Enough is Enough - Life Still Sucks and I Am Still Seeking God



Whatever.

Really. What is the deal?

How much more fighting is necessary? How much more tearing at each other is needed? How much more will we tear down other people until we learn what bullies taught us long ago, namely that tearing down other people does not make us look better?

I suppose it doesn't matter much anymore. We prefer whatever glitters, like a squirrel or a raven, over what matters most. No, we won't keep the main thing the main thing because our thing means more to us. 

And no, we, the human race will not seek first the Kingdom of God because the kingdom of me is what the universe revolves around.

I guess at 50, I am getting mouthy. Maybe prophetic. Maybe Ecclesiastes-ical? 

Lets read the words again shall we?

"The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,*
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
and goes round to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they continue to flow.
All things* are wearisome;
more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
‘See, this is new’?
It has already been,
in the ages before us.
The people of long ago are not remembered,
nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
by those who come after them."  Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, NRSV

Life still sucks and I am still seeking God. 

I am not going to give in to those who refuse to admit the state of things nor will I go along with those who cannot wait to tear it all down.  I love the book of James, probably my favorite book in the Bible but close behind it has become Ecclesiastes because it resonates with those who have suffered and struggled. 

Part of the wonder and beauty of God's Word given to us in the Bible, is we are blessed with a diversity of theological thought. One need not look for the books not in the Bible to read words hard to understand. The words hardest to understand are already right there! I have had numerous people turn from Christianity, not because of the books not included but the words of the book right there!

If we'll pay attention, nothing happening in our world is new. That is the truth of these words of Ecclesiastes. Are they new to us? Of course! But to those who remember? No..."the people of long ago are not remembered." The moral majority of the 90's put faith not in God but politicians and did so again. The progressive Christians of this new century  put faith in the progressive politicians in like fashion and crafted a new "golden calf." They look the same and nothing is new.

The Church is not perfect. She has always been an imperfect bride, it is the story of Hosea and his wife, Gomer. The Church is MEANT FOR PERFECTION but it is God who pays the price for that perfection.

God always has and it is because of that radical, crazy love of God for all of us schmucks that I will still seek God...even when life still sucks.

Do no harm, do good, and keep to the guidelines of God!
Jedi Pastor Ken






Stay In Love with God - Journal and Pray with this Free download


 

I turned 50 this month.

50.

It seems insane to be that old and yet even when I say it, I have people tell me I'm still a "youngster."

If only.

That little dash between the day I was born and the day I will die is getting shorter. My late wife was two years older than me so I have now outlived her. The valley of suck still resonates in cruel ways for sure. But as I reflect on the turning of the page, I realize there are things I've learned and things that used to impact me, don't have the importance.  

One of the big things is that I am an optimist. No, I haven't joined the organization (though maybe I should) but my whole life, I have been fighting for the most positive view of things. Even when bad things happen, when people are critical, and when relationships and situations sour, I want to look for the lessons and the good to come around the corner.


I want that for others too.

This has had me really thinking about what I can do and what I offer. I've written a couple of blog posts about some of that this year already. You see, it really bugs me when people start treating pastors like we should be carbon copies of other pastors - how does that work in any other profession after all? It doesn't. How can any of us be someone else after all anyway? Isn't that part of the beauty of the world and people - we aren't all alike and we don't all see things the same?

And this was always part of my issue with prayer and how it gets taught and written about - that there is only one way to do it! Prayer Simply Breathe, is a book, in part, about this very struggle I had and it seems, many others have had as well. And whether you pray breath prayers or any prayer, the bigger issue is, are you talking with God?

Well...are you?

And that is where I am and what is on my heart and what I am working on in me in my ministry - how can I help people grow in their faith for everyday? How can what I do and teach, help you and your neighbor and your friend and a stranger grow in faith?

Prayer is taking a time-out from playing God and letting God be God.  I wish God would put me in time-out more often but that isn't God's way. You have to do it and I have to do it - that is, make time-out.

So, I want to help you make time-out with God, even if just 5 minutes. I have been using the PARTs of prayer for many years and created this sheet years ago to help me make time-out with God.  PARTs stand so for:

Praise - Admit - Request - Thanks 


It is a simple outline of the content of the Lord's Prayer and help - not a hard and fast rule.


Click here to view and print:

PARTS of Prayer Journal Page   (Seriously, this is FREE, use a three-hole punch and notebook)

I'd like to think, my little additions have improved it but ultimately, this is JUST a GUIDE!! No rules here - Just me trying to share from my journey of faith what has helped.  I have some more journals coming up I'm working on to help too.

