Thursday, April 30, 2009


This was meant to be a re-telling of this week's lectionary Psalm -- Psalm 23. As I wrote it, I kept hearing the passage concerning love in I Corinthians 13, so you may find echoes of that scripture as well. This was written as a devotional for our church's devotional ministry.

Oh, Lord, my God.
You care for me as if I am your own.
You fret over me.
You search for me when I am lost.
You never give up.
You love me.
In you, I can find everything I need.
In you, I am complete.

If I will just but breathe,
You will take me to lush, green fields,
Still waters.
You will take me to peace.
You will transform and renew my spirit with you own.
If I will just but listen and follow
You will lead me on right paths.
You will direct my journey
So that I am with you.

Even when I stumble.
Even when I walk in darkness
Even when the world around me seems too heavy to bear
Even when I feel alone
You are with me.
You lay your hand upon my heart
I am comforted.
You never fail, and
I am loved.

I am prone to fear
But in you, I have no fear.
In you, I am free of my sins
For you do not keep a record of my wrongs.
Your persevering presence is my strength.
Your love and your touch
Calm my soul.

You walk before me
You prepare the way for me
Even when I feel as if enemies surround me
Even when I cannot find a friend
You are my hope.

I am covered
Anointed with your grace.
It flows over me with abundance
Never ending.
My life is so full of blessings
That my heart cannot hold it.
My life overflows with grace.
You give me faith.
You give me hope.
You give me love.
And my life cannot contain it.

You have been with me from the very beginning
When I was a child, you walked with me
Even as I stumbled.
Even though I am no longer a child
You continue to light my path
Your goodness and your mercy
Follow me

Every day I am alive
Every day of my life
Even as my life ends
My life continues in you.
I will dwell in your home,

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Words and Picture


What do our church buildings say about us? Are they welcoming or intimidating? Are our doorways open?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good News

I was at our District Conference this Sunday. The last time I attended a District Conference was two years ago -- last year I think I was at a youth event.

As I type this post, thinking about the Conference, I realize that this year it was different. This year as I looked around the room, there were many more people that I knew, or knew of. It's from working where I do, and it's a nice by-product.

Before we left, I stopped to speak to a part-time local pastor that I've known for a few years. I originally met him when we both attended a basic lay-speaking class in -- what? -- 2006? At that time, he was a lay leader like me, but I think even then he was exploring a calling to ministry that God had placed on him.

Now he is pastor at a church in our district. Last fall, Steve and I went his church to hear JtM preach at a revival. As we were leaving, we stopped to look at a photograph on the wall near the church's door. Someone saw us looking and started talking to us. This started a chain reaction, and every person in that church stopped to say hello. It was one of the most friendly churches I have visited.

So (and I'm rambling from my story), I stopped on Sunday and spoke with this pastor. He's doing well at the church, and finding the joy in his calling. His wife, who I met at his church, said, "Tell her the good news!"

"I baptized 8 people this morning, and we'll have 4 more this evening."

It was good news. It is wonderful news. Do we celebrate it, or do we take it for granted? Do we remember that this is God's claim on someone -- visible to all of the community? We should call it GOOD NEWS! It's wonderful, and I'm so happy for him and for his church, and for our Church, to be welcoming 12 new members on one day.

Good news!

Image: Bishop Lyght at District Conference (First UMC, Huntington)


Monday, April 27, 2009


We were talking about miracles in Sunday school yesterday. The scripture for the lesson was from Acts -- Peter telling the man at the Beautiful Gate to get up and walk.

The questions asked had to do with the idea of how the stories of miracles increase our faith or how do they challenge our faith. Someone told a story of how she had been asked, "How can you believe? The miracles seem unbelievable."

We talked about day to day miracles -- how we see God in daily life.

A member of the class, who has been battling cancer, told a story. She has been at Cleveland Clinic. On her lowest day there -- when she had hoped to go home, but had found out that she had to stay, on the day when she has a slight conflict with the nursing staff, on the (same) day when her husband had to leave and come home -- on this very lowest day, she got an email. It was a prayer from another member of the class. She received it on this day when she needed it the most.

If I can believe (and I do) that the creator of the universe cares so much about her and the day of recovery that she is having to work through someone else to touch her, then I can believe in miracles. Water into wine - that's nothing.

If I can believe that God forgives my horrible sins and welcomes me into his presence, then I can believe in miracles. Healing a woman from bleeding? I can believe that.

I wonder if we take for granted the unbelievable idea that God dwells in our lives. We wonder about faith in miracles, and yet, when you think about it, the miracles of the bible may be "small potatoes" compared to the idea that the creator of the universe whispers in my ear.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009


Ever see something that just didn't belong?
Are those seagulls in the mall parking lot?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sky this evening



We're spending the night at church, helping to lead a Youth Lock-in that is a 30 hour famine to raise awareness of world hunger among our youth.

Each year, during the famine, late on Friday night, we have a Candlelight service. We place 100 tea lights on the table and the youth take turns blowing them out, over 5 minutes. The 100 candles represent the 100 children of God who die every 5 minutes from hunger related illnesses.

The Youth leaders had been trying to come up with a way to make this more meaningful for the youth; we worried that it had become "old hat."

Before it was time to begin, two of the youth asked if they could set up the table, so I found the candles for them, and they began working. As we started the worship, one of these two youth just began leading, speaking of hunger, and futures lost through these deaths.

It is a reminder to me of how spiritual these youth are, what wonderful leaders they can be, how God can work through their lives, and how important it is to just step back and let them go forth in God's glory.

I'm blessed to be here. (hungry, but blessed).

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Small Concrete Actions and Gifts

We went to a local Chinese restaurant tonight for dinner. One of the special touches this restaurant likes to use is to garnish the dishes with extra special care. My chicken teriyaki came with a small nest of tiny strings of carrots with a yellow rose in the middle of it. We asked the waitress how the rose was made -- it was constructed of petals made from radishes, dyed yellow with food coloring. It so much did not look like a radish.

Read this lectionary passage -- Luke 24:36B-48. Notice especially this verses (44-43)

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
The Tuesday Lectionary Leadings suggests that this small, concrete action convinced the disciples that Jesus was standing in front of them.

What small, concrete actions can we do or what small, concrete gifts can we give that will convince others of the presence of Christ?

Sometimes there are small actions and gifts that seem like radishes to us but to others are evidence of the love of Christ.

  • My husband is facing a difficult situation, but he just received a phone call from a member of our church who will be taking Steve's mom a prayer shawl tomorrow. Small concrete action = presence of Christ.
  • Last weekend I had to go to help Mom, who had fallen. Our friends said, "Go; we'll pick up Josh." (Not so) small concrete action = presence of Christ.
My list could go on and on. I've seen so many these past two weeks -- so many actions and gifts that have shown me the presence of Christ. I'm grateful for all of them, and pray that I can give of myself in the same way, in some small way.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As they make music they will sing, "All my fountains are in you." (NIH)
Singers and dancers give credit to Zion: "All my springs are in you!" (The Message)Singers and dancers alike say, ‘All my springs are in you.’ (NRSV)
Take a look at this verse from Psalm 87 again. JtM used Psalm 87 and particularly this verse, (7) for our office meeting devotional on Monday. Our springs are in God. Our hope is in God. It is humbling to remember (as JtM mentioned) that our hope is not in ourselves; it comes from God.
Do we remember that? Think about the situations in which you find yourself; the situations in which I find myself. Do we remember that the solutions come from God?

Do we remember enough to listen for God?

In church, do we place our faith in God enough to believe that the solutions to the problems that our churches face will come from God? Do we believe it? Do we believe that our hope springs from God? Do we depend on it?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I attended a worship service on Saturday evening which involved candles and singing. Simple. Candles and music. What was amazing is that God can take these simple elements -- candles and music -- and turn it into a demonstration of his love and grace, active in the world.

God can take pita bread and grape juice, and transform it into a meal shared by all the saints -- communion with God himself.

God can take my humble offering of whatever little talent I have and turn it into evidence of his presence among us.

God can take random thoughts and strange questions and turn it into a Sunday school lesson.

God can me or you, and transform us into a child of God, welcome in his presence.

Amazing, isn't it? Unbelievable.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring of Life.

In the beginning
before God turned on the light,
or started Adam's life-blood beating,
he stretched out his arms
leaned back in his chair
and declared himself home
on his Holy Mountain.

Home unimaginable.
The home of love.
The home of peace and grace.
New Jerusalem.
God's home.

He created Adam.
He created Eve.
He breathed his life into Mary,
and opened the doors of his home
wide and inviting
for you and for me.

Come, be my chidren.
Come into my presence.

His son went home to prepare a place for us
To welcome us into God's presence.
To swing open the door
Fling wide the windows.
Our home.

On the table in the living room
is a brag book.
You picture is carefully placed on a special page.
Child of God.

Once we finally come to realize it,
To see the open door,
to hear the welcoming voice,
then there is nothing holding us back.
Nothing keeping us from his welcoming arms.

We are home.
He is home in us.
We hear the voice of the Father,
echoing through the corridors of our minds,
And we know,
and we celebrate,
that all good things,
all hope,
all grace-filled solutions,
all life
springs from God.
We can sing as
we dance with God.

Inspired by Psalm 87 and JtM's devotional this morning in the office meeting.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Friday Five -- Appliances.

Appliance Edition of the RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five:

  1. What is the one appliance you simply couldn't be without? Well, I've cooked Easter dinner without an oven, and I could probably make due without a dishwasher (although life would be sad indeed). I think the refrigerator is a "must-have," and the stove would be hard to do without.
  2. What if anything would you happily give up? I've discarded a rice steamer -- that seemed very unnecessary as an appliance. I rarely use a blender or a juicer. I also don't drink coffee, although Steve does, so I think we should probably keep that one.
  3. What is the most strangest household appliance you own? Strangest? Hmmm. The juicer was pretty strange. Kind of amazing what you can make into juice.
  4. What is the most luxurious household appliance you own? I've never thought that I would use a food processor, but that's a cool appliance. We bought a very nice KitchenAid mixer -- that was a luxury.
  5. Tell us about your dream kitchen- the sky is the limit here.... It would have lots of cabinets and counterspace, including a pantry. I would love the cabinets to be cherry. It would have a large oven and a smaller one. There would be room for the countertop appliances to be stored out of site, but easiy accessbile. Maybe an extra freezer? A very large fridge?


Saturday, April 18, 2009



Friday, April 17, 2009

Matthew 18

On the Annual Conference blog, Living Stones, an exercise from the meeting of Congregational Developers was described. Try this --

Read Matthew 18. Describe the theme of the passage and then list 3 or 4 words which support it.

Here's mine:

Theme: Loving Grace
Words of Support: Forgive, Change (transformation), Search

I'm not sure that those are the words I really mean, but what occurs to me as I read it is that we are loved so much by God that he will seek us out, he will forgive us, even when our sins are beyond measure, he will save us from ourselves.

We are called to a love like that.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


Go and read this devotional -- Piece be with You, written by Ryan Lavalley.

Next, take a look at these verse from the Gospel lectionary reading this week.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:19-22)
Picture it. The disciples are in a locked room. Their teacher and friend had been crucified. Dead. Buried. The situation seems irredeemable. Suddenly, Christ, the one who was dead, is standing in the locked room. In this impossible situation, Christ arrives. With him he brings peace. Offers them peace.

Christ enters our lives, enters our impossible situations, and brings us peace.

How does he do that? He breathes his spirit onto us, into us. He gives us a piece of himself.


Image: First United Methodist Church, Ashland

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grace...just because

I received an email today that urged a group to support someone during an activity "because they have supported us."

Is that the way a church is supposed to be? Should we be supportive because someone else has supported us? Do we owe people grace?

Or is grace something else entirely? Is love demanded of us as a response to the actions of God?

Does keeping score of the goodness done by others, and trying to repay them make any sense at all? I think it cheapens grace -- I think it takes something of infinite value and places a price on it.

Offer grace and love to someone just because you can. Just because it is the way we are called to be. Just because the person in front of you is a child of God.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


How do we make judgments? Do we look at someone and anticipate what that person is like? Do we assume appearance speaks of education? Do we use skin color or age or gender to make judgments about people?

Isn't this completely in opposition to God's command to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Go take a look at this YouTube video: Link

We ate at a Chinese restaurant the other night. The fortune in my cookie read, "There are only 3 colors, 10 digits and 7 notes. It's what we do with them that's important." Creativity, skill, talent...doesn't it make a huge difference in how we assemble the 3 colors, 10 digits and 7 notes?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Known and Loved

Someone said the other day, in a devotional, if I could imagine dying for someone I loved. The person readily admitted that such an option was possible. The answer to that question would change to "no" if the person to be saved was unknown to her.

She compared that to the death of Christ, dying for all of us.

True. I think there is a difference, though. Christ didn't die for someone he didn't know. He died for you and me and all of us. The amazing, wonderful part of our faith is that we are so very much loved that God would choose to die for you. For me. For each of us.

Imagine that. You are so well known and loved by Jesus that he died for you, and would have died only for you. You are not a stranger to him. You are beloved.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

WOW or Blah?

I taught Sunday school today. I was kind of unimpressed by the liturature -- it seemed kind of blah to me.

It's Easter. The talk about it should be WOW, not blah.

Go and read this devotional by Guest Sandblogger, JtM: April 12.

How will this Easter affect you? Will your experience of the resurrection of Jesus Christ change you? Will you live life differently because you have seen and believe? Will you love more radically? Will you give more generously?
Radical. That's a WOW word. The resurrection of Christ is radical. The love of God for us is radical. What is our response?

Is it blah? Or is it WOW?

What difference does this fantastic, radical action of God make in our lives?

Image: Dogwood at St. Marks.


Saturday, April 11, 2009


Image: Window at First United Methodist Church, Elkins


Friday, April 10, 2009


In both the gospel of Mark and of Matthew, one finds included in the description of Jesus' death a particular phrase said by Jesus from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."

Have you sever felt forsaken by God? It's impossible for me to imagine the emotions doing battle inside of Jesus during his death. I realize this line is the beginning of a Psalm, but I think it is very human of Jesus to feel forsaken during this horrible time of pain.

There is a gentleman in Charleston who travels around to different offices selling ties from New York. He came by the office yesterday for the first time this year. Having not seen him since last summer, I was struck by how ill he looked. A friend or a member of his family was hospitalized, and he was very upset about it. Before he left, he asked JtM and me to pray for his friend, Judy.

He said that God doesn't listen to his prayers. I wish I had been able to reassure him that that was not the case. I believe that God does hear his prayers. I believe that God is forever standing with this gentleman, listening and loving.

I wonder if I was supposed to tell him that? I wonder if God sent him by our way on Thursday for reassurance that I failed to provide? I don't know; I'll never know.

But say a prayer for Judy.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sufficient and Abundant

I was reading a devotional today in Disciplines which talked about communion. It started me thinking.

Bread. Bread is a staple. The author of the devotional said that even in the leanest times, when we do not have meat or vegetables, our society has been sustained by bread. Think of manna in the wilderness. When we have nothing else, we have bread, and it is enough.

When we have nothing else, we have God. We have grace. We have the love of Jesus. We have bread.

Wine. According to the devotional, wine was common, even abundant, in Jesus' time. They might not be able to find drinkable water or milk, but they had plenty of wine.

Our God is abundant. His grace and love is more than sufficient for us.

We are called to remember Jesus. We are called to know that even when we have nothing else, we have him, and he will be enough to sustain us. Our cup overflows, and his grace and love is abundant.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

Image: Dogwood from the courtyard at St. Mark's today


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Peace in Unrest

Take some time and go read the Bishop's blog post about Martin Luther King, Jr. Reading Bishop Grove's comment as well, I was struck by the idea of remembering Dr. King.

Do you remember him? I was pretty young the year he died, but I do remember small bits from his death. I also remember the same year, the death of Robert Kennedy.

In 1968, we lived very near Washington, D.C. In April, my grandmother was in the hospital in Georgetown. I remember driving into town to the hospital. Mom was a teacher at the time. I still remember her talking about the riots in town, and having to drive through them to reach the hospital. She had an African American student who volunteered to ride with her. I remember even as a kid that I thought this was a wonderful demonstration of love and peace in the midst of unrest.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I was reading from Henri Nouwen's book, Show me the Way, this morning. He says that from the moment Jesus is handed over in the garden until his death, there has been a change in his life -- a turning point. No longer is Jesus' life one of action, but is instead one of being acted upon.

This moment when Jesus is handed over to those who do with him as they please is a turning point in Jesus' ministry. It is turning from action to passion. after years of teaching, preaching, healing and moving to wherever he wanted to go, Jesus is handed over to the caprices of his enemies. Things are now no longer done by him, but to him.
Nouwen says that Jesus fulfills his mission not by what he does, but by what is done to him.

I was interested in the word that Nouwen uses. He says that this is a turning point from action to passion. I've never thought of passion in that sense of the word. I've always considered passion to be enthusiasm or zeal. I never knew it had another definition -- "the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces."

Is there an overlap of those definitions? Is there enthusiasm and zeal in being passive? Can we be passionately passive?

Nouwen says that most of us will fulfill our mission through passion -- through what is done to us. We don't like it; we would rather deny it, but Nouwen says that it is true.

I think that perhaps the way in which we live during passion is a decision -- it is a way in which we act. It is a choice that we make. Jesus was acted upon during his passion, no doubt, but he made choices in how he would respond. We also make those active choices. Perhaps, in some ways, it is in that part of passion that we fulfill our mission.

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Monday, April 06, 2009


Yesterday, a new family joined our church. The parents joined by letter of transfer and their daughter, who is about second grade (I'm guessing) was baptized.

As we reached the point in the liturgy when most baptismal candidates kneel at the altar rail, she stepped up on it, and got taller.

I liked it. I think God would like it. She was reaching. If baptism is the claiming hand of God on our lives, she was straining forward to get closer. To make the touch easier on God.

Shouldn't we all do that?


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Time for Faith

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted... Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
On a road near my house, there is a house whose yard runs right along the road.

A few years ago the owner planted a series of trees along the road. When he planted them, they looked like sticks stuck into the ground. In no way did these sticks look like trees. They were laughable.

But the owner had a vision. He wanted a row of tall, thin trees on the edge of his property.

Years later, what he envisioned is reality. These "sticks" have grown into tall, thin trees.

There are times when what we hope for cannot be achieved in a short time. The owner of that property, even though he knew what he wanted, had to plant the "seeds" first. He couldn't have results right away; he had to hope and plan that the sticks would live and grow into the tall line of trees he pictured.

Not everything God plans for us or our churches comes true right away. Sometimes the work we do feels like jabbing sticks into the ground instead of planting future ministry. Sometimes we don't want to take the time to have faith.

But sometimes, that's the only way that will work.

Image: Row of tall trees in Ritter Park.


Saturday, April 04, 2009



Friday, April 03, 2009


When I was in high school, I was part of our UMYF Holy Fools group. We dressed up as clowns and visited, acting silly.

As part of that, some of us attended a clown school. we learned about make-up and mannerisms. Part of the class involved us standing in two lines, facing each other. One of us would walk across the open space, while the person across from us would watch. The second person would then walk back across the open space, imitating the walk of the first person.

The person who "walked like me," walked with facing the floor, looking down. I had no idea that I walked like that.

Where do we look in our walk through life? Do we look at the ground, watching only as far as the end of our feet? Do we walk backwards, only looking into the past? Do we look forward, ignoring all of the things around us?

Perhaps we are called to do something entirely different. Are we called to look up, focusing on God?


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Magnum Opus

Consider this verse from Corinthians:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
1 Corinthians 1:25
I was listening to a podcast the other morning. The host of the show was talking about the idea of a "magnum opus." She defined a magnum opus as a big work -- a large endeavor. She said that success or failure didn't define it; it's defining characteristic was its size.

The choir at our church lead worship last Sunday by presenting Mozart's Requiem. It was a huge endeavor. It required a very large amount of work. It was wonderful, and by any definition, I would say that it was a success. It was also a risk.

Could it be that is part of what it means to be foolish for Christ? Could it be that we need to release our preconceptions about success and failure and our own definitions of it? Could it be that without risk, there really is no success? Could it be that we are called to live a magnum opus life? A life of big risk for Christ? A life of faith and trust?

Image: Another one from the park

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bringin Hope

I had a post planned for this evening, but my evening didn't go as planned (to say the least), and I just got home. So let's try this instead -- another RevGalBlogPal Friday Five.

Name 5 things that give you hope.

  1. The Bible and my faith -- this is entirely obvious, but the purest hope comes from this source, in every aspect of life.
  2. Those moments when God's presence breaks into the world, and you know that He is active in the world. You know those moments, right?
  3. Those perfect days, when the temperature is about 72 and the sky is completely blue. Spring is coming, and you know it on days like that.
  4. Having a real conversation with my son gives me hope that one day he won't be a teenager any more, and he will be capable to real conversaton on a regular basis.
  5. Those moments when you can see the adult hiding inside the child -- in a smile, a look, whatever. These moment give hope that one day the work of raising a child will create a wonderful adult. The glimpses are small, but they do happen.

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