Monday, January 26, 2015

Chef's Keys to a Savory Life

You are a spice.  Without you, the world is bland.


As a high schooler, I made a two layer cake to surprise my family.  The layers were fantastic.  They looked perfect.  As I mixed the icing, it was very gritty.  Knowing something was amiss, I called my Mamaw for advice.  Turns out, I used regular sugar when I should have used powdered sugar.  My Mamaw, trying to help her a grandson do his best without negating his effort thus far, suggested I add powdered sugar and maybe it would smooth out.  

The icing did not smooth out but it did become even more sweet.  Bless my family for each trying a piece of that cake before we tossed it into the trash.  

When the wrong ingredients are in the play, the result is rarely pleasing to the palate.  

From these two thoughts, I reflect the importance of your presence / participation in the right place at the right time so that your world is not bland.  You were meant for more than bland relationships.

How do we know the right place and right time to make relationships profound?

Trial and Error is a time tested method of learning most anything.  Trial and error is an effective teacher said the man with two fingers, both burnt.  There are more effective path ways to learning place and time.

Try the rule of three … know your God, know your neighbor, know yourself.

At home, if you know God’s desire for your family (neighbor) and you know your family and you know yourself … then how beautiful a parent / spouse / child will you be do you imagine?  God created you and your family (neighbor).  God said that what God created is good.  God made eternal life possible for you and your family (neighbor).  God wants you to experience life as flavor that dances on your tongue and satisfies your deepest midnight cravings.

Knowing the three (God, neighbor, self) is most possible for those who participate in a church community (especially worship), read the Bible on their own and in study groups, engage in mission ministries to serve the needy, pray daily to God, and give sacrificially of their time, talent, and treasure.  This is not rocket science but a lifestyle proven rewarding by countless of our ancestors of faith.

Knowing is 49% of success.  Knowing your God, your neighbor, yourself is all of 49% of a successful, meaningful life.  Jesus said it best what was necessary for the other 51%.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus … that is 51% of a successful, meaningful life.  Spice adds flavor to the dish only when present … mixed, boiled, simmered, marinated, baked into the dish.  At some point, we need to be present to others.  We need to be incarnate to our community.  

Those who savor the spiritual essence of their faith community, worship, service, study, etc… they find life to be more colorful, flavorful, meaningful, amazing, awe-inspiring.  God created you to be spice.  God created you to be an amazing flavor in the right dish at the right time.  God trusts you to show up, be present, when called.

Is your world bland?  Is your world too sweet like the cake I baked?

The remedy is first to know God, neighbor, self.  Then be present and participating.

RECIPE:

  1. What relationship did you previously enjoy that has become stale?  Are you thinking of an individual, team, group, etc?   What is the name(s) that come to mind?

2.  Assuming you want more than that blandness, be mindful of that relationship over the rest of this week.  Roast that relationship over the burner of knowing (God, neighbor, self) as you would peppers or garlic before adding to the sauce.

3.  By mid-week, pray about the presentation and consumption of the relationship.  Ask God how you can serve up yourself into the relationship so that it arrives at the table as a master piece akin to God’s desire.

4.  By week’s end, do something.  A word, touch, hug, hold door open, mail a card, invite to church, shared smile, etc.  This thing you do is you being the spice God intended you to be to make this dish (relationship) gourmet.


[For inspiring this reflection, my thanks to Libby the best front of the house manager and my friend; and to “Its a Wonderful Life” the movie.]

Monday, January 12, 2015

Acceptance and Parenting

How can I help my son be the most amazing person he can be?

I love to talk to God about my son.  I want my son to be wildly successful.  Maybe that is financially maybe not.  I want my son to be an abundantly successful person.  A great person, loving husband and parent, gifted professional, etc … what are your “wants” for your loved ones?  How do we make that happen?  (to the best of our ability, let’s be humble and real)

If you had a choice, which would be more helpful …
Affirming your child every single day in every single way?
Accepting your child every single day in every single way?

Affirming and accepting are not the same, I think.

Affirming is a pat on the back, an “attaboy”, a sign of approval for doing a desired thing or achieving a planned goal.  Affirming is rather top-down, one directional, earned.  Affirming can be done from a distance with no risk.  

Acceptance is personal, risky, vulnerable.  Acceptance is side-by-side, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder stuff.  Acceptance is personal bubble intersecting with personal bubble.  We risk when we accept another.  Acceptance is not earned as much as granted.  Acceptance carries a greater sense of permanence.  

Which would you rather enjoy?  

Which would most likely help my son be the most amazing person he can be?
(yes, this is a leading question)

Dr. David Lose proposes that one of the revelations / epiphanal moments of Jesus’ baptism is the personal, poignant and powerful way that God accepts Jesus.  (link to his article below)

Think of the words spoken to Jesus… “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  As a child, how do these words sound?

There are many ways to shape a child.  We can bribe, threaten, manipulate, coerce, encourage, affirm, point, lead, provide, resource, etc our children toward the “story line” we dream for them.

Our children were born to be amazing in their own unique way.  If the path of least resistance is to help them be that, how do we help?  

What about acceptance?  Not saying we drop the resourcing, encouraging, affirming.  Maybe we drop the manipulating and coercion.  

If our children knew they could take a good risk and still be accepted, what might they do with their lives?  Who are on the front line of acceptance in our children’s lives (my life and yours)?

It is said that after the shepherds showed up at the manger telling of all the angels had told them of the baby Jesus, Mary cherished all these things in her heart.  How many a teenager has been saved because a parent cherished the day of their child’s birth?  How many a teenager does amazing things because they know they are cherished / accepted.

I recently told a mother at church that when I see children “be cute” at church, I think that child must know they are accepted.  What child would do such cute and funny things if they questioned their acceptance?  How awesome that my son and I get to worship in a church were people accept others.  Where children feel free to be “cute”.

Can you allow God to accept you?  It is not easy for us adults to take on a child like faith for children are most adept than are we at receiving acceptance.  

Believe that God accepts you.  Live like God accepts you.  With confidence I can say, nothing in this world will separate you from God.  God will honor your choice to separate yourself from God if that is your choice (though God is all about you being able to change your mind and so I am profoundly hopefully for humanity).  Since nothing can separate you from God … what good risk will you take with the life you have been given?

How about accepting someone?  It is an amazing gift that you can give to them.  Start at your home, then your neighbor, co-worker … you know the drill, accept the person in the mirror first.  God loves you for you God’s child, God’s beloved, with whom God is well pleased.



I want to thank David Lose (http://www.davidlose.net/2015/01/baptism-of-our-lord-b/) for inspiring some of my thoughts in this blog.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

What Dreams May Come . . .

Dreams change the world.  Dreams that from other than you are even more powerful.  Your response to a dream can make all the difference.

Matthew 2 contains the story of the visit of the “wise men.”  

The appearance of a star in the sky has lured these “wise men” to travel to what was a foreign land.  Beyond the safety of their local community they traveled to see the King born beneath such a star.  More than tourist, they were led to bring gifts for the child king.

Quite a contrary reaction was had by the ruler, Herod, to the star and to the visit of the “wise men” and especially to the birth of a king beneath the star.  Herod reacted by ordering the killing of all the babies so as to make certain the child king would not live to become an adult king.

How amazingly different reactions to the same star … the same promise … the same vision.  Knowing how the story concludes, we see the great error in Herod’s ways.  Sadly, he was not so insightful.  Herod made a mess of unspeakable proportion.

Into the violent mess Herod creates, our savior was born.  In this mess, our God performs miracles … through dreams … through others including foreigners.

God sends dreams to the “wise men” and to Joseph (Mary’s husband).  In these dreams, God inspires action that keeps safe the child king, Jesus.  Through dreams God performs miracles in the middle of a mess to make safe God’s Son.

What might the power of dreams be in your life?

Dreams happen when we let loose of control and make our self open to the voice / images / sounds from beyond.  Oh yes, sometimes our dreams are our subconscious working out the stress and questions of our lives.  Sometimes, the dreams are from God.  In our sleeping, when our mind grows quiet and vulnerable, we are open to the voice of God in a new way.

In our sleeping, in our praying, in our meditation … therein we dream in ways that reveal to us our God.  A benefit of keeping a sabbath day, week or season, is removing ourself from the routines that prevent us from being open to dreams.

Is a dream from God?  How does that dream square with the Bible?  with our worshipping community?  with the tradition of our church?  with our reasoned experience of life?  These are some of the dialogue partners that can help us discern from where a dream hails.

