Book Review-The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

You will like Arthur Pepper. He is a man trying to find his place in the world after his wife dies. He begins to question everything he thought he knew about his wife after discovering a unique piece of jewelry she owned. This discovery leads him on a quest to know his wife better. It makes him question how well he knew her. It makes him wonder why she married him. Arthur reminds us that grief and learning to live again look different for each of us. Join Arthur as he grieves the wife he lost, the changes in his life, and the chances he takes to live again.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read a good book. This book is written for anyone who is grieving the loss of someone you love or wants to support someone who is grieving. You should read this book because you need to meet Arthur Pepper.
Someone else’s review ended this way, “The author’s outlook remains relentlessly upbeat, and in the end, this sentimental novel is as cozy and fortifying as a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon.” So, I recommend you fix yourself a cup of tea and read this book!

God’s Promise of God’s Presence

God’s promise of God’s presence.

Transfiguration Sunday

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 

Words to Ponder This Week-

Deep down one thing we all want is something constant. Too much of our life is moving in fast forward at all times. We relocate (also known as move away from all that we know and all whom we know). People we love die. Relationships end. Jobs end. And we want a continued presence in our lives. And that is why God’s presence is the perfect promise on which to end this series. Even though Peter couldn’t build a booth to house Jesus, it didn’t mean Jesus wasn’t still with him. In all the changes of life, God is constantly with us.

Lenten Countdown with Post-its

Lenten Countdown with Post its

 

Those of you who know me well will know that I love post-its. I keep (at least) one pack in my purse in case of a post-it emergency. When I was doing youth and children’s ministry, I found many ways to work post-its into my lessons. Here is one example I first used a few years ago at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.

 

You will need 47 purple post-its for each person.

An Easter Sticker for each person.

Sharpie or pen to write.

 

Helpful Hints-

If you can find purple post-its that have 50 sheets, use those! I found 100 sheet purple post-its and split them in half.

I did this as a children’s message one Sunday morning and created all the countdowns myself. It took some time! If you have friends, a committee or ministry team, or a way of copying onto a package of post-its, I highly recommend doing it another way.

 

We are creating a countdown to Easter for our children/youth/families or yourself. Now the tricky part is that the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays which is why you need 47 post-its. On the first post-it, you’ll write 40. On the second post-it, you’ll write 39.

 

Here’s the countdown for you-

40, 39, 38, 37, Sunday, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, Sunday, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, Sunday, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, Sunday, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, Sunday, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, Sunday, 6, 5, 4, 3 (Maundy Thursday), 2 (Good Friday), 1, Easter!

 

After creating all these countdowns, you’ll be ready to hand them out or you could have people make their own at a Lenten Fair. I recommend giving them out the Sunday before Ash Wednesday (February 26) and having some available on Ash Wednesday (March 1) and the first Sunday of Lent (March 5).

 

If distributing them to families during the children’s message, talk with the children about the season of Lent and how they’ll observe it. Talk about how we are all preparing for Easter in these 40 days and Sundays. Since 40 days is a very long time for most children to understand, this is a visual example of how long we’ll be waiting and preparing.

If you’d like to give this a try and your Lenten plans are already done, make one for yourself and try it out this year. See if the daily act of taking one more number off the pile helps you to visualize and live into this holy season.

 

God’s Promise of Community

God’s promise of community.

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

 

Psalm 119: 33-40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.

Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.

See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

 

Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

Questions to Ponder-

How can we be a loving community? By living these Scriptures! Now, the challenge is how to help us hear them today. We can say we don’t steal, but do we “borrow” our neighbor’s wifi? (Probably not the best example….but there must be modern examples of how we hurt each other. I would love to know what modern examples come to mind for you). And I wonder how we can move this up to the corporation level. Even though I believe corporations aren’t people, how does what businesses do hurt us and what can we do about that for ourselves and each others?

I’d love to hear your examples of where you see us living as community. God has promised us community and we need to do the hard work of making it a reality.

A Month of Letter Writing

A Month of Writing Letters
When I walk to my mailbox each night, I am hopeful that something fun will be inside. Somedays I open the mailbox, and it is empty. This happened just last night! When my mailbox is empty, I always assume it is a holiday that I didn’t remember. Somedays I open the mailbox and find only advertisements. On the best days, I open the mailbox and find a card or letter from a real person. It makes my day.
I love writing letters, and I love getting mail. For those two reasons, I enjoy participating in A Month of Letters Challenge. During the month of February, I sent out (at least) 23 handwritten letters or cards. As I write I think of the joy I am sending to another person. As I write I pray for the person who will receive the letter. I appreciate that in this wintry, cold month I have a goal to accomplish, and it is spreading cheer across the country.
I invite you to join me this month in writing at least one handwritten letter. Together we can share joy with others who just need a reminder that they are loved.

