Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Folding clothes with Pandora...

I took a paper-writing break to fold some laundry.  Not only did I need a mental break, I needed to physically change my position from being at the computer and writing/typing.  So, what better thing to do than fold laundry?!?  [I imagine we all could come up with answers, but it needed to be done!]

I didn't simply want to "fold laundry."  I wanted and needed a refreshing filling for my heart, mind, and soul during this "break" from thinking and writing.  [Who knew that folding laundry could be a "refreshing filling" in this way?!?!]

So, I took my smart phone with me into the laundry room, pulled up the Pandora application (app) and did a search for Keith Green.  Pandora is new for me.  I just started using it this month when I went for my first intensive weekend at Asbury.  I really hadn't gotten into before then.  But, I had heard mention of the "liquid minds" channel as something helpful for sleeping and thought that might be good for my travels.  And, so it has been!  So, today, I was fearful to use "liquid minds" for folding laundry with the rain still coming down outside.  I could see a nap rather than accomplishing folding.  But, then again, sometimes the most refreshing and spiritual thing one can do IS take a nap.

Not today.  I searched for Keith Green and found him.  Pandora gave me only one Keith Green song though.  Then, I heard, "Give me Jesus."  What was so odd about that was that this was the song that the students had chosen to sing this morning at Prayer at the Pole at Hixson Middle (in the rain this morning).  They used the Jeremy Camp version and sang along to the chorus.  The version that came up on Pandora was Fernando Ortega.  He sang the entire song.  His singing touches me.  Always has.  Whether it has anything to do with him being Hispanic/Latino or not, I don't know.  It might. He has been here in Chattanooga a couple of times in concert and I've been able to attend.  It is always worshipful.  Just like this afternoon.  Hearing him sing the song penetrated to my soul.

Folding laundry is one of those ordinary tasks in life.

However, there are ways in which the ordinary can become extraordinary and even sacred when there is an intentional focus in the midst of it.

Today, folding laundry was sacred for me.  It was a time of refreshing filling and rest. 

Unfortunately, I only got 1/2 of the pile folded (1 load full) and decided I should write about my experience.

Now, whether I get back to writing the paper or laundry folding or who knows what.... is yet to be seen.

But, for you, I have this video link of Fernando Ortega singing "Give me Jesus".

Jeremy Camp:

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus, 

You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

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

May something along your journey go from "ordinary" to "extraordinary" and "sacred" today!



Friday, September 20, 2013

Hello.... I'm a seminarian.

This is going to be an odd post for some, maybe for many.  Okay, probably for all.

Today, I was struck with the realization of something so profound, yet so simple, that I really should have already known it.  I am in seminary.  (Now, for those of you who know me, you're possibly saying 'duh!' 'we knew that. how did you not know that?!'  For those of you who read the blog, I've mentioned it a few times and you're probably wondering what in the world?!?!)

I will attempt to explain the awakening.

But first.

Hello, my name is Debra and I am a seminarian.

It is important for me to say that.  You see, I do know that I'm in seminary.  I realize that I've been in seminary since 2007, that I've completed a Certificate of Christian Studies, and that I am currently working toward a Masters in Divinity (M.Div.).  I can also tell you I'm in seminary based on the amount of books I'm reading, the papers I'm writing, and the amount of money that is disappearing from bank accounts.

But, I really haven't been telling myself or anyone else that I am in seminary.  I know.  People know. 

Yet I haven't really been fully living into being a seminarian.

What do I mean by that?

First, I mean that I haven't always prioritized my life to reflect that seminary is what it is-- a fairly difficult educational journey.  I have put it as a priority in my life in that I have guarded most of my time and energy to allow my time, energy, and space (outside of family) to go into studies, but there has been this non-spoken wall or barrier or cloud that has almost seemed like it wasn't truly real.

That may be odd to say now that I am 2/3 into the M.Div. program and realizing I am a seminarian. 

Maybe it is because I am 2/3 into the M.Div. program and I have these next two years to finish well (to finish... period!) that I am now ready to be open to the fact that I am a seminarian.  I don't exactly know.

What I do know is that during my time with my spiritual director this morning and through our conversation and the leading of the Holy Spirit, there was one of those "a-ha light bulb" moments in which I realized I have not been living into my true self as a seminarian.

When I was on the Asbury Wilmore campus for the first time this past June, I bought a t-shirt that says "Asbury Seminary" on it.  I have worn it a couple of times, but I'm hesitant to wear it in public.  About as hesitant as I've been to claim I'm a seminarian.

As I've been reflecting on my newfound discovery, I'm recognizing that some of my hesitancy has been due to fear.

Folks may ask me theological questions that I won't be able to answer, much less understand if they learn I'm in seminary.  This could very well happen.  And, you know what?!!? It's okay if it does.  I learned in my years of teaching that it is okay for me to say things like: I don't understand.  I don't know.  I will be glad to look it up for you.  Let's explore that together.  Etc.  Yet, somehow, what I learned in teaching has taken a while to catch up with me in this context.

Another fear has likely been that of failure.  What if I really can't do this stuff?!?!  I think I face that almost every semester, to be honest.  That's not a new fear.  I faced that with my Master's in Spanish.  I have shared before that learning doesn't come easy for me.  I have to work hard at it.  My undergraduate grades were not strong, even though I had strong high school grades.  I learned the hard way how to learn how to learn.  I learned my learning styles.  That is why I taught learning how to learn and learning styles so much in my teaching years.  I would say that this fear of failure, though real, is unfounded because I do have a Master's degree in Spanish, from SUNY Stony Brook.  I do have a Certificate in Christian Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary with 35 credits of graduate study.   Now that I am at this 2/3 mark, it is fairly clear that I can do this.  I am not claiming to do this solely in my own strength and capabilities, however.  I believe that I have been carried through by friends and prayers and the power of the Holy Spirit as I have asked for strength from all of those areas.

There might even be the fear of 'if I claim to be a seminarian, folks are going to want to know what I'm going to do with this'.  Just like in college and in graduate school days, folks would ask 'what are you going to do with foreign languages?'  I had my ideas, but I didn't really think I'd teach.  Well, not until I started the teaching assistantship in graduate school and loved teaching and saw and felt how that fit me very well.  I have ideas.  I know some of the gifts and graces I have.  I know how I feel called.  But, where will I end up?  That I don't know.  And, truthfully, I'm okay with that.  I trust that my gifts and graces will find a place to shine the light and love of God in the Kingdom in the ways that are needed when the time is right.

So, there.  The truth is out.  The cat is out of the bag, so to speak.

Now you know that I know... I am a seminarian.

And, just so you know.... Yes, I have made changes in my life and schedule to give me more time, space, and energy to focus on my coursework so that I can also have time, space, and energy for family, ministry, and friends. 

I learned from my spiritual director that the Episcopal seminarians are expected to put everything else aside and focus solely on studies.  They also have regular "ember papers" based on the Isaiah passage of unclean lips where they share how they are doing spiritually, academically, etc.  Accountability basically.  That sounded like the self-care/soul-care that my former boss and pastor Nathan Malone instituted with us as staff when I was part-time Director of Missions.  We reported our self-care bi-weekly to him-- how we were doing in the areas of spiritual life, personal relationships, recreation, and I'm missing one here.  In my mentored ministry classes we did something similar.  I happened to be on staff and taking mentored ministry at the same time PLUS going through the Academy at the same time, so I had LOTS of accountability for self-care / soul care at the time. 

It is my personal belief that we don't take enough time in our lives for self-care or soul care nor do we allow others the authority into our lives enough to hold us accountable so that we can grow.  I hope to be an example that doing less can be doing more in the long run when it comes to NOT filling our calendars and plates and that self-care and soul care as a priority IS a vital part of ministry.

It is an ongoing learning process for me.  Isn't everything?!?!  For me it is. 

So, as I started, I will end.

Hello, my name is Debra and I am a seminarian.

What part of your life do you need to claim and live into today?

Blessings on your journey!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

From the river to the mountain...

Back in May 2010 I bought two journals I found in a quaint store in Apalachicola on a girls' trip to Cape San Blas, FL.  The memories of the sand, surf, and sunsets still can bring me to a peaceful place!  The two journals that I bought were: Advice from a River and Advice from a Mountain, guided journals from "Your True Nature".  [Check out their website for their various products.]

I decided to start using the Advice from a River journal when I began my Academy #32 journey in July 2011.  I came to the last pages of that journal this past weekend on my 2nd intensive weekend for my seminary ethics class on the Wilmore campus. 

I have been carrying around the Advice from a Mountain journal with me for months, not really knowing when I would run out of pages. 

I had forgotten what the inside of Advice from a Mountain said and back in the Spring when I was preparing for a talk for an Emmaus walk, I pulled it out to take a look at it.  I realized that as I was nearing the end of my Academy journey, the Advice from a River (going with the flow) journal was also coming to an end.  My first thought (fear) was that the next journal was going to say something about climbing steep and difficult terrain.  I wasn't so sure that I really wanted to use this journal. 

But when I opened it up, the first words on the opening page of the journal were: "Dear friend...Reach new heights"

That was much different than what my fearful thoughts had anticipated.

I could live into this new part of the journey.  Though I have been enjoying the river ride and going with the flow, I can live into reaching new heights.  "Going with the flow" wasn't simply a journal saying.  It was something that came from my husband as I shared a deeper calling back in 2006 on a mission trip and I wondered what it meant at the time.  His response was to "go with the flow".  And, I have been.  We have been.  And, oh what a wonderful journey this is turning out to be!

Even as I embark on this new realm of reaching new heights, I doubt I'll be too far from the river.  One finds both waterfalls and rivers near mountains.  I imagine that I will have some opportunities to still "go with the flow" and live into the other aspects of the first journal.

Ilan Shamir has created these beautiful nature journals. 

In the "Story of Advice from a Mountain" Ilan shares:

"The mountains, the rivers, the wildflowers, and the cloud patterns calm me in the midst of yet another busy day. [...] Sure, there are those days when I feel on loose ground, not sure of where I stand and not firm about who I am or my convictions, yet the mountains and timeless beauty of nature help me return to solid ground...the strength of my own true nature."

Because I am learning to know myself  and my Creator better, I know that one of my better connections with my Creator is within creation, so  this resonates with me.  As do many of the Psalms that bring out the beauty and power of God's creation. 

On the back of the journal there is a synopsis of what this journal is all about:

"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!"

Standing in the strength of my true nature is a place of continued learning and growth for me.  But, ultimately, it means standing in who I was created to be.  It's that journey of learning who this unique creation is and living it out that adds to the adventure!

The longer version is inside the journal:

"Dear friend
Reach new heights
Savor life's peak experiences
There is beauty as far as the eye can see
Stand in the strength of Your True Nature
Be Uplifting
Follow the trails of the Wise Ones
Protect and preserve timeless beauty
silence, solitude, serenity
flowing rivers
ancient trees
Rise above it all
Make solid decisions
Climb beyond your limitations
Leave no stone unturned
Never take life for granite
Get to the point
Patience, patience, patience
Life has its ups and downs
Let your troubles vanish into thin air
To summit it all up
Enjoy the journey step by step
Rock on!"
~Ilan Shamir
I have approximately two years left of seminary to finish out my M.Div. degree.  I'm at 63 hours, very close to 2/3 of the way done for the 96 credits.  With the 5 credits this semester (praying for satisfactory completion and decent grades!) I will be up to 68 credits. 
I wonder if this journal will carry me these next two years like the river journal carried me the past two years?!?!  Who knows?!?! 
What I do know is that I am looking forward to continued adventures along the journey.   I look forward to learning, growing, and sharing these times with you.
How is your journey going?
PS-- For a link to a blog entry about my Advice from a River journal, you can check it out by clicking on the title: Advice from a river.... Go with the flow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Moulting... shedding the old skin

This is a picture of a snake skin that my daughter is proudly and excitedly holding.  One of my former pastors and friends (though not "former" in that respect ☺) would call us when she found "cool" things in her yard that Charlotte might like.  A snake skin and a baby turtle were two of those finds.  Her home was situated near the lake and she got cool nature visitors like that.   This was a couple of years back (probably more like 3-4) when my daughter was in elementary school.  But, I don't have many pictures of snake skins in my picture albums.  And I needed one for this post.

A snake skin picture?  For a blog post?  Really?!?!  Yep!  Didn't you see my title?!?  "Moulting... shedding the old skin"

This is a topic I've been thinking about recently.  Not snakes or their skins or even moulting, but rather the process of shedding the old skin.  And though I could continue with the analogy of pruning or even use the change analogy of the cocoon (also a moulting process), there is something in particular to this moulting process of shedding the skin that not only intrigues me, but fits as I reflect on my life.

The process of moulting.  [First, let me note that in my undergraduate days in college I studied geology.  I am not an expert on this matter, but have looked briefly into it.]

Moulting can also be spelled molting.  It is "the process of shedding an external skeleton for the purpose of growth or change in shape" (Encyclopedia Britannica on molt)

As a snake outgrows its skin, it grows a new one.  But since it no longer fits in its old skin, the snake must discard its old skin in order to live into the new one that is underneath.

Though we don't take the time to think about it (because it happens differently for us as humans), our skin is constantly shedding (flaking off) and renewing too.  We're not necessarily outgrowing our old skin as is a snake or a turtle (shell), but we are being renewed.

And, it is that renewing process that has caused me to ponder and reflect.

Just as our bodies are renewed, our minds and our souls go through renewals as we learn, grow, and change.

More than likely, we are not in the same place emotionally, relationally, or spiritually that we were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.  Hopefully we have taken opportunities to learn, grow, and change over those years and we're in a different place.  Hopefully we've learned and are in a deeper state of maturity in those areas than we once were.  Yet, realistically, there will always be learning, growing, and changing in our lives.

How or why did I even get on this thought pattern of a snake wriggling its way out of its old skin?

Because I have felt like I have been going through a change process, once again.  And, there have been times when I feel like I'm squirming along on the hard surface simply attempting to break free of the old skin.  I can't always even name it, the changes I sense in my heart, mind, and soul.  But, they are there. 

I found this article about snakes shedding their skin from "wise Geek": (I have included a small portion.)

"The shed skins of snakes often arouse curiosity among those who find them, but in actual fact, all animals shed their skins. This is not obvious in mammals such as humans, as it is an ongoing, unnoticed, process in which dead cells are continuously coming off. Reptiles, however, are different in that they shed periodically, and in the case of snakes, the entire skin normally comes off in one piece, a procedure that can be likened to removing a sock. This shedding is not without purpose: snakes replace their skins to allow for growth, as well as to remove parasites along with the old skin.
As a snake grows, its skin becomes stretched and worn. A point is reached when it cannot accommodate further growth, so a new skin grows underneath. When this is complete, the old skin will be discarded, along with any parasites it may have picked up. The new skin retains the same patterns and colors as the old. 
Prior to shedding, a snake’s skin becomes pale and dull, and the eyes turn a bluish-white shade. This is due to a layer of fluid building up between the old skin and the new one underneath. During this period, captive snakes may be nervous and irritable, possibly because they cannot see properly until the old skin becomes detached from the head. They will not normally eat in the days leading up to shedding and will tend to hide, as they are vulnerable at this time."

Like the snake's irritability during a period prior to shedding, I can become irritable when I'm going through spiritual change and/or my life is spiritually out of balance.  I know that the analogy really can't be taken too far.... my spiritual skin doesn't come off in one piece as I grow.  Nor can I sew my shadow back on if I lose it (sorry to mix analogies, but Peter Pan and his shadow just jump right in here too for some reason ☺). 

The bottom line is that change is inevitable.  I'm either going to grow or grow stagnant.

I prefer to grow by shedding the old skin and learning to live into the new skin. 

Learning, growing, changing.... being open to learning, growing, changing.... it isn't easy.

But, that's where grace, wonderful grace comes in.  It flows in.  It fills in the gaps and helps me through the processes of learning, growing, and changing.  Good thing!

If you see me squirming around and irritable, it might simply be that my old skin has gotten too tight and I've outgrown it and it is time for me to shed the old skin and live into the new skin underneath. 

This analogy may not work for you, but it came to my mind and caught my attention.  I sometimes have odd thoughts relating to spiritual growth and how it works in my life.

Find another analogy that works for you.  The main point is to keep growing, keep learning, and may grace be a part of the process!

Blessings on your journey!


PS-- If you've never seen a snake shed its skin, check out this video on You tube here.

Opening Your Eyes...

Slowly, but surely, I continue to work my way through Macrina Wiederkehr's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God.  It's a devotional book for prayer and reflection, based on Scripture readings.  There is so much in each small chapter that I need to take days, weeks, and even months to chew on it before I can pick it up again.  The concept of lectio divina is applied to the reading of the selected Scripture for each chapter.

Last Wednesday I was overwhelmed with preparations for weekend #2 of my intensive ethics class and had lots of reading to do.  I had hopes to finish a second book (and was able to!) before going up there on Thursday.  But that was only a drop in the bucket to all the required reading.  Because of my need to focus on my studies, I changed my schedule around Wednesday morning.

Before getting into my seminary readings, I picked up Macrina Wiederkehr's book and turned to where I had left off.  I was in Chapter 3 "The Beautiful Struggle of Daily Life" and was at section 2 "Opening Your Eyes".  The Scripture was Luke 24:13-32, the road to Emmaus passage. 

After reading the Scripture, I read through Macrina's thoughts and reflections.  Several things caught my attention from her writing.

She wrote: "There is much that I miss because I'm not present with authenticity." (97)  Whew!  I can relate to that.  Though I try to be present with authenticity, I don't always accomplish that 100% of the time, 100% of the places.  It is an area of awareness and work for me.

Another statement that caught my attention: "Whatever the cause of the obstacle, I know that healing can happen when I become open enough to pray with the root cause of my failure to see." (97)  That is powerfully insightful and almost slips up on me and catches me off-guard, helping me realize that I'm not always open enough to pray and see the root cause of my failure to see.  But, when I am, healing can happen.  Good to know!  Now, to put it into practice! 

" heart is softened through listening to someone who is on the road with me." (97)  Yes, this is often the case.  As I, as we, listen to others who are on the road with us, we are softened to hear.  As we share our journeys with one another, share our lives with one another, we are softened to hear one another.

Macrina notes that the recognition of Jesus by the men took place as Jesus broke the bread and handed it to them.  She wrote: "I am grateful that this recognition took place around a table while sharing a meal.  Amazing things can happen when we meet around a table." (98)  AMEN!  That is so true!  Table fellowship time is such a powerful time... or it can be.  I have had many wonderful times around tables and meals, even a cup of coffee.  There is something about having that time around table fellowship that enhances the sharing and opening up of our eyes. 

If I were to ask you to think of at least one time of meal sharing (table fellowship) that resulted in a special time of sharing and eye-opening in some way, what meal would come to mind?  Would there be more than one?  Maybe there is a flood of meals and different people flowing into your mind all of a sudden?  I know that they come flooding in for me.  I have been tremendously blessed with and by times of table fellowship (meal sharing) with friends, family, and even strangers who became friends.  These are gifts of fellowship and community, times of sharing one another's lives. For me, these have often been times filled with holy conversation that have penetrated the blindness and darkness and helped me see into my life and journey.

I encourage you to contact a friend (or two) and get together for a meal.  Reflect on this passage from Luke or simply share where you are on the journey and how you can encourage one another to continue growing and learning. 

Macrina closes with this prayer:

O Christ of the Emmaus Journey,

     Stay with us in the evening of our lives.  Come to our table.  The bread we break is the bread of your presence.  It is the daily bread of our life experiences, lifted out of each day's beautiful struggle.  It is the bread of compassion and joy, sorrow and courage.  As we gaze into the bread of our own lives, we begin to realize it is you who have been journeying with us all our days.  Stay with us as our daily companion.  In moments of doubt, as well as moments of deep and enduring faith, companion us on this journey.  It is because of you that we keep on rising to new life.  Rise with us!  Amen.

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

May our eyes be opened as we travel this journey!  May healing happen in our lives as our eyes are opened and our hearts are softened!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Overcomer.... great song by Mandisa!

If you listen to any of the Christian radio stations (K-Love, Family Radio, J103, etc.), you may have heard this song, "Overcomer".   If you haven't heard it already, then allow me to introduce it to you.

I first heard it on my journey up to Kentucky two weeks ago for my first weekend of my two weekends of intensive ethics seminary course.  I have written about Mandisa's song "Stronger" before and when I heard this song "Overcomer" I recognized the sound and the message.

There were certain words and phrases that caught my attention personally as I was driving and reflecting on all that is going on in my life.  The song held more meaning driving home after the first weekend of classes when my brain and body were fatigued and sore. 

Before I share my personal reflections, here is the song.

First, the lyrics and a clickable link to a video with the lyrics:

"Overcomer" by Mandisa

Staring at a stop sign
Watching people drive by
T Mac on the radio
Got so much on your mind
Nothing's really going right
Looking for a ray of hope
Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He's not gonna let it get the best of you
You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer
Everybody's been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you're not alone
Just take a breath, don't forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know
The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There's nothing He can't do
He's telling You
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As you listen to the song and read through the lyrics, what word or phrase grabs your attention? 

For me, it started with "Got so much on your mind".

  • Stay in the fight
  • You're not going under
  • God is holding you
  • you're not alone
  • Hang on to His promises
  • So just hold tight
  • fix your eyes On the one who holds your life
  • You're an overcomer
It's a peppy, up-beat song with a powerful message.  It reminded me of the Redwood trees and their roots and the community of Christ followers that are bound together in love and connection with one another.  It reminded me of Philippians 4:13-- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Or in French: Je puis tout par celui qui me fortifie. (as I memorized the summer I did my French graduate work at Middlebury College. ☺)

Though I knew I had quite a bit on my mind and I knew the beginning of the semester with the intensive weekends would put some strain and stress on my body, mind, and life, I honestly had NO IDEA it would hit me as hard as it did that first weekend.  It hit me hard to the point that my c5 and c6 in my neck started giving me fits and radiculopathy that I hadn't felt in a couple of years was radiating down my neck to my arm and fingers.  My upper back was stiff and I simply felt "stoved up".  The muscles were tight, I knew, but it was more than muscular this time. 

I have been listening to my body better over the years as I have dealt with anemia, kidney stones, and frozen shoulders.  Though I had taken a break from massage therapy, I had started that back a few months ago knowing the importance for my shoulders and overall muscular health.  Even with massage therapy, yoga for wellness, exercise, and pruning some things out of my life, I wasn't doing enough to counter-balance the stress in my life.

The weekend was a wake up call for me.  I took some immediate action to get some work done on my neck and back that is bone oriented.

I also took some steps to prune some more things to make room for these graduate classes that need more attention at the beginning of the semester than I had first realized (our schedule was modified from the original syllabus and our end date was moved up a month).

I decided to drive up the back roads this past weekend, taking 111/127 up to KY so that I would have more creation and less cars.  It was about the same in miles and time.  I took 27 all the way home from outside of Wilmore and again enjoyed creation instead of traffic.  The drive home was surprisingly about the same amount of time as the interstate would have been and I drove through Daniel Boone National Forest and saw the Kingsford Charcoal place, among many other sights.

I heard Mandisa's song quite a few more times on the radio both weekends, being encouraged by her lyrics each time I heard it.

I don't know what your life situation holds right now, what things are going on in your journey.  But, I do know that you, too, can be an overcomer.  Hold on tight.  Keep your eyes on the One who holds your life.  Know that you are not alone.

Reach out and grab hold of some of those roots around you for some extra support.  You can hold them up while they're holding you.  If you're reading my blog for the first time and that analogy seems to be coming out of nowhere, go check out my blog post about Jentezen Franklin.  It will make more sense.

I've got a list of things on my heart, mind, and soul I would like to jot down.  But the truth is that I have things that I have to do and it's time to switch back into that mode now. 

It's about balance.  Body.  Mind.  Soul.

That's where I'm trying live it in my journey..... keeping it balanced, keeping it real, keeping it healthy.

Blessings on your journey,



Monday, September 2, 2013

Tomorrow is my 3 year blogging anniversary!

Tomorrow, September 3, marks my three year anniversary for blogging.  Wow!

Each year I have written an anniversary post and each year I print out the year of my blogs to keep in print.

This year will be no different.

I continue to be amazed and humbled that there is any readership of my blog.  I am more amazed and humbled by the wide readership across the world.

Just this past month of August, the hits were an all-time high of 2,770 for the month. 

This post makes my 310th post.  310 posts in 3 years?!?! That's correct.

Now, for the typical statistics that I report each year.

