Summer Bible Study- Ruth

I’m trying something new!

Since summer becomes a time that people disengage from their regular habits and struggle to coordinate schedules, I’ve decided this summer to run an online Bible Study from my blog. My congregation is all invited to join, and any of my *numerous* followers can do so as well. (Sarcasm becomes me, don’t you think?)

So beginning June 4, I’ll have a study guide available for the book of Ruth, to peruse and work ahead on. Beginning June 19th, I’ll post a weekly teaching and discussion starter. Posts go live every Monday for 6 weeks.

We’ll run discussions in the comments, and I’ll offer recaps in a follow-up post if the comments go long. My hope is that however many participate, we find joy in our study and connection through the haphazard summer months.


Here’s the study description:


Ruth: A study in commitment and provision

Have you ever felt like a stranger—abandoned, alone, forgotten? Our 6-week online Bible study on the Book of Ruth takes us through God’s promises to walk with those who commit to follow. Come in your need and find God’s words for restoring life abundant.

Weekly reading guides and discussion boards will be posted every Monday on Pastor Casey’s blog, as well as linked through our website and Facebook page for the church. Print copies of the reading guide are available in the Ministry Center beginning June 4.



UPDATE: Click here to get the Reading Guide PDF

Season of Anticipation #ahamoment

So the Irwin household has had at least 1 out of 4 sick everyday for the past 28 days. We passed around a pretty severe cold, followed by a 36 hour stomach bug. Yeah. Merry Christmas to us right?

Needless to say, this Advent has not been our normal one. It’s my first Advent as an Associate Pastor (which means a lot less preaching than I’m used to this time of year). It’s my first Advent as a family of 4. It’s my first Advent that I’ve had to explain the differences between Santa and Jesus to my 4 1/2 year old son (parents, I’m sure you feel my pain). And being sick so much, it’s my first Advent where I’ve missed 2 Sundays, and had to skip out on anything social.

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, Advent was a big deal. We spent weeks preparing for Advent, setting aside time to make Advent wreaths for our homes, Advent calendars for each of the kids, rehearsing for the Children’s play, and preparing for the Lessons and Carols event. Not to mention the time we spent caroling, baking cookies, and attending all sorts of fun celebrations.

Yes, the anticipation of the season was incredible. By the time we made it to midnight services on Christmas Eve, we were thrilled and exhausted all at the same time. Why? Because it’s Advent, preparation for the main event, for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Since then, I’ve changed traditions to United Methodism and changed roles from laity to clergy, and the differences have been profound. Yes, I’m still busy in December. Extremely busy. Sometimes even overwhelmingly busy. And yes, I still enjoy many of the same traditions I grew up with (though I haven’t found an Advent calendar to rival the ones we filled with Hershey’s kisses). However, the biggest difference for me as clergy is the active anticipation. No longer just a participant, I now set the tone, extend the invitation, and lead the anticipation. It’s definitely more exhausting, but as a person called to ordained ministry, it’s an amazing opportunity.

Now, at Advent, despite all the busy-ness (and sickness), my role is to invite people to peace on earth found through Jesus Christ. I invite them to anticipate God’s kingdom as they celebrate God coming to earth. And though I’m definitely not the one in charge of it all, I get the privilege of leading people in celebration of the long-awaited king.

I guess Advent hasn’t changed a lot since I was a kid. I still follow the liturgical calendar. I still light Advent candles. I still bake A LOT. And in active anticipation, I prepare for Jesus’s birthday, and invite others to do the same.

This post is the third of twelve posts as part of the Refresh 12 blog prompts. JOIN US. #umrefresh #ahamoment

Aha Moment- The Second Chair

Life is full of “aha” moments. Like those times when you wish everyone else could see you as a cartoon with the light bulb turning on over-top your head. And as a Christian, these are the moments I crave– the moments of clarity in my relationship with God and my interaction with the world around me. I love when the Holy Spirit brings new light to a situation. It’s that glorious moment when the truths of God infiltrate my brain and I realize things I could not access on my own. Whew! I’m excited just writing about it.

So why am I explaining all this? Because lately I’ve been working through a series of incredible “aha!” moments in both my personal and professional life. Most recently is something fairly new for my life… my role in the second chair.

Let me start by saying, I’m a strong-willed, stubborn, highly intelligent, strategic, futuristic, highly intuitive leader. You know what I mean. I tend to be right in most situations, and not just because I think I’m right. Does any of this sound compatible with a second chair role to you? And yet over the past 2 years, God’s been leading me to a place of submission, of learning, and of leading without being the key leader in charge. As I’ve transitioned over the past 6 months from Lead Pastor (or the only paid leader of a church) to Associate Pastor (with a fairly large staff), my biggest “aha” has been how to follow someone else’s vision without losing my identity as an innovative leader. Two instances set off my light bulb:

First, I had the opportunity to ask an “expert” one question for advice in my new appointment. So I said, what’s your best practices for an associate pastor? The answer: Make your senior pastor look good. Seriously? That’s it? As I thought longer, the circuit finally connected, the light bulb clicked on. As a part of the ministry team, that really is my role…
Everything I do and say should support and develop the ministry direction set by the senior pastor. My ministry revolves around grabbing my specific pieces of the plan and having them work well in the overall vision. This is why God placed me here in the first place, to do what I do well with a focused approach within the larger vision.
By the end of that conversation, my attitude changed. I really can do this for a long time, I can set aside my self and my goals for the overall goal of the church that’s not necessarily set by me.

Second, God led me through some reading and several Bible studies here at our church to a big final “aha”. It doesn’t matter what our title is or our place within the organizational structure. As Christians, our role in relation to God is always second chair. We’re following God’s vision, not our own. Whether we’re prophesying to Ninevites or confronting the Pharaoh or boldly healing in Jesus name or offering hospitality when we’d prefer to seek vengeance, God has a plan we wouldn’t consider choosing, even on our boldest days. Yet we choose it because we choose to serve the first chair and honor that authority.

It culminates for me into one big “aha”. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” We’re living out the path set out for us, trusting the result of the next bend in the road, trusting the destination that we did not choose, because we trust the designer of the path. Someone else is first and I am second both in my profession and my daily life. And for this headstrong gal to be ok with that is truly a miraculous “aha” moment.

This post is the second of twelve posts as part of the Refresh 12 blog prompts. JOIN US. #umrefresh #ahamoment