Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Start a Fire.... Unspoken.... love these lyrics!

I have heard this song on the radio before.  But as I hit highway 27 north nearing my home-away-from-home destination for the week, the song came on K-LOVE radio yesterday afternoon.  For some reason, I listened more closely to the lyrics than I have in the past.  They caught my attention.

Fire and flames always catch my attention.  There is something calming and yet infusing, energizing about gazing at a fire.  There is the passion that a fire and flame represents.  There is the burning off of the dross, the impurities, etc.  The colors of red, yellow, orange, and even blue... 

My daughter drew a sharpie "tattoo" on her left bicep after the first day of class last week.  It was a flame.  It was awesome.  It spoke to me of faith and love.  And, maybe she was saying she loved and/or was "on fire" for school?!?!

Hearts on Fire, the Fellowship of United Methodists Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders, has used a heart with flames in its logos. 

John Wesley talks about his heart being strangely warmed.  I know there is no fire in there, but it's close. 

The disciples on the road to Emmaus speak about their hearts burning within them when they had been walking and talking with Jesus.  (Luke 24:32--"They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”)

So, how about this song "Start a Fire"?  It's by a group called Unspoken.

Here are the lyrics:

This world can be cold and bitter
Feels like we're in the dead of winter
Waiting on something better
But am I really gonna hide forever?

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
Let Your light shine, let Your light shine for all to see

Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me

You only need a spark to start a whole blaze
It only takes a little faith
Let it start right here in this city
So these old walls will never be the same

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
They need to know
I need to go
Spirit won't You fall on my heart now

Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me

You are the fire You are the flame
You are the light on the darkest day
We have the hope we bear Your name
We carry the news that You have come to save
Only You can save

Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me

What are the words that capture my attention most in this song?  It's likely obvious, but here you go: shine, light, start a fire, blaze, soul, flame, grow, burn, brightly.

It takes me back to campfires at camp, to the song "Pass It On".  You know.... "it only takes a spark to get a fire going".

In case you don't know that one..... or to jog your memory....

                                                                 (not sung, lyrics are shown)

                                                 Endless Praise, recorded June 2011

PASS IT ON (written by Kurt Kaiser)

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That's how it is with God's Love,
Once you've experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

What a wonderous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That's how it is with God's love,
Once you've experienced it.
You want to sing, it's fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend
This happiness that I've found;
You can depend on God
It matters not where you're bound,
I'll shout it from the mountain top - PRAISE GOD!
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.

I'll shout it from the mountain top - PRAISE GOD!
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on. 

I'll close with a quote from Brennan Manning that I read in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God (278-279): "What the world longs for from the Christian religion is the witness of men and women daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burned in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how unreal they are.  Jesus, son of the living God, anoint us with the fire this day.  Let your Word not shine in our hearts, but let it burn.  Let there be no division, compromise, or holding back.  Separate the mystics from the romantics, and goad us to that dare-devil leap into the abyss of your love."  -- From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

That quote speaks into my life.  I'm praying that it may be so on my journey.

Blessings on your journey,


2/14/2011, one of many fire pit pictures, dd

Friday, August 15, 2014

Encouraged by community...taking the next step

Sometimes a big step doesn't seem like a big step at the moment.  It simply is the next step on the path.  In walking the journey, I've come to refer to them as the next clearly lit step, though they aren't all necessarily clearly lit. ☺

This past Monday was one of those "next steps" for me.  In one way, it was a typical follow-up meeting at the end of the summer with the District Board of Ordained Ministry.  In another way, it wasn't so typical because they didn't just want to hear where I was with things on the Candidacy journey.  This meeting was to determine my readiness to move forward toward Provisional Elder and whether or not they were going to recommend me to the Bishop and Holston Conference as ready for it. 

Though I felt like I had done everything I could do and have applied much of my learning in seminary along the way, I was a little apprehensive going into this meeting.  Nervousness isn't a bad thing.  I had that feeling the first day of every Fall semester as I stood before the classroom to teach.  I have that feeling as I stand up to preach.  It usually goes away in a bit, as I settle in and things get started.  So, yes, I was nervous somewhat this past Monday. 

But while waiting in the office for my appointment time, God was good!  I had conversations about raccoons and children, ministry and life with Melissa and Clair.  Then a pastor came in that I didn't know to pick up materials for his church.  When he mentioned the name of his church, I did recognize it.  I had just preached there recently, the Sunday before he came.  I introduced myself and let him know I had preached at his church.  Joe D. and I started talking and somehow I learned fairly quickly that he was planning to attend the TN 5 Day Academy in October, that he knew all about the Academy for Spiritual Formation, and we were speaking the same language.  Cool! 

Then I was called into the meeting.   One of the pastors had warmed up a chair for me, so he said.  I know.  It might not have been the best time for a joke, but I asked if it was wired with bombs or something underneath to go "boom" and he said no.  But that it was wired for electricity.  Great response.  Humor is always a good tension reliever for me and allows all folks to breathe and be.

I answered questions and shared where I was in seminary and where I felt God calling me to serve in the immediate future.  I shared about family situations that add some limitations to my ability to move too far from this area at this time. As I continue to seek discernment myself, I know these things:  God is the one who called me into this journey in the first place and put this on me.  And God knows the situations in my own life and family better than I do.  Therefore, God can work it out, giving wisdom and discernment to all the rest of us as we seek it.  I know that really all I can do is to take the next lit step, knowing it won't always be fully clear.

After discussion and question answering, I got kicked out of the room for a while so they could discuss their recommendations.  I hung out in the library.  That was a good time for me to continue living into the unknown, surrendering all to God, and thanking God for the journey thus far. 

Then I was invited to come back in.   I am grateful for the folks in that group.  Not only do they give of their time for listening and discernment, but they come to the table as real folks.  My interaction with them was encouraging for me. 

When I came back in the room, I noted that they had been laughing quite a bit and I wondered if they were laughing in Spanish.  (Phonetically, it wouldn't make a difference.... but it is spelled "jaja" instead of "haha".)   I don't know why that came to mind, but it did.  And it led to a brief conversation of me sharing that I had preached once in Spanish, at the Academy, and that was one of the most affirming and rewarding sermons I had preached. 

The chairman told me that the committee was recommending me onward to the Holston Conference.  They shared some dates and some other things with me.  Then, a fellow to my left that I know from the Lay Servant Committee prayed for me before we dismissed. 

Wow!  I was "nervexcited".  That has been my daughter's word for being nervous and excited about things.  That's how I felt.  I couldn't let out a "yahoo" inside, but waited until I got outside.  It wasn't a loud one, but it was there.

I am excited to continue on this adventure.  I am also nervous.   I could go into detail.  But I'm really not sure about all that lies ahead on the horizon that causes my excitement or nervousness.  I imagine time will tell.  And/or some of those further along the journey might could give some insight too.  And, then, I've had quite a bit of life and ministry experience... and maybe that's the excitement and nervousness. 

Regardless of what lies ahead in the distant future, I know what I need to do for my next steps.  There is a meeting and there are questions to answer.  Meanwhile, there are courses to finish for the summer and then fall semester starts about a week after I finish summer semester. 

As I continue this journey of ordination, moving through the process toward Provisional Elder, I am also extremely aware of and grateful for the community that has surrounded me to hold me up, to encourage me, to spur me on.  There are folks locally, internationally, throughout the United States..... many whom I only see via technology and many who read about my journey through this blog yet don't respond.... But I know you're there.  And I want to say thank you.

Thank you for the prayers.  Thank you for the words of encouragement.  Thank you for the questions about how it's going.  Some of you have been on this journey with me for the long haul.  Some of you have just joined in recently.  You play an important role in my journey.  Therefore, my journey is in part your journey.  

At the risk of posting a photo that might repel some folks, I'm going to do it.  The connectivity of community reminds me more and more of a spider web as we connect and intersect with one another, holding one another up and keeping one another buoyed and strong.  This is what community means to me.  All the various communities that touch my life.... from my local church, to Hearts on Fire, to the Emmaus community, to the Academy community, to my Dalton connections, to friends, to family, to Facebook connections, to blog readers, to Mustard Tree Ministries folks, to seminary connections, to former colleagues, to former students, to former teachers, ETC.  There is NO WAY I could list you all.... I would be typing all day and I would likely forget a name.... but I think I captured most categories.

I am thankful to each of you for journeying with me.  I am humbled and truly blessed. 

May you be encouraged by community on your journey,


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Carving out time for the soul... silence and unexpected blessings

I don't know what you do on your journey for soul time, but one of the things I enjoy is being able to worship in community within a context that allows for reflection and silence.  Now, don't hear that statement wrong... I also enjoy worship filled with song, dance, movement, etc.  The thing is, I get lots of that... every Sunday during the 2nd worship time at my local church.  During the first worship service I get song, liturgy, and sometimes some silence.  Yet, what my soul craves at times is worship in community in which I can get longer periods of silence, experience other types of music and liturgy, etc.

St. Mark's Northshore has offered Taizé services in the past, as have some other churches in the Chattanooga area. 

Last year, Hixson United Methodist Church started offering Mid-Week Vespers on Wednesday nights.  About the time I learned about it, they took a summer break.  They started back last night.  Because I don't have a Wednesday night commitment at my local church (other than taxi my kid and her friends there), I decided to do the connectional thing and head over to Hixson UMC for their Vespers service last night.

I had contacted the person in charge of the leading the Vesper service in advance, Jim Lewis, to let him know of my interest and my plan to attend.  He had asked if I had access to A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God from the Upper Room and if I would be willing to read a short selection by Rueben Job on pages 305-306.  My answers?  Yes and yes.  ☺

Prior to going, I checked out the Hixson UMC website to learn a little more about their Vespers service and found a YouTube video of one of the types of Vesper services there that they use on Wednesday nights, a Holden Evening Prayer liturgy written by Marty Haugen.

Last night's service followed that particular liturgy, though I learned that they rotate between that liturgy, a Taizé service, and two other worship styles. 

[Holden Evening Prayer at St. Olaf College, June 1, 2013]

[Some of the Holden Evening Prayer pages found here on pages 5-16]

The Vespers service is held in the original sanctuary, providing an intimate environment for worship.  There was a station set up to light a candle for someone in prayer and candles through out.   Musicians played a piano, a guitar, and a violin.   There was singing, Scripture, reading, response, prayers, silence.  It was a time to enter the space and allow the soul to catch up with the body. 

It was prayerful, simple, worshipful, peaceful, beautiful.  It allowed space to hear, to reflect, to rest, for the soul to open.

They will be using A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God for the Scripture and meditations for these Vesper services.  

My soul was grateful for the service and for the opportunity to participate. 

Though I was unable to stay for the fellowship and coffee time afterwards, I did make it to the communion time prior (6:10).  The table was set with a pitcher, two chalices, and two plates.  One plate held gluten free wafers and the other held picture-perfect challah bread.  I was tempted to take a picture, but didn't.  (But, in case you don't know what it looks like, here is a picture.)

The pastor, Reverend Reed Shell, shared a short meditation and prepared the elements.  Then, to my surprise, he invited me, the visitor, to assist in communion.  It was an unexpected blessing for me in the moment.  To help serve communion was a blessing that could be unfolded in many ways and take quite a while.  I will simply share the top two things that come to mind.... It was a blessing because it was Hixson UMC.  I realize that may not mean much to some people.  But, for me that means quite a bit if you go back on my journey.  It was also a blessing this week after having been recommended to move forward on my journey toward Provisional Elder.
Thank you Reed and Jim for asking me to serve and to share in this connectional community of worship and leadership. 
On my way home from the Vespers service, I saw a glorious scene in the sky, another unexpected blessing.  This one from the Almighty Artist of the Universe, the glorious Creator.  Thanks for shining the light through the clouds, for making a way when there doesn't always seem to be one evident to me, and for guiding me with Your light!
May there be time for your soul, silence, and unexpected blessings on your journey,
P.S.  If you live in the Chattanooga area, I would encourage you and invite you to the Hixson UMC mid-week Vespers service. 


Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Power of Saying Yes-- "Say Yes to Spiritual Gifts"

The Power of Saying Yes is the current sermon series preached by Rev. Rowland Buck at Burks UMC.  Today's sermon was "Say Yes to Spiritual Gifts". 

I don't have lots of notes, but I did want to share today's sermon with you.  Spiritual gifts are an important tool on the journey, but I really appreciated what the pastor said today about the focus.

The Scripture passage for today was 1 Corinthians 12:1-7.

My notes from today:
  • When you say "yes!" to God, you help change the world.
  • Discover your place of ministry in God's world.
  • Spiritual gifts express the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Three main points:
  1. Your spiritual gift in not about what you do... but whose you are.  (The answer is not found in doing more, but in surrendering yourself to Christ.)
  2. Your spiritual gift is not about what fits you... but you being shaped for him. (God continues to shape and mold each one of us into what we are becoming.)
  3. Your spiritual gift will become most clear in the place you are surrendered.  (Be free to abandon all to God's purpose.)
The main question to ask oneself concerning spiritual gifts is this one:

                                        Not, "what is my spiritual gift, but.... am I fully His?"

You can also ask yourself these questions, which are similar:  am I fully surrendered to Christ?  How am I surrendered to Christ?  Where am I not surrendered to Christ?

Today's message is very timely for me.  You see, I'm at that place on my journey where I meet once again with the District Board on Ordained Ministry.  Tomorrow.  And tomorrow's meeting is when they determine whether or not I'm ready to move forward in the process toward becoming a Provisional Elder. 

Talk about surrendering to God!

At the retreat in MN two weeks ago, I knew inside my spirit that God was working on my soul as a leader.  And since that time I have stepped up and stepped in to that role in several ways.  Yet, there is still hesitancy and a little bit of anxiety as God continues to mold and shape me into what I am becoming.  Though surrendered, it is that unknowing at times that can become a tad daunting. 

Yet, I know that as I continue to allow God to mold me, to shape me, to work in me..... and that as I continue to be free to abandon all to God's purpose, then I will be able to live into the calling that will express the Lordship of Jesus Christ through the gifts and graces bestowed upon me.

Living in and with abandon to God is truly a freeing thing.  It is living in freedom.  It is the running through the water sprinklers at the FUMSDRL retreat.  It is flying after the service when most folks had left the sanctuary to "I'll Fly Away" and then later learning that your D.S. was there.

Today, it was feeling led to join in with the children for the children's J.A.M.worship time to sing and dance and love Jesus!  So, I did.  And it was also the feeling led to skip around the sanctuary as the worship band jammed up their last song at the end of the service.  I can't explain the freedom in my soul.  But it was there and it said skip.  I have skipped up to the altar in the first service before.  Once.  Today, I skipped down one aisle, across the front, and toward the back of another.  Then, the band went into "I'll Fly Away"... so I got to fly!  I flew down the next aisle and back up to where I was sitting. 

My spirit was soaring.  I realize that it must be odd to see an almost 50 year old skipping and flying in church.  But, I am a child of God.  Above all, I took today's message seriously... I will abandon all to God's purpose and surrender all of me. 

So, I live into being that child of God, full of play and joy.  I also live into those areas of calling that require the soul of my leadership to step up and move forward.  Whether God will use the different gifts and graces God has bestowed on me in certain arenas or whether God chooses to lay me aside and not use me in certain ways... I'm okay. 

It I about being surrendered to God, recognizing whose I am, and living fully... fully alive and abandoned... into that relationship for God's purpose.

This is the power of saying Yes!

Blessings on your journey,


To watch today's video of the service:
Yes, part 2.

Facing Life's Uncertainties.... quotes from the "red book"

I often use the "Guide to Prayer" books from the Upper Room for my devotional time.  The three that I have are the red, the green, and the blue.  There has recently been a black one published too.

The red one, A Guide to Prayer For All God's People, caught my attention this week.

The title for the week with Sunday coming between August 7 and 13: "Facing Life's Uncertainties".  It starts on page 253.

The Invocation for the week:
Almighty God, who always moves with clarity of will and singleness of purpose, help me to live and work with certainty in an uncertain world.  Light a lamp before me so that my feet do not stumble.  Make my path clear so I may never wander from your chosen way.  I pray in the name of Jesus who comes to make your way clear before our eyes. Amen.

One of the quotes shared:

"Suppose your whole world seems to rock on its foundations.  Hold on steadily, let it rock, and when the rocking is over, the picture will have reassembled itself into something much nearer to your heart's desire."--From The Seven Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox

I thought that was interesting quote by this person Emmet Fox, but I had never heard of Emmet Fox, to my recollection.  So, I did what all curious folks would do.  I searched him out.  What an intriguing story.  I learned from this biography site that he had a ministry in New York and that mainline church folks reading his materials would be considered closet readers.  At least at the time of the publication of that material.  Dr. Fox was born in Ireland.  He seems like someone I would like to know better.   

A second quote in the week's reading that caught my attention was one from the view of a potter.   I enjoy pottery and have a few (okay, if "few" literally means three, then I have more) pieces of pottery that I have bought in NC at a variety of places, plus the chalice set from KY, and the very first chalice set from my friend that she made for our wedding.  The process of making pottery intrigues me too, so the analogies never cease to draw me, connect with me, or feed me.


"The woman potter summarized not only the making of a pot but her basic belief about life:

Both my hands shaped this pot.  And, the place where it actually forms is a place of tension between the pressure applied from the outside and the pressure of the hand on the inside.  That's the way my life has been.  Sadness and death and misfortune and the love of friends and all the things that happened to me that I didn't even choose.  All of that influenced my life.  But, there are things I believe in about myself, my faith in God and the love of some friends that worked on the insides of me.  My life, like this pot, is the result of what happened on the outside and what was going on inside of me.  Life, like this pot, comes to be in places of tension.  Life comes to be when we learn how to avoid looking for answers and finally learn how to ask the question that will bring us to life.

       There is a tendency in us to want to live tension-free.  But, like the woman potter, I believe that this tension is God's gift to us, a gift that sometimes will not permit us to escape its presence.  I believe that creative energies are activated by just that kind of upsetting tension.  It is in responding to this gnawing discomfort that we have the possibility of giving shape to dreams that are at once faithful to who we are and who we can become."
                                                   -- From Growing Strong at Broken Places by Paula Ripple
I didn't know who Paula Ripple was either.  So I wanted to found out more about her.  Though I wasn't able to find a biography easily, I did find some of her writings, and several places that mentioned the above book from which the quote came.   She wrote an article about divorce, "The Journey Through Divorce".  From what I was able to find, I see that she spoke and wrote on family issues and was of the Catholic faith.  I am using the past tense, but I don't know if she is still alive or not.  She won an award in 1988, the Rev. James J. Young Ministry Award, but there wasn't anything other than a picture for her.
Even though I can't find a whole lot out about either of these persons, their writings still touched and inspired me this week.  As I continue to reflect on both the quote and the writing from the potter's perspective, there are quite a few things that shake out and settle into my life as I face my own uncertainties.  The phrase that stands out to me most at this time is this one: "the possibility of giving shape to dreams that are at once faithful to who we are and who we can become"
What about you?
As you read the quotes, what word, words, and/or phrases stand out to you?  Where do they speak into your life?  How can you carry them into your situation?
Blessings on your journey,


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sharing what we learn on the journey ... for the sake of others

Yesterday a friend posted a devotional she received via email on Facebook and it caught my attention.  It read:

August 08 2014
Today, God's message for you is that in order to be an effective leader you must share your knowledge and create more leaders rather than harbor it and create more followers. A true leader will choose to empower rather than overpower.
I later learned that Joy gets this devotional daily from God's Daily Message to You.  I couldn't find a website other than a Facebook presence, but their Facebook site posts all sorts of quotes to encourage people in their day. 
As I reflected on that short, yet compact paragraph, there were several things that stood out to me:  effective leader, share knowledge, create more leaders, true leader, empower.
I guess it caught my attention and resonated with me because that is my heart's desire, to live into this type of leadership. 
We are all leaders, in one form or another, whether we recognize it or not.  We all have the opportunity to take what we are learning and share it for the sake of others.  That is kingdom-minded orientation.  That what we learn and experience isn't solely for ourselves, but is for others, to be passed along, shared, multiplied.  I've seen and heard that learning in several places, including the Bible.  Yet, I think it was when I read and heard it from Bob Mulholland that it struck home as it was applied to our being spiritually formed.
In Invitation to a Journey:  A Road Map for Spiritual Formation, Mulholland writes: "Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others." (12)
My process of being conformed to the image of Christ isn't solely for my own growth and benefit.  It is for the sake of others.  My spiritual formation process / journey is to be shared with others along the way. 
This isn't new to me.  I share things quite frequently with other folks.... via this blog, via Facebook, text messages, and emails.  Sometimes even phone calls.  If I feel the nudge of the Spirit to share something or reach out, I usually do.  Though sometimes I question it or hesitate.
Guiding others through darker passages isn't as easy, but I know God has equipped me for that too.  I know that my spiritual formation process / journey has allowed me many experiences that allow me to walk the difficult paths with others.  It is a blessing and privilege for me to share in those times with others.  Sometimes it is simply ministry of presence.  At other times, the experiences that I have been through are allowed to be shared.  
It is because I have been there on those paths that I am able to walk alongside others on their paths. 
It is because I am willing to share what I have learned and am learning with other others that allows them to see the possibilities ahead.
In being authentic journeyers on the path, we can all be this for one another.  We can all share in the ministry of presence and share what we are learning, spurring one another on to growth and healing in our formation process / journey.
What is something you've read, seen, or heard lately that you've shared with others?
Blessings on your journey!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reflecting on my Academy experience...survey completed sixteen months later

Sixteen months after the request came to fill out a survey for the 2 Year Academy, I sat down and clicked on the link for the Survey Monkey and filled it out.  (I was on Academy #32.)

Why did I wait so long, you ask?

First, I didn't want to fill it out prior to the last session, #8, because I wanted to experience it first.  Then, I didn't want to fill it out immediately after session #8 (April 2013) because I wanted and needed to reflect.

I intended to review my notes to refresh my memory whenever I did the survey.  I have written myself sticky notes AD NAUSEUM and notes on multiple pieces of paper over the past sixteen months since I first got the email with the survey inside it. 

For whatever reason, today was the day.

But, I didn't gather up my Academy bag (yes, I have an Academy bag-- with all my notes and big... BIG notebook and handouts) to review anything or refresh my memory.

I searched my email for the one containing the survey (3/22/13), opened it up and started.  I was surprised at how many memories flooded my mind immediately as I began that survey. 

Of the eight sessions, I was able to recall all faculty presenters in fairly strong detail in my mind except 2 from the same session.  My mind must have been on overload that session.  I could recall them, but not enough to rate the session without finding my notes. 

The survey took me back through memories of the facilities, the worship time, silence, the team, our community, the learning sessions, our health and nutrition times, covenant groups, etc.

If it hasn't been made clear from any of the blog posts I've written from the times I was at my 'home away from home' at the Academy, I will state it here:  The Academy for Spiritual Formation had a profound impact on my life personally and in my role as a leader. 

That is my opinion. 

This ENFJ was able to finally get back into her introverted self, making time and space for silence and solitude that had been awakened as a kid, but had long been ignored.  The rhythm of the Academy time apart allowed me to look forward to those times of silence and solitude every quarter.

Knowing that I would miss that, I found a way to incorporated silence into my life through a Centering Prayer group here locally.  Though I don't make it every Friday, it has become another 'home away from home', a very special place.

Going away to seminary for the intensive classes is a way for me to have time apart.

Without the experience of the Academy over those 2 years, I wouldn't have that foundation.  Nor would I have had that incredible bilingual experience..... with the people, the faculty, the worship.  Not only was it bilingual with Spanish, it was multilingual and multicultural.... with Korean and French (merci, Stephane!).

What I learned about faith, religion, God, myself, and others was priceless!

Through email, our bilingual covenant group still keeps in contact with one another and they continue to be a tremendous blessing to me. 

At some point I hope to put all my pictures from that journey together.... all the beautiful worship altars, the scenery from around the Life Enrichment retreat center, the alligators, the Jesus Doll, etc. 

The Academy for Spiritual Formation is sponsored by the Upper Room, as is the Walk to Emmaus.  I realize that it may not be for everyone.  But, I would encourage you to at least check it out, to consider prayerfully a 5 Day Academy where you get one week's taste of the 2 Year Academy. 

If God ever calls me up to serve on a team and the timing is right, that may be the second next exciting thing to having gone through the experience.  Much like serving on Emmaus teams has been for me over the many years since my Walk in 1998.

Meanwhile, I am grateful for that day in October 2010 when Johnny Sears announced to a room full of people at a 5 Day Academy in TN that the next 2 Year Academy coming up would be a bilingual one.  I don't think I will ever be able to forget the silence in that room that was broken by my breath literally being sucked out of me upon hearing such incredible joyous news.  Yet, at the same time, wondering 'how in the world could I do a 2 year commitment when it took an act of God to get me to a 5 day?'.  You know what?!?!  An act of God got me to.... and through the bilingual 2 Year Academy.

I will forever be grateful.

What is something for which you are forever grateful on your journey?

Blessings as you travel the path before you,


P.S.  If you want to go through and read the various specific posts related to the Academy, just search "Academy" or "2 Year Academy".

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lessons from Frog and Toad...characters in children's books by Arnold Lobel

Last night I picked up Terry Hershey's The Power of Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less to read a chapter.  I've been randomly reading chapters since I purchased the book at the retreat in MN a couple of weeks back.  This book contains many powerful nuggets.

The chapter that caught my attention last night was: "Without a List".  It was in the category of stillness/sanctuary, a category that I enjoy immensely.  (I honestly enjoy ALL the categories and find myself learning, growing, and being affirmed and encouraged from each one: need/desire, stillness/sanctuary, awareness/astonishment, contentment/embrace, choice/becoming, and freedom/celebration.)

I started reading the chapter.  There was a quote by Kathleen Norris about life going on at its pace and paying attention to the time of day based on the sunrise and sunset rather than the clock.

The very next thing is what caught my attention, made my heart leap, and took my mind on a journey.  There was an excerpt from Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

Frog and Toad.  Oh, how I haven't thought about these characters in several years.  I didn't read these books growing up, but I used them to teach ESL at Hixson High School as a volunteer tutor under Scharlene Ringer.  I had worked for her at Red Bank High previously and then got to work with her at Hixson High.  I created many lesson plans based on the stories of Frog and Toad.  They are great for learning vocabulary and the English language.  That reminder for me was another connection in my many connections with Hispanic ministry throughout the years.  How could I have forgotten Frog and Toad?!?!

What followed for me was a trip down memory lane reminding me of my ESL teaching experiences and connections (I had already been thinking through all my Hispanic ministry connections earlier in the week). 

What also followed was the reminder of all those lesson plans I had created..... somewhere on a back up drive for a crashed computer.  It would be nice to do something with all those ESL lesson plans based on Frog and Toad.

Lastly, the many life lessons of Frog and Toad came back to me and I began to search for my collection of Frog and Toad books that I used to teach ESL.  I could only find one.  Frog and Toad Are Friends.

The story that Terry Hershey quoted was from Frog and Toad Together about the wind blowing Toad's list out of his hand.  Toad was upset that his list was gone.  Frog wanted to help his friend, so he suggested they run to catch it.  But Toad wouldn't do that because running after his list wasn't on his list. 

That story creates for me 'a cause for a pause'....Hmmm.... trapped by the list. Has that ever happened to me?  Has that ever happened to you? 

Truthfully, I have been more organized in my life once I started doing lists.  I was able to keep up with things better.  Writing things down helped me.  Crossing them off or being able to throw away the list was freeing.  Grocery shopping is more streamlined with a list.

But, there are times when a list can be confining and like Toad, if it isn't on the list, then it may not happen.  I am learning to write in new things on the list, to do away with the list, and even to be okay with not getting all things done on the list.  (HORROR!!) ☺  What that ultimately means for me, is that the list isn't controlling me, but rather it is a tool/resource to enhancing life.  As it works, great.  When it doesn't, revise.

And, there are times, as Terry Hershey points out in this chapter "Without a List", that it is appropriate and needed to throw out the list in order to be in the moment. 

To get all the other nuggets from the chapter, you'll have to read it.

To learn more of life's lessons from Frog and Toad, check them out.  I may reread some of Arnold Lobel's stories and share what they teach me.

May you be blessed by something unexpected and refreshing today on your journey,


P.S.  If you want to use Frog and Toad for ESL or even English as a first language, I just found a website ("I can read!") with DOWNLOADABLE activities!  I wish this had been available when I was teaching this... I could have saved time and energy from creating my own activities.

Frog and Toad Together video-- Garden

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Knitting... a way to calm the soul

I was finally able to attend the knitting group last night that started meeting several months ago.  At first I had conflicts with a meeting on that time, but now we meet on Tuesday evening.  I can't remember all the conflicts, but last night, the only thing holding me back potentially was going to be my weekly homework assignment.  But I was able to get it done in the afternoon.

I made some banana bread and grabbed my knitting bag and waited for my ride.

Yes, I have a knitting bag.  I used to include in my blogger autobiography that I was a "knovice knitter", but I took that out, feeling that I couldn't claim it really.  Yet it is true.  I am a knovice knitter and have been for four years now.
my knitting bag that I got from the store where I purchased the yarn 4 years ago ☺
Four years ago after SOULfeast 2010, I got some beautiful yarn in Asheville, NC and started learning.  Back then, the neuropathy from the C5 and C6 in my neck and the frozen shoulders still made it difficult to go long periods, but I would do what I could.  I learned the basic stitches of knit and purl.  But I also messed up quite a bit and didn't have my teacher around lots.

I did find my way to the Genuine Purl shop once in these past 4 years for some practice and help. 

And I did get some other help along the way.  And I know I have worked on the piece several times, had it torn out several times (and I tore it down once myself too) and have started over).  But, I can't remember the last time I picked up the needles prior to last night.

I was looking forward to attending this knitting group last night because it was/is more than just knitting (literally-- you can bring any craft you desire to work on).  It is a time and space for folks to share their spiritual journey with one another, to check in, to grow, etc.

Being my first time, I didn't know what to expect.

But having learned from Kathryn Damiano at the final session of our 2 Year Academy about active silence, I sat in silence and focused on knitting for the most part. 

I met some new people last night and reconnected with others I hadn't seen since Easter. 

I also reconnected to the basic movements of knit and purl.

Nothing magical happened with my knitting.  In fact, it got ripped out and now I am being held accountable to start my scarf (one of my intended projects 4 years ago). 

my "tie" as I kept added stitches to it. ☺
the beginnings of my scarf
Nothing magical happened in my soul, though I was comfortable in my own skin the entire time, at peace, and that says quite a bit. 

Opening up spaces for people to share their spiritual journey with one another, to check in, to simply "be"..... an important part of the journey that doesn't always happen.

Kudos, dear friend, for listening to the inner voice and obeying it to begin such a group!

May we all open up spaces in our days to share the journey with others, to check in, and to simply "be" with one another.   May we also be intentional to have those spaces in community, especially if they don't exist in our current ones.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, August 4, 2014

How Much Silence Does It Take?

 Psalm 62:1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
                                                 from him comes my salvation. (NRSV)

Do you remember the jump rope songs from elementary school?  The ones where you say a little "ditty" and then start counting as you jump the rope.  When the rope hits you, you start over again.

Here is one:  "Cinderella Dressed in Yella/Yellow"

Cinderella Dressed in Yella

Cinderella dressed in yella,
Went downstairs to kiss a fella,
Made a mistake and kissed a snake.
How many doctors did it take
1, 2, 3, . . . .

Cinderella dressed in yellow
Went downstairs to kiss her fellow.
How many kisses did she give?
One, two, three, four, five . . .
~Adele Greil

Lately, that's how I'm feeling about my spiritual practice of silence.  I'm jumping rope and repeating my rhyme.  I get to the part, "how much silence does it take?" and start the counting.  1... 2... 3... WHAM.  I miss a beat and the jump rope tumbles around my ankles.  I have to start again.

If the jump rope analogy doesn't work for you, how about the owl?  You know, the one in the Tootsie Roll lollipop commercial... hear the wise owl ask: "How much silence does it take to get to the center of your soul?"  One, two, three, CRUNCH!  Oops.  Busted, again.

Maybe you can't relate to my odd analogies.  You bask in silence so much that you are always even keel, at peace, calm, etc.  Great!  Share your secret! 

Here is my story.

I am learning that it takes more and more silence for me to exist in a wholehearted and healthy place than it did once before.  Or, maybe it did then, but I am recognizing it more and more.  Yet, it does feel that my need for silence is growing, the more I get.

Part of the situation is that I was super blessed to be in that two week protective "bubble" of retreats with SOULfeast in NC and the FUMSDRL time in MN back to back.  I had quite a bit of silent time in both places and my soul was full, to overflowing. 

Coming back home, I created space for silence by attending the Centering Prayer group one day, by walking the Labyrinth at church, by spending time at my firepit, by taking some walks by myself, and by taking "pause" breaks throughout the day.  Ahhh...  yes, for those moments.  But, they didn't seem to fill my tank to where it was with those two weeks back to back. 

I began to wonder if possibly my need for silence on my journey is growing.  This silence journey has been an ongoing one for quite a few years now.  Oh, going back at least 7 years when the Scripture "Be still and know" first grabbed hold of me and started planted itself deep within my soul.  I have been learning, slowly yet surely, how to live into that. 

In spite of the growth on the journey, the skills and practices learned, and even the time taken for the silence and stillness, I am finding that I tend to want more of it. 

It is almost as if the more silence I experience, the more I desire.  Truly, I often hunger and thirst for it, crave it. 

Though I still enjoy listening to the radio in the car, I find I turn it off more frequently.

It may very well be that my tank stayed so full those two weeks because there wasn't much to drain it, but there was constant filling.  Compare that to the normal (and not so normal) expectations of daily life that do and will drain the tank. 

It may be that the tank simply drained more quickly than it was being filled.  So, even though I was doing the right thing by "being", it simply couldn't handle the drain.

When one hits the wall of the drain being more than the filling, one quietly takes a time out and goes to fill up, right?!?!  That would be beautiful.  And, I hope to accomplish that more often.  There are times when I catch myself and can do that.  There are times I can recognize the symptoms and know that if I don't plunge myself into silence and solitude, then it is going to get ugly. 

However, there are other times that the warning signs don't seem to work, and I combust.  Like this time.  Last night.  I allowed the ugly dark side to flow through strongly and take over.  Even though it was slightly provoked, I still had a choice in my reaction.  Thankfully, there was still room for forgiveness and grace for both of us.

Regardless, the incident made me reflect about my practice of silence and solitude... and how much does it take to keep my soul whole and healthy.  It was a good warning sign for me to check my tank more often for leaks and to be aware of what does drain my tank.

How about your times of silence?  Are they sufficient to allow you to listen to the One Voice, to clear away the noise and clutter, and to simply "be"?

Now, for my afternoon "pause"........

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  I decided to do a search on "how much silence is necessary for your soul?", but couldn't find a hard and fast rule of thumb.  I imagine it is one of those things that is unique to each one of us and will also be determined by life's situations surrounding us (meaning whether or not there is a leak in our tank).  I did find some interesting articles and a helpful website.  I am posting only four of them here.  There is much more available out there in cyberspace and in books.  It's a topic I've covered before too, so you could search within my own postings on "silence" ☺.   It is a topic I will write about again too because living into the practice of silence is an ongoing learning and growth journey.

Why We Need Silence to Survive by George Michelsen Foy
The Power of Being Still (and Silent) before God by Peter Scazzero
About Silence, An Invitation to Silence, Practicing Silence, A Story of Silence
Finding God in the Depths of Silence by Richard Rohr

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pausing to enjoy creation after the storm... rainwater, bugs, flora, and fungi

We had an incredible storm this afternoon in the Hixson, TN (Chattanooga) area.  Listening to the thunder and rain was therapeutic and beautiful.  Only later did I learn that the lightning hit a friend's home (not too much damage) and the grocery store where my husband works (I haven't heard the extent of the damage there, so there is likely/hopefully not extensive damage).

We haven't had this much rain in a while (at least since I've been in town).  And being out of town for two weeks of the month of July, it was the most rain I've seen at home in quite a while.

I decided to venture out into the yard after the rain ceased and the storm passed.  I wanted to see what I might find in the yard.

Part of my curiosity stems from Terry Hershey's The Power of Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less.  I read a chapter last week in the book entitled "The Wonder of a Child" and what struck me in that chapter was that a child sees beauty in so many things, that a child experiences awe and amazement at the simplest of things.  That strikes me because that is me.  The simplest thing can bring joy to me.

The chapter begins with this quote from Mike Yaconelli's Dangerous Wonder: "Children live in a world of dreams and imagination, a world of aliveness.... There is a voice of wonder and amazement inside all of us; but we grow to realize we can no longer hear it, and we live in silence.  It isn't that God stopped speaking; it is that our lives became louder." (page 23 of Hershey's book)

As I ventured out into the yard this afternoon, I wasn't sure what beauty I might see.  But I wandered around to see what things looked like after all the rain and with an open eye and mind to 'see what I could see'.

Here are some of the pictures from my wandering in wonder:

[Photos taken with Canon Power Shot A590IS]

The only downfall to my adventure outdoors were the mosquitoes.  They were out in abundance and I didn't spray prior to my expedition. 

Reading through the chapter in Hershey's book, there are words, phrases, and sentences that grab my attention.  I will share some of those with you.  I highly recommend the book.  You can find it here, on Terry Hershey's website.

Okay, that was a commercial break.... now back to the words, phrases, and sentences:

  • "The child is arrested by, absorbed in, beauty.  Why? Because he has no restrictor plate in his soul." (p.23) 
  • "awe precedes faith" (p.24)
  • rested, savored (p.26)
  • rest, stop, receive (p.26)
  • "free to live this life" (p.26)
  • beauty and resurrection (p.26)
  • present, grateful (p.27)
  • "gratitude is always a type of prayer" (p.27)
  • sit, savor (p.27) 
Since you may not have the book in front of you, I invite you to sit and savor the quote by Mike Yaconelli above, the pictures from my wandering adventure after the storm, and the words, phrases, and sentences from Terry Hershey that caught my attention and touched me.

Does anything cause you to pause and wonder? 

I invite you to take your own exploration of wonder wandering to see what beauty captures your attention. 

Blessings on your journey,