Saturday, August 31, 2013

End of August-- transitioning into fall

Chester Frost Park

Today is August 31st.  The last day of the month.  Tomorrow is the first day of September.  School has been in session for the Hamilton county schools here for several weeks and for the universities for a couple of weeks.  In that sense, summer is over.  The weather here is a different story.  Here in Tennessee, it is hot and humid with scattered thunderstorms.  UGH!! 

My semester starts next week.  I'll be gearing up in my studies as I hit the road the first two weekends in September for my intensive class on the Wilmore campus.  I will also be winding down the BeADisciple workshop I've been facilitating as we finish out weeks 6 and 7 the first two weeks of September. 

It is a transition time.  Again.

Transition is ongoing.  It is a cyclical occurrence. 

Just this past week I began leading a Women's Bible Study in 1 John.  We will cover all three of the John letters over the next several months as we meet together.  I look forward to meeting with this group of ladies and hope others will join us. 

This weekend is a transition weekend for many as they enjoy one last long weekend of "official" summer time before school starts back in most areas.  For those of us who've already started back, it's a welcome mini-break from the routine already in progress. ☺

I took my daughter to the Chester Frost Park beach area this afternoon for a swim after visiting with my brother at his campsite.  Though it wasn't overly crowded, there was a good number of people enjoying the water to cool off on a hot and humid day.  Kids were swimming around in the water, running around on the sand, and playing on the playground equipment.  Some folks were resting in the shade of the trees.  There were quite a few folks around speaking my heart language, my second language--Spanish--so that brought some extra joy into my afternoon. ☺  I held off as long as possible before I said the first «hola» to someone. 

Soon the beach area, playground, and picnic tables will be abandoned for the fall and winter months.

It was good to spend a few moments there today enjoying such a beautiful place that is so close by.

As the time quickly passes me by, I am attempting to be present with friends and family.  I am attempting to make the most of the time that I have and the relationships that I have.

September starts tomorrow.  There is much to do on my lists.  But more important than my "to-do" lists are my "to-be" lists.

How about you?  How are you living into the transition times?  How are you living into the present?  How are you living into your "to-be" lists?

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Being held up by the Body... prayers and encouragement

I'll encourage you 110% to reach out to others.  I'll support you in your ups and downs.  I'll admonish you to reach out when you are weak and down and struggling. 

But, will I live out what I speak, teach, write, and preach?!?!  Yes, though I'm sometimes a little slow and/or hesitant to do so.  ☺ You know, I wouldn't want to burden someone else.  They have bigger things to carry than something I don't even understand.  But, I don't listen to that nay-sayer voice too long.

I've learned to not wear the mask and to ask for help.  Though I still sometimes need to be caught in a situation in order to say "help".  Maybe it's pulling into a parking lot and simply being at the end of my rope, so to speak... and someone else pulling beside me right after I arrive.   They can tell I've had a rough morning.  I'm honest about it.  They suggest I spend time in the prayer garden.  Sanctuary.  Scripture.  Prayer.  Healing.  Though this was quite a few years ago, this was one of those "markers" in my journey.  A day in which I was able to be as I was.... not in the best mood and struggling and honest about it.

Fast forward....... ZIP!  I can't explain it, but the atmosphere has been wacky for me lately.  Lots of things going on in my life and around my life.  And some things just swirling around that I really couldn't even tell you what they were or are.  I just know they are there.

I had prayer chapel privilege on Sunday morning for 2nd service and that was good.  It was a good time for me to pray.  And, afterwards, there was a very special prayer time for a special little child of God.  Heading out of the sanctuary, though, is when I got caught.  I was going to throw on a mask or walk away from it, but why do that?!?!  I profess to live this adventurous journey with transparency, risk, and vulnerability.  So, I did.  I simply stated that I couldn't really explain it, but I could use some extra prayer.  It seems that I've been carrying others for a while and I'm just in a place where I felt "on the edge". 

Later, I asked my BeADisciple class for prayer too.  Maybe I'm the only one who is hesitant to ask folks for prayer when it's so personal that one doesn't even know how to ask for prayer!?!  But, reaching out is important and powerful.  I know I'm being lifted up in prayer and held up by the Body.  I am grateful.

If you know me personally, you can likely tell when I'm not "myself".  I am fairly transparent.  At least, that's my goal.  And, I've had a couple of folks in the past couple of weeks remark that I've not quite been myself.  Likely, it has been due to whatever this stuff is.... burdens.... the inside "swirlings" (I don't think this is a word, at least the editor doesn't like it).  The migraines haven't helped.  But they've not acted up for two days now!  (YIPPEE!!)

Besides the Body of Christ lifting me up in encouragement and in prayer, there are two songs that have touched me recently.

One was from last Thursday night.  I finally got the title and found the lyrics!  The song that ended the service last Thursday night is a Hezekiah Walker song, "I need you to survive".  It is also sung by Juanita Bynum and Kirk Franklin and maybe others.  We do need each other in community to make it. 

Check out the lyrics:  (for a video, click on any one of the names above and you will be taken to a YouTube video of that person singing it)

I need you, you need me.
We're all a part of God's body.
Stand with me, agree with me.
We're all a part of God's body.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
(repeat 3X)

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won't harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.
(repeat 8 X)

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

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

This songs speak community to me as we pray for one another, stand with one another, love one another, promise to not harm one another. 

The other song is one I heard on the radio this morning on my way back home after dropping off the kids to school.  It's an Audio Adrenaline song, "Believer".  I had not heard it before this morning.  It's from the Kings & Queens album (2013) and is their latest single.

Audio Adrenaline Video
Audio Adrenaline Video with Lyrics

I want to live this live unsafe, unsure, but not afraid
What I want is to give all I got somehow
Giving up letting go of control right now
'Cause I'm already out here, blind but I can see
I see the way You're moving
God how I believe that
I can push back the mountains, can stand on the waves
I can see through the darkness, I'll hold up the flame
Take me to the ocean I want to go deeper
I'm not afraid no, I'm a believer
And so I lose this life to find my way and come alive
They can try to deny what's inside of me
But there is more, can't ignore all the things unseen
Oh I believe I can walk on water with You, Lord
When I walk through the valley of the shadows
When I'm trapped in the middle of the battle
I will trust in You

'Cause trouble comes, but you never let it take me
I hold fast cause I know that You will save me
I will trust in You, I will trust in You
Oh here I stand all alone waiting on you, Lord
Waiting on You

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This song resonates within me as to how I want to live my "one wild and precious life" as Mary Oliver refers to it in "The Summer Day". 

Even though it is unsafe at times, I want to live it unafraid.  I want to walk through the fires and know I won't be burned; walk through the waves and know I won't be consumed.

I want to go deeper.  Deeper still.  Deeper even more.... in my learning, growing, and quest to know myself and God; in loving God and others.

Though I can't always articulate what is going on inside, I know that I can trust.  I am ever reminded of Twila Paris' songs, "Do I Trust You, Lord?" and "The Warrior is a Child".  These are songs that come back to me when I'm struggling and battling, either within or around me.

So, today I am grateful for a migraine-less day; for songs that are uplifting with lyrics that resonate within my heart, mind, and soul; and for the support of many along this faith journey, both near and far, with whom I travel.

As I look up from my computer, I see the "prayer for the journey" that I picked up at Church of the Resurrection several years ago:

"Lord, as I travel through this day, grant me the vision to see your plan for my life, and the courage and devotion to follow the path you set before me.  Amen."

Blessings on your journey!  May you be uplifted and encouraged this day!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Letting go....

Letting go comes in many ways, at many times, of many things.

Today, I am letting go of part of a dream that has been calling out to me for several years.  I'm letting go of it--even though it was never mine.

I knew I might need to let go of this part of the dream when the house had been taken off the market again; but since there wasn't any activity in the house or yard, I didn't give up hope.

Let me back up.

There was this house.  A brick house.  Situated on a prominent road (Hixson Pike) in my area.  It seemed to called out my name every time I drove by it for the past several years.  Great house (from the pictures) and a great location.  For my thoughts involving Hispanic ministry, there are Hispanics in the backyard.  I saw this place as a place for learning, worship, ministry, activity.  Ecumenical.  A safe place for people to go and grow. 

There were others who saw this place as a possibility for ministry too. 

I didn't have the money for this place.  So, it was simply a dream.  I did write the owner a letter sharing my dream last fall.  I do weird things like that.

Today I learned that this house is going to be a beauty salon.  That's cool!  That's what it was at one time before.  That is someone else's dream coming to reality.  That is awesome.

Though this house won't be the place for ministry like I've thought about, this house has been prayed for consistently over the past several years and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that ministry will happen within it.

Letting go is a constant part of life.  We need to let go of the things that aren't ours to carry, that are no longer ours to carry, etc.

Sometimes we don't know that we're holding on to things.  Linda Douty wrote a book on that: How Can I Let Go If I Don't Know I'm Holding On?: Setting Our Souls Free (Morehouse Publishing: 2005).  Though I got this book in 2010, I've not read it yet.   Well, I started it.  I read chapter 1. 

Because "letting go" is such a part of life (at least that's my experience), I hope to gain some understanding from Douty's book on the things I may be holding onto unbeknownst to me on the conscious level.

I knew I was holding on to the house.  Now I will let it go.

But I'm not letting go of the dream and vision for ministry.  I don't think that's something to let go of yet.  It may not be time for it yet, but that's okay.  Some things take time.  Time for prayer, bringing others along with similar visions, etc.  Who knows?!!?  Maybe I'm just supposed to support others in their dreams and visions on these things for now. 

My focus at this time is to finish my coursework, unless and until that door closes.  Additionally, there is the focus of family and life. 

So, good-bye ultra totally cool brick house!  May you do well in your new adventures with your owner and may you be a place of peace to all who enter!

There may not be anything in your life, your journey at the moment that needs to be let go.  But, then again, there might be.  Something to consider. 

Letting go brings freedom and space for the things that are supposed to be.

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, August 23, 2013

Be there! (Thoughts and reflections from Jentezen Franklin's message at the Big Event.)

Last night I went to The Big Event at Abba's House on Hixson Pike in Hixson, TN.  I've only been to the bookstore once before and the Spanish service in the building next door.  This was my first time to the big, I mean, BIG auditorium / sanctuary for a service.  I was honestly in a little bit of shell shock and sensory overload as I attempted to take it all in. 

The comfortable, soft blue seats were heavenly!  The screens and banners were great.  Besides the ton of people, I think what really got my attention was the moving camera on the extremely long arm (boon, I think they call that thing)!  That thing must have been as long as my dining and living room combined.  I was mesmerized as I watched that thing move around and people flow in continuously to that space.

The music was good--the electric guitar, the drums, the large choir in their blue robes, the other singers, etc.  There was a mix of some old (a hymn) and some new (written by the guitarist). 

I was there to hear Pastor Jentezen Franklin from Gainesville, GA.  Jentezen preached from Acts 1:4-5.  His message was for folks to stay put, to wait for the presence of the Father, to wait for the wind to blow and the fire to fall.  Remain there.  Wait there.  Be there.  Be available.  Be dependable.
yes, I know it's blurry... I was in the back section. ☺

Be there.... for your family, for your friends, for your pastor, for your church, etc.

He shared the example of Simon of Cyrene simply being someone in the crowd, waiting to see Jesus.  We don't know about this guy's history, his strengths, his gifts, etc.  We know he was there.  And, when Jesus stumbled while carrying the cross, Simon was called upon to carry it.  He was there.  He was called upon for service.  He was able to help carry the load because he was there.

A quote from Jentezen: "If you'll just be there, the wind is going to blow; the fire is going to fall."

That resonates with me.  I want the wind to blow and the fire to fall.  I'm good with wind and fire.  I remember giving a talk on a Chrysalis weekend walk once and hearing the wind blow through the trees outside the chapel as I was giving it.  It wasn't just a physical wind.  It was a might spirit (ruach) wind.  At least that's how it felt to me at that time.

It's not always easy to "be there".  There are often sacrifices of time and energy that need to be made in order for that to happen.  But, it's worth it.

Jentezen shared a powerful illustration of a system of trees being there for one another by their roots.  I have heard about trees and roots systems some in the past, but parts of this illustration were new to me.

Jentezen spoke of the Redwood Trees and how their roots don't go deep but rather spread out wide.  What keeps them strong is that they intertwine with one another (community!).  He mentioned that the forest ranger pointed out a tree to him that was dead.  It hadn't fallen, however, because it was being held up by the roots of the trees around it.  That's powerful community.  We can hold up even those who are struggling to live-- physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally-- by intertwining our lives with theirs. 

From a website (Redwood National Park) on redwood trees: "The root system of the redwood tree is surprisingly shallow, especially given the great height the mature tree attains. There is no tap root and the other roots may reach no deeper than 6-12 feet. The major roots are about 1 inch in diameter. and they typically spread 50 to 80 feet. One way in which the trees are able to remain upright for millennia is by growing close together with other redwood trees, intermingling root systems. In the picture below a number of redwoods crowd together in a typical grove."

Just like a cord of three strands cannot be easily broken, when we join together with one another, we are stronger.  The strong can hold up the weak, even carry the struggling one(s) until they are able to be healthy again.  Powerful.  (My husband's wedding band is a cord of three strands as a reminder that we are held together in Christ through the Holy Spirit.)

But, we have to "be there".  We can't abandon ship or walk out or leave.  Others can't hold us up if we're not "there" nor can we hold them up if we're not there. 

Relationships, community.  That's what it comes back to.  We are created to be in relationships and in community.  And, when we are "there" in our relationships and communities, we can strengthen one another.  Sometimes folks don't want to be strengthened.  They would prefer to die, for whatever reason.  Yet, we have been given a life to live abundantly.

Here's a warning from me to you.  If you're in a relationship with me, in community with me, I'm going to "be there".  I'm going to hold you up.  Even when you don't want to be held up.  This means that I'm going to irritate you at times because I want you to live the abundant life, especially if from our relationship you've shared that this is want you want too.  What kind of fellow journeyer would I be if at one point you had expressed that you wanted to grow in your journey but now you were spiritually dying and I decided it was easier for me to let you die than to "be there" with and for you?!?!  Now, if you told me that you truly no longer wished to grow spiritually and were content where you were, I'd back off.  I'm not that pushy or "thorny" (as I've been called ☺). 

Just as the Redwood trees need the roots of one another, we need one another in community to stand firm, to stand steady.  Especially during when the storms come and the winds blow.

Do you have folks intertwined with you?

Are you intertwined with others?

Are you willing to "be there" for others? 

Jentezen said that when we are "there", we will have an opportunity to make a difference, to be used in service, to teach, to preach, to reach out, etc. 

The song at the very end of the service spoke of community coming together with and for one another.  That was a neat song. It talked about being there for one another, needing one another, loving one another, standing with one another, etc.  I hope to find the lyrics for that song.

Will you be there?

I'll be there.

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Am I a "successful" person or an "unsuccessful" person?

This chart came across a friend's timeline on Facebook.  It came from "Interesting Amazing World". It got my attention.  First, it is lime and lemon colored, just like a Sprite drink.  Okay, so that's not really how or why it got my attention.  That's just a goofy observation in an attempt to keep things on a superficial level instead of going deep.
In case the picture is difficult to view, here are the characteristics of successful people and unsuccessful people (starting at 12 o'clock and moving clockwise):
Successful people:
  • compliment
  • forgive others
  • accept responsibility for their failures
  • keep a journal
  • want others to succeed
  • keep a "to-be" list
  • set goals and develop life plans
  • continuously learn
  • operate from a transformational perspective
  • keep a "to-do/project" list
  • embrace change
  • exude joy
  • share information and data
  • talk about ideas
  • read everyday
  • give other people credit for their victories
  • have a sense of gratitude
Unsuccessful people:
  • criticize
  • hold a grudge
  • blame others for their failures
  • say they keep a journal but really don't
  • think they know it all
  • operate from a transactional perspective
  • secretly hope others fail
  • don't know what they want to be
  • never set goals
  • exude anger
  • hoard information and data
  • talk about people
  • fly by the seat of their pants
  • fear change
  • watch TV everyday
  • take all the credit for their victories
  • have a sense of entitlement
Take a moment to read over these lists again.  Which list would you say best describes you?  Which list would your best friend/spouse/significant other/relatives/people you meet day to day say best describes you?
In the spirit of disclosure and vulnerability, I will acknowledge that there are items on the "unsuccessful" list that describe me at times.  I deal with anger.  I sometimes fear change.  I watch TV.  I criticize.  I don't always know who/what I want to be, other than the person I have been created to be.  Having said this, I think there are more characteristics on the green column, the "successful" list that describe me as I am the majority of the time. 
What would those around me say?  Would they agree with my assessment?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I value their input.  I need their input.  That's part of community and accountability.  In case you are wondering, yes... you have permission (not that you needed it) to speak into my life on this. 
How about you?
Where do you find yourself?  What are the places of possible growth and change that you see for yourself? 
Are you willing to get input from those around you?  It might be transformational if you allow others the permission to speak into your life.
May we grow in our daily journey of becoming successful people,

Living Our Passages Well... a devotion by Henri Nouwen with some thoughts and reflections

In Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey, "death" has been the topic for the past two days (August 21 and today, August 22).  Death is an important topic.  It's not one that many will talk about or even prepare for. 

Maybe you've had deaths in your family, your circle of friends, your work, your school, your church, and even your neighborhood.

I've had deaths in each of those categories.  The most recent being my neighborhood.  It was a death that caught me by surprise.  I didn't even know she (the mom) was sick.  The family across the street is quiet, but we wave and smile.  We wave and smile and say "hello" lots.  We have talked more in depth over fallen trees and clean up, sharing about their dogs, and helping find their cat.  But we didn't know the wife had been sick recently.

The Pulmonaire van last week in front of the house one day nudged me and told me something was wrong.  But, I did and do respect their privacy.  I didn't just want to pop over and say, 'hey... do you guys need anything, I saw the air van.'  That seemed too intrusive.  I would wait for a good time to offer food or whatever I could offer.

This week, my next door neighbor called to ask if I knew.  Knew what?!?!  Obviously I didn't.  I had no clue. I was clueless.  (I often can be.)  The mom had passed away last week (Thursday) and he was calling to tell me the visitation and service were that evening that he was calling.  I am so glad he called!  I hadn't read the paper in a few days because we had been out of town for the weekend.  Sure enough, it was there.

My husband was working, but my daughter and I were able to go.  We moved into the neighborhood when she was about 3 months old.  She is now 12.  Though we don't know the folks very well, I have gotten to know the kids (now grown) and have had conversations about life and school and passion (hey, I love those conversations even now as a retired educator).  Great kids, great family.  We spoke with both the "kids" and the dad briefly.  Dad shared that he and the family lived life to the fullest each day and that was important in dealing with this now.  They had made the most of every moment.  In fact, he had words of admonition for my daughter to make the most of every day.  Awesome!

That is beautiful!  And, that brings me to Nouwen's devotion on "Living Our Passages Well".  Living each moment to the fullest is important to living well.  Life on this earth is a passage.  Death is a passage. 

Nouwen says it best, so I will let his words speak now:

"Death is a passage to new life.  That sounds very beautiful, but few of us desire to make this passage.  It might be helpful to realize that our final passage is preceded by many earlier passages.  When we are born we make a passage from life in the womb to life in the family.  When we go to school we make a passage from life in the family to life in the larger community.  When we get married we make a passage from a life with many options to a life committed to one person.  When we retire we make a passage from a life of clearly defined work to a life asking for new creativity and wisdom.
     Each of these passages is a death leading to new life.  When we live these passages well, we are becoming more prepared for our final passage."

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

I have not lived all of these passages well.  I have stumbled and fallen along the way.  But, I have gotten back up and kept going.  With the help of community-- friends and family-- and the help of my Creator.  As I learn and grow, it is my desire to live these passages well, so that I am better prepared for my final passage. 

As I reflect on this devotion and this week, I know that my neighbor has lived this passage well.  She made the most of her time prior to the sickness and during it.  I will miss her smiling face in the yard and as we pass on the road. 

As we all live through life's passages in one form or another, may we live them well.

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, August 16, 2013

A beer with Jesus...

When I first heard this song on the radio as I was flipping through the channels last year, it caught me by surprise.

"If I could have a beer with Jesus" or also known as "Beer with Jesus"

I've heard snippets of it on the radio, but I've not listened to it in full.  So, I decided to listen to the entire song and check out the lyrics.  Thomas Rhett sings it.  He wrote it, along with Rick Huckaby and Lance Miller.  It was released in 2012.

I realize that there are some people that might not appreciate the song and beyond non-appreciation, the song will likely go against their beliefs.  That's okay.

I'm not attempting to get into a discussion of anyone's beliefs to change them, but rather I am personally reflecting on the idea of joining Jesus (or rather Jesus joining us) in the everyday, ordinary life of many people. 

As I listen to the song and watch the video of Thomas Rhett singing, what I hear is the longing for someone to spend time in conversation with Jesus.  Quality time.  Unrushed.  To listen.  To ask questions.  To share.  It's about fellowship and relationship.

If the beer is a stumbling block for you, replace "beer" with "coffee" or "soda" (soft drink, pop, Coca-Cola, etc.).  Even if beer is a stumbling block, try to watch the video and listen to the song with an open mind and heart, at least once.  Click here to watch a version of the song and video.

What do you hear in the song?  Is there a connection in your spirit?  If so, what is that connection?

I think of Jesus and the table fellowship he had with his friends and family.  He went to tax collector Matthew's party.  He went into many homes and ate and drank with others.   Jesus had picnics with folks on the hillsides and seashores.    There was an early morning campfire involving fish. 

Jesus met people where they were.  He shared life with them.  He journeyed along life's path with them.  He taught, he prayed, he laughed, he cried, he loved.

As you listen to the song, check out the lyrics below.  Again, if you need to replace the word "beer" with something else, do so.  Don't let a word cause you to miss the message.


If I could have a beer with Jesus
Heaven knows I'd sip it nice and slow
I'd try to pick a place that ain't too crowded
Or gladly go wherever he wants to go

You can bet I'd order up a couple tall ones
Tell the waitress put 'em on my tab
I'd be sure to let him do the talkin'
Careful when I got the chance to ask

How'd you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
Do you hear the prayers I send
What happens when life ends
And when you think you're comin' back again
I'd tell everyone, but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

If I could have a beer with Jesus
I'd put my whole paycheck in that jukebox
Fill it up with nothing but the good stuff
Sit somewhere we couldn't see a clock
Ask him how'd you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
Have you been there from the start
How'd you change a sinner's heart
And is heaven really just beyond the stars
I'd tell everyone, but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus
He can probably only stay, for just a couple rounds
But I hope and pray he's stayin' till we shut the whole place down
Ask him how'd you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
What's on the other side?
Is mom and daddy alright?
And if it ain't no trouble tell them I said hi
I'd tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus
I'd tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

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

Has there been controversy over this song?  Of course.  There will always be controversy when you mention the name Jesus, especially in the context in which it was mentioned in the song.  In this article by Gayle Thompson in "The Boot", Rhett reports that he has heard stories where his song has inspired, encouraged, and ministered to people.  It was even used at a funeral. 

The song has opened up an opportunity for dialogue.  That is probably the most powerful thing about it.  By setting aside opinions and disagreements over the title and the word "beer", hopefully we can get to a place of fellowship and relationship with Jesus and others in the ordinary life.

At least, that is the deeper message that resonates within me. 

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A thought-provoking question from the comics and Dennis the Menace

Theology spring-boarded by comic strips. 

Dennis the Menace and his dad are seated at a table playing a board game.  At first I thought it might be Parcheesi, but there are card decks in the middle.  Maybe it's Sorry!.  Whatever the game, Dennis is looking at the dice in his hand.  He asks his dad this question: "If I'm s'posed to roll the dice, why aren't they round?"  Ah, Dennis... I hear your confusion.  Good question. 

Rolling square items.

How much sense does that make?  We don't have square tires or wheels.  Yet, if we were to roll round dice, they wouldn't stop on a number. 

Where did that expression originate?

I am not able to find the origin of the expression, though at one time it was 'roll the bones' because dice were at one time made of bone.  In fact, the history of dice takes us to the Greek.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "dice were invented by the legendary Greek Palamedes."

But, I digress with historical information on dice.

Back to Dennis the Menace and his question.

There are often situations in life that don't make sense, something doesn't quite fit our perspective or our framework.  When this happens, we become puzzled and confounded.  Sometimes we become paralyzed because we aren't able to get beyond what doesn't seem to fit in our minds.

When it's a pair of dice, it's not too difficult to rattle them around in one's hand and throw them down on the table (unless of course you happen to be in a big city with big lights and you've made a bet...). 

However, when it's a situation that defies our logic and there is significant risk involved, we may be more hesitant.

Like Peter.  Walking on water.  Water is liquid.  Peter weighs more than water.  I can hear Peter asking all kinds of questions in his mind as he contemplates stepping out of that boat to walk toward Jesus.  "If I'm s'posed to walk on water, why isn't it frozen?" ETC.  Use your imagination.  What would you think or say?

Matthew 14:22-33 is the Scripture passage in which this scene takes place. 

Here is a short 3 minute video clip of that passage. 

Jesus tells Peter that he doesn't have much faith and that's why he sinks into the water.  Walking on water simply isn't one of the typical normal activities in life.  Peter had faith enough to step out of the boat.  Sometimes we don't even get that far because we are too caught up in the questioning and trying to make sense of the situation.

But, somehow Peter was able to get beyond all that didn't make sense and step out of the boat.  So he got a little scared once he felt himself on the water and lost focus.  I get that!  I've not walked on water, but I can relate through my experiences with rappelling and climbing the rock wall, ropes courses, etc.  You decide to trust, you start the process, then once into it you realize where you are and what you're doing and.... OOPS, some of that faith fizzles out. 

In Peter's case, he looked up and asked for help.  That's what it's all about.  We don't need faith to answer all the questions we don't understand or even make it all the way through a situation.  We simply need the faith to ask the questions, to live into the questions, and to ask for help along the way.

Rolling a square object.

Walking on water.

I'm sure there are many more examples.

What in your life doesn't make sense to you?  What doesn't fit your perspective or framework?  Are you willing to ask the questions?  Are you willing to live into the questions?  Are you willing to step out in faith?

All this from Dennis the Menace playing a board game with his dad?!?!  Yep, that's how my mind works.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thoughts on "hiddenness"...


What does this mean?

The first thing that comes to my mind is 'hide and seek' or any type of 'hiding'.  But this isn't what the word is referring to in the context in which I've been reading it this week.

I've been working through Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey this week and "hiddenness" has been part of the conversation.  I say "conversation" because the words haven't let go of me and have been working in me, creating a dialogue deep inside.

There are four days devoted to hiddenness, August 12-15, but it is yesterday's reading (August 13) that has been swirling around within me.

Yesterday's title was "Hiddenness, a Place of Intimacy".  Just looking at the title, how can hiddenness be a place of intimacy unless you are playing a game of "sardines" and once you are found, those who have found you cram into your hiding space with you?!?!  In case you're not familiar with the childhood game of "sardines", check out this link to learn more about it.  And, before you think I was being serious, no, I don't believe this is the type of hiddenness to which Nouwen refers.  It's just that my brain entertains odd analogies at times.  These analogies are fun and usually goofy.  And, sometimes these odd analogies allow me to keep from reflecting on the deeper things.

So, let me get away from the games and into the deeper things.

The August 13 devotion begins, "Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life."  Hiddenness is essential.  Okay, I'm getting that.  But, what exactly is this "hiddenness"?

The answer to that question comes in the August 14 devotion, "Hiddenness, a Place of Purification." 

"In hiddenness we do not receive human acclamation, admiration, support, or encouragement.  In hiddenness we have to go to God with our sorrows and joys and trust that God will give us what we most need."

Hmmm.... I'm not so sure that I'm liking this "hiddenness" thing.  Having said that, I don't think the above statement means that we're not to rely on community, the body of Christ for support, encouragement, or prayer.  What I believe that it is pointing out is that we aren't to live with our focus being on and for others to meet our needs.  Rather, we are to take things to God.  God can and will use the body of community in our midst to meet those needs.  Others might be "nudged" to reach out to us (or us to them)... this is the Holy Spirit working to connect the body parts. 

It goes back to the inward, outward journey.  If we are spending time in our private lives getting to know ourselves, spending time in silence, solitude, reading, studying, etc., then we are going to be able to live a more authentic outward life.  Nouwen states the importance of hiddenness, this inward focus, in the August 13 devotion: "It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people."

Maybe it would help to back up to August 12, where Nouwen talks about the hidden life of Jesus in the devotion "The Hidden Life of Jesus."  Nouwen points out that Jesus much of Jesus' life was hidden, that he lived a simple, ordinary life until the time he started his ministry.  Nouwen writes: "Jesus' hidden life is very important for our own spiritual journeys.  If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life."

"In hiddenness we find our true selves." (August 14)

Hiddenness is about spending time with God, getting to know ourselves, growing in intimacy in our relationship with God.  As a result, we will grow in love for others and find our true self, who we were created to be, and our lives will bear fruit.

Living into this hidden life isn't easy in a world in which we are encouraged to make a name for ourselves, seek fame and fortune, etc. 

Yet, it is in losing our lives that we find it.  (Several passages in the Scriptures refer to this: Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25).

Ah, maybe I'm starting to get it.  This hidden life in Christ is about letting go of my own life, my rights, my etc.  It's about hiding myself in Christ and gaining the perspective and view that isn't about me.

I know I won't always live it out.  I imagine my false self (false ego) will jump in and desire acclamation, admiration, support, encouragement, etc.  But, hopefully, as I seek intentionally to spend time in silence, solitude, living an ordinary life... maybe there will be moments in which I am able to live into this hiddenness.

What about you? 

How are you living into this "essential quality of the spiritual life" of hiddenness?

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Enjoy life!

This morning's devotion (August 13) from Sarah Young in Jesus Calling starts out: "Learn to enjoy life more."  I can get into that!  I enjoy life for the most part, most of the time, as it is.  To 'learn to enjoy life more' sounds like a wonderful opportunity for more adventure!

The very next word in the devotion, however, is "relax".  Wait a minute!  How am I supposed to learn to enjoy life more if I'm supposed to relax?!?!  Relax is one of those difficult words in my vocabulary, though I have learned to live into it more in the past several years.   What helps me most when it comes to "relaxing" is the concept of "letting go".  When I am able to let go of things that are not mine to carry or things that are out of my control, it is much easier for me to relax. 

The devotion says: "Relax, remembering that I am God with you."  That is the key to relaxing, remembering that God is with me, us.

Another line in the devotion that caught my attention this morning was: "When you walk through a day with childlike delight, savoring every blessing, you proclaim your trust in Me, your ever-present Shepherd."

The "childlike delight" resonates with me. ☺ I don't always savor every blessing, but I try to be intentional in keeping a focus that reflects more joy and delight than having an outlook that is sour, dour, and negative.

How can I enjoy life more fully? From the devotion today, "The more you focus on My Presence with you, the more fully you can enjoy life."

That doesn't sound too difficult.  It is a matter of focus.  Sometimes, it is a matter of re-focusing. ☺

Since my desire is to live and enjoy life to the fullest, I hope to be able to keep my focus on the One who can carry my burdens, help me relax, show me how to relate to others, etc. 

How about you?  Are you enjoying life?  Are you living life to the fullest?

Blessings on your journey!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jesus, was that you?

This past week I was driving down the road, heading to meet some friends for a Greek lunch.  As I was driving down the road, I started to experience something very surreal.  As I passed people on the side of the road, I took in their faces and appearances very clearly and a question came into my mind: "Jesus, is/was that you?"

First there was the elderly couple at the bus stop near the apartments.  I noticed that they were looking through their bags for something as they waited for the bus.  "Jesus, was that you?"

Then, there was the young 20 something woman walking up the street.  Headed to a job?  Headed to the bus stop?  She seemed fairly carefree. "Jesus, was that you?"

Another couple walking up the road, along the sidewalk.  The woman was in front; the man behind.  Both of them had very tan skin and seemed to have been outdoors quite a bit.  They also seemed to possibly be homeless or underprivileged when it comes to housing.  That's just a guess.  An educated guess from my time with a community whom I respect and love.  "Jesus, was that you?"

When I neared my lunch destination, there was no parking, so I needed to go around the block to find a spot.  My mind was thinking about the people I had seen on the road and also considering some of the drivers along the way.  The question of the day would not leave me alone, "Jesus, was that you?"

I found a spot, parked my car, fed the meter, and started walking to the restaurant at a fast clip.  I was running late.  As I crossed the road, I looked to the right.  There was a crowd gathered at the bus stop.  Some of the faces I recognized from the times I've served food in the park.  One face looked like Mary.  Mary has been in the paper and has been doing better.  That question again: "Jesus, is that you?"

As I turn left onto the next crosswalk and get back onto the sidewalk, a young man approaches me and asks if I have any change for the meter.  I told him I happened to have a dime left from feeding my own meter and I gave it to him.  "Jesus, was that you?"

I kept walking and smiled as I saw business men walking across the street and other folks at the next bus stops.  All around me were people that caused me ask: "Jesus, is this you?"

I know the answer, even as I ask it.  'YES.  Each person you saw... it was me.'

I don't know why this question was so prevalent in my mind on this day this past week.  I do know, however, that it helped me to see all people and all conversations as very important encounters.  Not only that, but also it helped me see each person as an opportunity to learn more about Christ's love.  You see, if each of those persons I saw was a representative of Christ, then I have something to learn from each of them.  They offer me a view of Christ.

Even during the lunch time, I can guarantee you that Jesus was present in those moments of eating and conversation.  I knew Christ's loving presence and healing and teaching and acceptance.

I hope I can continue to have this question in the forefront of my mind.  I enjoy these encounters with the people of God's Kingdom, even if some of them don't know they represent it.  I can see Jesus in them. 

The next time you pass someone on the streets, you might ask yourself: "Jesus, was that you?"

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Living in Community...

Last Sunday, our Associate Pastor, Rev. Amy Nutt, preached on "Building Community". 

Last fall I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community . (Powerful book!)

I live in a variety of communities, from my town community to different worship communities to school communities.

Communities are the context in which we are meant to work, live, eat, communicate, share, create, cry, laugh, and die.  We need one another.  We will annoy one another along the way, but that is only because we are uniquely and wonderfully made and don't have it all figured out, but are working toward that goal.

Since life is meant to live in community and since we will hurt one another's feelings along the way, then how do we live healthily together so that we can continue to help one another learn and grow?

I was reading A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God this morning for week 41 of Ordinary Time and read a quote by Henri Nouwen.  It caught my attention.  I happened to have the book it was quoting him from, so I looked it up in there.  The quote in A Guide to Prayer is a combination of two different days in the Bread for the Journey book.

A Guide to Prayer:

     "Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another "seventy-seven times" (see Matt. 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life.  Forgiveness holds us together through good times and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.
     To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation.  We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us.  We say, "I no longer hold your offense against you."  But there is more.  We also free ourselves from the burden of being the "offended one."  As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load.  The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them.  Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves.  It is they way to the freedom of the children of God." (308-309)
--From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. Nouwen

In Nouwen's Bread for the Journey, this quote is a combination of January 24 and January 26.  The second paragraph above is from January 26 (Forgiveness, the Way to Freedom).  In the January 24 devotion (Forgiveness, the Cement of Community Life), there is a second paragraph that is worth mentioning:

"But what is there to forgive or to ask forgiveness for?  As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives.  Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally.  Our love is always limited by spoken or unspoken conditions.  What needs to be forgiven?  We need to forgive one another for not being God!" (Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, January 24)

Forgiveness is one of those gifts, like grace, that is never ending.  However, unlike grace, we tend to offer forgiveness less rapidly, less abundantly, less freely.  Forgiveness is an extension of grace and it truly brings freedom into our lives and into the lives of others.

Maybe if we can learn to forgive one another for not being God....

Maybe if we can learn to forgive one another for actions we may or may not agree with or may or may not understand...

Maybe if we can learn to see ourselves and the other through the eyes of the One who created us...

Maybe, just maybe, we can live in community together in such a way that builds community and doesn't destroy.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Spiritual Growth Books

I was hoping to create a Listmania list on like I have in the past with recommended books in Spanish and movies in French.

But, the technology wasn't working with me today. 

Instead, I decided to take my list of books, put it into Publisher, and turn it into a .jpg. 

As the photo mentions, this is not an exhaustive list.  It's a start.  Most of these books are for individual reading, but some are for group teaching.  Some could easily lend themselves to group teaching or a "book club setting". 

There are a couple of books on the list that I've not read just yet.  But if they are here, it's because they are by someone I've read or the book came recommended, etc. 

If I looked more thoroughly on my shelves, I could likely add more books to the list, but this is meant to be a "starter list".

Happy reading!

Reading is a joyous part of the journey!


P.S.  For website links and other opportunities for spiritual growth (non-book-related), here is an earlier post from March 2013: Spiritual Learning and Growth Opportunities.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Quotes reflecting on "journey"...

"Journey" is one of those themes that is foundational in my life.  Maybe the title of my blog is a clue to that. ☺ 

I have come to see life as a journey.  It's a metaphor that works for me.

This week I have had a couple of "journey" quotes cross my path.

One is on a church sign that I pass constantly on Middle Valley Road.  I decided to stop and get a picture the other day. 

You can likely read what the quote says in the picture, but I'll quote it here:   "God knows the journey you need to take before you do."

There are several parts of that quote that strike me.  First, God knows.  I may not know (in fact, the quote goes on to say that God knows before I do).  It isn't the journey that I'm taking that God knows (though I'm sure God is very aware of that too), but rather the journey I need to take.  I guess that's what slows me down to stop and chew (reflect) for a little bit.  Things I thought I needed or think I need aren't always on target.  There may be times when they match up with what I truly need.  Yet, I don't know what I need most or best to work through the rough edges in my life, to burn off the dross, to heal the wounds.  God does.   To live into the journey, therefore, when I don't fully understand where it seems to be going is a matter of faith and trust in the One who knows me better than I know myself. 

A second quote that came across my path concerning "journey" is a quote by Gordon Cosby that was posted on the Shalem Institute FaceBook page:

"The one journey that ultimately matters is the journey into the place of stillness deep within one's self. To reach that place is to be at home; to fail to reach it is to be forever restless."

That's a deep quote, a powerful quote.  It resonates within my soul.  Gordon Cosby was founder of Church of the Savior in Washington, DC.  A book I read earlier this year, Journey Inward, Journey Outward, by Elizabeth O'Connell tells the story of this church and their ministries. 

Another quote that came across my path from Terry Hershey's FaceBook page deals with the journey, though it doesn't include "journey" in it:

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being." -Hafiz of Shiraz

Powerful.  Insightful.  For me, this shines the revealing light of the Creator even when we are unable to see due to whatever shadows our vision at the time.

One more quote.  This came from Centerquest,
an Ecumenical Hub for the Study and Practice of Christian Spirituality:

"Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you."

John O' Donohue ("For A New Beginning")

adventure... hold nothing back...risk.... new rhythm....soul senses.... LOTS of things that speak to me here!

I have a John O'Donohue book on my shelf: Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Yearning to Belong.  One of these days I will get around to reading it! 

His quotes have captured my attention before (thus the book on my shelf). 

Quotes about journey, adventure, living into what God knows I need, risk, being home in a new rhythm......

Lots to think about..... ☺

What about you?!?!  Do any of these words or phrases from any of these quotes resonate with you?

Blessings on your journey!