Thought for Thursday

The 1 Thing Must Stay The 1 Thing

(This is the final sermon and post on the 1 Thing series.  I hope and pray you've enjoyed it!  My next sermon series begins on September 9th but I'm sure I'll have more to say between now and then so check back!)

15 Let the person who has ears listen! 16 “How can I describe the people who are living now? They are like children who sit in the marketplaces and shout to other children, 17 ‘We played music for you, but you didn't dance. We sang a funeral song, but you didn't show any sadness.'  18 “John came neither eating nor drinking, and people say, ‘There's a demon in him!' 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and people say, ‘Look at him! He's a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' “Yet, wisdom is proved right by its actions.” Matt 11:15-19 (GW)

I can’t remember paying money to go to a concert or movie I didn’t want to see.  There are some movies I wish I could get my money back on though.  But even then, I have to admit, I went willingly to the movie to start with. 

QUESTION:  What movie or concert have you attended that you regretted?

This passage of scripture really begins back in verse 7 when Jesus asks the people, “When you went to see John the Baptist, what did you go out into the wilderness to see?”  Honestly, I half expect that if Jesus came today, Bill Engval would need to be there to say, “Well, here’s your sign!” because that is exactly where Jesus goes: did you expect to see a limp reed?  A fine clothed rich man?  No, of course not. You’d heard the stories, and  you went to see a prophet and you found one and you didn’t like it did you?

So what is next?  You came looking for the Messiah and you found him!  But then you saw that he moved fences out of the way for people to come to him.  You found the Son of Man but OH!  He goes to parties and spends time with sinners and drunks. 

Here is my real simple observation: Jesus is not where you want him to be and prophets like John, they aren’t going to look like you.

To place Jesus in the central place in your life, for our church to be a 1 Thing type church – where our relationship with Jesus is THE central focus…well, we’re going to have to start saying NO to some things in our life so that we might say “Yes,” to the 1 Thing.

There were a lot of things being a church planter taught me.  The experience of that work changed my life in so many different ways.  One of the top items on my list was coming to understand that the 1 Thing has everything to do with living with Jesus AND living like Jesus.  To that end, placing Jesus in the priority position of our lives shifts everything.

It means making friends wherever you might find yourself with whomever you run into because all through the Gospels and the book of Acts, that is what we see Jesus and his followers doing.  One of the best things I read in my time planting a church was a book by Pastor Bill Hybels, called,“Just Walk Across The Room.”  In it, he introduces or should I say, RE-introduces the idea of living for Jesus and sharing the good news by the same method Jesus seemed to do…by being friends…by taking a walk across the room.  Bill says pointedly, “Risk your life for this, and know that you will never regret your decision (pg 43).”

And that means living like Jesus means going where he did, with the drunks, sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes.  One of my best friends has a ministry unlike any I know.  He plays guitar and sings in joints all over Atlanta.  He goes to places and hangs out with people who aren’t so good.  And when he is there - people get to meet Jesus. 

What makes him special?  Nothing, expect that he does an exceptional job of keeping his relationship with Jesus the 1 Thing and living like Jesus in his way.  That means, he makes friends.  It really is that simple.  Somehow we’ve forgotten how but it seems to me that Jesus did a great job of never forgetting how to make friends.

You see, living out the 1 Thing starts with making friends and making friends starts by  introducing yourself.  You think that is simple but is far from the case and I see it all the time.  My friend Scott Ginsberg who owns the guiness book of world records record for wearing a name tag consecutively, over 4,000 days now, says to “Put your name out there! Again and again!”  He wears a nametag to make the world friendlier.  But what else do friends do?  Maybe it is simple, maybe not but there really are just three things: Friends 1) Hangout, 2) Make conversation, and 3) Do Stuff.

I have watched neighbors, business contacts, Scout leaders, and people in the community I met every day, begin to recognize their need for a 1 Thing relationship with God simply because I walked across the room or they did, though they didn’t know what they were looking for.

The church can be a lot of things as we’ve looked at over this summer.  But there is only one thing the church can deliver that nothing else can: that is a place for people to meet Jesus and make him their 1 Thing.  It cannot begin to early and that relationship never gets old.  It is for now and into eternity and you and I, have been given this place to be that place where we can meet Jesus – and over the 1 Thing to a world that is craving to know Him!

Which Party Will I Support This Election Year? One Pastor's Response.