God’s Promise of Life.

God’s promise of life.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (Choose Life)

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Questions to Ponder-

God promises us life. Deuteronomy tells us that we have to choose it. What does it look like today to choose life? Choosing life is about our whole lives and the lives of those with whom we live and work and interact.

Read the passage from Deuteronomy again and ponder this question-what does it mean for me if I choose life? How might I need to change the way I am living?

I believe life must be lived in community. To put it another way, we were created to live in relationship with one another. If this is true, how is my choice of living life impacting those around me?

God’s Promise of a Rule for Our Life.

God’s promise of a rule for our life.

Psalm 112:1-9 (10)

Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments.

Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.

They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; their horn is exalted in honor.

The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

 

A Spiritual Practice to Consider-

 When I was thinking about this promise of God, I was thinking about a rule for our life like the rule of St. Benedict. A rule for your life isn’t a list of what you can and cannot do. A rule is a life-giving covenant that guides the way you live. For a good introduction to St. Benedict’s rule, I suggest Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life.

And as an added bonus, I’m sharing with you the rule I created for myself for this year.

Pace myself! Plan ahead. Allow extra time. Hurrying only makes me stressed. If I arrive early, I’ll enjoy it.

Listen! Who knows what I’ll hear when I stop talking and turn off the noise? I will be present when someone is talking. I know everyone wants to be heard and I will listen.

Look! God is here. I will look for God in the people I meet. I will look for God working in my life. I will open my eyes and look.

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice
When I have too many thoughts running through my head, I write a letter. Other people may write in a journal or go for a run or write a song or find another way of clearing their heads. As someone who enjoys letter writing anyway, writing a letter as a spiritual practice makes sense. Sometimes the letter is to a person about whom I’ve been thinking. Sometimes the questions I’ve been pondering are answered as I write the letter. I don’t have to send the letters I write or then again I might. The letter can be to myself, to whom it may concern, to God, or to someone I know. The letter I’m sharing is to my best friend, Kristi. I needed some help working through something and I knew she’d know what to do. I commend to you the spiritual practice of letter writing as a way to soothe your soul and quiet your mind.
A Letter to My Friend
Hi you!
Is the nearing of my 39th birthday the reason you are on my mind so often lately? When I think of 39, I think of you. You’ll always be 39. You’ll never have to admit you are 40 because you are always 39. How can I have caught up with you? You were always 5 years older and soon I’ll be the age you were when you died. And that makes me realize that it has been (almost) 5 years since you died. So lately, I’ve been thinking of you.
This birthday feels different. I’m not afraid of getting older. You know that. I’m grateful for every year. I guess I just want you to say it is okay for me to be the same age as you and then get older than you. Of course, you’d tell me it is okay. You never held me back. You were always pushing me outside my comfort zone to new places, new experiences, and new people. So I’m going. I will turn 39. I will celebrate being 39. Thank you buddy for living all of your 39 years with reckless abandon. As I blow out my 39 candles (hopefully just a 3 and 9 candle because we don’t need the fire department involved or do we?), I will be grateful for the years I have lived and the people who have walked with me, and I will look forward with anticipation and excitement to my next adventures.
You know I have ninety-two billion other things to tell you, and so for now, all I will say is thank you for helping me prepare for 39. Thank you for helping me clear my head and my heart.
Susannah

God’s Promise of a Blessing

God’s Promise of a Blessing

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Questions to Ponder-

What does it mean to be blessed by God? We use the word blessing and blessed often without thinking about them. Does God bless some of us and curse others? Does a blessing from God for me mean that you are in need? How does the way we use blessing differ from how it is used in this passage from Matthew?
Where is the blessing in the words from Paul? How would you define righteousness? How would you define sanctification? How would you define redemption?
Orthodox Icon from World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo credit to Rev. Kristi Foster. I, too, was on the trip, but Kristi took better photographs.

Flowery White Pekoe

This tea has a brief mention in the former post, My Favorite Tea Shop. I think this tea needs its own blog post because it is so good. For much of the Fall my husband has been drinking this tea after we ran out of his favorite tea. While my love of teas is wide and far ranging, he has a much narrower group of teas that he loves. He enjoys certain green teas and a few white teas. This tea makes his list of favorites. When I asked him what he liked about it, he said, “It tastes good.”

Flowery White Pekoe brews up almost clear. It smells of just the right amount of flowers. It doesn’t overwhelm you with the smell or the taste. The taste is comfortable and clean. Despite being a flowery white tea, this tea can be enjoyed in all seasons. It doesn’t taste like a summer tea. When you visit McNulty’s, purchase some Flowery White Pekoe. It will not disappoint!