Showing posts from 2009

Thanksgiving @ Christmas

Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico. In 1828, the American ambassador to Mexico, Dr.Joel Poinsett, whose hobbies included botany, discovered the plant and sent samples home to the USA. According to Mexican tradition, a little girl wanted to bring a gift to Jesus on Christmas but could find only weeds. After bringing them to the church, the weeds bloomed-- guess what kind of flower they produced? So that's where poinsettias and Christmas first connected (thanks for the info, Mr. Internet).

I love the idea that at Christmas God can take a humble offering of love and transform it into something beautiful for all to enjoy. Our Sanctuary is decorated with many plants given in memory or honor of loved ones (thanks, Trudy!). While we spend so much time and effort at this time of year to buy presents for others, do we take time to consider the gift of love given by God to us each Christmas? What Gift Can We Bring is found in our United Methodist hymnal, #87. It's not a Christm…

Joy to the World!

The other day I pulled out my beloved study Bible to do some work on the message. I turned to the back, where Revelation is supposed to be, only to find it was missing. In fact, my New Testament ended with Jesus' appearance to Mary at the tomb-- the end of the Gospel of John. I suppose if the rest of the New Testament is lost, that's as good as any for a new, climatic ending! In a panic, I found the remainder of the New Testament with my other books. Now it's back where it belongs, but not permanently-- it could be lost at any time. This is very troubling to me, as I bought this Bible when I first began seminary in 1995. It has countless post-it notes, handwritten comments in the margins, and highlights. I treasure it.

This is not the first time this has happened. Ten years ago, when Christy and I served in England, the original binding of the Bible began to fall apart. I asked Ray, our church steward, if he could help-- he was a retired book publisher. He took m…

Let It Snow! Wishing You Enduring Joy!

In case you missed it, we had snow this week in Prosper. And it snowed in my hometown of Bay City last night. Everyone, here and there, including me, was so excited. Snow in Texas is almost as exciting as landing on the moon or discovering a great medical breakthrough. It is an event. At the dentist's office the other day, a woman from New Hampshire came in. The office staff was still going nuts about the snow. The woman was not so impressed.

I've had several conversations recently about the relationship between God and weather. Last week on Thanksgiving Day I was out delivering meals to the elderly with my home church. When I returned to home base, someone said, "We sure had great weather today! God is good!" I replied: "God is good, rain or shine, don't you think?" When snow fell this week, people praised God and enjoyed the beauty of the creation. And rightfully so. Then an unfortunate thing happened: the snow melted.

Now we had a decisio…

It's the Most Busiest Time of the Year!

This morning I've been at home with a sick kid-- Linus (pink eyes). While he's been running through the house playing (in the freezer, in the pantry, just about anywhere I do not need him to be), I've been planning worship services. Discerning where God is leading me as I make such preparations is always an interesting and surprising experience. Usually I plan series out months in advance. With the Revelation series, however, it has unfolded on a weekly basis-- much to the frustration of my fellow worship leaders! Maybe that's a good message for us consider as our calendars turn over into the month of December: leave a little room for God to surprise us in the midst of all the busy-ness we'll face over the next 3 1/2 weeks.

For example, take a look at my schedule over the next few weeks (this stuff is in addition to my regular stuff, like meetings and Bible study):
December 4: Christmas Party
December 5: Breakfast with Santa, followed by District Christmas Party

proud to be united methodist!

God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action
A Pastoral Letter from the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church
God’s creation is in crisis. We, the bishops of The United Methodist Church, cannot remain silent while God’s people and God’s planet suffer. This beautiful natural world is a loving gift from God, the Creator of all things seen and unseen. God has entrusted its care to all of us, but we have turned our backs on God and on our responsibilities. Our neglect, selfishness, and pride have fostered:

• pandemic poverty and disease;
• environmental degradation, and
• the proliferation of weapons and violence.

We cannot be instruments of God’s renewing Spirit in the world if we continue to deny the wounds of creation. Therefore, let us join in a lament for God’s people and planet:
Leader: We see waters polluted, species destroyed, forests ablaze, and land abused. We see weapons and waste littering the earth. We see people, created in the very image of God,…

A Prayer for Ft. Hood

All of us are dealing with the shock of the tragic shootings at Ft. Hood yesterday. As President Obama said yesterday, it is difficult enough when we lose those in the military when they serve abroad; when it happens on a base in our home country it makes everything so much more difficult. So far a dozen soldiers are confirmed dead. Our prayers are with the families in their time of grief.

