Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm Alive

Just like Frankenstein's monster.  :-)

The fact that my last post was on Halloween might lead you to believe that I have departed--at least from Blogger if not from the world as we know it.  Not so.  Life is complicated, but I do intend to return to my little blog soon.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hat tip to Sally Coleman for this picture!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Disappointment, Hope's Brother

Disappointment, Hope’s brother,
lurks around the edges,
Waiting till you forget he is there
to slide in
quiet and, dark.

Disappointment doesn't like it
when Hope comes to visit,
With her shy smile,
tentative moves,
shining eyes.

Disappointment is
in Hope’s presence

But when Hope goes away,
her brother rejoices,
Making his moves   
while he can.

Sometimes he is strong
and prevents Hope's return,
But she waits, quietly
at the door.

Disappointment  grows stronger
Shadowing Hope till she dims.
He believes he has won,
and can stay till the end.

In truth, it does seem
he may
win for a while...
but at the end of the story,
When all things are know,
Hope abides
And Disappointment will die.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Liking this post from J. Lee Grady....thought I'd share. Thinking today of all the relationships that made me cry...but I wouldn't trade the experiences. Lee is right. It is about relationship.

Christianity Is All About Relationships#readmore#readmore#readmore

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Prayer for Today

I love this prayer from Mother Theresa.  Every line contains a powerful thought on which to meditate. 

Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being, so utterly,
That our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through us, and be so in us,
That every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our soul.
Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus!
Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as You shine;
So to shine as to be a light to others.
The light O Jesus will be all from You, none of it will be ours;
It will be You, shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise You without preaching, not by words but by our example,
By the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,
The evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to You. Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Women Still Treated as Objects on Big Screen

From The Pentecotal Evangel, by John W. Kennedy

A new study of Hollywood films reveals that women are depicted wearing little or no clothing more than one-fourth of the time on the screen, with younger females showing even more skin.

Stacy L. Smith and Marc Choueiti, of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, analyzed the 100 top-grossing fictional motion pictures of 2008. They discovered that 25.7 percent of the females in the movies were shown wearing sexy, revealing attire. For teen girls, the rate rose to 39.8 percent.

In addition, 23.7 percent of females depicted in those films were partially naked, including 30.1 percent of teenage girls.

The study authors said the high ratio of hypersexualized female images sends the message - particularly to the large number of young males who buy movie tickets - that females are valued most for their appearance.

Los Angeles-based Nicole Clark, who spent four years making a documentary called Cover Girl Culture, says it's part of human nature to desire to be acknowledged, recognized and loved.

"Sadly, the media has force-fed our society the notion that overtly sexy, vacuous, skinny girls - often behaving badly - garner accolades from men and peers," Clark told World View. "There is little else in a girl's life that can compete with the media's endless barrage of this delusional ideal unless they are blessed with extremely conscientious parents who act as gatekeeper and educator of what is truly valuable in a girl."

Clark says well-meaning parents often feel overwhelmed and helpless, yet marketers and advertisers often count on apathy taking over.

"The media relentlessly undermine parents, knowing they will eventually give up," Clark says. "There is another way. Parents need to educate their children about degrading portrayals of women and girls."

Candy Tolbert, director of Assemblies of God National Girls Ministries, urges parents to use Ephesians 6:4 as a guide in training children about the Lord.

"We must do our utmost to direct girls away from the degrading, over-sexualized message of moneymaking clothing and advertising industries that place the marketing of sexy merchandise ahead of the overall well-being of young girls," Tolbert says. "Using sexuality to sell product to girls is inappropriate and demeans intelligence."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11-01--and Wondering What has Happened to the USA

I may have been one of the last to know.

I was working in my church office, alone in the building on a quiet day. About noon I took a break from sermon preparation to go to the post office.  The car radio was on, and as I heard unbelievable words about the twin towers and planes....and...I thought I was listening to some strange kind of radio drama.  I pulled to a stop in front of the post office and paid closer attention. 

Could this be real?

I don't know why I did not immediately head for home, but instead I went back to the church and turned on the radio in my office and listened, slowly beginning to understand the news that had been unfolding all day while I was unaware.

I stood at my office window and gazed eastward, towards New York and Washington, D.C. I tried to picture the scene at the Pentagon, a building I saw many times in the years we were stationed at Headquarters, Marine Corps.  The bright blue sky and sunshine seemed wrong.

I felt guilty in my little town in the midwest. Insulated and removed.

The phone rang, and the voice on the phone was a friend and fellow-clergywoman from a small Presbyterian church.  In a 2008 blog post, I wrote about what happened.  Here is a little bit of that post,

A few hours later some of the area clergy hastily put together a prayer service for the evening, and phone calls went out to invite the community. I sat with two other clergy women in a sun-drenched room at St. Peter's UCC. We had been given the task of writing a litany for the service. We sat in silence, looking at one another sadly as we listened to the tolling of the bell at the Roman Catholic Church across the street. It seemed to go on and on, each somber ring striking our spirits like a blow.  Where to begin? How could we encourage anyone when our own hearts were stricken and afraid? I remember thinking how incongruous the sunshine was. It should be cloudy and raining.  The three of us joined in prayer for a few moments, began to brainstorm a bit--and then it happened--not with bright lights or trumpets or any sort of excitement. The litany came together in a matter of minutes. The one taking notes almost could not write fast enough to get our thoughts on the paper. When we finished, three pastors--a Presbyterian, a Methodist and a Pentecostal, looked at each other in a sort of wonder. Finally, someone said, "The Spirit of God came in the room with us."
I remember wondering, as we prayed together that evening in St. Peter's beautiful sanctuary, where the terrorists would strike next.  I remember the unity, the shared sorrow, that brought liberals and conservatives together, and I can picture a photo of several congressional leaders holding hands with bowed heads.  I remember discussions with fellow clergy about what would happen to America and specifically what would happen to the American church.  Many people expected that attendance at places of worship would rise in the days, weeks and months following 9-11. 

Preparations were made.  Everyone was concerned, but beneath it was a flicker of expectation that perhaps our nation would repent of our national arrogance and pride, learn some humility, and begin to acknowledge what many of our forefathers called "Divine Providence."
There was a blip of repentance, of sorrow, of prayer.  I remember vividly a prayer circle in my little church sanctuary, where several of us sang the words of a Kyrie, (not something typical for Assemblies of God people), "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy...." and tears rolled down our cheeks. 

Church attendance did rise--for a short time. There were alarms, anthrax scares here and there....but mostly our fears were unrealized.  And things went back to normal in a very short time.
But I found myself saying, many times, "Something...something undefinable has changed."  I still cannot define it or understand it or explain it, but I still believe that something fundamentally changed on this day ten years ago.  Whatever happened, I think we Americans changed as a people.
Ten years later, what do we find in the United States of America?
We find a nation that is angry.  The partisan rhetoric is vicious on both sides.  We are embroiled in not just one but two wars that seem to have no clear purpose, and no end.  Many have died.  We have lost faith in our elective process, in the government, "of the people, by the people, for the people" to an extent that I have never seen in my lifetime.  Cynicism and hopelessness seem to have the upper hand.  The econmy is stalled. Republicans and Democrats seem more interested in party politics than in solving problems.  Church attendance continues to decline.  Our educational systme is still mired in inertia as test scores continue to be alarming.  No one is exactly rejoicing at the array of possible candidates for President.  There is a sense, and this saddens me deeply, that our greatest days are behind us and that we may be on a irreversable path to oblivion.
I hope this is wrong.  I hope that we can cry out, in the words of David, Israel's greatest King,

 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit...
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

Excerpts from Psalm 51

It seems like a good day to remember these words, attributed (perhaps incorrectly) to A. Tocqueville. 
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce and it was not there; in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

Whether the quote is his or not, I recommend his book, "Democracy in America.")

Did something happen to us? If so, what do you think it was/

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It has been far too long since I've posted anything, and I hope to do better.  Life has sort of exploded.  

The BIG news for our family is the arrival of another grandchild.  Our son, Josh, is the new dad of a baby boy, Noah Kenneth George, born in June.  Here are a few photos.

Josh sheds a tear as he holds the new little guy for the first time.

Josh, Stephanie and Noah.

Trinity and her new cousin.

Isn't he sweet?
We saw Noah when he was three days old, but not since.  So excited that he'll be visiting on Sept. 17th!

More updates soon about other changes. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Friday Five about Gratitude

Over at Rev Gal Blog Pals, Jan says, "A wise person once told me to make an ABC list of things I am grateful for any time I feel sad or depressed. It is a good practice when one is feeling happier than that, too. So for this Friday Five, I suggest that you use your name or nickname of about five letters and express your gratitude about something that starts with each letter. Some people have longer names, so you decide how you will go about this! (Last names, middle names, and nicknames count!)"

Since my name is six letters, that's close enough!  Here's my list:  Feel free to join me.

D.  Daffodills are my favorite flower.  I've always liked them because of the vivid color and the little "trumpet" shape (that says "rejoice" to me) but I have grown even more fond of them living in a snowy, "up north" state.  Winters are long and monochromatic and about April we start watching (it's way too early, but we watch anyhow) for some sign of color.  Usually by May we see the daffodills and tulips poking up.  It is like a peal of song, a ray of light, a glimpse of joy and hope after a difficult time.  I like dandilions too, but that's another issue...

O. about...organ music?  I remember the first time I heard the music I'm about to share.  I was about 12 years old, and pipe organs (being from a very simple Baptist church) were not generally part of my life.  What is more majestic than a really big, beautiful, organ played by someone skilled?  It's almost enough to make a low-church woman into a high-church one.  The video is pretty long, but have a listen to at least a bit of this glorious music!

R.  Rhubarb!  If you go to my cooking blog The Owl's Kitchen and look up my Strawberry Rhubarb pie recipe, you wil see this at the top: "I remember my first taste of rhubarb. I was about 10 and had never heard of it, but I was served a bowl of warm rhubarb sauce at the famous fried chicken restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm, Anaheim, California. I thought it was about the most wonderful thing I'd ever tasted, and I told my mother I could not understand why we had never had it before. She had never tasted it either. We had a large and healthy stand of it by our mobile home at Trinity Bible College, and I've since learned that it is beloved in the cold states."  I go on, and finally get around to posting the recipe.  You can find several others ( rhubarb ones, I mean) at that blog too. 

C.  Children are one of the greatest blessing I can imagine.  I miss my children.  I love the adult versions, of course, but I miss the child versions.  I am so glad for Trinity (age 4, and spoken of often in this blog) and now little Noah, aged one month.  Post and pictures coming soon!

A.  Apricots.  We used to have an apricot tree back in CA where I grew up.  Haven't had a really good one since I left the state about 35 years ago!

S.  Song.  I had a much longer post, and I don't know why but somehow the A and the S disappeared. So, I have to rush and can't explain. I'll just leave it at, "What is life without a song?"

Friday, July 08, 2011

Casey Anthony and Angry Church Folks

I almost fear to write this post. Almost.

I have been grieved along with many others every time I see this picture of Caylee Anthony.  Mostly because knowing what happened to the sweet little girl pictured--well, it's just horrific.  And partly, if I am honest, because this particular picture, and the dark brown eyes looking up so sweetly, could be of our granddaughter Trinity about two years ago.  It gives me a physical, gut-level reaction to the events that perhaps I wouldn't have otherwise. I grieve for the life that was stolen. 

 I was among the many who were surprised by the verdict.  Clearly, Casey Anthony is deceitful, disturbed, and has no credibility.  Her story is hard to believe.  In fact, I don't believe it.  I find her actions (or lack of action) perplexing, disturbing, alarming, and disgusting. Did she kill her daughter?  I don't know. Few believe we will ever really know what happened to little Caylee.

Still, there are other disturbing things these days following the "not guilty" verdict.  For one, the reaction of many people towards the jury.  I have an opinion about the case--but let's face it--I wasn't in the courtroom and I didn't have to be a juror, and I don't know all that they heard and saw.   I know that our justice system is deeply flawed.  But I still rejoice that, at least in theory, we are "innocent until proven guilty."  Do we have any respect whatsoever for the fact that the accused was found "not guilty" in an American court of law?

I am perplexed at the comments I have read and heard about the attorneys who represented Casey Anthony--that they are "scumbags" or "as guilty as Casey" or similar sentiments.  If I ever find myself in a courtroom as an accused person, I will want a lawyer who does what they are supposed to do--defend me to the best of their ability.  Is that not the job of the defense, for goodness sake?  Do we not know that accused people are not always guilty people?  It may be a flawed system, but I'm glad we have a system!   

Most of all, I am disturbed by the hate-filled, venomous statements (often referencing God, Hell, judgement, and so on) from people who probably would call themselves Christians.  

Here are a few samples from the Internet: 
“The jury may have found her ‘not guilty,’ but she'll get what’s coming to her. God will make sure of that!”
“Casey, you didn't win. You have a dead daughter, a guilty conscience, a society that hates you and a date with God.”
 “Dear Casey Anthony, God will deal with you. Good luck finding a lawyer that will help you lie to Him.”
"There is a special place in Hell for you, Casey."

Surely I am not the only one who is disturbed to hear or read Christians hurling judgment in anybody’s direction.  Is this what we should do? 
A recent column from J. Lee Grady said, "But in the end, people who follow Christ should not be grabbing pitchforks and demanding vigilante justice just because a trial didn’t turn out the way we thought it should. Our response should be tempered with redemption."


Have we forgotten that Jesus said he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance  (Luke 5:32)?  Have we forgotten his words to the religious individuals who brought a woman caught in adultery to him?  "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7)?  Or Romans 3:23 which reminds us that ALL have sinned? 

If we truly know the forgiveness of Christ, how can we rejoice that someone else will"get what's coming to them"?  Our attitude should be guided by Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you."   If I understand that I am not righteous, I can hope that others find forgiveness and peace.  Is that not the Good News, after all?

One thing I know, God's love is not just for the "good" people.  Sometimes I wonder if those who are the loudest in condemning Casey to God's wrath are not, as Shakespeare said (paraphrased) protesting a bit too much? 

Will you join me in praying for Casey and for her fractured family?  It is certain that God loves them--flaws, sins and all--and they desperately need God. 

And will you also join me in a prayer for the abused children whose stories do not make the headlines?  One organization involved in abuse prevention has said that every 10 seconds a case of child abuse is reported.  Think of the unreported ones...the little ones who are, even now, afraid.  Let's stop minimizing abuse, especially in the church, and let's be vigilant in  in addressing child abuse in all its forms.  Let's make sure we are aware and careful and loving toward children around us.  Let's stop all the rhetoric and do something constructive with our frustration.  And let's be known as people of grace and mercy.  Let's put down the stones.

Summertime Friday Five

I note that my last post was one I DO intend to return with more than Friday Five is the Rev Gal Friday Five. 

So, what's up, Rev Gals and Pals? How are you spending your summer? (I know, some of you are in a different hemisphere and it may be chilly...sorry!) Are you experiencing fire or floods or tornados? Vacationing? Working harder than ever? Experiencing change? Longing for change?  Share five things that are happening in your life, personally or professionally or some of each, in this season of life.

1.  I'm preparing to sell insurance.  Specifically Medicare supplements.  Yes, really.  More about that some post soon.  Not my life's ambition, nor exactly my "calling" but not all bad either.  As I said, more later.  Life has not allowed for blog posts, but that WILL change.  Hopefully soon.

2.  I'm trying life with sorta red hair.  In the last three years I went from nearly white to dark blonde to medium blonde to light blonde, to dark brown (the natural color of my younger days) and now I'm trying out a sort of burgundy?  Am I having some sort of identity crisis?  Undoubtedly.  See number one.

3. I'm reading as much as possible.  I love to read, and somehow in the last few years that enjoyment was waning....and THANK GOD now seems to be back.  So I have my nose in a book lots of the time.  This is a god thing.

4.  I'm enjoying my granddaughter, the beautiful and brilliant Trinity, of course.  You knew that, right?  She is such a delight.  Last week we went to the pool (finally the weather actually got warm enough to want to) and to fireworks.  She's four now, talking like a much older kid, excited about 4-K next fall, and growing tall and thin.  (Hope she stays that body type!)

5. And I saved the best for last.  It deserves a blog post all its own and I hope to post one, maybe tomorrow. Our son, Josh is a new father so that means I HAVE A NEW GRANDCHILD! His name is Noah Kenneth (guess whose middle name he has?) and here is a picture of him with his proud Papa (Trinity's name for her grandfather, and so likely to be Noah's too). Sadly, he is six hours away.  He was born June 12th, and we saw him a couple of days after that and not since.  I hope we can manage to fit in several trips to Minnesota this year.  More pics soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Experiences Friday Five

I am hosting the Rev Gal Blog Pals Friday Five today, but first I have a little story to tell.

Earlier this spring, my husband won three tickets to a concert presented by the symphony orchestra of a nearby city--featuring Mozart's Requiem.  We debated for a few days about taking Trinity, our four-year old granddaughter, to such an adult event.  In the end we decided to give it a try.  After all, the tickets were free, so we didn't have a great deal to lose if we had to leave.  (There she is in the picture, all dressed up and ready to go hear, "my Mozart!")  You may wonder why we would consider taking a preschooler to the symphony, but this child loves Mozart and listens to a CD nearly every night at bedtime. Once I tried to sneak a CD of Bach in, and she cried, saying, "Grandma, that is NOT Mozart."

She was hopping with excitement, but we gave her lots of coaching, and when we arrived she gazed about with wonder at the lovely venue, and when the orchestra began to tune up she sat up straight and gazed, enraptured, with her mouth literally open. It was pure delight to watch her enjoying brand-new sights, sounds and surroundings.

This experience led me to remembering times of discovery, of new experiences.  Some were my own experiences and some were remembered from my children, or those of others. For today's Friday Five we are sharing five memorable moments of insight, discovery, awareness--from childhood or later, something you experienced or something you shared with someone else.

1.  Once, on a summer trip through Arizona at night, my father stopped the car. (This was in the days before air conditioning in cars was common, and traveling at night, though hot, was better than doing it in daylight.)  I was about five, and wondered what was going on as my sisters and I, following directions, spread out a blanket, turned on our backs and gazed heavenward.  What we saw was never to be forgotten.  The scope of the night sky took our breath away.  We were city kids, and while we had seen stars, of course, we had never seen anything like the spectacle that was visible in the clear desert air.  As a matter of fact, I have never seen anything like it since.  It was beautiful but also almost frightening.  We small.

2.  Once when I was about eight, I was telling my father, with great glee, about a friend's cousin.  "She's getting married," I related, "and Susan gets to be in the wedding."  My father made polite noises as I went on, "The bride is going to have a baby.  She's wearing a navy blue outfit."  My father's face changed as he said, "Oh, that is a shame."  "What?" I asked.  "What is a shame?  What's wrong with having a baby?"  He didn't answer, but I had a sudden realization that this having-a-baby thing had something to do with other things we didn't mention, like certain body parts.  I knew I'd get nowhere asking him, so I went on a journey of discovery at the local library.  I was a good reader.

3.  I once walked past a fire station with a friend.  We were about 15 or so.  Several firemen were sitting out front, and the sound of wolf whistles followed us down the block.  I was totally shocked.  It was a moment of realization that I wasn't a kid anymore, that I was growing up.  It was exciting--and very unsettling.  It was as if, in a moment, the entire world shifted. Scary! Thinking of this now, I am sad that the innocence of my teenage years would now be pretty much unheard of.

4.  The moment I first heard Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" was like a visit to heaven itself.  It was Christmas Eve and we were having a candlelight service (the only one I remember from my Southern Baptist childhood--we didn't usually have church on Christmas Eve).  I was transported--and I think it may have been my first real awareness of the greatness of God--King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  It was awesome.  A much overused word these days, but this truly was!

5.  My grandmother died when I was three.  I had traveled to Texas with my mother.  Grandmother was in the hospital, and because she was dying they broke the usual rule against children visiting (lots has changed since the 1950s) and allowed me in.  I was lifted up to sit on the high hospital bed so my grandmother could see me.  She whispered something I do not recall.  I suddenly knew in an unexplainable way, that people do not live on this earth forever and ever.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seven Stanzas at Easter by John Updike

As a young writer, John Updike submitted “Seven Stanzas at Easter” to a religious arts festival at the Lutheran church he attended. He won the “Best in Show” award for the poem and returned his $100 prize to the congregation. I am, once again, posting it as we celebrate another Resurrection Sunday because to me he acknowledges the "if" that many may struggle with. As someone has noted,  all of the 35 lines in the poem deal with a question that can make Christians squeamish: How should we talk about the Resurrection? Updike didn't want to talk about it from some some nebulous metaphoric "middle" that turns it all into a nice story.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Review of "Half the Church" by Carolyn Custis James

Disclosure: I received Half the Church from the good folks at Zondervan at no cost other than the understanding that the book would be reviewed on my blog. My agreement to review the book did not require a positive review or endorsement.

In her newest book, Half the Church: Reclaiming God' Global Vision for Women, Carolyn Custis James takes on some big questions in a relatively slim volume. I was excited to see my package from Zondervan arrive in the mail, expecting to love the book. I finished it with less excitement, but that is not to say the book is not valuable, particularly for some. (More about that in a moment.)

James wastes no time. She engages us in the book’s introduction with the story of Amy Carmichael, well-known missionary to India in an earlier age. Tragically, the horrors women there often endured—and the struggles Charmichael had in making the church folks back home listen to her—are still with us. James also repeatedly references the book, Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun, a book which exposes the exploitation of women worldwide and inspired the title of James' book about the church.

The first paragraph from the book jacket of Half the Church is revealing of what we will find inside. News stories that ran in 2008 highlighted how throughout the world women are living in a world of extremes. On the one hand, Hillary Rodham Clinton nearly captured the Democratic nomination for US President. At the same time, media reported the brutal killings of five women in Pakistan--three young girls buried alive for planning to choose their own husbands, plus a mother an aunt shot to death as they pleaded with their husbands, sons and brothers to spare the girl's lives.

The author aims to look at the issues in a worldwide context, not just from a Western perspective. She reminds us early on that the lives most women in America and other developed countries experience are beyond the wildest imaginings of our sisters elsewhere. Each chapter begins with a pithy quote and an accompanying story that vividly illustrate problems and barriers women face. I found these small quotes and stories one of the best features of the book.

Half the Church is designed to be used for a study group and includes discussion questions and points to ponder at the conclusion of each chapter. The writing flows nicely and is easily read. I applaud the author’s frank acknowledgement of how short we have fallen in speaking a message that is GOOD NEWS. She calls us to consider three questions, first, “What message does the church offers women?” Secondly, "What will the church do to address women’s suffering globally?" And, closer to home, "What are we telling our own daughters?"

She says,
Yet instead of casting a powerful gospel vision that both validates and mobilizes women, the church’s message for women is mixed at best–guarded, negative, and small at worst. Everywhere we go, a line has been drawn establishing parameters for how much or how little we are permitted to do within the church. As in the wider culture, there are always exceptions… But culture shock awaits many women who migrate from the academy or the secular workplace to the church. In the former, opportunities are vast and their contributions valued and pursued. In the church, what they have to offer often goes unnoticed or is restricted to “appropriate” zones within the church.

Her discussion of Genesis chapters 1-3 will be helpful for those who are new to the concept of woman as "ezer" (a strong help). She shows us how God's plan for the world was always designed to include a glorious partnership (she calls it the "blessed alliance") of equals. I enjoyed these chapters, but I did think her use of both "ezer warrior" and "blessed alliance" (both used throughout the book) were a bit overworked after a while. (Perhaps that is because for me these concepts are such a "given" that I wonder why they need such emphasis. I know that is far from true for many women—and men—in churches of my own denomination.)

A quote I enjoyed from her exegesis of Genesis was this one, referring to chapter two which assures us, It is not good for the man to be alone. "Why," James asks, "do we not hear more preachers following the biblical example and preaching that it is men who need to marry and get a home life going if their lives are to be complete?" This made me laugh out loud. Why indeed!

Psalm 8:4-6 says:
What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet...

Referring to this passage, James says ...the world is wide of the mark when it devalues and discards women and girls. By making us “a little lower” than himself, God affixed the highest possible value on his daughters and his sons. It also certainly means (and the church should surely openly trumpet this) that the Bible’s high view of women cannot be surpassed...The Bible calls us to raise our eyes and our aspirations and strive to be like God.

Well said.

So why am I not quite as excited by this book as I hoped to be? My disappointment comes when Carolyn Custis James comes back home to North America.

First, she seems to leave out, for the most part, the mainline Protestant churches. In many churches the equality of men and women is not discussed much, if at all, because to do so would leave many people scratching their heads in disbelief that a large portion of the church world still struggles with issues of gender roles.

But, since I am an “Evangelical” and very aware that for many churches this issue is very much alive and well (or should I say “unwell,”), I’ll leave the discussion of women and mainline Protestant (not to mention Roman Catholic) churches to others.

Within 20 miles of my home there are churches from about ten denominations that do not ordain women. In at least one of these denominations, women are not allowed to hold any leadership role whatsoever, so the idea of an ordained female is anathema. One clergywoman friend of mine found herself ignored in a local ministerial group by three participants who apparently chose to pretend she was invisible. I am glad to say that after three meetings where this took place, the remaining clergy in the group took those pastors to task and said they either would treat their female colleague with respect or leave the group. They left.

I tell this story to explain why I find the next section of James’ book to be disappointing.

She has already pointed out that a culture-shock awaits women who come to the church, where egalitarian assumptions are undone in patriarchal systems. She relates the story of a friend who, in sharing the gospel with a co-worker, is petrified to get to the point about gender roles in the church. James already knows and has spent several chapters telling us that inequality in the church is not good news and not even very biblical after all.

And then she avoids the issue. It was profoundly disappointing to read that she refuses to take sides in the egalitarian-complimentarain debate. In case you are new to this blog, or to the debate in general, "egalitarians" hold a view of equality which affirms that God did not design women and men for specific "roles"--in the church or elsewhere. The "complimentarian" view holds that men are designed to lead and women are designed to follow, both in the home and in the church. (There are variations of this on both sides I'm trying to be brief.)

James asserts that the female ordination debate centers on some key passages that people disagree how to read. She says that this debate is a “distraction.” As another reviewer of this book said, "So there’s no answer to be given, and we just need to develop a more holistic vision of women as leaders in the church and God’s agents in redemption."

Seriously, Carolyn?


What James has already argued is that the question of women’s relationships to men in the church is NOT a matter of a few isolated proof texts. By refusing to take a stand on this issue, she weakens her argument and ignores the passages of scripture she has already discussed. Our interpretation of passages like I Timothy 2 is profoundly determined, I believe, on how we interpret Genesis. James has, though she refuses to say so, laid out an egalitarian view of men and women in creation and onward. To refuse to meet this issue head on when she comes back home to her North American church world does a profound disservice to the audience of church women who are the most likely to be reading her book.

I would like to tell Carolyn Custis James the story of the night I received ministerial credentials in the Assemblies of God. I would like her to see, as I did, the woman who asserted tearfully, “I had no idea women could be ministers!” Yes, this was a couple of decades ago, but the issue is not gone, sad to say. Failure to ordain women, failure to offer women opportunity at every level of church and denominational life is just patriarchy dressed up in pretty clothes.

Some of my evangelical friends and colleagues would likely read this and shake their heads thinking, “There she goes again.” But from my own experience with women in the church, the refusal to allow for women in “professional” (for lack of a better word) ministry is part of an environment that belies the position, the hope, the joy, the freedom we have in Christ. James’ refusal to hit this issue head on, smack dab in the middle of the theology she lays out in her book, left me a bit stunned and mars what is otherwise a worthwhile read.

It is most likely to be helpful to those in the conservative evangelical church sphere. It is engaging, biblically focused, and for those who are willing to see, will be illuminating.

But I would like to ask the author if she believes that injustice must be confronted in other lands and ignored in our own. The injustice women in her world, and mine, encounter does not, I know, begin to reach the level of what is suffered in many other places. But injustice is still wrong. Has she never, as I have, spoken to a woman who grew up in a Christian church but left her roots for paganism or agnosticism precisely because only men could be church leaders? Is the good news of living our lives in God’s image without arbitrary “role” restrictions for all of us-- or not?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #25

Psalm 67:1,3-4 God be gracious to us and bless us and cause Your face to shine upon us...Let the peoples praise You, O God! Let all the peoples praise You! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You will judge...and guide the nations on the earth. God, fulfill your promises to be gracious and bless people in every place. Fulfill Your promise to intervene as a mighty, righteous judge. Thwart every kind of evil and set things right. Show people from every nation how to follow you. Amen Seek God Today for: Prisoners and Their Families Pray that people in jails and prisons will hear the Good News of God's love and follow Christ, for genuine fellowship to multiply, for protection from violence and spiritual evil, for spouses and children to be sustained, protected, provided for and honored rightly. Pray that released prisoners find resources, strength and wisdom to live better lives.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #24

Psalm 97:1,4-6,10-11 The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory. The Lord loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked. Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.

Lord, many have lost hope that You will bring forth justice before the end comes. Give us brave hearts to pursue the prayers of your righteous purposes until you come. We pray for encouragement for those who are weary in the struggle and for your people to be persistant in crying out for justice. Amen

Seek God Today for: Ministries Pray that various parachurch ministries will be founded on truth, blessed with power and favor and funded generously. Pray for vision and encoragement for those who work in difficult places

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #23

John 18:37-38 Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So, you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

May the leaders of our land love truth more than power. Reveal the important purpose they serve in Your world. Call them to be lovers and leaders of truth. Confront both the cynical and the searching, reveal your kingdom, and show yourself as King Eternal. Amen

Seek God Today for: Business People Pray that God will bless those who base their business practices in good principles. Pray for creative entrepreneurs and new opportunities for employment. Pray that God will frustrate plans which escalate injustice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #22

Psalm 74:14,20-23 How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land. Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name. Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long. Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

We pray today for those who live in our cities where some areas have become war zones. Innocent ones are caught in the crossfire of violence and crime. Many good people have left these settings, and many more would flee if they could. We come before you, God, on their behalf. We ask you to intervene. Rise up, O God, judge of the earth. Restrain the evil that has darkened our land. Enable those who love you to be agents of truth, love and light. Release those enslaved to powers of darkness, even those who have suffered for years. Amen Seek God Today for: University Students Pray for campus ministries and those who serve there. Pray for the truth to radiate from a setting often hostile and cynical toward matters of faith. Pray for students to make wise decisions, for healthy lifestyles, and that their education will be shared in making our world a place for God's purposes to be fulfilled.

The Real Men of God

After all the attention given to making church "man friendly," the fear of the so-called "feminized church," the arrogance of some Christians who serve in public places (including politicians, CEOs and well-known ministers), it was refreshing to read this today. "There is a new move of God stirring among men in this country — but it is not about “taking charge” or throwing their testosterone around. It is about reflecting the full nature of Christ—humility, compassion, integrity, gentleness and strength—and passing it on, as fathers, to those we are called to mentor and disciple." So says, J. Lee Grady. Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Half the Church

Watch for my review of the book, "Half the Church" next week. Here's a video trailer.

Forty Days Till Palm Sunday #21

Habakkuk 2:4
Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.

Come, Mighty Savior, we ask you to do the impossible: Save the self-reliant. Keep calling out to the rich and the religious who often have difficulty trusting you. In your great patience, wait for the time when they will entrust themselves to you. Amen

Seek God Today for: Fathers
Pray that fathers will look to God as the true head of their homes, serving and caring for their families. Pray that they will want to be good fathers, that they will change their lifestyle when it is necessary to putting their famil
ies first. Pray that children will see the character of the Heavenly Father in their earthly one.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Forty Days Till Palm Sunday #20

Daniel 9:7,9,18-19 Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Matthew 9:2 And they brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, "Take courage, son, your sins are forgiven."

Jesus, the displayed faith of a few moved you to forgive the sins of another and to heal him. Look our our towns and cities now, Lord Jesus. We are bringing our community to you, one friend at a time. Give courage to those who fear they cannot be forgiven and healing for those paralyzed by wrong doing. We long for those we care about to know the peace only you can bring. Amen

Seek God Today for: Unborn Children
Pray that unborn children will be acknowledged and honored, for each one to find a sheltering home, for parents of unborn babies to find hope and resources.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #19

Isaiah 42:1-4 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” God, we know you delight in justice, yet everywhere we look we see examples of injustice, of cruelty, of seemingly hopeless situations. Evil seens to triumph. Bring forth justice, Lord. Establish safety and bring hope for those who suffer. Help those of us who believe in you to pray and work and lobor in consistant faith. Amen Seek God Today for: International Visitors Pray for students, workers and business people from other lands to be treated with honor and respect, that they will enjo new friendships, that those who are your followers will demonstrate it with their attitutes and actions.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #18

Psalm 72:17-19 May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
Then all nations will be blessed through him,

and they will call him blessed.
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,

who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

John 12:27,28,30 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.

Father God, no prayer is more sure to be answered than our desire that You will be glorified. As the Gospel is declared, as prayers are answered, and as you are worshipped, fill our dwelling places with your glory. Amen

Seek God Today for: Single People
Pray that single people wll encounter the love of God, that they may find the satisfaction that is found only there, that friendships will bring fullness in relationships, for grace to deal with sexual temptations, for simplicity of life, for marvellous marriages for those who desire them. Pray for those single by choice, by divorce, by death.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #17

Zecheriah 8:20-22 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.' And many peoples and powerful nations will seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.

Mark 9:15 When the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet him.

It is right for many to be astonished when the see You for who You really are. Open the eyes of those who long for You. May they be astounded at what you do, but even more, Lord, for who you are. Amen

Seek God Today for: Health Care Workers
Pray that God will equip health care workers of every kind to serve others with loving hearts and skilled hands. Pray that God will bless them with patience, perseverence, and joy, that the pressure of their professions will not crush their families and friendships.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #16

Micah 5:4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.

As it has been written, so shall you be known at the last. You, Jesus, are the long-expected Shepherd King. Find scattered, terrified lambs where no one has thought to look. Make these new-found ones to be part of the flock with many gatherings throughout our city. Be with each flock, making them as gentle and as strong as you are. Amen

Seek God Today for: Marriages

Thank God for strong, healthy marriages that refect the love and care God has for each of us. Pray for marriages that are strained to the breaking point or are failing, that God will bring help and hope. Pray that the people in those marriages will have wisdom as to how to proceed. Pray for healing of broken hearts and restoration of intimacy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Forthy Days to Palm Sunday #15

Isaiah 35:2-6
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer,
and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,
and streams will water the wasteland.

Matthew 4:23-25
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Healing God, we pray together today for those who are feeling hopeless, who are afraid of what the future holds, who have been battered into a place of cautious subsistence. Reach to those who are broken in body and spirit and heal them. We pray that those who believe in you will pray with compassion, as Jesus did, and we pray that, once again, the Good News will be accompanied by demonstrations of your loving power. Amen

Seek God Today for: Laborers
Pray that the dignity and honor of doing all sorts of work well will be revealed. Pray that workplaces will be places of respect, safety and friendship, for workers to be treated with justice and dignity, for continued employment in the changing economy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #14

Isaiah 42: 5-7 This is what God the LORD says—
the Creator of the heavens,
who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the nations,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

John 12:35
Jesus said to them, 'For a little while longer you Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light so that darkness will not overtake you."

Come Lord Jesus, light of the word. Send your light, brilliant and burstig with healing power. Free those held in bonds of darkness. Illumine their darkened minds. Wrench open their prison doors. Cut the bonds that bind their spiritual hearts. Call each one to flee what has kept them enslaved. Amen

Seek God Today for: News Media
Pray for those throughout the industries of broacast and print media. Pray for wisdom, and a passion for what is true.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #13

Ps. 145:11-12 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Luke 9:60 As for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.

Lord, please forgive us for the way we often defer the proclamation of your Good News to "professionals." Even expert preachers will never gain access to people in every social setting of our communities. Commission every willing servant who loves you. To whom are you sending us? We pray for the gospel to be proclaimed everywhere and we pray for you, the King, to be central in our talk of the kingdom. Amen

Seek God Today for: Native Peoples
Pray God's richest blessings on Native Americans (or if you are from somewhere with another indiginous population, pray for those people). Pray for those who live in or near your city or town to be honored for who they are and for all that God intends them to be. Pray that God will heal the wounds that have resulted to cultures and our county by broken treaties, mistreatment, predjudice, and scorn. Pray that the tribes will be treated justly and find their destiny and highest dignity.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #12

Matthew 24:14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be reached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Continue to send your people to every part of the earth. May those who love you show that love to others in tangible ways that reveal your heart of compassion, O Lord. May the light of the glorious love of Christ shine like a beacon of hope in dark places. As Corrie ten Boom said, even from a concentration camp during the Holocaust, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." Establish tangible signs of your love and goodness, we pray. Amen

Seek God Today for: Educators

Pray for the means for educators to have needed tools and proper facilities. Pray for wise and loving teachers and mentors. Pray for schools to be safe places where learning happens.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #11

I apologize for the lateness of this posting.

Psalm 89:15-16
How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance. In your name they rejoice all the day long!

God, please forgive us for so often walking through our days unaware of you. Surprise us by disclosing how near you have been all along. We pray for those who do not know you to be found. Help us to be more aware of your presence in those around us. Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord. We want to see you. Amen

Seek God Today for: Men
That men will stand for what is right, be strong and courageous, and that the vision of their lives will be to serve God and advance God's purposes in this world and the next.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #10

Isa. 44:3-5 The Message

For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
like willows alongside creeks.
This one will say, 'I am God's,'
and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand 'God's property'—
and be proud to be called Israel.

Joel 6:28-29
And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
And it shall come to pass...
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the LORD has said,
Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

John 7:37-39
On the last day...of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit...

Today we seek for an outpouring of your Holy Spirit. We wait for those days in which young and old, male and female worship and praise and proclaim your holiness together throughout the earth. We particularly pray for our "sons and daughters" -- young people. Give them exuberant loyalty so that they find joy in the very idea of belonging to you. May they find no shame in the fact of loving you and proclaiming your goodness and grace to those around them. Amen

Seek God Today for: Agricultural Workers
Pray for individuals and families who farm, ranch, or have jobs that support agricultural industries. Pray especially for migrant workers who often face injustice and hardship.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #9

2 Chronicles 20:2-4,12

Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help..."'O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

God, we ask for a greater unity, one that grows from sharing a common love and hope. In these days of trauma, we seek you. Like your people long ago, we don't know what to do. We see no solutions. We don't offer you suggestions. We simply seek you, keeping our eyes on you. We remember your deeds in the past. We savor your promise for days ahead. We will stand united as long as we look to you. We wait with open eyes, humbled and hopeful, for your glory. Amen

Seek God Today for: Pastors
Pray that pastors and church leaders will be filled with wisdom, that they be appropriately honored by those they serve, and that God will pour the Holy Spirit upon them in power and humility. Pray for their families, their friendships, and their relationships with other pastors.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #8

You have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first... Rev. 24:5

Seek God Today for: Homeless People
Pray for relief, shelter, food and health care. Pray for renewed hope for the future, for wise counsel and trustworthy friendships, for protection from the risks of life on the street, for employment, housing, restored family life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #7

Matthew 18:4
So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

So many times, Lord, we have found routines to manage our "little sins" and make ourselves feel as if they do not matter, quickly confessing to minor infractions and moving on as if we were dealing with a parking ticket. But if we say we carry your name, we not only bring you sorrow, we bring you shame. Our sin is greater than we like to admit. Only your Spirit can grant us humility--not to berate ourselves but to return to you. We confess that it is not really all about us and our feelings of guilt. It is all about you, the grief of your heart and the glory You alone deserve. Reveal to us, once more, how great you are and yet (amazing mystery!) how precious we, your children, are to you. Amen

Seek God Today for: the Poor
Pray that physical and spiritual needs will be met with dignity and stability, that they will be released from cycles of oppression and despair, that God will reverse every curse and multiply blessing. Ask God to give you his compassion so that you can pray with hope and not pity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #6

Psalm 63:1-3 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. Some things which lead us away from you, Lord, seem so desirable, almost drinkable, like a shimmering mirage in a desert. But it's an illusion, and we taste only sand. We still thirst with deep loneliness; the longing at the center of our souls is a yearning for you. And so we come to you during these days of prayer, seeking your face and knowing that nothing else can really satisfy. We make a choice together, God. We will seek you each day.
Luke 10:41-42 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Arrest our attention. Expose shallow and useless things that distract us from what truly matters. Align our scattered desires and hopes into one focused intention to bring glory to you and your Kingdom.
Seek God Today for: the Military
Pray for courage and protection in the danger of battle. For wisdom and the fear of the Lord as military personnel are sometimes called upon to do the work of governing and enforcing. Pray for grace and strength for military chaplains and other spiritual leaders. Pray for families who are stretched by numerous moves, seperation, financial issues and more. Remember to pray for specific individuals and families that are known to you. Pray that God's will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #5

Psalm 24:5-6 They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.

God, Jacob sometimes lacked integrity and was devious in his dealings. Yet he refused to let go--he was even born grasping the heel of his twin. We want to seek you with tenacity and boldness, to refuse to give up or let go. We come to you in this season of remembering what Jesus did for us with an awareness that he allows us to share in his righteousness. Add to that, Lord, the zeal that Jacob had. May we seek you and never let go. May young and old together seek your face with lasting fervor. May we seek you "in spirit and in truth." May casual inquirers become passionate worshippers.

Today Seek God for: Families
Pray for solid, healthy relationships. Pray that parents would be gracious and loving while being bold in instructing their children in what is right. Pray for families torn by abuse, by divorce, by death...that God will restore and heal and that forgiveness will dissolve long-held anger.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #4

Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has been false nor sworn deceitfully.

Lord, to gain other's approval we have sometimes spoken or acted falsely. We grow weary sustaining a masquerade in front of others. But it is impossible to come to you in disguise. Holy God, we approach you with full disclosure. We confess that we have relied on systems, people and powers instead of on you. Set us free from past entanglements caused by our duplicity. We entrust ourselves entirely to you. Amen

Today: Seek God for Sick People
Pray that God will touch those who are sick with divine healing and comfort. Pray that they will grow in depth and character as God walks with them throughout their ordeal. Pray that God will provide for financial needs, for their caregivers and families. Think of people you may know, or know of, and pray for them by name. Consider those in nursing homes. Who can you encourage today?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #3

Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.

Today, Lord, we are seeking you as we ask for pure hearts. You have called us to come to you in your courts of splendor--as if we hold in our hands engraved invitations. We check the date again. You want us to come now, while we live on this earth so that we might begin to taste the love of Heaven. We may fear the motives deep within us, but Your love is greater than our sin. If you have called us, surely you will cleanse us. We have reason to doubt our hearts, but we refuse to doubt your heart. You have promised that as we confess our sin you will forgive us. In the joy of that promise, we boldly come to you! We pray today for truth to prevail and for those things that are false to be revealed for what they are--in our homes, communities, countries and around the world. We pray for those with selfish agendas to be less powerful, and that those with intentions to bless and bring good--those with clean hands and pure hearts-- will be strengthened.

Today: Seek God for Ethnic Communities

Pray that God will bring racial harmony, that longstanding offenses may be healed, that Christians show honor to others and act in accordance with God's heart for reconcilliation and peace. Pray that the beauty of distinctive languages and cultures will be evident in local churches and communities.

Friday Five: All About Cars!

Maybe it's just me, but I often remember how long ago someting occured or something about it by recalling the car we had at the time. For today's Friday Five, tell us about the cars in your life. Maybe we can even tempt some of the guys of the ring to join us. Specifically, tell us about:

1. The earliest recollection you have of a family car
This makes me feel old to recall, but then again, I guess I am getting there. We had a 1944 Nash Rambler. It was, of course, black. It had a cord across the back of the front seat to pull yourself forward to exit the car, a floorboard as big as a house, and was more comfortable than our couch at home. It looked a little like this one.

2. The first car you drove when you could (legally) get behind the wheel yourself.
I learned to drive in a car that was another '40s model, a big old tank of a Pontiac. I was embarrassed to be seen in it, but my dad probably figured it was safe to get in the car with me--I mean it was SOLID. In fact, I knocked down a STOP sign and left nary a scratch on the car.

3. A memorable road trip
Road trips were special times. Our family was not particularly a happy one, but when we took trips it seemed to bring out the best in all of us. My parents enjoyed the drive, we listened to stations from "strange" places like Indiana, we ate lemon drops, my two sisters and I played card games like Old Maid and Authors in the back seat. We watched the sun rise over the California desert....I could go on and on. Still love a road trip.

4. The car you drive now. Love it? Hate it?
Here is a link about my current vehicle. You could say my Uncle Sam gave it to me.

5. An interesting story that involves you and a vehicle.
Well, there was the time I finally had my first (and the only one of my life) new car. I loved it. I had a long commute and needed something small and economical. It was a 1995 Dodge Neon. Strawberry colored. It was a great little car, only going to the junk yard after reading 3000,000 miles. But about a week after purchase I was driving in the country and without warning....screeeee.....thump....dead stop. The transmission had literally fallen off the car and was sitting in the middle of the road. After being towed back to town, they replaced the transmission and all was well for a very long time.

Bonus: What's your idea of good car music? Depends on the day, the purpose of the drive, and who I am with. Sometimes it is classical music or jazz, or whatever CD I happen to have. But if I'm all alone and it's a bit of a road trip that is designed for fun it is impossible to beat something like Creedence Clearwater Revival, and it must be cranked. Ken can't be with me. He makes me turn the music down. Here's a sample.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #2

Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands...

God, your Son did not die merely to send our sins away. He died to bring us near to you. We have turned from you, deterred by our memories of our sin and our failure. Despite your complete forgiveness, we sometimes avoid you. No longer! Today we set aside every foolish thought that we are not wanted or that you cannot bear our presence. We will not give in to fears and misgivings that hold us back from You. By the cleansing power of Jesus' death, we come to you and we lift these clean hands to you in gratitude and praise. We pray for others we are afraid to come to you. May your love overwhelm them so that their guilt and fear are washed away and they can serve and love you with joy.

Today: Seek God for YOUTH
Pray for people in their teens to turn to God. Pray that their lives will bring glory to God. Pray for good mentors, and teachers for them, for solid and healthy friendships, for protection, for strength and renewed hope, for communication with parents, for God's intentions for their generation to come to pass completely.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday #1

Today is called "Ash Wednesday" and begins the Lenten season, an very important part of the church calendar for some traditions and an ignored one for others. When I was a pastor (in one of those latter church world's) I tried to fall somewhere in between. I've posted about some of those things (including celebrating Ash Wednesday with a nearby Presbyterian congregation) in years past, so won't bother explaining the reasons why I believe that Easter should not just spring out of no where.

Instead, I'm going to use this blog to share something that our church family is doing this year. We are using a booklet supplied by WayMakers to pray in some focused ways during the 40 days that begin today and end with Palm Sunday. I'll use the booklet as a guide too--with some changes (of course). I invite you on this virtual prayer walk with me. Please feel free to leave specific requests or prayers in the comments.

Between today and March 19 we will focus our prayers on seeking God's face. We will follow Psalm 24, which asks, "Who can ascend to the hill of the Lord?" Let's consider this an invitation to come to a place of God's presence.

Loving God, we sometimes think that nearness to You is only for special people, deeply-spiritual mystics. Help us to come to you just as we are. Help us to sense your immense love Help us to abandon our attempts to please you by our performance and instead rely on your grace and mercy. Teach us to number our days as we remember that our time here is limited. For those who will participate in Ash Wednesday observances, we ask that they will be meaningful and a reminder that we need to make each day count. Thank you for Jesus, and for his willingness to be "emptied and poured out" for us, your creation.

Today: Seek God for WOMEN
Pray that women will by honored as created by God and, along with their brothers, in the image of God. I am reminded of a Native American sign posted on the prison chapel where my husband works, "Women are sacred." Pray that injustice of every kind toward women will cease, that pornography to be no longer regarded as "normal" and for protection from sexual violence. Pray that hope will be renewed, that marriage and children will be seen as beautiful, that single women will find joy in their ability to fulfill God's purpose in their lives. Pray for specific women by name, asking God's blessings to be upon them this day.