Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blogging

Just a note to let readers know that I will be taking a short break from posting. I have a couple of work trips coming up as well as a particular busy time.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks.  Take care!

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There are Two Ways

Inspired by Psalm 1

There are two ways
to live a life.
One way leads to blessings; 
the other to lifelessness.

Blessed are those
who turn their ears to God,
who do not listen to the distractions
that would lead them away,
who do not follow the tempting voices.

Blessed are those
who walk the path of righteousness
who stand with those who serve
who sit in God's communion.
These will find life.

These will find a life
nourished by God's presence.
Their work will bear fruit
and their lives will not wither.
In all they do, God will shine.

Those who choose the other way,
the way of sin and pain,
become like dust, blowing in the storm.
They are not rooted in God,
so they are tossed in the wind,
barren and alone.

There are two ways
to live a life.
and on different days, 
I find myself on different paths.
I pray, dear God,
that you lead me in the way
that leads to life,
even when I stray.

I pray, dear God,
that you,
and, if you allow it, I,
can shine a light
in the darkness,

so that all can find life.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Prayer for a Way Forward

I was asked by the Western District to write a prayer to be included with others in a group of prayers for last week's effort in the Annual Confernece to pray for The Way Forward.

Creating God, Sustaining God, Forgiving God, hear our prayers. We are grateful for what you have created us to be, and marvel in the thought that we are made in your image. How can it be that the great variety we see is all your image? And yet we know that our variety is a reflection of your nature. We are grateful that you have created us – by our very nature – to live in community.

We ask that your Holy Spirit inhabit our community – your church – so that we can hear your leading. We ask for the wisdom to discern your guidance for us, and we ask that whatever it is that you plan for us becomes more important to us than our own desires and beliefs. We ask, dear God, that you transform each of us and all of us together into what you envision us to be.

We pray for the church you have created for us – through us – in spite of us. We believe you are among us, and we know you are our hope. Inhabit the work of The Way Forward so that the church we are so grateful for is transformed into the church you created.

We ask for forgiveness for the ways we destroy the work that you lead us to do. We ask for forgiveness for the ways we hurt each other, ignore each other, degrade each other, and judge each other. We ask for forgiveness for when we dishonor the image in which we were created.


We pray all of this, loving God, so that we can be the light you have called us to be, and so that we can have a part in changing the world through you. We pray in your son’s name, Amen.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fairness

The sermon a few weeks ago was based on the story of the workers who were recruited at different times of the day - worked for different amounts of time - and were all paid the same wage. Terry asked us if we could imagine those who worked the ten hour day, watching the ones who had worked one hour receive a day's wage. Do you imagine they were excited, thinking that they would surely receive a multiple of that number, for the amount of time they had worked?  And yet, they received a day's wage - the same as the person who worked a fraction of the time they did.

It's not fair. 

I wrote about fairness yesterday. As I listened to the sermon, I thought about fairness. We can only determine what is fair by comparing what we have to what someone else has. We can only determine fairness by comparing what we have to do against what someone else has to do. Fairness is relative.


And when we say something is not fair to us, we are coveting what someone else has, aren't we?

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Monday, October 09, 2017

It's not Fair

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life.  Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die.  Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezekiel 18:25-29)
I am a Rotarian. Rotarians support what is called the Four Way Test as an ethical standard for life. This is the four way test:

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Don't get me wrong - I see nothing wrong with this test for business relationships, but as I was reading it, the phrase, "Is it fair to all concerned" struck me. 

We teach our children to be fair - to take turns, to treat others as they would like to be treated. It's a good way to teach them to live in the world. It seems even Ezekiel supports it. 

However, if we live in a world where God is fair, we are lost. 

Christ changed everything. Grace is not fair. Grace is the epitome of unfair.  Thank God for it.

I wonder if the fact that we have trouble accepting the idea of grace -free and unearned - because we were raised in a world that teaches children that the highest ethical standard is fairness.

If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt, too. Not fair - it's grace.

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Friday, October 06, 2017

Perspectives: Who answers the invitation?

Earlier this year, Steve and I revitalized our bird feeders. They hang right outside our kitchen window, and we had a wonderful time watching all of the birds in the area come by and eat. Then we noticed that overnight, entire bird feeders would be emptied. The birds here are hungry, but not that big. 

Either we had a bigger animal eating our seed or Big Bird lived in the neighborhood.

One evening we caught the suspect, red nosed. Deer. This was not the creatures we had invited to dinner, and yet it is who showed up.


Are we willing in church to issue an invitation and to then offer radical hospitality to whoever says yes, and knocks on the door. Do we have Open Doors to everyone?

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Team: Ready, Set, Recruit

Are you ready to recruit your team? How do you do it?

  1. Define what gifts and talents are necessary for the job you are about to undertake. Don't fall back on assumptions. For example, in your church, do you always recruit bankers for the finance committee? What work will the finance committee need to do? Will it need to communicate about stewardship with the congregation in addition to monitoring spending? Then you need people with different gifts.  Are you recruiting a team of people to explore why Sunday school is failing? Don't just include those who attend Sunday school - find people who don't and see what they can contribute.  What gifts do the team members need to bring?
  2. Be honest about the expectations of service as a member of the team. How often have you been asked to serve on a committee, to be told that the group doesn't meet very often, and if they do, you could miss the meetings? Be honest about the expectations of service, and then share them. 
  3. Know the vision - and share it. Are you excited about the vision you have defined? Is it important (if it's not, then why are you doing this?). Share the vision. Find people who are as excited about it as you are.


God's blessings as you build your team!

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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Team: Start with Yourself

As I planned the lesson I talked about yesterday, the following song came to mind (it's written by Glen Ballard and sung by Michael Jackson):

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change


If you are building a team for a vision that is important enough that God has called you to lead the effort, then the first place to start is with yourself.  

What change do you need to make in your life in order for you to lead the team you are trying to form?

Are you trying to form a team to lead an evangelism revolution in your church? Do you invite people to know Christ? Make a change.

Are you trying to form a team to discern God's vision for your church? Is your heart and mind open to whatever the answer will be? Make a change.

Are you about to lead a team to recruit new officers for the church? Does that team need to lead a revolution, asking new people to serve? Seeking officers with unexplored gifts? Are you willing to ask the hard questions of yourself? Make a change.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Team: What's the Vision?

A few weeks ago I taught a Sunday school lesson using the book Generosity Rising by Scott McKensie. The chapter I used as the basis of the lesson was chapter two, and it's theme was how to build a revolutionary team for a generosity ministry in a church. As I taught it, I thought much of the lesson could apply to any team any of us are building. 

First, it is important to define what your team's mission will be. Do this before you form the team. 

What change is God calling you to lead? What is this team supposed to do?

To often I have seen teams that are formed only because we've always had a team assigned to this particular task, and with no goals at all. The goal seems to meet, so we have meetings. How does that change the world or start a revolution?

What change is God calling you to lead? Define it. And then decide if the change you are trying to bring about is important. Is it necessary? Is it life changing? Does it bring us closer to the Kingdom of God? Is God in it at all?


If you can answer yes, and if you can define the vision, then you are one step closer to forming a team.

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Monday, October 02, 2017

Passionate Conversation

The other day I was having a discussion with a pastor regarding applause during worship. It's a topic that I am passionate about, and one that I've had many discussions about, so I was a little "wound up" during out discussion.  I wasn't angry, and neither was he. I was just convinced. And passionate.

He said, "But you're not angry about this." I wasn't - and while I have some frustration around the issue, I wasn't angry, especially not with him, and I'm glad he knew that.

I was thinking about that conversation on the way to work. It's fun to have passionate conversations when you try to convince someone else of your view. At times - not yesterday, but other times - I regret my participation in the discussion, because I wonder if the other person thought I was angry, instead of convinced and passionate. I wonder if the other person had as much fun as I did.

Thinking about that this morning, I think it might be gender related. Women who are passionate - or even angry - are not received the same way as men who are passionate or even angry. Do you think women are expected to humbly agree rather than argue? And is it possible that when they don't fall into line, they are judged for being witchy (or another word that rhymes with that one)?  Men aren't seen that way.

There are times when after a conversation I enjoyed for its passion and insight, I realize I've stepped on someone else's toes. I've either shown my expertise or I've shown my opinion. That wasn't what was wanted by the other person.

Or there are times when I'm more reluctant, and I say things like, "Well, what do I know, but...." or "I could be wrong, but..." I act self-deprecating, and I know it's because I'm a woman - and I'm a smart woman - and sometimes that is not what society (or the person in front of me) wants me to be.


Too bad.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Perspectives: Grass is Greener


Some pictures just don't need words.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lectionary Challenge: Matthew 21:28-32

Matthew 21:28-32

"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Earlier in the week I asked us to examine which character in the Exodus story best fit who each of us is. That is a question we could ask ourselves as we read this passage, too. Are we the son who said he would do the will of the father and then didn't? Or are we the son who refused to do the father's will, and then did?

The deeper question is this: are we willing to see God in the world around us? Are we willing to believe? We say that we do. We go to worship, we recite the words of our faith. We say we are Christians? But are we atheistic in our actions? Do we act as if we believe in God?

A few weeks ago, the preacher in our church said that agape love is a choice. We decide to love. This isn't the emotion of love; it is a love of action.

In the same way, do we chose to follow Christ? Do our actions demonstrate the words of our faith? If a person couldn't hear what we say, but could only see what we do, would that person call us a Christian, or an atheist?

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lectionary Challenge: Phillipians 2:1-8


Philippians 2:1-8 (Full lectionary reading is 1-13)

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.

Think like those who were reading (or hearing) Paul's words from this letter. "If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy..."

What do you mean, Paul? Are these trick statements? Of course there is encouragement  Of course there is consolation and love, sharing and compassion. These are the very nature of God, Paul. YOU'VE TOLD US SO.

And Paul says, "Ah ha! If that is true, then show it. Demonstrate it. If this is the nature of God, and you were created in the image of God, then this should all be in you, too."

Our call from God in this passage is to demonstrate agape love by choice. To be loving. The call in this passage is to see others with the eyes of God, seeing the God in other people. We aren't called to take pity on the poor and offer them the worst that we have, if we offer them anything. We aren't called to be grudging in love. We aren't called to see ourselves as better than anyone else.

We are called to humility. We are called to a humble nature before God, accepting the commands of God, and offering loving compassion through our actions to others. This is what Christ did. This is what we are to do.

If we are made in the image of God, and we have the best model of what God is like in the life of Christ, then we need to be like Christ, obedient to the point of death. In this way, others will see the encouragement, sharing, compassion and sympathy of God in us.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Lectionary Challenge: Ezekiel 18:1-4

Ezekiel 18:1-4

The word of the LORD came to me:  What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Do we have a habit of trying to find reasons for the bad things that happen in life? Is this one that is sometimes used? "The sins of the father will be visited on the child."  I do think that what we do in life impacts those around us, especially our children. I don't see that as the work of God; to claim that a baby who is addicted to heroin is suffering punishment from God for the sins of his parents is heresy.  Our sins do effect more than ourselves, but that is our doing, not God's.

God is grace, offering mercy and love to each of us, even in our sin. If that is the case, then who could ever believe that God would refuse to offer mercy to the one who did not sin? Or as punishment for the sin of another.

And yet, this might be a radical thought for the readers of the writings of Ezekiel.

When we try to cast blame, we should stop. We should stop judgment, and remember that we do not have all the answers. We do not know why, but that's not our job. Our job is to love. We should get busy.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Lectionary Challenge: Exodus 17:1-7

Exodus 17:1-7
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"   But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?"   So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."   The LORD said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.   I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.   He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

My challenge for myself this week is to consider four lectionary readings and write about them for the blog. Before reading any of the scriptures for the week, I selected the week I would do this, so that I didn't choose "easy" scriptures on purpose. These are the lectionary readings for the week I chose.  Each day I will post the scripture with the thoughts I have, so I hope you will take the time to read the passage.

As I read the story, I wondered who I related too the most. Which character am I most like?

Am I like Moses? Imagine for a moment, the frustration that he must have felt. This is certainly not the first time that the people have complained. They saw God part the Red Sea, lead them in the wilderness, and yet they still complain.  You may be involved in church work - as a volunteer, perhaps, or as a staff member. Do you get frustrated with the people around you? People who complain all the time, no matter what?  He brings his frustration to God, and God answers him, with a solution (pardon the pun). There could be a lesson in that for us.

Am I like the people who are complaining? Am I so blind to the work of God that I miss what God is doing? Why am I like that? Do I get so focused on the details that I forget to notice the presence of God? Do I get impatient with God's timing? Why do I give up on God so easily? How often do I say, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

Am I like the elders? Do I ever stand in the presence of one anointed by God, and watch the work of God? Do I learn anything? Do you think that is why God told Moses to take elders with him? Is it so that they will be witnesses to God at work? What do they do next? What do they learn? What do I learn from those whom God has appointed?

My favorite take away lesson from this passage is that God was there. God did not abandon his frustrated, complaining children. God answers. God provides. I pray I may be like the one who remembers that.

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