Monthly Archives: May 2017

Memorial Day thoughts

My sister and I visit the cemeteries each year on Memorial Day Weekend. Well, not the weekend, but on Monday. We do this because everyone who decorated the graves before us are all gone. This tradition has become more deeply meaningful for both of us. We do not just visit my mother and stepfathers grave and my grandparents graves, we have begun to visit my great grandparents graves and other extended family members that no one remembers or perhaps other relatives live too far away. I wrote about this tradition two years in a blog I called Remembering.

I have seen some news articles and some social media posts about how people have forgotten the “real” meaning of Memorial day and have been saying things like “Happy Memorial Day!” I also know that while for some people the main purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the service men and women who have died in wars across our countries history, that is not the only meaning for this day. As I said in my former post, some of us were raised that this was a weekend to remember those who have gone before us. It is a time to decorate graves and tell stories and also in my family tradition, to have cookouts and family time.

I don’t think any of those things are unimportant or wrong. I took American flags to both my stepfather’s grave and my grandfather’s mausoleum. I had a wonderful party on Sunday evening. In worship on Sunday morning at First, we focused on memorial and legacy gifts and Ascension Sunday.

 I am sitting here on Monday evening, experiencing a “good” tired feeling. It has been a full three days. I have celebrated a neighbors birthday, worshipped on Sunday, had 40+ people over for a wonderful evening and then visited four different cemeteries. I also made hospital calls and been grateful for so many things. 

My sister and I have decided to remember those family members that no one else seems to remember. Mostly it is unmarried or married without children couples and babies and small children. We even placed pinwheels and flowers on the graves of some small children who were not related. 

Our great grandparents were visited 


My great grandmother held Tammy and I as infants before she died. We visited our favorite great aunt (she was awesome and fun)


Then we headed to Great Plain and visited Aunt Leola (who was not our favorite and liked to pinch us hard!) and even though there is no gravestone, we visited baby Stella, who died at two.


Then just a little ways away, we visited baby Clyde McClure. If I remember my family history, his mom ( my grandmother’s sisters) HAD to get married and this little baby did not live. His parents are buried elsewhere, but we remember him today.


Finally at the Calvary cemetery we visited Maudie. I have visited this grave since I was a little girl. At one point, there were still decorating it, but that has been a very long time. This little lamb stone speaks of the love the family had for this precious child:


The little poem at the end says “Sweet Maudie unto earth,  a little while was given. She plumed her wins for flight, and soared away to heaven.”

Finally beginning last year, we sought out a very small cemetery that my grandparents visited only once. It was part of my grandfather’s German Lutheran heritage.
 What we both remembered was one small baby grave that had only the last name Wiske , but no first name. Last year we went searching for Baby Wiske and we found the grave, but had to pull back the grass to see the name. It happened again, we had to pull back the grass. 


But while there we remember Remick’s, remembering family reunions of long ago and  decorated the grave of my grandfather’s brother and wife.


Finally we visited a marker in a Wichita cemetery remembering my mother. We had visited her grave and my stepfather’s grave in Garden Plain


She had married again late in life and had just a few short years which were a gift for both her and her husband Jerry.


Here is what I believe, we only have a short time to love nad laught and share. Whatever the number of hours or days or years, each moment matters. I know sometimes that it is uncomfortable for folks when people don’t “remember” or “memorialize” in a preferred method. I think having dinners, going to the lake, making memories is not bad or sinful or wrong. I also think mourning and remembering and honoring is not bad either. 

I find the moments I take to walk cemeteries and “recount the tales” and wonder about the stories I don’t know to be sacred and holy. I also find hosting family and friends for a party is also sacred and holy. Time is a gift and choosing to spend part of it with those we love is precious.

So tonight, I am grateful, for family, for friends, for memories and for time enough to pay attention.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday Service, Celebration of Graduates

Yesterday’s service at 11:00 was packed, literally! So packed that there is not much of sermon (with about 57 minutes and a few seconds of actual television time) my sermon ended up being maybe 9 minutes. I was editing and cutting on the fly. So I suppose I could say unlike what Otis Moss III said at the Festival of Homiletics, this particular sermon was not a work of art.

The good news for me, is that worship is not always about the sermon. The proclamation of the Word is important of course, but so is the music, the liturgy, the prayers and the commissioning.

Sunday, we celebrated our graduates, our scholarship recipients, commissioned a mission team and blessed two young women as they prepared to go on the United Methodist Women’s MET (Mission Education Tour) tour. Our youth director sang “Go the Distance”  as a dedication and blessing. It was a beautiful morning.

The link to the service is here  First UMC Worship

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Festival of Homiletics, Thursday’s Thoughts

Thursday was filled with pretty diverse speakers; a preaching professor, a local pastor, a president of a seminary and a New Testament professor. Almost sounds a bad joke….you know the one that starts with all of them walking into a bar. My colleague, Randy Quinn, senior pastor of West Heights UMC, posts weekly “Quips and Quotes.” I love reading them each week and I have kind of used that idea in the back of my head as I have shared my ramblings from the Festival of Homiletics. I don’t share all my notes, just a few I intend to chew on some more over the next days and weeks.

 Choosing each day from 2 speakers or worship services is a exercise in discernment, because they are all so good. The other exercise in figuring out what to right down because the information comes so quickly and I hate missing any part of it. Having said that, by mid afternoon yesterday my mind was mush and I just couldn’t quite write things down. The delight at the end of the day was the Beer and Hymns event, followed with good time with colleagues.

Karoline Lewis:

Karoline focused on incarnation and proclamation. Why do we need to reconnect them? 

“We live in a time we cannot afford perching from assumptions. Often the loudest voices are talking about God as if God is not in the room.”

“We need to preach with something theological at stake, for that is at the heart of incarnation preaching.”

“Faith is not a point, it is a presence.”

“Biblical texts were meant to be heard, not read. When we read it, we don’t listen to it.”

“Sermons are not papers.”

“Our job is not to figure out if our sermon is good or not, that’s up to God, we are called to be faithful.”

Matt Skinner

Matt’s sermon was on the text Matthew 9:35-10:23. As a New Testament scholar it was filled with excellent information and insight into Matthew’s world view. Matthew’s community’s concern was reflected in their need to know they were safe or right. The tendency was to be careful as to who was part of the community and who was not. 

“The history of the church tends to be preoccupation with that’s that stop our wonder and stifles our faith. ”

“Fear is an idolaty’s most effective evangelist.”

“What is the lasting good of the this gospel/ Christ promises to be with us always.”

Adam Hamilton

Adam has a new book out, but the workshop I attended was focused preaching. He said, “I am constantly looking for ways to do it better and new ways to engage the world and the congregation better.”

David Lose

David’s lecture was about Proclaiming Truth in an Alt-Fact World. This whole week actually has been about how to proclaim the gospel, the good news in a world where it is very difficult to discern what is “real” and what is “news.”

“The internet has fulfilled its promise that anyone can create information, disseminate it and create a following. We are also in an age of information overload.” 

“Because of our information overload, we tend to react to that information and fill our news feeds only with those who confirm our own bias.”

“It is now difficult to standardize or legitimize our sources, and our own processes and information may not be well vetted.”

“How do we proclaim truth when truth is completely and utterly contested?” 

HERE WAS PERHAPS THE BEST THINGS HE SAID AFTER THAT QUESTION:   I Don’t KNOW.

“Using facts and figures and trying to argue doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but stories do.Often when I tend to preach on justice around an issue I care about, it paints everyone who disagrees with me unjust.”

“What can we do? Primarily, we proclaim God’s presence and love and grace for all of us. we witness to Jesus as best we can in word and deed.”

Thursday evening was Beer and Hymns with the Fleshpots of Egypt! So much fun and it was amazing to hear that many voices raised in song. A couple of pictures from that event:


And a video (not great, but gives a sense of what happened.

To say my heart and soul are filled would be an understatement. I am energized and ready to get back to church and to work. I say it often enough, I am so honored and privileged each week to serve as a pastor. It is a gift to be given space to get away and learn and grow. 

Only in Texas, I suspect, would there be “fortune tacos.” I received one on Tuesday and slipped in my bag. 

I finally opened it up last evening and this is what it said:

I guess it is. I am so grateful to Lutheran Seminsary and all those who helped make the Festival of Homiletics possible.

I am graced to serve

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Festival of Homiletics, Wednesday’s thoughts

Having been several times, I know the Festival is always filled with so many good speakers and workshops and opportunities. I also know that sometimes the ones I choose may not be all I hoped. The words of the priest from Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark go through my head, “Choose Wisely” and then the next line, “he choose poorly.” I don’t think, really, there are poor choices at the Festival, but that doesn’t mean I am not sometimes disappointed. Yet, I probably won’t change my way of choosing. If I have heard someone before, even if they are spectacular, I will often opt to listen to a newer speaker, someone I am not familiar with. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t, but I suspect those who as “so good” may not have been that good the first time. Like one speaker said yesterday a preacher should be in the same category as “artist.”

Having said that, other than one speaker, I was absolutely moved yesterday by the preaching and the workshops. Some of my notes from yesterday with an acknowledgement they are as close to direct quotes as possible! If you want to get some other highlights, you can tracke the festival on Twitter:  #festivalofhomiletics2017

Raquel St. Clair Lettsome is an amazing preacher, powerful, articulate and brought me to tears. That is saying something, I don’t cry often. As she began her sermon she said something I really resonated with, perhaps most preachers do:

I am not a marathon runner or long distance runner, but I get in a couple of miles everyday. I swear the longest. Walk I ever take is from my chair to the pulpit! 

Her take on the Good Samaritan story was powerful and is beyond my ability to recount. However she noted:

In the Good Samaritan story, while the others walked by the Samaritan came close, that didn’t mean he was safe, he just felt safe in that moment. He might have scars from his own encounters on the Jericho road, but broken hurting people are not exempted from carrying other broken bodies. We need more Samaritans to come close to help one another especially when it is risky, we need them close enough to hear, to help and to heal.

Micah Jackson is a preaching professor also dedicated to the wellness of clergy. He noted that if preachers believe it is good for their folk to hear the word broken up and preached regularly, the same applies to the preacher!  He said:

“If this week feels like a cool drink of Walter on a hot Texas day, that’s how it is supposed to be for your soul.”

His presentation was on conversational preaching. 

“It is not enough to say something, maybe the congregation has. A role: people need to hear and have their lives transformed.”

“It is the cooperative principles: everyone in the conversation understand that they are cooperating the in process. There are several conversation partners: the scripture, the news, what is happening in your community and in the world, the Spirit.”

“In worship everyone gets a turn to speak: prayers, the liturgy, the choir, the soloist and musicians, the sermon and if done right even the congregation.”

Lisa Thompson preached on Ezekiel 37 and the dry bones. 

“How do you know what you know? You don’t until you do.” 

“God invites us to come and play, come and make life with God. God will not let us back off, once the Spirit breathes into us, we can’t back up,, we are called to proclaim life, to Speak Life, Pursue Life, Let the life giving Spirit in.”

Otis Moss III used my favorite modern mythology “Star Wars” to lecture on the call of the preachers. So many quotable sentences, some of my favorites:

“Both the Sith and the Jedi draw from the same power, the difference is perspective, most of us want to be Jedi, but we tend to be chaplains for the Empire, not prophets of the Rebellion.”

“Preachers all struggle with the dark side want to be liked and are afraid that people will leave. Ever preacher will have some one leave sooner or later and if no one has left, you are no preacher.”

“At best we plant seeds and we may not every see the tree that grows or eat the fruit, but we have eaten the fruit that others have planted and the least we can do is plant for those who follow.”

“We are Sith and Jedi, dark and light we have Jedi potential and Sith tendencies. We need a amaster to teach us, the good news is that Jesus doesn’t mind teaching people with Sith tendencies.”

“Preachers should be artists, poets and painters. Every sermon should be a work of art.”

I bought some books and a couple of stoles which is the other wonderful reason to be here, the resources available.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Festival of Homiletics, First Night and Day

I am attending the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas for the next few days. It began on Monday evening and I have many notes and have instagramed some photos as well as “tweeted” out a few comments. This is my fourth or fifth time of attending. The best of the best “preachers” are highlighted and they lecture and preach usually using the lectionary but not always.

The event is fun, amazing, overwhelming and I always come away re-energized for ministry. It is not possible to hear everyone, so I have to pick and choose who I want to experience each time. Monday night Walter Brueggemann preached and he was powerful. He was followed by Rob Bell who is provocative and creative. 

My take away from Monday:

“Our evangelical metric is not building or numbers or budgets or pensions: IT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD. The weakness and vulnerability of God as experienced in the cross is filled with transformative power.” 1 Corinthians 1: 10-31. Walter Brueggemann

“The sermon creates a space where people are hungry and thirsty for something they didn’t know they were hungry and thirsty for….in the sermon all kinds of things happen in that space that are way bigger than you and me.”    Rob Bell

My take away from Tuesday

“The context of our proclamation of the Word is that we are in a Post Truth era, we need Wisdom , Biblical wisdom. Fake news is conflictional and confirms our own bias, biblical wisdom is collaborative and acknowledges both human limits and Divine transcendence.”   Alyce McKenzie

“Preaching is always pastoral.” “In the Bible, I am always looking for something that will break my hear.” “I use feminine and masculine images and language for God not so everyone feels comfortable, but so everyone has a chance to feel uncomfortable.” “Violence and evil may have the news cycles but it doesn’t have our hearts….it doesn’t have the ture victory, Christ has the victory.”   Nadia Bolz-Weber

“The theological reason for bring the newspaper/politics into the pulpit is to make the connection between the love and justice of God and the world that needs it.” “Our people are bringing the weight of the world in with them each Sunday morning and when we ignor this we lack integrity.”  Amy Butler

I have MANY more quotes, but those are the ones residing heavily in my heart and spirit. I am excited to see what God will place in my mind and heart and spirit today.  

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday’s Service, Festival of the Christian Home

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the United States. I know that it is a complicated holiday and not the least of which has to do with the sometimes chessy card and commercials that encourage people to honor their mothers. Yesterday in worship, I preached about how this holiday filled with both joy and sorrow. In the United Methodist tradition it is called the Festival of the Christian Home which allows the focus to be on home, rather than on whether or our mothers were amazing or a mess. In my own life, I heard from my kids, on Facebook my son said I was wonderful and my daughter posted this wonderful Story People card: (on if it is on Facebook it must be true, right?!?!)


How I would like that to be true….I certainly write often enough that I long to love that was God loves and they way I see God loving and gracing the world in Jesus. In the end I do trust that the Divine Spirit is making their Home with us, in fact I am clinging to it.  Here is the service from yesterday:

http://sundaystreams.com/go/firstwichita

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mother’s Day and All will be Well

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States. Celebrated with flowers, candy and often meals, mothers are praised and loved and remembered. However, this day can bring mixed feelings for many. Those who have longed to be mothers, grieve. Those who have lost their children to death, to disease, to addiction, to broken relationship grieve. Those who have lost their mothers to death, to addiction, to broken relationships, grieve.

I am one of those who is “motherless.” My own mother died not quite four years ago. While her transition was a good one, there are things I miss. I am sorry she was not able to see me appointed to First United Methodist Church. She worked there as a receptionist and I grew up there. She would have been thrilled for me and (not a little proud as mom.)

I am also, one of those women who happen to be a mother and a grandmother. Mother’s day becomes a joy as I celebrate the love I have for my children and grandchildren and appreciate so many women who have mothered me and mentored me throughout the years.

Today is also on some calendars the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich. There is some discrepancy as some celebrate it on May 13 and others on May 8. Since tomorrow is Mother’s day in my neck of the woods, it makes sense for me to reflect on this amazing woman today.

Julian-Norwich-2

Not much is known Julian, not even if that is her real name. What is known is that she wrote a book around 1395, the first known to be written in English by a woman. Her Revelations of Divine Love is filled with such amazing imagery and faith.

There are many sayings of Julian’s that are important to my faith journey,

” As truly God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.”

“Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.”

These next words, are the ones I return to again and again and again.

When I first saw that God does everything that’s done, I didn’t see sin, and I saw all is well. When God did show me sin, He said then, “All will be well.” God also said to me, “You won’t be overcome,” and these words were said adamantly, and I was convinced. They gave me certainty and strength against every tribulation that might come.
God didn’t say, “You won’t be attacked” or “You won‘t be overwhelmed” or “You won’t be upset” or “You won’t be stressed out.” No, instead He said, “You won’t be overcome.” God wants us to pay attention to His words, and always be strong in our certainty–when things are going well and when things are going terribly–God wants us to love Him and delight in Him and trust in Him with all our heart, and all will be well.

All will be well. All will not perfect or fun or wonderful. Julian lived in times of great uncertainty, illness, pain. Out of that experience she was able to speak of great strength, comfort and love. Her words centuries later still speak of a Divine Love that never lets us go. A love that is with us in life and in death and in life beyond death. A love that promises each of us that we are beloved and graced beyond anything we can imagine.

In Julian’s words: ” All shall be well, all shall be well….for there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.” As I think about Mother’s Day, I pray for all to know that Force of love that will never let us go. I pray for the certainty that “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”

The author of Second Timothy reminds him “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother and your mother and now in you….rekindle the gift of God that is within you.”   Jesus, in the gospel of John states, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  The promise is that God is at work within each of us, by the faith given us by mothers and grandmothers and mentors and by living out Jesus’ command to love God and love one another. The Force of Love makes its home with us and in us…and all will be well.

As a motherless child, as a mother, a grandmother, an aunt and a friend, I am certain that God loves me and loves us all. In that certainty, I trust that God is rekindling the gift of grace and love within me.  As I remember and give thanks for the mothers and grandmothers who have offered me love and faith, I  am graced to serve.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized