Saturday, June 30, 2007

Not pattern, but priority

I’ve been involved in conversations about “formula prayers” – prayers designed around a pattern. One of these is ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I’ve even heard it said that the Lord’s Prayer follows this pattern, as if that meant that we should always use this kind of guideline in our prayers.

Listening to Andy Stanley, and his discussion of the Lord’s Prayer, I have a new understanding of this “pattern.” Take a look at the prayer (from Matthew 6):

  1. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, – This is a recognition of who God is – his holiness and worthiness
  2. your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. – This is a statement of surrender to God
  3. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – This is a statement of dependence
It’s not a pattern. It’s a list of priorities. First, says Stanley, spend some time in recognzition of who God is. This is not to convince God of his worthiness, but to convince ourselves. Next, surrender to God – everything. All things. What does God want? Not what we have, but who we are. He wants our hearts. Struggle with this – wrestle with God over this. Then, talk to him about your needs. He knows them already, but in this conversation with God, we can come to a closer understanding of our needs in the light of our surrender.

How long should it take? As long as necessary, and if we don’t finish it in one day, then God will be waiting for us the next day. What are the words we should use? It makes absolutely no difference. The words don’t matter a bit. The only reason the order matters is that it helps US to understand the priorities. It keeps us from making prayer a time to list our “I want, I need, I must have” and turns prayer into a God-centered experience.
This made sense to me, and I’ve been trying to do it. I have noticed a different feel to prayer – a different kind of center. I’m not very good at it yet, but I think I’ll keep at it.

Images: We went to Island Shops this afternoon. They are built around a creek and marsh area that is full of birds -- mainly ducks -- but a few others, too.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Bigger than we think

As I mentioned earlier, I have listened to a series of three sermons by Andy Stanley about prayer.
His theory is, based on the two occasions when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, that perhaps we as followers of God, have short-changed prayer at the best, and completely misunderstand it at the worst.

We often see prayer as our opportunity to tell God what we need, want, or plan for him to do. Is that prayer? Is that its God-given purpose?

God certainly wants to hear our concerns, but there is more to it. And if we miss the MORE, then we miss out on a relationship with God.

He says to consider this. Think about a marriage. If the only contact we had with our spouse was to sit and talk about the mechanics of life – when to pick up the carpool kids, when to go get groceries, how to arrange life so that works out, then we will not develop or nurture our relationship. We need time for focus on each other – to talk, to interact. The same is true of friendships. We need to devote time to a relationship.

Why is it, then, that we think we can spend two seconds in prayer, listing the worries of life, and then think that we will develop a deeper understanding of God? We can’t.

What he said made sense to me, and I was even more impressed with some of what came next, which I’ll try to share tomorrow.

Image: Macro close-up of a flower on a miniature golf course.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feed My Sheep

I've been listening to a series of sermons by Andy Stanley about prayer -- I'm sure it will lead to a blog entry or two -- but I wanted to talk about something else first.

He mentions the passage of scripture in which Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray (Luke 11:5-13). He tells them to be persistent in prayer.

Jesus compares God to a man who has bedded his family down for the night. His neighbor, who has a friend who has come to visit, keeps knocking on the man's door, asking for bread. The point of the parable is that God wants us to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.

Thinking about this parable, I wondered if it could lead us to a different analogy. Understand, before I talk about this, that I don't think that this is the meaning that Jesus had for the parable. Thinking about the parable, though, I thought about the following.

Imagine for a moment, that you are the man at home in bed with the whole family tucked in. Your neighbor has a visitor, a person needing bread, and he comes to you to supply it. You don't want to be bothered with getting up out of your warm bed to go to the door, but the neighbor is so persistent that you finally do.

What if we are the man in bed and God is the neighbor. He's come to us to move us to provide bread for the needy visitor. He knocks and knocks -- seeks and asks. We try and try to ignore him, so send him on his way, to tell him "NO!" None of that works, and God is highly persistent.

"Feed my sheep."
"Feed my lambs."
"Feed my sheep."

Someone's knockin' on the door
Somebody's ringing the bell....

Images: Sunset behind palm trees, a bee I captured today, and some kind of bird. Anybody know what kind of bird? I would love to know.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Swinging in a hammock
On a terrace, seven stories high
Above the ocean
Staring at the sky
Swinging freely in a hammock
Watching clouds drift by
As the moon rises.

You're free to dance
Forget about your two left feet
And you're free to sing
Even joyful noise is music to Me

I am reminded
Thanks to the music of a friend
That I am free.
I dance in the hammock
And feel God in the wind
And listen to joyful noise.

For freedom Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again
to a yoke of slavery.

Listening to I’ll Fly Away
And being reminded of Simple Gifts
I am grateful that my gifts from God
Are not burdens,
And that I am
Free from worry
Free from envy and denial
Free to live, free to give, free to smile

I tap my foot
And make the hammock dance
Swaying on God’s wind.
As the moon plays peakaboo
With the clouds
And my love sits in a chair nearby.

You're free to love
'Cause I've given you My love
And it's made you free
I have set you free!

Swinging in a hammock
On a terrace, seven stories high
Above the ocean
Staring at the sky
Swinging freely in a hammock
Watching clouds drift by
As the moon rises.

The italics black print are lyrics from the song Free by Ginny Owens -- see the entire song here. The italics blue print is Galations 5:1 (from the lectionary readings this week). Thanks to JtM for the music.

Images: The sky when I arrived on the terrace and when we left.

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Steve and I were sitting on the terrace of our hotel for a while. When we got back to the room, he sat down and wrote this, which he handed me. I, of course, asked if I could post it.

A few moments behind Steve's closed eyes:

Tonight I sprawled out on a lounge chair on the 7th floor deck overlooking the ocean. I closed my eyes with the expressed purpose of listening. We talk about the "sights and sounds," but it is the sights that get the lion's share of our attention. I heard the waves crashing to the shore, and the wind, of course. I heard people talking beside me, people talking above me (somewhere between floors 7 and 15), an infant talking, an infant screaming (different infants), a car motor, a car horn, the creaking of a hammock (ropes in knots, hooks on the stand? -- I dunno), a sliding patio door, opening and THUMP closing, glass tinkling (glass on glass, ice on glass, a knife in an empty peanut butter jar? - again, I dunno), the gate to the observation deck closing - bang/clang (the spring could use some adjustment), an airplane overhead, and last but not least, Steve Perry and Journey singing something from the 80's -- a time my kids call oldies. They had better watch, or I'll make them wear my bell bottoms and leisure suits -- then we would hear more screaming.

Image: The moon from the terrace as we left to come back to the room.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guest Blogger G

Hello this is G (Kim's son) and this a picture of some random flower my mother and i just happened to spot at a Putt Putt course in Myrtle Beach. My mom started taking pictures of it and I thought it made a pretty kewl picture so I asked if I could take a picture of it before she put her camera back in her bag. Well actually I kind of yelled, "Mother, mother let me take a picture!" Back to the story. She handed over the camera for a brief moment to let me take picture. I quickly without her knowing changed the settings to black and white and took the picture. I gave the camera back and she looked at the picture and said, "Oh, it's black and white. That's cool looking." That got me sparked on an idea of mine so I told her how she could take the picture and copy it and make the flower colorful on one picture and "glue" them back together. She said that would be cool and then we went on back to enjoy and have fun in a game of Putt Putt golf. Then about 10 minutes before I started writing I came onto the balcony of our hotel room to see the exact picture I saw my mom take exactly how I thought it would look cool. I think photography is one thing my mom and I will always enjoy together. I think she has some of the best pictures I have ever seen. I know she has some pictures on here so do you know what? Check them out. That was a brief story form the one and only...G


Riding the Waves

There is a point in the ocean
Between the waves which break
Close to the shore
And the ones which break
Far away.

A place where the waves are just
Swells and valleys
About waist deep most of the time.

It’s calm there,
And if you trust the ocean,
You’ll let it pull you close to shore at times,
And then, as a large wave approaches,
You’ll fight back the fear,
And be drawn toward it,
Riding over it with a gentle jump
Before it breaks.

I wonder if God’s will is like this.
It’s the calm place
Between the turbulence
Outside his will.

When the big challenges arise
Which he wants us to meet
If we will fight down the fear
And allow ourselves to be drawn close
To that which scares us,
To that for which we think we are not equipped
Or gifted
Or ready to ride
We will find ourselves
Peacefully, with a gentle jump
Lifted up high on his spirit
And riding the wave.
Image: The guys playing frisbee on the beach.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Logos -- 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6:14; Luke 9:51-72

We started our vacation today, and spent most the the day driving from home to the beach. There are two tunnels on the WV Turnpike. This photo is of one of them. Have you ever noticed when you go through a tunnel that you can't really see where you are going? You don't know, from looking, what will be on the other end of the passage.

There is an interstate in Pittsburgh which runs through the western part of the city. As it nears downtown, it goes through a tunnel. The first time I drove on that road, and passed through the tunnel and out the other side, I was amazed at what I found. Coming out of the tunnel, the city just burst upon my eyes. Pow! There is was. I wouldn't have guessed that was going to happen based on the ride through the tunnel.

As we follow Christ, there are a couple of things that we do know. We know our eventual destination -- the presence of God. We know that we do not travel alone. But other than that, what do we know?

Take a look at a couple of the lectionary readings for the week:

  1. In the 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 passage, Elijah is being followed by the new prophet, Elisha. Three times, Elijah tries to get Elisha to turn back. Elisha doesn't know where he is going, or what is going to happen when they get there, but he is persistent and loyal. Elisha knows that he trusts his mentor, Elijah, and that he trusts God.
  2. In the Gospel of Luke (9:51-72), someone asks Jesus if they could follow him. He replies that ,"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Luke 9:58). The path you are following may be bumpy. It may bring you trials and hardships that you did not anticipate. Jesus is not going to let these travelers walk on the road, thinking that the way will be easy. It will not.
Persistence and faith in God -- necessary elements on the journey.

Images: The first tunnel on the WV turnpike. A sea shell from this afternoon.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stepping out in faith

There is a scene in one of the Star Wars movies -- I think it must be the original 1977 one -- where Luke (I think) says, "Teach me, Obiwan." Am I making that up, or is that real?

I think we do that. I think that sometimes we look to God for help or guidance before we take any steps to our goal at all.

"Help me, God. Help me, right now, so that I will have confidence that this is going to work."

Do you do that? I do that all the time.

I was speaking to a member of our church, who was telling me that she would right a devotional for our Devotional Ministry. She said she hadn't volunteered yet, because "God hadn't inspired her."

I told her to commit to do one, and then God would inspire her. I knew what she was talking about, because, as I said, I do that all the time.

It is as if I want to have faith in the project, or in the goal, or in my skills more than I want to have faith in God. If I would trust God, then I believe the rest would fall into line.

We went with some friends last night to see the movie Evan Almighty. Go see it. It's great.

At one point, God (Morgan Freeman) is speaking to Evan's wife. He told her (something like), "When you ask for patience, God will give you opportunities to be patient. When you pray for courage, does he give you courage or chances to be courageous. When you ask for your family to be closer, does he give you warm, fuzzy feelings, or opportunities to be closer as a family."

Faith in God, instead of in the process is what we need, I think. That's mustard seed faith -- the trust, the faith in God, to step out when everything is uncertain, believing that we do not step out alone

Since I started with Star Wars, I'll finish with it. As Leia said, "Help me, Obiwan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

God is our only hope.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

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Saturday, June 23, 2007


Life is not even.
It is not a journey from one point to the next,
wandering over a meadow
or a plain.
Life has moments.

Good moments,
Hard moments.

There are moments when we laugh so hard
that we cry.
There are moments when we cry so hard
that we cannot imagine laughing ever again.

There are moments when our burdens are light
lying like feathers across our shoulders.
There are moments when the stress of life
weighs us down, like lead.

There are moments when we hear God singing
deep within our souls,
Melody and harmony, dancing in bright choreography.
There are moments when God's chorus
sounds thin and far away,
as if we are listening through a glass. Eavesdropping.

There are moments of clarity
when God's will for us is seen
Magnified, as though through crystal.
There are moments of mud,
when we doubt that God
is even aware of our problems.

God plants seeds of hope
in all of our moments.
And lifts us up, like the wind.
Sometimes we fly as if soaring,
joyful and carefree,
Eagles, heavenward on His spirit.
Other times, other moments,
we are just desperately grateful
to be rescued from the ground on which we lay,
lifted into the air
and carried softly to his presence.

Many moments
One God
Planting seeds of hope in our lives,
So that we know,
though all time,
that we are His.

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Friday, June 22, 2007


I mentioned yesterday that I had a feeling all day long that God was telling me to stop. Listen. Look. Pay attention, because he was standing near. Later in the day, I received an email from a friend (which she sent to our entire Sunday school class entitled "Rest." The quote in that email was:

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.
John Lubbock
I was sitting in a waiting room this morning. Another friend and I were talking about this topic via email (love that Blackjack phone -- mobile email is cool!). He said, "And just in time for your vacation."

True. At that moment I realized that I had been skipping my devotional time each morning since Annual Conference. I wrote back to him that I wondered if God were telling me to stop -- read -- pray -- take time to do this. Just as I sent that email, a gentleman came up to me and picked up the Gideon Bible that was on the table right beside me. He said, "Are you reading this, dear?"

No, I haven't been. And I need to be.

I was reading an article in Group magazine today. It talked about looking for God each day. He said that there are "parable moments" -- moments when God is trying to tell you something via an incident in your life.

Like this man with the Bible. Like the email from my friend and the quote from another friend. Sometimes I think that an incident is just a happening, and it means nothing, but sometimes, if I pay attention, they are God moments, filled with messages from God to me.

Image: Flowers from Annual Conference


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Listen for me

When I was turning my car off to walk into the Research building today, the song Word of God Speak by Mercy Me was coming on the radio. I wanted to hear it, but needed to get to work, so I grabbed by iPod and clicked it on. I walked in listening to the song.

I stopped at the end of the parking lot where the vegetation meets the blacktop. Take a look at the words to the song:

The last thing I need
Is to be heard
But to hear,
What you would say.

Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty

To be still and know
That you’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In your holiness

Do you ever feel like the noises of life separate you from God -- that the distractions are so loud that they block out God's will? Do you ever feel like you are speaking so loudly, in your life, in your relationship with others, in your relationship with God, that he is drowned out.

I think that there may be times where words on our part are unnecessary.

I stood in the parking lot, and closed my eyes. The light was bright, and I could still see it, shining through my eyelids, but it was all I could see -- bright red light. Later, on the way to lunch, I stood near the car, looking into the woods. I felt the breeze, saw the sun and shadow.

All day long I have had the idea that God was saying to me, "Stop. Listen. Look. Feel me. I am right here with you. Just be still and know me."

The second verse:
Finding myself in the midst of you
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need
Is to be with you
And in the quiet to hear your voice
Now read it a different way, as if God were saying it:
Finding you, in my midst,
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
I am all you need.
I need to you to be with me.
And in the quiet, to know that you hear me.
Do you ever think that God is searching for you? Seeking a relationship with you? Think of all that he has done, just to restore us to relationship with him. He loves us, beyond measure, beyond reason.
Images: View from the parking lot this morning. Rose from lunch. Petunia from Pullman Square.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

PPT of poem

My post today is a little different.

At Annual Conference, to begin worship on Saturday, a PowerPoint presenation was shown. It was an adaptation of Psalm 23, shown with photographs of nature. The live band played live music in support of it. It was truly a moment of worship -- absolutely beautiful.

Sitting there, after it was over, I was thinking that I would like to try to build a presenation like that. Using my adaptation of Psalm 29 and photographs that I have taken, I built a PowerPoint file.

It can be downloaded at this link (click on Be My Voice) if you would like to see it. Once it opens (and it may take a minute), just click the mouse to advance.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hope in the Potter

I found a blog today (Cheeseburger in Paradise -- the blog of a midwestern pastor) that posted a song about hope.

It reminds me of Isaiah 64:7-9.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

The song is called FASHIONED IN THE CLAY (Copyright 1983 by Elmer Beals Jr.)

The end of the first verse and the chorus of the song are:

Look, now, at the potter whose wheel is spinning 'round,
Shaping with her hands the past and future from the ground:
Cups that will be filled and drunk, so warm in wintertime,
Plates and bowls for dinner served with candlelight and wine:

She believes, she believes,
By her work it's so easy to see
That the future is more than the following day,
It's fashioned securely in the clay
It's so important -- faith in the future. For a church to grow, the members must believe that the future will be better than the present. It is an essential hope. If we don't believe that, then we might as well lock the doors. "The future is more than the following day."

The next phrase, "It's fashioned security in the clay," holds meaning for me, too. If God is the potter, then the future is fashioned in the clay. He fashions his clay, us, for the future. The future depends on us. His plan for the future is through us.

The next verse is the farmer, planting seeds. He has hope that the seed will grow. We need the same faith in order to spread seed -- faith that the seed will grow, that God will provide the water and the sun. The couple having a baby has the same faith.

The potter and the clay -- we are the seed, we are the child, we are the clay in which the future is built. Our hope of success is the in the potter. He is trustworthy, and hope-worthy.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Logos -- 1 Kings 19:1-15a

One of the lectionary readings for this week is 1 Kings 19:1-15a. It's the story of Elijah. He's afraid of Jezebel, and what she might do, so he runs away. He ends up in the wilderness, under a broom tree, fed and cared for by angels. Eventually, he travels to a cave, and experiences God's presence in the quiet.

He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"Verses 11-13

There is a song that Chris Tomlin sung this weekend at Ichthus:

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
He is indescribable, uncontainable, all powerful and untameable. Do we get that from this passage? I think in some ways, we do:

  1. Do you think Elijah was surprised that God was not in the wind or the earthquake, but was instead in the silence? I think that perhaps Elijah would describe God as indescribable, if that makes any sense. I think he expected to find God in the wind, the fire or the earthquake.
  2. Is it contradictory to say that only an all powerful God could be noticed in silence? At Ichthus, the announcer for the concerts asked us, at a point between concerts, to stop. Just to stop, wherever we were in the area. This very noisy, busy main stage area became quiet. No one moved as the announcer prayed for a police chief who had been killed in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. It was a powerful moment, and the presence of God could be felt.
  3. There is a seen at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Aslam is walking away. "He is not a tame lion." God is untameable. He does not fit into our nicely defined structures. Maybe we would expect him to be in the earthquake or the fire. Instead, he appears in silence, untamed and unpredictable.

In this passage, we are reminded that God is beyond our control. Thank God!

Image: This was taken from the car on the way to Annual Conference two weeks ago. Imagine how beautiful it would be in the fall.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mother God, Father God

I was reading a blog this evening which spoke to the idea of the "choir being sick." I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "preaching to the choir," and this blog was addressing that concept -- that the choir needs preaching.

I'm not going to address that question, but one phrase in the post raised an issue with me that I want to address this evening (I'm going to ignore the Methodist Wiccan connection). Take a look at this sentence, written by Ann Tatlock:

Did you hear about the Presbyterian church that sponsored a retreat for women, inviting them to get away and worship the divine goddess within themselves?
Perhaps I misunderstand Ann's concern about this conference, but it seems to me it is the idea of an "inner goddess" which is troubling to her. I am incorrect?

What if the sentence said, "a retreat for women, inviting them to get away and worship the divine God within themselves." Would that be problematic for her?

Do we not believe that God is within us (and outside us, and around us and between us?)? So is it only the idea that that God might be female troubling to her?

Let me tell you what I think. It's my blog, and I will if I wanna.

I do not think that God is a female. I also do not think that God is a male. I think he is beyond both of those gender specifications. It is easier for me to grasp God if I consider him to have a gender, because to think otherwise, for me, pushes him away -- makes him less personal. But I don't think that He is any more correct that She when referring to God.

I taught a lesson from Revelation last month which talked about heaven, using symbolism, relating the concept of the Kingdom of God to ideas which we could grasp. The pronoun 'he' and the word 'father' do the same thing for me -- they help to make the indescribable a little bit more describable.

