Monday Meditation – Taking It For Granted

Taking it for granted

Second Sunday in Advent

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8 NIV

What was the last thing you anticipated?

The birth of a child or grandchild?

Going to church?

Going back home during the holidays?

A vacation?

Nowadays anticipation is not a feeling we normally experience in our day-to-day living.  Perhaps you anticipate going to church every Sunday. Too often, though, many think of church not as something new and exciting but mundane and obligatory.  We no longer anticipate the weekends because we have to accomplish all the things we put off during the week.

Christmas can become boring or obligatory too.  Buying gifts and celebrations, may all seem the thing to do, a necessity of living in a nation that celebrates the holidays.

Yet we cannot forget that the incarnation of our God in human form is a highly anticipatory event in history.  We must not take it for granted despite its annual commemoration and all the perfunctory circumstances that seem to come with it.

Let’s refresh our minds and understand anew the grandness of the event.  The awesomeness of our God being born into our world to live among us and love in a way that is almost incomprehensible.  When we give ourselves over to this awesome love, it invades our very being with a light so bright and warm it can chill the coldest heart or soul.

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, help us to feel again the anticipation of your coming to Creation.  Let us bask in your light of love and goodness.  You are our Savior!  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Anticipation

Anticipation Advent

First Sunday in Advent

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 NIV

Advent is a time of anticipation.  It begins the countdown to Christmas.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, an incarnation of God in our midst.  Nowadays this may seem typical given the success of Marvel Comics and their incarnated God Thor.

But long ago, the idea of God talking on human form was profane and secular.  And it is.  God no longer resides in the heavens but here on earth.  First as Yahweh, then as Jesus and now as the Holy Spirit.  God is alive in Creation, in partnership with it, showing us the Way to true life and living with one another.

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, we expect with great anticipation Your coming to us in the form of an infant child.  To be so vulnerable shows us how we are to be just as vulnerable as You were to us.  Give us faith to do so.  Amen.

Ministry of Administration

Servant Keeper

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.  Proverbs 16:3

We need all the help we can get with managing our church’s ministries.  Too many times records are kept in a haphazard way that differs from pastor to pastor and secretary to secretary.  Things are lost or misplaced.  Mistakes are inadvertently made.  Keeping track of congregation members becomes more cumbersome as membership grows.  There are so many moving parts to keeping a church running smoothly that surely there must be a way to help church committees manage.

Servant Keeper helps churches to manage the inner processes of running a church.  It helps with finances and membership management, record keeping and more.

Pastor Bradley Schutt, at Millville United Methodist Church, reports that with Servant Keeper “Instead of tracking down folders and hunting for information, anything you need is a quick search away.”

Douglas Lape of Mahomet United Methodist Church tells us that with Servant Keeper “Our time to post the offerings and prepare the deposit documents was reduced by over 40%. Servant Keeper effortlessly integrated into our funds management and our accounting software.  It simplifies all our processes.”

Servant Keeper is proficient, efficient and straightforward in helping churches with their management processes.  While God does establish our plans, we are often asked to implement those plans.  We should take advantage of all the tools available to us in order to do God’s ministry in our churches as a good steward of the talents and funds that God provides.

Monday Meditation – Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:34-35 NIV

A viral video I saw the other day showcased a homeless person who was given $100.  Without him knowing, the giver of the money followed him to see what he could do with the money.

The homeless man went into a store that advertised its selection of alcohol.  The cameras didn’t follow him into the store but waited for him outside, wondering what he was buying.

The homeless man came out with several plastic bags full.  Again without the man knowing, the person who gave him the money followed him to see what he had down with it, what had he bought.

The homeless man ended up passing out his bags to his friends also living on the streets.  When asked what was in the bags, the men and women opened them up to show that their friend had purchased and given them food.

His explanation when asked, “They were hungry.”

This Giving Tuesday – give!

You don’t know what good can be and will be done with your generous donation.  Supply your needs and the needs of your companions on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”  In between those days is a Sunday.  How can you fill other’s needs in your church ministries? And on Giving Tuesday, help the weak among us, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Monday Meditation – A Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let us remember how blessed we all are.  We all probably have more than we need.  We all probably have more than enough to eat, a roof and four walls to protect us, clothes on our back and people who love us.

This feeling of gratitude reminds me of a song heard in chapel this month.

Curled up in a cardboard box

Joe gives thanks for all he’s got

The label says Frigidaire,

but it’s been home for one full year.

There’s a work of art on the wall,

Joe’s first attempt to draw.

It looks like scribble at first glance,

but that’s just Joe bowing his head.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

to be just a little bit more like Joe.

When he’s not at his residence,

He’s a landmark down on Rivers Bend.

Where he mans the mission and he combs the street,

Shines a light for those in need.

It’s his way of giving back, keeping who he is intact.

For all he does he don’t get jack,

but he’s got a few Jacks back on track.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

To shine just a little bit more like Joe.

