Book Review-Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday by Jeffrey A. Nelson

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Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday
Jeffrey A. Nelson
This is a book to savor and reread. This is a book to read as part of a book study at church or by yourself for self-reflection and growth. This is a book for new people of faith, seasoned clergy, and everyone in between. You need to read this book. It will feed your spiritual life.
“It is one thing for me to enjoy the thought of a spiritual practice, but it is quite another for me to begin observing it” (1). This book gives you the tools and the wisdom needed to move from the thought of having a spiritual practice to actually having a spiritual practice. With stories, Scripture, reflections and real-life examples, the author invites us to develop our God-given spiritual natures. We are encouraged to grow closer to God where we are now and while we are living our daily lives. “Not every moment is a sacrament, but every moment has the potential to be sacramental” (20). While the author encourages us to be open to worship in a church (see Chapter 8-Encountering Together), he encourages us to notice what is “of God” in our daily lives.
The author does not shy away from difficult faith questions. Where is God when all is wrong in my world? How can I pray when I have no time? Who is God to me? How can I grow closer to God? Who walks this journey with me? The author does not give us all the answers to these questions. He invites us into the conversation and asks us to continue the conversation.
This book has the potential to make you think. Reading this book gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with God. This book may encourage you to change the way you see the world. I recommend you read this book and see how your eyes are opened to see people and the whole world differently.

Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity by Katherine Willis Pershey

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This book is the story of a marriage, yet it is so much more than the story of a marriage. With honesty and humility, Katherine and her husband share the story of their marriage. This book is so much more than simply a memoir; their marriage story is interwoven with Scripture, history, celebrities, literature, and scholarship. The author tackles tough topics like death, sex, temptation, infidelity, egalitarian and complementarian marriages, economic and racial injustice, blessings, mercy, and the Apostle Paul. The author does this all while keeping you engaged (ha!) and wanting to read more about marriage and her marriage.

This book has forced me to confront my own feelings on marriage. Yes, I am married. Yes, my husband is amazing and I still love him 9 years after I said I do. Yet, at the same time, I’ve often disliked the institution of marriage. I love the covenant making-I dislike the state involvement-although I appreciate the tax break. This book has made me fall in love with the institution of marriage again. I hope you enjoy the story and I hope it inspires you to tell your story.

This book comes with a wonderful study guide (written by me), so you can read it with your book group or Sunday School class. So read the book and use the study guide

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Playing in the Sand

As a kid, I loved playing in my sandbox. When you grow up in the Midwest, a sandbox is much cheaper than a trip to the beach. To this day, I love playing in the sand. I keep this tray of sand in my office. People will come to meet with me and spend their time making designs in the sand. It is relaxing.

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This sand was originally used for a prayer station with my youth and now it brings a sense of peace to those visiting my office.
What do you keep near you that calms you? What items in your home or workspace bring you peace?

Pray with me
God of Peace, We are busy and need to remind ourselves to slow down. Help us to find ways to find peace and be peace! Be with us as we play in the sand. Calm us so we can hear your voice and be open to your leading. Speak for your servants are listening. Amen.

Earl Grey Creme

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This is my favorite cup of Earl Grey. The addition of vanilla makes this a smooth and creamy cup of tea. It is delicious. I am looking forward to visiting Voila! and finding more teas to enjoy.

This tea was a gift from a dear friend who also gave me the delightful buttons in the picture.

“Coffee is not my cup of tea.” -Samuel Bolding

“Where there is tea, there is love.”

“Tea is liquid wisdom.”

“Tea is a cup of life.”

I am hoping your day is filled with love, life, liquid wisdom, and a cup of tea!

Worship Words-What Time is It?

This is my sermon from August 28, 2016 Sermon at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church

 

As I spent some time living with this text over the last week, it was fascinating to read this passage in different translations. When a passage is so familiar it can be hard to hear the words anew. So I spent time listening to the words, noticing what words changed and what words stayed the same. I reflected on how much words matter. How much our words matter. The words we think matter. It matters what we say outloud and what we choose to leave unsaid. Our words matter.

 

Hear now these words that matter from the book of Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13.

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, God has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.

 

These words come to us from the book of Ecclesiastes. This is not a book we spend much time talking about at church. In fact, if not for The Byrds’ 1960’s hit, Turn, Turn, Turn, we might think about this book of the Bible even less than we do now.

 

The first 8 verses of this text are 14 pairs of opposites, which the writer tells us we will do or have done to us in the seasons of our lives. How do we measure the seasons of our lives? The musical Rent offers these suggestions-

“In daylights, in sunsets

In midnights, in cups of coffee

In inches, in miles

In laughter, in strife?

 

In truth that she learns

Or in times that he cried

In bridges he burned

Or the way that she dies?

Measure your life in love”

Ponder how you measure your life as we journey through these 28 things for which there is a proper time.

[Read more…]

A Fun Way to Play Jenga

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A few years ago while searching for games for youth group, I saw an idea of using empty soda boxes to play Jenga. When I shared this idea with my husband, he suggested that we do it without wrapping each box in paper. We have created Soda Jenga twice now and have some tips to share if you’d like to give it a try.

1-Start saving your soda boxes. If you know someone who drinks soda, ask them to save for you. Be careful when you open the boxes. The less you rip now, the less you’ll have to tape back together later.

2-Save your newspaper. We suggest using 4.5 full sheets of newspaper crumpled up into each box. Adding weight to the boxes provides more stability.

3-You are ready to make boxes. You’ll need your soda boxes, newspaper, and packing tape. Stuff 4.5 sheets of newspaper in each box. Tape boxes shut including the hand hold in the middle of the box. Tape carefully as any bumps will make it more difficult to play!

That’s it! You are ready to play. I’ve used the boxes for youth tournaments and as a fun way to start youth group while waiting for everyone to arrive. I’m looking forward to playing one more time with my youth before passing the boxes on to another youth group. When your youth get tired of playing or your boxes are no longer useable for Jenga, you can recycle them. Enjoy!

A New Way to Drink Tea

I love getting real mail. You know what I mean. Not advertisements. Not bills. Not mail for people who don’t live here. Mail addressed to me sent by another human. When the mail arrives and there is a package addressed to me inside, I am so excited. Recently I received the most wonderful package and inside was this-

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A dear friend had been shopping at a thrift store, saw this, thought I would love it, bought it, and sent it to me. How wonderful is that? So now I have another way to enjoy a fancy cup of tea. This is an all-in-one tea making cup.

 

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Today I am thankful for a delicious cup of Flowery White Pekoe from My Favorite Tea Shop, for friends who think of me, and a new-to-me fancy cup of tea.

A Fork in the Road Means Big Changes

Up on the watershed
Standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony’s your heaviest load
You’ll never fly as the crow flies
Get used to a country mile
When you’re learning to face
The path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while

Watershed by the Indigo Girls 

 

Today is the beginning of a new adventure for me. I’ve accepted a full-time position at Coastal Hospice as a Spiritual Counselor. On Monday-Fridays, you’ll find me visiting people in their homes and in facilities as they live out their last days of life. I’ll be spending my time talking, laughing, crying, praying, reading Scripture, serving communion, and listening to patients and families who are facing hard decisions, saying good-bye, praying for a different outcome, and living each day they have been given. I will be walking with people who have deep faith and people who don’t believe in God. I will be listening to their stories and helping them to fulfill last wishes. It is hard and a great joy. It is a privilege to be invited into one’s home, to sit by someone’s bed, to hold a hand, and share a hug. This is where God is calling me to be and the work God is calling me to do.

In order to answer this call, I must end my time with the Cooperative Youth Ministry of Christ Congregational and Takoma Park Presbyterian Churches. It is hard to leave the amazing youth, parents, staff, and congregation members I have gotten to know over the last year. I had hoped to walk with them on their faith journey for many more years. Sometimes to say yes to one thing we must say no to another. This is where I find myself today. As I say yes to Coastal Hospice, I must say good-bye to CYM at the end of September. As I live through this transition and follow this fork in the road, I ask for your prayers-for me, for my loved ones, for the youth of CYM, and for the patients, families, and staff at Hospice. In thanksgiving for your prayers, I will pray for all of you who find yourself wondering where God is calling you and if you have the courage to answer. Be brave, readers! Answer God’s call. Take the “path at your pace” and remember “every choice is worth your while”.

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix

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A friend of mine recently found herself at the beach, and so she stopped at the wonderful Browse About Books to see what wonders were contained there. As you might expect from a friend of mine, she purchased many books. She was kind enough to allow me to read one of her new purchases, Miracle Man. This is a wonderful children’s book that brings the story of Jesus to life in modern language and colorful illustrations. It is short enough to read with a child while still including many familiar parts of the Gospel stories. The author admits he could not share every story from the Gospels and yet he does a great job of highlighting the story of Jesus in a short story form. You will enjoy the artwork and the way the art and story blend seamlessly. This is a great book for a church library or your home bookshelf.

Celebrate Another Year of Life!

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If you know me in real life, you have heard me talk about my sister. She’s been an important part of my life since she arrived when I was about 4.5 years old. Today is her birthday! I love to celebrate birthdays because I believe they are one way we thank God for the gift of our lives. Today I am doing a little more celebrating than usual. This past year was hard for my family. Shortly before Thanksgiving we discovered my sister had colon cancer. We spent the week of Thanksgiving (including Thanksgiving Day) in the hospital as she had surgery to remove the cancer. Next came 12 rounds of chemotherapy! Finally in June, the chemo was done and scans showed that the cancer was gone! It has been a tough year and we have so much for which to be thankful! Today, I want to say Happy Birthday to my little sister.

A Prayer for Another Year of Life!

Faithful God, For another year of life, we give you thanks and praise. It is a joy to see the candles glowing on the birthday cake because it reminds us of how much we have to celebrate. For family, friends, laughter and tears, we give you thanks for another year of life! Thank you for siblings who walk this journey with us, who know our oldest jokes, who support our dreams, and who always love us. Thank you, God, for my sister, Becky. Amen.