Sunday, October 31, 2010

Taking Risks...

Our recent Sunday School lesson was about taking risks, taking big risks for God, for kingdom work.  We are studying the Max Lucado book I mentioned a few blogs back: Cure for the Common Life:  Living in Your Sweet Spot.   Chapter 6 of the book is titled "Take Big Risks For God".

What does it mean to "take big risks for God"?  How does one live this out?  As I look at the two questions I just wrote, I am wondering 'Which of those two questions makes me more uncomfortable?'  You know, I might could sit for hours reading and/or talking about what taking big risks for God means-- and feel good about it!  But, to actually take a big risk or several big risks....uh, well, I don't want to throw my camel friend under the bus, but hey-- isn't SHE the one that God has called to live a life of big risks?!?!?!  The answer is YES.  God has called and equipped her.  The answer is also NO.  God has called and equipped each of us.... you and me included. 

Okay, so is this new to me?  Not really.  Have I taken risks before?  Hmm.... I think it would be more interesting for my "mirrors" in my life to answer that one.  But, yes, I do think I have taken risks.  Not just personal risks, but risks for God.

So, why does this bother me now?  Most likely because God doesn't allow us to rest on our laurels, so to speak.  God doesn't allow us to become comfortable where we are.  God continues to draw us deeper and deeper into an intimate relationship.  And that relationship requires risk.

Lucado uses the Message version of 2 Timothy 1:7 to open this chapter: "God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible."  Hmm.... we are to be bold and loving and sensible with the gifts God has given us.

These words in the chapter spoke to me: "For fear of making the wrong kingdom decision, you'll make no kingdom decision.  For fear of messing up, you'll miss out." (60) 

Has fear ever kept you from making a decision?  It has me.  Many a time.  At least for a while.  Until I've recognized it (or someone has pointed it out) and I've been able to get over it or through it or by it.  Is fear keeping you from making a kingdom decision now?

Later, Lucado encourages the reader: "Go out on a limb, he won't let you fall.  Take a big risk, he won't let you fail.  He invites you to dream of the day you feel his hand on your shoulder and his eyes on your face. "Well done," he will say, "good and faithful servant."" (60)

What does "taking a big risk" mean for you today?  What does it mean for me?

I'll share one thing it means to me.  It means re-applying for seminary as a M.Div. student at Asbury Theological Seminary.   I took the risk of applying.  Now to find two references and pay the application fee.  I feel as though I have taken a step off of Lookout Mountain.  Have I missed the hiking trail?  I don't think so.  I'm either "on belay" and rappelling down, Australian style (face first instead of feet first)! or I'm safely harnessed in with a licensed instructor in a hang glider.  We'll see what happens.  I'll let you know.

How about you? 


PS-- I have rappelled, though it has been years.  I would love to do it again.  I have wanted to hang glide since my 35th birthday, but haven't gotten around to it.  A friend once gave me a "round tuit".  Maybe I'll be able to take that and apply it to an adventure in the air!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Ripple Effect...

Ripples in the water...  Did you ever throw rocks in the water to watch the ripples?  Or even skip rocks to see how far they would go and watch the ripples from each place they touched down?   The ripples in the picture below didn't come from a rock being thrown in, but rather from within the water.  I'm guessing from a fish or some other form of aquatic life.  The initial source isn't the focus, however, but rather the ripples.

Garner Creek, Dickson, TN

One little movement in the water can produce a powerful ripple effect.  It has potential to keep on going, until it encounters an obstacle.  Even then, the ripple can make its way around or over the obstacle.

What about in life?  What are ripple effects outside of water?  What are the things that produce ripple effects? 

Ripple effects..... the consequences, intended or unintended, of an action.  They can be the outcomes of taking risks, of saying "yes" or saying "no", etc.  Our actions don't simply stay with us, they have a ripple effect.  So, the question becomes, 'Are my actions producing positive or negative ripple effects?'  And, since my desire is to be an effective Kingdom dweller, the question becomes, 'Are my actions producing positive or negative ripple effects in the Kingdom?'

We don't always see or know the consequences.  However, if we make our decisions with discernment and take our steps of action with wisdom and prayer, then more than likely we are causing positive ripple effects.

We all have those days, however.  You know, the days that reveal less of the Christ in us than we would desire.  For those days, for those ripple effects, remember there is forgiveness.   When we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us our sins.  (Don't believe me, check it out for yourself-- 1 John 1:9.) 

So, next time you're by some water, throw in a rock and watch the ripples or stand long enough to watch the aquatic life create their own ripples.  Ask God to show you what risks you might take in the Kingdom in order to create some ripples.  Or, ask God in what areas you might need to say "yes" to or "no" to in order to create some ripples. 

Creating ripples is fun.   It is part of the adventure.  Part of the journey.

May the ripples you and I create strengthen and bring life into the Kingdom!


Thursday, October 28, 2010


During the recent 5 Day Academy that I attended, one of Marjorie Thompson's sessions focused on "Forgiveness" as a pathway to spiritual formation. 

You may ask, 'what does forgiveness have to do with spiritual growth and journey?'  From my own personal experience, I can say EVERYTHING!  Forgiveness granted to me and/or forgiveness flowing from me has opened up the clogged plumbing pipelines, so to speak.  The forgiveness cleared out all the gunk and gook and allowed the cleansing of the Holy Spirit to flow freely.

If you will, think of those cleansing bubbles for a moment as agents of forgiveness scrubbing all the resentment, hurt, and bitterness away.  What's left is a sparkling clean shine.

Granted, it isn't all that simple, but maybe the analogy helps a little.  There is freedom that flows from forgiveness!

How do I know that?  How can I make such a statement?  'There is freedom that flows from forgiveness!'  You may be asking, 'Really?'  Yes, really! 

God has been teaching me more and more about forgiveness.  Along with the lessons on forgiveness have been lessons on grace and mercy for truly I have received more love than due me and spared/saved from destruction many a time.

I have had opportunities to forgive others in my life.  Things that have happened, often without the other person knowing they had transgressed me in any way.  By forgiving, I set both myself and them free. 

I know I have done wrong to others, whether by omission or commission.  And, I'm sure there have been some that have forgiven me.  And, there are some who may not have yet forgiven me.  It is my heart's desire to make things right as much as possible with all people.

Next to God's forgiveness in my life, the biggest example I have of forgiveness is someone to whom I am eternally grateful.  She extended the branch of forgiveness to me when she could have taken the opportunity to hold a grudge or much, much more.  This act of forgiveness gave freedom and healing to us both.  It has been a blessing beyond words and has allowed a relationship to grow.  In truth, I believe that it not only has allowed my relationship with her to grow, but it has allowed me to grow spiritually. 

Choosing to forgive is just that, it is a choice.  A choice that frees us from the bitterness, pain, hurt, and resentment while freeing the other person from condemnation.

Marjorie Thompson put it this way: "To forgive is to participate in the mystery of God's love."  (during the presentation at the 5 day academy, 10/20/10)

There is so much more to say about forgiveness.  About how forgiveness is NOT forgetting, how forgiveness is a process of healing, about accepting forgiveness and forgiving ourselves so that we can forgive others.

I encourage you to search out God's Word on forgiveness.  Here are three Scriptures that mention the topic.  See what else you find.  Look it up in other versions.  Check out an online source such as  or or  You can read the verses in different versions and/or search for the term "forgiveness", depending on the site.  There are also other resources at each location.

Matthew 6:14-16 (NIV)
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
We also forgive so that our prayers will not be hindered:

Mark 11:25 (NIV)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I encourage you to check out the additional resources that Marjorie Thompson shared with us.  I've listed them at the bottom of the blog for this entry.

I encourage you to reflect on the topic of forgiveness and how it strikes you today.  What are your experiences with forgiveness or unforgiveness?  What action steps do you need to take toward having a healthier relationship with God, yourself, and others through the spiritual pathway of forgiveness?

Just like those scrubbing bubbles, it does take work.  The scrubbing bubbles work very hard to clean out the gunk, grime, and gook.  They have cleansing power.   How's your forgiveness muscle?  Does it need some work?

As you go through the journey of forgiveness, I promise you this:  Shedding resentment births freedom!  May you live into the freedom!


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Some additional resources on "forgiveness" from Marjorie Thompson:
Why Forgive? Johann Christoph
Forgiveness: The Passionate Journey, Flora Wuellner
Weavings Journal "Forgiveness"
Forgiving Your Family: A Journey to Healing, Kathleen Fisher
Forgiven and Forgiving, William Countryman

Monday, October 25, 2010

I am an alien...

I haven't spoken about it since my very first post when I defined "alien".   But I've been thinking about how to get back to the topic, how to talk about it, what to say about it.

At Camp Garner Creek, I found portions of my deeper self.  Now, truly, that has left me with more questions than answers.  Actually, throughout my journey and even through the journey of blogging I have found portions of my deeper self.  Yet, at Camp Garner Creek I found something that validated my alien feeling. 

One afternoon while walking among the rocks of the creek bed during a silence time, I saw it.  A white rock turned up on its side, slightly embedded in the other rocks, poking upward and outward.  Its shape reminded me of a spaceship!   So, I sat down and picked up the rock and looked it over.  It's smooth shape on the top and roundedness reminded me of the fossils we studied in paleontology class prior to our fossil dig at an old quarry.  [Yes, I studied geology, sedimentology, and paleontology in undergraduate school.  It was my minor until that paleo class.  I didn't do so well with fossils and switched my minor to International Studies.]  Anyway, I spent some time thinking back to the college days of paleo class and trying to remember what I had learned.  But what really struck me most about this rock was that it truly did make me think of a space ship.


You may or may not see it.  Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of it as it caught my eye, stuck in the rubble of the rocks with its end sticking up.  But, maybe you will see it.  If not, see it for what it is, a rock, a fossil.

Why the term "alien"?  Because I do feel different.  I have always felt different.  Now, that shouldn't be surprising.  We are all different.  We are unique.  There is no other me, no other you.  We have each been created with our own personalities, gifts, talents, etc.  We may favor folks in our families, but we ourselves are an individual package.  There is no one else like us. 

Sometimes we lose who we are in the world and need help refinding the real us.  There are many resources available to help one do that.  I've mentioned using folks on the journey with us to help us reflect and mirror.  That is one way.   

A couple of books that have helped me are:  Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer and Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot by Max Lucado. 


