Friday, September 29, 2006

Fasting and Failing

Well, I am trying fasting again on this lovely, sunny Friday. Two weeks ago, my attempts at fasting ended in my driving to Ruby Tuesdays at 3 in the afternoon, consuming a large plate of fried appetizers, and then feeling like a total failure.

Last night, as I was praying/falling asleep (don't they go together at night?), it occurred to me that tomorrow is Friday and it would be a good idea to try fasting again. So I resolved to try. It is now after 2p.m., so I am coming down the home stretch. I have thus far survived the temptation of breakfast, the preschool baking banana bread, and having a lunch meeting in which I drank water. It might even be easier for me to schedule a lunch meeting and announce I am fasting... that is some good accountability!

As I was thinking about fasting this morning, and why I am drawn to this discipline, a few things came to mind. First,I am drawn to fasting because it makes me feel that I am doing something serious/real/important/extreme(?) to live out my faith. That feels rather self centered! But it is true. Also true is that I do want to be more God centered. And fasting is supposed to be a way of focusing on the only real need I have: my need for God.

Second, I like the idea of dedicating a day of fasting and prayer to a particular cause or concern. This morning, I settled on asking God to help me identify with and pray for people who aren't fasting by choice...they are just plain hungry today.

Third, I have this sense that if I can just get practiced at this fasting thing, I will discover there is a depth of God's presence somehow entangled with fasting that can only be experienced by practicing fasting. I have not yet arrived there... but I remain hopeful! I have, however, discovered that there is a depth of back pain that goes with fasting. My chiropractor says that abdominal pain (aka: hunger) is often referred to the lower back. I try to remind myself that part of the purpose of fasting on Friday is to identify with Christ's suffering on the cross.

I remember reading someone's account of committing to fasting once per week for a year. She wrote that it took her many months to get beyond the surface level and get any serious spiritual insight from it. She was glad she had made the commitment to keep fasting once per week for a year. Here's hoping...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I have been trying to write a post for the past hour. (And this is not the post I worked on.) Because the first family computer arrived in our home in the early 80s, I learned to use a keyboard before a mouse was standard. As a result, I am as likely to use keystroke commands as I am a mouse. Tonight, my keystrokes have failed me. I have accidentally deleted parts of that post two separate times. I am tired of rewriting what I have already written! Perhaps it is the Spirit trying to persuade me not to publish that post!

So, I am going to bed soon. But first, I going to write about how I see God working in our community.

First, an update on the rotating homeless shelter. Both Town Point and Trinity voted to support hosting the shelter at Town Point for 7 days, provided we have the servants to support the effort. We are gathering names of volunteers now, and a final vote will be the 2nd Tuesday of October. Both meetings were Spirit filled. There is no question that this is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). I think there is also no question that this is the Spirit of Christ. Jesus is rather literally knocking on our door, asking if we will give him a refuge from the winter cold. I am so grateful to see the community in which I am blessed to pastor stepping out in faith to welcome people.

Second, it is such a blessing to see how God is using Jacob's Well. I had a conversation this week with a new person at JW, and she talked about much of a blessing it is for her, and how much life and excitement she sees present. Our average attendance since the mailing went out at Labor Day has been 140. Several of the leaders gathered tonight to work on logistics, and God continues to lift up new servants to fill more roles. Today, an article about Jacob's Well was published in Leading Ideas, which is a newsletter published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Seminary. I received emails from people all over with encouragement and/or questions...very cool. What a tremendous reminder of how much work the Spirit is doing in our midst. I get so bogged down in the details sometimes, I don't rejoice in the big picture enough. As Lori Goldsmith reminds me well, growing pains are good pains.

Finally, I met with Patrick today about creating a new video ministry. We even thought of a possible name: Video Pericope. Pericope refers to a passage of Scripture. What do you think? Our first project is going to be about God's grace, and we are going to use an image of a front porch, front door, and then buying and moving into the house to describe God's grace before we know it's there (front porch-prevenient grace)...God's grace when we come to faith (walking through the door, deciding to move in- justifying grace)...and God's grace when we continue the journey of faith (moving our stuff into the house and living there- sanctifying grace) This is a very different place from where we began. Again, it felt very Spirit led. (Thanks to Steve Manskar for the imagery I read in his book Accountable Discipleship.)

So thanks be to God and good night.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rotating Homeless Shelter

If you read the post on August 25, Grieving God's Heart, you know about the homeless situation in Elkton. The Meeting Ground is the non profit parent of two of the three homeless shelters in our County. They are spear heading a movement among the churches to establish a rotating homeless shelter that would move from church to church from November 7 to March 18.

The churches will offer the shelter between 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. We would pick up folks from a designated place, transport them to the shelter site, and then take them back in the morning. The church would provide dinner, breakfast, and a bag lunch for 20-25 men, women, and children. The guests would be screened by the Meeting Ground and required to adhere to shelter rules. In addition to providing shelter from the cold, the shelter would provide a place for homeless folks to connect with social services to work to move them into jobs, housing, and addiction treatment.

We will be discussing this at the Administrative Council meetings at Town Point (7p.m. 9/19) and Trinity (7p.m.9/26). My hope is that we will decide to host 2-3 weeks of the 25 weeks the shelter is open. It will take a volunteer team of site supervisor and 15-20 servants to make this happen for the week.

I am interested to hear feedback and ideas from within and outside of our community.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sabbath Blessed Me

After so many posts on Sabbath, I have to write about what a blessing my Sabbath day was yesterday. I take Mondays as my Sabbath. I had been feeling somewhat overwhelmed and behind and therefore in a generally lousy mood for several days. So I journaled. I prayed. I fasted. I brooded. I wished. I contemplated why exactly God had called me to be a pastor (and then remembered, which is helpful.)

Then I spent Monday resting on the Sabbath. My husband let me sleep in (he is such a blessing). I took some time to run some errands just for me (Ray took Shannon to preshcool and kept Jacob with him for errands. Did I mention he is a blessing?) We had a nice family lunch together; Shannon helped me make brushcetta. We all took took naps. Then we went to my sister's for dinner, and the kids all had a great time playing together. Sara made a special dessert that was fabulous.

And when I awoke this morning, I found that I feel generally better! Sabbath is so wonderful.

In the midst of all of this, I have also realized that I MUST keep my office more clean, because it contributes to feeling overwhelmed. So, the 2005 mail is my first step...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Five

I am part of a webring called revgalblogpals. They sell a TShirt I might need to own: "Does this pulpit make my butt look big?"

If you look at the side bar of this blog, you'll notice the link. It is a group of clergy and laity, mostly women, who share in life and ministry through posts on line. I have never participated in the Friday Five, but I am joining in today. It is a question or questions that each person answers on their own blog. Since I am feeling scattered and kind of funky, I found the question to be God sent. It is: "What are five things you have enjoyed this week?"

1. Being at the beach. We came home from a week's vacation at the beach on Monday. The coming home part was not so much fun. But the being on the beach part, after many days of rain thanks to Tropical Storm Ernesto- priceless.

2. Snuggling my children. This one always makes the list. I love snuggling.

3. Talking in a class at Wesley Seminary on Wednesday. Dr. Scott Kisker asked me to come and share my experiences with covenant discipleship groups in the local church for the introductory class. I really enjoyed it.

4. Going to the National Zoo. After Wesley, I spent the night with my family at my mother's house outside of D.C. So Thursday we spent on the metro and walking around the National Zoo. The kids are at an age of absolute wonder. I enjoyed seeing the kids enjoy the animals. (On a side note I have always suspected there is something slightly wrong with me- I have never been fascinated with animals.)

5. Celebrating my husband's 35th birthday. He turned 35 on Wednesday. We have more celebrating left to do, since I was at the Seminary that day. The kids and grandparents had a birthday cake together...and of course we went to the zoo.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I was on vacation at South Bethany Beach, DE this past week. It did not rain for almost all of August...and we went on vacation with Tropical Depression Ernesto. I refused to allow it to depress my spirits and still had a wonderful vacation. We actually made it onto the beach for four of the seven days. The beach really is quite lovely without all of that hot sun!

One of the things that happens to me when I am on vacation is that I get out my routine with everything...including spiritual disciplines. I used to beat myself up about this. But for the past few years, I've been trying to take the advice of my spiritual director, who almost always closed our sessions by saying "Amy, stop being so hard on yourself."

So rather than worry about my routine, I have tried to look for evidence of God's grace in new ways. I love to walk on the beach. As I walked on Wednesday, amidst the gathering storm, the wind was whipping my hair around and I thought about the wind of the Spirit. I felt as though the Spirit was swirling around me, evidenced by the wind and waves. I was reminded of David McAllister Wilson, President of Wesley Seminary, when he talked about the church remembering how to breathe. We breathe in and exhale the Spirit all of the time, yet we can become strangely unaware of it's presence. As the wind swirled, I felt as though God was surrounding me in every conceivable direction from within and without.

I thought, too, about how the Spirit is often most palpable when a storm is gathering. It is not in the calm, easy places of life that I am most keenly aware of God's presence. It is in the swirling, churning, wind whipped times that I can feel God most powerfully.