Sunday, September 23, 2012

2 Year Blogging Anniversary This Month!!

I started this blog two years ago on September 3, 2010.  Last year I wrote about my one year experience and shared statistics on September 2, 2011.  This month has been a little hectic for me.  I started off the month on vacation in Canada, then came back to start my semester courses.  Since then I've been reading, writing, but no arithmetics. ☺

I've thought about writing this anniversary blog several times, but just haven't gotten "around to it"... or "a round tuit" as they say.  But, today, I was encouraged by my camel land friend to "just do it".  So, I guess you could say that she is my "round tuit".

Since I'm writing the post today, I will include statistics up to this point.  That means that they are not exact to the two-year date, but some of you might not really care about the statistics at all anyway. 

Personally, I find it intriguing and interesting to see the various countries posted that are reading my blog.  I often wonder 'how in the world did they find this?'  I have tried to not focus on the amount of hits, though it has been extremely humbling to have gone over the 1,000 mark (August 2012-- 1,004) and to have gone over 10,000 hits total this September.  I'm sure there are other bloggers out there with much higher numbers than mine.  That's great.  It isn't a competition for me at all.  I'm simply amazed that there have been so many readers. 

I continue to blog to "get it out of my system".  As things churn inside me, it helps to write it down.  As I learn things, it helps to share them.  Sharing where I am on the journey, what I'm learning, what I'm going through (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is part of my journey.  In fact, it has become a spiritual discipline for me to write about my journey.  Sharing my journey is part of my journey.  We are all called to share our journey with those with whom we come in contact.  For me, this has become a way of doing just that.... only I don't always know who you are.  I don't have the opportunity to learn about your journey and/or hear your story. 

Here are some statistics:

This post makes number 206 for the past two years.  It is number 110 for the past year. 

The most popular posts as of today are: (per the overview page)
 1. Thoughts and Quotes from Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks... , November 24, 2011, 429 views
 2. Several hours at the creek...roaring waters and waiting, March 12, 2011, 255 views
 3. Some thoughts on hospitality..., May 30, 2011, 159 views
 4. Comic strips and children's books..., January 31, 2011, 139 views
 5. Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant, April 4, 2011, 131 views
 6. Marcela Gándara's Music ministers to my soul, March 2, 2011, 127 views
 7. Discernment--a spiritual compass, September 9, 2010, 82 views
 8. The Touch Test, June 30, 2011, 74 views
 9. Each That We Lose Takes Part of Us by Emily Dickinson, April 5, 2012, 69 views
10. Thomas Merton quotes...silence,  solitude, and no idea where I'm going, May 11, 2012, 62 views

Of these 10 posts, 7 were in the top 10 last year: #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 

When I look at the statistics for the posts, I see higher numbers and find some posts that have higher stats than some that were on the overall list, but that's too much for me to figure out to post.  Trying to keep it simple, after the K.I.S.S. method-- "Keep It Simple Silly".... Okay, originally, the last word is supposed to be "stupid".  But, that's a word I prefer to not use.

The top countries:
 1. United States
 2. Russia
 3. Germany
 4. United Kingdom
 5. Sudan
 6. Canada
 7. Ukraine
 8. Netherlands
 9. Romania
10. Australia

Eight of these ten countries are in the top 10 again, though the order has changed around somewhat.  Australia and Romania are new to the top 10. 

Though I wasn't as diligent this past year in keeping up with the various countries as I was the year before, I did attempt to keep up with them.  Beyond the top ten countries, here are the countries that visited my blog: (not listed in any particular order)

Uganda, Jamaica, Venezuela, Ecuador, Israel, Belarus, China, Poland, Bhutan, Hong Kong, Botswana, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, Denmark, Latvia, Philippines, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Norway, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Hungary, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Turkey, Belgium, Slovenia, Indonesia, South Korea, Trinidad Tobago, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain, Colombia, Estonia, Algeria, Argentina, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Georgia, Qatar, Iran, Malta, Albania, Costa Rica, Sweden, Gibraltar.

If my count is correct, that is 52 additional places.  I may not have caught them all as I have stated. 

There have been some new places that have checked out the blog.... and some places that haven't been back.  That seems normal in the ebb and flow of things.

Now for the monthly readership over this past year of blogging:

September 2011--402
October 2011--432
November 2011--504
December 2011--499
January 2012--643
February 2012--340
March 2012--383
April 2012--701
May 2012--617
June 2012--575
July 2012--764
August 2012--1,004
September 2012-- 962 (as of this writing)

Overall, the monthly numbers have increased from last year's statistics. 

