Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wonderful Warm Worship at Washington Hills

Because I left town on Monday for Colorado, I wasn't able to get Sunday's blog up sooner.

This past Sunday on Father's Day, worship was at Washington Hills UMC in Chattanooga, TN.  It is off Bonny Oaks Drive and not too far from where we live in Hixson.  It was one of the three churches on my "to visit" list.  Pastor Bobby Black and his wife Lisa are very dear folks to me and though I've been there in the past to hear Lisa preach (Certified Lay Speaker), I haven't had the privilege to hear Bobby. 

Riley and I arrived about 15 minutes early to the church for the 11am service.  We were greeted warmly by a kind woman who turned out to be the organist.  When I say we were greeted "warmly", that's just the beginning of our experience, both in hospitality and temperature.

You see, the air conditioning unit there was not working.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  Unfortunately for them, they had just spent money getting it serviced too.  But that wasn't going to deter us from worship that morning.  We went on in, found a seat, and settled in.  It was warm.  But not hot.  Folks started streaming in.  Electric fans were brought in.  Hand held fans were already in the pews.  I found one, just in case. 

As folks came in and noticed us, they greeted us warmly, welcoming us into their home of worship and into their community. 

The service began a little after 11am due to the situation with the air, but it didn't deter the primary focus for the gathering-- to worship God, the Creator.  That was evident throughout the entire worship experience.

People chose to worship that morning (into the afternoon).  They chose to stay.  They chose to not allow the lack of air conditioning to take away their focus of worship, praise, or prayer.  It was a wonderful worship time.

Out of curiosity, I checked the time when Pastor Bobby began the message.  It was 12:07pm.  I chuckled to myself, thinking that in some places folks may not be as willing to continue being in a building with no air conditioning for this amount of time, with the sermon just now beginning. 

A little earlier in the service, Pastor Bobby had leaned over to a choir member, maybe the leader, and she had come out of the choir area.  He then mentioned that in a few minutes, cold water would be offered to everyone in the congregation.  Sure enough, within a little while, a brigade of women came down the aisles with cups and pitchers of ice cold water and began passing out water to everyone who wanted it.  I don't think anyone refused the fresh cold water.  What a beautiful act of hospitality and warm welcome to members and guests alike.  What a Christ-like gesture of offering a drink of cold water to those in need.

It became even more significant when a man two rows behind us later thanked the congregation for taking him in many years ago when he moved into this community.  He mentioned that this congregation had helped him assimilate and was there to offer him a cup of water when he needed it most.  He had a relative visiting him from South Sudan that day and introduced her.  What a blessing to see ministry of love in action.

Another blessing was to see Pastor Bobby's daughter there that day and to have the opportunity to talk with her a few moments after the service.  I had felt "nudged" to give her a holding cross back a couple of years during her treatment days.  Lisa introduced me to Celeste as the one who sent that to her.   Celeste explained to me that the cross was passed along to a brave young 12 year old battling cancer.  Wow.  It was a beautiful and powerful moment to hear how prayer and the prayer cross had moved.  Celeste was another blessing in that congregation of ministry of love in action as that congregation (and others) had prayed for her and the family.

A few things about the music that morning.  There was a song "Anointing" sung by the choir during a time when folks could go to the altar and pray.  That was powerful.  This was in the preparation part of the worship service prior to the message.  After the congregation prayed, the choir came down to the altar together to pray.  That was a new song for me.   It was POWERFUL!  It is by Donn Thomas and found in the African American Heritage Hymnal, #318


Anointing fall on me
Anointing fall on me
Let the power
Of the Holy Ghost
Fall on me
Anointing fall on me
Touch my hands my mouth
And my heart
Fill my life Lord
Every part
Let the power
Of the Holy Ghost
Fall on me
Anointing fall on me
On me let the power
Of the Holy Ghost
Fall on me
Anointing fall on me
Anointing fall on me

Another powerful song that I did recognize was "Every Praise".  I recognized that right away as a Hezekiah Walker song.  Oh, what a blessing it was to hear that song and to join in.  I thought the roof might be blown off.  And if it had, that wouldn't have been a bad thing.☺  Well, then the church would need money for a roof AND the air conditioning.


Every praise is to our God
Every word of worship with one accord
Every praise every praise is to our God
Sing hallelujah to our God
Glory hallelujah is due our God
Every praise every praise is to our God

God my Savior
God my Healer
God my Deliverer
Yes He is, yes He is

Yes He is, yes He is [repeat]

Every praise is to our God.
Every word of worship with one accord

Every praise every praise [repeat]
Is to our God

From the music, to the prayers, to the message that Bobby brought, to the meeting and greeting of folks in that community, it was a very special and wonderful warm worship that morning!

Oh, in case you're wondering.  It was around 1pm when we finished worship.  But folks didn't bolt out the door.  They lingered.  They spoke to each other.  You'd think they would rush to their air conditioned cars (or Gold Wing as was the case for one gentleman) and leave, right?  No.  Some were huddled around inside the church.  Others outside in the even hotter temperature.  Folks had gathered in community to truly worship that morning and the heat wasn't going to deter their focus.  What a wonderful blessing it was for us as visitors into their community.

Blessings on your journey!  May there be some wonderful warm worship along the way,


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Let's Go for a Walk-- notes and reflections from Rev. Reed Shell's sermon

I have three Sundays during which I am visiting other churches for worship.  Today I went to Hixson UMC to their "River" service.  It is a contemporary service at 11am.  The reason I chose the River service is that I have never attended it before.  When I was a member at HUMC, it wasn't there. 

They are having VBS (Vacation Bible School) next week, so the worship center (gym) was set up like Mt. Everest.  You even got to come through a cool looking ice / igloo tunnel thing into worship.  [Note:  Here is a link to their VBS for next week.  Preregistration is closed, but you can register tomorrow (Monday June 15) on site.]

Rev. Reed Shell was the preacher for the River service today.  He spoke on walking, the journey.  A very appropriate message for me.  The title: "Let's Go for a Walk".  Scripture: Matthew 4:23-25

My notes and reflections aren't verbatim from Pastor Reed's sermon, but here goes:

God is a traveler.
God travels with us.
God also travels ahead of us and calls us to follow.

Pastor Reed spoke about the health benefits of walking daily, even walking for 30 minutes a day.  As an avid (almost daily) walker, I have learned about those benefits.  I have also read articles on those benefits and plan to keep up my walking even with my new schedule.  Two of the several benefits mentioned were: it reduces our blood pressure and it changes our outlook.  The benefits are physical and mental.

Pastor Reed noted that the Bible contains many stories about walking.  There was always someone walking somewhere.  I didn't get them all, but here are some of the ones he mentioned:
  • Abraham and Sarah walking from Ur
  • the Israel people walking (for 40 years)
  • Peter walking on water
  • Jesus walking--- into the mountains for solitude; from Galilee to Jerusalem; to calvary
  • Saul on the road to Damascus
  • the disciples on the road to Emmaus
We are all walking our faith journey, from sin to salvation.  (There were other good examples here, but I didn't get them all.)

Walking, therefore, is good for us physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Pastor Reed spoke of the labyrinth, a walking path that is a prayer path.  He showed a picture of one on the screen.  He talked about the path of a labyrinth being symbolic of life's walk, of the pathway.   Having walked several labyrinths, I was glad to see this image shown and discussed.  Labyrinths are a helpful way to walk and pray the journey.  And, depending on the labyrinth, one can gain many insights about life's pathway on the labyrinth pathway.  Or, one can simply walk and pray.  

[I know that the labyrinth at Lake Junaluska is often dotted with goose droppings, so one is reminded to watch one's step along the path or one will truly step in it.  There are also spots where there is no grass, depending on the weather.  Or, there could be muddy sections.  Etc.]

The closest outdoor labyrinth to Hixson UMC is the one at Burks UMC in Hixson.  It is located in the back of the property in a grassy area.  I plan to continue going there for prayer walks.

dd Sept. 2012
Pastor Reed talked about the walk to Everest, connecting with the upcoming VBS.  The theme for this VBS is: conquering challenges with God's mighty power.  It sounds great!  If I didn't have enough to do, I would consider checking it out!

Pastor Reed reminded us that as those who climbed Mt. Everest, we walk one step at a time, that we learn through failure, and that we grow through that learning.  We are to try again if we fail in order to grow.  God will give us the strength to assist us to put one foot in front of the other.

The whole life of faith can be imagined as a walk, a journey.  In both Deuteronomy and Micah, we find the question, 'what does God require?' and within the answer is 'walk'.  In Deuteronomy, it is 'walk in his ways' and in Micah it is 'walk humbly with your God'. 

The early church was known as "the way".  (My first Bible that I received at my first go away camp when I was 6 years old was entitled "The Way".  I don't know if I still have it anywhere, but here is a picture.)

Pastor Reed shared that the way is a path, a road.  It implies companionship.  He said we are on a journey and walking is a metaphor.

(Wow!  For this "journey" person, what an appropriate church for me to be at today, for me to hear this sermon....  God is good!)

If all this wasn't good enough, Pastor Reed then mentions a pattern of the steps of walking this journey. 

  • 1st step-- call.  awareness.  awakened.  the ordinary is asked to engage in the extraordinary.
  • next step-- fear.  (I can certainly relate!)  Example-- Moses was frightened by the burning bush.  Moses had many excuses.  Our fear can be fear of failure, inadequacy, etc.
  • 3rd step--reassurance by God.  God says 'take courage' / 'take heart'.  God was with Moses.  God is with us.
  • next step-- decision.  yes or no.  Something has to be done or decided upon.

What is next, the result is a changed life. 

Moses, David, etc.  Their lives were changed as they took those steps.  Their lives weren't perfect, but they were forever changed because of the journey.

They took the steps to follow the call and the invitation.

God is a traveling and active God.  God goes with us!


WOW!!  Like Moses and David, I am not perfect.  I know that full well.  The really neat thing for me is that God did call and I answered.  There has been fear at times.  But, God has been faithful to assure and reassure me that this is God's calling on my life and that I have heard the Voice of my Creator.  So, I continue to take courage, to move forward, to take the next lit step on the path before me. 

I hope and pray that the churches to which I have been assigned are ready to walk with God on this awesome journey with me and Pastor Tommy!  And, if they literally desire to walk, I'm open to that too.  ☺  There is that benefit of 30 minutes a day, remember?!?!

What about you?  What call, awareness, or awakening are you sensing in your life right now?  Whatever it is, take courage that God is with you on the journey!

Thank you, Pastor Reed for the words of encouragement, affirmation, and conviction today!

Let's go for a walk!

Blessings on your journey!

Debra ☺

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Bubbling spring of Joy-- reflection from today's Jesus Calling

June 13

This morning is our last morning here at Lake Junaluska.  We head home today.  We leave behind a week of Annual Conference, an incredible time of worship, teaching, and a new beginning in my faith journey.  We go home to some challenges in a work situation for my husband and a family situation with my brother.

As I read the words in today's devotional from Jesus Calling, I was called back into the present moment and was able to 'be still and know'.

The words this morning encouraged me and uplifted me.

"I AM CREATING something new in you: a bubbling spring of Joy that spills over into others' lives.  Do not mistake this Joy for your own or try to take credit for it in any way.  Instead, watch in delight as My Spirit flows through you to bless others.  Let yourself become a reservoir of the Spirit's fruit.
     Your part is to live close to Me, open to all that I am doing in you.  Don't try to control the streaming of My Spirit through you.  Just keep focusing on Me as we walk through this day together.  Enjoy My Presence, which permeates you with Love, Joy, and Peace."

(found on page 172 of my copy of Jesus Calling)

What stood out to me most were these words/phrases:
  • something new
  • bubbling spring of Joy
  • My Spirit flows through you to bless others
  • Don't try to control the streaming of My Spirit through you
  • keep focusing on Me
Several times during worship this past week I found myself needing to, having to stand up during songs for worship.  Sometimes it would be when others were also standing and it wasn't so awkward or noticeable.  Yet at times there would be something moving inside of me and really the only way to let it flow was to stand.  When you are the only one standing, even in a room full of like-minded folks, it can be a little odd.  But, we are called to focus on and worship the One and Only, so I try to remember that.  I don't want to be a spectacle nor cause others to stumble.  However, when the Spirit is stirring within me to the point that I can sit no longer, I am going to stand.

I don't know if others sense that 'bubbling spring of Joy' that flows through me.  I hope they do.  I hope that it does bless others.  I pray that I don't try to control the streaming of the Spirit as it flows through me and that I will truly keep focusing on Christ, the Father, and the Spirit.

Nehemiah 8:10 has been a favorite for a long time for me and continues to carry me. It seems appropriate for me to remember here.  It is about the joy of the Lord being one's strength.

Whether the bubbling spring of Joy overflows constantly or not, a spring is a fresh body of water being fed from an underground/inside source.

May the Holy Spirit continue to feed the spring of my life, of your life as we continue this journey.  May Joy fill us and bubble over at times.

Blessings on your journey,


Twila Paris: "The Joy of the Lord"

9/18/14 dd overflowing "joy"

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Commissioned and Appointed at Annual Conference

June 11, 2015

Today I was commissioned as a Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church at Holston Annual Conference.


This is a huge marker in my journey and I am blessed abundantly to be here today.  "Here" is Lake Junaluska, NC.

This was my first Annual Conference in this capacity.  Sunday evening we were voted in so I was officially clergy and able to participate and vote throughout the week.  The other two times I have been to Holston Annual Conference have been solely as interested lay observer, able to come and go as one pleased.

I have always enjoyed the worship sessions, sharing in communion, the incredible decorated altar spaces, the speakers, preachers, and teachers.  One year when Bishop Swanson resided, he read a story to the children and as a child of God, I joined the children on stage.

The bible studies/teachings led by Stephen DeFur each morning have been thought provoking and inspirational.  My soul was fed and uplifted.

The teachings and information shared by Dr. Tammy Pawloski on "Why Poverty Matters" was also thought provoking.  I learned about ways to help and reach the children and how understanding the brain is part of the equation.

Dr. Tom Bandy brought demographical information pertininent to ministry and mission to our attention. Though I was already familiar with MissionInsite and have used it previously, I was not familiar with all that can be done with the wonderful tool.

Many conversations with friends (current, new, and renewed) throughout the week, helped me to see God's continuing hand of guidance in my life and journey as well as theirs.

The theme this week has been "Engage".  It has been a blessing this week to engage both with God and one another, to be challenged to continue that engagement, and to be equipped to engage with the community to which I am being sent.

This morning started out early.  We had to be there for pictures at 8:15am and the service was to begin at 9am.

My morning devotion from Jesus Calling this morning was one of those "cause for a pause" moments as I started my day.  It pulled together the importance of this week and day for me, leading me forward into the future:

What a message!  May I continue to trust God, to be in constant relationship with my Creator, and recognize that God will be my Strength!  It was a wonderful reflection to start the day.

Then, as I headed down toward Stuart Auditorium, I was greeted by the beautiful view of Lake Junaluska:

This commissioning prayer was prayed over each person, individualized by name.  Here is the prayer prayed over me:

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon Debra Dickerson.
Send her now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ,
     to announce the reign of God,
     and to equip the church for ministry,
     in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Annual conference ends with the fixing of appointments.

That means that I can stop saying "my projected appointment is....." when asked.  I can now say that my first appointment in the Holston Annual Conference is with the Holston Gap Parish as Co-Pastor.  Holston Gap Parish is Flintstone UMC, Ft. Oglethorpe UMC, and Simpson UMC.  Tommy Messer and I will co-pastor the Holston Gap Parish together.

Chattanooga District Superintendent  Rev. Brenda Carroll and Lay Leader Becky Hall informing Bishop Taylor that Chattanooga appointments are correct as printed
Well, I could go on..... but, I won't.  The bottom line is that at this Holston Annual Conference I have been commissioned, appointed, and blessed.  Blessed by so many folks in the community, back home, throughout the country, and even in Costa Rica.

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers as I have continued on my journey.  Without the support of my dear family and you all, I wouldn't be where I am today.  See, I am SUPER blessed!

Here's one last picture. It's a post ceremony picture of me, the newly commissioned and appointed pastor with my awesome family. ☺

Thanks again for all the support on the journey!

May you know God's strength and peace along your journey, whatever it brings and wherever it takes you.  Blessings on your journey!