Monday, October 31, 2011

Free Nature of Grace

I'm back from the Emmaus Walk.  While I was serving this weekend, I stepped out of the conference room to get a breath of fresh air .
It was a beautiful day. Someone had spread pieces of bread across the yard and there were probably 30 birds picking up pieces of bread and eating them. I don't know for sure, but it looked like someone had disposed of communion bread by spreading it out for the animals, and these birds were enjoying it.

As I watched them, I thought -- these birds don't worry if they are worthy, or perfect. They don't worry if they have earned this unexpected gift or not. They just realize they were need the bread, so they eat it. I wonder if we could learn a lesson from birds. It felt like God was making use of the birds to make his point -- the free nature of grace.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I sent a flurry of emails out today in preparation for the Walk to Emmaus tomorrow.  At one point, one of the Board members said, "Now......Just is in control......"  I laughed and wrote back, "I am breathing.  I breathe by organizing."  God has to take care of the big things, like two team members with cancer, another one who lost her father this morning, a pilgrim who is deciding not to come on the walk, and arranging for grace to cover the whole event.  God is in control, and I know that.

I'm grateful for that, but it doesn't mean I don't participate in the work he has given to me.  In fact, I believe he expects my participation.

I read a devotional today from the book A Year with Aslan: Daily Reflections from the Chronicles of Narnia.
Then [Aslan] said, "We have a long journey to go.  You must ride on me."...And with a great heave he rose underneath then and then shot off, faster than any horse could go, down hill and into the thick of the forest.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Preparing for a walk

I'm preparing to be the lay director of a Walk to Emmaus this weekend.  I'm so busy that I haven't even made a list yet, and that has me worried.

I'm certain the walk will be a blessing, but if my posts here are short, scattered or absent, you'll know why.

We have 24 women who have signed up for the walk, and I'm praying God will use the walk to touch their lives and transform their hearts.


Monday, October 24, 2011


A list of random thoughts:
  1. I would like to participate in an in-depth Bible study, but none is being offered at my church.  I wish it were being offered.
  2. I am trying to do some study on my own, but I lack focus and determination to get it done.  If I want it so badly, it seems that I should be able to do it.
  3. Is part of the problem a lack of community as I do it alone?  Probably.
  4. A sermon last week has prompted me to pick up daily devotional reading again.  It's hard to get up in the morning early enough to do it. 
  5. I like doing it, but I also like sleeping.  I wonder if getting into the routine of it will make it less difficult.
At the church where I was this Sunday, the young adult leading the children's moment explained the necessity of practicing for spiritual growth.  She told them she really wanted to juggle, and then she showed them how, in spite of her desire, she had no ability.  "Why not?"  she asked.  "Practice!" the kids explained to her.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sigh of Sorrow

A few weeks ago -- probably by now, it's been a couple of months ago, a friend died.  She had had cancer for years, and had fought it the whole time.  She called it her "journey."  Her faith became evident during her journey -- whether it grew as she traveled the road or the light of the journey highlighted it, I don't know. 

There came a time when all of us at church realized that her journey would not end with physical healing, but would be what we call "terminal."  I think that realization came to me when Hospice was called in, but she lived in Hospice care for many months (at her home).

We probably wouldn't have been friends, except we were in the same reunion group, and you get to know people when you share your faith. 

Her journey took her through death, and many people said that it was a blessing.

Today in worship, Jack talked about sorrow.  He talked about the sigh of sadness, and how it can be a gift from God.  Without the sorrow, without the realization of loss, resurrection has no meaning. 

I think we might have to pass through the sorrow before we can reach the joy of resurrection.  Even when death is a "blessing" - when it is the end of a long journey through cancer -- or Alzheimer's -- or suffering -- those of us here have to go through the sadness before we reach the realization of the blessing -- the resurrection. 

I can know the death ends the suffering, but that doesn't mean I can skip the sadness.  It's there, too.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011


It has been a busy few days.  On Thursday and Friday we had our fall board meeting.  That generates a whole lot of work, worry, preparation and execution.  It's a great Board of Trustees, and I love to be around them, but the meetings keep us busy for a few days.

Part of the Board meeting is a worship service.  The Trustee who led worship this time started out by talking about feeling like an outsider, and the first time he felt like a "loser."

He said something that stuck with me.  He said that we allow those who label us to have more power in our lives than our own sense of who we are.

Isn't that true?  Sometimes?  The older we get, I think the less we are prone to do that, but even now, at an age that starts with a 4, I still let that happen.

