Sunday, June 29, 2014

Preaching at St. Elmo UMC for the first time.... reflections and my sermon

Well, this morning was a wonderful time of worship and fellowship at St. Elmo UMC in St. Elmo.  But, getting there turned out to be a little more difficult than expected. 

Somehow I missed any news about there being a bicycle road race on highway 27 with lane closures today.  But, not to worry, I had plenty of time, so I just listened to some praise music, drove slower than the speed limit, and prayed no cyclist would hit an object and swerve my way.  That was working beautifully until we were forced to detour at Signal Mountain Road and get off the road.  No problem.  I saw cars getting on the up ramp, so I turned right off the exit, did a U-turn at an appropriate place and got back on 27.  Back to singing and praying.  Until the Olgiati bridge when we came to a snail's pace crawl.  It was then I noticed the detour signs. 

We were forced off once again at 4th.  No problem.  I went down to Broad St., took a right, and made my way into St. Elmo that way.  I will admit that the added detours did add a tad bit of stress to my morning, but they also added something new and exciting that I wasn't expecting.  And, it all worked out.

When I arrived at St. Elmo, I parked in the parking lot and made my way to the sanctuary where I found my contact Becky.  I also met the pianist.  I learned we had a connection from my days in Dayton, TN.  We shared a wonderful conversation.  Then I spoke with a couple in the back of the church.  It turned out that he was a retired Methodist pastor, living now in Flintstone, GA.    [Gulp!]  Making my way back to the front (after taking a picture from the back of the sanctuary "to check in", I greeted several folks.  Then, on the front row, I recognized the gentleman.  He was as surprised to see me as I was him.  It has been several years since he was in my Spanish classes at UTC.  We talked shop for a few minutes, catching up on where we both are now in our lives.  That was a wonderful surprise.  Then, a friend and fellow Costa Rican missioner who attends there came up to greet me.  Even with one person being gone to Nicaragua for a mission trip, I found that I did know several folks and I met several new friends too. (I met so many new folks today that I am hesitant to name them all due to the likelihood of leaving someone out.  That is why I haven't name anyone other than my contact person.)

Everyone was super welcoming and kind.  I am blessed to say that has been my experience at every church I've been to thus far.  Thank you St. Elmo today for your welcome and hospitality!

I enjoyed the opportunity to worship with you today.   I was blessed by the bulletin cover, the children's message, the pianist's playing during the offertory, the choir, the prayers, and the fellowship.

Here is the sermon I prepared to deliver this morning.  It isn't the exact sermon I delivered (it never really is), but it will give you a fairly close idea of what was shared. 

At least two things are not the same as what I shared in person and what is on "paper".

1. Since I wasn't sure whether or not I was to give the Benediction, I had one prepared.  It turned out I didn't need to offer that.  But I'll leave it with the sermon anyway.

2. What isn't written, but something I shared is a poem that I found in this issue of Alive Now.  The May/June 2014 Alive Now issue was on my bedside table and it caught my attention late in my sermon preparation.  The theme for the issue?  Hospitality.  I found a poem that (to me) fit, so I shared it.  It was "More Than Welcome" by Ann Freeman Price.  It is on page 8 of the issue.

Blessings on your day and on your journey,


"Finding What Is Lost"

St. Elmo UMC

June 29, 2014

Matthew 10: 37-42

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

LEADER: This is the Word of God for the people of God.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

At first read, this passage might seem slightly confusing.  You may be wondering why would anyone preach on this?  I began to wonder that myself as I struggled through sermon preparation.  This passage is a Lectionary selection for this 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (meaning this is one of the given Scriptures for this week in the collection of Scriptures for those who follow the church calendar readings).

As I spent time with the passage, the verse "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it" struck me as a summary statement in that this passage is all about following Jesus.  It teaches us about themes of "hospitality" and "discipleship".

Before we get into these themes, let's first look at the setting and context in which these verses appear so we can more fully grasp what is going on in the bigger picture.

We look to the beginning of chapter 10 to get the context. Jesus is giving authority to and preparing to send his disciples out into the mission field to heal the people and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  Our verses today are the end portion of his instructions and exhortations that he began in verse 5.  In verses 11-14 he gave instructions on looking for a place to stay with someone who was willing to welcome them. If they weren't welcomed, he told them to move on.  Whoever welcomed them was welcoming him, and whoever welcomed him welcomed God.  Jesus also teaches them in these preceding verses that they will be hated and persecuted because of his name and that there will be strife among family members.  These aren't exactly the most encouraging words to hear as one is gearing up for a mission trip into the unknown.  But Jesus is laying it out there.  He does tell them to not fear (verses 26-31).

That gives us a little of the background in which our verses are found.  Now let's take another look at our verses for today.

What is Jesus saying here?  Could it be that Jesus is pointing out that we are prone to losing our way in living out the ways he has taught us, in following him? 

Though Jesus expresses himself almost rhetorically, he has made it clear that his teachings are for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.  So, here he is, telling people that they aren't worthy of him if they love father, mother, son, or daughter more than him.  Nor are they worthy if they don't pick up their cross and follow him.  They can only find their life if they lose it for his sake.  Welcoming is important for Jesus and in welcoming others, Jesus is welcomed.  There is a reciprocity of welcome.  Also, there is a reward for welcoming a prophet and a righteous person.  Lastly, giving a cup of cold water to a little one is lifted up as important. 

I thought of your mission team as I read these verses.  They just left the comforts of the United States yesterday and headed to Nicaragua to be with, to serve, to serve with, and to love the Nicaraguan people once again.  As you likely know, the team has gone with a variety of tasks in mind: VBS, visiting the disabled men's home, building homes, setting up medical and dental clinics.  

Being in Nicaragua will be challenging in some areas: the weather, the living conditions, the language.  But they go to share the love and light of Jesus and to welcome the other, sharing the hospitality of a relationship with Christ and themselves.  By putting aside their agendas, their wants, their needs, etc. for this focused time period and purpose, each person on this mission team is finding their life by losing it, by surrendering it.  They have heard the Savior calling and they have responded.

We don't all get to go on a mission trip to show that we can put into practice our discipleship and hospitality. 

Another way I see this particular congregation living out welcome and hospitality is in the acceptance of others.  I have been encouraged by the van and young people's ministries that I've watched over the years.  Thank you for these acts of welcome, hospitality, and following Jesus.

Maybe we aren't represented by any of the particular ministries I've mentioned so far.  We can explore how to follow Jesus through areas of hospitality and discipleship and seek to live them out more intentionally.

If we are honest with ourselves, we each have room to grow in our personal and community lives in the areas of hospitality and discipleship.  There is likely some aspect that we've lost or neglected. 

Because these themes can be looked at individually and/or as a community and because both are needed, let's consider at a few questions:


·         What would it mean to be a more hospitable person?

·         What would it mean to be a more welcoming person?

·         What would it mean to follow Jesus / to be on the path of discipleship as a person?


·         What would it mean to be a more hospitable body?

·         What would it mean to be a more welcoming body?

·         What would it mean to follow Jesus / to be on the path of discipleship as a body?

As you reflect on these questions, is it possible that hospitality and discipleship are lost areas for you?  If not "lost", then maybe neglected or ignored?  Let's consider some of the ways Jesus led by example and through teaching.

Jesus spent time at table fellowship with all sorts of people, not just the popular and desirable crowd. Jesus took time to walk and talk with people.  Jesus listened to others.  Jesus offered his time, his energy, his very being. Through his teaching ministry, he taught the disciples how to pray, how to heal, how to teach, and how to serve others, among other things.

In the passage today, Jesus mentions "welcome" and "offering a cup of cold water".  Throughout the gospels, Jesus shows us other examples of hospitality, from table fellowship to opening homes to welcoming the stranger and other in one's midst. 

Though Jesus doesn't offer specific examples of following him in the area of discipleship in today's passage, he exhorts us to lose our life for his sake and love him above all others.  By reading through the Gospels, we can learn what these mean.  Jesus exhorted his followers to follow him and learn by doing.  They learned to feed the hungry, share the good news, heal those who were sick, diseased, and spiritually ruled by demons.  They learned to pray, they learned the importance of getting away from the crowd, they shared their lives with Jesus.

We were reminded in the Opening Hymn, #407, Close To Thee, that our walk with Jesus is a life-long journey and that we choose how we walk it.  The first line of the refrain: "Close to thee, close to thee, all along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with thee."

Our closing hymn today, #338, Where He Leads Me, will remind us that we are to follow Christ wherever the Savior leads us. 

How is Christ leading you to walk with him?  Are you being led to be more welcoming and hospitable in one form or another?  Or are you being led to grow in some area of discipleship as you follow Jesus?

If you're not sure, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how Jesus wants to work this message in your life and through you, into your community.  As you listen, you will hear the Savior calling.


Go forth now as God's servant, ready to welcome all and follow the path of Christ.  Draw strength as you remember that the One who calls will also sustain.  May the Holy Spirit be with you all the way.

De colores.... a fun find at a thrift store

Yesterday I took my daughter thrift store browsing because she was looking for containers for her room.  The very first thing she saw was this:

picture by Char
The first thing I thought of was "de colores" and I held on to that little guy the entire time we walked through Dwight's Swap Shop.  Note:  We had been to Dwight's Swap Shop before, but this time we walked through every room, nook, and cranny.  Wow!  We found all sorts of fun and cool things!
This colorful worm is a TY beanie baby.  Though it is an inchworm and not a caterpillar (no legs), it still works for me as an Emmaus/Chrysalis symbol.  And, inchworms do transform too, just not into butterflies.  They transform into moths.  But the symbolism of transformation and metamorphosis works just as well.
My daughter did some research on the computer to learn more about this little guy.  She found out that it was created in 1995 (September 3) and is now retired.  Its name is "Inch". 
I imagine this little guy is going to have all sorts of adventures with us.  He has already been taken out of my closet, been photographed by my daughter, and put back to rest in my closet.  I know he will be going with me on a Chrysalis weekend coming up in August/September and I believe he will be going with me in August to preach at New Salem UMC. 
I don't know how long this little guy will remain in my possession.  My daughter has already called "dibs" for when I'm done with him.  Even though she found (and bought) him for me, I think it's clear that Inch is on loan to me.  He already has another name.  I named him "de colores".  She named him "Professor Worm".
We know who will likely end up with the inchworm in the long run.
Blessings on your journey,
P.S.  In case you'd like to listen to and/or sing the De Colores song, here it is by Joan Baez:

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Mercy" by Matt Redman, a communion song

Today I heard a song on the radio (Family Radio, locally 91.5) that caught my attention in terms of it being a communion song.  The words "we will lift up the cup and the bread we will break" captured my attention right away.  I enjoyed the entire song, but didn't catch the title nor the artist.  However, I was able to search for it and find it this evening.  The song is "Mercy" by Matt Redman.  It is from the album, Your Grace Finds Me (2013).

If you play guitar, here is a link with lyrics and chords.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

I will kneel in the dust
at the foot of the cross,
where mercy paid for me.
Where the wrath I deserve,
it is gone, it has passed.
Your blood has hidden me.

Mercy, mercy,
as endless as the sea.
I'll sing Your hallelujah
for all eternity.

We will lift up the cup
and the bread we will break,
remembering Your love.
We were fallen from grace,
but You took on our shame
and nailed it to a cross.

Mercy, mercy,
as endless as the sea.
I'll sing Your hallelujah
for all eternity.

May I never lose the wonder,
oh, the wonder of Your mercy.
May I sing Your hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Amen.
[repeat 3x]

May I never lose the wonder,
oh, the wonder of Your mercy.
May I sing Your hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Amen.

I will kneel in the dust
at the foot of the cross,
where mercy paid for me.

K-LOVE link with lyrics.

A video:

What caught my attention most, as I mentioned was that this song lends itself to being a communion song.  Though my WO 510 course was Spring Semester, I still find myself thinking through many of the lessons we covered on worship.  Playing and/or singing a song during the communion time was something we covered in the course.  I am familiar with some solid communion hymns (in my opinion), but I haven't become familiar with many contemporary songs that could be used during communion. 

This was a pleasant find for me today.  Not only for possible worship planning purposes, but also for personal worship.

Whether you are already familiar with this song or not, I hope you'll take a few moments to listen to the song and worship.

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thoughts about sharing from Hagar the Horrible... "Look what I have!"

It has been a while since I've written about comic strips.  I haven't been reading the paper as often as I would like is one reason.  In this past Sunday's comics June 22, 2014), however, Hagar the Horrible (by Dik Browne) caught my attention.

The first scene in my newspaper was Hagar carrying a loaded sack of loot over his left shoulder saying, "Look what I have!" to a guardsman.  In the second scene Hagar holds out the sack in both hands toward a knight and proclaims, "Behold my great bounty!"  This goes on for two more scenes.  In the last scene, a monk is admonishing Hagar: "Brother Hagar, be sure to share your good fortune with others!"  Hagar replies: "That's what's I've been doing!"

For me, this was one of those "cause for a pause" moments.  It did make me chuckle.  But it also made me think.

Most likely, the monk meant something different than Hagar by "share".  Whether or not Hagar knew that difference or chose to get around the meaning of the word with his interpretation of the word..... well, unless we speak with Hagar, we will not know.  Did Hagar fulfill the letter of the law, so to speak?  Did he fulfill the intention?

If you want to stop reading now, I would understand.  I'm going to move from Hagar to personal.  Not you necessarily, but you might take it that way.  And you might not want that.  Who wants to be confronted with truth that might cause pain that might lead to healing and growth?  Ouch!  Well, I don't like the pain, but I sure desire the healing and growth part.... so here goes....

What about me?  What about those of us not living in color on the pages of a comic strip?  Do I, do we, choose to share with those around us in a manner that really doesn't impact them solely to say, like Hagar, "That's what's I've been doing!"?  Am I willing to open up the sack of loot and really share from my abundance with another or am I just showing what I have?

When you add into the mix that we are no longer a world closed off because of technology, this becomes even more penetrating to me.  Because of social media we can share our lives with one another all over the world.  Yet, what is "normal" and possibly even necessary in some situations in my portion of the world will seem crazy extravagant in others.   I think about that when I travel to seminary and stay overnight in the Bed and Breakfasts or the Asbury Inn.  I stay in those places rather than on campus because I don't want to drag all my bedding, shower curtain, etc. for two nights when I go for a weekend.  It costs a little more, but it's worth the cost.  Yet, to someone in another land and culture and situation, how does it appear?  Am I Hagar, just showing off the bag of loot?

Any time we can take a moment to reflect, a "cause for a pause", it is good.  I'm not going to write out all the ways of justification that I believe I "share" in reality what God has given me to others, because I don't think that's the point here.  For me, the point is being aware that God does give us riches, whether that is time, gifts, energy, money, etc. to share.... and we are to share that with others in such a way that benefits them.   Ah, that's the key.   Now, we may not always get it right.  I know I don't.  But that's the goal.

As it says in Ephesians (4:12), the purpose of the gifts are for building up the body (that means for the good of others, in community).

What "loot" do you have to share?

How are you sharing it?

If you're not sure what is in your "sack", ask around you.... others can help you see more clearly.

I'll close with this quote that I read recently.  It's by Frederick Buechner:

"Whatever you do with your life--whatever you end up achieving or not achieving--the great gift you have in you to give to the world is the gift of who you alone are; your way of seeing things, and saying things, and feeling about things, that is like nobody else’s. If so much as a single one of you were missing, there would be an empty place at the great feast of life that nobody else in all creation could fill."
Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Waterfall"... the song... by Chris Tomlin (along with pictures of waterfalls and some reflection)

Last Sunday morning I was ironing my clothes for church and listening to K-LOVE on my phone.  I heard the song "Waterfall" by Chris Tomlin.  Like the water pouring down the rocks on a waterfall, the words in the song poured into my heart, mind, and soul.  They soaked grace into me.

I had only heard the song a time or two on the radio prior to hearing it that morning on K-LOVE. 

I made a mental note to look more into that song when I got the chance.  I even jotted down the word "waterfall" on a piece of paper so I would remember.

Waterfalls have a significant draw to me physically and spiritually.  I enjoy visiting them, taking pictures of them, and I've even preached about them. ☺

In this post, I want to share Chris Tomlin's song with you... the lyrics, the song itself, and maybe some background information.  We'll see.

It won't be too long.  This is a study break posting.  I need to get back to reading Church History. 

 "Waterfall"  Lyrics on K-LOVE

O God, my God I seek You
I wanna move when You move
You're more than I could long for
I thirst for You
You're an ocean to my soul
To my soul

Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Running wild and free
You hear my heart when I call, when I call
Deep calls to deep
Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Raining down on me
Waterfall, waterfall

O God my God, I seek You
In this dry and desert land
You lead me to streams of mercy once again
You're an ocean to my soul
To my soul

It's coming like a flood
I'm dancing in the rain
Everything I've done is covered in rivers of grace

It's coming like a flood
I'm dancing in the rain
I lift up my hands
Your love never changes

Waterfalls may not have the same effect on you as they do on me, so this song may not meet you where you are.  Almost anything having to do with water draws me closer to the Creator and I can see, hear, and feel the power when I'm up next to a waterfall.  Especially, the falls at Niagara.  One gets SOAKED on the boat tour.

There are other waterfalls that allow you gentle sprays or great views from below, above, or all along the path.

Regardless, the imagery of the flooding grace of a waterfall is simply powerful to me.

As noted, I've written and spoken about waterfalls twice already in sermons-- one for White Oak UMC (June 23, 2013) and the other for my assignment for my preaching class (November 16, 2013).  They are linked in the previous sentence, if you're interested. 

I even have a T-shirt that shares "Advice from a Waterfall".

A sampling of pictures I've taken of waterfalls:
La Paz Waterfalls, Costa Rica
Mabbit Springs, Signal Mountain, TN
Falling Water Falls (from top), Signal Mountain, TN
Niagara Falls
Amicalola Falls, GA
Helton Creek Falls, lower portion, Blairsville, GA

Helton Creek Falls, upper portion, Blairsville, GA

That's all the pictures for this post.  I hope I haven't overdosed you or overflowed you with waterfalls.

As I close, some of the lyrics that stand out to me are:  seek, long, thirst, deep calls to deep, streams of mercy, wild and free, rivers of grace.

There is so much freedom in the love, mercy, and grace of God. 

May you and I experience it daily.

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2 Wheels Again!!

Motorcycle in shop 4/22/13
Motorcycle in shop 8/23/13

Motorcycle ready for pick up 6/16/14
At gas station
I got the call last week from Chattanooga State that my motorcycle was ready!  AWESOME!  But, it was a rainy day.  And, I was leaving Thursday morning for KY for an intensive weekend of CH 501 (Church History).  I knew I wouldn't be getting my bike just yet.  More waiting.  In the big picture, what was a few more days when I had been already waiting for over a year?!?!  That's right.  A year and about 2 months.
I took my bike to the students to get worked on at Chattanooga State.  It's a great deal.  They work on your bike and learn about it.  You pay only for the parts.  Well, my bike is an older bike.  Or, let's say "vintage".  It's a 1981 Yamaha 750 Maxim.  Because I hadn't been able to ride it due to my frozen shoulders, it sat under the carport for about 2 years without being ridden.

If you go back to a post I wrote on 8/28/12, "On Two Wheels again tonight!", you will see the joy in riding after my frozen shoulders.  Then, when I got back on the bike again in October, she leaked gas like a race horse and that's when I started looking into getting her into Chattanooga State.  It took until Spring to find a connection.

I had three different mechanics working on my bike, plus the instructors.  Ed told me when I picked it up the other day that my bike was problematic.  I heard that as 'what a great learning opportunity' for the students.  I learned lots about ordering parts and getting parts made here in town.  Maybe I'll even write about that one day.

But for now, here is how it felt yesterday when I got on my bike and left that parking lot:  AWESOME!  To be on two wheels again felt INCREDIBLE, WONDERFUL.  I was excited!  I was also a little nervous.  Add it up and I haven't ridden much over the past several years.  But, with the security that my bike is in tip-top shape, I was able to not be too nervous.

As I rode up the ramp and onto  Dupont Highway to head home, I let out a "yahoo!"  It echoed inside my helmet, but I doubt anyone else heard me.  Nor do I think they could see the ear to ear smile on my face.

It felt natural, you know... like riding a bike. ☺

I am grateful to my Dad for the motorcycle rides he took me on growing up as a kid, for the Enduro races held at his Trails Inn campground in the 70s that he and my uncles rode in, and for the opportunity to ride a little tiny Honda fat dirt bike around the farm property. 

I am grateful to my first husband for buying that Suzuki 650 on Long Island and bringing it back down south when we moved to TN.  I got my learner's permit in NY and rode that bike in NY and in TN until I sold it when I was pregnant. 

I am grateful to my current husband for his support of my interest in riding, though he did tease me quite a bit that he was paying Chattanooga State to keep my bike there as long as possible.  He often helped me acquire parts and made trips to the campus with me to deliver them.  Yesterday he took me to campus and took pictures of me getting my bike back and taking off. 

I am grateful to Chattanooga State for working on my bike and getting her in running condition!

As I rode her home, I stopped for some 100% gas.  After I had filled up, I noticed the repair tag was still on the rack on the back of the bike.  I took it off.  About that time, my husband drove up and asked how it was going.  It was neat to know he was near and cared enough to stop by.

I was a little nervous pulling out into traffic onto Hixson Pike from that gas station.  Gauging traffic on two wheels isn't something I'm used to.  I probably should have given that van a little more space before pulling out behind him.  Sorry dude.

Then, I was nervous about riding on the grated pavement.  I had avoided it last summer when I rode by going back roads around the neighborhood.  Because the grated road goes up and down a hill, I have been hesitant to ride it on two wheels.  But I took the challenge head on yesterday and did it.  It was a tad shaky and I won't say that I enjoy riding on that uneven pavement and feeling like I'm wobbling around, but it's doable and I did it.

My grin was still ear to ear when I got home.  Riding my motorcycle and feeling the wind while I ride is one of those spiritual connections for me.  It's not quite the same as my quiet times or getting into the woods, but it is definitely one of my Creator God connection times.  Maybe it's the wind connection. Or the silence.  Or the solitude.  Or a combination of all of those.  I don't know.  It just is.

What are your Creator God connection times and ways?  How do you live into taking and making time for that relationship?

Thanks for allowing me to share one of mine with you.

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  I did notice a slight drop of gas on the fuel gauge when I turned it from reserve to on at the gas station and again when I got home.  This is something to watch, but hopefully it won't need to go back in the shop for a while. ☺

Thursday, June 12, 2014

MercyMe "Word of God Speak" resonated within my spirit this afternoon

Today was a travel day to Wilmore, KY.  Another 5 hour drive north to the seminary campus for an intensive weekend course.  I didn't sleep well last night and I hung around the house until about 11am this morning, spending some time with my husband on his day off.  I really didn't want to be in the car for 5 hours.

But I was.  I spent quite a bit of that time in silence, except for the noise I couldn't stop inside my brain.  I did listen to some radio-- from country, to the oldies, to a couple of different Christian radio stations.  The silence was beautiful.   I was able to think, to pray, to enjoy the countryside. 

I don't remember many of the songs I heard today (though "We Will Rock You" by Queen just popped back to my mind), but a song that I heard as I turned the radio back on as I got on highway 27 north this afternoon resonated within my spirit.

I haven't heard it in a while.  The words that captured my attention: "Word of God, speak.... pour down like rain...  to be still and know..."  Ah, yes!  In a way, this song encapsulated my entire commute for the day and spoke the desire of my heart.  I want God's Word to speak to me.  I want to be still and know.  There are other words in the song that caught my attention too.  It touched my spirit to the point that I felt like if I had allowed myself to be fully in the moment, I would have been in tears.  But, they passed quickly.  It was as if a heart and soul moment went back into the head.  I still felt it, but it wasn't an "overflow". 

