I was so grateful to worship with the congregation at Glencliff UMC this morning, especially since it is the new church home for my friends from 61st Avenue UMC, a church that closed June 24, 2017. I was warmly greeted as I entered the church and that welcome continued throughout the morning!

I was not surprised to feel tears in my eyes when I observed my friends coming up the stairs from Sunday School, mingling before we entered the sanctuary. It was apparent they were valued as new congregants in this holy place. It was a moment in time for me to share.

I had met two members of this church at the last service at Sixty-First Avenue…Sam and Carolyn. They just happened to be sitting behind me that evening. I remember turning around to greet them when that part of the service allowed…..and also remember how remarkable it was they would honor their new friends by attending this last service!  There may have been others who attended as well.

Seeing the interactions today, the smiles, the hugs….. intentional inclusion in incorporating traditions that were part and parcel of worship at Sixty-First Avenue UMC now becoming a part of the worship service, namely singing “Soon and Very Soon” at the end of the service, along with the customary accompanying dance, all joined in a circle! These are very real and genuine gestures that respect these new congregants. They are visible measures of  building community, one week at a time!

I pray always for these congregants who have had to make such a huge change in their lives. I never cease to be amazed that Rev. Neelley Hicks has been their shepherd in a difficult transition. I fully appreciate that it takes time to bring comfort in the form of new friendships, new spaces, new community. But, I left with a clear vision of hope.  Rev. Sandra Griggs, the pastor of Glencliff, is not only welcoming our friends to their new place of worship but has partnered with Open Table Nashville to build 22 220 square foot homes for the homeless on the church property. I think that reflects very much her caring approach to all who sit at Jesus’ table.

I look forward to hearing about the ways Brenda and Mary, Jimmy and Smoky and Annette and Calvin, Sanford, Daniel and Margaret…and sweet Brenda Jackson, who has already sung a solo at her new church……. identify their own gifts and offer those gifts to this lovely church family…..they will become an asset to the ministries of Glencliff and God will use them as part of this church family to be disciples and love their neighbors as God loves us.

It was a joyful morning…..and full of beautiful music provided by the Glencliff choir, Eric and Neal and Aimee….and Sam, who has been in choir 54 of his 92 years….and sang a beautiful solo!

For some reason I kept thinking of the Samaritan story all the way home. No one is excluded as our neighbor. Christ made us one through his grace and that’s what I saw today…..and can see for the future.

Praise be to God for neighbors!





Oh, I know,
you picture
the young,
the inexperienced,
the less wise,
the irresponsible!

but, have you met…

or Sarah,
Carrie, maybe?
and then there’s Ali
and Taylor!

They gather
hands reaching high
to grab vision
from stars
that shine
on the
You know,
that Word!
The only

The one
that defies
brought by
the faithful
who trusted
and believed.

New Testament
stories shared
with Gentiles
and Jews alike
a world of grace
that offered
and inclusion.

These faithful
embrace that
believe inclusion
means each
child of God
the same
the same
the same

promise also
brought to churches
to be the
in a world gone
buildings that keep
the beloved
busy with tasks
too busy for

A promise
to neighborhoods
changing and
by fewer resources
and changing landscapes,
the poor forced out
congregations splintered
and dying
communities bereft
of cohesion.

Oh, and then
interns and fellows
work and serve,
sure in a structure
that identifies their
grows their
and allows
to live out the
needed to change
our world!

It needs changing!

It needs courage!

Well tended
assure a
for new beginnings
new possibilities
changed lives
through God’s
love and grace.

New disciples!

To honor the vision that is Project Transformation.




A Lesson from Rev. Craddock

“I preached four nights in a church in Atlanta, a nice, big church with a good crowd, more than I’m used to. There was a moment in the service in which the pastor said, “We’ll now have our moments of fellowship. Greet each other in Christian love,” and you never saw such hugging and kissing and carrying on in your life—people going across the room, and up and down the aisles, and grabbing and hugging. Somebody came up to me—I was down behind the pulpit—and gave me a big smack. It was just really something. Finally he said, “All right, hold it, hold it. We have to get on with the worship.” Four nights of that.
The last night, he and his wife took me and my wife out to coffee. He said, “Did you ever see such a family church? Did you ever see such love in your life in”

“My wife said, “Yeah, well, yeah, I have.”
He said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “I was there for all four services, and nobody ever spoke to me.”
And do you know what he said? He said, “Well, that was because they didn’t know who you were.”

