Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lighthouse in Alaska


Friday, July 30, 2010

A Wedding and a Funeral

From my Sunday School lesson for this weekend, using Max Lucado's Fearless book as curriculum. The chapter concerns our fear of death...

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. John 14:1-4

It may seem strange, but Jesus is using wedding imagery to describe life after death. When a couple was betrothed, the groom would go to his father's house and prepare a home for the new couple, then he would return and claim in wife.

Why would Jesus use wedding imagery to describe death? What do a funeral and a wedding have in common?

Think about the idea of many mansions – many dwelling places. And think of the man - Jesus - who is telling us about it. William Barclay, in his writings about this passage, talks about houses on earth that are too crowded for everyone. I imagine that Jesus has heard the story from his mother about the night he was born – when there was no room at the inn. In the light of that thought, what does this passage say to us? Can it be that heaven is a place where there is room for all? Barclay says, “Heaven is as wide as the heart of God and there is room for all. Jesus is saying to his friends, ‘Don’t be afraid. In this world, people may shut their doors upon you. But in heaven you will never be shut out.’”

Image: Alaska, 2nd day of cruise.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sacred vs Secular

If you are near my age, you may remember the television show, "Little House on the Prairie." Uh oh. Can you hear the song in your heard? It's going through mine right now.

Anyway, remember the one room school house? It also served as the church on Sundays. It was a community building -- sacred some days and secular on others. In fact, I imagine no one would have ever classified one or the other.

I just read about a church in Maine (I think) that is old enough that at one time it was the only building in town large enough to house community events. Church on Sunday...maybe Town Meeting on Monday evening. The lines blur.

Why is it that we insist on classifying certain items as sacred or secular? Does God label them? Why do we?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Knit Together

I like Psalm 139. The image that particularly appeals to me is this:

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Maybe I like it because it appeals to both the biologist and the knitter in me. We are wonderfully created, knit together, by our God.

I was reading this blog article today, though, and a new aspect of that "knitting together" was pointed out to me. (Written by a Lutheran pastor, named Diane Roth).

I encourage you to go read the article, and I'll quote the end here:
We are being knit together by love and anticipation, by joy and by grieving. We are being knit together as we anticipate the reign of God and live now in this reality. We are being knit together, and sometimes this causes us unbelievable joy, and sometimes almost unbearable sorrow.
Of course, I know that we are knit together, but this article brought it into focus for me today. We are the Body of Christ, and we are knit together, wonderfully and fearfully made. That construction, as a body, can bring us great joy, or great grief, because we share the experiences of the others in the Body.

We care for each other, and we take care of each other. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by God.

Image: Each prayer shawl I knit has a cross attached. This is one of them.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grace and Worship

I was looking through blogs today, and read one my Gordon Atkinson. Gordon was a pastor at a church, but has in the last year or so changed positions. He was visiting an Episcopal Church and had this experience (that's a link called Finding Grace).

This week I was talking to a group of people about an upcoming event. Their feeling was -- and I'm really paraphrasing -- that people who didn't know how to raise their hands in praise of God during worship wouldn't really be interested in coming. And I got the feeling that they wouldn't be missed.

I belong to a church whose members rarely raise their hands in praise of God during worship. Not that I'm a "hand-raiser" either, but I've done some complaining about the traditional style of worship practiced for the most part in my church. I've been hurt by some of the comments about alternative worship practices, and how they aren't "real worship."

To be honest, at that moment, I realized that we all have some "stubbornness" when it comes to worship. We believe our way of praising God is the only "real worship." In that moment, I felt protective and loving of my church family, even the ones who only like organ and think clapping is a secular nastiness in worship. I love them anyway, and hope I can be less judgmental toward them when it comes to worship style.

I need more grace.

To quote Gordon, as he explained what God was revealing to him:
Gordon, these are my beloved children. They are my Church, and you are being very unkind to them. They are here, broken and wounded as you are, seeking to grow, seeking to become and be the body of Christ, seeking to be made into a new creation in my image. And look at my servant Jane. How she loves them. How she believes in them. How passionately she teaches the gospel to them. If Jane believes in them and I believe in them, perhaps you could believe in them too.

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Monday, July 26, 2010


Where is my older son? He's a representative of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church to the Global Young People's Convocation in Berlin. The Convocation ended last night (Berlin time).

I found this on the internet tonight:
"The goal for the Legislative Assembly of the Global Young People’s Convocation is to make the voices of young people around the world be heard in the life of the United Methodist Church. The legislation that is brought forth shall reflect the purpose of gathering young people from all over the world to recognize and respond to the needs of young people across the globe. It shall help the Church gain a greater cultural understanding of young people and the issues they face and provide a way to capture the voice of young people raising their joys, concerns, hopes and dreams for the Church. And it shall provide everyone with insight on how the proposed petitions could reflect the issues, perspectives and wisdom of young people around the world," according to the GYPC Legislative Guidelines.
We heard from him today, and he's having a great time.


Sunday, July 25, 2010


The Friday Five this week on RevGalBlogPals was written by Songbird (see this weeks posts). She writes:

Since I've been in the midst of a discernment process, I've done a lot of reflecting on how we make decisions. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to reveal a dark story about a poor decision, or a self-flagellating story about an embarrassing one. Let's keep it simple and go with five word pairs. Tell us which word in the pair appeals to you most, and after you've done all five, give us the reason why for one of them.

Here are the pairs and my answers:

  1. Cake or Pie -- Cake (Chocolate, please, very moist with icing)
  2. Train or Airplane -- Um, airplane, I guess.
  3. Mac or PC -- PC
  4. Univocal or equivocal -- Equivocal
  5. Peter or Paul -- Peter.
If I were to explain one, I guess the airplane versus train would need explanation. If the choice were between air travel and train travel as I have experienced it, then I would pick air travel. I do have this romantic vision of what train travel could be, with sleeper cars and meals on china in the dining car, beautiful views of scenery.... If that were a choice, I would pick it. If I needed or wanted to get somewhere fast, then jet. My experience with trains does not live up to my romantic vision, either.


Saturday, July 24, 2010



Friday, July 23, 2010


Yesterday, I talked about an image of God, attentive and listening. Earlier in the week, I talked about multitasking -- trying to do so many things at once that none of them get done well. On Wednesday, I talked about Martha and a reflection concerning the scripture from Reflectionary.

Songbird (who writes Reflectionary) was preparing for an interfaith service, and she was using a reading from I Am There For You by Thich Nhat Hanh, “Living Buddha, Living Christ”

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When our mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. If you love someone but you rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love. When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief. Mindfulness relieves suffering because it is filled with understanding and compassion. When you are really there, showing your loving-kindness and understanding, the energy of the Holy Spirit is in you.
When we lean forward in our chairs, turn off the TV, really look at the person in front of us, we are emulating God. We are listening with the intensity of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it means interrupting what we are doing, setting aside our own schedule, but when we focus, God can enter in. When we are Mary, at the feet of God, or of anyone else, we say something.

What are you saying? What am I saying?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Relationship

Sometimes, when I am part of community prayer, and someone else is praying, I close my eyes and listen, picturing the person speaking. Instead of just seeing the pray-er as he or she is, I imagine the person talking to God. Not an invisible God, but a God, visible and present, standing or sitting in front of the person praying, listening.

The pray-er is speaking, and God is there, attentive and listening to the prayer. He might be leaning on the pulpit, or sitting on a chair that has been turned around backwards, so that he straddles it, and leans against the chair back. Every part of his body language, all of his non-verbal cues, are saying, "I'm here. I'm listening. I want to hear every word you speak."

It's an image of a God in relationship with us.

As I read the Colossians passage today from the lectionary (Colossians 2:6-19) my mind was wandering. I was reading, but not paying much attention. Then I got to the last line of the passage:

and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
I liked the poetry of it. I wanted to hear more. I realized I hadn't been paying much attention to the NRSV, so I got out my Message Bible and read it again.

I invite you to do the same. Read Colossians 2:5-23 from The Message.

