Archive for the ‘Julie Gvillo’ Tag

Abe-the-Ham   5 comments

His name was Abraham.  Named after the Isrealite patriarch and the sixteenth president of the United States of America, Abraham had been given a name his parents had insisted bestowed honor and distinction.  It was a serious name.  However, Abraham was rarely serious.  As a child, he was anything but serious.  His friends had called him “Abe-the-Ham” in school.  When Abraham’s friends went to college, Abe went to clown school.  Yes.  Clown school.  Abe-the-Ham became very serious about clowning, but he never felt that anyone ever took him … or his craft … seriously.  Not his friends.  Not his deceased wife.  Not his only son or grandchildren.  Certainly not his parents.  As Abraham sat on the bench at the rest area where the circus caravan had stopped on that brisk September day, Abraham wondered if God had ever taken him seriously either.

The circus was disbanding.  It had never been a Barnum and Bailey production, but it had provided enough for him to care for his family.  At seventy-five years old, however, Abraham’s son was grown and living across the country with his own children.  Abraham looked around at the small circus family he had known and loved for years, and wondered what he would do now.  He couldn’t imagine his life without clowning, but he could hear his father’s voice in his head saying, “It’s time to grow up, Abraham.  It’s time to get a real job.”  Was it?  What was a “real job,” he wondered.  He didn’t know anything else.  Abraham stood and stretched, and walked a slow walk around the small pond next to the picnic area.  He could hear children laughing on the playground, and Abraham prayed for each one of them as he walked, each step deliberate and prayerful, each breath a prayer for their safety, their health, and a sense of acceptance for who they were as children of God.  Abraham also prayed for his son, Isaac, and for Isaac’s wife Addison, and for the six grandchildren, ages fifteen to five, whom he rarely saw.  Then Abraham got back on the travel bus for the remainder of his last ride with the circus he loved.

A few hours later, Abraham wearily opened the door to his too quiet home, walked inside, and crawled into bed, his tear stained face showing his age more than ever.  Abraham closed his eyes to sleep with the words of Revelation 21:5 running through his head, “And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”

It was then that the phone rang.  Startled by the ringing of the house phone in the darkness, Abraham clumsily reached for the receiver.  “Hello?” he choked through sobs he was trying to control.  There was silence, and then, “Dad?”  Isaac sounded distracted.  “Dad is that you?  I meant to call Addison, but you’re next to her on my phone. It’s late for you.  I’m sorry.”

Abraham’s voice quivered as he said, “It’s fine, Isaac.”

“Dad, are you O.K.?”  Isaac’s tone changed from distraction to concern.  “Dad?  What’s going on?”  And within moments, Abraham filled Isaac in on the whole story as tears rolled down his weathered face.  “Why didn’t you tell me?” Isaac asked.

“You’re busy with your own life,” Abraham said.  “You have Addison and the children and your law practice …”

“Dad,” Isaac said, “I’m never too busy for you.”  He paused.  “You know, Alex called our attention to a feature on the news the other night about a clown company here that ministers to children and elderly and hospitalized.  Addison thought we should mention it to you … she’s been bugging me about it all week.  I just thought you were happy with the circus ….”  Isaac’s voice trailed while his words sank in for both of them.  “Listen, Dad,” he said.  “You could live here while you figure out what you want to do.”

“I don’t want to impose, Isaac,” Abraham protested, weakly.

Isaac laughed out loud.  “It’s a circus here.  You’ll fit right in!”  And then, before Abraham could object, Isaac announced, “I’m clearing my schedule for the week, Dad.  I’ll book a flight for tomorrow morning, and rent a car.  We’ll talk things through when I get there, but Dad?  I’d really like for you to think about this.”

Abraham already had.  His smile beamed through the tears and the darkness.  God was doing a new thing, and Abe-the-Ham would have a new ministry and a new hope … thanks be to God!


Timely Treats   Leave a comment


Mindfulness   Leave a comment

I am off today, so my “to do” list is full of housekeeping tasks which include working on the reorganization of our bedroom closet and putting away Christmas decorations.  The television is on.  I’m catching up on The Ellen Degeneres Show while I’m working, which means my attention is divided between the T.V. and the tasks.  As a result, I’ve hit the replay button to hear what I missed, and I’ve walked into rooms and promptly forgotten why.

My 2013 Christian Education Chairperson sent the Annual report for me to review.  I made a few notes, and replied to her email, but I forgot to attach the document.  UGH.  How often do I do that?

Focus is about mindfulness.  I remember reading once about the importance of performing your routine tasks as though you were teaching someone else how to do it … talking through in your mind what you’re doing and why you choose to do it in that particular manner.  The idea is that in doing so, you become more mindful of your activity, more aware of the reasons you do what you do, more purposeful in doing it, and possibly more efficient as well (which reminds me of the dad in Cheaper By the Dozen, btw … does anyone else go there?).

We live in a time where multitasking rules the day.  We applaud people who can juggle multiple activities at once.  We pride ourselves on our busy-ness.  However, I’m not sure these are practices we want to encourage.  Instead of instilling a sense of diligence and cognizance, what we have created is a society with a short attention span.  We are bored quickly, and our minds wander because we have not cultivated the practice of mindfulness.  We forget what we’re saying mid-sentence.  We walk into a room and forget why.  We fail to complete even the simplest of tasks because we are thinking of too many things at once.

Multiple times in the last week, I have reminded myself to “focus.”  It has meant turning off the television … setting my smart phone aside … talking myself through routine tasks such as preparing my breakfast.  Obviously, I have more work to do.   I don’t want to live my life on replay.  I want to experience it the first time and enjoy it.   I want to be mindful of each moment, and celebrate life.

So I’m not turning off the television … Ellen is talking to a cancer patient with five children and a tremendous attitude.  I’m going to celebrate this woman and pray for her, and when the show is over, I will turn off the T.V. and finish my housekeeping tasks.  One thing at a time.  One.  Thing.  At.  A.  Time.  Hmmm.  I think my mother used to tell me that.  I hear you, Mom … I’m listening …… 😉


Posted January 9, 2014 by juliegvillo in Word of the Year

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A Sabbath Goal   Leave a comment

In Mike Ashcroft’s My One Word, he asks, “What next step has God revealed regarding your one word?”  He suggests asking questions, praying, and letting your key verse guide you to that next step.  My key verse reminds me to keep focused on the goal.  I searched for a list of verses in Eugene Peterson’s The Message that have the word focus.  The following verse was listed that refers to a goal I think requires some attention from me:

Matthew 6:6  Here’s what I want you to do:  Find a quiet secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and as honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense God’s grace.

Last summer, I read MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s book Sabbath in the Suburbs (an excellent book for parents of children and youth, in my honest opinion, and quite possibly for study in a church small group if folks could wrap their heads around the idea long enough to make space for it).  I almost chose Dana’s word, “sabbathly” for my one little word this year.  As I read Matthew 6:6 again today, it comes to mind.  MaryAnn was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended in late October.  She talked about Walter Brueggeman’s scriptural idea of “sevening ourselves.”  With that in mind, I went through my 2014 date book, and scheduled Sabbath time (because we all know that if Sabbath isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t happen … even for pastors … maybe especially for pastors):  one day of Sabbath every seven days, and one “weekend” of Sabbath every seven weeks, and one week of Sabbath every seven months.

At the conference, MaryAnn encouraged us to make our own Sabbath manifestos.  To set the guidelines of what Sabbath would look like for us in our individual contexts.  Mine included the following:

  • Schedule it (check)
  • Play
  • Light candles, and be still.
  • Connect with loved ones.
  • Connect with God.
  • Play music.

As I journaled this morning, it occurred to me again how  much I enjoy new calendars and the New Year.  There is something delicious about open spaces on a calendar that excites me and makes me happy.  Recognizing that, I look forward to the open spaces Sabbath will provide to just be with God, as simply and honestly as possible, so that the focus shifts from me to God, and I can sense God’s grace.

One Little Word, 2014   Leave a comment

I have decided to subscribe to the “one little word” concept for 2014. Normally, I would say to those who follow the one little word concept that one little word is not possibly enough to change all I need to change. In fact, I have said that. But the past year has taught me differently. If I had adopted one little word for the past year, it would have been the word “health.” I didn’t. That word was thrust on me, and it became a focus out of necessity. As a result of that focus, everything in my life has changed: I think differently; I plan differently; I eat differently; I pray differently; I manage stress differently; I exercise differently … O.K. … regular exercise at ALL is different for me; I live differently. And by the end of this year, a new word began to bubble up in me … a word I have often embraced but hadn’t felt for some time: hope. Now I can see what a difference one little word can make … one little word that guides our thinking and focuses our endeavors and offers meditation for prayer can change more than we can imagine. It can transform our living in new and exciting ways!

My word for 2014 is “focus“:

  • a subject that is being discussed or studied; the subject on which people’s attention is focused.
  • a main purpose or interest
  • a point at which rays of light, heat, or sound meet or from which they move apart or appear to move apart; especially the point at which an image is formed by a mirror, a lens, etc.

*definition from

My verse for the year is Philippians 3:15-16, The Message interpretation: So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.  If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you’ll see it yet.  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

When I plan a sermon, I was taught to write Focus and Function statements to define my purpose. The word “focus” will help me define my purpose for all that I do in 2014.  It will help me focus my attention.  It will help define my main purpose or interest as I seek to live out my life.  It will provide for me a point at which my energy and God’s meet and provide an image for me reflected (as a mirror) or narrowed (as a lens) in such a way as to help me see if I am living according to God’s Will for my life.  I pray that it will clear my blurred vision, and help me to commit myself fully where I struggle to do that very thing.

I begin this one little word journey with anticipation as well as some trepidation.  I can’t begin to fathom what it will hold in store, but I know there is a strong possibility it will transform me and my life, and I trust that God will hold it all in the great love that is God.  This then, from the prayer for Solomon in 1 Chronicles 29:14-19, is my prayer:

Lord, give me an uncluttered and focused heart, so I can obey what you command, live by your directions and counsel, and carry through with your Will for my life.  Amen.

May it be so~

Celebrating 10 Years   Leave a comment

Yesterday, The United Presbyterian Church celebrated my ten year anniversary with them.  It was a joy and a blessing, and my heart is full.  I well remember telling Harold Starr thirteen years ago that I could not see myself pastoring a church when he talked with me about that very thing.  But that was before … before Commissioned Lay Pastor training … before I met my mentor, friend, and colleague, Rev. Pam Laing, who helped me discern a call to ministry … before I fell head over heels for the congregation of The United Presbyterian Church.  Today, I can’t imagine my life without the blessing this ministry brings to my life.

Three years into this call, I had a conversation with Rev. Ed Zumwinkle, a youth ministry guru in our Presbytery and someone I look up to and respect a great deal.  He told me the average burnout rate for youthworkers is eighteen months.  Eighteen months.  Research has shown that the reason for this burnout is often unrealistic expectations on the part of both the congregation and the youth worker. I don’t know if I fully live up to the expectations of my congregation (though yesterday, they made me feel like I surpass them regularly).  I do know that I sometimes don’t live up to my own.  But on those days when the challenges overwhelm me, I am encouraged by

  • a team of AMAZING volunteers
  • changes in our programming that have fostered spiritual growth and faith formation that is visible in our children and youth 
  • leadership development 
  • community strengthening
  • mission work in the community and in the world
  • participation in the connectional church
  • fun fellowship!

Ten years ago, Kara Carnes — then three years old — would run down the aisle at Children’s Time, and throw her arms around me.  I got to where I braced myself for that on Sunday mornings, but I always looked forward to it.  Little did I know then that the front row seat I had for the spiritual growth and faith formation of the children and youth in this congregation — “my theological children” — would move my heart the way it did.  Today, these children and youth, including Kara, still approach me (usually more sedately, but not always!) and reach down for hugs.  😉  They say profound things like, “God loves you, and I do, too!” and they sign it across the room, across the gym, and across the sanctuary.  It warms my heart.  ❤

Members of my first mission team are now getting married and inviting me to officiate at their weddings, having babies and introducing me to them, and coming back to teach Youth Quest.  These are the joys of longevity.

I am blessed, and I am thankful.  I can’t believe God has allowed me this amazing opportunity — proof that God can and does work through anyone — and I give thanks for it every day.

I am thankful for my mentor, friend, and colleague, Pam, who has blessed my life in a million different ways over the last ten years.  I would not be in this position without her.  I would not be in ministry without her.  I would not be the Youth and Families Pastor I am today without her encouragement and guidance.  We are very different in our approaches, in our personalities, and in our thinking, and I know I am not always easy to work with.  I am thankful we continue to be able to minister together as a team.

I am also thankful for my family.  Ministry is not easy on families.  The hours are inconsistent.  Meetings mean I miss games.  I can’t always give reasons for why I am later than I said I would be.  I appreciate their patience, and I appreciate that they try to understand that — at least for now — this is something I simply can’t not do … even when it means we hold our breath through a mission trip, hoping Baby doesn’t arrive until the due date!

I love each member of the congregation and each colleague, friend, and family member who celebrated with me yesterday in person and in spirit, and from the bottom of my heart, I am thankful ……

OBEDIENCE TO GOD   Leave a comment

27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council.  The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’  29 But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.  30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’  33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time.  35 Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites,consider carefully what you propose to do to these men.  36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared.  37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.  38 So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail;  39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’   Acts 5:27-39

This early church story offers a glimpse into the challenges the apostles faced in the days that followed Christ’s resurrection and ascension.  It is a painful story and an inspiring story.  It is a story of courage and of wisdom.  While this particular story is set 2000 years ago, we who follow Christ encounter similar resistance to living out our calling today.  I think that’s what hurts the most as I read this story.  Peter and the apostles knew they were doing what they had been called to do, yet the authorities tried desperately to silence them:  ‘We gave you strict orders not to (do this),’ they said.  They used their position of power and their position of authority to try to keep the disciples from doing what God had called them to do.  How often do we find ourselves struggling with people who use their positions of power and authority to try to silence us?  How often are we told that we cannot do what we know is right in our hearts or say words that will offer healing and blessing because a righteous person who sincerely loves God also fears what they do not understand?  Because that it what this is.  It is fear.  It is a lack of understanding.  It is a fierce need to be in control facing the work of the Holy Spirit which cannot be controlled.

I admire the strength and courage of the disciples who stood up to those who tried to stop them.  I envy their refusal to submit to earthly authority in order to keep the peace.  I am empowered by the manner in which they boldly stood their ground and promised to obey God rather than those who would play power games!  I sincerely want to be Peter … to be strong enough to go toe to toe with those who would seek to control the Holy Spirit … to be courageous enough to clearly say, “I must obey God rather than human authority.”  Obedience to God that is in conflict with human authority is a difficult path.  It promises suffering.  However, so does submission to earthly authority that is in conflict with obedience to God.  Even earthly authority that seeks to serve God … and quite possibly especially that authority.

How, then, do God’s people witness to the resurrected Lord in ways that make a difference in the lives of those around us?  How do we face the challenges of earthly authority while remaining obedient to God?  These are not easy questions.  They were not easy for Peter and the apostles in Jerusalem, and they are not easy for us today.  Our hope is in Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).  Gamaliel was right when he said, “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail;  39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them …”   Therein, we find the courage to respond to the call of God on our lives and to live in obedience in spite of those who would seek to silence us.  Go, therefore, and be God’s witness in the name of the risen Lord, and be at peace~