Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas story

I asked a friend if they got anything for Christmas.  They said, "no, I told my family that whatever they were going to spend on me, to give me the money instead, because I wanted to buy a house in Nicaragua."

So my friend didn't get a shirt or a hat or a coat.  They got the satisfaction and joy of helping someone move into a beautiful home with a concrete floor.  I was so very touched by the generosity of the family and the kindheartedness of my friend.

In a world where everyone wants something for themselves, it is so good to see people who want less so that others can be blessed.


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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Eve

Is it a sin to be glad that Christmas is over?  When you are a pastor or work on a church staff, there is a huge relief when it is over.

This year we ran six services in the sanctuary, two in the Worship Center and two at our Raytown campus.  The music was wonderful at each of them, and it was a wonderful night.

Many people ask about attendance at Christmas eve.  The numbers are in and we totaled 3,427 for the evening.  That is a new all time high, 5% higher than the previous number.  While that is a lot of people, what I want you to know is that there were many many visitors.  Several came back on Sunday morning and we hope that many more will come in January.

Thank you for all that you did to make the services and the Christmas season a wonderful blessing.

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

Monday, December 29, 2014

a man's last words

A man lay waiting for what was to come.  There was nothing more that anyone else could do. 

He called his adult children to his side, and one by one said goodbye.  "I'm sorry for every time that I was less that the best Father.  I forgive you for every time that you disobeyed me when you were young.  Let there be nothing between us.  I love you.  You are awesome.  Thank you.  It's ok.  Everything is ok.  All is well.  I am not afraid.  Live your life.  Live and love.  I am proud of you.  We will meet again."

Then he called his wife to his side.  He held her hand and smiled.  After all these years, they could still see each other's souls through their eyes.  He said to her, "we did it.  We loved each other for a life time.  We celebrated the miracles of life.  We had children and raised them.  Look at them, they are wonderful.  I am so proud of the life that I had together with you.  I am sorry for every time that  I was less than a perfect husband.  I forgive you for anything that you may think that you have done.  You are a saint in my eyes, perfect, and I love you so much.  Let there be no regrets.  Let our memories of each other be only of the joy, only of the good.  Thank you for everything.  Do not be afraid, I am not afraid.  We will meet again.  I love you so very much.  Life with you and our children has been such a treat."

That man did it right.

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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A great year

Today is the last Sunday of 2014.

I want to thank all of you for a great year.  In 2014, Woods Chapel acquired the Raytown Campus.  Under the leadership of Michael Scott, this has gone very well.  In 2014 we also purchased the new Missions Center, which I like to call the Bartlett Building after our missions director Amy Bartlett.

The Missions Center has allowed for the expansion of existing ministries and new ones have begun as well.  Anytime we are acting in mission, we are living the Kingdom life.  It is not good works, it is what Christians do.  It is what Christians are.

This year we sent several fine members and staff people off to serve other churches.  It is hard to lose them, but what a blessing they have been to the churches that the Bishop sent them to serve.

You can be very proud of your staff, they are a deeply committed and heartfelt bunch.  Thank each and every one of you for every gift, every hour, every talent, and every piece of your heart that you gave to the Lord and his church in 2014.

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

Saturday, December 27, 2014

kindness to strangers

This year, during the month of December, we ran into a number of strangers who needed help.  Just as you would do, we helped them.

A person needed a ride to work.  A server needed towels for her family's bathroom.  A mother needed diapers for her baby.

When we help our own, they expect it and don't always appreciate it.  But there is great joy in helping a stranger.  They don't expect it and so the message of love and kindness comes shining through.  The greatest joys that I experienced this season were tied directly to helping others.  It takes us off of our own worries, and it is just good to help others.

Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness.  Good.  GOOD.  Godly good.  Help someone else today who is not expecting it.

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

Friday, December 26, 2014

the face of the earth

There is a face of the earth, an edge of it anyway, and I apparently fell off of it for a while.  I want to thank Lions Den Man for filling in for me during this time.

I guess I got stressed out and exhausted.  I didn't know what to post one day, and so I didn't post.  I needed a break.  We all need one from time to time.

I hope that you had an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas.  The church is a big ship and there is much to do during the season.  I hope that you were able to breath in the goodness of God's love.  Thanks to my friend Lions Den Man, I was able to do some of that myself.

Merry Christmas my dear friends.

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

movies - 8


1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Narrator: He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!

Merry Christmas!
Peace
Lion’s Den Man

 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

movies - 7


1988 Scrooged
Frank Cross: It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!

I like this. It is a simple message. We all can do better for more than a few hours a year. Hopefully the season awakens us to this truth if it hasn’t already.

Peace
Lion’s Den Man

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

movies - 6


1947 Miracle on 34th Street
Fred Gailey: Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.

1993 The Nightmare before Christmas
Jack Skellington: [singing] Just because I cannot see it, doesn't mean I can't believe it!

1994 The Santa Clause

Judy: Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing.
 
2004 Polar Express
 
The Conductor: Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.
 
Tis the season for the message of faith and hope

Peace
Lion’s Den Man

Monday, December 22, 2014

movies - 5


2004 Polar Express

Santa Claus: There's no greater gift than friendship.

Ditto

Peace
Lion’s Den Man

Sunday, December 21, 2014

movies-4


1990 Home Alone

Kevin McCallister: No offense, aren't you too old to be afraid?

Marley: You can be too old for a lot of things, but you're never too old to be afraid!

I doubt we will ever get past being afraid at times, but we should never stop advancing on our fears either…..
 

Peace
Lion’s Den Man

Saturday, December 20, 2014

movie-3


2003 Elf

Buddy: Sounds like somebody needs to sing a Christmas Carol.
Jovie: No way.
Buddy: The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.
Jovie: Thanks, but I don't sing.
Buddy: Oh, well, it's just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down.
Jovie: I can sing, I just choose not to sing. Especially in front of other people.
Buddy: If you can sing alone, you can sing in front of other people. There's no difference.
Jovie: Actually, there's a BIG difference.
Buddy: No there's not. Wait...

[Starts singing loud and off-key]

Buddy: I'm singing/I'm in a store/and I'm siiiiiingiiiiing!/I'm in a store/and I'm siiiiiingiiiiing!
Gimbel's Manager: HEY! There's no singin' in the North Pole!
Buddy: Yes there is!
Gimbel's Manager: No there's not!
Buddy: We sing all the time!
Gimbel's Manager: No you don't!
Buddy: Especially when we build toys!

I like music but I rarely sing…. in public. (Guess I just busted myself). That being said, I do know, a lot of Joy can be experienced by letting loose and shouting it out….

Peace
Lion’s Den Man

Friday, December 19, 2014

movies-2


1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.
Charlie Brown: I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.

Linus Van Pelt: Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest.

No doubt there are lots of pressures surrounding the holidays. Some inflicted upon us and some are of our own doing. Funny how we look forward to this time and then we are so relieved when it has past and everything returns to normal. Normal…funny word when you think about it as it relates to the Christmas season and story…….

Peace
Lion’s Den Man

Thursday, December 18, 2014

movies -1


I enjoy movies. This season brings us an abundance of Christmas movies and messages. I thought I might bring a few of those “Christmas Movie Messages” to this blog over the next few days.
From 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life -
Clarence:  Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
I hope we all remember how valuable our life is. We impact others more than we realize.  A smile, a hello, an ear to lend, words of encouragement ….the opportunities are everywhere for us each day.
Peace,
Lion’s Den Man
 
 

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.