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Archive for Pastor’s Message


Trust the Vision


“And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” – Revelation 22:1-6      Navajos begin each morning with prayers of thanksgiving for the rising sun, air, water, and all the gifts of the Creator. The Psalms we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters sing of all creatures, from rock badgers to the great whales that God made “just for the sport of it.” (Psalm 104).

The Psalms also acknowledge our dependency upon God’s care for creation. “You visit the earth and water it,” affirms Psalm 65, “you water its furrows abundantly.” They affirm creation’s thanks in return: “The valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”

But sometimes our prayers for the earth are laments. Isaiah despaired over the king who “made the world like a desert” and cut down all the trees. We’ve seen such visions. In New Mexico and Navajo land this summer, toxic waste from an abandoned mine turned the Animas River a sickly orange. In California, drought-ravaged trees went up in flames. Like the prophets, we have reason for lament.

But like them, our prayers for the earth can also be visions of a renewed creation. Abandoned on Patmos, knowing well the devastation brought by the Roman Empire, John of Revelation saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” Trees with leaves for the healing of the nations, a crystal clear river.

And the Creator said, “These words are trustworthy and true.” John could trust his vision of a renewed earth. So can we. God never leaves us only with lament. God gives us the vision we need to renew our love for this earth, so we can help renew it.

                                                                                    Found in Still Speaking by Talitha Arnold

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn


Why we need gun control and more

Excerpts from article by Adam Erickson in Sojourners


The scariest thing about those who commit mass murders is just how normal they are. In the wake of Umpqua Community College shooting last week, the New York Times published an article titled, “Mass Murderers Fit Profile, as Do Many Others Who Don’t Kill.”

We’d really like to have an explanation that makes these killers “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill and demand our society do a better job caring for them. While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill.

So what are the signs that someone may turn into a shooter? The Times makes another disturbing claim, “With many of the killers, the signs are of anger and disappointment and solitude.” Those emotions are universal. How do we make sense of that? There’s a darkness that creeps up within all of us, and if we are being honest we might admit the horrifying truth that there’s not a lot that separates us from them.

Typically, no one ever teaches us how to manage our feelings of resentment in nonviolent and healthy ways. In fact, we are taught the opposite. 9/11 taught us that if someone hits you, you hit them back. Only, you don’t just hit them back, you up the ante. You hit them with “Shock and Awe” to destroy the enemy’s will to fight back. But Shock and Awe has only “worked” to embed violence deeper within our culture. Violence isn’t just “their” problem; it’s our problem. It infects all of us. Almost every day we hear about another violent attack.

We need stricter gun control laws, no doubt. But we need so much more than gun control. We need models who will lead us toward a massive shift in our culture. Resentment and violence infects us all and we need to learn better ways to take responsibility to manage our anger, disappointment, and hatred. That’s why the spiritual practice of confession is so important. It’s much healthier to talk out our emotions than it is to bottle them up. Without the ability to talk about our frustrations, we externalize our emotions by blaming others.

Much more than gun control, we must shift our culture of violence to a culture of peace. We need models who will lead us to move beyond resentment and towards an ethic of love, a love that embraces even our enemies. The answer is to work through our resentment and come out the other side into love. More than anything, we need to be challenged with a daring and challenging mission. In the face of a culture that responds to violence with more violence, we need more people who will step up and model how to return love for hatred, forgiveness for anger, kindness for hostility, peace for violence.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn


This past Sunday Pastor Carolyn shared a sermon on being Good Enough in the eyes of God. She reminded us that we are all good enough.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, it wasn’t until I perused Facebook and the internet this week, that the sermon truly hit home. Not only have many of us been taught through our spiritual journey that we are not good enough to partake in a relationship with God, but we are barraged with societal images that we are not good enough for society; thus believing that we are not good enough for anything or ourselves.

The fall can be a time of many memories for me. While it’s been 13 years since my life was truly held in the hands of another, it does not seem like it has been that long. They are no longer flashbacks or make me feel like I am reliving the situation; no longer am I left separated from the world around me. Deep inside, though, a here the lost child yearning to hear she is good enough. Good enough to be loved. Good enough to be cared for. Good enough to deserve a relationship that doesn’t hurt or leave her fearing for her life. Good enough to be able to walk away from the harm and start anew. Good enough to love herself.

This past Sunday, I didn’t know it, but hearing I am good enough was what I needed to hear for this week, this month, and my life. When things aren’t going quite my way, a gentle reminder that I am good enough is what can push me on my way and get me back on track.

As Carolyn shared on Sunday, we are all good enough. We are good enough to be loved, to love ourselves, and to show others love. Whether it is in the eyes of the church, society, or ourselves, we are good enough.

Peace and blessings as you go through the week reminding yourself that you are good enough!

President Natalie


A couple of years ago and it was beginning at a slow, lazy pace Saturday. My brother was staying with us and we were idly eating breakfast thinking about the day, when we decided on a day trip in the Shenandoah mountains. That was not hard to do since we lived only an hours drive away. My brother had the first of his brain surgeries and was recovering. I was on Sabbatical. There was nothing urgent. Soon we were up on the cool, leafy drive looking at the valley below or at the mountains across from us. Then the speculation began, what if we see a bear! So the search was on. Would we see a bear?


My brother mentioned, you know we could just stay the night here. It didn’t matter that we had nothing with us in the way of clean clothes, toothbrushes and such. Sure…of course… why not! So at one of the ranger stations we were able to call ahead to a lodge and hurray – there was a vacancy! We got the stuff we needed at the camp store. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and a bit of food.


We hit the road and enjoyed the beautiful foliage when sure enough – right in front of us was a juvenile, black bear. We stopped to admire and of course for Ken to get photos. But that wasn’t the end of the experience. By the time we got to the lodge we spotted 3 black bears! We were beside ourselves with excitement. My brother’s mantra for the rest of the day was, “I love bears!” We even got matching bear T-Shirts at the lodge gifts shop to celebrate the bears. “I love bears.”


Sometimes we have bears inside us. They are dormant, and then all of a sudden they are running around, creating emotional havoc, making their presence known. Elisha the prophet was an important man. He was God’s mouthpiece. But try mocking him and “Arghh!” Elisha roars and his internal bears come running.

I bet Elisha felt so much regret. He was a good man. He cured people of leprosy, raised the dead, and multiplied bread to feed the hungry. Except he had bears.   Here’s the thing: we all have a pair of bears lurking in the underbrush. Carl Jung taught that each one of us has a “shadow aspect.” Your shadow in an unconscious aspect of your personality, the least desirable part of who you are, the part you don’t want to acknowledge. Elisha was a wonder-worker, and he was petty, angry, and proud. He wouldn’t accept those parts of himself. So they lurked in the woods, waiting to surprise him. The man didn’t know his bears. When they leapt into his life they raged out of his control.

For sure we learn in life that it is better if you better know your bears. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. For only when we see ourselves for who we truly are can we hope to calm our bears, soothe them, and even use them. If we don’t, they’ll use us. If you get to know your bears you know, the better they are to love.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn


Darn That Jesus!

“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” – Matthew 21:28-32 Darn that Jesus! Isn’t it just like him to mess up my Sunday. Here I was planning to go to church where I could pledge my support for truth, justice, kindness, generosity and all right causes and feel pretty good about myself, before coming home to take a long nap, watch a violent football game, have a few stiff drinks with dinner and go to bed.   And then this. This story of two brothers. One a yes-man. “Yup, Daddy, that’s right, I’m off to the vineyard. No, don’t thank me, it’s the right thing to do!” He then snuck out the back to go joy-riding and catch a movie. The other son, never very cooperative, told the old man, “forget it.” But then, surprise, he couldn’t quite forget it himself and went down to the fields to help out, working a long, hot day.   How does this happen? How does it happen that we say “yes” but do “no”? How does it happen that we say things, and really believe them at the time, but they don’t translate into the way we live and the actions we take?   And how does it happen that at least sometimes the people that don’t seem to give a hoot about all the right values and pretty much thumb their noses at them, go out of their way to help out and give all they’ve got?


Well, here I am stuck in church, messed up by Jesus . . . Here I am wondering if it’s me he’s talking about. Here I am thinking the amazing thing is that despite all the times I have said “yes” and done “no,” he’s come to sit now at my side. And this is what he says, “Let’s give it another shot. Don’t just believe in me, follow me. Here we go. That’s right. Just follow me, you’ll get it.”

Found in Still Speaking, written by Tony Robinson

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn


THANK YOU! I just want you to know how much I appreciate the send off with the surprise blessing at the end of the worship on August 23rd.   The teal bracelets that say “Go, Carolyn, Go!” are great. I’ve managed to share some with friends and family. And I was totally surprised this last Sunday with the tremendous sea of teal t-shirts. What a great welcome back! I am amazed that you all kept the surprise a secret and did it so well. I had no idea! You blew me away and I am grateful for all the support.


The testing in Houston was extensive. One day started with an appointment at 7:30 in the morning and ended that night at around 11:20 when I walked back to the room where my family was waiting following an MRI. I was impressed with how organized and thorough M.D. Anderson is. The staff is compassionate and doctors are among the best in the nation. Thursday they had a multidisciplinary meeting of around 20 doctors to come up with what type of cancer this is and to create a treatment plan.