So what will you do this week to stay in love with God?


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

Jedi Pastor Kent




Prayer Journal for Women with the Writings of Heather Nall Hagler

Prayer Journal for Women with Writings of Heather N Hagler

I have had the iron in the fire with Prayer Simply Breathe but with the heaviness of these days, I have been at work on some other projects. One that is bittersweet is this offering. It is a prayer journal that comes from my late wife's writing and spiritual journey. Going through her notes in her Bible and some of her journals, I am reminded of how much she could run rings around most pastors and professors.

But more than that, she just loved Jesus. She would be up nearly every morning with hot tea, her Bible and our cat, Tigger. She would spend time with God and praying for everyone she loved. She memorized scriptures and hymns not because she had to but because she wanted to. She wanted to know God more. It is my hope and heart this journal will help you on your journey inspired by her words and faith each week. So, in honor and memory of Heather Nall Hagler, I offer her words and faith to the world as best I can.

---- Prayer Journal for Women: A Five-Week Scripture Inspired Journey of Prayer for Christian Women is a guide to prayer inspired by the life and faith of Heather Hagler. She was a devout Christian, teacher, pastor's wife, and loving mother who died of colon cancer. In these journal pages, you will be encouraged to live out your faith for every day. On these pages are some of Heather's words and devotional thoughts from her Bible and journaling. It includes some of Heather’s favorite Bible verses for reflection and guidance, combined with prompts and guides for strengthening your faith. These journal pages will provide you with encouragement and hope!
The journal Includes - Five full weeks of pages for a total of 35 days to build a habit of prayer and journaling. -Two pages for each day with plenty of room to record your journey. -Each week features one of Heather's reflections and favorite verses. -Prompts that are creative and flexible for you to use as you follow after Jesus Christ. Click Here:

When We Are All In The Valley of Suck Pray Together


I have written and spoken throughout the start of Covid. We moved as a family.  I have prayed. I wrote about prayer. I have struggled to be positive and optimistic.

But this sucks. 

When I wrote Life Sucks Seek God, it was about getting through difficult times and for me, that was the loss of my wife. The valley of suck sucked all the joy, hopes and dreams out of our family. We were ruined. I was in ruins. 

Today, as we creep closer to the two year mark of dealing with Covid, as a pastor, I am worn out. It has been a long journey to get to where we are and today we are looking at infection rates in Anchorage that are nearly at the same point as the height of the pandemic.

Oh, I am not about to give up - not by a LONG SHOT! As I reflected on turning 50 this year, a lot of things become more clear to me.  One thing is, I am an optimist. Period. I hate getting negative or being negative.  I am wired that way but following Jesus, well, that kicked things up a notch.  I keep hearing the Apostle Paul's words that three things remain: faith, hope, and love and the greatest is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). That sounds like an optimist to me!

So, the valley of suck is still here, unfortunately. For those who are shut-in, this makes it all worse. For folks trying to get out of tough financial situations, it really sucks.  I surely don't have the answers to many of these things. What myself, and clergy can offer is faith, hope and love. We've GOT to hold onto the promises of the gracious and loving God we worship.  I know and have read some who already thrown in the towel.

I am trying to get more creative - provide what I can provide.  I am going to keep Prayer Simply Breathe at the lowest prices I can.  I am going to provide free downloadable pages for you to print from the journals I have been working on so you can use them or get the books.

And I am going to pray. More. More creatively. More consistently. More compassionately.

We are in this together - this journey of life and we still are.  So let us pray together this amazing prayer for Covid:

We Asked


Loving Creator,

We asked for strength, and you gave us difficulties to make us strong.

We asked for wisdom, and you gave us problems to solve.

We asked for prosperity, and you gave us purpose and brains to use.

We asked for courage, and you gave us fears to overcome.

We asked for patience, and you gave us situations where we were forced to wait.

We asked for love, and you gave us troubled people to help.

We asked for justice, and you called us to be just and lead with integrity.

Lord, we have received nothing that we asked for or wanted.

And yet, we receive everything that we needed.

For this we give thanks.

- By Colleen Hanycz, PhD incoming President at Xavier University


Prayer Simply Breathe Christian Yearly Planner 2022 Monthly with Breath Prayers, Scripture and Inspirational Prompts

When I posted about journaling the other week, I meant it. When I wrote about it in Life Sucks Seek God, it was because it really helped me and has on my journey with God.

