Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I am getting married in exactly 66 days. And, like most brides I am very, very excited while also doing things that I normally don't do. I am spending more money than I thought I would spend. I am getting china that I never thought I would own. And, I have started to exercise more regularly. I have dropped 20 pounds and want desperately to lose another 15 before June 28. I can visualize a few more defined lines on my arms. I want a waist that is a bit smaller. I want a chin that shows no signs of being doubled. I want it all, and I started a bit too late. Still, I have been going to the gym often and walking with a neighbor when I can.

Joy and I made plans to meet this morning at 6:00 a.m. to walk. I first woke up at 5:10 a.m. My thought was to get out of bed, write a note and go put it under Joy's door. The note would explain how I was just too tired to get up or had a headache or pushed myself too much last night in step aerobics' class. I wanted desperately to sleep longer. I did not want to walk. I could think of a million reasons why I needed to sleep more than I needed to walk. Still, I knew that Joy would be waiting for me. I had made plans with Joy to walk with her. We had made a commitment to be in the lobby at 6:00 a.m. for our walk.

Needless to say, I got out of bed at 5:45, put on my gym clothes, tied my tennis shoes, and walked out the door. We walked to the National Zoo and back. I saw turtles and animal life before the sun had risen over Washington. I was refreshed. I was invigorated. I was ready to face my day.

But I almost did not go. Had it just been me, I would have easily gone back to bed.

So often I set my alarm early in an effort to have quality study and prayer time before I get in the shower. I want desperately to have a set time each morning in which I spend time going to God, giving God thanks for a good night's rest and turning over to God the concerns on my heart. All too often, however, I push snooze so many times that I leave very little time for God. I too often have just enough time to get myself ready, pack a lunch, and head out the door.

Still, God is waiting. God has made a pack with me that God will never leave me nor forsake me. God is always ready to hear from me. God knows everything about me and longs to be in relationship with me. Just as Joy was waiting in the lobby this morning for our walk, God is always waiting for me to turn to God and say, "Good morning," or "thank you" or "I need you."

Why is it that we so often keep God waiting, pushing snooze instead?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


By far, the one event that has had the biggest impact on my life is my parents' divorce. My parents were married for 23 years before they split - a happening that came as a big shock to me when I was in junior high school. A lot of healing has happened since then, and I now feel so fortunate to have a beautiful relationship with both of my parents and their spouses.

My mother married James in the summer of 1998. She had dated "Red" as we all affectionately call him for years before they finally decided to marry. Dating was a big deal for my mother. She did not want to do anything to mess up the relationship she had with my sister and me. She devoted all of her time and energy to the two of us before she ever thought about finding another man. Yet, Red came into our lives and immediately grabbed a part of each of our hearts.

Red taught agriculture at the local community college for just under 40 years before retiring. Ranching was once a passion, and it had become his profession when he and Mom married. He had hundreds of Black Angus cattle, a lot of Quarter horses, and thousands of acres of land. For years he taught livestock judging, and his team was always the best in the nation. Red could tell you every name of every member of every judging team he ever coached, along with the years in which they were on his team. He had a memory that seemed to be photographic. He never forgot a name. Details were always stacked in his head, one after another.

The last couple of years have not been easy for Red. Nearly two years ago he was kicked by a bull and suffered a broken hip. At the beginning of this year, he fell while crossing the street and broke his other hip. He had recovered and was doing well, but he has been forgetting things. He forgets to eat, forgets to go to the bathroom, and cannot remember every person's name, let alone the years they judged cattle with him.

Yesterday, Mom and Red got news that any family hates to hear. Red has an advanced stage of Alzheimer's. Nearly 1/3 of his brain cells are already gone, and the physician told Mom that she should be prepared for Red not to recognize her or other members of the family at Christmas.

Out of all of the diseases and illnesses known to man, I cannot think of anything any more cruel than Alzheimer's. I do not understand why anyone should have to suffer by watching their loved one's mind disappear. I do not understand why anyone should have to go through a time when the love of their life no longer recognizes them. I cannot fathom the pain of this disease, and I would give anything if it would just go away. Is there any kind of suffering that is any worse?

A part of me wants to be angry with God. Why would such a gifted, amazing, kind, good person be stricken with such a terrible thing? God, why would you allow this to happen? My mother's heart has been broken once, why would you break it again?

