Lillie Brock

Along the Yellow Brick Road


Well, my name isn’t Dorothy and I don’t live in Kansas, but I’m beginning to understand Dorothy’s journey along the Yellow Brick Road even more than I ever have before.

As I approach Dec. 30th and my final Sunday with you as a pastor, I find myself reflecting almost constantly on how much I will miss you and how incredible our time together has been. As most of you know, I never expected to leave this church or St. Louis, so for the road to turn a different way has been nothing short of a surprise I didn’t see coming!

As I’ve tried to process the myriad of emotions I have about this every single day, I have found my thoughts wandering to Dorothy and the Lion and Scarecrow and Tin Man. They were all, in their own way, disoriented and invested in a particular story about their lives. Dorothy thought she would never get back home. The Lion was convinced that he would always be a coward. The Tin Man was sure he would never have a heart again and the Scarecrow was certain he could never have a brain. Each of them were convinced that these things about them were true and that there was no other truth.

I suspect that you are like me . . . it is easy to become invested in our stories, so much so, that we forget God may have more parts of the story that we don’t yet know. As I’ve discerned my call to Church of the Trinity MCC in Sarasota, FL, I’ve had to be reminded that though my story about being at this church until I retire is true, it is also true that there was something new making its way into my story that I did not see coming.

The characters in the Wizard of OZ found parts of life that they didn’t see coming and all of it added to their stories in beautiful ways. When I think about it . . . I have to acknowledge that my coming to MCCGSL became a part of my story that I didn’t see coming then . . . so really, I shouldn’t be surprised that there is another turn in the road now that I didn’t know was coming.

To all of you, I say thanks . . . for giving me a home, deepening my heart, challenging my brain and strengthening my courage. I am so much better for having been here with you and every single thing you have given me will live in my soul wherever I am. You are cherished and loved and above all else . . . you, too, will be granted a new part of the story that you never saw coming and it will be more beautiful than you can imagine. May it be so!

Why am I a Christian?


I want to be honest . . . there are SO many reasons not to be a Christian anymore. Just about every day I see more reasons not to be a Christian than I see reasons to remain one. Still, there is something inside me that clings to my own experience of God through the life, ministry and courage of Jesus. There is something palpable about my love for the Jesus I have grown to know.

As a self-identified entrepreneur, one of the things that causes me to follow Jesus is that I see him as one, too. Jesus did not set out to form a new religion and never even knew the term Christian. He did, however, have the courage, creativity, and determination to forge a new way of understanding God. 

           He did fly in the face of his own religious culture

                       He did offer compassion to whoever needed it

                                   He did “see” people who were different than he was

                                               He did support spreading wealth and seeking justice for all

                                                           He did preach that everyone is loved by God

                                                                       He did live as fully human with purpose . . .

In other words, Jesus was willing, despite every possible resistance and challenge, to do something new . . . to show another facet of God . . . to see the rough places and the thin places and the unconventional places where God lives, too! More than anything else, that is why I am a Christian. God sent Jesus to show me that seeing what others don’t see is my fully human life with purpose. What is your fully human life with purpose? What faith will it take for you to see something new and see it through until the very end? What courage will it take for you to doubt your doubts and have faith in your faith?

The world is changing. The spiritual landscape is shifting in a big way. The culture we live in is being made over. Is it any wonder that God is calling us to something new? Is it any wonder that God gave us Jesus to show us how to do it? 

So, here we are. Will we be the kind of Christians who are courageous and faithful or the ones who cling to all the rules that “used to be”? I want to challenge all of us to envision a movement that is still being formed and molded by Spirit and is being revealed to us in every moment . . . IF we are willing to see what others never will.

Be blessed by newness,

Pastor Lillie


I Corinthians 4:8-9

"We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

According to neuro-scientists, our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second! What? That seems unreal, doesn’t it? But it is true! Of course, these bits of information are largely processed by our unconscious mind. According to the same neuro-scientists, we are only able to process 5-9 thoughts in our conscious mind in any given moment! Essentially, one could conclude, that we are all walking around unconscious!

