Thursday, May 31, 2018

Embracing Soul Care-- Be curious!

I started reading Embracing Soul Care: Making Space for What Matters Most by Stephen W. Smith a few weeks ago.  It has been on my shelf for a while, in my self-care, soul-care section.  

The format is great.  Short chapters with questions at the end.  It is meant to be a daily devotional, something you can chew slowly.

Today I read the chapter on curiosity, "The Art of Curiosity".  Chapter 6. I wanted to share a few of my notes and thoughts from my reading, and the questions at the end.

When I think of the word "curious", one of the first things that pops into my mind is a man with a big yellow hat and an adorable monkey named George.  Yes, I'm referring to Curious George.  

Curious George is the epitome of curiosity.  His curiosity takes him on all kinds of adventures.  It is this openness to learning, to risking, to trying new things that I think of when I hear the word "curious".  

But that has nothing to do with the chapter. 

The chapter begins with a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor: "I became a detective of divinity, collecting evidence of God's genius and admiring the traces left for me to follow."

The Scripture for this chapter is from Exodus 3:3-4 as Moses observes the burning bush and God has his full attention.

"Amazing!" Moses said to himself.  "Why isn't that bush burning up?  I must go over to see this."  When the LORD saw that he had caught Moses' attention, God called to him from the bush, "Moses!  Moses!"  "Here I am!" Moses replied."  Exodus 3:3-4 (NLT) [The book says it is NLT, but the NLT linked here from Biblegateway is slightly different.]

Some of the words and phrases that caught my attention in this chapter: 
  • curiosity
  • slows me down
  • innocent wonder
  • asks questions
  • explored
  • entered the experience
  • awareness
  • holy curiosity
  • sacred invitation
Some quotes: 

"...curiosity is integral to soul care.  Curiosity invites us to wonder." (40)

"To reclaim our curiosity, we simply become more like a child, which is something Jesus told us to do." (40)

"Scriptures encourage us to become detectives of divinity." (41)

"Curiosity becomes a sacred invitation to experience God." (41)

I have begun to slow down over the years, intentionally. 

I enjoy looking with curiosity for the hidden wonders in creation.  I find that when I am curious, when I slow down, when I look with eyes of innocent wonder (and one can do so even if one cannot visually see), when I ask questions, when I explore, when I enter the experience and am aware, when I accept the holy invitation, I find myself in the presence of my Creator.

This morning I took some time to explore the back yard.  Here is a collage of what I found this morning in my exploration:

As you grow in your soul care, here are three questions that the author poses at the end of this chapter:
  • What are you curious about in relationship to God?
  • What robs you of holy curiosity?
  • How can you practice more spiritual curiosity?
Blessings on your journey, 


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Finding Forrester

Last night Riley and I watched "Finding Forrester" on TV.  I had never seen it before, but Riley said it was familiar to him.

''Finding Forrester" is PG-13 and lasts 2 hours and 16 minutes.  There is some language in the movie, but it is normal for street scenes.

There were many life lesson nuggets in the movie and I enjoyed it.  The film came out in 2000, stars Sean Connery and Rob Brown, is filmed in NYC, the Bronx, and is about a high school student and a recluse one-book author.

Here are some of the things that struck me in the movie:

The theme of fear and how it controls people by keeping them from moving forward in life, whether that it a fear of failure or a fear of success, or a combination of both.  Fear of getting out into the unknown is paralyzing to many.  Fear of facing oneself causes some to treat others disrespectfully and with disdain (teacher at prep school).

The theme of friendship and how that overcome fear in the long run was a good reminder that relationships are what break down stereotypes, barriers, fears, and ignorance. When we get to know others and enter into relationships, we learn about their lives and they learn about us.  When that happens, change happens.

The theme of writing was threaded throughout the movie, but it wasn't a movie about writing.  There were some good nuggets about writing, however.  There was the admonition to sit at the typewriter and write the first draft.  To just write it.  Not to think about it, but to write what flowed.  The first draft came from the heart and then the second draft was to be from the mind.  Good words.

It was refreshing to see and hear a typewriter-- to see the paper go in and be pulled out, with the zipping noise. To hear the deep clicking of the keys, and the whirring sound of the return chamber after the "ding".

