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Spring for the Soul

As human beings, we spend our time in the minute, swallowed up by the feelings and thoughts of this hour or day or week. We struggle to back up from anything far enough to see a bigger picture than our momentary thoughts, opinions or feelings. For us, one negative interaction wrecks a whole day. One bad experience can ruin the memory of a week or even a whole year. If it hurts, it can’t be good or even have good in it. If it makes us cry or feel sad then it has to be due to our own or someone else’s wrongful behavior. We seek to offer shame and blame for every negative thing in the world. We bury completely, the positive, the presence of God, the good and the happenstance in our own inability to think of the bigger picture.

Fortunately for us, God isn’t deterred by our short-sightedness. God isn’t repelled by our blame and shame game. God isn’t drawn only to our happy moments. How we are feeling or thinking or acting can’t, won’t ever, isn’t even remotely capable of changing our God’s steadfast love and presence, strength and support.

That is the real truth of Easter. That God, looked at all of creation and decided not only to join us, but to die and be resurrected so that in all places and times and circumstances God is present with us. Jesus the Christ, within your happy and sad, good and bad, positive and negative. Jesus present when you can tell he’s there and when you are utterly convinced you have been abandoned.

God, Jesus, Holy Spirit…not subject to our feelings or thoughts. Instead, willing to love us while we are yet sinners. And that’s a real Spring for the soul!!!

Spring Fling! Egg hunt, crafts, story, lunch


Spring Fling! – March 24 @ 11:00 – 12:30

Easter crafts, story for the kids & Egg Hunt! An event for kids of all ages! Invite your friends and neighbors, everyone is welcome!

We’ll start with crafts and stories in the fellowship hall…intended for the whole family to take part! Then the kiddos will hunt eggs and get some prizes. To top off the great time we’ll have lunch – eat in or take out. Menu: Fried chicken, beans & potatoes, macaroni & cheese, dessert. Cost:

Meal: $8 per adult boxed lunch (2 sides), $5 per child (1 side)…Fried chicken, beans & potatoes, macaroni & cheese, dessert. 

Christian Worldview

Our world is changing at an ever increasing rate of speed. The population of the world has doubled in the last 50 years. The changes brought about in the last 10 years through technology  (that massively powerful computer held in one’s hand) have made everything different. Even if you have chosen to opt out of parts of the data revolution, you can’t avoid it. In fact, you can either join or be washed along willy nilly. And then, atop this pile of shifting sand, we add a transient US and world population. Our neighbors are of various languages, religions, cultures and belief systems and they are changing constantly. Sometimes we think these changes are only happening here in our country, in our neighborhood, but in reality, most of the world is caught in the same high-speed-whirlpool of change.

What are we to do?

How can we sing the songs of our childhood in a land we hardly recognize?

Should we engage our fear? Dig our heels in and try to stop the world from shifting? Let our fear grow into full-fledged-hatred? Stick our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening?

Who do we believe? What is presented as truth is different depending on which channel you turn on or which paper you read. Pictures are computer generated and we can’t tell if they are real or fake?

What are we to do? What are we to believe? Where do we go from here?



God’s world view hasn’t changed. God hasn’t changed.

God knew us yesterday and last year and before we were born and God knows us now and tomorrow and after we die. Whether we rise up or lie down, come or go, God is there and God knows.

He’s got the whole world, in his hands. He’s got the whole wide world, in his hands…

So what are we to do? How are we to act? How are we to respond to the world? To the changes?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Are we called to take a stand, to scream from the street corners? Are we called to duck and hide in our safe little corners of the world and avoid all conversations and people who might disrupt our peace? Do I just unfollow everyone who isn’t doing and saying just what I want to hear?

I can’t answer all of the questions, but I have an answer for, “What are we to do and how are we to act?”

The fruit of the spirit of God, is the proof in our lives that God’s Spirit lives within our hearts and minds. Galatians 5 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

We are called to be kind and gentle. Every word, every action, every person, in every way, every minute…kind and gentle. I have to sit my heart down pretty regularly and say, “Jesus has been kind to you, gentle with you in your short comings and sin, gentle in correction, kind in presence and spirit…go out and share that with the world.”

My heart gets arrogant and rude and pushy and intolerant and out-of-control. That’s not the fruit of God’s Spirit, it’s human pride and a spirit of sinfulness. An afraid heart, is very likely to become an angry, impatient, judgmental, rash, angry heart. An afraid heart needs a good dose of faith in God. In God, in faith, fear can dissipate and be lost in trust.

A Christian worldview isn’t made up of a list of sins that are to be outlawed and human beings vilified.  A Christian worldview isn’t a view of judgement and condemnation and dismissal and disrespect. A Christian worldview isn’t colored by fear, anger, hate or resentment.

A Christian worldview is based in the Holy Spirit and the fruit of that Spirit in our lives. A Christian worldview shades everything we see and think and do…with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Mount Vernon

I’ve lived in Virginia for sixteen years and had never visited Mt. Vernon, so this holiday season we made the trip. Traffic wasn’t bad. The view was magnificent. Tour guides weren’t anything to write home about. But none of those things inspired me to think or to write.

We toured the grounds and the house and I was quite impressed with the stewardship George Washington took with his property and his profession. He worked hard, that’s true. But he made absolutely certain that efforts and energies were fully utilized. He was indeed a man one could respect. His wife, Martha, was the same. They tended details in their home as they did in their lives and in the life the new country.

So I was walking through the museum, looking at the amazing, computer generated faces of Mr. Washington. So lifelike. Such blue eyes. And I found myself apologizing to him for what we’ve become. For our country’s divisions and hatefulness. For the way we aren’t what we are supposed to be. It was in that thought, that moment, that I’m pretty sure God said, “Whoa, wait a minute there. Who holds the future? Who set the stars in place in the sky and on that flag? Just because it isn’t yet doesn’t mean it can’t be?”

When I visited Williamsburg and Yorktown I was surprised the country wasn’t formed in a day. You know, July 7, 1776…poof…out popped a country! That instead it took decades of writing and wrangling to get a start and then it came undone and tried to kill itself.

There at Mount Vernon, I could see and feel how far short the beginning was from what was hoped for. The founders of this country knew it was flawed, they knew it had huge divisions…they just made it kind of go along together in generally the right direction. They didn’t know that I deserved a vote or voice. They didn’t make it so women and people of color were part of the “All men are created equal.” The people of their time weren’t ready for that much change, for that much of the dream.

Our country is always on its way to somewhere else. It’s always a dream yet to be realized. It’s like the Kingdom of God, here, right now, and not here at all. Mr. Washington wouldn’t approve of our hatefulness toward one another but I’m sure he wouldn’t find it all that different from some of the stuff they said and did back then.

If we can all settle down and consider God’s power and presence and design and coming Kingdom…read Isaiah 40-45 and hear how God plans to make it work even when it doesn’t seem that way. We get so lost in a couple of weeks or a few years we lose the vision of the millennia. We get so absorbed with our own human limitations and fears and trivialities we lose the ginormous vision of God.

And if this is true for the Kingdom and the country then why not for the United Methodist Church? We aren’t what we can be or should be but we aren’t finished yet! God holds us, our families, our churches, our communities, our country, our Church and our World with outstretched arms. Once we were no people, but now, we are the people of God.

Blue Christmas

I’m considering changing all of my decorations to blue. Take them outside and just spray paint the lot of them. Why? Well, because the biggest mistake we are making about Christmas is that it is intended to be an idyllic-better-homes-and-gardens-greed-fest. There you go. I’ve lived 56 years and spent 11 years as a pastor. I’ve seen really great Christmases when everything was perfect…wait, that’s a lie. I remember really great Christmases but that’s only in memory.

I have four kids so there were years of “Santa” and the joy of little ones. But some of those included stomach viruses, chicken pox, ear infections and they all included grumpy, over-stretched adults and children. When Christmas is about food and gifts and feeling “joyous” we all do as much pretending and anticipating as we do realitying. (I made up that word. It makes “reality” into a verb. Don’t tell my English teachers unless you mention that I now know my parts of speech.)

So here’s where I am now with this whole “blue” thing. Mary, young, troubled, anxious, can’t-sleep-for-worrying-Mary, is my Christmas model. Not Santa. Not Jesus. Not even God. Mary. Because Christmas came into Mary’s difficulty. No rest. No plans realized. No happy-slappy-buffet. A young woman and her husband (not the father of her child), an oppressed group in an ego-maniacal culture. Pregnant at the risk of her life. And giving birth is scary no matter how many haloes are on your head. Labor is painful no matter how good at it you are. Delivery is messy. New babies are hard to deal with. Unstable governments with tyrannical rulers are devastating. New marriages are hard to negotiate. So Mary is my model in her earthly-awful-situation.

Into that darkness of fear, came God incarnate, Jesus.

Christmas isn’t about lights and food and gifts. Christmas isn’t mainly for the happy and content. This holiday-santa thing is…but not Christmas.

Christmas is light in the darkness. Mary’s darkness. My darkness. Your darkness.

Christmas is for the broken hearted; for the ones who can’t get off the couch. Christmas is for the disappointed; whose only question is “what happened?” Christmas is for the lonely; the ones who need only one plate for Christmas dinner. Christmas is for those with empty chairs and broken dreams.

And Christmas changes everything. Whether I can sing “Rudolph” doesn’t matter. Whether I can sing and know in my heart that this night means, “Joy to the World”, my dark world…that matters. In that truth there is a deeper joy than wrapping and bows and ham and mashed potatoes. There is joy deeper than the people in the chairs around the table. There is joy deeper than my human heart can imagine.

Joy is Christ…God present in my human life. Joy is a light in the darkness…the darkness of our world and our real lives.

The LIGHT came into the world, Jesus, Christmas…and the darkness will not, can not ever over come it.

Sharing the LIGHT!



When my daughters were young they went to a number of Vacation Bible Schools. They were attending Bible School while I attended seminary. The summer I was studying Hebrew one of  them attended a local VBS and was quizzed about the creation narrative in Genesis. She explained Hebrew poetry and her belief that Genesis 1 isn’t a scientific treatise on the formation of the world and its inhabitants. The teacher then produced a sheet that each child was to mark their own belief in creation v. evolution. When my child’s mark was on the evolution end of the scale, she was asked to leave. You read that correctly. A youth attending VBS was asked to leave because she didn’t believe in 7 days, 24 hours each, during which God created the earth and all of the animals and people.

That’s a preposterous church story. But it’s true. Though we’d all likely find that check sheet, eviction approach to be extreme we need to think more deeply. Did God create the world? People? Animals? Plants? If the Bible says that’s so and we don’t believe it as fact, then what happens to God? To the Bible? Do you really have to believe in creationism to go to heaven? To be a Christian? Jesus spent a lot of time talking about love and generosity but none at all on creation.

Other valid thoughts…there are two creation stories in the Bible. If you read the second creation story, you find a different sequence and narrative for creation. Go ahead. Read Genesis 1-3 and see for yourself. It doesn’t all agree. So now what?

Hebrew is a beautiful, poetic language with much more to convey than science or math. There is a deeper level of communication and knowing than can be found in a calculator or laboratory. Your souls isn’t about technical specifications and your soul is more important than atoms and DNA. We aren’t Hebrew. We don’t live thousands of years ago with that understanding of the planet. If God had wanted to write a science book the Bible would be a science book. It’s not.

Genesis 1-3 tells us of a powerful, loving, creative God that made us and said, “It is good.” Genesis 1-3 tells us of God’s powerful, creative breath. Ruach. A breath that changes and improves and wraps everything in love and power and grace.

Genesis 1-3 tells us that God hand crafted our environment, tended the details then and is still tending the most marvelous zoo/garden/habitat ever!

Science tells us that nothing improves without an input of energy. Randomly, without care, things just get more chaotic. There has to be a power behind positive change, behind increasing complexity. No matter where you go on our earth, you see an artist’s hand. There are mountains and valleys, rivers, eroded rocks, gorges, snow and waterfalls, giant redwoods and tiny bits of moss…all amazingly complex. No matter what you believe about evolution…the creation we are part of is a gift from God. All here by God’s unimaginable power and love and design.

Breathe in…breathe out…God’s design.


This series about the least you can believe and be a Christian is more complicated than it first appears. Trying to define the items that are not a litmus test for being a Christian is harder than it appears. It’s so hard to lay aside the things long-assumed to be part and parcel of what it is to be Christian.

A Christian believes and follows an invisible, calling God. So how can we do this if it’s OK to doubt? Shouldn’t doubt be just wrong? Well, maybe, but the point is not what should be according to our modern Christian minds but what is a litmus test for Christianity according to God. Jesus didn’t tell doubting Thomas, doubt and you’re out-of-here! Instead he showed him what would relieve his doubts.

If we will come running to God, with our doubts in hand, God will heal them. First, we have to be honest with ourselves and honest with God. That’s really the only litmus test in God’s kingdom, the honesty test. We can’t grow in faith if we aren’t bought in deeply enough to allow  our ugly thoughts to come out before God.

There’s no sin too great, no words too removed, no person too clueless for God!

What’s the Least I Can Believe

Our new worship series begins July 3 with casual attire, old-fashioned singing and a great series for everyone. We’ll be looking at things you don’t have to believe as a Christian and then we’ll turn to some things you do have to believe. Ever wondered about evolution, taking the Bible literally, women preachers…well, we’re going to talk about every one of those topics and more.

Here’s the book synopsis…you can get the book from

Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things people need to believe, and ten things they don’t, in order to be a Christian. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with. With an accessible, storytelling style that’s grounded in solid biblical scholarship, Thielen shows how Christians don’t need to believe that sinners will be “left behind” to burn in hell or that it’s heresy to believe in evolution. And while we must always take the Bible seriously, we don’t always have to take it literally.
At the same time, Christians do need to believe in Jesus—his life, his teachings, his death and resurrection, and his vision for the world. A great benefit of those beliefs is that they provide promising answers to life’s most profound questions, including: Where is God? What matters most? What brings fulfillment? What about suffering? Is there hope? Thielen articulates centrist, mainline Christianity in a way that’s fresh and easy to understand, and offers authentic Christian insights that speak to our deepest needs.


Sometimes it does seem that God makes mistakes…God doesn’t. We fail to understand, the action is really from some force besides God…what ever, God doesn’t make mistakes.

The church makes mistakes. The church of all varieties and persuasions is flawed. It reads the Bible and comes up with the wrong understanding or intention. It tries to help but is really helping itself. It hurts people. In short, the church makes mistakes. It will until we reach heaven and the church is fully aligned with God.

The disciples and all of us disciples who have followed, we all make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are big and impact the whole church. We can read about Disciples making mistakes and misunderstanding God in the book of Acts.

This week we are reading the about the disciples and particularly Stephen. Let me encourage you to read chapter 5, Did the Disciples Make a Mistake from our book by Lawrence Kala, The Story Continues.