Most of us feel the sting every single day of the enormous number of stimuli that come into our experience as humans. It is overwhelming often, taxing regularly, stressful sometimes, and reasonable occasionally. We are pressed on every side as we try to juggle all the balls that are part of our daily experience. 

It is little wonder that our culture seems to have become mindless...unaware of what is happening right in front of us...oblivious to the needs of those all around us...numb to the ways we treat one another...asleep to the basic courtesies that were once part of our living fabric. 

So, mindfulness, begins with recognizing that our common experience is not very mindful–that we are sleepwalking through much of our daily lives blind and crashing into things. We stumble from place to place caught in a whirlwind of thoughts, missing what is right in front of our nose. Often, the storm of thoughts is not pleasant to be caught up in. We ruminate over what someone said earlier, what we should have said in reply, what happened ten years ago, or what we have to do tomorrow. Our minds are exhausting, and therefore, we may feel exhausted.

The mindful approach is to invite a gap in the endless stream of thoughts and emotions. We train ourselves to wake up; to open a door and let in some fresh air and space. We allow ourselves to be present to the energy of our experience, right here, right now. We discover the possibility of waking up to how things are in each moment. We explore what it means to pay attention to what is going on in our body, our mind, and our environment.

The scripture written at the beginning of this devotion, invites us to a way of life that is mindful and reminds us that when we are present to the Spirit (who is in all the moments of life), then...

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

So what will it be for you...mindless or mindful? Choose well!

Here’s to being present!

Pineapple Hospitality

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Because I grew up in the South, I have long been familiar with the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality.  If you travel through the cities in the south, you will see that the pineapple adorns statues, gates, door knockers, wallpaper, bedposts and on and on.

In early colonization, the pineapple became a delicacy because of its rarity and delicious juice.  Europeans had never encountered such a fruit so when it was served to guests, they felt particularly welcomed and honored.  As time went by, the pineapple was used in other ways, as well.  For example, in the deep south, if a pineapple was found on your porch in the morning, it indicated that your neighbor wanted to sit in the swing with you and visit.  Additionally, when sailors would come home, a pineapple would be speared and placed in front of the sailor’s home as a sign that there would be friendship, warmth and a welcome home party for the sailor.

Today, the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality.  In my native Alabama, pineapple upside down cake is a delicacy and if you serve it in your home, you are communicating to guests that they are warmly and enthusiastically welcomed.  It symbolizes that the host desires for you to feel warmth, friendship and comfort while in their home.

Every week, we have guests in our church home.  We believe ourselves to be welcoming and always inclusive but it never hurts, from time to time, to check and see how many pineapple upside down cakes there are when visitors enter our doors!?  Are you one of the pineapple upside down cakes?  Is our welcome warm, comforting and enthusiastic?  Will our guests leave and understand why we say that our church is a place where Everyone Belongs?  I pray that our welcome can become like a pineapple . . . a delicacy of sweetness and warmth.


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Return to the stronghold,
You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare
That I will restore double to you. Zechariah 9:12

It has been a week . . .

Death of friends and loved ones in our congregation seem to have loomed large in our grief . . .

The Supreme Court was wishy-washy about non-discrimination . . .

      A gay man was killed in Soulard, our church's neighborhood . . .

      The big island of Hawaii continues to be ravaged by an erupting volcano  . . .

       A fashion icon hung herself in her apartment . . .                              

I suppose this list could go on for a while and no doubt, you could add your own particular things to it. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to dive full on into the rivers of all that is wrong, sad, unjust, frustrating and tragic? We are surrounded by reasons to engage these things until the lens through which we view the world become cloudy, gloomy and filled with despair.

And then . . . as people of faith, we are reminded that we are called to be Prisoners of Hope! Yes!

     We are called to remember the mystery and power of the One who loves us and walks with us . . .

We are encouraged to know that in every challenge, there is a lesson that brings us closer to our purpose . . .

