Autograph Seekers Are Not the ONLY distractions

Yesterday, I was asked to offer ‘Sticky Faith’ (the children’s message) at St Paul’s UMC in Carolina Beach….here is my message:

On Friday I had the opportunity to go to Pinehurst NC to attend the Women’s US Open Golf Tournament. It was great to be able to see the best women golfers in the world! While there I got to see Lucy Li play. She’s a 11 year old phenom, which is someone (usually young) with extraordinary talent at something. There were huge crowds on hand to watch her at every hole. I am not sure how she was able to play with all that distraction.

When we arrived at the tournament, we were given a map that listed the tee or start times for every player.

Women's US Open PinehurstOn this paper there was a notice:

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“Spectators should keep in mind that the players’ first responsibility this week is to compete for the national championship.”

They didn’t want spectators to take pictures, or ask for autographs, or distract the players from their goal….trying to win the championship.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Paul tells us “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable prize, but we an imperishable prize.”

We are called to be the best Christians we can be. We are working toward the prize of eternal life. But just like in the golf tournament it is easy to become distracted from our goal by those around us. Our first responsibility is to behave as Christ.

We may not live a life where people clammer for our photo, or autograph. People may not follow us and cheer or jeer at what we do.  However, people can and do distract us!  It is easy to  get distracted by the praise or criticism of others. Friends or even family can distract us from mediation, from reading and studying, or from service to others.

We must keep our eye on the prize. Let’s work hard this week to not be distracted from our goal.

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You Can’t Write on the Back of a Digital Picture

I love photographs – Especially old photographs. They tell a unique and special story.  My house is decorated with photos – Some old, some new, some from adventures, or from trips, or from boring everyday life; they run the gamut of subject matter from people to landscapes, from pets to wildlife.

A few weeks ago while I visited my mother for Mother’s Day, I unearthed a paper grocery bag of old photographs. I proudly carried the bag into the common area and announced “I’ve found something fun for us to do”.

It was something fun to do.

We’d take a photo from the bag. Look at it then flip it over to see what was written on the back.

Often there was a date, a place, and maybe, if we were lucky, a list of the people in the photo. Sometimes it was my mother’s handwriting. Sometimes the handwriting was of my late grandmother. Sometimes the handwriting was from my great-grandmother. Occasionally it was unknown handwriting. You could almost hear the audible disappointment when there was no handwriting on the back.

 The handwriting gave time, place and purpose to the old photos.

Handwriting is personal. I can see my father’s handwriting in my own. I can see my mother’s handwriting in my own. The handwriting on the photographs gave a connection to the person who wrote on the photo. It is a kind of legacy.

 december 28 1964

This is one of my favorite photos of me. I’ve always thought it was cute. However, recently when I removed it from its frame to scan it so that I could share on social media sites for ‘throwback Thursdays” #TBT; it was only then that I saw my mother’s handwriting:

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Dec 28, 1964 15 days before 2nd birthday.

Suddenly the photo had a context. Suddenly the photo had a story. It took on a greater meaning just because of the words transcribed by my mother on the back.

I take a lot of pictures. Some have meaning. Some are silly. Some are just to post/share via twitter or Facebook or instagram. Rarely do I ever make hard copies of photos any more. It’s all digital.

Photos are about to change for me!

I need some hard copies. I need to scatter the memories around my house. I NEED to write on the back of photographs. I’ll still take lots of snapshots. I’ll still digitally share them. But some, a selection, will become hard copies, because you can’t write on the back of a digital picture. And some day, somewhere, someone may flip over one of my pictures and say, “Hey, Gayle wrote on this”.

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I brought home a chair

It is with regret that I inform you that after 17 years in exile my desk chair has come home.

Gayle's Desk Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see the chair is broken which is how it ended up in exile. I took it home, to my parent’s house – which I still considered home in 1997, for my father to repair.

It was an unusual trip home for me. I’d just visited the weekend before, for Mother’s Day. But I took a day off on Monday May 19th and spent a long weekend at my folks. I had ever so slightly kissed the rear-end of another vehicle in the weeks before and had acquired a new bumper for my truck.  That was the real reason for my visit. I had a new bumper and my dad and I spent the weekend putting on a new bumper. I thought we’d have time to repair the chair as well….but time ran short.

I had no idea how short!

My dad wasn’t one to wax eloquent about things, but as we worked that weekend we talked. We talked about deep subjects, particularly death and dying. At the time I knew he was speaking about a fatal diagnosis my uncle, his brother-in-law, had just received, but as fate would have it, it was a conversation I have taken much comfort in over the years. I also take much comfort that because of the conversation that weekend, my dad left me an ‘I love you’. It was never something we said but……

As I was preparing to leave on that Monday afternoon; we decided I should just leave the chair and daddy would fix it and I would bring it back on my next visit. I left it just inside the door in my dad’s barn (AKA workshop). Until this past weekend it has never been moved.

