Friday, February 29, 2008

Selective Vision

The devotional that I read this morning contained the following line:

What we choose to see, matters."
Does that make sense? Are there things that we choose to see? Are there things that we choose to not see? I think so.

What do we need to do in order to see the world clearly? What do we need to do in order to see the world the way God does? After reading that line this morning, I wondered if sometimes God-like vision means that there are certain things that we choose to not see. I wonder if it could possibly mean selective blindness to someone's faults or sins -- ignoring and forgiving someone's actions.

Consider verse 7b in 1 Samuel 16:
The Lord does not look at things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
Vision like God's -- grace-filled vision -- looks beyond the surface, past the sins, to see the heart. Perhaps the clearest vision involves some selective blindness?

Image: This is an image that was taken of our church's memorial fountain. I played around in Photoshop, attempting to learn a couple of new techniques, and this is what I got.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Casual Sundays?

I was reading a post today on a blog about the question of what pastor's should wear while preaching. It is an interesting question, but what really struck me was what someone said in a comment:
When preachers wear casual clothing as they lead worship and preach the Gospel, they, in my humble opinion, send the message that we can approach God in a casual, informal manner.

I can’t think of an instance in Scripture where a human being approaches God casually or informally...Approaching God casually and informally is a way of keeping God at arms length. It is also a way of trying to limit or control God. It’s a way of putting God into a box where we can be comfortable with him and his holiness. But this is not the God revealed in Scripture or in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When we think it is OK to casually come into the presence of God, then the god we are worshipping is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Mary or Jesus.
What do you think about that statement? Do you agree with it?

I can certainly think of instances in the bible where God is approached more formally, perhaps specifically Moses at the burning bush.

But what about Jacob wrestling with the angel, Abraham bargaining with God over Sodom, David in the Psalms, Solomon praying for wisdom. I think all of those demonstrate a lack of formality.

What about Jesus in the garden? "Abba..." is certainly not formal at all.

God cares about our hearts. He desires for us to turn to him with a humble attitude which acknowledges that he is God, and we are not. I don't think that what we wear has anything to with that at all.


Free Rice

I just found an interesting site on the web called The concept is that you go to the site, you play their vocabulary quiz, and for each word you get correct, they donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations.

I played the game, earned 460 grains of rice and scored a vocabulary level of 40-43 (43 was my highest level, I stopped at 40.). As you play, and get each word correct, the game gives you harder words, so that in a way, you are always playing on the margin of what you know.

It's rather addictive, but I did finally stop. I have, however, added the Free Rice Banner and link to the sidebar. Give it a shot -- how do you do?

Edited later -- I went back. My high vocabulary score is now 44. I've donated another 860 grains of rice. I'm stopping; I'm removing the link!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bringing out the best

I ran across a post today on Cheesehead in Paradise which discusses this scripture -- Romans 12:1-3 (although I'm just listing verses 1-2):
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
A couple of things jumped out at me. First of all, "take your everyday, ordinary life...and place it before God as an offering." We talked this evening in class about how difficult it is to surrender our problems, our worries, and our concerns to God. We hang on to them. Look at this sentence though -- God doesn't only just want our worries and problems. He wants even those parts of our lives that are ordinary -- our sleeping and eating. Everything.

The second thing (actually it was the first phrase I pinpointed) as that "God brings out the best of you." That's amazing to me. Why have I never thought of that? It could be a handy way to judge if an action is of God or not. What if we were to ask ourselves, "Does this action bring out the best in me?" We might not like the answers. We might not be ready to give up those things which are not of God.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why Blog?

I was reading the blog Connexions today. Dave Faulkner is asking the question, "Is blogging for self-centered nerds?"

I blog (obviously). I do it daily. Do I do it because I am self-centered? I blog about my walk with God, my thoughts about God and life, and my work with my church. And sometimes I blog about items which do not fit into those categories, but I think most of my posts can be described in those ways.

If I am going to write daily about those topics, then I must, by necessity, pay attention. The discipline of blogging keeps my eyes open -- my thoughts focused -- my mind clicking.

I do consider it to be a discipline -- as much as my devotional reading. I do it because I am self-centered, and I want to become more God-centered. I hope that it is a path to change, not a means of enhancing my egotism.

Why do it publicly? Why not just journal? I could, and I have in the past. I never was able to do it daily. For some reason, for me, the blog prompts me to uphold the daily disciplinary nature of the journal habit. Maybe it's because I know that there are people who are reading it? I do know that I have reached a point in writing where I think must better on a keyboard than with a pen.

One of questions on the RevGalBlogPal site the other day was this: If you keep a blog, how does it connect to your preaching? Do you see your writing as two sides of the same coin? If you don’t have a pulpit, do you see your blog as a virtual pulpit?

