Archive for the ‘Topic For the Week’ Category

Scripture readings: Isaiah 62:1-5, I Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11

The scene is a wedding reception. The bride and the groom are dancing, families and friends are celebrating, tables are piled high with food, cups are full of drink, music is playing, people are laughing, children and servants are running in every direction At one of the tables Jesus and his mother Mary sit with the disciples joining in the festivities.

All of a sudden Mary notices something’s not quite right. The servants are whispering among each other. Mary overhears one of them and turns to Jesus and says, “they’re out of wine”.

Even in our own day, running out of beverages at a wedding is not a good thing. But in Jesus’ day, it would have been scandalous. Hospitality was a way of life. You may remember stories from the Bible about Abraham entertaining people who just walked up the road past his tent; or the disciples traveling from town to town preaching, and staying with total strangers. Hospitality was expected in that culture, and to fall short would have been a public disgrace for the whole family.

So Mary mentions it to Jesus. I’m not sure what she had in mind for him to do. He couldn’r really nip down to the state store. But Jesus answers, “what is that to you and me?” which almost sounds like he’s saying, “not our wedding, not our problem” except he follows up with the comment: “my hour has not yet come”.

There will be a time, a few years in the future, when Jesus will hold up another cup of wine and say, “this is the new covenant in my blood.” But that hour has not yet come. And Mary probably has no clue what he’s talking about. But she knows something’s up. So Mary turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Most of us here today, myself included, were raised in churches that don’t talk a lot about Mary. Unlike our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, we don’t usually have pictures of Mary in the church, for example. And I wouldn’t want to change that. But Mary was the human mother of Jesus, the Lord and Saviour we love, and she had some unique insights that are worth spending some time with.

Mary is the one who had the trust and the courage to say ‘yes’ to the angel who said ‘you’re going to have a baby’. Mary is the one who, as a teenager, understood that God choosing a peasant girl to give birth to the Messiah would by definition turn the world’s values upside down. Mary is the one who said to her relative Elizabeth, “[The Lord] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53} Mary is the one who without fear and without hesitation married Joseph and then left her home and everything she knew to travel to Bethlehem (where she gave birth) and then to Jerusalem (where Jesus was presented in the temple), and then to Egypt to keep the baby Jesus safe from Herod. Imagine what it was like moving around that much, first pregnant and then with an infant. Many women in that season of life have an overwhelming desire to ‘nest’, to make a safe place for their child, but Mary had no permanent home during those first couple of years. Mary was a woman of amazing faith.

And now as we visit this wedding, we hear Mary giving the servants a piece of rich wisdom. “Do whatever he tells you.”

I double-checked the Greek here to be sure I had the meaning right. The Greek phrase is translated exactly into our English Bibles, it’s a very simple phrase. The words imply action. It’s not ‘whatever he tells you, agree with it’ but ‘whatever he says to you, do it’.

This advice can be both liberating and frightening. Liberating, because Somebody wiser than us is calling the shots. But frightening because we like to think of ourselves as the masters of our own destinies. Frank Sinatra sang about ‘I did it my way’. And this past week when David Bowie passed, his record producer eulogized him by saying “He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way…”

The world hears these words as high praise. But as a Christian, these words haunt me, because they speak of a profound existential loneliness. The life of faith, by contrast, is a life lived in community with other believers and with God. As Christians we are never alone, and we are assured that our lives have meaning and purpose and direction, because we are designed by a God who is far greater, and wiser, and more loving than we are.

Jesus said to his disciples a few chapters later, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) and Jesus promises when we do this, our lives will be guided by the Holy Spirit of God. The question then becomes, how can we hear God’s voice? How can we hear what the Spirit is saying?

For general knowledge we have God’s word, the Bible. We have the Ten Commandments, and we have Jesus’ command to ‘love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others as we love ourselves’. Other parts of scripture tell us that God wants us to help the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the stranger, to speak for those who have no voice, and to take care of God’s creation. And we sense God’s pleasure when we do these things.

We can hear God’s voice through prayer: either on our own, or praying together. When we go to God in prayer we are open to God’s Spirit. There are moments in prayer when questions become answers and seeking becomes finding.

We can hear God’s voice is by looking at the gifts and talents God has given us. God creates each one of us with a purpose in mind, and we have been designed to fulfill that purpose, so it makes sense if we look at the design in us it will tell us something about what the designer had in mind.