I am able to receive treatment here. I will begin with three cycles of chemotherapy. One cycle is one day every 3 weeks. After the 3 cycles, I will return to M.D. Anderson to see how well I am responding to the treatment. The doctors didn’t pull any punches – they said chemo is tough, but that it is treatable and hopefully we can put this into remission. I am all for that! I see the oncologist here in Wichita this week and all will be scheduled. Thank you for the continued prayers and support as treatment can begin now very soon.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn


Hard Headed Hope

“Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

~ I Thessalonians 5:1-11

“Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote Emily Dickinson, “that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

“Hope is a muscle” wrote the author of a book about a girls basketball team. Hope is a helmet, said the Apostle Paul.   Paul, the eternal realist, encouraged the early Christians of Thessalonica to put on “a helmet of hope of salvation.” It’s a great metaphor. Hope is often under siege, whether in Paul’s time or ours. One glance at the daily news makes hope seem naive and those who hold hope appear foolish. We often need the protection a helmet affords to keep hope alive. A good friend who is dean of a state college needs a helmet of hope when her programs are cut to the bone. The young parishioner putting his college plans on hold due to economics could use a helmet of hope. The father hugging his Marine daughter as she heads overseas needs such a helmet. In this new journey of illness, hope is my helmet. There were some complications with my insurance coverage that would prohibit me from going to M.D. Anderson. I am grateful. That hurdle has been jumped and the insurance problem resolved. From my perspective it’s a sundog moment! I will begin traveling to M.D. Anderson in Houston on September 4th for testing that will begin on September 8th and is anticipated to go through September 10th. From there they will come up with a treatment plan of either traditional chemo or a clinical trial. I am putting on my helmet of hope!

We all need God’s helmet of hope. Paul calls it the “hope of salvation.” Yes, it’s the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but it’s also hope that saves us from despair and discouragement, be it about our world or ourselves.

So put on the helmet of hope today. We need God’s hard hat for the hard knocks of life.

Adaptation of a devotion found in Still Speaking Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn


It was good to be back more fully in worship this Sunday, bringing the message even though I did use a bar stool. When I mentioned this on Facebook, one friend said that some of the best sermons are from a bar stool. I’m reminded of a church in Nashville which holds Christmas Eve service at the Wild Horse Saloon. Perhaps I should send a picture from the Wild Horse Saloon to be included in the slides this week in case I need the bar stool again.

I am back in the church office this week on a modified schedule to see how well I can manage, so I am available at the church from 10 until noon. Hopefully, I can expand my hours next week. It largely depends on my stamina. As I mentioned in my sermon, there are traces of cancer that were not able to be removed surgically, so further treatment will be needed. It is an unusual cancer cell for an Ovarian mass, so treatment may likely entail going to a larger cancer treatment center such as M.D. Anderson in Houston. My intention is to be as fully available to Pine Valley Christian Church as possible with minimal interruption to our ministry together, but with the full realization that there will be some days that are better than others and times I may be away for treatment. Thank you for supporting me and journeying with me.   Together we will make it!

If you would like to talk with me about this, please feel free to call. As I said on Sunday, your prayers are precious. Thank you, I am deeply grateful.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn



How we image God really does matter. In journeying with people, I’ve discovered that an individual’s reaction to life events often reflects what they think about God. Is God a kind shepherd or a warrior? Through the years I have come to love the many images or faces there are for God.   Some are the ones that have been with us a long time: God as Father, God as Shepherd, God as Rock and even God as Baker Woman. But how about clothing, grandmother, fragrance, vineyard dresser?   Based on the book Wearing God by Lauren Winner, let’s take a look at some of the more lyrical, often overlooked metaphors for God. This series will run through the remainder of August through Labor Day.


In a momentous decision last Friday, the Supreme Court determined that all couples have the right to be married. From now on all Americans can marry who they love. For members at Pine Valley Christian Church, it’s a time to celebrate.

It also is a day that brings complications, especially for a denomination that emphasizes Alexander Campbell’s slogan “Unity is our Polar Star.”   One of the core values held highest by Disciples of Christ is Christian unity. In conversations and in prayers during worship this weekend, I have heard that yearning among our members. We celebrate and yet pray for Christian unity among all Christians. It matters as we navigate the road before us for Christian unity.

Benjamin Moberg, in a recent article on Sojourners, shares from conversations he has had with what he calls brave, honest Christians who want to love, but they can’t cross the bridge of their theology. A wide gulf of scripture and theology stand between them. He says many say something like this, “I want to be where you are. I’m trying to get there. But this is what I’ve got. This is what I believe right now.”


The article suggests looking for common ground by finding places where we can all meet together:

  • Start with LGBTQ youth homelessness. Nearly 40 percent of the youth homeless population is LGBTQ. That is an epidemic. Teach parents to be better. Instill children with the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Donate to a shelter.
  • Talk about employment discrimination, and the fact that in over half of the country, some of LGBTQ friends and neighbors are at risk of being fired simply on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Talk about school bullying and workplace hostility.
  • Talk about broadly written discriminatory religious freedom laws.
  • Talk about violence against trans-folks, particularly trans women of color, and how 45 percent of hate murders in 2011 were against these women.
  • Talk about the high rate of poverty that is a result of much of the above listed oppression.


In the journey of Christian unity, I hope the response is love. I pray it looks like love. I pray it exemplifies love.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Carolyn