Monday, June 30, 2008

So now...

Many months ago, JF Lacaria, our conference Director of Leadership Formation and Ministry Support, wrote a column for the WVUM newspaper which discussed the idea of "so that." Why do we do the ministry that we do? "So that..." It's a phrase that has woven its way into committee meetings, Emmaus talks, prayers and sermons galore, spoken by me, by Steve, by JtM... That phrase has had an effect on all of us.

I've gotten so I say, "What's the 'so that' of what we are doing. Sometimes people look at me funny, but I still say it. I underline the phrase in bible passages. Steve used it in one of his Emmaus talks. I think JtM sneaks it into prayers and sermons, hiding it.

I was reading something today or yesterday. I found the phrase "so now." I stopped and read it again. I even wrote it down. I think it has the potential of being another important phrase in ministry. "So now..." What is the next step?

So often we notice a problem. We define it, we analyze it, we share our thoughts about it. What we don't often do is follow through. "We have this problem in our church, so now we will..."

What is the "so now" action?

I was presenting an Annual Conference report to a Sunday school class this past Sunday. I shared with them the statistic that 60% of the churches in our conference have not had a member join through profession of faith in the past year. Our church is not one of the 60%, but we aren't much above that mark. A person in the class asked if our committees were talking about that problem.

I explained that members were talking about that in committee meetings. The "so now" is bigger than that, though. There are several "so now" actions that I discussed with them.
  • Our conference is having an Evangelism school called Commission Possible. I was encouraging them to attend. So now, learn about what to do about it -- so now learn about evangelism.
  • I explained that we ARE the congregation of the church. It is up to me, and to each of them to change the way we operate. If we are going to "bring people to Christ" (which is a phrase from our church's new Mission Statement) then each of us needs to take steps to do that. We know the problem, SO NOW we EACH need to take steps to answer the call
  • People come to our church by being born into it, or by being invited to it. The class I was speaking to is mainly retired people -- no babies here -- so now, invite people to come to know Christ.
So now...make disciples for Christ, so that the world will be transformed.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's more than the cross

I can't find it now, but sometimes in the history of Sandpiper's Thoughts, there was a discussion going in the comments about the importance of the crucifixion. My point as I wrote the post was that we needed to remember the joy of resurrection in our worship, not just the pain of crucifixion. There was a gentleman who disagreed with me -- his point, if I remember it correctly, was that it was Christ's pain and suffering in his death which saved us, and our worship needs to reflect that.

The fifth characteristic of a robust gospel reminded me of that discussion. A robust gospel "includes the life of Jesus as well as his Resurrection and the gift of the Spirit alongside Good Friday."

Read this quote from Christianity Today:

The robust gospel incorporates us into the life of Jesus Christ, into his death with us, for us and instead of us, into the resurrection that justifies and creates new life, and the Pentecostal spirit that empowers us to live together, as image-bearers of God, in such a way that we glow with the glory of the blessd God.

The crucifixion is not the only event in the story of Jesus which has meaning and impact for us. We need the incarnation; we need the resurrection and we need Pentecost. We are recreated; we are sent out to transform the world. How could we do that without a complete, robust gospel?


Saturday, June 28, 2008

More than just for me

We've had some interesting weather here recently. The sky will be blue; fluffy white clouds, and then a thunderstorm will rush in, crashing into the area with thunder and lightning and pouring the rain. The image in the post today is of one of those storms. Standing in the parking lot of the mall, we could see decent weather to the west and these huge thunderclouds to the east, with green light (icky!) and lightning.

As we drove home, there was no rain, and then all of a sudden, we would drive up to the edge of the rain, and get pelted.

Is life ever like that? Are there times when we don't even notice what's happening in the world around us because we are enjoying blue skies and white clouds?

The fourth characteristic of a robust gospel is that it has a grand vision.

Are there times when our faith boils down to a tiny view? Are there times when we see God's work as the salvation of our own soul, and nothing else?

