Near to the Heart

posted on May 09

Near to the Heart
Rescue me in weakness of mind
When distraction conquers me
Keep me in your shadow, oh Lord
Give me grace to follow where You lead
Keep me near your heart…

Keep Me Near, Rend Collective

There exists such a stark contrast for us right now, between the beauty of our community in springtime and the ugliness of the way humans are treating one another in our world. In this beautiful season in North Carolina, we behold bright blooms in lawns and can enjoy gentle walks in the still-cool morning breeze. Today many of our district pastors gathered for redemptive work at the Beloved Community Center. In another venue, we celebrated our UMAR community with dancing and heartfelt testimony, with beautiful artwork and joyful conversation around tables. And over one year after the devastating tornado in Greensboro, our district is still engaged in supporting community decision-making and renewal in affected neighborhoods.
We need only look on social media to see that many of our United Methodist brothers and sisters are engaged in their communities and in missions near and far, planning for next appointments, and getting excited to embrace retirement, reappointment, and new relationships. Our Bishops have concluded an important gathering and have shared good times of worship and meaningful dialogue. There they invited one another into deep conversation and reflected on their pastoral and prophetic witness. Just around the corner will be the month of June, where we will gather at Lake Junaluska for a holy time of worship and conferencing.
As we widen our view, we take in the sad news of school shootings, escalated military activity, trade wars, and the bitter truth that six shootings happened in 18 hours in our own District this past Monday.  Truthfully, we are close to God even in these horrific moments, but we feel far from God at the same time. In one moment, we feel God’s presence and are grounded and courageous; in the next we wonder, “Where are you? Where are we?” The strain and stress are palpable.  It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged. Our minds become weak, and as the Rend song reminds us, this is remedied only by dwelling near God’s heart. I love the old hymn, which shares the same sentiment:

There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God;
a place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God,
hold us who wait before thee, near to the heart of God.
-Near to the Heart of God, UMH #472

Let us all place God’s heart and hope at the center of our work; let us model positive conversations, smiles, and gentleness. Let us ask God to open our eyes to pain so that we might participate as redemptive remedies. Let us be honest, transparent, and vulnerable with each other. And above all, let us stay near to the heart of God. We draw others towards God’s kind heart by our own actions.
Rev. Bev Coppley

Near to the Heart