Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rainbow Promises

I was driving to work the other day when I noticed a small bit of rainbow poking out between the clouds of the overcast sky. It wasn't raining; this little bit of refracted light.

Do you think that there is symbolism in rainbows -- reminders of God's promises?

How reliable are God's promises? Do we walk through life not really expecting that His promises are real? Are we surprised when we see evidence of one, like I was surprised by this tiny bit of a rainbow?

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
We can hold on to our hope, for God's promises is what bridges the distance between faith and hope. His promises are reliable and truthful, because he is a faithful God.

  • For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
  • And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Sometimes it feels like we can only see a tiny peak at God. We need to remember that God is faithful, and his promises are sure.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

God Will Find a Way

One of the lectionary readings for this week is from Matthew 14:13-21 -- the Feeding of the 5000. Take a look at this verse:

Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."

"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.
The Disciplines reading for this passage stresses the word "only." We focus on the "only" of our situations.
  • We only have enough money to feed 20 people -- the rest will have to find another way to get a meal.
  • We only have 5 regular volunteers -- that's not enough people to staff a vacation Bible school
  • We can only sing hymns that are played on the organ -- no one would like anything else.

Compare that to this:

At the installation service on Sunday, Ken Ramsey asked us to pray for our individual churches. Then he asked us to sing --

God will make a way where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see; He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day.
He will make a way; He will make a way.

Can we really say "only" if we believe that God will make a way? They seem to me to be statements which cannot be uttered in the same breath.

Image: Red leaf from Spring Heights


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Ken Ramsey told a Max Lucado story.

There were three men who had traveled a large distance to go fishing. The first day, the weather was so bad that they couldn't go out and fish. They stayed in their camper, playing cards, talking. On the second day, the rain just got worse. They continued to stay in the camper, even though the shine on their entertainment was wearing thin.

On the third day, they began to lose patience with each other. One had a stinky attitude, and stinky feet. Another annoyed his friends to no end. The longer they had to stay cooped up in the camper, the worse it became.

Our churches can be like that. When we stayed cooped up in our churches, focusing only on what happens inside the church bulling, tension can build up between us. We start infighting and arguments.

Ken Ramsey said, "When fishermen don't fish, they fight."

Image: trees from Spring Heights

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Monday, July 28, 2008


We went to Dr. Ken Ramsey's installation as District Superintendent of the Wesleyan district on Sunday. Wonderful, wonderful worship.

His sermon was called, "All I can do is P.R.A.Y." Each letter of PRAY stood for something else:

P: Praise -- We need to praise God, and it doesn't matter what's happening to us -- happy or said, we need to praise God.

R: Reach -- Our mission is to reach out to others. Sometimes small matters become large matters in our church, but in order to combat fighting among ourselves, we need to reach beyond ourselves, and reach out.

A: Adjust our Attitude -- Can we match our own attitude to become more like God's attitude?

Y: Yield -- Do we yield our entire lives to Christ? To do so will bring us joy.

All we can do is PRAY.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008


I was reading blogs this morning, and ran across two entries which are completely unrelated -- or are they?

  1. This one, on Out of Ur, is called Is Manliness Next to Godliness? It's another one of those posts describing another one of those churches which is trying to attract men through testosterone enhanced Christianity (that's my phrase). There is a theory in these churches that if we decorate the space with masculine colors, talk about hunting and karate, and tell men to "grow a pair" (that's from lyrics in the article), then we will bring men into church.

  2. Then there is this post, a book review from Beth Quick, about the book Quaker Summer. Read this paragraph from Beth's review:

    I think that this book does an excellent job of zeroing in on the conundrum of many Christians, especially middle-class or affluent Christians (people, really) living in the United States. There is a longing, deep within, a knowledge, a lure, a feeling, that we are living in such a way that misses the point entirely. And yet, we are unable to free ourselves, change our lives, take any steps to let go of the things that are tying us down to an existence that is also killing us. We have a feeling about what we should do. We just can't seem to do it. Fear doing it. Desperately try anything other than doing what we should be doing.
One more unrelated statement. Our new pastor at JM is putting homework in our bulletin. He's listed the lectionary readings for the following week in each Sunday's bulletin. He doesn't "sugarcoat" it -- he calls it homework. What do you think calling it "homework" does in our minds? It says, at least to me, that there is an expectation that this will be done. It says to me (and to other people, I hope) that there is preparation to be done for worship. Come to worship having thought about God and his Word each week. Dig in, and put some effort forth. Those people to whom I have talked about this new addition like it. Could it be that we want the church to expect something from us? Could it be that we want to give of ourselves to our church, but that unless someone expects us to do so, then we won't?

Connect that the Beth Quick's review. She states that we each have deep longings that leave us with an emptiness. Sometimes we are afraid to take the step to meet those needs. Perhaps we need someone to have an expectation that we will take steps to grow closer to God? Could that deep longing we share be a longing for God?

Returning to where we started, I think this finally connects for me one of the reasons that I always have a problem with "man-church." We all -- men and women -- have an emptiness that needs filled by God. The attempts to have no expectation that men will bring any effort with them to church is like candy. It's sweet, but it's not nourishing. People need expectations. We need challenged. Presenting Jesus as a warrior who would have had no humility and no peacefulness makes him one dimensional, and assumes that men cannot stretch to understand the Jesus that is and was. It's demeaning to men because it sells them short. It offers no expectations. It doesn't fill the emptiness, and I wonder if it will lead to spiritual growth.

And isn't spiritual growth -- bringing people to God so that they can go out into the world -- the purpose of a church? Why do we so often fall into the trap of believing the purpose of a church is to increase attendance?

Image: Leaf on boardwalk railing at Spring Heights

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Saturday, July 26, 2008


Today we went up to Spring Heights -- the Education Center owned by the WV Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Today the Center celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

As we were wandering the grounds, we found this prayer labyrinth. I didn't know it was there -- I found out from my older son that it had been there when we took the youth to Spring Heights for our spring youth retreat. He had walked it then -- I hadn't even noticed it.

Anyway, today I walked my first labyrinth. During this experience, I couldn't help but compare it to our journey in faith.

  • My son, who walked to the middle by stepping over the lines and then exited the same way, waited for us outside the path. I'm sure he was watching us walk in circles, wondering why we would do such a thing. Do those who see us walked on our journeys of faith wonder what we are doing?
  • Our younger son raced through the labyrinth. He was distracting. Do we face distractions in our journeys? How do we react to them?
  • Steve also walked the path, in front of me. Sometimes I was slower than him; other times I was faster. Do we try to gauge our speed on these paths of faith by other people? Is that such a good idea?
  • As I walked the labyrinth, I came to realize that I couldn't tell where each turn of the path would lead me. We know the ultimate goal of faith, but we don't know where the path will take us in the short term. We can't predict path ahead of time, as much as we would try.
  • As I walked the path, there were times when it seemed that I was walking in the wrong direction, moving away from the goal. As someone who had just written two posts about feeling like I was in a rut, this spoke to me.
  • There are stumps in the labyrinth. I imagine that one of their purposes is to allow the walker to take a break. None of us took advantage of them. Do we ignore the chance to rest on our faith journeys?
  • The path was longer than we would have expected. It's a long path for a short distance. Do we need to be more patient with our faith journeys? Do we need to realize that the walk we take longer than we think it should?
  • I didn't really want to leave the center when I got there. This surprised me. Do we reach a time when we are close to God when we would rather not leave?
  • You can't get lost in a labyrinth. It's not a puzzle; it's just a path to a goal. I like the idea that we can't get lost on our faith journeys if we will just trust the designer.
  • There were a few times when I stubbed my foot on the rocks (sometimes, I'm just not graceful). We will do that in life, too.

I would like to do something like this again, without the boys (love them as I do). It's a strange thing to do, I think, and even stranger with someone watching. I think it does reveal things about our faith, though.


Friday, July 25, 2008


Last night we spent the night at Embassy Suites in Charleston. On the way back from dinner, I took this picture of Laidley Tower and the St. George Orthodox Church.

