Wednesday, March 31, 2010


During the Lenten luncheon today, Eva sang "Holy City" and then Luana highlighted a particular line in the song:

The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter
And no one was denied.
It made me think of an analogy I use in our Grace class sometimes. Think of God offering you a gift. It's wrapped and beautiful, but you set it down and never go back to open it. Your choice is to ignore it, but the gift has still been given. Compare that to someone telling you you can have a gift if you work hard enough.

Both of them are gifts. One of them is given out of love; one is given out of a sense of obligation. Which is grace? God doesn't judge our worthiness before he offers us the gift of his love. He offers it, and then we judge whether to accept it or not.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

God Calls

Inspired by Isaiah 49:1-6

And God calls.

Listen to me.
Listen to me, even though you think you are in a distant land,
You are never far away from me.
Pay attention to what I am saying to you.
I know you.
I know what you need, what will satisfy you.
I have known you since I created you.
I have known you since I imagined you,
Before you were even born.
Listen to me.

I have given you words to speak of justice.
I have given you thoughts and visions,
Through me, you can change the world.
I hold you in the palm of my hand,
I have equipped you, changed you, recreated you.
I have kept you close so that when I need you
You will answer me.
And serve me to reach others.

So God called.

And I answered,
Nothing I do seems adequate to what you ask.
I have strength, but I am not strong enough.
You are all I have.
I’m trying to listen.
What are you calling me to do?

God called.

From the very beginning
I have formed you,
I created you, and love you.
I ask you to reach out to your neighbor,
To bring him back to me,
But more than that,
I’m calling you to be a light,
My light,
My grace
To everyone,
Not just those you know.
Not just the ones like you,
But to everyone.
So that my salvation shall reach the end of the earth.

God calls.

Image: Sunrise this morning.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Personal and Universal

I'm working my way through the latest (although not very new) issue of Weavings. W. Paul Jones wrote an article for the issue called Inside out as Upside Down. The essay begins with the idea that "faith is unavoidable, for to live entails wagering on some 'vision'." We Christians risk everything -- our lives and our death -- on "little more than gossip about rumors." He believes that our vision has two overlaying dimensions:

...the deeply personal and the expansively cosmic. The Crucifixion provides the focus for the personal dimension, the Resurrection for the cosmic.
And then I was interrupted, and haven't been able to finish the article. That idea (or my interpretation of it, since I haven't seen how Jones is carrying through, yet) struck me, and has me thinking.

Our faith is deeply personal. We need that personal relationship with God. We need to be able to say, "Amazing grace...that saved a wretch like me." And we need to be able to sing, "I'll fly away." We stand amazed that we are able to sing "It is well with my soul" no matter what is happening around us. Our faith requires a personal dimension. Christ died for me, and if there had been no one else, he would have died for only me. He loves me that much.

Our faith also has a cosmic dimension. My personal relationship with God -- my awareness of his love for me -- requires a response. Inherent in the faith is the idea that I am to love my neighbors -- that Christ loves all of us, and that if I am to love Christ, I must love those he loves, as well. Because of the universality of my faith, I can sing "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." I can sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and understand that the song means I am depending upon God, but also on the fellowship of my friends.

A vision that motivates my faith -- born among the gossip of rumors -- finds its strength in a personal relationship with God along with a communion of saints. Both of incredible gifts from the Creator of the Universe -- to me, to you, and to all of us.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

You say so

In Sunday school today, we were reading scripture passages that pertained to the trials of Jesus. I noticed in a couple of the passages, when Jesus stood in front of Potius Pilate, the following answer:
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ (Matthew 27:11)
I've always thought that Jesus' response -- "You say so" -- was avoidance. I thought perhaps he didn't want to answer.

