Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Five

For a change of pace, here's the Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals:

  1. Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do? Most days when my work day is done, my evening is just beginning. There aren't many days when I can just come home, cook dinner with Steve and sit down to watch TV. Most days I come home and then move onto the next thing. This week, I had a Lay Leadership meeting on Monday, a Church Committee Structure meeting and then an Emmaus meeting on Tuesday, I worked on Wednesday evening, and a bible study on Thursday. Tonight we're going to dinner with friends, and then tomorrow we'll have dinner with Steve's brother's family and then go see G in a band competition and working on a church luncheon during the day. Sunday is church and the luncheon, followed by a short meeting. When I do get home, I sit down, work on the computer, blog, talk to Steve and the boys, and watch TV. What can I say? I'm busy.
  2. Your work week is done and the brain is fried (for some Friday, others Sunday afternoon), what do you do? Each weekend, we try to find an evening meet another couple for dinner -- our "friend" time is worth carving out space for. The rest of the time is up for grabs.
  3. Like most of us, I often keep myself busy even while programs are on the TV. I stop to watch The Office and 30 Rock on Thursday nights. Do you have 'stop everything' TV programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments? I don't have as many "must see" TV shows as I used to. I really like Bones. I'll try to find House, Numb3rs, and Gray's Anatomy, if I can. We recently hooked a DVR machine to the TV so that we can set our own schedule.
  4. When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny? It's hard to say. My life is full of laughter. I'm sure it was the last time we were out with M and J -- we laugh all the time. It's one of the joys of the friendship. What was so funny? It's hard to tell. Unfunny things can become funny when shared with friends.
  5. What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not. I don't know. Body wash instead of soap.


Thursday, October 30, 2008


We went to a study of the book of John tonight. Jack pointed out that the passage in John that we think of the description of the last supper in chapter 13 and following has no description of communion. That surprised me; I think of that evening as centering around the idea of "Remember me."

Jack said that this might have been the night before Passover, and that communion was so familiar to the early church that there was no need to describe it.

But picture this:

The twelve disciples and Jesus are gathered around the table, sharing a meal. Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. Peter (bless his heart) asks John to find out who the betrayer is. John asks Jesus. Jesus tells him, "Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot (in John 13:26). According to someone in class, this was a way to point out an honored guest. To me, especially since Jack had brought up the concept that there is no communion description in this part of John, this action of Jesus "looks" like, in my mind, the practice of intinction. I know it isn't communion, and isn't meant to represent communion, but work with me.

This is Jesus, dipping bread in wine (or oil or something) and handing it to Judas. I can imagine this in my mind as a minister handing bread and wine to a parishioner. Jesus is handing it to Judas, a sinner. Jesus knows that Judas will betray him. He fully knows that Judas is a sinner, and yet what does he do? He singles him out as an honored guest.

Carry the metaphor a little further. We are sinners. We are invited to the communion table by God. We are treated as honored, loved guests at the table.

We condemn Judas, but perhaps we need to realize that in some ways, we are Judas. And what is Jesus' response? What is God's action in our lives? He calls us honored, beloved children, and he opens up the table of communion to us, where we join in the grace of being in relationship with God.


Image: Communion table at the Foundation board meeting last night.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Extravagant Generosity

I was a participant in a communion service this evening in which the worship leader had a meditation regarding extravagant generosity.

I think that we consider extravagant generosity to be an outstanding characteristic of people who -- well, give generously from what they have -- usually from their bank accounts.

Consider that we have a God who is extravagantly generous. He gives us life beyond our imagination. When I say that, I don't just mean life eternal, but I mean life abundant. Life lived in joy and grace instead of guilt and fear.

I met a woman on the recent Emmaus walk in which I participated. She was battling the idea that God is continually angry with her mistakes, that he is always finding fault with her sin. She wants to believe that he is loving and graceful, but I really got the feeling from her that this concept of a loving God is a challenge for her.

I can't imagine what faith would be like if I didn't believe that God was loving and full of grace. To me, God is extravagantly generous with his grace. He grants us forgiveness, but even more than that, he invites us into relationship with him. Is that not extravagant generosity? Is it not unfathomable that the creator of the universe wants to be in a personal relationship with us?

Extravagant generosity, indeed.

Image: Sky on the way to work this morning.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Live Out Loud

I went to a meeting tonight. Once of the presenters was speaking about his life lived in Christ. He said that he used to be noun of a Christian, and that now he was a Christan as a verb. (Sound familiar, Steve?). He then continued that not only was he a verb, but that he also verbalized his Christianity.

I like that. He shows his Christianity through what he says and what he does. He's a verbalizing verb.

Paul spoke about the Christians in Thessalonica. He said:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. (1:6-8)
There was no need to speak about their faith because they were verbalizing verbs. They spoke of their faith, and lived their faith.

There is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called Live Out Loud. Part of the lyrics are:
Think about this
Try to keep a bird from singing after
it's soared up in the sky
Give the sun a cloudless day and tell
it not to shine

Think about this
If we really have been given the gift
of life that will never end
And if we have been filled with living
hope, we're gonna overflow
And if God's love is burning in our
hearts, we're gonna glow
There's just no way to keep it in
If we were really convinced of our faith, could we help but be verbalizing verbs? Would there be any way of keeping it in?

Live out Loud.


Monday, October 27, 2008


The tired which I didn't feel last night is creeping up and me this evening. I can't seem to put to words together to form a sentence.

Enjoy instead this image, a little out of season.

Regularly scheduled blogging will continue tomorrow.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trust More

It's late, and one of the consequences of an Emmaus walk is that you are TIRED when you are finished. I'll try to stay awake and write this post, but if there are misspellings or sentences (or entire thoughts) that just don't make sense, perhaps you'll understand why.

If you read Thursday's post, you'll see that I left to go on the walk feeling a sense of obligation, and not much joy. Wasn't it ironic that Jeff wrote about obligation for the post on Saturday? No, that was not planned.

I had a discussion with a few of the people on the walk about service and blessings. The pilgrims had a sense that they had come on the walk for themselves, but found that they were there for each other as well. I felt that I was going for the other people on the walk -- because I had said I would; because I had a responsibility to go. I found that I was blessed to be there. If I had thought about it, I would have known that, but sometimes I forget.

During a worship service this weekend, I was thinking about what might be an obstacle for me to getting closer to God. I have had for a couple of years an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for the people in my life and the opportunites I have. Maybe that sense of gratitude came to a "head" during a worship service at our national conference. As I was praying about obstacles, it occured to me that when I remember to look, I do realize how gracious and wonderful God has been to me. Why is it that I don't always trust him? How much does he need to prove his trustworthyness to me?

So I will try to love more, and trust more. God is trustworthy. Why do I forget that?


Saturday, October 25, 2008


Welcome to Jeff, a guest sandblogger. Jeff is a dear friend and a gifted writer. He has a great sense of humor, and he walks with God. Thank you to Jeff.

Kim is serving on the team of an Emmaus Walk this weekend, so she invited me to be one of the guest bloggers. Her invitation is a gift to me, and my response is “yes!” And in this context, I am thinking about obligations.

During my Wednesday morning prayer group, Ken asked us to consider whether our attendance and involvement in church was out of a sense of obligation. The easy answer for me was “no.” I went on to say that I go out of a sense of commitment. My parents led me to church but never once dragged me. When I got to the age where I could make a choice, they allowed me the freedom to stay home. Sometimes I took them up on the offer and slept in.

The question about obligation stuck with me because earlier in the week I had received an e-mail that closed with “Much obliged.” I think the sender of the e-mail meant her closing as an informal “thanks,” but it is more than thanks, isn’t it? It means, “I owe you” or “I am indebted to you.” So that idea was already on my mind when Ken asked the question about church attendance. What does it mean to do something out of obligation? It has a negative connotation to me for something that is forced on me that I do not want to do, like, say homework or preparing tax returns.