Looking at these two building - the very modern one and the one designed as a Cathedral, I was struck by the contrast.

How often do the beliefs of our faith contrast with the habits of modern society? Can those differences be as striking as the differences in these buildings? What is our reaction?

(This is posted one day late because we didn't have internet access last night -- shocking, I know!).


Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Treasure

Let's look at one more phrase from the Practicing Intentional Gratitude post that I mentioned yesterday. Going along with the idea of replacing "the kingdom of heaven is like" with "The love of God is like...," take a look at this verse:

God’s love for us is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, God’s love for us is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Do we sometimes ignore the presence of God because we do not understand the value of his love for us? Do we forget the value of having God involved in our lives?

When we are finally reminded -- when we see the "luster of the pearl" or how valuable the treasure of his love, what do we do?

We give ourselves to God. We submit to his leading. We turn our lives over to him. I'm not saying that we do it in "trade," but we do realize that God's love is so valuable to us - so transforming - that we can't help but place our lives in his hands.

And we celebrate our fortune to be a child of God.

Image: Window from Dunbar United Methodist Church


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pay Attention

I was reading a blog post today on the blog Practicing Intentional Gratitude. Great post. When you have time, go read it.

She begins the post with the suggestion that we might find a new way to consider the Kingdom of God if we substitute "the kingdom of heaven is like" with "God's love is like."


God’s love for us is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

God’s love for us is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.
We so often overlook the work of God in our lives. We walk through life without seeing his touch, his love, his concern. Consider, though, one of last week's lectionary readings -- "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." God is all around us, and we don't know it.

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
I read somewhere that if we kept our eyes and ears open, that we would find rocks everywhere that were covered in oil, but we overlook them.

I mentioned yesterday that I felt like I was in a rut. One of the symptoms of that spiritual rut to me is that I'm not seeing oily stones. I'm not seeing the tiny ways in which God makes his presence known. I know he's here; the fact that I'm missing the evidence of his touch in everyday life doesn't mean that he's not there -- it means that I'm not paying attention.

I need to pay more attention.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A rut

Rut. Can one be in a discipline rut?
I find that I am not getting up early enough to read the devotional book that I use, the scripture that goes with it, or to pray.

I'm not in a class, I'm not teaching a class, and I'm not volunteering to teach Sunday school very often. The past two times I have taught, it's been an annual conference report -- not something that required study on my part.

I'm reading two books, and one of them is actually good, but I don't seem interested enough to pick either of them up to read them.

I am still writing for the blog, which I think is a discipline, but without devotions, study or reading, I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job at this, either.

What do you do when you feel like you are in a discipline rut? How do I motivate myself to get up earlier, to read, to study, to pray? I know myself, and I know that if I am interested enough, and feel like it is important enough, I'll make time for it, whatever it is.

Does a life of spiritual discipline have natural dips and crests? Should I expect this? Or should I worry? Do I force it to happen, or do I just wait in this time of quiet?

Are ruts to be expected or to be fought against? Both? Neither?

Image: Altar from opening worship of the School of Christian Mission

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Our Faith

This past weekend, I went to the School of Christian Mission, as I mentioned earlier. In the "I Believe in Jesus" class, Dr. John Hardman was discussing what forms our faith:

  • Believing in Jesus is a gift of God. This makes sense to me. On my own, could I believe that God is real, that he has power over the universe, that he sent his son to forgive my sins and to reveal God to me? I doubt it. But, with the spirit of God as part of me, around me, and helping me, I can believe it. Faith is a gift of God -- "prevenient grace."
  • Faith is based in scripture. He says that the object of scripture is help us to believe.
  • Faith is shaped by Christian community. I've known that, I think, but it was interesting to hear it described as something necessary to form our faith. I like the idea that we need community in order to work through what we believe. God gives us each other for many reasons, including as a means of grace to develop our faith.

Faith means that we live out our lives in "Christo" -- in Christ. He says that we don't believe in Jesus; we believe "into" Jesus. He is with us, so we can believe "into" him.

Image: The sky on the way to work today.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blogging Names

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals. Yes, I know it's Sunday.

