"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday Five: Fave Verses

The challenge this week from Revgalblogpals: Five of your favorite verses-- Go!

1.  Do not fear, for I am with you....I have called you by name, and you are mine.  (Is 43) This passage has always been among my favorites-- I like that God calls me by name, and gives me a new identity. But I also like the other places in the passage that I hear that God is with me-- in the floods of life, in the devastation that I might face.

2. We wish to see Jesus (John 20) My dad remembers that this verse was inscribed on the seminary pulpit when he was there-- and he said it both frightened and inspired preachers.  For me, it reminds me what I'm doing, and what I'm to be about.  When my sermon just won't go, that's a helpful verse to keep in my head.

3.  Be joyful always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks to God in all circumstances. ( 1 Thes 5:16-18) What more is there to be said, really?

4. Psalm 137 I don't know why, but as far as lament psalms go-- this one has always seemed close to my heart. I just used it for the funeral of a beloved congregation member, who taught me what it was to sing the Lord's song even in the mist of cancer and tough living conditions.

5. The Call of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1):  This story was part of my own call story, and how I realized that I might be called to the ministry.  Every excuse that Jeremiah gave, I had given.  And every answer that God gave Jeremiah, I had heard in some form too.  Sometimes when I lose my way, this passage helps.

Best Ev-ar: Chicken Broth

Some products/ideas/recipes that I run across are worthy of a shout-out, and so for that reason-- I'm creating a category called "Best Ev-ar" and will add these to my blog as the need strikes.  So...for what it's worth:

Best Ev-ar: Chicken Broth

College Inn White Wine & Herb

Adds so much flavor!  I used this in a recent batch of chicken and dumplins and the flavor it added was amazing.  It's a little pricey compared to other brands, but what it adds to a dish makes it entirely worthwhile!

I once was blind, but now I see...

How funny-- I didn't even realize how poor my eyesight had gotten and when I scheduled my eye exam, I was mostly thinking it was just a checkup.  Oh, there were those times before Christmas when I realized I couldn't see the TV, but I thought my eyes were just tired from all the knitting I was doing.  Turns out I've needed glasses for a long time, and just didn't realize it.  Wearing the new glasses, the world is so much crisper than it has been.  I didn't even know that most of the world was fuzzy to me!

You can't realize that your own reality isn't normal unless you have something else to compare it to-- and when do you ever get the chance to look through someone else's eyes?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Prayers at work

There's a verse in James that says "the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective".  Sometimes, that's easier to see at work than other times.

Our church for the last year and a half or so has gone through some sort of "winter." It seemed like our spirits were all frozen over, as was any sort of joy at being Christ's church.

But something is beginning to thaw.  Folks are taking new interest in the church, and what we can do to make it more accessible to folks who haven't been "doing" church lately.  Suddenly people are volunteering, and saying "I can do that."  I'll be honest, I've felt a little winter-y too.  But suddenly, I feel more hopeful and joyful than I have since the "honeymoon" period of my ministry ended.

I think folks must've been doing a lot of praying for this church.  Come Springtime, come Holy Spirit...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five: Books Edition

In effort to both blog more frequently and to become part of a bigger community, I’m going to start playing along with the RevGalBlogPals Friday Fives. (For non Rev-gals, I’ve copied the original post).

  1. What books have you recently read? Tell us your opinion of them.

I just finished “Falling Home” by Karen White-- which I wound up loving, despite an entirely predictable plot.  Here is my official Goodreads review of  it:

Falling HomeFalling Home by Karen White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the most part, the plot was entirely predictable (and seemed like a pretty close cousin to "Sweet Home Alabama"). But it was so beautifully written, that I let the author take me there. Even if I saw what was coming, I still wanted to be swept away into the world that White creates. White does "Southern" very well, both aptly poking fun at some of the things we do and yet maintaining the integrity of the things we southerners hold so dear.

View all my reviews

2. What books are awaiting your available time to be read?

I’m currently reading both “Working the Angles” by Eugene Peterson, and “Bread of Angels” by Barbara Brown Taylor.   When I finish those, I’m going to start reading “This Odd and Wonderous Calling” by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver.

For fun reading, I think I’m going to get lost in another Karen White novel, perhaps “The House on Tradd” street.

3. Have any books been recently recommended?

Oddly, I’ve gotten no recommendations lately!

4.What genre of books are your favorite, along with some titles and/or authors you like best?

I’m not gonna lie, when I’m not reading work-related books, I love a nice girly romance or almost anything southern.   I love Nicholas Sparks, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Jodi Piccoult.  I’ve also, surprisingly, fallen in love with Carol Goodman who writes quasi-crime dramas-- not in the CSI vein, or anything like that.  Wow.  I’m having a terrifically hard time describing her work, but everything I’ve read of hers has absolutely been worth the read.

5. What have you read lately that you have a strong urge to recommend? (or to condemn?)  I love “Searching for Shalom” by Ann Weems-- a book of poetry, but the ways she sees things is beautifully clear and astounding at the same time.  For pastor folks, I’d also definitely recommend anything by Eugene Peterson-- especially “Working the Angles” and “The Contemplative Pastor”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Closing the Church Doors


The above is from my church’s website.  I designed the website, and I worked hard on the slogan and pictures, wanting to create a sense of welcome for all those that stopped by.

But, I am the only staff member at our church...and I am a female.  I’m often alone in the church, which might not be so bad if we weren’t so far out in the country.  Yesterday when I was there alone, a man knocked on the door looking for help (which is not that unusual in our area).  I don’t let people I don’t know in the church, and all the doors are kept locked.  I opened the door a little bit to talk to him, but he kept trying to get in the church.  He kept looking past me, and three different times he gave me reasons why he needed to come in (restroom, phone, etc.) He wouldn’t look me in the eye the whole time he was telling me his story, and I just got an awful vibe from him.

I packed up my things and left, not wanting to give him an opportunity to come in again, and left, on the whole, feeling rather unsafe to be in my office.  But I’m also feeling like a pretty shabby representative of God.  It was cold outside, and I wouldn’t even let him in.  He needed help, and I hesitated...even to let him use the phone.   My behavior went against what I’ve read in the scriptures, but how do you live the gospel while keeping yourself safe in this world?

What say you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Footloose and Cable-Free

During our last big snow storm, our Dish Network was knocked out-- which immediately made my husband ten shades of foul.  He was an avid TV watcher--if TV watching could be a hobby, that’d be his.  But we made do-- we had netflix after all, and there were plenty of things to be watched.

But as days passed, we realized we didn’t actually miss the TV that much. We had been taking comfort in its mindless noise, but there just wasn’t that much on that we had to watch.

So on Monday, we took the plunge.  We called Dish Network, and had our service discontinued.  And so far, we’ve been immensely pleased with the decision.

Instead of numbing ourselves by just plopping down in front of the TV, we watch only the things we really want to watch.  We’ve been grooving on the Ken Burns Civil War documentary lately, which is something we never would have watched when inundated with NCIS, SVU, Glee and House.  But we also just watch less TV in general.  We read together and cook together and take long walks in the cornfields behind our house.  Life seems generally more satisfying.

I’m saving over $70 a month, and my life is happier and more under control.  It was a scary choice at first, but I’m looking forward to what the extra time in our lives might lead to.   Who knows? Maybe if my creative energy isn’t being sucked away, then I might finally write. Or knit. Or take pictures.  Or make gourmet meals. Or conquer the world....