Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve - A Covenant Prayer Reflection

I hope you have each had a blessed 2008.  And by blessed, I don't mean happy. I know in each of our lives there have been moments of great sadness, moments of pain, moments of loss.  We have all experienced that. 

But, by blessed, I mean that I hope you have experienced God in powerful ways this year.  I hope you have felt His grace, His peace, and His mercy.  I hope you have grown closer to HIm and are more in love with Him and your Neighbor now, than you were this time last year. 

I hope you have know His grace and grown in His grace.

I hope you have felt His love.

I hope you have had peace.

It was traditional for John Wesley to lead his people in a Covenant Renewal Service on New Year's Eve. And as part of that service, there was a prayer that was prayed. And, in closing this year, I want to share that prayer with you

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

This prayer reminds us that our life is not our own, we live it for God. So many of us seek life in things that are not lasting. We seek to live, but never fully find life. We find though, that when we realize that we live not for ourselves, but for God, we find that true, amazing, all empowering joyful life. 

Not happy life. Joyful life. Life that shines, even in the darkness.  

In this new year, let us realize the power of His grace, the joy of His life, and that hope that comes, even in midst of darkness, to all that stand within His grace. 

May God make His face to shine upon you now, and always. 

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas: Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

One of the constant reminders in scripture, and particularly within the prophets is the notion that God will save His people.  No matter how dark it may look, no matter how dire the situation, God will save HIs people.  He will come to their rescue, and there will be that time with no more tears, hurt or pain. 

So, in the midst of the dark situations in our life, this is our hope: don't give up!  God will save His people!  Good will win in the end!  Love, grace, and peace will find a way!  God will wipe away those tears.  Rejoice. 

New Testament Lesson

We see words of hope in Revelation: do not be afraid!  In a world filled with fear, we have no reason to fear.  In world filled with despair, we have no reason to be down hearted. Do not be afraid. For God is still God, and He is still on the throne.  We are not a people of fear, we are a people of faith. We are not the people of a small God, we are the people of a great and mighty God, God of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords!  Have no fear!

Gospel Lesson

I could spend a lot of time talking about this passage.  In fact, I'm preaching on it on January 11.  So, I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say that we hear what grace sounds like in this passage. The sound of rocks falling as we each understand our own sinfulness and the command of Holy Scripture to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on UMC Bureaucracy

I love the United Methodist Church.  Born into it, baptized, confirmed, and converted within, now serving as an ordained elder.  I love our church, I love our theology. 

But, as the old saying goes, we kid because we love. 

I read this tweet from@amforbus on Twitter.  If you aren't familiar with Twitter check it out -  You can follow me, I'm @atstod.  Anyway, this was @amforbus' recent tweet: 

Methodists may sprinkle for baptisms, but we immerse when it comes to bureaucracy.

I think that is funny, true, and a little said. We Methodist were historically a flexible bunch.  In revival days when the Methodist church was the biggest in the nation (yes, there was  time when that happened!) we went to where the people were. We went, we preached, we ministered.  We knew that the people and message mattered most.  

Now, today, we know they matter. . . . . . but, you know. 

We have to do things the right way.  I was a conference recently and one of the speakers talked about how the surest way to crush innovation is to push innovation into a certain "way."  There is only one "way" to innovate.  Methodists do it one way, Baptists another, Catholics another.  Instead of focusing on the bigger mission, we focus on the means to provide the mission. And the mission must be provided in a certain way for it to be valid.  

And there in lies the rub.  Bureaucracy is not in itself bad.  Hierarchy is not in itself bad.  Structure is not bad. But, when these things stop being a means to end, and become the end, then we have a problem.  

An no matter the organization, be it a Church, Business, Club, whatever. When the means becomes the end, then things become backwards. 

So, in short, we must focus everything, bureaucracy, everything on achieving that end. And, by use any means necessary to achieve that end. 

And in doing that, we'll recover what it means to be mission minded.  Not institution minded.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Thoughts

Today, just a thought.  We serve a God who over 2000 years ago loved us enough to send His son into our world to love us, teach us, and save us.  He entered into our world to show us love. 

Today, in this moment, He remains in our world. And He will enter into yours. All for that same purpose. To show you that you are loved.  You are precious in His sight.  You are His. 

How did Jesus enter into the world?  In a humble family.  God knew His son would need that family to show the world God's love. So, from the beginning, Jesus has His family.  In the very first Christmas, the Holy Family gathered together.  

