Monday, January 31, 2011

Amazing love

This morning, I was watching the program Stargate SG-1.  Just in case you've never seen the movie or television shows in the Stargate series, I'll explain that the program is built around the idea that an ancient civilization built "stargates" across the universe.  The gates create wormholes that allow travel between great distances -- from one gate to another.

The episode I was watching this morning was the pilot of the series.  As the characters finished their travel through the wormhole, they felt its many effects -- chills, nausea, and general ill effects.  This weekend I watched the final episode of the series Stargate Atlantis -- many years past the pilot of the first show.  When these characters stepped through a wormhole it was as if they were walking through a doorway.  The travel was accomplished as if it were nothing at all, with no ill effects.

I had a teacher in high school who told us that eventually we wouldn't even notice when a space shuttle was launched because the event would be so common place. 

When we become used to something, it looses its ability to amaze us.  It becomes commonplace.

During our office devotional this morning, JtM read the following words from the hymn And Can it Be That I Would Gain by Charles Wesley:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
We hear it so often.  We are so often reminded that Christ died for us that I wonder if it becomes common knowledge. 

Consider it and its amazing truth for just one moment -- Amazing love, how can it be, that my God would die for me?

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Post #2000

This is Post # 2000.

I like milestones, and I like numbers.  It feels as if 2000 posts is alot of entries.  The blog is 5 years old, and that is more than 1 post / day for that whole time, on average.

Since I started watching these kinds of things, the blog has had almost 59,000 hits.  Each red pin in the map above is a map of the latest 500 page loads.

Thank you for reading and for your comments.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Low Fog

Foggy morning in West Virginia


Friday, January 28, 2011

Favorite Passages

From this week's Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals -- List your five favorite Bible verses or passages and why:

  1. John 3:1-16 – The very first time I read scripture in church as part of worship, this was the passage I was asked to read. I’ve always remembered it.
  2. Philipians 4:8 – When our son was born, he had a brachial plexus injury. We focuses much energy on helping him recover from the injury. In worship one day, God used this verse to speak to me – to remind me that our son was more than his injury.
  3. Psalm 8 – It always reminds me of the love of God, completely independent of what I deserve.
  4. 1 Corinthians 13 – I know it is probably an answer that everyone gives, but I love the Love Chapter. It’s a great description of agape love. 
  5. The next passage I’m going to read has the potential to be my favorite. God often calls forth something new from the passage that is in front of me, creating the possibility that it will become my favorite.


Thursday, January 27, 2011


Post #1,997 (just in case you've been counting).

I was reading blogs this evening and ran across one I have never seen before called Barefoot and Laughing.  The author's latest post is called Incarnation.

Kirsten, the author, was diagnosed with melanoma during seminary.  In this post, she talks about resurrection -- how when she has a good medical report, she feels resurrected.  At this point, on Christmas Day, however, she writes about incarnation.

Incarnation -- the embodiment of God in some earthly form. 

I most often think -- in fact, I think I have only considered incarnation to be the birth of Christ in human form.  Jesus, completely human and completely divine.

Her blog post considers something different.  God in us.  God, as Holy Spirit, inhabits us.  Different, of course, from the birth of Christ.  Still, though, God is with us, among us, in us, part of us, dwelling in us.  We are Holy Ground.  And that Ground may be muddy and not very beautiful.  We have parts of ourselves we are willing to share with anyone, and parts of ourselves that we would rather hide, not sharing.  There are parts of ourselves that are presentable, beautiful, lovable.  And then there are parts of ourselves that are ugly, sinful, and worthy only of disdain.  God dwells in all places.  He lives among us, in the beautiful and the ugly.  He inhabits both the lovable and the places of scorn. 

Because we have been rescued by a loving God, we have been re-created.  We have been transformed.  Even the parts of ourselves that we would never claim are claimed by God.  Inhabited by God.  What was ugly is made beautiful by God's presence.  What we hate about ourselves is made lovable by the love of God. 

Every corner, even the most dark, is inhabited by God.

Him there is no darkness at all;
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

(Refrain from "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light"

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Worship as Offering

I'm working my way through the training modules for certified lay ministry.  I'm almost finished with the Worship module.

