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.
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.
After a very busy couple of weeks, I tagged along to a conference my husband is attending in DC. I am sitting on a comfy sofa with my feet up watching the Olympics and enjoying a cup of Tazo Zen. It is smooth and calming. This is an easy to drink tea. It is described as, “A harmonious blend of green tea with lemongrass and spearmint.” When life is overwhelming, I recommend holding a cup of this tea in your hands. Let the cup warm you. Let the smells and steam rise up. Take a sip and drink in the relaxation. Enjoy!
As you read this, I am nearing the end of our week long mission trip. I have spent the week working, learning, sharing God’s love, and living among the people of Atlanta and my youth. I’d love to say I prepared for this week by spending the week before resting and relaxing. The morning I wrote this I fixed myself a cup of tea and breakfast. I moved to a quiet place in my house to write a thoughtful piece on the importance of silence and quiet time with God. And then my awesome niece came into the dining room watching a you tube video on her Dad’s phone and shooting me with a Star Wars toy. So, I threw my plans out the window to spend time with my niece and realized that this is great preparation for the mission trip. I spent months planning the mission trip. I know it isn’t going to work out exactly as I planned. I can either be mad that things are going the way I planned or be flexible and look for God working in my life.
My paternal grandmother died in 2013. She taught me about love and faith in the way she lived and the words she said. I have wonderful memories of time we spent together. I miss her. A few weeks ago as I was spending time with my family, I discovered my sister is telling her daughter stories about our Grandma. She is teaching her daughter words and phrases our Grandma said. She is passing her memories on to the next generation.
We are all called to do this. Instead of worrying about the demise of the church, share your faith story and share our faith stories. Pass what is most important to you on to the next generation. This is our joy and our calling.
Faithful God, From generation to generation, you loved us. Thank you for our ancestors in the faith who shared your love with the next generation. Thank you for older generations who told us stories about you. Thank you for children who learn and who teach us. Thank you for your faithful love and mercy through the generations. Remind us how much we love to hear and tell your story. Amen.
A major focus of my ministry is building relationships and one way I have seen this work across generations is through mission trip prayer partners. The concept is easy. Connect each mission trip participant with someone who is not going on the trip and who will pray for him or her during the trip. I like to add a little extra to it by asking the stay at home partner to write a letter or card which I give to the mission tripper while we are away. Everyone loves mail, and handwritten cards are in short supply these days. Also, I have the mission trippers write and mail postcards back home to their partners.
Here’s a request from me (someone who has struggled to find enough prayer partners to make this happen). If you hear an announcement like this at your church, sign up for it. Step out of your comfort zone and pray for someone else. Write a card to a youth or adult you don’t know. By participating in this ministry you are developing and strengthening relationships that are vital to your church. All I’m saying is give it a chance.
I’ll tell you how I do this in case you’d like to make it happen at your church.
What You’ll Need–
One Prayer Partner for Each Mission Trip Participant
One Postcard, Stamp, and Address for Each Stay at Home Partner
Patience, Perseverance, and Prayer to Make It All Come Together
Months before the mission trip-start asking for prayer partners. Put your request in the bulletin, newsletter, on a bulletin board, send it to your boards/committees, and email or talk with people who you’d like to participate.
Here’s my announcement (which has been running for about 2 months).
Find a time on the mission trip to share the cards and write the postcards. I recommend at least halfway through the trip. Mail the postcards while you are still on the trip, if possible.
Extra Credit-Find a time after your return for the prayer partners to get together in person. This is a great way to strengthen the relationship!
Yesterday morning I attempted to worship with a local congregation. I say attempted because they are on a summer schedule and worship began at 10:30. Since I arrived at 11am, I decided not to go in. I checked worship times at other local churches and saw they all started at 10am. Lesson learned-double check worship time. As an alternative, I wrote this brief worship liturgy for those times we don’t make it to worship for any reason. Enjoy!
Opening Words-Good morning, God! It is a beautiful day that you have created and I want to thank you for it. Thank you for waking me up! Thank you for your creativity which shines through creation. Thank you for this time to pause and worship you.
A Song to Sing- Morning Has Broken
Prayer-Loving God, I find myself here today worshiping you. As I pray today, I give thanks for the communities of faith that gather around the world where your good news is shared. I give thanks for communities where others see and experience your love. I ask that you continue to speak through all those preaching today. Faithful God, I give thanks and praise for the people in my life who have nurtured my faith throughout my lifetime. Thank you for the teachers, preachers, nursery workers, Vacation Bible School helpers, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, grandparents, parents, siblings, choir members, youth leaders, youth, friends, church friends, and everyone else who has supported me on my faith journey. For all these people, I give thanks to you, O God! Open my eyes to the ones I meet who will tell me and show me how to follow you. In your holy name I pray. Amen.
Scripture Reading-Lamentations 3:21-25
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
Reflection on the Word-Reread the Scripture passage and think or chat about these questions.
Where do you find hope?
What does God’s steadfast love look like in your life?
When has God been merciful to you?
What are your thoughts on morning? Is it a time of renewal and new possibilities? If not, might this Scripture change your mind?
How do we seek God? How do we wait for God?
What other questions do you have about this passage?
A Song to Sing-Great is Thy Faithfulness
Benediction-Know you are loved. Know that God’s mercy and grace are always available. Feel the Holy Spirit with you wherever you go. Follow Jesus as he challenges and encourages you in discipleship. Live in peace. Amen.
This morning I enjoyed the last tea from the Thistle Farms gift pack. Green tea is not my first choice of teas which might be why I left it for last. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Gunpowder Green Blend. It was very subtle and easy to drink. Thistle Farms describes it this way, “Green tea, orange peel, and ginger root. Fair trade and organic. Delicious blend aids in digestion.” I’d recommend this for the green tea lovers in your life. This tea is blended and created by Positiffitea.
We all have things we’d rather not do. My list includes dusting, washing windows, folding laundry, mowing the grass, running, and many others. At the very top of my list is packing! And at this very moment I am typing this I should be packing for a trip. By the time you read this, I will be celebrating the birthday of a very special five-year old. In order to do this, I need to pack tonight. In fact, right now would be a good time to pack. And I’m avoiding doing it. To tell the truth, I’m not the best packer. I make lists and take way too much. I go without my list and forget very important things. I believe we all have gifts and I acknowledge that packing is not one of mine. Sometimes I let my husband pack what I pick out, and that always results in half the stuff I think I need not making it into the suitcase. I’m not sure when I began to dislike packing so much. I know that I avoid packing until it can no longer be avoided. So I thought what if I wrote myself a prayer to use when I have to do something I don’t want to do. Maybe it would help me pack, and if I shared it maybe it would help others complete a task they think is terrible. So the next time you are faced with a task you’d rather avoid, try this prayer and see if it helps!
God, It’s me. You know I don’t want to do what needs to be done. I’ve convinced myself I’m not good at it. I’ve avoided this for too long and just need to do it. Help me, please! Move my feet in the right direction. Guide my movements and make them quick, so I can get this over with as soon as possible. Patient God, there are too many other things I’d rather do at this moment. Maybe if I take a quick break. No! God, Keep me on track! Help me to finish this task that I am dreading. With your help, Loving God, I can finish this task. Give me strength. Grant me perseverance. Let this be done soon. Amen.
Summer is an interesting time in the church. Some people think we should do everything the same year round. Some people think the church should take it easier since so many people are away and volunteers want a break. Each church handles summer differently. A few years ago, I wanted to offer the congregation a way to stay connected and remember that each of us is an important part of our church family whether we are in worship each week or not. This idea was based on the concept of Flat Stanley which some churches changed to Flat Jesus. I wanted to do something a little different and so I used a picture the youth had created as sand art that featured the church’s initials.
Here’s how we took the church with us-
Everyone is invited to take an StG picture with you when you leave worship today. Wherever you find yourself this summer, snap a picture while holding the picture of the church name. Send your picture back to the church office and let us know where you are. You might find yourself in the newsletter or featured on the screen before worship. Know that wherever you go this summer, you are loved. Share that love with everyone you meet.
It is as simple as finding a picture that is meaningful to your congregation, getting many copies made (I found that only about half of the people in worship took a picture with them and I got the pictures copied at my local Walgreens when they were having a super sale), announcing the summer project, and sharing the pictures. While it might be too late to try this project this year, it doesn’t have to only happen in the summer. In September, you could ask kids or youth to do this when they visit a favorite spot near home or when they are doing a favorite activity. It could be a great way to get to know new youth and children in your church. It can also be a whole family project. The opportunities are limitless. The point is to remind people they are part of the church even when they aren’t in the church building and to help us get to know each other better. Have fun and I’d love to see how you use this idea as a springboard in your context.