Thursday, April 26, 2007


I have been thinking about "failures" lately. It has been coming up a lot in the past few weeks (which often means it's the Spirit).

Last week, I met a woman who had been the pastor of a new church start in Miami. When she arrived, it had been struggling for its first five years of existence. In the two years in which she served as pastor, it became a recovery ministry, reaching people struggling with addiction. Through this ministry, lives were literally and spiritually saved- people have been transformed. But because of its history and funding circumstances, it could not become a self supporting church in the two years she served. So it is being grafted together with another church family. It has been a work of the Spirit for all involved. The receiving church has been re-energized and the new church folks continue to be in vital recovery ministry.

She commented to me that in traditional terms, the new church was considered a "failure". I told her I struggle with that concept. Who is to say that a ministry which touches lives so deeply is a failure because it does not fit a standard definition?

Later the same week, I made a presentation about how God is working in our church family, especially as it relates to Jacob's Well. I commented that during launch and continuing to the present, I often feel unsure of how to accomplish things. I trust completely in the Spirit and in our gathered team to accomplish what God set before us, while being as informed and faithful as I know how to be. But it never feels like enough. This keeps me clear about who is really doing all of this- God.

One of the people there commented to me afterwards that this was the most encouraging thing I said- it was a relief to know I was no "expert" but someone striving and learning faithfully. (As a side note, I think this is why church workshops can be so discouraging. The presenters always come off as always having everything together and on the ball. Surely that cannot be true for the vast majority of us?)

Then I had a conversation with a friend on Saturday. I talked about how I spend most of my time feeling like we are teetering on the edge of a cliff. The Spirit has not let us fall yet. I also talked about how I think "failures" (world's definition) have been the fertile soil of God's most significant work. She commented she was very relieved to hear that.

If our church family had not had a Saturday night service that lasted a few years, and then a Sunday night prayer and praise service for a few years, I don't think Jacob's Well would have been launched. It was in the soil of those ministries in which Jacob's Well took root. They were not failures, but rather ministries that lasted a season. They were one of the many ways the soil was prepared for new growth.

In 2004, our church family went through the process of trying to buy land on Route 213. The seller refused to sell to us because of the amount of time it would take for perk tests and zoning requests. I know now that it was not God's timing to buy that parcel. Within six months of the sale falling through, God raised up a person who owns more land on 213. She would find total joy in selling us her land. I pray that God will bring this to fruition sometime in the future.

Also, we are now beginning conversation about having a Blended Parish Ministry structure for Town Point, Trinity, and Jacob's Well. If this is how God is moving, we would become unified in membership, administrative structure, and church with three locations. Some of the seeds of these possibilities were planted in the "failure" to acquire the land in 2004.

Finally, I think about how we voted at Town Point to not host the rotating homeless shelter there. God then used so many of us across the Charge, on all sides of the issue, to serve the homeless in other the Generation Station, at St. Paul's, at Trinity, and in relationship with folks regardless of where the shelter was hosted on a given week. In the seeds of that very difficult time, God nurtured existing seeds and planted new seeds for tremendous ministry among the homeless.

I don't yet know what the future will bring. I am certain that whatever the outcome, God will use it for God's purpose.

I am reminded of a phrase that was on our front sign for a few weeks: "Nothing that is done for God is ever lost."

I am also reminded of one of my favorite passages from the books of Acts, which came up in the lectionary a few weeks ago. It is the account of the apostles being brought before the council and persecuted for preaching about Jesus. The council was debating how to proceed, and one of their leaders said this:
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, ‘Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’
Acts 4:34-39

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Today, I went to Seaford, DE to be a part of a workshop on worship. I was not scheduled to arrive until the first third of the event was over. When I arrived, I asked the host pastor how the first part of the day had gone; it had been their contemporary worship service. He said it had been good, with the exception of one difficult person who had asked a question about contemporary praise music lacking the good theology of hymns.

Hind sight being what it is, I have found myself wishing I had been there for that part of the discussion. I agree with the person asking the question: our hymns have much better theology than most (though not all) praise music. As one of my friends said later, there is a reason it is called "7-11" music: it is 7 words repeated 11 times. But he and I both still love it.

I come out of a contemporary church and I have come to deeply love traditional music too. But when it comes to sheer emotion, experiencing the joy of singing my heart out to God, praise music is what makes my heart sing most often.

I don't think this has anything to do with the inherent nature of praise music in a rock style, or classical music of many hymns. It is simply about the style I have listened to most. Because for me that happens to be praise/rock style, I am more likely to experience soaring joy while singing the style of music with which I am most familiar. (I also experience it singing many hymns.)

I am thinking about a boy I dated in High School. He loved Led Zepplin. I was less than enthused. He shared with me his theory that any human being could come to love any style of music, if they listened to it frequently enough. I think he is right! Led Zepplin grew on me and to this day I like it. Had I not dated him and listened to it just about every moment we were together, I don't think that would be the case. A similar thing has happened for me with hymns- many of them I adore because they help me feel God's presence.

Worship music is about connecting with God on an experiential level. It does also accomplish theological teaching, but that is not why people love to sing. People love to sing because it is a window into the Divine. I don't think that aspect of music should be under valued for the sake of theology because there are other ways to teach theology.

That said, couldn't we have our cake and eat it too? I am United Methodist, so Charles Wesley is the premier hymn writer of my tradition. His hymns, both the ones in the hymnal and the hundreds more not published there but otherwise available, were often set to the contemporary music of his day: bar tunes. This was done to accomplish the same goal of contemporary worship- to help people experience God by speaking in the language of the people. And the theology is truly outstanding.

Couldn't we find a gifted musician to set Charles Wesley hymn texts, perhaps somewhat adapted, to modern rock music? I think it could be awesome.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Happy Easter!

Yes, I know, we celebrated on April 8. But I am on a personal crusade to remind/teach the world that Easter is actually 50 days long.

So, that means that my Easter reflections are...right on time.

Holy Week and Easter were quite a blessing. (The week following, I took it easy, hence, no blogging.) The Maundy Thursday worship, with the drama focused on Mary the Mother of Jesus after the crucifixion was amazing. God really used Marian Harvey especially. The Saturday night Easter vigil was also tremendous. There were more than 70 folks gathered together for the "passover" of Jesus from death to life. We began outside with the fire, moved inside for scripture at stations, then onto the Commitment to Christian Community by the first folks to join Jacob's Well, and finally communion, prayer, and baptism remembrance stations with anointing. But we were still not done. We had a special offering for JuJu, our worship leader at Jacob's Well, who needed help getting back to South Africa. God provided $1,000...and an amazing song. JuJu wrote this:

Jacob's Well

Verse 1:
We came in hurt, we were all lost,
but you paid the cost
For all the wrong that we had done
you sacrificed your Son
And as we gather in this place
you fill us with your grace and love
O we need your Spirit Lord
It's our prayer, we ask in one accord

O this is our cry Lord,Love
So this is our prayer Lord, More
It's the place where hearts become restored
Our sins at the altar Lord we lay
Close to you is where we want to stay
In your presence we all want to dwell
Lord we pray, fill up Jacob's Well

Verse 2:
Our lives and love we give to you
Your Spirit helps us through
And in your arms we want to stay
Each and every day
So take this offering of of praise
It is from our hearts and souls
We still need your Spirit Lord
It's our prayer, we ask in one accord

As we gather here, we open our doors
May the weak and hurt find peace inside these walls
And as a family we stand tall and we proclaim
This church will not be shaken
We stand in Jesus' name
He recorded it at Ross and Gina's house (thank you God) and it has been stuck in my head since Easter.
What an amazing blessing to watch God work in our Church's hard to believe that Jacob's Well is now a year old.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mommy, can we....

"Mommy, can we have family Bible study after you put Jacob to bed?"

These are the words of my daughter. She is almost five years old. Times like these make me want to pinch myself and be sure I am really living this life, being her mother. I truly believe that God has given me a precious, amazing gift in Shannon. She seems hardwired to want to learn about God, and to be as loving and good as any child her age is capable of being.

Honestly, her words put me to shame that she has to request such things of me. We always pray at night before bed, and at meal time. We have several children's Bibles she regularly moves among for story time. But our family Bible study and prayer time is sporadic at best. I am resolving to do better.

Two children's class leaders at church have commented to me in the past two weeks that Shannon has been so talkative in class discussion time. I give most all of the credit to our Sunday School. She really soaks up the stories in there.

Today, when I came home, she was playing "funeral" asking what words she needs to say to begin the funeral service.

I am beginning to suspect that God is up to something here... as hard as I try not to imagine my children's future for them, believing that is up to God to reveal to them... it's hard not to imagine that God has something ministry related planned for this child.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Prayer for Holy Week

I just saw this on the revgalblogpals blog and found it so moving,
that I am sharing it here too.

Lord Jesus Christ,
in this sacred and solemn week
when we see again the depth and mystery of your redeeming love,
help us to follow where you go,
to stop where you stumble,
to listen when you cry,
to hurt as you suffer,
to bow our heads in sorrow as you die,
so that, when you are raised to life again,
we may share in your endless joy.

(from the United Church of Canada worship resource, "Celebrating God's Presence" UCPH, 2000)