Sunday, November 30, 2008

Afraid to change

We were talking in Sunday school today about the passage from II Corinthians 11 about our weaknesses being made strong in Christ.

I believe that. I believe that God's strength is seen very clearly in my weaknesses. When I give up, when I let go, God can go to work, using anything in my life -- including my weaknesses -- for his glory.

We started talking to the source of our weaknesses. Where does our desire to be controlling, our lack of self-confidence, our pride or our emotional natures come from? Do we learn it? Are we born with it? Does our environment shape us? Has God made us the way that we are, or has the world?

Are our weaknesses really weaknesses? I think some of mind obviously are, but JtM made the point that something we might consider to be a weakness could actually be seen to be a strength by someone else.

Someone else said that we need to know our strengths and our weaknesses so that we will focus our efforts on using our strengths -- being good stewards of that which God has given us.

I think that often what we fear is that we will be challenged to use our weaknesses. I think that sometimes we avoid the growth that will come when we give our weaknesses to God, and he leads us to that place where we have to change. Are there times when we are afraid to be more than we think we are?

Image: Animal Kingdom


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Third Blogiversary

Today is Sandpiper's Thoughts third anniversary. Over the last three years, there have been 1198 posts and 33,272 hits (as of 8:35am).

There have been four guest sandbloggers for a total of 16 posts. Add to that images from three other photographers -- G, Steve and JtM.

For a little history:

All of the images, in lieu of a "three candle" clipart, are images of three from our Disney trip.


Friday, November 28, 2008


Couple of reflection images for you from today. The first one is of a nearby golf course, but once I saw the picture -- look at that reflection -- I thought the fact that it is a golf course was immaterial. I like the reflection.

The second image is from Epcot. More reflections -- these at night.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Sing of Thanksgiving

Inspired by Psalm 65

We open our thoughts.
Our minds, our hearts, our spirits
in praise of you, our God.

We open our sins to you, our God,
when they threaten to overwhealm us,
when we are drowning, unable to catch our breath
in the suffocation of them.
You free us.
You forgive us.
And we are alive again.
All praise and thanksgiving
We lift to you.

We open our hearts to you, our God.
You draw us close in your unconditional,
Love for us.
You transform our lives to joy,
and we celebrate our time
spent in your presence,
in your house,
in your Holy Kingdom.

We open our minds to understand you, our God.
We see you at work in your world
We try to grasp what you do
as you deliver us from evil.
You bring us alive in hope.
Hope that is larger than we could ever grasp.
And yet you tempt us
Encourage us
Convince us
To believe.

We open our eyes, and we see you, our God.
We see your mountains, which you shaped with your power.
We hear the silence of the sea, the roaring of the water,
The voices of your children.
The morning whispers your name.
The evening echoes your breath.
The trees lift their hands to your in gratitude for the rain
The rivers dance to your bidding.
And we are fed.

We open our lives to you, our God,
and offer them in thanksgiving.
You shape the earth
And bring it to life
You shape our lives
as we live them here on earth.
Time itself is witness to your royalty,
The land is overwhelmd by your bounty.
Creation itself is joy.

We lift our voices in praise of you, our God
And we join in the hymn of the world.
We sing counterpoint to the praise of your creatures,
crossing your land
We clap in syncopation to the heads of grain
moving in the wind.
We join in creation's praise
as it shouts and sings together for joy.

All praise and glory is yours, our God,
and we come to you
raising our voices in thanksgiving,
for our song has no end.

Image: Sunset on the way back to the hotel

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Disney World

We're at Disney World in Florida for Thanksgiving. Pictures are of the sunset at Downtown Disney, an interesting (?) statue at the hotel and the fireworks as we walked back to the room.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let your face shine

I was reading a devotional from Goshen College yesterday. It was the first in a series of Advent devotionals. The theme of the week is "Let Your Face Shine."

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80
How does God let his face shine? How have you seen God's face shining lately? I see it so often in others -- in those who love me, who care for me, who care and love others. God's face shines through others.

We are on the edge of the Christmas season. Our society celebrates the holiday in a way which sometimes makes it difficult for God's love to shine through us. And yet, all around us during this time, there are opportunities for Christ to shine his light through us.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Open to shaping?

I was looking through the Upper Room Worship Book today, and found this prayer, based on psalm 139:

It is not you who shape God,
it is God who shapes you.
If, then, you are the work of God,
await the hand of the artist who does all things in due season.
Offer the Potter your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form in which the Artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of the Potter's fingers.

