This year, more than any previous one, I’m aware of the dangers of depression during the holidays. I am aware
intellectually that suicide is twice as likely to happen during holidays than at any other time., but this year, there are two families I know that are reeling from the sudden blow of a loved one who took his own life. People who do that are desperate and don’t see a way out. In most cases, they’ve been contemplating it for some time, and have been slowly withdrawing from social activities and loved ones – the very things that sustain us and support us. In both these cases, the persons had stopped attending church. I could do a chicken and egg examination of the questions to see which causes which – is suicide more prevalent among those who don’t attend church, or do people who are suicidal withdraw from everything, even church. There have probably even been studies. Speculation is rarely helpful in these matters. However, I believe it’s really important to be part of a small group in church. Small groups of all sorts connect us with one another, support us in tough times, and love us all the time. Small groups of people learn together, serve together, cling together. Most of all, they miss one another and call to find out what’s wrong when someone doesn’t turn up. No one could have done anything to stop these two men from completing their desperate plans, but we can help one another to be less lonely, to talk about emotions before they grow bigger than we can handle. This Sunday we light the candle of hope in the Advent wreath. May it remind us that we are the hope of the world.
November 14, 2018
This cold weather makes me crave soup. I made three pots of it last weekend.
I had a huge array of vegetables and meats on the counter and kettles boiling up stock.
Each kettle receive a variety of raw ingredients. Their flavors blended together to make something incorporating all of them, and changing them into something new.
At its best, that’s a description of a body of believers. Each contributes something to mix and all are transformed by it. Thanks be to God.
October 31, 2018
I have a new puppy. He is all black, so we’ve named him Shadow. Because he follows us everywhere, I frequently sin the song “Me and My Shadow”. The words, as I recall, are rather depressing “Me, and my shadow, strolling down the avenue, me and my shadow, not a soul to tell our troubles to. And when it’s 12 o’clock, we climb the stair, we never knock, cause nobody’s there; just me and my shadow, all alone and feeling blue.”
It’s sad to think of someone feeling that low I’ve felt lonely, too, at times Those are the times when I forget that I’m never alone. There’s always someone I can talk with and share my troubles. (And not just a little black puppy!) There’s always someone who never leaves me, who is always there when I arrive home, who always listens, always blesses me when I sneeze. When I feel all alone, (and sometimes that happens in the middle of a crowd), it’s because I have moved far away from God. Sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I’ve forgotten that I am God’s beloved child. I need new words to this song, so when I’m singing to my puppy, I can recognize both the puppy and God by my side.
“Me and my shadow, strolling down the avenue. Me, and my shadow, got a God to tell our troubles to. And when it’s 12 o’clock, we climb the stairs, we never knock, we’re always welcome there. Just me, and my shadow, God loves me, and loves you, too.”
October 23, 2018
We have a brand new puppy. Eight weeks old. Crying in the night. Needing to be trained. But, absolutely adorable. He likes to sit on my shoulder with his head tucked into my neck. Like I said: adorable.
And he’s hard work. Real relationships take hard work. Even a relationship with a dog. But, too often, I neglect the important relationships in my life, even my relationship with God. I take it for granted that God will listen to me even if I miss a few days or (weeks).
I give thanks for God’s unconditional love, and resolve to spend at least as much time on that relationship as I do with my dog.
October 18, 2018
Life is full of hellos and goodbyes, beginnings and endings. Many people think of autumn as a time of endings- goodbye to summer and swimming and vacation. But I think of it as a time of beginnings, school year, holiday season, fall foliage. I love the autumn. In life, we often say goodbye to people as well. They move, or pass away, and there’s an empty space in our lives. To keep our lives full and meaning – full, we must constantly meet and befriend new people to replace the old, new activities to replace those we are no longer able to do. Holy God, it is hard to say goodbye to what and whom we love; we get so attached to people and things in this life. Give us your grace to let go of what is needed, to make room for new things and people you are bringing. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
September 21, 2018
In August I looked at all the fall decorations appearing in the stores and thought it was way too early to put those things out. Now, I see houses all around mine decorated and mine isn’t, and I wonder whether it is worth to put things out only for a month or so.
Many things in life seem to have a time limited window of opportunity. If I don’t get it done in a certain time frame, it isn’t worth doing – like sending Christmas cards. “Better lat than never” just doesn’t seem to work with these things.
But growing in grace isn’t one of those time limited things. It’s never too late to grow in ways that reflect who God intended us to be. It’s never too late to give up gossiping. It’s never too late to be more charitable. It’s never too late to get out of debt, or develop a new skill – NEVER too late to learn to pray. God isn’t finished with us – EVER. We may give up on ourselves and settle for a versions of ourselves that isn’t what God intended, but God knows who we can become, and is the best cheerleader that exists. All we have to do is listen to the still small voice that calls us beyond the boundaries we have set for ourselves.
September 6, 2018
It’s the time of year when we recruit people to fill offices and take on jobs for the church. I really dislike asking people to do things. I don’t know why – it doesn’t make sense. Usually people say yes. That’s because we pray about the jobs, and the right people to do them. We consider people’s skills, abilities and talents and try to match them with things they would enjoy doing. We never try to find someone to fill a slot just because it’s there and we need someone.
Most people enjoy being asked. They feel trusted and respected and needed. Some are already busy with so many things that we hate to ask them to do one more, but often those are the people most ready to accept a new responsibility.
Ultimately, if we are praying about ll the things we do as a church, and God indicates that the ministries are valid and valuable (as we do), then it isn’t the church asking us to serve – it’s a call from God to do His work in the world. That’s a call I enjoy answering. How about you?
August 15, 2018
Good Morning. Have you ever had nights where you just couldn’t fall asleep or when you do fall asleep,wake up only to find that you slept an hour? That is my problem every night. I have sleep apnea and use a bi-pap machine. It took some time to get used to it because of course I am very claustrophobic. I finally am used to wearing the mask. Now everything should be great. A very restful night. Not quite yet. The doctor told me my brain runs 24 hours a day. I don’t know how to shut my brain off when it’s night time to sleep. I wake up and think and analyze. A few months ago I decided when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep I would start reading scriptures in the Bible. I also talk with God praying for others on my list and praying that I can finally get a few hours of sleep. I am trying hard to let my brain get some rest. I quit drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening, I put my phone down at a certain hour, and I wait until I can’t keep my eyes open to go to bed. Once in bed, I have my nightly talk with God asking for prayers for the people on my list and just getting things off my chest that have bothered me for the day. Matthew 11:28 says “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. The next time you are having trouble sleeping try giving your burdens to God. He is a very good listener.
August 7, 2018
I was stopped at road construction this morning, waiting. And waiting. Nothing seemed to be happening. No traffic was coming from the other side. There appeared to be no work going on. But the most unusual thing was the pregnant flagger. She was filing her nails. She spoke briefly into the microphone attached to her shoulder, then went back to filing her nails. Again, nothing happened. Five minutes later, her nails must have been perfectly shaped because she put the file in her pocket.
I’d never before seen a flagger attending to personal grooming while on duty. Clearly, there was nothing else for her to do. She was as bored as I was waiting. But I had several things to occupy me while I waited. First, I made a phone call to let the office know I would be late for my first appointment of the day. Then I tuned in to my my favorite Christian radio station. THEN, I began to pray for the people on my prayer list. One had died the day before, two were out of the hospital. I prayed for wisdom for our elected leaders, and I even prayed for the construction workers – for safety, good weather, and good communication among them. As a result, I did not become irritated by the delay, nor did I wish ill upon the self-absorbed flagger. I actually prayed that she would find a God moment sometime today. I wish I could say that I always handle daily interruptions with grace, but that isn’t true. It IS TRUE that carrying a prayer list and using it as a blessing. May you, my dear reader, be equally blessed.
August 2, 2018
I just read an email from a friend who is a retired pastor. He is 76 years young and had never sung a solo in church. He decided to try it. He had made a spiritual bucket list.
The whole concept of a bucket list is rather morbid. There ought to be a better way to phrase it, a more positive concept than: “Things to do before I die”. But the idea of a list of spiritual things I haven’t tried yet is a great one. (I think I’m working up to a sermon here).
There are many things that could go on that list that I HAVE already done. Preach, pray in public, visit the sick, sit with the dying, comfort the grieving, perform a marriage, sing in the choir, sing a solo, lead a person to Christ, pledge money, tithe money, teach Bible study, go on a mission trip, answer a call to ordained ministry, etc., etc. Perhaps there is something in that list that you want to try.
But there are still things I haven’t done. I haven’t cooked a funeral meal, or visit someone in jail. I haven’t witnessed on a street corner, or served at a soup kitchen. There is always more to be done for the kingdom of God, and there are always opportunities to learn new things, even at 76 (and I’m not THERE yet).
July 25, 2018
Last week I tried to tell God what to do about a church member who was seriously ill. The next day, I went to his room in the hospital and found him significantly improved. The thing is, God did it a different way than I thought was right. I realized I had made an enormous mistake (again!) in figuring I knew what God should do.
It surprises me how often I do this. I tell God what to do instead of listening for what God wants me to do.
Since I’ve been actively working on this particular skill for at least thirty years, you would think I would have it down. But I don’t. I continue to fall short of the glory of God in this, and may areas.
It’s a good thing the spiritual life is more about the journey than the arrival point, because I am certainly not there yet. John Wesley called it the Path to Perfection and emphasized that he hadn’t arrived at perfection. He believed it is possible in this life, as do I. However, he never claimed it for himself. I suspect I never will arrive there myself. But I will keep working on it. There’s a lot of work to do.
July 19, 2018
I found myself inexplicable craving sweets this week. I’ve been on a diet since January, and have only eaten sugar of any kind three times in six months. And I haven’t really missed it. So, why the sudden cravings? At first, I thought it was because the last couple weeks have been filled with stress and grief.
Then, I realized that a couple of days ago I started watching a Netflix program called “Sugar Rush”. It is just what it sounds like, a baking program. After watching an episode, I want to rush out and buy a milk shake or a cake and devour the whole thing.
This realization gave me a new take on the scripture I’m preaching for Sunday. The fourth chapter of Philippians tell us to surround ourselves with all that is good and pure and worthwhile. Not with evil. That has always made sense to me. And not I have a new metaphor. If I watch TV shows about preparing vegetables, I will crave vegetables. (Sadly, I don’t think this program exists.) When I watch baking shows, I will crave sugar. Sugar is deadly for a diabetic, just as bars are temptation for alcoholics. If I’m not around it, I’m much less likely to want it. I don’t even go down those aisles in the store anymore, unless the grand kids are coming to visit.
Instead, I spend a lot more time in the veggie aisle and a lot more time preparing vegetables to eat, and a lot more time reading vegetable recipes for new things to try. Virtuous living requires surrounding ourselves with virtuous people, ideas, TV shows, music, websites, Bible reading, and on and on and on. I think this will preach.
Sadly, I will never find out who won the last episode of Sugar Rush that I began watching yesterday. It isn’t worth the risk.
July 11, 2018
Life can, and does, change in the blink of an eye. So why does death surprise me so often? I guess I just get so busy that I compartmentalize it away. This weekend was a stunning shock for many of us with the passing of our dear Vic Clark. Other people have the same sense of shock I do. I know this because Jenny Motley was walking around the church hugging people and saying “I just want to tell everyone how much I love the, because you never know what’s going to happen.” Jenny’s right. We need to appreciate the wonderful people in our lives every day. It’s too bad it takes a trauma or tragedy to remind us. Or, maybe not. Perhaps the blissful unawareness in which we live is a gift from God to keep our souls refreshed and our spirits in balance. We wouldn’t survive long if we spent a portion of each day appreciating our loved ones because we were fearing their deaths. After all, death is not an ending for followers of Christ, it’s the beginning of a new journey. Or, as cowboy Vic would say, “It’s a new trail to ride.”
July 3, 2018
I’ve been making flower arrangements for a couple of parties recently. I’ve noticed that my favorites are light, airy arrangements which can only be achieved by mixing different textures, heights and sizes of flowers. Colors depend on the occasion, but I’ve learned I like my arrangements best when the colors I’m using are contrasted with the greens of leaves and light and dark shadings.
Why am I writing about this? I’m pretty sure God intended humans to arrange ourselves in mixtures with lots of contrast, too. The most exciting, interesting periods of my life were spent in settings where there was great variety of nationalities, religions, races, etc. The more pluralistic and diverse the population, the happier I am.
It saddens me that this doesn’t seem to be our natural state. Human diversity is such a delight, but we seem to be polarized to the extent that disharmony often results from interaction. To me, this is an indication of our sinful state, and far from God’s will. I pray for the day when we are restored to God’s will.
June 27, 2018
It’s party time!! We have been celebrating for a month now! First, there was a new grand baby to celebrate. The, there was Father’s Day, my mother-in-law’s birthday and my daughter- in-law’s ordination. Next, there is our fortieth anniversary.
I have second guessed myself many times when planning this party. Who throws a party for their 40th?
Most people go on a cruise and celebrate as a couple. But as the RSVPs come in, I realize that this occasion is bringing together friends from many different stages of our lives. And that is a perfect reason to throw a party!
Most of the time, people wait for tragedy to get together. We are so busy and scheduled that making time for friends isn’t urgent. Perhaps it should be the most urgent priority. Life can change in the blink of an eye. Why not prioritize joy?
May 25, 2018
My granddaughter is a live wire. She is an odd combination of girly girl and tomboy who loves pink and glitter and running and dirt and insects. We made a fairy garden that brings together her love of dirt and pink fairy dust. I was cooking the other day day when she came to me crying, “I broke the fairy. I’m sorry” she sobbed. I had a hard time keeping a straight face, but she was so very heartbroken. It’s typical of Corrie that she does things she knows she shouldn’t do, and then is quite sincerely contrite-until the next time. So am I. I don’t understand why it takes me so long to learn lessons. It seems that after more that 60 years, I should already know ow to truly follow Jesus, but I fail time after time. I wonder if God has a hard time keeping a straight face when I am sincerely contrite over something I will probably do again, and again.
May 16, 2018
The winter was endless this year. Perhaps that’s why the spring greening is more delightful than ever to me. My soul basks in the warm breezes and is inspired by the flowering trees. Of course, I feel this way every year, but this year even more profoundly. Personal trauma does the same thing for me. When I come out the other side of a difficult time, the world seems fresher, newer, more beautiful. My relationships are more precious, my work more fulfilling, life itself more wondrous. I thank my God for giving us the capacity to enjoy life, and pray for those who just don’t seem to have joy in their lives. They are missing so very much. May joy be yours this day, and always.
May 8, 2018
I had to turn around at Home Depot the other day, and found myself on a little used section of the parking lot. Right next to the side of the lane were a mother and father goose and a broken egg. At first, I was really worried that someone had vandalized the egg, because I didn’t see a baby goose. Then I saw some grass squirm. There were several camo colored piles of fluff – baby goslings. I didn’t see any heads or feet, just squirming fluff in the deep spring grass. It amazed me that God had made them so perfectly camouflaged, so protected by their natural coloring. I then wondered how many times I have passed by just such miracles without ever noticing. God is great, all the time, but I only remember when I happen to notice. Lord, help me to have eyes to see the many wonders you have created!
March 28, 2018
Recently, a teenager asked me an important question. She asked, “Do you judge people (here there was a dramatic pause), who are bisexual?”
I answered, “I’m hearing two questions, not just one. And I’m going to answer the one you didn’t know you asked.” Here’s my answer:
Because you paused in the middle of your question, I thought you were going to just ask me if I judge people. The answer is yes. I judge people, and prejudge them, all the time based on their clothing, cleanliness, manners, actions, etc. We all do. But that isn’t what you were asking. You are asking whether I make moral judgments about people. The Bible tells us that it is God’s job to judge people, and our job to love them. Romans 12:17-19 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
It’s really hard not to be judgmental. But when we think about how much God has forgiven us, it’s much easier to love others. I love the saying, “A good friend is someone who knows everything about you and love you anyway. That’s how I feel about God, too. God knows everything about us, but loves us anyway. And God loves us too much to leave us where we are. Thanks be to God.
March 14, 2018
We’re at the end of our Dinner and a Movie series on The Shack. It’s been a powerful time of fellowship and discussion of important themes in the movie.
I highly recommend the movie. But, I really think it’s best to watch it with a group. There’s so much pain, sorrow, hatred and guilt that it’s good to process it with someone. More importantly, there is so much forgiveness, redemption and joy, that discussing these things helps us remember that God always wins.
March 9, 2018
This Sunday, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a global difference when we celebrate UMCOR Sunday. Here’s one story about how UMCOR is at work in the world.
Boko Haram is a militant Islamic group that continues to wreak havoc in Nigeria. Two million people have been forced to flee their homes to see safety, shelter and food. In 2017, UMCOR worked in partnership with Mission 21, formerly known as the Basel Mission, to offer support to communities that have survived Boko Haram’s attacks.
Through a $100,000 grant, UMCOR and Mission 21 are working together to provide more than 600 men, women and children with lifesaving nutrition and essential nonfood assistance. Mission 21 empowers survivors through sustainable development so they can work within their own communities to support one another. The partnership gives them the tools to rebuild what has been destroyed.
We support efforts like this when we give to UMCOR Sunday. We change the lives of people all over the world with our generosity.
I hope you will join me in celebrating by giving generously this Sunday.
February 28, 2018
My husband’s car caught fire while he was driving to church yesterday. We don’t yet know whether the fuel line was old and faulty, or whether the mechanic didn’t reconnect it properly when he did repairs last week.
I said, “You won’t be using that repairman again!” Ash said,”It was a mistake anyone could make. I’m thankful to be alive.”
That’s the second time in as many days that I’ve found myself being judgmental. The first was when I head the news report that the policeman who was supposed to be guarding children didn’t go into the building when the shooting started in Florida. I was angry that he didn’t do his job. Perhaps he WAS doing his job. I don’t know that his training didn’t tell him to guard the perimeter and wait for the SWAT team. I just don’t know. I do know that I’m quick to point fingers of blame when children are hurt or my family is in danger. It isn’t enough to be angry with the shooter, I want to be angry at the policeman, the gun laws, etc.
Anger, at best, motivates us to make needed changes. At worst, it leads to more violence. Meanwhile, I need to work on being less judgmental of the actions of others, and more careful to correct my own behavior. Don’t we all?
January 30, 2018
I felt like the President of the United States this morning. Before worship, people were coming at me fast and hard with questions, suggestions, comments, committee needs and personal needs. I barely answered one question before three stepped up to take its place.
I was actually feeling pretty energetic and very useful rather than overwhelmed, but it was early in the day.
By midday, the pace hadn’t let up and the personal needs were growing more difficult to fill. I had made three counseling appointments for the coming week, when yet another desperate text came through. I wondered where I would get the energy to meet all those needs on top of the four committee meetings this week, two classes, and two prayer meetings.
So I went home and took a nap. On the way back to church I did counseling by phone, set up yet another appointment, another lunch, and a phone meeting. You see, between the nap and the return trip, I had taken time to lay all my burdens in God’s hands. And between the nap and the prayer I received energy for anything the week may bring.
January 3, 2018
We had a scare last month when one of our youth was hit by a truck on his way to school. He was thrown quite a distance and had many injuries. It was a huge worry for his school, friends, teachers, youth group, and most of all, his parents. It’s the phone call every parent dreads. “Your child has been taken to the hospital.”
I remember receiving that call a number of years ago. Our son had been t-boned on his way home from work and we received the call at one in the morning. Frantic drive to Pittsburgh followed, full of worry. But when we got there and were able to see him and hold his hands, worry ceased and I was in the moment. There was a kind of numbness that kept me going the next few days, until he was out of danger. Friends came and went and I was comforted by their presence. I had not words to pray, so being surrounded by clergy friends who did it for us was a great help. It was only after the crisis had passed and he was at home recovering that I realized how very bad it could have been.
On reflection, God was present in the obvious ways, through friends, family, and the strength to endure. But God was also present in the numbness. Adrenaline in a crisis is a gift from God, but so is the emotional numbness that allows us to persevere in the face of trauma and tragedy. Bu the time feelings surfaced for me, the worst of the crisis had passed and I was ready to be grateful rather than terrified. I was ready to find joy in being surrounded by love. It isn’t an empty promise that those who dwell in the shadow of the Lord will be equipped for whatever comes in life. God hard wired us for it. Thanks be to God.
December 19, 2017
The relationship between District Superintendent and pastor is usually very cordial and friendly, even warm, but nonetheless is a SUPERVISORY relationship. Spending time in the DS’s office is like going to the principal’s office. Even when you’re there for something good, you’re aware of the potential for disaster.
So imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago. I had been sitting in the DS’s office with a couple of colleagues for hours, planning a clergy Christmas party. The planning turned into rehearsal, and when we swung into an impromptu rendering of “Feliz Navidad”, I found myself tapping my feet, moving with the beat and grinning so hard it hurt my face. I has having fun in an unexpected location.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled Surprised by Joy. The title has a double meaning. CS Lewis suffered from clinical depression all of his life, so experiencing the emotion of joy was always a surprise for him. but his wife’s name of Joy and he was also surprised by the joy she brought into his life.
Intellectually, I know that joy is always around the corner in unexpected places. I’m delighted that, even though I know to expect joy in the unexpected, I don’t. One source of joy is unexpected pleasure. Life having fun in the office of the District Superintendent.
I pray that you will be surprised by joy frequently during this Advent.
December 13, 2017
I was very nervous a couple of weeks ago when the Bishop came to our church to preach one of our anniversary events. I fumbled a bit, and my mind went completely blank at one point during the announcements. It was rather embarrassing. By the end of the morning, I was no longer intimidated by our Bishop. Tracy Malone, our Episcopal leader, is personable, refreshing and fun.
After church, she greeted every single person who stood in line, even the lady who waited till everyone else had gone so she could yodel for the bishop. That’s right, yodel. the woman was pretty good at it. Quite entertaining. But lunch was waiting for us and I was trying to be a good hostess and shepherd the bishop and district superintendent into the fellowship hall for lunch. The yodeling woman was delaying us.
The yodeler turned out to be a master of group dynamics. She soon had the district superintendent, me, and yes, even the bishop, joining her in yodeling a “church” song. It was hilarious. It was fun. It as not anything I ever would have expected to be doing with a bishop.
Often, I’m so focused on the “next thing”, that I forget to be present in the moment. Among other things, Bishop Tracy Malone is firmly present in every moment. I have much to learn from her.
November 30, 2017
It’s a delightful git when there is an “extra” week between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. There always seem to be last minute details, and no time to attend to them with all the preparation for Thanksgiving. This week, I’ve had time to breathe and to read and to prepare my heart. What a luxury! I’ve even begun my Advent devotional on the theory that most years I wind up missing a day because someone is in the hospital, etc.
This year we’re offering folks a chance to do the easiest Advent study of all time. All you have to do is show up. No advance reading, no homework, no preparation, no cost – and dinner will be provided!!! It doesn’t get any easier than that.
“Keep Christ in Christmas” is a familiar saying, along with “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. You can buy stickers, pens, hats and other gift items with those sayings. But keeping our hearts and minds focused on the real meaning of Christmas requires more than a slogan. It requires a plan. This IS my plan. Have a little dinner, watch a little film. Talk about the child who changes everything. It’s not only easy – it’s holy. Come join me.
November 22, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving. We say it all the time. What we mean is similar to Happy Easter or Happy Valentine’s Day or Happy Memorial Day. We mean “have a nice holiday”, “enjoy your family time”, “I’m anticipating having a good time and hope you do too”.
But I looked at those words on a card someone sent me, and I read them differently than ever before. I turned it around and realized it could mean “Give thanks happily”.
The first of of one of my favorite praise songs is “Give thanks with a grateful heart”. I can’t imagine giving thanks any other way, until I remember the grudging thanks with which my sons
would write thank you notes for Christmas and birthday presents. They wanted to play with the gifts, not write notes. So it was with ill will that they sat down to practice our rule – you don’t get to use a present till you give thanks for it.
We end each youth group meeting with a prayer circle where each of us thanks God, and once in a while the kids can’t think of anything, or don’t want to speak up. So I guess giving thanks with a grateful heart does not come naturally to everyone.
Therefore, I will pray a blessing upon each person to whom I say “Happy Thanksgiving”. I will silently pray that person has a reason to joyfully thank God for something, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but always. And a “Happy Thanksgiving” to you, too.
November 17, 2017
I met with 14 grandparents last week who are all raising grandchildren. They are part of an epidemic. One research source revealed 4.2 million kids across the US are being raised by grandparents. That doesn’t include those in foster care or being raised by other family members. There’s even a new word for it – “kindred care”.
For the most part, this is fallout from the drug (opioid) epidemic. It’s something that’s heavy on my heart, but also a service of hope. I doubt I can do anything about the drug epidemic. But I’m confident I can do something for those grandparents.
Thanks be to God who sees opportunities where we see only problems.
November 10, 2017
Around our table at yesterday’s lunch, seven clergy discussed church security in light of the Texas event. There were various opinions, but a general consensus that 1) we need to increase security, and 2) we really don’t want armed guards in our churches. Some churches are locking their doors after services begin, and during the week. Others have put pepper spray or wasp spray in every room for church leaders to use. Still others have folks with concealed carry permits wearing the weapons even during worship. It’s hard to balance Jesus telling us not to worry (Matthew 6 and Mark 12) with sensible precautions. It’s hard to justify counting on God to provide if we are talking unreasonable risks with members’ lives. Where IS that fine line?
I suppose that’s it. We must take reasonable precautions, then count on God, the Great Provider, for the rest. For believers, the end of life is not the end. But we also don’t want to hurry it along. May the peace of God be with you, even while acknowledging the clear presence of evil in the world.
November 2, 2017
At last, autumn weather is here, though it seems to have gone from an unseasonably warm October straight to winter. I feel cheated because those lovely 70 degree temperatures are gone.
It’s remarkable to me how quickly I can develop a sense of entitlement to something I haven’t earned, and can’t reasonably expect. I certainly am not entitled to warm weather in November. But, I’ve been spoiled by the lovely weather this year.
I think it’s that artificially developed sense of entitlement that causes us to complain when we don’t receive the answers to prayer that we think we deserve. I can’t count the number of times people have asked me why God doesn’t answer their prayers. God does hear and answer prayers. But the answer is often “not now” or “not yet” or “no”.
When we complain that God doesn’t answer prayers, what we’re really saying is”Why doesn’t God do what I told him to do?!” Like children complaining about their parents, we want what we want when we want it. Often our prayer requests are on behalf of someone else, so we think of them as generous and unselfish- and they are. But we’re still telling God what to do. Our prayer lives would be much more satisfying if, instead of telling God what to do, we would ask God what we should do. When we ask what we should do, we have direction, purpose, and no sense of entitlement or expectation – just a sense of usefulness. Thanks be to God for direction and purpose and usefulness in every age and stage of life.
October 27, 2017
I have absolute proof that God still performs miracles. The Christmas cactus in my office has buds on it. I have never even had one survive my tender loving care before. They always die because I over water them. Their survival would have been miracle enough, especially since I’ve kept this one since last Christmas. To have it budding its a sign of God really showing off.
There is a Hebrew word, Dayeinu (Die-yeah-new), that means “it would have been enough”. It is sung at Passover celebrations every year. It is a very ancient song, written about 1000 years ago. A long list of God’s blessings are given, conveying that if God would have stopped at any one, the Hebrew people would have been completely satisfied. (Things like delivery from Egypt, dividing the Red Sea, bringing them to the promised land, etc.) Isn’t that a great attitude of gratefulness. Here are just a few additions I would make:
If God redeemed, but not filled me with the Holy Spirit, it would have been enough.
If God had filled me with the Holy Spirit, but did not guide my life daily, it would have been enough.
If God guided my life daily, but did not lovingly answer my prayers, it would have been enough.
If God lovingly answered my prayers, but did not promise me eternity, it would have been enough.
It would have been enough. I’m glad it wasn’t enough for God.
October 19, 2017
Yesterday I watched a family in the parking lot at Wendy’s. This family had pulled into a parking area where they had plenty of room all around them, and they needed it. There were two middle school kids with their grandmother, who was tooling around in a motorized wheelchair. It was the after school hour, and I imagine they had stopped for an after school snack. While I watched, they were loading Grandma and her wheelchair in the SUV. First, the granddaughter ran a race with Grandma while grandson was setting up the ramp. It was a homemade ramp, two sets of planks were set up first, then he unfolded a hinged ramp made of plywood. When he was finished, he tested it by running up and down the ramp a couple of times. Then he signaled to his sister, and all three of them disappeared to the driver’s side of the vehicle. After Grandma’s head appeared at the driver’s place, granddaughter cam zooming around the SUV on the wheelchair. She did a couple of laps, then brother came whizzing by. When they had each had a turn driving the chair, brother got out, and began guiding the chair up the ramp using the hand controls. They left laughing and smiling and talking away. This family took what anyone else would have called a handicap and turned it into fun. A long time ago, E. Stanley Jones said: “Christians are strange people, when life hands them lemons, they make lemonade.” I’ve never seen a better example of lemonade making.
September 27, 2017
Have you noticed the brightest leaves this fall? No, not the maples. No, not the oaks, No, not the ornamental pears (those are my favorites). The brightest, reddest, most spectacular leaves are those of the poison ivy. Take a look next time you are driving through the countryside. Every fence row has a few brilliant, flaming leaves that are so attractive I want to pick them and take them home. But what looks so pretty at a distance would be poisonous to me and my family.
So many things in life are attractive, but deadly. How can we resist temptation? For me, being part of a small accountability group is essential. Having spiritual friends who will tell me when I’m endangering my soul is a life long practice that is essential to my spiritual journey. Thanks to them, I can even resist the temptation to bring home the poison ivy.
September 22, 2017
I’ve been feeling nostalgic, so I decided to try something I enjoyed doing with my grandmother when I was a kid. I went out along the railroad tracks and picked Queen Anne’s lace to dye. It’s so lacy and pretty and I had a vague remembrance of dying it brilliant colors.
It turned out to be harder than it sounds. I put the flowers in several glasses with water dyed bright colors with food dye. The next day, the flowers were still white. I decided to google directions for dying them. Sure enough, I found directions, but it was a YouTube video that wouldn’t download on the device I was using. The only help I found was a sentence that said they absorb dye faster the shorter the stems are. So I took fresh water, put a higher concentration of dye, and cut some stems quite short. Within a couple of hours, the flowers were changing color. Meanwhile, I had done some more reading about Queen Anne’s lace, which is also called wild carrot. Almost all parts of the plant are edible in one season or another. The flowers, dyed and plain, can be dried for bouquets. It turns out that this weed is useful in many ways. God has made many miraculous things in our world, if we but take the time to truly see.
September 13, 2017
I love spending time with youth. They ask the best questions. Recently, one of them wanted to know about reincarnation. “Is it real? Wouldn’t it be cool to come back as yourself, only younger? Wouldn’t it be great to come back and fix the mistakes you made? Wouldn’t it be great to come back richer, smarter, more popular, more attractive?” When I finally got him slowed down enough to listen to any part of an answer, I said simply, “There’s a big difference between wishful thinking and reality. When you frame the question of reincarnation in the light of the other questions you asked, which do you think it is, reality or wishful thinking? Even as a young teen, he knew the answer. I then explained that the Bible is God’s greatest revelation of the concept of the afterlife, and it contains absolutely no indication that we come back, only that Jesus does. We agreed that Jesus’ return is good news.
September 7, 2017
This week we received $920 for hurricane relief in one collection. I personally feel good about contributing to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), because every dollar contributed goes to the cause for which it is designated. That’s because once a year, all UM churches take up a special collection for the infrastructure for UMCOR, so none of the designated funds have to be used for overhead costs and administration. It’s a simple, elegant “method”. I’ve asked our church treasurer to send the money to UMCOR’s flood relief fund. That way, it doesn’t have to be used just in Texas, or just in Louisiana, but can be used to purchase supplies to restock the flood buckets or whatever else is needed. (Right now, I understand there’s a serious shortage of flood buckets because there have been so many this year). Non of us can do everything, each of us can do something; together we can change the world.
August 21, 2017
We’ve been on a year long journey to this day. Today we serve lunch to 200 school employees from our local schools. It”s their back to school in service day and we want to kick it off by showing them community support. We’ve recruited nine businesses to help us pay for it. We’ve recruited 25 church members to help prepare and serve it. We’ve written prayers for each of their areas to work to surround them with God’s support. No we get to implement all that we’ve planned and dreamed of for this day.
I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with this next. We are clearly developing a working relationship with the schools. “Adopting” the school.s But what does that mean specifically? It means listening to their needs and worries and challenges, then praying about how God wants us to address them. It’s clear from our first steps that God is leading this project and we’re just following. God has opened so many doors and opportunities for us to do community ministry in the midst of public schools. There’s a lot of prayer that has gone into this, and much more prayer to come. I can’t wait to see where God is leading us.
August 15, 2017
Saturday’s events in Virginia could be anywhere, anytime. Somehow, I feel worse about it because it was a man from Ohio who committed that act of terror. Yesterday , our bishop sent out a call to prayer that I want to share with you.
“Each week, you have a sacred task, responsibility and opportunity to courageously and prophetically speak to the evil, hatred and violence that runs rampant in our communities, nation and world, namely the repulsive acts of evil and violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA,” she said.
“Is there a word from the Lord? We are a people of prayer…so, yes, we pray! We pray for peace, healing and restoration! But we must ask, what might God be calling the people of God to say or do at this time and in our respective locations to respond in faith and to confront injustice, bigotry, racism, hatred and evil in whatever forms they present themselves?’
There’s more to her message on the East Ohio website. Here’s my immediate answer to her question: God is calling us to not be silent. When people say hateful things, we need to speak up. It isn’t easy to do. I often am so shocked that I can’t think of a response fast enough. Perhaps I need to practice a standard response to hatefulness. Even something simple like: “I don’t agree with what you just said.” That would be better than silence. Maybe if I have a memorized response for such occasions, it will give my brain time to add more.
I doubt that I’ll ever be called on to stop a rampaging hate monger in a car. But I’ve heard abusive and hateful language used many times, and I don’t have affirm it with silence. Thanks be to God.
August 11, 2017
Recently, I’ve been decoding cryptograms for fun in my spare time. I downloaded the app to my tablet, and surprise! The cryptograms are inspirational quotations.
It’s amazing what a lift that gives me. “You have to learn the rules of the game and then you have to play better than anyone else.” (Albert Einstein) They give me energy.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” (Mahatma Gandhi) They give me courage.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” They give me a sense of renewed mission and purpose.
It has always been true that if you want to b the best version of yourself possible, you need to surround yourself with people who are upbeat, smarter, more able. Even if those people
are only quotations.
August 2, 2017
So much is happening so quickly with our plan to adopt the Ontario schools. God is working fast and opening doors for us. The school superintendent, principals, local businesses, congregation and funding are all coming together to make some new ministries possible. Some days I have more questions than answers about how all of this is going to work. But, I do not ask where God is in the midst of it. God’s fingerprints are all over it, making it clear that this is a direction God is moving and we need to keep up. I often question whether I CAN keep up, but never whether it’s the right road.
Many times in life we face crossroads and have to make decisions, asking God for guidance. Rarely is the road so very clear. I give God thanks for this clarity, inspiration and provision. Glory and honor and praise be to God.
July 28, 2017
For a couple of glorious days we had four generations in the house. One day, I watched in wonderment as my three year old granddaughter fed her great grandparents a pretend cake she had made. They eagerly opened their mouths to take in a spoonful. Great grandfather smacked his lips in appreciation. Great grandmother made yum sounds.
I was aware that we are fed just as invisibly by the Holy Spirit. I wish I would welcome the nourishment from scripture, inspiration, prayer and discernment as eagerly as they participated in pre-school play. In fact, the invisible cake was a source of delight for them because it came from someone they adore. Adoration of God is easy when we are new Christians, but we often lose that excitement and joy. I find I must constantly rekindle the relationship in order to rekindle the love I return to God.
July 20, 2017
Tonight at Vacation Bible School, one of the activities was music, as it is every night. Tonight, the music leader gave the kids junior hand bells that are color coordinated to cards with colors that she holds up to play along with songs.
The bells have such a pretty tone, that even when the kids played the wrong notes, or kept playing when it was no longer their turn, it still sounded pleasant. The color coordinated bells allowed even preschoolers to participate, as well as older kids who don’t have a clue how to read music. I was reminded that scripture tells us to make a joyful NOISE to the Lord. I wonder if our stumbling and fumbling efforts to follow Jesus sound good to God even when we don’t quite get it right. I sure hop so.
July 13, 2017
This pas Sunday as I arrived at church, there was a man walking across the parking lot toward the church. There’s nothing new in that, except that he was mostly nude. His only clothing was a pair of shoes and an abbreviated pair of shorts. I wondered what the congregation would do when he walked in and sped up so I could watch. I must confess some disappointment when he turned the other direction and do not go in.
We talk about being a friendly, accepting congregation that will welcome anyone no matter how the person is dressed. But I wonder how we would greet someone only half-dressed. I suspected someone would invite him to breakfast and someone else would give him a shirt. (That Sunday we happened to be selling them and I was sure someone would be willing to buy one for him.) The man looked middle aged and reasonably prosperous, so he might eve have bought his own shirt.
I must confess that I would probably find it distracting to preach to a congregation that included someone who had no shirt. Clothing doesn’t distract me, but bare skin might. I am constantly reminded that God isn’t finished confronting me with my pre-conceptions and prejudices. Thanks be to God.
July 12, 2017
Our VBS theme this year is “Christmas in July”. The team wants to be sure that kids who don’t attend church have a chance to hear and know the Christmas story. I think it’s a great idea. I’ve had other reminders of Christmas this week. I ordered a book to preview for an Advent Bible study, and a catalog arrived with bulletins for Christmas. AND, I received an email from the bishop’s office saying she can come to preach on the first Sunday of Advent. So, I’m already excited about Advent, and it’s only July. The study I’m previewing is titled “Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlam”, and I just read a couple of timely questions. “How do we keep the spirit of Christmas alive and well and vibrant throughout the year?…How do we keep Christmas for the long hall?” I can’t wait to read the author’s answers.
I don’t think the answer is found in the Christmas crafts already displayed in the hobby shops. I don’t think the answer is Christmas merchandising that begins in September. I do think that I’ve had a glimpse of the excitement today as I choose bulletins and curriculum – it’s helping prepare my heart rather than my home. This year, I just might be able to sustain that excitement for six months. Thanks be to god.
July 6, 2017
Our dog is exhausted and lonely. Our two grandchildren and their dog were visiting last week. For one week, Charlie, our 55 pound puppy, did not need our attention because he had another dog and two kids to occupy his time. When they left, he wanted to snuggle on the couch with my husband and sit at my feet while I work. In his neediness, he returned to his masters. That reminded me of the many times I forget to spend time with God until I’m lonely and/or needy. Life’s business and distractions take me away from the things I SAY are my priorities. I know I’m not the only one who does that, but it certainly doesn’t let me off the hook. When the book of Philippians encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances, perhaps it is an invitation to give thanks for the negative circumstances that return me to the heart of God. Thank you, Lord, for the times that challenge my soul and return me to relationship with you. Amen.
June 28, 2017
I don’t realize how quiet and peaceful my life is until something happens to change that. This week, we have another dog in addition to our own, and we have two grandchildren for the week. I love those kids to the moon and back, but they are not part of my quiet, peaceful, usual existence.
Change is daunting, even when it is positive. I only really like changes I initiate, and even then, change can be difficult. Having the grandkids at our house means it is messier, louder and more demanding than usual. I wouldn’t trade a moment with them for all the tea in China, but occasionally, I’d “give them away for a nickel” as my great aunt used to say.
I know that at the end of the week I will wish they were staying longer.
When God initiates changes in me, it’s always had, always unsettling, always rewarding – just like having the grandkids for a week. (Oh, did I mention we have their DOG, too?!)
June 21, 2017
When he was 3, my youngest son taught me to use a computer mouse. At the time, I couldn’t see what use it was. Last week, my 7 year old grandson installed a widget on my phone. My eyes glazed as he tried to explain the difference between a widget and an app. I’ve already noticed benefits from the widget. Sometimes, God also trains me up in something new I don’t understand. It always has life long benefits, but I’m usually stubbornly resistant at first. Why, oh why does it take so long?
June 14, 2017
Charlie, our puppy, gets in trouble a lot. He has a sorrowful expression every time. It should be photographed in the dictionary with the expression “hang dog”, ’cause he gets the look. He’s young, so he often gets in trouble for the same thing over and over and over, because he just hasn’t learned yet. He has an excuse – youth. I don’t. I should be older and wiser – but often i’m not. I do the same thing again and again that I know I shouldn’t. Sometimes it’s making a sarcastic comment in a tense situation. Sometimes, it’s getting the steak instead of the salad. I’m in good company, and not just with Charlie the puppy. The apostle Paul said it best: “
for I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) Lots of people have speculated that there was some enormous secret sin in Paul’s life. I think it was something ordinary and frequent. We’ll never know. We do know that God forgives over and over and over – much more frequently and easily than I forgive Charlie the puppy.
June 9, 2017
It’s supposed to be hot at annual conference next week. I don’t do well in heat. I melt inside and out. I’m already dreading sitting in a hot auditorium with 2,000 people and no air conditioning. I can feel the perspiration run down my back, and the flush on my cheeks.
Why do we do that? Why do we worry about things that haven’t yet happened and dread future events? Today is enough to worry about without borrowing trouble. Today’s problems I’m much more likely to pray about and deal with well than tomorrow’s. Sometimes I even lose sleep over what hasn’t happened yet. Healthy concern and preparation are good things. Worry is a life stealer and joy stealer. In the fourteenth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus twice told his disciples not to worry and not to be afraid. Instead, he said to trust him and all would be well. I think I’ll let go of the heat and enjoy today’s cool breezes.
May 31, 2017
We’ve been having some really great discussions lately about generations. In Bible study, we’ve been learning about the traits and preferences of various generations as well as the shaping factors.
This has led to an understanding of the differences in our worship preferences. Baby Boomers like praise music, but Millennials don’t like the pop sound of it, etc. These discussions are just the beginning of seriously examining everything we do as a church and how it applies to younger generations, if at all. Please pray for the church leadership as we begin some fundamental examination. Blessings to all.
May 11, 2017
There are Job seasons of life. Job is a book of the Bible that tells the story of … Job. He was an upright and faithful man. The devil wanted to prove that no one could be as faithful as Job, and tested him with all sorts of calamities, illnesses and losses. Job was sick, sad and in pain, but remained faithful. I call it a Job season of life when someone is in similar circumstances. Right now, that’s where our office manager, Debby, finds herself. There are several scriptures that can help. One is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I used to repeat that one to myself when I was in seminary. As deadlines approached, papers were due, my house was a mess and the kids still had to be fed and clothed, I would say to myself: “I can do anything for ten weeks. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do anything for ten weeks. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…….” Be strong through Christ.
April 13, 2017
Last Sunday I was dressing my three year old granddaughter.
“You’re so pretty,” I said.
“Not yet”, Corrie said.
“Why not yet”?, I asked.
“Because I’m not dressed yet”.
She was dressed, but didn’t have her shoes or accessories on. Apparently, one isn’t pretty until completely dressed, according to Corrie.
I would agree with Corrie when it comes to things of the spirit. Unless we are clothed with the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we aren’t pretty yet.
March 30, 2017
I just finished my sermon for Sunday. I love it when I get it done on Wednesday and can just sort of “stew” it the rest of the week.
I had to carefully study this week’s question asked by Jesus. There were a couple of words that could be interpreted different ways. There were different meanings that would completely change the question, its depth, its intent.
Now that I’m finished I’m thinking about words a little differently. The right word at the right time can have a profound effect on a person. A word of forgiveness can give a person a lift, while a word of anger can ruin a day. A word of rebuke can give nightmares, while a word of praise can change a self-concept.
Words matter. And they can’t be taken back once uttered. Lord, help me keep a tight check on my tongue. Let my words be kind and generous and uplifting. When they cannot, help me to be silent.
March 23, 2017
Today I’m being bombarded with messages about homelessness. My daily devotional and email both addressed this issue. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about and praying for people who are homeless today. I know that the majority of Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness. But the possibility of being homeless isn’t real for me. I can try to imagine, but it just isn’t real. I know my children will never be homeless because we would take them in to live with us. I live with a kind of security that many Americans don’t have. I’m blessed. Folks who are living in their cars or shelters are oppressed by two kinds of evil: economic and interpersonal. Not only have they fallen on hard times, but they have no safety net. They have no one able to help them the way we would help our family members. They either have no family, or have no family members who are economically or emotionally able to help them. That realization makes me sadder than the job loss, medical bills, or other economic factors that caused the homelessness . It’s true poverty of spirit to have no personal support from loved ones. I can’t even imagine…..
March 16, 2017
It’s hard to write about Easter with snow on the ground. I should have done it when the weather was warm. But at that time it felt too far away. Now, all of a sudden everything is rushed. So was the last week Jesus lived. It went from wondrous excitement on Palm Sunday to excruciating loss in five short days. Maybe remembering the cross will prepare me to write about the resurrections. Thanks be to God.
March 7, 2017
My sister-in-law gave me a present while we were in Louisiana on vacation. She had noticed a Facebook posting with me in costume as a Fortune teller at our annual Trunk or Treat function in the fall. So, she bought two masks I can wear while I’m in my costume. It was a thoughtful and practical present, and I felt as though she is engaged in my daily life in a way that is difficult since we live so far apart. Lots of people today have a hard time keeping engaged in the lives of their relatives. We live in an era when families are often separated by distance due to jobs and personal choices that weren’t available a century ago. We also have more communication devices to help in that challenge – if we use them wisely, as Yasmin did.
We all have choices to make about how to use social media. We can use it to post “selfies”, or to lodge complaints, or to get on a soapbox. Or, we can creatively connect with those we love at a distance. I’m going to look for those opportunities.
February 21, 2017
Every time I turn on my computer, I see my grandson’s smiling face. My screensaver has a picture of him at age four, on skies for the first time. He’s looking down at the skies, thoroughly delighted with himself. Joseph still loves learning new things.
So do I. It’s just harder at my age than his. However, perhaps it is because it is harder that I take GREAT delight when I accomplish something new. Each time I figure out some new little thing on my phone or tablet, I am as delighted as Joseph was when he slid down a little hill for the first time.
The Bible uses the word delight over and over and over again. It speaks of God’s delight in the Creation, our delight in God, God’s delight in us, and more… You too, can find delight – new delights, every day. Praise be!
February 16, 2017
I love getting questions about God. The latest one I was asked is: “Why do we have to appear before God for judgement, if our sins are already forgiven?” Isn’t that a good one?
God doesn’t rejudge the same sins that are already forgiven. Once we have repented and confessed, the Bible says those sins are wiped away as though they never existed.
The Bible also says that believers will appear before the Bema, the judgement seat of God (Romans and 1 Corinthians). Since this appearance is for followers of Jesus, and our sins are already forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice, this is more of an opportunity for God to review how well we followed the instructions for believers. Heaven is assured, this is a chance to report on how well we’ve served God. Some think this is a time to be rewarded for faithfulness, not punished for sins. The truth is that we don’t really know what happens at the Bema, the judgement seat, but NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus – no even our sins.
Keep those questions coming!!!!
February 9, 2017
I get my back cracked regularly. Going to the chiropractor every week, even when I have no pain, prevents me from having pain.
Similarly, praying regularly ensures that it isn’t painful or difficult to have conversations with God. Frequent prayer helps me practice God’s presence daily.
Thanks be to God for daily reminders of divine love.
February 3, 2017
After a long hiatus, I’m back.
People always joke that if you don’t like the weather in Ohio, just wait five minutes and it will change. That’s never been more true than this year. We’ve had everything, and often in the space of a few minutes. Sometimes life brings changes in the blink of an eye, and not necessarily for the good. We need to be ready for whatever comes, whenever it comes. It’s only in hindsight that we see God’s presence with us in the difficult times. Whether we see God or not, God is present, we must have eyes to see and ears to hear. The way we achieve that is by constantly practicing the presence of God in prayer and study.
There’s always weather – sometimes good and sometimes bad, and God’s presence with us is as constant as the weather is inconstant.
June 15, 2016
I was anticipating a busy week, so I asked a colleague to preach on Sunday, knowing there would be little time to prepare. then there was a death, and I’ll come back from conference to officiate the funeral. Then today there was another death, and I’m in hte midst of more funeral preparations. I’m missing quite a few of the business sessions of the conference, and representing our church poorly, but the presence of death reorganizes priorities. there is nothing more important than the privilege of comforting a grieving family. There is nothing more important than being at a death bed to help usher a person from one life to the next. There is nothing more important than finding the right words to honor a life that is gone.
There’s also nothing more important than making memories with our family. All the preaching in the world doesn’t substitute for a loving example of God’s grace. I can read the daily proceedings of the conference and talk with those who were there to find out what happened, but I can’t leave the details of a memorial service to chance. I am grateful for all those stepping in to complete those details. Thanks be to God.
June 5, 2016
I can hear them,but I can’t see them.
I’ve heard people talking about the 17 year locusts and what a nuisance they are, but we don’t have any in Galion. At church, I hear them in the woods. I don’t know whether the noise is mating, munching or dying – or all three. It’s all around, but no sign of the voracious little beasts. They provide fodder for contemplation. Their lives exist for the purpose of being born once in 17 years to stay alive long enough to lay eggs for the next generation. That’s it. They don’t seem to have any other purpose. We are assured by people who study ecosystems that every life form has its purpose. We are assured that there is a purpose for everything in creation. But why would God create anything whose only purpose is to procreate?
I am reminded that there are people, too, whose lives seem purposeless. But what I call useless, God calls holy. I guess I’ll have to wait till heaven to ask God about the cicadas.
Rev. Peggy L. Welch
Ontario United Methodist Church
Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice.
May 25, 2016
We recently had guests from India who were in a cold climate for the first time. When asked what was most surprising, one said: “The colors of the leaves on the trees. They look so artificial.” He was referring to the dark red leaves and the bright neon yellow green. Those are both signs of new leaves that haven’t had their fill of chlorophyll yet and need to mature to become the normal green of trees. Of course he had never seen that, because trees in India don’t lose all their leaves.
Suddenly, I was seeing neon green trees everywhere, after never noticing them before. For some folks, God’s presence is like that – they never notice it until someone else points it out. I have to remember to point out God’s presence when I think it’s most obvious, because others might not be seeing it.
May 18, 2016
The last few weeks have been difficult for our church members. We’ve had dozens of folks hospitalized or ill. It has seemed ironic to see all the signs of new life as I drive from hospital to hospital. Trees are leafing out and blooming. Everywhere is the color green.
Then suddenly it was clear to me that this is a sign of hope, not only for the earth, but for those who have been so ill. Just when all seems dark and dismal, the earth springs forth the promise of God’s unfailing love and provision. We can count on the promise of new life, renewed life, in this life, and the next. Thanks be to God.
April 20, 2016
“Wipe out that little churchy thing”
That’s what I overheard in the church office. It was a church member speaking of an icon on the computer that needed to be removed to install a new piece of software.
However, it made me think about the huge number of people who have wiped out all ‘churchy’ things from their lives.
I don’t know what I would do without the ‘churchy’ things. What would I do without the friendship of like-minded people? Where would I be stimulated by deep and meaningful conversations if it weren’t at church?
How would I get new knowledge of God?
Where would I find people who hold me accountable for my spiritual life?
“Churchy” stuff is very important to me, and always will be. Thank God for the ‘churchy’ stuff in my life.
April 15, 2016
I’ve started this blog three times with three different ideas. Each time,I was interrupted and couldn’t remember where I was headed with the blog, so I started over. Often life is what happens when we’re planning something else. Years ago, I began adding to my daily ‘to do’ list the things I actually accomplished during interruptions. Otherwise, I would look at my list at the end of the day or the week and feel I had acccomplished nothing. Today, only one thing on my list will have been accomplished – this blog (because I refuse to give up).
However, the interruptions resulted in all of the flower beds being mulched at church, the cemetery cleaned, the church windows washed, the tables and chairs wiped down and more.
A teacher and ten students from Pioneer Career School were here for their annual service day and those teenagers did twice as much work in half the time we thought they could. Thanks be to God for their energy and community spirit!
April, 4, 2016
Some weeks ago a school age boy asked me “What do you have to do to get baptized around here?” My response was that you just have to tell me you love Jesus and know he loves you and we’ll schedule it, but I’ll talk with your grandmother first. (He lives with Grandma). So, yesterday I spoke with Grandma and she’s eager for both grandsons to be baptized. I asked them and they’re both ready, so we scheduled it for next Sunday. Then I gave them a pamphlet on baptism and they fought over who would get to read it first. (They are still brothers, after all, not saints.)
I love baptizing infants because I love babies, but there’s something really exciting about baptizing someone who is making the decision for himself. It’s a confirmation of the Holy Spirit working in that person’s life. Please join me in praying this week for all our children.
Confessions of faith are the fruit of all we do in the church. Thanks be to God.
We have had overwhelming response to the sermon series that just finished yesterday. I don’t know how to interpret that.Many people mention the sermon outline sheets we’ve been using. Others liked the content, either Job or the topic of suffering.If you are one of those persons who was touched by the series on suffering, please let me know what was most meaningful to you.Quite a few people have asked what’s next, and I do have a plan, but would like to tailor it to people’s needs, so if you have a topic r book of the Bible you’d like to hear about, also let me know.
I listen for where God wants us to go as a congregation, and plan my preaching accordingly, but often, God speaks to me through the stated needs of people.I look forward to hearing from you.
March 8th was the International Day of the Woman. I actually didn’t know such a thing existed till I saw it on Facebook. This year marks the 60th anniversary of ordination for women in the United Methodist Church. So, I’ve been thinking about women who have been formational in my spiritual life. It’s often easier to think of male biblical figures who have been formational. There were more of them and there’s more about each of them than there is about biblical women. But I’ve been considering what little we do know about those first century women – the kind of women Paul was talking about in the greetings sections of his letters: Lydia, Priscilla, Nympha, Eunice and Lois. All we know is that Lydia was a businesswoman who helped finance the early disciples and their ministry. Eunice and Lois were Timothy’s relatives who helped disciple him into the faith. Priscilla was inseparable from her husband Aquilla, with whom she was partners in ministry and equally well-regarded by Paul as church leaders. I haven’t a clue who Nympha was, but plan to do some research and find out. In an age when women didn’t own property and had no say in community or religious affairs, the early Christians had some very strong women who were encouraged by Paul and others to use their gifts. I celebrate these women, and the men who encouraged them!
February 22, 2016
Easter is so early this year that we are only one month away from our annual Easter Eggstravaganza. We’re talking about who will fill the eggs and who will hide them. Then there are the boiled eggs the kids get to dye.
Boiled eggs are a great symbol for Easter, and for the Trinity. Understanding God in three persons is a hard concept for adults as well as kids and a boiled egg makes a good visual. I like to take the egg apart and ask kids – is the shell a whole egg? Is the yolk a whole egg? Is the white a whole egg? It takes all three parts to make a hard boiled egg and all three have the same DNA. It’s all egg. Just as it takes Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all three to have a complete understanding of God. But even though they have the same DNA, the yolk is not the white, which is not the shell which is not the yolk. The three parts of the egg are one, but different. God the Creator is not the Holy Spirit, which is not the Savior. All three are different yet the same. And that’s just one of the mysteries of faith.
February 6, 2016
I have a young friend who asks REAAAALY good questions – tough, too. His latest is “why can’t we go back and do the really fun things again?” I asked him if he means he would like to time travel and he said he would, but that still wouldn’t be the same thing, since he would already be a different person by the time he went back. (I said this is a REALLY bright young man, didn’t I? And no, it isn’t my six year old grandson)
He’s right, of course. You can’t step in the same river twice, say the philosophers. The river has changed and so have you.
We talked a bit about Madeleine L’Engle’s book “A Wrinkle in Time”. I recommend it. But of course it wasn’t until a day later that I had the perfect answer for him – and me.
We can’t go back and relive a joyful event because God is always preparing some new joy for us. We’re to look forward, not back, and be ready to receive new delights. At every age and stage in life God has new joys prepared for us right around the corner. Thanks be to God.
January 31, 2016
I sat in the sunshine today. It’s funny how easy it is to forget that warm breezes and sweet smells exist when we’re shoveling snow and trying to stay on our feet walking across a frozen parking lot. By next week, when I’m back from vacation, I’ll have forgotten today’s sunshine.
How similar that is to forgetting the warmth of God’s presence when we’re in the midst of trauma or tragedy, or even just daily irritations. It’s easy to forget that the sun is still shining somewhere when it isn’t shining on us, easy to forget that God’s love is present when we don’t feel it.
Unlike the sunshine, God’s presence is always available. The sun travels away from us, but it is we who travel away from God. And it is we who must return.
January 5, 2016
This time of year I’m always pondering why some folks are regular church attenders and others aren’t. It’s such a let down from the excitement of Christmas Eve to the “low attendance Sunday” right afterward. Even so, there are often some new faces among the regulars the first Sunday after Christmas. Sometimes it’s people who have made a New Year’s resolution to attend church more regularly. Others have gone to church Christmas Eve and remembered what a powerful influence it is for good in their lives. I don’t really know why people DON’T attend, but I know several reasons why we DO. Of course, I believe in attending church to worship God in fulfillment of God’s commandment. Of course, it helps me to grow spiritually. Of course, being among others working at being faithful disciples helps my spiritual journey.One of the sweetest expressions of the power of worship was quoted on a plaque hanging in the entry of Boardman United Methodist Church. “I come here frequently to find myself. It’s so easy to get lost in the world.” May we all find ourselves in this new year, 2016.
I just received a news release from the United Methodist bishop for Central and Southern Europe responding to the terrorist attacks in Paris. He says, “As people who follow Christ, we promote an open, democratic and plural society. We do not condone the tendencies of nationalist radicalization in the States of Europe. As United Methodists we understand ourselves as part of the worldwide Body of Christ. In the face of violence, we are called to be peacemakers.”
I’m not aware of “nationalist radicalism” in Europe since World War II. We all know what happened then. Radicalism of any stripe is rarely a useful response. My first response to the events in Paris was to pray for the victims, and there are many. We need also to pray for the terrorists – for a change of heart. That’s so much harder, especially when they have left so much anger and fear in their wake. Naysayers will tell me they won’t change. Probably. But for sure nothing will change if I don’t pray. Meanwhile, the ripples of fear and tragedy are spreading just as they did after 9/11. Let’s pray for ALL who suffer the effects of these
October 28, 2015
Appalling! That’s the only word for it. The rash of recent false bomb threats in our local schools is simply appalling. Inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust” is the dictionary meaning for the word and those certainly apply. But I was thinking about the word “pall”. a “PALL” is a blanket over a casket or a dark cloud of smoke. I think this is appropriate for the situation, which has cast a pall over parents who worry about their kids, school staff who face this possibility every day, and kids who wonder if their school day is going to be disrupted. At best, it’s a disruption. At worst, it’s a tragedy, and in-between is the possibility that we will become so inured to these events that we might not take a real one seriously. We’ve been chatting about why kids would do this and have figured out that a) they don’t think they will get caught, b) they don’t take the consequences seriously, and c) some kids will do anything for attention. As Pam Dille says, “Kids have a lot more technology at their disposal today, but it hasn’t made them any smarter than their great grandparents who tipped over outhouses. The consequences are just more severe.” She’s right, technology gives us access to more information, but it doesn’t impart common sense, morals or decency. I’m talking to all the kids I know about the consequences of rash actions. I hope you are, too.
My Aunt Margie died this past week. She was 95 years young. She was the sort of amazing homemaker who warmed her plates before she served dinner.
For more than thirty years, she led a team of women at her church who made braille copies of books of the Bible. The national headquarters would let them know which books they needed and how many copies. Each week they would gather to work together, to share their lives, and to spread God’s word. I met a couple of her team members at the funeral home. They were all in their eighties and nineties when she was active, and now the work continues with other 80 and 90 year olds.
It takes a lot of love to do a ministry that serves people you’ve never met and never will meet. Or maybe it takes faithfulness, or gratitude to God.
Whatever it takes, OUMC has it going on. Our mission projects are as limitless as the faithfulness or our members. Thanks be to God.
Last week I decided to reread an old favorite – The Giver by Lois Lowry. I went on to read the whole trilogy. I thendiscovered a Lois Lowry book I hadn’t read: Number the Stars. Perhaps it was my recent experience encountering refugees in Germany that caused the book to have such a profound effect on me. Number the Stars is the story of two girls in Denmark during World War II – one Jewish, the other Christian. More than that, it’s the story of tiny, heroic Denmark, whose citizens rescued nearly all the Jews in their land, more than 7,000. They sheltered and fed them and hid them until they could be transported to safety in Sweden. Then, for two years during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, its citizens cared for the homes of their Jewish neighbors, watering plants, dusting, sweepingfloors. Who among us would do the same? Imagine this happening today. Those homes would be looted or occupied. But if proof of Christianity lies in loving actions, those Danes of the mid-twentieth century truly lived out their beliefs. In an ironical twist, it’s Germans who are now sheltering refugees. I see God at work.
I drove my car this morning. That feels unusual because I haven’t driven it in over a week while I’ve been on vacation. I also didn’t do email, watch Netflix, visit Facebook, use my cell phone, cook or do laundry. These are things I normally do daily. Some are productive habits, others less so. In just eight days some of my habits were broken and replaced. That tells me I’m much less aggressive about tackling spiritual imperfections than I could be. If I can get rid of an old habit or develop a new one in just a week, I could easily be better shaped by God much faster than I usually think is possible. So why don’t I? I’m reminded of the title of a book “Lord, I Have Sinned, But I Have Several Excellent Excuses”.
I am writing this time from a hotel in frankfurt germany using a mobile device. Very awkward so it will be brief. I have been to germany many times but always to visit friends and family, so this is my first stay in a german hotel.
I have not yet reflected on this week’s experiences. Once I do, I will probably have much to blog about. Tonight, just a small thought. At the wedding we attended there was a small difference in thevows. They didn’t just say “I do”. They each said “I will, with the help of God”. Of course it takes God’s help to make a happymarriage! I will add that phrase to the weddings I perform!
There are lessons I seem to have to learn over and over and over. Recently, Ash and I were in Columbus on business and decided to find an Ethiopian restaurant. We both like Injera and Doro Wat – two of the most common Ethiopian dishes.
Since there was a restaurant on our way, we stopped by. I was a bit dismayed by the outward appearance of the place. It was a simple, cement block building with nothing on the outside that was welcoming. I almost told Ash to keep driving and we would go find a Bob Evans. I had to step around a pole and over a pothole to go inside and was regretting the decision to stay.
Then Ash opened the door for me and I saw a simple cash counter ahead with a private dining room beyond. To our right was a small dining room with about eight tables. A woman was sweeping an already immaculate floor. A television quietly played Ethiopian music videos in the cleanest restaurant I’ve ever seen. (During the time we were there, the woman came back and swept the tile floor every time customers left.)
The colors were subtle, the ethnic accents attractive and the food was delicious. The elegant hostess spoke unaccented English and was very attentive. Once again, I had to learn not to judge a book by its cover.
I know sometimes people look at the outward appearance of a church and make assumptions. I wonder what assumptions they make about our church and whether those assumptions match what they find inside. I can’t imagine anyone could know from the outside what an incredibly warm reception they would find on the inside of Ontario UMC.
We spent an hour in the airplane on the ground Friday, waiting to leave Atlanta to fly back to Columbus after our Florida vacation. My daughters-in-law, granddaughter and I waited patiently as the pilot announced the maintenance crew was coming on board to replace a missing “exit” light. [We think this is similar to stealing road signs] The maintenance crew didn’t have the right replacement part, and we waited another half hour. When the additional wait was announced, the woman in back of me loudly demanded free beer. The flight crew handed out cups of water, and the woman shouted that she wanted a cold beer.
Meanwhile, our one year old granddaughter walked up and down the aisle of the plane saying hello to each person and charming them. She provided entertainment and a delightful memory for us. Scripture says to give thanks in all circumstances. Little Miss Corrie was able to do what a grown woman’s impatience and drunkenness would have prevented. Thanks be to God for little children who lead the way.
White Queen Anne’s Lace, purple phlox, orange day lilies, blue chicory, yellow black eyed Susans. The ditches and roadsides are filled with the evidence of God’s creative power. The varieties of colors, textures, heights and shapes of wildflowers amazes me. How can anyone see and not worship the God of all creation who creates beauty for our pleasure?
It is momentary pleasure at best. I’ve tried picking them, and most of those ditch flowers don’t last more than a day. They curl up and die after a brief moment of glory. It’s a reminder to me to enjoy life NOW, not wait for the perfect circumstances or perfect time, or for vacation. Seize the day!
This past week, my five year old grandson asked me the meaning of a very ugly, vulgar word. I was shocked that he had even heard this word, since I’m sure neither of his parents have ever used it. I did define the word for him, then told him that it’s a word no one in our family would ever use because it is meant to hurt a group of people.
I started remembering a book titled “Words that hurt, words that heal”. It was popular in my previous profession many years ago. That book is the antithesis of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Words DO hurt. I’ve always tried to use whatever label is current, but it gets increasingly harder to be current the older I get. The reason is that as soon as a new, innocuous label is coined, someone starts using it pejoratively. If they didn’t, we could use the same label forever with no problem.
I’m thinking that maybe the key to staying current is not to use labels at all. What if we just call people “people”? What if it didn’t matter, truly didn’t matter, that the story I’m telling is about people of a certain race, skin color, physical size, or economic group. Does it matter? I’m thinking people is a great word. It’s an especially fine substitute for the word Joseph was asking about.
I watched a flock of birds joy riding yesterday. They would swoop one direction, then another. This went on for at least twenty minutes, and they covered the same ground several times. So, they weren’t looking for food, or shelter – they were just out for the thrill of it, and appeared to be having a blast. It was the day for Sabbath rest, and I pray that you, dear friend, did something just for the sheer joy of it – as did those birds. We need times of Sabbath when we set all work aside and take time to truly enjoy God’s creation. There is much to see, do, and admire in God’s creation, if we only take time for it. May God bless you with eyes to see.
I’m looking forward to the Fourth of July parade this year in Ontario. It was such great fun handing out water to thirsty people while advertising our Vacation Bible School. Community service combined with advertising is a win-win. I don’t know how many people read the label, but hopefully they see our banner and remember where the water came from! Join me in inviting kids to Climb Everest and meet Jesus, maybe for the first time! Though it is’t till July, it’s never too early to get something on the calendars of young families
Last night we joined friends at the Pioneer Mill in TIffin, Ohio. My husband, Ash, and I met in TIffin, in college. Pioneer Mill was one of our special date places. While we enjoyed a lovely night on the deck with two other couples, my mind kept returning to memories 38 years old. We had a favorite table that overlooked the mill stream and insured privacy for stolen kisses.
When our love was young, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Ash. Conversations often lasted long into the night. It’s the same with folks who have just fallen in love with Jesus for the first time. They can’t get enough of him, the Bible, Christian fellowship and service. Watching young love reminds me of that which I had and can still have, whether it’s with my husband or my Lord.
On our way out of the Mill, Ash held my hand. I think he was remembering, too!
Our neighbors got married yesterday. Their colors were orange and black. No, not Halloween. They are passionate about Harley Davidson motorcycles. All the gifts were motorcycle themed as were the decorations, cake, and all the clothing of the wedding party.
It’s ok to buy gifts for people of passion, As I looked aroind, I wondered whether anyone could identify my passions? I really only have two lasting passions. I’ve many short term interests, but they didn’t last. My Lord and my family are my lasting passions. And, I guess it shows….I pray that it does.
I’m weary. After lots of hospital calls and two Bible studies, some administrative work, etc., I’m ready for rest. I’m sure I’ll fall asleep easily tonight because today’s activities were satisfying work that gives my life purpose and fulfills the call God has placed on my heart.
I often reflect on how much easier my worst days are in ministry than my best days were in my previous profession.
You don’t have to be a minister to feel that way. Anyone fulfilling their calling from God gets a sense of satisfaction even on tiring days.
Thanks be to God who always equips us for any good work to which we are called.
I revel in watching my grandchildren try out things for the first time. I take delight in watching one year old Corrie’s fascination with opening and closing cupboard doors. I know I need to make that activity safe and successful for her by making sure there aren’t dangerous toxins in the cupboards within her reach. I know there is the danger that she will smash her little fingers, but it’s an important skill and she must try.
Encouraging spiritual skills development is part of the work of ministry. I get the same excitement out of watching someone pray out loud for the first time, or serve as liturgist, or chair a committee or lead a ministry. When someone takes on a new challenge for the sake of the gospel it gives me chills because I know that it is both a personal success and the result of the equipping of the Holy Spirit. There is a similar need for a safety net as well. Just because someone is willing to try something new doesn’t take away the responsibility we leaders have for making sure they have everything they need to do it well and feel a sense of meaning and purpose. Thanks be to God for the spiritual journey.
THere’s a quotation I love that is often attributed to one of the founders of Methodism – John or Charles Wesley. “Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles around to watch you burn.” I like that the quotation implies that when we are enthusiastic Christians we become so contagious that we are attractive.
Recently, a pastor wrote about this quotation on his church website, and having a large following, thousands of people have now read this and seen it falsely attributed.
If anyone out there knows the source of this quote, I would love to have it, but Wesleyan scholars have researched it and can’t find it.
This is a little example to me of the need to be ever so careful to attribute things correctly in my sermons (which are now on the web), and my blogs. I am careful to research quotations and stories I don’t want to believe or don’t like,but when it’s something positive said about someone or thing I do like, I just accept it. I love hearing positive things about my friends. This lesson is that I should be careful no matter what. I still like the quotation,but will attribute it to “anonymous” until I learn more. Don’t believe everything you read, even when it reinforces already held beliefs.
We hosted three of the UC choir members this week after their concert. All guys. I know what to do with guys. (I have brothers and sons.) Show them the man cave, give them food, and get out of the room.
This time, there was a pleasant surprise. One of the young men is a senior biology major who has a minor in religion and a lot of questions. As we drove home we had great conversation.
The choir’s performance and manners were a sterling example of young adults today. My conversation with one of them gave me great hope for the future of the church. If it is to be in his hands and those of young people like him, there will be a resurgence of apologetics and faith. Thanks be to God.
Someone planted lilies in my garden when I wasn’t looking. I came back from leading a retreat weekend Sunday night and went straight to bed. Monday morning I was inhaling coffee and looked out my kitchen window. Without my glasses, all I could see was that there was a flash of red where there was nothing blooming when I left on Thursday. Hours later, I looked again, and realized it was lilies. It isn’t the time for lilies right now. It’s still too early.
Who would sneak into my garden and plant lilies while I was gone. (I think I know the answer,but I really don’t want to know for sure.) I love surprises, and I love secrets. Best of all are secret, surprising acts of love. God provides them all the time, there’s even a book written about them. The title is “God Winks”. Like a splash of red in a barren flower bed, so are God’s fingerprints evident ( when we’ve had enough coffee to wake up and see them). I see God’s fingerprints in a surprise visit from a friend, or a phone call at just the right time. A rainbow, or an encouraging note can be an anonymous loving gift from God and it’s always perfectly timed, even when it’s out of season. I don’t really want to know who planted the lilies, because the ultimate source of that gift was the creator of the universe. It was a God Wink.
