Saturday, May 31, 2008

Morning Prayer

I've liturgist tomorrow. Part of my job is to do the morning prayer. While I have gotten much more comfortable with praying "on the spot" with no prep work, I'm writing this one ahead of time. This is what I have:

Heavenly Father,

Our memories are short. You remind us time and time again that if we will place our trust in you, if we will listen for your word and obey you, that our lives will be built on a sure, solid foundation. But we forget. We trudge through the sand of disobedience, and we struggle to regain our footing on ground which is sinking.

Lead us Lord. Lead us to you. Forgive us when we forget. Remind us to place our faith in you.

There are those among our community today who are sick, who are hurting, who are lost. Wrap them in your care, make known to them your presence. Bring healing to all of us — heal our bodies, heal our spirits, heal our hearts and heal our minds. Make us complete, and give us firm ground upon which to stand.

We await your grace today. We ache for its transforming power. Light your fire in our lives, God. Change us so that we stop forgetting you. Change us so that our first thoughts turn to you instead of to all of the distractions in our lives.

Grant us that firm foundation, Lord, so that when we reach out to your children, our footing is secure, and we can share your love with all of those around us.

Remind us, God, to remember you. Remind us through the strength of your presence, through the love and comfort of those around us, and through the words of the prayer that your son has taught to us all….


Friday, May 30, 2008

Mark my words

Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28

You are my child.
I claim you as my own.

Mark my words.
Remember me.
Engrave my words in your memory.
Let them sink into your heart and soul.
See my fingerprints on your hands
And my image on your face.
You are my child.
I have created you,
and I claim you as my own.

Speak of me.
Tell your children about me.
Grasp every opportunity to bring me
into their lives.
In the morning,
In the evening
At home,
Never let me be forgotten.

Engrave my words on your door frames
So that you can read them from inside your house.
Paint them on your fences,
So that your neighbors can know who I am.
Tell everyone about grace
Tell them about me.
Show them who I am,
so that your days will be bright with my light
And your children will know whose they are.

You are my child.
I claim you as my own,
from now until forever,
as long as the heavens are above the earth.

Hear me.
Remember me.
Speak of me.
Know the blessing of my presence
instead of the pain of life on your own.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Taste of Infinity

This quote arrived in my email today:
One aspect of serving others is listening to the call within to express your gifts—those talents you have that make you feel infinite when you are doing them. When we express those gifts, the Holy Spirit works through us in ways we may never know directly, touching the lives, hearts, and minds of others. (Joanna Bates; Environmental scientist, dancer, and writer)
For a while now I've believed that using the gifts that God has given you in service to his mission in the world will bring joy. It infuses us with a lightness, and brings a satisfaction that is hard to match with anything else.

What I have never compared it to, though, is a feeling of infinity, but I like the comparison. I like the idea that using one's spiritual gifts is an invitation to the Holy Spirit. I like the idea that it makes us feel infinite. There is truth in that. We are infinite beings, made in the image of God. It is perhaps when we use the gifts that he has given us that we feel the closest to him, and become the most aware of our true natures. When we are guided by his gifts in the way we act, then we are beginning to live into the potential with which he has graced us. The spirit comes near.

It is a taste of the Kingdom of God. And when that is our address, we know infinity.

Light the fire
(light the fire)
In my soul
(in my weary soul)
Fan the flame
(fan the flame)
Make me whole
(make my spirit whole)
Lord, You know
(Lord, You know)
Just where I've been
(where I've been)
So light the fire in my heart again (Sonic Flood)


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

God is here

I found this post a while back, and added it to my Google Notebook, saving it for a post someday:
God is here -- Is it arrogant to invite him to worship? My Sunday morning greeting, “God is here and you are welcome” is meant to be a kind of congratulations on choosing to be here this morning. A way for me to say on behalf of the congregation, “High five on getting up and getting dressed this morning. Kudos on doing whatever it took you to get to church. You made the right choice.” I don’t say it every week, but I say it often. This morning I wonder if it a presumptuous thing to say. We Presbyterians don’t pray an invocation in our worship services because an invocation is an invitation to God, and we are not yet so arrogant to think that we can invite God to God’s own house. So I declare instead that God is already here. But do I—do we—really have the right to declare that?
In my church, we begin worship with a Call to Worship and an Invocation. I thought I would share why I think we do it:

  • I think that the Call to Worship is a message to the congregation -- you've made it to the room, now step forward and come into Worship. It's also a time to ask God to join us in the act of worship. God inhabits the praise of his people. I'm confident he'll come if we seek him. I think the call to worship reminds us of that.
  • Invocation -- Hopefully, we know that God is already in the house. I think we invite him to do more than that in the invocation. We invite him to come into our hearts and minds. God is God, but he will only enter into our lives if we invite him -- he has given us the choice.
  • As for declaring that God is present, isn't that what we are called to do everyday, all the time, for all of those people around us? As a community, don't we point to God and say, "Please pay attention -- God is here with us."
I don't think any of it is arrogant. I think it is the beginning of worship.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Do you ever get the feeling, when you are involved in bible study or Sunday school classes, that the conclusions which are being reached are just too easy? Too one-dimensional? Too much based on one piece of scripture and not on the whole of the Bible?

Sometimes, looking at one passage of scripture, the conclusions can seem obvious, but even so, won’t feel right.

I was reading a post on the United Methodist Reporter blog, but it was a couple of the comments which caught my attention.

  • One of them proposes that there is wisdom and truth in the idea that the book of Ecclesiastes follows Proverbs. “Proverbs is full of great, practical wisdom: be frugal, be diligent, be honest, don't run around on your wife, and you'll live a long and happy life….Turn the page, and Ecclesiastes says, "You know all that stuff about how your virtuous efforts will pay off? Fuhgeddaboutit." Life isn't fair. Stuff happens.” The truth is, we know that both of these are true – we know that there are positive consequences to good decisions, as much as we know that sometimes “stuff” happens, even when we’ve done everything “right.” The truth is that we need both books in order to understand that. Conclusions drawn from just one of them will be too one-dimensional. Life is more complicated than that.
  • Another commenter suggested that Romans and James were a combination that offered truth together. Some might say that Paul and James are in opposition to each other, but this writer believes that the two letters do not contradict each other, but that they approach the idea of faith and works just with different emphases, depending on the errors of their audiences. Both are a look at the truth.
I think one of the traps of studying the bible is that our angle of vision can become too narrow. We look at the word of God with a microview. I think that we must listen to those nagging doubts we have, and that we should always ask ourselves the question, “Does this conclusion, based on this one verse, even as perfect as it seems, fit in with what I have learned about God from the entire Bible?” Don’t belittle that question, because it’s important, and it leads to truth.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Whose Funeral?

“That’s my instruction for my funeral,” said Rachel. “Now listen, the only hope I have is the relationship you and I have. I don’t have any kids or near relatives to interfere so how my funeral is done is completely up to you. I’ve already called Jake down at the funeral home. He knows you’re in charge. You’ll follow those instructions; won’t you?” (From a story on the Questing Parson).
I was at a funeral on Saturday. Part of the message that the minister delivered involved a story of how he had met with the person who had died, and how she (the deceased) had shared with him her wishes for her funeral.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a well planned and spiritual memorial service. In fact, during the service, I leaned over to Steve, and said, “If you used these four hymns at my memorial service, I would be happy – except the first one. Use Be Thou My Vision instead.”

My question is this – Who is a funeral for? Is it for the person who died? Or is it for those who remain, who mourn the death? If we believe that life goes on, that we have been given eternal life (or if we don’t believe that) then what the rationale for the person who has died to plan the funeral?

I’m being facetious, but I do wonder. I know that families want to follow the wishes of the one who has died. It’s respectful and perhaps it serves the purpose of relieving the mourning family of planning the service, which is a good thing. So go for it, and plan your funeral. Just don’t do it under the false belief that once you have died, you are going to care in the least about the service that celebrates your life. You’ll be too busy basking in the presence of God!

Image: Sunset from the Target hill on Saturday.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

On his hands

One of the lectionary readings for the week is Isaiah 49:8-16a.
But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands. (verses 14-16a)
Whenever I read this psalm, I am struck by the phrase that I placed in bold above.

The devotional for the day in Disciplines, that used this passage, said that God holds us so close that we are like his fingerprints, inscribed on the palms of his hands -- a part of him. That's a good image; I like it.

It's not the one that comes to mind when I read that sentence, though. "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands." Think of Jesus' hands. What is inscribed on his palms? The marks of the nails. Inscribed on his hands is the tremendous love that he holds for each of us. He will not forget us; he will not forsake us. His love for us is inscribed on his hands.


Saturday, May 24, 2008


We were in Pied Piper (a music store) today -- G wanted to look at guitars. While he was occupied with that, I wondered around the store. A large section of this store is dedicated to percussion instruments. As I strolled among the drums, I tapped lightly on each one -- bongos, congas, drums -- all of different sizes and designs. I've never paid much attention before, but each one had its own voice and its own sound.

I also read this post today, by Andy at Enter the Rainbow (God's Language). On Pentecost, Andy asked his children's moment crowd what language God speaks. They decided at first, that God speaks all languages. Then one little boy suggested that God speaks God's language. His little sister theorized that God language is composed of all of our languages. Wise children.

Andy discusses this further, liking the idea that God have given each of us -- those who speak English, Spanish, French, the language of youth, the language of those who live in the city, of those who live in the South -- you get the idea -- that God has given each of us some of his own language. He has also given us, through the spirit, the ability to speak to each other and to understand each other.

Andy says:
But now I think rather that Pentecost reinforces Babel, emphasizing the reality that God has made people different - cultures, places, languages, ages, etc. The Holy Spirit then empowers us to connect with each other within that diversity, it does not eliminate that diversity for the sake of an artificially imposed uniformity.
All of the percussion instruments speak a different language -- each has its own voice and character. When we hear them together, played by an expert, we are amazed by what emerges. Diversity -- when played together -- creates beautiful music.

And as I have heard before, if we listen carefully, we will hear God in the silence between the drumbeats.

Image: Sky on the way home on a day this week.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Easy Button

I was at Staples today. Have you ever noticed that you can buy an "easy button?" It costs $6. A bargain, of course, if it really did what is advertised in their commercials. A $6 gimmick, actually.

There is a whole lot that seems to be appealing about a button that will bring supplies, get you organized and solve all of your problems. Six dollars? A bargain.

Of course, it doesn't really work. Nevertheless, we often search for the "easy button" in life.

Do we want an easy religion?

  • Do we want life in a church to be easy? Do we desire that everyone in the congregation will be like we are? Our economic status? Our age? Our race? Do we ever wish for it to be easy to join together as the body of Christ?
  • Do we want to avoid problems which don't have easy solutions? Do we strive to avoid the hard work of ministry?
  • Do we wish it were easier to serve God? Do we hope that the "least of these" will just stay at the mission and not bother us?
  • Do we want worship only the way we like it, so that we do not stretch in our style of worship? Do we always want to be comfortable in the sanctuary?
  • Do we hope that it will be easy to focus on God, and that the distractions like noisy children, obnoxious youth and a female pastor who demands a voice in church would just go away?
  • Do we wish that hospitality were not necessary and that visitors would just come on in, find their way around, and sit quietly on their hands without making demands on us?
  • Do we hope that those who try to make faith to difficult to understand would just keep their strange ideas to themselves?

Do we wish our churches had an "easy button?" When will we realize that Christianity is not easy and never will be?


Thursday, May 22, 2008


One of the lectionary readings for the week is 1 Corinithians 4:1-5:

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
Judgement. I noticed a few things in this passage that made me ask questions:

  • I had never connected the idea of being trustworthy and non-judgmental, but when I think about, there have probably been times when I have judged other people, and it has made me a less capable servant of God.
  • "I do not even judge myself." Right. Not judge myself? How does one go about preventing that?

Could it be that judgment is belittling? Could it be that as we judge other or we judge ourselves that we see the one who is judged as less? In God's eyes, we are never less. We are always his children.

Image: Dogwood in Ritter Park last weekend -- I thought we were done with dogwood, and there they were.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Community Flowers

Yes, I know that you've seen this picture before. I want to take another look at it, though.