I really like the Potter image in these lines.

How often do we try to shape God to our own image? How often do we limit God because of our own preconceptions or try to transform God to who we want him to be?

What does it mean to be soft and tractable for the Potter's work? I know that there are times when I am stubborn and hard, when my heart is not loving. These attitudes become obstacles to the work of the grace of God in our lives.

Are we clay in the Potter's hand? Or are we rocks, impossible to mold? Are there times when we are rubber that takes a shape and then bounces back, losing the transformation of God's work in our lives?

Do we allow God to shape us?


Sunday, November 23, 2008


Ever since last week, when the lectionary reading was Matthew 25:14-30 -- the parables of the 3 servants and the talents -- I've been thinking about an alternate ending to the parable.

What would have happened if the 3rd servant had reluctantly entered the presence of the master and told him that he had taken the one talent, put it to work for the master, and then lost it, instead of burying it to protect it?

What would have been the master's reaction?

Would he have been angry because "he reaps where he does not sow?" Would he have been at least satisfied that the servant had attempted to use use the money wisely? I think he would have.

I think that the master would have been pleased by the initiative necessary for failure rather than angry because of the servant's fear of loss.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday Five -- Appliances

It's late, and I can't think of what to write, so how about this week's Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals.

With Thanksgiving coming up, the Friday Five is kitchen-related questions:

  1. Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?
  2. For the first time since we've been married, we do have a food processor. I don't use it all the time (at all), but I have found it to be very helpful when I do use it. I specifically remember assembling a scalloped potato casserole -- we ran those potatoes through the food proccessor, and WOW -- perfect slices. It was great.
  3. And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)
  4. So far, we've only used the disk blades.
  5. Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties? We use a Kitchenaid stand mixer. I love using it. It's great!
  6. How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much? We do have a blender, and no, we don't use it much. When I was pregnant, I craved cold, red things -- like red slurpees and non-alcoholic strawberry daquari's, so in those months, the blender got used alot.
  7. Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most? We have a Pampered chef chopper that is great.
Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it? Oh! Turkey baster.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Altar


Thursday, November 20, 2008

153 Fish

In our final class about the book of John, we were discussing chapter 21. In this chapter, which primarily a redemption story about Peter, the disciples are fishing but not catching anything. Jesus tells them to throw the net over the right side of the boat. They catch so many fish that they can't draw the net back into the boat.

Peter looks at the shore, recognizes Jesus, gets dressed (I think that's funny; I never noticed it before), jumps overboard and swims to shore. The other disciples bring the boat and its catch to shore. In the net are 153 fish. Why 153?

Someone in class, as we compared Jesus on the shore, with a charcoal fire cooking fish to Jesus feeding 5000, said, "Think how many people Jesus could feed with 153 fish."

That comment stuck with me. How many people could Jesus feed with 153 fish? That many fish is an abundant number. It's an overflowing net. It's a whole bunch of fish. Jesus could feed a miraculous number of people with that many fish.

Feed my sheep. We are equipped with abundance to feed God's sheep. The overwhelming number of fish didn't tear the nets or wreck the boats. It was abundance, but the disciples were equipped to deal with it. How many people can Jesus feed with that many fish?

As many as we will.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Take a look at the picture to the right. It's a Christmas decoration. You can read more about it at this link. It's offered for your purchasing pleasure by the American Family Association.

Do you think that anyone thought that the decoration could be misinterpreted? I think I may not be the only one who noticed. I found the link on the United Methodist Reporter Blog.

Sometimes I wonder how often we fail to see past our own perspectives and conceptions. Do we sometimes fail when we try to imagine how someone else will react to what we say or do? Do we hurt people unintentionally? I'm sure I do.

Hopefully not as blatantly as a cross which appears to be on fire.

Other image: Sunrise at the high school this morning.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Sometimes I try to explain to people why I take pictures. It began as a way to open my eyes to the world around me. And that's why I continue to take the pictures.

Our devotional at our office meeting this week was based on Psalm 19. Read these verses:
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice* goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
(Verses 1-4)
That's why I take pictures -- because the heavens tell the story of God. Because while there is no speech; their words end through all the earth.

The world around us speaks with the Voice of God. Taking the picture is my way of recording it.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Beyond Reason

I heard a story today about a woman who kept a pet raccoon. I can't imagine. Raccoons may be cute from far off, and without really knowing their nature, but they are not friendly, pet-like animals. Hers was 60 to 70 pounds.

