Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Buttermilk pancakes anyone?

One of the things that most people don't realize, perhaps because I don't have an accent, is that I lived most of my adult life in the south.  From 1976-1999 I lived in Tennessee and Georgia.  One can see the influences of the south most prominently in my cooking.  Self-rising flour and buttermilk are must have ingredients in my kitchen.  (Whenever I'm down south I also try to bring home a jar of Duke's mayonnaise and I'm always on the lookout for boiled peanuts!)

I don't know many folks here in Iowa who know what to do with buttermilk.  Its the ingredient that adds a tang and lightness to pancakes and makes biscuits out of this world...and yes, I make both from scratch.  The Food Network website has 1065 recipes that call for buttermilk, in case you're curious about giving it a try.

The other cool thing about buttermilk is that one cup can last forever... all you have to do when you start to run low is add 'sweet' milk to the jar, let it sit out 24 hours and voila!  More buttermilk.  Yes, I keep a jar of buttermilk in my fridge.  Because of the acid content in buttermilk it has a long shelf life.  Sometimes the jar gets pushed to the back corner - but I know its there ready and waiting.

There is a lot of talk in church circles about un-churched and de-churched folk... people who may have been raised in the faith but left the church for one reason or another.  I can't help but wonder if they are like my jar of buttermilk in the back of the fridge - waiting for an invitation - but it can't be just any old 'come to church' invite, it has to be something that will engage the senses, give meaning to life, or use gifts that have been forgotten for a season.

As much as we consider ourselves open and invitational, are we church-y folks really open minded enough to give these 'spiritual but not religious' folk the space they need to test the waters without being pushy?  To give them room to taste and see and then trust that the Holy Spirit is the one who will do the heavy lifting?  Are we secure enough in our faith to allow someone to push and prod and ask tough questions and wrestle with faith with fear and trembling?  Have we even been bold enough to wrestle with our own faith, with the challenging questions about life and love and our responsibility in the world with God?

Hmmmm....lots to think about as we move forward as a church.  Funny how a little jar of buttermilk can cause ones mind to dance this way and that.

Here's my recipe for pancakes - you do it all in a blender - fast, easy and MUCH better than the box kind!

In the blender place:
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
add 'sweet' milk to the 2 cup line
2 tsp sugar
1 heaping TBSP shortening (I use butter flavor crisco)

Blend well

Add 2 cups self rising flour (must use self rising flour - all the stores have it - even in Iowa)

Blend well.

If too thick, add a bit more sweet milk till the right consistency.

Pour batter onto a hot griddle (325 degrees).  Enjoy!  They should be light and delicious - especially thanks to the buttermilk!

If you want to make more buttermilk, take a clean jar with a lid.  Pour in atleast 1/2 cup buttermilk.  Add 1- 1 1/2 cups sweet milk.  Shake well and let sit on the counter or in a warm place about 24 hours - or till it starts to thicken up.  It should coat the sides of the jar when its properly cultured.  Refrigerate and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

diving deeper into God's Word

On Sunday, thanks to the generosity of some members of Trinity UMC, we handed out over 250 New Testament Bibles to folks in worship at Trinity.  It is part of our challenge to live into our membership vows of prayers, PRESENCE, gifts, service, witness.  During worship we made a commitment to be present with God by being more intentional about reading and studying scripture, and attending worship over the next year.

I invited the congregation to read one chapter a day over the next month from the Gospel of Matthew.  Each evening as part of this challenge I am posting reflections on the chapter of the day on our Trinity UMC Waverly facebook page.  If you're interested in joining us please like our facebook page by clicking here and if you live in the Waverly/Bremer County area, you are invited to stop by the church to pick up a free New Testament for you and yours!

If you live out of town, why not LIKE Trinity Waverly's facebook page too - you may read along with us electronically by visiting (we are reading from the Common English Bible).  It is my prayer that you will be blessed by reading and studying God's Word along with us!

Kristin will be leading a 'Bible 101' course starting Sunday, October 28th, and if you're available Wednesdays at noon, there is a small group that gathers to read and reflect on the scripture lessons for the coming Sunday's worship services.   All are welcome to attend!

I am really excited about this opportunity to dive deeper into God's Word with our faith community.  What a wonderful way to grow as a church family!

