Republican or Democrat, Gay or Straight.
image found at:

As we enter an election cycle, I’ve been thinking about how we approach politics.  In our anxiety we fight and blame “the other side” for all of our troubles.  This blaming and back-and-forth is wonderful for the media and makes election coverage interesting and profitable, but what does it do for our country?  What does it mean for the people who are facing very tough troubles right now?

I don’t know how to solve all the world’s problems in an election cycle, but I do know how to improve a few lives at a time.  The church should be a place where all people feel welcomed.  You see, the body of Christ is not about being “right” or “wrong.”  It isn’t about being Republican or Democrat.  It isn’t about being gay or straight, or black or white.

The body of Christ is about relationships.  I am as bad as anyone about getting into arguments online, in fact, I maybe worse than most. Yet arguing isn’t really why we get on facebook, is it?  Aren’t we on-line in order that we can connect to others?  (Yes, I stole this from Len Sweet’s book “Viral”)   I think whether it is in the church, on the web, on the campaign trail, or in the halls of congress we will be a better people if we go about the process of building relationships not tearing them down.

I mean, gosh, what is the point?  When it comes down to it, life (or faith) isn’t about being right or wrong, but it is all about relationships.

I need to consider how I embrace people who are different from me (or have different opinions from me).  I need to be more open and receptive to other ideas, even those that fly in the face of my ideology or theology.  I need to be willing to show friendship despite differences and, perhaps, in the process, I will find Truth in the midst of debate; Christ in the midst of turmoil.

What about you?

Teaching Children to Steal!!!
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So, I’m embarrassed to say that I ran to Wal-Mart today for a few food items.  I’m embarrassed for several reasons:

  1. I supported Wal-Mart instead of the local grocery, but County Market doesn’t have the ice cream we REALLY like and that was the whole reason I went to the store,
  2. I went to the store for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and came out with Klondike Bars (made with brownies, fudge and ice cream) along with the ice cream and none of it was worth the calories in the end….Weightwatcher friends, I’m shamed…

Okay, so anyway, there I am in the check-out lane with my ice cream melting and next to me are some little girls holding the soda cooler door open yelling to find out their parents’ (three check-outs down) soda preferences.

Now all of this was not helping my headache, but otherwise nothing unusual.  It is Wal-Mart and you expect ill-behaved families to be there, but then it happened…

The little girls finally took two bottles of soda (Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper) for their parents and on their way pulled off the wrappers, disposed of them at a check-out where there was no cashier and proceeded to take them to their parents who slipped them away.  I can’t say for sure or not whether they got paid for as I was too far away, but I believe I just witnessed two children who are trained to steal sodas for their (already) obese parents.

This is obscene.  I don’t know what else to say.

Adam & Eve
Image found by google images on Mar. 20, 2012 at
This week as I approach another Tuesday Evenglow Bible Study, I find myself invigorated.  Yes, first, I love doing Bible Study with the folks at Evenglow, but I also have had many opportunities for discussion about the topic at hand throughout my week.  Whether it is posts on my facebook with people who disagree with me or a Bible Study at Chenoa, I have been challenged and affirmed as I grapple with the creation accounts.

This week at Evenglow Bible Study we will be discussing the second creation story and the fall (Genesis 2-4).  I may, eventually do a blog Bible Study over on my other blogsite:  “Virtues of Scripture,” time will tell, but for now I simply ask a question: 

“What does it mean to you that you are created by God?” 

No wrong answers, btw, and no arguing in the comments. I simply want to know what it means to you.

“It Is Well With My Soul”

Song of the Week Sunday

This week I went on a hunt for old hymns made new…   An old and forgotten blog had just what I was looking for a hymn by Spafford/Bliss, redone by Michael bleecker and, here, covered by Jason Carroll.  I think this is a great hymn and the story behind the song is incredible.

Back story:
I found this brief retelling at:

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone . . .”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

Nurse Bob.

If you ask my mother about my care in the hospital her eyes still roll a little and she’ll probably say, “I didn’t like that ICU Nurse, Bob.”  If you know my mother, you’ll know that she is a very agreeable woman and you must assume that something terrible happened in order for her to not like Bob.

Well, what happened is that she and the rest of my family (with the exception of my wife) got kicked out of my ICU room.  Her ‘little boy’ was in ICU and she got kicked out by a nurse.  That was all my mother needed to instantly not like Bob.  You might ask, “What happened for them to get kicked out?!?”  “Were there too many people in the room?” No, they just came in two at a time.  “Did your father act inappropriately?”  Surprisingly, no.  “Was your mother too emotional?” nope.   …well, you get the point.  They did nothing wrong.  It was me.  I got them kicked out.  It’s amazing that even in a drugged up, post-op stupor I could cause my family trouble.
You see, I started running the room.  My type A personality kicked in and I was instructing everyone about what to do.  “Fluff my pillow,” “no, move that pillow,” “move to this side,” “get me ice chips.”  I could barely speak, but I could still direct, apparently!  The way my wife describes it, I must have been the worst patient ever!  EVER.  Nurse Bob was actually awesome.  He went above and beyond and looked at my needs.  He knew that I needed to rest and realized that I simply wouldn’t until he cleared out my family, so he made sure it happened.
I was thinking that some of us tend to do this, not just with a hospital room, but people like me tend to do this with our lives.  People like me (you know who you are, don’t duck away from that computer screen) think that we can control things, but sometimes trying to control the things around us…sometimes trying to bring order, actually gets in the way of our own happiness and gets in the way of what we really need.
This probably sounds a little cliché, but I think God is, in this way, like Bob.  God has a way of looking at us from a different angle and trying to provide what we need, so that we can be healed or fulfilled. You getting me?
We can get so busy trying to get what we want, that we totally miss what we need.  I think many people put careers, money and prominence before the things that really matter.  I remember the stress of picking a major as I went off to college.  I was trying to manage my life and trying to prepare for: being married, having 1 1/2 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence.  Oh, and I can’t forget that I wanted to be very well paid.  What I didn’t realize is that I was making a mess out of my life those first couple years of college.  I needed someone to clear the room and help me relax so that destiny would find me.
Finally the room got cleared and I realized that I was being called to ministry.  It meant sacrifice, it meant letting go of some control (I’m still learning that part), but it also meant fulfillment and happiness.
Take a look at your own life.  Are you trying to control it or are you living it?  Are you focused on what you want, or will you let go and be called by God to what you need?

Some of you may be wondering why I’ve not been tweeting, facebooking, or blogging recently.  Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.  I came down with the flu a couple of weeks ago which was a real setback in the recovery process…and then I came down with the flu again this week. But I seem to be back on my feet and getting better.  Carrie and I went for a walk with Charlie tonight and I’ve been watching some tv today, which is a first (tv was the worst: sound, light & movement).

I also found out recently where I would be reappointed and where Carrie and I would be living come July 1.  Here is the video which was played this morning at First United Methodist Church Pontiac:

“Brokenness Aside” & “All the Poor and Powerless”

(Song[s] of the Week Sunday)

Okay, so this week we couldn’t choose, so we’re putting up two songs by the band “All Sons & Daughters.”  If you want to download their albums, you can find their songs on iTunes.

“Brokenness Aside”
“All the Poor and Powerless”

Here is the description (from youtube) of the band:

The worship duo of David Leonard and Leslie Jordan was birthed in 2010 from Journey Church located in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee. Jordan and Leonard met at Journey in the summer of 2009 where they began writing worship songs for their church family. Their evolution into a duo began when they started leading those songs together on Sunday mornings. Both currently serve on staff at Journey as Worship Designers in the Creative Arts Ministry.

Leslie Jordan has been leading worship since age 14, both in her own church and for churches and conferences across the United States. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2007 and was hired on staff at Journey as the Worship Designer in January 2008. David Leonard grew up in Southeast Arkansas and attended college at John Brown University. While attending the university, Leonard began the Word Records band Jackson Waters. After disbanding in 2008, Leonard began touring with the Atlantic Records rock band NEEDTOBREATHE, and completed his time with them in May 2010.

In October of 2010, Leonard and Jordan signed an exclusive recording contract as Sons & Daughters with worship label, Integrity Music. In November, All Sons & Daughters recorded their first EP, Brokenness Aside, with drummer/producer Paul Mabury (Hillsong, Brandon Heath, One Sonic Society, Rocket Science). The project’s songs are all written by Leonard and Jordan and reflect the environment of their church and the message of God’s restorative love that Journey seeks to share with its community. The duo’s first single “All the Poor and Powerless” has already generated buzz online and among various church communities around the country. A demo version of the song is available for download at An acoustic video for “All the Poor and Powerless” is also at the Sons & Daughters Vimeo page,

“David & Leslie have found a way to capture the thoughts, emotions and sounds of their local church & put them into songs,” says Jay King, Integrity’s vice president of A&R/Artist Development. “All Sons & Daughters is more than a worship band…they represent us as people who are still on a journey. And they are creating the soundtrack for that journey.”

In addition to leading worship at their church and events around the country, Leonard and Jordan have lent their voices to The Know Hope Collective, the ground breaking initiative that combines worship music with stories of hope and inspiration created by Audio Adrenaline alums Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss.

Upon the release of their record in July, the duo will be back on the road for appearances at a variety of conferences and music festivals this Summer/Fall.

