Friday, May 26, 2023

Perspectives: Disk Drive

See the disk drive on the keyboard? I bet most of our younger choir members have no idea or at least little experience with a disk drive like that.  Why is it that we insist on doing what we have always done when it doesn't work anymore?

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Book Review: In Her Words

 Information about the book

Amy Oden, ed. In Her Words: Women's Writings in the History of Christian Thought. Abingdon Press. Nashville. 1994. (Cokesbury / Amazon)

From the Amazon description: In Her Words illustrates the contributions made to contemporary Christian theology by the increasing number of female theologians. Oden compiles selections from the writings of major female theologians from the early church through the present. The older selections have been translated into modern English. Each selection is accompanied by a brief introduction outlining its historical and theological context. Selections from the early church include Perpetua, The Martyrdom of Crispina, The Martyrdom of Agape, Irene, and Chione; from the monastic and middle period are Clare of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Leoba, Julian of Norwich, and Catherine of Siena; and post-1500 C.E. include Teresa of Avila, Jane de Chantal, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Georgia Harkness.

I enjoyed this book. I read it in conjunction with the class Women Speak of God (reviewed on the blog).  The editor, Amy Oden, has assembled selected readings from or about 36 different women from Mary Magdalene (100s) through Georgia Harkness (1947).  The readings are arranged chronologically, and this helps the reader see the development of Christian thought throughout the two centuries - an excellent arrangement.

The Women Speak of God class focused on six of the women from the book.  There were times when the book's selection was longer than what we read in class, so when I wanted to know more of what a particular woman wrote, I could go to the book. This was helpful. I also enjoyed expanding the course to cover more than the six woman that was its focus. I recommend reading the book as a standalone or in conjunction with the class.

Note: I wish a Kindle version had been available, purely for transportation purposes.

Posts about book
Oden Words

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Unconditional Love

 Last Sunday, I was thinking about the phrase "unconditional love."

God loves us with an unconditional  love.  Agape love. Love that doesn't depend on what we do, or what sins we commit. God loves us unconditionally. I think we wonder if we can love like that. We aren't God, so we wonder about it. We are made in God's image - I believe I love my husband, my sons, my family, unconditionally.  The cat, I'm not so sure about.

But could unconditional love have other meanings, too. 

In Sunday school, we talked about how our society is transactional in nature. You do this for me, I'll do this for you. I'll give you $20, you'll give me part of a tank of gasoline. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. God's love isn't like that. God loves us whether we love God or not. God shows us how to live, commands us to follow God's laws, but if we don't (and we won't, no matter what you think), God loves us anyway.  It isn't an exchange.  It's unconditional.

I suppose loving someone no matter what they do or who they are or become is the other side of the coin of loving them no matter what they don't do. But do we love people WITHOUT an expectation of reward? Do we love people, serve people, without wanting or expecting something in return? Can we allow people to help us without feeling guilty about not returning the help? Can we love without strings attached? Unconditionally?


Friday, May 19, 2023

Perspectives: Marblehead



Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Catholic Spirit

I'm really enjoying the Wesley Theological seminary offerings through Be A Disciple.  The course I just finished is Methodist  Identity: Beliefs. 

As I worked through the course - I read some of  Wesley's sermons.  The day I wrote this post, I read Catholic Spirit. The man is articulate and inspired.  If you are interested in reading it yourself, it's online.   In this sermon, he is discussing what he considers to be essential beliefs of a Christian (I'm not listing those, but they are worth reading), and how, beyond those beliefs, we are to think and let think. It's a beautiful sermon on how to treat someone who disagrees with you. It's something I think we should all read.

From the sermon:

"If it be, give me thy hand." I do not mean, "Be of my opinion." You need not: I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, "I will be of your opinion." I cannot, it does not depend on my choice: I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. Keep you your opinion; I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other: only "give me thine hand."

What does it mean to "take my hand?" Wesley says it means to love me with a love that is kind.  Pray for me. Move me to good works. Love me not only in deed but also in action.  Do we do that? Do we take the hand of someone who disagrees with us? Will we not only ask for their love and prayers but also give them? Will we love a person we disagree with through our actions?

Doesn't this sound like something we need to read? To take to heart?

