Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Do what you can, in the time that you are given, in the place where you are.

So a few months ago I decided that I did not do very well with staying in touch with what was going on in the world.

Naturally, instead of watching the news more of reading the paper, I downloaded an app.

Man, I am so hip with technology…

So now whenever news happens in the world, I get an update from CNN and if news happens in Memphis, I get the Action News 5 update.

I don’t know how many of you out there have these apps or get these updates but it has been one of the most depressing things.

I remember the first update I got.  “42 die in boat crash in Italy.”

Even just today, “Husband indicted on first-degree murder charges in wife’s death”.

It seems that every single day, something bad happens.  Why does this continue to happen?! 

Many times people turn to God when bad things happen and ask “Why? Why do you allow this to happen?”

One time I was reading something articles on this topic and ran across a picture.  A meme if you will.

What great and wonderful message can you get from a meme you may ask.

There was a man sitting on a bench talking to Jesus.  He asks, “Why do you allow all of these horrible things to happen?”

Jesus’ response, “That’s funny.  I was going to ask you the same thing.”

I think it is perfectly natural and normal to question and to be angry when something bad happens.  Yes, it is natural to blame it others as well.  It seems that a lot of times when you don’t know who to blame, we blame God.

Why did you allow this happen?!

As Christians, we are called to do many things.  As Episcopalians, we are allowed to believe a great number of things. 

One thing that many people believe is that some people are just born bad.  That they were created with an innate sense of evil and are destined to do bad things.

This is a concept that I strongly disagree.  I remember in one of my elementary school science classes we learned the principles of Causality.  If one thing happens, that directly causes something else to happen.

A few weeks ago, Rabbi Micah Greenstein came to be a guest speaker at our church.  A few of his words really stuck out to me and that is what I want to leave with you today.

Do what you can, in the time that you are given, in the place where you are.

That one sentence has remained with me for weeks since hearing Rabbi Greenstein say it.

There are plenty of problems hear in the city of Memphis.

In cities with a population of 500,000 or more, Memphis is the 3rd most dangerous city in America.

Ranked 2nd when it comes to Violent Crimes.

80% of the bottom ranked schools in the state of Tennessee are located in Memphis.

Did you know that more than 50% of 3rd graders in Tennessee can read at grade level?

So when you look at these statistics and we see that we have a lack of education, we have a lot of crime…there is a lot of work that can be done here.

In a city that has over 2,000 churches in it, where many of these places go off to other cities or countries to do week long mission trips.  Which is great, but what about the other 51 weeks in the year where you are not there to help.

Do what you can, in the time that you are given, in the place where you are.

The place that we are needs helps. 

What can we do to help?

We don’t have to go very far to make a difference.

So when we ask ourselves, why does God allow these bad things to happen?

Instead, look around and ask, what can I do to help make a change?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Episcopal Church...according to a high school senior

My, my has it been a cold week!  Hope everyone has kept warm and kept their power during the weekend. 

In the past I have shared stories about growing up as a proud Episcopalian.  Claiming it proudly and wearing all my Episcopal “swag” whenever possible.  If you are wondering how much Episcopal apparel can someone really own; the answer is a lot.  Belts, keychains, multiple sweatshirts, hats, bumper stickers, license plates, and more t-shirts than I know what to do with.  I even currently have a 4’x 7’ Episcopal flag hanging in my office.

All that being said, when I went to college and I was asked to describe what it meant to be Episcopal…I was speechless.

I just stuttered and ummmm’d and said a few things but the more I thought about it the more I realized I didn’t know. 

Yesterday, one of the seniors in our youth group told me about how they were writing a paper for school about how much he loved the Episcopal Church and its beliefs.  Today they sent me a copy of that paper and was delighted to read it.

One great thing about the Episcopal Church is how open and loving we are.  Even ask Robin Williams!  If you did not know, Robin Williams is one of the many famous Episcopalians.  In one of his comedy bits, he names the top ten reasons to be an Episcopalian.  What was number 1? 

“No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.”

Such a true statement!  So to change things up, instead of me talking about my thoughts on the Episcopal church, I have decided to let the words of our youth say why they love this church so much.

If you were to know a brief history about me and my family, it would not be surprising to find that I have always been Christian and am surrounded by Christian family, since I am a white male living in the Southeastern United States. My ancestors lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi—all of which are included in the “bible belt”—since before the Civil War, so Christianity has always been present in my family. The aforementioned ancestors ranged from being mainly Methodists and Baptists but with an occasional Catholic.  When my grandfather married my grandmother, he was exposed to the Episcopal Church. Being a former Methodist with some Catholic background, he loved the mixture of the two denominations that he felt. He felt a homey sense that can be found in a Methodist church when the congregation converses with each other before the service. However, he thoroughly enjoyed the formality similar to that of a Catholic service in which ancient chants, psalms, and hymns are sung and the same liturgy is followed that was written thousands of years ago. And so, the Episcopal Church was introduced to my family tree. I am an Episcopalian, and this denomination of Christianity has shaped the man that I am becoming today.
            As an adolescent growing up, I didn’t understand the expansive diversity that Christianity contains within its countless denominations. My young mind could only wonder why we all weren’t just one Christian church. After all, we each claim that Jesus is the Son of God who was sent to rescue mankind from our sinful nature and that he is our Savior. To a young, naïve Christian mind, isn’t that all that matters? That we all love Jesus? This lack of understanding caused my Christian journey to be confusing as a child. I went to a conservative school from junior kindergarten to sixth grade. This school was heavily affiliated with a massive, conservative church. It was so stern in its beliefs that children of different religions hardly felt welcome at all. I knew only one Hindu and one Muslim who attending solely for the educational prestige of the school as an elementary school. I did not meet a Jewish person until my arrival at a college-preparatory school for middle and high school . Thus, any Bible class or seminar about manhood at my elementary school caused great confusion to a young Episcopalian like myself. This was because I would go to school five days a week, hear Bible classes taught from a very conservative point-of-view, and then go to church on Sunday and hear a more liberal understanding of the Bible and its message. At the time, conflicts were as small as the question of whether or not women should be welcomed in clergy. My church said yes; I was even baptized by a woman. My school and its church said no; women were not to be included. This confusion, although miniscule, caused me to become frustrated to the point that I would just “go with the flow” depending on which setting I was in.
            Once I got to 7th grade, I had become less concerned about what I truly believed with my faith due to frustration and more concerned about what would make me seem less like a religious radical in the minds of a bunch of 13 year olds. Thus, I rejected any notion of evolution; I said I believed homosexuality was an abomination and more. 7th and 8th grade were years spent of my family trying to explain that evolution was a fact that couldn’t be denied and that maybe homosexuals are not an abomination. It wasn’t until 9th grade that everything began to change. Some credit is due to my biology teacher, who showed me that evolution was a fact that I believed couldn’t be denied. At first, this scared me. But, with the help of family and a priest, I learned evolution theories and God’s creation can be pressed together in a way that they can coexist. However, this realization was not the most monumental in the strengthening and foundation of my own true Episcopal faith.
            In 10th grade, I attended a weekend retreat called Happening upon the demand of my mother. My older sister who had previously attended Happening, assured me that it would be amazing; she could not have been any more correct. Happening changed my life. Through prayer, reflection, and discussion with priests I began to find ideals that truly felt right for me to believe; I felt completely comfortable in believing them. The way in which this came about is surprising considering my middle school beliefs. At Happening, the leader for my retreat was a homosexual man. At first, this made me uncomfortable, as I was still unsure about how I felt about homosexuality in Christianity. But, after many conversations with this man, I thought to myself that there is no way God is going to damn this man—who loves God with all his heart, who does nothing but try to make people happy in a positive way, and who works exhaustingly to spread God’s message—to hell for being homosexual. I realized that it could be possible that maybe this man didn’t decide to be gay but that he was made that way, just as I felt that I never decided to be heterosexual but that I just am and always have been. My next thought was that, if it is true that we are made hetero or homosexual, then, wouldn’t it be unfair for God to create homosexuals and, thus, give them no hope of salvation. So, I decided that God does not damn these people to hell but loves them the same as he loves a straight man as long as they act with the same sexual morality that is expected between a man and a woman. It was this realization that opened the doors that allowed the fullest effect of the Episcopal Church to come flooding into my life.
            Now as a senior, I feel I can begin to have a full grasp on the Episcopal Church. Long conversations with my youth leader and others influential Episcopalians in my life have brought exposure to the ideas of pluralism to my understanding. For me, the Episcopalian Church boils down to one word. Acceptance. I believe that gender, race, sexual orientation, and demographics should not dictate whether you can participate or serve in church and certainly not dictate whether you are saved. I understand that not everyone agrees with this statement, but I will never say that my beliefs are the only correct beliefs. The Episcopal Church has shown me that man is not given the right to judge with path to salvation is the correct one. Only God judges that. That is the most comforting feeling that the Episcopal Church has given me.

            This branch of Christianity has affected me in such a way that it shapes the man that I hope to become. I aspire to be accepting, understanding, and open. However, I don’t want to reflect these qualities only when concerning religion, but also I want to display them in everything I do. 

Zoo Lights #Santa! #CHCEYC

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mark your calendars!

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Putting the Christ back in X-mas....?

Tuesday greetings!

Put the Christ back in Christmas!

How many times have you heard this?  How often do you see stickers or Facebook posts claiming to put the “Christ” back in Christmas?

Or have you ever seen someone write this… “Merry X-mas”

There have been many arguments against the abbreviation of Christ to “X” and about how Christ has been lost in the very season that we celebrate his birth.

Well, I am here to argue also.

But argue a very different, very important topic.

First I will start with the “X-mas”.

Many people believe that the abbreviation of Christ to an “X” is a fairly recent occurrence.  And in today’s society many people find the “X-mas” offensive.

Well, did you know that the letter x has been used as a symbol for Christ since around year 300?

It comes from one of the first christograms. 

Have you ever seen this image before?

This may be a symbol that we see all over the place yet never asked ourselves what it meant.  Well, this symbol is called the Chi Rho.  This image comes from superimposing the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ ("ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ").  The symbol was designed to invoke the crucifixion of Jesus and also to represent the status of Christ.

Hmmm…that is an interesting point.

Now, it is my personal opinion that it is up to you to decide what you believe.  If you believe that using X-mas is offensive.  I have no problems with that.  However, I will ask that you understand where these things come from and truly understand the meaning why things are done.  Knowing what we now know about the Chi Rho, does it make a little bit of sense way X-mas can make sense?

Now onto the other point…

Put the Christ back in Christmas…

I do believe that consumerism and materialism have become so over powering that many people do not fully understand the meaning of Christmas.  What the holiday means and why we celebrate it. 

But if we take a step back, is this a problem that we only encounter during the Christmas season?

As Christians we are called to live and show the love of Christ to everyone, at all times, no matter what!  Notice how I said “at all times” not “during Christmas”.

Yes, we can argue that Christ has been lost when it comes to the Christmas season.  But if we take a look back at the events of last week…one day we gather with family and friends and give thanks for all of the wonderful blessings in our lives.  We bless what we have and give thanks.

One comment I read really hit me this past week…

Black Friday- because only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

This comment really stood out to me. 

So many times we say our blessings and say we are thankful…we say everything that we are suppose to…

Then we forget it and keep living our lives the way we want to, not the way we know we are suppose to.

Let’s all strive to DO better…not just say better.

Stop only doing the talk, but do the walk.

We may say we need to put the Christ back in Christmas…

I say let’s try putting the Christ but in Christianity…

They greatest way to spread the love of Christ, to show what it means to be a Christian, to evangelize, to spread the good word, the absolute best way to speak to someone isn’t to tell them about it.

It’s to live it.  

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Be Thankful!

Tuesday greetings!

In the season of Thanksgiving, we are all reminded of how blessed we are in our lives, but what does it mean to be truly thankful?

What are you thankful for? Personally, I am thankful for the Vols, good food, Ellen, Carter, Alex, and Mac. I am thankful for my family, friends, and neighbors.
                                                                                    (this section was written by Ellen C.)
As always, I think the first place you need to start when you are trying to figure out the true meaning of something is to look at the word itself.

The word thankfulness, as used in the New Testament of the Bible, come from the use of two Greek words.  The first word being charizomai, which comes from charis meaning “grace.”  The second word is homologeo meaning “to confess or acknowledge.”  Therefore, thankfulness is a mental and or verbal expression of one’s acknowledgement and appreciation of God’s person, God’s grace, blessings, and sovereign work in one’s life and the world.

That may sound a bit confusing and hard to understand but it does bring up some very good points.  The key point being that we should be thankful. 

How important is it to be thankful?  Important enough that the word Eucharist or communion, the name from which our church gets it wonderful name from, actual means The Great Thanksgiving.

Did you know that?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time that reminds us how important it is to give thanks.  We are able to verbally show our gratitude to others and share how grateful we are for all the blessings in this life.

But why do we only fully celebrate the act of giving thanks one day out of the year?

This Sunday, as you sit in the pews, I want you to listen during the Prayers of the People.  There is a spot where there is a pause and we asked to give thanks and add our own petitions that we are thankful for…

This is one of those times that we are asked to speak, given the chance to acknowledge and be thankful!  Yet, I promise you that during this time all you will hear is silence.

Why do we struggle to give thanks!

Why is it that in today’s society we find it so difficult to acknowledge and give credit to others?  Is being independent so engrained in our culture that we lack the capability to truly give thanks at all times?

This Thanksgiving, I propose a challenge.

Break the mold.

As you gather for your big feast on Thanksgiving Day, share all your thanks with those around as you normally would.

But then, the day after thanksgiving…do it again.

Then again…

And again…

Imagine what type of place the world would be if we truly gave thanks for everything all the time, everyday?

When you hear that, how many of you first think….Hmm, that would be weird!!!

I don’t think it is.  I think it is weirder to not be thankful. 

As we go through the holidays, remember how the different people have been there for you.  Remember all of those who have helped you out or maybe even just listened when you needed to vent.

Remember them.  Not just one day of the year.  Always be thankful!

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Church and the Holy Spirit

One topic that is always difficult to explain in the church is the Trinity.  It isn’t always the easiest concept to grasp.   

Three in one and one in three. 

How is that not the least bit confusing?

The joke about Trinity Sunday is that you make the young fresh out of seminary priest preach on that Sunday because the more experienced priests know how difficult it is to write those sermons.

When it comes to the Trinity, I think it is the Holy Spirit that is the most difficult to explain.  Historically, this is one of the hot topic issues of the church.  The concept of the Holy Spirit was one of the big reasons that the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches split!

Well, now I am going to take a stab at speaking about the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I am a good one to do so because of one very good reason.

I have seen the Holy Spirit.

This past weekend I was one of 58 youth and adults who act like youth that attended the yearly Diocesan Youth retreat known as Bishop’s Bash.  Talk about an amazing time!

Over the years, this has not been the strongest program offered dropping down to as little as 23 people present at the event last year. This year…58.

When I look back at my experiences in youth group, it is very difficult to put my finger on exactly what it was that kept me coming back.  There was never really one amazing outstanding moment or epiphany that I had that opened my eyes to what the church was or helped me continually try to strengthen my faith.  There wasn’t one single moment because I believe that all the moments did that. 

I will admit that in high school, sitting in a pew for church did not mean much to me.  Again, I will be honest and say that even to this day, sometimes I struggle with that same thing.  Finding church in the church.

One lesson I learned was that you don’t have to be in church to learn about the church or to find the church.  A church is much more than a building with a cross on it.  Yes, that is the physical place that we call a church.  However, the church is so much more.

It is the people that make the church.  If you love running and you find peace while out on a run and experience something special, then why can’t that be the church for you?  If you love playing sports and you truly enjoy it! Why can’t that be worship if you are celebrating the gifts that God has blessed you with!

A few years ago, Bishop Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina came to the Calvary Lenten Preaching series.  In his sermon he spoke on the subject of why the numbers of people going to church or steadily declining.  His answer, the church as we know it is dying. 

Well, what can we do about that? 

Simple, take the church to them!

If it is a struggle to get someone to church to worship, go to them and show them that the church is so much more than simply a building.

I have seen the church at work in so many wonderful places this past year.  On the soccer field watching the team I coach celebrate after scoring their first goal of the season that they forgot they had to line up for a kick off.

At the Corn Maze at the agricenter when I watched 75 youth come out and play and explore and work together to find their way through the brain shaped maze cut into the corn.

In the youth room when one youth offers to tutor another who is struggling in a certain subject.

If you take the church to the people and show them what it really means to be a Christian then you will accomplish so much more than if you just invite them to church.