As I think about it now, I think he wasn't avoiding, but he was telling the truth. "You say so." I wonder if Pilate was asking a question that would have limited Jesus' role and identity. I wonder if Jesus was telling Pilate that to call him "king" is to limit what he has come to do. "If you say so" would be another of way of saying, "You might call it that, but I would not limit or define what I am here to do by your narrow image of what being a king means." It wasn't that Jesus was avoiding the idea of being king, or didn't think of himself in a the role of king.

"You say so," is just another way of telling them that their labels reduced him to human terms. He was much more.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ohio River


Friday, March 26, 2010

Order and Restoration

Steve brought me a new camera for my birthday, and I've been playing with it today. Evidence is to the left -- daffodil in the yard. It's a Nikon S4000. This afternoon I picked up a new SD card for it (my old one was getting a little worn) and a new case. I took it with us to dinner, and got some good images of the river at sunset -- for tomorrow's post.

Daffodils are probably my favorite flower, and a big part of that is because seeing them means that spring is here (although it did snow today in Charleston)!

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals today:

Please share with us five ways you redo or refresh or restore your body, your space, your blog, anything in your life that needs perking up this week.
  1. Since we're on the subject, one of the ways I relax is to walk around and take pictures. Very relaxing to me.
  2. A couple of weeks ago, I moved my monitor at work to a different part of my desk. Redo -- feels fresher with it in a different place. Speaking of that, we upgraded our computers -- big redo -- love it. I had two letters and two Agreements out today, and I was flipping from one to the next -- fast and easy, no crashing, no frustration.
  3. Since the question asks about the blog, I always feel more organized once I spend some time updating the sidebar, adding new poems to the list, changing links, etc.
  4. I always feel better when I clean out my closet. Doesn't happen very often, but it's always great.
  5. A clean and orderly kitchen is a great feeling.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Save Me

Based on Psalm 31:9-16 (lectionary this week)

O, God
My heavenly father,
Look upon me and smile for I need your grace.
I need your support.
I feel lost and alone.
Distress, like cement, weighs me down.
I cry and my eyes waste away with the tears.
Sorrow eats away at my body.

My life is spent in sorrow
My years are weighed with grief
So much so that I am weak and tired, failing.
Even my bones shrink with the weight of my pain.

Those who once loved me are gone,
And my enemies are all around.
My neighbors hide from me
I am forgotten by those who used recognize me,
I am invisible to those who used to see me.

I have passed from memory like one who has died.
I am broken, empty.

They whisper their fear, tainting the air
I breathe in their plots against me,
I taste their fear of me.

But I trust in you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my God.”

Everything is in your hands,
Even time, even my life.
Deliver me from my pain,
From my fears,
From my enemies.
Save me from those who hate me.
Rescue me from myself.

Smile upon me, O Lord,
Turn your face toward me, your servant.
Save me in your unending, steadfast love.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Grace and Love

I was reading part of Luke this week for Disciple Bible class. According to the notes, Luke is written as a message for the redemption of Israel through Christ -- a message for everyone. The notes pointed out a few things about the first and second chapters that I thought were interesting.
  • Jesus is referred to by the same title as Caesar -- Lord and Savior. It's quite a contrast -- infant and king.
  • The message is told to shepherds instead of to the elite (this one I've noticed before).
  • There is a contrast between the stories of Jesus and John. John is born to a priest and his wife -- people of advanced status and honor. Mary is a young, poor girl -- no status and honor. God favor extends to her only to extend compassion. Sound familiar? It's grace -- unearned and only given out of love.
  • The angels come to a farm, and meet together with humans. God and humanity meet in this lowly place, instead of in the Temple.
Jesus is born to all, out of grace and love.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals:

Share your preferences, opinions, and recommendations about movies! Choose 5 types of movies to discuss:

Note from me: I'm tired, and I'm not sure I'll come up with my favorite, but I'll list one that I like.

action -- Raiders of the Lost Ark
thriller -- ?
mystery -- Calendar Girls
drama -- Runaway Jury
comedy -- It's Complicated
foreign -- no idea
animated -- Beauty and the Beast
children's -- The Sand Lot
science fiction -- Star Wars (the first one that was released)
western/cowboy -- True Grit
? -- Sound of Music


Monday, March 22, 2010

Carry the Cross

Read this passage from Matthew 10:38-39:
If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.
A friend of mine delivered a talk on an Emmaus walk yesterday. Prior to giving a talk, you change into a "suit and tie" outfit, and then change back into casual clothes after the talk. After we "prayed him out," and he was preparing to return to the sleeping area to change, we all remembered that the cross in the chapel needed to be moved to the Sanctuary. It's a large cross, about as tall and me. My friend said, "I'll carry the cross so I can change."

He was being literal - the Sanctuary is in the same area as the sleeping rooms, but when you think about it, it was a spiritual statement, too.

Carrying a cross will lead to our transformation. Where else can carry a heavy burden lighten our load? Where else is it that death means new life? Nowhere. Christianity is backward. Christ leads us to carrying our crosses, not so that we will suffer and be heavy burdened, but so that we can be transformed into a new creation.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010


Steve has been the lay director of a Walk to Emmaus this weekend, and I have been trying to be in service in support of the walk. I tell you this to eplain the lack of words over the last couple of days (and this evening).

We'll return to regular posts tomorrow. As for today, I'll share a link with you. Go take a look at this statue at Duke Divinity school -- it's called Reconciliation, and is an artistic representation of the "Prodigal Son" parable.

Our pastor used this parable as the basis of his sermon today. I'm told is really good -- I'll have to check it out on our podcast. This statue was on the cover of the bulletin.

I like the statue -- it is of the father and his two sons. Sometimes we forget there are actually two of them, but the story of the older brother is important to hear.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Devotional 3-21-10


Friday, March 19, 2010


Beautiful day -- hopefully spring is here.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Emmaus Collect

Our God, Creator of unity,
Who brought your people together to live in unity,
Surprise those on the Emmaus walk this weekend with your presence
So that your grace is known among them, echoing through their work.
In the name of your son, who walks with all of us through life, Amen.

Steve is the Lay Director of a walk this weekend.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The risk is worth it

I sometimes hear, when I teach a class, certain ideas about grace and forgiveness that I disagree with:

  • God won't forgive sins that are horrible. The more horrible and evil, the less likely God is to forgive.
  • In order to be forgiven, there are certain things we must do -- we must change our ways, we must ask for forgiveness, we must be sorry for what we did.
I think we try to create God in our own image. We limit grace, because it doesn't seem fair or just to us.

It isn't fair. It isn't justice. It's grace.

Philip Yancey, in his book What's So Amazing About Grace?" talks about loopholes. Have you ever thought "why don't I go ahead and sin because God is going to forgive me anyway."?

We might not admit to that rationalization. What we might say, though, is that "God must not have meant to establish this kind of system -- forgiveness for everything - because the opportunities for abuse are just too large!

The risk is huge. God takes the chance that we will sin and sin and sin, seeking forgivneness. He opens himself up to become vulnerable and abused and taken for granted because what he is seeking is love.

Love. If I love, I will respond to grace with grace. I will desire not to sin, I will choose to obey and love God.

If he gives us the opportunity to choose freely, then he risks we will choose sin. The love, though, is worth the risk.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sparkle of Grace

One of my favorite things to find in a church is a baptismal font filled with water. The one at the church where our offices are located sits outside the Chapel. It is open, and is always filled with water. I can't walk by it without touching the water; I welcome the grace of the reminder of who and whose I am.

When we were at Kenova UMC a few weeks ago, I slid the lid off of the font and found wonderfully clear water, but what surpised me was what was resting at the bottom of the water -- clear glass rocks and seashells. It was beautiful, sparkling and inviting touch.