So far, what has struck me the most is the discussion about worship style.  We tend to design worship with an eye to a particular worship style, such as traditional or contemporary.

Consider worship that is built in the opposite direction -- a ground up kind of worship.  Worship should arise from the gifts of the worshipers, whatever those may be.

So, instead of asking, "What kind of music do I prefer to listen to?" we should ask, "What gift can I bring to worship?" 

That kind of worship is an authentic response to God, an offering of the gifts he has given to us.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011



Monday, January 24, 2011

Abandoning Expectations

I read Songbird's sermon this morning -- Gone Fishin'. It's based on the Matthew lectionary reading for last Sunday (Matthew 4:12-23).  In this passage, Jesus calls four of his disciples to become fishers of people.

In her sermon, Martha encourages here congregation to consider their gifts and how they can be used to further the work of God -- to "bring about the world that God wants."

The disciples are asked to leave their lives behind -- but they are also asked to leave behind their expectations, and the expectations of others.

Do our expectations stop us from hearing and following the call of God?  Her sermon struck me because I wondered what Zebedee, the father of James and John thought when his two sons followed Jesus. And the friends of Peter and Andrew, what did they think when Peter and Andrew immediately left to follow Christ. What was the gossip in the town? What did Aunt Edna tell her neighbor over the fence about her two crazy nephews? How did Zebedee explain it to Mrs. Zebedee? How did the disciples leave behind expectations?

Do we let others’ expectations of who we should be get in the way of answering our call from Christ?


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Focus and Light

These two pictures are of the same set of arches in the garden at Biltmore Estate. I've focused on the inside of the arches and then again through the arches.

When I focused on the inside, I miss the beauty through the arches. 

Life is that way, sometimes.   Focus only on what is inside, on what is familiar, on what is close, and miss the wonder that is outside our windows.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011


My bookshelf in my office
From this week's Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals:

  1. What books have you recently read? Tell us your opinion of them. I have been read Indulgence in Death for many weeks now. It's a mystery by J.D. Robb. I like all of her books, and this one was no exception. What made it unusual was how long it took me to finish it. I finally decided when I got this morning that I would just sit and read it to the end. I've also been reading Five Practices for Fruitful Living by Robert Schnase. I like it, but I'm only a little more than halfway through it. I need to find more time to read.
  2. What books are awaiting your available time to be read? I need to read Schnase's other book -- the first one. Need to find some time!
  3. Have any books been recently recommended? My husband's prayer/study group is reading Treasures of a Transformed Life. He likes it; maybe I'll pick it up and read it. It's kind of down on the list right now, though.
  4. What genre of books are your favorite, along with some titles and/or authors you like best? I like a variety of books. Some of my favorite authors are Diana Gabaldon, Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb (same person), Robert Parker (now deceased; I think I've read the last Spencer book), Dean Koontz, John Ortberg, Elizabeth Peters.
  5. What have you read lately that you have a strong urge to recommend? (or to condemn?)I would recommend any of the books or authors I list above. As I get older, I don't finish books that I don't like, so I never really finish a book I wouldn't recommend. I did finish Ninety Minutes in Heaven, but didn't really like it.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Carry the Lantern

This week's Disicple devotional readings began and ended with a call to "carry the lantern."

A church moved from an older building to a newer one.  As they left the old building, they lighted a lantern from the altar candles and took turns carrying it to the new church, a mile and a half away.  From the light, they lit candles on the new altar. 

Do we carry the lantern of Christ?  Do we leave behind the old ways -- the ways we have outgrown, the ways that are no longer useful to use or to God, the ways of the past -- and carry the light forward in hope to something new?


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Walk in the Way that Leads to Life

This is the devotional I sent out to our devotional ministry this week.  Sorry for the late post -- no internet last night at home.

A couple of weeks ago, Jack asked us to touch the water in the baptismal font and to “remember our baptism.” We came toward the altar, dipped our hands into the water, and remembered that we are claimed by God, beautiful in his sight, and loved beyond measure.

