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Lovely things

Lovely things often aren't things at all. Image found at Men with pens.

Follow the star - all year round

Let's face it. The church calendar and the calendar on our walls and in our planners are not one in the same. The Liturgical calendar is distinctly unique and has a way of setting those that follow it on a different rhythm that follow the Greco Roman Calendar alone. I spoke to a friend at church recently (the day after Christmas) and she shared that many people she knew were already done with Christmas. By the morning of December 26th, many people were planning to or already were removing the decorations and traces of Christmas. The only thing I could think was, after all the preparation - what's the rush to put Christmas away? Over the last few years, I've begun to become better educated on the Liturgical year and its cycles, and now know that Christmas Day is only the beginning of the celebration. It was wonderful to discover that many people wait to give gifts on January 6th, which just so happens to be my birthday, which is referred to as Epiphany. Epiphany is define

Counting all the gifts...

Luke 2 The Birth of Jesus 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do

What makes it feel like Christmas for you?

Is it the snow or the lights like in this song, that make Christmas feel like Christmas to you? Over the years the way I've marked this season has shifted and changed. As a child, I'd eat a piece of candy from the Advent Gingerbread house each day to count down to Christmas. This year, with the celebration of Advent a local neighbor had a digital sign to count down to Christmas day. There are baked good exchanges, cards from old friends in my mailbox and annual mission projects that are worked on and thankfully now fulfilled; all these mark the season for me. As Christmas Eve swiftly approaches, my mind is turning to what Mary and Joseph might have been experiencing on the road that first Christmas. To them and the world - it all was new! As I come again to the eve of Jesus arrival, there are the familiar things of this season; but I will try to imagine and live in the new expectation of what this Christmas brings. Little Christ Child - may I celebrate not only what I kno

The bundles are coming together...

This morning, I had the fun of bundling together the hat,mitten or glove and scarf sets for local teen Moms and infants. The gifts are being delivered on Wednesday. At this point we still need 13 sets of gloves and 12 scarves. Here are the complete bundles... and here are the ones still needing scarves and gloves for the teen Moms. Thank you all for your help with this cozy mission effort!

Music to my ears

Robert Deeble is offering a free download of his version of "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel." It's a unique take on the hymn... hope you enjoy the tunes.

Art fun: Black, white and grey self-portraits

Image found at Mugo. The other day I taught an art class with a group of elementary children. The assignment was to make a self-portrait only using black and white paint. I also asked the students to paint positive descriptive words about themselves into the picture as well. Here are some of the pictures they worked on that will be integrated into a larger mural project in the next few weeks. To help the students grasp what I was looking for in blending two colors and still arriving at some contrast and detail, I painted my own self-portrait. It was fun but challenging to limit myself to two base colors, as I typically play with lots of color; but so far I'm pleased at the result. I'm still building on this painting and working to stay true to the simple base of practice it came from. It is helpful to work with a photo or with a mirror when doing such a project, but don't get too caught up in the realism that you inhibit stylizing your project. I hope you give th

How does God bring/grant us joy?

John Testifies About Jesus John 1: 29-34 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”[d] ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Joy has a way of evading us when we are looking for it. Those following John were so excited and enthused about his ministry that they joyously began to exclaim that he

SWB: Advent - a season with Mary, a girl with moxy.

An author acquaintance of mine, Enuma Okoro , recently wrote and was published at ABC news weekly inspiration , some thoughts concerning Mary (the mother of Christ) and what kind of person she really must have been. There has always been a great deal of wonder and speculation about Mary, but what I love about what Enuma brings to light is, the attitude of courageous expectation she must have possessed. In a less-than-best-circumstance, Mary was willing to say - "As you say, so shall it be with me." She considered herself 'blessed', where many would have not. I'm impressed with Mary even more now that I see her as a young woman with "moxy" as a characteristic. Somehow that makes me smile. I'm also challenged to follow the example of Mary in this Advent season, by living in a space of courageous expectation. Courageous because of the ability to be active and impacting even difficult circumstances and expectant because of God's provision - in al

Faces of love

September 2010 They change so fast, they move so swiftly, their ability to adapt is really quite nifty. They once were so small and now have grown tall - my daughter, my son - my heart - my all.

