Friday, June 24, 2011

Blog Hiatus

The Murphy Family is headed out for an adventure and I won't be blogging for a bit. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Imperfect Prose: With-God-With-Us

Christ in the Suburbs
Georges Roualt


With-God, man will make his plans, but the end result is the Lord's.
And sometimes we just make dumb plans.

With-God's Spirit praying for us in groanings that can not be expressed in words.
Sometimes, though, we should just learn new words.

God-With-Us will never leave us or forsake us.
But, usually, He disguises Himself pretty good.

With-God we listen whether to turn to the right or the left.
Sometimes He tells us only to get up and go.

God-With-Us sends angels to keep us from falling.
Sometimes we're just supposed to die. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday is for Words: Madeleine L'Engle

Phaedra Taylor

A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L'Engle

" ' Not everybody is able to see me,' he told her. 'I'm real, and most earthlings can bear very little reality. But if it will relieve your mind, I'll dematerialize.' he waved a few wings gracefully. 'It's really more comfortable for me not to be burdened with matter, but I thought it would be easier for you if you could converse with someone you could see.'

The cherubim was there in front of her, covering most of the star-watching rock, and then he was not there. She thought she saw a faint shimmer in the air, but it might have been the approach of dawn. She could feel him, however, moving within her mind. 'Are you feeling extremely brave Megling?'

'No.' A faint light defined the eastern horizon. The stars were dim, almost extinguished.

'I think we're going to have to be brave, earth child, but it will be easier because we're together. I wonder if the Teacher knows..'

'Knows what?' 

'That you've seen an Echthros.'

'Progo, I don't understand. What is an Ecthros?'

Abruptly, Proginoskes materialized, raised several wings, and gathered her in. 'Come, littleing. I'll take you some place...and show you.'...'...Come.' He drew her further in to him.

She found herself looking directly into one of his eyes, a great, amber cat's eye, the dark mandala of the pupil, opening, compelling, beckoning. She was drawn towards the oval, was pulled into it, was through it. Into the ultimate night on the other side. Then she felt a great, flaming wind, and knew that somehow she herself was part of that wind.

Then she felt a great shove, and she was standing on a bare stone mountaintop, and Proginoskes was blinking and winking at her. She thought she saw the oval, mandala-eye through which she had come, but she was not sure.

The cherubim raised a great wing to sketch the slow curve of sky above them. The warm rose and lavender of sunset faded, dimmed, was extinguished. The sky was drenched with green at the horizon, muting upwards into a deep, purply blue through which stars began to appear in totally unfamiliar constellations.

Meg asked, 'Where are we?'

'Never mind where. Watch.'

She stood beside him, looking at the brilliance of the stars. Then came a sound, a sound which was above sound, beyond sound, a violent, silent, electrical report, which made her press her hands in pain against her ears. Across the sky, where the stars were clustered as thickly as in the Milky Way, a crack shivered, slivered, became a line of nothingness.
If this kind of thing was happening in the universe, no matter how far away form earth and the Milky Way. ...

'Progo, what is it? What happened?'


'Annihilated. Negated. Extinguished. Xed.'

Meg stared in horrible fascination at the rent in the sky. This was the most terrible thing she had ever seen...She pressed close to the cherubim, surrounding herself with wings and eyes and puffos smoke, but she could still see the rip in the sky.

She could not bear it."

Tuesday is for Hospitality: hyphenated hospitality


Emmanuel.  God-With-Us.  The stunning Creator God names Himself in relation to His people.  The God who shares His identity With-Us.  The God who hyphenates His name with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Who signs His Word as Jacob-wrestling God.  His very being described in relation to His people.  This is phenomenal.

God-With-Us.  He's made Himself at home in us, among us and through us through the born-in-the-likeness-of-man humility of Jesus.  Who exists in us, among us, and through us in the form of Holy Spirit.  

If I let this mind be in me, what would my name become?  Who would I welcome into my very identity as a place of welcome?  What would my With-God name be?  


Andrew, Alex, Kendra, Natalie-mothering-Tamara

That would be just for starters.

I've walked the broken path of x-ing out some of the names I'd have shared in my hyphenated hospitality.  It's a painful, ugly business.  Still, God is with us.  Still, I want to live With-God.  What if the hyphen is supposed to include the x-ed out ones?  I must welcome them back, to let this mind of the humble Jesus, so-closely-identified-with-us He poured Himself into the skin of Us.

Let the With-God life turn all my x's into hyphens.

Monday Mix Tape: With-God Life

I've been torn this week which direction to take the mix tapes now that Pentecost is over. I could kind of flit around from one interest to the next.  Or, I could take the seasonal approach -- summer music for the first days of summer, patriotic music for the fourth of July and so on.  Or I could match the mix tapes to the events going on in our lives the next couple of months.  Maybe start with a love song mix for my sister's wedding next week.  Travel music for our summer road trips. Or I could stay on the same course and let the music, art and writing here each week be born from my Scripture reading and meditation and prayer each week.  