One of my favorite signs of spring is workers doing cold patch repair to roads. Not as pretty as daffodils, or as refreshing as warm breezes, but very welcome to my car’s shock absorbers.
I don’t know how permanent cold patch is. The advertising claims it’s foolproof and easy for quick home driveway repairs. But I’ve noticed the same places seem to develop potholes every year. It’s a quick solution, but perhaps not a permanent one. The only permanent solution seems to be to totally dig up the road and replace it with concrete – and that’s way too expensive for roadways. But not for souls.
Holes in our spirits can be quickly filled with things that don’t last – momentary pleasures. But long-lasting solutions take time, energy and lots of prayer. Often the holes have to be enlarged, ugly things revealed and excised, then slowly filled with the good stuff. The good stuff deepens our relationship with God – conversations with the almighty, service to others without counting the cost, worship, communion, forgiveness.
It’s spring and the potholes are being filled. How about yours? How about mine?
I had an egg hunt for my grandson last week. We start early because it’s an activity he loves. I usually put pretzels or goldfish crackers in the plastic eggs, because he isn’t allowed to have sugar.
Last week, he insisted that he could stay in the room while I hid the eggs. He said he would sit backwards on the couch and cover his eyes. That worked fine, till I turned around and he was peeping through his hands. As a grandmother, I tend to want to ignore misbehavior. I think he’s so cute when he does these things that I don’t want to correct him. I’m perfectly wiling to leave that to his parents. But I know he needs to learn ethical behavior, even when his misbehavior is adorable. So we had a time out before the hunt to think about what it means to resist temptation and why it’s so important.
I love him just the way he is, but too much to leave him there. That’s the way God loves us – just the way we are, and too much to leave us as we are. Thanks be to God.
I took a quiz about Lent this morning. I was relieved when I got all the answers right. The pastor is supposed to know these things. But some of this stuff we didn’t learn in seminary, like the question, “Why are eggs a symbol of Easter?” Try it out yourself. Which of the following is the correct answer or answers?
The answer is all of the above. In addition to those, I like hard boiled eggs as a metaphor for the Trinity. God is in three parts like the parts of an egg: yellow white and shell are like Father Son and Holy Spirit. All three parts of an egg are the same, have the same DNA, yet they are different in appearance, function, nutrition, etc. So it is with the Trinity – the same substance, yet different. Thanks be to God for reminders of new life, the empty tomb, and the Trinity. Easter blessings, Pastor Peg
Eggs, eggs, eggs. As Easter approaches, my mind turns toward eggs. There are the ones filled this week for our annual Easter Egg Hunt coming up on Palm Sunday. There are eggs to be boiled to make my annual batch of pickled eggs for Easter. I bought chocolate eggs to put in family Easter baskets. Eggs are a great symbol of new life in spring, assuming, of course, that one DOESN’T boil them and they’re fertile. Chicks and ducklings are cute little images of new life this time of year.
Hard boiled eggs are a great metaphor for the trinity. Egg white, yolk and shell are all different, but the same. They have the same DNA, but different uses – just like the mystery of the trinity. Father, son and holy spirit are one in three. How can that be? They are differentiated, but not different.
Omelets, egg salad, fried eggs, pickled eggs, deviled eggs…. This time of year, when thoughts turn to eggs, remember the one who designed them, who came and lived among us, and who continues to inspire us. Our God is an awesome God.
I’m turning 60 in two weeks, and I’m very excited about it. I’m going to have my first birthday party ever. When I was a kid, we had cake for dinner, but no parties. As an adult, I baked cakes and threw parties for my children, but parties were for the kids. It occurred to me that I’d never had a party when I turned 40, after the fact. Circumstances were awkward when I turned 50, so no party. THIS YEAR, I’M CELEBRATING. I’m celebrating the gift of life. I’m celebrating MY life: full, rich with family and friends, blessed. My husband’s grandfather was a great model for celebrating life. He would say that he couldn’t believe how far he had come, how far God had brought him. Then he would name all the ordinary, marvelous miracles in his life. That’s my plan for my celebration of life – to name all the miracles with which God has blessed me. May you celebrate the gift of life as well.
Today, one of my kids completed a major milestone professionally. I was more nervous than she, and I’m now more relieved. And proud. And filled with joy.
In my younger years, I don’t remember ever being this pleased for someone else’s success (well, maybe my husband’s). I wanted to be less competitive. I SAID I valued being collaborative and collegial. I wanted it to be true. But I was hard driven and goal oriented, and one of my goals was to be the best. The best homemaker, the best mother, the best wife, the best trainer, the best daughter-in-law, the best cookie maker, ad infinitum.
If someone else baked a better pie I wanted to improve on HER recipe so I could be better.
Now, I’m actually praying my daughter in law will be a better pastor than I, not only because that will advance the Kingdom of God (a good enough reason), but also because it will bring great joy to my heart. Her accomplishments mean more to me now than my own. That’s true of lay persons in the church. When one of them completes a successful new ministry, or launches a project, I’m joyous for the sake of the work, and of their ministry.
The older I get, the more that’s true. I wish I’d known how great this feeling is years ago. I think this may be an alternative to the kind of competitiveness that leads to depression and even suicide. I think it may be counter to the kind of cutthroat competition that gives many people impetus to cheat. And it might be a solution to poor self image.
What if everyone gave their all for the sake of the work, rather than for self-aggrandizement? What a world that would be!
Today I will be a substitute for another pastor at a graveside committal. Substitute teachers have a difficult time, not knowing the students or the curriculum (and often are given a hard time by the students). Being a substitute minister is quite different. Though I don’t know the deceased, I do know the order of worship for the committal, and I know how to comfort grieving people, even ones I’ve never met. So this isn’t a hard task.
It’s much harder being a substitute for God in some people’s eyes. Many years ago, the family member of someone who was dying said to me: “You’re the closest thing to God we’ve got”. I wanted to say – “Then you’re in big trouble”. Instead, I prayed.
It’s a big mistake to substitute anyone or anything for God. It’s a big mistake to put unconditional trust or faith in any human being. We’re all fallible. But as long as people sometimes put that kind of faith in me, I’ll keep my doubts and fears to myself, and pray that I can live up to their trust. Thanks be to God for answered prayers.
Pastor Peg is on vacation, so I though that I would share my thought as we close the chapter called 2014. It touches my heart the way our church family supports, feeds, and cares for the friends and neighbors from our community. We truly have open hearts. The Bible studies in our church have grown so big that a bigger room may be in order! How cool is that! Pastor Peg not only preaches and teaches, she shares her heart and her love! We are so blessed that she shepherds us toward a deeper faith and stronger walk with our Lord. We are so happy that we laugh together, never at someone. This was demonstrated recently during worship when a shower scene appeared by mistake during worship. (The wrong movie clip was cued!) We laughed with our wonderful pastor and loved her even more (if that is possible)! Pastor Peg has only been part of our family since July, but just ask anyone and they will talk of her thought provoking messages, her amazing voice that we hear often, and our love for her. Yes, it has been a very good year, and we are blessed!
My grandson has been driving me nuts singing the same song over and over again – and it’s a repetitious one at that. “Somebody call 9-1-1 there’s a fire burning,better get low, and go – o,somebody call 9-1-1- there’s a fire burning, better get low, and go- o.” Then he sings the phrase “fire burning” about a million times before he repeats the words above. This can go on for half an hour until I’m ready to make him go sing it to the firemen who played it for them during fire safety week. Despite my impatience with the song, I know its repetitious nature has taught Joseph exactly what to do in case of a fire. Ask him and he’ll sing “Get low and go – o” Then he’ll explain what that means.
Sometimes it seems as though God is repeating the same lesson with me over and over again. Perhaps the repetition that it so helpful for a preschooler is necessary for me to learn new things, too. Thanks be to God who is willing to repeat the same instructions over and over and over, until I finally get the message.
As I become more tech savvy (and it’s all uphill for me), I find myself using social media more and snail mail less. So it’s a surprise to me that I still hang on to the practice of sending actual paper Christmas cards.
This year I’ll send email letters to all the folks who stopped sending snail cards years ago, but there are hundreds of people I’ll still hand write. I’ve been wondering why.
Perhaps it has something to do with the magical mystery of touching something that far away friends have touched. Or it has something to do with praying for each one as I sign the card. Maybe it has something to do with the delight of opening cards and reading messages scrawled by people we haven’t seen in years, but to whom we still feel connected through this outmoded media.
Or, perhaps it’s simply nostalgia of the sort that makes me watch old Christmas movies while I write the cards (much easier since I can order up the movies on Netflix).
Despite postage costs and national scandals, and in danger of being called old fashioned, I shall continue to write to all those who write to me, that we might share this outmoded greeting and wish one another a happy Christmas, bright new year, and the warmth of friends across the years and miles. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.
I met with a family yesterday to harvest memories before doing the funeral for their loved one. As they told stories about him, it was clear that he was a man of deep faith and conviction who never questioned God. As a result, his life was filled with fun and joy. He was a practical joker who lived life to the fullest knowing his direction every day – in this life and the next. I love doing funerals for folks who are clearly destined for heaven. it’s so much harder to comfort the families of the others….
I made the mistake of going grocery shopping tonight, the Friday before Thanksgiving. Everyone was rushing to get turkeys at 50 cents/pound off. The store was so crowded it was hard to get through aisles that are normally plenty wide. Some aisles were impassable. I began wandering – distracted from my task by all the people and noise.
Finally, I remembered to take out my ‘to do’ list and focus on why I was there.
This time of year I get easily distracted by the demands of home, family and church. Sometimes nothing seems to be getting done because I’ve lost my focus. Instead of a ‘to do’ list, I pull out my Bible and read again the story of the birth of the Christ Child found in the opening chapters of Luke. Then I remember why we do what we do at this time of year. When I get my spiritual priorities straight, everything else seems easy. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”, says the Lord. (Matthew 11: 29)
We have a new puppy. It sounded like a great idea, getting a dog. But it’s been twenty years since we trained a puppy. We’d forgotten how much work it is, how often they have to be taken out, how much attention they need. Oh, I’m not suggesting we get rid of Hans, and I’m not complaining. (Well, just a little).
I was watching grandson Joseph with the pup. Joseph has learned very quickly how to discipline Hans. “No, Hans! Down Hans! No bite Hans!” It was all negative. He didn’t praise him when he did the right thing, wasn’t petting him. He wasn’t doing anything to form a relationship with Hans. He was just criticizing.
Now, a puppy will follow you for a long time, even if not encouraged, but eventually the puppy becomes a grown dog and learns who is fun to be around and who isn’t.
What does that mean for us as a church? Are there times when new Christians or seekers are in our midst and all we do is share the “don’ts” without the joy of our salvation? Yesterday my sermon was about obedience to God’s law, and I hope it conveyed that the gift of the law is for our well-being, our protection. God’s gift of law, the Ten Commandments, is intended to help us form a society in which we can form real relationships and have the freedom to romp and play safely. That’s what I need to teach Joseph about his relationship with Hans.
Once upon a time there were seven ladies, all quite above average in intellect and creativity, and blessed with the gift of fun. They dressed in costume for Trunk or Treat, and provided a laugh or two or three. Some were short enough to be believable as dwarves, others were, well, not. As they marched down the hall, in anything but a straight line, singing”Hi ho”, they made up words as they went, or just sang “Hi ho” endlessly.
I thought my sides would split, I laughed so hard. I started to give them the words to the song, but realized it was much funnier as it was.
They were willing to appear foolish for Christ and did it in such a joyous spirit that it made the rest of us glad to be there, glad to be alive, glad to have a community of faith. I Corinthians 4:10 says “We are fools for Christ”. May such fools abound.
Serenity Prayer:God grant me the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed. Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
I’m in the church on a Saturday, as usual, and it amazes me how many other people are here. The folks for Grace and Eggs will come in to set up their stuff for Sunday mornings. Shirley is here cleaning. She will also help a family coming from out of town for a funeral lunch after an interment in the cemetery next door. Dot Blaney is rehearsing on the organ, and I began setting up the altar for World Communion Sunday. I’ll polish and rehearse my sermon before I leave today. Amy Bryan is painting (again) in the Kingdom Kids theater. Pam Dille was here setting up the coffee cart for refreshment time after worship. I wonder how many people think church just happens? Does anyone really know how much goes on? I give thanks and praise to God who calls and equips saints to work behind the scenes to the glory of the kingdom.
We had a couple of young visitors in worship recently. One of our gracious members got to know their family and arranged to bring them to Kingdom Kids and Worship. These are kids who have never before known God’s love. During worship, one little fella looked at the woman who brought them to church and whispered “Can we come here always?” I don’t know what he was feeling and never will. But his words are a reminder to me never to forget that it is an amazing privilege to be loved by the Creator of the Universe. It is God who adopts the abandoned and loves the unloved, who forgives the unforgiven and remembers the forgotten. We are the hands and feet God uses. Thanks be to God.
OUMC had a potluck supper for P B and J kids this week. There was great attendance, and the kids were so well-behaved that I was really impressed. After a delicious dinner, the children went by grade to pick up school supplies donated by church members. Each one was given a pillowcase hand made by our members. They filled their pillowcases with items needed for the school year.
I wish you could see the faces of the first graders as they came back with their bright pillowcases full of new supplies. They were absolutely glowing. It made my day. No, my week. Maybe my month. I pray that each time they use those supplies, they will remember that God loves them, and we do, too.
I ate my lunch in the sunshine today. The temperature was a cool 73 with lovely breezes, and the picnic table in the community garden called to me. When I came back into the church, I noticed my arms were slightly pink. I had only been out there for fifteen or twenty minutes,but the sun was much hotter than it felt.
Bad habits came creep up and surprise us in a similar fashion. Just one chocolate covered almond turns into a handful, just one small fib leads to more, just surfing TV channels can turn into watching shows we shouldn’t.
Just as I need to check my skin frequently to make sure I’m not burning in the sun, so I need to check my habits to make sure they aren’t developing into sins. Have a virtuous day today!
I just returned a book to the church library. To the Ends of the Earth by T. Davis Bunn is a Christian work of historical fiction. It isn’t sappy. It isn’t boringly historical. It isn’t preachy. It’s a good work of fiction, but also paints a fairly accurate picture of politics in the early Christian church of the Byzantine Empire. The Arian heresy and Roman politics are contrasted with faithful Christians and their churches. There is, of course, a romance on the side.
Making theology and church structure interesting to read isn’t easy to do authentically. I’m glad Bunn was willing to do it well.
I’ve been taking some retreat time lately. I usually like to go away somewhere quiet for a few days. Instead, I’ve been taking a few hours here and there. Still, when I stop and quiet myself and take time to listen, God speaks. God has been active in my imagination recently, and I can’t wait to share new insights with others. I’m energized when I imagine all the things God is ready to do in our lives.
I recommend taking retreat time. Whether you can do that for a couple of hours, or a couple of days, it’s a great source of renewal and restoration. Psalm 46:10 “Be still andknow that I am God”
Last weekend was complicated and scary. First, we had news that our daughter-in-law was in a car accident, then the next day her mother was injured in a collision. There are two totalled cars, two insurance claims, one person on bed rest for a very long time, unexpected travel, and a sense of helplessness. Meanwhile, we’re getting ready for house guests and parties for a baptism and two anniversaries in the family. Sometimes life is a roller coaster ride: fast paced and full of ups and downs.
When I was much younger I would panic at half of what needs to be done in the next twenty four hours. Now, I just glide through it all on a cloud of prayer. It isn’t that I’ve changed, just that my perception of what is important has. It doesn’t matter if the guest bathroom isn’t as clean as I’d like it – it does matter if I don’t begin the day with prayer. It doesn’t matter if I don’t put fresh flowers in the guest room – it does matter if I don’t acknowledge those flowers are a gift from God. Amazingly, when my priorities are straight, I have sufficient strength and energy for everything that really needs to be done. Matthew 28:20 says “Behold, I am with you till the end of time”..That’s a reminder to me that all of my time belongs to God who created it, and me. God is with me in this time and for all time – thanks be to God.
Learning new things makes me feel younger, but it takes a lot longer than when I WAS young. We’re using a lot more technology in church these days than I did just last year. Soon we’ll have QR codes everywhere and the RSS feed hooked up, and a new computer for worship, with Propresenter software. I’m scrambling just to learn what these things are, much less how to use them, but it feels ever so satisfying when I ‘get’ it.
The Gospel message hasn’t changed. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The ways we use to communicate that message are changing, because people and culture have changed. We no longer communicate the way we did 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago. So, we’re working on communicating the same life changing message for a new generation. Thanks be to God. “Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Our grandson loved VBS, but we are really working hard to get him to NOT correct adults when he thinks they are wrong. [He wanted to put the music leader in time out because she said the word stupid] He put me in time out a couple of weeks ago. I had to stand in the corner until he counted to ten, without wiggling, he said. Well, I had to find out what would happen if I wiggled. He told me in a very stern voice that he would have to begin all over again if I didn’t stand still. When I was released from the corner he asked me what I did that was wrong and made me promise not to do it again. Simple, effective discipline. Often we test God’s rules. Too bad no one puts us in the corner.
On my way home from Bible study week, I was recalling the lively discussion we had about how God works in the world. Specifically, we were talking about God’s plan for our lives. Does God have a detailed plan for each of us and we have to figure it out? Or does God have a plan, but we get to choose whether we follow it or not? Or does God care more about who we are than what we do, and care more about the why of what we do than the what? The unanimous conclusion was that God is like a loving parent, who teaches and sets boundaries for the child, but can’t (and won’t) make decisions for the adult. We have to do it ourselves. That means God, like loving parents of adults, has hopes for us, and dreams, and even foreknowledge of what we will choose, but doesn’t make the choices for us. It also means God aches and is heartbroken when we make choices that harm ourselves or others. We aren’t puppets dangling on God’s string, and we aren’t cast adrift when we come of age. We are loved and let free. Have a Son-filled day.
We’re off to annual conference tomorrow. I’m busy packing and planning, cooking and imagining the memories we’ll make. This year, for the first time, our whole family will be there. Our youngest son and his wife will be taking care of the grandkids while the other four adults attend sessions. It should be a great time of sharing and renewing, and the first time we’ve spent a considerable amount of time together since Jay’s cancer diagnosis. It will be busy, with business sessions all day long and worship in the evenings. But in the rare times of rest, I plan to take in the beauty of the lake, and the beauty of our family. As summer approaches, I pray you do the same
Today I drove past a movie rental place. The sign had two lines of print. The top line said Son of God. The bottom line said Robocop. Of course, the sign was advertising two recent movies that are now available for rental. I haven’t seen either movie, yet. But that juxtaposition of titles intrigued me. Is the Son of God a Robocop? Some people probably think Jesus is a kind of moral police. Or has Robocop become the Son of God to many secular unchurched people?
For me, Jesus is more than a robot, he’s my companion and friend as well as my Lord. He’s not a cop either, for though he instructs me in the way way to live, he expects me to make my own choices for good or ill. Have a Son-filled day.
I just read an article titled “Martian Jesus”. The author was writing about Ascension Sunday, when Jesus leaves the disciples and ascends to heaven. He was imagining himself as one of them, asking Jesus to wait so he could ask more questions like: “what do you think about the internet, genetics, plutonium, football, Harry Potter ?” (paraphrased)
I don’t know that I would ask about those particular things, but I often joke that I have a long list of questions to ask God when I get to heaven. Why is the mango seed so big? What happens to lost socks? More seriously…. What happens to lost souls? Some questions are really not meant to be asked. Some may not matter in heaven. For many of my questions I have answers that work to the best of my current knowledge, but I’m looking forward to God’s answers – definitive answers. Have a son-filled day.
Check email – done. Check Facebook messages- done. Check cell phone messages – done. Check home phone messages – done. Check pink slips – done. Check for text messages – done. Check web site for messages – done.
I celebrate the many ways we have to communicate with one another. Exchange of information is faster and easier than it ever was. It’s now almost as fast and easy to communicate with one another as it has always been to communicate with God. Why then, do people think praying is so hard? Just say whatever words come to mind. God already knows our thoughts. Saying them to God helps us to put them in order and often helps us to hear ourselves. It’s as simple as this prayer my four year old grandson prayed last week: “Dear God, thanks for all the help. You’ll always be my best buddy. Amen.”
I was writing an email a while ago, and my fingers stumbled. Instead of my usual signature, which reads: “Blessings, Peg”, I wrote “Blesswings, Peg”. I left it that way. On reflection, it seemed a good idea to send blessings via wings,. I started to imagine how that might happen: perhaps they’d be carried by a dove, or an angel, or just little words on the wings themselves, saying “health”, “safety”, “shelter”, “peace”. Then I started figuring out the best way to signal that I’m sending blessings on wings: would it say blessed wings, winged blessings, or just blesswings? Haven’t quite figured that out yet, so I’ll just say I’m sending blessings to you on the wings of angels. Have a great week!
What’s your favorite sign of spring? I love so much about this time of year, but my favorite this year is rather strange. I am enjoying the smell of new mown grass – even though it makes me sneeze!
It’s a fresh smell, but also a sign that the weather has been warm enough long enough for enough growth to need cutting. After the winter we had, it’s a really joyful thing to have entire weeks of weather warmer than freezing! Usually, I don’t complain about weather because scripture tells us there is a time for everything under heaven. But this year I found myself grousing about endless winter. Not anymore! Now I’m once again grateful to God for the changing seasons of Ohio – even when it makes me sneeze!
April 24, 2014 Last week, I had a conversation with a woman who has been a practicing Christian all her life. It has only been in her retirement years that she has begun to have a personal relationship with Jesus. As we talked, her witness was inspiring to me as she shared that she wakes up each morning with a sense of joy. Every day she asks the question: “What shall Jesus and I do together to make the world a better place?” She looks for those opportunities, and relishes the chance to serve God every day. Often, I get fatigued by the responsibilities of church, home and family. Hearing this contagious Christian share her experience energized me. I wonder if there is someone who needs to hear my witness today?
March 19, 2014 My husband, Ash, and I are doing devotions together during Lent. We’re using a little book titled Names of God, from Zondervan. I like the daily readings, but even more, I like the concept of thinking about ALL the biblical names for God. It stretches my image of God, my understanding of God, my relationship with God. Some of the names are as familiar as my own name: Lamb of God, Immanuel, potter, El Shaddai. But listen to this one: Owner of the Cattle on a Thousand Hills. I pray that the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills will take pity on this oft-straying cow and lead her home. May you be similarly led.
March 12, 2014 It’s late, and my usual resources for getting to sleep aren’t working. Counting my blessings and going through hymns alphabetically just won’t work tonight, the night of the time change. So I started talking with God about my day, and the people in it. I especially gave thanks for our prayer leader this morning. Kathy Strunk and I clearly received the same message from God, since each of us separately referred to the need to give thanks to God in all circumstances. (This comes from 1 Thessalonians 5)
I’m sure many people read that and start looking for loopholes. How can we possibly give thanks in ALL circumstances? Surely that isn’t possible after the grueling winter we’ve had, or the string of deaths in one particular family, or the loss of financial security, again, in another family. The answer is that we must give thanks in ALL things in order to truly trust God to have our best interests in mind. So in the midst of sleeplessness due to an arthritic knee, I’ll give thanks for the pain – and maybe then I can get back to sleep. May you know your blessings, so you can count them,
Join us for Grace and Eggs at 8:30 in Giffin Hall.
Sunday school for Kids begins at 10:15, adults at 9:15 followed by worship at 10:15.
We invite you to join us for cookies and punch for our Fellowship time following worship.
How to find us!
Ontario United Methodist Church
3540 Park Avenue West
Ontario, Ohio 44906
We are located at 3540 Park Avenue West, Ontario, Ohio 44906. Phone: 419- 529- 4345. Please tell us if you would like us to call or email you. Thank you for contacting us!