August 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m wondering what it is as well. I have about 4 unfinished posts hanging out here, but I’m in the process of considering what this blog might become, or starting a new blog. I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, sail on, sailors.
March 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Hebrews 1:8-12 (MSG)8-9But he says to the Son,
You’re God, and on the throne for good;
your rule makes everything right.
You love it when things are right;
you hate it when things are wrong.
That is why God, your God,
poured fragrant oil on your head,
Marking you out as king,
far above your dear companions.
10-12And again to the Son,
You, Master, started it all, laid earth’s foundations,
then crafted the stars in the sky.
Earth and sky will wear out, but not you;
they become threadbare like an old coat;
You’ll fold them up like a worn-out cloak,
and lay them away on the shelf.
But you’ll stay the same, year after year;
you’ll never fade, you’ll never wear out.
I can’t say this Lenten blogging thing has gone well. Clearly, I managed to write two days in a row, and then nothing. I don’t anticipate that there is anyone out there terribly disappointed … except me, I guess.
Sticking with things has never been my strong suit. It’s not a “fairweather” thing, it’s just how many things I’ve always been involved with. I thought I was narrower these days, but between my writing, my work, and my family, I’m pretty stretched.
But that’s part of what I love about what I do. I don’t have a weekly sermon to write; I don’t have a weekly youth group event to plan; I don’t have to lead a weekly small group. My job is determined by seasons: I work toward an event, hold the event, and then begin to work toward the next. Things are always in flux; and I love it! I never get bored. Last weekend I was talking about faith with middle schoolers while we held popcorn kernels over a candle to watch them pop. This weekend I was preaching at a high-church service. Today I taught First Aid and CPR to state park rangers and volunteers. Always changing, ever new.
When I was growing up, though, the same was true of friendships. I never had an issue of being untrue to friends; there was seldom a major altercation that caused us to part ways; it just happened. I moved on, they moved on, we moved on. Some of that was pretty incredible. I got to meet so many more people and be influenced by so many more incredible mentors in faith and life. But now, as an adult, I mourn that I have not kept in touch with even the best of friends. No hard feelings, honest. For some reason that’s just not in my DNA.
This passage from Hebrews is, for many, a comfort. The idea that God is always the same, always there, never changing — that’s what some people are looking for. But to me, it’s a challenge. It means that there is someone in my life who, throughout all the years, throughout all my personal iterations, has been there, loving me, seeking me, pursuing my love.
It makes me wonder how my relationship with friends and my relationship with God have compared.
February 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Daniel 9:1-14 (MSG)
God’s Covenant Commitment
1-4 ”Darius, son of Ahasuerus, born a Mede, became king over the land of Babylon. In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, was meditating on the Scriptures that gave, according to the Word of God to the prophet Jeremiah, the number of years that Jerusalem had to lie in ruins, namely, seventy. I turned to the Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing rough penitential burlap, and kneeling in the ashes. I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God: 4-8 ”‘O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We’ve done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. We’ve turned a deaf ear to your servants the prophets, who preached your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we’ve been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we’ve been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin.
9-12 ”‘Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to you when you told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what you said. We defied your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we’re paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God’s servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against you. You did to us and our rulers what you said you would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!
13-14 ”‘Just as written in God’s revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving you a second thought, oblivious to your clear warning, and so you had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.
I generally am not a fan of apocalyptic literature. It’s where people justify the idea that God punishes us through natural disasters, disease, war, famine, pestilence, etc., etc., fire and brimstone, blah blah. Because we did A, God gives us punishment through B. It’s a theme that can easily be justified with the Bible, but it isn’t in line with who the God of Jesus Christ appears to be. Thus, I tend to steer clear of apocalyptic books like Daniel and Revelation.
That being said, I was drawn to this Daniel passage today. It’s ever so appropriate for Lent — it’s penitent, it’s a little dark.
It reminds me of the prayer we pray during the communion liturgy, “We confess we have not loved you with our whole hearts … we have not done your will, we have broken your law …” It’s a reminder of brokenness toward not only God but toward those around us. I am reminded that during Lent, we must seek to repair not only our relationship with God but also with our earthly brothers and sisters. God’s way is a way of compassion, of reconciliation, and of genuine love. Thanks be to God.
I’ll be blogging my way through Lent 2012, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, as inspiration. You can also follow my fellow #reLENTless bloggers: Jeremy Smith, Carolyn Frantz and Deanna Ogle. Leave a comment if you would like to join us.
February 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Matthew 6:1-6 (MSG)
The World Is Not a Stage
1 ”Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. 2-4“When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—’playactors’ I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
Pray with Simplicity
5“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?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 honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
As I begin this Lenten practice of blogging my way through the Lenten Lectionary, this verse seems to be a caution to me. Any of us with blogs desire a following. I’m a writer — I love to know that people read and like what I write. And, as human nature would have it, I love praise. I love recognition. Even when it’s just from my parents, being told I’m good at something makes me feel good. I thrive on affirmation of all kinds.
This endeavor could be in that same vein. I could do this to get recognition, to get my ideas out there. And there is a possibility that is still a motivator for me, deep down. But my greatest prayer is that this public display of faithfulness will change me from the inside out, and not the opposite. I pray that the public nature of this undertaking will serve as accountability and not as a way of gaining notoriety. I pray most fervently, though, that this is an experience that will change me. I pray that it will strengthen my faith as I look to Scripture for inspiration, guidance, and meditation. Praise be to God.
I’ll be blogging my way through Lent 2012, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, as inspiration. You can also follow my fellow #reLENTless bloggers: Jeremy Smith and Deanna Ogle. Leave a comment if you would like to join us.
January 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
I’ve never been good at doing something every single day for any length of time (except eating — I’m a champ at breakfast, lunch, and dinner). I get gung-ho about exercise programs, and lose it a few weeks into it. So Lent has been a challenge for me in the past. I’ve done well with the “giving up” Lent-ings, but I try to do something more challenging each year by “taking on.”
This year, I am going to blog daily through Lent.
I always write better with a prompt, so I am hoping to use a 40-part book, or book of the Bible to use for this practice. And I always appreciate input from those around me, so I’m looking for recommendations:
What text should guide me through my Lenten journey?
UPDATE: Looks like I’ll be following the Revised Common Lectionary through Lent, and I’m hoping some other folks will join me. Are you in??
November 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
“Those who try to save their lives will lose them; those who lose their lives will save them.”
Don’t you love those completely absurd-sounding lines from the Bible? The ones you have to read and re-read to even begin to grasp the meaning? I am so thankful that we have a holy book that is not simple (though some might try to make it appear to be so). If our holy book is a word from our great God, I expect it to reflect God in some way; I am not interested in a simple God.
When I heard Bishop Hayes share this passage tonight, he encouraged all of us to lose our lives to Christ. It’s an almost cliche phrase at this point because those of us in the church hear it so often, but as he spoke those words, he brought new life to the concept for me, and I’m sure for many more.
As he gave a passionate call to action to all of us young folks, though, I began to wonder what revelation that passage might hold for the United Methodist Church.
We have been talking all weekend about the fact that this is the generation that will change the church. We are the ones who must stand up to reach our generation and the next, and we cannot do it with our current church structure, climate, and style. We must take risks and reach out in new and different ways. We must explore new means of worship and discipleship. We have to be creative.
The concept of trying to save one’s life speaks so directly to the state of the United Methodist Church right now. We are a dying denomination, plain and simple. We heard from Adam Hamilton that the last time our denomination grew was back in 1964 when we were still the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren. Technically, the United Methodist Church has never been a growing church.
That being said, I find myself inspired by our theology. Our history is a passionate call to action. At our best, we are a church that could easily be embraced by this young adult generation. But I fear we are too concerned about saving our life as a church. We are so focused on survival that we forget this all-too-familiar passage. As we try so desperately to save our collective life (and livelihood, for so many), we are ever more quickly losing it.
But what if we did have a group of 600 young people who were passionate about living out Wesleyan theology who were willing to give up their lives? What would happen? What would the “church” look like?
I glanced at the basketfuls of commitment cards tonight and tears rushed to my eyes. I love what we stand for. I love what we are founded upon. I believe in the United Methodist Church. However, if we are only holding Exploration events to be sure we have enough young people to fill pews to “save” the life of the church, I’m not interested.
But if we are holding this event to inspire and commission young people to go out and live our theology in the church and the world, giving their lives in the name of Jesus Christ, with the goal not of renewing a denomination but of transforming the world, I’m in.
I pray that we are, as a church, willing to lose ourselves to Christ. Sure, I know it’s idealistic. Sure, I know my salary depends on apportionments. But at ordination I did not give my life to the United Methodist Church; I affirmed my call from God and gave my life and ministry to Jesus Christ.
As these young people take their next steps in this journey we call discernment, I pray that they will find themselves enthralled not by a denomination but by a Savior that is all-consuming and all-loving, and that they will desire to transform not only our church, but foremost all of God’s world.
November 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I shared in my last post that I came to Exploration 2006 solo. I’ve never been one to have an issue showing up somewhere by myself. Even though I’m an introvert, I don’t have any issue with meeting and getting to know new people. I love traveling (one of the many fringe benefits of the Explo event), and I love hearing people’s stories.
So when I arrived alone in Jacksonville, I wasn’t exceptionally uncomfortable. I quickly found a group of other folks who also came without a group, and we made quick friends. Many of those people are still friends today, and I know they are praying for all the Explo participants right now.
Although the worship experiences workshops, and small group experiences were formative, the most important part of my Explo experience was forming relationships with other participants.
I knew I was called, and the ministers in my life understood that and supported me in that call, but most of my peers, though they were supportive, did not truly comprehend my journey. The experience of being called is one that cannot be put in words. It is something that is difficult to share with someone who doesn’t know that feeling themselves.
So when I began to engage in conversation with other participants at Exploration, I was amazed. Each time I shared a story or a feeling or a frustration, I was met with more comprehension, understanding, and compassion than I had been since my call journey began. It was incredible to be understood so well by people I had just met.
This morning, our teaching time included a word from the Lord through Rev. Juan Huertas. He encouraged us all to hear God’s voice through others in our lives. He reminded us that we are not alone — that the Spirit is with us. He encouraged us to trust in the Spirit as we continue on these journeys of discernment.
It’s not always easy to trust in the Spirit. I am not always that strong or faithful. But when the Spirit moves in a group of people such as those found here at Exploration — in the community of understanding and compassion that is not easily found elsewhere — it is powerful. It is a unique opportunity, and I find incredible encouragement and strength in thhe community here.
I hope you who are participating are finding that experience as well. I hope you have felt that connection. I hope you have felt understood and cared for in a way you might not have felt before. I hope you know that you are Not Alone.
And again, for those of you who are not here, please welcome these young people home with open arms, and even if you don’t fully understand what they’re experiencing, love them through it.
We are Not Alone.