Thursday, December 25, 2008
The preparations for the 12 Days of Christmas prayer are also complete, or they don’t matter anymore. The schedule has been laid out, the location set, and a list of leaders prepared. My name is on that list too many times, but that is the way it is.
I’m a bit nervous about how this project will play out, but not overly so. It was never intended to be my project anyway; but His. If this were all mine, I would have bailed long ago! There has been way too much uncertainty in this for my taste. My previous post talks about the walk. But each step has been in the Lord’s hands and everything has fallen in place.
There is nothing left to do but show up and see what He has in store for us.
And that has been the point of this project, the anticipation of Jesus’ arrival and our preparation to receive Him. We’re supposed to make that preparation before Christmas during the Advent season. But, as usual, we humans have heaped a lot of other meanings and expectations on top of that and created a time of great stress for ourselves.
The intent is to take the time “after” to do what we should have done “before”. But it’s not really “after”? There is an actual tradition of the 12 days of Christmas beyond the partridge song. In my tradition, the period of time between Jesus’ birth and when the Wise Men arrived. Can you imagine how the Christmas story really played out? In today’s world there is very little that captures our attention for 12 days…
Emmanuel, God with us. Joy to the World!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The Mastercard Commercial I’d like to see:
(Jim Moss, Presbyterian minister, South Carolina)
Amount spent each year in Europe and the United
States on pet food: $17 billion
Cost per year to achieve basic
health and nutrition for the entire world: $13 billion
on perfumes each year: $12 billion
Clean water for all the world:
Amount spent on cosmetics in the US: $8
Basic education for the world’s children: $6
Total amount the US spends on Christmas each year: $450
billion (or 16 years worth of food, water, and education for the
Initial cost of the US Government bailout of failing
financial institutions: $700 billion (or 25 years worth of food, water, and
education for the world)
Coming to grips with the alarming
disconnects of our consumerist society: Priceless
I don’t actually know a lot about the nuances of the Presbyterian Church and I haven’t really paid attention to its particular controversies. (All churches have their own set of controversies.) Two things have always struck me about the Presbyterian Church however. One, the Presbyterian Church prides itself on social justice issues. Two, the Presbyterian Church is a more cerebral church.
I guess at this point I need to start using “PCUSA” to be concise in meaning; and typing.
When you heard the statistics I used earlier I bet you were thinking a number of things. Like, “Why is this happening?” Or, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” Or, “How can I help?” But I bet you didn’t really think about why you should help? That, to me, is one of the things that puts the PCUSA at a unique crossroad in the diverse family of people and denominations that make up Christ’s church. PCUSA attracts folks that are socially conscious, altruistically want to help, and don’t understand why this world is so messed up. But PCUSA has the charter to usher those folks into the understanding that the world is messed up or “fallen” because of our separation from God. The understanding that God has a plan and that plan calls for involvement in social justice, not for social justice’s sake but as an expression of Christ’s compassion. Action that leads not only to mortal relief but more importantly to life everlasting!
I think its PCUSA’s cerebral nature that is one of those things that brings it closer to the doorway between the world and God’s Kingdom. It is a natural transition, a welcoming portal, and PCUSA has a 300 year history of doing it well. But PCUSA is at another crossroad. It, like so many other denominations in the US, is declining. In many ways I feel it’s the academic rigor that is causing internal scholastic debate and an inflexibility that is hurting the calling of the church. We aren’t fire & brimstone but we have our own versions of rigid thinking. PCUSA is at the crossroad of trying to figure out how to soften the barriers that keep folks from getting to the solid core; Christ.
The typical worldly response to trouble is to tighten up to regain control. But that can have negative effects. The internet is full of folks talking about splitting off of PCUSA. It’s also full of folks that are committed to the PCUSA but see the need for changes in focus. I believe much of the Missional church movement comes as a response to this. And we’ve seen this issue in our own congregation.
The most biblical response to being at a crossroad is to pray. Pray for discernment of God’s will for PCUSA and Faith church. Pray for the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit in these times of transition. Pray for a church that embraces action as an expression of Christ’s compassion.
Let us pray…
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Faith's primary job was to provide the cookie snacks and man the refreshment table after the program. And there were ample cookies! And good ones too! There was even enough to leave some in the teachers lounge for the next day! (Ms. Johnson wanted them in the Office. I'm not sure who won?) We also dropped off another bunch of books that Faith collected. Libba and Bob had everything under complete control! My biggest job was to lay down napkins so Marilyn could load them with cookies. Tough job...whew! Thank you! Thank you, for everyone that contributed!!!
It was also a time to connect with our partners. A number of us finally got to put faces with names for folks like: Barbara Johnson - Principal, Jean Oakle - Director of Parent Initiative Second Mile, Mary McDowel - Parent Initiative Second Mile, and Darlene Mann - PTA President. It was also time to meet and mingle with the parents and students. We could have used a few more folks that have that "mingle" personality but Kerry and the Youth did a wonderful job! But even for those of us like me that are more socially challenged, it was still a wonderful chance to exchange hellos and smiles with many and rachet up that comfort level.
We also shared some paint swatches to pick a color for our in-the-works project of fixing up the Parent Portable. Check-in with Libba if you're interested in helping out.
Kerry took some phone video that she will load on the youth website so keep checking faithyouthgroup.com! You may even be able to figure out who the Secret Santa was?!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
You get the kernel of an idea and you show it to some folks and what do you get? “That’s a great idea! I’m behind you!” Then nothing…
OK Lord what do I do now?
