Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pine and Snow


Saturday, January 30, 2010


I ordered a casserole dish and carrier about a week ago. I assumed it was like the one I already had (I was hoping to have two of them) -- a rectangular dish measuring 9x13.

The new one arrived, and I opened it today. It's rectangular, but it's about half the size of the 9x13. It's tiny for a casserole. It has all the "parts" of a 9 x 13 dish, but tiny. How is it that I bought such a tiny carrier?

The problem is I assumed I knew what it was, and what size it was. It looks just the same as ours -- looking at the picture online wouldn't have given me any clues. I needed to read the description, and I didn't. I just assumed.

How often do we assume we know what is going on? How often do we fail to ask questions? How often are we wrong without even knowing it? How often do we find out our error and feel silly? Happens to me often -- like this tiny casserole dish.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Social Media

Considering Social Media (Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals):

  1. What have been the benefits for you of social networking (blog, twitter, facebook, etc...) It's interesting to me to see blogs and facebook grouped together, because to me they serve much different purposes. For me, the blog is a discipline -- a way to motivate myself to write each day. I know others read it, but my main purpose is to express my thoughts. It's cool that people read it, but for me it is not conversation (although it can develop into conversation. Facebook, for me, is essentially conversation. It's people talking to each other. Blogging helps me to understand what I'm thinking. Facebook puts me in touch with people I know. Or know of. In my job, it has helped me to get to know people, and to follow what they are doing.
  2. Which medium do you use the most? Or if you use them all, for what do you use each of them? I use blogging every day. I check in on Facebook once or twice a day. I just don't twitter at all.
  3. If you could invent a networking site (with no limits on your imagination), what would it provide? What would it not provide? I've never thought about it, and don't really know.
  4. Who have you met that you would not have met if it were not for the 'miracle' of social networking?I can't think of anyone I've met that I wouldn't have met otherwise. There are people who are "friends" on Facebook who I have heard about through work and haven't met yet. It is strange when you meet a "friend" that you haven't met before, but know through what you do for a living. I was driving by a church in another part of the state and recognized the minister's name on the sign. "Oh, look, there's my "friend." Weird. Maybe that's one change I would make in Facebook. I wouldn't call them "friends." I would call them something else.
  5. Who do you secretly pray does not one day try to 'friend/follow' you? Oh, there are those people, but I'm not going to name them here!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Journey

Quote in my email today:

This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed. Martin Luther
After yesterday's post, I thought this quote was a good followup. Bob commented that if we had driven straight to where we needed to be last week, then we would have missed the experience -- we would have missed everything we saw.

That's absolutely true, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss what we passed by. It added to the experience.

Sometimes, as the quote implies, it is the journey that is important. The journey is how we grow. The walk -- the process -- is the goal.

There are times in my church, during communion, when we walk to the back of the church via the side aisles, and then up the middle aisle to reach the elements. There are some who think this is an unnecessarily long walk. Personally, I disagree. I think the walk should be long. I think we need the travel -- the walk -- to communion -- to reach God.

If God wants me to arrive quickly, then that's great. If the journey is part of the goal, then I'll savor it. I just want to remember to pray along the way -- whether the way is long or short.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Signs

We were traveling last week around the northern part of the state. The visit began a little bit off when the place we had planned to eat didn't serve lunch. No problem; we just went back down the interstate to another restaurant.

It was the beginning of two days of backtracking.

We went down dead end roads, ignoring the signs. Often, we could see where we needed to be, but couldn't get there -- it would be across the valley, on the other side of the interstate, or across a bridge that wasn't there. We passed by where we needed to be, missing it.

Eventually, we turned on the GPS, asked for directions, or just found various destinations with luck.

How often do we do that in our lives? Do we wander around, seeing where we need to be, but not knowing how to get there? Do we ignore the warning signs? Are we often separated from where we need to be by obstacles that we cannot cross?

How often do we forget to pray? To listen for God? How often do we ignore God's guidance? Wouldn't we reach our goals -- God's goals for us -- if we were to open our eyes? Open our hearts for God?

