Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week

When you think about the events of the last week of Jesus life what day do you tend to focus on? Do you focus on Good Friday or Easter? Do you focus on the passion or on the empty tomb? Do you rely more on the promise of the cross than you do the promise of the empty tomb?

It is important to understand that all the events of the week are important. We need to experience the whole week in our lives not just one day. We need to live as Easter people but we need to go through the cross to get there.

There are times that we get focused or live like it is Friday with all of its sorrow and we forget that Easter has happened. We don't love the new life that is ors and we don't experience the celebration. We cling to the ol rugged cross so tight we miss that Jesus was buried and rose overcoming sin and death. We stay stuck in sin and death and think new life is impossible. We think pain and sorrow is all there is.

However, we can live the new life that Christ brings. We are Easter people.

But, the opposite happens too. We focus just on the celebration of Easter and we forget that the passion and the sorrow was necessary, is necessary, for us to experience true Easter.
We fool ouselves into thinking somehow that as Christians we should be immune from pain and sorrow and fail to see that God can be working through the passion of our lives. We want to be Easter people but we want to do it without the messyness of the cross. Without confronting our sin and dying to ourselves. Neither is right for followers of Jesus.

We need to take in and experience Holy Week. All of it. Over the next few days you will have ways to experince and take part in Holy week. We are going to have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. We are also having a 40 hour prayer vigil.

I pray that this helps us to experience all that Easter has to offer us and that it helps us to live like the tomb is empty. Someone once said that the problem with many Christians is that they live like it is Saturday. They live like they don't know the hope, the healing, the wholeness that is ours because of Easter.

We need the cross and the empty tomb. We need to live through the passion so that we understand the celebration. But, don't get stuck on Saturday move on through the week. Not too fast or too slow. Follow God, get in tune to the Spirit and experience this week in God's time. Today is only Wednesday. We have made it to the hump.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Outdoor Day

When I was in school I always liked it when our teacher would surprise us with an unexpected chance to go outside for class. It would be so nice outside that the teacher would say lets have class outside today. Usually this would happen on really nice day early in the spring after we have been cooped up inside for a long time. "Surprise we are going to go outside and set under the tree and have class."

Today is one of those days. Today is a day to get outside and take in what God is doing. God is making things new. When I look out the window I can see the sunshine that has been missing. When I step outside I feel the warmth that I have been longing for through the could of winter. It is a get outside and learn day. It is a get outside and be thankful for the day God has given us day. It is a set under the tree and enjoy the surprise day. It is Holy Week. Get outside and enjoy the day. Take some time to encounter God in His creation. See that He is at working making things new and shinning light into the darkness.

Even as I write this I am feeling the wind blow gently across my face. I feel the warmth of the sun and I can hear the birds singing praise to God for giving us this glorious day. (portable technology is awesome, I am so fortunate!) Take some time to notice what is going on around you and be surprised by what God is doing. Enjoy the day!

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not feeling it

At the start of 2010 I began to get into better shape thanks to the inspiration provided by the Green Hills Community Weight Loss Challenge. Over the past almost 3 months I have been working out and eating healthier. It has been a good lifestyle change for me and my family.

I try to get up most mornings and work out before I begin my work day. This morning I wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't want to get on the olyptical machine. I didn't want to run. I was not feeling like working out. But I did.

Feelings can lead us astray. Feelings can deceive us. Feelings can cause us to do things that we know we shouldn't do and not do things that we should. We can misread our feelings because feelings can be confusing.

I didn't feel like I wanted to work out. But, you know what? The work out got me going. The work out was what I needed. I need to be healthier to be used by God. I need to keep my body in shape and fit because it is a temple of God. But, this feeling talk is deeper than just whether we feel like working out or not. It is about making feelings be the determining factor in our lives and decision making. I learned from my work out this morning that my feelings shouldn't control me or determine rather I work out or not. In the same way, God's presence is not based on feelings. God is with us even when we don't feel Him. God doesn't stop loving us just because we don't feel like loving. The call that God has on our lives doesn't change because we are not feeling it today. We can't base our understanding and our response to God on feelings because feeling can mislead us.

