Friday, December 30, 2011

Jesus Calling-- December 30th

Well, I got a few days behind in my devotional reading again. I'm a little out of my normal routine and rhythm with it being the holidays.  When I picked up the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, my ribbon was still on December 28th.  I read the devotion for December 29th which had several things that stood out to me.  Then, I read the devotion for today, December 30, and the entire devotion hit me square on.  So, I'll share today's devotion with some thoughts and I'll go back and share some from yesterday, the 29th.

Let's start with today's devotion:

"I am leading you along a way that is uniquely right for you.  The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self--the one I designed you to be.  Because you are one of a kind, the path you are traveling with Me diverges increasingly from that of other people.  However, in My mysterious wisdom and ways, I enable you to follow this solitary path while staying in close contact with others.  In fact, the more completely you devote yourself to Me, the mroe freely you can love people.
     Marvel at the beauty of a life intertwined with My presence.  Rejoice as we journey together in intimate communion.  Enjoy the adventure of finding yourself through losing yourself in Me." (p. 381)

The Scripture verses that accompany today's devotion are: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; 1 John 4:7-8; John 15:4

As I mentioned, this entire devotion stood out to me.  It hits me where I am on the journey, attempting to grow closer in my relationship with my Creator.  Through seminary, through the Academy, through my ministry with missions, through the candidacy process, through being Mom and wife and friend... and any other role I might live out...I believe that I am more fully becoming my true self--the one I was designed to be.  It is a blessing that God allows each of us to travel the unique path yet remain connected with others on their unique path.  I think sometimes people disconnect unnecessarily from others as they are on their unique path.  I hope and pray that I will remain open, honest, vulnerable--whatever it takes to stay connected.  The devotion talks about journeying together and about it being an adventure as we lose ourselves through finding God.  Powerful devotion.

Yesterday's devotion, December 29, started off with these words: "Trust Me with every fiber of your being!  What I can accomplish in and through you is proportional to how much you depend on me." It ended with these words: "Consistently trusting in Me is vital to flourishing in My Presence." (page 380)

It's  not that the words in between didn't capture my attention, but the TRUST was the main thrust of the devotion.  I can forget to trust God.  I can get caught up in the moment of what is going on and forget to pray, forget to rely on God, forget that God cares equally about the little day to day issues as much as the big situations.  This was a good reminder for me to continually trust.

What about you?  Do you trust the One who created you?  With every fiber of your being?  What about accepting the fact that you are being led "along a way that is uniquely right for you"? 

How do these devotions meet you where you are on the journey?

Blessings as you travel the path.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On spiritual growth...Catherine de Hueck Doherty

Last week I read a quote by Catherine de Hueck Doherty that caught my attention.  It was in A Guide to Prayer For All God's People (the red book), published by the Upper Room.  It was in the "Readings for Reflection" section for the 4th Sunday of Advent, "When God Comes", page 45.  It is a quote about love, pain, and spiritual growth.

Here is the quote:

     "Where there is love, there is pain.  But whatever our walk in life, this kind of pain is God's way of teaching us how to pray.  Everything that happens to us spiritually, everything that causes us to grow, will bring us closer to God if we say yes.  This is what spiritual growth means.  It doesn't come from what we do, necessarily, from all our actions and good works.  Sometimes it comes from simply sitting and seeing the shambles of what we tried to accomplish, from watching what was seemingly God's work go to pot.  You can't do anything about it, but watch.  This happened to me.  I knew dimly then what I see more clearly today, that this was the moment when God really picked me up and said, "Now I am offering you the union you seek.  the other side of my cross is empty.  Come, be nailed upon it.  This is our marriage bed."
     All we can answer in response to that invitation is, "Help me, God!  I don't have the courage to climb on this cross."
                                                                                --From Soul of My Soul

Not knowing who Catherine Doherty was, I looked her up and learned.  Here is a good website to learn more about her:  Catherine Doherty Website  She loved God.  She was a powerful speaker and writer.  A quote from the Madonna House website: "Catherine Doherty was a woman in love with God. The implications of that love story, as it unfolded throughout her life, brought her enough adventure, heartbreak and joy to fill several lifetimes." Madonna House Website.  The Madonna House is a training center that she founded.

Now I will need to add to my reading list!  She has written quite a few books that capture my attention.  Plus, on the website I found a poem, "Journey Inward" that was powerful! Journey Inward by Catherine Doherty

Back to the quote that originally got my attention.  Once again, I am reminded that we cannot escape pain.  And, I'm good with that.  That is something I've been living into over quite a few years now.  My thought is that there is going to be pain in life.  So, do I choose to live through the pain that will bring me to a healthy place or do I choose to live with the pain that will keep me unhealthy?  Pain can teach us how to pray.

A line that caught my attention was: "Everything that happens to us spiritually, everything that causes us to grow, will bring us closer to God if we say yes."  This line resonates within me.  There have been quite a few opportunities to say yes over the past 5 years.  I am grateful.  It hasn't been easy or without sacrifice.  I am being refined through the fire, the Refiner's Fire.

Though I rarely have the courage to attempt the opportunities that come my way, I hope to continue to say yes to God.

Whatever you are facing, whether there is pain or struggle on your journey or not, know that God is with you.


Devotion and reflection from Jesus Calling--December 27

This devotional continues to contain quite a bit that speaks to me, almost daily.  As I picked up the devotional, I had a few days to catch up on to get today.  But, when I starting reading today, it was as if I needed to put on the brakes and begin to read in slow mode, in order to take it all in.

Today's devotion starts off with this: "I am preparing you for what is on the road ahead, just around the bend.  Take time to be still in My Presence so that I can strengthen you."

I've been reading several books in preparation for next week's Academy, so one thought goes toward the Academy.  I'm being prepared for the Academy time.  That is a good thing because the Academy has a way of stretching and challenging me.  Any and all preparation is good!

Then, there are some things going on in my personal life, family life, for which God might be preparing me.  I know it is getting closer to the time where I need to step up and step in and be the adult, not the eldest daughter.  There are situations that burden the family and somehow, I need to be ready to help out.

So, I need to take time and be still.  This lesson just won't go away from my life.  Not that I don't mind.  It's an important lesson for me.  For way too many years I was running around, busy.  Even in my serving God and learning of God I would be busy.  Being still continues to be an ongoing learning opportunity for me.

Later in the devotion, I read these words: "If you live in this way, you will do less but accomplish far more.  Your unhurried pace of living will stand out in this rush-crazed age."  I have a way to go, though I live in a less hurried pace than I used to, I can still live in a fairly stressed pace from time to time.  This resonates with me.  Being still, accomplishing rather than doing, and living an unhurried pace.

The last line of the devotion reads: "Walk in the Light with Me, and you will reflect Me to the watching world."

I desire to reflect the God of Creation, the Light to those around me.  I must continue to take time to be still in God's presence in order to do so.

What about you?  Do you need to take more time to be still?  Is there something for which you sense this stillness time is preparing you, even if you cannot name it?

May you make time to be still along your journey.  May you be strengthened as you are still in the Creator's presence.


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Longest Night

I attended the Longest Night Service last night at Burks UMC.  On the front of the bulletin was a star of Bethlehem with the words "The light that shines in darkness!"  Below that were these words from Ann Weems:

"Some of us walk into Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays,
the pain still stabbing;
the hurt still throbbing.
It's not that we don't know better;
it's just that we can't stand up anymore
by ourselves.
On the way to Bethlehem,
will you give us a hand?"

I read that over and over.  Powerful words.  The author struck me as familiar, though only vaguely.  Today I looked up the poem and learned that it is called "Yesterday's Pain".  I found it in Kneeling in Bethlehem on page 14.

When I looked it up, I realized why the author was vaguely familiar.  I had quoted a Lenten poem of hers back on April 13, 2011 ( when I was first introduced to her.  That poem came from the book Kneeling in Jerusalem.

The service was a blessing for me from the front page of the bulletin to the responsive Call to Worship, Hymns, Scripture, Liturgy of Remembering and Lamenting, time to remember others and light candles, musical offering by Wil, the Meditation ("Jesus Was A Refugee") to the closing Prayer and Hymn.

Suffering is not something we can escape, though we try.  From experience, living through suffering has made me a stronger person.  My roots have deepened, if for no other reason than because they have had to for survival.  There have been different aspects of hurt, suffering, and pain on my journey.  I've shared about some of them.  And, I've shared different books that have been instrumental in my growth through those difficult and dark times.  When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd is one of those books.

I've just finished a book entitled Yearning Minds & Burning Hearts: Rediscovering the Spirituality of Jesus by Glandion Carney & William Long.  There is a chapter on "Jesus and Suffering" toward the end of the book that struck me.  I underlined and starred quite a few lines in the chapter.  The last line of the chapter sums it up for me: "Pain is transformed into hope; suffering is transmuted into joy." (p. 201)

As I lit a couple of candles last night at the service, I thought of the homeless, my brother who is suffering mentally and emotionally right now due to an accident many years ago and the brain injury that accompanied it (along with some actions that stemmed from the cyclical dark times that occur), and a friend going through the gauntlet, so to speak.  As I write this now, I think of quite a few others I know of who are hurt, in pain, or suffering in one way or another.

I pray for myself and each person that we have strength for the journey and that we have the courage to walk through the hurt, pain, and suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those we love.

For myself, Christ has been my source of strength, courage, joy, and light through many a difficult time.  As I look toward the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, may I remember not only the child, but the one who experienced suffering, rejection, pain, abandonment, betrayal, homelessness, etc.  May I seek to share and be the love and light of such a one.

Blessings to you as you journey on your path,


Monday, December 19, 2011

Holy Spontaneity, Batman!

Well, no, to my knowledge, Robin never said this.  But, I couldn't help but think of this when I read the title of this blog the other day.  The blog was simply: "Holy Spontaneity". It's a blog by Jerry Webber.  I met Jerry Webber through the Academy last session and learned much through his teaching and poetry.  I continue to learn through his writings on his blog.  He works at The Center for Christian Spirituality, a ministry of Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.  (

Just as I dreamed once of being a camp director like Marty Griffin, upon meeting Jerry Webber and learning what he does, I thought to myself that it would be a very cool thing to open up a Center for Christian Spirituality in our area.  I still have some learning and growing to do... I'm not quite there yet.... but the idea appeals strongly to me...  offer teaching and retreats-- it aligns with the areas of leadership, spiritual formation, and discipleship in my life and I believe ties in well with the path of ordained elder.  That's just a tiny thought and seed at this point.  However, I even came up with a name for it already. ☺

Back to the point of this blog... holy spontaneity... Well, I was being random just now... going off on a path... and it was spontaneous.... it wasn't my planned writing.

As I read the blog, I was struck by the ways to incorporated some "holy spontaneity" into my life as a spiritual practice.

Then, yesterday, as I was driving to Camp Lookout to pick up my daughter from Christmas Camp, I found myself thinking about the blog.  I missed the turn that I intended to take.  The one that would take me directly to the highway to quickly get to Broad Street.  I decided it was okay and that I would live into the path I was on.  I drove into downtown, stopping to get gas near the old Greenlife grocery.  Then, I went over Veteran's bridge and by Miller Plaza.  The homeless people were helping a group of people set up tables at the park for the Sunday lunch.  I forget what group serves there on Sundays.  The park was fairly crowded.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day.  I turned onto Market St. and continued on.  I made my way to Broad Street beyond the Choo Choo.  From there the journey was the typical pathway up the mountain.  After I picked up my daughter, we started heading down the mountain and I asked her if she wanted to go a different route.  She said yes, so we turned around and went back to the main highway that crossed Lookout Mountain and came into Lookout Mountain proper.  So, a little more holy spontaneity on the ride home.  That allowed us some beautiful views of the city as we drove down that side of the mountain into St. Elmo.

Allowing the road to take me wherever, enjoying the journey as it presented itself.... that was refreshing!  It was a breath of fresh air injected into my normal routine of driving from point A to point B.

I think I will continue to explore this spiritual practice of holy spontaneity.  Not only in my driving, but in other areas as well.

Oh, and in case you wondered (as did I) if Robin ever said, "Holy Spontaneity, Batman!" I found a link that listed quite a few of Robin's sayings.  Here they are:
"Holy haberdashery, Batman!"
"Holy atomic pile, Batman!"
"Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods!"
"Holy oleo!"
"Holy nightmare!"
"Holy costumed party!"
"Holy horseshoe!"
"Holy polaris!"
"Holy sardine!"
"Holy jumble!"
"Holy marathon!"
"Holy Halloween!"
"Holy heart failure, Batman!"
"Holy Long John Silver!"

