Saturday, December 8, 2012

Actively Waiting

     To some it might seem silly that many Christians around the world celebrate Advent as a season of anticipation and waiting for Christ to come at Christmas. If we think of it terms of Christ's birth, it is a little silly - since Christ was born into this world around 2,000 years ago. We, as Christians, "have" Christ - so what are we waiting for?
     In our Church, as in many others, we light a candle each week of Advent and contemplate Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. We don't have to look very far to find people in this world who are truly waiting for Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. 
      The Church's waiting is not passive waiting. Our waiting is active. We pray that those who are in need of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love will indeed find it in Jesus Christ. We live out those prayers when we get up off our knees and go into the world carrying Christ to those who are waiting for Hope, waiting for Peace, waiting for Joy, waiting for Love...waiting for Christ to come into their world and make a difference.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Christ Visible

The 13th Century Persian Mystic, Rumi, writes:

"A mouse and a frog meet every morning on the river bank.
They sit on the ground and talk.

Each morning, the second they see each other,
they open easily, telling stories and dreams and secrets,
empty of any fear or suspicious holding back.

To watch and listen to those two
is to understand how, as it's written,
sometimes when two beings come together,
Christ becomes visible."

Source: The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Candle Against the Wind

Candle Against the Wind

by Wendell Berry

I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.
I have not love
except it comes from Thee.
Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the Wind.

(originally published on the web site Inward/Outward)

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Prayer by Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)

Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights thee most,
To value what is precious in thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.
In Christ's name I pray,

Thomas a Kempis was born Thomas Hammerken  in Kempen, Germany and distinguished himself as a priest, monk, and writer.  His chief contribution is his manual of Christian discipleship entitled The Imitation of Christ.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Real Community in a Virtual World

Several weeks ago I noticed something “trending” on Face Book. For some time a clergy friend of mine, Joey Reed, was posting an evening prayer. My wife found Joey’s prayers first, then  pointed them out to me, commenting on how beautiful and expressive they are. Soon, I noticed that another clergy friend of ours, Jeff Rudy, had begun posting a morning prayer. Knowing these two as I do, I suspected this was planned, a subtle effort to bring their friends together twice a day in common prayer. A pastoral sneak attack!

I bought into their plan and have come to truly look forward to their prayers. Joey and Jeff eloquently express the heart of God and the hearts of people. Their prayers are honest and real, not affected or contrived. Often, quite often, their prayers captured exactly what I want to say or need to say to God that day.

 One particular day I found myself totally lost in the middle of the day. Stressed out and over committed. I stopped and prayed for pause and focus. As I often do, I recorded my prayer in my journal. The next day I returned to that prayer midday, and this gave me an idea. What don’t I join in Joey and Jeff’s ministry and offer a midday prayer on Face Book. Well I did just that, and I’ve continued to post a prayer each day around 12:30. Why 12:30 and not noon? Well, remember this is “stealth” pastoral care. I figure folks are moving around, driving to lunch, heating up soup, or making a sandwich at noon. But, by 12:30 they’ve settled in and probably have picked up their smart phone to see what their friends are up to on Face Book.

The response to this experiment in common prayer has been amazing to me. Joey, Jeff, and I tag each other’s posted prayers and I’ve seen them shared many times. Friends have messaged me “thank you’s”, in fact I received one of those while writing this post. My prayer is that we can keep this going. That our community building efforts on Face Book, built around common prayer, grow not in size but in strength.

Thanks Joey Reed for starting this trend. Thanks Jeff Rudy for building on Joey’s idea. And thank you both for letting me join you in fostering prayerfulness and real community in a virtual world.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just Say "No" to the Status Quo

Want to strike fear in the hearts of many United Methodists? Want ensure a phone call from your PPRC Chair and / or your District Superintendent? Simply utter, even quietly or under your breath, that dreaded word no pew sitter wants to hear C H A N G E. Certainly I’m exaggerating for effect, but we all know that the idea or call for change in the Church causes fear and, too often, mistrust. Now there are all sorts of reasons why the thought of change causes fear, but the one I want to address is our misunderstanding of the reality of change.

Change in the church brought about the birth of Methodism. Change is the heart of the Christian message. Change is why Christ came and walked among us. As individuals and congregations we are quick to speak of the transforming power of the love of Jesus Christ. We celebrate stories of repentance and renewal. We accept the concept of change expressed in the words transform, repent, and renew, but we shudder at the thought of change.

As United Methodists, we codify change in our Book of Discipline saying “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” John Wesley was the greatest source of change in the Protestant Church in his time and change was an everyday part of his personal spiritual life. 
“Moving on to perfection” requires (drum roll please)--- change.

As Pastors and Church Leaders it is our job, our calling, our duty to shepherd people through change. Life changes and spiritual changes. If we are not helping people, helping the Church, change then we are failing in our chief responsibility, the care of souls.

As part of a program developed by the Turner Center for Church Leadership at Vanderbilt University, I recently met with a group of young Pastors. Among these Emerging Young Church Leaders, change was an important and oft used word. Change was coveted, change was embraced, and change was sought after. I pray those young leaders hold on to the hope of change as their ministries mature. Too often I’ve seen seasoned Pastors shrug their shoulders and say “What can you do, the church doesn't want to change?” Pastors who once shared the zeal of the folks I met with, but resistance to change on the part of their congregations and lack of support from their superiors has left them indifferent, and that is sad. When we abandon the capacity to change we have abandoned hope! If nothing else a Pastor must be hopeful.

In shepherding our Church through change we must have the support of our Church Administrators. Bishops and District Superintendents must be willing to take those upset phone calls from fearful parishioners (and big givers) and explain change in an affirming way that supports the Pastors they appointed to Local Churches that are in great need of change.

Let’s face it friends, the Church will change. The question is do we want to manage and lead that change or do we just want to be swept up in it and controlled by change?

I choose to embrace change. Change that is reasoned, relevant, necessary, and needed. Change that is directed by God. Change that is empowered by the Holly Spirit. Change that is inherent in the love of Jesus Christ. Change that is and has been the tradition and focus of the Christian church since the times recorded in the Book of Acts.

More to come as I learn from the Emerging Young Leaders of the United Methodist Church.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Welcoming Home"

“How do we welcome home our lost brothers and sisters?  By running out to them, embracing them, and kissing them.  By clothing them with the best clothes we have and making them our honored guests.  By offering them the best food and inviting friends and family for a party.  And, most important of all, by not asking for excuses or explanations, only showing our immense joy that they are with us again. (See Luke 15:20-24)."

"That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  It is forgiving from the heart without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination, or even curiosity.  The past is wiped out.  What counts is the here and now, where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.”

Sign up for Daily Meditations from the Henri Nouwen Society at

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Favor the Waver

Click Here

United Methodist Healthcare asks for letter writing related to concerns about organ procurement in Tennessee.

Methodist Healthcare is asking United Methodists and the public for assistance with a local healthcare issue.
Click HERE for more information about the waiver, including sample letters of support, a way to submit online comments and educational information about organ sharing.

The faith-based Methodist Healthcare system is an active ministry partner with the Memphis, Arkansas and Mississippi Conferences of The United Methodist Church.
June 25 is the deadline to participate in a letter writing campaign called "Favor the Waiver" to help prevent a change later this year in the way Tennessee's organ procurement organizations work together. Without the waiver, Methodist Healthcare predicts a restricted organ supply in Memphis.

Click HERE to read a May 15 letter from Gary S. Shorb, President and CEO of Methodist Healthcare, in which he explains why the Methodist Transplant Institute and Methodist Healthcare are in need of a waiver to work with Tennessee Donor Services for organ procurement.

"Your support in preventing this change and helping the Transplant Institute continue saving lives is absolutely critical.  ...The community's voice is weighed heavily in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) decision, so we need to flood CMS with letters of support for this waiver," writes Shorb.

Shorb's letter provides detailed information about the need for the waiver and shares links to sample letters of support.
 A "tragedy that could be unfolding before us regarding transplant capability and organ procurement" is how Rev. Sandra L. Clay, Superintendent of the Asbury District of the Memphis Conference, described the matter in a request for help from Asbury District clergy.

 "With a waiver issued," explained Clay, "the sickest patient in the area would always have first 'shot' at new life when an organ in the cooperating area becomes available."

Click HERE for more information about the waiver, including sample letters of support, a way to submit online comments and educational information about organ sharing.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Not Over Until They Close the Lid!

