Saturday, February 27, 2010

Psalm 27

I have been working on the sermon for tomorrow with a focus on the 27th Psalm, written by King David. The words have become more and more like Poetry and so I want to share them with any an all who are reading this.

1The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—

my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me,

my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
4One thing I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me,

and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
8“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”

Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
10If my father and mother forsake me,

the Lord will take me up.
11Teach me your way, O Lord,

and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,

for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
(Oremus Bible - NRSV)

I then came across this work by Cheryl Ann Toliver in response to the Psalm. I found it to be truthful and direct. Enjoy...

Psalm 27
by Cheryl Ann Toliver

The world's gone mad!
Our God-given reason is overthrown By our animal craving for blood.
My own desperate prayer for reason Is stifled by overwhelming fear.
I see only the destruction our madness will bring in its wake - misery, poverty, hatred, despair, evil, chaos - As the 21st century's first decade disintegrates into insane war.
All that is good - morality, kindness, mercy, patience, compassion, self-control, forgiveness, wisdom - seems lost, forsaken.
We reject the Spirit's power to act in our lives,
Exposing humanity's ugly wretchedness without God's grace, And thus, we have damned ourselves.
How have we come to this hell?
When did we set out on this "inevitable" path?
Why can we find no other way? What has blinded us to your grace, O! Holy God?
Where, O! Lord, is your salvation from this mad darkness? Who but Thee can save us from ourselves?
I hear you cry out to us, Lord - "Don't be molded by the world, be metamorphosized!
Let your reasoning be completely, utterly new,
So you can comprehend what is good through my eyes.
Then you'll understand that you need to bless those you hate,
Instead of inciting more evil and anger and hatred
By seeking to repay the evil done against you with more evil.
You can only overcome evil with good.
Goodness is the only weapon that can destroy evil. It's the only cure for your insanity and unending cycles of hatred and vengeance."
So few hear you, Lord God. Yet, in my despair, I hear your words of comfort - "I am your hope, your salvation, your fortress. Why are you afraid?
Evil may assail you, lay siege and make war against you,
But it will fail. I am your shelter from trouble on the high ground.
You will one day walk before your enemies without fear or shame."
So, Almighty God, Holy Lord,
In the midst of the world's madness, whatever terror is to come,
You are with me. You say, "seek me", and I do seek Thee. I will seek your grace amid our human wretchedness and evil
And I will yet live to see your good triumph.
Now help me to wait for you, Lord God.
Help me to be strong, to not be afraid, in the overwhelming madness,
So I may endure the coming metamorphosis.

Cheryl Ann Toliver grew up in rural Idaho and small-town Colorado, had her first experience of encountering Jesus as a child of 7, and has been writing poetry since she was 11 years old. She has been in California for the last 19 years, working as an editor of a legal index database. Copies of her poetry book Visions, are available for no charge or a small donation. Contacting her at:

Friday, August 7, 2009

An inward or outward church?

My good friend Allen Ewing-Merrill recently wrote this article and it speaks to me about what it means to be "the church". His reflection reveals an easy way for churches to move from survive to thrive mode. It's as simple as turning in a different direction...ok, so it's not quite that simple but once we stop looking into the circle and look out, we will see some amazing things revealed to us that we could never see before. Enjoy it and let me know what you think....

COMMENTARY: Inward or outward?

If you want to see me get all worked up, talk to me about how we in the church need to take care of ourselves before we can begin to look outward. This happened recently at a monthly interfaith meeting that I facilitate. We were brainstorming about joint community outreach projects when one of my colleagues spoke up. I’m sure he had no idea he was about to push one of my buttons. “You know, we have to take care of ourselves before we can begin to look to the needs of others,” he said. “We’re a very busy church with a lot going on. We’ve got to take care of our own needs first.” Oh man. I wanted to jump across the table.

My first thought: Does this guy read the same Gospels I read? Are we following the same Jesus? I spoke up with more passion than substance, letting him know that I totally disagreed. I think it surprised him. But isn’t this why so many of our churches are struggling—or on the edge of closing their doors—because we’ve lost our bearings, because we’ve become little more than social clubs focused on institutional maintenance? Does anybody really believe that when we’ve taken care of all of our own needs, when the institution is finally running like a well-oiled machine, when we’ve focused inwardly long enough, that somehow we’ll then have the resources to begin caring for needs outside our church? Does anybody really believe this?