I took it in Ripley, WV. It's just a weed, but I really like the picture. Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that it's not a flower? It's actually hundreds of flowers. Daisies are composites -- an advanced flower (evolutionarily). Take a look at the second picture -- each yellow spot, each white "petal" is actually a single flower.

So what?

I think that composite flowers are a great example of community. Take a look at the close-up again. It reminds me of Christian community.
  • The white petals are very showey; the yellow ones are hardly noticeable. Both are invaluable in creating an organism -- just as we are all members of the Body of Christ.
  • Look at the arrangement of the yellow flowers - they swirl around the center. Does it seemed to you that they are arranged as God intended?
  • The beauty of the plant is only seen when all of the elements are viewed together. There is beauty of community that we only can see when everyone is together.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Honest Witness

First, a milestone. This is post #1000. I knew it was coming, but I thought it was a few posts away. Post #1000.


I mentioned earlier that I have started a new job. My new job is very much unrelated to my old job. My old job was in diabetes research; my new job is with a faith-based foundation.

I was in a meeting today with a gentleman who is not related to the church. He asked, "What caused you to make such a dramatic change?"

I looked at him and didn't know what to say. So I said, "God. I've been waiting for something to come along, and this is it."

I was thinking about this answer on the way home. After I said it, I new it was true, but I felt uncomfortable with it -- not with the truth of it, but with the honesty of it -- honesty with someone I had never met before, who was not part of the church. It certainly doesn't feel like a very business savvy answer.

In my old job, I couldn't talk about my faith. The only way that I could witness to my faith was in the way I acted -- in the way I treated other people. It was a silent witness. I realized on the way home that one of the reasons that this job feels right is that because I am working in a church-related position, I will be able to share my faith -- to witness to God -- in a verbal manner as well as through actions. That's a good thing.

I was reading a file today, going through the paperwork of an endowment. I had this strong feel that while this foundation does act as a trustee of funds, it also acts as a trustee of people's acts of agape. While we enable ministry through funding, we also are a repository of acts of faith. Reading the files, I was privileged to read people's witness of God's presence in their lives.

It could be that my very honest answer to a stranger was a bad business move. Perhaps it could be the wrong way to act in a business meeting. Maybe I need to craft a better answer to that question.

I do wonder, though, that if I believe that God has moved me into the place, then just maybe, even if it is uncomfortable and unusual, that I should present an honest witness.

I'll have to think more about it.

Image: Stained glass at First UMC, Ashland


Monday, May 19, 2008

Know the Lord

As I mentioned earlier, I started a new job last week. Part of this position involves making contacts with people throughout the state.

I've been meeting people all week, at different churches, different meetings. I've always had a problem remembering names.

As I was driving home this evening, I realized something. After I've talked with someone, gotten to know him or her a little more than a brief introduction, then it is much easier to remember a name. I know that sounds obvious, but I hadn't thought about that before.

One of the verses that I talked about yesterday was "Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome." It occurs to me that it would be easier to remember the Lord -- to remember the greatness of the Lord -- when we have a relationship with him. Want to remember the greatness of the Lord? Get to know him. Spend some time in his presence. Have a conversation with him. I imagine once you meet him face to face, then he is rather difficult to forget.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lessons from Nehemiah

I taught Sunday school today based on Nehemiah 4:1-15. This is a passage in which the ruler of Samaria is trying to discourage the people working with Nehemiah to rebuild the wall.

Even though this is a passage about something which seems far in the past and very disconnected from our present day world, I think there are many messages in it for us.
  • In response to the threat, Nehemiah enlists other people to help him to continue the work of God. Do we do that? Do we reach for help when we need it, or do we try to be independent and to push forward alone?
  • Look at verse 9: "So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as protection against them day and night.” First they prayed. Do we respond to problems with prayer? Is it our first option? Shouldn't it be?
  • After they prayed, they took action. Prayer was the preparation for their response of action.
  • And then this verse: "Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome." Isn't that a great sentence? Do we always remember that the Lord is great and awesome, or do forget to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit? Is that part of faith? Remembering the power of God?
Nehemiah was a great leader. He remembered that the role of a leader is not to do all of the work, but to gracefully inspire those around him to share their gifts. He knew the power of a relationship with God, and used prayer as a tool of communication with his God. He then took action (a step we sometimes forget to take). Through it all, he trusted in God and continued to believe in his power.

