Friday, November 05, 2021

Perspectives: Bent Tree Branch

 I just wonder why the branch on the left is bent.  What obstruction did it encounter that we cannot see?  Does the same thing happen to people?  Aren't there permanent effects on people causes by a past (or present) we cannot see or understand?


Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Wrong People. Wrong Bus.

Have you noticed in the Bible how God doesn't call the people we would expect him to call? God calls people like Samson.  Like David.  Like Tamar.  Like Ruth.  These are not the people we would have chosen for God to recruit.  He calls the slaves out of Egypt to the Promised Land, and they complain and wander and worship gold idols. 

In the book Missional Leader, by Alex Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, the authors write, "In the incarnation, we discern that God is always found in what appears to be the most godforsaken of places - the most inauspicious of locations, people, and situations."  And also, "This God who pursues us is always calling the wrong people onto a bus that isn't expected to arrive."

As I read that today, it occurred to me that we are less than humble when we think about this.  "God calls the wrong people" we think.    "Surely God doesn't want that person to have a leadership role in this ministry."  All along we forget that we have been called - that we are the wrong people - that God has taken a chance on us. 

If that were not the case, then the only assumption is that we are the perfect, good people, judging everyone else.  That's not the case, is it?

No.  We are the wrong people, called onto a bus by God - a bus that isn't expected.  How can we fail to welcome anyone else?

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Monday, November 01, 2021

Sense of Urgency

Yesterday, Marv taught a Sunday school lesson based on one of Moses' speeches from Deuteronomy.  He provided a list from the curriculum of ways we can prepare ourselves for worship.  I thought the list would be the basis of a series of blog posts.

The first item on the list is to have a sense of urgency about worship - Anticipate something new.  When I heard that, a few things came to mind.

In the Walk to Emmaus, we are told not to anticipate.  And during our recently Academy, there was a lot of talk about broken expectations - the way to prevent broken expectations is to not have them.

And yet, there is the passage from Isaiah 43:19 -- I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

While this passage from Isaiah isn't specfically about our topic, it does remind me that God is strong enough to bear our expectations - our anticipations.    If we come to worship with a sense of urgency, expecting God to be present, and for God to reveal God-self to us, then isn't God faithful and reliable enough to show up?

Urgency - coming to worship with a sense of anticipation.  It's not something I usually do, but it is something I should do.

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Friday, October 29, 2021

Perspectives: Cicadia

Cicadia image taken in 2016 at West Virginia Wesleyan College



Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Logos: Joel 2:21-27

Call to Worship

(From Joel 2:21-27)

Leader:  We call to the soil, as the prophet has done before us, rejoice and be glad,
People: Do not be afraid, for the Lord has done great things.
Leader:  We call to the animals of the field, as the prophet has done before us,
People: Do not be afraid.
Leader:  The pastures are green, the trees bear their fruits, and the vine gives full yield.
People: Rejoice and be glad.
Leader: Family of God, be glad and rejoice in the Lord, for he has given rain and sunshine
People: The grain grows in the fields, the fruit bends the trees, and we have been given abundant gifts.
Leader:  Know that God is in our midst.  
People: There is no other.
All:  Do not be afraid.  Rejoice and be glad

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Monday, October 25, 2021

Failure of Imagination

I shared the following devotional at our Foundation Academy of Faith and Generosity.

On January 27, 1967, three astronauts, whose names were Gus Grishom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, were in the cabin of Apollo 1, conducting a launch rehearsal test for the flight.  The spacecraft was pressurized with 100% oxygen as the crew went through a full simulation of countdown and launch. The test ran for 5 ½ hours, and the entire contents of the craft were saturated with oxygen.  Just after 6:31 that evening, electricity arced in some wiring below their feet, and a fire started.  Within 10 seconds, the spacecraft was filled with fire.  All three astronauts died.

Frank Borman, who was a veteran of the Gemini program, testified to the congressional committee investigating the accident.  He said, “We did not think, and this is a failing on my part, and on everyone associated with us; we did not recognize the fact that we had three essentials, an ignition source, extensive fuel, and of course, we knew we had oxygen.” No one had considered the possibility of fire on the ground – only in space.  No one considered the preflight rehearsal to be a hazardous test.  Borman said it was a “failure of imagination.”

Let’s go back to where we started.  Think back to the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus, grieving.  He was failing to imagine how anything could be more satisfying to him than his riches. He was failing to imagine how different – how abundant – his life could be if he let go of what he valued the most.  He failed to imagine God at work in his life. 

We are made in the image of God. Our God is the God who created the universe by speaking it into existence. We have that gift. A potter can look at a lump of clay and imagine the finished product. As parents, we look at our children and can imagine what they will be as adults (most days, anyway). A cook can look at flour, sugar and eggs and imagine what the cake will taste like. The gift of imagination is a wonderful tool that we too often fail to use.

Do we ever look at our churches and imagine what they could become if we allowed God to enter into the discussion? So many people want us to be the church that we were fifty years ago. Do we ever imagine that we can be more than "just" the church that we were? Do we ever imagine what wonderful plans God has in mind for us?

Do you ever look at yourself and feel too small for the task that God has set before you? Do you ever say to yourself that you are "just" a church member, "just" an unequipped lay member, “just” a new graduate from seminary, or “just” a pastor? Do you ever look at a problem and think that it is too big for someone who is "just" one person to solve? I know I do.

Like NASA, we might fail to recognize the building blocks we have – the ingenuity of the leaders God has provided – all of you, and your colleagues in ministry. We fail to remember that we are made in the image of God – imagined into being by God – gifted with creativity and spiritual gifts for the building of the Church.  We forget that the people in our church have been called to God’s service – and that they are trying to hear that call.  And we fail to imagine how great and powerful God is – and that God can do even the unimaginable.

And yet, God calls us beyond the "just" of who we think we are. God calls us to be who he imagines that we can become. God calls the church to be the church of God’s imagination. God calls us to believe that we are more than "just" who we think we are; God calls us to have the faith to believe that we are who God has created us to be.

Once we can do that, we will begin to see that this world is not what God plans for it to be. Once we can see with God's eyes, and believe in what God sees, then we will begin to understand that God is here, God is now, and all around us is the kingdom of God.

“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’”

Can you imagine it?

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Friday, October 22, 2021

Perspectives: Kindness

 Still posting signs from my blog image archive.  This one was taken in a bathroom.  Ignoring the weird punctuation, this image reminds me of the necessity of kindness.  This sign - in both its wording (even though it says Thank You) and its intention (which isn't visible in the image, but that I am aware of) wasn't kind.

I chose this image today because I was frustrated yesterday by someone who wasn't kind to someone else.  There are constructive ways to speak - and hurtful ones - about the same truth.  Can't we chose to be kind?

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review: Church Leadership

Information about the book

Weems, Lovett H. Church Leadership, Revised Edition.  Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2010. (Cokesbury / Amazon)

From the back of the book:  In this Revised edition of the class work on leading congregations, Lovett Weems draws on the best new ideas and research in organizational leadership, yet always with his trademark theological grounding foremost in mind.  Anyone who guides the life of a congregation be they clergy or laity, will find Church Leadership an indispensable took with which to follow their calling to be a church leader.

This was one of the books assigned to the Conference CLM class I am teaching.  The group found it to be one of their favorite books of the 10 we are reading together. 

The book is structured in four parts: Vision, Team, Culture, and Integrity.  He speaks of leadership as a channel of God's grace and a gift from God.

I would highly recommend this book.  Parts that especially appealed to me were:
  1. The excellent descriptions and clarity around what leadership actually is.  "Genuine leadership is always values driven leadership."  There is an excellent section about authority and its source.
  2. The vision chapter is especially well done, and as I read it, I was already applying it to our ministry where I work and to the churches we serve.
  3. Our CLM class had a good discussion with a guest speaker regarding culture - how to respect the "culture" of a church as you enter its ministry.
  4. The chapter about integrity is well done and would be useful for anyone in leadership.
To summarize, all of the book is good, well written, and helpful in ministry.  Two thumbs up!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Logos: Psalm 90:12-17

Loosely inspired by Psalm 90:12-17

Teach us, O God,
Open our eyes to the fleeing of the days.
Open our minds to the potential of our time.
Show us the work you want us to do,
and what is to be gained.

Turn your attention to us,
and see us with your eyes,
eyes of compassion,
eyes of grace and forgiveness.

When we wake in the morning, 
and your light shines through the window,
open our hearts to know your love.
Love that never stops,
Love that is loyal and unending.
Chase us with your grace 
so that we know your love
and rejoice in its glory.

During each day,
whether it brings pleasure or pain,
Suffering or joy, 
Bring us the gladness of your presence in it.

Open our lives to the work you do around us.
Make your breath clear in the breeze of the days,
and your touch apparent 
as we sit down to share a meal.
May your Spirit be the power of our lives,
and may we find you in our years.

Grant us your favor.
May the work we do for you, prosper.
May the work of our hands be pleasing to you.
Every day of our lives.

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Friday, October 08, 2021

Perspectives: Balance

 I think for the month of October, I'm going to pull images from my Blog Image history and repost them for Perspectives on Friday - taking a fresh look at them.

This one, taken in 2013 at Murrels Inlet, reminds me today of balance.  The bird certainly has it.  Do we?

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Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Book Review: Preaching Grace

Information about the book

Kennon L. Callahan.  Preaching Grace: Possibilities of Growing Your Preaching and Touching People's Lives.  Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1999. (Amazon link)

From the book cover:  This is an age of mission.  This is a time when our gifts and strengths can truly touch people's lives - often for the first time.  In Preaching Grace, Kennon Callahan... shows pastors how to develop an approach to preaching that builds upon their unique gifts and strengths and gain the confidence and assurance to grow their preaching.

The structure of the book is to devote a chapter to each of eight strengths or gifts a preacher could develop in order to grow her preaching in a way that increases sermon's helpfulness to the members of the congregation.  The chapters outline what each strength is, why it is important, and suggestions of  how to develop it.

I liked this book and plan to use the content in summary fashion in the curriculum for our Conference CLM Course.  I am usually wary of books that are more than 20 years old because church life and ministry has changed in the past two decades.  I was impressed that this one begins with the thesis that the church has changed - we are no longer preaching to church members who feel an obligation to be present; we are not even preaching to bring absent members back.  We are preaching to a mission field with the goal of reaching those who have never been in church.

I like the author's approach that perfection is not the goal.  He urges readers to release the guilt of what they "think" they should be doing, and find the methods that work for their personality and their congregation.  Smart and helpful.

I like the systematic approach to eight possibly ways to grow preaching with the goal of increasing sermons' helpfulness to the congregation.  I many cases, the strengths were not what I anticipated form their name.  For example, Resources is not the books on your shelf.  It is counting the time you spend in ministry - reaching people, working in mission, providing pastoral care - and using that time to not only increase the helpfulness of your sermon but also your connection with the congregation so that they are more receptive to your preaching.  In other words, sermon prep and pastoral care are not competing for time on your schedule - they are interwoven so that pastoral care and mission work are resources for your preaching.  This makes sense when you consider that a sermon should address a human issue - how will you know the issues people face unless you are working with them to face the issues?

Posts concerning the book
If I've written any other posts with information from this book, they will be tagged as Kennon Preaching

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Monday, October 04, 2021

In Between

Some would even say that it is only in the in-between times that we are free enough form the structures and strictures of ordinary life to hear God’s voice.  (Guthrie: From Pew to Pulpit: A Beginner's Guide to Preaching)

I read this book along with my CLM students, and this sentence really caught my attention.  From that quote, I created a questions for them:  Think about this quote in the context of our current reality as churches and communities living  through a pandemic.  In what ways are we in an in-between time?  Has this enabled the church  or you to hear God more clearly?  How will that impact your ministry as a CLM? How will this  impact your church into the future? Have opportunities for the church’s ministry opened from  the challenges?

For me, it feels as if we are currently in an "in between" time in our churches.  We are still in the pandemic, although we had hoped it was ending.  We are still trying to have some sense of normalcy in our churches, and think there is a part of us that would like to "go back" to the way it used to be.

On World Communion Sunday, we celebrated the Lord's Supper as a church.  We all came to the front of the room and were handed a small goblet-shaped cup with juice and a wafer sealed inside.  It isn't what it used to be, with sweet bread torn from a loaf and dipped into a cup, but there was liturgy, and there were the words "The body and blood of Christ, for you."  We waited until everyone was served, and then ate and drank together.  The people at home, watching on the internet weren't able to have consecrated elements, but did, I hope, feel the community of communion.  

It's better than it was - when we were all at home.  And it's better than the basket of elements at the door that you pick up without the face to face contact of being served and of receiving.  

And in this in-between, I remember why we have communion in the first place.  When we were worshiping from home, I really felt the lack of this meal.  The in between at that time focused my attention more on the need for remembrance together.  

I would love to go back to no masks, and to torn loaves, and to praying together at the altar; however, in this in between, I can be more grateful for what we do have, and for the ways we can come together.

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Friday, September 24, 2021

Perspectives: Odd structure

 I have no idea what this is, but I took a picture of it during a walk at Snowshoe.  Why are those branches arranged that way? 


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Carried or Sent? Part 2

 This is the second part of a devotional I gave at a meeting last week.

We are living in a pandemic.  I am so ready for that not be the case, but it is.  We are living in a time of fear.  A time of mourning and grief.  A time of anger. We have not been sent here by God, but we have been carried by God.


I’m reading a book called The Missional Leader: Equipping your church to reach a changing World by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk.  They write, “In the incarnation, we discern that God is always found in what appears to be the most godforsaken of places – the most inauspicious of locations, people, and situations….Over and over again, God meets God’s people with the bright light of the Kingdom in what appears to be the most hopeless and forsaken places.”  Through a prophet, God asks, “Can these dry bones live?” and then God answers the question by sending us Jesus.  The answer is yes.  The dry bones lives because God is with us.


God was with the people in exile, and God tells them to live.  Get married, have children, have grandchildren.  Live.  Bring life to where you are. 


God is with us in this pandemic, and tell us to live.  To do ministry.  To love each other.  To bring life to where we are.  Here in this place, where God is, we are still the church.  We need new skills, and we need to use gifts differently, but that doesn’t mean we have an excuse to do nothing. 


A few years ago, I was part of a committee that was trying to standardize the certified lay minister program in our conference.  We couldn’t envision a way to do it.  But now, I’m teaching a Conference CLM course – all online.  In a way we didn’t – couldn’t have – envisioned.  The students – at least some of them – don’t have the equipment they need, or the internet they need, and yet they are doing this anyway.  They borrow a friend’s computer, they find internet, they show up every month for a 2.5 hour zoom class.  They do the portico lectures, they read the books, they struggle through curriculum, and they write answers to hard questions.  In a land where they didn’t expect to be, they are living life – following God’s call.  And they are telling me that they couldn’t have done this without the class being held online.  They couldn’t have traveled for in person meetings.  This could not have happened before the pandemic.


So, I ask you today, in this land where God has carried you, where have you seen God at work?   Where are you or the people in your community, living life in a way no one anticipated before?

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