Monday, September 21, 2015

5 year blogging anniversary (along with some reflections prior to the statistics)

How often do you miss your anniversary?!?!  Maybe it depends on which "anniversary", right?!?!  Well, My 5 year blogging anniversary was September 3rd.  I missed it.  I didn't really "miss" it.  I knew it was a reality.  But I wasn't able to take my yearly moment to acknowledge it.  In fact, I'm later this year than I was last year.  Last year I posted on 9/17.  This year it's later than that.  I like to do a 'looking-back-over-the-past-year post' each year. 
Without looking at the statistics, I don't think I've written as much this past year.  [In fact, the blog shows that in 2013 I wrote 130 posts total, in 2014 I wrote 91 posts total and so far this year in 2015 I've written 38 posts.] My focus was on finishing seminary last year and it was my hardest year ever with Hebrew studies, a J-term (though not new to me), and a full load in the Spring time (first time ever).   Added to my studies this past year, I went through the journey of Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church.  That meant that I was working on paperwork in the fall, preparing bible study materials and a sermon, and preparing for the interview in the new year. 

Somehow, someway, I made it through all that stuff last year.  Wow.  What a ride.

Now life is slower, calmer, etc., right?!?!  Not so much.  With my first appointment being a parish appointment of three churches in three different communities, I am in learning mode quite a bit.  I am blessed to have a co-pastor in this appointment who knows the ropes and together with the laity leadership we are seeking God's guidance for our parish and individual churches.

But I don't have much time to reflect, much less, simply "be still".  Though I do carve out time daily to do both.  It may not be as much as I want or need, but it is some.  There are days when I am TOO busy to NOT stop and "be still".  When I recognize that, I stop.  I breathe.  Then, I move on.

I say all this as an introduction (or rather an excuse as to why I haven't been blogging).  When I started this journey in 2010, I did so because of a nudging from the Holy Spirit.  It was to get out the things inside me spiritually and to share with others on the journey.  Even though I haven't always been able to make the time to write due to life's other responsibilities, I continue to blog for the same reasons today-- it is part of my spiritual journey and the nudging to share is still here.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  It is a blessing to share in conversation with those who leave comments along the way.  I welcome dialogue on the journey and would like to hear about your journey. 

Blessings on your journey,

Debra ☺


Now, let's get on to the 5 year blogging anniversary statistics!

As I have done with the other yearly reviews, I will share the countries that have visited my site, the top ten countries overall, the numbers for the monthly readership for the past year, and the top 10 posts overall.

Over the past year, the monthly readership hits (according to the stats chart) has been:

September 2014........3086
October 2014............2833
November 2014........1508
December 2014.........1790
January 2015.............2582
February 2015...........1972
March 2015...............1885
April 2015.................2275
May 2015..................1944
June 2015..................1856
July 2015...................2181
August 2015..............1771
September 2015........ 769 (to date and moment)

TOP TEN COUNTRIES OVERALL: (Numbers reflect hits since last year where I was able to compare.)

United States       56,878  (14,016)
Germany             12,060        (780)
Russia                    8,987     (3,373)
France                    3,039     (1,464)
United Kingdom    1,476       (155)
China                       1,066        (54)
Canada                      914       (100)
Poland                       613         (78)
Italy                           512

Based on the comparisons from last year, the United States, Russia, and France are the top post readers of these countries. 

TOP TEN POSTS (overall):  (Numbers reflect hits since blog was posted; not solely past year)

Some notes from two chapters in Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition  (May 7, 2013)  [9846]

Thoughts and quotes from Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks  (November 24, 2011) [2462]

Academy #32 Tú has venido a la orilla / Lord, You Have Come  (October 3, 2012) [1045]

Jesus Calling--December 30th (December 30, 2011) [633]

Jesus Calling--January 1, 2012 (January 1, 2012) [631]

Pushing 5...reflections of an example of living well from Will (May 5, 2014)  [342]

Hogar Metodista...Methodist Children's Home of Costa Rica (August 6, 2012) [466]

Journey Inward, Journey Outward by Elizabeth O'Connor (February 4, 2013) [364]

 "A Space of Love"... quotes and reflections from Macrina Wiederkehr's chapter in Abide (May 15, 2013) [296]


United States, France, Russian, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Ukraine, Poland, Turkey, Australia, Romania, Switzerland, Ireland, China, Malaysia, Moldova, Spain, Taiwan, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Netherlands, India, Portugal, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Mexico, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Iraq, Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Cambodia, Netherland Antilles, Venezuela, South Korea, Italy, Belarus, Serbia, United Arab Emirates, Latvia, Hungary, Lebanon Colombia, Malta, Laos

(Unless I've left out a place, which is a possibility, I count 43 different locations.)

Previous anniversary blog posts:

Blogging...tomorrow makes one year 9/2/11
2 Year Blogging Anniversary This Month! 9/23/12
Tomorrow is my 3 year blogging anniversary 9/2/13
4 year blogging anniversary! 9/17/14

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Living in union with God...silence and being still in God's presence

This morning's reading from Jesus Calling (September 16) by Sarah Young is a wonderful reminder of 'who' and 'whose' I am.  Here are some of the words I read in my devotional time: "I designed you to live in union with me.  This union does not negate who you are; it actually makes you more fully yourself."

More fully me.  More the me that God created me to be.  The more time I spend with the Creator God, the more I become more fully me.  That's such a little thing, yet such a big thing.  If I am truly desiring to live more like the example modeled for me, why don't I "simply" spend time with my Creator?!?!?!

