Sunday, May 31, 2009


Images of Pentecost at our church today.

(Numbers start at the left and move to the right in two rows. Click the image to see it in more detail. )

1. Wind and fire above us 2. Communion altar 3. Jack and Communion 4. Bible 5 and 6. Wind and fire 7. Cross 8. Communion elements.
This was the first time I've decorated an altar. It was fun to play with the color and images of Pentecost.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stained Glass

I remember someone telling me once that stained glass windows were meant to be seen from the inside of a church -- that their beauty was only targeted to the people inside the building, not those on the street.

Have you ever looked at stained glass windows from the outside of a building? Usually they are dull and not very attractive, sometimes even covered with protective plastic. I have a feeling that the person's assumption was correct.

It sounds almost un-Christian, that we would spend so much time and resources on something that is only instructive and enjoyable by those inside the walls.

What makes stained glass beautiful? There is potential in the colors of the glass and the design of how the pieces are assembled. They only demonstrate their true beauty, though, when the sun shines through them. It's the outside light that makes them beautiful. That might be something that we need to remember. We have potential for beauty and usefulness as we are, but it is only when the light of God shines through us that the potential is realized and the beauty is seen. It's not something we can do on our own; God must be involved.

The beauty of stained glass is how it is affected by the light.

Image: Chapel at Beverly Hills United Methodist Church


Friday, May 29, 2009

Piano Man

Our son decided that he wanted to learn to play the piano. We started him in lessons last fall, and he loves it. He never complains about going, he practices, he can't walk by a piano without tinkering with the keys.

Tonight was his first formal recital. He's been playing for less than a year and tonight he played Simple Gifts and The Entertainer in front of family, friends and strangers. His crutches for his broken ankle didn't stop him; nothing stopped

I am so very proud of him.


Thursday, May 28, 2009


Ezekiel 37:1-14

The Lord whispered my name.
I felt his hand upon me
and I saw a valley
through his eyes.

Bones. Death. Disconnected pieces of ruined life.
Scattered across the ground.
Silent and dry.
He led me into the valley
With my steps, I tried to avoid the white decay
but it was everywhere.
Bone dust rising with our steps.

"Child, is there life?
Anywhere around you?"
I doubted it.
I couldn't imagine life among these bones.

"Tell them about me," God said.
"Have enough faith to just speak about me.
Tell them to listen to me.
Have that much faith.
Believe that I can bring life from death.
Believe that my breath, my spirit, can do
what is unimaginable.
Have enough faith to say it."

I lay my doubt like a dry bone
upon the ground
and believed.
I did as I had been commanded,
and spoke of life to death.

As I did, with a great noise
the bones began to move.
Click and clack, snap.
Chalk rubbed against dust
and the bones stood together.
Assembled into the ghosts of life.
The bones were covered with flesh,
dry and wrinkled, holding the skeleton of life
into the appearance of men and women.

"Pray, my child, for life.
Ask for the spirit to enter this death.
Ask for my breath to come.
Ask for me to make a difference."

I asked.
I took from God the faith to ask.
To believe.
To have enough faith that God can make a difference.
That God can breathe life into death.

Death became life
and before me stood uncountable people
Once dead, now alive.
Once bone, now breathing flesh.
Alive in God's spirit.

In the valley of death and bones
God changed everything.
Where there was no hope,
God created hope.
Where there was no life,
God breathed his spirit into death.
And bones stood and came to life.

Do we ever stand among death?
Do we ever think a church is dying?
Do we lose hope; do we see only bones?
Do we have enough faith to speak of God?
Do we believe enough in the power of God to pray?

And you will know He is Lord
when he opens the grave of death and bones
and brings forth life.
Even you. Even me. Life.
And he will put his spirit within us, and we shall live.
Not a life of dry bones, but a life lived in God.
Awakened by his breath.
God among us.
God abiding in us.

Image: Ritter Park

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Forget the pain?

I attended another funeral today. One of the scriptures read was from John 16:
When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. John 16:21
I hesitate to disagree with John, but what does he know? After childbirth, when you hold your newborn baby, there is great joy, and love and life transforming feelings. You do not, however forget the pain. You remember the pain, but you decide that the child is worth the pain.

