Attitude, Change, Faith, Friendship, Giving, Grace, Priorities, Relationship, Risk, Spiritual Practice

Clean Slate


Don’t brood. Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.

Leo Buscaglia

I read an article and then saw a short video this morning that left a powerful impression on me. Someone placed a big black board with chalk on the sidewalk of a busy city. At the top of the blackboard it read: “Write your biggest regret.” What was interesting was that the overwhelming majority of the things written on that blackboard were not things that one did and felt guilty about, but rather the things that were not done: not saying “I love you” enough, not spending more time with family, not taking more risks, etc… Chances not taken…words not spoken…dreams never pursued.

Then, they gave them an eraser. And someone wrote the words: CLEAN SLATE.

Every day is a clean slate. Every day. But here’s the deal. We don’t know how many “every days” we will have. So don’t waste your time regretting and brooding over what you may have done or what you neglected to do yesterday or last week or last year or in the last decade. Instead, consider today a day in which you have the opportunity to LIVE and LOVE fully!

Today’s your day. Today’s my day. And yes, today is God’s day!  Let’s make it count!

Blessings, Pastor Susan



Christmas, Faith, Grace, Spiritual Practice

Receive the Gift!

gift-from-the-heartChristmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.

Janice Maeditere

Well…here we are. It’s Christmas Eve. The waiting and preparation have come to a close. There’s only one more thing that will make our Christmas celebration all that God wants it to be.

Receive the gift!

If you’re like me, that may sound easier than it really is. I’m a giver by nature, and I’m a doer.   If someone asks me if they can do anything for me, my token response is, “No, I’m just fine.” And, while not intended to be, that kind of thinking can lead to an arrogance that comes from an independent spirit. “I don’t need anything,” thinking can easily close us off from receiving the gifts of God.

Like the gifts under your tree, God’s gifts are all around us. Sometimes we’ve gotten so used to them, we forget they’re even there. Yesterday, I talked about the gift of breath that gives us life. What a gift indeed! It is autonomic, and we enjoy the gift though we may not even be aware of it all the time. But not all gifts are like breathing. And not all gifts will always be there. If taken for granted, the gift of relationship will dry up and wither away. The gift of health will likewise slip away from those who neglect it.   God’s gifts are abundant, but unless we are willing to acknowledge and receive them, they do us little good.

On this Christmas Eve, I think of the passage of scripture found in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and OPENS the door, I will come in….” Jesus Christ was born in a world that was in great need of a Messiah. Some recognized the gift and received him; others rejected him, because Jesus threatened their self-reliance. They said to the gift, “No, I’m just fine.” And they missed it! They missed the abundant life and love God so wanted to give them.

Tonight, when you go to Christmas Eve service, please don’t let the opportunity pass to receive God’s gift! Open your heart. Receive the gift of love again…or maybe for the very first time. God loves YOU! Receive the gift…and be filled with joy!

Blessings, Pastor Susan

Attitude, Faith, Grace, Priorities, Simplicity, Spiritual Practice

The Wonder of It All

26861bfddbdf0f9581e036707b2fefc9“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?

G.K. Chesterton

I listened to a sermon not long ago about how many of us have lost our sense of wonder at Christmas. We’ve become so accustomed to the way things are in our lives and our world, so distracted by stress and anxiety, that we miss the miracles—the gifts of God that surround us every day.

We take so many things for granted. I learned this even more profoundly a few years ago through my friend Sonia. Sonia suffered a great loss due to an act of violence against her, leaving her paralyzed. And yet, in the midst of this great loss, Sonia gave thanks for what she DID have: her life, her abilities, her mind, her daughters, her faith, her family and her church. She continues working hard to redefine her life in the midst of challenge. And I stand in awe. Sonia helps me to recognize the miraculous gift of my body, and I pray that I will use it for God’s glory and will.

Our four legged daughter Bella can be a real pain early every morning…she’s our alarm clock! I really didn’t want to get up this morning, but she’ll keep whining until I do. I went through the ritual of feeding her and taking her outside…and while there, I saw the morning break through the dawn. How beautiful! I would have missed it had it not been for the morning ritual. And this morning, I am thankful that I have eyes to see the miracle of creation.

