Thursday, March 15, 2007


I was going through pictures on the 'puter to pick some for print... came across this which just cracked me up. My sister Beth and my friend Lisa hamming it up at Williamsburg.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ah, tea...

I heard from some friends the other day about this new place downtown, the Tea Bazaar. Today my ministry assistant and I went to drink some tea while we worked on an upcoming worship service. Oh, how wonderful it was! It's located on the first floor of the Stonewall Jackson Building, right across from Trinity. The inside is open and airy, with such a simple and relaxing ambiance. Along with various teas, they also offer simple international foods, the specials changing from day to day. We ordered two pots of Masala Chai and sat down at a "traditional" table - a raised area where we had to take off our shoes, sat on cushions on top of a bamboo mat, with a glass table that sat on top of what looked like an upside down stew pot. It was perfect! We both had more than enough tea (next time, we're sharing a pot) and enjoyed the atmosphere as we worked. It's one of those places that just makes you take a deep breath and smile, contented.

Here's to Staunton and its ever evolving downtown!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Come and Fill

Texts: Isaiah 55:1-9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-17

For everything there is a season. Of all the church liturgical seasons, Lent is my favorite. No jingle bells, no presents, no hidden eggs filled candy, no commercialism. Just good, old fashion reflecting, repenting, and reconciling. It’s nice to have this time set aside for such important part of our life with Christ. While we’re supposed to be forsaking our wicked ways and returning to the Lord all year round, talk about this in our life together, live this way as individuals and as a community – it doesn’t always happen that way. And that’s understandable – God is so big, so vast, that it can be a challenge to keep on the forefront of our minds and hearts ALL we’re supposed to be doing in our relationship with God. So we have these liturgical seasons which help us remember various parts of our faith and relationship with God. We have Advent when we celebrate Christ’s coming, past, present, and future; we have Pentecost where we celebrate the gift of the Spirit and all that means for our life together. We have Lent, where we focus on righting our relationship with God and with God’s people.

Not that we’re don’t forsake the wicked and return to God during the rest of the year. At least, we’re supposed to. The sad truth of it is, during the rest of the year we don’t get as much repenting in as we probably should. Yes, every Sunday we pray a prayer of confession – a Presbyterian standard – in recognition that we do need to repent. For many of us, we see that time as a wonderful opportunity for serious reflection. For others of us, maybe not. While the prayer has meaning for me now, I know when I was a teenager sitting in the pews, during that time I’d mostly look ahead in the bulletin, seeing what hymns we’d be singing, glad when the confession was short. While it’s important that we pray for forgiveness in our live together, this time of repentance and reconciliation can unfortunately feel rote.

Aside from this corporate prayer of confession, we have other moments we come to God in prayer. Some of us have time we set aside for prayer with God – those first waking moments of the morning, the last sleepy beats of the evening. Maybe when driving to work or while cooking dinner. For others of us, those moments that inspire us to confession, when we want to draw extra close to God are more impromptu – that extra bumpy plane ride, perhaps; the big project coming up; waiting for test results.

Lent has traditionally been about this reconciliation, coming to God, coming clean, in order that we might be prepared (as we ever can be) for the glory of the Resurrection. While some of us may be able to prepare without the reminder, without time set apart, others of us find time set aside, time made sacred, helpful… needed.

Part of the Lenten season is practices which cue us in, so that we can’t forget what it is we are supposed to be doing. Practices which remind us who it is we should turn to, who it is truly fills us with the best food. While we Presbyterians aren’t known for our observances of Lent – I’ve heard “um, oh yeah, it’s Lent isn’t it” from several wonderful Presbyterian lips – observing Lent is a part of our heritage. Perhaps one of the best known of these practices, disciplines as they are called (and they do take discipline), is giving things up for Lent.

How many of you have ever given something up? How many of you have ever tried and not been as successful as you’d like? Discipline. During Lent, Christians traditionally fast from things – be those things goods, pleasures, vices.

Like Jesus in the desert, we may fast from material objects (such as bread), or if we’re really ambitious, perhaps we’ll fast from power or maybe proving our authority over others – all things Jesus resisted in his 40 days and nights.

Why do we fast from things? Some think fasting has to do with suffering – I can’t have chocolate, I suffer… oh, hey, Jesus suffered for me. I should be thankful and repenting or something. Or maybe fasting is about endurance, proving you love God and want right relationship by holding out. That’s not exactly it either.

Listen to the beautiful words of Isaiah; echoing the calls of street sellers of the day, the prophets says: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

This is what we are called to – rich food, good food – not fasting to suffer or endure. The fasting going on, the giving up, it’s about something richer than that. Christ fasted after he heard his call in a powerful way, in the waters of baptism. From this moment on, fasting became connected with baptism, with this welcome into the community of faith, with this beginning of the journey.

Saul, soon to be Paul, finds himself following Jesus’ footsteps after his conversion on the road to Damascus. For three days he was without sight and neither ate nor drank. The believer Ananias arrives and lays hands on Saul, restoring his sight. Only then is he baptized, and only then does he take food. After this time of fasting – from food and from sight – Saul was ready to begin his journey with and for Christ.

The benefit of fasting before such a big event in a follower’s life was appreciated by the early church. The Didache, an early Christian text recommended a two-day fast prior to baptism. Fasting before baptism shifted into fasting to prepare for another momentous event in the Christians. Beginning in the 2nd century, believers observed a two-day fast prior to Easter (what would later be called Good Friday and Holy Saturday). Somewhere around the 4th century, the Lenten fast evolved, moved from the two days and just those to be baptized, to 40 days and to the whole church. Fasting also became a common practice around other times of the year, and almost universally Christians gave up food or drink before receiving communion.

This fasting, this giving something up, is about preparation. Preparation for ministry, for the journey of faith, for the cross and empty tomb. Preparation for Christ – for the freedom and the call found within him, for the bounty, the feast he sets before us, for the one cup, one bread. We prepare for this feast when we practice the discipline of fasting, from food or other things. And we need to prepare. We need to prepare because we get so easily distracted from the meal set before us.

You’re out at the grocery store, maybe picking up a gallon of milk on your way home, and you know that waiting for you at home is a wonderful meal, tasty AND nutritious. Standing in the check out line, gallon of milk in hand, you glance over to your right and see all the candy options the grocery store has so conveniently laid out before you. Your stomach growls, your eyes light up, and before you know it, you’ve added some Reese’s Cups to your order. Sure, you’ve got a good dinner waiting for you at home – but this is here, and now, and before you know it, you’ve ruined your dinner just like your mother always warned you about.

This is what Paul was speaking to in his letter to the Corinthians – well, not the Reese’s or your mother part. Paul understands that all over God’s world and God’s time, God’s people were feeding on Christ’s word, grace, mercy, and love. He writes of when the Israelites were given manna and water from a rock (who he identifies as Christ) in the desert. This real food the Israelites were provided by God was enough to sustain them. Though this food was from God, though they were feasting on gifts from heaven, the people complained, they longed for other food. They looked at something that wasn’t what would truly fill them up, wasn’t what their inner most parts longed for, and craved. As Paul identifies, this food isn’t just about physical nourishment – this real food is also spiritual food.

The Israelites craved other food, craved evil, craved that which was not from God, that which was not God. When the Israelites sat down and ate, they were eating the food of idols. When the Israelites craved meat, the food of Egypt, the food of slavery, food of death, they were rejecting the food of the wilderness, the food of freedom, of life, of God. They were craving more than God, other than God.

Paul lists example after example of when the people turned to that which was other than God, longed for idols. So Paul warns us to learn a lesson from the Israelites, a lesson God has laid out for us: flee from worship of idols.

That’s what Lenten practices are about: fleeing from worship of idols, fleeing from that food which does not satisfy, fleeing and coming to the one who fills us with more than we could imagine. We fast to remind us where and what our best food is, how we are nourished.

Even though we may know a wonderful meal is waiting for us – this word, grace, mercy, love, we struggle to resist the meat of idols – they look as good as those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. So we fast from that which is worldly, our worldly weakness so we may feast with Christ, on our heavenly strength.

We fast in order that we may feast. In this season of Lent, that’s what we are called to do. Our preparation for the GOOD NEWS is not fasting – it’s feasting! Feasting on the glory of Christ, eating at the table he has prepared. We are called to focus on our Lord, to incline our ear, to come and listen, and to do whatever we need to do to answer this call, to come buy milk and wine without money or price.

You don’t have to fast to feast. Some of us may find fasting from something – sugar, gossip, tv – whatever it may be – helps us to cleanse ourselves of all that which is not God, to repent and reconcile with our Savior. For others, giving something up – that may not be the preparation you need, especially if you find yourself saying “I’m giving up broccoli for Lent,” or my favorite, “I’m giving up giving up things.” Some many options – you don’t have to give something up, you can take something on. You can take on rising in the morning a few minutes early to offer prayer – there’s this wonderful prayer where as you wake up, you thank God for each part of you, your head, heart, limbs, your breath. You might try to read more of the Bible, perhaps follow the daily lectionary (how many of you knew we had a daily lectionary) which you can find on the PCUSA website. You might try allowing yourself to stop and look at the mountains as you drive from one place to another, instead of hurrying to your destination. Stop, look, and let your eyes feast on God’s glory made manifest, your heart filling with all richness.

What are you doing to prepare yourself for Lent? Good Friday? Easter? How are you prepared to live as an Easter people, a resurrection people? How are you feasting on God? We have this season, a season of reflection, repentance, reconciliation – don’t let it go by uncelebrated, don’t let yourself go hungry. Come, come to the waters, come, come to the table. Come and fill yourself with God’s glory, God’s love. Come and feast.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Not to go all Grey's Anatomy, but all I can say is "seriously." I've the last few months, I've had an interest in the emerging church movement (alternative worship in the uk and other places). Gearing worship for a post-modern world, these movements include more art, movement, multi-media, non-Biblical texts than our more traditional worship does. Some of the theory and theology is exciting to me (though some I can't subscribe to). One of the things I've enjoyed - and plan on using with our youth - is short animations and videos that are great coversation starters for various theological topics.

So this morning I went to a website that had been recommended as having lots of good resources like this. You have to subscribe to download stuff but searching is free. I get to the page and its featured video is called "Battleground" - about Jesus' temptations and our own. Okay, not my favorite metaphor in the world, but I kept on my mission to search for a video that would go with this particular point of theology - the Trinity. So, I search using the intrasearch engine, and come up with... nothing. Maybe I didn't do it right. Search again, a different way. Nothing. In the hundreds of videos/animations this company offers, not one of them deals with the Trinity, which according to a theology prof of mine, is what makes Christianity unique, what makes us us. Seriously? No resources on the Trinity? Just reminded me the problem I have with a lot of the post-modern material. While certainly not all resources, churches, etc, ignore the fundamentals of theological doctrine, many do. I'd love for the mainline denominations to show a little more foresight in these growing areas so I can find a cool animation on the Trinity no problem.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Today I flew back from Chicago to Virginia. And I say "today" because it took me all day. Got up at 6 something this morning, headed off to the airport a little before 7:30am, and then got promptly stuck in Chi-town traffic. My friend Teri who was driving me, wonderful woman, was not having a happy morning. We moved a couple miles over twenty minutes and I was beginning to rearrange my luggage so I could carry everything on board, check nothing. That didn't stress me out (well, when I realized I'd have to leave my hair stuff behind if I carried my bags on, I did get a bit annoyed). But, lo and behold, we made it in time for me to check my bag and make my merry way through security.

Only to find myself waiting... apparently, my flight was delayed 2 hrs and 45 minutes. Not that they announced that delay, or changed the departure status of the flight from "on-time" to "yeah, right." No, no, heaven forbid you let your passengers know what's going on; heaven forbid people looking at the clock that reads "9:30," knowing they should be taking off by now but hadn't heard anything, let alone boarded, would have a clue about what's going on. Also, heaven forbid you tell people WHY there's a delay - "is it a weather problem in Philly?" "uh, it's a problem here." What the gate agent doesn't say is that it's an airline computer problem, one that apparently has left lots of people stranded over the weekend.

I managed to get a new connecting flight out of Philly to Richmond, and went to eat lunch - for by this time, it was close to lunch time. Mid bit of tuna, I hear "all rows, all passengers, for Philidelphia." Ack! I jumped up, looked at the time (I should have had an hour and 15 mins to spare), quickly grabbed my stuff and got on the plane. Only to find someone sitting in my seat. Only to find I was on the wrong flight to Philly. Apparently, an earlier flight that had been displaced was heading out (with tons of empty seats). Why they didn't offer this flight to us later flight people, I don't know. But since I was already on (since I had already discovered this secret other flight!) they let me fly out on it. This flight was excitingly delayed when the computer problems that messed up boarding made trouble for the pilots - they couldn't seem to get the weight balance info from the computer. Joy!

Made it to Philly no problem (well, except for the wind shears that made me want to lose what little of the tuna sandwhich I had scarfed down). Got on the plane to Richmond - it looked like I'd make it by 5:30pm, too late for meetings at church but maybe I could make it home before it got dark. We got on the plane and sat... and sat... and sat... The pilot came on the speaker and said something to the effect of "Sorry folks for the delay, but the aft cargo door is open. I don't know why, don't know who's working on it, but we're trying to get it taken care of." Oh, such a vote of confidence. After 20 or so minutes, they managed to close the door and then of course 40 minutes later, we were off.

Landed in Richmond, YAY!, too late to drive back in the daylight - and with the dramamine I didn't want to drive in the dark - but I could get my bag, get my ride, get some more work done, and crash. One flaw in that plan - the airline had lost my bag. So here I sit, in my friend's pjs, with a newly bought toothbrush, hoping they find that piece of luggage - I have cute shoes in there!

And the amazing thing to me about this whole day - I actually stayed patient. Didn't get fiesty or ornery with a single one of the people who told me "delay. delay. lost luggage." Didn't stress out, panic something was going especially wrong. Nope, I was pretty calm and cool throughout the day. And this, my friends, I chalk up to that great vacation, that wonderful sabbath, the needed rest. Life's problems didn't bother me (and trust me, I'm not a good flyer, it scares me and anything out of the ordinary usually increases that anxiety). Nope, I was collected and mostly unphased. Yay! Lets see how long this lasts (aka, lets see how long it takes the airline to bring back my shoes, I mean, luggage).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

In An Instant - A Review

While on my lovely vacation (which ends tomorrow) I picked up and read the Lee and Bob Woodruff book In An Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing. I must say, it is one of the most heart-stirring and lifting books I've read in a very long time. The Woodruff family has a remarkable story about just what the title says, love and healing. Reading through the tragic injury of Bob (who was the new World News Tonight co-anchor for those who don't know), how his wife coped with the help of family and friends, how they made it through, are still making it through, reading that story mixed together with the story of Lee and Bob's marriage - really reminded me what this for better or for worse love is all about.

If you have a couple extra dollars and hours, I highly recommend.