Take Time for Reflection (Confirmation)

Too often, we rush from one activity to the next without allowing ourselves any time to reflect on our experiences. We need to slow down and look over what we have done and then move on to the next thing. These are questions I shared at the final session of a confirmation class to give us time to reflect on what we had done together and what we would do next.

I hope you’ll use these questions in your confirmation classes or adapt them to help yourself reflect on an ending before moving on to your next thing.

What is left?

Any last minute questions?

What do you wish we had done?

What was the best part of confirmation?

What was the worst part of confirmation?

What would you change?

What books of the Bible did you read? And what did you think of them?

Say a little something about your time with mentors?

What did you think about the meeting of the church you attended?

What about your service project?

So where do we go from here? After confirmation, you have the opportunity to be a member of this congregation. We’ve talked about what you plan to do as a member. In youth group, we filled out the time and talents surveys.

What are your hopes for your church?

What do you think you’ll remember about confirmation in 10 years?

Psalm 90:2 and a Reflection

My days are spent visiting people. Some are happy to see me and want to tell me all their stories. Others say very little to me. A recent visit has stayed with me because my hospice patient was so peaceful. When I entered her room she was laying in her bed with her eyes closed and her hands folded on her chest. The expression on her face was one of peace. She wasn’t smiling and she wasn’t frowning. She looked content. 
I said hello and introduced myself. I asked if I might read some Scriptures because I knew from previous visits that this was something she enjoyed. She agreed. When I began to read, she closed her eyes and folded her hands. She assumed the posture of listening and receiving God’s Word. It was inspiring. After reading a few passages, we talked about how we do not spend enough time reading and listening to Scriptures. We talked about all that is contained in this book we love. And she asked me to read more. So I read on and then I prayed for her. 
I left that visit feeling as if her peace had rubbed off on me. I felt calmer. My outlook felt brighter. I wanted to spend more time in Scripture. So today I thank God for the wonderful woman whose peaceful spirit inspired me and urged me to spend more time reading the Bible.
 
Loving God, Thank you for the people who enter our lives to teach us, to inspire us, to guide us, and to love us. Open our eyes to the opportunities we have to teach, inspire, guide, and love each other. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our busy schedules. Slow us down, Holy One, so we may see you in the people around us. Slow us down and bring us your peace. Amen. 
 
Before the mountains were born,
    before you birthed the earth and the inhabited world—
    from forever in the past
    to forever in the future, you are God. -Psalm 90:2

Thank you, God, for summertime!

Thank you, God, for summertime!
Last weekend, my husband and I went kayaking. Finally the kayak we purchased in the middle of winter left our yard and floated across the water. It isn’t a long trip from our backyard to the water, and yet, it took more than six months for this to happen. As we paddled around our lake/pond (depends on who you ask), we saw turtles, a heron, so many geese, and a frog. It was peaceful and beautiful.
This is my yearly call to go outside. Get out and enjoy God’s amazing creation. Sit and read a book outside. Go for a walk. Head to the beach. Come visit me and we’ll go kayaking together. Take a drive and roll the windows down! Go explore, enjoy, and thank God for the amazing place we get to live.
Creating God, Thank you for this world you gave us to tend and cultivate. Thank you for plants and animals with whom we share this planet. Thank you for days of sunshine and thunderstorms. When the temperature warms up, coax us back outside so we can enjoy and experience the world around us. Thank you for sunscreen and big hats! Thank you for quiet time alone in creation and gatherings with others to celebrate. You have entrusted this planet to us, so remind us to enjoy it and care for it. Amen.

Book Review-Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home

Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home
Traci Smith
 
A wonderful book that should be in every home. In these pages you find ways to celebrate and live out your faith with whomever makes up your family. You’ll find a new spin on ancient traditions (Advent: Make and Use an Advent Wreath, 63) and new practices (Starting a New Journey: Moving, 86). This is a book you can read from cover to cover very quickly or you can use as a reference guide and pull out a practice when needed. 
 
Near the end of this book you’ll find the Special Event Guide. On these pages you’ll find everything you need to provide a 90 minute workshop for families in your church to introduce some of these practices to them. If you were giving this book as a gift to families in your church, this workshop would be a great way to show off how user friendly this book is!
 
I highly recommend this as a perfect gift for churches to give families as a baptismal gift or any other occasion when a gift is needed. This book should be on every pastor and church staff member’s shelf because it is full of great ways to encourage your church members to practice their faith, and it contains ways for those working in the church to practice our own faith. And although this book is written out of the Reformed Tradition, families who want to create meaningful rituals in their homes can use this book even if they do not have a church home or consider themselves religious.  
 
I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!
Today is my maternal grandfather’s 94th birthday. On my side of the family, he is the last grandparent. All four of my grandparents played a large part in my life. My sister and I would spend a month with each set of grandparents in the summer. With this Grandpa, we’d be on the farm. We would pull weeds from the garden and get paid one penny for every nail we picked up from the driveway or machine shop. We’d can and freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter. We would play with the cats and one dog. Grandma would drive the pickup truck out into the field so we could give Grandpa and the “hired man” a cool drink of water. We would play cards in the evening while watching tv from the satellite dish. We would shoot off fireworks on the 4th of July and ride a bike in the town parade. We would swim in the creek (pronounced crick) and ride the three wheeled bicycle. And every Sunday we’d go to church.
Today the song, Faith of our Fathershas been playing in my head. And I would have used the gender neutral, Faith of the Martyrs, from the New Century Hymnal, but I wasn’t thinking about those ancestors in our faith. Today, I’m thinking about and thankful for the regular people in my life who lived out their faith and passed it on to the next generation. I’m thankful for my grandfather’s 94 years of life, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to see him soon to celebrate with him.
Faithful God,
Thank you for the people in our lives who live our their faith in quiet, simple ways. Thank you for the people we see in church each week. Thank you for those who take us under their care and show us how to love you. Thank you for grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, siblings, both those who are our blood relatives and our chosen families. Open our eyes and our spirits to the ways we can share our faith in simple ways too.
Loving God,
Thank you for Grandpa. Be with all the older adults who aren’t able to live in their homes anymore. Watch over them when their families cannot be present. Remind them they are loved by you and by families and friends. We give thanks for those who make it their life’s work to care for others. For another year of life, we give you thanks. Amen.
Grandpa’s First Selfie!

Pure Leaf Black Tea with Vanilla

Each day my morning starts with a cup of black tea. Recently, I was running low on black tea, so I went to the store hoping to find some Lady Grey. When my favorite morning tea was not available, I began searching for an alternative. Pure Leaf Black Tea with Vanilla caught my eye. On the back it is described as, “Long-leaf Assam black tea perfectly balanced with the delicate flavor of vanilla.” When I saw it was also Rainforest Alliance Certified, I thought it was worth a try.

The first thing you’ll notice about this tea is the strong scent of vanilla. Don’t worry. Although the vanilla smells like it will be overwhelming, it is subtle and a perfect compliment. The black tea shines through making this tea a great start to my morning. I do recommend not over steeping as the black tea tastes bitter when steeped too long. I recommend about 3 minutes.

I hope you’ll give Pure Leaf Black Tea with Vanilla a try. What teas are you drinking and enjoying?

A Prayer for Technology And All of Us Who Use It!

I wish I could say I’ve unplugged lately because I knew it would be good for me. Sadly, no! The truth is I received a text alerting me that I was nearing my data limit. As someone who refuses to give any unnecessary money to my cell service provider, I turned off my data for the rest of my billing cycle.
Here’s what I learned-
Without my GPS, I had to pay attention. I followed directions, watched for street signs, and kept my eyes open. Also, I turned around in driveways and met a nice man on a quiet street who directed me to his neighbor’s home knowing his neighbor was my new hospice patient. Lest you think this is a HIPPA violation, the man said, “If you are looking for _____’s house, it is right there.”
I reach for my phone whenever I have an extra moment or things are quiet. Without access to social media, I listened more. I looked people in the eye. At first I was picking up my phone all the time until I realized, it was only a phone and I couldn’t access the internet. Soon the habit was unlearned.
As I reflect on my unplugged time, I plan to keep this practice up for periods of time each day. I enjoyed being more engaged with those around me, and I recognize the importance of social media in keeping me connected with those I love.
Loving God,
Help me to put down my phone and see creation and the people around me. Help me to acknowledge the ways technology helps me and hinders me. Grant me discernment so I may use my time wisely. When my plans change, open my eyes to the ways small changes in my life can become life changing spiritual practices. Amen.

Last Cup of Winter Spice

Last Cup of Winter Spice
A cold, rainy day and one more Winter Spice teabag seemed like the perfect combination. It was! As you might remember I love drinking Winter Spice on a cold winter’s day. When I hold a cup of this tea in my hands and inhale the scent of warm, winter spices, I am no longer bothered by the cold outside. Even though it is Spring, I’m enjoying one last cup of Winter Spice and hoping for warmer temperatures soon so I can switch to my Spring and Summer teas.

A Prayer for The Distracted

A Prayer for The Distracted
On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, I sat down with my computer planning to be productive. Not too long later, I was enjoying this video. When I done singing along with the video, I attempted to get back to my original plan. In the midst of working on my project, I did the dishes and laundry as almost anything seemed more enjoyable than what I needed to do.
How do you handle distractions? How can we remain attentive to what we need to be doing? How can we pay attention to what distracts us? Where might the Holy Spirit be working in distractions and calling us to that which is more important? How do we discern what is an interruption that can be ignored and an interruption which requires our immediate attention?
God of All Our Days,
We are busy people with much to do. Disrupt our busyness, so we see you working in our lives. Surprise us! Awaken us to new possibilities. And when we are need to focus, calm the noises and worries before they overtake us. Help us to be present with those who need us when they need us. Guide us, Holy One, for there is much to be done and much we can leave undone. With you, we know the difference. Amen.

Book Review-On Living by Kerry Egan

On Living Kerry Egan
If you’ve ever wondered what the work of a hospice chaplain looks like, read this book. In fact, I almost didn’t read this book because I feared it would feel too much like a day of work. While her stories resonated with me, I didn’t feel like I was working. I felt like I met someone who understands what I do and why I do it. I’m so glad I read this book.
In my time with hospice, I’ve heard stories from people in their 20s, and those who have passed the century mark and every age in between. I’ve met people who have never lived far from where they’ll die and people who arrived here shortly before their deaths. I’ve met people who have spent their whole lives worrying about money and people who have never worried about money. I’ve congratulated couples who have been married 40, 50, 60, even 70 years, and I’ve sat with people who saw the hospice team as their family because they had no one else. I tell you this because what is written in these pages is not unique. All hospice chaplains hear stories. As one of my favorite social workers says often, “We love to hear your stories.” And that is what I do, I listen to stories and help those entrusted to my care make meaning for themselves.
This wonderful book gives you an insiders view into life as a hospice chaplain. You’ll read about joy and heartbreak. You’ll see that it isn’t easy to be present as another’s life nears the end, and you’ll see that it is so worth it. I highly recommend this book to you!
It was difficult to pick only one quote to share with you because this book is filled with so many beautiful words. I’ll leave you with the words used to end the book.
“If life were like a novel, and I could tie things up nicely with a bow, I would claim it was Gloria [the patient we meet on page 1] who gave me my parting advice. But it wasn’t. It was a little old Jewish lady who gave me a blessing every time we met. She’d fled Poland with her parents and brother in the 1930s arrived in the United States ten years later alone. A woman whose story I haven’t told here, and will instead keep bundled in my heart with hundreds of other stories. I’ll leave you with it, as she left it with me: “Promise yourself,” she said that last time we met, “promise that you’ll have a great life, no matter what happens'” (206).