Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just Showing Up

We attended Rev. David Jasper's funeral on Saturday. I'm sure I will be writing about several aspects of the service -- there were lots of "ah hah" statements that I wrote down.

David's brother, Mordecai, is also a pastor. He said when he first started pastoring at his present church, the members asked him to call first before he came to visit.

David, he said, didn't do that. David would just "show up."

I've been known to tell people that if Jesus called to say he was coming over, I would ask him to give me some time, first, so that I could clean up the house.

God doesn't do that. God just shows up. He bursts into our lives, shining the light. He doesn't wait until everything is clean, everything is staightened up. He just shows up. The only reason we don't see him is that we are not looking.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010


On the way home yesteday, I saw this tree. It is an older tree, and it is growing out of what looks like solid rock. Surely that is not a friendly environment to support tree growth.

What "trees" in our lives do we expect to grow out of solid rock? When have you been surpised to see soemthing flourish when it didn't seem possible?


Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals last week was called The Perfect Blendship.

Remember this song?

If you're ever in a jam, here I am.
If you're ever in a mess, S.O.S.
If you're so happy, you land in jail. I'm your bail.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot.
For today's Friday Five, some questions about friendship.
  1. Who is the first friend you remember from childhood? I remember the song from childhood, singing it with my mom. She's always been my friend, probably the first one I remember. I also remember a friend named Paige, I think, from kindergarten.
  2. Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend? Steve and I were on the road for our anniversary in 2008. Our friends sent a beautiful flower arrangement to our hotel room. Such a beautiful, wonderful surprise.
  3. Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via social media or the Internet? I connected with a friend on Facebook just last week. I haven't heard from her in years and years -- we were friends right after I finished college. I have a friend from school that I wish had an email address or was on Facebook.
  4. Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one? One of my favorite things to do it to get together with a couple with whom we are friends. We see each other often with other people around, too, but those times with just the four of us are special. We talk and laugh and share.
  5. Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you? In some ways, I suppose. Not in all ways.
Image: The surprise anniversary flowers


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


JtM, Jack and I have been emailing each other about word usage, especially concerning the use of the word "hopefully." Please, leave me no comments concerning this -- we've been over and over it.

Another word stirred the conversation today -- "graduate." Did you know that the oldest form of the usage of the word would be to say that "Bob was graduated from State College."? Apparently, the college graduates you, you do not graduate yourself. I saw it as parallel to the verb "promote" as in "The fifth grader was promoted to sixth grade.

Ok, no arguments concerning if this older use of the word is still preferred. Think theologically instead.

We are forgiven by God. It is not something we can do for ourselves. God "graces" us.

How is that for a jump in thought?

Hopefully, you see my point. :-)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010


To take a break from my usual devotional routine (if something isn't working, you should stop doing it), and in the belief that I need to read more books for spiritual development, I switched from reading Disciplines in the morning to focusing on reading Robert Schnase's book, Five Practices for Fruitful Living. Each morning I read a section of a chapter -- 3 or 4 pages.

This morning, the section concerned obstacles to the acceptance of God's grace into our lives. One paragraph made me stop and go back, reading it again.

Most people are probably familiar with a series of three parables from Luke 15 -- the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the two Lost Brothers (ie -- the Prodigal and his brother). Schnase took a different look at these three parables, focusing on the why of being lost. As I read the paragraph, I wondered about why we are sometimes lost.

  1. Why was the sheep lost? Did it move aimlessly from tuft of grass to tuft of grass until it found itself lost? Do we ever find ourselves lost, separated from God by our own aimless wandering?
  2. Why did the woman have to search so hard for the lost coin? Why was it that she had so much trouble finding what was the most valuable to her? Do we ever get lost amid our distractions and busyness? Are our lives too messy to find what is valuable?
  3. Why was the prodigal son lost? Did he get lost because of his disobedience? Was his "lost-ness" a function of his own self-destructive decisions? Schnase didn't mention the older son, but I think he was lost, too. Was he lost because of his own expectations of what should be happening? Did he get lost because of his own arrogance and sense of self-importance?
Why are we lost? Is it our aimlessness, our busyness, our disobedience, our arrogant sense of self or our belief in what should be happening? What stands between us and grace, blocking the way?

