Worship Words-A Prayer for Beginnings, Endings, and All the Times in Between


One year ago, I was saying good-bye to the people with whom I had prayed, laughed, cried, grieved, grown, learned, eaten, worshiped, meetinged, retreated, camped, sang, holidayed, and worked for seven years. Seven years is a long time in ministry. New babies were born who were in elementary school by the time I left. Young children had entered the youth program. Those who started the youth program with me had moved onto college. Relationships changed as some people met and fell in love. Some people married and some people divorced. Some people who loved the church died and we grieved together and we remember them. Wonderful new people joined the church in those seven years. And some people left too. So much happened in those seven years.

Today, I’m preparing for a beginning. Starting on October 1, I will be the Director of Cooperative Youth Ministry at Christ Congregational Church (UCC) and Takoma Park Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). I’m looking forward to this new opportunity and the many possibilities ahead. I’m excited to focus my energy on youth! I’m ready to plan mission trips, Sunday night gatherings, retreats, and so much more.

Whenever I think of endings and beginning this quote from Hope Floats also comes to mind. “Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will, too…”

I know that most of life is the ordinary or in between time, and yet today I’m thinking about how both endings and beginnings are an important part of our journey too.

Let us pray-

God of beginnings, endings, and all the times in between, I wonder what you were thinking as you created all that we know. Beginning are scary and exciting because a big blank space of possibility is before us. In moments of beginning, remind us we are your beloved and even if we fail you love us still.

Faithful God, Endings are hard. It hurts to say good-bye to those we love. We grieve endings. Let us grieve, Loving God, for some endings are forever and others were necessary. In moments of ending, remind us we are your beloved and even as our hearts break you love us still.

Eternal God, Much of our lives are the times in between-going to school or work or having nowhere to go, wondering what to eat for our next meal, paying bills, doing homework…In the midst of the ordinary, open our eyes to the extraordinary gift of life. Let us hear laughter and stories. Let us see smiles and tears. Let us smell bread breaking and flowers blooming. Let us taste foods that delight us. Let us feel love from you and all those we love. In the times between, remind us we are your beloved and everyday has the possibility of beginnings, endings, and ordinary times. Amen.






Book Review-Daring Greatly

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Daring Greatly Brene’ Brown

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-4


I’ve never read anything by Brene’ Brown before and with all the excitement over her new book now seemed like a good time to dive into her work. Some good friends in The Young Clergy Women Project suggested I start with this book, so I did. I knew I would like this book as soon as I read, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering” (8). In my ministry I’ve been saying this for years in slightly different terms. We were created to be in relationship. Ministry is all about relationships. Church is all about relationships.


A number of words and phrases reappear through the book that describe how Brene’ encourages people to live. One of these words is wholehearted. “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness” (10). Wholehearted living is the point of one of her earlier books, The Gift of Imperfection. And wholehearted living is exactly how we should live as beloved children of God. God loves us. I don’t use the word worthy very often in my ministry. She uses it to describe that we are enough. Instead of berating ourselves and what we can’t do, we need to focus on living wholeheartedly as those who are enough just as we were created.


Another topic that she addresses in this book is scarcity. We live in a world where there seems to be never enough. Time is scarce. Money is scarce. Safety is scarce. I’ve tried to replace scarcity with abundance as one who celebrates all that God has done for each of us. She has a different take. She sees scarcity and abundance as two sides of the same coin. She wants us to start saying enough. We have enough. We are enough. I’m still deciding how I feel about moving from abundance to enough. I think I’m going to hold onto my visions of God’s abundance while also reminding myself that I have enough.

[Read more…]

Nannie’s Russian Tea

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When I lived in the Raleigh area, one of my favorite treats for myself was a visit to Skin Sense Day Spa. Not only did they provide amazing massages, they also had complimentary tea. A sign in the changing room said the tea had been a family recipe for generations. No matter what time of year I visited, I always enjoyed multiple cups of their delicious tea.

