Friday, March 28, 2014

Day #86

March 27, 2014

One of the aspects of Centering Prayer that I find fascinating is the focus word - a word to use in calling me back to the purpose when my mind wanders. It’s a word that usually comes to me within the first few seconds as I begin my time in contemplation or prayer. And often it is a different word each time. This morning’s word was relinquish.

As I centered myself for quiet, or listening to God’s voice, or having twenty minutes of intentional communion with God, that word jumped out at me. I realize I am in a state of trying to control - the way the season of Lent unfolds in worship, some decisions facing me personally, financial situations (it IS tax time coming up), etc. As much as I try not to let worry overshadow, my need to control, or guide, or whatever you want to call it, does have its affects on my joy, my spouse, my congregation, my blood pressure, and my eating habits. You name it, “stress” affects it.

So relinquish was an appropriate word. As my mind wandered, I relinquished its thoughts to God. It ended up as one of the most peaceful twenty minutes in a long time. Thank you, God, for reminding me - and helping me, even when I don’t always realize or recognize I need it.


Day #85

March 26, 2014

Another of my favorite times of the week is Wednesday evening. Several of us gather to talk about the readings for the upcoming Sunday. The idea is to have a finger on the pulse of what others see/hear/wonder about when they hear the readings. What questions do they have? What sticks out as important or strange or meaningful?

It’s a good time of discussion. It’s a good time to ask questions (there is no question too big or too small - although there are often questions with no definitive answers). It’s a little different from the Tuesday Bible Study group - and I’m glad for that. That’s part of the value - different folks, viewpoints, and life experiences.

Sometimes the questions are basic - what is that part referring to or what does this mean? Other times they are more challenging - how does this connect with daily life? I love it! Especially when a nugget for consideration on Sunday morning presents itself. Will that be the case this week? It usually is.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day #84

March 25, 2014

After two weeks of having to cancel Bible Study because of my being out of town, it was good to gather around the table and the Word with people I have come to thoroughly appreciate. Albeit, the reading today was somewhat monotonous (we were finishing the last chapters of Exodus), but it was still good to be together, to read the Word, to ask questions, to consider God, to pray for others, and to share our own news. I have come to really love Tuesday morning Bible Study and I surely do miss it when we are not able to gather!


Day #83

March 24, 2014

It’s not something I do enough of - reading (other than scripture and sermon preparation). There is plenty written to choose from of what others have to say about God. There are new ideas to consider, other viewpoints to wrestle with and ponder over, and certainly the classics of theology from minds that are brilliant and have the time to expound on questions that have plagued Christians for centuries. There is a wealth of information and it is important to not waste time reading junk, but to be selective in who and what fills my brain and helps me to think.

Sometimes reading seems like a luxury, but it is also an important part of my calling. Reading helps expand my theology and thereby should help me at least ask others better questions to help them expand theirs.

Why do we need to ask questions? Because our understanding of God is far too narrow. We cannot ever fully understand the God who is great enough to create all and yet compassionate enough to love us unconditionally.

So today was what was known in seminary as a “reading day.” Let’s see what comes from it. Perhaps a sermon series? Or a new twist for a well-known gospel lesson? Or just a new question to consider in Bible study? Surely the words didn’t fall on deaf “eyes!”


Day #82

March 23, 2014

I should have let it go, but it just kept going and going and I had to tease. Let me explain: I have mentioned the portrayals that we pastors are doing for Lenten services - how we each chose someone from Jesus’ life/history to tell their story for the evening worship. Well, one of the ladies at church had gone with a couple of other women to a Story Telling Weekend at camp. Before worship began, she wanted others to hear about how much fun they had and how meaningful it was so that more might attend next time. But then her sharing changed and she began to talk about the pastor who had been at our church the Sunday before and how great his storytelling was. She talked about how he did such a wonderful job that you felt like you were right there with him and that he kept it interesting and so forth and so on. Let me say that an important piece of this is that I had already done the Ruth character at our church, but that wasn’t mentioned at all. It was all just about how great this other pastor was. Finally, I interrupted and said, ‘well, I just want to say that people at other congregations talk about how much they enjoy the portrayal of Ruth and how wonderfully I tell her story.’

Well, my comment embarassed the lady - and I am sorry for that happening. But, really, how humble do I have to be? It is hard to just keep listening (and smiling) to someone else being elevated for being better at doing something that you also do. But why is it hard? Is it that evil “green-eyed monster” envy? Is it self-doubt? Or is it something even more sinister? I am not sure, but I certainly didn’t much care for the feeling I had.


Day #81

March 22, 2014

We started something new in the community today. The new chaplain from the local nursing facility that opened last fall called the church to ask for our help. He only needed a handful of volunteers that would come once a month to help transport “neighbors” from their rooms to the chapel service on Saturday morning.

Today was our day and six of us gathered to take him up on the opportunity. What a joy to meet folks and gently ask if they would like to attend chapel and wanted help getting there. No pressure. No expectations. No fear. Just invitation and serving.

It’s my hope we get even more involved in the community - soup kitchen, schools, neighborhood helping center, etc. Surely there is plenty for us to do and what a joy when we do it - for Jesus!


Day #80

March 21, 2014

I was so excited. After 7½ months we finally would get to see our great niece. It had been way too long since we had the chance to hold her and help her get to know us.

But it wouldn’t go quite as hoped - at least not for me. For some reason, every time she looked at me, she cried. And when I held her for just a couple of minutes, it was worse. She screamed!

It was impossible, of course, to help her understand I won’t hurt her - that I love her and just wanted to be near her. One day, hopefully, she’ll understand and we can be buddies, but she is too young now.

As my husband and I talked about it afterward, he said something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. He said, I wonder how many times God wants to just hold us and all we do is “scream” and not allow ourselves to be consoled. How God just wants to love us and yet we’re afraid to be too close, like God will hurt us or something.

It does make you wonder, doesn’t it?!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Day #79

March 20, 2014

It’s the first day of spring! There’s been lots of winter weather this year - rain, sleet, snow, cold, really cold! - and a sunny day and the promise of spring’s warmth, flowers, green and coat shedding can’t help but make a person feel better.

And I also think I’m finally about over this yuk! Rest, extra sleep and some helpful medicine, along with the healing power God placed in our body’s system, finally did the trick.

Yea for spring! Thanks be to God for health!


Day #78

March 19, 2014

Six pastors are doing a rotation for Lenten worship this year. Each of us are portraying a different character from Jesus’ life (or history). My character is Ruth. She is perhaps an unlikely character to hear from in the time of Lent, but her story is a love story that concludes with how our God can turn sorrow into joy.

Today I portrayed Ruth for the second time this week (some worship services are on Sunday and some on Wednesday). I’m encouraged by those who take the time to be kind in their comments. I’m encouraged by those who practice hospitality in other congregations. I’m encouraged by the commitment folks have to come out on an evening in Lent (regardless of the weather) to share in fellowship and worship. I’m encouraged by this season, to be filled by the Spirit.


Day #77

March 18, 2014

That planning retreat I mentioned yesterday was a 5 hour drive away. Fortunately, three of us rode together (special thanks to the colleague who drove most all the way!). What happens in ten hours of riding? Lots of great conversation and collegiality.

Over the last few days, there have been several reminders of the importance of listening and talking with others in ministry. Thanks be to God for those who follow this similar path!


Day #76

March 17, 2014

What happens when eleven pastors get together to plan a week of Campfirmation? Laughter, creativity, questions, some food and fellowship, and thoughts of youth - how to help them have a good learning experience about God and the church. What a joy to be a part of it!


Day #75

March 16, 2014

One of the best known scripture verses in the Bible is from the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It’s quoted in all sorts of places because it’s a word of hope, love and God’s grace. It’s the gospel (good news) of God all wrapped up in one sentence.

But verse 17 rarely gets its due: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Humans seem to think/act as if Jesus’ main job was to judge, to make clear what behavior is right and wrong and what will happen if the right behavior is not conducted.

Yet, the Gospel of John makes clear in this verse that Jesus’ main purpose for coming was to save. To save us from separation from God, now and eternally. So if Jesus didn’t come to condemn, why do we? After all, there is great, good news! Jesus came to save. Awesome!


*Scripture quotes from NRSV

Day #74

March 15, 2014

Another day of rest?! When will this “yuk” be gone?!


Day #73

March 14, 2014

Clergy are not exempt from temptation. That statement may not come as any surprise at all, and really, it shouldn’t. Clergy, after all, are human and all humans are vulnerable to being tempted to all sorts of things.

That is one purpose of worship. To gather with other humans, all of whom are also vulnerable, and encourage one another to turn to God, trust God, and follow God. The same sort of thing happens when clergy gather with colleagues. To share frustrations and prayer concerns, to encourage one another to read helpful books and listen to helpful teaching, and to remind one another to turn to God, trust God and follow God.

There was an unexpected meeting today that came at just the right moment and was just the right blend of those things. Thank God for colleagues who love the Lord and their calling. Thank you guys!


Day #72

March 13, 2014

After several days of fighting through it - the cold or flu or allergies or whatever I have - it has taken hold. I’m frustrated. I’m still sick. I’m exhausted. And my body is completely weary. I even did something I haven’t done in a very long time - slept through the phone ringing.

What do I do? Give in to the need for rest and let my body find it’s way to healing. And be patient with it. Now, that’s the hard part!


Day #71

March 12, 2014

There are times when the best laid plans just don’t quite go the way you expect. You have an idea of how you hope something will go and then you leave it up to others to carry out the plan. Then, it takes an unexpected turn. What do you do? You leave it up to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knows best anyway and is much better at control than I ever could be. Or should be.

P.S. It’s not always easy to do, though. :-)


Day #70

March 11, 2014

Today was a special day. A very special day. Twenty-five years ago today, I married the man of my dreams. It was a beautiful day, 25 years ago. Sunny, warm, exciting, magical. It seems like yesterday. Literally.

Yet twenty-five years of life have happened since that wonderful moment. We had no idea what types of things we would endure, or the opportunities and celebrations we would enjoy. It’s been a life of joy, sorrow, pain, happiness, and commitment. And I wouldn’t change a moment.

My prayer is that whatever life has in store for the next years we have together, we continue in the same way. Committed to one another. Trusting one another. Loving one another. Laughing with one another. Even crying with one another. It’s a wonderful life and I thank God everyday for this man I share it with. I love you, honey. Happy Anniversary!


Day #69

March 10, 2014

A couple of days away for our anniversary found us at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. The plane which became known several years ago as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ is housed there. It is quite a reminder of how fragile human invention can be when it comes up against it’s Achilles' Heel.

It was determined what brought down this now famous plane was geese. Just minutes after takeoff, the plane encountered a flock of geese and two were sucked up in the plane’s engines.

Tragedy was averted, however, by the quick thinking and training of the pilots, along with the same of the flight attendants. The interesting part: out of the 150 passengers, only 25 listened to the pre-flight instructions and only 12 read the instruction cards. It was one of those 12, however, who used what he had read to help get others out of the plane safely. One. Yet, all were saved.

I had to wonder what this says about reading the Christian “instruction” manuel, the Bible. No, the Bible is not really an “instruction” manuel, but it is the story of our God, God’s love and God’s saving plan for creation. Will I be the “one” who reads it and is called to be a part of God’s plan? Will you?


Monday, March 17, 2014

Day #68

March 9, 2014

I now understand why I was so exhausted. I am sick. Not something, thankfully, that happens often, but I’m feeling pretty lousy. But I’m thankful. Folks were patient and kind today. They understand. What a gift.

The worst part, I was unable to give Holy Communion. I consecrated the sacrament and then someone else distributed it, gave the body and blood. I miss that connection with the people. Miss it terribly. It’s my favorite moment of ministry. Next week!


Day #67

March 8, 2014

There is an example from Jesus’ life that I am truly thankful for. It was how he occasionally took time away from the crowds, the needs and life and went away to pray and rest. For some reason, I was exhausted and took a day of sabbatical. A true day off, with no meetings, phone calls, writing, nothing. I sure needed it and was very thankful for it.


Day #66

March 7, 2014

Sometimes the hand of God moments I am most thankful for are the ones with the to do list in one hand and the pen in the other, checking things off and getting things accomplished. Being inspired, literally feeling God directing my thoughts and words, is an awesome feeling, because it’s being open to the Holy Spirit. It can be rare, because I often get in the way. But when it happens, it’s glorious.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Day #65

March 6, 2014

It was a strange encounter that left me sad and questioning.

As I sometimes do, I stopped at the local convenience store for a soda and snack. As I came out, an elderly gentleman was getting his fuel cans from his trunk to get kerosene. As we passed on the sidewalk, I smiled and said, “Hi.” But he ignored me. Maybe I wasn’t loud enough, I thought, and let it go.

Once back in my car, I took a moment to check a phone message, and he went toward the store's entrance. I heard loud voices and looked up to see him ‘fussing’ at a young man to “just get in the store, why don’t you.” Then he followed him in. At that point, the young woman in the car next to me, who was evidently with the young man, got out of her car, slammed the door, and started inside. As she opened the front door, the elderly gentleman was right there. She said something to him in a not so friendly tone, and he responded with a very unfriendly reply.

What was going on? What could be wrong? Was it a bad day for the gentleman? Or is there a chronic problem? But here’s my confession - what did I do but back out of the parking spot and go on my way.

Which left me sad and questioning. Should I have done more? Could I have done more? Were prayers enough? When do we intervene and for what purpose?

Wow, what a way to start Lent?!


Day #64

March 5, 2014

Pancake fellowship leads the way to repentance and solemnness. Such is the story of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

There was a good turnout for worship (similar to the pancake fellowship - yea!), including folks we haven’t seen in a while and a couple of new faces. Which fits the call from the prophet Joel: “Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

This is the call for Lent. Return to the one who loves you beyond measure and who provides for all you need. Return (or continue) to intentionally spend the forty days (plus Sundays) between now and Easter with God. Be aware of praying more, giving selflessly, and fasting from what keeps you away from God - waht are known as the disciplines of Lent.

As someone mentioned, it’s not a journey as much as a meandering. For we have a goal through this process. To make room for growth in our faith; to depend more upon the one who gives his all for us (the mountaintop of Easter truly will mean more when we’ve walked through the valley with Jesus); and to live our lives following him, for he is worthy of our praise and trust.

It’s a great season of the year. It’s the most holy of seasons of the year. And God wants our attention. Is that really too much to ask?!


Day #63 March 4, 2014 - The Daily Intersection - Day #63

Those pancakes I mentioned yesterday were put to good use today. We had a great turnout at the pancake supper, including some folks we haven’t seen in a while. But the wonderful part was simply the fellowship. Folks enjoyed each others' company and stayed and talked and laughed and shared and talked and laughed and shared. What a joy to see folks enjoying spending time with one another. Makes a pastor thankful!


Day #62

March 3, 2014

Sometimes the neatest ideas come in the most unlikely places. I was in Sam’s getting supplies for the annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper and had the obvious in the cart: pancake mix, syrup, and sausage. I jokingly said to the clerk checking me out - guess what we’re having? She said, “Breakfast.” I didn’t correct her, because then she said, “We had breakfast at church last Sunday. It was ‘bring a friend breakfast.’ Your meal was free if you brought a friend and you paid for their meal.”

What a cool idea. Have breakfast before worship. Ask for $3.00 or $4.00 a plate and if you bring a friend and pay for their meal, yours is free. Then, of course, bring them to worship.

What a great idea! Never expected it in the checkout line at Sam’s, but then, isn’t God everywhere?!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day #61

March 2, 2014

While writing the sermon for this week, I had an experience unlike any I’ve had so far. It was as if God was talking directly to me saying, ask this question. Go in this direction. Take the folks in this way.

Now, I always, always pray intentionally before I begin to write and have had numerous occasions when I was led to a very different place than where I thought I might be headed. But this experience was a total 180 degrees from anything I had been thinking about all week.

Let me report, though, that the direction God sent me in was exactly what I needed, at least. And at the end, we prayed together this prayer, one of my absolute favorites and most appropriate for today's theme: Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Day #60

March 1, 2014

Just so you know, there aren’t too many things that get me up at 4:45 am on a Saturday morning, but youth are one. Especially youth willing to ride 2.5 hours to a day-long youth event called Confirmation Day at LTSS. This year’s theme: The Other 167.

As one of the leaders at LTSS explained in his introduction, there are 168 hours in a week and we only give God about 1 hour on a Sunday morning for worship. What about the other 167? What are some ways we serve God and live out our faith in those hours? This idea means so much to me that if this blog wasn’t already named The Daily Intersection, I might have “stolen” their idea and called it: The Other 167.

Be that as it may, youth from three different churches spent a day riding and praying, playing and worshiping, singing and eating, sharing and learning - all focused on how faith plays a part in our everyday lives. God isn’t (at least shouldn’t be) pigeon-holed to just 1 out of the 168 hours in a week.

Really, though, if you were to ask me what the best part of the day was, I would have to say the ride down and back. More bonding and sharing and forming happened in that van between those kids and their adult leaders than any retreat can facilitate. I love hearing kids talk to one another and they were sure doing a lot of it. Music to my ears, a song to my heart.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day #59

February 28, 2014

Another thought out of the “mouths of babes.” This one from what looked to be a four or five year old. We were in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. For whatever reason, the television always seems to be on in those places (along with the hospital) and today it was turned to Dr. Phil.

Now, I must admit, I’m not really a fan of any “Dr.” on television. My theory is, you get what you pay for. In other words, they give free advice to the general population and they’re being paid by advertiser’s money for one purpose - to attract an audience.

Anyway (please forgive the temporary rant), Dr. Phil was “counseling” a couple where the husband had admitted to multiple accounts of “indiscretion” in his marriage (the details of which were rather detailed and embarrassing). Then we hear Dr. Phil make the comment, “Let me be perfectly clear!” in a very authoritative tone.

At that moment, the young one in the room said, “Mommy, is Dr. Phil a judge?” Mommy replied simply, no. Then the young one asked, “Are we allowed to watch this?”

I had to smile. Actually, were any of us “allowed” to watch, or were we being “subjected” to it? And why didn’t we speak up that we wanted it changed? Were we concerned someone else was interested in the program or was really getting something of value out of it? Most importantly, what kind of message was it for this young one?

So, you may be wondering, how does she see this as a moment of “intersection?” Guess my question back is, what are we allowing our mind to be fed with? Is it with words of hope and love? Or “judge”ment calls based on someone’s opinion? Hmmm….


Day #58

February 27, 2014

Some days the most obvious intersection of faith and daily life comes through the sheer joy of laughter and spending time with members. It is holy ground - hearing their stories and the evidence of faith lived out in family, work and just simply living, along with the humor that surrounds it all. It’s amazing. It’s refreshing. It’s God’s gift.