I think that way of thinking about it is more loving. It describes a sacrificial love, not one of convenient memory lapse.

Do we forget suffering and grief? Or do we, at some point, see God at work through it all? God's grace doesn't make the pain disappear, or make us forget it, but his grace does surround us with reassurance and comfort.

I think that's different than forgetting the anguish.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Logos -- Acts 2:1-4

This Sunday is Pentecost, and one of the lectionary readings is from Acts 2:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
We talked about this passage as the basis of our office meeting devotional today. What aspects of the passage jump out at you?

  1. "They were all together in one place" -- This event happened in community. Those who experienced this event were not at home alone; they were together in one place. We need community. While we can experience God anywhere -- when we are alone or when we are together -- there is something necessary about gathering together.
  2. "Suddenly from the heaven" -- This event wasn't expected. It arrived as a surprise. No one planned it; no one had prepared programming to enhance it. Do we rely on the Holy Spirit to work among us? Do we recognize it when it does?
  3. "like the rush of a violent wind" -- It sounds like something that could not be ignored. It sounds like something huge and undeniable. Do we experience the Holy Spirit in that way? Do we allow ourselves to?
  4. "A tongue rested on each of them" -- No one was excluded; everyone experienced the presence of God. Do we sometimes assume that is not the case? Are we inclusive enough to expect it?
  5. "as the spirit gave them ability" -- Equipped by God to be his witness. Do we allow God to do that? Do we expect to be equipped? Do we realize that God gives us abilities? Do we use them to their capacity? Sometimes I think that if we really did, we would have to give up control. Are we willing to let go?

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cover me

I was teaching a week ago Sunday. One of the questions for discussion was:
Think of the phrase “the wisdom of God in its rich variety.” What do you see the rich variety of God?
Is God evident in the variety around us?

Last Wednesday, I spent an hour in the park with one of our cameras. When I do that, I just walk aimlessly around the park (is it aimless if I follow a path?) with the camera, snapping pictures. I ended up in small grove of trees, covered in a canopy of green leaves. It was a beautiful day, with blue sky peaking through the leaves and the sun shining. I was listening to music on my iPod:

In the darkness and in the flood,
you're there with me, you're there with me.
And in the desert and in the sun,
You're holding me, you're holding me.

You cover me with your love
You cover me with, you cover me with your love
You cover me with, you cover me with your love.
Standing under those trees, listening to that song, I was reminded of the day before, standing under a canopy of trees, with blue sky above. It was a cemetery, for the funeral of a friend's father. Steve was near the hearse, acting as a pall bearer, and I stood waiting under this high tree, certain of the grace of God, covered.

God is most certainly seen in his rich variety.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I was reading Living Stones, the blog of the annual conference, when I found this sentence, written by Rev. Amy Shanholtzer:
Another handshake, another hug and an invitation to the evening worship service and dinner told me that there is a culture of welcome here and folks who are willing to take responsibility for it.
"A culture of welcome...and folks who are willing to take responsbility for it." I think that's a great description of what hospitality in a church means.
A "culture" -- hospitality so ingrained in a church that it is part of their DNA. It's second nature. It's part of who they are -- not just something that they do.

People who will take responsibility for it -- it's not somebody else's job -- it's everybody's job. Hospitality is the calling of everyone in the church.

How many churches "get" that?


Saturday, May 23, 2009

How do you wear the ring?

I bought a ring the other day. It's a silver open work band composed of the words Faith, Hope, Love. I'm not sure which way to wear it. Do I wear it so that I can read the words, or do I wear it so that someone else can read the words?

What is a church? Is it a community that shows love so that we can all read it? Or is it a community which shows love to the people around us so that they can "read" it?

I think it's both. I think that there are times when the church demonstrates love and grace to those who are part of the community. Family. There are times when the love of God is made evident to those who are part of the family.

There are also times when we are called to demonstrate that love to those around us, outside of the church.

We need to wear the ring both ways. We need to be love and grace for our family, for our neighbors, and for strangers.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 22, 2009



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oh, Lord, You're Beautiful

Oh Lord, you're beautiful.
Your face is all I seek.