In my experience, dreams sent by God are all about love, hope, reconciliation, mercy, justice.  

Recall Peter’s dream in Acts 10.  I encourage you to read this chapter.  A summary statement by Peter is found in verse 28 of that chapter … “Peter addressed them, ‘You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular.  Jews just don’t do this - visit and relax with people of another race.  But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other.”  (The Message).  Peter makes such a statement based upon a dream.  He says it to people he met because they had a dream and sent for him.  

Dreams change the world.  Dreams that from other than you are even more powerful.  Your response to a dream can make all the difference.

It is a new year, what are your dreams?  What are your dreams for yourself, your family and friends, your church, your business?  


May they be dreams sent by God for if so they will bring miracles regardless the mess you experience along the way.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Freedom Found in Sacrifice?

Is it possible that we are the most free when we select to give up our freedom?  

As a teenager at church camp, one year our theme was “Free to be me!”  In the years since, I have grown from that theme.  Also, I have seen that concept wreck many lives.  “Free to be me” can become “Me first.”  That was not the intent of the church camp curriculum.  “Me first” is the intent of too many of our neighbors and self.  Rather than love our neighbor as our self, do we at times love our neighbor after we love our self?  

Recently, my son invited my Dad to attend the local middle school Veteran’s Day Breakfast.  My Dad served in the Navy in the mid-1960s.  According to my Dad, the speaker noted that once a person has answered the call to serve their country, they give up certain freedoms.  Any veteran of our armed services can attest to this reality.  Either drafted or volunteer, once in the military a person is subject to the chain of command.   This initial sacrifice of personal freedom leads to a service that provides our nation’s freedom.  

Beyond the chain of command, is the reality of fighting for the person next to you in line.   An often reinforced ethic in the military and in sport is our commitment to perform because of the person next to us.  We give up some of our freedom because we do not wish to abandon our teammate.

As a fraternity pledge in college,  I learned this lesson.  As pledging grew more adverse, deeper was our commitment to the men in our pledge class.  Easily, I recall a moment when I stepped out of line in protest only to return to the chaos so as to be with my pledge brothers.  I experienced being free because I made the choice to endure the suffering with my brothers.

The parents among us know very well the power of sacrifice.  These parents willingly give up their own freedom so that their children can know freedom.  From sleepless nights to endless duty as taxi driver, parents give away their own freedom so their children may know joy.  A wise parent once told me, “if we are saving money while parenting, we are denying our children.”  Can you guess her sacrifice?

When Jesus was born, God gave up some measure of freedom that is beyond our imagining so as to be with us.  When Jesus was crucified, God gave up a measure of freedom that is beyond our imagining so as to be with us.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, God demonstrated a power beyond imagining.  

We are blessed to be loved by God who is so powerful and so willing to give to be with us.


What are you willing to give to be with God . . . to be with your neighbor, friend, family?

Friday, October 03, 2014

STORY

“Once Upon a Time” or so many of the best stories begin.  Stories are a vehicle for material too heavy for us to carry.  Want to share an experience to “beyond” for formulas or graphs, use story.  In the magnificent moments of life … birth, weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. … we share stories.  How else do we tell the miracles of God in our life other than story?

In September 2014, I shared a sermon series titled “STORY”.  You can find videos of those sermons at http://fccedwardsville.org/#/get-connected.  I shared about Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Paul.  The stories of their lives are inspiring for our faith today.   During those sermons, I encouraged you to ponder what words would flow from your pen as you author your story each day.  Writing our story with God creates a real page turner.

What character are you in the story you and God pen?  Is there a biblical figure that you find most familiar and thus might emulate?  Are you the protagonist, supporting character, leading lady?  Are you the soft spoken scientist who solves the puzzle or the loud mouth action hero who conquers or the hard working midwife who reconciles the family or the ranch hand who saves the family farm?  What role is yours in the story?

What of the souls that roam in your story?  Who are these characters and what place do they inhabit in your story?  These questions quickly spin to ask us what hospitality do we show them?  What shelter does my story afford those who dwell in my story?  In this way, we have an opportunity to discover the purpose of our life, the reasoning for our giftedness, the meaning of our strength.  Why did God write a story that includes you?

