Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cooper's Rock


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Friday Five -- Books

From RevGalBlogPals, let's talk about the books in your life...
  1. STUDYING: What is your favorite book or series for sermon prep or study? Or have you moved from books to on-line tools for your personal study? Years ago, when I took my first class on sermon prep, the teacher recommended a couple of commentary series.  One of them was the Daily Bible Study series by William Barclay.  I started collecting those, and now, years later, have the series in my office.  At my latest sermon prep class, the teacher recommended the Feasting on the Word commentaries, which I've started using.  I also really like my New Interpreter's Study Bible for the notes.
  2. IN THE QUEUE: Do you have a queue of books you are longing to read or do you read in bits and pieces over several books at a time? What's in the queue? I do usually have more than one book going at a time, and keep a list in a queue.  In my head.  I don't get to read nearly as much as I used to, though.
  3. FAVORITE OF ALL TIME: What's one book that you have to have in your study? Is it professional, personal, fun or artistic? (For instance, I have a copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It just helps sometimes.) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon remains one of my favorites.  Recently, I read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.  It is now my favorite photography book.   
  4. KINDLE OR PRINT? or both? Is there a trend in your recent purchases?  My answer is a little complicated.  For books I read for pleasure, I buy Kindle books and read them mainly on my Kindle Touch.  For books I want to annotate, I used to always buy the print version.  Lately, I've been buying the Kindle version, and reading them on my iPad, which has some great highlighting capabilities.  For books that have images, I buy Kindle and read on my iPad.  I still buy a few print books, but not many.  I just have too much trouble finding a place to store them.  I also have a membership at Audible -- I like to listen to books as well. 
  5. DISCARDS: I regularly cruise the "FREE BOOKS" rack at our local library. (I know, I know. It's a bad habit!) When's the last time you went through your books and gave some away (or threw some away?) Do you remember what made the discard pile?  The last time I did this, I got rid of lots of college textbooks.  I need to do it again.
BONUS: Post a picture of the present state of your study!  One of my joys is that I now (with the job I currently have) have a real live office.  I'll try to remember to post a picture of it later this week.  I will not be posting a picture of our bookshelves at home.  :-O


Sunday, October 28, 2012

New River

Sorry to have been scarce recently.  I've been in California for a national meeting of Foundations.  I never did adjust to the time change, and seemed to all asleep every evening at 8pm or earlier.  I would have written in the evenings, but I slept instead.

Tomorrow is a day of travel -- I hope to be back to the blog very soon.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Word No One Wants to Talk About

Sermon, cont (and this is the end)...

Jesus was telling him, and he tells us, to allow our behavior to follow our belief.

It isn’t easy. Jesus tells his disciples that moving a camel through the eye of a needle would be easier. Don’t try to explain that simile away. It’s hyperbole for a purpose. To do what Jesus is asking is more than difficult – Jesus tells us that it is impossible. It is like asking a camel to walk through the eye of a needle. But Jesus tells us to do it anyway.

With God, the impossible becomes possible. With God’s grace, we are empowered to give away even that which we thought was most value to us – because God’s grace becomes even more valuable to us.

A few years ago, I was leading a morning devotional for the Covenant Council of our Annual Conference. The Covenant Council is composed to the leaders of the different committees and work areas of the Conference. To end the devotional, playing off the name Covenant Council, I read John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. Hear these words of John Wesley’s, and listen carefully to what we are being asked to do:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

When I read that to the covenant council, I told them that I find the words hard to pray – maybe even impossible to pray. They are words I don’t want to talk about. I told the group that together we might be able to pray them; as an individual, I am not.

We are told that the rich young man walked away from Jesus, grieving. We assume he is unwilling to do what Jesus has asked him to do, and that that is why the man walks away, and maybe that’s true, but go read the story again; it doesn’t say that. I wonder if perhaps he walked away to do what Jesus asked him to do, but is grieving over the loss what he values the most. I wonder what happened next. What change did God work in the young man? Did the young man allow God to do the impossible in his life?

I invite you today to allow God to do the impossible in your life. Will you let go of what you value and trust the most so that you can enter into a relationship with God? Will you move beyond discipleship to the stewardship of what God has given you? Will you allow God to do the impossible and change the world through you?

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Words Nobody Wants to Talk About, Part 5

Asbury Woods and the Boy Scouts at work
Sermon Continued...

Here comes another word that nobody likes to talk about – the purpose of being a disciple is to move to becoming a Christian steward. We are called to stewardship.  

It’s too bad that we have corrupted that term. We hear it, and we want to stop listening. Have you stopped listening? It’s so much more than fundraising – it’s so much more than turning off the lights, and recycling water bottles. It isn’t about funding a budget or paying for church programs. Stewardship is trusting God enough to give God control of the blessings we have received. It’s the doing – it’s how disciples transform the world.

A few years ago, Jeff and Mary Taylor, Steve and I were youth counselors. We decided to take the youth on a trip to Asbury Woods one evening for a cookout. We planned to cook hotdogs and roast marshmallows over an open fire. You have to picture this. At Asbury Woods, the campfire site is down in the woods, surrounded by beautiful trees. Beautiful, flammable trees. I know I didn’t know anything about building a campfire, and I’m not sure the other three of us did either, but in the youth group, we had boy scouts. Boy scouts are disciples of outdoor survival. Matt Shideler and Lee Chirpas were good stewards of what they knew. They built the fire, controlled the fire, kept us from setting the forest on fire, and then, when the time was right, they put the fire out. Matt and Lee could have just stopped at learning outdoor skills, but they didn’t. Stewardship is taking the gifts you have been given, and the knowledge and faith you have gained as a disciple, and putting them to work for God.  

Jesus was calling the rich young man to move from discipleship to stewardship. The young man knew about God, he had been given many gifts, and Jesus called him to put the gifts and faith to work for God by selling what he had and giving the money to the poor. Jesus was telling him, and he tells us, to allow our behavior to follow our belief.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Word Nobody wants to Talk About, Part 4

New River
Next part of sermon...

In his book, entitled, amazingly enough, Beyond Money, Dan Dick says that discipleship is a means to an end, but it is not the end goal. It is not the end in itself.

Don’t get me wrong – we are called to be disciples. A disciple is a follower of Christ. Disciples are students, followers, apprentices. We are called to do that. But we are called to do more.

Five years ago, I was a research assistant in a diabetes research lab. I felt that God was calling me to move away from that position to do something else. God convinced me – and I may have been difficult to convince, and it did involve some sleepless nights – but God convinced me that he was calling me to work at the United Methodist Foundation.

Stepping into my new position meant that I needed to learn a whole lot about Foundation work. I went to Planned Giving School (did you know there is a planned giving school? I didn’t). I read books, I did research, I listened as people explained to me what I needed to know. I was a disciple.

But what would have happened if I had stopped there? What if I had only ever been a disciple ? Learning about what I needed to do, but never doing it?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Word Nobody Wants to Hear, part 3

My sermon, The Word Nobody Want to Hear, Part 3

At a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and again yesterday, our new Bishop, Bishop Steiner Ball, said that behavior follows belief. Think about that for just a minute. Behavior follows belief. What we believe dictates what we do. A person may buy a lottery ticket, and say that the purchase is just for fun, but deep inside that person believes there is a chance – even if it is a small chance – of winning. Otherwise, buying the ticket isn’t at all logical, and probably not very fun. Our behavior follows our belief. Earlier in this service we read together a statement of our beliefs. Does our behavior follow our beliefs?

Jesus is lovingly telling this young man that his behavior needs to follow his belief. The man was holding onto his possessions so tightly that he couldn’t receive what God wanted to give him, so Jesus tells him to sell his possessions and find his freedom. I believe Jesus sees that the rich young man loves his possessions more than he loves God. The man has faith, but he needs to move beyond his faith.  

We need to hear those words because we are often in the position of the rich young ruler – we are rich, and it is often money and possessions that stand between us and God, or it may be something else – something beyond money – but there is something we need to let go of – something we need to give to God so that he can use it for God’s purposes.

 I entitled this sermon “The word nobody wants to talk about.” What is the word that nobody wants to talk about? What is it that you value more than you value God? What is it that you are afraid to trust to God’s purposes? What is it that you would rather not name, but that is keeping you from reaching out to God? Keeping you from following him?

Jesus was telling this young man, and he tells us, “You say you are a disciple? Great! You need to be more than a disciple.”

What? More than a disciple?

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Monday, October 15, 2012

The Word Nobody Wants to talk about, Part 2

From Sunday's sermon, part2:

Hear these words from Mark. They follow immediately after the Mark 10:17-22 passage.

Mark 10:23-27:
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
In the second part of the passage, Jesus explains to his disciples that it is very difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine the disciples weren’t rich. For them, and for the audience of Mark, these words probably were comforting. But for us, people who live in the most prosperous country in the world – people who rarely have to worry about where our next meal is coming from and if we will have a place to sleep or clothes to wear tomorrow – these words are troubling. 

Jesus is asking the young man to do something radical – something unbelievable – to let go of what brings him security and safety and give it away in the name of God. He’s asking the man to trust God enough to let go of what he values the most and to give control of it to God. Jesus is asking the man to completely turn his world upside down. Truthfully, I don’t believe this is necessarily a story about money or possessions – and I don’t say that to lesson its impact, but to expand it. I think it goes beyond money.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Word Nobody Wants to Talk ABout, Part 1

The following is the first part of the sermon I delivered today for Laity Sunday.

A couple of years ago, I was a student in a Disciple Bible class. It was a great experience; I learned much about the bible and about discipleship. I would highly recommend it to anyone. One of the many things I learned in the class was a series of Bible study techniques. I still use them – and I like to teach them when I have the chance. They are little gems that are simple to use and can give me an entry into scriptural understanding. I thought we might start with one this morning.

Think about the passage of scripture that Martha / Chyrl read for us/ As we explore it, think about which character in the passage you relate to the most – if you were in the story, which person would you be?

Consider the rich man – that’s what the Gospel of Mark calls him -- other gospels tell us he is young and a “ruler.” So, picture a young, privileged man, used to getting his own way. He runs to Jesus, and kneels before him. Can you imagine that? A young, rich ruler, and he runs to Jesus, and kneels. He must in some way recognize something in Jesus that brings him to this humbling point, kneeling at the feet of a penniless rabbi. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It’s kind of an odd question when you think about it, isn’t it? What can I DO to inherit eternal life? An inheritance is a gift – it’s not something you earn because of what you have done; it’s something you are given. There’s a clue in that for us.

Jesus reminds him of the commandments, and the young man, who by this time must have been rather pleased with himself, says, “That’s me! I do all of that!” Are we sometimes that person, a little bit pleased with our faith?
Jesus looks at him and loves him, and then he tells him, “Sell what you own, give the money to the poor and follow me.” The man was shocked, and he went away grieving, because he was a rich man with many possessions. Jesus had just loving shared with this young man words that would lead him to eternal life, and the man turned away, grieving. Why would he do that? Why do we do that?

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Holy and beloved

I was at Covenant Council last weekend, and our new bishop talked about Colossians 3:12-17. She said it was her "life scripture."

1. We are God's chosen ones -- holy and beloved. We are God's chosen ones -- holy and beloved, no matter what. Nothing anyone does can change that -- it can't be taken away from us, and nothing we do can change it.

What difference does it make if we as a church see ourselves as holy and beloved? How does it affect our church if we believe we are important to God?

2. Bear with one another -- We are holy and beloved, but that doesn't mean we will have an easy life. We may not always agree -- and we need to remember that the person with whom we disagree is holy and beloved. How does that change how we live as a church? We need to remember to listen and hear the other, who is also holy and beloved.

3. What role does forgivness play in living out our calling to be aa church? Forgiveness will be needed at times. It is one of the healing powers of God. We need to remember that holding back forgiveness hurts us, not the person who is not being forgiven. Forgivness is necessary for us to live and work together.

4. Cloth yourselves in love. The bishop compared this to music. She said that there are times when we are living as a church when one person will bring a note of disharmony into the music. There is beauty in that, as we work toward resolution. There are wonderful possiblities for resolution that we have never even thought of before -- a new place, a place of God.

5. Teach and admonish each other in widsom. What does that say to you about being a church? We have not yet arrived. When in moments of conflict or evaluation, we can ask ourselves -- what is it that I need to hear in this conversation? What do I need to learn?

6. Be intentional -- claim the person you say that you are. If you believe, then your actions will follow your belief. Behavior follows belief. Think of another James passaage -- faith without works is dead. It doens't mean that what we do earns us grace -- it means that our behavior will follow our beliefs.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shared Desperation

Have you read Psalm 22?  It is one of the lectionary readings for this week.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
It breaks your heart to hear the desperation and sadness in the words. 

Does it surprise you to find this in the Bible?  Are you comfortable telling even these desolate thoughts to God?  Are you free to share the very deepest feelings with God?

I think the presence of Psalms like this one tell us that God wants to hear it all.  He wants the most authentic and honest thoughts and emotions we have.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Come to the Table

Text from hymn this Sunday... it was used as an invitation to communion. Poetry written by Susan Bentall Boersma.

In the desert, in the wilderness of life,
I am searching for the ONe who searches me.
As I wander, hungry, thirsty, lost, alone.
I hear God call; I hear the whisper of my name.
'Come to the table. Your name is written on my hand.
Come to the table. Your name is hidden in my heart.
Come to the table. Come to the table.
Come to the table, and live.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Our neighbors' flowers
The devotional I read today from Daily Feast:  Meditations from Feasting on the Word calls for the reader to reflect on this statement:
Speaking the darkness of faith is a daring, and faithful, act.  (J.S. Randolph Harris)
The devotional also quotes Paul E. Capetz:
Paradoxically, even a loss of faith may reflect a more genuine engagement wtih God than a faith that refuses to allow itself to be so tested.
What is your reaction to those two statements?

I think sometimes some of us hold so tightly to what we believe to be true that we become afraid to question it.   What does that fear stem from?  Is it a product of uncertainty?  Do we believe that what we hold to be true might not stand up to questioning?  Is it a product of teaching?  Have we been taught that to question what we have been told is wrong?  That God would disapprove of doubt?

I think God is strong enough, and I hope my faith is strong enough, to stand up to questions.  I think the end product of doubt and darkness and questions can only be a deepening of my faith.  To think otherwise -- to guard against questions -- seems to show a lack of faith, to me.


Saturday, October 06, 2012


My post today is about membership.

I was at a meeting the day before yesterday. We started talking about membership.

What does it mean to be a member of something? What does it mean to be a member of a church? Do we sometimes gets confused by the word?

We can be the member of an organization, like a country club. It has its rights and privileges. We can be a member of a church, and that's not the same thing. Being a member of a church should be compared to being a member of the body of Christ.

Two different things, and yet sometimes perhaps we act as if church is a club and we are members. Are we confused? Does our term membership confuse others, outside of the church?

What does it mean to you to be a member of your church?


Friday, October 05, 2012

Clear, Cool Living Water

New River from Grandview State Park
I was in a meeting yesterday.  The leader used the passage from James 3 as one of the scriptural basis for the opening worship. 
This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!  My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?  James 3:7-12
Have you ever looked at this passage in the light of the church?  Mark, the leader yesterday, encouraged us to consider the voice of the church and how it can gush salt water instead of fresh water.  How can we provide clear, cool, living water to people through our churches?

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The table is wide

This is World Communion Sunday. The current entry on the Painted Prayerbook is called 'And the Table is Wide.' You can see it

The table is wide. Open to all. I love that aspect of communion in the United Methodist Church. Every time we share communion, we are reminded that the table does not belong to us, or to the pastor, or to the church. It is God's table with His invitation to us to come forward. And he invites us all.

The table is wide. Don't let anything keep you from accepting the invitation.

Monday, October 01, 2012


From RevGalBlogPals Friday Five:
  1. When did you start blogging? What/who prompted you?  I started out as a blogger who wrote about knitting (at my other blog).  I still maintain that blog, but I started this one to write about things other than knitting.  Pretty soon, I was writing poetry and posting it on my Thoughts blog. 
  2. How often do you post? How often do you visit blogging friends and/or other blogs?  I blog several times a week.  I visit other blogs pretty often.
  3. Why do you keep on blogging?  I keep blogging because it promts me to think.  I opens my eyes to God. 
  4. What do you like to write about?  I like blogging the most when I have had an "ah ha" moment, and I can express it in words.  It most often happens when I have been reading something that sparks my thoughts.  It's harder to blog when I haven't been reading.
  5. Have your blogging habits changed--or are they changing?  I used to blog every day.  Every single day.  I don't do that anymore.