reverendmotherrunner

Sunday Sermon: Directions for Deliverance by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

Earlier today I had the profound privilege of preaching at my home church, the Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle where my faith was formed, I received my call, and when I received invaluable experience in ministry under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, Jr. We had a glorious time in the Lord!

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Walking and Chewing Gum by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

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You know the expression, “Walking and chewing gum at the same time,” right? Someone who walks and chews gum at the same time is able to do two or more things at once. 

Turns out I’m not very good at walking and chewing gum. By walking, I mean blogging. And by chewing gum, I mean working out. Last year I got this website up and running and was good with creating and posting content. I also didn’t have the best year of health and fitness. In 2019 I set some new goals to make my health and fitness a priority and...

On Sunday when I posted the sermon, I noticed that I had not blogged in 14 days. Fourteen days. Two weeks. I’ve stopped and started posts, but didn’t finish. I also started training for the Hot Chocolate 15k and tried a new hot yoga studio in town. If this trend continues, in December I’ll be super healthy and you’ll be wondering where I am.

I’m committed to my health and fitness. I’m committed to creating and posting content. I’m also committed to peace, which is why I’ve given up the notion of balance. Old me would have made a plan for “X” workouts, “X” posts, all while preparing sermons, running to dance, Girl Scouts, birthday parties and such. I also would have done it all and done it all well until...

image from Pexels.  

image from Pexels.  

I must be honest. I used to be a master multitasker. Master. I could do it all and more without getting tired. All the balls in the air. All the plates stacked. Whatever metaphor there is to describe magnificent multitasking, I was about that life. But now I can’t. And that’s ok. Wisdom prevails. Single tasking is where I thrive.  Research shows that it’s where most people thrive. In fact, there are amazing articles on Thrive Global (link not working, but you can search “multitasking” to read them).  

So some times I’ll walk.  

Other times I’ll chew gum. 

If I have to, I’ll do both. 

And I encourage you to do the same.  

Sunday Sermon: Standing Up, Praising God by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

Instead of a sermon excerpt, this week I want to talk about the sermonic process. On my former blog I had a feature called “Making the Sermon” where I would talk about the mechanics of preaching and how I arrived at the sermon. For today, I want to revive that feature. You can read an excerpt of the sermon here.

Today I had the good pleasure of preaching at the Wanaque Community Church. I’ve been there every month since June, sometimes several times a month. They are a lovely people without a pastor and they have a few clergy that rotate in pulpit supply. I always look forward to going there. Always except this morning..

Let me say this. I was looking forward to going there until yesterday. The week was pretty normal as far as sermon preparation goes. On Sunday I selected the text from the Revised Common Lectionary. Since I’ve been preaching more regularly, I don’t leave the Scripture selection to chance/whim, trusting that the Holy Spirit can work through lectionary text as effectively as if I had selected the text myself. After selecting the text, I prayed and I read and reread the text during the week, jotting down ideas as they came throughout the days. By Wednesday I had a title and points. I had my introduction. I was planning to preach “I Want You Back” from Isaiah 43:1-7, riffing on the Jackson Five song of the same title. The sermon was all about God’s redemptive, rescuing, restoring love for humanity. I was excited! I mean, how could I not be excited about the privilege of telling the story of God’s great love?!?!?!

So Thursday I did my exegetical work and consulted commentaries. Everything was going as it usually does. And then Friday morning came and I was stuck. So instead of forcing it, I did other things: I folded laundry, went to lunch with my mentor and friend Lynne Westfield, and planned to run some miles which didn’t happen. By evening I sat down and still nothing. So I adjusted my schedule so I could put some sermonic meat on the outline that I had on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday afternoon I went to Panera Bread which has been my pastoral study for over eight years. My favorite table was open. I just knew God and I were going to flow and in a few hours my portion of the sermon would be complete. I was wrong. I wrote and wrote, toiling over words, but nothing connected. It was all very disjointed and forced and when I realized it hours later, I stopped. I decided I would rest and try again in the morning before service. When I got home though, I went looking for the sermon I preached on this text during my first year of ordained ministry. I couldn’t find it, but in my digging in the sermonic crates I did find another message that leaped out at me. I put the papers into my black folio and resigned myself to it.

I went to bed early hoping to at least get a good night’s rest. Instead I slept horribly, had a terrible dream, and woke up super late. Long story short, I made it to the church with several reminders of God’s abiding presence bolstering me before the preaching moment—including the hymn before the sermon, “Rise Up, O Church” . As I preached, I could feel God moving. I knew then that the message was what God planned for me to preach all along. The congregation was engaged and their body language was evidence that they were listening and hearing. It was a beautiful dance between God, preacher, and people.

Here’s the interesting thing. I was disturbed and discouraged during this process, but when I went back to find the original “Making of the Sermon: Standing Up, Praising God” it turns out this process, while unsettling and unusual, is not new to me. And in hindsight, I believe that God was using this process to remind me that God is always on time and that the preaching moment is about God, not me. That’s not license to slack in preparation, but an invitation to know who is doing the work. Because although I went into the preaching moment feeling uneasy, members of the congregation remarked about how touching and timely the message was in their own situations.

image take from http://gracechurchanderson.com/2016/08/sabbath-2/

Fitness Friday: The Comeback Kid by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

Don’t call it a comeback...I been here for years!
— LL Cool J (Mama Said Knock You Out)

Except I I haven’t. I basically took an entire year off.

So you can call it a comeback. That’s what I’m calling it. I’m making a comeback! And by comeback, I mean I’m taking to the treadmill in triumph. I’m pounding the pavement with pleasure. I’m returning to racing with resilience. I’m getting back to the activity—running—which has been a source of health, joy, clarity, encountering God, and a part of my identity for 12 years. I mean really…how can Reverend Mother Runner not run if she is able? And why am I talking in third person?

Anyway.

I’m making a comeback! In my Interval Time app on my phone, I’ve dubbed my workouts Comeback Kid Part 1, Comeback Kid Part 2, etc, etc. These labels remind me that coming back is a process and that if I’ve comeback before and I can do it again. According to popular definition, a Comeback Kid is “a  person who repeatedly demonstrates the propensity to overcome downturns or periods of bad publicity, and rebound to victory or popularity.” In my twelve year running journey, I have made many comebacks. I started running in 2006 to lose weight for my friends wedding and ran for over a year until my coursework in Seminary became overwhelming. I started running again in 2009 during my final year in Seminary when it was clear that my physical and emotional health was suffering because of my intense focus on my studies. I continued running for a year and a half until the comfort of newlywed life was more appealing than hitting the pavement. I started running again In January of 2013 when Big Girl was 8 months old and it was clear that I was suffering from Postpartum Depression. I know some people dread running, but I love it; Among other things, running has a way of lifting me when I am low. I ran until I became pregnant with Baby Girl. As I’ve shared on other platforms, I ran my first 10K when I was unknowingly pregnant with her. I stopped running when hyperemesis gravidarum kicked in (again) and I was sick. I started running again in 2014 at four weeks postpartum and ran consistently until December 2018, a month after running the Philadelphia Marathon. It is clear that I am quite familiar with making a comeback.

I wore my Philadelphia Marathon Finisher shirt this week to remind myself of where I’ve been and where I’m going

I wore my Philadelphia Marathon Finisher shirt this week to remind myself of where I’ve been and where I’m going

And while I had fits and starts in 2018, this feels different. This is different. I miss running in a palpable way. My legs miss running. My heart misses running. My mind misses running. My sermon prep even misses running. And I’m not going to front as if returning to the treadmill and pavement has been easy. It has been downright hard, but I’m pacing myself, leaning into the discomfort, and extending myself grace—which I believe is the trifecta for making a comeback!

