Author's details

Name: dlollis
Date registered: March 8, 2012
URL: http://dlollis.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. Transforming Me: FOCUS: Changing the question — January 16, 2015
  2. Transforming Me: Lessons I learned from an illness — October 2, 2014
  3. Transforming Me: A church that “goes” — September 4, 2014
  4. Transforming Me: Part 6: God shows up while life happens — August 12, 2014
  5. Transforming Me: Part 5: The Church is the mission — August 1, 2014

Author's posts listings

Jan 16 2015

Transforming Me: FOCUS: Changing the question

Original post at https://dlollis.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/focus-changing-the-question/

It was just one of those “God moments.” I have a friend who called them “Godincidences.”

I was having a text conversation with a couple friends in ministry and we were talking about all of the ways that the church tries to measure itself. We moved into an area of what could we truly “measure” in faith.

That’s when one of the group came up with a question. It was the big “what if.” The question is simply this: “How you seen God’s presence in the church since the last time that we met?”

We included that question in our sermons about worship that Sunday and we talked about beginning our meetings this year with that question of our participants.

So far, I’ve asked this question three times and the responses have been amazing. It’s involved some of the ongoing work and ministry of the church. Sometimes the answers have been about the ways that a particular small group in the church cared for one another. Others have talked about how they felt God’s presence during a particular point in the worship services.
Yet, every time I ask that question, I see something happen. God is working in the question. It shows up in the faces of those who answer.
God is indeed present.

I remember why that stuck out to me. We were talking about the sermon on worship and I was reading through John Wesley’s list of the purposes of worship. One of those said that worship places us in the presence of God and helps us to know more about God’s identity.

How better to think about that very thing than to recall the ways we have experienced that presence in the church.

So, how have you experienced God’s presence in the church you are a part of since the last worship service?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/focus-changing-the-question/

Oct 02 2014

Transforming Me: Lessons I learned from an illness

Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/lessons-i-learned-from-an-illness/

Mission Hope.001My life took a significant turn on Sept. 6, 2013.  On that day, I made a visit to the doctor and I was first diagnosed with a string of issues that would be a part of my life for a year.

It involved chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, exposure to flu, an immune system crash, a string of internal infections and, ultimately, surgery.  Along the way, I would be on a constant stream of antibiotics and steroids for much of those two months.

Then in July, I was involved in an automobile accident that left some injuries and scrambled my head (a concussion).  Finally, on Sept. 5, 2014, I was cleared by a doctor to stop wearing the last visible piece related to the injury from that accident.

So, from Sept. 6, 2013 to Sept. 5, 2014, I was punching my frequent visitor to the doctor card.

There were some lessons that stuck out to me from that time along the way.  I thought I’d share some of them, in no particular order.

- Relationships will change.  When you encounter an illness or a string of illnesses that persists over time there will be inevitable change in relationships.  This type of illness places a strain on all areas of life.  I was sick during some significant family moments and holidays.  I was unable to fully participate in life.  It brings a change in relationships, event if that change is in me.  I remember reading a blog post from a fairly well-known pastor (I wish I could find it again and I would link it here) and he talked about relationships, especially those in the church, during the difficult times.  He pointed out how, in ministry, there were those who chose those tough times as the moment and opportunity to attack you personally. I certainly experienced some of that along the way.  But, I did experience something that was bigger.  I had more people who moved toward me than away from me.  Some of my relationships definitely strengthened and I found some people in my life who I know I can truly trust.  In the end, though, relationships changed.

- Perspectives will change.  I’m doing some of the very same things right now that I had planned to do beginning in September 2013.  However, God, in a sense, put me in a position of having to trust in Him for 12 months.  It’s tough when you don’t have answers and things aren’t working.  In a sense, I found myself in a timeout and it changed my perspective.  Now, the things that I’m doing in ministry are a lot less about me and a lot more about God.  Maybe that’s one of the things that I bring away from this.  My attitude toward what’s important and what’s not important has changed.  I’m far more appreciative of the moments of celebration and joy.  There are some key areas of my life where I feel I’m suddenly making big moves again.  That year of illness gave me the chance to see things in a new way.

- We choose how we process what we hear.  I was at the South Carolina Annual Conference a few years (that’s the annual meeting of clergy and laity) and one of the speaks said something along these lines: “There will always be voices of negativity and criticism, we just don’t have to let them dominate the conversation.”  Being in the middle of an illness and not feeling “like myself” forced me to have to encounter something in me that I didn’t want to encounter.  Because I wasn’t able to go at a level I thought I should be going at, I downplayed and dismissed what I was doing.  I thought it didn’t measure up. I thought I was letting myself down and I was letting God down.  Then you add in the voices of criticism — some of them external and, most of them, internal — the voices within us — and that feeling can grow to be almost overwhelming.  During that time, I had to deal with the fact that, sometimes, well, many times, there’s a tendency to overplay the criticism and downplay the compliments.  One of the things I carried away from that year was to be more balanced in the way that I hear things and process things.  Yes, there is sometimes truth, even if just a kernel, in even the worst of criticism.  And sometimes, there’s truth, even if just a kernel, in the greatest of praise.  Yet, we control how we hear it and how we process it.  I’m finding that I’m processing it in a much more healthy way.

- Sometimes the best option is a good break.  One of the best things that happened to me in the course of a year was a trip to the Dominican Republic.  It was a tremendous experience and a great moment in ministry and mission.  The friends we made there were welcoming, loving and accepting.  Yet, something happened in that trip that gave me the opportunity to “unlock” me from year or so of what I had experienced.   For 10 days or so, I was away from all of the distractions and the busyness that can come with life.  There was no constant stream of e-mail or texts.  There were no phone calls.  No immediate and urgent.  There was simply existing in the moment.  That is a carryover for me from this time.  I love superheroes with amazing superpowers.  I am not one of them.  I’m human, with my own set of strengths and “growing edges,” and ultimately, I’m connected to loved, by and accepted by a God who is perfect, loving and grace-giving.  The experience of that 12 months of illness has pushed me to be far more intentional in my self-care efforts and it also has shown me the value of getting away from it, taking mental breaks and just being in the moment with God.

At the end of the day, a year of illness was tough.  I’ll admit I don’t like the waiting part either (Waiting to hear from doctors, waiting for results, waiting for healing).  Yet, at the end of that year, I came away with a much better understanding of who I am and who God has called me to be.

- I have God-given gifts and I, like all people, have the ability to use them in service to God. (I’m avoiding the whole “Taken” analogy — I have a particular set of skills.)

- God did not call me to ministry because I deserved it, because I earned it, or because I’m really equipped for it. I fall back to the quote, “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.”

- There are some incredible and loving people in my life.  God gives me the opportunity to appreciate that gift.

- God is still pushing me, hard, with some great things in my life, ministry and beyond.

- God loves me and I love him back.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/lessons-i-learned-from-an-illness/

Sep 04 2014

Transforming Me: A church that “goes”

Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/a-church-that-goes/

Mission Hope.001The New Testament is filled with game-changing moments.  One of those comes when Jesus pulls his disciples together to give them what we call the “Great Commission.”

The lead in to Jesus’ instructions really sets up the tension.  In Matthew 28:17, it says that when the disciples saw Jesus they worshipped him, but some “doubted.”  They see the resurrected Jesus and they’re still having some doubts.  Yet, Jesus gives them the pivotal message anyway.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, CEB)

The more I read the Great Commission, the more I keep coming back to the opening phrase, “Go and make.”  It’s one of those phrases that we talked about in seminary classes.  It doesn’t mean “go” in the same sense that we use it.  It means “as you are going.”  Jesus seems to be making the presumption that his disciples are going to be on the move, going out into areas, getting actively involved in missions, ministry and, especially, evangelism.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the past week or so.  I’m finding that I keep driving through the same neighborhoods near the church.  As I drive through those neighborhoods, I’m thinking how can the church “go” here and plant seeds of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and acceptance.

