Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waiting and Preparation

Three years ago, I was working in a different place, doing an entirely different job. My feeling at the time was that I should wait. I was in a time of waiting, with the feeling that an opporunity would come that I would need to pay attention to -- an opportunity that would mean leaving the job I was doing at the time.

And that's what happened.

But in that time of waiting, for what, I didn't know, I prepared. I organized samples in the lab with the goal of leaving them so that anyone could find them. I catalogued, and kept great notes. I did what I could, in that time of waiting, to prepare.

Today, I read an article by Bishop Woodie White. He asks how Christmas would be different if we didn't have Advent. He compares the idea of waiting and preparation. Preparation is active; waiting is passive.

Advent is waiting, but Advent is also preparation.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Five Years Today

Today is the Fifth Anniversary of Sandpiper's Thoughts.

Some stats: I haven't quite reached 2000 posts, but I'm over 1900. Since I started measuring, the blog has had over 57,000 hits. The highest one day hit count was 120 on May 23, 2010, and I have no idea why.

Some of my biggest "thrills" with the blog were the following:

  • When people find out about it and tell me they like it. This was more common when I first started.
  • Comments -- I really enjoy the comments, although I don't comment often about the comments. Even though I write the blog for myself, the comments are affirmational to me, even when you don't agree with me.
  • It was a thrill to see the blog mentioned on the West Virginia Annual Conference blog a couple of years ago.
  • It was a big thrill to see the blog listed in Circuit Rider, as a United Methodist blog of note.
Sometimes, I don't know what to write. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I'm too tired to write. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't write every day, but I know if I stop writing every day, I won't write much at all. So I keep to that commitment.

I'll keep writing, because it seems I must. I'll keep writing because it helps me to clarify for myself what I am thinking. I'll keep writing because it keeps me in touch (sometimes) with God.

I enjoy the blog, and I thank you, whoever you are, for when you read it. I pray something in it is a blessing to you.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Go tell...

In a preview for the upcoming Narnia movie, one of the characters says, "We have nothing if not belief."

And then I read this newspaper article written by a pastor in Maine. She talks about faith, and the faith she would like for her daughter to know she has, and that nothing is ever wasted, not even grief.

When we do planned giving presentations for the Foundation, we talk about how you can use the Preamble of your Will to speak about your faith. I learned earlier this month that you can also have an entire document that explained your faith, the way you live your life, and your desire to pass that "bequest" on to your family and friends.

Do we value our faith? Do we know how important it is to share and pass on to other people?

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.
Who have you told lately?

Image: Mountain view from Biltmore Estate

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stonewall morning


Friday, November 26, 2010

Random Thoughts

A few random thoughts:

  • I really don't like the term "Black Friday."
  • I also really don't like shopping at the mall on this day, so we don't.
  • Thanksgiving was great at Chez Sandpiper. Best stuffing ever, even if it didn't contain any salt-rising bread (my father-in-law's favorite. Three kinds of stuffing were on our table -- "dry," "wet," and "cornbread." The dry stuffing is from the bird; the wet stuffing was baked in a casserole dish. Wet stuffing is made with chicken broth, but is really less moist than the dry. This is a distinction from my husband's family that took me years to understand. Cornbread was my favorite (half cornbread, half bread).
  • I need to put a sermon together for Sunday, but I haven't started yet. I do have a thought -- just nothing on paper yet. Tomorrow's work.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Magic Words

When I was a kid, there was a program on television called -- well, I can't remember what it was called, but it featured a host (who was the WeatherMan in his spare time) named Mr. Cartoon (He's on Wikipedia -- who knew!?). Mr. Cartoon always asked the audience of children to repeat the "magic words" - please, thank you, you're welcome and excuse me. I still remember them!

At Rotary the other day, Bishop William Boyd Grove (who is not on Wikipedia -- what does that say about us?), told me that he believed faith was built on three phrases -- I'm sorry, Thank you and Please.

Think about it. That translates to confession, adoration and supplication -- three big components of our prayers.

I think that not only do those words shape our faith, but they have a lot to do with our relationships:
  • I'm sorry: It's a custom, when one goes on a trip, to bring a souvenir back for your loved ones. I always wondered about that, and hypothesized the custom was born of a need to return to relationship. I've been gone, but I'm back, and here is a gift so that you will remember me, and that I love you. When I have hurt someone, and created an obstacle in a relationship, the words "I'm sorry" are meant to bridge that obstacle. It helps two people return to the relationship -- to heal it. I know when I hear the words from someone, they sooth the hurt. If someone is sorry that I have been hurt, then I know they regret the hurt, even if the action was necessary. "I'm sorry" are important words.
  • Please: The word Please is truly magic. It creates a willingness to help. Someone who says "please" is recognizing the grace that is being asked for -- is recognizing the fact that the service requested is grace, not obligation.
  • Thank you: For me, the words "thank you" are affirmation. They say to me that the work I have done, the service I have offered, the love expressed is truly grace to the other person. I need to know that. I need to know the action offered is grace.
Is it any wonder that those are also the words of faith? Words that attempt to restore relationship and recognize grace?

Image: Biltmore at night with Christmas decorations.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I was tagged today on Facebook -- asked to quickly, without thought, to list my 15 favorite authors.

Here they are, in no particular order (numbered only so I can count them as I go):

1. Diana Gabaldon
2. Nora Roberts
3. Elizabeth Peters
4. Dean Koontz
5. Robert Parker
6. Dick Francis
7. John Ortberg
8. J.D. Robb
9. Mary Stewart
10. Janet Evanovich
11. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
12. Sandra Brown
13. J. K. Rowling
14. Philip Yancey
15. Linda Howard


Monday, November 22, 2010

Beloved Child

At Charge Conference this evening, Mark reminded us that we are beloved children of God.

Beloved. What does that mean.

It means that when I'm not feeling very lovable, I am loved. When I am angry or hurt, lost or uncomfortable, I am still loved by God. When I am in a wilderness without affirmation, I can count on the idea that I am a beloved child of God. When I wonder if I would be good company to anyone, I know that I am in the company of a God who loves me.

This evening, know that you are a beloved child of God.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shout to the Lord

Psalm 98:4-9

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity
Psalm 98:4-9
I love the imagery of these verses from Psalms. I love the image of the whole world praising God – the seas roaring its praise and the hills singing. I believe God is worthy of such dramatic praise.
Before last weekend, my definition of praise was probably too narrow. If asked, I would have defined praise, without much thought, as the songs of praise in worship, the prayers of thanksgiving we offer to God, and the words of the sermon that extol God’s majesty. With that definition of praise, it’s hard to imagine that the sea and the hills could actually offer praise.

Last Sunday, Ember led the early service in the song “Shout to the Lord” – a song partially based on Psalm 98. Following that, in Jack’s prayer, he asked God that we would shout loudly with our actions of praise of the Lord.

Shouting with our actions our praise of the Lord.

The next day I read about praise as described by Frederick Buechner. He wrote that praise of God is volcanic – explosive. “The whole of creation is in on the act – the sun and moon, the sea, fire and snow, Holstein cows and white-throated sparrows, old men in walkers and children who still haven’t taken their first step. Their praise is not chiefly a matter of saying anything, because most of creation doesn’t deal in words. Instead, the snow whirls, thee fire roars, the Holstein bellows, the old man watches the moon rise. Their praise is not something that at their most complimentary they say, but something that their truest they are.”

Do we shout of praise of God with our actions? Does our praise of God reflect who we are at our “truest?” Trees stand, reaching the skies while the ocean crashes and the sun paints the skies with colors of glory – all of them shouting a testimony to God’s greatness. Do we do the same with who we are, with what we have been given and with our actions?

Prayer: Our Jesus, our Savior, Lord there is none like you. All of our days, we want to praise, the wonder of your mighty love. Our comfort, our shelter, tower of refuge and strength, let every breath, all that we are, never cease to worship you. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing. Power and majesty, praise to the King. Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of your name. We sing for joy at the works of your hands. Forever, we’ll love you. Forever we’ll stand. Nothing compares to the promise we have in you. Amen.

Prayer adapted from the song “Shout to the Lord,” Words and music by Darlene Zschech

(The above devotional was written for our church's Weekly Devotional Ministry.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010



Friday, November 19, 2010

Protection and Reflection

On the way to work today, we passed a mirror that had been placed so as to provide drivers backing out onto a busy road with a way to see what was coming.

The problem was that I didn't recognize what it was. Mounted in front of the mirror was a large piece of Plexiglas. The plastic was so discolored that the view into the mirror was completely blocked. The mirror was useless, although it was protected from damage.

What do we protect so much that we render it unusable? Do we hold so tightly onto what we have been given that the gifts become useless? Do we fail to risk in our churches, protecting what we know so much that the ministry is unrecognizable? Do our lives -- the sacred mirrors for Christ -- reflect God at all? Or have we protected them into oblivion?

Image: Fall tree and sun in Ritter Park


Thursday, November 18, 2010


At our board meeting last night, the sermon was centered around the idea of tables. What memories do you have from around a table?

At the table, everyone is accepted. At the table, we talk. We share. We share what is good; we share what is not so good. At the table we learn about life, and we develop relationships. We laugh, we fuss, we listen, we talk. Time at the table is sacred.

We share the table with family and friends. We make room for guests. We make sure everyone feels at home and welcome.

Whether the table is in a kitchen and dinner is served, and in a church, and communion is served, we find God at our tables.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall Leaf


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Too tired to come up with words, so here are 1,000 (in a picture).


Monday, November 15, 2010


The RevGalBlogPals Friday Five for last week -- what about winter:

  1. What is your favorite movie for watching when curled up under a wooly blanket? First of all, I would never stayed curled up under a wooly blanket for two whole hours. Once I get warm, the blanket goes away. I don't know if I can pick one particular movie -- it really depends on my mood at the time, but I love watching movies, and would enjoy the two hours. Just don't make me stay under the wool. Let me knit with wool instead.
  2. Likewise, what book? A Nora Roberts book, a Diana Gabaldon book, a Robert Parker book -- and the list goes on and on.
  3. What foods do you tend to cook/eat when it gets cold? Soup. Homemade bread. Spaghetti sauce (homemade). Experiment with new recipes.
  4. What do you like to do if you get a "snow day" (or if you don't get snow days, what if you did)? Bake bread, knit, watch a movie or a series of television shows. I might sleep late if my body and mind would allow it. Light candles. Nap. Read. Work on my blogs.
  5. Do you like winter sports or outdoor activities, or are you more likely to be inside playing a board game? Do you have a favorite (indoors or out)? Do I like to play winter sports? No. And I would be inside. I do take walks in the snow, but it's usually to check the status of our roads. I like to watch winter sports such as skiing and ice-skating.


Sunday, November 14, 2010


In Jack's prayer today, he said something like "Shout loudly with our actions." That phrase struck with me. We had just finished singing, "Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing, Power and majesty, praise to the King..."

We think about praising God ... of singing our praises of God. Do we think, though, of praising God through our actions? Do we remember that our actions shout loudly?

There is a church in our area selling white lawn crosses to demonstrate that they are Christians. Is there another way to do that? Can our actions shout that we are Christians?

I was working on our Emmaus newsletter this evening, and thinking about Jack's prayer. I added the following as an article in the newsletter:

Shout…with the way you live your life
Show your praise to the Lord

Christian action doesn’t usually happen by accident – make a plan, and make it happen. How can you shout with the way you live your life of your thanksgiving?

  • Does your local food and clothing pantry need donations?
  • Is someone in your area serving a thanksgiving meal for those who won’t eat otherwise? Can you help?
  • Does one of your neighbors need a visit? And how do you define “neighbor”?
  • Is there someone you can pray for? Is there someone who needs a card? Is there someone who needs a smile or a hug? Is there someone who needs encouragement and affirmation?
Shout to the Lord with your life. As always, he will inhabit our praise.


    Saturday, November 13, 2010


    Lake at Stonewall Resort on Saturday morning.


    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Passionate Worship

    Consider passion. With a capital P -- as in the Passion of Christ. I've always thought of that to mean the suffering of Christ. I avoided the movie by the same name. My theory was that if I allowed myself to be put to death because of love for my children, I would not want them to watch.

    But, anyway, Passion of the Christ -- suffering.

    This morning, I read about Passionate Worship in Bishop Schnase's book. He says, "In theology, the Passion refers to the complete outpouring of Jesus Christ, the offering of himself, even to death on a cross in order to complete our relationship with God through Christ." I like that, because it focuses on the purpose rather than the pain. The love of God is evident in a definition such as that one.

    We often speak about worship -- what we like and don't like -- why we do certain things -- should worship be traditional or alternative.... We were having such a conversation in Sunday school a couple of weeks ago. JtM said that worship is about what you bring with you rather than what you get out of it. What do we bring with us to worship?

    Passionate worship. Worship that is a response to the love of Christ as expressed in his own Passion. Do we bring our love of God with us to worship? Does it seem like our worship is an acceptable response of love?

    Don't read in that sentence "equal" or "worthy." I don't believe our worship can ever be equal to Christ's passion, but does it seem to be a response?

    When we were discerning our church's mission and vision statements, the one phrase that causes a whole lot of angst was that part of our mission was to "worship God joyfully." Why would that bother people? I think the issue was that joyful was thought to be the opposite of somber -- the opposite of thoughtful. I think it was a reaction to loud worship. We kept the phrase "worship God joyfully" in our mission statement, and I'm glad.

    Joyful worship -- passionate worship -- is worship that expresses our love of God. It has nothing to do with volume or instrumentation or the presence or absence of screens. It is about relationship with God and response to God in love.

    Be passionate in your worship, and I'll try to do the same.

    Image: Some kind of red berry on a tree in Ritter Park (image taken in October).

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    Thursday, November 11, 2010


    I'm still reading Bishop Schnase's new book -- Five Practices of Fruitful Living.

    The chapter I'm reading now is about worship. Among other things, he says worship is out weekly appointment with God.

    I like the idea of that -- the discipline of that. If it were solely up to me, I might not make it to worship each week. I might sleep late, fix a leisurely breakfast, or knit. The habit of attending worship each week, whether I feel like it or not, is what gets me to worship.

    Once I'm there, I usually find that I needed to be there, and I come away renewed. I also come away having worshiped God, and that's the goal.

    Not being there would equate to not being there for the worship of God. Presence is paramount.

    Image: Leaf in Ritter Park.

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    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Anger followed by comfort

    You will say in that day; I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.

    I was reading a blog post today about this passage. (It is Isaiah 12:1.) She called the passage "words of discomfort." Imagine a person being angry with you, with all of the accompanying passion, and then turning the anger away, and comforting you. To the writer of the post, this sounded -- well, not comforting.

    Do you find the words to be discomforting?

    I can see her point in some ways. The time between a person's anger and their forgiveness is not a comfortable place to be.

    She goes on to say that we take these words out of context. They are written to a corporate group -- to Judah -- and when we remove them from their context, they sound like words written to an individual. Does the idea that these words are directed to a corporate group make them sound different than if they were directed to an individual? I'm not sure. I know when I am part of a group against which anger is directed, I still feel the anger in a personal manner.

    Songbird ends her post with something profound. She said that she needs God to be more than an angry mom -- a mom who gets angry when something is broken and then comforts the child as the anger passes. She needs God to be more than what she is herself -- bigger, less human, less limited than she is. Amen.

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    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    Never say never

    Nora Ephron was on the radio this morning. As part of the interview she read a list of things she has decided she never wants to learn anything more about.

    Never is a long time, so I would never (ha) make a list of things I would never learn about in the future. I thought of a couple of other lists, though:

    Things I have no desire to learn anything more about

    • Twitter -- I have to agree with Nora about this one. I just don't get it.
    • Reality television, such as The Biggest Loser, Dancing with the Starts and Wife Swap.
    • Olives
    • Non-canine pets
    • Biochemistry
    Things I had no desire to learn anything about, but now very much enjoy

    • A phone that also is a PDA (can anyone say iPhone -- love it now)
    • NCIS
    • Digital photography (no more desire to use film at all)
    • iPod (I seem to have developed an affinity for Apple products)
    • Investments of funds

    Never say never....


    Monday, November 08, 2010

    He points himself out

    In Sunday school yesterday, the teacher raised the question, "How do you know there is a God?"

    There were lots of answers, but several of them centered around the idea of looking around us and seeing God in nature -- in the beauty of a sunset, in the loveliness of the mountains or the amazing process of birth.

    I understand what they were saying, and I don't disagree with it, but I think there is more. Imagine if God were the kind of God who created nature, as beautiful as it is, and then left it to run, without him. The sunset would be just as beautiful, but chances are, we wouldn't see God in it. I think without God, and his active presence in our lives, we would never see him in the beauty of that which is around us. We would never see God in the feeding of a person who has no food, or in the hug that warms the heart of a child who is afraid and alone. We would see what is in front of us, but we would never connect it to God.

    We know about God because he points himself out ot us. When the sun rises, and we look at it, we know it is beautiful on our own, but we know it is God because of prevenient grace.

    We know about God because he continually makes himself known to us.


    Sunday, November 07, 2010


    The choir sang an anthem today called Consecrated. "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee."

    As they sang, I thought about the word consecrated.

    1. For something to be consecrated by God, there must first be a willing giver. "Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold." That kind of offering requires someone who is willing to give away that which is precious without regret.
    2. It also requires a willing recipient. Who would want to give a gift to someone who was not willing to receive it. God is a willing recipient. I believe he meets what we give to him with a joyful, divine response.
    3. Consecration also involves transformation. The song anticipates not just that God will receive what we offer, but that he will make it holy. Our offering of it does not make it holy; God's reception of the gift consecrates it -- makes it holy.
    4. Giving and receiving also allow for transformation of the giver. We are changed and transformed as we offer our gifts to God.

      • "Take my heart, it is thine own...."


      Saturday, November 06, 2010

      Fall Back and Be Thankful

      I just finished reading this post on the United Methodist Reporter Blog -- Fall Back and Be Thankful. The writer of this post has a habit in the month of November of listing five things each day to be thankful for.

      When I was reading for my Disciple class, I made that part of my ritual. Each time I read (being me), I took notes about what I read. Before I started reading, I would list what was going on that day, and what I was thankful for that day.

      It's a good habit. It does turn your mind to the blessings in your life.

      What are you thankful for today? Other than getting an extra hour of sleep tonight.....


      Friday, November 05, 2010



      Thursday, November 04, 2010


      I'm on the road, between presentations. I've noticed few things this evening as I flipped through the channels.

      • The news is always "Breaking News" on one of the all news all the time stations. Always Breaking -- why is that?
      • America's Funniest Home Videos usually involve people doing dumb things. Are we the funniest when we do dumb things? Or do we just like to laugh at it?
      • Beckley cable has many more shopping channels than my town.
      • Mad Money always seems to be on TV.
      • The music video channels don't seem to be showing music videos.
      That's enough for now. Not finished for the evening, but ready to go to sleep.


      Wednesday, November 03, 2010

      Needed in Heaven?

      I attended a funeral last weekend. Part of the service was the inclusion of comments from the floor. That can be a grace-filled experience (or not).

      For David's funeral, most of the comments were heart-felt and added to the grace of the funeral. One woman, however, concluded her remarks with the comment that "God must needed David in heaven."

      I'm not sure I can count how many ways that statement bothers me. First of all, if David died because God needed him in heaven, what about the rest of us? Is David the only one who is needed in heaven?

      How do we deal with the idea that if we are created to value life, and are taught to keep it precious by God, how can we find the idea that God ends it for his own convenience palatable?

      I have a difference metaphor for God and his role in David's death. David's heart stopped working, so God said, "Come to me, my child, and join me here."


      Tuesday, November 02, 2010

      Comfort Food

      The Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals was an invitation to list your five favorite "go-to" books/movies/TV shows. Comfort food:

      1. The author of the question on the blog lists the Sound of Music. Me, too. It's one of my very favorite movies. I don't care what you think about me because I say that -- it's true! One of my favorites.
      2. I love the book Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I love the whole series, but Outlander, as the first one, holds a special place.Geat book.
      3. I still like the original three Star Wars movies.
      4. Farscape is one of my favorite TV series.
      5. What's so Amazing about Grace taught me about grace.


      Monday, November 01, 2010

      Threads of Grace

      Prayer casts threads of grace across chasms of disconnection, loneliness, fear and pain. Prayer weaves people back into community and rebinds them to the source of life.

      From Five Practices of Fruitful Living by Robert Schnase

      He calls prayer "threads of grace." I like that image. I like that prayer ties us to God and that it also ties us to each other.

      Do we think of prayer that way? Do we remember that it ties us to each other as well as to God? And do we think of prayer as grace?

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