Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Transition time.... waiting, listening, and prayer time.

You may or may not be going through a transition time right now in your personal life.  What about those around you?  Church?  Other family members?  Friends? 

My daughter recently "graduated" or was promoted from 5th grade to 6th grade.  So, after 6 years at our beloved Ganns Middle Valley Elementary, we'll be moving onward to Hixson Middle School in the Fall.  GULP!  Even though this transition is difficult for her, I can tell that she is embracing it because she decorated her manila folder with expressions of saying goodbye to Ganns and greeting Hixson Middle.  She used the colors and wildcat paw print primarily on her artwork.

Our church is facing transition as our senior pastor moves on to the role of D.S. (District Superintendent) and our other pastor retires up north.   We also have folks taking on full time roles from part-time ones and others getting into their roles now that the school year is over.  We also have one staff member stepping out of their role, me. 

I am in transition.  Lots of it.  As a Mom, as Director of Missions (which ends tomorrow), as a Candidate for Ordination (which is simply in transitional process as the journey continues), as a student (the semester is over!), etc. 

I would like to say that I am embracing this transition time in my life, like my daughter.  And, some days I do.  The choices I've made that have led to some of my personal transitions are choices based on my listening to God and discerning what to do.  It still doesn't make it easy. 

Some days I feel like I'm in that cocoon again, struggling to make the wings strong enough to break out of the darkness into the light so that I might be able to fly.  Yet, once this butterfly get out of the cocoon, the wings still need to dry to strengthen before I can fly.  So, whether in the cocoon or outside of it, there is always waiting time. 

Maybe that's what I struggle with most during transition time, the waiting time.  However, from all that I've read about waiting (Sue Monk Kidd, etc.), I know that the waiting time is not lost.  It is not wasted.  It is active time.

Recently, I read a post by Jerry Webber about waiting.  You can read it here: "Waiting Is A Moment Too".  Jerry was one of the faculty members at session #2 of my Academy #32.  Great blog.  Check it out!

Yesterday, at my last staff meeting, the lead pastor read from the introduction to Habakkuk from The Message.

Here is some of that introduction:

"Living by faith is a bewildering venture.  We rarely know what's coming next, and not many things turn out the way we anticipate.  It is natural to assume that since I am God's chosen and beloved, I will get favorable treatment from the God who favors me so extravagantly.  It is not unreasonable to expect that from the time I become his follower, I will be exempt from dead ends, muddy detours, and cruel treatment from the travelers I meet daily who are walking the other direction.  That God-followers don't get preferential treatment in life always comes as a surprise.  But it's also a surprise to find that there are a few men and women within the Bible who show up alongside us at such moments.
     The prophet Habakkuk is one of them, and a most welcom companion he is.  Most prophets, most of the time, speak God's Word to us.  [...] But Habakkuk speaks our word to God.  He gives voice to our bewilderment, articulates our puzzled attempts to make sense of things, faces God with our disappointment with God.  [...]
     But this prophet companion who stands at our side does something even more important: He waits and he listens.  It is in his waiting and listening--which then turn into his praying--that he found himself inhabiting the large world of God's sovereignty. [...]" (1692)

Though not explicitly said, this speaks to me about transition and the times in our lives when we don't know what's coming next.  Living by faith is at times a "bewildering venture", yet it's definitely an awesome ADventure too!! ☺  It is comforting to realize that there are folks along the journey that will come alongside us, just as we will come alongside them.  They will pray to God for us; we will pray to God for them.  It strikes me that Habakkuk is a spiritual companion after whom we can model.  He waited and listened.... "It is in his waiting and listening--which then turn into his praying...." (1692)  When we come alongside someone, we can wait and listen, allowing our waiting and listening to become prayer.

Who have been the Habakkuks in your life?
For whom have you been Habakkuk?

Blessing on your journey!  May you be able to embrace the transitions!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wearing Christ...being clothed in the power from on high

To wear Christ, to put on Christ, to be clothed with Christ.... what does this mean metaphorically? 

On Sunday, the expression "clothed in power" came up in the sermon and in the Scripture for the sermon.  Luke 24:49: "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, so this power from on high is referring to Holy Spirit power.

Here is another Scriptural reference to being clothed in the metaphorical sense, this time with Christ:

Galatians 3:27-- "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

The clothing with the power on high might have slipped by me after Sunday's sermon if it weren't for the devotional for the same day, May 27, in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

Here is that devotional:

"SEEK MY FACE at the beginning of your day.  This practice enables you to "put Me on" and "wear Me" throughout the day.  Most people put on clothes soon after arising from bed.  Similarly, the sooner you "put Me on" by communicating with Me, the better prepared you are for whatever comes your way.
     To "wear Me" is essentially to have My mind: to think my thoughts.  Ask the Holy Spirit to control your thinking; be transformed by this renewal within you.  Thus you are well equipped to face whatever people and situations I bring your way.  Clothing your mind in Me is your best preparation for each day.  This discipline brings Joy and Peace to you and those around you."  (page 154)

The Scripture references for this particular devotion are: Psalm 27:8; Romans 13:14; and Colossians 3:12.

I figured if I heard and read about "being clothed" twice in one day, then I might should stop, look, and listen. ☺ 

However, my brain doesn't always flow normally and as I was reflecting, the only thing that would come to mind at first was the line from a song from the 1980s that says: "take on me, take me on".  I can hear the line in my head.... I can even hear the music in my head, but I couldn't tell you the artist.  I remember it from working out in the gym during my college years.

Hurray for the computer.... and an A-HA moment, literally.  ☺  The group's name is "A-ha", a Norwegian pop band.  It was recorded in 1984 and released in 1985.

The lyrics:

We're talking away
I don't know what
I'm to say I'll say it anyway
Today's another day to find you
Shying away
I'll be coming for your love, OK?

Take on me, take me on
I'll be gone
In a day or two

So needless to say
I'm odds and ends
I'll be stumbling away
Slowly learning that life is OK
Say after me
It's no better to be safe than sorry


Oh the things that you say
Is it live or
Just to play my worries away
You're all the things I've got to remember
You're shying away
I'll be coming for you anyway

Click here to listen and watch a video.  It's mostly a black and white cartoon video.

So, random brain waves from the 1980s cause me to travel back in time.  I don't know if I want to "take on Christ", I think I'll work on the "putting on" right now.... though I will admit to being stubborn and arguing and wrestling from time to time.... but that's another blog.  Maybe.

Back to the devotional.... after the random thoughts from the 1980s, the statement about putting on clothes and comparing that with putting on Christ by communicating with Christ was good.  That reminded me of Ephesians and the armor of God.   I wear clothes daily.  I don't always take the time to daily put on my armor or even start my day with conversation in Christ.  Some days my conversation with God, Christ, and Holy Spirit happens at a later point in the day.  To attempt to do that earlier in the day could feasibly save me some trials and tribulations, or at least some headaches. ☺  Some days are better than others.  And, thankfully, there is always grace.

Another line that caught my attention was this one: "Clothing your mind in Me is your best preparation for each day."  Simple, but true.  Good stuff.

As I consider what it means to clothe myself with "power from on high" and/or "with Christ", I realize that what I am clothing myself with are the characteristics of Christ.  That's not a bad way to be dressed daily.

Are you clothed in the power from on high?

Blessings on your journey!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Clergy registration in the mail for annual conference... what's up with that?

On May 11th I went before the SPRC (Staff Parish) as one of the final steps toward continuing on the ordination journey (if there is ever such a thing as "final steps").  Then, on May 17th, I received a packet in the mail from the Holston Conference for the upcoming Annual Conference in June.  I'm not a delegate this year, so I'm wondering what this is about as it clearly says on the envelope, "IMPORTANT!  Annual Conference Materials Enclosed".

So, I open the envelope and pull out this registration card.  Take a look at it for yourself:

GULP!  That was my initial reaction.  Other reactions?  Shock, surprise, thinking-- 'no way things can move THIS quickly'.  I knew I wasn't THIS far along in the process yet.  I haven't even gone before the church (which will be June 3) to allow them to say "yes" or "no" in supporting me in this ordination journey. 

Even though it did catch me off guard, and I was pretty sure that a mistake had been made, it did cause me to see myself as clergy in plain black and white.  And I didn't run.  I stood there (metaphorically and physically).  It felt right.  Okay, saying that is pretty darn scary.... just as admitting that being a teacher was right for me all those years ago when I first started teaching. 

But, back to Annual Conference.... I really couldn't go if I needed to.  I am filling in for another pastor-- pulpit supply-- on June 10th.  Then, we made some family commitments for the latter part of the week, and there are swim meets, etc.  So, I did what any good candidate would do.  First, I sent my mentor an email.  Then, yesterday, I called my D.S. (District Superintendent) and told him about this packet I received and that it was for clergy registration.  He echoed my own thoughts and words as he told me I'm not that far along in the process yet.  Whew!!  Relief, along with a tad bit of disappointment.  He said I could disregard the mail, that a mistake had been made.

So, I'll disregard the clergy registration for this summer...... but if it's any sort of sign, maybe I'll be getting another one next year and I'd better block off that time and plan to be at Lake Junaluska.  Who knows?!?!  The awesome thing is..... God knows!!!  And, God is the One is charge!!

Who knew a piece of mail could cause my heart, mind, and soul to go a little wild?  Who knew it would come out in a blog post? 

This time it was a "false alarm", something to be disregarded.  Yet, it is still a "cause for pause".... at least for me. 

What in your day has been a "cause for pause"?  Did it turn out to be a "false alarm"? 

Blessings on your journey!


Breaking through the darkness...

Darkness happens.  It happens daily physically.  It can happen emotionally and spiritually.  It comes about for different reasons and sometimes stays longer than we would like it to.  Yet, the dawn does come again.  Last week I read a devotion in Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God by Macrina Wiederkehr that talked about darkness and the light breaking through.  The Scripture reference was John 21:1-14.  The author had written an interpretation, allowing John's words to be more personal.  It's on page 27 if you're interested in checking it out.  John and the others were in deep darkness.  The day began to dawn and not only did they begin to see physical light, but there was a breakthrough spiritually and emotionally for them as they recognized the Lord.

One of the questions Macrina offers for reflection is this: "What present darkness in your life most needs to be blessed with the light of resurrection?  Envision the light of dawn breaking into that darkness." (29)

There is a poem at the end of the chapter (29-30).  Or a prayer.  Or both.  I believe it is written by Macrina Wiederkehr because no other credit is given.

O Risen Christ,
When I search for you in the darkness
    Show me the light of your face.
When my darkness is too heavy
    Send me the dawn.
When I am dejected because of your absence
    Remind me to share my presence with someone.
When I am hungry for nourishment
    Invite me to breakfast.
When I cast my nets on the wrong side of life
    Come to my assistance.
When I do not recognize you
    Call me by name.

Are you experiencing darkness on your journey?  If so, may the words from John and Macrina be used to bring some light into that darkness.  Don't fear the darkness because there is growth that takes place there.  Much like the growth that takes place in the dark cocoon or in the dark soil.  Growth that we don't even see.  Yet, be aware that the light will come again!

Blessings through the darkness!  May you sense that you are not alone.


Monday, May 21, 2012

O Heart, like a closed flower bud... Hafez

"O heart, like a closed flower bud, don't complain; dawn wind brings the breeze to open your knot." Hafez

This was on the Shalem Institute Facebook page the other day.  This quote met me square in the face and gave me something to think about.  They had a pretty picture with it too.  Maybe I'll find one of my flower pictures in my files to go along with the quote.  We'll see.

Hafez was a Persian lyric poet.  I have seen the name before, but I haven't really known who he was.  So I took a few minutes to look him up.  He was a mystic-poet philosopher of the 14th century.  Sometimes his name is spelled Hafiz.  His lifespan was from 1319-1389.   A good biography can be found at the website

You may know the Persian language.  If so, you may be interested to read and listen to the poems from this website:

There are days when my heart is closed. There are days when I complain. There are days when I need desperately the dawn wind to bring the breeze to open my knot. What about you?

May the dawn wind bring the breeze when it is needed on your journey,


Sunday, May 20, 2012

the butterfly effect of Grace...

In researching for an upcoming sermon, I came across a book by rex g. russell, the butterfly effect of Grace (Xulon Press: 2011).  The short (133 pages) book contains 12 chapters of thought-provoking, heart touching, challenging stories.  Each themed chapter has a quote and a Scripture verse in the beginning.  The entire book is built around the main point Rex desires to get across to all of us: we matter to God.  Rex has a message for each of us that he has shared throughout his life as a teacher and throughout this book: "Nothing you will ever do or ever have done, good or bad, will ever cause the heart of God to love you any more or less than He does right now; you don't have to run to or from Him; just stand still." (32)

I agree with the foreword by Bubba Thurman when he states that "Rex Russell is a great story teller." (xiii)  These stories by Rex engaged me, encouraged me, challenged me.  There were moments of laughter, tears, words that resonated within.  

Chapter 10 spoke to me as a breath of fresh air because it shared a story that showed grace and freedom in a powerful, life-giving, yet simple way that not many dare risk these days.  The first two lines of the chapter caught my attention immediately: "I am adding this chapter because I am a bit of a rebel.  I really enjoy when someone colors outside the lines and gets results." (106)

"Connecting the dots to God"..... that is a phrase throughout the book... and is the title phrase, "the butterfly effect of grace". 

Rex informs us in the preface that "the seemingly insignificant encounters we have every day do matter." (xx)

I encourage and challenge you to check out this little book.  It may look small, but it is jam-packed.  As you read it, you will be be impacted by grace and your eyes will open to how you can be a connector for others on their journey.

Know that you are loved by God.

Know that you make a difference in the lives of those around you.

Blessings on your journey as you continue to learn and grow,


P.S.  If interested, Click HERE for a website for the book and HERE for a facebook page.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flourishing... at the SCWN luncheon with Jerilyn Sanders

Flourishing is the theme this year for Scenic City Women's Network.  Today's luncheon speaker was Jerilyn Sanders.  From the Scenic City Women's Network Website, here is some information on Jerilyn and today's topic:

"Jerilyn Upton Sanders is originally from Sweetwater, TN. Her childhood held all the exciting adventures of growing up in a pastor’s family. She felt a call early in life to “city kids.” Her calling and passion have centered on urban communities and she has worked in a variety of education and youth development programs. She has spent over a decade in Chattanooga working to increase educational access and opportunities for low-income families.

Currently, Jerilyn is the Director of FREE Chattanooga, a pilot project of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development. As part of their mission to “help the church help the poor to help themselves without creating dependency” Jerilyn trains and equips churches to bring Christ’s transforming power into the brokenness of their communities.
Jerilyn has a B.A. in Psychology from Biola University and an Ed.M. in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Jerilyn is married to Duane and they have two children, Bryce the bookworm athlete (6) and Dakota the tomboy princess (2). They are members of New City Fellowship.

Psalm 92 says ‘the righteous will flourish like a palm tree...planted in the house of the LORD.’ What does that mean for a woman in the 21st century? How can you tell if you are flourishing where you are? Does it sometimes feel more like you’re just trying to keep some semblance of order in a chaotic world? As God’s plantings, we don’t control our season or even our climate; so what is our proper response to where He puts us and the “weather” he sends? As we ask “WHY?” and seek His purposes for us, perhaps the answer will be different—and bigger—than we thought.”"

Jerliyn shared a very inspiring message with us.  I thought I'd share some of my notes and thoughts from the message from today.... you know, pass it on.  Who knows, maybe you'll get something from something in it too!

Jerilyn was introduced by Princess Anderson, who gave her a wonderful and warm introduction.  In that introduction, Princess made a statement that caught my attention about life in general.  She said, "courage is not an option."  I didn't have much time to chew on that, but it is true.  Courage is needed if we are going to step out in faith, step out in risk, step out in love, step out period, etc.  Courage is needed in so many ways.  This is something to reflect upon further..... food for thought!

Jerilyn shared from Pslam 92, verses 12-15. Here are the verses from the New International Version (NIV):

12The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.

Jerilyn's question for us: "Are you flourishing?"  She went on to share what she had been learning (and laughing about with God) from God on the topic. 

These are my notes..... meaning I didn't get it all down.  I'm not doing Jerilyn or her talk justice.  But hopefully you'll get an idea of what was shared and something will spark something for you.  Also, these are my notes with my thoughts added in along the way.

Going back to Psalm 1, it talks about bearing fruit in season.  In season.  In its particular season.  The plant is there throughout.  It cannot or doesn't control when and how it bears the fruit; it simply (or not so simply) does not control when or how it bears fruit.  Hmmm... something else to think upon and chew on.....  How often do I think I'm actually controlling and/or attempting to control my circumstances?!?!  As I'm learning, it's about letting go and surrendering to God.  I'm going to bear fruit in season.  So, why do I try to rush the process and/or at times feel like giving up because I don't see what I think I should see?!?!  What if my season doesn't happen to be on the same timeline as God's season?  Hmm... I need to be in tune with the Gardener!! ☺

Planted in Him.  Jerilyn shared about palm trees and how their support system is wide; that there are more roots along the ground/under the ground than there is tree above.  We learned that because of this support system it is nearly impossible to knock a palm tree down.  That when the winds blow it, it will bend but go back upright.  It might end up growing at angles, etc. but it will nearly always end up staying upright, growing toward the light.  Growing toward the light.  Wow.  Another great thought.  Just as is the whole concept of a strong support system!  This makes me want to stop and reflect and ask: what and who is your support system?  When the winds blow and threaten to knock you over, how do you turn back toward the light in order to keep growing?  Jerilyn mentioned grabbing time in the shower or in the car.  I can relate to both of those as those are part of my root system too.  That also made me think of the "rolling sanctuary" again. ☺

Jerilyn asked: 'What is God teaching you wherever you are and what are you doing about it?'  Great questions!

Jerilyn reminded us that we all need community in which we can be transparent and authentic.  YES!!  Agreed!  Do you have that community?  If not, seek it out!  It is crucial to healthy growth!

If you find your time very constrained, Jerilyn suggested stealing moments for soul care if you have to, by seeking God in moments throughout the day.  Most of us can relate to this, I think.  There aren't always long time periods of getting to read, reflect, pray, etc.  Sometimes, those come in grabbed moments.  That's okay.  Grab and go.  You might be pleasantly surprised at how those moments carry your soul through difficult times.

Jerilyn challenged us with some thoughts on Carolyn Custis James and her writings.  Carolyn is the upcoming June 28 Praise Breakfast speaker for Scenic City Women's Network .  (Go to the website above for more information.)

Jerilyn challenged us also that as we live planted where we are that we are to first and foremost KNOW GOD'S LOVE.  And, then secondly, we are to EXTEND AND MIRROR THAT LOVE TO OTHERS/SPREAD THE LOVE.

How is God flowing through you?  How is God flowing through me?  Do I really know God's love and live like I do?  Am I spreading and extending that love to others? 

These are some things to think about today on the journey.....  what does it mean for you to flourish where you are?



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weakness.... not something I used to like to think about...

When you think of the word "weak", what comes to mind?  I used to think that was a 4-letter word, if you get my drift. ☺  As I've grown in my spiritual journey, I've come to learn that "weak" or "weakness" can really be "strength", if my perspective is God-centered and not self or even what others-think centered.

Knowing this and living into this are not always the same thing.  Having to deal with anemia (another round recently), frozen shoulders, and other off and on health issues has reminded me of my human physical weaknesses.  I have thus needed to rely on God and others in community for strength--physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  This is very humbling for a "strong" person.... to let go and allow others in.  I have learned.  I am learning.

Yet, there are days and times that the weakness of strength or something else can be overwhelming and I wonder why must I have to deal with this?!?!?

Yesterday, I read a devotional in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young that touched on the answer.  The devotion from May 14 said "Your weakness is designed to open you up to My Power.  Therefore, do not fear your limitations or measure the day's demands against your strength.  What I require of you is to stay connected to Me, living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources." (141)

A-ha!  Light bulb moment!  My weakness opens me up to God's power.  That's awesome.  Yet, like the song "Strong Enough".... sometimes I don't want that kind of strength and power if it takes going through the tough times.  HOWEVER, I have grown through each and every tough time, so I can say it is worth it!

Words that stick out.... "stay connected", "trusting dependence", "limitless resources".

Further in the devotion, the last paragraph in fact, I read: "I am not a careless God.  When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength."

OUCH!  I felt a little backlash on that first sentence, as if I was accused of thinking God was careless.  Uh...... I'm probably guilty of that.  I won't ask about you.  Sometimes I wonder, you know.  I forget that I can go to my Source of Strength.  I forget to trust and relax.  Those are not easy things to do when going through difficult times.  Yet, that is what I'm called to do, if I am truly living in relationship with God. 

There was another section in the devotion about facing unexpected demands and not needing to panic because we can remember that God is with us.  I admit that I can be slow to remember that at times.  It takes intentionality and focus.

At the bottom of this devotion, I wrote these words: "Weakness of any kinds is difficult for "strong" people.  It is in "letting go" of how we see strong/weak and allowing God to be in control that we begin to learn that strength is in surrender and dependence."

As I think about my life, as I think about others I know and their lives and circumstances, I am encouraged to be reminded that it is okay to allow the weakness to be part of the journey.  By allowing it to be what it is, then I can focus on God as my strength and allow the difficulties to help me grow.

What difficulties are you facing in your journey these days?

What weakness(es) are pulling you down?

Surrender them to God and relax in God's presence as you walk in trusting obedience with the One who will give you strength!

Blessings on your journey!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Here we are... a poem by Nancy Bieber

Poetry is becoming more and more a part of my spiritual journey.  It's not too much of a surprise.... it was part of my life once before.  I have journals with some pieces that I've written.  At session #2 of the Academy I was exposed to quite a bit of poetry and I've even taught a class at church on spiritual formation using poetry (and hope to do more in the future).  [This is out of my league, but when you use good poetry, it practically guides itself and as facilitator, I just get out of the way. ☺]

Tonight I started reading one of the books for the upcoming Academy session in July: Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way by Nancy L. Bieber.

There are quite a few nuggets in the introduction, but what I want to share tonight is this poem by the author (found on page 12):

Here we are, Loving One, Mystery, Light,
beginning to quiet ourselves,
beginning to be still;

remembering you created us
to flourish in your love,
remembering an old desire to grow in you.

We long to be more than we are living now,
we long to live all we can become
but, fearful, wonder how we can.

We try to choose the best and truest path
but stumble in our living and in our choosing.
We want to handle things ourselves;
we'd rather make it on our own,
and besides,
trusting you, God, can be very hard.

But we need more light, your Light
to see the ways ahead,
we need more wisdom, yours, to choose
the way that's well for us.

Here we are, beginning willingness,
beginning to trust, to open ourselves,
our lives and our decisions
to your illuminating Light.

Here we are, Loving One, ready to begin.

What in this poem speaks to you?  What word(s) stand out?  Read it over a time or two, allowing the words to soak in.  What response do you have to this poem?

I think this book is going to be another adventurous aspect on my journey.  I'm definitely ready to begin!

Blessings on your adventurous journey!

~Debra ☺

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The meeting...

This is the view I saw before turning in to my subdivision after "the meeting".

Last night's meeting with Staff Parish went well, in spite of my super dry mouth (I should have taken in my diet dr. pepper) and me choking up on one of the questions.  I'll get to that in a moment.

I was asked to go over my "call" story, so I did.  I added a little background to what I had sent in previously..... it's hard to know sometimes what to include/exclude.

They asked some questions.  Where I see myself heading-- to which I first shared the longer Thomas Merton quote that I posted yesterday, and then explained that I feel called more to elder than deacon but that I have struggled with those and do not fully see clearly.  Why the Methodist church vs. another denomination-- to which I shared that the more I've learned about the Wesleyan tradition, the more it resonates with me on many levels.  I was more explicit than that.  Who are some Methodist women preachers that I looked up to or knew as role models-- to which I answered first the one who had been at our church most recently and I had gotten to know over the past several years, Rhonda Hobbs.  I got to know her first on a mission trip to Costa Rica and then she was my unofficial mentor with permission through the purple candidacy book.  Then our family later joined Burks and I got to know her through the Bible Study class, etc.  The second name got stuck in my head and that's when I choked up.  It hasn't been that long since she passed.  I was thinking of Linda, Rev. Linda Bird Wright.  I apologized for choking up, got the name out and explained that I had known her in capacity as her Staff Parish chair and in other capacities over the years and that she was one of those role models.  Then there is my candidacy mentor, Amy Whatley.   Though I haven't known her as long, she is definitely one of those iron sharpening iron folks and has been a tremendous blessing.  Additionally, I have been blessed to have over a handful of other clergy women through the bilingual Academy in my life..... Wow!  Hurray for role models and mentors.  There are other women clergy in my life who aren't Methodist, and they have provided me with great insight and support too. 

There were some other questions and comments.... it was a good point in the journey for me.   For me, it wasn't simply just something to check off my to-do list for candidacy.  It was and is important to know that my local church supports me and thinks I have what it takes....... so, we'll see what they decide.

Meanwhile, it's back to reading Telford so I can knock out the rest of this semester!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Thomas Merton quotes.... silence, solitude, and no idea where I'm going

I've come across two Thomas Merton quotes in two days now.  The first one was posted on the Shalem Institute's facebook page yesterday.

It was this: "Let me seek then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayers, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all."  ~Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

That caught my attention because of the words 'silence' and 'solitude' and how everything is turned into prayer. 

Today has been the first day in a very long time where I haven't needed to leave the house.  So, I've been reading The Theology of the Gospel of Mark by W.R. Telford for one of my classes, trying to fax my mentored ministry papers in to my other prof, and enjoying the beautiful coolness of this May day with the windows and doors open.  I've been listening to the birds tweet and sing and breezes rustling in the leaves in the background.  I've felt the gentle breeze blow through the open doors and windows.  I've wanted to hit the hiking trail, but I read better sitting than walking, so I've used restraint and have allowed Merton's quote to sink in a little today.

The second quote I found by Merton was on the front page of the syllabus for the class I'm taking fall semester (Introduction to Spiritual Formation). 

This one is also from Thoughts in Solitude:

"MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  
This quote captures my attention today for several reasons.  I continue to live into the unknown, the questions.  I follow the next steps of what I see and attempt to be obedient and faithful in that.  Today, one of my next steps is meeting with the Staff Parish committee (SPRC) at my church, to go before them as someone seeking their support in pursuing candidacy in the United Methodist Church.  As a former Staff Parish committee person and even chairperson, you would think that this would be "a piece of cake" for me.   Just as being a former educator makes my role as a student that much more challenging at times, my roles on Staff Parish in the past cause this experience to be a tad more challenging for me.  Thankfully, all the candidates that came through in my tenure were good experiences! ☺  I remember those times fondly.  Even so, being on the "other side" is more daunting.  I think it's more daunting in part as Merton explains, "I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me."  It is difficult to go before a group of people, to explain this calling you sense in your heart, mind, and soul... yet not be able to fully see where God is leading you.  But, hey, that's really God's deal anyway.  I'm just supposed to show up, be me (yep.... the real me.... ☺) and see what happens. 

Well, maybe I can get back to reading Telford on the Gospel of Mark now.  I have to finish that book, write the reading review on it, and write my final exam on Mark (two 3 page essays).  Then, my semester will be done.  Whew!  Then, I can start reading the 4 books for the July Academy session!

Baby step by baby step.....

How do Merton's quotes touch you today?

Blessings on the journey!


Friday, May 4, 2012

An introduction to Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God

Last week I started reading Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God by Macrina Wiederkehr.  This is not a book you read quickly.  It is meant to be digested slowly.  There are scripture references for each chapter to be read thoughtfully with reflection.  At the end of each chapter there are reflection questions and a prayer.

There are five chapters in the book with 8 devotional readings each.  At the end of each chapter is a poetic summary of the chapter.

The first few devotional readings for chapter one (Drawn Like a Magnet to the Divine) are: Desire for God, Come to the Water, and All I Want is to Know Christ.

This devotional employs lectio divina as a way of keeping vigil, reading thoughtfully, and reflecting.  Four steps for reading are shared:
  • "Open the Scriptures to that particular text and then, WAIT." (4)
  • "Discover the grace of waiting.  Learn to wait!  When you sense a readiness in your soul, READ." (5)
  • "When you have finished reading the assigned Scripture text, then it is time for you to LISTEN OBEDIENTLY." (5)
  • "With or without words, pray.  Your prayer may lead you quite naturally into the final movement of lectio, which is simply to ABIDE." (6)
Some quotes from what I've read thus far:
  • "A magnetic force keeps drawing us toward the eternal." (12)
  • "God is always calling us beyond what we can see with the naked eye." (12)
  • "You will need to surrender your craving for certainty." (12)
  • "Young trees and plants dry up from lack of rain.  So too our spirits wither when we deprive ourselves of the healthy spiritual practice of abiding with the Word of God.  Time set asided for lectio divina is like water for the soul." (13)
  • "Like a magnet, we are constantly drawn to the divine." (14)
  • "When our river of desire for God grows shallow, it needs to be deepened.  When our flame of love grows dim, it needs to be rekindled." (14)
  • "The potential of a deeper relationship with the Holy Mystery we call God is always available." (15)
  • "Prayerful questioning is a way of leading you into deeper reflection." (19)
  • "I am willing to risk living without answers." (22)
That's all I have so far.  What do you think?  Is this a book that could become part of your devotional life? 

What word(s) speak to you in the quotes above?  Read back over the quotes again to see if there are certain words that catch your attention, that speak to your heart, mind, or soul at this time.

Most of the words that spoke to me have been included in the "labels" section, though I ran out of room.  Words such as: drawing, calling us beyond, surrender, water for the soul, magnet, deepened, rekindled, deeper relationship, questioning, willing to risk.

Maybe there is something in this short introduction for you today for your journey.  If not for today, maybe for another day.

My personal prayer for myself is that I continue to prayerfully question and risk living without answers as I journey onward, deeper.  That is also my prayer for you.