Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 3, 2021

When I was in seminary, I got connected with the United Methodist Women (UMW) of the North Georgia Conference. I was invited to help with their Mission U (a conference on missions in the UMC), teach kids, lead workshops, and speak at retreats. I have a variety of stories I could tell from those times, but the one that keeps coming to mind is from a worship service at a retreat. I had been asked to preach for the weekend, and as a student, I had only preached one other time. So, I worked with my preaching professor, and then the other preaching professor, and shaped and formed my sermons until they were as good as I could get them. That Saturday night came (the big preaching event of the weekend) and we were in this big room of a lodge with a nice fire behind the pulpit and the women around the room. I don’t remember the numbers well, but I’d say there were probably about 75 people there. And as I started to preach, the smoke from the fire burned my eyes. My eyes started to water and I took a minute to try and clear them. Only they just kept burning and my eyes kept watering. I could barely open them it was so bad. Now, the room wasn’t particularly smokey. I don’t remember coughing or any of the women coughing or anyone getting up to tend the fire. I just had this strong reaction to the smoke. But I also had a sermon to read and preach. Only I couldn’t see it with my eyes watering so badly. So, I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time---I kept preaching. I had labored on that sermon for hours. Talked about it to both professors. Gone in and edited it again. While I didn’t have it memorized, I did know what I planned to say. I simply had to rely on my preparation and hope for the best. I preached the rest of the sermon, basically blinded by the smoke, and then went and sat down. Oddly enough, no one seemed bothered by my watering eyes or my hindered preaching. After I sat down (I don’t remember how long it took) things cleared up and my eyes stopped burning, and hence stopped watering and I was fine the rest of the night.

I had a couple of take-aways from that evening. One was that if I prepared well, I could rely on my preparation if I had to. Even if every detail didn’t go according to plan, I could use the planning I had done. I also learned that sometimes we are forced to walk (or preach) blind. Not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and move forward.

Twelve months into the pandemic and I think we’ve all been walking blind for a bit. (If only I had this story on my heart back at the start of this!) In many ways, we haven’t and don’t know what the future will hold. We have hopes, but we hardly know when exactly it will happen. So, we have to keep relying on our preparation—trusting that what we know from the past will be enough for now, and in many ways taking little steps of faith in order to just keep going. It’s really hard to see the future right now. It’s hard to plan for particulars for April, or May, let alone June, July, or August. So, we have to take a breath and do the best we can.


Peace and grace,
Pastor Debbie


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