The Lifter of My Head


But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.   Psalm 3:3

I feel bullied. There…I said it. I feel like I have been walking around with my head down and my arms up over my head…you know…to ward off the blows. And I’m tired of it.

What have I done to deserve to be called a “hater”, a “bigot”? What have I done to deserve to be accused of kicking people out of the church? Do others really think that I hate people? Or that I want to destroy the UMC? Are there really some people who think that I don’t know how to love people…all people? Really…am I intolerant? Am I ignorant? I…Cathy Holley…lover of the underdog…pastor at the battle front…meddler of the mess?

Big sigh.

For the last two weeks…yes, since General Conference 2019…I have felt bullied. Now I know this will ruffle feathers…after all I’m not the one being excluded from the church…I’m not the one being told God doesn’t love me. Whatever.  But…allow me to define “bully”: to seek to harm; to intimidate; to browbeat. Ah, especially that last one…browbeat. Thus, the raised arms above my head. Just stop…please…

So what…I supported The Traditional Plan. Why does that mean that I don’t know how to love people? I minister to people who are perhaps more broken than most…addicts, those living on the edge. It doesn’t matter what their race, gender, or sexual identity is. Jesus draws them here…I love them where they are. My motto is “Life is messy.” So I do what I can to offer life support…and the Ultimate Life Support is Jesus. He is the One able and willing to come in and clean up the mess…anyone’s mess. I believe this with all that I am: that we all have mess…sin…that needs to be cleaned up…and this is the start of transformation. I know…I have been transformed…I needed to be transformed…and Jesus is the Way of transformation. No apologies for believing this. It is the Truth that gave me new life…abundant life.

I have done my best to not vilify those who didn’t agree with me. I have ministry partners who don’t share my beliefs, but I have chosen to love, respect, and accept them and to continue to do Kingdom service with them. Even so, I have always tried to be true to the Word of God as best as I can. I’m not perfect…far from it…I sin way too much for my own good, of that I am sure. I certainly, however, keep striving for holiness, relying on the Holy Spirit and God’s incredible grace to keep moving forward onto perfection.

So yes, I am weary of being bullied. I am weary of feeling that my beliefs are somehow “less.” I am weary of battling this. all. the. time. I say that, knowing that the battle isn’t close to being over. But I have made a choice…to run to my Lord…my shield…my glory…the lifter of my head. So with my head lifted up, my arms down…I walk forward, trusting the Lord…serving Him…and loving His people. Please join me.

Bread in the Wilderness


Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!”  1 Kings 19:4-5

Oh, Elijah…how I relate to you. You have fought a tremendous battle…you confronted evil head-on…you were a mighty champion for your God…and now here you are, laying under a broom tree…tired, discouraged, totally spent. Oh, and having a pity party.

Elijah needs some sustenance…both physically and spiritually. I’ve been there…maybe even there right now. The angel tells him he need to eat. Elijah looked around and there was some baked bread and a jar of water right there beside him, so he ate and drank this meal that had appeared out of nowhere.

Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”  1 Kings 19:7

This journey happened to be a trip through the wilderness that would last for 40 days and 40 nights. Probably not going to be an easy journey…the wilderness is seldom an easy place. If we are going to be going to the wilderness we are going to need bread for the journey.

In  the “Bread for the Wilderness” Lenten study, the author states it this way: “Without my Presence, you’ll never survive the journey that is ahead.”

How often do we set out without the proper food…without the Presence of the Lord going with us? No wonder we get weary…no wonder we feel defeated…no wonder the Enemy wreaks havoc with us. It is time to recognize our need for the true Bread of Life…he is after all the One who came through the wilderness in total victory, prepared to do the Father’s will.

Lord, I hunger for you…I need all that you will give me on this journey I travel. Feed me. Guide me, direct me…may Your Presence  go with me. Amen


I will attempt this blogging thing once again…after 3 years! I hadn’t realized it had been that long. I hope in doing so that I can get back into writing once again. I did a tremendous amount of writing when I was in college and seminary. After 10 years of school I think I went into shock and extra studying and reading kind of went out the window! I still study obviously, and I still read…it is ingrained in me…but I read mainly novels…novels about things that don’t look like any remotely like my life and the challenges of doing two churches 🙂 Mysteries, action drama, spy novels… Yes, it is an escape…and no, I don’t feel bad about it!

I am going to start my writing come-back with my thoughts about a Lenten study I found in my office last week. It is called “Bread in the Wilderness” by Kenneth Carter. I really have no idea what it will be like except that I was deeply challenged when I read the introduction chapter “Spiritual Famine or Gospel Feast?” Hopefully the rest of the book speaks to my spirit as much. I hope to get my thoughts together on that first chapter today or tomorrow at the latest.


cholley’s holy week journey



Tuesday, April 7

Mark 11:15-18
When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves,  and he stopped everyone from bringing in merchandise.  He taught them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so enthusiastic about Jesus’ teaching.

I have to stop at the temple as part of my holy week journey. This passage has always had a profound effect on me. Jesus comes into town, hailed as king, and like other kings and generals who would come into town, goes to the temple, and as king, lays claim of God’s house.

What is significant is that the money changers and merchants were most likely set up in the outer courts of the temple, the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus is embarking on a mission which will fling open the doors of the new Kingdom to all people, not limited to Jews only. What has happened in the temple? The only place in the temple that non-Jews are allowed to be in is over run with merchants! It is probable that the merchants were selling doves and lambs for people to take in as their Passover sacrifice. What we end up with is “God’s people,” intent on keeping their religious rituals, who could care less if there is room for the “Gentiles.”

This bothers me greatly — I have seen churches that in a sense have filled up the outer courts with so much “stuff,” rules and empty religous rituals, that there isn’t any room for the outsiders, or any desire to make room for them.  I was once told to leave a church because my “lifestyle was not good enough.”  So is that the kind of kingdom Jesus lived and died for? I think not.  Let’s start overthrowing tables, and make room for those who so desperately need in.

cholley’s Holy Week Journey



Monday, April 6, 2009

Luke 19:28-44 —

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey amidst of shouts of,  “Hosanna! God save us!” The people gathered have Messianic fever! They want to be saved! They want out of their bondage! They want to be free! In Matthew’s Gospel it says that the entire city is stirred…shaken up, when Jesus enters the city. Something was up…something was going to happen.

But wait, let’s back up just a tad. Luke mentions something important, I think. Just as Jesus is getting to Jerusalem, he stops, looks over God’s holy city, and Jesus weeps.

“If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace….”

“Hosanna! God save us!”

“…but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

“Hosanna! God save us!”

Oh, but God, do it my way if you please…

The Jews that day shouting, “Hosanna! God save us!” wanted political deliverance.

And Jesus weeps, because he knows the road he is on will bring so much more than freedom from an oppressive government. His is a spiritual solution not a political solution. And Jesus weeps, because he knows that they just don’t — won’t — get it. Jesus enters the city weeping for the city, not for himself, though he knows what the end of the week will bring him.

“Hosanna! God save us!”

Was Jesus thinking, “uh, I would if you would let me! Why don’t you let me do it my way?”

I cry out, you cry out, “Hosanna, God save me!” I want God to save me from my enemies; to save me from “bad stuff.” The question is, I think, am I really willing to let God save me from that which  enslaves me the most…myself?

The God who smokes


I am reading a book, “The God Who Smokes — Scandalous Meditations on Faith” by Timothy Stoner. The back cover says that Stoner “celebrates the good within Emergent while providing a balanced and thoughtful critique….”  Stoner “provides an honest response to the postmodern cry for authentic spirituality.”  Ok, so now you know somewhat where the author is coming from….

I am liking what Stoner is saying, for he portrays a God who transcends the notion that everything is hunky dory and that there is a good, pat little “God” answer for every thing. I have struggled too many years with the God of pat answers. I have felt lost, I have felt abandoned, I have felt unfaithful, I have felt even ungodly (hard for a pastor to say) because I cannot, for the most part, line up with that kind of God.

“I join all those other fringe dwellers and shout out, “Jesus is good!” But I also want to link arms with another timid introvert, an unassuming little beaver speaking about Aslan, the King of Narnia, and say, ‘Yes, He is Good, but He’s NOT safe!’ He is a lion after all.” (Stoner p. 27)

“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Joseph, Moses, and David is not predictable, domesticated, gentlemanly, or safe. Not for that matter is the God of Job. What we want is nice, what we get is the Lion of Judah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the King of kings, the Lord of Lords.” (Stoner p. 60)

Stoner goes on to talk about the God who “dropped” him. When he had sacrificed much to serve him, and thought God would provide blessing, he ended up feeling totally abandoned. Like Job. Like me. Maybe like you. Just who is this God?

Feeling like you have been dropped by God is downright devastating. And no pat little answer is going to fix the situation. In fact, many times you won’t get an answer from God. Job didn’t. But he did get the Answerer.

I’m tired of trying to figure out all the answers. I just want God — even if he isn’t “safe.”

“Being dropped hurts. But having a fake God made in your own image can destroy you. Sometimes it’s only in the dropping that fake gets broken and the real appears.” (Stoner p. 71)

Lord, please give me the courage to go forward even when my questions remain unanswered. Thank you that even when I feel dropped, in reality I am only free falling and ultimately you are there to catch me. Amen.



I have spent the last seven days in the Ozarks, at Table Rock Lake. Fall vacations are the best! I managed to spend the week disengaged from “work” if that is what you want to call it. Pretty proud of myself! We have spent seven days watching the fall colors change before our eyes — eye candy for sure! It always amazes me that trees can be so beautiful even as their lovely “garments” fade and decay and fall away. But then….they get a fresh new start come spring! Could the dieing away of some of my “garments” be just as beautiful? I could let loose and let fall away garments of pride, rebellion, hurt…well you fill in your own blanks. As I do this I know I will probably feel a bit naked, you know, vulnerable. But I will trust in the goodness of my Creator to clothe me with new garments, more beautiful than the ones that have fallen away. How lovely! And then there comes the time when once again I will need –yes I know I will — to let fall away yet other garments, and the cycle continues, the cycle of sanctification. I love fall.