On the side of the road

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On the side of the road

The side of the road is one of my least favorite places in the world.

Roads, I love. Lately I have traveled many of them visiting people I love, moving to a new house, running errands. Rarely do I bother to glance at the people with me on the road, unless they’re going too slow.

Tonight, though, I spent several hours with a few hundred new friends on the side of the road.

I was supposed to be meeting my sister for a long awaited night out in Atlanta seeing Glennon Melton from Momastery. I was supposed to be enjoying dinner, relaxing, catching up on all of Sister’s gossip. I had put on make-up, rocked a new outfit, and my hair was NOT in a ponytail.

When the cars began to slow down, I got nervous. After sitting in traffic for 10 minutes, I called Sister and said I might be late to dinner. After 30 minutes of having my car parked on I75, I knew my plans were not going to turn out like I thought. Bummed. Seriously bummed.

I began to notice the cars around me. People were starting to get out of their cars, probably to avoid overheating. I glanced at the car’s thermometer: 95 degrees. Sweet Lord of all air conditioning, hear our prayers.

I noticed a conspicuous bus two cars back from me: State Prisoners. In my mind, I wondered if this whole traffic jam was an elaborate escape attempt. I began creating stories about how every other car on the road was related to the prisoners and their role in the escape that was about to happen. No worries, I had a plan. It involved my toddler’s toys around me in the mini-van, clunking the inmates over the head with them. I was sure I’d be on the evening news any minute, but glad I had on something besides my daily fashion choice of yoga pants, flip-flops and ponytail. This mama was ready for anything.

45 minutes. Oh my stars, I prayed for the traffic to budge, for a bathroom, for there to be something to eat in this van of mine. Lord of goldfish crackers and juice boxes, hear our prayers.

Then I realized I was going to have to turn the car off, like everyone else on the road. This was what I had dreaded. Summer heat and humidity are among my other least favorite things. Windows down, watching people walk around on the highway, I decided maybe the prisoners were not going to escape. But I still used my Macgyver skills to fashion a hairband out of a plastic bag I found in the backseat so I could make a proper ponytail and get my hair up. We were going to be there for a while.

I began to melt inside the car, the sun on my driver’s side. I called my people and told them my fun plans were done. Half-melted, it was time to get out. I walked around to the passenger side door for some shade, and began to watch my fellow travelers. Folks were drifting to the side of the road talking to each other, telling stories. Sweating our brains out, for sure. But talking. I realized, the next time I tried to text, that no one had any phone service. Hmm. I also realized, I could do something. I called to the guys around me and said, “I’m opening up the back door of this van. If you want some shade and a seat, come on over.” Before long, I had three gentlemen, from different cars, perched in the tailgate. People were offering water bottles from their cars, and in our little part of the highway, we talked. Two ladies enjoyed the shade from the umbrellas in my van. I watched people share magazines to fan themselves with. My little circle of folks represented four different races and ages. We hoped we would get out of this soon; everyone shared the places they had planned to be.

Then a guy asked, “Does anybody have a knife?” I wondered if I had been right all along about the escape attempt, but it turns out he had something amazing to offer. Someone had a knife, and he used it to slice up a watermelon he had in his car.

A watermelon, y’all.

He offered slices to anyone who wanted it. The sweetness of that fruit we shared right on the side of the road helped us get through the next hour. People laughed. We wondered together what in the world was going on, and how long we would be stuck where we were. We heard each other.

Then people who had walked up to the wreck began to walk back towards us. They said a large truck had driven off the overpass and onto three cars. A helicopter and jaws of life were called in. We were silent for a moment.

Lord, hear our prayers.

In the two hours I sat on the side of the road today, I had to pay attention. At first, I was keenly aware of the thousand things I would rather be doing than being stuck in traffic. I ended up paying attention to the people along this road with me. We shared moments in the shade and had the sweetest communion I’ve had in a while with broken chunks of watermelon. My uncle calls this kind of crowd a “heaping helping of humanity.” Yes, sir. That’s exactly what we were. So, I am whispering a new prayer today:


For those who find themselves stuck when they were speeding towards anywhere but here,

For the person who peeks up ahead and is first to realize, it’s time to roll down the windows and breathe deep because we’re going to be here awhile,

For the man who makes everyone nervous because he’s the first to step out of his car,

Lord, hear our prayers.


