Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day #543

June 27, 2015

In the Gospel reading for Sunday, June 28th, (Mark 5:21-43), there is the account of Jesus healing a woman who had suffered from a disease for 12 years. She is not named in the account, until after she touches the hem of Jesus’ garment, he finds out who did so, calls her to him, and hears her story. It is then that Jesus calls her “daughter.”

In that moment of healing of body, mind and spirit, her given name does not matter (even though it is always and forever unknown to us) but her new name, daughter, means everything. She is now included, loved, cared for and about, claimed, and given dignity – all things she has probably not had for over a decade.

How did this event change her life? What did she do with her new-found acceptance and wholeness? Did she go and tell others just about the physical healing, her being claimed somehow lost in the excitement? Or was the acceptance her focus as she spread the news? These questions, unfortunately, cannot be answered.

However, what about me? What does it mean that I have been claimed by God in the waters of baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever? Have I been healed in ways that I don’t even recognize? And how do I respond? More importantly, how should I?


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day #542

June 26, 2015

After a very long day at Vacation Bible School, followed by a rousing family potluck and program, the last thing on my desired activity list was to attend a late evening Prayer Vigil. Yet I was compelled to attend for several reasons: a need to support the local pastors, a need to support the local community, a desire to be a part of something that is hoping to further the healing of the nation over the latest heinous act of violence motivated by racism and hatred in Charleston, SC, and a deep need to worship with others who might also be struggling with how the Word of God and the love of community somehow seems to have failed to persuade this young man to change his mind about killing.

So we went to the Prayer Vigil at the local AME congregation. And were very uplifted and glad we did. Yes, there were words of pain deeply rooted in actions from the past and present, but there were also many words of hope. And most importantly, the reminder and assurance that God’s love does prevail. God’s love does transform. God’s love is the catalyst to turn the hatred and prejudice ingrained in our bondage to sin into love, service and justice. God’s love is the hope to which we turn. God’s is THE love that is beyond our comprehension, yet where we lay our needs, fears, hurts - at the foot of the cross, the reminder of the kind of love that gives up everything - willingly - for you and me. The place where we are all truly equal - always!

For a little more information about the Vigil, here is a local news report link: Great Falls church...


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day #541

June 25, 2015

I read about North Carolina and peaches in a magazine article. It brought back wonderful memories of heading to a small town called Candor every year for peaches with my Grandma. (Here's a link to one of the places we went: Johnson's Peaches) The town is only minutes from where she lived and in the heart of peach country. Reading about them, I could almost taste the homemade peach ice cream, a fresh one cut up in a bowl with a little sugar and milk, or just biting into one on the way home. Yum!

I also have to admit a tear formed as I thought about how simple life seemed as a child. There was nothing better than a ride to “get peaches” with Grandma during the week I would stay with her in the summer. Oh, those were the days!


Oh, and since I’ve been talking so much about VBS this week, here’s a shot (sorry it's a tad blurry) just before the official “group” photo was taken. What a fun week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day #540

June 24, 2015

The following story came in a letter I received by email. It seemed the perfect follow-up to the picture on Day #536:
A city slicker was visiting Vermont one summer and came across an old-timer dressed in green work clothes sitting on a bench outside the local country store. He went up to him and in a friendly voice said, “I imagine that you’ve seen a lot of amazing changes in your lifetime.” “Yep,” replied the old-timer, “sure have. And I’ve been a’gin every darn one of ‘em!”


Day #539

June 23, 2015

There is such joy in hearing the laughter of children, the singing of songs, the prayers of little voices, the screams of fun, the teaching about God. Those are just a few things I am thankful for this Vacation Bible School week.

I already mentioned the Camp Counselors (see Day #537), but they are simply awesome. Their love for children and for God just oozes out of them. They are great teachers and examples!

The adults who are volunteering to feed the group, clean up, organize, help teach and house the counselors, and so much more – well, it just wouldn’t happen without them.

The older youth, the “junior” counselors, are also great examples. Still “in training,” they already are very responsible and loving examples.

Yep, as we learn about “A Love that Never Ends,” and the love is lived out this week, I’m reminded that God intersects with us in that way every single moment of every single day – forever!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day #538

June 22, 2015

The overall theme for Vacation Bible School is “A Love that Never Ends.” What a comfort to know that God’s love for us is always and forever, from the beginning to everlasting.

The verse for the first day? “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5, NRSV

Quite the calling for us to do – glad we have God’s love of us first!


Day #537

June 21, 2015

What a fun Sunday of fellowship and anticipated learning!

First, a car show followed worship as a celebration of Father's Day. What a great chance to talk with folks, brag a little about their cars, make new friends, discover common interests, and just be together.

Later, the camp counselors arrived who will help make Vacation Bible School happen this week. What a great group of six young Christian men and woman who are enthusiastic, ready to go learn and teach about God and be with kids! We are very excited about what this week will bring!

Day #536

June 20, 2015
Saw this and had to laugh – and applaud the creativity that gives us pause to laugh at ourselves who try to resist change.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Day #535

June 19, 2015

d365 for June 19th talks about listening to our own prayers for an indication of who we really are and what our dreams are about. In other words, what we pray for and about is where our hearts really are.

Hmm... have I listened to my prayers lately? Really listened? Have you? (For more about prayer this week, see Day #532)


Day #534

June 18, 2015

The tragedy that occurred in Charleston, SC, (Charleston, SC Shooting) on this day leaves me without words. To think of someone entering a Bible Study solely with the intent to harm - no KILL - makes my heart sick. As someone mentioned in something I read, the church should be a sanctuary - for EVERYONE - in the storm, not a place of bloodshed!

Perhaps the fact that I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s latest book, The Invention of Wings, brings the horror of racism home even more sharply. The very church where the shootings occurred, and its founder, were in this book of historical fiction, set in the 1800s. Have all God’s children really NOT come any farther in learning how to love?!?!


Day #533

June 17, 2015

All those recent posts about relaxation and fun and napping came to an abrupt end as we made our way back home - slowly, VERY SLOWLY - by airplane.

So in the midst of HOURS of waiting in airports, delayed flights, and uncomfortable seats, I have to wonder if there is ANY fun in flying?!?! Then I saw this story from FL: Stuffed Tiger

Gives me hope that flying can be fun. Well, at least an airport can be!


Day #532

June 16, 2015

The d365 devotion for June 16th included the following statement about praying in times of struggle, or dark days, when God seems to be ignoring our calls for help: “God may be counting on us to figure out our problems for ourselves using the skills and experience given to us by God.”

The statement gave me pause. And it made me wonder: do I  sometimes cry out to God for help when I could figure things out myself simply because I want to avoid the suffering? Or that I want the suffering to end more quickly? Or I am just a little lazy in doing what I need to do to "fix" things and I'm looking for an easy out? These are tough things to consider, for certain. Especially if it means I’m “using” prayer, or God, like a magic wand.

So is God's seeming to “ignore” really that, or is it an opportunity to learn reliance, perseverance, and trust? Hmmm....


PS Please don’t get the idea I think ALL prayer is about avoiding suffering. Or that I think God would rather not be bothered by some of our prayers. Instead, I believe God wants us to pray about anything and everything - because it means we are in a mode of conversation, which also means listening. I'm simply wondering more about my own motives.

Day #531

June 15, 2015

The word the for the day - once again - is thankful.

This time I am thankful for colleagues who are willing to check on folks in my absence. It is quite the gift to be in ministry with other pastors who will look in on those in need. It certainly makes being gone a little easier. Thank you!!!!


Day #530

June 14, 2015

OK - a picture is worth a thousand words, right?!


Monday, June 15, 2015

Day #529

June 13, 2015

Um...did I mention there is time for relaxing and napping and talking and laughing?!

Sorry to rub it in, but it is good!


Day #528

June 12, 2015

What a privilege and comfort to know that, while there are days of vacation, there is still something that can be done for folks: to remember them in prayer. While I may be away, God is always present and ready to be in conversation with us.

Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer!

Thank you, God, for hearing my prayers and those of others, and responding.


Day #527

June 11, 2015

Ahh...it's time for some vacation. Off for relaxation, reading, talking, eating, napping…and then doing the same all over again. Ahh….


Day #526

June 10, 2015

In a discussion about the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday, the talk was about the mustard seed. Specifically, that even though it is such a small seed, when planted it becomes the largest of plants. (Ok, there may be smaller seed and larger “plants,” but that is the idea.)

It has always been my thought that this is about the kingdom of God itself. That it only takes a little seed of faith planted in us by God to further the great kingdom of God that has grown throughout the centuries to millions. In other words, as we continue to share the love of God through our lives, begun as a seed at our baptism, the kingdom continues to grow. We are workers with God through the seed God plants.

But what difference might it make if we think of the seed as Jesus himself? Not faith as the seed, but his life, death and resurrection itself. Could it be that he was the tiny seed, planted as God’s Kingdom on earth? Was it that his life was planted here as a beginning, to show us God in the flesh, give us hope, make the way for salvation? And are we just little seeds, if you will, as Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit?

Just a little something to think about...and ponder.


Day #525

June 9, 2015

Sometimes the most appropriate "Intersection" is the Word. Psalm 107, verse 1 is on my mind:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day #524

June 8, 2015

I attended a funeral today of a family member of a parishoner. One of the comments in the message from the priest went something like this: he did well what he could and did not get upset by what he couldn’t do or didn’t have.

It seems to me that is very much a complement about a person. To do the best with what one has - be it material goods, faith, health, personality, intelligence, or whatever - says a lot about a person’s character. Especially if doing their best involves doing for others, thinking of others first, etc.

Then to not get upset by what one cannot do or does not have says even more. To live a life free of envy, regret, desire for what someone else has or comparing one’s self to someone else sounds like an amazing way to live.

The comment certainly made me think. How often do I worry about what I cannot do, allowing that to keep me from doing what I can? Hmmm….


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day #523

June 7, 2015

Just had to share a picture of the “altar” and “head table” at the assembly. A colleague and I were responsible for the “decorating,” and if I say so myself, I think it all came together wonderfully for our last day of assembly and closing worship.

Thanks be to God another assembly year is over. Now, on to the next thing.


PS The banners in the background were painted by my colleague. She's a very talented artist, as well as wonderful pastor!

Day #522

June 6, 2015

Perhaps the most thought-provoking thing I heard today was a story one of the presenters shared written by someone whose name I did not get. It went something like this:
Mouse and elephant were best friends and were always together. One day elephant and mouse decided to have a party. They invited other friends, prepared lots of food, played fun music - quite the party. Elephant had a great time, dancing and talking. At the end of the party, after everyone had left, elephant called out to mouse, “where are you, mouse? Wasn’t that just the best party? Didn’t we have the most fun?” 
But mouse didn’t answer. So elephant called out again, “Mouse, where are you?” Looking all around, elephant finally looked down at his feet. There was mouse. In all his dancing and partying, elephant had trampled mouse without even realizing it.
It's a tragic story, one that really made me stop and think. It was written as an example of how the USA can affect other countries in their enthusiasm to “help,” yet instead trampling the “other.”

Certainly there have been many who justifiably criticize the USA, but I tell this story because it also made me think about myself. How often, in my exuberance to serve or help, have I run over someone else, trampling their need to be of service or help. Or, in the perceived need to “hurry up and get it done,” have I overrun someone else by being bossy, demeaning, or just in the way?”

Think I’ll be watching my feet a little more closely, hopefully for a long time!


Day #521

June 5, 2015

It is time for the annual Synod Assembly. It's the gathering of rostered and lay leaders of all the congregations in this area. We will do the “business” of the synod, including adopting a budget, voting on resolutions, and hearing reports from various agencies and ministries.

We will also fellowship and worship, talk and sing, eat and meet. Still being relatively new to this place, it is good to realize there are many who have already become familiar as I have met colleagues and made friends. How good it is to recognize faces as familiar. How good it is to feel even more “at home.”


Day #520

June 4, 2015

I have written before about the group of clergy who meet to discuss accompanying those who live/seek to thrive in the downtown area where I now serve (see Day 373). At this month's meeting, we also talked about the new Facebook page for the group. Here is the link to check it out: Downtown Samaritans on FaceBook

As a group, we meet to talk about how best to walk with others, support one another in the ministry we do, identify what resources are available and discern what more might be done - in education, service, and Christian love. It is a privilege to serve with such-minded colleagues.


Day #519

June 3, 2015

As I have written about before, I am often invited into some of the most intimate moments of people’s lives. Moments of fear (the diagnosis), doubt (does God still love me if God allowed this to happen), sorrow (death), and joy (baptism, weddings, births). Yet the moment of intersection on June 3rd was holding the hand of someone whose spouse of decades had just died. “She’ll be with me,” this gentle, grieving spouse said to family handling details and such.

What a moment of trust that I would be there! What holy ground for me to share with this person - a moment of pure privilege.

Thanks be to God for this amazing calling and vocation - to be a minister (which we all are) of God. 


Day #518

June 2, 2015

In reading a magazine article, this line caught my attention: “what’s strong becomes stronger still when two forces are combined.”

Love, faith, marriage, friendship are all things that came to mind (the community theme continues - days #516 and #517) when I read this. From my own experience, the combined "forces" of my husband and me, especially the love we share, have always given each of us more strength together than I believe either of us would have had alone to face some of the challenges of the last twenty-five plus years.

Then there are these words of promise found in scripture in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Now there is a force of strength beyond compare - to give us what we need to love and serve God in the ways God needs and desires. All the ways, in all things!


Day #517

June 1, 2015
These beautiful flowers came today. What a surprise, and such a sweet gesture. They came as a thank you and certainly brightened an otherwise challenging day.

Something like this speaks to that joy of community I wrote about yesterday. Yes, community is good, especially at times when we benefit from the thoughtfulness of others. Nice!


Day #516

May 31, 2015

In the last discussion about the church (see Day #509 for how these discussion began), we talked about what it means to be the church together.

For me, the community of church is so very important. Being from a small earthly family, it has always meant a lot to me to have millions of brothers and sisters through God’s family. In community, there is strength, support, and ability to accomplish much more through the work of many than what one can do alone.

Yet, there is a flip-side to the positive. At times, being church together can be very hard. Disagreement, differences of opinion about the way things should be, personalities and judgment can sneak in and disrupt the tranquility and joy of community. Those moments can bring sadness and splintering.

In my opinion, however, even with the risk and potential for hurt and sorrow the benefits of community far outweigh the possibility of pain. Belonging is good, especially to God’s family. And one day, perfection of relationship/community will be ours with God....forever. What a day to look toward, and to celebrate glimpses of now.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Day #515

May 30, 2015

We took a quick ride out to a favorite spot on the river and were rewarded with a beautiful sight - a rainbow. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but here’s a try:

A sign of God’s promise. Beautiful!


Day #514

May 29, 2015

It is the season of synod assemblies, the business meetings and information sharing times for the church. Every six years, it is time to elect a new bishop for a synod. For the one I left a little over six months ago, it is that time. After eighteen years, there will be a new bishop, new leadership, perhaps even new direction.

I was fortunate enough to be at the churchwide assembly the last time a presiding bishop was elected. It was amazing to see the Holy Spirit at work. It was a privilege to hear the candidates answer questions, see their reactions, and wait for the results of a room full of people's votes. Witnessing the coming together of like-mindedness is a process I will always remember. And when the election was over, I cried, literally, over the results, awed by the result and how it all happened.

No reason to think this process won’t be similar, for the Holy Spirit at work is amazing!


Day #513

May 28, 2015

So often what David Lose has to say in his blog, In the Meantime (www.davidlose.net), speaks strongly to me. This is what he had to say, with my editing, on May 25th (I was a tad behind in reading - no surprise!):
I sometimes wonder if part of the reason so many...people have a hard time connecting faith to everyday life is simply because we don’t take God’s promises seriously enough. ...we are all born anew through the Spirit and declared co-heirs with Christ...what decisions might [we] make this week knowing [we] have God’s unconditional love and confidence? How might [our] relationships look different in light of God’s promises? How might the challenges at school or work be put in perspective when [we] remember that [we] are co-heirs with Christ? And what kind of risks might [we] take in [our] relationships or careers knowing that the creator and sustainer of the universe has [our] back?
He went on to write about the parable of the eagle who was raised with a bunch of chickens. Thinking he was permanently stuck on the ground, he would eat corn in the barnyard with the chickens while looking up at the sky watching other eagles soar high, wishing to be with them. We are meant to soar like eagles, Lose writes.

So, with the strength of the Holy Spirit under our wings, should we not be afraid to try our wings, taking seriously that we have God’s unconditional love and confidence? Hmmm...something to ponder. What is God hoping I will trust God enough to try a little soaring to do?


Monday, June 1, 2015

Day #512

May 27, 2015

The word for today comes in the form of a question: what does it mean to you for someone to say they are praying for you? Does it bring comfort? Skepticism (I have a friend who once said, I wonder if they really do pray for me when they say they will)? Are you thankful?

I often have people ask me to pray for them. For me, it is an honor to do so. And I hope a comfort to know someone is lifting up their name to God.

But the best is when someone tells me they are praying for me. Thank you! I really do appreciate you telling me you are praying for me, remembering me before God! I surely can feel those prayers and I am grateful.


Day #511

May 26, 2015

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is speak the truth in love. Maybe speaking the truth itself isn’t as hard as doing so “in love.” Sometimes, however, the really hard part is to watch someone else speak the truth while not being able to intervene. It is hard because the truth can hurt. The truth can be brutal. Yet, the truth can also save us.

As I watched someone speak some hard, but truthful, words to someone I care about, I could not help but give thanks for their honesty, for their challenge, and for their courage. I was thankful to be a witness, and a part, of a very holy conversation, especially one the person truly seemed to be hearing!

Thanks be to God for those who tell it like it is, wanting only the best for the other person.