Grow Rouge & Blossom

I know you can hardly see it, but trust me – it’s there. Somehow this one rogue azalea branch avoided the sharp cut of the hedge trimmers! She’s rebounded and reemerged after a harsh “haircut” and I can see her from the window reaching and stretching to soak in the sunlight. When I first noticed her, standing at the sink in the kitchen, I remarked to myself that I would have to fetch the hedge clippers to cut her off. Then, as I gazed out the window for a moment longer, I sensed there was perhaps something greater at work here. Maybe she could stay and grow and be seen and blossom? Maybe she has something to say…???

The past couple of weeks have been hard for me. I have felt sad, confused and conflicted but am also clear that a new season is upon me both in my professional and personal life. I’m growing rouge myself. And as Hope Recovery Church approaches her two-year birthday, she’s continuing to blossom.

Over the past months in my own congregation, I’ve seen an “us” verses “them” mentality of judgement, a hard line of division, and separation among people who are bond together by the common peril of recovering from addictions of all sorts. It wrenches my heart when I see how RELIGION has become more important than RELATIONSHIPs. It’s painful to watch recovering people suffer separation within the fellowship of all recovering people – one that Hope Recovery promotes for “all A’s” (for us, it doesn’t matter what program you attend – what brings us together is that we are all recovering from something.)

So here we are (here I am) at the precipice of a new season and blossoming brightly. In June, at the North Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (who has appointed me and of which Hope Recovery is affiliated), in the Executive Clergy Session, in a historic vote, “approved eight candidates for orientation, including the first-ever candidate in a same-sex marriage.” I joyfully affirm this decision both personally and on behalf of Hope Recovery as its pastor.

Friends, our Bishop, the Rev. Connie Shelton, recently preached about how people come to us broken and that our job is not to fix them but to welcome them with openness, welcome and belonging. At Hope Recovery, we say, “If you say, ‘I belong here,’ then you belong here.” We can’t say this and add BUTS, asterisks *** or disclaimers. ALL means ALL.

This is what I know is true for me – that without my personal recovery in tact, there is no Hope Recovery. As a member of the original 12th Step program and a student of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous,” I turn to the wisdom of the first 100 who recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body and wrote a book to show others precisely how they had recovered. (AA, Big Book pg. ix). They also had the wisdom to discern that they must stay focused on their primary purpose, which is to stay sane (clean and/or sober or whatever words you use to define your own recovery) and help others to achieve recovery. To do this we need to stay out of the weeds and find common ground on which to cultivate good recovery.

At Hope Recovery, our purpose is to host moments where anyone is invited to connect with God and/or one other to experience healing. Our task is to support the many varies processes/flavors and expression of recovery so that we can connect in fellowship that ultimately leads all of us demonstration of love and service in our community.

What we’ve done well over this past year is cultivate a culture and a place where welcome and belonging is felt, seen and heard. Our prayer is that love will continue to organically find a Oneness that sees the humanness of each other and grows through support, friendship and WELCOME. (Differences between us shouldn’t warrant a response of fear or condemnation, but a desire to be curious, open and brave to listen to one another, to learn from each other and to walk together with recovery as our centering goal.)

We joyfully share all Hope Recovery has to offer with friends, fellowships, organizations and our community so that people may see their lives transformed. Though we may NOT all think alike, can we not love alike?

At Hope Recovery if you say, “I belong,” then you belong.

in love and service, Pastor Meg McB

Found Poetry –

You Don’t Understand this Prospect of Becoming

It’s a far voyage

for many people

and they thought we would fail.

some of the most treacherous fellow humans

maliciously would block our path.

Many stories haven’t been charted yet.

Useen we were

into the vast stretch we traveled.

They said, “You’re crazy,”

We wondered, “why am I going?” Yes! To prove my existence

I’ll go all the way

There is considerable method in our madness.

& countless days

pouring over our tears

studying our next moves

we developed safers and better ways


we maneuvered more effectively

with strong evidence & knowledge allies.

Clashes were predictable

we met the friendly and unfriendly

determined to follow God’s navigation

determined to LOVE

You don’t understand this prospect of becoming

stretched out before you and after you.

before were we here!

God joyously

& ceremonially created with optimism and awe.

God feed us & wash us & carry us.

God thanked us for our becoming

God circled around us & kept us safe

slicing through lies

to be with us in Jesus

In Christ we floated with remarkable ease.

thankful for the care of God.



I was awake at 1:16am because I was chilly and conveniently adjusted the thermostat from my phone. Might as well get up and use the bathroom – walking 20 short steps to relieve myself on a warm toilet seat. Back to sleep! Or not… By 2:12am, I was wide awake – my mind whirling and planning for The Warming Shelter that will be opening over Christmas weekend. The Warming Shelter is an emergency, overnight, “pop-up” shelter that opens on Wilmington’s coldest nights to offer anyone experiencing homelessness warmth, comfort and safety.