She knew that it wasn't a great pet, but she couldn't help it. She loved this animal.

Loving that raccoon was not wise. It was not even legal. It was inconvenient to her life, and could even have been dangerous.

As I was listening to the story, I wondered if we are ever like that raccoon. Are we loved by our Father when it probably isn't very wise for him to love us? Loving us certainly proved dangerous for his son. And yet, beyond wisdom, beyond reason, we are loved.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Burned out?

One evening, Jesus fell asleep on a boat durign a storm. He was tired. Worn out. Sometimes we are tired; it is a normal experience; to answer it, God provides us with rest and sleep.

Sometimes we over schedule ourselves. We set our days so full that we find that we are over committed. This is a normal mistake that we need to rectify.

There are times when we say that God is calling us in a different direcition, so we change our day to day schedule so that we are listening to God's change in call on our lives.

But have there been times when we say, "I am burned out."? At charge conference today, Mark said that we only beceome burned out when we move away from the fire of God. It's not becuase we are too busy, or overscheduled, or heading in the wrong direction. It's because we have moved away from God, and the energy which has kept us alive to God's work has been reduced by distance.

Burned out sounds so possible -- it sounds like have been hard at work, very busy, and aren't we commendable for doing all we have done?

Mark's description puts excitement in doing God's work.

Image: Mt. Union UMC, Pliny, WV


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rising from Death

As I was working on our Advent devotional, assigned dates and scriptures, I ran across Mark 9:9-13. The person who had that particular scripture associated with the date didn't use it, but as I read it, I was struck by a particular sentence:

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. (Verses 9 and 10)

There is, of course, an obvious answer -- what does rising from the dead mean? They probably couldn't have even imagined what he meant by the phrase or what it foreshadowed. Even with the advantage of hindsight, I think it's a something that we can't even begin to understand.

Putting the obvious aside, though, what does it mean for us, right now? Is there life after death? Do we live a life in which we are dead only to be brought to real life after we come to know God? Does our life after death begin when we say "yes?" Does it begin every day as we continue to say "yes" to God?

If we live in the kingdom of God now, then isn't it true that we have already risen from the dead?

Image: Moon rise in Hungington on Thursday

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Youth Music

Ebenezer UMC here in town had a Youth Music night in conjunction with their 137th anniversary celebration. Our youth "orchestra" was invited to take part, so we took them over this evening.

All of the music was done by youth and children. Was it perfect? No. But it was perfectly real and inspiriting. Was it without mistakes? No. But it was full of beauty and grace. Was it professional? No. But it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and was inspiring to those who listened. Were the children and youth free from nerves. No. But they were brave and courageous.

I wonder if there is a lesson in that for all of us. God knows us well enough to not expect or demand perfection. Instead he brings us the inspiration to be courageous. All he asks is that we step out of the boat and take a chance. When we do, it brings the presence and awareness into the room around us.

We have gifts. They have been given to us by God to be used to accomplish his mission here on earth. Sometimes we hesitate to use our gifts, fearing that we won't be good enough or perfect.

The lesson tonight is that perfection is not the goal. Declaring the presence of God through our actions and words is the brass ring. Do that, and God will be with us. Do that, and everything will be changed.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Part of my work and part of my time at my church are spent thinking and talking about stewardship. When I'm sitting at a finance committee meeting at church, I find it hard to articulate what I think stewardship means, and how to apply that to the annual "stewardship campaign."

I wonder if it is because what we call in churches the "stewardship campaign" is actually a "fundraising campaign." We don't call it that, because we don't want to talk about money, but really, that's what it is. The purpose is to raise funds to pay for the next year's ministry.

Stewardship is something else. Stewardship is about money, but its about something much bigger and much more transformational.

A was reading a newsletter today called Radical Gratitude. In it the authors are discussing All Saints Day. "It seems that when we begin to recognize the saints in our lives -- those people who shine so clearly as channels for God's grace alive in the world -- stewardship really makes sense." That stopped me. The saints I have known in my life lived or live a Christ-like life. How does that help me to understand stewardship? Could it be that stewardship is living a Christ-like life?

Another quote: "A good steward spends their life loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. And loving their neighbor as their self. If you put God first in all things..." Could it be that "putting God first in all things" is stewardship?

If we use these definitions of stewardship, then it is something that we should be talking about all year -- not just during the fundraising campaign. By then it's almost too late. If we talk about living a Christ-like life and putting God first in all things, then fundraising is a fruit of our relationship with Christ. We don't give money in order to be good stewards. We are good stewards, and one of the fruits of that is that our money belongs to God.

Do we get it backwards in our churches?

Image: Sky on the way home one day.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Talents and Relationship

One of the lectionary readings for this week is Matthew 25:14-30 -- the Parable of the Talents. Read this passage:

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' Verses 24-25
I've never really liked this parable because of that line. I don't like the image of the Master -- if it is meant to reflect the nature of God, then it is contrary to my image of him.

Today, reading it, I wondered if part of the point is that the man who received one talent doesn't know his Master like he thinks he does. I wonder if there is anything in this parable to suggest that those who are in relationship with God will have a better understanding of him. I wonder if that better understanding will lead to the courage to use one's talents -- to put them into action rather than hiding them. I wonder if an accurate image of God will lead us to trust and to the willingness to understand what God has given us is abundance, rather than scarcity. I wonder if there is anything in this parable to suggest that it is only in giving away what we have been given that we will come to find the joy of its return to us.

Just me, thinking. Perhaps I'm just reading into the passage what I want to see.

Image: Leaf in the courtyard at St. Marks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I bought a box of sympathy cards today.

That doesn't sound unusual. I'm always buying cards, and this box joins probably five other boxes of cards in my cabinet. Get well cards. Cards for encouragement. Thank you cards. Thinking of you cards. I like to have cards on hand because I often feel moved to send one, and in order to get that done, I have to be able to grab and send -- not go look for one at a store. So I keep cards around. But never sympathy cards before.

Every time I would pick one up at the card store, I would put it back. I didn't want to need them, so I didn't want to buy them.

Last week the mother of a church member died. I sat down at my desk to send a card, and I didn't have any. I need to keep sympathy cards on hand, too, so I gave in and bought some today.

Death isn't something we want to think about. Someone last week asked when the baby-boomers were going to day. The answer was, "Never. They expect to live forever."

And here's the amazing thing. We will. We will live forever. We will live forever in the presence of God.

We should mourn at death. We mourn the loss the loved one leaves, but we also, and I think rightly so, mourn that the person we love didn't have more time in this physical life. We were created to know that life here, in this world, is precious. We were created to yearn for life, and then to celebrate when we arrive in the presence of God beyond this place. There is glory here. It is cracked and distorted by sin, but God is here, and so is life lived in his presence.

That's why songs centered around the idea that "there is nothing here for me" bother me. There most certainly is something here. That's why the idea that "God plucked another angel for his garden" bothers me. I think God mourns our passing from this life as well. He welcomes us home, but we have been sent here for a mission, and part of that mission is to find the joy and glory of this life.

So, I don't like to buy sympathy cards. I don't want to have to share in mourning. But I will -- buy the cards and share in the mourning. I think it's the way we are made.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Stepping out

This past weekend, our older son, G, went to a Conference Council on Youth Ministries meeting in Beckley. He road to the meeting with another Western District representative.

Steve called him during the trip and found that G was in Elkview. I will give you a clue that my son didn't have; Elkview is not on the way to Beckley. They left here at 4pm, picked up a friend at around 5pm, and made it to Beckley Temple at a little before 10pm.

Couple of things that you need to know. The normal person driving normal speed would get to Beckley from Huntington in less than two hours. It took them a little under 6 hours.

And then again, on Saturday, she drove back the L...O...N...G way again.

I asked Grant if his driving friend drove to to Beckley via Summersville because she thought it was the shortest path or because it was a way that she had traveled before. His answer, "Because she was familiar with the way we went.

Do we ever do that? Do we walk the same path because it is safe and familiar? Even if it takes us on a longer path, or even goes the wrong direction? Or do we sometime step out of the box and try something new?


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Unprepared and Unconnected

I attended worship today at Central UMC in Fairmont, WV. The pastor (Rev. Mary Ellen Finnegan) preached on the Matthew 25:1-13 lectionary reading.

