Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Too Busy"

Lately, I've heard myself saying "I'm very busy" a lot. Actually, when it all comes down to it--I'm not as busy as some people. I'm certainly not as busy as a single parent who has to take care of a couple of kids while trying to keep two jobs. I'm not as busy as the homeless person who has to walk, sometimes up to twenty miles a day, in order to find food and shelter. I'm not as busy as our legislators in Washington--although, maybe they need to be a little less busy, too!

The point is, I'm busy, but no one should ever be so busy that they can't give time to prayer and meditation. And when I get busy, those are the first things to go out the window. I read somewhere recently about a survey of pastors that revealed that some pastors spend an average of three minutes a day in private prayer and devotions, and some pastors reported that they usually don't pray unless it is in front of a group of people. How sad--but I know how they feel. There are days when I hope for a meeting just so I can have the chance to sit down and pray, and there are days when I get so restless because of all the "work" that has to be done that I can't focus on my meditation time. If it's this way for me, how must it be for that working single parent, or the homeless person, or the man or woman in a position of power and authority.

We are reminded in the Scriptures to "pray without ceasing," (I Thessalonians 5:17), but maybe we need to be reminded that prayer doesn't always have to be about the right words or the right posture of the body or the right anything--except the right state of mind, a receptivity to the presence of God in all times and places.

The other day, I was out walking Mack (our dog), and experienced the kind of praye that goes beyond mere words or postures. It was very early in the morning, and the sun was just coming up. There was a light fog hovering amongst the trees, and the early rays of the sun were just beginning to peek through the branches and leaves. As I looked at this sight, I gasped for a moment at the beauty of it all, and then immediately thought, "I wish I had my camera." But a camera couldn't have caught the moment for me, even if it could have caught the sight. It was, for me, a moment of prayer at the beginning of what would end up being a very "busy" day.

May all your "busy" days begin in such a way, and may God's beauty continually catch you off guard.

On the lookout for prayer moments,


Thursday, September 06, 2007

The State of the Church

Some days, I'm just not sure there is a future for those of us who are "the people called Methodists." Reading through the denomination's State of the Church Report, I was depressed to read the following statistic: At one point in the history of the United States, one in four people considered themselves "Methodist." Today, that number is one in 400.

How depressing! And yet, as I have said many times before, how exciting, too! Such statistics, seen as an opportunity and not as a depressing note, present us with the greatest challenge--and the source of most of our ministry work in the next century or so-- that we have ever seen.

Our job is to not just make Methodists, but to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The best way to do that is to begin to be in mission--around the world, yes, but also right here in our own neighborhoods.

For those of you who read this who are from Niles First UMC, I want to emphasize to you what I've already stated in our newsletter: over the next few years, we need to focus on the areas of Fellowship, Stewardship Education, Spiritual Education, Evangelism, and Missions. Each of these areas--which, by the way, are inter-related--holds a part of the key that will unlock the potential that God has in store for us.

Earlier today, I was in a meeting of pastors, and somebody mentioned a particular mega-church that is often visited by local congregations looking to grow. One of my colleagues made the following comment: "Why visit them? All they did was tap into the power of the Holy Spirit." If we are open enough to the working of the Spirit in our lives, we will find the answers for our time and place in the history of the movement of the People called Methodist, and in teh body of Christ.

Preach the Gospel,
Use Words if Necessary,


Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Potter and the Clay

For those who were in church today, and heard my sermon about the Potter and the Clay, here is a link to the video, "El Barrero," that I mentioned:

El Barrero

Hope you enjoy it. I was particularly struck by the manner in which the potter cuts the finished product in half, to show the viewer what he has just done. If I had just made a vase like that, I would have wanted to fire it as soon as possible--to let everyone know about my accomplishment. When God works with us, like the potter in the video, he knows that there are second chances in life, if we allow ourselves to stay pliable enough to be re-worked.

Working on being pliable,