And that is what I am EXCITED to let you know about! There are three 2022 Calendar Journals available now in paperback for 2022 based on Prayer Simply Breathe!

I've been working on a number of journals to be a help on your spiritual journey to grow in your faith for every day. There are currently three covers available you can order on Amazon.

Here is a sample of the interior. Each month has a breath prayer and scripture reflection. With each month is a place for notes and a monthly task list as well.


2022 Breath Prayer Calendar Planner (Black cover)

2022 Breath Prayer Calendar Planner (White cover)

2022 Breath Prayer Calendar Planner (Football) 

 I have been working to get other journals completed as well. One is from my late wife, Heather's, journaling and Bible notes for women and I'll be promoting it soon enough so stay tuned (It is a 5-week journal for women).

As the calendars and journals come out, I hope you'll find something that you can connect with on your spiritual journey that will encourage you to live your FAITH FOR EVERYDAY!

Do no harm, do good, and follow the guidelines of God!
Jedi Pastor Ken

Is Your Life Worth Examining?



 It was Socrates who is credited with stating “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While I think it is a bit of an overstatement (and a few other philosophers appear to agree such as Epicurius), it is, at least, true to an extent. There is not doubt that in looking back in history, we benefit from the knowledge and experiences of many who journaled and reflected on their lives.

For me, Benjamin Franklin and the Rev. John Wesley come readily to mind. One, a giant of the American Revolution, and the other, a giant of Christian revival. Their journals reflect individuals of deep thought who understood, at least for themselves, the need to reflect and consider their actions and events of their day and time.

What does this mean for us? There is no Biblical command for people to journal. That we are aware, Jesus did not maintain a journal. Much of what makes up the stories of the Bible are passed down from oral tradition of the Ancient Near East. What is written, could hardly be classified as a journal.

So why journal?

More than a mere diary, journaling is a time of reflection and examination if you will. It is not a practice that everyone finds beneficial. For me, I have journaled off and on throughout my life. I have kept most of my journaling through the years and from time to time, I go back and reflect upon what has happened in my life. My journal offers a snapshot of how I have grown in my faith as well as how I have grown as a person.  I still have my first journals that even date the Upper Room Devotional books I used.

As a spiritual practice, it is hard to miss the value and how journaling has shaped so many.  As we turn the page of August to September, I challenge you to consider trying out journaling as a spiritual practice. It could be a notebook or in your day planner. Take note of where you think you see God as you read and reflect on the course of events in your day.

You can use John Wesley's Three Rules as a guide even:

When did I do harm?
When did I do good?
Have I stayed in love with God?

Then use who/what/when/where/how/why as a guide to expand upon each one as appropriate.

It may not change THE world but it just might change YOUR world.

-Jedi Pastor Ken




Chapter One: It's You and God


In just a few weeks, Prayer: Simply Breathe goes to print in paperback and on Kindle.  This has been a book I have been passionate about and scared about at the same time.  It is a book I have REALLY wanted to write and one I have felt called deeply to write.  I want to share with you chapter one and it is my hope and prayer, you will join me in supporting the launch.  


Chapter 1: It’s You and God

You are unique. You are “it.” You have “it.” You are the only one who has your “it.” There is not another person in the world like you, and there never has been and never will be another. It seems to me this makes you pretty dad-gum special as we say down south.

If you and I are so special, then God is pretty, dad-gum creative! I mean, if God isn’t making clones of us all, then God is spending a whole lot of effort and energy to make each of us special. And if we think on that a bit more, it must mean God is interested in the uniqueness of each one of us and what we might make of our lives and the world we live in.

I am also under the conviction God is interested in each and every one of us. There is something one of my spiritual teachers, Roberta Bondi, once said that has stuck with me a long time. She said one day, “God doesn’t just love us; God likes us! God really, really likes us!” Her point was the God of all creation wants to hang out with us and enjoy our presence. God wants us to laugh and play, and God enjoys it when we are enjoying God and the world made. God doesn’t just tolerate us or put up with us and love us despite our failures. God likes us!

God likes you.

Now, let that sink in.

And I cannot help but think that if God is so interested in us all being unique and likes us, God must be interested in what is going on in us too. We live in this world through our mental, emotional, and physical selves, but there are many who believe there is a spiritual part of us too. There is a longing deep inside of us. The multitude of religions gives testimony to the search many human beings have been on, trying to understand this longing for God.

Prayer represents one of the primary things we do when it comes to seeking God. Praying is what we call talking to God.