Live the life, take the church to the people, and see what happens.

Want an example?

So as I said, this past weekend was Bishop’s Bash.  After the weekend was over, we send everyone home.  Do they leave?


We look out on the porch and see everyone one of them outside playing a game called “Couches”.  No one wanted to leave. 

Finally, after getting them to leave one question was asked, “Matt, what’s EYC tonight!?”

Really?  We just spent the past 45 hours together on this retreat.  The one thing they wanted to do was spend more time together.

About 3 hours later as we gathered in the youth room, about 15 youth just sat and hung out for over 2 hours. 

When you take the church to others, the response can be amazing.  Show them what the church really is, what it can really mean, and then they will choose to go on their own.

Now what does this have anything to do with the Holy Spirit?

You know that feeling you get when you should leave but don’t want to.

When you try to leave church but stop in the Parish Hall to talk to one person.  Then another.  And another…before you know it another hour has passed.

That is the same feeling I experienced when I was a youth.  I never wanted to leave the church.  Not because I was at the church, but because the people I was with was the church for me.  That is what happened this weekend.  This group of youth, that just wants to spend time together.  They are the church for each other.  That feeling you get when you start to walk away to go home but hesitate….stop and keep talking…

That, my friend, is the Holy Spirit.  That is the church.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Street

Ok, so why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed cross the road?

Now I must admit this is not a joke that I came up with while sitting here in my office.  It is actually a book by Brian McLaren in which the title of the book poses this question.

There is no punch line but it does pose a pretty interesting question.  Imagine that group of people all together, just strolling across the street.  How would that conversation go?  What would they talk about?

Here we have figureheads from four of the major religions in the world.  Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.  How do you think they would treat each other?

Compare that to how do we treat each other in today’s society?

If we take a look at the teachings of each of these religions, I wonder what we can learn from how each of us should treat each other.

Let’s start with Moses.

Now the teachings of Moses are sometimes difficult to track down but he did teach that if you would obey God, "He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will multiply the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land -- the corn, wine, oil, and your flocks. You shall be prospered above all people, and the Lord your God will take away from you all sickness and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon you." He even said: "Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth." "You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. You shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you."

What are the laws that he says to obey?  Well, those are well documented in the Bible as the Ten Commandments.  When these commandments were given to Moses, the people celebrated because it was an outline of how the people could show to love God. 

So here we have the basic premise of these Divine Laws being love.

Moving on…the Buddha.

Once the Dali Lama claimed that his religion was kindness.  Looking back at the teachings of the Buddha, love was essential to a life of spiritual liberation.  Loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and a particular form of equanimity are the four kinds of love taught and encouraged in classic Buddhist teachings.

Again, we have love as a basic premise to the teachings of the Buddha.

Next, lets look at Mohammed.

Did you know that when Mohammed first founded Islam that it was designed with the intention of taking aspects of the major religions of the world and combining them into a religion that could be widely accepted by all.

When thinking of tolerance and love, Mohammed had this to say,”Once the Prophet was seated at some place in Madinah, along with his Companions. During this time a funeral procession passed by. On seeing this, the Prophet stood up. One of his companions remarked that the funeral was that of a Jew. The Prophet replied, "Was he not a human being?" (Sahîh Bukhârî, Sahîh Muslim, Sunan An-Nasâ'î)

So, the basic premise of Islam was unity and caring for all people, regardless of faith.  Again, another religion where love for all people is at the root of the religion.

Which finally brings me to Jesus.

Whenever I think of what the teachings of Jesus were I always think of Matthew 22:37-39.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

Last year, I worked at a retreat where we focused on this verse with the theme of the week being “Walk in Love”.

So if these are the greatest to commandments given to us by Jesus, again we love at the center of it all.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to return to my Alma Mater, the University of Tennessee, to watch Auburn run all over my beloved Vols.

While the game itself was not what I was hoping for, the experience I had will not soon forget.

I was able to reunite with many of friends from school and catch up.  In my lifetime I have seen many friendships struggle when the topic of religion is introduced.  It can tear people apart. 

Luckily for me, this has not been the case.  While I have many friends that all fall in the category of the “Episco-posse”, I also have many that do not fall under that category.

My friend group from school included me, a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim, and a Catholic.  Religion never got in the way of our friendship.  We all knew where each other stood, discussed it and all got along anyway.

This weekend reminded me of this book by Brian McLaren.  So imagine that Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed were crossing the street…

Four people whose foundation of their teachings were love and compassion.

Imagine if we lived in a world where we were all so accepting and tolerant of everyone else, regardless of religion or any differences we may have.

How are we doing in our lives at living out the teachings of love that is at the very premise of the religion that we claim to follow?

So, Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed were crossing the street…

How different would the world be if we all lived that way?  Imagine how different it would be if just one person showed love to someone who may be a little different that you.

Do you think it would catch on? 

Isn’t that worth a try?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

God...Our Number one Fan!

Tuesday greetings! 

It is no surprise to anyone that knows me but I am a huge Tennessee fan.  More often than not I am wearing something that has orange on it and someone will always point out that I wear orange every single day.

It is also not really a secret that right now, Tennessee really isn’t that great at football.

Tennessee Football, which is suppose to be an outstanding program, hasn’t had a winning season since 2007 and has a 20-26 win-lose record since that season.  One of those loses coming at the hands of Kentucky.  A lose that ended a 26 year old win streak for UT. 

My favorite pro team is of course the Tennessee Titans.  Who have not really had an outstanding season since the likes of Steve McNair, Eddie George, Kevin Dyson, and Blaine Bishop were on the field.  There was that one 11-0 start but let’s be honest.  That may have just been a fluke because they started the next season 0-6.

Now, you may be thinking...why on earth are you just sharing facts about how bad these teams are...

What does this have anything to do about church?

Well, it’s the south...so everything can relate to football, right?

Many times in our lives as Christians, we are faced with challenges and difficult decisions.  We have obstacles set in our way and they make it difficult for us.

It can be any number of things that burden us.  You may experience a death in the family, or you may have had a falling out with a friend.  Someone close to you may be sick and you are worried for them.  School may really be kicking your butt right now and you are really worried about your grades.  Or maybe you just aren’t happy with something in your life and you feel far from God.

Now over these past few years, I have never strayed from my fandom towards my Tennessee teams.  I have rejoiced during the glorious upsets and may have shed a few tears during the lows.  I have laughed at some situations because I didn’t know how else to respond and I have become so angry that I have had to close the window so my neighbors couldn’t hear me yelling at the TV. 

Some may be thinking, that’s a little cray cray.  Also a lot of you are probably thinking, yup, I know what you mean.

Being a die hard fan for a team is not easy.  You have to endure the ups and downs, the bad trades, and the guarantee draft pick that will turn your team around that ends up being a complete bust.  You see the program be built up, torn apart, rebuilt, suffer injuries, coaches come and go, but in the end, you remember that history and stay loyal to that team. 

It is hard to be a fan.  It is also hard to be a Christian.

In our lives we have our ups and downs.  We have those times that we have everything together and things are going great.  Then something happens and we feel completely broken.  We build ourselves back up.  Things happen in our lives that hurt us and leave scars.  We forgive and move on but we don’t forget the lessons we learn.  We may have one person that you look up to for years and years and even if they are not there anymore you can still think back to the lessons they taught you.  You can be hurt so bad that you want to turn away from God because you don’t understand why!  Why would, why could this happen!? 

In my life I have learned that, yes, sometimes bad things may happen to me but does that mean give up?

I look back and rejoice.  I am who I am today because of what has happened in my life.  The good and the bad.  The ups and the downs.  They make up the story of my life.  They make me who I am.  We are called to love ourselves.  The good and the bad.  The good decisions and the mistakes. 

Even if you don’t see it in the moment or are not even looking for it, God has not and will not give up on you.  God will always be searching and trying to stay with you through thick and thin.  God is loyal to you because you were created in God’s image.  You were God’s favorite creation.  God loves you and will always stand by your side.  God is you loyal die hard fan.

If we can have so much love for a sports team that not only gives us reason to celebrate but also hurts us, why can we have that same relationship with God?  Why is it easier to turn our backs to God than it is to a football team?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All Saints' Day

Tuesday greetings!  Hope you are all doing wonderful on this amazing fall afternoon. 

As we near the end of October a very important day is on the horizon.  Many simply refer to this as Halloween; however, there is a very important tradition that surrounds this secular tradition.  The day immediately following Halloween is known as All Saints’ Day, day where we honor and celebrate all the saints, known and unknown.