SWB: Manna for the desert

Image from Spiegel Online International. What is your manna? Manna was the food that God provided the Israelites in their time of wandering in the wilderness. In this account in the gospel of John, Jesus makes reference to this "manna" or bread that God provided for his people. Jesus draws the connection for his listeners of how God provided then and how God was going to provide for them in Christ himself. The hunger and thirst that Jesus was speaking of, were not simply the manifestation of physical hunger; but the deep spiritual need we all have for God. Blasé Pascal , a French mathematician and philosopher said, "There is a God shaped vacuume in the heart of every man(person)which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the creator, made known through Jesus." When I think of the things that I'm most grateful for in life, they most often are NOT in the material category. For instance, I may enjoy reading a good book, but the knowled

Sweet Inspiration

Sometimes encouragement comes in the most interesting manner. Like when a song pop's up on random in internet radio and it's just the thing you need to hear... "Won't stop till it's over..." but what I hear on first listen was "Don't stop till its over." Sweet Disposition from Fabio Barbato on Vimeo . Keep on keeping on, crew. What songs inspire you? Never too soon Oh reckless abandon, Like no one's watching you A moment, a love A dream, a laugh A kiss, a cry Our rights, our wrongs A moment, a love A dream, a laugh A moment, a love A dream, a laugh Just stay there Cause I'll be comin' over While our bloods still young It's so young, it runs Won't stop til it's over Won't stop to surrender Songs of desperation I played them for you A moment, a love A dream, a laugh A kiss, a cry our rights, our wrongs A moment, a love A dream, a laugh A moment, a love A dream, a laugh Just stay there Cause I'll be comin&

Blustery Pooh Bear thoughts

My it's a blustery day outside! All this wooshing wind, leaves and garbage cans reminds me of a picture of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet walking hand in hand on such a day as today. Memories of Winnie the Pooh bring a smile to my face. There are so many childhood and 'mommy' memories that come together in that hundred acre wood. Here are some of my favorite quotes from that fluffy old bear and his friends. I hope they make you smile, so put on a tea kettle and get settled in for this Pooh-Bear blustery and somewhat sentimental day. PS. Don't forget the honey, P-P-P- please. Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it. -- Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering. -- Piglet, Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne I am a Bear o

Gifts we have to give

So often people will think of the areas of life that they fall short or what may need some improvement. I think there is some wisdom in knowing where we need some work as humans, but I also feel it is equally important to learn, foster and use the gifts each one of us are instilled with. So here is the challenge or question that I'd like to present: "What gift(s) has God given to you that can be used in the care and ministry of loving others?" How have you seen that gift used in the past? How would you like to use it? If you dream big and I dream big together - how could God work in that big pool of gifts in the lives of others??? Let's share our gifts today and dream of what they can accomplish for God's purpose! 1 Peter 4:8-10 (New International Version) 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serv

SWB: I'll be your water

Sometimes our bread is as simple as a cup of water given or received in the name of G-d. Where did you receive and give refreshment this week? Words and music by Keb M o... Do you ever get worried And your load is hard to bear And your life is like a sad sad story No one nobody really cares But if you ever need someone to talk to And if you ever need a helping hand I'll be your ship out on the ocean I'll be your water in the desert sand I've been there I've felt like you do Feelin' like winter would never turn to spring And everybody I know has got problems But there's a solution to everything And if you ever need someone to talk to And if you ever need a helping hand I'll be your ship out on the ocean I'll be your water in the desert sand And after you've found your way You won't owe me nothin' 'Cause you're gonna know that your well Will never run dry, never run dry If you ever need someone to talk to And if you ever need

A season of sharing

Where did the sharing start? Over the past several months, our church has been taking brave steps in the area of sharing life with the greater Lutheran community. In January of 2009, First Lutheran joined in on partnering with SLYM - Shared Lutheran Youth Ministry. This partnership in youth ministry is the large umbrella in which First, Immanuel , Holy Trinity and Bethel Lutheran Churches participate by gathering on a weekly basis (Thursdays 6:30-8:30 grades 5-12) for faith building, fellowship and of course fun! The SLYM program started it's second program year in September of 2010. There are group gatherings each Thursday evening, that are sometimes split into two age groups - middle and high school, but often the older students are invited along to assist in leadership and learning right along their Adult leaders. Another benefit of this partnership were two training events for volunteers in the SLYM program nights: Princeton Theological Seminary one day training in

Waiting for my real life to begin, again.

The lyrics to the song "Waiting for my real life to begin" by Colin Hay capture the feelings of hoping for more in life. A telephone call with the answer you've been dying to hear, that ship to come in that seems to have the only answer.But with each verse of longing in the song, the speaker is met with the refrain, "Be still my love, open your heart, let the light shine in. It happens that we can start to think that the grass is greener over there, or that if this or that accomplishment when achieved that all of life's difficulty will be resolved. However,this often is untrue. Life is full of challenge, no matter the color of the grass. Joan Chittester say's this about painful and difficult times in life in her book ' Breath of the Soul', " The truth is that it is pain and need and vulnerability that lead us directly to God. We become a prayer. We throw ourselves on the heart of God. We look for the balm that does not exist in this world

