Worship Words-Finding Balance


In 2006, I traveled with clergy from the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ to San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico for an education mission trip. For ten days, we learned from people and organizations working and living in this part of the world. While tidying my house as part of the KonMari method, I found notes I took on this trip.


Thursday 25 July 2006 Bible Study with Doris

Jeremiah 2: 14-19 and Isaiah 65: 20-25

How can one find balance? Balance doesn’t have to be a daily thing. You can’t have balance everyday. The goal is to have balance in God’s time. At time you need to be prophetic (like Jeremiah) and at other times you need to comfort (like Isaiah). What is God telling you to do now? The balance comes overall not daily.


These words from 9 years ago were new to me when I read them recently. I found affirmation and inspiration in the idea that to achieve balance does not mean we need to be all things in every moment. In God’s time and overall in our lives, we can strive for balance. At times, we will need to comfort those in need. At times, we will need to stand up and speak out for each other. At times, we will need to rest and renew ourselves. What a welcome message for our over-scheduled culture. God is not calling you to do everything now. God is calling you seek a balance overall about how you are living in the world.


Creating God, You didn’t create the whole world in one day. Why do we think we need to do everything in one day? Be with us as we seek to find balance in the way we live as your disciples. Give us a spirit of justice and compassion. Challenge us and soothe our hurts. Open our eyes to the beauty of your creation and the ways we are ruining it. Balance us, O God, for this journey is long. Amen.



Book Review-But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race

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But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race Bruce Reyes-Chow

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3

I was inspired to read this book because of conversations about race happening with my colleagues in the Young Clergy Women Project. I am glad I read this book and think it leads itself to being read with a group to inspire conversations about a topic that needs to be discussed. This book will not take you long to read. Putting into actions the suggestions in this book will require energy, time, trial and error, and space for forgiveness. It is good, hard work that we must do.


Here are some things I learned and found thought provoking-

While it may seem helpful to say something like “I don’t see you as Asian. I see you as a human being.” The intent behind a statement like this is we are all humans and I see you as one too. Statements like this can be hurtful because we may be overlooking someone’s “Asianness” (discounting a part of who they are). Instead Bruce asks us to “please do see that I am Asian and take the time to explore the nuances of that reality” (78-79).

Ask the question you want someone to answer. “If you would like to know someone’s ethnic background, ask them, “So, what’s your ethnic background?” and if you want to know their hometown, ask them, “So what is your hometown?” But please don’t ask, “Where are you from?” (85). The problem with asking where someone is from is that the answer may be here. The person you are asking may have been born here in this country and you may have assumed that he or she was born in another country simply because of her/his race. Where are you from has also been used as a way to say go back where you came from which is hard for someone who is from here.

In Chapter 7, “Don’t Be So Sensitive”, Bruce encourages us to stop saying this to each other. These conversations we are called to have are difficult. Emotions will come to the surface. It is okay to be sensitive and emotional. It is okay to listen to each other’s stories in whatever ways we are able to tell them.

What can we do? Although the author directs these comments at the generation younger than his, I think they can apply to any of us who want to engage this issue. “I hope young people will embrace the past and hold onto the hope that the United States can achieve even greater racial harmony. And second, as they nurture this hope into being, I implore them not to abdicate their responsibility to monitor and respond to the ongoing racial discrimination that is going on around us all” (113-114). [Read more…]

Do Re Tea

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When I’m traveling, I love checking out local tea shops. Last December when I was in Anaheim, California, I stopped by Zama Tea. Their location in the Anaheim Packing District is a fancy kiosk. They had a wide variety of teas available. I picked Do Re Tea because it has a great name and I liked the cherry smell. When I opened the bag to make a cup recently, I was surprised how by the strong cherry smell wafting up from my bag of tea. With a smell like that before brewing, I was concerned the cherry taste was going to be too sweet like a fake cherry flavoring. After steeping my tea for 4 minutes, I had a lovely deep red tea that had hints of cherry with hardly any smell at all. It was a smooth, delicious tea. I would gladly share this tea with my friends!

Worship Words-A Benediction

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May love rain down on us, so we know why God calls us beloved.

May challenges and questions fill our days, so we know the Spirit of Wisdom and Creativity who walks with us.

May many opportunities to see Jesus in each other arise, so we practice compassion, justice, and mercy as Jesus did.

Go out into God’s world knowing you are never alone and always loved. Amen.


This benediction was published on liturgylink on August 20, 2015.

Book Review-My Baptism Book

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My Baptism Book Sophie Piper and Dubravka Kolanovic

I love baptisms. I love baptizing someone and watching the water drip down their forehead and sometimes their face. I love seeing someone be baptized and saying the baptismal promises out loud with all those witnessing the baptism. I love seeing pictures of people’s baptisms.

