Picture Us! A Summer Church Activity

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.

Summer Worship is Hot!

On a recent Sunday morning, I got ready for worship like any other Sunday morning. When I got to the church, I realized this church did not have air conditioning. My outfit of the day was perfect for a church with air conditioning and very warm for a church without. The windows were wide open and the fans were blowing. Instead of focusing on the temperature, I listened. What could I hear with the windows open that I would not hear when we are closed in and enclosed in our safe space. I heard birds singing. I heard cars and buses driving by. I heard the voices of those walking outside. What does this tell us about our open doors? How can we open ourselves to hearing those we usually don’t hear?


Today, God, open my heart to see everyone I usually overlook. Make me a little uncomfortable so I am forced to be aware of your creation. Slow me down to hear the birds singing and see the clouds in the sky. Let me pause to feel the rain or sun on my face. Remind me to smile and say hi to everyone whose path comes near mine. Remind me we are all your children and you love us all equally. Amen.


We All Grieve!

We are all grieving. We do not get over grief. We learn to live in our new normal.

In my work as a hospice chaplain, I help people to name their grief and decide how to respond. Whenever life does not happen as we planned or hoped, we may grieve for what will not be.

Too often, we are told grief is linear. As if we can move through the correct steps of grief to come out the other end or to the finish line and be grief-free. Grief does not work like that. We circle around and around. We feel better and are sad again. We cry and smile. We scream and wonder why. Grief is unique to each person and circumstance. We need to acknowledge and accept each other’s grief.

In order to invite you to think about grief and possibly think about it differently, I encourage you to listen to this amazing conversation about grief. Pauline Boss, The Myth of Closure from On Being with Krista Tippett


A Prayer for All of Us

Loving God,

You are the constant in our lives. You love us every second of every minute. From you, we learned to love. This loves that brings us so much joy also brings us pain and heartbreak. You know our hurts and our grief. We grieve the changing of relationships and we know that people are not the only cause of our grief. God, you know that changes cause grief even when we know the changes are good. While it is difficult to thank you for the pain of grief, we do thank you, Gracious God, for our ability to love and adapt and change.

We bring our grief to you-

for relationships that ended,

for chances we did not take,

for loved ones who died,

for new jobs and new schools,

for the ends and the beginnings,

for the things we are no longer able to do,

for the times we are told no,

and for anything else that causes us grief, we give to you, God.

Continue to walk with us on this journey, Faithful God, as we grow, change, and grieve. Amen.


Worship Words-A Litany of Compassion


We need to see as God sees. Noticing our connection one to another. Acknowledging each person is a child of God. As I watch the news, I wonder how to stop the violence. It seems easier to harm someone when we see that person as other or stereotype a person as fitting into a category we don’t like. What if we began by acknowledging we are all beloved children of God? Or we are all human? Are we all exactly the same? No! I believe God delights in our differences and loves each of us.

How can we stop the violence?

By promising to see each other.

By promising to love each other.

By promising to listen to each other.


A Litany of Compassion

One-I promise to see you as a beloved child of God.

All-We promise to see each person as a beloved child of God.

One-I promise to listen to you and not assume I know your story.

All-We promise to listen to each other and hear your stories.

One-I promise to love you and support you living your life.

All-We promise to love each other and support each one in living our own lives.

One-Let us embody the words of 1 John 4:11.

All-“Friends, since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another.” Amen.



Worship Words-In Remembrance…

In Remembrance..
We have so much to remember. Because I can’t remember everything, I appreciate the many ways I am reminded of what is important. Today, Facebook reminded me that 2 years ago we buried my grandmother. Facebook shared silly and serious family pictures we took that day. I am thankful that Facebook reminds me of people and events I shared in the past. And communion gives me time to pause and remember. The song, In Remembrance of Me, reminds me that when we gather at Christ’s table we do it to remember.
As people of faith, we are not called to live in the past. We are called to live in the now. We are called to “search for truth and always love.” We are called to work toward a future of justice for all. We do this by remembering, by learning from our communities, by listening, and by opening our eyes and our hearts to the needs of each other.
As we remember, let us pray.
God of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, Your ability to remember is amazing. Ours fails us sometimes. Thank you for ancient rituals and modern inspirations that keep us grounded and in touch with our ancestors and our memories. Give us courage to learn from the past. Give us courage to live boldly as your beloved now. Give us courage to dream big dreams of the future that can be. In remembrance of Jesus, we live and pray. Amen.
While I cannot remember what was happening before and while this picture was taken, it remains one of my favorite pictures from the day of Grandmother’s service. A big thank you to my sister for this awesome memory!

Our Place in God’s Universe-Reflection on Psalm 8

The Psalm for this week is Psalm 8. I love this Psalm because it reminds me of how big God’s creation is and how small my part is in that creation while also reminding me that my part is important and essential. I heard this Psalm read by children and youth leading worship on a church family retreat by the water at Camp Albemarle. I have read this Psalm at the bedside of  hospice patients. I have joined in singing this Psalm with congregations big and small. I have read this Psalm by myself while enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.  [Read more…]

Thank you, God, for worms!

Thank you, God, for worms.

For years, I’ve want to have worms help me by eating things I’d otherwise throw away. At our last house, we had a compost pile. Living in town makes it more difficult to compost. Last week at Princeton Theological Seminary, I attended a seminar that inspired me to do it! So, after a little research our worm community was created. Currently our 12 worms are living on our screened in porch enjoying food and paper scraps. Hopefully, they’ll love their new home and help us be better stewards of our resources.
Creator of All, Thank you for worms who eat what we do not. Thank you for ideas that are finally implemented. Thank you for those who open our eyes to the many ways we can be better caretakers of your creation. Amen.



Our worm community’s home.


A couple of worms hiding among all their delicious food.

Joyful, Joyful

I am enjoying time away at Princeton’s Institute for Youth Ministry’s yearly forum. It is a week of learning and laughing with others who love youth. It is a week of worship and table fellowship. It is a week of questions and wondering. I haven’t been here in a few years and coming back makes me realize how much I’ve missed it.

My reflection is inspired by the song, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, which we sang yesterday in opening worship.

As a young child, I began taking piano lessons. I remember practicing this song over and over. And even when I learned other songs, I kept playing this song because it was familiar. As we sang Joyful, Joyful yesterday, the familiar feeling came again. And I wondered what other songs are such a part of my life that they are in my memory from childhood and youth years? And how can I help my youth learn the songs of faith that will stay with them all their lives?

Giver of immortal gladness, We thank you for all the ways you reveal yourself and your amazing love to us. Thank you for giving us the gift of music. Thank you for people of faith throughout the generations who have shared the faith with the next generation. All the good gifts that you have given us call us to rejoice in thee. Help us to rejoice, Loving God. Amen.


Worship Words-All That We Let In


Sunday’s Sermon at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church

Scriptures-1 Corinthians 12:12-31a and Luke 4:14-21

For many of you this may be the first time you’ve heard much from me. It isn’t easy to write a sermon that is a get to know you sermon that explains my philosophy about youth ministry and mission trips, what I love about cooperative youth ministry, and ties it all in with two Scriptures from the lectionary. And still I’ve accepted the challenge and am giving it a go.


I believe we are all important members in the body of Christ. For my entire ministry I’ve found myself called to work with a specific portion of the body of Christ-youth. And yet, when you work with youth you don’t just work with youth. You work with the parents of youth, the grandparents of youth, younger and older siblings of youth, church members of all ages who you are working to integrate into the youth ministry while you are integrating the youth into the whole ministries of the church. Working with youth helps you to see how we all fit together to be the body of Christ. We are all needed. We all bring gifts. And yes, sometimes it is difficult when so many gifts are present at once and everyone wants to share their gift or when people don’t seem to recognize the gifts that they bring.


My call and gift is gift-awareness. Recognizing the God-given gifts in others and helping each person discern how to utilize that gift to God’s glory. This requires and works well with another passion of mine relationship building. Usually for me to see someone’s gifts, I must know that person. Relationship building requires time, energy, listening, and patience as we grow to know each other and see where God is moving in our lives. Lest you think I am bragging and listing a litany of my God-given gifts, I am aware that I am not the person you should call for any construction, plumbing, electrical, animal removal, cooking or a variety of other important tasks in the life of the church. This is the message of the 1 Corinthians passage today. Together all of us make up the body of Christ.


This portion of the body of Christ worshiping in these walls, TPPC, covenants with another portion worshiping only a few miles away, CCC, for youth ministry. Youth are typically defined as those who are in 6th-12th grade. During these years, youth will (often) move through middle school and high school and navigate all the challenges and joy that are associated with attending school and preparing for adulthood. Some people believe that this is a time where youth are becoming themselves. I believe that our youth are already called beloved by God and created in God’s image. While helping them to discover who they are and how they’ll use their God given talents in their lives, youth ministry is an amazing opportunity for the whole congregation to be involved in the lives of awesome individuals who help us live out our calling to be the body of Christ.


For me not only is relationship building one of my passions, I believe relationships are the heart of ministry. Youth ministry is the perfect place to develop relationships in ministry. It is as easy as presence, time, and listening. And in a ministry built on relationships time must be spent our relationships with God…faith development is essential. Faith development not just of the youth…but of those working with the youth, family members of youth, and the whole congregation. [Read more…]

Be the Church!

My heart breaks when I hear people say they can’t be who God created them to be and participate in the life of the church. And I believe this breaks God’s heart too.

God is the Source and Originator of Love. God loves you and wants you to be loved.

God created us to be in relationship. God wants you to be in healthy and happy relationships with others.

God created us with brains for thinking and questioning. God wants us to look critically at the Bible, at the world around us, and sometimes at each other, so we can all live in love and as Christ’s disciples.

What obstacles or barriers are we putting up that stop people from being part of the church community and experiencing God’s love?


O Love that will not let us go, help us to love each other as you love us. Help us to see each other as you see us. Help us to welcome each other as you welcome us. Break down the barriers that divide us. We want to make our churches places where all can feel at home, and we know this is only possible with your Spirit. In hope for a new day of acceptance and love, we offer this prayer to you. Amen.