10Q10Q -- faith, life, rethinking church, following Jesus...stuff

Come join in the discussion of faith at the Koinonia Page where scripture and life intersect in conversation and exploration. Visit on Facebook, Twitter, and Dave's Web Page too! I'd welcome your company at Palmyra First United Methodist Church, where I hang out, too, come and see!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow Home

     It's good to be home after 3700+ miles from PA to OH to TX and back.  A wonderful adventure indeed, and yet family and familiar places bring a grounded, great feeling.  I was a little confused by the Oct 29 snow storm, but aside from a few extra snow tasks it was still all that makes home wonderful.  (That's my front and back yard, home in the snow!)
    I am reminded in my travels and return that I play a role in God's work and that I am not the whole of that work or the most important player.  PFUMC's services went on with passion and skill while I was gone. (Thanks David Walker, Band, choir, Tyler and so many other servants and faithful people.)  The neighbors hardly noticed I was absent. (I'd like to change that by connecting more.) My wife Penny, handled a new water heater, along with routine stuff, expertly and calmly without my presence. (Never a doubt, always mutual trust, and the love of my life!)
    Now indeed there were questions emailed and phoned my way.  Penny welcomed me home.  The neighbors greeted me with a friendly wave.  And there is much work awaiting my re-entry.  I have a place along with everyone else.  That's nice.  I like being part of something bigger and something that matters.  I like not being in charge of the world.
     Tomorrow I'm back to serving in the familiar ways, having served and been nourished on the road.  It's amazing to me how it all works together. I'm glad I'm a part of it all.
     Where do you fit into making the world a better place?  (Don't know, ask me questions and I'll gladly walk with you while you find your fit!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

923 Miles in One Day -- On A Mission

   923 focused, purposed, driving miles were accomplished with my car.   I was headed home at mile one, logged in the morning darkness, and at mile 923, accomplished in the starry night.  I was on a mission.  Quick pit stops with meals, fuel and rest crammed in keeping me on task and on time, moving toward the goal.  Like a dog with a bone, I was going home.
     When are you on a mission?  My reflection  these past two weeks of learning reminds me that I'm on a mission to Live Love with joy, welcome, passion, playfulness and abandon.  I truly believe that without God's love people haven't truly lived.  I  passionately believe that God's love isn't restrictive and religious, rather freeing and life-giving.  So I try to share it as I am inviting others to follow Jesus with me.
     A quick history to my passion.  As a kid my parents lived that kind of love with me and the world around.  When I was seven, and taken along with some young adults on a roller skating party, and was about to crash on my keister, one of those young adults saw me, and caught me before I ever hit the floor.  It was a slow motion event allowing me to notice my fear, thinking about my head cracking on the hardwood floor and feeling unseen hands of love care enough to save me from that pain.  That's my picture of God's love.
      I can tell you of many experiences of that kind of love:  a high school Christian rock band and the crew that lived life together as teens; a graduate school study group who helped each other through rough spots with determination and laughter; a mission team who sang happy birthday aboard a 747; and more.  Bottom line,  I have experienced great, playful, life-giving love.   It's happened in the context of what I know as the Church.  I want to share it.  I have to share it!
      A quick confession.  I have shared love consistently in my life, but I have not always asked if I was being strategic or effective on my Love mission.  I've too often been content to just go with the flow, failing to maximize opportunities and multiply moments to share the most love possible.  I want to change that.  So there's my bone.  Where's yours?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Everything's Important to God, Everything's Not Always Strategic in God's Kingdom

   "Everyone is important to God, everyone is not strategic."  -- Mike Slaughter.  That's my best recollection of a quote that's summarizing what I'm learning.  I might put it, "Everything is made by God and  equally important to God, however everything is not always equally strategic to God's Kingdom work right now."
    My passion is to share the love and joy I know in following Jesus.  I really can't imagine a meaningful life without that gift.  I want to share that passion with love and joy as well... gently, persistently, playfully.  It can make all the difference.
       Yesterday and today, learning with the Easum group, I'm reminded about priorities, accountability and how all that brings me back to the truth that everything is not equally strategic.  Not new, but hard when it means that tasks, visits, favorite programs and more may not receive my strategic attention even though they have value.
    My task, like my drive back to PA, is to choose a direction and stay focused.  What keeps you focused?  What gets you distracted?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ordinary Paths, Extraordinary Gifts

