Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday

I've been reading, reading, reading lately.  I'm so enjoying it.  Right now I'm reading several books but the one I'm reading this morning is called "The Unfinished Gift."   It is wonderful.  It is set during WWII.  It's been so interesting being in that time period.  To see how our country handled being at war at that time and to compare it to present day.  This morning as I was reading I came to a part that just really struck me.  Here it is.

"The crowd in Times Square is growing by the minute, already numbering in the tens of thousands.  The multitude is happy and peaceful, yet somewhat subdued from years past, considering we are a nation at war. And because we are, it's been decided- now for the second year in a  row- that the Big Ball will not descend from its post high atop the Times Tower to ring in the New Year...

Click here to continue reading...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Remembering, Loving

Well, I didn't have a sermon to prepare last week so I didn't get around to reading the lectionary until Sunday.  It's funny, now as I read scripture and hear sermons on that scripture, I find myself listening and thinking what would have been the message I would have found here?  What would have jumped out at me and led my writing?

Sunday's readings from the Lectionary can be read here.  As I read the verses from Isaiah, my wheels started turning.  Certain phrases seemed be bold themselves, to highlight themselves, to just jump off the page at me.

He has sent me to bring good news to the OPPRESSED
to bind up the BROKENHEARTED
to proclaim liberty to the captives
release to the prisoners
to comfort all who mourn

For I the LORD love justice
I hate wrongdoing

Then from the reading in Luke more...

He has BROUGHT DOWN the powerful from their thrones and LIFTED UP THE LOWLY
he has filled the HUNGRY with good things,

As I read these verses, I couldn't help but think about things going on in our world today.  I couldn't help but think of those memes I see on Facebook talking trash about the poor, about the strangers, about those who are different from us.  I couldn't help but think about the people, some friends, many Christians, who are sharing them.

I was at the store the other day, and I just so happened to get behind someone on WIC.  They had their items lined up according to each voucher and yes, it was taking a long time.  I didn't mind.  I suddenly remembered being on WIC when my children were little and we were living in Hawaii.  I remember having people get in line behind me and the sound they would make when they realized I was using WIC vouchers.  The disgusted sound.  I remembered the instant shame I felt, the embarrassment I felt as I tried so hard not to make eye contact.

Suddenly, I remembered the early days of our marriage and our struggles to make ends meet.  I wanted these parents to look my way so that I could give them an encouraging smile.  So that I could show them that I knew how they felt and I didn't mind waiting so that their baby could have what it needed.  To show them that it was ok and life can and hopefully will get better.

Then we have the verses from 1 Thessalonians...

PRAY without ceasing,
GIVE THANKS in all circumstances

hold fast to what is GOOD
abstain from every form of evil

may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless

You can bet that as I waited in line behind this family,  I was giving thanks for where my family is now.  I was rejoicing that we had help when we needed it and that that help is there for others.  I was abstaining from being impatient, from judging, which is not always easy, let me tell you.

I was reminded of my sermon last week about preparing the way of the Lord.  How we can do that by showing love in all things.  How we can do our part to make the path straight.  I was reminded again
of the company Jesus often kept, the people he often helped, healed, reached out to, loved and I wanted to try to be just a little bit like him.  I wonder what he would think of those memes on Facebook I mentioned earlier.  Would he think they were just?  Personally, I don't think so.  I don't think he would want us to judge with these memes, of course I don't think he wants us to judge those who post them either but I do think that sometimes we need gentle reminders that what we share, what we say can hurt.  Sometimes we need to gentle reminders to LOVE in all things no matter what.  Sometimes we need gentle reminders of what it is we are truly supposed to be about in this life.  LOVE

PRAY without ceasing,
GIVE THANKS in all circumstances

hold fast to what is GOOD

may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless


Monday, December 8, 2014

While We Wait

Waiting is hard.  It requires patience, of which I, personally, have very little. I googled the word wait, and the first definition that came up defined as “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.”  Interesting. Hmm... I didn’t feel good about this first definition so I scrolled down the page to look at what other online dictionaries had to say.  It was actually rather interesting and kind of funny too. The first definition from Merriam-Webster was, “A hidden or concealed position - as used in the expression lie in wait.”  This one made me laugh.  Definitely not what I was looking for here.  The second definition was better and more what I had in mind... “a state of attitude of watchfulness and expectancy.”  That’s better. That is the kind of waiting that I think we are to be about during this season of Advent.  

Well, after I typed that sentence, I, of course, had to look up the word Advent. The first definition that came up was “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.”  Then there were several definitions that spoke only of the Christian season of Advent but then The Free Dictionary defined the word advent as “The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.” And both of these definitions fit perfectly for what we are experiencing during this church season.

Waiting isn’t easy.  I remember as a child waiting for Christmas.  I didn’t think it would ever come!  I was always so excited.  When I was really little, I remember dying to open presents.  It was so hard to wait.  I remember begging to open at least one gift on Christmas Eve.  Usually, there would be a gift under the tree from someone in the church and my parents would let us choose one of those.  That’s my early memory of Christmas.

Then the later memories are of me sitting outside my parents bedroom door at 4 or 5 in the morning, begging them to get up so we could go see what Santa brought us!  Actually, I have a similar memory from my adulthood.  When my husband and I first got married, I’d wake up begging him to get up.  I was always so excited only now it was because I couldn’t wait to give him his gifts!  Eventually, after the kids were born, I would wake up and sneak out of our room and wake up the kids, (because my husband would say we had to wait till the kids got up) and tell them come in my room and ask to get up!  I’m a bit of a Christmas morning fanatic and can be a bit devious.  I’ve taught this to my daughter Susan too, but we love Christmas!  So, waiting is hard, especially at Christmas, but for what are we really waiting?  

Sometimes these days it seems we don’t have to wait long for Christmas.  We are playing Christmas music earlier and earlier.  Personally, I’m not complaining because I could listen to it all year long!  People are putting up their trees and all their decorations earlier too.  We start buying gifts early if we are smart, which I was not this year.  So what are we really waiting for here?

About a year ago, I was trying to figure out what we were going do for Advent in our Sunday School class and I read an article about the season of Advent. It was talking about several different aspects of the season but as I was preparing this sermon, one aspect of the article really came to mind and it was the part about what we are waiting on, what we are expecting.  As children when we learn about Advent, our Sunday School lessons all focus on the birth of Jesus.  We hear about the Angel coming to Mary to tell her she is with child.  We learn about Joseph and how he was going to quietly leave her until the angel explained things to him.  Then there is the part about their being no room in the inn and their having to stay in the barn and Jesus being placed in the manger and shepherds coming after the angels appear to them and so on and so forth.  So as children we think and learn we are supposed to be focused on the birth of Jesus.  So I guess, since I went from being a kid in Sunday School to teaching children’s Sunday School this just kind of stuck with me and it is what we think of when we celebrate Christmas. 

But really, as this article says, the season of Advent is a time for waiting, for expecting, not for the baby Jesus, that already happened, but it’s a time of anticipation of his reappearance!  I's a time for us to "prepare the way of the Lord" while we wait.  Well, it’s time for us to really focus on this, as we are supposed be living this way all the time.

So, what do we do while we wait?  How do we prepare the way of the Lord?  Now, it’s easy to get caught up in all the “Christmas” hype.  On the one hand we have society, the secular world.  They are pushing, rush, rush, rush, buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend!  Go BIG!  We have over the top decorating, over the top gifting.  We have schedules that are pushing us constantly to do more, go here, go there, you have to try to fit it all in, the movies, the baking, the music, the shows, the parties, the services, the lights... there is so much it can make you dizzy just thinking about it!

Then you have the “Keep Christ In Christmas” group.  I do think we need to focus on Christ during this season, but I think we should be doing that every day.  And as I think about it, I often find myself wondering how Christ would feel about this movement.  First, Christmas wasn’t a thing in Bible times.   Second, is that phrase "Happy Holidays" that seems to make so many go up in arms, to get so upset.  Is it really so bad to say “Happy Holidays?”  I mean, I think it’s nice to wish everyone a happy holiday season.  That phrase to me has always meant, Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, and even Happy Thanksgiving!  They are all so close in timing that in saying Happy Holidays, to me, just meant that I was wishing you happiness in all of them!  It wasn’t taking Christ out of Christmas for me.  I never thought of it that way because I still said Merry Christmas when I wanted too, still do! Honestly, I don’t know that I have really ever said, “Happy Holidays” or even had it said to me much.  But as I scroll past post after post or email after email about keeping Christ in Christmas I have to wonder about this movement. I even read an article just the other day about how the term XMAS is really a Christian term!  The X is Greek which is short for Christ and has been used for a 1000 years to mean Christ by Christian scholars.  But too often some Christians are looking for ways that we are being hurt, looking for ways that people might be trying to take Christ out of things but we shouldn’t be looking for that!  That is just looking for something to be angry about and that’s not good, healthy.  Instead we need to remember that first of all, humans are not capable of taking Christ or God out of anything!  That is limiting them and well, we know that they are limitless!  If Jesus wants to be a part of something, he will be! When we get all up in arms over this stuff are we really being very Christlike?  Is it really preparing the way for him?  Sometimes people’s posts or rants are down right hateful.  Now how can you be hateful and speak out for Christ at the same time?  I think Jesus taught tolerance, respectfulness, love in all things.  He told us to love our enemies and pray for them.  Are we doing this when we keep making such a big deal about something that wasn’t even a thing when Christ was here on earth?  Are we really preparing the way for him or are we mucking up the road a bit?

When I think of preparing the way for him, I think of showing his love.  I think of kindness.  I think of how in the Bible, Jesus was often surrounded by those who didn’t always seem worthy.  He was with prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles.  These were people that Jewish people didn’t usually associate with at least not in public.  But Jesus showed them love and forgiveness.  He cared for them, he healed them, he included them in his flock and through that, he changed them.  Not by ridiculing them, not by cramming his beliefs in their faces but by loving them first.  By loving them in such a way that they wanted to know more.  That they wanted to be with him, to listen to him.  They wanted to love him and be loved by him.  He prepared the way for all that he taught just by showing love.  Love that we can share.  

When we are rushing to this program and that, or from store to store, or from service to service.  When we are crazily decorating and baking, we have many opportunities to be preparing the way.  We can show love and kindness.  When you are in a crowded store and it’s loud and people are rude, you can offer an encouraging smile, you can help someone get something on a shelf out of their reach.  When in traffic you can let someone in front of you.  You can not yell when someone cuts you off but smile and say a silent prayer for God to bring peace to their hurried life.  We can teach our children by example and that is a great way to prepare the way.  Teaching our children to love.  When we are baking and the kids make a mess, we can loving help them clean it up instead of fussing at them.  We can make a little extra to share with neighbors and friends.  We can make extra to take to a shut-in and spend a few minutes visiting with them, loving them.  There are lots of lonely people during the holidays.  Holidays aren’t always a happy time for everyone.  Take time to remember that and make an effort to show love to them, to show understanding.  There are so many ways, so many opportunities to do this everyday, not just during the holidays.  We should be living this way all the time.

Remember the definition I read earlier for the word wait that made me laugh?  “A hidden or concealed position...”  That’s not the kind of waiting we are to do.  We are not to hide, we shouldn’t conceal ourselves.  We need to be active in our waiting, actively preparing the way through love while we wait.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Christmas always sneaks up on me but this year... well, my life has been just out of sorts so it especially feels that way.  I feel so behind!  I've been getting up early trying to get caught up but there just seems to be so much to do.

Decorating, shopping, baking, meetings for which to prepare, sermons to write, driving DD to all of her rehearsals, cleaning, and the list goes on and on...  This morning, I got up and just got busy.  I finished my sermon for Sunday, I cleaned in the kitchen, I put up a few more decorations and put the storage boxes back in the basement, vacuumed the family room and added a few touches to the decor down there, swept the kitchen floor and called my mom all by 7:30... Whew!  Now I need to make some carmel puffs for church and bag them up, get some cards ready for a meeting in the morning, edit and print off my Lay Speaker report for Charge Conference, and I still need to put up the outside lights...  But I'm hoping to be able to relax this evening and do a little crocheting.

I'm wanting to relax and enjoy the season.  This hustle and bustle is just too much for me.  It's time for me to reevaluate somethings, to think about how I'm spending my time during this season but also all year long.  I want to be able to be with those I'm with and those I want to be with.  I want to think about what this season is really all about, the anticipation, the waiting, the preparing.

How do we prepare? The scripture for Sunday is from and Isaiah and Mark.  It talks about a voice in the wilderness calling us to prepare the way of the Lord.  How do we do that?  I think the best way, is to show the love that we've been shown by God to all those around us.  To forgive as we've been forgiven.  And then by doing all this, by forgiving and by (most importantly) LOVING be changed and help make change in the world around us so that we can all be ready.

This is what I want to focus on this Advent and honestly, everyday.  I think if I do, I will experience all the things of Advent ~ Hope, Love, Peace, Joy and Christ.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Do Hard Things"

Well, I don't usually share or post my sermons but I really liked yesterday's and my cousins have encouraged me to share.  Before I share it here, I need you to know that I do write out my sermon but there is always a lot that I add and change as I go so the text you see here isn't fully what I shared with the congregation.  Sorry, if you want the full experience, you'll have to be present sometime. :)  Also... I only mildly proof read it since no one but myself usually sees it in print so please excuse any and all typos, omissions, and so on...  Ok... here it goes.  This was written for Youth Sunday at Mason Memorial UMC in Kansas City, Nov. 30, 2014...

Several years ago, my kids and I read a book together called “Do Hard Things; a Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations”. It was written by 18 year old twins, Alex and Brett Harris.  It’s a book challenging youth to do hard things.  They believe that society has come to expect less and less from young people, to underestimate what young people are capable of and therefore young people don’t push themselves to do more than expected. It’s an interesting theory and one I think has merit.  In their book, they encourage youth to expect more from themselves than what society expects, to push the limits on what youth are called to do.

This book and a website run by the young men who wrote it share stories of young people who have done hard things, who have pushed the limits of expectations, who have raised the bar on what youth can and have done.

Have you heard of N’Jhari Jackson?  He is 14 year old who has made a difference in the lives of sick children by collecting stuffed animals for hospitals to give to them.  He also collected blankets to give to the families of wounded soldiers staying at the Fisher House on the campus of the hospital.

Or what about Maria Keller, a 13 year old who has collected books for needy children so that they have every opportunity to read. Or Hunter Gandee, 14, who walked 40 miles with his brother on his back to try to put a face on the muscular disorder he has called Cerebral Palsy.  Or what about Nathan Han who at 15 developed a software tool that predicts the cancer causing DNA mutation.  Or Riley Banks, 17, who has been on a mission to help youth in Kenya to have an education and a home by raising money to build school and now an orphanage.

My daughter was in the 4th or 5th grade when we read it.  It was really a little beyond her age, look there I go putting limits on what she was capable of!  It’s so easy to do.  Anyway, she doesn’t really remember much of the book but she does remember one story they told about elephants. It just really stuck with her. In India when they are training young elephants, they will tie one end of a heavy rope or chain around one of their hind legs and the other end to a tree.  When the elephant tries to move around it can’t.  It can’t break loose and can only move so far.  As it gets older, it learns not to try to move about too far or try to break away so they are eventually able to just tie a string or thin rope to it’s foot and stake it to the ground with just a wooden stake.  The elephant’s spirit is broken and it believes the limits that have been placed on it.  It stops trying.  It’s really kind of sad, I think.

As I read the scripture for today I thought about this book.  Certain phrases really stood out to me.  “For in every way, you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind”,  “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift.”  “He will also strengthen you to the end,”   “You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

These phrases tell me that we have all we need to go out and do hard things for Christ.  We have the spiritual gifts we need to do this AND we are told that He will strengthen us to the end!  I find that comforting.

When I spoke with Ms. McReynolds about my coming here this week I asked about the youth here.  She told me that even though your numbers are not as large as some, you are very active.  She told about your helping with VBS this past summer and how you decided to organize a community carnival.  I thought to myself, This is great!  These youth are really out doing the work of God.  They are already stepping out to do their part!  That’s wonderful!  Thank you for being willing to share your gifts with your church and your community.  Thank you to all you adults who encouraged them and helped them to do these things.  You have much to be thankful for in these youth and also in the encouraging adults.  Not all churches have this.

You guys are doing great but it’s not always easy to do hard things is it?  Sometimes it requires us to step out our comfort zone.  Doesn’t that sound nice?  Comfort zone?  A place where we feel comfortable?  It’s a place that makes us feel safe, so stepping outside of that isn’t always easy.  It requires us to put ourselves out there.  We might fail, we might mess up, we might look silly but if we never try, we’ll never know, will we?  I’m sure you’ve noticed that God often calls us out of our comfort zone.  When he does, we have to rely on him to lead us, to guide us, which for some of us is in and of itself out our comfort zone... letting go of our control and letting God, someone we can’t see or physically feel, be in control.  Yes, that’s hard.

Have you ever felt called out your comfort zone?  How did you react?  Did you go?  Did you rationalize why you shouldn’t go?  Moses did.

When God called Moses, Moses kept giving him reasons why he, Moses, shouldn’t be the one to do it.  I’m not good enough, I’m not a good speaker, I won’t know what to say, they won’t listen to me.  Excuse after excuse and with each one God assures Moses that he can do it.  That God will be with him and will give him what he needs to make it happen.  Just like our scripture in 1 Corinthians says, “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift... He will strengthen you to the end.” 

I actually really like my comfort zone, don’t you?  I feel very comfortable and safe there.  Things are familiar there, they know me there and they usually like me there too!

But can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus called them out of their comfort zone?  He called the fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John.  They were there in their comfort zones fishing and mending nets and this guy just came up and said, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men!”  Now, I’m betting that these guys were pretty comfortable where they were.  They were earning a living fishing.  They had food to eat and a home.  They could have very easily have said, “I don’t want to fish for men!  I happy fishing for fish!”  But they didn’t.  They trusted Jesus as he called them out of their comfort zone to help them, to guide them.  

Then you have Matthew. He was a tax collector.  Tax collector’s usually pretty well for themselves.  I bet he was comfortable where he was doing what he was doing and then one day this guy walks by his booth and says, “Come follow me!”  Now, Matthew could have very easily laughed him off but he didn’t.  The Bible tells us that he “got up and followed him.”  Then he even had a banquet at his house where other tax collectors joined them so that they could meet Jesus too.  That might have been a bit awkward, but he trusted Jesus to be there, to help him, to guide him.

There are stories like this through out the Bible, Samuel, Paul, Jonah, Noah and so on. They all had to rely on God to help them do what he called them to do.

So, what hard things is God calling you to do?  
I have to tell you, I am a huge introvert.  I’m terrified of people.  I’m incredibly shy.  Always have been.  Then I married a guy who decided to join the military and he took me WAY out of my comfort zone.  To other countries and states.  We were constantly moving and I was having to meet new people and make new friends every where we went.  Then he kept having to leave for weeks at a time at first, then months and eventually for over a year!  I had to learn to live in new places with two kids alone.     WAY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.  But... I did it.  God was always with me and put the right people in my life at the right time.  And now...  Well, my husband retired from the army and we have settled down and thought yea!  I get to stay in my comfort zone... but then... God started calling me out of my comfort zone...  He first had me apply for a job as a children’s choir director!  That was crazy!  I love to sing, and I love kids but I’ve never directed a choir before!  What is he thinking?  Am I even qualified?  Turns out I was!  I was terrified as I called and applied but what a fun adventure that was and I got to bless and be blessed by the children of our church.  

Then he pulls me even further out of comfort zone... see I think he just slowly over time stretches our comfort zone making it a little bigger all time so that we don’t feel like we are going as far out our comfort zone but I’m on to him!  I’m starting to recognize this!  

See, next he put Lay Servant ministries on my heart.  Lay Servant ministries is the path led me to being a Lay Speaker.  See when I first started I just wanted to serve more in my local church.  Maybe lead some small groups and assist the minister some here and there with maybe some visitation or in worship.  I didn’t want to preach or speak outside of my own church but before I knew it, God started pulling me further outside my zone to preach and you know what?  I’m so glad he did.  I love it.  It was hard and excuse me for saying it, but I almost threw up the first time I was asked to preach!  But it was so much fun!  God gave me what I needed, when I needed it in all of these situations, from being a military wife to preaching, and he’ll do the same for you.

What is he calling you to do?  What are your spiritual gifts?  How is he calling you to use them?  Do you sing or play a musical instrument?  Maybe you could share that here in worship or maybe go Christmas caroling to shut-ins or in nursing homes?  Do you love kids?  Maybe you  could organize an Saturday afternoon babysitting time when parents can bring their kids for a fun afternoon with you and they can go do some Christmas shopping!  Do you enjoy working with your hands?  Maybe you could offer to do some clean up here at the church or around the community or for the elderly?    We all have spiritual gifts, gifts given to us by the holy spirit to be God’s hands and feet in our communities and to further his kingdom.  

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind -- just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you -- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful: by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I do give thanks for you.  I’m am grateful for your spiritual gifts!  You are not lacking in spiritual gifts and I know that God will strengthen you to the end of what you are called to do.  So, what are you called to do?  What hard things can you do this week, this month, this year or in this life to further the kingdom of God?    

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wonderful Worship

Wow.  That's what I've been saying all day.  This morning,  I had the privilege to worship at Mason Memorial UMC a small congregation in Kansas City.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email asking if I would be interested in preaching there for their youth Sunday.  I called the person in charge of the service and we talked about what they had planned for that day and I accepted the invitation.

Later, I learned that it was a predominately African American congregation. I was excited and little nervous all at the same time.  It didn't matter to me at all but I was afraid that I wouldn't be what they were used to and that, well, they wouldn't like me or that my message wouldn't be the right one. Really the same fears I have everywhere only for some reason intensified.  I needn't have worried.

It was an absolutely WONDERFUL experience!  They welcomed us as part of their family.  You could feel how much they cared for one another.  They were all happy to be there and the Youth were happy to be a part of the service!  It was such an amazing worship experience.  Within the first 5 minutes of being in the sanctuary, I could feel tears welling up because well... I can't even tell you why but they were good tears!  It was just an amazing time of worship and fellowship.

Now, I'm not one to say this but I have to tell you that the Lord was in that place today!  The song choices (made by someone else who didn't know what my message was about) fit perfectly with my sermon.  The advent readings they did went right along the same lines as well even though they were not from the lectionary.  Everything just seemed to be planned for the message I had prepared.  It was amazing.

Funny thing is, when I received the email about preaching there, I was in the middle of an article that just seemed to scream, preach on this topic for this Youth Sunday!  Everything for this day just seemed to come together and fit perfectly like a puzzle.

My family really enjoyed it too.  They felt so welcome and loved.  My daughter said, "I love going with you to these small churches because they are just AWESOME!"  My husband even said, "Maybe we can go and visit there every once in a while.  I really enjoyed it and wish we lived closer."  We smiled and laughed and shared stories of the different people we had met there with each other all the way home.

No words can to do justice to the feeling we had as we left there today but WOW.  It was awesome we definitely worshiped today.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

This was a different kind of Thanksgiving for me. First we weren't home, not our home. We don't usually travel during the holidays. We've always just stayed home with our little family and I love that. This year I decided that I wanted to be with my mother and siblings since it is the first holiday without Daddy. It was good to be with family and was a good day- sad but good. I know it was hard for my mom. I can't imagine what it is like to lose the love of your life... They had been married 56 years and had known each other for almost ever! 

Anyway, yesterday, was a long hard day. We had the graveside service. I had told my mom just over a week ago that I wondered what that day would be like... I felt like I had dealt with it and wondered how it would make me feel... I think I was afraid that I was past the sadness and that it would seem like I didn't care... I needn't have worried. It was just as hard a day as the funeral!

I miss my daddy everyday. Sometimes we'll be laughing at something and I'll think how he would have laughed at it, or I think of his stories and how tickled he would get when he told them and we would laugh more just because of the way he laughed than about the story. I loved to hear him laugh.

Anyway, it was a different kind of Thanksgiving. I struggled a bit through it. I was thankful for so much but sad too. Made it kind of hard to focus on what I am thankful for this year, but here it is...

1. Family--both near and far, both present and past
2. A home filled with people I love
3. Finally live less than 10 hours from my mom and siblings
4. Opportunities --to love, to care, to preach, to share, to grow
5. Time with my family
6. I love yous and hugs
7. This puppy sitting in my lap on the car ride home.

There is much to be thankful for today and every day and I need to remember to be thankful in all things.

Tomorrow morning I'm preaching on doing hard things for a youth Sunday at nearby church. I'm excited and nervous all at once. Maybe if it goes well, I'll post the transcript there tomorrow afternoon.  Next week I'm preaching again! That will make 3 weeks in a row. Exciting!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Every Single Breath

I started this post Friday night...

I'm trying not to be sad. It's time for me to go home to be with my little family and to, as my mother keeps saying, "start living my life again."  It's hard. It's hard to leave my mom. I miss my husband and kids so much but well, it's just hard. I'm the prodigal child. I live several hours away. My siblings are here near mom and I know they will be here for her but I want to be too. Did I say this hard?

Waking up in the morning won't be easy. I feel on the verge of tears already. That hug goodbye will probably break me. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll be crying long before that!

Continuing on Sunday ...

Well, as soon as I got up, I started crying and I cried off and on all the way home. Worship this morning was hard too.  It was last week as well at my mother's church.

This morning was youth Sunday at our church.  They a great job.  It was a youthful service, filled with contemporary music.  Several songs gave me goose bumps. I associate church with my Daddy and well, just all my family so it was difficult but at one point the words to a song said, "Though I'm weak and poor all I have is yours every single breath." It struck me. I've struggled with coming home. I've struggled with that "living again."  I think I know how hard it will be for my mom and so the thought just kills me when I think of it.  It doesnt seem fair for me to just continue on when I know how hard it is for her.

Friday, I was contacted by a preacher nearby who is also in the guard or reserves (can't remember which) asking if I could fill in for his next drill in November and then be his permanent fill in on his drill Sundays. First, I was excited but then I quickly worried because I need/want to be available for my mom always.  I told him I'd let him know next week.  I didn't tell my mom about this part of the conversation right away because I knew she would say I needed to get on with my life, to continue living and I didn't want to hear it. But this morning when I sang the words, "all I have is yours, every single breath," I was struck. It was as if He was speaking to me, reminding me.  Reminding me to live and to live for Him.

I started this lay servant journey not wanting to preach but to just serve more and then continued on through certification to Lay Speaker because I discovered I love preaching too and this song just put it right there in my face. Every breath, every word it all belongs to Him and if I'm afraid to say yes, afraid to get started again, then I'm not giving Him my all.

I like to think that my daddy was proud of me for following this path, that he was proud of the sermons I've written so far.  He was never able to be present for a sermon I've preached though I did video the first one and shared that with him.

I want to think that he would want me to continue, so... Nov. 23rd I'll be preaching and hopefully I won't cry!  And as often as I am able I will be the regular pulpit fill on those drill weekends when Im not needed else where. I think it will be fun to preach on a regular basis, I'm looking forward to it and am getting excited. I guess life really does go on even though it's hard. I can do this.  I should do this.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The True Christian

Romans 12:9-21New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Marks of the True Christian

"9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

This was the scripture from worship yesterday.  I attended worship with my mother at Northaven UMC in Dallas, TX.  As the scripture was being read, I couldn't help but smile and think of my Daddy.  This was him, well... mostly.  :) 

When we were growing up and someone would be hurting one of us or seemed to be unfair or just not nice, Daddy would always say, "Put a grenade in her bra!"  We'd laugh and feel better at his silliness.  But really he always taught us to treat meanness with kindness.  He would say something about how by loving them even when 'they' were awful to us just irked 'them' so it was great revenge.  Lol He would tell us that we just had to keep being nice, keep loving and not to seek revenge or retribution, he'd say, "God will take care of them in the end."

So when they started reading verse 19 above, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." I couldn't  help but chuckle to myself and think first of that grenade.

Really, as it was being read I could see my daddy in most of this scripture.  "Serve the Lord..."  he was always doing that.  It just came naturally to him and he taught this to his kids by example.

"Show hospitality to strangers..."  I saw him do this over and over again.  Whether it was taking people to get gas, or cooking them a meal, I remember waiting in line at Six Flags when I was little and watching him show that hospitality to special needs young people waiting in line near us.  I loved watching him interact with them and show them such love and understanding to these special strangers.  I was always just in awe of him and his ability to do this.

Honestly, he lived this scripture every day.  So many of us witnessed it and are better people because of it, because of him.

He did get a little cranky the older he got but you know, even in his crankiness, he worried about others (which is sometimes what made him cranky), he cared deeply and was always there for all who needed him.

This whole grieving thing is tough.  I still can't believe he's gone.  How is it possible?  I see him in just about everything., scripture, football games, little things my kids say.  Just being in church!  He's everywhere and I'm so glad he is but it's hard.   

I'm still here with my mom for now.   Eventually I'll have to go home to my little family and it will be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  It will be hard to leave my mom.  I've even asked my husband to look for a job here.  Mom said that Daddy always told widows to wait a year before making big decisions like that and I guess maybe that goes for kids too.  I do think about going home and seeing him there in the things around us and in the things we do.  I guess at first these things will be hard, they may always be but knowing that if he could, he would be there helps.  I personally believe he will be there always watching out for us and over us never missing a performance or promotion by the kids or even a sermon of mine. I miss you, Daddy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My First True Love

I have heard stories from when I was little of when my daddy would come home.  He would walk in and I would yell, "Daddy's Home!" in a very excited voice and he would reach out for me and I would hightail-it the other direction to hide under a table or chair.  I don't remember this at all.  All I remember is how much I loved him.

My memories are of getting up a little bit earlier in the mornings so that I could have snuggle time with him before getting ready for school most every day through high school and even sometimes in college. I even remember after I married trying to get up so that I could go get in bed with my parents and watch the news with them when we visited them.  I remember calling him at the church from school because I forgot something or because my ear hurt and him coming to bring me what I needed.  I remember him picking us up from school in the church van because our car was in the shop!  Talk about embarrassing!!  I remember him picking up my friends and me from school my freshman year in high school and taking us to sonic for fries and a slush almost everyday!

I remember his ministry.  He was a wonderful minister to all those around him.  He loved and cared for them all.  He touched lives his whole life.  He was a positive force in this world and definitely walked in the light.

He was always there for me.  I never had to worry about being alone because he would always be there for me.  He and my mother are the best parents I could ever ask for both as parents and role models.  I remember the first years (even decade) of my marriage, he would always slip money into my hand as he told me bye after a visit.  He knew things were tight and he wanted to help.  I got turkey money at both Thanksgiving and Christmas so he could be sure that I had a great meal of turkey and noodles and mashed potatoes and dressing and all the other trimmings.  He always made sure we had what we needed and was always there when we needed him.

I can remember calling him at work when I first got married and moved away.  I called him every other day (sometimes every day) at work just to chat and he always took time to listen to me.  Eventually, mom retired and was home so my calls turned to her and that kind of stuck even after he retired but he always listened in as best he could and boy if I was late calling he let me know it!  If I missed a day he worried and would usually end up calling me to see what was up!  If Mom didn't tell him something I told her and he found out about it later, he would get on to her.  He was funny.

He loved his grandkids.  He would do anything for them.  He and my mom drove all over to be with them, they came for plays, for recitals and for birthdays.  He played with them all the time.  He told them stories and sang songs with them.  Oh, I'll never forget him singing "Hot Cross Buns" with my darling daughter and he would purposely start singing "Three Blind Mice" in the middle of it.  My dd would fuss at him about getting the words wrong and he would insist that he was singing it right.  Every time he saw her he would ask her if she had learned the words to "Hot Cross Buns" right. As she got older she would laugh and say, "Have YOU??"

I learned so much from him.  He always taught by example.  He was a giver, he was faithful, he was loving.  I remember him bringing people home from church who had asked for assistance and he would give them an odd job to do to and pay them.  I remember him taking people down to the kitchen of the church and frying them some bacon and eggs when they were hungry.  I can remember him taking people to the gas station and filling up their cars for them.

I remember the special Christmas Eve services he always had at the churches he served.  It took him away from us most of the evening but I wouldn't have had it any other way.  I loved the come and go communion he had on Christmas Eve.  It was special for every one.  You came in as families and sat in a pew until it was your family's turn.  Daddy would call your family down and greet you.  I can remember the love he shared with each family as we waited for our turn.  You could just see it.  They would all kneel together and it was very private, personal, and holy.  It was always a very special communion and I really miss that.  Not a Christmas goes by that I don't think of it.  Later in the evening there would candlelight services one early and one later.  I loved it.

I guess I could really go on and on.  He was a wonderful man, a wonderful daddy, a great friend, a loving minister and I'm pretty sure my mother would say he was a wonderful husband as well.

Ray Daniel Hennigh  May 12, 1939 - Oct. 7, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making a Difference

I'm feeling a little nostalgic on the beautiful fall day so I thought I'd share an old post from old blog.  Hope you enjoy it.

"Making A Difference"

Ever since I was a little girl, I've wished to have an experience like the one in my all time favorite movie, "It's A Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart.  How lucky George Bailey was to get to see what a difference he made in this world.

Ok, so I don't really need to see what life would be like if I hadn't been born, but it would be so very nice to be able to see that I have made a difference in this world.  I mean isn't that why we are here in the first place?  To make a difference?  To be a light, God's light, to others?  To show love to each other?

I get those emails, you know the forwards, where it talks about a teacher and how they touched so many lives.  How they made a difference to someone or several someones.  Every time I get one of those emails, I have a few days of wondering what kind of difference I'm making... Am I touching people's lives in a positive way?  Am I doing a good job of shining God's light?  Am doing a good job with it right here in my home with my husband and kids?  Am I doing it at Kids Praise Choir?  Am I doing it out in the community?  

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