And it continues today.  Just as Christmas shows us God's love, it also shows us the power of family. For, in the beginning of His earthly life, Jesus had his family.  And, as He did ministry, He expanded His family to all those that love Him and serve Him. 

So, today, on this Christmas Eve, let us remember that we are loved by a God so merciful He sent His son to us to show us love and to save us. 

And let us take time this day to celebrate that birth, and gather with family. And, just as Jesus taught us, family is not just those that we are kin to by blood, but family are those that love us and that we love.  

In our ministry, we have never served a church close to our family. That has required my family to look at things a little different. We see family not just as those that we are related to by blood, but we see our church as our family, we see our community as our family.  

And, so today, spend time with family.  If not "blood" family, then your other.  Those that you love, and that love you.  If you love no and no one loves you, come by First Methodist tonight for worship. We'll love you.  

Because that's what God did for us. So may we do for one another.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today is what I used to call "Christmas Eve Eve" as a child.  I hope you have a great one!

Old Testament Lesson

We see in this passage part of what God wants for his people.  He wants the remnant to be restored, He wants His people to be as one.  He wants petty jealously, minor disagreements to be done away with.  He wants His people, He wants His Church to be one.  As we gather together for Christmas, though we may gather in different churches of different denominations, let us remember that we gather around the same Lord. 

And in a world that is so desperately crying out for grace and hope, wouldn't He want us to be one?  

New Testament Lesson

There is that great verse in this passage: "See I am making all things new."  God is always at work, always making things new, always working for good, for His plan, for His people.  He will make all things new. 

With this day. This a new day.  The failures of yesterday are gone. Today is a new day. Breathe the breath like you've never breathed it before. Today is a new and glorious day.  May we live it fully.  May we live it for God. 

Gospel Lesson

We see that God's plan involves everyone.  The old and the young, those that have had many children, those that are barren. God's plan involves everyone, God has a plan for everyone.  And for you.  Today, in this day, God has a plan for you.  Just for you.  His plan for you is not His plan for me.  Each is different, each is unique.  Each is from God. Today, God has a plan for you. 

Live in that plan, and in that grace

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent: Monday, December 22, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

This passage was one of the Lessons read yesterday in our Festival of Lessons and Carols at Ripley FUMC and as I heard it read, something was made to clear to me.  Something I've always believed, but I've never understood it so clearly as I did yesterday. When we see this picture of eternity, we see the lion and lamb, the snake and the child, we see a world of peace, a world were people are not tearing each other down, but things are as they should be. 

We live in a world that is devised.  We live in a world where it is not just enough to disagree with someone, you must defeat them and beat them down.  We live in a world with little peace, in any sense. 

God's desire for us is peace.  Peace in this world, peace in our souls.  May we do all that we can to have that peace our souls, and work towards peace in our workplace, our school, our churches, our community, and our world.  

New Testament Lesson

We see in this passage the point of Revelation.  God wins!  I don't understand all the mysteries, all the symbols, all the other things in this book.  I think that trying to understand every detail of Revelation misses the forrest for the tress. 

The point is this:  God wins!  Let us rejoice in that, and know that God is victorious and will be victorious!  

Gospel Lesson

Jesus came to give testimony to His father, give witness to His father.  And that witness is this.  God is love.  God is hope. God is grace.  God is repetition. God is a second, third, forth, fifth. . . . . chance.  

God is love.  That is what Jesus came to show us.  

Insights for the Ages

The greatest book I've ever read has been Sis. Joan Chittister's commentary on The Rule of Benedict.  Many of you may already know this, but The Rule and her commentary can be found online in blog form @:

I hope you find this as helpful to your soul as I have to mine.  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

One of the constant refrains of judgement we see in the prophets is this.  The people did not take care of the poor. They did not take care of the needy.  In fact, they took advantage of them.  They used them for their own gain and their own prophet. They did not even regard them as fellow humans.  

And the Lord rails against this.  Part of what it means to be a Christian is to care for each other. To care for those brothers and sisters inside the church.  But, to care for those brothers and sisters outside the church.  

I know I'm beating a dead horse that I've been some recently, but in this Christmas season, let us remember to think about, to help, to do for those other than ourselves and our families.  Let's take time in this season of joy to help each other, and to help those in need. 

New Testament Lesson

In this passage, trouble comes when people leave what is right, and begin to do that which is wrong.  Today, let's not go looking for trouble.  Trouble will find us at some point today.  Let's not go looking for it.  