I was seven when I was baptized, and I can remember it, but on that day two weeks ago, it wasn’t my baptism I was remembering. I watched my 17-year-old son walk down the aisle, touch the water, and I remembered his baptism. He was not quite one year old when we brought him to the altar at Johnson Memorial. Our family sat together in two front pews and brought this new human being forward to the altar rail. I listened as the choir sang the responses in the liturgy, and as the congregation promised to surround our son with love and forgiveness and to pray for him, so that he would become a disciple of Christ, and walk in the way that leads to life. On that day, and on every day before and since, God has reached down, touched our son, and claimed him as His own.

Grant is now 17. His thoughts and ours are turning to “What’s next?” He’s sitting for college entrance exams, filling out college applications and thinking about his future. What’s next?

I hear the echoes of Grant’s Church family promising to love him and pray for him. I’m grateful for how the Body of Christ has embraced him as he has grown from a toddler to a teenager. I pray that we have given him a firm foundation for whatever comes next.

In the Gospel lectionary reading for the week, James and John are working with their father, Zebedee. All three of them are in a boat, mending nets. Jesus approaches them, and he calls the two brothers into discipleship. James and John immediately leave their nets and follow Christ.

I wonder what Zebedee thought as his sons left. Had he spent a lifetime wondering “What’s next” for these two men? Did he worry about them? I’m certain that as they walked away from him, following Christ, his thoughts followed them, asking “What’s next?” for his two sons.

It’s an important question for our son, for these two young men, and it’s an important question for us. We are claimed by God – what’s next?

Do we hear the call of Christ? Are we willing to drop everything and follow him? Will we do it immediately?

How are we preparing the way for those who come after us? Are we teaching about Christ? Are we helping to build the faith of others – our sons, our daughters in the faith? Are we paving the way so that others can walk in the way that leads to life?

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

John 1 continued

After John sent two of his disciples to find Jesus, something extraordinary happens.  We might miss it, because it seems ordinary.  Jesus turns and sees them following him, and he speaks to them. Jesus doesn’t hide from us; he turns around and speaks to us.  William Barclay says that this is a symbol of divine initiative.  “When the human mind begins to seek and the human heart begins to long, God comes to meet us more than halfway.”  Our God is not a distant God; our God longs to reach toward us.  Consider the image of the prodigal son being met by his father along the road – the father runs to meet him.  That’s what God is like.  We do not walk the road of discipleship by ourselves; God is with us.

Jesus turns and asks the two disciples who are following him, “What are you looking for?” That is an important question for them and for us. They answer by calling Jesus, “Rabbi” or teacher. Through this answer, they indicate a willingness to follow him – they will be his disciple. They are willing to commit to following Christ. Will we do the same? What are we looking for? Will we make a commitment to follow Christ?

Andrew, one of my favorite disciples, is a role model for us. We meet Andrew three times in scripture. All three times he is bringing someone else to Christ. In this passage, he brings his brother Simon, who later becomes Peter. Later, Andrew is the one who brings Christ the young boy who has five loaves of bread and two fish to share. There is a passage in John where Andrew brings inquiring Greeks to Jesus. Andrew knows discipleship is not focused on himself, but on service to Christ. He knows Christ will meet him and is not hidden from him. And he has said Yes to Christ – he is committed. Andrew was claimed by God, and in response to the question “What’s next?” he answers discipleship.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

John 1

The incidents described John 1:29-42 occur after Jesus has been baptized. It is part of our glimpse into what is next for Christ. I think if we take a closer look at it, we can also learn part of the answer to the question in our lives. In other words, I have been claimed by God; what’s next? What can we learn about discipleship from this passage?

Take a look at the actions of John the Baptist. John is not interested in bringing glory to himself. All of his actions and his words point to Jesus. He points to Jesus and says, “here is the lamb of God.” He ranks Christ above himself, and he explains that he is convinced that Christ is the son of God. Not only that, but he sends his own disciples to follow Jesus. John had to have known that to send these disciples to Christ meant that they would no longer be following him, but John did it anyway. There is a bestselling book by Rick Warren called The Purpose Driven Life. The first line of the book is “It’s not about you.” John teaches us that discipleship is focused on God; it’s not about us. That can be a difficult step to take, but it’s necessary to understand what it means to follow God – to be a disciple of Christ.

Continued tomorrow.....


Monday, January 17, 2011

Why get up?

