Today’s Word: Isaiah 7:10-16

This post will serve as my photo post of the day and also an update on our cat, Simon (female, despite her name, but she doesn’t care if you get it wrong).

Simon became visibly sick last weekend, but she has likely been sick for awhile before that. She’s had quite a week of vet visits, needles, x-rays, pills, syringe feeding, and fighting to stay alive. It’s been hard to navigate this week, but we have a wonderful vet who has made this easier.

We’ve tried to show Simon lots of love this week, whether she understands it as love or not. She’s never been easy to medicate before, and she still is not, but we have learned how to give her the pill she needs each morning.

When she was refusing to eat, Jason sat her on his lap several times a day and fed her with a syringe.

You might think we’re living on the set of the movie “Signs,” because we have left containers of water all over the apartment for her so she doesn’t have far to go to have a drink. (Remember when the terrifying aliens in that movie could be defeated with water? I wanted to love that movie, but the ending was so dumb.)

To entice her to eat on her own, we’ve bought several types of food in hopes that she would want one of them. She’s mostly eating the Fancy Feast with gravy, but we still think she’s not eating enough.

Jason turned on the heat (finally!) because she seemed cold. She has lost half of her body weight, so that’s probably true.

Simon is very sick, and we know that. We know that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our pets is help them cross the rainbow bridge. She’s had some good days this week, but we know there are some big things going on in her too tiny body.

For now, however, she’s splashing water from one of her many dishes all over the living room floor as she slaps at the water with her paw before putting her face down for a drink.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll head back to the vet for a pre-Christmas break check-up. The plan, at this point, is to leave her with their wonderful staff for the week (where she will get some specialized care while we head to Kentucky and our families).

We appreciate the love coming from our friends and family during this time. A lot of you have been there. Our pets become our family. Simon has been with us for almost 16 years, most of which have been very healthy and fun.

Thanks for reading this unconventional Advent reflection/update, and for your prayers.

Today, at many churches, we light the Love candle on the Advent wreath. Christmas is almost here.


Our friend, Scott, died unexpectedly on Monday. The service was today (Saturday). We were coming to Henderson anyway this weekend and I was honored to be able to offer the eulogy at the service today. Rev. Eric Hoey and Scott’s congregation (my “home” church) did a beautiful job with his Home-going and it was my privilege to be there with them.

Here are the words I wrote and tried to speak today:


I sincerely wish I didn’t have a reason to be standing here today, but know that it’s my great honor to be able to share some words about my friend, Scott. My name is Becky Durham, and I was the youth director here at this church for 18 years, until we moved to North Carolina last summer.

Scott was a faithful attender of Sunday worship all those years and plenty before that, sitting next to his grandmother, and for most of the time I knew him, sitting in a back pew near his dear friend Willie Ann Brock. 

After Scott left his job at Evansville ARC, I got to know him well because he started coming to the church on a near daily basis. He was here so much, he became an honorary member of the church staff—but you know, like an intern, because it was an unpaid honorary position. He was even invited to staff birthday celebrations, and we started throwing parties for him each July, too. And any time we were planning on grabbing lunch somewhere, someone usually called “Spanky”’ to see what he wanted. When he was in the building, Scott could usually be found wherever our Custodian, Dave Beshear (Gov) was working. Those two could stir up all kinds of hilarity together, and I could usually find them by just following the laughter, and sometimes the trash talk.


Scott liked movies and he loved fishing. He hated cold weather and he loved UK basketball. If you were friends with him online, you know he commented about both of those things regularly. I mean, sometimes from his comments you weren’t exactly sure that he loved UK basketball, but I believe he was pointing out any flaws because he knew they weren’t always living up to their full potential and he wanted them to be the best they could be.

That’s what Scott wanted for anyone actually. He was kind and gentle with people, whether they were family members, friends, church leaders or community leaders, strangers he met along the way, and he wanted them to be the best they could be. If he was frustrated or upset with someone, it was because he knew they could do better or be better.

Sometimes people didn’t take the time to get to know him, and they made assumptions about him, and that frustrated Scott. people often treated him like he was stupid, for example. They would speak loudly or slowly to him. Or they would assume he needed help when he didn’t. Sometimes he would tell me about an interaction with a child, often while he was working at Walmart, and he felt it was obvious adults still weren’t doing enough to teach kids not to stare or make rude comments, or to accept differences in general. 

Scott was a lot of things, but he was not stupid. He was proud of his education, and how he used it for so many years to help adults with different abilities find jobs. He thought deeply about a lot of things and he was pretty good at pointing out BS when he heard it.

Scott loved his friends. Nothing made him as happy as having an event with friends on his calendar. Some of you here today were part of the group he loved going bowling with. Or maybe you met up with him at Rookies on a Saturday night. Or you were part of the group he did men’s retreats with. Or maybe you were the reason I was wrapping presents with him on a Christmas morning a couple years ago—he was so excited to be invited to a Christmas celebration in your home, that he sheepishly appeared at our door with a shopping bag and roll of wrapping paper. “Do you have any tape?” He asked. “I really want these presents to look good.”


If you included him, invited him, called him, wrote him a note, he felt really special and that mattered to him. Scott was proud of his friends and he was loyal to them.

Scott never wished anything bad for anyone. He knew relationships are complicated, and he navigated them with hope and assumptions of good intent. If you are here this afternoon, wishing you had done better by Scott or regretting something you did or didn’t do, I know he wouldn’t want you to sit with those feelings any longer. He really believed you always did the best you could.

He loved Wednesday night suppers here at the church. Well, at least he loved them until 6:55, when he would sneak out the door to get home in time for the opening credits of Survivor.

He served on the Session here—which is the church board for any of you who speak Baptist or whatever. It frustrated him when the process was slow and the meetings were long. Scott was a man of action! Something needs done? Why isn’t someone doing it already, for goodness’ sake?

He got to the point where he felt comfortable sharing in some of the worship leadership here. He began volunteering to be the liturgist in the service, which meant he had a good deal of reading to do on those Sundays. He would show up early and practice hard. Now if you’ve ever read aloud from the Bible in church, you know that sometimes you hit a tough word. I remember a Sunday morning a few years ago when Scott was tasked with reading the name “Melchizedek.” During practice, it was not going well. I mean that’s a hard word. I’ve been to seminary, and I practiced saying that name before I got up here this afternoon. “Just say ‘Big Papa M,’” I suggested. He rolled his eyes at me and told me he was going with “Mickey” instead. “I’m pretty sure his friends didn’t call him ‘Mel-whatever-it-is,’” he said. As usual, he had a point.

Scott had a flair for drama—as in acting, I mean. He loved to be part of a dramatic production here at the church. On a Maundy Thursday night several years ago, he played Peter, while our pastor at the time, John Guthrie washed his feet, pouring water from a pitcher into a basin and then placing Scott’s feet in the water. I’m not sure whose idea it was to put ice in the water that would be used that night……., it might have been John, or it might have been Gov, but either way Scott was a good sport who loved a good joke…and we told that story all the time.


He and Gary Thomas, a good friend, would play the disciples Pete and Andy, putting on two man dramas about different events in Jesus’ ministry with his disciples. Scott would rehearse for hours, determined to hit every line just right. He loved having lines that would get the big laughs, and he was proud to be part of leading worship.

One of Scott’s favorite scriptures was found in Luke 13, when Jesus heals, on the sabbath, a woman who had been bent over without the ability to straighten her back for 18 years. He related to this woman, he said. And sometimes he and I would talk about it and he would wonder why Jesus hadn’t healed him. He wasn’t questioning God…just wondering when his time with a body that didn’t work the way he wished it would might be over and he could be healed too. He wasn’t bitter about it, you understand. I think he just wanted to know someone believed with him that it might happen. 

I believe he’s been healed completely and freed from the shaking and struggling that he accepted as his daily challenge. 

