Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You Can't Handle the Truth

I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now.  However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come.  John 16:12-13, Common English Bible

As I read this passage today, I was struck by the idea that sometimes it applies to us.

Have you ever been very convinced of how right you are and had a difficult time convincing someone else?  Have you ever encountered a stubbornly convinced person, who believed the same thing of themselves?  Have you ever been trying to convince someone of the righteousness of your opinion and not understood why they didn't see life your way?

Perhaps the phrase, "You can't handle it now" applies.  We can't understand it all right now.  Maybe the person didn't "get" it because he wasn't ready.  Maybe you (and I) were impossible to convince because we just weren't ready yet. 

If we can't know it all -- if there are times when we are not ready -- if there are times when someone else isn't ready yet, then perhaps for that reason alone we could suspend judgement.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Steve was telling me about a Casting Crowns song today. One of the first lines is, "We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing."

Understand when I say this that I'm saying it about myself as much as anyone else -- aren't they right? We cut down people. We judge. We point out the flaws (perceived or real) of other people, and I wonder if we sometimes take joy in it.

And yet that is not our calling. "The sword was never ours to swing." How would our relationships change if we did not judge? Would we love more? Help more? Serve more?

And isn't that our calling? The sword is not ours to swing, but loving and serving our our jobs.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Spirit of God

Fire.  Wind.  Forces that can be destructive.

We compare the Spirit of God to fire.  To wind.  Spirit of God, descend upon my heart.  I was reading a sermon at Reflectionary.  Martha talked about how we think that is a gentle vision -- God coming.

But fire can be violent.  Wind can be disturbing.  Do we really think God will always be calm and gentle.  Do we realize when we pray for the Spirit to come into our lives that our plans might be changed?  That our peaceful existence could be blown apart?

Spirit of God, Descend upon my heart.

Do we really mean it?

Clip art from Hermanoleon Clipart.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ten Things I like about Pentecost

Ten things I like about Pentecost:
  1. We always do something special in worship that involves the congregation.  We've passed out bells to ring when someone says, "spirit."  We've had streamers waved above the heads of the congregation, baking bread (bread machines positioned along the edges of the room, set up by volunteers, baking bread during the service to be used for communion). 
  2. It is a day that worship feels more alive. 
  3. Great music -- hymns that are enjoyable to sing (Spirit of Gentleness, Spirit of God)
  4. Communion
  5. Red -- the liturgical color is energetic
  6. Decorating the altar for Pentecost. Our pastor has asked me to do this for several years in a row, and he calls it "lighting the altar on fire." 
  7. Worship that involves a focus on the Holy Spirit
  8. Many members of the congregation wear red -- What other Sunday involves people wearing a color?  I like it.
  9. The quote from Acts -- "They are not drunk; it's only 9am" (paraphrasing, but doesn't it make you laugh?)
  10. Wake up!  God is alive and he is with you -- right now, this very minute!  Isn't that something to celebrate?

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hidden in the Code

I am sitting here, working on our church's devotional email for the week.  A member of our church wrote the devotional, emailed it to me, and I cut and pasted it into MailChimp to send out.

I wanted to tweak the font of her signature, so I opened the part of the programming that lets me see the html code.  This is what it says:
(span id="yui_3_2_0_1_13378636000256278")(strong>)(em)Dear God(/em)(/strong), (em)by the Power of Your Holy Spirit, create us anew.  Give us the breath to sing your praises and the faith to soar with you.  Give us power to discern what you call us to be and to do.  Come Holy Spirit, come! (strong)Amen(/strong).(/em)(br /)(br /)(br /)(br /) <span style="font-family: times new roman, i know that everything god does will endure forever">
I've changed the <> that usually appear in code to (), so that we can see the code iteself.  Notce what is in yellow.  That's a font name, but somehow it includes a special phrase -- and it was part of the font name. The author didn't put it there, and I didn't put it there.  Is it the name of the font?