But while he is steadily fixed in his religious principles in what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus; while he firmly adheres to that worship of God which he judges to be most acceptable in his sight; and while he is united by the tenderest and closest ties to one particular congregation, --his heart is enlarged toward all mankind, those he knows and those he does not; he embraces with strong and cordial affection neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. This is catholic or universal love. And he that has this is of a catholic spirit. For love alone gives the title to this character: catholic love is a catholic spirit.


Monday, May 15, 2023

A Litany with Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuse.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord: I have no good apart from you.

Oh, God, protect me from my own thoughts.
I take shelter in your love.
I say to myself, "I am nothing."
I shelter in belovedness.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.
You hold my lot.

Oh, God, you fill me up.
You provide what I need to live a life
that gives joy - to me and to those I love.
You hold my life.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places
I have a Godly heritage.

My faith came from those who loved me.
My faith came from you,
who loved me into existence.
I have an holy and sacred heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
In the night also my heart instructs me.

In the darkness of the nights
Worry overwhelms me.
Help me to cling to you.
Instruct my heart.

I keep the Lord always before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Oh, God, you are the light in the darkness.
You are ever present with me,
Even when the world rocks under my feet,
I shall not be moved because of you.

Therefore my heart if glad, and my soul rejoices;
My body also rests secure.

Oh, God, fill my heart with gladness,
and lift my soul in rejoicing.
Fill me with your grace,
so that I know the security of your spirit.

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
In your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16, various verses in italics.

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Friday, May 12, 2023

Mountains in May



Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Like a Frightened Bird

Like a frightened bird,
I come to you, O God,
In you, my Lord, I seek protection
From my fear.
I look for refuge.
Save me from my self-made humiliation,
Rescue me from my unrighteousness.
In your righteousness, I search for salvation.

Do you hear me, O God?
Or do my words echo off the cliffs that threaten me?
Be the foundation under my feet,
Be my fortress.
Like a frightened bird
I feel my wings hitting nothingness,
And I count on you to be
The might tree that supports me,
Where I make my nest.
I count on you to be the stars that guide me
Through the darkness of night.
I feel my wings caught in hidden traps,
Nets that threaten to throw me to the dirt.
Help me, save me from the threats I cannot see.
Offer me safety.
My faith is trust.
Into your hands I land.
I give you my spirit, I trust you with my life.
You have saved me from myself,
From my sin.
You are a faithful God.
My life in in your hands.
My time is in your hands.
I trust you,
And count on you to see me,
Your smile to light my way.
Save me in your steadfast love.
Inspired by Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

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Monday, May 08, 2023

Certainty and Doubt

A few Sundays ago, I preached a sermon based on the "Doubting Thomas" passage of scripture in John 20:19-31.  The sermon's message was about faith - how faith is more than belief in doctrine, but is trust in God. I worried about the sermon which didn't go in the direction I would want a "Doubting Thomas" sermon to head - that doubt is OK, and is part of our faith. I don't think it was a sermon that said the opposite of that - that doubt is wrong, but I'm not sure it was affirming of that, either - because that wasn't its purpose, but still....

I'm reading Wholehearted Faith, written by Rachel Held Evans with Jeff Chu and published after her death in 2019.  I've always loved her books, but have put off reading this one because - well - because I miss her, and I knew this book would in some ways, make me sad.  But I picked it up last week, and it's wonderful so far (and makes me a little sad).

Today I read this:
"Those who believe that they believe in God, with without any passion in their heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God-Idea, not in God Himself," wrote the Spanish novelist and intellectual Miguel de Unamuno.  In other words, certainty isn't faith. And faith is marked by the humility to let yourself question - which is not a shortcoming but an acknowledgement of one's humanity.  Implicit in that assessment is the conviction that God makes room for our questions and for our humanity, that God is not some legalistic taskmaster, but instead the source of grace.
If I had read this chapter even a couple of weeks earlier, I probably would have included this quote.  It not only fits the message of the sermon - "certainty isn't faith" - but also gives the assurance that doubt it an integral and integrated part of faith.

This is part of how we love God with our whole mind, I think.


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Friday, May 05, 2023

Light and Reflections



Wednesday, May 03, 2023

An Adventure with Your Name on it, Part 4

This post is the final post in a series from a sermon.  It began on April 24.

