Retweeting Mercy in the Midst of Darkness

social-media-1430517_640Each month, I write a column for the Baptist News Global. This month, I wrote about a growing group of preachers who are unfamiliar to many Baptists. To read the column, click here. Then hang around over there at baptistnews.com for great articles on issues that really matter.

Following Christ: Bearing Fruit

My pastor and his wife have been in Ireland for the past couple of Sundays and so, while I’m not usually the one delivering the message, I have been the last two weeks and will be again this coming Sunday. I love to preach and am so grateful to be in a church that welcomes different voices in the pulpit. But this week . . . With the incidents in the US this week, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of this national crisis.
Yet, I am glad to be fully aware of my inadequacy, to be reminded that Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. Thus, leaning into that promise, I approached the task of proclamation, beginning with the morning prayer (below). I preached from Colossians 1:1-14. You can find the audio of the message here, or you may download it using the link below.

imageLoving God, Holy Lord: you are our strength and our shield. You are the God of Mercy, the God of Peace.

We ask Lord that in this place and at this moment, Oh God, let your Kingdom come; let your will be done. So that right now on earth, we will experience blessed peace, divine mercy, and Kingdom justice.

Lord we ask that you will remind us from whom our help comes. Remind us that you are the source of all provision.

And forgive us.

  • Forgive us when we fail to recognize our own sins, so attentive are we to the sins of others.
  • Forgive us for failing to hide ourselves in you, so intent are we to step out with false pride in our own humanness.
  • Forgive us for relying only on ourselves: idolizing our own strengths and cursing our weaknesses.
  • Forgive us when we slip into these godless behaviors and forget that only you are holy.

We ask, Lord God, that you would guide us through the temptations of our lives.

  • The temptation of our chosen addictions: substances, attitudes, or actions.
  • The temptation to over-simplify complex issues.
  • The temptation to offer quick fixes and consider ourselves blameless.

Deliver us Lord, from our selfishness, from our knee-jerk reactions, from our mindless pursuits.

Remind us once again that we are called, through your infinite love and unyielding grace:

  • We are called to be your people.
  • We are called to be one people—one unified Body of Christ
  • We are called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you.
  • We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • We are called to love you with our whole hearts.

Bring us into this moment unfettered by our own egos.

  • Still the voices in our heads that cry out for attention.
  • Voices that say, “Make sure you do this, and don’t forget that.”
  • Voices that say, “What’s in this for me?” or “This is a waste of my time.”
  • Voices that say, “I’m not worthy,” or “I don’t belong.”

Instead,

Make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.*

Lord, in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Below, find the audio of Following Christ: Bearing Fruit, delivered at First Baptist Church of Weaverville, NC, July 10, 2016.

*Prayer of St. Francis

6 Shows I’ve Binge-watched

netflix binge anyoneFor more than a decade, I watched very little TV. When my children were young, I stuck to things like Arthur (which had the BEST theme song ever) and Cyberchase. Oh and Dragon Tales. Loved that one!

Anyway, along came digital recording and online viewing, bringing an abrupt end to my smug boasts about not watching TV. Believe it or not, I’ve found a few programs I like every bit as much as those the kids watched years ago. So, for your viewing pleasure, a list of some of my favorites.

Hart of Dixie: Zoe Hart (played by Rachel Bilson who played the mother’s roommate in HIMYM) is a New York trained doctor who takes a temporary job in small town Alabama and winds up moving to Dixie permanently. Dr. Hart can be gratingly annoying, but the characters are–for the most part–fun to watch. I especially liked the Lavon Hayes character played by Cress Williams.

No real deep topics here. Just some delightful brain candy. Not for young kids though; like most shows, it has an awful lot of unveiled adult banter and plenty of PG-13 scenes. Also, and this is huge to me (speaking of HIMYM), the series finale satisfactorily brings things to a natural end. I like a good ending, don’t you?

Switched at Birth: Now this one is extra fun for me because I grew up around children who were deaf. We lived in a town with a school for deaf students and my mother–who basically taught herself ASL–substituted there from time to time.