"Be still and know that I am God"-- Psalm 46:10.  That has been a life verse for many years now.  A verse that I have been trying to live into and have been able to live into some, here and there.  Currently, I am attempting to incorporate silence into my life daily.  Not "quiet" time, but silence.  I could have quiet time 24/7, where I read and read and read.  Silence time is that "sitting time" with God, where you just sit.  You don't read, you don't think, you simply are.  "Be still."  In those times of being still, you are in God's presence, with God, resting in God's presence.

As I have been working on my daily stillness journey, I have found it much more challenging than when I go to centering prayer and enter the silence for 30 minutes.  Not that one is supposed to judge one's self as they attempt this or grow in this, but sometimes even the 10 minutes of silence that I attempt in silence seems like an eternity.... or it is met by so much resistance, internally or externally.

But because I know the importance of being still and knowing God my creator, I press on.  I press on to make that space to simply "be" with God, to rest in God's presence, to be with God.

Further along in today's Jesus Calling devotion: "Find fulfillment through living close to Me, yielding to My purposes for you.  Though I may lead you along paths that feel alien to you, trust that I know what I am doing.  If you follow Me wholeheartedly, you will discover facets of yourself that were previously hidden.  I know you intimately--far better than you know yourself."

Spending time in silence (and solitude) allows me that listening time with God the Creator who knows me best.  It allows me that space to make room for God to work in me.

I have finally picked back up Ruth Haley Barton's book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, that I had started several years ago.  This book (and a Clergy Vitality group using the book) is helping me get into a daily practice while I am still trying to make it to the weekly Centering Prayer group.

The song "The Summons" by John Bell sums up the relationship call and answer between us and God.  We sang it this past Sunday at one of the three churches.  It always blesses, encourages, and challenges me when I hear it.

Here are the lyrics:

verse 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?

verse 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 prayer in you and you in me?

verse 3--Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?  Will you set the prisoners 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?

verse 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?

verse 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.


I know that God continues to call my name.  God designed me and continues to draw me into relationship.  As I answer that call, I become more fully who I was created to be.  I find myself playing the Native American flute, making tie-dye shirts, going into all kinds of areas of God's kingdom to show the light and love of God.... because I do trust my Creator and I will follow those footsteps.

How about you?

Blessings on your journey,


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Reflection... living into who the Creator created me to be

This week has been a week of more reflection than normal (it seems).  There have been several devotions I've read, one my husband sent to me, quotes I've seen on social media, songs I've heard, and things I've read in books that have had me thinking. 

I have been reconnecting with some friends over the past few weeks and that has been a blessing.

Also, as we came into the month of September, I found myself beginning to think about my dear friend Leila who passed away suddenly last September 7th.  Leila's unexpected passing last September was the beginning of a year full of deaths.  As is the case for many people that have gone on, I still miss Leila and think of her often.  I am reminded of her as I look at the icon she gave me that sits in my office, when I wear the red cross, and when I walk the labyrinth at Burks UMC. 

In my reflection time yesterday, I realized once again how grateful I am for The Upper Room Academy for Spiritual Formation. God used both a 5 Day Academy in 2010 in TN and the bilingual 2 Year Academy (#32) to meet me where I was and to take me along the journey to a place where I am more my true self, more whole, and living more into who God created me to be.  Without the rhythm of the 2 year Academy, I don't think I would be where I am today in ministry or life.  It strengthened me, gave me encouragement and affirmation through the community, structure, teachings, and rhythms.  I am grateful to have been able to go on that journey, especially while in seminary working on the M.Div. 

Here are some of the reflections from the week that have been on my heart and mind:

There have been nuggets of truth and encouragement throughout the week from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  From September 2-- "Living in dependence on Me is a glorious adventure."  From September 3-- "Let the dew of My Presence refresh your mind and heart."  "As dew refreshes grass and flowers during the stillness of the night, so My Presence revitalizes you as you sit quietly with Me."  "A refreshed, revitalized mind is able to sort out what is important and what is not."  From September 4--"In the intimacy of My Presence, you are energized."

On Friday (September 4), Riley forwarded a devotion to me from Every Man Ministries on  It was about Jesus being rich in sacrifice and how Jesus sacrificed time, energy, effort, and comfort in order to connect with people.   I included a link to this devotion because so much of it spoke to me.  I hope you'll take a few moments and click on the link and check it out for yourself.

Yesterday I heard a new song (for me) by Casting Crowns on 91.5 Family Radio, "Just Be Held".  As I listened to the lyrics, I found many of them to resonate with life-- mine or others.  "Your world's not falling apart; it's falling into place."  It turns out that the song was written in 2013.  How have I not heard it until now?!?!

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you'll understand
I'm painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you'll find Me
And where you are, I'll hold your heart
I'll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won't let go

As I continue to live into the weekly rhythm of studying, preaching, going into community, seeking to know the people in the three churches to which I've been appointed and to get to know the community in which they live and worship, I know that the only way I can live into my calling is for me to keep making time to stop, be still, to spend time with God, to be re-energized and refilled.  Being able to hear and listen to the One Voice is more important than ever because I'm not just living my life as a follower, but also as a leader.  In order to lead well, I need to listen well. 

Two final things. 

Before I preached this morning's double header at Flintstone UMC and Simpson UMC, I was at the Flintstone rock church (which is in the Ripley's Believe It or Not records) and opened the front doors and took a look up at Lookout Mountain.  As I gazed upon that majestic view, the words of the Psalmist came to mind: Psalm 121:1-2--"I lift up my eyes to the hills--from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

As I drove home today, I saw a scene in the clouds that reminded me of a smiley face.  Upon further inspection when I got home, it looks more like a bow tie underneath than a mouth.  You can use your own imagination. 

May you live into who the Creator has created you to be and may you be open to listening to the Creator's voice along the way.
Blessings on your journey,