Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Going back is the quickest way on."

Lent 2012 A Clean Heart, Create in me.  C.S.Lewis
Wednesday February 29, LEAP DAY!  Psalm 51:10 our title verse

Oh how british! (in your best brit accent) "the quickest way on"  To repent means more than to turn around it means to turn towards Christ.  How often have we given up one bad habit only to replace it with another?  Turning back on our wrong road allows us to repair the mistkes we've made and to heal the brokenness that made us think this path was the right road to begin with.  However, if we don't seek God's right path for us then we can find another wrong road or worse still get stuck repairing on the roadside, never really moving in any direction. 
Admitting we are wrong is such a bummer.  It's just as difficult as admitting we need help.  Tough independent spirited Americans never admit being weak or wrong, it's anti-patriotic.  However much of our need is created when we refuse to admit weakness or misjudgment or miscommunication or mistakes.  It is near impossible to create a clean heart if we don't honestly assess the state of our hearts.  Let us trn to our God and ask to be shown where we've gone wrong.  Let us ask to be led back to the path that leads to forgiveness and grace.  Let us ask for yet another chance to follow Christ.  Let us ask for fellow travelers on whom we can depend.  Let us ask for a true GPS (God Positioning System) and the obedience to follow its directions.  Since we have a lot to ask let us first be silent and listen.  Let us pray...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is any prayer ordinary?

Lent 2012 A Clean Heart, Create in Me  C.S.Lewis
Tuesday, February 28   Matthew 6:9

"Ordinary" prayer, "Ordinary" prayer????  Is any prayer ordinary that seeks connection to God?  The Lord's Prayer, or Our Father, is a prayer that many Christians memorize.  Yet, even that has fallen by the wayside.  In worship, I try to make sure the words are always available because I can no longer assume that every person has this prayer as a basic part of their education.  Many churches in their quest to be contemporary dismiss the practice of saying this prayer as qaint or outdated.   Simple daily prayer where we admit our need for God should never be considered "ordinary."   It is a restraining of our independent headstrong bent as humans, it is a humbling of our warrior spirit, it is acknowledging our smallness by hoping for a connection with infinite greatness.  It is no "ordinary" practice or mindless rite.  Even though we may treat it like the alphabet where we have to recite the whole thing to get one little bit from the center, it remains a vital discipline of our spiritul journey.  Prayer may be the simplest expression of faith but God the Creator, Jesus the Savior and the motivator known as the Holy Spirit work together to be present, when we pray.  How can that be "ordinary?"  And maybe that is Lewis' point afterall.   Indeed, "Let my prayers come to you, O Lord, in purity (from a heart now clean) and simplicity." but Lord remind me everyday that this privilege of speaking directly through you and to you is anything but ordinary lest I take it for granted.  And all God's people say?...

Wesley's Rules for Circuit Riders

Wow, saw this and had to share it.  I realize that I need to laugh off some things and be in prayer over others.  I have issues with obedience and order and authority (the list goes on and on) but what if these became my code?  I can see some changes that I'd need to make immediately and I also see where I need to ccept grace. What do you think?  Should this be the standard for evaluating pastors today?

1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time, nor spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
2. Be serious. Let your motto be, ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ Avoid all lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.
3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women, particularly with young women.
4. Take no step towards marriage without solemn prayer to God and consulting with your brethren.
5. Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction you can on everything. You know the judge is always sup­posed to be on the prisoner’s side.
6. Speak evil of no one, else your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker; keep your thoughts within your own breast till you come to the person concerned.
7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, lovingly and plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your own heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.
8. Do not affect the gentleman. A preacher of the Gospel is the servant of alL
9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; no, not of clean­ing your own shoes when necessary.
10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them, and that for conscience’ sake.
11. You have nothing to do but to save souls. There­fore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.
12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel, and in union with your brethren. As such, it is your part to employ your time as our rules direct: partly in preaching and visiting from i house to house, partly in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you should do that part of the work which the Conference shall advise, at those times and places which they shall judge most for His glory.

