Pastor's Blog
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May 11, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Story is Still Being Written...

Last night my son called to tell me about his day. He started a new job yesterday - the kind of job Betsy and I have been hoping and praying he'd get for a long time. He has had his ups and downs during the last decade, but he has persevered and worked hard and now life is in a much better place than it has been for him. This coming Monday - May 16 - he will celebrate 48 months sober. I am more proud of him than I can say. He will be 29 this coming December. Some people are married with children and careers by the time they reach 29. Ben was 3 years old and I had been preaching 7 years by the time I turned 29. But every person’s journey is different. We cannot use our individual stories to judge the correctness or authenticity of someone else’s journey. Our task as parents and as disciples is to do our best to point children and others to the God who has a plan for their lives, then trust God to work in and through choices and circumstances to bring that plan to fruition in his time and way. The way God has used Ben’s journey to shape me as a person and pastor calls forth deep gratitude and praise from my spirit.

 

I am so grateful that God doesn't easily give up on any of us. God allows us to make choices on our own - some of them in direct opposition to what he envisions for us. But he always finds a way to work with and within those choices to steer us back to his path for our lives, giving us the opportunity to make different choices than the ones we made before. Not long ago I was attending a continuing education event where my colleague Eric Raygor led the opening devotions. He referenced the way the book of Acts concludes “open ended” - as if there is more yet to come. Then Eric said, “The truth about Christianity is that the story is still being written.” There is good news in that statement, seems to me. If the story is still being written, God remains actively creative in your life, in my life, and in the story of the world we're living in, no matter how challenging or negative life may happen to be at any given moment. My son’s journey is real life testimony to that truth - thanks be to God!

 

One more quote from my friend Eric - from the prayer he closed his devotions with: “May your story continue to be written in the pages of our lives.” Amen,Eric……...Amen.

 

Keep lookin’ up, sisters and brothers!

Pastor D.



Comments

05-12-2016 at 9:13 PM
Colleen Holtz
Profound words I absolutely relate to.
05-12-2016 at 10:01 AM
Marie Cozad
Wonderful news of a job. Praying he will have wonderful work friends.
05-12-2016 at 12:01 AM
Becky Brammell
So happy for Ben and for you as his parents. What a great sentiment, 'that the story is still being written'.
05-11-2016 at 9:21 PM
Robyn Ohmer
Resignates with me,Pastor. Close to a detour but God nudged me just in time.
05-11-2016 at 8:55 PM
Jenny Lehman
Thank you for sharing!
05-11-2016 at 11:41 AM
Doug Burns
Well said
05-11-2016 at 10:39 AM
Susan Reitz
Thank you so much. You always say just what my spirit needs to hear. Miss Christ Church and your wisdom.
05-11-2016 at 9:08 AM
Elaine Davison
Praising God for Ben's journey and for God's love and faithfulness. You're always in my thoughts and prayers, my friend.
05-11-2016 at 8:29 AM
Christy Doody
Love, love, love this! Miss you!
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April 25, 2016, 12:00 AM

"Prince" Reflections...

So… on my wife Betsy’s birthday – April 21, 2016 – musician and pop superstar Prince died. Tributes celebrating his music and life have been shared in multiple ways and places all across the globe. The balloons and flowers and various other expressions of grief outside his Paisley Park compound rival the tribute in Brussels after the bombings there. An all-night “block party” where thousands danced and sang to Prince tunes occurred in downtown Minneapolis. Saturday Night Live over the weekend devoted the entire episode to remembering the times he appeared as a guest on the show. Bruce Springsteen opened a weekend concert with a rendering of “Purple Rain.” Many people have lamented the star’s untimely death, recalling the place his music and performances had in their younger years. A whole new generation of fans for whom Prince is a current musical giant have shared words of shock and disbelief about his death on social media. The Minnesota Wild held a moment of silence to remember him at their hockey playoff game on Sunday night. And Minnesota state senator Karin Housley has introduced a measure to make purple the official color of the state in honor of the musical legend.

That being said, I confess Prince was never a part of my musical experience. From the snippets of his songs and guitar performances I’ve heard over the years, there can be no debate that he was an extraordinary musician. I grieve with those who engage his music the same ways I engaged the music of Simon and Garfunkel and Chicago and Billy Joel and ZZ Top and Maynard Ferguson and Chuck Mangione – among many others.

