Friday, March 31, 2006

Indispensable Part of the Body

I was reading See Through Faith today, specifically a post entitled Companions. In it, Lorna is discussing a book called So Much More: An invitation to Christian Spirituality, and she lifted the following quote from it:
Those who are weaker or even embarrassing by the world’s standards ought to receive greater honour. Communities of Christians, in other words, should be the place where people can go to shed all the world’s status rankings. Children,women, racial minorities, homosexual men and women, poor people, unpopular people, people with awkward body shapes, people whose families have imploded, anyone who experiences the scorn of others – once they enter the church, they become an indispensable part of the body.

Wow. Go back and read that last line: “once they enter the church, they become an indispensable part of the body.”

We spend a lot of time talking about how we need to be an inclusive church. We talk about being welcoming – being open to people who are not like we are – not like the traditional members of our traditional church. We say this as members of the church, sitting on the inside, looking outside at “those people who are not like us.” And then we do our best to invite them in, trying to make them feel at home, as if the church were our house, and we are entertaining guests.

Once they enter the church, they become an indispensable part of the body.

Our Thursday evening service, Common Grounds, has developed and grown into something that I don’t think was in the original plan. It was meant as a service to attract the college age students from the university that is six blocks down the road. It has instead become a service which attracts the homeless and poorer members of our community. The meal is free; the worship is casual and non-threatening. We may be six blocks from the university, but we are one block from the City Mission. God has used this time on Thursday nights to bring his children into his church; children we were not reaching any other way.

Once they enter the church, they become an indispensable part of the body.

Indispensable. Not guests. Not people we tolerate (or avoid). A part of the body of Christ. Just as we are.

God is not our own little private, luxurious, delectable treat that we hand out in small, bite-sized pieces to those who are not members of our club. God is huge. We do not own “the church.” It is not a country club to which can choose to invite those who are less “desirable” as members and then feel generous. We are part of the body of Christ, and we are ALL indispensable members of it.

It’s uncomfortable. We don’t always fit together. Sometimes we would rather it be something else, but we aren’t given the luxury of defining church. God does that. And we should count ourselves lucky to be a part of it at all.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


The problem with reading blogs is that I will read something interesting -- thought provoking -- and then turn off the computer, and not have any idea where that interesting, thought provoking post was. Frustrating.

I read something, somewhere, about doubt. The person who wrote it, whose name I can't remember and whose blog escapes my mind, thought that doubt was a sin. He believed that it must be sinful if it separates us from God.

Hmm. So, I pulled out my Bible, and opened it to the the famous doubting passage:

John 20: 19-29 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Notice, I have included a few verses previous to the Thomas scene. I hadn't realized that Jesus showed the other disciples the marks of the nails. Thomas was asking for something that the others had already received. Physical proof. He must have needed it because Jesus "made a special trip," and provided it.

Jesus could have said, "Forget it. You'll have to believe that I am risen without physical proof." He could have said, "Doubt is a sin. I will not be an cater to sin. Get over it." But he didn't. He provided what Thomas needed. In effect, the doubt was the catalyst which allowed Jesus to lead Thomas to the next step on his (Thomas's) journey. Am I stretching here?

Is it a sin to doubt? I think that question might depend on what your definition of doubt is. Does doubt mean refusing to have faith or trust? Does doubt mean the questioning of what others are accepting? It does seem from the scripture that Jesus would rather Thomas had believed without physical proof. Could it be that he hoped Thomas would believe because he knew that the rest of us would have to believe without any physical proof at all? We don't have the disciples' advantage of physical proof. Our faith is in the unseen.

I still haven't answered my own question. I do not believe that it is sinful to question. Obviously. I'm full of questions. God created us as logical (most of the time) beings with minds and curiousity. It is our job to try to discern between real and false teachings. We are called to doubt and explore possiblities. I truly believe that we should not leave our faith shallow. We are to dig deeper; we are to doubt and struggle so that we grow. God will provide us with what we need, just as Jesus showed Thomas the marks. He will help us through our doubt so that we can move from freshly minted Christians to children mature in faith.

So does doubt ever become a sin? Maybe it does when we value our doubt more than we value God. If our doubt becomes so important to us that we set aside God in order to nurture and care for the doubt, then we have crossed a line into sin. When we are reaching toward God even though we are standing in the mire of doubt, He will reach for us, and lead us out of the mud. It is when we are standing stubbornly up to our waists in the mud of doubt, arms crossed, eyes closed, that we won't see the hand of God. We are left only with the doubt.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I am

I am known.
You know what I am doing.
You know where I am going.
You know what I am thinking,
and what I want to say.

God said, "I am."

I am surrounded.
There is nowhere that I can hide from you.
You are in my highest moments.
You are with me in my deepest horrors.
My spirit flies to you,
and your hand guides me.

God said, "I am."

I am no longer in darkness,
for in you there is only light.
The darkness does not exist
because you are the light.

God said, "I am."

I am made by God.
You knit me together
from the very beginning.
You know every inch of me,
every stitch of me.
Just as you created the heavens and the earth,
You made me.

God said, "I am."

I am in awe of you.
How wonderful is your name.
I cannot grasp your thoughts
or understand who you are.
I only know that you know me,
that you made me.
I can only pray that I am on your side.

God said, "I am."

I am understood.
You search me and know my heart.
See my doubt,
Understand my anxiety,
Reveal my sin,
So that you can forgive me.
So that you can lead me to life eternal.
So that I can stay in your presence,

Based on Psalm 139
Beautiful artwork
here and here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Home Again

It's me, back home and back to posting once again. The trip to Orlando was wonderful.
Birthday dinner at Captain Something-or-rather. S insists it's Captain Fuzzy's, but I'm pretty sure the name was Captain Jack's. View out the window -- very nice -- includes a Lego Sea Serpent -- life size (I guess, I mean really, who knows how big sea serpents are). I'll be back-posting (gasp) a couple of other photos, just 'cause I want to.
We spent Saturday at the Disney parks and Sunday at the hotel. Five hours sitting beside the pool, doing nothing. Reading, knitting, napping -- nothing that required any effort at all. It was wonderful. (Photo is view from my pool chair.)

I did suffer one casuality on the trip, however. I dropped my cell phone on its ear -- BANG. I broke its hinge -- it is a flip phone. As of today, the screen is black. Nothing. The phone works -- I can call out as long as I trust that I am dialing the right number. I can answer phone calls -- as long as I don't need to know who is calling prior to answering the phone. It doesn't work so great for voice mail, because the only way the poor phone could tell me I had voice mail was by having "Voice Mail" pop up on the screen. No go. So, when I find the time, I have to call Cingular and put the insurance policy into effect so that they will send me a new phone with a screen that works. In the meantime, if I call you, it was probably by mistake.

I just have the feeling that this is an analogy for something in life, but I can't put my finger on it.
  • Faith is the assurance of things not seen? Maybe.
  • We never know who is going to eventually hear what we have to say? Could be, I guess.
  • We could come unhinged at any time? Might be.
Maybe the best lesson to learn from this is not to put your cell phone in the side pocket of your purse and then turn your purse upside down.

Riddle me this: What kind of parent allows her son to stay out in the miserable, cold, rainy, nasty, dark weather to run in circles? A track parent. For SIX HOURS. Who thought this would be a good idea?

Monday, March 27, 2006

View from the plane

How about a photo from the window of the airplane? These are mountains in West Virginia covered with snow. Huge difference between Florida from the air and West Virginia from the air.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Epcot Fireworks

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Castle at Night

Sunset at Downtown Disney

Friday, March 24, 2006

At the airport

Woo-hoo. WiFi in airport. Speaking of worship, go read this blog entry.

Sorry. I have no idea how to make that a hyperlink using a Palm devlce. You'll jus have to copy and paste.

Love the quote at the end.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Shoes

When I was pregnant with G, I switched from wearing grown-up, make your feet look nice dress shoes at work to tennis shoes (sneakers, whatever you call them). They are much more comfortable for all the standing and walking around the lab I do during the day. I never switched back.

This means that I spend hours and hours in my comfortable shoes. I wear them out fast, and end up having to replace them pretty often. Today is my first day in new pair, and it has started me thinking about change.

New shoes, at least for me, feel foreign. The arch is in the wrong place. The heels feel funny. They even squeak. I especially noticed the awkwardness of the shoes as I was driving to work. I drive a car with a standard transmission – mainly because I think it fun to drive. In our town, though, a standard transmission can requires some skill and finesse. I am especially referring to our hills and viaducts – stopping and then starting again, without rolling into the car behind you is a particular challenge. It may sound strange, but my feet know what they are doing – I can tell where the perfect clutch point is through my old shoes – but not through the new ones. Awkward and annoying.

Why am I telling you this boring story about my new footwear? I think it is an analogy for change in the church. Last year our church experienced some rather radical changes. It’s a little like new shoes – at first no one can tell whether the change is for the good or not. It will be a couple of days before I know whether these shoes will become old friends, or terrible torture devices causing blisters and bound for the trash can. Transition takes time in a church, too – much more time than a couple of days. I think we are still adapting to the changes we had last year. We are still trying to find our way through new structures and routines.

However, several months into these “new shoes” at church, we are beginning to see what is working and what is not. We lived with the shoes long enough for the awkwardness to end – long enough to celebrate what has changed for the good, and to begin to try to adjust what still needs fine tuning.

I think we can learn a couple of lessons from this, and learning lessons is important, because more change is coming.

  • At first, all change feels awkward and wrong. We need to be patient with the change, enduring the squeaks and misplaced arches until the “shoes” start to fit.
  • Speaking of patience, we need to realize that not everyone adapts to change at the speed that we do. Sometimes we will feel left behind, nursing blisters and mashed toes, and sometimes we need to understand that other people’s shoes are pinching more than ours are, or that their feet or more sensitive. Sometimes we need to know that the other person, in addition to wearing new shoes, may also have new glasses, a new hat, and has lost his gloves. All the new shoes are doing is making him more grumpy (yeah, I know, analogy carried too far).
  • Sometimes people become so comfortable in the familiarity of their "old shoes" that they fail to notice that they've worn holes in the soles and that their bare toes are sticking out the ends. Maybe then it's time to lovingly point out to them that new shoes are a must to prevent frostbite, gangrene, and amputation.
  • Once we’ve gotten over the first shock of new-ness, it’s time to evaluate. Is the change working? What can we do to make continued improvements? Necessary adjustments?

We’re changing, and we’re not done yet. What at first was scary and awkward, is starting to settle into place, but that’s only the beginning. What’s next? How can we make it even better?

Note: I'm leaving for Florida tomorrow, and may not be able to post again until Monday evening. This is post #99; I've been posting daily since January 9 of this year. That's 74 days of straight posting, and I hate to miss a few days. Blogging -- especially, I think, when you do it everyday, opens your mind to what is around you -- like squeaky shoes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I attended a meeting last night at church, and after The Business was done (dying versus vital, forsooth!), the few of us at the meeting sat for a while and talked. The conversation wandered around, touching on this and that, and settling for a while on the topic of worship.

Joe (our pastor) mentioned how it is necessary to adapt worship style to appeal to a modern population (actually not what he said at all, I’m paraphrasing), and I said how I thought that was sad. I then proceeded to make no sense what-so-ever, trying to explain my opinion, leaving the impression that I thought we should all just merrily enjoy traditional worship styles, and not adapt at all. This is NOT what I think, so I thought I would take a blog entry to clarify my thoughts, such as they are.

The end of last week’s Sunday school lesson concerned worship as our response to our relationship with God. The author of the teacher’s lesson (which, if you’re keeping track, is nothing at all like the student’s lesson, but that’s another story), said that the word worship is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which means worth-ship. We worship God because he is worthy of worship. Hold on to that thought, while I add another…

I mentioned in this post that I Iiked the song The Heart of Worship, and I actually used the story of the writing of the song as an illustration as I taught the lesson last week. Apparently Matt Redman’s church was experiencing a lack of spark in their worship. They decided it was because, and here again I am interpreting; the congregation was taking worship for granted. They had turned it into a spectator sport (to borrow a phrase from the teacher’s manual) and were bringing nothing of their own to the worship. The dropped the music from the service and spent a year bringing worship with them to the service; participating in the service themselves.

Joe, Carol, the worship committee – those involved in planning and organizing a worship service – are called to bring the Word of God to the People of God. That means speaking the Word in a language which will be understood – and I don’t just mean the words spoken, but the music, the visual aids, the sounds and the sights of worship. They are called bring people to God through worship, and that is what Joe was talking about. It is good and right that the “language” of the Word of God be “spoken” in a way that the people will hear it and understand it and in a way that will attract and persuade people to become disciples of Christ.