Do we ever slide the lids off of our baptism -- our claim by God -- and wonder at the surprise of the beauty of it -- the sparkle of God's grace? Dip in your hand and be refreshed. What are you waiting for?


Monday, March 15, 2010

Two Reasons

It occurred to me today that the reason I started coming to church when I was in high school and the reason I still come to church are not the same thing. I know that doesn't sound like a revelation, but I think we sometimes operate in the church as if the two reasons are the same.

I started attending the church where I eventually became a member because someone invited me. It was a personal invitation, offered by a friend, that made me feel welcome to come with her to church.

I'm not still attending because she invited me. I now attend because I love the people in the church, I love the United Methodist faith, I feel I can use my gifts for ministry, I enjoy the programming.

I think we try to attract members with programming, with opportunities for sharing gifts, with a congregation that feels like a family and is welcoming to the people we know, because these are the reasons we love the church.

What we really need to do is offer an invitation.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010


We were talking today in Sunday about a burdens we carry. Jan, who taught the class, said that it was a tradition (of the Romans? I'm missing that part in my brain) was that when a person caused the death of someone else, part of the punishment was that the corpse would be strapped to the person's back and that he would have to walk around with it.

I'm glad that when I hurt someone, I don't physically have to carry him or her around, but I do think we strap on burdens with the chains of guilt.

We talk in the grace class about forgiveness, and how we have already been forgiven for the sins we have committed. Forgiveness, I have said in class, is separate from confession. I tell the class that so that they will realize that they can (with God's help) forgive someone without their confession or contrition.

Even so, confession and repentance has a role in our healing. Confession is acknowledging the sin. Asking forgiveness (and receiving forgiveness) can be the key to unlocking the chains that bind the burden to our backs.

There is no time limit -- confession is timeless, and can lighten our load.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Foggy Morning

Fog on the way to work this week.


Friday, March 12, 2010


I was listening to the song "Days of Elijah" the other day. As each verse was sung, I was thinking about church, and asking myself questions.

These are the days of Elijah,
Declaring the word of the Lord:
And these are the days of Your servant Moses,
Righteousness being restored.
And though these are days of great trial,
Of famine and darkness and sword,
Still, we are the voice in the desert crying
'Prepare ye the way of the Lord!'
I thought about John the baptist, preparing the way of the Lord. We are called to do that -- to prepare the way for the Lord's work in people's lives. Do we do that? Do we declare the word of the Lord? In these times of great trial, are we a voice in the desert? Do we provide living water to the thirsty world?
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call;
Lift your voice, it's the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion's hill salvation comes.
Does salvation come from our churches? Are we declaring freedom to God's people? It is the year of Jubilee, or can people even hear God through our actions and words? Do we shine with God's love?

These are the days of Ezekiel,
The dry bones becoming as flesh;
And these are the days of Your servant David,
Rebuilding a temple of praise.
In a time when our churches need rebuilding, are we at work? Are we preaching to dry bones and allowing God's breath to bring them back to life? Are we a resurrection people? Or do we live in the past? Are we rebuilding the temple of praise? Have we even noticed the need to rebuild?

These are the days of the harvest,
The fields are as white in Your world,
And we are the laborers in Your vineyard,
Declaring the word of the Lord!
If we are the laborers, are we at work? Are we harvesting? The fields are full of wheat, ready to be brought forth to God? Are we doing it?

Can people be directed to God for their salvation through us?


Thursday, March 11, 2010


Repentance. What associations does that word have for you?

Confession? Sorrow? Guilt? The need for forgiveness? Does the thought of it make you feel bad? Push you away?

It's a word we hear all the time at Lent -- a call to repentance. We hear it echo through the words of John the Baptist. Repent.

It sounds worse that giving up chocolate. A whole lot worse.

