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  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:

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!

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.

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

God is NOT Like Us and It Is OK!


Confession time. I have been saying and teaching something for years and it isn’t true. In fact, pretty much most pastors have been doing it. Is it an evangelical Christian thing?, I don’t think so. “Buddy Jesus” seemed to come out of the progressive side of the Church.  Does it really matter where it came from? No...

Here it is: You can’t have a personal relationship with God like God was your friend.

God is not like us.

I have been thinking about this since I produced a recent video entitled “How to Know God” on YouTube and taught about Gary Thomas’s 9 Spiritual Personality types in his book, “Sacred Pathways.” We can know God, just not like we have been led to believe.

God did make you unique AND God really, really does like you and me, and loves us!

But God ain’t like us and we need to get that out there.  And I confess, I have felt so impressed upon to make God “real” to people that I have many times forgotten just how important it is to remember God is God (and in the most basic Christian theological understanding of God - it ends there, though some will want to ask about where God comes from but that is philosophy and not Chrisitan theology or Christian spirituality.  In the beginning, was God - no other being(s) (Genesis 1 and John 1)).

These words from Numbers 23 are foundational to this understanding God isn’t like us at all...

God is not a human being, that he should lie,

    or a mortal, that he should change his mind.

Has he promised, and will he not do it?

    Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 NRSV)

God has revealed himself not so much in the Bible as God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ (so the whole New Testament unpacks this idea. Jesus is both GOD and human.) and then, shared with humankind, the very presence of the Divinity in the Holy Spirit.  Even more, God offers to be present with our spirit as we journey this life IF we want. 

For me, I don’t want a God like us. Oh, man! No wonder we all have such issues and hang-ups with God - if God was really like us, how terrible would this God be after all. I have come to understand if I really understand and comprehend God, then maybe it is me who has created this God in my image.  God has made you and me in ways we can know God but not like we think; not like us.  This is good.  What is far more important is to know God knows us and “...even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)” 

Prayer is not like talking to a friend. Listening to God involves so much more of our attention than we are willing to give most days! Spending time with God doesn't mean we're sitting in the deer stand together swapping stories or taking long walks on the beach. These and so many more practices point out this relationship is DIFFERENT. It is NOT a bad thing just a different thing because GOD IS NOT LIKE US!!! So let us stop treating God just like a buddy, stop ghosting on God and take God at his word - God is not a human being...thanks be to God!

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

Four Things To Do To Get Unstuck

How do you get going again when you feel stuck?  I have been reading and ruminating over the past few years.  I have listened to TED talks, articles and books.  I kept finding they all said the same things over and over again.  

Here is the truth:  We are NOT the same!

Yep, you and I and everyone else is different and when you or I get in a rut, we don't need to do what everyone else is doing.  Look at this blog and my writing.  I have been stuck for a while, and now it seems, I can write again.  What happened?  I really have NO IDEA!!!!  Still, as I look back at things, at my life these past few years, I think I can say I've learned a little bit about getting out of the rut I've been in.  Here are my four things that have helped me get unstuck.

1.  Be Patient.  No one seems to say this because, I think, folks just are so wrapped up in being busy, they think they just have to be doing SOMETHING!  I think this is just BULL!  You need to be patient.  Don't try and put an end date on it because you really don't really have control.  Remember, patience is a virtue and it will help you get unstuck.

2.  Do Old Things.  Do what brought joy in the past.  Find some of those old books you love.  Go on a walk you enjoyed or visit a place that has fond memories.  Look at old pictures.  Call up an old friend.  Do things you know, in the past, inspired and helped you find meaning.

3. Veg A Little.  Kinda like being patient again, ya know, wash - rinse - repeat?  Seriously, waste some time intentionally.  Do some things you "shouldn't" do because, well, you shouldn't.  I don't mean illegal but, ya know, eat dessert first for a change.  

4. Add Some Flavor.  Now, start doing new stuff, start trying to move forward.  Don't do a lot.  It is like my wife, Lauren, says about salt when cooking, "Add a little.  You can always add more but you can't take it out!"  Don't try to do too much, just a little and see what happens.

I am FINALLY done with my first draft on my new book on Breath Prayer.  It has taken a long time since I started and looking back, this is the pattern I followed without even knowing it.  You know what?  I am ready to start writing my next book already!  I know, crazy, right?!  And you know what, it isn't just about writing, it is about my relationship with God.  It has been personal in other ways too.  Whatever in your life that has had you stuck, you can move forward but don't just listen to the experts. Take some of the pressure off and try these four things that have helped me get unstuck.  They may just work for you too!

Let me know what you have tried to do that has helped you!  I'd love to know what has you stuck too.  Share below or send me an email!

Do No Harm. Do Good. Stay In Love With God - This is the Way!

Jedi Pastor Ken

A Tale of Two Crabs or "It Is Me O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer"

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

 “Why in the world do you walk sideways like that?” said a mother crab to her son one day.  She had seen him do this his whole life.  “You should always walk straight forward with your toes turned out.”  “Okay, mom, show me how to walk correctly.  I want to do it right,” replied the little crab.  So, the mother crab tried and tried, and tried again to walk straight forward.  But of course, like her son, she could only walk sideways.  When she did try and turn her toes out, she then tripped and fell.

There is no shortage, it seems, of people telling others how to live and seeking to justify a point of view.  I was reading this week about the ongoing investigation of the late Ravi Zacharias’s ministry and how it concealed and enabled his abuses.

(  It is, of course, one more reason for people to dismiss Christianity and most certainly hastens the collapse of the evangelical moniker of the church.  It has been “par for the course” for Christianity for centuries has it not?  

What are we to make of this?

As we come to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the words echo from the ye-olde-english: “Rend your hearts and not your garments... (Joel 2:13).”  It is time for the Church Universal to come to grips with its many failings and faults.  More importantly, it is time for you and me to do the same. 

I think it is most easy for us to do just what I did...hide in “group” and make “straw-Groups” as opposed to “strawmen.”  I do it when I write many times and have to check myself.  It is easy to cast stones at “Those people,” or “them,” or “they.”  I can right about “us” and “we” and that tends to be easier than saying what is really at the crux of the problem…

Me.  Just me.  I did.  I did it.  I do it.  I fail.  I fall.  I sin.  

The words of Jesus apply to me, first.  When I read them.  When I reflect on them.  As I prepare to preach them...

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:17-20, ESV

But how do I really handle it?  I think we have to go back to some of the other ancients of the early centuries.  As Dr. Roberta Bondi, who has written extensively on the Desert Fathers and Mothers, “they saw judgementalism as just about the greatest sin.”  Bringing the ideas of cancel culture into the church is so deadly.  There is no justification for it in the Church and both the so-called “left” and “right” should be listening.  Classical Christianity as John Wesley saw it, could not pick sides in these arguments. The idea such division was abhorrent to Jesus in his mind. 

Like the mother crab, it starts with me - I cannot tell another to do something unless I can set the example.  And, we must also listen to the words from the mouths, even from Balaam’s donkeys (those unlikely prophetic voices) that challenge us to “rend our hearts,” for you and I are sinners.

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