In a similar way what God is saying to a congregation can be discovered by looking at the gifts and talents within the congregation. Some church families are gifted at hospitality, for example; or at outreach; or working with children; or teaching or coaching. When we are working within God’s design the Holy Spirit guides and provides.

We may hear God’s voice in the advice of long-time Christians: people who have been living lives of faith longer than we have, and have been listening for God’s voice longer than we have. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a long-time Christian in his late 70s. When I came to him for career counseling, one of the things he said was: “whatever the Lord has put on your heart to do, begin where you are with whatever you’ve got, and get started doing it.” In other words, don’t wait till everything looks perfect, till all the ducks are in a row. If God has put something on your heart, get started doing it. He almost sounds like Mary doesn’t he? “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Another way we can hear God’s voice is through odd things that happen – that seem like coincidences – except you know whatever it is couldn’t happen by chance. An old friend of mine used to call these ‘God-incidences’. So watch for God-incidences in your life, especially if you’ve been praying recently.

A couple other things I should mention. First, it’s impossible for imperfect human beings to do God’s will perfectly. Hearing God’s voice and doing what God says to do takes persistance and practice. We need to keep trying and not get discouraged, and remember that we are God’s children, and we’re still learning.

The second is to stay focused on who it is we’re listening to. There are a lot of distracting voices in the world, voices that tempt us to anger and fear. Sometimes there are people in our lives who don’t treat us the way they should, who bully us or abuse us. We are under no obligation to listen to these voices. We listen instead for God’s voice. We need to take direction from the voice that says to us (in the words of Isaiah) “you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord…”. This is the voice that reveals God’s glory in our lives.

Doing things God’s way is not always easy. But it is worth it. At the end of it all, we will hear Jesus saying, “well done, good and faithful servant”. So I want to encourage all of us on our faith journey with the words of Jesus’ mother: “Do whatever he tells you.” AMEN.


Preached at Castle Shannon United Methodist Church and Hill Top United Methodist Church, 1/17/16


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Today in church our Scripture lessons and sermon were about the journey to the Promised Land – both metaphorically and literally in terms of preparing ourselves for Heaven.  As I was choosing hymns I was surprised and thrilled to find the song above in the United Methodist hymnal.  It fit the scriptures and sermon perfectly.

Just two problems: (1) I suspected very few in the congregation knew it; and (2) how on earth does one explain what Mary’s weeping and Pharaoh’s army getting “drownded” has to do with going to heaven?

Here’s what I shared with the congregation. May it be a blessing.


O Mary Don’t You Weep is an old African-American spiritual that has to do with arriving in heaven. But that’s not immediately obvious from the text of the song. Let’s take a closer look at it.

The verses are meant to be sung by a song-leader or soloist, with the congregation singing the chorus (“O Mary don’t you weep, don’t mourn…”).  And there are many verses (I know of about a dozen) that can be interchanged as the song leader chooses.  We won’t be using a song-leader today — I’m not going to ask anyone to sing a solo! – so we will sing just the three verses in the hymnal.

So what does Mary weeping and Pharoah’s army getting “drownded” have to do with going to heaven?  Hang onto that thought, I’ll come back to it.  But first…

African-American spirituals often talk about crossing rivers. Here are some well-known examples:

Michael Row the Boat Ashore
“River Jordan is chilly and cold, chills the body but not the soul”
“River Jordan is deep and wide, milk and honey on the other side”

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
I look over Jordan, and what do I see? A band of angels comin’ after me.

Deep River
Deep river, my home is over Jordan
Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into Campground.

The river represents death, and crossing the river and arriving safely on the far side represents arriving in the promised land — in heaven.

So in this song, the writer of the hymn is standing by Mary’s side. [I assumed it was Jesus’ mother Mary, but it may also be interpreted as Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter morning.]  The song writer is telling her, “Don’t cry. Remember the Red Sea? Remember how God’s people ended up safe on the other side, and the river they crossed became the death of Pharaoh’s army, their enemies? Jesus is doing the same thing.  Jesus is crossing the river of death right now to make a way for God’s people, and the enemy (which is death) is being destroyed. So Mary don’t you weep.”

So this hymn is about looking through life’s challenges to the joy in God’s saving power and the celebration of our arrival in heaven.

Let’s sing!

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Think of this as a form of evolution.

When I began this blog around six years ago I was just about to begin seminary and was unsure about my future and my calling. But my pastor encouraged me saying, “whatever the Lord is calling you to do, begin where you are with what you’ve got and get started doing it” — and a blog called “Getting Started” was born.

And for the past six years I’ve been studying, learning, writing.  Digging deep into the faith.  Figuring out what it is that the church teaches (or should that be “what the churches teach”?) and what it is that Scripture teaches, and where the two meet and where they (sadly too often) miss each other by a mile.

But this fall I’m looking at my very last seminary course, and this one isn’t about study.  It’s about practice. It’s about learning to actually DO ministry.  And that’s a whole different ballgame.

*Doing* ministry is about Getting Involved — in the lives of others, in the community, in society.  It’s a whole new phase, and it’s what the past six years have been a preparation for.

Along those lines, over this past year as I’ve recovered from last year’s surgery, I’ve gotten involved in cat rescue.  No longer just feeding stray felines on the porch, I now know the workers at the local cat shelter by name and volunteer time there once a week to feed and socialize the animals.  It’s a blessing… nowhere near as easy as it looks… but the cats teach me a lot about life and about what ministry is made of.

Also along those lines, I have become a member of Christians for Biblical Equality, an international interdenominational organization promoting scriptural gender equality in the churches.

And I have become a member of the Reconciliation Commission of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, promoting racial understanding and bridge-building both inside and outside the church.

To that end I am helping to organize and promote an informative, educational, cultural evening led by a long-time friend, Betty Douglas, whose life and talents are the stuff of local legend:


I met Betty years ago in the choir at St Stephens Sewickley – she was (and still is) a vocal soloist there, as well as fronting jazz pianists and jazz bands around the city.  She is a nationally-recognized artist and retired as a full professor from Geneva College in 1996.  A life-long advocate of African-American equality, she worked for the Pittsburgh Courier in the 1960s and met or wrote about many of the key people in the civil rights movement of the time.

Betty is an amazing woman of faith with an amazing story to tell.  Come hear her.  Friday October 25, 7:00PM, Church of the Ascension, 4729 Ellsworth Ave., Oakland (Pittsburgh) PA

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Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has forwarded to all Anglicans the following open letter from Bishop of Egypt Mouneer Anis requesting prayer for his nation and people.  Received via Facebook 6/28/13.  Please join me in prayer.


My dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The situation in Egypt is very serious. I do not know where this situation will take us. I feel that Egypt is at the verge of violent demonstrations, another revolution, or civil war. We do not know what is going to happen, but we know that we are at the edge of something drastic.

One year ago Dr. Mohammed Mursi became the President of Egypt, following 11 months of turbulence in the socio-economic and political situation in Egypt. Many had hoped that Egypt would move forward for the better however things became worse and are now very difficult. Egyptians became divided between Islamists and non-Islamists. A constitution that was written and approved in haste was one of the main reasons for these divisions. Other reasons were the exclusion of moderates and non-Islamists from participation in the political life, and the appointment of Islamists as ministers in the Cabinet and other prominent posts.

These divisions led to instability, a lack of security, and many demonstrations which in turn badly affected the economy and tourism. People started to complain from the rise of food prices, the frequent power cuts, the sectarian clashes, and lately the lack of fuel. Two weeks ago there were demonstrations in several governorates in objection to the appointment of new governors who are known Islamists. A new movement called, “tamarrod” or “Rebellion” was formed last April and they called for massive demonstrations against the President and the government on the 30th of June. They claim to have gathered the signatures of 15 million supporters.

One week ago the Islamists made big demonstrations in support of the President. They warned the supporters of “tamarrod” against demonstrating on the 30th of June. “Anyone who will sprinkle water at the President will be sprinkled with blood,” said one of the supporters of the President. This means that there will be bloodshed if people try to force the President to step down.

Some Islamists also threatened the Christians if they participated in the demonstrations. Others produced a fatwa saying that those who would demonstrate are “kafiroon” or “godless” and deserve to be fought against. The Grand Imam of Al Azhar stated that, “anyone can demonstrate to express his or her views and this has nothing to do with faith.” His Holiness, Pope Tawadros II, of the Coptic Orthodox Church said, “everyone is free to express his or her views.”

Yesterday, in an attempt to calm the situation, the President delivered a 2.5 hour speech. Unfortunately, the speech stirred the people even more. Demonstrations started yesterday at Tahrir Square and in the Province of Mansoura where dozens were injured and two people were killed. Now the military tanks have started to move in to protect the important sites.

What is going to happen on the 30th of June? We do not know. All what we know is that when emotions run high, anything can happen. However, we trust that God is in control and we are in His hands. Two days ago during his visit to Egypt, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, encouraged us by using St. Paul’s words, while in the middle of a storm, “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost” (Acts 27:22a).

I am writing this to request your prayers for Egypt and for the people of Egypt.

May the Lord bless you.

+ Mouneer Egypt
The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

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Good News

 “How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good (things),
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!””
– Isaiah 52:7 NKJV

I’ve always loved Isaiah’s imagery of feet in this passage… “how beautiful are the feet of him.”  A number of years ago I attended a church that had a large clergy staff. On Sunday mornings when it came time to serve communion, one priest would be at the altar and all the rest of the clergy would kneel across the front of the church to receive communion.  As a person in the pew, what I saw was a line of white robes with black shoes sticking out from under them… a whole row of feet!… and this verse from Isaiah would always pop into my head.

This may not have been what Isaiah meant, but in a way it was kind of appropriate… because our pastors loved God and loved His people, and faithfully proclaimed the good news.  You could say they have ‘beautiful feet’.

So what is the good news these feet are bringing?

  • First, in Isaiah 52 verse 7, the messenger announces peace.  The Hebrew word here is shalom.  It means more than just absence of conflict; it’s a holistic sense of well-being.
  • Second, the messenger announces good news – something we often find a shortage of in everyday life.  He announces tidings of good things.
  • Third, he announces the kingdom of God – our God reigns, and this messenger, like a herald, goes before Him and announces His arrival.
  • And he announces salvation.  Which raises some questions, like ‘what does this salvation look like?’  The answer is complex… and I’ll come back to it in a moment.

First a note: Isaiah remarks on the messengers themselves in Isaiah 52:8.  “The voice of your watchmen” – the translation is correct.  The voice – one voice – many watchmen.  They (plural) lift up their voice (singular).  They proclaim as one.  With one heart, with one mind.  Isaiah says ‘eye to eye’ they proclaim.  Beholding His glory, “together they sing for joy”.  When God’s ministers and messengers agree on the message, this is good news for God’s people.

Isaiah continues – verse 9 – “break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people…”  This brings us back to the salvation Isaiah was talking about back in verse 7, and leads us into the heart of the prophecy.

Though he couldn’t have known it at the time, Isaiah’s prophecy is a triple one: three different fulfillments under three different circumstances. The first and most direct fulfillment is the one that’s contemporary to Isaiah.  Isaiah is writing to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon, and during his time Jerusalem lies in ruins.  Only the poorest of the poor remain in the city dealing with wild animals and bandits.  The city walls are broken down, the temple is destroyed.  Isaiah is writing to comfort people living far from home, far from the Promised Land.  He assures them that God has not forgotten them and that He will bring them home.

The Babylonian captivity lasted for 70 years, which meant many generations experienced Babylonian rule.  Psalm 129 which we read a moment ago describes how the people were feeling during this time.  The psalmist writes:

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
they have greatly oppressed me from my youth…
Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.”

Have you ever seen pictures of slaves from the Civil War era, slaves who had been whipped?  You can see the ridges of scars running down their backs.  That’s the kind of thing the psalmist is talking about.  Physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual suffering.  And Isaiah’s message is one of comfort and encouragement… a message that makes it possible for the psalmist to continue saying:

But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”

The second fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy happens when Jesus is born.  Isaiah 52 speaks of redemption, but more than that, it is surrounded by a context that speaks of the Messiah.  The following chapter Isaiah 53 contains the famous description of the ‘suffering servant’, including the words, “he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities… and with his stripes we are healed.”

Not only that but St. Paul also makes the connection when he quotes Isaiah 52 as he speaks of salvation in the 10th chapter of Romans.  Paul writes:

””Every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”  But how can people call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? … As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!””

There can be no doubt that Isaiah’s words look forward to the coming of the Messiah.  “Good news of great joy to all people,” as Luke says in his gospel. (Luke 2:10)  And just in case there’s any doubt the Messiah is who Isaiah is talking about here, look at the Hebrew in Isaiah 52:7 – “who proclaims salvation” – the Hebrew word for ‘salvation’ here is Yeshua.  “Who brings glad tidings, who proclaims Yeshua.”

…Which leads us into the gospel reading for today (Luke 6:17-23). To set the scene: Jesus, surrounded by a multitude of people from all over the country is demonstrating God’s compassion, and God’s deliverance, as He heals, delivers from demons, and reaches out to people as they reach out to Him.  Luke says, “power came out of him and healed them all”.

And then Jesus begins to explain his actions in words, teaching the people about the Heavenly Kingdom that His miracles demonstrate.  He gives them a foretaste of the Promised Land.  He says:

“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom… blessed are the hungry, you will be filled… blessed are you who weep, for you will laugh… blessed are you when people exclude you, put you down, for My sake… they did the same thing to the prophets! Rejoice, your reward is great.”

In Jesus, as in Isaiah, we see that God is deeply concerned about justice, healing, and freedom.  And I should note that when Jesus talks about the poor and the hungry – not all hunger is physical, and not all poverty is monetary.  Jesus deals with it all.

One side note: when Jesus says to the persecuted ones, “your reward is great” – the word ‘great’ in Greek is plural.  We have a very wealthy God who is lavish in His rewards. His richness and generosity is seen throughout scripture… in creation, in his design for worship in the Old Testament, in his feeding of the five thousand.  As Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:4 there is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”  What God has in store for His people is beyond our imagining.

The third fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is still to come.  It will be fulfilled when Jesus returns at the end of the age.  Isaiah says the good news will go out to “all the ends of the earth” – which Jesus affirms in the gospel of Matthew, when He says “this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.”  This hasn’t happened yet.  The gospel hasn’t gotten to ALL the ends of the earth yet.  But the first two fulfillments of Isaiah’s prophecy give us hope as we wait for the third.

So back to where we began, with Isaiah, looking at verse 10.  “the Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations”.  It’s almost like God is showing off his arm, flexing His muscles for all the world to see.  “…before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation (the yeshua) of our God.”  “You wanna see My power?” says God – “look at Jesus.”

Jesus’ power is not like earthly power.  His kingdom is not of this world.  His power does not result in wars or death, or things that harm humankind or the planet.  Jesus’ power is the power to heal, to give sight, to give hearing, to give speech, to bring life to the dead… and if He will do that for our bodies, how much more will He do for our souls?

That is the message the beautiful feet are bringing.  Wherever we find ourselves, whatever our struggles or difficulties, God has not forgotten us.  He still cares and He still reigns, and He will bring us home.

Our part is to believe the good news… let it sink deeply into our hearts… and then share it with world that desperately needs to hear it.

Be people with beautiful feet.

Preached at Church of the Ascension, Pittsburgh PA, Wednesday June 12 2013

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Home One Month

As of tomorrow I will be home from the hospital for one month.   I am six weeks post-surgery for the first surgery and five weeks post-surgery for the second surgery.  On the whole I think recovery has gone amazingly well… I look good, feel good most of the time, and am back to work nearly half-time this week.  My incision areas are still a bit tender (I can’t run a comb all the way through my hair yet), I still get tired easily, and I carry a walking stick when I know I’m going to be on my feet for awhile, but otherwise things feel pretty good.

I think the biggest challenge right now is because things are going so well, everyone (myself included) is under the impression I’m further along recovery than I actually am… like I should be “all better”.  It’s important for us all (myself included) to remember that six weeks post-brain-surgery is not a long time!  When people ask I have to tell them: I’m only about 65% better… 100% is still down the road a ways.  Please be patient. 😉

For those who haven’t heard the news, I also want to share that my father-in-law, Neil’s dad, passed away this past Friday.  The viewing was on Sunday and the funeral Monday.  Please keep his family in prayer, particularly his mother who is struggling with the loss of her husband of over 50 years.

Also please keep my family in prayer as my dad and two brothers (in Philly and NJ) are without power and heat in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Many thanks for your faithfulness in encouragement and prayer!

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Here’s a quick update about Peg’s progress this week… It looks like she will have surgery tomorrow morning to “install” a shunt that will help regulate her spinal fluid pressure.  She’s been a little nervous about another surgery, but she is comfortable with the necessity of it.  It should be a shorter procedure, only about an hour, and she could be headed home Thursday or Friday.  If she is sent home as soon as that, she might need some help with transportation and people who can help her out at home.  Please contact me, Peg, or her husband if you might be able to help.  It seems like every time we come up with a plan to transition her home, the doctors change the plan.  Thanks for your flexibily and willingness to help!


