Rules for Relationship on Being a Kid

Eph 6:1-3 GW  Children, obey your parents because you are Christians. This is the right thing to do.  (2)  "Honor your father and mother  (3)  that everything may go well for you, and you may have a long life on earth." This is an important commandment with a promise.

We’ve all been a kid.  Some of us are small kids some of us are kids who are 40 years old and I've known a few 80 year old kids as well.  And because we’ve been a kid, we’ve been someone’s child.  Some of our families may be different but someone is watching out for us - maybe mom or dad, a grandparent or a guardian.  Those who care for us help us, teach us, and they set rules for us.

Some of those rules may be important rules to keep us safe like not playing with matches.  Some rules may not seem so important to us, like cleaning up our room.  For some you it may feel like the 11th Commandment: THOU SHALT CLEAN UP THY ROOM!

There are different reasons for cleaning up your room:
1.  FOR YOUR HEALTH - if you can’t get in your room to vaccum or dust, there are allergies that can develop that will effect your health.
2.  ASHAMED  -  What if you had family stop by and you wanted them to see something in your room but all they saw was all your dirty clothes?
3.  FEAR  -  Yep, you know some punishment will come if your room isn’t cleaned up!
4.  GREED  -  Probably not the best reason either, your parents having to bribe you with a reward like ice cream.

No, there is a better reason.  LOVE. 

In one of his letters, the one to the Ephesian Church, the Apostle Paul wrote a special note just to the children in the church.  Did you know that?  Paul wrote to the children to obey their parents, using one of the commandments: “Honor your father and mother.”

The word HONOR is a word that has a hint of LOVE in it because for Paul, LOVE isn’t what we feel, but what we DO.   John Wesley said about HONORING God, “That is, love, reverence, obey, assist, in all things (Notes on the New Testament).”  Love is an ACTION. 

But this rule for relationships as children isn’t just about you as younger kids.  It is important to us older kids too!  Many of us are still children.  And it made Jesus very upset when grown-up children stopped caring and honoring their older parents.  Jesus said to them...

Mark 7:8-12 GW  "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!  (10)  For example, Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother' and 'Whoever curses father or mother must be put to death.'  (11)  But you say, 'If a person tells his father or mother that whatever he might have used to help them is corban (that is, an offering to God),  (12)  he no longer has to do anything for his father or mother.'

You see, the idea of being obedient to our parents or guardians applies to us all, no matter what our age.  It is practice for us being obedient to God.  It isn’t always easy but it is something that makes God happy.  It is like the game, “Mother May I.”  A lot of us grown-up kids played it when we were young, have some of you played it?  The way it is played is someone is the “Mother” and gives an instruction.  All of the “kids” must ask “Mother May I?”  Then “Mother” says, “Yes you may.”  But if you don’t say “Mother May I,” you’re out!

We’ve got time - let’s play!  I’ll be the “Mother.”  Everyone of you are the kids.  (Yes, we did play "Mother May I" in our service)!

The faster it goes the harder the game gets.  Jesus once gave a very simple rule that sums up all the other rules.  He said, “Love each other.  You must love each other as I have loved you (John 13:34).”  It sound simple but it can be very hard sometimes.  This is why there are other rules for relationships so we can know how to follow that one rule.

Jesus asked us to HONOR our parents or guardians, because of LOVE.  If we do that, Jesus said, then we’ll be showing others that we love God because all LOVE comes from God.  God sent Jesus to our world to show us just how much he loves us.  We don’t always obey and honor because we sin - we make mistakes.  But if we ask Jesus into our hearts and to forgive us, he will.  And Jesus will be there to help us HONOR our parents.  

Works Referenced

Hands of the Catechist (This was where I got the Children's Creed and Prayer we used for Sunday)

Rules for Relationships in the Workplace (and School-place)

Mat 5:13-15 GW  "You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.  (14)  "You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill.  (15)  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house.
We are working people.  Pundits aside, our workplace or for student, our school-place, our preparation for the workplace, are where we spend the majority of our time.  When Jesus says “YOU are the salt of the earth,” his words are not being directed at the apostles or todays clergy.  These words are part of the most important sermon ever preached, what we call the sermon on the mount, and they were preached to the people, to us all. 

No, these words of Jesus are not simply about our relationships in the workplace or school-place, but all of life.  And if most of our time is in these places, then Jesus words certainly apply.   The great things about these words of Jesus is that the word-pictures he uses don’t need much interpretation.

If we are to be the salt of the earth, then we are called to add flavor.  Salt served as both season and preservative.  As followers of Jesus, he apparently intends our lives to be ones which add something to this world to make it special and preserve those lives we touch.   The word Christian literally means “little Christs.”  Jesus doesn’t want us looking to others to make a difference in our places of work and school BUT for us to be the flavor - the little Christs.  “We are the one we have been waiting for.”

But Jesus doesn’t stop there - no, he says we are to be the light on a hill - a lamp stand - illuminating the countryside or the house.  I remember being in Kansas on a pheasant hunt and standing out at night.  There was nothing but stars - in Kansas, there isn’t much of anything!  Compare that to here where the lights of Atlanta illuminate our night - the light never goes out.  Like the wise men who followed the star, we can literally make our way back home by the light on the hill.

When we begin to change our perspective, our view of work or school as a burden to a place where relationships are really the priority, and especially our relationship with God is foremost, we have a chance to be salt for seasoning and light for dark times.  While not always easy, God does not intend our work or our school to be places that are meaningless but meaningful.

First, meaning can start by realizing that relationships in the workplace and school-place will change if we include God in these affairs.  The wisdom writer of Proverbs notes:
Proverbs 16:1-3 GNB  We may make our plans, but God has the last word.  (2)  You may think everything you do is right, but the LORD judges your motives.  (3)  Ask the LORD to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out.  Stop planning your life out, then asking God to bless it.  Start first with recognizing and placing God in the top spot.

The second practice is one that applies to you who are students but I’m sure it isn’t missed on all of us with more experience.  For centuries, students were apprentices.  You committed to learn a trade.  Your school work today is that of an apprenticeship.    Proverbs 22:29 GNB  Show me someone who does a good job, and I will show you someone who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.  It wouldn’t surprise me if these were the very words of King Solomon.  A wise king would know!  So does a wise teacher, manager or CEO.  You may not always like the job, but how well you do it makes a difference in those relationships.

The third observation of the wisdom writer of Proverbs notes In hard work there is always something gained, but idle talk leads only to poverty.  (Pro 14:23 GW).  This isn’t a condemnation of the poor.  In fact, Proverbs, there is a real sense of justice for those who are in poverty outside of their actions.  Instead, the writer points out, I think, a sign of what integrity brings.  The writer of Proverbs is an observer of humanity and relationships. 

Brother Lawrence got kitchen duty at his monastery.  In his work, the lessons learned and his humility in relationships, he became a renowned Christian teacher and his little book, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” has influenced Christians for centuries now. 

How we add flavor or shine the light of Jesus in our work or in our school is as transformational to our souls as it is to our success.  Remembering whose we are in our relationships in our work and school matters - this is at the heart of sharing the Gospel, of letting others know about the good news of Jesus Christ.  If it isn’t seen in our work and our study - some will never even consdier who we really work for.  Wouldn’t you like to give others a reason to ask?

Five Practices For Freeing Your Time With God

I do not remember who first told me I needed to have a "quiet time" each day to be with God.  It was a great piece of advice and the worst.   Within many of the circles of Christians I was with, your "quiet time" became a litmus of faithfulness.  I find it funny (and sad) how people who are so literal about the Bible and condemn others (I’ve had people argue that "prevenient" grace isn’t a word in the Bible so it can’t be used and of course neither is the word trinity) will talk about having said “quiet times” though that word or phrase isn’t found anywhere in the Bible nor is there a rule for what a “quiet time” should look like.

Still, the concept is a Biblical one (just like prevenient grace and the trinity): going apart to be with God and returning to others to live out your faith.  It has had different names through the years and there are numerous ways to go about the practice.  But often there are some unspoken concerns or wonderings people have regarding spending time with God alone.  I want to share five of the things which seem to “stump” people in their spiritual formation practice of “quiet times.”  I have no doubt there are others and I could write more on each but for now, we’ll go with these starting with…

1.  One size does not fit all.   
In the opening of his book, Sacred Pathways,Gary Thomas writes these profound words of wisdom.  “Expecting all Christians to have a certain type of quiet time can wreak havoc in a church or small group.  Excited about meaningful (to us) approaches to the Christian life, we sometimes assume that if others do not experience the same thing, something must be wrong with their faith (17).”
While we should listen to wisdom from pastors and spiritual guides, it is ultimately important to be YOU when you’re with God.  Do the things you enjoy and where you feel God’s pleasure.  When I exercise, I am the opposite of "Chariots of Fire," I don’t feel God’s pleasure when I run, I hear God say, “STOP!  That looks like it hurts!”  So I walk, hike, ride or swim.  In much the same way, with your time with God, find the practices which fit you.

2.  When a devotional book stops “speaking” to you, put it on the shelf.
            It is hard to put down a book which has been helpful to you on your faith journey.  You may even feel a bit guilty.  I’m not saying throw it away, just put it on the shelf.  Come back to it later.  Books of the Bible may be the same.  When I don’t think I’m getting anything from God, I go back to read Psalms or Proverbs in the Old Testament and Mark’s Gospel or James in the New Testament.  I have David Hazard’s “Rekindle the Fire” series of 40 Day devotions taken frommany of the great Christian mystics.  Take the hint from your feelings and begin something new.

3.  Every day is different.
            I have kids.  Every day is different but heck, even before then I learned the simple reality of life that nothing stays the same.  We’re not living in the movie Groundhog Day (even if it may feel that way).  Our time with God will be impacted by how we feel, our family or our work routines.  When I have had the flu or some other nasty cold bug, I’m not interested in talking with anybody and God gets included.  God understands this.  Let the ideal go. 

4.  Grow up =  “Be the Christian you have become.”
            One of my youth pastors, Bob Swan, said those words one day in a Bible study and I never forgot it.  I don’t read the same devotionals I did when I was a teen or in college.  I have changed and the change is reflected in my life.  The point of the “quiet-time” isn’t for us to have feel-good time with God but to begin to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ – to have the mind of Christ.  Paul reminds us…
…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.  (1 Cor 2:14-16 (NKJV)

5.  Be a person of one book.
            John Wesley wrote, “I am a spirit come from God and returning to God… I want to know one thing. the way to heaven… God Himself has condescended to teach me the way… He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to Heaven.”
            Again and again, throughout his many writings, Wesley is in line with Judeo-Christianity that “The Book” contains all knowledge which we need for salvation, all we need to grow with God.  When we come to have time with God, the Bible remains the source book.  We may read different devotion books and use various prayers but consistently, for the Christian, we have the Bible as our source book for knowing God and being known by God.

May I Ask?  What have you found most helpful in these 5 practices?  What have you learned from your own experience?

May I Suggest?  Print this out and keep it nearby where you have your time with God or in your journal.  Remind yourself you are unique and so is your relationship with God.

Rules for Relationships Regarding Friendships

Colossians 4:2-6 GW (2) Keep praying. Pay attention when you offer prayers of thanksgiving.  (3)  At the same time also pray for us. Pray that God will give us an opportunity to speak the word so that we may tell the mystery about Christ. It is because of this mystery that I am a prisoner.  (4)  Pray that I may make this mystery as clear as possible. This is what I have to do.  (5)  Be wise in the way you act toward those who are outside the Christian faith. Make the most of your opportunities.  (6)  Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone.

From 1837 to 1901, Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain.  During that time she had two of the most famous prime ministers.  Of William Gladstone, she said, When I am with him, I feel I am with one of the most important leaders in the world.  Yet of Benjamin Disraeli she said that he made her feel as if I am one of the most important leaders in the world.  The distinction is slight yet ever so important.  We are social creatures on a planet full of social creatures.  The 19th and 20th century gave us a great deal of information about social science and how people relate to each other but in the end, I think Queen Victorias observation was spot on - how we make others feel may be the most most important rule for relationships.

As we begin this new series in a new year, I cannot help but ask who is the person who has made you feel the most special?  The reasons maybe numerous or just a few.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert is of little consequence either - relationships are of utmost importance to our health and well-being.  The rules that guide these relationships may be taken for granted or they may be taken to heart and the choice we make?  Well it may make all the difference in this world as well as the next.

When we read the letters of Paul, we find how important relationships were to him. Though often neglected, I think we learn a great deal in his introduction and concluding remarks about those relationships.  In his letter to the Colossian church, he notes two emphasis:
            1)  Pray
            2)  Pay attention to relationships

The first is important because it reminds us of what we so often take for granted - our connection to God.  Paul reminds the Colossians to do what? Pray.  But what is prayer at its root?  Conversation with God = relating to God.  Everything about our relationships with others is grounded in the shaping work of Gods Spirit in our lives.  This relationship, Paul implies, is the foundational one - it is the relationship the Scriptures testify to going back to Genesis.  It was learned in his Jewish upbringing BUT this model comes to fullness in Jesus Christ.  God began relationship with us and it is God who continues to sustain it.  Will we engage?  Will we be influenced?  Will we live toward others in the same way God lives toward us? 

What does it look like when we do live this way?  Paul begins by talking about how we act toward those who do not yet believe in Jesus Christ but do Pauls words also implicate all our actions?

Few of us can say, I suspect, that we have not been the responsible party in the collapse of a friendship.  The Bible makes clear the wound which sin causes has disrupted our relationship with God and impacts every other friendship we have.

But it is the gift of Jesus Christ the reality of the incarnation that God continues to sustain us, that we might chose to live out rules not because we will be judged by them but because we want to do so.  Does it matter?  It does if we believe in grace.  Our relationships with other people are grounded in the shaping work of God's Spirit in our lives.   Look at these simple rules from Proverbs what if you lived them?  Can you argue that they aren't applicable?

Be at peace with God to begin - 16:17
Be slow to anger - 15:18
Be slow to respond -18:13
Speak gently - 15:1
Speak briefly - 10:19
Be quick to show love - 10:12
When necessary, correct rather than flatter - 28:23

Above all though, consider this one rule, a rule not of base on law but one based on love.  What if this rule guided your actions:

John 15:12-13 GW  Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I'm commanding you to do.  (13)  The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.

When we gather at the table to celebrate the communion meal, we remember this is the way God views relationship.  This is the love God has for us - the gift of Christmas is a gift that is for us all.  The law of love is this love is a rule which transformed our relationship with God - a rule that can transform all relationships.

Lectio Visual for Tuesday, January 8

The practice Lectio Visual isn't complicated but it takes some time.  I keep learning and being in awe of images I find God speaking to me through.  Take your time and as you view the image then reflect through the process of Visual Lectio below...

 For Visual Lectio, walk through the following steps:

            Look (Read):  Consider deeply the image and what is being “said.”
            Linger (Reflect):  What is the verse or word being given to you?
            Led (Respond): How are you being called to respond?
            Lay (Rest): Be in God's presence.
            Live (Return): Moving back into the world with how we've been changed.

Take time to reflect on the image.  As you look at this image, what words come to your mind?  Look at the people, their faces, their body language.  What speaks to you about the location?  The weather?  Specifically, what Scripture passage or phrase does the Holy Spirit inspire them to speak to you?   You may think of a recent news article or a quote by a famous person.  So it maybe from another word or phrase that you are  inspired you to look up a Scripture.  If you need help, you might try going to to do a search through the Bible.  In this case, consider that this week was epiphany Sunday.  

Remember that there are those images, icons or symbols that appeal to us.  We are   now an incredibly visual society and images are important.  Christianity has been using images since the earliest days of the church.  BUT, we need to realize that there are also images that don’t attract us or inspire us with joy or peace that are just as likely to be used by God. 

Whatever that verse or word or phrase, take that as a guide for your prayer through this day.  Read or say that verse or phrase out loud if you have time or space to do so.  If not, silently reflect and pray.  If it is a full story, consider using more of Lectio Divina which I talk about elsewhere on my blog.

A Methodist Clergy Wrestling with Richard Rohr's Methods

The year 2012 brought with it new challenges and learning opportunities for me.  So I’ve not been particularly surprised as 2013 seems to be opening up with a continuation of those same things.  The idea of a new year really being a separation from the old year is a bit puzzling to me, always has been.  Nature itself, as I have been reminded recently is a book which is always open to give lessons.  Even as new growth is taking place under our very feet, the old roots grow stronger and plants which have bloomed in years past, will likely present us with blooms again.

The Church (I mean that universally), is much the same.  New growth takes shape, often out of the way, and many times, unseen.  Like gardeners, we must maintain and watch what sprouts.  Now I’m not much of a gardener but I have successfully learned to care for lawns.  Sometimes plants grow in the wrong spot.  Any plant which does this can be termed a “weed.”  Transplanted to another location and it is no longer a weed.

While an imperfect word-picture, our denominations in the Church often represent different gardens, full of wonderful plants but at times, ones we may not find fitting in our own garden.  Spiritual formation is one those plants growing we are not sure at times whether we have a welcome plant or another weed.  It maybe you are greatly concerned about it or you have given it no thought in the slightest. 

For Methodist Christians, spiritual formation IS something to be concerned about and in fact, it is at the heart of much of what we do.  It is often unseen.  Dr. Bob Mulholland gives a simple definition which is worth keeping in mind, one the General Board of Discipleship has posted:

Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God's spirit, for the transformation of the world. 1

I think we take it far too much for granted spiritual formation is taking place.  While faith might more often be “caught than taught,” I have yet to discover a faith tradition of influence which has simply given a pass to spiritual formation, whether they accept the term or not.

Within the Methodist tradition, we have long had “methods” for the process.  Unfortunately, we have often dismissed John Wesley’s role in directing this.  It occurred to me while dialoguing on John Meunier’s recent discussion on Nouwen and Wesley, we have in many ways dismissed Rev. Wesley’s more intimate works of spiritual direction.  Dr. Steve Harper, in his article, “John Wesley: Spiritual Guide,” points this out and with an excellent comparison:

… I have come to believe that it is [his} letters where we see the spiritual guidance of Wesley most personally demonstrated. There can be no doubt that Wesley knew that letters were a time-honored medium of spiritual direction. One cannot read his letters without thinking of those of Francois Fenelon—one of Wesley's own spiritual formation resources. 2

I think this is of vital importance in a day when there are many spiritual directors writing and many who we are reading.  The writing style of the 18th century is not the same as the 20th and 21st and many older writings than Wesley’s have gotten fresh translations.  There is a clarity to these which is surely attractive. 

However, when the clarity is as transparent as Richard Rohr’s recent e-mail/devotion on December 31: Seven Underlying Themes of Richard Rohr's Teachings, then it is worth considering, especially as he addresses our Wesleyan Heritage and approach.  Rohr’s work has been monumental and influential on many, now far beyond Roman Catholicism and many of us as Methodists are attracted to his work for good reason -  it is often profound.  I like a lot of what Fr. Rohr writes but not all.

I thank Fr. Rohr for his nod to the Methodist tradition as he gives his theme and notes the “quadrilateral.” 

First Theme: Scripture as validated by experience, and experience as validated by Tradition, are good scales for one’s spiritual worldview (METHODOLOGY).

(I am aware of John Wesley’s later-named “quadrilateral method” which also included reason as a fourth principle. I see the use of reason as precisely our ability to use Scripture, Tradition, and experience in a consistent, balanced, and “reasonable” way. But I do not want to give reason the importance of a fourth principle, because it now tends to trump the other three.) 3

As I understand Fr. Rohr’s “Methodology,” God experience is intended to balance out Scripture and Tradition which has often been used at odds with each other.  This is valid and clearly a valid point and quite Methodist.  That reason may or may not trump the other three is certainly a matter of debate – HOW we reason – this, I think, is why it is defined in the Book of Discipline in Our Theological Task.

As Methodists, we have clearly given one of these a place of primacy, something Rohr does not do.  Scripture we have said in Paragraph 104, “…occupies a place of primary authority among these theological sources.”   So even though we have four elements, the term “quadrilateral” is clearly not accurate as the four elements addressed are NOT equal (the Book of Discipline does not use this term either that I can find).  Clearly Fr. Rohr's task is not in keeping with our Methodist-way.

We do clearly define in that same paragraph 104 how reason is a vital element of our theological task.  To assume we are using rightly in our “method” is important.  We need to do more than recognize Wesley’s care for individuals in his care, we ought to consider taking the time to read what he wrote to the people who sought his spiritual direction. 

We have already allowed faulty reasoning to lead us down of road of dismissing Wesley as a spiritual director.  To follow Fr. Rohr’s methods would be good but not the Methodist way.  It seems clear, as Methodists we’ve not lived in our Methodist way for some time.  Do we really considered it an option?

I think it is clearly a deeper, compassionate work Rev. Wesley did for those who sought him out than we give Wesley credit.  We neither do right nor do well to walk from it, not when we’ve neglected to even live it.  It is my hope in this new year, to continue in our “methods,” ones which have deep roots ready to bloom again and again.

1) Mulholland, Robert.  Definition of Spirtual Formation 1/2/2013. (

2) Harper, J Steven. 1985. "John Wesley: spiritual guide."  Wesleyan Theological Journal 20, no. 2:91-96 ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed January 2, 2013).
3) Rohr, Richard.  E-mail devotional.  12/31/2012.

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