Friday, December 05, 2008

Wading in the Mire

My sermon I preached this week in Anna's Preacher & the Poet class.

Psalm 69:1-3; 13-18 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. 13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help 14 rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. 15 Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me. 16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. 17 Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress-- make haste to answer me. 18 Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.


Mire. Deep waters. Floods.
Up to your neck, over your head
Eyes weary, parched throat.
Sinking down…
The weight of the world,
pushing on your shoulders;
no relief in sight.

Life is like this sometimes.

There are days, months,
When we find ourselves
where the psalmist is –
confronted by enemies.
Enemies that hurt us –
deeply, leave us wounded
Wounds so painful, so deep
It feels like being overwhelmed
by deep waters,
by quicksand
with nothing to hold onto.

our enemies are not always external…

Sometimes it is the internal ones
that hurt the most.

The voices flooding the mind
with words that cut like glass.
The feeling of not being able
To move forward, to keep going
The pain is deep.
So real.
Wounds so raw,
opened over and over again.

There are days when
We cannot lift ourselves off the floor.
When the pain is too much
The voices too strong.
The feelings too hard to handle.

The world begins to close in
Leaving us scrambling, reaching
For a lifeline
For a hand to pull us out
Of the quicksand
Of the waters

We cry out to God,
Our prayers for help
To save us from this mire
To save us from the deep waters
To save us from ourselves

We cry, so hard it hurts
Our eyes grow weary
Our throats are parched

We cry out to God,
Answer me! Answer me!
I am stuck. I am sinking. I am being swallowed.
Answer me! Answer me,

We cry out to God,
Where are you?
Can you hear me?
Save me! Help me! Redeem me!
Can you hear me?
I need you.
I can’t save myself
I can’t help myself
I can’t redeem myself.
I need you.

The weight of the world might
Be pushing on your shoulders.
Relief is in sight.

in the midst of
The mire that sucks us in
The deep flood waters that overwhelm us
In our tears stained on our faces
In our throats so dry from crying

Is God.

God is there.
It doesn’t always feel like it.

But, God is there.

Abundant mercy,
steadfast love.
God is with us.

Do not give up.
We will cry.

But, our tears will not be in vain.

God is with us,
In our tears,
In the hard times,
When we feel overwhelmed
By the floods of internal wounds.
By the mire all around us.

Even though,
Our eyes may grow dim
waiting for our God.
Keep praying.

God hears our prayers,
Although answers come not
When we want them.

At an acceptable time, O God.
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
What is acceptable?
Only God knows.

So, we keep praying.
We keep reaching.


Keep reaching. Keep crying out to God.
Even when it’s hard.
Even when your eyes are weary
Even when your throat is parched
Even when you think you cannot hold on.
Even when you cannot lift yourself off the floor.

Keep reaching out for God.
God is there.
The psalmist never lost hope.
God’s steadfast love is there
For you. For me. For all of us.

God’s abundant mercy and love
will pull us
out of the mire
out of the deep flood waters
into new life.

Keep reaching. Keep praying.
God is there.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful and Rejoicing

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Yesterday was my appt with the surgeon, and thanks be to God- I don't need surgery! He did another ultrasound & decided it is probably just larger than normal gland, but nothing to worry about. I have a check up in six months to see if anything has changed, but other than that, I'm good to go. I've never been so relieved in my life! It's been such a rough two weeks waiting for answers, not to mention a rough month of stuff. This good news gives me great hope that all will indeed be well, in God's good time.

Later this morning, I'm flying up to Ohio to spend the next few days with my family. I'm thankful for them. We eat really yummy food, watch the Macy's parade, stand in the freezing cold of Friday morning to shop, and celebrate with one another. I'm also glad to be with them this year on my 28th birthday, which is Friday.

It's funny, I heard a sermon in chapel yesterday about thanksgiving & rejoicing. At the time, I couldn't do it- be thankful and rejoice, despite all that was going on. But, now I can. Thanks be to God for my family, my friends who love me & prayed for me, my health, and all of the blessings in my life. I am truly rejoicing!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Get Excited!

Tonight, I booked my plane ticket for my post-Christmas trip to Laurel, Maryland! I am heading up there on December 27th to spend some time with the LPC crew. I've missed them so much. I'm staying with two of my most favorite people in the world - Ray & Kathy. I love them a lot & it will be wonderful catching up with my surrogate parents. Plus, there will be a big LPC gathering while I'm there. What a great way to spend part of my Christmas break! I'm so excited...

The best people in the world:)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gifts and Graces

It is reading/midterm/assessment week at CTS. I only had one midterm, which I took yesterday morning. But, my main event was Monday morning at 8am - my MCA. MCA's are Mid-Course Assessments to evaluate one's progress at CTS and to become a degree candidate. There are three faculty members & two students on an MCA team & mine were wonderful people. For me, this was more of a final assessment, since I am a senior this year & MCA's are normally held during the middler year. But, since I was away on internship last year, I had mine this fall. It was a good process- very thoughtful questions from the team & some rather sage advice about how to make use of these last seven months of seminary.

One thing that keeps coming up for me this week is that I need to accept my gifts & graces. The MCA team mentioned it, my preaching professor said it later that day, & it was brought up at my internship site on Tuesday. I guess God is trying to tell me something! But, by the third time I heard it, I was in tears. I know this is something I need to work on, but I don't know how to go about it. It all stems from the fact that I tend to be quiet. That is who I am. I listen more than I speak. Apparently, this has become an issue. People want me to accept my gifts & graces, and then share them with the world. Lovely thought, but how does one do that exactly?

I'm left rather perplexed by the whole situation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Made Me Smile

I saw this quote on a friend's facebook & it made my day...

"i talked to God and She said, 'yo, what's up?'"- Empire Records

(thank you, taylor!)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Thought from Tonight's Debate

The question is: how exactly does one nail jello to a wall?
Ask John McCain. He apparently knows how.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Atlanta Greek Festival!

Last night, a bunch of us went over to the Annual Atlanta Greek Festival, which is held at the Greek Orthodox Church not far from the seminary. It was so much fun! First of all, we rode a school bus from the parking place to the church *which I found VERY FUN* & when we arrived, the place was packed with people. There were booths with food, music playing, dancing, lectures, tons of little shops set up in classrooms inside the cathedral, and best of all...baklava! There was a huge room set up for pastries of all kinds. It was amazing. My friend Kristin & I stood in line for baklava. It was so good! We bought several pieces each so we could have some for breakfast this week. Here we are with our yummy baklava...
Some of the international students went with us & Matt from Cambridge, England had his first piece of baklava & loved it! It was a great evening spent with friends. I came home with two more pieces of yummy goodness, plus a small icon of the Holy Trinity (which look like women) and a set of prayer beads. I think I'll eat my final piece tomorrow morning...yum!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rough Times in the ATL...

So, this week has been a rough one around here. First of all, it was a week filled with frustration and tension for me personally & the seminary community. It seems that all (or a vast majority) of us had tough weeks- both in terms of our personal lives & school/class wise. I am certainly glad that the week is over & pray next week brings better things for all of us.

Second, as icing on the cake, my week ended with a car accident. Yesterday morning on my way home from work, I was trying to turn right into a gas station & was rear ended by a 75 year old woman. The good news is that both of our cars were fine- no damage, but the bad news is that I was left with a bad case of whiplash. After spending two & half hours at the doctor, I am now wearing a neck brace and taking lots of medication. But, I am thankful that I was not injured worse nor was my car. However, I am sore & trying to take it easy this weekend.

Third, there is a major gas shortage in Atlanta. This has been going on since Sunday night. Many, many stations around the area are out of gas completely & others only have a limited supply of gas. So, tensions are running high here & people are running out of gas. However, it is being brought on by the fact that some people keep going to stations to top off (out of fear) who do not need the gas, leaving others strained. However, this afternoon, I was able to get $20 of gas in my car, which should last me for a while. I wish people would learn not to panic & just conserve! It would make life better for all of us. The governor said it might be up to 10 days until it is back to normal. Ugh.

My hope & prayer is that life continues to get better here in Atlanta- for all of us!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


It's been two weeks of class & my head is not above the water. I'm having some difficulty adjusting to class, reading, writing papers, etc. It is hard being back at school after being gone for so long. Socially, I feel part of the community for sure, but my struggles are dealing with the amount of stuff on my plate. Compounding it all, I am missing Maryland more than ever. I had a great life there & I had to pack up one more time to come back here. I miss the people, the city, everything. It makes me sad some days. But, I know this is where I am supposed to be right now. I just wish I could keep my head above the water.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Clergy for Obama

I joined this group on Facebook this morning. It's called "Clergy for Obama". I love their statement:
We are Clergy for Obama.
We believe in Barack Obama’s ability to change this country we love so dearly;
more importantly, we believe in our ability to be the change.
We believe in our ability to create a country where:
all children have nourishing food
the sick can find affordable healthcare
our young adults have real opportunities and a future they can trust
the elderly live securely
and in community women and men have choices about their private lives
armed conflict is a last resort, not a substitute for diplomacy
Together we believe in our ability to move this country
to a politics of hope to a deep regard for the life of the planet and care for all creation
to an investment in programs that work to end poverty to equal pay for equal work
We are children of God.
We are citizens of the United States of America.
We believe now is the time for change.
We are Clergy for Obama.
This is a wonderful statement about what I believe is possible for our country if Obama is elected in November. I urge all of you to make sure you are registered to vote & learn as much as you can about the candidates! Be engaged, watch the debates, discuss your opinions with others, and most of all, make sure you vote on November 4th!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Feeling Slightly Overwhelmed

These last few days have been a whirlwind! I am beginning to worry that I've bitten off more than I can chew this semester. Taking four classes is crazy enough, but pairing that with working 15 hours a week at Skyland might be too much. I sat through two classes today, which shouldn't be awful, but I just felt a little bit of that familar feeling of being overwhelmed wash over me! These two classes (Ethics & Pastoral Care) are chocked filled with readings & papers- and are intense in different ways. My preaching classes should be less intense, but need my full attention. My clients & work at Skyland deserve my full attention/devotion. Can I really give everything my full attention? Something has to give. When am I going to find time to nourish my soul? What will that look like? Plus, there is a ton of paperwork to be done for MCA, PIF, Final Assessment, etc. Wow. I am tired.

So, I ask for prayers. I'm not sure who reads this blog, but whoever you are...prayers are welcomed!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Beginnings and New Books

It's that time again! School has begun here at CTS. After being gone from this community for 15 months, it is going to be a strange experience walking back into the classroom again. My time away doing both CPE in Ohio & my full time internship in Maryland was incredible - I learned so much about myself as a person & as a pastor. Although I loved being away from the pressures of the classroom, there was a part of me that missed it too.

I've got an interesting combination of classes this fall:
  • Introduction to Pastoral Care (Pamela Cooper-White)
  • Christian Ethics (Mark Douglas)
  • Preacher and the Poet (Anna Carter Florence)
  • Preaching and Worship through the Christian Year (Kim Long)

I'm so excited about these classes & the books look pretty amazing. This is all going to be in combination with my work at Skyland Trail Psychiatric Treatment Center as a chaplain. I'm going to be a really busy person, but I love to stay busy. I tend to function better when I have lots of stuff going on in my life. As you can see in the picture above, this semester will be filled with reading and more reading. It's a good thing I really love books:)

The community is taking shape around here- new juniors, meeting the middlers, and re-aquainting myself with the seniors. I was talking with someone this morning at coffee hour & we were in agreement- we've got a good feeling about the community this year. There are some really wonderful people here!

My prayer is that this will be a good year. I've got lots of stuff to discern...whether to go into parish ministry or chaplaincy... areas where I'd love to live post-CTS... what does God have in store for me... all that good stuff that comes with being a seminary senior. So, I continue to lift my prayers to God for wisdom and for discernment. And then, listen to my heart for answers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sabbath & Politics

Theology ord is over. Now that it is off my list, I can enjoy a week or so of sabbath before starting my last year of seminary classes. I came home to my little, tiny town in Tennessee to spend time with my mom, eat free food, and do some laundry. Of course, this means little access to internet. Right now, I am sitting in the town public library, which is one room. It's funny- I'm used to big libraries at universities & at the seminary, not a one room joint. But, they have free internet, which is a huge help when your family is sans internet connection at the house (we are an old fashioned home without a computer!)

This week, I am enjoying watching the Democratic National Convention. I watch the whole thing- from gavel to gavel- on CSpan. I love it because there are no political pundents & no commentary at all. Just speeches & lots of shots of people dancing on the convention floor. Gotta love Democrats decked out in red, white, & blue with the crazy hats and waving big signs. Last night, Ted Kennedy & Michelle Obama spoke. Both were incredible. This campaign is all about HOPE and CHANGE, not about the status quo political process. I really appreciate it. I'm tired of things being the way they are and I am desperate for change. Obama is a new kind of leader, one the world needs, one that we need here. It's going to happen, I just feel it.

I love that the DNC theme is "Throwing Open the Doors". The Montreat Youth Conference theme this year was "Throw Open the Doors"! There are many moments when I found myself seeing great connection between the PC(USA) & the 2008 Presidential Election. I love that we have a great moderator now in Bruce, who is all about bringing people together & changing the way we do things as a denomination. Barack is all about bringing peoplpe together & solving problems through conversation not violence. I love it. We need a little more idealism, more dreaming, more over-reaching.

I have great hope both for the PC(USA) and for the country. It is time for a change. I know our denomination is facing some hard truths & struggles right now. I wish people were able to see past idological differences & look at each other as HUMAN BEINGS. We are all children of God. Period. That's all that should matter. It seems like we all get stuck thinking about the issues at hand, and not the people. My sincere prayer is that over these next two years, we can come together, despite our differences of opinions on the various issues & work together to build up the PC(USA) and not continue to tear it down.

We need change. We need hope. Change & hope. It is possible.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts about ords studying...

I'm hold up in the CTS library this afternoon- studying for my theology ordination exam. It's crazy nuts! There are numerous topics & only four will actually be on the exam. So, one must study a myriad of things to prepare. Today's topics to tackle: Biblical interpretation (as found in Book of Confessions); implications of baptism for the Christian life; relationship between inner sense of call & affirmation of the people of God; nature & purpose of the church (as found in BOC); reformed understanding of faith; church growth & evangelism; and God alone being Lord of the conscience. Whew. That's a lot to handle! And, I've limited myself to three hours a day this week. There is only so much my brain can manage at one time.

As a reward post-exam on Friday, I am headed home (doesn't sound that great, huh?). This way, I can rest, eat for free, do some laundry for free, and watch the Democratic National Convention with my mother (who will probably sleep through most of it!). I know that many of my dear friends will be working hard on the Biblical Exegesis exam through next week, so I will be all alone. No fun, so spending time with my mom while my dad is traveling for his sabbatical sounds like a good option.

As a final note as I head back to studying...I saw this saying on a friend's magnetic poetry on facebook & it made me smile: "Yesterday is tomorrow's joy held today". I love that. May there be great joy for you tomorrow! Peace & happy studying:)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Montreat Ends, New Beginnings

I survived four weeks of Montreat...barely. It was a great experience- all four weeks of keynote, worship, music, small groups, fun times on the 3rd floor of Assembly. Here's my last small group (group 42!)...

After Montreat, I headed home to Tennessee for some much needed rest & relaxation. I enjoyed my two weeks at home. It did me some good. Now, I'm back in Atlanta to study for the theology ordination exam & get ready for my last year of seminary. In addition to taking classes, I'll be working as a chaplain at Skyland Trail, which is a residential & day psychatric treatment center. I'm really excited about getting started with this new ministry!

I must admit that I feel a little awkward being back at CTS. I've been gone for 15 months & it is going to take some time to go through this re-entry process. But, I met a lot of the new students last night, which was great. I feel good about being back for the most part. I'm a little worried about being here for the next two & half weeks until classes start- I know that I will get very lonely & sad. I'm so used to being very busy & surrounded by lots of people. It's going to take some getting used to & I'm trying to focus on the good things!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One More Week...

My marathon Montreat experience this summer is beginning to wind down! I have one more week of small group leading! It's been a really good experience, but I am so tired! I find it difficult to stay up at night to socialize now, but three years ago, I could stay up late & get up in the morning without too much difficulty. I think I've aged quite a bit in three years!

Omega is going well. My small group this past week was much different than the previous two, but still a great group of youth. I had fun! Here's some of them...

One more week... I'm just glad that many of the SGLs are staying for the final week of MYC '08!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Theta Done...Omega Begins!

So, Theta weeks are over now & Omega weeks 5 & 6 have begun! It's crazy that I've been in Montreat since July 4th. Last week, I had one of the best small groups I've ever had in my 6 years of being an SGL. I really enjoyed witnessing their conversations and love for each other. It was a wonderful experience & one that will stay with me for a long time.

Group 27 (week 4)! Lots of love here:)

As I said, Omega has indeed begun. The leadership is truly amazing- Aimee Wallis Buchanan & Bill Buchanan (keynoters), Michelle Thomas-Bush (preacher), Jorge Gonzalez (music), and Lindsey Wells Peery & Barry French (rec leaders). The keynote has been really awesome- Aimee & Bill brought a youth drama team with them who are simply outstanding. Michelle's sermons are truly inspiring. Music & rec- outstanding! I've really enjoyed this week so far.

Last night, we were blessed with a concert from David LaMotte! Wow. He played one of my favorite songs "Hold On", which truly spoke to the themes of this conference. There were moments when I simply closed my eyes & let the music just overwhelm me. I'm sad that this could be my last chance to see him live before he moves to Australia, but I'm glad it was here in Montreat.

I love this place. It truly feeds my soul. I love being able to connect with new people & reconnect with old friends! This is the place that nurtured me when I was discerning my call to ministry. These people are the ones who've carried me through some hard times & loved me regardless of anything I could do. I'm really happy that I was blessed with the chance to spend four weeks here before heading back to CTS. I needed this!

Friday, July 11, 2008

One Down...Three to Go!

I've finished one week of my four week Montreat SGL marathon! It was a roller coaster of a group was great, a little loud at times, but overall, a great group of youth who have amazing ideas for our church! Thanks be to God for that. Tonight is candlelight, which is always lovely and emotional for the youth. I've really enjoyed seeing old friends & meeting new SGLs. Mostly, I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow & enjoying the day off!

Here's some pictures from Small Group 27...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

J Diggs & Nick Rizzle

Check out the best rec event commercial EVER...

Nick and Jeffery are simply amazing!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I Love Montreat

I'm in Montreat for the next four weeks for Youth Conferences (Theta & Omega). I've been looking forward to this for months. The best part is being able to share these next two weeks with my good friend Whitney. We've been here for the last couple of days getting ready & tonight is when it all begins! I can't wait to be in Anderson Auditorium with 1200 youth & adults singing & getting excited for an awesome week! Here's to "throwing open the doors".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Moderator & GA stuff

I know I'm a little late posting this, but I was a little busy over the last few days (preaching, driving to Atlanta, moving boxes, interviewing, and driving back to Tennessee). But, we have a new moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA): Bruce Reyes-Chow! This is so exciting. He is a pastor from San Francisco, frequent Montreater, and blogger extraordinaire. I feel the PCUSA is in excellent hands.

To learn more about Bruce, check out:
His personal blog
The moderator blog

General Assembly... I wish I was there! Maybe in two years. Lots of stuff is happening, especially when it comes to the dreaded "Amendment B". But, we'll see what happens next, now that the Church Orders committee has passed 41-11 to recommend to delete G-6.0106b — which requires “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” for church officers — from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order.

To learn more about GA & what's happening...
PC(USA) website
Presbyterian Outlook Blog from GA

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Home in the Mountains

My time in Maryland is over & this past Monday, I traveled the 8 hours through most of Virginia to little, ol' Greeneville, TN. I really miss LPC very, very much, but there is something very comforting about being here with family, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains. This week has been filled with good food, lazy mornings, time with Mom & Dad, and seeing people from my home church. Although I don't really consider this place home, I do love spending time here. It's very quiet- no loud traffic or sirens. Just peaceful quiet days with afternoon rain showers & sunny evenings. I love looking out the back windows of my family's home at the mountains. There is something about it that reminds me of God's love and grace. It's nice to be here.
Update (7.5.08)- Here are some pictures of home...enjoy!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Surreal becoming real

Surreal. That's how I've been feeling these past few days. It just doesn't seem possible that I am leaving in 11 days. I feel like I've been walking around in this cloud, but it's starting to hit me now. I was just reading an email about getting together for lunch with some church people & I realized this would be the last time. On June 9th, I will pack my car & drive the long 8 hours to Tennessee to my family's home. I won't be coming to the church in the mornings anymore. It is so hard to swallow. Reality is setting in now.

I'm working on my final sermon for the 8th. My thoughts are to weave the call story of Abram with my own story. I find great beauty when weaving biblical narratives with our own stories. God shines through it. But, this is one of the hardest sermons I've ever written. Right now, it's just notes & my initial thoughts. I can't seem to move past that stage. It makes me rather sad, even though I have great hope & faith things will be even better from here on out. Saying goodbye is so hard.

Tonight, is my final choir rehearsal. This choir has been through so much over these last few years and I've grown so close to them. Saying some parting words to them is surreal still for me. I don't know what I will say tonight. I trust the Spirit will guide me.

Tears are welling up in my eyes...this is going to be a hard 11 days. Prayers requested.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Meant to Be

This past weekend, I traveled back to Atlanta to celebrate my friends & classmates as they graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary. It was a bittersweet time for me- I took this year to intern & learn more about myself & ministry, and these are the people I began seminary with & now they are done. I wouldn't change this year for anything. But, I did find myself several times feeling rather awkward about being there. Everyone has moved on & I've missed so much this year. I have to reconnect & learn about people all over again. As I watched my friends & classmates walk down the aisle of Peachtree Presbyterian Church, wearing their caps & gowns, I knew I was not meant to walk with them. I was meant to sit in the pew and celebrate their accomplishments. God brought me here to Laurel, Maryland to allow me the time & space to grow in my ministry. And, it has been a rewarding, rich experience. I know that when I step back into the classroom, surrounded by friends, I will have new perspectives on ministry & take with me a whole new set of questions informed by my time here. Some things are meant to be. This is one of them. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Longest Nine Days

It's been a really long nine days for me. It all started at 6:45am last Sunday morning when my phone rang. It was our church organist, Pat, and she tells me that her husband Ron passed away. Ron was a beloved member of LPC, a current elder, sang in the choir, and I had traveled with him to Mississippi back in February. To top it all off, I was in charge on Sunday since Amy was out of town. After wrapping my mind around what just happened, I made my way over to the church, mentally preparing myself to be the one who needed to tell people about Ron. I called Amy & our choir director, Matt. Before the first service, I pulled aside as many elders & people who I knew had a connection with Ron to tell them first before I made the announcement at the beginning of the service. Then, we needed someone to play the piano for the service & thank goodness someone stepped up. When I announced it, there was this audiable gasp. It broke my heart. I changed the liturgy & my sermon on my feet, trying to pay tribute to this incredible person, who I've gotten to know over these last nine months. The service went fine & by the time the second service began, everyone had heard the news. Needless to say, I could not wait for it to be over.