Last weekend, when I took the chair from the barn, my mom asked ‘are you going to take that chair with you’. I tried to explain but couldn’t … that it was exactly one week from being 17 years since I left it for my daddy to repair. It was time to move on and fix the chair myself.

I miss him every day! But especially this time of year!

This year, pops…..I’m fixing that chair!

don tabor

September 30, 1931 – May 27, 1997

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Sermon of Lego Discipleship

I was asked to speak on May 4th 2014 at St Paul’s UMC in Carolina Beach. After considerable thought I decided to speak on Lego and our successful Lego Club ministry. I was pleased with this concept and set about to write my words. But the words were not coming. Then on a trip to Lake Junaluska (a 7 hour car trip with four middle school aged kids), Shawn, my minister, suggested, after hearing my story about how getting out of the pew changed my life, that “getting out of the pew” should be my topic. I wasn’t convinced and continued to struggle with Lego words and nothing seemed to fit together into a message.

With reluctance, on Friday (yes, the Friday just before May 4th)  I relented and started to combine the two ideas. The words came easy but allowed little time to tweak and make changes.   I was still changing text Sunday morning just before I got up to deliver the message…which is what made it uber scary when it came time to stand up and talk! Once I began speaking I settled in and just trusted God to make the words right.

I was pleased with how it turned out. Here’s the video and the text I spoke from, as well as video of my children’s message:

Jesus said we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Last year on the first Wednesday in February we here at St Paul’s began a Lego Club and I began my journey back into childhood. I was excited to be a part of what I thought was a great idea for reaching kids (a commodity I believe we can all agree that we’d like to have more of here at St Paul’s). Our first meeting netted 8 kids….I, and I think y’all too, were pleasantly surprised. In the past year, our little group has served over 50 elementary aged kids in our community. We are currently averaging 16-20 Lego builders each week!

Lego Club

Proud of the town we built

If you have several hours, I can regale you with stories…because I have stories! Stories that will delight you and stories that will break your heart.

I will say that I oft feel like the guy in the AT&T commercial …. you know the one, there is this guy sitting at a table with a group of kids and he asks questions then seriously replies to the crazy answers….that feels like my Wednesday nights.

When the call came to find someone interested in helping with a Lego Club, my thought was hey, this will be fun….and it has been! I can tell you that there has NEVER been a Wednesday night that I have left Lego Club with anything but a song in my heart! Sure, there are Wednesdays when I don’t want to come to Lego Club….the allure of my couch is far too great. But just one second of imagining the disappointed looks on “my kids” faces is enough to get me moving to be here. What I wasn’t prepared for when I agreed to take on Lego Club were all the ways MY LIFE would change! And I don’t just mean that I now own and play with my own Lego sets or the cool Lego things that get posted on my Facebook wall! It has reminded me of a book that was popular In the mid 80’s by Robert Fulgham titled “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten”. In the book the author extols the simple virtues we learned in kindergarten. Things like share, play fair, clean up your own mess,say you’re sorry and that when you go out into the world hold hands, watch for traffic and stick together.

My experience with Lego Club has been very similar all those basic life truths come to the forefront. yet this has also been a spiritual journey. Last fall pat Litzinger, the assistant district director gave me a book, titled the Lego Principle. This book took those basic truths of life, Lego and combined them into a spiritual awakening and that is what I am here to share with you today.

You see, last January when the call came for someone to help with a Lego Club I was a happy Christian….or so I thought – I had discovered this little slice of heaven here at St Paul’s. I was attending church almost weekly and as a life long church attendee, I was content and satisfied that “me and Jesus we had a good thing going…..me and Jesus we had it all worked out”. At about the same time the call for fun with Lego came, there also was a 10 week study called Simply Christian starting that had peeked my interest. Little did I know that those two things were fixin’ to change my whole life!

Luke 10:25-28 reads like this “and a lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

 Every Lego brick is built to do two things – connect upward and connect with each other.  

In our scripture today that is exactly what Jesus tells the lawyer we should do to inherit eternal life. We must build up and create a relationship with God AND we must connect with each other and build relationships with each other.

 We must love our neighbor as ourselves.

In other words, we must learn to connect with each other. If you’ve spent any time playing with Lego you know that not every brick looks the same, not every brick connects the same, not every brick has the same purpose not every brick fits with other bricks in the same way, but there are no stand alone Lego bricks.

EVERY Lego brick is built to connect with other bricks.

