Friday, August 26, 2011

The Help...The Living Proof

Last week I went to see the movie, The Help.  I had read the book by Kathryn Stockett when it came out, as it was one of our Book Club books.  The book itself was a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.  I wasn't sure about seeing the movie, though I wanted to see how and what they did to the book in movie form. The Help (official movie link)

I'm glad I went.  It was as powerful as the book.  I laughed, I cried.  I was touched.  There were some powerful scenes in the movie. 

Just as the book had made me think back to my days of growing up in a small town, so did the movie.  I thought about the special people that I knew in both North and South Georgia that were part of the family.

There was Henry.  Henry was big and tall and strong.  He had a deep, rough voice.  And he liked to tease us kids.  He was a gentle giant.  He kept the lawn and grounds at my grandparents' home looking good. 

There was Lillie Mae.  Lillie Mae helped in the kitchen.  She was a great cook!  My grandmother cooked too.  Lillie Mae was small in stature and had a sweet spirit. 

In South Georgia, my great-grandparents had a lady named Bertie Rae who helped them out around the house.  She was a wiry, witty, spunky lady.  There were others in South Georgia who helped on the farms and lived in the shanties, but my memory isn't as good as it once was and I don't remember names. 

What I do remember is that in both North and South Georgia, these people were more than "help"; they were part of the family.  At least, that's what I grew up understanding. 

I never knew or understood the rough side of what was going on in the world around me as I was growing up.  I was born in 1964.  I grew up learning to accept folks of all races, color, and differences.   So, when I started learning about the history early on and how there were different water fountains at one time for different people, I didn't understand.  I couldn't see what the difference was. 

It is difficult for me to read and/or watch accounts such as are depicted in The Help.  The injustice, the cruelty, the inhumanity, doing things socially rather than what is right.  Yet, I've been guilty of doing the wrong thing more than once in my life time.  And, I'll probably make that mistake at least once or twice more in this lifetime.  I'm grateful for the opportunity for repentance and to receive grace and forgiveness.

There is redemption in The Help through the character of the writer, Skeeter.  She is bold and courageous, if not slightly naïve.  She empowers those around her by giving them a voice, by standing up with them and for them.  Through this journey of helping the others find their voice, she finds her own.

The theme song sung by Mary Blige, "The Living Proof", is a powerful song.  I had to sit through all the scrolling credits just to see what the song was. 

Here are the lyrics to the song:

It's gonna be a long, long journey
It's gonna be an uphill climb
It's gonna be a tough fight
It's gonna be some lonely nights
But I'm ready to carry on.

I'm so glad the worst is over ('cause it almost took me down)
I can start living now
I feel like I can do anything, yeah
And finally I'm not afraid to breathe.

Anything you say to me,
And everything you do,
You can't deny the truth,
'Cause I'm the living proof!
So many don't survive,
They just don't make it through
But look at me
I'm the living proof! Oh, yes I am.

Thinking 'bout life's been painful. Yes it was.
Took a lot to learn how to smile,
So now I am gonna talk to my people about the storm -- about the storm.
Oh, so glad the worst is over ('cause it almost took me down)
I can start flying now
My best days are right in front of me
And I'm almost there
'Cause now I'm free!

Anything you say to me
And everything you do
You can't deny the truth
'Cause I'm the living proof.
So many don't survive.
They just don't make it through.
But look at me
I'm the living proof!

I know where I'm going
'Cause I know where I've been
I'm gonna feel strong, that's showin'
I'm gonna be strong, keep growin'
That's the way that I will.

Anything you say to me
And everything you do
You can't deny the truth
'Cause I'm the living proof.
So many don't survive,
They just don't make it through
But look at me - yeah yeah
I'm the living proof!

Nothing about my life has been easy, no.
But nothin's gonna keep me down, no - down.
'Cause I know a lot more today
Than I knew yesterday, now
So, I'm ready to carry on,
Oh, Lordy. Mmmmmm. Mmmmmmm

Here is a link to listen to the song and watch a video:

The book and the movie have given me much to think about.  They have taken me back down memory lane.  They have ignited righteous anger within me.  They have pierced my heart with sadness.  They have given me things about which to smile and laugh.  They have helped me see how far we've come in society.  Or have we?  I do believe we've made progress.   Yet, I also see that we have a ways to go.  We are called to love one another. 