For the man on his way to visit his uncle in the hospital, for the lady who missed her flight out of Atlanta,

For the mom who walked her son into the makeshift bathroom in the woods,

Lord, hear our prayers


For holy interruptions and moments to be still and know a thousand new things

For reminders that conversations can start easily if we roll down the windows

For the man in the Lexus seated next to the man from the pick-up truck in the back of a stranger’s mini-van

And for moments of “Me, too!” and “I know that’s right” that made the summer heat seem bearable

Lord, we give thanks.


For moments to truly see the people on this same road as me

For the lady who held my pink umbrella like it was a parade

For finally being able to move along, carrying with me the lessons from this side of the road

For the Holy Communion in a chunk of watermelon,

We give thanks and praise.

Lord, hear our prayers.

Erin Robinson Hall is a teacher, an ordained Baptist minister, a writer, a Mom, a wife, and a beloved daughter. She is and forever will be the boss of her (adult) baby sister and brother.

Erin is a daydreamer disguised as a detailed organizer. She is the mom to a busy toddler and wife to the best husband in the world who happens to be a pastor. When she wears her pastor’s wife “hat,” it looks a little different than most, because like her husband, Erin is also a preacher. She has very little interest in sports, gossip, reality television or mean people, but loves to talk about big picture, God-winks-in-the-world kind of stuff.

Erin is currently the writer for FaithElement’s Current session page. You can find more work from Erin on her blog,

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Insight From Isaac: And His Tale of Two Walks

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Insight From Isaac: And His Tale of Two Walks

When Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” I wonder if he had an energetic dog who loved to go for walks.

The majority of blog posts I write about Isaac the Insightful revolve around walks with my Labrador-Eskimo-Collie. Perhaps God speaks most clearly when I’m (a) enjoying His outdoor creation, (b) engaging in physical exercise, and (c) letting a little dog “lead” me. Or is that I can hear him more clearly in these circumstances of self-care?

This time, it’s a tale of two walks that gave me pause.

On the first walk, Isaac and I were running later than usual, and traffic was heavier. I had to change the route and keep Isaac on a shorter leash as cars flew by. Understandably, he was frustrated with these changes. Frustration can lead to disobedience, for both canines and humans. For Isaac, disobedience usually occurs in a public setting. At one of the busiest intersections in town, at one of the busiest times of day, Isaac decided he’d had enough. He sat down in the middle of the street. He glared at me. He would not budge.

Equally frustrated, I also slipped into disobedience. I broke every rule that his trainer taught me. I yelled, “NO!” I jerked on the leash. I dragged him to the nearest yard, pointed my finger at him, and lectured him on obedience. Yes, I know. My name is Darian, and I’m a hypocrite (Hi, Darian!). He sat down in the middle of that lawn. He glared at me. He would not budge. I said, “let’s go” with the enthusiasm of someone headed for a root canal. I stepped forward, only to be pulled back by a dog who looked like he would rather have a root canal than be with me.

I pulled on the leash with enough force to get him next to me, and we eventually made our way home.

On the second walk, we left at our usual time. While there were few cars out, we did run into other distractions. Squirrels, birds, other dogs, and various scents tried to lure Isaac away from me. He tried to pull me into various yards. After the “worst of times” walk, I’d decided to take a different approach. I was going to adhere to the trainer’s rules again. I would try to keep a positive attitude. I would avoid using the word, “no,” and I would try not to jerk on his leash. When a scent would distract him, I’d stand still and say happily, “Come on, Isaac! Leave it, and let’s go!” and walk on. Eventually, he would leave the scent and follow me. Sure, there was resistance. Frustration tried to creep in. But I still used my high pitched voice to lure him along.

We reached “the intersection.” Isaac wanted to travel north. I needed to head south towards home. He pulled one way. I faced the other. He looked at me, not with a glare but with a plea of, “Please, can’t we go where I smell a cat on the other side of town?” I knelt down, opened my arms, and said with a smile, “Come here, bud.”

Tail wagging and tongue hanging out, he ran over and pressed his snout against my shoulder. It was a Kodak moment.

Then I stood up, and he tried to pull me north again.

I knelt down again. Repeat the Kodak moment. This time, when I said, “let’s go,” I jumped up and started running south. Isaac ran after me. The northern scent of cat was forgotten, and we found our way home.

It’s no wonder that Isaac wouldn’t follow me on that “worst of times” walk. I was not cool. I was not enjoyable. I was negative. Who wants to be around such a downer?

What Isaac did want to follow were a voice of anticipation and arms that were open to loving him.

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15, New Revised Standard Version)

Questions have swirled for years about why our churches’ memberships are declining and why people are turning away from God and the Church. These complex questions have a variety of complex answers. I won’t attempt to answer them. But I do think some solutions can begin with simple changes in us as disciples.

Do you walk through life in the “clothing” of Colossians that catches people’s attention? Or have you been hanging your head for so long in frustration that you ignore the needs of others?

Does your church have a spirit of joy so evident that people want to come and worship as eagerly as Isaac ran into my arms? Or are you pushing people away with negative tones?

Isaac was happy to follow the voice of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. That’s the voice I want to follow. That’s the voice I want to be. That’s the voice I desire my congregations to be.

How about you?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.

Gerasimus of Boldino, Converted by Stories, Monastic, Often Attacked but Never a Victim

Posted by on 8:30 am in Team Blog | 0 comments

Gerasimus of Boldino, Converted by Stories, Monastic, Often Attacked but Never a Victim

Gerasimus of Boldino was born Gregory in the little Russiantown of Pereslav-Zalessky near the turn of the fifteenth century into the sixteenth. He didn’t have any particular reason to attend the worship services and ecclesial celebrations of the local Orthodox congregation and, yet, upon occasion you could count on Gregory to be there. Gregory likely understood himself to be Christian in some nominal sense on the virtue of his citizenship but it was not something personal or comprehensible to him. One day–when Gregory was only thirteen years old–the priest told a story when Gregory was sitting in the audience and listening attentively. This story was of a man named Daniel who was from the little town where they gathered and who had committed his own life to a type of Christian ministry that was shocking in its sincerity and powerful in its impact. Daniel had begun taking care of the sick and hungry not because of some promise of power or influence but simply because it needed to be done and he was able to meet the need. He made it his goal to provide decent and reverent burials for those whose bodies were abandoned to be eaten by scavengers.

As Gregory listened he was overcome by the importance of Daniel’s work and soon found himself aware that his heart beat faster when he thought of following in Daniel’s footsteps. To do that, however, Gregory knew that he must follow after the commands and teachings of Daniel’s Lord: Jesus. So, Gregory went forward to the priest and tearfully begged to be allowed to be a part of any group of which Daniel wanted to be a part. So, he was converted to the Faith and endeavored to live a life worth telling stories about. Gregory became a novice in the monastic order of which the priest was a part. He gave his focus and attention to his studies so that he might be well prepared for the task that awaited him as a Christian and a monk. Eventually, he was given the monastic tonsure and took the name Gerasimus–his name had changed to reflect the change that was taking  deeper root within him. He became noted for his asceticism and his renunciation of the comforts of this world in favor of environments and situations that would further induce him to focus upon the God who had called and was saving him. This notoriety became a burden to him and he left it behind and took up a life of solitude even as he continued to emulate the loving and sincere actions of Daniel–the one who had inspired him to live his faith and not simply pretend to possess it as if it were some “thing” that could be “had.”

