Monday, September 29, 2014

Can Others See Your Gratefulness?

I was so excited to start out in full time ministry after I graduated college.  I was the full time Youth Minister at New Haven United Methodist Church.  The fun part of the job was relating to all the kids there at the church.  The time I spent with the actual youth was what I did the best and what felt the most meaningful.

But some of the rest of the time during the week - the time I spent in the office was a little rough.

After planning the lessons for Sunday school and the youth group, I was unsure of what to do next.  I had been a full-time summer intern for two different churches in college but those weeks are full of camps and activities.  There was never any time to breathe let alone plan for the long-term.

Is this person happy or sad?
Who can say?  Communication is complex.
Ken Tobler was our Senior Pastor at New Haven and I was too embarrassed to tell him that I didn't really have a clue on how I should be spending my time to be most effective.

Eventually he called me into his office.  He closed the door and asked me to sit down. I could tell that this was a serious conversation because he was normally joking around all the time.  I think I began to sweat at this point.

But I didn't expect the question that came out of his mouth.

"Are you on drugs?"


Ken seemed to think that my attitude was reflective of someone who smokes a lot of dope.  I seemed despondent around the office - lackadaisical - uninterested.

I was really just confused and embarrassed.

But I certainly didn't realize that I was coming across like I was stoned!

I learned an important lesson in how we interact with others.  I learned that we sometimes unintentionally portray feelings that may be the opposite of how we actually feel.  

This can be true of the gratitude we think we show.  Do our actions reflect what we say we believe about God?  Can we actually practice what it means to be grateful and will this make us happier people?  This Sunday, we'll begin a four-week series in a foray outside the lectionary as we gear up for our pledge Sunday on October 26.  Our first theme will gratitude and we will be exploring the woman caught in adultery from John 8:1-11.

I appreciate Ken's willingness to have the difficult conversation with me.  I hope that my gratitude shows in my actions to do the same with others.

In Christ,


Picture used through creative commons from jtneill from wikimedia commons.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Got Bread?

My older sister Becky and her family moved to the state of Washington when I was about ten years old.  This was a fun place to visit and I still remember my first time on Seattle's wharf.

We were walking around and some people had fishing lines over the side.  I still remember one pulling up a pretty good sized crab!  The smells of the salt air and the fish along with the chill of the northwest Pacific all combine to produce a good memory of my childhood.
Sheryl and I got to take Kyla and David to experience this in 2012!

As we walked along, my favorite memory of the wharf was stopping for a bowl of clam chowder.  It was fresh, hot and steaming as I spooned bite after bite.  The best compliment to this was the fresh baked sourdough bread.  The sour taste of the bread accented the creamy chowder in a way that I still find delicious!

When I think about bread, I like all kinds.  But my top choice to this day remains sourdough.  It may be that I still associate the flavor with that good time in Washington.

Bread is a basic staple of life.  It can be very bland but it can also provide important sustenance.  When you have nothing, bread can be a feast!

This is what God's people learned as they began to wander in the wilderness after fleeing from slavery in Egypt.  How do you feed so many hungry mouths?  On Sunday, we'll finish our time in the Exodus with the story of manna from heaven in 16:2-15.  This is a pivotal story in the history of the Israelite people as they learn to discover that their abundance lies with God.

If you're in the Edmond area and don't already have a regular church home, join us for worship on Sunday morning at First United Methodist Church!

In Christ,


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Even Change for the Better is Resisted

As I celebrate another birthday, I am reminded that change comes all the time - sometimes in large ways but often in small, little ways that seem to make no difference at the time.
This kind of change is okay but I have a lot less of it
than I used to - because of change!

It was good to see all the Facebook posts from friends new and old and to see that my life spans many different places and times.

There are areas in my life when I've been change resistant.  You don't spend almost 14 years serving one United Methodist congregation unless you have a little of this in you.

But I've also embraced trying new things.  Most of the people in the congregations I've served have been willing to come along for the ride - even if begrudgingly.  Some of them have worked out while others have only worked for a season.  Of course, some failed miserably.

Change can be difficult and most people resist it.  In fact, almost any system whether it is religious, business, political, educational or even familial will resist change initially.

Even when the change is beneficial.

One of my favorite stories is of a United Methodist congregation where the pastor wanted to move something around in the order of service.   I think it was the prayer of confession.  The worship committee cried out the familiar tagline, "But it has always been in this spot!  We can't bear to change it!"

The wily pastor then said, "Well, what if we moved it for just six months and then we can evaluate it and see if we need to move it back."

The committee reluctantly agreed.

When the pastor convened the group again six months later, he asked if they wanted to move it back.

The committee replied, "Move what back?  We've always done it this way!"

This Sunday, we'll be continuing with Moses in the Exodus.  This time we'll look at the parting of the Red Sea in 14:19-31.  The freedom of the Hebrew slaves was a massive change for the Egyptians.  We can see that even after enduring the plagues, they changed their minds about staying in their unjust system.

How does God help us with our own capacity to resist changes that should be resisted but also to accept the changes that are helpful?  We'll explore this on Sunday morning at Edmond First United Methodist Church.  If you're in the area, come and join us!

In Christ,


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Lectionary Always "Passes over" the Previous Plagues of Egypt

My first experience with a Seder or Passover meal was when I was living at the Wesley Foundation at OSU.  I was one of the two live-in janitors for my final two years in Stillwater. Admittedly, I was probably better at hospitality than cleaning!  Of course, the Passover is the time when Jewish people remember their Exodus from Egypt.

The Jewish Student Association regularly met at our building since they didn't have one near campus and they asked to hold their Seder meal.  We were happy to let them do this and they invited any others active at the Wesley Foundation to participate.

To keep all the food preparation kosher in accordance with the dietary laws of the Hebrew scriptures, they came in ahead of time and gave the kitchen a real scouring.  I was certainly glad to let them do this and wondered if we might have them host kosher meals every month!

As we celebrated the Passover, I noticed that the foods we ate all had symbolic meaning related to the story.  It was a way of remembering their history and gave impact to the way the story was told.

There was a lot of wine consumed at the Passover.  For Protestants that come out of the temperance movement, this can be a little eye-opening at first.  But no one got out of hand and it allowed for the evening to lengthen without dragging too much.  It allowed laughter to come to a serious ritual without taking away from it.

For Christians, we have moved the Passover ritual into a different kind of story-telling.  We celebrate the Lord's Supper as  we remember that Jesus instituted this during the Passover meal.  The bread and the wine (grape juice for us) take on different symbolism as we understand them to be the body and the blood of Christ in a spiritual manner.

This week, the lectionary turns to the Passover in Exodus 12:1-14.  Leading up to this final plague were many other plagues that the lectionary never touches on.  Maybe the plagues are seen as too difficult for Christians who are called to love their neighbors to incorporate into their faith.  But if we can handle the death of the firstborn, I think a few flies and frogs won't hurt us!
Martin, John - The Seventh Plague - 1823.jpg
"Martin, John - The Seventh Plague - 1823" by John Martin - Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This Sunday, I'll be examining the plagues and what they mean for the story-telling of a people who were freed from slavery.  If you are in the Edmond area, you are welcome to join us for worship!

In Christ,