Thursday, February 28, 2013

Questioning the direction, or lack thereof...

Walking on Chester Frost "beach", 2/12/13 dd

I seem to find myself a few days behind in my devotional reading from time to time.  So, today I picked up Jesus Calling (Sarah Young) and turned to where I had left off, February 26.  What I noticed right away is that I had previously underlined the first two lines and the last line.  Hmmm... I wonder what this has for me today?!?!

February 26

"I AM LEADING YOU, STEP BY STEP, through your life.  Hold my hand in trusting dependence, letting Me guide you through this day."

Okay, I get it.  I know that (head and heart, most days).  I can (mostly, usually) allow God to guide me.  But, right now, I'm not really seeing things clearly.  What I thought might be coming about, isn't.  Yet, the desires and dreams and hopes for it don't dissipate either.  So, what about that God?!?!

Uh.... the next line:

"Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy--even precarious.  That is how it should be.  Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things.  When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine."

Hmmm... now, that is some food for thought.  As well as an "ouch".  I try to live into the unknown, yet I do question and wrestle with things.  I thought I was heading into Hispanic ministry, but things don't seem to be coming together for that right now.  Is that an issue?  It shouldn't be.  I have enough on my plate truly for the moment.  I am finishing up the 2 year bilingual Academy in April and I'm in seminary working toward the M.Div., almost 2/3 of the way there.   So, why does it concern me that I can't see any workings on the Hispanic ministry front?  I guess I want to make sure I'm not the stumbling block, that it truly is simply that it isn't the right time and that God is working it out. 

Every time I pass that brick house on Hixson Pike, I still see it as a ministry place.  How crazy weird is that?!?! (I may not have blogged much about this place.... but it is a house that was on the market and currently isn't.... and I see it as a perfect place for ministry.  It is located in a commercially zoned area.  I continue to see various things going on in that house.  I have even sent a letter to the owner of the house.  There has not been a clear next step, though I sometimes think about stopping there to pray.)

Reading on in February 26:

"Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to Me.  I will show you the next step forward, and the one after that, and the one after that."

I know that.  I tell other people that. ☺  I can only take the next step revealed to me and that is all that I am to focus on.  Oh, so right now, all I am really to focus on is finishing the bilingual Academy experience well and my seminary courses (John Wesley for this semester).  I finish teaching my BeADisciple class this week too.  I think I am finishing that well.  And, then when it is time, the next step will be revealed.

Sometimes I get ahead of my own journey.  It isn't always easy to remain in the present.

The last line of the devotional for February 26:

"Relax and enjoy the journey in My Presence, trusting Me to open up the way before you as you go."

Okay, I get it.  I will try to relax and enjoy, though "relax" and reading 52 John Wesley sermons don't quite go in the same sentence. ☺

But, as far as my ordination journey goes and the outcome..... and ministry in general..... I can let that go (pry those fingers loose!) and allow God to reveal each step to me, step by step.  Whew!  It is NOT up to me to find the steps or make the steps.  I am to "relax" and enjoy the journey as God reveals those next steps to me.

I think a meditative hike in the woods, where you focus step by step might do me some good.  That might help me physically slow down enough to coordinate physical and mental and spiritual.  Something to consider.  Something to look into.

In addition, last night's Bible Study at church, God Provides, focused on Jeremiah 29:11 (and surrounding verses).  I think this verse fits in well here.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

One of the verses listed for the February 26 devotion is Psalm 32:8--"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."

I don't know about you and your journey.  You may be relaxing and enjoying the journey and fully trusting in God for those next steps.  Or, you might be having one of those moments of questioning the direction.

I hope the words from the devotional and the thoughts and verses shared will bring encouragement and hope to you, no matter where you are on the journey!



El Sol Mexican Restaurante on Hixson Pike

I've driven by it numerous times, but haven't had the opportunity to stop in for a meal.  Today I had the time.  I wasn't going to be able to go to taekwondo due to some reading I needed to do, so I decided a quick lunch on my way home would be okay.

El Sol Mexican Restaurant is at 4047 Hixson Pike and occupies the building that was once a hamburger place (Backyard Burgers), then it was Hillbilly's for a while.  It may have been other things too.  El Sol Mexican Restaurant has a FaceBook presence.  You can check them out by clicking here.

I am not sure how long El Sol has been there.  At least several months, but probably longer. 

There were about 4 tables occupied when I went in.  Several more people came as I was there.

The chips and salsa were brought out in good time and my drink order was taken.  The salsa was very tasty and the texture was just right-- not runny nor too thick.  The chips were fresh and crunchy, but not warm.

After looking over the menu, I decided on the "pollo alegre" from the lunch menu ('happy chicken').  Chicken breast with cheese sauce, beans and rice.  It also came with a side of warmed tortillas.

It came served on Fiesta ware (a plus in my book, as I like Fiesta ware).  The food was appeasing to the eye and quite tasty!

I enjoyed my meal there.  The only downfall for me is that I didn't hear enough Spanish.  It was bizarre for me to hear "Sweet Home, Alabama" over the speakers in the restaurant.  I don't know if that was from a radio station or other means of providing music.  But somehow, I think my brain was expecting Spanish music.

The servers spoke wonderful English, but that meant that I didn't really have that opportunity to speak Spanish either.  I still spoke some, here and there, but it didn't seem to catch on.

A group of three guys came in for lunch and sat in the middle of the restaurant.  They were speaking Spanish among themselves.  So, in the midst of "Sweet Home, Alabama", I could hear Spanish, though I wasn't trying to understand it.  It eased the foreign experience for me, though, helping me to feel a tad more at home.

On the way out, I noticed at the register they had posted "sun" in about 7 different languages: French, English, Spanish, Turkish, Korean, Italian, and I forget the others.  There were cards taped to the wood.  That was pretty cool in my opinion.  I enjoy a language learning opportunity.

Overall, the experience at the restaurant was a good one.  The food I had was good.  I wasn't super hungry, so I took my left overs to my husband at work.

I recommend the restaurant for those in the local area.  Don't let my disappointment of the lack of Spanish be an indicator.  I imagine most English speaking folks don't mind hearing English music in a Mexican restaurant.  Yet, I would hope to hear French in a French restaurant, etc.  But, that's me and my language and culture background.  It has nothing to do with food.

I think hearing more Spanish, whether through music and/or conversation, would have made today's experience better for me.  But, again, that's me.... and it says more about where I am and what I thought I wanted and needed than it says about the restaurant.

So, check out the restaurant.  Bon appetit, as they say in French.  Buen provecho as they say in Spanish!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Press On--Today's sermon (and some reflections) from White Oak UMC

A few weeks back I got a call from the pastor of White Oak UMC asking if I was going to be available on February 24th to fill in.  I was available.  I looked up the Scripture on to see what the lectionary Scripture was for that week and settled on the Philippians 3:14-4:1 passage.  It has been working on me ever since.  For some reason, this sermon seemed more difficult than others in the past to come out.  But, along the way I had encouragement from folks that it would come out when it needed to and I knew folks were praying as I studied and allowed the sermon to work on me.

It came out yesterday afternoon.  And, it felt like a birth.  That is how I have been beginning to describe sermons and there are others who describe it similarly.  During this week in particular it was as if I needed to live the message that I was going to give in order for it to be more authentic.  Yet, oddly enough, I feel that I have plenty of living experience for this message.  And, it's not a bad thing.  It has been a growing and strengthening experience every time I find myself in a place where I need to press on.

I got to join with folks this morning at White Oak UMC for their coffee and donut time.  I got to catch up with some folks I've met before and I met some new folks (not just during coffee time, but in SS and before and after church too).  The glazed donuts from Donut Palace were still warm.  I joined a young adult Sunday School class and we had a great discussion on wilderness, talking about Jesus' experience and relating it to our own. 

Then it was time for church.  One of the songs was "Shout to the Lord".  That song takes me back to the Italy mission trip when I taught at Bryan College.  It is a powerful worship song for me. 

The songs, the choir's song ("Restore My Joy"), the sharing of the joys and concerns, the children's message.... it was a blessing to worship once again at White Oak UMC.

As for the sermon part, you can find it below.  I added a few things here and there during the sermon, but you can get a strong idea of what was shared by reading it.  I will add in some pictures of the visual that I used and some links to the songs that I shared. 

Maybe there is something in these words for someone beyond White Oak UMC.  I know that there was much in them for me as I prepared them and shared them.

It was a blessing to birth the message and then share it with others so that it can be carried forth. 

[NOTE:  It seems when I copy and paste, the text seems to have a mind of its own.  Some of the text came out white; other parts came out dark.  The spacing is a tad wacky too.  But, I decided to let it be instead of spending too much time trying to perfect it (or re-type it all here).  Hopefully it isn't overly distracting.]

The church secretary, Carol Opalinski contributed this picture to the bulletin.  She took it 5/1/12 at the Zion Narrows Trail, along the Virgin River.  It is one of the word's best canyon hikes and the most popular hike in Zion National Park.  If you look closely at the picture,  you can see two hikers beginning their journey.  I am grateful to Carol's contribution as it added a wonderful visual to the message!


Philippians 3:14-4:1

White Oak UMC

February 24, 2013

Scripture: (NRSV)

14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
15Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.16Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
4Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Today is the 2nd Sunday in Lent.  Because it is Sunday, it isn’t counted as one of the 40 days of Lent; instead it is considered a mini-resurrection day. 

However, our focus today isn’t on Lent, but rather on this passage from Paul which is part of the overall challenge to the Philippians to mature discipleship.  In this passage, Paul covers several topics that might help us as we seek to “press on” in mature discipleship.

Paul admonishes the believers in Philippi to first: “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (v. 14)  

What is this “prize” and how can we obtain it?

Oh, look.  This bag says “prize” on it.  Maybe this will explain to us what Paul means by “prize” here.
[TAKE OUT THE TKD MEDAL.]  Here is a “prize”.  Though I don’t think Paul meant for us to work toward a medal as the “heavenly call”, the Scriptures do mention running the race in conjunction with a prize.  

I Corinthians 9:24—“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Hebrews 12:1—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

Though there is no “prize” connected with this Scripture, we do learn that we are to throw off everything that hinders us and run with perseverance.  Those are important for us to remember, as is the fact that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

What else is in here? 

[TAKE OUT THE APPLE]  An apple?!?  I think someone got the bags switched at home.  I guess this could represent one of the fruits of the spirit.  But that’s in Galatians 5:22-23.  Galatians 5:25 says: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. If we are going to press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call, then keeping in step with the Spirit and having the fruits of the spirit will be important.

 Okay, is there anything in here that relates directly to the Scripture passage?

[TAKE OUT THE PASSPORT.]  A passport.  Ah, it says: “heaven”.  I get it, “citizen of heaven.”

In verse 20, Paul reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven.  What does that mean for us?  One thing that it means is that we are resident aliens here.  As resident aliens here with our citizenship in heaven, it is important for us to know who we are and whose we are.  We need to know our identity.  As Christians, we believe that we are made in the image of God and that God became incarnate in Christ.  For us to live well as resident aliens we will imitate Christ’s sacrificial love, humility, servanthood, forgiveness of others and acceptance. 

As we imitate Christ, as Paul imitated Christ, we will grow in our discipleship and become more mature believers.  Paul exhorts the Philippians to “hold fast to what we have attained” in verse 16.  Why does Paul exhort them to “hold fast”?  Well, the path isn’t always easy.  Just as Paul used the term earlier, “press on”, we get the idea that this imitating Christ stuff and becoming mature isn’t going to be too easy.

And, if we are honest with ourselves, we will remember that it wasn’t easy for Christ either.  Christ suffered humiliation, shame, rejection, insults, and death.  Christ offered himself fully to those around him and for those after him. 

In A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben Job writes: “In offering ourselves as fully as we can, we discover the cost of discipleship.  For to bind our lives to Jesus Christ requires that we try to walk with him into the sorrows and suffering of the world.” (136)

If we are to imitate Christ, we will walk with him into the sorrows and sufferings of the world. 

Hear these two quotes on suffering:

“It must be realized that the true sign of spiritual endeavor and the price of success in it is suffering.  One who proceeds without suffering will bear no fruit.”

“Every struggle in the soul’s training, whether physical or mental, that is not accompanied by suffering, that does not require the utmost effort, will bear no fruit.”

Both of these quotes come from Theopan the Recluse.  Theopan the Recluse was a Bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1800s and wrote extensively on the Christian life. 

As I sat with the Scriptures, two songs came to mind.  One was “I’m Pressin’ On” and the other is “Press On”.  Bits and pieces of both these songs were floating around in my head.  I knew I had heard both of them before, but couldn’t place them.  

One of them I will just share the lyrics with you.  The second one, I will share the lyrics and then the song (via recording).

The first song is “I’m Pressin’ On”.  It’s by the group Harvest and was written and recorded in 1990.
Click here for the song on YouTube.

I’m lettin’ go of memories that hold me back

I’m lookin’ for the good things up ahead

Confident He’ll never lose His hold on me

It’s time to start believin’ what he said

Because He’s callin’ me to a higher pathway

A call to leave my past behind


I’m pressin’ on to know my Father

To live each day more like His Son

To let His Spirit live inside me

Forgettin’ all that lies behind, I’m pressin’ on

These feet of mine may wander so I slip and fall

The enemy reminds me how I’ve failed

But every morning goodness comes from heaven’s throne

The mercy of my Jesus will prevail

He gives me strength I need to run the race before me

He guarantees He’ll see me through


Lookin’ for good things

I know there’s good things up ahead

Trustin’ what my Father said

Lettin’ go of memories that bound me

I don’t need ‘em anymore

‘Cause I found freedom in the Lord

Walkin’ in freedom

Lookin’ for good things

My God gives good things

Forgettin’ all that lies behind

I’m pressin’ on

I don’t know about you, but I see quite a bit of the faith journey here.  We can relate it back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians and bring it into the present.   There is definitely freedom in the Lord when we are able to recognize our identity--who we are and whose we are-- and live into running the race before us.

The second song “Press On” was recorded by the group Selah recorded in 2001.  It is an older song than I remembered.  As I listened to the words, the song spoke to me of a life of discipleship—the ups and downs; the ins and outs. 

Listen to these lyrics:

Click here to listen and watch a YouTube video made to this song.

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
To press on

Now that you’ve heard the lyrics, I want you to listen to the song. 


Where do you find yourself in this song?

Is the valley deep?  Is the mountain steep?  Is your body weary?

Have you stumbled and fallen?  Are the choices hard?  Are you battered and scarred?  Are your resources gone?  Have you given your all?

Can you, like the words of the chorus, say: “In Jesus’ name, we press on”?  [ASK THEM TO SAY IT.]  

I like the first person plural here because it shows community.  It shows that we are pressing on together.  We need each other as we seek to live here as resident aliens and grow into mature believers, imitating Christ.

There will likely be times when you and I struggle to find the strength to “press on”.  They seem to be part of my journey.   There are many promises in the Scriptures that I turn to when I am struggling for whatever reason to “press on”.  One of them is found in our reading today.  In Philippians 4:1, Paul admonishes the Philippians to “stand firm in the Lord.”  When I find myself struggling in the faith journey, I remind myself to “stand firm in the Lord”.  I gain strength as I stand.  I know that I don’t stand alone, but in community.  And, then, I am able to once again, “press on”.

I pray that you, too, may find the strength to press on.

Dismissal Blessing:

As you leave here today, may you know your identity and where your citizenship resides.  May you have the strength to press on through whatever comes your way as you grow in maturity as an imitator and follower of Christ.  May you stand firm in the Lord and may your joy be restored.  Amen.
Well, that's the sermon, the songs, and some of my reflections from this morning.

Blessings on your journey as you press on,

~Debra ☺

Friday, February 22, 2013

Safety net...Break free...Learn to live from your true Center-- insight from Jesus Calling

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of some of the previous Jesus Calling entries that I've missed this year.  I saw where I had underlined some things last year. 

This morning I went back to those entries to see what spoke to me last year.

Interestingly, they speak to me still. ☺

February 18-- "I AM WITH YOU.  These four words are like a safety net, protecting you from falling into despair."

Safety nets are important.  Fire fighters use them to catch people as they jump from burning buildings.  Circus people use them underneath the high-wires.  We may have metaphorical saftey nets in our lives to protect us from different things.  Knowing, remembering that God the Creator is with me is definitely a safety net.  Not only can it protect me from falling into despair, but I imagine it can simply keep me from falling. 

February 19--"When the difficulties in your life feel as if they're closing in on you, break free by spending quality time with Me."

Break free!  Now, this is one that definitely speaks to me.  The "when" in that statement seems to happen more than I might desire.  Yet, when those difficulties do feel like they are closing in, is spending quality time with the Creator the first thing on my mind?  Not usually.  It seems to run against the norm.  Stopping the process of dealing with life and the situations to spend time with God, Creator.  How will that cause me to break free?!?!  Yet, I know it to be true.  I know that I can only be free from the pressures if I am spending time in relationship with the One who created me and knows me best.

Which brings me to the third entry.

February 20--"LEARN TO LIVE from your true Center in Me.  I reside in the deepest depths of your being, in eternal union with your spirit.  It is at this deep level that My Peace reigns continually."

Living from my true Center.  That would be my True Self, based upon who I was created to be by my Creator.  That is taking quite a bit of unfolding and onion-peeling to get there.  Notice that I didn't use a past tense, but a present progressive.  That is because it is an ongoing process.  I am working on living from my true Center.  There are times even in the midst of strife, stress, and difficulties that I am aware of that deep level of peace that resides.  Yet, there are other times in which I can be slightly volcanic and reactive because even though that deep peace might be below, there is too much turbulance on the surface for me to get to it. 

So, I learn and grow.  With the ebb and flow of life.  Living into the questions.  Seeking to living from my true Center.   And, because the theme and topic of "Press On" is weighing on me as I attempt to allow a sermon to be written for this Sunday (it is whirling around inside me still.  I need it to come out), I will press on.

Pressing on,


Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's only the 2nd week of my semester, and I'm already feeling the "crunch"...

My spring semester started last week.  That's right.  Last week.  So, this is week 2.  I'm taking one course this semester.  That's right.  One course.  But, it's a "doozy", as they say.  I'm taking "Theology of John Wesley".  We are to read 52 of John Wesley's sermons at a pace of about 5 per week.  Then we have chapters each week in and out of the 3 required books.  I am always a little nervous when required books belong to the professor, but honestly, I have been pleasantly surprised.  I am learning lots of new things from the books and I'm enjoying the writing style.  The sermons, on the other hand, are much more difficult to wade through.

As I have time, I am working on finishing an Academy book.  That is the only reading I am doing these days.

This week, I am preparing a sermon to preach this upcoming Sunday.  I wish I had written down all that was in my dreams Tuesday night as it seemed most of my night was spent on that sermon.  The sermon is still working itself out in me and it needs to get out.

Meanwhile, there is life and other responsibilities that are simply here and there.  And situations that cause concern, etc.  So, add all of this up, and I'm feeling the "crunch" here at week 2.

I turned to Jesus Calling this morning to see what might be there for me.

For February 21, the first line reads: "TRUST AND THANKFULNESS WILL get you safely through this day.  Trust protects you from worrying and obsessing.  Thankfulness keeps your from criticizing and complaining: those "sister sins" that so easily entangle you."

Yep.... those are good and helpful words for me today!  As I read on, into paragraph 2:

"Keeping your eyes on Me is the same thing as trusting Me.  It is a free choice that you must make thousands of times daily."

I think I need to make that choice more often.  In the midst of trying and difficult times and in the midst of normal busy life.

Today's words for the day are "trust" and "thankfulness".  I am going to attempt to live into these words today. 

The devotion continues: "The more you choose to trust Me, the easier it becomes.  Thought patterns of trust become etched into your brain.  Relegate troubles to the periphery of your mind, so that I can be central in your thoughts.  Thus you focus on Me, entrusting your concerns into My care."

Scripture references for today: Colossians 2:6-7; Psalm 141:8; 1 Peter 5:7

Trust and thankfulness, here I come.  The concerns, the assignments, the sermon, the situations, etc. can all be relegated to the periphery of my mind.  Easier said than done.  But, I know it will make for a more peaceful day if I can truly live in trust and thankfulness.

What about your day?  Would it be helpful for you to live into trust and thankfulness?

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ash Wednesday Service.... Ashes and Communion

I didn't know what to expect for last night's service.  An Ash Wednesday service can be different within the same denomination.  What I knew going into it was that 1) I wanted to be there because Ash Wednesday is one of those special days in the church calendar that I enjoy and 2) I have enjoyed many of the United Methodist Memes and other cartoons leading up to this day.

On the first point, I grew up in the Episcopal church.  We celebrated Ash Wednesday.  After graduate school, I taught my first year in a Lutheran school and attended a Methodist church on Long Island.  We celebrated Ash Wednesday at both.  I enjoyed the Lenten luncheons and devotions at church that year I was teaching at the school.  I'm not sure every church I've been in since has focused on Ash Wednesday, but I'm glad for those that do.

On the second point, I've seen cartoons where they show a pastor with a stencil cut out of a formed cross in his hand to put over the person's forehead so that he can get his cross just right. ☺  Having had the opportunity and privilege to put the ashes on folks before, I get that.  They can sometimes simply end up looking like smudges.

A United Methodist Meme I saw referred to drive through Ash Wednesday services and that they had gotten a little out of hand.  The picture was a car on the road kicking up quite a bit of grey dust.  Funny.  At least it made me chuckle.

There were quite a few people last night.  So many in fact, that the bread almost gave out during communion time.  That's a decent problem to have.  Because there were so many people, there was time and space for silence and reflection during the service-- both during the imposition of ashes and during communion.  During communion, there was some background worshipful music played.

The bulletin contained explanation and the associate pastor (Rev. Amy Nutt) began with some explanation too.  The pastor's (Rev. Rowland Buck) meditation ("Live Lent") on the passage from Joel was realistic in that, as he shared, you have to deal with where you are first.  The two main points were: know your place and know God's heart. 

Several things blessed me during this service. 
  • Psalm 51.  That is always a powerful Psalm for me.  It was on the bulletin and we recited it.  I am always reminded of Keith Green's song, "Create in Me a Clean Heart" based on that Psalm. 
  • I was blessed to watch my daughter have the ashes imposed upon her by the pastor.  All the youth were in the service.  That was truly a blessing.
  • I was blessed to watch each pastor impose the ashes on one another. 
  • I was blessed during the liturgy for communion.  As is typical, the words between the asterisks on the pages in the hymnal were fitting for the occasion.  As a visual learner, I would have liked to see them as well as hear them, but I did my best to enjoy simply listening to them.
  • I was blessed to watch my daughter take communion from both our pastors. 
  • I was blessed to take communion from them as well.  Usually they allow others to serve and are available for prayer, so it is a nice treat to have them serve.  Don't hear me wrong; I appreciate that they allow laity to serve and involve them in this way-- this is a beautiful and wonderful thing.  But, I also enjoy being served by them from time to time. 
  • I was blessed to watch the pastors serve each other communion.  And, likely this was something that the pastor didn't even notice, but it caught my attention.  The senior pastor had been standing up on one step.  And, when the associate pastor was serving him, he stepped down.  It may have been simply a move to get closer to the elements.  But, I also saw it as a leveling out of things on a bigger playing field too.  Whether it was intended to be or not, it gave me a message of intentional teamwork and that rang true in my spirit.

These are my thoughts/reflections from last night's Ash Wednesday service.

It was a blessing and a beautiful beginning to the Lenten Season!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Taizé Worship Service

I went to my first Taizé worship service last night.  It was held at St. Marks Church Northshore.  This is a monthly Sunday evening service they offer.  I've been to a service before that included taizé-style music (to the best of my memory recollection), but this was my first entire Taizé service.

I walked in and the space was transformed into an intimate worship space for about 15-20.  There were chairs, sofas, cushions on the floor.  There were about 20ish candles lit around the space and some dimmer lighting on above.  There was a sand tray set out on a table with a cross and some rocks.  I later learned what that was for.  There were a few icons to gaze upon for reflection.  There were the paintings on loan from Hart Gallery that could also be used for contemplation and reflection.  There was a harp sitting in the corner.

I learned that there were about 15 folks last month at the Taizé service.  Maybe it was the chilly rain last night, but there was a total of 5 of us there.  That's okay.  The rest of the folks missed out!

What is "Taizé"?  Taizé worship comes from the French community of Taizé.  There is a village named Taizé south of Burgundy, France in which a community of prayer was created by Brother Roger in 1940 and continues.  People from all over the world travel there to join in their prayer and worship.  To learn more about the community in general, check out their website.

Taizé worship includes:
  • repetition of short, prayerful songs
  • Scripture readings
  • lengthy silence
  • prayer 
You may also be interested in their link to "Prayer and Song".

The setting was beautiful last night.  The music and Scriptures were just what I needed.  In fact one Scripture reading took me back to Soulfeast 2010.  These are verses that have been important in my life and I heard them read by someone who was there beside me then telling me I won't be burned as I go through the fire. 

Singing along quietly and listening to the beautiful voices was heavenly. 

Watching the candles flicker and hearing an occasional sizzle was divine.

The silence was golden.

There was a time for witness if someone had a testimony or meditation.  And one person shared about the light that was within each candle.  How some shone steady while others flickered and danced.  Yet, each had a light.  That light might shine differently due to circumstances around it (wind blowing through or the way the candle was made), but the light was within and shining.  The words she shared were much better than I can recall; it was a beautiful reflection.

During the prayer time, we were invited to light a candle and set it in the sand tray.  I lit three candles for three specific persons and situations that came to mind at that time.  A couple of other folks lit candles too.  The sandtray was beautiful to begin with, but was now lit up and shone in the darkness.


When it was all said and done, my heart, mind, and soul were at rest and at peace.  I was ready for the week ahead.  I knew with seminary class starting today and a mountain of other responsibilities this week, that I have a difficult week ahead. 

If you are in the Chattanooga area, I would encourage you to check out the Taizé worship service that St. Marks Northshore offers monthly.  Thank you St. Marks for offering this time and space for this type of a worship!  What a blessing!

There is also a Taizé service over towards Harrison at the United Methodist Center, though I'm not certain of dates.  They have held at least one, I know.  There may be others. 

Blessings on your day and week,


P.S.  Here is a copy of  the worship bulletin.  Sorry that it got a tad crunched as I tried to protect it in my jacket from the rain as I left last night.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Two songs mark my Friday: Come On Get Happy! and Deeper Still


And, what a Friday it has been.  I knew as of last night that today would be different than planned because my spiritual director had called to reschedule.  But, I didn't know today would be SO different.

HOW DIFFERENT IS IT?, you ask. ☺

Well, I'll start with a friend posting on Facebook about a song that was in her mind.  She didn't post the song exactly, but wrote: "Shout "Hallelujah" come on get happy! Give you three tries to guess what song is running through my mind this morning. Hope you have a happy song for your day, too!"  Well, as I read her post, my mind went immediately to The Partridge Family and the song: "Come On Get Happy".

Yes, I said the Partridge Family, the 70s show.  So, I pulled out my CD compilation and started playing the song.  ☺  I have the vinyl LP too.  The cover is worn and the LP is scratched, but I have it. 

So, I just checked my LPs.  I don't have the same LP as the "Greatest Hits" CD.  But, I DO have 3 (yes, you read that correctly) Partridge Family LPs.  The song "Come On Get Happy" isn't on any of them though, only the CD compilation.

For whatever reason, the correct view of the picture from my camera decided to upload sideways.  And, I decided we can gently turn our heads as a means to stretch the muscles (rather than me taking the time to fix it).


Hello world, here's a song that we're singin'
Come on, get happy
A whole lotta lovin' is what we'll be bringin'
We'll make you happy

We had a dream we'd go travelin' together
And spread a little lovin' if we'll keep movin' on
Somethin' always happens whenever we're together
We get a happy feelin' when we're singin' a song
Travelin' along, there's a song that we're singin'
Come on, get happy

A whole lotta lovin' is what we'll be bringin'
We'll make you happy
We'll make you happy
We'll make you happy

Maybe you'd like to listen to the song too?!?!  Check out the video on YOUTUBE.

Right after I had finished listening to the song this morning, an odd phone number came up on my phone.  I don't always answer, but this morning I did.  It was a Café Britt representative!  What a joy!  She told me she had seen where I was trying to order coffee yesterday, but the order didn't go through.  Well, I knew it wasn't me.  So, I knew my husband was ordering us some more Costa Rican coffee, the nectar of the gods.  [Yes, I enjoy coffee.]  She spoke wonderful English.  But, why speak English with someone who speaks Spanish!?!  So, in Spanish I told her I hadn't started the order so I would need to have my husband call if he had questions and thank you for calling us.  She seemed a little surprised that I switched into Spanish from my TN English ☺, but she went with it.  I was SUPER happy after that conversation.  Speaking Spanish brings me joy!

I have been able to work on my talk that I need to preview for next week's team meeting for an upcoming Emmaus Walk.  I have been able to work in my "Growing Spiritually Through Daily Discipline" online class through and catch up on reading and posting.  I had a wonderful conversation with one of the participants.

On my way back from taking my daughter to school, I heard this song on the radio "Deeper Still" by Scott Krippayne. 

You can watch a video and listen to the song by clicking here.


Here I am in this familiar place again
Standing on the shore of my complacency
Ankle deep in love I once was swimming in
Shallowness has taken over me
But the current pulls the sand
And moves my stubborn feet
From the dryness of the land
To where the wave pound over me
Take me deep enough where I can see
The bottom of Your heart
Deep enough that I can know Your will
Deep enough to know that we
Will never be apart
And when I get there
Take me deeper still
Take me through the wonders of Your faithfulness
Help me see the depth of my own need
Lead me to the water where Your mercy is
For You and You alone can set me free
I am covered by Your grace
Far away from shore
As you're taking me to places
I have never been before
I want to drown in the water
I want to drown in Your truth
Take me all the way under
Where I have to trust in You

If I have heard this song, I haven't heard it often.  The lyrics caught my attention this morning because "going deeper" is where I am, where I have been, and where I hope to continue in my spiritual journey. 

How is your Friday?!?!  Maybe it has been what you expected.  Maybe it hasn't been.  Maybe you've had some unexpected joy in your day.  Or maybe you've had some unexpected trials. 

Wherever you find yourself today on the path, I pray that you might find peace, joy, hope, faith, and love.  I would encourage you to be bold and courageous in going deeper through trust too.

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hiking on a cloudy morning with light precipitation.

When the morning hike was planned, the rain wasn't supposed to be in until tonight.  But, I could smell rain in the air last night, so I knew it was coming sooner than expected.  Thankfully, there wasn't enough rain to dampen the hiking adventure.

And, it was an adventure.  I went hiking with my hiking buddy who is also a photographer and has also written for some outdoor magazines.  She will remain nameless right now.

Our place of hiking (though I posted a picture already on FaceBook) might remain nameless too due to the "Closed" signs and the following paragraph found on an undisclosed website:
"We have been hosting work days since summer, but our work days are on hold while the City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department helps remove dozens of trees throughout the park. Please adhere to the PARK CLOSED signs that you will see at each entrance. Community support for ___________ has been unbelievable, and we are very thankful! While we are excited about a grand opening in 2013, we do ask for all hikers, bikers, walkers, etc. to stay off of the property at this point. We thank you for your cooperation!"

OOPS!  I did not adhere to the sign today, but instead embarked on a neat adventure and found some cool treasures.  The trails have progressed since my un-named friend has worked on them at the end of last year. 

We weren't alone out there today.  We saw one lady with her dogs.  In fact, after she passed us, I happened to look down on the ground and saw some blue metal sticking out from the leaves.  I picked it up.  It was a bone-shaped dog tag.  I turned around and slightly yelled, 'do you have a dog named _______?'  She turned around with surprise, wanting to know probably how in the world I knew that, and said yes.  I held up the bone tag.  She mentioned that the dog had lost that weeks ago.  What a neat moment.   Later we saw another outdoor adventurer walking her dogs too. 

I did pick up some trash along the trail and threw it away in the trash can by the gate.  A trash can that held fairly recent trash, by the way.  So, not that it excuses my lack of following the clearly marked rules, I wasn't the only one in recent days to do so.  So, now you know.  I can be a rule breaker.  I am also a rule follower.  I'm a living paradox at times.  There are many paradoxes in life. 

Back to the hiking adventure.

Even with the clouds, the view of the city was still remarkable.  I wasn't expecting it. 

Even better was the treasure find of the ruins of a home and the standing chimney.  From the old bricks, to the flashing above the cement blocks to the pea gravel in cement driveway-- it was cool!  Looking around I found a Suzuki motorcycle seat, one of the poles from hanging the clothes out to dry, and lots of plastic and glass bottles.  I would enjoy carrying out trash from there because that would be an adventurous way to help clear out the place. 

The tin pie-plate trail markers were awesome.  At first I thought it was part of a frisbee golf game.  But if you missed your mark, you'd be going down some steep areas to retrieve your frisbee.  ☺

I found a penny that looked more like a tiny rock in some mud/dirt. 

There were some flowers here and there and cool trees (in my opinion).  I took pictures.

The best part was simply being out in creation, out among the trees, in the fresh air.  It was a little nippy (chilly), but it felt good. 

It might seem odd that such an adventure refreshed my soul this morning.  But it did.  Being out in creation always has a way of clearing the congested and clogged pipes of life.  I am able to let go of thing.  I regain focus and am refreshed and strengthened by the time I spend in the outdoors.

I look forward to going back to this place when it becomes officially open. 

If you know the area, you may recognize it from the pictures.  If you don't know the area, I might as well go ahead and tell you where I was.  Stringer's Ridge.  Here is a map of the area.

Enjoy the pictures,