Gospel Lesson

John told the people to repent.  To repent is to turn from.  In all of our lives, there are things that we need to turn from, things that we need to turn away for our souls, for our families, for our walk with God.  Each of us. Repentance is not a one time thing, it is a life time thing. 

Today, let us turn from what is wrong and turn to what is right.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Playing Santa

Normally the main source of my blogging is a reflection on three Bible passages, or a quote that is uplifting.

Today, I want to do something a little different.

I want to tell you about something that happened last night. Last night Ripley First United Methodist Church was blessed to host the Foster Families' Christmas Dinner from Tippah and Benton County. Many folks worked tirelessly on the meal, all day yesterday and part of Monday. Teachers from Ripley Jr and Sr High organized volunteer students to help. Folks from around the county came to sing and entertain the families.

My job was to be the visitor from the North Pole, if you catch my drift.

So, I walked in and the children's face lit up. Even the older ones wanted their picture taken.

But there was one girl in particular that stuck we me. She must have been 4 or 5. Wore glasses, cute as a button. I noticed here when I walked in because she was standing in her chair, clapping.

When her name was called, she sprinted across the floor and threw her arms around me and hugged me. She gave me a kiss on the check and said "Santa I love you."

It's hard to say Merry Christmas when you are crying like I was. This girl just hugged me and did not want to let go. I hugged her back, and said "Santa loves you to sweetheart."

I don't know what this child has been through in her life, but I bet it's not been an easy one. She's in the Foster Family system, so I know she's had hard times. But, just the look of love in her eyes, the look of sheer, unadulterated joy in her eyes as seeing Santa could melt any heart.

I don't know how this relates to God, but I guess I can think of two ways. First, do something for someone in this time of year. Let's not get so focused on our own stuff, our own families, our own business that we rob ourselves of the true blessing of doing for others.

Second, when this young girl came to me with love in her eyes, all I wanted to do was let her know that Santa loved her. No matter what she had been through, Santa Clause loved her.

That has got to be how God feels about us. No matter what we've been through, no matter how much we've been beaten down. No matter how life has been for us.

God loves you. And He wants you to know that He loves you.

You Are Loved Today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sorry about no blogging yesterday.  Had a surgery in Tupelo and a couple of things came up and wasn't able to send one out.  

Old Testament Lesson

Those in darkness will see a great light. That list is Christ Jesus. In the midst of our darkness He came to us, and in our darkness each day, He comes once again.  His light will always shine, and it will always call us to Himself. He is light. The light will drive out the darkness.   His light will make us whole. 

But, there are those out there that haven't seen the light. To those, and too all, we are to live as light. We are to live as light barers. We are to bring His light, His love, His mercy, His peace, His joy, HIs hope, everywhere. Through our lives, through our love, through our care, through our smiles, through our concern, we are living the light.  And His light through us may help someone else in their darkest hour

New Testament Lesson

We are reminded to pay attention to the light.  Let us spend our time in the light.  Let us spent our time, our hours, our concern in the light. Let us focus on those things which give us light — the Word, prayer, fellowship, service, these things. These things Wesley called the "Mean of Grace."  In doing that, we pay attention to the light, and we'll be able to shine God's light to those that need it the most

Gospel Lesson

Peter reminds us today that even those that best know the light fall down. All make mistakes. All fall down.  Every one of us.  You.  Me.  As CS Lewis said, "The Shame is not in the falling down, it is in the not getting back up."  Today, we will each fall.  May we find God's grace there, waiting to pick us up.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent: Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today, just a quick through.  I've got go down to Jackson for a meeting in the Conference office.  Please pray for this meeting and pray I don't get snowed in anywhere!  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent: Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Today, just a quick quote.  

If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles.
C.S. Lewis 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent: Monday, December 8, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

There are two major complaints God makes toward Israel in Isaiah, and in all the prophets. First, they have placed other things ahead of God. They have worshiped idols; they have become too prideful; they chase after sin.  Instead of starting each day and each thing out with God, they begin with themselves, their sinful desires, and their wants.  

We learn from this that God must come first in everything in life. 

Second, they do not care for or help those in need. They take advantage of the needy and poor.  They do not seek to help the lives and conditions of the neediest among them. They use them only to get what they want. The Lord says that is not right, they must help those that are in need. 

In this Advent and Christmas season, let us not forget those among us that are in need.  

New Testament Lesson

Paul says that no one knows when the day of the Lord's coming will be; it will be like a thief in the night. But, let us not focus on that, instead let us focus on encouraging one another.  Let us focus on being faithful.  Let us focus on being awake.  Let us focus on what the Lord would have us to do.  And in doing that; we will be prepared for His coming.  Today, let us encourage one another!  