So He gives you a few ideas and you piece together a little more to help get the idea across. You spread the net a little wider to see if you can generate any momentum and get some ideas flowing. “That’s a great idea!” “I’ll help any way I can, just let me know.” “I’ll be out of town.” You do get some more encouragement but not a lot of concrete help. It’s starting to look like it will be all on your shoulders or nothing. It’s starting to sound like my plan not God’s?
OK Lord what do I do now? How do I know if it’s a bad idea? Or not time? Or just move forward in faith?
So you put together an announcement to have sent to the whole congregation; still with a lot of holes. You send it to some folks for review first. “You need more information..” Well, you’re at the end of your rope and are just about to pack it in. But you wake up with the right thing to add, and then find that someone has sent you an email with some help too!
OK Lord, I have a congregational announcement out there that is incomplete and begging for input. What if no one signs up? It’s in your hands now.
(In the meantime, the pressures of a looming deadline at work as well as your own preparations for the holidays are weighing heavy!)
On the way to work listening to 91.3 you hear three songs that could easily provide the devotion for three of the topics! A backup plan!
And that is where we are now…still walking…
I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty here, or singling anyone out, and I’m not twisting arms. I myself feel convicted here because I see myself in a lot of those responses! It’s sometimes a relief that I have an out because of a prior commitment. I would like to help but don’t know how. I’m too busy to even think about that.
But I am getting a tiny glimpse of the Kingdom! You’ve heard the phrase “Engage brain before running mouth”? Well that simple glimpse is “Talk with God before answering.”
Sorry if this offends anyone. That is not the intent. I’m just reporting some insights into human nature that I’ve seen, but more importantly, some insights into how God works and his plan.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I’ve always wanted to get more in tune with the true Spirit and take Advent more seriously. It always escapes my grasp. In recent years I’ve regularly joked that I should celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 6th. I’m a Fed and December is the time to use up your “use-or-lose” vacation time, so I usually get to take at least the Christmas week off. It’s only then, after Christmas Day itself, when I get to separate myself from the hubbub and reflect on the amazing gift of the birth of our Savior. Many others face the same situation, or worse, many face the sometimes severe post holiday blues during this time.
I just had a thought that may be good for both Faith Church and me? What do you think about having a community prayer session each day during the “12 Days of Christmas” (12/25-1/6)? I’m thinking each day could focus on a different aspect of our life in Christ at Faith. Yeah, it may end up only being 11 or 10, but this should be simple and there shouldn’t be much prep except the outline and getting a daily volunteer to provide a short devotional to set the tone each day; something in the nature of a bible verse, or a musical choice, or a centering prayer; even the anniversary slide show. Given Faith’s year and looking forward to the next, this seems like a good idea?
A short community prayer time during this period to separate ourselves from the crush of the world and focus on the Kingdom would be a welcome relief. What do you think?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Sarah Curtis asked me to give you a five minute talk to encourage you to read the Emerging Culture report that was given to Session in early September. I was thinking wow, five minutes! There is so much in that report what can I say? Then I decided I needed to tell you a story…
26 or so years ago was when I first came to Huntsville and Faith church. Now if you think I’m introverted now, you should have seen me then! I grew up Catholic and had moved away from church when I left home for college. I was not looking for a church home when I came to Huntsville. But through a friend of mine who came to Huntsville too and worked for Norm Schlemmer, I was introduced to the Faith singles group.
They were a great group of people and did a lot of interesting things. In particular were Maranatha retreats. I loved Maranatha, but I had a real problem with the worship service. I usually found some place else to go during worship. Everybody was OK with that and still accepted me and didn’t push me. They did what Faith does. They welcomed me for who I was and loved me as the child of God that I was, but didn’t know yet. The rest is history as they say.
Well, my story is the emerging culture story. Faith’s story is the emerging culture story! The emerging culture story is not about multi-media, and using the worship service as a marketing tool! It’s about connecting with people, all people, and loving them as the children of God that they may not know they are and ushering them into a life with Christ on God’s timetable.
The report is available on Faith’s website.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Two analogies come to my mind when thinking about the longer term possibilities. The first is emerging from a mountain pass and seeing a new frontier overflowing with possibilities. The other is like a kid walking into an immense candy store…with only a dollar in his/her pocket!
With the candy store being the wealth of choices and Libba being the single dollar, we’re not going to be able to buy much candy! (Although Libba is more like a 10 dollar bill!) Libba, by herself, cannot coordinate and guide the effort. The question is how do we organize to approach this missional opportunity? The first Presbyterian answer is to form a committee. Let’s not go there! There are good and bad committees but this brings to my mind a business like approach simply determining tasks and finding bodies to fill them. But if we are called to a missional approach, we are being called to build relationships.
Both the emerging culture study and Faith’s own “A Covenant for Shaping Our Future” indicate a community based team approach is what’s called for*. This type of team approach promotes building community with others through bible study and work while trying to discern what that work is called to be. I believe such a team of WHES volunteers is what’s called for to steer the WHES efforts, support those in the ministry, and usher new folks into the ministry. (Love, Grow, Gather, Send)
We are supposed to be partnering and building relationships with WHES; faculty, students, and parents. How do we include them, or perhaps more appropriately include ourselves in what they are doing? Can we merge with existing team efforts thorough some of WHES’s other church partners? What other possibilities are out there if we can get past just getting the job done? What will we learn about ourselves? What will we learn about those we want to serve? It’s about the journey with Christ on the way.
This is a new frontier. Libba and Frank are our lead scouts. But if we are truly called to this effort it is an effort that requires a community of disciples. I for one do not have the guts or gifts to commit to such an effort alone!
* See the Emerging Culture Report, particularly Appendix V.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
First the facts as I know them. As of August, at least, there were no official plans to move to a single worship service. I checked with the head of the Worship Committee on that at the time because I had heard those rumors as well. They were tasked with finding a comfortable mix, or equally uncomfortable mix, for Faith’s typical combined services. Those services are only the usual fifth Sunday and special holiday services.
The second fact is that the Emerging Culture class was not offered simply to prepare the congregation for the move to a single multi-media worship service. It was a Spirit led class meant to explore the world that Faith is immersed in and to inform the further mission of Faith Church. In fact the Emerging Culture Report found that this is a contentious subject and a major motive for changing the service is generally to entice new folks to attend Faith. The report also suggested that this motive is not what God intended or Jesus demonstrated and we need “to approach worship as personal and corporate responses to God of those present, not anticipate newcomer’s responses.”
Now that is not to say there aren’t a lot of folks that think we should go to a single service. But there are also a lot of folks that think we shouldn’t. The problem is we don’t really know the desires for sure because we can’t talk about it given it is such an emotionally charged topic! I personally am in favor of tabling that discussion to a later date. We are not in a healthy enough state to discuss it and the threat is fueling fears and mistrust on both sides. I think we should declare a cease fire. Instead, we should focus on missional aspects of our church life. Aspects about which there is strong support and agreement for at Faith. It was offered in the report that this was the intended avenue for bringing new folks into the church; not just Faith but the Christian Church as a whole.
Now as our missional approach starts attracting new members, or regular attenders, we will have to revisit how we do worship at some point. I encourage all of us to be carefully considering our motives for changing or not changing our worship formats. Are the reasons God’s reasons or our own? What are the aspects of worship that really allow you to connect with God and give him praise? Are you willing to support alternative formats or times because they help others connect? Not nameless potential visitors but fellow Christians with whom we are working at Faith to forward God’s Kingdom. Stop worrying about winning or losing and search your hearts in prayer to find what your response to God is in worship. When we have done that we can come together as a community in Christ and determine our worship landscape!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A far cry from “Hugging Introverts” back in February 2007, those of you that have supported me know this is a big step. But I feel that the blog entries I have been moved to write are individually helpful and encouraging to individuals struggling with some faith questions like I have. Taken as a collection I feel they are illustrative of, at least some aspects, of a Christian journey. I have tried to keep the entries objective and balanced and usually approach controversial points through questions rather than statements.
This is a big step for the Session too! This is more than simply approving an article for the website. It is approving a blogger and a continuing series of entries. It is approving the openness of comments to those entries and the dialog that will result. It is establishing a precedent that could lead to other blog links. The decision must be a deliberate one.
For the Session it is an issue of control, trust, and being open enough to allow God’s story to be told in many voices. For those of you that have read the Emerging Culture report, this decision will directly address recommendation 6a; “Define guidelines and boundaries for publicly viewable information and blogs. Foster open group and team communication.” And I hope my recent entries on the West Huntsville Elementary activity illustrate the “connection between our responsibility of witness and the emerging culture’s need for experience through the use of blogs. Combining cold information and personal witness by blogging mission and other activities [that] will spur personal involvement.”
So I don’t expect approval soon or without discussion but that’s OK. I am not a routine blogger and generally don’t write unless I feel the Spirit move me. I don’t want to write just to get something out there. So I also want the Session to hear out the Holy Spirit on this decision.
In the mean time, forward the blog address to whomever you wish and please pray for the right decision, whatever that may be.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
In the opening comments, Frank, Ms. Johnson, and Mr. Gillespie emphasized the partnering aspects of this new relationship between Faith and WHES. This partnering relationship is something Faith needs to consider carefully and understand.
More than a few folks seemed disappointed that we couldn’t accomplish more yesterday morning. Everybody saw needs and wanted to run out and get this, or do that, right then. Those urges are good, showing that hearts are in the right place, but we need to keep in mind the broader purpose of God’s plan in this partnership. In these very early stages it’s about building trust between the partners!
As someone said, WHES is Ms. Johnson’s house! You wouldn’t want someone coming into your house telling you what you need to do. We need to build the dialog and trust to determine together how we can help most. As an example, the portable needs some interior painting. I suspect WHES parents are hard strapped to find time to contribute a lot of help to WHES. Perhaps we need to go that extra mile to meet with the parents responsible for the portable to pick a color, on their terms? Now picking a color isn’t a huge thing and maybe they would simply be happy to have it painted, but it is an opportunity to build some of that trust between partners. Gain that bit of trust and there might be a parent or two that show up to help?
Mr. Gillespie has a small budget to help out in this effort. But it isn’t a blank check. It’s just good stewardship to coordinate efforts to best prioritize and allocate those resources. Again, that’s part of building trust in this partnership. Gain that bit of trust and next year may have a bigger budget?
It’s also about building trust at Faith. Trust between each other and our trust in God’s plan. We all get impatient and start to exercise our own wills. We need to keep in mind whose work we are doing!
