Two Very Sacred Places

By February 4, 2022Z - Front Page

During the past few days, I have twice been the beneficiary of blessings beyond my expectations. One was in a place of bricks and mortar – and the other was in the virtual place that brings people together over thousands of miles. Both places are sacred.

Seven of us from FUMC visited One Community Church in Plano last week. It’s a vibrant community that seeks to have every person feel fully known and fully loved; and they prioritize the words of Jesus in John 17:21, “…that they may all be one” in the belief and expression of God’s presence in Christ.

We went at Lance Marshall’s encouragement to attend the “Climb Leadership Conference”. We were nourished in worship and workshops; considering topics of leadership, church culture, innovation and hospitality. It was that hospitality which meant the most to me. I was a guest – a “stranger” in the language of Leviticus and Hebrews – and I was enthusiastically welcomed and aided by dozens and dozens of volunteers. They took time away from their jobs to offer me their kind eyes and gracious spirits. Why? Because they are servant leaders expressing the joy of their faith!

Another group of servant leaders met through the magic of technology. The North Texas Academy of Spiritual Formation gathered about 40 people virtually from Arizona to Florida and Alaska to Texas. The volume of this event was quieter but no less powerful. There was worship three times a day, plenary presentations, and small group conversations. Our guide was a soft-spoken man named Ray Buckley, whose parents were Scottish and Native American.

Ray is a gifted storyteller who practices his craft in circular patterns. We learned that Native American mothers often walk in circles, talking to their soon-to-be-born child, telling the stories of the world, and preparing the child to receive his/her sacred name and spiritual identity. God calls us by our sacred names as well… “child”, “beloved”, “accepted”, etc. And God asks us to get up – touch the hands of others – and form relationships.

In the middle of the story, Ray asked the question, “How do you know if someone is a Christian?” He paused for a period of time for us to consider our answers and then he surprisingly said… “Ask his/her dog!” Ask a creature who is completely vulnerable and dependent.

We are often vulnerable, dependent, trusting, and open. Like me in these two sacred places. Every new person who comes to our FUMC campus is as well. How will others know if you and I are Christians? Ask our guests – ask our biblical strangers – ask our new seekers of Christ and community. May we rise to the occasion… together!

With Gratitude,


Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development

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