Pray to Your Audience of One

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I have a vague memory from my childhood when I prayed in a family or other group gathering. Someone, perhaps a sibling, snickered at the words I chose in my prayer. My mother, the ever protector, responded quickly, “He wasn’t talking to you.”
Jesus taught that prayer was never a public performance but a private one. Here are his words again from The Message and Matthew 6:

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Instead of doing a dance for the world, you do your dance for God, your audience of one, The One. Instead of proclaiming your righteousness, you seek alignment with the heart and desires of God. Paul Thorn offers a great image for when God is your target audience and simple prayer in a phrase in, I Hope I’m Doing This Right, Continue reading “Pray to Your Audience of One”

Accident or Not?

I have friends in Orlando who live this as their philosophy,

We go nowhere by accident.
Wherever we go, God is sending us.
Wherever we are, God put us there for a purpose.
Christ who indwells us has something to do through us wherever we are.

Though I try to share their conviction, I am often the one of little faith. Walking through our yard last week, barefooted, on the phone, I have to wonder, was what I stepped in an accident? A gift from our dogs? A gift from God?
I make lots of mistakes. They seem to be life’s learning lessons for me. Only God, perhaps, never blunders, though the duck billed platypus makes me wonder. That being the case, I take this paraphrase of Psalm 53 that I came across this week as no chance reading but an assignment to study. See if you don’t agree. Continue reading “Accident or Not?”

God is love?

When I was a youth, we learned a song that made memorizing 1 John 4:7 & 8 quite easy. The verse is,
 
  Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is of God; and everyone that loveth
is born of God and knoweth God.
He that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love.
Beloved, let us love one another. 1 John 4:7 & 8.

  Through the years, I have not forgotten the song, but I have had to work on trying to begin to comprehend what God is love might mean and have to do with me in my day to day living, and when I can, loving.
  I gained help from some who reflect on our human experience in deeper ways than I can. One is Frederick Buechner. In Beyond Words, he wrote of love’s stages:  

Continue reading “God is love?”

Leadership Guides from To Kill a Mockingbird

Out of the Crowd front cover 21One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch stands as a great literary model for leadership.
One of my personal hopes is to live up to such an example that, win or lose, to in some way, live like Atticus.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book which are great examples of the character of Atticus I tried to write about in my own book for leaders, Out of The Crowd.
For more information on Out of The Crowd, click this cover:

Chapter 11
“Scout,” said Atticus, “when summer comes you’ll have to keep your head about far worse things . . . it’s not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down-well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience – Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.” ”
“Atticus, you must be wrong.”
“How’s that?”
“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong. . .”
“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Continue reading “Leadership Guides from To Kill a Mockingbird”

What’s Your Tribal Worldview?

One of the better books I’ve read on leadership is David Logan’s book on Tribal Leadership According to Logan, no matter where in the world we live, we are all tribal people forming into groups in one of five stages of maturity. Our personal and tribal maturity is dependent on our view of the world. Here are Logan’s stages and the view of life held in each.

STAGE ONE: DESPAIRING HOSTILITY or “Life Stinks.”

People in these groups are hardly groups at all. They generally live isolated lives limited by a sense of despair that life cannot and will not get better because that is just the way life is. If they had a motto, it might be, “Life Sinks.” The best way to help people stuck in stage one is to get them out to another place. A person surrounded by a Stage One Tribe will have a difficult time seeing or experiencing life differently.

STAGE TWO: APATHETIC VICTIM or “My Life Stinks.”

People in these groups have a sense that life is not terrible for everyone, just for them. While others may do well, they can’t imagine a productive path for themselves. The best help for people in stage two are mentors who help them see their lives differently.

STAGE THREE: LONE WARRIORS or “I’m Great!”

People in this stage have a sense of personal accomplishment. They group together but are more competitive than communal. Every get together is an opportunity for outdoing another. The best projects to encourage people to grow out of this stage are tasks that require others to complete.

STAGE FOUR: TRIBAL PRIDE or “We’re Great!”

People in this stage have bonded together with a sense of what a group can carry out. Great things have and are continually being accomplished by groups at this stage. The limit is this group needs a sense of superiority over other groups to have a sense of value. Working with other groups on goals greater than their own tribe helps members grow to stage five.

STAGE FIVE: WONDER or “Life is Great!”

This group has a vision for the world that is rooted in wonder. As G.K. Chesterton said, “The world does not lack wonders but a sense of wonder.” For people working together at this stage, they see the world as full of limitless possibility. They do not need to perceive themselves as superior but can marvel at all that is possible whether enacted by their group or others.

In this famous parable of “The Talents,” which worldview does the servant with one talent hold? Though it would seem that the numbers are significant with one having five talents, one having two, and one having only a single talent, be careful. Jesus is often like a magician using sleight of hand to distract us. These stewards are all servants of the master. Though each is entrusted with a different amount, the numbers are irrelevant. The talents, money, or gifts are the property of the master. What is significant is what they do with them. The question I ask you to consider, is the one who buries his talent in the ground stuck in a world view of, “Life Stinks”? Does he only receive what he can see, a harsh world with a harsh master?

Where would you place yourself in the parable?

Matthew 25. 14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents,[f] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 
24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

If you would like to consider further David Logan’s work you can read his book, Tribal Leadership, or watch his talk at a TED conference by clicking the link below.

 

One Solitary Life

When you’re not sure whether or not what you might do today or who you might contact has meaning, remember Jesus as reflected in James Allen Francis.

One Solitary Life
by James Allen Francis (1926)

He was born in an obscure village 
The child of a peasant woman 
He grew up in another obscure village 
Where he worked in a carpenter shop 
Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him
He never wrote a book 
He never held an office 
He never went to college 
He never visited a big city 
He never travelled more than two hundred miles 
From the place where he was born 
He did none of the things 
Usually associated with greatness 
He had no credentials but himself
He was only thirty three
His friends ran away 
One of them denied him 
He was turned over to his enemies 
And went through the mockery of a trial 
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves 
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing 
The only property he had on earth
When he was dead 
He was laid in a borrowed grave 
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone 
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race 
And the leader of mankind’s progress 
All the armies that have ever marched 
All the navies that have ever sailed 
All the parliaments that have ever sat 
All the kings that ever reigned put together 
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth 
As powerfully as that one solitary life

From poet to psychologist, Scott Peck observed, The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual…. For it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost. Who knows, maybe you’re the one solitary individual who will change the course of history – maybe it’s today!

 

Practices for New Life in The New Year

Moment Practices

Whether it is the best of times
 or the worst of times,
it is the only time we have.
Art Buchwald

Confessing my own limitations, I am very unzen-like, uncalm, unquiet, in internally nonpeaceful. My moments go by worried too much about the future, trying to prelive all possible events, or regretting my past and attempting to avoid reliving any painful past experience. “Now,” “being present,” and “in the moment” are foreign to me.

Though a pastor, I find the teachings of Jesus more difficult than the creeds about virgin birth, resurrection, or ascension. I struggle more with passages like this one from The Sermon on the Mount,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

In order to learn what I do not comprehend, we started a community in Nashville focused on singers and songwriters that we called The Moment. The blog posts that follow are some of our practices that have helped us to become more present beginning with this one,

Continue reading “Practices for New Life in The New Year”

New Year’s Transformation: One Step at a Time

I love musicians. I don’t just love them for the songs the create, I love them for the lessons they share. As a pastor, we miss what musicians take for granted.

Practice: No matter how good you get as a musician, you still need to practice. Religious people often forget that no matter what your faith – it takes practice.

New Songs: No matter how proficient an artist is, there are always new songs to learn. Too often we religious approach our sacred scriptures as if “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” The United Church of Christ holds, and I agree, “God is still speaking.” No matter how many times you’ve heard a story, you can hear it in a new way as God can use any moment to bring forth a new creation.

Work is Play: Musicians play music. Religious people make sacrifices. For someone working at what they love, with people they love, you may give, you may even give up, but when it’s for the greater song, it’s not a sacrifice because it’s part of what you love. Religious folks seldom play. Perhaps a new statement for some could be, “In Christ we play…”

Moments Lead to Moments: Musicians finish a song. The song must end because if you keep playing it, you’ll ruin it. (Check out John Fogerty’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”) Religious people try and live forever without ever facing an ending. For musicians, the end of one moment leads to the next.

One Step at a Time: Musicians learn about steps. You can’t take all steps at once. You can only take them one step at a time.

If you are making some big changes in your life this year, don’t resolve to do it all at once. Take it one beat, one moment, one step at a time.

Here is a wonderfully encouraging song for taking your steps, whether one step, twelve steps, or a journey of a million miles, take them as Mike Zito suggests. “One Step at a Time.”

Beyond Christmas to Christ – Good News for the New Year

Do you ever hear voices from your childhood? I do. I can still hear the promises. Like my parents, as they assured me, if I worked hard, then my hard work would pay off as I could create a life for myself and my future family.
I can still hear my teachers, encouraging me to study hard for every challenge, promising me if I would apply myself, get good grades, then I could go to any college I wanted and have whatever career I chose. I was eight. I did not know if I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know if you needed to go to college to be an astronaut. They assured me that I did.
From my coaches, I still can hear their voices, calling me by my last name, “Jones! Hustle! Get in the game! Get in the game!” The promise was there, if I worked hard, I might get to become a ‘starter’. I never made it. I was too slow. There wasn’t a sport that by the time I got off the bench and into the game, half the season wasn’t over. Still, I can hear them pushing me onward so that one day, I could drink from the cup of glory, whatever that was.
Among those voices, promising rewards for my effort, there was one other. A mysterious, legendary giant of a man. He promised me rewards for being good, tangible gifts of my own choosing to celebrate just how good I had been. He watched over me, paying close attention to who and how I was at home and at school, keeping track of everything I did, assuring me that if I was just good enough, I could make “The List”. He got me so excited about what I might get that I could barely sleep trusting that I had been a good boy and would make the cut. I still remember what we said about him, what we sang about him.

He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice,
gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…
He sees you when you’re sleeping,
he knows when you’re awake.
He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
so be good for goodness sake!

Besides being the mascot for Macy’s, Santa gives the basic message of society, the one we were all raised to believe, and the one we’ll likely pass on to our children, our cultural crowd’s norm: Do good, be good, and guaranteed, you’ll be rewarded. Do poorly, be bad, and sooner or later, guaranteed, you’ll be punished.
That’s what the shepherds must have been thinking when the angel appeared in the sky, “Uh-oh! Here it comes!” Punishment was surely on the way. The King James version states, “They were sore afraid,” which, to my young ears, always meant so scared it hurt.
The angel told them, “Fear not…” those beautiful words spoken on the first Christmas and the first Easter by messengers from God, “Fear not…” Perhaps the shepherds relaxed a little, realized they were in the midst of something wonderful, the work of God, not the typical reward and punishment, but good news… of grace.
“Fear not for behold I bring you tidings of great joy, for unto is born this day, in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord!”
“Fear not… for unto you…” Grace. The best Christmas gift ever.
Read more about life beyond Reward and Punishment inPsychology of Jesus FRONT Cover 2014141l8ZM0+5xL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_ (2)Out of the Crowd front cover 21

What’s Your Christmas I.Q.?

Perhaps no other time of year proves the saying of Lao Tzu, “Those who think they know, don’t.” Try this Christmas quiz and see if you know as much as you think you do…

1. Joseph was originally from… (Luke 2:3)
A. Bethlehem
B. Nazareth
C. Hebron
D. Jerusalem
E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the Innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
A. “There is no room in the inn.”
B. “I have a stable you can use.”
C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
D. Both A and B
E. None of the above

3. A manger is a…
A. Stable for domestic animals
B. Wooden hay storage bin
C. Feeding trough
D. Barn

ANSWERS:
1. A. He worked and currently lived in Nazareth, but he was returning to Bethlehem – “his own city” (See Luke 2:3).
2. E. In the Bible, the innkeeper didn’t “say” anything (See Luke 2:7)
3. C. Feeding trough

How many did you answer correctly? Want to learn more? Here is the whole test: Christmas Quiz

Give the World a Gift this Christmas

In this season of giving and receiving gifts to those we love, or those whose name we drew in an office party Secret Santa, reflect on this question, “What can I give the world?” If this is the season for celebrating when God so loved the world, God gave… What can you give the world?

Here is a song by Mipso, a trio formed in the fall of 2010 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina when Jacob, Joseph, and Wood were students at UNC – Chapel Hill. They graduated in May 2013, and took the show on the road.

The hope for the world is to “leave this wicked winter just a couple of acres greener when I go.”

How will the world be better because you’ve been here?

Live Your Moments: Let Your Soul Sing

Can a commercial carry the impact of a hymn? This one does. In a rollicking fashion, this Discovery Channel video carries an awe and wonder in response to the classic hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” See if you don’t think so.

Likely the Psalmist in Psalm 8 felt a similar joy:

Psalm 8

Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
    to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals[a] that you care for them?

Live Your Moments: Wake Up!

In more than one place, the Bible writers assert that our spiritual troubles arise from our lack of attentedness in our daily lives, we are going throguh them as machines, following our patterns paying very little attention to the moments before us.

There are quotes from scriptures: Proverbs 6:9, How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep? There is also Ephesians 5:14,Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead…

Some more recent philosophers have made a similar point. Like Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek asked, Instead of asking “Why are we here?” We should ask, “Are we here?” Author Thich Nhat Hat observed that, People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air,  but to walk on earth.

With the challenge before me, I decided I was going to go to our Sunday Service attentive to the present moment. Unconscious patterns are a clear sign of going through life asleep. I know about patterns. I’m a pastor.

My church’s members are like most others, finding comfort in familiar practices, arriving at the same time, parking in the same spots, and seating themselves in the same pews. Most pray patterned prayers offering, “Our Father who art…” when we gather and praying “God is great…” and “Now I lay me…” at home.

When I first started to notice my patterns, I tried to break out of one on a Sunday morning. It did not go well for me or my congregation. After the worship service, I took my position at the front of the church by the door as usual. As I shook the hands of exiting parishioners, I greeted and was greeted with, “Have a nice week,” and, “See you next Sunday.”

One of our members, Kathy, shook my hand and said softly, “Hi, how are you?” without breaking her stride through the door.

I replied, “Fine,” but determined to have more than the typical response, I resisted Kathy’s quick exit. The normal duration for a handshake was over, but I wasn’t finished. She pulled away, but I held on pulling her back into the doorway. I twisted my head to make contact with her already-past-me face. She returned to me. “Kathy,” I said pausing for emphasis, “how are you?”

“Fine,” she said giving a slight tug of return to her hand.

“No, really Kathy, how ARE you? I want to know.” By this time I just had her fingers, “Are you okay? How was your week? Really, I want to know.”

“It was fine,” she said emphatically pulling her hand liberating her fingers. “Fine,” she said again. “Really.” At this point she was out the door.

I gave her the pastoral I understand nod of my head. ‘I think we connected,’ I lied to myself. I looked up to see the parishioners now backed up from the exit like a line of women at the bathroom of a college football game, restless and anxious, trying to will the front of the line to move ahead and make way. The path cleared; one by one they all came through. I let them all go, no questions asked.

In your life, look at your patterns. Do you see any that have become sacred traditions for reasons since forgotten?

 

 

Live Your Moments: Say, “For the moment…”

A king gave one of his servants a challenge, he said, “Go and find a ring that will make a happy person sad and a sad person happy.” The servant searched the jewelers and merchants in every surrounding village and kingdom, and then he returned years later.
The king asked, “You’ve found a ring that can make a sad person happy and a happy person sad?”
The servant nodded and gave the ring to the king who looked at it closely then said to his servant, “Well done. Surely, this is a ring that can make a sad person happy and a happy person sad.”
The inscription inside the ring was, “For the moment…”

To the person with a painful illness or some other terrible burden to bear, “For the moment…” reminds him or her it won’t last forever. To the rich, successful, or the young, “For the moment…” can result in grief knowing it won’t last forever.
Reminding myself of my moments helps me appreciate them. The poet Shiki pointed out how we can miss our moments with others if we are not attentive,

When I looked back
The man who passed
Was lost in the mist.

I started saying, “…for the moment,” and found the simple phrase to be liberating. Here is what the practice looks like for me.

I say, “I’m married for the moment.” This is not some ominous expectation of divorce or death, but a recognition that neither Carrie nor I are the same people we were two decades ago. Each of us has changed in ways we didn’t expect, plan, or envision. If I don’t recognize our ongoing development, then I’ll say things like, “You always…” when she actually never alwayses. I will become historical (no, not hysterical). I will bring up prior wrongs, prior slights, prior moments that I never lived in the past but for some unknown reason seem to want to bring them out in the present. There is nothing like the past to ruin the present, nothing like yesterday to ruin a relationship today, and nobody like me to keep trying old patterns hoping for different results. Even though I want to be with Carrie in the moments of our relationship, at times, I seem to come at her. If she does not feel as I do, I try to impose on her whatever emotion I have. When I am “Married for the moment,” then I can be with her, sharing a space in time. Yesterdays stay in the past. Tomorrows stay in the future. Now is what we share.

I also remind myself, “I am a parent for the moment.” Our oldest daughter just started college. My relationship with her requires a different approach than ten years ago. Those childhood moments are gone. For her to go to college, I have had to grow up, grow into a new phase, and a new way of relating. With all three of our children, when I think I am an expert and know what they need labeling ‘their’ problems and prescribing for them what they should do, I create distance between us. They are each individuals. What is helpful for one may have the opposite result with another. Being in our moments requires less certainty and more curiosity.

As a pastor, I was deceived for years to believe there was an “Interim Pastor” (one who came in between one pastor and the next) and a “Permanent Pastor.” Now, I remind myself that since all roles are temporary, it’s all Interim. I remind myself of the temporary nature of all my roles by saying, “I am Pastor for The Moment.” This role won’t last forever. How can it?  Moments don’t last, but they don’t have to. Pastors have a great temptation to try and be “meaningful and lasting”. Churches love legacies even though lasting is the way of Emperors and Pharaohs. The Jesus Irony is that the one we call ‘Savior’, in our terms, saves by not saving. He does not try and save the disciples, his family, his synagogue, his Jewish tradition, his nation, his teachings (nowhere does Jesus ever tell someone, ‘Write this down! This is really good!” The only time we have a record of Jesus writing anything was in the sand, and we don’t know what he wrote. No one saved it.) He does not even try to save himself. He just opens his arms wide on the cross and looks to God in the most horrible of moments.

For adults in our various roles, we are often tempted to try reliving our past to get it right or preliving our future to keep ourselves and those we love free from pain and problems. As a helpful role model to life, Jesus pointed to a child and said, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like this child.” The Philosopher Heraclitus said similarly, “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” What children do naturally that adults don’t is let go of one stage of life in order to receive the next. My children, through their years in school, never expected one grade to last. They knew they were there for the year, and at the appropriate time, would leave one grade, one space, one age, for the next. I am trying to relearn from them what I have forgotten as ‘Pastor for The Moment.’

I say, “I am alive for the moment.” My life won’t last forever. I can exercise, diet, avoid poor health habits, but eventually, this life will end. “For the moment…” reminds me of my role while I’m alive – to do my best to live well so that I can die well whenever that moment arises. I am trying to do as my children and learn all I can in each grade, each stage, and then, when my time comes, head into the next.

There is one area I have yet to apply, “…for the moment.” I do not say, “My wife is alive for the moment” or, “My children are alive for the moment.” I’m just not there yet. As a pastor, I have buried other people’s spouses and other parent’s children. I am working hard to deny that could ever happen to me. I am certain my acceptance would enrich our time together, but I have some more maturing to do before I give up on denial altogether.

Here is an area that surprises many. I am comfortable saying, “I am David for the moment.” In whatever is after this life, will I still be called, “David?” Who knows? Even if “David Whitehill Jones” is one day etched in stone on a tomb or at the base of a statue on the national plaza in Washington like my mother thought, my name may not carry over to whatever is after death. In the Bible, names were changed quite often: Simon became Peter, Saul became Paul, and Sarai became Sarah. If it could happen to them, it may happen to me. For now, “I’m David for the moment.”

Try it yourself, say whatever fits, “I’m married for the moment,” or “I’m single for the moment.” “I’m a parent for the moment,”or “I’m a child for the moment.” “I’m a (insert job title, grade in school, or any other roles you play) for the moment.” “My name is ________ for the moment.” “I’m alive for the moment.” And, if you can, “Those I love are alive for the moment.”

Practice using this phrasing to frame your minutes into moments then try some of these other practices as you awaken to your life.

Live Your Moments: See in New Ways

In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night because Jesus, as a teacher or Rabbi, doesn’t fit any of Nicodemus’ categories and labels for just how a teacher should act, while at the same time, he was doing far more works of God than those with tenure in the religious world.

Jesus bothers Nicodemus even more when he tells him to be “Born again.”

Nicodemus imagines what a shock that would be to his mother.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus challenges stuck people to think in new ways.

dotsCreativity guru, Michael Michalko, takes a normal creative challenge and then adds twist after twist. What used to be one creative solution to a problem, Michalko adds solution after solution. To begin to grasp Jesus’ teachings in the moments of our lives, we must be open to new ways of seeing. Perhaps Michalko’s exercise will help.

Continue reading “Live Your Moments: See in New Ways”

Live Your Moments: Find Strength in Unity

Ecclesiastes 4 puts forth an image of the strength in numbers whether the amount of cord in a rope or the number of bodies around you on a cold night.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.10 For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

This quick snippets give a marvelous visual to the importance of living in community in an often predatory world.

Live Your Moments: When You Can Give Up – Don’t!

When faced with a reason to quit, don’t do it. Those who inspire us, inspire us most by the will to continue after facing agonizing defeat.

As Paul challenged the church in Galatia 6: So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Live Your Moments: Be a Child of Your Heavenly Father

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Back in my hometown of Anderson, SC, Carrie and I were in that auto line of cars following a funeral. I was trying to figure out my position in line behind the hearse. A man I had met earlier came up to the car. I rolled down the window. “Are you Ben’s boy?”
“Ben.” I had not heard that name in so long from anyone outside my family.
As the manager of a textile mill, in my childhood neighborhood, my father had been the king, the patriarch, but I long ago moved from there and from then. I switched towns and states. No one knew me as “Ben’s boy,” or “Ben’s son.” To hear that name washed over me and I was twelve years old again.
“Yes, sir,” I said with pride.
My father died when I was 18, three decades ago. I have moved far from anyone who knows him, but this man did. This man in a way knew me that others don’t, not even Carrie. He knew me as “Ben’s son”. With pride I said, “Yes, sir.”
As a youth, my father and I fought. He had an image from me as a future man far different from the one I was trying to become. In my mind, it was an either or proposition.
As I’ve gotten older, I see my relationship with my father as a both and, I am “Ben’s Boy,” yet at the same time, “My Own Man.” I have become far different than either of us envisioned, but now I can claim them both.
A Father’s love enables and empowers us to become both claimed by our Dad’s, and at the same time, grow unto something more than the images our father has for us or we have for ourselves, we can become the Imago Dei, the image of God, Our Father who art in heaven, and on earth, and in us, hopefully more and more each day.
“Are you Ben’s boy?”
Yes, I am.
“Are you God’s child?”
Yes, I am.
Prayer: Gracious God, on this Father’s day and every day here after, may I give my own son an example to follow and the freedom to find his own path. If it’s not to much to ask, could you arrange for my own father and I to have ‘a catch’ in a mystical corn field/baseball diamond in Iowa? Until then, tell my father I said, “Hello,” and that I’m still proud to be Ben’s boy.”

 

Live Your Moments: Feed Your Better Emotions

Often we become our emotions, so full of whatever we are feeling; there is little or no room for anything other than the emotion. We indicate we have become our emotion when we use ‘to be’ verbs. For example, “I am so angry,” or “I am afraid,” imply you are your emotions not that there is a larger “you” experiencing them. “I feel angry,” allows a recognition of the emotion, and your ability to feel it fully while listening to what your anger, fear, or other emotion is telling you. By becoming aware of your emotions, you can also choose how you will respond as well as learn about your situation from seeing where your emotions are directing you to look. Here is a helpful story attributed to The Cherokee Nation,

A boy looked at his grandfather whose face was tight and tense. Seeing his grandfather was troubled, the boy asked, “What’s the matter, Grandfather?”
He replied, “There is a great war inside me.”
“A war?” the boy asked.
“Yes, between two large wolves. One is dark, stormy, and angry, expecting evil and trying to force me to strike out at others. The other wolf is bright, full of warmth, and light. He expects wonder and joy. He encourages me to give love to others.”
Now, greatly concerned, the boy asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”
The man’s face brightened as he looked at his grandson and said, “Whichever one I feed.”

Before the grandfather can decide which wolf to feed, he must see the wolves. To be aware of our emotions allows us to be instructed by them without becoming them and then nurture the ones that are more life enriching. To help you call them by name, create a list of emotions so you will know them when you feel them.

A Better Dream for Memorial Day

When we pray “Thy Kingdom come…” or speak of “One Nation under God,” what do we imagine? Proverbs 29 warns, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (KJV) What are your visions for the world?

George McKorkle provides a dream grand enough for Memorial Day and for people of God everywhere. Etta Britt shared this song with me and our congregation on September 11, 2001. I still haven’t lost the dream.