Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Joys and Concerns


Yesterday at the Men’s Gathering we opened as usual with Joys and Concerns. Many concerns were mentioned, but no Joys. Even after a second invitation and a pause….nothing. I find that sad. I understand we have struggles and we have sorrow, but there is much good in God’s world each day. Maybe sharing Joys seems boastful. I can’t say for sure but I wonder if that is what holds us back from sharing. What I do know is that Grace has been given…. Hope is ours…. There is good in each day and much to be thankful for.  

Peace,
Lion’s Den Man

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Inherent Unmarketability


How do you make attractive that which is not?

How do you sell emptiness, vulnerability, and nonsuccess?

How do you talk descent when everything is about ascent?

How can you possibly market letting-go in a capitalist culture?

How do you present Jesus to a Promethean mind?

How do you talk about dying to a church trying to appear perfect?

This is not going to work - (admitting this might be my first step).

From - Everything Belongs - Richard Rohr

It took a long time to get past this page. I hope I am ready for this book.

Peace,
Lion’s Den Man

Monday, December 15, 2014

here and now


I am sure I have written about this before. My guess is Jeff has too. I have read many books and devotionals that speak about it and I have heard other people bring up the subject as well. So many people, if not everyone, struggle with this. Why I cannot center my attention on the here and now escapes me. Being fully present is where and when you connect with God. It is where Life is meant to be experienced. But, I am too busy investing myself in either what has happened or what may happen. Both of which I have no control over. In doing so my thoughts are focused on me and not living and walking with God in the here and now.

Peace,
Lion’s Den Man

Sunday, December 14, 2014

say thank you


Sometimes things move too quickly.
Sometimes things are just out of control.

Sometimes we just need to step back and take a breath and say thank you Lord for always being with me.

Peace,
Lion’s Den Man

Thursday, December 11, 2014

unaware

I am captivated by the idea that we are largely unaware of the results of our actions.  We just don't pay very much attention to the outcome of what we do.  Blindly we go along, living our days, thinking mostly about what comes to us and thinking very little about what goes out to others.

This can be painfully difficult to those who live with selfish people, and joyfully wonderful to those who live with grace filled people.  I am going to skip the results of negative living and speak on the positive.

Those who go about doing good in this life, have no idea of the size of their impact.  A friend got her annual review the other day.  It was smashingly good.  I was not surprised.  Over and over, peers had written in about  the positive affect that this person had on the work place.

Good people go about doing good.  Without fanfare, without rewards, without instructions.  They entertain angels without being aware of it.  They feed and clothe the least of these and are largely blind to the massive levels of joy that they leave behind.  Their good is measured in ways that they can't even fathom.  The righteous are self-unaware.

I love thinking about this.  Imagine being so used to doing good that you just did it and didn't notice.  It was just such a part of you that it did not register with your brain that you were being amazingly kind.  Just the thought of living like this brings a smile to my face.

How is your life influencing others?  You have more power than you know.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Patience

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  To wait for a thing.  To be patient.  To wait for a person to be over being mad at you.  To wait for a child to grow up.  You delegated that - give them some time.  The waiter did put your order in.

To wait on an investment.  To wait on a friend to come around.  Waiting is ok.  Patience is a virtue.

Just wait a bit, it may all turn out.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

words

Words can get you in trouble.  Sometimes it is much better to close the mouth than to speak.  The first phrase that I remember from four years of French classes is "ferme la bouche." Close the mouth.

We would all be benefited from time to time to take the advice and remain silent.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, December 8, 2014

look who bought dinner

My entire life, my father bought dinner.  The older I got, the more annoying it was.  Finally, when I was 28 or so, we were out for a meal and I insisted on buying.  I was just going to do it.  I could afford it.  It was about time.  He fought it, but I won.  It was a great moment for me.  I felt so happy to buy for my dad, as he had done so many times for me.

Well, last night, one of my kids bought dinner.  They insisted.  They could do it, and they wanted to pay.  How amazing!  I am filled with joy.  It is a massive milestone when you get on the table and buy dinner for your old man.

I am proud of my kid.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grace based

I like to refer to our church as grace based.  That is over and against "guilt based."  The phrase "grace based" is an unfamiliar term to many and will bring up questions from time to time.

One friend was listening to KLOVE and shared with me some of what Francis Anfuso was teaching.  Here it is:

Receiving God’s Grace
Can you imagine being given an amazing present and never opening it? Sadly, it happens every day in the lives of most people. The Bible says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” Who wants to flunk being forgiven? Who wants to fail to obtain the grace of God? Who wants to walk around bitter, like a plague looking for a place to happen? I don’t want to have a chip on my shoulder that will eventually make me act like a chump. One of the most important disciplines you’ll need to learn in life is receiving the grace to be forgiven, to forgive yourself, and to learn to forgive others as well.

