Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sermon Notes Feb 22, 2009

With the start of Lent coming quickly the sermon in some sense took a back seat to the morning announcements.

I took some time this week to share some of what Lent, and Ash Wednesday are about. I also shared with the congregation some of the history of Fat Tuesday, and provided some King Cake for Fellowship time. (The King and Queen were Fern and Michael).

The Sermon itself was a conclusion to the series on Spiritual Gifts. The congregation was offered several opportunities during the month to do a Spiritual Gifts Inventory. I likened it to knowing what the buildings on a church campus are, without knowing anything about what goes on inside, or how they are decorated. We had a response of about 1/3 of the congregation.

Anyway, on with the sermon notes:

-We began with the reading of Isaiah 43:18-25

-We are called to let go of the former things.

-See God is doing a new thing.

-What's more is that God has offered unconditional blotting out of sins and transgressions. We only need to accept it.

-If this is true, then who we are going to be is not the same as who we have been. We cannot let our old failures stop us, nor can we allow our former successes to weigh us down with expectation, or frustration at our inability to do them now.

-The only constant is change. Even the animals are subject to change. Look at the birds eating from the feeders, and the rabbits living in our bushes. They weren't made that way. The bushes are native, and the feeders weren't always there.

-As change occurs the best chance we have to succeed is to be ourselves to the fullest. This means we need to know our Spiritual Gifts and work with those gifts. God gave them to us for this time that we might be his community in this place for this people of the Ojai Valley.

-Our strength is our ability to let go of the former things, not let them drag behind us, but to open ourselves to what God is doing right now. To accept that he has blotted out all of our transgressions, and allows us to come afresh to worship, and to relationship with one another - here in church and in the Ojai Valley.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Have you seen it?

You should have...

99 Internet Wonders.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

What I'm Reading

Some links to some of the stuff that has caught my attention these past few days in the blogosphere.

I have been doing my reading.

Some financial news and notes. Church Giving and Personal Finance Management

Some BAMA news.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

The Short Story of Ash Wednesday...and for those that want more.

But at Ojai UMC today we are having an Ecumenical Service, even without the other Clergy participating.

I received ashes from the Catholic Church and the Episcopalians.
I am thrilled. We even get ones that smell nice from the Episcopalians, and some that are fine and easy to impose on the participants from the Catholics. And all this for the Methodists.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Vision

I explained a few years ago that my Vision is to be Extending Ministry

Apparently, I need to follow my own advice, and revisit and hold before me my Vision and Mission.

I have had a hard time articulating my memory and remembrance of the Vision and Mission I hold for my own ministry in the Visioning sessions I have been having with the congregation. That tells me I am not doing a good enough job living it. I may actually be doing it, but without being able to articulate it I am likely to fall a little short.

"Extending Ministry"

To Extend Ministry through Longevity; Progress; Impact; Proclamation; and Variety

I recognize this more clearly when I talk about the two Visions I have recognized Ojai UMC to have had during their 50 years. The two Visions they had were lived, but because they were not articulated often and well they died out. I do not want mine to die out.

And, for the record, the two Visions Ojai UMC has had during its lifetime:
(1957-1962: Start-up) To be a Methodist Church in Ojai.
(1971-1973: After the arson that destroyed the sanctuary, and during the pairing of Ojai UMC and HELP of Ojai) To be a church that rebuilds

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Monday, February 23, 2009


Seth Godin wrote a post the other day about whether or not we deserve the luck we have had.

The gist was that we don't, and the better question is what we are doing with the luck we have had.

When it comes to Ojai UMC, I want to highlight some of the pieces of luck I think we have had, and ask the question about what we are doing with it.

We were granted a large piece of property to build our church.

We survived a fire in 1971 and rebuilt.

We have a wonderful preschool.

We have some outstanding music talent.

We have (arguably) the best view in town.

We have some very generous and helpful people.

We have a healing congregation (as seen in the pastors and their improved condition upon leaving OUMC, and in the congregation members joyfulness).

We have an emerging Vision.

We have a good reputation in our community.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


1. Who was your FIRST prom date? Rebecca

2. Do you still talk to your FIRST love? ahhh...nope not in many years

3. What was your 1st alcoholic drink? I'd have to bet wine or beer, as a taste with the folks

4. What was your FIRST job? probably stuffing envelopes with the 'rents at MDI

5. What was your FIRST car? 1971 Datsun PL610

6. Who was the FIRST person to text you today? Still waiting

7. Who is the FIRST person you thought of this morning? Bug

8. Who was your FIRST grade teacher? Mr. Burgoyne

9. Where did you go on your FIRST ride on an airplane? Back to Washington, DC...I think

10. Who was your FIRST best friend & do you still talk? First was probably Josh or John and no, I haven't spoken to them (or seen them in many, many years - Sr. year of HS)

11. Where was your FIRST sleep over? Grandma and Grandpa's simply because I was too fussy for the neighbors while Mom and Dad were out that night

12. Who was the FIRST person you talked to today? the dog

13. Whose wedding were you in the FIRST time? Eric Langley (cousin), as a groomsman

14. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning? went to the loo

15. What was the FIRST concert you ever went to? probably "Up With People" if that counts as a concert

16. FIRST tattoo? Temporary, and that should be all I ever get

17. First piercing? None

18. First foreign country you've been to? Mexico

19. FIRST movie you remember seeing? Star Wars

20. FIRST detention you ever got? Talking in class

21. What was the first state you lived in? CA

22. Who was your FIRST roommate? Debbie (she was like 3 months old)

23. If you had one wish, what would it be? A good soccer league in the area to play regularly, non-Sunday

24. What is something you would learn if you had the chance? IT, Heavy Machinery Operations, Hebrew or Greek

25. Who do you think will be the next person to post this? Not even the slightest clue


Saturday, February 21, 2009


Thanks to Jenny I now have words to describe what is so fascinating about twitter

Maybe you are there too. Me, I am beginning to get it up learing how to embed a tiny url...suggestions?


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Unforgivable Sin

Growing up I heard, and had, many discussions about the unforgivable sin of scripture.

Mark 3:22-30; Matthew 12:31-32

My friends and I went round and round about what it meant to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

First, we have "Blaspheme"
(bls-fm, blsfm)
v. blas·phemed, blas·phem·ing, blas·phemes
1. To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner.
2. To revile; execrate.

[Of Course, now I have to look up
execrate (ks-krt)
tr.v. ex·e·crat·ed, ex·e·crat·ing, ex·e·crates
1. To declare to be hateful or abhorrent; denounce.
2. To feel loathing for; abhor.
3. Archaic To invoke a curse on.]

Second, we have "Holy Spirit"
In Christianity the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is the spirit of God. The term Christ (literally, Anointed), is also used to refer to this presence. That is, the Spirit is considered to act in concert with and share an essential nature with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ). The Christian theology of the Holy Spirit, or pneumatolog , was the last piece of Trinitarian theology to be fully explored and developed.

So what we are saying is that if you put a curse on the Holy Spirit, this is the unpardonable sin. What I find interesting is that this has often been interpreted to mean "suicide".

I found it refreshing to hear from one of the bastions of Conservative Orange County Theology - a minister at the Crystal Cathedral remind us that suicide does not fall into this category.

This was extremely powerful in that we are told elsewhere that to blaspheme wo/man (which is what Suicide would seem to be doing - blaspheming self as human) is forgivable. To blaspheme Jesus or God is also forgivable, but the Holy Spirit is something else.

It reminds us that the Holy Spirit is still other than Jesus and God, and yet still the same. Let I look the fool and try to explain the Trinity,
[John Wesley offers this -" I do not mean that it is of importance to believe this or that explication of these words. I know not that any well judging man would attempt to explain them at all. One of the best tracts which that great man, Dean Swift, ever wrote, was his Sermon upon the Trinity. Herein he shows, that all who endeavored to explain it at all, have utterly lost their way; have, above all other persons hurt the cause which they intended to promote; having only, as Job speaks, "darkened counsel by words without knowledge."]
I will still wrestle with the dogma of the unpardonable sin, but freer in knowing that the myth of "suicide" as the unpardonable sin is waning.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pushing Forward, Pushing Back, or Lifting Up

Sometimes I wonder at the nature of the institutional Church. We have so many flaws and frustrations. We use structure to "push forward" as we try to strategize and codify the Great Commission, to "push back" as we find reasons to marginalize or hinder ministries of all kinds, and to "Lift up" those things we see as valuable.

But what if we took the great commission seriously? Would we try to do any of these, or would we just find the best way to do, and take the halfway good enough because it is what can go at that moment with the resources at hand.

I bring to your attention the story told several times over now, and given in this context...a blog 


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook and Christmas Cards

Is the modern Facebook really all that much different from the Christmas Cards my parents and Grandparents once mailed each year?

It seems to me we collect all these people across our lives and we want to stay in touch, but we really don't have the time to put it all into each relationship. But, we are made for relationship with one another, according to God's purposes.

So, I find that ingrained in most of us is that twinge of intrigue, or sometimes guilt, about relationships we have in our lives, past and current. We want to try and fill that void with some kind of update about that person.

So I recall at least 2 ways this happens: direct contact, mediated contact. Direct contact is the most obvious of running into the person on the street. Mediated contact takes several forms: phone, letter, email, Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn or gossip, in what I perceive to be descending order of personal investment required.

My parents and especially my grandparents kept long lists of family and friends that they had made meaningful relationships at one point in their lives, but rarely if ever did anything with during the time that I watched those relationships. And yet, they would send and receive Christmas cards, replete with pictures, family updates and current contact information, from many of those people.

These days, I don't have such an extravangant mailing list (though I will cop to having the leftover vesitges of one that I remade for my wedding). But, I do have a great array of friends, and at almost no cost to me, I am able to keep up with them, begin to see pictures, and updates. I get a chance to make real-time changes to my own contact information, and feel more a part of their lives, and allow them to do the same with me, than the Christmas cards ever did.

But, the truth is, they serve the same purpose for each generation. The biggest change is that like everything else, we want to have information more quickly, and so we twitter, and post, and blog and have the opportunity to get the word out about what is going on with us, to the people we want to keep in the know, just at the speed of electronics.

I get an added bonus to my "Christmas Cards", with Facebook, I have a chance to expand that Christmas Card list, kinda like I do with a church newsletter, by connecting with marginal friends, and people who are "business aquaintances". In this way, it is a Rolodex, and Christmas card lust all rolled into one.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sermon Notes Feb 15

The Text this week begins with the Story of Naaman.

From it I wanted to show off some of the Spiritual Gifts at work...

Healing: When Naaman is healed of his leprosy we see the gift of healing at work.

Prophet: Certainly, Elisha stands as a prime example of a prophet, who proclaims the will of God to the people, and stands outside of the community, calling back to the community to move toward God's plan for it.

Faith: We see faith in several instances, but my favorite is of the servant girl who is in the foreign encampment, and is convinced of God's power so present with Elisha that she recommends that Naaman go to see Elisha, for surely he would be healed.

Intercession: We see intercession at work in several places again, as it is the working of one person on behalf of another in petitioning for God's work to be done. Naaman's servant who reminds Naaman that if Elisha had asked something hard of him, wouldn't he have done it, so why not this easy thing.

Leadership: The king of the Aramenas, not only showed leadership by taking it upon himself to send Naaman to Israel, but also honored Naaman's gift of leadership, by valuing him so highly as to make such a petition to Israel for healing in the first place.

Discernment: The gift of discernment of spirits, that which is for good and that which is for evil also presents in several places within the story. Elisha has to be most discerning in being able to tell whether the petition from the King of the Arameans was of good intent or evil intent. We also see the poor ability of the King if Israel to discern such things when he flies off the handle and complains that the King of the Arameans is trying to pick a fight

Serving: We have many servants listed in our story, the servant girl, the servant of Naaman, the attendants of the Kings and of Elisha that do all the errand running and messaging of this story.

Evangelist: The best example of an evangelist is one who tells God's story in a foreign land. The precursor to Naaman going to Israel in the first place is the servant girl to the King's wife who tells them there is someone in Israel who can make Naaman clean. The effects of which are seen beyond the telling of this part of the story, where Naaman proclaims Elisha's God as the highest god of all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

For My Folks


01. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

02. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first. 

03. No one expects you to run--anywhere. 

04. People call at 9 pm and ask, did I wake you?

05. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

06. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

07. Things you buy now won't wear out.

08. You can eat supper at 4 pm. 

09. You can live without sex but not your glasses.

10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.

11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room. 

13. You sing along with elevator music.

14. Your eyes won't get much worse.

15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off. 

16. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the National Weather Service.

17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either. 

18. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size. 

[forwarded by JR Whitby]


Ancient Egyptians slept on pillows made of stone. That's actually what caused many of their deaths...pillow fights.


Yeah, you can send this Funny to anybody you want. And, if you're REAL nice, you'll tell them where you got it! 


Sunday, February 15, 2009

And you thought being Rickrolled was bad

If you thought the whole rickrolling experience was hilarious, then you need to hear this.

Then go read this...

Just what I call a fantastic conclusion to any Sunday.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentine

St Valentine's Day was supposedly started in the time of the Roman Empire. In Ancient Rome, the date of February 14 was a holiday to honor the Queen of Roman Goddesses and Gods, Juno. Juno was known as the Goddess of women and marriage. The next day February 15 was the first day of the Festival known as the Feast of Lupercia. 
On February 14 is was said that the young boys and girls of the villages would write down the names of every girl and place these names in a jar of which each young man would have to draw a name of a girl and this particular maiden would be their partner for the duration of the festival. Sometimes these parings would last a year and end up in marriage. 
These rituals under the laws of Claudius were banned as the Emperor believed that the reasons why men would now go to war were because they did not want to leave their lovers or families. As a result all marriages and engagements were canceled as a result Saint Valentine a Roman priest was said to have married these couples in secret and for this he was executed on the 14th day of February. 
While St Valentine was in jail it is said that he fell in love with the jailers daughter. By a miracle or some say by the prayers of Valentine she gained her sight and as a last farewell in a note he was to "From Your Valentine". 
Another stary as to the origins of Valentine's day was that he was a priest who was also a physician and would cure the sick. He was also said to have tried to cure the jailers blind daughter, but, was arrested and on the day of his execution he wrote a note as a final farewell saying "From your Valentine" which some say is what caused her to gain her sight. 
It is also said whilst he was in jail awaiting execution that he was sent little notes and flowers from the children whom he had helped when they were sick. This also may have been one of the reasons why he sent a farewell note to the jailers daughter and why we send valentines. 
St Valentine's Day is celebrated on February 14 of each year, the reason why it is celebrated on this day is because this was the day that the Patron Saint of Lovers "St Valentine" was supposedly executed on. On this day lovers all around the world mark this occasion as a day for sending poems, cards, flowers or candy, etc. They might also be a social gathering or ball to mark the occasion. 
Another Interesting origin is that St Valentine was the patron Saint of Epilepsy reason was that he was supposedly a sufferer and took a keen interest in those who suffered from this affliction and also that those who suffered this disease were suffering from Valentine's sickness.
There are various accounts as to whom St Valentine was. It is said that there were two St Valentine's whom died at around the same time and are buried virtually in the same place at the Flaminian Way, both of these saints has been said to be the saint associated with the Patron Saint of Lovers "Saint Valentine". 
The first of the Saints was considered to be a Roman Priest or Bishop of the Christian faith, who was also a physician and practised his trade from his house. He was said to cure the sick of ailments, giving them special medicines or ointments. He was said to have done this out of the goodness of his heart sometimes refusing any payment whatsoever or accepting a loaf of bread or whatever could be spared by the sick. One Day the jailer bought his daughter to see Valentine, so as to see if she could have her sight gained and Valentine was said to have rubbed an ointment on her eyes and told the jailer to bring her back once a week to have the ointment rubbed on her eyes. 
Every night he would pray under the dark of night for the sick to be cured. As a result of his beliefs he was arrested and thrown in jail. The jailer who could not do a thing went to see Valentine moments before he was to be executed at which point Valentine asked for a piece of paper and pen on the piece of paper it is said he was suppose to have written "from your Valentine" and inside the paper also was a blossom of which it is said gave the girl her sight. 
The second of the Saints was said to have been a priest also, but, that he was secretly carrying out marriages of young lovers which under the Emperor Claudius II's laws at the time was forbidden, the reason being that Claudius did not want the men marrying because they must be able to concentrate on war and not their loved one. 
Which ever story is true, today we celebrate St Valentine's day by exchanging gifts such as cards, candy, flowers, etc. The reason why we celebrate it on February 14 is this was the day on which it is said that St Valentine was executed.
There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine's Day. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine". Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St. Valentine.
Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers and candy. There was often a social gathering or a ball.
In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800's and now the date is very commercialised. The town of Loveland, Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14. The spirit of good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental verses and children exchange valentine cards at school. 

The History of Saint Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day started in the time of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. 
The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl's name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason was that roman men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. The good Saint Valentine was a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II. He and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples, and for this kind deed Saint Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270. At that time it was the custom in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February the Lupercalia, feasts in honor of a heathen god. On these occasions, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. 
The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by substituting the names of saints for those of maidens. And as the Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's Day for the celebration of this new feast. So it seems that the custom of young men choosing maidens for valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year, arose in this way. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Did you notice that all gifts are given to all men, worked by God?
Pretty cool, I guess I need to start exercising my gifts a little more - ekballism and healing and miracles come to mind as those I have neglected.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

He's Back

Because not all my friends are Methodist, and I love me some church humor, I am thrilled to announce the return of Pastor The Reverend Karl with his best loved clips of the InterWeb.

Check his site out here.

Kinda reminds me of some other best-loved Christian Humor Sites

Enjoy...and be able to laugh at yourself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sermon Notes 2/8/09

Today's text is taken from 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

We have been talking about Visioning these past few months here at Ojai UMC.

But, as we delve into Vision we need to be aware that for our Vision to become a reality, we need to filter it back through our Assets and the Needs of the Community.

This morning, we have the chance to look back at Paul, and be reminded of those two things - our assets, and the needs of the community.

Paul begins his message with one of his assets. He has the Spiritual Gift of Preaching. This is an amazing gift, and one for which he now has been compelled by God to go out and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason that we also begin with ourselves and our Spiritual Gifts, and why I am continuing to ask for your Spiritual Gifts Inventories.

In the second element of filtering Vision it needs to be in concert with the needs of the Community. Paul does an outstanding job of putting himself in concert with the community. As he says, "I became a Jew to the Jews." He became a clear part of the community.

I want us to think about how the three questions we are trying to ask people in our community help develop that relationship, and that awareness of the needs of the community, so that we can better shape our Vision for Ojai UMC.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vision Statements

Just a sampling of some of the Vision Statements I was able to find for the UMC, and its local churches.

I would say that those that are concise, and easy to remember are the better ones. 

The problem is often that churches try to do too much with their Vision statement, and individually capture each element of the ministry they are trying to do. 

I really appreciated the Vision Statement that started with what a Vision is.

Church Vision Statements:

To be a church for the non-churched and the nominally churched. (Church of the Resurrection)

To be the Cup overflowing (Cal-Pac)

To be One in the Spirit, All in Ministry (Cal-Pac)

"To build beloved community helping people commit their lives to Christ and 
live as a blessing in the world" -Santa Maria FUMC

The information concerning VISION of the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake on this page consists of two sections:

Vision Statement

We, the faith community of FUMC, are in ministry to assist God in the resurrection of the spiritually dead, and the healing of the spiritually wounded. We will go about our ministry, seeking to make disciples for Jesus Christ. We will do so in a nurturing, caring, and grace-filled manner, welcoming and accepting all people where they are on their faith journey. We will do so unabashedly as United Methodists, building upon the foundational teachings of our denomination, celebrating the strengths of our denomination, confessing to our weaknesses and shortcomings, and with an unwavering commitment to community.

Vision Statement

Yardley United Methodist Church will grow disciples through ________.

FUMC San Diego
Vision Statement

Our Vision is to help the Kingdom of God grow. In community, we help people experience the love of God in Jesus Christ and make a difference in the world by sharing God's love.

Ivy Creek United Methodist Church is a welcoming community of faith:

  • Listening for God's voice,
  • Proclaiming God's message, and
  • Giving ourselves to God's service.

We offer sanctuary and purpose in a complex world.

The vision of the Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church is to be recognized as a Christ-centered church, teaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ and "setting the standard" as...

  • A friendly church, providing a Church Family which shares God's love by welcoming, accepting, supporting and caring for all people.
  • An innovative church, providing stability in the modern world by presenting meaningful and attractive new approaches to worship and the study of the Christian life.
  • A teaching church, where individuals of all ages are assisted in learning how to live according to the Holy Gospel.
  • A progressive church, where the rich heritage of Methodism is used to build faith and hope in the future. hope in the future.
  • A practicing church, where members consistently strive to live more fully as Children of God and share their faith by reaching out to others.

Vision Statement

Our mission is our fundamental reason for being. All ministry activities must be in alignment with it. 

A vision is a desired future reality, a hoped for result, that captures the heart and mind in such a compelling way that people are willing to commit their resources of time, talent, and treasure to make it a reality.
  • inviting and accepting everyone

  • exploring and using our spiritual gifts

  • participating in the care of our community

  • committing ourselves to social justice

  • growing spiritually through worship and education

Monday, February 09, 2009

Even the Best

I am a fan of sports. Which is not a surprise to anyone.

I love basketball, and have enjoyed Mark Cuban's blog for a few years now.

What caused a stir in my mind the other day was Mark's post about Stats.

I know how much I deal with stats in the church, for Church Conference, for Annual Conference, for trends, and for Salary Analysis. What caught my attention was that Mark Cuban (who really made it with his work in the dot com boom) had some of the same problems I have had in blogging.

His post didn't fit the formatting provided in the template. Can I tell you what a relief and a new appreciation I have. The relief is that even with his background and resources, it didn't fit. The new appreciation is the reminder that even Mark Cuban is like many of us.

Now - for the church context.
Sometimes we do the same thing with Pastors, Evangelists and Bishops (District Superintendents). We need to be reminded that they too are normal everyday people, who sometimes can't pull off the superhuman, despite our reputations. But, the one thing we do need to remember is that like Mark Cuban, they got there because they were able to do their jobs well, and took advantage of God's nudges.



Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bucket List

The Bucket List.
Place an X by all the things you've done and remove the X from the ones you have not, then send it to your friends (including me).

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, do the list and tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.) If you don't see the Tag people in the upper right hand corner you are in the wrong place.)

Things you have done during your lifetime:
1 (X) Gone on a blind date
2 (X) Skipped school
3 (X) Watched someone die
4 (X) Been to Canada
5 (X) Been to Mexico
6 (X) Been to Florida
7 (X) Been to Hawaii
8 (X) Been on a plane
9 ( ) Been on a helicopter
10 (X) Been lost
11 (X) Gone to Washington, DC
12 (X) Swam in the ocean
13 (X) Cried yourself to sleep
14 (X) Played cops and robbers
15 (X) Recently colored with crayons
16 (X) Sang Karaoke
17 (X) Paid for a meal with coins only
18 (X) Been to the a traditional meal from outside your culture
19 (X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't
20 (X) Made prank phone calls
21 (X) Been down Bourbon Street in New Orleans
22 (X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose & elsewhere
23 (X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
24 (X) Danced in the rain-naked
25 (X) Written a letter to Santa Claus
26 (X) Been kissed under the mistletoe
27 (X) Watched the sunrise with someone
28 (X) Blown bubbles
29 (X) Gone ice-skating
30 (X) Gone to a Drive-in movie
31 (X) Been deep sea fishing
32 (X) Driven across the United States
33 ( ) Been in a hot air balloon
34 ( ) Been sky diving
35 (X) Gone snowmobiling
36 ( ) Lived in more than one country
37 (X) Lay down outside at night and admired the stars while listening to the crickets
38 (X) Seen a falling star and made a wish
39 (X) Enjoyed the beauty of Old Faithful Geyser
40 (X) Seen the Statue of Liberty
41 (X) Gone to the top of Seattle Space Needle
42 ( ) Been to the top of the St. Louis Arch
43 (X) Been to the top of the Empire State Building
44 (X) Been in one of the World Trade Center Buidlings
45 (X) Been in the UN Building in NYC
46 (X) Been on a cruise
47 (X) Traveled by train
48 (X) Traveled by motorcycle
49 (X) Been horse back riding
50 (X) Ridden on a San Francisco CABLE CAR
51 (X) Been to Disneyland/Disney WORLD
52 (X) Truly believe in the power of prayer
53 (X) Been in a rain forest
54 (X) Seen whales in the ocean
55 (X) Been to Niagara Falls
56 (X) Ridden on an elephant--if Dumbo, the Flying Elephant counts
57 (X) Swam with dolphins – unintentionally in the ocean
58 (X) Swam with sharks – walked in a pool with them (any variety)
59 (X) Been to the Olympics
60 ( ) Walked on the Great Wall of China,
61 ( ) Saw and heard a glacier calf
62 ( ) Been spinnaker flying
63 (X) Been water-skiing
63 (X) Been canoeing on a river
64 (X) Been canoeing across a lake
65 (X) Been to summer camp
66 (X) Been in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
67 (X) Been a Scout leader
68 ( ) Been to Westminster Abbey
69 ( ) Been to the Louvre
70 ( ) Swam in the Mediterranean
71 (X) Been to a Major League Baseball game
72 ( ) Been to a National Football League game
73 (X) Been to a National Hockey League game
74 ( ) Cracked a rib playing hockey
75 (X) Fallen off a ladder
76 (X) Been skinny dipping in a pool
77 (X) Been in a Chinese Fire Drill
78 (X) Picked your nose in public
79 (X) Got a speeding ticket, with your kid(s) [youth from youth group] in the car
80 (X) Skipped a rock in a pond or river

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Other Five

For those Facebook friends who claim I am selling them short with only 20 random things about me, here are the other 5

21. Social Networking is a blast. I love to see connections
22. I was a total Legos kid
23. I have planted some sort of garden for the past 4 years
24. My dogs tend to be themed by letter (Liz, Lisa, Luke, Leroy; Dixie, Dagny)
25. I have a movie collection that is over 300 movies (and almost all converted to MP4 now)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Things That Stick

John Wesley is known for many things.

Two quotes he is often remembered for saying that have stuck with me, and apparently with Will too...

“Do all the good you can, 
By all the means you can, 
In all the ways you can, 
In all the places you can, 
At all the times you can, 
To all the people you can, 
As long as ever you can.”

“The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sound Familiar?


~ Every time I went, they asked me for money.

~ The people with whom I had to sit by didn't seem very friendly.

~ The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all.

~ The coach never came to call on me.

~ The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.

~ I was sitting with some hypocrites -- they came only to see what others were wearing.

~ Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home.

~ The band played some numbers that I had never heard before.

~ The games are scheduled when I want to do other things.

~ My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.

~ Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches anyhow.

~ I don't want to take my children, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Lovett Weems reminds us that if we are going to grow as a church we need to look to three areas of outreach. His contention is that we will either succeed in all or none.

So as I enter into a time of Visioning with Ojai UMC I am pondering what these outreach areas mean for us, and our demographic.

His three areas for needed outreach:
1) More people
2) More younger people
3) More diverse people

Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just what I needed

John Smulo offers up "A Shot of Idealism"

Just what I needed before I started to do Visioning cluster meetings tonight.

Helpful questions.

As I enter into this time of discernment with the congregation, I am mindful of how difficult it could be to remind myself that this is not going to be easy, but that it is all-too-necessary.

Helpful quotes:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sermon Notes February 1, 2009

Reading: MARK 1.21-28

Jesus reminds us in this passage that speaking with Authority is important. We begin by hearing that this is different from the way of the Scribes, and other teachers in the Temple. So we take a moment to explore why that is. The Scribes of the time were a bunch of scholars who knew their history very well. They would trot out their favorite ancestor and quote him in Biblical Study, and then they might throw out another favorite ancestor, with a counter point. One could hardly pin down the Scribe about what their own views were, and what view was correct. Jesus began to teach in just such a way...and often when quoted in Scripture we hear it start, "You have heard it said, but I tell you..."

We know that Jesus had the power of the Holy Spirit in him, and we know that he gave that Spirit to us when he left. So we can put the pieces together and find that what Jesus does we also have capability to do. When taken with the reminder Jesus gives us that we will be able to do all that he has done and more I must sit up and listen. God gave us gifts to use for the building up of the kingdom. I have been passing out Spiritual Gifts Inventories for several months, and now I am going to get more serious about doing so.

Doing church without knowing the gifts of the people is a little like knowing how many buildings you have but not what is inside of them. We must be proud of what we have from God, and be unafraid of using those gifts God has given us.

I was affirmed, and chastened for hiding my own abilities, in this regard from a poem shared this week at the National Camp and Retreat Leaders' Gathering at Mt Hermon Retreat Center, near Santa Cruz, CA.

We need to be unafraid of using our gifts, and we need to use the gifts we have at hand. [See the post on MacGyver Church for more of those thoughts.]

We need to recognize that if we are not going to use the gifts God gave us, then we have about 50 years until everyone in the church dies, we bury them and we have nothing left. We were given a purpose, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

We need to work on building relationships, with each other and with the community. Check out these questions to find your way into the conversation.

Begin with asking the person's name and then two other questions follow.
The two questions
1) Do you go to church?

Once answered: ask the next question
If "yes", 2a) Why do you go there?
If "no", 2b) Why not?

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MacGyver Church

I awoke the other day with a realization that we need to become more like MacGyver in how we do church.

For years it seems we have tried to things more like a Military Mechanic. We have a precise way to do church. We have the instructions before us. If things don't work right then we go back to the manual, try to diagnose the problem through the means it sets forth.

When we can't find the problem we just keep working with a broken product. But, it seems it gets worse than that. If we know what the problem is, but we do not have the right tools to take it apart, put it back together, or heaven forbid, the right part to put back in place of the broken one, then we stall out. We sit and wait for the part or the tool to arrive. The parts and the tools are old. We have to wait for back order, and to find the technician that knew how to run that tool from back in the day. If we don't have the money to pay for the part, the tool or even the technician, then we sit back and wait for the next item to fall off, and scramble to fix it.

Ultimately we wind up watching the whole thing fall down around us. It reminds me of the old adage.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Maybe we need to start thinking like MacGyver. MacGyver wound up in some horribly tight places. Someone's life was always on the line. He was left with none of the normal tools we would be looking for to fix the problem. The solution often involved multiple everyday things, rather than the big fancy tools.

Church always has on the line someone's life as well. We need to take seriously this is an issue of life and death, right here and now, and for eternity. Lives are in the balance, ours and those we affect. We are now in an age where the "normal" tools are just not available, especially to the small church, and large church is having to fashion its own tools as they break new ground too. We need to take advantage of those things that are right around you.

The duct tape and swiss army knife MacGyver is so well known for are the people, skills, talent and knowledge, let along the ingenuity, of the local church. We can cobble together the right tools and parts to make our setting the best possible, but we need to stop waiting for the "right" tool or part, and use what is right in front of our faces.



Sunday, February 01, 2009


Lovett Weems has five questions for focusing a church Mission...

1) Who are we?
2) We exist so that...
3) Who are the people?
4) Who are OUR people?
5) Given our identity and context, what is God's vision for the near future?

Earlier in the day I had been pondering something similar....

How we should do this 
   ...needs to become...
What I got out of this
   ...needs to become...
Why to do this
   ...needs to become...
What God wants from us
   ...needs to become...
What does the world need
   ...needs to become...
How do we do THAT?

I see this as the development from MY WAY, to OUR CORE VALUES, to THE VISION, and finally to THE MISSION.

I have taken to asking this in the context of the church as a way to bring the HOPES OF THE ORGANIZATION into conversation with THE ASSETS OF THE ORGANIZATION and THE NEEDS OF THE LARGER COMMUNITY to clarify a TRUE VISION