Tag Archives: Jesus

That Time That I Went to a Methodist Church on Ash Wednesday

Last night, I entered Zion Methodist Church in Grand Forks, ND, just in time to find a bathroom before the service started.  As a seasoned pastor’s wife, I knew exactly where to go to find an empty restroom – down the stairs and to the left is the typical floor plan.  I swiftly found the door, switched on the light, and closed the stall door in front of me.  I went through the motions that need not be described and started falling toward the toilet seat to take care of business and get back upstairs in time for the service.

Rewind a bit:  fall I did.

It turns out that I had found the nursery restroom, and the toilet seats are toddler height.  I know: those who have met me in person are thinking, “That’s perfect!”  However, let me just tell you all that, though the height may have been perfect, I was not prepared for it.

I had started my march toward that moment on Tuesday evening when I saw Facebook posts of our University of Mary students partying like it was 1987 for Mardi Gras – make your own masks and all. I have been awake odd hours this week, so I have had extra quiet and alone time this week to ruminate (isn’t that a great word) about how I planned to engage with Lent this year.

I grew up attending Mendenhall Presbyterian Church in East Grand Forks, MN.  After spending the first two and half years of my life being a world traveler, I spent the next 15 years in one spot.  When my mom and biological father (Air Force – hence, the world traveling) divorced, my mom had returned to the Red River Valley. As a single mom in the late 1970s, she was fortunate to find a church who welcomed her (and her organ-playing skills) with open arms.  When she married Rick in 1979, the church rejoiced with her.

I had no idea what liturgy was as a child.

In fact, it was not until I started to attend Grace Baptist Church that I realized some churches had a very similar liturgy (Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians) while others had their own vein of liturgy.  Those with their own veins of liturgy often attempt to claim they are without liturgy; however, once I realized what liturgy was, it became clear that all churches have it whether they realize it or not.

Liturgy essentially means the rhythm with which we do church.  Some people would call it a service schedule, but it is more than that.

Each part of the service has a theological significance, and the liturgy of a church can reveal its theology.  Even the location of the podium in relation to the altar/communion table reveals part of the specific church’s liturgy.  For example, in the Baptist tradition, the Word of God and its interpretation (the sermon) are central to the service. The podium from which the pastor preaches the sermon would typically be in the center of the stage.  In contrast, for a Catholic tradition, the Eucharist (communion) is central which is why the podium remains off to the side with the altar in the center.

Some traditions have written liturgies – there are books that describe the rhythm of the church service during different parts of the year.  More liturgical Baptists like the church my children (Baylor students) attend in Texas hand you the liturgy of the day as a packet on your way into the service.  This is quite a switch from the announcement-laden bulletin that we have at our Baptist church in Bismarck. It has empty blanks for the sermon notes, but that is all of the hint you get about the order of service.

In the Baptist tradition that I have lived for the past 26 years, the liturgical calendar has two basic high points – Easter and Christmas.  While we may talk of Advent and Lent, they are not emphasized.  What a contrast to the Catholic lives with whom we interact at the University of Mary.  We live within sight of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, and even the parking lot knows its liturgical calendar.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  As the day approached, I had felt a pull toward the liturgical side of this day.  Had I grown up in the churches I have attended in later years, I might not even know what Ash Wednesday was.

If I had been in Bismarck this week, I could have attended the large mass on campus.  I read somewhere that Ash Wednesday is the second most highly attended mass in the Catholic tradition.

UMary students leave their backpacks in the hallway during mass.

UMary students leave their backpacks in the hallway during mass.

I consulted my Facebook friends who live in Grand Forks as to time and information about their Ash Wednesday services but ultimately had to make a decision based on the nicest website.  I guess that is what people who work for online high schools do – choose your life based on what people say they are about.

As I walked to my car after the service, I started to rate it in my mind.  After a few critical moments, I had to remind myself that Ash Wednesday has little to do with the church I attend and much more to do with God whom I went to worship and His impact in my life.  The point was not for the church to create some moving experience through the service.  Instead, the stillness, the lack of glitz, and the near somber attitude of those leading was liturgy.