  1. So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog? My CB radio "handle" when I was a kid was Sandpiper. I've always thought the birds were great, the way they dart in and out of the water. When I set up my knitting blog (which is Sandpiper Knits), I decided to use that name again. When I started this blog several months later, I adapted the Knitting blog name to this one. Ultimately, I like it because it reminds me of the beach, which I love.
  2. Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there? There are G and J, which refer to my two sons. JtM is Jeff the Methodist. Jeff goes to my church (I work with him now). I wrote a post one day, referring to Jeff the Baptist (a blogger) and his opinion on the ordination of women. Jeff, the United Methodist, put in his two cents worth (supporting the ordination of women) and stating that he was NOT Jeff the Baptist. Whenever he commented after that, he called himself Jeff the Methodist. I think that's a lot to type, so I shortened it to JtM. That's really the only "code names" on the blog.
  3. What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun? Um, hmm. There are many clever ones out there, but nothing is jumping to mind.
  4. What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals blog of course! Yarn Harlot (the only knitting blog that I still read). The blogs in my Bloglines account are listed to the right, under "Other People's Thoughts."
  5. Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why? No particular person introduced me to blogging. When I started knitting a few years ago, I started reading knitting blogs, and decided to start one. I no longer post on that blog, but I started this one over two years ago.

Bonus question: Have you ever met any of your blogging friends? Where are some of the places you've met these fun folks? No particularly interesting stories here. I know Carol of Smallest Angel and Jim of WabiSabi. I wish Linda would post to her blog, Pearls of Wisdom. On the first day of Annual Conference this year, we were looking for Tom Burger (the now retired Director of Communications). We didn't find him right away, but I met Laura Allen, our new Director of Communications. She was just starting Living Stones, so I got to see its birth. That was cool.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Change in Perspective

Have you ever been around someone who knows everything -- someone who always knows the answer?

Are there ever people around you who make judgments about the people around him, and who seems close-minded?

It's easy to make judgments. It's easy to think that we know all of the answers.

The problem is that we don't know all of the answers. It's rare that we know all of the facts in a situtation.

Yesterday, before I left West Vir ginia Wesleyan, I picked up my camera and went walking, taking pictures. This first one is of a tree on the campus. From my viewpiont, i t looked like one tree, standinga alone. But, when I stepped off to the right side, it could easily be seen that there was not just one tree, but a whole row of trees.

One person standing in one particular spot has a certain vantage point. We think we know everything, but we can't know what is behind the actions of another. To be so close-minded that we won't admit that we might be wrong, or that there could be other answers than the one we are considering.

Sometimes it just takes a change in perspective to see the big picture. That's why God is so good at it.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Memory or Sacrament

I went to a class at the School of Christian Mission (sponsored by our WV UMW) called "I Believe in Jeus." It was based on the book (of the same name) written by Bishop Minera G. Carcano. She is the Bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference of the UM Church. Now that I see her picture, I think I may have heard her speak in person at the Youth 2007 event, SPLAT.

The class was taught by the Rev. Dr. John Hardman. He said today that communion is becoming more memorial than sacrament. I wrote that phrase down for later thought.

memorial: 1 : serving to preserve remembrance : commemorative 2 : of or relating to memory

sacrament: a Christian rite (as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality

Do you agree with his statement?

I think at our church communion has come to mean that members can choose to stay or leave on communion Sundays. Sometimes I think in our church it is an extra, a bother or even a nuisance.

But what does it mean that it might be a memorial rather than a sacrament?

The definition of sacrament refers to a "means of grace." God is involved in communion. We can remember God without ever really becoming engaged with him. A sacrament requires engagement.

A memorial remembers something that is over, history. A sacrament celebrates a living God.

Is that what we want to celebrate, or do we want to allow communion to become just memory?


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Anniversary #21

Tomorrow is our anniverary -- 21 years.

We're celebrating tonight with dinner at Stonewall Resort's restaurant, Stillwaters.

We walked around a little after dinner. The image to the left is the two of us in the library, reflected in the glass of the window. You can see the bookshelves and the lake in the same picture.

He's tall. Yes, he is. He's been that tall since I met him.

Thank you, friends, for the flowers. They are beautiful. What a great gift to find in the room.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Letting Go

Songbird wrote:

But Jesus tells us clearly, he has come to upset the way things have always been.

I think it might be useful for church people to think about something in our faith community on which we rely, something we love, something we would never want to see changed, and imagine life without it. How might letting go of the thing we love make us understand or serve or simply love Jesus better?

I keep an electronic notebook (it's a google-thing, and a cool freebie) into which I place blog ideas. I pulled it up this evening and looked at the notes I had there, finding this quote.

It's a good question. How does letting go of something bring us closer to God?

Songbird said that she was pondering this. I refuse to ever ponder, but I will think about it.

Image: This is the altar in the chapel at St. Marks in Charleston.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gift Returns

Gift: 1 : a notable capacity, talent, or endowment 2 : something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation 3 : the act, right, or power of giving
Grace: 1 a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b: a virtue coming from God c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

What is a gift? For the purpose of this conversation, it is something given from one person to another. I know that there are other kinds of gifts - from God to us, for example, but let's just consider person to person gifts for now.

What do we give to each other? Attention. Reassurance. Affirmation. Physical gifts (presents). Good wishes.

For it to be truly a gift, then it needs to be given without thought of return. We need to give the gift without the expectation of something in return.

Do I always do that? Do I always share grace without the expectation of it being returned? Can any of us do that? What does the expectation of a return gift do to our giving? I think that it can rob us of joy. When we give in the expectation of a return of grace, then we can often be disappointed when the gift is not returned. We lose the joy of sharing grace and love.

Help me not to do that. Help me to give without the expectation of return. Amen.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Words and Actions

One of the favorite quotes of our past associate pastor was by St. Francis of Assisi -- "Preach the gospel at all times -- If necessary, use words."

Because of her blog, I pay attention to this quote whenever I see it. I was reading a blog a year or two ago which explored this quote. The author of the blog in question stated that he didn't like St. Francis' quote. He felt that we should always share our witness through words, and that to not do that was to fail at evangelism (note that I am widely rephrasing his thoughts, but that's my impression of what he meant.).

Does anyone besides me feel that that viewpoint is not quite right? I think that our witness to others can often be composed of our actions. Yes, I do think that there is an important place for the use of words; that our words "claim" our actions for God. Because of our words, the motivation behind our actions can be understood.

The problem is that our actions can easily negate our words unless our words and our actions work hand in hand. If you say you love people, then your actions should show it. If our actions are hate-filled, then it doesn't matter what our words are.

Then I found this quote in my email the other day:
The lack of a caring community that incarnates the Word makes us more and more incapable of being heard." -- Melba Meggay (Filipino Theologian).


Sunday, July 13, 2008


The Sunday school lesson today was taken from Mark 1:29-45. I have lots of thoughts about this passage, but tonight I'm going to focus on just one of them. Take a look at verses 40-45:
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
The question offered about this passage was, "The healed man went out and told people about Jesus when Jesus had told him not to. Was this a bad thing to do?"

To me the passage states that Jesus had asked the man to keep quiet. I can see the difficulty of doing this. If you had been healed from leprosy, wouldn't you find it hard to keep quiet, out of your joy in what had happened? And wouldn't it be hard to not explain it when you were once very sick, and now you were not? I can see how easy it would be to disobey, and how hard it would be to obey Jesus.

But the question asked if this was disobedience. I think it was. I think Jesus asked the man to keep it quiet for a reason. Because the man did not, Jesus had to make alternate plans. He had to go out into country instead of staying in the town. People did come to him, and that had to be a good thing, I would think, but I don't think it was the original plan.

I think this is an example of the circumstantial will of God. Jesus willed one thing. He had to take a different path because of our disobedience. His ultimate will was done, but not in the way that might have been the easiest or the way that was in the original plan.

How often do we complicate the plan? How often does God have to steer his actions in the world through a detour because of what we do?