You might say that everything we have is a gift from God, and we owe it to God—we have an obligation to respond to God’s grace by at least showing up for worship once a week. I’m “much obliged” to God; I am indebted to God for the gift of life and everything else; I am obligated to worship God.

I love words, and there is so much power in words. You think you know what “obligate” means? Check out the etymology. It comes from the Latin root obligare which means, literally “to bind to.” Think about how a life in community with Christ binds us together with God and each other in love.

I have re-thought my misunderstanding of “obligation.” Yes, I go to church out of obligation. Not that I must go, but that I just cannot not go.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

What are you Spewing?

Welcome to a frequent guest-sandblogger, my husband. Thank you to Steve, for filling in for me today while I am on an Emmaus walk. Steve has a gift for prayer -- he speaks from his heart to God's ear. When God wants someone to do him a favor, I imagine that he calls on Steve, because Steve is just that kind of guy. Enjoy his insight and wisdom.

My job, sales, affords me the opportunity to travel a wide geographic area and to visit many people – in their own offices. I love to read the messages people post, dangle and set around; “Poor Planning On Your Part Does Not Necessarily Constitute An Emergency On Mine” “If You Can’t Dazzle Them With Brilliance, Baffle Them With Bull” A stress relief device hanging on a hard surface – “Bang Head Here” “We Shoot Every Third Salesman and the Second One Just Left” And here’s the one I want to discuss now; “Everyone Brings Joy To This Office, Some When They Arrive, Some When They Leave” Nothing we do or say is ever wasted. We can find ourselves in a situation that seems to have no positive feature and certainly no positive outcome. If we choose to engage in a misery loves company mode, then we can spew a bunch more negativity into the room and the beat goes on. If we choose to try, as hard as it may be, to find one ray of sunshine then we may find that we have diffused a time bomb and set before all involved a straight path. A TV commercial I especially enjoy (forgive me for not remembering the product being sold) has one person extending to another a random act of kindness; picking up a dropped paper, helping to cross the street, etc. The act is witnessed by a third person and in the following scene, that third person is extending to yet another random act of kindness. This pattern continues through several sets of people. It’s not the person being helped that is the participant in the next situation but the one who watched the kindness displayed. It’s possible that when we spew forth our negative tirades, the person receiving the lashing is not the main individual affected – maybe the one watching the random act will, in turn, come unglued on still another. On the flip side, if they get to listen to a flow of positive words, even one positive word, they may then decide to share that warmth with someone in which they will be in contact. (the influence on a child comes to mind) Everyone brings joy – some when they come, some when they go. What are you spewing?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8



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Thursday, October 23, 2008


I’m leaving this afternoon to be part of the conference room team for Women’s Walk #28 in our Ashland Area Emmaus Community.

I must say that I’m not very excited about going. If I had my “druthers,” I would stay home. I would go to work tomorrow, I would be with my family this weekend, I would go to my own church this weekend and hear my two sons play trumpet for the first time together in worship. An Emmaus walk is not what I want to do this weekend.

But I said I would do it, and I will.

I hope God walks into this walk, and awakens my joy in it. I hope I see Him at work in the lives of the pilgrims. I hope he brings me close during my own talk on Friday evening. I hope he does, because right now I only see it as an obligation.

I’ve been thinking about it all day. It’s my third time on a team; my fourth walk. I’ve never felt this way about one. I hope God is there, because I don’t seem to be taking him with me.

BUT, I leave the blog in very good hands. Come back on Friday to read a post written by my husband, Steve. On Saturday, our very good friend, Jeff, will be a guest sandblogger. You are in for a treat on both days.

Thank you to both of these men for saying yes, every time, when I ask them to write. Thank you to them for being such faithful readers and for always making me feel that this daily web journal of mine is a worthwhile endeavor. For the third time in a row, they have covered for me during an Emmaus walk, and every time they do, I am honored that they take the time to share their gifts, and that they say yes.

Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Jeff.

If you want to read more of what they have written, there is a section on the left sidebar of the blog entitled “Guest Sandbloggers.” Click on their links. Also, both of them write devotionals for our JM Devotional ministry, and those devotionals are on the web:
Steve: Advent, Lent, Weekly Devotionals
Jeff: Advent, Lent, Weekly Devotionals.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


One of the lectionary readings for the week is Matthew 22:34-46. Here is verse 37:

22:37 He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
I found this on the United Methodist Portal:

In response to Dr. Dawkin's claim that the bus ads "will make people think—and thinking is anathema to religion," Rev. Ellis said:

"As Christians, we respond to Jesus' call to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, souls and strength. Christianity is for people who aren't afraid to think about life and meaning. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism believed that no one should be saved from the trouble of thinking, because that is the path to understanding God."
One of the great things about United Methodism -- one of the reasons I am grateful to belong to this denomination -- is that thinking is not only accepted, but encouraged, and perhaps actually required. Part of the Wesley Quadrilateral is "reason." And while I can only speak of my experience with Methodism, I'm sure my denomination is not unique in this characteristic.

To say that thinking is anethema to religion demonstrates a lack of understanding for faith and theology.

Image: Asbury Woods on Sunday evening.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Sorry. I couldn't resist using the sign from St. Mark's UM -- blame it on Monty. It is his sermon title.

I imagine that he based the sermon on the lectionary reading for the week from Exodus. Here is a portion, from Exodus 33:21-23:
And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’

The glory of God is too much to be seen by us.

In my email today was this quote from St. Augustine:
We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.
What are our expectations? Do we expect to understand the glory of God? Are we surprised that we don't "get it."? Do we ever let our inability to understand the creator of the universe in all of his majesty and power and glory stand in our way of faith?

What do we expect?


Monday, October 20, 2008


Leaf, close up.
What details do we see when we take the time to look? How important are they? Do we find God in the details? More or less than we find him in the big picture?


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Plan to Let Go

Today was Laity Sunday, and I planned the service and delivered the sermon.

I've had in mind for a few weeks what the theme of the sermon was going to be, and I could imagine how it was going to be structured. When I started to write it, though, the structure I had in mind didn't work. I created a rough outline of the sermon, I tried to write it to fit the outline, and it wouldn't work. I moved a few things around -- still no go.

It wasn't until I gave up on how I thought it ought to be built that the structure worked. When I let it organize itself, and let go of my preconceptions of it, it worked better.

I used the hymn Lord of the Dance as a basis for the sermon -- it was about dancing with God. I chose the hymn Gather us in as the processional hymn because I thought it matched the Call to Worship we were using, but as we were singing it, I realized that parts of it were echoed in the sermon. I didn't plan that.

When the Choir Director saw the topic and title of the sermon, he changed the Offertory to a piece of music that fit it beautifully. It was a great gift. Of course, I didn't plan that.

I wonder if my biggest lesson for the day was to let go. To plan, but to freely release the plan when God leads in a different direction.

When I told a choir member that I didn't even have the title until the beginning of the week, she grinned and said, "Don't you just love God?"

Yes, I do.

Image: Leaves at Asbury Woods from our Youth Outing this evening. I've been trying all week to get some good autumn images for the sermon ppt. No luck. Tonight, though, when I didn't need them anymore, they were everywhere.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Render unto Caesar questions

Revgalblogpals Friday Five:

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person? Superbowl? Although I wasn't there in person....
2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from? We might have a few from when Mom went to Europe and brought the boys back some coins. We might also have a few from Portugal.
3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place? Um...I don't understand this question. Pennies are useful little engines....
4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.) I'm too old. I don't remember how much I got from the tooth fairy. The boys would be a dollar coin for each tooth.
5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it? We did at the beginning. We don't anymore.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Honor, Revisited

Short post tonight, because I'm tired.

Image is from Ritter Park this evening. I finally found time, battery power and a pretty fall tree all at the same time for pictures.

I wrote a post the day before yesterday about my experience calling someone to pray at a meeting. She was very excited to say yes, and I wondered why we all didn't feel the great honor of prayer.

Bob left a comment saying that for some of us, the fear of public speaking overrides the honor of prayer.

I agree totally. What was actually amazing to me, though, was the actual concept of prayer itself. Isn't it incredible that the Creator of the universe invites us to be in communication (even if private and silent) with him at all? Prayer itself is the honor.

Some people don't have (or don't believe they have) the gift of public prayer. That's fine! But, we are all invited to prayer, even if we do it in the "closet," completely alone. Sometimes, though, we (I) ignore the invitation from God to pray. We skip it. I skip it. We go about our daily business with no prayer at all. We ignore that honor.

Thanks for the comment, Bob!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

One path

I am reading Heather Murray Elkins book "Holy Stuff of Life." One particular chapter describes a worship service that she was helping to facilitate. It was the final one of a jurisdictional meeting; at this worship service, a newly elected bishop was being consecrated.

Without going into all the details, this worship service was to take place at a hotel, but just as they were about to begin, the electricity went out. All 800 people had to vacate the hotel. After some worry, she arranged for the worship service to be held at the shoreline of a nearby lake. The scripture to be used was one the Exodus one where Moses strikes the rock with a staff and releases water. It fits the outdoor seen perfectly.

Our own Bishop Grove leaned over to Heather and told her, "If you wanted to have the worship service outside, you should have just told us."

Just as the bishop who is preaching lifts his staff and strikes the rock, the rains come.

Have you ever been involved in a circumstance where you felt that God was leading you to action, and yet the action he seems to want is really the ONLY one possible? What else could they do when trapped outside, except worship outside. Sometimes the only path to take is the one God is leading us down. It's still scary, but at least we know that we are not alone.

(Read Heather's book; it's great)


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Honor

This evening I was calling someone to ask her to pray at an upcoming meeting. The words were barely out of my mouth when she said, "I would be honored."

Just like that. She didn't think about it. She didn't hesitate. She would be honored.

Shouldn't we face prayer like that, with that kind of attitude. Shouldn't it be an honor? Shouldn't we be practically giddy (not that she was giddy) with excitement at the idea of having one on one time with the creator of the universe?

Prayer is an amazing concept. I think we forget that; we take it for granted.

Shouldn't we be saying, "I would be honored to pray."?

Image: Leaves in the park. Still waiting for an autumnal change.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Invocation

Holy and Almighty God,

You have told us that we are the Body of Christ, and that if we live in you, you will live in us. Inhabit our worship; inhabit our praise and singing. Lead us in singing a new song, lead us in the steps of a new dance born of a transformed heart. Give us a renewed realization that we are your children, and that every day, you invite us to follow you. Amen.


Monday, October 13, 2008


When our church was in a discernment process for a vision and mission statement, we included the phrase "worship God joyfully" as one of the five components of the mission statement. Later, as we were discussing it with members of the congregation, one person suggested that we add the words "and prayerfully" to the phrase.

Try being Lay Leader and speaking against adding "and prayerfully" to a phrase. It sounds like you are against prayer. I'm not. I just think that we should be doing the entire mission statement "prayerfully." I also think that the person wanted to add "prayerfully" to the phrase because she believed "joyfully" meant loudly, and that "prayerfully" meant quietly. (I think that because that's how she explained it.)

I don't think either word is indicative of volume.

These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Isaiah 29:13
Nancy Ortberg, in her book Looking for God speaks about this passage. Her point is that our worship must be a reflection of our obedience to God. Believe in God? Then do what he commands? Develop a relationship with him; accept a relationship with him. Do we treat God as a stranger on the inside and then only act as if we know and follow him on the outside?

Does our worship reflect a relationship with God?

If joy is born of closeness to God, then joyful worship is worship which springs from that relationship. Of course it's prayerful -- I would think communication with God is a requirement of a relationship with him.

That joyful worship can't be pigeonholed by a particular volume.

Remember when I was talking about "Are you hungry? Then feed my sheep." We are hungry for joyful worship, which springs from a relationship with God, and we will experience that when we are obedient to God.

Not just when we worship quietly.

Image: Tree outside of GlenWood Park

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall image


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Holy Wholeness

What does the word "holy" mean to you? I think of it as referring to something "of God." Set apart. Sanctified by God.

Merriam Webster defines it as "exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness."

Nancy Ortberg, in her book Looking for God, said that until her father died, she equated it with (and I'm putting words in her mouth) a wrathful God. To her it meant a distant God.

Then her father died at too young an age, after an 18 month battle with cancer. That's not what her parents had planned. It wasn't the way it should have worked out.

She writes:
That's when it hit me. Holiness, whether I liked it or not, was what I craved. A holy world, a world set right the way it was supposed to be. Sacred and pure. Clean and strong. A holy world, where there is no smog in LA, no cracks in the sidewalk. A holy world where children are never hungry, wars are never fought. No snow in Chicago, no struggles that overtake us, no fathers dying.
I think she's right. I think we crave holiness. I think we sense, even if we cannot articulate it, that life is not the way it is supposed to be. It is broken. God came to the world to save each one of us, but also to make his world holy -- to return it to a kingdom state.

The word origin of holy is the same as whole. Wholeness. It fits.

Image: Sunset from Kinetic Park.


Friday, October 10, 2008

In my shortcomings

I was at a worship service last night as part of an Emmaus walk. After the service, a woman, who had been a pilgrim on the first walk on which I served as a member of the conference room team, stopped me. She asked if she could speak to me.

She is at the beginning of a health scare, and was asking me to pray for her. She said that she hadn't told anyone else, but that she felt like I was there just for her that night. She knew that I would pray for her.

Do you ever feel like a fraud? Why would this woman single me out? Believe me, I do not have what I would call a disciplined prayer life. In fact, I remember on her walk, telling her that I needed to pray more. I do need to pray more. It's not something that I do often enough.

I was reading from the Upper Room Disciplines this morning. The author wrote, "However polished our pretenses, false piety is no more acceptable than plain wickedness." Ever feel like a fraud?

But the devotional went on to talk about putting on Jesus Christ. I occurred to me that perhaps I am coming at this from the wrong angle. I'm seeing how much I lack. Instead, perhaps I need to see how God can transform me, change me, grow me into a relationship with him. Perhaps it is in the realization that I am not who she needs me to be, that I can allow God to be who he is, instead.

I don't need to be the person I think that she thinks that I am (get that?). I can't be. What I can do, though, is put on Christ. I can allow God to be God.

Perhaps true piety -- a true relationship with God -- is a gift of grace. We don't earn it. We just receive it. I can pray; I will pray, and I will, in my shortcomings, let God be God.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


I was reading at dinner tonight from the book Looking for God by Nancy Ortberg. In the chapter I was reading, she was talking about being the salt of the earth. (Sidenote -- for a great devotional about being "salty," check this out).

She asks us to consider a memorable meal -- great food, great company, great conversation, great memories. Think about the food. What if, as we are eating, we decide that the food lacks salt. We would pick up the salt shaker, add salt, and then go on eating. We might not even remember doing it.

She says being the salt of the earth is kind of like that. It's never about the salt -- it's about the taste it adds. Being salty might mean small things -- those small ways in which we spread the word of God. They might seem unimportant to us, but to those who see God -- who experience life flavored by God because of what we do -- the "small things" are huge.

I spoke with someone tonight at Send Off for an Emmaus walk. Her husband is a pilgrim on this walk. She told me that she has been trying to get him to go on a walk for three years, and he finally, at almost the last moment, said he would. I know, because I am a member of the Emmaus Board, that we thought about cancelling the walk due to a low number of pilgrims. We decided that if God had called six, he might be calling more. Even if six were the only ones who attended, the walk was worth it for them, and the changes that God would make in their faith journey through the walk.

The walk ended up with 10 pilgrims. One of those was this woman's husband, and it took her 3 years to get him to go. If we had cancelled the walk, would he have gone next spring? Who knows.

Having the mustard seed faith to believe that God wanted this walk to go forward was being salty. It was absolutely right to continue with this walk. It only took a little faith; it wasn't a huge decision, but it will make a difference for who knows how many people.

Salty decisions are a blessing from God.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Freed by Forgiveness

What does forgiveness feel like? Have you experienced it?

There have been times when I have messed up (yes, more than once) and have felt the need -- the compulsion, sometimes -- to apologize. That apology has been met with grace. Words like, "You don't need to apologize, but I accept your apology, anyway." Forgiveness feel like a burden lifted. It lightens the load. It is like freedom.

I can compare it to other occurrences when those words have not been forthcoming. The burden stays. Maybe it gets ignored, or it we get used to the load, but its a different feeling from forgiveness granted.

Have you noticed that in the communion liturgy the statemenets of Confession and Pardon precede the Thanskgiving and Communion liturgy? We state our confession and ask for forgiveness.

The response is:
Hear the good news. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God's love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!
The congregation responds with "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!"

Do we feel the grace of forgiveness? Do we accept the love of God and allow him to lift away the burden of sin? Do we experience the transformation?

We ask, "Free us for joyful obedience," but when we are reminded that we have been forgiven and freed, do we accept the grace?

Image: Mt. Horeb UMC in Princeton, WV

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A trustworthy God

One of the lectionary readings for this week is Exodus 32:1-14. In this passage, the Israelites lose faith in God, and ask Aaron to prepare an idol for them, which he does. Moses, who is on the mountain with God, convinces God not to destroy his chosen people.

As I read the devotional in Disciplines based on this passage, I noticed something that I had never seen before. In these versus from Exodus, Moses is calling on God to be true to God-self. He is counting on his belief that he knows the nature of God well enough to ask God to do as he knows God will do.

We can have that faith, too. We can count on God to be faithful to who he is. We can count on him to act as he has revealed that he will. God is steadfast and loyal. If the Israelites had remembered that, or if they had known God better, then they might have avoided the trouble in the first place.

Sometimes, I imagine that we are much more like the Israelites, far from God, untrusting and unable to call on God to be who he has revealed himself to be because we just don't know him. We are much less like Moses, so we trust in that which is not trustworthy.

We can learn from Moses, who trusted God enough to have faith in his character.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

The Table

The table
Set for family
Gathered together
Small ones at the card table.
China, tablecloth, salad forks
Matching coffee cups and plates.
Too much food, but all delicious
Family gathered for a meal
Celebrating the birth of Christ.
Celebrating the gift of love.
Relatives from far away
Not enough time to say everything,
Missing those who are with us
Only in spirit.
The table is set for a celebration meal.

The table
Small, round, cramped.
The pleasing scent of ground coffee
Friends gathered together to just talk.
Coffee is an excuse for conversation.
Shared laughter, shared worries, shared life.
Fellowship of the heart.
Communion of the spirit.
Never enough time to say it all.
Always walking away in anticipation
Of the next time at the table.
The table is set for a fellowship meal.

The table
Covered in a white cloth.
Cross, bread, wine.
Elements consecrated by prayer
Confession. Forgiveness. Thanksgiving.
Do this in remembrance of me.
The body of Christ is broken.
The body of Christ is united.
The body of Christ is altered
At the table.
Time is limitless in the divine world.
We meet in a meal at the Lord’s invitation.
We meet in a meal in unison with the saints.
We walk away in service
Our spirits having met
The spirit of God at the table.
The table is set for a communion meal.

Image: Communion altar for World Communion Sunday

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Unremarkable Things

A meme -- six unremarkable things about me. I would link to this, but I've seen it three times, so suffice it to say that it's an Internet questionnaire.

  1. I had a French class in kindergarten -- not that I can speak French, but they did teach it to us.
  2. The second toe on my foot (well, both feet) is longer than the first.
  3. I thought about being a physics major in school, but that path required 20 hours of calculus (no, thank you).
  4. I love to go to the movies -- with other people or by myself.
  5. I love to play with color; I wish I could paint or draw.
  6. My first car was a red VW Rabbit. It was a standard. When I was first learning to drive it, it would hop down the road, so I named it Thumper. Since that car, no other car of mine has had name, although they have all had gender.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Are you hungry?

In our John bible study this week, we talked about this passage (John 6:30-35):
So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Yesterday, I was at GlenWood Park, a retirement community. The man who said the blessing at lunch said, before he prayed, "Are you hungry?" I know he was just asking the residents if they were ready for lunch, but the question stuck with me. We are hungry. We hunger for a relationship with God. We hunger for the bread of life about which Jesus spoke. We are hungry.

The manna which the Israelites received kept them physically alive during their trip across the desert, but for those of them -- and those of us -- who pay attention, even manna can bring us closer to God. It taught them to be totally dependent upon God. There was no "pre-collection" of the bread -- they had to continually trust that God would provide. From the manna, they (and we) can learn that God is a faithful God. Because they were not to gather manna on the Sabbath, they learned that God not only would provide, but that he would provide enough for them to rest in him. We can rest in the knowledge that God is dependable enough for us to not have to do everything. He will provide abundance. We do not always have to be in control, and the world does not depend on us every minute of the day. God will provide.

Jesus came. He is the bread of life. We are hungry for God, and Jesus will feed our spirits. If we believe in him, if we listen to him, we will never be hungry.

What are we listening for?

At Covenant Council last night, the bishop ended his sermon with the story of Jesus telling Peter, "feed my sheep." Feed my sheep. Jesus turns the world upside down. Can we comprehend that in order to satisfy our hunger, we must feed his sheep?

Our hunger will be satisfied when we feed his sheep. We will meet God in service and love to others.

Are you hungry? Feed his sheep.


Friday, October 03, 2008


Hillside on the drive today. More tomorrow; sleeping now.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Take a Chance

Tonight in our John Bible Study class, Jack talked about the passage in John 5 concerning the healing of the man at the pool. This is John 5:2-9

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Notice the question in bold. Jack says that it is better translated at "Do you have the will to be made well?" That's an interesting question. Jack went on to ask if that can apply to us? Are there sins or flaws in our lives that we know need healing, but that we just don't have the will change? Are we content with our present lives, even if we are living with sin? Do we try to stand up and walk to the healing pool? Do we blame our problems on those who haven't come by to move us to the pool? Are we slow to risk? Do we stay at the side of the pool for 38 years because we don't have the will to change?

Compare that to a story in John 6. Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water. He was willing to take the risk in order to reach Jesus.

Do we ignore chances to be close to God because having a relationship with him involves too much risk? Or do we take the chance?


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

An Emerging Trend?

I was sitting at a table once (I may have told this story -- I don't remember, so forgive the repetition) with a few other women, listening to a talk given by a pastor. The pastor was a female United Methodist.

After the talk, one of the ladies at the table (obviously not a United Methodist) leaned over toward me. We had this conversation (we'll call her Myrtle, but I'm making that name up):

Myrtle: Did she say she was a pastor?
Me: Yes, she did.
Myrtle: A minister?
Me: Yes.
Myrtle: Does she preach?
Me: Yes, she does. She a minister at Friendly United Methodist Church (also a made up name).
Myrtle: Well, I've never heard of such a thing.

I'm not making that up. She was serious. She had never heard of a female pastor. I was stunned. I knew that there were people who "object" to female pastors, but I had assumed everyone had HEARD of them.

I ran across this article today -- click this link. The September-October issue of the magazine Gospel Today has been removed from the shelves of Lifeway Christian bookstores. The reason? The cover features five women who are pastors. Lifeway bookstores are owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, and they pulled the magazine because they believe that the role of a pastor is reserved for men.

Teresa Hairston, who is the owner of Gospel Today, said, "We weren’t trying to pick a fight. We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”

An emerging trend? If I were to make a list of the reasons that I am United Methodist, one of them would be that in our church, this is not an "emerging trend." It is just everyday life. I thank God that there have been women serving as pastors in our church for over 50 years.