Learning Together

dog_on_computerfeature“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is a saying that most of us have probably heard.  But, we are not dogs!  We are followers of Jesus.  We are people who continue to grow and learn until our lives are over.  The cartilage in our bodies continues to grow, including our noses and ears.  We also can continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God.

This spiritual discipline is an act of piety.  It allows us to reflect upon our lives and God.  These acts of reflection prepare us to receive God’s grace more fully.  Study allows our minds to grow.  When we study with a group of other people, we are able to grow even more because we have the benefit of their knowledge.  We can learn more when we study together.

We also have the chance to grow our relationships with others which is an added benefit growing-in-christ-300x200to becoming involved in a study or small group.  Church membership is not required to get involved.  Below are some of the types of classes and groups:

Bible Study:  God has given us the Bible so that we may learn about God.  There are many ways to study the Bible.  Some of these studies occur during a morning class such as Sunday school.  Some of these are long term studies.  Others focus on a specific biblical theme.

Virtual Classes: These on-line classes offer a digital class experience.  Some of the course are at a specific time and offer interaction with the group while others are done at your own pace and in your own time.  Many of these are offered through the United Methodist Church.

Workshops: These are usually one or two days and focus on a specific topic.  We often have workshops with outside trainers and teachers to gain new knowledge.

Book Study: The number of times these groups gather can vary.  Some will meet once to discuss a specific book while other groups will meet over a course of weeks to glean insight from a book.  These are great opportunities for those who like to have time to process information before sharing thoughts about the information presented.

Thematic Study: Sometimes we want to delve into a topic or theme.  These studies can vary in length, but they are usually focused around a specific topic.  Our church is focusing on spiritual disciplines, so we will have a study on prayer as well as Sabbath.

There are many types of classes and ways to get involved.  The important thing is that we never stop growing.  In order to grow, we must find time for growth, study, and fellowship.

He Is as Nice as He Can Be

I was sitting in a public place, working on my sermon, and I overheard a conversation.  It seemed that a defense attorney was talking with a client on the phone.  The conversation seemed to be about the client’s next steps.  Obviously, the attorney was his advisor and intermediary.  While describing an interaction, the attorney repeatedly told the client that the guy was as “nice as he could be”.  He would occasionally warn that it did not necessarily mean anything.

We all make judgments about people based on how we perceive them.  The attorney and the client made no decisions while on the phone, but it was clear that the other person’s attitude would weigh into their decisions in the future.

I have met quite a few people who have formed a negative impression of church or Christians because of a few people’s attitudes, behaviors or actions.  They experienced a wide range of sinful behavior from those who claimed to be followers of Jesus or were active in a local congregation. If I am honest, I have met my share of those folks as well.

Given how much those negative experiences have affected many of us, including people outside the church, I have formed a theory that we will have to find ways to counteract these negative impressions.  We need to be “as nice as we can be” to give a more realistic impression of the church, Christians, and God.

People may know more about you than you think they do.  They may know that you attend church or that you are a follower of Jesus.  They are watching you.  Are you respectful of other people?  Do you laugh at jokes that are hurtful to other people?  Do you pass judgment and criticize all who do not share your specific beliefs?  Do you whine, nag, and/or badger?

Your behavior in the grocery store, at the mall, in the office, and at sporting events is a testimony to the one we serve.  My hope is that even in the difficult situations, you can be as nice as you can be.

I pray that have purpose and meaning, no matter what your age. May you know God’s calling on your life.

We All Have a Spot

Brooklyn Museum - Woman Fixing Girl's Hair - O...

Brooklyn Museum – Woman Fixing Girl’s Hair – Odake Chikuha (1878-1936) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Prior to church the other day, a woman offered to help me fix my spot.  She told me that everybody’s got a spot.  It is the spot on the crown of our heads that often is not covered by hair. It is not a bald spot.  It is just a spot that shows our scalp because of the way our hair grows.

 

 

 

She was helpful and right.  Everybody does have a spot.  We all have a spot in our lives where we need some help.  We all have a spot in our lives that we cannot quite see.  We all need someone or several someones to help  fix our spot.  This is the spiritual discipline of accountability.  We as Christians share the truth that someone has a spot, then we help them grow and improve.  My spot was fixed for that day and then she offered advice on how to regularly fix the spot.

 

 

 

Who tells  you about the spots in your life?  Who do you help with the spots in their lives?  As Christians we are called to do this.  In order for it to happen there needs to be a close relationship built on trust.  Often this happens as a part of a small group.  Consider becoming a part of a small group that offers encouragement and accountability.  Some of these groups are focused on an activity, such has hands on mission or a book study.  Some groups have coffee together.  Each one provides a place where the spots may be discussed, acknowledged, and corrected.  We all have spots.  It is what we do about giving and receiving help with our spots that matters.

 

 

Can I Get a Witness?

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love (Photo credit: epSos.de)

God calls each of us to witness to God.  We are called to share the transformational love of God that is offered to all of the world.  We talked about this in worship recently at Palmyra United Methodist Church.  The challenge was given to look for ways to witness to God in the world.  My prayer was to find ways to witness to God’s love.

 

God answered that prayer.  Monday morning my phone rang.  A couple I had never met wanted to get married.  Could I?  Would I?  They did not have any financial resources, but they wanted a Christian wedding rather than a civil wedding.  I had a meeting at 2:00, but I could do it before then.  They showed up.  We went in the sanctuary.  They were married.  We took a couple of pictures.  They left.  It was less than ten minutes, but sometimes the witnessing is not a time consuming event.

 

Are you open to the possibilities?  Are you willing to witness?

Longest Night

Long night in the city

Image by bolandrotor via Flickr

Tonight is the longest night, or winter solstice.  Because of the tilt of the earth, we know that we will be experience the longest night.  But,  we also know that there are other long nights.  There are long nights of anticipation.  Remember the night before.  It could have been the night before a big event in your life.  It could have been the night before Christmas.  You were so excited about the next day that you could not sleep.  The night before my daughter was born, my husband stayed awake to make sure she and I were okay.  (He was worried that I would sleep through active labor.)

 

There are long nights of grieving.  We have all experienced loss in our lives.  There is the one we loved who left, and we knew that life would never be the same. There is the long night when we lost our way in the world, and we realized that we and our view of the world was forever changed.   We grieve the loss of our perceptions.  We grieve the loss of hopes.  We grieve the loss of dreams

 

There are long nights of loneliness, fear, and isolation.  We feel as if the darkness may overcome us.  We fight and rage against the darkness, or we hide ourselves in the darkness.  Our responses vary, but we have all had darkness in our lives.  You may even be experiencing darkness now.

 

We are preparing for celebrations that the light of God has come.  The light came into the world and darkness did not overcome it.  The light came to be born among us.  The light is now in us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We, who are Christians, are called to bear God’s light to the world.  We are called to help those who reside in darkness.  We are to offer light, hope, peace, and love.  We put lights throughout our homes and in our windows this time of year to announce the light has come into the world.

 

The decorations are great, but they are not enough.  We are called to light the world.  How will you light the darkness of your world?  How will you be God’s light on this longest night?

Winning the World

PICT6768Recently the PRCA had its world finals.  The PRCA is the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.  One person, L.J. Jenkins, won the world championship event.  Another person, Shane Proctor, won the title World Champion.  There is a difference.  Bot are accomplishments to be celebrated, but the difference is huge.

To be world champion of the PRCA means that Shane Proctor has one the most money over the season.  He won for slogging it out week in and week out.  He won for all of the rodeos he competed in, something driving through the night.  LJ Jenkins had the best scores over a ten day event.  Both should be proud of their accomplishment.

As Christians, we have to understand the difference between the event and the season.  The season for us is never ending.  We may not win every event, but we must consistently be present.  We must be offering God’s love to the world, sharing our faith, and serving God.  This means that there are times when we wonder if it is worth it.  There are late nights.  There are events in which it does not seem we did very well.  Keep the goal in mind.  Keep the vision of God’s kingdom before you.

Christmas in the post-War United States

Image via Wikipedia

There are other times when we are working to win an event.  We are working for one period of time for a short-term goal.  Maybe this Christmas is a short-term goal.  Maybe you are seeking God’s peace for yourself and y our family.  Maybe you are seeking to share what you believe in the rush of holiday events.

Understanding what we are working for helps determine our behavior.  We may, like Shane Proctor, be trying to win both the event and the title.  Shane broke his arm and did not win the event, but he did win the title.  You may not win the event, but you still need to work towards the title/goal.

Bull Riders and Christians

Professional Bull Riders    -  Madison Square ...

Image by asterix611 via Flickr

I am missing the Build Ford Tough Series of the PBR.  This is the Professional Bull Riders highest level of competition.  The season ended at the end of October.  It will resume in January.  This may sound like there is no bull riding to be seen, but that is not accurate.  The PBR (Professional Bull Riders) are competing in Australia and Brazil.  The Touring Pro Division of the PBR is also competing.  Some of the riders that I enjoy watching, like Brendon Clark, Travis Briscoe, and Silvano Alves are part of these competitions.    Other riders are using this time to have needed surgeries or heal from injuries.  The sport is not taking a break.  It is just less visible during this time of year since it is not on television or having many events live streaming on the internet.

 

This less visible period has led me to consider how this is often like the Christian life.  We who are Christians are called to work for God’s kingdom.  It is not something we take a break from.  It is a part of who we are.  The work of the kingdom is continuous, and there is always more for us to do.  Sometimes the work is more visible than others.  Yet, the work goes on, even if no one sees us working.  There are times when we are obviously working for God, such as when we lead worship,  singing in a choir, ringing the bell at the Salvation Army’s red bucket, or serving a meal at a homeless shelter.  There are other times that no one sees what we are doing.  No one sees the work that goes on behind the scenes to adorn a sanctuary for advent.  No one sees a church treasurer paying the bills of the congregation.  No one sees the prayers that are offered for friends, neighbors, and strangers.  Yet, these are work of the kingdom as well.

 

There are seasons when we are called to do the visible work of the kingdom.  There are other seasons when we are called to do the work that is less visible.  There are times when we are to work at a feverish pace. There are other times when we need rest, healing and restoration.  In this less visible season of the PBR, you may want to evaluate what God is calling you to do and be in this season and in the new year.  There are many ways to serve God, we must seek out God’s calling on our lives and on this season of our lives.  Go with God.