Friday Five, wk5: Rainbows

Happy Friday!

Need a 5 minute break? Keep reading…

Rainbows: Choose Your Own Adventure

When you see a rainbow, what thoughts come to your mind? Childhood memories of stormy days and muggy skies filled with a faint stream of colors? The Wizard of Oz? Rainbows have been a longtime symbol of hope in many cultures. Jews and Christians remember the rainbow sent to Noah and his zoo, as a symbol of God’s promise and a future of hope. Buddhists have an age-old belief of becoming a rainbow body, nearly reaching enlightenment. Even in Japanese mythology, the rainbow becomes a Bridge of Heaven, providing transport for humans to go and creative land out of the chaotic oceans.

Beyond its incredible history, rainbows have become a symbol of identity and visibility for groups who have been ostracized. Harvey Milk urged the artist Gilbert Baker to create the first rainbow flag, a symbol of pride for the LGBTQ+ community, and it was first waved in 1978. This year, the rainbow was drawn and painted by children and adults alike, posted in windows around the world, as a symbol of hope and solidarity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, most recently, the rainbow has been put to the background of the “Black Lives Matter” logo as a symbol of protest for equity for all Black LGBTQ+ people. Even Hollywood Boulevard received a makeover on the 50th anniversary of the first Pride celebration, with rainbow letters spelling out “All Black Lives Matter.”

Through these few examples (and many others throughout our history), we see this unpredictable, God-created prism of light as such an important anchor of hope in our lives. No matter our journey or our story, the glimpse of a rainbow invites us to look up (& maybe squint our eyes), look out, and -what do we tend to do? – share this rainbow with someone around us. “Oo, there’s a double rainbow!” It’s an exciting sight, one that we cannot touch but that touches our hearts. So, in honor of the beauty that is a rainbow, choose a song to listen to today. May it bring a smile to your face and a deep sense of hope to your life.

Songs About Rainbows: Choose One!

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Genesis 9:12-13
  1. Check-in: Where are you experiencing hope? What do you think of when you see a rainbow? (Either write down your thoughts or share with a trusted one.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What are some ways you can seek to discover hope this weekend?
  3. Pray with God: God, thank you for inventing rainbows. They cause us to look up, look around, and share in the wonder. Thank you for this symbol promise of your presence and your protection for better days ahead. In Your Son, Jesus’, name we pray, Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your precious time with you. Go forth with hope!


Friday Five, 4

Well, hello!

Need a 5 minute vacation? Keep reading…

Travel at Home: Savoring the nearby joys

My spouse recently sent me an article, an op-ed piece by travel writer, activist and TV host Rick Steves. Known for his extensive knowledge of savvy travel tips and upbeat personality, Rick doesn’t stay in one place for too long, usually spending four months of the year in Europe. In fact, with the pandemic pausing his plans, this is the first summer in 40 years that he has experienced the sunny season in his home of Seattle! And he has learned a lot in the last 4 months of being home:

Stuck here, I’ve been pondering a big question: Why do I travel? When I was young, I sought out vacations on which I could have fun checking iconic sights off my bucket list. As the years went on, I realized that I traveled more to get out of my comfort zone, to find who I was in the immense scheme of things, and to fly home with the best souvenir: a broader perspective. Since March, I’ve tried to apply this mindset to my current situation. I’ve found that I can satisfy my wanderlust with “sightseeing highlights” just down the street and cultural eurekas that I never appreciated. Before the pandemic, I didn’t think to savor the little, nearby joys in the same way I did while abroad. To be honest, I ignored them. Now I notice the tone of the ferry’s horn, the majesty of my hometown sunset.

And Rick even admits to cooking for the first time…chopping an onion for the first time, making his first pasta. (That last one floored me…how can you be a leading American expert on Europe and never have made pasta???) It just goes to show that we always have room for travel, for exploring the nearby and faraway.

How are you currently savoring the nearby joys?

To be honest, this past Spring felt like ‘disaster mode,’ when we were all just trying to keep afloat in the midst of so many changes. And, while most of us are working through the unique challenges of our lives during a global pandemic, maybe -just maybe- there is space to savor joy. I know, it’s a wild thought…but have you had a cooking/dance party lately? You simply turn on some music and dance around the kitchen, while you’re making a tasty classic dish or new favorite. Even making toast and scrambled eggs can be fun with YMCA blasting in the background! Or enjoy this August weather and explore a nearby park, lake or even drive around and look at the incredible KC architecture (one of my favorite things to do).

See your home through a new lens, pointing out things you’d never noticed before or places you’ve never visited. Bring your friend or family member along to explore together, safely. You just never know what kind of joy you will savor and discover!

To keep myself accountable, I’ll share a few of my plans this weekend…make bagels or cinnamon rolls. It’s been a while, and they’re both so fun to make. Explore a new park with my little dog; taking pets to parks is like international travel for them–so many things to see and smell. Stop and smell the roses…or any flowers that I happen upon…letting this be my prayer of thanks to God.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11
  1. Check-in: How are you currently savoring the nearby joys? Do you remember the last time you felt joy? (Either write down your thoughts or vent to a trusted one.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What are some ways you can seek to discover local joy this weekend?
  3. Pray with God: God, thank you for inventing joy. Even when we are struggling, we learn from the Psalmist that you fill us with joy when we are in your presence. Give us clear vision to be open to moments of surprising joy in this season. In Your Son, Jesus’, name we pray, Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your precious time with you. Go forth with joy!


Friday Five, 3

Well, hello!

Need 5 minutes of pure hope and joy? Keep reading…

2020: Is anything for certain? Tottering Boats

This year has been full of changes and awakenings, and one thing is for certain…not everything is certain. Okay, maybe very few things are assured to happen, but some things remain consistent. When lots of things in life are changing or a big (?) question mark, we have the opportunity to lean steadily on things and people we can count on. And let’s start with (you know this is coming)……….drumroll…………..God!

Our Creator of life, the sun, moon and Neowise Comet, just so happens to be the most stabile presence in our lives. It is up to us how much time and energy we put toward learning about God and God’s life guide (Bible) as well as our connection with God.

“But, Laurel, that book is so big and I’m so very busy.” Hey, I understand! If I spent 1/5 of the time reading the Bible that I do sitting on my couch watching Netflix or Disney+, I would be much closer to God and more invested in God’s Word for my life. #noshame here at all, just a reality check.

Whether you’ve read the Bible in its entirety 10 times over the years, or you aren’t even sure where your dusty Bible is at home, just remember that even 5 minutes reading God’s Word is better than 0 minutes. We’ve got this!

Where do I begin?

I get this question pretty regularly.

  • If you have a few minutes and prefer books with short chapters, choose a Psalm to read. (Try chapter 1, 8, 16, 23, 46, 100, or 121 to get started.)
  • If you have enough time to read a newspaper article (usually 500 words), you have enough time to read these entire books: Jude, Obadiah, Philemon (fascinating!), 2nd John, or 3rd John.
  • If you enjoy a nice flowing novel, try 1st Corinthians, Ephesians, or even the wild acts surrounding Job. Ezeziel is the ultimate action story (think The Rock or Marvel series), and Song of Solomon will certainly remind you of a romcom (blushing ensues).

Just as you might’ve been hunting online for your next (2021?) dream vacation, channel some of the excitement into digging into the certain life guide and the wild adventure that is reading Scripture. We’ve got this. = )

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Once we get better footing by leaning on the certainty of God’s presence and power in Scripture, we are then able to go through the many parts of uncertainty with better focus, peace and care for ourselves and others. We use a strong anchor to secure our tottering boats.

  1. Check-in: How is your mind today–clear and sharp, sluggish, overwhelmed? (Either write down your thoughts or vent to a trusted one.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What is one thing you can prioritize this weekend to help stabilize your tottering boat? (Time with others, read, garden, walk, sing in the shower)
  3. Chat with God: God, thanks for today. This has been quite a week. Give me stability for my tottering boat, peace for my uncertain mind, and joy for my wounded heart. Speak to me clearly whenever I crack open my Bible. I love you. Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your precious time with you. And I thank God for you and the time we can have to dig into God’s Word. Feel that peace live a river… = )

Happy weekend!


Friday Five, 2

Well, hello!

We are alive and aware today, and that is something to celebrate! Thanks for taking five precious minutes from your day to join me, in the hope that you’ll feel encouraged. If you’d like to know why Friday and what this is about, read last week’s post.

Savoring the Flavoring

What role does food have in your life? Is it an old, comforting friend or an annoying, nagging companion? Is food life-giving and energizing, or does it bring up negative feelings, memories and disdane?

While we know food isn’t a person sitting next to us, it does tend to take on roles in our life. Sometimes healthy, sometimes not. But when we can hit that “sweet spot” (pun intended), when food both nourishes us and allows us to savor the goodness of this life, there we can feel more fully engaged in life and lean into being alive!

From the photo of me next to this text, you can see that I love to eat Chips and Queso. My Texan roots meant eating Tex-Mex (and queso dip) regularly; it was shared at get-togethers, our favorite neighborhood taquerias, and even as a Friday night movie snack next to popcorn. But queso really isn’t a nutritionist’s dream, so I know the balance is eating big salads (also in the photo) and other nutrient-rich foods most of the time, while savoring fried chips and queso sometimes. I’m sure you can think of your own “queso,” that favorite food that is not the best for your health. Paul writes to his community in Corinth, 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (1st Corinthians 10:31)

Paul isn’t saying we can’t eat chips and queso (or chocolate cake, or whatever makes you close your eyes when taking a bite and savor); he IS saying to give thanks in all things. And when we are grateful to God for our day, our lives, even our imperfections, we move to a perspective of taking great care of our whole selves. A grateful person values life, both their own and others’. And we actively value life by acting on cherishing it. So eat that kale salad (& the queso, too). I recognize that our relationships with food can often be out of balance, and let’s kindly encourage each other to care for our selves and each other, using professional resources to best take action to feed our bodies well and savor the flavor of life. I’m certainly in this with you.

  1. Check-in: How are you feeding your body in this season? Are you treating it with gratitude? (Either write down or think about how you’re physically caring for yourself.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What is one thing you can prioritize this weekend to help feed your body better? (Cook, try to eat something new, add a green vegetable to your plate full of tan foods)
  3. Chat with Christ: Jesus, you know what is going on with each of us, especially those areas of life that we don’t want to talk about or even admit to ourselves. Food is life-giving and can be used to harm us, too. Give us strength to know the difference and to take action to care for our bodies. Let us grow in gratitude for this life we have. A bonus of taking care of ourselves is that we can love others more fully. Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your precious time with you. And I thank God for you and an opportunity to feed our bodies well. Savor those flavors.

Happy weekend!


Friday Five, 1

Well, hello!

We are alive and aware today, and that is something to celebrate! I thought it would be fun to give you five minutes of encouragement each Friday, starting today.

Why Friday? So glad you asked. For some of us, Friday is the end of a work week and the beginning of taking a deep breath, finding that cozy corner of the couch and relaxing after a stressful week. (If Friday’s a typical day like any other, well, we can thank COVID-19 for that.) And two days off somehow feel like two hours…they fly by! Before we know it, our precious weekend is filled with to-do lists, loved ones’ needs and time fillers that suck us of energy.

My hope is that this little weekly space is a way you can be encouraged each Friday (or whenever you are able to peruse it), check in with yourself, and set an intentional plan to take what you need & leave what is getting in your way. The pattern each week will be a Word of encouragement, two quick questions, and a short prayer.

Let’s get started:

Life as the entire world has known it has been forever changed in 2020. And with news media, social media, voices among our circles of friends/family/co-workers and our own internal dialogue, a LOT is being said and felt. It can be so very overwhelming. And sometimes we share in that order: 1)speak first, 2)think/feel second. Jesus says, 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Here, Jesus is encouraging us to 1)think/feel first and then 2)speak.

  1. Check-in: What are your heavy burdens right now? (Either write down or count on your fingers 3 specific things weighing on you right now.)
  2. Action/Inaction: What is one thing you can prioritize this weekend to help release some of that burden? (Physical activity, talking to someone, journaling, action plan to alleviate some of the burden, etc.)
  3. Chat with Christ: Jesus, you know what is going on with each of us, especially those areas of life that we don’t want to talk about or even admit to ourselves. Sometimes the pressure is crushing us, and we don’t feel like we can hold up the burdens any longer. Turns out, you taught us many years ago to come to you with our whole selves, laying down our burdens to rest for a season. And you will share the responsibility of the load with us. We thank you for carrying the burden and walking alongside us. Show us how to do our part and take care of ourselves. A bonus of this care is that we can love better for others. Amen.

I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your precious time with you. And I thank God for you and an opportunity to rest and lay down your stressful burdens for a while.

Happy weekend!


Try Something New

Hello to You!

The month of May will be here in just a couple of days…can you believe it!? And, as we are still living through the Coronavirus and all of the changes, let me propose an idea….

This is the golden hour for us to Try Something New! Not only will it allow you to be a little brave, trying something for the first time puts us outside of our comfort zone for a fuller life. Don’t you want to live a little (more)??? I sure do. And sometimes, when we taste that unfamiliar food or put ourselves out there a bit, we become braver, more open-minded, fascinating people. (Okay, you’re already fascinating, adored and super awesome, but now you’ll be able to see how awesome you are a little bit more. God already sees it, now we can see it a little, too, in ourselves).

Ideas for Trying Something New:

  1. Visit a suburb in your city that you’ve never been to before, or somewhere you haven’t explored much. (stay in the car or walk around–practice physical distancing)
  2. Learn ten phrases in a new language–what about Japanese, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese or Mandarin?
  3. Listen to a genre of music you haven’t tried before–perhaps Jazz, Punk, Delta Blues, KC Blues, etc.?
  4. Have a picnic in your local park complete with a packed lunch and your animal friends.
  5. Start a daily journal to write your thoughts in.
  6. Try a new cuisine–what about French, Lebanese or Korean? Make a dish at home or order from a local restaurant.
  7. Visit your local *digital* library and borrow some books for the week.
  8. Plant some flowers in your garden. If you don’t have one, try an indoor potted plant.
  9. Visit a local museum or art gallery *online* and view their latest exhibitions.
  10. Learn a new skill–what about kickboxing, sewing, gardening, juggling, yoga, or cooking? You’ll be surprised what you can learn in an afternoon.
  11. Say hello to a neighbor you don’t usually talk to. (Wave from 6 feet away; leave flowers or a baked good on their front doorstep.)
  12. Make a card for a friend and send it to them with a handwritten note.
  13. Learn how to cook a new dish for dinner. We all get tired of eating the same thing, why not try making something new?
  14. Re-read an old favorite book. Don’t leave it gathering dust on your book shelf; get it out and read it all over again.
  15. Research the culture of a different country online–what about India, Guatemala, Turkmenistan, Laos, or Sweden?
  16. Go for a walk or bicycle ride around your neighborhood.
  17. Watch a classic film like Casablanca, The Godfather or The Wizard of Oz.
  18. Make a photo album of a recent holiday you took. Don’t let your memories get lost on your computer hard drive; make a special keepsake album of your trip.
  19. Visit your local farmers markets and pick out some fresh produce–drive thru options available all over the city. Farmers markets are full of delicious fresh fruit, veggies and more. Find your local market and take a visit.
  20. Plan a day trip to somewhere outside your city–it might be the seaside, mountains or another city!
  21. Check out what community events are running in your area and attend one online.
  22. Make a birthday present for a friend. Handmade gifts are personal and much more special than anything you could buy from a store.
  23. Attend a play at your local theater online. Support your local theater and have a fun night in at the same time. (Set up a TV or projector outside for an “under the stars” experience.)
  24. Volunteer with your local nature conservation society to plant some trees. Conservation societies are always looking for helping hands; do your bit and plant some trees.
  25. Be a tourist in your own city and visit all the popular tourist sites you’ve likely never been to (don’t forget your camera!). Our city has so many interesting buildings and architecture.
  26. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to recently and have a good long chat.
  27. Put on your favorite song and dance your heart out. You might be surprised at how much fun you have! Yes!!
  28. Invite some friends to an online BBQ. There’s nothing better than an afternoon spent with good friends and good food, sitting around at your homes.
  29. Try out a new form of exercise like Pilates, HIIT, and strength training.
  30. Organize an online hangout with your friends (Zoom, Face Time, Google Hangouts, etc.). Play a game, simply chat and check-in, whatever you like!

And, because I never encourage others to do something I won’t do myself, here’s a little song. I’ve written songs before, but I’ve never written a song about an event that’s still going on and played it live in Worship. Yesterday, I made matzoh brei for the first time (soo good with cinnamon apples!). The possibilities for trying new things are endless! Let’s do this. = )

very rough recording, ha

Where is the Joy?

Bruises from wearing the mask on her face
Wondering what day it is–does it really matter?
She needs a cure
For the sick with ventilators on their face–

Facing a Monday of playing at teacher
While trying to work at the kitchen table
Tripping on toys
He’s so tired and scared of furlough

God, where is joy?
Where is the joy?

Truckers on highways taking rice to New Jersey
Smiling faces behind plexiglass, scanning my groceries
We’re all weary these days
We cling to “The joy of the Lord is my strength”

Dust-covered dining rooms, longing for Sunday
Empty Cathedrals and schools, so lonely
There’s a lack of hugs
Am I essential? Is my pain?

God, where is joy?
Where is the joy?
We are joy.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, joy…

-Rev. Laurel Cluthe

Tonight: 6:30pm Happy Hour on Zoom for adults; 7:00 pm Youth Group on Zoom with Laurel (text for the link)

Happy Week!!


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