As I sit here quietly, all I hear is the sound of my own breath. Do you know what a gift that is? On an average day, you and I will breathe in about 3,300 gallons of air. The process of filtering that air and moving through the blood stream (which is somewhere from 60 to 100 THOUSAND miles in length!) is a WONDER—a miraculous gift of life! And today, I give God thanks for the gift of breathing.

Albert Einstein said that there are basically two ways to live our lives. One way is as if nothing is a miracle…the other as if everything is a miracle! Christmas is a time for gift-giving…and it is also a time to recognize the gifts that have already been given! Take some time this morning to look around…and give thanks for the miracles that are here…especially the miracle of our faith in Christ.

Blessings, Pastor Susan


Attitude, Spiritual Practice

Night Vision

midwinter-holidays-rebirth-of-light-12-638I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.

Og Mandino (1923 – 1996)

My sister Barbara has worked nights for almost three decades as a hospital pharmacist. I’ve always been amazed by her ability to do that. She goes to work as I’m preparing to go to sleep. I can’t even imagine how she has managed to be a wife, mother, and have a little bit of fun while working that kind of schedule.

But Barbara has proven that it can be done! And she tells me that she actually likes doing it. It seems that the night has a rhythm of its own. There may be a few less noises and a little more peace when most everyone else you know is taking their evening siesta.

The Magi had to wait until the night to do their work too. The story tells us that they followed a star to the place where they found the Christ. Some believe that it took up to two years to make the journey. That’s a long time to travel at night! But they kept looking to that special star to guide their way.

Sometimes we find ourselves in dark places. Bad things happen. Depression knocks at the door of our hearts. We wonder if we will ever see the light again. But remember—it is in the dark places where we can see the stars—reflections of God’s light from the other side that give us hope and the ability to believe again.

My sister has taught me that night-time can sometimes be the very best time to be still and consider what’s really important. Perhaps that’s what we need to remember when we go through dark times…to be still…and remember that God is.

Blessings, Pastor Susan

Attitude, Faith, Giving, Priorities, Service, Spiritual Practice

It’s What You See!

henrydavidthoreau106041It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

Today is my 58th birthday. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

That old phrase, of all things, came to me as I was meditating this morning. I wondered where it came from, so, of course, I “Googled” it. Lo and behold, I learned that it was a phrase that came from the lips of Chaplain Howell M. Forgy, who was aboard the USS New Orleans during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A year later, a patriotic song by the same title was composed.

The phrase was one of encouragement to keep going. I can’t even imagine hearing those words in their original context. The chaos. The fear. The panic. No wonder the words became so important to those who survived…but also, no doubt, to those who didn’t.

I always chuckled when I heard this phrase, and had thought of it as a kind of joke. But now…knowing the story…I see it completely differently.

So today is my 58th birthday. Maybe by some folk’s perspectives, 58 is past prime. But not so for me! God’s pathway is still wide open with new learning, growth, and opportunities ahead to participate in Realm of God that is both here and not yet!

I’ve got lots to give thanks for, and still lots more to give. So, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition…of hope, love, joy and peace!

Blessings, Pastor Susan


What Really Matters

dad     “Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.”

Confucius (551 BC-479 BC)

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  He would have been 84 years old had he survived the lung cancer that took his life at 49.  As I turn 58 next week, I guess that each year’s remembrance of my Dad becomes even more poignant to me.   It’s a reminder of the fragility of life, that there are no guarantees of longevity in terms of years or of health.  It’s also a reminder that the days and hours that we are given are precious, not to be squandered on things that do not matter, recognizing that life is a process of holding on and letting go.

What are we to hold on to…and of what must we let go?   It is a wise person who knows.  Sometimes I find myself holding on to the wrong things.  For example, when I’ve been hurt, I often want to hold onto that pain, which is strange, because nursing the hurt only prolongs it.  Beating myself up over past mistakes is another temptation I sometimes hold on to.  Forgiving myself is often harder than forgiving others.  Habits that take life rather than give life are hard to break, until they break me.  All of these are things that I continually have to let go of, lest they consume my life and leave no space for the things that truly matter.

Letting go of past hurts, mistakes and ongoing destructive habits open us up to hold on to what is of lasting value.  When we make that space in our lives, we can hear more clearly, we can see more fully, and we can respond more faithfully to the path that God calls us.  Filling our lives with acts of forgiveness, kindness, compassion and love makes each day full and leaves the world a better place than it was before we came.

As I look back over the 23 years that I had with my Dad, I am thankful for memories:   of his prayers at the dinner table, always laced with sincerity and humble tears…for his love of music and singing, whether it be around the piano with me or my sister Frances playing, or strumming his ukulele…for his friendships that were real and enduring…and for his stubborn, unfailing love for me.  All of these, and much more, are what I hold on to and hope to pass on to those that God gives me the opportunity to love.

What will you let go of?  What will you hold on to?  What will be the legacy you leave with the days you are given?  Today be intentional about what really matters!

Blessings, Pastor Susan

Attitude, Change, Desire, Faith, Priorities, Relationship, Spiritual Practice


rabindranathtagore383735You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.

Rabindranath Tagore

When I was sixteen, I had one of those “religious” experiences. I had one of those times when God became very real to me…and the first tugs of a calling nudged at my heart. I was sixteen, and I didn’t know that women could be ministers. I just knew that God had a hold of me, and that all I wanted to do was serve this wonderful, loving, gracious God.

So, I decided that I would major in religion studies in college. Maybe I’d be a Christian educator in a church…maybe I’d be a missionary…or maybe, just MAYBE… I’d MARRY a minister! I went to college and met Ron, who definitely wasn’t going to be a minister, but I loved him still and married him, and soon thereafter dropped out of college. The purse-strings had been cut, and the money just wasn’t there.

But God’s calling WAS.

So, I became a church secretary for a few years, which was a wonderful, fulfilling experience. Then, I had the opportunity to be a secretary at a seminary, which was even more wonderful. And through that opportunity, I was able to complete my undergraduate education and go to seminary. And for twenty-six years, I’ve been serving as a pastor of three very wonderful congregations.

When I was sixteen, I had no idea that ordained ministry would be a part of my life path. But here’s the deal. You have to be willing, as John Ortberg says, to get out of the boat if you want to walk on water! You have to be willing to move from standing and staring at the water if you want to cross the sea. You have to be willing to MOVE.

Where are you standing today? Are you standing and staring at the water? It’s okay to do that for a bit if you’re trying to determine which direction you’re going. But you can’t stay put. You’ve got to move.

Where will you go? Ask God to open the door…and then go through it! Great things lie in store for those who are willing to MOVE!

Blessings, Pastor Susan




A New Beginning

unknown“Each morning is a new beginning of our life. Each day is a finished whole. The present day marks the boundary of our cares and concerns. It is long enough to find God or to lose him, to keep faith or fall into disgrace.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I’m not sure when Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote these words, but they are important ones to remember as we think about his life and our own. Bonhoeffer was a Christian pastor and theologian who was imprisoned by Hitler for his participation in the resistance movement and executed just before the end of World War II. His faithfulness to Christ was remarkable. Bonhoeffer came to the United States to teach during the height of the war and could have remained here and avoided arrest. Instead, he chose to go back to Germany, fully aware of the risk. While in prison, he wrote letters to friends and members of the Confessing Church, a group of Christians refusing to bow down to the powers of the Nazi state.

During his time in prison, Bonhoeffer remained faithful to Christ. He trusted wholeheartedly. His trust was not founded in fanciful dreams of escape or release, but in the One who gave his life for others.

Even in the midst of his dire circumstances, Dietrich Bonhoeffer could say, “Each morning is a new beginning.” And that is true for each of us. No matter what challenges we may face, no matter how difficult the journey, each day is a new day. Each day is a time given to us by the Creator to discover more about ourselves, others and God. Each day is an opportunity to grow in our faith. Each day is a gift that we have been given, and the question is, what will we do with that gift?

Today is a new day. Yesterday is gone, never to return. The question of our life is:  What will we do TODAY? How will we show up in our world? Who will cross our path that we may bless? Who might God be sending to bless us? Look around—be intentional. Know that this day is one that God has made for you and for me to rejoice in and share God’s love with others!

