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.

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Being Better

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to better.  I want to send emails and write blog entries with  no spelling errors.  I want to be healthier.  I want to be a more compassionate person.  I want to be more effective in my time management.  I want to be neater. I want a better relationship with God.  I want to give my family more quality time.  I want to cook more and eat out less.  I want to drink less soda.  I want whiter teeth.  I want to be in a better place financially.  I want to be a better listener.

The list of my wants goes on.  I imagine I am not the only one who wants to be a better version.  The way I live my life is a testament to God, so every error seems to be letting God down.  My imperfections are glaring and ever before me.  I imagine that is why I like Peter so much.  He routinely makes mistakes in the Bible.  He is rebuked, warned, and scolded.  He denies Jesus.  Yet, it is on him that the church is built.

Peter shows us that we are not expected to be perfect.  We are expected to do our best to honor God.  We are expected to realize our need of God’s guidance.  We are called to realize that we need other people to help us and hold us accountable.  No one is perfect.  We all want to be better.  We can only expect a certain amount of self improvement, the rest is god improvement.  Especially this week, let us be molded and shaped by the one who loves us unconditionally.  Let’s not pay attention to the small things, but let us pay attention to the large things.  Let us pay attention to Jesus, our faith life, and how we share our faith with the world.  Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.  Do you deny Jesus?  Do you deny Jesus your time or attention?  Do you deny Jesus a place in your decision making?

Maybe we cannot get all our wants met, but we can grow as children of God.  We can in our imperfect states be builders of the kingdom.  Allow God to work in and through you.  Accept God’s offer of relationship with you just as you are.

Shepherds

English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden i...

English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden is one of the few areas that I leave feeling full of sadness. This lonely tree at the sight says it all. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone experiences  loneliness and isolation.  Some people experience it more than others.  They may have a greater need to be connected to others, or they may have lost and never a significant connection in their lives.  Some are lonely because there are not other people around.  Others are lonely because they have a sense of isolation even though they are in a crowd.  I suspect that a lot of our loneliness is about the sense of connection we have to other people.

Shepherds are often alone, even today.  They face a great deal of isolation as they care for the sheep.  Maybe that is why they were invited to the birth of Jesus.  God chose to reach out to those who were isolated and alone.  God chose to share with them because God wants to offer to all a connection to something more.  God wants us to know, especially those of us who are lonely and isolated, that we do not have to be alone.  We are invited into God’s story.  God wants us there are God interacts with humanity.  God wants us to be a part of something more.

This Advent and Christmas, realize that God is with you.  Invite others to be a part of the experience of God.

Modern Shepherd

Going on to Perfection

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Do you believe you are going on to perfection?”

 

Perfection?  What an impossible goal, some of us might think.  We are just trying to do the best we can, and we know that we are not anywhere near perfect!  How could the question even be asked.  We are often encouraging ourselves and others to self-acceptance.  Self-acceptance is difficult enough, much less the idea of perfection.  What a question!

 

This is a question that is regularly asked, however.  It is asked of those being ordained in the United Methodist Church.  It was asked by John Wesley to any who were leadership in the early Methodist movement.  United Methodist believe in perfection.  Steve Manskar in wesleyanleadership.wordress.com says:  Wesley defined perfection as “love [seated] upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and [humankind], which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival” (Sermon 92: On Zeal). It is the “holy tempers” formed in the soul: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

It is a lofty goal, but we are called to aim high.  We are called to self-acceptance, but we are also called to grow in God’s grace.  We are always a work in progress.  We need transformation.  We need to strive towards perfection.  If you don’t believe that you are going on to perfection, then where are you going?  Are you headed anywhere?  Are you just staying where you are?

 

 

 

This week, let us accept that we are not perfect, but we are going onto perfection.  We are on a journey.  Let us work towards being more fully the people God has created us to be.

 

A New Place

School.

School. (Photo credit: zoovroo)

New places and spaces offer us an opportunity.  The new classroom offers us a chance to re-define ourselves as a student.  We can be more studious, pay better attention, or participate more.  We also have the opportunity to form new relationships.  Vacations allow us to relax and be more fully ourselves.  We are not defined by our everyday roles, but we are just who we are.  We don’t have to consider the day-to-day responsibilities of our lives back home.  We are able to be more fully ourselves.  Sometimes the new place is a more significant change like a new neighborhood, school, or work location.  These allow us even greater freedom in re-defining ourselves.

 

The re-defining is an opportunity to mold ourselves more in the image of God and less in the image of us, society, or family.  We are ale to be more completely the person God wants us to be.  We can live more deeply as we give of ourselves.  We can laugh more and worry less.  We can work smarter.  The possibilities are endless.

 

Many of us are still in the same physical place, but we can choose to be in a new place in or head.  As school starts, let’s give ourselves permission to be more fully the people  God has created us to be.  Maybe we can purchase a new writing implement or notebook to remind us of the change we are making in  us.  As we  start to occupy a new place in our lives, the new school supply can be an instrument of encouragement.  God is making us into a new creation, but we have to allow ourselves to be moved to a new place.

Nothing to Say

English: me and my friend

English: me and my friend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most, if not all, of us have been in those situations where we find we have nothing to say.  Recently it happened to me, again.  There is a friend who is hurting.  The pain is real, and the pain is not going away.  She is hurting.  I want to help her.  I want to ease her pain, but there is nothing I can do.  This is a situation that she must go through rather than around.  Oh, if I could just find the words to take away her hurt.  I want to ease the sadness.  There are no words.

 

We all have to accept a certain amount of helplessness in our lives, including me.  I cannot take away the pain, hurt, and suffering.  But I can be present.  I can sit beside my friend without words.  I can pray for my her wherever I am.  I can ask God to be with her in her suffering.  I can learn to trust more full in God’s presence, love, and healing especially when I don’t have the words.

 

When we are hurting or when others are hurting, we have a choice to make.  We can rage against the ineffectiveness of ourselves and others to ease the hurt, or we can trust God to deal with the hurt.  We can trust God with our friends hurts that we know about as well as the hurts are not publicly know.  We can trust God to walk through us through the hard, sad, difficult, and painful times of our own lives as well.  We can open ourselves up to God’s presence with us when we are hurting rather than trying to fix things ourselves.  This dependence does not make us weak, but it allows us to grow stronger.  This reliance on God allows us to accept our own limitations as well as the limitations of those around us.

 

What choice will you make?  Will you put your trust in God or in your words?  For me, I will trust God because I know that I sometimes have nothing to say.

People Notice

My mother is a regular Facebook lurker.  I have never actually seen her post anything, but she does keep me up-to-date on a lot of people that we know.  Given these updates, it is no surprise that she looks at my Facebook.  In a recent phone call she mentioned that I had not posted about worship at my church.  Apparently, I always put something on Facebook inviting people to worship at my church.

 

This motherly observation got me to thinking.  People notice what we do and say.  They may not always voice their observations, like my mother, but they do notice.  They notice if we are not inviting them to worship.  They notice even if they do not plan to join us for worship.  They notice Facebook status updates, but they also notice our lives.  They notice if  our lives are a testimony to the faith we profess.  They notice if our lives are lived in praise of God.  They notice if we live our faith.

 

Next time you are tempted to skip doing something, remember that people notice.  People notice if you do not invite them to church.  People notice if you profess faith, but then you constantly worry.  People notice if you put more value in things than relationships.  People notice.  What are they noticing about you?

these updates, it is no surprise that she looks at my Facebook.  In a recent phone call she mentioned that I had not posted about worship at my church.  Apparently, I always put something on Facebook inviting people to worship at my church.

 

This motherly observation got me to thinking.  People notice what we do and say.  They may not always voice their observations, like my mother, but they do notice.  They notice if we are not inviting them to worship.  They notice even if they do not plan to join us for worship.  They notice Facebook status updates, but they also notice our lives.  They notice if  our lives are a testimony to the faith we profess.  They notice if our lives are lived in praise of God.  They notice if we live our faith.

 

Next time you are tempted to skip doing something, remember that people notice.  People notice if you do not invite them to church.  People notice if you profess faith, but then you constantly worry.  People notice if you put more value in things than relationships.  People notice.  What are they noticing about you?