If you'd like to hear Robin in his holy phrases, here is a link of several clips linked together:

May you incorporate some holy spontaneity into your journey!


I journeyed as a journeyer today... trusting the heart of God.

Today I had an opportunity to not only visit a former home church, Hixson UMC, but participate in the worship service.  My role was fairly simple... walk down the aisle with a walking stick after the acolytes were on their way back.  I would be carrying a rock that I would set down among other rocks when I arrived to the table.  Then, I was to pour a cup of water and take a drink.  The journeyer.  It sounded like a great role, fitting even.... so I was glad to fill in at the last minute.

Little did I know prior to this morning that the theme was "perseverance" and that the rocks represented a rocky road.  Nor did I know that there would be a song playing, "Trust His Heart", by Babbie Mason. 

I knew that this was more than a role today.  I felt that in the air.  Then, the song started and the video that accompanied it played.  Both were powerful.  When it was time to start my journey, I couldn't quite set my pace.  It was almost as if I wasn't doing the walking.  What I do know is that the words were so powerful that I was teary-eyed as I walked.  I made it down the aisle and to the table.  I set my walking stick against the table.  I placed my heavy rock among the other rocks that were there.  I poured myself a cup of water, refreshing after a journey, and took a long sip.  Then, I turned to leave.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the screen up to my left.  I saw the image of Christ in the picture and stopped to observe for a moment.  Then, I stepped down and went to my seat.

The service had songs and drama interspersed.  The music from the orchestra and choir were moving and powerful, as were the drama selections.

There were nuggets of truth from each that struck me.  Some more than others. 

"Ocean Views" was probably the most powerful for me, though I can't pinpoint why.  If I had heard that monologue last year at this time, it would have been even more difficult to hear as it talked about rough times.  Yet, it reminded all of us that God is bigger than all of those rough times.  And, as the monologue pointed out, there are still rough times.  Yet, the waves that crash the shore are no match for the waves of strength and joy that God has shown me are there for me, if I am willing to accept the gift of love, grace, and forgiveness.  God IS bigger than anything I can ever face.  And, I have faced some pretty big mountains in my life.

Spiritual growth has been one such mountain.... as God has continued to work in my life, calling me to go deeper, there have been some rocky roads along the journey.  It has been risky at times, often difficult, even painful (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).  But, it has been worth every ounce of effort and strength to keep going on the journey.  To keep on keeping on. 

The ultimate journey is my journey with Christ.  That relationship journey is the biggest for me.  It carries me on lots of adventures.   Beyond that, I'm on quite a few other journeys... school, Academy, family life, ministry, friendships, taekwondo, etc.  Each have their challenges, their rough spots, their joys.  Each is shaping me and molding me.

I am blessed to be on the journey with others.

How about you?  Are you on a journey of any kind?  What is it?  Where is it taking you?  Are there rocks along the path?  How do you deal with those rough spots? 

Though I may not always make the right decisions or take the right path at the crossroads, I am trying to live in such a way that shows there is some salt and light in this body.  And, when I'm not sure what to do, where to go, or what the heck is going on, I will try to remember to "Trust His Heart".

"Trust His Heart" by Babbie Mason

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don't see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don't see Him
Remember you're never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

He sees the master plan
And He holds our future in His hand
So don't live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him
We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry
He's weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

When you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

Journeying onward on this incredible adventurous path!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Voice of Truth... Be still in order to hear...

There is a song I hear on the radio... and the expression "the voice of truth" jumps out to me.  Yesterday when I heard the song, as I heard the words "the voice of truth" in English, my mind went to Greek!  Hurray!  Maybe there is hope for me yet to learn this language!  I was always excited when my Spanish and French students came to class telling me that they had thoughts or dreams in the language because it meant that the language was getting inside them and taking hold, taking root.  I was glad that my mind heard those words and thought of the Greek: h` fwnh, t’h/j av’’’lh,qeiaj  
If you'd like the explanation-- the first word is the nominative definite article (feminine).  The second word is "voice".  The last word is "truth" in the genitive form because it is the form used for "of".  The third word is the genitive form for the definite article.  I hope I got the translation correct!

The voice of truth.  I don't know about you, but I often find myself struggling to hear that voice.  Other voices tend to drown out the voice of truth.... fear, doubt, literal other voices of other people.  Even positive voices can still drown out the voice of truth, if they are not in line with the voice of truth.    Often it becomes difficult to listen.  That's on a "normal" day in "normal" circumstances.

What about when your world is turned upside down and/or inside out?  It could be because of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or the time of year of final exams (whether as a teacher or student).  It could be anything.  These things make it harder to listen to the voice, the voice of truth.

For me, it helps to find some time for some silence and solitude.  If at all possible, it is even better for me to get out into creation.  I am better able to hear the voice of truth when I am surrounded by the Creator's handiwork.

As I listen, I am able to peel away and filter out the voices that are not truth.  The din, the caucophony of sounds becomes quieter and I'm able to get to the point where I can once again here the voice of truth.

What about you?  Are you struggling to hear the voice of truth?  Are other voices coming at you so loudly that you no longer hear it?  Take some time for some silence and solitude.  Filter out the voices that are not voices of truth.

Besides silence and solitude (which include prayer time), it helps me to find the voice of truth in Scripture, songs, and through trusted friends.  Don't neglect those important resources. 

Here are the lyrics to two songs that help me hear the voice of truth.

"Voice of Truth" by Casting Crowns

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. 'Boy, you'll never win!'
"You'll never win"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again "boy, you'll never win!
"You'll never win"

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

"I Lift My Hands" by Chris Tomlin

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms, a fortress for the weak

Let faith arise
Let faith arise
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary's tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Your grace that washes over me

Chorus X2

Let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes
Let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

Chorus X2

You are faithful, God, forever
Let faith arise
Let faith arise

As you are on your journey, I hope and pray that you are able to hear the voice of truth in the midst of all the other voices! 

If you'd like to share how things are going on your journey, please do so.  You might be just the encouragement someone needs.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, December 5, 2011

Another Good Earth Tea Quote... Sara Teasdale

I'm taking a break this afternoon from my Greek studies.  It's a slightly windy, cool, yet still t-shirt weather, overcast cloudy day.  Time for a cup of Good Earth Lemongrass tea!

Today's quote is not one I have ever seen before.  It sparked curiosity and research.  I will share the quote and what I have learned.

The quote: "I make the most of all that comes, And the least of all that goes."  ~Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Naturally, I wanted to learn who this Sara Teasdale was!  So, I searched and learned that she was born in St. Louis, Missouri and was known as a poet, an accomplished poet who had written quite a bit and who had won a Pulitzer Prize and other prizes for her writings.  She wrote of love, beauty, and death.  She married, but it seems she didn't marry her first love, as there were several suitors* prior to her accepting the proposal of Ernst Filsinger, a successful businessman.  They married in 1914 and she divorced him in 1929.   Her life ended in 1933 when she committed suicide by an overdose.  *One of her suitors had been Vachel Lindsay, another American poet.  He struggled with life and finances and took his life in 1931by drinking a bottle of lye. (!__biog4)

Another quote by Sara Teasdale that I found while searching: "You will recognize your own path when you come upon it because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need." 

Both of these quotes that I have posted today do not reflect the Sara that gave in to depression after her bout of pneumonia and possibly fatigue of dealing with life's struggles.  In both these quotes I see a hopeful Sara, someone living into life with the most she has to offer, accepting life's ebbs and flows and sharing with others how to recognize their path after finding her own.

As we are in the season of Advent, I will share a poem I found about the Christ Child.  It is called, "The Carpenter's Son".

The Carpenter's Son (published in Rivers to the Sea)


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The summer dawn came over-soon,
The earth was like hot iron at noon
In Nazareth;
There fell no rain to ease the heat,
And dusk drew on with tired feet
And stifled breath.

The shop was low and hot and square,
And fresh-cut wood made sharp the air,
While all day long
The saw went tearing thru the oak
That moaned as tho' the tree's heart broke
Beneath its wrong.

The narrow street was full of cries,
Of bickering and snarling lies
In many keys--
The tongues of Egypt and of Rome
And lands beyond the shifting foam
Of windy seas.

Sometimes a ruler riding fast
Scattered the dark crowds as he passed,
And drove them close
In doorways, drawing broken breath
Lest they be trampled to their death
Where the dust rose.

There in the gathering night and noise
A group of Galilean boys
Crowding to see
Gray Joseph toiling with his son,
Saw Jesus, when the task was done,
Turn wearily.

He passed them by with hurried tread
Silently, nor raised his head,
He who looked up
Drinking all beauty from his birth
Out of the heaven and the earth
As from a cup.

And Mary, who was growing old,
Knew that the pottage would be cold
When he returned;
He hungered only for the night,
And westward, bending sharp and bright,
The thin moon burned.

He reached the open western gate
Where whining halt and leper wait,
And came at last
To the blue desert, where the deep
Great seas of twilight lay asleep,
Windless and vast.

With shining eyes the stars awoke,
The dew lay heavy on his cloak,
The world was dim;
And in the stillness he could hear
His secret thoughts draw very near
And call to him.

Faint voices lifted shrill with pain
And multitudinous as rain;
From all the lands
And all the villages thereof
Men crying for the gift of love
With outstretched hands.

Voices that called with ceaseless crying,
The broken and the blind, the dying,
And those grown dumb
Beneath oppression, and he heard
Upon their lips a single word,

Their cries engulfed him like the night,
The moon put out her placid light
And black and low
Nearer the heavy thunder drew,
Hushing the voices . . . yet he knew
That he would go.

A quick-spun thread of lightning burns,
And for a flash the day returns--
He only hears
Joseph, an old man bent and white
Toiling alone from morn till night
Thru all the years.

Swift clouds make all the heavens blind,
A storm is running on the wind--
He only sees
How Mary will stretch out her hands
Sobbing, who never understands
Voices like these.

Some links:

Wherever you find yourself on your journey, I hope you will make the most of all that comes your way.  May you have energy and imagination on your journey and may you connect with the Carpenter's Son in someway this Advent Season.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Journey to the Manger... it begins today

The season of Advent officially began this past Sunday.  It's preparation time for the coming of the Christ child.  Now, I realize that there is much discussion in some circles concerning when the birth actually took place, why Christians would choose to celebrate it during a formally pagan celebration time, etc.  However, to me, it isn't the when that matters.  To me, it's important to celebrate the birth of Christ yearly and to reflect on who Christ is and what Christ means to me.  Just as I celebrate the birthdays of friends and family (if and when I remember--thank goodness for calendars and FaceBook reminders!).  As I think of my friends and family and who they are in my life and what they mean to me, so I am able to do with Christ.

As we journey onward in the Advent season, what are your traditions for celebration and remembering?  Advent candles and/or advent wreaths?  Chrismon trees? (trees decorated with church symbols such as doves, the Chi-Rho, star of David, butterfly, Alpha, Omega, anchored cross, Ichthys (fish symbol), etc. 

[For more on Chrismon trees and their history, go to:  I learned quite a bit about the Chrismon tree!  The founder of this tree (Frances Kipps Spencer) died locally on Signal Mountain, TN.  Here is a link with pictures of various Chrismons:]

You may celebrate the Advent season with special devotionals, with traditions from other religions, etc.  However you choose to celebrate this season, it is a time of reflection and preparation.
A new resource for the season of Advent for children is "Journey to the Manger" written and illustrated by two members of my home church, Burks UMC in Hixson, TN.  Starting today, December 1st, the child has an activity, a Scripture verse, and space to write or draw (depending on age) their feelings, reflections, and experiences from that activity and Scripture.  It is a great way for the parent and child to spend time together daily.  I would argue that this is a great resource for children of all ages. ☺

Day 1 says "Straighten your room." and has the verse Colossians 3:23 which says: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people." (Good News Translation)

That is something I could put into practice! (Both the activity and the attitude expressed!)
There are tiny footprints on each page, walking in the sand each day, all the way to the manger. 

I'm pretty taken with this resource!  I wish someone from Abingdon Press or The Upper Room would contact these ladies and mass-produce it! 

But, let me come back to the journey..... the true journey.... preparing our hearts, minds, and souls for the birth of the Christ child. 

