Thursday, December 11, 2014

On the Road to Recovery

I am finally back in the office after my surgery in November. I am still really tired, but able to do work and for that I am thankful. I even was able to get back in the pulpit and preach again this week!
(You can find a link to an audio recording here.)

I was able to take communion out to some of our shut ins this week and was blessed as usual by the experience. I've also jumped head long into Advent and all the goodies that go with it, including a evening of prayer stations, hanging of the green, and women's Christmas party. soon I will add caroling, live nativity, Angel Tree luncheon, Lessons and Carols and Christmas Eve service. Then finally some time with family. 

Its amazing how jam packed these weeks leading up to Christmas become, even when consciously trying to maintain some family time and boundaries. When I add in all three kids Christmas Parties at school and a ten year old's birthday celebration (last week!) it seems as if I'm not waiting for Advent, I'm chasing after it!!

So I will try to slow down, to listen for the still small voice. To not become overwhelmed by deadlines and other peoples expectations. I will try to experience the hope, peace, Joy & love of the Advent season for what they are rather then what I hope others will get out of them!
That's the best I can do today.

I pray it is enough.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 10

Prompt frorm RevGalBlogPals:
Post a photo of what you can see out a window- any window. What do you notice in the picture that you didn't just looking out?

This is a picture just taken out of my office window @ church.
I hadn't noticed how much the swing set needs to be re-stained!

IF:Equip Day 41

IF:Equip Genesis 25:13-26

Video commentary by Dot Bowen & Cheryl Bell can be found here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
Okay, I'm just going to say it, God has got to have some wicked sense of humor! Here are all these kids and none of them get along. And now, after Issac has prayed for 20 years for his wife to have a baby she has two, that can't get along and are born literally grasping at one another! It gives me hope for some of our more cantankerous Christians out there!
God works out the story of the world and of salvation through imperfect occasionally downright hostile people. It's not the sweet sugary candy coated stuff of fairy tales. It's nitty gritty reality. It gives me even more faith that God really has been active. After all if your going to make up stuff about God interacting with humanity, you are going to pick better humans to be a part of the story!

What does it mean about me?
That struggles are a part of life, deal with them. That being the first born doesn't mean you will get all of the supposed benefits. That God's love and plan for the world can overcome anything, even fighting siblings!

What does it mean about the world?
There is still hope for this world. We struggle, we war, we hold one another in contempt. But God is our loving parent seeking to bring about salvation and wholeness. What joy there is in offering yourself to be a part of that process!

IF:Equip Day 40

IF:Equip Genesis 25:1-11

Video commentary by Rebekah Lyons & Debbie Eaton can be view here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God gave Abraham a good long life, and he who was father of only two, and only one by Sarah, became the father of many sons with his third wife. Funny how I've never heard her spoken about before. God promised Abraham a legacy and allowed him to see glimpses of it. I wonder if God told Abraham to send his other sons away because he knew the tensions that would develop between them and Issac if they stayed.
I also find it very interesting that Issac and Ishmael both buried their father. It speaks to a certain level of reconciliation between the brothers if not between Abraham and Ishmael. How hard that must have been for them both!

What does it mean about me?
It makes me wonder who will be left to bury me. What kind of legacy did I leave behind? Will they be strains of reconciliation, like Issac and Ishmael coming together at least for this act? Or will there be distance, as the others are not mentioned? As a pastor who has led 8 funeral services in the past 12 months, I know how death can both separate and pull together. I hope that my life serves to promote wholeness and healing.

What does it mean about the world?
Abraham is the "father" of so many faiths, and we struggle to communicate with one another. Abraham lived only 175 years, which seems really long to us (compared to his ancestors was nothing!) but has forever affected the world in which we live. A few years of faithfulness goes a long way. We may never know the impact we have had on another's life, but if we allow God to lead us and be present with us, it could be long lasting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

NaBloPoMo number 7 aka Friday Five

It happened again this week. In a social setting, during a conversation with people that included some I had just met, I made a reference to the church I serve. “Oh!” one of the new acquaintances exclaimed, “I shouldn’t have said hell!” Sigh. This kind of projection can be so tiring, as can the general need to be mindful of how our words and actions are perceived as appropriate (or not). In light of that, I relish moments to myself when I can shed all such perceptions and projections and just be. Occasionally this involves what might be known as a guilty pleasure.

For this week’s Friday Five, share with us five “perception be damned!” pleasures in which you indulge. We promise we won’t judge, or tell. What happens at RevGals stays at RevGals.

1) a yummy glass of wine

2) a LONG bath

3) an expensive coffee

4) two Benadryl 

5) binge reading a series of books or binge watching a show on Netflix 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

IF: Equip Day 39

IF:Equip Genesis 24:55-67

Video Commentary by Alli Worthington & Amy Brown can be viewed here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God's plans are not our plans, God's ways are not our ways. God had a plan for Rebekah, but she had to be willing to go along with it. Not just go along, but actively participate. God offers us opportunities and choices but does not often force us into compliance. Rebekah could have said no, but she said yes.

What does it mean about me?
When am I saying no to God or not taking full advantage of the opportunities placed before me? How often do I act as if my actions are independent from God rather than perhaps a part of God's plan to help direct not only me, but those who will come after me? Do I have the kind of faith it takes to accept that God might have something in store for me that I do not expect? Do I have the bravery to believe in what I see God bringing from the horizon into my life?

What does it mean about the world?
Obviously the answer is if we were less self absorbed and paid more attention to God we would make better choices! At least that's what I should say right?
God has an overarching big scale plan for this earth and we are privileged to get to participate in just one tiny part of the story. But what we do in our part affects what goes on in other parts. We may not see exactly how God is using us to change someones life, but our faithfulness, or lack thereof will one day, perhaps sooner than we care to think, change the world for someone else.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 5

Here's today's prompt: If you could slow down an action that usually zooms by, or speed up an event that normally drags on, which would you choose, and why?

I would slow down an action that goes by to quickly. Specifically those quite moments spent with family and/or close friends where you are just sure that life doesn't get any better than this. With three children under the age of 10 there is so much that I want to slow down and hold on to and treasure just a wee bit longer. 

Those moments where my 9 year old daughter looks up at me and says "you're the best Mommy ever!" (even though 9-10 times it means she wants something) are going to have to get me through her crazy and tumultuous teenage years.

The time spent cuddling with my six year old daughter in the bed will quickly give way to sneaking hugs and kisses when no one is watching.

Big wet slobbery kisses and hugs from my two year old son will all to soon become a head nod or embarrassed wave from a big boy on the playground or ball field.

I want to store these moments up and keep them close so that when I am overwhelmed or overtired or over-frustrated I can remember these times of pure bliss.

And be thankful.

IF:Equip Day 38

IF:Equip Genesis 24:32-54

Video commentary by Esther Havens and Lindsey Nobles can be viewed here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God already knows what is best for us, God's just waiting for us to step up and be faithful. Rebekah was the girl with the right spirit and sense of hospitality to enter into this family. God was able to bless both families by this "Chance" encounter at a well. God's plans are always better than our plans. One day we will believe that and act on it!

What does it mean about me?
Looking back throughout my life I can see where God has turned me to the left and right. I can see where God has protected me and where God has allowed me to make poor choices and watched me deal with the consequences. My hope is that when others look at my life they can so obviously see God's presence as well. In my children, as they pray and bless others, in my husband who loves even the most unlovable, in the church I am blessed to serve with. I pray that people are in a better place after I spend time with them, at least a better mental and spiritual place!

What does it mean about the world?
If we lived our lives daily really convicted of God's plan and presence in our lives how might the world be changed for the better? But, as I said before, taking on the whole world is BIG, so how would those people who I have some level of influence on better if I really lived out the truth of the Gospel?

IF: Equip Day 37

If:Equip Genesis 24:15-31

Video commentary by Doris Bowen and Cheryl Bell can be viewed here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God had trusted the right man for the job. Abraham had taught his household about God, how to pray, how to listen. Abraham was living out his faith and those around him noticed. The servant doesn't hesitate to ask God for guidance and then to follow through. A relationship cultivated with God will show through to others.

What does it mean about me?
How well am I living a real relationship with God? True as a pastor people will associate me with God,but how do my closest relationships bare it out? Am I living a life that shows the influences around me, and are they good or negative influences?

What does it mean about the world?
The world can be shown what life in Christ looks like if we are faithful. Can we change the world? No. But we can help one person change their world and that could make the difference.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 4

I didn't see a prompt this morning, so I guess I'll have to wing it!

I am going to the doctor tomorrow to see if this doctor is willing to do the surgery i have scheduled for November 12th. My original doctor left the practice and now I'm scrambling to get things pulled together.
I have everything set up for being out of commission for two weeks between the 12th and November 30th. Now these plans might have to change and I'm not happy.
Instead of getting too worked up about it (okay, I've already done that) I'm trying to pray for my former Dr and for the one I'm meeting tomorrow. I'm trying to make my anxiety into a positive reminder for prayer. Not sure if its working, but I am putting in the effort.
My current mantra goes along with the little engine that could "I think they will, I think they will, I think they will!"
Speaking of engines, here my cute little train engineer from Halloween. (Random, but adorable!)

Monday, November 3, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day Three

Okay, so I'm late getting to it, but better late than never, right?
Write about a trip you have taken, one that may not have turned out as you planned but was nevertheless a gift.

At the end of December/beginning of January 2013/2014 we went on a trip with my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, kids and their kids. We all stayed in a three bedroom rental house. That's 11 people in a 3 bedroom house, unfortunately, my idea. 

My husband got sick within the first 24 hours. My son slept in his pack-in-play in a closet while his same age cousin slept in her pack-in-play in the laundry room. Hubby and I slept on an air mattress in the floor of the kitchen. Not ideal. 
 We did take the kids to the Alamo and tried to get that classic Alamo picture. It took a few tries.

We eventually wound up with one passable one.
While the trip was chaotic and crazy, it was great to spend time with family that is so spread out (New Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas)
It was a trip we will never forget, and hopefully never duplicate!!

IF:Equip Day 36

It's been a bit over a week, and I am trying to get back into the swing of things. Having surgery next week so may be unable to complete blogs for a bit.

IF:Equip Genesis 24:1-14

Video Commentary by Jennie Allen and Ann Voskamp can be viewed here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God follows through on God's promises. Time and again throughout Genesis the faithfulness of God even in the face of our unfaithfulness is highlighted. Abraham is seeking a wife for his son and trusts that God will provide. God is such a presence in the household of Abraham that even his servant prays for God's guidance and wisdom.

What does it mean about me?
How I live my faith can be shown by those who I come in contact with. My children pray when they see an ambulance rushing down the road, for the people they are helping and for the EMT's inside. They are learning from example, which is great! But they are also watching when i am not faithful, when I fail to put my trust where it should be. I want my children to find their own faith in God and to find helpmates who share that faith. I need to begin praying more diligently for that .

What does it mean about the world?
There is no where we can go where God is not! The promised land, the land of birth, and into unknown lands, God walks before us. There is such joy in acknowledging this reality for me. Especially as I enter into this surgery and recovery time. God is in the world and moving in the world and loving and healing and just being in the world. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

IF: Equip Day 28

If: Equip Genesis 19:23-29

Video commentary by Shauna Niequist & Annie Downs can be viewed here.

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God has amazing powers of mercy, but also of judgement. These people had stopped treating one another as fully human, with hospitality and kindness. When we cease to see the image of God in everyone we risk heading down the same path. God is too good to let that happen. God seeks so much more than that kind of life for us.

What does it mean about me?
Lot's wife turned to salt when she looked back. How many things do I look back on and become immovable?  What things/relationships has God rescued me from that I can't seem to let go of? Where in my life is God calling me to turn away and where do I need to distance myself more completely?

What does it mean about the world?
We have been rescued, yet we turn back and long for the old ways. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Sometimes I think the spirit is pretty weak too! We are not grateful for our rescue instead we whine about how good others have it, or what we are missing out on, rather than rejoicing in the mercies we have!

IF:Equip Day 27

IF:Equip Genesis 19:1-22

Video Commentary by Melissa Greene & Angie Smith can be viewed here

IF I believe this to the true then:

What does it mean about God?
God has told Abraham that he will save the city if 10 righteous men can be found. In the scripture we find that "all of the men of the city, young and old" come to Lot's house for the men. Their sin is that they want to make these men like women, to be inhospitable to the strangers, to make them less than men, because obviously in this society being female was just about the worst thing you could be. But setting all of that mess aside:
God still saves Lot and his daughters. Even though Lot waits, even thought Lot is reluctant, God finally drags them out by the wrists and sends them on their way. God again is faithful to Abraham's family even going above and beyond the promise made.

What does it mean about me?
How do I refuse to practice hospitality? What do I think of as the worst a human can be, a racist, a pedophile, a murderer, a rapist, an abuser? When do I refuse to see the humanity and the image of God in others?
When do I refuse to go where God has told me to go? Do I want less for myself than God wants for me?
Should I have left certain calls sooner? God has dragged me out by the hand twice, maybe I should take head earlier!

What does it mean about the world?
We are content with where we are, at least somewhat, or we would make moves to change things. The people of Sodom were content in their life. Lot was content there or else he wouldn't have resisted leaving so much even when he was told repeatedly that destruction was at hand. When we know we must change or die we will sometimes make that change, but often we would rather live the life we like until death shows its hand.

Monday, October 20, 2014

IF:Equip Day 26

IF: Equip Genesis 18:16-33

Video Commentary by Amber Haines and Ally Vesterfelt can be viewed here

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God does not seek to hide plans from us, but rather for us to participate with God in those plans. God listened to Abraham's pleading and responded, not with anger or stress, but with hope. Yes, for 50 I will not destroy, for 30 , for 25 for 10 I will hold back my hand.

What does it mean about me?
How often do I intercede on others behalf? God listens, do I live my life as if this is true? What are we as Christians doing to REALLY intercede on the world's behalf? God is good and righteous and merciful and forgiving. Do I reflect those truths about God to the world?

What does it mean about the world?
God is still seeking to bring the world to an understanding of its redemption and renewal. God allows us to walk alongside in this journey, living by example and by our words the life he wants all to live. Even when we test/question God, we are still invited to join in the process. There is still so much to do!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Five

Friday Five: Jury Duty
Today's Friday Five is from janintx.

"This week I spent the first 1 1/2 days on a jury panel being questioned so that the formal jury could be formed. This being a murder trial, there were eight rows (of ten seats) in all. I was #67 out of 80. It was interesting to see how the potential jurors answered the questions, especially about their occupations and high schools graduated from.Not chosen, I came home Tuesday afternoon instead of spending the next 2-3 weeks in a courtroom.
With this on my mind, as well as a jury notice for Federal Court for November 4, I am wondering about your experience(s) with jury duty."
1. Have you been called to jury duty? How many times? Did you excuse yourself or show up at the courthouse?
2. What were the results of your call to jury duty?
3. What does your state base its candidates’ list from?
4. Have you ever served on a jury? What was that like?
5. Have you ever had a jury summons to a U. S. Court? What was it like?
No, I have never been called to jury duty, but I like to think that I would show up if out of nothing more than curiosity! As I have never been to jury duty, the rest of these are all questions I can't answer.(or could, but no, no, no, and no would be very boring)
SO instead, I'll share a case with you that my mom was asked about when she went to jury duty when I was in the 4th grade, and see if you would be able to find the guilty party.
Max, the owner of a house, comes home one day to find Mary and Pete lying on the floor behind his sofa, dead. There is broken glass and water on the floor, but no windows are broken and the doors are all locked. The only other living thing in the room is the Oscar, the cat. What happened?
IF: Equip Genesis 17:15-21 & 18:1-15

Video comments from Trisha Davis & Brandi Wilson can be found here

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God makes the covenant promise to include Sarah. Issac will be the blessed son of this barren woman and Issac will be the start of the nations. God includes, not excludes, I love that!
God also knows when we think the promises given are too far out and knows when we laugh, even when we don't want to admit it. God did not pull back on the promise even though Sarah thought it unbelievable. God just went about making it work.

What does it mean about me?
When have I sensed God's calling or promise and laughed rather than respond, may it be as you have said? Too often I think of myself like Sarah, empty and maybe bitter about it. But here God still uses her, even when she has tried to take things into her own hands. God is still faithful. Sarah will get the chance to become a part of the history of God's people. Sarah will be the mother of the nation. What God promises, happens!

What does it mean about the world?
God uses imperfect people where they are for God's purposes all of the time. Something as simple as a laugh becomes a name and therefore a lesson of God's blessing. God does not let us stay where we are, God is not content with us not changing. God gives Abraham and Sarah new identities to reflect their changing and growing relationship with God. I wonder what names God has for us now? How do we live into those names?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Season of Thanksgiving Day 2

Today I am thankful for:
The cool fall weather. I am enjoying the lower temps and the opportunity to watch the leaves begin to change color. There is something so refreshing to me about Autumn and the beauty it brings. The greens, yellows, oranges, reds and browns all mingling into a kaleidoscope of fall is breath taking. Thank you God, for letting me observe such a precious seasonal change.

IF:Equip Day 24

IF:Equip Genesis 17:1-14,22-27

Video Commentary by Kelly Minter & Trilia Newbell can be viewed here

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God does not leave us as we are. God joined into a relationship with Abram and through that relationship Abram is changed. To signify that change God gives him a new name and a sign to show the permanent change in his life and the lives of his family members. Once again God says that Abraham will be a nation and that God will bless his descendants with the land.  God does not need to be reminded, but at this point Abraham sure does. He's taken matters into his own hand and with the blessing of his wife, taken a slave woman as a bride and she is expecting. Abraham thinks this will be his heir, but God has promised a child by Sarai. (Whose name is also changed to Sarah and to whom the blessing is extended as well, why did they leave that part out of the reading?)

What does it mean about me?
Baptism is the outward sign of the inward action of the Holy Spirit in my denomination. It is a sign that you are a child of the covenant. That is why we baptize infants, to show that it is the work of God, not anything we can earn or deserve. I was baptized at 6 weeks old and while I obviously don't have any memories of the actual events, my mom was great at showing me the pictures and talking with me about it and how important it was to my family and church community. My church really lived into its baptismal vows and I hope that the church I am serving does as well.

What does it mean about the world?
God does not forget God's promises to the world. God is faithful. God gave the sign of circumcision as a way to remind the people whose they were. This covenant sign was not original to Abraham. I have read that there were other groups who did this. But God re-purposed this sign and gave it new meaning to Abraham and those who would come after.
So here we have a sign that is to remind humanity of God's covenant and what happens? Humans argue about weather or not is necessary in order to be saved. Today some have the same argument over the mode and method of baptism, is one more binding or genuine than another. Wow, we people of God know how to turn a good grace filled thing into a problem, don't we!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Season of Thanksgiving

I was looking at revgalblogpals today and read rev G-free's post about entering into a season of thanksgiving between Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving.

I love love love the idea and so I'm going to try to play along here!

Today I am thankful for Mrs. Willie, a recent widow in my congregation. She took my girls to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center the first day of fall break. They had so much fun. When I got to my desk at church this morning I found this:

It is a book containing pictures of the girls as they went throughout the center!

What a great way to preserve the memory for them and it let me see what they did while they were there!

So, thank you God for all the Mrs. Willies  out there who care for their pastors and their pastor's families.

IF:Equip Day 23

IF:Equip Genesis 16:1-16

Video Commentary by Jennie Allen & Natalie Grant available here

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
God does not send Hagar away nor does God abandon Hagar. God offers relationship, sees her suffering and asks her to trust that God has a plan and promise for her and her child as well. This situation, not of God's making, but of Abram and Sarai's plan, yet God will seek to redeem it and cause good to come from it.

What does it mean about me?
I wonder how willing I am to see God even in my wilderness situations. Hagar names God "The God who sees" and if I really believe that then what is it God is seeing in me? I am grateful for God who sees and takes notice and it gives me comfort to know that God is aware of me and my needs even when the world's needs seem so much greater than my own.

What does it mean about the world?
"His eye is on the sparrow" God watches over us all and that is amazing! It's also humbling. How much does God see that I chose not to see? How can the world see things as God does with God's eyes and God's heart? This seeing idea is so important especially in the story of Abram and it is super important in a world that likes to pretend no one sees what we don't want them to see.

(I wrote a Bible study on this topic for Intersecctions: Where Faith and Life meet, a resource for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

IF:Equip Day 22

IF: Equip Genesis 15:1-21

Video Commentary by Lindsey Nobles and Esther Havens can be viewed here

IF I believe this is true then:

What does it mean about God?
This is God proclaiming the covenant with Abram. I am amazed by this passage because it really shows the covenant of grace as being of God's action. Abram makes the sacrifice, acknowledging God as God, but it is God's presence that walks between the halves, it is God's action that shows God's commitment. God will be and is faithful, this covenant is not one that Abram upholds, but rather the burden is on God to give a barren man so many offspring that they are not able to be counted.

What does it mean about me?
God is and has been and will continue to be active in my life and in the lives of those around me. God has been, is and will be active throughout the history of the world. God doesn't need me in order to fulfill God's promise, but rather invites me to join as a helpmate, a co-worker in establishing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. What an amazing opportunity!

What does it mean about the world?
God continues to seek relationship with the world, even with those parts of the world that seem to be openly hostile towards God. I have little doubt of God's frustration with humanity from time to time, but I also do not doubt God's commitment to uphold the covenant of grace established with humanity and sealed in Christ.

Monday, October 13, 2014

IF:Equip Day 21

IF:Equip Genesis 14:17-24

Video Commentary by Lisa Harper & Esther Havens can be found here.

IF I believe this to be true, then:

What does it mean about God?
I think it is amazingly cool that Melchizedek is called a priest of the Most High God, even though he has no known ties to the chosen people or to Abram. God is active outside of what we know and understand. God's love is being shown and received even when we are not made privy to it. Thanks be to God.

What does it mean about me?
God is bigger than I could imagine. God's faithfulness to us does not preclude God's faithfulness to others. God sees so much more than we do and is active in so many more places. How rich and deep and wide is the love of God!

What does it mean about the world?
It means that the world and all that is in it is God's and that God will act when we cannot find a way for God to act. Pulling a priest out of thin air is not a magic trick, it is an act of extreme grace and mercy for Abram and the people!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sermon Matthew 22:1-14 Let's Party

Matthew 22:1-14

Jim, a pastor friend of mine once talked about his first invitation to a party with his church members. His story begins when he just out of seminary, he was invited to attend a 100th birthday party for a grandmother of this particular family. Having never attended a 100th birthday party before Jim assumed that it would be a classy affair with fine china and a few close friends gathered around a table. So to fit in with what he expected, he put on his suit and drove out to the house. But upon his arrival he realized that this was not the classy affair he was expecting, there were at least 50 people gathered playing Frisbee, grilling, in shorts and t-shirts. Having a grand time. When Jim realized how out of place he was with the pressed suit and wingtip shoes he had hoped he could quietly leave and come back, but before he could he was spotted. At sometime during the gathering he overheard one of the family members say “ministers, they never know what to wear.”

How many of us really like to go to a party? I mean really how many really like to go. I imagine if we had a show of hands there we would be surprised at who doesn't like to go. To me parties are often just an invitation to have more stress. Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy them once I’m there, but parties, especially large social gatherings can be a source of stress. To begin with parties never come at a convenient time. They either begin just before or just after dinner, or they are in the middle of the Wyatt’s nap time. They are always on the wrong day of the week. There are always other things that we think we have to do, or games that cannot be missed. Parties call for us to wear something we usually don't wear. Parties always involve spending money that we would rather not spend. Parties make have debates as to whether we should go or not. Parties always call for us to change our routines, which at times is nearly impossible. Then there is the debate as to what time we should arrive, where we should park when we get there.  Yes just thinking about attending a party is stressful.

When we accept that invitation there are certain things that are expected of us. How many of us know what RSVP stands for. Well it comes from the French language meaning respondez sil vous plais or in English respond please! When we are asked to RSVP we are being asked to respond.  Our host hopes that we will respond to that invitation not just by calling them and saying that we will come, but that we will respond to that invitation by actually showing up and living up to the expectation that our host has for us by joining them at their celebration.

Our Scripture this morning beings with an invitation to a party. A king was throwing a party for his son who had just gotten married. This was going to be a grand event, the social spectacle of the year. And so, as people do when they are throwing a party, the king sent out his invitation and asked the invitees to respond please of which they did. Everyone said they were coming.

When the day of the big event arrives and the party is ready, the king sent his servants out to inform his guests that the time had arrived, the time had come for them to respond to the invitation he had given them. But as the servants went out to summons the people one by one all who had been invited made up excuses and missed the party. One had to tend to his farm, another to his business, and the rest just captured the servants and mistreated them. This enraged the king, so not wanting the social disgrace of throwing a party that no one attended the king orders his servants to hurry out into the streets and invite everyone they could find to come to the party. It didn't matter who they were or what they were like, and in just a matter of minutes the banquet hall was overflowing with guests.

When the king walked into the banquet hall he was thrilled by what he saw. People were dancing, laughing and having a great time. Everyone was enjoying themselves, loving the unexpected party. Everyone except that is, for this one fellow.

Have you ever been to a party and noticed that there is someone who didn’t want to be there.  We have all seen them they are the ones who aren’t dressed like everyone else.  They are the ones with the headphones on trying to tune everyone out.  They are the ones in the back corner trying hard not to talk to anyone.  We have all been that person and at times I wish I had someone tell me relax and fun or go home. 

Our scripture continues with the king noticing that there was someone there not wearing the wedding robe.  Now those of us who have been to a wedding know that there is a dress code, this same rule applied to this wedding. To not dress appropriately for a wedding reception, is really an insult to the host. It is a way of saying I don't care about you or your party. So this man insulted the host by not dressing appropriately. Upset the king orders the man away and tossed him out to be punished.

Now, what are we to make of that story? Wasn’t the king maybe a tad bit harsh on that guy? After all, maybe he didn’t own a wedding robe. Being bound and thrown out seems pretty harsh for not wearing the right outfit.

But maybe, just maybe there is more going on here. When Steve and I got married we asked some of our best friends to be in our wedding party. They all accepted, of course, but as time got closer to the wedding I had one of my bridesmaids come and tell me that she couldn’t be in the wedding, but that she would attend. When I pressed her enough she finally told me it was because she couldn’t afford the bridesmaid dresses that we were having made. I went to my parents with the very upsetting news, and asked my Dad if we could help her pay for her dress. He said “No.” I was shocked. MyDad is the most generous person I know and that he wasn’t going to offer to help my friend be in my wedding was quite frankly inconceivable. But before I could begin to voice this he spoke again. “No, we can’t help her buy the dress. We will buy the dresses for all of the girls, and while we are at it we will pay for the tux rentals for the guys too.”

The way the story is told in Matthew, with the king sending his servants out into the streets and bringing all those people into the party on the spur of the moment like that, most likely none of those people went home and got dressed. There wasn’t time for that. No, probably what the parable is implying is that the king provided his guests with those wedding robes. As the guests stepped through the door, the royal valet probably handed each person an appropriate wedding robe to put on and pointed them in the direction of the changing rooms. And everyone went along and did that, because they understood that that was what was expected of people who accepted an invitation to a wedding banquet everyone did that, that is, except for that one fellow.

Imagine how I would have felt if after my parents bought everyone their wedding cloths, this one bridesmaid had decided that she was going to wear something different. I’m pretty sure bridezilla would have been an accurate term for my reaction!

The wedding robe as a symbol meant something to the readers and to the listeners of the time of Jesus. They knew that a wedding robe implied the hospitality that was being extended and the respect and recognition that was due in return. That's been lost to us in our culture, where we are so informal that the idea of showing up without having the proper attire would not necessarily mean a one-way ticket to damnation.

So the problem was that that particular fellow didn’t accept the wedding robe. He came to the party he accepted the kings invitation but that was it.  He refused to fully respond to the kings invitation and allow himself to embrace to celebration and be clothed by the king.    

Isn't that what we do. The guest answered the call but refused to conform to the requirements for the party. Don't we do that, we answer God calling and join into a relationship and then we refuse to clothe ourselves in righteousness. Aren't we sometimes merely satisfied with just showing up, never allowing ourselves to be molded by God?

What this parable invites us to do, I believe, is to consider whether we’ve responded to our king, whether we have responded to God. Sure, all of us here have responded to the extent that we’ve shown up, we’re here this morning, we’re sitting in the chairs. But have we fully responded to God? Have we allowed ourselves to be changed to the way that God expects us to be?

When it comes to what we do with our lives, when it comes to what we do with our time, are we responding to God in such a way so that instead of focusing merely on what we expect out of life, we’re focusing on what God expects out of us in life?

Are we responding to God, by making the effort to develop a relationship with God? God is there inviting us to the party, inviting us to be God’s people. And so God expects us to come and get to know God. Are we doing that? Are we making prayer, Bible study, and worship the kinds of priorities in our lives that God expects that we will?

Or when it comes to our money, when it comes to what we do with our possessions, are we responding to God?  Are we responding to God in such a way that instead of concentrating on our own wants and desires, we’re concentrating on those things that God expects us to do?

You’re invited. We’re all invited. We’re all invited to come and be God’s people. That’s the message that God has for us. The question is: do we accept that invitation? Because if we do, we need to respond to that invitation not just with our words, but we need to respond to that invitation with our whole selves with all that we are and with all that we have. After all, that’s the kind of response God expects.

So let us cheerfully accept the invitation to God’s kingdom. Let us put on the clothing of Christ, kindness, generosity, humility, meekness and love. Let us be humbled once more by God’s gracious gift of relationship. In short friends, Let’s Party!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Five

Friday Five!

Hello gals and pals,
It’s the second Friday of the month, and you know what that is~~~Random Friday Five! Have fun, and enjoy! (as always, let us know that you played in the comments–whether you play in the comments, link to your blog, or on Facebook!)
1. How do you sign off in your emails, professional and personally? For example, you say “Blessings”,
“Take Care”, “Remember, the Devil is watching you” (o.k. just kidding on that one.) Let us know and why…
Grace and Peace is my go to signature. Things sent via my phone contain the added words "Preacher Lady"
2. If you were an animal TODAY, what is it and why?
A tortoise, I'm moving SUPER slowly, but I do have a goal in mind!
3. If you get snarky, what triggers it? If you don’t get snarky, please, what is the secret?
My snark is triggered by too much whining (especially on the part of my 9 year old), too much alcohol, or too much stress! I'd say right about now my stress is making my snark hit the 5th margarita mark!
4. Look up from your computer/tablet/phone screen. What is the first favorite thing your eyes land on. Describe it. (For example, I just did this, and my eyes landed on a little angel made out of multicolored wires whose head and wings are quite askew because of being chewed upon by my puppy. That aside, I love it because it was a gift from two little girls who came often to my office in my last call to play with all the tshotke on my table. They wanted to add to it.)
notes taped above my computer screen from my two daughters that say "I love you Mommy" and "I love you with all my heart! P.S. You're the best mom ever!" and from two seniors in high school. One says "Love ya lots :)" and the other says "Love you lots more!"
5. Do you have a favorite pair of socks? Tell us about them!
I don't wear socks much, I haven't found any to go with my Toms, but I used to love a good pair of striped toe socks!
Thanks for playing! I look forward to reading your plays…

IF:Equip Day 20

IF:Equip Genesis 14:1-16

Video commentary can be found here

IF I believe this is true then:
I REALLY am Struggling with this one!

What does it mean about God?
I'm really not sure what this says about God. I think that Abram made the choice to get his kinsmen and with a number of fighters did just that. We have a tendency to think that God is always on the winners side, because the winner usually writes the story. I do feel that God has blessed Abram and has continued to be faithful to Abram, but I'm not really sure how God fits into all of this war action.
I suppose it is that Abram believes that this land is his and his descendants and so he goes after it, not waiting for God to hand it to him, but believing it is already his and defends it chasing them for over 100 miles.

What does it mean about me?
In the video commentary they say that this shows the intentional nature of Abram's faith and that they love the thought of Abram rescuing Lot.
I guess God wants us to go to battle for things and people that are important to us, but again this whole war/concur stuff is hard for me to reconcile with the God who gave up himself to save us.
Perhaps if I am to claim something for God, then I need to remove other influences that might poorly affect that area of my life?

What does it mean about the world?
I think it means that sometimes we battle and God lets us. I don't know that it is really God endorsed, but perhaps permitted? Jesus spoke so much of love and peace and giving that battling with earthly forces seems contrary to all of that.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

IF:Equip Day 19

If: Equip Genesis 13:1-18

Video commentary can be found here

IF I believe this is true then:

What does it mean about God?
God has been with Abram as he has moved from place to place and been faithful even when Abram has doubted and acted in fear. God's faithfulness is something beyond what any of us can really imagine. God blesses Abram and will continue to do so.
What does it mean about me?
I need to be more aware of God's activity and faithfulness in my life and in the life of the congregation I serve. We have suffered mightily this past year with many deaths and losses and yet God is faithful. I need to remember that God is near and will be near and that there is a direction we are going with God.
What does it mean about the world?
God still loves the world and continues to work in it and through it. Sometimes through human agency. I pray that the world would become more receptive to those bringing the message of God and that the world might hear the love of God especially in the midst of such hate and violence done and spoken in the Holy One's name.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

IF:Equip Day 18

IF: Equip Genesis 12:10-20

IF: Equip Genesis 12:10-20

Video Commentary found here

IF I believe this is true then:

What does it mean about God?
Wow! God knows that humanity will muck things up and yet lets us help out in spite of that. God afflicted Pharaoh's household because of Abram and Sarai's deceit, yet Abram grew wealthy from this exchange. I'm not sure how to handle this. I don't like the idea of Sarai being handed over to become another man's wife just to save Abram's skin. I don't like the thought of Sarai being a pawn in this game.

