Wednesday, February 29, 2012


We were in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic last week.  Steve was a vendor/sponsor for the trip, and I was able to go as his "plus one." 

A couple of mornings while we were there, I got up early enough to go to the beach to photograph the sunrise.  If you notice in the picture to the right, there is a line of clouds at the horizon.  These clouds blocked the sun as it was rising until it made it above the cloud level.

Because of the clouds, those of us waiting for the sunrise had to wait a little longer than anticipated.  One couple gave up, and as they were leaving, the gentleman said, "Let us know if the sun comes up."

I waited, knowing that eventually, the sun would rise, and the photo would be there.  It was, of course.

Do we get impatient waiting for God?  Do we start to doubt that he will appear?  All of us on the beach that morning were certain that the sun was actually going to rise - and yet one couple didn't stay, even though they knew it would eventually rise above the clouds. 

Do we have that kind of certainty about God, and do we lack perseverance, even in the face of that certainty? 

Should we rethink our impatience?


Punta Cana Sunrise

Punta Cana Sunrise


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stay in Love with God

Thirdly:  By attending upon all the ordinances of God:  OR Stay in love with God. 

·         Remembering the priority is ministry – This is not a game of getting as much money as we can, and distributing the least amount we can.  The goal is not money.  The goal is ministry.  The goal is answering the call of God.  (To be very Wesleyan about it – to earn all we can and to save all we can so that we can give all we can).
·         Praying – lifting the work up to God.
·         Working in community – with each other – so that our gifts and strengths, gifts from God, are used synergistically, to God’s glory.
·         Gratitude – in all ways, for all things (letters, conversation, worship, etc)
·         Generosity – being generous with my time, my talents, my love for others and for God.
·         In fact, it means practicing all of the spiritual gifts in the work we do – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – even when it is a challenge.
·         Work from an attitude of God’s grace and abundance, and allowing it to root out fear.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Do Good

Secondly:  By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men[and women]… OR Do good.

·         Seeing each person, each church, each agency, as an opportunity for ministry – a chance to do God’s work.  That means when I speak to them, I try to show them God.
·         Working with people to help them to achieve their giving goals for ministry.  Being an enabler for them.  Using what I know and what I have learned to help them to do what they are being called to do.
·         Seeing development in the larger sense – not as fundraising as the “industry” sees it, but as the development of disciples.  That might be done through stewardship training, educational opportunities in churches, estate planning events, marketing, etc.  It is also done as people learn and are enabled to be generous.
·         Teaching churches and individuals how to raise, manage and distribute money in a holy and sacred way (with social responsibility, grace and generosity)
·         Sharing faith, not just money – through the preambles and the letters.
·         Showing people the good their money and other people’s money is doing in ministry
·         Finding ways to distribute money with integrity – the “do we have” file.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do No Harm

As part of our recent Staff Retreat, Jeff asked us to consider how the work we do fits into Wesley's General Rules, modernized by Bishop Reuben Job into Three Simple Rules.  Over the next three days, I'll share some of my thoughts regarding this question.

First:  By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced…..  OR  Do no harm.

·         Never placing the fundraising above the donor.  The goal cannot be to get the money at all costs leaving the needs of the donor ignored or leaving the donor harmed by the fundraising.
·         Working with integrity so that the management of the money and the administration of the ministry are done well.  Doing these things poorly will damage the work we are doing.
·         Helping churches to develop policies and plans for healthy, not harmful, endowments.
·         Sharpening the tool – continuing education


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Actions as Evidence of Faith

(The following is a devotional I wrote for our recent Staff Retreat at the Foundation, and, as is my habit, I share it here with you.)

Those Methodists … they don’t have any real beliefs.  If you are Methodist, you can believe anything you want.

From Ken Carder’s book, “Living our beliefs…”

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.” (p25)  What do you believe – those deep, marrow beliefs – that there is a God, that he is alive in the world.  That he cares about us – loves us – all of us -- beyond our imagination. 

The Methodist emphasis upon “practical divinity” or holy living, therefore, recognizes the integral relationship between beliefs and behavior, faith and works.  It is not a diminishing of the importance of beliefs; rather, it is a declaration of the importance of beliefs in shaping who we are and our relationship with God and the world. (p27)  If we really believe what we say we believe, that it has to make a difference in what we do.

