Misc. Wednesday: Gratitude

pexels-photo-414645.jpegIn a few hours, I will say to members of my congregation, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” while I make a cross of ashes on their foreheads or hands. It’s a reminder of our mortality, that we are created from the ash of the earth and one day will return to the earth.

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The beginning of the journey into the wilderness, the path towards the cross and eventually the resurrection of Jesus.

Lent is a contemplative time, a time of journeying with Jesus in his final moments on earth. It’s 40 days (not including Sundays) of darkness and self-reflection of our faith. Eventually light will prevail but until then, we’ve got 40 days of wilderness, desert, and darkness.

For most, Lent is a way of deepening one’s faith by engaging in a spiritual practice. Usually it’s by giving up something. Fish Fry Fridays remind many to not eat meat on Fridays in Lent. Or some give up soda or alcohol. If that practice works for you – go for it.

Giving up something for Lent wasn’t a thing I grew up with. Over the years I’ve tried the spiritual practice. I attempted to give up Diet Coke for Lent long ago. It lasted 2 weeks. I suppose the idea of giving up something for 40 days brings us closer to God, like the monks who take vows of silence. It’s simply not me.

Instead I opt for a different sort of spiritual practice this time of year.

The last 2 years I’ve taken pictures and posted them to social media of where I saw God each day. One year I tried to write a note to different people each day. That didn’t last that long either but I liked the practice of sending love and greetings to special people in my life.

This year I’ve decided to do a Gratitude Challenge. Some do this during the fall around Thanksgiving. Instead I’m doing it for Lent, because there is much to be grateful for, isn’t there? Why should we only give thanks one time a year? Why should giving thanks during Lent be any less important?

Author Diana Bass posted on her Facebook page this past Monday, “This Lent, add some gratitude practices to your journey. Keep a gratitude journal, write thank you letters to someone you appreciate, surprise friends with thank you gifts, do gratitude prayers and meditations. Thanks doesn’t have to wait for Thanksgiving. Thanks is central to deepened faith, strengthened hope, and the fullness of love.”

I LOVE that last sentence!

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to walk my Lenten, wilderness journey with gratitude in hopes of deepening my faith, strengthening my hope and feeling the fullness of love in my life.

Because I like to see progress, to feel something tangible with my fingers, I’m going to write down one gratitude a day and place it in a jar. Eventually those notes will be arranged and placed in my 2018 Project Life scrapbook.

I doubt there will be one day when I cannot come up with something. Every day presents us with little things to be thankful for. So it’s kind of fun and exciting to feel the suspense of what each day might bring. Who knows what sorts of gratitude will present itself each day for 40 days?

To begin, this one hit me this morning as I sat at the car dealer, waiting for my car:

I’m thankful for flexibility in my job so I can take a morning and get my car fixed.

Dear Readers, what are you doing this Lent? Or perhaps the better question is: What are you thankful for?


Misc. Wednesday: Read Harder


For the last 2 years, I’ve participated in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I found the reading challenge through a friend, likely from her Goodreads account.

The Read Harder challenge is a reading challenge (obviously) and is a set of 24 prompts or tasks. One can overlap tasks too, so say one book could count for more than 1 of the tasks. I aim for 24 separate books because I hope to experience more, read more. I try to push myself a bit.

I didn’t finish last year’s tasks. Boo.

I’m blaming Scarlett.

One of last year’s task was to ‘read a book published between 1900 and 1950’. I chose Gone With The Wind, all 1,037 pages on my Kindle of Scarlett and Rhett.  From May 27, 2017 till January 3, 2018 I read about Scarlett’s adventures (and the whining! Oh my gosh!). I did enjoy the book – whiny, self-absorbed Scarlett and all.

Anywho…finished or not, it’s time for a new year of Read Harder challenges.

This year’s list contains a bit everything. And, thankfully, no poetry. I love how Read Harder allows me to experience new books, books I would normally never read but some are just not for me.

Early on I draw up some sort of plan, knowing it will likely change. The same is true of this year’s challenge.

In the effort to create more space for self-care in my life (more than I already do) and since I hope to write more about one of my loves – reading, here is my Read Harder challenge possible books for 2018 (and yes, some overlap with my friend cuz I borrowed some of her ideas – Thanks Friend! And yes, some are already crossed off and finished.):

  1. A book published posthumously: Persuasion by Jane Austen (currently re-reading cuz I love Jane.)
  2. A book of true crime: Columbine by Dave Cullen or In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance): Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (completed January 14)
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa): Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Kathrine Boo (set in India)
  6. A book about nature: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (I haven’t read a ton of her work, though I loved The Bean Trees in high school.)
  7. A western: True Grit by Charles Portis
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: March: Book 1 by John Lewis
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: I think The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini counts for this. I loved his book And the Mountains Echoed.
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color: My friend had A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev on her list and that sounds interesting. I need to research this one more.
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980: The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. I have always wanted to read this!
  12. A celebrity memoir: It Takes Two: Our Story by Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott (a.k.a. the Property Brothers) (completed January 15)
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  14. A book of social science: Quiet by Susan Cain or Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
  15. A one-sitting book: Ummm….No idea. It’ll come to me when I finish reading it in one sitting. LOL
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: So many choices! The Maze Runner by James Dashner or The Giver by Lois Lowery. Both have been on my To-Read list for years.
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle cuz the movie looks good.
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: Again, I need to research. Maybe Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson.
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation: I feel like The Snowman by Jo Nesbo counts for this but not sure since I don’t quite understand genre fiction. ‘In Translation’ I get.
  20. A book with a cover you hate: Bossypants by Tine Fey
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Cutting Season by Attica Locke
  22. An essay anthology: Either Nasty Women or 7 Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite TV Show.
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished): Never finished: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I struggled to finish it in high school and used cliffs notes to do my book presentation on it. However, I loved Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Of Mice and Men. Here’s hoping I can get through the dust bowl.

There is way more on my reading list this year and I’m sure the titles above will change. And that’s ok. However, I do love the fact that majority of my list consists of women and people of color. Yea!

Happy Reading, Friends!

Sabbath Monday: Love & Call

pexels-photo-414645.jpegYesterday I preached a sermon entitled, “Loved and Called” with Psalm 139 as the scripture.

Earlier in the week as I was deciding on what text to preach on, I knew I wanted to go a more social justice-y sort of route. I mean, it is MLK weekend after all.

I had my sermon crafted in my head, though not on paper, by mid-week.

And then one of our country’s leaders opened their mouth.

I’m not one of those preachers who uses the pulpit to spout agendas or politics or whatever. That’s not what the pulpit is for. I mean, I supposed I could go there. I do have freedom of the pulpit. But I wasn’t taught to use the pulpit for my own agenda. I’m there to push a few buttons, yes, but about faith, God, justice issues and such.

I do, however, use the pulpit to preach the Gospel, which is clearly not something many our country’s leaders are aware of. The Gospel message is all about love, welcoming the stranger, and grace. (The Gospel is way more than that, so totally generalizing here. But you get the idea – clearly not on the minds and hearts of our country’s leaders.)

And so I preached about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the sight of God, as the Psalmist says. I talked about being totally connected to God, to the point where we as humans have God in our DNA and in cutting down others, we cut ourselves down in the process.

I talked about the “call” we have in life isn’t only the vocation, the job or profession we are in, using the God-given gifts God has given us. Instead, “call” is about God’s love, about being beautiful in God’s sight for who we are created to be – colored skin, warts, extra pounds, whatever.

I wrote/preached: “The United Church of Christ has a slogan, one my colleague and I say every Sunday from the chancel area – “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” That’s not simply an invitation, welcoming and radical hospitality to church and worship. It is, obviously, or we wouldn’t say it week after week.

It’s more than that. At least for me anyway.

It’s God saying, “I don’t care about your faults, your scars, your skin color, sexuality – I don’t care who you are. I love you. I love you because I created you and you are welcome, welcome on this journey of life. I hope you know I am walking with you. Whatever occurs on this journey of life, whatever befalls you, I am there. You are precious and loved and called by me to live this incredible life. For you are fearfully and wonderfully made.””

Later I wrote/preached: “A few days ago, I was shocked to hear yet more appalling news because let’s face it  – that’s all the news is these days. Shocking, appalling, sad. As I read article after article, posts by friends and colleagues, I was saddened. To hear blatant racist remarks in 2018, and so close to Martin Luther King, Jr. day too. I was angry and sad.

But I was also reminded of this psalm – we are precious in God’s sight. We- humanity – from whatever country, whatever sexual orientation, skin color, nationality or whatever – we are precious in God’s sight. We are beloved by God. We are created by God to be unique and different.”

And I went on from there. I quoted South African anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela and poet/writer, Maya Angelou. And of course Dr. King himself saying, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

My congregation is a mix of folks – many supporters of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I’ve heard rumblings from some who haven’t liked my sermons (and my colleague’s too – I’m not alone) because they are more liberal.

Ok, my sermons may be a bit liberal but I’m simply preaching the Gospel. And answering the question, “What would Jesus do?” Because my Jesus wouldn’t stand for racist remarks. Jesus wouldn’t stand for divisions and an Us vs. Them mentality. That if you’re not blonde and white, you’re not welcome here. Jesus and God don’t work that way.

Oppss…I’ve gotten on my soapbox.

Dear Readers, whoever you are, know this – You are loved. Black, white, gay, straight, blonde or blue hair, skinny or curvy – whatever shape or color or country or religion you come from – You are loved. By me and by God. And if I have to preach that message a thousand times over my ministry I will.

I’m tired of hate, aren’t you? It’s simply too much of a burden to bear.

I choose love, kindness and grace instead.





Friday 5: Books of 2017

Placeholder ImageIt’s been…I don’t know…months since I last posted anything. Life got away from me and blogging became a distant memory. I missed it. So, with the beginning of a new year, let me try this blogging thing again. Not sure how often I’ll be writing but my hope is to blog more.

First, let’s talk books.

Every year I decide on a reading goal. In 2016 I read 74 books. In 2017 I read 70. (It would have been 71 but Scarlett and Rhett were annoying me. Don’t get me wrong, Gone with the Wind is a very good book. And Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh were spot on in portraying Rhett and Scarlett. But yeah…) And for 2018 I’m aiming for 75 books.

Of the 70 books I read in 2017 some stand out, some were duds. For this first blog back, here are my top 5 books of 2017:

Book #1: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline:  Soon to be a motion picture!!!! By Spielberg too!!! I’m super excited for the movie. I listened to the audiobook because Wesley Crusher, a.k.a. Wil Wheaton, reads it. I so need to own this book. Basic plot: It’s 2044 and the world is ugly. Wade Watts sets off on an adventure into the OASIS, an online, virtual reality realm. If you’re a nerd, like the 80’s, video games and pop culture – check this one out. Of all the books I read last year, Ready Player One was by far my favorite.

Book #2: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah:  It took me some time to really get into the story. However, it was incredible. It’s a story of 2 sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during World War 2 France. It’s a story of love and war-torn countries. It’s got espionage and spying. And I cried. And I had “sitting at the edge of my chair” moments.

Book #3: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:   I couldn’t put this one down. If you haven’t read it – read it. It’s science fiction, set in a dystopian world – the Republic of Gilead. Offred is a Handmaid. She’s used by certain households to procreate. Offred’s given room and board in exchange for well, rape, so that humanity doesn’t wipe out. She has no control over her body and Big Brother is watching. Ok, they aren’t called Big Brother. That’s 1984. But it’s similar. What’s scary is that it hit a little too close to home, given the state of our country and world currently. I need to watch the Hulu series now.

Book #4: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher:  I read this last January, only a few weeks after Carrie passed. I love the Star Wars world, so reading her words about the making of the original (and the best) Star Wars films was great. Plus, can you blame her for having an affair with Harrison Ford? I mean, it’s Harrison Ford. And, sorry for the language but Leia is a such a badass princess. Loved Carrie’s honesty too.

Book #5: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi:  I read this in about a week. It’s a story of 2 half sisters, one sold into slavery and one married to a British slaver. The story follows their lives and family over generations, from 18th century Ghana, the early slave trade and British colonization through the present day in Harlem. Each chapter is a vignette on a family member as the family moves through history. Just incredible.

There are many other books I could include – Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, We are all Wonders by R.J. Palacio (a children’s picture book based on the book Wonder), Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I could go on.

My Goodreads page lists all the books I’ve read over the last few years and many that I’ve yet to read. The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is also on my reading list once again this year. I’m excited for some of the prompts and titles I’ve chosen. More on that to come.

For now – Happy 2018 and Happy Reading!


Sabbath Monday: A Week in the Life

I lead a pretty ordinary life.

I get up, go to work, come home. Sometimes there are evening church meetings. Sometimes gatherings with friends. Sometimes I treat myself to a movie. Sometimes family time.

But mostly my week consists of just me.

Unlike many, I don’t have a daily routine. I don’t have a routine with children or a husband.

Ok, maybe I do have a routine. Sort of.

But every morning is different – Some mornings I get up early to read or do the dishes. Some mornings I “sleep in”. Some mornings I make lunch to take with me, other days I come home for lunch.

Every work day is different too. Ministry is all about the unexpected.

My average week sometimes turns out not so average for whatever reason – a random get together or multiple runs to the store.

A week in the life of me is often typical and also not so typical.

Though it is my story to share. My story matters.

This week I’m embarking on a Week in the Life with Ali Edwards. (I’m also currently in the middle of the One Little Word project with Ali as well.)

Week in the Life is exactly what it sounds like – A week in my life, documenting the daily doings of where I go, what I do, what I eat, who I meet, etc… Though the project is also more than that. It’s looking at things in your daily life differently. Like, noticing the sun blazing through your picture window and casting shadows on the wall.

This is my first year doing this project and I’m super pumped.

Last week I organized my book and supplies, taking notes and reading Ali’s blog for inspiration. This has helped me figure out what I wanted to do with this project.

Ali is doing her project this week, April 17-23, and I decided to do it along with her. With some minor edits.

I started yesterday, April 16, Easter Sunday. I chose to start then because though that day isn’t super ordinary, it is a special day in my life. I am a pastor after all. Plus, my family is the center of my life. I may go weeks without seeing my sister and her family but they are important to me and part of my life story. I wanted to document that particular family time.

Also, this is likely the last Easter with my Grandmother. Her transition to eternal life has been the focus of our family for a while now and a focus in my life. I may not see her every day but I talk to Mom about how Grandma’s doing sometimes in the week. And she’s in my daily prayers. I wanted to capture these last moments I have with her.

This week after Easter is super busy and a bit out of the ordinary. But whatever. I wanted to capture it.

My schedule changes daily sometimes. Meetings pop up, plans to meet friends for dinner come up. Last week as I prepared and planned for this week’s Week in the Life documenting, my calendar started to fill up. And you know what? That’s not unheard of so I’m rolling with it. It’s not unheard of for me to have a youth event on a Saturday night or book group or church meetings. Why not capture those sort of out-of-the-ordinary moments? Those moments make us who we are, they often define us. Why not capture and document them?

I started printing pictures this evening. I started laying out my book and figuring out what to do where. I’m using Dad’s professional like camera and I’m super excited. Bummed my little snap and shoot has issues but love the idea of playing with lens and angles. I feel so professional! LOL

Mondays are pretty blah since I’m usually home cleaning or resting. Today was about the same. I slept in and watched TV. I cleaned. But while I did this weekly routine I set the timer on the camera and took pictures. Pictures of me cleaning the bathroom, the sun on my plants in my window sill. Pictures of eating dinner and the outside of my apartment building.

I’ve spent most of the evening sorting pictures and printing. Realized I need ink for the printer and more photo paper, so I see a Target run tomorrow.

It’s interesting to be documenting the daily things I do each day or the sort of daily things I do every day. I look forward to taking a ton of pictures this week and documenting the things in my life – some I do daily and some I do occasionally.

But all make up my life story. It’s a story to be told and shared.

Like all of our stories.




Sabbath Monday: Palm Sunday & Start of Holy Week

20160320_084648.jpgSunday was Palm Sunday. It’s the one day during Lent that the church is joyful with palm branches waving, ‘Hosanna’s’ ringing, talks of donkeys. The one day in an other wise dark season that there is a bit of light.

In church we waved palm branches and sang. The children and I paraded around the sanctuary.