Lent is not about entertaining me.  Rather, lent is about preparing my mind and heart to remember that all of this world’s sinfulness was placed on the body of a man who was also God, who would suffer in mysterious ways for that sin, and who brings redemption to us because of His conquering resurrection.

As the pastor described that he had prepared the ashes for last evening by burning the palm branches used in last year’s Palm Sunday service, I was moved.  As another pastor read Psalm 51 aloud, I was moved.  As the small group who had gathered to worship together sang songs that directed our minds to the saving work that Christ did on the cross, I was moved.

Being moved did not come from anything that they did but rather what I did in obedience to worship, remember, and consider.

It turned out that my junior math teacher attended the same service with her husband.  We sat together, sang together, went up for our ashes together, and connected briefly afterwards.  As I drove away from the church service, I thought again at the unity we have with others who believe in the uniqueness of Christ.

Because of that unity, I could walk into almost any church in almost any town in almost any country around the world and worship.  The world will know God’s love through Christ when we come together and worship in love.


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

This Little (Night)Light of Mine

Saturday was a big day in my life: I bought a night light for the master bathroom.

Rewind: when we moved to Bismarck, we moved into a fantastic house. I love it.  The housing market in Bismarck, ND, is crazy because of the oil boom “out west.”  The most expensive place to live in the nation is Williston, ND, and that expensiveness has made its way to Bismarck.  Because of that, we chose to rent, and – for the second time in our married lives – I saw the house for the first time when I arrived to live in it.

My house is not without quirks, though. One of the quirks is that the master bedroom is in the basement and formerly was the garage. The renovation created a beautiful room with hardwood floors and a walk-out french door view of the spacious backyard.  The bathroom is even more unique than the bedroom with a quarter circle shower in the corner of the room.

The scary part of the bathroom is the step down to get from the bedroom to the bathroom. This makes for hazardous travel on those middle of the night bathroom trips.  It is even more hazardous because it is super, super dark in our room at night and even darker in the bathroom.

Imagine me inching toward the step from my bedroom, holding my hand along the wall and sliding my feet to catch the end of the step.

This pretty much wakes a person up for good.

I am proud to say that neither the huz nor I have been harmed on any of these middle of the night trips, but we have only been here for five and a half months.

On Saturday, I went on the hunt for the perfect night light and found it.  The light it gives off is just enough to make my path known but not enough to trick my brain into thinking it should start working for the day.


As I looked at the light for the first time on Saturday, I had another quick thought that got my brain going (it was ok for my brain to go, though, as it was the middle of the day!).

It really does not take much light to dispel the darkness around us.

I could go on and on for a while about the darkness around us, the negativity of others, and how that makes our souls ache in ways that make us want to stay in bed for days and days.

I do not need to do that.

We are all pretty aware that our world in general is tough, and our specific worlds can be roughness personalized because of what we experience or because of what those close to us experience.

It is not by accident that light gives us hope and darkness brings us down.

Genesis 1: 1-3 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

When Jesus came to Earth, it was dark here. There was a dark sin condition, and He needed to bring hope to us so that we could live life.

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

And then Jesus commands us to be light as well.

Matthew 5:14a You are the light of the world.

What we need to do is look for the light around us.  Even a small glimmer of light can give us hope in the midst of our darkness.Sometimes it is hard to find the light because so many of us are hiding our lights.

Matthew 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

We are content to be our own personal darkness, and – for whatever reason – we choose to hide our lights.  We are concerned that people around do not want to see our lights or hear why we have hope in our lives.

My nightlight is really cool.

When I turn on the bathroom light – which fills the room fully with light – the nightlight goes off. Its light is not needed any more because the bigger light consumes the room.

One day, our lights will not be needed any more either.

When Jesus returns, we will be in God’s presence for eternity.Until then, we are called to be nightlights to the world around us – bringing them hope and sharing with them the reason that we can shine even though darkness surrounds us on all sides.

John 10:10b I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.




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Advent, Apologies, and Joy

I have never experienced Advent in the way that I am experiencing it this year.