God doesn't use labels.  To God, we are not winners or losers; we are his children.  God sent his son so that none of us will be outsiders.

The next time I feel like I am on the outside, I'll remember Brent's sermon.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Leaves

Fall might be one of my favorite times of the year.  I love taking pictures of fall leaves, fall scenes.  There are days when the weather is absolutely perfect.  Blue skies, cool breezes, perfect lighting. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where I am Different

I found this today in a blog called The Potter's View (

There is a wonderful Chasidic story about the child of a rabbi who used to wander in the woods. At first his father let him wander, but over time he became concerned. The woods were dangerous. The father did not know what lurked there. He decided to discuss the matter with his child. One day he took him aside and said, “You know, I have noticed that each day you walk into the woods. I wonder, why do you go there?” The boy said to his father, “I go there to find God.” “That is a very good thing,” the father replied gently. “I am glad you are searching for God. But, my child, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?” “Yes,” the boy answered, “but I’m not.”

Where is the place where you are different enough to find God? Do you help to create that kind of atmosphere for others? Is your church that kind of place?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In Anticipation of the Day

Bishop Grove was telling a story in memory of Catholic Bishop who died.  The two men attended worship / communion services at which the other was leading.  When Bishop Grove approached the Catholic Bishop for communion, with his arms crossed (a symbol of a request for a blessing), the Catholic bishop pulled his arms down and said, "I want to serve you, in anticipation of the day."

In anticipation of the day...

What do we do in anticipation of the day?  Do we forgive those who hurt us in anticipation of the day when grace will overflow?  Do we love our enemies in anticipation of the day when love will reign?  Do we feed the hungry in anticipation of the day when no one will be hungry? Do we teach children the Word of God in anticipation of the day when every knee will bow?  Do we pray  in anticipation of the day when we will know God?  Do we worship in anticipation of the day when we will stand in front of God?  Do we share in communion in antiicpation of the day when we will all be gathered around the table?

Do we serve our Lord in anticipation of the day?

Does our service bring us and others a foretaste of the day to come?

Does our service bring that day closer?

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Image from the park


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Children's Sabbath prayer

Josh wrote a prayer today for Children's Sabbath:

Dear Lord;

Thank you for everything you have given to us. You have helped us through thick and thin. You have been there in times of need when we don't know what to do or don't know where to go. You have put us on the right path and led us where we need to be.

We know we have not done your will, and we have broken your law. we know we have sinned, and we know that we wil sin again, but Lord we just ask for your forgiveness.

Lord, we thank you for the children -- for what they have given, for what they do for this church and for what they do in this world, but, Lord, there are children in the world who are hungry, thirsty, deprived of sleep and who do not even have access to education, so Lord we ask for you to watch over them. Lead us to help them.

Lord, we are thankful for everything that you have given to us, though sometimes we have taken your gifts for granted. We are thankful for Joe Hill, who has led us in preparing for this service, and who shares his gifts with the youth group.

Lord we ask that you wil help the family of Marilyn Holleron who passed away last week.

Lord, we ask that you help us in our every day lives, and whenever we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Help us to make the right choice.

Let us never forget to pray as you son taught us to pray:

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 trespesses as we forgive those who tresspass against us and 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, October 15, 2011

Fall leaves

Ritter Park early this evening


Friday, October 14, 2011


Today's Friday Five:
(From RevGalBlogPals): So, I don't know about you, but I have had quite the scattered week. Sometimes, life is that way, right?  In the spirit of Scattered-ness, I offer you a scattery kind of Friday Five:
  1. I lose my keys all of the time. Even if they are in my hand, I still am looking for them. Sigh!  What is something you chronically looking for, if anything?  It used to be shoes -- I would just drop them anywhere in the house.  I try to make sure I put them in the closet now, so that's not as much of a problem.  I'm always looking for my sunglasses.  I often misplace whatever it is that I have in my hand -- "I just had that!  Where is it?"  I always lose the scissors and tape when I am wrapping gifts.  I've even tied them together, but then I just lose them both!
  2. What movie are you looking forward to watching sometime in the future? (me, the new Footloose!)I love movies, but I can't think of one that is coming out that is on my list of "I must go see it as soon as it comes out."  I am looking forward to the premier of Bones on TV, but that's not a movie.
  3. What is one of your favorite comfort foods? (me, pizza. hands down).  Chocolate!
  4. Story time. Tell us a story of one your favorite people that has touched, blessed your life.  I'm blessed that many favorite people touch my life.  A story from today -- Steve went to a funeral today of a man who died unexpectedly at 54 years old.  He left behind at least a couple of children -- two adults, one of them 18.  The 18 year old spoke at his father's funeral.  Steve was texting Grant, who told him what a terrific father he is.  I know that he is, and I know Grant thinks so, too, but I'm glad he articulated that to his father.
  5. What do you do to focus or calm or center yourself? (please, I need ideas!!!)  Knit.  Read.  Photograph.  Watch television (is that considered a centering activity?).  Use prayer beads in prayer.  Write.  Talk.