But read this quote -- I found it in my email this week from Sound Bites:

True repentance begins with the felt knowledge that we are loved by God… Repentance consists not so much in flagellating ourselves over our "failures" as in courageously and painstakingly reorienting our priorities, unlearning old patterns, turning our faces, like the sunflower, toward the dawning of the light of God. Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming
Perhaps we would be better if we left behind our pre-conceived notions of repentance and just considered it a turning toward the light, out of the darkness.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Great Thanksgiving


The Lord be with you
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing,
Always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

In the beginning,
In a time before memory,
In a time before creation,
You were here.
You opened your heart
And spoke the world into being.
You opened your imagination,
And created us in your own image.
Even when we rebelled against your love,
You have never abandoned us,
Never forgotten us,
And have always loved us.
Even though we deserve to be lost,
You have held us close,
And lifted us up,
Protecting us with your grace.

And so,
With your people on earth
And all the company of heaven
We praise your name and join their unending hymn.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.
Because of your infinite love for us
You sent the Son of God to become the Son of Man.
So that he could bear the sins of the world.
He was born into the world
Vulnerable to our sins.
He showed us how to live, in obedience to you.
He showed us how to love, in response to your love.
He showed us how to die,
And gave us the hope of resurrection.

By the baptism of his suffering, death and resurrection
You gave birth to your church,
Delivered us from slavery to sin and death,
And made with us a new covenant
By water and the Spirit.

Just as you spoke us into being,
You have breathed the spirit of life into us,
Giving us the gift of your abiding presence.
Your spirit, living in us, shines the light of your love among us.
Through your spirit, we are adopted as your children,
Freed from fear and slavery.
You have made us joint heirs with Christ.
Through your spirit, we receive
The gifts of your guidance,
The knowledge of your presence,
And a peace we cannot even understand.
Through your spirit and your grace
We are drawn to this meal,
To this communion with the Living God.

One night, long ago, Jesus stood with his friends,
As we now stand with our friends.
He shared a meal with them
And spoke to them of his coming death.
He spoke to them of a great mystery,
And invited them, as he invites us,
To become a steward of the mystery,
A steward of the good news.

He took bread, gave thanks to you for it, and broke it,
As he would be broken.
He gave it to his friends, and said,
“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the supper was over, he took the cup,
Gave thanks to you for it, and shared it with his friends, saying,
“Drink from this, all of you;
This is my blood of the new covenant,
Poured out for you and for many
For the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
In remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
We offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
As a holy and living sacrifice,
In union with Christ’s offering for us,
As we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit of us gathered here,
And on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
That we may be for the world the body of Christ,
Redeemed by his blood.

By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
One with each other,
And one in ministry to all the world,
Until Christ comes in final victory,
And we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ,
And the Holy Spirit in your holy church,
All honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
Now and for ever.


Note: The Great Thanksgiving is written using the "bones" of the Service of Word and Table II in the United Methodist Hymnal. It is the conclusion of the Communion Liturgy I posted yesterday and was written for the Covenant Council Worship service of the West Virginia Annual Conference.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Communion Liturgy I

As I mentioned in a previous post, JtM and I co-led worship for our Annual Conference's Covenant council. As part of that, we put together an order of worship with a communion liturgy. I'll post that liturgy over the next two days:


A Modern Affirmation from the United Methodist Hymnal


This very moment, God is in this room with us. God has searched us, known us. God knit us together from the moment of our creation. Before we think, God knows our thoughts. Before we speak, God knows our words. Our God, who knows all of our sins, invites us to turn from our sinful paths and join our creator at this table. Knowing our sins, God loves us with an unspeakable grace, a love strong enough to overcome sin and even death. As we turn toward God, let us confess our sins to our loving God, safe in the embrace of grace.


Merciful creator, full of grace,
Hear our words of confession
Search us, O God, and know our hearts
Test us and know our thoughts.

We have heard your word that we should love you
and love our neighbors with all of our being, and yet,

We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.

We have heard your word, studied your law, known your call to be faithful, and yet,

We confess that we have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
We have broken your law.

We have heard your words of love, seen your actions of compassion, felt your saving grace.

We confess that we have rebelled against your love.
We have not loved our neighbors,
And we have not heard the cry of the needy.

Create in us a clean heart, put a right spirit within us.

Forgive us, we pray
Free us for joyful obedience,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Hear and believe this wonderful mystery. Hear the good news.
With a willing heart, Christ offered himself as a sacrifice,
Demonstrating to us the love and mercy of God, our creator.
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
Glory to God. Amen.

Note: The bold indicates Congregational responses and are taken from a Service of Word and Table II from the United Methodist Hymnal. The non-bold sections are original. The first four bold lines from the Confession are original. There are lines from the invitation that were inspired by Psalm 139.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Spiritual Disciplines

This is not what I intended to write about today, but all the things on my mind have slipped away. Hopefully, tomorrow, they will reappear. So instead, here is the Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals (which probably contains some questions I needed to answer):

  • Is there a part of your spiritual life that is dry and dusty at the moment, something that could do with a good spring clean? I keep trying to revitalize my devotional time, and I'm not have much success. I'll keep working on it. My lenten discipline wasn't working, so I threw it out and started with a new one -- one that is more defined.
  • Spiritual disciplines- life-giving/ terrifying: discuss Well, I certainly don't find them terrifying, so I would say life-giving. When I'm really committed and when I follow through, I find them great.
  • Share a practice that keeps you spiritually alive that you think others might benefit from... My Emmaus reunion group, blogging, studying for Disciple, discussions with friends
  • Alone or together, how do you pray best? I think I probably pray better alone, although I have had some wonderfully spiritual prayer experiences with other people
  • If your spiritual life were to burgeon and bloom into a spring flower what would it be and why? I'm not even sure what that means --- what spring flower would it be? I don't have any idea.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Envious of Generosity?

We were talking in Disciple class this evening about the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. It's the one when the people who were hired at the beginning of the day were paid the same wage as the ones who starting working an hour prior to the end of the day.

It's unfair. We certainly wouldn't run our own businesses that way. We wouldn't pay employees that way. I know if I told my boss that I wanted to work only on Fridays and be paid the same salary that I earn now, he would (rightly) tell me no.

That's life the way it is. Life the way it will be, the way it can be, is a life of grace. We don't earn our salvation, so to expect those who are found late in life to get less salvation than we do is illogical.

I really like the line from that parable that says, "Are you envious of my generosity." (or something like that.)

God's love is infinite. We don't get less because he loves more people. His generosity is applied to us as well as to everyone else. What is there to be envious about?

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

My Favorite Place

At Covenant Council last night, we played an ice breaking game. Steve, the convener, passed around baskets of foil-wrapped chocolate covered eggs. The question you were to answer for the group depended upon the color of the foil on your egg. My purple egg meant that my question was, "your favorite place."

Good question. Hard one to answer. I ended up saying, "My favorite place is to be in the presence of the ones I love." It's true -- when I think about my most enjoyed places, my family and/or friends are there. So it's true, but it's not my only favorite place -- just maybe my most favorite. Others would include:

  • Dinner and a movie by myself. Quiet time on my own is also a treat for me. I've never understood why there are people who don't like to be alone in public.
  • The beach -- great place to be.
  • On the focusing side of a camera taking a picture of a beautiful place.
  • Coming out of the woods near the California coastline -- beautiful scene just emerged in front of me.
  • My desk at work.
  • Working "out" on the road
  • The Sanctuary of our church.
  • A very small chapel in First UMC, Ashland
  • The field at Spring Heights
  • Cabo de Roca, Portugal (Most western point in Europe)
  • Our kitchen
  • My spot on the couch
  • Panera
And I'm just getting started. I have many favorite places -- good thing I didn't try to mention them all yesterday.