Confession: my first response to the weather forecast was about me. As an organizer of the effort, this Christmas is looking a bit different than I had planned. A trip to Pennsylvania to see my family might be postponed for a few days or maybe a few weeks. On Christmas Eve, I anticipate I’ll be sleeping on a cot in the basement of an old church with about 60 other people (and a lot of loud snoring). But despite myself, the message is clear – poverty doesn’t pause because it’s Christmas, and sometimes the work we are called to do for God doesn’t get to set the away message and go on vacation.

There is lots to do to prepare for this undertaking. The shelter is 100% volunteer staffed and operated by a collaborative of local churches, non-profits, and concerned citizens. There are supplies to gather, meals to plan, shopping to be done and people to schedule (sounds a bit like the last minute push at the “North Pole”!). Yet our gift is not toys and delights, but rather a life-saving response to people who are in need. 

This year, I expect there will be more people to shelter as locally our numbers of unhoused persons has visibly grown. We’ll squeeze in as many people as we can to make room. After eating a huge hot supper with desert, we’ll have pizza delivered at 9pm, watch movies, comfort and converse. With a bit of trepidation, we’ll work out the sharing of ONE bathroom (with ONE toilet) and maybe even manage to get a few hours of sleep. In the morning, we’ll make lots of hot coffee, wiping the sleep from our eyes – the smell of bacon wafting up from the kitchen. It sounds just like home on a cozy, Christmas morning, doesn’t it?

Perhaps forgotten for a few moments with the gift of normalcy and the ordinary, the issues of poverty and homelessness are not forgotten and will be a reality once again and soon enough. Our effort is only triage. A small step working toward the redemption of the human race and the alleviation of suffering. Remembering what I just heard in church that “not one can attain liberty until all have obtained liberty,” my prayer this morning is that God would help us to see, hear and respond to the needs of those whom we will be receiving during this cold spell. That we would host our neighbors with a joyful heart, a positive attitude, fresh energy, and patience tolerance. That the life of Jesus, breaking into the world, would birth a renewed spirit within all of us. That our happenstance created-community this Christmas holiday, would sing the light and love of an incarnated God who longs to be close to us. May we feel that nearness. May it be done on earth. May it be so. Amen.


Dear God, Master Maker of sugar cane… is this what you had in mind? All-knowing God did you ever think we would wrap pure sugar in bright packages and feed handfuls to our children? 

“Trick or Treat” in a parade of disguises, joy, laughter and surprises! 

Community connecting and celebrating by sharing confections.

A space where all could come to be seen, fed and filled.

We are grateful and humbled that our place was used and useful, safe and serene, warm and welcoming. 

God, may your Kin-dom continue to reign on earth through the sharing of Snickers bars and Tootsie pops. Small gifts given in love that say, “you belong.” 

To the parents, we send our sincere condolences.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Ghandi Sits Still

     Rev. Paula Zabkar told a story in her Sunday service @ Spiritual Soul Center this week about Ghandi. After returning to India after 20 years absent, Ghandi traveled the country to see for himself the condition of the county.  He witnessed the deep needs of India’s people who were being oppressed under Britain’s rule. All Ghandi’s people wanted him to ACT, DO and CHANGE things NOW, but rather wise Ghandi retreated into the silence to seek, pray and discern. He did the exact opposite of what everyone else wanted.
     Ghandi cultivated a practice known as “satyagraha, a technique for redressing wrongs through inviting, rather than inflicting, suffering, for resisting adversaries without rancor, and fighting them without violence.” How different our entire world experience would be if this posture was the norm rather than the rarity. 
     Inspired by the story of Ghandi, I started reading his autobiography and am learning that from an early age, Ghandi activated, sometimes acquiesced, but ultimately accepted vows and choices he made about his life and person. Living in England as a poor student, he was very hungry and reevaluated a vow he had made to his mother about remaining a vegetarian – not only did he refuse to eat meat, but decided that eggs (a staple of much of the food he was eating) were unacceptable to consume. 
     How can I be more Ghandi-like this week? What vows am I challenged to make and then keep? What posture is a Higher Power calling me to take – even if it doesn’t seem fair or feel good? May I sit still like Ghandi when I am disturbed and seek the wisdom of silence. 


Print by by Br Robert Lentz OFM can be purchased here:

Can lilies grow in sand?

The Bible says in Matthew 6:28 that lilies don’t worry, but could lilies grow in sand? I’m guessing probably not. And yet the beach is full of life. There are countless things living in the water! And above the water too! Flowers grow in the dunes, but not lilies.

On the beach, we also find life that was – in skeleton shells. I always wonder what animal could have possibly lived in such a tiny shell? After seeing so many shells in my lifetime, I haven’t seen very many of the creatures that inhabited them. But they lived regardless of my witness.