Another book I started over 4 years ago and haven't finished is Live Your Calling by Kevin and Kay Brennfleck.  [It's an ongoing process for me.]  There are still many more resources that have helped me-- books on leadership, creating a ministry and life timeline, etc.

Knowing who I am and knowing what I am created to be, however, has not taken away the "alien" feeling.  It is still here.  In fact, there are days and times that the "alienness" is stronger.   I admit that I don't fully understand it.  I am attempting to learn who I am and to live faithfully into that.  Part of what I know is that I am child-like, simple.  That's how I see it.  My "mirrors" can reflect back to me.  Now, before I get hit too hard, I know that I can also be "child-ISH".  Can't we all?!?!  But, I'm trying to outgrow my childish ways as I mature.  Child-likeness is different.  We are all called to be child-like.  Kingdom dwellers will be childlike.   We are children of God! 

So, what's a child-like, language speaking, retired educator, certificate-trained seminarian, geared toward leadership, slightly (okay, not so slightly) out-of-the-box person to be, to do?   Maybe this is where I still feel "alien".... I am not finding where I "fit".  I have a sneaky suspicion that even when I find my spot, the alien feeling won't go away.  And that's okay.  There's a good thing about some discomfort in our lives.  It works in us, it teaches us, it helps change us.

Journeying onward,



Well, we were planning to spend some time hiking today.  My husband is off today and we were going to hit the woods.  However, we woke up this morning to the tune of thunder and raindrops.  Even though I'm disappointed to not be able to hit the trails today, we need the rain.  The ground has been parched.  The air has held the dust and pollen and now can be washed clean.  Needed rain is now soaking the earth. 

So, instead of doing my de-briefing on the hiking trail, I guess I'll do some writing today.  Reflection. 

Last week at Camp Garner Creek I received lots to think about through great teachings, great conversations, silence time, etc.  As I was instructed, I took "copious" notes.   Now, to start thinking through all of that and to see what I can learn from the experience.

The weather was perfect there!  Camp Garner Creek is about 45 minutes outside of Nashville, TN in Dickson, TN.  They were affected by "the flood".  The waters came into several of their buildings and they had to evacuate the camp.  There was a women's group there that day that was forced to leave early.  They have done a good job in restoring the bridge, fixing up the chapel and the dining hall.

I learned that community pulled together to make it happen.  Community. 

Community is what we are called to be as followers of Christ.  We come together to worship, to study, to help one another in times of need, to fellowship with one another, to carry one another's burdens, to share one another's joys.  We were created to function best in community.   I've written about intentional communities previously.  Communities that gather with the intentionality to learn, grow, serve, and be.  Wherever you are, are you in a community like that? 

As I'm listening to the falling rain, I am thinking about the less than flowing creek at Camp Garner Creek.  Even though the creek wasn't filled with water, there was some water.  And, that allowed me to take pictures of water, to sit by the water, to experience a tiny frog hop back into the water as I walked along the rocky creek shore.  Water is an important part of my connection with nature, God's creation.  I was glad there was a source of water.



What does your life reflect?  Who does your life reflect? 

If I'm going to ask a question, in all fairness, I could answer the question.   It's a great question.  It's one that I'm not always able to answer by myself.  Sometimes it helps me to have others answer that question for me.  Why?  Because sometimes what I think my life is reflecting is not the same as what is actually being reflected.  That's where the "mirrors" of the community come in for me.  Folks that can reflect for me what I cannot see clearly.  

So, what do I think my life reflects?  I believe it reflects someone who is and who has been on an intentional pathway of seeking, learning, growing, and changing.   Ultimately, I hope my life reflects Christ.  I recognize that there are many hindrances and blockages to Christ being the sole reflection in my life, but that is my ultimate goal, to be so transformed into the image of Christ that folks see Christ more than they see me.  

I've got a long way to go....  but the point is, I'm on the journey.  And, there are others with me on this journey.  Folks that can help me see when I'm off-track.  Folks that can encourage me along the way, speak truth into my life, pray with me and for me, walk along side me, etc. 

Dare I be bold enough to ask for reflections?  [big gulp]  I've written that others are an important source of reflection.  Hmmm..... I'll take the extra step, this one a risky one.  What and/or who do you see my life reflect?

Or, maybe you've been reflecting and you'd like to share your reflections on your own life.  Share them. 

May there be joy in your journey!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What IS the word for today? Living into the calling.....

Well, I haven't been able to write in a few days.  I'm at a place that has limited wifi access and I have limited time to write.  Well, that's not 100% true.  I've been writing so much that the radiculopathy in my left shoulder and arm has returned some.  But that's due to taking so many notes!  (I was told to take "copious notes".  I would have done so anyway.) :)

Where am I?  I'm at a 5 Day Academy, sponsored by the Upper Room at Camp Garner Creek in Dickson, TN.  The creek is not much more than rocks and a few pockets of water here and there because of the drought.  Even so, this is a beautiful place.

The theme for this Academy is Journey into Joy: the Pathway and the Pilgrimage.  Journey, Pathway, Pilgrimage, Joy.  Those are words that resonate within me.  The title hooked me the first time I saw it.  One of the speakers, Marjorie Thompson, wrote the book SoulFeast that I've referred to previously in a couple of my blogs.

I'm trying to figure out what to write about tonight.  There are so many thoughts running through my mind, so many teachings I could share.    Quotes, Scriptures, prayers, conversations....  I'm not sure where to begin. 

