Monday, August 31, 2020

Life Instructions-- sermon from 8-30-20

Below you will find the transcript to this past week's sermon, the YouTube link and the Soundcloud audio link.  

I did something different this past week.  I had some thoughts on my heart that I wanted to share with the faith community, but it didn't feel appropriate to share during the sermon.  Therefore, I took about 4 minutes and sat on a stool prior to the sermon portion and shared.  That's not in the audio link or in the transcript.  It is only in the service.  

As pandemic days continue and we aren't physically open yet for worship, it is an ongoing challenge to connect with folks.  That responsibility belongs to all of us and I know that.  Yet, I feel the burden.  Then, we add the burden of sermons and services, mission and ministry, looking for ways to creatively hold outdoor worship, etc. And, then it's that time of year again when we get to fill out all kinds of paperwork for Charge Conferences.  I'm not sure where the time and energy for that will come, in honesty.  Yet, it is work that must be done.  It is part of the overall picture of mission and ministry, I know.

May there be something in this week's message that encourages you, challenges you, refills and energizes you.

Peace on your journey, 

Rev. Deb


“Life Instructions” 

Romans 12:9-21 (CEB)

August 30, 2020 (13th Sunday after Pentecost)

St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Romans 12:9-21 (CEB)

Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.





Today’s passage begins where last week’s ended.  We had learned about the spiritual gifts and how they are to be used for the one body.

As we look at today’s passage, we could get buried quickly in the LONG list of life instructions that we find here.

Life instructions.  How many are there in this passage?  According to my research there are 23 imperatives (commands, mandates) here.  That’s a long list of do’s and do not’s.

How do we approach this passage?

We can approach it in the context of our one body living in unity with one another.  As we do that, let’s see what we can take away from today’s passage.

As we approach it this way, we can also read it prayerfully, using the lectio divina method that we’ve talked about in the past.  Remember this method, “sacred reading” is a slower method of reading meant for the Scriptures to read us rather than us reading the Scriptures.  As we slow down for contemplation and meditation, we are more able to listen and therefore, open to transformation.

Using four R’s, we can approach the passage this way with lectio divina: read, reflect, rest, respond.

As you listened to the passage, which of the life instructions caught your attention?  Which of them speaks to you?

Allow yourself to think back for a moment.  Which of the life instructions can you relate to from a time in the past?  Do any of the life instructions that you hear today give you a cause for a pause?  As in, you are glad you responded in the way you did in a situation because now you are better and healthier for it?!?!

Last week we ended the service with the Mark Miller song, “Draw the Circle Wide”.  As I read through this passage, I couldn’t help but think of that song.  We are to love each other and consider everyone as equal (verses 10 and 16).  Verse 18 encourages us to live at peace with all people.

As a reminder, here are some of the lyrics:

Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. No

one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.


Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. Let this be our song: no one stands

alone. Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide.


Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. No

one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. Let this be our song: no one stands

alone. Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

What will it take for us to make sure that no one stands alone, that we continue to open the circle wide?  In order to live these imperatives that we hear today, it’s costly discipleship.  It costs us as we surrender ourselves, as we make self sacrifices in order to live as Christ teaches.

It’s also counter cultural.  But think back to how Jesus did things.  Wasn’t Jesus fairly counter cultural? Wasn’t his way of doing things fairly costly?

As we reflect on the guidance offered today to help us live a life of discipleship, hear some of these imperatives again.

As you hear this list of guidance, life instructions, see which one stands out to you today.  Write it down.  Follow through with an appropriate action step.


Love one another

Show honor

Be ardent in spirit

Serve the Lord

Be patient in suffering

Persevere in prayer

Contribute to the needs of the saints

Extend hospitality to strangers

Bless those who persecute you

Rejoice with those who rejoice

Weep with those who weep

Live in harmony with one another

Feed your enemies

Give them drink if they thirst

Overcome evil with good

Another way to look at this passage is to go back to verse 9 and to see everything through a filter of love, similar to 1 Corinthians 13. Everything in this passage can flow from what love is to be or not to be.  We know that God is love (1 John 4:8-- The person who doesn't love does not know God, because God is love) and our challenge is to live and love as God loves us. 

As we seek to be disciples of Christ who make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, may we live into the counter cultural way of being a Christ follower, seeking to love God and love others as ourselves.

May we be light and love, living out the life instructions given us.



I shared a prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes as I closed:

 Praying Romans 12.9-21

God, m
ay my love be genuine.
May I let go what is evil in me,
and open myself to what is good.
By your Spirit in me May I truly love others:
not just to tolerate them but to honor them. 
Give me your zeal, your energy, the true desire to serve you.
Give me the faith to rejoice with hope,
to be patient in suffering, and to persevere in prayer.
Help me take the opportunities I will have today
to contribute to the needs of those around me...
to extend hospitality to strangers...
to bless those who oppose me— to bless and not to curse them.  

I am mindful of those who rejoice, and I rejoice with them.
I am mindful of those who weep, and I weep with them.
May I be present for them today. 

Give me your grace to live this day in harmony with others. 
I do not need to pretend that I am wiser than I am.
Help me not to be haughty
but to know that the lowly are my peers. 

Give me grace to not repay evil for evil,
but to focus on what is good for the sake of all.
Give me grace to live peaceably with all.
Give me your grace to feed the hungry even if they oppose me,
to give drink to the thirsty even if I do not like them.

I pray that I will not be overcome by evil,
but that I may overcome evil with good,
by the grace of your love in me.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


YouTube Service

SoundCloud Audio

Wednesday, August 26, 2020



I haven't thought about Haiku in years.  I mean YEARS.   I remember reading about it and writing some for jr. high literature classes (middle school, it's called these days).  I could have touched on it before or after, but that's what sticks out to me.  It snuck up unexpectedly on me in a book that I recently read: A Listening Heart: The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness by Brother David Steindl-Rast.  The chapter entitled "Mirror of the Heart" mentions the Haiku and how it functions as a mirror and is a poem of awareness. (82)  It struck me that the Haiku is at its core, about silence (96).  Whether I learned that prior and had forgotten it or whether that was new to me, it was one of those "cause for a pause" moments.  The author writes: "The Haiku is a scaffold of words; what is being constructed is a poem of silence; and when it is ready, the poet gives a little kick, as it were, to the scaffold.  It tumbles, and silence alone stands." (96)

I didn't pay much attention to the Haiku as I read this book.  I took some notes and kept moving.  I ordered this book because it was quoted some in the beginning of the chapters in another book of his I had read: the way of silence: engaging the sacred in daily life.  That was my first introduction to this author and WOW!

As I finished A Listening Heart, I found that the Haiku was sneaking in on me.  I went back to the chapter and re-read about it.

I started listening to my surroundings.  As I have listened, it has opened up a space of grace within me that I didn't know was needed to open it.  I have shared the Haiku as an offering, often along with pictures that I have taken that inspire my thoughts.  Contemplative photography is one of my spiritual practices.  It now seems that the Haiku has added itself as a spiritual practice.

I now carry a composition book with me that is dedicated to my Haiku practice.

As I've just begun this journey, I don't have lots to share.

However, I will share what I have thus far.

I use  the app "textgram".  For the very first one, I used one of their backgrounds.  For the rest of them, the photographs are mine.

wind chimes playing song
water fountain flowing strong
breezes on my skin
DD, 8/18/20

crystal clear water
refreshes my feet and soul
creation time rocks
DD 8/20/20

(the word "rocks" here has a double meaning [double-entendre] as it can be a noun to describe the rocks in the water or it can be a verb for "creation time")

a path to follow
treasures to find on the way
snails, 'shrooms, views, flowers
DD, 8-23-20

Haiku opened space
Offering healing and grace
Adventure awaits
DD, 8-23-20

Bike rides on two wheels
Feeling the air on my skin
Freedom flows within
DD, 8-24-20

My other two wheels
You have been gone way too long
Joy and freedom missed
DD, 8-24-20

May there be creativity and fun on your journey, along with silence and spiritual practices that sneak up on you!

Rev. Deb

from the overlook at Keown Falls, 8-22-20

One Body-- sermon from 8-23-20

One body.

That was this past Sunday's sermon. 

A fitting follow up to "Unity".

Spiritual gifts (or "grace-gifts" from The Passion Translation) are mentioned in the passage.  Romans 12:1-8 is one of three passages that lists them.  

Because I live, love, and lead from a foundation of fun and play, Mr. Potato Head made his way into the sermon yesterday, as part of the discussion on how each of the parts are needed.

Below you will find the transcript, the YouTube link, and the SoundCloud audio link.

There was a weird "freeze up" during the premiere yesterday on FaceBook, but not on YouTube.  When the freeze stopped, the service started over.  We directed folks over to the YouTube site.  We haven't figured out yet what happened or if others experienced anything similar. [Since Sunday, I have written and spoken to others who had a similar "freeze" during FaceBook premiere, but I don't know the cause of it.] From those who were watching on YouTube at the time, it didn't seem to occur there.  Technology is wonderful, yet challenging.  


Rev. Deb

“One Body” 

Romans 12:1-8 (TPT)

August 23, 2020 (12th Sunday after Pentecost)

St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Romans 12:1-8 (TPT—The Passion Translation)

1Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship. Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem. In the human body there are many parts and organs, each with a unique function. And so it is in the body of Christ. For though we are many, we’ve all been mingled into one body in Christ. This means that we are all vitally joined to one another, with each contributing to the others. God’s marvelous grace imparts to each one of us varying gifts and ministries that are uniquely ours. So if God has given you the grace-gift of prophecy, you must activate your gift by using the proportion of faith you have to prophesy. If your grace-gift is serving, then thrive in serving others well. If you have the grace-gift of teaching, then be actively teaching and training others. If you have the grace-gift of encouragement, then use it often to encourage others. If you have the grace-gift of giving to meet the needs of others, then may you prosper in your generosity without any fanfare. If you have the gift of leadership, be passionate about your leadership. And if you have the gift of showing compassion, then flourish in your cheerful display of compassion.





Title comes from verse 5.  But let’s go back and start with verse 4—

 In the human body there are many parts and organs, each with a unique function. And so it is in the body of Christ. For though we are many, we’ve all been mingled into one body in Christ. This means that we are all vitally joined to one another, with each contributing to the others.

We are many parts and organs, each with a unique function.  One body.. Vitally joined to one another.

Who here is familiar with Mr. Potato Head?  (Now when I say “who here”, I know that I am the only one in this physical space, but what I mean is all y’all on YouTube or FaceBook.)  If you ever had or played with a Mr. Potato head, go ahead, type it in now.  Let us know. 

Here is my Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head suitcase.  Yes, suitcase.  Remember I am a retired language teacher.  This came in handy when we learned vocabulary for body parts.  Just as it does today when we are talking about the body of Christ and its many parts. 

We would not function properly without each member of the faith community living into their role in the body.  We help each other out and work together as needed.

Verse 6 says this—God’s marvelous grace imparts to each one of us varying gifts and ministries that are uniquely ours.”  

It goes on from the 2nd part of verse 6 to the end of today’s passage in verse 8 talking about grace-gifts and gifts.  What a great expression “grace-gift” is in The Passion Translation, as all gifts given are by grace and we receive them by grace equally. 

Before we look at the specific gifts, let’s talk about gifts in general.

Do you ever NOT open a gift given to you?  Think about it for a moment.  When someone gives you a gift, do you ever NOT open it?  You might be shy to open it in front of the giver, but most likely, you DO open it, right?!?!   Gifts are picked out specifically for another person based on their personalities, their likes, etc.  The giver enjoys giving as much as the receiver enjoys receiving.

That’s how it is with the gifts in today’s passage.  We are uniquely created and gifted.  The One who knows us best has given us gifts.  We are to use those gifts for the one body.

Let’s look at the gifts listed: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, compassion.

These gifts listed in today’s passage are not an exhaustive list of the gifts given.  There are other passages with gifts. 

You may be asking yourself at this point, ‘how do I know what my gifts are?’  Or you may be saying to yourself, ‘I don’t have any gifts… this isn’t for me.

Note: we all have gifts, whether we recognize them or not.  Here’s a couple of ways to find out what our gifts are:

1-   Ask folks who are close to you.  The people who know you best, who have observed you—they will know some of your more obvious gifts.  The grace-gift of encouragement tends to stand out.  If someone is an encourager, you can spot them.

2-   Take a spiritual gifts inventory.  There are short ones and there are long ones.  I am grateful to the Council members for taking a rather lengthy one several months back so I could learn what their gifts are.  In the process, we learned that we are a well-rounded group of leaders in our giftedness.  There is more for us to explore, as there always is with any topic.  Our Disciple’s Path class that started in January and just recently ended in July also took a a spiritual gifts inventory.  (I’ve mentioned spiritual gift inventories in the past and posted links on our FB pages.  I will post again.)

The purpose of spiritual gifts is found in Ephesians 4:12-13: “12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.”

As we learn and live into our grace gifts, our spiritual gifts, then we as the entire body of Christ can more effectively live into the mission and ministry we are called to be and do. 

You may not be aware, but we have areas in the faith community that need the grace-gifts of the body: technology (there are many aspects), youth, children, finance, etc., etc., etc. 

I invite you to learn what your spiritual gifts are and then begin to explore where you best can serve in mission and ministry based on those gifts.

If you wondered how your gifts could fit into an area of leadership, I put together a sheet connecting those details.  For example, for someone that has the grace gift of encouragement that is listed in today’s passage, here is where they could plug into the faith community: Nominations/Leader Development; SPRC; Finance; Nurture, Outreach, Witness; Age-Level/Family Ministries; Children's Ministries; Youth Ministries; Young Adult; Adult; Older Adult; Family; Camp & Retreat; Campus; Christian Unity & Interreligious Relationships; Church Media Resources

We must all figure out what our function is and live into it so that we are able to effectively function as one body.

It is important that we remember that we are one body with many parts and that we are all gifted.  Even if we haven’t begun to live into our giftedness, it isn’t too late.

The renown poet Mary Oliver passed away at age 83.  She had a gift of being able to speak into lives with her words through her poetry.  In her poem, “The Summer Day”, a line that has spoken to many is the final line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

We each have something to contribute, a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit, for the common good of community.

As we contemplate our gifts and how we might use them for the good of the kingdom and the glory of God, hear this short Mary Oliver poem entitled “The Gift”. 

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.

Earth and heaven both are still watching

though time is draining from the clock

and your walk, that was confident and quick,

has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let

the heart still play its true part.

Love still as once you loved, deeply

and without patience.  Let God and the world

know you are grateful.

That the gift has been given.


May the Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to know our gift, to grow as mature believers, sharing the gifts given to us, so that together we can live effectively as one body.

May we grow as disciples of Christ so that we can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.




Monday, August 17, 2020

Unity-- sermon from 8/16/20

Unity.  That was the theme that came out of the passage for me for this past week.  I had been given a carved nut several weeks earlier and that carved nut became part of the shared message.  Each week the services come together with the musicians and the technology, though we are not yet together in person.  It continues to encourage me as I am reminded that the Holy Spirit guides us in this endeavor.

Below you will find the transcript for the sermon and links to the YouTube service (in its entirety) and the SoundCloud audio.  

Maybe there is something for you in this week's message.

On a side note, I felt like I had fumbled fairly badly in my recording this week.  I stumbled and fumbled over pronouncing "charism" in the Psalm Prayer.  I also got ahead (or behind) in my reading of the Charles Wesley hymn and became silent for almost an entire minute.  For anyone else, I can and do offer grace.  For me, I can be pretty hard on myself.  I am still learning that I, too, am worthy of grace.  Yeah, I know, that seems odd.  But, any of us can forget that we need to apply what we offer to others to ourselves.  I know I'm not the only one in that boat.  Don't even try to tell me that there are not folks who also extend grace extensively to others, yet hold back on themselves.  I know better.  I also know that we are all works in progress. That's why it's called GRACE. :)

May grace be real to you. May unity be a reality too.

Rev. Deb



Psalm 133 (CEB)

August 16, 2020 (11th Sunday after Pentecost)

St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Psalm 133 (CEB)

1 Look at how good and pleasing it is
    when families live together as one!
It is like expensive oil poured over the head,
    running down onto the beard—
        Aaron’s beard!—
    which extended over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew on Mount Hermon
    streaming down onto the mountains of Zion,
    because it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing:
        everlasting life.





Today’s passage is a short one—three verses.  Today’s title comes from verse 1—“Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one!”

We aren’t able to live together fully in person right now, but we can still worship together, connect with one another, make visits (socially distanced), write to one another or call… we are still one. 

The word “one” here is translated in other verses as “unity” and that’s where the title originates for today’s sermon.

In the NIV, we read: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

 Picking up on the word “unity” from this and several of the versions, let’s take a look at what it means to live in unity.  Let’s look at the word “community”. 

I could use the phrase “unity in community” since the word “unity” is literally within the word “community”.  What does it mean for us to have unity in community?

If we break down the word “community” into the prefix and suffix, then we have “comm.” that means “with” “together” and “unity” meaning “one”.  The meaning comes out the same, doesn’t it?!?  We can now see how the CEB translated the phrase “together as one”

In one commentary I read this week, it spoke about how living in unity meant having ‘one heart, one soul, one interest’.

Though we may not always have the exact interests as a faith community, one thing that makes us unique is our inclusiveness of all people.  This unity in the faith community not only helps us stay connected to one another, but it also provides hope. 

Paul Chilcote and Steve Harper recently published a book on Living Hope: An Inclusive Vision of the Future.  They see it as a trilogy, a third book to Chilcote’s Active Faith and Harper’s Holy Love.  In the prologue they write: “Our common hope has been for the church to rediscover what faithfulness and unity mean for a time such as this.” (ix-x)

There are two other instances in which “unity” is mentioned in the context of hope.  What I got out of that is that we are able to share hope with one another more effectively when we are living as one. 

Here are the two quotes so you can reflect on them for yourself: “The Bible offers a vision of living hope rooted in the establishment and maintenance of right relationships—completeness, unity, and harmony between everyone and everything.” (3)

“Scholars have viewed these three words [faith, hope, love] as a unity, with love being supreme, giving faith its fire and light to hope.” (12)

One of the things we have done this past week as a church to help us connect, to help us live together as one, and to help us share hope with one another is to hand out yard signs that say: “Sending Love to You!  You are the salt of the earth… Matthew 5:13.  In the middle of those two sayings is a heart with the church’s logo and name.  I want to thank David Howard for his graphic design.  Thanks to our Outreach Team, our Worship Team, and a donation, we were able to get these signs.  As the letter that accompanies the signs say, they are a hug.  We realize that not all people live in places that can have signs, and we’re still in the process of getting the signs out.  In fact, we’re still in the process of cleaning up our database and this has helped.  That’s why we have asked for updates in the announcements.  If we’ve missed you and you’d like a sign, reach out.  We’ll get one to you.  This is just one way we can share hope with one another and show that we are a community, working together in mission and ministry to be the love and light of Christ, even in these ongoing different and difficult days.

As we look at the remaining two verses, we see the analogy of what living in unity is like.  It is like expensive oil poured out over the head that runs onto the beard.  Not just any beard, but Aaron’s beard, a beard long enough to go over the collar of the robe.  Aaron was one of Moses’ right hand men, literally.  When Moses was too tired to hold up his arms, Aaron was there to hold one side for him. 

Imagine oil pouring over the head and onto the beard.  Imagine that oil being soft, silky, and smelling good.  That is how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one.

The last verse, verse 3 has another analogy. This time the liquid is not oil, but dew.  There is so much dew, though, that it is streaming down the mountains.  That is quite a bit of dew.

I’ve been hiking lately and there hasn’t been much of anything streaming down the mountains on the trails I’ve been to.  Falling Water Falls was barely a trickle going over the rock.  Imagine a dew so thick that it is streaming down the mountains.  Now, remember that this analogy (like the first one) is to show how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one.

There is abundant and overflowing life when we live in unity in community… in our faith community, in the larger community.  I have this carved nut (yes it’s a nut) to remind me to strive for unity.

Unity is my heart’s desire for us here at St. Elmo UMC, as a faith community, for our leadership, for our entire community.  Out of that unity will flow abundant life, hope, healing, transformation, love, and light to and for others. 

What is your part in us becoming a community that lives into unity?  What are you doing to strengthen the community?

What actions will you take to ensure that we are connected, growing, and healing?

If you aren’t sure where to start?  Start with yourself.  How will you ensure that you are connected, growing, and healing? 

Jerry Webber, a leader at a church in Houston, TX, and a faculty member for the Academy for Spiritual Formation wrote a Psalm Prayer for Psalm 133 in Sometimes an Unknown Path, pages 50-51

When Your people journey together, God,

     we each travel at our own pace,

     yet we somehow travel together

How beautiful it is, how healing,

     when we extend love and generosity to one another,

     when we acknowledge Your charism in our sisters and brothers,

     the young and the old,

     pure gift, all grace.

Like when we climb a steep mountain trail,

     slowly ascending switchback after switchback,

     then reach the summit and look out over the landscape,

     pure gift, all grace.

Like when we sit quietly outdoors at the end of work and traffic,

     gazing at the western sky that blazes

     in violets and pins and fiery oranges,

     pure gift, all grace.

Like the friend who comes to our side when everyone else has scattered,

     content to offer her presence

     when we are at the end of ourselves,

     pure gift, all grace.

Or like the beauty of Your holiness

     worked deeply into the fabric of a life that has hit the bottom,

     the beautiful unveiling of a brother

     growing to be the person You created him to be,

     pure gift, all grace.

So we offer You our deepest thanks.

May our lives together be a sign of Your love to all the world,

     a sign that people who give themselves to You

     can live together in harmony and peace.


Mother Teresa took Cardinal John Henry Newman’s poem “Radiating Christ” and changed the first person singular to the plural so that it could be prayed in community. I learned about her “Fragrance Prayer” in the book Living Hope by Paul Chilcote and Steve Harper that I read this week.

As a way of our faith community continuing to live in unity and live into the living hope that Christ offers us, would you join me in praying this prayer as I close?

“Fragrance Prayer” (Mother Teresa)

Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go.

Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life.

Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly

   that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through us and be so in us

   that every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our souls.

Let them look up, and see no longer us, but only Jesus!

Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine,

   so to shine as to be a light to others.

The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours.

It will be You, shining on others through us.

Let us thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around us.

Let us preach You without preaching, not by words but by example,

   by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,

   the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for You. Amen.


(Original single form by CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN)


YouTube Service

SoundCloud Audio

Monday, August 10, 2020

A Battered Boat-- sermon from 8-9-20

Yesterday's sermon was "A Battered Boat" from Matthew 14:22-33.  I realize that the topic of walking on water could have been preached or even something about Jesus making time to get away from it all after mission and ministry to pray.  There are other themes in this passage as well. However, when I read through the Scriptures over a month ago and reflected, it was the battered boat from verse 24 that struck me.  

Like many folks, life has had its challenges, on many levels.

But Friday night, the sermon really hit home for me.

I went into the kitchen to plug in my phone for the night.  Cliff (our sweet dog) and Charlie (our son) were in the living room.  I decided to turn off all the lights as I headed back to the bedroom.  With my water bottle in hand, I head out of the kitchen and into the dining room.  The next thing I knew was that I tripped over Cliff (who had not previously been there) and was flying through the air toward the corner.  I landed on my knees on the hard wood floors with a loud bang.  I didn't move for a while.  I wondered about my prosthetic in my left leg/hip area.  I felt stuck to the floor.  I was finally able to turn over to sit up and Charlie lifted me up.  I was able to walk, stiffly.  My left knee was more skinned up than my right one.  I iced both knees that night.  I hiked on Saturday, gentle hikes.  My left knee swelled up some and then yesterday my right hip began hurting.  Evidently that hard fall did more damage that I realized.  Though I am due for a 2nd hip replacement on the right side, I am hoping to hold off a tad longer.  A song I mention in the sermon is "The Anchor Holds".  The refrain has these lyrics "I fall down on my knees".  Really!?!?!  Now, I realize that this falling down on one's knees is to be in prayer.  However, I tend to do things differently.  I fell down on my knees, for sure.  I experienced a physical battering of this vessel.

There were some other layers to me experiencing skinned knees and the pain that it caused Friday night that struck me unexpectedly.  I will only say here that it continues to amaze me when I walk the path with others, I sometimes really walk the path.  

I made a mistake in the Order of Worship for yesterday, leaving off the prelude.  It was a beautiful prelude and can be heard/seen in the YouTube video.

As I reflected on the theme of battered boats over the week, I thought about the boats I once saw on the shore of the beach at New Smyrna Beach one summer.  They were tiny little boats that has washed ashore.  One didn't know if the passengers had been picked up by the Coast Guard or if they had made it to shore.  But there were several boats along the shore that year we visited the beach.  What a difficult journey that was for those folks.  That makes me think of the song "navegue con amor" by Jose LaTour.

That's enough rabbit trails and randomness for one post.  Below you will find the transcript of the sermon and links for the YouTube service and SoundCloud audio.

Peace and adventures, 

Rev. Deb


“A Battered Boat” 

Matthew 14:22-33 (CEB)

August 9, 2020 (10th Sunday after Pentecost)

St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Matthew 14:22-33 (CEB)

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”





A battered boat.  The title comes from verse 24: “Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land.”

Do you ever feel battered? I mean emotionally, spiritually, by life’s circumstances?

That word can be triggering, I recognize…. As there can be physical battering, along with emotional abuse by a person.  If you are experiencing this type of battering, abuse, call the Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults hotline at 423-755-2700.

There is freedom and healing from all aspects of battering.

We will look more at the concept of the battered boat, but let’s go back and put the passage into context.

What happened directly prior to today’s reading is that the crowd of hungry folks were fed by Jesus and the disciples, with the 5 loaves of bread and two fish.  After everyone had been fed and the leftovers collected, we see Jesus making the disciples go ahead of him to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowd.

Note what Jesus did.  He went up onto a mountain to pray by himself.  Time apart.  Refilling time.  As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, how is our time apart?  Our time of getting alone, going to the mountain (or wherever it may be) and spending time in prayerful communication?

Notice that while Jesus was having his time apart, his prayer time, all hell was breaking out with the disciples and the boat (from verse 24, where the title originated).

Even so, Jesus waited until morning and walked out on the lake to the disciples in the boat.  They were terrified when they saw him (v. 26)  The last part of the verse says that they were so frightened they screamed.

Jesus responds the same way he does any time someone shows fear around him. He encourages them to not be afraid.  I seriously get a kick out of this.  Whether he’s busting in through a locked door or walking across the water, Jesus tells frightened folks to “be not afraid”.  I’m not so sure that encouragement, that exhortation works fully in a moment of panic and fear.  But I am tempted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and try that next time I’m in a situation with folks who are afraid.

Battered…. illnesses, broken bones, COVID-19, loneliness, the past, etc.  What IS it that batters you? 

No matter what batters us, we are not alone.  We have connections.  A few weeks ago when I was down at the Riverpoint at the Riverwalk, I took pictures of the spider web playground.  They caught my attention that day.  They reminded me that we are connected and we all have a spider web of connections to hold us together when we are tired, coming apart, etc.

Another way to think about getting through difficult times it to remember that “The anchor holds”  Are you familiar with this song?  It was originally written by Lawrence Chewning and has been performed by several others, including Ray Boltz.

Here are the lyrics:

I have journeyed 

Through the long, dark night 
Out on the open sea 

By faith alone 
Sight unknown 
And yet His eyes were watching me 

The anchor holds 
Though the ship is battered 
The anchor holds 
Though the sails are torn 

I have fallen on my knees 
As I faced the raging seas 
The anchor holds 
In spite of the storm 

I've had visions 
I've had dreams 
I've even held them in my hand

But I never knew 
They would slip right through 
Like they were only grains of sand 

The anchor holds 
Though the ship is battered 
The anchor holds 
Though the sails are torn 

I have fallen on my knees 
As I faced the raging seas 
The anchor holds 
In spite of the storm 

I have been young 
But I am older now 
And there has been beauty 
That these eyes have seen 

But it was in the night 
Through the storms of my life 
Oh, that's where God proved 
His love to me 

The anchor holds 
Though the ship is battered 
The anchor holds 
Though the sails are torn 

I have fallen on my knees 
As I faced the raging seas 
The anchor holds 
In spite of the storm

Today’s passage has so much more we could discuss…. Walking on water…. Being afraid of seeing Jesus in an unexpected place… Jesus not coming to in the moment of our need (as we see it)…. Making time for that time apart and making it a priority NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS CALLING FOR OUR ATTENTION.

As you read today’s passage, what stands out to you?  Where do you find yourself in the passage?  What speaks most to you?

As I have focused today on the “battered boat”, know that I believe that it is possible for the boat to be repaired; just as it is possible to us to receive healing and to grow and to go through transformation…. NO MATTER WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN OUR LIVES OR NO MATTER WHAT IS HAPPENING CURRENTLY.

Healing comes through grace and love.  Remember the word “sozo” that I’ve mentioned in the past?  Remember that it means both “healing” and “salvation”?  Therefore, not only does healing come through grace and love, but salvation also comes through grace and love.  The Holy Spirit works in us, as we are open and willing, on this ongoing journey of transformation.

Whatever storms you are facing, remember that you are not alone.  Reach out to someone.  We are in this together.



YouTube Video:

SoundCloud Audio