Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year


Every year about this time, we come across a time of new beginnings. For those of us who have lived through a few of these new years, we tend to view them with less and less awe and excitement, and more and more world-weariness and boredom. We have been through quite a few years of resolutions in which we have failed. It seems almost that this ritual is mocking us.

The history of the New Year and its resolution-making is found in early Roman mythology in which the head of Janus, a mythical King, was placed at the head of the calendar year. Janus was a two-faced figure with one face looking back at the old year, and the other face looking toward the new. It was symbolic of our need to reflect on the events of the past in order to ‘fine-tune’ our future. What didn’t work? What went well? The first month of the calendar year was named after him – January. Of course, January 1 is not the new year for all cultures and beliefs. For Christians it is the season of Lent with its beginning on Ash Wednesday that encourages us to spend time in reflection, honing and fine-tuning our Christian walk. However, as Americans, January is certainly the beginning of the calendar year, and the beginning of January heralds a fresh slate if you will.

If you are very artistic and like to paint or draw, or even if you like to write, there is nothing more intimidating than a blank page. The freshness of the page lends to wanting to put something on it that has excellence ascribed to it. It seems sometimes that staring at the blankness of the page tends to blank out my imagination and creativity as well. If I am writing I must begin with something, even if it is garbage, before my creativity can truly flow. So, I plow fearlessly into that fresh white page with a bit of irreverence in my case, so I can eventually work toward something worth writing or painting.

We must tackle the new year the same way – by plowing right into it. Not with the anxiety that any resolution we make is doomed for failure, or with the false sense of expectation that we can set unrealistic goals and meet them, simply because we want to, but rather with the expectation that we have a fresh new year in which to fine-tune our future. What worked or went well last year? What did not? What did you not accomplish that you would like to work toward? How can you set realistic goals to attain these accomplishments?

As a pastor, I hope that a renewed sense of faith, commitment to God and congregation, as well as a purposeful spiritual growth is included in your reflections for the new year. May each of you have joy, wisdom, health, wholeness, faith, hope and love for your new year to come.

Grace and peace for the New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Service


This is the service for Christmas Eve until Communion. Scripture readers were Tim, Jean, Kaleb, Tanner, Ashley, Kent, and Jerri. Special music was by Raylene and Brent, Chelsea, and Jenna.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Blessings!



I would like to wish you and yours all the joy that comes with the celebration of Christ's birth.


I wish you joy and happiness, laughter and family, and love that lasts forever.
If for whatever reason these blessings seem to be elusive for you this year, I pray that you will have peace and comfort in your struggles, and feel the presence of God in your sorrow. I pray that you will have all hope and faith that your troubles might be brief and that joy comes with the morning. Blessings and prayers to you and yours.

Rev. Sonja

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Promise Fulfilled



Sermon on the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2008, on the Scripture reading for Luke 1:26-31. The opening song, "Mary Did You Know" is sung by Miss Jenna Hendrix.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thoughts on Solitude

I saw this elsewhere and I thought I would share this with you today.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spoke too soon...

Okay, so I am having more difficulty than I have time to deal with at the present. I will try to switch my blog over to my own domain after the holidays.

SUCCESS!!!!

I have had a hard time getting this transferred, but it is finally complete. My new url is revsonja.com. I hope this hasn't been too inconvenient if you follow me regularly. I am still not certain about changing my information on the blog rolls I am on, but I will try to get that accomplished as soon as possible. Anyway, have a blessed Wednesday!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Feedback on New Layout

I have changed the colors, etc. on my blog (as you may have guessed if you are reading this on the page as opposed to a reader service.) Please leave feedback on what you think. I'd appreciate the constructive criticism or affirmations. Blessings.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Advent Musings

We come to a paradoxical time of year. It is the time of year in which we celebrate the birth of the child born to poor parents with no roof over their head in which to bring their child into the world but a borrowed barn, and we celebrate this child born into poverty by spending inordinate amounts of money on things no one needs. Okay, occasionally a present someone needs slips in by some unsuspecting husband, but he will soon be set straight.

We rationalize this extravagant gift giving by saying that the child born in poverty was brought gold, frankincense and myrrh by the wealthy elite of a foreign land. Or, we rationalize that we buy extravagant gifts to represent the richness we find in our salvation, the extravagant gift God gave in Jesus, etc. The fact of the matter is, we buy extravagant gifts for a multitude of reasons and very few relate to our Christianity, if any do at all.

This time of year, even the non-believers in Christ get in on extravagant gift giving and become stressed over getting this person or that person just the perfect gift, or if not a perfect gift, one that will make them look good. This also applies for believers as well, as I do not have any intention of being discriminatory of my criticisms of the commercialization of a holiday originally begun to celebrate the birth of a poor child.

I would like to say at this point that I do not, in any way, mean to imply that I am so righteous that I do not fall into the exact same pattern that many other people conform to as we pass from Thanksgiving to New Year. I do. But I also recognize that I do this and as such do not attempt to rationalize why. I purchase extravagant gifts this time of year because it is the one time of year I can spoil my family with the solid excuse of "but everyone else is doing it."

In spite of, or maybe because of, our unity in our insistence on continuing this practice of extravagant giving, I would like to bring to mind the reason why we come to this time of year - to celebrate the birth of a child born in poverty. A child who grew up, not as royalty and not with privilege, but a child who grew in a modest, but loving and devout home. We celebrate the holiday of a child who grew up to wander from town to town bringing a message of hope in a time of oppression and persecution, a time in which wrongs needed to be righted and the world-norms needed to be turned up-side down, or rather right-side up - a time not unlike the times we find ourselves in right now.

For me, I plan to celebrate, commemorate, remember this child of poverty by adopting another child of poverty. No, I do not plan to adopt a child that will be living in my household, (no worries sweetie, no diapers), but one that lives in poverty daily. I am looking at possibly adopting a child, at least for Christmas, and possibly for the entire year. I have not yet decided exactly how I will go about this or what, if any, organizations I may support through this endeavor, but I feel led to do this to not only count my blessings, but to share those blessings with someone other than those in my immediate family.

In this way, I can remember the reason we celebrate our blessings with our family, the child born so long ago. By helping another child in poverty, I can respect the child who was born in poverty to bring us richness of spirit and abundance of life. I would challenge you to find some way meaningful for you that helps you remember the child of Bethlehem; some way to move outside of yourself and the extravagant spending for those who do not need. Celebrate the baby born in a manager this season.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Okay, so....I cannot handle too much excitement

I sent out an email that said I was being ordained May 27, 2008, and on my blog I posted that I was being ordained November 27, 2009. Neither of these dates are correct, and obviously my excited brain was not in control of my fingers or vice versa. My ordination date is MAY 27, 2009 at 7 p.m. at St. Luke's UMC in OKC. (I just double-checked with my calendar and yes, this is the correct date.) I apologize for any confusion. Thanks for all the congratulatory wishes and remarks. Blessings to you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanks for the Prayers

I have been officially approved for ordination by the Board of Ordained Ministry. After approval of the conference I will be ordained on Wednesday, November 27, 2009 at 7 p.m. at St. Luke's UMC. YEAH!!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

All Prayers are Appreciated!

I will be meeting with the Board of Ordained Ministry on Monday, December 1, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. All prayers are appreciated as I continue on in this journey toward ordination.

Where are You God?



Sermon on November 30, 2008, First Sunday of Advent, based on the text Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Christmas Lament

As I was looking over the General Board of Global Ministries web page for worship resources, I found a link for a song called A Christmas Lament. I found the words of the song very sad, a sad commentary on the state of our lives and our souls. The song was written by Dean McIntyre, and it is set to the tune St. Louis, which is "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
A Christmas Lament
I cannot welcome Jesus now, there isn't time enough;
with greens to hang and lights to string and other Christmas stuff.
There's gifts to buy and food to fix, and silverware to buff;
I cannot welcome Jesus now, there isn't time enough.

I have to take the children to see Santa at the mall.
There's Christmas cards to write and mail and guest lists I must call.
The garland isn't long enough, the Christmas tree's too tall!
I cannot welcome Jesus now, I just can't do it all.

The children's Christmas pageant at the church this Sunday night,
five dozen cookies to be baked, and costumes sewn just right;
the office party gift exchange, expenses out of sight.
I cannot welcome Jesus now, with time and budget tight.

The sermon says that Advent is the time I should prepare.
My datebook says it's Christmas Day, and I don't even care.
I kept so busy doing things, I never was aware,
that Jesus came unnoticed, for I had no time to spare.
I hope this speaks to you as it spoke to me. Time now to prepare for the Advent season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old Wounds

Six and a half years ago I crushed my ankle in a car accident. Along with that particular injury, I had a broken arm, elbow and leg. The ankle, however, was a doozie! It always looks like I have a softball on the end of my leg. Sometimes the softball is more baseball sized on my better days, but generally by the end of the day, it is approximately softball sized. After six years of this, it has gotten used to me. I say it this way, because I didn't have any plans to slow down to accommodate my ankle any more than absolutely necessary. Of course, I did have to make some minor adjustments to my life.

The first adjustment is that I function much better on even surfaces than anything uneven or unpredictable. I hate gravel and holes in the grass. You see, I do not have what my doctor called "four-wheel drive." My ankle can move up and down, but not side to side. It is the side to side motion that helps us keep our balance on uneven surfaces. Hiking and climbing are off my hobby list, but overall, I still do what I want, with one exception...climbing up to the cross at Canyon Camp.

Canyon Camp is the United Methodist Camp location I attend most frequently. It has a lighted cross sitting on the cliff of the canyon wall, and there is a relatively easy path to get there...if you have two good feet. If not, not so easy. I really didn't make it a necessity to hike up the canyon to get to the cross when I did have two good feet, and when I did make the effort, I certainly didn't appreciate the ability to be able to go the cross. But that is how it is with life. They say you don't know what you have until it's gone.

In less than six months following the accident I was released from rehab. I managed to put on decent shoes about two years out, and after four years I quit crying at near misses in traffic. So, after six years I have times that I do too much on my feet and my ankle swells, but generally it never stops me from doing anything I want to. (Yes, I am stubborn.) However, fear...fear stops me from doing a lot of things.

Fear stopped me from walking from the lodge to the dining hall. I would drive down there. Of course, it wasn't only fear that stopped me from walking to the dining hall, the road there was extremely uneven and covered in gravel. Time was also a factor. I could get there, but it would take four times as long and I would have no energy to eat once I got there. There is no way I could have gotten myself back after that. So practically speaking, driving was better for a while. Pretty soon, I got a little better at adapting to uneven surfaces, and a little quicker. I still walk with my head down watching every step I take to make sure I do not step on something that will send me down to the ground. It is really easy to walk into things this way, so I try to take company with me so they can watch where we are going. (This is no joke.)

Fear stopped me from participating in things that I did before the accident. Things like standing on my feet for long hours, like you do working camp. I know we get to sit down at camp, maybe for 15 minutes. Even the hour we may be in small group, we are playing games, etc., we are not sitting down. So, camp wore me out as well. Exhaustion is part of the problem. Even if I could gather enough gumption to do some of these things, the effort it would take for me to do some of it would be at least twice as much for someone without the injury. And something like camp can completely exhaust a healthy person.

After some time had passed to heal, I did start working camp again, and I did start walking down to the dining hall if I needed to. I still use my car frequently because I am no good if I am too busy proving I am super woman and forgetting that a week in the canyon is a marathon not a sprint. I have learned to pace myself.

Fear kept me from attempting the climb to the cross. I really didn't even think about it much until recently. Recently I started thinking of all the things I could do, like walking to the dining hall and working camp, so I decided I needed to tackle that hill to the cross.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words of Gratitude

In thinking about Thanksgiving, I remember a time in which I reflected on my gratitude or thankfulness. This was a significant turning point in my journey into ministry. I am grateful for the opportunity for this moment of growth.

Early in my journey toward ordination, I was on staff at a church in Oklahoma City and was asked to speak in the morning worship service. Topic: Words of Gratitude. At this point in my journey, I had just made a career change from paralegal to Director of Children and Youth. Up until this point the only time I had spoken in front of a church was to make an announcement about some such something or another that was going on, children's moments on occasion, and I had been asked to be one of the speakers on laity Sunday to give a testimony on my faith journey. My home church attendance averaged around 120; the church at which I was on staff, about 450. My home church - friends, family, etc.; the other church, I probably would have never met the people there if I didn't work there. Home church, not on television; other church televised. Needless to say, I wasn't really sure how to go about getting over my nerves in order to be able to speak, much less on "Words of Gratitude."

Words of Gratitude, I felt the topic was a bit ambiguous. When the Senior Pastor asked me to do this, I didn't really know why or what he wanted. Was it simply for me to express my gratitude to those in my life to whom I was grateful, or did he have some specific thought in mind related to something he wanted to accomplish in the church? Generally speaking, it would be the latter as he always had a motive for most things he did, but he would not elaborate further. So I generally do what I always do in situations where I am not really certain about what is wanted and further information is not forthcoming, I just plowed right through.

Since the church knew I was on a journey toward ordination when I accepted the position there, I began to think about what I was thankful for in this regard. I expressed gratitude to my parents for raising me in a Christian home. I was grateful to my denomination of origin, because although I did not have a voice in that denomination, they still gave me a foundation in faith from which to grow in faith and hear God's calling. I was grateful to my denomination of choice which gave me a voice and the ability to follow God's calling. I was grateful to my home church which sent me forth on this journey with a blessing, and I was grateful to my new church home who welcomed me and enabled me to grow.

To this day, I do not know if this was what he was wanting, as he never said a word to me about it afterward. He was funny like that. I suppose since he wasn't upset, then it must have been okay.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Middle of the Week Thoughts

Since my return from the 5 Day Academy for Spiritual Formation, I have been diligently working on Advent planning, as it seems to be just around the corner. I took a moment off to do a couple of other things, but Advent planning seems to be the order for the week.

I tend to not be able to work on these things at the office. Things like sermon planning or worship planning, I need to be in a certain environment with fewer interruptions. You may be curious about what environment is necessary for such planning and inspiration to take place. Well, it is in bed, with my laptop on my...well, lap...and a pot of coffee near and a cup of coffee nearer. That is perfect....now I can spread all my books out all over the bed (king size) and contemplate the flow of of the season and then the flow of each Sunday. My family knows this is focus time and so makes certain that this time is as uninterrupted as possible.

Does that mean that nothing happens when I am in such a mode of planning? Not at all, but I must realize that in order for things to happen, I must occasionally recluse myself from the rest of life to think, to contemplate, to pray, to meditate, to plan. I am at a great location and the majority of my congregation understands this need for this time, thankfully! This isn't a time like last week, in which I needed time to renew my spirits and refresh my soul, which is also time I need to pull away from day-to-day life and spend some time apart...just me and God. (In the case of last week...and the 65 other people pulling away to spend time with just them and God. This is why silence is important!)

We are given biblical examples in which we need to come away from the rest of the world to pray and to spend time listening to God. Time we need to refresh and renew ourselves, body-mind-spirit. But we tend to like to be busy people. I have given great thought as to why.

When I was younger, I went through a divorce. My husband left me and an infant. I was devastated. I was more devastated by his absence at such a time (with a newborn) than the reason he left (for another woman.) I was lonely. So, I filled my time, and I continued to fill my time. I talked on the phone constantly, and when one friend got tired of talking, I hung up and dialed the next one. I filled all the empty time and quiet places with activity and noise, so I didn't have to think or hear my own heart break.

When I was finally faced with time absolutely alone, no children, no pets, no one else there and it was just me and God in that house that day, I ranted and raved, angry at the God who lived just past the ceiling. If you had walked into my house that day, you would have immediately committed me to the nearest mental institution, because I did not have any semblance of sanity. I was angry, and I hated the emotion of anger, so I stuffed it until it erupted. It erupted someplace safe, when I was alone and directed at God, but many people do not deal with their anger or hurt or sorrow and so when it erupts, it erupts as lashing out at others. This is as harmful as stuffing it down until it hurts us with physical issues, or emotional ones, but we so fear the intensity of the anger within us!

Now, my anger at God eventually gave way to sobbing on God's big, divine shoulder and God cradled me and held me close and kept me safe until I was able to deal with the life I had. I think it is really important to be able to have those times of silence to give way to the tears as well. Tears we would never possibly express to another living soul. Tears that may spring up at all the wrong times, in all the wrong places, to all the wrong people. For me, tears are therapeutic, but only if I feel safe when I am crying.

As I was sitting during one of our many times of silence last week, the revelation that crossed my heart and mind was that noise covers a multitude of sins. We don't hear that still small voice, we don't want to hear that still small voice, so much so we put our fingers in the ears of our heart and say, "lalalalalalala God, I'm not listening!" We keep the busyness and the noise always close, so we do not have to deal with what is lurking in the silence.

But we do not have to deal with this frightening unknown alone. God is with us, and God is safe. I know many reading this may not feel like God is safe. I know I probably would have told you that I didn't feel God was "safe" to express my anger to, like I did, but it turns out that I only found that out by the expression of this anger. I would have probably felt that God was unsafe because I felt let down and disappointed at God. We also tend to blame God rather than ourselves or those we love. Once we have moved past that we are able to see ourselves, and even others for who they are, flawed human beings. But flawed human beings who are loved by God! Not fatally flawed! Just hurting, and broken, and wounded. If we saw ourselves through God's eyes, we would love ourselves so much! All the things that separate us from God would be gone and we would feel like we could sob on God's shoulder.

I have no idea how a post that started out as Advent planning ended up in dealing with pent up hurts and gaping emotional and spiritual wounds, but God must have a purpose for this post today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

God Was In This Place. Did I Know It?

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’Genesis 28:16

I am here in a pastoral retreat setting; here to form my spiritual life. Here among the beauty of nature and the kindness of others. I am here to learn from the masters, and I am here to ponder deep thoughts and to reconcile my understanding of God and myself. But I find that I am not having very much luck in my pondering. Maybe it is because I am not fully invested in the topic or question. Maybe it is because I am a rebellious child within, and am dragging my feet to do homework. Maybe it is because I would rather watch others than to focus on my own self. On this particular occasion I was to be contemplating a question.

The question I was to contemplate was, “in order to fulfill my religious life, what obligations do I have?” I quickly thought about the obvious answers of following a call to ministry, being a faithful spouse and parent, loving others. But before long my thoughts were wondering as they tend to do. In my boredom with my own musing, I do what I tend to do, and observe others. I looked around and spotted a man I know, and the relationship we share was immediately brought to my mind. This thought led to the question of obligations, and I pondered, finally, how relationships were obligations in all our lives. Then I wondered how I got here in my thoughts.

I am here with a man whom I hold in high esteem and high regard. He was an important part of my life at a pivotal point of my life. I love him. Not in the romantic sense, but definitely beyond the love we must have for all our brothers and sisters. More in a familial sense, although I feel that is presumptive on my part. My admiration for him does not fit into the parameters of hero worship, because that would be disrespecting his life of humility. Does he have any idea the impact he has made in the lives of others? Does he recognize despite any detractor that he may have that he has done so much more for God’s kingdom than he may realize? Does he still search for significance, or is he comfortable with the work he has done for God?

I am here with his wife, who is such a gentle soul I feel unworthy and yet deeply loved in her completely serene presence. She has also done a great deal for me in the way of furthering my spiritual side. She quietly encourages and speaks louder with her actions than her words. The same questions apply, does she know?

I am here with a woman who struggled along-side me and kept me from quitting my calling and, thereby living a life that would have been “less-than” because I would not have been fulfilling my purpose. She was my sage, my mentor, my rock and my friend. She is still that for me, but now maybe I can be that for her as well.

I am here with a man who was once a close friend, and although we still consider ourselves friends, we are not as close as we used to be. I still remember the talks we had that helped me along, and the ability to lean on one another when times were rough. I cared very deeply for him and I grieve the loss of the fullness of this friendship, but understand and recognize that things will never be the same, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

I am here with several people whose spirits are high in spite of physical limitations or set backs. One is an old friend with whom I had a time of closeness and then we grew apart; another is a new friend that I may never talk to again after this week.

I am here with acquaintances in ministry that I recognize and greet, and those who are closer and I confide in. I am here with a friend who is a mother figure to me, and a friend who has fatherly words of wisdom for me.

I am here with a woman I identified with and related to before we ever met, and a man I thought I would have nothing in common with and yet feel a bond. They teach me and I learn from them. I have so many questions for them…

I am here with those who are on the path with me, and lead me and guide me. I am here with those for whom I am the guide.

I am here with a young man who is extremely and incredibly talented, and rather than being vain about his abilities, has a humility and grace and love for God that he is passing onto a new generation.

I am here with a man struggling with personal problems, but knowing that in spite of or perhaps because of these issues, he needs to connect with God and take time out to fill himself. He is a good man, a decent man, and a man of integrity that I am just beginning to know.

I am here with a man who has a great gift of poetry, and every thought he has comes out as brilliant prose. I am here with a woman who is confident in herself and her choice of a lifestyle that others may criticize. I am here with a woman who is a friend of one those who face physical limitations, and she is here to support her friend and walk this journey with her.

I am here with those in whom my confidences are not safe, and those with whom they are. I am here with those who know me, those who love me, those who dislike me, and those who have no clue I exist.

I am here with a man who, a woman who, a friend who, a superior who, I am here. I am here and God is here, and what matters is, my obligation is, that I recognize God in this place.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spiritual Formation

This upcoming week I will be at a 5 Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. I am very excited about going. I have wanted to attend one of these Academies for a long time, but the timing never worked out right. This year it has and I leave tomorrow afternoon. I am looking forward to spending time learning, reflecting and reconnecting with God. I will not be blogging until after this and I hope to have plenty to blog about when I return. God bless and have a great week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History in the Making

As we sit and soak up history in the making, some of us are excited about the candidate that won, and some of us are disappointed in the outcome. Regardless of our personal feelings, it is over, and we are all Americans that should endeavor to live together in peace and harmony.

As I sit here waiting for president elect Obama to make an appearance and give his acceptance speech, I have to give kudos to John McCain whom I thought made a graceful concession speech. He spoke with love for his country and of admiration for the process. Good job.

In any event, I just wanted to write of my hope and prayers that now that this election is over, we can move on as a country and work together in peace.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Time

I lead a Disciple Bible Study class and last night we were talking about Cyrus being used by God to return the exiled to their homeland. We discussed how Cyrus was anointed by God even though Cyrus didn't know God. (Isaiah 45:4-5) I led them to think about if/then thinking. For example, if God is bigger than any person, then God can work through anyone, even those who do not know God. Or, if only certain religions or people can be used by God or have the right understanding of God, then God is only as big as those religions or persons. Of course, if/then thinking only gets us so far and can be flawed, but it is useful to help us look on the other side of what we are saying.

We tend to get all worked up about elections whether this person or that person is right for the position. We pass judgment on whether this person or that person has enough experience for the position. (I personally feel that no one is ever fully prepared for that particular job! I don't care how long or little they have been in government.) Many get adamant about their candidate or party of choice, many even circulate hate-filled email that can only be viewed as NOT what Jesus would do, and many even go so far as to be distraught thinking the world will come to an end if their candidate is not elected. So, my question for you people is: Do you really believe that God is in control of your lives.

After all, we are truly only worried about those things that affect us. If this were not the case, then more people would be asking the candidates what their stance is on Darfur or peace in Israel/Palestine. We want to know where the candidate stands on the economy, the troops in Iraq, and other things that affect us much more closer to home. We worry about whether or not our taxes will be raised or whether we will have the same or better standard of living that we have become accustomed. That is not to say that these issues are somehow "less" than any others, but we do tend to be very concerned with how the election will affect our way of living more than how the election will affect the poverty levels in third world countries.

So, tomorrow, when election day comes and we all settle into our our comfortable recliners with a bowl of popcorn to armchair commentate on the results, remember God is in control. Someone's favorite person is going to lose and someone's is going to win. It doesn't mean that America is going to Hades in the proverbial hand basket, it simply means that we, God's people, should pray regardless of whether our candidate wins or not, because whoever is in the White House come next year, it is going to be a long bumpy ride and the wisdom of God will come in handy.

If we believe that God is in control and God is bigger than any person, then God can use anyone, even those we feel are about as opposite of our morals and values as anyone can get. God can bring healing to our land, which desperately needs it. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often quoted, but also often forgotten. "...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."


(I found this prayer on "Methoblog" written by Ken Carter and Elizabeth Graves)

Creator of us all:
you are the source of every blessing,
the judge of every nation
and the hope of earth and heaven.

We pray to you on the eve of this important and historic election.

We call to mind the best that is within us:

That we live under God,
that we are indivisible,
that liberty and justice extend to all.
We acknowledge the sin that runs through our history as a nation:


The displacement of native peoples, racial injustice,
desecration of your creation, economic inequity, regional separation.

And yet we profess a deep and abiding gratitude
for the goodness of ordinary people who have made sacrifices,
who have sought opportunities,
who have passionately loved and cared for the earth and its fruits,
who have journeyed to this land as immigrants
strengthening its promise in successive generations,
who have found freedom on these shores,
and defended this freedom at tremendous cost.

Be with us in the days that are near.
Remind us that your ways are not our ways,
that your power and might transcend the plans of every nation,
that you are not mocked.

Let those who follow your Son Jesus Christ
be a peaceable people in the midst of division.

Send your Spirit of peace, justice and freedom upon us,
break down the walls of political partisanship,
and make us one.

Give us wisdom to walk in your ways,
courage to speak in your name,
and humility to trust in your providence.

Amen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Long Time No Post

Have you ever had one of those weeks? You know the ones, when you finally get to Sunday, you feel like last Sunday was three weeks ago. I had one of those. Since the last Sunday there was a death and a funeral, my computer had issues (which are now resolved thankfully), and we had a busy day on Friday and Saturday. Whew, I am so glad its Sunday.

Today I desperately needed Sunday. Even if Sundays are tiring and it feels like I have so much to do, I find there are times I really need Sunday. I need the fellowship, I need to feel the Spirit moving in ways that is only found in a community of faith. Do you ever feel that way? What happens when we miss that opportunity?

I read once about a man sitting before the fire with a friend who did not regularly attend church. When the man talked to him about coming to church, the friend said he didn't need to attend church to believe in God, to which the man agreed. Then he took an ember from the fire. In the fire it was brightly blazing and even being removed it glowed brightly with the fire it contained. However, as they sat together in silence, the ember now separated from the rest of the fire began to grow cold and pretty soon it was merely a cold, black lump. There were no other words needed to illustrate what happens to a Christian separated from their community of faith.

Partners in Service

This is the sermon for All Saints Sunday, November 2, 2008 based on the Scripture text 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Love that Overflows

Sermon October 26, 2008 based on the Scripture text Matthew 22:34-40.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Followers

Just a note to tell you of a new feature on my blog. It is called "Followers" and is located in the right hand column toward the bottom of the page above the label cloud. If you would like to admit you are a regular follower of this blog, please sign up! You can either sign up with your name or anonymously. Thanks for reading my blog. I know I haven't been blogging as much recently, but I hope to do more in the future. Blessings!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Taking Time Off

I have always been amused by the different sayings about time. "Time flies when you're having fun," imagining some timepiece with wings trying to be illusive and evasive just because you are enjoying yourself. "Save time," like you can put some time in a jar to use later when you "run out of time" (picture the rollover minutes commercial for a wireless service - all these orange-colored, over-large, poker chips that you can sock away in a safe place.) "Time standing still" like that has never happened to anyone such as myself who is hyper. I love the "Over the Hedge" scene when Hammy the Hyper Squirrel finally is given a high-sugar, caffeine drink and the rest of the world comes to a complete standstill while he can walk through and do pretty much anything he wants. This must be a pretty common fantasy as there is now a beer commercial which seems to do the same thing and don't forget the special talent of the lovable hero, Hiro, on "Heros."

So...last week, I "took some time off." This is also amusing, as I didn't know if it referred to taking the now-tangible time off a shelf and therefore can now be used, or you leave time behind and function in a different plane of existence. Well, last week, and all vacations I guess I left time behind, or took it off the shelf or whatever. The interesting thing about "taking time off" is that it is purely illusion that time waits for you to return before it resumes. Ha! You generally come back to as much if not more work, because you weren't there to do it when you were gone. I used to have a boss that would save all the work for me when I came back from vacation. We had 16 other staff that could have handled it, but no, I was special and therefore worked my little rear-end off just so I could go on vacation.

Needless to say, if you do "take time off" you don't want to come back to the real world for fear of what waits for you there. Such is the place I find myself this morning, so I will quit "wasting time" blogging and get back to work.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Children and Youth Sunday

Every year we have a Sunday not only geared to reach youth, but planned and led by the children and youth of our congregation. Every year I have a youth deliver a sermon that they prepared. This year I have two youth lay speakers, and since my daughter has had the opportunity to bring the message before, I gave my other youth lay speaker an opportunity. I had very little to do with the service or sermon other than to observe and check to make sure they thought of everything they needed to and to offer guidance or advice when needed. The liturgy was written by youth and led by youth, the songs were led by youth, a youth offered the special music during the offering. You get the idea. The outcome - it was totally awesome!

The service was well thought out and reverent without being dull, something some adults are convinced cannot happen simultaneously. The youth beginning the service pointed out that the children and youth are not only the church of tomorrow, but they ARE the church today.

The sermon was based on the scripture text Mark 4:35-41 and was brought by Kaleb Oakleaf. I recommend you listen and hear what the youth are saying about God, trust and relationships.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Five Practices

For those of you out there familiar with "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Bishop Robert Schnase, I was wondering if anyone knew of any resources relating the five practices to children and youth. I have the "kit" with all of the stuff in it, but it all relates to adults. If anyone knows of something our congregation can use with children and youth, please let me know.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The VP Debates are On and I'm Not Watching!

Okay...I am sick of politics. I am not a big fan of either VP candidate, so I am not watching the debates. Yes, I know I am supposed to be a mature responsible citizen and be well informed on the candidates before I vote, but seriously, I just don't care anymore. I told someone recently that I would vote for the candidate who slings the least amount of mud. It's to that point. The debates are exciting for some, but I don't think we are going to learn anything new about either side. They are well versed and rehearsed, (however, it will be interesting to see if McCain's camp has Palin in control.) I do realize that half the world, and many of my friends, are watching with eager anticipation... or curiosity... or animosity... but my time is too precious and life is too short to waste on other people's drama. I'll do what I normally do around the end of October. It's a techical system. I will read (novel concept I know) the platforms of both parties, gauge which one matches most closely to my personal beliefs (neither one will fit the bill exactly), and see which one slings the least amount of mud.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Absence of Stress (or what happens when we mail off ordination paperwork)

Well, after several weeks of working on my ordination paperwork rather than a blog (a smart choice, I think) I have finally shipped the package to the Board of Ordained Ministry with a great deal of sweat and prayers. Whew! There is nothing to do now but wait until my Board interviews in December and since the package has been shipped and is out of my hands, there is no use stressing over it now. *Sigh*

I have been absolutely (and obnoxiously) giddy since the completion of this work It was like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders and there was nothing to hold me down. I felt like dancing (badly) and singing off-key and not caring who in the world was watching (mostly.) I haven't felt that good in a long time. Of course, as I had to plan and officiate at a memorial service, I had to tone it down for a bit. I have been rejoicing in preparing sermons, because I don't feel like there is something else out there I should be doing. (Charge conference paperwork is out there, but hey, that is a great deal my committee's work.)

It is truly amazing the transformation that takes over a person when they feel relief, and I thank my husband, daughter and congregation who are humoring me right now, because I am sure they are sick of it.

The other side of that is now that this onerous burden is completed, what now? Do I fill in the gaps with more stress-causing scheduling, or do I relax and enjoy it a bit? I think I will relax, which is not something I am well-versed at. I may have to practice it for a while before I get good at it. But as with all things, I am going to give it my best shot!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You Want Me to Do What?!?!?!?!?

Last week Rev. Mary Lou Eastmond was a guest preacher at my church. She preached on Philippians 2:1-13.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Bondage We Know

Sorry this has taken me so long to post this week, and next week there will not be a sermon posted.

Sermon from September 21, 2008 based on the text Exodus 16:2-15 entitled "The Bondage We Know."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 a Day to Live in Infamy

Today we mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and passenger takeover of the fourth plane that went down in Pennsylvania. I think it is an interesting and slightly morbid ritual to continually mark anniversaries of devastating events such as terrorist attacks. Having been in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, I can honestly remark on this as one who does remember an anniversary of a devastating disaster, just not the way the media does.

After the April 19th bombing of the Murrah Building, life changed for many people in Oklahoma. It was rare to find someone who lived in the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area who did not know someone who worked in that building. Most people knew someone who died in the building. Every year, at least on Oklahoma City television stations, there is a memorial service where there is a time of silence, speeches, etc. There is nothing wrong with this, and I believe that in a certain way it is helpful to remember such events in history.

However, I remember the first year I didn't wake up and say, "Oh God, it's April 19th." There was something freeing about waking up like it was any other day of the year, going about happy business of getting kids to school and getting off to work, and then at a later point in the day go, "Oh yeah, it's April 19th." It was as if shackles of gripping fear were removed from my heart and soul.

That is my prayer for those who stop and remember 9/11 from a close and personal distance. Those who were in the immediate area of the attacks, those who lost a loved one or friend in the atttacks, and those who had their understanding of safety and security shaken to its very core because of these attacks.

My prayer for the rest of the country and the world who of course mourn with those people is that they will allow these people to heal in peace. We who watched this on television from another state should not make this about us. It is not about our understanding of these events from a safe and comfortable distance. I think, while never forgetting, it is okay to let these events dwindle to only a blurb on the news, at least until it can safely rest in the history books to be remembered as Pearl Harbor is now remembered...as a devastating event that once happened to us, that we can learn from and grieve over, but not as a media circus that requires lights, cameras and lots of action.

I know this may not be popular with some, and I am not really trying to stir up any arguments. I just want people to know that if you weren't there, while you do feel for those people, and may even take it personally as an American, it isn't the same memories as it is for those who felt the ground move and held out hope during the rescue efforts until at last your worst fears are confirmed. They need to have a year when they wake up and the first thought on their mind isn't, "Oh God, it's September 11th."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blog of Note

I have neglected to add Rev. Steve Littrell's blog "Recognizing the Moments" to my list at the right. That oversight has been corrected, and I would encourage you to check this out! His most recent, "a follow-me moment" I think is very well done.

Portraits of Humanity

Yesterday, my husband and I went to volunteer at the Red Cross evacuee center in Oklahoma City. He went as a general Red Cross volunteer, and I went in the capacity of a Chaplain and with Oklahoma United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. We were working with other volunteer and government organizations including Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps, Emergency Management Services Authority, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Salvation Army, Baptist Disaster Relief, the various law enforcement agencies and fire departments from neighboring cities and counties, and of course Federal and Oklahoma Emergency Management agencies. I am certain I have left someone out and for that I apologize.

When we arrived that afternoon we were told that we would be doing intake of those who were coming in on buses due at anytime. They had already taken in over eight buses from that morning, and were expecting five more buses, but only one of those actually arrived. When the people were processed, we took information on their family and if they had small children they were directed to a table in which the kids and parents were given matching bracelets in case they got separated. They were issued a cot and given a location in the warehouse to set up their cot and their belongings. They were given food at meal times and there was water and fruit available all the time. What I was most struck with was how smoothly (considering everything) the process went.

Secondly, I was impressed with the people. They had been on buses for on an average of 20 hours after having been evacuated from the homes, some of which had never left their home town EVER in their lives. There was one bus which left Louisiana at 8 a.m. Sunday morning only to arrive in Oklahoma City at around 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, some 32 hours later! Apparently the bus had ran out of gas on the way due to sitting in traffic for long periods of time. Of course these people were exhausted, hungry, and the possibility for bad attitudes could have been there, but really they were just so relieved to finally arrive, I really didn't notice any bad attitudes.

There were people there from all walks of life. Most of them were lower income who could not afford to or were unable to drive out on their own, find and pay for a temporary place to live. Still others probably had some means to do that, but either could not or did not have the opportunity to prior the mandatory evacuation. Some were the elderly men and women, some were young families or extended families, some were single men and women, some were homeless, many were young. The youngest evacuee was just a few days to weeks old having only been released from an NICU unit in Louisiana on Friday before being evacuated on Sunday. That child was bused here, but was later taken to an area hospital.

Children were playing in any available spaces. It is interesting how children can be perfectly normal in the most un-normal of circumstances. Babies were running in diapers with big smiles and squeals of laughter. Small children were looking in wonder at all the strangers wondering around in their midst. Teenagers were being teenagers and walking around talking, shouting out to one another. There was no real disrespect, but what I would call more of a air of social differences, but everyone was courteous and understanding that we were in the midst of a situation that in the best light was nowhere near ideal.

Women who were very pregnant were trying to get comfortable on FEMA cots. One young woman was 38 weeks along and the only thing she wanted in the world at that time was to be able to get to "her people" in Houston. One looked like she was having pains and was stressed.

I saw snapshots of humanity that spoke all on their own. Such as the woman and her infant who, in the midst of the noise and chaos going on around them, were sleeping on a cot face to face with the mother's arm wrapped protectively around her child.

The elderly couple sleeping on cots next to each other, him with one eye opening watching everyone around them. And another couple concerned with whether or not they were going to be able to get to the porta-potties in the middle of the night.

There were the handicapped and the able-bodied, the old and the young, those that live at or below poverty level and those who were in a more middle income range. Below is a picture of a gentleman I referred to as "the suit guy." He just looked lost and I felt so bad for him. (Photo from the Daily Oklahoma. More photos can be found at NewsOK.com.)




Considering that in there were approximately 1,500 evacuees and untold numbers of workers trying to make life somewhat normal in a warehouse, I thought things went well. Yes, there were those who were unruly, intoxicated or conducting illegal activities. (There were only 16 arrests for relatively minor infractions or previous warrants.) Yes, there were those who were seemingly ungrateful or overly demanding. Yes, there were those who were probably "milking the system" as some people who never needed "the system" would say. But when you have that much humanity confined to such a small space relatively speaking, after having been removed from their homes and bused most of the day and night, the percentages of the misbehavior was much lower than it could have been.

In part that is due to the vigilent efforts of our law enforcement officers which I believe were doing an outstanding job without being oppressive, and part of that is due to the organized way the volunteer organziations were employed and used through the Oklahoma VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Assisting Disasters) agencies, and the rest of it must be due to the goodness that I believe is the image of God in us all that, should we allow, does tend to come out on occasion.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Secretive Messiah

Sermon for Sunday, August 24, 2008 on the Scripture text Matthew 16:13-20.

Temptations of this Generation

I am reading The Sayings of the Desert Fathers as part of a Spiritual Formation Academy I am preparing to attend. I have only begun to read this book which list the quotes of the Abbas by their names alphabetically, so I am only on "Anthony the Great."

It seems Anthony was a bit of a hard case. He told it as it was, whether it was polite or not. I guess becoming a recluse does tend to take a toll on your social graces. One of the quotes that struck me, as it was said in the late third and early fourth centuries, was this:

He also said, 'God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much.

What does this say about us? We are many, many generations removed from that and are obviously weaker than even that generation. Coming from the first century Christians who were willing to die, en masse, for their beliefs, to renounce not only the popular idea of the time but their ruler, to proudly proclaim that they were followers of Jesus. Then we have Anthony's era who were willing to leave the comforts of their homes, selling everything they have and giving it to the poor, and living off of the grace of God in hermitages or as recluses. To the generation of the 21st century, where we only live as Christians when its convenient, not really prepared to die for our beliefs, we negotiate with God what we are willing to do, and everything for the Church is subject to schedules of secular activities.

How far we have come from the faith of our fore-fathers and mothers! It is a good thing that we do not have the temptations they had, because we could not bear them! So, the next time that you feel that it is too hard to be a Christian and that the temptations are more than you can bear, remember it is easier now than any other time in the history of Christianity to be a Christian and a follower of Christ, and we are weaker in our faith rather than gaining strength in the ground-work laid by the martyrs and the defenders of our faith.

I hope you take this opportunity to remind yourself that we must be strong in the faith, not taking for granted the ease with which we live, and use this to build up our faith rather than have it wither and die.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NOW I GET IT!

I received this by email, but I thought I would post it.

NOW I get it! Why didn't somebody explain it this way before?

This is a game played by two teams, one out, the other in.
The one that's in sends players out one at a time, to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn't count. If they get in before they get out, it does count.
When the ones out get three outs from the ones in before they get in without being out, the team that's out comes in and the team in goes out to get those going in out before they get in without being out.
When both teams have been in and out nine times, the game is over.
The team with the most in without being out before coming in wins unless the ones in are equal. In which case, the last ones in go out to get the ones in out before they get in without being out.
The game will end when each team has the same number of ins out but one team has more in without being out before coming in.
===============================================================================================
Create yourself a great week, no matter whether you are in or out!!--

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Musings

Well, it is that time of year when I am glued for hours on end to the television screen, late into the night, soaking up the wonder, the excitement, the...controversy that is the Olympics. Every couple of years this occurs and we watch people with ten times more physical ability than the average person while we sit idly by and criticize. A few of my peeves about this round of Olympic events:

1. I love Michael Phelps as much as anyone (maybe not as much as the girl on the AT&T commercial), but seriously do not break away from the medal events in gymnastics to go to a semi-final round for swimming that, duh, Michael Phelps will make it through. At least, don't worry about it being live and cut away when it really doesn't matter in the gymnastics events.

2. After reading headlines about how a wrestler "threw" or "tossed" his medal, and the IOC is looking into disciplinary actions, I wanted to sit this fit of temper the media was talking about. So, I watched the video, like several million others, only to be highly disappointed with his placing the medal on the floor and walking off in a civilized manner. Seriously, can we at least put some CG effects in there if we are going to grossly exaggerate the situation.

3. I am a gymnastics fan (as you may guess from No. 1) and although it is terrible that there is a significant reason to believe the Chinese have illegally put under-age girls in the competition, and the judging is arbitrary at best on occasion, it is what it is. Yes, our hearts break for these athletes when we see them being unfairly judged or not given a fair chance, however, these athletes have worked hard and gone through a great many trials to get the privilege to be so unfairly treated (i.e., to sit in front of an Olympic judge) and they are aware of the possibilities. Do we not remember the fiasco of the French judge in the figure skating a few winter Olympics ago, or was it the last one, who can really remember?

The Olympics is a great opportunity for us to brush up on our sportsmanship as armchair athletes and cheer our favorites on to victory, while recognizing that there is as much possibility of their losing, as there is for their winning due to a variety of factors. All athletes deserve our respect simply because they have achieved something most of us can never imagine...even a temper-tamper throwing Swede...they have worked hard and made it to the Olympics.

I wish Christians would work, train, and endure as much to run the race that is set before them, but of course, we want to be fairly treated - just like Jesus was.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Anniversary Musings

We are back from our family vacation and I will blog more on this later, but I want to wish a very Happy Anniversary to my fabulous husband! So in honor of this truly auspicious occasion, I wrote a fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I gave up on fairy tales. You know, the "happily ever after" part. Just when I was about to settle for, "will do for now" or "Mr. Okay" (the guy you might end up married to, but will turn into "married singles), I met a guy. Not just your ordinary average guy who tries too hard to come in and sweep you off your feet only to leave you realizing you should have kept your feet, or worse, a guy who tries too hard to be sooooo cool that you aren't sure if they are interested in you or a long lasting relationship with your television. No, this guy was definitely different.

This guy was seemingly, unbelievably (and I do mean unbelievably) innocent. No, it wasn't like he had no life experience...he had been married and divorced and had an eight year old daughter...he was just really simple and sweet. He went to the church I had recently joined. He was truly a good guy, and I thought he was too good to be true.

He declared his interest in a poem tucked inside a Christmas card. When I received it and read the poem, I immediately picked up the phone and called him. Did I tell him I thought he was as wonderful as he seemed? Did I profess my interest in him? No...I told him he was stupid. I know, I know, but it is part of the story.

To make a long tale short, he was persistent, and I firmly believe God was on his side. So, we said "I do" and we still are...11 years later and it is still happily ever after.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Recognition of Hard Work


Occasionally, you just have to scream out "yea us!" and "yea God!" I know we are not to be about the elevation of ourselves or whether or not our work for the kingdom is recognized in anyway, but if it is, is it really wrong to get excited about it? Maybe, but I would like to share anyway. The Contact printed an article entitled 3 Churches Rated Outstanding and guess what? You got it, one was ours!

Of course, we knew about this in May when we received the award, but it was still kind of exciting to see in the paper, and I thought I would share.

Blogging Blahs

Have you ever gotten the blahs? You know, that semi-serious condition in which normal routine activies that were once fun are no longer fun; and therefore it takes an act of extreme will to force yourself to do it. Sadly, thus is the case with me and blogging, at this moment anyway.

Part of this has to do with the different blogs I have been reading having cohesiveness, sometimes even in that it is a jumbled mess of information. Those of my clergy friends are theologically deep and meaningful. Those of my non-clergy friends are fun and witty or else incredibly informative and helpful. I find I cannot be either deep or witty in this extreme slump I am in.

Part of it has to do with the summer doldrums which should be alleviated to a certain extent after my vacation next week. Part of it is that I am being a cyber-recluse which matches the reclusive state of my physical being as well.

Jesus was that way. He needed a break. He needed a break from the crowds pushing in around him begging for something. He needed a break from his disciples who weren't quite getting the big picture. He probably in his humanity needed a break from who he was, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man. Boy, I bet he needed a break.

So he tried to get away to the lake, but the people followed. And he tried to get away again, but the people followed. The only break he really got from the press of people was in the garden of Gethsemane and then of course, even his disciples could not watch with him. When he needed others, they weren't there for him. Then after the crowd turned on him, pressed in around him as he was being led to the cross, and suffered insults and injury at the hands of those he came to bring the message of Good News to, he died.

What I find interesting, jumping ahead mentally 2000 years, is that today, we again leave him alone. As we seek that time by ourselves, we don't take Jesus with us. We go on vactation and try to escape ourselves and who we are, even who we are in Christ Jesus. Sometimes people seem to take the summer off from church, then the next thing you know, the people who have been gone all summer from church show up in the fall with a "here I am, let's get started." Like nothing happened at the church from May to August.

Some of these people often have the "church blahs." Something once fun is no longer fun for them. They are burned out, a really serious condition that has done more to facilitate the decline of churches than any other condition.

Still others lack committment to discipleship. They are like the seed that was inadvertently sown on the rocky soil which took root, but when the temperature went up, they shriveled and died. They never cultivated the soil that their seeds must be sown into in order to produce abundant fruit.

Everyone needs to get away, from the pressure of the crowd, even from the pressures of church work and of secular work. But if we get away with God, that will enhance our discipleship and church involvement, not detract from it.

I am sure people want to know how I realize that they are sneaking away from their role as disciples in the body of Christ when they sneak away to the lake. Well, if any of you are reading this, it is by how you come back, and when you come back. Are you refreshed and ready to carry on with the mission and ministry God has for the church? Do you come back months later? Or do you come back in a few weeks with the strength of God and the enthusiasm of the Spirit?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tag - You're It!

I love playing games. I think I miss playing the most being an old grown-up. I hope when I get even older, I will once again enjoy playing games. But occasionally we have an opportunity to play games as adults. Those that can be posted on G rated sites are even better.

Tag was especially one of my favorite games as a child. I still love the laughter and giggles it provokes as children play this game, although I am not able to run with them much any more. This is the game that I find myself in the middle of in cyberspace! A dear friend of mine, CurtissAnn Matlock, tagged me in her blog, Pressing On.

The idea of this game is that you are tagged and you have to answer the following thoughts, fill-in-the-blank style.

Fill in the following blanks:

I THINK -- until it hurts sometimes.

I KNOW--I am loved, by God and those around me, and nothing else really matters.

I HAVE-- a fabulous family and a great vocation.

I WISH-- I could go on vacation.

I HATE-- those who hate. (Seems fair doesn't it.)

I MISS-- not owning my own home, and having a place to call my own.

I FEAR-- not much, but I really wouldn't want to test the theory.

I FEEL-- great and overwhelming love and contentment.

I HEAR-- the fan going on my husband's side of the bed and my daughter singing VBS songs!

I SMELL-- body lotion

I CRAVE-- times of solitude and peace.

I SEARCH-- for new ways to share the gospel.

I WONDER-- about a lot of things!

I REGRET-- nothing. Everything, good and bad, that has been in my life has made me who I am today. And I love who God has made me to be!

I LOVE-- God, my family, my friends, my life.

I ACHE-- for those who do not know the love of God as I do, for those who are struggling with troubled minds and spirits, and those who need encouragement.

I AM NOT-- Wonder Woman. Thank God!

I BELIEVE-- in God, Jesus, the Spirit of God and that humanity was created in the image of the divine.

I DANCE-- whenever I get a chance!

I SING-- lots of things! I make up songs too! One of my favorite things with my daughter is to make up new words to old songs.

I CRY-- hardly ever. Generally, if not for the usual reasons of saddness, out of stress and frustration, but still rarely.

I DON'T ALWAYS-- feel like being a pastor. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone!)

I FIGHT-- for those I love. Fiercely!

I WRITE-- what I am truly feeling inside, and what I believe will be beneficial for others to read, whether, now or at a time in the future.

I WIN-- about as often as I lose (if we are talking games), and I don't think there is a winner in any argument, unless the two sides can reconcile.

I NEVER-- uhhhh. Never say never.

I ALWAYS-- try my best.

I LISTEN-- to God as best I can.

I CAN USUALLY BE FOUND-- depends on the time of day.

I AM SCARED-- for my children's future. I hope they do a better job with the world than we did.

I NEED-- to know my family loves me, and that's about it.

I AM HAPPY ABOUT-- a lot of things. I am happy I have my family. I am happy I am in my current location. I am happy the VBS program is tomorrow night!

I IMAGINE-- a world of peace, even if just in my own little world.

I tag Michelle who blogs on Scribbit, Jeremy at Hacking Christianity, and David at Deep Calls to Deep. If you guys have time to play, join in.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weddings and Other Craziness

For those of you who listen to the weekly podcast of my sermons, there will not be one today. Rather than sermonizing this morning I listened to a concert by Jamey Denison. It was kinda nice to be able to sit in the pews this morning. You see, I had one of those busy, not-a-chance-I-could-come-up-with-a-sermon weeks.

Last Sunday was my son and new daughter-in-law's shower at my church, and my family came up to share it with us. Then this Thursday we drove to the other side of the state for his wedding. Friday we went to my sister's house to stay before my nephew's wedding. We laughed at high fuel prices this week. (Of course, it was the insanely hysterical laughter one hears when someone has gone just a tad too close to the edge.)

My son is married. I have a daughter-in-law. Wow! This takes some getting used to. Of course, we had over a year to get used to the idea, but there is something kind of odd about it actually happening.

Interestingly, I did not cry at my son's wedding (not that I am a real crier, but I thought the possibility was there.) It seemed I was too distracted, and the overall mood of my son's wedding was casual, relaxed and laid-back. Definitely not weepy stuff. Lots of laughter and a jovial atmosphere.

At my nephew's wedding however, I got a little misty. I seemed to have nothing better to do than to sit in the pew and reflect on the past 21 years. You see my son and nephew are six months apart in age and more or less grew up together. I guess the reality of my son getting married hit home when I was watching my nephew's mother getting emotional.

Of course, the issue isn't really that he is married, it is that he's a man now. Of course, he has been out on his own for sometime, but he was my baby, my first born, my son. Now he is her love, her partner, her husband. Of course, I know he will always be my son, but he is now too so much more. I wish them both much love and happiness.

My favorite picture of the happy couple.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Superheroes

With a little incentive from Michelle Mitchell’s blog called Scribbit: Motherhood in Alaska, I am posting today in response to her writing contest on Wonder Woman! I thought it would be fun.

Growing up, there were many superheroes to pick from. There was Superman, Batman, Spider Man, the Incredible Hulk and of course, Wonder Woman for us girls. Then there was the “new” type of superhero in the Six-Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Later for some of our children came, He-Man and She-Ra, The Transformers, PowerRangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the list could go on. We see that the love of the superhero continues on today with the new movies that have come out in recent times; remakes of Batman, Spider Man, Hulk, and now…Hancock.

There seems to be some inherent need for a superhero in humanity. Those characters that, though tragically flawed in some way, fight for the rest of us to have a better life. Superheroes have some special talent or ability that enables them to perform and function on a level the rest of us ordinary folk never attempt; however, inspires children to emulate.

This is nothing new. For many women, the woman of Proverbs 31 does the same thing. This capable woman makes the fabric and other textiles for her family by sewing, spinning, dyeing, and trading in fabrics. She not only whips up tasty dishes for the family, but she also plants, grows, gathers, and prepares it for cooking. She is administrator, landowner, buyer, merchant, viticulturist (one who studies vineyards), and philanthropist. She is intelligent, shrewd, gracious, wise, ambitious, kind, industrious, and attentive to detail. She does this all with no sleep and purely for the sake of her husband and family, her ‘tragic flaw.’ Obviously, this was the first Wonder Woman. Apparently, King Lemuel’s mother did not want him to find a real woman as she is describing what even she cannot hope to become.

Women of all generations have felt the need to be this type of superhero because this capable woman wasn’t presented as a fictional character, but rather that ideal to which we should all aspire. Over the generations we have seen women struggle under the burden of work and family with precious little help. There always seemed to be that woman living on the street who made the rest of us look bad; like Brie on Desperate Housewives or Martha Stewart. Bless their hearts because they too seem to be caught up in the “must-do-everything” rat race.

Many of our daughters have given up on this ideal and are rejecting this superficial type of superhero. They are seeking their own way, and not trying to be the ideal woman and ideal man all rolled into one. And I for one say, “you go girlfriend.” However, I don’t think totally rejecting the ideal that the woman of Proverbs 31 is entirely the answer, because nature abhors a vacuum. We will begin to have a generation (and do already) of those young women who think Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie are the “ideal” woman. So what’s the answer?

Maybe taking pride in ourselves is the answer. Obviously, whatever the woman of Proverbs motivation may be (yes, I am aware she is fictional), she had pride in herself. It takes pride to function in the man’s world of the time as competently as she did. It takes pride in her abilities, her skill, her knowledge, and her accomplishments. Her family was important to her, so that was her strength and her weakness; as she didn’t seem to take time to take care of herself.

We can learn many things from Wonder Woman and the Woman of Proverbs 31, but we also need to learn that we are not superhuman. No matter how good our intentions might be, we cannot continue on with our work if we are not taking care of ourselves. So, today, take a moment to reflect on what you do to nourish yourself body, mind and spirit. How do you take care of you?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Teaching Messiah

Sermon for Sunday, July 13, 2008, from the text Matthew 13:1-9, 18-25.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Support Group for Parents of Adult Children

Okay, so I have been talking to numerous people whose children are 18 or older. Whether they are 18 or 48, parents of these children spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out how to have a parent/child relationship with children, who aren't children. New parents of those cute adorable little babies are told that children do not come with an instruction manual and you will mess up from time to time. Overall, however, this does not generally do any kind of long-lasting, permanent damage to our children.

As the children get older, my general advice is "children are a gift of God. Repeat as necessary." When they are teenagers and the throes of burgeoning independence consumes a good deal of energy, there is still territory that is familiar because you and your child have grown together.

However, I am finding, with myself and my friends who have adult children, parenting, or rather non-parenting, gets tougher. You have been charged with raising these children from the total dependence of an infant to a completely self-sufficient adult-ish person.

Some parents have adult children who claim to want to be "independent" and yet totally rely on their parents to take care of them. These poor put upon parents are expected to do everything from their laundry to paying their bills. In this case, the importance of setting boundaries comes into play. Children should be given their independence and this involves taking responsibilities. Of course, there is nothing against parents helping out their children if it does not become a relationship of co-dependence.

Other parents have children who tend to learn life lessons the hard way. You want to help and can't. You still have a perspective of experience and, well....worldly knowledge, and you tend to see all the pitfalls and other traps life tends to spring on you. Yet, you cannot say anything. This is a totally frustrating place to be. You can see, maybe not with any clairvoyant accuracy, but you can see down the road ahead of them in ways they cannot. Yet, the most you can do is try to ask them pertinent questions to try to get them to see these obstacles for themselves.

The truth is, there is no instruction manual for infants, and there is certainly no instruction manual for adult children. The Bible tells us if we raise our children in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it. It says nothing about early adulthood. I have found praying is the best way. I feel better when I pray for my children, because I know that as much as I love them and want the best for them, God loves them and wants them to have life abundant even more than I do.

I guess for all you parents of adult children out there, this is what has worked for me. Even when it doesn't seem to be working, and I cannot figure out what to do, it offers me comfort. I hate that my children have to make mistakes to learn things, but of course, I did and God brought me through, so I can trust them to God.

How are you coping as a parent of an adult child?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Still fussin' over women in the ministry

Jeremy Smith's blog "Hacking Christianity" had an interesting post "Silly don't you know? The Spirit gives you wings! It discusses the Episcopal Church in America having a female presiding bishop and the Church of England voting to approve female bishop's. (What is the world coming to!) There was a quote from the Telegraph (UK newspaper) from a supporter of the decision:
A couple of hours ago, the Church of England decisively severed itself from its Catholic roots. By voting to ordain women bishops without significant safeguards for traditionalists, it reasserted its identity as a Protestant Church. Whether it will be a liberal or conservative Protestant denomination remains to be seen. But any hope of unity with Rome and the Orthodox has gone forever.
The gist of the rest of the post is that we are working too hard to hold on to our roots when the Spirit gives us wings (who needs Red Bull!) I have a bit of a different take.

We are not trying to hold onto roots but rules. The founder of Christianity, the Christ himself, included women and many other marginalized that the religious powers-that-be of the day excluded. Once the Christians were no longer persecuted and became a church of the state, the religious once again fell into the same ways of their predecessors and excluded women and other marginals.

These are not roots but arbitrary rules. Jesus had no problems breaking every arbitrary rule he came up against.

Women have heard God speaking to them always. Why cannot they not also hear the call to ordained ministry, including being bishop, that their male counterparts hear.

What do you think?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Music for Worship

Recently, and truly ever since I have been in a church (quite a while), I have always heard someone have something to say about the music in worship. I remember when the "new" songs were written by the Gaithers! They are pretty much old stand-by's now. I remember several of the dear old church mothers and fathers commenting on how the "new" music did not 'inspire' them or was conducive to worship the way the older, more cherished hymns were.

Since entering ministry, I have heard many of the same types of comments. Actually, most of the comments I have heard generally travel to me through 'others' rather than directly from the horse's mouth. Comments like, "can't we sing some of the older songs, rather than all these 'new' songs" or "what another new song!" Not many times do I hear, "I really like all the new music in worship!" Truthfully, the music we sing in worship is by no means considered 'new' by any standards, most of it written over ten years ago. Keep a car that long and see if you feel it is 'new.'

Recently I read this letter:
"I am no music scholar, but I feel I know appropriate church music when I hear it. Last Sunday's new hymn - if you can call it that - sounded like a sentimental love ballad one would expect to hear crooned in a saloon. If you insist on exposing us to rubbish like this - in God's house! - don't be surprised if many of the faithful look for a new place to worship. The hymns we grew up with are all we need."
And then this letter followed shortly after:
"What is wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it is to worship God, not to be distracted with learning a new hymn. Last Sunday's was particularly unnerving. The tune was un-singable and the new harmonies were quite distorting."
Amusing little notes aren't they? Truthfully, I must 'fess up. The first was written in 1863 and the song they were complaining "sounded like a sentimental love ballad one would expect to hear crooned in a saloon" was Just as I Am. The second hymn which was "un-singable and the new harmonies were quite distorting" was What a Friend We Have in Jesus. I found them on Dan Kimball's blog called "Vintage Faith." If you click on the title to this blog you can read his article.

I guess it just goes to show you that people have complained about the music in worship for longer than we care to remember. Maybe if we just stopped to listen to the beautiful words which the writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, use to minister to people's hearts in ways ordinary spoken words cannot, then we just might accidentally be blessed by this "new music."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Gentle Messiah

Sermon from 07.06.08. Beginning of a sermon series entitled "Journeying with Matthew's Messiah."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Too Busy?!

I have had two very different conversations with people in my congregation. The first said that s/he was worried that I was taking on so many new things that I would soon 'burn out.' The second thought that I should take on something else. Tell me...is that a mixed signal or what?

The fact of the matter is there are a great many demands on those in ministry, and many more things that we 'ought' to be doing, but it seems to get the back burner. I find in my ministry that I tend to be 'doing' more and ministering less which bothers me.

I am well aware that I need to set boundaries for myself, and I do try, which is why the second person mentioned above got a resounding "NO" to the new request. However, I feel that there is so much to be done, and there doesn't seem to be anyone but me to do it. As a result, things that truly are pastoral responsibilities are falling by the wayside. And I look longingly at Adam Hamilton's post on sermon planning as a fairytale that doesn't come true until you have slayed the mighty dragon of "involving laity in the ministry of their own congregation." I have not apparently learned how to slay that dragon yet.

So, if the laity do not step up, what is the answer? Do I let things go? Continue them hoping the laity will pitch in and help? Or something entirely different.

Any comments would be welcomed.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gifts of Compassion

Sermon for June 29, 2008 from Matthew 10:40-42

By the way, if you listen to it, this was "Hat Sunday." We all wore different hats and mine was a fedora (just so this part makes sense to you.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Worship v. Experience

With the decline in mainline denominations and the rise of the .tv churches, I have to wonder, "is this really the direction God wants us to go?" I am not saying that the mainline denominations are all right or that the .tv churches do not have a valid ministry, but I am wondering if in our enthusiasm to make Christ compete with culture we haven't gone too far.

Case in point: I saw a sign on a .tv church yesterday that read, "Experience times: _____" and then listed the times for their services. The typical "worship" times of a traditional church was replaced with the word "experience." Let's look at this closely. We are not coming together to 'worship' God, we are coming together to experience something (presumably God.) Well, that's all well fine and dandy, and I hope those in my congregation are meeting the living God in our worship services too, but what's the main point? Are we there to get something for ourselves? Or are we there to worship God?

This simple wording is taking the focus off of God and placing it squarely on the people. We are such a "me" generation and culture. Does this really have to be all about us too? I guess, they would say, 'yes.'

Not only as a pastor, but as a Christian I was offended. It isn't about us. The world does not revolve around us. And if they want to use the word "experience" then it should be about us coming to God and God having the 'experience' of us there to worship. But of course, that was not the connotation.

We experience God everyday, whether we recognize God working in our lives or not. Don't you think it is right that we give God our devotion, our time, our full attention at least one measley hour a week? Does it always have to be about us?

I know they are trying to reach people, but the early church was persecuted, met in dark, damp catacombs and other un-pretty places, and it grew ten-fold. They were not out canvassing neighborhoods and offering times of "experience." They were telling the people coming that they would have to "take up their cross." And they still grew. The message of Christ is enough for that culture and ours.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Father's Day Sermon

This is the sermon I preached on Father's Day. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest

I will publish a new post tomorrow. (Hopefully, or as my mama used to say, 'good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise!')

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's the World Coming To?

My husband and I were having a conversation yesterday about movies. We love movies and watch old movies all the time. Thanks to cable television, he watches one or two almost everyday! I made the comment that the older movies were much more satisfying to watch than the newer moves. Not that I don't enjoy newer movies, but I have a feeling when watching the older ones that is the equivalent of 'comfort food.'

We then began discussing why, and this is what we came up with; the older movies didn't seem to leave you morally empty inside. Of course, we are selective when watching movies, and when I say older, I mean anything from the 40s, 50s, or some from the 60s. Not that newer movies cannot have a good message and meaning, but there is always something that if they had just left on the cutting room floor, would have made it a better movie!

It seems that the newer movie producers and directors feel a need to put in some gratuitous garbage. I know some of the older movies have sex and scandal in them, and loads of smoking and drinking. But it seems to be set in a certain innocence that we have now seemed to have lost and are intent on our children losing as well.

To be fair, not everything about the older movies were perfect - my favorite - "Breakfast at Tiffany's" has two main characters who are so jaded they have sold themselves to the highest bidder or are content to live a half life never expecting anything more. Then there is a moment of redemption at the end. You know, of course, there is a lot of baggage there, but it leaves room for the happily-ever-after ending in our minds. Yet, even in the pre-redemption setting sex is only alluded to, never shown, drinking may be rampant, but it doesn't really look like a lot of fun, and smoking, well...smoking is what it was back then. Everyone then thought smoking was no more harmful than drinking coffee.

Why don't we have filmmakers who make movies like "That Touch of Mink" anymore? Or maybe the original "Father of the Bride" or any one of the Spencer Tracy/Kathryn Hepburn movies! Anymore we have bad things portrayed as good. Some examples on television are a cop that is bad, portrayed as a hero; a serial killer forensic scientist; and of course you have to mention the new series Swingtown, seriously people!

So is the moral decline in our viewing leading the moral decline in our world, or is it the other way around?