Some have the capacity to connect with twelve or more other bricks while others can connect with only one other brick. The secret of Lego is not that every brick connects with the same number of other pieces but that each piece has the capacity to connect. Two 8-stud Lego bricks can be combined in 24 different ways. Three 8-stud bricks can be combined in one thousand and sixty ways. Six 8-stud bricks can be combined in one hundred and two million, nine hundred eighty one thousand five hundred ways. With eight 8-studded bricks the possibilities are virtually endless.

Just like Lego bricks, if we are using love to connect ourselves to our neighbors the ways of connection are virtually endless.  There are varieties of ways that love can be expressed and each expression of love gives us even more connections and even more relationships.

In 1974 the Lego Company started making people! These figures became wildly popular… and in 1978 they switched to the current mini-figure,or as more commonly known minfig. There are at least three thousand six hundred and fifty five different minifigs produced between 1975 and 2010….and each year they are adding more. I can tell you from my Wednesday Night experience that minfigs are THE most popular and most requested item in the Lego room. There is just never enough. By 2006, Lego had reportedly produced 4 billion minifigs. To give you a frame of reference in 2006 there were 6.5 billion people in the world.

Lego capitalized on a very important principle – people LOVE people!

After all what good is building a world without people?  The same is true of our church, the degree that we value and love people will be reflected in the way we engage our community. If we truly are “loving our neighbor as ourselves”, then we have to spend the time and effort to get to know one another. Not just the people that we like or the people that are in our same socioeconomic level or the people that look the most attractive to us or even speak our own language but all our neighbors…even Carolina fans.

I ask you this – if the early Church had the same attitude about sharing the gospel as we have today, would the Church have spread? Would we even have the The opportunity to be here today? Or would the Church have dwindled away to nothing?

When I began to come every Wednesday to Lego Club I also began to become a regular attendee at Wednesday at the Well. At first it was a convenience thing….what the heck, I’m already here. Soon it became a connectional thing, I was invested, I was connected to those who also attend Wednesday at the well.

I celebrate in their joys. I weep in their sorrows. I share in their concerns. And as a group we pray, we laugh, we love.

But even more our Wednesday nights reaches out! We’ve reached out with Wednesday night meals. We reach out to kids with Lego. We reach out to the parents of Lego kids with the ‘mom’s group’ that has formed (they are now planning their own outings, supporting one another even to the point of providing child care for each other in times of need). As a church St. Paul’s reaches out…through Martha’s kitchen, the prison ministry, and the agape inn.

Lego bricks are built for connection multi-generationally. That means that an original brick made in the 1950’s will connect just as well with a brick made today in 2014. We Christians are just like Lego bricks in that

we come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, ages and shapes.

Lego bricks come from different sets and boxes just as many Christians come from different backgrounds and faith experiences. Yet, in relationship, we can all connect. Some connect in a wide variety of ways. Some connect in fewer ways but we all connect. Just like there are no stand alone Lego bricks there are no stand alone Christians! Like Lego that connects brick by brick, so do we disciples connect to each other and the world around us one person at a time as we engage, equip and empower people around us.

The first Lego brick was invented in 1949. And although this great invention was just as great then as it is today it wasn’t until 1953 with the introduction of the Lego mat that things began to change. You see without the appropriate foundation Lego bricks just couldn’t build anything worth building. In 1955 the Lego company launched the very first “Lego System of Play: The Town Plan” From that point on Lego bricks could build just about anything.  The same is true of our discipleship relationships.

We must have a strong foundation in order to build disciples.

That foundation is our relationship with God. If you were in attendance for the weeks of lent, and listened to Shawn’s sermons, you received very practical ‘how to’ information about building a strong foundational relationship with God. I won’t recap that sermon series for you – although I have no doubt if you see Shawn after the service he can hook you up 🙂

We build our relationship with God by connecting with God through things like daily prayer, meditation, fasting and bible study. Remember when I mentioned that 10-week bible study?  Well that 10 week study has become a string of studies, lead by a variety of people. It has become a group of dedicated people who meet each Sunday for study, who pray together, and who have fun together – just last week we went out to a movie together and then to dinner. It is individuals who are actively growing and maturing together as disciples.

In his book the Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonheoffer, (if you remember Bonheoffer was a minister in Germany when the nazis and hitler came to power – he bravely stood against them) in his book Bonheoffer says

“The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves”.

When the confirmands, who we confirmed last week, embarked on the way of the cross journey they were told that this commitment superseded all other commitments. I am very proud of them that they readily complied. Make no mistake these are busy people…they at the time were in rehearsal for sussical the musical. But I wonder if the same constraints were put on we adults in our journey of faith if we would reach the finish? Or would the call of fish, golf, or relaxing by the ocean win? Would we be stuck at the office or busy with friends? Remember when I said I was a happy christian sitting In a pew? I wasn’t a happy christian  sitting in a pew…I was just a Christian SITTING in a pew.

