Friday, July 30, 2010

Going Home Alone

Can I say this? Going home after worship service alone, to a house where you are alone, all the time 52 Sundays a year, really really really SUCKS.

The American Christian church is not very good at hospitality. What can we do with the worship service attender that does not want to be alone after a service?

Part of me says start a program: Sunday supper maybe. Church supplies the food, or it's pot luck or a combo. But then, who can come? Just singles? DINKS? Singles and DINKS? Everyone?

Another idea--self generated hospitality. Inviting people to your home or out to lunch. Couples to singles. Singles to other singles. Singles to couples. Practical issues pop up here. Going out costs money, which some don't have. Some people's living situations aren't conducive to this. Singles are reluctant to invite people with kids to their (probably non-child proofed) home. Security also. Should invites cross gender lines? And so on.

Can we also venture that those who are past the age of 30 and are still single (and when I say single, I mean unattached, not unmarried; in this day and age of "cohabitation", some people are as good as married) may be people for whom social interaction is not an easy or natural thing (Introverts, hurt in relationship and fearful, undiagnosed autism, etc.)? So to tell these people, like I've been told, to "just invite people" is to suggest something as difficult sounding to them as it would be for them to walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls?

I got no firm answers here, but if I'm ever in church leadership, I'd like to figure out something to do with this issue. How can we be a loving community when some of our members leave and feel so very alone?

It Is a Problem

It is a problem that when Christians get together and read the Bible that sometimes there is not agreement on interpretation. This plays itself on the large stage as differences in doctrine such as eternal security, the interpretation of the creation story, views on baptism, women in ministry, the Trinity, and so on. In the small stage, it can simply be disagreement in the Sunday School class between students or with the curriculum. This is one of the things that non-believers and searching people can stumble over when exploring the Christian faith.

With all the oppositing views and differences how do we find the truth? How do we discern that the Holy Spirit is guiding a person as they study? As one person commented in another place, is there truth to be found?

I believe there is truth.

I believe that the Bible is so deep and the Holy Spirit so limitless (after all He is God) that we do not always have the whole thing fully understood the first time, or with just one person.

I believe that we must always approach the Bible with deep humility, since we are so human, finite and sin tainted that sometimes we are not very bright (at the least) to willingly accepting deception and teachings from Satan (at the most).

To put it simply, there is "A Truth" in the Bible, but we don't always get it fully. We actually even argue about who is "righter." We must hold our beliefs in those things not essential to salvation with a loose grip, in a humble and gentle spirit.

It is a difficulty at times, though, that committed, enthusiastic, educated Christians can have differences in biblical interpretation that result in significant theological disagreements.

We have to concede that too, and be humbled by it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

John Wesley Quotes

Wiki quote yields a bounty of John Wesley bon mots. Actually, the man is a quote machine due to the quantity and quality of the written work he put out. If you know someone who studied religion at a Master's level at a college or seminary sponsored by one of the denominations that look to Wesley for inspiration, chances are you know someone with the collected works of John Wesley in their library--and they actually may have read some of that collection! Anyway, here are some of the ones that came to Wiki's attention:

I observed, "Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." It is not only "the first and great" command, but all the commandments in one. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," they are all comprised in this one word, love.
Wesley quoting his own sermon on "The Circumcision of the Heart" (1 January 1733) in the work A Plain Account Of Christian Perfection (Edition of 1777)

I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.
Journal (11 June 1739)

Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
Letter to Joseph Benson (7 November 1768); published in The Letters of John Wesley (1915) edited by George Eayrs

Permit me, sir, to give you one piece of advice. Be not so positive; especially with regard to things which are neither easy nor necessary to be determined. When I was young I was sure of everything. In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before. At present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to man.
Reply to a letter signed "Philosophaster" addressed to him in the London Magazine of 1774, in London Magazine 1775, p. 26

Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.
Letter (10 December 1777)

Are you a man? Then you should have an human heart. But have you indeed? What is your heart made of? Is there no such principle as Compassion there? Do you never feel another's pain? Have you no Sympathy? No sense of human woe? No pity for the miserable? When you saw the flowing eyes, the heaving breasts, or the bleeding sides and tortured limbs of your fellow-creatures, was you a stone, or a brute? Did you look upon them with the eyes of a tiger? When you squeezed the agonizing creatures down in the ship, or when you threw their poor mangled remains into the sea, had you no relenting? Did not one tear drop from your eye, one sigh escape from your breast? Do you feel no relenting now? If you do not, you must go on, till the measure of your iniquities is full. Then will the Great GOD deal with You, as you have dealt with them, and require all their blood at your hands.
Thoughts Upon Slavery (1774)

Three notes: 1) On the haste/hurry one, does that sound familiar, sports fans? John Wooden, maybe..."Be quick but don't hurry." 2) Adam Hamilton wasn't the first one to confess that the content of what was important to his faith was changing. 3) Some tough preaching against slavery. This is one of the reasons some in England thought Wesley had moved from preachin' to meddlin' and found him profoundly aggravating. Conviction is very uncomfortable. You either get saved or slander the one God is using to convict you.

Lots of John Wesley Lately

There is no doubt that John Wesley's story is one of the best in church history. One of 10 surviving children of a broke-ass Anglican minister, Wesley and his brother Charles, a gifted poet, ended up being used by God to start significant renewal movements in the Christian church. Along the way, John Wesley was almost killed in a fire, suffered burnout, was banned from his denomination, stoned and physically menaced when he preached and accidentally founded a new denomination.

Wesley was a prodigious writer, a steadfast journal keeper, and usually preached at least 3 times per day, mostly outside. He rode countless miles on countless horses--probably a good thing that motor transport hadn't been invented yet, since a horse will not go off the road if its rider falls asleep.

He wasn't perfect. A story about John and Charles, that I had forgotten about came up today during the "Methodism 101" class. While serving in Georgia as a missionary, John got sweet on a girl. For some reason, Charles thought she was not good for John. He told her things that caused her to marry another man. John Wesley did try marriage later in his life, but it was not a happy thing. Unlucky in love, how human!

Actually, as I look at this last paragraph, I could posit that this situation was something used by God. Due to his anger at the lady and her husband, he refused them communion in Georgia. This caused him to get into legal trouble, and he quickly departed for home. While on the ship home, a storm came up, and he found himself in fear of dying outside of the favor of God. He noticed a group of Moravian Christians who were very calm in the face of all this danger, and noted their calm and assurance of salvation. When he got home to England, he looked up the local Moravian group to learn more. It was at a meeting of this group, while they were discussing Martin Luther's commentary on Romans that Wesley felt the "strangely warmed heart" and knew without a doubt that he had received God's forgiveness.

Wesley was all about what was going on in the heart of the believer. He firmly believed in justification by faith alone. Good works by themselves did not get a person into heaven. A person could look like a good person and have no more true belief or religion than a stone. It was only true repentance and the belief in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This restores a person to the right relationship with God, and puts the power of the Holy Spirit in a person's life to empower them and help them become more and more like Christ, with the will of the heart more and more in line with the will of God's heart.

Ironically, Wesley was also all about being organized. He was organizing believers into small groups before his "warmed heart" experience, and he continued the practice afterward. The groups confronted their members about sin, provided continued education and study of the Bible and Christian faith, and gave a place for mutual support. It was this systematic discipleship that he and his brother followed with a small like-minded group of Oxford students that earned them the derisive name "Methodists" for the methodical and systematic way they seemed to go about their faith journey. The irony now is that the label is worn proudly by the denomination he founded out of necessity during the Revolutionary War in America in the late 1700s.

The more you think about John Wesley, what he was able to do, and the times he lived in, the more you realize that you don't know much at all. All I can tell for sure is that this was God's man for this time, he was called and said "Yes," and said it over and over again until his time on Earth was done. He set into motion, along with George Whitfield, significant spiritual revivals in the English speaking world whose effects continue to this day. Many significant denominations and church movements can look back to John Wesley for their inspiration.

When he was told by Anglican church officials in England that he could not preach because he had no parish (of course, he had no parish because the Anglican bishops, offended by the nature of his preaching and his open air preaching, refused to give him one!), he responded, "I look on all the world as my parish."

Image: One of many portraits of John Wesley--this is the "Don't mess with me." picture. I'm not sure I would want to see that look if I was trying to soft pedal a sin in a small group meeting!

These Two Go Together

This first song, by Amy Grant, is about how a broken and contrite heart can be the greatest form of worship. You can have the greatest voice, be a great song writer, play instruments like an angels' song, but the sound that your repentant and sorrow filled heart makes is a better sound to God than any music you can make.

The thing is that we don't bring our broken hearts to just anyone. We bring our hearts to the living God, the God who understands what it is like to feel pain, to have loss, and to die. The thing is our God overcame death. When Jesus was resurrected, that changed everything. This power, this same resurrection power, is in the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that is placed in every person's heart when they accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ. "Hope is stirring..." indeed! Hosanna! by Paul Baloche. "Hear the sound of hearts returning to You. We turn to You. In Your Kingdom broken lives are made new. You make us new...."

"When we see You we find strength to face the day; in Your presence all our fears are washed away." True worship of the God who saves us! "Have your way among us; we welcome you here Lord Jesus."


I Had a Brilliant Thought!

I had a brilliant and snarky thought during Methodism 101 but I forgot it by the time I got over here.

Must not have been all that brilliant...


(After a bit, I did remember it. And it was inside baseball. And a bit snarky. It related to having the heart of God, and following God's will. And moving to Kansas City. Yes, not all that brilliant.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rich Mullins

It's so hard to believe that it has been over a decade since Christian artist Rich Mullins passed away in a motor vehicle crash. His music is so rich and wonderful. I found "Never Picture Perfect" here in the library and threw it in the player and listened to the whole thing. It sounded as fresh and current as anything new I'd heard, even though it was released in 1989, 20 (!!!!!!) years ago. Thankfully, no one has been trying to corral all his stuff, because there are wonderful You Tube videos of concert footage all over the place, plus covers and video collages, preserving his music. Of course, he burst on the scene with "Awesome God" back in 1988. "Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth" was his fourth album, but the first one to be really noted. I saw in a book edited by CCM that they nominated "Awesome God" to be the top song of 100 Greatest Songs of Christian Music. I may not agree with all their list, but "Awesome God" does belong at number one. Enough yapping. Music please.

Have you ever played the "What book/album/thing would you take onto a deserted island?" (A pre iPod game! Because now you'd just take your iPod with 1000 songs on it, so indulge this old person.) Rich Mullin's album "A Liturgy, A Legacy & a Ragamuffin Band" (1993) is one that I would take with me. Not a bad cut on the record. This one's called "The Color Green"

"Brother's Keeper" was released in 1995, and was the last "normal" album released by Rich Mullins. While the title cut is quite awesome, the second single, "Let Mercy Lead" is also very good. This is a video collage with some nice pictures and a good sound.

That's our trip down memory lane for today!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Narthex: More than a Point of Entry

This view looks towards the east doors. This part is a smaller space running behind the sanctuary, which is behind the walls to your left.

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection has the best narthex I have ever seen in a church. For the uninitiated, narthex is the churchy word for lobby or foyer. In some traditions, it has the history of being the place where people who per that particular church's tradition could not sit in the church sanctuary itself (also called the nave) for the service. They could hang out in this space, sometimes a room outside the nave, sometimes a porch, and hear the goings on in the worship service.

Making our way towards the main part of the narthex, near the bookstore and coffee shop. The bookstore is setting up for a worship conference.

In the Protestant tradition, all can come into the worship service, so the narthex functions more like a lobby or foyer. A place to gather before or after--a place to visit together.

Looking north and west. Bookstore is on the right. The Children's ministry area is through the dark doors on the left. That's a building, joined to the sanctuary building by this area.

In many churches I have been in, the narthex has been a bit of an afterthought. It has not been very welcoming, it has been too small, and/or it has not had a good traffic flow. College Church of the Nazarene has a terrible narthex for a church its size. One church I belonged to made enlarging and changing the flow of traffic in its narthex a major point of a renovation project. It made a big difference--the resulting space was much friendlier and easier to use.

This view looks south. A group of folks is getting together after a baptism.

At COR, the narthex also contains the coffee shop. This means that the whole entry point to the church has this wonderful smell of brewing coffee--a most lovely smell--and very welcoming.

Taken from the coffee shop area. WiFi is available. The stairs lead up to the balcony of the sanctuary. (Oh, that's Alison.)

The whole area has lots of windows letting in huge amounts of light during the daytime hours and just looks open and inviting. You can also see that COR's purpose, vision and journey statements are placed in the space, to remind regular attenders of why we come, and to intrigue the inquiring and searching.

After the five o'clock worship service. Taken in November, therefore it is dark out.

Without a doubt, to this point in my Christian life, the narthex at COR is the best I've ever been in.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Family Dynamic Thoughts

I had some some semi random but still rather coherent thoughts about family dynamics in our house as I was growing up:

1. I am more like my dad then my mom, in physical appearance, gifts and talents, and personality.

2. My mom grew up without a strong parent presence. In a time when it was very uncommon she was raised by her grand parents more than her mother.

3. Mom's family was somewhat well off and well regarded. Consequently, there was a lot of pressure to achieve.

4. I doubt that mom felt much warmth from her "parental" relationships.

5. My mother probably imposed high standards on my father every day.

6. I wonder if the temper I saw in Dad was him getting fed up with being criticized all the time. After I left the home, I wonder if they thrashed this out--maybe Dad gave a version of what I gave him to her--back off bub with all the critical words, because I saw a lot less of Dad's temper after 1982.

7. Since shit slides down hill, and Dad could not always give mom crap back and his own self esteem had to have taken a beating, Dad extended his performance anxiety and desire to be perfect to me, causing him to love conditionally, be endlessly critical, and probably decide in the end that I was and am a failure.

8. It's really hard to put a finger on the particular kind of dysfunctional family I lived in. It almost seems as if I was dropped in the worse possible scenario for my "make up." I'm still trying to figure this out.

9. Sometimes, I just feel it's me that is defective. Still. Even though I am valued by God and all that. At 50 (almost), I don't feel like I've done much, or found my place in the world. Still a square peg trying to fit in round holes, just like in school and every place else. It's hard sometimes to keep up hope.

10. Well, that was depressing...

Would They Listen?

John Meunier was at it again with another great post. This time he was bouncing off of David Brooks' column in The New York Times about Mel Gibson's latest tirade. Brooks was thinking about narcissism and the feeling of self importance. So I went to take a look at Mr. Brooks' work myself. I did feel like I needed a bath after reading about Gibson and his girl friend, but I was looking at the same money paragraph:
In their book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,” Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell cite data to suggest that at least since the 1970s, we have suffered from national self-esteem inflation. They cite my favorite piece of sociological data: In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an “important person.” Twelve percent said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said yes.That doesn’t make them narcissists in the Gibson mold, but it does suggest that we’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline.
So, the part of accepting the Gospel of Christ that the younger set is going to find most difficult is admitting that they cannot do it themselves. In other words, that they are not God. I think of the first step of the recovery program: "Realize I'm not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing, and that my life is unmanageable." Or as Pastor Meunier himself put it: "Setting aside our own effort, merit, and work is the primary purpose repenting. Coming to understand that we cannot do what only God can do for us is to repent. Or, as Wesley said, we cannot rely on the merits of Christ until we learn to set aside reliance on our own merits." What could be the somewhat unfortunate result of this is that people will have to "come to the end of themselves" to use an old time phrase. Borrowing from the recovery movement people will have to "hit bottom." So people may end up opening up to Christ when they are sin scarred and living with the results of the bad decisions of the past. That has implications for the church as community, since people will come with more baggage. They will be pricklier and harder to love as parts of the body. They will need healing. They will need extra teaching and maybe even some discipline. And they will need love--not the love of the codependent but the sometimes tough love of Jesus. So the narcissistic tendencies of today will have not just implications for preaching but for discipleship and church community.

So, the answer to the question of "Will they listen?" is a two fold answer: Some will never listen or truly hear--they will never understand that they are not God. Others will listen and hear--eventually after they come to realize, with the help of God's grace, that they are not so "in charge" and "important" as they thought they were.

One of These Days

This song came to mind as I read J's e-mail that her mother had passed yesterday morning. Here are the lyrics.

One of these days I'm gonna fly
Over the mountain
One of these days I'm gonna ride
On the silver lining
One of these days I'm gonna witness
All I've been missing
One of these days

One of these days I'm gonna do
All the things that I've never done
I'm gonna finish all the races
That I've run but I've never won
And I'm gonna see a million faces
And recognize everyone
One of these days

One of these days
Gonna see the hand that took the nails for me
One of these days
Gonna hold the key to the mansion built for me
One of these days
Gonna walk the streets of gold that were paved for me
One of these days
I'm gonna see my Savior face to face
One of these days

One of these days I'm gonna see
Just what became of me
On the day that I believed
When you took myself from me
And I believe I will see
What I would have been
If You didn't save me
One of these days

And one of these days I'm gonna talk
With all the saints that have gone before
And in their sandals I will walk
And we will sit along the shore
And I will learn all the things
That I never knew before
All this and more

One of these days I'll finally be
In a place where there's no more need
No more pain and no more grief
No more foolish disbelief
And all the joy there will be
When at last we finally see
One of these days

And here is the video, from FFH.

God bless and God speed Juanita. We miss you, but we'll be there shortly.

Friday, July 16, 2010


One of my best friends, her mom is terminally ill with lung cancer. She wrote an e-mail to let her distant friends (she moved from KC a few years ago) to let us know that the end is near for her mom's time on this earth. Let me share with you this bit of the e-mail.

Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer just before Memorial Day. It is very comforting to know that she is ready to go and indeed was quite excited by it. She said that the Lord could take her any time and in any way that He chose.

Her mom is 91 and has been a Christian for most of those 91 years. It is such a blessing that this lady, who had 7 children, and oodles of grand children and great grand children, who could be trying to cling to life, feels such peace that she is able to release the attachments to this life and look forward eagerly to the next life.

It will be harder for my friend and her brothers and sisters because they will be left behind, and will be missing her. If you are reading, please pray for my friend and her family. I do appreciate it. God knows who you are talking about, even though you do not have specific names.

Awesome Blog Post

Over at John Meunier's place, he posted an entry wondering if the gospel message that John Wesley preached was still believed and being preached in the United Methodist Church. Here's some excerpts. First, Pastor Meunier enumerates what it was that the Welseys preached, the well spring of all that was to come:
1) Right opinions, avoiding harm, doing good, or being ever so pious, none of these are true religion. True Christianity is nothing less than having the mind that was in Christ, having the image of God stamped on the heart, having peace with God, and having joy in the Holy Spirit.
2) The only way to this religion is to repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ.
3) Through this faith, God by grace sets us again in right relationship with him.
4) Being thus “justified” we get a taste of heaven in this life and feel the joy and happiness that is to come, and we find fear and sin have no power over us.
And then there was this commentary by Pastor Meunier:
I am struck by how much energy we spend on the very things Wesley says are not religion. We argue at great length over right opinions. We turn “do no harm,” “do good,” and “stay in love with God” into a program and mantra. We launch new efforts to increase piety through renewed sacramentalism or establishing prayer resources. But all of these things – Wesley said time and again – are not true religion. We can have all these things. We can be pious, merciful, diligent, right-thinking, and worship-loving people and still have no more true religion than a stone. It all comes down to the state of our hearts. Does Christ dwell within us fully? Do we have the image of God stamped on our hearts? Does the Holy Spirit fill and overfill our inner lives so that its power shows forth in every aspect of our outer life? This – only this – is true religion, according to Wesley.It is not something that we earn or gain by effort and diligence. Setting aside our own effort, merit, and work is the primary purpose [of] repenting. Coming to understand that we cannot do what only God can do for us is to repent. Or, as Wesley said, we cannot rely on the merits of Christ until we learn to set aside reliance on our own merits.
Yes, I did just about reproduce the whole post--the italics are mine, added for emphasis.

What I especially like about this post is the reaffirmation that salvation is by grace, by the grace of God. Our own efforts will not get us there. Intellectual assent will not get us there. Being really good will not get us there. "Doin' church" will not get us there. The state of our hearts towards God and Jesus Christ, now that is what counts. As long as we have not approached God in a spirit of humility with true sorrow for our sins and broken due to our pride in trying to do salvation ourselves we do not have a right heart and a right relationship with God. This, to me, is the very heart of the life changing Gospel of Christ.

After a person gets this, and bends the knee and admits the need for a savior and honestly admits, first, responsibility for sin, second, sorrow for sin, and third accepts the work of Christ on the Cross for salvation, then the Holy Spirit comes into play, working in the new Christian with power to align the Christian's heart with Christ's heart. That is the power that overcomes the world, gives that "taste of heaven", the joy and the release of the power of fear and sin.

You know, earlier, on another blog we were talking about how the median age of people in the United Methodist Church was, well, kind of old. And I commented that, in general, 20-somethings are not going to church. Someone else posited that 20-somethings are going to places like IHOP and that conservative churches seem to do better with the young set. That makes me want to say that if we want the young set, it might behoove all churches to look to preaching the simple saving Gospel of Christ, and then, teaching and loving all the new baby Christians like crazy. I think that kind of church would attract the searching 20-somethings.

And probably a few other age groups too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Denominational Affiliation?

Truly a quandary, this denominational affiliation question...and I hate it. I wish it was more cut and dry, a little easier, more "like for like". I am a member of the Church of the Nazarene, and I am pondering the move of my membership to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Now, a word. I know that you are not saved by the denomination you are a part of or the church you are a member of. You are saved by your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You can be saved as a member of any denomination or church. Gosh, there will even be Roman Catholics in Heaven! (If you are Roman Catholic, substitute Protestants in the previous sentence--yes, even those Lutheran people!) However, being human, and being that we are very bad at doing Christianity by ourselves we have assembled ourselves in various groups. And again, being human, we are not all identical in our groups. And now, being both human and, er, sinful, we have been known to argue amongst ourselves, vote each other out of the Kingdom, change our minds about sound biblical doctrine, and follow the Law of Spiritual Entropy.

Now, here's the dealio. In 1982, probably bribed with food (note: when working on outreach with singles, food works very well), I went to a Revival Service at a Church of the Nazarene. I became a Christian at that service. I attended that church for 3 years, and in 1985, decided to join. In 1989, I moved to Kansas City, in order to attend Nazarene Theological Seminary. I completed seminary, receiving my Master of Divinity but was unable to attain a position in ministry. So I went back to my "other" career as a nurse. So, you see, not only am I Nazarene, I am about as Nazarene as you can get. I am conservative theologically, believe that the whole world needs Jesus, that the Bible is the inspired word of God (N.B.-consistent with the Manual I interpret the Bible as one believing in plenary inspiration--everything needed for faith and Christian living is in there), that Jesus was raised from the dead after being killed on a Roman cross, etc. etc.

John Wesley is one of my faith heroes.

So, now for a million reasons which are alternately serious, tedious, minor, and somewhat related to my psyche rather than my spiritual life, I attend a United Methodist church. A conservative United Methodist church. I love my big conservative United Methodist church. But then...I see an item on a blog that relates that a Methodist school will begin "formal training" of Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams in the fall. It also came to my attention that Duke Divinity School has a Muslim faculty member.

This sort of thing drives me nuts. That's me, with my head in my hands.

Swapping the Church of the Nazarene for the United Methodist Church is not quite "like for like." On the congregational level? I would say that a conservative UM congregation is going to give the average Nazarene congregation a run for its holiness money. On the national/general level? Not so much. No, not even close.

That's the problem, in a nut shell.

Plus I'm sentimental.

Coming up over the next three weeks is a series of sermons, sort of a "Methodism 101" based on some concepts that John Wesley came up with. Concurrently, there will be a class given. I'm in on this--it's going to be fun and interesting. When do you think I should show my true colors? Hehe.

Monday, July 12, 2010

There's a Hole in My Sidewalk

Pastor John showed this to me back in 1993-94 during his short time with us. I have never forgotten it...

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Click on a chapter heading to learn more.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost .... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit ... but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Methodist Blogosphere

I've been poking around in the United Methodist blogosphere--running down blog rolls and links, reading all sorts of interesting stuff.

It seems much more alive than Nazarene bloggyland. I have not been impressed by most Naz blogs.

Mostly I've found more conservative writers--closer to Naz than some freaky liberal thing. And a bunch who are spending mucho time with Mr. Wesley.

If you hang out with Mr. Wesley, you will not stray far from the Bible--and by extension, the Gospel of Christ.

