Grow Up Church! My Lesson of Covid - I Am A Pastor NOT Paul!


 I don’t know what you’ve learned during the past year or so of this pandemic but one thing I know is that I cannot do it all.  I know, I know what Paul writes to the church at Corinth that everyone brings up: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some (9:22b)” and you know something? I am not Paul either!


I learned in my first pulpit how easily folks can take words out of context and how we, as clergy, get lifted to places where we really don’t belong.  I have sought more than anything to encourage people on their faith journey rather than become wrapped up in apologetics and the debating of so many.  At times I have been critical, mainly about Pop-Christianity that would rather align itself with worldliness whether that is progressive-liberals or conservative-evangelicals.

All the while, I have been more critical of myself. That is a little secret you may not know, we clergy are harder on ourselves than anyone else can be. So when throwing out critiques about how clergy don’t preach good enough, don’t visit enough, don’t call enough, aren’t good enough leaders, don’t lead all the Bible studies and take care of the nursery or, ‘gasp’... take time off, etc…you are joining a party we are already hours into.

Covid didn’t make it any easier. For many clergy, it made things harder because now they were trying to be YouTube stars and figure out all this technology and video editing.

In the end, clergy are not being allowed to be the one God truly called them to be: themselves.  And when this happens, the church is missing out.


The Church needs elders and deacons, the clergy, to be who God is shaping them to be.  In these days and times of change, the Church needs to grow up.  That is something else Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: 

“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, (3:2).”


You can run Chromecast better than your pastor.  You all can run a cell phone camera better than your pastor.  You can also read your Bible and lead a study probably as well as your pastor.  You can get on the phone and call and talk to a shut-in, likely better than some pastors.  Some can preach better than your pastor.  I guarantee some of ya’ll sing better than THIS pastor!


To do this, you need to change your habit and approach to being the Church and if there was a time, it is right now!  


Claudia Velandia shares these four steps to change a habit:

First step: Awareness. Recognize when you are acting or about to act according to your old habit, and stop yourself immediately.


Second step: Ask why. Bring into your awareness the reasons it is essential for you to stop this old habit and create a new one.


Third step: Conscious direction. In your awareness, use your choice and willpower to direct the creation of a new habit.


Fourth step: Determination. This is key because your brain will oppose you. Don’t give up—continue working on and repeating the new habit until it becomes ingrained.


Now, let's put aside what Paul said for a moment, and remember what Jesus said: 


“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)


Grow up and change your habits!

A Return to the Valley of Suck and Four Lessons of Faith


 Today I participated in my first interview as an author.  It was a return to my book, "Life Sucks Seek God."  I had no idea what it might mean or how I would feel.  It is hard to believe the book was published four years ago now!  Today, I am looking at life with a new vision of ministry and with a renewed hope for living thanks, in no small part to the new family I am part of with my new wife, Lauren, and how our children are moving forward with their lives.

As Valeria, host of the Fit for Joy podcast, asked questions, I found myself remembering and reliving moments from the days when my late wife, Heather, was living and fighting cancer.  I got to talk about where the Valley of Suck originated and how important my Facebook support group was during those times.  As I reflect on the interview, four lessons of faith came out of the discussion:

1.  You are not alone.  We make the choice to be alone but not only can we find support in person, it can come through online groups.  As I talked about it though, we cannot lose sight, that in the valley of the shadow of death and the valley of suck that caregivers walk, God is there, our shepherd (Psalm 23).

2. The Sacred Space.  Valeria's questions brought me to talk about "thin spaces" and the "time between time," that happens when people are dying.  Being with Heather was sacred as she crossed from this physical world and into the spiritual world.  Teilhard de Chardin said, "We are not physical beings on a spiritual journey but spiritual beings on a physical journey."  So true.


3. Faith can be fun.  That one sounds kind of odd, I know!  How did this come out of the interview?  As I live and wrestle still with the Valley of Suck, it taught me the value of faith and how it gives rise to hope and joy.  Rabbi David Horowitz helped me understand the theology of wine to the Jewish people and how we Protestants have lost it - for it is a sign of God's blessings and God's love for us!  There should be times of joy on the journey!  Party!  Celebrate ALL THE GOOD!

4.  The Journey Continues.  I have been going through a class and course that has had me asking and discerning my call, my passion and my gifts.  As I have gotten feedback, I had no idea how important this part of my faith journey has been and what you, my friends and readers, have been looking to me for in your journey.  I have to ask for forgiveness for not continuing to address this.  So my journey continues and I plan to be more attentive and real and be here for you!

The Valley of Suck is still real to me. In moments when I don't expect it, it grabs my ankles and pulls me down.  Even after all this time. You don't ever get over the grief.  You walk through it and you do it every...single...day.  The Valley doesn't have to win though.  I wrote the book from the Valley of Suck and it proves again and again to be a tested way through. 

Keep going.

Do No Harm. Do Good.  Stay in Love with God.  Even when life sucks! ;)
Jedi Pastor Ken


 





I Could Use Your Help...


Friends, I need your input and help.

I am getting into some deep work that God has been working on in me for some time now. It is in regards to my calling and how I am called to live out as a pastor the unique way God has called me to do ministry.
A big part of it is in my writing and publishing. I am so excited to get my book on Breath Prayer done for you all! Your support of my Breath Prayers has been amazing!  

It is also in my presence on-line and how I can be an encourager for everyone on their journey of faith. So, as I am working on my writing, I am also working on how I handle video production. You all have really been supportive in what I've been trying to do and especially in my 60 Second Sermons! Thank you! Those won't go away!

But there is more work I am trying to do on YouTube. I want to be addressing the things on your heart - where you are looking for God's guidance.  But don't worry, what happens there, resonates here in my writing!  THIS is my home page!  Many of my blogs, are going to be part of what happens next on YouTube.
 
If you are looking to me for some of that guidance, then what is it? If you go looking for my input - what subject are you looking for me to tackle? What are you dealing with that it seems no pastor is talking about? When it comes to your spiritual journey, what could I help you with best?

Here is my BIG ASK? Would you go over to my YouTube channel and subscribe and find a video you like and comment? And if that spurs something more - then let me know that too!

I want to be the BEST JEDI PASTOR I can be - There is no time for trying - it is time to do!
Here is the link to my YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVmuUqgV9rAc_n4mia7zoOw

Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God....THIS is the WAY!


Stop Hiding Behind Your Bible Study - Go Do What Jesus Said




Photo from Pexels
I am so glad I am out of the classroom. My learning style didn’t fit well there but you know, I made it all the way to graduate school and beyond. And yet...I wonder how things might be different if I had gone a different route?

Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, is a big supporter of trades education. There is such a great need for many of those jobs now because of the focus on college degrees and white collar careers. But these aren’t always the best careers for everyone! I can’t help but think this has been one of the most damaging things to the Church and spiritual growth in people’s lives too - that somehow - only the rightly educated can be clergy and pastor and care for people.

I cry “bull.”

“Knowing Is Not Enough; We Must Apply. Wishing Is Not Enough; We Must Do,” wrote author Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (It sounds a bit like Yoda, I think).



Knowing isn’t enough for the spiritual journey if application isn’t part of that journey. Wishing you were like Francis Chan or Timothy Keller isn’t going to cut it - we must do. I grew up with an old southern phrase: “God ain’t go grandchildren.” Your faith - my faith - must be our personal faith, though it isn’t private. What we have got to do is live it out.
Jesus doesn’t need a whole bunch more Bible studies - Jesus needs more folks inclined to do what is simply put forth in the Scriptures we have. It is well and good for clergy to know the original languages and the nuances of exegesis BUT what is really needed is for each and every one of us to spend some time talking to God. God isn’t looking for us to vote for the right candidates but to give voice to Kingdom of God and the Good News of the Gospel, namely there is a place for ALL people at the Table.

Jesus was interested in people becoming more than experts in the Bible, his interest was in you and me following what He said...

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV, emphasis added).

You may need lessons in Hebrew and Greek to study the Bible in the original languages but you don’t need a graduate degree to talk with God or buy a value meal and give it to a hungry person.

Now go do good, do no harm and stay in love with God.


How to Practice Stillness and Centering Prayer | Methods of Methodism

Methods of Methodism is a four-week series starting with How to Practice Stillness and Centering Prayer. Pastor Ken Hagler joins up with Pastor Lisa Talbott to talk about the history, meaning and practices of Stillness and Centering Prayer. We'll unpack some of the mystery and misunderstanding, but more than that, Ken and Lisa will talk about the Scriptural basis and history and how these spiritual practices fit into our lives.


When we start talking about spiritual practices and disciplines, I have found there is sooooo much misunderstanding or misinformation.  As we tackle the subjects of Stillness and Centering Prayer, Lisa and I tackle some of these points.  Christianity is an ancient faith (not sure how much more I can emphasize this) and our Scriptures and traditions go back centuries!  Pop-Christianity has a tendency to only look at the current century or maybe go back two or three centuries.  We aren't talking of the heresy of Quietism or Eastern meditations - Stillness is a call to be in the presence of God - to be at peace, as the Psalmist writes to us:

He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[a] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
    Psalm 46:9-10

Take to watch or listen and stay tunes for the our next episode!

Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God!
Jedi Pastor Ken


A Prayer for Today

 Hey God,

Today is a new day you have made,
so today, we rejoice in it!
Today is a day of new beginnings,
so today, we start anew.
Today is before us with opportunities galore,
so today, may our vision see what you see.

Yesterday is behind and tomorrow is not here.
Today, is what we have been given.
We are Easter people and resurrection is our truth!
In this day, make the message of our lives be hope to the world!

Where we have sinned against another, 
show us, so we might make amends.
Where we have sinned against you, God,
show us, so we might turn from our ways.

God, you moved into the neighborhood when you came in human form.
You know the mess we’ve made of things, and still you came.
You are still here.
Today, is a new day you have made,
so today, we rejoice you are with us!
You are Emmanuel!
AMEN.

When the Valley of Suck Won't Let Go We Need Faith, Hope, and Love All the More!

So you know what it is to be in the valley of suck now, at least a little.  This whole past year sucked and it is still sucking, isn't it?  No doubt!  Nobody wants to hear someone say, "We're in this together," because, truth is, well, we aren't.  It is different for ALL of US even if there are some similarities.


This past week, for whatever reason, the valley of suck (the nasty, dark side of grief), grabbed ahold of my Achilles tendon and tore it.  I mean, come on, it has been so long now since Heather's death, right?  Well, guess what? It doesn't matter and it never will.


But there is another part of it.  I am stronger now.  I have intent I didn't have before.  I don't write about the valley of suck and grief and widowhood, all the time, not because they don't matter but because I do not want those labels to be the defining aspects of my life and work.  If you look at my themes in my video creation and various projects, hope and faith have taken a front seat.  Right now, as I am writing and working on my book on Breath Prayers and my next project on Chrisitan Spirituality, it is about faith for everyday.  

I am leaning into a deep desire to be an encourager.  While I have befriended grief, I will not be defined by it and its nasty offspring that is the valley of suck.  I so own my first book, "Life Sucks, Seek God," because it needs to be named and the antidote needs to be promoted and preached!  


Life does suck!!  Seek God!!  When 1 Corinthians 13 states, "Faith, hope and love remain but the greatest is love," it doesn't ignore the truth that faith and hope DO indeed remain.   We need faith and hope to seek God!!


That faith and hope are counted with love should be noted and not neglected.  While the greatest is love, we need faith and we most assuredly need hope!  For in these days and times when we are all in this together, we need to keep faith, hope and love together so might be altogether Christians, little Christs, in the fullest sense of the meaning!


Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay in Love with God. This is the Way.

Jedi Pastor Ken



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