When he embraced his solitude it did not mean abandoning the people of the world. Instead, it meant finding solitude even amid frequent visitation. Some of his most frequent visitors, though, were bandits and criminals who would target him because of his relative isolation. They would beat him and take what meager possessions he held but they never once were able to break his will or desire to love them. As they approached, he  greeted them as guests and expected the best of them even when he had been given many reasons not to believe them capable of it. As they beat and abused him he thanked them for being a part of God’s plan to tame and correct his own arrogant and proud soul. He prayed for them and offered them forgiveness even when they didn’t ask for it and even when it convinced them further to abuse him. Slowly–very slowly at first–his prayers and love had an effect and soon he had founded a monastery consisting primarily of reformed and converted criminals. He founded more than one monastery and was influential in the conversion of many notable Christians in the area. The boy who had been converted by hearing a story of a man called by God had been called by God himself to live a life worth telling stories about and lead those God loved into the salvation God had prepared for each of them.

Photo Credit

Read more from Joshua Hearne at his personal website and the website of Grace and Main Fellowship, the non-traditional community he ministers with.

Love Your Neighbor

Posted by on 8:45 am in Team Blog | 0 comments

Love Your Neighbor

It used to be
The ones who lived close
In one’s village
Near one’s farm
Who used the same well
These were one’s neighbors

The others
The strangers
The different
The frightening
The not to be trusted
Lived over the hill
Beyond the horizon

We grew
We came to see those
Of our county
Or region
Or nation
As our neighbors

We grew more
Learning to see
The imperishable soul
The divine image
In those far away
We learned
To weep
For the distant child-distended belly and hollow eyes
The flood victim-bedraggled/crushed by loss
The refugee-lost and bewildered

We also contracted
Became less

In the village
While the difference between
Was not great
The rich man knew his poor neighbor
The poor woman knew the rich one
All lived
Cheek by Jowl
Knew each other
Knew each others’
Infinite worth

We congregate
With those like us
The wealthy need only see
(other than objects)
The wealthy
The poor may
The wealthy
Because they
Are them
The other

It used to be
We had to hear
The voices of those
Who differed from us
It used to be
In the tavern
Or the square
Or by the gate
Or outside the sanctuary
We had to
Take into account
The crazy opinions of
Our neighbors
We had to find
Common ground
How else
Could we live

Each need only
Listen to
Mirrors of his opinion
Her stand
We need never entertain the thoughts
The arguments
That are
Alien to us
Different form ours
I have my news
They have theirs
And if facts
Are causalities
And truth
Bleeds unseen
What does it matter?
I am not discomforted.
My neighbors are now
Those like me
The others
Like their opinions
Are alien

And now
Those who I see as my neighbor
Are like me
It is easy to love them
As myself
They are so like me
Sensing that
We are made in the image of
The Holy
We envision
The Holy
To be
Like this
Common Image
We confirm our ideas
Our prejudices
Our opinions
This idol
We have
Better we should
Grind it up
Its dust.

Says The Holy
Let us reason together
Reason together
Expand once more
Grow again
Learn to recognize
To see
To reach to touch
The imperishable
Inner core of light
That lies in each one
Not just those we have drawn around us
A comfort to keep us
Let us be rattled
Let us be shaken
required to think
Forced to
Common ground

Only when you see
Are made in the image of G-D
All are my neighbors”
Can you begin
To fully grow
To begin
To become
What we are each
Meant to be.

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Grace: It’s Always Enough

Posted by on 8:45 am in Team Blog | 0 comments

Grace: It’s Always Enough

I’d forgotten I set the computer power cord on top of my car until I saw the cord fly away on the side of the road. A jail crew was working–picking up trash and weeding.

I pulled over anyway. And a man came to help–his black and white jumpsuit dragged the pollen-yellowed ground. Beaded sweat and missing teeth did not distract from the prisoner’s beautiful eyes. Noticing the “Dylan Saved My Life” sticker on the back of my car, he pointed to it and said, ” Bob or Thomas–which one saved your life?”

I don’t know why I would have been surprised to think he knew about Bob Dylan or Dylan Thomas, but I was. I’m wondering what that says about myself.

I pointed to the cross tattoo on his neck.

“Jesus actually. And grace. Maybe I need another sticker?”

He rubbed the tattoo like he just remembered it was there. “Ma’am, I don’t know nothing ’bout no grace.”

