Created To Be a Steward
A Year Long Dynamic Stewardship Resource
First Quarter Installment Stewardship of Self-Care
Meet the Reverend Linda Parker, our contributor for the first quarter of our resource.
We regret to inform you that Linda Parker ended her earthly journey in early February of 2022, after a long battle with cancer. The resources created for the first quarter of 2021 were a gift to us from her gracious ministry and loving service to the church. We mourn her passing, but we are grateful we have this resource to share with you as a portion of her legacy.
Welcome to a three-part series on self-care. I am going to talk a bit about myself and painting in the first section. The second session will share some insights from Blanca Fernandes about self-care and cooking and sharing meals. The third section will have beautiful photographs from Warren Lynn and some reflection about self-care and photography. Much of the time, we as clergy, are told that we should not focus much on our own struggles and strengths in leading worship and teaching. But I hope you will be open to doing just that as you share with your congregation something about self-care.
As I wrote these pieces, I envisioned them being the jumping off place for a Sunday School class where you invite several members of the class to talk about their own self-care. I’ll say more about that in a bit.
Bruce Barkhauer invited me to share because I have taken up watercolor painting as a form of self-care. Here’s a little about my background. I was born and raised in Texas. Attended TCU and Vanderbilt Divinity School. I was ordained and served churches in Iowa, Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana. In 2013 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I had surgery, took chemo and had radiation. I applied for and was given a wonderful Clergy Renewal grant from the Lilly Foundation. I travelled to Italy and several other places and took classes in painting along the way. In 2015 I had a recurrence of the cancer and more surgery and more chemotherapy. I also have some kidney damage from the radiation and have to have a stent replaced in my kidney every three months. I retired in 2018 after being lovingly cared for by the congregation that I was serving. So, the chemo continues, and all the wonderful side effects from that. I have neuropathy and that affects my mobility. In retirement I have been able to paint – and I have to say, painting is a great distraction from the struggle with cancer and its side effects. I talk about all the side effects of cancer because for those who deal with this or some other illness – or some other responsibility, or some other burden – sometimes that burden is so big and takes up so much of our attention and energy that it is wonderful and healing if we can do something that draws us out of ourselves.
Here are two of my paintings.
Unit One of Three
January 2021 – Lectionary texts early in the month include Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 147:12-20, Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 1:(1-9)10-18.
You can find lots of text in scripture that might enrich the idea of self-care. I would direct your attention to the Jeremiah text. In it there is talk of God redeeming Israel from hands that are too strong. It speaks of turning mourning into joy and giving gladness for sorrow. There are many things in our lives that can fill us with sorrow. We worship a God who offers comfort and hope to all of us. We just have to spend enough time and give our attention to the things that might bring us joy and comfort.
The text is part of what is called “The Book of Consolation.” Jeremiah spends 40 years warning people of disaster. This is the function of a prophet, but in the end – the function of a prophet is to remind the people that God will not abandon them. This text carries the reminder that even those who are not expected to make the journey; the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor will be included. Some might say that the first thing to go in the realm of God is our penchant for control. In preaching this text, in relationship to self-care I would spend some time speaking about all the brokenness that is around us. Of course, you can speak about the struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic, racism, social injustice but you could also speak about our own brokenness – those things that are considered “sinful” – like greed, unfaithfulness, misuse of the planet. You could also speak about the brokenness that has nothing to do with our intention or will – things like cancer, other illnesses, physical limitations, poverty, or ignorance. How is it that God can act in and through these things to draw us into God’s vision for the future?
Then, you can speak of all the gifts that we can bring to these situations. What can you do to help with the pandemic? How about: Wear a mask, keep your distance, pick up groceries or medications for a neighbor. Some people can provide transportation for others to assist them in receiving their vaccinations. What can you do when you struggle with an illness or disability yourself? My answer is find some kind of grace in it. Paint a picture, make muffins and share them with your neighbor, write notes to others who are stuck at home, teach a child how to cope with the loss of a limb. If we can focus on the steadfast love of God, even in the midst of struggle – we can figure out ways to bring our gifts to the world. Because I have been staying at home so much the past few months – I have some extra funds in my bank account. It’s been fun to find new places to share these funds.
January Resources for Worship
A Call to Worship
Leader: Hear the word of the Lord, those who are scattered will gather and be kept as a shepherd keeps the flock.
People: God has redeemed us from hands that are too strong for us.
Leader: You shall come and sing and be radiant over the goodness of the Lord.
People: Our lives will become like a watered garden.
Leader: God will turn our mourning into dancing and our sorrow into gladness.
All: Let us worship this God who comforts and cares for each one of us.
Some Questions You Might Ask by Mary Oliver
Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is is tender and breakable, like
The wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad as
The face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?
—From House of Light, Copyright 1990. Beacon Press.
Pastoral Prayer By Joyce Rupp
Spark of God, Spirit of Life!
I remember and celebrate your dwelling within me.
Divine Fire, you never waver in your faithful presence.
Amid the seasons of life, you are my inner illumination.
Ever present Light, the spark of your inspiration has been with me
In every moment of my life, always available to lead and guide me.
Eternal Joy, the dancing flames of your joy are reflected in my happiness and in the many was that I delight in life.
Spirit of God, your fiery presence gives me passion for what is vital and deserving of my enthusiasm.
Blazing Love, the radiant glow of your compassion fills me with awareness, kindness and understanding.
Purifying flame, your refining fire transforms me,
As I experience life’s sorrow, pain and discouragement.
Radiant presence, your steady flame of unconditional love
Kindles my faithful and enduring relationships.
Luminous one, you breathed love into me at my birthin
and your love will be with me as I breathe my last.
Thank you for being a shining Spark of Life within me.
—From Out of the Ordinary, Copyright 2000, Ave Maria Press.
Another Prayer by Ted Loder
O God of the miracles,
I praise you now
From the soul of the child within me,
Shy in my awe, delighted by my foolishness,
Stubborn in my wanting,
Persistent in my questioning,
And bold in asking you
To helping me unbury my talents
So I may invest theme eagerly
In the recurring mysteries
Of spring and beginnings,
Of willows that week
And rivers that flow
And people who grow
In such amazing ways;
And I will be forever linked and loyal
To justice and joy,
Simplicity and humanity,
Christ and his kingdom.
—Guerrillas of Grace Lura Media Copyright 1984
If you are using this material in a small group or Sunday school class, you might ask participants to speak of their own self-care, asking these questions:
- What is it that you do for self-care? Why this? Where did your interest for this come from?
- What does it do for you? Do you feel like it has any connection to your faith, to your sense of the Holy?
- What might it do for others?
- Do you have any sense of thanksgiving for this act of self-care?
Unit Two of Three
February texts from the lectionary (2/7) Isaiah 40:21-3; Psalm 147: 1-11. 20c; I Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Blanda Fernandes Mikell Ward preparing one of her favorite dishes; cassoulet. She’s taking a shortcut on Julia Child’s recipe.
Blanca Fernandez was born and raised in Texas. She attended Texas Christian University and eventually Lexington Theological Seminary. She was the first Latina woman to be ordained in The Christian Church Disciples of Christ. One thing to mention, Blanca was asked to lead worship at a General Assembly of the Christian Church. Dom Helder Camara, a Brazillian Catholi Archbishop was one of the guest speakers. As Celebrant in worship, Blanca invited people to come to the table. Blanca remembers that, even though this was not rehearsed, scripted or expected she offered the invitation to come to the Table in both Spanish and English, a first for our church as well. The Communion Table and that shared meal have always been important to Blanca.
While in Seminary Blanca met and married Doug Mikell. They became part of the Division of Overseas Ministry and were sent to Japan for their ministry. One of the things Blanca remembers about that time in Japan is that she began to explore cooking in a whole new way. She took the Betty Crocker Cookbook (first published in 1950) and began one of her disciplines of self-care. Blanca and Betty cooking. She would take a Betty Crocker Recipe, visit the market in Japan and try to figure out ways to adapt what was available to the instructions in the cookbook. She and Doug didn’t have an oven in their kitchen. The whole idea of the story of the Loaves and Fishes, where people bring what they have and that become the shared feast of the faithful, was evident in this part of her ministry. She talks about a “Hamburger” ministry. Where she prepared the closest she would get to a hamburger on a hibachi on the patio. People wanted to share in the fellowship of food, to know about her and her culture – and that brought people together. She was able to engage people around the things that are common in all our lives.
Doug died suddenly of a heart attack in Yokohama, Japan. Soon after this Blanc and their five-year-old daughter, Sarah, returned to the United States after twelve years in Japan. Imagine the grief and the incredible culture shock that Blanca and Sarah encountered.
I was a student at TCU with Blanca and have lately connected with her on Facebook. She continues to cook and post pictures of these amazing meals she shares with her husband, Walter Ward, and so many others. She will take a cookbook and cook through the recipe much like she did with the Betty Crocker Book. I asked her to talk about cooking as an act of self-care. She said it takes her away and allows her to focus on something other than all the bad news. She will often plan music, namely Celtic Psalms, Volume 3 is her favorite. For her, cooking feels like an act of worship.
Blanca making Chicken Enchiladas for her husband, Walter’s 70th birthday dinner. They had 24 guests. The menu included tamales ordered from Delia’s in Texas, chili with all the fixings, a chili bean dip, beef nachos, chicken and cheese enchiladas, and beef tacos.
The story of Jesus and the loaves and fishes is important to her. She shared some photos of a Japanese artist, Sadoa Watanabe. He does wood block prints and when he depicts the Last Supper there is always more on the table than just bread and wine. There is fish and what she sees as sushi and other common things. She loves the idea that we all bring what we have to the table and God blesses it and multiplies it and makes it more than enough to nourish and sustain us.
By the way – whenever Blanca cooks, she often plays music specifically Celtic Psalms. For her, cooking is an act of worship.
February Resources for Worship
For more information about Sadao Watanobi’s art work, visit this site.
More information on Celtic Psalms.
YouTube – Roman’s Cooking Class Channel. A very young child shares his cooking and recipes with us. These are a delight to watch and a fun way to introduce this lesson.
A classic children’s book, Stone Soup can also serve as an excellent resource for a small group, or in the context of the preaching moment. It can be ordered on Amazon.com
Unit Three of Three
March Texts from the lectionary (3/7)
Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22
Warren Lynn grew up and attended college in Oregon. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. He is currently the Executive Minister of the Office of Christian Vocations for Disciples Home Missions in the Christian (Church Disciples of Christ.)
I had no personal relationship to Warren prior to writing this resource except through a connection on Facebook. He posts the most amazing photographs, and I could tell that this pastime, hobby, discipline was an act of self-care for him. He has taken photographs most of his life. He worked on the newspaper and yearbook in junior high and high school and college. In 2001 he started using a digital camera.
Warren explains that taking pictures is an act of mindfulness – “You have to notice the light, the details, the angles, the colors,” he says.
When he takes a picture, he tries to approach it with a beginner’s mind. One must move past distractions, in a sense be in retreat, and see things as if it were the first time you were seeing something.
I don’t know if physical limitations push everyone into acts of self-care but for me it did and it seems that for Warren it did. He lived and lives a very active life. He was diagnosed with a genetic lung disease and found that he did not have the stamina he used to have. He has to slow down. Taking pictures is a great way to rest, to learn patience, and practice what he has learned in his study of Eastern religion, Celtic traditions and Native American Spirituality. Sometimes words get in the way of our understanding of who God is and what God has to say, so taking pictures is a way to enter into the natural world and learn what it has to teach us – about the world and about ourselves.
Reflections for the Preacher
- Exodus 20:1-17
- Psalm 19
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
- John 2:13-22
Lots of possibilities here. Psalm 19 speaks about the heavens proclaiming the glory of God. The Corinthians text speaks of the message of the cross as foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
What if you spoke about the possibility that God is still speaking to us through the beauty that is all around us. Think about ways to find wisdom in the way the tree reaches toward the sky and also sends roots deep into the earth.
This text focuses on the fact that people fail to recognize what Jesus can and does really mean and what God’s work looks like. It seemed that those in power in the religious community had preconceived human notions about what God’s realm was all about.
Ted Turner told an audience at the American Humanist Association in 1990 that “Christianity is a religion for losers.” Paul might add that those who are wise, powerful, and of noble birth should lead believers to unite in hearing the word of God together, rather than compete with one another about who is wiser, stronger or or noble birth.
This text reminds us that the wisdom of the world thinks that the gospel of winning and success, competition, and cruelty is the Gospel of Christ. We search for God in humility and peace.
The Cross confounds and confuses us. There is a series of books by a woman named Peggy Parish. In them the main character, Amelia Bedelia is a housekeeper. In one instance she is asked to dust the furniture, she throws dust everywhere. In another instance she is asked to draw the drapes, she pulls out pen and paper and begins to draw. In other words, she sees the world in a totally different way. That is what the Gospel of Christ asks us to do. You might speak with the congregation in terms of their own self-care. How might they sit and ponder the words in scripture, or the beauty of creation, the rainbow over the lake, the bird in flight, and try to see the light of God’s love in new ways.
Like Warren does when he stops, and watches, and listens and waits for what is being shown to him, we are called to stop and listen.
The light of scripture – the true light, confounds and claims us and asks us to share with others this joy that we can find.
March Worship Resources
Call to Worship
Leader: Be still and know that God is.
People: God was in the beginning.
Leader: And when all human striving has ceased, God will still be.
People From everlasting to everlasting, God is God and alone is worthy to be worshiped.
All: Let us sing praise to our God.
Prayer of Preparation
Eternal God we come to you with hungry hearts, waiting to be filled, waiting to be filled with a sense of your presence; waiting to be filled with the touch of your spirit; waiting to be willed with new energy for service.
Come to us, we pray, be with us, touch us. Empower us as your people that we might worship you here and act in the world with your grace. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, we confess what seems always to be with us; broken things within us that seem never to mend, empty places within us that seem never to flower.
God of love and grace, help us accept ourselves; lead us to do those good and true things that are not compromised by anything within us. As much as can be, mend us, fill us, make us bloom. For all these things, we will give you glory, through God who is our hope and healing.
Blessed Are you Who Bear The Light – by Jan Richardson
Blessed are you,
Who bear the light
In unbearable times,
To its endurance,
Who bear witness
To its persistence
When everything seems
In shadow and grief.
Blessed are you
In whom the light lives,
The brightness blazes –
An alar where in the deepest night can be seen
That shines forth in you
In unaccountable aith,
In stubborn hope,
In love that illumines
Every broken thing it finds.
-From Circle of Grace Copyright 2015; Wanton Gospeller Press
Warren often plays and listens to Native American Style Flute and stringed instrument music.
Warren’s photos can be found on Flickr.
The Children’s book Old Turtle, could provide an excellent resource for a young people’s message:
A great resource for self-care – Anchoring Your Well Being, by Howard Clinebell. It has wonderful resources for personal as well as group reflection.
As you worship, I hope you will encourage your congregations to practice self-care – through creating, music, art, food, conversation, nature, photography, painting, and cooking. It would be fun to know how some of your members practice self-care especially with all the isolation and loss we have been experiencing.
Feasting on the Word, Westminster Press
Charles Campbell’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, @2018, Westminster Press.
For additional information about year-round stewardship watch this from the Center for Faith and Giving.