In this multicultural, multiracial world, it is imperative that we learn that lesson.  We need to learn how to sit down and talk with one another, share meals with one another, laugh with one another, cry with one another.

In the movie, there were several scenes that stand out to me.  The two church scenes were powerful.  The toilets and the pie were pretty funny.  But, what struck me was when the table was set with all the delicious home-cooked food and Minnie was invited to the table to feast at the banquet.  She hadn't been excluded prior in that home.  But this time, she was the guest of honor.  That was an incredible example of hospitality to me. 

The Help is also about some incredible friendships!  As I watched the movie, I couldn't help but think about some of the friends in my life.   

There is more I could probably write, but I'll stop for now.

May I have the boldness and the courage to stand up for what is right, to make a difference, to love all people in my life....  

Journeying onward,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Be Still and Know That I Am God...Psalm 46:10.

This has been one of those verses that won't go away.  ☺ That's a good thing.  I need this reminder OFTEN!  It's easy for me to get into the busyness of life or to become distracted.  It can be hard for me to simply be still.  Much harder sometimes for me to simply "be". 

Ever since we made bookmarks at a women's night a good handful of years ago and I felt led to put this verse on my bookmark, I have been on a journey to "be still".  I've written about my "be still" mug and posted a picture of it. (May 23, 2011)

Recently, at the 2 year bilingual academy, I found one of those small cards you can give away at the Cokesbury bookstore on site at the retreat center.  It had a spa-like atmosphere along with the verse.  It said "ahhhhhh!" to me.

It now rests above my computer so I can see it daily.  So, between the card and my coffee mug, hopefully I'll get the message.

If not, just this week I've learned a new way to allow this passage to help me live it out.  I'm facilitating an online lay-speaking course through and I have some of the most wonderful participants in this workshop!  I am blessed to be part of this journey.

One of the participants, Karen Straut, passed along this suggestion she had learned from a pastor many years ago.  Start by saying the entire verse ("Be still and know that I am God").  Then, repeat the verse, dropping off the last word.  Continue until you get to the last word.  Karen said: "It is a wonderful way, I think, to become focused on God and to quiet oneself when feeling a little stressed."  I agree.

It looks like this:

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
Be still

Hmmm... as I look at that inverted pyramid, I wondered.... what if then, you were to start over with "be" and add a word each time, culminating with the entire verse?

What would that look like?

Be still
Be still and
Be still and know
Be still and know that
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I am God.

Hmmm... that looks like a pyramid.  Now, if I were to put them both together, what would I have?

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
Be still
Be still
Be still and
Be still and know
Be still and know that
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I am God.

An hourglass!  Cool!  Maybe if I were to go through the entire process, I will have regained my focus and stillness. 

Another suggestion in the class was to incorporate this verse with breathing.  I have used this verse as a breath prayer before and it is a perfect length. 

Thank you to the participants of the workshop for getting my brain going. ☺ Now, to take some time and to implement this new knowledge.

I hope that you find to "be still" and to "be" in your journey!  If you have other ways that you use this verse in your journey, please share!

Blessings on your journey!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A gorgeous moon.... a cool breeze... some thoughts about peace and strength

What a beautiful morning this morning!  Yesterday was too, in fact.  I enjoy the cooler mornings, the crisp breezes.  I like being able to open up the doors and windows in my home and let the morning air come flowing through! 

This morning, in addition to the nice breeze, the moon was hovering over some wispy clouds.  As my daughter was waiting for the bus, she pointed that out to me and I grabbed a couple of shots with the camera.  In positioning myself to get a better angle, I found one shot of the moon through a picture frame of tree branches and leaves.  The moon, the cool breezes, listening to my water fountain trickling on the back patio... ah!  These are things that help calm my mind and soul.

Then I picked up Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young and read this for today (8/16/11): "Meet Me in early morning splendor.  I eagerly await you here.  In the stillness of this holy time with Me, I renew your strength and saturate you with Peace."  Ahhhh!  (That's a relaxing "Ahhhh!")  Stillness, renewed strength, peace.  I need those three things today.  If only I can be still long enough to receive that strength and saturated peace. ☺

I went next to A Guide To Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants, published by the Upper Room.  Admittedly, I sometimes get confused about what week I'm supposed to be on, especially when Sundays fall on the first day of the week.  But, I'm going with the week of "Sunday between August 21 and August 27" because this upcoming Sunday is the 21st and I want to end on that Sunday.  You're probably supposed to begin on that day.  Oh, well.  I'm probably getting all the wrong teachings. ☺

The Invocation for the week: "Almighty God, as you have sent Jesus to be for us light and truth, send now your spirit upon us to grant us grace and strength to follow in his footsteps this day.  Amen." (p.266)

The Psalm for the week is Psalm 18.  Verses 1-3 speak to me this morning: (NRSV) "I love you, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies."

The suggested hymn is "Jesus, Lover of My Soul".  Now, the hymn is a Charles Wesley hymn and is good.  However, I like the praise chorus that I first heard at a Women's Retreat two summers ago.  And, I heard it on the radio yesterday.  It's a praise chorus by Hillsong. (Darlene Zschech also sings it.) (Link to song, with Spanish lyrics in the comment area) (Link with Darlene Zschech singing)

The lyrics are:

Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Jesus, I will never let you go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You've set my feet upon the Rock, and now i know

I love you, I need you,
Though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go
My Saviour, my closest friend,
I will worship you until the very end

Benediction: "You have been reminded that Jesus Christ is your Lord and you are God's servant.  You are loved; you are forgiven; you are empowered and now you are sent to live as God's faithful one.  Amen." (A Guide to Prayer, p. 266)

Blessings on your journey this day!  May there be stillness, strength, peace, renewal... whatever is needed.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Church Under The Bridge...Mustard Tree Ministries

I've been wanting to go worship under the bridge (the Walnut Street Bridge).  I was able to go today!  On one hand, it's kinda sad that the homeless ministry is now homeless, that they have no particular building to call their own.  On the other hand, their ministry continues-- lunches are still being prepared during the week and given out, on Wednesdays now; dinners and Bible Study are still being shared, on Thursdays now; they are still meeting to worship, under the walking bridge now in the ampitheater seating.  Many churches come together to provide food and help for each of these three opportunities.

Today, under the bridge, it was Signal Crest UMC bringing the breakfast food.  They typically do the 2nd Sunday and for them, it's an outreach ministry called "2nd Sundays". 

I arrived around 10:30am and folks were already gathering and eating.  It was a good time of fellowship with those serving as well as with those who had come to hear the message.

As Pastor Barry had spoken at a Sunday School class prior to coming, he came in a little after 11am.

There were about 24 people there (+ the pastor), though I think a few more came in during the service.  We started off with some singing, led by Joseph on the guitar.  "Victory in Jesus", "I Saw the Light", and "Holy, Holy, Holy". 

Afterwards, the offering was taken up in a plastic grocery bag.  Pastor Barry asked someone to call him and remind him to bring the offering plate next time.  I don't know why.  I thought it was kinda cool.  [Since he had also forgotten the communion cup and juice, we didn't share communion, though someone had remembered the bread.   That's okay.  We had shared in other aspects of worship and fellowship.  I guess we could have dipped the bread in the milk or the water.]

Throughout the morning there was a pleasant breeze blowing which definitely helped keep the heat from being intolerable. 

The message came from Romans 12:1-2. Here are some of Barry's words and my thoughts from the message: Are we hungry for God?  What does it mean to be hungry for God?  Sometimes we just want to give parts of our lives to God and not all.  We need to make life-style changes in order to be a living sacrifice.  The only way to work through our faults is to give them to God, to surrender and to let God work within us.  Do we really want to be filled with the Spirit of God?  The Spirit isn't all happy, feel-good, warm fuzzy feelings.  The Spirit of Jesus is pure.  Do we really want to let go of those things that don't make us pure?  Whatever it is that isn't of God, are we willing to let go of it in order to be filled?  The Spirit is: gentle, wise, loving, sacrificial, humble.  God wants to transform us into a new person by changing the way we think.  Do we only want happiness from time to time or joy that lasts, no matter what happens to us? 

During the message, Barry wanted to show that in order to fill something up, you first have to empty it.  So, he grabbed a water bottle out of the cooler as his illustration.  Being full, it doesn't have room for anything else, but once you've dumped some of the water out, then it has room.  Just as if we are full of ourselves, we don't have room for the Holy Spirit.  We must first empty ourselves in order to be filled.  But, what if we're only willing to empty a little bit of ourselves and then allow just a little bit of the Holy Spirit in?  Barry demonstrated this by adding some whole milk to the partially empty water bottle.  The result?  One nasty looking milk bottle, thinner than any skim milk I've ever drank.  (Though I didn't taste this stuff!) 

When Barry got out his water bottle from the cooler, he realized he hadn't offered folks water, so for a few minutes there were water bottles being tossed into the congregation like peanuts at a ballgame.  I must say that for the most part there were excellent throws and catches.  As I was sitting on the row closest to Barry and the cooler, I received quite a baptismal sprinkling from all of those tossed bottles flying through the air.

What is my life filled with? (For those that the hanging preposition might bother--- With what is my life filled?)  What in my life is taking up space that God could better use?  Am I serious about getting rid of the junk in my life in order to allow God more space?  Am I offering God my best?  Do I want God to truly and completely fill me or do I really want to guard some areas for my own control?

These are some of the thoughts I was challenged with today at worship.  Maybe there is something here that speaks to you, challenges you.

I enjoyed worshipping under the bridge today!  It was a great time of fellowship and worship!

I hope I'm not living a milky/watery substance in my faith journey.  I know there are areas for improvement and growth.  I pray that God will continue to mold me, make me, shape me, break me.... whatever is needed.  I pray that I will continually be open and willing to be emptied of self and willing to be filled by God.

Blessings on your journey! 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Sponge... a faithful steward

Which sponge is more useful?  The one that is plump and moist or the one that is thin and scratchy dry?

The answer to that question may depend on how that sponge is going to used.  For most cases, a sponge works best if it already has some water soaked up in it, if it is moist, yet not overflowing with liquid.

A sponge isn't really helpful if it is soaking wet.  It cannot pick up any more liquid (ie the spilled milk, juice, etc.)  However, if you are washing dishes with it, it's okay for it to be overflowing with liquid.  The squishier, the better.  A dry sponge could be used to scrub off a difficult stain, but it would be more abrasive. 

Truly, the perfect sponge is one that has been soaked and squeezed empty, ready to soak up whatever spills have happened.

Why the thoughts on sponges?  And, is this a blog on cleaning?  (hehe. NO!)  Well, on my drive back home from the 2 year Academy, due to traffic, I had extra time to listen to CDs.  I popped in a Keith Green CD and it was because of Keith Green that I started thinking about sponges.

If you're not familiar with Keith Green, he is said to be the "father of Christian rock music".  I first heard of Keith Green from my first husband and will be forever grateful to him for that connection.  Keith Green's music is powerful, as was the book written by his wife Melody Green, No Compromise.

The song that got me thinking of sponges was this one: "Asleep in the Light" (Keith Green performing live from Estes Park, 1978)

Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down
Don't you care, don't you care
Are you gonna let them drown
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
"Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord"
You know it's all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear

But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in,
Oh, can't you see it's such a sin?

Cause He brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you, be at peace"
And all heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You've left him out on the streets
Open up open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay
God's calling and you're the one
But like Jonah you run
He's told you to speak
But you keep holding it in,
Oh can't you see it's such a sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can't fight
Cause it's asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can't even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done

Don't close your eyes
Don't pretend the job's done
Come away, come away, come away with Me my love,
Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, my love.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What made me think of the sponge were the words "keep soaking it in", "keep holding it in", "you've been so well fed"... The song struck a chord in me, reminding me that everything that I learn is to be given back.  In fact, everything I have is from God to begin with, I am simply a steward.  So, am I being a faithful steward of what I've been given--faith-wise, financially, educationally, giftedness, ETC.??  That is a question I must ask myself daily. 

It helps to know myself, my giftedness, etc.  What do I have to offer?  When I listen closely, I know those answers.  I have also taken spiritual gift inventories, DiSC inventory, Meyers-Briggs (a couple of times in my life), learning style inventories to know who I am and how I "tick" so that I can better know how I might give and work well with others in the Kingdom.

Soaking it all in for the sake of soaking it all in... and yet doing nothing with it is a sin.  Says Keith Green.  Says Jesus.  Jesus reminds us that the things we go through can be used to help others.  And, Jesus tells us to share what we have with others. 

So, will I be a sponge ready to serve?  I hope so.  I know there will be times when I'm being so filled up I'm going to need to be squeezed out in order to be ready to serve.  There will be other times when I'm dry and might can be used to get some really tough work done before I get filled up again.  At other times I might just be in the perfect "ready" position.  Regardless, I hope to be a faithful steward of all that God bestows upon me.

How about you?  How does Keith Green's song strike you?  How does the image of the sponge relate to you?

Blessings on your journey!  May you soak it in so that you may give it out!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

¿Dónde está Jesús? / Where is Jesus?

Have you seen Jesus today?  Or, where have you seen Jesus today?  That question can be a deep one, asking whether or not you've seen Christ lived out in the lives of those around you, in what way, etc.

But, for today, I'm not asking the deep spiritual question (though it's a great one and one to ponder and answer).  I'm asking it in a different way.

You see, during my week at the 2 year bilingual academy, Jesus would wander around the worship space daily.  He would interact and engage with the setting and the themes.  For example, one day Jesus was sitting on a miniature lecturn as if he were preparing to give a homily.  Another day he was sitting with prayer beads.  At another time he held healing balm.  Everytime I walked into the worship space I anticipated where I might encounter Jesus!?!? (feel free to take that on more than one level!)

I was intrigued by this roaming Jesus that interacted with us and captured my attention.  I learned that he is "The Jesus Doll" and is often used for ministry and teaching in many settings.  The Cokesbury bookstore on campus had one available.  The pamphlet that comes with it explains its ministry usages and possibilities.

From the website,, they say this of The Jesus Doll: "The Jesus Doll™ is created to be a visual reminder of Jesus' presence with adults and children at all levels of faith. When persons are separated from their communities of faith due to illness, distance, or institutionalization The Jesus Doll™ serves as a reminder of God's love.
It is an interactive figure for children and adults alike, conveying love, compassion and security.  Incredibly huggable . . . it gives loving, meaningful hugs whenever they are needed."

I never did hug the Jesus doll.  But I did touch him.

And, I was afraid for him one day.  He held a candle in his lap one day.  I thought that it would be cool to light it, as the other candles on the altar were lit.  But, then I wondered about the heat from the candle on him and the flames near his beard.  Well, someone else thought the candle would look good lit as well and lit it!  I guess I shouldn't have freaked and asked them to blow it out, but all I could picture was Jesus going up in flames because of his beard catching on fire.

I'm not sure which was my favorite Jesus, if you can have a favorite aspect of Jesus' character.  However, on the last day, Jesus appeared with a towel and a basin.  That was pretty powerful for me.   

Here are some of the pictures I took of Jesus in the worship space.  For me, there was anticipation and joy in seeking out Jesus daily in that worship space.  To be able to physically see Jesus engaging and participating in worship with us added to the worship experience in a very positive way for me. 

Thank you to all who prepared the worship space: for bringing Jesus into that space, both physically by the presence of the Jesus doll, and in many other ways.  The homilies, the songs, the decorated altars, the sacred spaces, sharing communion, etc. 


Altar views:


Now that I'm back home, there is no physical Jesus showing up and showing me the way of how I can participate in the day, be it prayer, healing, service, whatever.  I have to rely on what I have learned, seen, and experienced to carry it onward.  Hopefully my eyes will be open to Jesus around me and hopefully I'll be Jesus for others.
So, as you look around today, where is Jesus?  ¿Dónde está Jesús?
Blessings on your journey,