• GRACE NOTES 07/31/2010: A meeting with the "UUs"

    According to Forest Gump, Christians are like a box of chocolates.

    You can’t always tell which ones are nuts.

    Also, when you bite into a bad one, it ruins your taste for the rest of the box.

    That’s what I used as my opening Sunday as the invited guest speaker at the local Unitarian-Universalist fellowship.

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 07/17/2010: Naming a synagogue

    Shakespeare, in Ro­m­eo and Juliet, asks: “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name still smells as sweet.” Obviously, Shakespeare did not know much about Jewish names for synagogues, for, as one will discover, names are very important and have a lot to say about a particular congregation.

  • Worship, plain and simple

    DENVER, Colo. — Megachurch, meet microchurch.

    Growing numbers of Coloradans believe the tiny house church, also called a simple church or an organic church, might be the mightier transformer of Christian lives.

    A recliner becomes a pulpit. A sofa and some armchairs serve as pews.

    Where two or more people are gathered in his name, Jesus said, there he is. House churches range in size from two people to a dozen or slightly more.

  • Precious memories

    The history of a church is the story of God working in the lives of his people.

    However, often the official church archives are dry as toast, reduced to records of property sales and church attendance numbers. Missing are the stories of the people who were baptized, married and buried. People who baked the most delicious Easter cakes and the kids who used to sneak in the church and ring the bell.

  • GRACE NOTES 07/24/2010: A cure for "testimony envy."

    When my youngest daughter was in middle school, she told me she got gypped out of a testimony.

    She went on to explain that whenever she went to church camp or a retreat, a guest speaker would give his or her faith testimony.

    The details would differ from speaker to speaker, but not the format: “I used to do really, really bad things” or “my life was really, really bad because other people did really, really bad things to me and then I met Jesus and now my life is really, really good.”

  • ON RELIGION 07/24/2010: Jewelry for the faithful.

    KERRVILLE, Texas — The bracelet is both simple and a bit strange, since it consists of six or seven fishing lures connected end to end.

    Some people look at this piece of silver or gold jewelry in the James Avery line and they see fishing lures — period.

    But other shoppers see the same item and they think of these words of Jesus: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This is especially true if they have completed a United Methodist Walk to Emmaus weekend, or some other renewal program inspired by the Catholic Cursillo movement.

  • GRACE NOTES 07/17/2010: Blessings in messiness

    When I was 16 or so I made sand candles.

    A hole in damp sand acts like a mold that you pour hot wax into. When the wax dries, you lift out a candle and brush the sand off. Voila!

    A friend taught me how to make them while we were at the beach one day, and I decided it would be fun to try it at home. So, we loaded up my mom’s car with boxes of sand and once home, I set out to show Mom what I had learned by putting huge hunks of wax and red crayons in a pot on the stove to melt. Mom loves candles and I was eager to present her with a waxen masterpiece.

  • ON RELIGION 07/10/2010: A wake-up call that worked

    It wasn’t hard to connect the dots when, after decades of lurid news about the sexual abuse of the young, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delivered a Good Friday sermon bemoaning “how much filth” was in the church, including “the priesthood.”

    Weeks after that signal in 2005, the cardinal became pope. Then at World Youth Day 2008, he said, “I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured. ... These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation.”

  • Wisdom of experience

    “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

    — 1 Timothy 4:12

    From the early days of the Christian church, older pastors have taken young pastors-in-training under their wings, just as the Apostle Paul did with Timothy, his “son in the faith.”

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 07/03/2010: Historic synagogues of America

    Twenty-six years after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, a group of Jews from Recife, Brazil, landed in the Dutch city of New Amsterdam. The year was 1654, and the Jews were Spanish and Portuguese refugees fleeing the persecution of the Inquisition. They left Brazil when the Inquisition reached the South American shores, and were seeking a new life here in America.