Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Way of the Heart--thoughts on solitiude

I mentioned this book, The Way of the Heart, in my last blogpost about sacred spaces.  I've been reading this book by Henri Nouwen in preparation for the upcoming retreat in January.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through with the book, having finished the sections on solitude and silence.

In yesterday's post, I mentioned one of the sacred spaces (without elaborating) was my rolling sanctuary. I've talked about that before.  When I'm in my car, travelling about, I often drive in silence in order to listen.  It depends on my day and my needs.  Lately, I have needed to create more space than normal of silence and solitude in order to be able to live, love, and lead well.

I say "well", but that isn't always the case.  I do the best I can with where I am, thankful that God is full of mercy and grace.

Thus, the need for space, for quiet, for solitude, for silence.

I have been on the journey to the true self for several years now, intentionally focusing on this because of SoulFeast,  the 5 day Academy, and the 2 Year Academy. The quote I shared yesterday from Nouwen spoke about the false self and how solitude is the furnace of transformation.

In the chapter on solitude, Nouwen goes into detail on this, sharing the example of Christ in solitude in the desert for 40 days and how Christ affirmed God as his only source of identity (16).

What strength, what power, what affirmation-- to affirm God as one's only source of identity.  Whew.  If it took Christ 40 days in the desert to arrive there, how can my 12-15-20-30 minutes of silence and solitude get me there?!?!  Am I willing to go through the furnace of transformation (solitude) to remember whose and who I am?  I need that.  I need that in order to simply be.  More importantly, I need that in order to live, love, and lead.  But, am I willing to make it a priority?  I've gotten better at creating this space over the years, but it's an area that can continue to grow.

If my identity isn't rooted in whose I am, then I have nothing to offer of any signficance to others.  This takes focus and intentionality.

That is why I have continued to attempt to grow in my silence and solitude journey, in my overall faith journey.

Nouwen reminds that "ministry can be fruitful only if it grows out of a direct and intimate encounter with our Lord." (21)

"Solitude is thus the place of purification and transformation, the place of the great struggle and the great encounter." (22)

"... it is the place where we want to lead all who are seeking the light in this dark world." (22)

Nouwen's writings on compassion align with those of Frank Rogers from this summer's retreat.  Nouwen writes: "Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry." (24)''

Food for thought: "When we are filled with God's merciful presence, we can do nothing other than minister because our whole being witnesses to the light in the darkness." (28)

Though I've also read the chapter on silence, that's enough for tonight.  It's been a long day.

Peace and blessings on your journey,


Monday, December 26, 2016

Sacred Spaces for quiet and listening

I looked back to see when was the last blog post I wrote and it was November 2nd.  That says something to me about how busy I've been these past two months.

Yes, it has been the Advent season and things get busy in the ministry during that time.

But it has been more than that.  There have been unexpected things that have caused me to need to take on extra duties.  Though that has been a huge learning curve, time consuming, and difficult, God has blessed in the midst of it.

What I have needed to do during this time is to be much more intentional than normal to carve out time for quiet and listening. It hasn't been easy.

There have been three spaces in the past couple of weeks that have helped me. (In addition to all the time in my "rolling sanctuary".)

Once a month I see my spiritual director.  She always has wonderful Christmas decorations set up.  This year the manger scene wasn't quite all put together yet, but there was a camel from another set in the back of it.  The candle she lit for our time together had a representation of the magi coming to see the child.  Though I can't remember everything and I didn't take the time later to jot down notes in my journal, I know that God met me there that day and assured me that all is well and God is in control.  God also reminded me that a sense of humor throughout it all is a good thing.

I attended a Longest Night Service on December 21st.  There were several in the area that night and during the week.  At first I wasn't going to go to a service, but then I realized that I really wanted and needed to go.  I attended a church where I have provided pulpit supply in the past.  It was good to simply "be", to "be still" and hear from God through the pastor, the Scripture, the music.

On Friday, December 23rd, I attended the Centering Prayer group at Grace Episcopal Church.  I haven't been in a very long time.  It was great to be back.  Even though I've been doing Centering Prayer on my own, there is something to doing it in a group.  Plus, I rarely do a 30 minute sit on my own.  Being with group for the prayer time and then listening to Richard Rohr's "Dancing with the Divine" CD was another needed space for me.  There were several things that stood out to me in the portion we listened to during our time.

Each of these were sacred spaces for me for quiet and listening.  Much needed spaces.  I know that I cannot give from what I do not have.  I need to continue to make sure that I am receiving from the Source so that I can offer the Source.  It is a matter of being intentional, especially when things get more hectic and difficult.

Several months ago I was feeling the nudge to sign up for a silent retreat in January.  If I were to go to it, I wouldn't be able to also attend Resurrection with the youth.  I was conflicted and unsure.  After praying it through, I finally decided to sign up for the silent retreat-- 4 days of (almost all) silence.  The retreat, The Big Silence, is based on Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart and the teachings (non-silence) will be on silence, solitude, and prayer.  As I started reading the book in preparation for the retreat, it was an affirmation that this retreat is exactly what I needed for quiet and listening, for myself and for me as a leader.  I am glad that I listened to the nudge(s).  I look forward to the upcoming sacred space.

A quote from the book:

 "The story of St. Anthony, as told by St. Athanasius, shows that we must be made aware of the call to let our false, compulsive self be transformed into the new self of Jesus Christ. It also shows that solitude is the furnace in which this transformation takes place. Finally, it reveals that it is from this transformed or converted self that real ministry flows." (10) 

The retreat will be held at a new location for me, St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, in Stoneville, NC.

What sacred spaces for quiet and listening have been part of your journey in the past couple of months?

May there be spaces for quiet and listening as we journey forward.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stretching and growing

It's an ongoing learning and growing journey for me, this faith stuff.  Part of the learning and growing process has included unlearning and letting go.  Though that has been going on for a while, I saw a quote today that my cousin David had posted by Ramana Maharshi that resonated: "There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned."  I'm not familiar with this person, but I have heard this stated by others and agree that there is an unlearning that becomes necessary in our lives.  We come to a point in which we need to unlearn in order to learn.  Must we forget all that we have learned?  Likely not, but I think I get the idea.  

What is one thing I've had to unlearn in my life?  Racism.  Whether it was implicit or explicit, I've had to forget what I learned and learn that it's not okay to tell jokes that demean anyone. 

Do I always get it right?  No, I mess up and say the wrong thing(s) still in a variety of situations.  Part of that is because of things I've heard and learned at deep levels.  Even when I try to do and say what is right, there is the other lurking underneath.  The bottom line is that I'm human.  I seek to learn and grow into a more holy and just human, but there are times when I'm simply not.

As I continue to learn and grow, beliefs have been another area of forgetting, unlearning, and learning anew.  There are things I learned along the way that don't add up anymore.  This is not an easy process.  When something you believe no longer fits or works and you are forced to rethink and change paradigms, it causes uneasiness.  Why?  First of all, because it is change.  Change from what you've been taught and what you've been living for a while.  Secondly, because if that is no longer functional or working, then what is?  Paradigm shifts are risky in that they shake things up.  There is no longer a status quo.  But risk pays off.  It is okay for cracks to happen in beliefs.  Some things stay and other things may go.

If we are willing to go through the process of learning, stretching, and growing, then our faith muscles will become stronger.  The foundation of our faith will not necessarily be shaken because we ask questions, doubt, or even throw off some beliefs.  I say "necessarily" because for some people, their faith has been shaken.  If I were to be honest, I imagine my faith has been shaken at times too.  But, it has remained.  

This summer, Frank Rogers stretched me in the week he spoke to us at the Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders / Hearts on Fire retreat about compassion in the way of Jesus.  I bought his latest book (Compassion in Practice: the Way of Jesus) so that I could revisit some of that at a later time.  

My time in the 2 Year Academy was a time of stretching and growing as I read books and heard from faculty in that time period.  Some of it stretched me a little and some of it stretched me lots. 

Right now I'm reading Brian McLaren's The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World's Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian.  I've only read through chapter 2 so far, but there has been some gentle stretching and growing.

In chapter 1, McLaren talks about beliefs not being the essential part of Christianity.  The essence of our faith is more than statements, lists, things observed, etc.  Beliefs are not the point of Christianity.  In chapter 2, McLaren begins to talk about what matters more: love and compassion, as lived out by Jesus.  Galatians 5:6-- "The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love"  Hmm.... what does it mean to live that out?  McLaren notes that for Jesus, "In story after story and without a single exception, we see that the driving motivation in Jesus's life is love." (44)  If we are to follow that example, what would it look like?  

Another thing that caught my attention in the book from chapter 1 was that McLaren spoke about his crisis of belief by a palo verde tree one day.  He writes, "I was standing in front of a palo verde tree in the amber sunlight when suddenly my thinking cracked open and I fell through the crack into a deeper level of reflection." (23)  When I read that, it made me think of something Jerry Webber had shared at one of our 2 Year Academy sessions.  He wrote this short, yet insightful poem:

"My Life Cracks Open"

My life cracks open
I stand in it

careful not to run.

You see, when life cracks open, the first response (for me typically) over the years has been to run, to get the heck out of dodge (so to speak).  Yet, in more recent years, I am learning to stand in the crack, to stand in the chaos.  I am standing to see what I can learn and what the next visible step might be.  

It may be uncomfortable, but it's okay.  

A boiled egg eventually must be cracked open if one is going to have deviled eggs or egg salad.  

The cocoon must crack open in order for the butterfly to emerge.  When it emerges, it is no longer the same as it was when it entered the cocoon, at least on the outside.  It has gone through a transformation.  Its essence, its being is still the same on the inside.

That's how my faith is these days.  The essence of my faith isn't changing.  The foundation remains based on the One who came and lived among us and who told us about the greatest commandments to love God and love one another as ourselves.  

McLaren notes, "If we are to be truly Christian, it makes sense to turn to Jesus for the answer." (42)  It does, doesn't it?!?!  "Of the many radical things said and done by Jesus, his unflinching emphasis on love was most radical of all.  Love was the greatest commandment, his prime directive-- love for God, for self, for neighbor, for stranger, for alien, for outsider, for outcast, and even for enemy, as he himself modeled." (42)

Like I said, I've just started the book, but I look forward to reading the rest of it and seeing what McLaren has to say.  

Have you experienced any cracking open in your life, in your beliefs?  

How are you stretching and growing?

Blessings on your journey, 


Blessings from this week

This week has been busy, but has had its share of blessings already.  My schedule has been a little packed with activities that were planned and some that came about because, well, life happens.  In the midst of these activities, I have experienced some blessings that I thought I'd share this morning.

On Monday, for Halloween, Simpson UMC in Rossville, GA had their Trunk 'r Treat. Though we didn't advertise that a magician would be there, that was going to be part of our surprise for folks, if it could work out with him.  My day got a bit hectic with an unexpected ministry opportunity, so I never got around to calling him to double check that everything was lined up.  When I pulled into the church about 15 minutes before the official start time, there were several cars set up, some kids coming in, and the magician.  That entire scene made my heart smile.  All in all there were about 8 or 9 cars there to greet the kids and give out candy.  We had one group of folks from one of the other churches there.  Some folks were out of town and we had a death in one of the churches.  Otherwise, I imagine we would have had more cars for Trunk 'r Treat.  There were maybe 300-350 folks that came through that evening in the 2 hour span of daylight that we held the event.  It blessed me to see everyone interacting with one another.  Watching the magician interacting with the kids really blessed me.  This was the first time I have gotten to see Steve perform and I enjoyed watching both him and the kids.

Steve McDaniel, local magician and member of Simpson UMC
Yesterday, November 1, was All Saints Day.  Appropriate for All Saints Day, we celebrated and remembered one of the saints from one of the churches.  She had just recently celebrated her 100th birthday.  It was a blessing to celebrate her life.  A very unexpected blessing happened as we gathered with the family to pray prior to going into the chapel.  As I had come in the door, a woman's face had caught my attention. I said hello, recognizing her, but not exactly placing her.  When we circled up to pray, she was sharing that she had come into the family by marriage later.  As soon as I heard her voice, I knew her.  Annelle.  (Apologies for interrupting.)  When I spoke her name, she said mine.  Both of us had been trying to figure out how we knew each other.  She briefly shared with the family our connection, which is like family, because I grew up in my early years a couple of doors down from her.  She graduated high school with my Dad.  Her kids were about my brothers' age, but I grew up knowing them.  We spent lots of time in her house growing up.  It was a special moment of recognition.  I wish we had more time to catch up, but she and her husband had to leave after the service to go back to Dalton.  Hopefully another day we can catch up some.  In addition to seeing Annelle after so many years, the other thing that struck me significantly was that I knew it was her when I heard her voice.  [That reminded me of the Scripture about the sheep knowing their shepherd's voice. (John 10)]

Yesterday evening was week 2 for Flintstone's community meal.  I went out with some flyers prior to the meal to get them into some of the locations we hadn't yet posted them.  At one location I ran into a woman who called me by name.  We had met at her restaurant a while back.  She took some flyers to post at the restaurant.  She also offered to assist us if we have needs.

That's the 2nd restaurant in the local area that is helping us get the word out and coming along side us.  The Chattanooga Valley/Flintstone community is wonderful in helping one another.

I went on down the road and noticed that the Red Door antique store was open.  I haven't been there before because it's usually closed when I'm in town.  I pulled in and grabbed some flyers.  As I mentioned where I was from, the gentleman said he was planning to come by there later and I had saved him a trip.  He had some produce for us.  Would we like it?  Yes!  He had a flat box of potatoes and some crackers for us.  He said that he will have produce from time to time.  I gave him the contact number of the person in charge and headed back to the church.  As I brought the potatoes in and shared the story with the lead person, wouldn't you know it?!?!  She had planned to cook beef stew for next week.  She can definitely use those potatoes.

These are just a few of the blessings I've had already this week.  There are more. I am grateful for each of these. One of the things I've come to realize is that blessings abound daily.  In order to recognize them, I need to pay attention.  In order to be able to pay attention, I need to be able to slow down a little bit, spend time with people, listen, and simply "be".

What blessings have you recognized in the past day or two?

Blessings on your journey,


P.S. Here is a song about "Blessings"  by Laura Story

Friday, October 28, 2016

The theme of grace, like being still, continues in my life

At Bible Study on Wednesday evening, we talked more about grace and forgiveness, about how abundant God's grace is, and yet how we only seem to live into a thimble of it.

That made me think about an image I had seen of an attempt to get water from a waterfall with a cup.  Ridiculous, right?  There is so much flowing that a cup cannot contain what is pouring over.  That's the comparison to God's grace.  That imagery has led me to think of God's grace as a 'waterfall of grace' in the past.  It came to mind Wednesday night.

Here is the waterfall I am listening to and observing this morning as I reflect and write:

Though I can't find the quote and picture that I remember about the attempting to get water from a waterfall with with a cup, I have found new pictures and Scriptures to reflect upon this morning.

A quote by Annie Dillard-- “Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch the grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.”

This isn't the quote I remember exactly, but this reminds me to empty myself, to be the empty vessel and allow God to fill me, recognizing that grace is abundant if I am open to it.

Lamentations 2:19--"...Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!..."

Ephesians 2:8--"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—"

Jeremiah 31:25--"I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish."

As I reflect on these verses this morning, I am reminded of three things:

1. to pour out my heart to God
2. grace is a gift of God
3. God will satisfy the weary and replenish the faint

These are good reminders.

Several years ago (2013) in one of my preaching classes, I preached on Psalm 42 and entitled the sermon, "Waterfall of Grace".  I blogged about it.  You can read it here.

Chris Tomlin sings a song about God's love being like a waterfall.

Grace, like being still, is an ongoing theme in my life.  As I've stated, without God's grace, I wouldn't still be here today.  That statement likely could be true for everyone.  Think about the various circumstances and situations in your life.  How has grace carried you?

I continue to ride the waves of grace through life.  Sometimes it is as if I am on top and grace is carrying me.  At other times it feels as though the waves have crashed around me and grace has me covered.  Regardless, grace is present.  I may not always be ready to accept that grace in situations and circumstances nor always recognize it (such as the prevenient grace), but it is there.

Because grace is such a prevalent theme in my life, it comes up in conversation, just as silence and solitude do.

I am grateful for grace.

What about you?

Blessings on your journey,


Other blog posts about waterfalls (with pictures):
Waterfall, the song by Chris Tomlin-- 2014
The Deep Calls: How Thirsty Are You? (June 23, 2013 sermon on Psalm 42)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Breathe, just breathe

Today I am working on lesson plans for tomorrow night's class on fasting for the Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition and reading/studying/writing on this week's sermon.  I am also thinking ahead to next Sunday, all Saint's Day because I need to get things in earlier in the week. 

It was just last Thursday that I attended that one day retreat with SoulCare Project at St. Paul's Episcopal and heard Judy Brown's poem "Fire" for the first time.  I wrote about it last week (Sabbath Retreat--Taking Time Apart).  It has come to mind quite a bit in this past week.  What logs do I need to take off the fire in order to have breathing space?

As I live into arthritic pain and have added physical therapy back into my life schedule these days because of hip issues, I am once again reminded to listen carefully to my body, to not over-extend, etc. 

What that meant for me yesterday was that I took a log off the fire.  It was a log I enjoy--coffee with colleagues in the morning at a coffee shop.  But due to needing extra time to get the body going in the morning, I knew I needed to take that off my plate yesterday.  I needed breathing space in the day.  Though I didn't get anything accomplished, I did rest a little longer.  And rest was what my body needed.  Accomplishing things isn't always the best thing, anyway.  There will always be something on the 'to-do' list(s). 

In preparing this morning for tomorrow's class, I am reminded that fasting is a way of making space for grace.  Making space brought back to mind Judy Brown's poem again, so I re-read it and found this blog post from November 2013, Breathing Space.  I decided to put one of my many fire pit pictures with the poem to hand out tomorrow night in class.

In addition to this poem by Judy Brown, I heard a song yesterday on the radio that I've heard a couple of times, "Breathe".  It's by Jonny Diaz. (At least I think this is the version I heard yesterday.  If not, this has great lyrics and fits/resonates.)


Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Want to make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
So let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

I need to remember each day (sometimes multiply times a day) to take moments to breathe and rest.  "Be still and know that I am God."  I cannot seem to escape Psalm 46:10, but that's okay.  I don't want to.  I really want to and need to come and be and rest at the feet of the One who created me.

There was another breathing space yesterday that I wasn't expecting.  A little time outdoors in the fresh air to share about faith, God, calling, and vision. 

Making space to breathe.  What needs to come off the schedule?  What needs to go on?  The same thing that might need to come off one day may be the very thing that needs to go on another one.  How do you know?  Listen.  Listen closely to the Spirit. 

May there be plenty of breathing space in your life today.

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sabbath retreat-- taking time apart

What happens when you take time apart for your soul?

Your soul catches up with your body.  Your mind has time to rest, along with your body, heart, and soul.

This is another theme in my life, like grace, that has been a lifeline.  It has helped me live into who I am.  Sabbath rest is a gift of grace.  One that I don't always receive.  It's a gift I must be intentional about accepting, even scheduling, in order to have time and space to listen to the One Voice.

Yes, I make time at home for silence and solitude.  But there is something about making time for that time apart.  Whether it be a day, several days, or a week (or more).  Extended times to get away, to stop doing the routine, to listen to the One Voice and other voices that speak life.

Today is that day.

I had seen this retreat scheduled a while back and put it on my calendar. It meant rescheduling a hip doctor appointment to another day earlier in the week, but that turned out for the better anyway.

This retreat has been a super blessing today.  My soul is being refreshed.  I have been able to "be".  It is said that one needs to slow down in order to catch up.  That is what this day is for me.  I am slowing down in order to catch up.

Though I intend to have a weekly Sabbath rest on Fridays, it doesn't always happen.  Though I intend to take daily silence and solitude time, that doesn't always happen.

Today's gift of time apart has been super.

St. Paul's Episcopal is a beautiful space.  It's my first time here.  They have a wonderful prayer labyrinth that you can get to from the inside of the building.  I was able to do a prayer walk there during our morning session of silence and solitude.

As I began, I noticed a large section of bird poop on the path.

 Isn't that just like life?  We often have to walk through a path of poop (or your word of choice) to get to where we are going.  Whether the stuff was there by someone else's making or even our own stuff, stuff is often on the path.  We might can walk around it.  Or we might just have to go right through it.  But it doesn't have to stop us.  In fact, in the right circumstances (such as soil), manure makes things grow.

Jesus often took time apart to be by himself, to pray, to be with the Father.

"Being" is a crucial part of our ministry, no matter if we are lay people or clergy.  We can't run on empty.  Silence allows us to listen, to get away from all the other voices and demands.

This morning's Scripture was from Mark 4:35-39.  Mark is my favorite of the Gospel writings.  That was a good passage to contemplate today.  The next to last question from the lectio reading this morning was 'what is the name of the storm that Jesus wants to speak to you today?'  As I reflected on that and was honest with myself, I had to say "arthritic pain".

Arthritic pain has become a storm in my life.  It isn't quite a tsunami at this point, but it is a storm.  Yesterday at the foot doctor, I was relieved to learn that my stress fracture has healed.  However, I had gone because I am still having pain in the foot.  The pain is arthritic pain.  Take the pain in the foot, add to it the pain in the right and left hip, and a left hand that no longer does all it can do.... and arthritis has begun working on me physically and otherwise.

When I went through my three years of frozen shoulders and anemia, it was a battle of physical and other.  Here I am again with some challenges.  Listening to one's body in order to best deal with what is going on physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is a spiritual discipline.

For me to articulate that arthritic pain is a storm that is brewing in my life, well, that's important.  For me to accept Jesus' invitation to come and rest with him during the storm... that is equally important.  God has this.  God has me.  It's about trust and knowing that God truly does have me.

Making time to be apart, to listen, to be.... these days and moments remind me that Jesus does have me, that I am not carrying these burdens on my own.... or, at least, that I am not meant to nor do I have to.

May my heart continue to open up wider with trust rather than effort.

May I continue to lay down my burdens and allow my soul to be rested by the One who created me and is continuing to work in and through me.

There have been some great prayers and poems shared today:  "Fire" by Judy Brown, "Prayer to Welcome the Sabbath" by (I'm not sure), and a rather lengthy but powerful prayer shared at the beginning to our afternoon quiet time.

Judy Brown's poem "Fire":

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

We went to the 12:05pm Eucharist at St. Paul and that was a blessing.

Part of my day apart today has been wandering around the building and enjoying the beauty of the art and architecture.

Another part of my day apart has been fellowship with folks, including 3 fellow colleagues in my conference.

Another part of my day has been allowing my soul to catch up with my body.

It has been good to relax, to listen, to allow God into my heart, mind, and soul.  It has been good to commune.

This evening I teach a class on the Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition and am blessed to teach on Holy Communion.  I look forward to the privilege of having communion twice in one day.

Peace and blessings on your journey.  May there be some rest and time apart to listen.


P.S.  Here are some pictures from my time at St. Paul's today:

Grace, grace, God's grace


It's not just a word for me, nor just a concept, nor just a theological term. It is something that has given me life.  Literally.

If you've read my blog for a while, I hope you've seen the word "grace".  If not, do a word search for "grace" in my blog and it will hopefully show up.  [I looked, it comes up 23 times.  Don't worry, I won't post all the links.] The point is: God's grace is what has given me life.

Grace is on my mind today because it came up in last night's Bible Study.  And, because grace came up, somehow, in the moment, I felt led to share how grace has been a lifeline for me and how grace has led me to where I am today.

I shared a part of my story that I have shared in the Emmaus community (from the Prodigal talks as laity to Grace talks as clergy) and in all my paperwork for the journey of Candidacy and Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church.  It's not something I go about sharing from the rooftops, but I am open to sharing as the Holy Spirit guides.

Last night when the topic of grace came about as we talked about God forgiving and us forgiving others, it just came out.

I knew about grace, but I had never really experienced it like I did when I really needed it.  I had had situations in my life before where grace had been applied, but until the year 2000 when I found myself single and pregnant, I hadn't truly lived into the meaning of grace.

As a Christian, teaching at a Christian college, I knew God's love.  I shared God's love.  I had been through a divorce.  In that relationship, I said I would never do to anyone else what was done to me. That word "never" got me.  It got me when I said, "I would never teach"-- I taught for 24 years.  I also said that I would never move back into my parents' home like my other siblings.  I did that too, when my house sold and I had a two month old child, with no where else to go.  We lived there while house hunting.  The result of all these "nevers"?  I don't use that word.  At least I try not to. In God's grace, teaching was one of the best things that I got into.  As for the others, there were wonderful blessings that have come from them too.

God's grace has taken me from captivity into freedom.  I have learned to live into my true self. I have learned to accept myself and others.  I am much more giving and forgiving these days because I have accepted and experienced grace.

It took me the longest time in my life to accept and receive.  Much like giving and doing for others is so much more easy, accepting grace, a free gift with no strings attached is odd, counter-intuitive.  Yet, God offers it out of love.

God's gift of grace allows me, allows you to live into the freedom of becoming who we are meant to be when God created us.  That is powerful.

When we talk about grace in the Wesleyan world (and other theological worlds), we talk about prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.

Prevenient grace is the grace that was around before we knew about it.  It came before.  In retrospect, I have recognized that it guided me through all kinds of stuff.  For that, I am truly grateful.

Justifying grace is the grace that got us into a right relationship with God.  In parades or in military terms, when you "justify" something, you line up right.

Sanctifying grace is the ongoing grace throughout one's life that keeps working in and through all situations, helping one to grow in the image of Christ.

There are more explanations out there in books, on the web, etc.  This is my simplified version in the moment.

Going back to what I shared last night.  I shared that because of God's grace, I am alive today. Because of God's grace, Charlie is alive today.  Because of God's grace, I am forgiven and have a relationship with my husband's first wife.  

I don't remember the exact words I shared.  But my focus was on God's grace.  God's grace has been a redeeming and wonderful freedom factor in my life, helping me grow into who and whose I am.

I'm still in process.  I'm still learning to be my true self.

It's all about God and it's all about grace.

But I still mess up.  I get caught up in life.  I make mistakes.  I do wrong.  I sin.  I fall short.

Then, there's grace.

I hope that I will always extend grace to others.  I hope that I will always be able to accept the grace extended to me by God and others.

It is life giving.

Several weeks back, a friend sent me a song.  I heard it this morning.  It is by Hawk Nelson and about being who we are created to be, "Live Like You're Loved".

Here are the lyrics:
You're not the only one who feels like this
Feelin' like you lose more than you win
Like life is just an endless hill you climb
You try and try, but never arrive

I'm tellin' you somethin'
This racing, this running
Oh, you're working way too hard!
And this perfection you're chasing
Is just energy wasted
'cause He loves you like you are!
So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

And live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved

And live like you're know you're valuable
Like you know the one that hold your soul
'Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don't be afraid to live in that grace

I'm tellin' you somethin'
This God we believe in
Yeah, he changed everything
No more guilt! No more shame!
He took all that away
Gave us a reason to sing

So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

And live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved

Live like you're loved, walk like you're free
Stand like you know who he made you to be
Live like you're loved, like you believe
His love is all that you'll ever need

So go ahead and live like you're loved
His love has made you more than enough

So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

And live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved

Live like you're loved, walk like you're free
Stand like you know who he made you to be
Live like you're loved, like you believe
His love is all that you'll ever need
Live like you're loved

Another song that was stuck in my head as I woke up today is the hymn with the words: "grace, grace, God's grace".  I had to search to find that one and the rest of the lyrics.  The song is "Grace Greater Than Our Sin" by Julia Johnston.  It was published in 1910 and based on Romans 5:20-21.  It is #365 in the United Methodist Hymnal.  From hymnary.org, it is found in 114 hymnals.

Here are the lyrics:

  1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
    Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
    Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
    There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
    • Refrain:
      Grace, grace, God’s grace,
      Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
      Grace, grace, God’s grace,
      Grace that is greater than all our sin!
  2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
    Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
    Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
    Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
  3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
    What can we do to wash it away?
    Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
    Brighter than snow you may be today.
  4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
    Freely bestowed on all who believe!
    You that are longing to see His face,
    Will you this moment His grace receive?

Why am I sharing today?  Because maybe someone needed to hear about God's grace. Twice this past week I have heard promptings and reminders to share our stories with others because we never know what someone might need. The most recent reminder was a quote I read this morning prior to attending a retreat:  "We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk." —Thomas Moore (posted by The SoulCare Project on their Facebook page on October 16, 2016)

Did I go into all the details?  No.  Do you have questions?  If so, contact me.   I told God back in 2000 that every bit of the story was God's to use for the glory of God and the good of the Kingdom.  If you need to hear more of the story, if the Holy Spirit prompts you with questions, then ask.

Meanwhile, I pray that you will know God's grace abundantly in your life, that you will be able to receive it, live into it, and pass it on.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Les fleurs--unexpected blessings in creation and French

On Monday I took an afternoon walk down the new section of the Tennessee Riverwalk in St. Elmo.  I had been there only once before and had walked a very short section.  I had planned to stay in my car Monday afternoon to read and study, but seeing someone change clothes and get her bike out of her car encouraged me to change clothes and put on my hip unloader brace.  I wear a brace when I walk, hike, or work out because of the arthritis in my left side that has deteriorated things and now requires a hip replacement.

Walking on that beautiful afternoon allowed me to let go, to allow some great creation to soak into my heart, mind, and soul.  It gave me time to breathe and pray.

Click here for a link to the Tennessee Riverwalk, Riverpark.

The one thing not helpful about the 3.3 walk was that the right hip started hurting.  It has been doing that when I wear the brace for the left side.  The left side is set up and protected, but the right side isn't.  I had problems with both sides in 2008, but it was determined then that it was minor, so I was encouraged to live with the pain, keep going, etc.

I had a hip doctor appointment yesterday for the left side, but we ended up focusing on the right side.  The x-rays show it isn't as bad as the left, but it also shows that the hip ball isn't round and has wear and tear (thus pain).  Instead of a second steroid shot in the left side, I got one in the right side.  We are going to see if they can adapt those cool unloader braces to be bilateral.  And, I will keep on keeping on.

After the doctor appointment, I went to Niedlov's for coffee, a normal Tuesday morning activity, to meet with fellow clergy.

When I was getting my 2nd cup of coffee to go, the woman behind me started speaking French to the worker behind the counter.  Le français!  Oh, one doesn't hear that very often here in Chattanooga.  I has happy and joined in the conversation.  French is my third language and I don't get the chance to speak it as I would like.  But, I jumped in there and did okay.  I learned that the lady behind me was from France, that there were other French speakers in the coffee shop that morning, and the barista had been to France to study.  I hung in there pretty well for not having heard or spoken it in a while.  I haven't taught it since 2009 when I had helped fill in at Chattanooga State.  I taught online, so my speaking was in video clips for the students.

Though Spanish is my 2nd language, I adore French and I was super excited to be able to speak it yesterday.  That was a gift to me.  Just like the views on Monday of the river and the mountains, the flowers (which I had interestingly enough posted with "les fleurs" on Monday).

There are rough spots in life, yes.  But there are also some very bright ones.  Unexpected blessings that show up in unexpected moments in unexpected places.  That is grace.

Grace continues to carry me.  There are other blessings and moments of grace that I could share too, but I try to keep these posts fairly short.

What about you? What are the unexpected blessings in your life?  What examples of grace are carrying you?

Peace and blessings on your journey,


A couple of articles on the new portion of the Riverwalk:

the Chattanooga Trend, by Hannah Peyton
Times Free Press, by Steve Johnson

Friday, October 7, 2016

Listening to the voice of truth

Today I've spent some time listening.

Not just today, but throughout this past week.  Today, however, I've gone back over what I heard earlier in the week.  I've taken time to be in the hammock, to spend some time in centering prayer, rest, and reflection.

Earlier in the week on Tuesday, I got together with some colleagues.  This week we read some poems together.  One of the poems we read was Mary Oliver's "The Journey".  It's one I have read several times over the years.  Each time I read it, it speaks to me.

Here it is:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

"The Journey" helps me listen to the inner voice inside, that One voice.  It reminds me of who I am and Whose I am. It can be so easy to lose my way in the myriad of voices.

Then, last night, I heard a song I haven't heard on the radio in a while by Casting Crowns, "Voice of Truth".  It was another encouraging and timely word.


Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand
But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand
But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
Written by Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Hall • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Capitol Christian Music Group

When I, when any of us start to be confounded by all the other voices, it is imperative to listen to the voice of truth.  Other voices would have us believing incorrect things, but not the voice of truth.

What does it take to hear the voice of truth?  For me, I need time and space.  Quiet time.  Time in the Scriptures to be reminded of who and whose I am (Psalm 139 and others).  Time in silent connection with the Creator.  Time to be still and know that God is God.

Another word of encouragement came from my Meemo's handwritten note in her Companions in Christ, The Way of Prayer, as I opened it up yesterday: "As you travel life's weary road, let Jesus lift your heavy load."

To step out of my comfort zone, to follow my calling, no matter the cost, to continue to be willing to be in the realm of the unknown.  Following Jesus means being often in this realm.  It's a matter of faith and trust in places that don't make sense.  It's a wonderful, adventurous journey, too, especially when I can remember to keep my eyes on the One who is leading me.

Taking, making time to listen to the Voice of truth, remembering that there is an audience of One, and recognizing that this adventurous journey as a follower of the Way leads to many experiences, I continue on.

There have been other encouraging words, songs, and situations this past week that have reminded me of who and whose I am. I am grateful for each of these to help me stay focused.  God's mercy reigns.  There is amazing grace.

How about you?  When you find it difficult to hear the Voice of Truth through the myriad of voices, what do you do?  May you find some time to listen.

Peace and blessings on your journey,


Friday, September 30, 2016

Hammock time on a Friday afternoon

It's Friday afternoon.  Soon I'll be heading over to the high school for some football and some band.  But since I have some time to relax in the hammock before I go, I'm taking that time.  The weather has cooled off some.  It's partly cloudy.  It is fairly quiet. (Well, there are various neighborhood noises... animals, machinery, road noise, the train...)

I have some time to breathe in and breathe out.

There is a quote I read last week by Bishop John Shelby Spong that has been on my mind: "Not everyone will appreciate your efforts. Security is so much more attractive to people than truth. I hope you will love and not judge those who cannot go where you are leading. Seeds planted today may not germinate in your history for years, but no potential seed is ever wasted. So be patient, kind and loving."

When I read that last week it struck me on several levels.  Being a leader is not easy.  Following the model of Jesus, the servant leader is not easy, but my desire is to take up the towel and serve.  Some days are better than others.  When opportunities come to show love, grace, and hope to others, it is a tremendous blessing.  When there are opportunities to walk the difficult paths with others, it is a blessing.  Not easy, but still a blessing. 

I attempt to remain open to the Holy Spirit for the opportunities to live, love, and lead.  I can only trust that any seeds planted through this willing, albeit broken vessel, will germinate and grow.  

This week has been a week of opportunities.  I can only hope and pray that I have shown patience, kindness, and love.

The beauty of servant leadership is that I am a follower too.  I am still learning and growing along the way.  I am being shaped as I follow the Leader.

How are you being challenged in your faith journey?

Peace and blessings on this adventurous journey, 


Friday, September 23, 2016

O, begin!

I'm reminded once again of one of my favorite John Wesley quotes as I use the Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition by Steve Harper for a GaP-wide study.  [GaP= Georgia Parish] This quote can be found in other texts too.  In fact, because of "Our Covenant Oath" series this month in the GaP, I've been going back through James Harnish's The Disciple's Path to glean information for the sermon series.  Both books contain the quote, with the latter containing it in full.

"O, begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises.  You may acquire the taste which you have not: What is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant.  Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days."  ~ John Wesley

In this moment I am sitting in my hammock.  I hear the birds chirping.  I can hear the water feature in the background on the patio. There is a slight breeze.  I am attempting to center my heart, soul, and mind while enjoying some of God's creation.

There are many things on my to-do list. Today is my Sabbath rest day, yet....

Because my mind is swirling with things, I know that being still is important.  "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Because of all the things going on in life, I also have been reminded (twice) this week of the importance to put on the armor of God daily.  I'm reminded that the situations we face aren't against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities.  These are good reminders.  I remind myself that it's all about God, that it all belongs to God.

In a study on Wednesday, the word "unleash" came forth from the study.  Yes!  An unleashing of the Holy Spirit to work and move in and through the people, the communities, to bring healing, hope, encouragement, restoration, etc.  Ah, what would it take for the power of God to be unleashed?!?!  What would it take for the Holy Spirit to be unleashed?!?!  O, begin!!!  That is my prayer.

May I continue the daily spiritual disciplines that I need to in order to live, love, and lead as a follower of the Way.

Resting in my hammock, reflecting on God's creation, and resting in the Word "Be still and know that I am God" is helping.

The spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, prayer, worship, study, writing, etc. ARE for my life.  They sustain me.  Thank you John Wesley for the reminder.  Thank you God for the time with you.  Thank you community for the small group time Wednesday and Thursday night.

As I left the study time Wednesday evening, I got to see the new cross lit up at night for the first time.  It was stunning.

The cross reminds me of God's love for me and for all. And I think of the song "At the cross" and these lyrics: 'At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light...'  but I really think of them in Spanish: 'En la cruz, en la cruz, donde primero vi la luz'... and I hear Steve Green singing it.

As you read the John Wesley quote at the top of this post, what speaks to you?  What action will you take?

Blessings on your journey,


P.S. I took some time to "be still" prior to a monthly board call for FUMSDRL (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders). My spirit is always more calm and at peace after these board meetings. This board is a great example of how meetings can be spirit filled, led, and transformational--individually and collectively.

One last picture-- a few of the things I noticed in my yard as I was on the call. All but one picture was taken after I got off the call.