Sermon Seeds (Way in advance): Stones

I was enjoying a long walk in the coolness of an Arizona morning, when all of a sudden I noticed a sharp pain in my left heel. Somehow my shoe picked up a hitch-hiker:

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I limped over to a railing and extricated the little freeloader. I laughed to think that something so small could stop me dead in my tracks. The pointy edges on this pebble shot pain through my entire body.

Rocks know how to get our attention.


When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday, the people lauded him. Their praise concerned the Pharisees. They told the people to be quiet. Jesus’ response: “If they get quiet, the rocks will cry out.”

Are there those in your sphere of influence who seek to silence your testimony? Will you let them?

God will be praised.

Ain’t gonna let no rock steal my praise!


Sermon Seeds: Build Them Up

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (Colossians 2:2, NIV).

Way back when I first began my journey in ministry I felt led to this verse in Colossians. Without consciously deciding, I made it the purpose statement for my life: encouraged in heart and united in love, so that the folks I am connected to will be moved to deeper (complete) understanding of the mystery of God, Jesus the Christ.

My life has been spent encouraging others, and working toward unity.

Truth be told: it can be pretty exhausting. Some days I feel like a cheerleader who never gets to rest. And who isn’t always appreciated. I’m sure if you’ve ever been to a sporting event you’ve been trying to carry on a conversation while those responsible for morale and keeping you focused on the game keep yelling louder and louder to try and engage you. They can be enormously annoying.

And don’t get me started on the up-hill battle for unity these days. Everyone has an opinion, and it’s the only one that matters. People would rather be right than in relationship.

Being right. Even if it means putting someone down. Even if that process involves untruth. Even if it means trashing their character.  Even if.

Jesus knew this. The Pharisees and leaders of the day had to be right. And Jesus stood between them and control. So they trumped up false charges. Had people lie about what Jesus did and said. They forced people to break the ninth commandment by paying them to perjur themselves.

And he died, a horrible, cruel death.

They didn’t realize then…and we forget today:


Prayer thoughts: God help to be more concerned about building each other up. Help us build bridges that result in better relationships and deeper understanding of who you are and how you want us to be. Amen.

Hopefully Devoted: Melancholy 1-Tina 0


It’s been a rough morning. A wrestling with God morning. An unhappy with my life morning.

I’m not sure I can convey how difficult it is for me to own that.

But I’m trying to read this book—I desperately need to—and I’m finding it hard to get past the title: No More Faking Fine.

My parents were alcoholics—faking fine is one of the inner-workings of a child growing up in that environment. You can’t reveal the family secret…to anyone! Every thing is fine.

My husband is chronically depressed. Most of the time he functions acceptably, but there are seasons when the melancholy threatens to pull him under and me along with it. I don’t want to draw attention to it—so I pretend, with my own smiling mask..every thing is fine.

I could go on, but there isn’t any need. Suffice it to say: today the melancholy is rocking my little boat and I’m not finding the energy for every thing to be fine.

So this morning, contemplating what in the world I could write about, I reach for my devotional, A Guide To Prayer For All Who Walk With God (The Upper Room), and start reading in the week of the Second Sunday of Lent.

First thing I read, “I’m weak and needy. Let my Lord think of me. You are my help and my rescuer (Psalm 40:17).”

And then, “Amidst the tumult of thoughts the world jars loose in us, does not the season of Lent quietly invite us to pause and take stock of ourselves? (John S. Mogabgab, Weavings, May/June 1995)

Perhaps that is what I am to surrender for Lent. Yay! I can still have chocolate. But I cannot fake being fine. Chocolate might have been easier to give up.

Prayer Thought: Fan the flames of your love in our hearts, O God. Breathe life into the dry bones of our faith. Buoy our sagging spirts. Restore the joy of our salvation. All glory is yours. Amen.



Message Meme: Don’t Take It


Have you ever stolen something?

I’ve always hated that question. Mostly because I have to own up—yes, I have.

I took penny candy from the Fast Food Market in grade school.

Last week I even took a pen from the office where I was taking a class the other day.

I took a few extra minutes on my break a couple of jobs back.

I took five extra miles per hour on my way to the meeting I’m at.

I robbed someone of a blessing by declining their kind offer of assistance.

I robbed God of his glory by not giving him the credit due, or sharing his love.

I don’t think I’m in this boat alone. We could probably all own up to taking what isn’t ours. That’s what makes this commandment so important.

But why are we so prone to take what isn’t ours? More on that in Friday’s Sermon Seeds.

Prayer thoughts: Father God, this rule is hard. And the reasons we take are only symptoms of a greater heart issue. Help us to trust that you really do give us what we need so we can turn from this insatiable consuming greed—thinking we need more than we do. I want to be done with that apple. I want to bask in your lavish love and ample provision. Now, and always. Amen.


Lenten Thoughts: He Knows Your Name


I used to go to the coolest church. No, really I did. At that church, we had Blessings and Miracles. I know most churches have blessings and miracles, but our Blessings and Miracles were families. We even had a Gentile family. I remember one Sunday that Pastor pointed out that there was a pew full of Blessings and Miracles. What was really cool was being around these people left one truly with a sense of Blessings and Miracles. And the Gentiles really were.

Naming a child is huge responsibility. I remember the hours pouring over name books when I was pregnant. I wanted our children to have names they could grow into. I’ll admit, when I hear some of the names chosen these days, it makes me sad. It’s as if the only consideration is oddity and shock value.

Names are interesting in the Bible, too. I’m not sure I would have been happy if I was Jacob (supplanter or heel grabber) or Esau (red and hairy). Or imagine going through life as Jabez, whose name means pain. Thankfully, I haven’t heard of any Jezebels or Ahaz lately.


How do you feel when someone calls out your name? I always knew when I was in trouble because my mother would use my middle name. My husband has names for me that only he uses. My immediate family and very close friends call me something special. When I am addressed that way something in my heart instantly softens. And nothing compares to one of the grandbabies running at me shouting, “Mema!”

In John 10:3, Jesus tells the crowd, “The gate keeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”


The Father knows your name. He whispers it when you’re frightened. He calls to you, wanting to lead to the green pastures and calm streams. He shouts it when you’re headed toward trouble. He has a sweet, special name for you. Sometimes he will change your name, giving you a name you can grow into one that will glorify him.

Have you heard him call your name? Have you been listening?


Lenten Thoughts: Sweet Aroma or Stench?







Be sensitive but always be sweet in the eyes of God.15For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15, NIV).


I used to work in a gas station convenience store. I always knew when it was 3:15 because a certain woman came to buy a cappuccino on her way to work and she wore a distinctive perfume. After spending a shift in a stale aired place catching her scent always made me smile.

Not every smell was quite as pleasant. I also knew when the vet students came in from the farms. I knew when the stoners were making a run for munchies. I knew when the newspaper delivery guy who was a chain smoker walked into the shop.

And don’t get me started on the bathrooms.


Smells are incredibly powerful and can evoke all kinds of emotions. Experts tell us that before a child can ever really distinguish her mother’s face she knows her mother’s smell. My neighborhood was full of the smells of barbeque grilling this past weekend. All kinds of memories can be evoked by the smell of homemade bread or fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies. Home sellers are encouraged to create very pleasant smells in their homes when prospective buyers are touring.


People can be very sensitive to smells. It is considered selfish and inconsiderate in social settings for people to wear fragrances due to allergies and extreme sensitivities. What was once thought to be pleasant and appropriate can now result in asthma attacks. I love my husband’s aftershave, but I can’t convince him that less is better. He seems to be unable to smell a single spritz so he crosses a line into overkill and overpower.

Do our responses to the aromas of life have anything to do with our scripture from Paul? Yes.

Paul’s words came to mind the other night when I walked into my house after work and received an olfactory blast. My husband had marinated some salmon and had it baking in the oven. The smell caused instant salivation, and a hope for a delicious dinner. In the middle of our scrumptious meal, our younger daughter stopped by to drop something off. She immediately screwed up her nose, and complained about the awful fishy smell.

How could it be both?

Our lives as believers will leave an impression. For some, it will be pleasant. For others, however, it will be considered stench. We can be considerate to not overpower, but we cannot afford to allow political correctness or social convention to rob us or dilute the truth of who we are in Christ.

Be sensitive but always be sweet in the eyes of God.




Lenten Thoughts: Suffering


Several years ago I helped with a “Prayer Journey to the Cross” at church. Similar to the Stations of the Cross, participants move through Jesus’ final week on earth before his crucifixion. I was responsible for two stations, The Betrayal and The Garden of Gethsemane.

I partnered with an amazingly creative woman for the Garden Station. As soon as I knew the focus was suffering, I had an idea for the station. I called my friend and asked her if she could put together a video loop of pictures of suffering and tie it to music. When I got the CD from her, I was blown away. The images and the music made a powerful statement about the human experience of suffering.
I have known my share of disappointments. I’ve gone through some difficult times. I’ve grieved the loss of friends and family. Things have been tight financially, but we’ve never gone hungry or wondered where we’d sleep at night. I’ve never really suffered. Not like the people in those pictures. We lost our home when the restaurants failed and I lost my livelihood. We had two auctions and sold the lion’s share of our belongings, but we always had a place to live and way more stuff than we can use.


Life will always have struggles. And while I can identify certain struggles that will follow and impact me for the rest of my life—consequences of poor decisions—I can also several blessings in my life. I am married to an amazing man who blesses me every day. I have two daughters and three grandchildren who bring me immeasurable joy. I have the best friends in the world. I am privileged to serve and pastor a wonderful group of people. I’m reasonably healthy.

How will I use my life, with all its blessings, to ease some other person’s suffering?

At each of the stations there will be an item the participants will take away with them. When they are in the Garden they will receive a hand (a construction paper cutout). They will be invited to write the name of a person or group who is suffering on the hand and then ask God how they can be his hands to that person or group.

I know you don’t have the video. I know you can’t hear the music. But you can hear His voice. Whose suffering can you ease today? Will you let him write that name on your hands and in your heart?