So, here it is Wednesday and I haven't posted anything yet.  I'd already begun this playlist from the first week of my devotional reading in A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.  For the first twenty-five days I'm reading and reflecting on the discipline of the With-God Life.  
The Bible is all about human life "with God" and how God has made this "with-God" life possible and will bring it to pass. The name Immanuel, meaning "God is wih us," is the title given to the one and only Redeemer, Jesus the Christ. It refers to God's everlasting intent for human life -- namely, that we should be in every aspect a dwelling place of God. (A Year With God)
We were never intended to live any other way.  At its foundation our lives are driven by the ache of separation from our Creator.  A longing to be reconciled.  And, for some, a gratitude for the Way of Jesus that makes peace between us and God and each other.  A second chance at living a With-God life.  I chose the songs for this week from those thoughts.  

the mix

Standalone player

1.  O Come O Come Emmanuel, Bifrost Arts
2.  Dear God 2.0, The Roots
3.  We're All In This Together, Old Crow Medicine Show
4.  Timshel, Mumford & Sons
5.  We're gonna pull through, Over the Rhine
6.  I Need Thee Every Hour, Reformed University Fellowship
7.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Rosie Thomas
8.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Sufjan Stevens

(why, oh why, have we relegated O Come, O Come Emmanuel to December only?!?)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Way We Worship Together: June 19, 2011

Thank you to the wonderful Hope Spicer for this week's photos! This is also posted at

For an explanation behind the red drapes, read here.

Welcome to a weekly overview of Union Center Christian Church's Sunday  morning service.  You’ll not only read a list of the songs we led following the Call To Worship, but also the readings and prayers from our pattern of worship (aka, the liturgy).

For the next several weeks, we'll be enjoying artwork from
 a Union Center artist friend, Laurel Rudd.
You can find links to the set lists of this church and many other churches each week in the Worship Blog Carnival at theworshipcommunity.comYou can learn about some of the songs we sing at Union Center each week in advance of the Sunday service by reading the Getting Ready For Sunday”  post each Thursday.

Happy Father's Day!
Words of Greeting & Passing the Peace
Pastor Sal welcomed us as those gathered by God and then recognized all the men in the congregation, starting with great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers and then all men as part of the imago dei. He then prayed a blessing over the men and invited us to greet each other.

Call to Worship
After Pastor Sal led us in the call to worship, he invited all the Shepherdstown-aged students to come to the front for the first part of the service.

Pastor Sal:  We have gathered here to honor the One who created us.
All:  The One who gave us life..
Pastor Sal:  The One who sustains our lives each day.
All:  The One who is our constant companion.
Pastor Sal: The One who loves us more than a father and mother.
All:  The One who is worthy of our praise and of our service all the days of our lives. Alleluia!

Song: Refuge In You, written by Brenton Brown, Pete Jones and Bob Stratton. 

Song: Spin, written by Lincoln Brewster. One way of showing hospitality to our Shepherdstown students is to enjoy together the songs they sing each Sunday.  This is one of those songs and it's not one you can sing sitting down!  Listen to the song on YouTube. (by the way, I'm thinking it might be good for us to have more worship songs with physical activity attached to the lyrics!) 
gonna JUMP UP...
Drama: Respect

Children's Message
Pastor Joshua sat with the children and led them in a brief teaching about what the word "authority" means and how God blesses us when we respect authority.

As part of this talk, Pastor Joshua read us the story Our Home Is Like a Little Church by Lindsey Blair and Bobby Gilles of Sojourn Church in Louisville, KY.  This is a simple, but meaningful, way to teach children (and us adults, too!) the truth that the home is a “little church” where the father teaches his family God’s commands and leads them to worship the one true God. 

Once again, kids said the darndest things!  Both Pastor Joshua and the parents were courageous to let these kids share unscripted their thoughts and questions with all of us!  

closing their time with a HAPPY FATHER'S DAY shout-out!

Words of Confession 
Mallory led us after the children returned to their seats in a time to hear God's Word and respond with a prayer letting Him know we’re sorry for the things we’ve done. 

Mallory: And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah:

All:  "This is what the LORD Almighty said: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.'

Mallory: But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They  made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

All:  'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. 'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations where they were strangers.'
Please pray with me,
Father, we are sorry that we so often do not listen to you, like many of our ancestors. Forgive us for following our own selfish ways. Help us to hear you and follow hard after You and You alone. Amen.

Song: Unfailing Love,  written by Ed Cash, Cary Pierce and Chris Tomlin. God as our Heavenly Father demonstrates protection and love.  Listen to the song on YouTube.

Words of Assurance
Kier led us in this prayer of gratitude:
Jesus, we love You and need You.
You are our saving King.
You are Holy and awesome and 
The God of everything.
Be our refuge and shelter
And keep us safe beneath Your wing.
Father, thank you that your unfailing love has covered us.

Song: You're Worthy of My Praise,  written by David Ruis. .

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Giving
The appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer is to give from all we have - heart, soul, mind, strength, gifts and resources.  Jessica led us in our offertory prayer.

Combined Choir:  This Is My Father's World / He's Got the Whole World In His Hands (composed by Joel Raney)
A special choir of people ages 7ish to 65ish sang this good and lovely hymn plus spiritual, describing the sovereignty of a good Father God in both stanza and simple chorus.  Listen to a Fernando Ortega version on YouTube.

Pastor Josh took some more time to continue unpacking the theme of recognizing the image of God in authority.  He got some help describing authority from a few kids in our congregation. 

He encouraged us that God designed and affirms authority.  Even though we've often experienced abuses of authority, we go against God's design when we live with a poor disposition to those in authority over us.  

SongFather, I Adore You,  written by Terrye Coelho. 

Life at the Center, Benediction & Sending
Pastor Sal shared some important ministry updates and then invited A. and some of our Elevate and Shepherdstown students to pray over her as she returns to the field.

We were then all sent out blessed to be a blessing.

For the weeks of Rated E and Pentecost, we'll be putting together a special mosaic.
  Thank you, Laurel Rudd, for designing this project for us!

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