Sunday, November 15, 2009

remodeling

As I walked up to the church building this morning, I had a realization.
Remodeling is harder than a new build.
Okay, maybe I have not had that much experience with either one. However, hear my reasoning.
With a new build, you get to watch this new creation develop. It is exciting and all "new".
With a remodel, yea, you get to watch "new" happening. However, there is the old being moved to the side. Something has to be removed for the "new" to be built.
As the light post came down and the landscaping disappeared, I felt kind of emotionally attached.
Okay, okay - a little dramatic. I didn't even notice the light post before I saw it on it's side this morning. However, overall there is the whole taking away.
I know it will be wonderful when it is done. (That is not just a "company line", I really can't wait - it is going to be great.)
Yet, there is something about the taking away that makes this remodel hard.

Then it hit me. That is what transformation is about.
In our lives, God is in the business of remodeling. And sometimes that means some old has to go. If God is going to do anything with my life, some old habits have to disappear.
Definitely some walls have to come down.
Maybe even a little digging deep to pull out some old stuff.
God doesn't think "I'll get it right with the next one".
No, God desires to take a surrendered life and make some changes.

As I walked across the dusty, concrete and crowded with "construction stuff" floor of what will soon be the remodeled hospitality room, I smiled.
Can you image what God has to work with?
Thank you, Lord for taking on my remodel. And, its not just a company line - I know you are doing great things in me. It will be great when it is all done.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sometimes silence is necessary

This past Thursday I attended a graveside at the Veterans' Cemetery. This was the first time I had been out to this particular cemetery. There was not a cloud in the sky and weather was beautiful. I don't remember ever attending a service with military honors.
There was power as the guns shot in rhythm. There is something incredibly breathe taking as "Taps" was played. Silence filled the area as the flag was folded. There was something rather powerful about watching this take place. A deep respect filled my heart.
All of this to honor a man who had served his country many years ago.

There was no room in this moment for political views or for one's opinion on war. This was a moment for silence.

Later on in the day, my eye caught the television news. Gunfire through an army base. I recognized the name of the base, my brother had done his basic training there. Words of the injuries and death filled the screen. Nothing was in rhythm, "Taps" will be played and the flag will be folded too many times over the next week.

Once again, there was no room at this moment for political views or for one's opinion on war. This is a time for silence and prayer for families.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Scripture as a sword

Words are powerful.
You know. I know, trust me, I know. I have used them in a positive way and I have used them in a negative way. And yes, I have had them used to encourage me and to beat me down.

However, Scripture was never meant to beat someone down.
The other day, I heard about someone attempting to use Scripture to get "their" point across in a negative way. Ouch!

Have you ever had someone use Scripture to beat you up? I have and it is not pretty.
Taking a verse and adding it to one's opinion as if to give one's negative words power is not the purpose of Scripture.
The Bible is beautiful and alive. The words found in Scripture are meant to guide and help us discern this journey of faith we are on. I have recommended someone read Scripture as they are struggling with direction. However, the recommendation usually is something like this, "Have you read the book of Hebrews lately? The book has some incredible things to say."
I have quoted a verse to express God's incredible and passionate love for humanity. The words were used to strengthen, to uplift, to encourage another person.

I have heard it expressed that the Word is a sword to be used against evil, not against each other. Yet, people do it.
People use this incredible communication from God as a weapon to slice another person.
I am not trying to "beat someone up" with my words in this blog. I am just trying to say, "hey, think about what you are doing before you do it, please".

As someone has shot at me with a list of single verses, my love affair with God's Word was not effected. However, my opinion of the person went south.
Yet, those that have been the target of negative prooftexting Scripture can quickly have a negative opinion of the Scripture.
Do you really want that to happen?

Here's the problem with prooftexting (taking a single verse out of context to make a point), there is always another verse that can be pulled out of context to make the opposing opinion.
Take 1 Timothy 4:2 for example "Such teaching come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron".

Some think they are just assisting the Holy Spirit with the job of conviction. I would attempt to assist this argument with prooftexting a verse. However, no where does it say, "the Holy Spirit needs your assistance".