God has affirmed to me that this is where I'm supposed to be.  God has also done some other things to me and for me (and it is only Tuesday and I arrived on Sunday).  I see the connections to SoulFeast, the SEJ Lay Speaking Conference I attended, the blogs, conversations I've had.....  It is difficult to put into words some of what I'm experiencing.

What am I hearing and learning?  To trust, to let go, to give up control.  To risk, to yield, to submit, to accept, to receive.  To continue to dive deeper, to rest well, to listen, to be intentional.  

I guess I could talk about "living into the calling".  I was once asked by a pastor when I would accept my "calling".  I think he meant into the ministry, as in preaching.  As I saw it, I was in ministry and had been for many years.  My "pulpit" was a college lectern.  I did ministry in other ways too.  But since 1988 when I preached my first sermon, I've not been able to get away from thinking about a possible call.

Now, I can speak (or preach) as a Certified Lay Speaker in my tradition/denomination and I do.  So, that's not really an issue.  As the years went by, the see-saw between laity and clergy went back and forth.  I went through the Ministry Inquiry book, starting in the fall of 2006.    I have maintained that I am a good bridge between laity and clergy and can be a "pastor" to the pastors.  Having served on committees and as chair of a certain one, I've thought twice about wanting to be in a pastoral position.

Yet, a call persists.  What is that call?  It is a call to the sacraments.  Serving communion.  Baptizing.   Oddly, stoles and communion sets grab my attention wherever I am.  I thought it was just an oddity, a fanciful liking to objects that wouldn't go away. 

My two years at Asbury Theological Seminary helped me refine calling to discipleship, spiritual formation, and leadership.  But I remained on the bridge, staying closer to the laity side.    I've had conversations with folks who've said they could see me as a teaching elder, for me to consider local pastor, deacon with sacramental orders.

Today, God basically told me to quit messing around, to do what I'm supposed to do.  OUCH.   I probably have more questions now than I have answers.  But since I've been learning to live into the questions, that's okay.  It's not up to me to figure out what it's going to look like or how it's going to happen.  I'm just supposed to respond.  And, today, I'm responding with YES!  I accept and receive the sacramental call and will live into what God has called me to be.  I will trust God to guide me.  I will lean on God. 

I think back to the Bread of Life Sunday School class many years ago.  One Sunday a guy came into class saying he had had a weird dream and I was in it.  I was dressed up like a pilgrim with the collar and everything.  He tried to interpret it and couldn't.  I wonder if he was fore-telling that I would be a pilgrim on a pilgrimage to grow closer in my relationship with God?  Who knows.  :)

Here is a prayer that I heard Sunday night.  It is adapted by Irenaeus (2nd century) and is found in the Upper Room Worship Book, #348.

It is not you who shape God,
  it is God who shapes you.
If, then, you are the work of God,
  await the hand of the artist who does all things in due season.
Offer the Potter your heart,
  soft and tractable,
  and keep the form in which the Artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
  lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of the Potter's fingers.

What in your life are you willing to yield to God, to let go, to risk?  Are you offering the Potter your heart? 

Here is the Scripture verse for the Academy-- Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV): "This is what the LORD says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

I am spending time looking, asking, and listening this week.  I am seeing God bring some things together that humans could not bring together for months.  I am amazed at God's sense of timing and humor. 

I am humbled and blessed that God would affirm to me something I thought was just a child's fancy for certain objects.  It doesn't change my call to be a guide to folks through the wilderness or to pursue spiritual direction as a director.  It will probably enhance it.  Who knows?!  The One who is doing the calling.  The One who will have to open doors to make it happen. 

Meanwhile, I will continue to listen, to rest, to study, to engage in the spiritual practices set before me. 

What a journey!!  Who would have known?!?!  And it feels like I'm just getting starting. :)

If you too are standing at the crossroads, or wherever you may be, may your clay be moist as you offer your heart to God and ask where the good way is.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

An adventure with horses...

We had finally all left the church building from our Bible Study and had headed to our cars in the parking lot.  There were two trucks parked in the street next to the parking lot and the drivers were talking to each other about horses on the church lawn. 

I don't know about the others, but it took me a few minutes for it to sink in that they meant the church lawn for the church where we were.  I had never seen horses in that area before.  There are woods behind the church.  And, apparently, some pasture land with fence. 

The horses had gotten out.  We all walked around the drive and sure enough, there were four horses in the front church lawn eating voraciously.  A lady who was a friend to the owner of the horses had come to make sure they didn't get in the road. So we stayed to help her keep them on the church lawn.  We became a human corral.

They ate and ate.  They weren't very skiddish.  Oh, for the younger days when I could actually mount up and ride bare back. :)  But with frozen shoulders and herniated discs in my neck, I decided it would be best to keep my feet on terra firma.  I admired the horses. 

There was a tall chestnut brown one, a white one with a black face and blue eyes, a smaller brown one, and a black one.  A fifth horse had stayed closer to home, but was also out.


They waited patiently for their owner.  The lady said he was coming shortly and left after about thirty minutes.  The horses decided they had eaten enough and started across the parking lot. 

One made a deposit almost as soon as it hit the pavement.  The others made it to the grassy area near the woods. 

They seemed to be headed home, but then shot off across the street into a neighbor's yard.  I guess they weren't quite ready to settle down and go home.