God so loved the world that God sent God’s only Son.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Love the Lord your God.  Such are the desires of our God.  

Certainly God sent God’s Son to redeem us.  Truly God sent God’s Spirit to sustain us.  Therefore, God sent us to . . .  Why did God send you into this world?   You have life because God desires to write a wonderful story with you.  Will you chose to fill the pages with aimless doodles or soulful sketches?  Write a story whose main characters are God and your neighbor.  Then shall you see the miracle that is you.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Response to Domestic Violence

My Lord, Jesus Christ, was abused to death.  Jesus only showed anger when abuse was done to other children of God or to God’s house.  He was very clear on those accounts and so should we be.

Ray Rice, former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, abused his then fiancé.  He used his fist to make her unconscious.  It was caught on videotape for us all to see.

I look to my reading of the Bible, to the reasoning of my course work in psychology and sociology, to my experience of the family and church that raised me, to the words of my mentors and role models, to the voice of God in my life … domestic violence is wrong.

There is no place for violence in the household.  Regardless the gender of the victim or the perpetrator, violence is wrong.  The type of violence never provides an excuse.  Physical, verbal, emotional violence is wrong.   The age of those involved never provide rationale for violence.  Domestic violence is wrong.

It is possible to use eloquence and euphemism to discuss domestic violence.  Still domestic violence is wrong.  Though none of us are perfect, none of us earn domestic violence.  

How can we respond as Christian brothers and sisters who seek to hold our heads high before our God and our neighbor?
  1.  God calls us to love our neighbor as ourself.  If we witness domestic violence, we cannot both turn a blind eye and love our neighbor.  Both victim and perpetrator need help.

2.  We are not alone.  To confront domestic violence, reach out.  From ministers to police officers, from church Elders to Educators, there is a network of people prepared to deal with domestic violence.  

3.  Numbers count:  If in doubt, call 911.  Local resources include … Oasis Center (618) 465-1978; Glen Ed Pantry (618) 656-7506; Lydia’s House (314) 771-4411; First Christian Church (618) 656-7498


God calls Christians to be known by their love.  Love is never an excuse to ignore domestic violence.  Love is a power to set each one safe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seeking Sacred Spaces

Sunrise in Seabrook, TX
Curiously, sacred spaces are geographically specific though anything but bound.

Where are the sacred spaces on your journey?  The sanctuary where I was baptized and spent many a childhood morning in worship.  The woods of church camp where I spent summers as camper, counselor and director.  The walk from my dorm to the church I attended in college.  The Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, Australia where I began my seminary studies.  The pulpits I have been honored to fill during my ministry, from White Oak to Edwardsville.  

I have more sacred spaces than I expected.  I’ll not bore you with the comprehensive list.

What are the important features of your sacred spaces?

Experience of faith community in that place at that time?  The spot of a great awakening in your soul, heart, mind?  Geographic context which cradled the creative creature that is you?  A glimpse of God incarnate in your midst?  Holy meets holly bush?

Sacred spaces are those places where we are more likely to experience the holy and profound.  

Fascinating how often in the Bible that God calls us to attend to sacred spaces.  Asking us to build a simple altar of stone or an elaborate temple or a nomadic tent scene - God invites us to participate in creating sacred spaces.  

Equally fascinating how rarely we are able to manufacture sacred space.  Ever try to force the moment?  Attempt to compel God to show up or your own soul to listen?  Maybe it is that not every location fits your journey?  Maybe God wants to meet you in the places where you can be most present with God?  

There are amazing private sacred spaces!  Aren’t most communal?  Even the hermit like places include the large community in prayer and hope.  We chose the communal places for our special sacred moments - weddings, funerals, baptisms, baby dedications, etc.  

The picture is of one of a sacred space found during my sabbatical in July 2014.  Seabrook, a suburb of Houston, TX.  Sipping hot tea in the humidity and watching the sunrise over the gulf before beginning my trek north to Illinois.  Having just spent the week in silent retreat and a day in conversation with my good friend, Michael Dunn, I was blessed to pause.  I thought of those fishermen who dropped their nets to follow Jesus.  I thought of those I knew who made it possible for me to have sabbatical.  Mostly, I felt the warmth of the sun and listened to God.  


May you find many sacred spaces on your journey and share them well with our fellow travelers.