Switched at Birth features two girls–one fair-skinned and red-headed who is deaf, the other a hearing girl of Italian/Latina descent–who were switched in the hospital at their births and were thereby sent home with the wrong families. Implausible? Yeah. I hear you. But just try to get over that so you can enjoy a great family drama that deals with some tough issues (consent, culture clashes, addiction) and brings awareness to issues pertaining to deafness (communication limitations, prejudice, accessibility to education). I really enjoy this one, but again, lots of adult scenes so view it when the young teens aren’t around.

Incidentally, this will be much more pleasant to watch on Netflix than it has been the old-fashioned way–one season at a time. The seasons are brief and the time between them extended. The show was approved for a 5th season in October 2015, but we’ve yet to see it. Sometime in 2017 they say. We’ll see.

Psych. This show makes me laugh so much. The two main characters–20-something men who have been best friends since childhood–open a psychic detective agency although neither is psychic. Similar to Monk in many ways, Psych is funnier, in my opinion (Monk’s OCD can be hard for me to watch at times). Shaun (played by James Roday) and Gus (Dule’ Hill) frustrate the Santa Barbara police by often solving crimes faster than the officers on the force.

The plots are interesting and the resolutions rarely predictable: a good detective show. But for me, the draw is the relationship between Shaun and Gus. If you’ve ever had a best friend, or wanted one, you’ll enjoy the interactions between the laid-back, unhurried Shaun and intense, hard-working Gus.

This series also features one of the best finales ever. (Caveat: I saw the Psych series finale right after I saw the finale of HIMYM; so Psych‘s ending could have been mediocre, but since it didn’t totally upend the ENTIRE PREVIOUS SEASON, I recall it as a masterpiece of television drama.)

Monk. Another police/detective show, Monk stars Tony Shalhoub as the title character, Adrian Monk. Monk, a distinguished and accomplished police officer, suffers a nervous breakdown after the tragic death of his wife. His OCD and phobic disorders, while apparently present before her death, worsen to the point that Monk becomes completely disabled. However, due to friendships, new and old, he is able to find his way back to reality, using his quirks as gifts in solving crime. The show chronicles his new life as a private investigator with an almost supernatural attention to detail.

Also, I’ve watched some shows more than once and found, unlike many detective shows, that they hold their interest for subsequent viewings. Shalhoub is brilliant and hilarious; the writers creative and innovative. I actually own the DVD’s of this series, and Psych too for that matter, and thus haven’t checked Netflix or Hulu for the series. Anyone know if it’s online anywhere?

Parenthood. This is perhaps my favorite show of the decade. Parenthood tells the story of the Braverman family. The parents have been married for nearly 50 years and their four children have grown up to varying degrees of social acceptability. Lauren Graham (of Gilmore Girls fame), plays the oldest daughter who is the single parent of two children. Her older brother owns his own business, has a wife and two kids, and a home in the suburbs. Her younger brother (played by one of my faves, Dax Shepherd) is a laid-back musician who has no interest in being a responsible adult. The youngest, a girl, is a big shot lawyer happily married to a hunky contractor with whom she has one child.

Parenthood deals with many real-life issues: mid-life crises, cancer, unplanned pregnancy, aspergers syndrome, generational alcoholism, and more. Sometimes I agreed with the way writers handled the issues, sometimes I didn’t; but the story line was always compelling and the acting excellent. (One criticism: I don’t like the way the oldest son treats Shepherd’s character and felt that shtick went on way too long.)

Like Hart of Dixie and Psych, the series wraps up succinctly–if poignantly–and gives closure to all the different plot lines. Sweet.

Doc Martin. The British television production, Doc Martin, is absolutely hilarious to me. Though some may not think the dry humor and sarcasm are funny, I find myself laughing aloud throughout each episode. Martin Clunes, the actor with the title role, plays a big city surgeon made small village general practitioner. The quirky characters Doc Martin encounters are so authentic that they might just as well be found in small town USA as in this quaint English village.

Doc Martin is mostly G-rated (by me) except for a few adult situations that push it into the PG zone. It’s lovely to watch a quality show that is also pretty much devoid of debauchery. In the US, it comes on PBS; I’ve watched it exclusively on Netflix.

There are others–Bones, The Big Bang Theory, Royal Pains, and more–but this ought to keep you busy for awhile anyway. What about you? What have you binge watched?