Then a policewoman came.  I directed her into the parking lot as to miss the fresh road apples and then updated her on the horses' whereabouts. 

After a while, the horses emerged from the neighbors' yards and slowly ambled toward their home, but stayed beyond the gate.

I didn't go down to watch them get in.  Several of our group went down and met the llamas on the property.  I missed that action. 

Since they were close enough to home and out of danger of being hit on the roads next to the church property, we took off.

It was an unexpected adventure!

We had some fun with it too.  :)  We were joking around with the pastor about having four new members at the church.  One person took a picture of a horse heading towards the church steps.  

I don't know if the horses really needed our protection or not.  Maybe they would have been smart enough to stay off the road.  But folks do drive rapidly down that portion and it could have been ugly. 

Have you ever left home like those horses?  Maybe the gate was left open slightly unintentionally and you went for it?  Or maybe you jumped the fence?  Maybe you didn't go far, you just wanted to eat different grass, so you did.  You didn't know that there was danger involved.  In fact, you were oblivious to it.  But, there were folks around who became your "human corral", who helped hem you in and keep you safe.  They gave you room to roam and room to leave, but they made sure your life wasn't taken.

I know I've wandered off.  And there have been folks in my life who have walked by me during those times of wandering.  They kept me safe from total destruction.  They helped me find my way back home.  They gave me freedom to explore, yet made sure I was close to home. 

And when I did find my way back home.... I found there was love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  

Though I'm thinking of one instance in particular, there have been many more times when I've left "home".  Maybe not physically, but emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  I have learned through life that any time I try to do things my way that I am saying that I don't trust my Father to guide me, protect me, provide for me.  

I'm learning to trust, even when I don't have the answers.  I'm learning to live into the freedom.

How horses on the church lawn can be part of the journey, I'm not quite sure... but it was quite an adventure!!

May your day be infused with an unexpected joyous adventure along your journey!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living in community...

Community.... what is community?  Do you live in a community somewhere?

We all live in some sort of community.  Whether we live in an apartment building, a residence hall (we called them dorms back in the day), a neighborhood, on base, in a province, a town, a village, etc.  It's community.  Shared space.  However, shared space doesn't always mean shared living, does it?

I live in a neighborhood that has several cul-de-sacs and is great for kids to roam and play.   Since there is only one way in and out, we don't get lots of traffic.  There are folks who walk, who take their dogs for a stroll, etc.  We'll say "hi" and wave and we might even talk from time to time, but we really aren't a tight-knit group.

What does it take?  It takes intentionality.  Maybe if we were to throw a few block parties, fire up the grills or the fire pits, throw on some food, have some beverages, etc. we might get to know each other a little better. 

But we're all pretty busy these days, living our own lives. 

What about in our communities of faith?  We gather together with a purpose weekly.  Are we a tighter-knit group than our neighborhood or place of residence?  Maybe yes.  Maybe no.

When I think of living in community, I think of sharing the journey with other folks on the journey.  Hikers on the path.  Pilgrims on the way.  Whatever analogy works for you.   I believe that with purposeful intentionality we can cultivate and grow community in which we can share responsibilities, burdens, joys, laughter, sadness, concerns, etc.

This type of community might be a small group.  I hope and believe it can also be a church.  The bigger the church, the harder it might be.  Churches are made up of people.  And we people make mistakes, don't always have the right focus, get tired and fussy, etc.  Kinda like family.  But we still love family, even through the hard times, right?!?! 

Diana Butler Bass talks about church family in Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community: "The members of God's household are bound together through the practice of faith, the sacrament of grace, and the experience of the Spirit.  And it is a big household.  As with biological family, there are those you like and those you do not.  You fight.  But families stick it out, arguing, winning, and losing, and reshaping the stories that will be passed down to their children." (258-259) 

Butler Bass writes about "intentional spiritual communities" referring to two churches.  Despite their differences, both were being intentional in that they were "congregations purposefully remaking their traditions, attempting to create meaningful worship and spiritual practices, engaged in intellectually credible reading of the scriptures, and reaching out to serve the world with near-evangelical zeal." (270)

As I camp out on those words for a few moments, these words strike me: purposefully, create, meaningful worship, spiritual practices, engaged, reading of the scriptures, reaching out to serve.  These words resonate within my soul.  As you reflect over the passage, other words might stand out to you. 

I'm blessed to be in a community of faith that is becoming more and more intentional in its spirituality.   Butler Bass says this of intentional churches: "intentional churches welcome lay participation" and that they attract people because of "a connection with God embodied in the spiritual practices of a distinct tradition in the context of a particular community.  They are pilgrim communities--communities that practice faith in the world yet live at some tension with the surrounding culture." (274)

Butler Bass continues: "The higher the sense of cultural tension, the greater the sense of spiritual journey or pilgrimage.  With a clear call to living as a pilgrim, congregations attract members who take faith seriously and engage in distinctive spiritual practices to enrich their journey and deepen their connection to God.  This spiritual purposefulness breeds congregational vitality.  A committed core of spiritual practitioners will reach out and bring new members, who in turn, embrace the practices and continue the cycle." (275)

Do you have a group of people like this?  Are you in a community of people who are seeking, exploring, living intentionally?  I hope so.  It's a tremendous blessing.   I wouldn't be where I am on my journey today if it weren't for people in the Emmaus/Chrysalis/Crossroads Community, several church communities, accountability groups, prayer groups, Sunday School classes, mission trips, fellow lay speakers, etc. 