I'm still thinking about one or two of the things she said:
  • The foolish bridesmaids appeared to be as prepared as the wise bridesmaids. They were dressed correctly. They were in the right place, with the right equipment. All that was missing was the oil, and no one would have guessed that from looking at them.
  • As the bridegroom approached, all TEN bridesmaids trimmed their lamp wicks. Isn't that interesting? Even the bridesmaids without oil went through the motions of trimming their wicks, even though they knew that they had no oil.
Are we ever like that? Do we appear on the outside, to everyone one around us, that we are full of the light of Christ, when really, inside, we are just empty? Do we ever go through the motions of welcoming God, of serving God when we know that we are so far from God that service becomes impossible. Are we ever the foolish bridesmaids -- not because of lack of preparation, but because we appear to be ready, and act like we are ready, and connected to God, when we are really not connected at all.

In the children's moment, Mary Ellen compared the foolish bridesmaids to flashlights without batteries. Unable to shine. Are we ever that kind of person?


Saturday, November 08, 2008

We've always done it...

I was listening to a minister today speak about a fundraising program at his church. He wanted to lead them to change a particular aspect of the event. "But this is the way that we've always done it."

Pretty common response.

As I was riding the shuttle through Alexandria the other day, I noticed this Starbucks. Look how old the building is. Old. And yet there is a Starbucks inside of it.

Think that is the way they've always done it?

No. What are the possibilities if we trust God a little more and let go of "how we've always done it?"

Of course, I'm guilty of this, and I need the reminder, too.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Home again, and too tired to post, but here's a picture of Alexandria from a walk today.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Today during lunch I left the hotel and started walking down King Street. It's a street which runs from the Masonic Monument to the waterfront. It is tree-lined, with wide brick sidewalks, shops, many banks and several restaurants. I had traveled down King Street the day before during lunch, turned around and on the way back, met someone from the conference I'm attending. We had lunch at a small French Restaurant -- quiche au crabbe (crab?). Yummy.

Anyway, she told me that the waterfront was a nice place to visit and that it was just a couple of blocks beyond the main street that we could see crossing King Street.

OK, then. Today I set off at lunch to walk to the waterfront. Ann (the lady I had lunch with) was wrong. It was not a couple of blocks beyond where I walked the day before. It felt like miles and miles. Altogether, I think it is about 17 blocks from the hotel. The farther I walked, the more determined I was to get to my destination, however, so I kept on walking.

Remember, I am in business clothes, including business shoes. My feet, even as I type this, are very unhappy with me.

I did make it to the waterfront (see the picture above as proof) and was lucky enough to find the free shuttle which travels up and down King Street (should have taken it TO the waterfront, too). Except for the sore feet, it was worth the walk. It's a beautiful street, and I would love to have the time to explore the shops.

I could have prepared better. I could have taken the time to put on comfortable shoes, to look up the distance from the hotel, or to have found the shuttle on the way down.

One of the lectionary readings for this week is Matthew 25:1-13. It is the parable of the 10 bridesmaids, some of whom take oil with them for the long night ahead, and some of whom don't. They all could have been prepared; only half of them were.

Even though there are ways in which I feel unprepared for my new job, there are also ways, as I look back, that I am amazed by how God has prepared me (in some ways -- not in all ways!). For example, about a year ago or more, I decided that I needed to be able to stand up in front of a crowd, and to pray without preparation (see this post). That was a challenge for me. I decided that if God was calling me to do certain things in ministry -- like being lay leader -- then if I let him, he would equip me for this, too. So I let go of the worry, and just did it. Now I don't worry about it any more; I just pray. And it's joy.

Little did I know how much I would need this skill -- beyond being lay leader. God has prepared me, in this way, for this task. It just took trust.

Easy to say. Not so easy to believe. Even harder to act upon.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Peace in his arms

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm in Alexandria, attending a Planned Giving school. This evening, after the meeting, I walked across the street for dinner. I'm here by myself, so I chose something close that wouldn't require too much time walking, would be in a well lighted area, and was at an early time in the evening. I'm being careful. It's still a little bit tense, walking around in a large city, on my own.

As I came to the hotel, there was a young couple with a baby. He was pushing the stroller, she was carrying the baby (Isn't that always the way? Why won't they ride?). The baby was obviously secure and happy with her mom, just looking around, making baby noises, completely at ease.

Isn't that they way life in God should be like? I don't mean that we are protected from misfortune or illness, but that we can rest like a child in the arms of our father. We can step out in faith that we are never alone, and that our future is in his hands. We can have peace.

Image: George Washington Masonic Memorial, next door to the hotel, lighted at night.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On the Road

I'm was traveling today, from Huntington to Alexandria, VA.

