Labyrinth your thought

20130422-103316.jpg

The amazing thing about God is that the presence is that you rarely know where you will find it.  This past week I had the opportunity to fly down to Tampa, Florida.  My main intention in being down there was to attend the Large Church Initiative of the United Methodist Church event at Hyde Park UMC.    Due to the way flights from Montana work I needed to arrive a day early.  I took the opportunity to try and take some time for personal retreat.  Pastors like this stuff because most of encountering of God happens in the presence of other people.  I found a beautiful Franciscan Retreat Center in Tampa and spent 24 hours there.  Little did I know it would be the beginning of process that would change my thinking.

God shows up in the most interesting ways.  Yes I was at a retreat center, yes I was trying to encounter the divine, but all of my energy when I first got to the center was thinking.  Why didn’t I just go curl up on a beach somewhere at a resort, instead of coming here?  The retreat center was nice, but it wasn’t a beach resort.  However, I let myself get settled in and started wandering the grounds.

As I wandered I stumbled onto a labyrinth and little did I know it would be the story that would define my week.  Labyrinth’s are not a stranger to me.  I love their curved paths for prayer.  In Helena, MT where I live there is a wonderful labyrinth out in an open field that I like to use.  The point of a labyrinth is to enter and walk the path in prayer, in conversation with God.  The thing about a labyrinth is it takes our linear realities and bends them.  It seemingly takes time and slows it and forces the brain to relax.  God’s presence is much more clear as this happens.  I picked to walk the labyrinth 3 times while I was there.  Figuring it was a good trinitarian number.  I felt in those walks blessed assurance of my call to serve people in ministry and with my life.

Then I went to this training.  I have been skeptical of church conferences as of late.  It generally seems we get together, speak of our sense that the church is dying out, toss around a few good ideas, and then head home to the status quo.  I WAS WRONG.  Whether it was me doing the prep work, or God’s spirit working on my heart, it was as if the entire Large Church Initiative event was walking a labyrinth of what my call to Methodism was and call to ministry in the world could be.

Now I know this is where I am profound and say it was one specific talk, or workshop that inspired me.  It was not one thing.  It was the path of walking the conference.  I encountered in the conference a reality that leading a church is utilizing the skills in myself that I had been preparing my whole life, the ones I was continuing to develop, and in talking with others I recognized I had the knowledge to initiate this work.

You see for each of us the labyrinth isn’t about a defining moment.  Rarely does the end leave you feeling good.  It is actually the biggest let down, because in the middle of the labyrinth you reach the half way point, the journey outward still has to happen.  The labyrinth of our lives is walking with God, letting the shifts of life not break you, but instead guide you to the next phase.  It is the gentle nudging of God’s spirit that will awaken in us the realization of how where we have been, can be the sustaining nurture for the possibility of tomorrow.

I took away from the conference some of the best conversations, skills, and resolve about who we are as Methodists and Christians.  However, if I pretended that was the end it would be a lie.  It was but the first turn as I entered the labyrinth of my call.  The same way when I wake up in the morning and step out of bed I take the first turn of my daily call.  Where is your first turn today?

 

May God’s blessing be upon you.

20130429-124426.jpg

Nicodemus you rock my world!

So, I got to preach last Sunday and the church is doing encounters with different Bible characters as they journey through Lent.

I got John 3:16 and Nicodemus as my encounter and was it an encounter.

Liberal Christians dodge this verse when it comes up, cause so many of us have been in the presence of it being used to define all of Christianity. It is not however the end all phrase we tend to see it as. When put into context it is part of a very complex answer to a question asked Christ.

“What are you doing here?”

To which we get a very complex answer, you should read John 3 to see this.

A complex answer not just one verse, not just verse 16.

We are told of a compassionate God trying to offer hope and a new way of life to people in pain. A God that cares so much that he sent his Son, though it would mean experiencing pain and death, to teach us something of a Spirit filled life.

So many time John3:16 is used to condemn the world. But the next verse says it’s not about that. This is why I struggle when Christians, some considered to be leaders, say that disasters happen to people cause God is punishing them.

As I watched a video of the tsunami in Japan I was scared, deeply saddened. Imagining someone losing their way of life, their home, or their very life. Most of all I ask the most logical question for a Christian, “Why God?”

To those that answer that God was carrying out vengeance I say, the God I know does not carry out vengeance. My God feels and knows human pain and suffers with all living things. I don’t have an answer to the above question and I hope I never do have a short or easy answer.

What I do know is that Nicodemus shows us we must question God and when get complex answers we do our best to interpret them. That god cares for us and our world, I know. It is through God’s love we are called to share compassion with the world as part of God’s people and we are not here to condemn it.

Playfulness is what Church is….it is the second coming!!!

As I think about church leadership in the future it is a group of people who are willing to play with the people they work with.  When I say play I mean this…that we will be willing to share in life, show new ways to see God, reach out to those who want to explore God with us, not be comfortable with one way of being with God, and constantly asking questions like a child.

We need people willing to play with people in all walks of life, to be in the messiness of life.

“The badge of this new world? Service….. just plain doing good to other people, all other people, any other people, any time they need help or encouragement.”

We are not trying to bring about a second coming anytime, we are trying to bring playfulness to the world now.  We are trying to help people be less serious about their realities, to not hold on so intensely to life and instead learn how to play through life.

Quiet play, loud play, compassion play, loving play, explorative play….

It is through an openness of play that good accountable Christian movements will happen.  A complete change will happen.  People can trust people, and we will learn how to be kinder to one another.  Jesus did this…he learned how to play with people and love them.  He re-taught the imagination and became accountable to all through this way.

Let’s God play and play well…..