Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Five: Garage Sale!

Songbird and will smama host the Friday Five this week, asking:

1) Are you a garage saler?

No. However, my husband is. I mean he is the KING of garage sales. I think it is an obsession. If he sees a garage sale sign and does not stop he makes sure I know about it. It's rare, let me tell you. So sometimes I'm a garage saler because I'm a captive in the vehicle that brakes for garage sales.

2) If so, are you an immediate buyer or a risk taker who comes back later when prices are lower?

If it is a good deal, we are immediate buyers. Late in the day, only the true junk remains. If you are going to do this thing right, you must get up early.

3) Seriously, if you're not a garage saler, you are probably not going to want to play this one. (That wasn't really #3.)

3) This is the real #3: What's the best treasure you've found at a yard or garage sale?

A handmade wooden cradle for Trinity. Twenty five bucks! And my living room rocker is another. It is a beauty--large, carved, hardwood, not a scratch, and we snagged it for $50. I felt bad for taking it. (Almost.)

4)If you've done one yourself, at church or at home, was it worth the effort?

No. And NO. Nothing is worth that hassle, IMO.

5) Can you bring yourself to haggle?
Of course. Haggling is essential, and makes being dragged to garage sales bearable!

BONUS: For the true aficionado: Please discuss the impact of Ebay, Craig's List, Freecycle, etc... on the church or home yard/garage sale.

I don't even know what Craig's List and Freecycle are, so....guess I'll leave this question alone!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Invest in People

This continues the OASIS series. I forgot to post it on Sunday. We have reached the I of OASIS--"Invest in People."

I’d like to introduce you to a woman, who is a lot you and me. On the day she met Jesus at the well she did not know she was dying of thirst. She did not know that God saw and loved her. She did not know that her life was about to change forever.

John 4:3-27

So he [Jesus] left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Jesus broke several barriers--he changed travel plans, ignored gender-based limitations, flouted common racial prejudice, and he the "rabbi" spoke intimately with a woman of questionable reputation. Why? Because he knew that he came to this earth for one purpose. People. People are eternal. He saw this woman's need for the life only he could give to her.

Jesus always invested in people, even when it meant going the cross. People are the only thing that lasts for eternity. In Jesus' encounter with a woman at a well, we see our own need for an encounter with Jesus, and we are reminded of what it is we, as followers and disciples of the Lord, are to do. To invest in people is to invest in eternity.

Jesus invited the woman to see him for who he is. Jesus said, in effect, "You don't know who I am." Sometimes I think we are not much different. We may intellectually know who Jesus is supposed to be, but our hearts aren't so sure. Sometimes if we have been rejected we see him as rejecting us, if we have been judged harshly we see him as judgemental, if wounded by anger, as someone always angry, and so on. We don’t come to God with our deepest hurts if we see him wrongly.

Secondly, he invites the woman to let go of the things that do not satisfy. Samaritans and Jews were bitter rivals; each group claimed the distinction of being the people of God. The Samaritans believed that their land, and especially Mount Gerazim, was particularly holy and set apart for God. Jacob, the father of Jews and Samaritans, was an important figure and his well was special. She was holding on to what she had, what she knew, what she thought would bring meaning and significance.
Jesus invited her to spiritual life that would truely satisfy. He offers us the same invitation, knowing that we run to relationships, or alcohol and drugs or friendships, or distract ourselves from our thirst with work or busyness. It is never enough. We have to keep coming back. Drugs, food, sex, elationships... whatever it is we use to quench our thirst.

He invites her, and us, to see him for who he really is. He invites us to let go of our ways to find satisfaction, to give up our attempts to find satisfaction.

Sometimes he works through people, members of the body of Christ who speak something to us in the power of the Spirit, sometimes with the gifts of the Spirit, sometimes circumstances, or books or songs or many other ways. He pursues us. Jesus got the woman’s attention, and she invited him give her the better water, the one that truly satisfies.

Ah, he will come, but only at your invitation!

He next moves to the area of her brokenness. He says, "Go call your husband." We know that one of the woman’s issues was relationships with men. Married five times, she tried to find relief over and over again. Many preachers make a point of saying she was a "sinful" woman, but Jesus doesn't say much about that, does he? We do not know what caused her brokeness--was she widowed, abused, deserted? What will you do when the Holy Spirit reveals a wounded place in your heart? She was honest. "I have no husband." When we confess, when we agree with Jesus that we’re hopelessly defeated in a certain area, we’re allowing Christ to enter into that place of brokenness to bring healing and new life.

Jesus invited her to see him for who he really was. Why? He invited her to give up the inferior things, things that don’t really satisfy. Why? He went, kindly but purposefully, to her brokeness. Why? To bring life. He gives an astonishingly clear statement, "I am the Messiah!" And as truth dawned in her life, she ran to tell others.

Jesus went out of his way, broke social custom and convention, and spoke plainly in order to invest in one woman who opened the way for others to find him.

Will we learn from his example and invest in the only thing that lasts--PEOPLE?

Someone once said, "In order to get the best, you have to give up the rest." He invites her, and us, to enter his presence and worship. That is where her healing, and ours comes.

Central Lutheran and Westminister Presbyterian

I am still not recovered, but I'm getting better today. I decided to post a few pictures and hopefully be able to write something coherent tomorrow.

Several fellow Festival of Homiletics attenders have blogged about the beautiful Gothic-style sanctuary of Central Lutheran. Here is something Kim said about the experience of singing in that magnificent building.

"...2100 voices singing "God of Grace and God of Glory," accompanied by a glorious pipe organ, surrounded by magnificent stained glass, in the beautiful neo-Gothic sanctuary of Central Lutheran Church. The music and the singing carried me up to the high-arched ceilings and beyond. This was also where most of the worship services and lectures were held. And the hymnal was vibrating as I held it, such were the sound waves echoing through the sanctuary."

I was trying to capture the stained glass colors and failed. But you get the idea.

This is a small detail of one of the many windows at Central Lutheran.

I took this picture at twilight as I waited for a ride.

While the soaring ceiling and windows at Central Lutheran were impressive, the stained glass at Westminster Presbyterian Church was totally amazing to me. Click on the photos for a larger view.

The pinks and purples of this stunning window were a surprise.

And the "smaller" side windows are gorgeous as well.

Each of the sanctuary's four walls has a huge round window. Here is another wall.

I was leaving the balcony when these reflections on the wall and sill caught my eye. Beautiful! It made me think of how we are like windows that reflect Christ's light in our own unique ways.

This is a "small chapel." It is about the size of Jubilee's sanctuary back home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm in Mainline Land Now

I have been having a wonderful time at the Festival of Homiletics. I wasn't sure if I would or not, being a bit of a square peg in the proverbial round hole, but I have been listening to some truly amazing and wise teachers. I will be sharing more as I am able when I get back home with my computer and some time. Meanwhile, let me say that I am greatly enriched by what I have seen and heard this week.

There are some stark differences in the style of typical Assemblies of God gatherings, or even...hmmm...shall I say typical gatherings of the more "conservative evangelical" branch of Christendom?

Here were a few clues that I was on the other side of the aisle, so to speak:

Liturgy, and lots of it. I guess that goes without saying.

The pipe organ. it. And hymn books. And not one "contemporary praise and worship" chorus sung all week. (I will add that the current ELCA hymnal is impressive. It includes lots of newer music that is ethnically diverse and quite powerful.)

Stained glass. If you see stained glass in an AG church it's because the Lutherans, or whoever, moved elsewhere and we bought their former church building.

Jeans. Lots of jeans and sandals and stuff like that. Hardly a sport coat or a tie anywhere to be seen. When these folks say dress is casual, they mean it.

Beards. (I like a man with a beard, myself.) The male ministers have an aura, a sort of professorial mien that I can't describe but that I noted right away.

The occasional scent of pipe smoke.

Ale drinking parsons. ;-)

Paintings and art on the church walls that do not have Jesus depicted in them.

Jazz. There has been lots of it. Today we had a "Jazz Worship Service." I have never imagined such a thing before. Duke Ellington in church? (The liturgy was the best of the week, IMO, and one part of it moved me to tears.)

I have heard many conversations and comments about "call." (It's not that mainline people feel called and we don't. I just don't think we talk about it in the ways they do. I wonder why that is?)

Greater comfort with scriptural ambiguity.

People are masterful at expressing themselves in gender inclusive language. It seems to come naturally, though I know it must have been work once.

There are more things that I won't take time to mention. Some I liked, some I didn't, some I was neutral about. Some were a little humorous to me. Some were a little sad to me. All of it was interesting.

But an obvious, ever-present and wonderful thing was the presence of women. I love and appreciate my male peers. However, I have never attended a clergy meet-up where I was not part of a very small female minority --and aware of it even when I wished I weren't and tried not to notice. More than once I have been the only female present. From the looks of things, there are at least as many women clergy attending this conference as men.

A pastors is not assumed to be a "he" and discussions on the "role of the pastor's wife" are absent. (I am not saying that pastor's wives are not important or do not deserve attention.) The platform participants in the worship, the speakers, preachers and worship leaders are both male and female, and this is the obvious norm. I have never before heard conversations among a group of women (or women and men) regarding their seminary experiences, their call, their joy and sorrow with parish life, their sermon preparation struggles, etc. These conversations are all around me, in the halls, in restaurants, on the sidewalks as people walk between the two host churches, in the restroom lines, and in the pews before services. I am in another world.

This has caused a rather confused mix of reactions in me. Some are not blogable. Others will be, after a time.

The Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal denominations and movements, and the holiness movement, and the Wesleyan branch of the Church Tree from which we sprang all once had women preachers in abundance. Women did not serve in "higher" offices of leadership, but our voices were heard in great numbers as we planted and pastored churches, preached evangelistic crusades, and travelled to various mission fields.

What happened to the preaching women? I have had gracious conversations with Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Episcopalian clergywomen this week. All of their ecclesiastical bodies have ordained women for much less of their history than the Pentecostals and some others. Yet today our sister preachers in other church bodies far outnumber us. What happened?

Women once comprised close to half of the preachers in the Assemblies of God. Where are they today? Why did two women approach me some years ago, after an ordination service in which I was credentialed, saying they had no idea a woman could be a preacher? What happened?

I am not unaware that I have some differences of opinion, probably even significant ones, with some of these women preachers in Minneapolis, as well as some things in common. That is not the point. Being around so many women who clearly take their call to preach seriosly was a totally new experience, a blessing to my heart, and also caused me an odd kind of sorrow.

Perhaps even more than asking what happened, I should ask if my Pentecostal brothers and sisters care that it happend? Do we even see it as a problem, or a sorrow? Is anything lost because there are so few women's voices among our preaching ranks? Does it matter? And if so, what can we do to change it? What can we learn about this from our mainline friends?

Off to bed for me. Last day is tomorrow and I want to make it to the morning session.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

F of H and Life Intruding

I am in Minneapolis enjoying Trinity and my kids. The Festival of Homiletics is wonderful and fascinating and I'll blog about it later. I've briefly met several RevGals and one Pal and am excited about meeting the rest later today. I sat with Questing Parson last night, and I was fortunate to have Sue come up to me this a.m. and quietly ask, "Are you SingingOwl?" So I sat with her for the morning's offerings at Central Lutheran. We are packed in like sardines, with an attendance of around 1,200!

I'm also distracted and distressed. My brother in law, Kevin, who I wrote about a few days ago, will not be flying here after all. He has had two heart attacks and is in ICU on a ventilator! So far Ken has been unsuccessful at getting any more information than that.

Secondly, my mother is becoming increasingly agitated and difficult for the staff at the nursing home to manage. Today my cell phone went off in the middle of a lecture (eek, I thought I turned it off, really!). It was the nursing home, and that is never good news. Turns out they want to discharge her to one of two other nursing homes that have specialized dementia units.

One is about a 1/2 hour drive from my home and the other is nearly an hour. I am quite familiar with both of them and not happy with either of them. I told the nurse I spoke with that we'd talk when I get home. I hate this. I want my mom at home with someone who loves and can care for her while I am working. I feared this day would be coming.

I am about to take a break and go swimming with Trinity and the family at a health club. Then back to the Rev Gals meet up.

Aaarrrgggh! Okay then, deep breaths in and out....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Share God's Love

If you have been reading here you know that my church is exploring an OASIS theme together as a way to think about our vision and purpose.

O Offer Hope
A Advance God’s Kingdom
S Share God’s Love
I Invest in People
S Seek God’s Purpose

I've posted sermons the last few weeks, but this week I am just posting scriptures. We are reading these passages from Psalms as part of Sunday's worship service. They focus on God's love.

Psalm 63:1-8

O God, you are my God; I earnestly seek You
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

Psalm 103:8-14

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.

Psalm 89:1-2

I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever!
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.

Those who begin to understand the kind of love God gives to us should begin to explore how that love can be shared! Below are some that will help you begin to think about how God’s love is shown through us to those around us.

Consider reading one passage each day this week, and spending some time thinking and praying about what God may want to speak to your heart. Who is around you who needs to know His love, and what can you do about it?

Monday John 13:35,

Tuesday I John 3:16-18

Wednesday John 4:16b-20

Thursday Romans 13:8

Friday 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13

Saturday Ephesians 3 17b-19

I'm off to pack for the Festival of Homiletics. Back in a week!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shoe Blogging

I am about to do something I have never done before. I'm about to show you pictures of my new purse and my new shoes. Cheesehead does it all the time and she gets terrific shoes! There are several reasons I have never posted pictures of shoes before, but I guess the main one is that this is my usual footwear. Well, I also have a black pair and a white pair.

The sensible me says that I should, considering my difficult beginning in life, rejoice that I can walk. I do, oh I truly do. I am also very glad to have this footwear. It is important that I not end up with terrible arthritis in my feet and that I walk with more stability and less pain than is possible otherwise. I love my braces and shoes, and I thank God for them. Of course.


The woman-who-loves shoes me says I hate these ugly monstrosities. The braces are hard plastic, which is not so bad in winter when I can put them on over a pair of thick socks, but is quite another thing is warm weather. (It is the one and only thing I dislike about warmer weather.) That woman also whines that it is impossible not to spoil the look of even the cutest or classiest outfit with those clumpy shoes. It's true. Shoes can change the entire look.

Once in a while, I rebel. I know I will pay for it later (especially if I do it more than once), but I do sometimes don still-sensible-and-flat-but-less-ugly footwear. Sigh. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," saith the Preacher. So at the Festival of Hommies next week I will usually be sensible and wear the shoes I should wear. But I will occasionally wear these. Had to show you.

And here is my new kinda red spring purse. The Rev Gals and Pals who will be attending also will be able to pick me out of the crowd, don't you think? :-D Or you suppose red purses will be the order of the day for clergywomen? Uh oh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Updates on SIngingOwl's Life

This is my husband, Ken (in blue), and his younger brother, Kevin. I took the picture two years ago at a picnic spot by California's Lake Isabella. Some of you who read this blog have known me for a long time, so you may remember the story of when Kevin, who we had not heard from in over 25 years, suddenly called us one night about ten years ago, I think. After a long conversation with Kevin, Ken and I cried, and we rejoiced, and we wondered, and we prayed, expressing surprise and gratitude to God that this brother who was lost had now been 'found."

Kevin was a handsome and sweet little boy who became a rebellious, drug-abusing teen. He lived with an older sister after Mom and Dad couldn't handle him anymore. And when his sister kicked him out of her house, he came to ours. There were good moments, but mostly it was not a pleasant time, and Kevin left with much anger and bitterness. Ken saw him once, several years later, at their sister's funeral, and then not again. Attempts to reconcile or even talk were fruitless. We eventually gave up--though we heard bits and pieces about him now and again. His life has been a rather tragic one, and eventually he ended up homeless for many years. He should never have survived, but (I think solely by God's grace) he did. We would have taken him in if he had been willing, but we never managed to contact him.

He is a diabetic, and after losing a leg, and suffering greatly, he gave his life to the keeping of God and he forgave us, and others. Thus, the phone call. We have been in touch, off and on, for several years now, and about four years ago he was able to come visit us. Two years ago we were finally able to visit him for a short time in California. Seeing him after all those years broke our hearts. What a change--he is frail and in almost constant pain, but he has once again become quite like the little boy we knew years ago. It is very strange. For quite some time he has been living in a situation I will not describe, and a few days ago he called to tell us he was at the end of his ability to survive without help. He will be coming here very soon to live with us. My mother's little "suite" will be Kevin's now, and we will see what comes. This will be challenging for all of us, but we never hesitated in asking him to come. I know this is a bit personal, but Kevin is not shy about sharing the story.

My mother is continuing to slowly deteriorate. I spent Mother's Day afternoon at the nursing home with her. It was very sad.

My brother in law is getting married! I wish I could meet his wife to be. I am happy for him, and he has been without his beloved Darlaine for a long time, considering the Alzheimer's. Somehow though, this sent me into a very sad place of missing my sister more than I have for a long time. It seems, perhaps, truly final now.

Since my "unresignation" things have been both very good and very bad at church. I am still waiting and praying to see what will come.

Ken is facing a physical problem which is potentially very serious, and it may require surgery. We will know more later this week.

I'm okay, and I'm looking forward to attending the Festival of Homiletics next week in Minneapolis. I will stay with the family, and I'll meet many of the Rev Gals and Pals, and I will hopefully return feeling like I will be a preaching dynamo. I'm still singing, which is always a good sign for me, but I'm feeling a bit topsy turvey, doncha know? ;-)

Life is so strange, sometimes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Advancing God’s Kingdom

This is the second sermon in the OASIS series.

The letter A in OASIS reminds us that we will be people who seek to "advance God's kingdom."

Sounds good, and a bit churchy, doesn't it?

But what exactly is the “Kingdom of God?”Jesus speaks of it again and again in his parables and in the famous "Sermon on the Mount."

We must understand what Jesus means when he speaks of “the Kingdom” -- not merely because we look to it as a future reward (Heaven), but also because it affects how we live and think right now.

We prepare for the future kingdom by living in it today, obeying what our King teaches. As we live in faith, we recognize God’s rule in our own experiences in this world, and we continue to confidently hope for a future time when the kingdom will be filled to the full and "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

From Acts, Chapter 2:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [languages] as the Spirit enabled them.

Staying in Jerusalem were God-fearing Jews from many nations… When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Aren't all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?...We all hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"

Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine." Then Peter stood up…and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem…listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: " 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy…. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

The Gospels speak of the Kingdom 120 times, and it is mentioned almost 200 times in the New Testament. What is this “Kingdom?” Jesus speaks of so often?
The Kingdom is:
The sovereign, righteous rule of God. This Kingdom is unlike any other. Power and goodness, judgment and mercy are combined. Though the term arose when the nations were monarchies and the symbolism was more familiar, this was a kingdom very unlike the Romans. God is supreme over all creation, but God’s concern for every person is that of a loving Abba -- a father or even a dad.

Must be accepted in faithful, grateful obedience. There is no kingdom without subjects. The kingdom is not destroyed by human disobedience, for God still rules in judgment. But Jesus’ call to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” certainly calls for human obedience and hearts that will put the kingdom ahead of their own agendas.

A redeemed (rescued and bought back) people and a redeemed kind of society. I do not mean simply a reconstructed social order, though this certainly might be one of the results of a people who take a command to love God and each other seriously! The redeemed are those in whom salvation is sought and found. It is not a community of one, but it is an ever-growing community of individuals. This is basic to the relation of the kingdom to the church, but the Kingdom extends far beyond the boundaries of the visible church.

Opposed at many points! Kingdom citizens do not deny or minimize the power of evil. We can think of the opposition as coming from the devil, or from the demonic powers of history, or from humankind’s ever-present sin, ignorance, apathy, and error. The "principalities and powers" of Eph. 5 confront God’s power. These forces never conquer God, but what we believe to be his purposes may be delayed or frustrated by these things. Kingdom life is not necessarily going to be an easy life!

Present now, but pointing forward. When we pray the Lord's Prayer together we say, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done. Though we seek evidences of its presence now, the fulfillment of the kingdom lies in the future. We may think of this future as eternal life, or a new heaven and a new earth for humanity, or as the conquest of evil in and beyond human history. A view of the kingdom of God is always looking ahead in hope.

But this is Pentecost Sunday. Why do we call ourselves " Pentecostal?" And what does all this Kingdom of God talk have to do with that anyway?
Yes, today is Pentecost Sunday, a day when the Church of Jesus Christ celebrates her birthday. According to scripture, Jesus told his followers to wait in Jerusalem. What were they waiting for? They weren't quite sure, but they did know it was some sort of promise that Jesus said would be sent from God. So, in obedience to Jesus' a band of believers gathered and prayed, and waited for the promised blessing to come. The established order was already changing. After all, women were present in the group, praying and waiting with the others.

Acts 1:8 tells us that one of the last things Jesus said before he left this earth was that his followers would receive power when the promised Holy Spirit came.

Power for what? Power to be witnesses! A witness is simply one who tells what he has seen, heard and experienced. They would, Jesus said, be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Power to be the people of God, the citizens of a new kind of Kingdom.

The Spirit, ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek is the wind, or the breath. The sound of a violent wind filled the house as the Holy Spirit descended and the Church was born.

There are so many wonderful and descriptive metaphors and symbols to help us understand something of the nature of the Holy Spirit. Fire, oil, a dove, water (which we have been talking about a great deal) and wind.

The Wind of God!
The Kingdom of God is for faithful, grateful and obedient people--the redeemed people of God! It is for the warriors, not in any earthly sense but in a battle of cosmic proportions where God's will and reign is triumphant.

Without the promise of power which the Wind of God--the Holy Spirit--brings, these task are impossible. "Wait" Jesus said, "until you are filled with power from above."

The presence of God brings the power to advance God's Kingdom! Young and old, men and women, all kinds of people are called to join us. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The Kingdom of God is at the center of all Jesus taught and lived. Now it is for us, the subjects, to discover the Kingdom, to declare the Kingdom and to live as empowered, Spirit-filled, citizens of this Kingdom.
Will you join me?

Friday, May 09, 2008

It's a Pentecost Friday Five

"Pentecost Quilt" by Linda Schmidt

Presbyterian Gal from Rev Gals is hosting her first Friday Five, and she included scripture for us..

FOR PENTECOST THIS WEEKEND:FROM ACTS CHAPTER 2: 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:17 " 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

She says, "My personal favorite in this passage is how Peter insists the men cannot be drunk because it's only 9:00 a.m. Anyway, it's Pentecost and my very first Friday Five! Thinking about all the gifts of the spirit and what Peter said of the "last days"

Have you or anyone you know

1. ...ever experienced a prophesy (vision or dream) that came true?

Yes. Actually several. I was visiting in another state. I was a stranger everyone there except my sister, Paulette. She was new to the church and had not spoken to anyone about me. At the close of the Sunday evening service, which was small and informal in nature, the pastor pointed to me and said something like, "Will you please come up so I can pray with you? You have been sitting in a kind of ray of light this whole service." (Huh? I don't see anything.) Surprised, but not dismayed, since this is not all that unusual in a Pentecostal church, I complied. He asked, "Are you a minister? ?" Now I was surprised. I said yes and waited. He quietly said that I had been waiting a long time for an avenue of ministry to open up, and that I should not give up. He did not know it of course, but I had been planning to resign my "credentials." He went on to add other details, which I won't go into, but the basic intent was to tell me that the day was coming, and not far off, that my prayers would be answered and I would be pastoring a church. I'm glad you asked this question because there was a part of that prophecy that I need to remember right now.

2. ...dreamed of a stranger, then actually met them later?

No. But I dreamed details of what would happen at my son's birth. I told my husband about the strange dream, and then put it out of my mind. It was a dificult and stressed delivery and there was great concern about the baby, but I had a sense of peace. I had dreamt it about two months before--though of course I hadn't know that the dream would actually happen in real life--until it began to unfold. I knew the baby would be alright, and I knew angels were present. I'd already seen it. Wow! Good to remember that. That was a wonderful gift from God to me!

3. ...seen a wonder in heaven? (including UFO's)

My sister, Paulette again, and her husband saw a round, glowing disc in the sky, following the highway. Others were looking too, I think I remember her saying, and pulled theirs over. It got lower and lower and then went up and disappered. Hey, do northern lights count? They are certainly a "wonder" though probably not what Presby Gal has in mind.

4. ...seen a "sign" on the earth?

Not sure how to answer this one. Hmmm....does healing count? I could relate some stories about that. The most recent was a young woman visiting our church, sitting on the back row and not entering in. She later reported to her family that her right ear, which had been deaf since childhood, was hearing. At last report, a few years later now, it is still normal. I think I wrote about this in the our Rev Gal book "Ordinary Time."

5. ...experienced knowledge of another language without ever having studied it?

I have interpreted a "message in tonues" from another speaker on many occasions. But here is a far more fascinating story. We have a young woman, Tara, from our congregation, presently in Africa, who has travelled on several short term missions trips.
That's us in the picture below, as Tara says good bye before heading to Africa.
On a trip to Egypt, one of her team members had an amazing experience. She shared it with me by email and later with our congregation when she returned home. Here is the brief version of the story. A group of them, including Tara, were talking with a blind beggar, trying to overcome the language barrier--unsuccesfully. They walked away, but then one of them said, "I don't know what to do, but I have the strongest feeling I must go back to talk with him." She began to speak to him in Arabic (if I remember correctly), NOT knowing what she was saying, and feeling scared. The man looked shocked and then proceeded to carry on a conversation with her that lasted for several minutes! Tara knew just enough of the language to know that she was speaking to him about Jesus, but none of them, including their teammate, knew what she was telling him. She continued speaking for some time, and then seemed to be finished. I don't know whether I am more impressed about the spritual gift that was occuring or about the courage of a young woman to step out in faith and start speaking sometihng other than English. She did have the "gift of tongues" previously, but I can tell you that there is a vast difference between praying in what some call a "prayer language" where no one but God is hearing you, and doing what she did! I hope I'd be as bold, if the situation called for it!

Bonus Question: What would a modern day news coverage of the first Pentecost have sounded like?

I shudder to imagine! :-)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The "Evangelical Manifesto" is Published

I have not read it yet, but will do so later today. If you'd like to see it, here is a link. I will likely come back and comment after I read it, so feel free to do so if you would like.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Below the Office Window

If you want to see some really spectacular photos, go here to Jules' photo blog,

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

Proclaiming Softly, pointed her blog's readers here to an article regarding what is being called an "Evangelical Manifesto." It is due to be released in Washington DC tomorrow. I'm interested in the document, and found this quote regarding political agendas on the "right" or the "left" thought provoking: loses its independence, Christians become 'useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology."