I was deeply impacted this summer by a chance to walk through neighborhoods in the Dominican Republic, to go door to door, to meet people where they are and talk to them about life.  Since returning from that mission trip, I’ve been trying to think through this in my head:  How do we take that same approach where we live?

Maybe the first area of efforts, the trial for this type of thinking, is an area that lies nearly within the “shadow of our steeple.”

Isn’t the message of the church that Jesus is the hope of the world, living hope?  How could we transform a community if we made “hope” our mission, we took our gifts (physical, spiritual, financial, time) and we leveraged them in such a way as to make a difference in the lives of those who live near us?

What if we were able to drop our stereotypes and our preferences and see others as Jesus sees them?  And, what if in the process of doing that, Jesus actually was transforming us?

I can’t give you all the answers and the details of what this even looks like at the moment.  All I know is that this is what I see, this overwhelming tug to see a community in a different way.  And, yes, there will be some who doubt (Jesus had them among his disciples!) but that doesn’t stop us from being on a mission.

All I know is that I’m ready to “go” and to make “hope” the mission.


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/a-church-that-goes/

Aug 12 2014

Transforming Me: Part 6: God shows up while life happens

Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/part-6-god-shows-up-while-life-happens/

On the last day of our stay in the Dominican Republic, we spent some time on this beach.  And it offered a chance to do some reflection on ministry and calling.

On the last day of our stay in the Dominican Republic, we spent some time on this beach. And it offered a chance to do some reflection on ministry and calling.

Sometimes events in life don’t come with a warning light.  Many times they don’t announce themselves at all — either on their arrival and on their leaving.

Life happens.

Sometime around September 2013, life happened for me.  I don’t know the day that it started, but I know what would come after that.  Sometime in that month, I started a string of health events that would follow me well into this year.  It started with a sinus infection that never really responded to medication.

And things kept building from there.  It would become a series of health events that included continued sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, exposure to the flu, internal infections, an immune system crash and eventually sinus surgery to address an underlying issue.

After spending more than nine months on a combination of steroids and antibiotics, I reached a place of feeling absolutely depleted physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  This ordeal affected my life, my personality, my relationships and my faith.

Every journey brings with it opportunities and costs and this journey was costly.  It cost me days and events and time with those I love the most.  I was sick during key dates with my family: pneumonia and flu during our anniversary and the Christmas holidays, infections during Grace’s birthday and Valentine’s Day, sinus issues and infections during Easter, recovery from surgery on my own birthday and Denise’s birthday.

It also left me limping through some of the biggest seasons in the church: I was ill through Advent, I could barely stand up with pneumonia on Christmas Eve, I was fighting a terrible infection during one of the church’s biggest weekends of outreach, I limped through Lent and Easter and into Annual Conference.  Many Sundays became a time for me to put the energy I did have into sermons and then I would return home and collapse on the couch for the rest of the day.

God and I would have many conversations during that time.  Some of them bore out my anger and my questions.  I kept returning to the Psalms, particularly those of David.  Honestly, there were many days when I was asking God the one-word question of “Why?”

I know that those questions and those struggles that boil underneath will eventually come to the surface.  They came out in my relationships with those I love the most.  They started to make their way into my conversations with others.  Those issues started to work their way into sermons.  There were times I absolutely lost the energy to smile.  Maybe I simply became a little darker and more sullen.

Now, this is where I pause for a moment to make a theological statement.  Sometimes people will say that we shouldn’t express questions, fears, doubts and frustrations (especially when you’re a pastor).  I would challenge those who say that to read the Psalms written by David who is described as a man after God’s own heart.  David has a tendency to ask the questions that others won’t ask and to cry out to God in pain, despair and frustration.

But those things don’t last forever.

Surgery in mid-May improved the sinus issue even if the recovery took longer than expected.  The remnants of the sinus infection appeared again and I would knock it out in late June.  

By the time of the mission trip to the Dominican Republic in early July, I was healing physically.  It was was also starting to impact my healing emotionally and mentally.  

Maybe sometimes there’s a sense that the spiritual aspect of healing is impacted by the other ways that we heal.  In some ways, I was still feeling the affects of a broken and hurting heart.

Then, we finally arrived (after a couple of days of trying) in the Dominican Republic.  Somewhere in that time and that journey together, my healing took a significant step forward.  I had the chance to remember why God called me in the first place and to see it play out before me.

I reconnected with the heart of God by seeing others connect to God’s heart.  I watched young people get excited about being missionaries and I witnessed some of them do things I’d never thought they would do.

There were people there who truly loved God, who loved others and who were doing some amazing things in the name of Jesus.

I talked to other pastors who were there in the Dominican Republic.  I listened to their stories, their journeys of faith and I was reminded so much of my own.

There was a day when I sat on the beach at Puerto Plata and listened to Pastor Fausto share the journey that the had taken to find his place in ministry.  He talked about the church that we had been working with that week.  He shared where he saw God working and the challenges that come with ministry.  And there are those times when the challenges you face lead those in ministry to ask, “Is this really worth it?”

Maybe it was that day, as we sat there on the beach, talking about life and faith and church, that I really started to realize that God was working to heal me and my broken heart.

I remember that verse where Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “I now call you friends…”  I had that thought when we left the Dominican Republic to come home.  I now had friends, those who shared in the same journey, in places like the Dominican Republic and in New York and in Prosperity and Columbia and Greenwood and all across the state.

As I end this series of blogs related to that trip to the Dominican Republic, I realize some things that happened in my life and my heart and the impact they have on the minister that I’m becoming.

Those thoughts:

  • God clearly called me into ministry. 
  • God didn’t call me into ministry because of what I could do.  God called me into ministry because of what God can do through me.
  • My worth in ministry is not determined by a weekly counting of noses (attendance) and nickels (money).  My worth is ministry comes from the calling that God gave to me, is giving to me and will continue to give to me.
  • The Gospel is the bottom line.  It changes everything. It changes me. 

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/part-6-god-shows-up-while-life-happens/

Aug 01 2014

Transforming Me: Part 5: The Church is the mission

Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/part-5-the-church-is-the-mission/

Participants in our mission trip and children from the community work together to scrape and paint bleachers in Santiago.

Participants in our mission trip and children from the community work together to scrape and paint bleachers in Santiago.

Sometimes I think God speaks to us softly.  It’s a gentle whisper, a nudge deep within us to do something.  Sometimes, God speaks to us in such a clear way that it as if light is shining to show us the path.

And then sometimes, and maybe it’s just with me, God borrows a move from Gibbs on the TV show, NCIS, and God smacks me on the back of the head.  Trust me, it gets my attention.

Somewhere in the middle of that missions trip to the Dominican moment, I had one of those head slap from God kind of moments.

Maybe it’s because this trip put some distance between me and what I’d been experiencing since September 2013.  Somewhere in that month, I started a battle with a nasty virus that would lead me through sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, an immune system crash, etc.  It would lead to round after round of antibiotics and steroids.  Ultimately, I had sinus surgery.  To say the least, it was a very trying period of my life.

Maybe it was just that I was now in a situation where I had experienced some serious God moments (God-incidences — not coincidences!).  Something in me was already opening up for this.

But it happened one day in quiet time.

I kept coming back to a variation of a quote.  “The church doesn’t need a mission.  The church is the mission.”  It’s been said so many times and attributed to so many people that I have no clue who to credit it too.  Another way of saying it is, “The church doesn’t need a mission.  God’s mission has a church.”

But, there it was, in my head, and it started an inner conversation. In the situation that I found myself, how could we find a way to reach others for Christ?

We had been doing that through personal evangelism and meetings with those in the community in Santiago.  We did that through Vacation Bible School.  We were spending time together in worship and we were having some very profound moments of spending time with God.

