Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Two years ago, a friend named Bex sent me a book by Eric Telchin that she had found: "See a Heart Share a Heart".  I had been seeing hearts before that time and that is why she sent it to me.  What an amazing book full of hearts.  Eric's story is neat too.  I'm glad he took the time to put the hearts together.  If you click on the title of the book above, it goes to his website where you can see more hearts and get information about the book.

I continue to see hearts.  I post some of them in blogs, many of them on Instagram and Facebook.  Sometimes I just happen upon a heart.  Actually, that's what happens most of the time.

But at other times I found myself searching for hearts.  I keep my eyes peeled to the ground, the trees, the sky, etc.

This past Sunday I took a walk along a portion of the Tennessee Riverwalk in Chattanooga.  I wondered if I would see a heart.  As I descended a section of stairs, there it was in the trunk of a tree. 

February 18, 2018-- Riverwalk
Yesterday, on another portion of the same Riverwalk, I looked up and saw a heart in the clouds.

February 20, 2018-- Riverwalk
When I see a heart, I enjoy sharing it.

And others share them with me.  I enjoy seeing those hearts.

Isn't it wonderful to share something beautiful with one another?!?!

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Day 5-- Acts 10-- Disciples' Literal New Testament-- thoughts and reflections

I started the practice of reading Acts 10 a few days before Lent actually started. So on Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, I was on schedule.  But, today, I am already a day behind, doing "day 5" of 40 when I "should" be on day 6.

I've already admitted that I've bitten off more than I can chew.  Therefore, there is no "should" nor shame.  I am curious to continue reading different versions of the passage to see what speaks to me, but if I don't make 40 days or 40 versions, that's okay.

The goal in this practice was not to meet a certain "mark".  It was (and is) to deepen my understanding of Scripture and through that, to grow in my relationship with God, the Creator.

For today's reading, I have chosen the Disciples' Literal New Testament version (DLNT) from Bible Gateway.  This is a new version to me.  For more on this version, you can click here for a PDF that explains the DLNT very well.

I will use the opening prayer that I used for day 4 today:

Opening Prayer:

"God, as I open myself up to you in these moments to read this passage fresh and anew, I ask that you reveal to me that which you would have me learn today.  Help me see.  More than that, I pray for transformation as I take what you show me and apply it to my life.  Amen."

Cornelius' acts of serving to the people included the Jewish people.  He wasn't solely doing or giving for his own kind.  I don't think I caught that before, either due to the versions or my own perspective.  When we do for other people, it is often (more than not) for those that are like us in any way you'd like to describe.  Yet, Cornelius did things for the Jewish people, according to verse 2: "doing many acts-of-almsgiving to the [Jewish] people,"

That is enough to chew on right there, isn't it?  Who are the "different" people in my neighborhood, community, nation, and world that God has put in my path for me to serve? 

In this version, in Peter's vision, the voice says to Peter in response to Peter not wanting to eat of the food he sees: "The things which God made-clean, don't you be making-defiled". (verse 15)

In reading the PDF for the DLNT (linked above and here), it notes that words in bold are emphasized in the Greek.  The voice is emphasizing to Peter that he doesn't have a right to defile what God has made clean.

Another pause moment.  God changed the rules on Peter, making something clean that hadn't previously been clean.  Peter was attempting to stay strong, saying that he could never eat those things. (Peter attempted to stay strong in quite a few situations, didn't he?!?! He said he wouldn't deny Jesus either.  We can learn quite a bit from Peter.)  Yet, God wants Peter to understand that these are no longer defiled and for Peter to not eat them is defiling them.  There is more to understand too, from the vision, as Peter later learns when he meets Cornelius, but as they say, that's the "rest of the story."

In verses 19 and 20, the Spirit tells Peter to get up and go downstairs to greet the men and that it was the Spirit who sent them to him: "Behold-- three men as seeking you.  But having arisen, go down and proceed with them not doubting at all, because I have sent them forth."

In this version, the Spirit doesn't tell Peter to not ask a question, but rather to not doubt.  To not doubt what?  Who they are or why they are there, most likely.  Does Peter's question that follows in verse 21 signify doubt or curiosity?  Whether doubt or curiosity, there is such a thing of leaning into and living into the questions.  Questions aren't necessarily "bad".  They are questions. 

In verse 28, Peter reveals what he learned from the vision as he speaks to Cornelius and the others: "And-yet God showed me that I should be calling no person defiled or unclean."