Whatever it is, it is a reminder of faith.  Faith reminders are everywhere, hidden in the code of life, if we will just pay attention.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I was just reading a blog post.  The author was talking about the skunks that try to make their homes in her backyard.  Or in her neighbor's backyard.  She said that they all have a smal amount of land, and if one of them has a skunk, all of them have a skunk.  There is no avoiding it.
That sentence struck me. If one of us has a skunk, all of us have a skunk.  The odor is shared. 

We judge each other, and call each other namess.  We point out the flaws in each others' faith and we judge our neighbors.  We do this, forgetting that the skunk in our neighbor's yard smalls just as bad as a skunk we get rid of in our own yards.  A person who is homeless.  An ill neighbor.  Whatever it night be, our faith in Christ is constant, as is his love for us.  With that in mind, can we help each other?  Instead of judging each other?  A skunk is a skunk.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Picked to be Fruitful, Part 5

Remember, this passage is right before Jesus is arrested.  Jesus tells them, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” and that is what he is about to do.  I wonder if as he was being crucified th ey remembered his words and if they realized the amazing love they were witnessing.  I wonder if the early Christians heard a call to stand for their faith in these words.  And for us – I warned you that these words could be life-changing – radical.  Christianity is not easy.  I daresay it might even be harder than volleyball.  This kind of love – this kind of discipleship – requires that we lay down our lives.  Surrender all. 

Have you in your life ever been asked to do this?  Have you ever seriously considered laying down your life for God?  For your friends?  Have you done it?  Would you do it?  Would you let go of that which you are holding on to the tightest?  Would you release anger?  Resentment?  Expectations?  Would you lay down your treasures for Christ?  Your time?  Your plans?  Would you let go of your very life?  This passage tells us that we are called to do no less than that. 

Why would we ever do it?

Because we are chosen and loved by God.  And because Jesus says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”  This kind of friendship – this kind of love – is the only way to find joy.  Imagine that.  Imagine Jesus, saying these words to the disciples, knowing that he is about to be tortured and crucified.  Imagine wirting these words to an early church, facing persecution.  Lay down your life so that your joy may be complete. 

This joy that Jesus speaks about – it is more than happiness.  It is more than pleasure. It is joy – that bone deep joy that comes in being close to God.  It is the joy we are created to experience.  Christ died that we might have this joy.  God gave his son that we might have this joy.  And laying down our lives, accepting our calling to love as God loves – is the only way to reach this kind of joy. 
We were created by God and chosen – picked – given the privilege of being a partner with God in ministry.  We are part of the A-team – not because of who we are or what we have done… not because of who we know or how we might benefit someone else… not because of our skills and not even because of how good we are.  We have been chosen to be a friend of Jesus – a friend of God -- because we are loved by God. 

That’s life changing.  Transformational.  The change that it makes in our lives is that we are now called to model our lives after that love, and in so doing to bear fruit.  To love others as we have been loved.  God has loved us so that we might love others.  So that we might experience joy.

I invite you this week to spend some time connected to God – abiding in God’s presence – and asking yourself where he is calling you to love.  Consider how God’s word will be transformational in your life.  What fruit is he calling you to cultivate?   You have been chosen to be a partner with God – what is he leading you to do?


Saturday, May 19, 2012

PIcked to be Fruitul, Part 4

If you are a parent, then you know the power of friendship.  You watch as your children grow, worrying about who they choose as friends. Our friends have an impact on our lives. David Cunningham, in a commentary called Feasting on the Word, says that “These friendships are the most formative: a true friend who loves as God loves will, in time, teach us how to love as God loves." If that is the case – if being friends with someone can teach us how to love as God loves, then surely being the friend of God can lead us to love as he loves. It’s amazing and it’s radical and it’s life changing.

We are called to this friendship knowing that it will change our lives – knowing that we are called to love and to bear fruit for God. This kind of love is the root of discipleship. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. The word “as” in that sentence is interesting in Greek. It is the word kathos – it is a conjunction that can mean either a comparison – love in the same way that I have loved you – or it can be a cause – love because I have loved you. I like that it can be read both ways – and I like the dimension the word adds to the meaning. We are disciples of Christ. We follow him, learning from him – learning how to love as he has loved. We are also empowered by Christ’s love – we follow him, loving because he is loving us. I John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” So we learn to love, and we are empowered to love.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

PIcked to be Fruitful, Part 3

Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.   You did not choose me but I chose you.” 

We have been chosen to be a friend of Jesus “Friend” is one of those words that has been overused and diluted in its meaning.   If you are a member of Facebook, then you know what I mean.  We “friend” people on Facebook so that we can write on their walls (never mind that writing on someone’s wall doesn’t seem very friendly to me).  My sons have so many Facebook friends that to count them would be like counting the grains of sand on the beach.   Working for the Foundation, I meet many people across the Annual Conference.  I’ve actually walked up to one or two people, and said, “I’m so glad to meet you; we’re friends on Facebook.”  And its not only on the internet that we experience that level of friendship -- at professional gatherings for our work, we network – making friends for the benefit they can provide to us.  I’m sure you can think of other examples.  Jesus has not chosen us to be his Facebook friend. 

There is another kind of friend – maybe better called an acquaintance.  If we run into this person on the street or in the grocery store, we might stop and “catch up.”  These people come and go in our lives, and we enjoy them, and we might even cultivate these kinds of friendships because they can be fun, but when these people leave our lives, we might not notice much of an emptiness.  When storms arrive in our lives, these probably aren’t the people we would call for help.  Jesus has not chosen us for this passing kind of friendship.

There is a different level of friend – a deeper level of friendship.  Aristotle called it the “best kind.”  We don’t have many friends like this kind of friend because of the deep investment required of our time and our emotions.  These kinds of friends share each others’ lives – these friends know us, in ways not many people do.  In this passage Jesus tells us that we are his friends because he has made known to us everything he knows from the Father.  He has shared life with us.  We have been chosen by Jesus to be this kind of friend.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Picked to be Fruitful, Part 2

The passage we’ll be focusing on today is part of the Final Discourse in the Gospel of John. Beginning in Chapter 13, the disciples are gathered for a meal with Jesus – the final one before his arrest. The section begins with the foot washing, when he sets before them an example of love and servanthood. Chapters 14-16 are Jesus’ farewell message to the disciples, and the passage we will share today is right in the middle of that speech. In the verses leading up to this passage, Jesus tells the Disciples that if they have seen him, they have seen God. He promises them that even though he must leave, he does not leave them alone; the Spirit of God will be with them. He explains to them that they must stay connected to God through him. That setting is important to remember as we hear the words.

It’s also important to know that the words were written down during a period of history in the early church when the community was beginning to experience conflict and persecution at the end of the first century. Today we hear words spoken by Jesus to his disciples right before he died and written down for Christians facing arrest and torture because of their faith.

Read these words from the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verses 9-17:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

A couple of weekends ago I attended a District training class called Preaching from the Gospel of Mark. The teacher asked one of us to read a passage to the class. He didn’t want the rest of us to follow along in the bible, but to just listen. After the reader finished, he started asking us questions about the text – and none of us could answer them. I think that we get so used to hearing the words of the Bible that we don’t listen anymore. Either we think we already know what is going to be read (because we’ve heard it so many times before) or our mind simply wanders during the reading.

Today, though, I want us to stop and really listen to these words. These words that we will explore today have the potential to be life changing. To be transformational. To change not only our understanding of ourselves, but of God. To change not only our relationship with God but with each other. These words are radical and amazing. If we heard them and believed them and obeyed them, everything would change.

Continued tomorrow ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Picked to be Fruitful, Part 1

Chosen.  Picked.  They are words full of hope, especially when we hear their opposite – left behind.  Ignored.  Forgotten. 

I hate volleyball.  For every year of my three years of Junior High School, nine weeks of the 18 weeks spent in physical education centered around volleyball.  I’m not sure why volleyball was so important – I mean, really, do we play volleyball that much in real life that I HAD to learn how to play it in Junior High school?  I practiced at home; I tried to master the skills of serve and volley,but to no avail.  I was (and remain to this day) absolutely no good at the sport, if we must call it that.

