And so it begins…

Hello and welcome to my new blog. A place for thoughts, ideas, wonderings and questions. A place where the random will be celebrated and spelling does not count. I write the way I talk, which yes, may include creating new words.

Today I embark on a new journey in geography. I will be travelling to Turkey and Greece to experience, learn and grow in my understanding of our New Testament Letters. I know this will influence me for the rest of my life and change how I read the ancient words that the Spirit is still breathing life into.

And yet this journey is not new. I have been privileged to travel to Israel and Palestine to walk where Jesus walked and meet the ancestors of the people whom Jesus loved. The Gospels and even parts of the Hebrew Bible have never been the same. And I was changed, my faith, my experience of the Divine, and my inner being. I look forward to this new change, what and who I will be when I return.

But a journey is not just a physical one of geography, it is a journey of the soul. I feel as if I am on a constant quest to discover who the Triune God is and how we fit in the big picture. I have had time of certainty and questions, times of closeness and feelings of abandonment. Sometimes I have felt like I have almost figured something out, only to be blown away by something I never saw coming.

I promise you this, dear reader, if you are still reading. This blog will be honest, as an 8 I can’t help it. It will be vulnerable, as an 8 I am working on it. There may be somethings you won’t like, be shocked by, laugh at, cry with, say Amen to, and don’t be surprised if some of that happens at the same time. I encourage you to comment, dialog with me- if we are on a journey together, why not talk about it.

Peace to you all and I look forward to seeing where this path takes us.


What a Week!

It has been quite a week and it is only Wednesday.

We had 1 funeral service and 2 memorial services.

It is a short week with the holiday- so bulletins were going to press quickly.

The First Sunday of Advent is this weekend with a new preaching series, new liturgies, with the decorations to go up.

It is the end of the month and we have the Newsletter to put together as well.

This past Sunday was the Annual Meeting and we continue to move forward in ministry.

I did 2 presentations from my journey to Greece and Turkey this week and tomorrow I will get up early and drive to Ohio to see my father only to turn around the next day and drive back here.

It has been a week and it is only Wednesday!!!

I feel the need to slow down. I feel the need to catch my breath. I feel the need to find my breath. How about you?

I also remembered this week that the speed of the leader is the speed of the pack. And a community will only grow spiritually if the leader is growing spiritually. And right now, my speed is fast, but I am not feeding myself, so how can I expect my pack, my church, my people to run with me if I am out of fuel in my tank.

So I decided to slow down, to take some time to center myself, to feed myself and prepare for the Christ child with Advent-an Advent devotional. It is for me and myself. I am not good at devotions, at a daily ritual. But I think I need to breathe- to find time- no make time- to breathe with the Spirit.

What about you? Do you need to make time to breathe- to connect you to the Divine- to draw your heart to beat and be in rhythm with Jesus, your savior and friend? I encourage you to find a rhythm- make a rhythm and breathe.

Here is what I will be Adventing to-

care to join me?

PS- Paul Hill if you are reading this, I will call you tomorrow while I am driving, or Friday.

What do you enjoy?

For those of you who know me, you know I love coffee. A strong cup of coffee with some heavy whipping cream is my go to in the mornings. Later I might have a latte or a flat white. I enjoy regular coffee with no cream as well. And in Turkey I enjoyed a cup of Turkish coffee after a meal or Greek coffee in Greece. We also enjoyed wine. A lot of wine. At most meals and then in Santorini I went to 2 different wineries.

The food also I enjoyed.

These were bread bombs! Sourdough bread filled with 3 different cheeses, turkey, ham and then put in the oven, baked and broiled and then topped with more cheese, green onion and perhaps cilantro. They were AMAZING!!!!!!!!

On this trip, we were running from place to place, we were seeing sites upon sites, we were learning SO MUCH information. That we realized how important it was to slow down and take time to enjoy the good things.

The good things tended to be people, conversation and food. Have you ever felt that way? That you had been running around doing a lot of good, busy with amazing things, and yet, you have not had time to enjoy it? One things we learned during the pandemic was that we can slow down. We want to slow down. We NEED to slow down.

I want to encourage you to enjoy the good things. Slow down and take note of the good things. God gave us good things to enjoy. For some, the good things might be just a breath, for some it might be a moment of silence and for others it may be a good meal, with a good beverage, with a good friend.

This is the life you were given. Don’t get so busy living it, that you don’t take time to enjoy it!

Clinging to the Cross

The town of Philippi has quite a history. It seems archaeologist have been able to date civilization to around 5000 BCE in this port town. It has been known for it’s marble, gold and silver. The Roman Empire was greatly influenced as Octavius fought Brutus and Cassius.

We Christians know it as the town in which Paul came and built a church. Walking amongst the ruins of the Romans and the Greeks, we began to see what part of this town could have looked like.

This was one of the first sites that we really explored. This America truly expected to not be able to touch things, to run around ruins freely. I expected more fences, more ropes, more places that said don’t touch. But here, there were only a few. Our leader Don and our guide Voula wanted an adventure and kept discovering new places to walk and new places to go.

We were able to see different inscriptions that still remain and the evolution as this place was overtaken and conquered from various groups. We, of course, focused on the understanding of Christian churches. One marking that was prevalent at the time was the cross surrounded by ivy. One would see it carved into various pieces or architecture and stones that still remained. (Remember, that the cross did not become a symbol for Christianity until the 4th century, after Constantine made Christianity the imperial religion. So what we are seeing here is not from Paul’s time, but 300 years or so after him).

The Ivy must lean on something, it must grow along something, it cannot exist on it’s own, it can’t stand tall on it’s own. In our world we see Ivy in the same way, taking over fields and fences, trees and shrubs. This metaphor that as Ivy clings to the cross, Christians can not exist without relying on the cross. Our faith does not stand on its own without the death and resurrection of the Son of God to redeem all of creation.

We were taught in Seminary from a fabulous preaching professor that if you can take Jesus out of your sermon and it still stands, then it is not a sermon, it is just a nice message. I have tried to follow that wisdom in my own preaching.

My question to ponder is, what are you clinging to in your life that if it was removed you could not stand. Is it Jesus or your faith? Is it your family, your job, status. What is holding you up, anchoring you in, or pushing to grow forward?

Peace to you all in this quest to discover our Triune God.

Not all Sunsets are equal

3 nights in Santorini and 3 very different Sunsets. They say that Santorini is the place for sunsets (and I guess couples, as you can’t throw a stone without hitting one). So every night I found a different place to watch the majesty and beauty of God’s creation unfold to bring me joy and peace.

The first night did not disappoint as I sat at a winery towards the northern end of the island. You may have seen the pictures. There were applause at all the beauty that cascaded around me.

The next night I met Jenny in Oia, the town at the southern end that is supposed to be THE PLACE for sunsets. We found a rooftop for a good dinner and optimal viewing pleasure. And it was…..meh. Yes I said meh about a sunset. It was misty and cloudy, it kinda faded into the night without much to do at all. There were no applause, no ooooss or ahhhs. Just meh.

My final night I was in Fira, in the middle of the island. I found a great place to sit, eat and drink. My waiter Alex, (a very cute Greek, who after asking if I wanted to go home with him, and I shared my profession, turned out to be married…) made sure I had a prime seat. But the clouds were coming in, the wind was coming up, and again, the Sunset behind the clouds. I didn’t even stay for it to hit the ocean.

Not all sunsets are equal. I asked my waiter Andreas, from the second night, for my money back- he said to me- but you are in Santorini, on a rooftop, overlooking the ocean- how can that be bad. And he was correct.

I had a vision of what this time would be, what each sunset would look like, the splendor and beauty. I go so distracted by what I was not seeing, I had forgot to look around and see what I was experiencing. Great food, an amazing Island, wonderful people and a chance to just be. All these things I missed because I was focused on something that was not living up to my expectations.

Has that ever happened to you? You were so busy looking at something, hoping for something or someone, that you missed what was in front of you? Maybe it was a job, a school, a potential romantic partner, a chore that you had put off- whatever it was- you missed what was right there.

Sometimes we also are so busy looking for the neon sign from God that we don’t see the all that God is showing us, right in the midst of the experience. As I get ready to return home, I am more open to not only looking for what I want to see, but also to how God is showing up in other ways.

Is Greek Yogurt, just yogurt?

Time to get personal-the past few days my stomach has not been right, which means other parts of my bodily functions have not been right. I realized yesterday that I had not been having my morning yogurt, to help keep things…. together. So I walked to a grocery store to pick some up.

Well it is all Greek to me- as everything was written in Greek. This is a local store on the island and English is not something that is catered to here. So I found the yogurt and wanted to get Greek, and realized- it is al Greek!!!! What makes Greek Yogurt Greek? The way it is made? The thickness? And in Greece, do they know we call it Greek Yogurt or do they just have yogurt? I found some with lemons on it, as I like Lemon Yogurt and I am happy to report- it is Greek….. and it is Greek style as well.

This trip has affirmed that context matters. Where you are, the culture you experience, the people/nature/geography that you encounter matters. In the letters of our New Testament, they must each be taken as individual letters, not all words in each letter means the same thing. Paul was consistent, in that he wrote about what was happening in each community, to that community, and not beyond that community. When we read scripture we HAVE to understand to whom it was written, when it was written and what the agenda was, and then experience what our Triune God is doing now in our context, in our communities, in our hearts.

This time after the trip, before going back to work and the world, is a privilege. It is one I needed, worked hard for and I know, most of my trip compadres could not do it. I thank my Church, my people who I work with and for, for giving me this time after some crazy months. I thank Will who is taking great care of Leo and Lila. I thank my traveling partner Jenny who has listened to me, challenged me, and let me alone when needed. And I thank God- for letting experience another culture, another county, and whole new way of seeing the Spirit move. I thank our ancestors of faith- Paul, Timothy, Lydia and others who risked their lives to share a story of hope and transformation. And I thank you dear reader, who has stayed faithful reading my ramblings and thoughts.

Peace to you all on this wonderful day.

Endings and Beginnings

Tonight we are back in Istanbul, where it all began. Tomorrow the rest of the group will head back to their various homes- Texas, Pennsylvania, New Orleans, Minnesota and other assorted places. I will be going to the Island of Santorini for a few days of thinking, breathing, reflecting, discerning and planning. It seems as one things ends another begins. I will miss the new friends and colleagues I have met and also look forward to sometime on my own.

It seems life often is about endings and beginnings. That is one thing I realized on this trip. As we walked through the various ancient ruins, cities that had begun before the time of Christ, dating back to 4th century BC and beyond, as one civilization ended, another would begin. Greek to Roman, Ottoman and Turks, empires fall and new empires rise. Temples dedicated to one god would then be turned over to another god and some even became churches.

There is grief and sadness and then joy and laughter. There is a time for all things as Ecclesiastes reminds us- a time for every season under heaven.

What time is it in your life? Are you in a time of beginnings? Are you in a time of endings? Are you mourning a loss or celebrating a great joy? Whatever time you are in, I hope that you will have time to think, breathe, reflect, discern and plan.

Peace to you all and enjoy these random pictures from the trip.

Change takes time

I am sorry that I have not written in a while. Our schedule is crazy seeing 3 sites a day, traversing the countryside of Turkey and Greece. We sometimes arrive late at our destination and are up early on the bus. We have been staying at a different hotel overnight. Traveler Tip: Packing Cubes! (thanks Nan).

Temple of Aphrodite

Yesterday we went to 3 different cities that play into the letters to the churches of Revelation. We saw where perhaps the Apostle Phillip was laid to rest (probably not, but it was a Phillip who was Christian and one who was sent). We walked on Calcified cliffs that looked like ice, but came rom hot springs. Then went to Ladocia, the church that was neither hot nor cold in the book of Revelation. Lastly we went to Smyrna, another city from the ancient world and addressed in Revelation.

These last 2 places are still in the process of discovery. It has been amazing to see how discovery happens. For instance, the digs of Ephesus have been happening for over 100 years. The majesty, the grandeur, the temple, church, houses standing tall and open for all to see.

Laodicea was discovered and started digging less than 13 years ago. A local professor and his students have been discovering new things, it is still amazing what has happened, but so much work to do. In most of these cities only 5-25% has been uncovered. Still so much to find.

