Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Glimpses from a back row

A few weeks ago I encountered a new image of God. I was sitting in the back of the New Year's Eve service at the Sankor Baptist Church in Ghana. There was a toddler who refused to sit in his mother's lap and listen to the message. Before long, his faint quivers turned into a full-blown tantrum. But, by this time he was several aisles away from his mother.

I was obesrving this whole scene unfold from a distance. Sitting behind the mother was the 78 year-old matriarch of the church. Mary Temple had been watching too. She was within a short distance of this crying child. In the middle of the service, she gracefully rose from her seat, and hobbled across to the toddler. She unwrapped her vibrant African fabric from her waist and wrapped the child tightly. She picked him up, calmed him down and held him in a lump of fabric to her chest for the remainder of the service.

How many times have we been the fussy toddler? We find ourselves stressed, dissatisfied,and irritable; throwing a Holy tantrum for all to see. (Or perhaps one that only we can see.) But, with a close and gentle spirit, God swiftly picks us up, calms us down and mothers us until we are satisfied once again.

Anyone need to be picked up and satisfied today?

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;" Isaiah 66:13

Mothering God, quiet our souls today. Amen

L and Sparkfly

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Be Proactive

"Whatever you are meant to do,
move toward it and it will come to you."
- Gloria Dunn

Walking the journey with you...


Monday, January 29, 2007

a conversation remembered

Anyone feel like Jeremiah sometimes? Recall his conversation with God this morning:

"The word of the Lord came to me, saying:
'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations'

"Ah Sovereign lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child"

But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down to destroy and overthrow, to built and to plant."

Jeremiah 1:4-10

May this morning we be reminded like Jeremiah, that God has put the words in our mouths. All we have to do, is go where God sends us.

Now, that's good news for a Monday!

Go! Speak! And know that the words are within you.

L and Sparkfly

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just a thought...

Today’s post is written by Susan Jones. Susan is currently studying at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic. Susan is working on her dissertation in women’s healthcare issues, particularly in dealing with maternal health in Africa.

I love quotes. All kinds of quotes. Whether I agree with them or not. I love them because they make me think. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about a quote by Oprah Winfrey that I ran across recently. Oprah says, “I know for sure that what we dwell on is what we become.”

Now, maybe some of you don’t have this problem, but those of you who know me well can attest to the fact that I dwell on a LOT of things. I can take the smallest event or the shortest conversation and overanalyze it for days if I don’t stop myself. As I’m typing this, I am overanalyzing the fact that I overanalyze.

But something that I’ve never given much thought to is this: How does what I choose to dwell on and what I choose to “let slide” change me? What does it tell me about who I am? How does it shape who I’m becoming?

I’m not exactly sure. But this week I’ve discovered how much dwelling on negative experiences with distrustful people has made me distrustful, too. I’ve been realizing how dwelling on things that didn’t turn out the way I expected or wanted them to sucks the energy out of me. And I’ve been re-discovering that dwelling on the things that really matter to me make me feel more alive.

Maybe that’s why Philippians 4:8 tells us this: “Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (The Message)

But then there’s a whole different set of questions. Can we ignore everything that isn’t true, authentic, and gracious? I don’t think so. How can we be a prophetic voice in the world if we don’t think about the things that aren’t as they should be? How can we change the world for the better if we haven’t spent a LONG time thinking about the world’s problems and coming up with solutions that might work?

And, to make things a little less abstract… how can I change things in my own life that I know need to change if I don’t think about them, figure out why they are the way they are, and decide what to do about them? I don’t think I can.

So, how do we learn to be conscious of the things that are “ugly” without getting so bogged down in them that we become part of the problem instead of part of the solution? I’m really asking. I’m not sure I know. But for me, this week, it’s become a question of balance. I can still think about all the things that I want to change, but I also need to be giving (at least) equal time dwelling on those things that affirm me as a human being and a child of God who really can make a difference… things that confirm that our world, in spite of all its problems, is an amazing, beautiful place… things that remind me that there is always hope.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

when nothing satisfies you

I awoke this morning to a snow covered ground. My early morning walk was filled with a deafening silence. Each time it snows, it seems as if the earth rests peacefully for a few moments. The sounds of cars and trains were faint; if at all existent. The only noticeable sound was my dog's heavy panting and my new snow boots making a rhythm on the sidewalk.