Before we moved to Portland, I served a church that had bounced back dramatically from a place of dismal decline. The church, once strong, had declined over the decades, not unlike other mainline Protestant churches across the U.S. Worship attendance was such that in the winter, they’d move out of the sanctuary into a small adjacent meeting room because they couldn’t afford to heat the big, beautiful sanctuary and they were also small enough that they could. Their focus was inward. Morale was low. They wondered how long they’d survive. But then over the course of a decade or so, this congregation experienced dramatic change. Worship attendance began to grow from a low of about 40 to close to 300.

The church came alive with children, youth and adults of all ages. A growing spiritual vitality produced diverse programs of mission and ministry that enlivened the church and impacted the community. This church had experienced revitalization—new life! I remember hearing a pastor from another church trying to understand what had led to such dramatic change.

One of the church’s leaders described it this way: “We used to be a church that looked inward. We were most concerned that the bills were paid, and when money was tight, we worked harder to balance the budget. All of our efforts went into trying to keep this church afloat.” (How many churches could describe themselves this way?) “But then one day, a newcomer stood up during the sharing of joys and concerns, and through tears, she shared her struggle. She had a parent back in Brazil who was dying, and she was desperate to make it home to see this parent before it was too late. It was hard for her to ask, but she wondered if there was anyone who might be able to help her financially.” Presented with a challenge, the church’s members began to understand that they could help a sister in need. The tearful concern of an immigrant in their midst grabbed their hearts and took precedent over a balanced church budget. They began to work together to meet the need of the newcomer and it became their rallying cry. When they were able to raise enough funds to send this person to Brazil, they realized God could use them for powerful things. “Our focus changed, from inward to outward,” said the church leader, “and that made all the difference. Once we began looking outward, we never stopped.”

There were many factors that led to this church’s revitalization, but the point was clear: When the focus is outward, some of the inward things begin to take care of themselves.
Allen Ewing-Merrill, Aug 6, 2009

The Rev. Ewing-Merrill and his wife, Sara, co-pastor Chestnut UMC and New Light community in Portland, Maine. This was excerpted from his blog at

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Run for your life!!!!!

I received this email from They send out daily videos for reflection and consideration. This video created a variety of emotions within me. What really struck me was the call to run from the church. He wasn't calling us to run from all churches but certain ones (I'll let you watch to see which ones he talks about). I am interested to hear what folks think. Do we know such churches? Are we such a church? What can keep us from falling into such categories...

Click on the title for today's post to see the video...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Good for nothing"

How many times do we look at someone through our eyes and wonder if they can ever amount to anything. We've got a vision, a thought, an expectation, or whatever that allows us to only see this person in one way. Or, maybe we've been the one being viewed and heard the words "good for nothing" spoken in our direction.

I came across this story on and it reminded me that even when the world sees us as a failure, God has given us gifts that will make us a sure success if we will but use them. Some will make us successful by the standards of this world but all of them, whether appreciated by those around us or not, will help us to be a part of the great success of God's kingdom on earth.

Some can cut fish and others can swing a bat...both can lead to success...

Switching Tracks

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to move on to another field. Paul Harvey tells the story of Joe, who was born into a family of Sicilian immigrants, a family who had a 300-year history as fishermen. Joe's dad was a fisherman. His brothers were fishermen. But Joe was made sick by the smell of raw fish and the motion of a rocking boat. In a family where the only acceptable way to earn a living was by fishing, Joe was a failure. His dad used to refer to his son as "good for nothing." Joe believed his dad. He believed that his attempts at other types of work were an admission of failure, but he just couldn't stand the smell of the fishing business. One thing that Joe could do was to play baseball. Giving up a field where he could not succeed, Joe DiMaggio moved to another field and became one of the great successes of baseball.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do we have the courage to dance alone?

While checking out facebook today I found this connection through Leonard Sweet. As you watch the video that is found on this page, consider the questions that are asked below about leadership. As ambassadors of Christ, sometimes we may feel we are dancing alone but in reality it might simply be that we are giving others the courage and empowerment to join us and to dance as well. What do you think? Consider the words of the song as well as the actions. I am amazed at how the initial folks walked to him but soon, as people experienced the excitement and joy from a distance, they began to run and wanted to be a part of it. How might we share the excitement we have for Jesus and the faith community in which we worship so that others might come running and when they get there, feel a part of something very special...

Monday, June 29, 2009

97 do we carry things?

Found this story on one of my daily devotionals "Mountain Wings" and wanted to share it...

97 Pounds

It was a national holiday. I was at work; everyone else was off. It was one of those privileges of the boss.

The doorbell rang at the front door. I left my office and went to open it. It was a UPS driver.

"How many boxes do you have," I asked.
"Just one," he replied "but it's 97 pounds.

I told him that he could just drive the truck up to the front, and I could take the box off and leave it in the lobby. He then explained that the truck was dock height, and his back wasn't in good shape and that he didn't like to lift boxes from the back of the truck to the ground. I understood.

I then told him that we could just take it off and leave it on the dock, and I would bring it inside later. To open the dock doors required me to walk through the dark warehouse area, unlock the gates and open the doors so I just walked around to the dock area from outside.

As we both lifted the box he said, "I think they lied about that 97 pounds."

About 30 minutes later, I opened the dock doors and began to lift the box. It wasn't just heavy, it was awkward. You had to really spread your arms to get a grip on the box, and I could feel the pull on my back. I thought about the UPS driver's back and decided to get a hand truck.

I maneuvered the box onto the hand truck and rolled it easily into the warehouse. You could roll that reportedly 97-pound box with two fingers and absolutely no strain. I was amazed at the ease of movement with the hand truck versus pure muscle power.

God then spoke.
"That's the difference, when going through life, between a happy attitude and outlook and a sour one."

The same box, the same distance and the same result but a vastly different effort was required using my muscles or the hand truck.

Use the happy hand truck with your heavy loads.

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
(Mat 11:30 KJV)

~A MountainWings Original~

Forward this issue to a friend or send them the link below:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Prayer of Thomas Merton

As I was looking at Lindsay's blog, I found this prayer by Thomas Merton. How power the words are! A realization, like I often have, that I want to be following God's will, I believe I am following God's will, but in reality, only God knows if I am. I find comfort in Merton's last words of trust that God is always with me and will never leave me to face my perils alone. How do you see your relationship with Christ? Is it one of confidence, arrogance, assurance, doubt, uncertainty? I believe a humble relationship is a good place to start and grow. Humble in the sense of placing God in the center of our lives and allowing ourselves to follow one whom we cannot see, touch, hear, taste, but is always there in ways that we can't even begin to comprehend.

Prayer of Thomas Merton
My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are every with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Lindsay's favorite quotes and pictures

Over the years I have made many wonderful friends through worship. I can't remember the exact year that it happened, but I met two of those friends. They were from NJ and were up visiting a grandson, daughter, and husband. Each year they journey to Maine for a period of time. Maybe I get to see them for a couple of weeks or maybe just for a visit. But like the sun, they are faithful and will always make an appearance when in the area. Their names are Lindsay and Sue. Lindsay just recently wrote to tell me that at 76 (almost 77) he was going to start a blog that mixed quotes, scripture, and photos he has collected over the years. I invite you to check it out and to support his ministry of words and wonders!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What do you think?

We get images and pictures of God's presence in tragedies and miracles. Here is another. As we look at God holding up the plane, how do we see those same strong hands supporting us in life threatening events? Do we acknowledge that it is God who holds us up when we can't stand, keeps us warm when we are chivering from the cold of the world, keeps us comfortable when we find life uncomfortable? As I looked at the picture, and as I remembered the live images of the people standing on the wings, it did appear that somehow they were being held up. Now if I can just remember that in my life when something shuts down my engines and I think I'm going to crash. God gave "Sully" the experience, wisdom, and ability to land the plane where it would do the least harm and save the most folks, why don't we remain calm and believe that God will do the same in our lives? Something to think about...Did I mention I am flying out of JFK next week???

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Prayer for a New President and a New America

In the January issue of "Sojourners" there are prayers for the new president. As I was reading through them I found one by Shane Claiborne that really struck home. It is a prayer of confession and hope. There are many others who wrote prayers and letters to the new president but this one stood out for me and where I am. Let me know what you think...

God of love, grace, and hope, thank you for creating a perfect world. Forgive us for the mess we have made of it. Forgive us for the groaning of creation, for the millions who die of hunger and curable diseases, for warehousing people in prisons and using them for labor, for the scandal of billions wasted in war, for an economy that mirrors the seven deadly sins, for the violence and greed in our own hearts. Save us from ourselves.
Give us the courage to bless the poor in a world that blesses the middle class, to bless the meek in a world that admires aggression, to bless the hungry in a world that feeds the already fed, to bless the merciful in a world that shows no mercy on evildoers, to bless the pure in heart in a world of clutter and noise, to bless the peacemakers in a world that baptizes bombs.
Give us imagination that we might not conform to the patterns of this world, that we might shatter indifference and interrupt injustice with grace, that we might choose the cross over the sword, that we might be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves, that we might consider the lilies and sparrows as they shame Wall Street's splendor, that we might choose the dream of God over the dreams of nations, that we might cling to the God who so loved the world, not just America, that we might allow our Jesus to change America rather than America to change our Jesus.