Do I use the blog as a virtual pulpit? Oh, I hope not. That is never in my mind. Unless I count it as preaching at myself. That I do!

Am I nerd? That's kind of a silly question. It's not one that I ever worry about. Blogging these

days is as easy as email. It doesn't take a highly technical person to do. But what if I am. I don't care in the slightest.

I am however, proud of my son tonight (to change the topic). He auditioned for and was selected to play in the high school all county band as a freshman. Their concert was tonight. He's the one dressed in green. All that hair! Haircut, please!


Monday, February 25, 2008

What is he learning?

I went to watch my son practice with the all-county high school band tonight.

Imagine over 100 kids, all with instruments, in one place, trying to make music. I don't know how they do it. The concept itself is amazing to me. They played pieces of music with sounds imitating buffalo walking across the prairie, birds chirping, rain falling, thunder -- on top of all of that, they made music!

The guest conductor had never worked with this particular group of kids before. He stood in front of them, and explained the rules -- he would never embarrass them, he would not yell at them. He expected them to be on time, to bring a pencil, to listen when he talked, and most of all, to do their best. Even if they got every note wrong, if they did their best, he would be happy.

As they practiced, he would stop and give them suggestions. He didn't just direct them, but he would explain to them why he wanted them to do what he was asking them to do. He taught them as well as directed them.

At one point he stopped their progress through a piece of music, and told them why what they were doing was sounding better than it had before. "Are you surprised that I would stop to tell you something good? We could too easily fall into the habit of stopping to tell each other what we are doing wrong; I try very hard to not do that."

I couldn't count the number of times that he told them to be bold. "Be bold. Play it aggressively. I don't care if you make a mistake -- don't worry about that." He wanted them to play their instruments with confidence.

I think my son may be learning more than how to play a trumpet, and I'm glad.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who is the one touched?

Our Sunday school lesson today was called The Cost of Discipleship. It was based on the scripture Luke 14:25-35.

Several members of the class shared stories about how they are stepped out of their comforts zone in order to reach out in love to a stranger, or how a stranger how shared the love of Christ with them. None of the class members said that their actions had been what they would have normally chosen to do, but all of them reported that they had been more blessed by their actions than the stranger had been.

The class member who handed the street woman money, the couple that had fed a stranger and asked him to eat with them, the husabnd and wife who continually found themselves in situations where they had been asked to gives strangers rides, and the couple who had accepted a ride from a stranger when their car was broken down -- all of the church members had found joy in what they had done.

It occurred to me in class that God calls us to reach out and share his love with other people -- even those we have never met, who don't have a home, who might look different, smell different or think different than us. Even more than that, though, I wonder if God calls us to these actions also because he knows that we will be tranformed ourselves. Perhaps we are the poor one -- perhaps we are the one who needs the help the most.

Image: We had a baptism in worship today.


This is the truth

It's late - I'm falling asleep at the computer, so I think anything I might try to write wouldn't make any sense.

So, check this out. Hattip to JtM for the link.

It is as I always expected. It is backwards.

This is the truth.


Friday, February 22, 2008

What did he say?

I'm preaching at our church a week from Sunday. Remember, I am not a pastor, of any kind. I'm a lay member of our church. One of the great things about the United Methodist church (as well as other denominations) is the belief in the idea that we are all ministers -- that ministry within and from the church is the responsibility of both the clergy and the laity. I think that that is a very wonderful concept.

We are currently in the middle of a series of sermons exploring our new Vision and Mission statements. The committee that worked to discern those statements has several members -- two of those members are ordained elders, who are preaching most of this series, but two of the members, JtM and I, each agreed to preach one of the sermons of the series.

Anyway (I seem to be making a short story much longer than it needs to be), I'm currently working on the sermon. I think that this is a very heavy responsiblity -- to attempt to proclaim the Word of God. It's not just a speech -- it's a sermon. I pray about it. I work on it and try to discern what God wants it to say. I talk it over with my husband and friends. I try to make sure that I've done my homework.

Why do I do that? Because what I say has the possibility of affecting someone's faith (Yes, I know, it's a long shot, but the possibility exists!). I want that effect to be what God would have it to be.

I've heard the results of a survey concerning the non-Christian viewpoint of Christians. It's not always very positive. What we say and what we do has an impact.

