Friday, November 30, 2007

A personal relationship

My grandmother died when I was 17. I grew up around her -- I remember her very well.

Shortly -- within a year -- after she died, my mother filled a blank book with stories about her. I have that book now, as a keepsake for when our boys are old enough to read it. I've read it, and I'm glad to have it -- it's great to read about stories that I didn't know.

It will be a great way for our boys to get to know their great-grandmother. I have an advantage over them -- I remember her in person. I've heard my grandmother tell some of the stories in the book, myself.

I was thinking about this this morning, as I read my devotion We have a great gift in the Bible. It's a book about God -- about what he is like, what he want us to do. We can learn a lot from what it stays about God.

God offers us more, though. God makes it possible for us to him through personal experience. We can develop a relationship with him -- more than just learning about him through what other people have experienced.

Do we ever take that realization for granted?

Image: Sunrise at the VA.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blogiversary #2

Two years ago today, Sandpiper’s Thoughts was born as a blog. Today is its two-year blogiversary.

I went back in time and read the post from November 29, 2006 – the one year blogiversary. I did some comparisons as I read – what has changed on the blog? What has changed in how or why I blog?

Just the Facts, Ma’am:

Today’s post is #823. That means that I have added 399 posts in this past year. As of this minute, the blog has had 20,703 hits, which means that in the past year, the blog has had 12, 557 hits, which is a 54% increase over last year. The most number of hits in a month – either this year or the entire two years, was in September, 2007, with 1400 in one month. Does any of that matter? No, but I count things – that’s me.

In the past year, of the 399 posts, 35 of them have been poems, which means that in the last two years, I have written 95 poems. (which can be found here (2005), here (2006) and here (2007)). That’s fewer this year than last, and I may know the reason for that, which I’ll explain later.

Every day has had a post. Six of those posts have been guest bloggers – Steve the husband, Jeff the Methodist and G the son. (For a list of those posts, see the sidebar). Guest bloggers are one of my greatest blessings, and I thank all three of them for taking the time to write and for allowing me to post their thoughts.


I talked last year about why I blog, and many of those reasons are still true. I have found this year that it is harder to post every day, and harder to find things to write about. I don’t think that is because there is less to write about, but instead that my eyes may not be as open and my ears may not be listening as closely as they were last year. It’s a problem that I’ve been working on.

Some stretches of time I find that I have several ideas for posts – rich times when writing is much easier. Other times I struggle each day to find an idea, and I think that some of my posts, especially the ones written later at night, reflect that problem.

I have noticed that I am reading less this year. Many of my posts are begun in my mind by nuggets that I read. I think this is affecting much of my spiritual life – I need to read more, so I’ll make that a blog-olution (that’s a resolution, sort of).

I write later in the day – that’s a problem, because even with great ideas, writing I do later at night is not as well thought out or as well written as what I write when I am not tired. I need to make time earlier each day to at least plan what I am going to write – blog-olution, #2.

I’ve noticed lately that my posts are also less scripture supported. I think I can trace that back to less morning devotional time. The mornings are rushed, and for a few weeks last month, I even stopped doing devotionals. I’ve been back at it for a couple of weeks. Last year I took the time each morning to write down a few thoughts after reading my devotional – I’ll try to get back to that because it focuses my thoughts after I read. Blog-olution, #3.

Lastly, I find that I’m not paying as much attention to what is happening around me so that I have fewer “blog starters.” I think this is why I have less poetry, too. I’m not listening as much for God to lead me in this. So there’s blog-olution #4 – Listen more.

I’ve thought, fleetingly, about releasing the discipline of daily writing, but I’m not willing to do that. Even if I’m not as pleased with some of the posts, I know myself well enough to know that if I stop writing daily, I’ll stop writing at all. So daily it will be. I need to write – for myself, and for my journey with God.

Best Blogging Experience this year

I don’t really know. I know I have had blessings this year. Commenters are always a blessing – to read what what I have written has caused other people to think is always a gift. To know that what I have written has moved someone else to take the time to comment is a gift.

As I mentioned a moment ago, guest bloggers are wonderful. I can never comprehend that other people would value this endeavor enough to take the time to write specifically for it, and to allow me to post it. It’s a wonderful grace for me.

I love to write the poetry, even though it doesn’t happen very often. The poetry always comes quickly and with very little editing – it just “arrives” and that is a great experience for me.

Thank you for reading – thank you for commenting – thank you for stopping by, and I hope to see you again next year.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Walk in the Light

One night, rather late, I was driving home. The power in our neighborhood was out. As I got close to home, I noticed that everything was completely dark. We very rarely see total darkness, but there were no lights in the houses, no street lights, no porch lights and no other cars. It was dark!