“Observe, it is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care merely of this or that Society, but to save as many souls as you can, to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all• your power, to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord. And, remember, a Methodist preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Methodist discipline. Therefore you will need all the grace and sense you have, and to have all your wits about you."
The following is taken from John Telford’s The Life of John Wesley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1886), which is available online [1] at the Wesley Center for Applied Theology at Northwest Nazarene University.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Guided toward truth

Lent 2012  A Clean Heart, Create in Me
Monday February 27                                       Psalm 19:7

"Guide me toward the truth: about myself, about the world, about You."   All things true added together do not create a sum that is truth.  That does not make these items less true but perhaps less significant on the Grand Scale, on our "permanent records."  The Ten Commandments stand as the basis for society and yet do not fully capture the entire will and truth of God.  Yet we cannot deny our human need for such structure.  But legal and mindless obedience to a list of rules is not what we are called to.  They are but the beginning.
I went to the Holland Patent Swim Banquet yesterday.  Coach Celecki said several times that looking honestly at the team, at some meets they were fighting at best for second place.  Yet that did not stop the team  from individually and collectively striving for their best.  They developed strength through coaching and practice, they developed an identity through the family created by athletes, parents, coaches and friends.  They had an excellent record overall and beat several personal and school-wide records.  Yet they knew that they probably would not be number one. 
We too will fall short of all that God desires for us.  Let us not be stopped by some ranking.  Through practice and coaching let us strive and thrive according to God's will.  Let us revel in our identity revealed through our service, our loving, of family, peers, coaches, friends and strangers.  Fortnately God is more than the sum of Christianity's parts.  God is truth and love and truth in love, and so much more.

Led by the Spirit

2012 Lent A Clean Heart, Create in Me C.S.Lewis Happy Little Easter! Sunday, February 26th Luke 4:1-2 "The long terrible story of humanity trying to find something other than God to make us happy." "God designed the human machine to run on God's self." Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert place where he was tempted by the devil for a long time. But led and fueled by the spirit he overcame the temptations of humanity and was refined, honed to sharpness, tempered into compassion itself. Jesus was not seeking peace or happiness in the desert but God's will and a testing of his faith in that will. The peace Jesus found was the assurance that humanity could be sustained by the Spirit. Where the Spirit leads there are trials and temptations but also salvation and hope. Where the Spirit leads our self-made castles crumble and we become servants and heirs to the eternl kingdom. Man does not live by bread alone, but on every Word from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4) That phrase "every Word from the mouth of God" obviously alludes to Jesus himself, the Word of God, yet it also points to the breath of God, love's own spirit, that breathes life into our dead dried bones. In Genesis it says that God spoke the world into being, and it is that sustenance tht Jesus relies on in the desert. So let us be a spirit led people, who walk into lonely desert places, not unaware and unafraid, but secure in the knowledge of the care and support we will receive and the promised outcome when we are led back out, a new creation, with a clean heart. Be led.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I am concerned about smokers. They are under the influence of an addiction that impacts every area of of their lives. In the interest of public health we have made our church campuses drug and alcohol free. This is great. What does this say to the smoker? They are not truly welcome in our places of worship until they have conquered thier addictions. Yet we allow any other manner of brokenness within our doors to receive the very grace needed to mend. How can we protect our health and remain welcoming? How can we provide radical hospitality and clean air? Each church needs to decide.

Christ is calling for .... WHOM?

Lent 2012 A Clean Heart Create in Me
Saturday February 25, Luke 5:31-32

How does Christianity work? Who is it for? Interestingly, Christianity is not necessarily for the righteous but for sinners. According to Luke, Jesus has come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. Why would you call those living in right relationship with God to begin living in right relationship with God?
I have several problems with leaders who in the name of the "church" teach prejudice against a group of people. Often it is that group that needs God's presence in the form of God's people. Now I am not suggesting that the alcoholic should continue to hang out at the bar among his friends who will lead him back to addiction or other such similar idiocies. I am not telling moms and dads to put their children in crack house day care. However, when the church says through words or policies that certain people are not welcome we are becoming judges, which has never been humanity's strong suit. We are called to reach out to the least and the last and the lost. These people may not look, act, talk or dress as "the righteous" do but these are the very people Christ came to call. When Jesus comes he will not allow cultural, financial, physical barriers to inhibit his work. We can emulate this now. Do we know how God will help? No! We are not called to understand and approve, we are called to be obedient and have faith.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wrestling Passion

