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Showing posts from February, 2014

Perspective: One Month

As months go, this is probably one of the most charged of my life. I began a new exercise regimen, had a powerful experience with Reiki, read several great books, and felt more like myself than I have in at least 2 years.

And somehow I managed to write something every day.

Writing is actually a tremendously demanding task. I have a fairly writing intensive job, so summoning the energy to write creatively, powerfully, and succinctly here is tough.

In order to push past my perfectionism, I didn't do any very profound writing this month in my weekly posts. (If you disagree, I appreciate your view!)

I did not comment on the proposed legislation in Arizona. I didn't write much, other than one sermon, on the Michael Dunn trial verdict and the condition of race relations in America.

I didn't do a review of Angry Conversations with God, which was an amazing read. I will get to that at some point.

Nevertheless, I did write every day. I did think it through. That, in addition to exe…

Friday Prayer: What Kind of Prayer Do You Need?

A silly post based on the never-ending Buzzfeed quizzes! Cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals.
A Quiz to Decide What Kind of Prayer You Need Today Remember your answer!  1. Which spiritual gift are you?  Love           Joy                Peace Patience       Kindness      Goodness Faithfulness     Gentleness      Self-Control

2. Which Psalm are you? 23                8               121 100            119          Does anyone remember the #s? 46              150              22

3. Which color parament are you? Purple           White                  Bare Wood Green              Blue                     Red Black                Gold                   You lost me at "parament"

4. Bishops are Right out                 Prone to err like all humans                Some of my best friends Important for order                  Practically Perfect in Every way          People in funny hats On my prayer list                  On my bucket list                      On my hit list

5. If I could omit …

Perspective: From Within

I recently reading the following three books (descriptions from Amazon.com):

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles:

On Ash Wednesday, 2012, Sara Miles and her friends left their church buildings and carried ashes to the buzzing city streets: the crowded dollar stores, beauty shops, hospital waiting rooms, street corners and fast-food joints of her neighborhood. They marked the foreheads of neighbors and strangers, sharing blessings with waitresses and drunks, believers and doubters alike. 

CITY OF GOD narrates the events of the day in vivid detail, exploring the profound implications of touching strangers with a reminder of common mortality. As the story unfolds, Sara Miles also reflects on life in her city over the last two decades, where the people of God suffer and rejoice, building community amid the grit and beauty of this urban landscape.


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by BrenĂ© Brown


Each day we face a ba…

Tulips

I love tulips. A congregation member brought these by for me last week. They're just softening and becoming more gorgeous. As I think about Transfiguration, I'm overcome by the depth of holy beauty that surrounds us all. It transfigures me. 

400!!

On July 11, 2007, I started this blog.

This is now my 400th post.

There have been a lot of words under the bridge since that day.

There's this post about rape in marriage that got me on local television and a mention in the national news: Yelling in My Head. That's actually my most popular post of all time.

There are many sermons posted with two reader favorites being: My Brother, Thomas and Choose This Day.

The first is actually about the intersection of faith and doubt. The second one rhymes!

There are posts that were read around the world: Is God Visible in You?

And posts that were an out-pouring of grief: Jesus Will Not Be Pimped.

I went through two long period of not posting, once after my son was born and once after my daughter was born. (Surprise.)

Through blogging, I found (and then met) the amazing RevGalBlogPals. I'm now on the board!

Through my writing here, I was published in the Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2014 and will be soon in the 2015 edition. I…

Rock Out (Sermon)

John 8:1-36
First off, I’m going to try not to talk as quickly as possible to say everything that I want to say. Some stuff is just going to be left on the cutting room floor. If I don’t answer your burning question about the text now, please ask me later. That’s my little PSA. Here we go…
Verses 1-8 might appear in brackets or have little footnotes in your Bible. The reason they are marked differently is because they do not appear in some of the earliest copies of John. People who were putting together the Bible found this story in some translations of this gospel, but not in others. Furthermore, the story has words and phrases in it that are not anywhere else in the gospel- making it seem like the work of a different author.
However, it was ultimately included and placed here because of the flow of the incident between Jesus, the authorities, and the woman accused of adultery and then the conversation about judgment that comes next. Incidentally, Mosaic law (the law of Moses) says t…

Psalm 3 (Seymour Revised Version)

God! So many people are against me. So many oppose the work you are doing through me.
I hear a chorus, chanting snidely, “God will not help you. God is not real.”
Yet you, my God, are the truth I know. You protect me and give me life.
I call out and God answers me, I hear God’s voice within and without.
I rest. I sleep. I awaken, renewed by the Lord’s sustenance.
I do not fear the many people who reject me. Who surround me.
Act now, God! Bring relief to your servant! You turn away my enemies, You allow pain in those who oppose you!
Liberation comes from God; May it be true for all your people. Amen.

Friday Five: Favorites

1. Food: Sushi, especially tuna. I love the firm coolness of the fish in my mouth. Mmmm...

2. Drink: Water, followed closely by red wine.

3: Animal: Lion. I don't actually have anything with a lion on it. I have lots of sheep and butterfly things. We have pictures of Alaskan animals all over our house. In order to answer this, I thought, "What animal am I always interested in knowing more about?" Lions- I love a good lion documentary, article, picture. 

4: Color: Blue- all shades.

5: Time of Day: 10:30. That usually feels like a very productive time for me. 


Bonus: 
Mark is my favorite gospel. 
"Thine the Amen" is (currently) my favorite hymn. 
Little Women is my favorite movie.
Frasier is my favorite television show. 


I could no more have a favorite book than I could choose a favorite organ in my body.

Teach Me

Make me to know your ways, 
O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.  Psalm 24:4-5



Holy Teacher, 
You have made me as your pupil, your student, your disciple. 

I crave knowledge of You, your words, your works, your wonders. 
I long for the answers I am afraid to acknowledge. 
I search for the truth that I hesitate to acknowledge. 

All around me, I see situations, people, parts of creation that need your attention. 
How long, O God, will they wait? 
How much must they endure? 
Is this the time of trial? For them? 

Teach me. Teach me. Teach me. 
Let me hear your voice, read your lesson plans, follow your instructions. 
I will not be your model student, but I can be a student after your model, Jesus. 

You save me. 
More than the words of eternal life, Lord, you are the life itself. 
I want to learn this, to know it, to breathe it, to live it. 

Teach me. 
I wait for you. 

Your Spirit softens me, gives me practice, …

Barefoot Soul

Yesterday I saw pictures of how our feet can become misshapen in too-tight or otherwise ill-fitting shoes.

Toes crammed together, heels cramped, arches falling or, conversely, drawn up too tightly, these were not pretty pictures.

I wiggled my feet in my wide shoes and spread my toes as far apart as I could. Not a fan of the pointy-toed shoe or snug loafer, my feet still retain much of their natural spacing (according to the pictures I saw yesterday).

In my barefoot walking today, I thought about our souls, our essence, and what "shoes" attempt to domesticate them. What are the cultural trappings that try to shape us out of our God-given wideness and strength into misshapen weakness that becomes more and more painful?

The metaphor has its flaws, but also a ring of truth.

I fling out my arms and dance in my bare feet, with my bared soul delighting in the Lord. Surely the kingdom is at hand. I can feel it in my toes.

Perspective: Raising or Experience

NaBloPoMo Prompt for 2/18: What has had more influence on your life perspective: your upbringing or your experiences?

At this point in my life, my experiences have had a greater influence than my upbringing. The testing, tempering, and trial of what my parents imparted has been transmuted into something different in me. 

Still, it must be said that my upbringing has likely shaped some or many of the experiences of my life. 

My parents both went West at some point. So did I. 

My parents pursued things unexpected. So did I. 

There are many things like this in my life. 

Two years ago, I was at a preaching conference where one of the speakers was explaining the concept of Midrash- a way of filling gaps through imagination and prayer to extend a biblical story. He spoke about how Midrash would be a new concept to the congregations we serve. Additionally, we needed, as clergy, to learn to wrestle with Scripture in the deep way. "It's okay to be frustrated with God," he said. 

I turne…

Distributors or Roadblocks (Sermon)

John 6:35-59
Many of us have restricted diets. Jesus’ words about salt or bread bounce off us as we think about low sodium, paleo, gluten-free, heart-healthy, or the many different ways our diets are different from the diet of a first century Palestinian. However, for Jesus, his followers, and for most people around the world, bread is the stuff of life.
Separate bread in your mind from what it takes to make bread. Flour, salt, water, maybe yeast. What do you need to have those things? What’s required for flour? Wheat or some other grain. So you need stability to grow, tend, and harvest that. You need strength and maybe tools for the threshing and grinding.
Water needs to be clean. You need a well or a clean water source. You need a vessel to carry it in and a place for safe storage. Salt requires drying or discovery. You need time and space for this. It requires patience and expectation.
All of these are gifts that God gives us in Jesus- stability, growth, strength, community, safety,…

John 6: Litany and Prayer

Lord, we are hungry for your food. We ask you to nourish our souls.
Lord, we are hungry for your food. We ask you to strengthen our minds.
Lord, we are hungry for your food. We pray for courage and wisdom.
Lord, we are hungry for your food. Our souls are restless and unsatisfied.
Lord, we are hungry for your food. Fill us with the Bread of Life.
Gracious God, sometimes we do not understand what Jesus is saying. We sympathize with the frustration and confusion of the disciples and those around him. Open our minds to a new and deeper comprehension of his teaching. Prepare us as a field to receive the lessons Jesus sows in our hearts, that they may come to an amazing harvest for you. Amen.

Friday Five: Love!

Today at RevGalBlogPals, RevKarla encourages us to write a short list of 5 things we love. This is a Friday Five in honor of and inspired by Valentine's Day.


1. I love living in Alaska. My dad says that Alaska smells raw and unfinished. I find a sense of discovery and being discovered in so many places here- both outdoors and in some of my usual places.

2. I love sushi. Not everyone likes the texture or the taste, but the firm bite of pure, cool protein thrills me every time. There are fish I enjoy more than others, but almost all of it is delicious to me.

3. I love St. Ives Apricot Scrub. I've been using this stuff on my face since I was 13. Even when I've tried other things, my face doesn't feel clean until I've used this stuff.

4. I love e-readers. A few years ago, I would have sworn that I'd never succumb to such an abomination. However, it turns out that the ability to have multiple books at your fingertips on a trip or in bed or at the gym or in any number…

External Motivation

I recently got a Fitbit- a pretty fancy pedometer.

I got it in part because other efforts toward health and activity have not been successful. Fitbit gives me little encouragements toward daily and weekly goals (and beyond).

This morning I woke to an email congratulating me on having earned a 50 mile badge. Since starting with the Fitbit on 2/3, I've walked 50 miles while wearing it. That's essentially 5 miles a day.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that this is working for me like nothing else ever has.

On the other hand, I feel embarrassed to need the adult version of a sticker chart to encourage me to healthy habits.

In discussing this with some others today, they mentioned that they too really thrive on little boosts of encouragement and affirmation.

Do we do enough of this in general for the people around us? I mean, genuinely affirm who they are, their efforts, and their progress?

The other thing I think about is this: what would a Fitbit for spiritual health look like?



Keeping Perspective

NaBloPoMo Prompt: What helps you keep thoughts in perspective so they don't overwhelm you?


I work on this every day. Yesterday I was having a conversation with my synod bishop and I felt my anxiety rising. 

I stopped and breathed deeply. I made sure my feet were set firmly on the floor and I spread my toes out in my shoes. I held my arms out slightly with my hands out at my sides and shook them as though I was shaking off water droplets. 

Grace in, I breathed, anxiety out. Christ in, fear out. Grace in, savior complex out. 

I announced to myself (and the bishop): "This [problem] isn't mine to save. I don't save. I'm a pastor, not a savior. This isn't mine to save."

In any situation, defining my role helps me keep perspective. 

I'm the parent. I'm the sister. I'm the wife. I'm the shopper. I'm the friend. I'm the neighbor. 

There's no time when my identity to a situation is: I'm the savior. 

Thanks be to God.


It takes a while to deve…

Perspective: Reaping from Someone Else's Harvest

Today is the 125th anniversary of my great-grandfather’s birth. Daniel Dunlap was my paternal grandfather’s father. My dad’s grandpa. He died well before I was born, so I did not know him, but I have heard many stories.

For the past week, my dad and some of his cousins have been sharing memories of Grandpa Dunlap. He was a remarkable individual and well-known in the community for supporting education, for being a generous neighbor, and for his ability to repair just about anything with whatever he had at hand. His wife, Norabelle, was an equally remarkable woman.
Growing up in Moore County, North Carolina, I was used to my dad and my grandfather explaining to me who was who and how they were related to us. Since my last name was Dunlap, I understood that Dunlaps were my people. When people spoke about Dunlaps, they meant me, too.
My people also included Barbers and Needhams. When I went to Scotland in 2005, I never had to spell my last name.
My mother’s people included the Morit…

Perspective: New Creation

In addition to physical work to be healthier, I've been embracing some spiritual exercises that are outside of my usual "workout".

I've prayed for a vision of healing and health. In my mind, a tree- bursting with new growth- in riotous color. The picture is bright in my mind- reds and deep pinks.

I decided to try to put it on paper tonight. I used watercolor paper and oil pastels.

I didn't exactly make a tree, but can you see both the new growth and the deep root system? And, of course, you can't miss the trinity knot centering everything.


Do You Want to be Made Well?

John 5:1-18

In the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, there is a scene in which a man solicits Brian (the main character) for money. He runs alongside Brian and says, “Alms for an old ex-leper?”
When Brian finally understands what the man is saying, he replies, “Ex-leper?” The man explains that he had made his living, with his leprosy, by begging. Then Jesus came by and healed him, “without so much as a by-your-leave.” Now the man is begging as an ex-leper and he’s mad that Jesus robbed him of his trade.
Brian says, “There’s just no pleasing some people.” The ex-leper replies, “That’s just what Jesus said, sir.”
This is a very funny skit in the movie and we are able to laugh at it even out of context. The hard part to admit is the ring of truth that is lies in the dialogue. Becoming well, being healed, requires change. Not everyone is ready to embrace that kind of change.
In today’s gospel reading, there is a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. Given the relative life expectanc…