Keep the faith!

Blessings, Pastor Susan



Attitude, Change, Friendship, Giving, Relationship, Spiritual Practice

The Rule that Defines Character

unknownIt is fortunate to be of high birth, but it is no less so to be of such character that people do not care to know whether you are or are not.

Jean de la Bruyere (1645 – 1696)

“Pretty is…as pretty does.” How many little girls heard that growing up?   I know I did more than once. Of course, it was a reminder that outward appearance ultimately does not determine true beauty, any more than social status determines one’s ultimate value.

Still, stereotypes are powerful in culture. More often than not, they determine first impressions. One can be judged by color, shape, dialect, clothing, and a host of other perceptions that have nothing to do with who they really are as human beings.

I grew up in the Deep South, during a time in our nation’s history when the issue of race was beginning to crack wide open for all to see. It was a time of upheaval and fear…a time of mistrust and misunderstanding. It was also a very confusing time for children like me, because of all the mixed messages we received. On the one hand, my sisters and I were expected to respect and mind our caregiver who was there to look after us just as we would our parents. On the other hand, even if not overtly, segregation was just understood as “the way things were.” White children did not play with black children. In fact, it wasn’t until I went away to college that I found myself in an environment where color was not a factor in whether or not I befriended someone.

Of course, as is the case with all stereotypes, we find out that most of the time, all that’s really different between people IS the stereotype. If we take the time to get to know someone well, it is not their outward difference that attracts or repels us; rather, it is their character that reveals who they really are.

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, author Simon Sinek reminds us that the walls of division and animosity are built, whether based on social class, race, religious, political, etc…when we refuse to engage with each other.  This is the tragedy of our world today, and unless leaders are willing to step down from places of privilege to value and connect and serve others, we will be condemned to its tragic consequence.

And here’s the thing:  in this endeavor…we can all be leaders!

It is risky to take the step to move beyond stereotype to get near enough to see who a person really is. But if we do—we will often find the common humanity that reminds us that we are all precious, beloved children of God.

Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31) May our character be defined not by judging outward appearance, but by making this our rule of life.

Blessings, Pastor Susan

Attitude, Giving, Spiritual Practice

Welcome to the HAPPY Restroom!

thI am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.
Martha Washington (1732 – 1802)

Most of us who travel these days have to make connecting flights.  It’s just the way of the world today, and it can be a bummer.  You never know how long you may be delayed, or if you’re going to make the connection, especially if your first flight is running late.  It’s stressful, to be sure.

I remember one flight in particular.  I was flying into Atlanta for my connection.  Those of you who know this airport know it can be a gamble.  I was running a bit late…but I just HAD to make a pit stop.  Now, I don’t usually talk about trips to the restroom; but this one bears repeating because it totally changed my day.

As I walked in, I was met by this woman who wore a smile as big as the sun. She looked me straight in the eyes as she said with great enthusiasm, “Welcome to the HAPPY restroom!” Now, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “happy” restroom…but I found myself smiling back and saying, “Thank you!”

My smile lasted for the entire duration of my visit to the toilet!  And that’s because every single woman who entered the premises received the exact same greeting as mine. When I came out to wash my hands, there wasn’t one person in that busy center of activity that wasn’t smiling right along with me. All because one person’s disposition was even more contagious than the flu!

The cleaning woman wasn’t crazy; she wasn’t even silly…at least not to me. It was obvious that she had made up her mind that her job involved more than just scrubbing toilets and emptying trash…it was making sure that others received the blessing that was hers to give through a smile and a welcome. And she was successful in her job. I’ve never seen that many people leave a bathroom so happy!

That experience reminded me of Proverbs 17:22 (The Message): “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.”

I wonder what would happen if more of us determined that we would bring cheerfulness and smiles to our day…at home, at work, at school…wherever we find ourselves. What kind of difference could we make in the lives of others if we purposed that our disposition would reflect what we know to be true: that we are loved beyond imagining…gifted by God to be a blessing…so that others might know that they too are gifted and special and loved. What difference would it make in our own health and wholeness?

What will your disposition be today? Why don’t you join me in sharing God’s love and welcome!

Pastor Susan