Another week…finally, another post!!

August 21st, 2014 by Angie McCarty

It has been a while since I’ve written my blog.  A lot has happened in that time!  My life has recently called me to a new level of self examination, prayer and study.  Isn’t it amazing how it is our tendency to forget that God’s active in our lives until our lives crumble down around us?  I’m not saying we deny God’s existence during the easier times in life.  I thank God often for all God has done for me.  I feel very blessed and want to give God the credit for those blessings.  There is, however, a certain sense of reliance upon God that isn’t necessary in the same way until life falls apart.  It’s then that we seek God the most.

As humans, we are basically self reliant people.  I go to work. I earn money.  I pay my bills.  I supply my family with food, shelter and clothing.  I am successful in what I do.  I set goals and more often than not, meet those goals.  I am proud of my accomplishments.  I….I….I.   Nowhere in that litany did I acknowledge God’s activity in my abilities and accomplishments.  After all, God’s not the one going to work.  I am.  I make good choices that sustain my family.   I am quite full of myself, huh?

What if I expanded my imagination to change my litany to this:  God allows me to go to work at an amazing church.  God gives the people in the church a heart of generosity that allows me to be paid for my work…work that brings me to life.  Who gets to say that about their job?  God has created an amazingly complicated world that produces food to feed my family.  God gave me the gifts and graces to be a success, not by the world’s standards, but by God’s standards.  Wow…that’s puts my life into perspective.

When I change my language, something begins to happen in me.  I begin to take the focus off of myself and place it upon God.  When I do this, not only do I think differently about my blessings, but also about my struggles.  If God is the center of my abundance, God also must be the center of my trials.  This gives me hope for survival and peace.  This is the greatest blessing I could ever receive.  Thanks be to God.

The Spirit, Like a Wind…

May 1st, 2014 by Angie McCarty

This past week has seen horrible destruction in the wake of tornadoes ripping through the mid section of our country.  The wind converges and lives and property are lost in an instant.   Even in southern Arizona today I’d rather be driving my husband’s F150 than my Prius.  The gusts aren’t handled well by my tiny, yet highly fuel efficient, car.  It’s interesting to me that scripture compares the Holy Spirit as something as potentially violent as wind.

Luke writes in Acts 2:1-2 that “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.”  When I was 6 years old, living in Pekin, Illinois we had to head to our basement during a tornado warning.  I still remember the sound of the wind being strong enough to shatter windows.  Is this what the people heard on the day of Pentecost?  Did it sound like a freight train was barreling into their quiet neighborhood?  How could this have instilled anything but fear in the believers?

Even with this comparison, we do not have to fear the Holy Spirit’s coming at all.  The Holy Spirit is in fact all around us, nudging us, calling us, loving us.  The Holy Spirit is our comforter, so perhaps a gentle breeze is a better image than a tornado.  We do always have to hold out the possibility that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives we will be uprooted in a terribly exciting instant, called to live and breathe and act in a new way.  This can create a sense of fear and it’s during these times that I remember the words spoken to us over and over again…Do not fear…even when the Spirit filled wind offers an opportunity to follow God in a new way.  This is when the spirit is most alive!

Be it resolved….

April 10th, 2014 by Angie McCarty

Be it resolved that I will begin to fill the blog that is on this website.  In an effort to reach out to a digital world, an extra communication with my congregation and any others who care to read what’s in the forefront of my imaginations begins today.  My goal is to write a post every week as I end my time in the office on Thursdays.  My hope is to reflect on the spiritual matters that have touched me during the previous week.

Spiritual matters is a HUGE topic.  When I consider the “spiritual” element of my life I can not separate spiritual from mental, emotional and physical.  It’s as if I have an emotionally spiritual part of my life, a mental spiritual component and a physically spiritual element that combine to form who I am as a child of God.  Another way of saying this is that for me, everything is a theological matter.  What I eat, how I treat my body, what I put into my mind (the TV show Scandal is currently one of my favorites), how I respond in my marriage is a way to express my relationship with God.  As you can see, not all things are in the spiritual place I would hope.  It’s likely that a television show that I obsessively watch about a DC lawyer and her ongoing affair with the president (trust me…Scandal is GOOD!) is not filling my mind with holy thoughts.  Maybe this is a place for reflection.

As I think about my life in a holistic way, I am drawn to Romans 12:1 & 2–“Present your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living sacrifice–the kind He will find acceptable.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  It doesn’t work for me to only present one part of myself to God.  I’ve got to present the entire package.  I am who I am and I long to trust God enough with all of me–body, mind & emotions–as the spiritual being that I am.   I’m thankful that God accepts each of these parts of me and loves me enough to call me to change.  God knows I need it.

Here’s to presenting all of me to God…and to you.  Here’s to recognizing the need to change and at the same time accepting who I am as a beautiful child of God in this very moment.  Here’s to a wonderful week ahead, filled with endless spiritual moments!

