Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fabulous 90

Some people are born legends.

Nadine is one of those people.

90 years young, Nadine celebrated a landmark birthday this past week.  And she celebrated in style and grace befitting her life.  Her family threw a huge party for her at the church - stories were shared, laughter and smiles were plentiful.  There were photos and memories and keepsakes.  Lessons learned and passed down through the generations.  There was even her first boyfriend coming to celebrate with her.

Everyone wanted to celebrate Nadine.

I learned Nadine's story well before I met her.

Over three years ago, while interviewing for the position of pastor at Christ and Trinity, where Nadine has been a member for most of her life, I heard about Nadine before I ever met her.  I heard about this 80-something saxophone playing, volunteer coordinating, faithful, forgetful, and wise child of God.  Stories were shared of Nadine learning to play the saxophone in her 80's and playing in the Sedalia Community Concert Band.  I heard how Nadine gathers dozens of volunteers for worship each week.  And for some reason, there were always stories of Nadine losing her keys.  Or her cane.  Amid each story, a vignette of this woman came to me.  A picture of a deeply faithful, loved, and legendary woman.  Someone to know and love.

Someone who knew how deeply loved she was.

When I met Nadine, I too came to know and love this beautiful child of God.  I came to recognize her gifts and laugh with her.  I learned the story of her life.  And give thanks for the family she raised and loved.

So it is with God.  God knew Nadine before she was born.  God called her into this life of faith.  God walked with her through 90 years of love and grace.  And God will continue to know her and love her even when her time with us is no more.  Celebrating with Nadine's family and friends, we each gave thanks for the God who knew Nadine and gifted her to us to know and to love.  We gave thanks for the God who weaves our story into God's abundant grace found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Not only Nadine, but each of us, are known and loved and claimed by God well before we're born.

Before time began and into the future, our story remains held by God.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Breaking the News

After almost 2 years of marriage and 5 years of being in relationship, it's no secret that Stephen and I operate at different speeds.

Whether it is our day-to-day activities, the way we go about our work, or the method in which we make decisions, we move in vastly different ways.

My main speed would be fast.
Stephen moves at a slower pace.

At times we appreciate each other's speed and the way tasks and work gets done.  On many Saturdays as we're both getting ready for church the next day, it's not uncommon for Stephen to be working much of the day right up to his evening service.  Whereas I have finished the same number of tasks (and sometimes more) in half the amount of time.

But there are times I look at the quality of work Stephen has created and the time put in and I'm envious.  Our lawn and landscaping are far better for Stephen's hands rather than mine.

And then there is the decision making.  Sometimes I'm still amazed that at 11 months of dating, Stephen asked me to marry him!  He's very thorough and takes his time researching and figuring out the best options.  He decides with his head.  I go with my heart. 

We both had talked about a dog for a while before we were living in a house.  And when the perfect dog (the one I couldn't stop thinking about) came into our lives, I was ready!  A year later, Stephen still wonders about whether we should have adopted a dog!

It was never more evident how different Stephen and I are than when we shared with our families that we were expecting a child.

We found out we were pregnant at 6 weeks.  A week later my mom was coming to visit for Holy Week and Easter.  So we would tell her in person.

I had found the perfect gift years ago (just waiting for that special occasion): an "I love you Grandma" book.  Before she arrived I wrapped it and it waited for her arrival.  To get to Missouri, my mom has an 11 hour drive from Ohio.  She made the trip in one day, a very long day.  She arrived just before Stephen had to attend a meeting at church.

She was getting the gift upon arrival.  He would have to wait.

We all greeted one another at the car and carried her bags inside.  She wasn't even sitting down, hadn't really dropped her purse or anything and I said, "We have a gift for you!"

Here it is.

Open it now.

"Can I sit down first?" she asks.

No, open it now.  It's a gift for you.

She's standing in our entrance.  We're all waiting anxiously.

And she's tired from her long drive.

My mom unwraps the gift and sees a baby book -  "I always liked these books.  Wait, does this mean?"  

Yes, I'm pregnant!  

A few weeks later it would be time for us to share our news with Stephen's parents.

Stephen's parents were set to visit the first week in May.  Again, we wanted to share our news in person.  They flew to Missouri from Maryland.  Upon arrival we met them at the airport and had some activities planned for the day.  Stephen had it all figured out how we would share with his parents in the evening while his sister and uncle were on the phone.  He even created a picture with our current "Works in Progress" - the '72 Suburban, our dog, and our first ultrasound.  The pictures were wrapped and at the appointed time Stephen would send a picture via email to his uncle and sister.  

Finally.  The time came to make the phone calls and to share the news.  We were gathered in our living room.  Stephen dialed his sister and uncle and we were all talking together across three different states.  I wasn't in charge of how to share the news - otherwise, as soon as the phones were answered, I would have shared.  

No, we talked about our day.  
How the trip went so far.  
Our plans for the weekend.  
How everyone was doing.  

All the while I'm just sitting on the couch waiting to scream our good news! 

I should have known that Stephen would work on his own time.  But we had news of a baby to share!  

Finally.  After all the questions were exhausted and Stephen's dad was falling asleep in the recliner from the day, Stephen says, 'Well, we have some news to share.  Mom and dad have a gift here to open and I sent you a picture.  Everyone can open it now."  

Yes, we're having a baby! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Creative Growth

It's been a while.

Too long.

The last post in this blog came from March 14th.  March!  When I couldn't imagine the heat of summer and the green growth, and now here we are in June.  Surrounded by green and warmth and sun.  It's been a while!  

I look back in the calendar and March was the beginning of Lent.  The beginning of one of the busiest times in the life of the church.  Perhaps I can blame my lack of writing and sharing and reflecting on the extra service each Wednesday in Lent?  Perhaps I can blame the lack of attention to the blog on planning for Holy Week and Easter?  Perhaps laziness is the culprit?    

Then I reflect on what else was going on in March and April.  I recall a lack of energy for anything creative.  If I'm really honest with myself I can say that during those months of quiet on the blog-front, my entire writing world was quiet.  Sermons were hard to come by.  Newsletter articles became a task to get done rather than the gift of writing I usually consider them.  Emails that needed a response took days and maybe weeks.  Letters sat on my desk awaiting a reply.  And the sermons, did I mention the sermons?  It was painful thinking towards each Sunday.  The energy and creativity and illustrations were gone.  Too many times I stared at a blank computer screen.

Now it's June.  Summer is here.  Lent and Holy Week and Easter have come and far gone.

I'm writing again.

And I'm pregnant.  15 weeks pregnant to be exact.

I look back at the calendar and count back 15 weeks to March.

I remember the exhaustion and total lack of ability to do anything other than what needed to be done.  I look back and understand a bit more why it's been so long since I wrote.  

Making it through my first trimester, I can now say that I have more energy.  A less upset stomach.  Less aversion to certain foods.  Less of a need to always be close to a bed or a bathroom.  And a desire to write again.  To share my story.

To use all that pent up creativity and share it with the baby-to-be.  To write this new story that is dwelling inside of me.

It's been too long these last few months, but it's been time well spent.  Time to anticipate and dream and to allow my creativity to envelope this new creation forming inside of me.



Friday, March 14, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Crowd

Friday is here.  Friday is my day off so taking five minutes to write is a gift this day.  It's Friday and another chance to turn off the inner critic and simply write for five minutes.  No over thinking, no editing, no worrying.  Writing for the sake of writing.

Five Minute Friday


It's just natural.  I can't help but think about the crowd.  As a pastor, each week I wonder who the crowds will be who attend Sunday morning worship, and whether there will be a crowd or not.  I wonder who is traveling, who is sick, who has their schedules so full that even sleep is elusive.  I smile thinking about the children who will brighten our days, the children who will reach out their hands in peace, the children who will be running towards the table in awe.  I wonder if a new face will bless us in worship and whether they'll feel God's presence.  I hold in prayer those who we don't know and those who wouldn't even think about coming to worship.  Each person and each face flash before me and I'm full of prayers.  

And then it's time to gather for communion.  Each week the community gathers at the table to feast; to taste the bread and the wine.  To fall down before God and to be surrounded in community.  And it's there that I feel the power of the crowd.  I look out at the faces of those present and I give thanks.  I see the face of Christ before me.  And I feel the power of the saints surrounding us.  I don't have to look far to know that the communion of saints is with us.  Before us.  Among us.  Singing with us.  Loving us.   Remembering with us.  

The table each week is overflowing, so much that I can't contain the crowds.  So much love and grace. So much forgiveness.  So much.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beautiful Dust

"God makes beautiful things out of us, from the dust."  (Gungor)               

My dad knew the beauty of dust.

Even before he was sick and death could be denied, my dad knew what would happen to his dust.  My father's instructions were clear.  He would be cremated and had specific directions on where to scatter his dust.

A table spoon of his ashes to be precise.

Three locations brimmed with the holiness where he wished his ashes to rest.

In Buffalo, New York, his home town.  He wanted the ashes spread at his school and his home.  The places where he learned to love and be loved.  The places where he was challenged.  The places that defined him as the man he would become.  Almost every visit to Buffalo, my dad would take me past his school and to the home where he and his four siblings were raised.  The fondest memories were shared of games outside through the summer months, working on cars with his dad, and telling stories with his brother late at night under the covers.

My dad knew the beauty of dust.

His father's family came from Nebraska and there also his ashes would lie.  I heard the stories my dad shared of his father's life growing up in the flat, beautiful land of Nebraska.  I knew my dad's love for the stretching skies and vast prairies.

My dad knew the beauty of dust.

And finally, the final resting place for his ashes - my first call congregation.  You see, not only in his life but in his death, my dad knew the hope and beauty of dust.  The instructions for his ashes were written well before I even finished seminary, let alone knew where and how God was calling me in ministry.

But my dad knew intimately that "God makes beautiful things out of us, from the dust."

Ash Wednesday is approaching.  That tender, solemn day in the church where we gather to reflect on death.  Communities gather to feel the ashen cross on their foreheads and to hear the words, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."  We feel the ashes.  We see them.  We fear them.  We remember the deaths of loved ones.  We reflect on our own deaths.

Ash Wednesday brings us to our knees.  Humbled and vulnerable.  We remember the place we've been and think towards the places we'll go - and all the beautiful things God will make out of each of us.  On this day of ashes and dust and remembrance, the sign of the cross on our foreheads reminds us of the cross from our baptisms.

Not unlike our baptism, as a vulnerable and humble baby, the crosses of Ash Wednesday remind us that we make mistakes.  That we are mortal and that we need forgiveness.

The water at our baptism washes over us with a love and grace stronger than anything we can imagine and greater than any mistake we've made, stronger than even death.  It's a love that claims us from the beginning, embraced by the arms of God, and doesn't let go even when our life on earth ends.

On Ash Wednesday when the ashes are marked on our foreheads, when we feel the ash, remember the darkness, and reflect on death, we know intimately that the One on the cross was made of the same dust as us.  That the One who walked to the cross and claimed us at baptism, walked the same dusty, earthen land.

Out of the dust, beauty rises.  Out of the dust, hope emerges.

I never imagined that I'd celebrate Ash Wednesday holding the memory of my father's ashes.  I never imagined that the beauty and grace enfleshed in my father, would be only ashes.  

"Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

And from the dust, God makes beautiful things out of us.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Transfiguration's Cold Sunday

Sometimes, things aren't always as they seem at first glance.

Or more likely, the picture we have in our mind for a certain day or job or relationship, or Sunday morning worship, our ideal - our hope - doesn't pan out the way we hoped or expected.

Here we are - again, the first Sunday of the month with bad weather.  Weather that keeps us away, rightfully, from driving and being together in community.  Weather that blankets the streets and our homes and walkways.  Weather that terrorizes, a winter that has lasted way too long.

This morning (even while we're ice bound) we're being led up the mountain with Jesus, a high mountain.  And perhaps we're not feeling like we want to go anywhere.  Perhaps Jesus has to drag us up the mountain, perhaps we can't even hear Jesus beckoning us forward with him.  

Maybe we've been so overcome with sickness and grief and loss that we can't move away from our own tears.

Maybe we've been turned down from one job after another and we just can't bear another rejection.

Maybe we've gone from doctor to doctor looking for answers and we can't handle any  more changes in medicines or another diagnosis or the ongoing barage of tests and questions.

Maybe we can't bear to see another storm of ice and rain and snow and ice and rain and snow.

Maybe we've been studying so much and reading so much and we just can't get our minds wrapped around the lessons.

Maybe we've been running from lesson to lesson and practice to practice and work and home and school, and we just can't take any more steps.

Maybe we just can't figure out what to do with our future.

But we are led up the mountain this morning, with Jesus, Peter and James.

