The Act of Making
December 8, 2018
I was listening to our Great Plains bishop, Ruben Saenz, Jr. talk about serving others especially the poor. He has me thinking about helping those people who live in poverty. It is a complex lifestyle. Interestingly, academia claims they can predict what your life course success in finances and health will be just by knowing the zip code where you were born. I suppose this could be true. It could also not be true.
Bishop mentioned Actualization as the key. It simply means “making real” or the act of making. How can we make real serving the poor? Yes, we can provide food, clothing, and gifts at Christmas time. Yes we can. Digging deeper, how can we lift up our brothers and sisters so they can become as financially secure as we are? That may take some exploring, certainly we will have to experiment. Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you.” What was he talking about? I found this answer in a blog post by Craig Greenfield.
“You know how some catch-phrases are just so well known, that everyone knows the ending—you don’t even really need to say it?
“Sticks and stones.”
Everyone already knows the ending, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Just saying “sticks and stones” is enough for you to catch my drift.
It just so happens that in saying “The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus was quoting another well-known Biblical phrase—from a well-known passage of the Jewish Torah. Everyone hearing him back then would have caught his drift.
Here’s the full original quote:
If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be … For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)
So, reading Jesus’ words in their original context you can see that His words were meant to spur generosity towards the poor. “Open wide your hand!” The command to be open-handed towards the poor comes directly from Yahweh himself. Not apathy and tight-fistedness as we use these words to mean today.
The next time someone says, “The poor you will always have with you…” Be sure to complete the sentence: “Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
The second thing to note about this story is that Jesus says these words to rebuke Judas who was scornful toward a woman for pouring out her perfume on Jesus: He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief: As keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6)
So, when we use Jesus’ words to justify not caring about the poor, we are actually repeating the very sin of Judas himself, who was robbing the poor.
Of course, this posture of generosity and open-handedness lines up much more consistently with the rest of Jesus’ life and teachings, starting with the revolutionary song sung by Mary while Jesus was still in the womb: “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53)
You can see Jesus fulfilling this prophecy in the feeding of the 5,000. The same word from Mary’s song, “filled,” is found in John 6:12, where we hear that that motley crowd all ate and were “filled.”
The need of 5,000 hungry people was met in that place and time because one little boy was willing to be “open-handed” towards the poor and needy.
Later, after Jesus’ death, the early believers also took these teachings on open-handedness seriously:
And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were NO needy persons among them. Because from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:34-35)
There were no needy persons among them! Poverty was eradicated in their midst. That was the natural outcome of taking Jesus’ teachings seriously.
Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom is coming. He calls us to be part of it. The poor are going to be lifted up. The hungry are going to be fed. Your call and my call is to be open-handed.”
Here’s to our open-handedness,
Are We Curious?
August 12, 2018
Professional Formation is the term used for what I am doing with my time away from the Oskaloosa UMC pulpit. I will return Sunday August 19th. I enrolled in the Kansas Leadership Coach Intensive class at the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita. The description of what coaching is includes some words about what it is not. Coaching is not facilitating or leading a group to make progress. Nor is it mentoring to impart information or personal experience. It is not counseling to examine the past and relate it to the present. It isn’t consulting which gathers and evaluates to make recommendations. Coaching encourages people to enter a thought-provoking and creative partnership that inspires them to maximize their personal potential. Coaching helps you get where you are going faster and better. I hope to create a coaching culture for our church leaders and community.
Most of the issues we face as a church in a small town today are adaptive. Adaptive means we have to adapt. Be curious. Enter into dialog that is uncomfortable at times and exciting too. Being adaptive means we are willing to experiment and take risks. Being adaptive means we confront our old or current behaviors and try on new ones. Being adaptive is hard. It is much easier to apply technical solutions to adaptive problems. Unfortunately, technical solutions do not solve adaptive problems. It’s hard to stay focused. It’s even harder to focus on systemic conflicts and accept casualties. We are Christians, we are a faith community. We want to be nice all the time, right? Jesus truly is the best coach ever!
Coaching and operating in a coaching culture can help us be nice and solve adaptive problems. I hope you will be curious with me as I bring this way of leading and organizing into our meetings and gatherings. I look forward to seeing you August 19th.
Have a grateful day,
Can We Turn the Tide of Incivility Around Us?
June 27, 2018
My firm answer is yes. We can and we must work to be positive and constructive members of our community and our world. Jesus had a simple message: love God, love others, and serve the world. The Bible says that Jesus was just like you and me except that he did not sin. Jesus, true God from eternity, came to earth and became a perfect human being.
So what does that have to do with being saved? Jesus places his perfection over our sin so that we may stand blameless before God.
The gospel of Luke reveals some important information about Jesus. He grew in favor with God and men. This means Jesus was loving God perfectly and loving his neighbor as himself perfectly. He kept every single command of God’s holy will. Jesus himself affirmed this at his baptism when he told John that he had come “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). The apostle Paul emphasized this truth when he said that Jesus “was born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights.” (Galatians 4:4-5).
In a recent conversation with my thirty-something daughter, we agreed kindness is the key. When we disagree, we can still be kind. When we don’t get what we want, we can be respectful, and when we want to help ourselves, we can be compassionate towards others.
Civility is important to our community and our country. President George Washington in his publication, Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, listed out 110 rules for moral and good behavior. I found this website particularly fascinating:
The rise of incivility in politics, entertainment, and society is not good for individual or community health. It’s time to be kind, respectful and compassionate.
I invite you to be Christ-like in your behavior. Jesus was quick to listen and careful to speak. Jesus invited everyone into the Kingdom of God. He was open, honest, and respectful. Jesus refused to participate in the violence of this world. Jesus was never aggressive and never acted on an individual agenda, rather he did everything for the Glory of God and the benefit of others.
What do you think?
Moving Closer to God During Lent
March 8, 2018
Every week, I work diligently to bring vital and life changing worship to Sunday morning. I am always amazed of how and when God’s Holy Spirit makes an entrance or intervenes. Preaching the gospel is still challenging even if one might think there would not be anything new under the sun to say. There are some Monday mornings when I think exactly that. I ask the question “God, what do you want us to hear?” It is always followed by another question, “God, what do you want me to say?”
One thought, ”is get Billy Graham’s sermons and preach them, they were life changing.” Then I remember, I did that in our “Unbroken Series three years ago.” It is a story about our culture at the end of WWII. Louie Zapamerini was a POW survivor and he was broken in mind, body and spirit. He attended a tent revival and heard Billy Graham preach the Good News. The experience saved him, turned his life in a positive direction, and he influenced many boys to find healing in a relationship with the risen Christ. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING.
I’ve been reading our Lent Book Study “Evangelism for the Non Evangelist: Sharing the Gospel Authentically” by Mark Teasdale. He emphasizes the importance of context. In creating worship, I have to keep in mind the social and cultural aspects of our living in order to connect with people. What is relevant about the ancient Deuteronomist writings in contrast to the Gospels?
What happens when we ask ourselves questions like:
“What are the rewards of obeying God?”
“What makes my heart happy?”
“How can I be fully aware of God’s presence with me?”
We will take a close look at the spiritual practices of almsgiving, prayer and fasting in relation to dealing with uncertainty, emptiness and unexpected upheaval during our Lent sermon series.
How do we respond to God based on who God is and what God does? How does the nature of God reflect on how we share the good news of God with others? These are hard questions. We will be discussing them in our book study. One thing I have decided is that living a true life in Christ is pleasurable. I have had to give up a couple things I have been spending my time at, in order to
experience pleasure in Christ.
How are you experiencing the pleasures of Christ? God wants us to have spiritual blessings: peace, faith, love, hope, strength, self control, and wisdom. What is required on our part to enjoy these blessings? I think it is faith and commitment.
This might be our greatest challenge. Living faithfully in an unfaithful time.
What do you think?
Loving Self Helps Us Love Others
February 1, 2018
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “it’s easy to love others, loving myself is hard” — I would have the funding to build a center to teach and support people in self love. Jesus wisely said, “love your neighbor as your- self.” To make it work we have to turn it around and say love self, love others.
Today psychologists claim it’s imperative to learn to accept and cherish your “self” in order to find the peace of mind to be truly present for your loved ones — and for your own life.
I’ve learned the hard way, caring for myself must come first, or I don’t have the strength or stamina (or patience) to care for others.
Caring for myself begins with quiet time alone with God. I’ve discovered that I don’t have to do any talking. God knows everything, all I have to do is make space inside me for God. My inner life, my heart-soul-spirit is replenished and strengthened in these “unsaying” prayers.
