Friday, September 30, 2011


Part of a railing in Philadelphia
I was reading Blazes and Cairnes, a blog.  I was struck by this post in which JF describes walking a section of the Appalachian Trail called Roller Coaster -- a section of trail with a reputation for being terrible.
How do we face a section of the trail of our life that promises to be difficult?  How do we attempt to climb a mountain that is in our way?  How do we blaze a trail through unfamiliar territory?  What is your approach?
  • When approaching a mountain, do you look at the entire mountain and wonder how in the h*ll (pardon my English) you will ever make it to the top?  The mountain is too high, and you are convinced that you do not have the stamina, the knowledge or the desire to climb all the way to the top?  Does knowing how high the mountain is prepare you better for the climb?  Can you be more realistic that way?
  • When you look at the mountain, do you avoid looking at how high it is, instead trying to decide how to take the first step?  Does this enable you to approach the mountain with confidence because your goal is only the first step?  Does this make you less realistic?  Is it hiding your head in the sand?
  • Do you plan out your walk before you take the first step, ordering each piece of the trail in detailed goals?  Does this guide your way or does it mean you aren't prepared for the unexpected?
  • Do you look for another, less steep way up the mountain?  Does this mean you are clever or are you running away from the challenge?
As you can see, I don't have the answer, but just a few questions.

In the post above, I especially liked his final phrase:
When I got to the Bear’s Den Hostel I realized that I had finished one of my best days on the trail. Tired, but not exhausted or defeated, I thanked the AT for another great day of hiking and I breathed in and out, knowing that it is enough to be present right where you are. (emphasis mine)
Sometimes we forget the joy of knowing that it is enough to be present right where we are.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

I believe

I read a post today in which someone had written what they believe.  I wondered if I could do that, so here is my attempt, without much thought (or any research or prayer or attempt to be cohesive or complete):
  • I believe God created the universe, this world, and all of us, including me. 
  • I believe the God who created the universe loves all of us and each of us, and wants to be in relationship with the body of Christ and with each of us.
  • I believe that we were all created in God's image.
  • I believe that God is a God of unimaginable and abundant grace and love.
  • I believe that God pursues us with his grace, he greets us with his grace and he offers his grace even as we refuse to acknowledge it.
  • I believe that we sin, and that we have already been forgiven through God's actions.
  • I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.
  • I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was wholly human and wholly divine.
  • I believe that the son what with the father from the beginning.
  • I believe that the son is the incarnation of the Word into the world.
  • I believe that Jesus was crucified, died and was resurrected.
  • I believe that we have received the gift of the holy spirit -- God who lives within me.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trail Magic

First of all, I'm typing this using my iPad and Blogger. I couldn't do that before, so I suppose the upgrade to Blogger has made it workable on the iPad. That is, unless, when I press publish, this post disappears. That would be a bummer.

J.F. Lacaria, the Director of Connectional Ministries for our Annual Conference, has started a new blog. I encourage you to take a look at Blazes and Cairns. (

OK, I can't figure out how to do links on the iPad. I figure it out sooner or later.

Anyway, J.F.'s latest post is about trail magic -- unexpected gifts found along the trail for hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Bottles of water or a bag of peaches. They are unearned, unexpected, pockets of magic along the trail.We wouldn't call them magic, though. We would call them agape. unexpected, unearned love, given from one person to another.

Think about leaving agape on the trail. When was the last time you discovered a way to keep someone warm, fed? When was the last time someone realized that God loved him or her because of something you have done. These are good questions I should ask myself each day.


Monday, September 26, 2011


I'm working on pursuing the training to become a United Methodist Certified Lay Minister.  There are four modules to the training, and the second one has four parts -- which means that there are seven sections to the training.  I've almost finished module 3 and then will move to completion with module 4.
I get some interesting questions:
  1. Why are you doing this?  I'm a lay person who wants to be more equipped for the ministry to which I have been called, and this is one of the only ways I can find it.
  2. What is your calling?  I am called to a ministry to the larger church, specifically as the Associate Director of the Foundation.   I am also called to give of my time to the ministry of my local church. It's easier for me to see how my gifts can be used at the Foundation.
  3. Why aren't you just going for ordination?  That's an actual question someone asked me last night.  I don't like the question, and I think it devalues the role of laity in our church. 
  4. What are you going to do as a certified lay minister?  I'm not sure, and this one question almost stopped me from starting the process.  Every time I tried to stop, I felt like God was nagging me to continue.  So I've stepped out in faith and just said, "yes."  I know what I'll be doing at the Foundation, but I'm not so certain about my church. 
  5. What about the curriculum?  The curriculum is very specifically designed for a CLM who will be pastoring a church.  That is another challenge in this process.
  6. Are you finding support  Most people don't understand what I am doing.  There are some who have been very>


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spirituality and Religion

What do you think about this post? 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Think back to the story in the New Testament about the workers who each worked a different amount of time but still received the same pay.

Do you know who would have heartburn with this abudant grace of God?  Jonah.  Jonah does want the Ninevites to repent.  In fact, he doens't even want to deliver the offer. 

Could it be that we stand with Jonah?  Could it be that we would like to be in a position to hand out grace as we see fit?

That isn't how it worked in Ninevah, and its not how it works in the New Testament.  God's grace is abundant, overflowing.  We should all thank God.

For a great sermon that brought this to mind for me, see Songbird's sermon.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Grace and Fairness

The sermon last week was based on the story of the workers who were hired at the beginning of the day, being aid the same as the workers who were hired in the last hour. We complain about that, because it doesn't seem fair. It doesn't seem right that those who work 8 hours in the hot sun would receive the same pay as the workers who worked one measly hour at the end of the day. Joe reminded us that what someone else receives has no effect on the value of what we do and doesn't reduce what we receive. He asked, "What does it cost you if someone else receives the same pay as you? It's not like you have to give up your son." It's hard, I think, to tell the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice that life isn't fair. Perhaps we should thank God that life isn't fair. We receive grace instead of what we deserve.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

What are you seeking?

From the Friday Five:
. . . let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Seeking is rejoicing. Rejoicing comes from the seeking, NOT the end of glory, heaven, enlightenment, or whatever. Seeking is the journey--RIGHT NOW!

So for this Friday Five, list what you are seeking, whether it is trivial, profound, or ordinary--whatever you would like to share! 
  1. Certification as a Certified Lay Minister -- I'm working on my last two modules.
  2. Enough writers from my church to compile an Advent Devotional booklet
  3. A day I can sleep late.  Saturdays are filling up through the end of October.
  4. Time to catch up with what I am doing at work.  I seem to have lots of piles on my desk.  Maybe I am seeking a neat desk.
  5. Something to eat for breakfast.  We need to go to the store.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Servant, serve, stewardship

A question from my Certified Lay Ministry curriculum --

Look up scriptures that use the words serve, servant and stewardship.  Share one passage, and talk about the relationship between service and leadership.  Note that the word ministry means service.  As a group, explore the difference between this type of leadership and other understandings of leadership in our culture.

A few scripture examples:
  • Luke 1:38:  Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.
  • John 12:26:  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.  Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
  • 1 Timothy 4:6:  If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourishing the words of faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed.
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26:  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant that they will that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
  • Mark 10:42-45:  So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to becomes great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • 1 Peter 4:8-10:  Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve on another with whatever gift each of you has received.  Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen.
Knowing that the questions requests a choice of one scripture and the use of it to discuss the relationship between service and leadership, I instead chose two.  Mark 10:42-45 defines how Jesus viewed leadership.   To be a leader is to be a servant.  We are to follow in the example of Christ, who leads us in all things, but does so by being a servant.  When love comes into the equation, our love of others and of God means that we place the needs of others above our own, that we do not seek glory or privilege for ourselves, but we seek to love and serve others, even to the cross.  Peter 4:8-10 speaks to the link between stewardship, service and leadership.  We become disciples of Christ, learning from him a way of life, and then we become stewards of what we have been given, using our gifts to change the world.  I like the phrase, “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  We use what we have been given so that others will come to know the grace of God.  We use what we have been given in service to others so that God will be glorified, not ourselves.   

That is probably the biggest difference between servant leadership and secular leadership.  Leadership in our culture means glory, fame, success, authority, and power.  Servant leadership for Christ is counter to all of those values.

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Foggy Sunrise


Monday, September 19, 2011

Eagles in flight

During our meeting last week, a deacon told a story about mother eagles.  She said that the legend is that the mother eagle will pick up the young eagle, who has not yet flown, and carry it high into the sky.  She lets go, and the eagle falls, struggling to do something he has never done -- to fly.  Instead, he mainly falls, so as he approaches the ground, she picks him up on her wings and carries him high again, repeating the process until he learns to fly. 

She is never far from the young eagle, and she never lets him strike the ground.

Think back to how Judges has been explained to you.  In this book, the people of Israel start out obeying God, but eventually, they forget God, and they give up their faith.  This leads to problems, so God raises up a judge -- a leader -- who rescues them.  They return to their faith, and try again.  The cycle is repeated over and over.

Perhaps the two patterns have many similarities?


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Morning Prayer

I'm back in town, and it has been a whirlwind few days.  After I got home from church this afternoon, I feel asleep and didn't wake up until it was time to take J to Youth.  I needed a nap!

I was the liturgist today at church.  Today's post is the prayer I used as the morning prayer:

Our father and creator, we come to you in worship today as the Body of Christ.  We come with our hands full; we come with our hands empty – we offer our blessings to you in gratitude and submission; we offer our emptiness to you in supplication and confession.

We offer our sins, our failures, our shortcomings to you in confession.  When we say that we have failed to be an obedient church, the words ring true for us.  Hear our sins, o Lord, and help us to offer them in honesty and humility.


We offer our gratitude for your grace, for even as we remember our sins, you remind us of your forgiveness.  Remind of, God, of those who we need to forgive.  Create in us heart of grace so that the forgiveness that has cleansed our souls can reach out to others through us.


We offer our mourning and sadness.  We remember Theo, and we grieve her absence from us.  We remember those who are no longer with us, we remember our hurts and our pain, and we offer them to you.


We offer our brokenness and illness to your, O God.  We lift up Marilyn to you, and ask you for healing in her sickness.  We remember our neighbors, wherever they are, and we remember their quests for shelter, clothes, and food.  We ask you to create in us pain in their hunger, create in us loneliness in their imprisonment, create in us a need to comfort.  We ask you to enter into the lives of the ones on our minds and in our hearts.  Provide the comfort of your presence in their pain, and lead us to ways to provide help.


We offer our joy to you, O Lord.  We recognize all of the traces of your light in our lives, and we offer you thanksgiving.  We offer the hugs of our children, the laughter of our friends, the quiet moments of reflection in our lives, and the times when we are grateful for the music that sings over us. 

We offer you our lives, and we ask for your presence on our journey.  We pray today the prayer your son taught us:

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Peace Portal

Peace Portal from the National Liberty Museum.  What do you see when you look at it?  Feathers?  Swirls?  Faces?  Seashells?  Whatever it is, no one can say to you that what you see is wrong.

Liberty is enhanced by diversity.  We all bring our own perspectives, and those combine in ways that cannot be achieved by one person acting alone or by many people who are the same.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Flame of Liberty

This is the top section of the Flame of Libery, a 21 foot tall glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly.  We visited the National Libery Museum while we were in Philadelphia. 

The Museum Educator who led our tour told us that the Museum sees a difference between Freedom and Libery.  Freedom is the ability to do whatever you want.  Liberty is the freedom to do what you want within the guidance and stability of laws - it is what makes our society work. (My words and summation).


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rainbow in Philadelphia


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Have a Magical Day

Maybe tomorrow I'll have some pictures to share, but I'm currently in Philadelphia at the NAUMF meeting (National Association of United Methodist Foundations -- Bob, I forgot to answer your comment, but there is the answer). 

I haven't seen much of the city yet, but one thing so far has surprised me, and maybe it is just this hotel, but everyone who works here is very friendly and nice.  All of the employees say hello and ask how your day is going.  They always remind us to let them know if they can help in any way.  Even the electrician on the elevator told us the same thing.

I keep thinking someone is going to tell us to have a Magical Day (that's what they tell you at Disney World). 


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sunset on the Cruise

Questions about Hell

From the Convocation I attended on Monday -- quesitons raised by Heather Murray Elkins for thoughful consideration regarding the nature of Hell:
  1. What is the divine role in hell? Did God create it?
  2. Is death the deadline?  Or can God reach beyond death?
  3. Is hell a permanent state?
  4. Do those in hell stay there forever, or do they eventually crumble and fall apart? (my words, I can't remember hers, exactly)
  5. Is the suffering only psycospiritual or also physical?

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

This is not a decoration

We were blessed in worship this morning by Heather Murray Elkins. 

