Are You a Writer?

At a Christian writer’s conference that my wife, Dawn, attended this week, I needed to deliver something to her while she was in a group session.  Someone asked me a question that I have not been asked before, are you a writer, too?

I didn’t really know how to answer it, for some reason.  Well, am I?  While I was pondering this, Dawn answered for me: Yes he is. He goes to seminary.

Well … I guess by definition if you are a seminarian, you are a writer. I do spend a lot of time thinking and writing theologically, but my blog has suffered as a result. I learn a lot while writing for classes, but the best spiritual growth comes when I am writing for myself, either here or journaling.

As one of my professors says, sometimes you just have to sit down and start writing. I will try to do that more, and try not to over-think what I write here, and above all, try not to take myself too seriously!

Help hold me to that. If I’m too quiet, rattle my cage.

The Legacy of a Smile and a Generous Heart

My grandfather on my dad’s side of the family passed away several years ago.  He was an amazing carpenter, who could turn wood into works of art the way other artists work with clay, paint, or any other medium.

I love to work with wood myself, but I have only a small fraction of his knowledge, skill, and craftsmanship ability.  I also have several of his tools in my basement, including the bandsaw pictured here.

This year, as in years past, I invited Cub Scouts to bring their blocks of pine wood over, draw an image on the top and side, and I would cut it out for them, then leave the finish sanding, additional carving, and painting up to them.  After an afternoon of helping out these boys, and receiving many warm thank-yous from them and their parents, I took another look at the bandsaw, and for a split second felt a little bad about it.  It is an amazing machine, hand built by my great-uncle especially for my grandfather, his big brother.  I felt a little bit small in the shadows of these two great craftsmen: one who could make anything out of metal, and the other who could make anything out of wood … and here I am making a block of wood to roughly approximate the appearance of various kinds of race cars.

The sensation didn’t last long, because I realized that I was creating something using this tool, after all.  It wasn’t a wooden masterpiece, it was smiles on all those little boys’ faces.  The two things I remember most about my grandfather are his smile and his laugh.  … and knowing his generous heart, I can see him smiling ear-to-ear because of several happy cub scouts benefitting from one of his tools, and a small fraction of skill that got passed down to me.

Sometimes it’s not the things that we do or make that are significant; instead, it is the love that we pass on through what we do.  That is the legacy that my grandfather, among others, have left for me to pass on to others.  It is a legacy with a deep faith tradition from our Creator who taught us to share love with everyone we meet.

Welcome to a new year.  Share your inheritance of Christ’s love with everyone you meet.

What Makes a Miracle?

I read an article that looks at debate surrounding the virgin birth of Jesus.  Quite a few different viewpoints are made, looking at Scripture, culture, and the very nature of the divine.  It is an interesting read, but it raised a different question for me: what makes a miracle?

Was the virgin birth in and of itself the miracle?

… or was the fact that God demonstrated to us first hand what it means to love God and love our neighbor no matter what the real miracle.

… no matter how much the consumer-driven world tells us that God is not relevant.

… no matter how difficult our neighbor might be.

… no matter how difficult it is to focus on God in our noisy world.

… no matter the violence around us and directed to us.

Putting love ahead of everything else is the miracle I see displayed in the Gospels.  Gospel, after all, means “good news.”

For your Christmas present this year, take the love that Jesus demonstrated for us and share it.  In so doing, you will be a miracle for those you meet.

Merry Christmas.  

Working with my hands … for the sake of my mind

I’ve often noticed that my favorite hobbies are ones that involve using my hands to build, shape, repair, or re-make something.  When I am too busy to make time for these hobbies, I find that my mental faculties just aren’t as sharp as they might otherwise be.  When I read this quote below, it put some things together for me that I was missing:

There’s something about the rhythm of the hands being busy and then your body falls open to absorb and concentrate on what you’re listening to, but not completely, because you have two concentrations. And then from that, that sort of cultivates a kind of attention.
—Ann Hamilton, in Making, and the Spaces we Share.

I’m familiar with kinesthetic learning, but Hamilton’s concept of “two concentrations” seems to go beyond that.  It is more like “kinesthetic attention” (if such a term is defined anywhere).  This is engaging the body in movement, and aiding concentration in the process — even if it is concentration on something not directly related to the physical task at hand.

If I need proof for myself: some of my best “thinking” and “ah-ha” moments happen while I am mowing the lawn.

Why I consider myself an inclusive Christian

When I first interviewed with the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, and every year since, I’ve discussed the controversial topic of same-sex partners in the church.  The first time it was a question directed to me, and I didn’t have a solid answer, other than to confess that I was firmly planted on the proverbial fence as it related to the issue.  I felt like I could see valid points to the arguments in either direction, but could not make an opinion that I could call my own.  I was unsure and fearful of taking my own stand on the wrong side of the debate.

Every year since, I’ve volunteered to speak on where my soul-searching and Scripture-searching has led me on the topic with the Committee.  I feel as a Christian, and especially as a candidate in ministry, I have a responsibility to research, discuss, question, and pray on sticky topics until I have some place to put a stake in the ground and say “this is what I believe.”  … even if I have to put a footnote that indicates that this is subject to change without prior written notification.

A few months ago I felt I finally reached the point where I am ready to put a stake in the ground as it relates to who should be “in” the church.  I recall the exact moment the thought came to me, almost as an epiphany:

When I stand before the throne of judgement to give an account of my life, I would rather answer the question of “why did you let these people in?” than answer the question “why did you keep these people out?”

For me, after that thought entered my head, things looked a lot clearer on the issue that previously felt like nothing more than a gray fog.

If you have an issue you can’t decide right from wrong, please don’t give up.  Keep wrestling with it until you can take a stand on it.  Once you’ve taken a stand, keep listening and wrestling.  We must remain humble in our judgments because we are mortal and finite beings, trying to understand the will and direction of an immortal and infinite God.

Faith as Wesley Lived It

Attending a Methodist seminary and studying on the deacon track in the United Methodist Church means I have read a lot of and about John Wesley.  What draws me to Wesley’s theology is that whenever I read it, it feels as though it was written for the times we are living in right now, not two hundred years ago.  The timeless relevance makes me look at my life differently.

Adam Hamilton has an upcoming book titled Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It.  On August 7, at 2:00 PM CT, Ministry Matters will be hosting a webinar with Hamilton to discuss this new book.  Please consider yourself invited to join in.

The webcast will be available at this link: http://www.spreecast.com/events/revival-live-event-with-adam-hamilton

Christmas in July

This summer I have found myself in a bit of a spiritual funk. That’s the technical term when you feel like you’ve just spent thirty nine and a half years wandering in the desert following Aaron and Moses and feeling as spiritually dry as the forsaken desert surrounding us.

I selected some music to help move me out of the funk and into the promised land. The music I picked: Christmas music. Seasonally it seems inappropriate, but for the purpose of turning my mood around, it is just what the doctor ordered. It helps remind me that my faith is the birth of something new in me, and it is constantly being re-born.

Merry Christmas. Don’t get too hot outside…

To be known and loved

Before I created you in the womb I knew you …

Those are the words spoken to Jeremiah by God, but apply to all of us.  I find great comfort in knowing that before I existed or had my first thought, God already knew who I was, and loved me.  Greater still, he loved me and created me in spite of knowing me.  He knew the times I would help a neighbor out.  He knew the times I’d hug my children, my wife, and my parents.  He also knew the times I’d stumble, say something careless, or forget a friend in need.  He knew the times I’d have my doubts about him, be angry at his church, and question his nature.

It is comforting to know that I am here, sometimes struggling to discern and follow God’s will, and even when I get it wrong, God already knew I’d get it wrong.  Even better, he would forgive me, and love me anyway.  Sometimes knowing that is all it takes to give a peaceful moment into what might otherwise be a rough day.

Lessons in Mission from the Man in Black

As I write this I am listening to a collection of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits, many of which were recorded from performances for prisoners.

Sometimes being a missionary does not mean doing anything different than you normally do. Sometimes it is even most effect when it just means changing the venue, and doing what you normally do anyway in a different place or with different people. The result is a spiritual transformation of your normal work into a gift from God for others to receive as a blessing.

Light in the Darkness

The Light That Shines Through the Darkness

 

A gentle reminder entered my bedroom this morning as I read the Good Friday Scripture. Good Friday is a day we Christians tend to think of with sadness, yet it was really the start of the greatest event of our faith.

Without Good Friday, there would be no Easter.

Similarly in our personal lives, sometimes (but thankfully not always) we have to go through a period of darkness to see and appreciate the light.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

 


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Events of Interest

  • Great Plains 2015 Annual Conference June 10, 2015 – June 14, 2015 Wichita, KS, USA Annual Conference Session 2015, June 10-13, Wichita Annual Conference Session 2015 will feature Texas Conference Bishop Janice Riggle Huie and Ms. Stephanie Hixon, Executive Director of Just Peace. Preaching and teaching will focus on unity in the midst of discourse and change. The 2015 conference agenda includes voting for delegates to the 2016 General C…

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