There is always something

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I woke up this morning wishing that it was not Monday.  I was tired and really just wanted to stay in bed and enjoy a quiet day of solitude. When I finally went downstairs to grab a cup of coffee and turn on Espn, I was overwhelmed with what I was hearing.

Espn, for me, is a place to go to get away from the reality of the world. It is a place of mindless entertainment and I am okay with that. This morning, however, it was not to be a safe refuge. I began to hear about the shooting in Las Vegas and I soon found myself overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness.

Soon my “How long Lord?” was answered with a “How Long Larry?”

Matthew West’s song, Do Something, began to resonate in my heart. There seems to be no words at moments like this and I have no salve to make this all better. However, what I do know is that I have to do something and you can as well.

Pray. This is our first response to disaster. Call on God. Call loud and call often.

Give Blood. There is always a shortage. I just signed up to donate at an upcoming local blood drive. Red Cross has places listed near you.

Talk. Reach out to someone and talk about what is going on in our world and while you are it…LISTEN…really listen. People need to be heard.

It is not much but that is a start. See where God takes it from there!

 

Peace!

 

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I got the power so you be quiet

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Ginny and I are co-teaching a Sunday School class for Jr and Sr high. We worked with the students the first Sunday and listened to what they wanted to learn. They pushed us to teach them about sad stories, messed up stories, and the book of Revelation. When asked why messed up and sad stories we were told because they want to see the connection between the bible and life. I thought that was fantastic and couldn’t wait to start.

Last Sunday, we started with the book of Esther. We went through the first chapter and discussed things like eunuchs, kings, queens, and banquets. It was also a conversation about power. The 1st chapter of the book of Esther ends with these words,

“He sent letters to all parts of the empire, to each province in its own script and language, proclaiming that every man should be the ruler of his own home and should say whatever he pleases.”

Power is a funny thing. People want to possess it and use it for their benefit. People are often quick to point out the misuse of power when others are wielding it especially against them. However, I believe that we tend to misunderstand what real power is and how it should be utilized in the world.

The men who made this proclamation in chapter one of the book of Esther had the authority it seems to do what they did. They were using their power as a battering ram against a group of marginalized people, the women of the kingdom.  The men were doing what people of privilege, prestige, and authority often do and that is make rules that benefitted themselves.

The bible is filled with stories of women being oppressed and other “sad and messed up” stories. Often, religious folks do their best to ignore these stories or pretend the stories don’t really say what we think they do. I like to think of it a little differently. I like to think of the bible as a collection of stories about messed up people and a God that loves them despite their “messed-upness”.

When I do that then I can begin to really look at the stories and push back against them and not have to think I am pushing back against God. Here is the reality that I see in the story of Esther and other similar stories in the bible, people hurt people when they have power.

I would like to say it is different in the world today but it isn’t. Those who have power will often do whatever is necessary to keep it.  Powerful people will use  physical pressure, economic pressure, and institutional pressure to maintain status quo. It is not okay but it is so commonplace that we often ignore it or don’t even notice it.

The church for  very long time did all that it could to stop women from having a voice or taking real leadership positions. The church, which should always be on the forefront of radical change, saw itself broken into small pieces by the issue of slavery.  Why?

People in power did not want to give up that power and used anything and everything to ensure that did not change. They even used God and the bible to justify their own prejudice, fear, and hate.

The world hasn’t changed too much and the church in many ways has changed even less. When I think of the Jesus that I see in the New Testament it is the God of shalom that I see. The bringer of and provider of abundant life. This is my benchmark. If what I am doing, seeing, or participating in is not providing abundant life and showing the way to abundant life than I need to make some changes.

Real power is not ever about politics, flags, or law to me. I believe it is about the Jesus who came to  

“to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19). 

So today I wrestle with how I am going to live out the power that I get from the Holy Spirit. Will I use it to benefit me or for the benefit of the world?

I choose God…I choose from the betterment of the world.

How about you?

Don’t drop it!

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Reflection on Psalm 30

I can’t remember what field it was but the rest of the details remain burned into my brain. It was the bottom of the sixth inning of our Little League All Star game. We had taken the field in hopes of holding on to the lead and securing the victory. I took my customary place at first base and got ready for whatever might come.

On my right hand, I had my almost brand new 1st baseman’s mitt. I had been playing 1st base ever since I started playing baseball. I loved it. This was the first time that my parents bought be a mitt like this. I had been using it for a just a week or so when the All Star season kicked off. The problem was that I never really learned how to break in a glove properly. This glove was still very stiff. Every throw over was a struggle yet I would not give up that glove. I kept putting it on even though I had a well broken in glove with me as well. It simply did not matter, I wanted to use THIS one.

The inning went like the way most of the game had gone. 2 batters came up and our pitcher sent them back to the dugout with outs. The next batter hit a short little pop up right at me. I was so excited, I knew that this was going to be it. It was going to be over. I was going to catch the ball and we would move on. The ball started to come down and it was then that I realized that I had a problem. The glove on my right hand was not going to close properly and I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to use my left hand to assist. I decided to try a basket catch at the last second. The ball hit my glove and rolled out onto the ground. The runner was safe.

Now, we got the next batter out and won the game but that game never sat right with me. I had focused in on the wrong thing. I had decided that my cool new glove was more important to me than winning or my teammates. I messed up and I was nota good teammate that day.

This morning as I continued our journey through the Psalms I remembered that story as I read this words from the psalmist,

You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Any success that happens in my life and any #50daysofjoy that I experience, I must remember it is because of who our God is and how much that God loves us all. My success should never be about me and my joy should never be focused solely on myself.
God has provided all that I have and see and it is in the acknowledgement of that I am able to fully participate in and enjoy all that God ha provided.
On the baseball field that afternoon, I realized that success is not simply about the moment, it is often about the journey. The journey for us now is a path directed by God.
Are you ready to follow that path with me?

 

 

 

Are you ready?

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It was January 27th that I received word that the Bishop and Cabinet wanted me to take my “talents to South (Ocean City) Beach”. ( an obvious LeBron James reference), really it was the day I was told that St. Peter’s in Ocean City would be my new appointment as there was a need for me to go there they felt. The last several months has been a series of goodbyes, hellos, and anticipation. It is now just a few short days away and it officially starts and I keep asking myself the same question, “are you ready?”

Some days the answer seems clearer than others but the reality is that I am ready. I am ready because though every moment of this journey I have simply trusted that the Holy Spirit was active. There is no other explanation for any of this than to simply have faith in what God is up to in our lives.

I am also ready because I know that no matter where I am that God has allowed me to find a way to deliver the same timeless message and that message is found in the Gospel of Matthew. In the 22nd chapter Jesus is being challenged and we find this exchange starting in verse 36,

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That is it! It is simple and it is beautiful. However, don’t make a mistake Jesus is not telling the Pharisees, Sadducees, or us anything new in these verses. In fact, he is simply putting together two pieces of the scripture, one from the book of Deuteronomy and one from Leviticus. This timeless statement from Jesus is the marching orders I come to St. Peter’s with in my heart. We are called to love God and love each other.

In Glassboro, we came up with this idea that we called the C.L.O.W.N. Squad. The acronym clown stands for Creatively Loving Our Wonderful Neighbors. We rallied around this idea because we know that it is the essential piece to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

I am so excited to share with you some of the foundational pieces of the C.L.O.W.N. Squad but that will wait. I just want you to know it is one way for us to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus for the community and the world. I can’t wait to get started, I am ready…are you?

 

 

Measure Twice…Cut Once

A friend asked me the other day why we used “the Rent song” at church on my last Sunday in Glassboro. I simply had to smile because there was no easy answer to that question. I am unabashedly a musical fan and that song from Rent has been one of my favorites since the first time that I have heard it sung. Add to that the powerful lyrics and the answer becomes a simple, “how could we not use the song?” Preparing to end one chapter of ministry and begin another has had me asking myself time and time again. “How do you measure – measure a year?”

I have been measuring it by thinking of the smiles on young children’s faces as they receive Christmas gifts or find a hidden Easter egg. I measure it in costumed children and adults invading the church parking lot for trunk or treat. I measure it with the look on a teacher’s face as we provide a piece of equipment that the school district was unable to give them. I measure it with the sounds of babies filling the sanctuary in the contemporary worship service. I measure it in tears that I have shed in the time of transition that Ginny and I have been going through.  I measure it in laughs we have shared with friends in gatherings over the last few months. I measure it in lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst. 

Now as I sit in a coffee shop in Ocean City, the question needs answering once again. How will I measure this time? What will be the measuring stick used as I look at this time. I think once again it will be about a transformed community and radically changed lives. So each day becomes a chance to share love and show love. Each moment becomes an opportunity to show the world what Jesus means to me. Each minute is a chance to enjoy all that God has provided and to help others find ways to do the same thing. 

I can’t wait to get started!   

End scene?

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Today’s Reading John 17-21

Today is the 40th day of our 40 day NT Reading Challenge. If you have followed us through, well done. hopefully you have grown closer to Jesus during this time. If you are like me, you have noticed something in the scripture that you have not seen before. It happens. We have been hearing and reading these stories since we were little children. If we are not careful they become background noise.

Yet, if you take the time and read them again and I mean really read them something happens. You are drawn to the Messiah in a new and powerful way. It is not something you need to go to seminary to understand or have someone else who went to seminary explain it to you. No, it is plain as can be.

You are loved.

God sent his son for you. The New Testament, just like the Old Testament is a love letter from God to you. It tells of a powerful and sacrificial love. A love that changed everything and continues to do just that.

We are at the end of that letter and perhaps wondering is this all? Is it over? What do I do now.

Well it seems pretty clear to me that now comes the fun part. It is time to get up and go live out that love with the world. It is the day before Easter after all. We are getting ready to celebrate a radical love that is found in the emptiness of the tomb. How cool is that?

Go have fun sharing the story of Jesus. Go have fun telling people who changed your life. Invite a friend to church tomorrow. Don’t just sit there! It is time to get up and tell the world!

Washing up

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Today’s Reading John 11-16

Last night, we came together as a church and remembered the Last supper. We shared in a meal together and had some laughs and good fellowship. We then transitioned into a time of Holy Communion as we obeyed the words of Jesus “do this and remember me”. We were nearing our end of time together and then we made one final transition.

I began by reading the beginning of John 13, as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. We had set three water basins around the room. We had tried the foot washing ritual the last several years and had limited participation. I began to talk about Jesus’ call to be a servant. This one message resonated last night to me as I was reading from the Gospel, “it is not about me”. Jesus wanted us to know that we were all called to be in service to the other.

I encouraged everyone to go to a basin and have their hands washed by someone else in the room and then to do the same for someone else. I washed a couple people’s hands and then stood back and watched. People began to respond and the emotion present was powerful. Everyone had a moment around the tables of connection.

I left that meal last night and hurried to a local funeral home to officiate a funeral. On my way to the funeral home, I listened to a radio broadcast that referenced the Good Samaritan and talking about people around us in the greatest needs being V.I.P’s. It was an intriguing conversation.

I then stepped into the room at the funeral home and witnessed that same emotion and connection I had seen at our dinner. People were celebrating a life, long before I had the opportunity to tell them that was what we were there for that evening. People were treating each other as V.I.P’s

Last night, I was reminded that we come together and live out our calling to be followers of Jesus when we care for each other and tend to each others needs. We need to treat each other as Jesus treated. We need to realize that everyone matters.  Everyone.

 

***Note ***

We are in Day 39 of a 40 day read through the New Testament challenge today. The 40 days of readings are listed below.

***End Note ***

40 Days of Reading
Day 1 – Ash Wednesday
Mark 1-4

Thursday Day 2 – Mark 5-8

Friday Day 3 Mark 9-12

Saturday Day 4 Mark 13-16

Sunday

 Monday Day 5 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Tuesday Day 6 Galatians

Wednesday  Day 7  Philippians & Colossians

Thursday Day 8 Philemon & Ephesians

Friday Day 9 Matthew 1-7

Saturday Day 10 Matthew 8-12

Sunday

Monday Day 11 Matthew 13-18

Tuesday Day 12 Matthew 19-24

Day 13 Wednesday Matthew 25-28

Thursday Day 14 1 Corinthians 1-9

Friday Day 15 1 Corinthians 10-16

Saturday Day 16 2 Corinthians 1-13

Sunday

Monday Day 17 Romans 1-8

Tuesday Day 18 Romans 9-16

Wednesday Day 19 Luke 1-3

Thursday Day 20 Luke 4-7

Friday Day 21 Luke 8-11

Saturday Day 22 Luke 12-16

Sunday

Monday Day 23 Luke 17-21

Tuesday Day 24 Luke 22-24

Wednesday Day 25 Acts 1-6

Thursday Day 26 Acts 7-10

Friday Day 27 Acts 11-16

Saturday Day 28 Acts 17-22

Sunday

Monday Day 29 Monday Day 29 Acts 23-28

Tuesday Day 30 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus

Wednesday Day 31 Hebrews 1-10

Thursday Day 32 Hebrews 11-13 & James

Friday Day 33 Revelation 1-11

Day 34 Revelation 12-22

Sunday

Monday Day 35  1 & 2 & 3 John & Jude

Tuesday Day 36 1 & 2 Peter

Wednesday Day 37 John 1-5

Thursday Day 38 John 6-10

Today Friday Day 39 John 11-16

Saturday Day 40 John 17-21