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Blogging from my hospital room via Android… we’ll see how this works out! A friend who visited a few days ago asked me, “so what have you learned from all this?”, and rather than pull out the new rendition of “my (not so) favorite things” hospital version that my music teacher and I had been working on, I gave a fairly straight answer. The one thing that has come through for me in spades this past week is the great need for an “advocate”… someone who can speak for you and look after your best interests when you are too sick too, or too drugged to, or too exhausted to. Someone who will stay by your side sometimes for hours watching for that one moment when their words will be needed. Someday when I am a pastor may God grant me the grace to be an advocate for someone.

And in a wonderful parallel this speaks to our need for Jesus. who is our great advocate… speaking for us when we cannot… doing for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves. I hope to write more about this in the near future. Till then goodnight and keep your mighty angels guard over your people o Lord. Amen.

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So, we were all very excited on Saturday when Peg was almost out the door of the hospital.  A few tests later and now it looks like Peg will be there probably through the end of the week.  Keep praying for Peg, and for the test results, and for the spinal fluid pressure to go down.  The pressure test from yesterday’s spinal tap yielded a measurement that was on the high side, which might mean another surgery and maybe a shunt, so keep praying.  She also needs visitors.  She has some tough decisions to face as test results come back and would love her friends near her.  Eventually, she will also need drivers and “babysitters” when she eventually gets out, but that might not be for a while…


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Hello again,

Looks like Peg will be staying in the hospital for the next day or two.  She continues to improve, but the doctors are being cautious about the risk of infection.  So, more tests and observation, and we’ll try this again in a day or two… In the meantime, visitors are welcome… both in the hospital and next week at home!


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Hello All,

So here we are, sitting in the hospital, waiting for Peg’s discharge papers to be completed… I arrived last night and was able to visit Peg in person.  She is looking great…sitting up, walking short distances, smiling, talking.  She experienced some very bad headaches in the past few days, as was expected with the drain that was there.  The drain was removed early yesterday, and the headaches have subsided.  Today she has been mostly watching TV, snoozing and waiting to get the final ok to go home.  As she transitions back home again, she’ll need help with several things.  If you can lend a hand, please feel free to contact me or Peg’s husband.  Peg is very thankful for your prayers and all of your help and support.  She said that she has had a steady stream of visitors all week, and that encouraging notes keep pouring in.

Here’s hoping we go home soon!



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In the recovery room…

Hello all,

I’m writing on behalf of my sister, who is recovering from her surgery today.  The surgery went well, although it took a little longer than expected… about 8 hours in total.  The doctors were able to repair both places.  A spinal tap drain was left in to avoid brain fluid pressure building up.  It will remain there for 3-4 days while she remains in the hospital.  She is very sore, everything hurts, and the drain will probably cause some severe headaches.  Keep these things specifically in your prayers:  Thanks that the surgery went well, that she will heal quickly, and that the pain levels will be bearable.  I spoke to her husband several times today.  The doctors kept him posted throughout the procedure, and he was there in the recovery room.  Keep him in your prayers too while he juggles daily life and the hospital. 

More updates to come…

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Life on a Sandbar

 “The Outer Banks of North Carolina are not of North Carolina at all. Any minimally detailed map, let alone a satellite view from space, shows they belong to the Atlantic Ocean, as much a part of the sea as fish and waves, and as much at the sea’s mercy as sandcastles on the beach. This is particularly true of Hatteras Island, a 50-mile-long piece of dental floss constantly being redefined by wind and wave.”  – Ray McAllister, Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks

Fishing on Avon Pier (Avon Beach in background)

This is where hubby and I and the extended family have been for the past week: Avon, also known as Kinnakeet, Hatteras Island, Outer Banks.

Vacation?  More like enforced rest.  In a place like this a person MUST slow down, because there simply isn’t all that much to do.  Eat. Swim. Read. Sunbathe. Repeat.  If you feel like it, grab a rod and go fishing, or grab a snorkel and go snorkeling.  Then eat, read, sunbathe, repeat.

This is the life of a tourist, those of us who pool our resources for a week’s stay at a “McMansion” with a swimming pool and a private walkway to the beach, then return home leaving behind natives who are either slightly bemused or slightly irritated and somewhat richer for our having been there.

“McMansions” in Avon

But this was our fourth visit, and as we get to know the island better, another Hatteras is beginning to emerge: the Hatteras that existed for centuries as a collection of small fishing villages accessible only by boat.  The Hatteras that didn’t have an asphalt road or dependable electricity or phone service until the 1960s.  The island whose landscape changes yearly, even daily.  The island McAllister talks about when he writes, “It is wind and rain and sunrises and sunsets and blowing sand and churning surf and you’d-better-be-ready-when-the-storm-hits-because-it-ain’t-waitin’-for-you.  Count on that.”

Sunset over a Graveyard and Pamlico Sound, Pea Island, Hatteras

Hatteras is as famous for its hurricanes and shipwrecks as it is for its pristine beaches and picturesque lighthouses.  Fact is, every time we come back the place has changed. And I don’t mean change as in, they painted the local grocery store (which they have — looks nice!).  I mean change as in, fifteen miles of highway has shifted fifteen feet to the right from where it used to be.  A bridge has been washed out in one place and another has been erected somewhere else.  There’s sand where water used to be and water where sand used to be.  And our friends at the Methodist church have spent the past ten months rebuilding their sanctuary after Hurricane Irene filled it with four feet of water and a foot of sand.

Sunrise over Avon Pier

Life on a sandbar.  It never stays the same.  It’s always changing.  There are glorious days, and there are nightmarish days.  It’s breathtakingly beautiful.  It’s irresistible.  It’s dangerous.  It’s life.  On a sandbar.

Somehow those of us who live on the mainland are under the impression that our “real lives” at home are more solid, that the ground we walk on won’t shift beneath us, that we won’t ever feel our tires sinking into sand.  Hatteras teaches otherwise.  All of life and all of reality is always shifting, always changing, and there’s no stopping that process.  Any appearance of permanence is just an illusion, and any attempt at forcing permanence results in damage to the environment we depend on.

Family Portrait, Beach Access, Avon

The islanders have it right: there are days to enjoy and thank God for, and there are days to be amazed we’ve lived to see the sun rise.  And no matter what happens we are in God’s hands and we have each other, and that’s all that matters.  That’s the Hatteras way.

Life on a sandbar.


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Sharing a moment of serendipity.

I was Googling “ember days” to find out when this year’s Ember Days are and tripped over this site.  It’s entitled “Faith and Family: Resources for the Liturgy of Life” and it is jam-packed full of creative ideas for making the liturgical year come alive in everyday life and with kids of all ages.  Even non-Roman-Catholics can find lots of worthwhile suggestions for reading and activities to bring the reality of God’s presence into daily living.

It’s worth a visit just to spend a calming and peaceful moment with the background music.


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There are folks close to me who feel like I’ve been picking on Glenn Beck a lot lately, and I think I’ve covered the subject well enough, so this post is basically just a way of bookmarking another post I saw and liked.  Here’s a quote:

“…on the day of the rally I actually yelled at my poor mother for not being more outraged.  We were on the phone making plans for the evening when  she casually mentioned watching the whole thing on TV.

“How can you watch that without getting angry?” I demanded.

“Because if I’ve seen this once, I’ve seen it a million times,” Mom said. “It’s no big deal. It will pass….You guys wanna come over for steak?”

“No big deal!” I shouted. “Are you kidding?! They’re basically taking the Lord’s name in vain! Preaching a false gospel! Worshiping an idol!”

“Oh I know. Your dad’s firing up the grill, so you better get on over here.”

I hate to admit that Mom was right…”

The article is entitled Why Glenn Beck Isn’t a Big Deal.

Thanks to the author for giving us a much-needed term: “Beckianity”.  Excellent — now we can take back the word “Christian”!

It’s comforting to remember that this too will pass.  OTOH I think maybe the author is right to be angry… angry for all the people who will be hurt and disillusioned and maybe even lose their faith when yet one more take-back-America-for-God movement crumbles to the ground.  Angry for all the people who will never give the Gospel a chance because of what they think Christianity is about.

I think she ends in the right place: compassion.  And I would add: prayer.  Remembering those on all sides of the issues who will be hurt by this movement and by the reactions against it… pray for the people.

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