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Susie’s Eyes 03/22/2011

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Sunday night at Fountain United Methodist Church was a truly awesome experience.  We had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite gospel groups, “Hearts of Faith” These two sisters, Brenda and Donna, have been singing together their whole lives and their commitment to sharing their faith is remarkable.

This song, “Susie’s Eyes,” is one of the most beautiful songs that I have ever heard. What a different world it would be if we could all see the world through Susie’s eyes:)

End of Times, Zombies and Such… 03/18/2011

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I have just got to ask a question, am I the only one who is feeling a little bit apocalyptic right now?  I guess by that I mean that world events seem to be changing faster than ever and in some ways, even spiraling so out of control that I have been almost tempted to start storing up water and food. I was especially concerned about establishing a stock pile of sweet tea, but since I can’t have any until Easter, I am probably safe on that one:)  (I always hoard peanut butter, so I am in good shape there as well)

As I think about where these feelings are coming from, it may be due to some of the media that I have been reading and watching lately. A couple of my most recent books were Stephen King’s “The Stand,” which is all about a virus that kills off almost everyone, then I read “Under the Dome” (also by Stephen King) that describes a small town’s destruction after it is cut off from the world. So perhaps it could be my choice of books.

I suppose that it could also be the fact that I recently watched the entire first season of the new TV drama “The Walking Dead” which is all about what happens in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies rule.

But then the other night we went to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Derby Dinner Playhouse, (I should be safe there shouldn’t I?) And oh my, that was nothing what I thought it would be. There were black booted storm troopers, disciples carrying AK-47 assault rifles, and riots in the streets. Thank goodness that was just on stage right?

But when you turn on the news, there are tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, insurrections and riots. (Well, at least that is halfway around the world)

But then again, there are protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and right here in Indiana. Legislators are fleeing their states (and I don’t care which side of the political spectrum you are on, that seems to be a dangerous precedent to set)

Then yesterday I saw the trailer for the movie “Battle Los Angeles,” and of course I immediately told Karen, “Hey that looks like a movie that I would like to see!!”  What was I thinking!

Now normally, I would offer you a little scripture about not worrying, or not letting your hearts be troubled, but then I started thinking that there is also the story of Noah and the flood and that pesky Book of Revelation to be concerned about! So, I think before I start building a fallout/bomb/keep the zombies out shelter, I will just go have a nice lunch at the Overlook Restaurant in Leavenworth, IN. (Mmmmm) Then I will contemplate this more over a big piece of their wonderful chocolate cake, followed by a nice late winter, early spring walk through O’Bannon Woods State Park. If I am still in this same mood later on, maybe I’ll ask the trustees if they think we should add machine gun turrets to the parsonage:)

Blessings:)

I Know the Bible is Right… 03/16/2011

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Yesterday I lifted up a song titled,  “I Know the Bible is Right… and Somebody’s Wrong.” As I mentioned yesterday, I love this song. I first heard it in Homiletics class in seminary (as an example of theology we might not want to preach from the pulpit) But you have just got to love the words. “I said it once… I said it twice… you can’t get to heaven with a sweetheart and a wife…I know the Bible is Right!!!

 I love to watch the people! What do you think would happen if this much excitement broke out in one of our worship services?

Enjoy the video!!!

 Blessings

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled… 03/15/2011

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I was at a meeting recently with a group of pastors and the question was asked, “Where do we find God in the tragedy in Japan?” The views offered by the group were certainly diverse, ranging from God allowed the tragedy, to the potential that God had a hand in causing the tragedy for God’s own purpose, to this was simply an example of Gods wonder, awe and creation that we really can’t necessarily understand.

 Then, this morning, I woke up to another pastor on Facebook totally condemning as garbage, Glen Beck, (not necessarily one of my favorite people) who on his television program seemed to lift up the possibility that God’s hand was in the destruction for some reason, and that essentially we should understand the experience as a wakeup call, because the road ahead was going to get bumpy.

So this morning, I want to share a couple of things I have learned about this God that we worship. Let me first share with you that since I began my first fledgling steps on my journey in ministry, I have been exposed to hundreds of differing views of God, ranging from those who believe God to be a wrathful, even vengeful God, to those who believe in Universal Salvation (the idea that everyone is saved and there is no final judgment) The interesting thing is that these views are all found right within the members and clergy of the United Methodist Church.

 The first thing that I try not to do is be judgmental of those who hold a different belief than I do. There is an old song that says, “I know the Bible is right… and somebody’s wrong…”  (I love the song by the way) But I don’t necessarily love the theology behind it. It implies that one person or one groups view and interpretation of scriptures is prescriptive for all, and I have found that just isn’t true. For instance, in the United Methodist Church we hold the view that women are not only blessed by God, but that they should be ordained as Elders and Deacons. This is one of the wonderful things that make me proud to be a United Methodist. But, as many of our female clergy will share with you, they often face real discrimination and challenges in their communities and at times even within their own churches by those who hold the belief that “Women should remain silent in church.”

 The God that I serve is a God of Love. I must admit that I cling to Bishop Woodie White’s theology that “God is good all the time…and all the time, God is good.” This understanding of God is one of the cornerstones of my faith. When I am asked to find God in the tragedy in Japan, I look to see where there is good in the face of tragedy.

I see God in the face of the rescuers who are willing to risk their own lives to help people that they don’t even know. I see God, in the concern and compassion of the response from around the world, letting these people know that they are not alone. I see God in the hope that a kind word or a cup of cool water can bring even in a situation filled with total devastation.

 Tragedies happen, including earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, accidents…   But no matter what happens, God will give the strength to carry on… no matter what tragedy befalls, God will walk with us and see us through, and yes, if necessary God will even carry us.

 You know, I am afraid that Glen Back was probably right, the road ahead is going to be bumpy. Cling to Jesus with all of your might and remember these words…

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me… My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”

 Blessings

Temptation…Temptation… 03/11/2011

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“Oh my dear sweet tea, it has only been three days and I already miss you!!!”  I think that it is so very appropriate that the Gospel Reading for this Sunday is the “Temptation of Jesus.” I can’t tell you how many times in the past three days I have been asked which beverage I would like and “Sweet Tea” almost slipped out of my lips. Now, I realize that my temptation is nothing compared to turning stones into bread if I were starving, or being offered all of the kingdoms of the world, but I must admit that it does require a moment of sober and reflective thought about what I am doing and why I am doing it. (I think perhaps that is the entire point of a fast:)

In the past few days I really have enjoyed talking to people about what they have (or have not) given up for Lent. It has given me an opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with the teller of my bank branch, family and church members and even a woman standing in the checkout line at Walmart. Any opportunity that we have to share our faith and our experience with this Jesus is a wonderful thing.

So, with that said, I hope that your Lenten season is going well so far, and that your temptations are not so great that, with God’s help, you can overcome them.

 I also pray that during this Holy season of Lent, you continue to find peace and joy in your journey!

Blessings

If It’s Ash Wednesday… It Must Be Lent!! 03/08/2011

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Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and together we begin our Journey through the season of Lent. I wish that I could say that I looked forward to Lent with great anticipation each year, but unfortunately, that just has never been the case.  The first challenge that I face with Lent is the music. Lenten music tends to be very somber, contemplative and sullen, with much of it written in minor keys. As someone who loves a little more spirited tempo in music, this can be a real challenge. Besides, I prefer Christmas music! I tend to keep at least a couple of Christmas songs on my mp3 player all year-long 🙂 (It’s funny, I don’t recall having a single Lenten song on there at all)

The next challenge is the fact that Lent is a season steeped in reflection, fasting, contemplation and meditation… not that any of these things are bad, but I tend to do each of these a great deal anyway as a part of my personality. (not the fasting part) I have been told way too many times that I think too much. (Which can either be good or bad, I suppose… I’m really not sure if it is meant as a compliment or insult?) However, there is no doubt that it helps me a great deal in my role as a pastor.

Another aspect of this season that is challenging for me is the idea of giving something up for Lent. I must admit that I have always struggled with this. In a way, it is a little bit like making a New Years resolutions, if I don’t make them, then I won’t break them. The main thing that concerns me is that when I make a promise to give something up for Lent, I am making the promise to God, and not just to myself. (Talk about added pressure!!!) But, when I listen to the young children in my congregations share that they are giving up candy and soft drinks (and really meaning it) I am a bit embarrassed, and tend to look up to God and say…”I know, I know, I am the one who is supposed to be setting the example, not a seven-year old!”

So with these thoughts in mind, and Lent beginning tomorrow, I have decided to give up my favorite beverage on the earth… “Sweet Tea!” Mmmm, just the sound of those words begins a sugar rush flowing through my body. Oh and to make matters worse, Corydon is without a doubt the Sweet Tea Capital of Indiana. (It may even be the Sweet Tea Capital of the North!)  GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH!!!

But with God’s help, I will make it through another journey through Lent. I will survive the music that reminds me of a funeral dirge. I will try not to contemplate too much, at least not much more than normal, and I will make every attempt not to let the little ones put me to shame, by honoring my Lenten fast.

I realize that I haven’t exactly painted a beautiful picture of Lent, and perhaps there is a good reason for that. The road to Jerusalem is long and difficult. It is a journey fraught with challenge, peril and even death. We travel together along this path every year, hoping to learn more about ourselves, seeking to draw closer to God, and praying that we draw closer to each other.

May your journey be insightful, memorable and blessed!

Blessings

“What A Day That Will Be!” 03/05/2011

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“What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see, and I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace; When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land, What a day, glorious day that will be.”

I just love that old song! Well, I guess it really isn’t THAT old, it was written in 1955 which was only four years before I was born, so let me rephrase that… I love that song that is in the prime of its life 🙂 Well, that’s my story anyway!

So, when I woke up this morning, those were the words that were on my mind. And I have to admit that the first conscious thought after I realized what I was humming was… “Well, that may be all great and wonderful for that day, but in the meantime, there is way too much work to get done!!!”

Do you ever get stressed! Do you ever feel almost to the point that you are just keeping your nose above water? I certainly do sometimes, and as I look ahead and realize that this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day which heralds the beginning of the busy Lenten season, I realize that those stress levels will only tend to increase over the weeks to come.

The challenge we all face is to realize what we are doing and who we are doing it for. The stress levels always seem to increase when we think that we are on our own. We tend to get overwhelmed when we don’t stop and take the time necessary to recharge our batteries and reconnect to the source. When I think about Jesus’ ministry, I often think about the times that we find Him going off alone to pray. I think about the times that He went to a solitary place or up on a mountain to get away from the stress of his ministry, to pray and reconnect to His Father.

This Sunday is “Transfiguration Sunday,”  or the day that Jesus took Peter, James and John and went up to a mountaintop, away from the world below, for a short time of rest and from that experience we are able to catch just a momentary glimpse of the peace and heavenly glory that awaits each of us.

We all need those times away to reconnect and recharge, because there is work for God’s Kingdom to be done. God has a plan for each of us, and we each need to be our best in order to do what it is that God is calling us to do.

My friends, take time each day to pray! Take time to study the scriptures. Take time to reconnect and recharge your batteries that tend to drain down so quickly in the hustle and bustle of our crazy world.

If you do, you could find that like Peter, James and John, you might just catch a glimpse of the glory that awaits. And indeed, “What a Day, glorious day that will be…”

Blessings