I stopped, turned off the car lights, and then turned off the car to extinguish all of the light it was emitting. The entire world around me turned black. I couldn't see anything. I sat there for just a minute, and then started the car again. I realized that I was stopped in our road and that another motorist, if one arrived, wouldn't be able to see me at all.

Two of the lectionary readings for this week mention light:

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD! Isaiah 2:5

...the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Romans 13:12

What happens in darkness?

  1. We can't see anything -- we can't see where we have been, we can't see where we are going. Following anyone or anything becomes impossible.
  2. Fear -- Do we have a deep buried fear of the dark? We feel insecure and worried about what might be coming near us.
  3. Insecurity

We need the light of Christ -- to show us where we have been and to light our path to the future. We need the light of Chirst to calm our fears. We need the light of Christ to bring us the security of God's love, grace and forgiveness.

I want to walk as a child of the Light
I want to follow Jesus
God set the stars To give light to the world
The Star of my life is Jesus.

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

I want to see the Brightness of God
I want to look at Jesus
Clear Son of righteousness shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father.

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

Hymn by Kathleen Thomerson -- Thanks to JtM for finding it for me when all I had was the tune and a phrase.

Images: Sunrise at the high school today; sunset on the river this evening.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Listen! Do you hear them?

Do you hear them?
The angels are singing!
Their voices are ringing!
“Glory to the King of kings;
May he bring peace!
May he show mercy!
May he abolish sin!
God and his children will be together again!”

Do you hear them?
The angels are singing!
Share in their joy!
Rise up, shout!
Proclaim with the heavenly hosts,
Praise of God and his son!
Sing with all of creation
The Christ is born today!

Christ, loved in heaven,
With his Father from the beginning
Lord for all time
Now he comes for us
Now he comes to us
Born as we were born
Man. God.
Like us, and yet nothing like us.

Sing his praises!
See his righteousness!
Open your eyes to the light!
Open your hearts to the life!
Spread your wings and be lifted in flight!
Be changed, be recreated.

Because God loves us,
Because Christ loves us,
He set aside life in heaven,
He humbled himself that we might find glory.
He became one of us, so that
We could know God,
Know life,
Know freedom.
He became one of us, so that
We could become like him.
So that we could become what we were meant to be.

Come, God, be with us.
Save us, Christ,
Rescue us from the evil in which we find ourselves.
We are desperate for you, for we have no other answer.
Change us, God,
Make us like your son.
Change us, Jesus,
Bring us home to your love.
We are desperate for you;
we have no other answer.

We are lost.
Though lost, find us,
Reclaim us.
Rescue us.
Create in us a heart of faith.
Create in us a dwelling place.

Do you hear them?
The angels are singing!
Their voices are ringing!
“Glory to the King of kings;
May he bring peace!
May he show mercy!
May he end sin!
God and his children will be together again!”

Note: The poem above is loosely based on Charles Wesley's Hark, The Herald Angels Sing. I used his original version, as published here. Thanks to JtM for sending out one of the verses today and to MT for inspiring me to rewrite it.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Time for Dreaming

Beth Quick was speaking today about her weekly schedule as a pastor. At the end of her post, she says:

My weeks are pretty full and busy, but most of the things I work on are week-to-week needs. Writing a sermon, responding to pastoral care needs, taking part in committee meetings. Just doing the regular 'work' of the church takes up so much of my time. I feel strongly that we need to be thinking more long-term, need to be talking about vision, need to be looking past just maintaining things, but I find it hard to find the space to do that without leaving other responsibilities undone. How do you make space to think big? Is there room in the way we do church for discipleship? Real ministry?
I can relate to that, even though I am not a minister. So much of what all of us do in church -- whether we volunteer or are paid staff or are ordained -- is spent doing what must be done to make the church run. As a Nurture Chairman I felt that pressure -- spending time on the day to day and week to week of what needed to be done left little room for starting new ministries -- for the creativity needed in meetings to discern God's dreams.

How does a person find the time to dive into long term planning, dreams, new programming and ministry when one's time is absorbed by current ministry? How does a lay leader -- or any church leader -- lead volunteers to try new things when their time is filled with present and necessary ministry? How does a meeting chairman get committee members excited about possibilities when responsibilities are large and take up most the discussion time in a meeting? How does a person interest committee chairman in trying something new when what is already happening seems to be working -- not brilliantly, but at least adequately?


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wide Grace

In Sunday school this morning, a phrase that Anita read really caught my ear, and I have never thought of it conjunction with the book of Genesis:

There is a wideness to God's grace.

Have you ever thought of that as it relates to the end of Genesis (chapters 48-50)?

  • Jacob blesses his grandchildren in a way which was not expected -- he gives the bigger blessing, usually reserved for the older son, to the younger son. God doens't always do what is expected, and he doesn't always choose the person we would plan for him to choose. Isn't there grace in the idea that God isn't led by our expectations?
  • Jacob blesses Joseph's sons, who are also sons of an Egyptian wife. God's grace was wide, including these grandchildren.
  • After Jacob's death his burial, the sons come to their brother, asking for forgiveness. I like his response -- God has taken the evil done to me and turned it into good. Is that not grace? Doesn't that sound like something God would do? In fact, I think this is one of major themes of Genesis.

There is a wideness to God's grace -- it extends past the lines of countries, past our expectations, and past the challenges in our lives.

Image: Leaf at the VA

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Not "Just"

In the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, the toy store manager accuses the accountant of being a "Just kind of person." She meant that the accountant only saw what he expected -- that he say just what was there. In his eyes, it was "just" a toy store, "just" toys, "just" a store owner. He missed the magic because he only saw the "just."

In the post that I quoted yesterday, by Sam Norton, he also says this:

That we are called to imagine the world differently to how it is. We have to have our imaginations formed by the Kingdom in order that the Kingdom may come....Old Testament prophets first of all imagined and taught to the community that the world didn't have to be the way it was, so Moses as the great pioneer of this - his first and most difficult and most important task was to go to the Hebrew slaves and say, "God doesn't want you to be slaves any more. You don't have to be slaves." And this was unthinkable, they were born as slaves, they grew up as slaves, their parents and grandparents had died as slaves, that was the way of the world and the one who had the prophetic ministry went to them and said, "It doesn't have to be like this."
I like that, and I had never thought of it that way. The first step for the Israelites to be released from slavery wasn't that they leave their homes, pack up their camels and step into the desert. It was to imagine that they could live a life in which they were not "just" slaves.

We are made in the image of God. Our God is the God who created the universe by speaking it into existence, but what a wonderful imagination he must have -- to have imagined it all first. We have that gift. A potter can look at a lump of clay and imagine the finished product. As parents, we look at our children and can imagine what they will be as adults (most days, anyway). A cook can look at flour, sugar and eggs and imagine what the cake will taste like. The gift of imagination is a wonderful tool that we too often fail to use.

Do we ever look at our churches and imagine what they could become if we allowed God to enter into the discussion? So many people want us to be the church that we were fifty years ago. Do we ever imagine that we can be more than "just" the church that we were? Do we ever imagine what wonderful plans God has in mind for us?

Do you ever look at yourself and feel too small for the task that God has set before you? Do you ever say to yourself that you are "just" a church member, "just" an unequipped lay member? Do you ever look at a problem and think that it is too big for someone who is "just" one person to solve? I know I do.

And yet, God calls us beyond the "just" of who we think we are. God calls us to be who he imagines that we can become. God calls the church to be the church he imagines that it will be. God calls us to have enough faith to use the gift of imagination that he has given us. He calls us to believe that we are more than "just" who we think we are; he calls us to have the faith to believe that we are who he has created us to be.

Once we can do that, we will begin to see that this world is not what God plans for it to be. Once we can see with God's eyes, and believe in what he sees, then we will begin to understand that God is here, God is now, and all around us is the kingdom of God.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’
Matthew 17:19-20Images: The bird feeders are full again, and the birds arrived right away. In these images are a tufted titmouse and a woodpecker.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Go and Make Disciples

I was reading the blog 42: My Life, the Universe and Everything by Dave Warncock. Dave is a Methodist minister in the UK whose blog I often enjoy. This morning, I found this quote in one of his posts, written by Sam Norton. The quote is taken from Sam's blog. The link I reference is a post called the Nature of Discipleship, in case you want to go read more.

So the key, the core point for the church is precisely this formation of character, what we can call the making of disciples. Because we are not actually in the business of converting people. We are not in the business of saving souls. Does that seem surprising? Jesus says, "Go and make disciples." He doesn't say, "Go and work out who is saved and who isn't" He says, "Go and make disciples." The salvation of someone's soul is something which is utterly unknowable to us. We cannot know who is saved and who isn't. What we can do and what we are commanded to do is make disciples. That is the business of the church. The salvation of someone's soul is something belonging to God. We are not in that business, we are in a very related and closely attached business, but it is different.