I wasn’t a useful disciple. It wasn’t until I got out of the pew and into an active relationship with God that my life changed.

God calls us to be active disciples and to be in a relationship with him everyday and not just Sunday and we are called to go into the world and make other disciples.

One of the times when I believe we are closest to God is during communion. It is during this time of quiet reflection that my call of discipleship is renewed. 1 Corinthians 11: 26-29 says “for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup; you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”

Communion is a time of remembrance for the sacrifice given for us. It is a time of celebration for the grace under which we are forgiven. It is a time of reflection on how and what we can and should change in our life to be the best disciple we can be.

The invitation to be a part for me is akin to being with Jesus just before he laid down his life for me. To being with him as he willing took the burden to extend grace to me. Here in this church we celebrate with an open table for all who wish to come and commune with God.

We invite you now to come and be a part as we share in the Lord’s Table and as you do so I hope you consider your discipleship.

Posted in Armchair Theology | 4 Comments

Not from your Bellybutton or Dryer….Lent

I had never in my life considered giving up something for lent. I actually have thought for most of my life (okay, until last week) that it was a silly practice that some weird religions practiced. And lets be honest – the people who always talk about ‘giving up something for lent’ rarely seem like the embodiment of Christ. It is usually some raging alcoholic (or close enough no one knows the difference) who gives up the drink for Lent then spends 40 days whining over Facebook (or twitter). Or your buddy who gives up Facebook (or twitter) but is dying to know ‘what’s happening’ from you always (so much so you want to just give them a ‘like’ sign).

However, recently I began to ask myself “self, what should lent look like?” How could this practice bring about a richer and more personal walk with God? Last night I even asked the question on my Facebook page.

 

I loved the answers I received. They were thoughtful and thought provoking. Still I waffled.

Do I really want to give up something for Lent?

The answer came back to me with a resounding YES! I do want to give up something for lent. But it had to mean something; I couldn’t just deprive myself of something for 40 days just to restart at the end without there being a deeper meaning. The question remained –

WHAT?

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The answer came in something we’ve been trying to curtail for over a year – eating out. It is the expenditure we have been unable to tame – The ease, the convenience, the lack of mess. Having someone else cook and clean up is, well, just greatly enjoyable! I used to go just for the sheer joy of having someone continuously fill my sweet tea – since giving up sugar the never ending water service isn’t nearly as appealing (but I digress).

How, you say, can not eating out have meaning? 

One, as one of my friends pointed out on my Facebook, after 21 days something is a habit. The habit of eating at home – of having a plan, of prepping in advance for those overly tempting occasions – is a habit I wish to develop. Lent seems like a perfect time to stretch those habit forming muscles.

Two, there’s the money that will be saved. Eating out is expensive! Although we have been amazed at the savings of drinking water versus soft drinks or tea.

Here’s the plan.

Anytime in the next 40 days that my household struggles with wanting to eat out, we will:

  • Decide where we would have gone
  • Determine how much that would have cost
  • And donate that amount to a worth cause

As I sit here writing this, knowing that we’re broke, it seems impossible to consider donating. But to use Jenn’s new favorite quote “It’s the hard that makes it great”

What about you? Are you giving up something for Lent? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

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New Hobby

Giving up sugar is quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever attempted. Sugar is associated with so many of life’s delights. Things like birthday cake, or Reece’s peanut butter Easter eggs. Oreos and ice cream. Sweet tea and soft drinks. It’s not a diet coke and a smile, after all.

Sodas

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy water. I drink a lot of it. But I love a good soft drink on occasion.

Which makes my hobby of soda making a perfect fit!

For quite some time the idea of brewing beer has appealed to me. I love the idea of creating something that is uniquely my own. However, beer making as a hobby is impracticality for me….I just don’t drink enough to make it worth the time or effort to prefect my craft. So, for several years, I’ve experimented with making sodas. There is a fine line with yeast to make sodas that have enough fermentation to fizz but not so much they are gross. With the last batch of ginger ale, I almost hit perfection. But then I began needing to limit my sugar intake and naturally carbonated sodas require sugar and yeast to create the fermentation that causes the fizz.

I invested Ina sodastream. It’s a neat contraption that carbonates water. No muss no fuss. I’ve been experimenting with various flavorings and creations. Few of which have been keepers.

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However, for valentines day I received a book on soda making. Soda making using an external source of carbonation (ie making the syrup and adding carbonated water).

A few nights ago I attempted my first of the sodas…a sugar-free cream soda.

The process was easy.

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And the result tasty. My only complaint is that the syrup separates from the water. The result is visual unappealing to me. Thankfully it’s not doing my consumption.
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I can’t wait to try the next one.

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