Harkness also says that our faith will lead us on courageous adventures.  Faith means that we are willing to count the cost, and then take the risk anyway.

There was a story told at John Lewis’s funeral that really struck me when I heard it. In the 60’s, John Lewis was a leader in voting rights advocacy. Selma, Alabama is in Dallas County. The population of Dallas County was more than ½ African American, but only 2% of the voter roll was. John Lewis felt a call to open the doors of equality, and one of the ways to do that was to work for voting rights.  On February 18, 1965 in Alabama, rising racial tensions had resulted in bloodshed when state troopers had clubbed protesters in nearby Marion and shot a 26-year old to death. On March 7, John Lewis led what was planned to be a 54-mile march from Selma to the state capitol of Montgomery.  The March began at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and then crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge – a bridge named after a Confederate General who was also a grand dragon in the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.
As he prepared for the march, John Lewis packed a backpack with an apple, an orange, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and two books. He lost the backpack during the march, and he ended up being knocked to the ground by a state trooper and beaten in the head with a nightstick – multiple times – so badly that they fractured his skull.
He had packed a backpack because he thought the march would result in his arrest, and that he would end up in jail. In 1963 he had said, “We do not want to go to jail. But we will go to jail if this is the price we must pay for love, brotherhood, and true peace.”  He packed a backpack because he knew the cost – and he marched anyway.
God called John Lewis to work for freedom and true peace.  God calls you by name on a courageous adventure, too. Will you move forward, even when you know the cost?
Harkness explains that this kind of faith – trusting in God enough to reorder our lives and to move forward on a courageous adventure, aware of the cost, results in an awareness of saving help - an awareness of the power of God at work in our lives.  Let’s go back and visit Courageous Thomas again. In his doubt, what he needed to know is that this resurrected Jesus who can walk into a locked room was actually the Jesus who had died three days before – the Jesus who had taught them, led them, loved them. He needed to see the wounds to know that these were the same person. And what did Jesus do? Jesus provided Thomas with what he needed.  Courageous Thomas left that room not only knowing that the Jesus he had walked with was now resurrected, but also that God would provide what he needed – saving help.
Nineteen years ago, Scarlett and Fred Kellerman were at an event at their church – Lewisburg UMC – when the facilitator asked them “What is God calling you to do?”  Scarlet said, “Start a mission project and help people.”  The facilitator asked, “What’s stopping you?”
The created Wellspring of Greenbrier. A few months ago, 10 years later, as they were retiring, Scarlet said, “We keep in mind what Jesus asks us to do – to build his kingdom here on earth. Giving food, drink, clothing, freeing those who are imprisoned by addition and poverty. We do this for God and with His help. We could never have done this without the Spirit here.”
God calls us by name, and when we step out in faith, reordering our lives in trust, even though we know the cost, God will walk with us, providing what we need, providing saving help.
Your name is Beloved. God is calling you on a courageous adventure. On this day that feels like the aftermath of a great party, when Easter is over, when the trumpets are packed away, and the certainty of faith feels more amorphous, and we are wondering what to do, will you step out in faith, and answer your call?

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Monday, May 01, 2023

An Adventure with Your Name on it, Part 3

This post is the third in a series from a sermon.  It is continued on May 3, 2023.

Earlier this year I participated in an online course called Women Speak of God.  It was an examination of six women throughout Christian history whose words and lives have spoken – and still speak to us – about God.  One of the women we studied was Georgia Harkness.  She was a 20th century Methodist Theologian who lived from 1891 to 1974. She taught in the field of theological studies for almost 40 years, and she wrote prolifically about doctrine, devotional practices, and social issues.  According to what I read about her, she worked toward institutional justice for women and laypeople and passionately against the injustices of segregation, violence, and the use of atomic weapons.  Her writings about faith really intrigued me, and much of what I want to share with you today is from her writing.