I had to look up who sang this song because I missed that part.  It was Mercy Me.  (I was listening to K-LOVE, 95.3 and the song was on about 3:30pm).  The song came out in 2002 and was released from the Spoken For album.

I was at a loss for words today.  And it was and is okay.  Maybe that is why the song resonated so much with me when I heard it.... because I had spent quite a bit of time in silence, communicating without words.  I don't know.  The words:
  • be still and know
  • stay and rest
  • finding myself in the midst of You
  • in the quiet
etc. are words that stood out to me as I was glued to the radio station (as the saying goes).  They not only resonated within my spirit, but hit the very chord of my heart's longing and cry. 

These lyrics touched my spirit today.  Check them out on this K-LOVE page. 

Kutless also sings the song.  In fact, I don't know which I heard on the radio today, since I didn't hear them say who it was, though the version sounded more like MercyMe.  I could go to the K-LOVE website and figure it out, but.....

Big Daddy Weave also covered this song.

Learn more about the song:


Story Behind the Song (video interview)

As I turn into bed now for a good night's rest (about an hour after I said I would originally), I have these lyrics ringing through my mind.... what a good focus as I drift off to sleep.

Lyrics: (written by Bart Millard and Peter Kipley)

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness

Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice


I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Live Streaming Moments from Annual Conference.... anticipation.... is making me wait!

This morning I watched Bishop Dindy Taylor as she shared words of exhortation to the Holston Annual Conference clergy and laity gathered at Lake Junaluska (and those, like myself, watching via live stream). 

I was encouraged by what I heard.  I didn't hear lots because I was taking a brief study break.   She spoke about clergy not competing with laity and laity not competing with clergy... that we're all working together.  She also spoke about us being one church, one team.... that spoke to me of the connectional system and working together.  For both of those topics, what rang into my spirit was: "May it be so!"

Then they moved into preparing the Ordinands for Provisional Elder and the Ordination of Deacons and Elders, I couldn't help but continue to watch.  Honestly, I was mesmerized. 

I knew some of the folks in each of the categories, but not all of them.  Sometimes I knew the District Superintendents standing up with the folks being ordained.

But with the bird's eye view due to technology and being able to hear very clearly everything that was said, it captured my attention.  I was able to take a video of a former colleague and some still photos of other people, all from the video streaming (using my camera).

Part of the attention grabbing is very likely because I am nearing the time when I will become one of those Ordinands becoming a Provisional Elder (God willing, next summer). 

I am set to graduated next May and finish my coursework with one or two courses in the summer.  Those hours are more so I can have 18 graduate credits in Christian Leadership, in case an opportunity to teach arises.  I already have 14 and 18 are required to teach at an institution of higher learning.  Since I spent 24 years teaching, I figure that it isn't a bad idea to have 18 credits of Christian Leadership in my resource tool belt.

Where/How do I feel led to serve?  I am pursuing Ordination as an Elder because I feel a call to the sacraments.  What areas have emerged through my seminary studies as foci? Leadership.  Discipleship.  Spiritual Formation.  Guiding folks along their spiritual journey.  Add to that my ability to speak languages and my others gifts and graces.  What do you get?!?!  That's the million dollar question.

I look forward to watching God continue to unfold my path on this journey.  One thing I learned from Annual Conference is that Mustard Tree Ministries is now considered a mission congregation.  That places a big smile on my face and a "hmm" in my heart, mind, and soul.  I wonder how God will work in that?!?!  I have worked off and on with that ministry for many years, serving and teaching a Bible Study to women one year.  We had a retreat for them too.

Though not able to make it to Annual Conference this year, the team of photographers and The Call did a wonderful job of keeping us all informed with the online newsletter and pictures via Facebook and the website.  In addition, the live streaming option from Lake Junaluska was a tremendous blessing!  I have used that several years.

I have already marked my calendar for next year, in anticipation of actually being there.  We'll see.  In the meanwhile, I need to be faithful to my studies.   (Cue the Heinz ketchup commercial here... anticipation, is making me wait!) ☺

As a dear Academy sister put it: "One faithful step at a time will allow you to be in step with the One whose timing is always perfect."  Thank you, Robin!  I know!  And I know that the unfolding of God's purpose and plan will also be perfect. 

So, I return (once again) to my main task at hand, being a seminarian.

The ebb and flow of studying and serving..... of being student (and the other roles) and looking ahead just a little and dreaming...

What glimpse of future ministry captures you and mesmerizes you?  What are the faithful steps that you are walking in the meanwhile?

Blessings on your journey,


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday.... Sharing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Brooks Memorial UMC

Brooks Memorial UMC
Several weeks back I was asked to fill in for my friend Rev. Terry Huffer as she headed off to Annual Conference on June 8th.  I checked my calendar and since I was available, I let her know it wouldn't be a problem.

Then, I started seeking a Scripture passage for the day and realized it was Pentecost Sunday.  Wow!  I've not preached on a Pentecost Sunday before.  Cool!  That became exciting and a little nerve wracking as I listened to the movement of the Holy Spirit guide and direct my sermon message.  (You may ask why "nerve wracking".... and you'll see when you read the sermon.  But, I'll simply say that I am one to take risks in my teaching and speaking opportunities, especially when I sense the leading to go there.  Yet, even in those leadings, there is nervousness.)

Since the worship leader wasn't going to be there, I took the opportunity to use my WO 510 education and I picked out the songs for the service too.  In his absence, I would also be leading the songs, but I'm okay with making a 'joyful noise unto the Lord'. 

What follows on this blog post is the sermon in written form.  Though it wasn't given 100% to the written form, it is close enough to give you an idea of what was shared.  I will also include some pictures. 

I chose the 1 Corinthians 12 passage from the Lectionary (I enjoy preaching from the Lectionary, especially when I'm visiting another church) and read from The Message.  Though the passage was 3b-13, I read 1-13 since it's difficult to distinguish the verses in The Message.

This was my 2nd time to Brooks Memorial and I had a wonderful time with the congregation.  Some folks were out of town and one member was in the hospital.  We may have been a small group gathered to share the Word and in fellowship, but we were there.  If I counted correctly, there were 13 there, plus me... so 14.   Several times I was told that there was one woman there who was 101 years old and if she can make it to church, the rest of us don't have an excuse. That made me smile.  It was impressive.

Without further ado, today's sermon preached at Brooks Memorial UMC in Lupton City:

Sharing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Brooks Memorial UMC

June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday

Good morning.  This morning's Scripture reading will be read from The Message.  Hear God's Word:

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

The Message (MSG)

Spiritual Gifts

12 1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.

4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel
clear understanding
simple trust
healing the sick
miraculous acts
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

LEADER:  This is the Word of God for the people of God.

ALL:  Thanks be to God.

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  It's an appropriate day to talk about the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts.  What is the significance of Pentecost Sunday to the church?  In Acts 2:1-5, we read: " When the day of Pentecost had come, they [disciples/apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." (NRSV)

The Holy Spirit came upon the believers and gifted them.  As you read on in Acts 2, you see that new believers are converted to the faith, they were baptized, they devoted themselves to the teachings and fellowship, and they praised God together.  This was the beginning of the church.  Pentecost Sunday is a celebration of the birth of the church. 

Rueben Job, a retired Bishop in the United Methodist Church, writes this about Pentecost in A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God: "Through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost God in Christ became available to every believer.  Christians now had firsthand experience with God in Christ.  From Pentecost on, the good news was not held only by a select few who had been with Jesus, felt his hand upon their lives, and sought to follow him throughout the earthly days.  Now everyone could experience that touch of the Savior's hand; everyone could know the healing and saving presence of Jesus Christ.  No Christian need ever walk alone, for now God was present with every believer who chose to accept this holy presence." (217)

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for each and every believer.  Now, that's a twist on a birthday celebration, isn't it?  At birthdays we are supposed to bring a gift to the recipient.  But, on the birthday of the church, it is the Holy Spirit who is giving out the gifts.  Let's look at the gifts again mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12: wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, and tongues.  If you look at different versions of the Bible, you will find different wording.  There are also at least three other main Scripture passages that list spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:1-16 and 1 Corinthians 12:28).

When you look at the gifts listed, do you recognize one that you've received?  Maybe that's not something you've thought about before.  Or, maybe you have.  Sometimes we don't recognize the gifts given to us and it takes someone pointing it out to us.  Or we might take a spiritual gift inventory to see how we have been gifted.

What is unique about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is that they are indeed supposed to be given to the church and used in community.  In Ephesians 4:11-13 we learn the purpose behind the gifts: "11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ." (NRSV) 
We have received these gifts to equip the saints for ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  Therefore, we can give to the church, to the community as we celebrate the birthday of the church.  It's a birthday celebration in which the Holy Spirit equips us to give back to others.  Now, that's a celebration.
Ann Weems is a poet, a writer, a worship designer.  She wrote "Happy Birthday, Church!" for Pentecost Sunday.  As you listen to her story, note the parts that bother you and the parts that resonate within you.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHURCH!" in Reaching For Rainbows by Ann Weems
           There was once a church that had only party rooms: the Session's Party Room, the Music Party Room, the Feasting Party Room, the Do Justice Party Room, the Love Mercy Party Room, the Touch Lepers Party Room.  In the center of the building was a large round room with an altar and a cross: God's Party Room.
            There was in the church an air of festivity and brightness that could not be denied.  The people outside the church pointed their fingers and shook their heads: "Something should be done about that church."  They were especially upset when they saw that the members wore party hats and smiles both inside and outside the church.
            Other congregations came to take a look and were shocked when they saw this church having so much fun during a worship service, snapping their fingers and dancing.
            "Sacrilegious," screamed the crowd.  But the people in the church just smiled at them and went right on doing things like taking people in wheelchairs to the park and playing ball with them.
            When everybody else was collecting canned goods for the poor, this church bought pizza and marched right into dingy, dirty, paint-peeling apartments and sat down to eat with the tenants.
            They held picnics for the old folks home, and old men ran races while the congregation stamped their feet in applause.  It was at one of those picnics that some of them members climbed up on the roof and shouted: "Good news!"
            "Now we can get them for disturbing the peace," said one of the outsiders.  The police arrived with sirens, ready for the arrest, and came out two hours later wearing party hats and smiles.
            One Sunday afternoon, the entire congregation met at the jail and passed out flowers to the prisoners.  The following week after bread and wine and much laughter at the Lord's table, the people went to the hospital and asked to see the dying patients.  They held their hands and mopped their brows and spoke to them of life.
            "Disgraceful!" shouted the crowd.  "They must be stopped."  So the crowd appealed to the governing body of the denomination, and this committee of respected church people went to see for themselves.
            "Do you deny the charges of heresy?" asked the committee.  "Do you deny that you've mocked the church and the Lord?"  The people of the church looked into the stern red faces and smiled at them.  They held out their hands to the committee and led them to the Birthday Cake Party Room.  There on a table sat a large cake decorated beautifully in doves descending and red flames and words that red: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHURCH!  The people began cutting cake and blowing up balloons and handing out party hats to the committee members. 
            "Wait!  Wait!" cried the chairperson.  "Can't you take anything seriously?"
           "Yes," said the people.  "We take our commitment to the Lord very seriously indeed."
            "You don't take it seriously at all," interrupted the chairperson in loud voice and red face.  "You have parties and wear silly hats and blow up balloons and sing and dance and have fun.  Do you call that commitment?"
            The people smiled at the chairperson and asked him if he'd like a glass of wine.  The chairperson hit his fist on the table.  "I don't want wine, and I don't want birthday cake.  We're here to reprimand you.  We're here to show you that you're wrong.  Can't you be serious?"
            "We are," said the people.  "We're asking you to take communion with us."
            "With birthday cake?" screamed the chairperson.  "Outrageous!"
            "Outrageous?  We ask you to sit at our table and sup with us.  God gave the Holy Spirit to believers, and that is something to celebrate!  It's an occasion for a party.  We are celebrants of the gift of Life.  We are community.  We are God's church.  Why are your faces red when we are trying to do justice and love mercy?  Why do you shake your fists at us when we are trying to discover the hurting and begin he healing?  We are overjoyed that we can be the church, a community of people, who are many, yet one--who are different, but who walk together and welcome any who would walk with us.  When we weep there is someone to weep with us and to affirm us and to take us to a party.  When we see injustices, we must be about God's business of freeing the oppressed.  When we are faithless, we have God's promise of forgiveness.  Isn't it remarkable that we can be God's good news?  Is it any wonder we have a church full of party rooms?  There is so much love to celebrate!"
            The committee stared at the people, and the people moved closer to them and put their arms around them.  The committee chairperson stepped up to the table and sliced a piece of birthday cake, took a bite, and laughed out loud.  He began slicing and passing it out.
            When the wine was poured and the hands were held, the chairperson raised his glass and said: "There is so much Love to celebrate!  Happy Birthday, Church!"
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As we prepare to celebrate communion, we might ask ourselves: "What is the Holy Spirit saying to me today about my spiritual gifts?  Is there something I need to celebrate?  Or is there something I need to confess?"  The answer may be both.
As we come to the table today, let us remember that Christ gave his life for us so that we might be free.  We celebrate that freedom today in humble, yet joyful thankfulness, recognizing that the Holy Spirit has gifted us to share the love of Christ in community.

After you have taken the bread and the cup, there are baskets at the end of the communion rail with bubbles and birthday mints to remind you that today is a celebration of the church.  If you would like to take one, you may.

Blessings on your journey,

happy birthday package prop
bubbles in Holy Spirit dove and flame colors
happy birthday mints
inside the bulletin (order of worship)

bulletin cover

wearing red for Pentecost Sunday

NOTE:  I found a creative way to use Ann Weem's Happy Birthday, Church! by engaging multiple folks.  Click on the link and you will see the PDF that engages choir, narrator, etc.  I simply read it (with as much inflection and emotion as possible.)  I got the idea to use this story from  This is where I go for many of my preaching and teaching resources.

NOTE: The story can be found in Reaching for Rainbows: Resources for Creative Worship, which is available for free download ebook or audio by clicking here.

NOTE: For those following my story and realizing that I am not yet ordained, I thought I would assure you that the elements used in today's communion service were consecrated in advance by the Rev. Terry Huffer.  Therefore, what I offered was more akin to extended table to the congregation.  Not that anyone was wondering... but in case.  Yes, we followed the rules and regulations.