I was immediately struck by the image of God, sitting in the room with me, giving me advice. I know it's Paul, writing to a church, but listen to it as if it is God.
  • You received my son, now live him.
  • You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out.
  • Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk.
  • Everything of me gets expressed in my son, so you can see and hear me clearly.
  • Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or're already in -- insiders.
  • I have raised you from the dead as I did my son. I have brought you alive, right along with him. Remember that! You are forgiven everything!
  • Don't put up with people pressuring you in unimportant details of religion. The substance of what you need to know is Christ.
  • Don't tolerate people trying to run your life or shape your relationship with me.
  • Remember and focus on what is important.
I know it should be read as if Paul (or someone like Paul) wrote it, but listen to it as if God is saying it (Colossians 5:5):
I'm a long way off, true, and you may never lay eyes on me, but believe me, I'm on your side, right beside you. I am delighted to hear of the careful and orderly ways you conduct your affairs, and impressed with the solid substance of your faith in Christ.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Annoyance

The lectionary reading for last week was Luke 10:38-42 -- the story of Mary and Martha.

What is your reaction to this story? Something about it has always bothered me, and I've tried to ignore that annoyance in the light of different interpretations of the scripture.

Here's one -- Jesus was in the house. Mary is listening to him while Martha is busy -- too busy to hear what he has to say. We are too busy in life to really listen to God, to put down what we are doing and sit at his feet. We should find this time to "be" with God.

I don't disagree with that. I know I should find more time to spend with God. It's a good way to look at the story and a good lesson to learn. But it doesn't answer my annoyance.

Here's another one -- We all have our gifts, and we should use them as we are called to use them. Martha was using her gifts and graces in the kitchen to supply hospitality. Mary was using hers. Why should Martha have been bothered by that? Do the work you have been given with joy.

While I don't think this is the main lesson of the story, I can see that it is a lesson in life we should learn. Why be envious of a person who can sing? It's not a gift God has given to me. I have my own gifts and should use them with joy. That interpretation, however, still doesn't answer what bothers me about this passage.

One more -- Martha was fulfilling the traditional woman's role in the society of the time (and ours?). Mary was being boldly non-traditional by even being in the room with the men. We should follow Mary's example and not allow the dictates of society to stand between us and what God wants us to do and who he wants us to be.

Amen. I totally agree with that, but it still doesn't answer my question about this passage.

And then I read a blog by Songbird this morning. She is a UCC pastor, and it was her post A Softer Edge that I read this morning.

Jesus says, among other things, "Mary has chosen the better part." Songbird suggests this could have been his response:

Martha, Martha, haven't we been over this before? I don't care about the food, I'm just glad to be here with your family. I didn't come to insist you adhere to our rules of hospitality or to abandon them, but to give you a new way of living them altogether. Take the pot off the boil and come, sit down. We love your cooking, but we love you more.
Where is the invitation in Jesus' response? Could it have been that Martha's real issue was not that she was doing all of the chores, but that she was feeling excluded? If Mary has chosen the better part, could Martha's hurt have been soothed by Jesus inviting her to sit with Mary?

We're missing what might have gone on in the household prior to this visit. Perhaps Jesus has been through this conversation with Martha before. Maybe he has invited her, several times, to come close and listen.

I hope so. I hope she has been made to feel welcome and affirmed and loved. I wish she would have taken him up on the invitation.

Image: From Hermanoleon, a great source for biblical clipart.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mission Trip to Home

Last Saturday there was a flash flood in Pikeville, Kentucky. Two people died, 10,000 people were without water, 200 homes were damaged or lost. Four to seven inches of rain fell on Saturday evening.

We have an Emmaus friend who pastors a church in the area. Groups from the church have been going out to do what they can to help.

Brad posted on Facebook today a quote he heard: Sometimes the mission trip comes to you.

Do we keep our eyes open to see the need around us? To we respond?

Image: Chocolate lily in Green Angel Gardens, Juneau


Monday, July 19, 2010


A couple of weeks ago I lost my iPhone. It was a 3G version. I replaced it with a 3Gs, which runs the iOS4 software. And blah blah blah.

I mention this because I noticed that my phone was using more battery power than I expected it to. I found out that the iOS4 software allows multitasking, and that none of the programs actually close when you push the home button -- they just minimize. Every program I opened on the phone was minimized, hidden away, running in the background.

We all try to multitask. Right this minute, I'm writing a blog post while I watch TV, think about my son leaving for Berlin, listening to Steve as he asks me a question. Multitasking. We think we can do it, but it divides our attention.

I was in a board meeting once, and another member of the board was talking while the chairperson was speaking (which is rude, but beyond that...). The chair asked if he had heard what had been said, and he told us he could do more than one thing at once.

I'm not sure I believe that. I know he thinks he heard everything, but even if he did, I think he would have missed the non-verbal cues, the relationship moments, and the nuances of the conversation.

How often do we try to listen to God while multitasking? How effective is that in our spiritual growth and in our attempts to listen to the leading of our Lord?

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blessings of Church

Our older son was chosen as one of the 5 youth delegates from the Northeast Jurisdiction to go to the United Methodist Global Young People's Convocation in Berlin. He leaves on Tuesday, and flies to Germany.

Who thought this would be a good idea? It is not an easy thing to prepare your son to leave the country without you. To fly alone to New York to meet up with the group he's traveling with. To negotiate customs and passports and foreign countries by himself.

I realize that it will be a wonderful experience for him, and I am excited and blessed that he has grown into this time. I'm grateful that he will see the world church and know that our faith covers the globe. He has a personality that is great for this chance.

It's still hard to prepare him to leave.

This morning, our church prayed for him. That's what church does. What a wonderful blessing that is.

Image: On the way into Whittier, last morning of the cruise.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mountains and ice

Image: From the College Fjord / Prince William Sound area.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Interrupted by Faith

At the Emmaus Gathering this evening, the group providing special music sang a song with the repeated line, "Stop and listen as I tell you..." (or something like that.).

How often do tell God's story in such a way that we are expecting people to stop whatever they are doing and listen. Listen as well tell them about the saving grace of God, the transformational potential of life lived with Christ. How often do we speak of God in such a way that will grab attention -- that will interrupt people's lives with faith?

How often do we say, "Stop, and let me tell you about Christ."?

The Fourth Day speaker tonight said that when she went on her walk, she was not a believer. No one had spoken to her about life in Christ. She lamented the idea that none of the Christians who worked around her had ever told her about Christ.

Do we interrupt people's lives with our faith?

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Thursday, July 15, 2010


This evening, I read a post at Reflectionary about prayer. It started me thinking about conversations with God. I've been on a journey the last few years, and I have learned a few things about myself and my ways of communicating with God.

  • Prayer doesn't often just happen. I have to be deliberate about it; I have to remember to do it, or it doesn't get done.
  • Sometimes the best prayer is to just sit quietly in the presence of God -- another thing I have to do deliberately.
  • There is great joy in praying with friends and for friends. Being lifted up to God by friends is another great joy.
  • Once I quit worrying about it, I found that God was enabling me to pray for a group with no preparation. Spontaneous prayer is a gift -- one I wasn't willing to accept until a few years ago.
  • Prayer can be very deliberate putting of words together or it can be "thinking" in the presence of God and allowing him to lead my thoughts.
  • Prayer -- I need to do it more; I need to find more reasons for it.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Balancing Act

Last week's lectionary reading from the gospel was the parable of the Good Samaritan. One of the aspects of the story that rang bells for me was the idea of the priest and the Levite passing by. Stopping might have interfered with their own ministry.

How often do we avoid ministry because of our ministry?

Then this week, the gospel reading is the Mary and Martha story. Mary is listening to Jesus; Martha is working. Again, her ministry is keeping her from listening to Christ.

How often do we avoid spiritual listening because of our ministry?

I think it is a difficult balancing act.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One more picture

I had planned to write a real post tonight -- OK, maybe I hadn't, but either way, I'm too tired. One more day with a picture and then back to writing tomorrow.

Glad to be home with real internet. The internet at the hotel didn't work in the evenings (too busy with too many people trying to use it). Back to work tomorrow and looking forward to it (I do like my job!). Great vacation.

This image is of sunrise on Thursday. It was very different looking, with a large orange ball.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunrise Monday


Sunday, July 11, 2010

At the Battery


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grace, Available


Friday, July 09, 2010

Morris Island Lighthouse

Yesterday, we drove down to Charleston, SC. We stopped in downtown to walk along the Battery, and then went out to Folly Beach, with the specific purpose of seeing the Morris Island lighthouse (pictured above). This lighthouse used to be on land, but over time and changes in the coastline, it is now entirely at sea.

The Folly Beach website tells visitors to drive to the end of East Ashley Street, where there is plenty of parking and then walk 1/4 of a mile to the beach for the best view of the lighthouse. All of that is pretty much true. What the website doesn't tell you is that you will be miserable walking the 1/4 of a mile in the 105 degree weather (especially when you find cars at the end of the road -- how did THEY get there?). Then, you walk to the beach on a sand path. Fine, no problem, except the sand would have to be cooled down if one were to try to use it to make glass. HOT. HOT HOT HOT. We were wearing shoes, but the sand slips into the sandals. HOT.

The lighthouse was interesting. I got some great pictures. My feet may never forgive me. J has declared, "I am never going back."

As we walked back to the car, I discovered on the sand that there are times when you can't keep going but you can't stop. On the pavement, in the 120 degree weather, G shared a cross country trick. Small goals.

I w0uld go back. Maybe in September.


Thursday, July 08, 2010



Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Let it Shine

Let your light shine. You can't even imagine how much it bounces around and reflects, providing guidance and warmth and grace to people you don't even know (and to those you do know).

Let it shine.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tuesday Sunrise


Monday, July 05, 2010


Sunday, July 04, 2010

For One Great Peace

This thread I weave
This step I dance
This stone I carve
This ball I bounce
This nail I drive
This pearl I string
This flag I wave
This note I sing....
Have you ever been sitting in a Bible study class or in Sunday school when you are asked the question, "How do you dedicate the work you do to the purposes of God?" Or, "How can God use what you do for a living for His glory?" Do you sit and think, and wonder?

This pot I shape
This fire I light
This fence I leap
This bone I knit
This seed I nurse
This rift I mend
This child I raise
This earth I tend

We get confused, I think, believing that there are certain jobs that are "God's Work" and other jobs that are not. We think pastors or counselors or maybe nurses have the market cornered on nurturing care. We think that can't possibly be anything sacred about the work we do.

This check I write
This march I join
This faith I state
This truth I sign
this is small part,
in one small place,
of one heart's beat
for one great Peace.
The truth is, everything we do, everything we are, can be used for the Glory of God. If we realized that then what we do would be transformed into God's work.

We sang the above song this morning in Early Worship. I've never heard it before, but I like it a lot. Great words; great tune. It's called For One Great Peace, and it was written by Shirley Erena Murry with music by Jim Strathdee. (Number 2185 in The Faith We Sing).

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Saturday, July 03, 2010


From Green Angel Gardens, Juneau, Alaska

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Friday, July 02, 2010


The fifth day of our cruise, we stopped in Skagway. Skagway feels a lot like what I think a town in the Old West of the US would have been like. The sidewalks are wood, the fronts of the buildings look the clapboard buildings in Westerns. To me, it feels different than the other two Alaskan towns we visited.

The original name of Skagway was Skagua, which means Windy Place in Tlingit. It was the Gateway to the Yukon gold rush.

The population of Skagway (in 2008) was 892. There were at least 2 cruise ships a the dock when we were there, bringing almost 6000 people to town.

I found a yarn shop (!) in Skagway. Yippee. (Yarn shopping described on my other blog).

People have often asked us what the weather was like in Alaska. It was mainly beautiful -- sometimes cold, sometimes hot. When we were shopping in Skagway, it was HOT.

From Skagway, we took a ride on the White Pass Railroad -- I'll tell you about that next time.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Non Life-changing

I was listening to an interview with the new Poet Laureate, W. S. Merwin. He was discussing his new position, and he said, "I don't want it to change my life, but I do want to contribute what I can to it."

I think sometimes we approach church in the same way. We'll contribute to it, but we don't want it to change our life.

That's really not commitment -- it's participation. Do we want to participate in church, or do we want to commit our lives to God?