Friday, November 17, 2017

Perspectives: Barriers

Last Saturday, Steve and I walked through the park to watch the Veterans Day Parade (Josh was lead trumpet).  On the way, I saw took this picture.  My assumption is that this used to be a bridge across the creek that runs through the park. The bridge is gone, and the large black board is to keep people from walking over the non-existent bridge.  I took a picture of it because it brought to mind a few questions about obstacles. 
  1. What obstacles do we place in the way of people across a way that used to be there?  What in our churches blocks people's participation? The obvious answers are accessibility obstacles, but there are others. Do we expect people to dress a certain way? Do we want children to act a certain way? Do we pigeon-hole people into certain roles based on age or gender?  What other ways to we block people from full participation in church?
  2. What obstacles do we have in society that need to be removed? Beyond the church, are their obstacles that need to be removed for people to have a secure life? To have a home or food? To reach their potential at work? To achieve success at school? Can we look at life through another person's eyes and see what hinders them?
  3. Where is the line between an obstacle that is for safety and one that blocks a person from reaching God. How do we decide?

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Scents of Gratitude

I am a knitter, and as a knitter, I read knitting blogs. Now that I don't knit quite as much as I used to, I've narrowed my knitting blog list down, but I still enjoy Carole knits. She posts several times a week - and only a small part of what she posts is about knitting. Her blog is mainly a chronicle of her life, and I enjoy seeing her photography, reading her stories, and, yes, checking out her knitting.

She does a regular Thursday (I think it's Thursdays) post called Three Things.  This week's three things was Three things that are the scent of gratitude for you.  That one intrigued me, so here's my three things:
  1. Steve's cologne - Ever since we strarted dating, Steve has worn the same cologne. I hope they never stop making it, because, for me, it is Steve's scent.  It's Lagerfeld. I love how it smells, I love it on Steve, but most of all, when I smell it, I am grateful for my wonderful husband.
  2. At Rotary last week, the guest speaker was the owner of Charleston Bread.  Listening to the owner talk about the bread she bakes and seeing pictures of it had me craving her bread.  So, on Thursday evening, I stopped at the bakery on the way home to pick up a loaf of bread to go with our spaghetti for the evening. The store has a small parking lot next to it. After I parked, and got out of my car, I could smell the bread baking.  That is the scent of gratitude for me. Baking bread.
  3. Around here, we are starting to think about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has a certain smell, doesn't it? Turkey cooking? It is the scent of gratitude for me - it reminds me of family gathered around the table, sharing a meal.
What scents are scents of gratitude for you?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Where we Walk

At church, at our Wednesday night Bible study, we're working through the book Psalms: Prayers of the Heart by Eugene Peterson.  

Look at the first verse of the first Psalm:

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;

He asks the question, "What significance do you see in the progression from walk to stand to sit?"

Truthfully, I had no immediate answer. I didn't see any significance. But think about it.  Walking is movement - you're not spending much time with someone you walk by. Standing with them takes a little more time. To sit down with someone - that is a commitment of time.

Is temptation like that? Do we start with a small step - something we can easily dismiss through rationalization? And then do we move on to something that is deeper? And then, do we end up sitting down with sin? I think our progression away from following Christ's commands is like that. We don't make that choice (often) as a dramatic one. It's a bit by bit movement - something that we don't even notice at first, and can easily excuse. But it leads to more.

May we be aware of where we walk because it can lead to where we sit.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wesley Covenant Prayer

The Wesley Covenant Prayer, as I hear it:

I no longer belong to myself, God. I belong to you.
Use me as you want to; place me where you need me to go.
Let me work in your kingdom, even if it means suffering.
Keep me busy, or set me aside.
Let others see you through me; let others not see me at all.
Let me be full; let me be empty.
Let me have all things; let me have nothing.
I freely give of everything I have been given
to your pleasure and use.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Creator, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine, and I am yours. So be it.
Let this covenant I make here today

be completed in heaven. Amen.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Where I've been

I'm sorry to have been AWOL so long. I had anticipated being away from the blog for a couple of weeks, but those two weeks stretched into four. I'm back now, and I hope to stay back for a while.

 I thought I would start with telling you where I've been. In the middle of October, I went to Chicago for almost a week for software training. I had never been to downtown Chicago before - interesting city - the hotel where I stayed was right on the river. It's as if the city said, "Yes, we know there is a river - we're just going to build as if it isn't there.

 The week after that, Steve and I went to Denver for the national meeting of United Methodist Foundations. I've been to Denver before, but it was great to experience it (and the Rocky Mountains) with Steve. The last day we took a bus into the Rocking Mountain National Park. We climbed to over 9000 feet above sea level. It had snowed on Thursday to the road that goes to 2 miles high was closed, but still - it was a great trip.

 The next week we were in full out planning mode for Josh's senior trumpet recital and the reception that followed. I had thought to hire a caterer, but time slipped away from us, so Steve and I (with the help of Josh's girlfriend) planned and implemented the event ourselves. The recital was wonderful, and I think the 75 or so people who stayed for the reception enjoyed the time together. Who knew college kids loved meatballs so much?

 The same week we were planning the reception, a new person started working on the Foundation staff. It's been wonderful to let go of some of the things I have had to do in the absence of our financial person and let her start doing them. Life never really calms down, and that is OK, but I feel as if it will be returning to normal soon.



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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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