Last Friday's Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals:

Where I am it is dark, and it is cold, and it is snowing. I really wanted to stay in bed with the electric blanket cranked this morning. Share five things that made getting out of bed worthwhile for you today!

  1. I can't remember, but when I got up, I was most likely hot. I probably wanted to come downstairs to cool off. It's a common complaint of mine.
  2. Today was a day off from work, but that doesn't seem to matter much anymore. When I was younger (BK (before kids)), I could sleep until noon. Now, no matter what the day is, whether I have to work or not, I'm up early.  This morning, I got out of bed around 7:00am, which means I slept later than I usually do.
  3. Since I had the day off, and Steve was working, my plan for the morning was to spend the morning knitting and watching TV in our family room.  I knew the boys would sleep late and that Steve would be up and working (he didn't have the day off).  That was my plan, and that's what I did.  A morning of quiet knitting was motivation to get out of bed.
  4. The weekend itself was rather busy.  I led a Board of Directors retreat (Emmaus) on Saturday morning, went to the mall with our boys, and then came home to write a sermon.   There were three worship services on Sunday, the last of which was out our local retirement community (and location of delivery of said sermon), then home.  Today had the promise of a day with no plans and no deadlines.  That's a great motivator to get out of bed.
  5. After the knitting, I went downtown for a quick lunch and a couple of movies. 
The day just promised to be quiet and relaxing, so I was ready to get out of bed (and I was probably hot!)


Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's next?

Last week in church we were encouraged to “remember our baptism.” At my church, our pastor, Jack, stood by the baptismal font and spoke about the water, picking it up in cupped hands and letting it fall back into the font as he reminded us of all the ways God has delivered us through water. He encouraged us to step forward and touch the water, remembering our baptism.

We did as he asked, dipping our hands into the water, and then kneeling at the altar rail in prayer. I can remember my own baptism, but it wasn’t my baptism that came to mind last Sunday. I had returned to my seat and watched our older son, Grant, come forward, dip his hand into the water, and kneel at the altar rail. I remembered when he was baptized. He was almost a year old, crawling but not yet quite walking. We dressed him all in white, from his shoes, to tiny white slacks, to a double-vested sweater and brought him to church. Our family came and stood with us as God reached down, touched our son through the waters of baptism, and said, “He is mine; I claim this child.” The congregation promised to surround our son with love and forgiveness and to pray for him, so that he would become a disciple of Christ, and walk in the way that leads to life.

Now our son is 17 years old. He’s a senior in High School. He’s taking college entrance exams, apply to schools, and planning his future. On Sunday, as he touched the water, I remembered his baptism. The question on his mind, and on our minds as we help him, is “What’s next?”

It’s not just a question for a 17 year old, it’s a question for all of us. We are claimed by God; now what?

What's next?


Saturday, January 15, 2011



Friday, January 14, 2011

Grace in the pain

Looking up into a tree with lights.
I just finished reading this post, from the blog SpinBeat, entitled, "Grace is about looking back."

Where is the grace is being let down by someone?  What can we learn from the let down?

  • Sometimes it is necessary to realize that we often take someone else's actions as a personal let down, when we are only caught in the cross fire.  That doens't make the sting any better, maybe, but knowing that we sometimes aren't the target is important.
  • Sometimes, there is a realization that we are in the wrong, not the other person.  Grace comes in the apology (from us).  There is grace in the admission of error, even though we don't like it.
  • Sometimes, begin let down means that our expectations are too high.  We need to adjust them to reality.  We might not like the reality, and the adjustment can be hard, and might require some work, but ... well, there you go.  There is grace in seeing the person as s/he is, not as we expect him/her to be, and then loving anyway. 
  • Sometimes, when we are let down, it's just crummy, and there is nothing that can be done about it.  We can believe the other person was wrong, and we just have to pick up and move on anyway.  Grace comes into play, because forgiveness is necessary.
  • And Laura is right, sometimes the grace comes into play because we can help someone else through what we have learned.
  • Sometimes the grace is the painful growth and transformation that results from the hurt.
None of it is very pleasant.  Grace is the hope, though, through the pain. 

Easy words; hard experience.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

See the Arrow?

What do you see?  For most of my life, I saw the word FedEx.  That's what I saw until a friend pointed out the arrow.

Do you see the arrow?

Now, all I ever see is the arrow.  Forget the letters; I see the arrow.

I wonder if that is how Christianity works.  We just see the world, the flaws of those around us and our own.  Once someone points God out to us, all we can see if God. 

Point out God to someone, and it changes everything.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


During a recent sermon, Jack said that God erases our sins.  I heard that, and my first thought was to disagree. 

My sins don't feel erases.  I believe that God forgives them, but for something to be erased means that there is no trace of it.   It's gone.  Even though my sins are forgiven, they leave traces.

  • Even when a sin is forgiven, I can still feel the guilt of it -- the sting that it leaves behind.  While I'm grateful for the forgiveness, I am still aware of the sorrow and guilt I feel in its aftermath.
  • Even a forgiven sin has consequences.  The eraser doesn't remove those.
  • I can hope that in the aftermath of forgiveness, I can find the grace fo transformation.  It seems like an erased sin could leave no changes in its wake.
God forgives sin, and perhaps the spiritual eraser refers to how we are cleansed from sin in the eyes of God.  in my eyes, the sin isn't erased.  It's forgiven, but it is not vanished.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Question.  If you were asked to present a children's sermon about baptism, and how we are permanently claimed by God, what concrete metaphors would you use so that the children would have an idea of what you are talking about?  What metaphors and images could be used to make that reality understandable for children?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Defiling Words

Sunset at farm, Biltmore Estate.
In Sunday school yesterday, we were talking about a passage from James:
but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.  James 3:8-12
The conversation turned very literal at that point. We bemoaned the state of society and the habit some have of cursing.

I have, in my time, asked people to refrain from the habit, especially when in the company of children. That said, I don't think literal cursing is what this passage is about.

The most defiling words that come from my mouth are not curse words. They are plain, simple words that hurt others. They are the words for which I need to apologize, the words that damage relationship, that lower self-esteem. They are the words that I wish I could take back.

It is those words that are defiling, not my (albeit) infrequent use of curse words.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Eternally Claimed

When our boys were small, I might kiss one of them on the cheek, and he would reach up to rub it off.  "Don't kiss me!"

I would say, "That was a mom kiss, and mom-kisses don't rub off.  They sink in and are permanent."

That's what baptism is like.  God claims us and call us "his beloved children."  No matter what we do, how much we rub off the water of grace, the claim is permanent.  It sinks in.  There is nothing we can do to change that -- nothing we can do to make God love us more, or love us less.  We have been claimed, permanently.



Saturday, January 08, 2011


Holly from Biltmore Estate in November


Friday, January 07, 2011

Font, Alpha and Omega

The church where our offices are located keeps a baptismal font near the front of the door to the chapel.  It always has water in it, and the lid hangs on the wall above the font -- in other words, the font is always open.

Whenever I go into the chapel (and I do go in sometimes, when I need a place for quiet prayer), I touch the water.  I like it.  I wish our church  had the same tradition.

I was reading a post by Dr. Todd Strep, who blogs at Wesleyan / Anglican.  He says:

By placing the Font near the entrance to the place of worship, or, in our case (having two entrances), at the back of the center aisle, we symbolize that it is through the waters of baptism that we enter into the Church and become members of the Body of Christ. As we gather to worship, the Font is a witness of God’s grace poured out to us. As we depart to serve, the Font calls us to live out our baptismal faith in the world, to allow the grace of our baptism to “work its way out” in us and to shape us. In both instances, we are reminded that we are not our own. We belong to God.

I love the idea of the symbolism described for the font in the quote.  We enter through baptism, grace is poured out through baptism and we exit by the font, reminded to live out our baptism.

I wonder what stops us from taking advantage of this beautiful symbolism.  In our church, the font is usually located near the pulpit, out of the way of the crowd, with the lid on, and with no water.  What does that symbolize? 

The picture above was an altar I arranged for last year's Baptism of the Lord worship service.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Temporary Incompentence

What is this?  A sheep?  I think so.  It's a Biltmore sheep.
I'm still working my way through Five Practices of Fruitful Living.  Schnase asked this question, "Are we willing to experience the feeling of 'temporary incompentence' in order to attain a sense of confidence?"

Approaching something new -- whether it is a new job, a new hobby, Bible study, a new place -- you name it -- takes courage.  And because it is new, we may not be very good at whatever it is at first. 

That may mean we need practice in order to develop particular skills.  It may mean we need time in order to adjust to the people with whom we are now working.  It may mean that we need classes in order to gain the knowledge necessary.  Whatever it is, at first, it is going to feel awkward, and we may not be very good at it.

In our society, patience isn't always forthcoming.  We want success, and we want it now.  We want to feel good, and maybe (gasp) we want it to be easy.

The truth is, though, it is not always easy.  Sometimes something new is hard, but the payback is that with time, learning, adjustment, practice and a new set of skills, we will gain a sense of confidence in what we are doing.  Worth it.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

King Wesceslas

Peter and the King, the story I've been posting for the last three days, is based on the carol Good King Wesceslas.   King Wesceslas was a real person named Saint Wesceslas I, Duke of Bohemia. He was canonized by the Catholic Church and is the Czech patron saint.

So what is the moral of the story? Follow in your king’s footsteps, even if you don’t quite understand where you are going or what he is leading you to do. When you do, you will be equipped and strengthened for the journey. It isn’t always easy, but when you do it, you will be blessed by grace.

Within a few decades of Wenceslas's death four biographies of him were in circulation. These … had a powerful influence on the High Middle Ages conceptualization of the rex justus, or "righteous king"—that is, a monarch whose power stems mainly from his great piety…

Referring approvingly to these hagiographies, the chronicler Cosmas of Prague, writing in about the year 1119, states:

But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.  (Quote from Wikipedia)
I don’t know about serving in bare feet, but the quote reminds me of this passage from James:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Peter and the King, III

Continued from yesterday...

The king led the way through the trees, and Peter followed. As they walked, the sun sank further behind the mountain, leaving the forest darker with each step. The king’s lantern swayed, eerily lighting the trees and the snow. Shadows and light fought in the woods.

On they trudged, as the wind picked up, and cold snuck into the boy’s coat and the under the king’s hat. Intent on following the path in the semi-darkness, the king didn’t notice that Peter wasn’t right behind him at first. Hearing silence instead of footsteps in the crunchy snow, he turned around to find the path empty.

“Peter! Where are you?”

“Here, sir. I’m coming.”

The king walked back to find Peter in the path far behind him, struggling against the cold. “I’m sorry, sir, but it’s so cold. I’m not sure how much farther I can go.” His teeth chattered, and he bent his head down into the wind. The king pulled Peter’s scarf up tighter around his ears, and said, “This is what I want you to do, son. Step where I step on the path. Stay close behind me, and step where I step. The warmth of my footprints will help you fight off the cold.”

Peter just looked up at him. “What? Your footprints will keep me warm?”

“I know, it sounds impossible, but just do what I say.”

“Yes, sir.”

So the king walked through the forest, leading the way, with Peter obediently stepping in his footprints. Peter hadn’t really believed the king very much – OK, he hadn’t believed him at all, but he did what he had been told to do. And he was warm. He stayed close behind the king, following his light and stepping carefully in his footprints, and, amazingly, he was warm. Wait until he told the cook and the housekeeper and the butler. Wait until he told his mother!

Finally, they made it to the house at the foot of the mountain and shared the food, wine and blankets with the family they found there. The warmth of bringing the unexpected gifts to the man and his family kept both the king and Peter warm all the way home.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Peter and the King, II

Continued from yesterday....

The king thought back to yesterday, to the great celebration his family had had, with more food than they could eat, and more gifts than they could open. Below him in the square was a man who probably had nothing, and was looking for a job, or for some food for his family. As I mentioned before, there is more than one kind of epiphany.
The king spun around, and yelled, “Peter!” He immediately regretted it, because the boy jumped, scattering his work. “Yes, sire?”

“Sorry. No, Peter, just leave them there. I want you to go gather some wine and some food, and a couple of blankets for me.”

“Oh, yes sir.” Peter shot toward the doorway. “Why didn’t you tell me you were hungry and cold? I’ll be right back.”