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Monday, October 25, 2010

We Love

A woman I know from Emmaus is in her thirties (or twenties -- she's young), she has a husband, a very young girl and a tumor on her liver the size of a golf ball. She thinks it might be selfish to ask God to heal her, except that she wants to be around to raise her little girl. I think she believes that God has a plan for her cancer and that bad news is God wanting more from her. i think that's wrong. I think the bad news is because cancer is a bitch, and bad news doesn't mean that God wants more from her, but instead that God is standing by, offering her more of himself.

But I'm off track.

I know a woman who has been battling cancer for a couple of years. She has moved closer to God through the experience. The closest moments she has to Christ is when she holds her granddaughter in her arms. Love brings her close to Christ.

Our pastor lost his brother Sunday morning. He drove to Charleston and preached in his brother's place. Love motivated him.

We don't love because it is easy. We don't love because it always results in happy endings. Love brings great joy and great sorrow. We love anyway. We love because we can't help it. We were created to love. It seems it should come with a warning label -- "You may be hurt." We know it, and we love anyway. We love because we have been loved. We love.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Over my head

Marv began Sunday school today with the question, "Can you think of an example of when 'the bottom has dropped out.'"

Answers came back such as death of the loved one, divorce, bad decisions, the financial crisis in 2008 and Katrina.

Today, the brother of one of our pastors was found dead in his home. The brother is a pastor as well. I imagine that today the bottom dropped out for Jeremiah. I imagine that the bottom dropped out for David's church.
Jack began his sermon with an African American Spiritual (TFWS 2148)
Over my head, I hear music in the air
Over my head, I hear music in the air
Over my head, I hear music in the air
There must be a God somewhere.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moment in Time

Most of the time, I know I believe in God. I walk around not thinking much about him, confident in his presence and in my faith in him.

There are moments, though, when my emotions and my spirit align, and I can almost breathe in his presence. In Emmaus reunion groups, we talk about those times when we answer the question, "When this week have you been closest to Christ?"

Tonight, I went to Emmaus to participate in Candlelight. Steve stayed home to pick up Josh from band. The service was crowded, and I walked in about the time it was about to start, so I didn't take much time to talk to anyone. We began by singing, "Here I am to Worship." We sang to the guitars, and our voices rose in the room.

It was one of those moments when I knew God was present and active in our lives.

I'm grateful for times touch as that one because they don't happen very often. When they do, it is a blessing.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Resurrection Cross

There are only two stained glass windows at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas. This is one of them. We toured the church and met with some of the staff on Thursday.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Airplane Sunrise


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Random Thoughts in Kansas City

This post was going to include an image of Kansas City, but I find that Blogger has temporarily disabled image upload for maintenance. Hopefully, I'll post it tomorrow. Maybe.

Anyway, a few things I heard today in our meetings:

  • Mission is to church as burning is to fire. (or fire is to burning? I don't have my notes with me.)
  • We can be consumers in a church, believing that the church is there to provide for our needs, or we can be citizens of the church, accepting responsibility for its mission and contributing to it.
  • You must be able to describe what the outcome of a system is. If you can't describe it, and you are measuring nothing, then you will have no outcome. (Do I really think that is true, or is that one of those things that just sounds good?)
  • If you tell your friends about something you want to do (publicatize it (and I may have just made that word up more than the Bishop did), then you will receive more support than you imagined and you will be held accountable by their support. I knew that, or at least I hope that. More about that in a minute. *
  • Forty five days after Moses led the people out of Egypt -- on the 45st day of a 40 year trip -- they were already complaining. Are we there yet?
  • You should leave a training session with a question in mind.
*Telling friends what your goals are is an interesting topic to me. Do I do that? I imagine I do -- I talk a lot; surely I mention them. I should. I hope they will to me. I hope I listen well and show support to them. It seems to be an essential part of friendship.

Thinking about the CLM process, I realize that I'm not pushing myself very hard to get it done. I also realize that my mentor has never mentioned it to me in a year. I don't say that to judge what is happening - I need to be more motivated to get it done.

Now I'm rambling. I'll stop.

No image upload. No spell check. Good luck reading this.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Covered up

One must wonder -- at least I must wonder -- where the statue is going that she needs to wear a toga.

Actually, the statue is located in the Terrace Restaurant of the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City. We asked our waiter during breakfast why she was wrapped in a sheet. He said he had worked in the restaurant for a year, and had never seen her wearing a sheet before. Under the sheet, she is wearing nothing.

If you watch the hotel TV, there are advertisements for adult movies with the assurance that the titles of the movies you watch will not be listed on your invoice.

Are we so hypocritical that we would cover a piece of art with a black sheet of fabric and yet be swayed to watch an adult movie because we have the assurance that the title will not appear on our invoices?

Or are the "dressed" statue and the secret movie watching related?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Kansas City

Image: From the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Talk to me, baby

Today was Laity Day at church. As the Lay Leader, I planned the worship service. It's my fourth one to plan. I don't always preach, but I have for two of the four that I've planned.

As I think about the day, and I re-read my post from Friday night, I think I have a different answer for a couple of the questions, so I'm taking another shot at it.

  1. What are a few of the tasks that you find tedious/energy sucking in your ministry position? Please note I said 'tasks' not people :)One of the things that drains my energy for whatever I am doing, weather it is in church work or work work is a lack of communication. I want people to know what is going one. I want to know what is going on myself. In these days and times, communication can be so much easier than I imagine it was before -- emails, cell phones, text messages, voice mail -- all of them can make it easier.
  2. Is there anything you could do to make one of them better? Sleep more. I think the best I can do to make this better is to communicate the best I can and hope that others will follow suit.
Talk to me, baby; I want to know.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn Leaf


Friday, October 15, 2010

Ministry Job

Today's Friday 5 from RevGalBlogPals: things that give us energy in ministry and the things that take it away:

  1. What are a few of the tasks that you find tedious/energy sucking in your ministry position? Please note I said 'tasks' not people :) It's not a task, but lack of sleep can drain my energy for work. Just like now!
  2. Is there anything you could do to make one of them better? Sleep more.
  3. What are a few of the tasks that you find energizing in ministry? Oh, lots of it. I love to get out and visit churches and people, to play with visuals -- I find most of my work energizing.
  4. If given a quarterly spiritual day, how would you want to spend it? Can I be broad in my definition of Spiritual Day? I would like to spend it watching movies, knitting, shopping, reading. Sitting outside on a perfectly cool day in a chaise lounge, knitting, reading, napping.
  5. If given a quarterly spiritual day, how would you actually spend it? Just as I would like to, as listed above.
BONUS: What would your Dream Ministry job include? Just like the one I have.


    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Living Shallowly

    I have a friend who tells me that his time spent mowing the grass can be a spiritual experience for him. It wouldn't be for me -- if grass mowing were up to me, someone else would be doing it. I can see his point, though. Time spent mowing grass is by nature noisy enough to be insulating. I imagine time spent mowing grass could be time spent close to God (for him; not for me -- I would just be complaining how hot I was.).

    I was reading Robert Schnase's new book, Five Practices of Fruitful Living. He says that we are recognize the difference between living life thinly and live live deeply. A life lived deeply is fruitful and abundant.

    He goes on to say that God is in the depth, and we loose sight of God when we live shallowly. God is in the silence, in the questions, in the mystery. God is in the love of others, in the feeling of being still and in the discovery and exploration of life.

    Often when I sit down to pray, the first words in my head are "Be still." When I go to reunion group (an accountability group), and I can't explain where I have failed to be a disciple this week and when I was closest to God, I know that I am living shallowly. I need to pay more attention to God. To Be still and know.

    But I'm not mowing the grass.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Alaska -- Leaving Glacier Bay

    Back to the travel journal from Alaska.

    On day 6, as we left Glacier Bay, we were treated to views of wonderful wildlife -- or should I say more wildlife -- we had been watching it all week.

    At the mouth of Glacier Bay at the time we were there, there were lots of humpback wales. You can spot them when they blow. As they dive, they blow air out of their "blowhole." It's a marker that makes them visible from the ship. If you watch the plume of water, the next thing to be visible will be the back of the whale and then the tale as it comes above the water line. They often travel in groups, so once you see one, you may see others. The process and the whales are hard to photograph.

    The area is the home of many bald eagles. They are beautiful flyers, swooping along. I never got tired of taking their pictures. Gorgeous birds.

    We saw -- and I don't remember their names -- birds that run across the water. Very interesting.