Discovery takes time. God is constantly creating, moving, pushing, comforting, loving humanity and creation. We, as humans, must take time and give time, to understand, to discover what God is doing, what we are called to be about, and how we are to move in this world.

One does not need to travel halfway around the world to take time for discovery. It can happen in a breath, it can happen in a moment of meditation, it can happen in prayer while doing hard work. I want to encourage you to take time to discover. Discover what God is doing and how you are being invited into the dance.

Answering the call

Today we were up at 5 to board the bus to fly out of Athens and back to Turkey for the next part of the trip. We will go to Ephesus and visit some of the church sites from the book of Revelation. We continue to follow Paul and the church as it is being formed. I am continually in awe of Paul as he answered the call he was given.

Temple of Apollo in Corinth

Being called to a particular place at a particular time is complex. One must invest deeply while always knowing that it could all change in a moment. Paul came and stayed as long as was needed. He did not finish things, but got them on the right track and then left leaders in place to keep things moving.

Where the first church of the way would have met, at the shadow of the Acropolis of Apollo.

He wrote letters to help them along, answer questions, give correction and support. Each letter MUST be taken in context, as the context matters.

With God’s such as Apollo, Athena, Hermes and others, looming down overtime, Paul had to choose his words carefully. To challenge but not offend, to invite but not be permissible, to proclaim a crucified God over and against any other god. And he had a job to do, places to go and people to see.

We must always ask, where is God calling us? What are we being asked to leave? What are we being called to proclaim?

Who is your favorite God?

I asked on the bus the other day, “What is your favorite god?” Some answered Athena, Hades, Thor as well as a few others. For the past 6 days I have been surrounded by the gods. Temples, shrines, ruins galore that existed or began in 6th century BCE have surrounded us. For hundreds of years people worshipped, glorified and sacrificed to these gods.

We have been asking the question, what would it have been like to proclaim Jesus as God in comparison to these gods. As I stood at the Parthenon today and looked down and around at the great city of Athens, I could understand how it would be foolish to believe in a God that was killed and rose again. A God that would allow himself to be beaten and whipped. A God that cried at the loss of his friend and walked alongside mortals to love them.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Jesus is a stumbling block. The Triune God in this way makes no since. At the time of Paul writing this and for us now, it does not make logical sense to believe in this God. To leave all that the world tells you and to swear allegiance to a God that welcomes all, lifts up the voice of the oppressed, says that our calling is to help others live in the kingdom and to show the way. A God who does not need us, but wants us. A God who doesn’t ask us to sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, but as a response for what God has sacrificed for us.

My favorite God is our Triune God. A God that shows up and goes to extreme length to meet creation and include us in a life of promise, a life of love, a life of purpose and forgiveness. Tonight, as you look at these pictures, ask yourself, who is your favorite God? We might not have Thor or Athena, but there are options- money, time, family, work,- what do you worship? What do you sacrifice to? Where do you find your hope?

The clouds are lifting

Today it rained. Yesterday it rained. Tomorrow it will rain. As I dreamed this trip, I pictured sunny days and smiles. But as we drive, as we walk, as we move through this trip it is cloudy, rainy and wet.

Today we had hoped to go up into these cliffs and see these monasteries that began as hermitages. Monks would live in the crevices of the caves to seek solitude and closeness with God.

In the afternoon we could not wait any longer so we headed up into the fog and mist, not able to see anything. We put on our raincoats and walked up to this monastery where the paintings existed from the 16th century (which we could not take pictures of). And as you can predict, after we were done the fog lifted for a brief second. We saw the beauty and the majesty.

The fog is beginning to lift. These past couple of months have been hard. I have been pushing hard and fast and have only been able to see what is right in front of me. But now, that I am able to take some time, the fog is being lifted. I am looking forward, seeing the big picture.

I will say both pictures are beautiful- what is right in front of my eyes and what I can see when the fog is lifted. My wondering for you all is, are you taking time to let the fog lift? Are you so busy seeing what is front of you, that you can’t see what God is doing? And what fog needs to be lifted for you to see?

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