What do you think of that quote? I had some thoughts I wanted to share:
  1. I'm not sure that I like the distinction between salvation being God's business and the making of disciples being our business. I think both of them are God's business. He partners with us -- he could do it all on his own, but he chooses to involve us in his business. Using the terms for grace that are so often found in Emmaus walks, at times we are asked by God to be the means by which people are touched by God's justifying grace and other times the means by which people are touched by God's sanctifying grace.
  2. I do agree with the idea that salvation -- or that moment of recreation when a relationship begins between God and one of his children -- is God at work, and that we can't really understand it. I also think, though, that God is involved in the creation of disciples in just the same way. I wonder if perhaps this quote paints the picture of the church as God recruiting and enrolling members, and those in the church as the teachers, training new students without the need of God's involvement.
  3. I really like the emphasis in the quote on what happens after a person is brought to God -- Jesus told us to "go and make disciples." Once a commitment to God is made, the job of the church is just beginning. We don't get to stop at that point.
  4. Do you think that the making of disciples equates to the formation of character? I'm not sure that I do. I think that a Christ-like character is formed as a person becomes a disciple, but there is more to it than that. It's bigger than that.

I think that the making of disciples isn't us teaching people how to live more like Christ. Discipleship-making is sharing God's grace with each other so that we are transformed by God from what we were to what he wants us to become. If we act nicer, if we are kinder, if we live our lives loving our neighbors and if the love defined in Corinthians is seen in what we do, then all of that is fruit of a transformation to becoming more Christ-like, and God is the one who enables the transformation to occur.


Thursday, November 22, 2007


Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
I was reading the RevGalBlogPal blog the other day and ran across the two works "thanksgiving" vs "thanksliving." I can't find the post now to link for you, but I wrote down the phrase, because it stopped me.

We have a day set aside to be thankful - to count our blessings. We say prayers of thanksgiving, we tell our family members how thankful we are for them, we share large meals. We spend a day in thanksgiving.

But how is that different from Thanksliving?

I think thanksliving is living a life in response to our feelings of thanksgiving. It means being generous, sharing God's gifts and grace with those around us. To be truly thankful means that we will be motivated to respond to God's action in our lives. To live a life in gratitude...a life of thanksliving.

May our hearts fill with thanksgiving and may our hands and feet move in thanksliving.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Grace rubs off

I've been carrying a glass pebble around in my pocket -- a gift from a friend. Written on the glass is the word "grace."

I'm a fiddler. I don't meant that I know how to play the violin -- I mean that I fiddle. I play with my watch, my rings, and whatever is in my pocket. When the pebble is in my pocket, I'll rub it -- like people do with "worry stones."

The word grace is rubbing off.

I've had people ask me in class, when I mention that we share God's grace with each other, if I really believed that grace could come from people other than God. I absolutely do. It's God's grace, and it comes to us from God, but sometimes he chooses to pass it through to us by the means of another of his children. We share God's grace with each other.

The word grace is rubbing off. Grace should rub off. That's the way God designed it.

Image: Covered bridge at Cedar Lakes


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

God's Grief

I think I've written about the idea that prayer is two-way communication before. This post, for instance. It is through prayer that we communicate with God, but it is also through prayer that God communicates with us. And I don't think that that communication is limited to messages like, "this is what I want you to do." I think God is bigger than that, and what he wants to tell us is bigger than that. He wants us to know what he is like -- he wants us to understand his nature. He wants us to know that he cares about us, that he is concerned with what happens to us, not with just what we do. He want us to know that we are never alone in the world. And I think he can communicate all of that through prayer.

Sometimes I do think that we limit him by our definition of what prayer is. Sometimes I think that we consider prayer to be the time we are sitting still, heads bowed, hands crossed, forming words for God to hear. Prayer. Take it or leave it, God -- this is how we do it.

Could it be that prayer is bigger than that?

I went to Bill's funeral last week. The pastor who officiated had been Bill's friend. It was hard for her to do the funeral, because she loved the man who had died. I'm sure that that would be a very difficult thing to do. I also think that her obvious care for the person who had died was a way to minister to the family. It said, "This man mattered. He mattered to me. He matters to you. He mattered to all of us. He will be missed."

I also think that God wants to communicate that message to us, as well. I think God is saddened when one of his children dies. He created us for this life, he cares for us, he doesn't want to see us unhappy, and he knows when we are in grief. He understands grief, even if to him, death is not the end. Even if he has made it so that for us, death is not the end. Still, he wants us to understand that he loves us, he cries with us, and he is there for us in loss.

So, I'm wondering if the role of a pastor in a funeral is more than to just minister to the family and to show honor to the person who has died. I wonder if the role of the pastor is to communicate God's sorrow to his children. I know it sounds strange, but just forget the strangeness for a minute, and consider it this way. We can look at a person, and see his or her joy, but we can also see God's joy shining through another person. I wonder if officiating a funeral, when it is done well, can be a kind of prayer. We communicate to God, and through the minister, God communicates to us? I felt, as I watch Suzanne lead the funeral, that she was not only showing us her sadness, but God's sadness, as well. And maybe I'm not making any sense at all.

I think we know the nature of God better because of Suzanne, and the way she demonstrated sorrow at that funeral.

Image: Leaves near the VA parking lot.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

He shall not be moved

Logos -- Psalm 46:1-7

He is our rock, our salvation.
The foundation of our lives,
The sanctuary for our troubled worries.
He is always present,
Always concerned
Always strong,
He is present when we walk,
When we stumble,
When we soar,
And when we cry out.

He is our God.
Because of him,
we will not fear.
Because of him,
When the earth shakes
When the sea crashes against the shore
When the tallest mountains
Crash into the wildest canyons,
When the sky turns black
and hope seems blotted out,
We will not fear.

We will not hear the screaming of the ocean
Or the thundering of the mountains
Because our God whispers his love for us,
And nothing else can overpower it.

Because he is our God,
We receive rivers of living water,
And with its cooling touch,
Grace and joy.
Gifts of the spirit.
Heaven cries out in celebration with us,
And God walks among us.

He is here,
In our cities, in our towns,
Walking in our buildings,
Sitting with us in our meetings,
Wrapping himself around us
Through our sorrow,
And throwing us up in the air with glee
To share our joy with us.
In the mornings, he is God,
And he is seen in the colors of the sunrise,
As he paints his creativity
To inspire us.
As he breathes his presence
Into our souls.

All around us,
There is cemetery.
All around us is death.
He walks through it,
And carries us to our salvation,
As his son carried the cross on his back.
And we are set free.
He utters our name,
And we are claimed.
A child of God.

The Lord of all is with us.
He shall not be moved.

Image: Cedar Lakes

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 18, 2007

All the Way

I was reading from Disciplines devotional book this morning. J Stephen Lang wrote:

But the Bible assures us that heaven isn't just "later." Life lived in fellowship with God means that heaven has already begun. All the way to heaven is heaven.

That last line was the last line of the devotional, and it stopped me cold. I believe and tell people that the kingdom is here and not yet, but I've never seen it written just that way. "All the way to heaven is heaven."

Isn't that a great and reassuring comment?

Do you ever feel that way? Are there moments in life when it feels like heaven? When you can see God so closely -- see his work so clearly -- that you know that we live all the way to heaven in heaven?


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Still Waters

The image is from Stonewall Jackson resort, out our lodge room window. Steve took the picture, and then came up with the idea for the scripture reference (notice the path beside the still waters.). Thanks, Steve!

Labels: ,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Extravagant Unbusyness

Rushing, fast paced
Early rising
Getting kids out of bed
Impossible, seemingly
Late nights
Laundry (What's that?)
Meals (Who needs to cook?)
Dirty dishes
Please don't leave your socks on the floor!
Walk the dog
Make the kids walk the dog
Take the sock away from the dog
All of us.

Church work
So often a joy
Sometimes, rarely, not enough time.
School work
Home work
Worries about school
Worries about grades
Have you done your homework?
Have you forgotten your trumpet?
When do you need it?
You, too?

Husband out of town
Counting down the days.
Still, each day is long
Missing him.
A shadow over each trip home
Is the reality that the time is short
Before he leaves again.

This evening
Husband is finished with training!
Boys off to a weekend trip!
This weekend will be
A gift
A time away
Treasured friends
Talking, listening
Extravagant Unbusyness

Note: Thanks to RevGalBlogPals for the phrase "extravagant unbusyness."
Image: Leaves outside of vet's office.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What do we think about?

Attitude. What is the role of attitude in our spiritual lives? In our day to day, moving around the world, getting work done lives? What role does how we think play in what we are able to do, and how close we are able to feel to God.

I think it has an important role, but is certainly not the only contributing factor.

I was reading Ben Witherington's blog yesterday. On it was a poem. Here is one stanza of it:

In the end a choice is made
by each and every life,
To savor life' inherent scent
or focus on the strife.

There is a bakery in our town, on the West End. As you drive by, if you pay much attention at all, you can smell the bread baking. You can make the choice to breathe it in, and fill your lungs with the tantalizing odor. Or you can ignore it. In this way, Ben is right. We do have choices.

We've all faced that choice -- to see the good in the life around us or to see only the strife. How we make that choice can change how we perceive the world, and how we react to it.

What role does God play in that choice?

On of my favorite verses of the Bible (Philippians 4:8):

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
And then, verses 8-9 from The Message:

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
What we think about does matter. What fills our minds is important. There are times, though, when it is difficult, if not impossible, to fill our minds with what is good. The bad is just too compelling. What then?

There is a book by Philip Yancey called Prayer. It has a subtitle that I normally ignore, "Does it make any difference?" I think that this is one of the many ways in which prayer can make a difference -- not just that "help me, God" or "fix this, God" prayer, but prayer which creates and sustains a relationship with God. That kind of prayer -- that kind of relationship with God -- can bring the good into our minds. Can empower us to "savor life's inherent scent."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fall Colors

I took a walk in the park today. How about a moment to just enjoy the colors and beauty of outside?
The sky was so dreary and everything was wet, but some of the colors were wonderful! De Colores!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who's it all about?

There are many paradoxes in the Christian faith. Jesus was completely human and completely divine. The kingdom is now and not yet. I imagine that you could think of more.

I have one to add. It's not about you, and it's all about you.

Church -- the Body of Christ -- exists in order to be God in the world. The Body of Christ is not about us. What we do, how we serve, who we love -- none of it is up to us. All of that needs to be God's will. Do we keep a parking lot? Do we feed the hungry? Do we install a ramp? Do we teach children? Do we allow youth to lead worship? It doesn't matter how WE feel about any of those questions. We are called to discern God's will and to put it into action. It's not about us. It's about God.


Jesus came to earth, took on the form of a human, gave up being with his father in order to be with us, to bring us the realization of who God is and how much he loves us. He did it for us, but not only that, he did it for YOU and he did it for ME. If you had been the only one -- if the relationship between God and you were the only one which could be repaired by his death and resurrection, he would have done it JUST FOR YOU. He would have died JUST FOR ME. It's all about you. It's all about me.

I think when it comes down to it, God makes it all about us and in response, we should in turn make it not about us. That's what love is.

Images: From a new camera -- a Canon PowerShot SD850 IS. Leaves in front of a church in Westmoreland and leaves in a puddle.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Prosperity Gospel?

Have you ever head someone wonder if they should tithe on their gross income or their net income? Someone once told me that if I wanted gross blessings from God, that I needed to tithe on my gross income.

Last night, I was trying to get to sleep, flipping through different channels on the television, when I ran across a televangelist named Don Stewart. He was telling people that they could request a "prayer handkerchief." I gather that he had prayed over these handkerchiefs, and that they would enable miracle healing and prosperity. Apparently he has anointed this piece of green cloth.

The program also talked about a "vow of tithing." If you want an increase in your income, you need to tithe 10% of what you want God to give to you. For instance, for a $10,000 increase in your income, you need to send Mr. Steward $1000. If $5000 is enough for you, then send him $500.

I was amazed that anyone could preach such a message. I had heard of the prosperity gospel, but I had never seen it "on the hoof."

God has not promised us money. God has not promised us prosperity. There is nothing that we can do to increase or decrease God's grace in our lives. I think it is contrary to every teaching of God that grace equals monetary prosperity.


Light of Christ

Once again, too tired to write much.

I like this picture, though. It reminds me of this verse:

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 )

Can others see the light of Christ shining in me? In you?


Saturday, November 10, 2007


My brother in law sent me a definition of grace the other day:

Grace is the participation of the very presence of God
This about that for a moment. Grace is the participation of the presence of God. We've spent 11 weeks this fall discussing the idea that God is close. Before that, in the spring, we talked about the book "What's so Amazing about Grace."

What do amazing about grace isn't the fact that God is Closer than we think. The amazing part of grace is that God participates in our lives. God -- the very God who created the heavens and earth, care enough about me and you that he will activity participate in our lives.

Look at this verse from 2 Thessalonians 16-17, part of the lectionary readings for this week:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
God, though grace -- active participation in our lives -- beings us comfort, hope and strength.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 09, 2007

Unexpected Gifts

I'm too tired to write anything substantial tonight, so I'll ask you a question, instead.

I received an unexpected gift tonight. Steve has been in training for seven weeks, coming home on the weekend. We didn't think that he would be able to leave Ohio until tomorrow, coming home for Saturday evening, and returning on Sunday. He called me this afternoon at about 4:30, "I'm leaving now and coming home!"
An unexpected gift. What has happened in your life lately that was an unexpected gift? What has been an unexpected joy?


Thursday, November 08, 2007


Just as a marker or milestone.

Post #800 was made yesterday.

Also, yesterday at 10:13 p.m., someone from Australia read the blog, and had the distinction of being the 20,000th hit on the blog, as near as Statcounter can count.

At 10:52 p.m. last night, one of my few "regular" readers, a verizon user from West Virginia, was the person to make hit #20,001 on the blog -- the first of the next 10,000.

At the end of the month, the blog will be two years old.


Our Wednesday Evening Book study completed our fall session last night with the last chapter of Ortberg's God is Closer than You Think. The last chapter challenges us to pray the prayer, "God, please make up there, come down here." In other words, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Make our world like heaven, and use us to get it done.

As I was thinking about that yesterday, I thought that perhaps this was the crux of the book. If God is closer than we think, then what difference does it make?

I think that the difference it can make is that if we know God is close, then we realize that he is working in our world. If we love God, and if we are willing to trust and obey him, then he can make a difference, through us, in our world.

If we trust him, then we will be willing to say, "Make up there, come down here, and use me to do it." It's kind of frightening. Do we have enough courage to say that, because if we do, and if we mean it, we will be transformed, and through us, our world will be transformed.

It's the crux of the book.

Crux. It comes from the Latin for cross. This is our cross. When Jesus says, "Pick up your cross, and follow me," this is what he means, I think. He means, we should say to God, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." And use me to make it happen. It's the crux of the matter -- it's the cross that we are asked to pick up and carry. It's the difference that God will make in our lives and in the world. He will transform us to be more Christ-like, and he will, through us, transform the world to be like heaven. He's here. He's not just up there. He's closer than you think.

Image: Trees at VA


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Word, Wrapped in Deed

We talked yesterday about words -- how they are powerful and how they can create change. One of the main theme's of Mark's sermon, though, was how words and deeds are connected.

We have an ideal that we strive to live up to -- the ideal that we will live a life of integrity -- that our words will be reflected in our deeds. Jesus was the one person in which word and deed were completely united. He was word, wrapped in deed.

When he said, "This is my body, broken for you" and "this is my blood, spilled for you," it was truth. It was not just table talk.

Think about it for a minute. We can say that we love someone, but if our actions do not reflect that love, then our words are empty. We can say we are a Christian, but if our actions do not echo our words, then we will be thought to be lying. Our words can be made powerless by our deeds.

In the beginning, God created the world with a word - he spoke it into being. In the book of John, we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
Not only was Jesus word, wrapped in deed, but he was The Word.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Words are Powerful

Our district superintendent preached a sermon at our charge conference this past Sunday about the Word. His scriptural basis was Jeremiah 1:4-10, which begins, "Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying..." (verse 1)

We played a game with the youth last Sunday. Controversial subjects were presented to them, and they had to respond to them using preassigned viewpoints. For instance, before they saw the topic, they knew that they would be against or for it, undecided, etc. One young man had been assigned to be "against" an issue. The issue turned out to be censorship -- sometimes it is necessary to censor books or song lyrics to protect young people. He began his argument against the issue by saying, "I was taught by my father that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Forget about censorship, which isn't what this post is about, and think of the issue of words. Words can hurt. They can heal. They can invite or repel people. Words can affirm or tear down. A single word from one person can have a great impact on another.

Because of an invitation -- "Come to youth group with me" -- I now belong to a church and am an active member of it. Those few words changed my life.

When I first started to teach in our church, I received comments and notes from people, encouraging me and affirming what I was doing. I think because of that, I continue to teach, and to use the gift that God has given to me.

Words spoke a vow which as lasted over 20 years between Steve and me.

Not one to want to be embarrassed, I won't tell you all the ways that I have used words to hurt people, to make them feel unwelcome or unwanted. I want tell you the many times it has happened to me. You don't need me to give you examples; I'm sure you have many of your own.

Our words are powerful. But they are only the beginning -- over the next couple of days I'll post about our foundation in the word and how words and deeds are bound together.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Missing Heart

Four hearts beating
In a house
Where there should be five.

I know that the time is soon approaching
When he will be back
Here, without having to leave.

But just now,
Just today,
That time seems far away.

Here for a week, then gone again.
The week was great, but it makes
This time, harder.
This time, more lonely.
This time, quieter.

Eight weeks is too long.
Ten days is too long
Tonight is too long.

I know it will be worth it.
I know the time will pass.
I know tomorrow will be one less day.

But especially now,
Tonight, more acutely,
I miss my heart.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

All Saints Day

Our associate pastor added a very nice addition to our All Saints Day celebration today. She asked family members of those who we have lost this year to send her a picture of their family member, and then she arranged for a candle to be carried down the aisle in honor of that person -- either by a family member or a congregational member.

The names were read, and the candlesbearers processed down the aisle the altar while the images were displayed on our presentation screens.

It was a great way for our church to remember those who have been lost. I was liturgist today, and was honored to help read the names. As I stood up front, I could watch the congregation. The family members were deeply moved by the service, and there were many in tears. I think that this was not only a great way for our church to remember, but it was also an excellent way for us to minister to those who remain behind. It was a graceful way to say to those suffering a loss that we cared about their loved ones, and that we have noticed their passing.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Can you see?

We went to G's final band competition of the season tonight. He's in that picture. Can you see him?

How about this picture? No? It's no wonder. When I got to the stadium, took out my camera to take some pictures, I found that the viewing screen was broken. I'm very disappointed. I've only had the camera June. I've taken excellent care of it, always keeping it in a case. I have no idea how the screen got broken. It will still take pictures, but you can't see what you are taking a picture of. You can only aim and hope.

And you can see that that doesn't always do such a great job.

It started me thinking about marching bands. Each band member knows where to walk, how many steps to take in which direction. He may not know what his steps will do in the entire formation -- what we the audience will see on the field, but he takes his steps and trusts the person who choreographed the show.

G was confirmed a couple of years ago, and joined JM. He comes to church every Sunday morning, participates in whatever ways are open to him, attends youth group (and loves it), goes to conference events - in other words, is a very involved UM youth. On Wednesday, he chooses another youth group meeting, at one or another friends' church to attend. This Wednesday, my mom was bringing him home. He said he had to go home and practice his trumpet, because the youth director that evening had told them that they could serve God by using their talents. He said he had a talent for playing the trumpet, so he was going to go home and play hymns.

My son often amazes me.

We use our talents, we give our gifts in service to God. We do it because it is what we are called to do. We can't always see what our steps will accomplish, but we trust the choreographer and walk where he asks us to go. We may never see the final product, or the pictures we are making, but we do it anyway.

That's what we do. That's who we are. And every once and a while, we are blessed to see the final result. It's beautiful, it's graceful, and it's a gift God will give us.


Friday, November 02, 2007


Drip. Drip. Drip.

Read it faster. This is a fast, annoying drip.

I have a leak in my sink in the lab. The battery in my iPod went down today, so the music stopped. All I could hear was the drip drip drip of the leak.

I've called in a workorder. When the plumbers came, it stopped leaking.

Of course it did.

But it's leaking again. Continually. Persistently.

My son is persistent. He asks the same question over and over and over again. He doesn't let up. He has a NEED TO KNOW. And he will ask and ask and ask until you answer the question.

Take a look at this verse (Hebrews 12:1):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Do we show the same kind of persistence that my water drip does? Do we run the race with perseverance? We believe in the "communion of saints." We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. God has equipped us with gifts, graces, friends, support, and his presence. Do we run the race?

The good news is that God knows persistence. He understands it. He invented it. He has never and will never give up on us. He will keep chasing us; he has never stopped loving us. He knows and shows persistence.

And we, created in his image, are made to be persistent.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Image: Monarch butterfly here at the VA.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Read this scripture from Zacchaeus, Luke 19:5-6:

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
Whenever I read this passage, or hear it read, I make a joke. "Jesus, sorry, you can't come by the house right now; it's too messy. Give me an hour or two to clean first, then come on by."

Do we do that spiritually? Do we tell God, "Not today, God -- my life is too messy for you to come in. Let me straighten it out first."

Years and years ago, I was talking to a friend. She had grown up as a Presbyterian, and still considered her home church to be her church. She wouldn't go very often, because she felt that she wasn't worthy (my word) -- that she couldn't live up to whatever she thought the expectations were of people who attended church.

So she stayed in her tree. I can tell you that her tree has become a lonely place now. In it, she has found infidelity, loss of family, drugs, maybe abuse. Her tree is a not a place of healing or wholeness.

We stay in our trees. We tell Jesus to come back later. Jesus, though, isn't someone from whom we can hide the mess of our lives. He knows we're messy. That's why he came. That's why he invites us to leave the tree and to come to him.