Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

HappyNew Year, all! :-)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

tomorrow, tomorrow...

we will get on an airplane very very early. ah, tomorrow. tomorrow we will travel for 14 hours, assuming that everything is on time, and including layovers. but tomorrow we will get to the land of the cold, except that it doesn't look like it's going to be all that cold. tomorrow we get to christmas cookies, my family, my mom's cat that doesn't like anyone except mom, and Christmas Eve, which just kind of happened while I wasn't paying attention.

happy christmas to all. hopefully some of you are ready for it. :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

it is finished

the semester is finished at last.

i have never not been able to restrain myself from laughing while preaching. until today. it was just a quick giggle. hehehe. i was cracking myself up the whole time i was getting ready for it too, so i should have known i wasn't going to be able to do it with a straight face. ha!

now that school is done, hopefully successfully done, i get to focus on church stuff. girls movie retreat coming right up!!

but first, a nap. and some chocolate. not in that order. ;-)

Monday, December 06, 2004


i have tickets for them. yay!

Jason and I are going to visit my parents for Christmas. I'm excited. I wasn't planning on going home this year, but now obviously I am going to. We will fly away from Atlanta on Christmas Eve and come back on Wednesday morning after Christmas. We are even going to go all the way to Yakima, which involves a very small plane that Amy would be very afraid of. Here's a picture. Good thing it's just the two of us super brave small-plane types. oh wait, not really super brave. well, whatever. we'll live. In other news, it will be cold there and Jason's never experienced anything of northern winter. I told him to break out the real coat. On the other hand, it's looking pretty much like here at the moment--40-50 degrees and raining. Hopefully by Christmas there will be enough snow for a snowman or a snowball fight or a snowangel or something snowy at least. :-)

now I have many things to do before the end of school so I must go. goodbye.

again with the monday

and it's monday again, and i'm super busy again. this is the last week of school. five days of class, then five days of "reading/exam week" which translates into, for me: 4 days of regular class schedule, 3 days of exam week, 8 assignments (including one sermon) due, and 10 days to do it all in. woohoo.

i'm going to go now. and, you know, do something.

Monday, November 29, 2004

so i lied

well, it appears you do get to read it. because it went away on my screen but still appeared on my blog. lucky you. :-)

it left

i typed a post about it being monday and how much there is to do and how i don't want to do it because i've just had five days off. and i want to just relax and have it over but it isn't over yet. but then the post went away. so you don't get to read it. sorry. silly computers.


back to school it is. After five days off, I'm not wanting to come back. blah to the homework. I have stuff to read, a sermon to write without writing it down, more stuff to read.....oy and oy. oh, and oy.

the library is cold, the outside is kind of chilly too, and i hate making copies. in case anyone wondered. so i'm probably going to read in the library. because that's an energizing place, obviously. again with the oy.

two weeks. two weeks plus some papers to write and it will all be over. then i can relax. maybe.

ok, so a semester, a january, and a few weeks, and a summer, and then i can relax.

maybe i need some starbucks. maybe i should suck it up, copy the stuff, and go to starbucks. or at least outside. or to my car. i bet i can read in my car and i bet it isn't cold. because it's in the sun. on the other hand, it might smell like christmas tree because i put the greenery for the chapel in the car yesterday. i also took it out yesterday, but christmas tree isn't a smell that just goes away, you know?

i'm done procrastinating now. you should be too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

not ready yet

My mom has cancer. And I'm not ready to talk about it yet so please don't call and ask how I'm doing. I'm ok. scared, of course, but ok. If by ok you mean occasionally crying for no apparent reason but generally operating as a normal human being. anyway. pray for my fam, and for my dad's cooking skills, and my mom's boredom factor lying on the couch, and my brother and I being far away, and none of us being able to do anything about it. there you go.

Happy too much and have some mashed potatoes for me. I can never eat as many of them as I want to because my tummy gets full. :-) And don't forget the green bean casserole! mine is in the freezer because I forgot to take it to church on Sunday. Hopefully I don't forget to take it on Thursday....

Sunday, November 21, 2004

wish list

I have updated my wishlist, for those of you who look at that.

Items 1-7 are what I really want this Christmas.
My brother claimed item 1. :-)

happy shopping season......or, better yet: happy advent! (almost)


I have moved. Because so many of you are asking where, I'll tell you.

I have moved approximately 3 miles from where I was living this summer.
I have moved approximately 15 miles (25 minutes) from school.
I have moved approximately 2-ish miles from church.
I have moved approximately 10 miles from the hospital I hope to be working in during January and the summer.

I still live in Atlanta.
In fact, now I technically live in Atlanta.
I still live in DeKalb county, which is quite a feat in this weird county-line state.
I live in an apartment complex with gates. The gate phone rings my cell phone. How cool is that?
I live in a diverse community with African- Asian- Hispanic- and other- Americans. And probably some not Americans.
I live in a complex with children who play in the parking lots, grass, and playgrounds.
I live in an apartment complex with a gym and two pools.
I live in an apartment complex with 26 buildings--one for each letter of the alphabet. My letter is N.
My cat lives in the apartment with me. She is not allowed on the balcony.

Have I answered any questions?

Happy Sunday....

i love buffy

all i want for christmas is....

Buffy Season 1

They're all out on DVD as of this past tuesday.
my bro called season 1.
that leaves 6 seasons for the rest of you. Just saying. ;-)

Another Sunday is upon us. Another day of youth group. another day of no school, closely followed by the "oh crap, i didn't do nearly enough homework this weekend, where does all the time go, how is it possibly monday, can I have another four saturdays please?" feeling. Luckily three of my classes were cancelled for Tuesday, the one Wednesday class was cancelled, and thursday/friday are holidays, leaving me with monday and tuesday morning chapel, monday afternoon class, and tuesday morning class. maybe on monday between chapel and class i'll do laundry at school. and maybe i'll finally get around to vacuuming my room and grabbing my desk chair. who knows? maybe i'll even get productive and do homework or blog or something. or maybe i'll go to the bookstore and buy the "What would Buffy do?" book (a real book, I swear...). Then read it, of course. one never knows, does one?

well, i am going to leave the gym/cyber cafe now. happy sunday to all. :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2004


well, it's Sunday. I made my list for the week's homework and whatnot, and realized that everything I need to do should be done by Wednesday afternoon, because the rest of the week doesn't have any homework, really. A weird feeling.

I just had to order extra wristbands for the youth group. crazy!

i have to go do homework now. and come up with a youth group plan. oy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

clean carpets

today the people from Stanley Steemer came to clean the Washburn's carpet. It is now beautiful. No more cat fumes to irritate the other cats. but the carpet is still damp. LOL. Tomorrow: the bathroom and kitchen. No, I'm not hiring someone to do that for me, much as I would like to. ;-)

The Washburn's condo (previously "home") looks so barren with all my stuff gone. i'd forgotten what it was like before I moved all that stuff in there! No more boxes of books in the dining room, no more files in the office, no more litterbox and food by the ancient and small tv (which was more than i have, and hardly ever used...), no more bins of things behind the recliner in the living room. just lots of space. very lovely.

and now: home. the new one. yay!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

i suck sometimes

ok, so i'm brilliant of course, but that leads me into busy-ness, which makes me suck at blogging regularly. i'm going to try to be better, but no promises. perhaps if i try just a few sentences a day...
so here's the few for today:
I'm moved into the apartment.
It's starting to be cold outside, especially in my car first thing in the morning.
I have too many classes.
I need to get my new contacts.
it's time to go to class.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


I passed all four of my ordination exams. woohoo! no retakes for me. :-)

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Reformata, Semper Reformanda