But as a member of the congregation, in this particular instance, that is not what I am called to do. I (and the rest of the congregation) am called to bring worship to God. To not sit back as if worship were a Broadway production, waiting to be entertained. We are called to bring worship to God – ourselves, our attention, our praise, our singing, our clapping (sorry), and our prayers – all of our offerings. None of that should depend on the type of songs that are sung or the presence or absence of nice flowers. We are to come because God is worthy. We are to be there because it is pleasing to God. We, the congregation, are to come to worship, because it pleases God, not because we are waiting to be pleased ourselves.

Then, when the congregation comes to participate, and the Word of God is spoken in a language that its members can understand and to which they will respond, God creates a vital church (and that can’t be measured on a form).

So there, that’s what I was trying to say. I think.

(Photo: Is it spring or not? Ice on the trees at work)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One More Post and I'm Done

I'm not sure why I brought it up -- Promise Keepers, I mean. I have strong feelings about it, but really, they are just my feelings. I'm not sure that I can explain them with any clarity. I do feel, though, that I have left some things having after the last post, so I'll wrap them up, and may not approach this subject again.

First of all, a friend of mine, whose husband attends Promise Keeper events, told me that she couldn't understand why anyone would question an event that was so filled with the Holy Spirit. I see some validity to that comment, and I know people who I respect have had positive experiences at Promise Keepers. Never having been to an event, and only having internet research to back up my conclusions (and we all know how flawed that can be), who am I to pass judgment?

Secondly, I wanted to clear up a few items from the previous post (and the comments to that post).
  • I do believe that the different genders can benefit from single-gender events. I don't argue with that at all.
  • My information that only women were allowed to attend PK events was from the many articles I have read on the internet regarding the events -- not from personal experience. I did read the site that wes recommended in the comments (directly on the Promise Keepers web site) which states that women are permitted to attend events. I do wonder if they would be welcome (if not invited).
  • It was not that the events are men only; it was what I perceived as strict adherence to "law" (men only) that bothered me. I chose to write about that because of a story in Sheila Walsh's book concerning Women of Faith events (to which she had invited a man). Again, I've never been to a Women of Faith event, either.

So, really, what is my problem? My problem with Promise Keepers, I think, is rooted in the thought that Jim expressed in his comment, "I certainly understand anxiety with the number of men involved and concerns that rallys will move into a bad area, but all of the content I heard was encouraging men to become better fathers, husbands and christians. Following Jesus' example of sacrifice and honoring women, not a return to patriarchal male power." My worry is that men will not hear what Jim heard. My worry is that men will be convinced that they are called by God claim patriarchal male power. I know Jim, and I don't think that Jim would hear that, but I do think that some men would.

So I guess my problem isn't with what is said at an event -- because I don't know what is said at an event. My worry is what some men will HEAR at an event.

I have read the Seven Promises that Promise Keepers make. I'm not sure to whom these promises are made; I can't find that on the PK site. I do know that most men who are married and are members of a church have probably made many of these promises already -- to God and to their wives. I'm not sure that I agree with promise #2 -- "...he (a man) needs brothers to help him keep his promises." I guess I have a pretty high opinion of the men I know, and believe that they are completely capable of being men of integrity without "brothers."

And, truth be told, I worry that the organizers of the events are conservative enough to think and to teach that men are to be "head" of the family, and women are to "submit." So maybe that's the root of my problem all along. From the PK web site, in a paragraph for women, giving advice concerning how to support husbands after a PK event, "Acknowledge the little steps he is making to lead you and your family well."

There. I'm done.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A time for pessimism?

I just finished reading Ecclesiastes. How could something with poetry as beautiful as this:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 A Time for Everything:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time
to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

end up with an outlook that is so negative? I thought I would find Job to be depressing (and it was), but Ecclesiasties has such a pessimistic tone. "Everything is meaningless."

Are we ever guilty of having that kind of attitude? Is it possible for God to work through us if "everything is meaningless?" Will we ever try something new if we think that "there is nothing new under the sun?"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

He Knit You Together

I think that I may pick up the Promise Keepers discussion tomorrow, but I have to get up really early tomorrow to take S to the airport (avoiding two cars parked at the airport for the weekend), so I just don't have the brain power for it tonight.

Instead, I'll mention two things I brought up today teaching Sunday school (Psalm 139).

  1. I found this on a blog a day or two ago. I thought it was a nice list of Psalms, especially since that seems to be our topic in Sunday school lately, so I copied it and passed it out to Koinonia.
  2. I had fun with an illustration of the verse 13 -- "You knit me together in my mother's womb." You can't ask a knitter to teach about this Psalm and not use knitting as an visual. I had an afghan that I had started knitting a couple of years ago. It was one of my first projects. I never finished it, and it's full of mistakes. I keep meaning to "frog" it (frog is to rip apart -- the name is from the sound a frog makes -- ribbit ribbit = rippit rippit). So I took this afghan with me to Sunday school, and when we were discussing this verse, I gave it to Anita and Jean, yanked out the needles and started ripping it apart. Once I had turned a good portion of it back into yarn, I picked up the yarn and needles, carried them across room, and tried to give them to Mike and Kenny, asking them if they could put it back together. "Only with duck tape," said Mike. I made the afghan. I know its pattern and how it is put together -- its yarn and assembly. I know everything about it. God knows everything about you. He knit you together. I really love that verse.

Also from Pilgrim's Progress: "Your real new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him." (C.S. Lewis)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

One of My Problems

I'm going to express an opinion that may not be very popular with some people. In fact, I know people who would not like what I am about to say. Just remember; my opinion is just that -- mine. Yours is just as valid.

I have some real problems with the Promise Keepers program. They are many (my problems). I could make a list, but this evening I am only going to focus on one of them.

I'm going to explain this problem of mine by example.

I was reading Sheila Walsh's book Extraordinary Faith. In it, she tells a story of a taxi ride she took one weekend in one of the cities where Women of Faith was having an event. Her taxi driver asked her what she was doing in town. She explained it to him, and he told her that he wanted to come to see it. She told him that it was mainly geared for a female audience, but he said, "I think I need to come and hear it." She got him and his wife front row seats for that weekend's event.

We have a United Methodist Men's group at our church. They meet once a month for breakfast -- sometimes with a program. I have absolutely no problem with an all-men's group. In fact, I think it's wonderful. However, I know that if this group of men had a speaker coming that I felt compelled to hear -- not just interested, but called by God to hear -- that I would be given a "front row seat."

Promise Keepers is a men's event. I have no problem with that. My problem is that no women are ever allowed. The only female report I found on the internet concerning what actually happens at an event was given by a woman disguised as a man. Women can sell books, snacks or t-shirts outside the event to raise money for the program, but they are never ever allowed to enter.

Therein lies my problem. Or at least the one I'm going to talk about tonight.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Night Pictures

It's almost midnight. I have no thoughts, but I do have some neat pictures.

First, on the way to a meeting at church this week, I took this one in the park.

We went to an Emmaus gathering tonight. The Hiners sang a duet that just knocked my socks off. WOW. And all God's people said, "Amen!"

After we left the gathering, we stopped to pick up the boys, and saw a sign of spring (finally!). Here's a flowering tree (of some kind) -- picture taken in the dark:

And did you see the moon tonight? Awesome -- big and orange. My picture doesn't do it justice, but it was the best that I could do.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


What are some of the things we do as parents?

We prophesy:

  • "If you don't study, you won't do well on your test."
  • "If you don't turn in your homework, then you will get a zero. And you know that even if you got a 100 on the last assignment, if you average 100 and zero, you get 50, and that's still failing." (Prophesy gets very specific at our house.)
  • "If you don't get out of bed now, you will be late for school. I know you're tired, but I can't change the clock."

We teach:
  • "First use associative property and then use distributive. (Please don't leave me comments that I have it wrong; I had it right when I told G.)
  • "No, red is not a verb. A verb is an action word. I don't care what you think your teacher said, red is not a verb. You must have misunderstood her. (By now, J is hearing "blah blah blah blah red blah blah verb, so he promptly marks "red" as the verb in the sentence.)

We are there to help when things go bad. "Help" doesn't always mean comfort. Sometimes it means going to visit with the teacher to find out that the homework really wasn't turned in or that the child wouldn't know a verb if it came out of the back end of a bird and landed on his head. The point is, we are there to help with the consequences of unwise actions.

Understanding all of this, would we call a teacher and arrange for our child to fail a class so that he would come to understand that he doesn't know everything? To combat arrogance? To increase humility? No, we would not. We want the best for our children; we want them to succeed. We do not want to sabotage them.

Mt 7:9-11: Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I ran across this post in a blog today. The author begins by telling us that we should not judge others, with which I agree whole-heartedly. There are many reasons not to be judgmental. One of my favorites comes from a Pastor Joe sermon - when we are judgmental, the only thing the other person sees in judgment. We are meant to show other people the love of God, but a "judged" person only sees judgment, not love.

So, it isn't the first premise of the post that bothers me, it's the reason for not being judgmental that makes me grumble. To quote, "We are not superior to any other human being, and when we begin to believe that we are, God may put us in these exact situations to teach a lesson in humility." In other words, if we are judgmental, God may place us in gut-wrenching situations to teach us a lesson.

Of course, God is God, and I am not. He doesn't need my approval or understanding to do what He will do. However, if I as a parent know that engineering harm to my children to "teach them a lesson" is not loving parenting, then I believe God knows the same thing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Gaelic Prayer

I am reading the book called A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. This is a historical novel set in the 1700s. At the end of the “haying,” the main character uses a prayer that I particularly liked, so I Googled it. (Really, what did we do before Google?)

From my scattered, very short (talking three minutes, here) and spotty research, it looks like this prayer is a collection of prayers from Scottish oral tradition. A Scottish Folklorist, Alexander Carmichael, compiled some of them into a series of volumes called Carmina Gadelica (although I could be wrong about that, as well). The first of those volumes is on the internet – a nice page of Gaelic prayers (although in English).

I say the prayer from my mouth,
I say the prayer from my heart,
I say the prayer to Thee Thyself,
O, Healing Hand, O Son of the God of salvation.”

Thou Lord God of the angels,
Spread over me Thy linen robe;
Shield me from every famine,
Free me from every spectral shape.
Strengthen me in every good,
Encompass me in every strait,
Safeguard me in every ill,
And from every enmity restrain me.

Be Thou between me and all things grisly,
Be Thou between me and al things mean,
Be Thou between me and all things gruesome
Coming darkly toward me.

O God of the weak,
O God of the lowly,
O God of the righteous,
O shield of homesteads:

Thou art calling upon us
In the voice of glory
With the mouth of mercy
Of Thy beloved Son.

O may I find rest everlasting
In the home of Thy Trinity,
In the Paradise of the godly
In the Sun-garden of Thy love!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Psalm 139

I'm teaching Sunday school this Sunday. The lesson is based on Psalm 139, which I have actually mentioned before, although I didn't connect it until lately. Apparently, it was also mentioned at Andrew's Brothers. Then, in my "Rush Through" of the Psalms, I read it last Friday.

I read through the student book this evening, and a couple of thoughts jumped out at me (hopefully, more than a couple of thoughts will arrive prior to Sunday).

Quoting from the student book:

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me" (verse 1). For starters, it is an acknowledgement that God has invested himelf in our lives and spends time with us. When we think about how much of our life God truly does know about-- which is basically everything about us -- marvel is an apropriate word to come to mind. The word originally meant the act of staring at something, especially something that is miraculous, momentous or astonishing. We may not "stare" at God; but certainly it is right to fixate our thoughts and emotions on the God of the universe, who stoops to know us so completely.

Compare that to Sheila Walsh's discussion of Peter walking on the water. He only sank when he took his eyes off of Jesus. It was right for him to fixate his thoughts and emotions on the God of the universe. I was struck by the parallel.

The key verse of the lesson is verse 14: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well." Last week's lesson was about glimpse of His majesty when we step outside our little worlds and take a look at what He has made. This verse would have us recognize that we ourselves are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Just like the waters and the stars.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pig Tails

So, this is one of the silliest things I've seen in a long time. If you go to this website, you can draw a pig. You are then asked questions about your drawing. Your comments about your pig are used to give you an interpretation of your personality. I told you it was silly.

So here is my pig drawing:

According to the web site, this drawing can tell you the following about me:
  • Since I drew the pig toward the middle of the box, I am a realist.
  • Since my pig is facing to the right, then I am innovative and active, but I don't have a strong sense of family, nor do I remember dates.
  • Since I said my pig has few details, then I am emotional and naive, and I care little for details. I am a risk taker.
  • Because four pig legs are showing, I am secure, stubborn and I stick to my ideals.
  • The size of the ears indicate how good a listener I am. My pig ears are medium, so apparently I am a good listener.
  • The length of the tail indicates the quality of my sex life. Nuff said.

What I really want to know is what it means that my pig is about to be squashed by a giant squiggly tree. I would also like to know what it means that I drew his head way to big for his body. He looks like he is about to fall face-forward, his melon head exploding into a million little pig-melon bits.

I have a feeling that what the whole pig drawing says about me is that I am not the source of G's talents in the area of art. Since I can't seem to draw a stick-pig.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What do you want?

Psalm 104

He sat in the tent.
It was hot and dry.
The only moisture came from his sweat.

His worries and pressures smothered him.
He piled it all in the middle of the tent.
The bills.
The checkbook.
His kids' report cards.
Memos from work.
Traffic tickets.
Even his Bible was thrown on the pile.

A tiny voice whispered in his ear,
but he tried to ignore it,
as one would ignore the voice of a gnat.
"Come outside."

He muttered to himself.
"I can't come outside.
Look at this pile!
I have to fix it.
I have to make it all make sense."
And he bent over the pile of his worries.

The tiny voice was heard to say,
"I am God."

"God? I've got God here."
And he pointed at the Bible,
Jabbing his finger toward the leather,
shoving at the book
buried under the bills and memos.
"These are my problems,
and I have to fix them.
Then I'll have time for God."

Finally, the tent ripped.
The hole wasn't very large,
but it was large enough to let in a fresh breeze,
which disturbed the pile,
blowing the papers around in the tent.
The man tried to gather them together,
but the wind prevented him.

He gave up
and stalked out of the tent
and into the night.
"FINE. Here I am.
What do you want?"

The night air was cool.
The wind caressed his skin.
The sand was soft under his feet,
and the moon lit the air.
"What do you want?" the man asked again.

"Look around you. Look up."
The man looked to the sky
which was filled with stars,
too numerous to count.
Meteors shot across the sky,
and comets meandered,
strolling across the blackness.
The earth was lit with the glory of heaven,
and the man's face was bathed in its light.

"What do you want?"
The man wispered it now,
in awe of all that he was seeing.

"I want you to know
that I created it all.
Each star. Each beam of light.
Every grain of sand under you feet.
I want you to know
that I created you.
And that I have not left you alone.
You make me too small
when you set me aside
like one of your problems.
I made all of this..."
and God's hand swept across the sky
trailing light and stardust.
"And I made you.
You are never alone with your problems,
unless you choose to be."

"What do you want?"
It was a tiny question now,
full of wonder and fear.

"I want you to know
that I am the God of all of this,
I want you to know
that you are mine.
I want you to know
that I love you."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Extraordinary Faith

I just finished reading the book Extraordinary Faith by Sheila Walsh. Two things which one might assume by reading the cover, which I have found to not be true:
  • From the subtitle, "God's perfect Gift for every Woman's Heart," it sounds like this would be a book in which only women would be interested. It was written as a companion to one of the Women of Faith themes. However, I have found that her conclusions are applicable for everyone -- not just woman.
  • Doesn't it sound like it would be a "how to" book? "How to have extraordinary faith." It's not. From the Introduction: "God's Word is all about His faithfulness to us even when we are faithless! I am convinced, won over, sure, persuaded, and certain that faith is not about what we are able to muster up; it is indeed all abouts God's faithfulness revealed through Jesus. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, 'It is not thy hold on Christ that saves thee; it is Christ. It is not thy joy in Christ that saves the; it is Christ. It is not even thy faith in Christ that saves thee, though that be the instrument. It is Christ's blood and merit.'"

I really like in the book when Sheila speaks about Peter walking on the water. Peter, ever passionate, steps out on the water, and walks toward Jesus. He doesn't begin to sink until he takes his eyes off of Jesus and looks at the water. What does Jesus do? He doesn't calm the storm (We shouldn't think that we will not face difficulties as Christians). He doesn't let Peter sink and drown (As if to say, that's just what you get when you loose your faith!) nor does he condemn Peter. He reaches out and grabs his friend and then asks, "Why did you doubt?" He didn't say, "How could you doubt?!" or "I can't believe you doubted!" He simply asked why so that Peter could examine his heart and build an understanding of what it means to walk by faith.

Sheila talks about the misconception that some people have that "if I had only had enough faith, then this or that would have happened." The book is filled with examples -- especially Biblical ones -- of God working through people who do not have "enough" faith. God's faithfulness to his covenant to us never fails. He never stops loving us. Hebrews 13:5-6:

God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

It's Friday, and I really have very few thoughts. Maybe it's more accurate to say that I do have thoughts, but I'm too tired to express them.

So, first, I'm going to distract you with a couple pictures -- Look -- pretty pictures. Aren't they nice? If you have to be at track practice at 6pm on a Friday, it's nice that the sun cooperates to make a beautiful sky for your entertainment.

Next, I'm going to share with you the best and the worst. First, the worst (since it's better to end on a high note. I have no idea how I keep ending up on this blog -- Jeff the Baptist (not Jeff the Methodist) keeps getting linked on other blogs. I need to stop reading the posts that are linked on this site. But I didn't today, and so I read this. Apparently, he thinks it is unfair that men have no say in decisions regarding abortion because the consequences may affect the man financially. Hmmm. I guess life is just unfair. I mean, really, life would be more fair if men got to carry to term any baby conceived in the odd months of the year. But that's just not the way it is, is it?

OK, something good to end this rather catty post. I received this in my email this week:

Sometimes you are in so much pain that you cannot pray. When you try, your prayer seems to fall with a thud to the floor, and when you try to open yourself to God's presence, you encounter a whole lot of nothing. God seems to have vanished, and all you have left are emotions and spirit tangled with pain, anger, and desolation. ... At this point grace comes in. Your groping desire for God is enough; God can listen to the prayer you can't yet articulate.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

For Me Alone

I was in the lab today, close to time to go home. I was cleaning the equipment that I had used for my experiment, relaxing in the solo-ness of the afternoon. Everyone who bops in and out of the lab during the day -- fellows, resident-wanna-be -- had gone home. It was just me, my CD player, and my icky (soon-to-be clean) equipment.