Feelings are a part of who we are. We are feeling people. We laugh. We cry. We mourn. We dance. We feel. They are not a bad thing. Jesus laughed. Jesus cried. Jesus mourned. Jesus danced. Jesus felt. Yet feelings did not drive him. His love for the Father drove him. Feelings change. At times it seems we are on a feeling roller coaster. Don't let your feelings confuse you or deceive you of the basic truths of your life and who God is. Even in the moment that God feels most far off, he is right beside us. Even in the moments that we don't feel like God is doing something, God is working. Even in the moments that we feel most alone and hopeless, we are not alone and there is hope.

The lesson I learned from my workout this morning is that those moments that we don't feel it and we do it despite our feelings can be amazing moments of discovery. They can be moment that we grow. They can be the moments that God uses to teach us something about living in relationship with Him. Don't hear this as fake it. Don't here this as pretend to be something your not. Be honest about your feelings and chose to trust the truth that you know over your feelings in those moments that your feelings contradict the truth. How you and I feel does not change who God is, what he calls us to or who we are in him.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Face To Face

Connecting with others can be done in many ways. It seems that everyday there are new ways created to help us connect. Cell phones, email, texting, and social network sites help us to connect and pass along information across distances but they are no substitute for face to face encounters.

My friend Paul who is in Africa has always said that he and his church have been praying and believe that God will make a way for us to set down and talk face to face. There is nothing like that personal connection that we can make when we look into one anothers eyes and speak face to face.

I believe that God wants us to meet face to face and I believe that it will happen soon. I just don't know how it is going to be made possible. Of course I didn't know how I would get a chair for him and that seems to have happened. The shipping cost to send the chair to Africa are $3500 - $4000. Now, here is the God thing. The cost to fly Paul here and have a face to face connection and have him minister to us and people with disablities in our community and take the chair back with him is around $2000. It is less expensive and the power of a face to face connection can happen. I don't know how yet, but I believe we are going to meet face to face and build on the relationship that God through His Spirit is nurturing. Please pray that God makes this possible.

There is nothing like a face to face encounter. Take some time and make a personal face to face connection with someone who needs that connection this week. Have dinner. Have a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Spend some time looking into one anothers faces and seeing Christ in one another.

The scripture says, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray, turn from there evil ways and seek my face then I will hear their prayers in heaven and heal their land."

There is power when we see Jesus face to face. Seek his face today as you encounter others face to face.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day is an international holiday. People all over the world will celebrate this day. As I was thinking about St. Patrick and this holiday I couldn't help but think about how the celebration has changed. St. Patrick was a missionary and the patron saint of Ireland. Originally, St. Patrick's day was only celebrated by the church in recognition of Patrick's missionary world to the people of Ireland who once held him captive. It was just a church recognized celebration. The Catholic Church named it an official feast day in the 1600's. St. Patrick's day has really moved away from a church celebration and more toward a secular celebration. What was once a feast or celebration in the church of the missionary work of a follower of Jesus has now become an international holiday where we all wear green in fear of getting pinched and look for leprechauns and pots of gold.

I am not saying that we should not celebrate St. Patrick's day and I am not trying to be a wet towel on your celebration. I am just thinking about how things can easily drift to being formed or conformed to the world rather than being transformed by Christ. We are called to be transformed and to live lives that are being transformed by Christ and not to be conformed to the world. We are called to follow Jesus and and take part in transforming the world around us.
Not the other way around.

Again, this is not anti-St. Patrick's day. Just something to think about as we celebrate St. Patrick's day. Are you, like it says in Romans, being transformed by the renewing of your mind or are you allowing the world around you to form you. God's hands or the world's hands. What is shaping you?

Have a happy and blessed St. Patrick's day.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Look for the Life Breaking Through

My grass is getting green!

Over the past few weeks as the snow has melted away and the rains have come with moments of sunshine my yard has begun to turn from brown to green. In the midst of the dead brown mud and muck are these new shoots of green blades of grass. Each time I look it seems that my yard is getting greener.

The mud is still there. There has not been enough sunshine to dry up all the moisture that we have had over the winter. But, the new life of my yard is still breaking through. The dead, brown, lifeless grass is still there. But, the new, green, full of life and hope grass is still breaking through.

Are you looking around you for the places that life is happening? Are you looking around you to see where God is at work creating and and recreating? Or, are you focused on the mud and the muck?

Take a look and see that life is breaking through the mud and the muck. God is there for you. God is here with us in our muck and mud. Look for where His life and light are breaking through the darkness.

Here is a place where life is breaking through. If you have read this blog very often you might be familiar with my friend Pastor Paul in Kenya. He and I have been brought together through this blog. Recently I have been praying for guidance on helping my friend who is handicap with his broken power chair. Last week someone emailed me and told me they had a chair he could have. Life is breaking through. Hope. This week I am trying to figure out how to get it to Paul. Shipping it is more expensive than a chair. In fact it is cheaper to fly Pastor Paul here to get the chair and take it home with him than it is to ship it to Kenya. From the first time Paul and I spoke he has said he believes that God will make a way for us to meet face to face and discuss how we can share in ministry together. In fact, Paul has always said when we meet then we can talk about the details. Maybe, God, breaking through. maybe, this is not an obstacle but an opportunity. Maybe, this is God's way of connecting me, the people of Dockery Chapel and the people of Pastor Paul's church in a life giving relationship with each other. I am just going to continue to look for what God can do and is doing. I am going to continue to look for where God is making new life happen in all this. Here is another amazing thing Paul has always felt that sometime in April or May the Lord would provide a way for us to meet in person and set down together. He and I have been praying for the Lord's will in this.

Look for ways that God is trying to give life to you today. Look for ways that God is breaking through the darkness. Look for God.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 15, 2010

Morning Worship

I woke up this morning with the following scripture and song in my mind.
Is there any connection?
Is there something to be learned?
Something to reflect upon and take with me today?
Something to shape me for tomorrow?

What do you think?

It is cool when God wakes you with worship and reflection.

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:9-21





Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 11, 2010

God is Love

I find myself quite often reflecting upon what it means that God is love. This could be one of the most powerful statements in the scriptures. God is love. The bible doesn't say that God is loving, although God is loving. John does not right, God loves, although God certainly does love. The scriptures tell us and reveal to us that God IS Love.

What does it mean to you that God is love?

God at the very core of God is love.
God by nature is love.
Whenever God acts, it is an act of love.
Whatever God does is done in love.
If it is not love than it is not of God. Why? Because God is love.
This means if God calls us to something, asks something of us, or prunes away parts of us, it is because of love. It is what is best for us. Love always wants the best for us. Love always hopes, always trust, always perseveres, love never fails. God always is love. God will never not be love. Because God is love. This means God is always loving. God always loves. God is love.

God loves you. Always. God is calling you to follow him and to serve him because he loves you and wants what is best for you. Why? Because God is love.

Reflect today on what it means to you that God is love. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Power chairs

My friend Paul's power chair has broken. It has stopped working and he is left to rely on others to get him out of his home to do his ministry. Imagine if your source of mobility was lost. We would need some good friends.

I think about the man in the bible that was paralyzed. He didn't have much but what he did have was some really good friends. Friends that where willing to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus. They each took a corner of the man's mat and they carried him to a house where Jesus was teaching. When they got to the house and the door was packed with people and the house so full they couldn't get in they climbed up on the roof, broke a whole in the roof and lowered there friend down to where Jesus was.

Whatever it takes. We all need friends who will do whatever it takes for us to see Jesus. And we all need to be friends who will do whatever it takes.

I am trying to figure out how I can help my friend who is on the other side of the planet. I am trying to figure out how I can be a friend and love in real and tangible ways. He needs a new chair. He lives in a country that has no power chair distributors. I live in a country that has them. I am sure that there are power chairs setting unused in garages and storage units, if you know if one let me know. Then we can tackle getting it to him.

I will keep you posted on what God can do through a few good friends.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I love the church

"I love the Church."

There, I said it and I am not ashamed to say it.
There is absolutely nothing like the church when the church is working right. When the church (when I say church, I am talking about the community of followers of Jesus) is in line with the Spirit of God and receptive to the Spirit working in and through it, there is not a more beautiful thing. Lives are changed. Broken people are made whole. Forgiveness is found. Healing happens. Needs are met. People are released from things that have held them prisoner and captive. Love overcomes hate. Relationships are restored. Christ is revealed in real and tangible ways.