Per the overview page, the most popular posts have been:

 1. Thoughts and Quotes from Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks... (November 24, 2011) [1435]
 2. Several hours at the creek... roaring waters and waiting (March 12, 2011) [241]
 3. Some thoughts on hospitality... (May 30, 2011) [199]
 4. Academy #32 Tú has venido a la orilla (October 3, 2012) [196]
 5. Jesus Calling--January 1, 2012 (January 1, 2012) [181]
 6. "A Space of Love"... quotes and references from Macrina Wiederkehr's Chapter in Abide (May 15, 2013) [165]
 7. Comic strips and children's books... (January 31, 2011) [164]
 8. Thomas Merton quotes... silence, solitude and no idea where I'm going (May 11, 2012) [140]
 9. Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant (April 4, 2011) [138]
10. Marcela Gándara's Music ministers to my soul (March 2, 2011) [113]

The top 10 countries currently are:

 1. United States
 2. Russia
 3. United Kingdom
 4. Germany
 5. France
 6. Canada
 7. Poland
 8. Sudan
 9. Latvia
10. Ukraine

It is amazing to note that Sudan is still in the top 10, considering that my readership in Sudan is no longer there.  That is, unless there are others in Sudan reading.  I recognize that there is a slight possibility that someone in Sudan might be reading, but I only knew on one.  And, that one had Sudan at #5 last year. ☺  The odd thing about Sudan is that when it was #6 in April, it had a total of 389 hits and now at #8 it only has 375 hits.  So, somehow the number of hits is decreasing with time.  I honestly don't understand the counting system here, but it's not about numbers anyway.

It is an amazing feeling to connect with folks across the miles through writing.  It is amazing to connect with folks through writing.  Period.  Especially when you didn't really start out attempting to connect with others, but simply started writing to work through the "stuff". 

I have been blessed to connect with others and dialogue because of the connections. 

The top 10 countries listed above are those countries with the most hits overall.  They are not the only countries from which folks are reading.  Here are the countries that I have tried to keep up with throughout this year.  I will hopefully not list a country more than once.  If I do, I will hopefully catch my error and edit it.  If not, then there is hopefully grace extended on the part of the reader.... and from me to myself. ☺

Countries: (67 total)

South Korea, Poland, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Ukraine, Netherlands, Switzerland, Benin, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Brazil, Australia, Latvia, United Kingdom, Chile, Armenia, Malaysia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Oman, Algeria, Lithuania, Paraguay, Malta, Pakistan, Albania, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Georgia, Tunisia, Nepal, China, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, United States, Peru, Sudan, Slovenia, Sweden, France, Belarus, Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada, Philippines, Russia, Japan, Egypt, Croatia, Puerto Rico, Turkey, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji, Germany, India, Guernsey, Ghana, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Cambodia, Denmark, Romania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Czech Republic

I don't know if I caught them all throughout the year or not, but it looks like I may have added some new places but lost some from previous years.  Because of my interest in languages and cultures, the wide variety of places interests me and captures my attention. 

The monthly readership over this past year looks like this: (per the overview page)

September (2012)-- 1,260
October-- 1,106
November-- 885
December-- 1,222
January (2013)-- 1,547
February-- 1,471
March-- 1,912
April-- 1,939
May-- 1,533
June-- 1,342
July-- 1,739
August-- 2,770
September (so far, as of this writing)-- 242

I continue to write about my journey-- my faith walk, my joys, my struggles, my ministries.  Songs, quotes, books, pictures, people, and sermons that inspire me often find their way into my writings.  There have been an occasional book or restaurant review.  My own sermons make their way here.  It's a free-for-all hodge-podge buffet of whatever happens to be going on in my life, I suppose.  It has been and continues to be a way for me to work through my spiritual journey.  I didn't realize at the beginning that it would become a spiritual discipline (practice), but it has.  I don't know whether or not I'm honing my writing skills in the process or simply writing. 

It has been a beneficial part of the journey for me and I'm glad I took the step of faith back on September 3, 2010 and started this part of the journey.

Thank you to those who've encouraged me along my faith journey and along my blog journey!

Whatever you're hesitantly holding back from doing, I encourage you to take that step of faith... NOW!  Who knows where it will lead?!?!?

Blessings on your journey!