Saturday, December 22, 2012

Longest Night Service at Burks UMC 2012, December 21

Last night was the Longest Night Service.  This year, more than typically, there may have been vigils held at more locations due to the deaths in Newton, CT.  The Longest Night Service at our church, Burks UMC, included a beautiful time of remembrance for the lives of the adults and children of Newton, CT as well as others from the church family or those close to church family.   There were several aspects of last night's service that were touching for me, so I wanted to reflect.

It is never easy to allow ourselves to live into pain.  However, in my experience, it is only by living into and through the pain that I will be able to arrive on the other side to healing.  There will still be scars that hold memories, yet those memories are healed and restored if I have gone through the pain toward healing. 

A service of the Longest Night in which we focus on the light in the midst of the darkness of loss and pain is not an easy service.  There is somberness.  There is pain.  There are tears.  Yet, there is light, hope and life.  It is an odd place.  It is a paradox, but isn't much of what surrounds the Mystery?!!? 

A bagpiper player, Dr. Scott Douglas, began the service with a beautiful prelude which set the atmosphere (at least for me) in a beautiful somber tone. 

Last night I was blessed to not only attend, but participate.  I was able to bring words of welcome and lead in the call to worship. 

The call to worship:

Leader:  Jesus said, Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  And so we invite each other to this time of peaceful worship.  Flee for a while from your tasks;

People:  Hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts.

Leader:  Come, cast aside your burdensome cares and put aside your laborious pursuits.

ALL:  Give your time to God, and rest in God for a little while. 

The "Prayer of the People" for this occasion was:

O God, we come to you in prayer this night;
For all who have a song they cannot sing,
For all who have a burden they cannot bear.
For all who live in chains they cannot break,
For all who wander homeless and cannot return,
For those who are sick, and for those who tend to them,
For those who wait for loved ones, and wait in vain,
For those who live in hunger,
And for those who will not share their bread,
For those who are misunderstood,
And for those who misunderstand
For those whose words of love are locked within their hearts,
And for those who yearn to hear those words,
Show us the way, O God, for we your people walk in darkness.
Reverend Leon Fraley, our former Associate Pastor, was in town for Christmas and was able to be part of the service as well.  That was a wonderful blessing.... not only to see him (and Rhonda, his wife), but to hear him share.  Prior to being in ministry in the church, he served in the school systems as an educator and a principal.  He was the perfect choice to honor and remember the children and educators from Sandy Hook Elementary. 
It was difficult to get up and read the Scripture passage after watching the names and faces of those who had been murdered.  Psalm 139:1-12.
Rev. Amy Nutt brought a reflection message, "Sleeping with Bread".   The title of this reflection comes from a book with the title, in which the story is told of children from World War II who could not sleep at night because they were hungry and afraid.  So, they were given a piece of bread for comfort and that helped them sleep because they had bread for the day and knew that they would have bread for the next day.
The story intrigued me, as did the book, so I had to do some investigating.  I learned that this book was based on this story, but expanded it into our daily lives.  The authors (Dennis Linn and family) show us how we can find comfort and hope in the things which sustain us.  Investigation also revealed that the book is about the daily examen and prayer and has been used for retreats and in many other venues to help people in their journey of growing closer to God.  This is a book that I must now read! ☺
Besides sharing this story about 'sleeping with bread', Amy spoke about 'hiding from God' from the Scripture passage and our desire to do so.  She shared about her personal grief and needing space... we all need space to grieve and grow.  I appreciate leaders who model and lead by example.  I have been blessed to know quite a few.
Amy asked this question: "What has God brought in my life to give me comfort?"
After her reflection, candles were lit in remembrance and for healing for those in the church family.  After the list had been read, the congregation could add to the names.  Mary Lee Clark and I got to be the candle lighters for this time.  For me, that was a sacred time as well.
We had communion next.  Rowland and Amy served us the elements this time.  Often they will prepare the table and serve the servers and be available for prayer.  But last night they prepared the table, served each other and then served all of us.  That was meaningful for me last night... to receive the elements from them. 
After communion, Wil Martin sang "Christmas in Heaven".  What a beautiful song. 
"Christmas in Heaven" lyrics:
December hasn't changed
This town looks the same
They still light that tree in the city square
There's red, white, and green shining everywhere
And I wish you were here
And I wonder

Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold
Are the mansions all covered in white
Are you singing with angels "Silent Night"
I wonder what Christmas in heaven is like

There's a little manger scene
Down on Third and Main
I must have walked right by it a thousand times
But I see it now in a different light
'Cause I know you are there
And I wonder

Are you kneeling with shepherds before him now
Can you reach out and touch his face
Are you part of that glorious Holy night
I wonder what Christmas in Heaven is like

Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold?
Are the mansions all covered in white?
Are you singing with angels "Silent Night"
I wonder what Christmas in Heaven is like
                   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I couldn't help think that this year, there will be quite a few more children running around at Christmas time in heaven.  That, along with the deaths I've personally encountered this week, touched me tremendously.
The bagpipe player closed us out with another beautiful tune.  On the way out, Amy had arranged for each of us to be able to have our own bread to take with us.  Tangible ways to remember the reflections are always neat.... especially when they are edible. ☺
A very blessed longest night service indeed!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What plagues you and drags you down? Thoughts from Jesus Calling, migraines, and an extended break from writing

I really still don't have the time to do this, but I have to.  It has been too long.  I didn't post a single post in November and here it is December 18.  This is a record for me.... a record that isn't one I desire.  Yet, it has been necessary.

In November, I did plan to post the two sermons I preached, but I just wasn't able to get to it.  I still plan to post them, so that is something I will work on between classes.

The reason for my absence on my writing portion of my spiritual journey?  It was out of necessity in that I had a project for one class to write and a paper for another.  The project I chose was to write a retreat.  A weekend retreat.  The paper I wrote on was "discermnent".  There was quite a bit of reading I did in preparation.  And I knew that I needed to save my creative writing energy for those two "biggies". 

However, there were many times when I could have used some short processing of life, situations, thoughts, etc.  There have been lots of great things from sermons, conversations, books I've been reading, a contemplative photography site I found, etc. Yet, I couldn't take the time to write about them.  I really didn't even have much time.

My husband had shoulder surgery in the beginning of November.  It was supposed to be primarily to scoop out a bone spur, but the doc worked a tad on the rotator cuff too.  So, the estimated week of being home for recovery turned into a month.  That took some adjusting to schedules and life, but we all made it work.

Then there have been the migraines that have been nearly non-stop since November.  I have had migraines for many years.  I am on anti-migraine medication plus I take migraine medication when they come on.  But at this point, I am starting to be worn down.  Yes, the stress of life and school has been weighing on me, but has it been that strong?  Have not my times of prayer and exercise (taekwondo, yoga, and zumba) been sufficient to rid my body of the stress?!?!  I guess not.

So this morning I pull myself out of bed, get my "Be still and know that I am God" mug with some Café Britt java and read today's Jesus Calling entry.

The very first line read: "WHEN YOU ARE PLAGUED by a persistent problem--one that goes on and on--view it as a rich opportunity."  Really?!?  'A rich opportunity?!?!'  Hmmm.... Well, I'm not so sure I can see these migraines as 'a rich opportunity.'  However, I will keep reading.

"An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side.  The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable.  In faith, thank Me for your problem.  Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty.  Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down."

I fully realize that I can learn from listening to my body.  And, likely "stress" is an issue.  Yet, it would be ironic, considering that I'm doing less in my life this year than I was last year when I worked part time.... and even less than when I worked full time.  Even with the exercise, I haven't been able to go for a therapeutic massage in a while, so that would be good.  I have read THOUSANDS of pages in a short time period..... that could be a very valid reason my head hurts.  Books for seminary, books for the Academy sessions.  And, simply because my brain gets to a point that it can't stop... one book for relaxation. 

Today I am challenged with being thankful for my migraines and being willing to see them as an opportunity for learning and for listening.  Okay, I accept this challenge.  If I learn that the answer means checking back in with docs, that's cool.  There is always this thought way back in the back of my head when I have headaches like this because of a family history of brain aneurysms.  I did have a brain scan several years back when I was having many migraines and they found nothing in my brain. ☺  A confirmation to many.

For those who have been keeping up with my blog even though I have been M.I.A. (missing in action), THANK YOU!! 

Since I have been challenged today, it is only appropriate that I pass along that challenge to others....

What plagues you and drags you down?  Can you come to the point of being thankful, learning from it and seeing it as an opportunity?

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  If you are interested in looking them up, the Scripture references for today's Jesus Calling are: Isaiah 30:20-21; 2 Corinthians 4:17 (Amplified)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Red Sea Rule #8--Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.

Last week during Wednesday night Bible Study we covered Red Sea Rule #8--"Trust God to deliver in His own unique way."

God even delivered the message that night uniquely in that the regular teacher (Amy) was out sick due to lack of voice.  So, Pastor Rowland stepped in to lead the class.  He mentioned that her nickname around the office that day had been "squeaky".  That was pretty funny.  At the same time, not so good as I knew she had a 2nd Emmaus weekend coming up the next day and was scheduled to give a talk during the weekend.  "Squeaky" to no voice doesn't work well when one is to give a talk.  God delivered Amy to the Emmaus Walk and delivered a message through her there as well, from what I understand.  But that's not about the study Wednesday night.

The handbell choir opened up our time together in worship.  What a blessing.  I always enjoy listening to them and watching them.  They rang "On Christ the Solid Rock", "Have Thine Own Way", and "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus". 

Pastor Rowland started off the study with a recap of rules 1-7.

Then, it was time to jump into rule #8.  Rowland shared that Moses is/was called the "deliverer".  Then, Rowland showed a video of Moses' life from his birth and deliverance to safety, to his calling and the burning bush to his delivering God's people.  It was a good overview of Moses' life.

I was able to find the Moses video he showed on YouTube.  It plays for 6 minutes and 54 seconds.  You can watch it by clicking here.

Exodus 2:10-- (NIV) "When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”"

Moses was drawn out of the water.  Water is a motif from the beginning for deliverance in Moses' life.

Moses has times in his life when righteous anger causes him to react to situations to help his people, but they aren't calls from God.  They aren't the time nor place of God's divine call or purpose.

However, when God's divine call does come to Moses, Moses comes up with several excuses.  Even though Moses has felt it, even though he had his burning bush experience and was drawn to God, he isn't 100% sure he can go through with this.... Besides, likely it isn't quite what he pictured.  God is calling Moses to something beyond what Moses himself can see.

Exodus 3:11-15 (NIV)--
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.

What God tells Moses here is: "I see", "I hear", "I am aware".

What Moses responds to God is: (his attempts at excuses, backing away)
  • "Who am I?" (what authority do I have?) 
  • "Who is God?/What is the name of God?" (who are you? / who do I say you are?)
Another excuse/response from Moses doesn't come until Exodus 4:1 and Moses asks: "What if they won't believe me or listen to me?"

God responds to Moses by telling him two displays of power he can show the power of God and God's authority through.

There is yet a 4th objection from Moses.  Moses doesn't give up on trying to get out of his divine calling.  In Exodus 4:10, Moses basically says, 'I don't have what it takes.' in saying that he isn't able to speak.  God replies saying: 'I made you.'

Exodus 4:10-11 (NIV)-- "Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"

This is a reminder to Moses (and to us) who is calling the shots, so to speak.  What is interesting here is that God isn't pumping Moses up, telling Moses 'you can do it', but rather reminding Moses who God is

I don't know about any of you reading this, but I can definitely relate to Moses and his objections (excuses) before the Lord.  I've pulled several of those same "cards" in trying to get away from my calling.  It hasn't worked too well for me either. 

Pastor Rowland said: "When God calls you to do something, say "yes" and God will work through you."  It will be much easier on us if we say "yes" up front and move on.  However, if we do like Moses, we will grow through that process as well. ☺

Toward the end of the class, Pastor Rowland tied up the teaching of Moses' life as a "deliverer" and his calling to Rule #8 and mentioned that there is a purpose for the miracles of God.

Moses was used by God to free the people, to be their deliverer.

In Exodus 6:6, God told Moses what to tell the people once again: "“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment." (NIV)

The underlying and ultimate concern of miracles is to know God as Lord.  Miracles are supernatural suspensions of natural laws. 

God may deliver through miracles.  Or, God may give grace to endure (like the thorn in Paul's flesh.)

Character transformation is the desired end product and we can trust God to deliver us in God's own unique way.

Thank you Rowland for stepping in and teaching the class!

As always, this is a combination of my notes and thoughts.... so I hope I have done justice to the class and the teacher.

  • Are you wrestling with a divine calling like Moses and attempting to dissuade God as to why you are not the right person?

  • Are you in need of a miracle or deliverance in or from a situation?

Maybe some of these words can bring encouragement your way.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, October 22, 2012

Oreos and Milk... Now that's communion!

The last day of Session #6 of the Academy held some interesting conversations and encounters for me.  In the couple of weeks since then, some things have happened around one of the subjects to spur me to write about it.

But first, one of the cool things that happened that last day for me was that I got to meet and shake hands with the Methodist Bishop of Cuba who was in Florida for a meeting with the Florida/Cuba prayer group.  I had learned the night before that he was there and really hoped to meet him.  Cuba has been my dream country to visit since I was a little kid and heard my grandfather talk about going to Cuba to check out the pine trees.  My grandfather was State Forester of Georgia many moons ago, so pine trees were part of his life.  I had a very brief encounter with the Bishop, spoke with him in Spanish, got his business card.  I still have hopes and dreams that I will get there one day.

After meeting him, I sat down for breakfast with some folks.  This is where my "oreos and milk" story starts.  Table fellowship is a special time.  Folks gathering around a meal becomes a wonderful time to share.  Sharing can become growth producing and challenging; it can become healing; it can be funny; it can be serious.  It is community building.  At this particular meal, somehow the conversation turned to communion.  Our worship leader, Irving, shared about a communion in particular in which oreos and milk were served.  BING!  I cannot tell you why, but that certainly got my attention.  It resonated deep within me to a place and point that I'm still trying to understand.  What I know is that it felt real and it felt right.  Sure, it sounded "cool".  But, so much more than that.  First, the "cool" factor.

How many of us have dipped an oreo into a cold glass of milk?  And then tasted the yumminess of soggy oreo?  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  For some reason, the verse 'Taste and see that the Lord is good.' comes to mind right now. 

Can you imagine setting the table with your oreos and milk and inviting your friends, your enemies, the outcasts, the rich, the poor, the hungry, etc. to come partake in the meal that is set before them?  I can imagine that.  I wish I had been able to witness that communion that Irving was sharing with us.

Others went on to share different communions they had experienced and/or offered.  It was a thought-provoking and heart enlivening conversation for me.

Why? Why would conversations about communion and how it's done get me excited?  That's a great question.  In fact, that's a question I've been wrestling with and attempting to discern for many years now.  In my core, I believe I have a sacramental calling to the elements and that is why communion calls so deeply to me.

It started when I was a kid, at the altar rails of the Episcopal Church.  It continued as I shared communion with those of my wedding party (the first time around).  As I took communion to the home bound for several years and shared with them, there was something that continued to grow.   I got married in 2004 and my husband and I were able to serve communion to our guests with a specially made communion set by a very dear friend.

Communion Set made by Dawn Raburn, 2004

Last week, my retired Navy Chaplain friend and his wife gifted me with a communion set that he used in the Navy.  I was overwhelmed by this gift.  I hope to learn more about this communion set as I'm sure it has lots of lives and stories surrounding it.

I have been blessed to serve communion many times in church after the elements have been consecrated.

I have been humbled to be able to assist in the communion ceremony three times now with other pastors.  One of those was at the Academy the time I gave a homily in Spanish.  I was able to help with the liturgy portions of the "Great Thanksgiving" (Our teamwork pattern was that anytime she gave me the finger--pointed toward the paper--it was my time to read.  It was a good system, though I chuckled the first time she gave me the finger.)  The other two times have been in situations where other clergy weren't around and a seminary student was the next closest thing.  This time the seminary student was also a "Certified Candidate".  Under the elder in charge each time, I got to lift the cup, say a few words and then offer the cup to the body. 

It's different when you have the words in front of you than when you are going from memory.  And, as it was with teaching for 24 years, I imagine I'll get a little better at what I say and how I say it as I grow and live into my role.... whatever that may be.

For now, all I can tell you is that communion, the holy meal, the Eucharist... (whatever you want to call it) holds a special place in my heart and soul.  Not only for me to receive it so that I remember, but to share it with others.

All this writing is making me thirsty.  How about a cold glass of milk?  And, while I'm at it, I wonder if there are any oreos around here?

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  I recognize that some people will not agree with me in thinking that a communion of oreos and milk is "cool".  In fact, some may think it worse than that.  However, I rarely have communion with unleavened bread and wine as Jesus offered.  What about you?  Thus, for me, I am able to live into the symbolism and fellowship of the table offering and remember Jesus... as Jesus lived, as Jesus served, as Jesus asked that we live and serve.  So, hopefully, we can agree to disagree and come to the table together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Red Sea Rule #6--When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.

This class was held on September 26th.  That was several weeks back.  Once again, I'm relying on notes and jarred memories to recall that night. 

The choir sang "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" to begin our time together.  [That hymn has a very special place in my life as it was used as a means of prevenient grace one evening to encourage, uplift, and prepare me for something that was waiting for me.  I will not forget that serendipity meeting with David and Barbara Masoner in the Charlotte, NC airport on my way home to Hixson, TN from New Bern, NC that June evening in 1998.  It was truly a gift from God.  Maybe I'll share more about that one day...]

Rev. Amy Nutt gave a recap of the previous weeks and Red Sea Rules, to bring us up to tonight:  Red Sea Rule #6:  "When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith."

Amy shared an experience of trying to get home one evening with a road block in the way between her and home.   She had just enough time calculated in her mind to get home, do a few things, and then it would be off to the next appointment on her list.  However, due to the road block, she needed to find a different way home.  The way she tried didn't work out.  The GPS recalculated for her as she wound her away through the streets, arriving back to where she had started.  When she realized there was a "detour" application, she activated it and a route came up that went around the road block.  Hurray for detours!  Detours can be good.  (Hmm... that is a cause for a pause.  Often we think that a detour will take us way out of our way or down some path that will take longer, etc.  However, in reality, a detour can actually be quicker, it might provide new scenery, new perspective, etc.  This gives new meaning to detours for me.  Can I now embrace them more readily?!?!  That is yet to be seen. ☺)

So, sometimes we need to STOP doing what we are doing.  Just stop where we are and re-program to get new directions.  Is there anything in your life, my life that might need a STOP, RE-PROGRAM (DETOUR) and NEW DIRECTION right now?  Something to consider.

Scripture focus: Exodus 14:13-15 (NIV):
"Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on."

The chapters within Red Sea Rule #6 are broken down into "Day by Day", "Step by Step", and "Moment by Moment".  That's a good way to look at things, especially when you are unsure.  And for the first two at least, I am reminded of songs. ☺ 

"Day by Day" from the 1970s "Godspell":
Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day
"Step by Step" by Rich Mullins:
Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to steep so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so worth much left to do
But so much you'd already done

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
And I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit from me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the glime can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

And I will follow You all of my days
And I will follow You all of my days
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days 

Upon searching, I found a hymn entitled "Moment by Moment" (a link to lyrics).  It was written in 1893 by Daniel Whittle.  Here are the lyrics:

  1. Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
    Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
    Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
    Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
    • Refrain:
      Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
      Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
      Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
      Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
  2. Never a trial that He is not there,
    Never a burden that He doth not bear,
    Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
    Moment by moment, I’m under His care.
  3. Never a heartache, and never a groan,
    Never a teardrop, and never a moan;
    Never a danger but there on the throne,
    Moment by moment He thinks of His own.
  4. Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
    Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
    Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
    Jesus my Savior abides with me still.
To listen to the music for "Moment by Moment", click on this title.

But, I have digressed from the lesson.  All the pastor did was mention the three chapter titles and it got me thinking about songs. ☺

The pastor shared the Scripture and then spoke about how the Hebrews were to go forward, go on, move on.  This group of people had been set free and told to move on.  Moses was their GPS.  They had been set free.  And they were moving on... until they got to a place where there seemed to be no move.  And at that moment, they were stuck.  They were at a road block.  Water in front of them and the Egyptians hot on their heels behind them.  When they asked their GPS, Moses, what to do... and in turn Moses asked his GPS God what to do, the answer came back: Exodus 14:15b--"Tell the children of Israel to go forward." 

Go forward.  Now that wasn't too logical, but it was faith.  And what if they had been paralyzed by fear instead of moving forward?  They would have died.  It seems the journey is typically about "moving forward".  Yes, there are plenty of times to "be still", to listen, to rest, to wait and see.  But, then there comes a time to move forward.  More likely than not, that "move forward" will require faith.  As we move forward in faith, we will find ourselves being molded and shaped as we learn and grow. 

What does it mean for you to "move on" in your life now?

On page 68 of the book, the last two paragraphs read:

"To go as I am led, to go when I am led, to go where I am led"; A.T. Pierson once wrote, "it is that which has been for twenty years the one prayer of my life."

"Take things moment by moment, and when you don't know what to do, just do what comes next.  Trust God to lead you a step at a time."  (68)

On a personal note, I was e-mailing someone I met 2 years ago at the TN 5 Day Academy.  I am now on a board with her.  In the e-mail, she remarked something to the effect of: 'look where God has led you these last two years...' Another cause for a pause.  It is true.  It's a "WOW!" moment.  A lot has happened in my life these past two years.  My journey has been chock full of many adventures.  I am trying to be still and listen along the way..... and then move on as guided.

So, this post wasn't solely about the lesson on Red Sea Rule #6.  Forgive my digressions and personalizations.

There is one more thing that happened before the evening came to a close.  A friend stood up to share that she had been struggling with colon cancer for the past 6 months, but that along the way God had been working in her and moving her forward.  Her most recent scan showed 100% clear and not even traces of scars from before.  She knew that some people had been praying for her, even though she had not shared with many.  And, she was grateful to be where she was... and to have grown through the journey.  As a next step of moving forward for her, the pastor spontaneously asked if she would come up for prayer.  My friend responded hesitantly, "now?".  She went forward and several people went forward to pray with and for her. 

Community continues to build and grow in the body and it is a blessing to see.

Again, I would ask, how is God asking you to move on?  In what areas of your life do you need to let go of things, people, situations, etc. in order to move forward? 

Remember, when unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.

Blessings on the journey,


Flourishing when we feel weak or not whole.... SCWN Luncheon September 27

Today's post is from a luncheon I went to last month in which Tabi Upton spoke to the local Scenic City Women's Network (SCWN).  I realize that September 27 is now several weeks in the past.  I also realize that even though I have my notes to rely upon, I may not fully share every wonderful nugget that Tabi shared with us that afternoon.  I apologize in advance for my lapses in memory and notes.

I first met Tabi at a previous SCWN Luncheon at which Jerilyn Sanders spoke.  Tabi has a presence about her that shines love, light, joy, and life.  She is beautiful on the outside and the inside.  I'm sure there are better qualified folks to tell you more about her.... I've only met her twice.  But, this is what I've seen.  And, this past time, I was blessed to hear her story of flourishing.... flourishing through those times when we feel weak and/or when we don't feel whole.

(If you're from the Chattanooga area and you're thinking to yourself, 'that name sounds familiar'.... that may be because Tabi writes a column for the local newspaper, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.)

Back to the luncheon.

Tabi mentioned the stages that we go through when dealing with a situation of health (or other):  fear, grief, sadness, anger, hope.  These stages are similar to grief stages because when we are faced with an illness or a breakdown in our bodies (or any other situation), we come face to face with our humanness, our mortality, our limitations.

For Tabi, she was facing foot surgery in order to keep the functionality of her feet.  And for someone who was athletic, independent, etc., that was not an easy thing to face.

Tabi spoke to us about the brokenness in our bodies, our souls, our spirits.  She shared God as a healer throughout the Gospels and that God wants to heal us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Tabi shared several book resources with us as well as three steps to flourishing as she shared her personal story.  Unfortunately, I didn't get all the book resources.  I did catch a couple of them.  One of them that I wasn't sure where to put in the order of the talk is: The Healing Code by Alexander Loyd and Ben Johnson.

Steps to Flourishing:
  1. Understand that God's light and love heal us.  (Resource suggested: Agnes Sanford's Healing Light.) [She talked about the Greek term for healing, sozo, which means 'saved to the uttermost', 'salvation' and that reminded me of sozo prayer ministry I'm familiar with.  There may be several places locally that offer Sozo prayer.  I know that this ministry, Growing in Grace Ministries, does.  This short video explains how a Sozo session can help someone with life's struggles.]
  2. Link ourselves with other people.  This boosts our immune system.
  3. Allow God to reveal our hurt.  Acknowledge we are torn, broken...
  4. Position ourselves to receive healing.  Forgive others.  Confess our sins.  (Resources suggested: The Meal that Heals by Perry Stone; a book on healing by Leann Payne)
  5. Surrender the "how". 
  6. Prayer.  Prayer heals us.  Oil, laying on of hands, praying and proclaiming the Word of God.
Tabi's sharing was uplifting, encouraging, convicting, powerful, and truly was a living testimony to the Hebrew Scriptures in Isaiah that say:
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
(Isaiah 52:7 NIV)
Thank you, Tabi, for sharing last month with those gathered around table fellowship.  You brought not only good news of health and healing, but you also proclaimed salvation and that it is God who reigns.
For those who weren't able to be there and are reading my version, even though these notes and thoughts aren't as good as being there, maybe there will be something you can glean for your journey today.
Blessings on your journey today,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

God Is My Rock / El Señor es mi fuerza

Tonight's evening prayer time includes a healing service.  In the Academy week, the next to last night is the healing prayer service.  The last night?  Well, let's just say it's a little different from all the other evenings. ☺

Anyway, tonight was special for me on several levels.  One, I had been asked to read the Scripture in Spanish.  I enjoy speaking Spanish.  I enjoy reading Scripture.  I enjoy reading Scripture in Spanish.  Since I attend an English-speaking congregation, I don't get to read Scripture in Spanish.  Though there was that one Sunday I was scheduled to read Scripture the day we returned from our Costa Rica mission trip... and the Scripture was all about missions.... I was able to read both in Spanish and English that day.  That was a blast!  There is something in reading the Scriptures in Spanish that throttles my engine even more than reading it in English.  But, I digress.

So, I got to read Mark 5:25-34 tonight.  Even though Spanish has been my language for over 30 years, I still struggle with my "rr".  I struggle with the "r" sound in French too.  It took me forever (it seemed) to get that down the summer I was at Middlebury.  But, I don't worry too much because I still stumble, stutter, and struggle in my native language...English.

One of the songs tonight, "God Is My Rock"/«El Señor es mi fuerza», was on our worship plan.  It is in the Upper Room Worshipbook, #278.  Ot was written by Juan Antonio Espinosa and is based on Psalm 62. 

It is powerful in both languages.  But, tonight, I chose to sing it solely in Spanish.  It is one of those songs that causes emotion to well up within me.  The lyrics touch various parts of my life.... heart, mind, soul, and vocation.... so, that is likely why it gets me.

Blogpost in Spanish by the author of the song, Juan Antonio Espinosa, with the lyrics and information on where to find the song and buy it.

A new version of the song is found here at a website where it can be bought and/or played.  The website is OCPenespañol.

For a scanned page of the song and some information from, click here.

Video with background pictures and lyrics.

Lyrics in Spanish:

El Señor es mi fuerza,
mi roca y salvación.

Tú me guías por sendas de justicia,
me enseñas la verdad.
Tú me das el valor para la lucha,
sin miedo avanzaré.

El Señor es mi fuerza,
mi roca y salvación.

Iluminas las sombras de mi vida,
al mundo das la luz.
Aunque pase por valles de tiniebla,
yo nunca temeré.

El Señor es mi fuerza,
mi roca y salvación.

Yo confío el destino de mi vida
al Dios de mi salud.
A los pobres enseñas el camino,
su escudo eres Tú.

El Señor es mi fuerza,
mi roca y salvación.

El Señor es la fuerza de su pueblo,
su gran Libertador.
Tú le haces vivir en confianza,
seguro en tu poder.

El Señor es mi fuerza,
mi roca y salvación.

Lyrics in English:

Refrain (sing in the beginning and in between each verse)
God is my rock and my salvation,
the strength of my life.

You still call us to walk the paths
of justice, you help us see the way.
As you give us the courage for life's trials,
we shall not be afraid.

In the midst of our fears and darkening
shadows you bring us hope and light.
In your presence we go through death's dark valleys;
we shall not be afraid.

We entrust you, the God of our salvation,
with all the future holds.
Guide, protect, and defend the poor and helpless;
you are their rock and shield.

Lord Almighty, the great strength of your people,
our strong Deliverer.
Liberator, secure us in your power;
we trust in you alone.

So, another song from my Academy week, my overall Academy experience.  For some reason, I have focused quite a bit on songs this week.  The music tends to penetrate the depths of my heart, mind, and soul.... and enter into the hidden places of which I'm even unawares.  When it happens, I am reassured that God is working in my life, that God does have a calling on my life, and that I following my Guide.

Truly, God is my rock and my salvation, the strength of my life.  God is guiding me and giving me the courage to face the unknown.  God is illuminating the shadows of my life, peeling away the onion layer and revealing the true self.  I do have confidence in the destination of my life.

As you contemplate the lyrics of this song, in the language of your choosing, I hope it might speak to you.

Blessings on the journey,

~Debra ☺

Spirit, Come, Dispel Our Sadness at Academy #32

The hymn by Lutheran Paul Gerhardt "Spirit, Come, Dispel Our Sadness" (written in 1648) was introduced to us Tuesday morning.  Then, today, we came back to it in the afternoon session, looking at the 2nd verse in light of forgiveness.
According to, Paul Gerhardt wrote verses 1 and 3.  Jane Marshall wrote verse 3 in 1975.
Verse 2 definitely speaks to me as it mentions fire, heal, flame, peace, dove, wind, and abundant life... among other things.
It is hymn #253 in the Chalice Hymnal, which is the Disciples of Christ hymnal.
In the Presbyterian Hymnal, it is #317 and uses Holy Ghost instead of Spirit.

Another version includes 5 original verses/stanzas of Paul Gerhardt, omitting the verse from Jane Marshall.  You can find it here.

Here is the version from the Chalice Hymnal, #253.  I would suggest reading through the song, using a form of lectio divina.  Read the lyrics slowly to see what words and phrases speak to you.  Jot them down.  Reflect on them.  See if they lead you to Scripture and/or allow them to lead you into prayer.
Spirit, come, dispel our sadness;
pierce the clouds of nature's night;
come, O Source of joy and gladness,
breathe your life, and spread your light.
From the height which knows no measure,
as a gracious shower descend,
bringing down the richest treasure
we can wish, or God can send.

Let your fire heal our dissensions,
let your flame refine our goals,
let your peace resolve our tensions,
send your dove to soothe our souls.
Let your wind flow fresh within us,
sweeping clean all hate and strife
from our hearts; O come and win us
for a more abundant life.
Author of the new creation,
come, anoint us with your power.
Make our hearts your habitation;
with your grace our spirits shower.
Hear, O hear our supplication,
blessed Spirit, God of peace!
Rest upon this congregation
with the fullness of your grace.

Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1648

Thanks for allowing me to share yet another song with you.  Blessings on your journey.


I am new...

"I Am New" by Jason Gray


Now I won't deny
The worst you could say about me
But I'm not defined
By mistakes that I've made
Because God says of me

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I'm dearly loved
I am new

Who I thought I was
And who I thought I had to be
I had to give them both up
Cause neither were willing
To ever believe

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I'm dearly loved
I am new

Too long I have lived
In the shadows of shame
Believing that there
Was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn't see me the way that I do
He doesn't see me the way that I do

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I'm dearly loved
I am new

I am not who I was
I am being remade I am new
Dead to the old man, I'm coming alive
I am new

Forgiven beloved
Hidden in Christ
Made in the image of the Giver of Life
Righteous and holy
Reborn and remade
Accepted and worthy, this is our new name

This is who we are now...

I have heard this song on the radio before and it has caught my attention.  Today, someone shared it during sharing time and mentioned that the video is worth checking out because he takes pieces of old material, even "junk" and creates something new from it all.  So, I decided to look it up.  I found it on YouTube, vimeo, and Godtube.  There are commercials to deal with and/or hesitation in the video on all the sites, at least today.  So, take your pick and see which works best for you.

As I listen to the song, there are several things that strike me/come to mind.  This is a great song about grace and the sanctification process.  We are being made new.  I am being made new.  Like the caterpillar being transformed in the cocoon, I am being remade.  It is an ongoing process.  There is much dross to be burned off, many things to be worked on.  As I go deeper and deeper and attempt to live as my true self, I am being made new along the way.  God takes the old things, the junk in and of my life, and turns them into something beautiful that can be used for worship and praise.  That's pretty amazing.

Continuing along this journey of learning, growing, loving God, and loving others.

Maybe there is something for you here in Jason Gray's song.

Blessings on your journey,

~Debra ☺

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Academy #32 Tú has venido a la orilla / Lord, You Have Come

At this afternoon's Word and Table (Eucharist) Service, we sang a song from the United Methodist Hymnal, #344.  In Spanish it is titled: «Tú has venido a la orilla».  It is also known in Spanish as «Pescador de hombres».  In English, the song is "Lord, You Have Come".

The refrain goes like this:

Señor, me has mirado a los ojos,
sonriendo has dicho mi nombre,
en la arena he dejado mi barca,
junto a ti buscaré otro mar.

O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;
all I longed for I have found by the water,
at your side, I will seek other shores.

I have learned along my journey to pay attention to and to follow the tears.  So, when tears welled up in my eyes for no apparent reason (to me) during the song and especially during the chorus, I made a mental note (and a note in my notebook, in case I forgot later).  Sometimes simply singing in Spanish penetrates to my soul's depth and can pierce my inner being.  Was it simply that?  Or is there deeper meaning because of the words?  I don't know. 

I do know that by voicing that my Creator has looked me in the eyes and has called out my name while smiling... well, that has a powerful effect.  Then, thinking about being willing to seek other shores by Christ's side, whatever those shores may be..... that's powerful too.

Here are the entire lyrics: (this is not the translation from the United Methodist Hymnal by Gertrude C. Suppe)

Estrofa 1
1. Tú has venido a la orilla,
no has buscado ni a sabios ni a ricos;
tan sólo quieres que yo te siga.

Señor, me has mirado a los ojos,
sonriendo has dicho mi nombre,
en la arena he dejado mi barca,
junto a ti buscaré otro mar.

Estrofas 2-4
2. Tú sabes bien lo que tengo;
en mi barca no hay oro ni espadas,
Tan sólo redes y mi trabajo.

3. Tú necesitas mis manos,
mi cansancio que a otros descanse,
Amor que quiera seguir amando.

4. Tú, pescador de otros lagos,
ansia eterna de almas que esperan,
amigo bueno, que así me llamas.

Verse 1
1. Lord, you have come to the seashore,
neither searching for the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.

O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;
all I longed for I have found by the water,
at your side, I will seek other shores.

Verses 2-4
2. Lord, see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat you find no power, no wealth.
Will you accept, then, my nets and labor?

3. Lord, take my hands and direct them.
Help me spend myself in seeking the lost,
returning love for the love you gave me.

4. Lord, as I drift on the waters,
be the resting place of my restless heart,
my life's companion, my friend and refuge.

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

Verse 3 in English expresses my heart's desire to love others. 
It says:

Lord, take my hands and direct them.
Help me spend myself in seeking the lost,
returning love for the love you gave me.

Here is a link to listen to the song in Spanish: «Tú has venido a la orilla»

Here is another version in Spanish of the same song: «Pescador de hombres»

In English, it is known as "Lord You Have Come" or "Lord,You Have Come to the Lakeshore/Seashore" or "Fisher of Men".

The words and tune were originally written in Spanish by Cesareo Gabaraín, a Spanish Catholic priest who lived between 1936 and 1991.  He is known for his liturgical music compositions in Spanish.  It was first published in 1979.  This song has been translated into many languages and is sung around the world.

There are varying English versions (translations), but they will be similar in meaning overall.  The English version in the United Methodist Hymnal was translated by Gertrude C. Suppe, George Lockwood, and Raquel Gutiérrez-Achon in 1987.

According to, this hymn is found in 5 hymnals: Chalice Hymnal (#342), Presbyterian Hymnal (#377), United Methodist Hymnal (#344), Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of the United Church of Canada (#563), and Worship and Rejoice (#347).

Have you heard God calling you lately?  Have you noticed God smiling at you as your name was spoken?  What was your response?

May you be blessed by the lyrics and the YouTube links posted here of this tremendous song.  But more than that, may you hear your name called by the one who created you.  And, as you look toward your Creator, may you notice the smile as Creator God looks into your eyes.  May you know that you are loved and cherished. 

Blessings on your journey,


Cape San Blas, FL May 2011 dd

Monday, October 1, 2012

Academy #32, Session #6-- "Cry of My Heart"

First, HAPPY OCTOBER!!  I can't believe today is actually the first day of October already.  Where does the time go?!?!

Today begins Academy #32, Session #6.  Today's drive down was fairly calm and uneventful (and I'm VERY thankful for that as I was mentally and physically exhausted prior to having to start it!).  The hardest part was rising out of bed at 3am to the sound of sweet, falling rain on the deck.  But I did it.  I made coffee, loaded the car, gave kisses goodbye to sleeping people, and took off on my journey.

I made it through the Atlanta traffic without getting caught in any of the accidents due to the rain.  YIPPEE!!  My first stop was the rest area right before I-475 outside of Macon.  Then I kept on keeping on.  After I got off on my exit for the Academy, I stopped for lunch at a "Mercado Latino" that I discovered last trip.  YUM!!  Plaintains (sweet and salty) and a papa relleno (fried mashed potatoes stuffed with ground beef). 

I pulled into the Life Enrichment Retreat Center a little before 2pm.  I got my keys, unloaded my car, and settled in for a short nap (after catching up with "Word with Friends").  Then, I headed over to the bookstore to browse.  I only bought a card today. 

We officially start off with a Word and Table worship service at 5pm.  I thoroughly enjoy seeing how the altar will be decorated, seeing Jesus (The Jesus Doll) in the worship space and wondering where he will be and how he will be dressed.  I also enjoy the bilingual worship--singing, praying, Scripture. 

Just as this is becoming my home away from home, however, it is time to start letting go.  A little.  But not too much too soon.  There is this session in which I must be 100% present and there are two more.  That last one is going to be difficult, I imagine.  It will be a process, but that can wait.

Back to this session. 

The Psalm song that we sang was from The Faith We Sing, #2165.  It is called "Cry of My Heart" and was written by Terry Butler in 1991.  It is based on Psalm 25:4-5.  The words immediately resonated within me, especially the line that said "open my heart more and more". 

That's what I want for this week--for my heart to be open, more and more.  I can't tell you now what that's going to mean, but that's my posture (or at least my desired posture) before God-- to be open, to be pliable. 

As if singing the song once wasn't enough for our first day, after our covenant groups, we met for evening worship and there was the same song again on the chalkboard.  Yes, we sang it again.  Hmm... really!?!?  Is there a message here?!?!

For a youtube link to the song, click here.


It is the cry of my heart
To follow You
It is the cry of my heart
To be close to You
It is the cry of my heart
To follow
All of the days of my life

Teach me Your holy ways, O Lord
So I can walk in Your truth
Teach me Your holy ways, O Lord
And make me wholly devoted to You

Open my eyes to I can see
The wonderful things that You do
Open my heart up more and more
And make it wholly devoted to You

© 1991 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

Another song that we sang in the first worship service tonight was "Sent Out in Jesus' Name"/"Enviado Soy de Dios".  That was great to hear tonight as that was the one I heard in Niagara Falls, Ontario at the church we visited.  That helped me feel at home there in Canada.  Tonight, singing the song reminded me of our worship time with our Canadian brothers and sisters. 

So, we're off and running for Session #6 of Academy #32.  I'm not sure what God has planned for me this session. 

I do know, however, that the cry of my heart is to be open to God more and more.  I am willing to continue going deeper.  My heart's desire is to love God and love others.

We'll see how it works out this week.  There are gaps this week.  There are several people who couldn't make it this session.  They are missed!  There are others who have dropped along the way.  They are missed too! 

Wherever you are on your journey, what is the cry of your heart?

Blessings as you journey onward,

~Debra  ☺

P.S.  Here's a picture of Jesus as I found him in the worship space this evening. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2 Year Blogging Anniversary This Month!!

I started this blog two years ago on September 3, 2010.  Last year I wrote about my one year experience and shared statistics on September 2, 2011.  This month has been a little hectic for me.  I started off the month on vacation in Canada, then came back to start my semester courses.  Since then I've been reading, writing, but no arithmetics. ☺

I've thought about writing this anniversary blog several times, but just haven't gotten "around to it"... or "a round tuit" as they say.  But, today, I was encouraged by my camel land friend to "just do it".  So, I guess you could say that she is my "round tuit".

Since I'm writing the post today, I will include statistics up to this point.  That means that they are not exact to the two-year date, but some of you might not really care about the statistics at all anyway. 

Personally, I find it intriguing and interesting to see the various countries posted that are reading my blog.  I often wonder 'how in the world did they find this?'  I have tried to not focus on the amount of hits, though it has been extremely humbling to have gone over the 1,000 mark (August 2012-- 1,004) and to have gone over 10,000 hits total this September.  I'm sure there are other bloggers out there with much higher numbers than mine.  That's great.  It isn't a competition for me at all.  I'm simply amazed that there have been so many readers. 

I continue to blog to "get it out of my system".  As things churn inside me, it helps to write it down.  As I learn things, it helps to share them.  Sharing where I am on the journey, what I'm learning, what I'm going through (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is part of my journey.  In fact, it has become a spiritual discipline for me to write about my journey.  Sharing my journey is part of my journey.  We are all called to share our journey with those with whom we come in contact.  For me, this has become a way of doing just that.... only I don't always know who you are.  I don't have the opportunity to learn about your journey and/or hear your story. 

Here are some statistics:

This post makes number 206 for the past two years.  It is number 110 for the past year. 

The most popular posts as of today are: (per the overview page)
 1. Thoughts and Quotes from Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks... , November 24, 2011, 429 views
 2. Several hours at the creek...roaring waters and waiting, March 12, 2011, 255 views
 3. Some thoughts on hospitality..., May 30, 2011, 159 views
 4. Comic strips and children's books..., January 31, 2011, 139 views
 5. Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant, April 4, 2011, 131 views
 6. Marcela Gándara's Music ministers to my soul, March 2, 2011, 127 views
 7. Discernment--a spiritual compass, September 9, 2010, 82 views
 8. The Touch Test, June 30, 2011, 74 views
 9. Each That We Lose Takes Part of Us by Emily Dickinson, April 5, 2012, 69 views
10. Thomas Merton quotes...silence,  solitude, and no idea where I'm going, May 11, 2012, 62 views

Of these 10 posts, 7 were in the top 10 last year: #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 

When I look at the statistics for the posts, I see higher numbers and find some posts that have higher stats than some that were on the overall list, but that's too much for me to figure out to post.  Trying to keep it simple, after the K.I.S.S. method-- "Keep It Simple Silly".... Okay, originally, the last word is supposed to be "stupid".  But, that's a word I prefer to not use.

The top countries:
 1. United States
 2. Russia
 3. Germany
 4. United Kingdom
 5. Sudan
 6. Canada
 7. Ukraine
 8. Netherlands
 9. Romania
10. Australia

Eight of these ten countries are in the top 10 again, though the order has changed around somewhat.  Australia and Romania are new to the top 10. 

Though I wasn't as diligent this past year in keeping up with the various countries as I was the year before, I did attempt to keep up with them.  Beyond the top ten countries, here are the countries that visited my blog: (not listed in any particular order)

Uganda, Jamaica, Venezuela, Ecuador, Israel, Belarus, China, Poland, Bhutan, Hong Kong, Botswana, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, Denmark, Latvia, Philippines, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Norway, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Hungary, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Turkey, Belgium, Slovenia, Indonesia, South Korea, Trinidad Tobago, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain, Colombia, Estonia, Algeria, Argentina, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Georgia, Qatar, Iran, Malta, Albania, Costa Rica, Sweden, Gibraltar.

If my count is correct, that is 52 additional places.  I may not have caught them all as I have stated. 

There have been some new places that have checked out the blog.... and some places that haven't been back.  That seems normal in the ebb and flow of things.

Now for the monthly readership over this past year of blogging:

September 2011--402
October 2011--432
November 2011--504
December 2011--499
January 2012--643
February 2012--340
March 2012--383
April 2012--701
May 2012--617
June 2012--575
July 2012--764
August 2012--1,004
September 2012-- 962 (as of this writing)

Overall, the monthly numbers have increased from last year's statistics. 

That's this past year in numbers.   I'm not really comparing them to anything other than their past year.  And even with that comparison, I'm not in competition with myself, though as I've mentioned, there are times when the focus on the number of hits can become a focus.  And, when that happens, it's an opportunity for me to re-focus, to remember why I'm doing this in the first place.

This journey that I'm on... the life journey... the spiritual journey... the blogging journey... it continues to have moments of clarity and moments of fogginess.  There are ups and downs.   I do know one thing for sure and that is that I'm not in the same place I was when I began.  Nor am I the exact same person.  So, I guess I know two things.  And, that is part of the journey.  Constant growing and changing and moving along the path.

Thank you again for joining me on the journey.  My journey continues to be an adventure.... a joyous one for the most part, even through the difficult times.

I plan to continue the journey of blogging as a spiritual practice/discipline.  I don't know where this journey is leading, but it has been a blessing to me.

As you continue your journey, may you be blessed.  May you find others to journey with you so that you are able to greet any challenges with the strength of community.  May you experience deep peace that flows through any and all circumstances along your way. 

~Debra ☺

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Red Sea Rule #5--Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.

When we walked into Bible Study this past Wednesday night (9/19/12) we were told to pick a piece a chocolate from the basket, but to not eat it yet.  They were primarily Dove chocolates.  First, I was excited to get chocolate.  And, Dove chocolate on top of that.  With a basket full of Dove chocolate, that meant lots of quotes!  I was wondering if the inside quotes would come into play somehow during our time together, but they didn't.  But, since I enjoy their quotes and since I kept mine, here is my Dove wrapper and quote:

I thought that was an appropriate quote for me as I continue to learn to live into freedom and attempt to live into who I am and Whose I am.  But I digress from the Bible Study.  Though I will say that handing out chocolate in the sanctuary is a wonderful part of any service!  (HINT! HINT!)☺

Our time together began with sharing praises.  The only difficult part was hearing what folks said, but Pastor Rowland repeated in general what they said when necessary.  In hindsight, a roaming microphone might have been useful during that segment.  But the sharing was good and as with the times in the past, this is a wonderful time of community building.

Several people were lifted up for special prayer as we began for different circumstances.  Some folks went down to the altar to be in their place as we prayed for them.

Rev. Amy Nutt shared a situation we had prayed for the previous week and how the situation had gotten worse to reveal some infections.  She mentioned that it sometimes happens that we pray and things get worse.  That made me think back to last week's lesson and how the children of Israel prayed and prayed.  Things got worse before they got better.  

A rabbit trail.  When I was in 2nd grade, I broke my collar bone.  But I didn't completely break it.  When my parents took me to the doctor, the doctor explained that it needed to be completely broken in order to heal correctly.  So, the kind and wonderful doctor karate chopped my clavical in two.  Ironically, his name was Dr. Pain (if I am remembering correctly).  Though I'm not sure if that is with or without an "-e" at the end.  For me, in that situation, things got worse before they got better.  But they needed to get worse in order to get better.  That's not the only time I've experienced that things can get worse before they get better.  So, I understand the concept.

Exodus 14:13-14 were the focus verses: "Moses said to the people: "Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.  The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

Keeping those emotions in check during difficult times is not easy.  But the focus here is staying calm and confident and giving God time to work.  Therefore, we need to try to (1) not be afraid, (2) stand still, and (3) watch to see what God is going to do.

Here is where the chocolate comes in.  It became part of an exercise to bring calm into our time.  Rev. Amy Nutt led us in a time of putting our feet on the floor, closing our eyes, getting comfortable.  The question was asked: "How can we be calm in the moment?"  What a great question for us to consider in moments of chaos and struggle, etc.  We were led through a time of relaxing and breathing.  Then, the chocolate was referred to... anticipating what it would taste like, opening it slowly, putting it in our mouths and slowly enjoying the chocolate.  Ah.....

I'm not getting the exercise/activity exact here as I was trying to participate and not write it all down.  But, hopefully you get the idea.

Amy read a verse and then told us to guess where it came from.  It was from the Psalms.  Psalm 42.  She had shared:

1As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

She may have shared more of that Psalm, but I didn't have a Bible at the time to see if she shared the whole Psalm or not.  However, it's a great Psalm, so check out the whole thing.

Amy talked about having been at funerals where "It is Well with my Soul" is sung.  She talked about how it can be well with our soul in the here and now, not only after we are gone.  We can say it is well with our sould in the midst of our turmoils. (amen!)

She read from the book, page 56, last two paragraphs:

"Many times we cannot solve problems, heal hurts, change circumstances, or win our own battles.  We must kneel in prayer, then stand to see what He will do.  We must leave room for God, staying calm and giving Him time to work.
     "Faith," wrote C.H. Mackintosh, "raised the soul above the difficulty, straight to God Himself, and enables one to stand still.  We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts....It is therefore true wisdom, in all times of difficulty and perplexity, to stand still--to wait only upon God, and He will assuredly open a way for us." (56)

Unwrap the gift-- taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Our time closed with a recording of Wil Martin singing "It is Well".  Very moving and powerful!  Very calming and strengthening in the Lord.

God is working!


P.S.  It was confirmed that the author, Robert J. Morgan, will be with us at Burks UMC on Wednesday January 9, 2013.  Awesome!