And here on the mountain Jesus is transfigured before them.  Jesus is transformed.  On the mountain. A beautiful scene in which the disciples are so moved that they want to build dwelling places  on that mountain and remain there with Jesus.  Their eyes have been opened and they want to remain in the glory they have witnessed.  But Jesus tells them no.  They must leave the mountain top.

"The story of the Transfiguration is not simply about learning to leave the mountaintop, or about releasing what we have grown attached to.  It’s not just about resisting our desire to turn moments of transcendence into monuments.  The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing to walk where it leads us.  The story urges us to trust that what we have seen, what we have known, will go with us.  It assures us that the gifts received on the mountaintop will continue to illuminate us not only on level ground but even when we walk in the valley of the shadow"  (Jan Richardson)

Once we've been dragged up the mountain and have seen the glory of God, we are transformed.  Not by anything we've done or who we are, but because of the presence of Jesus.  The experience we have on the mountain doesn't depend on the mountain, but on the abiding presence of Jesus who not only is with us on the mountain but is the One who walks us up the mountain and back down again into those valleys and shadows and darkness.  Into the everyday realities of life.  Jesus' light shines and we trust that Jesus is with us.

On this Sunday coming close to the eve of Lent, we stand before the light of Christ knowing that we must follow into temptation and darkness on the way to the cross.  We gather on Wednesday to be marked with a cross of ashes, and to follow towards the One who has already claimed us with the cross at our baptism.  Jesus who calls us forward to see the light.    

And so that's where I want to stay this morning, not on the mountain; No, but rather I want to stay and dwell in the persistent invitation from Jesus to go up the mountain, to be with us in light, and to walk with us down to the trenches of life.  I want to stay in his unending invitation to bear witness to the light of Christ.  To Jesus constantly dragging us towards him.    

I want to live in the unexpected blessings that come from Jesus' call to venture forward to places that are unknown.  I want to live in the journey upwards where sometimes the path is rocky and only bearable with the company of friends.

Some things aren't always as they seem at first glance.

For here we are, surrounded by the light of one another.  Stronger because of one another's faith.

Jesus' invitation to each of us; Jesus who calls us to follow doesn't call us to places in which he won't walk himself.  Jesus who meets us in our pain and loss and doubt invites us to life and light, Jesus who knows the crosses we bear and binds them to himself.  Jesus who gives us one another.

Jesus who reminds us that his glory is all around.  That we can join in the blessing,

"That when glory comes
we will open our eyes
to see it.

That when glory shows up
we will let ourselves
be overcome
not by fear
but by the love
it bears.

That when glory shines
we will bring it
back with us
all the way
all the way
all the way down"  (Jan Richardson)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Choose

It's that time once again.  Friday is here.  Time to sit, breathe, and write.  For five minutes and only five minutes.  No second-guessing, no worrying, no editing.  Writing and writing only.

Five Minute Friday


Some days there are just too many choices to make.  Too much to think about, too much to do, and too much vying for my attention.  Choices need to be made.  What to wear, whether to exercise, what to eat, what to pack for lunch, whether to make a cup of tea and read the paper,  what I need to get done for work, who needs a visit, what my thoughts are for the upcoming sermon, on and on and on.  Choice after choice confronts me even before I step out of the bed.  The day already rushing by me.  The worries and the fears and the uncertainty already present.    

Yet, there's a moment each morning when I wake up, a holy moment, where all the worries from yesterday and the to-do lists of today fail to settle in.  There's just a brief moment where the only choice, the only option, is to give thanks for the joy of being alive.  There's a brief moment where the sacred seeps in and just to be awake takes cosmic significance.

For a moment, I am reminded that God chooses me.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Write

Friday is here.  Which means it's time to write for five minutes, and only five minutes.  No second guessing.  No editing.  Just writing.  I am grateful for Lisa Jo Baker and her blog and the community across the world that takes five minutes, five sacred minutes, and honors the words that spring forth.

Five Minute Friday


As a pastor, I write.  Quite a bit.  Newsletter articles, sermons, Bible studies, thank you notes, encouraging notes, prayers, and did I mention sermons?  On and on.  I write to make sense of the world.  I write to share my story.  I write to share God's story. 

Yet, the more I write of God and God's unrelenting love for God's people, the more words fail me.  The more I delve into the mystery of grace, the more I falter with each word.  For as much as I write to make sense of God, the sense of God eludes me.  

And it's precisely in those moments of silence and awe when the words fail to come, that I give thanks for the One who was the Word in the beginning.  

This week that Word of God came to me from the mouth of a child.    

Taking part in learning about first communion with Miley and her family, we gathered around the table in the sanctuary.  Together we were going to set the table, learn about why we take communion, and understand what God does in, with, and under communion.  When we began, I asked Miley, 

"Why do we go to communion?"

Miley answered, "To eat with God."  

There are times when God's story is spoken and all one can do is simply stand in awe.  For more often than not, all the writing in the world can't contain and make sense of the mystery and deep, deep love of God.  In that moment with Miley and her family, no amount of writing or researching could have made as much sense as Miley's words.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Let me tell you a story....

Let me tell you a story.

February 2nd is the Presentation of our Lord.

So much to celebrate.

40 days after the birth of Christ we gather on this Presentation of our Lord Sunday to remember and give thanks for Jesus' presentation at the temple.  Jesus is brought by his parents, Mary and Joseph.  He is presented to God.  While at the temple Jesus and his parents are met by Simeon and Anna who are the first to proclaim that this is the Messiah.

Just as Jesus was brought to God by others, we also sometimes need others to bring us to God.

Let me tell you a story.

This week, my college, Wittenberg University, grieves the death of one of its saints.  Ann died this week.  Everyone at Wittenberg knew Ann and her smile.  They knew her welcome and hospitality.  They knew her love.  Ann greeted everyone at the Center Dining Room (affectionately known as the CDR) as she swiped everyone's meal cards.  She'd greet you with her warmth and ask how you were.  She'd know if you'd had a rough night or if you didn't feel good.  She knew the right questions to ask at the right times.  One of my friends, John, recounted that after Thanksgiving break Ann greeted him with the words, "It's so good to see you again.  I thought about you and prayed for you over the break."

Ann knew about God, and Ann brought others to God through her grace.  Everyone who walked through the CDR doors were made better people because of Ann.

Just as Jesus was brought to God by others, we also sometimes need others to bring us to God.  And for countless Wittenberg students, that other person was Ann.  Ann brought us to God.

Let me tell you one more story.

After Christmas, Emily and I visited one of the congregation's oldest and wisest theologians, Iva.  Ninety four years young, Iva resides at a rest home where she continues to cause trouble and bring light to the lives of many.  During our visit, Iva shared words of wisdom with Emily as she comes near the end of high school.  "You behave yourself," she says.  Iva shared memories of her time at the church and the love of her family.  We then gathered to share communion.  We prayed.  I recited the words of institution.  We prayed together the words of the Lord's prayer.

Our father, who art in heaven...

All three of our voices prayed together.

And then towards the end, Iva's voice drops off.  She no longer prays the words out loud with us.

Emily and I finish the prayer, Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.     

Iva then says, "I forgot the rest of the words.  I just couldn't remember them."

"It's okay, Iva, Emily and I prayed for you.  We prayed the words and spoke them out loud for you.  The community of Christ and Trinity prays for you."

Sometimes we need others to bring us to God.  Sometimes we need others to pray for us when the words don't come.

What's your story?  Where have you brought others to God?  Where have you been brought to God by others?  And where have you heard the prayers of the community when you couldn't pray yourself?

Tell me that story.  And tell me of the One who brings light to the world.

We all have a story to tell.  Of the light of Christ that shines in the darkness.  The light of Christ that came to this earth to know our pain and suffering, to walk with us, to go to the cross, and to overcome death.  So that we have the light and life and love of God with us.  Always.

So that we too, with Simeon can say, "My eyes have seen your salvation."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Hero

It's Friday again and that time to join with voices and writers and dreamers to take five minutes and write.  There is no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying, no second-guessing, only writing.  For Five Minutes.  Read more about Five Minute Friday at Lisa Jo Baker's Blog:


As I gather my thoughts and swiftly move my fingers bringing words to life, I give thanks for the one who first shared the dream with me.  As I wonder what stories to tell and what words breathe life into my story, I pause to recall the one who first told me of a greater story than my own.  From journals and scraps of paper, from drawings and stories, from essays and poems, the words were always wrapped in love.  The words were inspired by the one who was there when my first word echoed in this world.  

I write to make sense of my world and to work my way though my thoughts, hopes, dreams and challenges.  I write because I was gifted from an early age with the knowledge that words matter.  I write because of the love from a mother to a daughter.  

In my closet I have a box of all the journals and stories and writings that I created.  Some for school and some for the pure joy of bringing words to life.  It's a collection of words and drawings and the love of telling a story.  I have some of my mother's writings, too.  And together, that box holds a treasure of memories and hope.  For between that box of writings and a blank page waiting for a story to be told, the voice of my mother, my hero, reaches from the page to encourage me: Keep writing, your words do matter.     

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You Want Me to Follow You Where?

"Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."

Not words to be taken lightly, that's for sure.

Little did I know three years ago where those words, "Follow me," would lead me.  For it was three years ago that I came to preach these words for the first time to the people of Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church in Sedalia, Missouri.  And it was three years ago that those same words were words spoken to me.

Living in the state of Missouri was not on my radar.  I had only visited the state once before my initial interviews.  Of course I had heard of Mark Twain and Hannibal and the famous arch.  Still, Missouri was a bit foreign to me, a bit far from family and friends, and a bit unknown.  Yet the words of Jesus called, "Follow me."

And there I was being voted on by the people of Christ and Trinity to be their pastor.  To enter into relationship with them.  To hear their stories.  To tell God's story.  To offer forgiveness.  To ask for forgiveness.  To baptize.  To share bread and wine.  To laugh and to cry.  To sing and to dance.

Follow me.

On this particular Sunday, I was to preach in worship and to meet the people.  I remember the faces and the feelings and the nerves.  I remember the children and their notes of welcome.

"Dear Pastor Kim, We all have hope you will like our church."  

"We love you."  

Notes of hope and notes of promise.  Notes that no matter whether I was their pastor or not, no matter how flat my sermon fell, or how many names I forgot, no matter how much uncertainty there was, they still loved me.  Already.

Follow me, Jesus says.  And come to experience this love that existed before you were born.  Follow me to share that love, to proclaim the good news, to heal and to forgive.  Follow me.

Three years ago I had no idea where this journey, this call, would lead.  And now three years later I still am unsure of where God is calling each of us.  I trust only in the promise that I am loved.  The people I serve are loved.  The community is loved.  And that the world outside our doors is still in desperate need of hearing these words of love and hope.  And so, together, we share God's word and the example of Jesus.

Three years into this call and I'm aware of the fluid nature of community.  People I met three years ago, people who welcomed and taught and loved me, have moved on for work or have entered the church triumphant.  And there are people who have become a part of this community just in these last three years.  There are people, like me, who are learning and sharing about this Jesus and this call with new friends and new family.

Three years have gone by and Missouri is no longer unknown to me.  Now the state of Missouri, Sedalia and Christ and Trinity, paint a picture of God's work in the world.  A picture of God's call in the lives of God's people.  A people full of love and ready to share that love with the world.  A people who say to friends and enemies and strangers, "We love you."  People who work together to follow God's call.


Friday, January 24, 2014

The Peace of a Two-Year-Old

Hadley reaches out his hand, looks his neighbor in the eye, and says, "Peace be with you." 

Sounds like any Sunday morning at Christ and Trinity during the passing of the peace, but for two-year-old Hadley, saying, "Peace be with you," doesn't only occur at church but also with his classmates at preschool.  Hadley extends his hand and offers the words, "Peace be with you" to his preschool friends.     

Peace be with you.   

For Hadley going to church and being the church are one and the same.  From Hadley, a young theologian, we learn and see and experience the power of words, the power of touch, and the power of community.  Wherever we are.

Every Sunday we come together and worship.  We come to offer forgiveness and to be forgiven.  We come to pray for others and for others to pray for us.  We come to taste and see and feel that the Lord is good.  We come to sing and to praise.  We come to share peace and to bless.  When we offer the peace of the Lord to our neighbors each week we do it knowing that it is God's peace that we offer.  Not ours.  We shake hands and say, "Peace" to people with whom we may disagree, to people we may not know, to people who may think and act differently than we do.  We offer peace not out of our own goodness but out of the goodness and grace of God.  And somehow, deep down, Hadley already knows that.  Hadley knows that this peace is something that he can't keep to just himself.  Hadley knows that the world needs to hear words of peace.  And Hadley teaches us that God's peace is not solely the property of Sunday morning worship.

This January I resolved to remember and say and believe that I am a child of God.  Loved.  Claimed.  Special.  Now, I learn from Hadley, and invite you to learn from him as well.  I invite you to reach out your hands, look your neighbor and strangers and enemies in the eye, and say, "Peace be with you."  I invite you to reach out your hands knowing that God's peace has already come to you. 

Come each week for worship and hear the words of peace that are for you.  Come to worship and share those words of comfort and hope.  And then offer the peace during worship and go out into the world with an outstretched arm knowing that a child leads the way. 

Peace be with you.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I feel like my younger self awaiting the first day back to school after the summer or a long winter break.

I am full of excitement.  Anticipation.  Hopefulness.  Just plan joy.

I've been out of school for a couple years now so I don't get that can't-wait-to-see-my-friends-it-seems-like-forever-even-though-it's-just-been-a-few-weeks-feeling.  But I do remember what I felt like on the eve of heading back to school.

I remember getting everything ready for school the night before.  The lunch packed.  The clothes picked out and laid on the dresser.  The backpack full and brimming with a schedule, books, assignments, a trapper keeper, the latest notes from friends.

I remember thinking about who would be in my classes and whether so and so would still be mad at each other.  I'd wonder if there would be a new student.  Or if someone would be sick.  And of course I'd think about the teachers and the homework.

I'm not going back to school but I am equally full of those same feelings: excitement, anticipation, hopefulness, joy.

For this Sunday I'm going back to church for worship.  Now I am a pastor and it's a part of my job to be there week after week.  I haven't been away from the church.  But here in Missouri we've dealt with some weather.

Cold temperatures.
Did I mention ice?

Since December 8th, there's been some sort of winter weather.  Even a little bit of precipitation causes fear and creates hazardous walking and driving conditions.  We've had church every week in December, but with the weather, Christmas and family travels, and the unfortunate low-attendance Sunday after Christmas, it seems like an eternity since we've all been together.  

And to top it off, on the first Sunday in January, the start to a new year, we had to cancel worship.  Cold weather, blowing snow, and ice aren't conducive for safe travel.  So the folks at Christ and Trinity missed spending the first Sunday of the new year together.  We missed communal worship.  We missed hearing one another's voices.  We missed the sharing of bread and wine.  We missed hearing that God declares all our sins forgiven.  We missed sharing the peace with one another.

I have checked the weather forecast for this coming Sunday.  All clear.  And that's why I feel like a child anticipating the coming together for worship.  I am hopeful and excited and downright joyful at the prospect of being together.  I seem to take for granted the gift of worship.  It's such a part of my routine and life that it's on automatic pilot.  Sunday comes and I go to church.  Sunday comes and we form the body of Christ together.  With our songs, our prayers, our warts and all.

And when I miss a Sunday I feel a bit disjointed.  I don't feel quite whole.  The rest of my week has a different rhythm to it.  I genuinely miss the off-key singing.  I miss the voices of children who rise above everyone else to pray the Lord's prayer.  I miss the questions and how do you dos.  I miss the anticipation that God will indeed break into our lives and offer radical hospitality and unrelenting forgiveness.  I miss the connections made between brothers and sisters in Christ.  I miss the surprises and interruptions.  I miss hearing that the bread and the wine, Christ's body and blood, are given for me.  And given for you.

Of course it's not that we haven't seen each other for youth activities and bible studies, and it's not that I can't pray and sing and offer peace when I'm outside the church building.  But there's something important in the act of coming together week after week on Sunday mornings.  There's the power in community - where two or more are gathered.  There's the power in knowing that from the youngest to the oldest, we believe in something greater than ourselves.  There's the power in celebrating the holy breaking into our ordinary, messy, and clumsy lives.

There's the power in knowing that our anticipation and joy and hopefulness is bound to the One who continually shows up in our lives to make us new and whole.  For this Sunday, I do know what I'll wear.  I'll have my bag packed and my thoughts in order.  I'll be downright joyful.  And maybe a little tired from lack of sleep.

And most of all I look forward to being surrounded by the Body of Christ.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday: See

It's that time again.  One week has passed and in the midst of email writing, journaling, reading, sermonating, and reflecting, it's time for Five Minute Friday.  Thanks to Lisa-Jo Baker and her blog:

It's that time to join with others from across the US to turn off the inner critique, doubts, and the fear and to just write.  So here it goes:


My dog and I seem to have an affinity for the same view in the house.  We both find ourselves gazing out the back sliding door.  Whether it's raining.  Or snowing.  Or sunny.  Or a so-cold-you-can-barely manage-to-run-from-your-car-and-back kind of day.  

We both look out and take in the beauty of our home.  

Our dining room table has doubled as the work table.  Amid our table cloth and fading flowers and unopened mail, I turn to my right and am blinded by the light of day.  During the summer the neighbor works in the garden.  The corn grows and grows.  In the fall the neighborhood's leaves find their way into our yard.  And then comes the burning of the leaves and the haze that covers the town.  The snow and ice have come now since winter.  

And I continue to look out.  

Yet, some things remain the same.  The church steeple and cross stand tall - a beacon of hope and life.  The  random cats still manage to find their way to our yard and torment the dog.  I hear the church bells toll at 8 and noon and again at 6.  The children come to the playground.  

I look out and I see a neighborhood.  Our neighborhood.  Our home.  

I see a life brimming with holiness.    

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Fight

Fight.  It’s my first five-minute Friday and it feels as if this whole writing thing has been a fight.  I’ve read and I’ve read and I’ve talked and talked about writing.  I want to write.  I like to write.  I need to write.  It’s a fight with my own sense of perfection and to be liked to actually put the words on paper. 

The raw, honest words. 

So for months I’ve been following the five minute Friday and reading the words and thinking in my head of what I would write if I actually did participate in five-minute Friday.  Of course I had great imagery and language and stories to share, but only in my head.  Never put down in words.  But today at the start of a new year and the hope and possibility to come, I decide to write. 

It’s a cold, dark January Friday.  The day has come and gone.  The night stretches into the darkness.  The stars creeping out.  And I’ve given up the fight with myself.  Today I join the five minute Friday club.  Today I write for five minutes straight and wonder what will emerge.  Today for five minutes, at the computer, at night, I let my fingers move and my soul do the searching.  It feels good to know I’m writing with a host of saints, women, near and far.  I write and I know that I am not alone.  I write and I know that words bring each of us together. 

In the beginning was the Word and that Word will be with me till the end.  That Word binds each of us in community.  That Word is my source of hope and my inspiration to know that no matter what I write or how much I write, the Word will still be with me.   And for that I say, Amen.    


Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Year in Words

With the start of a new year there are plenty of ways to recount the last year.  

I've been thinking of how to recount this last year for myself.  Highlights would include:  finally living in the same state as my husband, Stephen, as well as Stephen's graduation, ordination, and installation.  Settling into life in a town of 1,000.  A new dog.  Deeper relationships with the community I serve.  Lots of walking.  Lots of reading and writing.  The red rocks of Sedona.

But, mainly, I keep going back to words.  All the writing I've done personally and professionally.  I can recount the handwritten journal pages, the scraps of paper with quotes and motivational phrases, the blog entries, the newsletter articles, the emails, the handwritten notes, the sermons, the to-do lists, the cards, the bible studies, and some more sermons.

Words have defined how I share my story and how I share God's story with the community I serve.  Words have reminded me that I do have a story to tell and that the story is continually being rewritten and reworked.  Words have flowed, and words have eluded me.  The words have startled me and the words have comforted me.  The power of the words, the power of my own thoughts, have been a source of both hope and pain.

In the words of others, either strangers or friends, I've found solace.  I've been reminded that when one writes, one writes to make sense of the world in which we all live.  We write from a common center, a core rooted in love and grace.  A core that resonates deep within the rhythm of the earth.  And it is in these words that I have hope in the stories that still yearn to be told.  The stories that echo for justice.  The stories that can only be told once one goes through the darkness and into the light.  Stories that aren't always pretty or neat, but stories that teach us to listen more deeply.  Stories that change the world.

So, it's a new year and I'm grateful for words.  Grateful for the inspiration to keep writing and stringing together words to make sense of my life and this life of faith.  I'm thankful for the words that were sung and spoken and prayed to me that resonate deep within.  I'm thankful for the words that come to me from within when I have no words to utter.

And yet, most importantly, I look to the Word that was in the beginning.  The Word that came into being so that all words would know the light.  For in the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.

It is this Word that I dwell in and it is this Word that dwells in me.