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)


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.


The Last Night

It’s ten minutes after midnight. I am tired enough to be asleep, but instead, I sit at the table, still in our house in Henderson, surrounded by boxes, packed and sealed and ready to travel tomorrow.

For the last two weeks and then some, Jason and I have been the recipients of many well wishes, words of kindness and encouragement, goodbye parties, “last” meals, surprise visits, a specially themed Toastmasters meeting, warm hugs, incredibly thoughtful gifts, written notes, and so much goodness and love. My instinct has sometimes been to stop the outpouring, to say, “We don’t have to do this now” or “this is too much to take in.” Instead, I’ve tried to let those words wash over me, to hear every one, to receive every kindness and gift and hang onto them for the days ahead…and to say the words I need to say, too. Mostly, all I can manage is “I love you.” If I say all the words I want to say, I dissolve into a puddle of messy, ugly tears and can’t finish saying anything. Some of you know–you’ve seen it firsthand.

I know two things.

Our lives are filled with the very best people and we love each of you so much. Both Jason and I are better for being known and loved by you.

That we will continue to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, because God, who promised, is faithful.” (Hebrew 10:23)

We mean it about the guest room. I have a whole google calendar now devoted to scheduling your visits.

I also mean it about the beach. If you vacation on the coastal Carolina beaches and don’t call us to come visit you there, I’ll unfriend you*.

*I’m kidding. Probably.


Approximate time markers:


18:00–Choir Anthem

24:00–the Children’s Sermon

31:00–Eric’s Sermon

58:30–Reaffirmation of Baptism, Ordination vows

1:07:30–Laying on of hands and prayer

1:11:40–Jason gets a gift for “ministry”

1:13:00–Renee gives the Charge to the new pastor

1:25:00–Charge and Benediction


“I Will Give Thanks to the Lord with My Whole Heart”


“How to Break into the Youth Director’s Office When the Keys are Missing”

This is the last sermon I preached as a commissioned ruling elder, a youth director, and a non-Minister of Word and Sacrament.

Psalm 9:1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.


(Recorded at Presbyterian Church of Henderson, June 10, 2018 at the 10:30am worship service.)

Jason’s Birthday

Happy birthday to Jason! For the last 17 years, life has never been boring for me, and I know that’s been true for the whole 46 years of your life. You are kind and caring, smart and thoughtful, dedicated and hardworking, full of puns and nonsensical word combinations (“wordbinations”), creative at problem-solving, and supportive in this season of preparation for something brand new around the corner. You always know how to find the adventure and wonder, and you have always been the one who notices new flowers breaking through the ground and the moon rising in the sky. 💜 The world is better because you are in it.

#Might and #Carry

We have ten year-old Nelson staying with us for a few days while his mom had his newest baby sister, Kyah.

He came over on Thursday night…so here it is Sunday morning and I’m just getting it together to post photos for the last two days. We are a little bit out of practice when it comes to having a 10 year-old around. We have had a good time together.

On Friday, Jason took Nelson climbing and he climbed to the top of the wall at Vertical Xcape several times. What a mighty kid!

Yesterday, before visiting his mom, dad, and sister at the hospital, we stopped and picked up 8 blankets for a friend’s blanket drive. Nelson insisted on carrying them through the store, to the car, and up to the house where they were being delivered.

Get you up to a high mountain,
   O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
   O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
   lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
   ‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
   and his arm rules for him;his reward is with him,
   and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;  he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
   and gently lead the mother sheep. (Isaiah 40:9-11)