In Christ, together,

Saturday, October 6, 2012

a pilgrimage, of sorts

Lauren, Mary, Kristin and I
This past week four of us from Trinity joined 2500 others at the Church of the Resurrection for their 2012 Leadership Institute.  While I came home with a bag full of ideas I also came home with a deeper relationship with the folks from my church who accompanied me - and I believe that is at the core of leadership in this time and place.

Our trip to Overland Park, Kansas, was a pilgrimage of sorts, although I don't think any of us thought it would be so when we set out after lunch on Tuesday.  While I thought I was taking staff to a Continuing Ed event, I can see now in retrospect that we were on a journey that allowed me, at least, to deepen my faith and walk as a Christ follower and a leader in the church.

When one goes on a pilgrimage you must be willing to put yourself out there - to extend an invitation to others to join you in the journey of life and faith.  Jesus did this in the most ordinary times - often when he was on a walk; 'drop your nets, Andrew and Simon, and follow me,'  'come down out of that tree, Zacchaeus, we're going to have dinner at your house.'  Invite, invite, invite...and see who the Holy Spirit inspires to join you.  I appreciate that Mary, Kristin and Lauren all said 'yes' to the invitation!

As you travel I think its important to allow people to go at their own pace, even if you are a bit impatient, trust that God is always at work...its pretty amazing when you slow down and allow God to do God's thing - you get to see the Holy Spirit and grace in action!

At COR they worship in a variety of ways - and during the Leadership Institute we had a taste of every one of their worship styles - the music was amazing; from a full orchestra and traditionally robed choir to the youthful VIBE band to their amazing organist to the gospel duet to the praise band, it is obvious that these folks are committed Christians who are sharing their gifts to glorify God.  Music is a universal language that speaks to us in a myriad of ways.  There were several times when the presence of the Holy Spirit was so powerful in the music that I wept.  I was not the only one.  I give thanks for these holy moments.

We had a plethora of workshops to choose from and the four of us attended those we thought would best suit our tasks within the church.  Some were better than others, but one thing that impressed each of us was the willingness of COR to give it away - they gave us hand out after hand out and said; 'go to our website, down load the video, make copies of this stuff and use what you like for your context'...  I am blown away impressed by their generosity - extravagant hospitality - humble gratitude to God for blessing their faith community so that they could be a blessing to others.

What a better place our world, our connection, our communities would be if we did likewise.  None of what we have or do is proprietary - it all belongs to the One who calls us and claims us in our Baptism.  It is ours to give away - we are all blessed to be a blessing!

All pilgrimages, like all stories, have times that are demanding.  The question is how do the characters handle the challenging parts - the tension - the breakdowns?  We learned before we even set out on our journey to COR that there were folks at the church praying for each and every one of us by name.  We likewise soaked our time apart in prayer.  Prayer was essential when the car wouldn't start (thank God for AAA and that it was only a battery!)  Frankly, prayer was essential every step of the way.  From the moment we departed till our arrival home.  We prayed together...and through our prayers we drew closer to one another and to God.

Now what are we going to do with it?  What will I do with the notebook full of ideas and handouts?  (and the sack of books from the bookstore too!)  What will any of us do with what we learned?  It would be easy to settle back into the rhythm of life here at home (it sure felt good sleeping in my own bed!) but we had an amazing opportunity to learn from our sisters and brothers and we do have a responsibility to our faith community here at home as here the key things I learned and some initial thoughts that I took away...

1)  my gut instinct about our fall Stewardship campaign was right (how about that?!)  At Trinity we will continue to uphold our baptism and membership vows and consider how God is calling us to support our church and one another through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  I came home with some ideas that will equip me (and even push me) to do this better.

2)  Adam Hamilton is a fine preacher and he really, really wants to share with preachers and churches what he has learned.  Adam is naturally curious and winsome - he goes on trips and videos his studies and publishes them because he knows not everyone will get to the chance to go to the Holy Lands, or other places, themselves.  Again he wants to give it all the glory of God!  Check out his website for some wonderful resources:

3)  Hamilton's enthusiasm is infectious and I can see how folks are drawn toward him.  I appreciate his intentionality about lifting up leaders and equipping and empowering lay folks.  He does this very well.   He also gives voice to others - he is not the expert - he brings in others to share their stories rather than re-telling them.  I need to do this more often myself.