I have been hearing more and more calls for us clergy to take stands this election year. I have looked for the right words so that I might express clearly and concisely where I stand. Cyprian states my platform well...

"There are many Christians who receive the gift of the Spirit and of salvation, but they fail to receive the rest of their inheritance in Christ - which includes a mind and heart that is spiritually fortressed against the world. Because they remain of two minds - half hoping in the world, half hoping in God - they are constantly tossed about, assailed by the whims and tempers of fickle people, thrown by changing events. Too often they make the mistake of turning away from God when hardship comes and run back to the world, even returning to a lightless life of doubt and unbelief."
-Cyprian, "First Epistle"

My hope lies in God's Kingdom and the Law of Love. I do not need to express more fully my political ideology - it is not necessary nor required. In the privacy of the ballot box, I cast my vote, and in my life I will seek to live that Law of Love which Jesus requires which extends and covers any political ideology of any party and persuasion.

The Four M's of Public Speaking

If you are going to be an effective public speaker, you must take note and address 4 things every time you speak.  You may not use them all every time but you need to think about them.  These four things are:  MESSAGE – MOUTH – MOTION – MEDIA

I came up with this outline as part of a lesson I am doing for the Boy Scouts of America as I teach the Public Speaking Merit Badge.  I have been a public speaker for over 20 years now and have learned from some great teachers and from plenty of mistakes.  This is far from the end all on speaking but simply some things to consider, especially if you're new to public speaking.  I love to listen to great speakers but I can tell you there is one thing that isn't an M that makes all this work: Practice, Practice, Practice.  

We’ll start with MESSAGE.   The first thing you have to know is always the topic of your message.  Sometimes you’ll get to choose your message, and other times you won’t.  Have you ever had to stand up to give a report in class?  I preach almost every week, so while I use one book, my topic may change. 

So once you know the TOPIC, there are 4 Main Types of Speeches you can give (on page 6 of  Public Speaking Merit Badge Pamphlet). 

INFORM Them: Is a speech where you give the facts.
ENTERTAIN Them: Not always funny but your topic is presented in an enjoyable way.
CONVINCE Them: Make the audience believe or accept a point of view or inspire them.
PERSUADE Them To Action: Like the convincing speech only you are directing the response.

You MESSAGE will then need an outline.  Much like a report for class, your speech will need an INTRODUCTION, a BODY and a CONCLUSION.    The body of your outline may have 1 or 20 points you’d like to make.  Just remember you only have so much time and TOO MUCH information = TOO LITTLE transformation.  Remember a simple phrase: K.I.S.S. – it means KEEP IT SIMPLE SCOUT (or pick another 's' word)!  If you’re teaching compass skills to help other Scouts with their Second Class requirements, do you need to talk about using a GPS unit?  Do you need to talk about other ways to find direction?  No.  Your topic is map and compass. Keep It Simple Scout!

The MOUTH is next in line.  You can’t give a speech without using your mouth!  Your words can be loud or soft.  You can give you message emphasis by stretching…out… your…words or by repeating a phrase you want your audience to know is important.  Give your mouth good words to speak.  If you can, write out your speech fully.  I don't recommend reading from speech but from outline.  What writing out your speech does is it allows you to create good word combinations and help you to practice.  Otherwise, you might wind up saying something you will regret....

Next you need to consider MOTION.  Motion has to do with what you are doing with your body while you are speaking.  Most people think about the hands.  Hands usually are the biggest problem BUT they can also be a huge win as well.  Ms. Topper, my first speech teacher back at J.H. Rose High School, always said your hands need “a home base.”  I’ve never forgotten that because I see so many people mess it up!   Have a place for your hands to always return when you’re not using them to emphasize a point with a gesture.  Mine I keep at waist level.  And never, never, ever lock your hands on the podium or pulpit!

Also, your motion includes how you stand and where you stand.  Speakers often get nervous feet and move for no reason.  Don’t do this.  I always tell people to "own your space!"  This may mean you plant your feet and not move or that you keep it minimal.  The other consideration with motion is where you look.  If you are looking down at your notes, you aren’t looking at your audience and it is the people who need your attention.  Looking at your notes the whole time is like having a conversation with someone who is texting the whole time you are talking…it tells me you really don’t care about me and so no one will care what you have to say.

The last of the four points is MEDIA.  Media doesn’t mean powerpoint or videos though it could.  Your media could also be a dry erase board or easel.  It could be a crazy hat or bicycle or a poster.  Media can hurt as much as help you if you don’t practice with it.  Consider anything you wear as part of your media presentation too.  You want you to look good.  Be clean.  Look sharp.  Present your best.  And if you are speaking as a Scout, be sure your Class A looks the best it can look! 

And just for fun, see how many mistakes you find in this presentation...

I'm looking forward to some great speeches!

The Merit Badge program allows Scouts to explore topics and activities that help with life skills and hobbies of interest.  There are a lot of topics Scouts can explore and if you have an area of expertise and can help out, please contact the Boy Scouts of America to learn more about being a Merit Badge Counselor.

1 Thing: Night at the Museum

        History has been an important to me since I can remember. My dad's idea of vacation was going to museums and national parks. Mine was trying to go to Disney.  Oh well. My days of Scouting including time on battlefields and battleships. My favorite book on leadership of all time is a book called The Founding Fathers on Leadership.  I have tried to pass that love of history on to both my children and nurture it wherever I could.  Though I think it drives them both nuts that I will tear up in museums and battlefields and almost every time I stand for the Star Spangled Banner.  History isn’t just on paper – history is made up of stories, stories of real people.  Just like the movie, I’d love to spend a night in a museum.

One of the stories that I love from history (though I can't confirm it's authenticity), is a story about a group of soldiers in France during World War II who had become separated from their platoon during a fierce battle to retake a village. The village was finally retaken but in the process one of their fellow soldiers was killed. The small motley group of men carried their dead comrade to the nearby village church. They sought out the pastor in order to ask him if he would grant permission to allow their friend to be buried in the church cemetery. The pastor asked the others if they knew if their dead friend had been baptized. They said that they did not know. The others explained to the pastor that they had talked a lot about life and death and God, but one subject they had not broached was if and when their comrade was baptized. "Well then," explained the pastor, "if you do not know if your friend was baptized I must inform you that church rules do not permit you to bury your dead friend in this cemetery."  Saddened by this news, the men carried the body to the edge of the cemetery and buried it on the other side of the fence.

The next morning the small rag-tag army walked over to the church cemetery to check the grave of their friend to make sure it hadn't been disturbed. They were all startled and disturbed when, after looking for quite some time, they could not find the fresh grave. Just as they were about to give up in utter frustration the pastor approached them and said, "You cannot find the grave because it is not there where you are looking for it. Yesterday, I felt really guilty after telling you that you could not bury your friend here in the cemetery. So I woke up very early this morning and moved the fence so that your comrade is now included in the church cemetery."
Jesus ran into a whole lot of museum curators for the faith, people who, unlike that pastor had no problem leaving the fences up and putting up more fences because they had lost sight of the 1 Thing.  In Mark 7, Jesus was confronted by some of those museum curators, and Mark recorded this exchange…
1  The Pharisees and some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. 2 They saw that some of his disciples were unclean because they ate without washing their hands. 3 (The Pharisees, like all other Jewish people, don't eat unless they have properly washed their hands. They follow the traditions of their ancestors. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they don't eat unless they have washed first. They have been taught to follow many other rules. For example, they must also wash their cups, jars, brass pots, and dinner tables. ) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “Why don't your disciples follow the traditions taught by our ancestors? They are unclean because they don't wash their hands before they eat!” 6 Jesus told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture:  ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.'  8 “You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.” 9 He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions! Mark 7:1-9 (GW)

Jesus isn’t dismissing the Old Testament here when he talks about “traditions of their ancestors.”  These traditions are ones that had been passed down to help the Jewish people live out their faith.  Author Richard Foster notes there were something like 613 of these traditions (Streams of Living Water).  They were traditions, like commentaries that try to make more clear the meaning of God’s Word.  These traditions over time, became the boundaries, the fences, to keep some things out, and some people out and allow others in.

But Jesus clearly was perturbed and he took this opportunity to call out to the religious leaders and the everyday people that clearly, in God’s Kingdom, tradition would not be the 1 Thing.  The good things of the Law of God, these things: honoring one’s mother and father, loving the Lord God, loving your neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan and the stranger = these things couldn’t be done because of curators who had made up rules and traditions and forgotten the words of the prophet Micah who said, You mortals, the Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God.

“When church is our shelter, we fail to trust in God,” writes Thom & Joani Shultz in their book, “The 1 Thing.”  The church’s 1 Thing is not to become a museum dedicated to what has happened but to be a place where life transformation is happening!  You need only look at the happenings in our church and community from this past year: One Great Day of Service,  a day dedicated to service in our community, a growing and vibrant arts festival that invites our community into our church, our new special needs ministry, Loving Hearts, the start of our brand new worship service at 9:51 on Sunday mornings.  Walk the halls any day of the week at almost any time – from preschool, to afterschool to More Than Sunday School – children make us a second-home!  But when you hear the stories of those people who are meeting God here – that is what the 1 Thing is all about and it is the 1 Thing that Cumming FUMC must never lose sight of – not now, not ever – for this is the 1 Thing.

It has been said the church is only one generation from extinction.  When Jesus is our 1 thing, then we have nothing to fear!

Your High Horse...Get Off It. You Have To Walk The Road of Humility

There are a lot of phrases that don’t have much meaning anymore. "I haven't been there for a coon's age," "not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” and “Whatchutalkinbout Willis?," are a few that not only date me but tell you where I’m from as well. Another one came to me today, “Get off your high horse.”

No, no one said it to me. I more or less said it to myself. On more than one occasion it has crossed my mind. Like most old sayings of by-gone eras, it is one that has little meaning because most people don’t talk to other people from on their horse. Unfortunately, the proverbial horse is still carrying around a lot of people. If only it were as easy as just shooting it.

Let me give you an example from a recent conversation with a friend. The subject of hunting came up. My friend began by pointing out that they loved animals. I responded that I did too. They then said they loved to talk with animals. My response was the same, "so do I." Now let me say, I was blessed to have a friend who took no time at all in realizing what was happening. We both have a profound appreciation and respect for wildlife, God’s creation and the lessons we can learn. Instead of staying on our horses, we practiced another old adage, “Don’t judge until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes" (which makes me wonder if the UMC's partnership with the Virgin Healtmiles Program doesn't have a motive beyond being just physically healthy)."

You may still not appreciate the significance of that story if you miss my own history. I didn’t grow up hunting but stumbled into it. I came to it from a desire to connect to my grandfather, whose shotgun I inherited. I started hunting out of a friendship with a guy who mentored me an introduced me to a simpler approach to living. I came to it as a member of the Sierra Club as well.

To be at a place where you or I are not threatened by our differing views but can stand eye to eye, is not the common place to be. When Richard Rohr speaks of the two halves of life, or Robert Kegan describes the journey from the stage of the institutional self to the interindividual, or when Janet Hagberg writes of moving from the external to the internal stages, we’re talking about a shift in our self – our soul. When a person makes such a change, they are transformed.

Take a look at how Jesus talked with the woman at the well (John 4). This Samaritan woman expects to be thought of as second class. She almost expects to be berated by this Jewish Rabbi. Yet, it is evident that Jesus is interested in something more than refreshment – Jesus in interested in her as a person. Jesus is interested in the relationship. Not surprisingly, the woman begins to open her life and her thoughts about God to this stranger.

We have a bad habit of making assumptions.

We assume things about other people. We assume they are like us. We assume that they are on the same journey we are on. We assume that our life experiences match. We assume that our brilliant wit and wisdom will persuade. We assume our listening will prove our love. We assume our giving of food and drink will earn us a place at their table.

But we stay on our horse and continue to wear our shoes, never actually coming down, never really entering the relationship, never doing what God did in Jesus. We celebrate the incarnation and yet neglect to see that the incarnation is intended to be an ongoing miracle.  Jesus is still being revealed in this world through you and me.

Can you listen with the sole intent to know the heart of another person? Will you listen with the intent of hearing the Spirit of God in and around another human being? Winning an argument is not an enlightened way to live, it is practiced futility. You can gain the whole world on the strength of a reasoned point of view and defense of an idea. Jesus says you can still lose your soul (Mark 8:34-38).

The desert father, Isidore of Pelusia said, “The heights of humility are great and so are the depths of boasting; I advise you to attend to the first and not to fall into the second.” The desert fathers and mothers discovered what you and I so quickly neglect, we don’t attend to anything anymore because we are so distracted even when we show up! The truth is, my humility and my boasting are always present with me. We totally miss the irony of “the heights of humility.”

It is precisely for this reason, the poles of humility and boasting, that I must attend to the condition of my soul and my view of the world. The first half of life has much to do with boasting but this is not the life of the saints. It is most certainly not the path of the Christ.

The path of Jesus often leads to the stable where we keep our high horse. So if you get there and you can’t shoot the horse, at least let it run free. If not, then please get off of it when you are with others and walk a mile in their shoes.

Upstarts At The Table of God

I have learned that when you have children in your home, no matter the age, no matter what you have taught them, meal times seem to carry certain, shall I say, challenges?  Whether it is, “I’m not hungry,” “I’m in the middle of something!,” or “I don’t like that!,” food and family is always an experience.

Gathering in God’s family is really not so different as I was reminded today (for our lesser manners are just on the inside where others don’t see).  In a last minute change to our weekly schedule, I took responsibility for serving noon communion at Cumming FUMC.  As I glanced through some materials to prepare, I came across these words from the great contemplative, Evelyn Underhill.  She notes the following…
“Saint John of the Cross says that every quality or virtue the Spirit really produces in human souls has three distinguishing characters – as it were a threefold trademark – Tranquility, Gentleness, Strength.  Fuss and feverishness, anxiety, intensity, intolerance, instability, pessimism and wobble, and every kind of hurry and worry – these, even on the highest levels, are signs of the self-made and self-acting soul, the spiritual upstart.  The saints are never like that.  They share the quiet and noble qualities of the great family to which they belong: the family of the Children of God.
Yep, I got that nudge. 

Just like children at the family table, how quickly and hurridly do I come to God’s family table as an upstart?  I come with my own listing of great concerns and worries (and I love the word wobble…makes me think of Webbles, sorry).  I have my own demands and instability.  It doesn’t change that God is still calling me to dinner.

At our recent installment of the Academy of Spiritual Formation, the Rev. Liz Canham reminded us that prayer doesn’t start with our speaking to God, the conversation that is prayer, began long before we opened our mouths or mind.  It is God who began the conversation. 

Throughout the week, Rev. Canham focused on a number of disciplines of praying the Bible and guided us in many of those same practices.  I recalled of the practice of imagination today, as we came to the meal of communion, this meal of God’s family.  So I invited those gathered to imagine a table of significance, whether the one in Grandma’s house, the one of their childhood or of their own.  It was an invitation to enter into the history and meaning of the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving, a reminder that this is a call to remember, to use one’s imagination, to meet Jesus at the table.

Could we even imagine that Jesus was at this table of our imagination?  Could we accept truly that as “spiritual upstarts,” we too are welcome to come?  Can we accept all the other upstart children at the table?  Can we accept that this table was set-up by God for us and that God was already speaking an invitation to come to dinner? 

As Rev. Canham writes, “The value of the Bible lies not in our learning about it and pronouncing on it, but in what we become as a result of entering into the sacred text (58, Praying The Bible).”  So too is this the case for our practices and traditions, our meditations and our prayers for when we fail to enter into either the text or practices of our faith, we fail to surrender to the same Spirit of God in our hearts which is, “crying out, Abba, Father! (Gal. 4:6).” 

If we fail to surrender, then upstarts we remain.  

Thankfully God keeps setting a place for all us upstarts, just like a good parent does.

The 1 Thing: Higher Education?

And so it begins again.  The supplies have been purchased and backpacks have already gotten their warm-up run.  Now begins the marathon that we know as another school year.  There is a level of stress no matter the age or grade.  This year, I know that better than I have in a while as I have returned to school myself this year as I work on a post-graduate certification!  So just as Logan and Jillian were getting their supplies, I was ordering my books and looking at my syllabus for the coming years.  This should be interesting in the Hagler household.

As the son of a college professor and a librarian, I can tell you from experience that education has been an important topic in my household forever!  It is easy to take for granted one’s education but there is no substitute for being knowledgable.  The role of education has been foundational in our nation and from our influence, we have done great work in helping throughout the world.

The United Methodist Church has long been supportive of education.  From John Wesley’s work in the poor houses of England to the founding of Africa University, one of the most important Universities on the continent of Africa, Methodist Christians have seen and believed in, the value of education.  But sometimes and in some churches, the education has become the 1 Thing.  For some, the church is a place where the transfer of knowledge and reason has become the focus.

In my teenage years, I grew frustrated in one of the churches I attended because of this.  The focus became information rather than transformation and that led me to becoming a Sunday School Drop-out.  In John 5, Jesus is forced to defend his ministry and teaching.  His words were direct and pointed to the scribes and Pharisees regarding their focus on information - 

38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 5:38-40 (NKJV)

Following the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC, the Jewish scribes and scholars turned their attention to the details of education and study of the Law.  The focus of the priest was no longer on the practices of the faith, the rituals or sacrifices, but on the fullest meanings of the words hoping this would bring renewal and life.

Jesus, fully aware of this history, points out that for all of the study, they have failed in recognizing that the Scriptures had been pointing not at reading words but relationship with God.  Jesus clearly acknowledges the value of knowing the words of God’s book, after all, Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi.  Their greatest value isn’t in knowledge but in acknowledgement that Jesus is in fact, God revealed to humanity for our hope and for relationship. 

It has been a recurring theme in the history of spirituality though and certainly within the Church itself.  We Methodists came from a similar issue that John Wesley faced.  The Enlightenment had pushed reason to the forefront.  The Church of England in the 1700’s had become a faith focused on making sure people knew about Jesus but like us, as George Barna found in surveying the USA, few know Jesus .

Through an experience, not reason, John Wesley found not only his heart warmed but himself, transformed by meeting Jesus, through faith and believing Jesus had forgiven him of sin.  From that time on Wesley became focused on transformation not information alone.  His approach to living out faith that we still hold to today, is that Scripture is central for us to KNOW Jesus Christ.  We grow in our faith by the Traditions about Jesus past down, we grow from the Experiences we have with Jesus and yes, we also grow by our Reasoning about what learn about Jesus.

The 1 thing isn’t that we come to be a church that knows more about Jesus but when our lives are transformed by the love Jesus gives to us through our relationship with him.  Jesus’ appeal (v 40) was for the scribes to get their heads out of the sand, out of their books, off their computers and look at Him.  When we as individuals and as a church turn our attention to Jesus, our Bible Study, our Sunday School, our worship, our sermons, our service, our giving, everything – moves from mastering the mind to the love of Jesus.  Sharing information is a good thing but it not the 1 Thing.

Saved By The Bell: Thoughts on Synching the Sacred

The alarms sounded again in our home this morning signifying that once again, a summer has passed, a year has gone by, my kids are on the cusp of entering high school and I am getting older.  I don’t look at it as something to fret over but it does make one nostalgic for time spent changing out diapers rather than being certain the kids change their razors (yes, shaving is now a regular occurrence in the house too).

Today as I rode my stationary bike (so as to fend off the messages my body sends me reminding me of my mortality), I was reading Kathleen Bryant’s recent article in Presence Journal,“Being Contemplative in a Digital World.”  In it she brings up an important distinction in how we look at time.  She notes, “A spirituality for the digital world demands the ability to navigate between kairos time and chronos time.  It is a spirituality that knows how to WAIT!  We get impatient waiting for downloads yet we long for experience of the Timeless One!”  It struck me how valuable a contrast to consider and one that I noted in my previous blog regarding a need to unplug.

Chronos and kairos are two sides of the same coin of time but we often fail to consider how they impact us.  We live most of our time thinking only in terms of chronos time, that is, time as it relates to our schedules, when the bell sounds for class, deadlines, when Dr. Who starts, or any number of those items in our day planners.  Kairos time on the other side, has to do with time “engaged with the Divine…significant moments that we always remember (pg 47).”  The clock is no longer what determines the meaning but instead, our souls take the lead.

Both chronos and kairos could be seen as time wasted if one does not consider the deeper implications.  While I might waste time watching a really bad movie on Netflix, the time I spend out in the woods waiting for wildlife to cross my path, might also be considered wasted – but in a good way, a way that brings an encounter with silence, with stillness, with creation and with God.  

The time that was right for Jesus to come for us (Romans 5:6), is kairos time – time that is given by God.  Yet even the followers of Jesus cannot influence or calculate the kairos time as Jesus makes clear in Mark13:33.  Bryant suggests however, that we consider how our proximity to the Holy allows us to “synch” our souls in a similar way that we “synch” up all our technology.  To do so, however, will require an attentiveness to how we use our chronos time that we might make room and space for kairos time.

