Last week, worship was compared to sharing a meal with friends.  This past week, hospitality followed the same thread.  For worship, we sat around small tables with three or four other people.  Communion and prayer were shared with the small group.

Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable to sit sideways, shift around to see the screen, and try not to block the kids behind me.  Perhaps planned that way?  Comfort isn’t necessarily synonymous with hospitality.

Confession – I want to care for my neighbors as long as it doesn’t interfere with my show at 8:30.  I want to help the homeless if it doesn’t cost too much, because I’ve had my eye on a new sofa.  I want to help the lonely as long as I don’t have to give up my night out with friends.  Yikes.  *big sigh*

As well, we were encouraged to serve not only the poor, needy and lost, but the annoying.  Why was annoying the most difficult description to hear?  It’s easy to have compassion for those who can’t help themselves, but the ones that ruffle my feathers – another story.  The guy who cut me off on the highway.  The lady who pushed ahead of me in line at Safeway.  The person you randomly meet on the street who keeps telling you stories and you keep looking around to see if they are the decoy and someone else is going to steal your purse (I might be a touch paranoid).

I’m the queen of judging people.  One look or phrase and I’ve already categorized a person in my perception of their reality.  Am I ever wrong in this initial judgment?  Oh yeah.  Often, actually.  But yet I am at ease in thinking I know how best to approach a person based on my conclusions.

New conclusion.

Who am I?  Who have I annoyed today?  Who has already categorized me?  Who looks at me and thinks, God, grant me patience?

Every time I come to the table of the Lord for communion I must remember, it is only by grace that I am united with my Creator.  My narrow, judgmental heart certainly does nothing on it’s own.

God – my selfish being longs for comfort and ease.  My soul longs for you!  Give me strength to choose you, even when it’s difficult.  Give me heaps of grace to give those I encounter.  Bring the annoying my way!!  In short, help me perceive and treat others they way I want to be perceived and treated.


Worship – Eden Reflection

Eden Community, the new ministry begun at Portland First Church of the Nazarene, seeks to reflect five core values:

We’re in the midst of a five week focus on each value in an effort to better reflect the imprint of God in our individual and communal lives.

In our first week’s exploration of worship, new light was shed on old comforts.

To be fair, we’ve been immersed in new worship experiences ever since Eden began: meeting in a cafe, candles, crosses, responsive reading, communion every week, offering at the end, and passing the peace to name a few.  From the beginning, it’s clear this worship gathering is modern, yet ancient.

But what’s the point of all the symbolism, liturgy, and ritual if no meaning is attached?  Why do them without purpose?  Thus, the foundation for inquiry.

First – what is worship?  In my growing-up experience, an average worship service was organized like this:

*Enter the space and spend the first few minutes catching up with friends.
*A music leader opens the service with an upbeat song.
*After a short greeting and perhaps prayer, a music set began of 3-4 songs.  *Announcements.
*Offering was next usually with a choir song.
*Special song by one of the more accomplished singers of the group.
*Often an altar prayer response.
*Benediction prayer.
*My favorite was the ending.  Amen…and amen.  Like, we’re done with this prayer…and we’re done with the service.

This organizational method emphasized the sermon.  Simply put, the first half you sang, the second half you listened.’m sure there’s a logical, historical explanation for why this method developed and prospered.  One hypothesis relates to the preachers on the American frontier.  Theological education was limited and symbols were difficult to haul from church meeting to church meeting.  Therefore, worship became more teaching centric and lacked symbols and rituals.  But what resulted was a rather passive worship experience.

In my educational experience, learners should participate with as many senses and intelligences possible for effective learning.  In the prior model, active participation occurs with singing, greeting, and prayer.  Therefore, participants are actively engaged for only 50% of the worship gathering.

Eden’s approach is quite different.  Senses are engaged from the moment you step foot in the cafe.  Burning candles and coffee.  Low lights and crosses.  Worship music.  Responsive reading.  Words written on the screen.  Pictures.  Communion.  Kneelers to pray.  Age appropriate teaching for children during the sermon.  You have to work hard NOT to participate at Eden!

I gauge effectiveness by my four-year old.  He can developmentally participate in everything at Eden (although whether he chooses to is another story).  Eden has offered worship bags of crayons and notebooks for the primary kids during the beginning of the gathering.  Week after week we take the bag.  Week after week he eats the jolly rancher and leaves the rest.  He’s engaged!  He’s reading the words on the screen.  He’s listening to the songs.  He’s glued to the scripture readers, who are mostly kids.

He asks tons of questions: Why people are draping cloth over the cross in different colors?  Why are people dipping their fingers in the bowl of water?  Why do people light candles during prayer?

Suddenly, my son is an active participant in worship.  Not only that, he’s invited and expected to be involved!  Children aren’t just tolerated.  They are an integral part of the community.

So, Eden seeks to create a worship gathering where all ages are active participants, but what’s the meaning behind the symbols and rituals?

Here’s my simple perspective.  (Theologians, fix as needed.)

Worship is about God.  Our relationship with God.  A time to meet with believers and communally express our love and honor to the Creator.  When we first meet, we are all individuals coming from hectic work weeks and personal worries.  We gather in praise individually.  When we greet and touch the hand of the person next to us in peace, we become a gathered community.  We become one voice in praise and honor to God.  We leave our individual concerns aside for a time and become a body or family of believers.  What an honor!

We hear the scriptures and lesson.  But this isn’t at the end of the service.  It’s in the middle!  I love that the sermon or teaching isn’t the integral part.  It’s important, but there are many other things that are also valued greatly.

Communion.  A topic of change within the Nazarene denomination of late.  How often should you participate?  Intinction (dipping) or individual cups and wafers?  Leavened or un?

Eden Community participates weekly.  This time is also for prayer, reflection on the teaching, intercession for others, confession, and offering.  This is the point of worship to which I most look forward.  My son and I light a candle for someone, pray at the altar together, and partake of communion.  Weekly!

Some may say that weekly communion loses its effect because it’s taken too often.  This is the same argument for stating the Lord’s Prayer or Apostle’s Creed weekly.  My response – don’t we say the National Anthem at every baseball game?  What if someone said, “We’re losing the meaning of the anthem by saying it at EVERY game.  Let’s just do it once a month.”  Yeah, that wouldn’t fly.  Same thing here.

Do I have a God moment or have an emotional high every time I take communion?  Duh, no.  But does it have less meaning for me each time?  No.  In fact, I’m learning more about God’s grace by consistently participating in this discipline.

Worship was described as having someone over to your house for a meal.  You invite them in.  You share stories.  You share a meal.  You leave more connected in relationship with the guests than before.  In worship, we enter in praise.  We hear the scriptures.  We break bread.  We leave to serve.

So rich are we to have a weekly opportunity to worship our Creator with a church family!

Mixed Signals

There are endless articles and opinions about how to live a healthy lifestyle.  Within that genre, there are endless articles and opinions about how to do a juice fast.

Don’t drink orange juice, the acid hurts your stomach.
Enjoy a big glass of orange juice for breakfast.
Don’t chew gum, it starts up digestion.
Chew gum, but without artificial sweeteners.
Don’t mix fruit and vegetables when juicing.
Use fruit to help the taste of vegetables when juicing.

To quote the Peanuts, “AAARRRRGHH!”

Everyone has a differing opinion.  To whom do I listen?  Who is right?  Just because one blog is made by a doctor and another isn’t, are they more accurate?  Should I be worrying about macro nutrients and how to mix them?  Should I be supplementing with vitamin pills?  How is it that there are people all over the world who don’t have nutrition labels and seem to have diets that serve their bodies just fine?

Quite honestly, I’m easily influenced by other opinions. If I find the person at all reputable, I take their advice to heart.  Therefore, I find myself often in quandaries where advice doesn’t jive with others.  Like juicing…

Should I take all the info and then just trust my gut?  My gut tells me today to drink more water, be sure to get some exercise, and try to get more vegetables in the juices.  Ok, that’s settled.

Side note – yesterday was hump day.  Middle of the fast.  It’s all downhill from here.

Tangerine Strawberry Juice
Once again, I veered from the schedule.  This time it was more successful.  How can you go wrong with sweet and tangy, right?  Granted, it was quite tangy, so I diluted with a small bit of coconut water.

Strawberry, Blueberry, Chard, and Apple
Have I decided chard is my healthy alternative addition to sweet juices?  Yes.  Most healthy approach?  Not sure.  But it tastes good.

For the future, pay money and get fresh.  Frozen, even when thawed, doesn’t juice well.  The blueberries didn’t give as much as I expected they should.

Not the best tasting drink, but not bad.

Mexican Jugo
Jugo is Spanish for juice.  Not sure when I was prepping whether this would fly or flop. 2 cucumbers, 1 apples, 1 lime (with zest) and 1 pablano pepper.  Of course, it was radiantly green.  The flavor was simultaneously light, with a kick.  The pepper taste was apparent, but not spicy.  The lime was sour and complemented the calm cucumber and apple.   Two thumbs up.

Other fasting observations:

*Sleeping is difficult at night.  Why is that?  Still, I don’t wake up groggy in the mornings.  I just have trouble falling to sleep.

*My dreams are crazy vibrant.  I remember them throughout the day, as well, like they’re a memory instead of a dream.

*Lost a bit of weight, but nothing major.  Just some fluff around the edges. It just melts off my husband.

*Still thirsty a lot.  Probably not drinking enough water.

*Went to the zoo and enjoyed walking through the whole place.  Didn’t feel at all tired or slow keeping up with my son.  In fact, didn’t feel at all tired until I got in the car.  Why is that?

*Last night, my husband’s stomach joined mine in a duet.

*Clear minded, but slower physically in the mornings.  Slow and tired in all areas by bedtime.


Take away food and one is awakened to many things.

Firstly, most of life is scheduled around meals.  (But yet, family time around the table is becoming a lost art…)

Secondly, my digestive alarm clock goes off at 8:00, 12:00 and 6:00 (ish).  My system wants something to digest and there’s not much going on.  The rhythm is lost.

Finally, nights are the hardest.  I lie in bed listening to my empty stomach desperately churning for food and finding nothing, thus making ridiculously loud groans.

How many people listen to that same sound each night?  How many people wonder from where their next meal will come?  What is my role with these needy?

Today consisted of two juices:  one winner and one…ok, I’ll admit it…loser.

Leftovers Juice
This was a bad idea from the beginning.  I’m not a foodie.  I don’t know which foods blend well together.  But I hadn’t gone to the grocery store for my scheduled juice, so I punted.  This is why I made a menu!  Ashamedly, here it is:

2 broccoli stalks
2 carrots
1 apple
1 cup cherries
2 kiwi
a few strawberries


Just after juicing

Firstly, kiwi leaves a weird residue in juice.  Even though I cut off the fuzzies, it felt like they somehow miraculously appeared in the juice. Next, carrots and broccoli as the main vegetables are not yummy together.  Nothing really meshed well.

But I drank it!  I know broccoli is packed full of nutrients and love it in raw or cooked form.  Not so much in juiced.  Lesson learned.

Green Grape and Pear
Now this guy was a winner.  SO much lovely green.  Light and refreshing.
2 cucumbers
1 pear
1 lime (and zest)
1 cup green grapes

Sort of a Bath and Body Works scent in juice form.   Where have cucumbers been all my life?!

Amazing night of worship with Eden Community.  Our very first official service.  So proud to be part of this group.  Our journey tonight from praise and waving palm branches to the cross was a perfect roller coaster ride of emotions.  Once again reminded of my weakness and wavering frailty.

Palm & Passion

Day three came to an end and the hype is definitely gone.  My stomach literally groaned when my son asked for hot toast with a great deal of butter on it (Mercy Watson).

Breakfast – Cherry cinnamon apple bake (with pears and craisins)



Juice – Minty Fresh Berry (mint leaves, blueberries, and strawberries)


Lunch – Cucumber salad (cucumber, sea salt, lime juice, fresh dill, and onion)

Snack – Fruit strips and sweet potato chips
Dinner – Baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon
Dessert – Apple chips & more fruit strips….oh, and a banana

Clearly, I love sweets.  And yet the highlight of the food-day was the cucumber salad.  Basically it was like eating freshly sliced pickles.

Besides the food, I noticed a bit more fatigue as the day drew to a close.  I woke up in the morning refreshed and ready for the day.  By about 9:00, I’m waning.

But Palm Sunday approaches.  This day of contradictions.  Palm and passion.  Rejoicing and sorrow.  Honor and slander.  A day when mob mentality makes a lot more sense.  The same crowd who cheered and revered Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for Passover would be the chanting, “Crucify Him!” only a week later.

Doesn’t all seem a bit quick to anyone?  For three years, Jesus had been traveling around.  Stories spread of his teaching and healing.  People traveled for miles to see him.  Some believed, some didn’t.  Then, we get to Jerusalem and all hell breaks loose.

Ok, so I get the Pharisees and their problem with Jesus.  He seemingly contradicts their interpretation of God’s law.  They, who had worked so hard to live by the rules and teach others, were being told something different.  Turn the other cheek, instead of an eye for and eye?!  I get it.

But the rest of the crowd.  You who were cheering last week, now join the crowd to watch his death?  Are we really that fickle?  To be swayed by the moving of the wind or a mass of people?

Yet, I can sort of understand.  If I had been taught that a Savior would come to redeem us (Jews), I might assume he would deliver us from the Romans.  I mean, God did that sort of stuff in the past.  So Jesus and his teaching would seem out of bounds.  I wonder if there were a lot of confused people.  Who do I believe?  Jesus teaching seems so good, but it doesn’t necessarily match what my religious leaders have been training me. What do I believe?  Maybe I’ll wait until Jesus does something REALLY big…