Sunday, April 29, 2012

Late Sunday (or early Monday) musings

As you begin your week, what do you remember most from Sunday?  Your most memorable connections may or may not have been made during the worship time.  How about during the coffee hour?  Or perhaps you attended Sunday school?

How did the Sabbath Day offer an opportunity for you and your family to come closer to Christ?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get those guys and gals believing again!

What kinds of stories have inspired you when you were new to the faith?  When life's challenges stimulate fear or anxiety (or doubt) what hymns or psalms have fanned your faith "spark"?  To whom do you turn for encouragement?  Has anybody ever offered you encouragement by their own initiative or did you ask for it?

One of our responsibilities as disciples is to watch for people who are becoming fatigued or frustrated in ministry, and reach out to them with an encouraging word or a compassionate presence.  By doing so, we may literally breath peace and hope and life into them!

From Pastor Randy O'Donnell's Sermon last week: 
                Well the Indians are at it again, and I can't say much as a Pittsburgh Pirate fan, but there is a story about the famed and long retired manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda.  He told a story about a time when he was still managing in the minor leagues.  In 1971 his team had lost seven straight games.  After their seventh loss, Lasorda stormed into the locker room where the team sat dejectedly with their heads down.  "Hey, get those heads up," he shouted, "Don't ever let me see you act like that again.  Just because you've lost seven games doesn't mean you are not a great team.  The best baseball team of all time was the 1927 Yankees and they lost nine straight games."  Suddenly heads went up and expressions changed. It was a turning point and by the end of the season the team had actually won their division.  A few days after the speech, Lasorda's wife asked him if the 1927 Yankees had really lost nine games in a row.  "How would I know," Lasorda answered, "I just knew I had to get those guys believing again, and it worked."

We know we, at times, need to get believing again, placing our trust and hope in the Savior of the world.  The Bible's accounts and stories of the resurrection were chiefly written to remind us of what God has done in the cross event.  

For reflection:  What story would "get you believing" again?  Do you have a story you could tell to somebody who is discouraged about discipleship that might "get them believing again?"  

Monday, April 23, 2012

The past doesn't need to define you.

I think it is amazing that so much was accomplished by the same disciples who denied Christ, doubted His resurrection, and huddled together in fear.  This struggling and motley crew were the ones who built upon Jesus' "way" that led right down history's path to today's church.  Their past faith failures did not define how they became the living manifestation of God's Love to others.  

Every day, including today, is a day that you can step out as a bold disciple, even if yesterday or last week your faith was lukewarm.

When you trust the abiding presence of Christ you may find yourself activated (like Peter) with words that are confident and authoritative.  You won't need to knit your brow trying to discover the most compelling testimony -- Just as Peter spoke from his own experience, you can speak from yours.

Peter's impact upon others grew exponentially AFTER he hit the bottom of those moments when he denied Christ (three times!)  For many of us, our greatest potential for service to others flows directly from some aspect of inadequacy, failure, or suffering.

Consider your faith walk.  Can you identify some time or some pattern that was unfaithful, doubtful or riddled with anxiety?   If that time was in the past, what were the marks of faith's return?  How did "belief" activate your words or actions? If you are currently experiencing a faith lapse, pray for renewed openness to Christ's presence in whatever situation you encounter.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thank God, it's ----------------

So now it is Friday. Consider the secular song of the day.   People vibrate with the chorus of "Thank God, it is Friday!" every week.

Of course, that gratitude is expressed in many ways -- all erupting from a feeling of release -- breaking out -- breaking away.

Here's a typical scenario:  As 4 pm arrives many people burst out like horses from a starting gate.  They hurry to someplace or someone that offers something "happy" and "re-creational".  Watering holes abound with specials to encourage and excite the thirst for whatever it is that symbolizes the end of another week in the work world.

The choices we make regarding how we embrace freedom from designated routines of responsibility impact how our days "off" enhance and strengthen us.  How do you thank God for the time you have "off"?

When do you experience a movement from focused and committed service to a time of open and unencumbered space?  How do you express your gratitude for that time?  How does that time equip you for the next opportunity to serve others?  How do you hope to be re-created this week?

Note:  Depending upon one's role or responsibilities the "weekend" may be Monday through Tuesday.  Or your life may be such that you get mini breaks randomly and with no predictable regularity.  When does "happy hour" show up in your schedule?  What does it look like?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Coincidences? Not necessarily!

How can we stay awake and alert for God's activities throughout the week? 

 It is tempting to write off the nudges God provides through situations and people while we are waiting for some grand breakthrough in our thinking (decision making). 
Last Sunday's sermon included the following story. 

 When we are caught up in a difficult dilemma or a tough decision, we often look for something to give us a sign, a direction to go.  Sometimes, it is the smallest of things that occur that help direct us a certain way.
A Presbyterian pastor tells the story about one low time in his life when God broke through in an unusual way.  He writes: "I remember sitting parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter's illness and what was going on in our family."  
As he was sitting there thinking about his daughter's illness, he noticed a car that seemed to come from nowhere.  He says his message from God, the word he most needed to see at that moment, was found on the license plate.  The license plate "bore on it the one word of all words in the dictionary that I needed most to see exactly then," the pastor wrote.   "The word was TRUST."  Sitting in his car alongside the highway, God's message was revealed on the license plate of a passing car.  
It's certainly difficult to describe such an experience.  "Was the experience something to laugh off as a kind of a joke that life plays on us once in a while?  Or was it the word of God?"  The pastor writes, "I am willing to believe that maybe it was something or both, but for me it was an epiphany."  
The owner of the car turned out to be a trust officer at a local bank. After reading or somehow hearing about the incident, the trust officer paid a personal visit to the pastor one afternoon.  He presented him with the license plate which bore the words he so desperately needed to see that day, "TRUST."  The pastor placed the license plate on a bookshelf where it serves to remind him of his trust in God.  "It is rusty around the edges and a little battered," he concludes, "and it is also as holy as a relic as I have ever seen."

Our attitude or stance has power to determine what we notice.   The dominant question or concern that we carry seems to predispose us to "see" things as relevant or not.  If you are considering buying a Honda Civic it is likely that you will "see" them in greater number on the freeway.  You are also more likely to invite a conversation with a stranger standing next to a Honda Civic and ask:  "How do you like your car?" But if you are considering buying a new bike, your attention will be elsewhere, right? 

If we carry our questions about discipleship throughout the week, situations may CLAIM OUR ATTENTION that will help us to connect the dots between the stimulation of Sunday and our capacity to be "Christlike" each day.  

When something appears before your eyes and you "see" it as an answer to a concern or question you have been carrying, it could be a happy coincidence -- or it could be a manifestation of God's loving activity.  

Either way, I can think of no reason to discount it, can you?  If you go further in the direction it indicates, chances are you will find out eventually whether or not it was valid.  But if you discount it or ignore it completely, you will never find out.

For Reflection:  Have you encountered any coincidences this week?  Where have you heard or seen a comment that connects to something you have been carrying?  Was there a moment when you received "exactly what you needed".  Was there a situation where you were just "in the right time at the right place"?  
Perhaps your presence or your words provided something needed by somebody else.  Try beginning your day with a prayer of consent: 

"Gracious God, I ask you to use me in whatever way I can serve others today, even if I am unaware of the circumstances.  Help me to stay available.  I pray that I don't GET IN YOUR WAY as you use me for the good of somebody else."