Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Prayer and Binkys

My daughter just prayed her first spontaneous, independent prayer tonight. Shannon said to me, "Ok Mommy. Repeat after me. Dear..." and I said "dear" she said "God"...and I said "God" "please"..."please"... "help"..."help"... "me"..."me"
"Not to think about my binkys...
And help me not to be sad
Even though it's ok to be sad
Help me not to think about them."

And I repeated it after her. Just like we do with the Lord's Prayer and Apostle's Creed every night.

She is four. She has been completely without them for about six months. For about a year before that, she was down to just sleeping time. And she still occasionally cries about them. It was her idea to give them up. We had told her that she would give them up when she turned four, which was April 30.

But when she was 3 1/2 she decided she was a big enough girl to go ahead and give them up. It was her second major decision in life (first was using the potty). And she has regretted giving them up ever since.

On the day before her fourth birthday, she cried that she wished she had kept her binkys until that day. She has cried for them about once per week since. Last week, she told my husband Ray, between sobs, that the reason she is so sad is because she knows they are never coming back.

It has been heartbreaking, heartwarming, and funny all at the same time to live through this drama.

Tonight, her prayer gave me hope.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mind Block

I have been struggling lately to think of topics for this blog. I think I expect too much of myself. So rather than work myself into a frenzy about trying to think of something wonderfully insightful and inspiring, I am going to just write and see what happens!

I had a God moment today centered around the Twila Paris song "How Beautiful." I was so hooked on singing it in the car, that I got out my Emmaus song book and began singing and driving in an attempt to memorize the words. I was reminded of a report of a study that singing creates vibrations that release endorphins. So basically, singing to myself in the car really can put me in a better place.

Back to "How Beautiful." When I walked into the office, I mentioned to Sandy, the Administrative Assistant, that the song was stuck in my head. She said she loves the song, and had just ordered the soundtrack for accompaniment to sing. So I asked her if she would like to sing on Sunday! It felt like a God moment.

I find that I am really looking forward to worship this month of June. The first Sunday of June is Pentecost, one of my favorite days. Then the following week, Jack Shitama is preaching on the DaVinci Code, while I am at Annual Conference. Then Father's Day weekend, Four For Him is going to sing. They are an amazing men's quartet who sing a capella. Then the last Sunday of June, a Harps to Halos, a Blues ministry, is going to sing. God has really brought us all sorts of blessings!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


At our leadership retreat on Saturday, I brought four Bibles with me, in case someone (or four someones) forgot theirs. As I was looking at the Bibles I brought, I realized they were my four favorites. These four are all New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), because I love NRSV. It was pretty amazing they were all gathered together in one place. They usually live more separate lives.

There is my blue leather bound slimline NRSV. It does the most traveling, which is what it is designed for. It was given to me in 1997 by first mentor, but not in the usual way. She had it lying spare in her office when I was lamenting the fact that I could not find a slimline NRSV to save my life. (NRSV is the best version in my opinion, but it does not have the best marketing minds attached it. The NIV does. So the NRSV gets short shrift in varieties available.) The reason she had it lying around was that a pastor had forgotten it at some retreat, and before she could return it to him, he died. It has random things underlined in it by a man whose name I do not even know, because my mentor served her first 30 years of ministry in New York. Since it was given to me by a mentor, and has this added layer of mystique and holy residue that I imagine must be there from a pastor who served God many years and went home, combined with the fact they are no longer printed, it has a special place in my heart.

Next is my first ever study Bible. It has a black zip cover, and Bible tabs which I added because I learned the order of the books when I used this Bible. This Bible came into my life before the slimline NRSV, when I was first taking Disciple Bible Study in 1995. I don't open this Bible so much anymore, because the study notes are now somewhat outdated. But I remember buying it at Borders, and reading it every week for Bible study. I remember how much the cover and Bible tabs somehow made me feel like more of a Christian, when I was still uncomfortable with what that meant and whether I wanted to call myself one. It will always have a special place in my heart. This was the Bible that was with me when I came to my adult faith. It is also the Bible with which I began Seminary. Whenever my roommate or I were caught somewhere without a Bible, we would joke "Bibles are heavy." This Bible was my reason for making such jokes.

Third is my current study Bible. It is the New Interpreter's Study Bible. All of the notes have been updated and the scholars who worked on it are the world's best. It's the reason I don't use my original study Bible. (If you want to check it out, go to:'s%20Study%20Bible&pid=278325) It has only been in my life for about four years, so we are still getting to know each other. But it has been through many Bible studies and sermon preparations, and it has lost its paper cover. If I lost this Bible, I would immediately replace it, but it has not yet reached the sentimental level that my original study Bible has. If I lost this study Bible, another copy would suffice. If I lost my original study Bible, another copy could never take its place.

Finally, there is my Spiritual Formation Bible. (I recommend this one too: ) This is the one I use for prayer when I am praying in my office. It has been with me since about 1999 I think, but also has not achieved the sentimental status. It is getting there though. I give it another few years.

I wonder how many other people have Bible stories like mine

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wrapped in Love

Aunt Barbara knits the most wonderful sweaters for the children in our family. She knits year round in preparation for Christmas sweater giving. Every time I put one of these sweaters on my children, I feel like I am wrappping them in love. It is if by putting the sweater on them, it announces to the world: "this child is loved!"

Baptism is supposed to be like this. The waters wash over us, and the Spirit settles upon us. It identifies us as beloved, cherished children of God. We are people worth dying for.
Martin Luther (founder of the Protestan Remformation and main reason all Christians are not either Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christians) used to get in the shower, and as the water washed over him, he would say to himself "I am baptized."

What if every time I took a shower and put on clothes, I stopped to feel loved, cherished, wrapped in God's arms? I think God would be pleased.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I have begun to love to garden. Before moving to Chesapeake City in 2003 I had no experience gardening. None. I was not even interested. I was fond of saying that if there was a law against killing green things, I would be in jail. It's still mostly true.

But something about living on nearly an acre of land, with a patch that is ragged looking from all the previous vegetable gardens that occupied the plot when other pastors lived here...well, it got me started.

I'm still not much of a gardener. And if past habits hold true, I really only love it until while the weather is comfortably below 90 degrees and the weeds are not overwhelming.

I also have the easiest garden around. It's really a community garden. This is because George Park tills it, and periodically puts grass clippings down to keep away weeds. And if I get really pathetic, Barbara Park has been known to weed for me. I am grateful for church folks as neighbors who love to be outdoors.

Today, I actually went outside and measured my garden plot. Then I checked the plant tags to see how much space they each say they need.

I had a blast at the plant store on Thursday. Red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, okra, eggplant, red bell peppers, jalepeno peppers, yellow wax hot peppers, zucchini and squash. And for the first time this year, I planted SEEDS. Green beans, and carrots. I even threw in some basil and oregano, just to see if I could score some good herbs. Hey, why not, right?

So, I plotted it out and guess what? I can fit in almost all of the plants! Joy of joys.

I think there is really something to simple pleasures, and seeing them as such. I am hopeful that in addition to some good eats, I will have some good insights as I garden.

The whole idea of bringing life and food is spellbinding.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Community of Branches

It's Sunday night again, so I have today's sermon on my mind. Today the Scripture was the vine and the branches from John 15- Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. I read the New Interpretter's Bible Commentary about it this week, and it was insightful.

The image of the community being intertwined and interdependent, and that it requires this interdependency to bear fruit is definitely counter cultural. To experience the fullness of Christ, I have to be abiding in the vine, be a part of a community that surrounds and sustains me, and vice versa. It goes against our culture's rugged individualism. It goes against the idea that a person does not truly need a church family.

I am fond of saying that it is too hard to be a Christian all by myself, without the support of other Christians. That is what Jesus seems to be saying.

So when it comes to asking myself whether I am abiding in Jesus, and bearing fruit, and showing love (all important questions), the first question is: "is my community abiding in the vine and known for it's love? Are the branches I am intertwined with bearing the fruit of love?"

The vine and branches imagery is counter cultural in a second way- it lacks a hierarchy. There is no pecking order. Every one is the same before God. When I look at ivy, it is hard to follow one branch. I see multiple branches woven together. I am reminded of iconographers of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Historically, they do not sign their beautiful art work. It's considered taking credit for what God does through them. This type of humility, rooted in the belief that all are beloved by God, all use God given gifts, where there is no expectation of individual recognition, is certainly different. And challenging.

What would it look like if the average American church family took such things seriously? For me, it would mean abiding in the vine more deeply, for it would be my only source of affirmation.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Getting in the way of blooming

Fran posted a comment about Forsythia that got me thinking. She noted that the forsythia which survive but do not bloom are the plants in the low lying areas that get too much water. She thought of the rich young ruler, and wondered if part of the reason we don't go into full bloom in our lives is becuase we have too much.

I know this particular parable well enough that without looking it up, I remember it says that something along the lines of Jesus, looking at him and loving him, told him to "go and sell his posessions and give the money to the poor and follow me." The reason I know this is because this Scripture has always challenged me.

If memory serves, it is the only place in Scripture where it explicitly states that Jesus looked at someone,and loved him, and then gave a specific instruction. The rich guy went away sad, becuase he had lots of posessions. We are left with the understanding that he did not follow Jesus' instruction.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with Tom at Town Point. He was recently returned from Mexico, and impressed by both their poverty and their joy in life. I have heard such things from person after person who travels to the developing world. People with little by American standards in terms of material stuff are abundantly rich in terms of what most of us truly seek.

Scripture is clear on this point: money and stuff cannot buy happiness. Yet every day, we are bombarded with the message that if we acquire enough material wealth, we will be happy. This is the essence of advertising.

I struggle to live this reality in my life, too, Fran. I try to live into the teaching of "gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can." This was John Wesley's teaching (founder of Methodism,18th century) and it means I should earn as much as I can by honest labor, be as thrify as I can, and give away as much as possible. Wesley lived on the same 28 pounds his entire life, and at the end of his life gave away hundreds of pounds every year.

I think Fran and Tom are onto something significant- less really is more.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Every time I drive down 213 toward Town Point Road, I think about the forsythia on the side of the road. They border the Lovett farm, and create a beautiful barrier when they are in bloom.

I did not begin to really pay much attention to plant life until after I graduated from college and got married. I can remember the first spring that I noticed forsythia. Their brilliant yellow flowers are awesome.

I remember thinking "how could I have never noticed these plants before?" Later that spring I saw my answer: after they bloom, they become rather mundane looking green bushes. Unless one is paying attention, they are rather unremarkable.

So I used to say that I like forsythia when they bloom, but otherwise I am not so fond of them.

The forsythia on 213 have changed my perspective. This long border of forsythia has been planted for 3 seasons now. When they were first planted there, they were all twiggy little plants spaced rather far apart. Now, there are stretches of big, lush, beautfiul bushes. But there are also interspersed stretches of scruffy little bushes that are almost no bigger than when they first arrived.

As the big forsythia bloomes, the scruffy twiggy ones looked dead.

But then it came time for the yellow blosoms to be replaced by green leaves. And those scruffy, twiggy, dead looking bushes now have green leaves on them. What a testimony to the power of life. What a statement about the clinging stubbornly to hope, even when it looks like death, in whatever form, has arrived.

To me, it is a resurrection story.