Friday, December 29, 2006

pictures that make us smile

Lauran Bethell, Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, and John Sundquist
Birmingham, England, August 2005
after the BWA morning meeting

Lori and LeAnn G.
Camp Pinnacle
November 2006
near the chapel entrance

Thursday, December 28, 2006


June 2006
somewhere near the preacher's house

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

out of the way places

There is an old prayer that comes to mind when I look at this picture. I can't remember who prayed it. It goes something like this, "God keep my shoes whole and in good repair, for I tend to walk in rough, out of the way places."

There are some rough and out of the way visiting opportunities approaching if anyone is interested.

Please consider praying for our friend Esther's granddaughter.

Lori and the group from Peachtree Baptist leave for Ghana today.

The feet in the picture belong to some lovely friends at Jane's Orphanage in Tanzania.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


This week, as we celebrate Christmas and enjoy our holiday, pictures will be our posts.

LeAnn Gunter, Suzanah Raffield, Lori Burgess, Tamara Tillman, and Brittany Mackey at Lori's ordination earlier this month.

Prayer Concerns:
Please pray for the granddaughter of our friend Esther. She is having brain surgery tomorrow. She is 17 years old.

Lori leaves tomorrow for Ghana. Her husband Jacob and LeAnn Gunter are also going. They will be ministering alongside Ghanaian friends.

Friday, December 22, 2006


"While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:6-7, NAS

I wonder what Mary's midwife thought when she was called to a stable? What was her name? Did the innkeeper know who to call? Maybe it was the innkeeper's wife or another guest who helped deliver Jesus.

I imagine that Joseph went for help. I wonder what time of night it was? Maybe she arrived with hair askew and sleepy eyes. I bet she was kind and reassuring.

And those shepherds keeping watching over their flock, they were amazed. Did you know that in the Middle East there are male and female shepherds? They must have treasured their experience until they died. "Do you remember the night the Savior was born?"

Merry Christmas Sparkfly readers. May the love of Christ be birthed through your words, touch, smile, and presence this season.

Lola (whose birth day is pictured above) will be one year old in February. Her Mom and Dad used the home midwifery services of Heather and Nancy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thinking Ahead

With 2006 coming to an end, I have started running through the "year-end-review" moments of my life. I've pulled the "best- of" and "worst- of" files from my mind and thought about their implications for the future. I've read back through journals of the last year; remembering hopes and dreams that are still very much alive in my life.

The hope of the new year stands at the threshold. I wonder what it might bring? My mind is busy with possibilities and expectations as I wait!
In 2007 I hope to:
  • Walk in Central Park in the snow with my husband
  • Travel at least once internationally
  • Co-author a book to completion
  • Learn to love my new surroundings in NY
  • Put our yellow lab in obedience school
  • Encourage at least one person everyday
  • Find a wonderful church community
  • Grow in wholeness in all areas

Sparkfly community: What are your hopes for 2007?

Dream Big!


...."for I am about to do something in your days that your would not believe, even if you were told." Habakkuk 1:5

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


My waiting involves a move. One year ago today I handed over the keys to my home in Birmingham, Alabama to its new owner. Most of my worldly possessions were placed in storage. Since then I've been living with various friends and family members and spent a total of four months out of the country.

It has been a year of newness, and I find myself excited as I approach the move in date for what will become home base for a season. My family and I have been working on an old cottage in the woods that belongs to my grandparents. My goal is to move in by Christmas.

Today the well drillers are here. This cottage hasn't had water in over 20 years. Water is precious. I know that, but I know it even more this week as I miss turning on the faucet to wash my hands or wash out the paint brushes or get a glass of water.

Did you know that it costs around $6,000 to drill a well in Malawi? It seems like a lot until we realize that it will provide clean water for a village of 150 people. Safe drinking water is priceless. My well isn't going to cost that much (less than half), but it will only service me most days.

My friend April Hurst has a friend who is studying to be a civil engineer. He hopes to dig wells in Africa one day. Maybe he can develop a way to decrease the costs of wells for the developing world. Maybe one day we can all go help him dig one or two or 22.

This new year is going to be a great one. From inside these cottage walls I hope to:
- make significant progress on my dissertation
- co-write at least one book
- host at least three parties
- have at least three out of town visitors
- pack for at least four different international journeys
- laugh
- read
- paint
- be

Come visit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Great Expectations

I love this time in Advent. As a child; however, it was always the most difficult. Every Sunday I would watch as one more candle was lit on the Advent wreath. With each new candle burning, I knew that Christmas day was approaching! I can remember the tingling feeling I experienced inside as I was both hopeful and expectant that Christmas was within view.

As an adult, something powerful still takes residence in my soul this time of year. Every Sunday as I experience the lighting of the Advent candle, I am reminded of God's promises to us. I am reminded that we should not only watch in belief, but to wait with great expectation! Something miraculous is coming.

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.'" NRSV

I love this version as it says, "I am bringing". God is in the process of working, bringing, renewing, sustaining, providing, and redeeming. It is not that we wait hoping. We wait believing, knowing that God "is bringing" something holy and mysterious to us.

"Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;"

What do you wait for today with great expectations?

L and Sparkfly

Monday, December 18, 2006

Extreme Exam

Help is needed understanding this BBC story from today. An Indian woman athlete failed a gender test. As a result, it is probable that her silver medal from the Asian Games will be taken away.

The article reports that gender testing is not required unless it is requested by officials or rival team protests. "
KP Mohan, a sports journalist, said athletes were usually examined by a team of doctors, including a gynaecologist, endocrinologist and psychologist, and put through physical and clinical examinations during a gender test."

How is it that
last year she was "cleared" as a female and this year she is not? The whole thing seems unfair to me. Are male athletes gender tested? Isn't gender how one chooses to define one's sexual identity versus one's actual sex?

Has anyone ever heard of this before?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tis the Season

Happy Friday. Do you participate in end of the year missions giving? There are many rewards to yearly charitable donations. You might want to consider donating money in honor of your family and friends for Christmas presents. Here are a few organizations that we know and love:

It is also a great time of year to donate to your denomination's mission causes.

A few weekends back I bought a gorgeous, one of a kind, hand made scarf for $20. It's a bargain and is the original work of artist Cindy Clark. You can email her to purchase your own for yourself or a gift at:

If your friends and loved ones are asking you for gift ideas, check out the resource page on the Impulse website:


Thursday, December 14, 2006

what i need to hear

This post was inspired by a conversation I had last night with close friend. She proposed a simple question to me that has since launched my mind and soul into a multitude of thoughts.

This is what she inquired: "What do you need to hear right now? What words do you need someone to speak to you at this time in your life?"

Since we hung up, my mind has not stopped thinking about the answer to her question. I am still answering it as I think of new additions.

But, to my dear friend...who inspires me are only a few of the answers to your thoughtful and heart-searching question:

1. I need to hear that my crazy aspirations for ministry are from God.
2. I need to hear that although I'm only 28 (almost) that I have something to offer the world
3. I need to hear that our call is always in process, so we should enjoy the and downs
4. I need to hear that just because I don't feel called to a "typical" ministry position that my call
is still valid and genuine
5. I need to hear that God takes our past hurts and faithfully turns them into a redemptive
6. I need to hear that sometimes it's okay if you need to work in retail or other part-time jobs
(even though you have a masters) because you have to make money somehow, and you're
not willing to settle in a 9-5 "ministry" job that you're not called to.
7. I need to hear that I am valued; I am needed, and I have gifts to give to God.

Sparkfly community, What do you need to hear today?

May we encourage one another as we seek to live out the abundant life Christ calls us to.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

new mercies i see

One of my favorite hymns of all time is the well- known Great is Thy Faithfulness. As I went to bed last night this historical tune was running through my heart and mind. I awoke this morning with the words of this verse: "morning by morning, new mercies I see".

What a powerful discovery! With each waking morning, God reveals to us new mercies; new spaces in our lives where God has been faithful. Great is God's faithfulness! What mercies do you see in your life today? Are you still waiting to see them? Be assured they are there. They are present all around us. How has God been faithful to you?

Sara Groves has written a unique version of Great is Thy Faithfulness. Read her lyrics below as we encounter God's goodness together:

Morning by morning I wake up to find The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch Him, amazed In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide He’s always been faithful to me.

I can’t remember a trial or a pain He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret In serving God only, and trusting His hand
All I have need of, His hand will provide He’s always been faithful to me.

This is my anthem, this is my song The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful He’s always been faithful to me.

May this day bring new mercies that reveal God's faithfulness. Amen

L and Sparkfly

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

movement of the spirit

This journey is my own. This journey is your own. But, we walk together down similar paths seeing larger glimpses of the Holy in us and around us. We need each other.

The Spirit is awakening me to wholeness. Just when we think we are about to "arrive", God's spirit takes us to deeper levels in ourselves to explore. This week I have begun reading When the Heart Waits, by Sue Monk Kidd. These words appeared boldly on the page as I am still proccessing the implications of them for our lives:

"...the life of the Spirit is never static. We're born on one level, only to find some new struggle toward wholeness gestating within. That's the sacred intent of life, of God--to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that is lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul."

Thanks be to God today that we serve the great I AM. Our God is a God of the here and now. God is a God of progression and movement. The Spirit within calls us forward to deeper levels of wholeness. The Spirit beckons us to throw off our hindrances and press on.

In what ways is the Spirit calling you to wholeness this week? How can we encourage one another as we serve a God who is always moving, always working, and always life-giving?

Press on Sparkfly friends!


"Brothers and sisters I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:13-14

Monday, December 11, 2006

What Have I to Offer?

This past Saturday night, I found myself in the midst of holiday mayhem in New York's swanky SoHo village. My sister- in- law and her friend were in town for a few days, so we met up downtown, to hit all the Christmas shopping hot spots.

At any given moment, you could see millions of people hustling and bustling about in an attmept to find the perfect gift. Though each store had the most hip Christmas music to accompany their high end fashion choices, I was not impressed. I mostly felt out of place as I stopped occassionally to observe the chaos unfolding around me.

On our way to another row of boutiques I had an encounter that will forever be imprinted on my soul. I was following closely behind my sister- in- law as we navigated through the construction work and masses of people on the sidewalks. We were separated briefly as I was nudged by the crowd to the edge of the underpass.

There crouched down was a young girl. She could have been my age. She may have been younger; but she was none-the-less a young woman. She was bundled up and shaking, as a large man hovered over her shaking his fist in her face. I heard him say to her, "You will do as many as you have to tonight to make your payment."

I wanted to run. I wanted to pretend this situation wasn't real. But, as I stood there, pressed in by the crowd, our eyes locked for several seconds. Her eyes spoke of fear. Her eyes spoke of a cry for help. But as the sidewalk sign turned to walk, I was swept forward with the crowd.

From that moment, and the remainder of the night, God put these words in my heart and mind: "What have I to offer?" I thought about this question, even as it kept me up most of the night. This young woman was representative of all young women around the world. Her eyes compelled me to search a place deep within...."what have I to offer?"

Sparkfly community, what have we to offer to each other? What have we to offer for women all around the world?

May we turn our hearts to the urgings of the Spirit...

What have we to offer?


Friday, December 08, 2006


Proverbs 27:17 says, "You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another." The Message
Lori has lovingly reminded me of that verse this week. Are we willing to bear witness to the good and the places where help is needed in the lives of our friends?

Today's New York Times features an article about college students with mental illness and the importance of a support system.
"It´s not like I´m going up to people saying, 'Hi, I´m Jean, I´m bipolar.´ But I´m surrounded by beautiful supportive people, and I know if I need it, they will call me out."

1 Corinthians 12:25-26, "The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance." The Message

There are healthy ways to involve ourselves in the hurt of others. We need each other.

What does it mean for us that child sexual abuse in Namibia is among the highest in the world(
more than one in five women there reported being sexually abused before age 15)? I believe we are called to educate ourselves about the world around us. My interpretation of 1 Corinthians tells me that the rate of sexual abuse in Namibia affects me too.

Your voice is power. Be loud!

If you want to know more about how to be loud, consider attending part of the 51st annual United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women in New York City March 1 - 3, 2007. This year's priority theme is, "The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child."
Sparkfly is hosting a gathering in conjunction with the CSW. Particpants will attend side events and discussions surrounding the UN gathering. Conveners include Lauran Bethell and Patsy Davis.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

lift, straighten, run!

Is it possible to post on a blog from a blackberry? If so, we need one. Internet connections have been sparse this week as Lori and I have worked from Atlanta. We missed you yesterday.

Today's thought:
"Therefore lift your drooping knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed."
Hebrews 12:12 - 13 NRSV

In verse 13, The Message says we should, ". . . run for it!"

Check out this story from an article on today:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The second ritual of the weekend (see yesterday's post for the first) was hosted in Lori's honor. It was called Evidence and was a service of blessing.

A group of seven gathered to affirm the evidence we see of the call of God on Lori's life. We met in the living room of a dear friend's house. There was baking and the lighting of candles in preparation for the evening. We sat around the living room sharing stories of how we know God because of Lori.

Each person brought a written blessing that was compiled in a book of Evidence for the soon to be ordained. We wanted her to have a tangible reminder of our support and love for her.

Scripture was read and prayers were prayed. We concluded our evening with an ancient tradition of Bedouin women that signifies birth. We drank cinnamon tea and toasted the birth of Lori's journey as an ordained minister.

As we enter this time of Advent, remember those that look to you for the evidence of God. New beginnings are all around. We celebrate those with you.


Monday, December 04, 2006

the path before us

This weekend Lori and I participated in two rituals - one new and one old. The old one was inadvertently left off the list last Wednesday. For that I am sorry because it is one of my favorites, ordination.

Yesterday afternoon at 3:00 Lori was ordained to the gospel ministry. It was an amazing service filled with words of affirmation and love from her friends, family, ministers, mentors, and teachers. Read on for her recap of the experience.
From Atlanta,

I am still basking in the emotion of yesterday's experience. The more I try to absorb the magnitude and meaning of that hour, the more I encounter a God who continues to do amazingly more than we could ever ask or imagine.

There is incredible power in human touch and the ability to affirm with words. Something unique happened within my spirit as I heard blessing after blessing from those I loved the most. Isn't it amazing how God comes to us through the body of Christ! I left the service with the title of Reverend, but something much deeper took place in my soul. As I stood from the pulpit, glancing at a sea of faces, I felt God's love in a way like never before. I saw God's reflection in each and every face that had nurtured and guided me to that sacred moment.

Today, I awoke with a spirit of thankfulness. But, more than that, I awoke with a spirit of duty; both to God and to the great cloud of witnesses that testify daily to my calling. Thanks be to God for those who affirm us and call us forward to be light in the world!