Lent 2012 A Clean Heart, Create in Me
Friday February 24 Psalm 51:17

I have 2 fabulous high school wrestlers in my church. They have a passion for this sport that they need to in order to be successful. With a controlled diet and exercise plan, this is a sport of the mind as well as the body. They must be able to conquer the hungers of their bodies and the defenses of their opponent. I hope if they read this that they realize how they inspire me.
Fasting from anything is a spiritual discipline but only if its fruit brings us closer to God. Lewis puts it beautifully: "Ascetic practices, (one's that deny our bodily passions and/or split our attention), which in themselves strengthen the will, are only useful in so far as they enable the will to put its own house (the passions) in order, as a preparation for offering our whole self to God."
He asks us how can we love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths if we are of a split will? So ask the Lord to break our stubborn denial to change our priorities from satisfying our passions to submitting to a diet of God that exercises our faith, so as we conquer the hungers of our bodies we may also be successful in the defeat of our opponents. May God be at the center of your living and loving today and may your fast bear fruit.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Cross and How I bear it

Lent 2012: A Clean Heart Create in Me from C.S.Lewis
Thursday 2/23 Luke 9: 23-24

I hate that sappy poster: If you love something set it free, if it comes back, it is yours but if it does not, it never was. I remember my first collossal broken heart and how that was supposed to bring me hope just devstated me even more. Here comes Jesus spouting seemingly the same nonsense. Oh Boy!
Give up what I love to receive something that I can't even imagine. Hmmmmmm. But what if the cross I'm asked to bear is that which breaks my heart today? Injustice, Poverty, lack of health care, war, and death are all crosses that some people must bear. My friend Marguerite's heart breaks for those people who are struggling to nurture their family alone. She bears it by offering before and after school care, training, support and love. This does not stop the problem but it so transforms the world that more people do more than survive they thrive and then they help others as well. A cross is not meant to punish us but discipline us, hone us, refine us.
My Cross? You. You break my heart. I am called to resource God's people to respond to God's call in their life. How can I so transform the world so that You can get what you need to follow God more effectively and efficiently? How do I bear this cross? I try to stay healthy. I nurture networks of people and resources that are ready for that moment when an inspired person says yes to God. I find many and different ways to connect and communicate with people all over the world. I study and train. I serve a church. I laugh... a lot. For someone who bears a cross, I laugh an insane amount. That helps me bear it. After all laughter is ever so much more attractive than a groan. What is your cross? How can God (possibly through me) help you bear it?

Do I stink? or Do You Smell What I smell?

Lent 2012 A Clean Heart Create in Me from C.S. Lewis

Psalm 51:1-2 cleanse me.

C.S. Lewis brings up a very good point: Christianity has nothing to offer the person who does not recognize their need. I have been watching a bbc show called Kingdom, where one of the characters has such an odor that others have to cover their faces to converse with him. How could this man not know that he stinks? Even if he, (like Erin's boyfriend, Cody)has a limited sense of smell, wouldn't he notice the behaviors of those arond him? If we had no sense of our germiness, odor, dirt, or fallen nature would we ever seek to be made clean? I think back to times when regular bathing was considered unnecessary and even unhealthy. Are we back in those times now as we consider our souls? Do we all bear such marks of sin that we cannot detect our own need for forgiveness? Open my eyes that I may see.... Create in me a clean heart O Lord.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

For the Ankens and the community they've inspired

On Sunday morning, the sun rose on the cold white of the cemetery at Steuben corners. A family gathered to shed tears and set family members at rest. We gathered on holy ground and said sacred words. We created a place that will always exist out of time and beyond common sense. It is a place of love and memory,a place of joy and prayer, a place to connect and find peace. As we travel to that place whether in person, in our mind or in our dreams we will find exactly what our hearts need according to God's Great Will for us. Our friends are not gone but have simply travelled further on, out of sight but never out of mind. They go ahead and we can so choose to live a life centered on Christ that the services on Saturday and Sunday are not a goodbye but a breath until we all are together again. Until that time, we remain, created in love, taught through grace, and empowered to love others. Thank you Charlie and Georgianna for shining so brightly. Shine on!