The cross on his neck paved a way. And I prayed the blue-black ink would seep deep into his jugular and straight into his pulsing, precious heart. Five minutes of power cord searching was just enough time to speak grace in tangible, intentional words.

Grace: it’s hope for the wounded.
Healing for the broken. Enough for the searcher.

It’s Freedom for those chained and held captive by all things done and left undone.

Grace….speak it.
Claim it.
Proclaim it.
Whenever. Whoever. However.

It’s always enough.

Photo Credit

Heather Cody loves Jesus, people, and especially Bob Dylan. She’s a nurse who lives in
Georgia with her husband, two sons, and a voraciously hungry dog, Harry.

Job, Long-Suffering, Blameless, Beloved by God

Posted by on 8:45 am in Team Blog | 0 comments

Job, Long-Suffering, Blameless, Beloved by God

Job was the kind of guy to which blame and shame won’t stick. He feared God and turned away from evil thoughts and actions. Job had many sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and servants but he was so blameless you know what Job did? When his seven sons and three daughters would gather for a feast at one of their houses he would figure out when the feast was over and would then rise early in the morning to offer a burnt sacrifice on their behalf before God. Just in case one of them had sinned–that is to say cursed God in their hearts–Job offered sacrifices for them because of his great love and his blamelessness. This is what Job always did.

One day, though, the heavenly beings assembled before God Almighty and the Adversary came in among them God said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?”

The Adversary responded, “Oh, here and there and everywhere in between as I’ve been looking around Earth.”

God said to the Adversary, “Well, if you’ve been on Earth have you noticed my servant Job? That one is unique among all people.” Then, God told the Adversary all about how blameless Job was and how he offered sacrifices just in case. He continued, “Job is a man who turns his back on evil.”

So, the Adversary responded, “Of course he’s blameless, you haven’t given him an obstacle for him to fail upon. You’ve fenced him in with your protection and you’ve blessed everything he touches. Of course, he turns to you and away from evil–you’ve made it worth it!”As the words of the Adversary’s dismissive accusations began to register with the heavenly audience, the Adversary continued, “If you want to see how blameless and good the man is then give him some pain and see how long he praises you. He’ll curse you to your face!

God responded, “So be it. I’ll withdraw my protection and allow you to assault him. You cannot harm him, though. You can only take from him the parts of life you seem to think of as bribes.” At these words, the Adversary departed from the presence of God.

Shortly thereafter Job’s seven sons and three daughters were having one of their feasts in the home of the eldest son. Thus began one of the worst days, of not only Job’s life but perhaps, of all days. A servant of Job came to him looking beaten and tired–still panting from his run–and told Job that the Sabeans had attacked the servants minding the donkeys and oxen while they were plowing and feeding. The Sabeans had killed the servants–except the one messenger–and stolen all of Job’s oxen and donkeys.

As this was sinking in another servant arrived to tell Job that fire had descended from the skies and consumed the sheep and the servants who tended them. Job was already overwhelmed with his loss but as he was reeling another servant arrived and told him that the Chaldeans had come and stolen all of the camels and killed the servants who were watching over them. He was stunned and the three servants already there must have been amazed at the suddenness of this loss but even more surprised when a fourth servant arrived who looked as only somebody with terrible and life-changing news can look. He told Job that a great wind had ripped through the land where his children had been eating and the house collapsed upon them and all the servants–none had survived. The servants shook their heads at the seeming incoherence of so much death and destruction and Job seemed unable even to take all this sorrow in.

Finally, after what must have felt like days, Job stood up and tore his robe in a sign of mourning. He drew his blade and used it to shave his head. He mourned the loss and fell on the ground and wept uncontrollably at his monumental loss.

As he sobbed, he began to pray and worship even in the midst of such horror. He said,”I entered this world with nothing and that is also how I will leave this world. The Lord has given me everything I’ve ever had and now the Lord has taken nearly all of it away.” The final sentence of his tearful worship may have been proclaimed through gritted teeth, “Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty.” The Adversary had done its worst and been unable to get Job to sin or accuse God of wrong.
But that wasn’t enough for the Adversary–the one who opposes us and God at every turn–and so the Adversary came again before God almighty before the heavenly audience. God said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?”

The Adversary responded, “Oh, here and there and everywhere in between as I’ve been looking around Earth.”

God said, “Then surely you’ve seen my servant Job? Remember him? The one who is blameless and who turns toward me and away from evil? Sure you do! He’s the one you were confident would curse me if he no longer had the blessings I gave him. Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed that he never cursed me or turned his back on me.”

With a wounded ego and prideful confidence the Adversary responded, “You wouldn’t let me go far enough! He is good–assuredly–but even the best humans will give anything to save their lives. Take away his physical comfort and his health and he will surely curse you!”

God responded, “So be it. You may take more from Job but you cannot kill him.”

So, the Adversary left the presence of God to afflict Job with painful and open sores all over his body from the top of his head to bottoms of his feet. In his pain, Job took a piece of broken clay pottery and used it to scrape the painful, weeping sores that covered his body. He sat in the ashes of his mourning and suffered. Finally, his wife came to him–exasperated and deep in her own grief–and asked him, “Are you still refusing to curse God? Can’t you see that it is God’s fault that you now suffer? Maybe if you curse God, then God will kill you and you’ll at least have some small comfort in that.”

Job responded, “You speak foolishness! Should we happily accept the good things that God gives us and then be like petulant children when we are given the bad? Do you believe that God owes us something that God isn’t giving us?” With this refusal and with every other word and action, Job did neither sinned against nor cursed God.

Read more from Joshua Hearne at his personal website and the website of Grace and Main Fellowship, the non-traditional community he ministers with.

The Candid Clergywoman: The “Other Half” Made Whole

Posted by on 8:45 am in Team Blog | 1 comment

The Candid Clergywoman: The “Other Half” Made Whole

Somewhere between the towns of Lyon and Marks on Tuesday, there was a “concert.”

The venue? My car.

The performer? Me.

The microphone? My empty, 24 oz. water bottle that says, “I LOVE THE DELTA.”

The repertoire? A pop music station.

The audience? Thankfully, just me. Even Isaac the dog missed out on this experience.

The 24 hours leading to that car ride had filled me with joy. I’d spent time with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years, explored her house in the country, ate pastries and drank French Roast for breakfast, led a couple of yoga workshops, and visited with United Methodists from around the state. Driving home in beautiful, sunny weather, the day after horrendous storms had blown through Mississippi, “my heart overflowed with a good theme” of thanksgiving.

What better way to express gratitude than to sing? Adrenaline rushing, I turned to a “happy pop” station and was belting out familiar, yet often cheesy, tunes.

Then a song came on that I didn’t know. It had a good beat, and I caught on to the chorus. But some lyrics made me put down the “microphone,” pull over, and take some notes.

I get to be the other half of you.

Hmmmm …

I started listening more carefully instead of singing so loudly. The trend of searching for “the other half” was blatant in the lyrics I heard. In the edited words of Jerry Maguire, the voices I heard were crying out for someone to “complete” them.

I understand the old adage of a couple referring to their spouses as their “better half” or their “other half.” In Genesis 2:24 is that passage we hear at many a wedding ceremony: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Two becoming one is a mysteriously amazing depiction of the marriage covenant. One union does form from two people, and we view the two persons as “halves” of a whole, beautiful marriage.

However, what happens to us when we think we’re not “whole” until we find that one, idealized person who is our other “half?”

Which opportunities pass us by because we’re obsessed with seeking and finding one relationship?

How much healthier would our relationships be if we saw ourselves as “whole” just as we are, as individual children of God?

What if we focused on cultivating healthy relationships in our families, churches, and friendships instead of seeking out one romantic relationship?

Sadly, so many of us view ourselves and relationships through the eyes of silly “love” songs. We live our lives in search of another half. We only live into half of our potential. We search for someone else to love us when we don’t love ourselves.

Two half-loved lives don’t make a whole relationship.