Today in my email, I received a message from a retired minister -- a chain mail message, if you know what I mean. The email was called "Untimely Deaths." I'll share the beginning of it with you (although not the whole thing).
Here are some men and women who mocked God :

  • John Lennon (singer ): Some years before, during his interview with an American Magazine, he said, "Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple. Today we are More famous than Him ' ( 1966 ). Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.
  • Tancredo Neves (President of Brazil): During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 Votes from his party, not even God would remove him from presidency. Sure he got the votes, but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died.
This was a much longer list, but I don't want to grant these worthless statements any more blog room that this. Is it any wonder, if these are the words that we are sharing with the people around us, that they don't think very well of us? This is not the Word of God.

Images: Our crabapple was crying today as the ice melted.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


There is a MEME in the blogworld that goes like this -- set your iPod on Shuffle and record the first 10 songs which play.

Just to start us off, I have songs on my iPod.

Here are the first 10 songs that shuffled:

  • Free by Ginny Owens
  • Beautiful by Audio Adrenaline
  • Ancient of Days by Gary Sadler and Jamie Harvill
  • Twenty Four by Switchfoot
  • Time Loves a Hero by Little Feat
  • Track 7 of Hot Money by Dick Francis (audio book)
  • He Leadeth Me by David Wells
  • Track 4 of The Edge by Dick Francis (audio book)
  • Never Alone by Barlow Girl
  • Track 6 of Hot Money by Dick Francis (audio book)
  • In Silence by Michael W. Smith
  • Let Everything that has Breath by Matt Redman
  • Simple Things by Amy Grant

Notice that there are actually 13 listed. I Did three extra since three of the ones which came up were actually book tracks and not songs.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Much from little

There is nothing on TV. Just in case you're looking. There are tons of television shows on lots of different channels, but none of them, just right now, are appealing to me.

In such cases, Steve will "flip channels." That's what we call it. It's just cruising through the channels, one after the other. Just now, he stopped for a moment on a Beth Moore program. She was talking about the Feeding of the 5000, and she said something very intersting that I had never noticed before.

Read this:

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. (John 6:10-13)

I never noticed before that there were 12 baskets left. Twelve baskets and twelve disciples. I've considered before that Jesus had the disciples collect the leftovers to prove to them a point about abundance, trust and faith, but in this television program that Steve came across, Beth Moore said that there was another messages in this for the disciples (and for us).

Whatever we give to God -- no matter how small we think it is, or how inadequate, he will take it and use it, miraculously, to feed the multitude. He wants us to understand that and to believe it. To act on it. To trust him enough with what we have that we will expect him to use it for his purposes, to build the kingdom.

Sometimes he gives us the graceful gift of seeing the miraculous results.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I'm thinking today about this scripture:

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:1-6)
Moses, at the command of God, has led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness. They are in a place where they have never been before, led there by God. When the people complain that they are thirsty, Moses asks God for help. God equips Moses to give the people water. God doesn't tell Moses that the people are whining or that they shouldn't be thirsty. He gives them water.

Read this scripture:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Do you think that there might be a connection?

We are week by week looking at our church's vision and mission statements. We are called to bring others to Christ, embrace them with love, nurture everyone in faith.... I'm scheduled to preach a sermon in a couple of weaks about nurturing everyone in faith.

I think that might be what making disciples is all about. We don't stop with baptism. We teach the word. We show those whom we bring to Christ that God is present, even to the end of the age. Why do we do that?

We do that because God calls us to make people into disciples. Not to leave them thirsty.

Because when God calls them and we bring them to Christ, it makes them thirsty for more. We can't stop with the bring; we have to give them living water.

May everyone be thirsty.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Prayer with beads

A Prayer to be used with Anglican Prayer Beads:

The Cross:
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Invitatory:
The Lord's Prayer

The Cruciforms:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

The Weeks
Be thou my vision, O Lord, when times are unclear
When times are confusing
When times are frightening.
Be thou my vision, O Lord, when times are joyful
When times are celebratory,
When times are amazing.
Be thou my vision, O Lord, when times are uncertain.

Note: Of course, this was inspired by the hymn, Be Thou My Vision (UM Hymnal, #451)


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Constructing Prayer Beads

The cable was out last night, so I didn't get a post posted. To make up for that deficiency, I'm post-dating this post. (Smiling).

Anyway, I posted a prayer today to be used with prayer beads. You can order anglican prayer beads, and the link I used with that post -- Full Circle Beads -- does a wonderful job with them. I recommend them.

But, it is just a string of beads, and if you would like to make your own, here is how I made the set that is pictured in "tomorrow's" post.

(The sizes of the beads are just guesses because I don't actually remember, but I am measuring them for you, so it's close. Really, though, chose what you like.)

  • 5 -- 9mm beads for the cruciforms and the invitatory
  • 28 -- 6mm beads for the weeks
  • 1 cross with a loop at the top for the string
  • 138 -- 1mm beads
  • stretchable nylon cord -- I think it is 0.5mm; I know it is clear. (I find it in the jewelry section of the craft store.
  • Clear nail polish
  • Beading needle is very helpful (also from the jewelry section).
  • Also, the last time I made a couple of these, I used a beading tray, which was great.

  1. Take a long length of cord. Double it. Pull the "bent" end (not the two ends) through the loop on the cross. Pull the double end through the protruding loop and draw tight. The cross is now attached to the doubled length of cord.
  2. Pass the two ends of the cord through the eye of the needle.
  3. Place 5 - 1mm beads on the doubled length of cord (both strands passing through the bead), then a 9mm bead, then 5 more 1mm beads, then a second 9mm bead.
  4. Remove one length of the double strand from the needle, leaving one strand through the eye. From now on you will be working with one strand at a time.
  5. String 4 - 1mm beads, then a 6mm bead. Repeat this 6 times (for a total of seven).
  6. String 4 -- 1mm beads, then a 9mm bead.
  7. Repeat step 5.
  8. String 4 -- 1mm beads. This is the end of one side.
  9. Drop the string for the first side in a way which will prevent the loss of any beads. Alternatively, leave the beads needle on that string, and place the second string on a second needle. Either way, you will need to have the second string attached to a beading needle.
  10. On the second string, place 4 - 1mm beads, then a 6mm bead. Repeat this 6 times (for a total of seven).
  11. String 4 -- 1mm beads, then a 9mm bead.
  12. Repeat step 10 and step 11.
  13. Tie the two strands together with several knots. Place a dot of clear nail polish on this knot to seal it.


  • The size of the beads is up to you. The number of 1mm beads is up to you. I like 4 between each of the larger beads because this results in a set of beads that I can double around my wrist, and it fits like a bracelet. Three 1mm beads between each one is too small to do that, and 5 between each larger bead creates a strand that is too long for my taste. The 1mm beads are just spacers. They do not get counted in the prayers.
  • Pick out beads whose color and weight appeal to you. I had one set with hematite weeks -- I really liked it as a strand of prayer beads because it was heavy.
  • Prayers to use with the beads can be found in many places. There are several at Full Circle Beads.
  • You can see my beads at this link or in "tomorrow's" post.

Why use them? I like using the beads for one reason -- it slows me down. I go one time around the loop, and I am quiet. I am calmer. I can concentrate more. It is the way that I can "be still" and know that He is God.


    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    A Willing God

    Exodus 12

    The hot Egyptian sun
    baked down on him
    until he felt as hard and dry
    as the bricks
    that he was forced to make.
    Since he had been a child
    he had slaved in the unforgiving sun
    with his family,
    turning out brick after brick,
    turning straw into buildings.
    In his dryness,
    In his hardness
    Hope had evaporated.
    Taken from him.
    With his childhood
    With his freedom.

    Joel was fourteen.
    Old enough to be a man.
    Young enough to see
    endless years of slavery
    stretching before him.
    He used to laugh at his name,
    which meant "God will be willing."
    What God?
    There was no God.
    There was only mud,
    And straw,
    Whips and sun.

    So when his younger brothers
    Came home excited to tell the news,
    News of frogs and gnats,
    News of boils and water like blood,
    He scoffed.
    God, come to deliver them?
    Leave here?
    Grasp freedom?
    There is nothing else.
    There is just sun, mud, and work.

    The time came
    When the younger brothers
    brought news from Moses and Aaron.
    Kill a calf.
    Prepare a hurried meal.
    Don't leaven the bread,
    Don't take the time.

    "Tuck your cloak into your belt
    Keep your sandles on your feet,
    and your staff in your hand."

    The news was that the first born
    would die tonight.
    His parents followed Moses word
    Spreading blood on the doorframe,
    As they watched him
    Out of the corners of their eyes.
    He was their first born.

    In turn, he watched them,
    as they prepared a hasty meal
    And prepared to flee.
    To leave.
    And something in him
    stirred to life.

    He stood in the doorframe
    Protected by a willing God
    And listened to the cries of the ones
    Whose firstborns were dead.

    Part of Joel died that night.
    The part that was hopeless.
    The part that did not believe
    He was changed
    by his willing God.

    He tucked his cloak into his belt,
    Put on his sandles,
    Picked up his staff,
    and prepared to do the unbelievable.
    Began to hope for the unimaginable,
    and placed his faith
    in a willing God.

    * Exodus 12:11, paraphrased.

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    Friday, February 15, 2008

    Imprecatory Prayer

    Before I start talking, consider this story.

    A Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Wiley Drake, in Buena Park, CA, is being investigated by the IRS for "mixing politics with religion" (that's a quote from Yahoo!, not the IRS). Rev. Drake wrote a press release, using church letterhead, personally endorsing Mike Huckabee, and calling on all Southern Baptists to do the same. He then discussed the endorsement on "The Wiley Drake Show" -- an internet broadcast from his church, in which he said, "Yes, I endorsed him personally and yes, we use the First Southern Baptist Church. Yes, we broadcast the 'Wiley Drake Show' from the First Southern Baptist Church. Everything we do is under the auspices of the church."

    His lawyer now states that his client has a right to free speech, and that his statements were a personal endorsement, not a church endorsement, "and he made that very clear."

    I leave that determination up to you and the IRS.

    What I want to write about today is one of Rev. Drake's responses to this investigation.

    Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS. Drake later lashed out at them in an Aug. 14 press release and urged his supporters to direct "imprecatory prayer" toward two of the group's officials, Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming. He gave as examples of imprecatory prayer: "Persecute them. ... Let them be put to shame and perish" and "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."
    This blog asks the question -- is imprecatory prayer a response that the church should be using?

    If you haven't heard of it before, Rev. Drake's examples are illustrative of this type of prayer.

    In our Wednesday evening class this week, we discussed the idea that God is able to handle our anger as well as our prayers. Upset with God? Tell him. Angry with God? Tell him. Rant and rave, God can handle it, and we have several examples of these kinds of prayers in the Psalms. But should we ask God to direct our anger against other people? How does that mesh with Jesus' command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us?

    First of all, trust God. He is God. While I do believe that there is power in prayer, I do not equate that power with the power to the stick a pin in a doll and have injury come to the human likeness of the doll. God is not "into" voodoo. Do I believe that Rev. Drake's imprecatory prayers will bring harm to those against whom he prays them? No. I thank God that we have a God who will answer prayer wisely.

    As a parent, when your toddler stomps his foot and tattles on his little brother, demanding that you punish the younger brother for his "wrongful acts," do you take direction from the toddler? No. Is it sinful for the toddler to be that angry? I don't know, but I do know that God, like a parent, can handle our temper tantrums.

    Don't filter your prayers. Give it all to God. I think that this kind of honesty in prayer will draw us closer to God; it will help us to develop a relationship with our heavenly father. And as we do, then perhaps we will notice that the imprectory prayers sound false in our mouths. Bitter. Jesus came to show us a better way to live; a life of grace and transformation.

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    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Living in the Box

    I found this Meme on Cheesehead in Paradise.

    Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!): That would be John Ortberg's When The Game is Over, It all Goes back in the Box. I'm sitting here on the couch, with tons of books sitting around, but that one was in my computer bag, leaning against the couch.

    Find Page 123 and find the first 5 sentences. Page 123 is actually the first page of a chapter. The first 5 sentences are the introductory paragraph of the chapter called "Fill Each Square with What Matters Most."

    Post the next 3 sentences. The next three sentences are from a quote by Lewis Smedes:

    I bought a brand new date-book yesterday, the kind I use every year -- spiral-bound, black imitation leather covers wrapped around pages and pages of blank boxes. Every square has a number to tell me which day of the month I'm in at the moment. Every square is a frame for one episode of my life.

    I can't let the story end there, because it is a long quote, and a good one. Smedes goes on to say that each square will eventually be filled with his activities for the day -- classes, lunches, meetings. Many things won't make it onto the calendar, but will be squeezed into the day -- cups of coffee, lovemaking, prayers, and hopefully, good deeds. He lives one square at a time, and the lines of the squares are the walls of time that organize his life. Each box has an invisible door that links it to the next box. The door opens, and he is pulled through to the next box.

    One day he will walk into a square with no door to the next square. "One of the squares will be terminal. I do not know which square it will be."


    Wednesday, February 13, 2008


    They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ Genesis 3:8-10
    We were talking tonight in class about honesty in prayer. This passage came up as an example of how God knows all of our shortcomings and sins, and yet we strive to hide them from him anyway.

    If God knows what we have done wrong, then why is confession necessary?

    • Isn't there truth to the idea that sharing our sins with God is a step in forming a relationship with him?
    • By stating our sin, do we take ownership of it? Once we accept that have sinned, then do we take a step with God in correcting that sin?
    • When we confess our sins, do we open our hearts to God's forgiveness?

    Notice in the scripture above that God gives Adam and Eve the freedom to confess? He leaves the choice up to them, just as he leaves it up to us.


    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Logos -- John 3:1-16

    When I was young -- eight, maybe -- I was asked to read John 3:1-16 in our church service. I remember practicing, I remember reading it. I didn't understand it, but I do remember liking verse 16. I read it from the Good News Bible -- I know that, because the pastor signed the I used and gave it to me as a gift (we should do that).

    For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.
    As I child, I liked the idea that God loves us -- not just a little bit, but a whole lot. That's a good message to remember, I think.

    As adults, and I'm not saying that this is bad, we get very involved in trying to understand the whole story. What does it mean to be born again? What does it mean to hear the sound that wind makes, but to not know from where it is coming or where it is going? What does that have to do with God? Why was Nicodemus so literal? What does a bronze snake have to do with Jesus? There are all kinds of questions we can ask.

    I do wonder, though, if we get so caught up in the details that we miss the message that an eight year old understood. God loves us, not just a little bit, but a whole lot. Maybe that's part of having the faith of a child.

    It had never occurred to me before today that God could have sent Jesus in anger -- we really do sin all the time, and it would have been justified. He could have sent Jesus to bring justice -- sometimes we really need justice, in our sinful world. It never occurred to me before today, and I've read that passage many times.

    Perhaps it never occurred to me because I know that God loves us, not a little bit, but a whole lot. To be incarnated into our world for any other reason than his love for us is against his nature.
    Jesus loves me, this I know
    For the Bible tells me so.

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    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Say What?

    When we talk to our son G on the cell phone, and sometimes even in person, he often makes no sense at all. I assume that he is forming words and connecting them into thoughts, but what I hear does not communicate any ideas at all. It's gobbledegook. It's just normal teenage speech, but I think sometimes that I need a 14 to over 40 dictionary. And he needs lessons in how to not mumble.

    I found a blog entry today that defined the word lime in this way -- slang from Trinidad & Tobago which refers to a group of friends hanging out together, either arranged or impromptu, usually involving food, and always beverages (not necessarily alcoholic). It's not hurried, and the location doesn't matter. To lime, as I now understand it, it to get together with friends just for the purpose of enjoying each other. Isn't that a good word? But, if I go up to a friend tomorrow and say, "Let's get together for a good lime," I am not going to be understood (especially since none of my friends are from Trinidad).

    Do we sometimes speak, and think we are understood? Do you have a conversation with someone and realize that the two of you are on completely different wavelengths? Steve, on Sunday, watched two people talking to each other. They were both talking about Suzanne, but he thinks that they were talking about two different Suzanne's and neither of them knew it.

    Our method of communication if flawed.

    Why is it, do you think, that some of us are so certain that we completely understand what God is trying to tell us? Why is it that we become so convinced that we understand what the Bible is saying and that our interpretation is completely right? I can't even understand my own son sometimes; what makes me think that God and I are always on the same track? Is it not possible that we could be mistaken?


    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    In a mirror

    I was reading RevGalBlogPals today, and found this sentence:
    This psalm [#51} certainly evokes a deep sense of our own sinfulness, and longing for forgiveness. It is a "dangerous mirror of grace,"
    If follow the link above, you will find an essay written by Walter Wangerin. He's talking about seeing the sadness of his wife -- her suffering that resulted from something that he had done wrong. He said:
    But if I look away from her whom I have hurt, I have also turned away from her who might forgive me. I reject the very source of my healing.
    . When we look upon the crucified Christ, we see the suffering that he endured because of our sin. When we turn from that, we turn from the one who is the very source of our healing.

    Perhaps that is part of what repentance is about. It is a turning around; it is the recognition of our sin. When we look in that mirror, we not only see our sin reflected, we also receive grace.

    We receive forgivness.

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    Saturday, February 09, 2008

    Eyes Open

    I've noticed that lately I haven't been posting many pictures. It is because I haven't been TAKING many pictures. The world outside has been dreary -- wintery. The sky has been overcast, the trees are bare. The outside world has seemed monochrome.

    I decided coming into work that this was a challenge that I had been ignoring. God is always around, and if I really believe that I use my camera to capture God's handiwork in nature -- those "ah ha" moments when he stops me, and points out wonders around me, then he would be doing that all year round, if I would only pay attention.

    So before I went into the lab on Friday, I carried my camera around with me and walked around our building, looking at the fields and surrounding hillsides. The picture I posted yesterday was one of the ones I captured, as are the three posted today.

    God-images -- beauty even in the tip of an evergreen and a dying leaf. Beauty even in an overcast sunrise. Joy in the dreary. God, close by, so often ignored, but willing to be seen if we will open our eyes to his presence.

    Images: Leaf, pine tree and sunrise at the VA.


    Friday, February 08, 2008

    Love Like We've Never Seen

    And Jesus stood among them,
    praying for them,
    asking God to take care of them.
    He knew what would happen the next day.
    He had no illusions about the coming of the dawn
    and what it would bring.
    And yet
    He stood there, among them,
    Praying for them.

    Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
    That you conferred as a gift through me,
    So they can be one heart and mind
    As we are one heart and mind.

    Why do it?
    Why pray for them?
    Why pray for us?
    Why pick up that cross?
    Could he possibly love them that much?
    Could he possibly love us that much?

    I am gonna show you what I mean
    I am gonna love like you’ve never seen
    You are gonna live like you used to dream
    This is your new song

    Now he stands among us.
    We don't always see him,
    and when we don't see him,
    we fail to show him.
    But he is there,
    closer than we think.
    And he prays for us
    as he prays for them.
    He died for us
    as he died for them.

    I'm praying not only for them
    But also for those who will believe in me
    Because of them and their witness about me.
    The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
    Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
    So they might be one heart and mind with us.
    Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
    The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
    So they'll be as unified and together as we are—

    And now we stand among each other
    We are to be the light
    We are to show the light.
    Are we witnesses?
    Have we seen Him?
    Do we proclaim him?
    Do we live our lives
    As if we are loved like that?

    Coz I am gonna show you what I mean
    I am gonna’ love like you’ve never seen
    You are gonna live like you used to dream
    This is your new song

    Do we sing our new song?
    Do we live like we used to dream?
    Do we show them love like they've never seen?
    Do we love like that?

    Notes: Verses from John 17, The Message. Other stanzas from Don't Get Comfortable by Brandon Heath.

    Image: Leaf, this morning.

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    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    What type are you?

    I took a quiz today to determine my spiritual type. Apparently, I am a mystic type.

    Does this sound like me?

    You are a Mystic, known for your imaginative, intuitive spirituality. You value peace, harmony, and inner silence. Mystics are nurtured by walking alone in the woods or sitting quietly with a trusted friend. You may also enjoy poetry, meditation, wordless prayer, candles, art, books, and anything else that helps you connect with God
    The site urges us to come to God as we are. I like that, and I think it is true. Each spiritual type is offered a different way to pray. Here is the mystic one.

    I do think that this brings into focus the idea that we are all made diferently. We can each apporach God and each other stretching, reaching from our own starting points. The method isn't important; the goal is the same -- our One God.


    Wednesday, February 06, 2008

    Who's fault is it, anyway?

    J and I have this routine. It's not a routine that I would choose -- in fact, it frustrates me every time we play it through. I ask, "J, have you done your reading today?" (He has to read 2 hours a week for school). Inevitably, he smacks his head, as if he could have had a V-8 and says, "I forgot!"

    No, he didn't forget. He chose to not read. He couldn't possibly forget every day.

    Do we try to remain blameless in our lives? Do we relinquish responsibility? How do we do it?

    • Do we blame other people for our own errors? "If he had only reminded me, then I would have taken care of the problem."
    • Do we use excuses? "I'm so busy! I just forgot."
    • Do we blame God? "Why did God let this happen?"
    • Do we blame Satan? "The devil just didn't want us to do well."

    So many times I have heard the question, "Why does God let horrible things happen? Why is there hunger? Why are children abused? Why does God allow terrible people to do awful things?"

    What is our role? What is it that we are supposed to be doing? Could it be that some of the blame belongs in our laps?

    Image: Fog on the Ohio River


    Tuesday, February 05, 2008


    Signs. Signs are a form of communication. What do our signs say?

    In my email today, I found several funny signs. Take a look at these:

    • A white highway sign in Monroeville, Pennsylvania , says, "Entrance Only/Do Not Enter."
    • A yellow diamond-shaped sign from Mill Valley, California , says, "Not a Through Street." Right below it is a blue circle with a white arrow pointing straight ahead and the words, " Evacuation Route ."
    • A sign in Pennsylvania says, "Invisible Fence Now Open."
    • A sign from Tibet reads: "Lhasa Recelption Centre for the Unorganized Tourists."
    • A sign from Rome, Georgia , says, "Used Rainbows, $250 and Up."
    • And finally, a blue sign with white letters reads: "Pakistan-Narcotics Control Board Investigating Unit." But it is obscured a bit by the marijuana growing up in front of it.
    Doug Lansky,; submitted by Lee Eclov

    Communication is a tricky business, and I don't think these signs, while humorous, communicated the message intended.

    We had a District meeting at our church a couple of weekends ago. I wanted the people in our district who came for training to feel welcome; to feel that we cared that they were in our church building and that we wanted them to know where they were going. Truly, if you can find a bathroom, you are 10 points ahead of the game. I hope those signs said, underneath it all, "Welcome to our building; we are glad you are here."

    Walk around your church building. Look at the signs. Look at the lack of signs. What do they communicate? Nothing is communication neutral. Everything says something. Is the message one that you want to convey? I think I'm taking a church walk.


    Monday, February 04, 2008

    Peer Pressure

    Our youth group meeting on Sunday was about peer pressure. The youth had some interesting observations, and I learned some things about youth:

    • One of the youth said that not all peer pressure is bad. Of course, she is right, but as we were planning the programming for the evening, I never even considered it. It was bright of her to realize it, and actually, one of the main items were discussed was the role of positive affirmation and encouragement.
    • There were many comments about "health class" and how the topic is covered in school. I was glad that our programming for the day included biblical links -- an aspect of the topic which I'm sure is not covered in school.
    • I was surprised that many of the youth didn't believe that they were susceptible to peer pressure. I know from experience that my own son has been, and yet when I asked them to rate how much they were influence by peer pressure, he rated himself low. I also have a feeling that we adults do the same thing.

    It was a good program, and I hope the connection to the scripture gave it a twist that public school classes do not have. I want our youth to know that they are valuable to God -- that they chldren of God. Peer pressure -- excuse me -- negative peer pressure devalues us, our opinions and ideas.


    Sunday, February 03, 2008

    Reflections of grace

    Tonight was the annual Super Bowl party for our Sunday school class. Steve and I went over and stayed for about a quarter of the game. I was talking to a member of our class about Jim -- I've mentioned Jim before in the past couple of weeks. Jim passed away last Tuesday.

    His life was service -- taking care of people. There was a time during the funeral for people in the santuary to stand up to to tell us what Jim had meant to their lives. A few people did, and then Ray and Jim, two bus drivers in town, stood up and gave testimony to the influence that Jim had had on their lives.

    As we were talking about him , Patrice said the whole thing has made her think of people differently. She looks at the mailman differently, the store clerk differently. You never know who you might be influencing.

    That's true. God doesn't always show us how we are influencing people. He just calls us to be graceful and to serve others. When we do, our lives become reflections of his grace, just as Jim's was.


    Saturday, February 02, 2008

    Control Issues

    Did you read the comment on yesterday's post? Thanks to bob for leaving it (No, I don't think it's Rob/Bob; it's bob.). He says that while he believes that someone should have stood up to protect the youth and their participation as communion servers, he does wonder if a pastor would stand up to an older person in the church who was probably a bigger doner.

    I've said the same thing myself -- not about this issue, but about other issues. Thinking about this today, and expanding it out somewhat, I've put together a list of stewardship thoughts. JtM, in addition to being a teacher at our church, a guest blogger and a great friend, is also a stewardship guru, and I've learned a few things from him. We'll give him credit for the good thoughts on this list, and I'll take the blame for the mistakes:

    • Don't assume that just because you THINK someone is a big church doner that he or she is. Someone who doesn't give of time and talents may not be giving the gift of funding, either. Unless we KNOW (and I hope none of us do know) who is giving what, then assumptions can be incorrect.
    • Don't reduce stewardship to just money. When we do that, we reduce people to just their money. I've thought about this, and I think that we do a disservice to each other when we reduce stewardship to money. We think of people as only what they will donate, and we ignore our own responsiblity in nurturing everyone in faith -- especially that person we think of only for his/her money.
    • Donation amounts cannot (although, yes, bob is right -- sometimes they do) be the controlling factor in our churches. God must lead what we do, or we might as well close the doors.

    I'm reading the book "When The Game is Over, It all Goes Back in the Box" by John Ortberg. One of the things he advises is that we need to resign as Master of the Board. We think we are in control -- of our lives, of what happens around us. We control small things, but we can't change the length of our lives, the decisions our children make, the health of our family -- we can't even control whether it is going to rain or not. When we use things like money to try to manipulate people, we are pretending that we are in control when it is all an illusion. As a church, and as church leaders, we need to remember who is really in control.

    Of course, I say that, but I've never been faced with the situation. I hope I would heed my own advice.

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    Friday, February 01, 2008


    Every once and a while I read something absurd on a blog. Things that are true, I imagine, but still just plain absurd. If you go read this post at Everyday Theology, you'll find a story about a youth worker who told a group of youth leaders in a conference a story. Apparently at her church, the youth were helping to serve communion until an adult member of the church said that s/he couldn't stand receiving communion from a youth.

    So the youth were no longer allowed to serve communion.

    Reaction-wise, it makes me angry. I'm a youth worker in my church, and I know that many of the youth are on the path to spiritual maturity. Sometimes their viewpoints and testimony demonstrate their closeness to God. Sometimes, I am nurtured in my faith by them. Many, if not most of them are confirmed members of the church. They are as qualified to serve communion as I am.

    I do wonder if someone ever says (hopefully not in my church), "I can't stand receiving communion from a woman." Would someone stop women from serving communion if that comment were made?

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