This seemed to be a hard question for our class to answer, but I think the ex-leper disobeyed. I see why he did it, but the fact is (in my opinion) he did disobey. I don't know why the class seemed reluctant to say that. Why would it surprise us?


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Not to Heal

I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley this week. It was about the meaning of hope and faith, but as he spoke, he drifted into the idea of prayer.

One of his points was that while we may ask for healing, our prayers might be answered through a "no" from God. He says that God doesn't promise that he will always grant our prayers when we ask; and that sometimes we may find that God is not "willing" to say yes.

He was especially talking about healing -- that sometimes, even though we ask, God might not be willing to provide healing, even if we ask for it.

That bothered me. I think that God is always willing for us to be whole and healed. We would always be willing for our children to be healthy; I think that God is always willing for us to be healthy and whole, too. To think otherwise, I believe, sells God short.

When we are not healthy; when we don't receive healing when we ask for it, we can be pretty quick to say that God is saying "no" and that it might be that God is just not willing for us to be rid of the illness we are fighting.

I think that God loves us. I also think that God will never be unwilling for us to be healed. I believe that God can intervene; he can miraculously heal us, but that he only does that very rarely. God's will is for us to be healed, but he has set the world in motion, and he choose to not intervene very often through miraculous means.

I do think, though, that saying that those who pray, and yet are not healed of their illness, are sick because God is not willing for them to be well, would be placing God in a very unloving position.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Chapel Windows

I mentioned in an earlier post that I thought the windows in the chapel at St. Mark's UMC were interesting and that I would go back one day and take some images for the blog. I was off today, but stopped by the office for another reason -- I went into the chapel and took some pictures while I was there.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sowing with Generosity

Consider the Parable of the Sower. Think about the sower, scattering seed across all kinds of ground -- fertile soil, rocks, sand.

I read a devotional this week from Radical Gratitude which talked about this passage. Consider that it is not a parable called "The Parable of the different kinds of soil." It's the parable of the sower. If God is the sower, then what does this parable tell us about God?

Could it tell us that he is extravagant? That he spreads his love even where he doesn't have the highest hope of having any effect at all? Does he hold on to see like he's going to run out, or does he spread it generously and with abandon?

If we are made in his image, what do we learn from him as we watch him "garden?"

Could it be that we are to be generous with God's love? With his word? Could it be that we are to spread his grace without judging if it is going to take root and have effect? Can we always predict the outcome of of God's word, love or grace? Knowing that, should we use our own judgement on where to spread the word?
Could we relate the Parable of the Sower to this passage from Isaiah (55:10-11):
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Image: From yesterday's morning photo experience. Notice how the timid grass has broken the sandstone rock. Who could have predicted it?

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

God's image

I had a nice 45 minutes or so before the commute to work this morning.

I was able to stop for breakfast, and have some time to read, and then while I was waiting for JtM (we carpool), I took my camera to the parking lot and took some pictures. It was nice to just walk around, looking and snapping pictures.

I finished that, and was standing by the car, looking at the sky. Great sky.

Did you ever have one of those moments when prayer was necessary?

Prayer of the moment, standing by the car (not verbatim -- I don't remember it verbatim -- but these were the thoughts):

Thank you, Father, for these few moments of joy. Thank you for the sky, the flowers, the birds, the evidence of your creation in this beauty. Thank you for showing yourself in your wonderful creation...

Then I stood there for a moment, beside the car, and the last line of the prayer came to me. I don't think I would have thought of this on my own.

Father, may I see the evidence of your creation just as clearly in your children as I do in your flowers and sky.

I've taken pictures for a couple of years now, ever since the "Open Eyes" post. I've always said that it was an exercise in watching for God, and then taking the picture. Never once have I compared it to the challenge of see the image of God in the people he has created. If we did that -- if I did that -- then I would certainly treat people differently.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

God in Work

I'm reading Looking for God by Nancy Ortberg; I'm up to the chapter called Work. Read this:
We were created for work....It matters how we live Monday through Friday. Showing up to work with a renewed sense of purpose and the expectation of contributing both to the task and to other people plays a significant role in what it means to follow Christ."
Her point was that it doesn't matter what we do -- whatever we do offers opportunities to partner with God in his work in the world.