4)  COR is a huge place in an affluent community in the KC metro area.  They intentionally seek to connect with people who are non- Christian or nominally Christian to bring them to a deeper faith.  That is their mission/vision.  It works in their context.  Our keynote speaker, Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church in Ft Myers, Florida serves a faith community that is blue collar, with a whole different mission and vision.   I need to continue to work with the folks of Trinity to identify the needs in our context and how God is calling us to be the Church in our community.

5)  It really is great to see familiar faces when at an event like COR.  I saw many pastor friends from the Iowa, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and the Illinois Great Rivers Conferences.  I wish that I could have had time to sit a spell and talk, but a quick hug and 'how are you' often had to suffice.  I can say that I  look forward to one day having the time to do more visiting...maybe that is what heaven will be like?   I made a new friend, Eunice from New Jersey.  She is a bubbly Latina pastor who I kept running into throughout the conference.  She made me smile...I liked this as well.

Attending the COR Leadership Institute was another step in my journey of faith.  I was blessed to be on pilgrimage with Mary, Kristin and Lauren.  They are amazing women of faith and a blessing to our Trinity community.  They help me to be a better person, a better Christ follower.  And isn't that, really, what its all about?  I look forward to sharing what I learned with my community here in Waverly and to the next adventure that comes our way.

together, on a journey of a lifetime,

Monday, October 1, 2012

fumblin' around

Sunday afternoon after a power nap I watched a couple of football games with E.   One of the more interesting (and time consuming) things to happen was the review, measurements and re-review of a fumble toward the end of the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons game.

I sure am grateful that God's mercy and grace isn't measured by downs (or ups for that matter).  What matters is that God's grace is extravagant and more than sufficient, if we open our hearts and minds to the very depths of God's love.  It really is all about love, you know.

When I attended the School of Congregational Development in St Louis in August, Bishop Schnase, in his keynote address, shared one of the loveliest definitions of grace that I have ever heard.  After his talk I asked him if it was in print anywhere and he directed me to his book, "Five Practices of Fruitful Living"  Here is an excerpt from the chapter 'receiving God's love.'

Frequently, we view God as some cosmic entity existing beyond our experience, removed from daily life, an abstraction of the mind.  But the God we see revealed in Jesus Christ is not some passive general benevolence that leaves things alone.  The God we see revealed in Jesus is the God of grace, an active, searching, embracing, asserting love.  It is a strong, persevering, gritty grace that gives Jesus the power to embrace untouchable lepers, sit with outcast tax collectors, visit with forbidden strangers.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the steel courage to intercede against the violence and injustice of angry authorities on behalf of a woman accused of adultery.  It is an earthy, practical grace that causes Jesus to kneel before his friends, take a towel from his waist and wash their feet, daring them to do likewise as a way of life.   It is an unrelenting and irresistible grace that never gives up on either the hopeless and despairing or the rich and powerful.  It is the disturbing, interruptive grace that overturns the tables of the cheating money changer in the Temple.  It is the perceptive, affirming grace that notices the widow with her two coins, a father anxious abut his epileptic son, a farmer pruning vines.  It is the compassionate grace that embraces the victims of violence, and the persistent grace that steps into cell blocks with prisoners.  It is the challenging, correcting, indicting grace that confronts unjust judges, self-justifying lawyers, unsympathetic rich people, and haughty religious leaders.  It is the costly, sacrificial grace that dares to absorb the violence of humiliation, unjust persecution, and tortuous death to reveal the depth of God's love for humanity...

Grace is God's loving activity embracing our lostness, brokenness, hurt, and rebellion, so that we may experience forgiveness, reconciliation, and liberation, which come only through our receiving this love into our lives.  A radical encounter with the grace of God may not solve everything overnight, but many things remain beyond our ability to solve until we at least take the first step of accepting the grace of God and inviting God's love in.  (Five Practices pages 23-24)


For years I have been fumbling around trying to articulate what grace means... I drove my seminary professors kinda crazy asking each one what grace means.  I knew in my heart, but finding the right words to define grace has always seemed illusive.

Thank you Bishop Schnase for explaining grace so eloquently!  Now let's live into this amazing gift from God!

in Christ, together,