    Labels: , ,


    I was in a meeting today that didn't go very well. There were eight of us in this discussion, and three of those who were there were negative in their outlook of what was happening around them.

    What role of attitude play in ministry? I believe that there are times for constructive criticism and for the discussion of problems. I think that it is essential for growth. However, when does that kind of discussion become what might be called a bi*ch session? Is there a way to tell the difference?

    Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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. (Philippians 4:8)

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Never Underestimate the Power of God

    Have you ever been underestimated? Have you ever been in a situation where the person who was talking to or about you gave you less credit than was probably wise? A few days ago, it happened to me. It created an awkward situation, because I really wanted to stand up and say, "You don't know me. Don't underestimate me."

    Do you think God ever want to stand up and say, "You don't know me -- you couldn't possibly know me, because you are underestimating me."

    At the Emmaus gathering tonight, the Fourth Day speaker read a passage from a book called "Jesus Drives me Crazy." The book said that Christians are nuts -- they never underestimate the spirit.

    Trusting God, believing that he will keep his promises, and understanding that to him the impossible doesn't exist, comes from knowing him. A closeness to God will bring with it, by necessity, the inability to underestimate him.

    When we are able to trust him, then I think we are able to experience the power of God.


    Thursday, May 15, 2008


    Long day -- tired tonight.

    This image is of a dogwood tree at Spring Heights. I like it because it is SO MANY flowers. There is beauty in a single flower -- it is unique and perfect. This image reminds me, though, that there is beauty in many flowers, seen together.

    Each of us is a child of God, beautiful and unique, claimed and beloved of God. There is a loveliness to community, too, though. Together, we create something which none of us can be on our own. We create community. And it is beautiful.


    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Covenant Community

    As part of our youth retreat, we talked to the kids about God's vision and mission for our church.

    The beginning of that statement calls our church a "covenant community." JtM asked them what it means to be a covenant community. I thought their answers were interesting:

    Covenant -- promised, united, together, desirable, bargain, agreement, reliable, trusting.

    Community -- together, population, relationship, community, harmony.
    One of the youth defined it as a "group of people working together for a common goal. We talked about a covenant community as a group which shares tolerance moving toward acceptance.

    To me they are a living example of a covenant community. The youth from our church, as different as the individual members are, share the love of Christ with each other. I think that they came pretty close to defining covenant community with words, but I think that they "get" it by the way they walk together as a youth fellowship.

    Many are the times when I know that I learn more from them than I could ever teach them. I am blessed to have a small role in their group.

    Image: Cabin at Spring Heights -- doesn't it look like home?

    Labels: ,

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Into the Wind

    Our dog likes to lay on the couch when I'm sitting there watching television. She has a pillow at the end of the couch, but she doesn't want to sleep there. She wants to sleep right up against me, instead. She's comfortable there. Safe.

    I may push her back to her pillow, but she ignores me and comes back up to snuggle right against me.

    Do we ever get that way? Do we get so comfortable where we are or with what we are doing that we refuse to change?

    In the sermon on Sunday, Carol said that if you want to catch the wind (think of a windmill) then you have to be where the wind is blowing.

    Blowing wind doesn't always feel comfortable or safe. In fact sometimes it feels scary and wild. We struggle as individuals and as churches to stay safe. We want to stay where we are.

    God's will, God's breath, is in the wind. Sometimes to catch it, we have to step out of our comfort zone -- out of our safe spot, and into the wind.


    Monday, May 12, 2008

    First day thoughts

    I started a new job today. It's a drastic change from what I have been doing. I've been thinking about this change for many weeks, and praying about it. My prayer has been that God would lead me through this -- that his will would be done.

    As I've gone through this process, I have felt that I have been making the right decisions. I have been hopeful that I have been. Discernment is not a piece of cake, though. God doesn't come out of the clouds and leave an email. How does God speak to us? For me, sometimes, it is just that as I pray, or as I think about what is on my mind, odd thoughts or phrases will pop into my mind. I've come to believe that, sometimes, these are thoughts led by God -- engineered by God, perhaps.

    This morning, I was doing my morning devotion, and then praying. Here is how it went (and while this isn't exactly what I prayed, the thoughts are the same -- there's no way that I could completely, accurately recreate it:

    Heavenly Father,

    Today I start a new job. I pray that you will lead me through this -- that this is your will, and that you will equip me for what I need to do.

    Thank you, God, for this weekend. Thank you for leading us all through the grace of this weekend -- through the baptism on Saturday, the worship service and confirmation on Sunday, time with family, time with friends. Thank you for your close and obvious presence this weekend.

    Lead me Lord. Lead me in thy righteousness. Make thy way plain before my face. (That's a song, and it came to my mind.)

    Then this thought -- If you know that I will lead you through the events of the weekend, why will you not believe that I will lead you through this major change in your life?

    There was a moment of recognition of the rightness of this statement in my mind. And then the phrase, "Rest assured," came to my mind.


    I was left with a sense of peace and assurance. Isn't that a great gift to receive on your first day of work?


    Sunday, May 11, 2008

    Ring the Bells

    Ring the bells!
    Celebrate with joy!
    Ring the bells and proclaim the presence of God.

    Two baptisms.
    Claimed by God and called beloved.
    Brought into the family of God.

    Ring the bells!
    Celebrate with joy!
    Ring the bells and proclaim the presence of God.

    The wind of the spirit rushes in,
    Filling us with grace,
    Empowering us with love.

    Ring the bells!
    Celebrate with joy!
    Ring the bells and proclaim the presence of God.

    Seven young men and women
    stated their faith in God
    and vowed to support the church.

    Ring the bells!
    Celebrate with joy!
    Ring the bells and proclaim the presence of God.

    Is it a miracle when a youth
    believes in what is invisible?
    When he changes his life in response to grace?

    Ring the bells!
    Celebrate with joy!
    Ring the bells and do proclaim the presence of God!


    Saturday, May 10, 2008


    And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. Mark 1:10
    We went to a baptism service this evening. Our district superintendent, who was also the baptized person's great uncle, performed the ritual And he did a wonderful job. If one of the roles of a pastor is to show us the presence of God, the DS did that tonight. In his calm and quiet way, he told us the nature of God.
    He told the young man (one of our youth) that he had been claimed by God, and was his beloved. He talked to him about the meaning of baptism. As he told him, he told us.
    He then immersed his nephew. Of course, the young man was soaked when the baptism was finished. The DS was wet, too. It occurred to me, watching, worshipping, that a person cannot baptize another person without getting wet himself.
    I didn't baptize this young man, but I walked away wet, showered and soaked in grace. If we are witnesses to God's claim on this young man, then we are also witnesses to the presence of God himself. I was reminded of God's own claim of me, his beloved. And I was drenched in the water of baptism.
    Image: Cross at Spring Heights.

    Labels: ,

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    Venti Changes

    I was listening to the radio this morning. The two women hosting the talk show were discussing Starbucks and how silly the ordering of a coffee has become. One of them was particularly proud of herself for ordering a "large" the other day (instead of using the meaningless word "venti." )

    In June of last year, I was complaining about the lingo used at Starbucks to designate drink size. The ubiquitous coffee shop had finally arrived in Huntington, and I was having trouble remembering which large word was which.

    Since then, I've been to Starbucks more than countless times. The language has become second nature to me, and I don't even think about how grande being medium and tall being small is really an odd thing. The Starbucks culture has "corrupted" me.

    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
    It is so easy to be conformed to the world. In fact, sometimes we have to work very hard to NOT be conformed to the nature of our society and the world. It is a whole different matter to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Tranformation is a gift of grace. It's something that God does for us. Thanks be to God, because I know I would not make that kind of change without grace.


    Thursday, May 08, 2008


    One of the scriptures that JtM used in the retreat booklet was from Psalm 1:

    They are like trees planted by streams of water,which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.In all that they do, they prosper.

    It made me wonder if we draw strength from the trees which are planted close to us. As I read it, I wondered if our society places such a high priority on Independence if we ever lean on the trees which stand close to us.