I can remember praying back in 5th grade over a lost magic snake toy. It was a desperation prayer. I had taken it to school against the rules my parents had established. It was a time in my life that I had grown rebellious in a lot of ways. And maybe it was grace or God’s way of sparking hope into my life, but the day after I prayed, the toy was found and returned to me. Kind of a silly story, right? But things that happen when we are young can make life-long impressions, and for me, it was the beginning of a journey with God that is continuing to this day.

While I might wish I could give you a list of prayers God has answered in miraculous ways, I can’t. On one side, I can look at this prayer of a fifth grader that God seemed to answer, and on the other side, I can look back on the prayers for healing for my late wife that God seemed to not answer.

Prayer is the act of turning our mind, our emotions, our body, and our spirit to God. The practice of prayer is a practice of laying aside our worldly worries and cares and turning our whole attention to the presence and heart of God. It doesn’t mean we forget our concerns—for God does care about those—but we release them into the presence of God and trust God with them. In prayer, we encounter and converse with God.

Let’s look a little more intently at the prayers Jesus gave. Jesus’ disciples once noted that John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray so they asked Jesus to teach them. In response, Jesus gave them the prayer that today is called “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Our Father”

“Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father, who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13)

But this was not the only thing Jesus had to say about prayer nor was it the only prayer Jesus gave to His disciples that is honored by Christian churches even to this day. Luke records a parable regarding a Pharisee and tax collector that gives us another prayer to consider.

He told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

This prayer became what we know as the Jesus Prayer in the Orthodox tradition of the Christian faith. Jesus would go on to teach many things about prayer as did Paul and other writers of the New Testament. Through the centuries, the desert fathers and mothers, saints, pastors, monks, priests, professors, and popes have all expounded on prayer.

One of those, Bernard of Clarivaux, cut to the core of what prayer really is, what it means and what it does in us. Bernard writes this:

“By prayer we focus the soul in God. And when we focus only on Him, we cut out the distractions of the world and see Him lifted up before the eyes of the soul. And in this state, the Spirit speaks in us so that we discern God’s will - and by this, what is important to God becomes important to us.” 

-----

Thanks so much for taking time to read this chapter! If you'd like to learn more and get a FREE PDF copy, just sign up for my email list (Look over to the right of the page).  There is a new BONUS gift available now that will be shared in my latest email.   MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR SEPTEMBER 7!!!





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



Do One Thing to Change the World...Add Value


Albert Einstein once said, "Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value."  That really resonated with me.  It resonated so much, I had to use it in one of my Wisdom with Master Yoda videos on YouTube!  Yeah, Yoda pretty much butchers every quote I give to him, but it is fun bringing him to “life” again.


Still, it is important for us to consider, what value are we adding to the world or are we just obsessed with success?  I can’t help but view this as a slippery slope in our day and time.  I have seen and heard politicians so obsessed over their “successes” they don’t care about whether what they have done has added value.  Run down the list of any celebrity, athlete, preacher, banker, doctor, store clerk, and we all need to ask it - are we bringing value?

That can be simple.  My son tries to give everyone he meets a compliment.  I think that is awesome!  He constantly adds value - he lets people know they are noticed!  I try to always call people by name and use the name tags in the store.  If you know me, you know I usually wear a nametag pretty regularly too.  It is said that the most beautiful sound anyone hears is their name.

Those are simple things but there are so many more ways to add value!  What is more, the Book of Proverbs (2:7) tells us, "God holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless."  It seems if we will pivot one step, and focus on the value we are adding to the world, we will start becoming the good we wish existed.  Don’t just try. Do good!

Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay In Love with God!
Jedi Pastor Ken




How to Be Spiritual and Be a Christian


I cannot help but be perplexed by the amount of material and commentary regarding Christian spirituality being unChristian.  It is an oxymoron!  How can Christianity NOT be spiritual is what I am confused about more than anything.


There was one passage that stuck with me about the Spirit of God I have never been able to shake.  It refers to the promise from Jesus, in part, he would not leave us to our own devices and on our pilgrimage of faith, there would be one sent from God to be present with us, to guide us.  Let me share it from two versions, so to be sure we get the gist.  Here is the KJV and NRSV of John 16:13:

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  (KJV)”


“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (NRSV)”


What is consistent here and in all translations is that the Spirit will come, “pnuema” is the Greek transliteration. This isn’t a text where anyone seems to pick a fight and it is clear, the Spirit of Truth is, in Orthodox, classical Christianity, the Holy Spirit.

