A Season to Grow Up

 


Here in Alaska, it is the season of studded tires.  Now, as a southern boy, I have no concept of this and getting to see them for the first time on cars and bicycles, is just a little odd to me. They are far more practical than snow chains but it is just...odd.


Change does that to us.  As we change with the season and experiences of life, there is always an “adolescent” period where we awkwardly come of age and we must incorporate the changes, the “hormones” and growth spurts and growth pains, into the journey toward maturity. 

And the spiritual journey is no different. 


Even so, we don’t want to talk about it.  Though the great leaders and theologians of many faiths speak and teach on growth, even indicating how like infants they are, our version of the Christian faith is egotistical and built upon spiritual celebrities.

Paul speaks to the church at Corinth and rebukes their attitudes and how they stand so “mature” in their own eyes.  I have been “rebuked” as a pastor for not giving “meat” in sermons enough times to get how these words of Paul get abused.  If you and I determine we need more “meat” we don’t need to look farther than Paul’s words:

1My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That's why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned. 2 So I had to treat you like babies and feed you milk. You could not take solid food, and you still cannot, 3because you are not yet spiritual. You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves you are not spiritual and you are acting like the people of this world.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

It seems to me, the Bible’s images are more often slow growth models.  Not only are the images of human babies like Paul, but also like the Psalm writer who notes we are to be “like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season.” (Psalm 1:3)  Not too soon or out of season, not forced or rushed but we grow and produce fruits “in season.”


Paul points out the church was acting like “the world.”  How does the world act?  The world is “jealous” and people “argue with each other.”  Uh... hello???  Anyone listening? 

The spiritual journey requires watering and maturing not steroids and botox.  If you are constantly in arguments and expressing jealousy then make note of it - the issue is in you and it is a sign you are not growing.



Ask yourself if you are keeping your soul watered?  What exactly does that look like?  Are you spending time in God’s word?  Prayer? Journaling? Meditating? Walking?  What fruit are you bringing to the world?  


The American Revolution and The Wesleyan Way: An Election Reflection


I have been a voter since I turned 18 but I have been a student of our history and government since I can remember.  My mom and dad would take my sister and I to historic sites and battlefields.  In grade school, I walked the decks of the USS Constitution and threw “tea” over the side of a ship in Boston Harbor.  I have been to Valley Forge and later, to Monticello.  I would visit Shiloh Battlefield and have walked the fields of Gettysburg.   Today, one of the most significant books on leadership for me is “The Founding Fathers on Leadership,” by Donald T. Phillips.  In it, his quotes are numerous as our founders were very observant and wrote extensively.  One quote has long resonated with me from Samuel Adams, “A state is never free but when each citizen is bound by no law whatever that he has not approved of.”  Powerful words.



They are words that both build pride but cut through pridefulness.  While they were words that addressed oppression, they were and remain words that would address the oppression felt by minorities who were denied that same voice.  But the founders were wise enough to craft a legacy in our nation and Constitution which would allow for people to make a way for all to be free, even if there might be some struggle along the way.

On the other side of the “pond,” another revolutionary of a different sort was advocating for a different freedom.  In the Rev. John Wesley, the Gospel of Jesus found a new and passionate voice whose words and heart for God, prevented revolution in Great Britain.  It was (and remains) a message of grace that would cross the Atlantic and in Francis Asbury, find a champion who would lead the spread of Methodism in the new nation.  


What Wesley understood was a person must indeed be free, fully, so they might then fully respond, freely, to the grace and gift of salvation found by giving one's faith and life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Wesley struggled with the revolution taking place in the colonies but came to understand the significance.  Though he could not prevent the revolution, what he lived and taught would change the heart of England.


Just as I keep the founding father’s lessons near, I also keep the Works of John Wesley close by in my office.  While traveling on horseback, Wesley read and wrote often. While preaching in England, on October 6, 1774, John Wesley wrote:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:

1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy,

2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and

3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”


Consider these “Leadership Lessons of John Wesley,” if you will, that challenge us in our day to act as Jesus might to others who we might disagree with.  We might disagree without being “disagreeable” people.  Some might consider Wesley’s three points, an application of Jesus’ command to “love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44), but are they really my enemy or the neighbor I am called to love into the Kingdom of God? 


Thanks to My Pastors

There are so many who have made a difference in my life and yes, many clergy but there are some I feel I have to mention during this month of clergy appreciation and as I step back into the world of blogging again.  I know I could name some more...maybe next year I'll revisit this list.  I know they likely won't even see the list but I can't help it (and those of you youth pastors and volunteers, I owe you a separate thanks!)

I know they didn't do it for accolades or thanks but thanks nonetheless!


Allen E. Bailey - the first pastor I remember as a kid at Starkville UMC.  Thanks for putting up with me and our confirmation class.  Based on all of us in ministry now, God's prevenient grace is indeed good.


Malloy Owens - I remember your smile and gracious words to all.  Your best sermon was your life.


Sid Huggins - You opened your home and allowed me to be part of your family and sent me into ministry.  Thanks for encouraging me.


Don Joy - The most influential pastor and professor in my life. 


Gerald Thurman - I can never thank you enough for being a mentor and guide as I matured and grew into my call.  You have been a gracious friend and support.


Christy Greenwald - Truly, you were and are a spiritual director and helped Heather and I during some trying days and times.


Walter Kimbrough - You made time for me and taught me the rich history of the African-American Church.  


Glenn Ethridge - When I was ready to throw in the towel, you reached out and helped me see clearly where God was leading.


Michael Selleck - You were a voice of calm in the storm and believed that God had something else in mind for me to be doing in ministry.


Warren Lathem - You NEVER allow me to be complacent and are a voice of convicting grace.


Sharma Lewis - A true friend and colleague.  You are an inspiration to all and I am honored to count you among my friends.


Doug Thrasher - When I needed a pastor and not a DS, you stepped up to the plate for me and our family. 


Andy Hinderlie - You helped me rediscover why I do what I do. We are still on the journey brother.  Thanks for being a friend.


To those who have passed on, Godspeed!  
For those who are staying the course, Follow Jesus!

For us all: Who has been there to bring you along the way? 


Time to Work on Words


Breathprayer for the week: "May my words be your words today, Jesus."

It is getting harder to live the life we once knew.  The changes in our world seem to throw us off our game and our plans.  Even our spiritual aspirations have been disrupted.  Looking at the Bible though, we find that we are called to simple actions, simple changes and more simple spirituality.  While I am not Jesus, Scripture tells me I am to seek Jesus' Kingdom, Jesus' way, first.  Well, today, I can start in my home to be more like Jesus with what I say to those near me and with those I connect with in the digital world too.

Looking at Paul's worfs in Colossians 3, we are encouraged to "take off old garments" and put on new ones.  Our words impact us and others.  It is a good and simple place to start today to make the most of the time and improve relationship. Invite Jesus to be part and do what God does best.

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.


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