I find that I am avoiding using the word "evangelical" in much the same way that I long ago discontinued speaking of myself as a "fundamentalist" even though by some definitions I would qualify. Though I know many of my friends would disagree, I feel there is just too much emotional, political, and ideological baggage attached these days for me to be comfortable using the word "evangelical." That is sad, I think. And it is why, even though I don't yet know the contents of the manifesto, that I can at least agree with the authors that the word has lost it's meaning.

I wait with interest to see the contents, and to see who does and does not sign it. Wonder why no one asked my opinion? :-)

This quote, "Phil Burress, an Ohio activist who networks with national evangelical leaders, said that if high-profile evangelical leaders such as Dobson and Land don't support the document, 'it's like throwing a pebble in the ocean' and will carry no weight" makes steam come out of my ears.

A friend of mine said it. I repeated it after this correspondence and I'll repeat it again, "Doctor Dobson is not the Protestant Pope."

What do you think? Has "evangelical" lost it's meaning?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hope In God

My sermon for May 4th, the first in a series based on a metaphor we are using to cast vision--an OASIS.

The first letter in OASIS, O, reminds us to OFFER HOPE.

We cannot offer water we do not have. If we are to truly be an "oasis," we must be people who have hope ourselves and are willing to offer it freely to others..

We think of "hope" as a kind of wishful thinking. I hope I get what I want for Christmas, get asked to the prom, lose weight, find my keys, and so on. The Bible speaks of a different kind of hope. The write of the Book of Hebrews says our faith is sure and our hope is certain.

Our world tells us otherwise.

Romans 5:1-5
Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God's grace that we now enjoy. And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God's glory. We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

Romans 8:22-25
For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Romans 8: 22-25 from The Message
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

"Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all...As long as matters are hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength." G.K. Chesterton

Why Do We Need to “Hope in God”?

Because is is the only way to hope when things are hopeless. Only God is unchangeable, full of love and compassion and kindness. Discouragement, dryness and frustration often begin with a faulty sense of hope. A person who hopes in God will not be destroyed by hurts from people, because they are not looking to people for their source of satisfaction. If we are dry it may be because we need to place less of our trust in people, things or ourselves and more of our hope in the Lord, the one who promised to never leave or forsakes us.

Paul teaches us how to overcome feelings of tiredness, sadness or hopelessness when he writes, that we wait patiently and confidently!

Things Are Not Yet Right

The earth groans….we do too. Things are not yet made right. People who hope in God have the confident expectation that regardless of what happens, God will love us and sustain us--and some day it will be made right.

Perhaps Paul thought of what David wrote when he was tried and troubled, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psa. 42:11)

I once read a children’s story about a man sentenced to death. He obtained a reprieve by assuring the king he would teach his majesty’s horse to fly within the year--on the condition that if he did not succeed, he would be put to death at the end of the year. "Within a year," the man explained later, "the king may die, or I may die, or the horse may die. Furthermore, in a year, who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to fly."

Stuff Happens

When our hope is in the Lord we are not undone when things do not go our way. Paul in NT and David in OT abounded in hope despite their many trials, attacks and troubles. These men were not like some of us that quickly give into discouragement when faced with adversity. Hope is built upon a confident faith that the Spirit will help us look towards better things to come. Hope visualizes the blessings that come with new life through Christ. Placing our hope in God helps us base our expectation on all the characteristics of God instead of our circumstances or feelings. This is expressed in the hymn, "The Solid Rock." I sang that as my first "special" in church. I was about 11 and my knees knocked together. I was grateful they were concealed behind the pulpit! I loved the song then, and I love it now.

"My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand."*

Water for Our Spirits Brings Fruit in Our Lives

Jesus described himself as LIVING WATER. Paul remembered that our roots of faith reach an inexhaustible reservoir of Christ’s grace, love and hope. When a person is consistently drinking from Christ’s living waters they are not overcome by dry spells (and those will, inevitably, come).

David wrote that those we delighted in God’s words were “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:3) Ezekiel wrote, "By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing." (Ezek. 47:12)

Allow the Lord to help you yield a greater quantity and quality of spiritual fruit as you grow in your hope in God.


Would you like some suggestions about how to refresh your spirit in God? Here are some I find helpful:

Prayer. This includes both talking with God and taking time to become still and peaceful, seeking awareness of God’s presence.

Praise. It is not easy, but if you stop in the middle of despair and praise God, and I mean aloud,
you are making a conscious decision to hope in God.

Read scripture. You knew I would say that, didn’t you? We know it, but we often don’t do it. We turn on the TV, or we send an email, or we eat or any number of things to distract ourselves. The Psalms are especially good for refreshing your spirit.

Listen to music. Since the goal is to refresh ourselves in God, choose carefully what you are listening to. I love to play the works of Bach, a man who wrote music with the express intention of glorifying God. Perhaps you like hymns. Or you can sing along with praise music.

Choose. I mean make choices that are deliberate and positive. Choose to speak in an uplifting, positive manner. Choose words that are hopeful and encouraging. Avoid negative words like a poison. Sometimes you might even need to, as much as possible, avoid negative people.

Remember, attitude is everything. Choose a good attitude. Yes, you can.

There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. Clare Boothe Luce.

Hopeless is Human, But Jesus Promises Refreshing

Only God gives hope when everything appears hopeless. When people become weary, sick or weak they tend to give up hope. Many are depressed, worried and gloomy. Others are overwhelmed, tired and lonely. Every one of us has experienced those things. It is part of being human.

Paul teaches us that the only way to remain hopeful is to develop a thirsty heart for Christ’s rivers of life. Paul knew what it was like to feel tired, ill and abused, but He wrote, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day." (2 Tim. 1:12)

Hope equips us for what lies ahead. The great apostle realized that no one is able to face the trials of life without hope – it is like a fresh drink of water.

Perhaps you are trying to quench your thirst with some other hope besides the Lord? Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." (Matt. 5:8) Nothing else satisfies like Jesus. Turn your eyes and heart toward Him. Allow the Lord to turn your night to day, your gloom to gladness and your sorrow to singing. Ask the Lord to allow you to grow in your hunger and thirst for righteousness and hope.

A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!

Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, what might it do for us?

Are you feeling hopeless? Are you willing to hope in God? Take a deep drink of God’s hope. At times we may have to wait until our hope is realized, but it is as sure as God’s Holy character and word.

* Edward Mote (1797-1874), "The Solid Rock," 1834:

Friday, May 02, 2008

This Made Me Say "Ouch"

I think I am looking forward to attending the Festival of Homiletics in May, because lately I've been reading about great sermons and great preachers.

Leonard Ravenhill said, “No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. … We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”

I tend to be one of those who works to avoid failure rather than to gain success. I think I need some tweaking in that area. Nonetheless, that last line struck me rather powerfully. I think there is nothing more important in this world than being a person who is willing to agonize, pray, cling, wrestle, shed tears, live with passion, intercede, and fight for what is right and true and of lasting value.

Help me, God! I do not want to live as less than you created and called me to be!

Wait and Pray Friday 5

Sally from Rev Gals & Pals has this to share today:

Part of the Ascension Day Scripture from Acts 11 contains this promise from Jesus;

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then he was taken from their sight into the clouds, two angels appeared and instructed the probably bewildered disciples to go back to Jerusalem, where they began to wait and to pray for the gift Jesus had promised.

Prayer is a joy to some of us, and a chore to others, waiting likewise can be filled with anticipation or anxiety....

And the questions are:

1. So how do you wait and pray1. How do you pray best, alone or with others?

It depends on the circumstances. I like to pray different ways. I often walk and pray, finding that somehow that keeps my mind from drifting all over the place. It also helps to pray aloud, so I like to be alone (often in the church sanctuary) or in a place where I know I will not be heard by others. I love to pray with others too, however, and our weekly prayer gathering at church of 10 or 12 people is a great blessing in my life.

2. Do you enjoy the discipline of waiting, is it a time of anticipation or anxiety?

Participating in a yearly silent retreat has taught me the value of listening and being silent and waiting to hear the Spirit of God. I wish I could say that I easily enter into waiting and silence, but I don't. It takes time. And I'm also sad to say, if I am honest, that it is a time of anxiety all too often.

3. Is there a time when you have waited upon God for a specific promise?

Oh, about 100 times or so!

4. Do you prefer stillness or action?

I'm a Pentecostal. What do you think my answer will be? ;-) I prefer action, and I prefer movement, as I said above, but I have learned to value stillness in a way I did not only a few years ago.

5. If ( and this is slightly tongue in cheek) you were promised one gift spiritual or otherwise what would you choose to recieve?

Success. I do not mean in the sense of making money or becoming well-known (though that would be nice, let's face it) but I mean that the deepest longing of my heart is to fulfill whatever purpose God had in allowing me life in the first place. I was not supposed to live, then not supposed to be "okay" -- but God worked through so many ways to allow me to have a life, a ministry, health, and on and on. Click on the link if you want to read about it. Anyway, life is for a purpose. I believe that deeply. And I do not want to waste the gift of life.