February 26, 2007

Redrawing the Line

I'm redrawing the line.

My days off are my time.

I deserve them,
even if I don't have a spouse or children;
even if I don't have friends outside of the church in this area;
even if I don't have any plans for those days.

If unexpected/pastoral things happen on my day off,
I will take other time off.

There's the line.

February 25, 2007


I had reached my breaking point.

I was working long hours, including hours on my days off. I was reaching the point of exhaustion. I needed to escape.

So I took off for the weekend and headed back to seminary to visit friends.

And it was enough:
  • just to sleep in
  • just to see some friends (and in general, people my own age)
  • to have a few meaningful conversations
  • to sit in chapel and receive communion
  • to sit around a bonfire with others, even if I only had the energy to half participate in conversation

The visit was enough and it will get me through.

February 18, 2007

Let Your Light Shine

Sunday, February 18, 2007
Transfiguration of the Lord

Exodus 34:29-35 & Luke 9:28-36

The summer after 10th grade was filled with lots of firsts for me. That summer was the first time I ever flew in an airplane. That summer was the first time I ever traveled to Mexico. That summer was the first time I’ve ever been to a mountaintop that shone with God’s glory.

God’s glory – it’s a pretty mysterious wonderful thing. Kind of nebulous, something bright, maybe even shiny; probably beyond any human description. But we hear two attempts to describe that glorious shining in today’s scripture passages.

First, there is Moses. Moses – with his faulty leadership skills and lack of confidence in himself. But God has chosen Moses to be a leader among the people. And Moses follows God’s call, however hesitantly. Moses obeys God and leads the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Once in the wilderness, Moses follows God up a mountain. And there, on top of a mountain, away from the people, on numerous occasions, Moses encounters God.

Moses most often encounters God in words – in a new list of commands to relate to the people, a new set of rituals that will guide and sustain them, a fresh set of guidelines that will bring order to the chaotic masses. But in the midst of the commands and the rituals, and the rules and the guidelines, and the policies and the procedures (if you’ve read Exodus, Leviticus, or Numbers recently you know what I’m talking about) – in the midst of all that, Moses demands to see the Lord’s glory, to witness the Lord’s presence, to know that he really is not leading these childish people on his own. And the Lord reveals the Lord’s glory to Moses.

But after the flashing of God’s glorious backside, talk resumes. More guidelines, more rules. And then Moses receives the Ten Commandments on two tablets and begins to make his way back down the mountain. And Moses is unaware that a change has occurred in him. His face now reflects the glory of the Lord. His face shines because he has been talking with God – really talking to the One who has been Deliverer, Provider, and the Great I AM.

And the shininess scares people. Aaron and the Israelites are afraid to go near him. Maybe so as not to scare the people or maybe because Moses didn’t know what else to do, he begins a practice of putting a veil over his face, to cover this shining that isn’t anywhere near normal. And the only time that Moses lets his face shine is when he speaks with the Lord.

Moses isn’t the only one trying to contain the glorious shining of the Lord. Centuries later, Peter tries it too. Up on the mountain with Jesus, he and James and John are tired. Keeping up with Jesus’ traveling and speaking and preaching schedule is quite a feat. These disciples are barely staying awake when something miraculous happens and jars them from anything near a comatose state to bright-eyed and bushy tailed – for Jesus is suddenly radiating light. His face is shining and his clothes are dazzling white; he’s become the perfect image for a bleach commercial.

And in the midst of the radiance and the shining and the blinding brilliance, Peter stammers for something to say, something to do, some sort of worthy reaction. Build three dwellings. That seems like just the thing. Create a space where these giants of faith can stay.

But before Peter can think of a next step or form a committee to assist him, a voice sounds from nowhere and Moses and Elijah disappear. At this point, Peter decides it might be better not to tell anyone else about these crazy occurrences. They have left him terrified into silence. The disciples are already different enough for following a man around who claims to be the Lord. No need to add hallucinations, delusions, and disembodied booming voices to that.

Was Peter crazy? Sure, but probably not in the mentally unstable, needs to be in an institution with padded walls way. More in the way it takes to be one of the first followers of Christ.

Did Peter really see the glory of the Lord? Hard for us to say so many years later. We could probably explain it away with the science and physics of light refraction and reflection and the exact placement of the sun and the clouds on the mountaintop that day. But that doesn’t really matter. It’s a story in the Bible; it’s a story for us.

And when we’re left with these two stories of God’s glory being reflected in Moses and Jesus, two individuals, I believe God’s light does shine in people in miraculous ways. I’ve experienced it before. I experienced it during that summer of firsts.

All of those firsts – the airplane trip, going to Mexico, seeing God’s glory – occurred when I joined my church’s mission team and traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to stay and work at Colina de Luz for a week that summer after 10th grade.

Colina de Luz sits atop a hill over the city of Tijuana. Colina de Luz, whose name translated means “hill of light,” is an orphanage. And this orphanage lives up to its name.

The structure itself is a hill of light. It is painted bright white and stands out amid the earthy backdrop and gloomy city dwellings. But it is a mountaintop that shines with God’s glory for another reason. The staff and the children know God. More specifically, they know God through God’s Word.

Three times a day, before every meal, the director of the orphanage comes into the cafeteria to speak to the children and to drill them. Directions are called out and the children recite the alphabet forward and backward at warp speed. But beyond seeing how fast they can recite some letters, they are taught to memorize scripture, in both Spanish and English. They practice before every meal. Because God’s Word matters. It gives the people at Colina de Luz a light that shines out from atop that hill.

And rather than hide it beneath a veil like Moses, or try to contain it within the walls of a structure like Peter, they let their light shine. And it’s visible to all who visit there.

Now, I don’t know how many of you would say that you’ve had a mountaintop experience – a trip or a day or a moment when you caught a glimpse of God or witnessed a transfiguration in a life. And even if you have, maybe it looks different than Moses’ or Peter’s or mine.

Perhaps sometimes it is easier to see the light when we are in a different context. It was easier for the disciples, way up on that mountaintop, even as they were sleepy. That’s also where Moses began reflecting God’s light, up on the mountaintop, away from the complaining people with physical and emotional needs. Some Christians today have experienced God’s glory on mission trips and pilgrimages and holy retreats away from home. Places away from normal life, away from the busyness and demands of the world.

But the whole point of letting your light shine is that it can’t stay on the mountaintop, or be contained in a structure, or hidden under a veil.

The light must go out.

The light needs to reach down into the low, everyday places too. The light needs to be present in hospital waiting rooms and street corners, in homes and outside of our homes. The light of God needs to be present here today as we remember Pauline Thompson and find hope in the light of the One who rose from the dead.

So, if we’re going to let our little light shine in all those places and everywhere we go, we’ve got to meet God everyday – we’ve got to come face to face with the One whose glory we will reflect.

Now I’m not suggesting you go mountain climbing or hang out in the wilderness for a while or travel all the way to Mexico – but you could meet the Lord everyday in God’s Word, in this book, in the midst of these rich pages, pages that are filled with stories of love and faithfulness and grace, but also stories of trials and betrayals and mistakes, and still stories of redemption and second chances. Let the words on the pages and the Word incarnate so soak into your heart and life that it changes you, changes you so that you reflect God’s glory.

On the mountaintop that day, God’s booming voice interrupted Peter’s scattered train of thought and gave the disciples a command: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Listen for dear life. Listen to his words of forgiveness and mercy. Listen to his call for justice and peace. Listen to his promises of paradise and his words from the cross. Listen also to his first words after the resurrection, calling a bewildered and grief stricken Mary by name. Listen to Christ’s words.

For when we encounter God in God’s Word, our inner lights are renewed for the journey, whether that journey be up a mountaintop or down into the valley. And as we are refreshed we go out as mirrors of God’s grace and glory, bearers of God’s presence, to let our light shine in the world. For, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

February 17, 2007

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time

She wears a "G" for generosity;
She wears an "I" for interest, too;
She wears a "R" for real life sportsmanship;
She wears a "L" for loyalty, for loyalty;

She wears a "S" for sincerity;
She wears a "C" for courtesy, for courtesy;
She wears an "O" "U" "T" for outdoor life, outdoor life;
And that's the kind of girl I want to be ... a girl scout!

Yes I was a girl scout ... for three years.
And yes, I still remember the song.

But even better than that, I now to get support other girl scouts by eating their cookies!

My reward for finishing up my sermon: a glass of wine and some thin mints :)

February 12, 2007

Memorial Services

The pastor and I faced a dilemma at the end of January. A longtime member of the church, Mrs T, died suddenly at the age of 98. She was in relatively good health; she had only just started to use a walker; she was living on her own in a retirement community.

As the pastor contacted family members (she only had a couple living relatives), we found out that Mrs T had told them she didn't want a funeral or memorial service. None of this was in writing and she had never told the pastor or any church member of this wish. The family had her cremated and did not wish for anything else to occur.

However, the retirement community at which Mrs T lived is where about 20 of our 100 members live. They were upset at Mrs T's sudden death and kept asking about when the memorial service would be.

The pastor and I felt we couldn't make the decision ourselves about what to do. We presented it to the session during session training at the beginning of February. They voted to celebrate the life of Mrs T and bear witness to the resurrection in worship on February 18th. This would offer a means of closure to the church family, who needs it, but still try to honor the family's wishes and Mrs T's apparent wishes.

Anyone have any other thoughts on how to handle such a situation?

February 10, 2007

Did you know ...

Did you know that if you sleep on the same side of your head every night, the hair on that side will not grow as fast as the hair on the other side?

I didn't ... until I went to get my hair cut this week and my hair dresser told me what side I sleep on.

February 09, 2007

Ethical or not?

Internship Church is a small church. There are four church members, including the church treasurer, who can sign checks. Each check, regardless of amount, must have two signatures.

The other day one of the signers came in to sign some checks. She signed a number of reimbursement checks, including one for herself. I had an issue with this. With four possible signers and two signatures needed, I didn't think anyone should sign checks for herself (all the signers happen to be female). However, the signer and the church administrative assistant didn't seem to see a problem with the signer signing her own check.

What do you think? Ethical or not?

February 08, 2007


I came home from work on Monday to a cold house. I discovered that the pilot light had gone out in the heater. Being an independent chick who has grown up with a gas stove, I tried to relight it myself.

Didn't work.

At this point, I was hesitant to try it again and potentially have large flames emerge in a house that was not mine nor even a church member's. After a few minutes of hating to bother someone, I decided to call a church member to come over and help me out. He was happy to do so. He came over and he was able to relight the pilot light on the first try, doing the exact same thing I had done.

He was glad to have been able to help. It was a good reminder for me to ask for help.

February 05, 2007

Hello Again Recap

Life has been busy. It really hasn't stopped too much since Christmas. And so I've been negligent about posting on my blog. So here's a recap of some highlights in the life of Emily:
  • Getting to preach the incarnation on Christmas Eve = amazing! However, trying to celebrate Christmas with my family the way we've always done it was pushing it. I realized that Christmas traditions will need to change drastically when I become a pastor.
  • Internship church secured new housing for me since I had to move out of the senior citizen community (not because I was kicked out, but because the lease was up ... in case you were wondering). New housing is the house of a local college professor who is on sabbatical. I moved half my things over one day after work and the plan was to move the rest over the next day on my day off. I tried to wash my hands after moving day one ... no water. After a few days of playing phone tag with the home owners, the water was turned back on. In the meantime, there were a few days when I would go to three houses after work: the two houses I was living between and the pastor's house to care for his cat while he was on vacation in Mexico. This made me feel like the keeper of the keys.

  • A Friday night in January I managed to misplace my keys three times within an hour. Yep, that sure confirmed that I was stressed out and exhausted from work stuff.
  • I gave the invocation at a local park dedication on a Saturday in January. Who knew a park dedication ceremony could take an hour and a half? But I did get to help cut the ribbon with fancy scissors :)
  • I helped lead session training last weekend. Led the group through some team building activities. They went well, but it was interesting to facilitate them as they had never done anything like this before.