Remember: Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks in Rochester today

Photo provided by Nadia Bolz-Weber

The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, will speak in Rochester on Sept. 12 as part of the Christ’s Love in Action speaker series and she’s talking about using technology to reach out to young people.

I’ll be there, and I’ll be covering her 7 p.m. talk via Twitter. You can follow me @MarkettaGregory or search for #RocNadia. Or, better yet, join me at Asbury First United Methodist, 1050 East Ave. Tickets are $10 in advance and you can buy them at

To learn more, visit my earlier post:

Using technology in the service of the Gospel — and other challenging things

I’m always a sucker for the underdog, the one nobody – except God – ever sees coming.

Like young David and Goliath, the giant.

Like stuttering Moses leading his people out of slavery.

Like a recovering alcoholic preaching the good news every week that God loves us, saints and sinners.

Photo provided by Nadia Bolz-Weber

That preacher, the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, will speak in Rochester on Sept. 12 as part of the Christ’s Love in Action speaker series. Officially, she’s talking about using technology to reach out to young people. Unofficially she’s hoping to challenge assumptions. About the way we welcome people. About the way we package Christianity and try to entice people to buy our brand. Even about the way we arrange our pews.

I’ll be there, and I’ll be covering her 7 p.m. talk via Twitter. You can follow me @MarkettaGregory or search for #RocNadia. Or, better yet, join me at Asbury First United Methodist, 1050 East Ave. Tickets are $10 and you can buy them at

Even if, like me, you’re a bit more conservative, I think you’ll find value in what she has to share.


More about Pastor Nadia

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, an ELCA mission church in Denver. She’s a leading voice in the emerging church movement and her writing can be found in The Christian Century and Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog. She is author of “Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television” and the Sarcastic Lutheran blog.

To read some of her sermons, visit:

My favorite sermon, though, is this one about showing up when people are in need, about standing with people:

Photo provided by

Her book – where she watches 24 hours of Christian TV – is insightful, funny and respectful. You can find it here:

Interested in her tattoos? Here’s an article that explains their religious significance:

And, if you’d like a sense of what her presentations are like, watch this video from New Orleans. Be sure to watch the last few minutes. They are my favorite part. I love how she talks about God using not just our gifts but our flaws. Trust me. It’s good.


Doing more than we ever thought possible

Editor’s note: I first wrote about Kelly Nash a couple of weeks ago on my blog. This is a longer (perhaps better thought-out) version that appeared in the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle.

Some people naturally push the limits. Others, like my friend Kelly Nash, shove them.

She’s run 5Ks and 10Ks, marathons and ultras. But she wanted something more: She wanted to run for 24 hours and raise $1,500 for the Heritage Christian Legacy Mile & 5K, an event that supports people with developmental disabilities.

So, more than a dozen of us – friends, family and co-workers – gathered to pray and cheer as she stepped on the treadmill the morning of that long run. We took pictures, sang about friendship and freedom and wondered silently what was limiting us, how we should be challenging ourselves.

Most of my decisions seem to fall back on what it will cost me. Do I really have the time? Is it worth the effort? But those aren’t the questions that define Nash.

What if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other?

As part of her fundraiser, Nash rented out the treadmill next to her in 30-minute increments. One man, who was training for an upcoming half marathon, ran 13.1 miles with Nash.

“You’ll have to train for a full marathon now,” she said, still running. Still encouraging.

What if I really can go farther?

All of the 30-minute slots were full. They were taken by other runners; a friend of her dear, late father; her husband; her mother; her daughter’s fifth-grade teacher.

So, she was never alone. Not when her eyes got heavy with sleep. Not when her body struggled to cool itself. Not when her fundraising edged closer to $3,000. And certainly not when she grew close to the 100-mile mark and to the finish.

Can I say I’ve run the good race?

More than 200 people, many of them still sweating from their own morning run, chanted Nash’s name and counted down the seconds. When she threw her fist up in the air, the crowd went wild. The treadmill stopped at 106.49 miles. Four marathons in 24 hours.

I like to think she got her questions answered.

Join us: We’ll be chatting live with James Rubart, the author of Rooms, at 7 p.m. today. Look for us at the Simply Faithful page on Facebook. If you can’t make it at that time, send me your questions. I’ll ask Rubart for you.

Runner pushes limits by completing 4 marathons in 24 hours

Actually, I’d say my friend Kelly Nash shoves limits. She just finished running for 24 hours straight to raise money for people with developmental disabilities.

At first she had hoped to raise $1,500 and run 100 miles. At last count, she has raised $3,000 for the Heritage Christian Legacy Mile & 5K. And her final distance? 106.49 miles.

You can look back through her 24-hour run by checking out the Heritage Christian Service Facebook page or by searching hashtag #24Run on Twitter.

Of course, if you’d like to donate visit and search for Kelly Nash.

Grace and gratitude: Counting ‘One Thousand Gifts’

Photo courtesy of Ann Voskamp

The beauty of purple hyacinths in the snow.

The smell of a granddaughter’s hair after her bath.

All tiny blessings scratched in Lida Merrill’s gratitude journal so she can cradle the moments just a little longer and thank the one whom she believes created it all.

Water droplets off a shale wall.

The stillness of a lake as the morning mist rises and the loons call.

Gifts that once would have been missed are now counted and celebrated in preparation for their Easter observance and in the hope of a life well lived — a life renewed by gratitude and joy.

“The practice of journaling keeps me focused on who I am grateful to and who is the source of what I am grateful for — God,” says Merrill, who along with dozens of other people in the Rochester area, recently read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Voskamp’s story of writing down 1,000 things she was grateful for has earned her a spot onThe New York Times bestsellers list for more than eight months and has inspired countless others to take note of their own gifts and to trust the giver.

In the book, Voskamp references the Greek word eucharisteo, which is the word used to describe what Jesus does when he breaks bread at the Last Supper before his death on a cross. The word means “thanksgiving.”

“But guess what root words are embedded in that word, eucharisteo? Charis — and charis means ‘grace.’ Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks,” Voskamp said in an interview. “And the other word embedded in eucharisteo, is the word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ See it? The triplet, that three-braid cord? Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.”

Easter is about joy, about fresh hope and new beginnings, she says. And it all begins with being grateful.

“This tremendous response to the gift of Easter, what can it be but thanksgiving?”

In all things, give thanks

For years, Merrill took note of the kind things that other people did. She filled notebook after notebook in her Rochester home with thanks for the neighbor who shoveled the driveway and the daughter who folded the laundry without being asked. But now, since reading the book, that is changing, said Merrill, assistant pastor at Zion United Methodist Church in West Walworth and director of spiritual life at Heritage Christian Services.

“Now I am noticing what God does in my life; I am noticing the beauty he gives to me.”

It’s a refrain heard time and time again at local book discussion groups where strangers became quick friends as they dug into Voskamp’s poetic writing and questions, her struggles with anxiety and the death of her younger sister.

Laura Bates of Penfield, has been making it a point to write at least three things a day she is thankful for – most often on the “One Thousand Gifts” free app that she uses on her phone.

“I have multiple myeloma (treatable but not curable cancer) and I am finding ways to be thankful for the good this has brought into my life,” said Bates, who attended a book group led by Merrill. She’s thankful for “my closer relationship with God, my appreciation for my family and friends, the fact that I was diagnosed early and the wonderful advances in treatment for this disease over the last several years. Seeing the good in everything also releases you from anger and bitterness.”

For some, the book discussion group became a gift as well.

“People felt safe to share their stories,” said Joan Weetman of Brighton. “Discussions launched by literature can be very rich and personal.”

“My life will be different,” said Char Ipacs of Irondequoit. “I met some wonderful women…  I count each one of these women as one of my 1,000 gifts.”

And while Ipacs expected to learn about gratitude, she was surprised to find how much the book dealt with joy. But the two are inseparable, Voskamp said.

“This book – this really is a dare to fully live – to find joy, right where you are. Because the thing is too often we think joy is ‘out there’ around some elusive next corner. But remember eucharisteo, that Biblical Greek word for thanksgiving? Joy is embedded right in that word. Joy is a function of thanks,” Voskamp said. “If thanks is possible then joy is always possible.”

Thanks in hard times

But giving thanks isn’t always easy, said Benjamin Lipscomb, associate professor of philosophy at Houghton College.

“To be grateful is to acknowledge myself indebted,” he said. “And that is to acknowledge that I’m not self-sufficient, that I’m a receiver and not only a giver.”

Aristotle says that great people, in particular, love to be reminded of favors they’ve given but hate to be reminded of favors they’ve received, Lipscomb said.  Being givers can make us feel strong and superior.  Being receivers, or admitting that we are receivers, destroys illusions of self-sufficiency.

“We’re taught in the Lord’s Prayer to ask even for our food — presumably even if we have a pretty good idea where it’s coming from, and that there will be enough,” he said. “To ask is to put ourselves in the position of receivers, and to prepare to receive in gratitude. Of course, it’s harder to receive things in gratitude that we anticipate.  And harder still to receive things in gratitude that we see as rightfully ours.”

But Jennifer Hopper of Brighton will try, thanks in part to a passage in “One Thousand Gifts” where Voskamp describes keeping hands open to receiving God’s grace.

In all of the book’s pages, “The idea of a closed hand pointing to self and shutting out God is what I will remember most,” Hopper said.

And that hand must remain open, even in the toughest of times, said Merrill.

“Just within the past few weeks of Lent there have been fires, murders of innocents, run away children and drunk driving accidents,” she said. “In the midst of these overwhelming tragedies God is present.”

While God doesn’t orchestrate these events, he is present even when people make decisions that hurt each other, Merrill said. So, she can be grateful that he brings comfort, peace and wisdom, grateful that she can pray for grieving families and know that God is there with them in their suffering.

“I cannot change what I see, but I can change the way I see it,” she said.

That’s how gratitude worked in Voskamp’s heart, too.

“Counting gifts powerfully resurrected me, rose me to the possibility of beauty in places I wasn’t even looking. Awakened me to grace and loveliness in places and moments I was just speeding through, in this relentless hurry,” she said. “Counting gifts slowed me down and resurrected me to really, fully living – attentive and mindful to all the ways God loves me. It was like a budding, an unfurling.

“And once you’ve experienced fully living? You never want to go back.”