We are invited to sew love where there is hate, understanding where there is injustice, grace where there is trouble and comfort where there is grief . . .

We are nudged to channel the power and presence of the Spirit who sustains and teaches us . . .

We are moved to be grateful for every blessing in every moment . . .

To be Prisoners of Hope will not take all the challenges and heartache away but it will ensure that there is a little less despair, a little less fear, a little less sadness and a little less cynicism in your own little part of the world. The promise of God is that restoration will return double to us. That my friends, can change the world. Join me this week in being a relentless Prisoner of Hope!

Happy New . . . You, Yours, Them, Theirs, Us, Ours

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As we continue to work on learning about and honoring the pronouns that all of us prefer when giving identity to gender, it occurs to me that it might also be good to start the year giving greater consideration to the ways we balance (or fail to balance) our attention to "me vs. them" and "mine vs. theirs." One thing is for sure, our culture tells us to look after me and mine, not them and theirs.

It is important that we all give attention to ourselves...our well-being, our physical and emotional health, etc. Any attempt at giving attention to others will be thwarted and undermined if we fail to attend to ourselves in these ways. But where is the line? When do we cross over into selfishness, false pretense, and greed? How many material things is enough? When have we done enough self-care? What crosses the line between healthy self-esteem and arrogance?

I certainly don't pretend to know the answers to all these questions, except to the extent that I am trying to understand them in my own life. What I do know is that our obsession with the self threatens our ability to have empathy for others and be of true service to them. So what do we do with this? How do we reflect on our own tendencies to overlook "them" because we are so entangled with our own needs and desires?

One of the things I am challenging myself to do is take a deeper look at an old quote I've seen a million times: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather, we are spiritual beings having a human experience." It occurs to me that I can get caught up in paying so much attention to my human experience that I forget to nurture my spiritual nature! In my life, once that happens, I am no longer authentically "tuned in" to the experiences of others.

Ultimately, this is not a pronoun issue is it? More accurately, it is an issue of working as hard on our spiritual being as we do on our human experience. The imbalance of these adds to the mess in the world, but the balance of them is a true miracle. I invite you to join me in the search for our authentic spiritual selves as a way to do our part in making the world a better place for everyone.

Happy New Year!

The Journey

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I want to be candid. I am not a fan of the word journey. It's probably because, to me, it has been WAY overused. Still, I find myself using it a lot and every time I do, my insides flinch. My dislike of this overused word, however, has likely kept me from truly appreciating the deep meaning that it actually carries.

When I take the time to reflect on my life up until now, it is very clear that it has been a journey, not a trip or a single destination. One of the things about a journey is that it takes time . . . mostly because the route is often circuitous and filled with detours and delays. Still, it seems that a journey instead of a trip yields the greatest adventures, memories and lessons.

Oddly, most of us don't consciously choose a journey. The course of life events may design a journey for us but we are not notably eager to set out on a journey that will be long and sometimes uncertain. After all, a journey doesn't usually fit into our over-packed lives . . . "ain't nobody got time for that!"

And then . . . a season like Advent comes along and we are invited into the journey of anticipation, expectancy, and preparation. This season has the audacity to ask us to hold off a few weeks to sing Christmas Carols and wait before opening gifts that have been under the tree. God has the nerve to suggest to us that waiting, wondering, grasping, and hoping will make the meaning of the season more precious. Spirit seems to play with us a bit by showing us pieces of the journey all along the way to the manger but leaving us to explore and discover the twists and turns.

Unto us is born . . . an idea, a venture, an adventure, a new job, a friend, a purpose, a challenge . . . but to get to birth these things in our lives, we must first take the journey that prepares us for it. The journey allows each important step to unfold and every unfolding offers a glimpse of what is to come.

Let's journey together, even if I don't like the word.

The Tipping Point

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Some years ago, I read Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point.  He gives example after example of how products and ideas have found a "tipping point" that led them to huge success and/or exposure.  In many ways, the ministry of Jesus was that way.  It only lasted for 3 years but seemed to build epidemic following. Gladwell would identify this phenomenon as contagious - one that led to an epidemic that has lasted through the centuries.

When I ask myself how we, as people of faith, might find our own tipping point, I admittedly feel discouraged.  Why?  Because everywhere I look - at the fundamentalists or the liberals and everyone in between - I fail to see contagion around the message of Jesus.  I fail to see a message that is spreading in epidemic proportions in a short period of time. I fail to see what Gladwell would call translation.  In short, I fail to see Christians living a life that others would want and would find life-changing. 

In a world where racism, name calling, suspicion, violence and hate are contagious on a regular basis, the message of Jesus is incredibly relevant but has not been contagious.  Why is that?  Perhaps, as those who follow Jesus, we need to seriously consider whether our lives reflect the life of Jesus enough that we become part of the tipping point. We have been called . . . so who will we be?

Here's to tipping . . .

Where's Waldo?

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Where's Waldo? is a British series of children's books created by the English illustrator Martin Handford. The books consist of a series of detailed double-page spread illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Waldo hidden in the group.

Waldo's distinctive red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses make him slightly easier to recognize, but many illustrations contain red herrings involving deceptive use of red-and-white striped objects. Later entries in the long-running book series added other targets for readers to find in each illustration.

Sounds a little like the world around us and the world within us, doesn't it?  With red herrings flying everywhere, time moving quickly and our internal world assaulted with busyness and chaos, it is sometimes hard to find our real selves.  And after awhile, in the midst of all this, we don't even remember what the "real me" looks, sounds or feels like.

During the month of September, we will be exploring Restoration - the process of returning to our original design and form.  It might be time to ask the question, "Where's Lillie?  Where's Katie?  Where's Bruce?"  You get the idea!  Our purpose on the planet is not to be so obscured by red herrings and distractions that our presence is no longer discernable.  Our purpose is to live into a future with hope because God is the original artist and is always ready to restore us to our original greatness.

What needs restoring in you?  How will you be part of restoring our community and world?  Come so we can wrestle together!

All Aboard!

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I remember the first cruise I went on and how awe struck I was as we walked up the plank to step onto this huge ship. I've often wondered how something that big (220,000 tons) can float while some people who weigh 100 pounds sink in the water!! I was mesmerized by the size and grandeur of the ship and as we set sail, I felt as though I was in very unfamiliar territory. I had to learn my way around the ship. I struggled with taking a shower while the ship was moving. As we set out further and further into the sea, it felt like we were a speck on the landscape, despite how huge the ship was. When the storm came the first night, I learned why you take Dramamine on these cruises! Yes, I had embarked on a journey that was totally unfamiliar to me and though it took me a couple of days to get acclimated, it was totally worth it.

Jesus and his disciples often found themselves out on the sea. Sometimes they were getting from town to town on the water. Sometimes they were fishing. Sometimes they were just getting away from the crowds. They were familiar with the sea since most of them were fishermen. But the stories we know about their experiences on the seas include the times when storms raged, fish were hard to find and Jesus walked on water! It is clear that when these things happened to them, they needed help to acclimate and learn from the experiences.

Such are the storms, surprises and miracles that pop up in our lives. It is so easy for these experiences to overwhelm us and set us on a course of doubt, fear, confusion and/or distrust. In truth, these are the moments when we have the most profound opportunity to encounter the God who not only loves us beyond measure but is eager to walk with us as we learn to have hope, peace, clarity, and trust. Even in the face of things unfamiliar and sometimes painful, God is "all in" with us.  

Our challenge is to lean into the Spirit that is filling the gaps and providing the strength we may not have. Our struggle is to adjust and realize that there is guidance as we get acclimated to something new. Our resistance is one of trusting in our own steam more than we trust God to move us through whatever is ahead.

So, I invite you into the fall season and the cruise that Spirit is inviting us to take. As Pastor Wes said on Sunday, I invite you to trust that "the anchor holds." I invite you to experience the vastness of God's love and care.

All Aboard! Be prepared to Doubt Your Doubts AND Have Faith in Your Faith!!!