Reformata, Semper Reformanda
Exodus 19-20, Luke 19
October 31 2004

*Exodus 19.1-20.21* “Reformata…”
Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have any rules? I wish that I could say, “Well, human nature is actually nice and logical and we would probably all just get along fabulously.” Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and hasn’t been since Eden—when there were only two people who had to get along anyway. No, it’s likely that if there were actually NO rules—not even the ones we think are common sense, natural law, so obvious and ingrained that we can’t imagine the possibility of living without them—then things in human community would not go very well.
Instead, it seems that life has a lot of rules. Rules about how fast you can drive, rules about what you can and can’t wear to work or school, rules about buildings and safety and animals and business. In church we have rules about who can stand up here and preach, who can stand behind this table and celebrate sacraments, who can be ordained, and more rules for how we make decisions and do things. In Exodus we find the beginning of a code of rules. Before this we had basics: don’t eat of the tree, circumcise your male babies, etc. Now we have a full blown set of rules, and these ten are the foundation for life in community.
They seem so obvious, but it’s possible that several thousand years ago, when the Hebrews first heard these rules, they weren’t common sense. Sure, to us they feel super obvious, natural, the normal state of being. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t cheat on your spouse. But maybe they weren’t so normal back then. Especially that very first one: no other gods. That’s a new development for these people! It’s much better to hedge your bets, have several gods and keep them all happy so you don’t have to worry about whether it will rain this season or not. But Yahweh says that is unacceptable, and insists that the people acknowledge only ONE God. After that radical change in thinking, who knows what the people must have thought about all these other rules. But in any case, these ten rules that may have been strange at one time became the foundation of their life together—and continue to be the foundation of law in many places.
As Christians in the Reformed Protestant tradition, we acknowledge several layers of foundation for our life together. This first set of rules, the Law, the Torah, is one of them. But, as you may have noticed, before we get to the actual “Ten Commandments” we have a whole chapter of rules about how to get ready for God to speak. Moses goes up and down the mountain several times—which, let me tell you, is no easy task! The people wash their clothes, take care to be especially clean and pure, husbands and wives sleep on separate mats, the people gather behind the ropes at the bottom of the mountain, and Moses goes up to speak to God, totally alone. But just in case, God sends Moses BACK DOWN the mountain to make sure the people aren’t trying to sneak over the fence like kids at Six Flags who are bored with standing in line and crawl under the fence to play in the dirt and rocks on the other side. I would not have been happy with this at all—I was in so much pain just going up and down once that I can hardly imagine doing it two or three times. And after all that, the people are so afraid that they just tell Moses to talk to God for them—they’ll happily just wait down here.
All this rule-making about speaking with God led the medieval Roman Catholic Church into some pretty serious corruption. The people couldn’t talk to God—only the priests could. The people couldn’t even have both bread and wine for communion, because they might come too close to the mountain. And, of course, with all the rules to follow and the difficulty of confessing everything, getting forgiveness was pretty difficult. Since the church needed money to maintain its political power, they decided to sell forgiveness to people. Imagine: the minister only pronounces the assurance of forgiveness after you’ve put enough money in the offering plate. How much is enough? The minister gets to decide. Maybe this week it’s $5 per person. On pledge maybe $150. On Christmas and Easter we’ll be looking for $10 from Bob, $100 from Sue, and $76 from Mike—in direct proportion to how many Sundays other than Christmas and Easter we’ve seen them in church.
This is the kind of corruption Martin Luther was worried about. He would very conscientiously confess every sin he could think of, but was constantly plagued by the thought that he had missed something. He would leave confession, and then run back in a panic. Finally his confessor told him that if he was going to confess for hours, he should at least go out and do something worth confessing! Then, while reading the letter to the Romans one day, Luther realized that there was nothing he could do to earn forgiveness, but that God’s grace had made him righteous because of Christ. This epiphany was profound. He became so upset with the sale of forgiveness (called indulgences) that he wrote up 95 theses, which were designed to be discussion points, things he wanted the church to talk about. On October 31, 1517, he nailed them to the church door in Wittenberg. He didn’t want to start a new church. He didn’t even necessarily want big changes in worship. He just wanted to talk about forgiveness and grace and the idea that we could sell God’s grace to the highest bidder.
This new idea that God’s grace was free was radical to the medieval Church——much as some of the Ten Commandments must have seemed radical to the Hebrews, newly escaped from Egypt. This once-radical idea is now another part of our foundation. The Law is part of the foundation of our life as a community. The free grace of God is part of the foundation of our life as a community. It seems the two might contradict, but they didn’t for the apostle Paul, so they didn’t for Luther. The Law tells us how we are to live with God and with one another. The fact that God’s grace is a gift, something we can’t earn but is given to us anyway, tells us that we can’t sell forgiveness, and we can’t decide who gets grace and who doesn’t. God decides, and God freely gives grace to everyone. As Reformed Protestant Christians, these two radical foundations are part of normal existence, they seem obvious and “common sense.” The rules that form our foundation no longer seem radical—which is one way we can tell that we are “Reformata”—the past tense which means “Reformed.”

*Luke 19.1-10* “…Semper Reformanda”
Has anyone ever invited themselves over to your house? I will admit to having done it myself, actually. As a student, I sometimes suggest to people that it might be great if we could have dinner sometime—at their house. Or I might say “hey, wanna watch a movie tonight? Since I don’t have a TV, how about your place, 8 o’clock?” But I have never, ever just walked up to someone and said “come here, I’m having dinner at your house tonight.” How incredibly rude!
And, of course, the person we see doing this very rude thing is Jesus, breaking the societal rules and making new ones all over the place. For all his claiming to fulfill the law rather than abolish it, he sure does break a lot of rules. Who invites themselves over for dinner? Then again, who stands around outside the tax collector’s house and gossips loud enough that the subject of the gossip can hear them from inside?
Can you picture it? Zacchaeus, who’s probably about as tall as I am, rushes down from the tree and guides Jesus, the rabbi, the healer, the Messiah, out of the bustling crowd and into his living room. Suddenly he hears some less-than-discreet voices outside. He turns red, then turns to Jesus and declares that not only will he fulfill restitution laws but he’ll actually pay from his own pocket to anyone who has been the victim of his tax-collector overcharging practices. Because, you see, tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Romans. They didn’t get paid, so they would charge more than the Romans wanted and take the difference as their salary. For Zacchaeus to offer to give back four times any excessive charges is essentially to offer his entire income and then some.
And then rule-breaker Jesus says things like “this man too is a Son of Abraham” and suddenly all the people outside feel that maybe they were the ones breaking the rules. Jesus has come to say “you have heard that it was said… but I say to you…” Is this rule-breaking, or rule-reshaping according to the way things were meant to be?
The Reformed church has said that we are “Reformed and always being reformed by the Word of God.” Maybe this is what it means to be reformed by the Word—not just by Scripture but by the Word with a capital W: Jesus. He’s just sauntering through and invites himself to dinner at the house of a sinner who he proclaims has been saved by the free grace of God. Jesus has just turned the foundations of community life in Judaism upside down. This community has been reformed by the Word of God in a very startling way!
Sometimes we experience the same kind of startling reformation. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century was startling and upsetting. Martin Luther and John Calvin turned Europe’s church system upside down. They also recognized that if they claimed to set a once-and-for-all system, then they would be falling into the same traps the medieval Catholic church had stumbled on. Instead they insisted that we are to be always open to continuing reformation.
This kind of reformation may take many forms. For example, many protestant churches now allow women to be pastors—something that was unheard of for hundreds of years. The Presbyterian church in many countries is uniting with, or at least in agreement with, several other denominations to share worship, ministers, buildings, or other resources. Many churches are experimenting with their worship styles, with new music, or with liturgical resources from other countries. In some places it may be in prayer style, or in new lifestyle or mission commitments. The reformation of the church is to be ongoing, according to both Luther and Calvin.
We all have a part to play in the ongoing reformation of the church. Because of the printing press and the protestant reformation, we can all read the Bible. We can pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We can gather in community to discern where we are being called and what the Word says to our context. We can ask the hard questions, pray together, and so be involved in the reformation.
In addition to the reformation of the church, we can follow in Calvin’s footsteps and participate in the reformation of our society and our government. As we approach the national election day, we all have a part to play in our nation. Calvin said that all Christians have a responsibility to be involved in government and civic life. Voting our conscience, being active and vocal for the things that are important to us, praying for our leaders—all these are ways we can be involved in the ongoing reformation of our national community.
But, for all the things we can do to be involved in the reformation, we must remember that it’s not WE who are doing a new thing, but God who does the new thing. We don’t bring in the kingdom, God brings the kingdom. Reformanda is the passive form of the verb—we are always being reformed by the word of God, not by our own ideas. When we are acted upon by the Word of God, however, we do take action. We do have something to do, a part to play, a responsibility to respond when we are called.
So we build on the foundations laid for us by God’s people of ages past. We don’t simply repeat everything they have always done: someone has said that the seven last words of the church will either be “we’ve always done it that way before,” or “we’ve never done it that way before.” But neither do we throw it all away and start from scratch. The rules and concepts that form our community, that shape our life together, come to us from Scripture and from the tradition. Then we discern the movement of the Holy Spirit and form and shape our life in this place and time according to the Word. Sometimes we may need to try a new thing. Sometimes we may need some startling discussion questions to lead us in a re-shaping of the way things are meant to be. Sometimes Jesus needs to invite himself over for dinner at the sinner’s house so we can see the way things are supposed to be. Because he comes to seek out and save the lost, we pray that we might be found and that we might hear once again that God’s free gift of grace has come to this house. That openness, that prayer, that expectant hope that God is always doing a new thing, is the sign of the Reformed church: Semper Reformanda, “Always being re-formed.”

Friday, October 15, 2004

this is actually old...

but still hilarious. Found this from novmeber 2003. Cant't believe how amused I STILL am by it. enjoy.
* uses of ice besides beverages, where it shouldn't be anyway *
Well, there are the obvious:
*ice packs
*freezing ice cream (in a homemade-ice-cream-maker)
*keeping in ice chests, lunch boxes, etc, to keep things cold while you get ready to use them.
*putting in plants, to water them slowly for a while rather than drowning them with a hose
*putting down your friend's shirts when they are hot. or when they are cold.
*melting, then filtering, for drinking water
*freezing your credit cards so you won't use them (theoretically)
*chilling wine (in one of those buckets designed to do this...not just in a pitcher you fill with ice then stick the wine bottle in. I mean, that does work, but it's much less efficient and much less easy than the wine bucket.)
*rubbing on your lips after you've played a wind instrument for too long. Popsicles are better, but ice works in a pinch. However, see below on nasty unfiltered water ice. bleah.
*put ice in front of a small fan to cool the air that is blowing through your room.
*put in pet's water bowl in the summer to keep water cool. Pets don't care about filtered water.
*cleaning gum off of fabric. or hair. peanut butter also often works for this.
*cleaning candle wax off just about anything. I haven't tried this on hair but it would probably work. However, if you have candle wax in your hair you need to rethink your habit of standing underneath dripping candles.
*getting paper wet. if you wanted to do this very slowly, you could...just put an ice cube on some paper. soon it will be wet.
*breaking things. ie: computers, printers, toasters, books, windows, etc. you can either throw ice cubes, thus shattering whatever it is you wish to break, or put the ice cube in it and wait for it to melt, thus disabling whatever you are breaking. I don't recommend this necessarily, I'm just saying you could.
*melting. i don't know why you would want to do this--you obviously already have water. and i already said this about 8 lines up.
*holding. i mean, if you were really hot, just holding an ice cube might help cool you down.
*put them in your bath. a cold bath is probably good for your skin somehow. maybe. but this means you can't have a hot bath, because the ice will melt. really this thought is only ideal if you are the person in one of those urban legends...who's had a kidney removed and wakes up in a bathtub full of ice. you know the ones. they aren't true.
*testing the strength of paper towels. how many ice cubes can your paper towel hold? I bet Bounty or Brawny or one of those B-brands can hold a lot. at least their commercials claim they can.
*preserving bugs. your ice maker probably does this for you already. look carefully when you get ice out of it, otherwise you might drink a fruit fly. eew.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


i am so tired. so so tired. i would gladly give up chapel and/or class for starbucks if i could. i want a nap.

long day head.

Friday, October 01, 2004

things i need

1. toilet paper for my house. not for the outside, you know, but for the inside. in the bathroom. which i guess is really "toilet paper for my bathrooms" except that that sounded kind of nasty. now i said it....oh well....
2. treats for my cat. that's how I keep her inside when i have to go out the door. i bribe her with treats.
3. an oil change (well, in the next week or so...). you know, every 3,000 miles or so. i will hit 3,000 in the next 7 days for sure. but where to get this done? and when? see #7.
4. an apartment. for living in. because soon i can't live where i currently live. but the apartment can't be too expensive because i'm kind of poor. but also not sketchy or tiny, please.
5. furniture for said apartment. preferably without actually buying any of said furniture. anyone have an extra bed, extra dresser, extra chairs, extra table, extra sofa, extra...well, anything furniture-like?
6. new black everyday-shoes. soon. and fashionably but not expensive. i like shoes that make grown-up sounds when i walk. but i also like shoes that don't, so when i'm late (or just walking around on hard floors (ie hallways) while classes are in session) i don't disturb the whole world with my grown-up-ness.
7. two more weekends per week. preferably without sundays. this should be obvious.

one might wonder what all these things have in common. I shall tell you, in case it really isn't obvious. I need them soon. I need them not to cost too much. particularly regarding 4 and 6, my options are running out if i don't get them. I suppose i could say that about number 1 too. Without these things, I'll be homeless, barefoot, and will really have to pee. none of this is good, particularly when one is trying to study for 5 classes with heavy reading loads, work as a youth director, and do work study hours, and have something of a life (you know, see my boyfriend, eat, talk to friends and family, etc).

just thought i'd let you know. :-)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

yeah, yeah, yeah...

I know I suck at writing here. too bad. I'm busy.

Ords are over. final count: 2.5 pretty good, 1.5 questionable. So we'll see how that went--when the results come back in 6 weeks!!!

Classes, however, are distinctly not over. sadly.

I hate television. I just wanted to share that, because I am forced to watch television for one of my classes. This is terrible. I hate it. especially at night on a Tuesday. There is no good programming. There is no acting. There is nothing. television is futile. Worse: once you start watching, resistance to it is also futile. blah.

I actually thought of something I wanted to post here, but I've apparently forgotten it. It will come back to me, most likely at a time when I'm nowhere near a computer. If anyone remembers for me, please let me know, preferably by email so I will also remember while I am AT a computer. thanks.

happy almost-friday!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

2 down, 2 to go

ords, that is.
One went kind of badly. One went well.
I anticipate goodness in tomorrow's, and pray for a good passage for the take-home.

In the meantime, the hurricane is gone, leaving trees down (one is down at the church, actually--I'm looking at it out the window, blocking the walkway...), power out (in some places still out, though back on at school), and water everywhere. I hope this doesn't happen too much more, because the ground simply can't take any more water!

I'm ready for school to be done. Is that bad, since it just started?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

not Hartford, Hereford, or Hampshire

and thus, hurricanes happen much more than "hardly ever." Now, to be precise, I live in a place where we don't necessarily get the gale-force winds, but we do get the rain, rain, rain, and some of the wind.
In light of the excessive amount of rain brought by hurricanes, which are prevalent here, I am seeking answers to the following questions.
1. WHY build a freeway--designed to be a higher-speed driving surface than regular city streets--with cement instead of asphalt? Cement has a smoother surface and is mostly non-porous, compared to asphalt's rough surface and at least minimal porousness. This means that standing water is a regular occurrence on I-285, even if it's only been sprinkling--I'll leave to your imagination what that means when hurricane-downpours are underway for days on end. Who thought this was a safe and good idea?
2. Why cancel school today in anticipation of something expected to fully arrive later this afternoon? This is a similar question to the one about snow. In anticipation of a few flakes, they cancel school. At least in that case you can say "they're not used to it--they aren't prepared for snow and ice." In this case, however, they're used to it. It happens every year--hurricanes, thunderstorms, rain rain rain...even the occasional tornado. Wouldn't it be better to have kids and staff in a school building--even if the power went out for a bit--than to have them running around home while parents still have to go to a place where a falling tree could do significantlly more damage to the building of, say, a HOUSE, than it could to a SCHOOL built of cinder blocks?
3. Why are there hurricanes anyway?

Other news: here in not Hartford, Hereford, nor Hampshire, but in Decatur, I am getting ready for ordination exams. They are now less than 24 hours away. Theoretically I am reading right now. Clearly the theory and practice are not necessarily related at this time. but soon.

Monday, September 13, 2004


As usual, there is a lot of stuff going on. highlights:

1. Youth Group is off to a good start.
2. I only have one class on mondays.
3. Ordination exams are now just four days away.
4. I am craving starbucks.
5. My nectarines arrived today and they look fantastic.
6. The METS reunion was fantastic and some of us are planning to have a regular reunion of the "young single people" from our group.
7. Ordination exams are just four days away.
8. I have NOT finished reading either the book of confessions or Christian Doctrine. Or, for that matter, the Book of Order.
9. My absentee ballot is due tomorrow.
10. it is probably going to rain today. again.

Friday, September 10, 2004

crazy crazy

School has started. A stressful week all around, during which I found out I wasn't graduating. Then I was. Then I wasn't. Then I was again. So now, I am graduating in May because I'm taking an overload of classes--5 each long semester. I will in fact be going insane, so don't expect too much here.
In other news, I'm taking Ordination Exams next weekend. So really don't expect much until they are over! If I'm posting here a lot, that either means I'm at church for some reason or I'm procrastinating. if you see procrastination, please help me stop it. I don't have time for that with these exams coming up!

In still other news, life goes on. The power is on, the rain has stopped, and it's actually nice outside. And Fridays are great because I only have one class, so I get to spend some quality time with the chapel. yay!

Tonight: the METS reunion. so excited to see my travelling companions again! I have to go look at my pictures again. :-)

happy friday. be good!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


I am going on vacation. Thank you, God, for vacations! I am so excited to go to Chicago for five days and just hang out, go to museums, see friends...and show Jason around my fave city! :-) I love it! yay!

I'll be back next week. Until then, enjoy the youth sermons on the CNC Youth Website.

happy end-of-August!

Friday, August 20, 2004


i am being oppressed.

the other day it was office equipment of all kinds.
yesterday it was my car keys, locking themselves in my car while i was downtown.
today it is the internet. well, specifically the pcusa website which is not working.
i don't know if i want to find out what the exegesis books are. leviticus is just calling my name.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Mostly Cloudy

Mostly Cloudy
Hebrews 11.1-12.2
August 15 2004

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you. He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.” By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


I’d like to do something radical this morning. It may seem un-Presbyterian, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’d like to take a poll and ask for a show of hands. Are you ready? Raise your hand if you have ever been to a family reunion _____________ Raise your hand if you have ever been compared to someone else in your family—maybe an older brother, a grandparent, a stubborn aunt or uncle? _________________ Raise your hand if you have, at some point, been subjected to (or been the one subjecting others to) story after story from the annals of family history? _________________ ok…hands down.
Most of us have had at least one of these experiences with our family story. In my family, it usually starts out with my grandmother calling me by every name in the family, sometimes including her own brothers or even pets, before she settles on mine. Then comes a story about how whatever I’ve just done or said (which was probably slightly less than bright) reminded her of the time when my mother said x, or Uncle Bobby did y, or how our family has always been z. Or there’s the statement: “You are just like your Aunt Susan.” This is rarely explained, but I usually choose to take it as a compliment.
Family stories are a huge part of who we are. We tell our stories to children and grandchildren, sometimes to neighbor kids or college best friends. We pass them on, hoping that somehow we will pass on other things too—like our worldview, our morals, our values, our ideals. And sometimes we suddenly realize how much we wish we had more of those stories—like when my great-grandmother died last summer, making my four-generations-of-women-alive-at-the-same-time family a little more average, I suddenly realized that I’d never had a chance to ask her about her life in the 1920’s, about raising kids in the depression, about the first time she got to vote, about her parents journey from Germany. There are so many stories that I never got to ask about, so many things that didn’t seem important before but now leave a gaping hole in my family history.
The church has a family history too. Each congregation has a story—this one involves two churches joining into one, it involves pastors and children and music and worship and mission and musicals and talent shows and potluck suppers. The Presbyterian Church has a story—sometimes happy and sometimes fraught with strife. The Protestant branch of the church has a story reaching back five centuries, and the Catholic branch has eleven centuries more. The whole people of God have a story, one we find in history books, we archive in closets in the foyer, we read in theology and memoirs. The Bible is, in one sense, a record of the stories of the people of God. And here in Hebrews we have a pretty specific list of some of the best-known stories—the ones everyone wants to hear over and over again. In my family it’s the story of my brother, at age three, “helping to clear the table.” He pulled the marinated vegetable salad, with its oil and vinegar dressing, onto the carpet and created a permanent stain we still talk about 15 years (and a whole houseful of new carpet) later. Or it’s the story of a ten-year-old me pointing out the car window at a llama and saying, “look, it’s one of those llama things.” For the writer of Hebrews, it’s Abraham and Sarah, or it’s Moses leading the people through the Red Sea.
This long passage sometimes reads like one of those genealogies from Chronicles or from the first chapter of Matthew. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, etcetera. We always think those genealogies are so boring—and yet we make them of our own families all the time, indeed our culture is fascinated with genealogy and we travel across continents to put together our family trees. Why? Because names are part of the story. The story gets significantly less effective if you say “remember that guy, the one from the mountain…yeah….he did something with plagues and then brought us through the sea…I can’t really remember his name right now…but he was great.” The names, even the ones we don’t recognize, are a way of holding on to the story. The names are those of our family—the family of God’s people. The genealogies aren’t just of Jesus or of the twelve tribes of Israel, they are our genealogies. And these stories are part of our story, just as our individual stories make up the story of our family or our church.
We already said that we tell family stories to pass on both the content of the story and also our worldview, values, and ideals. So, in addition to the details of the story, what is this storyteller passing on? It seems—in fact, it’s stated every sentence or so—that one thing the storyteller wants to pass on is an idea of what faith is. He begins this section with the slightly vague and highly poetic statement that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Then, thankfully, he explains what that definition means using stories from the family. Faith is Abraham trusting that he and Sarah, though they were in their 90’s, would have a child. Faith is leaving one’s country—or one’s comfort zone—to head out into the unknown that has been promised. Faith is living, doing, and trusting the word of God. These are some awesome role models here: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David. They worked on hope and faith, living their lives listening for the word of the Lord, blazing a new path. But the writer of Hebrews wants to make sure we get the point—these role models didn’t see the reality of what was promised, they only glimpsed it from far off. Now The Word—capital W—has come and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus and we are heirs of the promise and the reality of the promise.
Well, if Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, and the prophets were hard shoes to fill, now we’re in trouble. To be like Abraham is a tall order. To be like Jesus is an even taller one, especially since it may feel that we haven’t seen the promise either—Jesus was on earth nearly 2000 years ago, and we often only glimpse the reality of the kingdom from afar. We may feel like we are trusting only in things we cannot see, trying to be sure about the things we hope for. It’s hard to think that we have it down—that it should be easier for us than for Abraham, that this side of BC/AD is better than Moses’ side. But the beauty of it is that we have many examples to follow and many stories to hear to build our courage and confidence. We are surrounded, in fact, by a great cloud of witnesses. As our storyteller says of those who have gone before, “they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” That means that we, apart from them, cannot be made perfect. It is within this cloud that we live as people of God.
The cloud of witnesses, the communion of saints, the invisible church. You usually can’t see it, but sometimes you can feel it. You know, when you come across a book or a song and think of your great grandmother, who has always been older than old, and how she cared for the “elderly” lady next door or how she read you stories. When you visit an old church building where people have been gathering to worship for hundreds of years. I felt it on Mt. Sinai and in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Sometimes you can sense the people of God through the ages forming a cloud around you—while singing a hymn, washing feet at the clinic, or teaching Sunday School. Once you feel it, it’s hard to shake. Though it’s a little spooky, this feeling that we are surrounded all the time, I think it’s a good thing. It helps remind us that we don’t have to do it alone. We have a faith community, a family, to look to for support. Sometimes our earthly families are less than perfect, but we have a whole source of extra-extended family to lean on. Sometimes we’re scared, or feel we’ve lost our faith, or we don’t know what to do next, and thankfully we have this whole cloud of witnesses to look to and listen to. And we’ll never be alone—we can’t just leave the cloud and go out on our own, and the people of God can’t just leave us—those witnesses are always with us, just as our family stories follow us around like the oil stain in my grandmother’s carpet.
Now, our storyteller never says it will be easy. He compares the life of faith to a race that must be run with perseverance. It’s hard work to lean on someone like Abraham and Sarah, who were so old and yet had a son and traveled to a foreign land. It’s hard to imagine being like Rahab the prostitute, who sheltered the Hebrew spies as they scoped out the city to determine whether or not they could conquer it. It’s quite a stretch to think of ourselves like Moses, bringing plagues on the Egyptians, then stretching out a rod over the Sea and trusting that it would indeed separate so the Israelites could walk through on dry land. But it wasn’t easy for Moses either, or for Abraham, or Rahab. And it wasn’t easy for any of the unnamed people our storyteller describes by their stories—being shut up with lions, being flogged, being sawn in two, being forced to hide out in goatskins. Sometimes running the race feels like a never-ending extreme marathon. But at least it’s a mostly cloudy day, and we are surrounded by those who will give us water and Power Bars along the way.
Sometimes the cloud of witnesses is most tangible for us in the people who are still here and present with us—parents, friends, teachers. Which means that sometimes each of us is a part of the cloud of witnesses that someone else experiences. Whenever we share the love of God with others, we proclaim to whom we belong and we align ourselves with the saints of God. Whether sharing God’s love takes the form of cleaning someone’s house, preparing a meal for new parents, listening to another person’s story, praying for others, painting a refugee home, visiting at the hospital, doing what we are asked the first time, or giving a hug, we are acting our part as a member of the communion of saints.
This is why we tell the stories. So we can learn from our ever-present helpers what it means to share the love of God with all whom we meet. So we can remember that the people of God have been wondering, doubting, trusting, and following for thousands of years before us. Indeed, time would fail us to tell all the stories today, of Gideon and David and the prophets, of Augustine and Hildegaard and Luther, of Calvin and Barth and Mother Theresa, of George and Brenda and John and Carol. Our lives are shaped and informed by these family stories, these tales of heroes and martyrs, of prophets and prostitutes, of mothers and preachers and friends. Just as we are already a part of this great cloud of witnesses, one day our stories will be included in the family stories, for the story of each of us is already bound up with God’s story. So, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses—apart from whom we cannot be made perfect—let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Friday, August 13, 2004


so much stuff. preaching on Sunday. Organizing youth sunday. visiting hospitals, calling people, writing letters, planning a short it's like i'm actually a pastor. maybe i should go ahead and park in the clergy-only spots at the hospital. hmm...

Friday, August 06, 2004


Yesterday I saw two accidents (well, I didn't see them happen, I just saw the aftermath) that shut down I-85, within two exits of each other, one in each direction. The one I got close to was really awful: a small-ish car was almost completely under a half-size semi truck. UGH. It was really awful. There was another car involved too, but it wasn't clear to me what had actually happened. All in all, it was ugly. The second one had lots of fire trucks, but I didn't see the wreckage as much because I went on the access road rather than the freeway (after I saw the traffic!). but still. oy.

Wednesday night's Speaking of Faith was really interesting: "A Return to the Mystery"--about youth/contemporary culture and the spiritual messages of media, particularly movies and some tv. Examples: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, Touched By an Angel, and Buffy. Very interesting. Very cool.

I am going to work on putting all the sermons I have preached onto a new blog, which I will link from here. That way, for those of you that keep asking for them, you can scope it out. I'll try to do that over the weekend, I think. At least by this time next week.

I must be going now--a brainstorming meeting with Martha awaits! mm....Martha's making lunch too. I love lunch. Afterwards--a night with jason and with amy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, is calling to be finished!! yay! :-)

Happy Friday to all!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


this is a totally random post. sorry.

I got my car back yesterday. I love my car, but I'm kind of sad because I really loved Mandy's car too. It was new and drove beautifully and had remote entry, including the ability to open both of the sliding doors with a button on the keychain. cool. It was, for anyone who's interested, a 2002 Honda Odyssey.

I went to the store yesterday. Then Jason and I proceeded to cook dinner. yay dinner! It didn't come from a restaurant, it wasn't sketchy summer camp food, it was food made by me and it was good. mmm...portobella mushroom risotto and salad. yum. For those looking for a good cookbook for veggie meals fast, I highly recommend Rachael Ray's Veggie Meals. But watch out because she apparently doesn't think anchovies count as meat, so she lists them in ingredients sometimes. Newsflash: they are fish. Fish are meat. Therefore, anchovies: not veggie friendly. But you can leave them out. It's just caesar dressing. lol.

I finished Queen Bees and Wannabees today. It was a very good book and I highly recommend it.

I have a long list of things to do today. How irritating. I would much rather go to the beach or something--have some time off, a vacation, or anything, really. anything not involving stuff I have to do, that is. ;-)

I still can't find my Iona Abbey Worship Book. sad.

I am uploading photos from the youth mission trip as I write this. They will be in my Yahoo photo albums--which you can access from the link to the left. enjoy!

I'm not feeling terribly amusing today, for which I apologize. I haven't seen much of interest between home and church, and I haven't gotten out to do anything else yet today. you'll have to be amused with something else for the time being, I suppose. But please check back. thanks!

Happy Wednesday to all!!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


I am so happy to sleep in a bed and shower whenever I wish. It's great.

The mission trip was quite good--great mission experience, nice people, good fun time afterward, lots of learning and lots of thinking and TONS of singing. The theology of the Youthworks staff was different than ours--quite significantly--but the kids did a great job processing, asking questions, praying, and learning. you can read about our trip at our youth blog. enjoy!

And now I'm home and don't have to see any of them for five days straight. Thank you Jesus, thank you!!

Being a youth worker is hard work. In case anyone had any doubts.

Friday, July 23, 2004

it is time

It's time for me to get a move on! The departure time for Youth Mission 2004--The Trip is approaching. AAA!!! Yet, for some reason, I don't feel anxious about it right now. That probably means I've forgotten something terribly important. oy. We can only hope that actually I am just remarkably well prepared after last week's freak-out. we'll see!! You can follow the group's adventures with the link to the left there: Fab-CNC-Youth. :-) good times.


I currently hate electronic equipment. computers, printers, copy machines, all of it. I'm going to kinko's because my patience for the machines has run out. I don't want to deal any more. The mission trip leaves in 36 hours. I can't get the copy machine to work. This is very irritating. Very. How do I copy the devotional booklet? How do I copy those participant release forms? How do I copy kid's insurance cards? All of this is a mystery to me right now. And so, with the people who produce Buffy, I say "Grr. Aargh."

And I go home after a 9+ hour work day. grr. argh.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Just Keep Praying

Just Keep Praying
Luke 11.1-13
July 18 2004

Once upon a time, there was a committee meeting at a church. At the beginning, committee member Bob said, “Can we start with prayer?” Everyone agreed this would be a very good idea, so Bob said, “who would like to pray?” No one answered. Everyone looked around nervously, looking everywhere except at other people. After nearly a minute, Bob said, “I’m sorry I asked. I guess I’ll do it, but it won’t be good.”
Once upon a time, Jesus was praying in a certain place. His disciples saw it and thought “wow, I wish I could be like that. Hey, Barnabas, don’t you want to be able to pray like that?” So they mustered their courage, approached Jesus and asked him to teach them to do what he did, to pray.
Have you ever been in one of these stories? I know I have definitely been in the first one. I’ve been the person who looked away (or even who says, “not me!”) when asked to pray at a meeting or at a meal. I’ve been the one who agrees to pray but only with the disclaimer that it won’t be very good. And I freely admit that I have never had the courage to approach the Lord and say “teach me to pray.”
I have sat in pews of churches and listened to preachers and liturgists pray. I’ve been at prayer meetings where people pray beautifully. Let me tell you, after hearing a preacher pray or listening to a televangelist for even a minute, I always feel like there’s no way I could ever pray, especially in public. I am completely intimidated by the idea that someone is going to listen to the words I say and is going to try to use them to pray, and I’m even more intimidated by the idea that, there on the spot I need to come up with words that express to God the prayers we all want to pray for this moment. It’s quite a tall order. Then, when I’m alone, I think I still need all those beautiful phrases and big words, those scriptural references and a mental list of current world events. Soon I’m snoozing away because I can’t keep track of it all and sleep sort of creeps up. And to ask for help from the Lord, or from anyone, would be to admit that I can’t do it. I can’t just pick it up in church, I can’t just come up with wonderful prayers without some sort of help, or at least advance planning. I can’t just do it without practice. It almost feels like admitting I’m not a good Christian somehow.
Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say any of those things when his disciples, who’ve been following him around, listening to him preach and pray, ask him to teach them. Jesus has no commentary like the usual “how much longer must I be with you” or some version of “I can’t believe you don’t get it yet!” Jesus simply says, “When you pray, say this.” And what he tells them to say isn’t fancy. In fact, it’s not even the beautiful language we learned from the King James version of the prayer recorded in Matthew. The prayer Jesus teaches in Luke’s gospel is five short sentences that kind of fall off your tongue and hit the floor. “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” That’s it. No “who art in heaven,” no “deliver us from evil” no “thine is the kingdom.” Just “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, and do not bring us to the time of trial.” No big words, no beautiful phrases, no list of current world events. Compared to the prayers of the people we hear from this pulpit every week, this prayer Jesus teaches is kind of, well, flat and boring. Or, alternatively, compared to this prayer that Jesus teaches, the prayers of the people we hear from this pulpit every week are full of heaps of empty phrases like those of the gentiles.
Well, I don’t know about you, but as much as I love the Lord’s Prayer and think it’s great for gathering up all the prayers of our hearts, it doesn’t feel to me like I’ve really prayed for that sick friend if I just say the Lord’s Prayer for her. If this is the model of prayer for us, how do we appropriate the petitions of this prayer for our own prayers?
First, I think, we have to ask why we pray. Are we praying because we want a specific thing to happen or not happen? Are we praying because we feel like we should? What’s the point of prayer? The Confessions of our church say that in prayer people seek after and are found by the one true God, we listen and wait upon God, we call God by name, remember God’s gracious acts, and offer ourselves to God. We, and all the children of God, are enabled by the Holy Spirit to plead for ourselves and for others and on behalf of the whole world. As the children of God we have the privilege of placing ourselves before God, open and vulnerable, and laying out the desires and anxieties of our hearts, of our community, of our world. And we expect that God listens to us as God’s children and will not neglect our prayers but will show us God’s love, mercy, and grace.
But what about those times when it feels like God isn’t listening, or isn’t answering, or has chosen to answer with a no? What about when we pray for someone to get better and they don’t? What about when we pray for an end to violence in different parts of the world or even on the streets of our own city, and yet it continues? What about when we pray for the safety of our friends and family and accidents happen?
How do we reconcile that experience with these words of Jesus? Ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. I would be willing to bet that everyone here has at some point asked and not received, knocked and only seen closed door after closed door. It’s hard to take Jesus’ words seriously. We all know that God isn’t in the business of simply giving us what we want. No matter how nicely we ask, no matter how much bargaining we do, no matter how lovely our phrases and how big our words, sometimes it seems that we just can’t have it.
Maybe it feels like God is the neighbor in Jesus’ parable. The one who says, “no, I won’t get out of bed and give you bread. It’s midnight, for goodness sake! You’re going to wake the children. I’m asleep. Go away!”
If so, though, Jesus says what to do. He says that the man who knocked and asked for help was persistent. The man kept knocking and shouting, possibly rousing the whole neighborhood. He was annoying, like a small child that continuously asks for a Popsicle. “mommy, I want a Popsicle. mommy, I want a Popsicle. mommy, can I have a Popsicle? mooommmm…….?” Jesus says that the neighbor would indeed get up and give his friend whatever he needs, if for no other reason than to get him to go away. Just keep knocking. Just keep shouting. Just keep asking. Just keep praying.
Now, I’m not saying that God wants us to go away and will answer our prayers in an attempt to shut us up. But I’m also not saying that the answer will necessarily be what we want. Jesus says that the neighbor will give the man whatever he needs. The man asked for three loaves of bread. Perhaps the neighbor gave him one. Or perhaps the man gave him some hummus and a cucumber. Or a loaf of bread and some figs. We have no way of knowing what the answer really was. Perhaps we ought to remember the same thing about our prayers. We may ask and ask and ask, pray and pray and pray, knock and shout and beg, but what we get isn’t necessarily what we asked for. We get sugar-free grape juice instead of a Popsicle. Or we think our prayers have gone unanswered, or worse—that the answer is no—when perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place for our answer. Do we want to have God’s answer, or are we only willing to accept the answer we started out looking for?
Many churches around the country have adopted a motto and a program of prayer. It’s called “Pray Until Something Happens”, with the acronym PUSH. No one says what that “something” will be. Often I think it’s probably a surprise. What I think is so intriguing about this, though, is the acronym. PUSH suggests that it’s not an easy task. “Push” is what you say when there are two of you trying to move a big car with a dead battery. “Push” is what you say to a soon-to-be-mother as she strives mightily to give birth. Pushing is hard work, something you have to do more than once to get where you need to be. Just keep knocking. Just keep shouting. Just keep asking. Just keep praying.
The psalms show us bunches of prayers that aren’t easy. They record a prayer life of sorrow and anguish, anger and bitterness, begging and pleading, and yet through it all gratitude and praise. That’s what the Lord’s Prayer shows us too. Beginning with praise, praying first for the coming of God’s kingdom, and asking for those things we need. When we pray, we should pray as Jesus taught. When we pray, we should pray until something happens, even if we don’t know what that something will be, because, as children of God, we trust that something will happen. If nothing else, God listens to us and loves us as God’s own people, and we may be changed by our prayer more than we know.
Most of us have seen the movie “Finding Nemo.” Dorie, the blue fish who helps Nemo’s dad find him, sings a little song with the words “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” These two little fish manage to swim all the way to Sydney from wherever it is that they started. Once they find Nemo, they meet some fish who are about to get pulled into a boat and eaten for dinner. Nemo, with his new-found confidence and the creativity sparked in him by his tank-mates at the dentist’s office, knows how to help them. He tells the fish that they have to swim down all together, and keep swimming as hard as they can, pushing on the net they are trapped in. Dorie sings her little song again, “just keep swimming,” and the fish manage to literally break free. They pushed and pushed. They just kept swimming until something happened.
The Holy Spirit is kind of like Dorie for us. The Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing. When we don’t know how to pray, or are speechless with gratitude or with grief or with anxiety, the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. When we’re sure that our prayers can’t possibly be any good, the Spirit can and will inspire us. The Spirit gives us the words, the desire, and the persistence to speak with God, and in this holy conversation we learn to pray for any and all.
So…why not ask the Lord to teach us to pray? His words aren’t fancy, his tone is conversational, and there is nothing about it that is complicated or even particularly good from a literary point of view. That alone should convince us that it isn’t about the words we use. And why not go ahead and pray? Pray in meetings, pray at home, pray unabashedly without apology. All prayers are good enough for God, who will indeed get up and give us whatever we need. Look in strange, unexpected places for surprising ways something might happen. Push hard and pray until something happens. Just keep knocking. Just keep asking. Just keep shouting. Just keep praying.

Friday, July 16, 2004


well, the mission trip is getting close. almost everything is arranged, except for a few crucial things, like transportation. hopefully that will be taken care of soon!!
also getting close is Sunday, when I'm supposed to be preaching on prayer. right now there is no sermon. hopefully that will change soon, very soon! oy.
took a trip to six flags on monday with the youth. hilariously fun. ah, batman. twice in a row we rode batman with no waiting! then came the rain, as we were waiting in line for a water ride. they shut down the rides because of lightning and thunder that came with the downpour.
interestingly, as we were waiting in line for a ride that would get us soaking wet, when it started to rain we all ran for cover. For some reason we didn't want to get wet, in spite of that whole water-ride thing. bizarre.'s busy for me right now as i try to get everything done. and i'm tired and want a day off. but is not forthcoming. perhaps not until we get back from this trip, actually. oy.

in the meantime, it's reasonably nice outside. maybe i'll see if i can write a sermon on the patio. ah...patio...ah, mosquitos and bees....maybe not. ;-)

Alive: the reflection paper part VI

Israel had a different feel to it. It was much more western, generally much busier, and there I met different people. I met some teenagers from across North America who were touring Israel for ten days on a birthright tour. I met Palestinian shopkeepers in the Old City. I met women at the Western (Wailing) Wall. We crossed paths with a group of trainees for the Israeli army, carrying their big guns, at an archaeological site. We met Naim Ateek with a group from Christian Peacemaker Teams. We met people at the Taba border crossing who couldn’t seem to remember that they had our passports and so kept asking us for them. We met an American priest and teacher from Bethlehem who told us about the education situation in the West Bank. We met people in Bethlehem who opened their shop or their restaurant specifically because we were coming in.
What they said was of a vastly different tone than what we had heard in the Arab countries. My encounters with people in the Arab countries were mostly friendly, sometimes sad or difficult, but almost all hopeful. The conversations with people in Israel/Palestine were also friendly but distinctly less hopeful. Especially where Palestinians are concerned, I would say that hope is one of the few things distinctly not alive right now—and is perhaps exactly what needs reviving if there is ever to be anything close to peace and justice.
We saw the “Apartheid Wall” (as George called it) many times. We saw how it cuts off villages from their fields, how its construction has required the bulldozing of olive trees, how it has guard towers and barbed wire and is 20 feet tall and looks exactly like the concrete walls of an American prison. We heard—from George and from others—what life is like inside, where the population is expanding (inside the limited space) because Arab families have many children, the economy is shattered because agriculture has been left outside the wall and tourism is ended when people can’t get in, the people have no access to hospitals, and the Palestinians on the inside must have special permission to come outside the wall. We saw and heard about a Jerusalem where Palestinians with a West Bank ID aren’t allowed in the Old City and if they are caught inside they can be (and are) imprisoned for up to three months, a system where Palestinians have special stickers on their cars identifying them as Palestinian rather than Israeli.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Alive: the reflection paper part V

A big part of our experience was the people we encountered. We had local guides in each country, we met servers, shopkeepers, fellow travelers, and the occasional random person on the street. In the Umayyad Mosque we met some Irani women as the women in our group gathered for a group photo. They asked to be in our picture and to have their photos taken with us. When they discovered where we were from they smiled and giggled. We all shared some sparkling eyes and smiles—a moment of camaraderie and hope. At Crak de Chevaliers I met an American couple who live in the Middle East for business. In Hama I met a couple of men in the street to whom I talked for a few minutes—one was a schoolteacher who spoke about what life was like in this town and who helped me learn a few Arabic words, the other a teenager from Canada whose family was from Hama and who had been forced into this trip by his mom and wasn’t particularly appreciative. In Petra I got asked on a date by one of the dining room staff. I had two marriage proposals in Jordan and two in the Sinai—all four turned down. In Amman I met a shopkeeper who told me his life story and asked that I and my friends would both pray for him and his country and that we would encourage the tourism industry because the economy has been so devastated by conflict in the region. He shared a sad story but our conversation ended with hope for a better time. On the ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba, we were the only westerners on board. I had been stared at a lot on the trip so far (mainly because of my blonde curly hair) but this was the epitome of staring. I could feel the eyes on me. I didn’t meet any of the people on the ferry because they were mainly men and that seemed inappropriate. It certainly was an experience of the average person, though—the people appeared to be mainly working class, mostly men, with the occasional harried family with lots of antsy children. All people going about their daily life and work in the midst of the things that make our evening news.

baby bird!!

this baby bird, recently hatched in my garage, was outside for the first time last weekend. It was so adorable, I had to take some pictures. Here's one, highly zoomed in, of my little cheepy friend. he's gone now. I haven't seen any of the four chicks since they first left the nest on Monday. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Alive: the reflection paper part IV

The people of God were also alive and well right in our bus. Our group was an intense one—we had intense conversations, intense learning, and intense fun. As we learned about one another and our respective traditions, I could sometimes feel the ecumenical relations improving. We worked together to translate Greek inscriptions on mosaics, to remember the Hebrew we learned and turn it into something approximating modern Hebrew, to do water ballet in the Dead Sea, to climb thousands of stairs—and to get down again! I struggled quite a bit with my sense of call to Scotland—where I was supposed to go in September—and my colleagues helped me think through that and make a decision consistent with what I felt led to do. Friendships developed that could truly last—once people have traveled together they really know what their friends are like! We truly developed a Christian community: we ate together, worshipped together, worked together, traveled together, lived together, had fun together, were serious together, prayed together. We helped each other along in the hard places, shared our resources, and pined after pizza. And as we traveled these places, met people, and shared experiences we processed our thoughts and our vision, and carefully thought through some things (and the theology) we thought we knew, and many of us learned to discuss or even defend our position without getting defensive—a crucial skill for the church. Each person contributed something incredibly valuable to the whole experience for me—whether in knowledge, excitement, or personability. I spent much time wondering what I would contribute to the group, but I have realized now that it may not be the same for each person. What others contributed to my experience may not be what they contributed to my roommate’s experience, even. As a group, however, I think we learned how to be the church—the community of God’s people who live together in spite of their differences, loving one another as Christ loved us.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Alive: the reflection paper part III

Of course, the places of worship often expressed the centuries of the faithful in several ways, as did our experiences in them. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus has been a pilgrimage site for hundreds of years, and was one of the busiest and most active religious sites we visited. Shoeless people, many covered from head to toe (some even with their faces completely covered), walking about, praying, visiting the shrines for the heads of important people (John the Baptist and Ali both supposedly left their heads in Damascus), or just resting in the cool of the sanctuary. The church at Gethsemane has purple cross stained glass windows, amazing mosaics and a dark and somber feel echoing the events on its ground of nearly 2000 years ago and the attitude with which most people approach those events. The church I came to call the “Jesus Wept” church, with its teardrop design and the Korean group singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as we arrived, and our group singing “Amazing Grace” as a few other random tourists joined us, singing as we looked out the window at the Old City of Jerusalem and the golden Dome of the Rock. The Church of St. Anne with its high ceilings, amazing acoustics, and our voices being lifted up as we sing the Doxology to the tune Old Hundredth—words billions have sung over the ages, a tune made for that space—a holy thrill. Both the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity, witnessing to the too-old schism between churches/denominations, and also to the possibility of sharing and relationship between those of differing theological histories and worship styles. St. Katherine’s Monastery, with a mosque minaret next to its belltower, showing the world that peaceful coexistence can be more than just a dream. Each of these places gave voice to the church through the ages. They marked our way as we traveled these places we’ve read about and helped us fit ourselves into the divine-human narrative. The people of God, in every tradition, in every time, and even in every place, were especially alive for me in these spaces.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee, from the Gentile side looking over at the Jewish side (as they would have been in Jesus' day).  Posted by Hello


this whole photo-posting thing is very cool. Very Very Cool, in fact. wow.

The Wilderness of Sin(ai)

The Wilderness. As in Exodus wilderness. It was hot and all looked the same. Understand the 40 years? Posted by Hello


Crak de Chevaliers: a Crusader castle. The coolest Crusader castle. Here we're looking at it from my hotel room. Super super cool inside too--stables and wells and big rooms and ovens and places to pour boiling oil on invaders...yeah. Posted by Hello

Alive: the Reflection Paper, part II

As the historical record took on flesh, I found that another thing alive and well was the cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us in faith, and those who are alongside us in a different path of faith, were everywhere we looked. Since returning, I haven’t been able to open the Bible without exclaiming (usually aloud, even in church—much to the dismay of my fellow pew-dwellers) “I’ve been there!” or “I’ve seen that!” As we traveled in Damascus, Hama, Aram, Edom, Sinai, to Mt. Carmel, to Mt. Nebo, to the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem, the communion of saints was practically palpable. We walked where Paul walked. We explored a city Isaiah prophesied against. We stood where Moses stood and looked into the Promised Land. We explored the city John the Baptist may have known. We climbed the mountain of Moses and we looked down on the valley from the place where Elijah beat the prophets. We saw Peter’s house and a city and synagogue Jesus would have known, we worshipped on the Mount of Beatitudes. We looked at the spring Mary drew water from, we visited Herod the Great’s cities, we saw the birthplace and the tomb of Jesus. Whether or not any of these traditional sites is indeed the historical place almost doesn’t matter—what matters is that for thousands of years (or at least a thousand and a half) people have thought it was the place. For thousands of years people have come to pray and to worship, to see the place and take back an experience of the living God. For me, the important thing wasn’t touching the hole where the cross may have stood, but praying in a place where millions of people have prayed. It wasn’t about whether Jesus was buried in the cave in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Garden Tomb, it was about the thick cloud of witnesses in the place (no, that wasn’t just incense!).
In some cases, it was also about experiencing something that probably hasn’t changed much through the centuries. The high place at Petra forced me to understand how important sacrificing in a high place was—it was nearly 800 steps up, and had a view of the whole city and was clearly the best place for worship involving sacrifices—it’s high and unobstructed so the smoke could rise to the heavens. When they say “the high place” they mean literally high! Important sacrifices required a lot of effort, it wasn’t just a casual undertaking. Those 800 steps probably weren’t there at first, and carrying a live animal up there would have been hard work—I wasn’t sure I could even carry myself up there. The climb up Mt. Sinai was hard, even given that we rode camels halfway up (which, by the way, was one of my favorite things!). No wonder Moses was so irritated that he had to go up again and again. The wilderness of Sinai looks like the kind of place one could get lost in. The Promised Land does look awfully good after that wilderness, too! The Sea of Galilee could easily have a quick storm that would swamp one of those little boats, and it takes a deceptively long time to cross. Not much of the experience of some of these places has changed—often just some stairs, or a new town in the valley, or a boat with a roof on the back make it clear that we are in the 21st, not the 1st, century.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Alive: the Reflection Paper, part I

Teri Peterson
Columbia Seminary, Decatur GA

As our group gathered in mid-May for the first time, many were worried about taking this trip this year. Some had already withdrawn. Some thought about it, and one didn’t come back for our second day of orientation. Would it be safe? Our friends and families prayed that we would come back alive; we prayed that we would be a good group and that we would learn a lot. Both prayers were answered!
From the moment we landed in Damascus until the moment we returned to Atlanta (or for some, wherever else they flew on to) we seemed to go non-stop. The many hotels, bus rides, 7am wake up calls, “short five-minute walks,” and endless meals of hummus were part of our daily routine. Also part of our daily routine (which wouldn’t have been routine anywhere else, or with anyone else!) were ruins. So many Bronze Age/Roman/Byzantine/Crusader ruins, so little time. We explored these tells, these ancient civilizations. We learned history, archaeology, culture, and more. Imaginations came alive as we pondered what life was like in Apamea. What was it like when part of daily life involved walking on a mile-long colonnaded road, bustling with carts and people? What was it like to daily feel dwarfed by the several-story high columns? And then, what was life like for the archaeologists who found a whole city buried under a meadow and began to “reconstruct again” (as Walid would say) the sparkling white colonnade? The very place was alive with those who had walked the same Roman pavement before us.
History itself came alive for me when we visited Crak de Chevaliers. My courses in the Crusades served me well as I recalled Raymond of Giles and his armies and successors taking this castle and holding it even against Saladin. Walking the corridors where hundreds of years of life had taken place was truly breathtaking, as was the view. People had lived and died there, poured hot oil on invaders, ridden horses in the hallway, hidden behind the safety of slanted walls and a moat, admired the view, expanded the castle, lived in its walls, and been asked to leave by the government’s historical preservation interests. Amazing.
Imagine life in a city carved out of the mountainside, with bright watercolor-type streaks and swirls lining your walls and ceiling. Imagine attending plays in theaters with perfect acoustics. Imagine living in a ruined city, adding your own layer to the thousands of years of life below. The several thousand years of civilization in these places still lives today, in ruined cities, in art and even writing, and in the people who continue to go about everyday life in the places tourists flock to.


at last

ok, i've been getting requests to hurry up with the "how was it" post. here you go.

It was great.

Sunny. hot. a lot of walking and climbing. intense. lots of learning. more roman columns than you've ever seen (unless you happen to have been there, in which case, approximately exactly the number of roman columns you have previously seen. probably more than in rome.). great times walking with Paul and Moses and Jesus, etc. except on water. none of us had the guts to test out the "walking on the Sea of Galilee" option--we stayed in the boat. lots of great people. lots of cool places. lots of hummus. lots of craving pizza and Dr. Pepper. lots of horrific things to see, like the Wall in Palestine, the state of Bethlehem, the bulldozing of olive trees, etc. lots of great things, like children playing in Damascus, people visiting churches, the 6th-century (never destroyed!) church of the nativity, the Palestinian Christians who were so happy to see us that they opened not one but two shops for us in Bethlehem, etc. Also cool: the Parthenon. just saying.

Anyway, it was an amazing trip. I learned a lot of history and met a lot of really great people. Made some good friends. Learned a lot about myself. Had some "holy thrills" like singing in an acoustically perfect church, looking at the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo, worshipping on the Mt. of Beatitudes, etc. I came home tan and fit, and with a great sense of the people. It seems that the Arab countries are hopeful. Unfortunately, Israel/Palestine doesn't have much hope. In fact, I came home feeling rather like many of the people I talked to there, who are quite hopeless about the situation and don't see how there can be peace in their lifetime. As Shirley Guthrie says in Christian Doctrine, however, our only hope is in God, not in ourselves. So there you go.

I'll be posting my paper here shortly. It's five pages, single-spaced, in Word. I'll put it up a section at a time. Enjoy. Also, I'm putting a link over there <--- on the left to My Yahoo Photos. 287 photos of the trip. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


I'm home now. recap, review, and reflection on the trip, forthcoming. for now: sleeping. in my bed. for more than one night in a row. yay!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Taba, Egypt (in the Sinai)

(written afternoon of Friday 28 May, before i got to the internet cafe)

Things i had not done 15 hours ago but have done now:

1. Had a wake-up call in a hotel at 1.30am
2. Ridden a camel.
3. Climbed a mountain in the middle of the night.
4. Watched the sun rise from the top of Mt. Sinai.
5. climbed down a rock-slide that was supposedly stairs.
6. eaten an egg and cheese "omelet" prepared at a slightly sketchy but still "best-available" hotel in Egypt.
7. Bought my way into a closed monastery. (in all fairness, our leader bought the whole group in so I didn't actually do this, but still...)
8. Seen pages from the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century manuscript of the Bible, one of the most reliable manuscripts we have.
9. stayed in a resort with a pool complex but the jacuzzi not working.
10. looked out my hotel window and realized i was looking at the border between Egypt and Israel.

Tomorrow we head into Israel. Yay! The land of Jesus awaits. I can hardly wait to float in the Dead Sea, explore Galilee, and hang out in jerusalem. :-)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Petra, Jordan

I have just climbed about 2000 steps and seen some of the most beautiful views of the world. amazing. Petra is the "rose red city" because the sandstone is rosey colored. but it is also yellow and white and gray and blue and black and pink and all kinds of colors--I sound like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. but it's true. it looks like a watercolor. but my legs are still tired!

I don't have much time, but the update is: I like Petra, here where supposedly Moses struck the rock and water gushed out. and tomorrow we head toward Sinai. tomorrow night we climb Jebel Musa, which is traditionally considered to be Mt. Sinai (you know, Moses and the ten commandments). There is camel riding involved in this, which I find very exciting. :-)

y'all be good until I get back!

Monday, May 24, 2004

Amman, Jordan

I've just finished a week in Syria, which was AMAZING. Lots of great people, big cities, desert, nice hotels, good food, shopping (but I've not bought anything!), mosques, castles, and roman ruins. lots of roman ruins. in fact, so many that they look very similar to me right now and therefore I am no longer taking photos of roman ruins that all look the same. differences that make the ruin: what are the columns made of? (some from Egyptian granite brought here from Aswan. some from marble. some from local stone.) how many temples? to whom? are there churches? is the stone white, red, or black? do people still live there? how long has it been an important site? (since the bronze age, or only since the bce/ce switch?)
In any case, we've looked at a lot of ruins. a lot. and there are more coming. but this weekend: climbing Mt. Sinai!! with camels!! then we swim in the Dead Sea! And on to Jerusalem, then a day at a resort island in Greece, then home. it sounds so quick, but it's two more weeks.
Amman is nice so far. Jordan is supposed to have great jewelry. we'll see if I come home with any. I'm trying to curb my materialism, so I've only bought postcards--which means i don't have to take as many pictures! we'll see how that goes.

anyway, that's all for now. good times in the middle east, where it's hot and we eat hummus twice a day. :-)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

leaving, on a jet plane...

ok, so i haven't posted in forever. sorry. the end of the semester and the quick leaving afterwards has caught up with me. yes, i am a workaholic. so sue me. let he who is without sin cast the first stone, as jesus said.
anyway...i'm leaving for the middle east in four days. yes. on monday night, i will be on a plane to france that connects to Damascus. why, am i stupid? you might ask. well, maybe. i've certainly been feeling pretty dumb for going on a HUGE trip right at the end of school. in any case, i'm going to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Greece. for three weeks. In a big group of seminarians and church people, so don't worry! well, ok, worry all you want, but remember that worrying changes nothing. prayer, on the other hand...well, i'm soliciting prayers for a good trip and for safety. and for jason. :-)

now that my internship is officially over we can tell people that we are dating. thank goodness! i've been wanting to post on my blog but can't because I do so much with jason that it would be bound to leak out. so anyway, now you know. all above board and everything. :-) he's worried about this trip, to say the least, so send him your happy thoughts. thanks!

ok, i'm off to lead a prayer group. you may not hear from me again until i get back...we return to the US June 7. perhaps i'll blog after that. i hope. watch, though, just in case i get a chance to drop a quick note from Jerusalem or Athens. how cool would that be? just saying...


Sunday, May 02, 2004

The Lord Is My Shepherd

The Lord is My Shepherd (a sermon in 5 parts)
Psalm 23
May 2 2004

Psalm 23.1-3 (Good News Version) “Lack Nothing”

It is not often that we can honestly say “I have everything I need.” In fact, it may not be something I’ve ever said in complete seriousness. Sure, at a restaurant I might have everything I want on the table, or at school I might have all the things I need to take notes. But are these my real “needs” and do I have all my needs supplied? As soon as we push on the word “everything” we start to think of new things. I need new shoes. I need a new dress. I need a vacation. I need a new car. I need this or that book or CD. I need to eat chocolate right now. As much as Jesus might tell us not to worry about tomorrow, for God will provide all that we need, it’s hard to say the first line of Psalm 23 and really mean it. The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need. I am literally lacking in absolutely nothing that is necessary for me.
We all know that it is trite and irresponsible to say “if you just trust in God, everything will be provided for you.” No one wants to hear that. Saying “don’t worry, God will provide” sounds to Reformed ears like license to be lazy. It also makes you wonder—how much do I have to trust? How long do I have to wait? Do I do nothing until everything I need has dropped into my lap?
But think for a moment…what is it that you truly need? Is it new clothes or a haircut or a new CD? Or is it to know that God loves you and will never forsake you? Do you need more money, or do you need to be led to a quiet meadow where you can rest? Do you need to eat at a super-expensive restaurant to impress your friends and colleagues, or do you need to be drawn toward the springs of fresh water?
Anthony DeMello, who was a Jesuit priest in India, tells the story of a Quaker man who put up a sign on a vacant piece of land next to his home. The sign read: “This land will be given to anyone who is truly satisfied.” A wealthy farmer who was riding by stopped to read the sign and said to himself, “Since our friend the Quaker is so ready to part with this plot, I might as well claim it before someone else does. I am a rich man and have all I need, so I will certainly qualify.: With that, he went up to the door and explained what he was there for. “And are you truly satisfied?” The Quaker man asked. “I am, indeed, for I have everything I need,” the wealthy farmer replied. “Friend,” said the Quaker, “If you are satisfied, what do you want the land for?”
What do we want the land for? If we have everything we need, why do we always think we need more things?
Jesus said that he is the Good Shepherd. With the risen Lord as our shepherd, what more do we need? Jesus said “I am the bread of life.” Jesus said that he gives water that gushes up to eternal life. Indeed, all that we need will be provided—but “things” aren’t necessarily part of that. “stuff” quickly becomes an idol—it takes the place of God in our lives, and, unfortunately, it’s so easy to fall into this. And we can’t just say “I don’t need anything” because it’s not really true—we need food and water and shelter and clothing, we need education and community, but most of all we need God, without whom there would be no earth, no stuff, no breath of life. So we try to affirm that the risen Lord is our shepherd, and because we have died to sin with him and risen with him to new life, we will lack nothing—or at least, nothing that is ultimately important.
So we come together and declare that sometimes we think we need more things, forgetting that God is, in some sense, our “all in all.” We declare that what we do need is forgiveness. We come and pray together, in the sure and certain hope of the love of the one who laid down his life for his sheep. Let us pray together, using the prayer of confession printed in the bulletin.
God of hope and safety, like sheep who go astray, we have wandered from your paths of life and light. We have heard the Shepherd’s voice calling us by name, but we have turned instead to our own way. Show us your tender mercy; restore us in the security of your fold. Lead us back to still waters, seat us again at your bounteous table. Fill us with your Spirit, that we might bear glad witness to your saving mercy, revealed to us in the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Beloved of God, hear these words of the psalmist: Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven, for they shall be like trees planted by streams of living water. Friends, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation through these waters—believe the good news! In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Psalm 23.1-3 pt. II “Paths of Righteousness”

One of the phrases often used in baptisms at my home church is “for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and all who are far off…as many as the Lord our God shall call.” In baptism the community recognizes that we are all God’s children, children of the covenant, children of the promise. Here the psalmist has reminded us that part of the promise is that God will lead us, God will guide us, God will be with us, and we are followers, we are disciples, we are sheep.
I don’t know how many of you have seen a flock of sheep. Sheep are often considered dumb animals, but they really aren’t, I promise. My grandfather had sheep when I was growing up, and I used to help him tend them. It’s very interesting, how the herder moves sheep from one place to another. Cows, as we all know from the movies (I used to watch Dr. Alley move his cows—it really works like this), are herded from behind. The cowherd rides around behind and the cows move in a group to wherever he or she wants them to go. Sheep, however, have to be led, because if you try to herd sheep from behind, they will scatter in a hundred directions. Instead, the shepherd goes ahead, to show the sheep that the way is safe. Sheep follow their shepherd, they know their shepherd, they trust that the way is right because the shepherd shows them that it is ok.
From the baptismal font we are led out by our good shepherd in the paths of righteousness. We follow in the right paths that God has promised to show us. We live as God’s chosen people, following the commands to love God and our neighbor. Righteousness means “to be in right relationship with.” So the paths of righteousness are paths that lead us into right relationship with God and our neighbor. And so we will walk in the path that seeks justice and pursues peace, for we are to follow Christ’s example to love one another, and we go out into the world to share the good news. As children of the promise, we have received grace upon grace, and we follow in the paths of righteousness. And so, as we are God’s reconciled children, those who seek right relationship with God and one another, let us share the peace of Christ.

Psalm 23.1-4 (New International Version) “You Are With Me”

The valley of the shadow of death sounds like something we’re probably going to avoid, don’t you think? Not exactly the big vacation hot spot this year. Death is something we fear in our culture, something to be avoided or put off, something that is generally a tragedy. The shadow of death is dark indeed, which is why some translations of this say “even though I walk through the darkest valley.” What is the darkest valley? Is death the darkest thing? To suffer from a long illness? To be the victim of a crime? To lose a loved one? To be completely unable to have a good hope for the future?
Whatever is the darkest valley, the psalmist claims that there is no fear there because we know that God is with us. No fear? I am reminded of all the times in Scripture when an Angel of the Lord meets one of God’s people. The first word the angel says is always “Do not be afraid.” In Isaiah God says to the people, who are in exile, “do not fear, I am with you…I am your God…I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my right hand.” Exile seems like it’s probably a dark valley—to be taken away from everything you know, plopped in the middle of Babylon, and forced into labor, all the time wondering about those who were left behind, about the status of the temple, about where God is in the midst of this.
How often we are in exile—we wonder about things we have left behind, we wonder what the status of our church is, we wonder what to do about war and sickness and fear and hunger, we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain and the pain of the world. And we get these good words from the Lord: “Do not fear, I am with you, I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my right hand.” And we gather together every Sunday and proclaim that the things we so often feel control our destiny really don’t, because Jesus the Christ was raised from the dead. In the resurrection, death as the determiner of our lives, as something to be feared as the ultimate end, as the thing that holds power over us, has been shattered. The valley of the shadow of death maybe isn’t so dark after all, because we have hope—hope in the Risen Lord that death is not the final say; instead God has the final say and God is the God of the living, not of the dead. The grave holds no power, death has no victory, for we are an Easter people. Because of this hope, we believe that the dark valleys need not be feared—which is why we pray. We pray for light in dark places, in the darkness of hunger and war and despair and illness and loss. We pray for healing, because healing doesn’t always mean what we think it means. We pray for hope and for strength to keep walking, even through the hard places. The staff of the Good Shepherd is our guide, our comfort, and our strength, for Jesus has been in the hard places… Gethsemane, Golgotha, hell.
So indeed we shall fear not, for Jesus promised to be with us, even to the end of the age. God is indeed with us, fulfilling God’s promises. Even in the darkest valleys, there is a glimmer—of resurrection hope, of Easter morning sunrise.

Psalm 23.1-5 (New Revised Standard Version) “A Table and Cup”

Most of us have hosted a dinner party of some kind—for a few friends, for the family at Thanksgiving, for a large party, or just a special dinner for the two of us. It’s a lot of work to get ready for a dinner party. There’s the setting of the table, making it look pretty, figuring out how the silverware goes, whose glass is who’s, etc. There’s figuring out the menu. Are we going vegetarian tonight, or having chicken? Are we having rice or pasta? What kind of vegetables, what kind of bread, which kind of wine goes best with this menu?…it can be very complicated. Then, there’s the actual cooking, and the cleaning, and finally we enjoy the meal.
Jesus spent a lot of time eating, but usually it was at someone else’s house. Remember how he dined with tax collectors and sinners? Remember how he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner? Remember how he told the story of the banquet given by the king, where the invited guests wouldn’t come so the beautifully prepared feast was opened to everyone who happened to wander by, and some who were sought out in the dark alleys and abandoned buildings? Only once in the gospel story is he the host—at the Last Supper (which, by the way, the disciples prepared and was hosted at someone else’s house…he simply presided over the Passover ritual). And, of course, here at this table, he has prepared it for us. God prepares the table for us—it lacks nothing.
God has a history of providing abundance in the midst of our perceived scarcity. In the wilderness, God provided the Israelites with food every day for forty years. God also has a history of providing abundance in the midst of our perceived abundance that is really lacking. In Isaiah God invites all who hunger and thirst to come to the waters, to come buy wine and milk and bread without money, to feast on the good things which God has prepared rather than on those things that are not what we need. Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread, trusting that tomorrow we will still lack nothing.
This table has been provided by God, in the midst of our lives. We have been invited to a royal dinner party, hosted by the King of Kings…not because we are worthy but because God loves us and is with us, God has claimed us in baptism and has anointed us with oil. And the cup which we bless does indeed run over—for this is a true feast, where the wine never runs out, there are always 7 baskets of bread left over, and those who hunger and thirst are filled with good things.
This dinner party required much preparation, just like any other dinner party. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus ate with sinners and outcasts, healed the sick and made the wounded whole, taught and prayed. He was tortured and crucified and raised from the dead. All in preparation for this dinner party. Then, of course, someone in this congregation had to get the bread, the wine, and the grape juice. Someone had to fill the cups and set the table. Someone had to write a communion liturgy. Someone had to go through years of education and examination in order to stand behind that table. And we all had to come to this place this morning—the guests who were not necessarily the first invited, but those who were brought in because the doors are so wide open. Indeed, this dinner party required much preparation—but now we are all guests, not the busy hosts, and we are seated around this table, each in a place of honor…the table, which lacks nothing, has been prepared for us. We have been washed, we have been claimed as God’s own, and the cup of blessing overflows.

Psalm 23.1-6 (King James Version) “Shall Follow Me…Out From This Place”

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. What an affirmation. What a statement of trust. What a relief for the psalmist, who one poem before this one was so sure she had been forsaken by the Lord. From “why have you forsaken me” to “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” is quite a leap.
Jesus said to his frightened disciples, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms—I go to prepare a place for you.” How great to live in the house of the Lord forever! Wait…in the Old Testament, the House of the Lord meant the Temple. Do we want to dwell in the Temple forever? Do we want to dwell in the church building forever? Maybe not…that’s where the goodness and mercy come in. The Lord is our shepherd…he leads us to green pastures and still waters…he is with us so that we do not need to be afraid…he has fed us with good things here at the table he has prepared…and now goodness and mercy shall follow us forever. In order for goodness and mercy to follow us, we have to go somewhere. So we go out from this place, and goodness and mercy follow us wherever we go, and we still dwell in the house of the Lord. We all know that the church is not the building, the body of Christ is not just one person—the house of the Lord is indeed great, beyond our imaginings.
So, friends, as we go out we share the goodness and mercy of our Lord with all whom we meet. It’s hard to share when your cup is empty. But here we have all been filled, even to overflowing, so we can share with those whose cups run dry. We can say in all honesty that our needs are met, that we are fed, that we need not be afraid, that indeed our cups run over with goodness and mercy.
The Lord is our shepherd, he leads us in his paths, and we follow. And the goodness and mercy of our Lord follow us wherever we go.
And so we must go out, and we must share the good news, and we know that the psalmist’s amazing affirmation of faith is one we too can use. We leave this place but we do not leave the love of God behind. We leave this place, but we follow our shepherd. We leave this place, and surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives here and there, and we shall indeed dwell in God’s house forever and ever. Amen.