Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We Will...?

So this past week, I had a friend introduce me to TED talks.  If you know what they are, you may think, "About time, it has only been around since 1984!" (Which makes it older than I am)  For everyone else, TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.  It started off as a conference intended to bring people from the three worlds of design, technology, and entertainment together.  It has grown since then.  You should look it up. 

The other day, I watched a one where Ze Frank was the speaker.  Many people may not recognize the name, but essentially, he is a blogger gone crazy.  Frank studied neuroscience at Brown and even played in a band.  One day he sent out an "Online Birthday Invitation" to 17 of his closest friends.  After a few forwards of this email, the invitation had reached over a million people.  And that was how it all started.  Since then Frank has been connecting people of different cultures and backgrounds through "the network".

In his talk, Frank mentions something very relevant to our lives as Christians.  He talks about why there has been so much success in all of these things he is doing.  He uses an example of a street sign of a crosswalk, where the person is pressing the button to cross the street and compares it to a person standing on the street fully engaged in their cell phone.  "Life is being lived in that moment" he says.  Which is true.  He then goes on to talk about this need to feel and to be felt.  That this is a way for people to connect and to be felt and for others to connect to them and to feel. 

This concept made me think.  In a society that has become so accustomed to being independent.  Disagree?  Just ask Kelly Clarkson, Beyonce, or Lil Webbie...all of who have songs out about celebrating being an independent individual.  But is that what we really are suppose to be?  I agree with Ze Frank, deep inside of us, everyone has this need to connect to someone to understand to have them understand.  We all want to have this deep powerful connection. To feel and to be felt...

Hasn't that already happened?  

Wasn't Jesus made man and died on the cross to understand human suffering to forgive us of our sins.  In that moment, we are felt.  In one of the most powerful, meaningful ways possible. 

Isn't that what this community is there for?  Isn't that why we have our church family.  To have a community to support us and be there for us as we grow?  

Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ? 

We are asked this every Baptism and as a congregation and we always respond, "We Will!"

From our childhood, we already have this entire group of people who have devoted themselves to helping you and being their for you.  All in the name of Christ.  This great and amazing person that was made man and died for us.  Shouldn't that mean we should be dependant instead of so independent.
Now as someone that has been referred to as "independent to a fault" it is very difficult for me to do this.  To fully give yourself to Christ.  To feel and be felt by Christ.  To connect with Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ.

In a society that promotes and encourages to be independent, I propose the opposite.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I start today with a question I have been challenged with for a long time.  A question I continue to search for the answer.  Everytime I think I find something, something else happens that will change my answer.
Why do you go to church?
Has it just become a weekly tradition that was engrained in you by your parents.  Are you trying to set a good example for your children?  It's just what you do.  I can atleast give part of my day to this stuff, right?  
Now, for the most part, I do not people have these outlooks on the subject.  I do believe the reason for most is just, to learn about Christ, to grow closer in community through Jesus, to grow their faith, to worship the Lord for all the great and amazing things he has done.
But sometimes, my mind just isn't in it.  Being so busy and constantly thinking of other things, I found that while my body was at church, my mind was not.
I want to share 2 short stories from when I was younger and I was considering this question.
The first time I was on a DYC event called Bishop's Bash youth from all over West Tennessee gathered in Eva, TN.  While there someone challenged us with a question.  Being that there were over 60 high schoolers all sitting in the floor in a small hot room, it was doubtful most were listening.  But that question still makes me think.  He brought up the Nicene Creed and asked what it said.  Since we are all good Episcopalians, we know it by memory, no BCP needed!  He stopped us.  Yes, that is how it goes, but what does it mean?  That still gets me.  I wanted to know why we did everything!  I didn't want to just say things.  I wanted to mean it.  No more going through the motions.  I wanted to be intentional about my time during worship.
Another time, also in high school, I found that I was spending a lot of time at church and youth group.  If I wasn't there, I was hanging out with my friends from youth group.  My schedule was getting pretty busy.  I was pretty involved at church.  I went to every event.  I was on DYC.  I was a lecturer.  I was also pretty busy at school.  3 AP's and a  couple of honors classes.  I was VP for German Club, a member of NAHS, FCA, I was on the bowling team (really), and even ran on the cross country team for a little bit.  I played competitive soccer...I mean, I was a busy kid.  But I had made it a priority to go to church and be as involved as possible.  I was asked why am I trying so hard to be there for everything.  I did not really know at the time.  I just loved it.  Yes, all my friends were there, but sometimes they weren't.  But I just made friends with the other people that were there.  We all became very good friends and one big community.  Looking back it makes sense.  The atmosphere!  I was constantly surrounded by these pressures.  Pressure for good grades, good times, good scores, playing better, trying to impress EVERYBODY!  At a time when you feel that nothing you do is every good enough, it can take its toll.  I found one way I could get away was to go to church and youth group.
It was a place where I was friends with everyone there.  Were my best friends always there, no.  But I made new friends.  In all honesty, those friends are some of the same people that I am still very good friends with today.  All the pressure of the outside "real" world just didn't matter there.  You could have fun with no worries about having to impress anyone. 
So why do you go to church?  Or why do you not?
My friends weren't going that day.  I didn't think anyone would be there.  I was tired.
Yea, we can't be there always.  But ask yourself, Why SHOULD you go to church?  
What seems to be a stronger answer? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"What does it mean to be Episcopalian?"

