Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Funeral Directors

One of the interesting parts of being is pastor is that you do funerals and you then get to know funeral directors.

I like to ride out to the cemetery with the funeral director and over the years have had some wonderful conversations with these men and women.

Yesterday I did a funeral and our drive to the cemetery lasted about 30 minutes and I got to hear the story of Don's recent illness coming home from vacation which started with eating a bad hamburger in the Dominican Republic and ended with 9 days in the hospital in Atlanta because he was too weak to fly home. On our ride back to the funeral home we talked about church life and the changes in the funeral business over the last 20 years.

That is just an example of the blessing of getting to spend this time together. I remember one time as we drove to a cemetery the funeral director shared with me that her father had just died - a suicide. And I ended up doing pastoral care and later gave her and her mother a reiki treatment.

Last week I did a funeral in the morning before we went to the doctor to get the result of the biopsy on Chuck's tongue. I shared that with the funeral director who I had never met before. He told me about his wife's illness and I talked about Chuck. And imagine my surprise when that evening he called me at home to find out how the tests came out.

I write this just to say that God continues to give us all kinds of interesting ways to make connections with other people. And for a minister, these friendships that come along with funeral directors - who are involved in a very similar ministry to ours - are often a blessing.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

This week we celebrate the end of the year and the decade! I always enjoy the newspaper articles and the web postings about the past year. What were the top movies? the Best books? the most important news stories? Who has died? All of that seems important to remember and to reflect.

At the same time I am getting ready to do a funeral tomorrow for a 90 year old man, Bill Van Scyoc, who was a charter member of my church. As i sat with his son and daughter in law on Saturday we remembered and reflected - not only on his life - but his generation. My parents are gone - but they were part of that generation that lived through the depression, world war 2, the possibilities and the Ozzie and Harriet family life of the 50's. These people were really the backbone of the church - faithful attenders, workers and givers.

And yesterday was the last worship service for Broad Street Christian Church in downtown Columbus. When I lived in Columbus in the 80's it was the big church with the very impressive building. many of the oldest members of my current church attended that church in the 50's as Dr. Floyd Faust was an important pastor. now the building is too large to maintain for the dwindling congregation. Very sad to see a congregation die.

We are living through a time of change and there are so many endings - not just people and churches - but the changes in the way we get and impart information, the changes in family life, the changes in neighborhoods. That is a post in and of itself.

But what I recognize is that the changes - and the deaths - are just a part of the story. There are births that comes out of it. And so, I hope that the people who are part of the church that has died will seek and find new churches and I hope some of them make their way to karl Road christian church.

What is so clear to me is that one or two people, can come into a church and really make a difference. they can bring a new sensibiility, a new kind of energy, and new perspecitve and help us to grow in different ways.

I look ahead to the new year with great expectation. There is a generation that is dying and it saddends me. At the same time there is a new generation that is coming. And God is in the midst of it all and bringing us new beginnings.

I look forward to see what is going to happen next!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


It is Saturday night and Chuck and I are home alone.
We are both exhausted but happy.
And Christmas is not yet over. We still have a trip to Toledo on Monday to share Christmas gifts with Lisa and family. And tomorrow is church and the day after a funeral.
But now - Saturday night - I am tired and happy.
Both Audrey and Kacey have written some about our holiday - but from my perspective, here is what makes me satisfied.

1. Christmas Eve worship was wonderful. It was a little different this year as our theme was the "Angel Chorus." We had 4 people plus me speak a little bit about why they are in the "Angel Chorus" - what it means to them that Jesus was born. And it was very personal and, I think, meaningful. At the end we had communion, offering and formed a circle. Then in the darkness, lit the candles. It took a long time for the light to go around the room which was different and - again - meaningful. I liked it. And I liked seeing people on that special night.

2. Christmas Eve we went to Marnie and Erik's and had some home made eggnog. I got to see Erik's Mom who would be there in the morning to be with that family as they opened Christmas present. It all made me feel good - this is a new family and they all seem happy.

3. Our Christmas morning was quiet and nice as we lounged in our PJ's and watched Mama Mia. I like the adult Christmas morning.

3. Chuck and I visited Erma in the hospital on Christmas Day which was a high for me. She is one of the saints of the church in the hospital with pneumonia and it just felt good to see her and be with her and Chuck and pray with and for her.

4. When everybody showed yesterday afternoon we were ready for them all. Our opening presents, dinner, opening stockings, and chocolate fondue for dessert took about 4 hours. Lots of noise and fun. I am so glad that we exchange gifts but we have a $20 limit per person so it does not break the bank but it shows people we care.

5. We did have a kids table and they ate their mac and cheese together and prayed together. It makes a Reverend Grandma's heart warm all over!

6. We have played games - like bananagrams, rummi cub, scene it and Bop it. Fun, fun, fun. but for Chuck and I it will always be Upwards that relaxes us. (we played tonight when it was just the two of us.

7. I think my favorite thing of all these days is just watching everyone in my family as they talk and laugh and spend time together. I am a blessed woman and I love a holiday like this when we get to be together.

The house is still a mess and I am very tired - staying up too late. But it is all worth it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I saw the movie "Precious" last night and woke up this morning thinking about it. That is always the sign of a great movie.

What I find myself thinking about is:
1. The unfairness of life. Some people are born into situations that are so awful that it is almost unimaginable. I live in a priveleged world where most babies are wanted and cared for. And while I know we all have "issues" from our childhood, most of us have places where we hsve someone who cares for us. If it is not a mother, it is a father, or a grandparent. Precious was abused by her father, hated by her mother and ignored by her grandmother. It is sad, sad, sad and beyond my life experience to have such a childhood.

2. The resiliency of human life - at least some people. There are times when you hear about how hard life is for people and yet....they persevere and find their own way and are able to transcend terrible beginnings.

3. The power of love - in Precious life she found a caring teacher and a classroom of her peers who helped her. They helped her see her own intelligence and supported her as she made decisions in her life.

this movies had more than that in it - but those three things are what I find myself thinking about this morning.

It is so easy to live our lives and think everyone is like us and is having essentially the same experience as we are. Movie (and books) help us to get out of our narrow lives and see another life and see the forces that move it to growth.

I really recommend it.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I think that Luke 1: 26-38 - may be my favorite passage in the Bible. I am preaching on this on Sunday - when the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that she is going to give birth.

My home is full of angels as well as depictions of Mary and Jesus. I believe that our story is one of giving birth - new life. It is an ongoing narrative as we become changed by God. It is also rich as we enter into the pain, lack of control, mystery and wonder of "giving birth" that comes when we allow it.

this is what I wrote about it this morning:

It is all here

An ancient story of an angel
who unsettles
a life

An invitation to birth
the one who comes
through spirit

A companion who shares
the grace and the burden
of holy favor

The word that proclaims
the impossible is now

The Handmaid
who receives
and bears
and serves
The one for whom the world is waiting.

May we find ourselves in this story.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Reflections

We had what was for me a very big Thanksgiving.
The whole family came together - with the exception of my nephew Sean who is in Japan.
They started coming on Wednesday afternoon as my brother Wayne and wife Gail came from New Hampshire and brother Geoff and daughter Gillian came from New York. It was our anniversary and they took us out to eat at J. Liu's which was really a wonderful treat.
Brett met us there and took Gillian out and they ended up at Brett and Kacey's home for games and beverage. Audrey had arrived there.
The next day - Thanksgiving - everyone else came - from New York - Hannah, Mike, Elyssa, Alex and Evan and from Chicago - Tom, Samantha and Sarah. We had a great Thanksgiving meal with more people (33 in all!) and the next few days - more meals, lots of conversation, games, movies, football. It was Thanksgiving!

This was our first Thanksgiving without my sister Ellen and it was - bittersweet. Wednesday night we watched the home movie - taken 50 + years ago - of us as children. We even saw when Ellen came home from the hospital. Gail remarked that the last that arrived was the first to leave. And I never saw that so clearly.

Friday morning we did a time of remembrance of Ellen. We were in the sanctuary of the church and showed pictures through the years and shared our memories. Sean had sent a wonderful letter which Audrey read and then we watched a slide show with "Over the Rainbow" playing in the background. It was sharing our grief and I hope for others it was helpful. It was for me. Afterward I wondered if that is not what everyone needs about 6 months after a loved one has died - a time to come together with friends and family and remember. It is easy to feel like you are the only one who is grieving.

But the weekend was not all sadness. I was pleased that the cousins - 7 girls (Gillian and Sean missing) and companions were able to go out to eat together on Friday night. This summer at my Aunt and Uncle's funerals I learned about that cousin bond - you don't see each other much, but you are so connected through early memories and your parents relationship with each other.

I was glad to see the next generation down - Alyse, Reagan, Addie, Jacksn and Evan playing together. We are all the descendents of Marge and Wayne - they would be so pleased!

And most of all I was glad to be in the company of my brothers. This was our 5th time together this year - because of my cruise and the family funerals - but as I get older I value them more and more. But, as always, I miss Ellen.

I am blessed by my husband. We fed several crowds all weekend with no complaints and lots of new dishes to share (how about dried mango?)

All in all, much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quotes from my Wellstreams Class

From Sister Carol Ann

"Our God is a God of freedom and we need to listen to where people are un-free."

"God's Will and My Deep Desires are Not Different

Our challenge to to understand our Deepest Desires."

There is a Sufi Saying
"A Teacher will come into our life and when we've learned the lesson, they will go."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Morning Thoughts

I think this is a prayer.

I wake up on a beautiful Saturday

Thinking about the loss of my sister and feeling that pain
As I go to the prayer room I look out the window and see the house next door where my neighbor died suddenly this summer.
I think about a man of my acquaintance who committed suicide last week.

And I know that there is pain and suffering in this world and my world.

I have already read the Columbus Dispatch and its stories about rape, murder, war, crime. Our inhumanity.

and I seek to come to god and to remember the life that pushes through.

The life that encourages life and growth and beauty and creativity

The life as I think ahead to a great family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration after that

The life as I think about worship tomorrow and preparation today

The life as I think of my family - waking this morning all over the country and laughing, working, eating and living.

Wake me up, today Lord so that I can see life in this life.

The life of love and service and engagement.
That life that sees, hears, and feels. Everything!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sermon from Sunday

This sermon was preached on the text about the widow's mite.

You know this story - It is the story that is seems to be brought out in November just in time for a stewardship message - To guilt the congregation into giving

I think that is a mis read – not going to do it.
Instead I see Jesus with a teachable moment for his disciples and for us.
And he compares and contrast a widow – whose years of raising children and caring for her husband – is over
A woman who is completely marginalized by the world that she is in.
A woman who was a close to nobody as you could be during this time.

With the important men in religion – the teachers of the law, scribes, the ones whose dress, education and title, command respect. Start by talking about the scribes

And the first word that you see here is BEWARE
Beware of these scribes – and as he describes them – he is saying three things about them
Beware of their pride. It doesn’t say pride but it describes pride

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you” CS Lewis

Which is a good description of these men. Living in that stratified world – where there are best seats for some and lesser seats for others; where some are respected more than others, where they are set apart by the clothes that they wear.

We live in that world too – and of course, we would like to wear nice clothes, sit where we want, and be treated with respect.
That is a world in which we have to beware of pride – in living like that, expecting that, getting used to that

Second thing to beware is to see that these men – these men of God – have devoured the house of the widow. Several explanations – it could be because these men essentially helped settle the estates of the widows (as women could not be trusted) or that their temple building led to their exploiting the people as they collected offerings.
Devour - Picture of abuse
The abuse that happens in this system of stratification – where some are on top and some are on the bottom
The abuse that happens when there are rich and poor – and while we all want to be rich – too often it can happen at the expense of the poor.
And the third thing to beware of is judgment – These men will receive the greater condemnation. And Jesus is saying that there is judgment for those who are representatives of God. Perhaps the greater judgment comes because these "Bible scholars" should know better. Their training and knowledge should be used to help the weak and helpless, rather than to exploit them.

And then Jesus goes to the treasury and watches and we can imagine that he is seeing people bringing lots of money – a wheelbarrow full! Impressive – but Jesus calls the attention of the disciples to a widow
Watch this he is saying
And what he says is – this is a picture of humility.
She is last person you would notice. A nobody who quietly places what seems like a very little – a mite, 2 small copper coins, a penny
Picture of humility. Nothing to be proud of! So little to give.
And then he reminds them that percentage wise – she gave the most of everyone – because she gave all. It is a picture of generosity
And it was all she had to live on – so that it was a picture of trust. Trusting that I don’t need to hold anything back because God is going to take care of me.

So that is it – beware of the scribe and watch the widow

Now – I have 4 challenging observations – c
1. God calls leaders – God calls, equips and empowers people to be leaders. God has since the very beginning- with the call of Moses until today. As men and women are set apart in ordination; as churches need people willing to serve as officers, elders, deacons – leaders. And we all have to beware of the pitfalls –
- the pride – the danger of abuse – the judgment that is ours when we stumble. I have seen churches poorly served by leaders who acted improperly – sexually or financially – which is all pride – takes a generation to recover
Elders don’t come to church; when there is backbiting and a means pirit among leaders, Leaders who think that they are in charge – and make decisions without consulting others and without consulting God
- For all of us who are called to be leaders – beware.

2. God calls us to be responsible to the widows. James wrote this: “ Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
And the widows are the ones we often do not see – the marginalized – the humble faithful ones. We need to see them. In this stratified world – we are more attuned to those who are successful and prestige – widows and the orphans, get marginalized. We don’t see them, we don’t respect them, and we don’t find a place for them. Some of which is because - get this – they don’t give enough to support the institutional church. We pay more attention to the people who come and bring resources out of their abundance.
This is so hard to face – we are responsible to the widows – and it will not be reciprocal – if we are only interested in the material.
You will not build a church being responsible to the widows – but you will build the kingdom of God

We are responsible to the widows and we also need the widow because of what they teach us..Because those who are on the bottom, the dispossessed, the poor is spirit are the blessed ones.
They have learned about the blessing of a life lived dependent upon God.
And for the rest of us – we can’t quite let go. We give out of our abundance – but not out of our poverty.

Third challenging observation –God is most interested in our motives –
It is not what we do – but it is why we do it. - The condition of our hearts.
And those of us who are in leadership know how easy it is for our hearts to be polluted by pride. We can give and serve and make sure we are noticed
And those who are not in leadership can sit on our hands and criticize those who are
And all of us can find ways to ignore or repel the widows and pay most attention to the prosperous. But it is not that simple either.
I love the story by Anthony Demello (from The Song of the Bird)
“A preacher put this question to a class of children: “If all the good people were white and all the bad people were grey, what color would you be?”

Little Mary Jane replied: “Reverend I’d be streaky!””
So would the preacher, So would the pope and the saints.
All of us – so when we hear that God cares about our motivations – we know in our heart of hearts we ourselves are not always sure of our motivations.

And that really is it – the final challenging observation is that the way of the Lord is the Way of humility. Understanding that we are streaky – this combination of sinner and saint, scribe and widow,
And as Anthony DeMello writes “Attempts to hide your streakiness will sometimes be successful, always dishonest.”

This story is not about stewardship -= but it is about humility. The way of the Lord is the way of humility. And here is the hard part - if you think you are humble – then you are NOT. That is the paradox and the greatest challenge
So – we cannot make ourselves humble because we then are too full of ourselves –
Beware the scribe – beware our wily egos
Story about the minister who had a great sermon on humility but wasn’t going to give it until he had a crowd ready to hear it

Or since it is classical Sunday –

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play.
Without hesitation, he replied, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

we can only become humble as we are full of God
we can do is ask God to make us faithful.
In AA – there are the 12 steps to recovery – and the first step is to admit that they are powerless over their addiction
And that is the first step of the life of faith – admit we are powerless - over our pride, our ego, our scribe within us.

A life of humility is also to recognize our poverty like the widow whatever we have is not enough – but it is what we have. And we trust it to God’s purposes. So that, we are an offering.
We give everything to God
All that I am
All that I have
All that I hope to be I give to you
I give to you
We are an offering

Finally the way of humility is not to walk in guilt or shame.
When we walk with the Lord we learn how much we have received and our own gifts and genius
God has gifted us and wants to use us – as leaders, as servants,
These gifts have been given to us for others.

So let me end by saying this – beware of the scribe – because, of course, there is a scribe that lives within each one of us. Who will encourage us to walk the walk of safety, security, self protection and self glorification.
But watch for the widow - because there are widows all around us to help us to see the blessedness of living a life trusting God.

And as we continue to seek Jesus and his way and his will in our lives – the widow emerges and we are more and more able to give, to serve, and to surrender to God’s power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I have not written for a while and the last thing I wrote was about struggle - so maybe it is time to lighten up a bit and share some of the blessings that I really am grateful for!

1. A day off and time doing some good things with Chuck - like going to the Buckeye Cafe and having lobster bisque and watching "This is It" the Michael Jackson movie on Imax (fabulous!!) and of course dinner and playing upwards. Good stuff - all of it.

2. Yesterday was our first Sunday with the New Song Christian Church joining us for the Gospel Praise Service and it was so nice to have a few more people. One of the women sang and it was awesome and we had dinner afterward and I just feel like this is going to be great. One of the women told me that she does "Spoken Word" so we will add that to our service. Pretty cool!

3. I had an Elder's Retreat on Saturday morning and it flowed beautifully. I felt like God had given me some good ideas - like have prayer partners for the elders and having Bill Brown - an 80 year saint - to give an inspirational talk. It was a great blessing to me.

4. Audrey! Audrey came to town this weekend and we got to have lunch and play upwards and talk church talk and just be together.

5. Kacey and the kids came over when Audrey was there. I love having them at the house and watching Alyse and Jackson interact. Alyse is now playing "SET" and is really good and it is just fun. And then watching sisters interact is also wonderful.

6. Marnie and Erik seem so happy and comfortable together in their home. I stopped by to pick up Audrey and Erik is willing to help me with my computer and stringing my guitar and it seems like he is part of the family.

7. All Saints Day worship was really meaningful - especially in the morning. we remembered and lit candles for everyone who passed away this year and of course, for me - lighting a candle for Ellen was especially meaningful. We also gave people opportunities to light candles for any of the saints that they remember. And they did. There were a lot of tears and I know that grief goes on and it is helpful to have some tangible expression.

8. My Well streams classes continue to just fill my spirit beyond all explaining. Every week during half the class we are either guiding, "traveling" (being directed) or observing. And it is fascinating to watch and to keep learning. I have been in spiritual direction for 10 years and am now learning how it really works - mostly through the spirit and through our really listening and emptying ourselves. Taking these classes has been an enormous blessing to me. I love it!

9. My prayer room. I feel like I have a new house since Marnie and the girls moved out. The prayer room is back in place and I spend more time in it than ever. In some ways it seems like an extravagance to have a room devoted to prayer - but I really love it. I will say that when Alyse and Reagan are here, it is the room where they play school. So, it does have another purpose. But anyway.....

10. Seeing old friends. In the past few weeks we have seen many old friends from Bowling Green - the Rupps, the Kirkbrides, Rosalea and Donnan. I talked to Mary Ann. What a rich life to continue to have such caring friends. I pray for that church that i used to serve as well as Karl Road.

anyway, one of my favorite songs is "Grateful" and I think it is becuase that is how I feel. Grateful, grateful, grateful.


Friday, October 30, 2009


I am watching people I love struggle.
And it is really hard to find my role in it.

Yesterday I spent an hour with Lisa who has breast cancer.
I read Audrey's blog as she struggles with her place in the church as a gay ordained (and gifted!) minister. (
Kacey and Brett are still in a quandry about their future - whether to stay or move and where to move.
My friend Susan - like others I know - is dealing with issues of parent care.
And that is just a few.
And now I begin the weekly struggle with a text and what is the word for God's people for this week.

Joan Chittister wrote a wonderful book about struggle some years ago after September 11. It is Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope. I know and have experienced some struggles which have defined who I am. And I am unabashedly a woman of hope.

Even yet, I know how easy it is to want to give answers to others as if there is an answer. And to try to superimpose order in the midst of the chaos that is part of the struggle.

And so I know (intellectually, of course) that my role is to be present and to listen and to pray and sometimes to cry. And to wait for their truth to emerge.
As I write this, it seems pretty clear.
But as I live it - it is its own struggle.

I think that when life is really lived - it is harder than we want to admit.
But it is also richer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


It is Sunday night and I am waiting for Chuck's race to be over so then we will have dinner together. As I wait, I am watching Chris Noth on a Law and Order Rerun and happy. Waiting.

Our gospel praise service is in a time of transition and I think that we are going to grow. I hope so. Charles Ferguson, who has been our preacher for 3 years will be leaving at the end of the year. Today we had a guest preacher and it was really great. Robert Hearn preached and brought his family with him - his father who is a pastor in Mansfield and 4 siblings and their families. Plus some other friends came as well. We had three times as many people as we usually have and it was so much fun to sing and to pray and to just be together. It was wonderful and I hope that we will get to a place like this soon. One of the men who came is an evangelist who lives across the street from the church. He and I talked in the parking lot afterward and he gave me a lot to think about - about bringing the church to the community. It feels like the spirit is moving.

Yesterday Chuck and I bought a mattress at a store on Morse Road. The man who sold us the mattress also lives in our neighborhood. He is a Palestinian Muslim originally from Jerusalem. We got into a really interesting discussion about religion and exchanged names and numbers. With the possibility of further conversation. With both of these men, I wonder what the future will hold - people very different from me, but with a perspective that might help me to learn.

One other blessing from the weekend was dinner at Marnie and Erik's house. Erik's mom was there and we really enjoyed her company. She is a person who loves to do crafts which will give her a wonderful bond with Reagan and Addie (and certianly not something that I am interested in.) I see this new family forming in good ways. After dinner Addie and Reagan made a tend in the living room from blankets and tables. I remember doing that as a little girl and I remember the girls doing that as well. You can buy kids all kinds of toys - but sometimes making a little place of your own is the best thing in the world.

Anyway, as always, an interesting weekend - fulfilling in its own way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sermon - Asking the Right Questions

I am not going to be putting this in every week - but I thought this was interesting. For the first time I preached on a text I have avoided for 24 years - about divorce.
Here it is:

2Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.”
5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.
6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.
11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
I have had a half dozen opportunities to preach this text over the years as it comes up in the lectionary and I usually stick to the last verses – let the children come. Receive the kingdom as a child.
Because the first 10 verses are a can of worms.

This text has been used and misused by the church.
The words of Jesus spoken 2000 years ago to a particular culture – have been laid on people today.
And for many people, this is what is cited that keeps men and women in abusive relationships. Because Jesus said – don’t divorce
Some churches has used this text to "shoot their wounded" through excommunication or rejection
For those of us who have been through divorce – it is a text that brings guilt and shame and confusion.

So this morning I thought I would open up and struggle with it, ruminate on it, and tell you what I see in this. Lets start with the three big problems and get them out of the way

1. The first problem is that most of us are ignorant about the differences between marriage itself in Biblical times and today.
Marriage today is about people who love each other, pick each other out and want to start a life together in mutual fulfillment.
Marriage in Biblical times was often between families – where an economic alliance was formed, the woman had much less power,
Divorce was different then too.
a husband could initiate a divorce from his wife by giving her a document called a get, which terminated the marriage and made it possible for the woman to enter into a subsequent marriage legally. Jewish men could marry more than one woman, at least in theory, and so did not need a divorce in order to marry again.
Then men were clearly in power and it was easier then to divorce than it is now.
2. Second problem is interpreting it literally.
And that of course, is to look at the issue of adultery and what that means. I have heard lots of people explain the righteoueness of their divorce because of a literal reading of the word adultery. We also need to recognize that Jesus brought a new definition to "committing adultery" in Mt 5:28. Anyone who looks at another lustfully has committed this sin. I doubt that any of us can plead "not guilty" to this commandment. In our imaginations we break faithfulness with a spouse (if we are married).
We say – it is sexual adultery and not want to name all the other forms of adultery that get in between relationships – people who have emotional affairs, a job that is a mistress, a family that they are more loyal to than their spouse, an addiction to a computer, pornography, alcohol drugs. There is only one literal understanding of adultery.
And so… you can see where that leads us.
3. These problems – make us ignore the text altogether and reject what Jesus is saying. See it as quaint and outdated and having no relevance in our lives.

So, having said all that – what is it saying to us today

Start with the Pharisees who are asking a question – what is legal
And that is connected to a deeper question – what is the loophole. When we are talking about marriage – and want to get out of it – how can we make that happen? (also a trick question - because what he says may offend Herod who has recently divorced his wife and married his brothers sister!!!)

Jesus does his answer a question with a question thing – revealing that they know what Moses Said
But then we hear Jesus' answer - answer to the question that should asked

Which is – what is the will of God – and in this case – what is the will of God about marriage
Then he goes back to the beginning – to Adam and Eve – to remind them of God’s design
Jesus is asked a legal question, a technical, down-to-earth, question about everyday, lived reality, and he answers with an ideal that is, to be honest, almost impossible to achieve, at least for everyone.
This is what Jesus always does – he radicalizes the demands of the law.

Jesus describes marriage with utmost seriousness, as something that transcends contractual obligations and economic utility, as something rooted in human identity
That they would leave their mother and father and cleave to one another……………..become one flesh.
We are talking about something deeper than sexuality here – we are talking about become united – in mutual submission – mutual love. Forever………….That is the will of God.

Leslie Weatherhead wrote about the will of God – and he divided it into three categories –
There is first of all the Intentional will of God
And that is what Jesus tells us – reminds us
That we would be in a deep committed loving, relationship with our partner. Forever.

But he also talks about God’s circumstantial will.
God’s circumstantial will is what happens in the circumstances that occur as a result of human sin. We are not perfect!
We are far from perfect.
We come into marriage immature, often with very unrealistic understandings of marriage, we come not knowing ourselves, and not wanting to know every part of our partner.
We come and we have not left our mother and father –
- fail to cut the strings and bring unresolved issues into the marriage – and we don’t even know it
In our selfishness, our impulsiveness, our rebellion we make mistakes that can wound the other deeply. And sometimes the marriage is far from God’s intentional will. Disordered, destructive, damaging

That now all we can do is come to God and say – what is your will for me now in these circumstances.
And like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane – praying on our knees because of the reality of sin that has brought us to this place
We say – not my will but thy will be done

Not – what is the law, what are the loopholes – but what is your will for me in these circumstances.

And then we become like children –Who call our father ABBA knowing that we do not know what to do without our lord’s protection and guidance
- and I can only tell you what I believe – there are times when our Lord’s circumstantial will is to leave – to shake the dust off your feet, to bind our wounds, to accept the death, and to trust our future to God
- and there are times in which the lord is telling us clearly to stay – to forgive, to love, to rely on God’s grace, to trust our future to God

We become like children –to our father - Abba - knowing who we are and whose we are and ask for grace and mercy and new life.

This Sunday – world wide communion Sunday, marriage and divorce Sunday, let the children come Sunday

There is only one word that brings all of these themes together- and that word is relationship. God wants us to be in relationships that are broad and deep.

God calls us into relationship – with each other – all around the world – and intimately and deeply in marriage and family. And we come as we are – as sinners seeking to be saints
Divorce is never God’s intentional will for us but because of human sinfulness it happens, and we need divorce laws for protection. (Divorce is probably better than murder ).
Divorced (and remarried) people are sinners, but so are all of us. Jesus refused to condemn and punish the one who had been caught in adultery. I believe that that same grace and mercy is extended to all of us sinners -- even those who have been through divorce and remarriage. How much more does someone whose life has publicly been torn apart need the comfort and love and acceptance from a community?
The law will allow – then and now. But God’s grace will give life.
I mentioned that Leslie Weatherhead writes about God’s will – God’s intentional will, God’s circumstantial will and God’s ultimate will. Which is for his glory and our good.
We are resurrection people – Christ’s resurrection that brings life out of death and our resurrection that does that same.
· I have watched people who “hung in their in their marriages” through some very difficult times with their partner. And they experienced a resurrection as grace and mercy prevailed and they found their way back. Not just to stay for the sake of the kids or finances – but they found new life and new love in their relationship. You can only describe it as resurrection.
· And there are people whose resurrection – new life came afterward – as God prepared them for a new partner which whom they could experience God’s grace and mercy. And it seemed – and it seems like the greatest gift. And I am certainly one of them in my marriage to Chuck.

We have to be people asking the right questions – and the right questions are not going to be – what is legal
But what is the will of God – what is your will for me
And there is one more question that is found in this text.

We only need the law – because of the hardness of our own hearts.
So I leave you with that today. What is the state of your heart.
The text ends with a picture of the disciples whose hearts were hard as they tried to exclude the children from coming close to our Lord.
It is my hope that we recognize the ways in which God wants us to have the vulnerable, open hearts of a child.
Who live our lives knowing our need of Abba, Daddy, our Lord Jesus
Having nothing and knowing our need of Abba – our father who will guide our steps,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sermon - "Are You Salty?)

Note to reader: I tend to write to be spoken - not read. Tried to clean it up!

Mark 9: 38-50

38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
42“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.
47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
someone once said: :You can divide the world into two groups of people.
Those who believe you can divide the world into two group of people,
and those who don't.
Jesus' disciples belong to the first group; Jesus belongs to the second

And so the disciples see the world divided into them and us – but Jesus says don’t worry about them. Worry about yourself!
Looking at this text – one of the things I noticed was how many times in 5 verses – Jesus uses the word YOU or YOUR – 10 times in 4 verses – which leads me to conclude that this text may be saying this to us
Discipleship is The road to Self Examination – in other words look at YOURSELF
In these 4 verses that 10 times say you – they 4 times use the word stumble.
And it is saying this – beware of becoming a stumbling block that is going to trip up others.
Do no harm – don’t get in the way of the faith and maturity of another.
Because we are all connected and we affect each other.
Frederick Beuchner describes humanity as an enormous spider web, "if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling…The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops…"

So beware of becoming a stumbling block. I would like to suggest three ways in which we can cause people to stumble.
First is our anxiety. Anxiety can be almost contagious.
We have concerns about the future and the instability and insecurity of life that can stop us from living in the present
Our worries about the future can cause us to live closed off lives – afraid to take risks.

And the anxiety we have for others may be rooted in love. some of you might have experienced that as parents. I have watched my daughters make all kinds of decisions – entering into relationships and leaving them, taking jobs, quitting jobs, going to school, leaving school.
And I have to watch it all the time. My anxiety about their future can cause me to encourage them to take what seems to me to be the safe plan….which may not be God’s plan. But I don’t want to be a stumbling block stopping them from living out their life

Some of it is rooted in Experience. Watched people lived through the depression have the same thing – you don’t understand how hard it can be. I have lived through times of want – I don’t want to risk the church’s future. Churches with great big endowments – afraid to spend them on things that would grow the church because of their anxiety about the future. Anxiety is a stumbling block

Second – our judgements can be a stumbling block and shut people down. Part of the human condition – to look for the speck in someone else’s eye and ignore the log in our own. And we may have grown up with people who did that. John Powell writes: “when we were little kids playing with our toy cars or dolls, we heard our parents talking about others. We heard them talking about the people with whom they worked and the people in the neighborhood. Their messages, expressed and implied were recorded in our parent tapes. And of course, we engage in the same behavior.
And there are so many ways in which our judgments cause other people to stumble –

Third our own character flaws can get in the way of other people’s faith. We may be the only sermon some people see.
And if they look at us and they see someone they can’t count on
Someone who gossips with your back is turned
Someone who pretends to be one thing in front of you and someone else when you are not around. Hypocrites.
Someone who is a perfectionist – who has set the bar so high – that they can never be satisfied and no one else is either.

The text is saying – look at yourself and are you a stumbling block for others.
This interrelationship that we have means that our life is not our own – and not only are we damaging ourselves – but we are damaging others in the way we are living our lives

And so the text ends with a different image – of salt so that the question is – are you becoming a stumbling stone or are you becoming salt. Salty!
And let me talk about three qualities of salt that we can demonstrate
1. Bring healing –It kills most germs on contact. It burns when it hits a raw spot, but is very effective in cleansing a wound so it can heal. Becoming an element of therapy and healing because in the days of Jesus salt has been used as a means of medication and as a means of healing diseases and infirmities.
There is power in the name of the Lord – power to heal – power to bring people into a greater place. When we are the salt we potentially bring healing into every situation that we enter.
People need to know the reality that broken lives can be made whole again in Jesus Christ. There is healing for the spiritually sick who need Jesus.
2. Add Flavor It brings flavor and taste. That means that salt brings taste to the tasteless and flavor to something that does not have any flavor.
Picture popcorn without salt– needs a little salt – brings the flavor, enhances the flavor. We are called to bring out the “God flavors” in life– the flavor that we bring is a flavor of joy and love and peace.
We - meaning people as individuals, we - meaning the church the comes and enhances the culture. We bring flavor – that is harmonious. And salt makes everyone and everything taste better.
3. Act as a Preservative Salt has also been used as a substance of preservative through the ages to maintain and keep; things live longer. preservative. Our ancestors used salt to cure food to be used later. Country Ham, Corned Ham, Beef Jerky, and salted fish were staples of their diets. In the time that Jesus spoke there were no refrigerators to store the meat and it was very hot. The meat could spoil in the heat so salt was rubbed on the meat to preserve it. The salt prevented the meat from spoiling.
And we too are here as the salt – as people of hope who know that God preserves, that God endures, that our help comes from the Lord. We know that there is nothing that will separate us from the love of God.

So the question – are you a stumbling block or are you salt? The disciples divided the world into two groups – but Jesus does not.

Because the answer is – if we are honest with ourselves – we are both. At times we are a stumbling block – not only to the faith of others but to our own spiritual growth. Our anxiety, judgments, character flaws do us in. Without a doubt. And we experience what you can only call hell on earth

And other times we are salt – we are full of God’s spirit and those who are near us experienced God’s love and light and joy.
The text also expresses how one becomes salt.
This verse – Everyone is salted with Fire – the fire not of hell but of refinery. The fire through which we learn – (like Psalm 124) that Our help is in the name of the Lord.

And we don’t learn that through a good sermon or Sunday School or Bible study. We learn it through some hard experiences in life – when the enemies attacked us, when we were afraid the flood would sweep us away, when we felt like we were prey for the enemy. And we learned that God was there – was our rock and our redeemer.

Times like that are the refiner’s fire. In the Christian Century this month Christine Bartholomew writes about living with cancer and lupus.
She writes this: “sickness can make your relationship with God stronger in the strangest of ways. Sickness can give us permission to be mad at God. We can scream, yell and kick our legs until we’re blue in the face. The great thing about getting mad at God is that God is big enough to take out anger. He does not run from our angry words or turn away in pain. God is big enough to take our sorrows and empathize with our pain.
He takes anger and finds ways to show us love. It may take us a while to give ourself permission to yell at God for what has happened to us, but God will love us through our anger, even when we scream. Then God can hug us and wrap loving arms around us. This is the power of God shown in sickness……

Sometimes he uses our weaknesses as a way of refining us and making us able to walk a little closer with him. “For everyone will be salted with fire.” Through the fire of pain and suffering we gain our depth, our flavor, our salt.

Through our suffering, we receive the gift of God’s undeniable presence. God’s Spirit walks into hospital rooms, sits beside our bedside and holds our hand. And sometimes, of course, it is the body of Christ – the church, the salt, who embody our Lord.

We will all go through the refiner’s fire – but not everyone will become salt. Some continue to be more stumbling blocks than salt – self protective, self centered, self pitying. That’s a mystery to me

All I know is this – we are here because we have heard our Lord call us – to be disciples of Christ to continue to walk with Lord
Continue to do self examination and continue to look to the Lord – knowing that our help is in the name of the Lord

End with one more quote from Christine Barthalomew

God is constantly refining us with fire, whether that fire be conflict, persecution or sacrifice. These events can change us and draw us closer to God. This is a work of sanctification, not salvation. We may walk into heaven suffering, limp and lame, but we will walk tall.

Weekend Update

Yesterday I was as tired as I have ever been on a Sunday morning. So as I type this I am happy that it is Monday morning and I slept 8 hours last night and I have a day off.

Friday night Kacey and I went to a movie and dinner to celebrate her birthday. This had been postponed from Monday when I drove to Lima to be part of an uncomfortable meeting for the regional church. That day was the beginning of a very tiring week.

But Friday was pure blessing. The move The Informant was very entertaining, kind of quirky and engaging. It took a while to understand that the main character was a genius liar who happened to be bi polar. What a story. I loved it. (Saturday night I happened upon an interview with the author of the book on CSpan too). We then had dinner at Kacey's fav restaurant California Pizza Kitchen at the bar. No wait and really fun to do that. I will do it again - Chuck will love it! And then perusing books and pumpkin cheese cake a coffee. A perfect evening.

Saturday I went to a listening workshop for my Wellstreams program. I continue to learn the amazing blessing of listening and how healing it can be to be listened to. I am learning so much through this program. However, by the time it was over, I was wiped out. So I actually passed on a fellowship event at church - a wine tasting party. It is so unlike me to not do something for church - but that is how tired I was.

Sunday morning I finished up the sermon - which was about how we can be stumbling blocks for others or salt. (or both!) and about how we are salted with fire.
“For everyone will be salted with fire"

At the back of my mind all weekend is Lisa Baluk and her family who are right now being salted with fire. We met Lisa about 2 years ago as she came home from Philadelphia to be cared for by her parents as she was receiving chemo. She was 29 years old with breast cancer. Our healing team would give her reiki before her chemo or operations. She also came to my Bible study. I cannot understate what a sweet beautiful young woman she is and how much she has meant to me and to the church. We watched her struggle, lose hair, grow her hair back and go into remission. She went home to Philadelphia. This past June on a visit to Columbus she came to church and told us the story of the swans who came to comfort her when she would visit. It is all so inspiring.

This week we found out that her cancer has returned and is in her lungs and liver. She had surgery Friday to check out her lymph nodes. It is all very hard - watching Lisa, her parents, her husband. And we all love her too. So, we heard that this weekend she was in so much pain she went back to the hospital. That has been a constant reminder to me of being "salted with fire." These are the times that we say that God is with us - but we may not see it at the time.

This morning as I wrote my prayers I can only trust that God will give everyone of us who love Lisa the guidance and the strength to be present to her at this time. It is a hard journey for her regardless of what happens.

Please keep her in you prayers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Catching up

Well, it has been a while since I have written into this blog so I have a few things to catch up:

1. Our house has changed radically - Marnie and Reagan and Addie have moved into a house in Minerva Park - only 3 miles away. We enjoyed them, but it is nice to have just the 2 of us here and to be starting over again. That is what it feels like.

2. I now have a prayer room again and it is nicer than the last one. I am getting ready to be a spiritual director and this room is part of that. this is where I start the day with journaling and reading. And it feels so good. yesterday someone from church wanted to talk to me, so we came to the house and talked in the prayer room. It felt so good.

3. In two days I will start as a guide - a spiritual guide in our
"practicum" part of our class and I am anxious and also excited about it. Our third term of school has started and it is all about when we will be directing - it is going to happen.......soon

4. I was on TV last week. I gathered with members of my church and the community - 300+ people - at Tamarack Circle near our church to pray for peace and an end to violence. The media was there and I got interviewed and had my 3 seconds of fame on the 11o clock service. After the reported asked if I "felt different" after we prayed I didn't know what to say - but I said something that actually did not sound terrible. I wasn't embarrassed. That's all I will say about it. I don't like to be on TV - but they spelled my name right and the church.

5. We had our outdoor worship service this week and it was really nice. For my sermon, I made three points that started with "C" (about conversation, child, challenge) and handed out a cucumber for each point I made. This is an homage to Herb Hicks who used to do that stuff in Zanesville - and because I did not have the powerpoint clicker in my hand!

6. Last week I did a funeral and a wedding. and as always, if I had the choice, I would pick the funerals. It is always good to be with families in their time of need and see how they work together during difficult times. I saw a bit of dysfunction in the family for the wedding - pray that all will go with with them.

7. I can hear better than I did 5 days ago because my wonderful doctor spent over 4 hours removing earwax from my right ear. I hesitate writing about this because it sounds so icky - but I read about 200 pages of my book for book group through the process and by the end I could hear my doctor breating. I also found out that my car runs loud! Who knew? Not me!

I guess that is enough for now. My second day off in a row when I did work. That's why I am always planning vacations and a sabbatical ahead. Keeps my spirits UP!!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Julia Cameron

I like her. I really like her.

Julia is the author of The Artist's Way which I read about 15 years ago and it really has helped me to understand about the artist's life - that is to say the creative life.
And we are all artists and we all have different forms of creativity.

This book is designed to be a project that you go through every week - there are different assignments for you to do. And the purpose is to help remove the blocks to being creative.

One of the basic understandings of her process is the idea of "morning pages" - starting every day writing three pages - notebook sized pages. It is a way to get it out - the stuff inside yourself and it really helps you to see what you are carrying around inside yourself. It is just amazing. Many people if I tell them about it are immediately resistant and often in a judgmental way. Because they are too busy with important stuff and I must just have an easier life. Anyway, that has been my experience in talking about this to others. And I know how hard it is to do this - which is why I so often do not. but I also know the process works well.

When I do morning pages - I often am writing to God about the events of my life. Getting it down on paper is invaluable in later seeing and understanding with greater clarity what is going on. But that is just me -

A year and a half ago Susan and I went to a workshop that she led on creativity. In Sedona. And it was wonderful. I blogged about it at the time. The way she led us was as important as the understandings I received in the workshop. And it brought me back to moarning pages for a while and just to re-learning how much God wants us to be creative.

The reason I write this morning about it is that I picked up a book by her yesterday at the library called "Faith and Will." It is really interesting to me. First of all - it has no chapters - it is like a long talk by Julia about her relationship with God. She has written it at a time in which she is experiencing a "God absence" or "A dark night of the soul." Her writing it is a way to help her through this time. And these times are part of the life of the faithful.

Her experience and expressions of God are not at all tied to religion but they really speak to me. She is kind of "out there" and even writes honestly about her issues with having nervous breakdowns - but as I read this book I feel so connected to her understandings about the life of faith.

Check it out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Morning Ruminations

I woke up very early this morning thinking about listening to my soul.

At class on Saturday we did an exercise that I am still pondering. We were in a group - each person had a turn with the "stick" and when it was our turn we took 20 - 30 seconds and listened for a question from our souls. Then handed it to the next person who did the same thing and they answered the question. After that they listened for the next question.

I found myself patiently waiting for my turn and when it came, it came. I heard the answer clearly and after that I heard the question just as clearly.

Since then I have thought alot about listening to my soul. And I know that there are certainly times when it happens - often in sermon prep, or Bible studies and in conversations. Sometimes I experience what I can "soul moments" of happiness when I can almost see the flowers blooming and the butterflies within me. At least that is how I name it when I know it.

All of this makes me want to be more attentive. Live in such a way that I am clearing out the noise to hear and not distracting myself with those things that numb me.

None of these are new ideas. Just a kind of different way of getting to what god wants for us.

My soul is a place of deep peace and joy. But it is also where I experience pain. And it is a place of connections.

Sunday night I went to the Songfest at Bethany Christian Church. Churches from Columbus and Cincinnati - predominantly African American - came together bringing their choirs to sing. The purpose of the celebration - beyond worship - was to raise money for scholarships for African American seminarians.

The singing was often powerful. The choirs were not that large - but very "soulful"
I can still see the face of one of the women who was doing a solo with her choir. She sang about how the Lord lead you "through it" She was at least 60 - maybe 70 or even 80 years old. And I wondered about how much she has been led through. Of course, I don't know. But I do know that as a 60 year old white middle class woman that while my life has had suffering and pain, there has also been privilege. The privilege that comes from being born into a college educated family and just being in the dominant culture. And wondered how different her life experience had been.

Often Soulful singing - comes of suffering and awareness of suffering and compassion for those who do suffer. The music Sunday afternoon may not have been "pitch-perfect" but it was full of soul.

I just write this - ruminate on it - understanding that God wants me to be connected to all of it - the pain, the struggle, the joy, the celebrating. That is what makes life rich.

And as I write this I realize that the blessed life is found in being able to learn and listen to other people's stories that are unlike mine. Hearing not only my soul but their souls. Hearing their stories so that maybe we will connect in some ways of the spirit.

Because we are one in the spirit. If only we knew it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

An amazing Saturday

It is 9 o clock and I am almost ready to go to bed. And watch a little Mark Harmon.

I started this morning at the Wellstreams program with day 2 of a two day retreat beginning our second year. First of all, it feels so good to be back at Martin De Porres Center with the 17 who are part of my class. It wasn't that I missed anyone - but I missed the whole group and the whole experience of being together on this journey to becoming spiritual directors.

Last night we met a number of people who will be supervisors for us this year as we start to practice spiritual direction - first on each other and then on some guinea pigs (well, people, actually who will get free spiritual direction for a year under us!) Then today we read a number of articles about spiritual direction and did some conversation about listening and some listening exercises. What it did for me is really whet my appetite. I found myself thinking about all the ways in which I have grown because I go to a spiritual director and I really look forward to learning this art.

After this I went home and to get ready for our gospel praise concert: The Acts of Faith present Acts of Faith. The Acts of Faith are a signing group in our church and they put together this concert for the community. We had two choirs from other churches, a mime group, a Christian rapper and a poet in addition to the Acts of Faith themselves. It seems to me that we had almost 100 people come to this over the course of the 2 and a half hours and it was a really diverse group. The music - mostly led by Deric - was just terrific. I found myself standing, clapping, waving my arms around, dancing. A wonderful, wonderful evening.

So, Saturday night after a day like this and I need to time just me and Mark Harmon so I can chill out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Newsletter letter

Every month I write a letter to the congregation in the newsletter. I am getting ready to write one now. But I re-read last month's and thought I would share it on my blog. It really expresses how I feel about the church and God's work in the world.

Dear Friends
I am still recovering from the activity of last week – our Vacation Bible School. It was a busy week as we had 75 children and youth registered and attending and 40 youth and adults working. It was also a wonderful week to watch the children enjoy learning the Bible stories, singing songs and feeling the love of this church.
At the end of the week, Sunday afternoon I was blessed and honored to preach at Heather Bentley Hicks ordination service. It was an inspiring time of worship as we heard this beautiful young woman make her ordination vows to serve God. We laid hands on her and she served us communion.
All of this goes together. The church nurtures us into our calls and for some of us it may be a call to ministry in the church. For others it is our ministry within the work place, the home, the community, and a myriad of other ways in which God can use our gifts and desires.
What is most exciting to me about the spiritual journey is that God is working in ways that we cannot see, but we can trust. Eugene Peterson wrote that the assumption of the spiritual life is that God is always doing something before I know it. And then he wrote this

“So the task is not to get God to do something. I think needs to be done,
but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.”
Occasionally I get glimpses of what God is doing and that happened last week at this church. I am grateful for all of the staff and volunteers that worked together to help guide others to know the purpose and the joy of a life lived as a disciple of Christ. Let us continue to look for what God is doing and join God in bringing His love into this world.
See you on Sunday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sabbatical Questions

Well, I got an email from the Louisville Institute reminding me that the deadline for getting a grant for a Sabbatical is Sept 1st!
It is highly unlikely that I would get picked - but certainly not if I don't apply. And the word is that you want to dream big.
I have must spent 2 hours looking at websites online and trying to come to some kind of sense of where to go, what to do, what I need.
I have already determined that the Sabbatical will begin June 14th and end the Tuesday after Labor Day. In the middle of that time I will definitely go on a family vacation to NC, to Advance Conference if asked, probably Chautauqua and on at least one week long silent retreat.
I have titled this Sabbatical - "Body, Mind, and Soul" because that is really what I need - renewal of all three.

So, I am thinking about maybe learning more about the Enneagram, or about Reiki, or maybe doing a week of serious Bible study.

Then I am thinking about walking, exercising, yoga? fishing?

Then I am thinking about just getting a cabin in the woods and reading and writing and hoping that Chuck can keep himself occupied.

And then I am thinking about going to Florida to visit a church with a healing ministry or maybe to Sedona, Phoenix, Prescott.

And so, I dream and plan and wonder. I do know that it is time for the Sabbatical. I am plenty tired and one day off a week does not begin to give me the rest I need.

But I have exactly one week to nail it down a little to try to get some big money for a big dream. Whatever that is!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


There is nothing like a Sunday night.

I had two church services today - and they both went well and that is all good.
We had not very many people at the 5 o clock service - but it still was real worship and a good sermon from Charles.

I went out to lunch with about 20 members of the church at MCL Cafeteria - not my fav restaurant - but it was a good meal and really nice to be with people. Joe and Mary said they had been to a movie they liked but didn't who to recommend it to - and sure enough it turned out to be "Inglorious Bastarde" - a title I don't think they were going to say out loud - but a movie I plan to see tomorrow. All of that is pretty great in my book. Quentin Tarentino's movies are an acquired taste - and I like them. We will see.

Afterwards Chuck and I went to see Anna Margaret Ruland who is recovering in a nursing home from a broken hip and pneumonia - she is such a lovely person that it is just a joy to see her. And she offered us sugar free chocolates that were delicious. Who knew that you couldn't tell the difference? Not me. (I tend to take anything people offer me when I am visiting!)

This afternoon Marnie and Eric and Dawn and Jason came over and we talked about vacation next summer and Thanksgiving and going out to dinner next month and it was all very wonderful for me. I feel blessed in so many ways.

Finally, I read 100 pages in The poeple of the book for book group on Wednesday and like the book! That is always a good thing and I am sure I will finish it by Wednesday. in addition I got to see Mad Men tonight which is always very interesting.

So, how am I? Satisfied! A Good day and tomorrow is my day off.
What more can I say?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Julia and Julie and other things

I just read Kacey's blog ( about the movie and thought I should say something too. We went to see it on Monday evening at Easton and the best part - the best part - besides the movie and the company - was that at Easton you can buy a glass of chardonnay to drink while you watch the movie. That was SO PERFECT for this movie.

I always tell people that the movies I like the best are about people and this one certainly was. It was about two women who were loved by their husbands and who had a passion for cooking. And it made me want to cook some Boef Bourgeonion (SP) and some Coq Au Vin and I will. As most people who know me know - Chuck's entry into my life kind of kept me out of the kitchen - for a variety of reasons. But this movie really makes me want to cook once in a while. Get ready!!

Kacey commented on how the sister relationship touched her as she thought about me and my sister and when I read that I cried. What I realize is that in many ways I am constantly reminded of sisters - whether it is watching my daughters or a movie or just a chance comment. And as always, I am reminded that my sister is gone and it still surprises me.

I do have a passion in my life that is not cooking but it is in pastoring. Last week I set up the reiki table at Advance Conference and did 8 reiki treatments that week. in addition, I came back to Columbus one day specifically to pray for people as they were going into or coming out of surgery. I cannot explain the power and the blessing of praying for people - and it makes me want to do it all the time. today, in fact, one of the women from AA popped in for a brief prayer before she did her first "lead." How cool is that and what a gift. But the rest of the story is that I am tired. It is the grief as well as the pastoring that can take a lot of energy. But I also love what I do.

Anyway, let me also recommend Julia and Julie and tell you it really goes best with a glass of wine! (and the chocolate cake and decaf coffee afterwards wasn't bad either!)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Interesting Week

I am writing this from home and waiting for some laundry to dry before I go back to Camp Christian and Advance Conference.

It has been an interesting week. One of my fellow minister said on Sunday - "Isn't it hard to leave the church - something always happens!" And I said - NO - not usually. Well three things have happened in the church this week: a member passed away, the church was broken into, and another member had brain surgery. That is why I got up this morning to be with the family. And it is good news - he has gotten through it successfully. But I wanted to be with the family and was glad that I was!
And the break in was no big deal - the glass on the door of my office and Erica's office was broken - but no damage beyond it. Probably someone looking for cash for drugs.

