Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Sermon: Remember When ...

Tonight we have left our homes and celebrations of a holiday to ensure that we are also participating in a holy event. Even if just for an hour, we have set aside the excitement and hustle of shopping and traveling, the arrival of family and friends, the extraordinary meals and the beautifully decorated homes in order to take a journey back to Bethlehem. There we join Christians from all over the earth that are doing the exact same thing this evening – worshipping the Christ Child, our newborn Savior

When families and friends get together, it is not long before someone starts to tell stories. Many of you have recently been reunited with family. That means that either to your horror or to your joy, you will soon hear the phrase “Remember when….” Others are spending Christmas away from people that they love, and the yearning for them will also make them remember stories from their past. Whether you tell these stories to others or only to yourself, it is impossible to get through Christmas Eve without a story or two. We need these stories. In a world that tries to pull us in so many conflicting directions, these stories serve as a link to our past and to our identities. They root us in the relationships, joy, and even the pain that have created our lives.

Now we gather in church as a family of faith to remember the most important story of all. Remember when .. he was born to us?” It happened thousands of years ago and in a place thousands of miles away, but it is a story we cannot forget. In a moment, we can return to the donkey in the stall and the smell of hay. A couple from out of town is exhausted and staying in a barn because they cannot find any other place to stay. The woman gives birth to her son that night, wraps him in cloth, and lays him in a manger. Soon shepherds arrive and tell an amazing story about the heavens opening up in song.

It is a story that we tell carefully to our children so they will remember every detail as if they were there when it happened and as if this is a story about them, which, of course, it is.

I remember hearing Martin Luther’s reflections on Christmas, le me share it with you
Martin Luther, reflecting on Christmas, noted how often God shows up, but not where you and I have been looking. We had sought God in the heavens, and instead God is born in an occasionally annoying, crying baby. We had thought our redemption would look more like escape from all this, and instead he joins us here. We were all looking in the wrong direction. The birth of the Christ Child reveals, among many other things, that our Christmas idealism is thin-lipped and ultimately trivial.”

Wherever tonight finds you: that is where God embraces you by taking on the flesh of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. It is that good news we announce, celebrate, and hope in this night. Like the surprised shepherds and Jesus’ parents, all Israel, welcomed this embrace.


Our Gospel Lesson tonight was from Luke 2

In one of the bibles that I was flipping through in preparing this message, I saw the following title: A Big God for a Little People—Luke 2:1–5

Our mouse in the children story thought he was insignificant, but he was not. Our lives are very similar. We, at times, believe that we are insignificant (little) …. But we are not.

Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah's mother and legal father were living in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town?

Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of six billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige? If you have, don't let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God's little people—the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice. We, the children, may be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Please remember that Christmas is about what God has done, not what we have done. Christmas is about God’s attitude toward mankind and his dealing compassionately with us and not as our sins deserve. Christmas is about God changing His plans for our future.

Remember also that Christmas is a powerful symbol of birth. Each year at this time as we celebrate the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago, we are called to be as vulnerable as a child and to open up to the possibility of new birth within ourselves. God sent his Son to lead us into new life and to help him turn darkness into light. That’s what Christmas is about.
The twelve gifts of birth are what we need to cooperate with Christ in the process of
transformation – of ourselves and the world. Christmas is a time to remember our birth, our heritage and the gifts that God intended us to claim and incorporate into our lives.

And so I quote to you from The Twelve Gifts of Birth.

At the wondrous moment you were born, as you took your first breath, a great celebration was held in the heavens and twelve magnificent gifts were granted to you:


The first is Strength. May you remember to call upon it whenever you need it.

The second gift is Beauty. May your deeds reflect its depth.

The third gift is Courage. May you speak and act with confidence and use
courage to follow your path (I think God would add: the path I have dreamed for
you.)

The fourth gift is Compassion. May you be gentle with yourself and others. May
you forgive those who hurt you and yourself when you make mistakes.

The fifth gift is Hope. Through each passage and season, may you trust the
goodness of life.

The sixth gift is Joy. May it keep your heart open and filled with light.

The seventh gift is Talent. May you discover your own special abilities and
contribute them to a better world.

The eighth gift is Imagination. May it nourish your visions and dreams.

The ninth gift is Reverence. May you appreciate the wonder that you are and the
miracle of all Creation.

The tenth gift is Wisdom. Guiding your way, wisdom will lead you through
knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.

The eleventh gift is Love. It will grow each time you give it away.

The twelfth gift is Faith. May you believe.

I don’t know what you will find under your Christmas tree tomorrow morning. But you came here, tonight, I assume to find something special that can’t be wrapped in a box and placed under a tree. What this night will offer as darkness turns to dawn is a gift from God – a baby born for us. A baby who will grow into a teacher and a savior. One to whom we can turn to for help as we try to live into the gifts of our Divine Father.

Morning will break. It will be a new day after a long night of birthing. Rejoice! And may you kneel in wonder and adoration at the gift God offers the world – feeling in your hearts the stirring of new life and a renewed hope for a better world. So leave this evening – remembering and cherishing the gifts you received at your birth. Strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith. If you believe that you have lost any of the gifts along the way in your life, reclaim them tonight. Carry them home with you. You don’t need a big Santa sack, just an open and receptive heart. And then, get ready for new and abundant life. AMEN.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Story of Hope

The following post is a "stolen" post from ESPN the magazine. Please take a few minutes and read the story. Yes, it is about football but it is about so much more .. HOPE ... and we, as individuals, need hope and we need to hear stories of individuals who give hope.

Here is the story:



They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.

Hope.

-------------------------------------

From me to you, here is a "challenge". Let us reach out to individuals and give folks hope. There are a lot of individuals that are out there who are feeling "hopeless". Let's give them hope.

Here is the direct link to the story:

The Story

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Sermon

I just finished reading my Christmas Eve Sermon 3x. I am not sure if this is where I wanted to go but I think that this is the way that we will go.

If everything goes right, I will have a very early morning walk and I will be praying over the sermon and after that ...... I will have a better clue.

I would post it up here and let you critique it away but I do not want my Zion folks who read this to read my sermon before I preach it :)

So, if you want to hear it, you have to come to the early Christmas Eve Service at Zion - 7 pm.

Maybe later this week, I will post the message.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Community Working Together

I emailed Carolyn earlier this morning regarding the Guiding Coalition. The Guiding coalition is the "Board of Directors" for Bridges of Hope: Ending Poverty in Wayne County.

We, as a community, should be greatful that there are so many agencies that are partnering together to make this iniative a reality. Yes, we know that this is a HUGE GOAL and that it will not happen overnight.

However, we also know that one person, one agency or a goverment program is not going to make this happen.

Back to the email .....

For a "program and initiative" that is truly in the infancy stage, it is remarkable that these many programs, agencies, ministry and goverment support are at the table. Here is a list:

Americorps/VISTA
College of Wooster
Commercial Savings Bank
Crichtfield, Crichtfield, and Johnston
Department of Job and Family Services
First Presbyterian Church
Goodwill Industries of Wayne and Holmes Counites
Muddy Waters Cafe
Orrville Area Boys and Girls Club
Orrville Area United Way
Orrville City Schools
St. James Episcopal Church
Tri-County Educational Serice Center
United Way's InfoLink
United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties
Viola Startzman Free Clinic
Wayne County Common Good
Wayne County Family and Children First Council
Wooster Area Interfaith Partnership
Wooster City Schools
Wooster Salvation Army
Zion Lutheran Church
------------------------------------------------------------------------
It is fantastic to see this occur. I have lived and ministered in numerous states and I have never seen a "grassroots" efferot like this occur in the name of accomplishing a great goal
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next Coalition Meeting is on January 7th, so I will let you know more specifics laer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

200%

In the US, they say that a family needs to make 200% of the poverty guidelines to live a "sustainable" life. Our family makes $9,000 LESS a year then the 200%.
-----------------------------------------------------------

The above is just for informational sake. I am not sure what the 200% and sustainable life really means, I will have to look into that more

------------------------------------------------------------

Over the next several weeks, I am going to make some posts dealing with poverty.

------------------------------------------------------------

Did you know that in our county ( county of 115,000 ) that we have 3,700 children who live in poverty (100% guideline or less) and have only a mom ?

------------------------------------------------------------

Did you know that in our (my) county that 1 out of 5 adults over the age of 25 does not have their hs diploma or a GED ?

------------------------------------------------------------

Did you know that 11,000+ people in our county live in poverty at the 100% rate ?

------------------------------------------------------------

Some of the blogging is going to come under the following guidelines:

ending poverty in our nation, in our lifetime (until it's gone)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sarah Palin's Church


Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband Todd and up to 1,000 fellow parishoners will worship in a local school this morning after a suspicious fire virtually destroyed the Wasilla Bible Church early Saturday.

The Rev. Larry Kroon said some parishoners were in the church on Nicola Avenue at the time the fire was noticed but no one was injured. Firefighters battled for about eight hours in minus-20 degree temperatures to completely extinguish the blaze that began at the front door.

The former Republican vice presidential candidate went to the church Saturday to apologize to pastors in case the estimated $1 million fire damages, suspected as arson, were "in any way connected to the undeserved negative attention the church has received" since the governor's involvement with John McCain's presidential campaign.

The 30-year-old congregation in Wasilla, about 40 miles north of Anchorage, had moved into its new church just 30 months ago. Church officials said they expect to hold services at the Wasilla Middle School for the foreseeable future during repairs

---------------------------------------

I surely hope that someone did not "arson" the church building because of her.

Friday, December 12, 2008

God Has Given You A Weapon

The video that you are about to watch (if you so choose) is very disturbing in my opinion. It is the type of video that makes me sick and my stomache turn.

This video s why some people have a ery bad taste in their mouth regardng Christianity.Yes,tose who lve the video and the message will argue that we have a vital message and we must get it out ......

But, I contend that we can do it without this gabage.

Watch and Give me feedback. Maybe, I am wrong .....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Have No Clue What To Title This Post



But, I think that I can safely say that he did support Obama.

Whoever did the haircut should be commended, they did a good job. I am not sure if I could/would pull off that look.

How about you ?

Theology: Who Is Right ?


---------------------------------------------
I took this from Mark who took it from Lionel
---------------------------------------------

I Love This.

Yes, I know there will be many who visit who will say, "no imposible for me to be wrong because I follow Scripture"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Abundant Living

Abundant living means embracing and engaging the world around us.

On December 19th Jim Carrey returns to the cineplex in the comedy Yes Man. The film is adapted from Yes Man, the unintentional self-help book that tracks one year of humorist author Danny Wallace’s life after a stranger on a late-night bus suggests
that he should “say yes more.”

In order to make his life more interesting, Wallace pledges not just to say yes more—but to say yes to everything: “I, Danny Wallace, being of sound mind and body, do hereby write this manifesto for my life. I swear I will be more open to opportunity. I swear I will live my life taking every available chance. I will say Yes to every favour, request, suggestion and invitation. I will swear to say yes where once I would say no.”

We need to find ways to say yes to life, to relationships, and to engaging God’s world more fully. But we cannot say yes to everything, and there is still a place for saying no. Danny Wallace’s approach to life, choosing to say yes to everything without thought or consideration, comes with plenty of problems.

Wallace must have been aware of this fact; in Yes Man he enlists a close friend, Ian, to make sure that none of the ventures are too wild. While we should not close ourselves off from the world by consistently saying no, we must use wisdom and discernment before saying yes.

I know that to a few individuals that I have been saying "yes" to too many things. As, I look back at the last few months, I have definitely took on a few more things and with "Bridges" coming around the corner, this will definitely be the case.

However, I am doing so - saying yes - with a purpose in my. Recently, I saw some talking points (3) and I believe they are "fitting" to me. Here they are:

Talk Topic #1: The Habits of No
KEY POINT: If we make a habit of saying no to new experiences and opportunities, we may miss out on the abundant life that God desires for us.

Talk Topic #2: The Power of Yes
KEY POINT: Saying yes means actively engaging and embracing God’s children and God’s creation.

Talk Topic #3: Saying Yes to God

KEY POINT: Theres a difference between constantly saying yes and saying yes to God. When we say yes to God, we are actually saying yes to God’s will for our
lives, even if this means sometimes saying no.

Also, I have recently had a scripture come to mind that has really grapped a hold of my heart strings. Throughout my life, during different periods, there were certain Scriptures that "drove" me. Here is the one that is my driving force:

Proverbs 31:9 (The Message)

"Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute!"

I want to be the "voice" for those who do not have a voice or am not sure how to use their voice.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Do You Have A Pair of High Heels?

So, we just finished dinner ......

Jacob (9) says, "mom, do you have high heels"

Mom says, " umm, why do you want to know "

Jacob says, " umm, I just want to see if I can walk in them"

-------------------

Gotta love dinner conversations

Not Walking & Gaining Weight

I have not been walking as much in the last 4 weeks. Granted, I am still putting a lot of steps in. However, my calorie intake the previous 8 weeks have been used. Thus, with the holidays and being "use" to eating that much, I have continued.

Well, my steps are down, my metabolism has "adjusted" and the weight is coming back on. Now, I am still a good 40 pounds down from my high. But, I know that if I continue to gain 1 pound a week and not watch, that this time next fall, I could be back up there.

It is time to "reign" this back it. I need to get back to W&W. No, not weight watchers .. but water (drinking) and walking (high total).

So, here we go, yesterday and today were not high step totals but starting tomorrow, it is recommit. To recommit, I need to get to the Gault. Walking in the snow and cold is just not working.

For those of you curious, I am on my way back from New Orleans.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bridges of Hope

I am really looking forward to the organization that I am going to be partnering with in Wayne County. In the next few weeks, I will be sharing more news on the organization and what aspects that I will get to help out in.

To give a quick summary though, we are going to be attempting to build an extensive network of individuals, businesses, non-profit agencies and government agencies that will team up with families who are wanting to move out of poverty.

These families will have to make a significant commitment to wanting to end the vicious cycle that they are facing. This "program" has huge potential and I am really excited to be part of this new initiative.

This past week, I have been involved in two meetings that have been very beneficial in making sure that the success of the program will happen. The first meeting was where the Director of Bridges spoke to the Wooster Area of Interfaith Partnership (WAIP) and the second meeting was the Guiding Coalition Info Meeting. This meeting was designed for potential "board of directors".

The next key date for us as an organization will be December 17th. I look forward to that date and on/after that date, I should be able to share a lot more information.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tommy Tuberville to WVU

Hey, let me be the first to start the rumor.

Bill Stewart is out and even though Tuberville had a rough year, he has a great track-record at Auburn.

So, Coach Bill resigns at the end of the year and Tuberville comes in. Tommy, leave your current offense guys behind and come and bring back the offense that you had down in the 2003-2006.

We can have a nice guy and a great coach.

Coach Bill, you seem to be a fantastic guy, but you are not a BIG TIME coach.

Let's get the ball rollin' and try to turn WVU ball back around.