Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Our Christmas Tree

This year, we won our Christmas tree!

A local lot had a contest. They hid two coupons around town and then posted two semi-cryptic photos of the locations. J and I looked right away and recognized the locations. We were about a quarter mile from one, so Jordan ran for it while I followed in the car. By the time I got there, he'd found the coupon and was being greeted by an elf.

That weekend, we picked out a tree from the lot and it was delivered and set up by the friendly elf!

So much fun! And we were very thankful for a free Christmas tree, too.



Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Old Stove and A Recipe...And a New Stove

I got  a new stove today, replacing an old one that I inherited with the house.

The old one had been a good one but had long ago ceased being self-cleaning. Knobs have been missing for a while. None of the timers worked anymore, though one would set it's alarm off at random times. I am happy to have a new one.

It's Christmas time, so I have been baking. I didn't think of it at the time, but it seems fitting that the last item baked in my mother's last oven was a recipe she was famous for in her circle. I used her recipe, my copy in her handwrtitng, to make what she always called Pecan Pie, though it is actually made with walnuts. Here it is:

Three pie shells, ready to bake
1 stick of butter
1 1/3 cup of sugar
1 16 oz bottle of dark Karo syrup
2 tsps of vanilla
Dash of salt
3 eggs
3 cups chopped walnuts.

Melt butter over low heat in a medium to large saucepan. Remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, Karo syrup, and salt. Mix. Beat in eggs one at a time. Set aside a handful of the walnuts. Add the rest to the mixture and stir.

Spoon mixture into prepared pie shells. Add reserved walnuts where needed.

Bake pies at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes and then at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

This pie makes a great gift.

Just to round things out: Here's my new stove. I am very excited.

Happy baking everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Jordan's Creche: 2015 Edition

Each year since he was about four, it has been our tradition to allow my son to arrange our Creche to his liking on the first Sunday in advent. Actually, we were late this year. We forgot, which was weird. But he did it on Tuesday of the first week.

I really don't know what to say about the creche this year. It is certainly different. The manger bed is outside the stable, on the left, empty and awaiting the baby.  Joseph is next to the stable on the right and Mary is in the right front corner. Everything else is wherever in no order. It is not as chaotic a jumble as he once did; the one described in Jordan's Strange Creche and  A Broken World ... Seeking Peace but it's certainly not as ordinary as Jordan's Creche for this Year.

It's simply unusual.

Well, very unusual.

But it's fun and shows the uniqueness of my teenage son. I am keenly aware that the time for this tradition is running out. It may be that Jordan is only home for the beginning of advent two more times. Then, we'll need to look for new traditions.

It's bittersweet. It's something to savor.

What are your holiday traditions? 

Jordan's Strange Creche
A Broken World ... Seeking Peace
Jordan's Creche for this Year 
Creche 2014 Edition

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Song for Sunday: A Way in a Manger

At church tonight we sang about the Cross. 

Yes, it's Christmas. Usually, more a time to be singing about the manger and Bethlehem. About Jesus as a baby. But, you know, he didn't stay a baby. He isn't a baby now. 

We commemmorate the incarnation every year because it's important. It's God with us. As we reflect on the birth of Jesus though, we need to remember we really are celebrating the anniversary (probably on the wrong date) of that birth. In human terms, Jesus is over 2000 years old; in spiritual terms, he's eternal. 

He came to earth to live with us, to be with us, to experience mortal life and it's temptations and afflictions. He came to die for our sins, to allow for our forgiveness. 

We need to remember that in the midst of cute pageants and carols. 

We also need to remember he loves us and that is why "He made a way in a manger to make a way to the cross."

Enjoy this link to a beautiful reminder of this truth. 

Words and music by Lee Black and Steve Merkel. Performed by Candi Pearson Shelton. 

What Christmas song touches your heart?

I was introduced to this song when it was song by a young woman at the Christian Youth Conference. She sang it at the talent show. On her first attempt she was overwhelmed by stagefright. People surrounded her with support and a little while later she tried again. At the end the teen audience rose to their feet and cheered not only her beautiful singing voice but also her courage to try again. This song is special to me both because of this story and because of it's intrinsic meaning.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Recipe (for saving bread scraps)

When I make bread stuffing, I end up with crusts and loaf ends leftover, so I make this bread pudding. Easy, yummy, and keeps food out of the garbage.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Put bread scraps and about 1/4 cup of raisins per loaf's worth of scraps in a casserole dish.

In a saucepan warm about 1 cup of milk or cream per loaf's worth of scraps over low heat. Add a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each works well.)

Pour milk over scraps and raisins.

Put in oven for about 45 Minutes.


What's your favorite recipe for saving scraps and leftovers?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Quotes and a Prayer

"Anne Frank could be a 77-year-old woman living in Boston today, a writer." 
                                                                                                  ~Richard Breitman, 2007
But her family was a denied a visa, so she went into hiding, 
wrote a diary that would become famous and died in a concentration camp at age 15.  

 “Taking Mum's hand, I whispered "Are we really safe, here?”
Alwyn Evans, Walk in My Shoes

  “It was a dry cold night, and the wind blew keenly, 
and the frost was white and hard. A man would die tonight
 of lying out on the marshes, I thought. And then I looked 
at the stars, and considered how awful it would be
 for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death,
 and see no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.”
Charles Dickens

 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing 
some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
 ~Hebrews 13:2           

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you,
 and you shall love him as yourself,
~Leviticus 19:34a         

A Prayer for Refugees
Almighty and merciful God,
whose Son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own;

look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.

Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


From: "An Invitation to Prayer"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Song for Sunday: There is Room in My Heart for Thee

  1. Happy New Year!!

The first Sunday in Advent, the traditional time of preparation and reflection prior to Christmas, is the first day of the Christian liturgical year. As a Baptist I don't actually spend much time worrying about the liturgical year, but church does take notice of Advent and Lent as well as the major holidays. 

So, today's song for Sunday is an advent song which we sang at worship today. It is a plea: "Come into my heart Lord Jesus!" We all need Jesus in our hearts. It's a way of saying that we have put Him in charge of our lives. 

This prayer resonates -- I still need to work on giving Jesus complete control. So I share it with you.

There is Room in My Heart for Thee

  1. Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
    When Thou camest to earth for me;
    But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
    For Thy holy nativity.
    • O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
      There is room in my heart for Thee.
  2. Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
    Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
    But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
    And in great humility.
  3.      O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
        There is room in my heart for Thee.
  4. The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
    In the shade of the forest tree;
    But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
    In the deserts of Galilee.
  5.     O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
        There is room in my heart for Thee.
  6. Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
    That should set Thy people free;
    But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
    They bore Thee to Calvary.
  7.     O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
        There is room in my heart for Thee.
  8. When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing,
    At Thy coming to victory,
    Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
    There is room at My side for thee.”
    • My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
      When Thou comest and callest for me.
  9.                                   ~Emily Elliot
  10.                                    Public Domain

What is your favorite advent prayer-song?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In the time of waiting.

There are many times of waiting in life.. sometimes whole seasons....

Waiting to see if they'll call

Waiting for the baby to be born

Waiting to hear if a loved one landed safely

Waiting for a spouse to get home from deployment

Waiting to hear if your child made the wise choice

Waiting for the test results

Waiting for the college's decision

Waiting for the doctor's call

Even waiting for someone to take the last breath. (Those who have seen a loved one through  hospice care can understand this one.)

Sometimes we are waiting for good things, sometimes sad events. Other times we are waiting for answers and do not know whether we will be rejoicing or mourning.

I find that, for me, it's easy to slip into an anxious state in the time of waiting. I worry, I overthink, I am tempted to fear the worst. But that is not what we are meant to do. We are meant to trust and, by trusting, to wait in peace.

*Sigh* I wish it were easier. Often I wonder how we are cast our cares upon Jesus and leave them with him. Through prayer, through imagination.. .but what of the times when these don't work? We need to learn to rest in God, but the specifics escape me sometimes.
Here's hoping I'll learn...

How are you with waiting?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Song for Sunday: Five Pieces for a String Quartet.

Erwin Schuloff was poised to become one of the premier composers of the 20th century. He was prolific. His music was varied. He was acclaimed.

But, his life was cut short in August 1942. when he died in a Nazi concentration camp. His full potential was never realised.

Many lives were cut short by those concentration camps. Also in the Khmer Rouge, the Armenian genocide, the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda.

And the shooting of nine students at a community college in Oregon.

Here, we lost a future pediatric nurse, a prayer warrior, an assistant professor of English and many others. We lost a lot of promise, a lot of potential.

As we did in all cases of violence against people.

I heard Schulofff's story at a concert by the Aeolus Quartet which featured Schuloff's Five Pieces for a String Quartet. It was inspiring to hear them, to view them and to speak with them afterwards. They are a group that formed in music school and is dedicated to reaching out to the community with music. They spend a lot of time in schools.

The composition is formed of five dances, including a  Viennese Waltz, a serenade, a Czech folk dance, and a tango. The last movement is a tarantella, a "dance against death." I have made it this week's "Song for Sunday."

This is a link to a perfomance of the fifth movement of the composition, played by the Kontras Quartet. 

Let's "dance" against death, working to end violence in all it's forms. Amen?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Faith Before All: A Bit of Sports History

 It's not all that common to see a professional athlete -- or pretty much anyone else for that matter -- stand up for their faith in a sacrificial way. 

Fifty years ago today, on October 6, 1965, Sandy Koufax made baseball history by refusing to pitch the first game of the World Series because it fell on the most holy day of the year for Jews. Yom Kippur, or "the Day of Atonement," is observed on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. On this day Jews attend synagogue, confess their sin, and  fast from food and drink. Other traditions include not washing, not wearing leather shoes, not using perfume or oil, and refraining from marital relations. Yom Kippur is observed even by many Jews who don't participate in other aspects of the faith. 

Sandy Koufax put God and his religious community ahead of his work and ahead of potential fame. He was a great pitcher, considered unhittable, and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. His biography states:

"Koufax also made headlines for adhering to his faith. With Game 1 of the 1965 World Series slated to fall on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, Koufax famously sat out the game in observance. He returned and lost the following day, but won Games 5 and 7 to clinch the championship for his team, further cementing his status as an icon to both his religious community and Dodgers fans."*

 I think Koufax did right. God is more important than money, than a job, than a team. For this, he is a good person to emulate.

*Quote from The website, Sandy Koufax Biography

My fourth post for the October 2015 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Song for Sunday: 2000 Years

Billy Joel is an athiest. Reportedly, he woke up one morning with this song in his head and tried not to write it. He said to Howard Stern, "Who the hell was I to write this gospel song?"

It includes some biblical imagery and is overall a lament that we haven't improved much since the year 0 -- the time of Christ.

To my mind, this song echos Christ's frustration with the disciples: "He said to them, 'Do you still not understand?'"  

We humans have a tendency to need to be taught the same things over and over. So we still go to war, we endure mass shootings, we forget to love our neighbor. 

Billy Joel is an athiest, but he seems to speak for Christ here. 

Today's "Song for Sunday"  -- 2000 years -- by Billy Joel. Here's the link:

Post #3 for the October 2015 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What is there to say?

What is there to say?

President Obama says we have become numb to mass shootings, that it has become routine.

I think he's right. No one is talking about. I have had exactly one conversation about the shootings in Oregon, with my son. There is no real horror, it's barely on the edges of awareness.

People, really this is war. A spiritual war. A battle against apathy and indifference. And a battle against violence itself.

We need to pray. We need to teach our children non-violent solutions. We need to fix the mental health system. We need to watch out for our neighbors. We need to stand up to rampaging gunmen. And, yes, we need to do something about guns.

We need to talk. We need to have real conversation about this in our homes, our churches, our communities.

There is no one answer. No one possible path. Our first solutions may not work, but it's easier to adjust the course of a moving ship than to get one off the dock in the first place.

So let's get to work.

I am going to have two conversations this week with different people about this topic. Don't know with who or how they will go, but that's my commitment.

I also challenge every church to pray about this situation at worship tomorrow.

Let's get something done. Even if it's just a baby step.

What's your commitment?

Post #2 for the October 2015 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Every once in a while, here at Musings, I need to start over. I haven't written in so long, it's likely people have forgotten to watch. In this case it's been over two months -- since July 19.

So what do I have to say...

 A lot's happened.

 CYC, my favorite ministry, celebrated it's 100th anniversary! There was a Gala Banquet with alumni, staff, and even a few campers. It was amazing. We all knew the same songs and how to respond to code phrases, chants, etc. It was a celebration of continuity, of ministry, of changed lives. And it was fun!! Very loud, very enjoyable.

On the personal side my son started 10th grade and we are wading into geometry proofs, Tinkercad and writing resumes. Plus, we are reading 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

I've started a new job, as youth leader of a local church, and taken on the position of planning chair for CYC.

Human trafficking continues to be on my brain.

Oh, and I am working an a recipe for S'mores Pie.

I hope to write a few times a week and I am planning an update to the look of the blog.

Hope you'll follow along!

What's new with you?

Blog post #1 for the October 2015 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Song for Sunday: Here is Love

In church this morning, we sang a song that was new to me. It was the second verse that grabbed my attention, because of the interesting phrase in the last line:

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

                           ~William Rees

 Here's a link to a recording by Matt Redman


 It reminds me of some reading I did recenlty. In Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker reminds us that Judas was at the table during the last supper. Jesus gave his betrayer his body and blood. Later, Jesus accepted a kiss from Judas. Love kissed betrayal. How amazing is that! Vast as the ocean, indeed.

For more thoughts on this look at Hymn -Theology-Kiss a Guilty World in Love by Bridget Willard.

What hymn or song speaks to you about the greatness of God's love?

I've learned a lot about God's love at the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, a quality two-week discipleship training program and experience of Christian community for high school teens. It meets every August on the beautiful southern coast of Maine. There is still time to register for CYC 2015: Profile of a Daring Life. Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Drunk Driving: In Memory of Tom Serewicz

It's July 17th, the anniversary of the day in 2010 that a  CYC alumnus was killed by a drunk driver at age 24, leaving behind a wife and two small children. You can read more about Tom here. He is very missed.

It's pretty clear that drunk driving is dangerous. Schools teach about it, there are PSAs everywhere... it's not a secret.

So why do people still drink and drive?

Basically, because alcohol takes away your brain's ability to assess itself. In other words, you don't know how inebriated you are when you have been drinking...

Therefore, if you are going somewhere after drinking, designate someone to abstain from alcohol before you start drinking. Ideally, they drive right from the start and your car stays home. Otherwise, give them your keys as soon as you see them. Co-operate with them later. Be a good friend. Don't forget to take your turn as the sober driver. It's only fair.

By the way, exhaustion also affects your brain's ability to assess your condition, so if someone says you are too tired to drive, you probably are.

For more information on drunk driving, look at's fact sheet on drunk driving.

RIP Tom.

CYC (Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park) is a two week discipleship training program for high school students. It meets August 2-15, 2015 on the beautiful southern coast of Maine and is open to all teens ages 14 and up who have completed at least eighth grade. Check it out!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Roads, Walls & Soldiers' Toilets: Reflections on History and Survival

Yesterday, we drove down a Roman Road. It was very straight and, after nearly 2,000 years, very usable.

Of course, over the milennia it has received maintenance, upgrades, paving and modern markings. All over Britain there are ancient Roman roads still in use.

We took that Roman Road to an ancient fort called "Housesteads." Really, a ruin. You can still see the outlines of many buildings. From an archaeological perspective, it is remarkably well preserved, but trust me, you don't want to use these toilets. Though the latrine was built to the highest level of sanitation technology known in the world at that time, it is now a curiosity, useful only to teach us about the past.

Preservation is a wonderful thing, as is learning about the past. Ruins are one way to recognize our history and to feel connected to those who came before.

But there is an even greater connection, a living connection, when we are still using the items our ancestors made. I have seen this in the castles, church buildings and cathedrals we have visited, too. Some are simply museums, showing old items and teaching facts -- often in creative and interactive ways. I love re-enactors!

Others are stil residences, places where people live, eat, laugh and cry. Or they house vibrant congregations who continue the tradition of worship. They don't live and worship exactly as their ancestors however. They have electricity, running water, projectors, updated language, new styles of music, different clothing, new forms of art and communication mixed in with the old. Historical, yet living. Renewed and transformed, yet connected to centuries past.

How is your church or organization? Is it a museum to the past or a living community? It's worth thinking about.


CYC does a good job of balancing tradition with renewal. It's a 100 year old ministry to teens. Send your highschoolers along to this amazing two weeks in August on the southern coast of Maine. It's not too late to sign up for our 100th anniversary conference that starts August 2, 2015.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

{Belated} Song for Sunday:Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

On this trip to England we are visiting many educational places like Avebury, Hadrian's Wall, and the Tower of London. Then there are the cathedrals, castles, museums and literary sites like Shakespeare's birthplace.

On Saturday, however, we took a few hours to explore the filming locations for a favorite children's movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We saw the windmill house, the village the family drove through in the car, and the duck pond Truly Scrumptious drove into repeatedly.  A few photos for you:

For more fun, and better views,  check out this link:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Film Locations Then and Now by Vince Cox

If you grew up with Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang enjoy this trip down memory lane. Otherwise, follow this link for an introduction to a fun movie,

What songs bring back childhood movie nostalgia for you?

Shortly after we get back we'll be headed to Ocean Park, Me for CYC. I highly recommend this two-week discipleship conference for all high school teens. Check it out here: Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Song for Sunday: Beauty for Brokenness

I have used this prayer for shalom or wholeness as a Song for Sunday before, but we sang it in church today and it grabbed my attention. God has been challenging me to remember, even identify with, the poor. This time around it is these lyrics that caught me:

Shelter for fragile lives 
Cures for their ills 
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills 
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weakVoices to plead the cause
Of those who can't speak

                                                 Graham Kendrick
                                                 Copyright © 1993 Make Way Music,

                                                          Graham Kendrick, author,  talking about this song. 

And a link to the song itself: 

What has God been calling your attention to lately?
How are you called to help the poor?

CYC (Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park) is a two week leadership development program for high school students. It meets August 2-15, 2015 on the beautiful southern coast of Maine and is open to all teens ages 14 and up who have completed at least eighth grade. Check it out!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fighting Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss is real. Teachers spend much of the first two months of school reviewing what kids have learned before, especially for low income kids (see article linked below.)

There are many ways to fight summer learning loss: read as a family, cook together, play board games that involve reading and math, visit the library, go to a museum.

Another way is to go to camp. There are, certainly, camps (and summer schools) specifically designed to maintain or forward academic skills. They are not the only good options in this respect, however. Camps that allow kids to explore natute, learn new sports skills, program computers, or make crafts can also be very helpful. According to the article Bunks are Good for Brains camps offer a wide variety of experience that help brains develop well.

At CYC, we have an academic program. It doesn't focus on school subjects, but offers Bible study, spiritual formation, leadership, missions, and self-exploration. These are not intense classes with homework, but they do require students to engage with new topics, to discuss ideas, to express opinions, and to learn skills. All of these help students to keep their minds active, and should help prevent summer learning loss. Other camps can do the same. It's another reason I encourage camp. Do check to make sure the camp you choose is right for your child and safe, but send them. It is a lifechanging experience.

For More Information:

Bunks are Good for Brains

More than a Hunch: Kids Lose Learning Skills Over the Summer Months

Other thoughts on camp:

Why Go to Camp?
Want Your Kids to Astound You?
Making Disciples

CYC (Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park) is a two week leadership development program for high school students. It meets August 2-15, 2015 on the beautiful southern coast of Maine and is open to all teens ages 14 and up who have completed at least eighth grade.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Song for Sunday: Charlie on the MTA

Been spending a lot of time on the "tube" -- the London Underground, which includes the oldest underground station in the world. (Baker St.)

So ... today's song for Sunday is  fun old political song about "the man who never returned."

Here's a link to the Kingston Trio's version:

What's your favorite song about going places?

You can't get there by subway but the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park is amazing! Send your high school teens to this leadership and discipleship program for the first two weeks of August 2015 in southern Maine. We're celebrating 100 years!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thoughts on a Prayer Service

I attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey yesterday. Pretty amazing, eh? I am very blessed to have this 10 days of visiting family and seeing important historical and literary places in England with my son. We will then, with my husband,  get to visit family all over England with a few more educational trips thrown in.

This amazing blessing shows how much I have. Which brings me back to Sung Evensong at Westminster Abbey.

The general confession from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was read in unison. It goes like this:

O God, Our Father, , we have sinned against in thee in thought, word, and deed:. we have not loved thee with all our heart; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Have mercy upon us, we beseech thee; cleanse us from our sins; and help us to overcome our faults; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Later in the service we heard this reading from the New Testament:

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

The juxtaposition struck me, especially in light of my "wealth." (I am a lower middle class American by income.Globally, that's a lot of wealth.) From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Time for prayer and loving my neighbor more.

CYC is a two week conference for high school teens on the beautiful southern coast of Maine. August 2-15. Check it out here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Song for Sunday: We Shall Overcome (for Emmanuel AME Church)

There are no words. 

Even if my voice could reach them, there is nothing I could say that would comfort the members of the Emmanual AME Church. Were I there, I could do no more than stand with them as they mourned fathers, mothers, children, pastors and Christian brothers and sisters. Sometmes that's the best thing to do. 

I am amazed at the faith of these people. Even the secular press has noticed how unshakeable it is. These people have forgiven - freely and fully, it seems- a man who, after being welcomed by them,  committed a hate crime against them, who hurled racial invectives as he killed them, who seemed intent on starting a race war between blacks and whites. The congregation of this church will not help him succeed in that last. 

Just as I have no words of comfort, I have no song of comfort to offer. So, for today's Song for Sunday, I turn to a song of hope, the song that rang through the Civil Rights Movement, a song that still speaks of solidarity. Join me in this prayer and sing with me, and those in this link:

 "We shall overcome, 
We shall overcome, 
Deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday."

God grant us peace. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Song for Sunday: The Marvelous Toy

"I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will!"

I am in the mood for fun, and this song is fun. We used to sing it a lot at  the youth conference, years and years ago. We had a lot of enthusiasm.

So here's a link to a version by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Enjoy it!

What song brings back memories of fun for you?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Surprised by Gratitude (While Cleaning)

I am spring cleaning. Yes, I am weeks late. That's just how I roll.

In the process, I became very grateful for the tilt-in windows that make this possible. So much easier than the old style windows.

Then, I became grateful that I have windows at all. Windows that let in light. That allow air to enter when open, that protect from the elements when closed. Millions of people around the world either live in dark, windowless spaces or have uncovered openings in their walls.

I realized how thankful I am that I can spare water to mix with vinegar to wash my windows. In some places, water is too precious for that. Every drop is needed for drinking.

Even the fact that I have lesiure for spring cleaning is cause for gratitude. For many procuring water, and growing, gathering and preparing food are tasks that overwhelm their time. The basic tasks of survival make cleaning house a luxury.

I have so much. And I hardly ever realize it. It is sin to be so profligate and so unmindful of my blessings as I live my daily life.

That has been my reflection as I washed my windows. God grant I do not forget it.

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Letting God Work

This story came to mind.

Two alcoholics in Britain attended a revival meeting and committed their lives to Jesus. Years later they met. The first said, "Since that night, praise God, I have never wanted a drink." The other said, "Since that night I have wanted a drink every single day but, praise God, He has given me the strength to resist every time."

This story may be apocryphal, but I do know people have given very similar testimonies. It shows how God works differently with each person.

Then I remembered this old story from the youth conferene I voluneer for (now called CYC.) It shows how God can work through love and acceptance to change a life -- and was just one example of this at the conference. It was described by Rev. John Douhan, quoted in Christian Youth Conference: A History.

Where else does a young man appear on his first day of camp, draped over the fence at the girls' camp, with cigarettes in each hand and puffing so much that he appears to be in a cloud? The staff did not admonish, did not scold, and gave no lectures on the health benefits of quitting. By the third day he was down to one cigarette and by the fourth day there were none! Following his three years at the Conference, he entered the service of his country and served as a Chaplain's assistent. 

Then I started reading the book The Core Realities of Youth Ministry by Mike Yaconelli and came across this quote from youth worker Heather Flies:

    During our end-end-of-junior-high trip, all the students are required to give testimonies of their faith. We encourage them to be authentic and specific. Typically, the testimonies begin, "I grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ when I was 3 1/2 years old..." One year though, toward the end of the testimonies, Ted stood to give his. In about six minutes he genuinely explained that he had not yet put his faith in Christ and wasn't sure if he would do it. at this points looks of shock and anxiety spread across the faces of my other students. Immediately following our session, many came up to me and said, "We have to do something! Should we all write him notes?" They wanted so much to fix Ted.      Instead of starting a letter-writing campaign, I encouraged them to do what they were already doing --loving and accepting Ted and letting Christ's light shine through them, to be present for him so he could experience God's presence. "That's it?" they asked. "Yep."    God is still working on Ted and my kids are still working to let God work on Ted. 

I sense a theme here.. a message from God to me, perhaps. "Love." "Be present so others can sense my presence." "Let me work." 

Time for some meditaton, some self-evaluation, some prayer.

What messages has God been sending you?

CYC, the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, provides a safe place and loving, accepting community for teens to meet God and experience Christian community. Check it out!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Praying with the Armor

The Armor of God, described in Ephesians 6 is compelling.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We are commanded to put on the full of armor of God. Of God.

I offer this prayer to help us do it. I offer it knowing that if I trusted my own armor I'd be in trouble. I remember that the standard isn't any other human being, but God himself. I can not compare my righteousness, my truth or anything else of mine to Him or His favorably. I will always fall short. Thank God for His mercy!!

Lord, put upon my head the helmet of your salvation, because I can not save myself, only you can save me.

Lord, put upon my torso the breastplace of your righteousness. It must be yours, because mine is truly like filthy rags, so full of holes the enemy could do me a world of hurt if I rode into battle with it. 

Lord, place around my waist the belt of your truth. Only your truth, and your understanding of truth, is sure. Only yours is the right one.

Lord, place upon my feet the readiness that comes from your good news of peace. Only you give such good news, such peace. I can not find it on my own. I cannot make ready for you or to share your kingdom by myself. 

In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Still Remembering

On Monday, I attended a Memorial Day ceremony at which were rededicated 29 trees in remembrance of those killed in service to their country. One  was for someone I knew personally. The people leading the ceremony asked us to keep remembering after Memorial Day, so here goes.

I knew Danny as an active and friendly boy. He faithfully attended my Sunday School class in the early 1980s. He was a good friend of my brother. He grew up, entered the Navy, and was deployed to the Persian Gulf.

Early in the Desert Shield operation, Danny -- Engineer's Mate Third Class Daniel M. Jones -- was killed in an electrical accident while performing routine maintenance aboard the  USS Antietam in the Persian Gulf. He was 19.

My brother and I were at the youth conference at the time, working on staff; I as the registrar, he as an SIT. As they do, the community surrounded my brother as he mourned his friend and supported me as I broke the news to others of our church who were present, supported my brother, and mourned myself. Most had never met Danny, but they prayed for his family and for peace.

Danny is listed as having been single at the time of his death, but he left behind a girlfriend. His parents and six siblings keenly felt the loss.  His wake and funeral were very  well attended, a testament to his youth and the lives he touched as a US Sailor. The pastor gave a powerful sermon reminding us that God, too, had lost a son and that a part of Danny would live forever. It was broadcast on the news, reminding our nation of the sacrifices military members and their families make.

People like Danny need to be remembered outside the immediate circle of their family. They died for all of us. Until there is peace, someone will always be dying for our freedom and safety. I close with a prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt carried on her person during World War II.

Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask and to answer "am I worth dying for?"

Who did you remember this Memorial Day?

Looking for an excellent learning opportunity for your high schooler? Consider the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park a two week residential camp for teens held in early August on the beautiful southern coast of Maine. Celebrating 100 years!

Monday, May 25, 2015

(Belated) Song for Sunday: The Battle Hymn of the Republic

For Memorial Day, in honor of all the men and women who have died in the service of our country, a link to this powerful hymn, sung by the US Army Chorus.

Happy Memorial Day!!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Death Penalty

"Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends."
                                                                  ~Gandalf the Grey
                                                                in Fellowship of the Ring
                                                                   by J.R.R Tolkein

It's been just over two years since the Boston Marathon was shattered and marred by bombs. Two years since an act of terrorism horrified -- and galvanized -- a city. 

We saw evil that day. We saw good that day.

Two brothers were believed responsible. One died before being brought to trial. The other has been convicted on 30 counts of murder, attempted murder, terrorism.

The jury has decided that he should die, that he deserved the death penalty. Perhaps they are right. 

I do not find this a cause for celebration. That a young man could go so far wrong, is horrifying, saddening. That he be killed for it may be just, but it won't bring back those he killed or restore the legs of those who lost them. It will not erase memories. 

It won't even bring closure. Appeals, potentially years of them, will keep this case alive and before the victims. That it will bring more anguish is why the Richards Family asked that the death penalty be taken off the table.

I do not know what is right, what is best. I favor banning the death penalty, because the justice system isn't perfect and because I am pro-life. In this instance, the facts are clear and guilt has been admitted, albeit with the claim of undue influence from an older brother and the mitigating factor of a dysfunctional family. Still, we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions and choices.

Gandalf is right that even the wise can not see all ends and I am far from wise. I do not know what should happen here. 

Whatever it is, though, I won't be celebrating. I will pray for the soul of this young man. I will pray even harder for the healing of his victims. 

I will pray for us all as we seek peace and a world beyond terrorism.

God bless.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Eco-Challenge Part 9: Rinsing Plastic Down the Drain

Do you wash your face with plastic?

Although some companies are phasing them out, and New Jersey has banned them, there are still plastic microbeads in many beauty products. They make a cheap and effective exfoliant. However, when you rinse them off and they go down the drain, the end up in the ocean. These beads are too small to be filtered out.

There are options.

Microbeads are not the only effective exfoliant. there are natural ones that are safer for you and the environment.

Ava Anderson Non-Toxic sells products without plastic ingredients. Other companies do, too. I happen to  be hosting an online Ava Anderson Party right now, so if you are interested and you know me in person send me a Facebook message or an email.

Otherwise, just look for "microbeads" or "polyethylene" in the ingredients list of your products and, if you find them there, consider switching.

Here's more info:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Forgiveness: A Psalm About Our Forgiving God.

Psalm 103 is labeled "Forgiving God." in my Bible. It fits.

I offer it as today's post in the forgiveness series. May it be a blessing to you.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.