I say all of that so you’ll know the place I’m coming from when I say what I’m about to say. It is not meant to disparage Prince, his music or his legacy in any way. But the overwhelming attention his death has received causes me to ponder this, once again: I wonder when we as a people will care about the plight of the hungry and the poor and the suffering to the same degree we care about the death of a multi-millionaire celebrity? The death of celebrities and sports figures and media heroes certainly are as grief filled and sorrow producing as any other person’s death. But why do we focus so much on them when multiple children die every day because they lack simple things like clean water and a meal more often than once a week? When will we mourn for those children in the same overwhelming ways we mourn for our celebrities?

Guess I don’t have any answers to these questions – but I’ve sure been thinking about them again since last Thursday……as the nation – indeed, the world - takes on a purple hue……..

Pondering…………

Pastor David

PS – These thoughts brought to mind a song written by Kurt Bestor a few years ago reflecting on the ethnic cleansing going on in the former Yugoslavia at the time. It’s been used to reflect on other events as well, such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Interestingly, it’s called “Prayer for the Children.” Check it out here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI6SlqIUG4s&list=RDBI6SlqIUG4s#t=17



Comments

04-26-2016 at 4:25 PM
Pat Mann
I may be "old fashioned;" but, to me there are no "super heroes" other than my Lord Jesus Christ. I think it's all about where one is in life "Fans or Followers!" Now remember, this is me, and not tearing anyone down. Love ya'll ;)
04-25-2016 at 9:40 PM
Anne Bakker
I am one of the many who has actually been in mourning over this man's death. To me, his music, his personna, his gifts were unmatched by today's "musicians", and he did so much good in the world that the average person is unaware becasue he was such a humble, solitary person. He represents, to me, a period in my life that was joyful, new, and beautiful, and I will forever think fondly of those times when I hear his music. I, too, am a champion for the hungry and the poor, and do my part to the best of my ability and my finances through my work and my personal life, but I don't see mourning his life as less than or greater than those precious lives that are lost daily. I guess it comes down to what one relates to most easily....when put that way, it is sad that we don't place balloons at every death site or lay teddy bears at the feet of starved children.....I personally felt a loss this past week that surprised me...but I felt much the same way three weeks ago over the death of an AF Commander at the hand of another Airman....it's all in what we know, and how close we are to the experience, I think. Thanks for such a thought provoking message!
04-25-2016 at 9:29 PM
Colleen Holtz
Good words to ponder. It has always bothered me that we, as a nation, can still have children going to bed hungry or in need of a bed.
04-25-2016 at 8:59 PM
David Janz
Good observations, Sue. Not questioning Prince's motivation or contributions at all. Just find it interesting how we as a society respond to things as we do. Thanks for the conversation!
04-25-2016 at 8:48 PM
Ray Jones
Our value-system is a mess. I'm not saying we cannot appreciate musicians & the talent they have... Same with athletes. They're larger than life... But look at what they make compared to teachers... Who really has more influence?
04-25-2016 at 8:42 PM
Susan Agin
Much like you, Prince was also very concerned about the plight of the poor and suffering. He donated millions of dollars to schools and shelters in his home state., He held concerts, whose sole purpose it was to raise money for uniforms and athletic equipment for inner-city schools. In the 1990's he became a devout Jehovah's Witness. We took our son, Justin to see prince in concert for his first concert. It was a rock concert with Prince and Shaka Khan. He sang a lot of his own original music and also gospel music. It was a tremendous contrast. He was an immensely private entertainer and a lot of the good he did went unnoticed by those who did not benefit from it. But much like the man who rescued the starfish after the storm, it made no difference to anyone other than those who were saved. To them though, it meant the world. We could all learn of loving our fellow people and humbling ourselves in the eyes of God from Prince Nelson.
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March 17, 2016, 12:00 AM

Smelling God....

Every Thursday at noon I have the joy of meeting with my Franklin United Methodist colleagues for lunch. During this time together we share the joys and the struggles of life and ministry, and then spend a few minutes praying for each other. Last week I shared the current state of my battle with spinal stenosis. It has been a rough few weeks filled with increasing amounts of pain and mobility challenges. In response to what I shared, my friend Gary asked if he could anoint me and pray. I gratefully said, “Absolutely!” So Gary opened his anointing oil and placed the sign of the cross on my forehead. Then my sister and brothers placed their hands on my head and prayed for God’s healing, strength and grace to touch my body. After praying for other needs, we each went our separate ways.

 

I went back to the church and as I got out of the car, I caught a whiff of the anointing oil still on my forehead. Immediately I was back in the prayer circle with my colleagues praying for me. I walked into my office and took off my coat, and the whole thing happened again. A short time later I walked into Amy’s office and yet again the aroma of prayers lifted surrounded me. This experience occurred several more times through the afternoon and into the evening. Each time I was reminded of God’s presence with me, that God cared for me, and that I was not alone on the journey – colleagues – sisters and brothers in Christ – were praying for me.