Thursday, October 13, 2011


Balance.  Moderation.  They are good words.  Words that are positive.
Read this quote from Living our Beliefs by Kenneth Carder:
“It makes no difference what you believe as long as you are sincere.”  Such a claim is often made in the name of faith and tolerance.  The affirmation, which is itself a belief or tenet of faith, makes sincerity the criteria for religious devotion.  It assumes that all religious beliefs are equal and their validity is judged by the firmness with which they are held and the sincerity with which they are acted upon.  Truth becomes synonymous with strong conviction, and faithfulness if validated by “it feels right.” (p23)
I agree with him that my conviction that something is truth doesn't make it truth.  My conviction should arise from truth; it doesn't work in the opposite direction.

Is there a danger in this, though?  Is there a danger that my own conviction that I am right make me arrogant?  How do I balance the idea that not everyone can be right against the idea that I and only I am right?

Perhaps the best I can do, in most situations, is to say, "This I believe...."

Carder also says this:
However, although Wesley and the Methodists “were fully committed to the principles of religious toleration and theological diversity, they were equally confident that there is a ‘marrow’ of Christian truth than can be identified and that must be conserved.”
I like that --  a marrow of Christian truth.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taking a Stand

Ritter Park on Saturday
Facebook is an odd addition to our social routines in our country.  Through this new medium, I can find out about the kidney stones of a person with whom I am "friends," but don't really know, and how his urologist is going to treat them.  Through Facebook, I can be reminded of birthdays, and add to the birthday celebration of friends far away or close by -- and, yes, all of those fun birthday wishes do add to the joy of the day.  Through Facebook, I can keep in touch with distant friends, I can hear news, I can see friends wearing funny glasses and carrying rubber chickens -- well, just one friend.  It's a strange mix.

Yesterday and today, Facebook opened up a different world for me.  A young woman I only know because I served on the Emmaus team when she was a pilgrim, posted an announcement.  She didn't want to start an argument or debate the issue, but she was announcing that she is called to be a pastor, and that she was pursuing credentials to follow her calling.  GREAT!

Except, it seems, it is not great.  Not for some who read her post.  Most people were very supportive, but others were not.  One person told her that she and those who encouraged her (including me, since I had posted my own support) have walked away from God's Word to serve "a god we really didn't want to know."  Her mother commented that while she loved her daughter, her daughter was wrong, and she did not approve of her decision.

We'll ignore the issue of a mother posting her opinion of her daughter's life decision of Facebook for the moment.

I know there are people who believe that it is wrong for a woman to preach.  I know there are people who believe that it is not biblical for a woman to teach men, to speak in church, to follow her calling from God to use her gifts in ministry. I know this is how some people believe.

I wonder if we stand up often enough to tell these people that they are wrong.  I wonder if we say often enough that their interpretation of the Bible is incorrect.  I wonder if we take enough of a stand against this kind of bigotry so that those who believe this way might challenge themselves to grow beyond this twisting of God's Word.
I wonder if by saying it more often we could somehow change this young woman's reality so that when she says, "I am called to be a pastor," she wouldn't feel as if she were revealing a deep secret that was going to be met with not only disapproval but also questions about her faith.

I am called to preach, to teach, to speak in church and to use my gifts to spread the Word of God.  While I have chosen to do this through the path of lay ministry, I stand with this young woman.  I am grateful to belong to a church (and a family) that supports my call.  May it also be so for this young woman.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Living our Doctrine

As part of my CLM training, I reading the book Living Our Beliefs by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder.

First of all, let me say that the copy of the book I'm reading belongs to our Annual Conference's Resident Bishop -- I borrowed it from him.  It has the Bishop's highlighting in it.  Cool.

The introduction talks about the idea that some people believe that we United Methodists don't have any real beliefs -- that we are "live and let believe."  Not so. 

But, the United Methodist church did not originate out of a battle over doctrine.  We began as a renewal movement from the Church of England.  Carder states that Wesley's concern was that our beliefs shape our lives.  What we believe should have an impact on how we live our lives.

