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A Gospel of a Different Color

I've been teaching the Gospel of John in various formats and churches for two decades. Last year I had the inspiration to compile all of those lessons into a book. I would call it A Gospel of a Different Color, a reference to my 94-year old grandfather, who would say, "Well that's a horse of a different color!" whenever someone would make a surprising play during a game of cards. John became a gospel of a different color for me when I first noticed how different it was from the other gospels. The book is dedicated to my grandfather, Don Guffey.

Over the past eighteen months or so I wrote out my manuscript, attended a Christian writer's workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary, struggled with writer's block, and, worse, writer's insecurity (who's going to read it???). But I was able to overcome those doubts, and the dream of a book is now a reality!

Who would enjoy reading the book? Anyone with a curiosity about the Bible and the personality of Jesu…
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Thanksgiving Prayer

A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving A 21st Century Worship Resource by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn
Loving God, Creator of all that has been, all that is, and all that is to come;
You made us human and gave us hearts to love you and follow you.
We thank you for the many blessings you have given us over this past year. God, we thank you for all of the blessings you have given us throughout our lives:
Food to eat,
Clothes to wear,
Shelter from the storm,
People who love us unconditionally. We thank you for their love because we recognize that their love for us is a reflection of your love.
We acknowledge that there are times in our lives when we, ourselves, feel unloved and unlovable.
Give us the grace to love others, even when they are difficult. We trust in your faithfulness to carry us over the rough places of life.
We trust in your love to walk with us through the difficulties of our days.
We trust in your promise of life everlasting and put all of our hope in you.
We thank you for Jesus.
We thank you…

Let Your Light Shine!

Last night I was reading about a new business practice (this is a glimpse into the preacher life the night before the sermon). Many companies are shifting away from focusing on the product alone to a more experience-based strategy. They are selling projects, not products. For example, a shoe company exists to sell shoes, right? But this new strategy builds the experience around the shoe. Set a goal: run in the Boston Marathon. The shoes may come with coaching to help you reach the goal. Or a membership in a local running club. Projects, not products.

So I began to strategize about starting my own biblical-era lamp business. These are not the brighter than the sun flashlights we see on sale today. They are fashioned from clay, each with its own individuality. In the middle of the lamp there is a small reservoir to hold the oil. On one end of the lamp a wick extends upward. It's not the most efficient design-- you'll need to carry around a stash of oil and matches. It's als…

Veterans Day - 2017

When I first came to Grace last year, Betty Reese walked up to me and said, "My late husband Bill served in World War II and wrote a book about his experiences. Would you like to read it?" "Absolutely!" I said. My grandfather also served in WWII and I've always loved hearing his Navy stories (my dad, uncle, and their father were also Navy, and I have three cousins who currently serve, assuming I am not forgetting anyone. I'm digressing). Anyway, Betty gave me Bill's book, I took it to the house, and placed it on my bedside table. And it sat there. For months.

After awhile, Betty asked me if I had finished the book. I said no. I had started and stopped several times. After another lengthy period of time she asked again. I had made no progress. She understood: moving to a new place and the adjustment period makes taking on new things difficult. She asked for the book to be returned, so she could loan it out to family. I reluctantly gave it back. Then a f…

Paraphrase of Psalm 23

Psalm 23 contains words that offer comfort in the most difficult days:

One of the Sunday school classes at church was studying this psalm. At the same time, the young granddaughter of someone in the class was profoundly ill, recently placed on hospice care. Nana Rylander awoke in the middle of the night the other day and wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 23 as a prayer for Kaylen and her family. The class prayed the paraphrase together this past Sunday morning. Kaylen died last night. Nana gave me permission to share it in this space, in the hope that these beautiful words may offer comfort and peace to other children and their families living in the shadow of death. Please share with anyone you know whose child is suffering from severe illness.
A Prayer for Kaylen (prayed by Grace's Pathfinders Class, November 5, 2017.)
God, our Father, we pray for Kaylen and her family this morning. We pray that each moment she lives she will sense your Holy Spirit in and close around her, loving her and …

Martin Luther and All Saints Sunday

500 years ago this week, the world changed. A Bible teacher and priest, Martin Luther, posted ninety-five theses to the door at the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther grew up the son of a very strict father. During his childhood, he was taught by very abusive teachers. He decided to skip out on his father's plans for Martin to become a lawyer, thinking there was no benefit in amassing earthly wealth if one's eternal salvation was in jeopardy. So Luther became a monk. After years of prayer and study, he was even less secure in his salvation. He was afraid of God, whom Luther assumed would treat him in the same authoritarian ways of his father and teachers. The monks believed Luther should be a priest. Then they shipped him to Wittenberg to teach at the local university.

Luther was not the only priest frustrated with the church of his day. Obsessed with completing the basilica at St Peter's in Rome, Pope Leo X urged leaders across Germany and other Christian nation…

Pass the Lotion

This morning is a dreary, cool start to the day. It's overcast and there has been a constant drizzle in the air. For a cold weather type guy, it's pretty depressing outside. Even with the dampness going on right now, the past week or so has been very dry-- and oscillating between cold and warm temperatures. Last weekend was outright cold; yesterday set records for warmth in November. I noticed this morning that the constant change and mostly dry conditions have caused my hands to be very dry.

So I walked around the church, looking for some lotion.

I started in the office. Nothing. Kitchen. Nope. The women's bathrooms (I knocked first, even though the building is closed). Nada. This was surprising. I went to the nursery; no lotion. Last chance idea: the custodial closet. No lotion again. I found anti-bacterial gel everywhere. And lots of squirt soaps. But no lotion anywhere. What does that mean-- aside from needing to stock up at Sam's?

Last Sunday night was incredible…

Living Out Our Baptismal Commitments

Last Sunday we baptized Edward Grady Meyers, son of Sarah and Matt. Edward was locked in the whole time, as you can see from the photo above! Baptizing babies is a core belief of United Methodists. Do you know why? It has to do with grace. We believe God's love is active within us from birth. God is continually guiding us into relationship. Once we commit to Christ, God's grace doesn't stop; we are continually being shaped from the inside out by love. Babies participate in that love too! Baptism has nothing to do with understanding or accepting grace; it has everything to do with responding to the grace already active within us.
Matt and Sarah reaffirmed their faith in Christ at Edward's baptism. They also committed to "nurture him in Christ's holy church, that by your example he may be guided to accept God's grace for himself..." Then the congregation also commits to Edward: "We will surround this child with a community of love and forgiveness, …