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Hope.  It isn’t something you have, use and never need again.  Why?  Because so many of the things that require hope are not quickly achieved.

But how much better to think of it all as an adventure vs an ordeal.  Have an adventure.  Have a forward journey.  Definitely a better way to go.

So – have hope!



As is the case with many denominations, the PC USA is facing drops in membership, older facilities and new kids (churches) on the block.  But there are also exciting new events.  Saturday my husband and I were at the Presbytery meeting and a new church of Kenyan immigrants was chartered.

In the 1960s when many of the churches in our area grew and flourished, there was no question about chartering a church of African immigrants. But today?  Today they are a vital addition to our church.  Yes, our area is changing but change isn’t always bad especially when it means new brothers and sisters in Christ joining the family.



Yesterday I was interviewed by Henry Stone, the managing editor of the PC USA’s Unbound which focuses on social justice and social ministry.  First he asked me how I came to write Black Lives Matter and What Are Race and Racism.  I told him about being approached by the editor to write about the modern civil rights movement and police shootings.  We discussed how surreal it all feels to write about race and racism and to be told by teachers that you are having an impact and still . . .

You wake up the next morning and racism is still here.  The world is still broken.  People remain deeply flawed.

“Do you think racism will ever be fixed?  If not, why do you do what you do?”

As flawed as we are, the world does change.  Sometimes it changes for the better.  Slavery is illegal.  Families are no longer torn apart on the auction block.

Does that mean everything is well and good?  Of course not.  We see the legacy of slavery every day in racist policies and stereotypes and how we try to pigeon-hole people.  We can enact change but it is slow and it will take time for the ripples of the evil that went before to stop spreading.

This is the reality whether we are working to solve problems of race or rage or gun violence.  Change can come but legislation is not a fix-all.  We will have to look deep into our hearts and at what we value vs who we do not.




Think about all the changes you would like to see.  First let’s consider our own lives.  Me?  I’d like to be thinner.  And there are rooms in my house that couldn’t be company ready in a month. Obviously, the key to changing these things is to change something I do.  So I’m spending more time rowing and I’m focusing on one “disaster” room at a time.  This has only been going on for about five weeks, but already I’m seeing changes.  It isn’t hard to see that if you want your life to change you need to change something in it.

But now let’s consider something in the larger world. I want greater social justice. So how should I bring this about?  I could demand changes from those around me.  “Do this!  Do that!  Because I want it, that’s why!”

Or I could make a change in my daily habits.  One of the biggest obstacles to social justice is the fact that many whites simply don’t see the injustice.  I can educate myself and I can speak out.  This is where I have to be careful.  Telling someone that they are doing it all wrong and that they are repressing others is only going to help a little.  Very few people respond positively to being pushed.  But I can tell about the things that surprised me when I realized them.

Change can happen.  But you have to make the decision to do something differently.  So, what will it be?




Recently another writer asked me to share my five-year plan.  When I didn’t have one, she was flabbergasted.  “How are you going to get where you want to go without a five-year plan?”


Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I’m so much more faithful than the next person, but seriously?  Does everything really go the way you planned?  If so, we need to meet because I’ve only ever read about people like you.  Never met one.

I periodically try to make a month-long plan.  Take January.  I had no deadlines.  I could work on my novel.  How’s it coming?  Well I haven’t gotten to work on it much.  “We need you to rewrite this manuscript before it goes to print.  We know you’ve already done it once but…”  And I landed a new job and accepted an invitation to a writing retreat in May but I have to send in a manuscript now.

I have vague sketchy plans.  They’re more like guidelines.  It cracks my friend Kathryn up.  She has a detailed plan.  And an alternate.  And another alternate just in case.  Me?  I know I need to get there — yep, that spot off in the distance.  I have a fair idea what the next two or three steps will be.  After that?  I’ll figure it out.  Don’t worry.

I’m not like this with everything.  But I do manage to pull it off in my work life.

Why?  This may sound a bit mystical but I believe God is at the wheel.  Work always comes when I need it.  Opportunities arise that I never would have conceived of on my own.  I’m not going to say it all comes together easily.  It’s been a lot of work (see above rewrite) but I’m helping create books that give something to young readers.

Five year plan?  I’d like to finish this novel but I’ll also be open to what opportunities come my way.  After all, who know when I’ll come to a turn in the road.



Even when water moves calmly and quietly, it changes the world. That’s something I definitely need to remember because I have a tendency to come on strong.  But when we are too loud and aggressive, even when we are doing God’s work, people feel backed into a corner.  Our aggression is reflected back at us.  hackles raise.  All of this reduces the amount of progress that might be made because so much energy is spent on negative reactions and attempts to calm them.  

Instead, we need to flow forward.  Circling. Lifting.  Buoying up.  And gently wearing away the harsh edges of this world.



This one’s gonna be different. Don’t we tell ourselves that every year? Don’t we start out with enthusiasm, with actual, resolute resolutions that by gum we are going to follow through on? Aren’t we certain that we can cast off the shadow of the previous 365 days simply because the date on the calendar now has a new number attached to it?

Well, don’t we?

I submit that the new year is a fraud, a sham, a flim-flam, a bamboozlement. A year can’t change things. Only we can. And it’s harder to do than a simple resolution might convey. To change one’s self fundamentally requires radical thinking and aggressive discarding of old thoughts, habits, and relationships. Most of us won’t ever do it. We’re too comfortable as we are. Only the most terrible and unexpected events — natural disaster, death, fatal illness — are enough to shock us out of complacency. And then, perhaps, only temporarily.

So…what to do with 2018 and its bright, shiny promises of change and renewal? Start small. Change one way of thinking. Give yourself a mantra — “first impressions are always wrong” for instance — to nip a habit of snap judgment in the bud. Or start each morning by doing one new thing: making your bed, trying a new stretch or simply saying, “I will be open to new possibilities today.” Repeated actions have a tendency to work their ways into our lives in ways we cannot foresee.

Or take up reading a new blog regularly. Work your way one chapter at a time through the bible. Smile at people you don’t know and won’t see again. Anything that might trigger a new, green sprout of thinking, a tiny revelation, an awkward step in a new direction.

And if it all falls apart, don’t berate yourself. January first isn’t the only day for changes. You can do that on February third, April 17th, or November 30th. You can do it anytime. Let yourself be open to nudges and signs and questions. Sometimes that’s the most essential part of change.

If we each turn ourselves one degree, together we can make a revolution — literally and figuratively.


People are creatures of habit.  We do the same things again and again. Some of these things work.  Others?  Not so much but they are familiar so we stick with them.

Personally, this is a time of year that I tend to examine my life.  Where should I make a change?  Where should I deviate from what has become my norm?

I’m not sure where or when those changes will occur, but God always seems to have something in the works.





Our pastor has been doing a really interesting sermon series on the living waters of God.  Living waters is a term I learned only last year.  Living water is river water, creek water, ocean water, lake water.  It is water as found in the natural world.  It changes its landscape.  It sustains life.  It shapes the world.

Our church has recently made the decision to end several long time activities.  We simply don’t have the young muscle power needed to put on a rummage sale that fills the fellowship hall.  We used to.  And we did for over 20 years.  But the neighborhood just doesn’t come out like they used to for these events.

Through this sermon series Pastor Sean is encouraging us to find what it is Christ would have us do instead. We are being called to be his people in a troubled world.  And we have to figure out where that is.  And the funny thing about being Christ’s people is that he will tell us.  We simply have to listen.  If we do, we will find ourselves creating a new opportunity to come together, to serve him, and to help others.

Change.  We can create it because we are children of the Creator God.  We simply need to listen and follow Him.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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