I do not know the answer to these questions. However, when I opened the pages of my Bible this morning, the words of Psalm 16 touched me again:

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you."
...Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices,
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


My mother is visiting this week from Southeastern Colorado. She lives in a community where it is rather easy to get around. There is not much traffic in her town. There are several stoplights but not too many. She seemingly always knows where to go.

I do not always know where I am going.

Our church members live all over the area - in Virginia, DC and Maryland. I remember in my first weeks as their pastor, when I was going to visit someone in Fairfax, I arrived to a very disappointed face. I had gotten lost on my way. I was very late. In the process of my finding the member's home, the souffle had fallen. She had tried her best to prepare a grand lunch, and I nearly missed it.

For all of these reasons and more, I was thrilled when Craig purchased a GPS system for me for Christmas this year. I love my GPS. I love how it always knows where I am, how it knows when I have made a wrong turn, and how it can always get me back on track again.

My mother had never seen a GPS until this week. She is amazed. I punched in the shopping center on Monday, and it navigated us directly to the parking lot. I punched in Target, and we were soon inside the store. I then hit, "Go Home," and it led me home. Mother keeps saying, "That is just amazing."

It is amazing, and it reminds me often of God.
I have mentioned this to a developer friend before, but each time I think of the amazing power of the GPS, I think even more of the amazing power of God. The Psalmist who penned Psalm 139 wrote about how God has "searched us and known us" even from afar. He continues to state how there is no where that we can go that is beyond the range of God's love. Furthermore, God knows everything about us before a word is even on our tongues. God knows everything!

The GPS system knows where I am at all times. When I turn the wrong way, it says, "recalculating." It shows me when I am off track. It is always ready to return me to the right path. And, it can always lead me home.

Our living God knows all of this and more.

Thank you, Lord, for always knowing my whereabouts. Thank you for seeking to lead me along the right path. Thank you for getting me back on track when I have made the wrong turn. Thank you for always telling me how I can get back home - into your all-embracing arms - arms that are always ready to welcome home that which has been lost.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Interior Changes

The process of renovating the sanctuary at Mount Vernon Place is nearing completion. We'll be back in the building in less than four months, and I can hardly wait to have a worship space of our own once again. I can hardly wait to show up on Sunday mornings with the candles already in place, knowing that everything that needs to go on top of the altar is already there. I am excited. I am very excited.

I love what is happening inside the building. I love the new windows that cast light inside. I love the new bathrooms with shower facilities. I love the walls. I love the new stairwells. I love the openness of the new entry to the sanctuary - a door in which all will enter whether in a wheel chair or on two feet. I love the openness of the chancel area. I love how the completely white walls showcase the stained glass windows. I am excited. I am very excited.

Yesterday, the chair of the Steering Committee and I took a group of church members through the building. Don and I have worked countless hours on the building. We love walking inside and seeing the changes taking place. We were excited about taking people in the building to show them what is happening - individuals who have not been inside the building in a year.

We were excited. We were excited until we realized that not many positive things were being said. The individuals with us seemed more ready to point out what is different - what is missing - than all of the great changes that are happening. They said that the hallways look more narrow. They wondered why some ceilings have been lowered. They commented on how much space the new energy-efficient heating and air conditioning system takes. They then continued to focus on gold paint missing from the sanctuary - paint that was not part of the original structure and paint that eventually turns black.

It was hard not to be discouraged. It was hard not to be frustrated. We were so excited. They had little positive to say.

Why is it that we always look for the negative instead of looking for the positive? Why is it that we are so good about sizing something up by its appearance instead of looking deep within? How is it that we are so quick to draw a conclusion without taking the time to search within or find out more information? And, why is it that we too often prefer the past instead of embracing the future?

Our current sermon series at Mount Vernon Place is "UNconventional Wisdom." We are looking at the unconventional wisdom of God - wisdom that says the people who are considered the lowest in society are the ones who are blessed, wisdom that welcomes on the inside all who are on the outside, wisdom that is based upon a cross where one was crucified, wisdom that describes the good life as having nothing to do with power or possessions. I love being reminded of the unconventional wisdom of God because it is so different from what we are accustomed to. The unconventional wisdom of God tells me to look for the good in every person and every situation - something that is not always easy to do - but something that always reaps great rewards.

Dear Lord, please help us to be more unconventional.