The basketball scenes were pretty fun, the street game and the high school team ones.  Watching the interaction between the personalities made you feel that you were in that world, observing it first hand.

There were painful moments of society not treating the student with respect or dignity.  There were scenes that reminded you that we still have racial inequality and that saddens me.

But there were scenes that encouraged me and gave me hope too. When classmates took up for each other, regardless of background and when the friendship between author and student showed fruit in several ways.  I was reminded that it is worth investing in relationships when we are led to do so.

As a retired teacher, I was reminded on how not to teach or lead.  It is easy for us in our pain and brokenness to take things out on others, in order to have a sense of control.  Yet by letting go, by not holding on to bitterness or pain, by showing respect, etc, we can make much more of a difference in someone's life.  The teacher had a reputation, but it wasn't for being a teacher that students admired or sought to learn from.  They knew if he was challenged, he would find a way to destroy them.  Because of his own fears and insecurities, he couldn't see to bring out the best in his students.  We all have to work through bitterness, pain, hurt, and difficult things.  As we do, we can find healing and wholeness.  When we live out of the place of healing rather than hurt, we are all better for it.

Even though this movie came out 18 years ago, I'm glad I finally got to see it.

There are probably more themes that spoke to me last night (about life and relationship), but as I reflect on the movie today, these are the things that stand out.

The acting was good and the scenery of NY was like being there again.

If you'd like to check out some reviews on the movie, here are a few links and clips below!

Rotten Tomatoes
Movie Review by Roger Ebert

Movie Trailer and a few clips from the movie:



There are other clips on YouTube if you'd like to search for them. Better yet, just look up the movie and check it out.  It might speak differently to you-- or not at all, but maybe, just maybe, you'll find something worth while in it too.

Blessings on your journey, 


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism

About a month ago I wrote a post after a clergy district meeting, sharing resources and links for folks to help sort through things that are currently being discussed in the United Methodist denomination.  I realized that I had not yet read Will Cantrell's book, Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism, so I ordered it and read it.

I recently finished it and wanted to share some of my notes, thoughts, and reflections.

From a practical view, this is a very timely and helpful resource to add to the reading and discussion.  The book came out in 2017, contains eight chapters that are relevant without being too lengthy, and Wil himself has first hand experience as a delegate to General Conference.  Another positive about the book is that it isn't divisive, but rather allows you to look at the topic, to consider the topic, to open yourself up to and for discussion.  This is truly what is needed.  As mentioned in my previous post, courageous conversations and spaces in which we can have those conversations is a big piece of what is missing currently, from my perspective.

The book's eight chapters are:

Chapter 1-- Removing the Rose Colored Glasses
Chapter 2-- Paying the Cover Charge
Chapter 3-- Looking in the Mirror
Chapter 4-- Embracing Diversity
Chapter 5-- Getting Serious about Connectionalism
Chapter 6-- What's Your Agenda
Chapter 7-- Becoming the Loyal Opposition
Chapter 8-- Church Unity

In addition, there is a foreword by Rev. David Graves, the Bishop in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, an Introduction (Option: Fear of Faith), and a Conclusion (My Prayer for You, Me, and the UMC).

All total, there are 149 pages, with the Acknowledgements at the end of the book.

Though there isn't a study guide within this book, you can give your email at this link here and they will send you a leader's guide to help with discussions.

When the book came and I saw that the forward was written by Bishop David Graves, I was glad.  I know David from days gone by in the local Emmaus community and looked forward to what he said about the book in the introduction.

Before you get to the forward (and even before the title and content pages), there is a page that has the two words "fear" and "faith" prominently in the middle of the page with an explanation for each: "Fear tells us to keep doing what we have always done, hoping that the outside world will go back to the way it used to be.  Faith tells a different story."  This is a 'cause for a pause', giving us something to reflect upon before we even begin the book.

In the forward by Bishop David Graves, there are two quotes that I had underlined in my initial reading:

"In these days, we need to guard our hearts, to focus more on what we have in common, rather than focusing on our differences." (VII)

"This book can serve as a guide to respect viewpoints that differ from our own." (VII)

The Introduction goes into more detail about the option between fear and faith.

On page 7, this paragraph speaks truth: "Often life teaches us hard lessons.  Sometimes we can pick our battles.  Other times, our battles pick us, and our only option is to determine the methods we will use."

Wil asks an important question as to how we will respond to this current crisis that is going on in the United Methodist Church.  He asks: "Will we respond out of fear or out of faith?" (12)

Scriptural holiness is discussed on page 14 and how that was central to John Wesley and the life of Christ.  "Jesus was quite controversial in his day because he did not make his ministry simply about correct theology.  The Pharisees did that." (14)  "Instead, Jesus lifted up two values above theology and correct social policies: Loving God and loving your neighbor: It was these overarching values John Wesley referred to as "scriptural holiness"." (14)

Wil writes, "I pray we find the courage to look fully at our differences through the lens of our shared beliefs, our beloved means of grace, and our desire to love others as God first loved us." (15)

Amen.  What a great prayer.  Imagine if we were to come together in such a way.  What would that look like?  What could that look like?

Wil ends the introduction with these words: "If we find within ourselves the courage to set aside our fears and embark on this journey, then perhaps the people called United Methodists will discover a miraculous capacity to share hope, healing, and joy with a hurting and divided world.  As John Wesley would say, we will find ourselves spreading "scriptural holiness over the land."" (16)

If I shared all of my notes from Wil's book, you would only be getting his book through my eyes.  I encourage you to check it out for yourself and to order the leader's guide too.  Check out other resources available as well, from books to guidelines to articles to personal testimonies.  Start a group or class in which folks can come together, read and share.

It is my hope that we would find the courage to set aside our fears and embark on the journey to have courageous dialogues with one another, to find ways to love one another, to allow faith to overcome fear.

Whether you pick up this book or another one to begin the conversation, I just encourage the conversation.  In my previous blog posts on this topic (The Way Forward-- 4/13/18 and Another resource for Courageous Conversations in The Way Forward--4/15/18), I listed some resources that offer guides to courageous conversations with questions and outlines.

That might be the starting point for you.  Wherever the beginning point is, as John Wesley has said, "O begin!"

Blessings on your journey,


Article on Wil's book:

'Way Forward' Leads Pastor to Write Book about UMC Future (by Annette Spence, September 25, 2017)

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 24-- Aldersgate Day, Red Nose Day, and Day with the Bishop

What do you do when several meaningful things occur on the same day?  Do you attempt to live into/celebrate them all?

It isn't always possible to live into everything that comes our way or celebrate everything, but yesterday, those three occurrences (Aldersgate Day, Red Nose Day, and Day with the Bishop) converged on the same day and I was able to celebrate them.  And when all these things have the color red in common, what color does one wear for the day?  Red, of course.  Besides, it is the Pentecost season and red is an appropriate color for that too.

The day started with a peaceful view off the deck.

I wanted to find a song that exemplified how I felt about the day, its beauty physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  This is what I found:  ("It's a Beautiful Day" by Greg and Steve)

Yesterday, May 24, was Aldersgate Day.  This is an important and meaningful day for those who follow a Wesleyan faith tradition.  It is on this day in 1738 that Wesley became assured of his salvation and wrote in his journal the line that has become well-known about his heart being strangely warmed.

Aldersgate Day Resources: What is Aldersgate Day?
UMC Discipleship blog on Aldersgate Day

Yesterday was also Red Nose Day.   Red Nose Day is a day set aside to help end child poverty.  Comic Relief, Inc began a campaign to help end child poverty in American and around the world in 1985 in the UK. The first Red Nose Day in the US was in 2016.

I have seen the red noses around, but never knew where to get them nor really knew that there was a Red Nose Day and that the proceeds and fundraising went to help child poverty.

Last May, at the first wedding I officiated, the young couple had red noses for their family pictures.  That was my first red nose.  That was fun and pretty cool.

This year when I realized that Red Nose Day was the same day as our Day with the Bishop, I went to Walgreens and bought enough (and some extras) for our group, in hopes that they and the Bishop might be willing to put on the noses for the cause.  They did!

Day with the Bishop at the Holston Conference
(L-R: Front Row: Harrison Bell, Magan Stubblefield, Mickey Rainwater, Bishop Taylor, Teresa Atkins-McClure, Debra Dickerson, T.J. Burdine
Back Row: Timothy Hankins, Scott Spence, Caleb Pitkin, Drew McCallie, Wayne Hickman, Todd Chancey)
[Photo by Millie Meese, Conference Office]
Annette Spence of The Call at the Holston Conference UMC took this picture and posted: "Today was Red Nose Day to end childhood poverty! It just so happens that today was also Bishop's Day with the Ordinands at the Alcoa Center. The incoming elders spent the morning with Bishop Dindy Taylor and got their photos made for Annual Conference. And then this happened... "
Red Nose Day Resources:

Red Nose Day Website
Walgreens Red Nose Day

There are many videos that speak to the help that Red Nose Day contributions make.  Here is one:

You can buy the red noses from Walgreens and contribute to the Red Nose fund through June 2nd (per the Red Nose show on television last night.)  I didn't watch the entire show, but a clip of Puerto Rico and a young girl who saved her younger siblings, one being a 7 month old, and seeing the ongoing devastation there was difficult.  I know it takes quite a bit of time to rebuild after a major storm/hurricane.  It took years to rebuild after Katrina.  Many teams went there to rebuild from all kinds of organizations.  I hope people will not forget that Puerto Rico IS part of the United States and will continue to help them as well.  The Red Noses help.

Day with the Bishop
Last, but definitely not least (these are not really in any specific order), yesterday was our "Day with the Bishop".  Originally, I thought I would be heading to Alcoa post-surgery, but that wasn't the case.  The fact that the drive was pre-surgery and not post-surgery did make the drive up and back less painful on the hips, though my better hip (right one) continues to make itself known.  I guess it doesn't want the left one getting all the attention.

On my drive up I listened to some 95.1 Family Life Radio, Marcela Gándara, and 4 Him.  Marcela Gándara is one of my go-to Spanish speaking singers who reminds me of my calling.  Her songs "Un viaje largo", "Una aventura", and "Dame tus ojos" speak into my life.  They have for many years.  They remind me of who I am, whose I am, what God has done, what God is doing, what God can and will do.  They give me hope, encouragement, affirmation.

If you don't speak Spanish, you might not get why these speak so much to me.   I do have a few blogposts below with some English lyrics and explanations that might help you out.

On March 2, 2011 I wrote a blog post in which I included English lyrics to "Dame tus ojos".  If you'd like to read that blog post, you can click on it: Marcela Gándara's Music Ministers to my soul

In this next post, there is a video with the English lyrics of the song "Un viaje largo".  This post came after my Tres Días con Dios on April 30, 2016: Affirmation for my Spanish Calling.... once again

Our meeting time with the Bishop, Rev. Mickey Rainwater, and one another was a blessing.  Mickey offered a prayer from one of the Guide to Prayer books (he had all four with him-- red, green, blue, and black), he shared a devotion with us and we shared with one another.  Then the Bishop went through the Historic Questions with us and shared some other words of exhortation and asked us if we had any concerns or questions.

I'll share some of my notes from our time together here:

Mickey Rainwater mentioned that he has been intentional in his spiritual practices in the 2nd half of ministry. He has used the Guides to Prayer for 20 years.  He encouraged us all to be in Scripture not just for sermon preparation.  He noted that each Guide has a Call to Ministry section.  He spoke about the confirmation of the community call, sharing a personal example, and sharing from Jeremiah 1. (Though I am not 100% sure exactly what verses he shared or what version, Jeremiah 1:4-10 seem to capture what he read to us.  When you click on the Scripture above, you can change out the version.)

The Bishop asked us to share 1-3 words about how we were feeling going into Ordination.  As we shared, she would sometimes ask us to say more.  I'm just going to share the words without saying who shared what because I believe that was for us.