My response went like this:
Thanks for the note.
All of that is very well said…….

 Regarding the root of bitterness – when we are thinking of how messed up someone is or how messed up of our work office is, a root of bitterness can spring up.  But when we are thinking of the amazing miracle of grace, our hearts have no room for bitterness.

I like to explain a grace based church this way…………. Grace is from God and restores us to God.  Grace based churches have standards, but we choose to focus on the remedy, not the sin.  We choose to focus on the way forward, the way out of a mess.  Sin is real and it must be acknowledged, but if we get stuck there, thinking about it, talking about it all the time,  our lives no longer glorify God nor draw others to him.  Grace, if we let it, will pull us out of ourselves and towards our loving father.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happy Birthday and Congratulations

Today is a big day for our family.  My wife is having a birthday - #39!  Very exciting.  We had a nice dinner on the plaza last night.

Also today, my sister is getting  married at our church.  At the age of 59 she found love on-line.  When we first heard of dating sites, we all wondered about them, but so many people are using them these days.  I have married several couples who found love on the internet.

Her fiancĂ© is a great guy!  I really like him and they are so happy together.  I love love and I love love at any age.  I am happy for every 24 year old that finds love and gets married, but when you are later in life and find love it is almost miraculous.  It is truly something to celebrate.

So, much joy at our house this day.  May God bless you with joy this day as well.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, December 5, 2014

think about it

Someone told me the other day that Christmas was boring.  Lights.  Trees.  Shopping.  Wise men.  Shepherds.  The stable.  A baby.  "It's the same old thing," they said.

Yes.  It is the same things every year.  But take a moment and think about what is behind the celebration.  Behind the celebration is love. LOVE.  God so loved the world.  Think about that. 

Don't we all wish for love?  Don't we all hope for it?  Don't we all pursue it? 

Love is amazing.  Love is wonderful.  It is a gift.  It is the greatest gift.  Christmas is never droll when we remember that God is showing his love to us.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

to smile

In response to a post the other day, a reader indicated that they had no reason to smile.  No friends, no calls, no emails, no texts.  No reason to smile.

Another reader responded-

Dear Anonymous,
That's very sad. I think most of us have been in your place at least once in our lives. In truth, most of us probably feel alone more than we want to admit. You may email me if you'd like. I enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the company of Christian fellowship.
:) cm_gragg@sbcglobal.net


- I want to add my time to this friend who wrote in.  jeffb@woodschapelchurch.org I will make time for breakfast, coffee, lunch or whatever.  Life is too short.  We are here for you.  Who else is in? 

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

potential

I believe that God calls us to our highest potential in life.  This means that we do not buy into blaming others for our problems.  It means that at some point we get off of the highway of consumerism.  It means that we believe that there is a greater good that we are called to be a part of.

I have always seen and marveled at the potential in the Woods Chapel family.  The church has always been filled with smart, driven, hardworking people.  It has been my pleasure to what this church family reach for their potential year after year.

Whether building a new building on 291, holding a massive prom dress giveaway, adopting children for back to school, sending hundreds through FPU, buying the mission center, launching Upward Basketball or adopting a village in Nicaragua, the results of the efforts of these people have been more than amazing.

What do you believe about yourself?  Have you achieved all that God would call you to do?  If not, what is holding you back?  There is no greater joy in this life than to be used by God for a purpose greater than one's self.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

off mission

I had a discussion the other day with a person who was upset because they thought their pastor was off-mission.  This can be a problem from time to time.  Pastors, like all of us, need to stay on mission.  So, let's begin with, "what is our mission?"  At Woods Chapel we describe our mission as "Connecting people to Jesus Christ."  The official United Methodist mission statement is "Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

So, there are a gazillon ways that pastors can get off mission.  Here are a few.
  • They don’t come to the office - robbing staff and parishioners of personal time with them.
  • They don’t work hard or are lazy.  Surprisingly I hear this a lot.
  • They have chosen to focus on random theological issue or a social issue over connecting people to Jesus Christ.
  • They are pushing  the theology of a different denomination.
  • Not answering emails
  • Not following IRS or church procedures
  • Not doing what the DS asks of them
  • Not going to the hospital
  • Not doing funerals
  • Spending all the church's money
  • Building too much
  • Random moral failures
  • Being mean or rude to people
  • Employing family or friends
  • Withholding information from others
  • Insisting on a parking spot next to the front door
  • Anyway that it becomes about me -

Maybe your pastor is off mission, and maybe there is more to the story.  I don't know.  Go talk with him or her.  Sharing information is always a good thing.  If I am ever off mission, will one of you please come tell me?