My journey has been impacted positively by living in community.

May your journey impact others positively as you seek to live intentionally in community and may others impact your life positively as well.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nourishment... what feeds your soul?

Do you remember how to finish this jingle?  "HERSHEY'S is...."  [...the great American chocolate bar.]

A few weeks ago my husband and I took off for a hike along one of the portions of the Soddy Daisy Cumberland Trail segments.  I stashed away a HERSHEY'S bar and some fruit-roll ups in case we got hungry.  I filled a water bottle with some refreshing water to quench our thirst. 

Along the trail, after having walked a ways, we found a great sitting spot and partook of our snack.  The break gave us some rest, hydration, and some energy through the chocolate.  If we had planned to be out longer, I would have taken more snacks and/or other snacks, but for this short hike, what we had was enough.

Now, typically, chocolate isn't considered "nourishment".  However, when one is expending energy and calories it is a good thing.  (I realize that some folks are going to want to "agree to disagree" here and relay information about the benefits of dark chocolate, etc.  Hey, I'm with you!!)

Nourishment varies throughout our lives.  When we are in our mother's wombs, we feed on whatever is in the system.  (I'm not a doctor, so don't get onto me; I'm keeping it simple.)  When we are born, we start off on milk or formula.  When we get a little older we graduate to mushy foods such as vegetables and cereals.  Eventually we are able to eat table food in small bites.  Then, one day, we can eat "real" food.  There are many, many options available for us on what we may eat.  What do I eat?  Among the things I personally enjoy are: sushi, spinach, seafood, almond milk, hummus, feta cheese, Costa Rican coffee, good wine, and a good lean steak every now and then.

Health restrictions and beliefs may modify what we eat, but none of us are sucking on bottles full of baby formula as adults.  Are we?  That doesn't mean that we might not enjoy a cold glass of milk with some fresh baked cookies every now and then.  Milk still has its purpose, it just isn't our sole sustenance.

Our spiritual nourishment is similar to our physical nourishment.  We don't start off "chewing on meat."  We wouldn't be able to.   We start off with spiritual milk.  We see in the Bible where Paul tells the Corinthians that he had to give them milk for starters, that they weren't ready for more: 1 Corinthians 3:2 (NIV)--"I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready."

This next passage is hard truth.  It seems that some folks had heard the teachings for a while, but were still hanging on to their milk consumption.   They hadn't yet moved on to solid food, but seemingly should have been able to.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV)
"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.   In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!   Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.   But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Have you been drinking milk too long?  If so, try some solid food.  Or at least start with some of the mushy in-between stuff.  How do you know if you've been drinking milk too long?  How does a baby know?   Have you noticed that with some babies you don't have to change them over to the mush?  They start to get agitated and fussy and nothing seems to satisfy them.  So, after you've tried everything, you try some cereal and/or some mush vegetables.  They become quiet and calm.  They are being satisfied.  Their nourishment need had changed and the only sign was restlessness, agitation, and fussiness.   That might be a good barometer of change in the spiritual realm as well-- are you becoming restless, agitated, fussy (without other explanation)?  If so, try some more in-depth nourishment.

What is nourishment that feeds the soul?

I'd venture to say that as with food, there is variety on many levels.  For example, I can enjoy the following and have my soul fed:  a good book, a good hike, a good conversation, being outdoors, good music, etc.

I can also spend time in the spiritual practices of silence, solitude, reading, sabbath (rest), prayer, fasting, self-examination, hospitality, and worship (among others) and my soul will be fed.

I have found it helpful to incorporate practices such as lectio divina, prayer beads, walking a labryinth,  and breath prayers, to name a few, into my rhythm of living so that my soul becomes better nourished.

A few days ago, Mark Davis gave a homework assignment in his daily report.   It was from the report on Wed. October 6th, Tuesday night's show.  The word was "provision".  The homework assignment struck me as being beneficial to everyone, no matter where they are on their journey, so I'm including it here.  "Provision"  has to do with "nourishment". 

Mark's assignment:

"ASSIGNMENT: You are somewhere on the journey and you can describe it if you try.

Pick one of these or make up your own …

(1) I am in a time of refreshing! (Green pastures and still waters)
(2) I have just left a time of refreshing, and have a distance to travel, but I feel pretty good.
(3) I am way past the last refreshing, and there are no green pastures or still waters in sight.
(4) Please help me God, because if I don’t have some relief soon, I am going to die of hunger or thirst!
(5) I give up. I can’t go on. … If you chose this one, email me or someone you trust immediately!!!
(6) Wow, there’s some green pasture ahead. I can sense it. I can see it. Thank you, Jesus! Give me that extra boost of strength to get me there."
~Mark Davis, The Healing Touch Report, October 6, 2010

We are all somewhere on the journey, whether we realize it or not, whether we admit it or not.  Where are you?  Are you becoming restless?  Is it time to incorporate some additional food sources into your spiritual diet?

I'll close with a quote from Marjorie Thompson's SoulFeast: "The spiritual life invites a process of transformation in the life of a believer.  It is a process of growing in gratitude, trust, obedience, humility, compassion, service, and joy.  As we deepen our relationship with God, we begin to choose God's ways and purposes as our own." (8)

May the nourishment in which you partake along your journey transform you!


