Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Points to Ponder
Minister’s Musing on Ministry & Misc.
by Dr. Brooks

What is the winning strategy in your business?  

I once read a management book based on the practices of Genghis Khan.  I was fascinated!  His brutality was matched by his organizational skill.  The accomplishments of Khan are historic.  However, I would struggle to call them a winning strategy.

The 4-way test of Rotary International (of which I am a member) is a good critique of those who practice a style as ruthless as Khan.  The 4-way test asks … Is it the Truth?  Is it Fair to all concerned?  Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?  Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?  This reads more as a winning strategy.

Recently, I was confronted with a thorny business problem.   I wondered what the Christ-like way would be to handle the issue?  Admittedly, my emotional response to the problem had not encouraged me to think first of the Lord in my life.  My emotional reaction to the Christ-like solution was very affirming.

In addition to managing my emotions by attempting to channel Jesus’ call upon my life, the more I considered the end game of the problem, the more I found a Christ-like response to be a winning strategy.  It is tempting to avoid a Christ-like strategy because we think it too soft or too weak.  If we are honest, this temptation is born from greed, selfishness, or other brokenness.  

Keeping Jesus as the priority in my life helps me keep the puzzles of daily life in proper perspective.  My engagement is more creative and confident.  My fear of failure is lessened because I am working to please Jesus who loves me unconditionally.  As well my goal of “winning” in the problem is redefined.

Though naive in places, a Christian classic “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon is worth a read.  It is a feel good book.  Inspiring for the faithful.


Winning strategies in business (and life generally) thrive with discipline and consistency.  Might I recommend the life-giving strategy of taking Jesus to work with you every day?  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Relationships: Best Gift Ever

Relationships include gift giving, from remembering others on holidays to the time and presence we offer one another.  What is the best gift you have received?  given?

My Grandma and I shared the same birthday.  One year, when I was a child and we celebrated at her house, she took me to town.  She and my Grandpa lived on a small farm.  Our trip to town was to obtain groceries for dinner.  Well that was the reason when we left the house.

Once in the car, my Grandma explained that we would be purchasing my birthday gift, and I would be able to select the gift.  However, I had to act surprised when it came time to open gifts.  Receiving a toy gun was not why this is among the best gifts ever. 

I remember the anticipation as we drove to town to select the gift.  In the store, I struggled to wield well the power of selection, something I wanted but I did not want to ask for something too expensive or extreme.  As we opened gifts, feeling worry that I would not be convincing in my feigned surprise.   I recall the sense of sharing something special and unique with my Grandma.  I remember my Grandma’s smile and bright eyes.

The criterion for best gift ever was something beyond the material.  My Grandma, like all my amazing grandparents, excelled at making me feel special.  This included the memory of something shared, something uniqued.  Love made real.

Tomorrow we start Lent.  For Christians, it is a period of preparation for Easter.  Some of the faithful will give up something, make a sacrifice, to discipline the soul.  Others will take up a new spiritual practice.  

What if each day of Lent, you remembered the “best gift” you have received from a person important to you?  I pray Easter arrives before you have named one person per day.  If Easter has yet to come or if you name a person lacking that “best gift” moment … create the moment.  Give them the moment or make the plan to do so.  

Love made real …. daily … till Easter … when God makes it real for you in an eternal way.

Imagine … how will the remainder of 2015 transpire if now you name 40 important individuals and the “best gift” moment over 40 days?  


God’s smile and bright eyes upon you be forever.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Thanksgiving?

How do you offer thanksgiving?

Polite manners beseech us to say “please” and “thank you.”  Refined is our nature when we pen a note to say “thank you” for this kindness or that remembrance.  These social niceties are, well, nice.

What of when the thanksgiving is rooted in a more profound place, phenomenon, or person?

How you offer thanksgiving when so motivated?

In the gospel of Mark, chapter 1, verse 31 we see such a thanksgiving.  The text reads (NRSV)  “1He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”  Jesus heals Peter’s mother-n-law who then serves Jesus and the others.

Did Peter’s mother-n-law serve them because she was told to do so by the one who healed her?  The text does not imply such an explanation.  

Did Peter’s mother-n-law serve them because she was set free of the fever / sick bed and chose to return to her gifted participation in the community as hostess?  Very likely and the thought of my sermon on February 8, 2015.

Did Peter’s mother-n-law serve them because she was offering her thanksgiving?  A complimentary thought to the one just previously offered.  Having been healed by the touch of God’s son, Jesus, the natural response is to offer thanksgiving.  This woman offered thanksgiving by serving them.  

How do you offer thanksgiving?

Were you to be set free of obstacles, restored to community, healed of illness, etc . . .
How do you offer thanksgiving?  It is your choice . . .

If you wonder what God would prefer you do offer as thanksgiving, let me share a quote from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”


I invite you to ponder Buechner’s words and the cause of your thanksgiving.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Recommended Read: The Reason

My ideas of love were only shadows compared to this painfully bright, shining, true love that fell all around me.”  This is one of a multitude of inspiring lines from Lacey Sturm’s book, The Reason: how I discovered a life worth living.  A book that I passionately recommend you read.

I first encountered Lacey’s voice in her role as the lead singer of the Christian band, Flyleaf.   Though I never saw her perform live with the band (I was able to see the band start their first tour without her), I have enjoyed their music and her voice for years.  Their music videos are amazing.

Picking up her first book, I wondered if she would write as well as she sang, could she author a book as well as she penned a lyric.  Within a few pages, her talent was obvious.  Her writing style is very balanced and mature in her dealing with subject matter that is quite profound.  This book read as if she were talking to me over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

You should read this book for its message and model.  I do not agree with every theological statement Lacey makes.  I share deeply her love for God and God’s people.  I am inspired by Lacey’s ability to be vulnerable about her life and passionate about God’s love.   As she shared how God has worked in her life, I readily recalled moments when I feel close to God and craved more.  

You will be blessed if you read this book. 

(quote from page 112)

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.