Finding Community

When I stop in at my favorite local coffee shop I see a group of women huddled over the newspaper working the daily crossword puzzle together. While searching for words they share stories and coffee. Their laughter is sweet music. Their focus on each other blesses me. So I finally stopped enjoying them from afar and went to their table.

“Hi. My name is Tina. I write about the things I see, and I have watched you each time I come in. And I want you to know how much you bless me by faithfully meeting together. May I take your picture? And would you mind if I wrote about your little coffee shop community?”

They agreed on all accounts.

During Super Bowl LIV, Facebook paid the big bucks and had a commercial highlighting their different groups:

Why is Facebook and all the other social media sites (Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, et al) thriving? Probably for the same reason it’s sometimes hard to get a seat at one of our local coffee shops, or why McDonalds is packed out before the sun comes up with seniors drinking coffee and chatting—and trust me it’s not about the coffee!

Whether it’s coffee, beer, or the daily crossword, we all crave a sense of community: we want to feel like we belong. We need to know that if we reach out someone will be there. That someone will care.

Now before the introvert and hermit crowd get all in a huff, and mumble something about not needing anyone: the bottom line is we really do need each other. Even introverts need people…just in small, controlled, selective doses. 

I believe that human beings were created by a loving God to be in relationship: relationship with the creator…and with each other. That’s why in the manual for living (aka, the Bible) there are so many instructions to work on the relationship with the creator (Love God), and to love one another. It’s both and. Love God—vertical relationship. Love each other—horizontal relationships.

So I’m wondering, how are you, how are we, doing at creating and maintaining healthy relationships, holy connections?

More thoughts on this will follow…let’s stay connected. 

Rebuilding With Nehemiah, Chapter 8 Day 2


Text: 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.

Neh 8 faith thru hearing

Teach: Ezra was most likely reading the Torah, which contains the five books of Moses. This would be the basics of Jewish religion and civil law. The focus was probably on Deuteronomy. Why would this be important? The people realized that God enabled them to complete an impossible task. What else does this God have to say, and say to me, to us? Ezra gave them a solid foundation to understand the relationship God wanted and wants to have with his people.

Take: The day the people came together would be the equivalent of our New Year’s Day. A day of celebration and fresh beginnings. Chances are you’re not reading this on New Year’s Day, but it can be a day of fresh beginnings. No matter what kind of Bible reading plan you may have abandoned in the past, you can begin fresh today. And that doesn’t just apply to Bible reading, but any and all spiritual habits and disciplines.

Task: Find an app or a site on the internet, there are plenty to choose from. Or just start reading. Proverbs has 31 chapters. Read the chapter that corresponds with the numeric day of the month. Start reading a gospel. Start reading and keep going. And if you are a regular reader: may you be blessed and your tribe increase!

Neh 8 bible study

Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 8 Day 1


Text: 1 All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.

WP Neh 8-1 wall to people

Teach: In chapter seven of Nehemiah, we saw the transition from everyone’s focus on the building of the wall to the building of people. The people credited God for the miracle of building the wall in fifty-two days. They wanted to know more about this God.

Take: I love to hear missionaries speak of the determination of the people where they minister. The miles they walk. The risks they take. The things they sacrifice. All because they want to gather with other believers and hear the Word.

Task: What sacrifices have you made to be with God’s people to hear the Word? What excuses do you use to keep from spending time in the Word? Tough questions today, I know. Trust me, I’ve been taking my own inventory, too.

Sermon Seeds: Finishing

(On Wednesdays my blog posts will be related to the text of the upcoming Sunday message.)

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NLT)

WP resurrection

We just finished walking together through Lent to the Resurrection. The intention of these devotional thoughts was to get us ready to see Jesus!

How’d you do?

Each time I reach the resurrection story I am moved when I try to imagine Jesus speaking Mary’s name. I listen hard to hear him whisper my name.

But that’s not the end of the story! More work needs to be done. We have our part. God is not finished with us!

WP potter

Sunday morning I will preach my first official sermon as the interim pastor of Ashland First Church of the Brethren. It is not my first time in the pulpit with these precious people. I’ve been filling in for a while.