June BNG Column: An Anomaly in the Pulpit

Women in ministryEach month, I write a column for the Baptist News Global. This month, I wrote about a growing group of preachers who are unfamiliar to many Baptists. To read the column, click here. Then hang around over there at baptistnews.com for great articles on issues that really matter.

Thank You #17 Cameron Brown

May 2016, Cameron with some of his best friends.

May 2016, Cameron with some of his best friends.

I’ve already written a number of posts about Cameron (some of the most popular on my site actually), but I’m not sure I’ve ever really let him know how much I appreciate who he is as an individual. Thank you #17*: to Cameron Brown.

Dear Cameron,

Happy Birthday! Can you believe you are 19? And how very cool that Finding Dory came out on your birthday! Pixar & Disney must know what a big movie fan you are. Well, they’d have to; so many of their movies seem to point straight to you!

  • Toy Story‘s theme song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” sounds to me like YOUR theme song! You are so very good at being a friend. You help us slow down when the road is rough ahead. And for your friends? There isn’t anything that you wouldn’t do. Yep. I know I’ve got a friend in you, Cameron Brown and I am so grateful!
  • In Monster’s Inc., Mike Wazowski says, “You and I are friends. There’s nothing more important than our friendship.” Just curious, Cameron: did you write that line? Because you sure do make your friends a top priority! Thanks buddy!
  • And Brave? Oh my goodness. I can’t believe how brave you are–especially going over that wall at Caswell! I’m scared of that thing, but not you: you just trust your friends and up you go. Merida could take lessons in bravery from you Cameron! (And maybe I could too!)
  • Remember Dug from Up? Now don’t go running after any squirrels, but I think you have something in common with Dug. I can just hear you saying something like, “My name is Cameron. I have just met you and I love you.” I love the way you love people Cameron!
  • One thing’s for sure. If life gets you down, you know what you have to do. You “just keep swimming . . . “

You’re basically Woody, Buzz, Mike, Sully, Merida, Dug, and Dory wrapped into one Cameron. Maybe we should start to call you Wuzikely Merdugry?

Wait! I thought of something better!

Happy Birthday Mr. Incredible! Thanks for being awesome!

Love, Aileen

In an extended celebration of my 50th birthday on 7-22-2015, I’m writing 50 thank you notes. (Originally I said in 50 weeks. Now I’ll just say, over the course of time . . . .) This one is #17. Please click on the tag “50 Thank You Notes” if you would like to read the others.

Margaret the Graduate

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Preschool Graduation, Spring 2003

 Over the years, my youngest daughter has inspired a number of blog posts. Today, her graduation day, I thought I’d unearth some of my favorites. Here’s to the class of 2016; here’s to our joy-bringer; here’s to Margaret Aileen!

  1. The one about waiting for her.
  2. The one about her second birthday.
  3. The one about her first day of Kindergarten.
  4. The one about the hurricane.
  5. The one about Giggles.
  6. The one about the cute and sassy sides.
  7. The one about the shoes.
  8. The one about the ice.
  9. The one about the dress code.
  10. The one about her.
High School Graduation 2016

High School Graduation 2016, with older siblings Baker and Trellace

 

 

7 Apps I use Daily

apps I loveI came relatively late to the smart phone game, preferring, instead, to have a stupid phone that I could boss around a bit. Once I made the switch from flip phone to iphone, though, I went all the way. I love having a gps, a word processor, and a game consol in the palm of my hand. Plus it’s also a calendar. And a calculator. AND you can video call on the thing! Makes me feel like Jane Jetson!

I’ve so adapted to the smartphone life that I have a number of applications (or “apps” as we tech-savvy folk say) I use every day. The teacher in me has to share whenever I learn a new thing, so here you go: 6 apps I use daily.