As a gift, my husband gave me their make at home version of the tea. This box gives you enough supplies to make two batches of this delicious tea. I was eager to give it a second try because my first batch didn’t taste exactly like I remember.

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I followed the directions and waited while it steeped.

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It smelled delicious when it was steeping. However, it did not taste good! It was very bitter. I tried adding some honey to sweeten it up a bit and disguise the bitterness. The honey made it a little better and still not tasty.

Here is my recommendation. If you find yourself in the Raleigh area, treat yourself to a spa appointment at Skin Sense and get a cup of their delicious tea from the original source. And if you have ever successfully made their tea at home, please let me know your secret.

While searching the Skin Sense website today, I was excited to see that they recycle old/used makeup and beauty product containers. For more information about this great program, go here.

Worship Words-Help, Thanks, Wow and Prayer Post-Its!

Help, Thanks, Wow and Prayer Post-Its!

Recently, I was asked to provide a worship time for a great group of youth. The following is what we did. This worship worked well with the youth and could also be adapted to use in your home. At home, you can modify the worship piece as needed and hang smaller pieces of paper (if desired) on which you can hang your post-its. Enjoy and let me know how you used these worship words.


Supplies Needed-

3 pieces of posterboard.

In big letters, write Help (on one), Thanks (on one) and Wow (on the last one).



Painters Tape or some other safe way to attach the posterboards to the wall.


Before the worship time begins, hang your posters in three different places around the room. Near each station, provide plenty of post-its and markers and a space to write.


Call to Worship/Opening

From many places, we come together

to learn,

to laugh,

to experience community.

This is a safe space where we can ask questions, share our stories, listen to each other, and grow our faith. A new group is forming this weekend. We have said good-bye to some friends and welcomed new ones. While we will share experiences and grow closer this year, we will always have room for more youth and caring adults to join.


Opening Prayer

As a new year kicks off, we prayerfully ask God’s blessing on our time together this weekend and the year ahead.

God, we know you are already in this space. Open our eyes to see you in each other and in ourselves. We thank you for everyone who is here tonight. Thank you for the gifts they bring and the memories we will create together. We thank you for this safe space to gather and be who you created us to be. Amen.


Tonight we are going to pray together. I’ll explain more about how our prayer time will work in a few minutes. First, I invite us all to listen to these Scriptures that talk about how and when to pray or are prayers themselves. Let us hear God’s word.

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Book Review-The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage

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The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage Rob and Kristen Bell

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-2

I believe we are created to be in relationship with each other and with God. One of my gifts and joys in ministry is supporting relationships-individuals and congregational relationships with God, loving partnerships, family, friends, etc. To help support these relationships, I’m always searching for good resources to share. As my readers know, I find Rob Bell very readable with an easy to follow style. And this book was a quick, easy read.

The word zimzum is the theme that holds this book together. It is a Hebrew word that means in order for God to create God had to withdraw and create in a space where God wasn’t. Basically, God moved over to allow space for us to thrive and grow and be. They take this word zimzum and use it to describe how we interact with the person we love. “You meet this person, you fall in love, and you zimzum–creating space for them to thrive while they’re doing the same for you. The zimzuming unleashes energy and creates space that didn’t exist before, generating flow that is the lifeblood of marriage” (19).

Many things in this book just make sense. In order for your partner to thrive, you need to know what he or she needs/wants. Talk to the one you love (25). Stop keeping score of who does more (31-36). “How is the space between us?” Are we too close or is there too much distance? (56-58). Give your partner the benefit of the doubt (61-62). Go places and do things together. Shared experiences are essential (76-83). Extend grace and forgiveness with reckless abandon (100-110) as long as it is safe to do so.

All of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph are wonderful ways to support and strengthen the relationship you have with your partner. Are they new and revolutionary? Probably not. What I found the most wonderful of this whole book was the set of questions at the end (123-127). Even without reading the book most of these questions could be excellent ways to start a discussion about your relationship in pre-marital counseling, with your partner, or even by yourself to see how well you know the one you love.

This book is for people in any stage of a romantic relationship. This book would work for those who are just getting to know each other and for those who have been together for decades. Most of the book keeps the pronouns fluid enough to allow this book to work for all couples. I noticed a few places like page 57 where the couple language is “husband and wife”. This book contained excellent nuggets of conversation starters for couples. When I finished reading, I wanted more. I think this feeling was a wish that the book had explored any of these ideas on a deeper level instead of skimming the whole concept of marriage and romantic relationships in only 120 pages. I would recommend checking a copy of this out of the library and going through the questions at the end with the one you love.


Worship Words-Sermon, Jesus Welcomes Children and So Do We!


Mark 9:33-37

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”


I love stories where the disciples’ humanity shines through. These twelve faithful followers of Jesus were walking along not listening to Jesus, not debriefing something Jesus had said, not coming up with great questions to ask Jesus. Instead of any of these things, they spent their time arguing. What do the disciples of Jesus argue about you might wonder? They argued about which one of them was the greatest. The good news for us today is that, despite actions like this, Jesus never gave up on the disciples and Jesus never gives up on us. We mess up just like the first 12 and there is forgiveness and another chance.

The Scripture tells us Jesus sat down. …Here’s how I see it. Jesus sits down. Palm to forehead, maybe he shakes his head for a few moments. He sighs a big sigh and then spends a few minutes doing some deep breathing. He doesn’t immediately go to the next lesson. Nope. Sometimes, we all need a minute to think about what we have done and what we should have been doing. When he is ready and hopefully when the disciples are ready to listen, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Now, I picture the disciples shaking their heads, sighing, and trying to figure what this means and why things are so backwards. They wanted to be first, best, greatest, and Jesus is telling them to be last and a servant. While they are still trying to understand his words, Jesus does something even stranger. He welcomes a child into their midst. He offers a big extravagant welcome to a child. Jesus keeps surprising the disciples even when they should know to expect the unexpected from Jesus. Jesus welcomes tax collectors, prostitutes, people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses, women, and now children. One could almost assume that Jesus is telling his disciples then and his disciples today that we are to welcome everyone.

Picture these scenes playing out in the sanctuary…

A mother brought her children to church regularly. One Sunday, this mother asked to speak with the pastor. She was crying as she told the pastor how someone had asked if her family could sit elsewhere because her children were distracting and making it hard to worship God.

A child is so excited that it is time for church. He runs as fast as he can to get to the sanctuary. An usher stops him to remind him not to run in God’s house.

6 children would arrive at church each week, all related, all delivered to church by an extended family member They joyfully sang and participate in worship. People began to talk about them because they needed to brush their hair, wear season appropriate clothing, and bathe more often. One woman didn’t join in the judgment or gossip. Instead, she started inviting all the kids at church for special hair time before worship. She brushed and styled anyone’s hair who wanted. She didn’t single out the ones who others thought needed help. She welcomed all and loved the children. What if the other two stories I told you had an ending like this one?

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Book Review-This is What I Pray Today

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This is What I Pray Today: The Divine Hours for Children Phyllis Tickle

Illustrated by Elsa Warnick


In this book, Phyllis Tickle introduces young children to the concept of praying three times a day. She does this with prayers that reflect what is going on in the lives of young children. Each day there is a prayer for the morning, a prayer for when it is time to rest (meaning naptime) and a prayer for the end of the day or bedtime. In this book, you’ll find a week of prayers.

I recommend this as a great gift to a young child in your life. It would also be a great addition to your church library. Tickle wrote the book so it could be used by followers of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths, so this book would also work as an inter-faith gift too.

Zen by Tazo

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Normally, I’m not a green tea drinker. I acquired two bags of this Tazo green tea while traveling this summer, so I thought I’d give it a try. I like it. It is a subtle tea as most green teas are. I like the minty aftertaste it leaves on my tastebuds. If you aren’t a big green tea drinker, give this one a try. It is a safe and easy introduction to the world of green tea. And if you love green tea, why not give this one a try too?

Worship Words-Wisdom Call to Worship and Opening Prayer



One-Wisdom is calling.

All-Are we listening?

One-Wisdom is begging us to pay attention.

All-Are we listening?

One-Wisdom is crying out.

All-Are we listening?

As I offer our opening prayer this morning, I invite you to try something different. Keep your eyes open and look at those worshiping with you. Let us pray- God, we are listening for you. Speak to us. Help us hear your Wisdom. God, we are looking for you. Help us see you in others including those who share our worship space this morning.  God, we want to act on what we see and hear, so fill our hearts with compassion for your children around the world and this beautiful planet we call home. Amen.


These worship words were inspired by this week’s reading from Proverbs 1:20-33.


Book Review-Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Youth

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Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Youth

Joy Thornburg Melton

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-3

This is the most often recommended book for congregations writing Safe Sanctuary policies. I’ve led groups in writing policies at previous churches and developed a workshop to help with writing, training, and updating Safe Sanctuary policies in congregations. You will notice that this book repeats itself with only minor changes. That is because this is the combined children and youth edition. This book also exists for only children’s ministry and only youth ministry.

The author is an attorney and United Methodist minister. At many points her denominational basis shows as she talks about babies being baptized (7) when not all denominations baptize infants and not all parents choose to have their children baptized as infants and examples and explanations used are about the United Methodist Church.

I believe that Safe Sanctuary policies should begin with what to do. Training should also begin with the positive parts of the plan. The point of Safe Sanctuary policies is not to scare people. We can do our best to keep each other safe without living in fear.

I would recommend this book for a church that needs all information in one place and easily accessible. For churches that are willing to use a variety of resources, there are better options available that have good examples and better policy recommendations. I have also created a workshop to help others write a policy and would be happy to talk with anyone needing help with their policy.


Ideas and Reminders I Found Helpful

-Giving volunteer forms and Safe Sanctuary policy to all new members. I like this idea because everyone needs to know the policy. In order for the church to be a Safe Sanctuary, everyone in the congregation must know and live by the covenant.

-List of types of abuse starts on page 29  and what to be watching for starts on page 37. Very helpful for training.

-Advertise your policy. Parents expect one.

-Talk about what to do is a sex offender wants to worship here before it a question being asked. A good resource for this difficult situation is found on pages 112-116.


Ideas I Found Difficult or Less than Helpful

I believe that all Safe Sanctuary policies should begin by outlining what to do. Don’t start with the negative or what to do if/when something happens. Start with what people are expected to do. And in this first section use covenantal language to talk about why this is of sacred importance to us. Starting with the negative or what to do in case of an incident places the focus on the wrong spot. We are called by God to live in relationship with each other. A good Safe Sanctuary policy begins by outlining how that relationship works in this particular case. Section two of the policy can define what to do if that relationship covenant is broken.

Some of the examples presented were very upsetting to me. On pages 13-15, there is a story of a child who pretends to be abused so his father can record the incident and make money for the family. The church had a Safe Sanctuary policy, so the teacher took the father to meet with the pastor. The pastor said, “I know these teachers and I have complete trust in them” (14). I was shocked by the response of the pastor. As a pastor, I would never say this. I trust those who have been entrusted with the sacred duty of teaching children and youth. I would never say I have complete trust in them. I would want to hear as many sides of the story as possible to find out what had happened. Another example that made me sad was the pastor’s response to the single mom who had her child baptized (28). Neither she nor her child should be treated any differently during the baptism. Instead of admonishing the congregation to care even more for this child, the pastor should remind the congregation at each baptism of the sacred covenant being entered into during a baptism.

I would have prefered more examples of how to respond to questions about background checks. This was the most frequent question asked in my churches. Why do we need background check? Who will see my information? How will my information be stored? More examples about how other churches have answered all these questions would be helpful.

“No Workers under the Age of Eighteen” (87) – While I understand the idea, it saddens me to think that people must wait until they are 18 to share their gifts. If multiple people are present, it should not be a problem to allow children and youth to work with each other.

More detailed citations would have been very helpful. When statistics are quoted, it would be helpful to know from when and where they were sourced.