That's this past year in numbers.   I'm not really comparing them to anything other than their past year.  And even with that comparison, I'm not in competition with myself, though as I've mentioned, there are times when the focus on the number of hits can become a focus.  And, when that happens, it's an opportunity for me to re-focus, to remember why I'm doing this in the first place.

This journey that I'm on... the life journey... the spiritual journey... the blogging journey... it continues to have moments of clarity and moments of fogginess.  There are ups and downs.   I do know one thing for sure and that is that I'm not in the same place I was when I began.  Nor am I the exact same person.  So, I guess I know two things.  And, that is part of the journey.  Constant growing and changing and moving along the path.

Thank you again for joining me on the journey.  My journey continues to be an adventure.... a joyous one for the most part, even through the difficult times.

I plan to continue the journey of blogging as a spiritual practice/discipline.  I don't know where this journey is leading, but it has been a blessing to me.

As you continue your journey, may you be blessed.  May you find others to journey with you so that you are able to greet any challenges with the strength of community.  May you experience deep peace that flows through any and all circumstances along your way. 

~Debra ☺

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Red Sea Rule #5--Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.

When we walked into Bible Study this past Wednesday night (9/19/12) we were told to pick a piece a chocolate from the basket, but to not eat it yet.  They were primarily Dove chocolates.  First, I was excited to get chocolate.  And, Dove chocolate on top of that.  With a basket full of Dove chocolate, that meant lots of quotes!  I was wondering if the inside quotes would come into play somehow during our time together, but they didn't.  But, since I enjoy their quotes and since I kept mine, here is my Dove wrapper and quote:

I thought that was an appropriate quote for me as I continue to learn to live into freedom and attempt to live into who I am and Whose I am.  But I digress from the Bible Study.  Though I will say that handing out chocolate in the sanctuary is a wonderful part of any service!  (HINT! HINT!)☺

Our time together began with sharing praises.  The only difficult part was hearing what folks said, but Pastor Rowland repeated in general what they said when necessary.  In hindsight, a roaming microphone might have been useful during that segment.  But the sharing was good and as with the times in the past, this is a wonderful time of community building.

Several people were lifted up for special prayer as we began for different circumstances.  Some folks went down to the altar to be in their place as we prayed for them.

Rev. Amy Nutt shared a situation we had prayed for the previous week and how the situation had gotten worse to reveal some infections.  She mentioned that it sometimes happens that we pray and things get worse.  That made me think back to last week's lesson and how the children of Israel prayed and prayed.  Things got worse before they got better.  

A rabbit trail.  When I was in 2nd grade, I broke my collar bone.  But I didn't completely break it.  When my parents took me to the doctor, the doctor explained that it needed to be completely broken in order to heal correctly.  So, the kind and wonderful doctor karate chopped my clavical in two.  Ironically, his name was Dr. Pain (if I am remembering correctly).  Though I'm not sure if that is with or without an "-e" at the end.  For me, in that situation, things got worse before they got better.  But they needed to get worse in order to get better.  That's not the only time I've experienced that things can get worse before they get better.  So, I understand the concept.

Exodus 14:13-14 were the focus verses: "Moses said to the people: "Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.  The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

Keeping those emotions in check during difficult times is not easy.  But the focus here is staying calm and confident and giving God time to work.  Therefore, we need to try to (1) not be afraid, (2) stand still, and (3) watch to see what God is going to do.

Here is where the chocolate comes in.  It became part of an exercise to bring calm into our time.  Rev. Amy Nutt led us in a time of putting our feet on the floor, closing our eyes, getting comfortable.  The question was asked: "How can we be calm in the moment?"  What a great question for us to consider in moments of chaos and struggle, etc.  We were led through a time of relaxing and breathing.  Then, the chocolate was referred to... anticipating what it would taste like, opening it slowly, putting it in our mouths and slowly enjoying the chocolate.  Ah.....

I'm not getting the exercise/activity exact here as I was trying to participate and not write it all down.  But, hopefully you get the idea.

Amy read a verse and then told us to guess where it came from.  It was from the Psalms.  Psalm 42.  She had shared:

1As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

She may have shared more of that Psalm, but I didn't have a Bible at the time to see if she shared the whole Psalm or not.  However, it's a great Psalm, so check out the whole thing.

Amy talked about having been at funerals where "It is Well with my Soul" is sung.  She talked about how it can be well with our soul in the here and now, not only after we are gone.  We can say it is well with our sould in the midst of our turmoils. (amen!)

She read from the book, page 56, last two paragraphs:

"Many times we cannot solve problems, heal hurts, change circumstances, or win our own battles.  We must kneel in prayer, then stand to see what He will do.  We must leave room for God, staying calm and giving Him time to work.
     "Faith," wrote C.H. Mackintosh, "raised the soul above the difficulty, straight to God Himself, and enables one to stand still.  We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts....It is therefore true wisdom, in all times of difficulty and perplexity, to stand still--to wait only upon God, and He will assuredly open a way for us." (56)

Unwrap the gift-- taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Our time closed with a recording of Wil Martin singing "It is Well".  Very moving and powerful!  Very calming and strengthening in the Lord.

God is working!


P.S.  It was confirmed that the author, Robert J. Morgan, will be with us at Burks UMC on Wednesday January 9, 2013.  Awesome!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Red Sea Rule #4-- Pray!

I usually attempt to write about the Bible Study the night of or the day after. But this time, I'm a week later in writing about Rule #4--Pray!  This study was 9/12/12.  I've gone back to look over my notes.  Here's what I have.

I Thessalonians 5:17--"Pray without ceasing".

Rev. Amy Nutt showed a copy of the September/October 2012 Upper Room Devotional and asked if anybody had seen it and/or noticed the picture on the front cover.  It was a rendition of crossing the Red Sea.

The cover art was done by C. Winston Taylor.  Information from the Upper Room about this artist and this art piece is found here.

PraySing Kids came in to lead us in music on this evening.  They sang a wonderful tune of sounds: "Can You Hear the Music?"  It felt like being outside in nature listening to the birds and rain and frogs.  Well done!

The lesson on prayer covered several things.  The Lord's Prayer in the New Testament was mentioned as a model prayer.

We took some time to look back to see what brought the children of Israel to this point of crying out to the Lord.  Team-teaching time as Pastor Rowland led us through the history that brought them to this point, starting earlier in Exodus.

Some thoughts/questions from the study:
  • How do you convince a people that prayer is worth it when they've cried out so long?
  • Praying might cause more trouble.
  • God's ultimate purpose is that He is known as Lord who listens, sees, and works out prayers.
  • How do you convince a group of tired, weary people?
Pastor Rowland went through each of the 10 plagues, sharing what they were and the gods for which they were named.  God showed himself to be the God by conquering all the other gods.  The people are now set free.  But, then the arrive to the edge of the Red Sea and when they look up, they see they are trapped.  Thus, they cry out.

Tag team.  Amy is back teaching.  We looked at Psalm 5 and had the opportunity to write out our own cry.  What would be the cry of your heart?

We were reminded that there is strength and power as we gather together to pray.

Rev. Amy Nutt shared from the book, starting on page 46, 2nd paragraph: "God doesn't always say yes to all our requests, but He listens with unusual attentiveness when two or three gather in united prayer--and He responds in His own way and time with power and wisdom.
     The Israelites' prayer was not only united, but also unfeigned.  They had never been more earnest.  It wasn't a religious ritual.  They were panicked, and their outburst of prayer was real and raw." (46)

Praying earnestly.  In his book, Morgan cites 7 examples of Scripture in which folks are praying earnestly or in earnest to show its importance. (46-47)

Morgan writes: "When you face impossible odds, pray urgently, unfeignedly, unitedly.  And trust the great prayer-answering God who grants mercy and imparts grace to help in time of need." (48)

What about you?  What brings you to the point of crying out to God?  When you do, do you cry out in earnest?

There is something to learn from the children of Israel.

Blessings on the journey,


Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups

One of the courses I'm taking this semester is an Independent Study course in which I'm focusing on discernment.  I have a reading list, but I can read other books that capture my attention along the way.  This is one such book. 

Barton, Ruth Haley.  Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (IVP: 2012).

I was first introduced to Ruth Haley Barton my first year in seminary when we read Sacred Rhythms in the class and as part of our assignment we were to invite several others along with us for the journey.  That was a great adventure for me.  Since then, I have checked out most of her other books and have found them to be insightful and challenging for my journey.

This book is no exception.  However, I had other emotions reading it as well.  At times I was frustrated and disturbed, maybe even regretful.  For the most part, however, I found myself being encouraged as I read about the possibilities of living into a group setting that practiced discernment for its decision making AND became a community of transformed kingdom people along the way. 

If this book is encouraging and hopeful, then why would you feel otherwise you might ask?  That's a good question.  And, I will first say that toward the end of the book I read someone else's account that made me feel a little better about how I felt.  Barton share's "One Leader's Story" at the end of the book with his permission.  He had attended one of the training sessions.  He mentions that the teachings "excited", "scared", and "depressed" him. (229).  I could relate to that.  He refers to the retreat as a "soul-stretching retreat about discernment as the heart of spiritual leadership." (230)  That's what this book is all about.  It takes the retreats and puts them into book form, for the rest of us.

My feelings of being frustrated, disturbed, and even depressed came from thinking back through times in which the discernment model could have been so much more life-giving and kingdom-affirming, and community-building than what ended up happening.  Though I attempted to lead well as Staff Parish Chair, I made my mistakes as well.   But, I cannot (nor can any of us) focus on the past.  I must (as you) take what I'm learning and apply it in the here and now (and in the future).   I think I have applied some of these things some of the time in groups and on boards that I'm on that don't fully live by a discernment model.  And, I've seen other folks lead with some of these things as well.  But, I haven't really been part of a group that primarily employs a discernment model in their leadership until recently when I joined the board for Hearts on Fire (or FUMSDRL= Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders).

Though I haven't been to a board meeting in person just yet, I have joined in over the phone.  That's how many of the meetings take place anyway, except for the yearly or every other year retreat one.  Anyway, the time begins with a Scripture reading, usually done in the lectio divina method so that we can listen to what God might be saying.  Then, there is silence time.  A bit awkward over the phone, but still necessary.  Then, there is time to share what came to mind.  This is the beginning of the time together.  From what I've observed, there is discernment going on and folks are free to share as we move through the meetings. I consider this opportunity a joy, honor, and privilege and know that I will grow as I continue to serve alongside them.

I am encouraged and hopeful that I might be able to lead one day from this discernment point of view, where the focus is on God leading the group.  I recognize that this isn't always easy when you come into a situation where that hasn't been cultivated.  But, I hope that wherever God plants me in the future, I will be able to cultivate an environment where spiritual transformation in community is the culture for the leaders as well as for all people in that community. 

This book helps anyone wanting to learn how to get there to do so.  Barton shares from their experiences at the Transforming Center as a board.  This can be applied to boards, to Staff Parish Committees, to Leadership Councils, etc.  Anywhere there is a group seeking God's will, it can be done in a way that brings about transformation individually and in community.

There is quote toward the end of the book, in Appendix 2, that caught my attention: “The journey of transformation requires willingness to relinquish control and give ourselves over to a process that we cannot fully understand or of which we can predict the outcome.  We know we will be more like Christ, but we cannot predict exactly what this will look like or where it will take us.” (243)  This sums up what the journey of transformation is about, both individually and in community.  It's exciting and a little scary.  But, it's an adventure!

The discernment process requires listening, lots of it.  In community, it requires putting aside our egos, our personal agendas, and all kinds of other stuff.  It requires that we come to a place of indifference, where we are open to what God has for us. 

What if you're not practicing discernment at all in your group?  Barton suggests: "Do something before you do everything." (232)  "Try introducing one or two aspects of discernment into the process of making the decisions you are facing." (232)

I recommend this book.  I could type up all my underlined notes, but then this would be a much longer post.  Instead, I'll outline the book chapters as I've done in the past.  There are quotes at the beginning of each chapter, prayer resources, step by step guidelines throughout, etc. 

The book:

Introduction: The Heart of Spiritual Leadership

PART ONE: Becoming a Community for Discernment
 1. Learning to See
 2. Beginning with Spiritual Transformation
 3. Leaders Who Are Discerning
 4. Community at the Leadership Level
 5. Values That Undergird Community
 6. Practices for Opening to God Together
 7. Practices for Listening to Each Other
 8. A Covenant That Protects Community

PART TWO: Practicing Discernment Together
 9. Get Ready: Preparing for the Discernment Process
10.Get Set: From Decision Making to Discernment
11. Go!  Discerning and Doing God's Will Together
12. But Does It Work?

Appendix 1: Leader's Guide
Appendix 2: A Biblical Perspective on Spiritual Transformation
Appendix 3: Lectio Divina

I will close my thoughts with the quote that was placed at the beginning of the book: "The question is deceptively simple to ask and exquisitely difficult to answer: Am I truly seeking to do Thy will... or mine?"  ~Gerald May

If you would like to know more about the Transforming Center that Ruth Haley Barton founded, you can click on their name to go to their website.

For more resources on Pursuing God's Will Together, visit their website by clicking on the book title.

Blessings on your spiritual transformation and discernment journey!


Monday, September 17, 2012

When Bad Things Happen to Good People...

I finished my fourth and final book for the upcoming Academy session in October yesterday!  (Hip, hip, hooray!!  I actually got all four finished PRIOR to the session this time!!)

The last one I read was When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.  This book has been around for a while... it was written in 1981.  I have heard it mentioned over the years, but I've never really been inclined to read it.  Since it became required reading, I had the opportunity to finally see first hand what this book was all about.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  I didn't have too many preconceived ideas, other than the fact that this book had been well-known and wide-spread over the past 31 years.  Thought I attempted to began my reading with an open mind to see what I might see, I found myself struggling with the initial question underlying the book, "why do bad things happen to good people?"  As I read the book, I learned that the author struggled with that same question (and other questions) and found a way to change the question(s) so that a messy and unpredictable life in which things do happen make more sense.   I will post some of those questions later.

The book has eight chapters:

Introduction--Why I Wrote This Book
One--Why Do the Righteous Suffer
Two--The Story of a Man Named Job
Three--Sometimes There is No Reason
Four--No Exceptions for Nice People
Five--God Leaves Us Room to Be Human
Six--God Helps Those Who Stop Hurting Themselves
Seven--God Can't Do Everything, But He Can Do Some Important Things
Eight--What Good, Then, Is Religion?

Kushner challenges the status quo throughout the book.  I don't think I've stopped to think about how insurance companies refer to natural disasters as "acts of God" until I read what he wrote: "I don't believe that an earthquake that kills thousands of innocent victims without reason is an act of God.  It is an act of nature.  Nature is morally blind, without values. [...] The act of God is the courage of people to rebuild their lives after the earthquake, and the rush of others to help them in whatever way they can." (68)

When Kushner writes about changing the questions from ones that focus on the past to future focusing questions. Here are some of the examples:

Instead of asking:

  • "What did I do to deserve this?"           
  • "Why do we have to feel pain?"           
  • "Why did it happen?"                           

  • "If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?" (69)
  • "What do we do with our pain so that it becomes meaningful and not just pointless empty suffering?" (73)
  • "What do I do now that it has happened?" (80)
Kushner writes about pain, disappointment, guilt, anger, shame, suffering, reaching out to others who are in these situations, God, and forgiveness among others in this book.  He writes from his own experiences of pain and suffering as well as from his experiences with others through congregational care. 

Though I may not have agreed with everything I read, I found the book to be insightful and challenging.  I also appreciated that Kushner was willing to change the questions to help people look forward rather than backward. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reading in Spanish.... some thoughts and three lists of books

I taught Spanish for 24 years.  Prior to teaching it, I studied it.  I am still a student of Spanish.  There's no way I will ever know it all (nor all of my native language either). 

A great way to increase vocabulary in any language is to read.  I put together a list of recommended books to help beginning and intermediate readers grow in their Spanish reading skills. 

Whether the reader is you, your child, or someone else you know, I hope the tips and the book list have something for you.

Some of the books are extremely basic and have limited vocabulary (which is how we start our children reading in their native language typically). Other books have more vocabulary and will venture into more advance grammar.

Reading in a second language is similar to reading in a first language. Here are some helpful hints/tips:
  • Use pictures, titles, and captions to help you get an idea of what is going on.
  • Don't spend too much time trying to get the meaning of every word; read for overall understanding.
  • Guess the meaning of unknown words by context. You can also figure out words that are cognates. Cognates are words that are exact or similar in the different languages. Example: la familia = 'family'.
  • Don't look up words unless it is absolutely necessary.
Check your local library to see if they have Spanish or bilingual books. You may find others that I haven't listed on my list. Read, read, read! Reading will help your vocabulary and your overall grasp of the language. Check to see if you have any beginner reader books on tape or CD in your area as well. That way you can read along in the book and listen at the same time.

Happy Reading!

Spanish Books for the Beginning Reader, part I

Spanish Books for the Beginning Reader, part II

Spanish Books for Intermediate Readers


Monday, September 10, 2012

A look into Israel, thanks to Bonnie Beuning's poetry!

Everytime someone goes to Israel or talks about their trip(s) to Israel, I think back to my awesome opportunity and adventure in 2000 to go on an archaeological dig there on the West Bank.  I want to pull out  my pictures, pottery shards, souvenirs, and go down memory lane.  The one item I have out is a handmade wooden chess set that my daughter and I occasionally use for a match or two.

But this blog isn't about my trip to Israel.  It's about Bonnie's trip.  Bonnie went to Israel this past May.  Her trip inspired some poetry that powerfully touched me and I asked permission to share.

First, let me introduce Bonnie to you.  Bonnie Beuning is a fellow journeyer with me on Academy #32.  She lives in Kansas and has traveled to Guatemala frecuently on mission trips and has been to Costa Rica on missions too.  She has a heart for God and others.

Bonnie at Academy #32, session 5, photo by dd

Here are Bonnie's writings from her trip to Israel:

"On the Road to Zababdeh"

O' banded hills of Palestine
terraced by God's own hand!
The first flocks of the Shepherd
are driven from this land.

As it was in Jacob's day,
inheritance is claimed
from the firstborn of another way,
who now find themselves unnamed.

The answer rests in God's own heart
beyond the mind of man,
and yet he issues each a part
to be his feet and hands.

We must find our garden and listen to
the wind that brings His voice.
The One who has created all
has left to us the choice.

While Christ still walked these rock-strewn hills,
He never spoke to please
but told of ways to live in Truth,
the greatest being these:

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your sould and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  These is no commandment greather than these."   Mark 12:29-31 (NIV)

Bonnie Hamilton Beuning
© May 26, 2012
"Sorrow in Palestine"
     Morning reflections on my pation, shortly after
     spending 2 1/2 weeks in the West Bank

I walked Jesusalem's cobbled ways
where Jesus had stumbled toward crucifixion.
I followed the narrow tunnel-maze
of Old Hebron, and saw the present oppression.
People who Christ had come to save
are still enslaved by those of an older persuasion
who take the lands
from the Adopted's hands.

Idly by (at best) sits my own nation.

I'm confused and made ill
by what some call God's will.
How can they believe
in this plan some perceive
to be given from above?
Land and power trump Love?

Bonnie Hamilton Beuning
© June 7, 2012
Sea of Galilee by Bonnie Beuning 2012

Sea of Galilee by Bonnie Beuning 2012 
Father Firaz of the Malachite
Catholic church of Zebabdeh, Palestine by Bonnie Beuning 2012
Banded Hills of Israel by Bonnie Beuning 2012

I would like to thank Bonnie for sharing her words and pictures!  They have touched me on my journey.

If you would like to directly contact Bonnie about her poetry and/or her pictures, you can contact her via this e-mail address link.



Forgive For Good... another Academy book

Forgive For Good by Dr. Fred Luskin is the third of four Academy books I have read.  I thought this one might be a little easier to read since forgiveness is an area I'm fairly decent in and I've been working on throughout the years.  However, I found myself becoming frustrated and even perturbed while reading the book as I recognized that I still struggle with forgiveness in situations--forgiveness of and for myself as well as for others.  I am thankful for this intrusive book as I have been able to reflect back on situations to see the ones in which I have truly forgiven and to see areas in which I still need growth.

I debated whether or not I would write about this one.  After all, I've written about the topic of forgiveness before.  Why write about a book that bothered me?!  Well, even though it bothered me, it did cause me to think and reflect and it challenged me.  It also gave me some additional tools for forgiveness.  I decided that since I've already written about the first two books I've read for the Academy, I might as well continue this journey. ☺

Layout of the book:


Part One: Creating a Grievance
1. Renting Too Much Space to Disappointment
2. Taking Things Too Personally
3. The Blame Game
4. The Grievance Story
5. Rules, Rules, Rules

Part Two: Forgiveness
6. To Forgive of Not to Forgive: That is the Question
7. The Science of Forgiveness
8. Northern Ireland: The Ultimate Test

Part Three: Forgive for Good
9. Forgiveness Techniques for Healing: Changing the Channel, Breath of Thanks, Heart Focus, and PERT
10. From Unenforceable Rules to Wishes and Hopes
11. Your Positive Intention
12. The HEAL Method
13. The HEAL Method Part II:  Soothing the Hurt
14. The Four Stages of Becoming a Forgiving Person
15. Forgive Yourself
16. Above and Beyond
Beginning in the Introduction, there is a list of "What is Forgiveness?" and "What Forgiveness is Not" (vii-viii).  This is an important checklist because too often we get it wrong.

The personal stories throughout the book help you to see grievance stories first hand and how different people have worked through their situations.  The scientific data is powerful too. 

The bottom line is that if one desires to forgive self and others, it is possible.  The success stories shared throughout the book will be seeds of hope for anyone doubting that they can be free of their burdens.

Forgiveness is a journey.  It's a journey to freedom.  As we learn to forgive ourselves and to forgive others, we walk the path with a lighter load that allows us to more freely love self and others.

For more information, you might want to check out Dr. Fred Luskin's website: "Learning to Forgive" which is dedicated to this concept of forgiveness and the healthiness of it.  Within this website are a multitude of resources, links, tools, etc.  Among them are the "9 Steps to Forgive for Good".

Blessings on your journey,


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Word for the day-- "path" (sermon notes and other reflections)

Today's word for the day is "path".  It seems that I'm getting that word from several directions.

As I woke up feeling the coolness of the morning from having left the deck doors open, I knew right away that I wanted to get to church early to have time to walk the labyrinth path.  I felt that today was a day where I especially needed to be outside in God's creation, to focus, to pray, to fellowship...before I entered inside to worship and fellowship.

