The Holy Spirit Doesn’t Come in Breakfast Blend


Acts 2

PentecostB/ May 27, 2012

I’ll happily admit to you that I’m a morning person.  I’m one of those people that wakes up chipper and ready to tackle the world.  But I need a few things to stay that way.  I need a little quiet time where I can organize my world and plan my day, time where I can read or think or write.  If I got the paper, I’d be one of those people who did crosswords or the cryptogram.  I need a good cup of coffee.   And none of that, extra bold, in-your-face, black as mud nonsense either.  Just something with a mild and lovely flavor, with just enough spark to perk me up a little bit.  As I’ve become a coffee afficionado, I’ve finally realized why coffee companies make a “Breakfast Blend”. Because too much too early just starts your day off on the wrong foot.

What I’m not as happy to admit is that if the Holy Spirit came in blends like coffee, I’d probably stick with the Breakfast Blend there too.  Hey, if it’s good for the coffee, then why not with the Holy Spirit? Just a little zip–enough to perk things up a bit– not enough to shock anything. What more could the church ask for?

Fortunately for me, and the church, the Holy Spirit isn’t about being “just a little pick me up.”  Unfortunately for me, and the church,  the Holy Spirit isn’t about being “just a little pick me up.”

Because when the Holy Spirit sweeps in, then everything gets uprooted, knocked down, and sent flying. Take the Acts passage we read this morning.  Everything was fine and lovely in the post-resurrection world. People began to realize that Jesus wasn’t just a very nice man who had some inconvenient ideas and did some strange things.  The church formed and began to figure out how to be a church.  Jesus and the Church had their first fellowship dinners.  They got busy with the sacraments.  They got anxious about questions of when and how.  Then Jesus ascended, and that posed a problem because they were without direction and governance.   So they had their first session meeting– where they took roll, and decided even the women had something to add to the church.  But then they realized that they were one person short because Judas wasn’t able to fulfill his term, so they had a nominating committee meeting and  actually nominated two, because numbers weren’t all that important–so long as the work was getting done.  Those were the early days of the church, at least as the first chapter of Acts records it.  Everything was good. Things were moving along at a comfortable pace– fast enough to be interesting, slow enough to keep people on board. The folks enjoyed fellowshipping together, and made a point to do it often.  Things were easier that way anyway, because then they didn’t have to explain to their old friends how everything was different now, and how those jokes that they’d all laughed at before weren’t really funny anymore and how they just didn’t have time to go fishing now that everything was so busy at the church.  Everything was hunky dory in the early church.  It had a promising, successful, and uneventful future in front of it. It was your nice, breakfast-blend sort of day.  Until it wasn’t.

The day it wasn’t was the day the Holy Spirit decided to switch their breakfast blend for the extra-bold, in-your-face, black-as-mud blend. Only it wasn’t just their coffee  routine that was upset.  It was the whole church.  It was everything that mattered to them, everything they thought they could count on. Nothing was decently and in order any more, what with the Holy Spirit tangling with all the accents and everything.  The Southerners sounded like the Mid-westerners who began to say things like “Don’t ya know” when “yall” would’ve done just fine. The Californians quit asking for Bean Sprouts and started to look for the sweet tea.  And the Northerners quit talking so fast because they had to say “like” in front of every other phrase.  None of the stereotypes worked anymore.  But that wasn’t the worst of it. Because suddenly, there were others– people they were trying to avoid because the early-church lifestyle just didn’t jive with the old “whatever floats your boat” ways, no-offense. The church had rules.  That’s what made it a church, right? The people knew what was in and what and who were out. But, on this day, the Holy Spirit breathed its hot sticky breath all over them and the air itself was so charged that the whole church got inebriated on the fumes.   At least that’s what made the most sense to say out loud.

What didn’t make sense was this wildfire blaze of a Holy Spirit, who came and hissed his fire breath and said “My fire is gonna inflame all yall–not a single one of you will remain untouched.  And something is gonna happen.  Your children will dare to dream things never before imagined.  Your old folks are gonna testify about what God has done in their lives, and they are going to help bring up a new generation of people who imagine what God is calling them to be. Wherever you were comfortably silent before, you will not be silent any longer, because you have God-inspired words that will shape this world forever.  And my fire that lives in you will start something that sends the church in a whole new direction, where it won’t be about rules and who fits because that’s just hot air.  There’s a difference between hot air and fire, dontyaknow. And I’m here to give you fire that burns down walls between people.”

Of course, we didn’t ask the Holy Spirit to do any of  that.  Perhaps we were quite comfortable before.

And now you know why we don’t send Pentecost cards.  Now you know why in the standard church year, Pentecost only gets one Sunday when Easter and Christmas both get seasons. Because if we claim the truth about Pentecost, the one that’s come unwrapped from it’s beautiful, gently swooping, breeze bringing, dove of a package that we like to put it in, then we’re left with a blaze that we don’t know how to contain.  And all that heat will surely destroy the church, right?

Well here’s the truth.  The church has plenty of heat–all you hear about churches lately is that they are arguing.  Sparks are flying everywhere, in some places ashes are left smoldering.  There’s plenty of heat in the church these days.   The question that Pentecost forces us to ask is “Does it have any fire?”

Heat chooses principles.  Fire chooses love.  Heat is an argument, fire is a movement.   Heat seeks its own way.  Fire seeks God’s way.    Heat makes us uncomfortable.  Fire makes us move. Heat destroys the church.  Fire refines the church.   Heat just makes us hot.  Fire sets our hearts ablaze until they finally melt and begin to take the shape of God’s heart.

Oh the church has plenty of heat right now.  But if all we have is heat, we’ve lost our identity.  We’ve lost our calling.  We’ve lost the gospel.

Fortunately for us, the Holy Spirit’s currency is fire, not heat.  If it turns out that we’ve lost our fire, then the Holy Spirit is happy to help.  Be careful what you ask for, though, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t come in Breakfast Blend.


Reverend Kim Justice

Before the dawn


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It’s darkest before the dawn, or so they say.
Before even the surgical waiting room has been opened, or anyone is ready to wait.
Before she has been taken back.
Before the visitor’s desk is staffed, or the parking deck, for that matter.
Before the cafeteria has opened.
Before the nurses are fully awake.
Before the rules are thoroughly enforced.
Before the sun (or son) has started tinting the world a lovely shade of pink.
It’s darkest then.

But it’s there, in the before, that God feels closest.
Because the light of love is waiting to break in.
And for the ones, waiting and watching,
the great divide between heaven and earth seems a little thinner.
Because we need God just a little more,
and we’re a little less guarded and a little more vulnerable.

It’s darkest before the dawn.
But not really.

A Picture a Day keeps the grouchies away


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A Picture a Day keeps the grouchies away

A Picture is worth a thousand words–or so I hear.  And as a photographer, I believe it.  And I’ve even made resolutions to take more picutres, but until now it’s just been awfully complicated.  Oh, I’ve got my camera and lenses all in one always-packed bag, but who wants to lug all that around.  It’s great for “serious” photography, but sometimes a girl has to be in the mood for all that.  I just wanted to take quick photos and record my (fabulously interesting) life for posterity sake.

Enter Iphone (which I love for many, many reasons).  It has an 8 megapixel camera (which is almost as good as my “serious” camera), and it’s handy.  No lugging anything around.

So I did it.  I signed up for a photo-a-day project that I’ve seen other friends do.  And so far I love it.  I worried that it would become for me “just one more thing” but it’s been a great experience.  It’s helping me keep my eyes open to beauty and love that is all around me, and record the things that make me happy.  I’m again noticing things like the way the light dances, or the exact smile on my puppy dog’s face. I’m finding a way to tap into my oft-ignored creative side, which will hopefully lead to other creative endeavors in other parts of my life.  You can keep up with my project here if you’d like.  But if you can’t stand to wait for the time it takes to open up the page, here’s a preview (mostly from my blue-sky day sort of walk this afternoon.)

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

July.  Or maybe October.  But not Christmas.  Not even close to Christmas, what with the 72 degree days we’re having. I’m still running my car air conditioner.  Once ten or eleven o’clock comes, I can safely open the windows and walk around the house in shorts and a t-shirt. We took the comforter off the bed.  And the sweaters I so look forward to wearing are still packed up in their rubbermaid boxes.

I guess I should be thankful, but instead I feel grouchy.  The weather is beautiful, but it’s wrong.  As my dad says happily, “It feels like Christmas in Florida! This is what it felt like when we were growing up.” I’m happy for dad, but this weather in no way makes me think of Christmas.

My snow-flocked garlands and my silvery white and snow flake decked dining room feel ridiculous.  I’m kind of hating the idea of going Christmas caroling. I don’t even check the weather anymore (which considering how much I love weather, is a pretty big statement.) And I can’t bear (really– it kind of makes my stomach turn this year) to hear “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” or “Frosty the Snowman” or any of the other billion and a half Christmas songs that reference cold weather.

Maybe it’s ridiculous to post on something inane as the weather.  Maybe it’s silly to base Christmas feelings on something so unrelated.  Maybe it’s sinful to send up prayers for a change in the weather when I should be praying for world peace or something.  But this wrong weather is bringing out grinch like grouchiness on my part.

“I need a little Christmas” is what the song says.  Christmas will come, of that I’m not worried.  What I need is a change in weather, and that is nowhere on the horizon.

The Sleep that will not come…

They (the “experts”, whoever they are) say that when you can’t sleep you should do anything but watch the clock.  To watch the clock, these experts say, will only cause you to panic as you watch the night dwindle away, which will in turn cause more sleeplessness.

I’ve prayed.  I’ve read. I’ve watched seven or more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy in one night.  I’ve taken Benadryl, or Melatonin. I’ve had a glass of wine or warm milk before bed.  I’ve given up my afternoon cup of coffee.  I’ve moved to the couch. But still I do not sleep.

Oh, I fall asleep, but as soon as the slightest thing jars me, I’m awake, and likely for good.  Something must be troubling me and at least if I were anxious about something, I could tell someone.  But I’m not.  I’m just awake. Just watching the minutes tick by, thinking I should probably do something productive, but knowing I’m too tired to do it.

Somewhere, my heart must be breaking for someone or some thing, and this is how my body is responding.  I just wish that I knew who or what was causing the heartbreak.

Beyond Words



Several years ago, singer Bobby McFerrin (whose name you know from “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “Medicine Music”) came out with an album called Beyond Words. Considering words were a big chunk of how he made his living, that was an interesting switch.  I can’t say I loved the album, because I missed what he had to say.  But today, I understand that sometimes you have to say things other ways, because sometimes, you find yourself at a place that is beyond words.

I guess that’s where I am, and it’s odd, because I love words and putting them together.  But today, all the words I have are all a jumble and none of them come close to saying anything intelligent about the ways my heart is broken open.  I wish I could write beautiful words of lament like the psalmists did, but maybe that will come later.  For now I’m beyond words, and this is what it looks like:

Holding my husband’s hand, even in public, because it feels like the only thing to hold onto–or maybe the only thing to hold onto that won’t ever let go.

Eeking out a pre-dinner prayer that said simply, “Thank you for the food” because anything else was too hard to pray.

Being “kissed” over and over by my doggie, who doesn’t understand, but who knows that something is wrong.

Avoiding the phone, because I haven’t anything to say and there isn’t much I want to hear. Except maybe the voice of God, answering with a brilliant explanation that I hadn’t previously considered.

Going to the gym and running and running and running, as if a treadmill could take me to the far away places that my heart dreams of.

Sighs too deep for words, unintelligible to anyone but the Holy Spirit.

Tears running down my face, making a mess of carefully applied mascara, cracking my carefully constructed facade of strength.

Asking the question “why” but not really wanting an answer.

Still praying “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” because you know, somewhere,  that God comes to messy, broken apart people.  It’s just been so long since you were of those people, that you don’t remember what is it is to wait.

Sing Loud! It’s a big world

That’s what one of my favorite bumper stickers says. (For you Presbyterian Folks, you probably recognize that it’s a David Lamotte thing.)  I love it so much perhaps because I love to sing so much–nevermind that I really really can’t sing.  But perhaps I love it more because I know that the world is full of people who could probably use a song in their hearts more than anything else.

Every year, I look forward to going to Dicken’s Day–an event put on by our town on Black Friday. Folks dress up as Dickens-era people, vendors come, shops stay open late, and there are horse drawn buggy rides through town.  But forget all that.  The best part is the parade at sunset.  Thousands of candle-bearing people slowly process toward the markethouse singing Christmas carols.  I look forward to it all year long, because it’s one of the few chances I get to really sing–the one time for me to blend in, singing as loudly as I want, because I know that there are so many people and my voice won’t be heard.

But this year, while everything was completely festive, there was a major hole in my celebration.  There was no singing.  Just a bunch of silly-looking, candle-bearing people slowly walking and looking confused. Clearly, everyone missed the singing as much as I did. A few people tried to get it started, but it never caught on.  And the comment I heard most from other Dicken’s Day goers? “It was great, but what happened to the singing?”

I was suprised that it meant so much to people.  After all, surely many of them get to sing…? But maybe not.  Church seems to be about the most likely venue for people to sing, and with fewer and few people going to church, maybe there are fewer and fewer places where it is acceptable to sing.  And somehow, that outlet is something that people recognize is missing.

Why could it be so important? Because singing seems to transport us to another time, when even if it wasn’t, life felt simpler.  Because maybe people realize that it’s fun to be part of a community that is all doing the same thing at the same time–that contrary to what our world tells us, “we” is a lot happier than “me.”

Or maybe it’s because that’s what we were made to do–a wild voice within each of us that is clammoring to be set free.  Because each of us, together with buzzing bugs and singing birds was meant to be a part of a terrific symphony.

So, sing loud.  After all, it’s a big world.  And forthe love o

f everything pure and holy, don’t let a city who just doesn’t knowany better throw a bah-humbug on your parade.
From Dicken’s Day 2010.  When there was singing.  And fireworks.

A cross posting fool

For the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with a new blogging home ( and I love it. It’s a lot more flexible.  The templates kind of fit who I am right now.  I can do great things with it.  It would definitely be a keeper, except for the fact that I feel lonely and disconnected.  I think somehow I lost what few readers I had.  (My site stats on both sites overwhelmingly confirm this! Er…uh…not that I’m vain enough to care about things like that…) So.  Here’s the new plan.  The blogspot blog will be my main blog, but I will be cross-posing here as well.  The idea is that both sites will have the exact same posts.

In a few minutes I’m going to transfer over the posts that I’ve made that have previously not shown up here.

What Really Matters


I like to set a beautiful, Southern-Living worthy table for big days.  I like to cook meals that look (and taste…mais oui!) like they might have come out of Gournet magazine.  I like my house to look just right (though it rarely does…shhh…don’t tell!)  I like to really decorate for Christmas, as I pretend at least to myself, that the glitz matters–if only for a few weeks. And I want the weather to be nice and cool (soup and sweater weather cool) when I do all these things. These things make me happy.

But truth be told, they don’t matter.

In my busy madness, I’ve tried to practice wide-eyed looking around.  And I’ve been well rewarded with the sightings of things that matter considerably more than my fine china dinner or the number of Christmas lights that now adorn my house.

So here’s what matters:
Squeezing one more person around the table, even if I had to get creative to do it.  A new friend with no other place to be made our feast all the merrier.

Watching my husband smile his proud husband smile–because for all the hard work that he complained about, the day was one he loved.

Making one thing that someone has been looking forward to all year.

Waking up and realizing that I have so much to be thankful for, itty bitty things and ginormous things, that shape my world in unimaginable ways.

Saying thank-you to people who have really made a difference.

Watching a child, who doesn’t know that much about church, feel excited to be a part of a community of faith.  Watching a church, who hasn’t had any kids in sometime, grin with sheer delight as a child lit the candles for the first time in years.

These are the things that matter.  These are the things for which I am deeply thankful. And surprisingly, they are the things over which I have the least control.  Huh.

Dirty Thirty?



(Originally posted at

Despite my best efforts to keep it from happening, despite the number of times I have said that I was turning 25 (which I guess I’ve done at least five times now. The plan was to stay 25 until I hit 80), the card that my grandmother sent me is alerting me to the fact that I’m turning thirty.

And I’m strangely ok with the fact.  (Really strangely ok.  I thought I was going to be ten shades of ill about the whole thing. I really planned to ignore my birthday.) But here’s the truth:  I know a lot more than I did when I was 25.  I’m a lot more interesting that I was when I was 25.  I’m a lot less in-over-my-head than I was at 25 (when I was engaged and finishing seminary.)  Yeah, I have the gray hairs to show for it (which are well hidden, thankyouverymuch), and yeah, I’m a…uhem… few pounds heavier than I was then, but it’s not a bad gig.  I think I’m just now starting to turn into the person I’ve always wanted to be, which might be the best gift of all.

So maybe this year, I’ll actually be thirty instead of turning twenty-five…again.