I remember one particular gym class.  All of the students were lined up on the bleachers, and two Volleyball Marvels had been chosen as team captains, and told to pick their teams.  You know how that goes.  As each captain chose a team member, that person would get up and go stand in on the gym floor with the newly forming team, leaving the unchosen on the bleachers.  Ten of us left, six of us left, two of us left.  Not very many people have had the distinction in their lives of being the VERY LAST ONE left sitting on the bleachers, but I have.  I was the last person “chosen,” although at that point, what choice did the team captain have?  I was the one left, so I went to his team.  His choice might actually have been to leave me on the bleachers for all that I know.  Now, imagine having to play as a member of that team, knowing that you are literally the very last one anyone wanted.

I imagine many of us know what that kind of experience is like – maybe in sports, or maybe not, but we know what it is like to not be chosen. To not be the first choice. To not be the one who gets the job or who stays married. To be less loved or wanted than someone else.

Sunday’s lectionary reading from John shows us a different way. Sunday's reading shows us the way of God.

Continued tomorrow...


Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Inspiration

Photo Credit: WVUMC Communication Team
This is my husband - the one in the blue and white shirt.  This was taken last year as he participated in the Bishop's Bike Ride, an annual event in our Conference.  It's a 150 mile bike ride (that's the bikes you pedal, not the ones with motors) from Charleston to Buckhannon.  They ride to raise money for a cause, chosen each year by the Bishop.

He's riding again this year (see this link).  They are raising money for UMCOR -- the United Methodist Committee on Relief. 

And then, at the end of next month, he's riding his bike with another group of people from Huntington to Washington, DC to raise money for homeless veterans.  The money the team raises will be used to supply veterans with a starter kit for a home. 

I think he's amazing, and I think what he is doing is inspiring. 


Wednesday, May 09, 2012


The picture at the right is of the Blackwater river, right above the falls.  It's not very visible in this particular image, but the water in the river is the color of pale tea.

The spruce and hemlock along the river drop their needles into the water, and add tannin, changing the water's color.

Is there anything we do in life that changes the characteristics of the environment around us?  Certainly, there is.  The question to ask ourselves is whether what we do adds a "tannin" that is God-like.  Does what we do bring our world closer to the kingdom of God?  Do we allow God to work through us to color the world?

By the way, if you are given the opportunity to visit Blackwater Falls State Park, I highly recommend it.  The visit the falls, you can walk down a 214 step boardwalk -- worth the trip!


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Extraordinary friendship

I'm working on a sermon for Sunday based on John 15:9-17.  Tonight I'm thinking about the idea of being chosen to be a friend of God. 

There is something special and indescribable about being chosen.  Sought.  Picked.  Couple that with the idea of friendship and the passage is elevated to speaking about something extraordinary.

A friend chooses all the time.  A friend will choose to spend time with you, choose to share stories, choose to listen, choose to encourage and believe.  A friend is vulnerable and trusting. 

God has chosen you and me as friends.  Extraordinary.


Saturday, May 05, 2012


We may not see God, and when we do see him, the reality that we cannot see is so much more complete than what we can know here.

And yet, others can come to know God through the little that we do.  Women on an Emmaus walk this evening received a glimpse of God through the actions of the community, just showing up. 

We can't know what heaven is like, and yet the bible still tries to describe it. It will be way beyond anything we can imagine.

Can we put words to an indescribable love?  Can we find the adjectives to paint heaven for someone else? Or even for ourselves?  Can our feeble language be crafted into the shape of God?

No.  And yet we know if is more than we see now, more than we can understand, more than we imagine.  And we cling to that faith.


Friday, May 04, 2012

What I've been talking about lately

This is a image of the blog


Thursday, May 03, 2012

What are we doing?

I gave a presentation at a Parish meeting this evening.  The devotional was delivered by a pastor who also serves as a teacher during the day.  He asked his congregation to grade themselves in various areas of ministry.  Each person was to grade himself/herself in each area of ministry and then grade the church as a whole.

One thing that surpirsed him was that most of them graded themselves indiviudally lower than they graded the church as a whole.  What does that indicate?  Do we think other people do a better job than we do?  Do we think other people will do ministry we are unwilling to do?  Do we use the phrase "someone else will do it" as an excuse?  Or do we just not appreciate the nature and scope of the work that we do?


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Blackwater Falls State Park