Sometimes we want these hard and fast statements of faith, so that we can say, “I am right, and you are wrong.”  That’s too easy.  The United Methodist Faith is more complicated than that.  Wesley’s Methodism doesn’t just say, “I believe…”  It says, “I believe, and my beliefs will change my actions.”

It is easier to say, “I am right and you are wrong” than it is to say, “I love God.  God loves you and me.  In order to love God, I must love you, and that love will change who I am and what I do.”

Wesley wrote, “What then is the mark?  Who is a Methodist, according to you own account?”  I answer: A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.  God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!  My God and my all!  Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

Believing that our faith is lived out in our lives, Wesley developed a way to live – the General Rules.  The process had two steps – trying to live out the rules, and then, because if we attempt to do it alone, we will fail, living out the rules in a group whose members would help each other.

Our work in the Foundation is ministry.  We’ve known that all along.  We work as a team.  We’ve known that all along, too.  Jeff has asked us to examine what we do in the light of the three simple rules, and I imagine we are all finding that our faith in God has impacted our living of the mission of the Foundation, and that as a team, we are better able to fulfill our calling to this ministry.

And when we do that, we find that God is there, meeting us at the center of what we believe and what we are doing.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Signs of the Covenant

(Published also as a Lenten Devotional in our church's Lenten Devotional Ministry)

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,…When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature in all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”  (Genesis 9:8, 16-17)

Imagine Noah standing on dry ground with his sons, having experienced the flood, hearing the Word of God spoken, and being told that God has made an everlasting covenant with him and all who will follow him.  Noah is shown what will be a sign – a reminder – of the promise God has made to his creation.  For all the days of his life, and his sons after him, the sign of that covenant must have allayed their fears and brought them comfort.  I imagine without the promise, they would have cringed at every raindrop.

Through the scriptures, we hear over and over again God’s words of steadfast loyalty, and we see signs of his covenant.  We find it in God’s conversations with Abraham, in God’s delivery of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, in his leadership of Moses, and in their arrival in the promised land.  Signs of the covenant are found as judges are raised and kings are anointed.  Believers sing about it in the psalms, and Jonah fights it as he descends to the belly of a fish.  Jesus is born, lives, dies and lives again, becoming the ultimate sign of the covenant.

My challenge to you during this period of lent is to open your hearts to the signs of the covenant around you every day.  Do you see God in the rising of the sun?  In the sight of hungry men and women eating a meal?  In the nods of understanding as you teach Sunday school? Then open your eyes and watch for God.  Do you hear God in the giggles of children?  In the hymns of praise sung on Sundays?  In the sound of righteous indignation voiced against injustice?  Then tune your listening ears for God.  Do you know God because of the strength God provides to you during times of distress?  Are you certain of God’s presence when you taste communion or touch the baptismal water?  Then remember to recognize God.

And then, when you are steeped in the certain hope of the presence of God, become a sign of the covenant.  Work to convince others of what you know – that we are all beloved children of God, precious in God’s sight.

Shine, like the light you have been created to be, a sign of the covenant.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A List

For today, a set of random thoughts written during a recent meeting:
  • Wilderness -- knowing you are going, but not knowing where you are going. 
  • What is your wilderness?
  • Getting rid of the crud (he meant a cold, but aren't there times in life when we need to get rid of the crud?
  • Finding Sabbath -- how do we do that?  What does it really mean?
  • Our quiet is not all that quiet (see yesterday's post)
Some of these may end up being blog posts on their own, but I thought it was an interesting list.



And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

At a meeting last weekend, we began by exploring the question, "Into what wilderness are you traveling this lent?"


Monday, February 20, 2012

Source of our Silence

I was in a meeting this past Saturday.  The leader of the group began an opening prayer with a moment of silence.  As we sank into the silence of the prayer, the room was filled with traffic noise from outside.  She began her prayer with the recognition that our silence doesn't come from the world around us.

What is the source of our silence? 

It is the habit of our church and of my Emmaus Community to sing as a congregation during Communion.  I have found that I can't compose a silent prayer at the altar rail because my mind can't ignore the world of the song long enough to pray.

I have also found that when I am in a group praying together, I can't pray very well -- string sentences together -- if there is a person in the group who comments during the prayer (Yes, Lord....etc). 

What is the source of our silence?

The world is not a place of silence.  It can be difficult to find quiet -- to quiet our minds and hearts to reach toward God, even when we are trying.  And when we are not trying-- when we are distracted and separated from God, then the silence is even more difficult to find.

What is the source of our silence?

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Sunday, February 19, 2012


Joe's sermon today was about the transfiguration.  He talked about glory.  He said his impulse at first was to prepare a sermon about coming down the mountain and joining in the work, but he realized that the "come down the mountain" part of the passage was just the end.  If we only focus on the trip down the mountain, do we shortchange the glory?

Where do you find glory in the world?  Joe talked about how we experience glory in the use of our gifts from God.  I get that.  I know that when I preach (sometimes), I find myself very close to God.  If I'm very careful about what I do, if I prepare spiritually, and open myself up for discernment, then I realize how God is working through me, in spite of me, with me, to do what he has called me to do.  I feel "in the zone."  I feel joy.  It is glory.

When you do experience glory?  What brings you close to the glory of God? 

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Friday, February 17, 2012


This evening I had the opportunity to chair a board meeting, to lead worship, to call a congregation to worship, to pray for those who are hurting...  It was a great privledge.

And I didn't want to do it.

A friend said to me, "You'll enjoy it." 

I said, "No, I won't."

That's not a very good attitude to have, and halfway through worship I realized how ungrateful my attitude was. 

I'm grateful God invites me to these opportunities, and next time, I'll begin with gratitude.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Today on Facebook, someone asked whether we thought it was OK to pray for specific requests, or if we should only pray generally -- for God's will to be done and for guidance in what we do.

What do you think?

My answer:  Prayer is conversation with God. Tell him everything. Be his daughter. Be angry, be sad, be joyful, be honest. God expects and wants it all. Just pray, and don't worry about what you are "supposed" to do.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I was talking to a woman yesterday who said that she had to continually try hard to be happy. She wondered if that were normal. I thought about it as I sat there. I wasn't sure what to tell her. It's not normal to me. As I thought about myself, I realized that I am often happy. I'm not happy all the time - no one is. Sometimes I'm sad or angry or bored, but underneath it all is this steady state of joy and hope. Is that foundaiton a happy result of life's circumstances? Is it a product of an optimistic personality? Or is it a gift of faith in God? As the woman asked the question, the first thing that came to mind was my faith. I'm not always happy, but I remain rooted in hope. And that is better than happiness. It's joy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trust and Change

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to preach for the Sunday afternoon service at our local retirment community. It's something I do a couple of times a year. I'm always blessed when I do. I usually am asked weeks, if not months, in advance, but this time, the request came as the result of a cancellation, so I didn't have much time to plan the sermon. I was busy that week, and didn't take the time to "move into" the planning the way I usually do. I had preached at a church a couple of weeks before, and just decided to "repurpose" the sermon. I had a few nagging feelings about the decision, but I stuck to my plan. On Saturday night, I reviewed the sermon, making a few changes, and then printed it out. On Sunday morning, the nagging feeling got bigger, and I knew that the message I had delivered at the church a few weeks prior was not the message that I needed to bring to the retirement community. Even so, my first reaction was that I had waiting too long to discern this message, and that there was nothing I could do about it. And yet the nagging doubt continued. So, I decided if God wanted it changed, he would enable me to do it, so I found a quiet room during Sunday school, and re-wrote the sermon. I was able to use parts of the previous sermon, but several pages were handwritten and new. I hope it went OK. I felt that it was the message I was supposed to deliver. In my mind, my discernment was affirmed by the worship leader's selection of "Trust and Obey" as the opening hymn.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hungry Deer

Friday, February 10, 2012


From RevGalBlogPals:
It's Valentine's Day on Tuesday.... So, share 5 Valentines you would like to give this year, and why-- but here is the hitch, you can't give them G-d, Jesus, Holy Spirit...or your mom, your beloved, your sweet child(ren)...tell us about the other amazing beings in your life.
That's difficult.  What if I listed 5 valentines I would send to people -- just today?  Who would they be if I had to not include family or God?
  1. A women called me this morning.  Her mother died last night.  Today she is working her way through funeral plans.  Our Foundation is to the "in lieu of flowers" recipient for donations.  She said, "my mother lived an incredible life."  She was obviously amazed by her mother and her mother's generosity, and she is trying to honor her through these gifts. 
  2. Since I can't, by definition of the game, list my Mom, who is ALWAYS helping, I'll list my brother-in-law, who today provided Plan B.
  3. S, who is new in the very complicated job she has, but is still moving forward, trying to do all she can to do it all right.
  4. D, who is trying to help someone.
  5. M, whose birthday we are celebrating.
  6. B, who is living life, no matter what, and J, who is listening to him.
Amazing people. They are in my days, every day, different each day.