SWB: Stuck or rising

Liminality has been defined as the threshold of the betwixt or between phase or the middle of a rite of passage. Liminality is a new word to me, but I feel quite familiar with the geography and experience of it. I'd have to say that there seems to me to a great deal of "middle" space in life. There are times that I've looked at these middle spaces with contempt and frustration and occasionally, I've had the wisdom to live and be in that space that seems to be neither a beginning or end. Truth be told, I think I'm more comfortable with beginnings and endings than I am the middle spaces. The beginnings are filled with expectation,excitement and hope. Endings (the good ones) are filled with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of reaching a goal. Ultimately though, the middle space is where the lions share of the journey takes place. The middle is where the excitement of a beginning takes shape and leads to the place of connection to each hope and drea

SWB: Fill me up

I'm a little teapot, short and stout Here is my handle [one hand on hip], here is my spout [other arm out straight] When I get all steamed up, hear me shout Just tip me over and pour me out! [as song ends, lean over and tip arm out like a spout] I'm a clever teapot, yes it's true Here's an example of what I can do I can change my handle to my spout [switch arm positions and repeat tipping motion] Just tip me over and pour me out Here is my simple "tea pot" approach to the meditative meme this week... What has emptied and filled your cup in the last few days? Had anything steamed you up or become obvious of how you are able to pour into someone life? Psalm 62:7-9 (New International Version © 2010) 7 My salvation and my honor depend on God[a]; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Go ahead and sing this little ditty and then tell us about it....

Music Wednesday - The Cure and God's love

"Show me how you do that trick The one that makes me scream" she said "The one that makes me laugh" she said And threw her arms around my neck "Show me how you do it And I promise you I promise that I'll run away with you I'll run away with you" Spinning on that dizzy edge I kissed her face and kissed her head And dreamed of all the different ways I had To make her glow "Why are you so far away?" she said "Why won't you ever know that I'm in love with you That I'm in love with you" You Soft and only You Lost and lonely You Strange as angels Dancing in the deepest oceans Twisting in the water You're just like a dream Daylight licked me into shape I must have been asleep for days And moving lips to breathe her name I opened up my eyes And found myself alone alone Alone above a raging sea That stole the only girl I loved And drowned her deep inside of me You Soft and only You

SWB: Broken apples, clay pots and bread

Image found at Picasa. This Sunday, I was working with the lesson of the Pharisee and the tax collector for text of my children's message. The general idea of the text is that the proud with be humbled and the humbled will be lifted up. Because the background and context of the text was somewhat fuzzy for my grade school audience, I made a quick comparison to the characters in the story - but stayed with the main thought. So the story goes like this... Here are two apples. One refuses to be eaten and only wants to sit on the kitchen counter for all to see because it is so beautiful. You can pick it up and admire it shiny red skin and smell its sweet aroma; but you can't eat it. This apple says, "I'm too beautiful to be eaten. My purpose is to sit here and be admired." The other apple is inside this plastic container and it's all chopped up and ready to be eaten. It say's, "Yes of course, you can have me for a snack; after all I am an apple. I

Wanderlust, wondering and wandering.

I like to go new places and meet new people. In that way, I suppose I could be considered to have an episode of "Wanderlust" here and there. When I feel a need for a break from the status quo, one of the best ways for me to reflect and recharge is to go to a place where I can listen, talk ( of course) with folks of similar vocation, and wait upon God to tap my shoulder here and there as if to say; "Yup you are on the right track here and hey you should head this way soon." Sometimes I need to leave town for a bit to recharge, sometimes going on a walk or run does the trick, and sometimes I come across a book that speaks to my heart like like having coffee with a dear friend who knows who I am, and loves me anyway. Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro a true-story-telling of quote " A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search of Spiritual Community." . For me, it was a break away for me to read and it allowed some things I've been wondering

Trees need to walk

One of the most challenging and intimidating words most people in and outside of the church would agree upon would be: EVANGELISM. There are visions of angry people shouting Bible verses, picketing the streets and knocking on doors. These are the pictures that often keep people from getting involved with the mission and ministry of evangelism. What if, instead of these intimidating examples, evangelism looked something like this: A friend taking a friend out for coffee and talk about how God has provided for their needs. One neighbor helps another neighbor with repairs to their home. A co-worker can invite an office mate to worship. A group of friends read a book about faith together. A person visits someone who can't make it out to worship due to illness or other difficulty. A student invites someone who is excluded at school to walk to class or sit with them at lunch. A small group gathers to pray together for a period of time in order to ask God's leading on just how

SWB: Belonging Bread

Nope I'm not talking about being in the pits today, I'm talking about PTS as in Princeton Theological Seminary. Specifically the Certificate in Youth Ministry program. It's not that I'm trying to sell you on the program, even if I do happen to do that, what I'm trying to express and encourage you to consider today is this meme question: "Where do I have the greatest sense of and least sense of belonging?" On Saturday, my husband, myself and two youth volunteers went to a one day intensive in Cleveland, Ohio that featured key note speaker Mark DeVries , and session leaders Becky Hart and Neil Myer . This day was a condensed version of what I experienced in April when I attended my Certificate retreat and Forum week on Campus at Princeton Seminary. If you are looking for a means of continuing education in the field of youth ministry, I'd insist you take a look at the program; but if you are simply looking for some "bread: for your Monday Slee

Ripples

Ripples by T.L. Eastman 2010 Drip, drop, plop. Drip, drop, plop. Water drips from the faucet. Annoyance builds with each "op" sound that splatters into the aluminum double sink. This drip just has to stop. Drip, drop, plop. Drip, drop, plop. Water trickles down the creek bed. It dances around rocks, plays with crayfish, and rests in algae green pools. This drip we long to watch. Drip, drop, plop. Drip, drop, plop. Hands reach out to embrace the face that tries to hold back the rush; but the dam is broken, and tearful emotion has everywhere to escape. These two embrace and are washed in the flood that falls from each one's face. There is no shame in the shelter of this place. Don't mind the drip, drop, plop. drip, drop, plop. This river is one that love sought. T.L. Eastman Oct. 2010

Noah and the whale - Love

The other day, a friend of mine was telling me about his little boy Noah and all his Noahism's. Today while listening to a mix on Pandora, I came across a band called Noah and the whale. I don't know too much about this band, but the common name caught my attention as well as the song and video posted above. I hope you are feeling loved today. Either way, consider this song and sentiment as some love being sent your way - from me and of course, Noah. :) Happy Friday! Tara

Celebration!

Celebration by Keith Mallett found at "It's a black thing.com" Today is a rather normal Thursday. I took my kids to school and then got ready to go on a long run. It's amazing that I can say the words "long run" and now be able to actually do it. For the last 2 1/2 years, I'm been on this journey of learning how to run for fitness and dare I say it - fun! This was not my perspective two years ago, but wow time has changed things. Today I'm celebrating the fact that I went on a run and ran 5.1 miles! I know it may not be a marathon, but this is my longest distance run since I began this effort and I recall when running from telephone pole to telephone pole seemed impossible. I started this effort with the Couch to 5k online guide , did that several times, ran in a few 5k races and now I go out every morning to run and clear my head. It's a good thing so I'm going to celebrate it. What do you have to celebrate today? Don't hesitate to

Thoughts on being a ripple stone

Image from the blog Woman of Worth . In the last few weeks of working though the devotions in the back of the "Unbinding your heart", I've begun to be more freed up to pray for people throughout the day, make a phone call when that person keeps coming to mind, or drop off a surprise to someone because I feel I have something in particular that will bless them in some way. I've had these kinds of 'holy promptings' in the past; but it's wonderful to have them be a current and present gift in my spiritual life. For a person like me, it's often so difficult to stop, sit still and pray. It's interesting that when I do stop, pray and listen to God; that he leads me to activity and action. I'm thankful to God that my mode of operation is understood, and I hope as I grow in the ability to pause and pray; more of God's activity will be done in my own actions. Maybe it's like being a stone that is tossed into a pond. The stone simply goes w

What Christianity means to me

This last week my Holy Conversations group wrestled with the questions, "What difference does Christianity make in your life?" and " Why does it matter that others consider becoming Christians?" What I share below is meant to be the start of a conversation. I do not desire that this be the end of the conversation, just a beginning prompt. Please feel free to post your responses in the comments or at the Holy Conversations Facebook Group. Please read, reflect and comment as you feel comfortable. . Living a Christian life is not something that I claim to have mastered. It is a daily challenge to balance in that place of "love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself." While Jesus says there is no law greater than this commandment - it's at first apparent simplicity makes it easy to read. But when this all encompassing commandment sinks in some more; the hearer begins just how dependent upon G

SWB: Animal Crackers in my soup

It's been too long since I've posted the Monday Sleeping with Bread Meme prompt. Life has been rather hectic lately, but I've missed our 'bread' conversations - so I thought I'd try to get things baking here again. Thanks for your patience. I was on my day off today, and to be honest there's been a little too much candle burning on both ends - so I'm home with the sniffles. Nothing big, but it was a good rainy day for some rest, hot honey tea and animal crackers. It's funny how these frosting and sprinkle covered animals reminded me of the good bread in the midst of my stuffy head. They were sweet, so I could taste them even in my stuffy state; and in that they are so like the presence and blessings of God even in the muck and mess of life. Imagine a drinking bowl of steaming hot chicken noodle soup on a cold rainy day. Taste the oyster crackers and slurp up all the noodles with determination. Even when the circumstances are not their best, a b