I’ve mentioned before that this is the time of year that we would typically be producing a musical at our church. Because this is something that we have been doing and documenting for over a decade, there are always plenty of photo memories popping up about this time.

Today my phone gifted me with the photo you see above, taken during tech week of our 2019 Godspell.

It so happened that tech week of that show coincided with a particularly significant moment for the Methodist Church. The UMC general conference was considering changes to the Book of Discipline that would allow for full inclusion of the LCBTQ community in the life and ministry of the church.

Things went as I expected, but not the way I had hoped. I sat in the pews the night of the decision, watching my beautifully diverse and amazingly talented cast, feeling very defeated and unsure of what to do next. I just couldn’t imagine a way forward.

Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day…

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but surely mending
Brick by brick
Heart by heart
Now, maybe now
We start learning how

When your trust is all but shattered
When your faith is all but killed
You can give up bitter and battered
Or you can slowly start to build

The song Beautiful City was written in 1972 for the Godspell film, but was added to the stage production in the 2011 revival (using the lyrics rewritten in 1993 after the Rodney King riots) as a solo ballad for Jesus right before the Last Supper. It was a balm to our collective emotionally exhausted soul.

The work is not done, but I have hope. Because what is impossible for God?

Tonight as I sat finishing up editing for tomorrow’s service, I was thinking that once again we find ourselves facing something that makes us question where we are and where we are going.

But my heart soars to imagine the Beautiful City on the other side.


This morning Danny and I went for a quick tour of the middle school he will attend in person for the first time next week, after 7 months of learning online. It was so good to be there, and so kind of them to offer these quick, nearly personal tours for the students. I think the size of the school was more overwhelming for me than it was for him (to be honest I had just started to figure out his elementary school) but I know he is nervous about plenty of things.

The tour was not intended for the students to be able to spend time with teachers, but we had asked one of his teachers in advance if she was going to be there. She was, and was excited to possibly see him, so you know I dragged our tour down another 3 doors in the 6th grade hall to make sure we could at least wave through the door.

Danny looked into the room and even though he immediately recognized her, he stood outside the door until he heard her voice. As soon as she started talking to him, I could see his smile in his eyes even though his face was behind a mask.

This classroom is small – under any circumstances this classroom isn’t meant for more than about 10 kids and in COVID times it is set up for about 5. He’s never really seen a classroom quite like this one before. He glanced back and forth from the plexiglass screened desks to his teacher. She knew we only had about 2 minutes to visit and used every second of that time to tell him how excited she was to see him, how glad she was that he is in her class, and how happy she was that we stopped by so she could meet him today.

As we walked back to our car in the parking lot I asked him what he thought of the middle school.

He replied: “Mrs. N was happy to see me!”

I think this past year we have all learned a lot about what it means to teach. I could write novels about distance learning and the way that teachers have had to adapt and change to reach their students, and how they have had to do it under some of the most challenging conditions I can imagine. I have seen relationships grow and I have seen technology fail; set backs and miracles. I have seen teachers moving mountains knowingly and deliberately in an arduous effort to teach kids and I will never, ever forget it.

Still, the teachings that I am thinking about the most today are the things we pass on to the people around us when we don’t even realize we are doing it.

All of the things we say and do teach people about who we are, and if we say and do them to people who look up to us, we may very well be teaching them to be who we are. This has always been true, but all of this togetherness that we are experiencing is making it quite plain. If I want to see positivity and grace in the world around me – and I do – then I need to be sure that more often than not I am modeling that behavior. It doesn’t matter if my world is vast, virtual, or the same 11 people for months on end; I want to be teaching a lesson that someone is better for having learned.

The teacher that Danny met today is his English teacher, but he didn’t learn a thing about prepositions or even read a single sentence. To be honest I’m not sure that he even spoke a single word.

But today after an anxious morning of scripting and lurching around, he learned that his favorite teacher is so excited to see him next week. And he stood up straight, breathed deeper, and walked calmly down the halls.

There will be many opportunities to teach English, but today her lesson was love. And I am so grateful he was there to learn it.


Once upon a time, a newly pregnant Sharon gave up soda for Lent. It seemed like a pretty easy thing to do, since I wasn’t supposed to have caffeine anyway. One morning I was having a test that required fasting and by the end of the appointment I felt absolutely terrible. I was planning on heading to work from that appointment and I really wasn’t sure I was going to make it! Willis suggested that I needed to eat something but everything sounded nauseating to me.

Then, as we pulled away from the doctor’s office, there on the horizon appeared a Chick Fil A. I was emotional and pregnant so you will have to take my word for it when I tell you that I saw beams of light from Heaven shine down upon that seasonally adorned topiary Cow.

I still didn’t want to eat anything, but I felt in my soul at this moment that a fountain Coke would fix everything. So we went through the drive through, just in time to order breakfast with a medium Coke. I started with the soda and immediately felt the color returning to my face. I found my appetite, and ate the meal, and showed up at work only about 20 minutes later than I had meant to.

Later in the day I told Willis that breakfast had totally had a healing effect on me, but that I felt bad about the soda. He said “I wouldn’t worry about it – I’m sure God doesn’t.” and though I laughed about it at the time, I still think about that every time Lent rolls around and its time to consider cutting something out.

Up to that point, Lent was about looking for some tangible item or a specific experience I was going to forgo for a few weeks. Candy, soda, wine, cursing, extra shopping, etc. And while there was absolutely a discipline involved in removing those temptations from my life for a period of time, they were things that I really needed to curb anyway and I always ran straight back to them triumphantly after Easter. (Maybe even consuming/exercising them at a rate that implied making up for lost time.)

It got me wondering if I should be thinking about observing Lent in a different way.

Temptation is often associated with luxuries, or frivolities – things that we enjoy but don’t really need at all. Things that are wasteful, or even harmful. But there are things about the way I think and feel – things that I don’t enjoy at all – that I am very much tempted by, even though they are detrimental to my mental and physical health. I am tempted constantly to worry, to complain, to assume the worst, to be quick to anger. I am tempted to comment on that post I should really just scroll past.

But I am also tempted by things that seem heroic and bold and cause me to bite off more than I can chew; I overcommit my time and then berate myself for not being able to live up to my own expectations. And since we live in a world that seems to value constant production and motion, this alluring habit is as easy to fault as it is impossible to resist.

So…why not try give up some of those temptations instead? You may think that is a cop-out. You may feel that if you aren’t actually suffering for want of something you wont be able to walk the journey with Jesus in these 40 days. And truly, saying no to something you want and taking that moment to instead to contemplate the Savior and His incredible love and sacrifice is a holy thing.

But I assure you – it is harder to cut out the temptations of your brain than you might think. It isn’t even always possible.

But I have found that when I spend 40 days actively cutting myself off from the path of least resistance – the path that allows me to assume the worst and dwell in fear – I end up on the other side not wanting to resume my habits. I usually want to keep going. I want to keep striving for the best and most loving life I can on this side of Heaven. And though it may not exactly be a sacrifice to give up this rituals of pride and doubt – it is a discipline of love to set them aside.

And while I know I will fall short of my goals in these weeks, I might just find that for even having attempted them, on Easter morning I love a little bit more like Jesus than I did on Ash Wednesday.


This is the first prompt I really had no idea what to do with.

It didn’t help that today was a crazy busy day. Just one of those days where all of the things you don’t do very often collide and all need to be done at the same time.

When I finally sat down to try to write something I remembered that I had promised Ezra a long walk in the beautiful weather, to help make up for the weeks of gray, wet awfulness.

So we set out and as we walked I tried to ask some questions about his day – his second day back in the school building. Most of the questions were met with “good”, “ok”, or “I don’t know”, which usually means “My brain is tired, please stop talking.”

We walked along until we got to what the boys consider to be their favorite part of our usual walk around the neighborhood – a spot where the trees clear along the trail and they can walk down close to the creek that runs around us. Danny went straight down to the water to throw rocks at the current but Ezra crawled up on a rock and put his face straight up to the sky. The sun was so bright he had to cover his eyes, but he stayed up there in that position.

“The sun just makes me happy Mommy!”

That’s awesome kiddo! How does it make you happy?

“I don’t know. But it does.”

And it got me thinking if the message of the day could be found in that statement. Because when it comes to God’s power, we know a lot and next to nothing. We know that it is sufficient. We know that it is made perfect in our weakness. We know it through testimonies and devotions and in seeing the evidence when we glance at the rear view mirror.

But even though it is always working, we don’t know how it works. It just does. And it “just does” over and over and over again.

As I sat there on the trail while the kids played, exhausted from the longest outdoor excursion since my surgery, I leaned back and soaked up the afternoon sun for the first time in ages.

And it made me happy; I didn’t need to know why.