Edited to add: I was reading for Disciple this evening and found this verse: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Proverbs 3:5). I think it applies.

Image: Window and pew at Suncrest UMC, Morgantown

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals:

  • What was the mode of transit for your last trip?My last trip was in a car; my last big trip was to the beach, in a car. Last fall I flew to Memphis for meeting.
  • Have you ever traveled by train?The last time I traveled by train was in high school. My Biology II class went to Washington, DC on Amtrak.
  • Do you live in a place with public transit, and if so, do you use it?We do have a bus system in town, but to catch the bus, I have to walk out of my subdivision and then then another mile to the road where the bus will go by. I've done that -- the last time was when I lost my car keys -- but I don't like to do it.
  • What's the most unusual vehicle in which you've ever traveled?When we were at Disney World a few years back, we (Steve and I) were invited to ride in the front of the monorail. It was just the two of us, and everything around us was windows -- great view. We felt guilty most of the time because the kids weren't with us, and we knew they would have loved it.
  • What's the next trip you're planning to take?I want to find some time to drive to Easton in Columbus -- not sure when we'll find the time to do that.
Image: Winter scene from last year -- across the street from our house.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Dare to believe

I was listening to a knitting podcast today. The author of the podcast is doing a series based on the muses from Greek mythology and how each one relates to knitting. The discussion today was about Melpomene. She is the muse related to tragedy. One of the essays on the podcast talked about how the two concepts -- knitting and tragedy -- could be related. The muse was originally the muse of singing. The author believes that the muse is misunderstood. Thought of as the muse of tragedy, she is really the muse who helps people through tragedy.

Forget the idea of a muse for a moment. Think about Christianity. How can knitting be related to tragedy? How can a knitter begin to believe that the products of sticks and string can possible bring comfort to someone in grief? Ever seen the products of a group of prayer shawl knitters? How can anyone doubt that there is a link? That knitting can bring comfort?

In this time when misguided (to use a kind word) people believe that God would bring tragedy to Haiti, the question becomes important. Our God is not one of tragedy. Our God is one who brings comfort -- who will bring us through tragedy. Our God is the one who can transform yarn into comfort. Our God is the God who will take our meager offerings and transform them into something that makes a difference. Because of God we can dare to believe that one person can make a difference.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Psalm Quilt

This week in Disciple, as our readings assignments, we read several Psalms. As I read them through the week, I started writing down a verse or two from each one -- it might be a verse that spoke of the theme of the Psalm, or that had beautiful imagery, or that just appealed to me.

Once I had finished reading for the week, I typed all of the verses into Word, and them moved them around, changing their order. I didn't eliminate any of them or change them. I didn't try to fix them to make them work better together; I just changed their order. (For that reason, they don't always flow well from one to the other. )

The number at the end of each stanza is the Psalm chapter and verse.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
For his steadfast love endures forever. (136:1)

Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it labor in vain
Unless the Lord guards the city
The guard keeps watch in vain (127:1)

Let the favor of the Lord God be upon us,
And prosper for us the work of our hands --
O prosper the work of our hands (90:17)

The eyes of all look to you
And you give them food in due season
You open your hand
Satisfying the desire of every living thing. (145:15-16)

What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? (116:12)

We will not hide them from their children’
We will tell the coming generation
The glorious deeds of the Lord and his might
And the wonders that he has done (78:4)

How very good and pleasant it is
When kindred live together in unity. (133:1)

When you send forth your spirit, they are created
And you renew the face of the ground (104:30)

Do not forsake me, O Lord,
O my God, do not be far from me;
Make haste to help me;
O Lord, my salvation (38:21-22)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
From the words of my groaning? (22:1)

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (137:4)

Nevertheless I am continually with you
You hold my right hand (73:22)

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
So my soul longs for you, O God. (42:1)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in his word I hope (130:5)

O send out your light and your truth
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to your holy hill
And to your dwelling (43:3)

Hide your face from my sins
And blot out my iniquities
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And put a new and right spirit with me. (51:9-10)

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance
O God of our salvation
You are the hope of all the ends of the earth
And of the farthest sea (65:5)

For you have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears
My feet from stumbling (116:8)

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O Lord me God, you are very great (104:1)

For the Lord is good
His steadfast love endures forever
And his faithfulness to all generations (100:5)

Even the darkness is not dark to you;
The night is as bright as day,
For darkness is alight to you (139:12)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
My whole life long (23:6)

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Snowy Day


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Great is His Word

The sky, the air, the clouds, the very heavens,
The home of God himself
Speaks of his glory.
The earth below our feet,
The trees, the mountains, the rocks
Speak of his creation.