But, something was tugging me in a different way.

It’s when I kept going back and saying that quote over and over again.  Then, it stuck, “The church is the mission.”

During the time that we had been in Santiago, the church (translated Eternal King Congregation) had hosted us, they had worshipped with us.  They were the site of the Vacation Bible School.  Maybe there was a way, in our role as missionaries, to come alongside this church and give them an opportunity to reach those in their community.

So, we heard about a need for the church.  The church was looking for some help with repainting its facilities.  And we decided to respond.

It was an interesting experiencing to go into one of the Dominican Republic’s versions of the home improvement stores that we are used to (Lowe’s, Home Depot). But we left armed with paint, rollers, brushes, scrapers, tape and other items.  We were ready to make the church the mission.

Now, I’m glad that I’m serving a church that does a lot of work on homes in the area around the church.  The youth and leaders who were with us know what is involved in those kinds of projects.  And they jumped in.

We scraped the paint on the bleachers and on the basketball goals. We worked to repaint the backboards and repair one of the rims.  But something bigger was happening here, something bigger than all of us.

Within about 30 minutes of us starting this project, others joined in.  It was children and teens from the neighborhood around the church.  They were armed with scrapers, or flat rocks that we were using as scrapers.  They took up paint brushes and rollers.

In a moment, I looked across the projects and it seemed like in that moment, it was an image for me of the kingdom of God.  What we were doing transcended who we were.  I had conversations with kids with only a limited knowledge of Spanish.  We did a lot of sign language and hand motions.  They followed my lead and we laughed and smiled at the moments wayward paint ended up on someone’s clothes (sometimes mine!)

I looked out at Steven Douglas, Wightman’s youth minister, and he also had a group following him from project to project.  The youth who were serving as missionaries were doing the same thing.

Then other things started to happen.  Others from the neighborhood began to arrive at the church.  They brought coconuts and fresh mangos.  Someone nearby shared with us some fried yucca.  Members of the church arrived and they joined in.

One of those church members looked at me and said, in nearly perfect English, “This is a good thing.  The community is excited about what is happening here today.”

In the afternoon, we would take a break from our painting to help with VBS, but we would return the next day and our helpers would return too.

Sometimes, most definitely, the church is the mission.

And maybe in that moment, I had some insight into how I view the church.

The church’s mission is to “go” and by going, it means the church steps out from behind the walls and goes into the world.  Going into the world isn’t easy and sometimes it’s messy, but it is there that are able to show what it means to love Jesus.

- The church is open to all.  The church encourages people of all backgrounds to work together for a common purpose, sharing the love of Christ with the world.  In those moments, we are most like the Kingdom of God.  It doesn’t matter where we are in the journey of faith, there should be a place for us in the church.

- The church opens doors.  By doing things that help others, by showing hospitality to the world, we open the door to sharing Christ with others.

- The church helps us to take steps to move toward Jesus.  The church is a place for people to bring all that they have experienced, all of their burdens, and it is the place where we can lay them down before Christ.  By sharing together in the community of faith, we have the strength to takes steps toward Jesus.

- The church doesn’t need a mission.  The church is the mission.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/part-5-the-church-is-the-mission/

Jul 29 2014

Transforming Me: Part 4: We are one in the Spirit

Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/part-4-we-are-one-in-the-spirit/

A view as we were walking at the end of one of the streets in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

A view as we were walking at the end of one of the streets in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

I love church.  It has been a part of my life since before I can even remember.  I remember standing in front the church as I was baptized, along with my sister,  at Friendship Presbyterian Church in Hickory Tavern, S.C.

I’ve been a part of the United Methodist Church for more than 20 years.  Over the past eight years, I’ve been a youth volunteer, youth minister, pastor, associate pastor and then pastor again.

But sometimes, I think about a quote from Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.”  He talks about how the church likes to plan and sometimes we plan to the point of what we will do if the Holy Spirit shows up.  Sometimes, we just don’t know how to handle it when the Holy Spirit shows up and wrecks us.  Maybe the same thing can be true in our lives too.