This paragraph was on my mind as I wrote yesterday's post. It's easier to see how the work I do can be in partnership with God now than it was before. BUT, according to Nancy, none of that matters. What matters is that no matter what we do -- our heart's calling or a mundane hourly paying job, we always have an chance to make a difference for God.

It's hard to see that when nothing seems related to God. The difference is that EVERYTHING is related to God.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

A Witness of Words

For 20 years, I worked in what I would call the "secular world." As part of this, I felt a burden of not pushing my faith onto the people around me. Not everyone would agree with my tactics, I'm sure, but I didn't play Christian music on my radio when other people were in the room. I made sure that the lab Christmas tree used "secular" ornaments. I shared about my faith when asked, but not when I wasn't asked. I often found myself in "cultural exchange" mode -- I would ask questions about someone else's faith and beliefs; in turn, they would ask me about mine, and I would share.

My Christian witness in this secular world was more about my actions than my words. It was about treating everyone who came into the lab as a Child of God, even if I didn't call him or her that. It was about being helpful and caring, even if no one knew why. Don't be fooled by what I say; I didn't do this all the time or flawlessly at all. My witness of action was never perfect or even very satisfactory, but I did try.

I've been working in my new job for not quite 2 months. We had an office meeting today. It began with a devotional and a prayer. As we prayed, I was once again struck by how blessed I am. How many people are able to pray with their co-workers? It's foreign to someone whose only witness at work for 20 years was a half-hearted witness of friendliness.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Loving Authority

Sunday school today was based on a scripture from Luke 4 (verse 31) and Luke 20 (verses 1-8).
One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?" (20:1-2)
We were discussing this passage, and how it relates to Christ as Teacher (which was the name of the lesson). Someone said that Jesus has authority, but that he is kind and gentle, as well.

That struck me as two unrelated statements, but I think that many people link authority with heavy-handed dictatorship. How is it that we make that jump? I think it relates to the idea of power. When we, as humans, have power, it can be a small jump to oppression. It's easily one of our sins.

Jesus was human, but he was without sin. He spoke with authority then, and he does so now. He has the ultimate power, but he doesn't use it to oppress his children. There is a humility in Jesus that we would do well to imitate.

I think that nothing is more important to Jesus than love. He would use his authority to love us (and yes, I know, that love and kindness are two different things). He would not use his authority to oppress us, or to remove our freedom of choice, even it that choice means turning our backs on him.

And in Jesus, we see God. God understands, and tries to teach us, that power should not lead to corruption; that love prevents oppression, and that love cannot exist without the freedom to choose to love.

If we are made in the image of God, then that would be an aspect of our maker that we would do well to "imagine" in our own lives.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Judge Not

We are called, don't you think, to not judge other people. We have a problem with those instructions from God -- judging others seems to come naturally to us.

Why is it that we are told to leave judgement to God?
  • I imagine that one of the reasons is that we aren't smart enough to know judge the way that God can do it.
  • Could it be that we are so much in our sin that we can't judge without our judgments being clouded by our sin?
  • Judgement is something that God has claimed for his own.. To try to judge others is to try to act as God acts.
  • And then there is the perennial reason -- because that's what God says." That reason is kind of in line with the classic, "because I said so, that's why."

Do we ever consider the option that as much as we like to think we are informed, that we can't really see the big picture? We can't see into other peoples hearts and minds. We don't know the reasons behind others actions (even though we like to think that we do.)


Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth

Happy Fourth of July! I recommend the Questing Parson's blog for an interesting viewpoint -- "America Bless God." (Kind of the antithesis of God Bless America). Our task is not to seek a blessing, but to be a blessing.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Vacation Thoughts

A Friday Five from RevGalBlogPal: It is a holiday weekend here in the UK, and the weather forecast for much of the country is not good!!! But we can still dream and so with that in mind I bring you this Friday Five.