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, December 1, 2014

to smile

Imagine a day without a smile.   Someone said that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  A smile is a good thing.  A smile tells another person that you are friendly.  A smile makes your heart happy.  A smile can break a bad mood.  A smile is contagious.

Try it.  Smile.  Make my day.  Make someone else’s day.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

wedding

Last night I was at a wedding reception.  I usually don't attend the rehearsal dinners or receptions.  The reason for this is that when you do 30 weddings a year, that is a bunch of Friday and Saturday nights that disappear.  Also, when people look and see that the preacher is here, it can kind of put a damper on the party.

Well, last night we married an old family friend.  She used to live with us, so after the wedding, I went to the reception.  What fun!  Singing, dancing, food and friends. 

All three of my kids were there and they were delightful.  They were so kind to me.  I am so blessed!  Today I give thanks for father-daughter dances and kids that have grown up to love their dad.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

the power of thank you

Thank you

The power of saying thank you cannot be underestimated.  Imagine that a friend moved or quit or died and you did not get to say “thanks” in time.  So here goes for me –

Thanks for being my friend.  Thanks for looking me in the eye.  Thanks for being honest with me.  Thanks for telling me your stories.  Thanks for hugging me.  Thanks for sitting with me.  Thanks for the blue salvia.  Thanks for the coffee cake.  Thanks for the chicken soup.  Thanks for the kind notes.  Thanks for the BBQ.  Thank you for tickets to the Royals game.  Thank you for being my neighbor.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for forgiving me.  Thanks for going on mission trips with me.  Thanks for reading books with me.  Thank you for looking past my faults.  Thank you for helping at church.  Thank you for believing in me.  Thanks for working with me.  Thanks for going to lunch with me.  Thanks for letting me joke with you.  Thanks for dreaming with me.  Thanks for being kind.  Thanks for volunteering.  Thanks for letting me sit on your deck.  Thanks for being a low-maintenance friend.  Thanks for listening to my sermons.  Thanks for allowing me time off.  Thanks for advice on our home.  Thanks for letting me look at and listen to your car’s motor.  Thanks for letting me stay in your vacation place.  Thanks for helping my kids.  Thanks for being regular and dependable.  Thanks for the joy I feel when I see you.  Thanks for understanding me.   Thanks.  Just Thanks.  Thank you!  Bless you!  Thank you!  You are amazing.

I don’t plan on going anywhere, but I just wanted to say thanks.  You are the best.  Pass on a thank you.  You will be glad that you did.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, November 28, 2014

annoying

Yes that person is annoying.  Yes they hurt you.  Sometimes we just have to grin and bear it.  Sometimes we have to just laugh about the little zingers that come our way.

Here is an old story:  Once upon a time a beggar came to the tent of Father Abraham asking for food.  Being a godly man, Abraham asked him into his tent for dinner.  Well, as soon as he was inside the tent, the beggar asked for more.  Grapes!  Meat!  Wine!  The beggar wanted it all.  And did I mention that smell?  Abraham is getting so annoyed that he can’t stand it.  So he prays to God:  “Dear Father, save me from this beggar!  He is annoying and smelly, he won’t stop talking and he won’t leave.”  God replied to Abraham’s prayer and said, “Abraham, what is it with you?  I have had to put up with his annoyingness his entire life, and you can't put up with him for one single night.”

Yes friends, there are annoying people in this life.  They talk too much, they are unkind, they send too many emails, they are opinionated, and on and on.  You don’t have to invite them to stay the night, but I think we can show them a little more grace.  I think that is what Jesus would do.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

IT"S THANKSGIVING!!!!


Thanksgiving has become one of my most treasured times of the year.  My family comes home, and they are on their best behavior.  The food is amazing.  If you ever get a chance to eat my wife’s cooking, you will never feel sorry for me again.  There is a fall chill in the air.  Football is on the television.  And most of all, gratitude is in the air.  Whatever attitudes have been carried throughout the year, at Thanksgiving, everyone pauses to give thanks.


Giving thanks changes nothing, but it changes everything.  Gratitude can take us from complaining about our job, to being thankful that we have a job.  It can take us from complaining about being old to giving thanks that we are alive.  Gratitude can change our perspective, and when the way we see the world changes, everything changes.


Someone once said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” 


One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is that it does not have to be locked into November.  The Fourth of July is always in July.  St. Patrick’s day is always in March.  Thanksgiving however, given a chance, can take over the entire year.  It can become a friend that travels with you everywhere that you go.  It can take over any month, any day, any hour.  It can dominate, if we allow it, every month, every day, every hour.


The scripture asks us to give thanks.  Psalm 118 says, “”Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.”  Do you want to change your attitude?  Do you want to change your life?  Give thanks.  Give thanks.  Give thanks.


It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Funerals

When you bury a friend it is very difficult.

A few weeks ago I was driving to church, and I thought about how much I love Woods Chapel and how much I love my job.  I am so fortunate.

Then I had to bury a friend.  And another.  I do not like this part of my job.

Let me tell you, I hate it.  I hate it that they die.  I hate it that I will have to die.  I hate watching other friends and family hurt.  I hate going to funerals.  I hate doing them. [I mean, I am glad to offer comfort and consolation in doing a funeral, but they can be very very difficult.]  Part of what makes doing funerals difficult is that while everyone else is crying, you have to prepare, and you have to hold it together.  Sometimes there is a big cry in there for a while and it needs to come out, but you don’t get the chance.

Dear God, can I please stop burying friends?  At least for a while?  And yet, this is life.  There will be no moratorium on it ending.  We need to enjoy every day that God gives us.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

worried

I have a friend that is worried about me.  She thinks that there is something wrong.  Well, maybe she is right.  Isn’t there always something to be disturbed about?  The trick is to not let a thing bring you down.

So, yes, sometimes we carry burdens and worry.  And sometimes it is difficult to just drop them and let them roll to the altar.  Sometimes we hurt. 

Welcome to the human race.

I don’t know that she should be worried about me.  I think I am fine.  Some years ago, a book was written by Gail Sheehy called Passages.  It was about the passages of life and how to face them and understand them.

I believe that there are passages of life.  When you turn 16, when you turn 21, when you get married, when you have kids, when you realize that you are not a spring chicken anymore, when you retire.  When you lose a friend, when your marriage dissolves, when you have a major surgery, when the economy is bad.  Passages.  We all must face them.
But there is nothing to worry about.  All is well.  If you are facing a difficult time, find a friend and hang on.  This too shall pass.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Grand-dog

We are thankful for our new Grand-dog.  This is Jenny's new puppy.  His name is George.  He is a toy poodle.  He is the nicest little guy.  We like to call him Nick Papa-Georgio.


Pets can have such a happy and positive effect on a person.  George will chase the cats when he comes over and he sits very nicely on my lap.




Puppies and kittens remind us of life- new life and joy!  I am thankful for this funny, ornery, cute, cuddly little addition to our family.




It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.


[by the way, do you know what a dyslexic atheist says? ......... there is no dog.]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Los Pinos


 
 
I will be at church today.  I am looking forward to seeing you and bringing the message.

I just came back from another trip to Los Pinos, Nicaragua.  There, we witnessed the dedication of 25 new homes.  There we introduced four other pastors to the mission of the Rainbow Network.  There I hugged children.  There I saw again my friends from the village.  There is so much to say, and my heart is so full.  I don’t know where to start.

During the dedication service it rained and poured.  The mud was several inches thick.  It stuck to your shoes.  One of the villagers said to me, “Jeff, this is what it is like inside our homes when it rains.  This is what living with a dirt floor is like.”  It makes you think.  And then, to see someone who has never lived in a home with a concrete floor move into a new house is an amazing miracle.

I encourage all of you to make the trip to Los Pinos.  There is something for people of all ages to do.  The accommodations are safe and clean.  It is in this time zone.  The cost is very reasonable for an international trip.  You take off and land in a matter of 8 hours.

You might go thinking you will change something for the better in Nicaragua, and you might just do that.  But let me tell you this…… if you go there, it will change you.  You will never be the same again.  You will look at a plate of food differently.  You will look at chicken, dogs, cars, and homes with new eyes.  You will become much more grateful.

I am so thankful for the opportunity in this life to go to Los Pinos, and to come home.  Going there has made me a better person.  And my wife would tell you that me becoming a better person was very much needed.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

gratitude recognizes something


 Of course we are all thinking about gratefulness these days.  Something that I think is true is that in order to be grateful for a particular thing, we must recognize that we are not deserving of it.  We are not entitled to a given thing.

If I think I deserve a big house, I will never be thankful for it.  If I think I deserve health insurance, I will never be thankful for it.  If I think I deserve a friend, I will never be thankful for them.  When we think we deserve things, we take them for granted.  This is the polar opposite of gratitude.

The truth is, I don’t deserve a wife that loves me.  I don’t deserve the home, the car, the children, the health, the friends, or anything that I “have”.  All of these things are gifts – amazing gifts from our Father.

And so, I am filled with gratitude for his bounteous blessings.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world be sure to see the good.

to stand by a friend


 
I was talking to a friend the other day about something that happened in his life that really hurt.  One of those big time, heart aching hurts.  We talked about how it is nice, when those things come along, to have a friend that sticks by your side.
 
We all have such big time hurts from time to time.  It is nice to have someone who sticks by you no matter what.  They know the worst of you, but they still love you none the less.

This kind of friendship is truly a gift.  Like Ruth said to Naomi, "where you go, I will go.”  And the King James translated proverbs 18:24 “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”  If you are hurt, please find someone to hold your heart. 

The world is still a beautiful place, and you are dearly loved.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, November 21, 2014

pastors tenure

By every account that I read, the average stay of a Pastor is somewhere between 2.4 and 3.6 years, but certainly not longer than 4 years.  I think about this from time to time- and wonder if I may have out stayed my usefulness.

I have been at Woods Chapel a long time.  20 years, 5 months and 12 days to be exact.  I have loved every minute of it ... mostly. 

There were a couple of years that we took a vote on whether or not the pastor should continue another year........ those were nervous moments.  Somewhere along the way, we stopped doing that.  I do think that there are folks that attend our church who wish we would reinstate the voting.

What I have noticed is that people do vote with their feet.  When they are done with Jeff or done with Woods Chapel, they move on.  This is always so very difficult.  Because I love every person that attends here and I want everyone to stay.  I want us to reach every person that we can.

Please do me a favor.  If you are thinking about leaving, for any reason, please send me a note.  Let's talk it through.  Even if we can't resolve what the problem is, I want you to know that I care very much.

We are on track to receive a record number of new members this year.  But I don't want to lose you.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

living with pain

As I grow older, I am learning to live with pain.

I have a knee that hurts every day.  Sometimes it wakes me up in the night.  I have sore muscles and all sorts of various aches and pains from time to time.

I also have some heart pain.  A relative that I am on the outs with.  A friend that has pulled away.  An upset parishioner.

It is all so unfortunate.

I think we should work very hard to reconcile every relationship that we can.  Work on it and keep working on it.  But after that, we need to live our lives.  You can't make everyone happy, neither can I.

Get up every morning and do your best.  Give it your best.  Live life with joy.  Keep trying to fix it, but don't worry about it so much that you forget who you are.

Live, love, work, try to fix it, live, love work, live love.  Life is too short for worries.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

the unknown person

You don't know them, but they are a person.  You don't know them, but God loves them.  You don't know them - they are  a friend that you have yet to get to know.

I heard a powerful story the other day of how a stranger reached out to a person in need, not because they knew them, but because they were in need.  Amazing.  That act of kindness started a wonderful relationship.

Who out there is someone that you don't know but might be blessed by a touch from you?  A note, a card, a box of chocolates.  A random act of kindness can surely touch a person's heart.

You don't know them.......... yet.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nicaragua

Today I am flying to Nicaragua with 10 friends from church.  We are taking 4 other pastors from other churches to help introduce them to the work of the Rainbow Network in Nicaragua.  We hope that their churches will catch the desire to help there as well.

We are also going to be a part of the dedication of 25 new concrete homes in the village that we adopted, Los Pinos.  This is a life long dream for members of this village and it is such a very exciting thing for all of us to be a part of.

It will be a short trip, we will be back on Friday, and I will be preaching Sunday.  Please pray for a safe and successful trip, that we might be a blessing to the folks in Los Pinos, and that God will touch all those on the trip and give them a desire to continue to help.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, November 17, 2014

goodbye

Tonight we are saying goodbye to a dear friend.  Susan was truly a saint.  We are all living today with tears in our eyes and hearts.

It is so hard to understand why someone this loving and kind would leave so soon.  But, we will do what we must -put our trust in God.  That is what she did and that is what she would want us to do.  Putting your trust in God is the only place to land.

Thankfully our God is big enough to hold us when we hurt.  You can always rest in him.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, and an extra beautiful day in heaven.  Be sure to see the good.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

emotions

Some days there is this tangled ball of emotions all tied up in our hearts.


Sad.  Happy.  Worried.  Fearful.  Confusion.  Panic.  Dismay.  Hurt. Apathy.  Heartache.  Did I say confusion?


We look for a place to land, for a place to trust.  I don't know about you, but I have never found any place to land besides in the arms of our Father.  When I am with him, I don't need to know the answers because I am with him and that is enough.


So even though emotions may be running high, we have a Rock upon which to stand.


And so it is a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.  Keep at it.