Gratitude

My parents and I went to Branson Friday and Saturday to see Samson and another show called Six.  The main show to see, though, was Samson.  Several people in Mom and Dad’s church had seen the show and were going on and on about it.  This was the last weekend for it, and it was…

I See You

“You is good.  You is smart.  You is important.”  These are familiar words from the movie The Help.  Many of you know this story, how it depicts the discrepancies within our history between the races, particularly during the Civil Rights Movement.  In this film the main character Skeeter, a young, white, female journalist, asks a…

Now Let Me Alone

Lectionary Readings for today. As most of you know, I am an only child.  I had an imaginary friend — a monkey named Muntney — that I played with and who got the blame for things I did wrong.  But, I was a good girl and don’t believe I was a trouble child.  My mom,…

Jesus, Take Your Time

Good Morning!  When I wake up in the mornings, my cats are usually screaming at me to be fed while they herd me out of my room, down the hall, and into the kitchen to their food bowl.  As my coffee percolates on the stove, I scroll through Instagram to see the pictures of baby…

Who are you?

Lectionary Reading for Today Some of us here this morning are young enough that we are building those “back in the day” stories.  Some of us are, well, perhaps a little more like a fine wine or a wheel of cheese:  we have lived — or perhaps survived — those “back in the day” stories. …

The Fire is His Presence that Gives us Faith

This morning I step into a unique and beautiful position.  This position is one that affords a perspective of a people who has faced many challenges in the past two years.  This group of people — you — have been forced to examine who you are and where you have come; in turn, you have…

A Handful of Humility and a Pound of Persistence

One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This story holds a wealth of lessons and illustrations and anecdotes about life, relationships, hardship, injustice, doubt, grace, and community.  In the text Scout Finch is raised by many people:  her father Atticus, their maid Calpurnia, their neighbor Miss Maudie, and Atticus’…

Nativity of John the Baptist

Lectionary Reading We celebrate today the nativity of John the Baptist, the prequel to Jesus Christ. We know John. We know of his jumping in the womb of Elizabeth when her cousin Mary, pregnant with the Messiah, went to visit. We know his living in the wilderness eating honey and locusts. We know his baptizing…

Pray for the gift of unity, and we all will be changed.

Seventh Sunday of Easter Readings. When I was in college, my grandmother wrote letters and cards to me quite regularly.  Most of the time, her letters were not very long — a small stationary page or two.  She also sent cards and would write a note on the facing page, underline or circle certain words…

Where Have You Been?

Second Sunday of Easter Readings. Today, we are a week past the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. A week ago, Jesus left His disciples and walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Pain, alone. Some watched Him. Some left Him. One denied Him. One betrayed Him. And then there’s Thomas. Our Thomas who says…

Maundy Thursday

Lectionary Readings for Maundy Thursday. Do you remember Big Boy restaurants? My MeMa, without Mom’s okay, gave me my first solid food at a Big Boy. Mom was horrified, but I squealed and MeMa laughed. I also remember growing up and watching the commercials for McDonald’s with Ronald, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and the…

It’s Not What He Did

Lectionary Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Because my parents are visiting this Sunday, I’m going to take advantage of their presence. I remember my summer between high school and college. I was working at Church’s Fried Chicken. I hated that job, but it got me out of the house. I was SO…

And we scratch our heads in disbelief

I subscribe to Christianity Today and read this article today regarding the SBC discussing the expulsion of churches within their organization who have been covering up abuse. My response is twofold. “The SBC is considering requiring background checks for denominational leaders and has urged churches to include such screening in the ordination process.” This quote…

It’s a Matter of Perspective

Our lectionary readings this morning brought to mind so many different scenarios for me.  There is a wealth of instruction and encouragement from these passages, and I was inspired to reflect on stories I have heard and relationships in my life.  So, this morning will be a different sort of sermon from what I have…

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I listen to a podcast from Mike Rowe.  You know him, the voice behind most of our current-generation Ford commercials and dozens of nature and science related documentaries as well as the television show “Dirty Jobs.”  Well, Mike has this podcast called “The Way I Heard It.”  It’s reminiscent of the Paul Harvey-style of storytelling: …

What I Heard from the Pulpit

Sermon from The Rev. Dr. John Toles. One of my favorite bands is Rush. They have a song from their Counterparts album called “Double Agent.”  The first two lines of this song are, “Where would you rather be? Anywhere… Anywhere but here.  When would the time be right? Anytime but now.” This sermon from John+…

God’s Ball of Yarn

Little Nellie and her father were visiting an elderly neighbor. They were raking the neighbor’s leaves, organizing the neighbor’s garage, putting the trash out, and performing other small jobs around the neighbor’s house. The little girl had not really seen the elderly neighbor closely, but on this day she was going to meet the neighbor…

Christ the King

A few weeks ago at our Wednesday evening study Kneeling With Giants, we talked abut Teresa of Avila. In that chapter of our text, we considered the various ways that we address God when we pray. For example, we talked about Jesus as friend: one who walks with us and remains with us through the…

What Are You Doing?

“We live in the time of silence, between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder.” My cousin Fr. John gave his sermon today regarding the Gospel passage in Mark 13:1-8 when Jesus’ disciples asked Him what the end time will look like. He told them there will be hard things happening, that there…

All You Have

Corrie Ten Boom, a watchmaker who lived with her family, helped to hide Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland in WW2. Her family was discovered, and they were rounded up with other Dutch citizens and sent to concentration camps. Corrie and her sister Betsie were at the Ravensbruck camp. She wrote several books after…

We Define Ourselves by What We Are Not

There’s a conversation in one of my favorite novels between a father and his six year old daughter. Scout is confused by the anger and tension that is going on in her town of Maycomb, Alabama. Atticus joins Scout on the front porch swing and begins talking to her about what’s going on. He says…

Would You Like a Glass of Wine?

A group of 8 friends were having a dinner party out on the back deck of a home one Saturday evening. Nothing fancy. Mostly finger foods. Ribs. Plates of cheese. Olives. Chips. Wine. The friends had not had a chance to get together in a while, and their conversations flowed effortlessly peppered with Oohs and…

Tend Your Baobabs

There is a children’s story written for adults. It’s called The Little Prince, and it tells the story of a small Prince from an asteroid far, far away. This Prince meets an airplane pilot who has crashed landed in the Sahara desert; the pilot is attempting to fix his plane before his rations run out….

Beware . . .

. . . this is gonna be a rant!  If you don’t want to read, skip it.  If you agree, great.  If you don’t, great.  Just know that these are my observations, my perspectives, my words, and (ultimately) my blog. I don’t know if Gandhi actually said it or not, and I don’t really care. …

Be Prepared

The squirrels are out. They’ve always been out, scampering around, chasing one another, barking and chirping at one another, flicking their tails in territorial aggression. I sit at my table and look out my back window and watch “my” squirrels. My dad made a little platform that stands on a steel pipe. This platform stands…

What is Ascetical Theology?

Benedict of Nursia wrote that a monastic must have three intentional qualities of life in devotion to God: stabilitas , obedientia , and conversio morem. These behaviors — no, relationship-bearing vows — are what anchor a person to an ascetic life. One must be in a consistent church body home in which there is accountability…

God and Trinity

Two chapters from Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology: An Introduction focuses on the doctrines of God and of the Trinity. The first concern addressed is the doctrine of God. McGrath offers the minor theory that God might not be male and quickly moves forward. He identifies the “personhood” of God through such philosophers as Tertullian, Spinoza,…

Marriage and Divorce

Part 1: Culture We live in a culture that wants permanency, expects stability, desires equality. We also live in a culture that appreciates newness, anticipates change, values improvement. When we apply these aspects of life in general to the specific topic of marriage, the water can become muddied and difficult to navigate. In a culture…

What I Heard from the Pulpit

Had I been given both of my grandmothers’ first names, I would have been Nellie Margie.  Thanks Mom and Dad for looking ahead into my future and bestowing your mothers’  middle names to me so that I am Janie Layne. When I was growing up, my friends wanted to be “Beth” or “Liz” instead of…

Simon Chan

In his text Spiritual Theology  Simon Chan addresses these topics: nature of spiritual theology, doctrine of God, nature of sin, and elements in salvation. Chan states that spiritual theology is quite different from spirituality: “spirituality is the lived reality, whereas spiritual theology is the systematic reflection and formalization of that reality” (16). Spirituality could be…

Amos

We recall Joshua asking the people, “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living” (24:15). We recall God destroying two peoples with fire from the heavens: “Then the Lord rained on Sodom…

What I Heard from the Pulpit…

Don’t get tripped up on the piddly things that you lose sight of the deeper issues. In Sunday’s sermon, Fr. John referenced the Gospel text in which the Canaanite woman went to Jesus and asked for help for her demon-possessed daughter.  The disciples got angry, however, and urged Jesus to get rid of her:  she…

Julian of Norwich

Addressing the introduction to Julian’s Showings is a challenging task, indeed. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh have densely packed their research of the text noting the differences between the Short Text and the Long Text, Julian’s theology and exegesis of her showings, her keen development of the rhetorical style, the role of contemplation, and the…

Lamentations

Nestled amongst the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel lies the small but powerful book of Lamentations. While the prophets offer the dooming judgment of Almighty God upon Israel and Judah, trapped within the chaos and devastation of their own making, Lamentations allows a glimpse of the raw, exposed emotions of Jerusalem and…

Tend Your Flock

Reading Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s work The Christian Priest Today again as I am a secondary English teacher in a private Christian school, our text jumps and pops with relevance, direction, and encouragement! What speaks to me most significantly is Ramsey’s direction to, “Tend the flock in your charge” (pg 69). As a leader Ramsey understands…

Jeremiah

The Book of Jeremiah makes its mark upon the canon by speaking of the iniquity of the people in clear and devastating terms, the anguish and fury of God, and the subsequent ripple effect that iniquity causes throughout the land and the ages. The book opens with a series of lamentations from the people to…

Discernment

In spite of the physical shortcomings, the emotional health, the socio-economic status, the age, the depth of spiritual maturity, and even the wavering strength of the individual, God will have His way. There is no reason or what we might consider as a barrier to Him who will see completion of His design. He is…

Margery Kempe

Described as “a ‘wet blanket in any company which was innocently enjoying itself,’ ” such is Margery Kempe according to a source included in Anthony Bale’s introduction to her Book. Bale offers an objective — if not twinged with tongue-in-cheek — observation of Kempe’s colorful life.

Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is distinct from other texts in the canon in that it offers to bridge the gap between the laws from God and the motivational behavior of the people. To put this writing into context of the Old Testament so far (succinctly): the Pentateuch seeks to establish creation, God’s relationship with man,…