Four years ago, I was watched as my Dad baptized my niece, Ella Marie. I participated in her baptism by making promises as one of her godmothers. It is a very special memory for me. One of the gifts we gave her is her own copy of My Baptism Book. This is my favorite baptism gift. On these pages you’ll find Scripture readings in kid-friendly language, prayers and wise words from our ancestors in the faith and wise people of today. You’ll see beautiful artwork. You’ll read many names for God. Whatever your age, this book will remind you that you are a beloved child of God. I highly recommend this book as a gift for others and a gift for yourself.


A Prayer for Back to School

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Back to school time is fast approaching where I live. In churches, this time of year (often) means a return to regular schedules. Any group that takes a break for the summer is getting ready to start again. When I think about the children and youth of the church, I am always aware of our responsibilities to them. We promise in the baptismal covenant with these words.

“Do you, who witness and celebrate this sacrament, promise your love, support and care to the one about to be baptized as he/she lives and grows in Christ?

Congregational Response- We promise our love, support, and care.”

(United Church of Christ Book of Worship, 139).

We promise in our Safe Sanctuary covenant to protect our children and youth as we help them live into the baptismal promises. As the new school and program year begins, I think churches should welcome and celebrate this time of year, and we can do that by sharing this prayer.

One-I’d like to invite all of our children and youth to please come up front. If you would sit or stand facing the congregation. We’d like you to be able to see all those adults out there.

(after the children and youth are up front)

Today, we are going to pray for you as summer ends and a new year of school and church begins. You may have already started back to school or may not be in school yet. You may be changing to a new Sunday School class or starting youth group for the first time this year. As so many things in our lives change, some things do not change. All of those people out there have promised to help you grow and know God loves you.

I invite the teachers to stand. Anyone who teaches here at church, youth group leaders, and teachers in our schools please stand.

Teachers-Dear God, we surround these children and youth with our love and support for the coming year. Give them a spirit of curiosity. Give them time to play and learn outside in your creation. Give them a sense of wonder at how much they know and how much there is to learn. Give all of us who teach a spirit of compassion as we journey with our students. Amen.

One-Teachers remain standing. Parents and guardians please stand.

Parents and Guardians-Loving God, give us patience on hard days. Remind us you love our children even more than we do. Give our kids a spirit of kindness in a world that isn’t always kind. Give our kids strength to stand up for what is right. May they always know how much you love them and we love them. Amen.

One-Parents, guardians, and teachers keep standing. Now, I invite the rest of the congregation and any of our guest to stand.

All-God, remind us of the promises we made to protect and love these children and youth. Help us to live those promises daily. Bless all these children and youth that they may know your love and share it with others. We promise to keep these children safe, give them opportunities to know you, and involve them in the life of the church with God’s help. Amen.

One-Look out at all those people who love you and have prayed for you. I hope you will remember how much your church family loves you and how much God loves you as we start a new year together.  

Book Review-A Song to Sing, A Life to Live

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A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice

Don Saliers and Emily Saliers

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3

I purchased this book years ago at the recommendation of a dear friend. She knew I love the Indigo Girls and thought I’d enjoy a book co-written by one of them. She was correct. This book seeks to break down the barriers between Saturday night (secular) music and Sunday morning (sacred) music. Emily represents the Saturday night side and Don (her father) represents the Sunday morning side because he is an organist, choirmaster, and professor of theology and worship. While it might seem that their musical styles are at odds, there are so many intersections and places of harmony found in their shared love of music. I enjoyed this book because I love music, and I strongly believe we need to break down the barriers between what is sacred and what is secular. Because God is everywhere and working in us all, everything can be sacred and everyone is a beloved child of God.

In this book, they tackle the difficult issue of music in churches. Their answer to the music wars (happening still in too many churches) is to listen to each other and be open to what you might hear in music you don’t yet appreciate.

Chapter 7, “Singing Our Sorrows” was my favorite chapter. Using music when one is grieving is a way to express one’s feelings when words often fail. I recommend the practice of planning one’s own funeral. Also, I recommend family members doing, saying, and singing what is meaningful to them when a loved one has died. A gift to me was hearing the backstory on songs I love. In this chapter, Emily talked about writing “She’s Saving Me” after her sister died. Without knowing this story, I have found this song comforting while grieving the death of a friend (and fellow Indigo Girls fan).

As I read this book, I was reminded of how music speaks to me and reminds me of times, places, and people I love. I must admit that I resonated with the songs they shared. I loved that I knew the hymns they mentioned and the Indigo Girls songs shared. For me, all of these songs are part of the songs of my life. Because so many of the songs were familiar, I may have enjoyed the book more than others might.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes to think deeply about music. I recommend this book to everyone who loves the Indigo Girls. I recommend this book to anyone who sees a divide between sacred music and secular music. This book will challenge that view.

Who are they writing for? “This book is for anyone who once took piano lessons and wishes now they hadn’t quit. It is for those who sing with their communities of faith but who are confused by secular music, and it is for those outside faith communities who wonder whether there is anything true in the songs of organized faith traditions. It is also for anyone who has sung around a campfire, tried to play the French horn, or been captivated by African or Asian drumming. This book is our yes to your musical memories and to your musical future. We offer it as an invitation to embrace a broader, deeper vision of the power and role of music in human life–and especially to embrace the spiritual and religious dimensions of attentive listening, collaborative music making, and honest thinking” (xvi).

“Music, we keep saying, is some kind of mysterious mediator between us and the God we seek” (5).
“Even some who have read the Bible all their lives are surprised to learn that there are more psalms of lament than any other kind of psalms, including those that offer thanks and praise to God. Perhaps we aren’t ready to notice them before we need them. The psalms of lament seem to lie in wait for us, ready to provide language when we are visited by pain and suffering” (125).

If this inspired you to check out the Indigo Girls, here is their song, “She’s Saving Me“.

Today’s photo was taken in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. I enjoy reading in beautiful places like this. I highly recommend visiting the Library of Congress and its Main Reading Room the next time you are in DC. Visiting the library is free and available to anyone. It is free to visit the reading rooms after you obtain a reader identification card.

Cold Brew Tea Experiment





After seeing a big display of cold brew tea bags in the grocery store last week, I decided to do some research about the difference between a cold brew vs regular tea. I learned a cold brew tea is ground up to very small bits while your regular tea bag is not as finely ground. The cold brew bags tell me I can add cold water and simply let it steep for 2-4 minutes and have a delicious cup of cold tea. Well, I didn’t want to buy a new tea when I have so many at home, so I put a bag of Pomegranate White Tea into some cold water and in about 3 minutes I had delicious pink colored water.

After some researching, I found that regular tea bags work well for cold brew tea if they are left in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. So, I tried China White Tea from McNulty’s and Wild Sweet Orange. This time I used two tea bags each with about 2 cups of water.

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Here are the results. China White Tea is on the left and Wild Sweet Orange is on the right. While they both look good, the China White Tea was very bitter, pretty much undrinkable. The Wild Sweet Orange was tasty. I am enjoying it while sharing this review.

My recommendation is give cold brewing a try with your favorite tea. Why not? If it doesn’t work out the way you like the first time, call it an experiment and try again.

If you decide to give cold brewing a try, I found this to be a helpful place for information.

A Prayer for All Who Love Us

God, You said it wasn’t good for us to be alone. You called us to be in relationship. Today, Loving God, we would like to give thanks for those who love us. We are not perfect. We are not always easy to love. We forget birthdays. We are late to lunch with friends. We change plans at the last minute. We think we are too busy to listen. We do not want to ask for help or seem vulnerable.

God, you call us to be in relationship, and we thank you for our friends, colleagues, and family who forgive our mistakes and love us anyway. We thank you for our church family who know you call us beloved and treats us as your beloved children. We thank you for friends who answer the phone at 2am and rush to sit with us at the hospital. We thank you for family who remember when we were young and see us as we are today.

Increase our awareness of how much we gain from knowing each other. Faithful God, we thank you for everyone who journeys with us. Amen.

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Book Review-The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondo


I read this book very quickly. The hard part of this book is putting into action what you have read. That has taken awhile to implement. Truthfully, I wanted to wait until I had completed my whole house tidying before sharing this review. I’m not done yet, but I have made some great progress.

Like many other people I know, I have always had more things that I needed. And with two moves in the past year, I was aware of how much stuff I owned. This book empowered me to tackle and discard my stuff. If you are never going to read the book, I will sum it up for you very quickly. You are asked to hold up each item that you own and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If the answer is no, you get rid of the item. If the item sparks joy for you, keep it.

If you are intrigued and wondering how to go about this, read on.

Visualize Your Destination-

Ask yourself, “What do you hope to gain through tidying?” (36).

“Think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space” (36).

“The whole point in both discarding and keeping things is to be happy” (38).

How to decide what to discard-

“Take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it” (41).

“Keep only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle” (42).

A key to her method is sorting by category not location. Her best order for doing the sorting is clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and momentos. To utilize her method, you must bring all your items from one category together for sorting. She recommends the living floor. I found my bed to be a great location for sorting. I had to finish by the end of the day if I wanted a good night’s sleep!

Now, you might wonder what if the people I live with aren’t interested in participating in this tidying project? “To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way of dealing with a family that doesn’t tidy” (52).

As I said, we have not completed the project yet. We have made great progress.

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When you take everything you own out of drawers, shelves, hangers, etc., you will be amazed at how much you own. Our shirts covered our king sized bed! The bottom two pictures are the get rid of piles for us. [Read more…]