I wonder, if God showed this to Peter, is this a lesson for us today?  Is there anyone on God's creation (as God's creation) that we have the right to call defiled or unclean?

I'll pause for a moment.  Have I ever called another human being unclean or defiled?  Or, have I even thought those words?  Yes.  In some instances, like Peter, I was taught that certain people were considered unclean or defiled.  Yet, if God taught Peter that it was no longer true and that was HUNDREDS of years ago, why do we still struggle today? [Okay, so that is a rhetorical question as I have "some" ideas: human nature, lack of knowledge, unwillingness to hear truth, etc.]

The more we know about one another, the harder it is to call each other defiled and unclean, right?! 

I am a sinner for many reasons, one being that I have not seen others as God sees them.  How can I share God's love with others whom I am unwilling to get to know, talk with, open my door to? 

As I repent of my sinfulness, I recognize that I am not to convince others of God's love for them, but to show them the love of Christ as best I can through my actions and maybe even words. 

I like the Agnus Day cartoons.  The one below is from the Acts 10 passage.

 "God loves everyone!"  God forgives us sinners.  That is good news.

I think that is all the "chewing" I am able to do today in Acts 10.  I found this version (the Disciples' Literal New Translation) to be interesting.  I may refer to it more often.

May we, like Peter, be willing to see others how God intends for us to see them.


Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Day 4-- Acts 10-- The Message-- thoughts and reflections

Day 4.

I wasn't able to read and study this morning.  It is now afternoon.  Mid-afternoon.

What version of the Bible will I read today?  After looking at a few on Bible Gateway, I decided on The Message for today.

Do I want to change my opening prayer?  It has worked so far, but today I "feel" different.  Not that one should rely on feelings and do something different.  But, sometimes different is good.  And, at other times, it is perfectly fine to use the same prayer.

Opening Prayer:

"God, as I open myself up to you in these moments to read this passage fresh and anew, I ask that you reveal to me that which you would have me learn today.  Help me see.  More than that, I pray for transformation as I take what you show me and apply it to my life.  Amen."

Taking on an entire chapter via lectio divina is quite a bit to chew.  That's why I pray each day for God to show me what I'm supposed to see in the reading that day.  The passage is  jam-packed with things.  I could read, write, and study for days on each version.  But I'm looking more at the overall impression I get as I read.  What stands out?  What gets my attention?  If I do this in the morning, then I can carry it with me throughout the day.

As I'm reading the passage now, the first thing that stands out to me is that the angel tells Cornelius that he has gotten God's attention by his prayers and "neighborly acts".  Because of this, God asks Cornelius to send for Peter to come to his home.  Cornelius had led those in his household to follow God through his way of life.

Was Cornelius surprised in that moment that God had paid attention to him?  Did Cornelius question why God would have noticed him?  Cornelius was simply living out his faith-- worshiping God, helping others, and being a man of prayer.  Somehow, that made him stand out to God and God wanted Peter to come meet Cornelius.

But Peter wouldn't go willingly to the house of a Gentile.  Gentiles were unclean people.  God had to prepare Peter first.

God did that.

Peter took some convincing.  In verse 14, Peter is reminding God that he doesn't eat unclean foods: "Oh, no, Lord.  I've never so much as tasted food that was not kosher."

God responds: "If God says it's okay, it's okay."

Peter and God "discuss" the situation three times.  Peter wasn't going to let go of his training, his tradition, his Scriptural heritage easily.  Yet it was God telling Peter that it was okay.

No wonder Peter was puzzled by the vision and the voice and trying to figure it all out.  Imagine something going against everything you had ever learned or heard.  That would be difficult.

As Peter was contemplating the vision, the Spirit spoke to him and told him to open the door to those looking for him: "Three men are knocking at the door looking for you.  Get down there and go with them.  Don't ask any questions.  I sent them to get you."

As if the vision and voice wasn't enough, there are three men now at the door, looking for him and he isn't supposed to ask questions, but just go with them.

So, Peter goes to the door and says, "I think I'm the man you're looking for.  What's up?"  (verse 21)

Here is an example of where I chuckle with The Message: "What's up?" Now in other versions, the question isn't so colloquial.  In the Common English Bible, the question is: "Why have you come?" In the New Revised Standard, the question is: "What is the reason for your coming?"  In The Living Bible, the question is: "Now what is it you want?" [These are the versions I've looked over so far.]

