Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hiking the Falling Waters Falls trail

Yesterday we went up to the Falling Waters Falls State Natural Area on Signal Mountain in Walden.  I don't remember having parked in that area before, though I thought I have hiked to the top of the waterfall before.

The parking lot has spaces for about 4 cars, maybe 5, depending on size.  It would be nice to have a trash can there on site as there was quite a bit of trash around the parking area and the sign.  We got lucky yesterday.  We were the only ones when we got there and when we left.  We had the trail to ourselves.

The trail is an easy to moderate walk/hike, with the only treacherous portion(s) being when you get to the waterfall area and then continue up and around the bluff.  One needs to use common sense and not get to close to the edge.  It's a long way down.

I kept looking for the big hole in the rock that I remembered from my last time there, but I couldn't find it.  Maybe there is another waterfall/cliff spot on top of the mountain that I'm thinking of or I just couldn't see it yesterday.

What I could see yesterday was a bubbling creek to the left after we were in the woods for a little bit (no pictures of it).  Then we came out to where the water goes over the rock and down below.  There wasn't much flowing yesterday, so the waterfall was small.  After enjoying the view for a little bit, we headed up the trail along the bluff.  We followed it to the end.  It wasn't as traveled on this part.

There was a rock perfect for standing or sitting to enjoy the view.  You could see the Sequoyah stacks off to the distance on the left and the lake/river too.  Closer in you could see the "new" housing development next to highway 27.  We didn't realize how expansive it was and that they were still building.

I saw different kinds of mushrooms along the trail and took pictures of the ones that were easy to get to.  There were three mushrooms in the woods, lined up together (one in front of the other), shining in the light, but I couldn't quite get to them for a picture.

I enjoyed the tiny flowers along the way too.

There was enough trash along the trail to fill up about two grocery bags full.  I didn't carry any bags with me yesterday and regretted it.  There were some plastic bottles--water and power drinks; there were some aluminum cans--beer; there were cigarette packs-- one even thumb-tacked to a tree; there were glass bottles semi-buried in the leaves-- showing some evidence that the front portion might have been used as a dump at one time and deserves some extensive clean up time.  Though there wasn't too much trash, it was enough to consider a clean up hike to get it out and reminded me of the time I took our youth at First Dayton on a clean up hike on a trail in the Dayton area and shared a devotion "Living Waters" while we were on a rock next to the stream.  That was in the 90s.

The trail itself is short, but one can spend quite a bit of time up there because the scenery is gorgeous and it's a great place to simply "be".

I had left my hammock in the car, but there are plenty of trees for some hanging time too.

After we left the natural area, we went to Guthrie's for some fried chicken and took it to Signal Point for a picnic.  We weren't ready to go back indoors just yet.  It was too nice of a day to call it quits.  The overlook on the point allows for a great view of the river.

There are some rock formations to the left of the picnic pavilion and we enjoyed those for a few moments.

Though we looked at the hiking pavilion, we didn't do any more hiking.

If you're interesting in checking out some of these local areas, I'll include links at the bottom.

Getting outside and into the woods is an important part of my journey.  It gives life to my soul, expanding the breathing space, allowing me to listen to God, refreshing me, and strengthening my connection with the Creator.

Blessings on your journey,


Falling Waters Falls State Natural Area
Signal Point
Guthrie's Chicken
Cumberland Trail State Park (Signal Point trails are part of this trail)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Do We Truly Welcome All to the Table?

A few weeks ago (8/8/17) I wrote a post about the Sidewalk Prophets song, "Come to the Table" because I had first heard it and it struck me as a powerful and inviting song. It also strikes me as a challenging one as I continue to hear it on the radio.

The song invites people to come to the table, all are welcome.  Who they are, how they are.  Welcome.  That's how God accepts them.  What if someone happens to hear that song, believes it, and goes to a church?  Will they find that same grace and acceptance?

What if they aren't dressed the same as those in the church?

What if they have a disability?

What if they are of a different income or perceived standard?

What if they are of a different race, color, or culture?

What if they struggle to speak "our" language?

What if they are different in any way to what we perceive is "the way"?

According to God, all are welcome.  God's grace extends to all people.  If God is willing to be open and loving, then why are we cutting people off from the table?  Why are we putting up walls, rules, boundaries where God did not and does not put them up?

My heart breaks when I am in a room full of Jesus-loving folks who have left the church because the church has betrayed them, hurt them, and/or is no longer a place where God came first and all were welcome at the table.  This gathered body of Jesus followers was and is church, yet with no community because community wasn't living as Jesus instructed.

I understand.

I have seen it recently.  And my heart breaks.

It doesn't matter what you wear.  Come to the table.

It doesn't matter who you are or what you've been through or what you're going through now.  Come to the table.

You are welcome to the table.  God's table.  You are loved.

I hope to live into loving God and loving others (as I love myself) as Jesus taught.

Jesus invited the disciples to breakfast on the beach, he fed folks on the hillside, and in the upper room.  Jesus was about relationship with others around the table.  These were teaching moments for the disciples and others.

As we look around our tables, who is missing? Why are they missing?  Have we forgotten to invite someone to the table?  Have we excluded someone who was previously at the table?  Have we not made room at the table?

May we open ourselves up truly to God as we make our way to the table, seeking forgiveness and grace for those we've ignored, excluded, and turned away.

Then, let's make sure our tables, our churches, our lives are open to God to work in us and through us for the glory of God and the good of the kingdom.

Blessings on your journey,


Lyrics to "Come to the Table" by Sidewalk Prophets:

We all start on the outside
The outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty
With nothing left to give
Oh the shape that we were in
Just when all hope seemed lost
Love opened the door for us

He said come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table

Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thiefs
There's no one unwelcome here
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
Let mercy draw you near

Come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table

To the thief and to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young and to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last and all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you've been forgiven
All who dream and all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained and all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who's been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who have been labeled right or wrong
To everyone who hears this song

Come to the table
Come join the sinners you have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table
Just sit down and rest a while
Just sit down and rest a while
Come to the table

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hymn to the Trinity-another Jane Parker Huber hymn

Last night's sky was gorgeous!  It was a wonderful respite to sit outside and enjoy the evening sky as the red brightness shone through the trees in the backyard. The picture did not do the deep redness justice. My body, soul, and mind enjoyed the beauty of creation.

It is a cool morning with blue skies as I sit on the patio listening to the waterfall feature, share coffee with Riley, watch for hummingbirds, and start the day.  The wind chimes blow gently, dogs bark, and birds sing.

As I turned the pages in The Upper Room Worshipbook this morning, I found another Jane Parker Huber hymn written in 1980 that captured my attention, "Hymn to the Trinity" or "Creator God, Creating Still" (22A).  According to, this hymn is found in 7 hymnals.  Here are the lyrics:

Creator God, creating still
By will and word and deed,
Create a new humanity
To meet the present need.

Redeemer God, redeeming still,
With overflowing grace,
Pour out your love on us, through us,
Make this a holy place.

Sustainer God, sustaining still,
With strength for every day,
Empower us now to do your will,
Correct us when we stray.

Great Trinity for this new day,
We need your presence still.
Create, redeem, sustain us now
To do your work and will.

Ben Thomas sings a version of this song:

As I read these words today, I pray for  these things to be in my life-- the grace, love, strength, power, and presence of God.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

In God's Image- a hymn by Jane Parker Huber

This morning there is a breeze blowing the wind chimes and rustling the leaves.  It is slightly cooler, at least for the moment.  It's probably going to rain at some point today.  But I'm not looking ahead.  For the present, I'm on the patio, enjoying the sounds from the breeze, the breeze itself, the clouds rolling by, the water fountain, and some quiet time.

As opened the Upperroom Worshipbook this morning, I opened it to a hymn, "In God's Image".  I stopped there and started reading:

God, who spins the whirling planets, Fills the seas and spreads the plain
Molds the mountains, fashions blossoms, Calls forth sunshine, wind, and rain
We, created in your image, Would a true reflection be
Of your justice, grace, and mercy, And the truth that makes us free.
You have called us to be faithful In our life and ministry.
We respond in grateful worship, Joined in one community.
When we blur your gracious image, Focus us and make us whole.
Healed and strengthened, as your people, We move onward toward your goal.
God, your word is still creating, Calling us to life made new.
Now reveal to us fresh vistas Where there's work to dare and do.
Keep us clear of all distortion. Polish us, with loving care.
Thus new creatures in your image, We'll proclaim Christ everywhere.

This hymn was written by Jane Parker Huber in 1980.  It isn't one I know.  But the words resonate within me this morning.

This hymn is a good opportunity to practice lectio divina, sacred reading.  Read back over the hymn, slowly and prayerfully to see what stands out to you initially and then in a second reading.  In a third reading, what is your response to God?

