Moments of Panic

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52 (CEB)

“…but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends. When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple.”  – Luke 2:43b-46

About a year ago I had a ‘moment of panic.’  I had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was working with two families experiencing loss, and the Senior Pastor at my church was about to leave on vacation for a month.  When I got to Christmas Eve at my church in Pontiac and as I shook hands and greeted people I began to feel overwhelmed.  What was truly overwhelming was the way in which person-after-person cocked their heads to say, “are you okay?”

Each thing on its own would have been fine, but this perfect storm hit that night.  During that service as I sat up front, when my responsibilities were concluded and my mind drifted a bit, it all washed over me.  I knew I was going to fall apart right in front of the entire church.  I didn’t.  I made it to the back steps of the church instead of greeting people and I fell completely apart crying. I sobbed, alone, in the dark for the longest time.  I collapsed in a ‘moment of panic.’

Have you ever had a moment of panic?  It is different for everyone, but I suspect most of us have felt a moment like that.  It could be a missing child, a confrontation, a call from a creditor when you have no money to pay, legal trouble, abuse, job loss, divorce…  I don’t know what you have experienced (or maybe you are experiencing), but I suspect this is a pretty universal feeling.

In the scripture above,  Mary must have found herself in a moment of panic.  I can almost see it and hear it:  She is in the midst of a loud parade heading home.  There she stands with voices, laughter, and rejoicing as her community heads home from the festival. Can you imagine how the world must have become muted and far-off when she had her moment of panic? Can you imagine how her stomach must have twisted and fallen when she realized her son was not in this large parade of safety and happiness?

In a moment of panic: Mary & Joseph must have been frantic and must have hurried back to Jerusalem.  They found the boy, feeling at home, in the temple challenging others and being challenged, himself.  Yet, the story doesn’t end when the young Jesus is found. The story is about more than a young boy being physically found by his parents.

This story is about a messiah who took Mary and Joseph’s moment of panic and turned it into something else. They worried for their little boy’s well-being, but the Christ child saw it differently:  He asks, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” They had a moment of panic, but young Jesus turned it into a moment of clarity.

I wonder, though, it you’ll allow me to go off-point for a moment.  I want to talk about where this all happened.  It’s the end of a festival.  When Mary & Joseph return the temple must have been nearly empty compared to a day earlier.  For us, on the week after Christmas it isn’t much different: Christmas eve and Christmas Day have come and gone; Warm feelings were felt as we sang ‘silent night’ on xmas eve; and then everyone returns home.  The temple…the church…is empty.

The good news is that our God can take a quiet temple and turn it into a place of growth and faith.  For us, today, this text reminds us that when we face a moment of panic, pain, grief, trouble, strife…when the world becomes muted and joy seems distant…we are to face that panic and return to the temple.

We are to return to our community of faith and when we come to the otherside of our trouble, Christ may just help us see the world differently.  Our panic and trouble can become a growing faith: through scripture, challenging questions, the people around us, and, of course, God’s Holy Spirit.

Christ takes our human worries and pain and asks us to look at the world from another perspective.  We are shaken by our pain & worry, but God helps us to see more clearly.

For me on that Christmas Eve that filled me with so much anxiety? I don’t know if I made it about Christ the way I should have.  I don’t know what I did right or what I did wrong.  And am sure that my life is no more valuable than others who didn’t survive when confronted by illness.

But I know with certainty that I grew and, as I look back, I see that others grew out of my ‘moment of panic’.  I also know that my community of faith and my God: loved me, challenged me, prayed with me, and, ultimately, changed me.

I do know that on the other side of my own “moment of panic” I see the world differently and, I hope that,  I love more fully.  Oh, I’m not perfect – not even close.  I’m not even sure if I’m better than I was.  God doesn’t promise that, but in my moment of panic and struggle: God & my community helped me through that terrible time.  They helped me to look back with clarity and insight.

When you find yourself struggling, I want you to know that church should be a place to struggle.  When you feel lost or broken, I want you to know that you can be found.  When the world has taken something from you, or you feel loss: know that you can gain something from a community of people who live out their faith and, of course, from your God.

In your moments of panic and trouble.  Go with haste to your true home.  Find a church that cares and allows you room to struggle and grow.  I know you would enjoy mine

Making Facebook Work This Year.

I’ve been contemplating the efficacy of facebook for a church (or other organization).  I’d like to take some time this new year to reflect on what seems to work and what doesn’t.

What you see above doesn’t work.  It gives information, you’re right.  It shows what we were doing, at the time, certainly.  There is nothing wrong with sharing information and announcements on facebook, but that can’t be the totality of it…in fact i’m not convinced that facebook is even particularly good at working like a calendar or bulletin, but I think there are ways to do that…I’ll get to that in another post.   What I want to say today: facebook is meant to connect with people on a relational level.  There should seldom be a post that doesn’t share a photo, video or link to an interesting story.

But, just because you have a link or a photo doesn’t mean its good.  Some churches augment their ‘announcement feed’ with links to denominational news stories or, worse yet, stock photos**.  If that is the extent of what we do, then we are doomed.

I want to suggest that developing a successful church facebook page comes with continually developing original content.  There is no other way to do it effectively…

Photos:  Pick up a digital camera or the nearest smart phone and take photos.  Not blurry snapshots and not all of them can be from the back of the room.  Get in close to people and show happy expressions.  OH, and please, get a variety of people.

Get Permission:  It should go without saying, but please take the time to ask permission from adults to use their photos and make a permission slip for photo an video a part of your sunday school registration so that you can easily know which parents are cool with you using their children’s photos and which ones don’t.  Don’t post photos where children’s faces are clearly visible without permission (the exception, for me, is public performances where the photo or video is of a large group from a distance)!

Video:  It can be as simple as an iphone or as complicated as a professional camcorder, but there are middle-of-the-road options for most churches.  Get a digital camcorder with an external mic plug (there are some inexpensive ones).  With an adapter or two from radio shack you can plug the church microphones into your camera and have decent sound if you do an interview.  But, again, don’t just put up anything.  Just because it is video, doesn’t mean it is good.  Just panning across a crowd will cause yawns to form and people will not click your next video.  Sure, pan the crowd and get videos from behind children and adults so that you have some b-roll that you can use without faces…but get some close up videos and pull people out of the room and ask them to tell what is happening; why they chose to come; and what they like about the event / the church.  Remember, we are not reporting just WHAT happened, but who and how it makes us feel.  and then… most computers have a basic video editing program.  open it up and put together a short video.  For the most part (for shots around the church or short interviews): don’t go over 2-3 minutes, in fact, 30 seconds – 1 minute will give you the best results in my experience.

Recommendations:  There is a very under-used section on facebook pages called recommendations.  For a company it is used for customers to ‘recommend’ the company or the product they sell: “I love [restaurant]’s food because it makes me think of home,” “Everytime I walk into this [business] it makes me think of the day I got engaged.”  Companies use this section to connect.  Churches need to start asking people to think about what they love about the church and post it there.  It is called evangelism and this is a very simple yet powerful way to share our feelings about our church in a visible way.  Oh, and don’t be afraid to remove unhelpful recommendations or comments that get put there… and seek out a variety of voices for this section: get your youth and college students involved here.

Insights:  There are a million tutorials for facebook and the most accurate are right in the facebook help section…  spend some time learning about insights.  They are powerful tools that help you understand how your page is being used.  Very basically, the more that people like, share and comment about a post or recommendation…the more others are going to see your church and know that your organization is an active force in the community (that is “Reach”)

Comment, Share, and LIKE:  Talk with your church staff or leaders to set an expectation that they would spend some time on the page and encourage them to regularly like, comment and share posts.  Now, here is the thing:  discourage people from liking everything.  Why?  My friends are likely to stop paying attention if something from my church comes up on their feed 5 times a day from me, but when staff and church leaders see something that actually connects with them – they should be sharing it.  When a person sees a variety of postings from your church that many of their facebook friends are connecting with, they may actually pay attention!

