Today’s First World Problem

In a moment of complete self-indulgence, I am sending to the recycle center all of my years-long collection of plastic food containers and replacing them with a new set that actually has lids that match the containers. And yes, this is a classic case of a First World Problem!  That’s a great website if you haven’t seen it.  With humor, it helps to put our frustrations in a good perspective.

Smelly Women and a Hand Up

A late evening call to the church: “I’m in a motel with my little girl and I can’t pay the bill tonight and I can’t go home because I’m running away from my husband.  Can you give me the money to spend another night here?” A friend accompanied me to the motel where we could check out the story.  We plunged into the dark underbelly of that town where I was serving, both a little frightened.  We noted that the little girl was sick but it did not look serious and both appeared to be safe for the night. We pooled our…

Above All, Do No Harm

The idea of “doing no harm” underlies many important service traditions.  The Hippocratic Oath, often taken by students upon graduating from medical school, reads in part:  “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” The General Rules of The United Methodist Church read: First, do no harm. Second, do all the good you can. Third, stay in love with God. Recently, I came across the Oath for Compassionate Service written by Robert Lupton and explained in his book, Toxic Charity. Here is part of the oath: Never…

Judicial Council Decisions: The Emperor Has No Clothes

The United Methodist Church cannot be re-formed. It’s over for us with our current structure. The Judicial Council’s decision to revoke the involuntary retirement of Bishop Earl Bledsoe over issues of violation of procedural minutia found in the Book of Discipline (not over the question of his effectiveness, which was not being ruled upon) has forever made this clear. It is over. It’s easy to get frustrated with the Judicial Council for the rulings of the last few months. Their work has thoroughly reversed decisions made by General and Jurisdictional Conferences. However, I think that would be a mistake. They’ve done the United Methodist…

The Election Port-Mortem, the Fundamentalist Takeover of The Republican Party . . . and The UMC?

Election Post-Mortem Mark Davis, a right-wing conservative radio host and columnist, wrote this in his post mortem about the Presidential election: But I lament a country where the middle class is more attuned to government benefits than the work ethic that was once our nation’s engine. I will blame the culture of dependency that leads millions to seek rescue paid by the incomes of others. And I will point to a society that has stood idly by while standards of family, self-reliance and independence have dwindled to mere shadows. I found as I read his column that my normally quite low blood…

Three Beat Up People, The Art of Discipleship, and Questions About the Pastoral Role

The Setting On Sunday evenings, I’ve been holding a remarkably well-functioning Confirmation class consisting of several young teens, one older teen, and four adults, ranging in age from early 30’s to mid-70’s, a mixture of men and women. The teens get drilled first. This is a “no-frills” confirmation regime: the faster they learn the material in a thoughtful, integrated way, the faster they can join the youth group which is also taking place. Once I am satisfied they’ve accomplished the learning goals for the evening, they are dismissed and we adults go into a more leisurely time of free flowing discussion that…

Pins and Needles, the Election and our Charitable Giving

I admit it–the polls are going to close in a couple of hours on the East Coast, and I’m already getting antsy to start hearing results.  I keep checking my favorite political commentators and statisticians as if their words will assure my comfort and hoped for victory. I’ve been quite careful not to openly state the candidate I hope will win the Presidential election. I think that as a pastor, my role is to encourage people to think carefully about these things.  After investigation and reflection, all should vote in ways that best reflect their understanding of how we live out our…

Three Hundred Words to Convince or It Vanishes

The WordPress blogging challenge for the day, “You have three hundred words to justify the existence of your favorite person, place, or thing. Failure to convince will result in it vanishing without a trace. Go!” My response: Light.  We are light, this small community of faith. Grace and forgiveness glue us together, yet hearts and arms open to anyone wishing entrance. The young acolytes solemnly hold their candlelighters. The worshippers see their clear faces shine. Holy smiles race around the room.  An elderly woman holds her neighbor’s sleeping baby. Her life comes full circle, as she, thinking herself unneeded and unnoticed, discovers…

The Day Off and the Quotidian Tasks

I was watching one of those hoarding TV shows recently.  I suppose they relax me a bit.  This morning, as I was pondering and praying through the day, I became even more away that I am just one step away from seeing my own life spiral out of control as do the lives of the hoarders.  One day when I will not do what are occasionally called the “quotidian” tasks–those things that must be done routinely no matter how much we dislike them–just one day of refusing to do them can lead to a downward trajectory that is difficult to stop. Because…