God the Creator captures my attention in the first verse.  That we are to be in community and we move onward as a healed and strengthened people is what I see in the 2nd verse.  In the third verse, what I note is that God's word is still creating.  It isn't static.  There are fresh vistas.

The hymn is also known by the title "God, Who Spins the Whirling Planets" and "God, You Spin the Whirling Planets".

According to, it is published in 6 hymnals.

Here is the song being sung at the closing of worship:

Jane Parker Huber was born in China to missionary parents.  You can read a little more about her here.

If you are interested in finding more of her songs, here are several links:
Song Select

As you go through this day, may you be encouraged by the Creator who spins the whirling planets and who is still creating both word and us.  Hear the call to life made new and join in community to dare and do the work revealed to do.

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  By the end of my quiet time, the skies had cleared:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Foggy morning thoughts and reflections

It's a foggy morning, but it's still a new day.

Yesterday had so many 2nd "Monday" tendencies to it that I wonder what today, Wednesday, will bring?

I learned throughout the day that I wasn't the only one having another Monday on a Tuesday.  That was comforting and allowed for some laughs with an insurance person over the phone.

In all these things, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the joys and grief, I am seeking to do a few things.

1.  Remember God.  If I don't keep this focus, then my eyes aren't in the right place.  It's all about
     God and not about me.
2.  Take pause moments, breaks throughout the day to breathe, to refocus, to simply "be".
3.  Make time for people near and far.  It's the relationships in our lives, with God and others that
     matter most.  If we don't make time for those relationships then what do we have?  It takes time,
     energy, and effort to keep relationships going and to build new ones as a leader, but it is worth it. I
     don't do a great job of it.  I'm just saying that it's worth it and that's why I keep trying.  Each day I
     invest in someone or several someones, sometimes that someone is me.

As I headed out for my coffee this morning, I saw "Our Daily Bread" on the table with the cover showing.

I have been more aware of sunflower fields this year with folks talking about them on social media and sharing pictures.  I finally went out to the one in Ooltewah, TN, but it was on a rainy morning. There were sunflowers on both sides of the road.

The verse on the front of the devotional is Numbers 6:25-26-- "The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.:

One picture I took that day showed one sunflower facing me and the majority (or maybe even all) of the others were facing away.

On a foggy morning when yesterday seemed in many ways like a 2nd Monday, I do pray for God's grace and peace.

I also pray for those having surgery today, those recovering, those preparing for surgery in the weeks ahead, those grieving the loss of loved ones, and those with other burdens and concerns.  There are many needs in the flock.  I recognize there are many joys and praises too and I lift those up as well.

I pray for kingdom eyes to see God's vision through the fog, to live into God's calling for all of us, wherever we are.

I pray that I might be able to live, love, and lead like Jesus today.

As I finish my quiet time, I look back at the sky.  The fog is gone.

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In the morning when I rise....morning prayers

Today I start the day with coffee outside on the patio, listening to the waterfall feature, and hoping to glimpse at least one hummingbird.

Since I couldn't find my Upper Room Worhsipbook I bought at the 5 day Academy, I am using this one today.  It is one of ten I found at Flintstone UMC in the library when I was looking through books last year.  Being at the 5 day Academy and then a 2 year Academy, I became well acquainted with the songs, the Psalm prayers, and the liturgies for daily prayer (morning, noon, and night).  Each day had its rhythm.  

Yesterday, in talking with a friend and colleague (Ginger Isom), we were talking some about the worship and rhythm of the Academy and how we were drawn to it.  She is considering working on a "rhythm day" for her 2nd year project (hopefully along with others on her journey) to offer for those who are interested who have been to a 5 day or 2 year or have yet to been and can experience such worship.  Maybe that's why I picked up the worship book this morning when I headed outside for my quiet time today.

The liturgy for morning prayer in this book is #112.

We can sing Psalm 51:15 "O God, open our lips, and we shall declare Your praise." together OR read:

God said: Let there be light; and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good.  This very day the Lord has acted!
Praise the Lord!

A morning hymn or Psalm 95 follows.

Then this prayer: 

New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world.  Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.  AMEN. 

(This prayer is from The Worshipbook-- Services and Hymns, p. 57, Westminster Press.)

Each day IS new.  New blessings.  New challenges.  New opportunities.  

I am grateful for the blessings, challenges, and opportunities of yesterday and open to those of today.

The rest of the morning prayer liturgy continues with another Psalm, some silence, a psalm prayer, reading from Scripture, canticle of Zachary or a hymn of praise, prayers of thanksgiving (intercession, and petition), the Lord's prayer, a hymn or doxology, and benediction.

Joining in community for this time of morning prayer is a great way to start the day.  A rhythm day will be just the right thing.  I look forward to that dream/vision coming to fruition.  I also hope to make my way back to a 5 day again, to enjoy the week long rhythm.

Meanwhile, I rise each day to experience the love and light of God, to seek to be that love and light to others, to live peacefully with my neighbors, to devote the day to Christ, to live, love, and lead as Christ did.

The benediction from #112?

Go in peace.  Serve the Lord.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  AMEN. 

(From same book above, p. 58.)

Blessings on your journey, 


P.S.  Here's a song for the day: (first one with Jeremy Camp singing; second one with Fernando Ortega)


In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus
And when I am alone
Oh, and when I am alone
And when I am alone, give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus
And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
And when I come to die, give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Walk by Faith-- my sermon for the ordination journey

Today I preached the sermon that I'm using for my ordination journey to become a Full Elder.  Whew.  I posted on Facebook that I was just as nervous (if not more) this go around than I was three years ago when I had to do the sermon for the Provisional Elder portion of the journey.  I don't tape my sermons, though I have taped 4 now: two for seminary classes and now two for the ordination journey.

I will post it here, along with a few thoughts and reflections.

But first, here is my morning view with a Psalm (Psalm 5:3) that I found to go along with it:

As I sat down to have my centering prayer time, I started off with the same prayer that I had last week and realized maybe why I had been so open last week:

God of the Silence: Calm and quiet my soul at the fount of your loving presence.  In your silence, replenish me with a force for love, especially for those who are the most demanding.  When there is nowhere else to go, inspire me to drop into my heart and find your life-giving grace there, weaving the fabric of human reality into a tapestry of love.  Amen. (Peter Traben Haas)

Life-giving grace.  I am always in need of that.

I tried to concentrate this morning while two hummingbirds were fighting it out for one feeder before they flew off to the next one.  My thoughts kept going all over the place and I'm not sure I really got in my full time this morning because the timer skipped back to the beginning.  However, I went ahead and listened to the closing sounds and prayed the closing prayer:

"Come, Holy Spirit, Come.  Ignite within me the living flame of Your love."  A great prayer.

It was time to finish getting ready and head to Flintstone.

You will find the entire service posted at the bottom of this post.  The sermon portion starts on 21:25 and ends on 37:00, lasting about 16 minutes (If you don't want to watch the entire service.  However, I encourage you to watch the entire service so that you can enjoy the worship.)

I will post the written version of the sermon above the video, though it won't be the exact transcript.  I am still working on the transcript (the words I actually said, not wrote).  Though I stayed fairly close to the manuscript, I did vary off course some.  Honestly, I didn't want to vary too far off because transcription takes precious time.  I normally weave in what was shared during the children's sermon, but I didn't today.

Even though I might not have fully been myself, my free self today (I was a little self conscious with the camera), I tried to remember that it's not about me, it's all about God.  After all, that's what I say, preach, and teach.  I'd better live into it.  This risky faith stuff, I don't just talk about it.  I live it.

I couldn't do this without support.  I have literal support staff at two of the three churches that help me and my co-pastor keep things rolling.  Without them, I'd be more crunched for time. 

Because this sermon was at Flintstone, specific thanks go to Mary Cline for working with me in advance on the bulletin and for getting me the PDF versions.

Thanks to David and Gary for pulling together the songs for today (and every Sunday).

I want to say a HUGE "Thank you" to all my friends, near and far, on FaceBook (and elsewhere) who lifted me up in prayer for today's sermon and who offered me words of encouragement.  This isn't just my journey.

I am grateful to each church in the parish as you have been on this journey with me through my Provisional Elder time.  Thank you for your encouragement and your prayers.

As I did this sermon today at Flintstone UMC, an additional thank you for the encouragement leading up to today and through today and for being willing to dream, vision, and take the risky steps of faith out of the boat when Jesus commands us to "Come".

An even BIGGER thanks goes to Riley, who is with me every Sunday when he's not at work and thanks for being my camera man today.

There is one technical glitch in the video.

If only we had known prior to today that Nikon has this import limit on still cameras where they can only tape 29 minutes at a time.  OOPS.  So, that's where there are 24 words missing in the sermon, right around the 29 minute mark.

You hear: "'Well, Jesus, the strong winds started blowing and".  Then it goes to "clearly, we can still trust, right?"  The missing words in between are: "it scared me.  With all the salt water blowing in my face I couldn't see you clearly anymore.' Okay.  Even when we can't see".

You can find this portion on the written sermon below too, if that helps.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for watching.  Thanks for the journey.

As I learned at the end of today's service, F.A.I.T.H. stands for "Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him".  It is truly a fantastic adventure and I am blessed to share it with so many.

I don't know what you're being called to do, but whatever it is,  may you be blessed as you step out of the boat and walk by faith.

Blessings on your journey,




"Discipleship: Walk By Faith"

Matthew 14: 22-33 (NRSV)

August 13, 2017 (10th Sunday after Pentecost)

 Flintstone UMC

Matthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
THANKS BE TO GOD.                                             

As we continue this series on discipleship, today's passage takes up right where we left off last week.  A quick review: Jesus took the bread and the fish, blessed it, broke the bread, gave it to the disciples to distribute and they shared it, feeding many-- with leftovers.  Jesus' compassion on the crowd turned out to be an opportunity of learning and service for the disciples.  

After this time of ministry and teaching, Jesus sent the disciples away, but stayed behind to dismiss the crowds.  He then went up the mountain by himself to pray. (v. 23)  Notice the first thing Jesus does is spend time in prayer after a big event, refilling and recharging.

The next day he goes to join the disciples who are out on the water.  He doesn't take another boat to join them.  The disciples see someone walking toward them and terrified, think it must be a ghost. (v.26) But as Jesus tends to do in these frightening situations, he tells them to not be afraid because it's him. (v. 27)

Peter, is the first to respond, which is not a surprise because Peter often jumped right into situations.  Peter's quick response, however, doesn't display full confidence for he says, "if it is you, (v. 28), command me to come to you on the water."  Jesus commands Peter to come.

A moment of truth.  Peter had thrown it out rather quickly to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."  Jesus didn't hesitate.  "Come."

Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking on the water toward Jesus.  What could have been going through his mind at this time?  'This really IS Jesus out here on the water.  I actually stepped out of the boat.  What WAS I thinking? Keep walking toward Jesus.'  Okay, so we don't know his thoughts, but I imagine we've all taken risky steps out of the boat to move closer to Jesus.

Think for a moment.  When was the last time you questioned Jesus in your faith and Jesus' response to you was "Come."  And you knew you had to take that first step of faith?

You might have been a little scared or a lot scared, but you stepped out in faith and started walking by faith toward Jesus because you trusted his voice and knew he was there for you.

Once you've started walking by faith, have you experienced a moment of doubt, insecurity, or fear?

For Peter, the moment came when he noticed the strong wind around him (30), became frightened and began to sink.  It doesn't specifically say so in the passage, but we gather that the surrounding circumstances of the wind caused Peter to take his eyes off Jesus, that the scary stuff overwhelmed him.  We get that too, don't we.  How often in our lives do circumstances overwhelm us and keep us from hearing or seeing Jesus and we begin to sink?

Personally, my entire ordination journey has been an example of walking by faith.  I was in the boat and Jesus said "Come".  I finally decided to lift my leg up over the side of the boat, step out over the boat and onto the water.  There have been times when I take my eyes off Jesus and I notice the strong winds around me and I feel the salt water blowing in my face.  It can be overwhelming.

It is in these moments, like Peter in verse 30 and going through 31 I have cried out, "Lord, save me!".  You and I can follow Peter's example here and cry out to Jesus when we are overwhelmed.

Notice that Jesus immediately reached out his hand to Peter and caught him, saying "you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

This isn't the first time Jesus has responded to the disciples with a similar message.  In Matthew 8 when Jesus was asleep in the boat during a storm, the disciples woke him up, verses 25-26: " 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm."

In fact, there are a total of four instances in Matthew when the term "little faith" is used.  Besides the two I have mentioned, you can also find it in Matthew 6:30 and 16:8, each time spoken to the disciples. Jesus was always in teaching mode with the disciples, who did struggle with their faith.

We don't have Jesus' voice inflection in any of these passages.  I think we often read the one in today's passage especially as a strong rebuke or condemnation, but it could be a gently questioning, simply asking Peter to recognize and review his situation.  Why DID he doubt?  'Well, Jesus, the strong winds started blowing and it scared me. With all the salt water blowing in my face I couldn't see you clearly anymore.'  Okay.  Even when we can't see clearly, we can still trust though, right?  If we seek to understand Peter in this situation, maybe we can understand our own doubts.

Doubts don't keep us from relationship with Jesus.  Notice that Jesus helped Peter back in the boat.  Doubts are part of our faith journey.  They can help us better understand ourselves and our relationship with Jesus, if we examine them.

Notice how the passage ends:  verse 32-- "When they (Peter and Jesus) got into the boat, the wind ceased."  It was then that everyone worshiped Jesus and called him the Son of God.  (33)  Because Peter had taken a risk in his faith relationship, the others benefited and now knew that this wasn't a ghost, that it was Jesus, the Son of God.

Not everyone took a risk.  Peter did.  But even in taking a risk, he still had doubts and fear overtook him.

Yet Jesus showed him grace.

It made NO sense to get out of that boat to walk to Jesus, did it?

Philip Yancy says: "Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse."

Peter trusted Jesus.  When Jesus said "Come", Peter trusted.  Peter didn't know what would happen.  He simply trusted.  Yes, Peter's anxiety, fears, and doubts kicked in, but he also knew who to cry out to for help and did so, immediately before he got in over his head.

When we walk by faith, we are trusting in advance what will only make sense when we look back.

Today's passage shows us faith.  Faith is foundational in our relationship with Christ.

Right here in this congregation, in this room, within the heritage and history of the little rock church, we also have stories of walking by faith.

We have families here who have raised their children and are raising their grandchildren (even great-grandchildren) by walking by faith, trusting in advance what will only make sense in looking back.  We have Vivien who walked or flew by faith to San Diego for her surgery and all of you who prayed for her.

We rarely get a glimpse of what God is going to do or how God will answer prayers.  That's why it's called faith.  Our faith is challenged as we trust and obey.  Our faith muscles grow each time we step out of our comfort zone into the unknown areas.

For Peter, it was stepping out of that boat, onto water.  Water. Not frozen water that could hold him, but water in liquid form.  We all know that we can't stand on water, much less walk on it, right?!  Yet, Jesus commanded Peter and Peter trusted and obeyed.  It was his faith that caused him to step out of the boat and start walking.

"Everyone who claims to live in Jesus must walk as Jesus walked." 1 John 2:16  We are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus... this was the Holston Conference summer camp theme in 2012, one of the summers that I was Minister in Residence (MIR).  

Camp Lookout continues to walk by faith... just this past Sunday they held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new cabin that will hopefully be ready for the 2018 season.  This is the first "new" cabin in a while.  The yurts were put up as temporary housing and have become permanent for now.  But, the board, the staff, and many others, including you have continued to have faith that God has a plan for Camp Lookout, for the kids in our community, and for other ministries to take place on that place that is set apart.

How is God calling us here at Flintstone UMC to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus?  Last week you saw the pictures of the 3 blessing boxes in the shop at Ridgeland High.  One of those boxes is now at Chattanooga Valley Elementary and will be put up soon.  Then we, along with others in the community, can begin to fill it with non-perishable food and other items.

How is God calling you to get out of the boat?  

Walking by faith means saying "yes" to God.  I'll be honest.  Most everytime I say "yes" to God, there is some fear and trembling.  I rarely feel equipped or ready for what is at hand.  How do you think Peter felt?  To edit an overused cliché, God will equip us as we are called to the task.  If we were fully ready for the task, would we need faith?  How would our faith grow if we weren't having to rely on God to meet us where we were and take us forward the next step(s)?

Notice something here in today's passage-- faith is risky.  Faith isn't about staying in the boat; it's about stepping out of the boat and following Christ, wherever Christ leads.  It's about keeping our eyes on Christ, through the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the joy and the grief.

We grow deeper in our relationship as we walk by faith, building authentic relationships with God and others.

I'm re-reading "Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith" by Diana Butler Bass for an upcoming book club.  Here is one quote that struck me as applicable to today's message: "Being a Christian is not a one-moment miracle of salvation.  It takes practice.  It is a process of faith and a continuing conversion.  And it can be a long walk." (75)

This walking by faith is risky, but it is also exciting and a fulfilling way to live life to the fullest.  I hope we will all be willing to get out of the boat to walk by faith when Jesus calls us to "come" to him.