As I traveled, it occurred to me that I seemed to be traveling back in time, through my life.

My first stop on the road was Charleston, at our office. This is the present -- the reflection of one of the changes in my life.

From there, I took the WV Turnpike, passing by Beckley, where my grandparents lived. How many times have I ridden in car to Bradley? I couldn't begin to count.

From Beckley, I64 to Lewisburg, and then past Covington, where my grandparents lived through my grandfather's last position in a construction job. As I drove by, I could smell the paper plant. Such a distinctive odor that I would recognize it anywhere. Strange how smells stay in your mind.

As I drove through Virginia, I passed Mananas, where my grandparents lived prior to Covington.

Now I'm in Alexandria, just a stone's throw from Annandale, where I lived until I was 6. I remember that house, going to kindergarten down the road, playing in the yard.

The mountains have their own time, and a wise man doesn't try to hurry them. Diana Gabaldon in A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Looking back at my life, through my childhood, and thinking of how my work life has changed in the past year, I am reminded of something. I used to be a research associate; I now work for the church. I used to do western blots, DNA isolation, and fellow training. Now during a day at work, I might write a trust agreement, work on a PowerPoint presentation or collaborate on a brochure. My work life has changed.

What has not changed is that the person sitting in both chairs -- in the lab and in my new office -- is me. How can one person have two jobs that are so different from one another? How can one person's gifts be used in such different ways?

But I am the person who was born in Washington, DC, visited grandparents countless times in a Virginia and West Virginia, lived in Huntington, got married to my best friend, had two sons, got a masters degree in biology and now work for a Foundation.

It just amazes me sometimes. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Image: A train running along side the WV Turnpike.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

What would be on your banner?

St. Mark's UMC in Charleston has a wonderful tradition for All Saint's Day. Each year, two volunteers make banners -- one for each member of the church who has died during the year. On All Saint's Day, these new banners are hung at the front of the church, and the ones from previous years are hung all throughout the sanctuary. It's a moving and beautiful sight to behold.

One day at work I wandered down our hallway and into the room where these two woman work on Mondays, creating the banners. I just went in to peak at what they were doing, but Mary took the time to tell me about each banner -- the person in whose memory it was being constructed, why they were using the symbols on the banners that they were, how many they were making, and how that number compared to other years.

Each banner is lovingly assembled by these two women. They include the name of the person who died as well as pictures which represent various aspects of that person's life. She showed me a banner made in memory of a minister -- on the banner was a cross and flame as well as a robe with a stole. A person who loves flowers might have a rose on the banner. A knitter? yarn and needles.

As I stood in the Sanctuary today, and looked at all the banners, I wondered what would be on a banner assembled with my name on it. If you were a member of St. Mark's, what would you want to have placed on a banner made in your memory?

In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey suggests that we should "begin with the end in mind." If you could assemble your banner today, with symbols of what you wanted your life to be like, what would you put on it? If you could name those things for which you want to be remembered, what would they be?

And if you could do that, shouldn't you (and I) live your life so make that a reality?

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

My Vote

I just received an email from a person who believers that God may allow someone not of this person's choosing (and thus not of God's choosing) to become elected .

God may do this in order to amplify his glory and grace.

I think it might be arrogant to assume that we know the mind of God so well to say that we know who he wants to have elected.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Christ in a Crisis

I was taking notes in a meeting on Thursday. Our investment consultant was using the word "crisis" to describe the current economic situation. No surprise there, but as I was trying to write it down, I had a mental block. I couldn't remember how to spell it. For some reason, I kept trying to start the word with "chri..."

Any guess as to what word my pen was trying to write?

The etymology of the word crisis is: Middle English, from Latin, from Greek krisis, literally, decision, from krinein to decide.

It's interesting to me that the word crisis is centered around the word "to decide." A crisis is a time for a decision.

Perhaps seeing the word Christ in the word crisis is not a bad thing -- and is a good reminder to all of us. In a crisis we have a choice -- do we bring Christ into it, or do we forge ahead without him?

The word crisis and the word certain share the same word origin. Isn't that interesting? Certain is such a solid, unmoving word, while crisis seems to bring to mind a cliff -- a precipice. Perhaps if we were to chose Christ in a crisis, we would learn to stand on the certain ground of hope in God?

Here's another one -- prayer's word origin involves the word "precarious."

Doesn't that fit together nicely?

Image: Sunset on Fifth Avenue

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