A walk in the park,
camera in hand.
Beautiful day, covered in sunshine.
Grace a blue sky,
Canopy of green leaves.
No kneeling bench,
No heads bowed,
And yet,
Unquestionably in my soul,
It was prayer.

When your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

A church kitchen.
Time spent alone
Listening to music
Oh, Lord, you're beautiful.
Preparing a meal for friends in grief.
No sermon,
No liturgy,
And yet,
Unquestionably in my heart,
It was worship.

Oh, Lord, you're beautiful,
Your face is all I seek.

A meal,
Time after a funeral.
Time to be spent as a family,
Intruders welcomed by grace.
Invited as friends.
No blessed bread,
No cup of wine,
And yet,
Unquestionably, in our minds
it was communion.

For when your eyes are on this child
your grace abounds to me.

Honoring, celebrating
The life of a man who will be missed,
and yet who has been welcomed home.
Graceful words,
Love abounding and overflowing
One man singing,
I'll fly away.
No hymnals
No trumpets
and yet,
Unquestionably, in our spirits
it was music,
God singing over his church.

Oh, Lord, You're beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when you eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me.

Image: From the park.
Lyrics: From Oh Lord, You're beautiful, sung by Michael W. Smith. Heard while cooking.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Psalm 23 Examined

As an outgrowth of our recent Youth Retreat, I did a series of posts based on Psalm 23. My goal was to index those posts into a Master Post, but the task got away from me. So here they are, arranged by title. I kind of like the list of titles; I think it says something that I hadn't seen before.
Peace and Restoration
And then, the poem retelling of Psalm 23 -- Anointed.


Radical Faith

Take a look at this quote from Philip Yancey's book The Bible Jesus Read:

By itself, Psalm 23 leads to an easy-answer faith; by itself Psalm 22 leads to spiritual despair; together, the two offer a bracing mixture of realism and hope.

I have come to see these psalms as calling for different kinds of faith. Psalm 23 models childlike faith, and Psalm 22 models fidelity, a deeper, more mysterious kind of faith. Life with God may include both. We may experience times of unusual closeness, when prayers are answered in an obvious way and God seems intimate and caring. We may also experience dark times, when God stays silent, when nothing works according to formula and all the Bible's promises seem glaringly false. Fidelity involves learning to trust that, out beyond the perimeter of darkness, God still reigns and has not abandoned us, no matter how it may appear.
What do you think? Do you agree? I think I might disagree.

I don't think that Psalm 23 is an easy-answer faith. Maybe it is a "child-like" faith, but we are called to that kind of faith - a faith of radical dependence and radical trust. That kind of faith is far from easy, and it's not an easy answer.

What about faith in the face of feeling forsaken? What about Psalm 22? There are times of spiritual despair -- there are times when God seems absent. To deny those times is to try to fool ourselves. When we read the rest of the Psalm, though, the author does not have a lack of faith. He believes in God, and praises God, even if he can't fell God's presence. Perhaps this extraordinary faith has its roots in a faith like the one described in Psalm 23 -- radical dependence and radical trust. Develop those, and then, even when God feels absent, we can praise his presence.

Image: I took a stroll in the park today, playing and praying with my camera. Beautiful, beautiful day.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mr. T.

Memories from Steve...

I have known Jeff for many years. We have been friends for part of that time and really good friends for part of that time. You don’t have to be around Jeff very long to know how important his dad is. And you didn’t have to be around Mr. Taylor very long to understand why.

During the time of my friendship with Jeff I have had opportunities to interact with Mr. Taylor. Church events, holiday and music events -- I have spent some time at chez Taylor, and I have had the good fortune to play in some of the same golf events as Mr. Taylor. To take that a step further along, not only have I been at the event with him but I have had the privilege of being in his foursome and on some days sharing a cart. Now Jeff was probably thinking, “Steve is going to have to listen to Dad’s stories > I wonder what is going to be told.” I do have some Jeff stories – but that’s for later. The stories were all new to me. And through them I feel as though I have already met Janice, Joyce and Joel.

As a salesman, something that has always impressed me is someone’s ability to remember names, faces, places, events, and the like. Mr. Taylor did not disappoint. He knew every – I mean EVERY course he had played and the shots on each hole. He would say, “Remember Steve, two years ago you hit that shot over close to that tree and had to use a ??? iron to hit low into the middle of the fairway…” I kind of remembered that it was the same golf course. I do remember the year he got his new driver. It was a shoebox on a stick. Time after time, shot after shot he would be right down the middle and as such would keep the foursome in the game and away from an embarrassing score. He let me hit it a time or two. It was incredible. With the wide face and flexible shaft I could hit my deeper into the woods than ever before. He liked it, and it was fun to watch him hit an exceptionally great shot.

Mr. Taylor was a deep thinker and remembered not only golf. He was a very active contributor to the devotional ministry at Johnson Memorial United Methodist. I suppose he can’t scold me now for outing him but some of his devotionals were penned under the Anonymous tag. As we would ride along he would share the thought process that led him to write what he did. He would cite writings far back in time and recount them almost verbatim. When it was an “Anonymous” devotional he would say something like, “Did you know I wrote that?” Well, yes I did but it was cool to watch him reveal it.

I always came away from my time with Mr. T. – better. Better for having gleaned a new nugget of information. Better for having been able to absorb some of his positive energy. Better for watching and learning from a man who loved his family, loved his life and loved his Lord. Better because he Walked the Walk.

He now gets to play where the fairways are always wide, the greens are always smooth and the cup is ALWAYS in the right place. Godspeed Mr. Taylor. Hit ‘em straight and far.

Steve Matthews


Grace Echoes

Some bright morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away
To a land on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away

Grace echoes
Grace follows the footsteps of the man
as he walks through the hallways
of his Father's house
Step by jubilant step
as he explores the mansions
prepared for his coming.

When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls, I’ll fly, I'll fly away

Grace echoes
Grace reverberates through the House of God
as family and friends
gather to remember
To honor
To listen
for the echoes of grace.

Oh how glad and happy when we meet, I'll fly away
No more cold, iron shackles on my feet, I'll fly away

It is heard in the words spoken
Solid as a rock
World's oldest acolyte (as the candles remain dark.)
Whatever he wrote came from his God and his heart.
Right things, right times, right reasons.
God's love gave him direction and vision.
Grace echoes

Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away
To a land where joy will never end, I'll fly away

It is heard in words spoken
He left us as the man he always was.
He would give you ping pong pointers, but never let you win.
He knew he was loved, which is why he died so peacefully.
And I believe these people like me.
Grace echoes.

I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away (oh glory)
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

It is heard in the words he wrote.
The church of right now.
Am I MEEK? Or am I meek?
We need to check our fingernails for sycamore bark.
It's always later than we think.
Life changes when Jesus is met face to face.
Grace echoes.

And we stand in the House of God
listening to the echoes of grace
And God says,
"I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?"
And we stand in the House of God,
Standing with the wind on our faces
from his passing as he flies away,
and with never-ending echo of grace in our souls

In memory of Floyd H. Taylor, Jr.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Heart Abandoned

I'll stand...with arms high and heart abandoned.

That's a line from the song The Stand by Michael W. Smith. I was listening to it tonight as I drove home, and is was struck by the phrase, "with heart abandoned."

What does that mean?It occurs to me that heart abandoned might be love, given freely and without reservation. I've abandoned my heart to my husband, to my children, to my family, to my close friends. I stand with heart abandoned.We wonder why there is suffering. I wonder if a small part of the reason is that our hearts are abandoned. When do we suffer? We suffer when a loved one is ill or dying, hurt or lost. We suffer because we have abandoned our hears.

Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. Luke 17:33

If we didn't love, then the other person's pain or loss wouldn't bother us. Yet, we are called to love. It is in that love, which makes us vulnerable, that God moves and provides support. We hurt because we love, and yet we hurt less because we love.

Do we hold our hearts close? Or do we let go, abandoning our hearts?

I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I taught Sunday school today. The lesson was based on Ephesians 3:1-13. We talked about what makes a church welcoming, and I told them a few stories of churches across our conference where I had been made to feel welcome and at home. We talked about what makes a church welcoming, and how we can sometimes, without even realizing it, do something that makes people feel excluded (Sorry, JtM, I didn't mention the fortress-doors.)