    Sometimes the naturalist would tell us we were passing a group of dolphins -- never saw them when he said to look. Early one morning, I did see one. It was beautiful, leaping out of the water and curving back in. I saw it while I was on the phone, no camera. I just gawked at it. I'm not sure Steve believed I even saw it.

    As we left the bay, we cruised up the coast a little, and then into the open sea, headed for College Fjord. As we pulled away from the shore, the mountains that give birth to the glaciers -- Fairview Mountains -- were visible. The weather was perfect for us to see them.


    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Hope vs Optimism

    I was reading today in preparation for a devotional in our office meeting. Henri Nouwen says that many people confuse joy with optimism. They are very different. Optimism is the confidence that tomorrow is going to be better than today. Contrast that with hope. Hope results from the faith that God will be with us, no matter what happens tomorrow.

    Too often, I think, we assume that hope is optimism. We place our hope in the idea that tomorrow will be better. That's not always the case. Sometimes tomorrow is no better, or is even worse. Tomorrow may bring healing and good news, or it may not. It may bring death and crisis. I enjoy being optimistic, but I place my hope in God.

    Faith in God results in real hope. Hope that says that God is present -- even if the worst happens.

    A pair of friends of ours at church lost their adult daughter a few years ago to cancer. Their daughter told them that not matter what happened -- death or healing -- that it would be OK. That's hope. That's confidence in God, not in a happy ending.


    Monday, October 11, 2010


    First, the picture to the right is my two sons dressed for the high school homecoming dance -- just a little bit of bragging.

    On an unrelated note, I was watching a television show a week or two ago. It was set in the early 80's, when AIDS was just being recognized as a disease. The TV show was fiction, but I imagine it reflected the attitudes of the time. Everyone new the disease was contagious and lethal, but not its mode of transmission. Fear resulted. Couple that with the idea that in the United States, the first population to be affected was gay men, the fear was magnified.

    The television show depicted a young man who was ill and hospitalized. When a pair of smart doctors figured out what was wrong with him, and told him, it was as if they had insulted him, not diagnosed him. Later, when he needed surgery, the surgeons refused to operate, because of their fear of the disease. Very few would treat him or care for him in the hospital.

    He was untouchable.

    I watched this show as I was thinking about the story of the lepers from last week's lectionary.

    Jesus heals -- more than disease. He can heal us from our fears, as well.


    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Autumn Friday Five

    The Friday Five last week is a word association game. Here is the list of words, and the first thing that comes to mind (for me):

    1. Pumpkins -- Carved pumpkins, sitting outside, tempting teenagers to pick them up and toss them in the street, destroying them.
    2. Campfire -- marshmallows, for obvious reasons. I think of our JM Youth group, gathering together for a campfire.
    3. Apples -- large basket of lovely colored, shiny apples
    4. Color -- fall colors of gold, orange and brown
    5. Halloween -- kids, walking around our neighborhood, collecting candy


    Saturday, October 09, 2010

    The Heart Longs

    As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2

    At communion this evening, the pastor read part of Psalm 42. She used a version that included the word "hart" instead of "deer."

    Think about that. Listen rather than look. It brings to mind, for me, the idea of the heart longing for God. I liked the transformation of the vision the psalm presents.


    Friday, October 08, 2010

    Thursday, October 07, 2010

    How Do I Praise Him?

    Italicized stanzas inspired by Psalm 66.

    How do I praise him?
    How do I sing joy
    to a God I cannot imagine?
    Cannot comprehend?
    How do I sing his praises?

    Worship God joyfully!
    Sing of him to all the earth.
    Sing hymns to his glory
    And write symphonies to his majesty.
    Give the God who created you
    Unending praise.

    How do I praise him?
    How can I speak of a God
    who spoke me into being?
    What words can I use?
    How do I sing his praises?

    Shout it from the mountaintop
    Whisper it in God’s ear,
    Praise his amazing works.
    Marvel at his power.
    The entire earth stands
    As a testament to his presence.
    Open your eyes and see.

    How do I praise him?
    How can I command words
    to sing of a God
    whose hand has formed the earth?
    How do I sing his praises?

    See what God has done.
    He has saved us!
    He carries us through the storm,
    Turning sea into sand,
    Keeping watch on the nations,
    Guiding our steps.
    Let the sound of his praise be heard!

    How do I praise him?
    How can my feeble song
    witness to a God
    who has removed my sin with his grace?
    Died in my place?
    How do I sing his praises?

    Note: I wrote this as a devotional for our church's devotional ministry.

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    Wednesday, October 06, 2010

    Love or Money

    A couple of weekends ago I preached at a local church in our town. The scripture was the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and I paired it with another lectionary reading for the week -- 1 Timothy 6:6-19.
    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
    In the sermon I wrote:

    Money isn’t evil. The passage says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. The LOVE of money. This isn’t really a parable about money -- it’s a parable about love. Do we love God? Or do we love money more? Do we love the people around us? Or do we love ourselves and our security more? Who or what do I love?

    It seemed like a strange thing to say at the time. Is it right? Is it a passage about love?

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    Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    Sacrifice and Blessing

    Years ago -- many years ago, I was a student in a class to learn how to be a Bethel Bible teacher. It was a great class. I learned a lot, and for the first time, traveled systemically through the Bible.

    If I had to state a theme of the series, it was "Blessed to be a Blessing."

    I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2
    God blesses us everyday, and we in turn share that grace with those around us.

    I read a story today on the UM Reporter blog about a special Blessing of the Animals. At Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, a student named Charis Lorenz is raising a puppy named Concerto to be a service dog to the blind. Once Concerto reaches the age of 16-18 months old, s/he will move on, away from Charis, to become a service dog.

    So, the story goes, Concerto is being blessed and will eventually become a blessing.

    What struck me, though, was the role of the student, Charis. Imagine raising a puppy to age 16 months, and then giving it back. I imagine that would be heartbreaking.

    A sacrifice.

    Charis is picking up a cross, loving an animal into adulthood and then sending the dog on its way to bless someone who needs a guide dog. Love, sacrifice, blessing. A story of love and grace.

    Monday, October 04, 2010

    I gave at home

    I read this article today on United Methodist Reporter -- "A Pass on the Plate."

    What do people do who arrange their donations to the church through a monthly check or via electronic means? What do you do when the offering plate is passed your way.

    The gentleman to lead the Stewardship Event in our Annual Conference last weekend disputed the idea of Joyful Giving - he had witnessed too much giving that was not joyful to think all giving through the offering plate was joyful. He suggested e-givers be given cards to place in the offering plate that said they donated electronically.

    It sounds like a trivial question to me, and yet it is sometimes the question that churches have when faced with the idea of electronic giving.

    What is the answer? Do we employ artificial gifts to substitute for on site giving? Do we ignore the issue and just assume people will adjust? Do we change the offering time?

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    Sunday, October 03, 2010

    What is man?

    When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
    what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals* that you care for them?
    Psalm 8:3-4

    We talked about this Psalm in Sunday school today. What is it that reminds you of the majesty of God?

    I've said many times that I take pictures of what reminds me of God's majesty -- that looking for images in the world keeps my eyes open to God's creative majesty. All true.

    This psalm, though, reminds me of another aspect of God's majesty and power. What is man that God is mindful of him? Why does the God who created the universe care about you and me? Are we dust in the wind? Or precious children of God?

    The majesty of God is reflected in his love of his created children. Us.

    I coordinate a devotional ministry for my church. I can't count the times that someone has told me that a devotional has been exactly the words that he/she has needed to hear at exactly the right time.

    I could say -- and it would be logical and true -- that when a devotional is sent to over 200 people, one of them is bound by the law of averages, to be in a situation that is touched upon by a devotional. And that makes sense.

    But, to move beyond that takes faith. I have faith that we are loved by God. I believe that God is powerful and that he moves among his children in love. I choose to have faith that he motivates one person to write something that will be exactly what another one needs to read. I believe that God opens the ears of the person who needs to be bathed in God's word to hear those words in the writing of someone else.

    I know that God loves you and me. I know that he acts in our world to demonstrate his love of us. I know that he involves you and me as partners in his work.

    That faith -- that knowledge is a gift from God. And in that is power and majesty.

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    Saturday, October 02, 2010

    Image of God

    Sometime at Covenant Council this weekend I heard someone say that salvation is our return to the image of God.

    I like that.

    A movement to the image of God could involve transformation in a moment or a gradual metamorphasis. It certainly isn't something we can do for ourselves; God must be involved.


    Friday, October 01, 2010

    Summer Bee