Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for July 3rd, 2015

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1. You have the ability to birth inspiration, empathy, and hope into the world around you. Can you induce labor, now, to give birth to those three ideas right now?
2. Is failure something you dwell upon or learn from? Do you know how to make that distinction?
3. Are you giving too much of your emotional energy to someone or something?  Is this detrimental to your physical and emotional health?
4. Have spent time examining your defenses? Are you prepared to withstand those things which might undermine your ability to be your best? Look around, what weakness could be under-girded for tomorrow?
5. Make time today to have conversation with a stranger. The world belongs to those who are willing to learn something new.

Be blessed, be well, and know that you are loved.  #youareloved

Food for Thought-Shouldn’t We Have Been Raptured By Now? (2 Corinthians:8-10)

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You may be right,

I may be crazy…

William Joel

For the past week, the sun has continued to rise and my heterosexual marriage has remained intact. I have looked for the rapture for over a week now. While thunderstorms and shark attacks have plagued my island home, nothing has happened resembling the second coming of Christ. So, if God hasn’t had time to gather his stuff up by now ( a full week after the Supreme Court decision) and rapture us homosexual supporting, Jesus following, self-proclaimed Christians along with all the other sinners down to hell for being overjoyed at the legality of same sex unions, I’m ready to get on with my life. I have to prepare for the birthday of the United States of America.

The watchword in certain Christian circles is that churches, Christians, and believers in Jesus Christ are going to be made weaker by the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. The church is “under assault”. That’s the common mantra in certain Christian circles. If you believe what you read, pastors like me will soon be forced by jack booted agents of the state to perform same sex weddings while my offerings are used to pay for abortions conducted in my fellowship hall. This is the image of religious attack, being painted, on a daily basis by many Christians in America. While vivid and emotional, it’s simply not true. It’s a lie.  No one has done this. No one will do this. It makes the fundamentalist church look like those sad people hoping for disasters and tragedies which never arrive. They are the “Jade Helm 15″ believers of the Christian world; malcontents who weave a few distorted facts to fit their desperate hopes for a divine blood bath. Have you ever been around a conspiracy theorist whose theories never materialized? They are bitter people and they always have an excuse. What will their excuse be this time?

“Woe to us,” say the fundamentalist Christians, “our values and lifestyles as judgmental prudes are under threat”. “How can we continue to function if our incredibly narrow interpretation of scripture and out of context reading of the Bible seems to be rejected by the people we want to “love up on” but somehow judge at the same time? We keep waiting on the world to end but the sun keeps rising. When is God going to end it all and take us home and prove us right!”

Isn’t the love of Christ about being strong? Strong, certain, and unassailable in your beliefs about everything Jesus said, especially the things you agree with and ignoring the things like loving your enemy which sound weak? Isn’t being a Christian the spiritual equivalent of a mixed martial arts fighter? You’re a dude, a dude with many (yet wholesome) tattoos which express your total bad ass-ness but love for Jesus Christ because you’re a strong dude for Christ who can raise your hands when you pray, play a guitar, and kick ass if need be in a God-fearing way.

But if no one wants to fight you (maybe if the demons and attacks you fear are truly in your head and completely imagined), and everyone is moving on with their lives, getting married, and God’s not coming back anytime soon, who’s there left to be angry at-each other?

Perhaps the love of God isn’t about being strong after all, maybe it’s about being weak. Maybe the love of God has nothing to do with ability to kick someone’s ass, masculinity, picking a fight, or waiting for the end of the world. Perhaps it’s got everything to do with being and feeling weak. Why do I say this? In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Paul says these words, “Because power is made perfect in weakness. So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weakness so Christ’s power can rest on me.”

It’s one thing to stand around in a prayer circle or in a sanctuary on Sunday morning and talk about how strong Jesus is; it’s another matter altogether to talk about how weak we are. Yes we “need” Jesus. We can’t do it without him. However, it’s very rare to hear people bragging about their weakness. There is a not so subtle difference between needing Jesus, talking about the strength of Jesus, and bragging about our weaknesses.  When you brag about weakness, people are likely to go home and gossip.  Yet, Paul brags about his weakness.  We’re along way from  being comfortable with bragging on how weak we are.  We love to be persecuted.  Pretend weakness (in the form of manufactured persecution), we’ve got that in spades.  However, what Paul is talking about most of us haven’t the fainest clue.

It is when we acknowledge our weaknesses, Paul says, that we become strongest. Most fundamentalist Christians see no weakness in their position on homosexuality but, like a drunk on a jury, they can spot a guilty man by looking at him. They see everyone else’s weakness. People like me, my denomination, we’re wrong. We’re weak or so they would say. I’m glad to be weak. I’m more than happy to acknowledge my weakness. It leaves me firmly in line with the Apostle Paul and the scriptural tradition. At my weakest I am in a place where Jesus can do the greatest good through my fragile soul and sometimes faint heart.

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for Today June 30th, 2015 (On Work-Life Balance)

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1. Is your work-life balance, balanced? Are you out of whack, doing more of one thing than another or neglecting other areas of your life?
2. Do you believe that certain career choices are incompatible with being a decent human being?
3. What type of life do you want to lead? Balanced, respected by others, or one that is in always in the hands of other people?
4. When does life balance begin? Today or tomorrow? At school or at home? Is it organic or planned?
5. Work-life balance is built upon a series of covenants, beginning with one made to yourself. How does your covenant read?

Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for June 29th, 2015

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1. Avoiding the mud, potholes, and puddles in life is unavoidable. At times, you need to walk boldly through the mire.

2. Sit down, lay back, and look up to see the world from a new perspective.

3. Find something to share. Your brain could use the dopamine and the companionship will be fun.

4. Pay cash for everything you buy today. It will clue you in to how much you’re actually spending.

5. Is your self-confidence built on the happiness of others?

Food for Thought-A Funeral Sermon

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Death forces us to ask difficult questions. Like the distorted reflection of an itinerant alchemist, death calls us to combine the most precious elements of life to make something we do not want to believe can or will ever exist; the finality of our mortal lives. Unlike the alchemist, vainly hoping to turn base metals into gold, year after year, we are never surprised or overjoyed at our eventual success. The inevitability of this moment, while so real in theory, is so foreign in practice. Death wasn’t supposed to come to us, today, or ever.  Most of us, rightly or wrong, live as if death is something that happens to other people.  Tonight, this delusion, rooted so firmly in visions of our own temporary immortality, is gone forever.

Why? Why did Jolene die? I cannot answer that question. No one can. Doctors can offer immediate causes. Despite our best intentions, our plans, our money, our efforts, or anything else we can’t know why now. Why now, at this place, and at this time, these are questions no one can possibly answer. However, I can say this: there is not a book, a plan, a decision making process where the creator of the universe simply decides “it’s time to call us home”. You and I don’t have countdown timers on our lives and when the time is up, God dials a number, and we get called to “a better place”. God doesn’t have a human resources department who calls him up multiple times a day, when people die in accidents in North Carolina or war in Syria and says, “Lord, we have need of new people (or angels) in heaven.” People don’t die because God “needs” people in heaven. You may think it makes people feel better to say things like that but it doesn’t. I don’t know much about death but I do know that.

In the world God created, a world of sunsets, home runs, apple pie, and snow flakes we also we received childhood cancers, tragedies, and senseless killings.  Life came with death.  Eventually, God was forced to come to terms with the reality of death in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. If you believe as Christians do, God allowed himself to die on a cross. The only way to conquer death was by facing death itself. This wasn’t the appearance of death, this was what you have come to know all too well. So begins the essence of the Christian message.

At the end of Mark’s gospel, two women go to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. Mark, ever the storyteller, leaves the reader with the one of the great cliffhangers of western civilization. The reader is only told the body is gone. “He’s not here,” says a young man. There is no resurrected Jesus who appears to the disciples. There is only the absence of a body and an empty tomb. Mark’s gospel is the oldest of the four stories of Jesus’ life and work and probably the most accurate. It has always amazed me that in this gospel, the first sign of the resurrection is not a body, or a resurrected Jesus, but the absence of a body, the absence of life. Jesus’ absence is the first indication that resurrection is a reality. Absence is the beginning of resurrection. Absence is a sign that death, as we have defined it, isn’t as powerful as we once believed.

This evening, acknowledging Jolene’s absence, we stand in the presence of the resurrection and the life. There is something unfinished about the word absence. The lingering second syllable leaves open the possibility of fulfillment and return. Absence is underscored, however faintly, by the idea of hope. The dangling strands of absence, dancing about our days, are waiting to be brought together. What will you do with yours? Will you weave them together in the hope of life beyond life, living each day to its fullest, in strands of love and compassion which honor Jolene?

Food for Thought-How Often Would Jesus Have…

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1. Checked his email…he didn’t have email. If so, maybe once or twice a day.  I can’t see him chained to his desktop, laptop, or mobile device.  Can you?
2. Prioritized his day…Jesus didn’t know the meaning of triage; he removed obvious distractions and met with everyone.
3. Checked his Facebook page…again no Facebook in first century Galilee. Maybe of a couple of times of day at most. Jesus liked to rely on word of mouth information. His core audience wouldn’t be likely to be able to check their phones or computers for updates on a regular basis.
4. Spent time alone…at least once or twice a day. Jesus knew when he needed to step back, be alone, recharge, and regroup.
5. Eaten with other people…Jesus never ate alone. Community wasn’t a buzz word. It was a reality. Meals were events, people sharing, preparing, eating, and being together. There is spiritual value in the act of eating a meal together.
6. Have taken pictures…all the time. I can see Jesus with a small digital camera taking pictures of everyone he meets. Would these go on Facebook or Instagram, I don’t know?  I think they’re more likely on the divine hard drive we call creation.

Food for Thought-5 Ways Not to Suck Today (AKA Good Ideas)

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1. Don’t get drawn into Facebook arguments you can’t win
2. Fill your time with things that matter, not busy work
3. Find and refine some quiet rituals to step out of the chaos in your day
4. Substitute abstract worry for direct action
5. Redefine the concept of personal space…don’t crowd people