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How do we know when we are doing what God would have us do? A few weeks ago, I blogged about discernment, one of several methods to pray as a group.

Another way that God speaks to us, or at least to me, is through music. This isn’t surprising since I sing in my church choir but this anthem, especially the chorus, has stuck with me this week. I’ve sampled just the final chorus for you all to hear.

Sometimes a song will stick with you because the tune is catchy. But other times it sticks with you because it was what you need to hear. In this case, it is a prayer for difficult times.

Be with me, Lord. When I’m in trouble and I don’t know what to do, be with me, Lord.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and the members of my home church. Your prayers and God’s Blessings have shone on us throughout this week.

The way ahead will not be easy but we will be traveling with Him in song and in prayer and with each other!


For those of you who don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, it is the first day of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period of contemplation and prayer. The purpose? To be ready for Christ’s resurrection on Easter.

I know people who don’t like this particular church service but I find it peaceful. At our church, we tear cloth and nail it to a cross along with what we want to do for Lent.

Many people give something up. And I get that. You give something up in penitence. But instead of doing that, I’m reaching out to people. Part of the reason for this is that our church is going through a difficult time.

We are selling our building. Obviously this means that we will be moving. We think we know where but details are still being ironed out. It is such a stressful time and even this introvert knows that this is when we need each other.

Imagine my joy when I got home from church and sat down to write this post. I had a frantic message from my sister-in-law. “Your church is closing?” Turns out that that is the message that was posted on a community forum on Facebook. It took me four tries to come up with an accurate, polite response to post on the forum. My husband and I took turns responding to his sister.

“No, we aren’t closing. We are moving. If you’d like to stay informed, follow our church page. That way you’ll know what we are doing at our present location and at our new location.”

Ping – ping – ping. Between continued questions from my sister-in-law and various people on Facebook, I felt my blood pressure rising. Then I remembered nailing that slip of paper to the cross. Reach out. I’m not in this alone. I sent out a message. My husband and I now have plans to meet another couple from church for Saturday dinner.

When you feel the pressure of life, reach out. I know that Lori and Ruth have my back. So do these friends from church. And after I finished this post, I lit a candle in the dining room and sat in quiet contemplation.

I’m not in this alone.


When I read Miss Ruth’s post, I recalled a quote that had something to do with being at rest. I poked through our library of images until I found it.

There is no doubt about it. We are a nation of people who value accomplishments. We have organizers and to do lists and chimes on our phones. We have schedules and calendars and dry erase boards galore. And they are all telling us what to do. Keeping track of our busy-ness.

I’d like to ask you to do a little something in honor of Miss Ruth and yourself and even Our Maker. Take some time to simply be. Light a candle. Sit outside with a cup of tea. Take a deep breath or three or ten. And just be.

Rest, recharge and breathe.

You can do it. If it helps, add it to your list of things to accomplish. Sometimes that is all the busy that you need.





Am I the only one? It seems like lately I just don’t know what to pray. You see I’m working through some minor health problems. It’s nothing huge but it means appointments, tests, no that isn’t it, and more tests.

There are also changes on the horizon for my community. As I’ve admitted in the past, I’m not a big one for change especially when I’m not in charge. Whether things work out pretty well or really bad, change is coming. And it will likely be months and months or even a year before everything is settled.

What do you pray when you are feeling unsettled and uncertain? My first choice comes from Julian of Norwich.

I don’t know why I find this comforting, but I do. I guess it is simply the idea that things will settle.

My second choice for unsettled prayer is longer and more formal and I’m sure most of you are familiar with it.

This is the Presbyterian version with debtors instead of trespasses. You can read about the why and wherefore of the two here. But I really like the idea of turning things over to God. Admittedly, I’m not extremely good at it but it is a comforting thought.

What about you? Do you have a favorite prayer for times like this?


Photo by Brett Sayles on

When you volunteer to teach a Bible study lesson without looking at the book first, you never know exactly what you are going to end up teaching. When I saw my topic, I smiled. God’s gift of manna. The author of the study even discussed that most people fixate on what manna might be vs what is truly important. God provided exactly what the people needed.

Before I finished reading the lesson, I read the Bible passage. For those of you who don’t recall the details of Exodus 16, the people are bemoaning their situation. God has brought them out of Egypt where they had food aplenty. God sends quail and manna with very specific instructions on how much to gather and NO HOARDING. Anyone who tried to save extra would find it rotten and full of maggots before morning. Which, can I just say, ewww?

But the idea that God will provide? Without going into detail, both myself and my community could use a little heavenly help. This lesson? This is what I needed to hear. Deserving or not, grumbling at God or not, what we need will be provided.

When the Bible study group started the lesson, we all had a good laugh at God’s comment to Moses. “In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” If you’ve read portions of the Old Testament, you know that they failed. Thus the rotten manna and the maggots.

But they weren’t the only ones that failed. Try as I might, I could not turn the discussion to how God provides. I could not get the group to contemplate for even a moment that we all hang on to more than we need. I’m not saying that everyone on Earth hangs on to more than they need, but we are all solidly middle class Americans with full basements.

Instead of discussing the lesson, we discussed our things – casserole dishes, blue jeans, dress slacks, high heels and more. Honestly, I suspect this was what it sounded like when God was issuing his instructions.

Maybe he’ll repeat himself one more time. This time I’m sure we’ll listen.


I’m going to make a confession here. I just wasn’t feeling it before New Years Eve. The thought of making resolutions . . . blah. Whatever. Why? If I’m lucky, I do really well with them for a few weeks. But before too long they’ve gone by the wayside.

Then on January 2, I read a post by one of my writing buddies, Nicole Pyles. In her post, Nicole wrote that she just wasn’t going to make resolutions yet. Why? Because making resolutions when she is off work and has all kinds of free time encourages her to set unrealistic goals. Instead, she would contemplate what she wanted to accomplish in 2023 when she got back to work.

How smart is that?!

So with Nicole’s permission, I didn’t make any huge overarching resolutions for the year. I’m not reading the Bible in one year. I’m not meditating for an hour every single day. Or praying every morning and evening.

Instead, I’m paying attention to right now. When an anthem at church sends a chill up my spine, I thank God for the composer and the singers.

The bird feeders need filling? Instead of rushing outside and doing it so that I can rush back in and do something off a massive to-do list, I spend a few minutes outdoors. I listen to the birds. I watch the dog that lives behind us running about an enjoying the sunshine. And I take a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine as well.

When I throw some craisins on top of the yogurt in my bowl, I say of prayer of thanks for cranberries which I do adore but also my husband who does the shopping.

What do I hope to accomplish with this mindset? Initially, I wasn’t sure. But then I realized. I’d love to work up what I think of as an Irish blessing mentality. It was probably over ten years ago when I helped teach a class on prayer.  One of the types of prayer that we learned about was the Irish blessing.  These simple prayers call down God’s blessing on the everyday. These blessings encourage us to thank God for the little things. Bless this task, bless this house, and bless those who reside within.  

And really, that’s not a bad way to live. So that’s what I’m attempting to do in 2023. To live mindfully, to thank God for what is before me, and to pause a moment in the sunshine.


Tomorrow is Epiphany. Growing up, we never discussed epiphany which celebrates when Christ appeared the Magi. But now we mark it annually and sing Christmas hymns right up until the Wise Men arrived.

Last Sunday, I shook my head as I saw a hymn listed in the weekly bulletin. The First Nowell.

Sigh. I miss Noel. Why mess around with this lovely French carol? But then I squinted at the bottom of the page in our hymnal. From Cornwall.


I’m not sure I can name 2 regions in France but I do know that Cornwall is part of Great Britain. So when I got home I did a Google search. “Nowell vs Noel.”

So much for my assumptions. First of all, the hymn is not French which is what I had believed because of the spelling Noel. It is . . . drum roll . . . Cornish.

Nowell is a celebratory shout associated with Christmas. And the spelling, nowell, can be traced right back to the time of Chaucer. In the mid-20th century, typographers decided that nowell looked to old-timey. It was archaic. It did not belong in the modern age. So they substituted Noel.

It wasn’t about theology. It wasn’t about belief. It was about appearances. But it made me sad. What about poor Noel? So I did a bit more research. Like Chaucer, Noel is from the 15th century. It is French for Christmas or carol.

So which do you use? Noel or Nowell? In the carol, the correct word is Nowell. Christmas cards can sport either. As a name? Noel is the way to go.

But I also know that I’ll have a whole list of questions for my minister. Don’t worry. He’s used to it and he’ll be sure to give me a list of things to read.


Photo by Jeswin Thomas on

Recently a new member stood and spoke about a new initiative. Light for the Darkness acknowledges that not everyone comes into the holiday season with bells on. Some of us are struggling with depression. Some are coping with stress. Still others have PTSD. This group meets people where they are and helps them see that they are not alone in how they are feeling.

For those of you who live in the St. Louis area.

This was a good reminder for me. I adore Christmas. A-DORE. The trees. The lights. Sacred music. Nativities.