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to seeing my children return from their first semester at Baylor University – TOMORROW (God, weather, and roads willing).  To be a little cheesy, this mama bear is ready to have her cubs around for longer that 48 hours.  I am so proud of them, and I feel that we have all adjusted as well as we could have given the apple cart upsetting that we experienced in August.  I look forward to some relaxing times with them in our old stomping grounds of Minneapolis as well as our new home in Bismarck.  The time between Thanksgiving and today has dragged along, but I am sure that the next four weeks will fly by.  *sigh*

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to the end of our first semester at the University of Mary.  Seriously – wow! We have really changed our ministry focus and have loved every minute with the students here. This unique experience as Protestants in a committed Catholic environment has stretched and grown us in ways that we did not know could happen.  The dialogues that we have had with students and faculty have been amazing.  As I see it, we are here for two purposes: to be in dialogue with brothers and sisters from other denominations and to provide ministry in the Protestant traditions for those students and staff of those traditions.  This is transformational – can you imagine a Protestant university hiring a Catholic priest to minister on that Protestant campus? I am still in shock and so grateful.  I am really digging our new gig.

Advent is a time of reflection as we await the arrival of the Christ child.  In my reflecting, I have realized that sometimes I hit “publish” on my blog posts without thinking it all through.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about this new call on our lives, and I need to share an apology – or maybe just a clarification.  In the post, I wrote about sitting in Mass one Sunday evening and thinking that I am not “here” for the Catholic students sitting around me in the service.  After I hit publish and shared the post on Facebook, one of the Catholic students whom I would count as a dear friend made a comment.  It was not her comment that made me reflect but just the fact that she and I are in fellowship that forced me to re-think my words.  Who am I to limit God’s call on my life?  I am  here to minister to whomever and with whomever God brings into my life. We are here to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love any who comes into our lives, and to share the love of Jesus with whomever will listen.  So – I’m sorry. Deeply sorry.

Two days ago was the Advent Sunday of Joy.  My college English writing students who paid attention enough to know that we do not capitalize words without reason to do so would be upset that I wrote Joy instead of joy; however, it just seems like joy should be capitalized this week.  Maybe I should shout it – JOY (by the way, to those who follow me on Facebook, that lady is still sending me emails in all caps.  Seriously.).

JOY! Yes, this Advent week reminds us of the joy that our souls find because of Christ’s arrival on Earth.  As the song says, “No more let sin and sorrows grow.”  With Christ’s arrival on Earth, all of what was known about God’s kingdom was turned upside down and changed forever. Jesus – Messiah – arrived to save us, free us, bless us, and reign in us.  He came that we could live abundantly.

When we look around us, life abundant seems hard to find some days.  Death, divorce, disease, and discord seem to be winning the fight.  We should probably get off of our computers, log out of Facebook accounts, leave our houses, and go find life.  It is out there waiting for us to live in the same way that we wait in Advent.  And the joy that we seek will rarely be found where we think it will be – fame, career, or wealth.  Instead – in the same unexpected way that Jesus – the King – was found in a humble stable, JOY will likely be found in humble ways of serving others and looking beyond our own wants.

Advent reminds us that we remain in waiting for the second coming of Jesus.  All of the discord that we combat by seeking joy will end when Christ returns and reigns forever as King of King and Lord of Lords.  We will wait…and wait…and wait.  While we wait, we will seek joy through service to God through serving others.

Each year at Advent – this year at Advent – let us remember that Christ came so that we could have life.  As we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth, let us remember that Christ came for a purpose.  As we wait, let us remember that Christ is coming again.  Amen.




Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts, Travel

Right is Rarely Easy

We arrived to the Sunday evening campus mass earlier than usual so that I could briefly meet with one of my writing students.  After my meeting with the student, the huz and I still had plenty of time before mass.  The hallway outside of the chapel was mostly empty, and we decided to go in and sit down in the mostly empty sanctuary.

I closed my eyes, tried to empty my mind of the busy things that invaded my thoughts, and talked to God a bit about my continued mixed feelings about His call on our lives and the upsetting of the apple cart that we continued to sense even three months into the adventure.  With Thanksgiving weekend approaching, we have travel plans that include family in one part of the state and friends in another state – our former home.  In July, I spent a weekend with and Excel spreadsheet and websites such  Travelocity and Expedia searching for the best ticket prices.  Our kids fly into one airport and out of another thanks to our attempt to provide all four of us with a touch of something that means home.

Home is not yet Bismarck, ND, for our whole family. I will admit that Bismarck is growing on me quite a bit.  I think that my huz would say the same, but I hesitate to speak for him.  God worked out the details for a house that is beyond what I could have hoped given the current housing market in North Dakota’s booming economy.  We are thankful for the existing friendships that we had before our arrival, and many new friendships grow as we meet people through our various roles.  Everyone is very welcoming on the University of Mary campus, in our new church, and in our neighborhood.

Clicks on the cement floor of the chapel and rustling of people around me blend with my thoughts as others enter the chapel for mass.  As it gets closer to the start of the service, these sounds interrupt my thoughts more and more. I opened my eyes and turned my head to see the sanctuary that had filled nearly to capacity around me.  My breath still catches at the sight of students and others on their knees on the cement floor (no kneelers) with eyes closed as they prepare for the service.  On Monday, I joined several of those in attendance in a hustle and bustle of a college campus as we raced from class or to eat lunch at the cafeteria.  In that silent moment in the chapel on Sunday evening, though, we were quiet, calm, and hopeful.

The organ interrupted all of our contemplations and prayers with the lead in to “Crown Him With Many Crowns.”  The service bulletin informed us that Sunday was known in the liturgical calendar as “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.”  I grew up attending Mendenhall Presbyterian  Church in East Grand Forks, ND, so I am no stranger to the repetitive liturgical cycle.  I think someone was pretty clued in tot he fact that we humans need repetition.  We forget things that someone told us only moments ago.  As media bombards us with more and more information, there is less and less information in our head. The liturgical calendars helps us annually celebrate and remember the same basic truths that we celebrated and remembered last year.

Throughout the service, we sing, we pray, we hear Scripture read, and we sing some more.  Each time I have attended the campus mass since moving to Bismarck in August, I have been impressed by the singing of that particular week’s Psalm.  The leader teaches the congregations the first verse of the Psalm, and then he or she sings other parts of the Psalm while the organ holds the chord.  The congregation joins again as the leader signals us to do so.

This week, we sang Psalm 23.  We repeatedly sang, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”   It reminded me that God watches over me, He cares for me, and that He plans for me here in Bismarck.  Nowhere else in Bismarck can remind me of why we moved as much as attending Sunday evening mass on campus.  All around me are students who – without anyone pushing them to attend mass or taking attendance – freely attend mass…some of them daily.

When I ponder this, though, I am reminded that we were not called to minister to the students who attend mass with me. They have a lot ministry for them here already: daily masses, a priest as a chaplain, missionaries from the Catholic faith who provide Bible studies for them, and the sisters who live right down the hill from the very chapel in which I sit for mass.  My huz’s role is complicated and complex as he helps to bring a similar spiritual life experience to the non-Catholic Christian students, faculty, and staff on campus.

Last night, Campus Ministries (one of my huz’s departments) hosted a “Students and Sisters” Thanksgiving meal.  The sisters provided the place; campus ministry staff provided the food.  Fun was had by all.  Prior to the meal, I had a conversation with a sister who is edging toward retirement. She told me of her past roles on campus and her current passions.  As we talked, she shared with me that she will not call Protestants by that name; rather, she refers to non-Catholics as those from other denominations.  I was so moved by her heart for the non-Catholic students on campus and the encouragement that she provided me through that conversation.

Monsignor James Shea, president of University of Mary and a personal friend from our college days, presided over the mass on Sunday and gave the homily.  He appeared burdened by the message as he gave it.  He stressed over and over again that Christ, King of the Universe, desires to be the ruler of hearts, minds, and lives. Choosing to follow Christ’s call on our lives will not be easy, but it will bring order and purpose to our lives.

