Friday, November 30, 2012


I think he would tell us that the true purpose of his nomadic life became clear as he found the “authentic” King, lying in a manger underneath that bright star. There in a stable on the outskirts of a poor and forgotten little town, among oppressed and broken people, his intention to follow enabled him to discover true meaning and joy: the Holy Nomad, whose cries would awaken new purpose into the world.

You and I spend this time of year in search of many things: the hottest technological gadget, the closest parking spot at the outlet mall, the best Cyber Monday deal, the perfect tree, the right guest to bring prestige to our holiday get-togethers. But do we expend the same effort seeking the very One whose birth signifies the movement toward self-sacrifice and responsibility?

Check out "Wandering through Advent"...

Why use a fish?

From Chuck knows Church...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Lives...

Our short lives on earth are sowing time.  If there were no resurrection of the dead, everything we live on earth would come to nothing.  How can we believe in a God who loves us unconditionally if all the joys and pains of our lives are in vain, vanishing in the earth with our mortal flesh and bones?  Because God loves us unconditionally, from eternity to eternity, God cannot allow our bodies - the same as that in which Jesus, his Son and our savior, appeared to us - to be lost in final destruction.

No, life on earth is the time when the seeds of the risen body are planted.  Paul says:  "What is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable; what is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; what is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful; what is sown is a natural body, and what is raised is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).  This wonderful knowledge that nothing we live in our bodies is lived in vain holds a call for us to live every moment as a seed of eternity.

The wonderful knowledge, that nothing we live in our body is lived in vain, holds a call for us to live every moment as a seed of eternity.

Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Modern day Shepherds

Given that the Advent Season starts this Sunday, I thought it might be fitting to connect to a story from UMNS concerning a modern day shepherd. Although his method of tending his flock is very different from the time of Christ's birth, there are still similarities:

In Jesus’ day, shepherds were not generally on the guest list to see a newborn king.

Their work, however, was essential. Sheep were important sources of milk, meat and wool, and were also an essential part of Jewish worship at the temple in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, shepherding itself was a dirty and at times lonely job, United Methodist scholars point out. Shepherds were peasants who could not support themselves from the land and had to work as hired hands.

“In fact, many would have regarded shepherds as ritually unclean, especially if they were involved not only in wool gathering, but in slaughtering animals and tanning hides,” says the Rev. Ben Witherington III, a blogger at and New Testament professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.

“Bethlehem was the ancient equivalent of the stockyards in Kansas City. It was where the sheep were raised and kept to be sent off to slaughter six miles up the road in Jerusalem.”
The angels’ annunciation to humble shepherds is very much in keeping with Mary’s pronouncement earlier in Luke that God has lifted up the lowly, says the Rev. Richard Hays, the dean of Duke Divinity School and a New Testament professor.

One of the themes of Luke’s Gospel is divine reversal. “Luke is showing that no person is considered beneath the Messiah's dignity, and all should celebrate his coming for as Luke says — he is the savior of the world,” Witherington adds.

Read the entire article here....

Monday, November 26, 2012

The UMC on Pandora!

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Today, Nov. 26, The United Methodist Church will be one of only three advertisers featured on the Internet radio site Pandora. On a website that shares its name with a Greek mythical figure famous for opening a box of bad gifts, the United Methodist message will call attention to the consumerism of the season and offer an alternative focus on Christ.

At the re-designed, visitors can discover opportunities for supporting people facing hard times, find ways to simplify their lives, pledge to Reclaim Christmas and invite friends on social networks to join the effort, and search a customized listing of local church-hosted events, including service projects, free meals and candlelight services.

In addition, visitors can get a free download of the classic Christmas song “Away in a Manger” performed by award-winning country music duo Joey + Rory. “Away in a Manger” is from A Farmhouse Christmas—a collection of acoustic and traditional country-leaning Christmas recordings released by Joey + Rory in 2011.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


A short story for Thanksgiving...

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift.
The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary.

Every word out of the bird's' mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words,

playing soft music and anything else he could think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot

and the parrot got angrier and even more rude. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed
the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed.

Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer.

The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said

"I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions.

I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do
everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude.

As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior,

the bird spoke-up, very softly, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Hope you have a "wonderfull" day and that you experience moments of peace and joy whomever you share your time with...


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rules for singing...

It's hard to imagine hymns as something new, daring or even mildly subversive but, once upon a time, they were not only a novelty but their use in parish churches were almost illegal! Until the early 18th century, most congregations sang almost nothing but metrical psalms in the "Old Version" dating from 1562. They also used a very limited number of tunes!

The new hymns were seized on with enthusiasm by John Wesley and his brother Charles who made hymn-singing an important feature of their ministry. The Wesleys' appeal was largely to the working classes and their hymns were often used in large open-air meetings.

The Methodists soon began to write new tunes for their hymns in an unashamedly secular style which would not have been out of place in the theater, the pleasure gardens, or even (oh, my!) the tavern. This truly shocked the Establishment and delayed the introduction of hymns into parish churches. Such was the popularity of hymn-singing however, that by the end of the century it was widespread in nearly all denominations.

Given that we're coming upon the Advent season, with all the beautiful hymns that we sing for such a short period of time, let us not forget "John Wesley's Instructions for Singing (1761)"!

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
Now, let the hymn singing begin!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The present...

One of the big issues that adults struggle with is our inability to live totally in the present. Children live moment to moment. They do not worry about the future and unless prompted, do not waste their time in the past. 

What kind of change would it make in our day to day living if we dealt only with what was happening "right now"? In order to accomplish this feat, we must continually remind ourselves that what is most important is happening in the here and now. We need to "master our minds" so that each time we find our thoughts wandering, we return to the most important time we have...the right now. We are not guaranteed any more than believe it is ours keeps us from wholly trusting that God is in control and will be in charge no matter what occurs.

Faith that our lives are the concern of God and knowledge that we have the Creator of the universe laying out our path, frees us to be the children God calls us to be...

Monday, November 19, 2012


Since the time I was able to read and form opinions for myself, I have considered Abraham Lincoln to be one of our greatest presidents. And, although he seemed to be a deeply troubled person, one I would love to meet. 

Reading his works, be they letters, speeches, etc. I it is evident that he leaned heavily on our Creator God. I still believe that later in life (and during his terms as leader of our land) he was a deeply spiritual man. But, new information shows he struggled with his faith for a portion of his life.

Rather than diminish my opinion of him, it has in many ways enhanced it. Who among us has not questioned, been angry, or simply turned our back on God? Facing the loss of children, his wife's illnesses and his own depression, makes the fact that he found his way back into the arms of God even more satisfying.

The 16th president of the United States was born on an American frontier swept by almost violent religious revivals. Men routinely responded to preaching and the "Spirit's work" by shouting, convulsing, passing out and even barking. Few were caught up in this excitement more eagerly than Thomas and Nancy Lincoln.

Their intelligent, sensitive son found it all too much. Young Abraham rejected his parents' loud, sweaty brand of faith and in part because he could not reconcile the weepy, religious version of his father with the man who beat him, worked him "like a slave," and resented his dreams of a more meaningful life. Historian Allen Guelzo has written, "on no other point did Abraham Lincoln come closer to an outright repudiation of his father than on religion."

Young Abraham chose reading over religion -- and reading made him rethink religion. Alongside "Aesop's Fables" and "Robinson Crusoe," he read the works of religious skeptics. Books like Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason," Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and "Ruins" by the French writer Volney gave Lincoln the intellectual tools for dismantling the edifice of religion.

His move to the Illinois village of New Salem did the same. As his friend and biographer, William Herndon, wrote of this time, "he was surrounded by a class of people exceedingly liberal in matters of religion. Volney's 'Ruins' and Paine's 'Age of Reason' passed from hand to hand." Lincoln drank deeply from this anti-religion stream. Soon he began openly attacking Christianity. Friends recalled that he openly criticized the Bible, that he called Christ a bastard and that he labeled Christianity a myth. He even wrote a pamphlet defending "infidelity." To protect his political aspirations, friends tore the booklet from his hands and burned it. Lincoln was furious. He had become the village atheist.

Read the rest of the article here...

Friday, November 16, 2012

10 Bets!

Just in time for the holiday can be the life of the party! Pick and choose or learn them all (perhaps not the next to the last one unless you're entertaining young boys) sure and bet before you start!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another installment from "Chuck Knows Church"...or as I think of it, "the hundreds of small things you want to know about church but never ask"...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stylish Baptism?

Oh my! This is so wrong on so many levels...Does she truly feel the focus should be on the beauty the setting or on what you're wearing?

Is this what modern Christianity is coming to?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ode of Remembrance

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Do any of you United Methodists wonder why we change the colors in the church during the year? When do we change them? What color do we use?

Instead of asking your minister (and then promptly forgetting), watch this video from "Chuck Knows Church":

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


The elections are over and once again, some are happy and some are not. But that's the beauty of the Republic we are blessed to live in. Regardless of how we "feel" today, we must remember that God is always in control. We are His creation and He can work good through any of us.

We must focus on what's important:

(This reflection was written on Tuesday afternoon, 11/6,
before the results of the election were known.) By the Concord Pastor

Lots of people are very happy today, Lord,
   and almost as many are very disappointed...

This is the day of winners and losers, 

   of victors and the vanquished, 
      a day of cheers and tears...

And like yesterday and tomorrow, Lord,

   this is the day that you have made and given us
and on this day, as on every day,

   your word calls us to reverence one another
      and to bear with one another in kindness...

Help us remember that neither winning nor losing 

   excuses us from your command that we love one another
      with peace in our hearts and kindness in our speech...

Your law of love makes no exceptions permitting us

   to hate our opponents, to despise the winner
      or to demean the loser...

You call us always to collaboration and unanimity

   and never to discord or division...

You call us to be patient and kind with one another,

   not jealous or pompous...

Nothing justifies our demonizing one another...

The love you enjoin on us cannot
be rude 

   or seek its own interests;
      cannot be quick tempered or prone to brood over injury...

You call us to a love that bears all things, believes all things,

   hopes all things and endures all things...

Indeed, you call to love even our enemies,

   with a love that never fails...     

If I am in the winner's camp today, Lord, 

   keep me from being proud and haughty,
      snide and snarky...

If I stand with the losing side today, Lord,

   keep me from being mean-spirited and bitter,
      from any self-indulgent spite...

Both sides believe they campaigned
   for what will best serve the needs of your people:
whether we've won or lost, Lord,
   keep us all faithful to promises made
      and determined and dedicated
   to do what is just, to love what is good 
      and to walk humbly with you...

In the quiet of my prayer, Lord,
   humble my pride, tame any anger, 
      strengthen my resolve 
         and deepen my faith and trust in you...
 In the stillness of my prayer,
   help me hold to what is just and true
      and help me let go whatever keeps me from your love...
 Send your Spirit of peace to reign in our hearts
   and help us work together, Lord,
      to serve the needs of all...   

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Prayer before Voting...

by Father Austin Fleming

The election is tomorrow, Lord,
and I was wondering: if you were a candidate
- would you be elected?

I know if you were running for office, Lord,
you’d campaign with open and transparent honesty:
no need for fact-checking your statements and press releases!

Your campaign promises would be many:
life for those who respect and reverence it;
peace for those who work for it;
justice for the oppressed;
pardon for those who freely forgive;
opportunity and work for all who seek it;
casting the mighty from their thrones
and filling the hungry with good things…

Your platform would be flawless:
laws rooted in truth;
freedom bound by responsibility;
and justice tempered with mercy…

Your policies would be grounded
in an unapologetic preference and care
for the defenseless innocent:
for those waiting to be born and their mothers;
for the sick and the elderly;
for the poor, the marginalized, the refugee and the stranger;
and for victims of power, arrogance and greed…

But I know your name won’t be on the ballot, Lord,
so I ask you to be with me as I study the candidates
and their policies, platforms and promises
- and decide for whom I’ll cast my vote…

Open my mind to all sides of the issues
lest I vote uninformed on matters of poverty and prosperity,
peace and war, life and death, rights and responsibilities…

Help me see through the ads and the hype
lest I vote on the basis of looks and appearances,
polls and campaign promises…

Give me counsel to choose wisely
when the choices fail to offer what I seek and expect
of those who might govern your people…

Make me a discerning disciple, Lord:
empower me to cast my ballot
as my faith, intelligence, conscience
and the truth of your Word lead me to vote…

On the eve of the election I offer you my heart:
inscribe on it your word of truth
in letters gospel-wide and bold enough for me to clearly see…

I offer you my mind, Lord:
bathe my thoughts in wisdom ever ancient, ever new
and show me the path of your truth…

I offer you my will, Lord:
bend, shape, mold and nurture it
with the power of your grace and conform it
to your heart’s desire…

I offer you my vote, Lord:
may it be a good decision, may it speak a just word,
may it hasten your reign of peace
and bring life and liberty for all…

All this I pray, Lord,
and I ask in return the gift of your Spirit
to counsel, guide and enlighten me…


Friday, November 2, 2012


To those in Sandy's path...

I saw the following letter on the "Busted Halo"'s from Elizabeth Desimone...just in case we have readers in the Northeast...I thought you should see this:

Hello, Northeast. 

How are you?

It’s okay, you don’t have to answer that question. Can we buy you a drink? Let us buy you a drink.

We know. This sucks. And we wish we could tell you the nightmare will be over soon, but the fact is this is going to suck for a long time yet. Even after the waters recede, there’s still the matter of piecing your lives back together. There’s paperwork, lots and lots of paperwork. You’ll have to dig through all of your waterlogged belongings and make wrenching decisions about what’s salvageable, and you’ll have to make those decisions faster than you’d like. Some of you will lose what’s irreplaceable: your children’s baby pictures, your grandmother’s wedding dress. A few of you will lose everything — all that you own. We are so sorry for that.

True: the possessions you’ve lost are “just stuff.” Here insert Ignatian sentiment about detachment mingled with Buddhist meditation on ephermality topped off with quote from Shakespeare’s cloud-capp’d towers speech. If those ideas about the transitory nature of “stuff” help you get some much-needed perspective right now, good. We know all too well that nothing clarifies what’s important in life like a natural disaster ripping through your region. Nevertheless, even though what you lost was “just stuff,” we understand that that stuff was meaningful to you, and we want you to know that it’s okay to mourn your loss.

Here’s the good news — and yes, in spite of everything, there is good news. The good news is: we have your back. Because we remember. We remember how you gave us warm beds and hot dinners. We remember how you came, with your families and your church groups and your college chapters of Habitat for Humanity, and helped us gut our houses and our grief, helped us hammer and nail our lives into something like normalcy. We will never, ever forget how you came.

More good news: you won’t have to depend solely on the kindness of strangers. Your neighbors will come out of the woodwork to help you. They will lug your ruined carpet to the curb for you. They will show up on your saturated doorstep with cakes and casseroles. You will, in the midst of your relentless difficulties, feel blessed and lucky and amazed to know such people.

Not everyone will make you feel so lucky. Some people are going to say you deserved what you got. They will say that God flooded you in retribution for your sinful lifestyles. People will interpret your distress as a character flaw. They will wonder why you waited around for the government to save you, ignoring the fact that you did no such thing. Tune those people out. They are silly.

We on the Gulf Coast watch your suffering with horror and recognition, and we assure you, with all of our hearts, that you are not alone. We will look out for you, as you once looked out for us. We’ll even lend you our patron saint. As this tragedy continues to unfold, we don’t want to belittle your heartache and anxiety by telling you to buck up and look at the bright side. However, we do want you to know that better days are ahead. The skies will clear, your lives will inch their ways back to coherency, and you will discover that dark days have a way of breeding a million acts of kindness.

With thoughts, prayers, and good wishes,

Your sister in sorrow, and in recovery,

The Gulf Coast

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

UMC 101

 I do post, from time to time, theology from the Catholic Church. Mainly in areas where we see things the same (or nearly so). When it comes to "All Saints Day", we see things differently. It occurred to me recently that a United Methodist Church 101 posting about certain issues might be a good idea.

Celebrating All Saints Day

Do United Methodists believe in saints?

United Methodists believe in saints, but not in the same manner as the Roman Catholic Church.
We recognize Matthew, Paul, John, Luke and other early followers of Jesus as saints, and countless numbers of United Methodist churches are named after these saints. We also recognize and celebrate All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and "all the saints who from their labors rest." 

All Saints' Day is a time to remember Christians of every time and place, honoring those who lived faithfully and shared their faith with us.  On All Saints' Day, many churches read the names of their members who died in the past year.

However, our denomination does not have any system whereby people are elected to sainthood. We do not pray to saints, nor do we believe they serve as mediators to God.  United Methodist believe "... there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human who gave himself a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5-6a). 
United Methodists call people "saints" because they exemplified the Christian life. In this sense, every Christian can be considered a saint.

John Wesley believed we have much to learn from the saints, but he did not encourage anyone to worship them. He expressed concern about the Church of England's focus on saints' days and said that "most of the holy days were at present answering no valuable end."
Wesley's focus was entirely on the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

An interesting article about "The Saints among us"...

John Wesley was fascinated by examples of living saints. As a missionary pastor in Georgia, he met one such saint and later wrote about him in his Journal. When Wesley met Henry Lascelles in 1736, he was dying. Wesley was astounded to note Mr. Lascelles' complete serenity and peace.