I also love the church even in those moments that we fall short of reflecting the love and light of Christ. You see, ever church is beautiful, every church has it moments when the individual people become less and Christ becomes more. Ever church has those moment when they align with the Spirit and God is made real through the community of followers. Every church is beautiful and every church has its ugliness. We are people. We are all sinners. We are people trying to live in community. We are all works in progress. We all have flaws and we all struggle. We are all trying to learn to live as the church.

Too often, we only want to see the beautiful side of the church. And honestly, I wish it was all that was seen. But the truth is every church, every place that God's people gather, is going to be beautiful and ugly. It is going to be Divine and human. It is going to have things that we are drawn too and things that repel us.

Here is what I have been discovering. In order for us to really be the radical community of followers that Jesus calls us to be there has to be both. We need the things that we don't like to help us to grow and to help us to understand what it means to live in community. It is in the weakness of God's people that He is made strong. It is when we love the one that is difficult for us to love, or persecutes, us or disappoints us, or causes ugliness that we begin to understand and grow in Christ like love. Maybe, God uses the ugliness to humble us and to grow us so we reflect his love in a world that just runs away from community when it gets difficult? Maybe, it is in our ugliness that the trans-formative power of Grace is actually seen in the church? Maybe, our ugliness is the place that we learn the most about what it means to follow Jesus and to be the community that Christ calls us to be?

Too often when ugliness is seen in the church people say that is all that there is and they forget that the church is also beautiful in many other ways. They don't look at it as an opportunity to grow to be more like Christ and they turn away from the church and say "they are a bunch of hypocrites." "they only care about themselves." Some will look for a church where that ugliness is not readily seen. They will be happy at the new church until they see the ugliness that is there. And if they keep shopping for the perfect church they will never find it and all the while the opportunity that God is giving to discover the community he desires is lost, because we never work through the things that build Christ centered community. We are beauty obsessed and it robs us of loving the other and being loved by the other.

But even worse, some folks will pull away from the church all together. They will say things like, "I love Jesus but I hate the church." "I will follow Jesus on my own, by myself." We then miss out on all the beauty. We throw out the baby with the bath water. The ugliness wins, and consumes us. Created for community we isolate ourselves from the very thing that we are created for. We stunt are growth in Christ because we completely turn away from the classroom of living in relationship with God and others.

Every church is beautiful and every church has it's ugliness Big ones. Little ones. City ones. Country ones. All churches are beautiful and they all have their ugliness. Both are there and if you spend enough time around the church you will see both aspects. I have spent enough time in enough churches to know this and to have fallen in love with the church. I love the church warts and all. The important thing is to see the ugliness for what it is. It could be the thing that helps us to most be God's people and to reflect his love to the world. It should not be the thing that we focus on, it should be the thing that we constantly surrender and give to God so that he might be made strong and we become more like him. Our focus she be on the beauty. The beauty is what we need to remember when are feelings are hurt. The beauty is what we need to remember when we have disagreements. The beauty, which is Christ, is what ultimately will be seen if we will give our brokenness to God.

I love the church. This is you. I love you.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 8, 2010

Morning Prayers

Last night as I slept God did not. God was working. God was creating and recreating. God was providing strength, courage, healing, grace, love, and comfort. I was sleeping and God was caring for me. I was able to let go for the few hours and totally surrender control. While sleeping I trusted God. I trusted that God would protect me. I trusted that God would keep me through the night. I trusted that God would get me through the night to a new day. I had to, I was sleeping.

There are times that I struggle to fall asleep as a wrestle with giving up control. I play the days events over in my head or worry about what is coming tomorrow and I stay awake trying to maintain my control. I sleep better when I can surrender to the sovereignty of God. Sleep is a time for us to practice our reliance on God every day. There are nights that we surrender willingly and there are nights that we fight to give up control.

When I wake my prayer is that I don't take control back again. My prayer, when I wake, is that I look for where God is at work and join God there. My prayer is that my trust grows throughout my day. My prayer is that in my awake time I will trust God to guide me and lead me through the day until I can rest on him again. This is a day that the Lord has made and joins me in.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's Back! TGIF

This week as part of the Lenten study that I am apart of we are being challenged to take 30 minutes everyday to be in God's presence. The challenge is to stop, slow down, and to spend time with God.