The mission of the United Methodist church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. There is a "so that" to God's work in the world. His vision is grand. His purpose is to have a relationship with each one of us -- one on one -- but he isn't willing to stop there. The truth is robust.

The gospel of Christ should do more than just change our own personal life. The robust gospel of Christ will motivate us to reach out as Christ's hands and feet so that the world may be changed. Anything else is too small.


Friday, June 27, 2008

God is Good

A young woman
Mother of three little girls
Wife, twice now,
Stands in front of a congregation
And proclaims

God is Good.

She is surprised for a moment by the response.

All the time.

She had said it from her heart.
She truly believes it.
To her it is not rote or routine.
In her life, God has been good.
All the time.
Through all of the challenges,
God is good.
And she knows it.
More than just in her head,
But in her heart.
In the core of her being.
God is good. All the time.

I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, for ever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

Do we sing of the Lord’s faithfulness?
Do we proclaim his steadfast love to the generations?
Are our words just the noise of the surf on the shore?
Or are our declarations as firm as the heavens?
Music to the ears of the angels?
Harmonizing with their heavenly chorus?
Or are our words empty?
Is our praise like the sound of a droning gnat?

Do our actions negate whatever sounds our mouths put forth?
Do our judgments drown out our songs?
Do our children hear our proclamations of praise?
Or do they only hear our hatred and bigotry?

When we are changed by God,
When we hear the sound of grace, flooding our lives,
When we open our eyes to the power of God
And our ears to the whisper of his voice,
Then our faith in God will echo in our song:

God is Good. All the time.
All the time. God is Good.

Psalms 89:1-2

Image: From West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, June

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Living Stones

I wanted to take a moment to highlight two items for you:

First, take a look at this newer blog, written by our new Director of Communications in the WV Annual Conference. The blog is called Living Stones. Go take a look. And thanks to Laura for this post, which mentions Sandpiper's Thoughts and was a great thrill for me.

Also, if you get a chance, read Laura's latest post about Evangelism. It includes an interview with Biship Lyght and a link to a column written by our Director of Evangelism and Congregational Development, Amy Shanholzer.


Look up

One of the more difficult scriptural passages from which to teach is one of the lectionary readings for this week -- Genesis 22:1-14. It's the story of Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him.

As an illustration of how much of a probem this passage is for those who preach from it, take a look at the comments on Tuesday's Lectionary Leanings at RevGalBlogPals. The title of the post is "Was Abraham Crazy?" I've taught from this passage -- on Easter one year -- and just when you think you have a handle on it, the whole passage skitters away, and leaves you scratching your head.

As I was reading the comments on that post today, one of them struck me. Have you ever been reading something, and just stop, knowing that you've seen something that you have never noticed before?

Take a look at verses 11-14:

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."
There is a comment on the post above which asks the question -- What if Abraham hand't looked up? Are there times when we are so focused on what we want that we ignore what God wants? I thought those were great questions.

How hard is it to discern the will of God? Did Abraham have it right all of the time? Was he right to believe that God wanted him to sacrifice Isaac? Was it truly all a test?

Abraham messed up quiet often. Could this have been God's desperate attempt to convince Abraham to pay attention and do His will? Or was it only the last command -- a loud and powerful, "STOP!" that was God's actual will?

And which ever of those is the answer, what is Abraham had failed to look up? How often do we make horrible mistakes because we walk around ignoring God?


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Living Water

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a)

I really like my new job. I am incredibly blessed (as our Annual Conference minister would have said, "Blessed beyond measure") to be a part of this ministry.

I was headed down the hallway this afternoon with my handy dandy, non-disposable water bottle, to get some water. I'm trying to drink more water. Not succeeding, but trying.

Anyway, as I was walking down the hallway, I decided to step into the chapel, to see what it is like. Our offices are in a church in Charleston; I had never seen either the chapel or the sanctuary.

The chapel is beautiful -- modern, with some interesting stained glass windows. I'll go back some time with my camera and get to images to post. It has that quiet, peaceful feel of a room dedicated to God. I was struck by the quiet, knowing that one of Charleston's busy street is right on the other side of the wall.

I sat in the pew for a few minutes. When I worked at my old job, there were times when I would stop by our church during lunch, and sit in the quiet of the sanctuary. I hadn't realized until this afternoon that I missed those quiet moments -- I didn't realize it until I had one this afternoon.

It was a completely different room -- different size, different look, different feel. One room holds many memories -- one room I had never seen before. Both held that quiet feel of a room set apart; that quiet feel of a room in which the mind can pay attention to the presence of God.

I have a feeling I'll be back in that chapel, if only for a minute or two, if only now and then.

I touched the baptismal font on my way out. The church keeps water in it, so that one can remember his or her baptism. I went out of the office for a glass of water, and came back having found living water.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is your Gopel large enough?

I went to Sunday school in a different church last Sunday. The teacher (who was also the pastor of the church) talked about the "big picture" of the Bible. He said -- and I love this line -- that the Bible goes from creation to re-creation.

The third mark of a robust gospel from Christianity Today is that "the robust gospel deals with a robust problem." To quote the article:
When Eve, with her husband in tow, chose to eat from the wrong tree, the [God] image was cracked in each of ... four directions: God-alienation, self-shame, other-blame and Eden-expulsion. Sin results not only in alienation from God, which is paramount, but also in shame of the self, blame and antagonism toward others, and banishment from the world as God made it to be.

Our problems are huge -- we are separated from God and from each other. In order to solve these very big problems, we need a very big gospel.

Nothing short of re-creation will solve our problems. We must be transformed. We cannot find the answers to our problems without God, even though we try all the time.

I think that may be why I bristle when someone places a criteria on grace -- when someone insinuates that we can only earn grace through our "good" behavior. We are transformed by grace -- not through our own power, or through our own actions, but through the love and action of God. Unless we realize that, our gospel is not nearly robust enough.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Building bridges


Sunday, June 22, 2008

A mix of Music and Thoughts

Something a little different today. I ran across several YouTube type videos this afternoon that I thought I would pass on for your attention:

Neighbors -- Take a look at this great story. Isn't it wonderfull when someone puts the other person first?

How Firm a Foundation -- This is a video of someone playing this hymn on a different kind of instrument (I'm sure someone reading this will be able to tell me what KIND of instrument that it is.) It sounds very West Virginian to me.

Down to the River -- I visited a church today to do a short presentation. During the service a sweet baby named Rachel was baptized. On the way to our church for a goodbye luncheon for our pastors, I played this song on the iPod.

Summer in the City -- How about this video of this song from the 60's? Do I have the decade wrong?

Friday Five -- From RevGalBlogPals...the Friday Five.

Think summer......are you there? Below you will find five words or phrases. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem, a memory, a recipe, or a story. You get the idea:

  1. rooftop -- For some reason, rooftop gardens came to mind. They sound very romantic and fun, but I imagine if we had one, I would not be spending much time in the garden. I hate to be hot!
  2. gritty -- Beach, but I love it anyway.
  3. hot town (yeah, I know, it's two words) -- New Orleans. Talk about a hot town. Steve and I visited several years ago in June. Hot.
  4. night -- Fireflies. It's a cool thing, to be able to sit outside on a summer evening and watch the fireflies blinking on and off.
  5. dance
I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
They came to me and the dance went on.


I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame,
The holy people said it was a shame;
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
And they left me there on a cross to die.


I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.


They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.



Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's personal

The second mark of a robust gospel, as described by Christianity Today, is that the robust gospel places transaction in the context of persons.

Do we reduce the gospel to a transaction between God and us? Do we see it as a trade -- removal of our sin in exchange for our faith?

The gospel is more than that. This is not a WalMart faith. The article reminds us that it is personal -- it is God, it is Jesus, it is the Spirit and it is you or me.

I like the final sentence of this section in the article:
In our proclamation, to the focus of the gospel must be on God as person and our encountering that personal God in the face of Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit.
It's bigger than a trade. It's personal.


Friday, June 20, 2008

The Gospel is a Story

I read an article in Christianity Today called The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel. It's written by Scot McKnight.

Do we settle for a small, weak gospel? Do we miniaturize the gospel?

I may work my way through the 8 Marks discussed in this article, taking them on one at a time.

The robust gospel is a story.

There is a big picture to the Gospel. Jesus' entry into the world as a human wasn't the first mark on a blank slate. There is a big picture to the Bible. His incarnation is a response to a world of sin and brokenness. His presence brings hope in darkness. Light in sin.

The minister who lead communion this evening at the Gathering stood up and kind of squinted at us. He said, "It's very bright in here; we're not used to the light." He meant that the overhead lights were on and that they usually weren't, but what I heard is that the world is made brighter through Christ -- sometimes it seems so bright that we can't deal with the light.

Jesus came to a world of darkness and offers us hope. He leads us into the kingdom of God, knowing that we don't know the way and that we need his leadership.

Image: Santuary at St. John's United Methodist in Teays Valley


Thursday, June 19, 2008


I was reading an article in Christianity Today. It was talking about Adam and Eve. It mentioned that part of the consequence of sin was banishment.

JtM is working on a sermon for Sunday. One of the lectionary readings that he has chosen to use is the story of Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21:8-21).

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
Hagar and Ishmael were banished as well.

I've never paired the two incidents together.

  • Both were banished as the result of sin -- obviously for Adam and Eve, but also for Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah became impatient with God (not that Abraham was blameless). Then, when Issac was born, she doubted the abundance of God.
  • Both Adam and Eve and Hagar and her son were banished, but none of them were separated from God. God went with them.

I also think that it is interesting that Ishmael comes back when his father dies in order to bury him (Genesis 25:8-10). Do you wonder why he did that? Why would Ishmael come back to bury a father who deserted him -- really leaving him to die?

I wonder if there are a couple of lessons in this for us. We are banished, and yet God is with us. He does not leave us alone, even in our sin. If we let him, he will change us. He will make the impossible, possible. We will be transformed by grace.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Giving up

I read this today on Songbird's blog:

But Jesus tells us clearly, he has come to upset the way things have always been.
I think it might be useful for church people to think about something in our faith community on which we rely, something we love, something we would never want to see changed, and imagine life without it. How might letting go of the thing we love make us understand or serve or simply love Jesus better?
What could your church give up?
  • The attitude that the sanctuary belongs to one or two people instead of to God.
  • The idea that new church members have to be just like us.
  • The idea that music has to be sung to the organ and can only be the same as it has always been.
  • A particular seat in the sanctuary.
What would you like to see your church give up?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Allowing Love

I've been reading the book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Don Piper was in a car accident, died, saw heaven and returned to life 90 minutes later. That's a fantastic story, but it's something much more ordinary that I want to talk about today. If I had to guess, I would think that no one reading this message has died. Am I right?

What most of us have experienced, though, is a reluctance to accept help from anyone. Piper faced the same problem. He was in the hospital, with a contraption on his leg to lengthen the bone (he lost 4 1/2 inches of his femur in the car accident). He was unable to go about his normal life. He is a pastor, and many of his parishioners came to visit him in the hospital. All of them were praying for him; all of them wanted to help.

Whenever someone offered to do anything for him, he refused the help. One day a retired minister came to visit him. Watching his refusal of help with so many people, the minister told him that he needed to get his act together. He made Piper promise to let someone do something for him. He told his friend that he was denying all of these people the ability to love him in the only way that was open to them.

Don't we do that? Don't we hesitate to accept help because we feel like allowing someone to do something for us is a bother to them? Do we consider it an admittance that we can't do everything? A weakness? Do we feel as if we are being a burden?

I was working on a one day church retreat a few weeks ago. I had decided that it would be a nice touch to have coffee in each room for the afternoon meetings -- nine rooms located on three different floors, and I had 15 minutes to get the coffee in carafes and then taken with cups, sugar and cream to the rooms. I had to get all of this done before I stood in front of the group and explained the afternoon activities. As I was working in the church kitchen, my sister-in-law came and stood beside me. "What can I do to help?" I had an automatic response. I almost said, "Nothing, I'm fine." I stopped myself, and realized how much I needed help, and how great it would be to HAVE the help. Together, we got coffee prepared and taken to all of the rooms. She's a loving woman, and I stopped myself before I denied her offer of love to me.

In his book, when Piper described the moment he realized what he had been doing, he writes, "This is their ministry," I thought, "and I've been spoiling it."...When I finally did open up, I witnessed a drastic change in their facial expressions and in their movements. They loved it. All they had wanted was a chance to do something, and I was finally giving that to them."

Do we let people love us?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Joy as a reponse

At Ichthus, the "preacher" for the Saturday evening service was Jon Weece. He is the senior pastor at Southland Christian Chruch in Lexington.

His sermon on Saturday was based on the scripture in Acts 16:16-40. It's the story of Paul and Silas in prison and how they sang and prayed while they were chained. Joy in a time of torture and pain. How is it that they could find joy in this situation.

Because joy is not happiness. Weece quoted Karl Barth, who called joy "the defiant nevertheless." He also said that if we miss out on joy, then we miss out on our reason for existence.

Does that sound like strong words? I think he may be right. Remember, joy is not happiness. Weece called joy the natural response to the grace of God. In fact, he said that joy and grace share the same root word. he said that joy is kara and grace is karos. If grace is the love of God, then joy is our response to that love. It isn't dependent upon external forces -- it's a response to the activity of God in our lives.

Back when our church started natural church development, one of the judgments about worship was whether the worship in our church was joyful. This gave some people pause, because they didn't think that worship should always be joyful. But if we think of joy as our response to the grace of God, then worship should always be joyful. It should always be a response to the grace of God. In fact, Weece described worship as that which prepares you for heaven.

According to Weece, Christ can displace the worry at the center of your life with joy. Doesn't that sound great? Know what it sounds like to me? Peace.

Image: Tiny little bee in St. John's Wort, and a close up of the bee.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gifts from the Sea

I picked up Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book A Gift from the Sea and read the first two chapters on the way home from Ichthus this afternoon. In the book, she bases each chapter on a different kind of shell.

The book was written in 1955. She was a housewife and a writer and was spending a few weeks on an island off the Gulf Coast of Florida. I think that this might be a book more suited for a Type-A personality -- I am not Type-A.

Looking at the first two chapters:

  • She talks about simplicity in life in the first chapter. I could definitely learn more about simplicity in life. I could use some motivation to de-clutter my life. We have too much "stuff" and no where to put it.
  • The second chapter is about solitude and how women don't value the need for solitude and its role in recharging our lives. Not me -- I know the value of solitude, and I am selfish enough to demand it in my life -- to make it a priority. I need time to be away from my kids. It is a vital commodity for me to be able to be a good mom to them. I get grouchy and impatient with them if I can't be away from them for a time. I refuse to feel guilty about it, and I will make time for it.
So one out of two chapters which apply isn't bad.


Saturday, June 14, 2008



Friday, June 13, 2008

Sunshine and storm clouds

Ichthus today got rained out. By the time we arrived, there was a huge thunderstorm -- winds, rain, etc. Before we left, they had locked the front gate, and we're not sure that the gates were never opened again this evening.

I liked this view of the sky as we left the parking lot. Sunshine and storm clouds. Even if we can't see the sun, it's back there, behind the clouds.

Here's hopeing we get the kids into the festival tomorrow.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


We're at Icththus with our youth group. I'm tired and sleepy, so here are some end of day photos...


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In God's Image

I was surfing through some blogs the other day when I found a post on the blog Gifted for Leadership: A Community of Christian Leadership called In the Face of Tragedy. Read this quote:
If I hurt this much in the face of such distant pain…how much more the heart of God who knows by name every one of those dead. I grieve with the Holy Spirit—moved to share in the sufferings and passions of Christ. This is why he came. God loves the world so much.
I wonder if this is part of the explanation of God's role in suffering. We are hurt by the pain of others because of God's presence in our lives. We suffer with them because God suffers with them. Others share our pain because of God.

I know it sounds simplistic, but I wonder if we take empathy and sympathy for granted because we don't know how to live any other way, but could those characteristics be part of what makes us made in the image of God?

God works through us, his people, his Church. We are God’s answer to a hurting world—we must point people to Christ’s love, healing, redemption.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Steve's men's group meets early Wednesday morning. They are currently reading the Ortberg book "Everybody's Normal Till you Get to Know Them. I was looking for a blog post topic for today, so I picked up this book (I've already read it once: my comments about it are here.) In fact, one of my favorite parts of the book is in Chapter Two -- their chapter for tomorrow. I really like his description of how the Trinity is an example of community (post here).

Today, as I was looking through the chapter, I noticed this sentence:

"A community is not simply a group of people who live together and love each other. It is a place of resurrection." (Jean Vanier)
That sentence stopped me. How is it that community is a place of resurrection. In Christianity, using the word resurrection MEANS something. It's a powerful word; it implies the involvement of God. So how is community a place of resurrection?

  • I think that in true community, we are recreated. We have new life because we are able to serve and to love -- those are God given pursuits that we cannot accomplish on our own.
  • If God experiences community through the trinity, and we are created in the image of God, then we have a need for oneness that we can only find in community. We are closer to the image of God when we are in community.
  • When we are sinking into the depths of sadness, friends -- community -- can lift us up and bring us new life. That's resurrection in a way.
  • Have you ever sat with friends, laughed, talked, and felt the measure of time change? It's energizing and it brings us joy. Happiness, yes, but JOY. I think joy is found in being close to God. That's a means of grace and a way to resurrection.

We are made for community. We are made to be transformed and to find resurrection. Amen.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

The Unexpected

One of the lectionary readings for the week is Genesis 18:1-15. It includes, in verse 12:

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"
I've always kind of wondered if Sarah laughed out of joy or disbelief. Was she laughing because she found the idea of having a child at her age so ridiculous as to be funny, or was she scoffing?

Did she believe?

In the Bible study during conference and in the sermon, one of the recurring themes was to believe in miracles -- to expect the unexpected. Do we ever expect what we think would be impossible?

Just today, I have experienced conversations that I never really believed would happen:

  • I heard our past finance chairman speak of our church with optimism, making plans for when we grow larger. To talk about our church as if it will grow, is to believe that growth is possible.
  • I heard a member speak about prayer. She spoke about God and about how she is praying for him to lead her to evangelism. She went on an Emmaus walk in April, and I really think that she has, in her own way, been transformed by the power of God.
  • My son got his hair cut today!

Things happen which are unexpected. Perhaps we could show God the faith of believing in what we would never expect. And laughing with joy at the idea of it!

Image: Flower from Annual Conference

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Summer Meme

I found this meme at St. Casserole, and I kind of liked the questions. She says, "Toby Brown at Classical Presbyterian created a Start of Summer meme ..."

  1. What first tells you that Summer is here? For me, that would be the heat. I love love love the perfect days of spring, when the temperature is that perfect 70-ish level, the breeze is blowing, and the sky is perfect blue. The hot, sticky weather that follows is summer.
  2. Name your five of your favorite distinctively Summer habits or customs? We've been grilling out, whichi s a summer custom to me. Other summer habits would include vacation, not taking the kids to school, not worrying about homework, and carrying a summer purse. (Just as a sidenote, a summer purse has room for a paperback book inside.
  3. What is your favorite smell of Summer? Grilled steak. Beach. Garden grown herbs. Roses.
  4. What is your favorite taste of Summer? Watermelon.
  5. Favorite Summer memory? When you go through childbirth classes, they teach you to have a focus image to think about when you are breathing through contractions. My focus image for childbirth, and what I think about when I think of the beach was a sunset walk at the beach -- perfect weather, perfect lighting. Great memory.
  6. Extreme heat or extreme cold? Which would you choose and why? Hah! Hah Hah Hah! If you know me at all, you know the answer to this question. I would always choose cold over hot. I hate to be hot.
  7. What books do you plan to read for the season? I told my Emmaus reunion group that I was going to pick up a book to read that dealt with God and faith. I was standing at a bookstore that day, looking at the books, when I realized I was buying a book because I thought I SHOULD. I did eventually buy one, but I kind of let go of the idea that I NEEDED to be reading what I thought of as a book for spiritualn growth. Maybe that's not where God wants me to be right now. I did pick up Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, which I'm going to start reading, I think. I may also read some of my son's summer reading books.
  8. How does the Summer affect your faith? Is it a hindrance or an ally? I'm not really sure how to answer that. If I'm hot, I can't concentrate, so I imagine if anything, the heat of summer is a hindrance.


Saturday, June 07, 2008


It's late late late. Well, late, anyway. Some of the sessions at Annual Conference today were hot, and that just takes the wind out of my energy sails, so I'm tired. It feels like 2am, when it's really only 11:30.

Today was the consecration service. Many ministries and ministers (lay and clergy) were commissioned. I had no idea that part of that commissioning service was prayers for several categories of lay ministry, including local lay speakers and certified lay speakers.

I completed my certified lay speaker training in the spring of 2007. Today, over a year later, might have been the first time that have felt the power of commissioning as a lay speaker. I had no idea that I was missing that, or that I would be affected by that.

Part of the book that you read during the basic training discusses that the position of certified lay speaker is one of answering a call (just like so many other ministries). It asks, "Has God called you to this ministry?" As I went through the training, it seemed serious, but once I had finished the training, there was no response from my church. It never occurred to me until today that I was missing that -- that I needed to be "prayed over."

I think we need the prayers of others to feel commissioned.


Friday, June 06, 2008

The Chapel

It's been a long day, and I'm tired, so here's a picutre....

Wesley chapel at night.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008


In opening worship this morning, the music director, Jorge Lockward, gave a short introduction to the song, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
He said that most people, when they consider this song, think of the idea of leaning in the arms of God. And that's true, but if we are the body of Christ then we act as Christ to each other. When we lean on the Everlasting Arms, sometimes that means leaning on our community of faith -- leaning on our friends and family -- leaning on the gift of grace that God has given us in other people.
O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
I'm blessed, as the song says, to find peace leaning on others. It is a gift of grace to know that I have other's arms on which to lean. How is it, I wonder, that those who do not have that kind of support structure get through difficult times? I asked that question once, and the person to whom I asked it said, "Sometimes they don't."

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sun and Water

Sun and water.

When I look at this picture, I think of sun and water. Sun -- bright light, warmth, summer, comfort. Water -- rain, wet, annoying, thunder and lightning. Somehow in my mind, as I looked at the picture, I thought of them as direct opposites. We've been dodging rain all the way up here, trying to get the car unloaded, make trips back and forth -- all without getting soaked. There were brief glimpses of the sun this evening, but not many, and not for long.

But there is another element to the picture -- Wesley Chapel. The presence of God. What difference does the presence of God make in sun and water. Rainbows. Promises. God promises that even the times of sunshine and in the times of rain, he will be present. He will make the difference in the rain and bring purpose to the sunshine.

Sun and water. Son and the rain of grace. The reign of grace. Promises made and always kept.

I'm at Annual Conference for the rest of this week. It's my second conference as a lay member from my church and my first one as an employee of a church related entity. The business and worship sessions are held in the chapel in the picture above -- we'll get started tomorrow.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I was reading a report today for our Annual Conference and read this statement:

Whatever the reason one becomes lost, someone must seek and find the person at the point of their need, just as Jesus did when he met the woman at the well; Matthew at the tax collecting table; Peter, James and John at their fishing boats; Nicodemus, who came to him by night. The point is: Jesus met them right where they were, not where he wished they had been.
How often have we heard the phrase, "Those are the kind of members we need." As we work toward trying to revitalize our churches, we seek to add to our membership rolls. Why do we do that? Do we look for members who can contribute large amounts of money to the budget? Do we try to "recruit" those who are like us, who like the same things we do, who worship the way we do? Do we try to replicate ourselves to increase the size of our church?

To use the overused and trite phrase, "What would Jesus do?" I know that we need money to run a church. I know that we need people who are willing to volunteer their time. I know that we need children and youth in order to keep the church young. I know all of that.

I also know, and so do you, that none of those are the purpose of the Body of Christ. We are called to go out into the world and make of all disciples. Can it be, could it be, that if we were to do that, that the rest of it would take care of itself? Could it be that instead of trying to recruit people to keep the church from dying, we should act like we are alive instead? Alive with a mission?

What does that mean, exactly? I don't know. I'm not sure that I've ever seen it. I'm pretty convinced, though, that acting as if church is a country club, and working to recruit members for it, won't make a church. I'm pretty much convinced that we are called to find the lost, wherever they are (even if they are us) and bring them to Christ.

If we can't do that, why have a church in the first place?

Image: Sunset on the way back from Lexington on Saturday, taken by G.


Monday, June 02, 2008


I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley yesterday concerning jealousy. He proposes that when we are jealous, we aim it at someone. For instance, we might be jealous that a person has a car we like, so we dislike that person, which is really kind of dumb.

He thinks that jealousy is a problem. The person of whom we are jealous can do nothing to solve our problem; therefore, that person is not our problem. He believes that our problem is that we think that God owes us something. God owes us a new car -- it's only fair that he give us one, because he gave that other person one.

His solution to that problem is for us to come to understand that God gives as he will -- he owes us nothing, and he can choose to give or to take away as he wishes.

I agree that we take out our jealousy on the the person in front of us, and it is dumb. I do agree, to some extent, that God gives as he wishes -- but I don't believe that he is in the business of doling out cars.

I think that kind of anger is a bad consequence of the belief that everything that happens -- every single event -- is a manipulation of God. I think some things just happen, and are not part of God's will.

I also believe that if our happiness is based on the kind of car that we drive, then we have bigger problems than jealousy.

Image: Bevery Hills UMC. We went to our nephew's piano recital on Sunday at this church.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Way I was Made

I was listening to the radio today, and heard the song "I want to be the way I was made" by Chris Tomlin. I've heard that song before, but today I really listened the chorus.

I want to live like there's no tomorrow:
Do we live that way? Do we live our lives as if we have all the time in the world? Or do we make the most of the time we have been given, not expecting an unlimited future?

I want to dance like no one's around
I want to sing like nobody's listening
Before I lay my body down

We were in a circle during a church retreat a few weekends ago. Our outgoing pastor and our incoming pastor were serving communion, working their way around the circle. It just felt like the worship needed music, so I started singing (and happily people joined in). I don't sing; I can't sing. Singing like nobody's listening, to me, means that we sing with joy. We dance with joy. We play joy in God ahead of whether someone listening thinks we are any good or not. I have a feeling that as I have gotten older, I care less and less about other people's opinions of me.

I want to give like I have plenty
I think giving like we have plenty and loving like we are not afraid are related to each other. Do you think that sometimes we are less than generous because we worry that we won't have enough for ourselves? Do we live in a world of scarcity or of abundance? Do we act like it?

I want to love like I'm not afraid
I love that line. Loving family and loving friends places us in a position of vulnerability. We can be hurt. We can be rejected. Loving like we are not afraid is to ignore those possiblities, and to make ourselves vulnerable to the hurt of loving someone else. Why do it? Why take that risk? Because, to me, the joy of loving friends or family is so very much worth the risk. Read that carefully. There is certainly joy in being loved, but there is joy in the freedom to love someone else -- to give "agape" to other people, and I thank God I have that opportunity.

I want to be the man I was meant to be
I want to be the way I was made

God has created us in his image, and that means that we are to live life and love others as he would do -- as Jesus did. I want to be the person I was created to be; to live into my God-given potential. I hope that I am reaching toward that in some small way, at least.

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