I spent the better part of 15 years tending bar and working in music clubs. In that time, I met all sorts of characters and learned a lot about human nature. Many of those lessons serve me well today as I train and learn the art of being a Pastor in the United Methodist Church.
The past few years have seen a great debate within the United Methodist Church as to the future of the denomination. Sadly, a mindset has taken hold that has many leaders, lay and clergy, singing death songs over the UMC. Sadder still, many of those singing dirges are the very persons in a position to make a real difference in the future of the UMC: Bishops, District Superintendents, and influential Pastors of large congregations.
All this talk of death reminds me of a former bar customer and friend, Killer. Not kidding, he really went by the name Killer even though he was tenderhearted and quite comical in a Gomer Pyle sort of way. Killer always said the funniest things. Like Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford, Killer made up words and extracted wild conclusions from irrelevant and unrelated bits of information.
This whole “the UMC is dying” craze reminds me of the time Killer’s mother was in the hospital. Killer was a regular at the neighborhood bar where most of the regulars had known each other for 10 or more years and kept up with the happenings in each other’s lives. Everyone knew Killer’s Mom was gravely ill. The bar and the regulars sent flowers to the hospital and Killer spent less time at the bar and more time at the hospital visiting his Mom.
After a week or so, Killer showed up at his regular time on a Friday afternoon and pretty much spent the next 2 days at the bar. The whole time he was there, Killer never mentioned his Mom. Late that Sunday night (actually early  Monday morning, 3 or 4 a.m.) Killer paid his tab and announced he was headed home to clean up, put on his suit, and head over to the funeral home. This shocked us. “Did your Mom pass away Killer? Is everything okay?”
Killer’s response was that the last time he visited his Mom in the hospital the doctors gave her 3 days to live. Well, that was Friday so Killer figured since it was now Monday morning he needed to head to the funeral home to make arrangements for his mother. He never called the hospital. Killer didn’t check with his family. The doctors gave her 3 days, it had been 3 days, so Killer figured his Mom was dead and he needed to plan her funeral.
I refuse to plan a funeral for the United Methodist Church while there is still so much life. I refuse to give in to the sin of self-pity and finger pointing while there is work to be done. I refuse to drop my head into my hands and cry for a Church that lives every day for the glory of God and the hope of all people. I refuse to read another article, blog post, or Face Book update that surrenders our Church to the darkness of death.
The United Methodist Church is not dying. Old ideas and ineffective ways of being Christ’s Church are dying. Lazy, self-centered congregations who refuse to be relevant and serve out the call to “make Disciples of all people for the transformation of the world” are dying, but the United Methodist Church is not.
United Methodists are re-building storm damaged lives and communities. United Methodists are feeding hungry people all around the world. United Methodists are working for social justice and freedom so that all people can live into God’s vision for their lives.
If you believe the United Methodist Church is dead, then go home, clean up, and head over to the funeral home…..just get out of the way of a body of believers powered by the Holy Spirit who are living for Christ! Those people, by the way, are the United Methodist Church!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thinking Out Loud

Photo by Lara Blair, MPG

Life is messy, we all know that, but is it a bad thing? Messy mixes things up. Messy creates the need to reach out to others for help and to reach back to others to give support. Messy means my life spills into your life and time in this life becomes our life. Messy led me to recognize my deep need for God's Grace. Life is messy, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. ~ Just thinking out loud ~ LC

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Created Creativity

     A dear friend is visiting New Zealand for several weeks. She wrote me recently that every time she sees a mountian or river she worships God.
New Zealand must be a beautiful place to worship God's creativity and playfulness! I've been thinking a lot lately about the created world and how vital it is to our experience of God.

     There is this ridiculous contemporary christian (yes small "c") song with the line "....I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong." Such CRAP!
     We were created for this world and this world was created for us. Too few of us pay attention to the Lord's Prayer "thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH, just as it is in heaven." This world is exactly where we belong! Why, because this is where God created us to be! DUH???
     My thoughts recently led me to the possibility that earth might be our heaven. Maybe the promise of a "new heaven and a new earth" will be made manifest in God restoring earth to her "Eden - state," perfect, whole, and good with us planted in the world we were created to live, love, and find joy in!
     All of our senses and physical experiences expose or reveal the complex beauty and playfullness created in & of this world, by God. BY GOD!
     Paul tells us that all of creation awaits redemption in Christ's revelation, Romans 8:19.

Take it all in and celebrate! Sing out loud, dance, laugh, love....all the above!!

I love the verse from "Morning has Broken"

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

One more quote:
"Only through my body have I known the wonder and goodness of the created world." —David Rensberger

Live in the Grace of God, "born of the one Light, Eden saw play"!!