There are some who have nothing.  We pray for those who are without this Thanksgiving, find some peace, protection, satiation and love for the rest of this year.

Let us not only do our individual parts to help but also support those institutions that now exist to help those in need, like our churches and our government.  Matthew 25 speaks to us not only as individuals but also collectively as nations.

A Little More Like Joe, Lyrics & Music by Robby Hicks ©2009

Monday Meditation – A Prayer

Prayer

Lord we pray for this world, Your creation.  A place you lovingly brought to life out of nothing.

With Your hands, You created man and woman in your image.  With Your very breath, You gave us life.

We forget how much of You is in us.  Yet as Your children, we can’t help but be a likeness of You.

How deep that likeness is depends on the time we spend with You.  Reading the bible, Your inspired Word.  Taking time to be in Your presence whether through prayer, meditation or worship.

You are our God.  There is none higher than You.

You take care with us.  Even when we deserve Your righteous anger, it is slow to burn.

Even when we spew hate and hurt against one another for no other reason than our differences in looks, culture, religion or identity, You remind us lovingly that we are all Your people.

Help us to understand one another.  To see one another as Your child, Your Beloved.

With understanding can come love and perhaps that is why we abhor sitting with each other and listening to understand instead listening to argue.

Lord forgive us our sins.  Show us the way of Love.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – You Don’t Have That Kind of Time

Time

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12 ESV

“When I was 38, my best friend Pammy died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.”  Anne Lamott, from “Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning of Easter Season,” with Michele Norris, NPR’s All Things Considered, April 18, 2011

If the past weeks have shown us anything it is that we are vulnerable.  We may be at the top of the food chain but we are not beyond our human frailties.  Hurricanes can kill us.  We can kill one another.  We can be killed in our homes and at entertainment venues.  Time can be taken from us quickly and without warning.

Life is too precious to waste on wondering if our “hips look too big.”  Life is for hanging out with friends who are dying and enjoying each other’s company.  It is about helping one another get out from underneath the mud and muck of a category five hurricane.  It is about risking one’s own life to save one’s neighbor, even a stranger, as bullets rain down upon a crowd.

Life is about more than the superficial.  It is meant to be experienced and all its audacity wrung out.  We cannot take it for granted.  It is too tenuous nowadays to be wasted.

Dear God help us to understand Your plans for us in this life you have given us.  When many conspire against us, let us know that You are God and love shall conquer all.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Standing Up

Protest

This past weekend the hate groups at Charlottesville, VA showed up in my neck of the woods, Middle Tennessee.  Many preparations were made for their arrival.  The two cities they were gathering at had to come up with physical plans to keep the peace within the group as well as with counter protesters.  Where and when people would be allowed access to parks and parking, which streets to close, and even asking some businesses to close on the day of the protest were all things taken into consideration,

Counter protesters had to make arrangements as well with the police and local governments regarding their protest against the alt-right.  Furthermore, they held workshops on non-violent protesting.  I’m proud to say that such a workshop was held at an area UMC Church.  There were sign making workshop at a large pot-luck dinner held the week before the protests to gather together all who would be involved in the counter protests.  Bonding and preparing need to happen when love rises against hate.

It was such a delight to see people of many faiths and walks of life, come together and stand against those who would advocate for racism and ethnic cleansing.  To see the body of Christ standing in the way of evil gave me goosebumps.  The church fulfilling its mission in the footsteps of Christ is what the world needs to see more of in the future.

“If indeed you continued in the faith firmly established and steadfast and not move away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Colossians 1:23 NASB

Dear God, help us to stand steadfast in Your love against those who would do harm to Your children, all Your children.  Grant us courage to do so.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Unity

Unity

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV

We are in this together.  There is no part of the body of Christ that we can excise in order to bring about unity.  We are in unity.  The question is how we learn to live with each other in all our differences and diversity, wrongs and sins.

First we must choose to be together no matter what.  Staying together in an era where divorce is so common can appear to be an old-fashioned idea especially if one party feels as if the other is beating them up.  Perhaps it is best to walk away.

And yet we can’t.  We are in this together whether we want to be or not.  We are the body of Christ.  We can’t leave each other alone no matter how much we want to do so or in fact do so.  We are inextricably tied together with one another.  We will face one another in heaven one day.

So let’s learn to love one another as God loves us.  That is, better than we love ourselves.

Monday Meditation – God Is Always Here

God Is Always Here

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 29:20b NIV

I don’t know what it is like to not know God.  I don’t know everything about God but I do know God is real.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

I may feel it.  I may live it.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

I may be confused. I may be scared.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

The world may seem like it is crumbling.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

Violence may be all around me.  Strangers may trample over me.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

We don’t always understand.  Our confusion is confounding.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

It is in this togetherness with God that allows us to withstand the trials and tribulations we go through.  Not because we know the “why” but because we know the “Who.”

We are never alone.  God is always here.