That’s probably what hit me the hardest during my time in the Dominican Republic. There was no “cellular data,” no internet to fall back on.  I wasn’t receiving e-mails all the time.  There was no Facebook or any other kind of data.  In fact, in the time there, I made just a couple of calls to talk to my wife and daughter.

For the most part, I was there in the moment.  No schedules, nothing else going on.  It was just a chance to experience God in the moment.

One of those moments came on the second day of our walk through the community in Santiago.  A small group of our “missionaries” went out that morning with Awilda Rosario, wife of the pastor of the church we were working with.  Awilda knew that area and she knew people there.

We simply started to walk from home to home.  We invited children to the Vacation Bible School and then we found ourselves in a home.

In the first home, the husband and wife pulled chairs from all over the house so that we could sit and talk with the husband in their garage.  The wife offered us water and I had a glass and thanked them for their hospitality.  The husband talked to us about the Bible about what it meant to him.  It was a great visit and we thanked them before we moved on.

As we walked down the street, Awilda stopped to talk to a man that we encountered there.  She had a long conversation with him in Spanish.  As he walked away, she apologized to us for not translating.  She said, though, that she saw that man walking on the street many times but had felt in that moment that she just needed to talk to him and encourage him.  Maybe that was the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s message for that day.

We made several other stops, but we ended up in a home with a mother, a son and the man’s nieces and nephews.  Through Awilda, the son told us of how he had spent so much of his life on the street, battling addiction issues.  However, he had found the strength in God to battle through those addictions.  He was still alive today because of God’s love.  His mother told us that she should have been dead a few years before that.  But she had miraculously pulled through.  She also gave the credit for what had happened to God. It was an incredible and inspiring conversation.  Awilda asked for someone to pray and that ended up being me.

I remember thanking God for the chance to be in this home, for the blessing of this time and this conversation.  I prayed for them, for all of their family.  It was a moving moment for me and one in which I knew I was not alone in the prayer.  God’s presence was with us.

That feeling would continue at the next home we visited.

I decided that this would be my time to talk to the family.  My conversation was with a young man named Brian.  Awilda was serving as our interpreter and I talked to Brian about the VBS and how the children were invited to come and to be a part.

But as I was talking to Brian, I felt very distracted by the older woman to the left.  Her name was Matilda and she seemed to be very unhappy as she washed out the plastic milk jugs in the sink.

There’s a part of me that was simply ready to end this conversation and move on.  There’s a part of me that was saying, “She doesn’t want you here.  It’s time to go somewhere else.”

Matilda said something to Awilda in Spanish and they began a conversation.  All I can feel at that moment was this sense that I needed to pray for Matilda, that I had to pray for Matilda.

I told Awilda that I wanted to pray for Matilda and Awilda said she wants you to pray for her.

As I begin to pray, the word “hope” kept coming to my mind.  I prayed for Brian, Matilda and their family, and I prayed for hope as Alwida translated each line of my prayer into Spanish for the family to hear.

At the end of the prayer, Matlida had tears in her eyes.  Our group began to walk away and Matlida hugged Awilda and then grabbed my hand and said to me, “Gracias.”

I remember after that seeing the tears in Awilda’s eyes as she told me what Matilda had told her.  Matilda said that she had no hope and that she was just waiting for Jesus to take her out of this life.  When I prayed for hope, the one word that kept coming to my mind, I was praying for the one thing she was looking for in her life.

That day became a day in which I was wrecked by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit opened a door that I might never have seen or known otherwise.

I knew that as I walked away that day that something bigger was at work in me.  After spending months dealing with illness and then surgery, I knew that I had felt battered mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I was already mending physically and getting there mentally.  But that day was the opening of a door to the healing of my heart, my emotional and spiritual center.

And that will be the theme of the next two parts of this journey.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/part-4-we-are-one-in-the-spirit/

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