Welcome to Grace Notes! You can find an archive of my preaching and writing here. I welcome your comments and questions, as I always enjoy conversations about faith.
Grace notes are actually tiny notations in classical music that indicate a quick note decorating the melody. Grace notes always lead to the main thing. In my spiritual walk, the main thing is the grace of God in Jesus. This grace is God’s unequivocal gift of acceptance and love for you and me. That’s what fuels me, and that’s what I write about.
I look forward to sharing with you and hearing from you in this blog – and I hope you find the words and ideas here to truly be Grace Notes, filled with God’s grace. – PJ
Pastor Julie is a student of yoga and a lover of singing, a low maintenance housekeeper and a potluck foodie, a wife and proud mother of two young adults, and a passionate voice for connecting faith, daily life, and scripture. Born and raised in Columbus, she studied religion and music at Oberlin College and Conservatory, and received her MDiv from Yale Divinity School. Pastor Julie served four parishes in Connecticut before returning to her Ohio roots to become Epiphany’s senior pastor. 

Jesus in the Driver’s Seat

Matthew 16:21-28

Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Great book, right? Kids love it because they know what it’s like to want to be in the driver’s seat, and they know what it’s like to be told NO. Turning the tables and saying NO to the pigeon is pretty fun.

But let’s face it: we adults love it for the same reason. We all want to be in the driver’s seat, right? We want to be in charge of our lives. The thing we hate most is to have someone else tell us what to do. It’s disempowering. Makes you feel like a child.

That’s what was going on with the disciples in our Gospel story today. Jesus had just revealed to them that he was the Messiah, and now Jesus goes on to tell the disciples what that means.

Now, you can imagine they must have been expecting something


Color Outside the Lines

Romans 12:1-8

When I was in kindergarten one day, I had a bright idea. We were coloring in apples, four to a sheet. We were going to cut them out and mount them on a paper tree on the wall. So I thought to myself, why fuss with coloring inside the lines? I can do this a lot faster if I just color the whole paper red. The other kids at my table saw what I was doing, thought it was a good idea, and did it, too.

But then Mrs. H, the teacher, came over and looked at my paper. She did not see an ingenious solution to a problem; she saw a mess. “Take that to the trash can, and start again!” she said. “And this time, stay inside the lines!”

Stay inside the lines. It is a message we have all received at one time or another. Follow the


Get Out of the Boat

Matthew 14:25-33     

I once went for a whale watch on the Pacific Ocean. It was In Monterey, CA, and though the word “pacific” means calm, the ocean wasn’t. It didn’t look bad from the shore, and we read that the waves were five to eight feet. Didn’t seem like a big deal. But as soon as the boat got beyond the harbor, we were riding the waves. It felt like we were on a roller coaster—up one side of the wave, down the other. And the waves kept coming. Pretty soon my son and I were at the back of boat, emptying our stomachs into the sea, while my daughter clung to my husband for dear life. My husband, who has recurring nightmares about huge waves, gripped the side of the boat in abject fear.

Ever since then, it’s been easy for me to identify with the


The Miracle of Enough

Matthew 14:13-21

One day in mid-March 2020, my husband came home with a 50-pound bag of oats. Connecticut was about to go into lockdown, and even though grocery stores were going to stay open it wasn’t exactly clear what the supply chain was going to look like. My husband figured, “at least we can eat oatmeal.”

Most people have similar stories of pandemic purchases. Was yours reams of toilet paper?  50 pounds of flour for sour dough baking? A case of canned goods? Perhaps it was hoarding, but we were just trying to be prepared to provide for our families in a situation beyond our control.

The crowds on hillside could not provide for themselves in our Gospel lesson today. Perhaps


Hidden in the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-43  

What is your favorite tool for getting rid of weeds? Trowel, hoe, weedwhacker, Round Up? Anybody just leave the weeds? 

Well, that’s what the owner did in the parable in the Gospel lesson today. He planted good seed, but an enemy came and sowed all kinds of weeds. When the slaves asked if he wanted them to tear out the weeds, he said No. You might tear out the wheat along with the weeds. Better wait for harvest, and the reapers can separate the two. Maximize your crop. 

…except that weeds compete for soil, sun, and water. Crops can get overcome with weeds. I once had a trumpet vine from the neighbors which threatened to crowd out the raspberries that I had planted earlier that


Cast the Seed

Matthew 11

I am an amateur and slightly lazy gardener—I love perennials because they are low-care, and I love to see what vegetables I can grow in my less-than-perfect beds. The results generally are pretty modest, but given my effort, I am satisfied.

But the year my husband built me raised beds for vegetables was different. We filled it with a yard each of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. The first season was awesome—not only did the vegetables grow great in all that compost, but there were no weeds. I was so surprised! But I guess I shouldn’t have been, because most weeds come from seeds in the soil or from weeds moving in from an



Matthew 11

We Christians have some old stories. One of the oldest is about work in Genesis Chapter 2—

“Long ago, God made the man Adam and placed him in the garden ‘to till it and keep it.’ It was a place of abundance. Tilling was not hard in the place loaded with fruit trees. Adam and Eve knew the satisfaction of labor and the joy of a job well done without struggling for it.

“But when the man and the woman disobeyed God, they


Immersion Experience

Romans 6

Have you ever had an immersion experience? Mine was a month in Mexico, studying Spanish after my junior year in college. We went to language classes, learned about Mexican history and politics, and visited cultural sites. We lived with host families, shopped at the open market, and worshipped at the local cathedral. I even began dreaming in Spanish. It was an immersion experience into the life of the Mexican people, and it changed me – I experienced another way to live, and I appreciated the tenacity and


Between the Call and the Go

Matthew 9:35-10:8

 I once had a friend who made a habit of reading the first page and the last page of a mystery novel before reading the whole book. 

I thought that was a terrible idea – after all, the surprise would be destroyed, knowing “who dun it” before even starting! But my friend liked to see how all the pieces fit together, and he could do that easier when he knew the ending at the start.