There is a hymn called "Bring Many Names," written by Brian Wren, and pointed out to me by JtM. Here are verses 2 and 3:

Strong mother God, working night and day,
planning all the wonders of creation,
setting each equation, genius at play:
Hail and hosanna, strong mother God!

Warm father God, hugging every child,
feeling all the strains of human living,
caring and forgiving till we're reconciled:
Hail and hosanna, warm father God!
Why does the idea of a mothering God alarm us? Why is it so difficult to understand? We are very willing to believe that God can have male characteristics, and can be the very best father that we have ever heard of. Why can't we think of a God that has the very best of the characterstics of a mother?

JtM also sent me the interpretation of the hymn from Read this, "The author has made use of a poetic device -- referring to God's nature and actions in human terms -- that helps us to understand the nature and work of the divine." This is the same technique, in a way, that was used in Revelation. How can you explain sound to a deaf person, or color to a blind person? You have to use a frame of reference that the person understands. By comparing God to human characteristics, we can come to understand him more.

The last verse from this hymn says:
Great, living God, never fully known,
joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
closer yet than breathing, everlasting home:
Hail and hosanna, great, living God!
God is never fully known, and yet he wants to be closer to us than breathing. Why do we judge the way other people accomplish that relationship? If is is easier for some people to draw closer to God if they use a frame of reference which shows them God through female characteristics, then why would we object?

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunset at Ichthus

Sunset at Ichthus


Friday, June 15, 2007

Ichthus Update

It's a little too late to write, and I'm tired, so how about some images from Ichthus? It was a hot afternoon, but the sunset was beautiful. We listened to Barlow Girl (and Thousand Foot Krutch (which I could have missed), Foolish Things, Chris Tomblin and Relient K. Louie Giglio was the keynote speaker. I must say that Louis and Chris Tomblin were my favorite, followed closely by Relient K.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

God in the Dark

Have I mentioned that we are with the Youth group at Ichthus? So how about some Ichthus pictures?

If you read the blog, or skim back through it, I imagine that you will find many pictures of the sun and the sky. I find sky pictures to be beautiful, and I feel close to God when I look at the sky.

But, tonight, as I was listening to Third Day, the final band of night, it occured to me to wonder where God is in the dark. It's easy to see him in a sunset, or as the light peaking from behind a cloud, but where is he when the sun is gone?

Tonight, he was in the caress of the breeze -- relief after a hot afternoon. He was in the exuberance of a youth group, in the patience of youth leaders, and in the sleepiness of a child. He was in the closeness of friends, and in the splash of lights against the night sky. He drifted across the air on the notes of Blessed Assurance, and vibrated with clapped hands.

Let no one doubt that God can be seen in the dark.

Images: Sun peaking from behind the clouds, sunset on Ichthus. The blue and yellow circles are behind the lead singer of Third Day, and the stage view is of the David Crowder band.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007


A member of our Sunday school class last Sunday made a comment about photography class in High school. She had not been a "believer" in non-academic classes, but after her daughter took photography, she realized its value. Photography taught her daughter to keep her eyes open. To see the world in a different way -- a way that she wouldn't have explored without the camera.

At annual conference, there was a prelude of live music - wonderful music - accompanying a slide show of nature shots overlaid with a paraphrase of Psalm 23. As I watched and listened, I drew closer to God. It was worship. It was wonderful (I'm going to have to try it myself). I didn't notice the technology at all -- I experienced the creativity of the photographer, the musicians, and the poet.

JtM sent me a quote yesterday from the book Unstoppable Force. Take a look:

“…we tend to accept technologies that bring us comfort and convenience, while rejecting the technologies that can produce creativity and innovation…Being authentic doesn’t inherently eliminate accessing technology. In fact, the best use of technology takes the focus off the technology. It accentuates humanity in the same way that spotlights should—not getting people to look at the light but helping people to see the speaker clearly.”
Our minister told us last night that in a couple of weeks, the screens and projector will be installed in our sanctuary. Technology. I hope we use it with care. I hope we use it as a spotlight, highlighting God's input in what we do for him.

Images: More from the annual conference.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

God is big enough

Last October, when I was a member of the Emmaus walk team, one of the women on the walk was talking about forgiveness. She had been worried that what she had done in life was too big to be forgiven by God. A friend of hers told her by doubting God's forgivness, she was shortchanging the blood of Christ.

Is God's love -- is God's grace large enough to be sufficient for you

Back when we were teaching the class about the book What's so Amazing About Grace, this was a big issue. I told the class that not only were their sins forgiven, but that they were forgiven before they even commited them. That grace -- that forgiveness was given to them as a gift. In order for it to be tranformational, they had to accept it, but the gift had already been given.

I wondered at the time if I were right. It felt right to me -- it felt like God to me.

This past Sunday, one of the ministers who attends our church (but is not THE minister) delivered the sermon. His theme was that there are two really hard things that we are asked to do -- to love and forgive each other. He's right -- they are the two hardest things to do. He went on to say that we are forgiven by God -- already -- before we even commit the sin. That went a long way to affirming what I think.

And then I read the lectionary readings last night. Listen to this:

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. Galations 2:20b-21
Listen to it again:

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
God's grace is large enough. It doesn't depend on keeping the laws and it isn't given in response to the size of our sins. It is grace -- free and all encompassing.

Images: From the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan. Love that new camera!

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Lead me, Lord

Logos -- Psalm 5:1-8

Psalm 5:1-8

Listen to me, Father,
Listen to my words
Hear the sound of my voice,
Hear the sound of my sighing,
Hear the soundlessness of my heart crying.

I cry to you, and ask your help.
You are my King,
My salvation,
My rock,
My last resort.
I send my prayers to you,
and beg you to give them wings.

As I watch the magnificence of nature
In the rising of the sun,
which you created,
I call to you,
and pray that you recognize the voice
Of one of your children.
Like a child, I ask for what I need
without reservation.
And I await your movement
across my heart.
Your breath across my face
I wait in expectation,
certain of your grace.

You do not take pleasure in evil
You judge the right and the wrong,
You recognize violence and deceit.
You will not let it pass.

I come in expectation of your mercy,
I enter your house,
As a child,
Sure of my welcome.
I feel your presence,
And my heartrate increases,
I bow before the one who created me,
and who has led me home.

Lead me, Lord
Lead me in your righteousness.
Make your way plain and straight,
So that I might walk along your path
Into your presence,
and not be lost.

Image: The sky on the way home Saturday evening.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Life Resurrected

One more look at the lectionary readings for this week. I read somewhere late last week that the for lectionary readings each week were not necessarily related to each other. As I look at the four readings for this week, I think that there is a relationship between them.

  1. 1 Kings 17:8-24 -- In this passage, the prophet Elijah is sent by God to Zarephath. There, he encounters a widow who is convinced she is going to die of starvation. She does not. Later, her son dies, and Elijah brings him back to life, saving the mother, as well.
  2. In psalm146, the psalmist writes of new life -- justice of the oppressed, site for the blind, care for strangers -- new life out of our old life.
  3. In Galations, Paul talks about his new life in Christ. "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy."
  4. In Luke , the writer tells of how Jesus brought life back to a son.
We are being changed -- transformed -- and our lives will never be the same. Christianity is the story of resurrection -- of life renewed and changed.

Image: The sky on the way home from dinner last night was beautiful. I took this one through my sun glasses.

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    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    Letting Go

    As I mentioned this morning, the service this morning at conference was wonderful. The sermon was delivered by Brenda Shreve, and it was entitled Let Go and Let God. The text upon which the service was based was Micah 6:6-8.
    And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Verse 8b)
    Notice that the verse does not call upon us to seek retribution. She spoke about letting go of whatever is keeping us from living humbly -- to live in obedience to God. One of my favorite lines from the sermon --> If God controls you on the inside, you will be genuine on the outside. She asked us to write on a card what we needed to release and to come to the altar and drop it in clay jars placed there.

    Without going into major details, on my card I wrote the name of a person with whom I have a rather strained relationship. A few things struck me about this "letting go."

    1. I have a poor relationship with this person for several reasons, but some of them are things which he does that I cannot control. I can't imagine that I will suddenly become OK with his behavior. What I decided is that I will endeavor to pray for this person -- not that God would change his heart or his actions to please me, but I will try to pray FOR him.
    2. It was very emotional service. Obviously, there were people who were giving up very deep problems -- much more deep rooted and troublesome than my own. After I returned to my seat, and picked up my bulletin to begin singing as the "letting go" continued, I saw that the song was Spirit Song. I was certain that I would not make it throught that song without tears. I was just about to decide to not sing it, when I looked at the altar rail and watched all of the men and women praying and dropping cards into the containers provided. It occured to me that I should sing for them -- that they needed the song to be sung by the congregation for them as they prayed. So I did, and I made it through the entire thing. I wonder if that is one of the blessings of releasing problems like this -- it takes the focus off of ourselves. God is able to point out to us opportunties we have to be a blessing to someone else -- opportunities that we would miss if we are only looking at ourselves.
    3. We ended with a prayer which included a request to God for the ability to trust in him. I haven't done that in this situation. I haven't trusted in God. Surrendering it to God means trusting him to take care of it.

    So I will pray, and I will look outside myself, and I will trust God. He is trustworthy.

    Images: Sundial window in the West Chapel of the Wesley Chapel building. A couple of days ago, I posted a picture of the windows from the outside - this once is from the inside during the day. The second image is the altar for this morning's service. The ppt slides of leaves is part of the Prelude -- music played to nature scenes with a paraphrase of Psalm 23. It was wonderful.

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    Here's WabiSabi

    Our associate pastor's husband, who is the chairman of the Commission on Children and Poverty (forgive me, Jim, if I have that wrong), delivered the Children's moment in the worship service this morning.

    Here's Jim..... (this is for you, MzDavinci (that's Jim's mom)).

    The worship service this morning was wonderful -- I'm sure I'll blog about it later.


    Friday, June 08, 2007

    Holding up our hands

    The worship service this evening at Annual Conference was a Memorial service. Candles were lit for clergy or spouse of clergy who had died this year. It was a very solemn, wonderful service. As each name was read, a family member came to the altar, escorted by a District Superintendent. The family member lit the candle, and anyone in the congregation whose life had "been touched in some way" by the person who had died was invited to stand in support. It was with honor that we were able to stand as a candle for Dick was lit, and to stand for our church as a candle for Dr. Wallace was lit.

    The sermon this evening was delivered by Dr. Ellis Conley. He's a wonderful preacher. The scripture for the message was Philipians 1:3-7. He also used a story in Exodus 17. In this scripture, the Israelites were battling the Amalekites. Moses stood on a mountain, where everyone could see him. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites were winning. As he grew tired, and his arms drooped, they began to loose the battle. Aaron and Hur worked to assist him and held arms up. (Verse 12)
    When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
    Dr. Conley asked us to remember and think about those who hold up our arms. Who are those people who have supported up; who hold up our hands -- even when we aren't even aware that someone is helping us.

    I thought about listing all of those who have held up my arms in support, when I was weary or discouraged. I decided no to do that; I would inevitabily leave someeone important off the list. But think about that question. Who in your life has worked to hold up your arms when you were not able to?Images: First is the altar for the memorial service this evening. The middle picture is the altar the morning service. Thirdly, is the gorgeous sunset.


    Thursday, June 07, 2007


    It's late, and I'm too tired to com e up with words of my own, but here are some images, and some echoes of phrases that I heard today:

    • Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles to watch you burn (J Wesley)
    • It's time to give them something to talk about! (Bishop Lyght)
    • Child, when you are delivering a sermon, a message or a presentation, whatever -- make the point and sit down (quoted by James Salley)
    • Maybe we need to believe what we preach! (James Salley)

    Creator of the stars of night, thy people's ever lasting light, O Christ redeemer, save us all, and hear thy servants when they call (Creator of the Stars of Night).

    Images: John Wesley stature in front of Wesley Chapel, one of the windows in the chapel, four windows in the meditation chapel from the outside, the altar from the Vespers Service tonight, and stars as danced in the processional during worship service this evening.