Now I’m not suggesting we slow this down to a Presbyterian crawl! I am suggesting that in this early phase we work carefully to build trust between all four partners; Faith, WHES, the County Commission, and God. It is through those trusting relationships that the Holy Spirit works and God’s plan is unveiled. It is also through those trusting relationships that God’s story is shared!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
First and foremost, mission goes hand-in-hand with witness. God wants us to reach out and tell others about Him. Mission is following Jesus’ example in delivering that witness message. We are called to help the poor. But more importantly we are called to reach out to the poor-in-spirit and deliver God’s message of hope and salvation. A Fortune 500 CEO, a soccer mom, or a homeless family could be equally poor (or rich) in the Spirit. Mission is about building relationships that allow us to witness. We build relationships with those we serve. We also build relationships with those we serve with. And we build relationship with God when we pursue His work. All of these relationships allow us to nourish and be nourished by the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Often we forget, or are just learning, the relational nature of witness and mission. The world we live in is increasing in a benevolent attitude. The result of faster news, increased wealth, and the example set by many churches. But the world is also extremely fickle! Today’s effort is lost in tomorrow’s news. The world uses benevolence as leverage; expecting this or that in return. The world uses benevolence to further power or class distinctions; “We need to help those people.” To the Christian, this drives home the point that what we physically do has little and fleeting impact on this fallen world. Anyone who has been personally involved in mission work will tell you it’s the personal and emotional connection between individuals that provide fertile ground for the Spirit to act and change lives; both lives! For all of you who have experienced this connection I am eternally grateful for your blessings and, frankly, somewhat jealous.
To me the largest difference between being missional and doing mission is that we are working with people rather than simply ministering to people. Faith has practiced being missional to varying degrees over its 50 years. I think the recent emphasis has been because we do have those core values we may be ready to embrace this newer missional church movement more fully and take our mission to a new level. To more deliberately pursue this witness-mission partnership, not just for small groups but for the Faith family as a whole! I hope and pray that this will lead us to better training and mentoring, better discernment, better matching of activities with individuals in different stages of spiritual growth, better discipleship, more real witnessing. One first step in this direction is the “Mission 101” class that will be offered by University of Faith, led by Frank Broyles and others, the first three Sunday’s in November! I’ll be there, will you?
We have such a wealth of physical and spiritual resources at Faith. Much of it is untapped, waiting for the vision of our part in His Kingdom on earth to come into focus. If we let Him, where will He lead us?
We’ve been sending a small group of folks over to WHES to read with the kids for 5 years now; time flies! At one point some of the women at Faith went to WHES to hold a tea party. WHES has a program in place to teach kids manners, and social skills and the tea party was a great way to reinforce those skills through practice. I learned that back in May of 2008 Faith made a decision to move our work with WHES in a “missional” direction. Since then you may remember the summer book drive we held that was very successful. And even more recently we have been collecting health clinic supplies.
Ms. Johnson is a pretty amazing woman! She’s been in the Huntsville City School system for 30 some years. She has taught a number of years at WHES, moved on as assistant principal at another school and returned to WHES as principal a few years back. She said she would not want to be anywhere else at this point in her career. Ms. Johnson is openly Christian, full of love for the kids and full of energy. She is a powerful advocate!
WHES has some tough and encouraging statistics. The neighborhood is very transitory. WHES starts out each year with about 260 students and ends with about 260 students; they are not the same students. They have a staff of seasoned as well as young teachers. Less than 5% of their students have a traditional family background, although that number is growing with an increase in the Hispanic population. WHES operates an “Even Start” preschool program for 3, 4, and 5 year olds. The WHES parents send the kids to school with “the very best that they have” but they often need a bit of help. And each Kindergarten class holds graduation in the Butler High auditorium as a tangible sign of the goal desired for each child! WHES has a number of strong community partners that provide support in many ways. Check out WHES and its newsletter at their webpage: http://www.hsv.k12.al.us/schools/elementary/westhes/index.html .
And don’t miss Keenan providing an excellent introduction in the school video at http://www.hsv.k12.al.us/schools/elementary/westhes/West_Huntsville.wmv .
On October 25th, as part of Faith’s 50th Anniversary weekend we will be spending Saturday morning at WHES. It will start out at a breakfast at 8:30. There will be a short time of celebration for both our 50th anniversaries. And then we’ll have the opportunity to work alongside WHES on a number of tasks that will help the school grounds and a “Parent Portable” that serves as a center and meeting area for parent involvement. Watch for more details and check out Faith’s website, http://presby.org/pages.php?page=08/08/09/1958726 , for anniversary details and contacts. This is a great opportunity to jump into a budding missional relationship with the WHES community. I’m going to give it a try, how about you?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
On Wednesday the University of Faith team found out one of the previous classes wanted to get back together in their old form during Sunday school hour. I personally found this disappointing. The UofF team has tried very hard to listen to the expressed needs and establish an open and flexible Sunday school hour. The survey comments collected after the first quarter indicated the majority of folks were pleased with the arrangements. The decision by this class came as a surprise to me. I wish they had been more forthcoming in the survey process to allow the team to make other adjustments. I understand the desire for nurturing Christian relationships and, in that regard, this is a good thing. I guess I, and I think the team, had different objectives for the Sunday school hour. Sunday morning worship and Sunday school time is the prime time for us to invite and welcome guests into our Christian family. We felt the flexibility and variety would be an asset to providing a more comfortable entry environment for our guests rather than trying to mix into a well established group. I felt the small community group opportunities would be more effective at times other than Sunday morning. I guess we didn’t do a very good job of promoting other avenues for what I call nurture groups. It was just too big a job for the UofF team alone. Well, I know I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Akaloo class and will pray for guidance during the summer session in discerning the future shape of UofF and the Sunday school hour. We could always use some more input, help, and teachers!
Looking forward in Faith, Dave
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I couldn’t help but notice your distress the other evening when the topic turned to being a missional church. I agree that if anyone is saying that Faith church does not or has not had missions, outreach, and benevolence as a core value they are absolutely wrong! However, I don’t think anyone is saying that. I think the recent emphasis is that because we do have those core values we may be ready to embrace this newer “missional church” movement and take our mission to a new level.
I’ve been around Faith a long time. Not as long as some! I know benevolent giving is a strong value here. Actual personal involvement in service or mission at Faith, in my experience though, has been primarily driven by individual efforts. Some of those efforts have been broader and stronger than others. The broader the effort, the more inspiring it has been to us all. Faith has supported corporately the environment for those efforts but the efforts themselves have really been individually driven. Faith has also taken great pride in Frank’s efforts, and should. But I have sometimes questioned if we are relying too much on Frank and, in essence, saying, “Good, that’s taken care of.”
Early on in my faith journey, as well as my life at Faith, I went on a CASA weatherization team. Sounds simple enough; however the “house” we were assigned was literally a shack! Here we were putting plastic over windows while there were 1” chinks in all the walls!? The futility was overwhelming for me at the time!
I remember a Habitat for Humanity trip where there were way too many volunteers with inadequate supervision. The result was a support beam that had so many nails it had to have been weakened and useless. I am coming to understand that physical service and its effect on underlying problems are minimal in a fallen world. It is the spiritual support, relationships, and bringing of the gospel and its comfort that is at the heart of Christian service. This is a difficult understanding for me and I’m still trying to absorb it all; after all, I’m an engineer who wants to fix things. Without this understanding we are nothing more than a civic service club and likely doing service for the wrong reasons, i.e. personal gratification.
During the Katrina disaster, I heard that Eric Vroom was down at the Gulf and had relayed back that there was a big need for shoes. I wrote a short email and searched on the internet for just about any shoe company I could find and spammed them. I really didn’t expect much, but to my utter amazement the next day the administrative assistant of a VP for Shoe Carnival called. The VP was down there with a semi full of shoes, “Where would you like them delivered?” !!! I was stymied and put them in touch with Frank. I’m not sure much happened with it because I don’t think we were prepared for that. But it opened my eyes to such amazing possibilities!
I’m still trying to make sense of all this, but I personally feel that by embracing this missional church movement Faith can move something that is near and dear to its heart to a higher level. By becoming corporately involved in mission efforts, rather than simply supportive of them, we can truly become more focused and effective in the work the Lord really wants us to do. I hope and pray that this will lead us to better training and mentoring, better discernment, better matching of activities with individuals in different stages of growth, better discipleship, more real witnessing. We have such a wealth of resources at Faith; from willing servants, to contractor experience, to proposal writers that can chase grants, to business managers, to teachers, to health workers, to engineers, to loving caring faithful people. Much of it is untapped, waiting for the vision of our part in His Kingdom on earth to come into focus. If we let Him, where will He lead us?
Thank you so much for expressing your opinion! It has helped me to wrestle with mine and put it down in some semblance of coherent thought! I have been grappling with this for some time and will continue to.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Dave McGhee 9/2/2007
I just started reading the book “The Dangerous Act of Worship,” by Mark Labberton. I’m only through Chapter 3 and it has been very enlightening! The whole premise is that we play it safe when it comes to worship. We’re looking for the comfort food. Worship, and here it’s defined as our everyday relationship with God, should be an outward looking affair. Not just between each of us and God, but between all of us.
Now this is a bit tough for an introspective like me to comprehend! There are good things about places of comfort, and introspection, and meditation. Why do we have to mess that up? Then it struck me, it’s all about ushering!
This whole point of being a Christian is following Christ. It is therefore a journey. We all like to stop and take a rest in the comfort zones but we are not supposed to stay there. The other point about this journey is that there is a long trail of folks on this journey. We are all at different points in that journey. And we are all called to help usher those that come after us! And accept ushering from those before us!
This concept of ushering makes more and more sense as I look back over the latest developments in our church.
- Missional Church - I'm starting to get the idea of the outward or missional nature of worship and service. However, I still wrestling with whether a lot of mission work is done from a sense of helping "those" people vs a sense of community or ushering.
- Sunday School - A good bit of the Sunday school discussion has been about what "I" need. There has also been a good deal of "what do others need" or there wouldn't be discussion. I can't help but think a sense of ushering would add a thread of continuity to the chaos? I think its starting to creep in.
I'm getting more excited about a sense of journey now! This is going to be interesting!
Dave McGhee – 5/3/2007
Faith Church has had some challenging times over the last five or so years. There have been many changes in leadership, staff, and membership. Much of the challenge stems from the fact that Faith was so stable for so long and then faced with so many changes at once. In that time Faith has stepped up to working through those changes at the same time as maintaining the day-to-day operations.
Much of the process for change has required Faith to take a good look at itself. We have looked at our history, our programs, our future, ourselves. We have done that all in the context of seeking God’s will for Faith Church. Such periods of introspection are necessary in understanding who we are and who God wants us to be. It is also sometimes difficult to break out of that introspection and start looking outward again and moving forward.
Much as we are all part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), Faith’s body has many parts. We all know Faith’s history and reputation (heart), we have a strong vision to serve God (soul), we have established new leadership (head), we have an able, creative, and servant hearted membership (hands). We are, however, having some difficulty finding our feet with which to move forward. Some of our feet are sure and strong, but some are tired, some sore, some tender, some unsure. We need to rejuvenate and develop strong sure feet. For that Faith needs your help!
Faith needs to hear about some of our success stories. Not just the top level overview, but the nitty-gritty details. How was God’s will recognized? How did support for the call grow? What kind of approval did it need? What were some of the obstacles? What worked? What didn’t? These are the “in the trenches” stories all of Faith’s membership, particularly Christian “tenderfoots”, need to hear. Not as boastful pride, but as practical how-to guides. These are the stories Faith needs to hear to develop and nurture strong feet. Faith’s history with Christ is the rock (Psalms 40:2*) which make our feet certain.
Faith also needs to hear the fresh ideas from new members and those new to the faith. Where is God tugging at your heart? What are the new songs? (Psalms 40:3*) Even if it is an old song, new voices are always welcome!
So, if you have a success and how-it-came-to-be story to tell, Faith needs to hear it! If you are hearing God’s call to something new, Faith needs to hear it, even if you’re not sure exactly where it belongs! Is it an active vital ministry, a strong and connected Sunday school class, a past achievement that stands out, an idea for a new ministry? Tell your story, by word of mouth, by Sunday school presentation, by newsletter article, by email.
*”The Bible in Basic English”
Dave McGhee – 2/27/2007
A good friend of ours recently had to deal with the pain of having a parent in the situation of needing a living will. While such a document exists, there was contention among the family members about implementing it. Such a time can be extremely stressing on a family. Many issues can be brought to the surface, some old, some new, some unresolved. Issues and emotions can run the gamut; love, suffering, guilt, anger, fear, religion, healing, money and many more. All this can be compounded further by the fact that we humans often assume that others feel the same way as we do.
I began to wonder what instructions I would leave in a living will. Until this point my thoughts have been like many others. I don’t want to suffer if there is no hope. I don’t want my quality of life to be miserable. I don’t want to have a healthy mind trapped in an incapacitated body unable to communicate. I don’t want to be a “vegetable”. I don’t want to be a burden to my family. God wouldn’t want me to suffer like this. What if the doctors are wrong and I could pull through? It’s not right to take a life. I don’t want to die! Too many thoughts to make any sense of!
Then God touched my heart with an idea.
I am a child of God. I am here to serve and glorify the Lord. My Lord is always with me and will not forsake me [Isaiah 41:17]! I know God would not want me to suffer. But I also know He never promised that I would not [2Corinthians 4]. It occurred to me that if my situation can in any way provide a conduit for the grace of His “living waters” [John 4:10, 7:38] to flow and for God’s plan to unfold - that is the road I must take.
In today’s world we are often forced to make snap judgments. Often for no reason other than we are impatient beings. We do not take the time to consider our actions, pray for guidance, or allow God’s plan to unfold.
Given these thoughts and revelations I would have to say that my wishes would be these.
- I would want my family to know the Lord is with me and I will be OK! That tear on my unconscious cheek may well be a tear of joy!
- I would like the decisions that need to be made to be made as a family with the guidance of a Pastoral Counselor*.
- I would want my family to search out God’s will and to look at this time as a time of healing for all. That will may, or may not, include the healing of my body. I know it will include the healing of all our spirits.
- Romans 15:5-6, “5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
* “Pastoral counselors are trained in both psychology and theology and thus can provide psychological as well as spiritual guidance to patients and families in health care settings.”
Dave McGhee 6/6/2007
We’ve all gotten the emails, the ones advocating a boycott of gasoline dealers, brands etc. in one form or another. The same ones Snopes.com characterizes as a long running urban legend chain dating back to at least 2001. They usually appear every time gas prices rise. My daughter forwarded one to me early this year. Normally I ignore those things, but when it’s your daughter, you give some careful thought to your reply; or no-reply. Here is how I replied:
How do you decide between gas, money, safety, time? And there it is! That point where different needs compete with one another! Well its all about stewardship, isn’t it?
As satisfying as the suggestion you sent may seem to someone who wants to strike out at somebody they think is to blame for gas prices, I think they are on the wrong track. Americans are free-spirited and gas hungry and always have been. The author of the forwarded comment was right in that we need to change our habits.
In my opinion, it is our habits of consuming too much gasoline that need changing. We drive big gas guzzling cars, drive fast, take drives impulsively, and carpool far too little. Even if gas were cheap, we still consume way too much for a healthy environment.
In addition to the fuel saving tips at this web site, http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml, I still prefer the "campaign" I suggested several weeks ago; "At or Below!" If everyone drove sensibly and drove at the speed limit or 5 mph below the savings in gas would be significant. Significant to our pocketbooks, for the message to the energy companies, to our environment. Not to mention our safety on the road.
“The money I save I could donate to a good cause.” – not bad.
“Stewardship is about making choices, as individuals and in community. It is more than giving money to the church. Stewardship is about being faithful disciples, caring for and managing all that God has given us. Stewardship is not just one part of Christian discipleship; it involves every aspect of life in all the stages of life. Stewardship is the grateful response to God's grace and goodness. It requires a consideration of how our choices affect us and others, of how we can be good caretakers of the created world, and of how we can best serve God as disciples of Christ.” (http://www.pcusa.org/stewardship/)
“With the time I save I could spend more time with my family.” – admirable.
“I could donate a pre-paid gas card to a service organization.” – creative.
“I could use the extra time to make my needed phone calls.” – efficient.
The stewardship responses are as varied as we are unique as God’s children. That is, if we take the time to consider this as an opportunity for stewardship and response to God. That may be the biggest payback from slowing down; using the extra time to start that conversation with Jesus you’ve been meaning to get to, and Jesus yearns for.
Some of my clearest moments have been cruising to work with a Christian radio station playing. Oh, one other thing, you need to put the cell phone down…
Subject: Thanks for the LetterThough I may not be a Christian believer, I do appreciate you thinking of me. I do believe in God, but can't see that he intervenes in earthly matters. I still have my "fish bowl theory" of God, where he set the universe in motion, but simply watches but doesn't intervene. Maybe the sunami was the neighbor kid tapping on the glass. :-) If God was truly interactive, he would recognize that he made me to be a skeptic on all matters and would give me a break if I am skeptical of the elaborate premises of all organized religions. I also find it impossible to believe that a God who loves us, would send us to burn in hell for eternity just because we are skeptical that Jesus was the Son and that he died for our sins. I love my new dog. When she does wrong I spank her but would not dream of truly hurting her, much less burn her. I take the whole concept of Hell as the Church's fabricated "stick" to keep people scared and in line. Thanks again,
Sounds like you’re operating under the common misconception that God punishes or rewards people for what they do. Unfortunately this idea has been used for centuries by kings, cultures, religions, and some parents to, as you say, “keep people in line.” I don’t know of anyone that can tow that line. (I grew up Catholic and they can hold their own with any Baptist in a brimstone throwing contest!)
That is not what I have come to understand about a loving God that sent his son for us. Jesus was/is the “New Deal.” All that is being asked for anyone to “do” is to decide to turn toward God and he was gracious enough to send Jesus to follow on the way. It is that simple! It is that stark! Like we say in loads, “F=ma, everything else follows”; turn toward God, everything else follows.
Is God interactive? Absolutely! It’s not the plagues, floods, and earthquakes of the Old Testament, it’s the constant presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my life everyday. God’s ultimate concern is for our spiritual well being, physical circumstances are in the noise. When I screw up (regularly) they are right there. They aren’t throwing me in a pit or even “spanking” me. They pick me up, put an arm around my shoulder, and say, “That didn’t go so well this time. How can we do better next time?”
Enough! I’m getting too preachy! Suffice it to say, God knows your skepticism, he knows your heart, he only wants the best for you.
John 3:16, “The Message,” “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”
Dave McGhee November 4, 2005
At Wednesday night bible study we were discussing a vision of what it would be like to live in Jesus’ presence all the time. Our small group was attracted to the phrase “laughter comes as naturally as breathing.”(1) Two very exemplary women shared that they would like to laugh more and frequently felt anxious. I thought that odd because I could not imagine not having laughter in my life. I was moved to offer them a suggestion. “If you are feeling anxious and want to laugh more, you first need to learn to laugh at yourself. Sit down with God and have a good laugh.”
The next morning I was thinking more about that idea and the thought that laughter really is a prayer. If you can honestly laugh about yourself and whatever troubles you, you are telling God that you trust Him and recognize your silliness in worrying. But the laughter has to come from the right place.
There are many kinds of laughter. Many of today’s comedians use a very caustic kind of humor that is usually at someone else’s expense. There is also making fun of someone else in order to build your self up. Traditional ethnic jokes fall in these categories. There is also a way of laughing at yourself that is self deprecating and tearing yourself down. This is not prayerful laughter!
When you truly learn to laugh at yourself you are learning to laugh very humbly. You are not learning to laugh at your core being, which God made, but learning to laugh at your behavior. For those of you that are parents, I’m sure you remember times while watching your children, seeing them do something that embarrasses them terribly. But you just can’t help from laughing. You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help it! Your laughter doesn’t spring from thinking them foolish or worse. It comes from an honest feeling of compassion for their pain but knowing that they will soon forget all about it. That’s what laughing with Jesus is like! You run to Jesus crying your eyes out feeling miserable. He snatches you up in strong loving arms. Safe in His arms you continue crying. You then feel his chest heaving beneath you with constrained laughter, you get angry a bit, and before long you can’t help but laugh yourself. Soon your tears of sorrow have turned to tears of laughter and neither of you can stop!
Laughter is also one of the ways the Holy Spirit works within us and allows us to hear what God is saying. Laughter can break down the hardest heart. It knocks us out of our attempts to solve our own problems and opens the path of communication with God that will lead us to the true solution. Laughter is the spark of creativity!
So, when things get tense go sit down with Jesus and have a good laugh! You just may end up peeing your pants!
1 “Soul Shaping,” D.J. Rumford, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996
November 12, 2005
Please forgive me for being so remiss in getting this to you!
A while back you mentioned in Sunday school about a fellow down the street. You said he dutifully went to church with his wife, that he was an intelligent engineer who has done a lot of reading about Christianity, but just couldn’t accept the idea. You also said that he liked to discuss it with you but that you couldn’t convince him.
I was that guy once; until somebody invited me to listen to the sermons.
I think I can tell you several things about your friend…
• There is a longing in his heart. He would not be searching so hard otherwise.
• There is a fear too. That accepting Christ will require him to reject parts of his life. (This is true, but not the parts he thinks. Logic is OK.)
• He listens very intently to the sermons but weighs each statement against his own “internal model” continuously throughout the sermon.
• He suspects Christianity is a crutch people use when things aren’t going well.
• He’s very logically trying to determine the validity of Christianity.
And there is the rub; Christianity is outside of logic. Not illogical, just something bigger than logic. There is no way your friend will ever be able to prove logically anything about Christianity, one way or the other.
I was at that point when a friend asked me to try an experiment. It was actually two experiments that go hand in hand. The first is when going to church, listen to the sermon. Not critically or point-by-point, but empty your head of all expectations and objectives. Just listen to the “message,” in its entirety as if it was being delivered to you. The second experiment is to assume, or hypothesize, that the message of Christianity is real. Again, let down the defenses, the rationalizations, the fears. This is a different kind of experiment; you are in it, not just observing. After all, the point is, “How does the hypothesis affect me?” Live, for a time, listening, watching, expecting, and searching for Christ. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t weigh it against what you think should happen. It’s very much like brainstorming where you can’t judge the ideas as you go. After a substantial period of time (a month?), look back and gauge how you experienced Christ’s presence and how others around you experienced Him. Ask others how they have experienced you.
That’s how I found Christ, or I should say how someone taught me to open the door for me to meet Christ.
Hope that helps *****. I have faith it will. It’s hard to remember something so long ago. The hymn “Amazing Grace” talks about the “hour I first believed.” Sometimes I think He wants us to remember the hour before that; so we can help others.
In my prayers,
Dave McGhee - 2/12/2007
Let’s face it. Churches are not very introvert friendly.
Participatory worship, potluck suppers, public singing, mission outreach, committees, praying out loud, evangelizing, witnessing, and (Oh God help me!) small groups and youth group ice breakers! These are some of the things that will send an introvert, or shy person, trembling hurriedly to the exit.
First, I really don’t like the term introvert. It’s too clinical, too much of a label, and in our society has too many negative connotations. I prefer to use the adjective “introspective”.
Obviously churches are predominantly occupied by people that love being around other people. Introspective people are much more comfortable either with well known friends or large anonymous crowds. Including new people within their comfort zone is very difficult. Yet, God draws introspective people to church! In communion with God and God’s people is where we are supposed to be. [1 John 1:1-3(NIV); Acts 2:42(NIV)]
But do we drive people away from communion because they are different than us? Hugging an introvert is probably the wrong thing to do! A friendly smile, a quick handshake, and a “We’re glad you’re here!” is all that is necessary. It’s not our job to proactively “break them out of their shell.” It’s our job to be receptive and responsive as God moves us all toward communion. This slow approach is difficult for many fast moving people-people, or extroverts.
On the other hand, do we introspective folks push ourselves away from communion? I know I’m impatient and get frustrated when I see someone that can’t slow down to “smell the roses.” It’s our job to use our gifts to paint that rose so it becomes real and noticeable, even to “an extrovert.” Take that step and invite that next person into your comfort zone; at the pace you and God decide. Find your own way of sharing your quiet walk with Jesus.
The Toronto Observer had an article that was very informative. I was convinced of my thoughts above before I read this article. When I read the article I was amazed how close to home it hit!
I am also convinced that one way for churches to open the door to introspective folks is via the internet. Not as a preaching tool, but as an interactive means of communication. Faith’s website that allows two way topic conversation is a start, although it doesn’t have much of a following yet. I should say “was,” I just noticed that feature has been turned off!? Email discussion groups are another possibility. I’ve been experimenting with the Young in Christ Sunday school email group. I have found this very rewarding in both expressing and growing my faith. Reciprocity has been very slow to grow but God has placed several understanding people along the way!
I found this verse through a web based concordance (I had never heard of Philemon before?), “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” [Philemon 1:6 (NIV)] Reread that and check out who the beneficiary is!
See you in church! Or on-line!
Dave McGhee 7/29/2007
It has been pointed out that most blogs are probably not visited much and that they primarily meet the need of the blogger to express themselves publicly. An astute and mostly accurate observation! So why am I launching this experiment?
I would definitely classify myself as an introvert. In my old age and maturity I am functioning more extrovertly, but that is not my basic nature and it drains a lot of my energy. We introverts have to vent somehow though! I have found in the last few years that writing helps me organize my thoughts and has helped me greatly to express and grow my faith. You may say, “That’s what journaling is for.” And you would be correct. However, I have found that out of this journaling occasionally something really good comes forth. Something I feel that God has pressed on my heart to write down and send out! If it were just my journaling I would not be so bold to put it out on a blog! The articles I have come up with I have prayed about quite a bit and have tried hard to capture what I feel God wants me to say.
Galatians 6:1-10 along with other passages have some good advice on this subject. I would summarize these as a call to test our beliefs so that we are not deceived, either by ourselves or others. These verses also call us to gently seek guidance from our “brothers” and “instructors”. So by putting these blogs out there I am hoping to get feedback about my journey. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take pride when someone compliments one of my articles (maybe too much so, but that’s another subject). But I’m also looking for the “gentle restoration” in Galatians 6:1.
I consider Faith as my faith family. Even given that, being an introvert, these are not things that I can discuss easily face-to-face or verbally. Small groups and telephone calls are not my thing. An introvert needs to “chew” on things for awhile. I truly believe that some form of web based communication between Faith members would be a good thing; a means of extending and expanding our sense of community. Not as a substitute but as valuable augmentation. I don’t know of any other Faith blogs and if I am being called to plow the road, so be it. (Well, Pastor Steve has one now!)
I am trying very hard to structure this experiment so that it is not just me projecting outward. I very much want this to expose a new avenue for two-way communication. To offer ideas which have helped and grown my faith while also offering an avenue for others to connect with and find their own path; not to me and not to Faith, but through us to the faith in Jesus Christ that binds us.
In His service,Dave