A few years ago I was serving at Church in the Acres. It was a communion Sunday and I had put together a special video to play while the congregation shared that special time together. Shawn and Ray were working the sound booth that day. I gave Shawn a DVD with two videos I had prepared on it. One titled “In Your Eyes” and the other “Communion”. I told him to play “Communion” as soon as I got done with my introduction to that part of the service.
The service began and we worked our way towards communion. I got up and led us toward the table and prayed over the elements. Once done I took my seat in the front row and waited for the video to start.
Sitting there quietly this is what started to play on the big screen…
Looking over my shoulder I saw Shawn standing in the sound booth with a surprised look on his face. He threw his arms up, smiled and went let the video run.
Following worship I had two or three people come up and say it was one of the most special communion services they ever participated in. God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good…even when the wrong video plays. [Read more…]
Many, many years ago I wrote a paper for one of my high school english classes. I am not sure what the assignment was but I chose to write about some of the televangelists of the day (late 80’s) and how they were warping the message of the gospel and preying on people for their money. I have always resisted any type of ministry that even came close to what they seemed to be about. There is a passage in the gospels where Jesus speaks rather harshly and directly to those spiritual leaders who lead people astray. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (NIV Matthew 18:6)
Generations ago my family owned a grist mill. I know what a millstone looks like. I do not swim well on my own…let alone with a large stone hung around my neck. This passage has always served to give me pause as I step into the pulpit, stand in front of a group to speak, or meet with someone for coffee to talk about life. I understand the calling. I understand the responsibility and I do not ever want to do anything to lead someone astray. [Read more…]
Vision, a picture of a preferable future. George Barna shared this definition of vision in his book Turnaround Churches. For some reason Mr. Barna’s definition spoke to me and I have used it throughout my ministry when talking about vision. A personal vision, a communities vision is a picture not of what is…but of what could be.
Nancy and I have been married twenty six years. When Nancy first came around my families home in New Baltimore, NY my father had a vision. He wanted trees on a piece of property that he owned across from his house. He went and got tiny little seedlings and began to plant…not for today, but for the future. Nancy laughed at his trees. To be honest there were a lot of people who gave my dad a hard time. These trees were less than the Charlie Brown type trees. They were basically twigs with a little green on them. Their current reality did not stop my dad. He had a vision of what could be.
The ground was hard. Digging a hole to plant the trees (twigs) with a shovel was not an option. Armed with a large metal bar my Dad went and began to drill small holes into the ground. These holes were just big enough for a little dirt and the twigs. One of Dad’s neighbors, Mr. Stafford, watched as the seedlings were planted one by one. Mr. Stafford was one of the funniest men to ever live. Dad was hard at work planting when all of a sudden from across the street he heard someone shout, “Timber!” [Read more…]
Sometimes we become so familiar with someone we begin to take them for granted…we lose sight of how special they truly are. Then something happens and our eyes are opened, we see anew and afresh the truth of what is before us and we appreciate them in new and deep ways.
I think the same thing can happen in our spiritual lives. We have routines, we take things for granted and they lose some of the power and uniqueness within them. Every weekend millions of people around the globe gather for worship and recite The Lord’s Prayer. For many it is a deeply meaningful and important moment in worship. For some it becomes routine and we lose sight of what we are truly praying and the depth of what we are calling upon God to accomplish in our midst. [Read more…]
So this may be a little deep for a Saturday afternoon. I own that. I won’t apologize for it…but I will own it. I have been wrestling with some thoughts the past few weeks that have really had me thinking. Thinking about life and how we go about living it. Often when a preacher preaches people in the pews (or web), can feel as if they are being preached AT. Please know that as I write I am speaking to myself, trying to put together the reality of my life experience and maybe, just maybe there are truths that apply to others.
I have come to believe that in order to live, to truly live, to live the life that Jesus describes as “life to the full” two things are essential. First and foremost we must make peace with God, with the spiritual side of who we are. There is no denying the reality that deep within all humanity there is a piece of who we are which is seeking to know, understand and be understood by something, someone greater than we are. Creator and creation learning to live in relationship with each other as we journey through life. Deep calling to deep in the stillness of the night as we ask, “Is this all there is or is there something more to life?”
It was a Saturday afternoon. There were about forty college students gathered in a large room as we worked together preparing for Spring Break Service Projects. The leaders had many of those group activities planned which make my skin crawl…the kind which as soon as they start I feel as if I need to use the restroom or take an emergency phone call. I behaved this time. We all stood in the center of the room and the leader would give us two choices, and we would have to go to the side of the room which represented us. Liberal, Conservative. Favorite color is Blue or Green. We had to make a choice…no middle ground. It started off goofy and then got serious. “I am Religious, I am not Religious.” The vast majority of the people stood on the “not Religious” side. A few more goofy choices to make and then, “I am Spiritual, I am not Spiritual.” The entire room stood on the “I am Spiritual” side.
There was no denying the reality that this group who rejected the label of “Religious” recognized the reality that deep within they were Spiritual beings. I heard little of what went on the rest of the day. Believing we are spiritual beings the challenge then becomes, “how do we help people encounter God in the midst of their everyday lives!” I have watched and listened much from that day years ago. I believe that most people can and will agree that there is a spiritual side to their humanity. One of the keys to living, to truly living, is learning how to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit as He seeks to speak to the spiritual core of who we are. [Read more…]
Monday was a big day. I went to the gym and met with a trainer who helped me think through how to work out in my weakened state. I am not going to break any records or end up being one of those body builder types but I do hope to gain a little strength and stamina. We worked together for half an hour and by the end I was ready to head for home.
I had one of those interesting interactions in the parking lot. On my way out there was a young mother who was carrying a very upset young boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old. He was screaming and yelling and in general making a scene. She kept talking in quiet, measured tones, “when you can behave we will go swimming…not today, we will try again tomorrow.” Everything she said was met with a pretty impressive temper tantrum. I was across the parking lot, getting in my car when she apologized for the noise and disturbance. I laughed and walked across the lane to talk with her and said, “No need to apologize. You are simply being a good mother. Keep doing what you are doing. It is hard today but he will learn and when he is sixteen or seventeen he will be a very mature and well behaved child.” She stopped and just looked at me for a moment…then said, “thank you… this is so hard.” Again I laughed a little, the kind of laugh that says I know, I have been there…but it will get better. I spoke a few more words…”Yes it is, but you know it is right. You are the parent…be the parent. You are helping him learn about consequences for bad behavior…better he learns that now than when he is older. Keep doing what you know to be right…it will work out in the end.” She smiled, said thank you and turned her attention back to a very unhappy, yet growing and learning young boy. He is going to be the kind of young man who will be able to help us wrestle with some of our countries deeper issues some day…all because his mom would not let him go swimming one summer day because he could not behave. We need more moms and dads and a wider community to help raise up the next generation of leaders.
Joseph and I spent the rest of the day working around the house. We took a load of brush to the dump and prepared a second load to take away later in the week. We spent time power washing the deck so we can put a fresh coat of paint on it sometime later this week. Finally we worked on some of the drainage issues surrounding the house. It was a good day and I was glad to have Joseph around to do most of the heavy lifting. To celebrate our work we decided we would go out for dinner.
On another note…I have been thinking about the chaos and turmoil in our country these days. I have a thought, take it for what it is worth. It seems to me that one of our biggest problems is that we do not know how to talk to one another. We are great at talking AT each other…not so good at talking To, or WITH each other. How did we get here? When did we stop communicating and begin thinking that simply because we are talking AT someone we are having a conversation? [Read more…]