Thursday, February 09, 2012


I read an email this morning that quoted Mark Batterson's book, The Circle Maker.  Batterson is talking about the Israelites in the wilderness, complaining about the manna.  They want meat!  He says,"The Israelites longingly remember the free fish they ate in Egypt, and forget the little fact that the food was free because they weren't."

They were asking for a miracle while ignoring that manna was arriving from heaven.

Do we complain because we miss the miracles right in front of us?  Perhaps today I'll watch for the miracles, instead of complaining. 

Where are the miracles in your life?  What manna has God sent your way?

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Go and read this post at the Painted Prayerbook.

Roll the idea of "translucent with grace" around in your mind.  What would it be like to be translucent with grace?  I imagine that a person who was translucent with grace would be someone through whom Christ could be seen.  It would be someone through whom God's love shines brightly and clearly.  Perhaps one of the goals of sanctification is to make us translucent with grace.

And did you notice the words the dying man is still able to form, even though his brain cancer is moving him beyond the ability to speak?  He still says "random" words -- "blessing, blest, grace, friends, church, my voice, your voice."  There is a scene in the movie The Hunt for Red October when the sonar operator (I think it's the sonar operator -- doesn't matter) says that when the equipment that identifies other ships in the water can't identify then, it "runs home to mother," and call them magma displacement (because the system was geological in origin).  That's a very convoluted analogy to say that when everything is stripped away, it is probably a sign of that translucence that we are left with words of grace.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Wait Upon the Lord

One of the lectionary readings for last Sunday was Mark 1:29-39.  It's the story of Jesus going to Simon's house and healing his mother-in-law.  And then he heals all of the people gathered outside the house.  It is verse 35 that interested me this week, though.  In the midst of it all, after healing people and before moving on to the next town to start it all again, he sneaks out of the house and goes off by himself to pray.

Maybe sneaks is a strong word, but he leaves, and no one knows where he has gone.  They have to hunt for him. 

In the busyness of ministry, do we forget to stop and go off by ourselves to pray?  To discern God's will?  To seek renewal, strength and guidance from God?  If Jesus himself needed to do it, don't we think we need to do it, too?

It was also interesting to me to see that this passage is paired in the lectionary will verses from Isaiah 40: 
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (verse 31)
Do we wait up on the Lord?

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Saturday, February 04, 2012


And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures,
and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  (Genesis 1:20)

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you...  (Job 12:7)

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
(Matthew 6:26)

It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden.
 It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
(Luke 13:19)

And, yes, the bird feeders are out again.  


Thursday, February 02, 2012

How Far?

Think about Zebedee.  He stood in his boat while his two sons, James and John, left everything they knew, including their father, to follow Jesus.

What would you have thought?  What would you think if your child did something radical like that?

Would you be supportive if your child told you he or she was following the call of God and going to the Philippines to be a missionary?  Going to seminary?  Doing something even more radical to follow God's call?  How would I react?

Could I stand in the boat?  And watch?  How far would I let my children go in their discipleship? Would I risk my children's futures as they follow God?

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The King Reigns

Finally, some pictures.  I took these yesterday from the car.  They aren't the best pictures, but the sky was so beautiful, both morning and evening, that I couldn't not take pictures.  Such beauty is hard to capture, hard to share in pixels.  But I try anyway.

It is that way with God.  It's hard to share the news.  To express the reality of it -- the joy of it.

In church Sunday, Joe talked about being a joyful messenger for Christ. 

In the times of Isaiah, the king would go with the army to fight the wars.  The people were left at home to carry on, hoping that the king was still alive, still fighting, still reigning.

The king would sound back messengers to declare that the king was still king -- be loyal, be at work, the king still lives. 

That messenger needed to be joyful, needed to be enthusiastic.  He needed to be trustworthy, and not stop along the way home - not get distracted or tired. 

He needed to be all of things we need to be for God if we are going to be joyful messengers of His word.

Trustworthy.  Enthusiastic.  Dedicated.  Certain.  Faithful. 

Be joyful.  The king is alive and is still reigning.  Spread the word.