  1. Getting ready for summer, do you use the gradual tanning moisturisers ( yes gentlemen you too can answer this!!!), or are you happy to show your winter skin to the world? Not to be wishy/washy -- Whatever I feel like. The great thing about getting older is that I please myself in issues such as this. I will if I want to; I won't if I don't. I also don't wear shoes that hurt my feet, clothes that aren't comfortable or read books just because they are "good for me."
  2. Beach, mountains or chilling by the pool, what/ where is your favourite getaway? I love to go to the beach. Chilling by the pool has the potential of getting boring (although I have had great experiences chilling by the pool ).
  3. Are you a summer lover or does the long break become wearing? Since I am no longer in school, and don't get to take the summer off like students do, there isn't that much difference between summer and the rest of the year. Except that summer is hot -- I'm not crazy about hot! I like summer at the beginning because I don't have to bug the kids about their homework. As it comes to an end, I'm kind of ready for them to go back to school. Vacation is a nice part of summer, but I would probably do it in September or May if the kids weren't in school, just to avoid the really really hot summer months.
  4. Active holidays; hiking swimming, sailing, or lazy days? Well, not hiking, swimming or sailing. I like some activity on vacation -- sight seeing is good; I don't mind driving; shopping is good. I've been known to take a weekend with friends when we just sit, talk and go to meals. That's fun.
  5. Now to the important subject of food, if you are abroad do you try the local cuisine, or do you prefer to play it safe? I'm more adventurous as I get older, but I'm not extremely wild when it comes to food. I'm not so much into "local flavor."


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Not Just Faith

Many Sundays ago, in Sunday school, we were having a discussion of what hospitality requires of us. I wish I could remember which scripture we were discussing, but one of the members of the class said that she was relieved by the scripture. Obviously, from these words, Jesus didn't require us to invite people from off the street into our homes.

I said, "But he may require us to give away our homes."

Crickets. Not a popular response. It's a good thing that they like me. ;-)

One of the characteristics of a robust gospel, according to Christianity Today is that a robust gospel demands not just faith, but everything. The article says:
Paul can say that his intent in preaching the gospel is to bring about the "obedience of faith" (Rom 1:5)....A robust gospel summons each of us to respond in repentance, trust, surrender, commitment and obedience....The robust gospel calls for a robust response of a robust person.
I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley about prayer. He says that when Jesus teaches us to pray by saying "thy will be done," that what he is teaching us is to surrender all to God.

There are those things which we would like to hold on to. There are those things -- whether it is material objects, goals, grudges, or fears -- that we would rather God would not touch. God understands, though, that he can't have our hearts until we give them to him. And we can't give him our hearts if we hold on to those things which seem to hard to release.

It is a robust gospel that demands the obedience of faith.

Image: The sky on the way home one day.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I was standing at a window in the office yesterday. I was surprised to see a clown, rolling down the sidewalk on some kind of brightly colored scooter or motorized wheelchair. I just stood there, dumbstruck. A clown. Just traveling down the sidewalk. He stopped - who knows why - maybe his big shoes were in the way, and he needed an adjustment. It took me a full minute to think, "Camera!"

I grabbed the camera, but it was too late to get a good picture.

I'm reading Nancy Ortberg's book Looking for God. I've finished four chapters so far, and I would recommend it. In the Introduction, she says:

I've fought hard to find this faith I've longed for, this God I've imagined. And I have found him in the most unexpected places. Surprises have clarified for me who God is, and I've found that challenging the prescriptive path has actually opened up the God of the Bible to me. As my understanding of God has grown, my faith has also grown -- sometimes in ways that interfere with my life.
Then later that day, I read a statement on the blog Visual Voice that stopped me:
Miracles are everywhere -- trust their emergence
What do you think of the idea that we can find God when we allow him to surprise us? When we travel paths to him which are not tried and true, but are knew and unexpected? Do we trust that miracles are everywhere?

Are we willing to travel a path, expecting that it will lead to God, even if we don't have a map and can't see the outcome?

When we find God, will we stand there with shock on our faces, or will we smile and say, "Welcome. I was expecting to find you even though I didn't know where you were."

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:5-7

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