Being a cradle Episcopalian myself, I never had to go out and search for a church that suited me, I was just an Episcopalian, so I went to an Episcopal church.  Something many of our youths do today.  I remember starting my formation classes at St. George's Church in Germantown.  Being Confirmed.  Continuing my formation classes here at Holy Communion.  Going on Pilgrimage.  Then I graduated and went off to college.  It seemed to me that people are more willing to discuss religion in college than in high school.  I still remember to this day, because in a way, it changed my life. I was asked a simple question, one you may be asked a hundred times and have answered without even giving it a second thought.

"So what denomination are you?" 
" Episcopal!"  I proclaimed proudly, as we Episcopalians often do. 
"Oh, ok cool.  I don't know too much about that, what do they believe?"


I was then asked a serious of questions to which my response was always..."Ummm..."

How could I claim that I was a proud Episcopalian and have gone through Episcopal formation classes, yet I know nothing  about it! 

The next day I spent hours doing research and getting books about the Episcopal church, learning the difference between different denominations, trying to learn anything I could.  It fascinated me!  So much so, that I even switched to a religious studies major.  In one of my classes I read a book Putting Away Childish Things by Marcus Borg.  The moral of the book is to stop accepting things that you are simply told.  Ask questions, dare to learn, find things out on your own.

These lessons are also preached in a book I am reading right now, Who Needs Theology? 

In this book, it claims that everyone is a theologian.  However, there are different levels of theology.  Lay Theology, Folk Theology, Ministerial Theology, Academic Theology, and Professional Theology are the types of listed in this book.  Most of them are very similar in that they require a deeper questioning and yearning to learn more, to know more.  To grow.  To ask!  This book claims that the lowest form is folk theology.  What is this that it is so low in regards to other forms of theology?  The lack of questioning!  In folk theology, you simply take what you are taught or read as fact.  You hear it and believe it.  There is no deeper questioning or wanting to know more.

As Marcus Borg puts it, this is a child's thought process.  As we grow, our faith needs to grow as well.  This means asking questions and trying to figure things out on your own, as opposed to just hearing and believing.

This is the mind set that I wish to introduce into our formation classes.  We want to question.  We want to strive to learn in community, through discussion.  That is the great thing about the Episcopal church!  Is that is what we can do and what we are encouraged to do! 

So what does it mean to be an Episcopalian?  What do you believe?  What kind of theologian are you?  I dare to ask you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happening #52 Reflection

Afternoon greetings everybody.  Hope everyone is doing well.  This past weekend, I had the distinct honor of being apart of an amazing event called Happening.  For those of you who do not know, Happening is a spiritual renewal weekend that is put on by the youth of the church.  As a former Happener of #34, I am very happy to once again be apart of this incredible weekend. (We are now up to #53.)
Throughout the weekend, you are surrounded by friends, music, compassion, and the spirit of Christ.  Sometimes we find it difficult to see how God is working in our lives.  Sometimes it is even harder to understand how we can be playing that role for others.  At Happening, you see a group of 60+ and you see the amazing works of Christ shining through everyone there.  Regardless of where you are on your own spiritual journey, you are like Christ to someone.  You inspire someone, you are teaching someone, you are helping someone come closer to Christ, just by being you. 
One of the greatest things I saw this weekend was the pure selflessness of so many people, who sacrificed so much of their time to make this weekend happen.  They were true servant leaders.
 The Servant Song
Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are brothers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony

Remember what is Important

Many times, we are too busy to really focus on what is important in life.  Our priorities get out of line.  We feel lost and overworked.  Here is a story I ran across the other day that I wanted to share with everyone that I thought had a good message. 
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

Without speaking, he picked up a large, empty mayonnaise jar and filled it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar.
He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
The sand filled the remaining gaps.

He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded with an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things - God, family,children, health, friends, and favorite passions Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else -- The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

So pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children.
Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

'Take care of the golf balls first -- The things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled, "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Be Thankful

What a BEAUTIFUL DAY today! Am I right?  Thanks be to GOD!  What a delicious meal that was!  Thank you Jesus for this daily bread.  Ah! The lights in my office are still working!  Bless you Father! 

How often do you hear or say any of these things?  Maybe once in a blue moon?  After saying how great something was, how often do you hear or give thanks to the Lord?  Probably even less.

Oh God, please help me pass this test!
Oh Jesus, help me get to work on time!
My friend is sick, please help them, God.

How often do you hear or say prayers like this?  A lot more common than the prayers of thanksgiving.

This past Sunday, one thing really stood out to me.  During the prayers of the people, we pause and allow for everyone to offer their own petitions.  There is normally a pause of a minute or two while people offer prayers for others or needs or wants.  Many people will speak their prayers aloud while many more mutter a few names and prayers under their breath.  Right after this, their is another moment of silence. 

"We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life."

People may add their own thanksgivings

Why do we find it so difficult to be thankful for all the great things we are blessed with.  Praying for others or praying for our needs is not wrong or bad or something that is not important.  But shouldn't we be able to be thankful for all that we do have? 

One very popular way of prayer is to follow the acronym ACTS. 
 Simply put, praise Jesus.  He is pretty amazing, so tell him.
Tell Jesus what you have done wrong and why, apologize to Him, seek forgiveness, and thank Him for it.
Express your gratitude to Jesus for His love, mercy, grace, leading, sustenance, discipline, and blessing.
 Ask Jesus to guide, heal, protect, comfort, sustain, or provide for you, or intercede for someone else.
Notice how we should give thanksgiving before asking for prayers?  Why are we always so quick to ask, but find it so difficult to truly thank.
"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines."