Worship Words-Prayer using 1 John 4:11


God, you taught us to love by first loving us and today as we join together in prayer-we will pray for others.

God,we pray for your children we hear about on the news. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for those living in the public eye-our elected officials, famous people, others who fascinate us. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for your children living around the world. People we will never meet. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for our classmates and colleagues. They are the people we see regularly. Some we know well and others we don’t. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for your children who we overlook. People who are in prison or struggling to find a job after being released. People who are underemployed or homeless. People who seek safety and security after being denied it. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for our neighbors. They are the ones who live closest to us. We wave as we pass by. We may even say hi over the fence. Do we invite them into our home? We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for our friends and family. These are the people we know the best. We pray that our relationships are ones of honesty, love, and compassion. And yet, we never know their whole story but you do.

God, we want to live out these words from 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another.” So open our eyes to your children today. Open our hearts to your children reaching out to us today. For your love, Gracious God, we give you thanks. Amen.

Book Review-Tiny Beautiful Things

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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar Cheryl Strayed

This book is not the typical book that I share with you. It is filled with strong language and lots of talk about sex and sexual abuse. And the author states that she doesn’t believe in God. None of these things make this a bad book, in fact, I enjoyed this book. And what surprised me while I was reading it was how much sacredness was present in this book.

This book is a collection of emails sent to Dear Sugar who “gave advice” on TheRumpus.net. This was not your typical advice column. Dear Sugar shared her own triumphs and failures in her answers. She rarely tells the questioner what to do. With wisdom and compassion and the occasional kick in the backside, Dear Sugar helps most of her readers realize they knew what they needed to do before they even asked. They needed affirmation that what they felt inside was the right thing for them to do. She answers letters about miscarriages, and marriages that didn’t work, love triangles, betrayals, grief, life not happening as planned, and money.

I would recommend this book for people who don’t mind watching R-rated movies. This book has too much “foul” language for some people I know.  I would recommend this book if you are ready to cry, laugh, and squirm in your reading chair as you read about people who are just like you and not exactly like you too.

And although she doesn’t believe in God, she has answers like this one where you can clearly see that she has grappled with the existence and nature of God. “Countless people have been devastated for reasons that cannot be explained or justified in spiritual terms. To do as you are doing in asking If there was a God, why would he let my little girl have to have the possibility of life-threatening surgery?–understandable as that question is–creates a false hierarchy of the blessed and the damned. To use our individual good or bad luck as a litmus test to determine whether or not God exists constructs an illogical dichotomy that reduces our capacity for true compassion. It implies a pious quid pro quo that defies history, reality, ethics, and reason. It fails to acknowledge that the other half of rising–the very half that makes rising necessary–is having first been nailed to the cross” (145).

“I supposed this is what I mean when I say we cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means, so that when the ordinary miraculous is revealed to us we will be there, standing before the baby girl in the pretty dress, grateful for the smallest things” (323).

White Chocolate Obsession

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Recently, a friend and I shared this tea together. It smells delicious when you open the envelope and sniff the tea bag. It smells delicious when it is steeping. Sadly, the smell and taste are not the same. It is not the worst tea I’ve ever tasted and yet I kindly refused my friend’s offer of a second cup of tea. She also declined a second cup of tea. This tea leaves you with a bitter aftertaste that stays with you for a long time. Also, I didn’t taste much chocolate mostly just bitterness. I cannot recommend this tea. If anyone has tried this tea and likes it, let me know your secret to enjoying this tea.

Worship Words-Prayer for Illumination (Good Shepherd)


Good Shepherd,

Open our hearts as we open your book today. Help these ancient words to be made new in our lives. May the Good Shepherd be real for us today. We trust you. Speak our names and we will follow where you lead. Amen.

As I heard these words and these words, I see the story come to life in the Joy Journeys classroom at St. Giles. Using Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman’s book, Young Children in Worship, stories like the Good Shepherd are told weekly to some very special children. And after years of hearing the stories and seeing how the stories lived in the children, youth, and adults who heard and told the stories, I see the Scripture when it is read. Of course, the sheep followed and trusted the Shepherd-he kept them from danger, found them cool water and green grass, and knew them by name. In Joy Journeys, ancient stories became new again and I wanted to be a sheep following the Good Shepherd.

Book Review-The 6 Marks of Progressive Worship Music

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The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music Bryan Sirchio

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-5

As a youth, I went to multiple Bryan Sirchio concerts in neighboring churches. So his name has been familiar to me for decades. A few years ago, a congregation member asked me about this book, and I wholeheartedly recommended it to her based only on knowing that Bryan Sirchio wrote the book. Finally, I have read it and now I can recommend based on the book.

Music is very important to many people in the church. In this book, Bryan Sirchio takes a reverent look at how to select music for worship. He looks at this thoughtfully, theologically, and faithfully. His book is easily readable and would be a great discussion starter in a church with music questions. It would also be a good book for anyone wondering how to be more intentional about music selection for worship. He doesn’t provide the answers. He provides the framework for each church to discern its own answers. And that truly is a gift!

