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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