I brought palms home to Mom, Grandma and my aunt. Grandma’s face lit up when I gave them to her. (I love seeing those moments of pure joy on her face, something I experienced as a child but really have embraced over the last few months.) And now my dining room table looks as if it has a tree growing from it because the rest of the palms I put into a vase on the table.

A great reminder of the beginning of Holy Week.

And the shadow that’s looming.

As Christians we know what’s to come later in the week.

Sunday the focus was on Jesus and his arrival into Jerusalem.

There was a meme going around Facebook with a picture of Jesus on a donkey and the title, “The party don’t start till I walk in,” a nod to Kesha’s song, Tik Tok, from a few years ago.

It’s true though: on Palm Sunday the party doesn’t start until Jesus walks in.

Pictures and movies I don’t think grasp the pure giganticness of that parade into Jerusalem. I’ve been to some pretty big parades in my life and nothing compares to what I envision that Palm Sunday thousands of years ago to be in my head.

First, Jerusalem was already swelling from the number of people in the city. The Feast of Passover brought Jews from all over to the city for worship and observance of Passover. Then add Jesus’ followers, who numbered (in my opinion) into the thousands as well. The Gospels tell us about the 12 Disciples and Mary Magdalene but I’m guessing Jesus had more followers than that after word spread about what he could do and what he was preaching.

Second, Rome was watching. The Pharisees and Sadducees, the Jewish priests, were watching. And, shocker, they weren’t happy. The crowds were getting out of hand. They were loud. Caiaphas (a Jewish high priest) sings it best in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar:

“Tell the rabble to be quiet,
We anticipate a riot.
This common crowd,
Is much too loud.
Tell the mob who sing your song,
That they are fools and they are wrong.
They are a curse.
They should disperse.”

Later Jesus replies with a (rather pompous) reply about why wasting your breathe to calm them, there’s no point since the noise would continue even if everyone were still. I realized in the car yesterday that Jesus is referring to a Psalm that says even the stones and rocks sing praise to God. Or at least it seems like a Psalm.  And ok, maybe Jesus was a little full of himself. Maybe he was simply enjoying this moment, the good before the end. (Keep in mind, JC Superstar is an interpretation of Christ’s passion so…there you go.)

Thirdly, this grand entrance of Jesus was something a king or a Roman emperor would have, not some lowly Jew who claimed he was God. To prove he wasn’t a king (or at least not like a king – king, like Herod), Jesus came in on a donkey, not a horse. Kings would ride into towns on horses. Donkeys are small and ugly. Their nickname is ass – need I say more? Point made Jesus.

Finally, Palm Sunday kicks off a week of events – Holy Week:  the money changers in the Temple and angry Jesus flipping tables, the Last Supper, Jesus washing the feet of his Disciples, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ arrest and trial, and eventual crucifixion and resurrection. Some scholars suggest this didn’t take place in one week but over a few weeks. I’m not sure of that, not that those details disrupt my faith in anyway.

However, Palm Sunday sets in motion the shadow that’s been looming over Jesus’ head for three years, well his whole life actually. It’s almost as if Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem was a trap – the culprit who’s been causing trouble comes to the city where everyone is watching and now those officials have him and probable cause to arrest him.

I wonder sometimes: What was Jesus thinking as he walked with the crowds along those celebratory streets that day?

He had to have known, right? That by entering Jerusalem it meant the end to 33 years of life. He had to have known. I mean, he’s been preaching about the Spirit coming in his absence; he breaks bread and tells his friends that it’s his body, broken for them.

And yet, Jesus is seen praying in the garden, asking God to intervene and to do something, to take this burden away. Jesus’ humanness comes forward in the moment when his divine nature was sent to create a new covenant for the world.

Holy Week, the week of Christ’s Passion story.

It starts out with joy and celebration and ends with tears. Well, up until the stone is rolled away anyway.

It’s a week of raw emotion from the characters in the stories, in Jesus, in us the faithful believers. It’s the central week of our faith.

And it’s a week filled with Hope.

Stay hopeful this week, my friends. God is walking with us on this journey towards the cross and that empty tomb. Listen to the words of Christ and his story with open ears. Remember how the cross connects us with God and with each other. Remember the hope the cross brings – of life eternal, of a resurrected life.




Friday 5: Goo goo g’joob

As a kid growing up, the stereo in the living room was massive, well to my child’s eye it was. And we were only allowed to touch it once we learned how to use it.

I have memories of family dance parties, my mother standing at the dishwasher belting out the female portion of Meatloaf’s  “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” while we picked up. I remember certain albums were for spaghetti nights when Dad cooked and Saturday mornings cleaning the house. I remember my father threatening us with a Rare Earth song while we cleaned (probably because we weren’t listening). And this wasn’t just any Rare Earth song – It was 20+ minutes!

Good memories! (Totally not sarcasm, they are good memories.)

When I finally got my own musical taste and my own CD player, I played Metallica’s black album on repeat, much to the displeasure of my sister with whom I shared a room. Ok, maybe I did it to piss her off (it worked). I remember being kicked out of my room and hooking myself into Dad’s stereo, cranking Enter Sandman as loud as I could handle it via headphones.

Until Dad peeled the headphones off me.

Not to turn it down though. Oh no.  To hell with eardrums.

He came to give me a musical education: Metallica vs. Black Sabbath.

I was unimpressed at the time.

As an adult, and out of  all my siblings, I’m the one who listens to Dad’s music the most. And he and I talk about it. Plus, I’m realizing now that I get a lot of my musical taste from my father, as well as my need for CDs and digital music. (And one day I will own his vinyl. Got that, Dad?)

So it’s no wonder the other night while watching the movie Sing, Dad went: “That’s a Beatles song” out loud, probably because he thought I’d agree.

I didn’t.

So I said, “Prove it.”

Sure enough – off Abbey Road – “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” – was in the movie. How did I miss that?

Since then I’ve been on a Beatles kick, listening to them off and on this week. Dancing in the car along to  the early stuff, such as “Love Me Do” and “She Loves You.” Listening to the lyrics from “Revolution” and how it so applies to today. Figuring out a way to use “Magical Mystery Tour” in a sermon (it’s totally doable). And completely singing the wrong lyrics to many songs because let’s face it, there are just some words I can’t understand from Lennon or McCartney in their Limey-Liverpoolian accents. Tonight I put in the movie musical Across the Universe, which is about the 60s, Vietnam and set to the Beatles.

My week with the Beatles and this long explanation of words above have led to this – My Friday 5.

My 5 favorite Beatles songs, which is so difficult to nail down. I mean, first there’s a ton. And second, it’s The Beatles.

I mean, come on.

But I do have a few Go-To songs that I listen on repeat so…

Number 1: Hard Days Night – the album. See, I can’t pick just one. Though “If I Fell” is up there. And “Happy Just to Dance with You.” I remember watching the film as a child and loved Lennon’s humor. (And feeling sad for Ringo).

Number 2: “In My Life” from Rubber Soul – I cry…every….damn…time.

Number 3: “Here Comes the Sun” from Abbey Road – That simple opening with the guitar…Love! It’s so beautiful. And it’s gotten me through some tough times. I love that album too.

Number 4: “All You Need is Love” from Magical Mystery Tour – It’s like the best peace rallying cry song ever. It’s what I imagine Jesus would sing if rock-n-roll existed in ancient times.

Number 5: “I Am The Walrus” from Magical Mystery Tour – I LOVE this song. Like, hit repeat kind of love. First, have you listened to the lyrics? It’s super silly and yet totally spot-on. Second, ok yes, they were totally stoned out when they wrote it, I mean, eggman, what is that? Walrus makes no sense but whatever. Third, Ringo had “Octopus’ Garden” which is plain dumb if you ask me. Lennon can totally have Walrus. Wasn’t this the song he wrote in reply to folks who said they couldn’t understand his lyrics and they were evil or something?  I can’t remember.

My sorority pledge class had to pick a motto. Someone suggested the opening line of Walrus, but with she’s instead of he’s. So it was “I am she as you are she as you are me and we are all together.” Walrus has meaning for me. (And seriously – what an opening line? Love!)

There you have it – My top 5 Go-To Beatles songs. Songs I crank up loud in the car or at home. True, I’m missing a ton of others. “Help!” and “Sgt. Pepper” and “Lucy” and, “Eight Days A Week” and, and…I’m realizing I like a lot of later Beatles.

I love how much music has shaped my life. And how many music memories I have with my family. Such good memories to carry with me.

And yes, Dad influenced me the most in terms of my musical tastes. But to hear Mom say “I Love this song!” when Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” or AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” (and ok, perhaps some Backstreet Boys too) come on is pretty awesome too.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the memories.

Goo goo g’joob, Everyone.







Misc. Wednesday: Hope

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a scene from the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar,  where Jesus is completely overwhelmed, screaming things like, “Slow down!” and “There’s too many of you!” at the lame, blind and sick who wish to be healed. Or another scene where he’s in the garden praying while his disciples sleep off dinner. Jesus is scared and seen begging to God to not allow him to die, completely overwhelmed by emotion.

I’m reminded of those images because I can relate. Not that I’m trying to heal people or anything like that but I understand the feelings Jesus is going through. Jesus is coping with feelings about figuring out that he probably cannot heal everyone who comes to him and angry because God let him down.

Jesus, up until that point, has done everything God has asked of him – he’s gone and preached radical words about hospitality and love, he’s traveled and made “fishers of people,” he’s tried to spread the message of hope and God’s grace to any and all who would listen. And yet toward the end, the disciples abandon him; he’s left scared and alone and filled with this sense of, I don’t know, it’s not failure necessarily but perhaps it’s this feeling of “I tried and look where it got me.”

My reading and understanding the humanness of Jesus could possibly be something I’m reading into the story. Though maybe not. Maybe Jesus did feel all of those emotions, which allow me to relate to him because there are times where I feel totally and completely at a loss, where I feel overwhelmed and scared and left on my own island. I cry and scream and do what I need to do to feel better but the sense of let down and loss gets to be too much sometimes.

I don’t like letting people down. I don’t like feeling hopeless. And yet, life can do that. Work can do that. And in a society that promotes success and frowns on failure, it can be even harder to swallow and take in. It’s hard to hear you’re out of options and there’s nothing more you can do. You’ve tried and the outcome might not be grand but you’ve tried. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t that be the hope?

Jesus might not have felt like a failure or out of hope. The Gospels don’t tell us that. The writers didn’t want to make Jesus anything less than perfect, remember. However, in my mind, he might have felt that way. He was human and the countless number of people who came to him for help in whatever form probably exceeded what was written about in the Gospels. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus felt as if he let people down. And towards the end, that night in the garden, I wouldn’t be shocked if he felt hopeless, knowing his life was to end and thoughts about not reaching everyone crossed his mind.

Sometimes in life we try our best, we embrace the storm and do what we can. Sometimes in life people fail us or we fail ourselves. Sometimes life leaves us feeling hopeless. And it hurts and it’s ugly and scary.

However, the hope is that there are people and experiences that can give us comfort, peace, grace, forgiveness, and a lifting up. Sometimes there are people who remind us of all that is good and that there is this sense of love that surrounds us. Sometimes the hope is the thought of resurrection and new hope and new life. Sometimes hope shows up in ways unexpected, to show us that trying and doing our best is in fact good enough. Sometimes it’s our faith that gets us through.

As we head into Holy Week and Easter, I pray that wherever any of us are on our journeys of life and faith leads to hope. I pray that when life gets rough for whatever circumstance, we are reminded of love and hope and know that even if we feel alone, we are not. God may seem light-years away but God travels with us everywhere. I have hard time believing that recently, but it’s true. God is never too far from us.

Peace, Amanda

(from the church April 2017 newsletter)

Misc. Wednesday: Embrace, Part 3

The past two nights I have sat at my dining room table/craft room table surrounded by my scissors, double sided tape, magazines, catalogues and more. It was like a scene from a project I would have done in elementary school or something.

The March creative prompt for my One Little Word project is to create a vision board or pages actually, as they were going into my book and not on a large piece of canvas. A vision board is essentially a collage. Magazine and catalogue clippings of pictures or words I find interesting, in theory connected to my word. Ali Edwards invited us to do 4 pages, to tell a sort of story with our vision pages.

I did 6.

I created 6 – 6×8 page inserts because I had all of these fantastic photos and words that I simply had to put into my book. The great and wonderful thing with the OLW project – There are no rules. Ali gives ideas and creative prompts and guidance but for the most part, she leaves assembling your book and pages all to you.

I stressed about this project too. I hadn’t done something like this since elementary school and I don’t read magazines. I forgot to ask Mom for left over magazines from her office and I really didn’t want to go to like Half Price Books or something to purchase used magazines, even if I was going to cut them up.

Instead, I found inspiration from the few magazines Mom had at home, mostly about food. And to my surprise an IKEA and Crate & Barrel catalogues had a wealth of pictures and words. Who knew? Goes to show that when the Spirit of Creativity moves, it shows up in strange places.

Are my pages perfect? No. Did the collage turn out to be what I wanted? Nope. Are there spaces of white from the background paper showing because whatever images or words I had didn’t cover the whole page? Yep (and it bugs me and I’m embracing letting it go).

One thing I’ve learned through this whole One Little Word process is that this doesn’t have to be perfect. My book needs to reflect me and I’m certainly not perfect. I tend to try and be perfect but I’m not. I’ve learned to “let it go” and try to be the best self I can be. Same is true of my OLW book. It’s my own personal reflection of my word, Embrace. It’s my own and yes, I want it to look nice and pretty but it’s not going to be and I’m embracing that. It’s a difficult embrace for someone like me who likes straight edges and smooth corners but I’m trying.

So, what else did I learn from this vision page exercise?

I learned I love to cut up things from magazines and catalogues. I found this incredible sense of magic, play and child-likeness in my 2 nights of cutting and taping (not gluing – gluing is messy).

I learned that creativity is something I crave and I need to embrace it more. I need to spend more time in the act of creating, whatever that might look like.

I learned that God shows up in strange and wonderful ways, which I always knew. However, when I flipped through random catalogues and magazines for inspiration and ended up with 6 pages worth of stuff, I say that’s a God moment.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll make more of these vision pages over the year, perhaps using images from Pinterest or Google. Either way, I love embracing my creative side and feeling God’s presence as I craft.


Sabbath Monday: Practice & Lent

Practice of any sort is good for us; it makes us better at whatever it is we are learning. The same is true for a spiritual practice or discipline. Spiritual practices or disciplines come in all shapes and sizes, mostly because they adapt into what fits best for our individual lives. From daily prayer and devotion to walking to meditation, spiritual practices are different for everyone.

During Lent many of us practice the art of giving up something, such as meat or soda. Or perhaps we take on a Bible study or group study at church as a way to practice and deepen our faith. Or we do mission projects or attend church more. Or we write notes to people or take photos of where we see God in our world.

In February my One Little Word group invited the participants to take on a practice, something small and easy to obtain, though also challenging for us. I decided to embrace (my word) rest and renewal. Being a night-owl, I’m usually up really late and mornings tend to be difficult. I make up for it by drinking coffee and taking the occasional afternoon nap like I did in kindergarten. However, it’s a bad habit and something I hope to squish in 2017.

I haven’t been all that successful in my daily practice, a new spiritual discipline as much of my One Little Word project has become. Sickness set me back a bit, though I was in bed early, rising in the morning was hard when you’re not feeling too great and the bed so warm. However, I don’t feel defeated.

For Lent, I hope to continue my daily picture taking as I did last year but I also hope to continue my practice of rest and renewal. I hope to embrace a sense of Sabbath beyond my other self-care moments. It won’t be easy (and possibly not fun) but I also find that I not only function as a better human with sleep (like us all) but that I’m more connected to my faith. It’s strange and hard to explain but true.

Whatever your spiritual practice or discipline is this Lent, I pray it challenges you and allows you to grow closer to the Holy. And if you don’t have one, embrace a spiritual practice! Perhaps it’s something small like drinking more water or walking around the block. Often times it’s the little things that connect us even more to God when we don’t realize it. And often times it’s the things we don’t think will connect us to God that really do.

May God surround you all on your Lenten journeys.

Peace, Pastor Amanda

(from the March 2017 church newsletter)