The Episcopal Church does not canonize people because in our tradition we believe that all baptized Christians are saints of God and have the potential to be examples of faith to others.

Who have been the examples in your life and how do you honor them?

One thing I was blessed with growing up was having great role models.  Naturally, there was my mother.  A strong independent woman, who as a single mother worked her tail off while raising three children,  I know for a fact that dealing with some of my sisters’ and my antics were not always easy.  But I say we turned alright. 

But outside of that I also had great role models who modeled what it meant to be a good Christian, a good person, and how to deal with certain situations. 

My sisters who convinced me that all the cool kids were going to youth group and kept me engaged in the church by always being a living advertisement for the church and what youth group meant.  Paul Canady, my first Youth Minister who got me to stay involved and showed me what the church could be.  Trone Sawyer, who showed me another side to the church and how living out your beliefs said a lot more about you than the words you say.  John Burruss, who taught me to ask questions and pursue answers instead of just believing everything I heard.  Trip Gintz, who always has another angle to look at something that opens your eyes to things you may have never thought of before.  My grandfather, who was the greatest man I knew and can have you laughing so hard you could barely breathe.  Rick Brubaker, who treated my like a son and help me to see that family doesn’t always mean you connected by blood.  My Uncle Steve, who teaches me all the time that just because you are growing up doesn’t mean you have to take life too seriously. 

These are all people, who for me, are examples of faith to me and therefore are my saints.  They may never have an official feast day for them but that doesn’t mean you can’t honor them.

That is what All Saints’ is meant for.  A chance to honor all of those Saints…known and unknown. 

Take some time today and think who your saints are.  Who are your examples of faith?

What have they taught you?

Now, that normally would be a perfect place to stop, but I am going to go even further.

This week, as we celebrate All Saints’ Day and remember and recognize all of the examples of faith that you have had in your life, ask yourself, who are you an example for?

Some of you may laugh that off and think. “There is no one someone is looking up to me!”

Yes, they are.  You may not know it.  But you are a role model to someone.  Whether it is at school, at work, at soccer or football practice…you are an example to someone else.

How are you being an example of faith to others?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday greetings!

Today I have a challenge for you.  It may sound a bit different then some of the other challenges you may have heard but it is just as important.

In my opinion, this may be one of the most important things you do for yourself.

We are also commanded to do this by Jesus himself!

What, oh what is this great challenge!?


Now I know that this may sound a bit different than what you normally hear.

We typically associate being Christian with being nice and kind to others.  Yes, but there is so much more to being a Christian than that.

We will save that topic for a later date but still, we have these to contradicting ideas. 

Doing things for others and now this crazy thing that I am telling you to do, to be selfish.

Now, when I say to be selfish I am not saying that you should make everything about you at all times, everyday, and basically become a hedonist. 

But Matthew, why then are you telling us that we should be selfish.  I don’t remember that commandment, “Thou shalt be selfish.”  Yea, that doesn’t ring a bell…

Well, what if I were to ask you what the greatest commandment was?

Hopefully, you are thinking of that verse from Matthew 22:37-38.

“Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Ok, yea, I am still not seeing the selfish part of that.

Well, that is where Matthew 22:39 comes in to play.

“And the second is like it: “’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Do you get it now?

Yes, we have all heard this and try to live it out by helping others and being a good neighbor and making sacrifices to be there for those that we care about.  But that does not mean to forget about yourself.

How can you love someone as yourself if you are not taking care of yourself?

Sometimes in our lives we may forget that part of the scripture.  We focus a lot on the neighbor’s part and we forget the ourselves part. 

Personally, I know that I struggle with this.  I have a hard time saying no to people, it is a minor miracle for me to ask for help, and normally keep things to myself.  On top of all of this…believe it or not, I am an introvert. 

Sometimes, I know that I need sometime to recharge but find it difficult to actually make that happen.

This may sound a little crazy but sometimes we need to allow ourselves time so we can take care of ourselves.  So that we are able to continue to care for others, we must take care of yourself.

So today, that is my challenge to you.

Today, be selfish and do something you.  If we are could to love others as ourselves…take a look at how you are caring for yourself and think about if you should spend some more time on you.