I am convinced anyone can, the question remains can anyone?  Others through history have but have you?  Can we be content with what is right here and right now?  Is it possible for us to savor the moments of life rather than just see the minutes on the clock?  Some things must be un-done in our lives.  It maybe only a small change in five minutes of your day or as significant as practicing a full day of Sabbath (you might consider reading Morgan Guyton’s insightful post on Sabbath).  Before our soul sets off alarms warning we’ve reached our limits and are lost, we ought to consider setting an alarm on the clock to be aware of the soul and the Spirit.

May I Ask?  What is the condition of your soul?

May I Suggest?  For help in synching up with God and becoming attentive to kairos time, you might consider using one of these sites:
Pray As You Go:

Undoing Our Souls

I have laid off the blog for a bit.  Not because I did not want to write but because I had to do it.  I am trying to make a conceded effort to listen and not talk so much.  There has certainly been no shortage of opinions these days so I figured mine would not be missed.  It was not.  

The presence of social media has given voice to every thought and opinion imaginable.  Everyone’s cap-locks seemed to work just fine.  A whole lot more extra key strokes were wasted and no one seems to have had their opinions swayed.

I have always tried to be careful with my words and posts.  I will admit I have botched it up a time or two (or more).  But as a United Methodist clergy, I am part of a connectional clergy system, very different than some denominations.  We are in a relationship of appointment under a bishop.  We are constantly working together, we follow each other in churches and maintain relationships with other clergy, even those who we follow after in churches.  As such, our words connect us as well.  When we speak on issues of importance and especially on issues where our larger denomination has spoken, we should be speaking and acting out of consideration for our fellow clergy.  Our actions and our words sometimes have unintended consequences for one another.

So out of that, I began to try even harder to listen.  I am intending to continue this journey of listening, silence and reflection.  As part of my experience with The Upper Room’s Academy of Spiritual Formation (I have done one 5-day and just began the 2 Year Academy), I have discovered how difficult forgoing electronic communication can be.  I have also learned how soothing for the soul it is to disconnect.

This past week I ran across an expert from John Wesley in a letter.  In his letter to John Trembath, August 17, 1760, John Wesley follows up a conversation.  In it, he encourages the young preacher who had begun developing a reputation not quite to Mr. Wesley’s liking.  In his kind, albeit a bit sarcastic manner, Wesley points out exactly how the young preacher ought to behave and to speak (especially when it comes to pointing out other people’s “foibles”).  But then he delves into the spiritual and the manner by which this young man ought seek God.  It is in his concluding words that John Wesley writes these rarely quoted but desperately needed words:

“Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.

While there are varying degrees by which we may give our soul means to grow, it is without a doubt crucial for us to consider our souls need for silence, time to reflect, time to listen to the sounds of the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean tossing out all your electronics and computers (though for some it may very well take that for a time – I think I’m talking to myself here) but it does mean considering simplicity in life.  To seek God in this way, to pray in this way is in Jean Stair’s words, to be “wrapped in quietness, patience, and a spirit of waiting and restfulness.”

That kind of life, a more contemplative way, is just stinking hard whether you consider all our connectedness or you do not.  If you work a job, have a family, go to school, it is rough.  If you are trying to find a job and worry how to support your family or just yourself, it can be just as futile to find this place or time to do justice to your soul.

I am going to throw into the mix three things to UN-do, three things that may help, may move more in-line with the lives of those who have had more healthy souls than mine has been.  Just consider…

Unplug:  Shut it all off.  If it isn’t a living plant, animal or mineral, do not give it your attention.  Pet the cat, feed the fish, water the plant, whatever, just turn off the electrical stimulants.  If it  speaks listen.  If it is silent, don’t feel like you have to open your mouth…you don’t.  Period – don’t argue.  I mean it.

Un-commit:  Don’t schedule your day so full that you get no time to taste the food you are eating or savor the one quiet moment that the kids take a nap. It is your schedule.  It won’t happen all the time so don’t heap on the guilt too.

Understand:  Jesus’ life and pattern was that of a Jew in the first century.  It was patterned off rituals and harvests.  There was place for Sabbath rest and synagogue worship. What we’ve done to all those pattern in 21st century culture is a classic case of missing the point – time with Jesus, in His creation, IS the point.

It may take time.  We did not get here in a manner of a few years but over centuries.  What it will take is a conviction to be more like Jesus: loving others more than ourselves, knowing that before his accusers he could have said more and did not.  Knowing too, that he can judge us more harshly and un-do us completely and yet gives us grace.  

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