Meanwhile, at Advance Conference we are spending a week talking about and experiencing "Life in God." Each of us "faculty members" do a keynote on the theme of the day. Afterwards, we discuss it in small groups, some committee work and then free time in the afternoon, then vespers and an evening activity. The camp is full of young adults - ages 19 - 29 and having been part of it for over 10 years, I love interacting with them and seeing their growth. It is an amazing week - deep discussion and more laughter than I have the rest of the year.

My keynote was on doubt and it was Tuesday and I really enjoyed putting it together and doing it. I talked about the areas where we go through doubt - maybe to faith, maybe to more mature faith, maybe away from the institutional church, maybe away from God. The five areas I mentioned were: during times of tragedy, being exposed to exclusivity in the church, various Bibilical interpretations, recognizing how flawed the church can be, and having good people in our life for whom faith is irrelevant. This really was a good springboard to some honest sharing. It all felt good.

Yesterday the keynote was on spiritual disciplines and we practiced many during the keynote and our vespers service in the evening. It was a nice peaceful day.

So, soon I will be driving back and go back into that other community that has become so important to me.

Oh, and really the best part of it all - is that this year we have a mother/ daughter team on faculty - me and Audrey. How great is that!

Monday, August 10, 2009


I had a wonderful week at Chautauqua Institute last week for several reasons.

First, the preacher was just inspiring. Her name is Vashti Murphy McKenzie and she is from Maryland and is the Bishop of the AME Church. Every morning I found myself in tears as I heard her preach as she was touching something deep inside me. Her sermon on Thursday was about staying the course - as "faith is trusting what your eyes cannot see." It has been a hard summer with three deaths in the family and it is easy for me to feel worn out. But her preaching reminded me of the power of preaching itself as well as the reality of our God of Newness. I bought her sermons on CD and look forward to listening to them all.

The theme for the week was Cinema and we heard two actors and two directors speak. One of the actors was Matthew Modine and he told about how Stella Adler told him that she would teach him to be a "human being." Robert Altman told him you have to find the "truth inside yourself" and Stanley Kubrick said: "I don'twant you to play act, I want you to be yourself." And that really was the underlying theme - about finding your voice, your authentic self. The other actor was a character actressnamed Beth Grant who talked about the fact that she always wanted to act but didn't want to be a character actress. She wanted to be Joan Crawford and not Thelma Ritter. Finally in her early thirties she went to a mystic who led her on a meditation in which she asked the guru - "can you take me to the place that is blocking my energy from accepting my casting?" And again, the mesage is becoming and accepting yourself.

We heard over and over again that film is a collaberative art. And one interesting statement I wrote down from James Ivory (Merchant Ivory Films) is that actors as a group are deep and not wide and directors as a group are wide but not deep. In other words, the directors really see the biggest picture. Which only makes sense.

So, that was some of what made the week good for me. One other part was hearing stories from people who are my age who are still seeing themselves with lots of plans and dreams ahead. Beth Grant had 6 movies coming out and so many ideas for the futures. We also heard Ken Burns speak and as impressive as he was, he too mentioned at least 10 projects in the futures. All of this is encouraging me to see that there is so muh more for me to do and learn and plan for the future.

I can feel that God is at work within me - restoring my soul and preparing me for the next big thing that is coming.
I wonder what it is.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Too much

I am watching Oprah with a woman on who can remember every thing that happened in her life. She is recalling television shows that Oprah has done and Oprah cannot remembers them. This makes me feel better, much better.

As I started to write this blog it is about my thinking I have too much going on and I am losing my mind - my memory.

This past weekend we babysat Jackson and Alyse for 4 days while Kacey and Brett went to Chicago and at the same time Brian, Huong and their friend Mike spent two nights when they went to a wedding. And of course, at the same time, I was putting together a worship service for Sunday and doing my work.

Everyone left on Sunday and on Monday I went to work - which I don't usually do to get everything done to go away. What that means is - preparing 6 worship services for church , 2 powerpoints, two worship outlines for Oakleaf and printing scriptures for 4 Bible studies. Is this too much?

And I am getting ready to go to Indianapolis tomorrow for three days for our General Assembly, then a trip to Seattle for my Aunt Shirley's memorial service, then fly in to Eric PA to finish out the week at Chautauqua Institute, and then a week as faculty at Camp Christian and preparing a keynote on "Doubt". Is this too much?

So I write this to say I can't remember right now whether I actually have registered for the general assmebly. I will find out tomorrow. And what is the name of the Hotel where I made a reservation for tomorrow. I hope to figure that out today. And all of that memory loss is - I believe - more than age - but the fact that I have TOO MUCH going on right now.

But - and it is a big but - I really like it all. Every bit of it - the kids, the grandkids, the work, the preparation, the travel. It is an abundant life - but sometimes - Too Much!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sermon for Heather Bentley Hick's Ordination

I preached this sermon Sunday afternoon for Heather's ordination
The title - "Do you love me?"

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Feed my sheep

I Think about Peter – everything he has been through since the first time that he heard those words –from Jesus in John– come and see
He has Watched Jesus some amazing things,: Healing, exorcisms, miracles.
He has found himself at odds with Jesus, rebuked by him, he himself denied him,
He experienced his death and profound grief And then the wonder of the resurrection
and his appearance in the upper room. All that he has been through – and now this – at the end – It all comes down to this – private conversation
As Jesus comes to ask the big question – "Do you love me?"

And I think for Heather – after all is said and done,
After all the classes, the tests, the papers, after the graduation from Methesco,
After years of growing up in the church, working in various churches,, interning in this church , After being interviewed by the Commission on Ministry and the elders here at Gender Road
It all comes down to this – the big question – the pretty simple question
Do you love me

Now I have spent some time reading about this text and it seems to me we can to complicate it – talk about different kinds of love in the Greek. What do they mean?
Are the lambs different from the sheep? Do you love me more than “ these” what are the “these” – the nets, the friends? But that is not it.
But I think it all comes down to this questions – do you love me.

And the reasons is that Love is the center of the gospel, the call, his purpose, our lives, our God – LoveIt is love that rehabilitates Peter – from the one who denied Christ to become one of the Fathers of the Faith. It is love that shapes his life – as a fisher of people or as a shepherd of lost sheep

Peter is remembered in the Bible as a frail human being – sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes impulsive, sometimes courageous
But after the resurrection he was brought again to his feet, brought to life and leadership by God’s generosity and grace and love.

And so dear Heather – that is your story – and my story – and the story of all of us who have heard the call of the Lord to pastor, to shepherd and it is a call grounded in love.

We are flawed and frail human beings - sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes impulsive, sometimes courageous. We are loved by God, graced by God, called by God and empowered by God to shepherd God’s people.
Ordained – set apart – Holy

One of my favorite scriptures from John –
10:10 I came that you might have life and have it abundantly

And let me tell you – this life – that you are embarking on –
is an abundant life. Full of more excitement, joy, wonder and awe than you can imagine, I know this: you are going to be stretched and used by God
As shepherds - We pastor the people that God loves
• We are stewards of the mysteries
• We get to serve God through the body of Christ - the church.

Now – I am not saying it is always easy –
It is a weekendless life, often with a lot of meetings. We have to being available to people at what sometimes is inopportune time in our personal life.
We have to deal with things like budgets and stewardship campaigns.
And we serve in the midst of the rawness of life – we get to be with people in the most difficult and the most joyous times. We face situations that can almost overwhelm us.
And we get to see how people can respond well and poorly to trial
It is a multilayered, rich and

You know I love it – I love being a pastor and all that it is
And today as I pondered exactly what to say to you – I thought I would share with you 3 things I have found to be true As my best friend Oprah says – this much I know.
First I know is that we are called and gifted and grace to love the church. Because that is the only way that we can serve the church is to love the church. And we love the church the way we love our family – warts and all.
We love the church and we learn the beauty of the way God works throughout all the generations in the church –
– in the innocence and wisdom of children,
– in the skepticism and zeal of youth,
– in the busyness and dedication of working adults,
– and in the goodness and faithful witness of the retired saints.
And let me tell you about elders in the church – they are elders – for you they probably will be.elders but for all of us – they are a gift to the pastor as we share our faith and work together in ministry.

Remember Jesus said – Feed my sheep – it will never be YOUR church – it is God’s church.
And as someone once said to me many years ago – We are in the loving business –
God is in the changing business. We are called to love.
And God – our wonderful God– helps to love EVERYONE.

Does this sound like Pollyanna preaching – Maybe – but I can only tell you that if you ask God to open your heart to those difficult and hard to love sheep that are placed in your care – God will do that. I think it is an example of God’s supernatural power!
God will enable you to want to love them and to begin to see them as God sees them.
We feed the sheep as we love them with the heart of our Lord.

2. I know we have to keep learning.
When I was in seminary what I learned was so important – but so preliminary. You learn About the Bible, about pastoral care, about church administration, about church history and theology.
There is so much more to learn and keep learning.
For me and my generation – just keeping up technologically has been a task.
• But learning about the world, t
• Spend the rest of your life studying this treasure – which is the word of God,
• And learning about people and how they work and develop and grow and refuse to grow
• And learn about how to communicate with clarity and non defensiveness
• learning about yourself – your shadows and your gifts and your deepest desires
• Learn about the Holy spirit…. deepening your life in the spirit and finding out about what prayer is and does
This much I know – it is the greatest gift to the church for you to be a life long learner
And it is an act of humility as you live out the reality that there is always MORE to learn

3.I have one final suggestion = of what I know to be true
You should take notes – keep a record of what is happening because it is noteworthy.
Take notes on what you are doing and what God is doing through you and what God is doing around you.
These days we can blog and twitter and write in our facebooks – all of which are great.
But keep a journal and then in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and more you look back in awe and what God has done. Our faith is a resurrection faith –
Resurrection means “return to life” and as God has called you to come into the life of individuals and bring God to them – You will experience and see Resurrection – you often will get a front row seat.

And Jesus said
I came that you might have life and have it abundantly
And Jesus said – Heather – do you love me?
Because love is the center of my life

You are being ordained today – set apart as a holy woman and responsible for paying attention to the Word of God in whatever locale God places you.

I want to end with a quote from one of my spiritual directors – Eugene Peterson said that the assumption of spirituality - is that God is always doing something before I know it.

“So the task is not to get God to do something. I think needs to be done,
but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.”

Get ready, Heather,
God is doing something and preparing that place for you to feed God’s sheep
My prayer for you and all of us is that
we may see God at work, love the people in our care and delight in all that is doing in our midst. Amen ,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Full House

We have a full house tonight.

Rachel and Brock, Chuck's grandchildren are here for the week. Rachel is 14 and Brock is 11. They are great company and we have had fun all week in Bible School.

Marnie Reagan and Addie are here as well. We have three bedroom and one basement. We are full. Marnie and Addie are sleeping together and Rachel and Reagan are sharing a room and Brock is on the couch in the family room and Chuck moves from our bedroom to the basement (this is what happens when you get older! ) We are full.

Plus there is a mouse in the house. It was sighted last night by Rach and we tried to say the we didn't believe it. Then this morning Marnie told me that she saw it and said not to tell the kids - because they would "freak out"
Unfortunately as she was whispering that to me and Chuck - (no easy task because we are hard of hearing these days) the mouse was making another appearance - this time in the family room in front of Brock and Rachel. It ended up in the kitchen in the corner.

So Chuck got a mousetrap and it is in the kitchen in the corner.

Now it is Saturday evening and the mouse has been sighted in Marnie's room where Addie was watching TV. Brock is running around with a broom right now (what does he think he is going to do - sweep it away?) and they have notified Chuck - who is presumed to be the "Mouse Killer" in our household. I don't know about that.

I am, of course, in the family room writing this.

So....we do have a full house - hope everybody can sleep tonight. I know I will because I have my own bedroom. And I have church tomorrow - I can't lose sleep over this!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vacation Bible School

I think I am going to survive it - we have two days to go.

Vacation Bible School as one person said to me this week is the longest week in the summer for the adults and too short for the kids.

This year we had 60 kids pre registered and I heard 68 altogether so far. It really has been an awesome week. This year I am the "storyteller" and I introduce the Bible story of the day four times (with 4 different groups) and afterward talk to the kids about the story that was acted out for them.

We have "Bible clothes" for the kids to wear and each group is instructed to put on their "Bible imaginations" before we start the story and get in some sort of costume. Amazingly, they are doing it - even the junior high kids and it starts the whole process with a lot of fun.

Yesterday "Jesus" was a special visitor at the home of the pharisees and the kids were nonored guests. They came in to a room with a variety of chairs - some hard and some soft and not enough and found a place to sit. Afterward Jesus told them that we need to live humbly and let others take the best seats first. And he also talked about inviting everybody - even the unpopular kids - to parties. Then he left.

I led them in a discussion about not living a "Me First" life and about reaching out to those who others rejected. With each group - even the kindergarteners - I asked tham about times they felt lonely and watched these darling children look at me seriously and nod their heads. Because, of course, that is true. We all have these times of feeling lonely and uncertain.

What Bible School is reminding me this week is of how a church can really be a place where everyone is accepted as who they are. It is exhausting, chaotic and kind of crazy - but every child comes in and has a place for themselves. We have some really caring adults and yoouth. They are learning stories from the Bible - but more importantly - they really are experiencing an environment of love.

But I am glad we only do this one week a year!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Lake House at the end of the road

I have just returned from three nights staying at the LaKe House - a little cabin in the woods in Hocking Hills.
It is just big enough for two people with a porch across the front, a king sized bed in the living room with the couch, a reading chair and a small TV. There is a kitchen and a hot tub and it sits on a lake. It is in hocking hills and we have been on excursions to see the Rock House and the Cantwell Cliffs. Awesome!

This is what I wrote this morning after 3 days of resting, reading, fishing, walking and more resting.

I sit on the porch and see trees reflected in the lake
The dock has our fishing rods from yesterday's activity
Two chairs are beside the fire ring where we sat and talked and sat in silence in front of the glowing embers.

We have rested and found peace here.

i ma grateful for this time with good sleep every night and naps in the afternoon

I am grateful for having to face my sadness and my losses

i am grateful for books I have shared with Chuck (including Alice Cooper's book on Golf!)

I am grateful for walking and seeing magnificent rock formations and awesome natural beauty.

The first day I was here I lay on the dock and looked up at the sky and the underside of the leaves. And saw again as I continue to see - that everything is more.
There is so much going on that I cannot see it all - let alone interpret it.

Again and again I find the best definition of God for me is "more."
there is more beauty here than you can see
There is more healing here than you realize
There is more love than you can even imagine.

I thank God for this time and I am grateful for the healing and the peace of the lake house.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th ruminations

Today is the 4th of July and it should be a good day. One of the best parts of today is that my sermon is done! Saturdays are a mixed bag for me if it isn't and today it is! Hooray.

We have the annual Northland 4th of July Parade and our church has a float in it. I will walk with them up Karl Road and hand out flyers about Vacation Bible School and family fun day. This is always fun for me!
Chuck is at the church and helping with a lemonade stand and just hanging out. Addie and Reagan will be in the float. Should be great.

This afternoon we will all go to Kacey's for a cookout and then to the Reynoldsburg fireworks.

I am really looking forward to Monday when Chuck and I are going to Hocking Hills where we have rented a cabin for 3 days. It is on a lake and we will get to just hang out and rest. Last night we were in bed at 8:30 and both of us were exhausted. I hope I can get my energy back. I wonder if I have a health issue that I am so tired - or if it is just 3 family deaths, a mission trip and the weekly work of preaching that has caught up with me.

This may be a prelude to next summer when I get my Sabbatical. I found online a place in East Tennessee which is designed for Sabbaticals. They rent the cabins for $200 a week with a MINIMUM stay of one month. Right now that sounds so appealing to me. I originally thought I would do a Sabbatical that would involve a lot of travel and learning - right now all I want to do is rest and read and write.

I have two other events that are taking up space in my head right now. The first is that Heather Bentley Hicks asked me to preach her ordination in 2 weeks. What an honor that is - but I keep thinking about what to say. About loving the church, loving the people, loving God and of course loving and caring for ourselves. Anyway, it is there on my mind.

And now, we received word of the topics for the week for Advance Conference in August. This camp for young adults is one of my favorite weeks of the year - and it is also an interesting challenge to do me "Keynote." This year I volunteered to speak about "Doubt and Faith" and already my mind is starting to ponder that. I like the process - and look forward to whatever comes.

So, today is a Holiday and always a time for the things I like best - family, food, fun, and ruminating!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Mask

I had a pretty compelling dream on the mission trip about accidentally killing some of my parishioners. (I went into such a panic in the dream, that i went on the Rush Limbaugh show to explain it!!! Hmmmmm) And then found out that Audrey had a similar dream about killing parishioners.
After some conversations with others, I came to the conclusion that this may be about the fact that we - like everyone,of course - wear a mask or a role that makes us comfortable and probably makes others more comfortable. And when we take it off, we are afraid others may be hurt and reject us. So, I ended up writing this poem or prayer or something.

I want you to love me with my mask intact
and you do
But you invite me to venture out beyond it
And like a game of peek a boo I flash the world
Fearing rejection and ridicule

I want you to love me with my mask intact
and you do
But you create an unease within me for the artifice, the condescension, the superficiality of others
and so I see and avoid and condemn the affected

I want you to love me with my mask intact
and you do
but you help me to realize how heavy it is becoming
I sweat under the effort of keeping it in place
as I perform and please and keep smiling

I want you to love me iwth my mask intact
and you do
but compassionately and continually you whisper
that I can let go
and discover the treasure that is found deep within