I am a United Methodist Pastor, and the season in which we live is not easy. So it is with great sadness that I see and hear churches in my annual conference choose to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church to join other denominations. I know we are not a perfect body of believers, but we live in the promise of grace through Jesus the Christ, our Lord. The assuredness of God’s faithfulness compels me to celebrate my faith in my blessed denomination. Okay, that is about as political as I am going to get.
The times we live reflect moments of sadness as I put names and faces on those who choose to leave. I think of my friendships with my clergy brothers and sisters and realize that we will not share special moments at retreats or around a table after a brutal Annual Conference. We may remain friends, but our relationships will change. I mourn for the possibility of loss as my denomination seeks to redefine itself as we let our loved ones explore new ways to celebrate Christ in the world.
I also feel anger as the era of misinformation attempts to cast opposing sides as enemies. I constantly ask myself, “How in the name of the Almighty can people demonize their fellow clergy members with statements based on untruth?” I refuse to accept such mean-spirited attacks on my colleagues. It is wrong and should stop. We must separate because, at the heart of the matter, our disagreements prove so severe that we can no longer find common ground and must search out a new path.
With a heavy heart, I must say goodbye to pastors and churches as they seek to further their understanding of the mission of God. I pray that the truth continues to make its presence known and that those who continue to spread misinformation stop and allow churches considering disaffiliation to find the answers to their questions. Through this experience, I hope we continue to pray for one another, wishing God’s best to everyone. Let grace prevail, and the truth of Christ remains our guiding principle.
This week my sister came to visit us in New Mexico. So far, we have enjoyed catching up and planning trips in the “Land of Enchantment.” I appreciate her company and look forward to many mad-capped adventures. It is comforting to know that although she knows the burial sites of all my skeletons, yet still wants to spend time with me.
I marvel at how much our relationship continues to evolve. I think of the times when I let frustration and a lack of understanding prevent me from enjoying a relationship with her. Through my years, I learned how to sit back and listen to the hearts of those I love. Psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10 NIV). The implication from this very brief verse reminds me that to fully understand God or a person, and I must stop my mind from forming opinions before taking a moment to stop and allow the Divine presence to speak into my soul.
I take the words of the Psalmist to heart in all my relationships. I stop and listen to the hearts and souls of others who see me. Holy listening allows me to share and discover fullness with information that helps me share the truth. Even in our brokenness, the Holy One can restore us, but it takes time, patience, and stillness. Healing beyond our imagination can find its way into the recesses of our hearts if we only allow it.
As I journey from this moment, I hope to maintain the spiritual discipline of stillness and let it foster growth in my life. I aim to discover the sacredness of each connection I have in my life and be an encourager to everyone I know. In stillness, I encounter integrity, which leads to wholeness. May we continue our journey in our love for one another, always discovering ways to express heartfelt truth.
The last post I shared was in early summer. After 10+ years of writing blogs, I needed a break from the mundane. At first, I felt guilty about stopping, but gradually I realized that respites offer a time of rest to regroup and rediscover purpose. I think of the psalmist when he writes, “That’s enough! Now know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10 CEB). Some translations start with “Be still and know…” We must come to a place of rest to discover the presence of the Holy One.
After taking time for a season of silence, I realized the purpose of writing my blog. I started by acknowledging that I am a very flawed person, complete with mental baggage enough to fill ten train stations the size of Grand Central. Despite my misgivings, I know God works within me to remind me that I am a child of the Most High. My sense of direction centers around where I am of most use to further the Kingdom of Christ.
Sometimes, like in my case, I need time to stop and remember who guides me. I need to stop and breathe and remind myself of the source that propels me forward. These moments of a renewal offer me a chance to allow my heart to find consolation. My soul’s deepest resources invite me to reclaim my strength by finding the founts of living water. To reclaim my purpose, I must sit by streams of living water and enjoy their healing resources. My connection to God-ordained rest fills me with hope and joy.
Let us commit to sharing the fullness of our salvation and remember the love that reflects the image of the Christ. When we take the time to be still, we renew our lasting covenant with God and one another. Hope reclaims its victory in our spirits, and faith propels us to reimagine the love of Elohim in our lives. I invite you to be still and know the presence of the Great I Am.
It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of our journey through the Bible. As we finish with the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John invites us to a ringside seat regarding the end of times. The action is surreal as we face false gods, fallen angels, and the lengths to which dramatic forces will go to hold fast to the world. These demonic beings underestimate the power of God. While chaos battles ferociously for the hearts and minds of divine creation, heavenly hosts respond in righteous anger and match each blow from the enemy with a strength that is far superior to anything that dares to challenge sacred superiority. In the end, God reigns supreme, and creation rediscovers the Divine’s initial intent.
Many know what it’s like to feel like we are in the middle of the apocalypse. We wonder how we will ever recover from where we are; our situation sometimes brings us to our knees, and we feel like we have been kicked right in the stomach. Life feels like it is falling out from under our very feet, and we cry out in the middle of what looks to be the end of the world, our world. The fires of hell overwhelm us to the point that we cannot breathe. We gasp, unsure if we’re taking our last breath.
Hear the good news, God wins! Our protector will always shield us from our foes. We must hold on to our faith during these rough times and rejoice that we know who holds the ending of our story. In Genesis, we discovered this amazing God, who wanted to have a relationship with us, loved us into creation. Over time we were introduced to God’s love and God’s wrath. Through every type of situation known, the one constant remained that heavenly arms reached out to us and continue to do so to this day. Revelation reminds us that our faith leads us to the ultimate victor.
For those of you who participated in the reading for the year, thank you for sharing sacred moments with me as we went on an incredible journey together. May you all go out into the world and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and through your love, you may change the world one heart at a time. Peace be to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ reading is the beginning of faith. The real action occurs with how you respond to God’s calling on your life. Share the good news with everything you are, and in so doing, the world will know you are a Christ-follower. Amen.
“But there are also many other things Jesus did; and if they were all to be recorded, I don’t think the whole world could contain the books that would have to be written!” (John 21:25 CJSB).
As the Gospel of John comes to a close, the above verse is the last one. To sum up the phrase, Jesus completes so many miracles, that there were not enough writing utensils to record everything. We only have highlights (which is more than enough to feed us), while Jesus continued to love the people around Him. Our road map, the Gospels, gives us all that we need to know to follow the Messiah. Love God with everything you are (warts and all) and love your neighbor as yourself. To complete the two commandments requires a change of heart, which leads to redemption and hope.
I believe that Jesus continues to work miracles all around us. We simply must stop and look to find the Holy Spirit alive and well in our day-to-day living. Think of the many ways that God guides you on your path, and recall the healing processes in which the hope of Jesus restored you to wholeness. There are enough miracles we continue to witness that could not fit in a book. The Holy One is deeply connected to us and restores our souls.
My hope for us, as we leave the Gospels and begin reading the Book of Acts, is that we take a few moments to look around and remember, Jesus, is still in the business of healing hearts and restoring minds. Praise be to God that we may stop and give thanks for all that we receive from the Father. Let us stop, observe that beauty of faith, and then go out into the world to make a difference. In so doing, the last verse of Luke is not an ending of the story, but a continuation.
Devastation and heartbreak surrounded Jerusalem. Disaster followed the Hebrew people. God officially claimed that due to the constant disobedience of the favored nation, the covenant broke. And for the first time in the nation’s history, Divine favor did not exist. No one saved the children of Israel; they submitted to the Babylonians and became exiles in a foreign land. Such proved the plight of the chosen seed of God.
I know what it feels like to be abandoned by God. I look at some of the many struggles in my life and can’t help but wonder, “I should have made a better choice.” My actions led to God’s overwhelming silence. Equipped with sorrow, I push God away. I say, “Forget about a new covenant, I want a new soul.” I yearn for a way to start all over again while maintaining the lessons I learned. I cry out, “I want a do-over, God!”
But wait, through the most horrific part of the story, the Holy-One prepares for another covenant, a new way. God did more than speak through a prophet, the Divine burned within the people an opportunity to follow the road of light. Humanity’s innermost part of their spiritual DNA points to a compass leading to God.
Praise be to the One, who gives us the strength to face the struggles of each day. Every morning we can follow our minds and souls to the very throne of God. Let us serve the world, equipped with heavenly guidance. Make this day count by staying on the path of Divine holiness.
Recently, I spent part of an afternoon in a department store. I wanted to take advantage of sales. As I continued to glance, my eyes caught a showcase of a beautiful collection of watches. I thought to myself, “Oh, I would make that watch look good.” Each magnificent work displayed its unique beauty.
There, in the middle of one of the cases, my eyes fell on a beautiful, gold piece of heaven. It’s shape and nuance sparkled and appeared to outshine everything else around it. I stood there in amazement. Each watch a proud display of its creator. Fashioned with beauty in mind.
As I stood there, I suddenly became overwhelmed with guilt. My sons gave me the watch on my arm. How could I even consider anything else? As pretty as the shiny bling is, I could never imagine surrendering my gift for the sake of something bigger and brighter. My big stinky boys gifted me with a present that they chose for me. All the sudden, the shiny watch was not as bright, nor as inviting. My watch that I wear is a continual reminder that what I have is so much greater than what I imagine.
God loves us in the same way. Sure, there are beautiful and shiny things all around us, but God fashioned us into the people that we are, with the gifts that we share. Be grateful, for all that we have, for we never know the real value of our greatest treasures. I wouldn’t trade my watch for anything. So, God would never trade us, because we are His. And that is enough!
Today is my birthday. Each year, I give thanks for one more moment, one more second here on this planet. So, by all accounts, I consider myself a blessed man. Today I am thankful for:
My wife who continues to love me with a fierce loyalty that knows no ending or beginning.
My sons who are grateful that I happen to be their father.
A career that is filled with many affirmations and challenges.
A life path that is definitely not what I would expect, but for which I am grateful.
People that I call friends that actually know me and love me in spite of myself.
A chance to work hard with a goal of achieving a hard earned Doctorate. I set the educational standard for my family.
Incredible opportunities to share my passion for making music.
The gift of having amazing teachers in my life who illuminate my spirit with wisdom.
Hope that continues to motivate me to be the best that I can be.
Strength for overcoming every obstacle that stands in my path. Here’s to being made whole.
We never know how many years are given to us while we live on this planet. Every blessed day is a chance to make things right; to reach beyond our own understanding. Time is the gift of heaven. Life is passionate, and pain is temporary. We honor each other by the amount of time that we give to one another.
I am grateful for the community around me. It is with these beautiful people that I understand what it is like to be the person that I am created to be. Praise be to God for you, for friends, for community. It is within the recesses of our deepest souls that Christ dwells within us, giving us strength for the journey that lies ahead. Let us travel together, seeking power from the One who strengthens us.
Last Sunday I asked the congregation, “You are a new creature in Christ, so what are you going to do about it?” In asking the question, I hoped to spark an awareness that our faith requires us to not only have as Paul said, “A circumcision of the heart,” but to respond to this new way of being with our actions. What we do, along with what we say determines our commitment to God. In other words, we simply can’t say we are Christians and then act like we are anything but children of God. We must prove it with how we treat others.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, spoke very candidly about the importance of our actions. While he acknowledged that we can do nothing to earn our salvation, Wesley also stressed the need to mirror the change within by sharing our faith from the inside out. How we live matters. The way that we exist in the world proves that we have indeed had a “circumcision of the heart.” To live any other way would indicate that our transformation lacked authenticity.
As we begin 2017, I pray that people see my change of heart by the way that I treat others. This is a tough task and should not be taken lightly. Careful attention towards a change in action requires a commitment to living the life to which God has called me. I will admit that there are a few relationships with which I struggle. Yes, I am called to reveal a new heart even in these very tense and complicated situations.
You indeed are a beautiful creation in Christ. Now take up this claim and show those around you that a new path is being made in the desert. It is your answer to the calling that God placed on your life. Pick this task up and carry it forward. How else will they know that we are Christians than by our love?
As the congregation of my church stood singing carols and decorating the Chrismon tree, I couldn’t help but give thanks for the customs that are part of my United Methodist heritage. I learned my earliest religious instruction in a tradition that did not observe the church seasons, so I grew up without knowing anything about Advent and Lent. They were words that I heard for “other” Christians.
When I broke ties with the Southern Baptist church and embraced the United Methodist faith, the one thing that captured my religious imagination was the adherence to the church year. I celebrated different festivals throughout the different seasons and felt like a new religious language came into being. My faith experience grew richer and more profound. The Christmas and Easter seasons became much holier and deeper in joy and meaning as I experienced the awkwardness of Advent and Lent. What could I add to my life, or give up, that would help me be still and sense the presence of the Lord?
This year, I have asked my congregation to spend this season of Advent in prayer. I challenge my religious community to be still and let the Spirit of God move within their hearts. May everyone experience holy transformation. Pray without ceasing, focusing in on the goodness of God. This call to the Light is our task during the sacredness of the season of preparation. Be still and know the presence of the One, who delivered you.
And strangely, when I am silent, I do give thanks for my earliest of religious teachers. Yes, the Southern Baptists. I give thanks to the mighty men and women of God, who supported me through my very formative years, planting the seed in my heart that God loves even me, a broken and lost child. God makes it possible so that I can live a life that is meant to be a blessing to others.
My prayer for everyone this Advent season is to embrace light in the middle of darkness. May we all find hope in the midst of despair, and may we celebrate the love and knowledge that our God delivers us from hopelessness. Praise be to our amazing Giver of Light. Let us embrace the reality that we are God’s children, and may we live like sons and daughters of the Highest King.