    Is independence a barrier to the grace of God? Do we desire so much to stand separate and strong that we fail to accept grace from those around us? Do we miss God because we won't see his strength in those around us?

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    Foggy Cross


    Tuesday, May 06, 2008


    JtM, is is one of the youth leaders, prepared a booklet for the youth for the retreat. As part of their Saturday morning watch, he included a piece of Psalm 5. One of my favorite verses:

    Every morning you'll hear me at it again. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend.
    I think that's a great verse.

    • "Pieces of my life" -- there is something important in the idea of knowing that our life is in pieces, and that we are in need of healing from our God.
    • "Every morning" -- How often do we need to touch base with God? Every morning. We need to reconnect with God on a regular basis.
    • "on your altar" -- Where do we take these pieces? To God.
    • "And wait for fire to descend." I love that phrase. We are waiting for fire to descend. We know that power comes from God. We know that God will make a difference in our lives, or why else would we expect fire?"


    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Ready, Set, Go

    One of the lectionary readings for last week was Acts 1:6-14 -- the Ascension. As I read it, a few phrases popped out at me:

    1. The disciples' actions demonstrated that they lived in expectation of something miraculous happening. Do we expect miracles?
    2. The disciples were looking in the wrong direction. They were looking where Jesus HAD BEEN, rather than where he was going? Do we do that?
    3. To be a witness is to share something that you have personally seen. In order to be a witness, we must first have had first hand knowledge of him.

    They spent 3 years learning about Christ so that they could share his glory with the world.

    Get ready -- grow in relationship with God. Be set -- live in expectation of a miracle. Go -- go in the right direction and share the glory of God.

    And the Spirit of God will empower you.

    Image: Spring Heights cross.


    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    The Shadow of the Cross

    I will turn my eyes toward the cross
    and wait there for God.

    The sky may be overcast,
    the clouds may block the light,
    but I have faith that God sees all.

    He knows my heart.
    He feels it beating,
    even when I turn away.

    Surely when I stand
    at the foot of the cross
    He will draw me close,
    wrap me in His grace
    and carry me.

    He will be there
    even when the clouds block the light.
    Nothing can dim the Light
    in the shadow of the Cross.


    Saturday, May 03, 2008

    A good thing

    Why build a retreat center on a mountain in the middle of no where? Why drive 11 youth, two rented rattletrap vans, four adults, two ministers and their spouses all the way to a retreat center on a mountain in the middle of nowhere?

    Because God's voice seems to be louder when the world is quieter.

    Because sometimes nature speaks volumes for the presence of God.

    Because there are times when if we will turn our eyes toward each other, and away from the distractions of the world, we will see God in the fellowship of Christians.

    Retreat. It's a good thing.


    Friday, May 02, 2008


    We took our youth group on retreat this weekend (and yes, I'm backdating a couple of posts -- the retreat center has no cell phone service and certainly no internet).

    Why take youth on a retreat? What will they learn? I hope that they learn, if only in a subconscious level:

    • When the youth are feeling far from
      God, I hope that they realize that sometimes it is necessary to take the time to dedicate to God. It's important.
    • When they do their morning watch, I hope they learn that to study and to think about God's word is to invite him into your life.
    • I hope that when we tell them that church members are praying for them, and when we ask them to pray for other people, that they come to an understanding that church members support each other in prayer (as well as in more tangible ways).
    • I hope they learn that spending time with friends who believe as they do can be as if they are planted close to a stream, near other Christians. We draw strength from each other. We draw strength from God through each other.
    • Time spent with God can be fun; can be fellowship. It is something to look forward to.

    Image: Window in the cabin, looking outward.


    Thursday, May 01, 2008

    Cheerful Things

    I saw a post on St. Casserole called Cheerful Things. I like the sound of that, so here's my list:
    1. My older son, when he's in a good mood. He's infectious with cheerfulness then.
    2. Our dog, when she's "being cute" at the top of the stairs.
    3. Coffee with our friends
    4. The birdfeeders
    5. Today's weather
    6. Friday at 5:00 when the weekend begins
    7. Free time at Panera with my computer and good internet signal
    8. Time to read and a good book
    9. When people say yes.
    10. Loud music, windows rolled down, driving.