He preached a sermon here once. He talked about the joy of belonging, the great feeling of being known and loved. He had such a strong faith in a God who knew him and loved him completely all the days of his life. And he believed his church was like that too.


As part of his sermon, he played the theme song from the sitcom cheers. “Where Everybody knows your name” by Gary Portnoy. He and I found it together, and it was several years ago, and I don’t remember how we were able to handle that feat technologically. I would guess that we found the song online and burned it to a CD. He was so frustrated, whatever the means we used, that the version we found had more verses than what played as part of the theme song. For example the second verse talks about an unpaid light bill someone being stood up at a wedding, and the third verse references someone’s husband wanting to be a girl. “I just don’t think that’s necessary,” he argued with me.

But The part Scott wanted to play that morning, maybe you know it too. It goes like this:

Making your way in the world today

Takes everything you got

Taking a break from all your worries

sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You want to be where you can see

troubles are all the same

You want to be where everybody knows your name

You want to go where people know

The people are all the same

You want to go where everybody knows your name

(words by Gary Portnoy)


Goals: 2019 Edition

There was a time in recent years (for a long string of years) when, if you would have asked me about my goals, I would not have known what to say. I didn’t take the time to consider or name or claim or quantify my goals. I didn’t have a plan for next steps for my life, for my ministry, for our marriage, for tomorrow. “It will happen if it’s going to happen” was my motto about goals.

In the past few years, that has changed. There came a point when I felt restless and ready for something new to grow. I began to spend time with and listen to people who know the value of goal-setting. And I began to set some goals, and new things began to take root and grow and come to pass.

2018 has been a year of big goals realized. After 4 years and 85 credit hours, I have my Masters Degree. I am now ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. We have a new zip code (not that we necessarily set a goal to get rid of the former one, but this new zip code is where the church I am called to serve is). I walked 1000 exercise miles like I did in 2017. Jason was able to sell the window cleaning business he built over 13 years (more his goal than mine, but a big change for the better for us).

For 2019, I’ve set two official goals.

I will walk 1000 miles for exercise again. This year, we’re Racing Rings Around Saturn. You can learn about that challenge here. 1000 miles breaks down to about 3 a day, which keeps me moving all year long.

I will read Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” translation of the Bible cover to cover this year, including the introductions to each section and book. I think it’s probably time for me to ingest the Bible cover to cover again, and reading it in a different version will challenge me. Plus, Eugene Peterson has become an important theologian to me since I’ve become a pastor, and I’d like to study the Bible with him this way.

I also hope to work on improving my habits and story in other small ways, but those are the big goals for 2019.

What about you? What goals have you set for the new year?


Lift up your mugs, ye patient, possibly tired, preachers and disciples of Jesus, winding down the Advent season and preparing for the celebration of Christmas. And be lifted up, ye ever flowing caffeine rich substances.

The King of Glory comes. The King of Glory comes, whether we get it all done, whether we think we’ve been devoted and faithful, whether we’re well practiced in the disciplines of discipleship or whether we haphazardly joined in whenever we remembered to make time.

May you have a blessed fourth Sunday of Advent.

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
   the world, and those who live in it; 
2 for he has founded it on the seas,
   and established it on the rivers. 

3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
   And who shall stand in his holy place? 
4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
   who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
   and do not swear deceitfully. 
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord,
   and vindication from the God of their salvation. 
6 Such is the company of those who seek him,
   who seek the face of the God of Jacob.*

7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
   and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
   that the King of glory may come in. 
8 Who is the King of glory?
   The Lord, strong and mighty,
   the Lord, mighty in battle. 
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
   and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
   that the King of glory may come in. 
10 Who is this King of glory?
   The Lord of hosts,
   he is the King of glory.


In my denominational tradition, stoles are worn by pastors to symbolize the yoke of Christ. Although they can be worn by those are commissioned or ordained to offices besides Minister of Word and Sacrament, I decided not to wear a stole until my ordination this past summer.