On my mirror is this prayer that I picked up at Church of the Resurrection a couple of years ago at a Leadership Institute.  It is entitled, "prayer for the journey".  It says: "Lord, as I travel through this day, grant me the vision to see your plan for my life, and the courage and devotion to follow the path you set before me.  Amen."

The message this morning (September 9) in Jesus Calling also talked about "path".    The devotional begins: "WALK WITH ME ALONG PATHS OF TRUST.  The most direct route between point A and point B on your life-journey is the path of unwavering trust in Me." (264)

After walking the winding path of the labyrinth this morning, I headed into worship.  Today's message?  "A Disciple's Path Defined".  Today is the beginning of a 6 week series on the Disciple's Path. 

Notes from today's sermon by Rev. Rowland Buck: (a combination from both services)
  • Not asking for directions can cause you to waste time and energy. (Rowland shared a personal testimony about a time at Fall Creek Falls back in his college days.) [I found it interesting that in today's devotion from Jesus Calling, there was this statement: "You will get to point B eventually, but you will have lost precious time and energy." (264)]
  • What does discipleship do for our lives?  If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it.  The Christian life is not something you drift into; it is an intentional path.
  • Love God; Love neighbor (others).  This message was part of the Scripture for today (Luke 10:25-28).  Love God and Love others is a basic tenet of discipleship.  For me, it is the basis for which my life flows and from which I believe all actions flow.  Although I fall short of this goal, it is my intent to strive to live toward it.  I found a .jpg that I liked last year that I used for missions:

  •  Here is a point the pastor made:
  • And another one:
  • 'Discipleship is about letting God's life flow in your life.' (I missed a word or two here from the pastor, but it's an almost quote.)
  • Jesus didn't call Christians or church-goers; He called disciples.
  • The Way of Grace
    • Prevenient Grace--"the grace that seeks us"-- Romans 5:8
    • Justifying or Saving grace--"the grace that saves us"--Romans 5:1-2
    • Sanctifying or perfecting graces--"the grace that transforms us"--2 Corinthians 3:18
  • It is difficult.  You can not do it.  It is a way of grace.  Centering your life on Him IS a way of grace.
  • Are you ready to walk the disciple's path?
  • Where are you on the path? 
  • Ask God, 'what do you want to do next?' 
  • Walk the disciple's path by loving God and loving others.
This afternoon also begins a study on the Disciple's Path based on the companion reader and workbook by James A. Harnish: A Disciple's Path: Deepening Your Relationship with Christ and the Church.  This will be a way to take the journey deeper.  I'm looking forward to more learning and studying about the disciple's path.  There is always something I can learn and put into action!

Blessings on you and your journey.  Wherever you are on the disciple's path, may today be a day of loving God and loving others!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Worship at Lundy's Lane United Church of Canada

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Riley and I were in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.  We had a wonderful time there.  I hope to post pictures and reflections of my trip in another post.  This post is dedicated to our Sunday morning adventure and worship at Lundy's Lane United Church of Canada.

We had time in the morning before our afternoon winery tour, so we checked out the phone book to see what churches were in the area.  There were some Anglican, a Free Methodist, and some United Church of Canada that caught our attention. 

We ended up attending Lundy's Lane United Church because they had a 10:30 am service that worked out perfect for us and they weren't too far away from our hotel.

We hailed a cab outside our hotel and took off.  Our driver was from Syrbia and wasn't too talkative, though he seemed to enjoy living in Canada.

We arrived fairly early to the church and were greeted outside by a group of men chatting and visiting.  I later learned that one of those men was the pastor.  They greeted us warmly and showed us inside for some coffee and introduced us to a group of folks having coffee.  Among that group, we met Rachel from Kenya.  We had a good time chatting and getting to know folks before the service. 

When we walked into the sanctuary, I noticed the area in the back where they had taken out a pew or two and made a place for kids to play, color, etc.  I was tempted to sit back there.

We made our way up the middle aisle toward the front and sat on the left.  I could see the tall, slender stained glass window fairly well from there. 

I didn't count, so I don't know how many were in attendance.  I enjoyed checking out the hymnal, Voices United, because it had some songs and prayers in French-- my 3rd language.  We could use the hymnal or sing from the screen. 

The service was an interview between the pastor (Rev. Dr. Bob Rennie) and a woman (Rosemarie Jaworsky) who had sponsored a young man from New York City over the summer. 

It was a special time of sharing about outreach and how giving transforms the giver as much as it helps out the one receiving.  Rosemarie shared that she had found a book of prayers written by teenagers from the USA that she used during the time that the young man stayed with them: Dreams Alive-- Prayers by Teenagers.  She shared a couple of the prayers with us.  They were beautifully written. 

It was a blessing to hear Rosemarie's story and to worship with them this first Sunday of September.  The organist/pianist (Nicole Foster) played two songs at the end that reminded me of my Academy time: "Will You Come & Follow Me" and "Sent Out in Jesus' Name".  The first one had a hymn number for their hymnbook (#567), but I don't recall seeing it in the United Methodist hymnal.  In the Upper Room Worship Book it is entitled "The Summons" (#60).  It is by John L. Bell and is a traditional Scottish tune.  The words and arrangement were done in 1987 in the Iona Community, Scotland.

This is one of those songs that pulls and tugs at me and pushes me when I hear it at the Academy.  It's a call and response song in that God is calling in the first four stanzas and we have the opportunity to respond in stanza five.

Click here for a YouTube video of the song with someone playing it on guitar.

Lyrics for "The Summons"

1. Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?

2. Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray’r
In you and you in me?

3. Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free
And never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?

4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

5. Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.

The second song that reminded me of my Academy time was "Sent Out in Jesus' Name/Enviado Soy de Dios".    This one is published in The Faith We Sing (#2184).  We sing it both in Spanish and English at the Academy.

I found a group of young kids singing the Spanish version on YouTube.  You can listen to them by clicking here.

Lyrics in Spanish:

Enviado soy de Dios,
mi mano lista está
para construir con El
un mundo fraternal.
Los ángeles no son enviados a cambiar
im mundo de dolor por un mundo de paz.
Me ha tocado a mí hacerlo realidad;
ayúdame, Señor, a hacer tu voluntad.

Lyrics in English:

Sent out in Jesus' name,
our hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
The angels cannot change a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love, of justice and of peace.
The task is our to do, to set it really free.
O help us to obey, and carry out your will.

It was a blessing to feel at home in several ways at this church, with this body of believers.  To top off the morning, a sweet church member offered us a ride back to our hotel.  That was such a gracious act of hospitality. 

Thank you Lundy's Lane for opening your arms, doors, and hearts to two strangers from Tennessee.  We were blessed to worship with you.  My only regret is that we didn't have the chance to share Holy Communion with you on this day.  I guess you serve it a different day.

If you would like to know more about this church, you can check out their website: Lundy's Lane United Church.

You can also watch the Sunday morning service from September 2.  I had no idea that they posted on Youtube until I went to their website. 

Blessings on your journey!


Red Sea Rule #3--Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.

When I go to Wednesday night Bible Study, I never know what to expect.  There are some things that remain the same and others that change week to week.  I like that.  One, it allows me to have a sense of expectancy.  Two, it doesn't fall into a boring pattern.  Three, I can count on being confronted with the power of the Holy Spirit regardless of what happens.

Last night, Sara Patton led us in two songs prior to the study.  One was "Waiting Here For You".  The first song I knew, but forgot to write down.  It's even one we do at Camp Lookout.  If I thought long and hard enough, I could come up with it.... (I can see some of the words and hear it in my head) but I don't want to short-circuit my grey matter. ☺

After worship, there was testimony time by a gentleman who shared his journey over the past several months.  It was powerful to hear him share about the sudden loss of being able to walk, the journey with the doctors of trying to figure out what had happened, etc.  He had been going through his own "red sea" journey.  And, to share it with the body gathered... well, it created community.

Then, there was prayer time.  Another time of creating community as several needs were lifted up before the body and prayed for, some directly for the person and a couple with stand-ins for the person in need.  Powerful.  Community building.  At least, that's my opinion.

To me, there was a gentle flowing of the spirit moving through the place.  A need had been expressed by one person through a prayer request.  An envelope (or maybe two) made its way throughout the pews to help replace what had been stolen from the account.  Wow.  The body reaching out to the body in a tangible way.  Powerful.

Rev. Amy Nutt shared some from the book, primarily pages 33-34.  From page 33: "Acknowledge Satan's activity, but don't be intimidated by him.  You can resist him in the power of God and by the blood of Jesus Christ." 

There are several verses on page 33 about resisting and standing steadfast/firm.  Daniel 11:32, James 4:7-8, 1 Peter 5:9, Ephesians 6:13.

She then closed our time together with a video of "The Armour of God" with scenes from battle and putting on armor.  Again, powerful.

I believe that the class was a great example of what to do when tested or going through temptation and trials.  We acknowledged that, yet kept our eyes on the Lord.  And, we did so in community.  I sense a growing community in our midst. 

I look forward each Wednesday night to the music, the format, the movement of the Holy Spirit.

If you are facing struggles on your journey, remember to keep your eyes not on the struggles or the enemy, but on the One who will journey with you through them.