During these first few weeks of Lent, the season as we approach Easter, our Hebrew Scripture readings will be from Genesis.  Last week it was Genesis 9:8-17 and this week it will be Genesis 17:1-7 & 15-16.  For Lent Genesis is a great place to start, but then, Genesis being a great place to start isn’t exactly a new idea is it?  When the Hebrew Scriptures and, later, the Christian Canon was being put together where did they put Genesis, but at the beginning, right?
There is the obvious reason that Genesis is at the beginning of scripture.  It’s about beginnings.  I mean, literally, right at the start, Genesis says, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…”   There is no other single phrase of scripture that would be more apt for the beginning of the Bible, right?  Certainly, Genesis is about beginnings.  Genesis is about the beginnings of the universe, the ordering of the things and people of the universe, and, as we progress through the book, it is about the beginnings of the Hebrew people.
But Genesis isn’t just at the beginning of scripture because it talks about beginnings.  Gosh, John starts off talking about beginnings, right?  If Christians were looking for a first book of the Bible they could have started there, if they were just looking for a landmark text about how things began.  What Genesis does better than any other scripture is to remind us that things began not only with God but that God’s redemptive work didn’t happen in a void.  God’s redemptive and creative work happened in relationship.  No, let me correct myself.  God’s redemptive and creative work happened in relationships.  Do you see the “s” on the end of that word?  God is in relationship with all of the things that were created.  Not just humans, not just butterflies or daffodils.  God creation and more importantly God’s love is universal for all of creation.  By the time we get to the scriptures for this Lent (chs 9 & 17) a shift has occurred. Oh, don’t worry, Genesis never lets go of ‘beginnings’ and ‘creation’ as its theme, but God begins making covenants, that is to say, promises.  So Genesis is about how God  put the universe into motion and created (and ordered) it, but also Genesis is about God’s promises to that creation and God’s faithfulness and love for all of that creation.
So why is Genesis at the beginning of our scriptures?  Why is it perfect for the beginning of Lent?  Why is it where I start when I teach confirmation?  Because God’s life-giving relationship to creation is the foundation of everything else that comes to us in scripture.  Genesis isn’t just at the beginning of the Bible because the fist words are “in the beginning.”  I think Genesis is placed at the beginning of our Biblical Canon because it is foundational to every other scripture in our Bible.  When we hear about a baby in the manger we should be reminded of God’s creation, redemption, and God’s promises.  When we read about Christ upon the cross?  Yup.  We should have in mind that God was at the beginning creating, in the end redeeming, and throughout all of our trials, God’s promises are secure.  When Paul writes his frustrations and successes in his letters?  We can keep in mind that God is at the foundation of his work and God stands with Paul and those churches, and, today, we can keep Genesis at the center of our theology and keep creation and promise at the center of how we respond to the people, things, and world around us.
Ministry In A New Place

Rural Church on Cape Breton Island found at:

 I found out last November that I would be leaving Pontiac First United Methodist Church as they began the process of getting their budget in line and eliminated my position.  Since then, and especially after we announced that I would be moving, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about where my gifts and liabilities lie and I’ve been pondering what sort of church setting would be “right” for me.

As you might imagine, there is a lot of anxiety as you wait for the Bishop to make a decision about where to send you, especially when you are one half of a clergy couple, as I am.  I mean, what affects me also affects my wife’s career in a big way.  Well, here I have been; waiting…and pondering…and filled with anxiety and I, then, suddenly found myself at peace this week.

What happened last weekend?  Did I get answers? No.  Did I have a revelation about my gifts for ministry?  No.  Did I realize where the perfect church might be?  Nope.  None of the above.

First of all, I thought about all of the people who don’t have jobs and that put my job security in perspective.  I have a job.  That is not a small thing these days!  I thought about the way, in some other denominations, pastors have to find their own jobs and I realized that my wife and I could be sending applications out trying to find a magical place where we could be in ministry within driving distance of one another.  What a headache that would be.

More importantly, I put my trust in the Bishop and cabinet.  Oh, now, I’m not overly idealistic about our system and I know its not perfect…yet as I’ve begun to look at the churches that are opening up on my conference’s website, I realize that I cannot know which church would provide me an opportunity to stretch my legs, I don’t know the churches well enough to know where I might be effective in ministry and helpful to that church, and I would be at a loss to know which churches would be supportive and nurturing to a young, new pastor like me.

A peace came over me when I realized that there were people who may actually know something about these churches and, because my District Superintendent has spent time with me, I realized there is a Bishop and cabinet that know something about me.

There are people who are looking over these churches and my fellow clergy and I and they see a bigger picture.  They aren’t infallible and they don’t always get it right, but I was able to let go of some anxiety.  Also, I simply realized that I have no control over the situation.  Hey, there’s no reason to hold onto anxiety when one has no control over the situation.  But most importantly, I looked back on my ministry, so far, and I thought about the people with whom I have done ministry.   No matter where I was:  Northern Wisconsin, Southern Illinois or the NorthShore of Chicago I found good ministry.  Not because I -or the church- was perfect, but because churches are a place of people and God.

Each community and the church I served in that community was filled with people who were yearning to love and be loved.  Rev. Victor Long used to say, when I worked with him in Marion, “I’ve never had to convince a person that they were a dirty rotten sinner” but it is surprisingly hard to convince people that God really loves them.

People everywhere need to know they are loved and can, themselves, be freed to act with love.  Each church has possibilities for great ministry: from the smallest country church to the largest ‘mega’ church.  Eventually my appointment will be announced and I will have new anxiety about different questions, but, for now, I’m going to trust the United Methodist Church, try not to think about it, and find peace that great ministry can happen wherever I might go.