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Now join the conversation around the following questions:

1. Discuss the similarities and differences of the two types of Jews in the Jerusalem church.

2. What was the misunderstanding between these two groups?

3. How did the apostles react to this situation?

4. Describe Stephen. What do you admire about him?

5. Give a summary of Stephen’s sermon. Why did it trigger his death?

6. So, did the apostles make a mistake? What issues are involved?

7. Discuss the ministry and achievements of Philip.

8. What did Martin Luther say about the priesthood of all believers?

9. How did early Methodism deal with these issues?

10. What additional thoughts or ideas from this chapter would you like to explore?

Kalas, J Ellsworth (2016-04-19). The Story Continues: The Acts of the Apostles for Today (Kindle Locations 1640-1641). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

General Conference…Acts…Hypocrisy

I’ve spent this week, working from my camper at Kiptopeke State Park. The Chesapeake Bay somehow connects me to life, to the earth and my soul to God. This was a good week to  be in a place of peace.

I have spent the last six months heartily avoiding the realities of General Conference. I attended the day of Holy Conferencing and I voted for delegates, I know several of them personally and share a covenant group with Martha Stokes, the leader of this year’s delegation. So  I knew what it would be about, but I didn’t really let it sink in. Then, in my usual style, when it started I just kind of grazed by the information and goings on. I knew the headlines, felt some stress, retreated to my own to-do-list.

But this week, it all seemed to come crashing down. I’d like to blame it on Twitter…if people couldn’t tweet it would be more civil…but that’s a lie. It’s really just a matter of how much I’m aware of. I heard the stories from four years ago and fours years before that; I know how people act and I’m certain from the way our world is behaving otherwise that General Conference wasn’t likely to be a place of great respect and consideration.

So this week our General Conference drove the United Methodist Church to the brink of schism. The progressives and conservatives pulled so hard on their respective edges, they came close to ripping it all asunder.

Ripping a church apart is sin. Not listening and treating one another with respect is sin. Name calling is sin. So there was a lot of sin.

Hypocrisy is deliberately looking like something you are not. Posing. In church we do a lot of posing when we talk about human sexuality. We pretend we are listening and understanding and really grappling with the other’s viewpoint but really we are just waiting to re-state what we think. So both sides just talk and say the same things over and over and sometimes bother with pretending they are trying to work together.

The United Methodist Church is too beautiful for all of this. For the last four days, I’ve been able to see clearly what it would mean if this great beast of a church disappeared…shattered into two or three or sixteen pieces. What about UMCOR? What about the schools and universities and hospitals we’ve built? What about our brothers and sisters on the pew beside us, down the road in another church, across the country, around the world? What about all the things we hold in common…an open communion table, Wesleyan theology, grace!, Hark the Herald Angels Sing!? What about all of that?

As a country and a church, it is time we placed a great deal of value back in compromise. Working together through disagreements, loving those on the other side of the aisle, seeing God’s amazing creative work in every single human being…let’s get back to these values! The world around us is changing in a thousand ways and most of them can feel so scary. But we are allowing our fear of the changes that are relentless to drive us to destroy the very institutions and structures that offer real hope and real security.

When Christianity was a baby it went through a short time when it was all things good. For awhile, everyone worked together, everyone shared, everyone had good days. But that didn’t last. And God never said, “Well, ya’ll just go your own way.” God never said, “Let’s make a bunch of different bodies of Christ so everyone can have their own kind.” God left them all as one. We believe in One Faith, One Baptism, One God, One Hope, One Spirit, One Church…ONE!

So now, let’s get on through Acts, learn some more about the early church and let’s PRAY!!! Our Council on Bishops has asked us to figure out how we can go forward with our disagreements. PRAY! How can we have people who believe homosexuality is sinful and should be repented of at the same table with those who would ordain all on the LGBTQ spectrum. PRAY! How can we be United Methodists and allow for these different beliefs? PRAY! It’s not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about how can we continue to do church together. PRAY! Neither side is going away. PRAY! No one is changing their mind. PRAY! This can be a win-win together or a lose-lose apart. PRAY!

Read Acts. PRAY. Send me a message.PRAY! Let’s talk. And let’s PRAY!