I started my new call at Peace Presbyterian Church and my career as an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in Ordinary Time.  My first Sunday in the pulpit, I wore my white Communion stole. But after that, except for another Communion Sunday and Reformation Sunday, I’ve been wearing my two Ordinary Time stoles every single Sunday

I know what you’re thinking, y’all. 

Oh my goodness. The horror. What trials and tribulations this pastor has had to endure as she suffers for Jesus with her two Ordinary Time stoles for five whole months. 😴

Fair enough. And it’s not really about the stoles, obviously. 

But the first Sunday of Advent I wore my purple stole, and it was so fun. I really do love the vestments that go along with my calling and I’m so blessed to have so many beautiful ones already.

Like the one I wore last night:

My new-to-me Bethlehem stole, gifted to me by my retired pastor friend, Roberta on the occasion of my ordination. It sparkles.

For my ordination, you might remember that Roberta sent me several of her beautiful stoles.

The stoles given to me by Roberta. 

The promise of something new coming is sometimes enough to get us through the difficult, the sorrow-filled, the mundane, the ordinary days and times. Sometimes all we have to cling to is the promise that God is making all things new.

Revelation 21:1-8

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;* 
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless,* the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’


re·store   /rəˈstôr/
  • bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); reinstate
  • return to a former condition, place, or position
  • repair or renovate, so as to return something to its original condition

Today as I walked my 901st mile of the year, I spied this library card lying on the track. Now the walking track is in our backyard, in the park next to our apartment.

On the other side of our apartment complex, opposite the park, is the north branch of the Cumberland County public library in Fayetteville. So I picked up the library card, put it in my jacket pocket next to my keys, finished my lap around the track, left the park, and walked to the library. I waited in line and handed over the card, with the explanation that I had found it at the park.

“How kind of you to bring it in!” the woman at the circulation desk exclaimed.

“Library cards are serious business,” I assured her.  And then I returned to the park to finish my miles.

Hopefully the card was restored to its rightful owner this afternoon.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.


I’m writing this on the eve of Advent Day 2. Today was Advent Day 1…and it was a very full and wonderful day.

And I am very, fully, wonderfully tired.

At the end of this day, after a morning of Advent 1 Worship; after an afternoon spent with a friend at the movie theater; after dinner at the home of church members, I came home, brewed a cup of tea. And I opened the bag Wendy handed me this morning.

The bag contained CDs she bought for me at a concert she attended Saturday night at a church here in Fayetteville. David Phelps singing Christmas music, traditional and original. I put one in the stereo and sat down on the couch to just listen.

Music carries the Word of God to my ears in a way that is almost always refreshing and inspiring…or, like tonight, in a way that is also relaxing and untangling. There is something about scripture and sacred story paired with musical notes and various instruments that brings new insight to the pondering what it is to respond with obedience to God’s word.

The scripture for today comes from Isaiah 1.

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
   you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
   you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
   says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams
   and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
   or of lambs, or of goats.

17   learn to do good;
seek justice,
   rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
   plead for the widow.

Home Is Wherever I’m With You

We took a six-day trip home to Henderson so Jason could participate in the Art Hop (it was his best show ever) and so I could participate in the Leslie Newman for District Court Judge election day festivities (Judge Newman will be sworn in early January).

We ate so much food.

And hugged so many people.

And soaked up every moment of being with people who know us and love us so well.

But now we’re back home in Fayetteville. It’s funny how home can be two places for us now.


Jason Durham is a Steely-Eyed Trailblazer

Peace Presbyterian Church is a beautiful, spacious building that sits on about 11 acres of land. About half of the land is wooded. In recent years, the woods have become a bit overgrown and stopped being of use to the church.

Enter Jason Durham, trailblazer extraordinaire. In four days, he’s cut 2 loops (an inner loop and an outer loop) in a small section of the wooded area. The goal is to create some trails for walking and meditation.

We know there are deer in the woods, but since he began work, he’s seen an unusually large rabbit and talked to a neighbor who told him about the day a bear was found in the woods (a little local lore that seems doubtful, but well-known, so maybe?).

Here’s a video recorded on his third day of work.