Every day witnesses to God’s greatness
Every night declares its knowledge of God.
Even though their voices are silent and wordless,
Their proclamations are heard to the very ends of the earth.

God has placed the sun in the sky
And told it the path it must travel.
Its road is paved with the joy of its purpose
And nothing on earth is shaded from its heat.

God has set the world in order
Created the perfect plan for his creation,
Shown us the way to live
Made our paths straight,
Revived our souls,
Shared with us the wisdom of the ages.

His laws are right,
Bringing us joy,
Inspiring our reverence,
Opening our eyes,
Enduring forever.

His word is true and righteous.
Completely perfect and without compare.
His word is a pearl of great value,
Finer than any treasure,
Sweeter than life.

His laws are our warning,
Our security,
Our foundation.
In obedience we find great reward.

Lead me not into temptation,
Keep me from disobedience and sin,
So that I shall be blameless,
Free. Innocent.

I pray that my words,
My very thoughts,
The beating of my heart,
And the currents of my mind,
Shall be acceptable to you,
My God and my salvation.
My Rock and my redeemer.

Musings on Psalm 19

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Liturgy from Last Sunday

I preached last Sunday at my church and led worship. I used the lectionary readings as the basis of the worship. The following Call to Worship is based on Psalm 36:5-10.

Call to Worship:

Leader: The steadfast love of our Lord extends to the heavens and his faithfulness to the clouds. His righteousness is like mighty mountains.
All: We come this morning to worship our God.
Leader: The steadfast love of our God creates a sanctuary in which we may take refuge, under the shadow of His wings.
All: We come this morning with gratitude for God’s abundant blessings of salvation and grace.
Leader: The steadfast love of our Lord is a fountain of life; in his light we see light.
All: We come this morning to worship our God with gratitude and praise.

The collect is written using the themes of the sermon, which included the idea that we should be expecting God to do great things -- we can trust him to have the ability, to love us, and to keep his promises. Are we expecting?


Loving and sustaining God, who walks in this room with us, who works in our hearts to transforms us, be present among us. Create in us an awareness of your almighty nature, your unending love and your never-failing faith in us, so that we may wait and watch expectantly, knowing that with you, nothing is impossible. Move us to action, so that we may become witnesses of the miraculous, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note: The collect was written in a modified version of the traditional form for the prayer.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Loaves and Fish

At our office devotional today, Joyce read to us a letter from a friend of hers. The letter was written by a gentleman in Texas whose wife has gone to Haiti to help with relief efforts.

She, the wife, is a doctor, and she has gone to provide basic medical care where and when she can.

Her husband asks his friends to pray for her and for their mission. He asks that we pray that the little they have and can offer will be enough. He asks all to pray for a loaves and fishes response from God. God can take five loaves and two fish and feed 5000.

We are asked to pray for the same kind of response.

God can take what we offer, whether it is money or gifts or time, and turn it into what is necessary to feed everyone else.

Pray for loaves and fish in Haiti.

Image: Clipart from Hermanoleon


Monday, January 18, 2010

Dead leaves

We were driving to church on Sunday morning. The route we usually takes includes a section of road around our city park. As we drove by, we noticed that lots of the trees -- even in January -- still had their leaves. Not live leaves, but dead, brown, ugly leaves.

Steve noticed them and wondered why trees would still have their leaves. I assume some species, like what we used to call "pin oaks" maintain their dead leaves through the winter.

It does make one wonder, though. Why would a tree keeps its dead leaves?

I wonder if our churches sometimes hold onto dead leaves, just out of a reluctance to let go of something that used to be green and lush. Do we do that? Do we hang onto traditions, locations, programs, or rules just because they used to work? Are they hanging on the "branches" of our churches, dead but unreleased?

Do we look rather silly as the seasons pass when we don't let go?


Sunday, January 17, 2010



Saturday, January 16, 2010

How can I help you?

Yesterday I attended the monthly gathering of our Emmaus Community. Each worship service ends with communion.

As I knelt to pray, I thought about my commitment to lead worship in my church on Sunday, so I began my prayer with, "Lord, help me." I stopped. "Help me" seemed kind of selfish. There are times in prayer, I think, to be silent. So I was for a moment, and my prayer changed. "Lord, how can I help you?"

And then, "Help me to be a help to you."

It was a good time in prayer.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Be There Be Hope

I read a quote the other day -- I wish I could remember where and who said it, but the message of it was that we keep praying to God for help, and he keeps sending us each other.

Let's be there for each other.

Find a way to make a difference in the emergency in Haiti -- through both your prayers and your gifts.

UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is in need of financial donations -- go to this link to make a donation. They are also asking for donations of health kits. Find information concerning health kits at the same link.

The bulletin inserts for this effort say, "Be There. Be Hope in Haiti."


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Suffering Servant

Yesterday, I read chapters 51-53 of Isaiah for my Disciple class. The end of chapter 52 and the beginning of chapter 53 is one of the Servant Songs. There are four (I think) Servant Songs in Isaiah. This is the last and longest one.

The notes in my Bible say that this one is unusual because it is about vicarious suffering. There are other places in the prophetic writings where suffering is described, but in this passage, the description is about someone who suffers in place of someone else.

As Christians, that resonates with us. My Bible's notes cautioned against only reading the passage from the view of a Christian. Consider it from the perspective of the person to whom it was written -- the Jews in exile.

The notes suggested that God was telling Israel and Judah that their suffering in exile would lead to the redemption of the nations.

That aspect of Isaiah puts another dimension on the idea of punishment in exile that I discussed earlier this week.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Church with no walls

I love stained glass. I love to take pictures of it, to look at it, to learn about the symbolism in it. I am attracted by its intense colors and artwork. I love stained glass.

I was browsing through blogs this evening, and stopped on Songbird's blog. She talks about touring a church that was damaged in Hurricane Katrina. She posted pictures. It is called St. Peter's by the Sea. You can imagine what it looks like with a name like that.

She has one image of the church that almost looks like the top half of the sanctuary is floating over the bottom half. That's not the way the church is actually built -- it looked like that soon after the hurricane hit. She also posts images of the church now, and how it was rebuilt.

You can see the images here.

As much as I love stained glass, I was intrigued by the image with the walls gone. Imagine a church with the walls gone, and the ocean in view. Beautiful.

Maybe, though, we are called to have churches with the walls gone and with view to the outside. I love stained glass, but we need to be able to see through it (figuratively) in order to see the world into which our God is calling us.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Comments on Comments

While I am always grateful for comments, I don't usually mention them in posts -- for no reason really; it's just not a habit I've developed. I read them all, and think about them, though.

I thought today, though, since there were three comments on yesterday's post, I would mention them today.

bthomas said...
First of all recognize that one does not read poetry through a literal lens. Isaiah is using language to stress that the punishment of Israel's sin was complete and finished.

Also consider that punishment is the consequence of sin. It is not simply that sin produces negative consequences. It is that sin is judged and punished in the same way that faithfulness is rewarded.

I do, of course, realize that the poetry is not meant to be taken literally. I had just finished reading a week of Consequence scriptures for Disciple. The first few verses of this week's Comfort scriptures sent me over the edge with the double potion of punishment. I had been struggling with the idea of punishment last week, and here it was again. It wasn't the literally quantifying of the punishment; it was the whole of idea of it in the first place.

I don't have an image of a God who watches our behavior and then hands out rewards and punishments for it. My image of God is one who is holding out the graceful reward of salvation to all of us, crying out for us to accept it. We are hard-headed and stubborn, and we ignore him. The consequences and rewards are not really actions of God himself, but results of our own actions.

I do realize there is a difference between consequences and punishment. I think the consequences of our own sin are worse than any punishment God would offer. The bad things that happen to us are usually a result of what we have done to ourselves. God would not choose it for us.

John Meunier said...

Word studies may not help, but the etymology of the word "punishment" goes back to ideas of payment of fines or atonement for wrongs. Here is the etymoogy.

It may not have meant the same to us. Punishment was the price paid for wrongs done, not a form of suffering with only incidental connection to the error that leads to it.

I do like to look at etymology (and thanks for the link to the Online Etymology dictionary -- cool). Seeing punishment as price paid for wrongs done does help me to align it in my mind -- especially the word "atonement." I can then link it to the idea of Christ atoning for our sins.

bob said...

I believe the Jewish people would equate punishment with love (Spare the rod spoil the child). Therefore double the punishment equals double the love.

Thinking about my own kids, I don't that in the midst of punishment, they would see it as love. I do understand the link, though.

I think about raising children. I know, from reading about it, that there were very good outcomes to the exile. Monotheism, for example. Synagogue practices. God is good out that -- bringing forth blessings from pain. The best explanation I've heard for the idea of punishment in the Old Testament is that God removed his protection from the people for a time and allowed negative consequences to happen. It's not really biblical in the case of the exile, however.

I'm not sure this is a case of "spare the rod and spoil the child." I think in this period of time God is working to establish a seed -- a chosen people who would bless the rest of the world, recovering it from the sin of Eden. It had to succeed. In order for the plan to continue, the exile was necessary. It isn't what God would have chosen -- not his ultimate will. He would have chosen for his people to be faithful and obedient, but they were far from that. There were many times in the story of Judah that God delayed what was becoming inevitable. I wonder if he was hoping for his people to repent, to change direction, to make what had to happen unnecessary. I don't hear punishment in that, but a last ditch effort for redemption.

Well, maybe not last ditch. God made the ultimate sacrifice a few hundred years later.

Image: Trees on the way to Burlington, WV last month.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Punishment vs Consequences

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
Isaiah 40:1-2
I was reading for Disciple today. The two verse above were the first two verse of our reading for the day.

I didn't like them.

Of course, I like the idea of hope and comfort for Israel, but I don't like the idea that they have paid double for their sins. Does that sound like God has punished them twice as much as is fair?

And what about this idea of punishment from God, anyway? It was a block for me as I read last week's lessons. Consequences (which was the theme) are one thing. I believe that our sinful actions will create consequences. But punishment? Does God punish people?

It seems to me that we are pretty good, all on our own, of creating our own punishment -- negative consequences.

Image: quilted cross from Burlington chapel


Sunday, January 10, 2010


Tired tonight. Ready to go to bed, so a short post instead of a more complicated one.

The Sunday school lesson I taught this morning was about the temptation of Jesus. The work temptation, in Greek, is peirasmos. It can mean either temptation, trials or test.

That's an interesting combination in my mind. The question in the lesson was about whether temptation can ever be a good thing. Are there positive outcomes to temptation? And for Jesus, was his temptation in the wilderness a kind of trial or test in preparation for his ministry?


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Water and Font


Friday, January 08, 2010

Sheep or Goat

One of the scriptures that has always kinds of bothered me is the one about the sheep and the goats. It has always conflicted in my mind with the idea of grace -- unearned. If grace is unearned then why does the separation of the sheep and goats have to do with what they have DONE? As if they have earned their way toward "sheepiness" and away from "goat-ness."

The best explanation I had encountered to fix this (in my mind) inconsistency was that the actions of the sheep and the goats was the fruit of their relationship with God. That helped.

The other day, as I was reading an article in Weavings, I realized that my problem with the passage might have to do with this -- how can I ever be a sheep? I can't imagine that I could achieve the actions necessary to become a sheep. It seems out of my reach. Impossible. I need the grace.

W. Paul Jones, in his article Inside Out as Upside Down, says that "both sheep and goats are inside each of us."

Perhaps the grace is that God transforms us. He takes our combined sheep/goat state, and remove the goat. He purifies us, changes us, and helps us to move on to perfection. Without God's help, I cannot be a sheep. Without God's help, I'm lucky to be a little bit sheep.

There is another page in this quarter's Weavings which says, "God can do everything, and I can do nothing, but if I offer this nothing in prayer to God, everything becomes possible in me (by Carlo Carretto). All is possible through God, even my "sheepiness."

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Year in Review

I saw a post today on a blog that I thought was intersting. It is a review of the year completed by listed the first line of the first post of each month along with a photograph from that month (probably unrelated). I thought I would give that a try:

January 2009: In Ortberg's Faith and Doubt he talks about how we view God.

February 2009: One of the lectionary readings for the week is Mark 1:21-28. Jack preached today about healing -- how we all have ways in which we can be healed and ways in which we can heal each other.

March 2009: I learned a few things from my son this evening.

April 2009: 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.

May 2009: We were on retreat this past weekend with our youth group. (3rd day of month since the first two were during a retreat and were only images)

June 2009: In Sunday school yesterday, we talked about a paragraph in the International Series student book.

July 2009: So, we now have a super majority in the Senate.

August 2009: The basis of the Children's Moment I did today in worship: Why I think bread and church are alike:

September 2009: Tired this evening, so I leave you with an image of the sky from last weekend and a quote to consider.

October 2009: Rev. Bob Wilkins delivered the sermon today at our Covenant Council meeting.

November 2009: But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

December 2009: Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi.

Doing this, I discovered two things: the first lines of my posts are boring, and it's hard to choose a favorite photograph.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Think about a baby. Completely dependent upon his parents, he is without defenses -- vulnerable in all ways. He depends on others for food, for cleanliness, for water, for a place to sleep, for transportation from one place to another, for protection and safety.

Jesus came to the world as a baby. He was completely vulnerable, and he chose that vulnerability. When he became human, vulnerability was one of the characteristics of humanity he couldn't avoid.

It's a characteristic we can't avoid, either.

How are we called to be vulnerable for God?

  • We are emotionally vulnerable because love opens us up for hurt.
  • Risk makes us vulnerable. When we take a chance and use our gifts in mission and ministry, we are vulnerable to failure. There's no getting around it -- when we step out of the box, sometimes we fall down.
  • When we speak about God, we are vulnerable to ridicule.

And yet, we are called to love, to risk and to tell the story. We are called to vulnerability by the one who made himself vulnerable at birth until death on a cross.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hands On Learning

At Rotary on Monday, a gentleman from The Mountain Institute spoke about their project at Spruce Knob. Part of what they do is to bring students to the center for learning activities. His theory is that when kids experience learning through hands on experience, they remember it more. They take ownership of what they are doing.

As I thought back to my time in college, I do remember the times out in the field. I remember collecting samples for botany, testing stream water for factors such as pH and temperature, and doing kick samples for aquatic "bugs."

When I worked in the lab and taught "fellows," I would give them a step by step procedure and then explain the theory of it. We would then walk through it, with me doing the work. The next time, the fellow would take the lead, with me watching. After that, the fellow did the work with me just in the room for questions. Hands on, creating ownership.

It makes me wonder if we teach our children enough through experience. Do we lead then through service projects? Do we put them in teaching roles with younger children? Do we teach them about worship by letting them lead it? Do our kids and youth get enough "hands on" Christian Education?


Monday, January 04, 2010

Three Wise Women, Part 3

Section 3 of Three Wise Women, as read yesterday morning for our church's Breakfast with the Wise Men:

The journey of the three wise men (and Miranda) continued, across deserts and mountains, through forests of giant cedars and beside muddy rivers. They arrived in Jerusalem, and while the three men met with King Herod, Miranda wandered around the palace, hearing whispers and rumors about Herod. When the three men returned to her, all four were in agreement – they were not going to trust this “king.”

Eventually, they followed the star to Bethlehem, and they found who they had been seeking. Early one morning, they found Mary and Joseph in the home of a distant relative of Joseph’s. Mary was holding the newborn Jesus. He was crying; she was distraught, as new mothers so often are. Miranda, not a rookie at being a mother, having seven grandchildren of her own, carefully took the baby from Mary, and held him, swaying in that way mothers have (or learn), until the child stopped crying.

The three men knelt before the parents and the child, presenting their gifts -- gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh as oil for burial. Joseph accepted their offerings with a look of disbelief on his face, but Mary quietly watched, and Miranda knew she was learning about her son, the new king, through her husband and his friends. Miranda watched wisdom as it was born on this young woman’s face.

Before Miranda handed the baby back to his mother, she gazed at his face, mesmerized by him. He was just a baby – he looked just like any other baby she had seen, but she knew, deep down, that this child was different. This child would change the world. This child was more than a king. She knew that after seeing this child, face to face, she would never be the same. She was changed.

She left with her husband and his friends. They bypassed Jerusalem on their trip home, going a different way. Balthazar told her, “To go back through Jerusalem would be backtracking,” but she had heard him telling her husband about his dream – a dream warning them to avoid Herod at all costs.

Years later, back in their hometown, she would often remember her journey to follow the star. She had been right; her life had been changed. Her status in the community, the amount of gold in her basement – none of it mattered anymore. Taking care of her neighbors had become a priority. Loving her family and friends and sharing what she had with those in need were the ways in which she honored the king she had met.

She heard rumors of the woman they had met in Russia – Babushka. It seems that she did give in to her longing to find the king, but that she had left too late. The star had set, and when she finally arrived in Bethlehem, the child and his family were gone. Devastated, she returned to her home, but during the cold nights of winter, she would leave gifts for the children in her neighborhood, wanting to share the love and kindness she had intended to shower upon the king.

Three women – Miranda, Babushka and Mary – each in her own way changed forever when they met the king, become three wise women, full of wonder and delight.

When you meet Christ, face to face your life will change.

Inspiration for the idea wording of the last line is from Floyd Taylor's devotion, which you can read here (Validation).


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Three Wise Women, Part 2

Section 2 of Three Wise Women, as read this morning for our church's Breakfast with the Wise Men:

The three wise men had planned everything. They had packed all of the food and equipment they would need. They had brought other men to help on the journey, they had spare camels for when the ones carrying the loads got too tired to continue. They had their star charts and their telescopes. They one thing they had not planned on was clouds.

A storm passed through, obliterating their view of the star. Now what?

They traveled on, hoping they were going in the right direction. The caravan eventually ended up in a small Russian village.

When Melchior told Miranda where they were, she said, “What? A Russian village? What are we doing in a Russian village? We need to turn around! We’re obviously lost.”

“No, dear, we can’t go back. Balthazar never likes to back-track. We’ll keep going.”

As he said this, Miranda saw a woman watching the caravan from the window of her home. “Melchior, at least ask her for directions.”

“Directions?! We don’t need directions.” He laughed, and rode off.

Miranda scoffed. Men. She pulled her camel to the side and walked up to the woman’s home. The woman was very welcoming, asking Miranda to come inside. Miranda was very impressed by her house – it was spotless and neat, with not a speck of dust or crumb in site. The two women went to the back of the house, to the equally spotless kitchen and sat down to talk, in the way that women do.

Eventually, Melchior noticed that Miranda wasn’t with the caravan and went back to find her. The Russian woman’s son opened the door and led him back to the kitchen.

“Melchior! Come and meet Babushka.” Melchior sat at the table with them, and of course, the conversation led back to the star and their journey. Melchior, as always, almost to Miranda’s embarrassment, was just as enthusiastic about their journey as he had been when they started. Amazingly, Babushka was enthralled by Melchior’s words.

“Oh, I would love to meet this king. Even here in my village, we have heard of the Jewish prophecy. How wonderful that you are going to find him!”

“My lady, Babushka, you should come with us! You should meet this king.”

“Come with you? Oh, I can’t come with you. I have too much to do here! I have house work to do, and tomorrow, I have to prepare a community meal. I can’t just leave. I can’t go seek this king!”

As the couple was leaving, to return to the caravan, Babushka told them goodbye, saying, “If I get everything finished, maybe I will follow you, and find the king myself.”


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Three Wise Women, Part 1

Our church has a "Breakfast with the Wise Men" tomorrow. As part of that event, I'm telling an epiphany story. Part of the story contains the Russian folk tale of Babushka; the rest is from my imagination. It's too long for a blog post, so I'll post it over the next few days.

This is a story about three women who become wise through their experiences – hard-won wisdom. All of us make mistakes in life; it’s the ones who learn and change who are the wisest.

Our story begins in the Far East, in the home of Miranda. For years, Miranda has smiled as her husband, Melchior, has puttered around in their stable with his two friends, Caspar and Balthazar, looking at the stars. Other people were impressed with how serious the three men were in their study of astrology, but Miranda often just shook her head, and thanked her lucky stars that at least the three men weren’t interested in camel racing – expensive, with a serious risk of gambling losses. At least stars didn’t spit and weren’t messy like camels. So, Miranda humored her husband, and went about her business, sure that astrology was a safe hobby that wouldn’t interfere with what was serious in life.

Until the day when Melchior came up to bed after a long evening in the stable with his friends. He woke her up, immediately putting her in a bad mood. “Miranda! We’re done it! We’ve found the star we’ve been looking for!”

“That’s great, Melchior. Tell me about it tomorrow. That star’s not going anywhere.”

“Yes, yes, it is! It’s the one! We leave in a week to follow it to find a newborn king.”

“What? Leave? King? What are you talking about?”

“The King has been born. We’re leaving in a week, Miranda. We’re taking gifts; we’re going to see this king.”

This finally woke Miranda up. Leaving? To follow a star? Was her husband crazy? Had all of that stable dust gone to his head? Where was her wise husband? They argued all night – Miranda talked about his standing in the neighborhood –what would people say when he left to go follow a star? She tried to convince him that the journey would be too expensive, that it would take forever. She used every logical reason she could think of to try to change his mind. Nothing worked.

“OK. Fine,” she said, thinking to try reverse logic, since nothing else had worked. “If you’re going, then I’m going with you.” She was certain this would stop him. No man in his right mind would take his wife across miles of desert to follow a star. Surely this would convince him.

“GREAT!” he said. “You should see this! I never believed you would go, but that’s great. We leave in a week.” And he ran out of the room to begin preparations, leaving his wife sitting on the bed, with her eyes huge, and her mouth hanging open.

The next thing she knew, she was riding a camel in a caravan, following a star.


Friday, January 01, 2010

Poetry from 2009

  • You Are My Child -- Psalm 19
  • All Things New
  • Judy -- in memory of Judy
  • Prayer
  • How Large Is God?
  • All Good Gifts
  • Bones -- Ezekiel 31:1-14
  • Oh Lord, You're Beautiful
  • Grace Echoes -- In memory of Floyd
  • Anointed -- Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13
  • Spring of Life
  • And yet -- Psalm 87
  • Ask me
  • Grace
  • You May not Know me -- a poem for Covenant Council
  • Edge of Lent
  • A Call -- Notes during a sermon
  • Labels:

    New Year's Day

    The New Year's Day Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals:

    • What will you gladly leave behind in 2009? While there has been grief in 2009, it has been a great year. I have been richly blessed.
    • What is the biggest challenge of 2010 for you? Being a mom is a big challenge. I love it, but it's not for rookies. Starting Monday, I'm back to Weight Watchers -- a big challenge.
    • Is there anything that you simply need to hand to God and say "all will be well, for you are with me"? I hope everything. If I would do that more often, I imagine life would move along more smoothly.
    • If you could only achieve one thing in 2010 what would it be? I can't pick one. I won't pick one.
    • Post a picture, poem or song that sums up your prayer for the year ahead... This picture reminds me that hope springs from anything. Everything. Even from snow.