Friends, God created us to be so much more than half-lived lives.

Yes, we long for belonging.

We love to feel loved.

But have those desires become our idol, our focus, our one intent? To seek and to find a person instead of seeking the God who will bring the right person(s) across our paths?

As I turned south on Highway 61 on Tuesday, I rejoiced for the persons whose paths I had crossed. The friend who had hosted me, along with her two dogs and pony. The first-time yoga students. The staff who hosted the event. The clergy colleagues I only see a few times each year. The baker who sprinkled powdered sugar on my pastry and poured my coffee.

We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things that our joy may be complete. (I John 1:3-4, New Revised Standard Version)

Sometimes God wants us to experience love through many kinds of fellowship, not just romantic love. Sometimes our joy is complete through the fellowship of all God’s creatures, from the pony to the baker. Sometimes we must remember that in God’s kingdom, there are no “halves,” only souls that he desires to make whole with his love and joy–overflowing in abundance.

Instead of pining for what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what we long for in relationships, take a moment today to look around you. Take a moment to listen to the voices God has brought into your life. And celebrate those people. Give thanks for those connections. And if at all possible, break into song. The One who completes our joy is right here, right now. And He might even want to sing with you.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

P.S. Confession: Of all the pop artists on the radio today, a long-time favorite of mine is P!nk. Yes, I know she likes R-rated words. But here’s an edited, PG-13 song that’ll make you feel like a rock star. Please excuse me while I get my water-bottle mic….

Photo Credit

Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.

Easy to be Pharaoh

Posted by on 12:32 am in Team Blog | 0 comments

Easy to be Pharaoh

How easy to be Pharaoh
At the Other
Repeat the magic words
He is less than I
She is not

Other folks
Are not
The same
As us
We are

Because they
Are not
The same
Their rights
Not as important as
Their pain
Not worth our inconvenience
To sooth

That one looks
That one
Speaks in a strange accent
Does not believe
As we
Votes for
Silly things

How easy it becomes
To be
To take a bit more
They are not

Denial of rights
Or simply
Shooting a few

It is OK
I have my comfort
After all
They are not really

How easy to be Pharaoh
I have mine
We have ours
After all
They are not like us
They are not

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Blessing the Cracks

Posted by on 5:08 am in Team Blog | 1 comment

Blessing the Cracks

“Two deaths in two days.” I said, “And it just feels like love is ripping.”

She didn’t hesitate in her no-nonsense response: “Well, love has been ripping since the curtain was torn, right? Sometimes you gotta wade on in and muck the shit, Heather. I’m praying blessings.”

And there she stood with one hand on my head and the other on her Starbucks. Holiness mixed with coffee and kinship and cuss words as she ushered Jesus in like a welcomed guest we’d been waiting on for days.

She blessed the ugly. She blessed the tangled. She blessed the confusion. The doubt. The questioning.

She blessed the cracking places.

Said it out loud: “Bless the Brokenness of the Cracks.”

The blessing of cracks—I thought about her words all the way home. And then it hit me. Those tiniest, faintest, littlest cracks—some not even visible to the human eye— still let a bit of light through.

Who says that breaking lets in the darkness? The cracks of light are just enough to shine.

And so I cracked a little more. And I felt something give. I pressed hard, and harder still, into the thin places—the cracks that force the darkness out and let the Light shine in.

Who says that the ripping doesn’t allow us to be woven back together in a more meaningful, majestic tapestry?

A stronger, magically mended, beautifully blended, once-torn, now-adorned tapestry of life.

So…to all of you who may read this……who may be ripping and breaking and cracking and hurting too……

Wade on in.
Break wide open.
Crack deep.
Rip with the love.

Blessings to you, too, as we muck in the knee-deep mess of it all. Because we are better together. And we’ll make it to other side—a dirtied-cleaned, ripped-up-repaired, light-cracked-open, broken Holiness.

And shining just the same.

About Heather
Heather Cody loves Jesus, people, and especially Bob Dylan. She’s a nurse who lives in Georgia with her husband, two sons, and a voraciously hungry dog, Harry.