Regardless of how the question is phrased, Peter wasn't supposed to question in the first place.  But, that's okay.  He is still trying to figure out the vision and what it has to do with why they are there.  Who wouldn't ask a question?  If not out loud, then at least in one's heart, mind, and soul.

Peter shows hospitality to the travelers before they return to Cornelius the next day.  Peter allows strangers into his home.  Not only are they strangers, unknown to him, they are different from him.  He invites them in and provides a place to stay overnight and more than likely, a meal too.

I wonder what conversation they had over table fellowship?  Peter had been hungry prior to going to the rooftop and having his vision.  Eating a meal together would have allowed them time to talk about Cornelius, his family, the travel ahead, even Peter's vision.  There are no details to let us know what happened in that time.

When Peter arrived at Cornelius' home and after Cornelius made the introductions, Peter said: "You know, I'm sure that this is highly irregular.  Jews just don't do this-- visit and relax with people of another race." (verse 28)

Cornelius shared his visitation from the angel and Peter then was able to share the good news with all gathered there.  The Holy Spirit was poured out on the listeners (verse 44).

What strikes me today is that there is something to be said for hospitality, table fellowship, opening our homes to others who are different, sharing in conversation with one another, and listening to the nudges of the Holy Spirit who guides us.

God was working in and through both Cornelius and Peter to accomplish a bigger situation.

What can we learn from them?  What can I learn from them?

Am I willing to invite others into conversation like Cornelius or be invited into conversation like Peter?

What can be the result of such conversations?

Closing Prayer:

"Creator God, what would you have me learn from Cornelius and Peter?  Am I to be more open to others, to offer hospitality, to extend table fellowship, and/or to seek opportunities to have conversations with others who are different from me?  May it be so.  Amen."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Day 3-- Acts 10-- The Common English Bible- thoughts and reflections

Today I am using the Common English Bible.

Opening Prayer:

"Lord, open my eyes to what you have for me today.  Show me what you want me to see and guide my understanding.  Amen."

As I read this morning, two things stood out to me.

First, Peter was told to not ask any questions, but to just go with those who come.  What is the first thing Peter does?  He asks a question. 

Verses 20-21: "Go downstairs.  Don't ask questions; just go with them because I have sent them." So Peter went downstairs and told them, "I'm the one you are looking for.  Why have you come?"

It's normal, to ask questions, to wonder why.  Even when we are in a relationship with God whom we trust we still ask "why".   Does it mean Peter didn't trust the Spirit or the men who were sent or is the "why" such a natural question here that it flows out before he can stop it? 

It really isn't a big thing, that Peter asked a question after being told not to, but it caught my attention.  Sometimes people question the questions.  Questions are an important part of life and they are okay. They show an inquisitive frame of mind, a seeking of answers.  They don't necessarily show lack of trust or doubt.  But if there is doubt, that is okay too.  It's okay to have doubt and uncertainty.
A second thing that caught my attention this morning was when Peter was at Cornelius' home explaining why he came:

Verses 28-29: "He said to them, "You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders.  However, God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.  For this reason, when you sent for me, I came without objection.  I want to know, then, why you sent for me.""

Peter's vision of the clean and unclean food made a little more sense to him now in this context though he hadn't understood it initially when they came for him.  It was beginning to become clear, but he still had questions about why he was there.

How often are things not clear initially for us?  Whether God is calling us to a new path or whether we're trying to make sense of something that has happened or is happening in our life, there are often times of uncertainty of what it all means, where it is going, what is our place in all of it, etc.

I've learned to stand still until I see the next clear step.  (Well, for the most part.  I'm still learning!)  In Peter's case, his first step was the vision.  At first he didn't know what to do with it.  He held it in bewilderment.  Then, people arrived at the home inquiring for him and the Spirit told him to go with them.  When invited to the centurion's home, Peter then had some understanding of the meaning of the vision as he was being invited to go to someone's home where he wouldn't normally go.

As I reflect this morning, what would that have been like for Peter to accept the invitation to go to a centurion's home, the home of a Gentile, someone who was seen as unclean?  As Peter acknowledges later, Jews and Gentiles are not supposed to mix.  Yet, his vision had given him a new way of seeing and therefore a new way of being.

What does this mean for us today?  Who are the "unclean" in our communities, our world?  How is God calling us to respond as Cornelius and Peter to bridge any divides?

May God guide and direct us to be bridge builders.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Day 2 of Acts 10-- The Living Bible-- thoughts and reflections

Peter and Cornelius meet
Day 2

Today I chose The Living Bible for my Acts 10 reading from Bible Gateway.

