• GRACE NOTES 1/2/09: 'Life is good'

    One day last week, as I drove back to the newsroom after doing an interview, the message on the spare tire cover on the black Jeep in front of me caught my attention:

    Life is good.

    I had just come from one of my favorite places, the Key Training Center. A longtime resident had spent an entire year buying toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and she was bursting with joy.

  • Budgeting by the Bible

    BOSTON - Hummer, a 1957 hot rod, a comfortable house in a gated community — if Bob Vigliotti wanted something, he bought it. Cash or credit didn’t matter. As a successful commercial real estate developer from Naples, Fla., he could afford it. Until he couldn’t.

  • ON RELIGION 12/26/09: Bringing back Advent

    The Rev. Timothy Paul Jones kept hearing one thing when — four weeks before Christmas — he brought a wreath and some purple and pink candles into his Southern Baptist church near Tulsa, Okla.

    And all the people said: “Advent? Don’t Catholics do that?” This prickly response wasn’t all that unusual, in light of the history of Christmas in America, said Jones, who now teaches leadership and church ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 12/19/2009: The story of 'Hava Nagila'

    It is heard at Jewish weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and on occasions of great joy. The song has been recorded in many genres, from rock, reggae, and jazz to folk and country by such artists as Harry Belafonte and Neil Diamond. Despite its popularity in the world today, Hava Nagila started out with humble origins more than a hundred years ago.

  • GRACE NOTES 12/26/09: Faith stuck in one gear

    When I met my husband he drove a totally hot car, a brand-new 1973 Mercury Comet GT, white with burnt orange pinstripes and burnt orange interior.

    And it had a manual transmission.

    Because we were young and newly in love and Barry had miles of patience, he attempted to teach me to drive it. It helped that we lived in Northern Maine where there wasn’t much to crash into except snow banks and caribou.

  • Come as you are

    Wayne Wilkinson isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

    The pastor of Living Water Ministries in Beverly Hills, he spends his days amid rooms of second-hand furniture, clothing and household goods. His “office” is a desk in the thrift store the church runs in a building on the corner of N. Melbourne Street and Beverly Hills Boulevard that was once a fire station.

    Weekly worship services are in the “sanctuary”  — one of two former fire truck bays, with rows of mismatched patio furniture set up as pews.

  • Unitarian Universalist minister to retire

    The Rev. Mary Louise DeWolf has announced her retirement from ministry, effective January 1, 2010. Her final sermon as minister to the Nature Coast Unitarian Universalists will be at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 27.  Her topic is “A Beacon For Liberal Religion in Citrus County.”

    The Rev. DeWolf has been the minister at the Nature Coast Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for the past seven years.

  • They love to tell the story

    The story is more than 2,000 years old:

    Shepherds watching their flocks. Angels appearing in the sky. A virgin giving birth in a stable. No room at the inn. Bethlehem.

    A star guiding kings from the east. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Immanuel, the Prince of Peace.

  • GRACE NOTES 12/19/2009: In rememberance of Jesus

    I’m trying to remember Jesus. Not that I’ve ever really forgotten him. But there once was a time when he was my first and highest thought.

    There once was a time when my relationship with him took priority and precedence over everything else.

    Somewhere, sometime, somehow in the past 30 years I pushed him aside, although that sounds harsh, a violent, one-time shove.

  • GRACE NOTES 12/12/09: Shine, Jesus, shine

    My usual church time is the Saturday night service. If I do go to church on Sunday, I prefer going at 9 a.m.

    A few weeks ago, however, I went to the later Sunday morning service because I was meeting someone afterward for a newspaper story I was working on.

    On Saturday nights, I like to watch the sky through the giant arched window above the stage area in the sanctuary. At this time of year, the sun sets while church is going on and dusk is gorgeous, with the sky changing from blue to amber to black.