I visited with the family after church & Amy arrived soon afterwards. We listened to Pat, his wife & his daughter Marie tell us about what happened & about Ron's life. When I got home that afternoon, I simply collapsed onto the couch. I felt like there was nothing left inside of me to give. I'd been responsible for too much that day.

As I made my way through the next few days, I took time to grieve for Ron. I knew him well, had many conversations with him, and learned so much from him. He was a brilliant man, studied astronomy, and worked as a systems engineer for orbiting observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope. But, Ron was also a man of deep faith. He worked on so many different projects around the church & had just started a term as an elder back in January.

The visitation was Thursday night. There were so many people there. I know Pat, Marie, and his son Mark were comforted by the presence of so many friends. Ron's memorial service was on Friday morning. It was a beautiful service, filled with music & words about his life. This sums it all up: "He taught us all how to use our minds to serve God, and we give thanks that he has been called home to his Maker, where he can contemplate the workings of the universe."

I know that I learned a lot in these last nine days about ministry. And, I know that I am capable of handling crises in the moment. It was also a humbling experience for me.

I'm tired. That is an understatement. This work is so personal, you put so much of your heart & yourself into your ministry. If you are not careful, you can be completely drained. I don't think I'm there, but I know I need some time to refresh, replenish, and recharge.

Thanks be to God for the life of Ron. May he have eternal rest cradled in the arms of God.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Leap of Faith

Not sure what's going on, but I think reality is setting in. I'm leaving Laurel in 40 days. Wow. That's scary! For the first time in my life, I feel really settled & happy. But, once again I have to uproot myself & go back to Atlanta. There's a part of me that is stoked to be going back to CTS in the fall, but my heart is really here. I've loved every moment here, even the tough ones. I learned so much about myself over these last eight months. I had to do this for myself, to get away from the pressures & frustrations of seminary, and honestly regain my footing after all that happened last spring. I know I was supposed to be here. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

I think reality is hitting in the face...probably doesn't help that I've gotten rejection emails for jobs back in Atlanta for next year. I'm out of options for right now. I'm bummed. I guess I'm getting a taste of the call process I'll be facing in less than a year. I'm still trying to hold onto hope that it will all work out on God's good time, not my own.

It's just hard to think about leaving my life here to go back to one, where everyone has moved on. I don't feel like I'm a part of the CTS community anymore- so much has happened to my friends & to me. It will be a tough transition to make. Another leap of faith.

Not ready to jump...not just yet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Squirrels Like Cookies

Over these last few weeks, I've had several odd encounters with members of God's creation. There were the pair of ducks waddling across the Chick-fil-A parking lot (who I had to stop and wait for to cross before driving on), the wild turkey walking outside my office window, the giant bee who suddenly split into two (not kidding), and then this squirrel on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.
Yes. He is trying to get the cookie. Here's the story. I was eating a cookie & was full, so I threw the remander in the trash can & sat on the bench. This crazy booger jumped into the trash can & got the cookie. This made me laugh! Basically, he ripped up the bag to get the cookie. He loved it. And, the best part...about 20 people stopped to take pictures. He hammed it up for the cameras. Check it out...
Who knew squirrels like cookies?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Rose is a Rose...

Ugh. Seriously? Why do I keep watching it? The Bachelor. It's nuts. I think it might be an addiction to reality television. So, the newest season of The Bachelor is underway- it's been on for about four weeks now, I think. His name is Matt Grant from London. I must admit, he's eye candy for sure. However, after just a few short weeks, these girls claim to be in love with Matt. Why do they believe in finding love on a television show, with cameras and scripted rose ceremonies? And, my favorite part: the host Chris Harrison enters when there is one rose left and announces "Ladies, Matt, this is the final rose of the night. When you're ready..." Hello, Captain Obvious! No matter how many times I watch it, it still makes me laugh. It's funny.

As much as I love watching the show (or I can't manage to pull myself away...), I must admit it can make single women wish they were in a relationship. I know I've felt this way after watching it. You want to find a man who will love you for who you are & sweep you off your feet. Of course, I don't want to go on national television to find love. But, where are these great single guys? Are they out there?

I really need to not watch The Bachelor anymore....

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Ok, so I've been tagged! Bruce Reyes-Chow started this whole PresbyMeme thing & somehow it made it to me. Wow. It's kind of like a chain letter...but all about answering Presbyterian questions. So, I guess I'll give it a try.
Here's the rules:
(1) In about 25 words, answer each of the 5 questions
(2) Tag 5 Presbyterian bloggers & send them a note telling them they've been tagged.
(3) Be sure to link or send a trackback to this post (not sure what that's about...)

Question 1: What is your earliest memory of being distinctly Presbyterian?
Well, I grew up Presbyterian. I guess it would be going to Camp Crestfield in Slippery Rock, PA as a kid for summer camp. It was cool to think all of these kids are Presbyterian just like me! I spent lots of time at Crestfield, which is Pittsburgh Presbytery's camp.
Question 2: On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend LESS energy & time?
There are many issues, but I would go with focusing on the differences between people, whether it is race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I see this happening too much in the world as well as within our denomination.
Question 3: On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend MORE energy & time?
Encouraging young adults to be active in the church! Developing great programming & support for local churches to engage this demographic.
Question 4: If you could have the PC(USA) focus on one passage of scripture for an entire year, what would it be?
Hands down, I Corinthians 12:12-31. One body, many members. It's talked about a lot, but it's so important!
Question 5: If the PC(USA) were an animal, what would it be & why?
A turtle. We move slowly along the path, protecting ourselves with the hard outer shell, and sometimes get stuck on our backs!

So, I guess I need to tag people now. The only problem is that everyone I know has been tagged, except for my friend Rob. Oh well- Rob can pass it on.
(image from

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Preached at Laurel Presbyterian Church
March 16, 2008
Texts: Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118: 1-2 & 19-29

Psalm 118:1-2; 19-29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever." 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. 29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Matthew 21:1-11 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately. " 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" 11 The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

I have strong memories of Palm Sunday. When I was a little girl, living on the west coast of Florida, the children were given palm branches to wave as we marched down the center aisle of the sanctuary in worship. Now, think about this, is it really a great idea to give four year olds a large palm branch and ask them to wave it around? While I know it is a great way to get children involved in the worship service, and it does have the added factor of being rather adorable, seeing young children waving palms in the air, it may not be the best idea in the world. And on that particular Palm Sunday, instead of waving the palms up and down, I, along with many of my friends, waved them from side to side and basically whapped all the people in the pews all the way down the aisle. It was certainly a joyful expression of the triumphal entry of the Son of David.

The crowds gathered on that day in Jerusalem, lots of them, and I am sure there were many children in attendance. All of them were curious about this Jesus figure, who they have come to believe is the Son of David, this amazing prophet who came from Nazareth in Galilee, who they believed would be the one to bring change. As Matthew’s account tells us, the large crowd gathered with branches from the trees, waving them and laying them down on the ground for the donkey to walk across. They shouted out load- Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! It must have been an incredible scene to witness. I am sure you can sense the level of excitement growing in the crowd as Jesus approached on the donkey, the wonder in the eyes of the children, the awe they must have felt when he passed by. It was a moment of praise and honor for the prophet and the one they came to know as the Son of David.

We are in the midst of a highly contested political season- one where the central theme is change. Clinton, Obama, and McCain are all making these campaign promises that they are indeed the one who can bring lasting change to America, something most of the country is crying out for! We get so fired up when we think about change and this is no more evident than in the crowds each of these candidates are drawing to their rallies around the country. We are like the crowd gathered on the streets of Jerusalem – we are in awe of the one who promises the change we want to see in our lives.

Although we know that in just a few short days Jesus will be crucified, and he knew it too, he still manages to ride into the streets atop a donkey, surrounded by people shouting and lifting high their praises. For those who were in church last Sunday morning, you were blessed to hear the choir sing Faure’s Requiem. The third movement is one entitled Sanctus. It is a beautiful movement, with a quiet, melodious tone to it, which comes in between two pieces with a much more somber tone and words. The climax of the movement is when the words “Hosanna, Hosanna, in excelsis” are proclaimed with great exuberance, but then the moment quickly fades away. It reminds me of the scene in this passage- the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with the people shouting their praises, proclaiming the Son of David has indeed come, fulfilling the promises of the prophets from long ago. However, soon after the parade dies down, their loud praises will be turned into shouts of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The brief moment of excitement has passed and the brokenness of the world once again takes over. Their recognition was a fleeting moment; maybe they never really recognized him at all.

One of the questions we are faced with is how is Christ made known to us in our lives today? It might be easy to see Jesus during the mountaintop experience, but what happens when it is not that easy? We all are forced to come face to face with the brokenness in our lives, especially during the times when we cry out loud, “where are you, Jesus?” I have been asking where Jesus is in the situation of my friend, who is dying of cancer at age 26. My cries often involve- I don’t understand why this is happening and I don’t know where you are. Aren’t you supposed to come and make everything better? She’s too young. What about her little girls? I know many of you have faced similar situations with your loved ones and friends.

I know the question came up during our recent mission trip to Mississippi. Many of us thought we were going down there to make a difference! We did some hard work, but walked away with mixed feelings about whether or not we made a tangible difference. The family situations at our work sites were not all ideal and at some points overwhelming. All we could do was paint a wall, but this does not seem to make a difference when there is so many other dynamics at work. So, it leaves us with a sense of uncertainty and brokenness. Where were you, Jesus?

The answer is not easy to come by. But, we want answers, because it is much easier than living in the uncertainty and brokenness. Most of the time, we don’t even want to acknowledge the brokenness – we thrive on avoidance. We tell the world and even tell ourselves that we are fine, we aren’t broken. But, the truth is, we are broken. It is a hard thing to admit sometimes- it is much easier to continue telling ourselves everything is fine. When someone asks us “How are you?”, we just simply give the standard answer of “I’m great, how are you?”. We avoid telling people what is really going on in our lives for many reasons, maybe because we are fearful that we will completely fall apart if we give into the brokenness in our lives.

However, it is Jesus, who rides into our lives, into the broken cities that exist within us and around us, to bring the good news of God’s love and mercy. Jesus recognizes our brokenness. People gathered in the streets that day, not even knowing they were broken inside, just like us. But, God meets us in our broken places, the places where we feel scared, desperate, and most in need of the grace only God can give us, through Christ. That is the power of the image of Jesus riding into the city atop a donkey. He came to us, he came for us. I am sure many of those gathered that day were in need of grace and healing, just as we are today. I am sure they heard rumors of this Jesus who was teaching a new way to live and healing those around him. They were curious and so they gathered on those streets that day. So, we gather today, as the body of Christ, seeking something as well. We live in a world, full of violence and so much need. We are living in a world that is suffocating from greed and poverty, abundance and hunger, McMansions and cardboard boxes, filled with broken people and avoidance. And, our individual lives are filled with broken places- our family relationships, illnesses, grief, hostility, and insecurity.

We want to be able to truly shout with great exuberance, Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest heaven! But, we need to be able to proclaim this from a real and authentic place inside of ourselves, not just going through the motions because it is what is expected of us as people of faith. During my first year of seminary, Walter Brueggemann, noted Old Testament scholar, guest lectured my Old Testament class. While I can’t recall all of the wonderful things he spoke so eloquently about that day on the book of Isaiah, I do remember this: he said to us, in a passing comment, “You cannot proclaim saving truth out of a life of pretend”. Living a life of pretend – that is what we do, because it is much easier and there is a real sense of comfort, because when we are living in this way, we do not have to face the brokenness. Our instinct is to focus on the joyful Hosanna in the passage, wave our palms in the air, and sing loud our praises – not dwell in the reality that lies behind the text. We want to continue living our lives of pretend, where we keep placing our hope in the fleeting promises of change. We clamor for the change we so desperately want for ourselves and for our world. We want the Savior to ride into our broken cities atop a white horse and bring change, but by our own standards. This is what the people gathered on the streets of Jerusalem wanted – for Jesus to take away the brokenness – to make things better in their eyes. Thus, they shouted Hosanna! While Jesus did come to bring change, the brokenness remained. And, this is where we live our lives, amidst the tension between Hosanna and brokenness, and words simply do not do justice to the difficulty of living in this liminal space.

Even though we struggle to find the words, we must trust that the saving truth lies in God’s love and mercy shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the one who rode into town on the back of a lowly donkey. God’s love and mercy will indeed shine through the brokenness inside of us and around us.

And so, as we enter into this Holy Week, with all its emotion, let us begin to acknowledge those hard, broken places that lie deep within us. Let us be open to Jesus’ entrance into that brokenness. The palms we have in our hands have been turned into crosses, symbols of what is to come at the end of the week. Take a good look at it- you will notice the cross is empty. It is a sign of hope and speaks of Jesus’ resurrection and the ultimate act of forgiveness for us as broken people. So, we continue to live this life as people of faith, people of hope- being willing to acknowledge our brokenness and willing to allow God to come into those broken places; all the while, keeping our eyes, ears, and hearts open to where Christ is being made known to us. May we keep moving forward towards the place where we can truly exclaim with our whole hearts, Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Making the Best...

This year has certainly flown by! I just can't believe my time in Laurel is winding down. I've really loved living up here this year. This was certainly the best decision I've made- I really needed to get away. Over these last seven months, I've learned more about myself, both personally & as a pastor. I am really grateful for this opportunity.

But, I am sad about leaving here. Ministry is all about relationships & I've established some wonderful ones at LPC. It makes me sad to think I won't be around next year to see what happens next. I won't be around to see Abby running around the nursery, have conversations with Millie, or see how the whole visioning process turns out. I will miss these people so much, and there will always be a special place in my heart for each of them.

So, I am trying to make the best of the time I have left in Maryland. This means squeezing in time to do lots of stuff. The things I still want to do are...
  • See the Cherry Blossom trees in bloom in DC
  • Drink lots of tea at College Perk Coffeehouse
  • Hit up the National Gallery of Art at least one more time
  • Visit the Air & Space Museum
  • Try to get to NYC again
  • Eat some more Maryland crab cakes
  • Go & walk the beach at Ocean City
  • Shop in Georgetown- specifically Dean & Deluca
  • Spend time with my Laurel friends

I know the time is coming to an end, but there is a lot to look forward to! Seeing friends at CTS at graduation in May, possibly going to Colorado in late June, spending the month of July in Montreat, getting back to ATL & enjoying all my fave hangout spots again. Life keeps moving on.

There will be many tears shed between now & when I get back to school in the fall. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of many adventures in my life.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I think I may have just read the most ridiculous news article ever. It was on this afternoon.

Was Moses high on Mount Sinai?
Study claims he was high when he brought down the Ten Commandments

JERUSALEM - When Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, he may have been high on a hallucinogenic plant, according to a new study by an Israeli psychology professor.

Writing in the British journal Time and Mind, Benny Shanon of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University said two plants in the Sinai desert contain the same psychoactive molecules as those found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca is prepared.
The thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an “altered state of awareness,” Shanon hypothesized.

“In advanced forms of ayahuasca inebriation, the seeing of light is accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings,” Shanon wrote.

“On such occasions, one often feels that in seeing the light, one is encountering the ground of all Being ... many identify this power as God.”

Shanon wrote that he was very familiar with the affects of the ayahuasca plant, having “partaken of the ... brew about 160 times in various locales and contexts.”

He said one of the psychoactive plants, harmal, found in the Sinai and elsewhere in the Middle East, has long been regarded by Jews in the region as having magical and curative powers.

Some biblical scholars were unimpressed. Orthodox rabbi Yuval Sherlow told Israel Radio: “The Bible is trying to convey a very profound event. We have to fear not for the fate of the biblical Moses, but for the fate of science.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I’ve been mulling some things over these past few days. Each time I sat down at my computer to write a blog entry, I didn’t know where to start, so I simply walked away. I’ve been thinking about my life lately, taking stock on where I am and where I want to go in the future. Also, the things I am currently reading and watching on television are making me think as well. The other night, I was watching a new show called quarterlife on NBC. It started off as an internet show and moved to the network lineup during this time of recovery from the writer’s strike. quarterlife is about these six friends, all in their mid-twenties, post-college, who are trying to figure what they are supposed to be doing with their lives. The main character, Dylan, writes a blog called and she begins blogging about her friends. I am intrigued by her musings on several subjects, but mainly about her desperate quest for finding the meaning in her life. I can certainly relate to her. Over these last several years, I have struggled with the very same conundrum. After spending these last seven months in Maryland, I have a clearer sense of my call to ministry and some of the areas I want to pursue within the church. Thank goodness, because I spent my first two years of seminary being consumed by the pressures of academic study and living within the bubble of Columbia Seminary. I was literally suffocating in my life and needed to get away so that I could breathe again. I don’t mean to insult any of my classmates or professors at CTS, but the pressure around that place can become rather overwhelming at times, I think they would all agree with that statement. LPC has provided me the space and time I needed to breathe again, to sharpen my skills and gifts for ministry, and open new doors of opportunity. I am grateful. More than words can express.

I really love quarterlife. I love that it is written and shot in a postmodern way, because it is rather appealing to those of us who revel in postmodernity. It portrays people in their twenties in a good light, not as slackers, but as people who are genuinely struggling with issues of life and meaning. I encourage all of you to watch it sometime. I think it will be airing on Sunday nights at 9pm for now on.

So, I am also reading this amazing book: Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren. I’ve been wanting to read it for several months now, and I planning on teaching a five week course on it in April at the church. I love the book for several reasons. One is that it has a healthy mix of politics and religion, which I absolutely love. Another reason is that it does give a new voice in the conversation about the future of the church (not just my denomination, but the church in general). McLaren speaks about a new alternative to approaching global issues by reinterpreting the teachings of Jesus Christ. I think he is really on to something here- things must change! We live in a world consumed by poverty, greed, inequality, hunger, abundance. It frustrates me to no end when I think about how our government spends money- we literally spend more money on intellengance & defense than anything else. While I do want have security, I am more concerned about feeding & educating people as well as preserving our planet. I will make a rather strong statement here, and if you don’t agree with me, that’s ok. I believe war is wrong. All war is crime. How can we continue this cycle of violence? Violence begets more violence. That seems to come up in just about all my sermons- I think it’s because it is a central belief of mine. I don’t know. I recommend reading this book. I think it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve been thinking lately also that I never really had much to say of great substance on this blog. So many of my friends and other blogs I read have a great deal to say about issues of faith, politics, or recommendations for good books. They have interesting, new ideas to share. I always chose to write about my life and what is happening. One thing Dylan on quarterlife said that stuck with me was the question of why do we blog? Believe me, I’ve asked that same question many times. I started this blog back at the beginning of my second year of seminary, after a failed attempt before, and thought it would be a good way to let people know what I was up to. Now, I am not so sure. I do know that I want to share more of my thoughts on faith, politics, and emerging church on my blog. So, I invite the handful of you who actually read this to stay tuned. There is more to come…

Monday, February 25, 2008

Red Beans, White Nosehairs: A Mississippi Love Story in Three & 1/2 Acts

So, I just returned from a two week journey that took me to San Diego, California and Long Beach, Mississippi. My week in California was wonderful- I attended the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Annual Event. Rodger Nishioka was the keynoter- he was fantastic as always. I spent my week catching up with old friends, lounging in the sun, attending wonderful workshops, and I came home with tons of new ideas and more importantly, about 15 new books! Yay!

Now, onto the main event: LPC's mission trip to Long Beach, Mississippi. Wow, it was so much fun! There were 25 of us from LPC (which included 4 father-child duos) and we were joined by 2 members of Vienna Pres in VA- Randi & Beth. We worked at five different work sites, doing lots of drywall work! My team was indeed the best!! There were seven of us working at Moses & Myrtle's house- this very sweet, older African-American couple. We spent our week sanding, mudding, and priming their house (which was 2,000 square feet with 10 rooms!). After four days of long, hard work, we managed (along with reinforcements throughout the week) to sand and mud all of the rooms and prime three of them.

The best part of the week was when our lovely homeowners provided us with lunch- homemade fried chicken, red beans & rice, and cornbread. It was truly amazing. While Moses & Myrtle have very little of their own, they provided us with wonderful hospitality.

In terms of the title of this post, needless to say, we inhailed a ton of white dust! Our team kept the mood light- lots of laughter and inside jokes, along with words of day. I got to know Erin, Elden, Steve, Barb, Mike, and Dixie on a whole other level. I love each of them & I am grateful for their friendships.

We stayed at Long Beach Presbyterian Church- bunk beds, outdoor showers, not much else. But, we had a good time. Ate tons of food - Darwells, Lil Ray's, Cajun Catfish Hut. It was fun. We're very sore, pretty darn tired, but humbled by the experience. Let's say we felt the Mississippi mojo!

Bibles, Blogs, and Ministry

My friend Adam asked several of us to participate in a guest blogger series on Ministry and the Bible. Mine is now posted on his blog along with the other eight entries. Adam is interning over in Scotland this year and always has interesting things to say! I encourage you to check out his blog!
A Bible, a Bookshelf, and a Hospital Bed
by Erin Kobs

I have this little Bible with a black leather cover. I carried it with me during my rounds when I was a chaplain at a hospital this past summer. There were times when I used it, especially when patients requested to hear some scripture. The floor where I used it the most was the inpatient psychiatric floor. I spent a good amount of time on the 5th floor. There are two times that stand out in my mind. One was with a patient who requested a chaplain read scripture to her as she was going to sleep each night. So, I spent several nights sitting by her bed, reading portions of Proverbs, which she found comforting. Another time was with a patient who was having a difficult time being in the hospital. I remember sitting with him, listening to his struggles, and I offered to read him a passage from Isaiah 54, verses 7-10. He found great comfort in those verses, and then was able to open up to me more about what was really going on for him. It was a truly powerful experience. The nurses commented they noticed a difference in him after that, and they were always truly grateful for chaplains who were able to communicate with patients on a whole other level.

My Bible went with me everywhere those three months. Sometimes, I never opened it in patient’s rooms, because conversation and prayer was all they wanted or needed, but it was always there. I treasure each of the holy moments I spent with people, all of the tears shed, all of it.

Now, my Bible sits on my desk at the church alongside my Book of Order, PC(USA) Hymnal, and my Book of Common Worship. I mostly use it to plan liturgies, write sermons, or look up passages for the coming Sunday. I never take it with me when I go on visitations in hospitals or homes. The pastor I work with does not carry one either. Instead, we have conversations with people and pray with them. Although, my Bible is not with me during these times, I know it informs what I do and what I say. I must admit, I miss it sometimes.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Being Tempted With Christ

I thought I'd post my sermon for tomorrow. I'd love some feedback (provided if anyone actually reads my blog!).

Being Tempted with Christ
Preached at Laurel Presbyterian Church
February 10, 2008
Texts: Genesis 2:15-17 & 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4:1-11 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the adversary. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4 But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 5 Then the adversary took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" 7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 8 Again, the adversary took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" 11 Then the adversary left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Lent has begun. I don’t know about you, but I feel like it came on really fast. It seems like just a few weeks ago, we were celebrating the birth of the Christ child. Time certain passes fast these days. And, now it is time for our annual observation of Christ’s journey toward the cross. Thus, we embark on the journey; we start with the account of Jesus in the wilderness for forty days and nights, where he was faced with three tests/temptations from the adversary (which is a better translation of the Greek word diabolos rather than the contemporary word “devil”).

Temptation- it is something we are faced with on a daily basis.
One more smack of snooze button , just one more cup of coffee, that donut looks really good, if I speed up, I can pass that car & get there faster, checking my email just one more time instead of working on the thing in front of me. These all seem like simple things, but they are temptations nonetheless. Temptation surrounds us as individuals, as a church, as a society. It often looks like it has a really great & promising outcome for us. However, that might not always be the case.

We are completely bombarded with temptations in our society. It is on the billboards lining the streets & highways, on the continuous commercials on TV, in the shows we watch, in the numerous advertisements before movies begin at the theater, all of the ads on every web page we visit. We find it in political campaign stump speeches, their campaign ads on TV, and in their debate answers. It is embedded in our culture’s obsessive need to have all the biggest, best, and newest things. It is almost like we have become completely immune to its influence over us. We have simply adjusted to it, like it is a normal part of life. I know that I often fall prey to a desire for something or to give into a temptation. I am sure I am not the only one. It is so easy when we are not thinking about it.

Jesus was also faced with temptations, as we read in the passage. For him, the temptations were for economic/domestic security, asserting his close association with the powerful, and to secure the glory of political leadership. While Jesus was in the wilderness, the adversary approached and engaged him in three temptations. With the first one, Jesus is confronted with being asked to turn stones into loaves of bread. This comes after Jesus had fasted for forty days, and anyone in that position would be so hungry! The quick and easy choice would be to give in and have something to eat appear in front of you. Instead, Jesus says to the adversary, a familiar line from the book of Deuteronomy “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. God is the one who gives us our daily bread, as we pray in the Lord’s prayer- “give to us our daily bread”. All that we truly need in this life is given to us by God.

But, we often want to secure our futures all on our own. It is even considered the American way of life. Domestic security has been a hot topic in our country over these last eight years. It is all over the nightly news, in our papers, and is certainly being discussed amongst the various candidates for the presidency. Heightened security measures have become a way of life for us in the airports- with longer lines, stricter measures on what is permitted in our carry on baggage, and it seems that new issues are coming up all the time. We want to be safe, no matter what the cost. Now, no matter where you might stand on the issues of the war, terrorism, and immigration- I want to ask this question: Really, what are we doing? Are we simply trying to build walls around ourselves? How far will we go to secure our futures on our own?

This temptation is also about economic security. If Jesus had turned the stones into bread, there would be a great deal of food for the people in the surrounding areas. We want to be economically secure. However, this can quickly turn into greed and desire. I am sure many of you might be familiar with the show Deal or No Deal, which is a game show where people make strategic choices about cases with different amounts of money inside. Each round of choices is prefaced with a call from the “banker” who makes an offer based on the money levels remaining in the game- the player then must choose to make a deal or not with the banker. It simply astounds me how many people don’t make a deal with the banker- knowing they will walk away with more money than they came with, even though so many of their friends & family are encouraging them to take the deal. There is this great temptation to keep pressing on in order to grasp at the slim chance of actually having the case with one million dollars in it be the one standing at the end. What does this say about us? Why do we keep giving in to temptations to get ahead in life?

Jesus did not simply give into the temptation of turning the stones into bread. Of course he was hungry, but he chose to always use his God-given powers in service to others, not in service of himself. He did not take the easy way of securing his own source of nourishment. This is just one example of the way Jesus lived out his ministry here on earth- in service to others with deep gratitude to God. Something for us to think about along this journey…

The second temptation from the adversary is all about testing Jesus’ connection with the powerful, namely God by showing he will not be harmed when he jumps off the top of the temple. Jesus refuses and says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test!” It is not about testing whether or not God is with us; it is about trusting in that very fact.

We often find ourselves putting God to the test, especially when we are faced with tough situations. We may not be as bold as to throw ourselves off of a building to prove God loves us, but we often do place conditions on God. If God answers my prayers and requests, then I will know that God is on my side. If God can heal my family member of cancer, then I will know God really does love me & hears my prayers. If I get this job or promotion I am praying for, then things will be ok and I will remain faithful in my prayers and to God.

The thing is, God does not always give us exactly what we want! God does indeed hear our prayers, but putting conditions on our love and our prayers is not living faithfully. God has unconditional love for us, why should we put conditions on our love for God? We are loved- each of us. We should not give up on God so fast when things do not work out for us, nor should we put God to the test in order to gain proof of God’s love for us. Jesus lived a life that was full of Spirit and he surrendered his life unconditionally to God, no matter what the outcome.

The temptation is great, especially when we work in areas where proof is essential and something we strongly desire. However, faith cannot be proved nor can God’s love for us. Faithful living means resisting the sometimes overwhelming temptation to find the proof and just trust that grace and love will always be there, no matter what. It is hard, but so is the journey. I believe Joel Osteen wrote a book entitled, “Your Best Life NOW”, which seems a bit misleading. The title should be, although it probably would not sell as many copies, “Your Life is Hard”. The thing is that life is hard; there is no question about it. But, it is in those hard moments, when it is essential to hold on to God’s Word for us- that the path was already blazed by Christ and love will indeed surround us and nourish us for the journey.

The final temptation finds Jesus on top of the mountain looking over the vast land. The adversary tells Jesus he can have it all, only if he bows down and worships the adversary. Jesus would have all of the land under his control, which could make things easier for him in his ministry. Instead, Jesus rebukes the adversary, maintaining his love for God and saying that we worship God alone. He refuses to give into the glory of achieving political leadership by these means.

In our world, there is a push for gaining & maintaining control. Control over things in our lives, a strong desire for control over what is happening in the world around us. There is this pervasive “having it all” attitude, which places enormous constraints on us. How many things do we have to destroy to have it all? How many people must I trample over in order to succeed?

We even see this issue of control in our current political season. The Republican primaries are “this winner takes all” system, while the Democrats have a system of dividing the delegates among the two candidates. What is the candidate giving up in order to win it all? What is this showing us about ourselves?

There is a commercial on television right now that seems to speak directly to this issue of having it all. I’m sure many of you have seen it; I think it might have been on during the Super Bowl. A wife comes into the room and says to her husband, “You’re right, honey. We need to replace the television”. Cue in the music- “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!” At the end, they purchase this enormous television and while sitting on the couch in front of it, they look at each other with loving eyes. What is the world trying to sell us?

The real question is what are really God’s expectations of us? Jesus remained completely faithful to God through it all, never wavering in his devotion. He was prepared to risk by sticking his ground regardless of the temptations placed in front of him. God knows that we are going to slip every so often, but we are forgiven when we confess our sins. Grace is abundant. But, we cannot keep on giving into the temptations of this world- we must place our faith in God alone.