But I also have a friend with clinical depression. She finds Christmas difficult, as if she’s being told she has to be joyous.

I have a cousin who is a recovering addict. Family time can be a trigger for many people.

Yesterday as Pastor Sean preached about John the Baptist it struck me that the Christmas story was the ultimate call to come as you are. Why did this come to me during a sermon on John the Baptist? I have no idea. These are what Pastor Sean calls God moments. It is what I needed to hear and when I needed to hear it.

Perhaps it is also what one of you needs to hear. In the Christmas story, we have:


These men worked outside. They were the low. They were working when Christ made his appearance. They were the first on the scene. Some might say they were early.


What divas! Here we have a group of guys going about their work, a small family trying to get the baby to sleep, and WHOA. What’s all that singing? But they were there to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. And nothing was getting in the way.

The Wise Men

The last two arrive on the scene, the wise men are posh and wealthy. They bring great gifts. But strife also follows them around.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a family get together. A little bit of everyone is there.

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. As we prepare, as we celebrate, there is room for us all. Come as you are. You are welcome as part of Christ’s family.


My journal with a gingko leaf stem peaking out.

Every school year, the Presbyterian Church USA women’s organization publishes a Bible study. This year we are focusing on the Sabbath.

In short, the Sabbath is a time to connect with God. Traditionally we think of it as Sunday.

But I have to admit, Sabbath and Sunday do not go hand in hand for me. Yes, I go to church most Sundays. I stand up front with the choir. I sing. But do I feel that connection with God that makes the Sabbath special? Generally, no.

This shocked certain members of my study group. “But you’re at church!”

I do recognize the big room with the stained glass. Really. I know I’m in church.

But I have to be really relaxed to make that connection to God. I’m a hard-core introvert. Sometimes I can make that connection in church, but not always. Instead I’m often focused on the finding next piece of music. And what’s that clicking noise behind me? Is that hum from the sound system new?

I stand a much better chance of finding God when I’m out walking. I hear Him in the breeze. I see him in the leaves and snow. But does that count as Sabbath if I didn’t set out specifically to find God? What if I walk almost every day? Do I have to do something different for it to count as Sabbath?

I asked my minister’s opinion. Does he consider Sunday his Sabbath? If you pray every day, does that count or do you have to do something different on Sunday?

His response was simple. Don’t make it complicated. Find God where and when you find God. If you find him every day when you read scripture, good for you. If you make a connection on some days when you pray, excellent. Meditation? That’s good too. Music. Food ministry. Whatever works. It can be something you do every day. It can be something you do once a week.

Our study recommends that we keep a Sabbath Journal. We are supposed to record what we do each Sabbath. I’ve got the journal but I’m doing what my minister recommended. Don’t make it complicated. Whenever, wherever I feel a connection to God, I make a note. And when a leaf grabs my attention, I bring it home and add it to the pages.

Sabbath may be one day a week. It may be in quiet moments. Or it could be in the chaos of a busy kitchen. It is as unique as we are. Don’t make it complicated. Find it when and how you find it.


Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Last weekend, our pastor was on the road. He delivered his sermon to us in Missouri from a visitor’s center in Mississippi. Technology is an amazing thing. Still, it took a couple of tries for our two techs and the pastor to work out the feedback issue.

And yet everyone sat and waited. After all, we realize that these things don’t always come together on the first try a lot like this blog post.


This isn’t actually what I was going to write about. I was going to make a connection between a parable, specifically the Shrewd Manager, and grace. But I’m just not feeling it today.

And that’s okay. Not everything comes together on the first try. Sometimes we have troubles pulling our ideas together because we simply need more time to process them. This might be the case when we have butted heads with a friend. Or before we try to talk to a family member about something they have done. Or that we failed to do. Whatever the details, we need to take the time to get into a place where we can approach things carefully.

Sometimes we need someone else to lend a helping hand to solve a problem. It took three people in three different locations to bring us that sermon on Sunday. The lesson here? Accept help when it is offered. You don’t have to do everything on your own. There’s a reason that Christ advises us to take part in a community.

But even with the help of our community, some things don’t work. And they won’t work. And what we need to do is throw up our hands in defeat and admit it to ourselves. Fighting on doesn’t do any good and just isn’t worth the effort. Note to self: The instructions say you can hard cook eggs in the air fryer but do NOT try that nastiness again. Really. No one will thank you.

Perfection belongs to God alone. We human beings are fallible and that isn’t likely to change especially when one of us is still experimenting with the air fryer. What to try today, eggplant or cauliflower?



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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