Archives For My Life

Photo-a-Day: #Path

February 24, 2015 — Leave a comment


Yep, we still have snow on the ground! Jason created this path for me.

Photo-a-Day: #Covenant

February 24, 2015 — Leave a comment


Did you ever have the experience of taking a picture, knowing what Bible verse you were going to attach to it, along with whatever pithy interpretation of that verse you might offer, and then read the verse in context and realize that your pithy interpretation of that verse is garbage? Yes, me too all the time.

I’ll still offer the verse (highlighted below) that I chose for “covenant,” and it still applies with regard to “covenant,” but I’ll give you just a bit of the context (for the full context, read the first 40 chapters of Isaiah).

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17   learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, let us argue it out,
   says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
   they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Photo-a-Day: #Celebrate

February 22, 2015 — Leave a comment


The kids pictured here who attend elementary schools or pre-schools in Henderson County have been out of school all week this past week! Today, we celebrated getting out of the house and being together again at church this morning and at Pump-It-Up this afternoon. We made a huge mess in the art room and talked about Jesus and the season of Lent and some kids dug jack-o-lantern foam pieces out of the big box of foam pieces and stuck them on their crosses. Because: kids.

Back to school tomorrow–on a one hour delay!


Photo-a-Day: #Joy

February 21, 2015 — Leave a comment


Jason missed the major snow event, but he’s enjoying the winter weather now that he’s home. You have to look close to see the look of joy on his face as he stands in pajamas and bare feet on the edge of our front stoop and studies the ice covered tree in our front yard, but it’s there. Look beyond him and you can see our yard full of snow and our slush covered road.

Photo-a-Day: #Alone

February 20, 2015 — 1 Comment


Am I ever really alone anymore? I mean, The Almighty aside, how often do I truly find seclusion? There are plenty of times that I am physically alone–no other people in the room or in the building…

…but, I have my phone that connects me to hundreds of people in almost that many ways.

…but, I have my laptop that connects me to my classmates and church members.

…and also? I just never really have to stop and ponder and think and dream because I always have something to do! I can check my email. I can update facebook. I can tweet and instagram and crush candy and google any question that comes to mind.

I very much value the technology that connects me to people I love and keeps me in the loop where I otherwise might get disconnected from the lives of high school and college friends I no longer see regularly. My phone, this week, has brought me updates on a friend having surgery and all of the things going on in the lives of youth group kids I care about who are out of school because of snow. Technology allows me to share my thoughts and keep an online journal here at this site. It is making a Masters of Divinity degree possible at this stage in my life. This is not a “down with technology” post!

Yet, what I have realized is if I don’t intentionally make time to be alone without my phone and technology, I do not give my attention, thought, and prayer fully. And I am a person who needs to find time to be alone with my thoughts and my prayer time.

Jesus valued being alone. He was accustomed to having crowds of people follow him and almost always had some of his group of twelve disciples with him, but there were times he left them all behind to go be alone and pray. Just a couple of weeks ago in Church, we read from Mark 1:35-45, which starts this way:

In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

While I was at UDTS for January term, I met regularly with my Spiritual Formation Group. We discussed the book by Gary Hansen that I shared about last month and practiced many different ways to pray together, but one that I really liked and knew I needed to practice regularly is The Examen. This practice was formally brought to the church by St. Ignatius of Loyola, but there is no doubt that many Christians practice it regularly in informal ways as it is just a great way to pray.

The Jesuits pray The Examen daily (twice a day, even). I pray daily, but have set aside Fridays as my day to put away my phone and laptop and pray The Examen. I have a notebook (pictured above) designated just for this. To help me focus, I start with a blank piece of paper and then as I begin I write headings on the paper. Last week, it was “done” and “not done,” “loved” and “failed to love,” “seen” and “heard,” and “obedience” and “disobedience.” I write in those columns, and on the back, and usually outside the lines. As things come to mind, I write them down and as mental distractions creep in, I make a note and set them aside. I also have a “worksheet” that helps guide me as I consider the week behind me and look to the week ahead.

So today is the day I pray my Examen. Alone with my busy mind, reflecting and listening for God to speak. How will you pray on this third day of Lent?

Photo-a-Day: #Look

February 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

copyright Jason S. Durham


Jason is home from backpacking in Florida and he brought this photo of an (annoyed?) alligator back with him. It appears that our reptile friend is not very excited to be examined as he (she?) catches some rays on a trail at Myakka State Park.

Photo-a-Day: #Announce

February 18, 2015 — Leave a comment



Today is Ash Wednesday.

Christians all over the world will visibly wear an outward sign of their faith today.

In most cases, it will be a cross smudged in ash on their foreheads.

I think about a young lady at my church last year who insisted her ash be put on her hand rather than her forehead. I never asked her reasoning, but there could be many reasons from not wanting the oil from the mixture on her face to not liking to be touched on her forehead. Or maybe it was that she just didn’t want the cross to be so obvious or visible.

One of my friends texted today on her way out of the Ash Wednesday service she attended. Her quote was this: “Heading back to work…most anxiety-provoking thing I do probably. Bold in my faith, bold in my faith….” She works in a government office and she was well-aware that by returning to work with an ashen cross on her forehead, she was making an announcement of sorts. Without words, she was announcing that she had been to church, that she identifies with Jesus, that she is a person of faith.  Perhaps she was surprised to see others around her with crosses making visible announcements, too. My hope for her is that it provided an opportunity or two for conversation (she really likes conversation, so I think she’d be okay with me hoping for this).

