palms, ready and waiting

27 03 2010


palms, ready and waiting

Originally uploaded by cathyse97.

Thanks to Emma, (new Emma) for the use of her camera this morning, and emailing the photos to me! When we were at church for the Community Breakfast, I realized that the palms were out in the narthex, waiting for Sunday.. already torn apart by a volunteer, ready and waiting. So I asked E & L if one of them had a camera I could borrow.. they did. Thanks!

Palm Sunday can be so fun and celebrative…palms, celebration, praise, Hosannas, singing, kids marching/entering the sanctuary… Every Palm Sunday, though, I can’t help but remember the coming Holy week. The cross, the crown of thorns (pictured in the photo, etched in the glass)…

So tomorrow we both celebrate and anticipate. And remember.





Friday’s Pic: Moon and Cross

27 03 2010


Moon and Cross

Originally uploaded by cathyse97.

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1) .. it’s easy to give thanks to God when looking at a gorgeous moon, a beautiful cross on a beautiful church.. It’s easy to remember God’s steadfast love… to feel God’s steadfast love.

I love this view. The photo, not so much–but you know how I feel about my camera being in the shop. Still, I love the view. I love walking the grounds of the church at night, with Abby… and looking up.

The challenge is to look “up” throughout the day. Not only when the beautiful cross and moon are noticeable, but all the time. To look up at the cross, to look to God for guidance… to give thanks at all times.. to remember the steadfast love of God…. at all times.





what if?

8 03 2010

This is Saturday’s photo… I’m so behind. (I’ve been taking pictures, I just didn’t have the chance to write.) The rocks were to be used (and were used) in Sunday morning worship, as symbols of what we need to repent of…

Saturday, March 6th

and the idea was that we would have people bring them up front during a Confession of Sin, and lay them at the foot of the cross.

The Worship Planning Team at church (which I am part of) has thought up several different ideas for making Lent more creative,

reaching different senses, etc.. and the rocks were the creative element for yesterday. Great idea. And last Sunday after church, one of the WPT members bought the rocks and dropped them off. But on Saturday I panicked. The “what ifs” began… I forgot to get kids lined up to hand rocks out..oops. What if none of the kids wanted to help out when I asked them at the last minute on Sunday morning? What if we didn’t clean the rocks well enough, someone got rock dust on their hands and complained–would that kill creativity forever?… what if nobody brought their rocks forward?…what if people thought this was just too touchy-feeley?  what if? what if? what it?

Occasionally these “what if?” moments get the best of me, and I give up. Occasionally they get the best of me and I keep going. Occasionally I’m not really sure what happens… because things work out well in spite of me, in spite of circumstances, and in spite of panicky moments.

Then there are those times when I should have answered the “what if?” moments with a “yep… I should stop right now.”  But we’ll save that for another blog post. Maybe.





the people

27 02 2010

I know–“What people?” you might ask, when looking at today’s photo.

My response?: “all the people.” The people who built this church literally… the people who built this church spiritually… the people who sit in these pews, including the balcony… the people who walk through those doors… the people who walk through other doors of this church… the people who don’t walk through these doors and sit in these pews and yet they might if there is something in their lives that makes them think about life and death and faith… the people who come alone…. the ones who feel lost… the ones who have lost…the people who built and designed that gorgeous stained glass window… the people who took the old glass from the original building and used it to make ornaments and candle holders for the people…the people who take minutes… the ones who shovel and plow…. the ones who make sure the heat is working…. the ones who stock the cupboards…

Saturday, Feb. 27th

The people who work behind the sound board up in the corner, and keep trying to make our microphones work effectively…the people who dust the pews and vacuum the carpets… the people who light the candles and turn the lights on and off…. the people who sit in the offices downstairs and upstairs…the people who offer encouragement to the struggling, and to the leaders–paid and unpaid… the people who trained the paid and the unpaid… the people who believed in the call of those who pastor… and the ones who modeled Christian faith by their examples… the person who fields all the phone calls, requests, manages the calendars, checks the mail, and does more stuff than we can even imagine… the person who teaches the children about music and lyrics and who helps the rest of us try and make good music…

the people who play instruments that provide worship music… the people who attend to the website and the technological details that the rest of can’t handle… the ones who sing.. the ones who can’t… the ones who can’t attend worship… the ones who teach –behind the scenes, and in front… the ones who help the pastors out at the last minute… the ones who remind us to head back to pray before the worship service begins…the people who buy the wine, grape juice, bread, coffee, napkins, etc… the people who do the dishes… the people who pour the coffee… the people who fold chairs and tables and tablecloths… the people who come and sit and think they offer nothing and yet they pray for the rest of the people… the ones who knit….. the people who babysit during worship… the people who do the odd jobs like check the roof leaks and paint offices and fix up the parsonage and put out signs…. the ones who guide visitors to where they need to be…the ones who greet newcomers… the ones who invite others… the ones who have never been through the door of this church, but will hopefully come someday…the ones who drive by and sometimes wonder what this place is like but have never come in… the people who patiently play with the very active two-and-a-half year old so her parents can focus on other people and events…. the people who provide rides and hospitality… the people who struggle with why they might show up for worship when their faith might hurt right now… the countless people I probably forgot, but want to include here–because everyone is included…  the ones who believe… believe in this church, believe in God, believe in the journey, as hard as it might be.. and the people who believe that together–and with God’s help– we can be the people God intended us to be. Not only believe in this, but work towards becoming the people.

So on this Saturday before the Second Sunday in Lent, I am thankful for the people represented in this photo… and their part in the Lenten journey.





Ashes, ashes… we all fall down

25 02 2009

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Some years I embrace Lent, because I’m feeling solemn enough and ready for the rest of the world to engage such solemness.. (not the purpose of Lent, I realize.) And I like ashes on my forehead. I like to reflect on how Christ is challenging me to change. To follow him. And some years I am so not ready for Lent, because I feel “Lented” out. Lent has not felt like a liturgical season in my life as much as a pattern for many years. Somber, sadness, darkness, dust to dust, ashes… enough. I’m ready for a year of Easters. Of rejoicing because of Good News.

This year it’s a bit of both. I’m embracing Lent, ready for its challenge. I want to realign my priorities, and Lent seems to be a natural place to make time for that process. I’m excited and feeling spiritually challenged by the Photo Group this Lent. We are reflecting–through photography–on the Gospel lessons from the lectionary each week. (So starting today through Saturday, my photos will be my photographic reflections of the Ash Wednesday text. Then starting Sunday, the text for the first week in Lent.) I like the Lent Prayer site I found a couple of years ago, and am eager to visit it everyday. There are many reasons I embrace this season this year.

But I’m also feeling a bit Lented out. I feel as though we have all fallen down so much lately, that we are merely ashes, and we are stuck on the ground. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down… that familiar phrase from “Ring around the rosy” runs through my head each Lent.  And this year, though I have much to celebrate (i.e. Kajsa!), I’m wrestling with  much as well: the friend/parishioner who is still in ICU after a skating accident; others who are sick; the loss of some dreams this year; God’s purposes/plan for my infertile/single/job-frustrated friends, and some broken relationships.

I’m Lented out. I’ve lived it enough. Or so I feel and think. My loved ones have lived it enough. Enough, God, enough! How long? And yet, I have to remind myself that Lent isn’t about me–at least not in that way. Lent is about traveling to the cross with Jesus… and Christ’s sacrifice for us.

I used the “Ring around the rosy” phrase several years ago in an Ash Wednesday sermon. One of the things that stuck with me (and my own sermons do not always stick with me!) was that we tend to get back up… Ashes, ashes, we all fall down! But then as children playing this game, we get back up and start again. That’s what I’m hoping to do this Lent. Get back up and start again. Start up my efforts at being more faithful to God. The God I don’t always understand. The God I cry out to in anger. The God I lean on when I need strength. Get back up when I feel down, like dust-with-no-theological purpose…. and work again at realigning my priorities. Get back up and try to be faithful to the God who does provide me with countless blessings, even in the most dark Lenten seasons.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s ashes. I need that reminder of who I am. And I love reflecting on that in the context of a worship service with beautiful music and visual elements. But tomorrow I need to get back up, as a reminder of who God has called me to be.

Blessed Ash Wednesday…. and all of Lent.





Lenten Views: photo a day challenge

6 02 2008

Several people from Arbor Covenant Church are taking a different kind of Lenten challenge: a photo a day during Lent. We are not professional photographers. The photos will not necessarily be spiritual. It is merely a challenge to take a photo a day during this slow-down-season.

We’re posting them on this Mac Web Gallery, called “Lenten Views” … Enjoy. And if you’d like to participate, or post your photos on a different webpage, let me know.

In this slow-down season, it’s a bummer to have to miss Ash Wednesday. Our joint service with All Saints’ Lutheran was cancelled, due to weather. Most services and events in the Madison area have been cancelled… government offices were closed… even Madison schools were closed today! (a small miracle)

So, Happy Ash Wednesday… I miss the ashes, but am enjoying the forced slow-down due to weather.





Worship, small church-style

23 05 2007

Most Sundays at church have some element of surprise, especially in a small church. But this past Sunday was a little more unusual.

It was both Confirmation Sunday (four students) and a baptism Sunday (three siblings). During the baptisms, there was an outburst from the back row. The man is one of three men who visit Arbor together: two of them live in a group home for developmentally disabled adults, the third is their caretaker. When they first came to our church, it took some adjusting: one of them makes frequent noises ranging from grunts to popping noises. One of them—maybe even the same one, I’m not sure—rocks back and forth as well.

The outburst is louder than the other noises. It’s happened before, but during the Children’s Time. Apparently when he gets really excited or happy, his noises get louder and louder, and the caretaker has to discern when it’s time to leave. Only the man making noises doesn’t want to leave. He’s happy, he’s excited to be there… so while the caretaker stands up to leave, the man screams, “SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN!” But everyone graciously pretended to focus on the baptism while not turning around to see what was going on in back.

Eventually they left, but not until two church members told the caretaker to please return, that he shouldn’t worry about the outbursts.

The confirmands were each supposed to give a one-two minute speech from the pulpit. One of them froze and was crying, before her time to speak. I felt awful for her, knowing first-hand the paralyzing fear that can accompany public speaking. Her father spoke in her place, explaining that he was to blame for her fear of public speaking, because he had told her to picture everyone naked, and now she was traumatized. Everyone laughed. He then went on to read her speech, and he added his own observations about confirmation, how it was a hard course of study, how much the students learned, etc. It was beautiful.

We worshiped. We sang. We baptized. I preached. We confirmed. We cried a bit. We laughed a lot. We met God.

Not so unusual after all.