 There are many in the room who could probably recite the beliefs we share as a church if I phrased it beginning with the words, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.  Is this belief what makes us a Christian?  No.  Belief and faith are not the same thing.  Faith is not agreeing to the truth of a statement – faith is something else – something more. 
First, Harkness says, faith is a positive trust – a willingness to place one’s life in someone else’s keeping.  It all comes down to this – it is NOT if we believe God exists. Faith means we TRUST God with our lives. I think churches around the world have many members who proclaim the existence of God, but that belief makes no difference in their lives.  We think atheism means not believing in God, and it does, but the bigger issue in churches is practical atheism.  Harkness says it like this: “The basic atheism is unwillingness to commit our lives to God’s keeping, callousness to God’s demands, the ordering of life as if God did not exist.”
The writer of the book of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  By God’s free gift of loving grace, by Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, we are forgiven, we are saved, we are transformed from what we were before to people who are moving on to perfection in love. God’s Holy Spirit is in this room with us, right now, and will leave this place with us – will proceed us in our day. This is the assurance of things we have hoped for. Do you believe it? To you trust in God so that you order your life around it? Do you hold in your heart the conviction that like Jesus, you too are called Beloved?
Many years ago, when I was a child – and I suppose I was taught this – I would end prayers with “thy will be done.” I remember praying that my great-grandmother would get well, “thy will be done” – but she didn’t.  She died.  It was many years, maybe even more than a decade – before I could use that phrase again.  It wasn’t until I came to the conclusion that I could trust God enough to trust that God’s will was loving and kind – truth worthy.
Maybe you think that only people like Terry, or Mark, or other people who carry the title “ordained” are called to ministry.  Maybe you doubt that God has a ministry for you to do. How do I assay this nicely? You are wrong.

I truly believe, and I want you to trust this – that God is calling your name for something. Will you hear God’s call and order your life around answering it? Will you trust God enough to answer God’s call? This is faith.

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Friday, April 28, 2023

Perspectives: Crafting

Someone asked me one day what I do for fun when I'm at home.  This is one of the things - cardmaking. How do you answer that question?

I do have a blog about my creative pursuits, although it hasn't received an update in a few months.  I hope to get back to it soon.  (


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

An Adventure with Your Name on it, Part 2

This post is the second in a series from a sermon.  It is continued on May 1, 2023

The scripture today is from John 20, verses 19-31. 

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

I think the structure of this passage is interesting.  It has two parallel stories with an interlude in the middle.  In the first one, the Disciples, without Thomas, are gathered in a locked room and Jesus joins them – it didn’t matter that the room was locked.  He shows them his hands and his side – the wounds.  The disciples rejoiced, and Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them and sent them out. 
They tell Thomas what has happened – “We have seen the Lord” - Did they say, “We have seen the Lord? Or did they say, “WE have seen the Lord!” (and you didn’t). Anyway, Thomas doesn’t believe them.
In the second, parallel half, almost the same thing happens – The Disciples are in a locked room, this time with Thomas, and Jesus comes in to the room.  He then responds to Thomas’s disbelief by providing what Thomas needs – to look at the wounds (just like before).  Thomas is convinced.
Thomas gets a new name – Doubting Thomas – or at least that’s what we call him.
Names are important, aren’t they? They identify us. My name is Kimberly Ann Brown Matthews.  Of course, I picked up the Matthews when I got married, but my name has not always been Kimberly Ann. For three days, after I was born, it was Terry Lee.  That was the name my parents decided to use – or maybe just my dad – because when I was three days old, Dad walked into the hospital room, and said, “Hi, Terry Lee.”  Mom told him that was not my name – she had changed it.  I wonder what I would have been like if my name had stayed Terry Lee.
Abram and Sarai received new names from God – Abraham, and Sarah.  Simon became Peter when Jesus renamed him, telling him he would be the rock on which the church would be built. If you remember the resurrection story from John, it was when Jesus said “Mary” that Mary Magdalene recognized him.  In some ways, we see Jesus with an additional name at his baptism – God’s spirit descended over the water, and a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved.”
We call Thomas “Doubting Thomas,” but Jesus didn’t. Jesus called him Beloved.  Jesus came back to the locked room, and provided what Thomas needed, and then, just like the other disciples, Thomas was called to faith.
I thought this Sunday after Easter – when the party is over and the trumpets are silent - would be a good time to talk about faith, and what difference it makes.
You do have a name in addition to the one your parents gave you. You are a follower of Christ – you are called a Christian.  What does that mean? 

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