Paul, in Romans 8:16, declares to us this same Spirit, “...itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (KJV)  And so the Greek refers to the “pnuemati” of us - our spirit.  This, my friend and reader, is clear throughout the Scriptures of the Church, Christianity is a spiritual religion.

For us in the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition, it is not possible to escape though we seem to have tried to separate ourselves from the content of John Wesley’s heartwarming experience on Aldersgate street.


Wesley wrote in his journal on May 24, 1738:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading [Martin] Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”


That “heartwarming” has long been identified with Paul’s Roman 8:16 passage.  From this spiritual event, come many denominations long identified as Charismatic and Pentecostal - “Spirit-filled” churches if you will.  Our’s is a VERY SPIRITUAL CHRISTIANITY and we dare not lose sight of it nor should the Church of Jesus Christ, anywhere lose our connection to our spirituality.


For me, it seems we have failed to understand the richness and depth of our Christian tradition which has led us to this point of flushing out the spiritual for fear, at times, of New Age beliefs.  There are real reasons to be concerned for certain but we dare not tar and feather all that we do not care to research or understand.  We are a spiritual faith tradition that traces the lineage through 2,000 years of church history and 2,000 more years of Jewish heritage and spirituality.  Ours is an ancient faith steeped in more spirituality than the past century.

To walk away from spiritual Christianity is to walk away from the hope of transformation.  It is walking away from inspiration.  It is walking down a path of humanism once again, elevating humanity to the status of God and builders of Babel.

“What landed Jesus on the cross was the preposterous idea that common, ordinary, broken, screwed-up people could be godly!” wrote the late Mike Yaconelli.  This is Christian Spirituality at its heart and root.  Not that in our works or practices we can become perfect, but that on the Cross of Jesus, the gift was given so we could be godly by the grace of God, not by someone’s personal to-do list of perfection.  Repentance is a vital component to this spiritual journey that began in the cry of the prophets and led to John the Baptist and Jesus, as well.


I can no more be a Christian who is not spiritual and using spiritual practices than I can be a motor vehicle that doesn't have a motor or use gas, diesel, or electric power. To be a Christian is to be on a spiritual journey. It is to be a faith journey. We own up to our need for Jesus. We own up to the mess of our lives, too.  And there, in the place called repentance, we turn from the way we’ve been headed with our lives and find the Spirit of Truth, waiting patiently to join us in the mess and ready to journey with us toward a Christ-likeness that can only be fulfilled by being spiritual.


Do no harm. Do Good. Stay in Love with God.

Jedi Pastor Ken



Faith or Works? Why the Season of Lent is Important to Faith for Everyday



There is a story of a horse groomer who would spend much effort everyday combing and rubbing down the horse in his care, but at the same time, he stole from the oats intended for the horse and sold them for his own profit. One day the horse had enough. “Hey!,” said the horse, “if you really wish me to be in the best condition, you should groom me less, and feed me more.”


I am struck by one particular aspect of the story, and that is the importance of balance in our care. For the horse to be at its best, both the food and the combing must be done. To neglect one or the other would leave the horse unbalanced. The horse knew it and could keep silent no longer!


In our own lives, we find aspects of this very story. But I think it is more telling of our spiritual lives even more so. It is a troubling thing for you or me to get so wrapped up in our yearning for spiritual growth that we neglect the concern for our fellow humans. Likewise, we can get so obsessed with doing good, we fail to care for our inward souls. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Revival, rejected faith by works as well as “spiritual solitaries.” Throughout Wesley’s life and ministry he looked at “classical Christianity” and made sure all understood, that though we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, this same faith would be lived out in the works we did for our neighbors and needy.

Wesley would preach and teach affirming Paul’s words that it is, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9).” And Wesley would also affirm James’ challenge to a mere solitary life, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26).”


As we enter the season of Lent in the church, the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, it is a time for us to turn our attention that care of our inward souls, to come to faith in Jesus once again, to reflect and ruminate on the messiness of our lives and the messy we have made. Here, in these forty days, we take time to do what I often call, “The Inner Work,” and prepare for the outward works in the days after Easter.

https://www.umc.org/en/content/lent-photo-a-day-2021


The Church is not retreating into itself. This is OUR calendar year for we live according to the Kingdom of God. We are, as the groomer, responsible for caring for this inward condition of our souls, not merely for ourselves but for others.

What are you doing to care for your soul? How is your church helping? How are you helping others? Do you find yourself staying in love with God? Do No Harm. Do Good. Stay In Love With God. Jedi Pastor Ken

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