 

Can I suggest a real benefit of consistency in practicing the means of grace is a similar thing to my experience with the anointing oil? We don’t worship and pray and read scripture and serve others with others and practice generosity because some pastor somewhere told us we should. We don’t do those things to earn God’s presence and care for us. We engage those practices because they open the doors of our spirits so that God’s grace can flood into our lives. As a result, a scripture verse read in the morning, or a song sung during choir or praise team rehearsal, or the lingering words of a prayer offered on our behalf – they stay with us longer than a moment, like the fragrance of anointing oil on one’s forehead. Each time the verse or the song or the prayer surfaces during the day they bring with them reminders of God’s presence and care, and the fact that we are not alone on the journey. How often in your life has one day been a struggle because you neglected your time with God, while the next day has had strength and peace and calm of spirit because you took the time to open your spirit to God’s Spirit?

 

Think on these things, and remember…

 

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

03-20-2016 at 6:12 PM
Tish Way
How true it is that these simple things, a song, a prayer, a fragrance, a verse and others, bring us the reminder of God's presence with each minute of each day which we sometimes tend to forget in our daily busy world. These precious moments during the day are refreshing and are to be enjoyed. Thank you for this reminder, David.
03-17-2016 at 11:00 PM
Carolyn Bashore
Beautiful!! Thanks!!
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March 2, 2016, 12:00 AM

Getting Political........

So here we are………….. The day after.

“Ordinary Wednesday” after “Super Tuesday.” It appears Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the big winners yesterday, both taking what some are calling “commanding leads” in their party’s quest for the White House. I have been intrigued by the rhetoric via TV pundits and social media. Some persons are thrilled with yesterday’s outcomes. Others are “madder than a wet hen.” Still others are deeply fear filled about the future and what they will do if the only option to pick from is liar one and liar two (don’t shoot the messenger, folks….) And then there are the folks that are seriously exploring Canadian citizenship…….

In my lifetime I cannot remember another election cycle that has been as obnoxious and polarizing as this one seems to be. People with very strong opinions and feelings are passionately participating in the process on both sides of the aisle. Folks in the Cruz and Rubio camps are trying everything they know to discredit and derail the Trump Express. Folks following Bernie Sanders are desperately trying to bring down the Clinton jetliner that seems to be speeding its way to Pennsylvania Avenue. As Donald and Hillary are pulling away from their respective opponents, they are beginning to set their sights on the other, and I have a hunch that what has been obnoxious so far will seem tame as these two begin to “unload their weapons.” And every bit as passionate are the ones – Democrat and Republican - kind of in the middle who are just disgusted with the whole thing.

While all of this is going on here in the “land of the free,” I was struck by a story on NBC Nightly News this past Sunday evening. It was about a female lawmaker in Iraq – a Yazidi – that has been working for over a year to help women and children from her people escape the clutches of Isis. This Yazidi woman is the Islamic state’s “most wanted” person. Her people are in crisis – men are disappearing by the droves, and over 2000 women and children are currently being held in captivity by Isis, being exposed to and used for God knows what. Here is a woman – knowing her life is in great danger - fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, while here in the good old US of A, we’re fighting about what “The Donald” uses to keep that wonderful orange glow and whether or not a millionaire like Hillary Clinton can possibly relate to “ordinary” people like you and me. Wonder what would happen to the captive Yazidi women and children if we gave even a bit of the time to their plight that we’ve given to electing the next American president………

All of this creates a strong temptation for Christ followers to surrender to cynicism, to incivility, even despair. I confess I have been tempted to do so somewhat regularly in recent days. Then God – in love mercy and grace – uses someone in my life to remind me of who is really in charge. Just yesterday – Super Tuesday – our treasurer, Barb Lynn was leading devotions at our weekly staff prayer time. She shared a quote from John Ortberg’s book, “If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” Here’s the line: “Don’t let the NO of fear trump the YES of faith.” The NO of fear says we are DOOMED – evil running rampant, ridiculous amounts of money being spent on a four year job, people suffering and dying all over the world -  reminds me of the old “Hee Haw” song, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me…” (I can hear you singing…) But the YES of faith proclaims in the face of DOOM, God remains in charge. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1) The tomb remains empty and we still serve a RISEN Savior, who is in the world TODAY. And even though it’s sometimes hard to see, things are moving to the moment John talked about at the end of the Bible: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….[and] He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:1,5)

Remember friends – no matter what things look like or sound like, “Don’t let the NO of fear trump the YES of faith.” And…

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

03-17-2016 at 10:53 PM
Shelly Weller
I need to print this and read it everyday- I get what you are saying but it's hard not to worry. I needed to be reminded of this.
03-09-2016 at 11:22 PM
Barb Campagna
Do you think God is smiling at all the "talk" that goes on re. our politics? I "listen" and I pray about our government and our leaders, but I am so glad to know that it is God that is truly in charge. I just read today about how Paul prayed for Rome and its leaders.
03-02-2016 at 9:17 PM
Laura Moore
Amen.
03-02-2016 at 7:51 PM
debbie dunlap
No matter how bad things seem...God knows what is going on and He is in charge. We have to go through the dark to see the light.
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February 18, 2016, 12:00 AM

Coexistent Contradictions.......

I write these words on the afternoon following our first “Not a Fan” study during this Lenten season. Sixteen folks from First UMC and Christ UMC gathered at First Church and wrestled with the question “Fan of Jesus, or follower?” Thirty more persons have indicated they’ll be here at Christ Church this evening to wrestle with that same question. Kyle Idleman defines a “fan” as an enthusiastic admirer – a person who is excited about a celebrity or a team or a rock star but hasn’t ever invested themselves with those folks beyond listening to their music or wearing the team jersey or watching the latest movie with the celebrity in it. A “follower” on the other hand is defined as one who “adheres” to someone or something. This adherence is clearly seen in how the adherent conducts their living. The someone or something that one adheres to impacts how one lives life just as glue that holds two things together. The question from the study – Fan or follower? – invites us to look honestly at our connection to Christ to see if we are more admirer of or adherent to Jesus.

As we wrestled with the question this morning, I made a rather startling discovery: fan of Jesus and follower of Jesus coexist in me. There are times when I joyfully and humbly follow my Lord wherever he chooses to lead, whether the terrain is smooth and easy going, or arid and steep. I am full of faith and trust in Jesus for provision, protection and presence, no matter where the journey takes me. But there are also times when I’d like to “customize” my following. Times when I’d like to tell Jesus, “I admire what you’d like to do in that place, but I think you’ve got the wrong person. I’ll gladly follow you here, but asking me to follow you over there, well, thanks, but no thanks.” It’s kind of like the Facebook conversations I read – and participated in – in the wake of this past Tuesday’s snowstorm. Multiple people expressed gratitude for the folks operating the plow trucks – they enable us to get out and get going. But with the next breath, the same people – myself included – expressed frustration at the plow drivers for pushing snow back into our already cleared driveways and sidewalks! So we are thankful for the people who plow us out, and frustrated at the same people for plowing us in – coexistence!

Sounds a little like what the apostle Paul was saying in Romans 7: (from The Message)

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

Paul seemed to experience “coexistence:” the desire to be sold out for God and the reality of our sinful tendencies present at the same time. It seems contradictory – desire and commitment to godliness living right beside the tendency to selfishness. But that does seem to be the journey of discipleship – learning how to choose godliness over selfishness in more and more situations – being less of a fan and more of a follower. And I am much like Paul – wanting to choose godliness, but sometimes lacking the power to do so. Maybe you’re like that too. Well, here’s how Paul ends Romans 7:

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

The answer for every place of contradiction, every place of weakness, and the reason behind every moment of victory is what God has done in Jesus Christ. Thank God, …………………….indeed.

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

03-03-2016 at 3:17 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
Sorry for all the comments!! I was trying to edit the first comment but it wouldn't delete. It just kept reposting instead. Sorry!!
03-03-2016 at 3:14 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
This has been my question, Pastor. Can we be both? Some people I talk to also doing this study say you are one or the other but you can't be both. I disagree because I also feel times I am follower and other times only a fan. Thank you for this commentary.
03-03-2016 at 3:13 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
This has been my question, Pastor. Can we be both? Some people I talk to also doing this study say you are one or the other but you can't be both. I disagree because I also feel times I am follower and other times only a fan. Thank you for this commentary.
03-03-2016 at 3:10 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
This has been my question, Pastor. Can we be both? Some people I talk to also doing this study say you are one or the other but I disagree. Thank you for this commentary.
02-19-2016 at 11:04 AM
Lynn Harriger
I went last night because I have been feeling like a fan lately. But I know that I know Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior! Coexistence ?
02-18-2016 at 9:50 PM
Lois Carr
I think a little of both live in all of us. I know it's true for me.
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