Have you fallen off the proverbial fitness wagon? Are you stuck in a rut? If so, join me in making a comeback! And I invite you to check in to the blog every now and then to read my comeback journey and share yours…because who doesn’t love a comeback story?

Just Because He’s God… by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

I started preparing this post yesterday. As I was driving to church on Sunday, “He’s God” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir came on my Pandora station. I’m familiar with the song. When I was serving at the Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle, the Mass Choir, led by Sister Monique Wilson, used to saaannnggg this song. It touched me every single time. Each time, they’d sing, For all He's done for me,redeemed and set me free,and because, just because He's God” no matter what was going on, I’d be reminded of just how big God is and how deep God’s love for me—a love so deep that nothing can separate me from it—no despair, disappointment, or difficulty.

Just because He’s God…

And though I couldn’t pinpoint why, the song resonated deeply with me on Sunday morning. I wept as I drove, cursing the moment I put eyeliner on. And when the reprise came on, I knew I needed to add this into my rotation.

When I had the chance, I opened Amazon Music and created a new worship playlist. This was the first song I added to the playlist and it has been on repeat since.

It was on repeat when I was having chest pains from stress on Monday.

It was on repeat when I was dealing with overwhelm on Tuesday.

It was on repeat when I was dealing with disappointed on Wednesday when I got news that the Delaware Women’s Half Marathon and 8K (which I was scheduled to run this weekend) was cancelled.

It was on repeat when I was dealing a four year old throwing tantrums and chicken at her sister.

It was on repeat when I got some news today that will be best in the long run, but stings in the moment.

And as I continue to walk the path God has for me, a path sometimes unknown and unfamiliar, I will rest assured that the same love that raised Jesus from the grave to redeem me is big enough to carry me through.

Dear Readers, what is your go to song to remind you of God’s love for you and the future that God has for you when life becomes especially difficult? Leave a comment so I can add them to my playlist!

Sunday Sermon: Building on the Rock by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

Today I had the privilege of preaching at the Wanaque Reformed Church again. I serve there as occasional pulpit supply as they search for their next pastor. They are a small, but warm congregation who love Jesus. It is always a pleasure to be with them. I am always humbled and take seriously when God grants me opportunity to preach. Plus, their coffee hour rocks! 

Joyce and I taunting my colleague (who also does pulpit supply at Wanaque) Rev. Herb Thomas who loves Apple Cider Donuts.  

Joyce and I taunting my colleague (who also does pulpit supply at Wanaque) Rev. Herb Thomas who loves Apple Cider Donuts.  

I forgot to record the message today (sorry Mom), but the title was “Building on the Rock” taken from Matthew 7:24-27:

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”” (Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ ‭NRSV)‬‬

Instead of my usual three point sermon, my sermon had three stories, two common threads, and one point. I shared three stories: The Three Little Pigs, an article from The NY Times I read this week about a house still standing on Mexico Beach Florida after Hurricane Michael, and the parable that Jesus told to the crowd gathered at the mountain near the Sea of Galilee. I expounded on the two common threads: the reality of storms and the importance of a firm foundation. And the main point was this: When our lives are built on the strong foundations of the Word made Flesh (Jesus) and the Word of God we can withstand any and everything that comes our way. It was a simple message, but I believe sometimes we need to go back to basics. And Bob, who puts the liturgy together made sure that “The Solid Rock” was the sermonic hymn. It all came together wonderfully. 

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Here is an excerpt from the message:

But the wise one built his house on the rock. And be clear, in this text, wisdom isn't a matter of intellect, but of insight. In the climate in which Jesus was teaching, the crowd around him was familiar with the seasons and their implications. They would have known that a house built during dry season—when not a drop of rain falls or a hint of moisture is in the air—seems secure until the storm comes. Building on rock takes into account the present and the future. Building on rock is costly. It might take some time. Building on rock isn’t popular. Those who build on rock are choosing a life of trust in God. Those who build on rock say, “Come hell or high water, I will trust in the Lord with all mine heart and lean not to my own understanding.