    Steps are taken, everyday.  Sometimes on purpose.  Sometimes thoughtlessly.  Often with mixed mindfulness.  I've been moving a bit more intentionally this trip, looking forward and looking back.  There always seems to be a gift in the most unexpected places...when I look!
     Yesterday was basic from-here-to-there travel, starting in New Orleans and ending... I'm not sure where.  I know I drove atop ocean-side sea walls and paralleled beaches.  I noticed 2nd home communities on tip-toe atop 2 and 3 story stilts to avoid the dangers of rising waters.  My intended destinations got changed.  My mid day hunger changed the path.  And mosquitoes changed where I slept.  It was a good day.
     I'm writing from my Texas office with the Golden Arches and free WiFi after awaking to a misty sunrise in a Walmart parking lot.  It brought to mind an old hymn that says, "When morning gilds the sky, my heart awakening cries, let Jesus Christ be praised!"
     I got to the Walmart parking lot for a little car camping because when I stopped for the night at Galveston Island state park, the only other tenter there had to fire warning shots at the Texas mosquitoes that were trying to carry off my GMC Terrain. 
     Unarmed myself, no bug spray or itch control, and unable to sleep in the humid 80 degree night with the windows closed, I moved on.  First stop a drug store to stop the itch and prevent further invasion.  Then done I drove on, thankful for adventure, resources and the hope of a better land ahead.  God Provides!
      When I left New Orleans in the morning I drove on miles and miles (I lost count after 15 miles) of stilted roads built over marsh and water.  It's not always easy for me to trust.  I kept wondering if they checked every support after Katrina.   Trust can be an issue for me on any journey.  Trusting support of people and plans.  The road held! (Should I really be surprised?) Perhaps it was a lesson in trust.
          Then came the houses upon stilts, some as high as two story sticks before ever getting to living space!   After that, allowing a boat to hold a cargo of vehicles and carry them safely across new water.  Steps that  warned caution and so much more.    Coastal Texas is B I G !  Now my head knows that the Gulf and the Ocean are big, but driving along the water for hours drives home the point.  In all of this all is well, there are lessons to learn.  Onward.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Never Forget Second Chances

     Yesterday I was not impressed with New Orleans.  I jumped to judgement.  And this morning I was reminded of resurrection and second chances.
     I left the hostel and drove through the French Quarter to watch a tanker truck spraying the streets with soapy, water leaving the street fragrant with clean.  I saw a city worker pressure washing steps where spectators watched break dancers spin and wow the night before.  I followed a street sweeper past the French market and cruised past Bourbon street to see industrious shop keepers, delivery drivers and workers restoring, restocking and renewing for another day.  "Perhaps they know something of human hungers, brokenness and redemption," I thought. 
     Then I drove to the 9th ward where Hurricane Katrina devastated lives and property in 2005, only to find partial restoration, limping architecture, and scared landscape that rivaled developing nations.  Why is it that the poor are forgotten so easily?  Why is the 9th Ward not clean and the economics of Bourbon street bring 24 hour renewal?
    I ended my morning tour at the end of Canal St. in the picturesque and historic cemeteries of the city.  Then it hit me.  Never forget second chances.  I'm as broken and needy and unpredictable as the next human being.  My eyes see another's brokenness and so easily miss my own.  (Or see the speck in my friends eye and miss the log in my own.)  The things that are unattractive to me may be another's treasure.  My brokenness always looks better to me than my neighbor's brokenness.
    The morning reminded me once again to Live Love with second chances, redemption, newness, and plain-old kindness.  Where do you need to offer a second chance?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Community and New Orleans

     Two hours down the road in Jackson, MS “find-a-church” (www.umc.org) helped me locate a congregation for worship.  I arrived early thinking…bathroom break and reflection.  I was spotted and whisked into a Sunday School class with reluctant cooperation.  That began community.  Their study of Bishop Schnase’s “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” got us talking about God at work in our lives.
     I was quiet until someone asked where I was from, which led to “what do you do” and “what brought you here” which morphed into a conversation of what the church is called to be.  A good conversation that made me glad I came.  God opened doors beyond my reluctance and it was good.  (For the record God often does God’s best work by pushing my comfort zone!)
    Church attendance was  much smaller than advertized on the web stats.  The young-adult organist did a good job as the  congregation seemed to fly through the traditional liturgy with both heart and speed.  A remarkably good Men’s choir and well crafted sermon joined the congregation’s  search for real church to mine.  All sealed with a gift mug filled with fair-trade coffee and church info.
    A few more hours and voila, I’m in New Orleans.  A first for me.

New Orleans
     I settled into my accommodations and hopped the Canal St. Trolley for the River Walk, French Quarter and Bourbon Street.  It certainly is a colorful blend of culture, color, architecture and excess.
   The best music was on the street, not in the clubs and also not on Bourbon street.  The carnival reputation was accurate and beyond the experience of saying I’d been there I wasn’t drawn in.  I marveled at the copious consumption of alcohol, the blatant strip clubs along the corridor and more trinkets, baubles and t-shirts than the free world could consume.
    The trolley car, the Mississippi and the 10 year old New Orleans Jazz drummer beating mature rhythms to her music family’s ensemble were worth the adventure.  The India House Hostel on Lopez St. is an experiential oasis of culture, youth and rest, that is home for the night.
    New Orleans showed me what God given hunger for community might look like if it goes wrong.  The morning Sunday School Class demonstrated a hunger to feed that hunger well.

    Monday I’ll tour the 9th Ward by car and head down the coast toward Corpus Christi.  Next stop unknown.  Exciting things for certain.  A little like journeying with Jesus.
    What exciting and uncertain things are your experiencing for holy purposes?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Memphis, Miracles and Motivation

Memphis, Tennessee 
     From Nashville in the morning to Memphis at lunch through a surprisingly cold morning-- one Tennessee valley posted a 37 degree reading on my car thermometer.  Then a five dollar parking lot upon my arrival and the will to walk took me through the evening situated me for several miracles and gifts.

    Rock and Roll's birthplace, Sun Studios, was my first stop.  It's amazing how blends of talent, perseverance and  co-incidence (or the hand of God--use whichever language works more easily for you) launched Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley and, well, a whole lot of stuff.  Elvis went for an audition and only got his shot because the boss was out and the secretary gave him a shot.  After recording his work she lobbied a reluctant boss.  History unfolded from there.
     Life is like that.  God blends together many things (All things work together...).  Sun Records reminded me that all I learned at Ginghamsburg with my team will get blended by holy life and a helpful Spirit.  Jesus offers hope with news of holy gifts in my/our life/lives, the promise of bringing together a diverse experience pool, and things that only seem like chance.

Back of the Bus Prayer
     My second stop was the Civil Rights Museum and the iconic Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot.  Standing at the sight of such tragedy and national soul wrestling sharpened my saddness that many still are not treated with equal human dignity, respect and love.
     I was so moved with Rosa Parks story, I had to physically kneel in prayer on the bus, lifting up prayers of personal confession and passion for the least, last and lost of our society.  Why?  Because there were details I never heard in school.  Details, such as, she was obediently sitting in the "negro" section and was still asked to move along with 3 other people.  All so that one white man could have a seat that he didn't ask for.  Why?  Because standing in that bus, it all seemed so senseless and yet I know we/I still count the poor, gays, people of differing color and nationality, people not like us/me with lack of love.  We've learned some, but not enough.
Rosa Parks rode a bus like this one.

     I have to wonder what injustices I am blind to.  I wonder what I need to stand up for. I noticed that Martin Luther King Jr.  lived the biblical story of God's love incarnate, in the flesh.  In observing I was reminded of a Ginghamsburg UMC story of their work of feeding Sudanese people and how it became an in-the-flesh loaves and fishes.  Faith, bible stories, and love are not abstract ideas, but lifestyle models.  It reminds me that God uses what's already in my hands, when I respond!

Little Miracles
     Today I had on my PFUMC Mission Team t-shirt with the motto, "Preach the Gospel at all times.  If necessary, use words."  My choice of shirt helped me meet William from Lower Paxtang, who is now living and working at the hostel in Nashville.  (I liked William, he thought I was much younger than I am :-) !)  It eased the conversation with the "agape" tattooed Sun Studio employee and the couple at the next table over.  Who would have thought that an action, a choice to wear a t-shirt, would bring believers together in unfamiliar places and engage strangers in conversation?
     Arriving at my hotel for the night,  (Yes, that's right a hotel, because there was no room at the inn, err... hostel, and it was 37 degrees in one spot this morning...too cold to camp.)  My phone rang.  I fumbled my phone and the call was gone.  God is good, caller ID identified that it came from my Colorado bound son.  I called back, and had a great 2 minute conversation, all because his son, my grandson Jon, had grabbed the phone and hit the "right" button.  I needed those 120 seconds and God provided.  Thanks!
     Good daytime music in a long day surprised me today.  A gift.  I was anticipating needing to hang out on Beale Street in Memphis until 8 or 9pm for good music to start.  Instead a "River Festival" by the Civil Rights Museum provided several afternoon blues and country-rock bands.  Saturday had Beale Street hopping by 5pm with inside and outside venues allowing me to revel in tunes and rally to the road for a reasonable arrival at my motel.
    A great day, a great God.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feelings and Choices

Choices not Feelings
     I left the group, that I'd been with for 4 days, today... me heading for Nashville, TN while they drove home.  My excitement for a planned adventure turned to loneliness for a few miles (I'm a people person).  News from the homefront of my son's bumpy departure for Colorado intensified my urge to turn around and go home. What I did was choose to work my travel plans and drive on.
    Tonight I've just returned from downtown Nashville where hopping from live music group to live band was part of the plan.  I made the plan months ago.  I set aside time for a 1600 mile exploratory drive between two meetings, one in Ohio, the other in Texas.  I'm glad I did.  I'm glad I drove through my morning loneliness.  That was a choice!
    I want people to find joy like I have, so I choose to pursue a vision, a calling, and plan that includes taking people to conferences.  It includes time to drive and think.  It includes exercising my leadership in ways that feel risky and necessary.  Without following the plan, there would be no joy.
     When do you choose to pursue your choices, plans and visions even when you don't feel like it?  What happens?

Miscellaneous Thoughts for the Day
    Thanks to the PFUMC team for their willingness to make choices that can change the world.  Thanks for sharing life with me.  What a gift!  (Hey did any of you take any pictures of the group?)
    Staying in a hostel is an experience in culture, life and adventure.  It's also a bargain.  I like both.
    What Nashville country western bar bands taught me about worship leadership.  The best band was like a good worship leader, they engaged all of us in the place and got us involved with our voices, hands and hearts.  I saw several other bands that played well but they didn't connect.  The best band was comfortable with their gifts, leaving them able to focus on their relationship with the audience.  That made the difference.  The others just seemed to be working too hard to entertain leaving those houses almost empty.  The first band's place was elbow to elbow with strangers exchanging smiles and howdies.  A little thing.  A huge difference.
    Tomorrow is Memphis, TN and I'm hoping for some blues, music that is.  10,000 Joys on your journey.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Missional Community Following Jesus

   What does it look like to radically follow Jesus?
   Our little learning group spent several almost 3 hours talking about that tonight after a ten hour day learning from other followers who have instructive perspectives,  motivating experiences and practical experience living Love.
    Our thoughts about radically following include lives that are filled with acceptance, hope, love, service in ways that share life.  We talked about new friends we met who through service in a neighborhood gathered 400 new followers of Jesus in a little more than a year.  We dreamed dreams of focusing our lives with bringing people to life celebrations and growing ourselves and others in Koinonia groups, and serving with our God given passions and gifts.  We debated what ideas might be top priority and we agreed to support one another along the way and invite others on the journey.
     I know that nights like this are a true joy.  I love seeing God at work in our lives.  I value being able to share ideas and fears in a group that loves whether or not they agree.  I hunger for more people who know Jesus' love and joy in ways that give life.
    What does it look like to you, to radically follow Jesus?
     "Look, I'm making all things new!"
     I'm traveling with four others, all of us seeking to learn about what we hold most important.  All of us finding exciting things, intriguing things, curious things, frightening things.
     What I notice in myself is that without time to reflect, talk, pray, and muse the new looks more frightening.  When I start my day in conversation with my creator and listening, then things come into better focus and with greater calm.  Then I can learn and grow.  Then new becomes a gift!
    What do you do with new?  Is it a gift, a threat, or something else?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On the Road Learning

     Welcome to Ginghamsburg Ohio.  I'm with 4 other followers of the Way from Palmyra PA.  9 hours on the road makes for much conversation that has time to go deep... to wander... to wonder.  What a gift. 
     Today we start the Ginghamsburg Change the World Conference and we're all looking forward to it.  I want to know how others follow Jesus, how God is at work in many places.  It helps me be faithful and grow.
    Whenever I travel, especially with others... mission trips... conferences... retreats... road trips... I find new life, in new ways, with new excitement.  What helps you grow and learn?