What does it mean about me?
I get frustrated with the idea of Sarai being used in this manner. I don't like it one little bit. But I know the Bible isn't pretty and that it is in fact full of a lot of ugly things that we are not to replicate. I hope that this passage shows me and others to value those that God has placed into our care and not to try to gain things through their misuse. It hopefully will help me evaluate where I might be misusing brother and sister in Christ, through promoting modern day slavery by purchasing goods and services associated with it. There is a lot of potential for conviction in the passage!

What does it mean about the world?
We are quick to try to gain advantage over one another. Too often we try to assure our own position by sacrificing others. While the end result was Abram's safety and wealth I don't think it was worth the pain and suffering Sarai went through, not to mention the strain that would have put on her marriage. I guess I understand a little bit better why she has issues later!

IF:Equip Day 17

IF:Equip Genesis 11:10-12:9

Audio Commentary found here
IF I believe this is true then:

What does it mean about God?
I think the whole message of Genesis is basically that God is faithful, even when we are not. Noah hadn't been perfect, but God continued relationship with him and his family. We get the generations leading down to Abram and this tells us of the generations that did their part, lived the lives they could and passed down the faith so that Abram's father would be able to lead Abram to listen for God's voice.
After Terah's son Haran died he decided to leave his homeland and took Abram, Sarai and Lot (his grandson) with him. This was probably a result of his grieving process. He needed to get away. Once the family has left their homelands and Terah does, Abram is receptive to God's speaking and hears God's word and follows God's will. God offers an opportunity in the midst of grief to a barren man and his barren wife that they will have offspring and these offspring will inherit the land. God makes the impossible possible.

What does it mean about me?
How alert am I to God's voice? How often has God spoken, but because I am too occupied with other things I have missed God's words? God seeks to bless us and seeks relationship with us, but we must be open to receiving and to obeying.

What does it mean about the world?
God's actions don't stop with one generation. There may not be anything miraculous recorded for the generations between Shem and Abram, but God was present and working all the same. The world often acts as if God has abandoned us or worse, never existed in the first place. God is moving, even when we don't see the evidence of that movement. God will continue to work and bless the generations. And if we are paying attention, we might get to be a part of that blessing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

IF:Equip day 16

If:Equip Genesis 11:1-9

IF I believe this is true then:

What does it mean about God?
God had a plan for the people. God wanted them to spread out and fill the earth. But they wanted to join together and become like God, even going so far as to build a tower that they might get to God. This was not the way God desired relationship with humanity and so God confused their language and drove them to separate. Again, this is a moment showing God's grace. The way that humanity sought relationship with God was wrong. It was based on a desire of becoming equal to God, on the same level as God. God loved humanity too much to allow them to continue in this state of incorrect relationship and so provided a way for them to have to begin again.

What does it mean about me?
Sometimes I see set backs or changes as evil things, put up to keep me from getting what I want. And I'm sure there are times when they are there to try to stop me from doing God's work, but other times they are there to protect me from an even bigger fall. When I find myself in these times of babel or confusion I need to take a moment to orient myself. Am I still heading in a direction pleasing to God or have I wondered off the path or made a turn that may lead down a path of destruction?

What does it mean about the world?
God cares for and is present in the world. There is no doubt about that. This was not an act of a God that wanted nothing to do with the world, it was the act of the creator trying once again to help the creation live into its design. I think God is continually rerouting us. Helping us become what we were designed to be.

IF:Equip Day 15

IF:Equip Genesis 9:18-10:32

Video commentary available here

IF I believe this to be true then:

What does it mean about God?
Noah was a righteous man, but even righteous men make mistakes. One of the sons seeks to capitalize on this mistake by dishonoring his father, but the other two care for their father and try to minimize potential damage. Noah curses Ham's descendants. That seems harsh to say the least. And as we read this, without focusing on the rest of the story, it may seem as if God choose the wrong man. But God knows so much more than we do and knows that the test of character winds up lifting Shem and his descendants into a closer relationship with God.

What does it mean about me?
I wonder how much the actions of the past have shaped who I am today. Not just my past actions, but the actions of those who came before. If my grandparents had not had a relationship with God, would my relationship still be the same? Would I have had the opportunity to form such a relationship without their faith and courage forging a path? And how will my choices and life affect those who come after me, my kids, their kids and their kids' kids? I pray that I can live the kind of life that leads to a blessing for them rather than a curse.

What does it mean about the world?
How quickly negative things begin to assert themselves into the life of those who walk with God. It doesn't take long at all for Noah to be found in a compromised state and for a son to discover it. This world tempts us time and again to step away and each step leads farther. It is easy to turn away from principles and turn to temporary rewards and far too often that is the choice the world makes. But God does not give up on us.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

IF:EQUIP Genesis Day 14

IF:Equip Genesis 8:20-9:17

Video commentary found here
If I believe this is true then:
What does it mean about God?
What does it mean about me?
What does it mean about the world?

I wrote a Bible study for the Cumberland Presbyterian Denomination on these verses at is has been published and the whole of the study on covenant can be purchased here.

But here is this particular lesson as I wrote it, pre edit and publication.

A Word about Covenant

Covenant is one of those loaded words in Christian conversation. There are those who view covenant as a legal contract entered into willingly by two persons. There are those who view covenant as a promise secured by some form of guarantee or deposit. Still others see covenant as a handshake deal between “gentlemen.”

In the 1984 Confession of Faith, Cumberland Presbyterians discuss the nature of the covenant of grace made by God with humankind revealed throughout scripture. It affirms that the first and only covenant that God has had with the human family is the Covenant of Grace.

Dr. Hubert Morrow in his book “The Covenant of Grace: a Thread Through Scripture” defines covenant as “ a personal relationship established freely and unconditionally by God with the human family (pg 43)” Our Confession of Faith states that all scripture is to be read and understood in the light of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. (Cof 1.06)

When we look at covenant in this study we will be viewing these covenantal occurrences through the lens of the one covenant of grace.

God speaks to Noah
Prep for the journey
The Story of Noah and the Ark is familiar to most of us. When we think of it, we are often filled with images of baby nursery decorations. You know the ones, with cute little cartoon animals a sweet little blue boat and a smiling old guy with a beard. It is safe. It is sweet. It is sanitized.

Take a moment and think about or write down some thoughts you have when you hear the words “Noah” and “Ark.”

On the Road

Noah’s story is found in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th chapters of Genesis. It begins with a description of the world that is ugly.

Read Genesis 6:5-7.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

The earth was full of wickedness. People hearts were filled with all evil, all of the time. Things had reached a point where God felt sorry that humanity was even created. These are some intense images. Creation has fallen to a point where the God who created it, and named it "good" now seems to regret ever having created in the first place. God is grieved by the sinfulness of the created world.

How do you respond to the idea of God being grieved by creation? How does this fit into our understanding of God?

God cares for this creation; He loves it to the point of grieving over its downfall. God loves it too much to let it stay in its current state. God acts to redeem creation through the cleansing of the flood. 

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia at 63 years of age. This horrible disease struck quick and hard. The doctors aggressively fought the leukemia with chemotherapy and many experimental treatments. Each of these necessary life saving treatments tore down her immune system, destroying what little health she had left. There were moments when we were sure the cure would kill her. And, in a very real since that was what had to happen. Everything good and bad had to be broken down for the new cells that they placed in her blood stream to do the work of giving new life. Her body had to begin again, in order to be healed.

This image of death creating new life can be a difficult image for us in our current context. The idea of God wiping out humanity in order to show grace seems to be the antithesis of grace. We much prefer the thought of humanity getting a slap on the wrist, or a standard turn around and repent rather than trusting God to act for our benefit. That is one of the areas of tension in this account. As humans, we cannot always see God’s goodness and redemption in the midst of a world of pain and suffering. But that does not mean that God's goodness and redemptive power is not there.


Scenic Route

Just when you feel this scripture has little positive to say, in walks Noah. We are not given any real specifics about Noah. We do not know his profession, his eye color or his childhood activities. But what we do learn is that he was a righteous man, blameless among the people in his time. Blameless does not mean sinless. Noah was not a perfect person. However, he had some sort of personal relationship with the Lord. Something about Noah’s character showed that he was different than those around him. Though he does not speak in the flood narrative, his actions teach us all we need to know about him. Look at the following verses. What can you surmise about Noah based on these verses? 6:22, 7:5, 7:7, 8:6-12, 8:20.

What was it that allowed Noah and his family to survive both the time spent building the ark and the time in the flood waters themselves? What was it that led him to trust in the Lord so completely?

              Perhaps part of the answer can be found in chapter 6 verse 18 “But I will establish my covenant with you and you will enter the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons wives with you.”

Noah has been given a promise, a hope from God that ensures a future relationship with God and creation. He is given hope, which does not disappoint.

 Hope is an amazing thing. It helps us hang on far longer than we could have ever imagine. It motivates us when nothing else can.

            Time and again in holy scripture we hear of individuals who press on with nothing more than the hope God has placed before them. Moses led the all Israel out of Egypt based on the hope that God would fulfill the promise of a home. Ruth secured a future for her family by placing her hope in the God of her mother-in-law, Naomi. Paul and Silas sang songs of praise and hope while imprisoned, keeping the hope freedom and restoration alive in their hearts.

Think of a time when hope helped you through a trying time. Write a prayer of thanks to God, or share the story with your classmates.

Through God’s faithfulness we are blessed to participate in God’s work in the world. But to do that we must take time to recognize that God is active in our lives on a daily basis. God remembered Noah and his family during the flood. Even in the midst of the wildest waves of the flood, through the 40 days and nights of rain and even through the over 100 days spent floating in the flood waters, God was there, preserving, protecting and providing. When we recognize that God has been and continues to be active in our lives how should we respond?

Read Genesis 8:20-22.                                                                                            20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.


As long as the earth endures, 
 seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, 
 shall not cease.”

When the floodwaters receded, when the ordeal was over, Noah immediately worshipped God. He remembered the God who brought him through, and offerred up the best of what he has to God. Noah did not celebrate what he had done on his own, or that pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Rather, he recognized his dependence upon God, and returned offering to the Lord who had given him the ultimate gift, life. God responded to all of creation with gift of the covenant.

Extra Mile

Take a moment and think of ways you as an individual or as a group can begin acknowledging God’s covenant of grace in your daily life. These ideas do not have to be complex worship services, but small daily acts of worship and thankfulness.

Just as in the past, the way into the future cannot be secured by sinful humanity. God knows their hearts are set on evil ways. For this very reason the burden of redemption will be on God’s shoulders. Humanity has shown itself in need of God’s divine promise to hold them in relationship to Him. 

Read Genesis 9:8-11.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

What stands out to you about the words of this covenant? What have you not noticed before?
Rear View
God acts, God sets the covenant, and God places the bow in the sky so that God will remember. It is the divine responsibility to make and keep this covenant. It will be good because God is good. The covenant does not rely on human action. It is open to all people, and all of creation. In this sense it is a universal covenant, a promise to all creation; God’s grace poured out on every living thing.

As human beings we get to rest secure in God’s covenant. This is good news! Just as God brought Noah through the flood waters, God will bring us through the storms and difficulties in our lives. Will things always be perfect? No, for the world is still influenced by sin and death. But we have the hope of Christ, which does not disappoint to carry us through.