Always keep Jesus Christ in the church!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Unhealthy Congregations and Ineffective Clergy

A comment to the blog "Thoughts of Resurrection"...
First, the one I posted to the blog...
Regular COR attender, wildly overeducated layperson here and I just found this blog by accident (I googled 3 simple rules...) and I am really enjoying it! This group of four posts on unhealthy congregations and ineffective clergy (and the comments that followed) are just fascinating and excellent. The way churches work, the interaction of our planning and God's Holy Spirit, is an area that I've thought about regularly. We are about the business of building God's Kingdom and telling a world that is woefully short on grace and love about the source of abundant grace and love--our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--and I am always wanting to know how we can do this better and better. May God bless you richly in the internet ministry.

And me, unadulterated, still very Nazarene, and a total believer in the ability of God to change lives...
This collection of four posts about unhealthy churches and ineffective clergy is absolutely fascinating to this way overeducated layperson. What makes churches grow, and pastors effective, is still a bit of a mystery. Now, isn't that just like God? To leave us a bit baffled?

This fact has to give thoughtful District Superintendents the worst headaches and the most nightmares. To look out over a landscape of 70+ churches in communities of various demographics and sizes, to see some grow, some stay steady, some get smaller, some make their budgets every year, some always falling short, some able to keep pastors easily, some having pastors leave/quit/get fired on a regular basis, some just steady and trustworthy, others causing the DS to look up the "Church in Crisis" interventions in the Manual...

The trick is to know when to do what to whom. What clergy need to hear the hard news that they may not be in the right place for their gifts, or that they lack ability and when do you tell them that? When can you tell that God is making it clear that they are not in the right place? What church needs to close/relocate/merge and when? Could you be cutting off a major move of the Holy Spirit in a given place by nixing a struggling congregation too soon? Great wisdom and discernment is needed by all parties in these situations.

I think the 10-70-10 idea has some validity. But all churches and all clergy don't stay in one category forever. That makes it tricky, because it's like hitting a moving target. Further, there are other questions, like the use of resources of time and money. Again, the District Superintendent needs great wisdom from God. If a church keeps chewing up and spitting out pastors, it may be the church needing help, not the individual clergy people. A minister may prosper as an associate, and be death to a church as a senior or solo pastor. These are just two examples of the quandaries involved.

Which is why we need discussions like this, open and frank. It's hard to tell someone they are not measuring up. It's hard to tell a church they are acting carnal or frankly, that they are DEAD. Sometimes it is not news to them, sometimes it is (and those are the cases when the screaming shall commence). The Church material, (that's us, the people and buildings you see, and our affiliations, and connections...) have only so much resource, so much money, time, emotional capital. We need to know where to put it. The problem is that we are not just trying to read people, groups, capabilities, conflicts, and the tea leaves of a certain area or culture. We are also trying to get a hold of God's Will, to find out where we should be, and what we should do, that we can strengthen/enable/get out of his Holy Spirit's way and allow for sinners to be saved, the hurting to be healed, and the Kingdom to be built.

Goodness, you'd think Satan himself had something against this blog comment and post for all the troubles we encountered...

Would This Be a Deal Breaker If the United Methodist Church Did It?

When I saw this news item in the paper today (a real paper, with ink and all that!), the first thing I asked myself--would this be a deal breaker to considerations of joining the United Methodist Church?

Here's the first graph of the basic story: MINNEAPOLIS — Presbyterian leaders voted Thursday to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy, approving the first of two policy changes that could make their church one of the most gay-friendly major Christian denominations in the U.S.

Now, I don't believe this is the final word yet, as the measure has to be voted on by the church's districts (Nazarene comparison: kind of like proclamations from General Assembly probably) and has failed in the past. The leaders were supposed to vote on gay marriage, but decided to table it until their next general get together.

No. No. No. Not in the clergy. That's my first response. Not active sexually gay people in the clergy. No. Even in committed relationships. Just no. Please United Methodist leadership, don't ever do this--you would make my life ever so complicated....

Yes, that's a gut response, and not one equipped with biblical proof texts. No, I do not hate gay people. I just think that gay sex, like cheating on your spouse, and having sexual relations outside of the context of marriage, is a sin. It's a choice that people make that is against God's law. When people make that choice, I don't believe that they should be clergy. The church doesn't approve of fornicators and adulterers as clergy.

However, the Church is the Spiritual Hospital, open to all that are hurting, and we must always keep that in mind when discussing this issue. No one will hear the Gospel if we sound vengeful and full of hate.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Perfect People

Natalie Grant's "Perfect People" was sung during one of the first church services I attended at Church of the Resurrection. It brought tears to my eyes. Here are the lyrics:

Never let 'em see you when you're breaking
Never let 'em see you when you fall
That's how we live and that's how we try
Tell the world you've got it all together
Never let them see what's underneath
Cover it up with a crooked smile
But it only lasts for a little while

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scarred
Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God

Suddenly it's like a weight is lifted
When you hear the words that you are loved
He knows where you are and where you've been
And you never have to go there again


Who lived and died to give new life
To heal our imperfections
So look up and see love. Let grace be enough


By a perfect God [5x]

Be changed by a perfect God
Be changed

Oh, my, a new contender for Step Study music...

On and On

I'm in charge of bringing a song of worship to Step Study next week. What I would really love to do is bring "Arise, My Soul, Arise", with Twila Paris' version, but I can't find it on line, and I have no idea where that CD or tape is. So I've been screening other options, and considering them. I'm being very prayerful and careful about this--it is just a few minutes out of our meeting--but it can be meaningful and help us along.

So here's another candidate, by a group called "Chasen"

Here are the word to the song:

Awake tonight
I’m breathing the air of the night sky
Listening and wanting
An answer to questions You’re wondering
I never thought it ever would be possible
To cross the lines we drew
That govern what we say and do
But no height and no depth could separate us

Some say we need a miracle
Some say there’s no hope at all
But I know that Your love is strong, it goes on and on
and on and on
Rise up when it gets us down
It’ll be the voice in a blaring crowd
Because we know Your love will lead us home
It goes on and on and on and on…

I tried my way
It always ends up being a mistake
But You’re right when You say
That You set the time for the plans You make
I never thought that I could ever learn to let it go
Somehow its better when I follow in the paths You show
So I’m here I’m waiting
Cause I believe


There is no fear of belief
There’s just this cold reality
That wants to take me away from You
There is no doubt in my mind
That in Your perfect time
Your plans and Your ways will unfold.


Your love is, Your love is

Not bad, not bad at all...
whoops, forgot which blog I was writing on...should know better, this is the only blog without serifs! I'll leave it; it's a reminder of humanity, mainly mine.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Getting Ready for Step Study: Random Thoughts

Well, bills are paid for a bit, and there's nine whole gallons of gas in my tank, thanks to COR. I aim to pay this back and forward both. I now want to have an eye for those who need help--not the bum on the street but the man or woman across the Sunday School table, or next to me at the worship service. How often did I turn my head at this need, with the person too too proud, ashamed, to admit this kind of help would have been sooo good for them? I think of B and L K. right now. What if, during B's app for SSI, someone paid the electric that month? Or filled their gas tank? This could have been going on, and I didn't know it, and that's good but that doesn't exempt me. God has lifted this scale from my eyes, now I pray that when I see it, I hear His Holy Spirit and do the right thing.

Step Study continues tonight: It should be interesting. New questions, I forgot we had new questions!
1. How do you handle pain and disappointment?

2. How can you begin to address your denial?

Lord, help me to be open to the working of Your wonderful Spirit and help all of us experience the healing that only You can provide...

Two Sides to the Same Coin

It's amazing how a simple song can get you thinking on some heavy subjects. It may be because I was bouncing off of the Scripture heavy bloggers, with the emphasis on the written Word and understanding its Truth and Veracity. This song jumped off the radio at me. And this is one of those things that sounds so cool, but must be balanced, just like the Scripture-only-Faith-not-Feelings set:

However, it's important that we know Who and What we believe in, and for some personalities, this intellectual pursuit of faith is what will reach them and bring them into the Kingdom. Others need to be reached by seeing the Relationship that will develop with God--the unconditional love that God has that caused Him to send His Son to the Earth, to live, suffer and die like a ordinary man. The thing is, once you are in the Kingdom, you have to seek the other side to be a fully developed believer. The Bible is clear about this.

I don't think it is an accident that the metaphor of Church as Bride shows up in the Bible. Think about it. Marriages don't stay in that goofy googly eye stage very long--the vicissitudes of daily living won't permit it--but they progress to something deeper, where the love is not just an emotion, but more like a position. So for the Church and its individual pieces--you and me, dear believer. We start out as Christians like all new relationships--kind of starry eyed-- and the relationship changes as we grow to know each other (actually, this is one sided--God already knows all about us--and loves us anyway) and grow into something way bigger, perhaps bigger than we ever intended.

Maybe this Nazarene/Methodist is just biased, but I do think that our tradition does it better than a lot of others. Of course, it's dependent on the individual community of believers--the local church--but I think our tradition tries to balance the "warmed heart" with the curious intellect and frequently succeeds. In fact it's the points of tension--like the controversy in the Church of the Nazarene over plenary inspiration/inerrancy with regard to the Bible--that we sometimes fight over. We can definitely become too subjective, too enamored of the warmed heart and forget that squishy overly open minded belief won't get us into Heaven either. Thus the "liberal/mainline" vs. "conservative/evangelical" fights--and the caution signs thrown up by those who don't want to get too loosey-goosey with biblical interpretation. All this is a reflection of our finite human understandings--"we see as in a mirror..."--and is almost inevitable. And as I've said before in this space, because the stakes are so very high, such disagreements can get mighty strong.

Balance and moderation, as it is in so many things, is the key.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grace Like Rain...

Todd Agnew has the most interesting voice. This is one of his best pieces--his voice just gives that grit to the idea of a "such as wretch as me"...

"and hallelujah, all my stains are washed away"

Things Are Happening

I meet with Jennifer of COR tomorrow at 1030. Get those utility bills squared up. Hopefully a gas card. I'll take a grocery gift card too.

So DOUG calls. He has WORK. Offered it this coming weekend, but the hours are not good, and Saturday will probably be used up with car shows. Sunday would have extended too far and hit the 1700 worship service, in which I am CART/Medi-call. But he has work Monday and Tuesday. Orientation Friday 0800. Do need my TB test he thinks. (Administrative stuff: not his strength) Now, if this is the temper of the times, it's time for me to get on my horse and start banging the job stuff. Only fly in that ointment: I have not had replies from ANY of my references yet and it's been almost 3 weeks (I think). To forge ahead anyway??

Oh, and the comment section of Blogger is completely fouled up. Those who moderate are finding that freshly moderated comments are not posting. On sites like TKC, comment counts are way off. Even for me, comments are not showing in the count. Can't take it for granted that there are no comments. Dr. Grumpy noted it earlier today--it must be behaving itself for him now, because he pulled the post down.

And how is your day?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Moving Nazarene HQ Was Wrong

These are pictures of two out of four buildings that belonged/belong to the Church of the Nazarene at 63rd and the Paseo. The Church decided to move to Lenexa and in 2008 made the move.

I still think it was wrong. Yes, its tougher to live on the east side. Yes, the neighborhood is kind of rough. But what kind of witness is it to leave an area that needs Jesus Christ so much?

Yes, I've heard all the arguments. I spend half a year discussing it in the context of Kansas City First Church of the Nazarene moving with Gordon Wetmore (who was the pastor of First Church at that time--the late 1970s) during various shleppings back and forth from KCI. But moving HQ is different than a church congregation.

An anony commenter on TKC--the topic was MNU hosting Kris Kobach and his work on immigration--but this commenter had his memory working:
Anonymous said...

When the Nazarene decided to move to Kansas from their location east of Troost, I always wondered if it was racially motivated.

I think I have my answer now.

7/3/10 11:21 AM

As I said, the witness is wounded. Now, I understand it could be a matter of stewardship. But the money savings would have to be pretty good for me to think that moving from an area that so needs to be revived (in sooo many ways--Cidital Plaza is not far from 6401 The Paseo) is a good witness and testimony to the Gospel of Christ. To many, like this TKC commenter, it smells like White Fear.

As it did to me. Sorry, guys.

List Yourself

1. Times I have been knocked in the head that I can remember.

Note: I have never lost consciousness, or even had signs and symptoms of a concussion. I was just thinking in light of the Chris Henry deal. Maybe I'm goofy because my brain is damaged? Not an inspiring thought!

  1. January 1994: MVC. (The world's stupidest MVC I might add.)
  2. Sometime in the very early 1960s: Fell out of my crib. (Have a scar over one eye to prove it)
  3. Surgery in 1982. Not strictly trauma, but not the same brain afterwards.
2. Losses since 2000
  • Job--March 2001
  • Car--August 2001 (idiot looking at his pager instead of the road!)
  • September 11, 2001 (Nuff said)
  • Job--October 2001. On my birthday, the insensitive turds.
  • Nov 2001--stabbed in back by TJ
  • Cat--2003
  • Father--March 2004
  • Cats--4, within a just a few years (2005-2008) of each other. Not quite sure who when any more. The S-ness first and the Be last.
  • DNRs--2003, 2008 (found out), 2003 (the MMC fiasco--policy, not my bad), 2004,(HMW/HCA--again, policy, not my bad), 2008 (VA , ouch, my bad).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not Feeling Very Bloggy Today

I wrote a nice blog comment to a terrific post by Radioman, and the WiFi had expired here at McD's and my comment floated off into the ether.

I wrote an epic comment to an amazing Ann T offering. Blogger gave me an error message that it was too long, then it appeared on Ann T's blog. Why an error message if it's going to publish?

I have lot and nothing to say at the same time.

Jennifer Creager called from COR and she sounded really sweet. I discovered whilst talking to her that KCP &L sent a disconnect dated 6/21. Last I was home I still had light. Go figure. I mentioned gas cards and she was like, "Are you OK for the weekend?" I have a quarter tank so no I did not push it.

Maxim called, and has wellness clinics and flu clinics (?!?) but something is out of date in my file. Doug was out--it'll have to wait til Monday.

The yard is legitimately 1/2 done, but what's left is the densest vegetation. And there's poison ivy and prickly things. And we have to figure out how to get rid of our debris.

So, this is life at this time.

Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Someone Explain to Me What the %@$& I Was Doing During Most of the 2000s

Fuckin' strangle these fuckin' vines!

Well, we had our first step study meeting Wednesday. During the meeting one of the participants described her money situation over the past couple years since she had been drinking out of control. Sounded just like mine.

I'm like WTF, I did the same stuff, I've done the same stuff, and I'm freaking sober. I never drank and I never took illicit drugs. (I was on antidepressants--that makes me go HMMMM...)

What the Hell?!?

It's like I was living on two planets--the competent ER RN who loved her job (and I did too) and the person who could not maintain the simple tasks of the household.

Crazy, just freaking crazy.

And, as she related, cleaning up the MESS that has come about because of all this, well, it's the PITS of the PITS

My backyard is such a picture of all this, soon I'll put together a post on the saga of the backyard. One picture with this post will do for now.

ME verses the MESS!