Gospel Lesson

We see in Luke's passage another reference to our Lord's return. And in this Jesus tell us to lift up our heads, rejoice, for in that, our redemption draws near. Remember, that's God's ultimate goal for you.  Your full redemption and salvation. Today, you will be tempted.  Today, you will face struggle. Today, you will face trials.  There will come a day, through, when you will not. There will be a day when God will wipe away every tear from our eye. 

Today, may we live on the grace and hope and peace God has given us. And, may we know that a day is coming when we will not face those struggle we face now!  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advent: Thursday, December 4, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

One of the constant refrains in the early chapters of Isaiah is God's condemnation of the proud. Those that are proud, those that are lofty, those that think too highly of themselves, those that are not humble in their walk with God or with each other, God will bring down. 

Humility is a great virtue, and is something that we should all work towards. It is important to be mindful of the fact that we are not as strong as we think we, outside of God's strength.  Through God, there is nothing that is impossible. Through our own strength, there is nothing we can do. May we remember that in our weakness He is made perfect, and may we be humble of heart. 

New Testament Lesson

Paul always received great joy in seeing others grow.  It always encouraged him in the times of distress to see how others are growing closer to the Lord.  It always reminded him in times of trouble that what he had done was in vain, that the Lord used what he did in powerful ways. 

Never think that what you do is insignificant. Every little thing you do for God counts. Every kind word, every peace of grace, every prayer offered. Each of these, God will use in powerful ways.  None of it is in vain.  

Gospel Lesson

God is the God of the living. And, in God, life is found.  In God we find our life, our joy, our peace, our hope, our mercy, our very being. God is the God life.  Only in God, do we find true life. May we truly live, today. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent: Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

We see a theme begin to emerge here in Isaiah that we see in all the prophets and all throughout the Bible. Those that turn to God, they will be restored.  No matter how far they may be from God.  No matter what they have done.  No matter any of these things. All that turn back to God will find God running to them.  

We serve a God that is always there, that will never turn away from His people that will never give up on His people, that will never forsake His people.  He longs to restore them, to save them, to love them. Today, God is just waiting to show His love to you!  

New Testament Lesson

Paul reminds the people that he didn't just tell them that he loved them, he showed them his love through his actions. In our world today, what we need are not just those that tell people that they love them, they show it. Today, in our lives may we tell others just how much God loves and how much we love them. But, even more so, let us love them.  Let us love each other.  Let us forgive each other. Let us show God's love to one another by loving one another.  

Gospel Lesson

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  Jesus was rejected by many in His day.  He is now the cornerstone of the church, and the cornerstone of our lives.  He is the foundation.  He is the one that is all rests upon.  He is the rock.  He is the one that it is all build upon and around.  He is the one. 

Today, and each day, may He be your cornerstone.  May He be your foundation.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent: Monday, December 1, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

The Lord tells the people in this passage, don't talk about how much you love me, instead do the things that I command.  It is very easy to talk about religion.  It's very easy to talk about how we love God, how God is first in our lives, how He is the main thing.  I have yet to meet someone that would not tell me that God is the most important thing in our lives. 

Do we live that way?  Do we do the things that God has commanded?  Do we show mercy and grace?  Do we love others as He has loved us?  Do we help those less fortunate?  Do our lives reflect the fact that God is most important? 

Because what God wants is not people to talk about being religious, He wants people to lives of mercy and grace, live lives of compassion and care, live lives for Him. Today, may we glorify God with all that we say and all that we do.  

New Testament Lesson

Paul says you imitated us, and in doing that you imitated the Lord and became and example for all the other believers.  As Christians we have the great chance to help others. As God has shown us love, we can show others love.  As God has shown us mercy, we can show others mercy. As God has been faithful, we can be faithful.  As we seek to live like God would have us to, through His grace, we may be able to show others the grace and mercy of God's love. 

I know in my own life, the greatest impact upon my soul was not made by the words of a preacher, but instead by the love of a friend. My we live that type of life that makes impacts upon the souls of our friends.  

Gospel Lesson

The Leaders couldn't put Jesus in a box. They couldn't trick him. They couldn't fool Him. He was always on step ahead.  We too, need to be careful.  We don't need to put Him in a box.  We don't need to think we've got Him, or faith, all figured out. We need to remember that we don't know everything, that we don't have all the answers and there are some things that we'll never know or understand. 

We need to keep our humility; we need to keep our faith.