Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Deep Calls: How Thirsty Are You? Today's Sermon at White Oak UMC

Today I had the opportunity and privilege to speak at White Oak UMC again.  I enjoy meeting with this body of believers for worship.  I get to catch up with folks from Emmaus, Camp Lookout, former students, and folks I've gotten to know from visiting there.  It's always a good time of worship for me from the singing to the children's message.  I even usually get to speak some Spanish while there with David, the pianist, and Sara Beth (a former student). 

Below you will find today's sermon.  It's not exactly what I shared, though it's pretty close.  I've included links that you wouldn't get in a sermon and pictures of both the waterfalls. 

Knowing I would be off at seminary this past week, I started working on this a while back.  So, last week during my seminary class, it was interestingly odd for me on Tuesday morning (6/18) when Dr. Steve Seamands said this in class about God's deep love: "That's like thinking you can take Niagara Falls and stick it in a tea cup."  ☺ As you read the sermon, I think you'll see why that was "interestingly odd" for me and truly neat (to use a 70s term). 

Without further ado, today's sermon preached at White Oak UMC.  Thank you Amy Whatley for the opportunity for pulpit supply!  Blessings to you and your family as you transition to your new place of ministry.

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Niagara Falls, 2012, dd
Amicalola Falls, 2013, dd

“The Deep Calls: How Thirsty Are You?”

White Oak UMC

June 23, 2013


Prayer of Illumination: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit so that, as the word is read and proclaimed we might hear your word for us today.  Amen.

Psalm 42 (NRSV)

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
    the face of God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me continually,
    “Where is your God?”

These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
    and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
    a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
    because the enemy oppresses me?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my body,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.


As you hear these words from the Psalmist today and the words I feel God has given me, you might be wondering how these fit with your particular situation here at White Oak this Sunday.  I recognize that you are in a transition time between pastors.  Last week was Amy’s last Sunday and next week will be Lyle’s first Sunday.  There are many ways to transition well between pastors and that is something we all need to learn to do better, for pastors and for congregations.  You may not have known this, but Amy was my Candidacy Mentor.  Her leaving is a transition time for me.  I realize that there are other transitions people are going through in their lives at this time too. Today, we’re not going to focus on the HOW to transition, but on WHO guides us, on God, and as we keep our focus on God through the transitions in life, we will be able to deal with whatever comes our way.  So, today, I recognize the transitional state that we are in and call our attention to God, that we may seek God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength this morning.

2 My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
Have you ever been thirsty? Physically?  Spiritually? Retired Bishop Rueben Job writes: “The thirst for God is universal because we have been created with a longing for the Creator.  This desire to know and be known by the One who made us and loves us is often ignored, denied, and finally buried under a multitude of pursuits and interests.  But then some event in life invites or forces us to pause, and the desire for God comes rushing back to our awareness.  And once again we know that real life is impossible without the companionship of the One who first gave us the gift of life and who sustains us even now.  We know for certain that we need living water; we need what only God can give if we are to really live.” (A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God, 325-326)
Verse 7—“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (NIV)
How thirsty are you?
This verse causes me to think about different waterfalls.  I adore waterfalls and find that they help bring peace to my soul and body.  Maybe that has something to do with the physiological fact of the oxygen in the water droplets of the spray.  I had heard this somewhere in the past and spent some time researching this to verify this fact and learned more than I needed to on oxygen aeration and the therapeutic effect waterfalls have on our serotonin levels because of the split water molecules. [Click here for more information on this topic.]
But that’s not the focus of this message.  Besides, maybe it’s simply the beauty and power of the flowing water that draws me.  It doesn’t really matter.
Let me share two waterfalls with you that I’ve seen within this past year.  The first is the one on the bulletin.  It is Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, GA.  Amicalola is Cherokee for ‘tumbling waters’.  It’s the tallest cascading waterfall in America east of the Mississippi River and cascades 729 feet.  We were there last month and hiked from the bottom up.  It was wonderful to watch the waters flow and hear the rushing of the waters over the rocks.  Its beauty is unique to its surroundings.
The second waterfall is one that you might think of when you first think of famous waterfalls—Niagara.  If you haven’t been to Niagara falls, at least you’ve heard of it… most likely.  There are actually three falls:  smallest to largest: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.  Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side, is the most powerful waterfall in North America putting out 600,000 gallons of water per second. [Link to Niagara Falls website.]
I saw Niagara Falls for the first time last September.  Impressive.  The sight, the sound, the spray. 
Jerry Webber’s Psalm Prayer from Sometimes an Unknown Path, puts the section about the waterfalls thus:
Open my eyes, my heart,
             to experience the Niagara of Your grace
             crashing down upon me moment by moment.
Help me to catch more and more of Your grace,
             trading my narrow-necked bottle
                             for a Niagara-filled tub.
When I think about Jerry Webber’s words in this Psalm Prayer, the “roar” of the waterfalls in verse 7a and deep calling to deep take on new meaning for me.  As I contemplate the grace crashing down… I simply want to get under it.  I want to experience and feel the full effects of that grace.  Don’t you?!?!
Now, truthfully, when I took the Niagara boat tour, I put on the thin blue poncho because I didn’t really desire to get soaking wet on the boat with my camera, etc.  But, if I’m thinking about that water as God’s grace, then that’s a whole other issue.  Or is it? 
Think about it.  There are times when God’s grace is readily available to us, being poured upon us, into our lives.  What do we do?  We grab the raincoat, the poncho, or an umbrella.  We don’t want too much at one time.  Just a little, thank you.  Or like Jerry Webber puts it, we are holding a narrow-necked bottle into the stream of water trying to get just a little.  If we are truly thirsty for God, why won’t we jump in feet first and allow ourselves to be soaked through with God’s grace!?!?  How might that change how we live?!?!  How might that change our relationship with God and others if we truly took in as much of God’s grace as possible instead of trying to protect ourselves from too much at once or trying to save some for later?!?!
When a waterfall isn’t nearby, try a fountain.  This past week I was on the main campus of Asbury Theological Seminary for an intensive class in United Methodist Theology.  There is a fountain in the courtyard in the back of the administration building.  That became a go-to place. On one side of the fountain was a Scripture verse from John 7:37b-38—“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  And on the other side of the fountain is a John Wesley quote.
Grace is a predominant theme of Christ and John Wesley.  This past Spring I took a course on the Theology of John Wesley.  But, don’t worry.  I’m not going to pull out my notes from either class right now. 
I will share one John Wesley quote with you: “It is hard to find words in the language of men to explain the deep things of God.  Indeed, there are none that will adequately express what the children of God experience.  But perhaps one might say the testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given himself for me; and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.” (taken from A Guide To Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants, p 403) [The Witness of the Spirit (sermon 10)]
If you’re thirsty for more in your spiritual life and desire to go deeper in your relationship with God, know that this thirst is a result of God working in you and drawing you closer into relationship through grace. 
You might be thinking, ‘Yes, I am thirsty for more.  I would like to go deeper.’ The next logical thought you might have would be: ‘HOW?’ So maybe you’re expecting me to pull out a bullet list of “here’s how to go deeper in your relationship with God”.  I am going to disappoint you if that’s the case.  There are resources on the “how”.  And, there are ways to go about the “how”.  BUT, sometimes we get so caught up in the HOW that we forget what we were thirsty for in the first place.  So, my suggestion today is that you don’t focus on the HOW, but rather the WHO (W-H-O), God, and seek to know God more.  As you focus on the WHO, the HOW will work itself out.  Trust the WHO; God will take care of the HOW.  If you really want some guidance on the HOW, then you could follow John Wesley’s suggestion of keeping the ordinances of God: praying, reading the Scriptures, etc.  Meeting together for worship as we are today is one way of living out the HOW by focusing on the WHO.  We have gathered today to worship God because God loves us and has drawn us into a relationship.  We give glory to God the Father through Christ the Son as we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.
The relationship with God doesn’t end.  It goes on and on and goes deeper and deeper.
  • How deep are you willing to allow God to take you?
  • How thirsty are you for a deeper and holy relationship with the One who created you?
In the Spiritual Formation Bible: Growing in Intimacy with God Through Scripture, there are columns throughout the Bible for reflection.  This is what is written for Psalm 42 on “Thirsting for God”: “Thirst is such a powerful longing that it displaces all others. Though the psalmist longs for God’s help in the midst of physical thirst and danger, this metaphor also offers a profound spiritual image: Our relationship with God is as essential to our spiritual well-being as water is to our physical well-being.  What are you thirsty for?  Is your schedule so crowded that it leaves you thirsty for time alone with God?  Are you feeling dryness in your devotional habits?  Are you needing a time away in retreat? […]” (728)
Notice that as the psalmist pours out his soul to God in this Psalm, that he flows from desiring to grow more intimate with God to recognizing that his soul is downcast and that he needs God’s help.   The journey deeper is one that will have ups and downs, joys and sorrows, praises and laments.  In and through it all, as we seek to grow in our love relationship with God, then we will be equipped to live out the relationships with others, whether with family, at work, through service, or ministry.  It all starts with our love relationship with God. 
Thirteen years ago I went to Passion 2000 in Texas.  The CD from that Passion Conference was called “Thirsty: a journey to intimacy with God”.  All the songs on the album speak to the deep desire to know God and grow in intimacy with God in one way or another.  There is a song by the album’s title, “Thirsty” by Chris Rice.
Here are the lyrics:
I’m so thirsty, I can feel it
Burning through the furthest corners of my soul
Deep desire, can’t describe this
Nameless urge that drives me somewhere
Though I don’t know where to go

Seems I’ve heard about a River from someone who’s been
And they tell me once you reach it, oh, you’ll never thirst again
So I have to find the River, somehow my life depends on the River
Holy River

Other waters I’ve been drinkin’
But they always leave me empty like before
Satisfaction, all I’m askin’
Could I really be this thirsty if there weren’t something more?

And I’ve heard about a River from someone who’s been
And they tell me once you reach it, oh, you’ll never thirst again
So I have to find the River,
Somehow my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

I’m on the shore now of the wildest River
And I kneel and beg for mercy from the sky
But no one answers, I’ve gotta take my chances
Cause something deep inside me’s cryin’
"This is why you are alive!"

So I plunge into the River with all that I am
Praying this will be the River where I’ll never thirst again
I’m abandoned to the River
And now my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty
Now that you’ve heard the lyrics, listen to the song.  As you listen to Chris Rice sing, what words touch you where you are today? 
In closing, I want to share a Psalm Prayer with you from the Upper Room WorshipBook:
Psalm Prayer from the Upper Room Worshipbook-- #270
Quench the thirst of my heart, O God.
Sing the song of your love deep within me.
Lead me to the waters of mercy,
      for my hope is in you.  Amen.
                                                         adapted by Judy Holloway ©2006.
After reading this Psalm Prayer, I added that this made me think of a Stephen Curtis Chapman song, "I'm diving in".  I said: I don't know about you, but I'm diving in, I'm going deep..... What about you?
May the blessing of God, fountain of living water,
     flow within us as a river of life.
May we drink deep of her wisdom.
May we never thirst again.
May we go through life refreshing many,
     as a sign of healing for all;
through the One who is Life eternal.  Amen.
(Miriam Therese Winter, U.S.A., 20th Century)
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Blessings on your journey.... May you drink deeply of the water that will quench your thirst, may you focus on the WHO that loves you deeply and can and will sustain you through all aspects of life's journey, may you jump in feet first into the deep waters of God's grace and love and get soaked!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Keep on doing the right thing... A lesson from "Adventures in Odyssey"

On my drive home today from KY, I listened to a variety of things on the radio from some good 'old 80s music to NPR to Christian music to some children's shows.  I heard two different children's shows.  One was one I wasn't familiar with about kids at camp.  Good story line and lessons.  The second one was Adventures in Odyssey.  I've listened to Adventures in Odyssey on and off in the past.  Today, a line from the show ("Unbecoming Jay") stood out to me.

The line was: "keep on doing the right thing." 

Here's the context.  Barrett had spent some time with Cindy, Jay's cousin visiting from out of town, at Jay's request.  Jay tried to even bribe him to do so.  Priscilla, Barrett's friend (special friend?), became jealous and a communication breakdown happened, leaving Barrett wondering what he had done wrong and how the wires had been crossed.  Barrett was speaking with the older gentleman from the store, Mr. Whittaker, about the situation.  Mr. Whittaker told him the girls being upset with Barrett had nothing to do with him, but rather with them not understanding the situation and their insecurities getting the best of them.  Barrett wondered what to do in this situation.  Mr. Whittaker advised him to 'keep on doing the right thing.'

This gave me food for thought.  We later learn that Jay had been helping the wires get crossed and had been causing some of the chaos, but meanwhile, what about the situation?

Barrett and Priscilla both had the opportunity to visit with Cindy.  Barrett took the time to be kind and gracious.  Later Cindy thought Barrett had been bribed to be with her and was hurt.  Priscilla was hurt that the two had a good time together. 

When the three of them were able to talk it out, they realized that there wasn't anything of concern, other than their insecurities that grew after Jay had planted seeds of doubt.

Barrett could have decided to avoid trying to talk with Cindy after the mix up.  After all, he was a little confused and hurt himself.  What had he done to deserve everyone getting mad at him?

Barrett took Mr. Whittaker's advice and proceeded to keep on doing the right thing.  In his case, it was to go say goodbye to Cindy and to let her know his time with her wasn't due to a bribe.  When Priscilla showed up, that's when the three of them were able to talk it out, though Priscilla almost left out of jealousy.

The situation could have turned out any other number of ways if the individuals had put up walls, listened to their doubts/fears/insecurities, or avoided dealing with the situation.  But, they walked through the journey with the strength, grace, love humility and came out in a better place at the end. 

Healing can and will take place as we walk those journeys.  Those journeys are often difficult and painful and confusing, yet very worth any and all effort given toward unity in community.

Barrett got caught in the middle of a situation in which he didn't even realize things had gone sour.  Yet, he sought out advise.  He listened to that advice and he heeded (obeyed) that advice.  Being in the middle of situations isn't easy.  There is often what is known as a creative tension because of the paradox. 

The Methodist tradition is a middle way, a via media.  Things aren't always black and white.  This past week, Dr. Seamands spoke about this and mentioned that not all people are comfortable with the middle way.  Though there is creative tension along the way, it is a good fit for me.  Not only because of Wesley's foundations, but because Wesley closely followed Christ's examples in living out the faith.  Unless I'm reading it wrong, it seems to me that Christ lived out the paradoxes well and is an excellent model.  Christ knew what the right thing to do was.  When Christ was in a situation in which he needed more input, Christ took time with the Father.  We have the opportunity to seek out what is the right thing from God the Father, Christ the son, and from the Holy Spirit, our teacher and guide.  That doesn't make it any easier.  With these resources, with prayer, Scripture, and the support of the community, hopefully we can keep on doing the right thing, step by step.

In my personal life, there are times that I have found myself in Barrett's place, not knowing exactly why things were the way they were or what I had done.  "Keep on doing the right thing" and attempting to grow through relationally, emotionally, and spiritually has been my goal in these times. 

A book I read several years back has helped me grow relationally.  Though it is written by Asbury professors that I've had for past classes, it wasn't required reading for any class.  It was fun reading.  Holeman, Virginia Todd and Martyn, Stephen L. Inside the Leader's Head: Unraveling Personal Obstacles to Ministry. Abingdon Press: 2008.

If you find yourself in a situation and you're questioning what to do, my advice would be the same as that of Mr. Whittaker: "Keep on doing the right thing."

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, June 21, 2013

Good Earth Teas... NO QUOTES!!-- an unexpected change

Imagine my surprise one evening as I tore open the Lemongrass Good Earth Tea bag container, pulled out the tea bag, set it into the cup of steaming water, and saw that the tag was WHITE! SOLID WHITE.  No purple on one side with the logo.  No quote on the other side.  Inside I was screaming, "Noooooooooooooooo............!" 

I just bought this box of tea and brought it with me for my seminary intensive week.  What better to help me study than a delicious cup of tea with inspirational quotes?!!?  Well, I had to settle for the delicious cup of tea.

At first, I thought maybe I was supposed to write my own quotes.  However, not having my Sharpies nor having really anything profound to say, I decided against that. 

My second thought was "Why?"  Today I learned from the GoodEarth Tea FaceBook page that this white/blank tag is only temporary, that the quotations will return "soon".  I hope "soon" to them doesn't mean the same as it does to other people I know.  I won't see those quotes for a very long time. ☺

This wasn't a major earthquake in my life.  It didn't upset the foundation too terribly much.  But, I have enjoyed the quotes.

I will endure this box of tea for the time being, enjoying the delicious taste of the Lemongrass tea.  However, I look forward to the day when the quotes come back.

Has anything changed in your life from what it normally was/is?  Dealing with change is to be expected, in most areas of our lives.  Who knew it would come in the form of a tea bag though?!?!

Wherever you are dealing with change in your life, may there be something to help make the change a tad more palatable.  In my case, the fact that the tea is still tasty is a big plus! 

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Intensive seminary class on the main campus for the first time... feeding my soul and mind

I would like to sit down and write and write and write.  But, I have one more book to finish.  I also have a paper to finish that I started last night.  So, I will get my writing in, just not the way I'd prefer. ☺

There are so many ways I could go with this post.  Therefore, it could seem like random ramblings.  But, I think I'll focus on where I am and why I'm here.

I am in Kentucky for my first intensive on the main campus at Asbury Theological Seminary. I am taking a course in United Methodist Theology under Dr. Steve Seamands.  I am staying in Nicholasville, an 11 minute drive from the campus, at The Cottage which is part of The Corner House Bed and Breakfast.  This is a great place to stay and the host has been super!  The breakfasts have all been yummy!

I am getting some good silence and solitude time this week.  I needed it.  With my Academy time over, I knew I would need to be very intentional in getting time apart into my schedule.  I knew I would have some time to myself this week, but I wasn't prepared for how much this week would minister to me Academy-style.

It hasn't replaced Academy by any means.  There isn't much that can replace the vibrant worship of Academy #32, the bilingual atmosphere, the relationships that were knit over two years, etc.  BUT, through the direction of Dr. Seamands, our class is a space not only for learning, but also for spiritual formation, for worship, for the holy.  I have several times felt like I was in the Academy setting listening to the faculty presenter challenge us to reflect spiritually on things. 

Dr. Seamands has done this each morning through a time of teaching on the Character of a Methodist in which he presents Scripture, shares with us, challenges us to reflect, invites us to sing and worship and then pray together.  Wow!!  The topics have spurred sermon ideas. ☺  More importantly, they have opened up places for healing and have allowed me to have some spiritual formation time while being in class.  Head and heart time.  Just like the Academy.  My soul has been blessed.  I have been able to gaze upon several icons, including one of my favorites, that of Rublev's Trinity.  I have practiced visio divina while watching some of the incredible backgrounds for the songs we've sung.  I had a class with Dr. Seamands online at some point early on when I was working on the Certificate for Christian Studies.  That would be somewhere between 2007 and 2009, but I will have to look through my folders to figure out which one it was.  I remember that he was a good online instructor.  He is an even better in class professor.  The way he directs the activities of the learning process, how he uses songs, pictures, stories, group discussion, class interaction, etc.  I admire and appreciate his teaching methods both as a student and as a retired educator.  Well-done, prof!

Being on campus has been a blessing in other ways too.  I finally got a student ID after all these years (I started in 2007).  I got to go to my first chapel today.  Though I had to ask someone who it was that spoke, it was a powerful message.  And, it was good to share in communion. 

Getting to know fellow students in person has been good too, just as it was the first intensive I took in FL two summers ago.  I have also been able to connect with two local folks.... one I was expecting to see and had made plans to visit with over coffee; the other I knew was taking classes, but I thought she was gone for the summer.  So, I was surprised to see one of my former Wesley Life Group students and Costa Rica missionary buddies at lunch time today. 

Solomon's Porch truly has good coffee and a wonderful atmosphere.  Though I haven't eaten there yet, all the food items I have seen look wonderful. 

Here is a picture from Wesley Square of John Wesley.  It's really the only campus picture I've taken so far.  (On my camera.  On my phone I took a picture of the fountain and some pictures at chapel.)



Well, at this point I had better return to the writing that is required of me and the reading too.  At some point later I can hopefully return to writing here the things that have stirring around in my heart, mind, and soul.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, June 10, 2013

Advice from Nature... T-shirts and journals

I am almost finished using my Advice from a River journal.

I have some pages left, but I look forward to my next journal, Advice from a Mountain.

I bought them at the same time, at an eclectic shop in Apalachicola, FL where I also found wooden hand crosses. 

The main advice from Advice from a River was "go with the flow" and that is how I've been living it since 2006, though this journal has been in used from July 2011. 

I took a sneak peek at the Advice from a Mountain journal and was pleasantly relieved to find the advice to be "Dear friend...reach new heights".  WHEW!  I was a tad concerned that I would be moving into a rough time.  Well, that could still be the case.  Reaching new heights requires striving and climbing.  I am hoping and praying that the journey won't be too difficult.  I know that I can take rest stops along the way.  One page in this new journal says, "Stand in the strength of your true nature."  The back of the journal says this:

"Reach new heights! 
Savor life's peak experiences
Stand in the strength of
Your True Nature!
Rise above it all
Get to the point
Rock on!"
Toward the end of the journal is this page: "To summit all up... It's the journey step by step by step."
Just as I have enjoyed the river journal, I imagine I'm going to enjoy the mountain one. 
Both of these journals come from the company Your True Nature.  For more about this company in Fort Collins, Colorado, simply click on their name in the previous sentence.
On our recent mountain get-away trip to Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, GA I found some t-shirts that also carried advice from nature.  I was pleased to see a t-shirt with advice from a mountain.  I found another one with advice from a waterfall.  What I did not see there at the gift shop was a t-shirt with advice from a river.  But I did learn that the t-shirts are from the same company as the journals, so I might be able to find one there. ☺
Because it is in Creation where I connect best with the Creator, both the mountain and the waterfall shirt express to me ways I can live out my journey.  Rocks, earth, mountains, water, waterfalls.  Ahhhh!!! ☺
Here are the shirts:

Being a linguistic geek, I like the phrase "to summit up" to mean 'to sum it up'.  So, "to summit up", I plan to attempt to live in to nature's advice from these t-shirts and journals.  Notice that the waterfall offers some of the same advice as the river in "go with the flow".  So, I'm not done with that just yet. ☺  Additionally, the waterfall advises: "roar with excitement, let your cares fall away, create your own music, immerse yourself in nature, stay active, make a splash!" 

I recognize that not all persons are "nature" people.  So, you may get your advice somewhere else.  Your wisdom comes from other sources.  There's nothing wrong with that.  For me, enjoying Creation from my Creator is a source of strength, peace, and life.  Without it, my journey would not be complete.

However you choose to learn and grow on your journey, may you find something to bring you some encouragement and a smile to your face today.

Blessings on your journey!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Poured out Love--Rumi, kenosis, Philippians, Christ's example

I was able to go to the Centering Prayer group yesterday, making it back two weeks in a row now! Hurray!  We are still working through Cynthia Bourgeault's book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.  The section we read together on Friday was primarily on kenosis, the act of self-emptying. 

As part of the reading, there was a poem by Rumi on love.  Bourgeault mentioned that this poem goes well with the hymn found in Philippians 2:9-16 (which she had discussed earlier in the chapter as an example of kenosis, page 83).

Rumi's poem:

Love is recklessness, not reason.
Reason seeks a profit,
Love comes on strong, consuming herself,

Yet in the midst of suffering
Love proceeds like a millstone,
Hard-surfaced and straight-forward.

Having died to self-interest,
She risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.


These words by Rumi speak to me (as do the verses in Philippians 2:9-16 and kenosis). 

Love radically given and poured out for others..... that's Christ's example for us.  It is truly an awesome example.  Not so easy to model.  It resonates within; it just doesn't seem to flow out so readily, at least not all the time.  I think some drops drip or ooze out from time to time.  There might even be a steady flow here and there, but then my selfishness and humanity plug up the open places from where the love was flowing and then the outpouring isn't pouring out so much anymore. 

Desiring to be like the One who died to self and gave everything up for others, yet not always being able to live into that skin.  It's an ongoing growing process.  It's a journey.

Thankfully, we're not in this process or on this journey alone.  We are surrounded by others who are seeking to grow and learn and love too.  We are able to encourage and support one another in the ups and downs, in the ebb and flow, in the ins and outs.  Community is a true blessing, whether that community is visible, local, or across the ocean.

Blessings on your journey,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reading United Methodist Doctrine while on vacation...

Last week we took a short family vacation to Amicalola Falls State Park in the north Georgia mountains, near Dawsonville, GA.  We rented a cabin that backed up to the creek.  That was where morning coffee and reading took place.

creek behind cabin (Amicalola Falls creek)

One morning while reading the first book of six required texts for an upcoming United Methodist Theology course, United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center by Scott J. Jones, I found myself in the midst of creation reading about creation. 

Chapter 5 of the book is entitled "Creation, Sin, Law, Grace, and Repentance". 

Leading up to the part about creation, a few lines that caught my attention:

"The heart of United Methodist doctrine is saving grace, so, not surprisingly, grace is also the starting point of its anthropology." (145) 

What REALLY caught my attention is the first clause of that sentence.  It caused me to draw a heart to the side of the page, write inside the heart "saving grace" and above the heart "UM Doctrine". ☺

"God's grace is an expression of God's essential nature, which is love." (146)

Then, the author quoted from "Our Social Creed" from the Book of Discipline

What caught my attention here was the line: "We affirm the natural world as God's handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind." (146, Jones; 122, Discipline)

So, there I was, sitting on the edge of the creek surrounded greenery, rushing waters, and chirping birds.  What better place to be to read this portion of the book?!?!

I could definitely affirm God's handiwork around me.  Not only at that spot, but throughout the park with the gorgeous waterfall, valley views, geological beauty, etc. 

Amicalola Falls
top of falls and view of valley

view of valley from East Ridge Trail

Creation has always been a connecting point for me to God, the Creator.  And, that makes sense... at least it does to me.  How can one not connect with the Creator through the creation?!?!

The author went on to remind the reader that "we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it [creation].  Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God's creation [...]" (146)

Reduce, reuse, recycle... those are words that will help all of us help creation.  Though I do some things to take care of creation, there is more I can do.  There have been books and programs in the past few years to help folks become more aware and begin to be more "green" within their families, churches, and communities. 

In case you're interested in learning more about the Green Church Initiative, here are two links below with information.  The second one includes Rebekah Simon-Peter's book/curriculum on the topic.

Green Church
Green Church by Rebekah Simon-Peter (her website)

Doctrine in its simplest meaning means "teaching".  I enjoyed the book by Scott J. Jones on the United Methodist doctrine.  I especially enjoyed the serendipity moment of being outdoors in creation to enjoy the Creator's handiwork as I read the section on creation in the book.

Enjoy some of the Creator's handiwork today!  And while you're enjoying it, look around to see what part you can do to keep it in good shape. (You may have heard the saying: "take only pictures, leave only footprints".)

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Good Earth Tea Quotes.... an abundance of quotes shared

I have posted several (or at least two) Good Earth Tea quote posts in the past.  Yesterday I was cleaning off my dresser drawer and found a handful of Good Earth Tea tags and decided I would compile them all for one post.

The tea tags were collected over time, so I'm not on a "tea buzz" or anything like that.  Once I get the post written, then I can recycle the tags. ☺


"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." Booker T. Washington 1856-1915

"The only way to fail at something is to fail to learn from the experience." Mary Jane Nirenberg

"If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends.  You talk to your enemies." Moshe Dayan 1915-1981

"The first and great commandment is: Don't let them scare you." Elmer Davis 1890-1958

"Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can." John Wesley 1703-1791

"Unless you believe, you will not understand." Saint Augustine 354 AD-430 AD
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Success, obstacles, failure, experience, peace, commandment, make, save, give, believe.... all good topics for reflection.  From a tea bag tag!

There were three authors I didn't know, so I looked them up:

Mary Jane Nirenberg-- Though I found two "Mary Nirenberg" listings on Linked In, I don't know if either is "this" Mary Jane Nirenberg.  Both were professional business women.

Moshe Dayan-- An Israeli military warrior who became a spokesperson for peace.  Jewish Virtual Library Information. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Elmer Davis-- News writer and radio commentator.  Infoplease. Encyclopedia Britannica.

I don't know if any of the above quotes will speak to you today or not, but maybe one of them will.  If not the quotes, then maybe something you learn about the author.

Enjoy a good cup of tea somewhere along your journey,


Monday, June 3, 2013

"Opening Your Heart to Guidance"-- thoughts and reflection from reading Macrina Wiederkehr on this topic

I sat down yesterday afternoon with Macrina Wiederkehr's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God and started where I had left off.  Chapter 7: "Opening Your Heart to Guidance".  Oooh... that sounds good.  The Scripture reading was Psalm 25 and the opening instructions: "Prayerfully read Psalm 25." 

As I have gotten accustomed to doing this, I put down the book and looked for a Bible to read the Psalm.  But, before I read the Psalm, I thought I would peek at the devotional.  This is what I read: "Before immersing yourself in the words of this meditation, obey the words above."  OUCH!  I was caught!  Not only was I supposed to obey the instructions, but there was also this I needed to obey: "Unbar your heart and simply wait for God.  There is so much grace in waiting."  Unbar my heart.  That's a powerful statement that says quite a bit and assumes quite a bit.  However, if I am honest with myself, my heart does somehow grow bars around it from time to time... bars of protection.  And, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Yet, when coming before God, Creator, those bars need to be gone.  And then I need to prepare to simply wait.  I'm not so sure that "simply" and "wait" should go together.  Waiting is not so simple.  Yet, there is definitely grace in the waiting.

So, as I accepted my gentle reprimand, I went to Psalm 25 and read.  The verses that spoke to me most yesterday were 1a, 4-5, 9, 16-18, 19-20.  Depending on what version is read, the word "hope" is used instead of "wait".  They both have a feel for expectation, but the focus on the devotion was the waiting aspect.

When I finished reading the Psalm slowly and prayerfully, I went back to the meditation and read it.  Here are the parts that stood out to me from Macrina's words:
  • "We tend to live rather distracted lives; thus the inner turning toward the soul is an excellent spiritual practice." (81)
  • "If we desire to move into a deeper relationship with God, it is essential that we live with unguarded hearts." (81)
  • "Psalm 25 is a prayer for guidance." (81)
  • "Openness! Readiness!  Patience! Spend a little time reflecting on those qualities in your life." (81)
Then Macrina offers these questions to aid in that reflection:
  • "How do you experience being open to guidance?"
  • "Who are your teachers on the spiritual path?"
  • "How is this readiness to go deeper into God's ways visible in the way you live?"
  • "How do you feel about waiting for God to make known the paths you should walk?" 
  • "How do you feel about waiting for anything?"
There is quite a bit to chew on here.  This might take a while. ☺ 

Continuing on with Macrina's words that captured my attention:
  • "In order to go deeper into our interior life and be molded by the Source of all life, it is important that we learn the art of creative waiting." (81)
  • "Creative waiting is a deep listening that is at the heart of all discernment." (81)
What caught my attention from these words/phrases/sentences and why do they resonate within my soul?  My desire is to continue moving into a deeper relationship with God and waiting has been part of the ebb and flow of my life's experience for several years now.  Listening and discernment are areas in which I desire growth. 

Macrina suggests that the foes/enemies in verse 19 of Psalm 25 could be considered to be "interior blocks to spiritual growth." (82)  This is a great way to reflect on this.  What stunts/blocks/hinders my growth?   Your growth?  If we can name it, we can begin to deal with it.   This is part of the deepening process.

As with every meditation, Macrina ends with a beautiful prayer.  I'm not going to include it this time (I don't want to give you everything in the book!), but I will include a Psalm Prayer from the Upper Room Worshipbook that I looked up yesterday.

It is #249 and is adapted by Judy Holloway.  Copyright 2006. Upper Room Books.

Psalm Prayer (Ps. 25)
O God, in you there is shelter and comfort.
Lead us in your truth and teach us your ways.
Your path is steady and sure.
Be our companion, our protector, and our deliverer.  Amen.

I don't know if Psalm 25, the portions from Macrina Wiederkehr's meditation, or the Psalm Prayer will speak to you or not.  I don't know where you are on the journey.  I only know that each of these spoke to me and I wanted to share.

Blessings on your journey.... May there be grace in the waiting!