How are you preparing this Advent season?  Whatever you do, take time to reflect on who the Christ child is to you and what the Christ child means and has meant in your life.
Advent blessings,


Sunday, November 27, 2011

So much rain....ramblings on a rainy evening

There has been so much rain today that much of the area is under a flash flood watch.  Tomorrow's forecast?  More rain.  I wonder if the nearby areas on Boy Scout and Sandswitch will flood?  There have been times in the past where they have called off schools because of potential flood hazards.  YIKES!!  After a long holiday weekend, that would not be good!!  Be gone thought!

Rainy days can be good.... good for mugs of hot cider, studying Greek, watching a little bit of football, and watching the drips come inside from the roof in the sun porch.  Drip, drip, drop.  Thankfully, our bread pans fit perfectly on the window sill to catch the rain.  We've emptied them out a couple of times already.

I've been practicing parsing Greek verbs in the imperfect tense today and practicing the vocabulary for Chapter 10.  I will take the quiz sometime tomorrow evening.  Then, it will be on to the future tense.  Whew!  I wish I had more time to invest in Greek.  It isn't that I haven't invested time (because I have), it's just that I could spend double the time I'm spending and probably still not get it all.

There is so much left to be done that I'm struggling with simply "being" right now.  I would like to "be still and know..." yet I have two reflection papers to write, job stuff to take care of, mentored ministry hours to accumulate, things to check in on, etc.  And, I must not forget the roles of parenting and wife.  Tonight I got to be parent to a tired child who had travelled to Kentucky and back for a quick overnighter with some friends.  She had inadvertedly recycled a homework assignment that explained what was due on Friday, Dec. 2nd.  Being chilly, rainy, and dark outside, I brought the recycle bin inside and dumped its contents on our tile floor.  What a relief to find that pale yellow piece of paper! 

To my left is a book, one of the resources for which I need to write a reflection paper.  It is entitled: Reframing Your Ministry: Balancing Professional Responsibilities & Personal Needs.  It is by Anthony J. Headley.  I thought I had been doing a decent job of that through the years (more recently).  I have been listening to my body and recognizing that when my body says I need rest, I'd better take it.   I have been "Mom" over other roles and was able to work my teaching schedule around that.  Yet, this book has challenged me to a new level of thinking with its contents.  Not only through the words on the page, but I've had the opportunity to live it out throughout this semester on several occasions. 

It has caused me to think, reflect, and become more firm in my commitment to take care of myself prior to attempting to take care of others.  That means rest, accountability, study, etc. I must make sure that I am living in an intimate relationship with the One I am following.  I am learning to live into what I knew in my heart and mind, that taking care of one's self is ministry.  In fact, it is foundational.  Additionally, I am determined to put my family before the needs of external ministry, recognizing that ministry to my family is ministry.  From this solid foundation will flow ministry to others.

The book has lots of examples of folks that have done it the other way for many years and they have found themselves burned out, giving up, empty, etc.  I want to offer living water.  I can only do that if I drink from the fountain. 

It's a balancing act.  There are muscles that still need to grow.  Yet, I have been challenged in the past two weeks with both self-care and family situations, and I believe I made the right choices.  Now, to continue to make these types of choices when the stakes are higher and it is no longer simply for course I'm taking.  Hopefully my muscles will be stronger then.  Hopefully I'll have walked the path and will know what it feels like.

The pitter patter of the rain drops landing in the metal pans is lulling me to sleep now.  It is time for rest.

So much rain...

Good night,

May your journey include some peaceful rain and rest,


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thoughts and quotes from Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks...

As it continues to happen, when I read the devotions from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, often the words strike and penetrate to the core of where I happen to be at that particular time in my life.  Sometimes, what I read might be more for someone else and I find that I have the opportunity to share it later.

I thought I'd go back today and jot down some of the things that stood out to me over the past days and weeks.  There might be something here that speaks to you.

"Do not let any set of circumstances intimidate you.  The more challenging your day, the more of My Power I place at your disposal." (November 11, page 330)

"Approach problems with a light touch.  When your mind moves toward a problem area, you tend to focus on that situation so intensely that you lose sight of Me.  [....] When a problem starts to overshadow your thoughts, bring this matter to Me." (November 15, page 334)

"As you look at the day before you, you see a twisted, complicated path, with branches going off in all directions.  You wonder how you can possibly find your way through that maze.  Then you remember the One who is with you always, holding you by your right hand. [...] As you look again at the path ahead, you notice that a peaceful fog has settled over it, obscuring your view.  You can see only a few steps in front of you, so you turn your attention more fully to Me and begin to enjoy My Presence.  The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment." (November 16, page 335)
Peaceful fog in my front yard-- 11/22/11

"Not many Christians know how to live in this radical freedom, which is their birthright.  I died to set you free; live freely in Me!  To walk along the path of freedom, you must keep your mind firmly fixed on Me. [...] Be content to be a simple sheep, listening for My voice and following Me." (November 17, page 336)

"Instead of trying to figure things out yourself, you can relax in the Presence of the One who knows everything. [...] Stay in touch with Me, even during your busiest moments." (November 18, page 337)

"Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out.  Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. [...] Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me.  You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven.  So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me." (November 19, page 338)

"You don't have to perform well in order to receive My Love.  In fact, a performance focus will pull you away from Me, toward some sort of Pharisaism.  This can be a subtle form of idolatry: worshiping your own good works.  It can also be a source of deep discouragement when your works don't measure up to your expectations." (November 20, page 339)

"Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. [...] You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances).  This is a spiritual act of obedience--at times, blind obedience. [...] Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts." (November 24, page 343)


I don't know what in these quotes (if anything) might speak to you as you read them.  What have these things said to me?  Mostly they have reminded me to continue to trust and follow, to take life one day at a time, to live each moment to the fullest, to be thankful, to live into the freedom I've been given, to relax, to enjoy....

Blessings on your journey. 


"Does Christ Rain?"-- sermon from November 20th at Burks UMC

I said I would post the sermon I gave at Burks UMC on November 20th.  Here it is.  As I mentioned in my reflections, I was privileged to give it 3 times.  It was a little different each time. 

In the past, I've left in the [PAUSE] spots.  This time, I took them out to facilitate reading. I added in a couple of things I added in Sunday morning.  May the reading of this reveal to you Christ the King.

“Does Christ Rain?”
Ephesians 1:11-23
Burks UMC, November 20th, 2011

Scripture: Ephesians 1:11-23 (NRSV)

Good morning! Don’t forget your G.P.S. that is printed on the back of your bulletin, for note taking, doodling, or staying with the message.   You may have noticed the title, let me assure you that the title is not a typographical error.  I intentionally spelled it “r-a-i-n” instead of “r-e-i-g-n”.  Did it get your attention?  Maybe you searched the Scriptures prior to coming this morning for a verse that referred to Christ “raining”.  Maybe not.  The main reason I chose the spelling is that it came from a children’s message I read.  Imagine a children’s sermon today, on this topic and entitling it “the reign of Christ” without explaining the meaning of the word.  Imagine those precious minds attempting to figure out what was being explained.  The illustration for that message was someone holding up an umbrella.  It simply captured my attention. 

Today is “Christ the King” or “the reign of Christ” Sunday.  What does this mean? 

Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of the season of Pentecost, the season that focuses on the church's mission in the world.  Today is the last Sunday in the liturgical year.  Liturgical means ‘relating to a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship’.   Today we can reflect back upon the entire church calendar year –from the incarnation, birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ and look forward to Christ’s coming and the final reign of Christ.   Today is a bridge between this past year and the start of a new one because next Sunday begins the Advent season, the preparation time for the coming of Christ.   As we look forward to Advent, let me share with you a wonderful children’s Advent book written and illustrated by two of our own church members, Suzanne and Leila.  This advent book for children, “Journey to the Manger” starts on December 1st and goes through the month to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  It is an interactive journey that parents can take with their children as they read the Scriptures together and then take part in an action step for that day.  Then, there is space for the children to write or draw about what they did, how they felt, etc.  It’s a wonderful way to walk the Advent journey!  These advent journals are available for the children of Burks in the Narthex after the service and through the children’s Sunday school classes. 

You’ve probably noticed throughout the year that the colors of the cloths (paraments) and banners change to reflect the different seasons of the liturgical year.  There is meaning in those colors as well.   Today’s colors are white and gold in recognition of Christ the King Sunday.  White symbolizes purity, divinity, and victory.  Gold symbolizes majesty, joy, and celebration.  (NOTICE THE “KING OF KINGS” BANNER in the sanctuary?)   In some years, Christ the King Sunday may be represented by green because the green reflects the season known as Kingdomtide or Ordinary Time (the time between Pentecost and Advent). Green symbolizes life and hope. Hopefully this brief lesson on the seasons and colors helps you to better understand how today fits in together with the rest of the calendar year.

As we reflect today on Christ the King, let’s look back at the verses in Ephesians 1, starting with  verses 11 and 12: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,* having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.”

We have obtained an inheritance in Christ.    An inheritance.   What do you think of when you hear the word “inheritance”?    Something that has been left for someone by someone else in their will?   The story of the prodigal son in Luke asking for his inheritance prior to his father’s death?    Maybe you’ve received an inheritance and that’s what comes to mind.

I think of a book I read a couple of years ago and the movie I saw based on it:  The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall.  After his grandfather’s death, Jason receives a very unusual inheritance.  Jason is given twelve tasks which his grandfather referred to as “gifts” to challenge him to grow as a man.  Jason is given each task one by one and has to complete them before receiving the next gift.  At the end of the gifts is the billion dollar inheritance.   Through this experience Jason learns about life, love, relationships, work, and how to manage money.  He learns the responsibilities of obtaining an inheritance.

What does it mean that we have obtained an inheritance in Christ?   It is a spiritual inheritance.   Our spiritual inheritance is life in Christ.   How are we to live our spiritual inheritance?   In verse 12 it says “so that we,[…], might live for the praise of his glory.”  We are to live for the praise of his glory.  Verses 13 and 14 continue: In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this* is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”   Part of the inheritance is redemption as God’s own people.  By accepting this inheritance, we live into being God’s people through relationship with Christ and one another.    By accepting this inheritance, we take on the task of learning and living out the responsibilities of what this means.

What does it mean to think of Christ as King?—First, Christ wasn’t a king that wore a glittery crown, though many expected the Messiah to come in such glory.  Christ’s way was different.   His leadership throughout his life was not that of a figure head, but someone living in and among the people, leading them.   In the end, to mock his authority, he was given a crown, a crown of thorns.   Not a symbol of power, but of humility. 

This crown reminds us of the crown that was placed upon his head as he was on the cross.  This crown of thorns is from Israel.  The thorns are extremely sharp [(just ask Riley—he stuck his hand in the box as he was asking me, ‘what’s this?’)]  Per the literature that came with the crown, it was made in Bethlehem from a particular thorn bush with a double thorn pattern.  It is said to be from the same type of branches used for the crown placed on Christ.  Primarily, it is a visual reminder for us today that Christ’s reign as King was not as glorious as some wished for him and for themselves, but it was life-changing for those who chose to walk with Christ then and follow him and for those today who accept the relationship offered.

Second, as King, Christ is head of the body--Verses 20-23: “God* put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”  Christ is the head of the body, the church.   This can be a whole other sermon!  But for today, know that this means that Christ is to be in charge, in control.

To go back to the title, “Does Christ Rain?”  Christ may not R-A-I-N “rain”, though you could use this spelling to see it as an outpouring and flowing of power and Holy Spirit. This morning someone shared with me from A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God and from the passage that was written by Rueben Job, this is what stood out to me: “We come away from this last Sunday of the church year soak to the core in the revelation of God in Christ.”  “soaked to the core”.  Maybe Christ does rain (R-A-I-N) after all.  Christ does R-E-I-G-N “reign” as well.  The question is: will you allow Christ to reign, to rule in your life?   Will you allow Christ to be in charge, in control?

Two Scriptures come to mind when I reflect on how I personally respond to Christ.  These two passages have become part of my faith journey.  The references are on the GPS for you.  The first one is one I had to memorize for my first mission trip as a faculty advisor to Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf in the 90s.  As faculty advisor, I wasn’t in control; the students were.  Memorizing these verses was required to get into supper.  Memorizing has never come easy to me and I wasn’t so sure I’d be eating that first night. This passage from Philippians and having to memorize it has impacted me on several levels. Since that mission trip, I refer to these verses as the “Jamaica verses” and I have tried to have the attitude of Christ.  

Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV 1984)

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

The second one is from Micah.  There’s no great story really behind it impacting me, other than one day I heard it shared and it struck me that this is how I want to live my life, how I want to respond to Christ the King.

Micah 6:8 (NIV 1984)

 “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.”

How is my life different because I have responded to Christ the King? [Since this was added in after the 1st service, the response was different in both the 2nd and 3rd service, though the bottom line is about the same…. My life is different in that I attempt to listen and obey, even when I wrestle and struggle with whatever it is I hear and am asked to be or do.]

In The Call, Os Guiness reminds us:  “We are not our own; we have been bought with a price.  We have no rights, only responsibilities.  Following Christ is not our initiative, merely our response in obedience.” (p. 167)

What is your response to Christ the king today?   Will you choose to follow Christ and be His disciple?   How will you live out your inheritance?   

As you reflect on your inheritance in Christ today and your response to him, I hope that thanksgiving will be part of the response that flows out of the relationship that you have with Christ.

I close with these words from Ephesians (verses 15-23).  Listen carefully.  This is a different version, the Contemporary English Version.  The language is more personal.  May the Lord speak to you as you hear these words: 

“I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people. So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers. I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people. I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us followers. It is the same wonderful power he used when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven. There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers. He rules over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well. God has put all things under the power of Christ, and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything.  The church is Christ's body and is filled with Christ who completely fills everything.”  AMEN.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflections from Christ the King, Reign of Christ Sunday (part I)

Yesterday was Christ the King / Reign of Christ Sunday.  I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak at my home church (Burks UMC in Hixson, TN), 3 times--two Traditional services and one Contemporary service.  It was a great experience for me and a relief to be on this side of it.  Why a relief?  Because I made it.  It was one of those risky, scary steps of faith and obedience that I took.  I'm thinking there were others taking risky steps of faith in allowing me to do it as well. ☺  I'm grateful for the Mentored Ministry class I'm taking this semester that encouraged such an opportunity and even more grateful that my mentor was willing to allow me to pursue it.

It was the largest congregation I had ever been in front of for preaching.  I have been in front of this congregation before in the Traditional service to read Scripture, the Affirmation, help with the offering and pray.  But, those are all short-term activities.  Preaching lasts a little longer.   Was I nervous?  Yes.  Nervous from the day my mentor and I discussed it.  Nervous like up on the trapeze platform again or on the edge of the rock formation about to rappel off.  This was risky!  But, I took the first step or leap.  And, I'm glad I did. 

As I've shared before, I never planned to be a teacher.  Professors in college recommended me for a Teaching Assistantship at SUNY Stony Brook.  The very first day that I was in the classroom, it felt right; it fit.  I grew into becoming a better teacher over the course of the 24 years.  I made lots of mistakes along the way, but it was me and I was in the right place.

I have spoken at other churches.  My very first time was at Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station on Long Island.  It was my last Sunday there, as it turned out.  The pastor had long before planned to be on vacation and had asked me as a Lay Speaker to do pulpit supply.  At the time we didn't know that I would be moving back south.  "Are You Available?" was the title of my first sermon.  Since then, I have spoken maybe two handfuls of times (including yesterday's 3 times).  Each time, it has felt good and right.  But, there was something yesterday, during that 3rd time, during the Contemporary service, that clicked and felt very right.  Just like teaching felt. 

That is exciting and scary as all get out to me.  On one hand, I want to explore that and see where it leads.  On the other hand, I want to bury that sucker deep down because it scares the heeby jeebies out of me.  (Heeby jeebies is a colloquialism-- apologies to the many foreign readers.  I am not sure of a better expression here.)

I received some insightful and encouraging feedback both yesterday and today.  I have lots of room to grow in this area, in both my preparation and delivery.  Just as I had lots of room to grow in my teaching from the time I first stepped into the classroom.

I'm not claiming to know where I'm headed yet.  I'm not even claiming that I clearly see a new piece to the puzzle.  All I'm saying is that this is something that I enjoy and I might very well be cut out for it.  I'm leaving it in Someone else's hands still.

My parents came up from Dalton, GA to hear me.  That was a very cool and pleasant surprise.  My mom heard me back in 1989 when I spoke on Long Island.  My dad had never heard me speak.  It meant the world to me that they would drive up the road to support me and hear whatever it was that I might have to say. 

Besides my parents coming, there were a few other things that happened yesterday morning prior to me preaching.  Of those, the biggest two are indebted to a sister in Christ who was preparing for this day and praying for all of those in the service and the congregation.  One was seeing the prayer card she had written out for the day and seeing the crown of thorns in the middle.  She reacted when I walked in the door with a crown of thorns as well.  That was a God thing for me.  The second was seeing the quote for the day in the Green prayer book called A Guide to Prayer for All Those Who Seek God.  It's the one Guide book I didn't have yet, so I hadn't read what it said for Sunday.  The Blue and Red had some good quotes, but my breath was taken away as I read what was in the Green book.  This prayer guide is edited by Rueben Job.  Here is what she shared with me:

"We began the seasons of the church year with anticipation, and we end the seasons of the church year declaring a certainty. In Advent we waited for the needed and longed-for definitive and ultimate self-disclosure of God in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. On Reign of Christ Sunday we celebrate the fulfillment of the biblical revelation of God in Christ.

     Once again the church has listened to, reflected upon, rehearsed in worship, and tried to live in daily experience the redemption story. We come away from this last Sunday of the church year soaked to the core in the revelation of God in Christ. For us, as for those first disciples, there can be no turning back. Here in the light of Christ's triumphant presence we find our voice and declare once again, Jesus Christ is Lord of all and shall reign as Lord in my life. So committed, we are ready to face every eventuality of life because we now know the One in whom our life is found, redeemed, and kept secure.  Our radical trust is in the One who is completely trustworthy (2 Tim. 1:72). Life in Christ is good and complete." (A Guide to Prayer for All Those Who Seek God, Rueben Job, page 406.)

This grabbed my attention because of what the sermon held within it, and the title: "Does God Rain?".

Wow!  Another God-thing.

Not only am I grateful to my mentor for this opportunity, but for all of those who prayed for me, near and far, and for those who stayed awake during the sermon. ☺ [That's what my daughter prayed for when she went off to Kidzone.... she lifted me up in prayer... that no one would fall asleep during the sermon.  That was probably a good thing too as I wasn't as lively and interactive in that first service.]  I'm thankful for all the kind comments and expressions of how folks were moved to action or what stood out to them or that they were able to clearly understand me.  One comment was something to the effect that they support me in my calling.  That one scared me!!  It caused me to back up a little bit and remind them that I wasn't fully sure of what that calling is/was.... so they edited it to say that they supported me no matter where or how God is calling me.  Whew!!  You see, I still resist Christ the King... it is scary to say "yes", to follow and obey.  Even if it's only for a 3 month position while someone goes out of town, right?!?!  (hehe ☺)  [Actually, I shouldn't put that in here because if the right person reads this, I'll be held accountable and reminded that at least she submitted and said "yes".]

I've said "yes" to alot of things over the past year.  I've told God "okay" as God has brought things into my path and asked me whether or not I would accept these gifts of inheritance that were offered to me.  I have shared in past blogs the things I've said "yes" to, even after my "arguing" and "wrestling" with God.  I don't know where any of those things will lead.  All I know is that I have a choice whether to accept them or not.  The outcome is not up to me.  It is up to God.  At each crossroad, I have had to decide whether or not I would accept and live into what I felt was being asked of me or reject it.

And, truthfully, the reason I get scared today?  I'm there again.  Can't I get a break around here?  Whew!  This growing stuff is stretching me a little thin here.  I need one of those "Stretch Armstrong" dolls... if anyone knows what I'm talking about..... but, writing about that is just putting off the inevitable.

The answer is:  Yes, Lord, yes.  Whew.  I said it.  Now that I've accepted it, maybe God will let me rest a little.... maybe?!?!?  Just in case it's not clear, I'm saying yes into living in to my preacher me, whatever that means and whatever that is to be.

What is God asking you to answer?  How is God stretching you?  Are you willing to answer "yes"?

Keep on pressing on... this journey is an awesome adventure!

~Debra ☺

P.S. I will post the sermon in the next day or two.   

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Process of Deepening

This morning my daughter called from school.  She rarely calls from school.  Her request today was for her "crazy hat", her Mardi Gras hat, compliments of a friend.  Today was a crazy hat day if you provided for the "Fun for a Buck" school technology fundraiser.  We had done that earlier in the week, but had forgotten the hat today.  She had worn a ski mask to school to keep warm today and I attempted to talk her into allowing that to be her crazy hat.  I don't know why I said I would do it, but I agreed to bring the Mardi Gras jester hat to school.  I have never brought anything for her that she has forgotten to school in the K-5 years that she has been there.

On the way, I wondered if there was more reason than the silly crazy hat.

On my way out of the school, I turned to greet someone coming down the hall and stopped for a brief conversation.  We had a short, but good conversation about how things are going and where things are in her life.  It was awesome to hear how God was leading and guiding!  I believe that was one of those God-appointments.

Then, I come back home and start my devotional reading for the day.  In A Guide to Prayer for All God's People (red book) I read a quote that struck me as relational to the conversation I had just had.  The quote resonated with me on other levels as well because I've been on a journey of going deeper since 2006.

Here is the quote that I read.  It is by John Wijngaards from his book Inheriting the Master's Cloak (1985, p. 83).  In the Guide to Prayer it is found on pages 338 and 339.  I found a website with this book online, so the quote comes from there:

"Christian faith must constantly grow. It cannot remain static. Either it will slowly wither and die, or it will mature and bear ever more fruit. And as the stem grows higher and the branches heavier, it needs to strike deeper roots. Without deeper roots, there is little hope for survival.

“Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds sprouted, because the soil wasn’t deep. Then, when the sun came up, it burned the young plants; and because the roots had not grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up” (Mk 4:5-6).

Perhaps we are under the impression that Jesus himself did not need to undergo this process of deepening. Such an idea would be wrong. It is contradicted by all the indications that we can glean from the gospels, no less than by the explicit statement that Jesus grew in wisdom and grace (Lk 2:52). Being truly human in every sense of the word, Jesus needed to reflect, to incorporate new experiences into his self-concept, to reinforce his ideals and nurture his heart and mind with new images. Jesus was the most vibrant, open, sensitive, keen, inquisitive religious leader that ever lived. If his humanity, as we believe, presented “the exact likeness of God’s own being” (Heb 1:3), it reflected also the irrepressible vitality of God. At the same time, being one of us, Jesus needed to learn - “Even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient” (Heb 5:8). And the need to suffer was precisely a very upsetting discovery Jesus made."

Several things strike me from this quote.  First, "Christian faith must constantly grow".  Christian faith must constantly grow.  Christian faith must constantly grow.  Christian faith must constantly grow.  As I reflect upon this statement, there are several key words compacted together.  This is powerful.  That's why I repeated it three times with the emphasis on each different word.  Our roots must go deeper or else there is little hope for survival.  Ouch!  That's harsh sounding, or at least difficult to hear.  If we aren't growing deeper, then it is likely that we won't survive.

This growing deeper stuff, striking deeper roots, how does that come about? 

I know this image won't resonate with most folks, but I thought of the 80s arcade game "Dig Dug".  The little guy had to dig deep to get through the course, avoid obstacles, blow up enemies, etc.  It's not fully theologically sound, but it gives an image of going deeper.

When I think about roots needing to strike deeper in the soil, that can't be easy either. If the dirt is packed solid, the roots must work their way slowly and tediously as they attempt to break away some of the dirt to find a path deeper. Rain may soften the ground to make the process easier.

In life, in our Christian faith journey, there can be pain, suffering, loss, and often chaos during the process of deepening.  We are often shocked that we must go through these things.  But, as we are reminded by Wijngaards here, Jesus went underwent the process of deepening through suffering, so why do we not expect it?

As my friend pointed out this morning, we are typically in one of three places on the journey-- in the garden praying out to God, on the cross suffering, or experiencing the glory of the resurrection.  Just as Christ experienced these on different stages of growth, we will too, albeit differently from Christ.

Regardless of where we find ourselves, hopefully we will recognize the change and the growth taking place as we go deeper.

The process of deepening is worth it!

Here's to going deeper!