Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sometimes People are Sad at Christmas

Sometimes people are sad at Christmas, and I think that's because we make it about family and gifts and fudge and decorating. We get disappointed, because people don't behave in the way we expect. We get sad, because we want things to go the way we planned.

Jesus wants us to have peace. Jesus wants us to make peace. Jesus said, "In this world, you will have trouble...but take heart, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

I'm reminded of a story I heard a long time ago about a man, a boy and a donkey:

'Let’s go to the market and let’s sell the donkey.’ said the man. So the man and his son took the donkey to the market. They walked along the road and the donkey walked behind them.

A young man saw the man and his son and their donkey. He laughed, ’You’re crazy! Why don’t you ride on your donkey?’ ’You’re right!’ said the man and he got on the donkey. The donkey walked in front and the man’s son walked behind.

A young woman saw the man riding on the donkey and his young son walking behind. She shouted, ’That’s not fair! You are big and strong and that poor little boy is tired. He must ride on the donkey. Not you!’ ’You’re right!’ said the man. So the man got off the donkey and he told his son to get on the donkey. The donkey walked in front and the father walked behind.

A rich farmer saw the boy riding on the donkey and the father walking behind. ’Heh! You’ve got a donkey but you are walking. That’s ridiculous!’ ’You’re right. It is ridiculous!’ said the man and so he got on the donkey and sat behind his son.

A poor old woman saw the man and his son riding on the donkey. ’That’s cruel! That is so cruel! Poor donkey! Get off it at once! It is the donkey’s turn. YOU must carry the donkey!’ ’Yes, you’re right. It’s cruel!’ said the man. So the man and his son got off the donkey. Then the man tied the donkey’s feet togther and then he got a long branch and he put it between the donkey’s legs and then the man and his son picked up the donkey and carried him to the market.

’Poor donkey!’ everbody shouted. ’Put that donkey down! Don’t tie its legs! Let it walk!’ ’Oh, no!’ said the man. ’We wanted to make everbody happy! Now everybody is angry!’ So the man cut the rope, and the donkey stood up and ran away.

The moral: When you try to make everyone happy, you end up losing you ass. :o) might end up being sad at Christmas.

In this world, we will have trouble. We will disappoint, and we will be disappointed--when we put our hope only in one another. This Christmas, and every day, may we put our hope, our trust and our faith in the only one who does not disappoint.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Student Ministry Picture of the Week!

Inspired by friend and photographer, Mandy Smith...I've been thinking a lot about pictures. I've been trying to imagine pictures of the day for my life. It really helps me consider how I spend my time, when I have to come up with a picture of the day each day. I don't carry a camera around and always photograph myself, as though I were my own paparazzi. But I've been trying to reflect on a mental picture each day--something that added to the quality of my life. It's also a good exercise in gratitude.

Anyway, this weekend I took an actual picture. I took a lot of pictures, actually, of students. You see this weekend held a lot of firsts for me. I went to my first Chillicothe Hornets Football game--along with half the city. I went to my first Chillicothe Hornets Boys Soccer game. And, I went to see Julie & Julia in the Chillicothe movie theater. I've can't believe I've lived here 9 months and just went to see my first movie. It was a good weekend. In fact, it was a great weekend.

So, back to the picture. When I'm on Facebook, as a lot of us older folks are these days, I read status updates from friends longing for the weekend..lamenting about the weekdays. And, I remember those feelings. I remember going to work because I had to pay bills. I still have bills to pay, but now going to work is not something I dread. I love what I do. When I look at this picture, I can't help but smile. I made it my wallpaper even. Working in Student Ministry isn't working at all for me. I love it. I get paid to have opportunities for moments like this...every day of the week:

Seriously, when was the last time you saw a student rockin' the bass in a band uniform while batons are twirling in the background. You can't make this stuff up. By the way, they were playing a Beatles medley, and his name is Daniel.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spending their lives in service to God’s people...

As I read my Bible in a Year this morning, I was once again amazed by the words I'd found there.

Job 22:2-3 says, "Can a person do anything to help God? Can even a wise person be helpful to him? Is it any advantage to the Almighty if you are righteous? Would it be any gain to him if you were perfect?"

So, what do we mean when we say we are the hands and feet of God? Really? I mean it sounds good, but maybe that's the problem. It sounds too good...too good for us anyway! God is at work with or without me. God is. Almighty. If God is Almighty, what can I add to God? Nothing. God is.

Here's what I can do. I can do what the members of the household of Stephanas (the first converts in Achaia) did, they spent their lives in service to God's people. (1 Corinthians 16:15) Will it add to who God is? No. Will it make me the hands and feet of God? No. Will it humble me? Will it put hands and feet on my love for my Savior? Will it transform me into the person God created me to be? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rooted in Jesus

It's Sunday afternoon, and on a good week, this is the time that I'm taking a little snoozy.  I love a Sunday afternoon nap.  There is something so perfect about spending a morning in worship and an afternoon resting in God's arms.  It's refreshing, renewing, revitalizing.  Today, however, I can't sleep.  I can't turn my brain off.  I can't stop thinking about the truth is today's message.  I can't stop thinking about the words I'll share tonight at youth group.  I can't stop thinking about God's incredible, unfailing, perfect love.

This weekend, our church family was so blessed to have Wayne Kerr and his band from Katy, TX lead us in worship.  His music and message blessed my soul.  I knew that he would do a great job with our students.  I knew that his message would be powerful for them.  I knew students would have a new favorite singer for the next few weeks.  I arranged to have Wayne here for the kids.  I'd heard him before, and I knew our students would love him...and I prayed his message and music would play a big part in shaping our students and encouraging them in their walk with Jesus.  What I didn't know, is that his message would encourage me also.  I didn't know that his words would remind me of why I do this...of my purpose...of my calling.

Wayne spoke from his heart.  He used Psalm 1 as his text, and his recent trip to the Redwood forest as his illustration.  Then, as corny as it might seem, he made an acrostic from the word roots.  (I would share it with you now, but I can't remember it.  Man, it would be great if I could.)  Oh wait.  It's coming back...let me give it a shot:  Renew your relationship with God daily.  O...hmmm.  Obey God daily.  Till God's Word daily.  Surrender?  No...Serve.  Yes, Serve as the hands and feet of Jesus.  Okay, so I have all of them but the first O.  That wasn't really the most important part...or obviously the part that spoke mostly to me.  I was struck most by several things:

1)  Wayne spoke truth.  He spoke straight from his heart.  His honesty and humility allowed me to let my guard down.  It gave me permission to surrender to God's presence in the midst of my work place.  This, my friends, is no small thing. 

2)  Wayne asked us to write down the acrostic.  (I did, but I left it in my office, hence the reason that I can't recall it all now.)  But what I witnessed throughout the congregation were people looking around for pens and paper.  It reminded me that these people were my brothers and sisters.  My brothers and sisters who are hungry and searching for God's love, for direction, for peace.  Wayne reminded us that the church was not made up of perfect people who have it all together, but that the church is made up of people who know they don't, people who know they're imperfect--but who also know that they were created by a great and mighty God.

3)  Wayne reminded me that I am God's masterpiece, created for good works. Using Ephesians 2:10, he said that each of us are uniquely created for something that no one else on the planet is created to do.  As I looked at my hands...hands that are too often idle, too often used for self interests, too often more hurtful than healing...I was reminded that God created me for good.  

The world screams, lures and entices.  God whispers, loves and provides.  When life is the most full, the busiest, the most exciting, my time with God withers.  It's ironic that the gifts from God are so often what drives me to complacency.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Serve and Forgive

As a professed follower of Jesus Christ, I believe my calling is to serve and forgive. Sometimes that is so much harder than others.  Every day, people give me opportunity to serve and forgive. And every day, I must be reminded of my calling. It is only by the grace of God that I can get past the profound disappointment I experience from other followers.  Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

God's providence still surprises...

I've only blogged twice in 2009. Today is August 4th--216 days have passed in 2009, 149 days until 2010--and only 2 posts. Yet, God still provides. Miracles never cease. God is present. 

August is like new years, when you serve in Student Ministry. The summer is filled with missions, special events, low attendance. When August rolls around, it's time to contemplate the previous year and plan for the next. And it's easy to forget your call and your purpose. It's easy to get caught up in all the doing. I guess that's why I was so surprised in my Scripture reading of 2 Chronicles (of all places) to be reminded of call and purpose and instruction and God's compassion. Here are some words from Chapter 30-36...

return to the Lord...submit yourselves to the Lord...the Lord your God is gracious and the same time God's hand was upon the them all one heart...the Lord listened to Hezekiah's prayer and healed the people...he required the people to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the law of the Lord...spend your time serving the Lord your God and his the families assigned to you...prepare to help those who come...the Lord repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his temple...

God's compassion continues. And the scriptures are a constant source of joy and hope and encouragement. In 1 Corinthians 1:1-17, we find these words: have every Spiritual gift you need...He will keep you strong to the end...he has invited you into partnership with his in harmony with each other.  Let there be no divisions in the church.  Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose...Has Christ been divided into factions?

Great question. Last week, each person on the church staff was asked to consider his/her time. We were to divide our time into categories allotting an average amount of time spent each week on each task. It was a good exercise--in the sense that it got us considering our priorities and time management skills. But how true are the results? Ministry can't be measured in the same way that accounts can be reconciled. Life with people, life devoted to God, life in partnership with the Son can not be divided into factions. Yet, God's providence continues to surprise. The constant flow of tasks do get completed, but at what cost? Our devotion to the one true God? Divisions in the church? Harmonious living? I'm thankful to be reminded of God's call.     

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thinking and Reading...A Dangerous Combination

Perhaps the title should have been reading and thinking. I like to read and I like to think, but it seems lately that it's harder and harder to wrap my brain around the things I'm reading. I feel like I'm living in the space between modernity and post-modernity. I can think and align with modernity--it's linear concepts are easy to solve, easy to understand--black and white. But the older I get, the more gray I live in. I'm currently reading three books: Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel, Not on Our Watch by Don Cheadle & John Prendergast, and A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. They are all three fascinating books with much to consider.

Tim Keel says in his book, "In post-Christendom, the church is that community of people who look to discover what God is actively doing in the world around them and then join themselves to that work. The church is that community of people gathered around Jesus Christ in order to participate in his life and incarnate it not the context where he has placed them. The invitation from God is for us to start right here, not just the exotic out there." This sounds beautiful. Sign me up. But where? It's not practical enough to fit nicely in my mind...but maybe it shouldn't. Maybe that's the point. Maybe our faith isn't supposed to be neat. I know it's not meant to be compartmentalized. So I struggle with what this looks like.

Then, I visit Washington, D.C. I get riled up about using my voice. I get passionate about changing the systems that keep people impoverished, oppressed, and enslaved. I visit the Holocaust Memorial and hear the words, "Never again." And, I pray that somehow, some way I can make a real difference in the lives of people being destoyed again. So, I read books like Not on My Watch to get a deeper understanding of what's happening in Africa--particularly Darfur. It seems I would know all about 100's of 1,000's of people being murdered, raped, tortured, starved, and displaced. You would think it would consume the news, but it seems we're more interested in the weather or hollywood or the economy. God's children--six million--have been killed in the last couple of decades in this holocaust, and millions more have been driven from their homes. The authors of this book claim, "...the good news is that these horrors can be stopped. It is in our hands: citizen action in the United States and around the world can make a huge difference to the protection and survival of entire communities and peoples." They are calling on us as Americans to use our voices to change policies to save lives. So where are the pastors calling on us as Christians to rise up against such atrocities? Why are we more concerned about the budget and the landscaping and youth center and reaching young families? Why do we operate out of fear? Why do we allow economics to rule?

Richard Stearns says in his book, "For the first time in the history of the human race, we have the awareness, the access and the ability to reach out to our most desperate neighbors around the world. The programs, tools, and technologies to virtually eliminate the most extreme kinds of poverty and suffering in our world are now available. This is truly good news for the poor — but only if we do our part." Stearns believes the combined efforts of 2 billion Christians worldwide, each doing his or her small part, can change the world. I do too.

So, how does the church be the church without being co-opted by the government? How does the church be the church without exercising power and privilege over the marginalized? How does the church be the church when we're never confronted with how to live differently--how to live within the kingdom of God? I'll close with another thought from Tim Keel. He says, "The gospel is not a location to be defended. It is an alternate reality based on the person of Jesus Christ, who has called around himself a new community to live his life out in the world in hope, courage, and joy. We are called to live out our faith in the margins, witnessing to the gospel as communities of disciples following in the ways of our Master, Jesus Christ." I don't know what that looks like, but I know I want to be part of it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Silence's been so long since my last post, I forgot how to blog. I didn't forget how to think or reflect or write, but I couldn't remember how to sign on. I remember now.

Today, the scriptures are silent about how Jesus spent his day. Some speculate that he probably remained in Bethany with his disciples. I like this idea. I like that Jesus might have been spending time with friends--with the people he loved--the night before the last supper, before washing his disciples' feet, before giving a new commandment, before telling Peter he would deny him, before offering peace to his disciples, before praying for his disciples, before struggling in Gethsemane, before being betrayed, before being arrested. I like the idea that he might have simply been enjoying being in the presence of the ones he loved. I like the idea that he might have been trying not to think about what was coming.

Jesus had spent the day before teaching in stories about the Kingdom of God. He'd confronted the Jewish leaders. He been sought out by some Greeks. He'd foretold of the destruction of the temple, the destruction of Jerusalem, his persecutions, of the signs of the end of the age. He'd warned of the necessity for watchfulness and faith. And on Monday, he'd cleared the temple of greed--declaring prayer more essential than profit.

But, today. Today, we don't know what Jesus did or said. And that's okay.