On Sunday we embark on a different phase. We are focusing on where God wants us to go, who God wants us to be…and how we’re going to get there.

I love our verse from Philippians. For a long time I took it personally…individually. But it’s plural. Like: He began a work in y’all. And He wants to finish it.

What work has God begun in you? In your family? In your faith community–your church?

Will you join him in the work? Will you let him finish?

You hold a piece to the whole that only you can fill.

WP puzzle

Rooted and Grounded

There was no moment when we outright decided that I wouldn’t have a garden this year. My husband and I just seemed to come to an unspoken agreement. As much as I have loved the smattering of offerings that have come from my meager efforts, it just hardly seems worth the cost based on my effort–or lack thereof.

I don’t find weeding therapeutic like my friends do. I have no passion for produce production. When things do grow, either I can’t eat them fast enough or the groundhog eats them before I get to them. And let’s face it: I have no desire to propagate the groundhog population by keeping them nutritionally sustained.

I’ve never been very good with plants. I have often said that I need houseplants that thrive on blatant neglect, and then the odds aren’t always in the plant’s favor. My outdoor foliage faces much the same fate. I love beautiful landscaping, but know that the only way I’ll have it is to hire it out and I just can’t afford that.

Last year a friend was thinning out the plants around her house and I inherited sedum, hostas, and day lillies. To my absolute delight they took and are growing well this summer. Someone let me know that these plants were half weeds, so they were genetically disposed to defy death. Works for me. She also gave me some black-eyed Suzies, but they did not fare as well. The place where I chose to plant them didn’t afford me enough room to get them deep enough. They were also the last plants I replanted that day and it was over 90 degrees and I was beyond exhausted. I had really hoped to have a beautiful view of a cheery patch of yellow right outside my office window.

As I thought about the failure of my flowers, I was reminded of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, specifically that they would be rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17).

I want that so badly.

Growing up, we moved around a lot, enough that people sometimes asked if my dad was a preacher. I never had the feeling that I belonged anywhere. When we finally did end up in a church where the youth group was close, I jumped at the first chance I had to get connected with God because that was what they had and I wanted it!

I’m thankful God has tempered some of that enthusiasm and overwhelming neediness over the years; and worked with me through my struggles and failures. It’s all been part of the process of sinking my roots deeper into him and keeping me grounded.

As for Paul’s prayer, I believe there are some solid reasons why Paul would include the importance of rootedness and grounding. Three to be exact. (I was a preacher for 20 years…old habits die hard.) Good roots result in good growth. Jesus was pretty clear about the importance of growth. It was so important to him that in his final hours with his disciples John records a lengthy teaching on the subject (see John 15). Peter picked up on it too and clearly instructed believers to make every effort to grow–specifically in grace and knowledge. We need a solid root system to take in the proper nourishment so that keep growing, because if we’re not growing…we’re dying.

Good roots also result in stability. Not long ago there was a pop up storm in my town and several very large pines were pulled up by their roots. I was surprised, until I learned how pine trees (at least these kind) don’t have roots that go very deep. When big storms come that can’t withstand the force and are uprooted like toothpicks.

I don’t know how your life has been, but I have weathered some pretty major storms–spiritually speaking. One thing I am absolutely certain of is that I didn’t do it on my own. Sometimes I wondered if I could make it, could I stand the test? With each wonderment came the assurance that there was a power holding me fast. The times when I failed the test and the storm won, I clearly see how I neglected my roots and I was far from being well-grounded.

I sometimes wish that there was a product called Spiritual Miracle Gro that would result in instantaneous growth and fruit. Experience has taught me growth takes time. But it is definitely time wisely invested.

I shared these thoughts with a friend and he suggested a fourth reason for a good root system. He described a picture he saw once of roots of several trees. The roots were intertwined giving the trees a greater strength as they came to depend on one another. Makes me sad for the tree standing alone out in the field. Being connected is good–especially in a storm.

So how are your roots? I’m going to work on making sure mine are well connected, well fed, and in good soil. Maybe next time will consider the value of good mulching…but I’ll save that “poopy” story for another day.