As she prepared to preach, she read the scripture, but before doing so, she reminded us that discerning God's word from the scriptures is a job of all who have been baptized.  She illustrated the point by reading from the altar Bible while a lay person held it open for her. 

"This is not a decoration," she reminded us.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Never his love

Father Mychal Judge was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.  He was chaplain for the fire department (I think).  At his funeral, these words were spoken:
And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge's body, but not his spirit.
We come to bury his voice, but not his message.
We come to bury his hands, but not his good works.
We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love.
The work we do for and through and with and beside God is eternal.  The message, the good works, the spirit and the love are forever - they have a lasting impact on people's lives.  God changes the world through what we do and say. 

I pray that the same words spoken at Mychal Judge's funeral can be spoken at our of our funerals. 

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Friday, September 09, 2011


This week's Friday Five is all about the tschotske in your workplace. Describe five things in/on your workspace:

How about some crosses?
  • There is a metal cross in my office composed of butterflies.  It was hanging on the wall above my desk, but I bumped it, and now it is behind my desk. My immovable desk.  Someday, I'll figure out how to get it back.
  • There is another cross on my desk, crocheted out of blue and white cotton floss.  My first Annual Conference as Associate Director, a retired minister handed it to me.  I have since gotten to know him better, and I cherish his thoughtful cross.
  • There is another cross in my office, made out of pottery, and given to me by the chairperson of our Board a couple of years ago at Christmas.  It was handmade in West Virginia.  It is in two pieces, breaking when it fell over.  I keep meaning to glue it back together, but keep forgetting to bring the glue to work.
  • I have a green Celtic-style cross hanging in my window. It's made out of metal and glass, and the light passes beautifully through it.
  • On my bookshelf is a set of prayer beads -- blue, with another butterfly cross as the centerpiece.  It matches the larger, lost behind the desk one.


Thursday, September 08, 2011


We are having a Convocation at the Church this weekend.  Rev. Dr. Heather Murray Elkins in coming to lead worship and several seminars.  Her seminar topic is "He Decended into Hell."  The text she is using is Undiscovered Country by Peter S. Hawkins.  In this book, Hawkins examines the concepts of hell, pugartory and heaven with Dante's The Divine Comedy as an illustrative backbone.

As Hawkins explores the idea of hell, he makes several points I thought were interesting:
  • Dante's Inferno is a portrait of what our world would be if left to its own devices.
  • Those in hell are given an eternity of what they loved the most on earth.  It seems counter-intuitive, but think about it for a moment.
  • Sin is its own punishment; the crime becomes the punishment.
To quote the book, " is a spiritual condition, a "state of complete frustration and emptiness of life without God ... the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God."

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Where was God?

I subscribe to Sound Bites -- a ministry of First UMC of Greenbay. You can find more information and sbuscribe at this link.

Take a look at this quote:
In Washington and Chicago, as I talked about the special [9/11] edition of [my book] "Where Is God When It Hurts?", inevitably the interviewer would turn the question back on me. "Well, where is God at a time like this?"...

I thought for a moment and said, "I guess the answer to that question is another question. Where is the church when it hurts? If the church is doing its job -- binding wounds, comforting the grieving, offering food to the hungry -- I don't think people will wonder so much where God is when it hurts. They'll know where God is: in the presence of His people on earth."
-- Philip Yancey, "Where Was God on 9/11?", in Christianity Today


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Fear Less

I was reading Exodus 1 and 2 today. Fear comes into play a couple of times.

1. The midwives fear God
2. The Egyptians fear the Israelites because they are multiplying. The word used here is dread -- dread is a form of fear related to war (per the notes in my Bible).

Fear, in two different ways. Fear of the Lord means reverence, and in this case results in obedience. The Egyptians' fear was very different.

I wonder if reverence of God results in less dread of others. When we trust in God, aren't we able to fear less? And perhaps, through God, become fearless?


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Trust and Obey

Our Sunday school lesson this morning was based on Proverbs.  Marv asked us to distinguish between knowledge and wisdom.  There were lots of answers, but I liked what Marv himself proposed, and the distilled version of knowledge vs wisdom.

Spiritual knowledge is a reverence for God -- a knowledge of God.  Perhaps a declaration of faith.  It grows through study and prayer.  Once we acknowledge God, then he will provide us with spiritual wisdom -- the ability to discern what we are to do in obedience to him. 

Could it all boil down to trust and obey?

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September already

On Thursday morning, the first thing I said to Steve was, "It's September."  It seems like summer has flown by.  I won't be sorry to see the heat end -- it was 99F this weekend, but I can't believe it is September already.

The FridayFive this week asked readers to name five things that the beginning of September means to you:
  1. Back to school.
  2. End of the chance for vacations.
  3. Looking forward to the cooling of the air
  4. Starting to think about planning the Advent devotional.
  5. Beginning to realize I should have started planning the Advent devotional in August.
  6. Premier of new seasons of television shows.
  7. Crayons.
  8. Programming season starting at church.
  9. End of the summer schedule at work.
  10. Socks
  11. Apples
  12. Days getting shorter, which means the sun will probably be in my eyes going and coming from work.
  13. Band practice, piano practice, trumpet ensemble practice, band competitions, football games, sectional practice, band emails, high school open house.
  14. Preparation for a fall Emmaus walk, especially this year.
  15. NAUMF
That's more than 5, but September is a month of transition for us.


Friday, September 02, 2011

Romans 8

Today I read Romans 8 from The Message.  I would highly recommend it to you.  I think Paul's writing can be difficult to follow, and Peterson's Message paraphrases it in a way that allows me to hear it.  As I read Romans 8, I was prompted to rewrite what I heard in it.  Some of this might be direct quotations from The Message, and I haven't marked those parts.  Go read Peterson's version; it's really good.

With the arrival of Christ, we are freed.  God has acted in a decisive way -- he is not remote.  He has entered into the human condition and has done what the law could never do.  He has done what we could never do on our own.

"Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life."  Attention to God rather than self leads us to a free life.

When God takes up residence, we cannot help but think of him.  Those who have welcomed him -- even though they still experiencing sin -- exprerience life on God's terms.  With God's spirit in you, you will experience life!

Let go of the life you have -- embrace the life God offers.  This is not a grave-tending life - it is a life expectant.

All around us is a pregnant creation, waiting with anticipation for what will come.  When we tire of the waiting, God is there. When we don't know how to pray, God is there.  He knows us better than we know ourselves. 

God reveals to us this plan through what he has done in Christ.  We see the intended shape of our lives through Christ.

If God is like this -- present with us, at work re-creating us, groaning with us -- how can we lose?  If God will do what he has already done, there is nothing he will not do for us.  And what or who can separate us from God?  Nothing -- not life, death, pain, joy -- not the best or the worst in life -- can separate us from God's love for us.

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Genesis 50 -- Resurrection

Sunrise this morning from the high school hill
I finished the book of Genesis today.   Since I was in Bethel Teacher training, the last book of Genesis has always seemed to me to contain on of the important messages of the book:
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.  (Genesis 50:20)
God can bring good, even out of the most horrific history -- such as brothers selling their brother into slavery.

What does God do in our lives?  Are we chess pieces -- pawns that God moves for his purposes?  I don't believe so; however, God is involved in our lives.

It always strikes me that those who say that God "has a plan" -- and that by saying that mean that whatever has happened in the world is God's will -- are incorrect.  I don't believe all that happens is God's will or that he has engineered it for his own purposes. 

I don't believe that for many reasons, but not least among them is that a belief like that lets us off the hook.  We can't take responsibility for something that happens if it is God's plan.  God becomes our scapegoat.

Joseph isn't telling his brothers that none of what happened to them is their fault.  He doesn't say that what they did was not wrong (can you follow that double negative?) or that God motivated them to do it.  I think what Joseph is saying is that in spite of what the brothers intended, God's intentions are different.  God can bring about good in spite of what we do.  His actions to bring about his will despite what we do don't negate our sin.  In fact, in this passage, Joseph doesn't say the brothers did no wrong; he forgives what they have done.

Forgiveness loses its power if there is no sin.  If we can make excuses for the behavior, then we are saying that the sin did not exist.  That's not forgiveness.  Forgiveness is grace in spite of -- in face of -- the sin. 

The cross - the ultimate in forgiveness -- doesn't say we commit no sins.  It says that God forgives us, and love us anyway. 

The resurrection is life out of death.  Perhaps that is what Joseph is talking about here.  God can bring resurrection out of our death -- and sometimes the death isn't literal. 

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