I am going to use the same Opening Prayer that I used yesterday.  I may use it the entire time.  I may not.  It came easily to me yesterday. 

Opening Prayer:
"Lord, open my eyes to what you have for me today.  Show me what you want me to see and guide my understanding.  Amen."

As I begin to read this morning, right away, this stands out to me about Cornelius's character: godly, reverent, generous, and a man of prayer.

Another thing that catches my attention is that Peter is perplexed and puzzled by the vision of the food.  He is trying to figure out what this means to him, for him.  

I imagine Peter struggling with the thought 'why would these foods be okay now when they haven't been before?'   Verse 17 in this version says: "Peter was very perplexed.  What could the vision mean?  What was he supposed to do?"

What is Peter supposed to do with this new information from God?   In verse 15, the voice in the vision said: "Don't contradict God!"  That is easier said than done when you've been doing something one way for many years and God changes the path. 

That reminds me of the passages in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said: "You've heard ______, but I say ______."  Jesus changed the path.  (See Matthew 5.)

God brought together two men from differing backgrounds with two visions.  They both listened and obeyed what they were told.  Though it seemed odd, out of tradition, and maybe improbable (if you go find this person, will they respond and come back just because you've asked them to?), both men did as they were told and the result was that there was a space in which the Holy Spirit was able to make itself known.

By creating spaces of grace for others, the Holy Spirit has room to work.

May we be open to creating spaces of grace so that the Holy Spirit has room to work.

Blessings on your journey, 


Monday, February 12, 2018

Lent Photo-A-Day 2018

I enjoy taking pictures.  I've taken pictures since I was a kid and you know that if you've followed my blogs.  As I've grown in my faith, I've learned about contemplative photography and that has become one of my spiritual practices.

This is the Lent Photo-A-Day that I will (attempt to) follow this Lenten season, beginning Wednesday on Ash Wednesday.  Each day I will post the word of the day with a thought, a question, maybe a Scripture.  From there, folks can reflect on the word and take a picture of what it represents to them.

We learn from one another when we share our faith journeys, when we share what we are learning, how we are growing, even when we share our questions and doubts.

What Lenten practice(s) are you planning to pursue this season?

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  The background picture for my Lenten Photo-A-Day is a picture of the mountains from one of the arches at the Chapel at Lake Junaluska (taken at SoulFeast, 2014):

Reading and Studying Acts 10 in different versions-- Day 1

Church of St. Peter
The other day it struck me-- 'what if I spent time during Lent reading the same passage in a different version each day?'  If I reflected on the passage using lectio divina each day, what might come out of that divine reading?

I don't know if I'll make it to 40 versions or not.  We'll see.  But I'm going to start the journey.
I decided to read Acts 10 because this passage with Peter has struck me in the past and caught my attention.  I wondered what reading it intentionally over a period of time and allowing the Scripture to read me might do.

Today, 2/12/18, I begin with the New Revised StandardVersion of Acts 10.  (Click on the link to go to  the Bible Gateway link and passage.)

As a review of lectio divina (or an introduction), I will read through the passage several times.  Lectio divina involves reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding in prayer (oratio), and resting (contemplatio).  There are many good explanations on lectio divina.  Click here for a brochure from Contemplative Outreach.

Opening Prayer:
"Lord, open my eyes to what you have for me today.  Show me what you want me to see and guide my understanding.  Amen."

Acts 10 is a big passage.  I wonder if I'm biting off more than I can chew.  What stands out to me today?  That God prepared Cornelius and Peter separately to come together.  They were from different worlds, but God brought them together.  There are signs of hospitality in this passage, both from Peter and Cornelius.  Peter's vision merits more reflection.

What strikes me most today is the obedience of both Cornelius and Peter.  Both listened and obeyed.  They likely didn't fully understand what was being asked of them.  Cornelius didn't even know the person he was seeking.  Yet, both men followed through because they knew that what was happening was bigger than them and they simply did their part.  Peter wouldn't let Cornelius worship him and made him get up when he bowed to him, stating that he was 'only a mortal'.  Peter humbly responded to God's leading.

The result of listening and obeying of these two?  The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with all those in attendance and the Holy Spirit came upon them.  Lives were transformed.
May lives continue to be transformed by the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Whatever practice you choose during the upcoming Lenten season, may there be blessings on your journey!