playing around in the yard.




The biggest and best change in our lives has been the birth of our son, Nathanael James Posey.  He was born on April 6, 2017.  He and Lea share the same birthday, so when we were celebrating Nathanael’s first birthday, we also celebrated Lea’s 30th.  It was a big day in the Posey household!

At 14 months old, he is walking all over the place, loves to laugh, will eat just about anything, and is tirelessly exploring the world around him.  Needless to say, he keeps us on our toes, and we love it!  As I type this, our family is at Lake Junaluska for a few days of rest prior to the beginning of Annual Conference.  To my right is Nathanael’s toy dump truck, in front of me are his bubble wands, not far away is a little ball, and all around me are pieces of porch furniture arranged to keep him from falling down any stairs.  That’s kind of our life.  Parenthood is such an adventure.  Lea and I have learned and grown so much–I guess you have to!

What about the rest of our family?  My parents live in Tallahassee, Florida, and Lea’s in Dowling Park, Florida.  They love being in North Carolina and are best friends with one another, so you’ll be seeing them from time to time. Having their only grandchild up here is also a pretty strong draw.


In the back are Wil’s parents, Stan and Gail.  To the right are Lea’s parents, Jim and Jan.

Lea and I each have one older brother.  They both were in the same graduating class from our high school.  My brother, James, is a Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S.M.C.  He and his wife, Jessica, are stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC.  Lea’s brother, Curran, and his wife, Krysta, are both in the Army Band and are stationed in Hawaii.  He anticipates beginning Officer Candidate School very soon.


Our story is also full of church mission trips, camping, playing games, going to movies (well, not so much these days), hobbies and interests, and family stories.   There’s always more to tell, but this is a start.  Everybody has a story.  I believe they are all unique and beautiful–even in their complexity and sometimes messiness.  We look forward to getting to know you and your story, and finding ways to share life together.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long have you been a Pastor?  I have been a pastor for 5 years, all of which I have served as the Associate Pastor at Hickory FUMC.  I was ordained as an elder at the 2016 Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska.  I am excited to begin my 6th year serving as pastor at Murphy FUMC!

During seminary, I served as an intern in three different settings: Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, Gethsemane UMC north of Greensboro, and as a Hospital Chaplain Intern at Duke University Hospital.  Prior to that I worked for one year as the Coordinator of Children and Youth Ministries at my home church, FUMC of Live Oak, FL.  I’m thankful to have had experiences in churches of all different settings and sizes, with a variety of ministries and worship styles.  Each experience has been a gift that has helped me grow in ministry.

Where are you from?  I grew up in Live Oak, Florida, a small town just 15 minutes south of the Georgia border.  A good bit of the activity and economy in Live Oak revolved around agriculture, and, of course, there were all the offices and opportunities it takes to make a county and town run.  My wife, Lea, grew up in the same area, and we started dating when we were in high school.  In high school, I played soccer and was in the marching band for a few years.  After college, we moved to Durham, NC so I could attend seminary at Duke.  Once you come to North Carolina, it’s hard to imagine leaving.  We fell in love with Western NC, and believe the Western NC Conference of The UMC is full of strong ministries and visionary leadership.  While in seminary, I changed from the Florida to the Western NC Conference, and since then NC has been home.

Are you married?  Do you have children?  I am!  And we do!  Lea and I have been married 8 years, and will celebrate our 9th anniversary on December 19.  We have one son, Nathanael, who just had his first birthday this past April 6, which also happens to be Lea’s birthday!  That’s right, Lea and Nathanael have the same birthday.  Makes it easy for me to remember, right?

How old are you?  Old enough to rent a car, but not old enough to run for President 🙂  I  am 31 years old,  and turning 32 on March 6.

What is your favorite Bible verse or story?  Ruth.  All of it.  I love the book of Ruth because it is a story about people going to work, making a living and carving out a life.  It’s about family and friendship.  Ruth tells a story of loss and grief, as well as surprise and new life.  It’s about fidelity and redemption.  And God is in the midst of it all.  Here are my favorite lines:


But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
    and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”

Ruth 1:16-17, NRSV

My other favorite places to turn in the Bible are Genesis, the Psalms, and the Gospel According to John.

Do you think there is room for humor in worship and ministry?  Goodness yes!  I don’t think we can get too far in faith or life without humor.  The Bible is full of moments of irony and comedy, and there are places where I think writers expect we’ll laugh out loud.  The Bible touches on every aspect of human emotion and experience.  I believe God wants us to bring our whole, authentic selves to worship, not holding back any part of who we are–including our great joys and our sadnesses, and everything in between.

What kind of preacher are you?  I love studying Scripture and being surprised by God, and I hope to share that journey when I preach.  I like to tell stories, and I always try to say something true about God, and something that builds up the church.  I think a sermon is part of the bigger conversation taking place in worship and throughout the week.  The length of a sermon depends on what else is going on (it’s part of the larger conversation)–sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes closer to 18-20, but longer than that and I start to have a hard time holding my own attention.

I don’t have many recordings of sermons that you can watch or listen to, but here is a link to a sermon I delivered as the guest preacher at Plains UMC in Canton, NC the Sunday before  Palm Sunday this past year:


I think this gives you a pretty good idea of who I am as a preacher.

What are your passions in ministry?  I think ministry is simple: love God, love our neighbors as ourselves, and go and make disciples.  It all comes down to the greatest commandments and the great commission.  And everything in ministry is about relationships–with one another, with God, and with our community.  It’s simple, but anyone who has been following Jesus for more than a day knows that “simple” isn’t the same as easy.  We wholly depend on the strength and guidance of the Spirit.

I really enjoy preaching and teaching, dwelling in Scripture, and seeing where God’s story comes to life in our own stories.  My two great passions in ministry are around schools and prisons/jails.  Being involved in both are essential to me.  I also get excited when it comes to looking at how we can be the church outside of the church building, how we can go to and be the church in the community we already call home.

I have loved getting to hear about the things God is doing at Murphy FUMC, and I can’t wait to join with you in ministry.

What are your hobbies?  So much of mine and Lea’s life right now revolves around things we can do with Nathanael, which includes playing at parks and playgrounds.  We also enjoy being outdoors, camping and hiking.  We can’t wait to explore in and around Murphy.  It also feels like now is the time to get a pair of kayaks so we can get on the river, and it’s time I dust off my fly-fishing rod.  Of course, I wouldn’t turn down any help learning how to use it.  I also enjoy reading, writing, and playing at woodworking.  I look forward to poking around at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  Lately I’ve been rediscovering the joys of baseball–mostly going to games, and being in the atmosphere.

Where did you go to school?  I graduated from Florida Southern College with a bachelors degree in English.  FSC is a small, United Methodist liberal arts college in Lakeland, FL.  From there, I went to seminary at Duke Divinity School where I graduated with a Masters of Divinity.  Once basketball season rolls around, now you know where our loyalties lie 🙂  Part of what I love about being United Methodist is how we talk about loving God with our heart and head.  I’m a life-long learner, and I look forward to growing with you at Murphy FUMC.

When are you moving here?  We will move in on Saturday, June 30.  If you are around that day and want to help unload the truck, we would sure appreciate it.  That next week we will be settling in at home and the church.  The Conference builds in transition time for moving pastors, so my first “official” day in the office will be July 9 and my first Sunday preaching in worship will be July 15.

What are your priorities when you arrive?  I learned an important mantra from a prison ministry I’ve been part of: “Listen, Listen, Love, Love”.  My first priorities are to listen and love–to hear what God is up to at FUMC and in Murphy, and to join with you in loving God, one another, and our neighbor.  From there, if we’re hanging out together with God, kingdom-building will happen.

What else?  I’m sure you have other questions that I haven’t touched on.  If you do, please comment below, and I’ll answer there, or send me an email at wposey@wnccumc.net.  You can also find me on social media: on Facebook, I’m “Wil Posey”, and on Instagram and Twitter I’m @wilposey.

What about you?  One of the first things I’ll be doing when we arrive in Murphy is listening and getting to know you.  I’m really looking forward to that!

My Story

Setting up chairs in the Fellowship Hall for our Sunday evening worship service and taking out the trash after a potluck dinner were as much a part of my growing up as going to school.  In my family, we were regularly the first ones there at First United Methodist Church in Live Oak, FL, and the last ones to leave.

I kid my Dad about it being his fault that I’m afraid of the dark because he’d usually send my older brother, James, and me to make sure all the lights were out before we left for home.  Walking through the darkened sanctuary and down creeky hallways was a bit on the scary side for me as a kid.

cabin boys

Us boys.  On Sundays our families went to worship, lunch, then played a little ball.

My fear of the dark aside, I grew up in the church, and I loved it.  FUMC in Live Oak was family for me in the way you hope church should be.  Most of my biological family lived in Alabama, so my family became the people I worshipped with, ate and played with, and also happened to go to school with.  My family and three others in the church became each others’ family.  I like to say I grew up with 4 sets of Moms and Dads, and I still think of all of them that way.

Growing up in the church, I learned to have a servant’s heart by watching and imitating my Dad, who answered the call to licensed ministry in The UMC while I was in high school.  From my Mom, I learned–and am still learning–about prayer and compassion for others.  Mr. Bero, a World War II veteran, adopted me as his grandson and taught me the saving grace of a good joke and how powerful it is when an adult invests their life in a child’s.

When I was twelve I went on my first week-long mission trip with my paternal grandparent’s church, First United Methodist Church, from Haleyville, Alabama.  We went to Ojo Amarillo, NM on the Navajo Reservation.  After that first trip, I went back nine more times.  On the reservation, I encountered a Christian faith that was young, sincere, and costly.  When they prayed, they expected something was going to happen.  And when they said yes to Jesus, that meant saying no to their traditional religion.


The Christianity I met on the Reservation stood in contrast with what I knew from Live Oak, where being a Christian was the same thing as being a resident of the county.  You just were one.

But I left the Reservation hungry and more committed to my faith.  I was reading the Bible more, and looking for opportunities to apply what I was reading.  By the time I made it to high school, I’d moved from “reading” to “studying” and even earnestly “searching the Scriptures.”

Youth group, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and mission trips gave me opportunities to practice leadership in the church and work out what I was beginning to sense as a calling into ministry.  The story that shaped my sense of calling was when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and when Peter said yes, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”  I’ve always taken that to mean feed God’s people with the bread of life (God’s Word) and also to be devoted to serving my neighbors.

At some point I guess most of us come to a place where we have a pretty good idea of where God is leading us in our lives, yet we still find a way to try to wriggle out of it.  When I was in college I tried to negotiate with God and come up with some other ways to serve the kingdom that I imagined might be more practical or useful, something like a doctor or an engineer or a teacher.  Before I boarded a ship for Tarshish, some wise mentors and friends helped me remember my first love and find peace and excitement about a calling into ministry.

Wil and Lea in Cameron Indoor

Me and Lea in Cameron Indoor Stadium, because basketball is part of the curriculum at Duke.

After college, and a year of working in my home church in Children’s and Youth Ministries, I was off to seminary at Duke Divinity School.  In seminary I learned an even deeper love for God through the gifts of prayer and scripture.  And the Spirit taught me that I cannot be in ministry without being involved in schools and prisons/jails.  I learned in my United Methodist polity class that my new found loves and convictions were as Methodist as potlucks and committee meetings.  In seminary I knew for sure that The UMC is my home.

I grew up in the church, and there isn’t one moment that I can point to and say, “There, that’s the moment I became a Christian.”  It’s more like I’ve been becoming a Christian my whole life.  My life has been full of surprising moments when Jesus showed up and led me in a new way or the right way, when he called me deeper or stretched me further.  All the time, I feel like God’s working extra hard on cultivating in me one or another of those fruit of the Spirit.


Easter 2018

Since becoming a parent, I find I’m meeting and relating to God in entirely new ways.  So many of my prayers begin and end with “Thank you”, and sometimes that’s the middle part too.  I’m seeing, for what feels like the first time, how all of life is a gift.  Lea and I are experiencing in profound ways what it means when the Bible describes God as our parent who loves us, is patient with us, and always wants what’s best for us.  Rocking Nathanael in my arms ,I realize what a sacred thing it is to entrust our children and our own lives into God’s good hands, and to know that God has proven time and again that He is trust-worthy.

In The United Methodist Church we talk about having the assurance of God’s Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  That assurance isn’t the finish line; it’s the starting line.  See, we also talk about growing in holiness, to the point of being filled with nothing but the love of God alone.  I’ve been becoming a Christian for a long time.  I kind of expect that will still be true at Murphy FUMC.  We’ll seek the kingdom of God together.  We’ll pray and serve together.  I’ll learn from you.  We’ll learn from Jesus.  And together we’ll see God surprise us with grace and do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine.



*My next post will be a Frequently Asked Questions kind of post.  If you have questions you’d like for me to take a crack at, you can leave them here as a comment or send them to me by email (wposey@wnccumc.net).

Hi, my name is:


Lea, Nathanael, and I are looking forward to meeting each of you in person.  We are grateful for the hospitality and kindness we’ve already been shown, and look forward to moving in and beginning in life and ministry together.

I hope this blog series will be a good way for you to get to know me and my family during this transition time.  I plan to have a new post each Monday.  You’re welcome to check back here, or we’ll find a way to get word to you that a new post is up.

If you scroll back through previous blog posts you’ll find some older posts about my adventures in jiu-jitsu class, meditations on Psalm 22, and more.

If you’re looking for me on social media, here’s where you can find me:

Facebook: “Wil Posey” …there aren’t many of us out there with one “l” 🙂

Instagram: @wilposey

Twitter: @wilposey


Josh and Bradley Josh and I were having lunch together a while back, before he was “Sensei” to me, and in the course of conversation Josh lit up when he started talking about students that were, as he said, “my black belts.”  At the time, I was in a leadership program that emphasized the importance of apprenticeships in the church, so my ears perked up.

      His black belts are students he’s trained.  They trained, learned, advanced, and competed under his guidance.  They imbibed the culture of the Academy—with its emphases on kindness, respect, discipline, anti-bullying, and being a black belt on and off the mat.  When they reached a certain level, then they started teaching others.  And Josh could trust them as instructors because he knew how they’d been taught.

        Our conversation about students who become teachers made me think of Jesus and his disciples.  The pattern back then was for a rabbi to select disciples who would learn from, follow, and imitate their rabbi.  Jesus’ disciples were with him in the synagogue and in the market, on the fishing boat and on the road, in their family homes and on remote hillsides.  They ate, talked, and sang together.

        Then, as Matthew tells the story, Jesus’ last words to his disciples are, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

        The Apostle Paul wasn’t there for that particular talk, but he apparently caught it’s drift somewhere along the line.  When Paul writes to his young apprentice, Timothy, he says, “And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Tim. 2:2).  Paul identifies four generations of disciples in this one verse.  The transmission of faith heads in this direction: Paul -> Timothy -> faithful people -> others.

        This is about disciples making disciples who make disciples who make disciples who…you get the idea.

        If you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, I’m no Apostle Paul.  I’ve got nothing to teach.”  Join the club.  But then remember this old song, “If you cannot preach like Peter, / if you cannot pray like Paul, / you can tell the love of Jesus and say ‘He died for all’.”

        Passing on and forming others in the faith is essential to what we’re about.  There are some ways we try to formalize this mentor-apprentice relationship, like with confirmation mentors for our confirmands.  During baptismal services, every one of us has made a covenant to help raise children in the faith.

        Before Nathanael’s baptism, some of us were sitting around under our carport and someone asked, “What do you want him to know about God?”  In some ways that’s where this begins, not with facts and things to do, but with our living relationship with God.

        For today—at the beginning and all throughout—take moments to pause and ask, “Lord, what do you want me to learn from you today?”  Ask Jesus to help you follow his lead in the places where you work, live, and play.

Gracious God, thank you for choosing us to follow you, and thank you for being patient with us as we get tripped up from time to time.  Give us encouragement to share the gifts youve given us so others may come to know the abundant life you came to give.  Amen.

The peace of Christ be with you,

Blackbelt in Kindness

        On Black Friday, you may be in line somewhere thinking you’d sure like to know jiu-jitsu so you could hip toss the person who took the last one of the thing you came to buy.  Or maybe you’re the one in need of self-defense as other shoppers (or family members, still hungover from too much turkey and dressing) trample you down.
I recently talked with a friend who works in retail, and days before Thanksgiving he was already bracing himself for all manner of meanness, condescension, and impatience.  Black Friday is an unfortunate after-party to the day we’ve dedicated to gratitude.
One of the things I’ve learned from my time at the dojo is it’s more important to be a black belt in kindness than a black belt in jiu-jitsu.  Sensei Page speaks often about and has written a book on kindness.  The book is a 50-day challenge to change your life through small acts of kindness.  Before jiu-jitsu ever became a serious notion for me, Sensei Page had put in my hands a log for recording acts of kindness.
Part of the point is kindness requires discipline and practice.  Let’s face it, while it may be easy to show kindness to some people, for others, we’d rather lock the door than hold it for them.  Sometimes, kindness really does require discipline and intentionality.  The thing is, the more you practice kindness, the more natural it will become.  What begins as a discipline grows into a way of life.
Kindness is one of those nine fruit of the Spirit the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Christians living in Galatia (Gal. 5:22-23).  The whole list is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These are fruit of the Spirit, not fruit of our own will power and determination.  God plants the seed and if we abide in (hang out with) him, fruit starts to grow.  The fruit of the Spirit aren’t meant to be stored up in the root cellar of your heart; they are meant for sharing.  The funny thing is, when we share the gifts of God, they seem to multiply.  How’s that for a lesson in kingdom agriculture?
Look again at Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit.  Resist the temptation to point out how other people need to be more loving, or if other people would just be more kind things would be better.  Instead prayerfully consider what fruit you need more of in your heart and life.  Before you go any further, ask God to apply some miracle-grow grace to your heart and bring more of that fruit to bear in your life…for the sake of others.
Receive the gift, and share it.  Practice peace.  Be disciplined in gentleness.  While everyone else is eating left-overs today, what if we shared from these first fruits?

Lord Jesus Christ, let the fruit of your Spirit live in me todayAmen.

The peace of Christ be with you,

Here is one of Sensei Page’s blog posts from this summer on kindness, and toward the bottom you’ll find more about his book and 50-day challenge.

Learning from the Master

        One of the reasons I enjoy taking jiu-jitsu is I get to learn from a master.  You’d be hard pressed to get Sensei Page to talk about all of his titles and championships (and he’s likely embarrassed at this very moment, and I may wind up doing push-ups for this…), but one look at his trophy case and resume and you know you’re in the presence of someone who really knows what he’s doing.  In fact, not long after we moved to Hickory, Sensei Page retired from competition after having won a National Blackbelt League World Title in 2013. 
        And I get to learn jiu-jitsu from him!
        I have spent a lot of time in classrooms—reading books and attending seminars.  There are blogs on every subject I’ve ever wanted to learn.  But there’s no book, seminar, blog, or Youtube video that can come anywhere close to what happens when a student literally sits at the feet of a master.
        This is the relationship shared between Jesus and his disciples.  They sat at his feet, followed him around, did what he did, asked questions, and tried to pattern their entire life on his life.
        Who are the masters from whom you have learned the faith?  Maybe it was a parent or grandparent; maybe a pastor or mentor.  I love the way the apostle Paul celebrates how the faith that lives in his protégé Timothy was first in Timothy’s mother Eunice and before that his grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5).  Between his mother, grandmother, and Paul, Timothy is learning from masters.
        When we visited our grandparents as kids, if they had a church thing on their schedule, they didn’t duck out of it because their grandkids were in town.  They dragged us with them.  We went on youth trips because our Papa was the bus driver.  We sat in on Benevolence Committee meetings because Bomba was a member.  And we went on visitation Bomba when she would visit with Ms. Addie Mae Auten.  That was a way of learning from masters.  We got immersed in the faith.
        There is certainly something to be said about learning from books, seminars, videos, and other resources.  I have shelves full of great books on prayer, studying the Bible, etc.  Sometimes those are places where we encounter or learn from wise, spiritual guides.  But what I am learning to value more and more is a mentor who can show me the way, a master whose has practiced the art (and still is).
        Here’s something else: several times, when I’ve thanked Sensei Page for a training session, he thanks me in return and says he needs the practice too.  That’s humility.  And it’s a lifetime commitment to learning and attention to the basics. 
        Who is a person you can go to and ask, “Teach me how you pray” or “Show me how I can serve like you”?  If you don’t know who that person might be, ask God to help you identify her, or ask God to put someone like that in your life.  Exercise humility.  Be grateful and surprised by what you learn.  Then together, sit at the feet of Jesus, our Master, who can show you the way.
Father, thank you for having sent your Holy Spirit to teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has taught us.  Help us sit at your feet, and learn to follow you, our Master.  Amen.
 The peace of Christ be with you,

P.S. If you’re looking for a good devotional resource, I highly recommend Apprenticeship with Jesusby Gary Moon.  

Best Testing

white belt        A few weeks ago, before class started Sensei Page asked us to line up according to belt ranking.  I had no idea how to do that, but I figured I was on the bottom of the totem pole and therefore should be on the far end of the line.
My white belt is so new it still has a crease from where it was folded in the middle in the packaging.  I haven’t gone for a belt testing yet, but at some point, I will.  I am not entirely sure what that’ll look like, other than there’s a set of moves I’m expected to know, and I’ll have to demonstrate that I’ve learned them with some measure of proficiency.  (This is an academy, after all.  Remember?)  If I can do them, I’ll earn stripes and eventually advance in belt rank.
We don’t have “belt tests” in the church.  We don’t graduate from one degree of discipleship to another, but that doesn’t mean discipleship is without expectation.
Retired UMC Bishop Will Willimon has told a story about a Christian undergraduate at Duke sitting next to a Muslim student, and the two start talking.  The Christian askes the Muslim what he believes, and he outlines the 5 pillars of Islam, his discipline of fasting, his schedule of prayers, etc.  The Muslim then asks the Christian what he believes, and he stammers a bit and then says, “Hey, um, look, this is my stop.  See you later.”
Other denominations have what’s called a “catechism,” a teaching or summary exposition of doctrine.  If you grew up Presbyterian, there’s a good chance you know from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
Ryan Kiblinger has written a Wesleyan Catechism, using excerpts from Wesley’s writings on the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and our UMC Articles of Religion.  Back in the old days, Christians referred to The Didache, the teachings of the church.  It spelled out what it means to follow Jesus and be part of his body, the church.
When our son, Nathanael, was born a friend gave us the book Bible Basics.  It’s a counting and catechism book.  The pages teach about 1 God, 2 natures of Christ, 3 Persons of the Trinity, 4 gospels, 5 books of the Pentateuch, etc.  I’m pretty sure Nathanael is the only kid on the block whose nursery bookshelf includes a board book that talks about the 2 natures of Christ and the Pentateuch….right next to Brown Bear, Brown Bear.
It’s important to learn these things.  But simply being able to recite the Apostles’ Creed isn’t the point.  The point is knowing that the Apostles’ Creed tells God’s story of grace.  It is the story of salvation that God invites us into.
The 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, The Didache—these are important ways we can get a glimpse into both what God is like and God’s vision for our life with God and with one another.  The point isn’t just that we learn them; but that we live them, together, with God.

God of all wisdom, teach us to know that your words are sweeter than honey.  Guide us as we seek to know you better and love you more fully.  Amen.

Peace be with you,



        My hunch is there are very few situations when a pastor has been put in a choke hold by a church member and the two still remain friends afterward.  And not just that, but they swap roles and the pastor then puts the church member in a choke hold!  It’s an elite fraternity, and I’m proud to be part of it.
I don’t remember how many classes I made it before Sensei Page started to lower the guard rails and introduce me to what it feels like to approach “the beautiful sleep.”  I do remember thinking, “We didn’t cover this in seminary.”
In truth, one of the things I appreciate about jiu-jitsu is its goal to submit your partner.  A submission happens when you get the other person in some sort of hold like an arm bar or a wrist lock, and they cry uncle.  That feels better to me than having an objective of knocking someone out.  I like the idea of reducing the potential for harm and trying to contain someone who is angry.  That seems to prioritize de-escalation and also leaves open the possibility for a positive resolution that doesn’t include a black eye.
We talk about submission in the church too.  I don’t mean that God puts us in a wrist lock and says, “Come follow me.”  (Though there is that story about Jonah and the giant fish…)
The Renovare movement is helpful in writing that submission is “the discipline which frees us to let go of the burden of always needing to get our own way.”  It is a way of leaning that perhaps it is more important that we are together than that we take my route.  And perhaps it is better to be compassionate than to be right.  The freedom from getting our own way, is about freeing us up to learn Jesus’ way.
Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).  This is how we pray too.  In the Lord’s Prayer—“thy will be done”…not mine.  In the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer—“I am no longer my own but thine…”
Submission is about getting our hearts and lives in line with God’s mission.  Consider how you can enter into today—and carry with you all throughout—the intention to be free from your own way and open to God’s way.  Maybe start with the Lord’s Prayer, or the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer.  Don’t rush it; give the prayer time to take root.
A few months after we moved to Hickory, I was in the library and a pair of young women who were Catholic missionaries gave me a small hand-drawn card with a prayer on it.  It’s been on my desk ever since, and I often say this prayer as I enter the day:

That all my works may bear this seal: that I am of Jesus.  Amen.