It was a hard lesson to plan, but we got through it.

I noticed as I was planning the lesson, that there is a great prayer starting with verse 14. I used these verses as a closing prayer:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Isn't that a great prayer?

I mentioned before that I am relying less and less on prewritten prayers when I lead prayer for a group. There are drawbacks to that -- sometimes I just ramble around and don't make any sense.

Reading the prayer that I've quoted above today in class, I noticed a drawback to reading pre-written prayers. I could hear my voice get "sing-song," -- kind of like an old fashioned preacher. I was enjoying the prayer; it is beautiful, but with that sing-song voice, I wondered if it sounded sincere. I tried to stop, and to just pray and prayer, and I suppose that helped. Something for me to keep in mind, though.

Image: Rose from Ritter Park last night


Saturday, May 16, 2009



Friday, May 15, 2009

Made Visible

When you finish with your Emmaus walk, you receive a cross on a rainbow colored cord. It's large. It's bright. And it's worn with a name badge, so that everyone at the Gathering knows everyone else's name.

We went to a Gathering tonight, and on the way home, after I collected my car, I stopped at the gas station. Got gas. Went in to buy a Diet Pepsi. In the very bright convenience store, I looked down, and I was still wearing my cross and namebadge.

I imagine anyone looking at me wouldn't have seen me; just that three inch cross on a rainbow cord and the name on my jacket. They weren't inconspicuous.

I wonder if our faith is as obvious as my cross. Do our actions shine forth so that those who see us know that we are Christians?

I pray that in some small way my actions and my words are at least part of the time an witness to someone else of God. I pray that God's grace is made visible through me in spite of myself.

Image: This evening

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is needed

The other day I was praying for my friend who is facing his father's critical illness. I had just read the lectionary Psalm for the week, which was a portion of Psalm 22 (verses 25-31).
...and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it. (verse 31)
As I prayed, asking for support and grace, healing and comfort, I was struck by that Psalm. "...saying that he has done it." My prayer turned into praise. Instead of asking, I was praising. Instead of praying for comfort and support, I found that I was thanking God that they had it. Instead of asking for mercy and grace, I was praising its God-given presence. Instead of hoping that my friend could see the presence of God, I was grateful that he did.

I have found throughout this week that I am often praying my thanksgiving that God knows what they need and is granting it.

Today one thing that was needed was that I would be able to represent our staff at a meeting, since JtM couldn't leave his family to attend. I knew that God would provide what was needed, and that meant he would enable me to do what needed to be done. There was a calmness I didn't expect. We made it through the meeting, and I know it was just God getting done what was needed.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


...and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Heavenly Father,

Tonight I sing your praise. Tonight, during a time when the valley is dark and the way is strewn with sorrow, I praise you, that you are here. That you comfort us and shower grace on us, your children.

I ask for your merciful presence with those suffering loss. Grief. May the dark night be lighted by candles of grace and goodness. I pray that they will know you through those who love them and who support them. In the valley, where emptiness and darkness seem to overpower, may your light be seen.

We are already dwelling in the house of God. You abide with us. You fill us with your love. You make your home with us, and because of that, we are at home in you. Neither life nor death can separate us from you or from each other.

I praise you, Father, because even as I ask this, I know that you have already granted it. I know that light is seen in darkness, that whatever needs are present are being answered.

I ask that you grant clear vision to my friend so that he and those he loves can see you in the darkness. And I praise you that it has already been granted; that it was given before it was needed.

I pray in the name of the Son who was light, who is light, and who will be light for all of us, forever. Amen.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Surely, Goodness and Grace

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...

The line before this one in the Psalm is "my cup overflows." What happens when a cup overflows? It drips liquid all over the ground. If we think of blessings overflowing our cup, then can we not see that as that cup overflows, blessings would spill out, and be scattered around us, following us in the guise of goodness and mercy. I like that image, of goodness and mercy trailing in our wake because of our overflowing blessings. It is an illustration of the idea of "blessed to be a blessing."

I think sometimes we fall into the comfort of believing that we can predict what is going to happen tomorrow. I think we are designed to find comfort in routine, and depending on routine helps to make life easier. There are times though, when we come to realize that we really have no way to predict what tomorrow will bring. One event, unexpected and unanticipated, can bring turmoil to our routines.

So what is it that we can depend upon? "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life...." Goodness is of God. Mercy is of God. We can know that whatever tomorrow will bring, goodness and mercy will follow us into the day, dripping from our overflowing cup. It will follow us all the days of our lives. We may not know how long that will be, but we know however long it is, God will be there, with his goodness and mercy.

Our youth, on their retreat, reinterpreted Psalm 23 artistically. One group designed a skit which depicted the Psalm. The poster above is the drawing of Goodness and mercy, except the kids called it Surely, Goodness and Grace. I can work with that! I think more than goodness and mercy following us, it also comes before us. It is prevenient, God chasing us, God preparing the way for us. It is grace, so it is appropriate to make the substitution.

Surely, Goodness and Grace will follow me, all the days of my life, especially tomorrow, whatever it may hold.

Image: JtM displaying Surely, Goodness and Grace, after its trip across the room to chase a sheep.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Abide in me cup overflows....

I was reading one of the lectionary readings today (hang with me, I think I can relate this back to the Psalm.) -- John 15:9-17.

The verse that struck me right as I read it was verse 13:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

I don't believe that I have ever literally been asked to lay my life down for a friend -- certainly not like Jesus did. I think, though, that we are often asked to "lay down our lives" for our friends and family. Consider "laying down your life" to mean setting down your routine. We are called to a certain life, and we lead that life. We work, we play, we raise our children, we walk the dog. It is a routine, ordinary life, but we find joy in it, and in it, we answer our calling to serve.

But sometimes, we are called beyond that. We are called to lay down our lives, and maybe, sometimes, that means that we step out of our routine, setting it aside. I have a friend whose father is in the hospital. In many ways, the son has stepped out of his normal routine to be available to his parents, to care for them. His sister has left her home and come to be with her parents, setting aside her life. As pastor set aside his normal Sunday to pick up something that my friend would normally have done, relieving him to be with his parents. People go to visit, setting aside their normal schedule to be a support. As friends, I know that my husband and I would set aside whatever we needed to in order to be available to help our friend through this time.

Why do we -- family and friends -- do this?

Read verse 12:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
We are called to love one another. Setting aside our lives for each other is a way that we abide in the love of Christ, and he abides in us. It is how we shine the light of God in each other's lives. It is the means by which each of us sees God.

What is the result?

Read verse 11:
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
It seems very strange to say that actions in times of stress like this bring joy, but I believe it to be true. Don't think of joy as happiness. Joy is something else. Joy is the knowledge of the presence of God. Being shone Christ by someone else's actions in love, brings joy. Do we remember that shining the light of Christ by showing love to someone else brings joy as well? I know that it does. It is joy to me to be a friend. I'm not at all happy by what is happening in my friends life; it makes my heart ache. But I, and all of his family and friends, would find joy in helping him. I find joy in seeing how many people are reaching out to help, if they can. It is how our joy is made complete.

What does this have to do with the Psalm? When we abide in love, and when Christ abides in us; when we show the fruit of that love through our actions, by laying down our lives, we find that our cup overflows. It doesn't matter if we give or receive the love of Christ. Our cup overflows. When God dwells among us, we are blessed.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Annointing anoint my head with oil...

Sheep, apparently, are particularly disturbed by flies. When they are attacked by flies, they will beat their heads against rocks until they die in order to try to kill the flies. To prevent this, shepherds will coat their heads with olive oil.

Have you ever felt that you were beating your head against a wall in a vain attempt to change a situation? To do something that has always been done in a strange desire to have a different outcome? Can I tell you how often I hear, "Years ago, we would to this or that in the church, and it was so much better." The problem with that kind of logic is that the church that existed many years ago is the one that has given birth to the church of today -- one that is smaller and older. Why would we insist on trying to duplicate the church of years ago to try to grow a church when these church of long ago has lead to the problems we are experiencing?

Are there things in our lives that we do over and over expecting a different result? Are there problems in our lives that require healing?

Anointing is often done for healing. God anoints us with oil. He brings us healing -- of our frustrations, of our blindness, of our sickness. He will stop our futile attempts to change our situations by changing it himself.

He anoints my head with oil.


Saturday, May 09, 2009


You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

God is a peacemaker. He brings his children together at one table, in communion, and settles peace among us. Who wants to eat with enemies? No me. And yet I am called to the table, and called to leave behind hatred and pain. I can't do that on my own. I need God's help. He prepares the table -- consider his preparation to be prevenient grace. His preparation of the table, and of me, makes the meal possible.

Consider the passage from Isaiah (11:6):
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
He brings us peace by bringing us to peace.


Friday, May 08, 2009

A Comfort

...your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

A shepherd uses both a rod and staff as tools. The rod was a means of protection against evil. it was a club-like weapon that could be used to strike at predators. The staff was a more gentle means of guidance for the sheep.

What are the predators in your life? What are the ways in which God protects you from evil? How does he provide guidance?

As I was reading the material in preparation for working with the youth, I was thinking about rod and staff in a whole different way.

C.S Lewis says that we are born with an innate ability to determine good from evil. Is this ability a way that God protects us from evil?

And haven't you felt God's gentle guidance? He never forces a choice on us, but if we listen, he will guide us.

Direction in life. The ability to judge good from bad. Isn't that a comfort?


Thursday, May 07, 2009



Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Darkest Valleys

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil...

One of the hardest parts about memorizing Psalm 23 with our youth this weekend is that I had to un-learn how I had always known the Psalm. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."

I read in a devotional today that sometimes we associate Psalm 23 with funeral and death, to the point of thinking that it is ONLY a funeral Psalm.

The youth on Saturday talked about their darkest valleys. We all have them -- those times when we feel far away from God. Those times when the world seems to be caving in on us.

We make decisions in life that take us on wrong paths. There are time in life when God has to lead us through the darkest valleys in order to return us to the right path. He may lead us across a dark and rocky path, but he never tells us to walk it alone.

He is always with us -- even in the darkest places. And in him, there is no darkness. He is life and light.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Right Paths

He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.

Paths denote direction. Do we have a direction? Are we moving at all.

The material we used on the retreat suggested that if sheep stay still and do not change their pasture area, that they will ruin the land on which they live. Staying in one place too long leads to problems.

Do we realize that in our churches? Do we long too much to "have it the way it used to be?" Do we find such security in the past or the status quo that we risk ruining the land on which we stand?


Monday, May 04, 2009

Peace and Restoration

He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.

Water, in the time when this Psalm was written, and even today, was necessary for life. It was something rare and precious.

Think about still waters. Calmness. Peace. Life-giving.

He leads me -- does that imply that we wouldn't find still waters without his leadership? Would we perhaps not look for it? We need to be lead.

Restoration of soul. Our spirits are in need of restoration. Renewal. Life-giving change. What is the purpose of this? I wonder if perhaps soul restoration is a return to our original purpose. Restoration of our soul, to me, is a calming phrase that invokes a calming breath. It's a return to purpose. A return to God-given potential.

Still waters. Restoration. Gifts from God.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Green Pastures

We were on retreat this past weekend with our youth group. The program for the weekend focused on Psalm 23. I don't know about the youth, but I certainly learned more about Psalm 23 than I ever known before.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

Sheep won't lie in down unless four needs are met -- freedom from fear, freedom from hunger, freedom from aggravation and freedom from tension.

Can we think of green pastures as a metaphor for peace? What is your green pasture? We asked the youth that question; their answers were very interesting. One young man said that his green pasture was a beach in Hawaii. When I asked him why, his answer almost matched the needs of sheep! He was safe, he had no worries about his normal routine...

We have a need for peace, and yet we can't find it unless we feel that our needs are met. God will take us to that place of peace when we trust him; when we release our worries to the assurance that he will provide for our needs.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Surprise Spider

Honeysuckle at Spring Heights. See the spider? I didn't until I went back this evening and looked at the pictures.


Friday, May 01, 2009