It's in those quiet moments our soul is able to connect to the world and to reflect. I had a flashback to our experiences in Ghana a few weeks ago. There was one word that kept coming to my mind today as I thought about their understanding of God. Satisfied. Although many of our Ghanaian friends had only their very basic needs met, they had an incredible sense of satisfaction with God. God is enough. God is more than enough.

Why is it in our world, with an abundance of wealth...our every need met, even down to our emotional needs....we still find ourselves unsatisfied? What is it in our lives that keeps us unsatisfied and wrestless?

May we take time today to remember that the Holy is more than enough. Let our souls find rest and most abundance of satisfaction that only God can supply.

"My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you." Psalm 63:5


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Issues on the home front

I caught part of Oprah's show yesterday on the battle between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers. It is an issue that is either facing many of us currently, or perhaps some may face in the future. However, the statistics presented yesterday were stunning.

Oprah interviewed Elizabeth Vargas, the co-anchor of ABC's nightly news program. There was a controversy over her leaving to be home with her newborn baby. From the controversy, ABC news was inspired to do a segment on the working mothers vs. stay-at-home mothers battle in our country. Below is one of the statistics that she found in her research:

She says it was an eye-opening experience. "I was surprised when I found out how far the United States does lag behind other industrialized countries when it comes to paid maternity leave or family flexible policies," she says. "We are actually one of only four countries in the entire world that doesn't offer a national maternity leave program—Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and Lesotho are the other three countries. A lot of our European counterparts who have more socialized governments offer paid maternity leave. But even Japan, which is a capitalist society, offers paid maternity leave."

I was shocked to learn this information. It appears we still have a great deal of work to do in our own country for progress in women's issues. The show also revealed that undercover job applicants were told that if they were planning on becoming pregnant, they wouldn't be hired.

We still have developments to make here in our own country. As women leaders, I hope we will be instrumental in making these important strides for the future.

Sparkfly friends, is this an issue that proposes a conflict with you? If so, how? Has there been a debate within your circle of influence? In planning for the future, do you believe you can have it all?

May we remember the battles and predjudices on our own soil today and know that we still have a great work to do!


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

By Faith

The night before I was ordained, a group of good friends hosted a tea and "witness" gathering in my honor. During the evening, a friend read aloud to me the notorious faith chapter in Hebrews. But that night, I heard it with new ears. Often times, we find ourselves skipping down to chapter 12 to read about the "great cloud of witnesses" that have laid the path before us.

But I think chapter 11 is crucial to our understanding of those who have lived in faith.

"By faith Noah, when warned about things not seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family."

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going."

"By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned."

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days."

May we be reminded this morning of our brothers and sisters before us who led by faith.
How do we name our faith today?

By faith, I sit in this NY apartment writing this blog; hoping that someone will be encouraged and inspired today.

By faith, I booked a plane ticket to Prague in hopes of furthering our work on a dream in the form of a book.

Name your faith today and know that God is faithful, even when we cannot see the outcomes. Furthermore, may we live in the promise that we do in fact have an incredible cloud of witnesses who encourage us to keep moving forward.

How do you name your faith today? Share with us. We are listening and we are walking beside you on this wild and wonderful journey of faith.


Monday, January 22, 2007

no day but today

This past Saturday night my husband and I found last minute tickets to see Rent on Broadway. It is one of our all-time favorite shows. There is a passion in the music that lures and inspires.

Leaving the show, I felt so alive! It is always a swift reminder of our most sacred Sparkfly friends, we need to come alive! How are we living out our heart's desires each day?

I had a good friend send me an email today. In closing she said, "what are you working on right now that makes you most excited?". This question has struck a heart chord in my soul. In turn, I ask us to take a glance at our lives. How will we live 2007 with no regrets? What projects, goals, dreams are we working on that will have significant impact on the world?

The following Rent lyrics I leave for us to ponder:

"Forget regret, or life is yours to miss
No other course, no other way
No day but today"

Live out your passion today and watch God's incredible faithfulness revealed.

No day but today,


Thursday, January 18, 2007

waiting on the world to change

What are we waiting on? Who are we waiting on? Sometimes it seems we get so overwhelmed by the world's needs, we just sit and wait on someone else to take initiative. Why are we waiting?

I am truly inspired by world relief initiatives like the Red Campaign endorsed by Bono. Even more recently I am moved by Oprah's newly launched Leadership Academy for young girls in South Afrcia. Oprah believes we change the world through educating and mentoring future women leaders in developing countries. Bono combined America's love of shopping and paired proceeds to aid in AIDS education, prevention and healthcare.

Sparkfly friends, why do we wait? Our potential is enormous. Our resources and our networks extend various political, educational, regional, international, and generational arenas. How do we take simple concepts and put them into action, right now?

I'm writing down my ideas. What are yours and how do we work together to truly change the future of our world? It is up to us.

I'm tired of waiting on the world to change.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

a picture paints a thousand words

As I have returned from our trip to Ghana, I am still processing. I am still mulling over all the experiences and encounters that took place. I am still trying to reconcile the world I experienced for 2 weeks and my world back here in New York.

I am still trying to figure out how to make a difference. I can still hear their singing. I can still see their smiles and smell the smoke from bread the women made every morning. As I am back in my reality, I must ask what? What implications from this experiecne does this have for my everyday life? What will I do with what I've seen, heard, and experienced?

Today, let us consider the words from Isaiah 61: "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me...

If in fact God's Spirit is upon us, then how shall we (today) bind up the brokenhearted, comfort those who mourn, and bestow crowns of beauty instead of ashes?

Oh God, give us vision and empower us to do things we could never imgaine. Amen.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

girl, put your records on

One of my new favorite songs is by Corinne Bailey Rae. I love her lyrics as she says:

"Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song You go ahead, let your hair down Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams, Just go ahead, let your hair down."

Maybe we need to put our records on, let our hair down and go after our dreams. I have many; for the world and for my life. We need to discover together just how powerful we are. We have the ability to make change. What are we waiting on?


I hope you get your dreams.


Monday, January 15, 2007

A Vision of Hope

We pray that someday an arrow will be broken,
not in something or someone, but by each of humankind,
to indicate peace, not violence.
Someday, oneness with creation,
rather than domination over creation,
will be the goal to be respected.
Someday fearlessness to love and make a difference
will be experienced by all people.
Then the eagle will carry our prayer for peace and love,
and the people of the red, white, yellow, brown, and black communities
can sit in the same circle together to communicate in love
and experience the presence of the Great Mystery in their midst.
Someday can be today for you and me. Amen.
Wanda Lawrence
The United Methodist Book of Worship, pg. 521
(Fifth Printing: January 1995)

Friday, January 12, 2007

From Samson to Paris

Yesterday I traveled to a South Alabama city. The journey took me through many small towns. Along the way I stopped for gas at one of those older gas stations with one service bay that connects to the office where you pay. There was no pay at the pump.

Inside was a floor to ceiling set of shelves with oil, fan belts, and various types of cigarettes displayed. On the most prominent and visible shelf was a large framed pictured of a young boy standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Globalization was right there in Samson, Alabama.

When I asked the man behind the desk if that was his son he said, "No ma'am, but I imagine it was a sight."

I walked away smitten with the thought of the gas station owner's son getting to go to Paris and how exciting that must of been for the whole family.

If you could go anywhere in the world today where would it be?


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's Hard to Have Katundu if You Live in a Bedouin Tent

Sparkfly friend Valerie Burton is a great preacher. The first time I ever heard her preach was at Passport the summer the theme was Katundu. Katundu means stuff and all week we talked about the stuff in our lives that weighs us down.

It is pretty amazing that I still remember Valerie's sermon after almost five years. She and her husband Allan had just moved from Virginia to Alabama. She was lamenting the packing and unpacking process and how she had so much katundu that she had saved over the years.

I've thought about her sermon a lot today as I've unpacked box after box. I really thought about it when I carried many boxes up a ladder to keep in my attic for who knows how long. The crazy thing is that most of the stuff I don't need and will I ever need.

I come from a long line of folks who save things. What is it about scraps of paper and random buttons from who knows where that makes me want to store them in shoe boxes?

Today I found an entire file folder full of emails from my friend Tamara. If being a pack rat means saving letters too then I am proud to be one. They were written while Tamara was living in the Middle East. I'd love to live there one day. A lot of the letters were about that very thing . . . living there. It's great to be reminded of our first love.

Wading through katundu,

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I wrote two letters today. One was a reconnecting letter and the other was a thank you for a job well done. Words are powerful. Use yours in mighty ways today.

The storage shed is finally empty. I've moved all day and there is hardly room to walk inside this very tiny cottage. How did I accumulate so much stuff? I should get rid of most everything but my letter box.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tuesday, May 20, 1997

Last night I found my box of old letters. Helen Fling is a dear mentor of mine who possesses the gift of encouragement through letter writing. Her words are like gold and I've delighted in pouring over them since unearthing the box.

While I was in college she kept up with my classes and ways that she could pray for me. Here is an excerpt from a letter she wrote on May 20, 1997.

Exodus 19: 4 - 5, My assurance for you.
God reminded the children of Israel how he carried them on eagles' wings and also that they were a treasure to him. I prayed for removal of fear of failure.

II Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind.
Isaiah 26:3, You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in thee. I prayed for peace of mind and calmness, poise, clear thinking, and good memory.

For assurance of God's continued leadership and care. Philippians 1:6 - Being confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it to the day of Jesus Christ.

I claimed this promise for you with faith and confidence in God.

Love ever, Aunt Helen

Who could use a note from you today? Lick a stamp. Write a letter. Encourage a friend.

Welcome home Brittany, Lori, and LeAnn!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

big mouth

Do you ever have those conversations where you wish you hadn't opened your mouth? You meant well and for whatever reason the listening party heard something completely different than intended. I had one of those moments tonight. I will try to be more careful with my words next time.

Some folks "get" us and we don't have to work hard to help them do so. Sometimes it is good to be confronted. It helps us process in different ways if we are open to being wrong. Relationships take work. We need each other even in times of misunderstanding.

In the next five minutes I will pause and thank God for the folks in my life who get me, and the ones who don't . . . yet.


"You use steel to sharpen steel,
and one friend sharpens another."
Proverbs 27:17 The Message

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What did he say?

Sparkfly readers your opinion matters. Please weigh in on the following statement from a prominent Baptist leader. 1

To separate human sexuality from the family and procreation is a return to a pagan view of sex against which Biblical faith is a protest. The Princeton Professor of Christian Ethics, Paul Ramsey, insisted several years ago that the Biblical view of human sexuality always maintains that sexual relations must include the potential for the creation of new life. Not that sex is only for procreation! On the contrary, what is affirmed is the Biblical view that the joy of sex between a man and a woman is legitimate only within the bonds of marriage where a potential new born can be accepted."

When you read this statement, what are the non-negotiables you believe the writer is trying to convey? Do you agree or disagree with him?

The first sentence states that to separate human sexuality from the family and procreation would be a pagan practice. Human sexuality comprises much more than the physical act of intercourse. Sexuality is a needed and healthy part of everyday life that should be nurtured, not neutered until one is married with children.

It is possible that semantics are at fault. It would be helpful if the writer of the letter defined his view of sexuality. It would be good if I defined my view as well, but I'm not going to because I would rather read your opinions and allow the spinning in my head to stop.


1 For more information concerning the documentation of this statement please email Sparkfly editors.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


New Year greetings from Atlanta where the student conference Antiphony was held. Registration was around 100 and a good time was had by many. This year's theme was Call and Response and covered a variety of topics surrounding the push and pull of ministry. The crowd was impressive and thoughtful. I wished for more present to experience the brilliance of the gathered community. It was a powerful event.

Yesterday another student conference began within walking distance of Antiphony. More than 23,000 are participating. What if $20 was collected from each person in attendance? $230,000 could fuel the start up of a small business in Moldova potentially offering hundreds of women and men positive work and economic alternatives.

What if $20 had been collected from each Antiphony participant? More than $2,000 could have been collected for an Antiphony participant scholarship fund for education and mission opportunities.

Let's get creative and pool our resources. Want to study economics and start a small business in Moldova?


Have you read The End of Poverty yet?

Check out Kate Campbell's Myspace page. She was one of Antiphony's featured musicians.