"In other words, beliefs are to be lived, doctrine is to be practiced."  An authentic belief will bear the fruit of impacting and shaping our lives into the image of Christ.

To me, that says that Wesley would not be as concerned that we state our doctrine as much as he would want our lives to demonstrate our doctrine.

Sound familiar?  To me it is right in line with James -- faith without works is dead.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven is like...

Did you read the lectionary readings for last week?  One of them was the troublesome passage from Matthew (22:1-14).  It is a parable about a wedding feast.  The King has prepared the wedding feast and sends out his slaves to call those who have been invited.

Some who have been invited kind of blow it off, others went about their business, and some of them killed the king's slaves.

The king was enraged, and he sends out his troops to deal with "the murderers."  "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy."  Not one to waste a party, the king then invites people from the streets to come and enjoy.

The wedding was filled with guests. 

And then comes the part that is the reason I call it a "troublesome" passage:
But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not waring a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in there without a wedding robe?'  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand an foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.
So, what does that mean?  It doesn't sound like Christ to me, and it doesn't sound like a kingdom that would be very inviting. 

So, I did some reading today.
First of all, William Barclay says that this is actually two parables, with verses 11-14 (that I quoted above) being a second parable.  Read the first ten verses of this passage, and they can stand alone, and they teach a lesson we've heard from other parables of Jesus.

One blogger suggests, in a sermon she posted, that:
What we don’t know, because of the distance of time and culture, is that the people listening then would have known that the white robe was waiting for you when you got to the banquet. It would have been as easy to get as the bulletins we hand out every Sunday.
Pair that with what Barclay's explanation that this is a parable of an open door.  Everyone is invited to come in, "but when peopole come they must bring a life which seeks to fit the love which has been given them.  Grace is not only a gift; it is a grave responsiblity."

It's not a story about what the person was wearing.  It's a parable about picking up the life of grace.  I wonder if God says, "Come in the door.  It is open to all of my children.  I want you to come to the kingdom.  Here is grace -- freely offered." 

What is the result when we don't pick up the white robe at the door?  When we don't accept the gift, freely given?  We aren't really in the kingdom at all.  We're back outside, in the darkness, where we are not free.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011


Benjamin Franklin's grave in Philadelphia


Saturday, October 08, 2011


This sign was on the wall beside the new restroom in our mall --ll that is currently being renovated.

It brings to mind several questions for me.
  1. It is, of course, a double negative, so what is really says is that contractors are always allowed in the women's restroom, regardless of the circumstances.  How often do we post signs -- literally or figuratively -- that say one thing when we mean another?  Do we even realize that we do it?
  2. Interesting to me that after this demanding order, there is a "thank you."  What do you think the attitude of the sign-writer was when he/she wrote that?  Is s/he really grateful?
  3. What has happened to prompt the sign?  I'm not sure I really want to know!
  4. What is I am a female contractor?  What am I to do?

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Table Leader's Prayer

Let your light shine through me
So that the pilgrims around this table see you.
Shine through me.

When I don’t know what to say,
Let your word be my words.
When I say too much,
And make the experience,
Too much about me,
Let my words become your words.
Speak through me.

When a pilgrim is lost,
Heal through me.

Remind me that you have brought me to this place,
To this table,
Because this is where you want me to be.
Help me to remember that you have already
Equipped me with the gifts I need
Forgiven me for the mistakes I will make
Strengthened me for what comes next.
Help me to remember that I never walk alone.
You are my constant companion on this walk to Emmaus.
Even when I don’t recognize you.
Shine through me.


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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Find Joy in the Lord

Insprired by Philippians 4:4-8

Find joy, again and again, in the Lord!

Allow others to see the Lord through you.
Approach them with a gentle spirit, for
in your actions,
in your words,
in your witness,
they will see God.
Others will move closer to God
because of you.
Stop fretting.
Cast all of your worries on God.
His shoulders are wide,
and he can carry you.
He yearns to free you
from the prisons you make for yourself.
Take everything to God in prayer.
Bring him your needs,
your worries,
your gratitude.
Take all of it to God.
God will bring you peace.
It will cover you,
envelope you,
surround you,
beyond what you can understand.
Beyond what you can imagine.

My beloved sisters and brothers,
Start focusing on what is of God.
All creation, worthy of praise.
Fill your minds, your lives, your hearts
with these things.
Find joy, again and again, in the Lord!

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Two short poems

I wrote two poems today, without meaning to.

For the first, I was writing a difficult email to a group of people.  I started to end with my usual, "Grace," but then this appeared.  Seems like a good benediction to me:

Grace, I pray for you, abundant and overflowing,
Gratitude, I offer for you, loving and joyous,
Peace, I bring to you, beyond our understanding,
and Joy, I wish for you, a gift from God.

And then I left a birthday wish on Facebook, and it became this:

May your day be joyful,
Your life be hopeful,
and May you have no need to make wishes
as you blow out your candles.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Call to Worship

I'm working on Laity Sunday.  Here's the Call to Worship I've written:

Leader:  We have been invited by the Creator of the universe to enter the Kingdom
People:  Lord, help us to remember.
Leader:  We were loved before we knew God, we were forgiven of our sins, and we are made whole by God’s grace.
People:  Lord, help us to remember.
Leader:  Enter God’s gate with thanksgiving and with praise
People:  We will worship the Lord with gladness and come into his presence with singing.                       

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Monday, October 03, 2011

Autumn Prayer

As the breeze blows by
and the drying leaves,
Dying leaves,
Rustle with the footsteps
of the gardener,
The creator comes near.
Colors are so brilliant
that they hurt your eyes.
Yellow into orange into red.
Brown, foreshadowing death.
All against a blue, blue sky.
Free of snow, but ready.
The creator comes near.
The gardener trims the dead roses,
thorns bringing blood
that is wiped against the undergrowth.
Stained, like the sin in his life.
Dead growth is pruned away,
Weeds are ripped out
as the ground is prepared for emptiness.
Emptiness that will bring new life.
The creator comes near.
Finally in the house,
standing at the sink,
looking out over the garden,
the man washes away the dirt.
He feels the presence of the creator,
and he sends out a prayer.
For the hot water cleaning his hands,
warming his soul from the chill.
For the soup bubbling on the stove,
and the bread baking in the oven.
For the setting of the sun
on the golden splendor outside his window.
He offers up his gratitude
to the creator
who has come near.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011


Oh, Lord make haste to help us.
Oh, Lord, make speed to save us.
Oh, Lord, hear our prayer.

A man sat in a room
As a big issue was discussed.
What do we do about the problem of immigration?
What could be our reaction?
The man's suggestion,
if it could even be considered a suggestion,
Was to tattoo a mark on the forehead of the one
Who came,
Send him back,
and then shoot him on sight
if he returned.

Oh, Lord, make haste to help us.
Oh, Lord, make speed to save us.
Forgive us for our sins,
Forgive us.
Oh, Lord, hear our prayer.

A man sat in a room,
telling a story he remembered from long ago.
When homeless rode trains,
And looked for food along the way.
They would mark the homes of those
Who would provide.
A mark of grace.

Where help could be received.
Oh, Lord, make haste to help us.
Oh, Lord, make speed to save us.
Forgive us for our sins,
Forgive us.
Free us for joyful obedience.
Oh, Lord, hear our prayer.

Oh, Lord, may the mark I make
be one of grace.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Blog Gone and Back

Yesterday, as I was working on the blog, I deleted an image that was in the sidebar.  Once I did that, I lost the template -- that nice lighthouse image in the left hand corner and all of the blog formatting.

I like the lighthouse, and while I have changed the template for other blogs I manage, I've never changed this one.  It still has a very old Blogger template.  I've resisted the change because 1) I like how it looks, 2) it would be a lot of trouble, and 3) I haven't found something that I like better than what I have.

Faced, though, with the very plain blue replacement blog, I realized I had to do something, so I went out to look for a new blog template.  I found one I kind of liked, and downloaded it to replace the plain Jane blue template.  As I was doing that, I found a button that said, "revert to old style."  I pushed it, and you guessed it, old template was restored.
So, I'm back where I started.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  As I was planning the new blog template, I was thinking it might be a good time to think about the blog and to ponder some questions:
  1. Is posting every single day still what I want to do? 
  2. Do I have enough to say to continue daily posts?
  3. What if I allowed myself to miss days without trying to make them up?
  4. Would I be able to continue in the habit of posting at all?
  5. How disciplined could I be without the 'every day' rule?
  6. Could I switch to a five day a week rule?<li>If I continued with every day, do I need to pick up other disciplines so that I do have enough to say?
  7. Should I just continue with what I'm doing?

Same template, and no answers to these questions, but I'm thinking.

Perhaps the penultimate question is the one to really consider.  What else do I need to be doing in order to have spiritual thoughts to share?  Hmmm.