I’m Not A Big Fan of These Clichés

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Christians use some pretty lame clichés. We use them over and over again. That’s why they’re clichés . In certain church circles, it’s hard for people to put together a coherent sentence that’s not a series of clichés strung together. There are churches (and church meetings) where speaking “cliché” language is the defining mark of one’s Christianity. If you don’t speak this way, something might be wrong with you. What if we took these clichés and placed them into a slightly different context? Perhaps we’d realize how ridiculous some of them sound?

Krispy Kreme has a “heart for” doughnuts.

They are really doing some “good work” over there at the Waffle House.

We put the lawn mowers behind a “hedge of protection” just to the right of weed eaters.

Since my car died three weeks ago, “my walk with God”, has involved taking two buses and a cab to work.

The Holy Spirit has “laid upon my soul” a calling to evangelize the virtues of bacon to vegetarians.

After the bounty hunter arrested my contractor, his last words to me were, “if you need to close the bathroom door, open the window first.”

You Might Be A United Methodist If

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1. If you cannot conceive of raising money without the sacrificial-like slaughter of a pig, you might be a United Methodist.

2. When you leave reviews on TripAdvisor or Yelp, you do it under the names Francis Asbury or John Wesley; you might be a United Methodist.

3. If your family’s name is permanently mounted somewhere in the church where you grew up, you might be a United Methodist.
“Yep, Grandma spent a lot time in this bathroom so it was only fitting we’d name the new toilet after her.”

4. If you’ve ever asked if you can guzzle the rest of the Welch’s grape juice and eat the leftover communion bread, then you might be a United Methodist.

5. If you’ve ever sold tickets to a meal people can easily prepare at home, you might be a United Methodist.

6. If you hear that, “the Choir is in the Chancel” and you believe the church has bought a new 15 passenger van from France, you might be a United Methodist.

7. If taking your shoes off and crawling under the pews still seems like the most exciting thing to do at church, you might be a United Methodist.

8. If you know the page number to the hymn “Shalom to You” in the United Methodist Hymnal, and you think it’s funny as Hell, you might be a United Methodist.

9. If you have no bumper stickers on your car because Methodists are not really sticker people, then you might be a United Methodist.

10. If you’ve ever been asked to give a play by play of your infant baptism in a Baptist church, then you might be a United Methodist. “There I was, my mama handed me over to this man in a big black robe, and suddenly, he was pouring water all over my tiny head…”

Shalom To You-Prayer

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God’s peace is not a catchphrase, a cliché, or a phrase to throw around lightly. God’s peace creates a sacred bond between the person offering peace and they who receive the gift. O God, your peace is the most important gift in the world. It is the most precious thing we can receive and then share with someone who is hurting, broken, in pain, or walking a path of sorrow. Tangible yet immeasurable, easily said but hard to grasp, Shalom does what we alone cannot do. God’s peace leads us to places we would never journey on our own. It is like a road sign we see and hear, urging to go just a few paces further.  Yet the further we travel, O God, we realize the gift of shalom is where we are and where we received the words. Shalom is here and now. Shalom is never something we can hold on to. We say, “Shalom to You”. We receive it and we must, in turn, give it away to someone else. God’s peace is not ours alone. Our pain is not ours alone, it is shared by God. As we share our pain, may we now share God’s peace.

Amen.

Take the “You Might Be A Christian Test”

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Richard’s “You Might Be a Christian” Test

Answer as honestly as you can. Remember this is a safe space.

1. Have you ever walked by a church and said, “What a cute little church?”

2. Did you go to Vacation Bible School? (You may have been 5 or 50. It doesn’t matter.)

3. Did you pick your nose in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School?

4. Have you ever used crayons, markers, or glue (or a booger) to create something for a family member to display on a refrigerator?

5. Have you ever thought, “Jesus would be an asset to any social gathering I’m holding.”?

6. Has riding on a boat full of circus animals in the midst of a storm ever seemed appealing?

7. Would you like the ability to catch fish without the aid of rod or reel, only by walking on water?

8. Do you like to sing with all your might on the chorus of “Joy to the World”?

9. Have you ever fought for the right (or on behalf of a relative) to play Mary, Joseph or Jesus in a play?

10. Did you (do you) have an invisible friend?

If you’ve answered yes, to any of these questions: you might be a Christian. Welcome!

Common Misconceptions About Christianity, Churches, and the Bible

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Here are 10 misconceptions held by Christians and non-Christians about the Church and Christianity. Let me try to clear them up.

1. The Bible is inerrant. In reality: It’s full of mistakes, contradictions, and historical errors. In that way, the Bible mirrors life itself.

2. God wrote the Bible. In reality: ordinary people wrote the Bible.   They made “typos” and spelling mistakes, some of which have led to people believing in weird things which have nothing to do with God.

3. In most of the churches I’ve served there is a painting in which Jesus looks as if he’s a northern European man wearing a bed sheet.  Is this true?  In reality: He was a dark skinned Palestinian Jew.  I cannot speak to Jesus wearing a bathrobe or bed sheet.

4. Jesus spoke English. In reality: He knew only Aramaic.  As far as I understand, Jesus never met King James, William Shakespeare, or studied their English.

5. Jesus was a Christian. In reality: The term “Christian” came into use well after his death.  Jesus never heard or used the word.  Jesus was Jewish; like Mel Brooks, The Apostle Paul, and Jerry Seinfeld.

6. Post-resurrection Jesus was a zombie.  In reality: Jesus was not a zombie.

7. The Christians you see on television are just like your Christian neighbors. In reality: your neighbors aren’t the narrow minded doofuses seen on television. Yes, we can be a little strange at times but we do try to love our neighbors.

8. Being a pastor means years of schooling and substantial student loan debt. In reality: For $35.00 anyone can get ordained. However, online ordinations do not offer a pension.

9. In little churches all across the South, Christians handle snakes in worship. In reality: I have never touched a snake in church.  I did kill a spider once.

10. Church people have favorite pews and seats which they prefer and will rarely move from for newcomers and visitors.  In reality: This is not a misconception.  Take that pew, expect a fight.

Abram and Star Counting

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Not This Abraham, The Other One

Genesis 15:1-6

We first meet Abraham (known then as Abram) in Genesis 12.  He’s basically living in a Cracker Barrel with his father’s family.  That’s how I picture it.  They sold idols; trinkets, vintage posters for Burma shave, rusty farm equipment, and breakfast to the hundreds of travelers going through Ur.  His father’s house was the Cracker Barrel gift shop.

And like momma slapping biscuits and gravy, Abraham was an old man engaged in quick commerce and faced violence both beyond and within his family.  Violence was a way of life in those parts. You couldn’t get anywhere without going through Ur.  You never know who would show and what kind of weird intentions they might have.  It was at the heart of the Fertile Crescent; between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, western civilization as we know it began right there.  People came and people went.  And from Genesis 12 onward, we’re told, God wanted Abraham to go.

Admittedly, their journey is strange.  When they got to Egypt, Abraham tells Sarah to deny being his wife and pretend to be his sister.  His reasoning:  if they think they’re married, they will kill him and take her.  The logic of the sister plan is lost on me.  Was there some Egyptian rule?  Eventually, the Lord got wind of Abraham living with his sister and not his “wife”.  Why it took so long for God to get the message, I don’t know?  God eventually told Pharaoh by sending a plague on Egypt’s agriculture sector.   Pharaoh even asked Abraham, “Why didn’t you just tell me she was your wife?”    Abraham and Sarah were both deported.  Chaos is on their trail.  It is a strange story.

In between what I what to talk about today and getting deported from Egypt, Abraham and his in-laws went to Las Vegas.  It was the ancient equivalent, known as Sodom and Gomorrah.  Let me tell you, what happened there didn’t stay there.  It didn’t end well.  They had salt for weeks.

Finally now, the Cracker Barrel from Ur, being deported from Egypt, and the flight from Sin City is all behind them.  Abraham has a moment to catch his breath.  Is following this new God about being on the run?  Is worshipping this God about ducking and dodging one thing after another with no chance to think, breathe, or reflect?

What are we doing here?  What’s the big picture?

God wants Abraham to see the bigger plan.  God wants Abraham to grasp this idea:  it’s not going to be like it’s been before.

The idea began by Abraham going outside (he was probably outside if we’re splitting hairs) and at some divine instigation, being asked to look up at the night sky.

How many of you all saw the photograph of the Milky Way, taken from Lifeguard Beach, which was shared on Facebook over the past few days?

That’s what Abraham saw, the universe, the stars, and the heavens.  If you didn’t see the picture, you still know what I’m talking about.  In a place like this with little or no light pollution, the stars are brighter and more numerous than other places on Earth.  In fact, other than on Ocracoke, the brightest stars I’ve seen were in Africa.

In their conversation, God asks Abraham, “If you can, count them”.  I think the whole encounter of Chapter 15 hinges on this request.  Step back from the promises of descendants or even Eliezer in Damascus, who may still hold the franchise rights to the Cracker Barrel, listen to these words: “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.”  Count the stars, can you imagine?  It’s almost like a line from a nursery rhyme.

In that first moment of overwhelming impossibility, when you look up and see billions of sparkling lights, you realize (like Abraham):

  • My life is a reflection of something than I will never completely understand. That’s ok.
  • If what I’m witnessing is real, then what I think is important and defines my life is probably an illusion; in comparison to this reality billions of miles away from me.
  • God isn’t a detached idea (an idol, a trinket) but a defining, integrated feature of my existence.  Nothing separates the ocean from the water.

 

How Some Methodists Cuss and Express Their Frustrations

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Methodists are usually “holy” people. But sometimes, we’ve been known to cuss. Here are some unique Methodist cuss words and Methodist fighting expressions. Many of these are unique to my own part of the world; heard on the back roads and dusty curves linking where I am with where I was born.

1. “Boy, I’m going to kick your Francis Asbury into next week.”

2. “You scared the ever loving sanctification out of me.”

3. “You shut your mouth before I open up a six pack of Welch’s grape juice.”

4. “I’m going to give you a fat lip, if you don’t shut your thousand tongues.”

5. “I ain’t got no water pressure cause you came and filled your above ground fount with my blessings.” (Refer to expression 1)