For reasons that I might explain in a later blog (if I decide it's not too boring) I only play Christians music in the lab when I am enjoying solo-ness. So, for the last hour of the day, I was cleaning and listening to WOW 2005. This song came on, and it stopped me in my tracks -- er -- mid-wash. It's called Sea of Faces, and is sung by Kutless:

See the city lights all around me
Everyone's obscure
Ten million people each with their problems
Why should anyone care

And in Your eyes I can see
I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine

Sometimes my life it feels so trivial
Immersed in the greatness of space
Yet somehow you still find the time for me
It's then You show me Your love

And In Your eyes I can see
And in Your arms I will be
I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine

If only my one heart
Was all you'd gain from all it cost
Well I know you would have still been a man with a reason
To willingly offer your life

I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine

Just one in a million faces

Go back and read the verse in blue. It's the one that had me going over to my desk and playing the song again. I've always understood and believed that the God gave his son for all of us -- for me, for you, for the guy on the corner. All of us. But that's not what this verse says. "If only my heart was all you'd gain from all it cost..." He loves me so much that he would die on a cross for me -- for me alone. If I were the only one lost, he would have done it out of love for just me. Have you ever thought of that? He would have died for you alone. He loves the guy on the street corner so much, that he would have died for him -- and only him.

How long have I been a Christian? long as I can remember. And yet, I had never thought of it like that before.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Trust in God

Photo credit yesterday:
Photo today: Me; Sky over J's school yesteday evening

Before I get into the meat of what I want to say today (stop that -- I'm not bringing up the cow again), I wanted to mention a statistic that I found when checking in on our Children's Church blog. That particular blog has our children's church schedule and monthly newsletters. During the past month -- March -- the site has had 68 visits. None of them have been from our church. People across the country are searching for information concerning Children's church programs and are coming to that site to read what we are doing. How cool is that?

Now, on to our regularly unscheduled broadcast...

In 1974, I was ten. (Yes, yes, that makes me 41 a little older older now...what of it?) My great-grandmother was in the hospital, very sick. I remember praying that God would help her to be better, but I ended the prayer, "Thy will be done." She died. In my 10-year-old brain, I had given God a loop-hole. It was many years until I was able to pray anything close to that kind of prayer again.

I am on the Emmaus prayer concern email list for our area. Near the end of last month, an email requesting prayer was sent to the group. A woman who had previously had brain cancer -- lots of tests, surgery, treatment over the years -- had just found out that the tumor was back -- golf ball sized, and agressive. She was asking for prayer. Her prayer request? She asked that we pray that God's will be done in her life. That's the most faith-filled, trusting prayer request I've ever heard. How very brave. I've never met this woman, but I would guess that she knows that God loves her and will care for her, no matter what happens.

When I grow up, I hope I have that kind of trust in God.

Psalm 62:5-8 (RSV):

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. [Selah]

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Purpose of a Funeral

Well, this post might not be very fun or uplifting. I'm thinking about funerals today. So, for some fun, go here. Back? OK, well, maybe that's more stupid than fun.

Anyway, I'm wondering today about funerals. My great Uncle Junior (Alvin Newt Williams, Jr.) died the night before last. I don't remember much about him. The last time I saw him might have been my grandmother's funeral when I was in high school. Maybe later than that; I'm not sure. He was my mother's mother's brother. What saddens me most about his death is that my grandmother's family -- brothers and sisters -- are dying. Only two are left. My Aunt Sue, who I remember much more than Junior, died a few months ago.

Doll, who was Junior's wife, and was also the sister-in-law of another of Mom's aunts -- are you keeping up? -- is having Junior crememated. There will be a very SMALL service -- only immediate family. Junior's sister, Aunt Judy, is not included in immediate family. I'm at a loss as to why a sister would not be included in her brother's funeral. Maybe there has been breakdown in Williams' grapevine communication, but this is the info that I have.

So my question tonight is this --> What is the purpose of a funeral? I have, thank you God, very limited experience in this area. I remember most clearly my grandfather's funeral. He died a few months after S and I were married. I was in on the planning of that funeral -- going to the funeral home, casket selection, etc. I came to the conclusion at that time, and I still think this is true, that funerals have a few different purposes:

  • That period of time between the death and the funeral is a retreat time. No work, no regular responsibilities -- just time to focus on the work of remembering the one who has died.
  • When I was younger, what my family always called "visitation" -- usually the evening before, and the funeral, plus the time afterward when everyone gets together to eat, was a few hours to get together with family members that one only sees at funerals. I remember times with my many great aunts and great uncles, cousins, etc. Just sitting around and talking. We didn't do that much otherwise. When Aunt Sue died, I noticed that I didn't really know anyone at the funeral. They were relatives and friends of Sue, but the ones I remember had already died. (Told you this would be depressing -- sure you don't want to go back and watch the cow get abducted?)
  • Funerals serve as the beginning of the time of dealing with the death. Reality comes after the funeral.
  • Obviously, funerals serve as a memorial for the one who is gone.

My limited experience. Mom told me, at Sue's funeral, that she (Mom) wanted the casket closed during the visitation and funeral -- that she didn't want all those people looking at her. I told her that at that point, she wouldn't care who was looking at her, and that I got to make those decisions. I was joking, but I do think that funerals are for those who are left behind, not for the person who has died.

An illustration: Last year, we took the kids out of school for two days (something we swore we would never do) and took them to Disney World (not everyone can write about funerals and include Disney World). It was a terrific couple of days. How much fun would the guys have had if they had been constantly worrying about their friends back in school? If heaven is like Disney World, then I don't think our loved ones are spending very much time worrying about us. It would spoil paradise, don't you think? They know God will do the worrying for them. Therefore, I don't think they care a bit about funerals.

Without the funeral, do you have that "line" between when the person was alive, and when he is dead? How does a sister move from thinking of her brother as alive to knowing he is dead, especially when he lived in a different state? It's kind of like a cow being abducted. There one minute, gone the next, with no moment of realizaton.

Bet you didn't think I'd work that cow in, did you?

So if you have a few extra prayers today, send one up for Junior's non-immediate family who is going through grief with no funeral.

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Two Cents

I've already posted today, but this is on my mind, and it's my blog, so I'm going to post again.

A question seems to be running around in "blogosphere" lately -- Is there a declining presence of men in the church? I don't have the answer to that question. I have no statistics and no impressions regarding this question.

What's bothering me is the "reasons" that are floating around as to WHY this might be -- if it is.
  • John at Locusts and Honey says, "A few years ago, John Eldredge wrote a book called Wild at Heart, which asserted that modern Christianity emasculates men." Now, this is John Eldredge's book, not the assertion of John of Locusts and Honey.
  • How about this one at Jeff the Baptist? Men will leave the church as women assume the roles of pastor, because women are doing everything else anyway, and that leaves men with nothing? I'm sorry, but that's just ridiculous.
  • This one at Mark's Remarks -- Some interesting stats and a humorous list of how to fix the "problem."

I'm not here to argue whether there is a decline in male attendance in church. I do not have the answer to that, but I can tell you what I think (obviously, I've been doing that on a pretty regular basis):

  • Many years ago, we set up a new committee system in our church. We had the regular administrative committees -- finance, stewardship, pastor/parish, etc. and then the programming committees -- Nurture, Outreach and Witness. At the time, I was serving on the Nominations committee. I noticed when we finished "nominating" people, that we had programming committees mainly composed of women, but the chairmen of all three committees were men. It wasn't because only women would serve on the committees, and that they were not willing to chair them. It was because we had ASKED women to be on the committees, and we had ASKED men to chair them.
  • At the same time, we were appointing members to the Trustees. There is a rule in the Methodist church that each "class" of three Trustees must include at least one woman. So as we worked on the last "class" (group of people appointed at the same time who would serve the same term), we had found one man for this group of three. The pastor at the time said, "So now we need one woman and one man." -- as if we were only allowed to have one woman in each class. I mention these two instances because I believe much of the committee structure in the church has women involved in programming -- education, outreach, etc, and men in administration because we set it up that way. We expect it to be that way, so that's the way we arrange it.
  • I think if we want boys to understand that men can work in any area of service in the church to which they feel led by God, then they need to see men in service in every area of the church. If we want girls to feel welcome to serve as they are called in any portion of the church, then we need to have women in all different roles in the church. That means when we are recruiting adults to lead Children's church, we ask both women and men to do it. When we are looking for ushers, we ask both women and men to do it. Not all men will work with children and not all women will usher, but that's the way it is with all "jobs" in the church.
  • If we want boys to understand that it is OK to talk about God, then they need to see men talking about God -- not just the pastor, but the men of the church.
  • If we want children and youth to know that women can carry responsibility in church -- or in life -- then they need to see us modeling it.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:27-29 (NIV)

I refuse to have my role in the church defined by my gender. The definer of my role in church, I hope, if I will allow Him to be, is God. I have been and am witness to too many men doing too many wonderful works in our church to believe that "women run the church." Baloney. I am blessed to be a part of a church where men and women both serve God -- and hopefully we are moving toward a church where we don't let our preconceived notions of the "role of women" or the "role of men" get in the way of God's call for our lives.

Signs of God's Love

Yesterday’s lectionary readings for our service were the story of Noah, God and His rainbow from Genesis, (9:8-17) and Jesus’ temptation in Mark (1:9-13). I wondered, as I often do, whether these two scriptures could possibly be related to each other. Organizer that I am, I want a theme. I want an overriding idea or thesis statement. Sometimes lectionary readings don’t provide that link.

Joe’s sermon brought forth the idea that we should look for signs of God’s love around us. These signs were there yesterday – the children dressed in their rainbow colored outfits to sing “Noah,” and the beads which were still strung around the sanctuary. I saw signs of God’s love when the nursery worker brought in the preschoolers to hear the children’s moment (a nursery worker who had said “yes” when asked to cover child care that Sunday). God’s love was evidenced when another volunteer and her husband took the older children out of the service for Treasure Seekers’ Children’s Church. I guess I’m just a sucker for those wonderful people who say “yes” when asked. They are signs of God’s love.

But what about the Mark passage? Where is there a sign of God’s love in the story of Jesus’ temptation? Consider how the passage begins. Jesus is baptized by John, and God says, “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” After that, God send Jesus out into the desert.

Now, I ask you, what kind of parent would send his son into the desert for 40 days with no food, no water, and Satan as a companion? Where’s the sign of God’s love in that?

Setting that aside for just a moment, consider the question – Did Jesus experience temptation? I’ve asked this question of people before, and sometimes I get unsure answers. Some of us don’t like to think that Jesus was actually tempted.

My answer? I am comforted by the idea that Jesus felt temptation. I pray that he felt temptation. If one of the roles of Jesus is to act as an advocate for us – speaking for us to God – then I want him to have felt the sting of temptation. I need to know that he KNOWS what it is like to be human. Deep down KNOWS. I can believe that Jesus remained obedient to God, and did not give into temptation, but I think – I hope – that as a human, he experienced it.

So, go back to my original question. What kind of father sends his son into the wilderness to experience temptation? The same kind of father who sends his son to a cross to die for our sins. Is there a parallel between the 40-day temptation and the crucifixion? Is it possible that God sent his son into the wilderness so that he could come to understand temptation? Could he have said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” if he hadn’t walked in our shoes? Could it be that we led the way into the desert, and Jesus had to follow?

Could it be that both the temptation and the crucifixion are signs of God’s love? Not God’s love for his son, Jesus, but sign’s of God’s love for us? You? Me?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Rushing Psalms

Psalms have been on my mind lately. I'm working my way through them in my Bible reading. Six pages a day. Six pages of psalms are a little bit overwhelming. One psalm a day might be a future plan.

When I started this, I would have predicted that I wouldn't have found anything of value in the book of Job, and would enjoy the book of Psalms. Unexpectedly (is that a word?), Job held my attention -- although I wouldn't say I enjoyed it, I did find myself looking forward to the next days reading. Psalms has been -- well -- kind of like reading poetry through a car window as it rushes by.

Today's Sunday school lesson, taught by Lady Anita, was about Psalm 8. This is one of my favorites, so I'll leave you with part of it. I've liked it for many years (Psalm 8:3-5; RSV).

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than God,and dost crown him with glory and honor.
Let's do a little translation comprison -- the same verses from The Message:

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden's dawn light.
I have to say, I usually like The Message, but this time it leaves me flat. This passage needs the poetry of King James, or its cousin, Revised Standard.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Thoughts about Lent

During this week, I've found a few different sites which talk about Lent, mainly playing with the idea of Lenten sacrifice. Here's a few of them:

  • Anita sent some of our class a link to an NPR program about Lent -- Father James Martin does not decide what he'll give up for lent; he lets his college roommate pick for him. It's interesting how in this story, Lenten sacrifice is viewed as penance.
  • Andy Bryan, in his blog Enter the Rainbow, talks about Lent and how it is a time to rid ourselves of whatever is distracting us so that we can focus on God. I especially like his statement that Lent is not a self-improvement program.
  • Anita's devotion discusses becoming a peace-bringer during Lent.
  • Lorna, at See Through Faith, quotes sacred space, "Lent is about regaining control of my own life, especially in those areas that damage other people."

Apparently, a lot of people are thinking about Lent this week -- what people should "give up" or "put down." I've come to the conclusion that a Lenten discipline should be a decision reached personally for each person and is related to where each of us is in our faith journey.

For example, my older son, G, decided to give up Club crackers for Lent. He had thought to give up caffeine, but decided that this would not be hard enough -- he really only drinks caffeine on the weekend, and he wanted, as he put it, something daily. For him, deprivation of Club crackers is a big sacrifice. He snacks on crackers instead of potato chips when he gets home from school. Would giving up Club crackers improve my relationship with God? Probably not. But G decided to do it because he felt that it would be pleasing to God. And you know what? I think it would be.

So maybe that is the litmus test for Lenten discipline. Is it pleasing to God?

When I got home the other day, he had been eating Club crackers. "I thought you were giving these up for Lent," I said.

"Me, too."

Oh, well, he's 12. Even so, I'm still learning from him.

Friday, March 03, 2006

After Six Days...

One of the most fun (“most fun?” Is that proper English?) jobs I do at our church is to compile our Advent Devotional. This year we’re trying something new – a Lenten Devotional. One of the perks to this job is that I get to read everything ahead of time – before the devotions get sent the congregation.

It is because of that “preview” that I had read Jeff’s devotion (you can click on his name to read it) prior to last Sunday. He talks about the immediacy of Jesus moving from baptism to temptation. Mark is full of “immediately.” In fact, when I did a search, I found that Mark uses the word “immediately” 33 times in his Gospel. And that doesn’t even count other variations of the word.

So, I was surprised when Carol read the scripture last Sunday. It was the transfiguration scripture from Mark, and here is what surprised me:

Mark 9:1-3: And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power." And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

After six days

Peter, James and John are about to have this wonderful, “mountain-top” experience, but they don’t get to have it “immediately.” They have to wait six days. SIX DAYS. I think, in a gospel as packed with immediacy as Mark’s, waiting six days must be important.

Jesus was transfigured on that mountain. Peter, James and John had to have been transformed on that mountain. They no longer were able to have any doubt that God was God – they had seen it with their own eyes. No wonder they wanted to stay on the mountain. My point is that the event was very significant for them. And yet, they had to wait six days for it.

There has to be a message there. I’m wondering if it might be that God has his own sense of timing. A Red Cross volunteer came to our Sunday school class and discussed her experience in the Katrina relief efforts. She said that God met every need she or the people around her had during those two weeks. Not just for strength and ability to do the job – but in concrete, practical ways. When they needed a car seat to transport a child to another location, one was brought in by a volunteer (who had no idea that they needed one). When the children being housed in the church had a break-out of lice, she found that one of the women working in the building was a school nurse. Her list went on and on. The point is that every need was met, but only at exactly the moment it was needed. When they needed the car seat, it came, but not any earlier than was necessary. This immediacy of God’s frustrated the Red Cross volunteer. It frustrates all of us.

God has his own timing, and no matter how much we worry and fuss, we don’t alter the timing. Even when what God is going to provide is transformation.

Image source: (really nice clip art)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Woman in the Water

I have a poem today, but I have a couple of thoughts before you read it. I was checking Bloglines today, and one of the blogs that I "subscribe" to is written by Beth Quick. She had a post up earlier today, which I can't find now, which talked about feeling unworthy of salvation. Don't we all feel that way sometimes? Not "good enough" to reach toward God.

The post sent my mind into the direction which produced this poem. The woman in the water is not me, but pieces of me, as I think she is pieces of all of us. I suspect we all feel that way sometimes -- unworthy of grace. We all feel that way, because we all are that way. Thank God for grace.

She was drowning.
The water slapped against her chin.
Her feet did not reach the ground,
If there were even a solid footing
Beneath the water.

She was tired of treading water.
It was black, dark, oily.
She couldn’t see past the surface to herself anymore.
She wasn’t even sure who she was anymore.
She kept treading water.

She was alone in the darkness
Alone with her fear.
Surely no one else had ever felt this isolated.
She suffered the oily water to sink into her skin.
She felt its slickness.
She would die.

A hand reached out to her
From the overcast sky.
She saw the face
Heard the voice.

Take my hand, child, I will save you.

His eyes were full of knowledge.
She could see herself reflected there,
And knew that He knew her.
What she couldn’t know
Was that he saw himself in her eyes.

Take my hand, my child.

Look at me. I’m covered.
I’m can’t touch you.
I’m wet.

I know, my child. That’s why I’m reaching for you.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What do we do about the ashes?

What do we do about the ashes?

I attended our church's Ash Wednesday service this evening. A very wise minister -- Chuck Echols -- once told a class I was in that if you want to experience Easter to its fullest, start with an Ash Wednesday service, be sure to attend a Maundy Thursday service and then a Good Friday service. I did that the year he mentioned it, but I'm not sure that I've done it since. It really did make a difference on Easter.

I didn't want to attend the Ash Wednesday service. S is out of town, G and J both had church activities, so if I skipped the service, then I could have an hour and half of "me time." "Me time" becomes important when S is out of town, and I have the responsibility of the boys all by myself. But I kept thinking about what Chuck had said. So I went.

Do you ever feel that way? Unenthusiastic.

Anyway, I'm glad I went. It was a very nice service. The youth were involved in readings, which is always special. The kids attended, too. Good sermon, good music. Allright, Chuck, you were right.

What do we do about the ashes?

My boys had already begun making plans to give something up for Lent. I don't push that, but I'm more than willing to be supportive of it if they make a commitment to do it. Joe talked about giving something up, but doing it privately. I posted the other day about committing to do something that would create a closer relationship with God. I don't know what I'm going to do about Lent.

What do we do about the ashes?

"Mom! I neeeeeeeeeed to go to WalMart. I only have one pair of shorts for track practice." Funny thing, that. He had tons of shorts last year. I guess it is entirely possible that he grew out of them all. Talk about unenthusiastic. I did not want to go to WalMart. Have you ever noticed how many syllables an almost-teenager can add to a simple word? We went. G is now outfitted to run around his Middle school. But what do we do about the ashes? The ashes feel like a brand. The dark cross stands out to me, even though I can't see it. Do I take it off prior to shopping? Is it a statement of my repentance and Christianity to leave it on? Does it seem counter to the idea of piety in private? Conundrum.

What do we do about the ashes?

Oh, and J is a tad upset that my ashes look more like a cross than his. "Yours looks like the cross Jesus was crucified on."