P.S.  I was reading Diana Butler Bass' Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community on 10/10/10 and read this passage that fit perfectly with nourishment, so I had to come back and add it!  Diana Butler Bass is quoting Rev. Virginia Brown's sermon at Grace-St. Luke's in Memphis, TN.  This was in 1997.

"The Bread of Heaven is real food, strength for the journey, food that sustains and nourishes the hidden Christ-life within us.  It is comfort in sadness, celebration in joy, healing in sickness, reconciliation in brokenness.  It is welcome for the lonely, belonging for the isolated, consolation in all our afflictions.  It is hope beyond the boundaries of this world, the pledge of eternal life.  It is the very substance of love....Tenderly and dependably as a mother feeding her baby with her own milk, Christ feeds us with his own life, his own Body and Blood." (226)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Incarnational living... what does it mean to you?

Incarnational living... what does it mean?

First of all, what is it?  Is it another one of those words that religious folks use or is it some type of odd flower?  (okay, I'll stay away from the "yuk, yuk" jokes.... or rather "yuck, yuck")

Incarnational living.... living as Christ lived. 

Over the past couple of years I've read quite a few books that have enlightened me on this subject.  Of course, the Bible tells us some good stuff too about how Jesus lived.  Yet, somehow, we tend to get it all messed up.  I don't know whether it's because we pick and choose how we're going to live or whether we're just trying to find an easy path or what. 

What I do know is that over the past several years, living the Jesus way resonates with me. 

That reminds me of a book I've been reading over the Spring and Summer (and reminds me I need to finish it).  The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way by Eugene H. Patterson (Eerdmans: 2007)

Though challenging, this book is insightful.  From the introduction: "This is a conversation on the spirituality of the ways we go about following Jesus, the Way." (1) 

"The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped--it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstance that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversations with one another and with him." (18)

Living the Jesus way, living incarnationally.... it means more to me than living out 'what would Jesus do?' though that's not a bad saying to remind oneself how to act or react.

If I were to have to pin it down, I would actually give two Scriptures to show what living incarnationally means to me.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God.

Here is that same verse in the New International Reader's Version, a version for younger readers:

The Lord has shown you what is good.
      He has told you what he requires of you.
   You must treat people fairly.
      You must love others faithfully.
   And you must be very careful to live
      the way your God wants you to.

I like the focus from this version on "treating people fairly, loving others faithfully, and carefully living the way God wants me to".  I know it's a semantical issue, but sometimes a different version can help us see things differently, grasp something anew.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)  [Jesus had just been asked by the Pharisees 'what is the greatest commandment of the Law and this is the response.]

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

These two Scripture references sum it up for me, though the last one can encompass the first one. 

Being hands and feet, ears, heart, and voice in this world for others, just as Christ was, is being incarnational. 

It doesn't just happen.  It requires paying attention, listening, following through, being intentional.

Here is another book I've read that relates to incarnational living:

God in the Alley:  Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World by Greg Paul (Shaw: 2004)

Here's just one quote from God in the Alley that fits today's conversation:

 "I enjoy the fact that Jesus called himself "The Way," and that the early disciples were referred to as "belonging to The Way."  It reminds me that this way, although it is in some respects new to me, is really very old, and a great many others have walked it.  More importantly, it reminds me that the journey is as important as the destination.  In fact, it could be said that the journey is the destination, for the journey itself is Jesus himself." (19)

As I close my thoughts on today's blog, I want to include a quote from Diana Butler Bass from Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community. As I read this the other day, it resonated within me and articulates into where I've been beginning to live into over the past several years.

“I was starting to understand that earthly passion was not so bad—nor was fear or doubt or suffering or sin. All the “stuff” of humanity needed to be brought into the center of God—as God had come to the center of humankind in becoming one of us in Jesus. I was beginning to live into what Christians call the doctrine of the Incarnation—the belief that an embodied God blesses our embodied lives.” (174)

How's your journey?

May you be encouraged today to seek, follow, and live "the Way".


Tuesday, October 5, 2010



They happen.  They happen on roads, on hiking trails, and on the roads of life.  What do you do when you encounter a detour?  How do you deal with detours?  Does it mess you up or are you able to go with the flow?   If you're like me, it depends on the day and time (and whether or not I'm in a fairly connected mode with my power source). 

Some detours are of our own making and happen because we want to be in control of our lives.  These kinds of detours can be devastating to us personally and to those around us. 

My friend Mark Davis wrote about detours as his word for the day in his report for Monday, October 4, 2010.  Here are Mark's words on "detour":

"I don’t know ONE SINGLE PERSON who hasn’t taken a detour off of the path of right living, even though they were trying to live a faithful Christian life. And obviously, there are LOTS of people who are not Christians yet, and are off on the wrong  path. And for a lot of them, it doesn’t take a Bible, or a preacher, or a pamphlet, or a TV show to figure it out.

More than one call tonight was about someone who was rebellious and left family or security or sensibility to go “do their own thing.” Two were young women who ran off and took up with a man (the term “man” being used loosely to describe age, and not maturity or integrity). What followed was some combination of shame, being degraded, failed relationships, financial ruin, depression, desperation, and thankfully longing for help or home or both.