Oh, and if you are the page admin, don’t be afraid to share items to other people’s timelines.  For instance, when we had a Cantata I put up a video ‘as the church’ and then shared it to the choir director’s timeline.  If it is an item that especially needs attention, “Like” it yourself or comment on it (as yourself, not the page).

Voice: I can not stress this one enough…  Use the right voice on facebook pages!  There is a blue bar at the very top of the page, if you are the admin.  It will look something like this:

For most posts for major events, youtube videos, etc. I make sure that I am posting, commenting and like as “Normal First UMC,” but the staff and I have been trying to upload some photos short video clips and comments using our own voices…  (just go to the blue bar and click to change to your own “voice”).  In the new facebook timeline they appear in a seperate section that gets less notice on the page, but they don’t have to stay there!  Go to the “recent posts by others” click on “see more” and you’ll see all the personal posts that have gone up.  Click on the X.  It doesn’t delete it (although you could) but it gives you options and one of those options is “allow on page.”  That moves the post by someone else to the main part of the page.  It gives a more personal face to the page and to the church.

Hiding:  One last thing, this season we did advent devotional.  Each day I wanted to put up the most recent devotional as a note, but, I didn’t want 31 notes clogging up the page and making it look…well…boring.  So I put up the next day’s note each evening and “hid” yesterday’s note.  The note wasn’t deleted and people could still comment on them and they were still showing up in people’s feeds, but there weren’t 31 notes in a row on the timeline by now, either.  This is critical to understand: what you see on your page timeline is not the totality of your church’s presence.  Facebook is a complicated mix of timeline, notifications, newsfeeds and ads.  Posts exist even when they are hidden from your timeline and old items can be made new, simply by having people go back and like them (or re-sharing an old photo or video).

A successful page will have annoucements (although usually in the form of “events”), sure, but will have a focus on relationship building and content that is personal (not stock photos or, too often, denomination news links).  If you’d like to see some of things I’m talking about in action, feel free to stop by www.facebook.com/normalfirst.  Our page is far from perfect, but we are moving in the right direction.  I think that the staff are making great strides in how we take our church online and aim to ‘connect’ not just inform.

I hope your new year on facebook will be fruitful for you and your church!

**Hey, we occasionally use stock photos…but I suggest there is usually something better to use, it just takes more effort.

A Weekend of Wonder

Contemporary Worship this week at Normal First United Methodist Church





Here is my message from this past weekend at Normal First United Methodist Church.  If you live in the Bloomington-Normal area or are ever passing through on a Sunday morning, I hope you will join us for worship.  I generally preach and lead worship at the Contemporary 11:10 am worship service in the fellowship hall, but we have 3 worship services on Saturday evening and Sunday morning to meet your needs!


Scripture 
Psalm 130

Sunday’s Message
Not exactly as preached, but you get the idea, at least…

This psalm has turned out to be timeless.  It has appealed to people throughout time:  Calvin called it a Pauline Psalm because, he said, it contained the truth of the gospels.  John Wesley heard this psalm sung earlier in the day and it prepared him for an evening on Aldersgate street when his heart would be strangely warmed.

I think this psalm is timeless because everyone can relate to these words.  Despair is a universal experience, isn’t it?

After my mother was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma -an ear tumor- and had brain surgery to remove it about a year ago:  I immediately realized that I had similar symptoms.  So, last July, I went to my doctor.  That was a long wait in the waiting room. They called in an audiologist, then an Ear Nose Throat Surgeon…intense and long waiting.

They wanted only to ‘rule out’ an acoustic neuroma.  So we thought we were coming to some resolution when we scheduled with BroMenn for an MRI.  It turned out that I didn’t have one of those…but they found a totally unrelated brain tumor in my cerebellum

It was four o’clock on a friday and I found out there was a mass in my brain.  That weekend our imaginations went wild.  My wife and I fell into the depths of waiting and waiting can cause despair.  That weekend was the longest wait of our lives.

I waited until January for a plan of action and to schedule surgery. I waited until February for my surgery.  After my surgery I thought I had made it through…but a spinal fluid leak brought me back to St. Louis for another operation in April.  It turned out that recovery is just another kind of waiting!

It wasn’t just a brain tumor that left me waiting during this past year.  Because my church knew they could no longer afford two pastors, I’ve known I was leaving Pontiac since last fall.  If there has been a theme for my year, it is waiting and despair.

Even once it was announced that I would be coming to First United Methodist Church, I found myself excited, but still on medical leave and still waiting.

Like so many people who have come before me, I identify with the Psalmist.  A psalmist who was in the depths and waiting… and waiting… and waiting, “more than the night watch waits for morning.”

The psalmist reminds us of the importance of faith that a new day will come.  The psalmist reminds us that no matter how far we are lost into the depths; no matter how alone we feel, no matter how much has been placed upon us…  no matter what has set us back…   hope is the greatest ally we have.  That is to say:  leaning on God, and having faith that a new morning will come is the greatest comfort we can experience.

I imagine each person here has a time when they were in the depths and waiting.  This church has been waiting and in transition these past few months and, I imagine, there is anxiety as you wait for a new pastor.

I have faith that my appointment at Normal First United Methodist Church is the new morning I have been waiting for during this long hard period ‘in the depths.’  I have faith that the people of First Church, the community of Bloomington-Normal and the campus community will bring light into my world and strengthen my faith!

And I hope, that after months of transition and months of waiting for a new associate, that I will brighten up your world, support you in your faith, and join in your disciple-making work here in this community.

What A Week!
The beautiful stained glass at my new church in Normal.

This past week has been an incredible journey and I want to thank all of the people of Pontiac and Normal who have made this such a positive and faith-filled transition!

The people of Pontiac shared with me during a farewell reception and the thoughtful cards, gifts, and well-wishing touched me and ensured that we left Pontiac feeling cared-for!  Meanwhile, the people of Normal have welcomed us with graciousness that we could not have expected.  For instance, two members of the Staff-Parish relations committee (my liaisons with the congregation) showed up on move-in day with a large laundry basket filled with house-warming gifts:  things we would need as we started unpacking.  They also presented us with gift cards for Steak-N-Shake and Avanti’s.  How thoughtful!  The Avanti’s card paid for our pizza that night, because we had no dishes unpacked nor energy for cooking!

Fast forward to this past weekend.  I had a funeral on Saturday morning and preached at a worship service on Saturday night and two worship services on Sunday morning.  I made it though the weekend in pretty good shape, but had a moment during the 9 am worship service communion when fatigue hit me.  I had to hold on to the wall and rail to finish, but once I sat down and got to rest, I was fine again.

There are moments like that which remind me that I’m still recovering from surgeries, but, mostly, I don’t feel any different than before my medical problems began.  I just have to watch for my moments of stress, weakness or fatigue and know when to slow down or rest…

Mostly, this week has been a joy.  I feel as though I have experienced love from one congregation and great hospitality and welcome from another.  Who could ask for more than that?

blessings to you,

Weight Watchers Saved My Life!

Lately I’ve had a whole lot of people comment on my weight.  Either they say something like, “Oh you’ve put on some weight, you look much better,” or something like, “oh, you look too thin (or sick).”  Now, I know that it is all amplified because folks know I had a brain tumor: so I don’t take it personally…but it has me worried!

I think it reveals a larger problem in society, especially the rural, midwestern culture here in Livingston County (Illinois). Our American Society is, quite simply, obese.  I was overweight until not long ago and now that I’m at the top end of my healthy weight range, everyone thinks I am sickly.  I still have flab, I’m still not fit and toned…yet everyone thinks I am now unhealthy!  Let me say it one more time:  I’m not even at the low side of my healthy weight range and everyone around me seems to be freaking out, why?  Because so many who are around us in rural midwestern America are overweight.  Overweight has become the standard, quite simply.

I’m not coming down on obesity because of how people act, by the way (I’m not calling people lazy), nor am I even upset because of how people look (It’s really not about vanity).  I’m honestly concerned for my health, my family’s health and for the people around us.  Being overweight is a serious problem which leads to all kinds of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, for example.  And weight gain, beyond one’s healthy weight range, is an indicator that one’s diet and exercise are out of whack and that things are not well with your body!  (When you are gaining weight your body is trying to communicate with you)

Well, back to me.  Last week someone cornered me and shared their concern about my weight and I responded that Weight Watchers (my weight loss) saved my life.  It did, by the way!  I told them the story of how my spinal fluid leaked into my bed after my second surgery.  I told them about how the surgeon shared with Carrie that I would have died that night had I been any heavier or older.  I told them that losing 35 pounds and getting into my healthy weight range was not just to look better (vanity), it actually saved my life.  Now, I’ve responded this way with several people, but the reason this one interaction stands out in my mind is because the person responded to my story: first, by saying, “Oh my.” and then saying, “what do you mean about a healthy weight range?”

They were serious.  They had no idea that based on sex and weight there are guidelines to help people find a healthy weight!  Today I want to begin correcting this view.  More importantly, I want to become more vocal about our need, especially in rural communities, to work against obesity and grow in health.  I want to do this work not to be critical of people or to be hurtful, but because I want to help.  There are many people suffering from the plight of obesity (or at least being overweight) and I would be remiss if I didn’t share my own experiences and work to help them.  At my heaviest several years ago I was 225 and I hit my goal weight of 165 pounds a few weeks ago (when I arrived in Pontiac two years ago I was about 200).  I’m a 6′ male and my healthy weight range is 147-184 according to Weight Watchers.  I got to where I am by eating more vegetables and fruits and cutting down my oil and carbohydrates, I got to where I am by eating well (not being hungry), and I got to where I am by adding some basic exercise to my routine which not only helped me feel better and lose weight, but also helped me to have more complete and enjoyable days.

I hope you will join me as I continue working to be more healthy.  Don’t do it for me, do it for you!

Also, if you’d like to find you’re body mass index (figure out how you are doing), click here!


Get started with a new and accurate bathroom scale:
Getting Back To It

I’ve begun to feel much more like myself, but I forget that no one outside of my living room knows that, at least on most days!

Well, as you all know from my other blog posts, I got through the second surgery (which fixed complications from my original brain surgery). All was going well, last I posted about my health. Since then life has been pretty boring, really. I sit in my recliner and test gravity, I pack boxes for our move to Normal, IL, or I am on a walk with my wife.

If the part about me packing boxes is concerning, it shouldn’t be. I pack them and I direct Carrie about where to stack them. It’s a weird position to be in. I go to the grocery store and I have to ask for a bagboy to help me to my car. I’m 32 years old and look as though I’m an able-bodied man…you should see the looks I get from the County Market somedays.

It is really great, though, to be off all the pain medications and driving again!!! It allows me to get out of the house and that doesn’t seem so important until you can’t do it. I know I’ve talked about this is the past (after my first surgery), but getting to drive felt like a huge milestone. I didn’t need to go anywhere, in fact, I didn’t really have anywhere to go…but I could go if I wanted to. That felt great, somehow.

That brings me to today. I got to go to my church today. Not only did I get to go to church, but I was invited to preach the 8:15 am worship service since it was confirmation Sunday and I led that program. I was nervous to try to preach, but I felt good the whole time. I’m back to myself and I know now that I’m capable of getting back to work.

My District Superintendent and the directing pastor at my church decided, when I went into the emergency room with the Spinal fluid leak that it wouldn’t make sense for me to go back to work for just a few weeks. It really could be more disruptive than helpful to be back full time for such a short time, especially when Rev. Ray is finding his groove as a solo pastor… So, I will be on medical leave until the end of June and start back to work as a pastor full-time when I arrive at First United Methodist Church of Normal.

Now, I haven’t left the church and because I’m feeling better and better everyday I’m not just going to be sitting around next month. After talking with Rev. Ray, I’ve decided that the month of June will be a time of visiting in the nursing home and spending time saying farewell.

Title Photo Courtesy of Marci Hunt

Day 2 – Getting to St. Louis.
image found at:  http://www.epmonthly.com/whitecoat/2010/05/florida-verdict-threatens-ems-availability/ambulance-2/

Hmmm. So where did I leave off? Ah, I told you all about getting sick on Saturday and getting to the Pontiac Hospital. I was feeling a little stupid, you know, expecting the doctors to say, again: “This is all normal, take some tylenol and go home.” My wife later said it’s like going to the mechanic and having the rattle stop once the mechanic is there to listen. Well, as most of you now know, it wasn’t business as usual. The radiologist told us it looked like bleeding in my brain from the original surgery and they wanted to transfer us to St. Joseph’s in bloomington. Luckily my wife was not satisfied about the transfer. For me, I would have done anything I was told I was so goofy from the morphine, but my wife was on top of things. She was confused why they would transfer me to bloomington and not to the doctors I knew already and the facility where I’d already had brain surgery. Well, for those of you who have not yet met my wife, she is never afraid to speak her mind. She told the doctor that we would just wait until he had contacted the surgeon’s office in St. Louis. I’m sure my wife felt elation when he walked back into the room looking a little defeated and said, “the doctors want you transferred back to Barnes.”

At first we were told the transfer would be within the next hour or so…so Carried stayed by my bed from 2-4am. Finally they told us that they were out of ambulances and drivers and that it would be 7am, so Carrie went home and got some sleep…at least I thought she did.

She was so worried about Sunday morning going well, that she secretly went to Chenoa an
 worked on Sunday morning stuff and prepared for worship for several more hours, since I had kept her from doing any work during most of this past week. She is a loyal and conscientious worker.

The ambulance got to the hospital around 7:45 and we were piled in and headed to St. Louis by 8am. It was really a pretty comfortable ride (morphine and anti-nausea meds help with that, though). Most importantly, the paramedic and driver were excellent and really went above-and-beyond to make us comfortable, give us internet access (yes, amazing, right?) and to provide excellent medical care.

Since we’ve been at Barnes-Jewish (we got here around 11am or so Sunday morning) it has basically been a waiting game. I mean, this situation was unscripted and this hospital visit was unplanned so they had to slip me in front of other people for the MRI and bounce me around rooms a bit before things were satisfactory.

We saw a neuro-surgeon resident who was on-call this weekend who was exceptionally helpful, very thorough, and really paid attention to my situation. Oh, and he really seemed very knowledgeable. He came by the room in the early-to-mid afternoon and talked to us about the CT scan that was taken in Pontiac. He wasn’t convinced there was any new bleeding, but certainly there was spinal fluid leaking and…the best way to describe it would be a ‘pressure problem.’ If spinal fluid is leaking out from the skull, there isn’t enough in the skull, so my headaches and my pain was from the pressure being ‘out of whack.’
He also helped me to understand my headaches. I explained my different head pain and headaches and I told them that sometimes it shot from the back of my head to the front. He told us that the C2 (not sure that’s right) nerves or nerve bundle (or something) arch up from where my surgery was done to the front of my head and that was causing some of the headaches I had been experiencing. Gosh, it was just great to know that they believed my pain and that I wasn’t crazy. Okay, so this isn’t definitive proof of my craziness. My brand of crazy comes from somewhere else, though 🙂

The MRI wasn’t able to happen until 6:30 pm or so on Sunday night. They wouldn’t knock me out and it took about 45 minutes. I’ve never had trouble with MRIs before, but I thought about that bump on my head and the nausea I felt and I told them I didn’t think I could do it without being knocked out. They were moving me onto the MRI when I looked up with big sad eyes and said, “Oh, so I guess the doctor didn’t approve for me to get knocked out for this. The Radiologist’s only response was a slow, sad head shake.

Well, it was long and painful, but not intolerable. They didn’t even have to re-do any of it. I rocked out that MRI…yeah. And then we waited for results.

I hadn’t kept any food or water down since Friday evening at dinner and this was Sunday night, so I was hungry. No, I was famished. I’m a Carnes and we should come with a label, “Dangerous When Hungry.” Well, they didn’t want me to eat until they knew for sure that I wouldn’t need surgery until Monday. They said it was unlikely, but if there was an infection I might need immediate surgery and they didn’t want me to eat in that case.

I’m a reasonable guy (when I’m not hungry) and I understood that it would be a while before we got MRI results, but it took several hours and then the nurse came in at 10 pm (or so) and said that we probably wouldn’t hear any more until Monday morning. You should have seen the look of despair in my eyes. I explained how I had not eaten in days and how I’d been promised food before bed, so long as there was no emergency surgery. The nurse took pity on me and, despite orders, gave me a few ice chips.
Oh, that ice and water were exquisite! I mean, that water tasted better than the best wine. OooOOohhhhh, soooo good!

Well, that gets me to Sunday night and you nearing know as much as we do so far.

Scary-Different Church

image found at:  http://newvintageleadership.com/

I’m very worried about the United Methodist Church. It has been on a long and slow decline in membership and finances for years. We know that the course we are on is untenable and we know our bureaucracy is oversized and out-dated…and we know that it no longer reflects the needs of our current church.

I don’t know which of the upcoming proposals will be best, but I implore all of those heading to General Conference 2012 to take action this year. If we don’t accept the call-to-action or a similar piece of legislation, we won’t be around much longer.
I hate to say it so strongly. I hate to have to say it at all…but I am afraid for my church. We can’t afford to ignore our problems any longer and the local church can’t afford anything, not any more.

It is time for action. I know the arguments against the call-to-action report. I know that many groups fear a loss of voice. I agree, that is not what we want. Yet, I fear there will be no voices soon enough, if we don’t reduce the size of our church boards. Furthermore, I wonder how effectively we feel the voices “at the table” are heard in our current system. I wonder how effectively our boards are currently operating?

I have thought long and hard about it. I choose to give up my seat. I know that’s not saying much, but I didn’t throw my hat in the ring to be on a board or agency this time around. I’ve served my church the past 8 years and I think I now serve it best by sitting back and letting the church shrink, become more nimble, and allow other voices to be heard. Are others willing to give up their seat for the good of our church? Are we willing to say less in order that the church can do more? Are we willing to step out in faith even though this new reality is scary-different?

Let’s make a new future for this church.

Today’s Scripture: 1 John 1:1-2:2

We will look more closely at just a few of these verses:

2 The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. 3 What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete.

Think about it for just a moment. It would not have been very difficult to believe in Christ just after the resurrection. Oh, it might have been difficult to believe, i suppose, but it had just happened! I mean, if there was a time when it was easier to believe, that would have been the time, right? If we read the gospel of John we find that Christ has appeared to the disciples. It seems assured that Christ has, indeed, risen from the dead!

But for the next few generations of Christians it must have been increasingly difficult. There were not any gospels for a while and stories were handed down, but Christ wasn’t there to be seen or touched.

The problem that becomes apparent in this scripture is that people were mixing up the message of Jesus Christ and so 1 John attempts to put the message of Christ back into order. “We have seen,” and “we testify…to you.” Those who knew something about the life and death of Jesus are writing these words to ensure future generations of Christians will understand the message of Christ.

Resurrection and New Life is not just for one time or one group of people. The message of New Life in Christ is for all times and all peoples. This letter is written to us that we might know Jesus’ love. Christ overcame death and so might we!