The king had to speak quickly to be heard before Peter made it out of the room. “No, son, not for me. It is for the man in the square. Have the cook pack it up for you, and bring it to me in the dooryard. I’m going to take it to the man we saw from the window.”

“What? Oh, no sir. You can’t do that. I’ll get some….”

"No, Peter, I’m going to do it. Hurry, now, and get everything together for me.”

“Yes, sire.” Peter walked away, obviously unhappy that the king was heading out in the cold weather.

Finally, after having convinced the cook and the housekeeper that he was following the king’s orders, Peter made it to the door of the castle, to find the king. The king was dressed to leave, and seemed impatient to be on his way.

“Thank you, Peter. I’ll take that.” The king reached for the pack the boy was carrying.

“Oh, no sire. If you are going, then so am I.”

“That’s not necessary, son. You stay here where it is warm, and I’ll be back in no time.”

“No, no, sir. The cook, and the housekeeper and the butler, and even my mother, sir, all made me promise that you would not go by yourself. Please, sir, don’t get me in trouble with my mother!”

The king sighed, reached up to a hook on the wall, and pulled an extra neck scarf down. He wrapped it around Peter, tucking it into his coat, and then picked up the pack. “Ok, then, here we go.”

The king opened the door, and led the way into the square, followed by the young boy. They made their way out of the village, and into the forest.
To be continued tomorrow.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Peter and the King, I

This morning at church was our annual Breakfast with the Wise Men."  As was asked to tell a story.  Over the next few days, I'll tell it to you, with apologizes to those who heard it in person.

We come to this Epiphany breakfast every year, expecting a story about the three wise men who traveled from the East, following the star, leaving gifts for Jesus, but there other kinds of epiphanies, and there are other wise men, and we are called to give of ourselves every day, not just at Christmas.

So, today, I bring you a story about a different wise man. You may have heard of him, but you’ve never seen him in a nativity scene. You’ve probably sung about him, but the words of “We Three Kings” don’t mention him.

Many, many years ago, on a day like one we had last week, a king stood at his window, looking out. The day before had been Christmas Day, and while his family had celebrated the birth of the Christ child, a snow storm had raged outside. Snow had poured from the sky in big, fat flakes, covering everything. This was not what our meteorologists today would call a freezing drizzle – this had been a whopper of a snow fall.

Today was the day after Christmas, a day the people in his town called St. Stephen’s day. The King stood at his window, looking at the town below, as people hustled back and forth, digging out their doorways and clearing the paths between the buildings. In the room behind him, a young boy worked, clearing the king’s papers from his desk, straightening his work. His name was Peter, and as far as the king could tell, Peter was always at work.

"So, Peter, how was your Christmas?”

“Just fine, Sire.”

The king shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the window. He never had much luck getting Peter to talk to him.

Outside the window, in the street, the king saw a man, very poorly dressed, walking through the village. The man wasn’t wearing a coat, and he hunched his back against the cold wind that was blowing. “Peter, do you know who this man is? I don’t recognize him.”

Peter carefully placed a stack of papers on the desk and came to stand by the window. “Oh, yes, sir. I don’t know his name, but I know he lives several miles from here, in the forest, near the foot of the mountains.”

Peter went back to work, and the king stood at the window, watching the man stop at the pub in the square under the window. He couldn’t hear what the man was saying to the pub owner’s wife, but she shook her head and pointed away from the doorway, but to the forest, and turned to go back inside. The man hung his head and walked away from the light.

To be continued tomorrow.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Standing next to Christ

Nativity Scene for Breakfast With the Wise Men
I was working on the tables for our annual Breakfast with the Wise Men at church.  Before I left for the day, I set up a nativity scene near the door of the social hall.

As I was sitting the pieces in the stable, I noticed that the lamb is missing an ear. 

I sat the lamb close to Jesus thinking that with its ear-less side next to Jesus, people wouldn't notice its flaw.

We are like that.  One would think that when we stand next to the perfect Christ, we would all look much less than perfect.  Instead, standing next to Christ, we look forgiven.  We look loved.  Standing next to Christ, our flaws are forgiven.


Poetry from 2010