Maybe you feel like you are on a DETOUR right now. You’re in a situation you shouldn’t be in, stuck, separated, in the middle of a mess or way off the path you envisioned for your life. You may have destructive people around you. You may be trapped, or at least feel like it. Maybe you’re suffering through an injustice.

And perhaps you have come to realize that the people you resented or that you were trying to get away from, to rebel against, like parents and family, have now become the object of your desire. At least you know (or hope) that they still care about you. Because the person or thing you have been off chasing has LET YOU DOWN.

Let me propose something to you …. That though you find yourself on a detour, God is on the detour with you. Maybe the “Good Shepherd,” who is Jesus himself, walked right into this unwanted situation with you … and now he is going to walk you right back out.

Really? Well, think about the 23rd Psalm. You know it. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want [meaning I shall not lack for anything]…” Down in verses 3 and 4 there is a seeming contradiction. It goes like this: “… he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…”

I interpret the “paths of righteousness” to mean the “right paths.” King David, the author of this Psalm, was a shepherd as a boy. Shepherds had to take the sheep on the “right paths” to get where they were going. A “wrong path” could lead to a dead end, to turning around and going back (try that with sheep!). A “wrong path”  could also take too long in getting to the next green pasture or still water, thus creating panic or desperation in the hungry / thirsty sheep. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows how to lead us on the “right paths.”

BUT … if that is the case, why would we find ourselves going down a path called “the valley of the shadow of death,” as mentioned in verse 4? Surely this would not be a “right path” for any shepherd, much less the Good Shepherd, to take the sheep. Ahhh … but it could be the right path! And surely it is! It is the path you are on. And the Good Shepherd took you there!

I am not suggesting that Jesus decides sometimes to throw some bad stuff at us, just to keep us humble or something. No, not that. But what Jesus knows, not only as Lord and Savior, but from his personal earthly experience, is that you won’t get to the destination without several times of testing.

If you are in the desert right now, or stuck in a bad situation … it may seem like a detour to you, but the Shepherd knows what he’s doing and where he’s going. Jesus is the one leading you right through this “dark valley” headed for the “kingdom of light!” And Jesus is not afraid of the dark!

So, don’t be ashamed that you have made foolish mistakes to get where you are. Don’t give up hope, or think God doesn’t care. The Good Shepherd Jesus is in this dark valley with you, leading you to another green pasture and some still waters. Don’t give up. Instead, listen for his voice and FOLLOW IT! The dark valley is only temporary. The Good Shepherd is permanent."  (Mark Davis, The Healing Touch Report, October 4th, 2010)

These are great encouraging words.  As someone who has been on a "detour", these words resonated with me and I wanted to share them. 

Whether these words are for you or for someone you know, may you be encouraged as you continue on the journey. 


**You can listen to The Healing Touch NATIONAL CALL-IN RADIO SHOW which airs midnight to 2am (eastern) weeknights on XM-170 or you can catch it on  They also have a FaceBook page.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

When you're in trouble, where do you go for shelter?

Have you ever been in trouble?

If anyone can answer "no", let me know.  We've all been in some sort of trouble or at least had a troubling situation for which we've gone to someone for help, assistance, advice, a listening ear.

Where did you go for shelter?

Well, that might depend on how old you were and what kind of trouble you were in.  When I was young, I'd run to my parents.   Throughout my life, there have been teachers, coaches, friends, colleagues, pastors, doctors, family, etc. who have been there for me through times of trouble.

A few weeks ago when we were hiking the Mowbray Pike Trailhead portion of the Cumberland Trail, I took this picture looking up through the trees.   I enjoy capturing all aspects of the hike "on film". 

This past week a friend reminded me that 'when you are in the midst of the forest, you can look up and take your troubles to God'.  I thought of this picture that I took a few weeks back.  I also thought of a certain scripture that mentions hills, rather than skies.

 1  I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?
 2 My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.
 3 He will not let your foot slip—
       he who watches over you will not slumber;
 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
       will neither slumber nor sleep.
 5 The LORD watches over you—
       the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
 6 the sun will not harm you by day,
       nor the moon by night.
 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
       he will watch over your life;
 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
       both now and forevermore.
~ Psalm 121 (NIV)

When I'm in trouble or needing help, do I look up to the hills?

I would say I've gotten better at it over the years.  I would say that sometimes I will take things quicker to God more now than in the past.  I still seek help from friends, family, doctors, pastors, etc., but I try to take the situation to God first.

When I left Long Island (back in 1989) to head back south to teach at a private college, my friend and pastor wrote this in my Bible: "May your walk with the Lord continue to grow-- knowing always that when you reach up-- Jesus will be there to take your hand!" 

Those words have carried me through many difficult times on my journey.

In order to reach up, I must first look up.  Meaning I must look beyond my own capabilities to handling or dealing with a situation.

It has been a learning experience.  An ongoing learning experience.  Just like any other relationship, sometimes I do well in keeping the communication lines open and sometimes I don't.   There are close intimate days and there are not so close days. 

For those "not so close days", I know that there is forgiveness, grace, and mercy.  A verse that comes to mind is 1 John 1:9 (NIV)-- "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 

Look up.  Reach up.  Confess and seek forgiveness as needed. Grab hold of the hand reaching out to yours. 

For me, the journey continues to be an adventure...... how about yours?