Again, I am not trying to beat anyone up with this blog.
I am begging, please consider how you are using Scripture.
Words are powerful.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

where the rubber meets the road

It has been one of those weekends.
I knew Saturday night that my frame of mind may only be improved with a trip through Andy's drive thru and ordering a key lime pie concrete.
You have probably had one of those kind of weekends.

I don't know if the details are as important as the questions that surfaced.
I didn't really ask the questions aloud.
Well, unless you count as I stood over my college best friend's grave.
Through a random series of events, I found myself looking down at the marker and realizing it had been almost 10 years since I talked to her in person. Theologically, I knew as I spoke aloud in that empty cemetery that my voice being projected was more for me than any other.
The conversation was a process of thoughts developing slowly at first and then snowballed into a rather enlightening awareness.

As a pastor, I knew I would be called into hospital hallways during the most vulnerable of times.
This was one of those weekends.
As a fixer, I wanted to have the answers. I never seem to have the answers when it counts.
I didn't have any answers for the family whose son would only call earth his home for only a few more hours.
Or a family whose little boy has had a rough first few weeks of his precious life and seen the inside of a hospital more than anyone should.
I have no answers for the family who just across the field would be burying a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and brother. (The reason for being in the cemetery in the first place).
I told this all to the clean cut grass beneath my feet.
My best friend from college who had always seem to have an opinion about my boyfriends and my college dorm decor was silent.

Yea, these questions were between God and I.

What is it that I believe? What is it that I stand before a congregation and profess?
If what I say when I wear a black robe doesn't mean anything in my sandals and capris in CCU or in the middle of a cemetery than it means nothing.
That is when the rubber meets the road. Faith.

If I profess God to be a comforter, than I must believe God to be of comfort when I pray that for a family.

If I profess that God has more for us than this moment, that Jesus' words of a place beyond this place are true, than I must believe it when standing before death.

If I profess that God is a healer than I must believe God can and will heal when it is God's will to do so.

I guess you could say this weekend consisted of some rubber meets the road moments.
And you could say that I figured out where I stood.

I believe that the God I worship on Sunday morning is in the details of life.
The voice that called me into ministry, tenderly whispers to these families "I love you".
The arms that have led me this far, holds each of these people (including you and me) with a gentleness that is beyond understanding.

Yes, when faith meets reality - God is there.
And for that, I am thankful.

Because the key lime concrete only made me feel stuffed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Church: rain or shine?

I was on vacation recently and this included a Sunday morning. Yes, a Sunday morning in which I was not required by my employment to put on a robe and stand in front of a church congregation. (Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I just did not have a place I had to be this particular morning.)

As the day approached, I considered what I would do with my morning. Would I attend the UM church just down the street? It is a small congregation, I would probably stand out. I want to blend in, not stand out this Sunday morning.

I could attend the mega-church across the highway. However, that would be listening to a sermon and some music. Do I want more of an experience than I could receive from a podcast and a CD?

What will I do with my Sunday morning?

As the sun broke through the night, I started to eye my half finished paint job on my garage door. The weather is beautiful. If I get an early start on my painting task, I could have a couple coats on before afternoon arrives. Dilemma, dilemma.

This decision got me thinking about why people attend the church I currently serve. Seriously, why would I expect anyone to attend worship on a beautiful Sunday morning when there are garage doors to be painted?

Okay before you start judging me. Yes, I know Scripture speaks of the reason to be in worship. I know we are called to lift our praises to God in thankfulness...just read the Psalms, its pretty clear why we are to be in corporate worship. That is not my question. I didn't ask if God calls us to gather for worship.
I understand enough about Wesley theology and prevenient grace to know that the Holy Spirit is pursuing our hearts to reconnect with our creator and worship is often used by the Holy Spirit to draw us closer. Again, not the question on the table.

I asked what would bring a stranger into our building to worship instead of tackling the "to do list" in their often too busy life.

What brings that visitor through our doors instead of sleeping in or spending leisure time with family or working in the yard on a Sunday morning?

To hear a powerful and dynamic teaching.
I could listen to a sermon podcasts downloaded off iTunes from any of the well known dynamic preachers that exist today.

To eat a donut and have a cup of coffee from our incredible hospitality ministry.
Krispy Kreme has a drive through, do I need to say more?

To watch our high tech, vibrant and relevant media we use in worship.
I have a hundred channels on my HD flat screen and can rent a movie at McDonalds.

Each of the above points of attraction are important and I appreciate everything our congregation does to enhance our worship, hospitality and technology. And many people attend churches based on these attributes. However, I don't think those things pull people off the paint ladders and into the pew. (Sorry for the continued paint analogy. I am blaming it on the paint fumes.)

So, what is it that brings people through the doors on a Sunday morning?

I think (and this is just a spitball answer from a vacation focused mind) it is community.
Not just community you can receive from being a part of the Rotary Club or a Sorority.

We all desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. To be part of a community that is focused on something larger than our little world of garage doors. A community that because of the Holy Spirit will get up at the crack of dawn and serve donuts and coffee. A group of people so focused on what Christ has done they want worship to be dynamic, vibrant, powerful and relevant so more people will become part of the community known as the body of Christ. Because, yes worship is about giving God our best.

However keep in mind next Sunday morning, that person siting next to you in the pew may have put down the paint brush long enough to walk through the church's front door.

Will they find a community of hope within the congregation?





Friday, July 10, 2009

Love your neighbor

It is my job this Sunday to preach a sermon about "The Good Samaritan" story found in the Gospel of Luke.
UGGGGH!
My heart is so heavy and broken thinking about what it means to care for the "man in need on the side of the road". I feel so limited, cynical and fearful to really say anything profound about reaching out to "someone out there".

Jesus is clear, love your neighbor as yourself.
We are called to reach out to those in need.

Just this afternoon I received two phone calls back to back.
One was a continuation from an event yesterday.
Our doors are locked for the security of 125 preschoolers. I know it is not ideal, but it is also a ministry to keep those children safe. So, someone needing gas money comes to the door and is offended because he is not "greeted at the door like a human being".

Okay, so maybe we don't have the "Open Doors, Open Minds, Open Hearts" completely down.
But can I just be really honest. We wouldn't need doors locked if people didn't come to the door in a belligerent manner and send fear through the building. (I talked to the guy on the phone, he was scary. I am a little worried about those leaving the building over the next few days). That is where the fearful part of the feeling in my heart comes.
How do we reach out in a society that is full of such anger, which creates fear?

So we fail to "love your neighbor as yourself". Ugggghhh!

However, in between the door visit and the phone call accusing me of personally "not having gas money, but you have a really nice sign out there" (If he only really knew about that sign...),
I got another phone call.
During that phone call I found God speaking to me in incredibly moving ways.
I was reminded that "the church" is suppose to be a place where people can be safe to be "the work in process" that we all are.
No, we don't always do it right and to be honest (again) we probably never will always get it right.
John Wesley believes we are all just moving onto perfection - I agree.
Yet, we can still have open hearts and receive another broken heart's words and desire to take this journey together.
In the Gospel, the Samaritan who helped the man on the side of the road, put the man on his own animal and traveled with him to the inn. He didn't send him ahead, he took the journey with him.

We may pass by sometimes without even noticing.
We may even have locked doors.

And yes, we may even get it right, with the Holy Spirit guiding each word.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas discussion questions

Campbell at the Movies is taking place all through July. On Wednesday night, July 8th we watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. If you would like to consider some questions for discussion, check out below and post a response.

see you at the movies!

Discussion questions for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

1. Prejudice is an attitude while discrimination is a behavior. Explore • these differences?

2. What is a stereotype? Why do people stereotype groups that are different from them? How does the movie depict Nazis stereotyping Jews?

3. When the mother learns that Jews are being exterminated at the camp, she questions her husband. “How can you?” she asks. He responds: “Because I’m a solider.” How do these two perspectives contrast?

4. Why do you think Gretel believes the viewpoints of Lieutenant Kotler, the tutor Liszt, and her father about Jews. Although Bruno is younger than his sister, he questions their viewpoints. Why?

5. One the early turning points for the mother in the movie is saying thank you to Pavel for treating Bruno. What has changed for her at this point? Why do you think she seems open to considering a different perspective?

6. At times, the father is shown as a loving parent and husband. How is this possible given his role as a Nazi officer giving orders to treat people in humanely?

7. How does Bruno justify continuing his friendship with Shmuel despite what his father, sister and tutor said about Jews?

8. The barbed wire fence is a physical separation between Bruno and Shmuel. What other types of separation does the fence represent in this story?

9. Neither Bruno nor Shmuel really know what is going on at the concentration camp. Why is that, and what allows them to keep their innocence?

10. What events and experiences lead Bruno to gradually give up some of his innocence and see things differently?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ministry moments

I missed the ministry moment, I was a half an hour late. The details are not as important as the simple lost moment. I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to move sooner and instead I leaned back in my chair of comfort (okay, not that dramatic, I was in a meeting). This fact is resting heavy on my heart. Thirty minutes on the clock remind me bitterly how "inadequate" I am at doing God's work sometimes. 
This is the conversation God and I were having when I returned from my evening walk (gotta get the 7,000 steps) when I noticed the message light blinking on the answer machine. The message is "a heads up" about a ministry need. 
Any other time, it would have waited for tomorrow. "I don't know the number, it is in the office". "I have 12 billion pages to read for my upcoming class". "I just started eating this mint ice cream sandwich" (that one is real). Several excuses for putting off the "uncomfortable" can come to mind quickly. 
However, this time I was not going to let my "inadequate self" or a mint ice cream sandwich get in the way of a ministry moment. I knew in my insecure heart of hearts that God was giving me another shot. A chance to get "God's work" right this time. 

I often question God's plan for humanity to serve humanity in ministry. There has got to be a more efficient way for God's people to feel God's love. Donald Trump would not leave his "business" up to a group of broken misfits like God does. (No matter what you think of Joan Rivers).
However, as pastors we get this incredible opportunity to be used by God in the most precious of moments.  And I think that is why God uses those of us that miss the ministry moment every once in awhile. So, when we do "get it right" we know how completely humbling and an honor it is to be used by God.
I was reminded in a very tangible way that I serve a God who is all about second chances, redemption and following the heart. 
In tender moments of life, God allows me to step in under the name of Christ. What is that about? I mean, God really knows me. The resume God sees is not typed on fancy paper and only includes the shining highlights of my career. My true resume shows those missed moments, those "foot in the mouth" experiences and the trip-ups. 
Except that really isn't the resume in which God sees. For, Christ's blood is spilled all over my resume. It is all seen through the blood of Christ.  
Yes, even the missed moments of ministry are covered.  
It is not about me. It never has been. It is about God, who never misses a ministry moment. Especially those when I learn the most. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What does love have to do with it?


I have this theory that I have expressed often when it comes to living life together. I think how we merge in traffic says something about how we live life. To merge from James River Expressway onto Highway 65 without smashing up your car, you have to be aware of those around you. You have to understand when someone needs you to speed up or slow down, to move over or to stay put. Some people merge well, some do not and seem to escape the auto body shop by the skin of their teeth. There are times in our lives when we merge well and sometimes we are just going to crash.

To live life well, we must be aware of others. We must look around and take into consideration another’s needs.

I found a new analogy this past Sunday. At lunch in a busy restaurant, one where you order first and then find your seat, all the tables were taken. We planted ourselves with our drinks by a booth to spy out an empty table. Nearby set a man with his newspaper spread out and his full glass of ice tea and his empty dishes. The employee cleared his dishes and he got up…to get a cookie. With no plan to depart anytime soon, he unwrapped his sugar cookie and nestled in for some refreshing alone time.

I really can’t blame him. Though there were many awaiting an empty table. He was completely unaware of the need that existed all around him for his four-seat booth. He probably doesn’t merge well in traffic either.

We are several weeks into our sermon series “Amazing Love” as we walk through the book of 1 John. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for loves comes from God”. I know I don’t always love well. I know if you were honest, you would have to admit the same. Sometimes we merge well in traffic…sometimes it is best to stay off the road. However, God does not leave us there. God is love and the more time we spend with God the better we love.

Here’s another analogy. Several, several years ago my driver’s education teacher took me driving on the highway for the first time. I can guarantee I did not merge well in traffic. I didn’t drive well (period). I almost hit my driver’s education teacher’s garage once. (Good story, though not as good as Mary’s tulip story!) I did hit my parent’s garage (a couple times). However, I drive much better now. I haven’t hit a garage in decades. I currently merge into traffic with great ease. Why, because I have spent some years behind the wheel of a car learning how to drive.

God is love. When we spend time with God, we love better. 

Seems rather basic to me.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

abiding in love

I know when I have been spending time with God. And I have to admit, so do the people around me. I am more loving. 
We are in the middle of a sermon series on God's amazing love and in a couple weeks we will be looking at the Scripture on "God is love". It seems so simple, doesn't it?
God is love. Spend time in God's presence and we will know how to love. 
However, the world has a way of getting in between us and God...love. 
And before we know it, love is not something on our heart or mind. 
It can be a big thing, it can be a little thing, it can be a little thing that we make a big thing. 
I don't know what it is for you. I don't know what it will be for me tomorrow or the day after. 
Yet, I know God says, spend time with me and you will love because I love you. 
It doesn't say, we will love because everything is going right.
It doesn't say, we will love because everyone is nice.
It doesn't say, we will love because we have gotten all the sleep and fruit and vegetables we need. 
It doesn't say, we will love because everyone we are frustrated with "gets a brain and figures out what an idiot they have been".
You get my point. 
We love because God first loved us. We love when we abide in God.
So how we love has little to do with our state of mind or heart or the world's state. It has everything to do with our state of spending time with the Lord. 
So, on my list of things to do this week. I have added, spend time with God. 
I hope you notice.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sheets, tulips and Easter


I have just spent the last half an hour attempting to cover my plants and flowers for the upcoming 20 degree weather. I have pulled all the sheets I have out of my linen closet and sprawled across flowerbeds to cover flowers that I could replace for a couple dollars in a few weeks. Yet still my fingertips are a little numb from wandering around in the cold weather securing the Harry Potter fleece. 

Do you think the tulips thanked me? No, actually the rose bush pricked my fingertips.
However, if I was to be completely honest, I have to admit I would probably rig a heater out to the front yard to save my bleeding heart. Relax, I am not going to do it...fire hazard. 

These are my flowers. I dug around in the dirt and planted those bulbs last Fall. I replanted that bleeding heart from a friend's house. I have watched that rosebush survive three seasons of those stupid Japanese beetles and way too many of these weird April cold fronts. I would do about anything to save them...

Save them...

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they. Matthew 6:26

Sunday is Easter. Not a day to celebrate Cadbury chocolate eggs (though that is a blessing from God). It is more about this week, Holy week. The week that we consider the journey Christ took to the cross. What Jesus did to save us. 

The betrayal, the beatings, the blood. 

All to save humanity from ourselves, really. 
You and me, sinful fools. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Isaiah 40:28-31

I really appreciate a Scripture that talks about soaring. 
However, I don't know how much soaring I have been doing lately. 
Some days I feel more like the only eagles I have seen...the ones in cages and their wings are clipped.
I sure have been doing my share of waiting on the Lord. 
And that is okay. I can sometimes be an little impatient, so this is a great lesson for me to be learning. 
I heard a Bible Study teacher recently pointing out this Scripture is not about waiting on an "event", but waiting on the Lord. Waiting to be renewed by God. Not waiting for that event, moment or action to take place in our lives. Waiting on the Lord. 
Not an easy task. 
Sometimes I can wait for something to happen to be renewed. Depending on this or that to take place before I feel like soaring. 
But the truth is...we soar when we hope, wait, depend on the Lord. 
So, I have been praying this Scripture a lot lately. 
Thought you might need to be reminded yourself that God desires for us all to "not get weary". Be renewed...wait on the Lord. 
video

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saving oneself


I am not a swimmer. My parents signed me up for swim lessons often as a child. We had a swimming pool in our backyard for years...I just never really learned how to swim. 
I am not a fan of large bodies of water. If I am on a boat - yea,  I am good with water. If I am on a wave runner (back when I had time to go to the lake, that is what they were called) - yea, I like water. I try to drink my 8 full 8 ounces of water a day. I guess you could say I like water. 
I just don't like the idea of going down with water around. I have never had a bad experience with water. It may just be too many movies with a similar idea as the motif. 

I have been thinking a lot about lifeguards saving people lately. I have not really ever seen a lifeguard save anyone. All the lifeguards I have seen consist of those at Whitewater who hang out up high in their chairs and look cool. 
However, a particular visual has come to mind and I have not been able to shake it (possibly similar to Molly on Jason's mind...Bachelor reference).

Years ago, I heard a preacher talk about having to save someone who was drowning. The person fought so much to try to save themselves, they made it really difficult for the lifeguard to save them. Almost making it impossible.
The visual has paired up with some Scripture I  have been reading lately and the connection has not left my heart. 

How much do we try to keep ourselves afloat that we fight anyone who is trying to help us. 
Have you been there? Do you know someone who almost took your eye out when you offered assistance because they were too busy flapping their arms to stay afloat? I have to admit, I have probably been that person more times than I can admit.

The prophet Isaiah said something about those that wait on the Lord...will mount up like eagles. Hmmmm.
If my choice is between going down or mounting up...I think I will soar with the eagles.
What is necessary for that to take place? Waiting on the Lord.
Except I am not any better at waiting than swimming....ugh.
Just something to think about this Lent. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Acceptance


Revisiting a recent thought from Women's Retreat 09

I am a little addicted to The Bachelor, season 13. In who will Jason, the single dad from Seattle find love? That is the question that keeps me turning on the television at 7:00 p.m. every Monday night. However, recently my mind has been considering a lesson to be learned from the show. It hit me as I listened to Nicki on her "limo rejection ride" after not receiving the rose a couple weeks ago.  She admitted that she was just not pretty, smart or good enough and it broke my heart. 

How many of us have sought after something only to come up realizing we just were not good enough? Maybe it was love lost or maybe it was that part in a play (which I heard someone confess just this morning). Maybe it was a job opportunity or the acceptance from another (parent, sibling, child, pet...). 

On The Bachelor, the women all desire to receive the rose from Jason. The rose represents his acceptance, a chance at love or even the opportunity to spend one more week on TV. 
Jason offers the woman he chooses the rose with the question "Will you accept this rose?"
This question and rose represents Jason's acceptance and the women who are recipients glow with joy.

What in your life represents the rose? Who is it that you seek acceptance from? Don't we all have that person or situation that we are desiring a particular response?
I don't think it is just a "women thing". I just happen to know that women have a thing about acceptance and wanting it from those around them. 

God wants us (male or female) to know we are not only accepted, but loved passionately by God. Loved so much that "God gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Jesus came to earth, taught, healed and did miracles, died on a cross carrying our sins and three days later...rose.
Will we accept this rose? 
You are Loved.

                                                              

Friday, January 23, 2009

"God understands our thoughts long before they are clothed with words". 

Do I need to tell you who wrote that sentence originally? John Wesley, of course. 
However, I would like to move away from my obsession with John for a moment. Did I just hear a loud sigh of relief? Okay, maybe he has been at the center of my thoughts recently. Soon and very soon, Wesley will take a back seat to my Spring classes. For now, on to more important points and yes, I have one. 

The idea that God understands (not just "knows", but understands) my thoughts - that is assuring to me. It could be scary, but God loves me - so I don't feel judged. How many relationships do I have in my life where if that person knew all my thoughts it would be okay?
I think I can honestly say, a couple relationships where I do not feel judged or condemned for something stupid, petty, mean or dramatic entering my mind. 

Most people will never know the million thoughts that fly through my brain. However, if you know me, you know that about a 1/2 million things that fly through my brain do get "clothed with words". Yes, many will know about 1/2 of my thoughts if they are around me much. 

Yet, there are those that know my heart. Where I can just call and say, "I need to get this off my chest. I know you could think less of me as I tell you this thought, but I trust that you will hear me and still accept me". Those people that God has placed in my life to get a glimpse of how God desires to be in relationship with me. The judgement is absent, the acceptance is abundant, now we just need to find the realization. The realization that God loves me.

This "realization" made me also "realize" that one reason there can be fear in knowing God understands our thoughts before we put words to them is that we don't have that kind of understanding of God. 

We fear because we don't understand God's love. God's incredible, unmatchable, exceeds our imagination, passionate and unconditional love. 
"For God so loved the world..." read the book of John. (Do you expect me to do everything for you, come on...I got some more John Wesley to read).
blessings,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Still in love

Yes, he is short in stature, but incredibly tall in ethics. He may even have a tendency towards being considered a mama's boy. However, Susanna only meant to guide her son and you really can't blame her for that. If he received even a small piece of the passion he has from his mom, then thank you Susy (can I call her that?)

My heart still skips a beat when I read his writings. "A heart deep-dyed with generous honesty" - how can you not smile? My admiration has grown to the point that his picture now rests on my desk. And yes, I know he has made some mistakes. However, his desire to grow and be transformed only makes my heart draw closer. Can you really knock someone from leaving Georgia quickly? If it wasn't for Paula Dean's restaurant, I would not have stayed long myself.

Relax, I only have a couple more weeks of being consumed with John Wesley. My summaries will be written, I will take the final and then have to move on to the Hebrew language. But for now, my love for John Wesley will continue. If nothing else, possibly my heart will be reminded it is "stamped with the image of Christ" (another beautiful Wesley phrase).

If you are looking to fall in love, move away from eHarmony and borrow my 16 volume set of John Wesley's Works instead. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Falling in love

I have found myself falling in love...
with John Wesley. I know, he died over 300 years ago and during his life had very little, if any success in relationships (there's something we have in common).
Yet, I find myself smiling as I read his words and my heart is filled with admiration (and the music swells and the camera pans out).
Over the last month I have been knee deep in the writings of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Now, ordinarily I would not find myself enjoying a night of reading John Wesley's 52 Standard Sermons a highlight. Yet, what an incredible writer. 

"But the fact we know; namely, that the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship, than he can doubt of the shining of the sun, while he stands in the full blaze of his beams". Sermon X, Witness of the Spirit, Part 1.

Even more than a kindled love for his writings, I have been reminded of what this whole things is about. Why being a part of this particular denomination is actually something to also smile and have admiration about.

I will be the first to admit that there are times when I want to just hang my head as I read about the happenings taking place in United Methodist corners of the world, especially America. I have been a United Methodist almost my whole life. I have born in 1968, the same year this denomination became "united". However, as with every other mainline denomination and those not so mainline, the UM can get distracted (can't we all).

As we have become concerned about numbers, political correctness and actual, politics in general, we have forgotten our first love. Don't get me wrong. Yes, we should be concerned about numbers, political correctness, politics, especially in how it relates to social justice. We should always be concerned about how to serve our neighbors in all ways and forms (break out the cell phone and text your thoughts right now!). Within all this concern, what are we rallying people behind? What is the great cause for which we are worrying about numbers and political correctness?

"That I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God." Sermon XI and about a hundred other John Wesley sermons.

I believe in what the United Methodist Church is doing in the world today. I believe in what the United Methodist Church is doing on my corner. As a United Methodist pastor, I just don't want to lose track of what Wesley seem to have etched in his heart (after sorting and struggling through much). 

John made his share of mistakes. However, his assurance of the above fact was a driving force in a majority of his writings. 
May my own witness of the Spirit be the driving force behind what I do as a UM pastor and a part of humanity.