The sea’s vastness is a mystery too. Here in Wilmington, NC, I have the opportunity to walk to the end. Eventually, I’d come to the place where the ocean and Cape Fear river meet. My choices would be to get on a boat or turn around and walk back.

“What’s the point of walking down to the end? It would get you nowhere?”

And maybe that is the point?! To go nowhere is to go everywhere – into the limitless possibility of what’s next: healing, change, growth, provision, potential… promise? The joy is in the journey.

The ocean hitting the shore over and over reminds me that life is always changing. As each wave is different that gives me hope that things can always be new. I’m going to keep walking.

Candy Corn

O God, creator of all that is… I thank you for the cooler temperatures, orange and yellow hues of leaves and for bite-sized pieces of wonderful Halloween confections. Tiny morsels in every shape and flavor – gummy bears wrapped in small packages! Best of all… CANDY CORN! (yes, brown candy corn too!).

“I’m going to buy this for the kiddies,” I lie to myself.

“You bought candy corn…” Geoff whines.

A friend of mine mixed candy corn and peanuts – doubly delicious.

I shake some out… just a few pieces. What is it about the waxy, overly sweetness that makes it soooooo good? First, nibble off the white section? Or the yellow top? Pop it in your mouth! God, help me, save me from myself so that there will be treats left for the kids.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


I’ve been asked to give the message this upcoming Sunday at Spiritual Soul Center and as I listened to Rev. Paula share yesterday on grace, this writing I did several years ago popped into my mind. Paula spoke of grace in terms of comparing ourselves to others (not grace), but how often we interpret grace that way. The thought of Ms. Gladys’ face, the situation and the smell came rushing into my memory yesterday during church and I wondered how she saw God’s grace in her moment of need? What I do know is that I can choose to BE grace for another – an example, a living bridge to the love of God for all God’s beloved children.

Downtrodden. By Meg McBride. Featured in Hope Rising published as a Lenten Reflection in 2017.

I’m a social worker who works in the hospital and helps patients who are experiencing homelessness. One day, I was called to the  emergency room to talk to Ms. Gladys. The nursing staff didn’t know how to handle her. Ms. Gladys was an older, frail, black woman who was dressed in a bright pink sweat suit  She lay there, crying… She smelled terrible and I realized that the smell was feces – she was covered in her own excrement. Why had no one on the hospital staff had offered to clean her up? She showed me her pants and underpanties that were stained brown as I struggled to hold back a choking feeling in my throat. As she revealed her skin under her clothing, I saw that her entire body was covered with scars.  She told me she had been in a fire and was burned over 90% of her body. She showed me her chest from which her breasts had been completely burned off. She showed me scars from her neck to her feet. 

The fire was why her bowels didn’t work anymore. She had to wear a colostomy bag that needed to be emptied often, but she had spent the previous night sitting outside on a curb because she had nowhere to go — she was homeless. The bag had burst open all over her. In the morning, someone found her and called 911. Here she was… still alone and still covered in waste. She reached out her hand and offered it to me… that hand covered in crap. Something Bigger than me said, “Take it.” As she held my hand, Ms. Gladys asked me, “Why did God let me survive that fire? What didn’t God just taken me then?” I had no words. I stood beside her, feeling her hand in mine, and cried with her…

Sleepy Monday Afternoon

It’s only Monday afternoon and I’m sleepy. There’s so much on the “to do” list!

I’ve stared at the same spreadsheet for the past ten minutes and nothing on it has changed or made more sense. I still don’t know what I’m looking at.

Why didn’t I put a comfy couch in this office?

Is there any chocolate around here?

Should I make coffee?

I feel itchy.

I wonder what Geoff will make for dinner?!

What time did that guy say he was stopping by to make a delivery? Will I make it till them?

It’s only Monday afternoon and I’m sleepy. Yawn.


Beach Walk

I walked the beach twice this week – thinking about Carol. Was she “out there”? Could she see me? Could she hear me thinking about her? I pondered on the deep ocean – the out-there-ness of it. I wondered about the mystery, the unknown, the uncharted and the deep.

I like to stay in the surf where I feel safe and capable because the ocean scares me, especially when I think about getting sucked out in a riptide. I’ll go a little deeper if I have a friend with me (like Kathryn, who is a strong and life-long swimmer).

Carol went to the beach every Tuesday with friends. Friends who helped her onto the sand and down to the water. Maybe Carol was a little unsure of the ocean too. Maybe she wondered what was “out there” as well.

I see you Carol in the bigness and endlessness of the sky. I treasure your depth – as deep as any sea – to go “there” time and again with your courage, perseverance, positivity and your unending care and concern for others.

The sky smiles and there is Carol.

Bright, open, free and at ease. Rest easy my friend.