This book is divided into 3 sections. Section 1 is the essential features of progressive worship music.

The 6 Marks-

1-An Emphasis on Praise, Justice, and the Fullness of Human Experience

2-Inclusive Language

3-Progressive Theology

4-An Emphasis on both the Individual and the Community

5-Emotional Authenticity

6-Fresh Images, Ideas, and Language

Section 2 is entitled “Worship, Songs, and Ego Work”. This section of the book tackles issues like what is worship, musical styles, and performance.

Section 3 is entitled “The Bible and More about Progressive Theology.” This is a great section for anyone that wants more information about the biblical basis for progressive theology and all the marks mentioned earlier.

Who should read this book? Anyone who cares about music in the church should read this book. I highly recommend this book to pastors, musicians, worship planning teams, and seminarians. This book would work well as a discussion starter for a small group in your church. If your council or session is brave enough to tackle the world of music in the church, this is a great starting point. Each chapter ends with discussion questions which make this an easy to discuss book! This book is accessible and easy to read and anyone can do it!

Worship “helps us to find ourselves once again inside of God’s greater Story, instead of trying to somehow make God fit within the confines of our smaller stories” (92).

“I’m convinced that congregations grow in healthy ways not because of the style with which they worship, but because the church is helping people to experience God’s transforming and healing Love” (110).

“But it’s precisely because we can be wrong, even when it comes to positions we hold passionately, that we need to do our own wrestling and questioning of Scripture together with other people who also love God, who doesn’t always agree with us, and who can challenge us and keep us honest and open” (145).


Worship Words-Psalm 4 as a Confession

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Today’s call to confession, prayer of confession, and assurance of God’s forgiveness come mostly from Psalm 4. I am putting the words of Psalm for in italics and words that I have added are not.

Let us be called to a time of confession-Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? God, too often, we say the wrong thing and spend our time on things that do not honor you. Forgive us, we ask.

But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. We take great comfort in knowing that you hear the honest prayers of hearts.

When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. The psalmist is right that we need more silence in this world. For all the times when we said too much and should have listened, we ask for forgiveness. And now we come to you in a time of silent prayer listening for your voice. (time of silence).

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”

Our time of confession gives us the opportunity to place a priority on our relationships with God and each other. Even though our confession has ended and we are about to hear a reminder of God’s unfailing love, keep these words of confession in your hearts so we may all see each other as loved and worthy of forgiveness. You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. Amen.

Book Review-Carry On Warrior

photo 2-30Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed
Glennon Doyle Melton

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3


This book came highly recommended from a number of my colleagues, and it did not disappoint me. Her honesty and her faith shine through on each page. She has wrestled with faith and that comes out not because she knows all the answers but because she is living in the questions. This book was easy to read not because she wrote about easy things-it was easy to read because I liked her and was rooting for her. This book will make you laugh and cry. Maybe don’t read it on an airplane like I did. If you enjoy stories, give this book a try.

I love books that help me see things better-books that clarify through a story or explanation. This book brought God a little more into focus for me. Without explaining God, she made God seem a little closer and more involved in my life. And I am thankful for that gift she gave me.

As I said, I was impressed by her honesty.  It is refreshing because it seems so rare despite all the books that claim to tell all. You’ll quickly realize that there is much more to this woman than you expect or guess. In one story, she tells about her inability to volunteer because she has a criminal record. It saddens me that she couldn’t volunteer because of her record. I’m wondering how do we keep people safe while still allowing people to share their gifts?

In the story, Smelly Coughy Guy, she ponders peace. And this made me wonder what is peace? What does peace look like in my life? Am I so busy looking for a perfect version of peace that I miss peace as it exists within me?

So who needs to read this book? I needed to read it. Maybe you do too. If you need some inspiration and encouragement to see God in the everyday, you should read this book. If you appreciate honesty, you should read this book. If you enjoy short chapters, you should read this book. If you like books where you are invited to journey alongside someone else for awhile, then you should read this book.

“It hit me that maybe the battles of life are best fought without armor and without weapons. That maybe life gets real, good, and interesting when we remove all of the layers of protection we’ve built around our hearts and walk out onto the battlefield of life naked” (4).

“I like to compare God’s love to the sunrise. That sun shows up every morning, no matter how bad you’ve been the night before. It shines without judgment. It never withholds. It warms the sinners, the saints, the druggies, the cheerleaders–the saved and the heathens alike. You can hide from the sun, but it won’t take it personally. It’ll never, ever punish you for hiding. You can stay in the dark for years or decades, and when you finally step outside, it’ll be there. It was there the whole time, shining and shining. It’ll still be there steady and bright as ever, just waiting for you to notice, to come out, to be warmed. All those years, I thought of God and light and the sun as judgmental, but they weren’t. The sunrise was my daily invitation from God to come back to life” (19).

“Maybe because other people are the closest we get to God on this side. So when we use them to find God in each other, we become holy” (21).

She made me wonder-what God-given gifts have you been hiding that need to be shared with the world? She said, “If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself” (25).

“Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They’re sacred. They are part of each person’s journey” (49).

Repentance is a fancy word used often in Christian circles. I don’t use fancy religious words, because I don’t think they explain themselves well. Also, fancy language tends to make in people feel more in and out  people feel more out, and I don’t think that’s how words are best used. Words are best used to describe specific feelings, ideas, and hearts as clearly as possible–to make the speaker and the listener, or the writer and the reader, feel less alone and more hopeful” (85).

“I don’t believe in advice. Everybody has the answers right inside her, since we’re all made up of the same amount of God. So when a friend says, I need some advice, I switch it to, I need some love, and I try to offer that. Offering love usually looks like being quiet, listening hard, and letting my friend talk until she discovers that she already has the answer” (117).

She shared how she takes time each night to talk with her child about any sadness or worries he had during the day. “I think this worry talk is a ritual worth keeping. Because if we empty our hearts every night, they won’t get too heavy or cluttered. Our hearts will stay light and open with lots of room for good new things to come” (135).

“Much of the Bible is confusing, but the most important parts aren’t. Sometimes I wonder if folks keep arguing about the confusing parts so they don’t have to get started doing the simple parts” (141).

“Being a child of God is a free pass to be brave and bold and take great risks and spin around in circles with joy. If and when I fall, who cares? He will always be there to pick me up. That’s his job. He’s my Father. So if I seem noncompetitive, if I seem as if I don’t care if I’m the “best” parent or housekeeper or dresser or whathaveyou, it’s not because I don’t care about being important. It’s because I believe I am the most important thing on earth. Why would I care about competing in any other category when I am already a child of God?” (175).

“So many of us spend our time trying to find God in books, but maybe the simplest way to God is directly through the hearts of his children” (189).

Even if you never read this book, I do hope you’ll always remember-  “Be confident because you are a child of God. Be humble because everyone else is too” (176).


Pomegranate White Tea

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I am ready to switch from my winter teas to my summer teas. Today’s weather is rainy and chilly, so I went with a fun tea that I drink year round. This is another tea from Trader Joe’s. It is their Pomegranate White Tea. I like that you can taste the pomegranate in this tea. For me, it is an all seasons tea because it isn’t too heavy nor too sweet. I’m enjoying a cup of this today in the midst of this Spring-time rainy day.

Worship Words-Call to Worship


One- Peace be with you!

All-Peace be with you!

One-Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.

All-Blessed are those who have seen and believe.

One-Blessed are you when your belief in God is strong.

All-Blessed are you when all seems lost and you have nothing left but to believe.

One-Blessed are you in your doubts, fears, and certainties.

All-Peace be with you!

One-Peace be with you!

This call to worship was inspired by Sunday’s gospel reading from John.

Worship Words from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time in San Diego. I highly recommend everyone take a trip to San Diego. The weather was wonderful. It is a very walkable city. It is also a heartbreaking city with so many homeless sleeping on the sidewalks and asking for money. While I was there a tour I took and a friend I met up with both recommended that I stroll down the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade. After taking this walk, I recommend this to anyone who visits San Diego.

Along the sides of the paved walkway are quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

photo 3-25“I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one…should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth, and your own somebodiness…always feel that you count. always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”

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“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich…As long as diseases are rampant…I can never be totally healthy…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

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 “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgement. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”


And my favorite part (a huge thank you to my friends for sharing the secrets of this place with me) is the labyrinth. Although the city calls it a hedge maze, there is only one way to enter and one way to exit which means I’ll be calling it a labyrinth. If you look closely as you walk through the labyrinth, you’ll see suggestions for changes you might make in your life. You’ll be asked to shed the cloak of things that are hurting yourself and other, and you’ll be asked to don the cloak of behaviors and attitudes that remind us to love each other. I will include these words at the end of the post as a closing prayer or benediction. As you reach the sculpture in the center, you’ll see beautiful shininess inside of the sculpture placed there. Be sure to spend a few minutes looks for the words hidden on the sculpture. And then you can go back the way you came in. Hopefully, you’ll remember to shed what needs to be shed and don what needs to be donned.


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Shedding the cloak of oppression and Donning the cloak of recognition.

Shedding the cloak of fear and Donning the cloak of trust.

Shedding the cloak of prejudice and Donning the cloak of respect.

Shedding the cloak of malice and Donning the cloak of compassion.

Shedding the cloak of bitterness and Donning the cloak of forgiveness.

Shedding the cloak of despair and Donning the cloak of hope.

Shedding the cloak of weariness and Donning the cloak of courage.

Shedding the cloak of ignorance and Donning the cloak of wisdom.

Shedding the cloak of darkness and Donning the cloak of light.