A Labor of Love….

November 6th, 2013 by Angie McCarty

If you’re reading this then I know that Santa Cruz Valley’s new website is up and running!  What a blessing that there are people in the world who are willing to help with the technical issues I don’t understand (thanks, Paulina).  There are also people who are in a position to give a small church a killer deal on a new website (Thank you, Joey & Go Web Solutions!!).  Even better than that, there are people in the world (Wayne Craig) who figured out how to give Santa Cruz Valley a website when they first formed and were meeting in a school.  Wayne didn’t know anything about web design and learned from scratch so that his church could attract new visitors.  Wayne, you are amazing and are hereby publicly released from web site duties.  Wayne makes me wonder, though, what are we all willing to pour into our churches for them to be successful?  Are we willing to give a piece of our business, our time, or our talents?  Is just a piece enough?  Does God expect each of us to make the sacrifices in time and energy that Wayne did all those years ago when SCV was so new?  Does God expect extravagant generosity from us as we interact with the people of His church, His world and His kingdom?  I think so!  I don’t know what that looks like for you.  Maybe you don’t either at this point.  Being open to the possibility of extravagance, though, will allow you to hear God when God calls you to boldly step into the future with His church and His people.  Thanks be to God for people like Wayne who say yes to that call.  Thanks be to each of us who keep our hearts open, waiting to hear where God is calling us next!!

Complete Beauty…

May 31st, 2013 by goadmin

The last time I sat in the Las Vegas Airport I wrote a blog about my attempt to complete a 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon.  While that was a marvelous experience, I can’t say I was heading back to Tucson feeling quite as renewed as I do today.  The last 3 days has been filled with beauty that goes beyond any words. There is no creation quite like what I just experienced.  On Tuesday we started the week at Zion National Park hiking to Emerald Pools, the Grotto and to the entrance of The Narrow.  Zion NP was named by someone who believed it was a place of sanctuary.  And it is.   The next day we went to Bryce Canyon National Park which is extraordinary in a completely different way.  With rock formations like spires coming out of the ground (technically called Hoodoos) it was difficult to tear my eyes away.  Our third day we hiked The Narrows, which is the passageway the Virgin River carved, creating slot canyons with walls higher than I ever could have imagined.  The water was flowing as we hiked through to the point where we stopped and had lunch.  The entire trip I had one overwhelming thought:  Thanks be to God.

Creation is an amazing gift that we have been offered.  There is so much to see…so many colors…so many opportunities to stretch your body, imagination, and spirit.  I feel a great sense of urgency to explore and learn all that God has given me.  Where will our next trip take us?  As I think about this question, I’m ready to go again next week.  Here’s the list of places that I’m desperate to see before my time on Earth is through:  All the National Parks (which will take me to most states), Italy, Ireland, France, Germany, Prague, and somewhere in Africa (I haven’t thought of this carefully enough to know exactly where in Africa).  Wow…that’s quite the travel bucket list!  I better get going!

Here’s your chance to weigh in.  What is the most creation rich place you’ve ever visited?  I’m not looking for places like “Disneyland” or “New York City”.  Help me understand where I will experience the best part of God’s creation.  Where can I be active…hiking, cycling, running?  I’ll add it to the list and if you’re lucky, maybe we’ll go visit this place together.  Thanks for your help as I revel in the mystery and beauty that is creation.

The beauty of life…

May 24th, 2013 by goadmin

Three separate and seemingly unrelated experiences today reminded me of the beauty of life…

Waiting for food at a local restaurant I spied a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for years…well, maybe only 18 months.  I knew that he and his wife had recently had a baby and I was so excited to see all of them on the opposite side of the room.  I was even more excited to see their newborn was with them sleeping peacefully in the booth.  They joyfully let me hold her and take her to my table while they ate a few bites with the ease new parents are not accustomed to experiencing.  It was one of the highlights of my day.  She was so precious in my arms and I marveled at how just yesterday I held Addison in my arms the same way…

…and now Addison is 10.  She finished grade school today.  She proudly represented her class by making a speech to the hundreds of people who were present.  She walked across the stage as they called her name.  She was ready to leave Elementary School as a thing of the past.  She is a child of relentless forward motion.  I marvel at her self confidence, joy and innocence.  I pray she is able to keep her confidence even when she fails miserably because she’s trying to experience so many new things that are outside of her comfort zone.  I long for her to remain joyful as she lives life to the fullest.  I want her to remain innocent, yet wise in the ways of the world.  I hope she is always open to talking to me about what’s happening in her life with her friends….and school…and sex…and boys…and God.  I want her to be able to tell me everything (ok…maybe not everything), but at least the important stuff.

I talked about some important stuff with my uncle yesterday and received a text from him today that told me there had been no change in my grandma’s status.  She’s been unresponsive for three days now without food or drink.  Her breathing is more shallow and the moments in between breaths are further apart.  She is likely hours or days away from taking her final breath.  She’s ready.  So is my uncle.  So am I.  She has lived an amazing 94 years, loving people to the best of her abilities.  She didn’t always get it right.  None of us do.  She was a fearless follower of Jesus who was a prayer warrior to the very end.  Somehow at this stage in her life I believe she’s still praying and that God is still listening.

At the beginning of life, in the middle and at the end God grants us the grace to experience joy unspeakable and sorrow because a life was lived well.  God allows us to celebrate markers as we move from one stage of life to the next, always carving out the path we follow.  God picks us up when we make mistakes and provides opportunities to step boldly into the future to fearlessly follow all that God has in store for us.

Complete Joy

May 9th, 2013 by goadmin

A little while ago, St. Paul’s Preschool offered their end of the year program to parents, grandparents and friends all rubber-necking from the pews trying to get a glance of their child’s smile. The ratio of cameras to adults was about 2:1.  Since Brendan is the 3rd child, I was the only parent in the room without a camera…a sad thought since my primary camera is my iPhone.  After singing songs like “If I Were a Butterfly”, “Catalina Magdalena”  and “I’m Bringing Home my Baby Bumblebee”, parents beamed with joy at their child’s accomplishments as the children waved to the adults who were present supporting their efforts.  The joy in the room was palpable.

When was the last time you experienced that level of joy?  I’m not talking about the fleeting smile or giggle…I’m talking about the deep joy that comes from knowing that for any given moment all is right with the world.  Joy that allows you to know that God is good, even when everything else is not.  Joy that rises from your toes, overwhelms your body with goosebumps and flows from your fingertips for all to see?

When I look at the topic of joy throughout scripture (there are 333 references in the New Living Translation…I did not read them all) it is apparent that joy is not dependent upon our circumstances.  Joy comes as we praise God, recognize our blessings, know we are forgiven, follow God’s ways, see joy in other people, and trust in God.  It then goes without saying that our lives could be crumbling around us and we could still be as joyful as a 4 year old singing his heart out before God and his parents.

Life is likely to rob us of joy.  The daily grind of cooking, cleaning, working, shuffling kids, homework and picking up after the dog can certainly do a number on our joy-o-meter.  As we go throughout this day and every day, let’s focus on the joy that is ours, supplied by God out of God’s infinite goodness towards us.

Exercise and such…

April 30th, 2013 by goadmin

It’s 5:08 a.m.  I’m up getting ready to go teach a cycling class at LA Fitness.  If I weren’t teaching I’d likely be attending a class.  If I wasn’t attending a class I’d be running in the desert.  Some have said that I’m an exercise addict.  Some might be right…but there are worse things to be addicted to, right?

I absolutely love to exercise.  I love how my body feels when it’s moving and being pushed to its limits.  I love sweating because my heart rate is raised.  I love going from place to place on my feet or my bike, not depending upon other methods of transportation.  I haven’t always felt this way.  For the most part, I grew up inside.  I never saw a trail when I was a kid.  I played a season of softball without much impression.  I wasn’t a runner and only rode my pink 10 speed bike on special occasion.

I began exercising casually when I was in college.  I took a couple of exercise classes and went to the rec center every once in a while.  I ran my first 5K when I lived in Texas.  It was fun, but not life changing.  It was the influence of Billy Still that brought to life my passion for distance events.  Billy talked about the adventures he had on the trails.  He encouraged me to look into the Team in Training program to train for my first marathon.  I did…and along with 3 of my friends from St. Paul’s, we completed our first marathon in 2001.  It was life changing.  For the girl who had rarely moved her body to have completed a 26.2 mile run…well…it’s still hard for me to put into words how I am different.

One of the most powerful ways I was changed by completing that event was that I became passionate about exercising.  I realized I could do amazing things with my body and that I loved doing them.  Now I’ve been to places people can’t reach in motorized vehicles.  I’ve been to places that are remote and far from a road.  I’ve used snow as my water source.  I’ve completed two 50 mile trail races!  How many people can say that??

All of this brings me joy.  What unexpected new thing can bring you joy today?  It might not be some form of exercise…but it might be.  It might be developing a talent that’s been dormant for years.  It might be picking up the phone and reconnecting with someone who used to be important to you.  Whatever your joy…whatever your passion…run towards it, never away from it.  Experience the sheer joy that comes from living abundantly, doing what God created you to do!!

My First DNF

April 21st, 2013 by goadmin

I knew it was bound to happen one day.  Billy always says, if you enter enough difficult events you’re likely to not finish some of them.  And so it was today.  I began the Rage Triathlon at Lake Mead in Nevada, hoping to break the time of my two previous half-ironman distance triathons of 7:45 (yes, I’m slow…and steady) and I finished instead by missing the bike cut off by 25 minutes.  Next to my name in some official time sheet it will say DNF–Did Not Finish.

So, what happened?  Here’s my race report:  We all woke up (Billy was doing the event with me and Ann was joyfully offering her supportive smile & sense of eternal goodness) at 4:00, got our things together and headed towards the starting area at 5:00.  It was dark, but well marked.  I set up everything in my transition area with precision.  It was very strange and exciting to me that I didn’t feel the anticipatory dread and inferiority that I’ve felt in other races.  I felt like I belonged with the group of people gathered to do this race.  I knew that I belonged at this event, even if I was slightly under trained, especially for the swim.

My swimming wave started at 6:40 and even though the water was a chilly 59 degrees, I jumped in without hesitation.  This is completely unlike me, the chicken when it comes to cold water.  I keep telling myself that I’m becoming a great swimmer. Perhaps that’s true in the pool, but in open water it’s a different story.  I struggled to finish the swim, but came out of the water in 55 minutes.

With the wetsuit stripped off, I transitioned to the bike with ease and set out on the most grueling course I’ve ever attempted.  As an out and back, I climbed a cumulative 6200 feet.  This all might have been well and good if it hadn’t been for the cross winds like I’ve never experienced.  There were moments I had to struggle to keep my bike upright.  I mistakenly thought that the winds were a headwind on the way out…imagine my surprise when they didn’t turn into a fabulous tailwind on the way back!    Once I noticed I was going to time out I enjoyed the scenic ride through Lake Mead Recreational Area in the Mohave desert. The desert was lovely, but also completely exposed.  I can definitely tell the few parts of my arms that didn’t quite receive enough 70 spf sunscreen. Beet red!!

Billy came off the bike a little while after me.  Two others who came in after me started the run and I didn’t see them come back into transition so I assume the race officials let them run.  I think if I had started the run I could have finished…that’s easy to say without having done it, huh?  But I definitely did the right thing by stopping when I did.  I was completely wasted after the swim & ride.  I had nothing left in the tank.

So, what did I learn in my first DNF? I learned that it’s ok to not finish.  It doesn’t speak to my character or even my fitness level.  It just wasn’t my day…wasn’t my course.  It’s not about the event, it’s about the training…which is to say it’s not about the destination…it’s about the journey.  I can still say I had a great day and a wonderful experience testing my body.  I got to hang out with good friends doing what we love to do.  God’s creation is marvelous and I’m thankful that I got to experience it in this way.

Would I do another triathlon?  Now that I’m the much wiser age of 40, I realize that I have the opportunity to do what I absolutely love to do with my body and that’s trail running.  I also like riding my bike.  I do not enjoy swimming in open water.  Why would I do something that I don’t enjoy doing?  Someone might be able to convince me in the future to throw my hat into the world of triathlons again, but it would take some convincing.  I think it’s safe to say you can see me on the trails from now on…so, happy trails to you!

Pastor’s Perspective…Celebration & Grief

April 16th, 2013 by goadmin

In my ministry at St. Paul’s, one of my favorite responsibilities is officiating memorial services.  It’s an odd thought.  I find the ability to meet people in their deepest moments of grief and help them experience their loved one’s life on earth and life beyond as a celebration of God’s grace is a beautiful gift and honor.  When I think about the upcoming changes in my family’s life, I feel a similarity to memorial services.  As we prepare to leave St. Paul’s after 14 years of ministry and head toward a new calling & adventure in Sahuarita with the people of Santa Cruz Valley UMC, I am experiencing great celebration and grief at the exact same time.

Yesterday was  my day to cry.  The flood gates opened and the river poured over my face.  It was the first time that I’ve felt deep distress over the realization that the people of St. Paul’s are not going to be an intimate part of my day to day life.  What a blessing that my grief is so very real.  What if I had worked someplace for 14 years and simply slipped away not feeling as if the people made a difference in my life?  As I think about Mark Conrad, the current pastor at Santa Cruz Valley UMC, I hope his grief is poignant  and real, too.  That means that the people of his church mattered to him.  St. Paul’s will mourn.  Santa Cruz Valley will mourn.  It means that our lives mattered to each other–there is no greater expression of our faith than to say that human beings have loved each other to the point of grief in their separation.

At the same time I want you to know that I fantasize about my first Sunday at Santa Cruz Valley.  What will I say? What will I wear?  Will I wear any makeup?  How will I dress the kids?  How early should I arrive?  How do I hold back all that I think it’s important that they know about me?  Can the service really be 2 hours long because I’m so excited to be in the front of a new church that I might just talk forever?  Wow.  It’s too much to think about!

I hope that as you consider changes in your life you will be able to fully mourn and fully celebrate all that God has offered you in the midst of transition.  God is present in our grief and joy, urging us forward to greatness!