I found this litany in a worship service for those being deployed or mobilized for service. The litany is prayed toward the end of the service:

God says, "When, they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble." (Psalm 91:15) Let us pray to God saying, "Lord, be our companion." As in baptism we put on Christ, so in Christ may we endure danger and separation in hope and love. Let us pray to God.
Lord, be our companion.
As God so loved the world in Christ, so may the love of God guide our actions, even in combat and war's uncertainty. Let us pray to God.
I love Halloween. Always have. I know there are many who dislike Halloween or are concerned about its themes, but for me it's always been about costumes and candy. When I was a kid in the '70s, the costumes were nowhere near as cool as they are today. They were basically cheap fabric and a cheap plastic mask. Now costumes are very sophisticated; one can easily cost $100 or more. Yikes.

The most fun costumes were those we made at home. When James was little, Christy made him a Woody costume from Toy Story. When I was in college, I went to a party dressed as a tree-I bought a body suit, covered it in pieces of masking tape all over, and coated them with brown shoe polish. A wreath of branches around my head. I could not bend my knees or elbows. I thought it was pretty cool. No one else did. Then again, my buddy went to the party as a vampire bunny. The tree was better.

I love the whole idea of "dress up," Halloween or not. It can be lots of fun to be som…

A Walk in the Woods

I spent a couple of days away from home last week, attending the annual North Texas Conference Clergy Retreat. It's always a great time of fellowship and relaxation, catching up with colleagues, enjoying a peaceful 48 hours. Everyone's favorite time is Tuesday afternoon, an unstructured five or six hours. Some golf, others fish, others horseride, some nap.

During my time I went on an extended walk. I decided to go off the beaten path for awhile and explore. I had a schedule to keep-- I was planning to drive in to Sherman to see an afternoon movie-- but as I walked through the trees, unsure of where I was going, I didn't worry so much about my watch. As I explored, I listened to music. One song was pretty loud, my heart started pounding, and soon I was running through the trees. No path. It was absolutely joyful. The moment passed quickly, and soon I faced a dead end. Not wanting to be lost forever, I retraced my steps, got back to the road, found my car, and mad…

a little wildness can be a good thing

i saw where the wild things are on monday. i was very excited-- i loved the book, read it to james and miles all the time, and the trailers looked so good. lots of running through the forest with music playing. those two things go well together: music and running through the forest. brings up ideas of freedom and joy. in fact, the trailer talked about hope as well as wildness.

how does one make a two-hour movie from a child's storybook? there are only a few sentences to work from! we learn that max lives with an older sister and his mom-- his dad is either divorced or dead. max is very alone and angry. he builds an igloo with snow pushed away from the street by a snowplow. when the older kids across the street come home he attacks them with snowballs. the kids overwhelm max, destroy his igloo, and his sister does not help. angry, max trashes claire's room.

mom comes home from work, tired and overwhelmed. the job is not going well. she has a date over for dinner. m…

you've got a friend in me

i have had toy story on the brain for some time now: i mentioned its release in 3-d in my easter sunday sermon "living in 3-d" (james and i saw it together last friday-- it's awesome!) and the following article appeared in the september edition of our church newsletter:

Recently I noticed James' old Buzz Lightyear costume hanging in the laundry room. When James was smaller, the Buzz costume could have counted as his skin. He was in that thing all the time (by the way, you know who Buzz Lightyear is, right? You've seen Toy Story, right??). He would wear the costume inside the house. And outside. In August. It would be stuck to his body. Everywhere James was to be found, it was a good bet he was in that costume. The costume has been waiting a couple of years for Miles to grow into it. I can imagine it longing to be worn again, running through the house fighting evil. Today Miles slipped it on, and it fit. He was so excited. This was the legendary Bu…

truth and consequences

my sermon from july 12.

Next week we will finish our sermon series “It’s Good to be the King.” (Well, Usually.) We have considered the journey Israel made through the leadership of Samuel and Saul, and last week we began to discuss the kingship of David. David was God’s favored choice to be king because, as the scriptures say, “He had a heart for God.” Most of the time he was able to remember that God was the true king, and keeping that perspective insured prosperity for the king and the kingdom. Yet even a heart for God did not prevent David from falling into the same temptations everyone else must face. One day, looking out from his castle David sees Bathsheba, a married woman sunbathing. He insists on having her, she becomes pregnant, he tries to cover it up, that fails, and ultimately David orders her husband killed so he can marry Bathsheba. After Nathan reveals David’s profound sin to the the king, David repents. But the story does not end there.

We know that abuse tend…

a response to gideons international

last sunday prosper united methodist church welcomed representatives of the gideons to share about their ministry. how many times have you stayed in a hotel or visited someone in the hospital and found a gideons Bible there? and while no one can argue that reading the Bible is a bad thing, or that distributing Bibles to others in native languages is inherently harmful, i would like to offer some thoughts on the practices of the gideons, as they were described at church.

1. bravo to the gideons for distributing 73 million Bibles last year. however, most of the Bibles they sent were tiny new testaments with psalms. i am a Christian, and i love the words of the new testament. but those words have their foundation in the old testament, and to remove thousands of years of traditions and stories of God's powerful love and acts of salvation diminishes the power of the whole Bible. we must never forget that the old testament (or "first" testament or "hebrew Bible"…

preaching advice from 1881

new york times
still very relevant today! especially that "...sermons should be argumentative..."

"deliver us from evil."

please note: this was my sermon preached sunday, june 28.

One of the best sci-fi films ever is Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn. It has a powerful combination of great performances, writing, and direction, like any other great movie; but what makes it an all-time best is its understanding of the human condition. The best of sci-fi stories are commentary of the culture we live in—often the stories take place in the future, but if we look past the blasters and space ships we see much of ourselves there. The film opens with a training exercise, the Kobiashi-Maru test. It is a no-win scenario, designed for captain trainees to encounter death and react to it. It is a test of character more than anything else. After the trainee’s decisions cause much of the ship and the crew to be destroyed, you hear the word, “Lights.” A door opens, and Admiral James T. Kirk walks through the door. The trainee seeks to justify her decisions, and Kirk, explaining the test’s purpose, says, “How we deal …

come with me if you want to live

"you're dead already. you know i believe it." -- sarah connor, terminator 2

last week on my last night in atlanta, i stayed up until midnight to catch the premier of terminator: salvation. i am a huge terminator fan, going back to the first edition, way before arnold became the governor of california. i still remember working in my dad's video club when terminator came out on video-- the movie came with these terrible sunglasses. i wore them forever. i was in college when T2 came out, not just a great sci-fi film but a top 20 all-time for me. hmm, one of these days i'm going to sit down and write out that list. i wasn't that impressed with either terminator 3 or the sarah connor chronicles.. so it was with mixed emotion, and exhaustion, that the credits began to roll.

the movie is very exciting, a special effects feast. but it lacks in soul. what made T2 so great was not just the effects, which are still amazing 15 years later, but the story. one te…

money for nothing

i am not a populist. most of the time. i try to leave the populism to folk like lou dobbs, sean hannity, and glenn beck (although sometimes populism gets blended in with craziness with these guys). still, in a recent sermon from the ten commandments against stealing, i mentioned merrill lynch's payment of executive bonuses just days before its takeover by bank of america. as a very relevant example of greed. angry nods from the congregation.

i do not pretend to understand the complexity of "toxic mortgages," tarp bailouts, or recovery packages. but it seems to me that we forget our outrage very quickly, which dooms us to fail again and again. last week i watched an american experience film telling the story of the wall street crash of 1929. it was produced in 1990, a couple of years after the stock market crash of 1987. it was obviously re-aired now because 2008 recalls 1987, which recalls 1929. do we see a pattern here? everyone says the stock market and the e…

under the tree of life

yesterday i went to see knowing, not knowing (ha ha) what to expect. i had not seen a trailer for it. i only knew that nicolas cage was the star (always a risk there), and that alex proyas directed, the same guy behind the brilliant dark city in 1998. i also knew it was sci-fi.

the film opens in 1959, as a new primary school is dedicated. the occasion is marked with a time capsule, and the children of the school draw pictures to place in it, to be opened 50 years later. one little girl, disturbed by whispering voices, does not draw a picture-- she writes a series of random numbers. or so we think. 50 years later nic cage is an astrophysics professor at mit, whose son attends the same school. at the ceremony the kids choir sings this little light of mine, which i thought was an interesting choice for kids to sing in public school in 2009! the capsule is opened, and cage's kid is given the note with the numbers.

turns out the numbers are a code: dates of terrible tragedies, …

"there is no spoon."

this afternoon i attended a "listening seminar" at st. andrew umc in plano. the point of the seminar, or so i thought, was to communicate findings about the future of annual conferences within the south-central jurisdiction of the united methodist church, changes mandated by the denomination's general conference in 2004. i was wrong. the listening seminar was designed for our bishops to listen to our feedback on these issues, then they would share that feedback with the other bishops.

we began with a summary of a report generated by the lewis center for church leadership out of wesley seminary in d.c. the report lists all kinds of stats and data about the preferences by clergy and layfolk across the jurisdiction. the college of bishops and the jurisdiction will consider this, combined with these feedback sessions, in determining the future alignments of conferences and roles of bishops. general conference mandated that this jurisdiction eliminate one episcopal positio…