Excerpt From: Fred B. Craddock. “Craddock stories.” Chalice Press, 2001.


IMG_6452“You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.”
― John O’Donohue

Live Into Your Best Prayer (Frederick Buechner)

Prayer has been especially at the forefront of many moments in my days recently. Family members suffering illness have called for more fervent prayers as have friends with similar needs. I often find myself asking for far more than I am giving thanks for….an all too familiar response.

It has brought to mind an event of many years ago now. Our grandson had been in a serious auto accident, necessitating his stay at a rehabilitation center following his time in the intensive care unit and hospital. I am grateful to say all his care, determination and hard work have provided a complete recovery and it has become a dim, but powerful, memory.

During his time at the rehabilitation facility, his treatment plan included finding his way in his wheelchair through a maze of hallways to the dining room for meals. Table heights accommodated the many wheelchairs that seated so many who were in varying stages of recovery, some with slower progress, some who were nearing discharge, regardless of progress.

John had always prayed often at our family gatherings. We kidded him about how well he prayed! He (and usually one of his strong buddies) rode along with me to deliver home furnishings here and there across town to people with few resources, people I had come to know and love. In other words, I needed their physical strength to load and unload! He was always willing as were his friends! Some of those days are favorite memories for me. As we would leave the longed for apartment, a goal realized by few of our friends who suffered financial poverty, I would always ask John to gather those present in a circle, hold hands and offer a prayer of thanks. I remember the first time he said, “Are you telling me we have to pray over a sofa”? And I would laugh and tell him “yes, indeed, because this lovely friend is thankful for this sofa! And now it is our job as we leave, to have her know God was present and is present in all the moments of our lives—–our names need not be remembered at all but God’s presence does need to be remembered by our friend.” He always prayed beautifully and those moments still make me smile.

So, when John pulled up to the table at the rehab place, I asked him what we do before we eat. He was sure in his response that we pray. So, I reminded him he always prayed for our meals and asked him to pray. There is not an adequate way to articulate here his beautiful words or their impact. This seemingly simple act provided a holy time in a place of great sadness and few joys for many. Everyone at the other tables stopped to listen. They bowed their heads, folded their hands, if able. After John finished, I remember family members of other patients coming to the table to thank him for praying. I especially remember one man in a wheel chair, still in his place, saying with wonder, “thank you, no one ever prays here.”

I knew he was speaking of meal time, of course. I had no doubt many, many silent prayers of supplication had graced the spaces in this place over very injured people, those with strokes and other medical issues that can render one immobile or mentally unclear.

But, that remark has stayed with me over the years. A theologian would shudder at my thinking, most likely! But, I think of the places we pray and the places we don’t. My “lessons from the road” have been grand teachers of theology! I have had a homeless man tell me he didn’t know how to pray, when asked by someone else to provide grace over a small lunch gathering. I remember his quizzical look when I told him he could just take my hands and have a personal conversation with God……anything he wanted to say. His relief was evident but it was clear his version of his own worth would make prayer difficult for him. Oh, my.

I have been present with Neelley Hicks on a bus bouncing across town to take people home after a worship service, people who society deems poor but whose words and actions speak otherwise. Her conversation as we drove along was a prayer in its very best form—–it was real, it was powerful. She was an answered prayer and yet she thanked God for his goodness and mercy by her words, her interactions, her authentic and sincere interest in the lives of our friends. They knew she cared about them. She has shown it over and over.

Rev. Neelley Hicks and friends


Since that experience with grandson John, my teenage (at the time) teacher, I have been more intentional about prayer in ways I never considered. It happens, and needs to happen more, in less planned, less contrived, less comfortable ways. Life happens in dark places, in streets without hope, in people judged by filters that exclusive conditioning breeds, in a country without clear direction, in a world where prayer is begging for clean water or medical care and on and on. Life happens to those unloved. Prayer can diminish fear,  can build community,  can offer a way forward,  can be life changing—-but not as an event in response to ongoing tragedies, not only of death, but of behaviors, but as an integral part of experiences that we call day to day living. We honor God with our thanks, we trust him with our fears and we praise him by lives that live out those prayers…. that offer glimmers of light, hands reaching out, tears being shared, smiles being celebrated. It gives a whole new dimension to best practices and outcomes!

That man was correct; no one ever prays here. We can see it.