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Blog posts September 2016

September 26, 2016 “Tiny House”


My husband and I are constantly amazed at the number of references we hear to
“tiny house” and “tiny house” movement.  We laugh and think back to our early life together—to our decision to be married while still attending a private liberal arts college and the financial picture that that decision painted for the two of us. 

            We were in love and happy, and our decision made perfect sense to us but not necessarily to our two sets of parents!  After all we were first-generation-to-go-to-college people, and our parents had great ambitions for us.  We were to graduate, get good jobs, make good salaries, buy nice houses, raise successful children and so on and so on.  They were dismayed that our decision to be married while still in college might sidetrack us, might take us off the path of education, good jobs, and all the rest.

            Despite our parents’ disapproval we found a way to make our situation work.  We found our own version of “tiny house.”  We called it a mobile home.  We took savings and bought the mobile home from a professor who was moving away.  Then our primary cost for housing was about $17 a month—the cost for water as well as for parking the mobile home.  Maybe in those early days we had something in common with “tiny house” kinds of people, although I’m sure there is a great deal of variety in motivations to what attracts people to “tiny houses.”

            Our modern culture has much of an accent placed upon “me” and “mine.”  “Tiny house” people may have some of that accent as well.  For instance, the motivation may be, “I want to avoid the stress and strain a huge mortgage places on me.”  “I want freedom to not be trapped in a job I hate simply because I have huge indebtedness.”  “I want to afford a certain lifestyle—travel, recreation, time with my friends—and having a “tiny house” helps me create that kind of lifestyle for myself.”

            Sometimes, however, the accent falls in other places.  Sometimes I hear someone comment, “Having a tiny house—having only what I need rather than what I might want—helps me to be free.   Without having a huge debt load, I can find ways of giving back to the world.  I can make a difference in the world around me.”

            True confession—we no longer live in the mobile home we bought in college.  True confession—we have a mortgage, and we are working hard to pay off indebtedness and prepare for retirement, but we understand that God calls us to place the emphasis in our lives not on money or acquiring things but on service to others.

 I will continue to marvel at the “tiny house” movement.  I will watch designers as they contemplate infinite use for allotted space.  I will applaud every effort at making “tiny house” aesthetically pleasing.  Most of all I will stand up and take notice as I hear testimony to the freedom “tiny houses” and debt-free living can provide for us to make a difference in our world! 



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September 19, 2016: “Blow, Breeze, Blow”

            I grew up in Western North Carolina before the days of global warming.  By this time in September there were signs of fall everywhere!  The leaves were changing colors. The cool breezes were beginning to blow.  Our fall clothes were out of storage and hanging in our closets.  We went to Friday night high school football games with hats and gloves and coats, and if you were lucky a mug of Russian tea in hand to sip on and help provide warmth!

            I loved every ounce of change that we experienced!  Although summer had been fun and carefree I looked forward to all that fall encompassed—most especially the cool breezes.  They felt invigorating.  They created in me an energy that I did not feel all summer long in the midst of muggy heat.

            The Christian faith has much to say about the Holy Spirit within our lives.  It often uses imagery of wind or of breezes blowing to convey that activity.

            I love the imagery, and I love it when the people of God do not shy away from but rather welcome the movement of the spirit in our lives.  The spirit leads and guides and directs.  It speaks to us the still small messages that God most wants to convey.  It takes us down paths of service we would never have designed or perhaps even imagined for ourselves; yet, those paths are the ones that are the most fulfilling, that help us to grow to greater depths of faith, and that help us to be blessings to others.

            As the gentle breezes of fall begin to blow, I hope you will welcome them, enjoy the refreshment from summer’s heat.  I also hope that you will think about the wind of the Holy Spirit and that you will welcome it into your life, that you will follow its leading, and celebrate the good things that it brings to your life and to your ministry with others.


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September 12, 2016: “The New and the Old”

            My mom made the best baked chicken and dressing and rice and gravy in the whole world!  Add a little cranberry sauce and what more could you ask!  She made chocolate pies that were to die for!  They started with a crispy, homemade crust.  She stirred and cooked the chocolate filling until it was perfect.  She whipped up an egg white topping, piled it high on top of the filling now in the pie shell.  Then she baked it on high heat for just a few minutes until golden brown—really to die for!

            When I went off to college mom mysteriously began experimenting with new recipes.  I came home for visits and still had the chance to eat chicken and dressing and rice and gravy—enough to keep me going in my days away at college—but strange, WONDERFUL things also began to appear.  She discovered the delectable treat called marshmallow cream fudge!  I was happy to indulge her desire for cooking experimentation!  Needless to say the marshmallow cream fudge helped me achieve my plus-fifteen pounds in the freshman year!

            It’s great to come home—come home to favorite sights and sounds and smells and tastes—and especially to come home to renew relationships!  It’s even great when you come home and realize that a few things have changed—like new foods suddenly appearing on the table or new colors on the walls or even new people sitting down around the table.  The old and the new are all a part of God’s blessing.

            And so it is with life in the church.  We love the familiar sights and sounds and smells and tastes.  We love the familiar faces sitting around the table.  But isn’t it wonderful to also have folks from our past come and sit with us for a time?  And isn’t it wonderful to have folks we’ve never met come and be in our midst?  We can never imagine all the good that God has in store for us in a day’s time!

            I look forward to this coming Sunday at Winterville United Methodist Church!  It’s Homecoming—a day for the usual folks to show up, a day for folks from the past to come and join in, a day when folks who’ve never worshipped may come in and join the fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, with the fellowship of folks who call this place home!


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September 5, 2016: 1 Timothy 1:12-17 “Making Up for Lost Time”

            Sometimes we get lost in life—sometimes literally as in a sense of direction--but lostness can also be about our sense of priority or about values for living.  All experiences of “lostness” seem to have attached to them a renewed fervor once the individual has found the way out of the maze of his/her lostness!

            I have an incredibly poor sense of direction.  I can find myself lost when traveling a route I’ve traveled many times before.  I can travel to the room of someone I’m trying to visit in the hospital only to find it hard to return to the parking deck when the visit is done.  I can turn right, then left, then right, but can experience tremendous difficulty remembering left, then right, then left to get home.

            I always have the sense of needing to make up for lost time.  I have to walk a bit faster to the parking deck once I’ve discovered my way. I have to drive a bit faster—although hopefully not over the speed limit—to catch up with the schedule I had previously set for myself.  I even resolve to study, to work harder, to do all the navigational exercises that apparently I SHOULD have done when I was a child riding in the back seat with a parent driving!

            But the experience of making up for lost time takes on even greater weight with regard to priority for living.  I have watched as patients who had lived much of their lives assuming they were invincible and who assumed that they would always have time with their families once the fortune-making was done suddenly make 180° turns when the cancer diagnosis came.  I have seen the radical change that can come in someone’s life when given the ultimatum, “You have to choose.  It’s either me or your job!”  I’ve seen students stand up and take notice when suddenly they hear, “Look, you either quit goofing around and start studying or you’re going to find yourself sitting in the same grade next year!”

         In the Christian faith, we also have the opportunity to see what happens as folks come face to face with the love of Jesus and as his love does the work in them that God intends.  Racists can be racists no longer.  Members of hate groups—whatever they may be—quickly wash their hands of the group and begin the process of trying to make amends.  People who have spent most of their time bringing hurt and pain to others suddenly make being instruments of love and peace their very life goal!

            So it is with the life of Paul!  We don’t often think about hate groups being at work in the first and second centuries.   The term is so prevalent in modern culture that we tend to think about it as a modern phenomenon, but hate, hate groups, and acting out in mean and despicable ways has always been a part of human existence.

            The New Testament tells the story of Paul who, in his hate for Christians and in his passionate desire to rid the world of all of them went on campaigns to hunt them down and to arrest them.  But Acts, chapter 9, tells how in route for Damascus for more of his hate-mongering activity, Paul hears the voice of Christ speak to him.

            To say it is life-altering is to hardly do justice to what happened within Paul.  Paul—the tent-maker—may have spent the balance of his life making tents for a living, but his passion became serving Christ, speaking the love of Christ to all whom he encountered.  He, with great resolve, washed his hands of the hate group and began to sink all his energies into being the instrument of peace and love that God intends.  I have the feeling that much of what was a driving force in Paul’s life was not only the gratitude he felt for the amazing grace of God in Jesus Christ but also the sense of lost time—time spent going in the wrong direction, doing the wrong things—and a desire to make up for lost time by doing good—as much as he could with as many people as he could in the time allotted to him.

            Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us could have that Damascus Road kind of experience—if every time hate wells up within us we could hear Jesus calling us to a radically different path?  What a different world we would have!

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