The Ordinand Class of 2018 words leading up to Ordination:
empowered, relieved, excited, recognized, anticipate, humbled, servanthood, perseverance, amen, delight, grace(d), joy, enthusiasm, wholeness, affirmed, blessed

These words, these folks encouraged me yesterday.  Being with them once again, listening to some of their stories blessed and encouraged me.  There was one missing at the table yesterday that was supposed to be with at Ordination.  Carl Marshall.  We didn't leave him out.  We spoke of him.  We remembered him.  He will not be left out of our group on June 13th either.  For that, many of us are appreciative and grateful.  As I shared in an earlier post, Carl was an influential colleague in my Provisional Elder journey.

Some of my notes from the Bishop:
Help the children of God take the next step in their faith and journey.  See the children of God.  #seeallthepeople.  Love the local church.  Share God with them.  Recognize God leading.  Do bold things for God.  Every bold thing won't work.  Do it anyway.  Relationship with God and Jesus matters.  Celebrate our 50th birthday in the UMC (I did that last Sunday).  People are divisive these days.  Have conversations to help people with difficult things.  Create space for people.

Within the Historic Questions, we spoke about how it matters how it is with our soul, civil disobedience, hunger for community-- being with people, getting to know people-- not just in their homes, but where they are-- in the coffee shops, at the baseball fields, etc.

Our ordination is a celebration and a beginning as we become Full Elders in the UMC.

What is the next step?
The next step in Ordination is Annual Conference.  That takes place June 10-13 at Lake Junaluska.  Some of the sessions will be live streamed.  The Service of Ordination, Commissioning of Provisional Elders and Sending Forth will begin at 9am on Wednesday, June 13.

Watch Lake Junaluska Live Streaming Events here.

To top off a great day:
This day, the three in one (Aldersgate Day, Red Nose Day, Day with the Bishop) was already special enough.  Could it get any better?  The day was topped off with the following: a great Band Parent meeting with all the dates for next year and some upcoming fundraisers; a dinner with friends at a local restaurant (where everyone knows at least one person's name and we can listen to bluegrass music), and a handmade double-sided stole that came in the mail from a dear colleague (and fellow board member of the Fellowship of United Methodists Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders) in MA.  I will be wearing that proudly during the Advent season!

Dinner at Feed and Table, Bluegrass night

Stole by Cynthia Good
 (I will make sure it's more even when I wear it for real.  It was late last night when I tried it on.)

This has been and continues to be a truly humbling and amazing adventurous journey as it unfolds.  My desire continues to be to love God and love others as I love myself; to live, love, and lead like Jesus.  May it be so.

Blessings on your journey,


Holston Conference Center, Alcoa, TN

Monday, May 21, 2018

Pentecost Sunday-- sermon, thoughts, and reflections

Pentecost Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays to preach.  Okay, you might hear me say that quite a bit.  The truth is, preaching gives me life.  Sharing the word of God, breaking the bread of life with others is life-giving for me. Therefore, many Sundays are favorite.

Pentecost Sunday is the celebration of the beginning of the church, the birth day of the church. That is special and fun.  Then, when you read the Scripture and you read about howling winds and flames on folks' heads-- well, that stuff is pretty cool.

Several years back when I preached at Brooks Memorial as a pulpit supply lay speaker, I had created a birthday gift and brought bubbles in flame colors (red, orange, yellow) and white for the Holy Spirit.  I resurrected that aspect of that day for yesterday's sermon "Get Fired Up!"

Below you will find the sermon text, though what is written is never exactly what is said, as things are edited and adapted during the service.

You will see a picture of two people wearing red.  Wearing red for Pentecost has become a tradition in many churches and I encourage folks to do it.  I wore red too, foregoing the robe.  I wore a red cross and some new flame earrings I got at the arts festival in Mentone over the weekend.

Carmen and Cathy at FUMC on Pentecost Sunday

Since yesterday was also Heritage Sunday, I'll include a link at the bottom for information on that.

I started off the day with a great view off my deck and a "Prayer to the Holy Spirit":

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

An additional celebration for me yesterday was getting to cheer on the Iron Man cyclists on our way into Flintstone yesterday morning.  I enjoy encouraging them on their ride.  There were some residents on the main road in St. Elmo shouting at motorists to take Tennessee Avenue.  For us, that isn't a choice.  We would still have to cross over at some point for us to get to Chattanooga Valley Road.  We gave the cyclists the space they needed and got off the road as soon as we could, taking the back road to the church.  The Iron Man is an awesome race and it is great to see so many participate.


“Get Fired Up!”
Acts 2:1-21(CEB)
May 20, 2018 (Pentecost, Heritage Sunday)
Flintstone UMC

1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” 12 They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” 13 Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”
14 Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! 15 These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16 Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young will see visions.
    Your elders will dream dreams.
18     Even upon my servants, men and women,

        I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
        and they will prophesy.
19 I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed into darkness,
    and the moon will be changed into blood,
        before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:28-32)

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  It is also Heritage Sunday and we celebrate 50 years in the United Methodist Church.  It is truly a day of celebrating the birth of the church!  To celebrate this special birth of the church, it has become a tradition for church goers to wear red on Pentecost.  [page 22 in The United Methodist Church Handbook“Therefore, go: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World” has a good time-line]

Today’s passage is a fairly lengthy one and we won’t be able to explore all of it.

Before we get started, we might need to look back to see what the background is for chapter 2.  What is the setting?  Who is there?  What is going on?  In Acts 1, we see that the risen Jesus is with the disciples and Jesus is instructing them on what to do next.  Jesus continues to teach the disciples and reminds them to be on the lookout for the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:3-5—“3After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:9-10 tells us about Jesus’ ascension, which we celebrated last week on Ascension Sunday. “After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them.

Acts 1:12-13 lets us know that they are in Jerusalem, in the upper room, the same room where the last supper was held. 

When we pick up in Acts 2, we now know who is waiting, where, and why. 

Now let’s look at our passage again.  Verses 1-4—“1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Imagine the apostles, in the upper room and a howling wind fills the space and they saw what seemed to be flames on top of each of them.  At the same time, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.  How would they have felt?  How would they have responded? 

This is the upper room where they had gone to get away after Jesus’ death. Jesus broke through the barriers of a locked door to get to them.  Now, Jesus has gone away for the final time and the promised helper, the Holy Spirit has come upon them. 

It wasn’t quiet nor something you could easily ignore.  Hear some of the phrases again: “Howling like a fierce wind”, “individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them”, “filled with the Holy Spirit”, “began to speak in other languages”.

This is going on in the house and it gets the attentions of others in Jerusalem who gathered around.  It was a loud noise.

Verses 5-6: “There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages.

This gift of languages here is one of known languages.  There is the gift of speaking in tongues, but that is a different gift and discussed elsewhere.  The languages here are known, yet the mystery is that there are people gathered from all over, yet they are able to understand the apostles speaking because they hear it in their native language.  The apostles didn’t speak those languages prior, but the power of the Holy Spirit upon them enabled them to communicate clearly to everyone as needed.

I will probably never forget the time I was with my French 3 students from Bryan College and I said something to one of them and she (Laurie Blanton) just looked at me funny.  She had been a missionary kid in a Middle Eastern country.  She finally said to me, you just spoke to me in Arabic.  I was blown away and confused. I didn’t know Arabic.  I knew a few terms because of Spanish, but nothing I could put together.  But she said I spoke to her in clear Arabic rather than French.  I had no clue.  Mystery.

The Holy Spirit enables us to communicate with others in ways that are meaningful to them, in their “language”, if you will.  It might take the form of a written word, a spoken word, a non-verbal communication, a number of things.  If we pay attention, we might be aware of a Holy Spirit encounter.  Sometimes, we might be the vessel, yet not even know it.  Verse 11—“we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”

Pentecost Sunday reminds us that the power of the Holy Spirit came down, it filled the room, the whole house with its presence. It enabled and empowered the followers of Jesus to be and do what they were called to do—to spread the word about Jesus Christ to all.  They made such a ruckus that folks thought they were drunk on wine.  Peter stood before the crowds to let them know that it was not wine, but rather the Holy Spirit that was the cause of the uproar.

These apostles were literally “fired up”.  They were lit up by the Holy Spirit and allowed the Spirit to flow into them and through them. This was the beginning of their ministry with the Holy Spirit as their guide and teacher.

What was the result?  If we read further down in Acts 2, verses 42-43: 42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.

The same Holy Spirit that descended upon the apostles is the same one that guides, directs, and comforts us.  The Holy Spirit continues to teach us today. 

Bishop Rueben Job of the UMC reminds us, “Through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost God in Christ became available to every believer.” (217, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God)

I imagine anyone who heard about or saw the sermon from the royal wedding would recognize that Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, was Spirit led.  I didn’t see it in real time, but after hearing about it, I checked it out. 

Two of his quotes that caught my attention:

“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.”

“There’s power in love.  Love can help and heal when nothing else can.”

When we sing, say, and pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”, do we mean it? 

Are we willing to pray “Come, Holy Spirit” and allow the Holy Spirit to freely move within us—to give us dreams and visions, to show us and guide us?

As we consider the Holy Spirit coming and moving in and amongst us, hear these words of exhortation from ancient church fathers:

“It is possible either to sustain and strengthen this burning of the spirit, or to quench it.” (188)

“Cast everything aside that might extinguish this small flame which is beginning to burn within you, and surround yourself with everything which can feed and fan it into a strong fire.” (188) (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

May the Holy Spirit come upon us and fire us up to live as followers of Christ, proclaiming the mighty works of God. 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Worship was a blessing yesterday.  The songs dove-tailed so well, like most Sundays. The Holy Spirit works well to orchestrate this.

Here are the songs from yesterday's service:

"Soul on Fire" by Third Day

"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" UMH 400
"Freely, Freely" UMH 389
"Spirit of the Living God" UMH 393

Here are some resource links:

Heritage Sunday UMC Resources-- from General Commission on Archives and History

Pentecost Sunday UMC Resources
On Fire!  Pentecost Worship
Pentecost 2018 Graphics and Resources

May this Pentecost season be a time when the Holy Spirit blows fresh wind through your world!

Blessings on your journey,


For some Pentecost humor, Kevin Frank's cartoon is pretty fun!

A day in Mentone for the Rhododendron Festival, May 2018

I have never been to the Rhododendron Festival in Mentone, AL before.  But since I learned that a new artist friend Donna Godwin was going to be there, some of her longer-time friends and I headed up to see her and check out the festival.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day.  And for me, it was good to be back at Brow Park.  Oddly, even though Riley and I have visited Mentone off and on, I forget to go over to Brow Park.

We ate lunch at Wildflower Cafe, my second time there.  This time we had entertainment. A gentleman with a guitar and tamborine toe-tappers.  I might add I was jealous of the tambourinne toe tappers.  He went around serenading all, even singing songs for the kids.

The festival had plants, food, art, photography, soaps, pottery, freshly roasted coffee, tie-dye, wood work, iron work, etc.  It wasn't too crowded and we ambled along, seeing the booths, smelling the aromas, and seeing the sights.

One of the aromas that got my attention was the coffee that was freshly roasted on site by Apison Creek Coffee Roasters.  I tasted a sample of the bold roast and the smooth flavor sold me on a bag.

After the festival we went over to Desoto Falls to check it out. There were folks enjoying the sun on the rocks up on the top part and folks below swimming in the big pool area.  There was a pontoon ride for 45 minutes for $15, but we didn't do that this time.  Hopefully they will be back another time.  It would be neat to go back up river without being the paddle power, as I was in my camper days.

We stopped at Miracle Pottery on our way down the mountain.

I experienced grace there.  A humbling moment of grace.  I had scoured the place for something to possibly buy, but couldn't find the right item. Then, I saw these tiny flower vases and I was going to get one for Charlie.  Charlie loves plants and flowers.  My hands got shaky with the one and only colored vase of the one I picked out and it dove to the concrete floor, chipping its rim.  I knew it now belonged to me, but the store keeper said it would go on the discount shelf, that I wasn't obligated to buy it.  Wow. Grace.  It should have been mine.  I should have had to pay for it. But I didn't.  That humbled me.  I went out to the car to check my blood sugar.  It wasn't dangerously low, but is was 115, low for me for a mid-afternoon.  I had a mint to raise it some.  I was willing to buy the chipped vase, but also glad to accept the grace extended to me in the moment to not have to buy it.

It isn't always easy to accept extended grace.  It is easier to extend it. However, receiving grace is as important as extending it.  I was humbled and blessed by that experience.

We checked out two more stores before getting on the Interstate to head back to Chattanooga.  Two antique stores.  One in Valley Head and one in Hammondville.

It was a great day of fellowship, fun, and overall peacefulness.

It was a day of enjoying the beauty of creation, art, and just being.

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hixson High School Art Program Won!

I am a proud parent today.

Not just today.

I am a proud parent quite a bit of the time.

Just this week a picture came up on my Facebook timeline reminding me of Mr. Milton Hershey from the 5th grade Ganns Middle Valley Elementary Wax Museum.  Wow!  Charlie did a great job of researching Mr. Hershey, preparing for that role, and even being a still wax figure on that day.

May 16, 2012
This Vans Custom Culture competition has been a huge deal.  To go from 500 to 50 to 5 was INCREDIBLE.

You can check out their website here or read my previous blogposts on it:

Art Competition-- VOTING begins Monday, April 23rd
Update on the Vans Shoes Art Competition-- Top 5!

Today was the day that the schools would find out who won the Grand Prize of $75,000.  Charlie and the other art kids wore their newly created tie-dye shirts and Vans gear to school today in celebration of the $10,000 winnings.  The school was celebrating the students and the art program and the accomplishment of being in the top 5.

Oh, the joy of hearing my kid's voice on the phone this morning when I returned a missed phone call.  Charlie could barely speak.  Charlie was so excited to tell me that they had won!  Hixson High won the grand prize, the $75,000.  Charlie told me it was pretty loud in the gym and I couldn't really be heard on the phone, but I was still able to express my congratulations to all the art kids and I heard Charlie tell the others, 'my Mom says congratulations!'

Photo by Doug Strickland, Times-Free Press, used with permission
And then I got to see some pictures and videos posted from teachers and the PTSA President at the school.  I saw my kid holding the check high in the air and jumping up and down in the live video, surrounded by the other art students who made this possible.  They were a team of 10.  They worked collaboratively on this project.  I am proud of all of them.

Photo taken by Matt McHenry, Hixson High Band Director
My heart overflows today.  These kids poured their beings into these shoes.

I am grateful to the teachers at Hixson High School, the administration, their fellow students, the community, friends and family (near and far).  There has been SO MUCH SUPPORT for these kids!

The art teachers have taken advantage of opportunities for these students and others to enter many contests this year.  Because of the space for creativity and the push to become better artists, many students have achieved accolades this year.  I am so glad the art program is now able to move forward in pursuing equipment on their dream list so that they can continue this great path.

My kid is a rising Senior and desires to pursue a higher education degree in art.  The exact path isn't known to me, but I have no doubt that this kid can continue learning and growing.

Charlie began art at an early age and was involved in KidZart in elementary school.  Then at Hixson Middle School, Charlie had a great art teacher, Michael Weger, who taught Charlie more skills and encouraged Charlie to enter contests.  Charlie won a prize through one of those contests. 

There have been a variety of genres taken up over the years: watercolors, sculptures, photography, drawings, mixed media, short film, and I'm probably leaving out something.

Way to go, Charlie!

Way to go, Hixson High art students!  Keep reaching out to do big things!  Pursue your dreams!

Way to go, Katie Claiborne!

Way to go, Vans!  (If you didn't support the arts like this, we wouldn't be celebrating today!)

To all who have poured into Charlie's life up to this point, whether you have been a caregiver, a coach, a relative, a friend, a teacher, a pastor, a choir director, etc! THANK YOU!  You are part of Charlie's success.

Check out the Vans Custom Culture Facebook page for their updates.

Here are some pictures of the winning shoes (in case you don't want to go back and read my other posts on them):

cave shoes, photo by art student Addison

Chattanooga shoes, photo by art student Addison

Have I mentioned how proud I am of my kid?

May your journey bring you some joy today!

An overwhelmed and proud Mom!

News reports/articles:

Times-Free Press  online article from May 17, 2018 with pictures
WRCB News Channel 3 Eyewitness News Facebook page from May 17, 2018
Fox Chattanooga News Article from April 23rd with May 17th update-- Something's Afoot