Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Storm is Coming

Everyone on the East Coast is talking about Hurricane Irene right now. It's supposed to be a category 5, which is very powerful. The last time a category 5 hurricane (Hurricane Bob) hit Massachusetts, it caused many millions of dollars in damage. My parents were going to come and visit for my birthday this weekend, but they are seriously thinking about canceling. A lot of people are very anxious and afraid. Even though I find it silly how afraid they are, I am still stocking up with lots of food, water and supplies.

 image from

Awhile ago, I read a blog post about so-called "Doubting" Thomas. Nadia Boltz-Weber writes,

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's kind of weird how we've named Thomas, "Doubting" Thomas? We don't give the other characters in the New Testament little nicknames ... like needy Nicodemus or Co-dependant Martha. But poor Thomas is stuck with Doubting Thomas.Yet, the fact of the matter is this: When Jesus encountered Thomas, Jesus didn't label him Doubting Thomas. He didn't judge him. He came to Thomas just as he was, doubts and all, and offered him peace.

Nadia concludes that God's love is stronger than our doubt.  I think that, in the same way, God's love is stronger than our fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." God takes away our fear and makes us loving people. Perhaps that would be helpful to know for the people who are knocking into each other at the grocery stores and hoarding supplies. They remind me of this song by Nickel Creek:

Have you ever reacted to a situation out of fear? How have you allowed God's perfect love to replace fear in your heart, and how did that change the way you think and act?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What is a spiritual practice?

Hey folks, I am not feeling well this week, so I don't have many of my own thoughts to share. But I have read plenty of articles while planted on the couch, so I thought I'd share a blog that made me think. Christine over at GodSpace recently posted an article about spiritual practices that was made by a group that took a really innovative approach to spiritual practice. The video embedded in it says, "Spiritual practices are useful if they help us grow." That reminded me that spiritual practice does not always have to be sitting and reading the Bible. It can be a lot of things, as long as they help us mature spiritually.

I encourage you to check out this article. Have you ever tried a spiritual practice that seems unconventional? Did you feel it helped you grow spiritually? Have you ever wanted to try one of these things and not had the guts to do it?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vacation in God's Creation

Finally, I'm back! I hope you have not been too bored with God Talk for the last three weeks. :o) I was not able to post much because I was on vacation in Ashland and in Michigan. It's good to be back home, but re-entry into the workweek after vacation is always rough. I've been looking forward to the weekend since Monday.

I am so glad I had the chance to visit with so many of you in Ashland. Of course, the highlight for me was being able to share a message with you in church and enjoy coffee hour afterward. It was also good to go to visiting hours for my confirmation mentor, Jan Barnes. When I was attending First UMC Ashland as a teen, she taught me all about the liturgy we used each Sunday, the hymns we sang, and the symbols in the sanctuary and the stained glass windows. Jan encouraged me to be involved in church, to make new friends, and to be aware of God's love for me every day. I remember when she took my best friend and me swimming one afternoon in one of FUMC church members' pool. The three of us ate pizza and had all kinds of goofy fun in the pool! It was hard after she got Alzheimer's, because she didn't remember my face, but my dad says she always asked after me when she saw him. I'm glad I visited with her family and told them about Jan's impact on my life when I first became a United Methodist. They seemed glad that I am carrying on Jan's passion for beautiful Christian worship.

For the second half of my vacation, I traveled with my husband and his family to Petoskey, Michigan for a wedding. Stephen and I don't have a car, so we really enjoyed using his mom's car to road trip our way up to Petoskey. Northern Michigan is one of the most beautiful places in all of God's creation, I think. The forests are old and majestic, and Little Traverse Bay has several very nice beaches. The sunsets over Lake Michigan are some of the most beautiful in the world! They reminded me of the sunsets we saw when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii. At the rehearsal dinner, I was given a Petoskey stone as a favor. Petoskey stones are bits of rock that date from the era when Michigan was covered in ocean. There were lots of coral living in the sea, and when the sea dried up and the coral died, the reefs were compressed and the outlines of their skeletons were preserved. You can see their little coral mouths in the stone!

It reminded me that God's world is very old and has gone through many transformations in order to become what I see today.

I was also soberly reminded of why I am a United Methodist when I realized that the rehearsal dinner would be held in a casino. By Michigan law, all casinos outside Detroit must be tribally owned and operated. The casino to which we drove was on a reservation. The dinner was decadent: luscious appetizers, filet mignon, chocolate mousse with raspberries, and wine from a huge rotating cabinet in the center of the room that went all the way up to the ceiling! My parents in law took me in a separate door just for the restaurant so that I wouldn't have to walk through the casino, out of respect for my moral position on gambling. That was very nice of them. Still, the delicious tastes I enjoyed were juxtaposed with the knowledge that they exist as a lure to get people to stay longer at the casino, so the house can take more of their money. I looked around at the other people eating in the restaurant and wondered how many of them could actually afford to throw their money away at a casino. Were they harboring hopes of getting rich quick? I was glad to put my hope in God that night, and know that God will take care of me, as the hymn says, "come what may."

All in all, it was a good vacation. I'm so glad I could take some time off to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy God's creation outdoors, have some fun, and take a few moments to sharpen my social consciousness.

How do you experience your spirituality when you are on vacation? Do you feel that God meets you wherever you happen to be vacationing?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Second Helping: Forgiveness

I'm still on vacation, and this week I'm in Petoskey, MI attending a wedding in my husband's family. Until I get back home, I don't have much time to write, but in the meantime, here is a story I hope you'll like:

Doing the Right Thing by Saia Veikoso

If you were in church last week, you remember the story I told about a man who lost his eye when a shooter walked into his workplace. This is a story by a Togan United Methodist who also lost his eye, and he has another interesting perspective on forgiveness.