Friday, March 05, 2010

Questions from This Evening

I'm attending Covenant Council tonight and tomorrow. A retreat center with wireless access -- that's what I call a Retreat Center. There's barely any cell phone signal, but I've got the internet.

Anyway, I was blessed to have been asked to co-lead worship this evening -- a very special blessing for me. Later, I'll post some of the liturgy.

The sermon was delivered by Dr. Lovett Weems, from Wesley Seminary. Great sermon. I'll leave you with a couple of questions from his sermon:

  • Is your church a means or the means to God's end?
  • Are there parts of your programming (or beyond that) that are just the forms left to contain power -- the power having departed for somewhere else?
  • Are you willing to wear the vision, like clothes?
  • Have you ever realized that in the middle of something, it always feels like failure? And that true hope is hope in the midst of what feels like failure?
OK, so that's four questions, not a couple of questions. But think on these things.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tranformational Forgivness

Have you ever considered the transformational effect of forgiveness?

In class today we compared two scripture passages -- the one in which Peter denies Jesus three times and the one in which the resurrected Christ and Peter meet on the shore for breakfast.

Consider Peter. He has done what he promised he would not do -- what he had been absolutely certain he would never do -- betrayed Jesus. He goes back to what he knows -- fishing, rather than going forward with what Jesus has called him to do -- to be a fisher of men. He is frozen in his guilt. He cannot go forward in ministry.

Until Jesus meets in on the beach and convinces him, finally, that he is forgiven. One only has to read Acts to discover the transformational effect of forgiveness in the life of Peter.

Is that grace we can refuse to offer? Is it grace we can refuse to accept?

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I'm reading for the class we're teaching tomorrow, and I'm thinking about forgiveness.

I think there are those who believe that we must ask for forgiveness in order to receive it, and that conversely, we cannot forgive someone who doesn't ask -- who doesn't show remorse -- who isn't sorry.

Forgiveness and confession are two different things. Separate. And meant to be.

Forgiveness is something we do. It is independent of the sorrow or regret or confession of the other person. If it weren't, then we would never be able to forgive someone who has already died. Or who has hurt us without realizing it. Or who has hurt us and doesn't care about it. The list goes on and on.

When we forgive, we let go of judgment and give it to God, where it belongs. When we forgive, we start to heal. We may not be able to forgive all at once, or easily or without the help and guidance of God, but with God's help, we can forgive, regardless of what the other person does.

It's grace.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The definition of grace

Someone in class a couple of weeks ago asked me how I would explain grace to a young child.

I made up an answer on the spot, but it is a tough question -- one that deserves contemplation.

Before the last 5 years or so, the word "grace" was completely confusing to me. I don't want to claim that it's not confusing to me now, but I do feel that the word has taken on new meaning to me. I agree with the idea that it can be a confusing word -- it has been for me.

How would I define it to a child?

The love of God.

How would I define it for an adult?

Jesus love me. This I know.\

Ultimate. Priceless.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Lint Lent

Lint. Lent. Lint is the detritus in your dryer that gets caught in a trap. It seems like lint in a dryer could interfere with the airflow of the drying system. And if you leave too much of it in the lint trap, it can catch on fire and cause all kind of horrible problems. You must continually, every time, clean out the lint trap.

Lent is a time to check our spiritual lint traps. What detritus is interfering with the flow of God's grace through our lives? Lent is the time to clear out the lint.

As I listened to Monty preach last Wednesday about lint and Lent (he actually threw lint at us, to make a point -- the man must have been collecting it for quite some time), I thought about the spiritual discipline of denial during Lent. Many people will ask, "What are you giving up for Lent?" My husband has a very specific discipline he's practicing, as does a friend of ours. Mine is very amorphous (and I'm not having very good luck with it at all). As I thought about what they were "giving up," I was inspired by their symbolic lint trap cleaning.

There have been times in life when I practiced a discipline of "giving up." There was a real sense to it of a symbolic action clearing the trap to allow grace to flow. I'm missing that.

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