Last year I started looking closely at what Jesus did. I know pastors are keen to quote what Jesus said. I wanted to really focus on Jesus’ actions. Mark 1:35, Matthew 6:7 and 14:23 are all examples of how Jesus loved himself. He prayed. Alone. Luke describes Jesus as praying privately before all major events.
I expect your life is much like mine. There is an ever pressing overwhelm of people, places and things which need your a en on. I used to whine “my life is too big, I want to make it smaller.”
I succeeded in eliminating the pressure when I decided I deserved to care for myself, regularly. Do you believe you deserve to love yourself?
Our Lent Sermon and Book Study series will take us on a journey of discovery. It is called Dust. It is a reminder that we come from dust and to dust we return. It highlights the importance of what we do between the beginning and end.
We will explore the ancient Deuteronomist writings in contrast to the Gospels. We will be asking ourselves questions like: “What are the rewards of obeying God?” “What makes my heart happy?” “How can I be fully aware of God’s presence with me?” We will take a close look at the spiritual practices of almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
Our book study ‘Evangelism for the Non-Evangelist: Sharing the Gospel Authentically” by Mark Teasdale will help us focus on our own personal spiritual formation and how it strengthens our witness.
Living a true life in Christ is pleasurable. How are you experiencing the pleasures of Christ? God wants us to have spiritual blessings: peace, faith, love, hope, strength, self control, and wisdom. What is required on our part to enjoy these blessings?
This might be our greatest challenge. Loving Self.
What did Jesus do to love himself? Let's find out together.
What Does This Year Have for Us?
January 3, 2018
2018 home decorating trends feature glass bubbles and scallops and eclectic vintage items and living like a local. They are contrasted with virtual companions and (A Commerce) augmented commerce.
Human resources (HR) will focus on referrals and social media for candidates. There is much advice for creating continuous feedback loops for employees (and I suspect volunteers) because “you can give folks a “good ol’ fashion pat on the back” but how will they know specifically what they are doing well?” (biggesttrends.com)
Continuous learning is hot and so is wellness beyond the office. We need to be looking for ways to mitigate stress. The number one enemy of our society. Robots are entering the scene in droves and so is science (think “Bull” CBS weekly series about trail science created by none other than Dr. Phil) for everything. Perhaps the church should think about buying a robot or two to do evangelism.
Optimizing the church attendance experience has been a top priority for a while now, and it’s trend is entering the work place. The church has also been addressing flexible worship opportunities and the workplace is copying by offering “work from home Wednesdays” to give people an option. Originators claim it “improve(s) performance efficiencies and appreciation for the company. Not to mention it also “helps to break up the work week, and enable us to more easily tend to personal needs and appointments outside of the office.”
These seem pale in comparison to where we will be in a few more years: Visual and voice searches fro everything from prayers to pears. By 2022 it is estimated we will take in more fake news that true information.
The race is on, counterfeit reality will replace reality. By 2021 Robots will perform most tasks. Think App extinction— as chatbots provide us with airline boarding passes, Groupon vouchers, and I-tunes. Artificial intelligence (AI) will create 2.3 billion new jobs while only replacing 1.8M positions. (GartnerResearch.com)
If reading this doesn’t make your head spin, I don’t know what will except for the snow job we are willing to believe if you read what P. T. Barnum’s critics have to say. I placed the movie release date for The Greatest Showman, a movie about P. T. Barnum on my phone calendar. I have always been inspired by the creativity of the man. The movie romanticizes the circus and illusions created by P. T. Barnum. I want to believe that Phineas Taylor Barnum was a good Christian and a moral man. We know he was a politician and a philanthropist.
According to Wikipedia, “Barnum served two terms in the Connecticut legislature in 1865 as a Republican for Fairfield. With the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution over slavery and African-American suffrage, Barnum spoke before the legislature and said, "A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit.” Who is Joice Heth?
I wish I knew what to think about P.T. Barnum. It’s complicated, considering the comments made and written about him. “Contrary to popular belief,” as Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress (1975-1987) wrote, “Barnum’s great discovery was not how easy it was to deceive the public, but rather, how much the public enjoyed being deceived.”
This might be our greatest challenge. Seeking truth.
Connecting With Christmas Memories
December 9, 2017
Part of renewing Christ in my heart this time of year is connecting with wonderful Christmas memories. When I began serving at OUMC I enjoyed watching the Christmas spirit come alive around town. Margaret and Herbie Haynes ardently led the annual revival. Donnie, their son, remembers cutting cedar poles. He said they built the stable with them and hay bales the weekend of Thanksgiving.
“But Dad wouldn’t put Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus out until the first week of December.” He said his dad went up into the attic and brought the figures down, and his mom washed them, saying: “You know how mom was!” Donnie recalls the family tradition began in 1969 when they moved back to Oskaloosa after Herbie retired from the Air Force. They bought Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus from Betsy and Willard Good who had the Western Auto store.
I asked Donnie if we could erect the nativity set at the church. It has been 10 years since Herbie (1931 - 2009) climbed into the attic and brought them into the light. Margaret stll “washes” things at FW Huston Living Center where she lives in skilled care for Alzheimer’s Disease. Margaret passed the ‘sweet spot’ years ago. This is what professionals call the pivotal point of when people are no longer aware of their impairments.
‘Where are you God?” is my question for this Advent season. When I get to heaven I will ask God: “Alzheimer’s and mosquitos and crab grass, what were you thinking?” Our world seems brutal and rough in the darkness of violence, poverty, greed, illness and addiction.
In my struggles and suffering I turn to Jesus. Because God is faithful to me, I want to share my faith and bring more people into the light of Christ. It is in the hope, love, peace and faith of our savior that we can find strength in trials. Jesus is the fulcrum in our tension between pain and peace. Living the Christmas spirit is about holding the heartache of Alzheimer’s with the joy of a lighted nativity scene.
Both - And.
How are you living the Christmas spirit?
What Would Be Different Right Now?
March 23, 2017
I have been inspired as I am learning and practicing to be a coach for clergy and congregations how awesomely powerful scripture is regarding coaching.
Coaching is about going from good to great! A coach helps you get where you are going faster and better. I have realized God is the master coach.
How would your life be different if you knew that God knew everything about you and still loved you unconditionally? What would be different today—right now—if you knew that you were fearfully and wonderfully made? What negative tapes or sabotage would be erased if you knew you were created just the way you are, intentionally, by God?
I hope these thoughts inspire your Thursday.
OUMC Food Pantry Needs, February
Packaged dry beans and canned beans.
You are not limited to the list above.
Thank you for your continued support.
Buck a Bag Sale!
Buck a bag will be Saturday, April 7. Now is a good time to go through your closets and set aside spring and summer clothes you no longer need. This clothing will be a blessing for those who shop our buck a bag sale.
OUMC Vacation Bible School Needs a Director
If you like organizing and creating activities and learning for children ages 3-12 VBS 2018 wants you!!
You can choose the format, curriculum and a team to help you lead. Last year we had 30 volunteers.
Many people like to help, so we need one or two leaders to give us the direction we need to offer an engaging, safe and fun environment for children to learn about the love of Jesus.
Speak with Pastor Melinda or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Beginning March 11 please help adorn our altar with Easter Lilies!
Supporting Our Troops
Once again the UMW will be sending packages to those in the Military and serving outside the USA. There will be a box and lists available soon. We are also in need of monetary donations for the postage to send the boxes. Last year we mailed over ten boxes.
When Disaster Strikes...It's Too Late for the Training.
If you are interested in helping during a disaster please get this training.
What: Early Response Team (ERT) Training
When: Saturday, April 14 from 8:30-4:30
Where: Countryside UMC (3221 SW Burlingame Road, Topeka)
Why: To be ready to respond when a disaster hits our area or even other areas
Who: Individuals (18 years and older) who are called to this ministry
Our GOAL is to have at least 2 persons from our church participate in this training.
Financial Peace University
What: A journey toward financial peace through debt reduction and financial planning
More Info: https://www.fpucentral.com/promo
Clergy and lay people are invited and encouraged to participate in the Topeka District Gathering. We will learn and grown together. It is free to attend, and a group from the church will carpool together.
We must register in advance, so please let Linda know by February 5.
Erin Newell Fitness
What: Get in shape with fitness classes lead by Erin Newell
Where: Oskaloosa United Methodist Church
When: Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $5 per class, $2 fee per child
Other Details: Please bring 10 lb or less dumbbells