Following God’s call on our lives to Bismarck, ND, was not easy. Staying in Minneapolis with our friends who had become family to minister together would have been the easy choice.  It might have even felt really good.  But coming to Bismarck was in answer to a clear call to something unique and unusual.  There is a need here, and God chose my huz – well, both of us it often seems – to help with that need. God has provided order and purpose to our lives in this call. It is not easy, and my eyes still often leak. Something this unique and unusual would not be easy.  But it is good.



Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

Hymns, Harmonies, and Holes in Our Hearts

I just awoke from a mini-dream at the end of my sleep cycle.  I have these after I have been awake once in the morning but have chosen to try to squeeze in a bit more sleep.  The dream was literally a small scene, but  the thoughts that followed upon my waking led me to believe that I was meant to get up and write this post.

The dream was a quick conversation with my younger brother (also a Sioux hockey fan for those who care) who is married with two young boys. The conversation occurred on the phone as if I had just called him this morning. I do not know what we had been talking about on the phone, but it was clear that we had been having a lengthy conversation. 

The dream included his one phrase at what appeared to be the end of the conversation. 

He said, “I can’t really think about any of that today  You know it’s mom’s birthday, right?”

And then I woke up.

Today would be my mom’s 64th birthday.  I have written in the past about her birthday and do not want to go on and on too long (I do have to leave for Sunday School in about an hour, and I have not showered yet); however, blogging on her birthday seems to help me experience it. 

It also seems that when I wake up with something to blog about (today is the second time this has happened in week – muse is back?), I must blog about it in order to get that blog out of my head.

And – I have now realized that there are oodles of us out there…grievers, that is…and blog posts that recognize our grief tend to help us grieve.  And we need help!  We can read all of the books in the world on the topic, but nothing helps us grieve better than a shared experience…someone else’s grief that touches us a little bit and allows us to grieve our loved ones (and have a little cry even) through the grief of the loss of another’s loved one.

But I digress…as usual…

The fact that mom’s birthday falls on a Sunday this week catches me off guard a bit.

Through some strange twist of cosmic comedy, I agreed to co-teach a Sunday School class at our church during the winter/spring…which, by the way, is exactly what March in Minnesota should be called on the “season chart” – winter/spring (it really can’t decided).

The focus is on hymns – why we love them as they are written, what is the good theology in them, and how we might write our own hymn (minus the music in most of our cases!).

Although I do not know if the Doxology was one of my mom’s favorite hymns, it was probably the one that she knew the best.  As a Presbyterian for most of her life, she sang the Doxology during nearly every service as the offering was brought forward after the collection in order to offer it to God through prayer.


Though simple in its words, the hymn’s theology dives deep into what I believe about who God is: He is God in three persons and worthy of my praise because all blessings flow from His good graces despite that I deserve His wrath due to my sinful nature.

As a child and teenager, I often stood between my mom and her mom on Sunday mornings as we sang this song – three generations in three part harmony in the midst of a larger congregation.  It is a photograph in my mind’s eye that reminds me that my faith has a heritage and is part of a larger community of believers within the church and throughout the world.

That mind picture – and the song itself – also reminds me of the holes in my heart carved out by grief and loss. 

When my mom passed away in June 2003, I was amazed at how well my grandmother – her mom – dealt with it.  Though I am sure she had her share of tears in private, she was strong in the midst of it….at least that is how I remember it.  She kept going to work every day, going to the senior center to play Bingo and cards with her friends, and watching the Twins on TV. 

At one point, she did say that a mother should not outlive her children. 

That is a good observation, Grammy-cakes!

When my daughter and I would visit Grand Forks together, we would often take Gram to her church.  We would stand together – three generations again – and sing harmonies together.  I am quite sure that mom would have added her fourth part along with us had she been alive, and it would have been fun…if not amazing.

As time goes on, death – that unwelcome visitor – finds each of us…at our own doorstep or at our hearts because he stands at the doorsteps of others.  He found my gram at the end of May last year, and I added another hole in my heart.

She would have been 90 in February, and I noted her birthday with a wee nod in my mind.

I have thought of her quite a bit more now that the Twins are in spring training…

And so we mourn, grieve, cry, and scream because things are not as they should be.  We hide ourselves away from the world or go on but stuff it all away or just wonder if things will ever be the same (they will not be) or right again (I am not even sure what that means…).

We even wonder if God cares – how could He if He allows these things to happen?

The answer is that God cares very much. 

We are reminded of that in this Lenten season as well as at other times of the year.  God cares, sees, and cries with us.  He promises that we do not mourn without hope.  And – like the community that God Himself has in the trinity – He created us to be in community…to experience love, hope, joy, and even loss in community with one another.


He is, indeed, worthy of our praise.

Other posts about mourning that might interest you:


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

A Confession: I Prefer Not to be a Bother

Note: I am the author today on Blogging Through the Bible – a site on which there are daily blog posts about Bible readings in coordination with the pastor huz’s current sermon series.  The post below is a re-posting of that article because it falls into line with the mission of this blog as well.  I hope you enjoy!  Thanks for reading!  -stacy


In the back of my mind, there is a little person who crouches in a corner and hopes to be noticed.  She is probably between 3 and 5 years old.  She does not make much noise, she does not demand much attention, but she is there.

I do not have multiple personalities, and I have been assured that we all have a tiny person who needs to be reminded that he or she is important to someone.

While I have spent quite a few years of therapy to understand this little person and often feel that I can handle her emotional battles, I think that today’s reading of Luke 8:40-48 explains her a bit more.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,[c] but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak,and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master,the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me;I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

This woman had a problem, and she knew who could fix that problem.  While she knew this, she did not want to be a bother.  Instead, she believed that touching just the hem of the cloak on Jesus would heal her.

And it did.

She believed that any amount of attention from the Savior would do her some good.  She did not want to bother Him, but she desperately wanted to be healed.

Jesus knew instantly that someone had touched Him and had received healing from His touch.  And He wanted to know who she was.

When the Savior heals, He wants to heal and to KNOW us.

I think that the little person crouching in the back of my mind forgets that her Savior lives,  knows, and loves her.

That little person is me, of course, and she exaggerates all of the parts of me.  When she throws a tantrum, I must listen for it must be that I want to throw a tantrum.  When she is sad, I must be sad.

What she needs to remember – what I need to remember – is that I am not a bother to God.  He wants me to come, trembling as the woman did, with all of my burdens, ailments, and cares to put at His feet, to look Him in the face, and to ask Him for a healing touch. He does not want me crouching in the corner, hiding under the bed, or creeping along underfoot.

He does not want me to think I am not worthy of His touch…for He created me and He desires to see me well and redeemed through His Son’s blood.

How can this truth permeate our lives today?

We need to stop thinking that we are a bother to our Father! He wants to have a relationship with us, and that is not a bother.  Amen?


Filed under faith, Relationships

If He Can Forgive Her…

On Monday, I posted an entry about playing the roll of the woman at the well in a sketch at an evening worship service on Sunday night.  I had a lot of positive feedback from readers, and I fully believe that the post came from my heart, was inspired, and had meaning.

But I’ve wrestled with a concept from the post all week…

The woman at the well from the New Testament account in John 4 is described as a woman who has had several husbands but who lives now with a man who is not her husband.  Images of this woman immediately come to mind when we hear about her past…and her present.

I have a picture of who this woman would be – with lots of variations of poor choices and decision – in modern day, and I find myself judging her.

I let myself off the hook a bit when I judge her in this way. 

I think to myself: surely I am not like her.  I have not sinned in the same ways that she has.  Six men?  That is not my story!

And I find myself elevating myself above her.

Who gave me any right to judge her?  Who gave me any right to say that I am better than someone who sins differently than I do?  And whose idea was it that some sins are worse than others?

My story is filled with its own character flaws, poor decisions, and bumps along the way.  My sins are no better or worse than hers or anyone else’s.  We do a huge disservice to others and to God when we create levels of sin.  We negate the idea that Christ died once for all because we have all sinned.

Romans 3:21-24 – 21But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

This was a humbling week for me to think through this.  I needed to have a little talk with God about it.  And I needed to remind myself that my sin – however big or small my human mind decides it compares to the sin of others –  would enough to send Jesus to the cross.

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To Be Remembered

In my pastor huz’s sermon on Sunday, he used our different love languages as an illustration.  He talked about how my love language is not receiving gifts…he had been speaking that language to me for several years.

Ten years ago, we attended a couples’ retreat where we learned about love languages and discovered that mine are acts of service and quality time.  In his sermon, he stated, “What Stace longs for – what communicates love to her – is to be thought of…to be remembered.  I think that this is what she longs for.”

As he said these words (and as I listened to the sermon online just moments ago to get the quote right), tears choked me.  I swallowed hard, and tears burned my eyes….he is so right!

I fear being forgotten, forsaken, and abandoned.

There are thirty-nine years of experiences that have created who I am today, and I have spent about half of those years in counseling to understand why I think this way. 

In my current life, this fear has no rational basis.  My husband has shown me time and time again – even when I am hard to live with or am in a running (click here to read about this) phase – that he is not interested in ending our marriage.  On a regular basis, he reminds me that I am safely in his thoughts and that I have nothing to fear.

But I want to be remembered…to be thought of…to be important to someone – or many people…and I want to spend time with people who think of me.

An aside: it is not that I do not like gifts at all. In fact, I love gifts! I loved that my dad and his wife bought our family Fleetwood Mac tickets for Christmas…but I really loved that they came to Minneapolis, spent the weekend, and then went to the show with us.  I love when a friend gives me a card with money in it that says, “Spoil yourself!” – and I really love when that same friend has lunch with me to give me the card or for absolutely no reason.

As I read Psalm 22 (one of the several Psalms for today’s reading in the sermon series), I realized (again) that I am not unique in this.  David felt abandoned …forgotten. 

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Jesus said similar words on the cross when God turned away from Him.  Hell may have fire and brimstone, but more scary to me is the fact that it will be void of God and His love.  To be in hell is to experience the ultimate in abandonment, and many of us feel that on a daily basis.

Like David, Jesus, and other throughout the Bible, our hearts cry out to be remembered.  We physically feel the impact of our fear as our hearts and bodies ache.

But we are not abandoned.  No – we are not forgotten.

In another of the Psalms for today (34), David wrote that the Lord is good and that we can take refuge in Him.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

As we seek Him, we will find Him.  As we find Him, He will turn to us and deliver us from our fears.  He is good, He hears, and He encamps around us.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.


Praise be to God!

**Note: I wonder if we are the way that we are sometimes because we fear being vulnerable with each other.  And I wonder if we fear that because of experiences we have had in the past.  Today: if you have the chance to reach into another person’s life and see the fears and the loneliness, speak words of comfort and truth…and go ahead, give that person a big hug!

Sometimes we are the voice and arms of God who loves us.  Be that…


Filed under faith, Thoughts

When Acting Hits Home

Sometimes my former career as actress extraordinaire comes around again.  Ok – I will be honest: though I did perform some minor roles in plays and musicals, that all went by the wayside by the end of high school. Though I have considered entering that world again, it scares the living daylights out of me.

The worship minister at our church leads a monthly worship experience on the second Sunday of each month.  He had asked the pastor huz to do some kind of monologue related to the name of the service – Jacob’s Well – which comes from John 4, a passage that details an encounter that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman of questionable character.

Last night – as an introduction to his monologue from the perspective of the man to whom the woman would return after encountering Jesus who tells her that He knows about her past – the huz and I did a little “what if” sketch which portrays how we thought things might have gone upon her return after talking to Jesus.

He played the man, and I played the woman at the well. 

womanIn the sketch, I woke him up to tell him all about what Jesus had said to me.  I wanted to share the good news that Jesus had shared with me.  Rather than listen to me or come with me to hear Jesus talk, the man refused, became physically abusive toward me, and threw me out of the house while screaming at me.

Leave!  Whore! How could anyone ever forgive you? No one will ever forgive you!

As I ran away from him, hot (real)  tears streamed down my face.  What horrible words to have screamed at you!  What a horrible question: how could anyone every forgive you?

When we meet Christ, our lives may not change immediately.  And those around us do not forget who we were before we met Christ.  Everyone still knows what we have been, how we lived, what we have done…and now they watch to see if our lives change. 

We meet Christ at a some “well”, we have a life changing experience.  Though we would like to stay there, with Him seeing us for who we are but telling us about eternal life anyway, we have to go back to our homes and our situations.  As our sketch portrayed, the woman probably went back to the man who was not her husband. He knew what she was. She might have been “bought” or enslaved to him. How could her life change? What miracles did God have to perform after she met Jesus so that she could pursue a changed life?

What “names” followed her back to her life?

What names follow us back to ours?

It does not matter what I have done, God’s mercy and grace await me.  Though I may have some horrible label on me, God washes that label away through the life saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection.  Because of what Christ did, I am free from my guilt, saved from my sins, and promised eternal live with Him.

By the end of my man’s fictional monologue, the man begins to wonder about Jesus and His offer of forgiveness to the woman at the well.  He says, “If He can forgive her, maybe He can forgive me.”

He can.  He does.  And it is true – for me…and for you.

PS:  Toward the end of the service, we sang Softly and Tenderly, one of my favorite hymns. You can listen to its entirety below.  The refrain of the hymn says, “Come home, you who are weary, come home.” 

This is not about coming home at the end of our lives. This is now.  Jesus is waiting for us to come home to Him so that He can show us mercy and pardon for the wrongs that we have – and continue to – commit. 

Is it time to go home?

I do not have any rights to this video. Thank you, YouTube!

photo credit: Bhumika.B via photopin cc


Filed under faith

Was it a “Good” Friday?

Unlike most Holy Weeks in my past, I have been traveling and focusing on things like college visits, family time, and…driving.  As a pastor’s wife, Holy Week tends to be one in which our family focuses much time and preparation…and go to church.  This year is very, very different because of this travelling week.

Last night, we were on the road – not at the Maundy Thursday service. 

Today, we are still on the road (at least for part of the day).

Unlike most Holy Weeks, though, this year I have had a book (Long Live the King by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher)  and a little book group to help me focus my mind on the last week of Christ’s life.

Today is Good Friday.

Today, we remember that Christ died on the cross. Today, we remember His suffering. Today, we remember that we were the cause of His death.  Today…”good”?

What is so good about today?

“Celebrating” death is a very foreign thing to most of us.  Death hurts.  It is not fun.  We miss the one who has died.  We suffer.  We cry.  Part of us seems to die along with him or her, and we want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.  Or perhaps we are angry and want to lash out.  We want to cry out and shake our fist at whatever disease, accident, or incident brought on the death.

More than anything, though, we want that person back.

There is no celebration in death.  There is nothing good about it. Even when we know that our loved one, taken over by pain from their disease, is now released from that pain, we see no good reason for it.

Death snatches something precious from us, and we mourn.

In Long Live the King, Dale Fincher calls this day “dark Friday.”  My soul responds to that phrase so much better, for it was, indeed, a dark day – literally, according to Matthew 27:45 – “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.” 

And then Christ died.




So what is good about this?

At the beginning of the chapter for Friday in Long Live the King, the Finchers quote a Scottish preacher named James S. Stewart.  His quote tells us what is good about this particular Friday.

They gave him a cross, not guessing that He would make it a throne.

Without the hope of Easter Sunday, the “good” of the dark Friday is nonsense.  However, we live on the other side of Easter Sunday. 

We know of the resurrection.  We know that the story does not end on the dark Friday.

And that which we know, we should tell. 

For without the hope of the resurrection for all, death is a dark day.

May today be a day filled with reflection, gratitude, and hope…Sunday is coming!

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