A cross on my forehead is a very recognizable symbol, but there are a lot of things I do or neglect to do that announce, correctly or not, something about my identity and my faith. My hope as I walk this Lent is that people will recognize Jesus in my words and actions.

Observing Lent in 2015

February 17, 2015 — 1 Comment

All right, I know. I’ve been absent.

I’m going to work on getting back to the discipline of writing regularly in the next forty days. I’ve been in the habit the last several years of publicly writing through and about Lent in this space, so this seems like a good opportunity to get back to it.

Here are two things I’ll be doing:

40 Bags in 40 Days

This is a de-clutter, de-crapify, and confront consumeristic tendencies kind of challenge. The idea is to remove clutter from one area of your home, office, or life per day. I am working on a list of how this needs to happen in my life. I’ll be working in my closet, in my files, my friends list on facebook, our pantry, and (gulp!) my bookshelves. I will donate and recycle whatever I can.

lent-2015-large-graphic2015 Lenten Photo-A-Day Project

I will take a picture a day, using this graphic as a guide. I will post the picture here, and if I’m inspired to do so, I’ll write a little bit about the word or the photo as well.

My hope is that Lent will be a time when I will seek God and allow God to restore some discipline in my life, because although I feel like I’m doing well in some areas of my life (school, work, my prayer disciplines), I’m struggling in others (diet, exercise, staying organized, keeping in better touch with my loved ones).

Do you observe Lent? How will you mark these 40 days this year?

Hi friends! Time’s flying and I’m in the middle of my second trip to Iowa for an intensive as I seek to complete my Masters of Divinity degree in the distance program at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS).

Last semester, I completed a Theological Research class, a Spiritual Formation class, and Foundations of Worship during the August Term and Old Testament and Missions/Evangelism during the semester (distance learning). That turned out all right.

This semester, I am taking Spiritual Formation and History and Confessions of the PC(USA) during the January Term and I will take New Testament and Presbyterian Polity during the Spring Semester (distance learning).

Things are going well. We’ve had some adventures here. I arrived in Iowa on Saturday (January 3) at supper time. Around midnight, I got in the passenger seat of classmate Krista’s vehicle and we drove to Moline to pick up Jennifer when her flight landed at 1:00 a.m.



Jennifer had an interesting time getting to Dubuque. Starting on Friday night with her original flight, and then several attempts at other cities that would get her close to Dubuque, every flight got canceled. Just when she was setting up a permanent living space in the Denver Airport, she got on a flight to Moline. Krista commemorated this with the following sign that greeted Jennifer at the Moline airport:



On the way back to Dubuque, it started snowing:



If you’re reading this, you might get used to weather related observations. There is a lot of weather in Dubuque, Iowa. In fact, let’s just get this one out of the way:


I have taken several photos of the weather app on my phone this week.

Finally, come Sunday night, most of us had made it to Dubuque, and come Monday evening, all of the first year distance cohort (minus Evelyn, who is not able to join us this time) had finally, safely made it to Dubuque. Everyone got scarves!



Living in a hotel is interesting. When you volunteer to cook dinner, there are limited options. Our standards for where it is acceptable to prepare food are lowered here. For example, a rather popular place to cook and prepare food here is the bathroom. I gave that a try on Monday. The result was a Hawaiian Chicken that is now known as “Bathroom Chicken.” Yum, yum!


Class is going well. As I mentioned, I’m taking my spiritual formation credit with my wonderful Spiritual Formation Group and I’m taking a class with Dr. Gary Hansen on History and Confessions of the PC(USA).



My mother has pointed out that it appears coffee is very important in my spiritual formation. I do consume a lot of coffee normally, and it seems to be a much higher level of consumption when I’m in Dubuque. First, coffee is hot and it’s pretty cold here. Second, coffee has magical powers to keep my eyelids open, which is pretty important when one is in class and Chapel 7-8 hours a day.

On Monday, it snowed.



(Yes, that photo is jarring for many reasons. I think the camera on my phone was shivering when I took this.)

We bundle up when we go to class. Or anywhere else. Especially those of us from slightly warmer climates. It’s cold here.


Ben from Georgia



Carolyn from Florida

 Our classes are interesting and fun, for the most part. I’m very much enjoying the things we are learning. There are breaks that include dance parties, prayer and song, and other shenanigans (like this selfie with John Calvin).


Jennifer and John

I’m working some on my bubble and block letter techniques, but at least I’m keeping it relevant.



I think John Calvin is pretty impressed.




copyright Jason Durham 2014

You may or may not know that my husband Jason is a writer.

He’s decided to start publishing some of his work online at his new site.

He’ll mostly write about his adventures on the trails he hikes and bikes, but it will also be filled with life lessons one can learn on such trails…or the people one can meet in some pretty amazing places…or the pictures one can take in the great outdoors (sometimes while trekking off the trail to pee, he likes to remind me)…or the funny things that happen when you venture out where most people won’t.

Take a moment and check out his site!