Clear: This list app is perhaps the simplest application on my phone. Most people will be able to use it instantly. With Clear, I have a packing list, a work to-do list, a home to-do list, a list of what should be in my gym bag, a grocery list, even a prayer list. I make lists for all kinds of things quickly and easily and I love it. Plus, you can change the default color to purple. #winwin

Way of Life: OMG I just got this a few weeks ago and it is fantastic! It’s billed as the “ultimate habit builder or breaker” and I believe it! You set daily goals and then check them off as you accomplish them. For example, my goals include flossing, uncluttering, exercising, stretching, and others. The free app allows three goals, but I bought the premium version ($4.99) so I could track more habits. Seriously, my house is straighter, my teeth are cleaner, and I’m in better shape. I can’t wait to open it every day to check off my accomplishments.

My Fitness Pal: You could probably find 100 different apps that work well for tracking food choices and I’ve used a good number of them myself. I like Loseit a lot and also sparkpeople. Weight Watchers has an app too. But for me, for now, My Fitness Pal is the winner. For the past four months or so, I’ve tracked my meals and snacks using this application. I still use the free version and it suits me just fine. Using My Fitness Pal is such a habit for me, I open it as I’m fixing my breakfast and keep it open all day. Like Way of Life, it is a real habit builder. Use the two together and you’re basically a habit super-builder!

Hours Tracker: Because I have a flexible work schedule, I keep track of time and tasks using this application. I like it because it’s free and I could use it instantly without any tutorial. It’s like having a work log and a time clock all in one. HoursTracker includes lots of features I don’t use at all: tracking multiple jobs, billing and pay period notifications, export capabilities, and more. Self-employed or contract worker? This application is a real efficiency boost.

Audible: I love me some Amazon. I’ve got AmazonPrime and I use it everyday. Until recently, though, I’d not checked out Amazon’s affiliate Audible. (I can’t even remember now why I decided to sign up for it.) In addition to the many podcasts I enjoy, I’ve loved listening to full books through Audible. I have downloaded books by authors as varied as Anne Lamott and Ta-Nehesi Coates, Chris Hedges and Timothy Ferriss. Actually, because I have a preference for printed books, I’ve been known to purchase hard copies of my audible books. (Don’t judge!) I enjoy highlighting text and referring back to favorite sections; however, Audible does have the capability to bookmark sections and mark clips. (I mainly listen straight through though and don’t really use those features.) Anyway, the app is free, the books are affordable, and when I listen to them (while exercising, driving, or walking the beagle) I feel like I’m multi-tasking. Love it.

KeyRing: Okay this one is the absolute bomb! Do you have a half dozen or more little plastic membership tags on your key ring? Get this app and upload all of those different VIP cards. Then you just open the app, scroll down to the shop your visiting, tap that card, and you’re all set. No cards hanging on your key chain, all your discounts ready to use. Woot!

7 Little Words: I stumbled upon this game one day and have played it nearly every day since. What I like about it is that you’d have to work to over-play it: you only get one free puzzle a day. Give me a game like Tetris, Bejeweled, or Peggle and I can easily slip into a stupor of non-productivity. 7 Little Words keeps me from doing that, but gives me a nice little diversion when I need/want a short break. (It takes me about five minutes, more or less, to complete a puzzle.) There are (surprise surprise) seven clues to seven words. You unscramble letter combos to answer the clues. There are in-app purchases–extra puzzles and hints and so on–but the app is free and the daily puzzles are too. If you like word puzzles, give this one a try. I think you’ll enjoy it.

So what about you? What apps do you use the most?

Advocate of the Spirit

In Dr. Sheri Adams church history class at Gardner-Webb University Divinity School, I learned, among other things, about Archbishop Oscar Romero. I found his life fascinating and have since been drawn to his legacy. Frequently, I refer to Romero’s life and work when preparing sermons. Such was the case for this message, preached at First Baptist Church of Weaverville on May 15, 2016 (Pentecost Year C for those following the Revised Common Lectionary. Note: I substituted the Haggai text for the Old Testament reading). Here’s the beginning of the message; it’s continued in the attached audio.

A word of explanation: this particular Sunday, when I did the children’s sermon, a toddler was particularly interested in the microphone. He added a lot of commentary and a touch of chaos to the worship that morning. I refer to this at the beginning of the audio.

monsignor oscar romero

John 14:8-17, (25-27), Haggai 2:3-7

In May 2015, Pope Francis ordered the beatification of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador. Pope Francis was affirming what many had said for decades: Oscar Romero’s life so closely resembled the life of Christ, that Romero should be declared a Saint.

Romero came from a lower middle class El Salvadorian background. One of eight children, Romero learned a trade early because his father and others of the time believed that academic studies would not lead to profitable employment. Romero excelled academically though and by 13 he was longing to study scripture with the intent of becoming a priest. He completed his studies and was ordained into the priesthood at the age of 24. He rose quickly in the Catholic church and soon became the archbishop, the highest ranking priest in the nation.

At the time, El Salvador was in the midst of a bloody civil war that essentially pitted the powerful elite—who were aligned with the catholic church—against the poor, oppressed majority. Romero, most people believed, would further the cause of the wealthy elite because he had such a position of power; in reality though, he became focused on the concerns of the poor. He spoke out against injustice, taking his message from the pulpit to the streets and to the airways.

He said, among other things,

“The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.” 

Romero, a true voice for those who had no voice, advocated for the poor literally until his dying breath, as he was assassinated while he was preaching a sermon on living out the message of Christ to serve the least of these among us. Romero, now considered by many to be a saint, was at the very least, a true advocate for the oppressed in his land.

Oscar Romero, guided by the spirit, was the people’s advocate, the voice for the voiceless.

The word Advocate comes from a Latin word which means “to call.” Our word voice comes from the same Latin root word. Advocate, therefore, could mean “to call” or “to give voice to.” . . .

 

May 2016 BNG Column: Relaxing in the Mystery

O Me of Little Faith Jason BoyettEach month, I write a column for the Baptist News Global. This month, I wrote about doubt, drawing from Jason Boyett’s book O Me of Little Faith and an old favorite song by Chris Rice, “Smell the Color Nine.” To read the column, click here. Then hang around  over there at baptistnews.com for great articles on issues that really matter.

Relaxing in the mystery: when answers are always necessary

Commencement Reflections

Trellace with Albright quoteTomorrow evening, Trellace, my oldest daughter, bedecked in collegiate cap and gown, will walk across the stage, completing her undergraduate degree.

Wait, did I read that right? No. Hold on. Seriously? Has it already been four years?

That can’t be because I believe it was yesterday, or the day before, that I wrote about the connection between potty training and college.

As parenting goes, I have always dreaded the day when I uttered these words: This is worse than potty training. Since my kids are pretty close in age, I was potty training at least one of them for three straight years. I’m being self-aware not self-deprecating when I tell you: I’m not good at teaching toddlers the tricks of the toilet. I’m not. (And please don’t leave me any tips here because really, I’ve heard them all and besides, they pretty well have it down by now.) Read more here.

Not long before that, I wrote about when Trellace was a baby and people suffered from the misunderstanding that I considered having an infant a burden. They had a compulsion to comfort me.

“It’ll get better,” the stranger said, punctuating his insightful comment with that know-it-all belly laugh that indicated he knew exactly zilch, “in about 18 years!” His laugh crescendoed, then faded into the distance as he walked away shaking his head, still snickering at his own joke. Read more here.

On the contrary, it always felt to me as if time was slipping away; that my babies were growing up too fast. What a blessing it was for me to learn the difference between chronos time and kairos time.

. . . “Where has the time gone? I don’t know, but I think I’m looking for it in the wrong zone. In Greek, there are two words for time. There’s Chronos—time that is measured, ya know, chronologically. And then there is Kairos—time that is measured by experiences. Chronos dissolves into seconds, days, years. Kairos, though . . . Kairos remains. (Read more here.)

In chronos time, it’s been four years. In kairos? The blink of an eye. But however you measure it, it’s time for Trellace’s university commencement. I wrote this post back in 2012, just before she left for college. It’s déjà vu all over again.Z

These days, in my world of parenting, I’m experiencing some serious déjà vu. See, when Trellace was about to start kindergarten (ya know, yesterday), good-hearted folk, attempting to be encouraging, offered familiar platitudes. Things like, “Oh she’s ready!” or “She’ll do great,” or “She’ll be fine! Don’t worry.” Now she’s going away to college, and those tired expressions have been roused for the occasion. (Read more here.)

Sunrise, sunset . . . I don’t remember growing older. When did they? (Fiddler on the Roof)