The Gospel According to Downton Abbey: Traditional Power

Posted by on 3:45 am in Team Blog | 0 comments

The Gospel According to Downton Abbey: Traditional Power

For four years, I’ve had phone calls go to voicemail automatically on Sunday evenings — because of a little miniseries called Downton Abbey. There seemed to be as many people watching PBS on Super Bowl Sunday as there were watching the game. Perhaps we’ll have to rename that day Downton Sunday?

For those of you who don’t own televisions or just have no idea what I’m talking about, take this word of advice: it’s pronounced DOWN-ton, not DOWN-TOWN. I made that mistake when talking to a super-fan of the show. Now that I’m a super fan, too, I must warn you not to make the same mistake!

Set in early 20th century England, the show centers around Downton Abbey, the estate of the Crawley family. The Crawleys employ a number of servants whose duties include cooking every single meal, polishing every piece of silver, and dressing every daughter in a new dress for dinner. But this is not a story of revolution or oppression or inequality among classes. Many of the servants love their jobs. The Crawleys seem closer to their employees at times than their own family members. The series begins with the sinking of the Titanic, and we experience World War I through the eyes of this historic estate. While the world around them changes, and homes like Downton seem to be fading into more modern times, patriarch Robert Crawley is determined to keep the house, and its traditions, alive. All the while, Downton Abbey abounds with crackling dialogue and conflicting personalities.

In the first episode of season 3, one of the Crawley daughters is getting married. For those who still want to watch the series for themselves, I will not reveal which daughter! There is a marvelous scene where the girl’s two grandmothers lock heads. Mrs. Levinson, played by Shirley Maclaine, is from America and thinks that the obsession with tradition at Downton is ridiculous. Countess Violet, played by Maggie Smith, is hopelessly devoted to her heritage staying alive by keeping the traditional living of Downton alive.

Martha Levinson: “Nothing ever alters for you people does it. Revolutions erupt and monarchies crash to the ground and the groom still cannot see the bride before the wedding.”

Countess Violet: “You Americans never understand the importance of tradition.”

Martha Levinson: “Yes we do, we just don’t give it power over us. History and tradition took Europe into a world war. Maybe you should think about letting go of its hand.”*

This was a “pause and rewind” moment. I heard what they said, and then I wanted to hear it again. Here is where art shed light on life.

In the Church, especially as we near Easter Sunday, tradition is forefront in our congregations. Family members return to the churches of their upbringing and expect certain traditions to still be alive. On any other Sunday, we may have flexibility with hymn choices and flower arrangements. But on the day we celebrate all things made new, there are certain lilies to order and six (or is it seven?) verses of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” to sing.

At St. Luke UMC, the choir will sing a piece called, “Roll The Stone Away,” as a benediction, a longstanding tradition. I will half-jokingly suggest that we change to Mumford & Sons’ song of a similar name. There will be a few chuckles, but most people will say that change won’t work. I will respect that tradition.

At this crucial time in the Church year, tradition can deepen our experience of God. Nothing moves me more than the bare, uncolored altar of Holy Thursday or the hollow bell rung after Christ’s last words on Good Friday. Come Sunday morning, seven words of responsive reading echo as in an empty tomb: “He is risen. He is risen indeed!”

Like Countess Violet, we can find great joy and meaning in a historic way of worshipping God. If we’re not careful, however, we can find ourselves in the danger zone noticed by Mrs. Levinson: being led by a tradition instead of by the God who works through tradition.

We may find ourselves in conflict over the details of worship because “it’s never been done that way” or “we’ve always done it this way.” What if we stopped and asked ourselves about our traditions, both in and out of the Church, in all seasons of the year? Are we clinging to something that has power over us? Or does the tradition reveal Someone whose power knows no boundaries, classes, or mindsets?

May your journey to the cross, be it with or without traditions, abound with all good things, no matter how dark the night or how bright the morn……

Pastor Darian

Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.

Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episode 1

P.S. Now, don’t you think that this British band would be a nice complement to Downton Abbey? And this “rolled-away stone” would add to Easter joy?