Stop and listen.

Stop and be in God's presence.

Stop and give thanks.

Stop and realize that you are God's child.

I think that a live of gratitude is filled with moments of stopping and reflecting. As we spend time in God's presence recognizing that God loves and cares for us we can't help but come away grateful. When we spend time listening to God and enjoying the still calm voice that speaks to our souls we can't help but come away with gratitude. God hears our prayers! God speaks to us! God cares for us! God is grateful for us and us coming to him!

Take time each day to get focused, renewed, and refreshed. Take time to listen and to give thanks. Take some time to have your heart of gratitude shaped by being with your heavenly Father.

Love today.

In Christ love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 4, 2010

One of My Neighbors. My Friend.

It is a small world. It is amazing how many times I am made to realize this truth. The Internet helps us to connect all around the world and to see just how small the world really is. An amazing thing has happen through this blog and i want to share it with you.

The pictures that you see with this post are pictures of brothers and sisters in Christ in Kenya who I have gotten to know through this blog. The man in the wheelchair is Pastor Paul Migowe. He lives in Kenya, Africa and is involved in ministry with people with disabilities. He told me in an email,

"we have a vision of reaching the little known with the word of God. By saying little known I mean the disabled who the society dose not care to reach out to. I mean cripples, the deaf and dumb, the lepers. We try reach the mentally ill. We try feed them too. People living outside the cities who have never been told the love of God and to have them know that God loves them and that salvation is for all people."

Pastor Paul's church, Overcoming Broken Hearts Ministries International, is praying for me, my family, and for Dockery Chapel. One morning I received a call from Pastor Paul, he had come across this blog and felt that he was being led by God to begin to communicate with me. We have been communicating by phone and email and praying for God's leading and guidance for our ministries. We are praying that the Lord make a way for us to meet in person and explore ways that we can share in each others ministries.

Now, I am sure that you are thinking how can this be? You might wonder if I am being naive or if I am being taken? Is it real? What is the scam?

How come our default position is not that God is working. How come our first response is more often skepticism rather than "all things are possible through Christ"? I will admit that when Pastor Paul first called and asked for my email so that we could communicate, I hesitated. I wondered about I prayed. I even sent him the first email and said I am trusting God that this is not a scam.

What if God is working and bringing together ministries in different parts of the world to help us understand who our neighbors and friends are? What if God is trying to show that His power to connect us to each other is even more powerful than the world wide web?

I want to be a part of sharing God's good news and love with people all over the world and I don't just want to say it. I want to love like Jesus. I want to know, really know, the power of God. And I want to trust God to do what on my own is impossible. I am praying for Pastor Paul and his ministry. I am praying for the other pastors he is in ministry with and I am praying for his church. I am also praying that God open any door ways for us to be ministry together so that through us other might see God's power, love and grace.

It is a small world but it is God's world. I learned a song at a very young age that taught me that God "has the world in his hands."

Trust in God's power to do seemingly impossible things today.
Trust that God is working in your life today.
Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Update

Well, it has been a quick moving week. I cant believe how long it has been since I posted. I was blessed to spend the weekend away from phones, computers, and other technical distractions and just focus on my relationship with God as I served as a spiritual director for a Camino weekend.

I don't think I could ever, in words, describe what a Camino weekend is but it is a weekend of intentional focus on our relationship with God. It is amazing to spend intentional time with other men who are being intentional about living as followers of Jesus. This weekend there are over 100 women gathering to do the same thing. Yea God!

When I returned from this retreat time we shared in a wonderful worship at Dockery Chapel. I am so blessed to worship and serve along side and with the people of Dockery Chapel UMC. I love you all!

This week and last week I have spent a lot of time trying to help a friend make the transition from his own home to assisted living in a nursing home. I have really been blessed by the love and support that I have seen from the church for my friend in this time. It is moments like these, when someone is trying to deal with a life transition, that I see why God created the church. It is in moment like this that the church takes on the role of family and becomes much more of what Christ calls us to be. I have seen God's family in beautiful, real ways in the past few days and I just want to thank God for the church and the way even in our brokenness and in broken times God's love and grace can shine through us when we are intentional about following Jesus.

I also have heard a new song that is really speaking to me and I want to share it with you as well.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug