Thursday, December 31, 2009

Scripture snippets tell the story …

The Wee Kirk newsletter arrived and in it was the suggestion that we utilize the following “speaking points” of scripture as jumping off points to the narrative story of the Old and New Testaments … Not a bad place to start for some reflection and perhaps even some memorization …

God saw everything he had made; was very good  (Genesis 1:31a)
"You shall have no other gods before me."  (Exodus 20:3)
...I will fear no evil for you are with me;  (Psalm 23:4)
...his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  (Psalm 34:1)
...and renew a right spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10)
...if you hear [God's] voice, do not harden your hearts... (Psalm 95:7)
But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;  (Psalm 141:8)
"...I have called you by name, you are mine."  (Isaiah 43:1)

He has showed you, O man, what is good...  (Micah 6:8)
...I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  (Habakkuk 3:18)
"I am with the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:20)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...  (John 1:14)
"No one comes to the Father except through me."  (John 14:6)
"you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come"  (Acts 1:8)
...but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.  (Romans 12:2) in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21) everything in the name of the Lord Jesus... (Colossians 3:17) into flame the gift of God which is in you...  (2 Timothy 1:6)
...but now you are God's have received mercy.  (1 Peter 2:10)
"Surely I am coming soon."  Amen, come Lord Jesus.  (Revelation 22:20)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Can Can

I have been reflecting on the discussions going around Christian circles concerning the use of Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

Here is a link to the Christmas Can Can – a very comedic presentation which ends in the realization that while Christians celebrate Christmas other traditions celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa during the the same period of time.

Yes, Christmas is about CHRIST – but the December season also includes other celebrations – including the Christmas celebrations by Christians that are sadly lacking in any spiritual value. I am much more distressed with the reality of how Christians celebrate Christmas than I am about the phrase “Happy Holidays”. I am curious when Happy Holidays became a non-Christian greeting since we’ve been saying this for many years – as in Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s = Happy Holidays.

And yes, I think Christmas trees are Christmas trees and nativity scenes should be allowed in public squares, etc. etc. in case you are curious about my Christianity … not that these things make me a Christian. Maybe it’s time to quit pretending everyone who lives in America is a Christian and set an example that attracts others to the true life of discipleship. Then Merry Christmas will have true meaning and not just be a phrase we fight over in a time when the angels announced, “Peace on Earth.”


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reflections on the Best of 2009

It would be easier to reflect on the worst of 2009, but the best way to feel thankful is to give thanks ….

1.  Camp Crestfield activities and retreats throughout the year.

2.  Leadership retreats at Antiochian Village and Camp Crestfield.

3.  Discovery of the D. Min. program at the University of Dubuque and completion of the first year seminar.

4.  Visit to St. Paul’s, our sister church in Blantyre, Malawi

5.  Installation Service at Gladden UP

6.  Ordination service of my seminary “wifey” – yes, that would be best friend.

7.  Vacation Bible School

8.  Participation in the 50th anniversary celebration of my aunt and uncle in Pinehurst, North Carolina – complete with choral works.

9.  Watching the development of our worship committee as they work to make a difference.

10.  A year of weddings, baptisms, new members and God’s faithfulness through all of our lives – even to the grave!

11. The faithfulness of our choir members who struggle against great odds to make a “joyful noise on to the Lord” each Sunday – bless them!

12.  The friendship and active encouragement given to me by our clerk of session. She has kept me sane this year with trips to the symphony and many encouraging notes and chuckles.

New Year’s Resolutions for Volunteer Ministry


by Brian Proffit

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for examining the past and resolving to make improvements in the coming year. Here's what I resolve to do in 2010:

I will be more of an equipper and less of a doer. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that the purpose of leaders in the church is to equip the people to do the ministry of the church--not for the leaders to be the ministers themselves. So I will spend more time consciously empowering others in ministry. I will make it clear to my staff that I won't measure their performance by how much they do, but how many they equip.

I will stop treating Christian service as optional. Jesus called his followers to complete life changes. In fact, he went out of his way to make sure people understood how much he demanded before they became his followers. Jesus made it clear that he expected people to be actively serving him. For Christ-followers, giving time to ministry is not optional.

I will be a cheerleader. In a world full of negative attitudes and criticism, I will demonstrate Christ's love by celebrating the accomplishments of others. I will give personal, meaningful affirmation. If someone fails to show up, my first reaction won't be anger that he or she let me down; it will be concern that something might be wrong. I will take more pleasure from their successes than my own. I will praise them publicly.

I will call people boldly. Rather than recruiting people timidly, hoping not to offend them, I will boldly invite them to contribute their time to the most significant cause in the universe. In John 6, Jesus called people to such radical commitment that many turned back and no longer followed him. If Jesus' focus was on the level of commitment people were willing to make, rather than the number of people who followed, then I will not be shy in asking people to give more of themselves.

I will devote resources to developing others. Equipping people for ministry is more than just giving encouragement. I will give them constructive feedback. I will pay their way to appropriate training events. I will purchase the tools needed for them to flourish.

I will forgive myself for last year. Because we take our ministry so seriously, it is easy to pile on guilt for the things we failed to do or did wrong. But God chose to do this ministry through me, knowing that I'm a broken vessel. I will spend time now consciously determining what I need to learn from my mistakes, and then I will join God in casting them into the Sea of Forgetfulness.

I will remember the one thing. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus reminded Martha that while all her attempts to serve him were good, the one thing most important was developing a growing relationship with Jesus. I will remember that ultimately it is not about my ministry or my church. It is about me and all those around me developing a growing relationship with Jesus.

And perhaps I should add one more: I will keep these resolutions longer than the one about dieting and exercise.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Five – Christmas Traditions

Jan at RevGalBlogPals writes:

Christmas traditions vary from family to family and from regions afar. I've been pleased that my oldest son's wife AA loves to be with our family for Christmas, though I don't think we do anything out of the ordinary. It helps that DC has one brother and two sisters to liven up our home.
Since I finally decorated the Christmas tree and have started baking Christmas cookies, I am thinking of Christmas only being one week away.
So for this Friday Five, tell us five things about the traditions in your family. Think of

  • traditions you always do – since we’ve been pastors, we’ve always hosted an annual open house at the manse. Our families live in other states, and the open house gives us the comfort of a “family” celebration which we seldom get to enjoy because of Christmas Eve services.]
  • traditions you always cook or eat - For at least 25 years, my son and daughter and sometimes a friend or two show up to bake cut-out sugar cookies which are then iced and decorated with a variety of toppings. These are nice thick cookies that always stay soft – IF you know the secret to the recipe.
  • traditions you would like to start – attending a midnight Christmas Eve service where I have no leadership responsibilities.
  • traditions you would like to discard – Sending Christmas cards to people I see every week. I still like to get the notes from friends I seldom see and I really enjoy the newsy letters that are included – even if we find they are usually either full of only the good stuff or only the year’s complaints.
  • anything about your family Christmases – We were always permitted to open a present of our choosing on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Storm Stirring in Two Women’s Hearts

Janet McKenzie’s work has surfaced in a number of places, leading me to share some links to her work.

A Storm Stirring in Two Women's Hearts
Janet McKenzie’s The Visitation haunted me for days. There was simply lurking in it behind the obvious, more, I thought, than the common awareness of the binding female power of pregnancy.
The fact that women share a common life-giving experience in the very chemistry of their bodies—whether they themselves ever experience pregnancy or not — is commonplace. The very word “woman” rings of “wombness” for many. But the haunting look on the faces of The Visitation says more. Much more.
The faces of Mary and Elizabeth, dark and somber, thoughtful and aware, in McKenzie’s Visitation say something far beyond either the exultation of pregnancy or the creative power of it. This is not a picture about the delirium of motherhood. There is a storm stirring in the hearts of these women — deep and different than most at such a moment as this, something epochal and eruptive. The facts of this pregnancy are clearly different than the simple, natural dimensions of it.
This pregnancy, The Visitation implies, says that these two particular pregnancies are changing life in ways no pregnancy before them ever implied. These women, the picture is clear, are bound together in ways far beyond the physical. This pregnancy says that both the older woman — for whom pregnancy means a need for more vigorous energy than her years would commonly allow — and the younger woman — for whom a first pregnancy means new stature in the human community — are bound by something far more impacting than gestation.
The picture captures a moment in time — full of awareness, heavy with universal meaning. These two women know that what they are about to go through is not really two separate moments of life at all. The very act of pregnancy binds them together, yes, but it binds them to all of life differently, as well. It has not only changed them but it is about to change the history of the world. It is of them, of course, and it is far outside and beyond them at the same time.
This is life beyond their own small lives that they are facing now. This is life layers above the physical, oceans below the conscious.
–from The Art of Janet McKenzie: Empowering Holiness, “The Visitation” by Joan Chittister (Orbis 2009). Click here to order.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas can be frightening …

I’m been reading Bonhoeffer and it has me thinking …

"It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God . . . . We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The ups and downs of ministry

OK … this morning was by all standards a wonderful worship experience … no major snafus in the liturgy, wonderfully prepared music which coordinated perfectly with the text from Mark … a voice cries out, prepare ye the way of the Lord. The sermon was a take on the importance of each voice preparing the way of the Lord in our lives, families and in the community. The sermon was complete with its own unexpected sermon illustration as a newborn voice erupted and interrupted our perfectly planned worship service thus illustrating that it is possible for ONE VOICE to make a difference.

All in all, about as good as it gets in a small congregation.

Left the church feeling pretty good about things here in my neck of the woods.

Lots of warm fuzzies following at the annual church luncheon, including a surprise present from a local funeral director and his wife, who is also our toddler room coordinator.

But, by 4 p.m., the voices started sounding distinctly less supportive beginning with a phone call from someone who hadn’t attended church services, but telling me that she was looking for a PREACHER.  You know someone who doesn’t preach so closely to scripture … you know someone who sounds like the preachers of my youth … hmmm….. do you really mean you’d like a preacher like those preachers who made your grandmother uncomfortable attending because she was divorced so she sent your mother alone to church … that’s what you said … yes, I realize you are medicated. I PREACH every Sunday, but no, I don’t preach those sermons. Sorry! I also don’t preach television evangelist sermons – sorry again!

Then a random email in response to one I had written earlier … note to self … people really don’t want any advice they just seek affirmation of the decisions they’ve already made. GOT IT!

I do not like roller coasters – not the mechanical ones or the emotional ones … I think I’ll be listening to my veteran pastor, husband’s advice – do not believe anything you hear before or after church on Sundays. If they remember it six weeks later, it was a good sermon. If it’s negative, it can wait to Monday – do not answer the phone or read emails on Sundays.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What I’m Not Doing for Christmas this Year …

Rev Gal Blog Pals Friday Five is easy this week … Name five things you are not doing to prepare for Christmas this year ….

1.  No outdoor lights are going up which is a shame because to me Christmas lights in the dark of night really speak the Christmas message. But, alas, no kids at home, and I have decided I don’t need to be crawling across the roof this year.

2.  Cookie baking has been pared down to the bare minimum. The remainder of my cookies are coming from the American Cancer Society Cookie Walk at the South Fayette Fire Hall. I will be making the cutout sugar cookies with icing that have been my trademark of Christmas for 20 years.

3.  Very little Christmas shopping being done in the stores this year. What shopping I’m doing has been done online.

4.  I have a basement full of decorations and only my favorite ones are coming out this year.

5.  Not stressing about the house being spotless for our annual Open House for the congregation. Hmm… I’ll let you know how that goes.

My favorite Advent song this year is a choral piece by Lloyd Larson. I don’t have an easy way to link you to it but this one takes you to a place to listen:

A Voice Cries Out by Lloyd Larson

Monday, November 23, 2009



I am entering Thanksgiving week full of doubt and misgivings … it is so easy to be consumed by the things we do not have, the things that need to be changed, the frustrations of the parish, the day to day grind of keeping multiple plates spinning – and the ultimate reality that on occasion the plates will definitely break – we are human!

This morning I am listening and giving thanks!

Gratitude is a great antidote when you find yourself wanting more.

Are you grateful for what you have?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Friday Five

The Cure
Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.
--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?

My deal with the mulleygrubs is I give them 24 hours – if I’m sad, I cry. If I’m mad, I rant. But, after 24 hours it’s time to get up and get moving – mentally and physically.

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?

In Newcomerstown OH at my sister’s home.

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?

It varies from year to year, but always turkey – sometimes with an extra dish of beef and noodles or ham, homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, vegetables – usually beans or corn. My husband calls it “white food” Thanksgiving. The favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner for me used to be Wilma’s apple pie and homemade rolls and pickles that came off the shelves down in the cellar – but alas, those days are gone with the death of Mary Ross and Wilma Stonebrook.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?

It is really one of my favorite holidays since there’s no expectations of gifts. It’s just a time to enjoy family around the table, play games, watch a movie together.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?

More and more, I am thankful for family.

Music that allows my heart and soul to soar above the commonplace moments of our lives.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Here is our King

One of the bloggers at Rev Gal Blog Pals gave us this link depicting pictures of Jesus’ life from birth to the cross set to the song Here Is Our King

Sermon title was taken from another website:  The Servant King with Scars …. what does that mean for us?

In a reading from the Celtic Daily Prayer, there is this simple but profound question and answer:

"Question: What are the only human-made things in heaven?
Answer: The wounds in the hands, feet and side of Christ."

One of the most fascinating facts about the New Testament story of Jesus is that after his resurrection he is revealed with his scars.

When his disciples doubt who he is, he shows them the scars in his hands, side and feet.

Those scars are five signs of the most compelling love the world has ever known-complete, self-emptying, utter love for all of us.

In other words, God the Father chooses to reveal Jesus in a perfect, resurrected body with the healed, gruesome wounds from the crucifixion.

To this day, we still know Jesus by his scars.


(Words are not my own …)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Give Me Jesus

This is one of the songs used in the tribute to Susan McAndrew. In her short life, she fought a tremendous battle which robbed her of almost everything – except her faith in Jesus Christ.

Here is the link: Fernando Ortega Performance of Give Me Jesus

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Advent Door

Jan Richardson’s website The Advent Door is a great way to center yourself during the Advent Season.


Friday the 13th …

Here are the Friday Five questions from RevGalBlogPals:

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή) (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς) (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía (φοβία) (meaning fear). The term triskaidekaphobia derives from the Greek words "tris", meaning 'three', "kai", meaning 'and', and "deka", meaning 'ten'. the whole word means three and ten. The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953. (Wikipedia)

With thanks to my dear spouse TechnoGuy for the great suggestion, it's a Friday the 13th Friday Five!

1. How is this Friday the 13th looking for you?

Typical day … lots going so I’ll be praying that Friday the 13th is JUST a superstition. I have guys reframing and wrapping the windows in the house (lots of ladder work), Jerry and I will be hitting the treadmill at the gym (plenty of potential for problems after Jerry’s heart incident two weeks ago at the gym) and setting up for the Salad Luncheon at the church this evening (lots of potential for broken dishes).

I’ll let you know …

2. Have you ever had anything unlucky happen on Friday the 13th? No

3. Did your family of origin embrace or scorn superstitions?

My family of origins never even talked about superstitions that I can remember.

4. Are there any unique or amusing ones from your family, region, or ethnic background?

There are several stories which have their basis in the local folklore of Newcomerstown OH which is my hometown.

Most prominent in recent history are Sasquatch sightings …

Sasquatch sightings have been prominent in Ohio since the 1960s, said Don Keating, manager of the Eastern Ohio Bigfoot Center in Newcomerstown, Ohio, and organizer of the Annual Bigfoot Conference ….


5. Do you love or hate horror movies like "Friday the 13th"?

My husband loves horror films so occasionally I watch them. I’m not particularly fond of deliberately causing my heart to race with fear.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Celebrate Life …

Life is not meant to be a burden. Life is not a problem to be solved. It is a blessing to be celebrated.

Every dimension of life, its gains and its losses, are reason for celebration because each of them brings us closer to wisdom and fullness of understanding.

From each and every moment of life we learn something that makes us more alive because we are now more knowing than we were before. Loss and loneliness, darkness and depression all sear the soul and cleanse it of its sense of self-sufficiency. Suffering directs it to the God of life.

But so does bounty and beauty and abundance. These give us a foretaste of wholeness. These are the palpable manifestations of the goodness of God in our lives. Both of these things come unbidden. They are not signs of either our sin or our sin-less-ness. They are simply signs that the God of life is a living, loving God.

Learning to celebrate joy is one of the great practices of the spiritual life. It confirms our trust in God. It affirms the greatness of creation. It seals our dependence on God. It attests to the beauty of the present and asserts our confidence in the beauty of the future. It recognized the mercy and love of God.

Every year in celebrating our birthdays and the birthdays of those we love we are called to remember the gift of life itself. We take time out to ask ourselves what we have done with our lives. We see again the potential of every single life in the world.

When we celebrate the good things in life, we trace them to the Creator who gives without merit,  openhandedly, out of the very goodness of community, love, and support that are by nature at the base of the human condition.

Joy gives us strength for the unknown. It leads us into the emptiness of life with hope in the God of surprise with a smile on our faces.

–from The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sermon Preparation Advice:

The Spirit has taught us in meditation to ponder its message, to put aside, if we will, the responsibility of preparing the message we've got to give. Just trust God for that. But first, meditate on it, quietly ponder it, let it sink deep into our souls. Have you not often been surprised and overcome with delight as Holy Scripture is opened up as if the gate of the Golden City have been set back for you to enter? A few minutes silent openness of soul before the Lord has brought us more treasure of truth than hours of learned research.

                                                     Charles Haddon Spurgeon



Friday Five: New Things You Love

Songbird over at RevGalBlogPals writes:

There's a new baby on my street, a double PK whose Mom and Dad are Methodist pastors and church planters. I'm hoping to go over and meet her today. I love new babies, the way they smell and their sweet little fingers and toes. Little K has me thinking about all the new things that please us with their shiny freshness.

Please share with us five things you like *especially* when they are new

1.  Babies almost definitely have to top the list. There is just something so innocent and pure about them as they trust us to care for them.

2.  Baby animals – I think God made them so darned cute so that we couldn’t help but love them – even when they chew, chew, chew or pee, pee, pee all over your things – even your sermons!

3.  New Car – there’s nothing like a the smell of a brand new car, shining and ready to go to work hauling kids, animals and all the other things we use them for.

4.  New Books – I love new books – whether they are bound, purchased for the Kindle or hosted on my Zune. If I have an addiction, this is it.

5.  Fresh fallen snow before it’s had any tracks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Old Irish Blessing

The Waters of Baptism

When we were baptized, God gave each of us a gift. Perhaps we were too young to understand…too young to open the gift at the time, so it was put on a shelf. Over the years, some have unwrapped it, in Sunday School, or confirmation, or in conversation with mom and dad, and they found great promise and great blessing in the gift of baptism. But others, like me, took a long time to unwrap the gift and looking inside. When I finally did, I still wasn’t sure it was something I wanted or needed, but the gift was always mine. You see, that’s the great miracle in the gift of baptism; once it’s given, it always belongs to the receiver. We can ignore it, we can doubt it, and we can resist it, we can run from it, but the gift is always ours. The gift of baptism, of course, is grace, and it’s been given to you. It’s got your name on it, and it is yours forever. And that’s a promise. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Gather us in …

Gather Us In Lyrics
Here in this place, new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away,
see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in the lost and forsaken
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

We are the young – our lives are a mystery
we are the old – who yearns for your face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.

Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.

Here we will take the wine and the water
here we will take the bread of new birth
here you shall call your sons and your daughters
call us anew to be salt of the earth.

Give us to drink the wine of compassion
give us to eat the bread that is you
nourish us well and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

Draw near to God …


Here is an interesting way to weave prayer into your life …


The more we call on God
the more we can feel God's presence.
Day by day we are drawn closer
to the loving heart of God.

Monday, November 2, 2009

He’s Always Been Faithful

It’s been that kind of week …

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful
He’s always been faithful to me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

1) Your lifesaving food/beverage.
Mountain Dew and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – a leftover from the newsroom early deadline need for adrenaline.

2) Your lifesaving article of clothing.
Long cotton skirts and sandals

3) Your lifesaving movie/book/tv show/music.
OK at the risk of seeming too liturgical – THE BIBLE.  But mystery books are my lifesaver from reality – meaning I don’t need to remember a single thing once I finish it.  Music in general and particularly piano music is the place where I can meet God and have my soul restored.

4) Your lifesaving friend.
Geez. Hard to choose. Good friends who listen to me rant and still love me… family who do the same….God who continually nurtured the thought that we do not have to be defined by our past….redemption is possible NOW.

5) Your lifesaving moment.

When an application for a Religion Newswriters scholarship crossed the desk of our newsroom editor. With a lot of help that scholarship was submitted overnight with prayer and trembling. As one of 10 journalists in the US, I was able to take my first seminary course, allowing me to FINALLY honor a call to ministry God placed on my life in high school.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Sabbath Celebration

Today was an unusual day at Gladden UP. By divine providence we were blessed with an visit by The Songsters (See earlier blog). The morning worship service was followed by a covered dish dinner organized by the Presbyterian Women. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with approximately half of the congregation participating.

By design, today was also our annual Around The Fire celebration of Reformation Sunday.

From 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., there was a flurry of activity at the church.

Tonight as 47 people gathered around the fire, I was consumed with the image of Christ’s body gathered together in fellowship as the eclectic blend of people attended – young and old in age, young and old members, non-members from the community, a mix of denominational affiliations – with activities planned by a variety of people in the congregation and invitations extended by one of our members to the children who ride her school bus during the week. It was a delight to watch our teens plan and implement activities for the children which allowed me to share fellowship with the adults.

It truly was a day which made ministry seem worth while and was a true gift from God.

The day also brought news that the pavilion in memory of Susan McAndrew has the possibility of being a reality in the very near future. I couldn’t help but think of Susan as I reflected on the day’s events … it was the reality of a vision she held for the people of Gladden UP.

A nod to Martin Luther



This morning we opened with a call to worship which was a tribute to Martin  Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It was an unusual blend of a call to worship with the opening hymn which was published by the PC (USA) Office of Theology and Worship in celebration of Reformation Sunday.

On another website I found this Martin Luther quote: "I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor."

It seemed only fitting that the gospel message was delivered by The Songsters, a gospel quartet hailing from Ohio.

One of their songs was “I’m Just a Sinner Saved By Grace,” and I couldn’t help but reflect that this might have been Martin Luther’s 21st century theme song.

We are so blessed that our righteousness is not dependent on the works we try to achieve but on the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

If God had Texted the 10 Commandments

What if God texted the 10 commandments — courtesy of the PearlyGates newsletter:

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix/idols

3. no omg's

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey.

myob.M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Compassionate Ministries

This morning a group of women from the church and community gathered in the church kitchen to prepare and package homemade food for people in the community. Some are facing surgery, some are having hard times and others are facing the reality that they aren't as young as they once were. In all honesty, it was a little more complicated than I expected and a little more expensive. In the end, we had four types of soup, pork loin dinners, macaroni -n - cheese, Au Gratin potatoes, stuffed chicken shells, meat loaf and gravy, sweet sausage, pancakes, chocolate chip cookies and PTL - enough containers.

Also had a conversation with another minister (who is also an attorney) about end of life issues for those in the congregation who have no family - except for their church family.

We've made the decision to get involved. Inevitably, it will probably lead us into some messy situations. It will force us to make tough decisions, but with God's help, we are committed to sharing the good news of the gospel in whatever form it might take.

While I was reflecting on the morning, I received a phone call from a member of our congregation who is organizing a 5K Walk-Run in memory of her nephew. She called to tell me that it would be OK if I didn't attend the race on Oct. 10. She knew it was important for me to be with my family that day as we gathered to spend a day with my mother's brother who is ailing. It was a gracious and sincere offer of love and friendship.

Are we learning? Yes! God is teaching us the gift of friendship and hospitality! If it seems a little slow, it's because we aren't listening as close as we should.