It is a tough journey, but we know that Christ has already been there, faced enormous challenges and temptations. We are walking this journey together with him and with one another. If Christ were to give into any of these temptations, then he would be taking the easy route. But, he doesn’t. Instead, trusting in God’s plan, Christ takes the long way around. It is tempting to give into the easy route, the quick fix, the source of instant gratification. Serving the world is the easy route. But in the end, does it really get us anywhere?

God does not give us what we want, which would be the easy route. God gives us what we need, often through acts of faith. The homeless women of Laurel needed help. We, through our act of faith, are giving them a warm, safe place to lay their heads & good food to fill their stomachs. The Zahlis family needed comfort. We, again through our act of faith, opened our hearts and doors to this grieving family & community to hold a beautiful service of remembrance. Matthew & Erin needed help & support for Reese. We, in our acts of faith, opened up our checkbooks, gave generously & continue to offer many prayers to God for them, to help a family be with this little, sick boy. The people of Long Beach, Mississippi need volunteers to help rebuild their community. Twenty-five people answered the call and depart at the end of week to offer themselves in service to those in need. We all need support. We, as a church, continually care for one another through our acts of compassion, our prayers, and genuine love for one another.

These acts of faith are not taking the easy route, but following the path that Christ took in the wilderness. Choosing to follow the call of God, not the temptations of the world. It was be so easy to just hear a need and then go back to focusing on ourselves. But, this is not what we choose to do. We choose to take the road less traveled and offer ourselves up to service in God’s kingdom.

As we continue on our Lenten journey over these next weeks leading to the cross, let us remember God is always with us. Christ walked this journey ahead of us, facing all of the temptations of this world. When we are facing temptations of our own, we can know and trust that Christ has been there. We need to continue to trust that God will bring us through it all. We cannot walk this journey alone. God is with us and we are with each other. We are not alone. Standing up to the world like Christ is not easy and that’s the point. This journey of faith is not an easy one, but when we trust in God’s grace & mercy, it is not an impossible one. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Life of Ministry

I'm tired. I've been working really hard over these last few weeks! Last week, a close friend of my pastor's son died. Dominic was only 10 years old & he died from complications of leukemia. He died within a day & half of diagnosis. Our church opened its doors to the family & grieving community for the funeral. There were over 500 people in our building last Thursday morning for the service. I was particularly touched by the efforts of LPC people to help out with whatever was needed. They really do know what it means to be church. The service was beautiful & meaningful for those who were in attendance- celebrating the life of a great kid, who died way too soon.

Unfortunately, with all of that happening, we seemed to have lost a week! Lent came on too fast this year. The time between Advent and now went way too quickly. Now, we are getting ready for everything that is happening during this season, not to mention the fact I am headed out of town on Monday night for two weeks! I fly to San Diego, CA on Monday to attend APCE for the week. I am so looking forward to warmer weather, palm trees, and time spent with other Presbyterians! On the 16th, I will fly from CA to Gulfport, MS to meet up with 24 others from LPC. We are spending the week in Mississippi working with the ongoing Katrina relief efforts. I really am looking forward to that week! It will be hard work, but well worth the effort.

On top of it all, I am writing a sermon to preach this Sunday morning. It is the first Sunday of Lent and the text is Jesus' 40 days being tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). I guess it is coming along...or it will be when I spend some time working this afternoon. If you are curious or have free time on your hands, you can read my sermons from my year at LPC at our website: Look under the Pastor's Message tab at the top of the page, scroll down to Sermon Archives.

Oh, did I mention that LPC is hosting homeless women in our building at night for these two weeks? Yes, there is a program here in Laurel called Winterhaven. Local churches volunteer during the winter months to host either women or men in our buildings- provide dinner, a warm place to sleep, breakfast and a packed lunch for the next day. It is a wonderful mission of this community. We are averaging 3-4 women each night. Another local church is hosting the men and they are having 25-30 men each night. I will be spending the night at the church tonight with another member. I figure it is the least I can do to help out.

Needless to say, there is a lot happening right now. Not to mention all of the normal stuff- writing liturgy, selecting hymns, attending tons of evening meetings, and producing the weekly enewsletter.

I am tired. Ministry is a full time job and not a 9 to 5. It is full of moments of joy and moments of heartbreak. There is a certain level of uncertainity- you never know what will happen next. I love it, even though I am tired. I love it, despite of the occasional 11 hour work days. I love the people. I love sharing God's good news. I feel blessed to have this opportunity.

Now, if I could just get a little nap....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shed a Little Light

I've recently been listening to a great song "Shed A Little Light" by James Taylor. I think it is rather appropriate for the times we are in, both in the world and in the Presbyterian Church (USA). We are all bound together- all men and women- living on the earth. Yet, all we see are our differences and life in fear of the other. We should be open to all people, especially in the church. I feel the church is the place where all should be welcomed into the community. It distresses me greatly when we shut people out because of race, color, sexual orientation, socio-economic situations, etc. I pray for the day to come when the doors of churches will be wide open and all feel welcome to enter inside.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

100 things that bring me delight

  1. a really good cup of tea
  2. walking through a bookstore
  3. funky indie coffeehouses
  4. cats curling up on blankets
  5. Chinese take out
  6. phone calls from dear friends
  7. subways
  8. God moments
  9. walking down the street in big cities
  10. reading a book on my couch under blankets
  11. random road trips
  12. a good glass of wine
  13. the feeling after finishing a sermon
  14. IKEA
  15. filling up a bookshelf
  16. james joyce with friends
  17. fellini’s pizza with banana peppers
  18. text messaging
  19. finding new places
  20. free wi-fi
  21. looking at houses
  22. New York City
  23. old friends
  24. reading the Washington Post
  25. wandering around art museums
  26. taking photographs
  27. eating Indian curry chicken the night before tgiving with the fam
  28. baby Micah
  29. dark chocolate
  30. down pillows & comforters
  31. red walls
  32. wearing pearls
  33. Gilmore Girls marathons
  34. hearing my fav songs on the radio
  35. dreaming of buying a hybrid car
  36. planning my future
  37. using crazy fonts
  38. laughing with friends
  39. Sex & the City nights at Whit’s
  40. a good margarita
  41. yelling at the tv when republicans are debating
  42. discussing politics
  43. my big red mug
  44. the sound of the ocean
  45. finding out a pub serves blue moon on tap
  46. spending time with friends
  47. traveling on an airplane
  48. people watching
  49. long sleeve shirts from Gap
  50. my favorite pair of blue jeans
  51. crocs!
  52. dinner invites
  53. getting home after a long day
  54. joy in learning something new
  55. window shopping in fancy stores
  56. Vera Bradley
  57. watching my West Wings dvds
  58. the ways love comes into life
  59. daydreaming
  60. Real Simple magazine
  61. light reflecting on wooden floors
  62. kind people
  63. smiles on children’s faces
  64. getting a good parking space
  65. wandering aisles of Target
  66. riding on carousels
  67. feeling of accomplishment
  68. squirrels chasing each other
  69. generosity
  70. meeting new people
  71. enthusiasm about peacemaking
  72. being independent
  73. challenging people in sermons
  74. knowing I don’t need a man to be complete
  75. visiting dc
  76. having a permanent card to ride the subways
  77. listening to good music
  78. watching steam rise from a cup
  79. staying warm inside on a cold day
  80. sunny days
  81. bed & breakfasts
  82. looking at photographs
  83. facebook
  84. my internship church
  85. sleeping in on Saturday mornings
  86. a change of pace
  87. studying greek
  88. wearing a robe & stole
  89. my tiffany silver ring
  90. having my hair shampooed at the salon
  91. eating delicious food
  92. bagel places
  93. marc’s crazy animal shirts
  94. time away from school
  95. watching water shoot out of fountains
  96. handwritten letters & cards
  97. surfing wikapedia for info
  98. post secret
  99. modern art
  100. tea presses