Tuesday, August 27, 2013

God wants our hearts, not the distractions

Tuesday greetings!  Hope everyone is well. 

Today, I had a very difficult time coming up with a topic to write about.  Just ask my coworker Katie and Adam, both of whom I tried to pawn the job off too.

I spent sometime reading the lectionary for today, read about Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle, whose feast day is recognized today, and even skimmed a few blogs trying to come up with what I wanted to write. 

Still I came up empty.

So I tried to work on something else.  Distract myself from the job at hand and hopefully maybe something would just magically come to me.

It did not…

Well this led to me moving most of the furniture in the church into Cheney Parish Hall to set up for Chiral Theory, who will be playing a free show tomorrow night at the Church of the Holy Communion.  If you are interested, there is a dinner at 5:30 and the music starts at 6:00.   Feel free to make your reservations for the dinner by calling 901.767.6987.   (Rates for dinner are $7 per person, $3.50 per child, $20.00 family rate)  I mean just if you were interested in eating a good home cooked meal and wanted to listen to some local musicians play a free show. 

Anyway, back to my original point.  I kept getting distracted.  First we moved the furniture.  Well, then I had to set up the sound.  Then test the sound.

Then make sure everything was exactly where it should be.  Hang the posters.

Then I went back to my office and checked my email.

Still I had no idea what I wanted to write about.  What message could I offer if I couldn’t stay focused.

How often in our everyday lives do we feel distracted?

We literally are surrounded by distractions and don’t even know it.  We seem to just be so scared or unwilling to truly just be still.

We listen to music on the way home from school or from work.  Or we are on our phones catching up with some friends or family while we have a minute to spare on a commute home.  You check your email almost constantly.  Unless you are Jackson or one of the other youth who don’t understand the concept of email and don’t check it or read it, ever.

Maybe you spend way too much time in front of the television.  Always having something on even if it is just for the background noise.

Maybe you are sitting there thinking; well I don’t really watch that much TV and I don’t really check my email.

Well that still leaves Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Youtube, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, Snapchat….

How many times do you find yourself checking these things out in a day?  Did you know that on average a person will check their cell phone 150 times during a waking day of 16 hours? 

That is about every 6 minutes.

Now, in a previous post, I wrote about the blogger Ze Frank who talks about life being lived in that moment when someone is fully engaged in their phone.

Perhaps it is, but what kind of life is that.  One where you are constantly distracted by these material and frivolous things that consume our lives?

Take any relationship you have now.  It can be the relationship between you and a sibling, a best friend, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a parent….you name it.

How does that relationship grow?  How does it work?  What things do you do that help maintain that relationship?  What things can you do that would help that relationship become stronger?

Actually think about it?

Now I am guessing that, checking your email around them, reading the latest post on Buzzfeed instead of having a conversation, or repinning all the stuff you found on Pinterest that you probably will never get around to trying.

The only real way to grow in a relationship with anyone is to be with them.  Be in conversation with them.  Spend time with them.  Talk with them. 

When you are able to really spend time with someone and talk with them, you get to know them, understand them, they get to know you. 

How much time do we spend on growing our relationship with Christ?

How often do we take the time to be still and alone in the presence of God?  How many times do we take the time to pray and be thankful for all of the wonderful gifts of this life?  How many times will we be in church and be thinking about where you are going to lunch afterwards?  Or maybe you have even been checking your phone during the sermon?

Jesus isn’t going to retweet you or like that cool new filter you used on that picture you uploaded to Instagram. 

Get away from the distractions.  It’s ok to just be.  Be in the moment.  Pray.  Spend sometime with God.  Build that relationship just like it was any other.

Rob Bell sums this up in his video series, NOOMA.

“…God doesn’t want the empty rituals.  God wants our hearts”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Not all who wander are lost.

Last summer I was blessed to be able to go on Pilgrimage to Spain where we walked parts of the el Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). 

The story of St. James is that he along with his brother John were two of the first disciples of Jesus.  After the death of Christ, James continued to travel around and preach the lessons of Jesus.  After traveling to Iberia, James returned to Judea where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I.  His body was then transported to Galicia, Spain where it remains today at Santiago de Compestella. 

This has become a very popular pilgrimage location where people will hike for weeks until they arrive in Santiago at the end of their journey.

Last summer we walked part of this trail and visited the church and viewed the tomb of St. James. 

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Netflix trying to decide what to watch, I ran across a movie that I watched before we went to Spain.  The Way with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  In the movie, Estevez goes to hike the Camino but gets caught in a storm and dies one day into his journey.  Sheen, the father goes to bring the body home and ends up walking the Camino.

Many times in our lives, we find ourselves faced with a situation that is unexpected and we don’t know what to do.  We feel lost and confused and alone.

Where do you turn?  What do you do when you feel so lost and confused?

In the movie, he just begins walking.  He doesn’t know what he is searching for or what he wants to accomplish.  He just walks. 

He starts off walking alone.  At first he tries to keep his distance from others on the trail and walk alone.  However, he meets various people along the way and by the end of it he reaches Santiago with his three new friends.

Many times when we are lost and confused, not only do we feel that we are alone but we try to keep that feeling by distancing ourselves. 

We push away our friends who are there to help, our family that loves us, and we forget about all the people in our lives that care for us and love us.  We push them away and we wander.

Like Martin Sheen in the movie The Way, we don’t know why or where, we just go, keep moving forward.  No real destination but we are trying to get there in a hurry.

Running from that feeling of being lost and hurt and sad and alone…we just walk.

How many times have you misplaced something, your car keys, you glasses, your phone…you look for it FOREVER and can’t find it but then when you stop looking its always right there.  You know what I am talking about.

In my experiences, that is exactly what life is like sometimes.  There have been times in my life when I have been so confused and lost and felt that you are being pulled underwater and you don’t even know which way is up.  You search and beg and plead for answers, but the harder you look the more lost you feel.  Until you have had enough and you stop searching, stop trying, you just walk…

It is in this moment that something beautiful happens. 

Just because you have given up and stopped searching doesn’t mean that God has stopped.  Even when your back is turned and you are walking away. 

When Sheen reaches Santiago, his character has completely changed.  He did not know what he was walking towards when he began, but by the end he had found just what he needed.

Things in our lives are not always set in a way that makes sense.  Things happen sometimes that, to be honest, just plain suck.  Things that you can’t prepare for.  Things that may take everything you thought you knew and mix it all up.

Life is confusing!

The Psalm assigned for today is Psalm 139:1-9.

LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

“Not all who wander are lost.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, August 13, 2013



So as many
of you know, each summer I go off to work at a week long retreat called
JYP.  Each year the staff always puts on
an ongoing skit through out the week to help entertain the campers and to also
show that you don’t always have to take things so seriously.

This year
our theme for the running skit was ‘The Family Feud’.  We polled the youth as they arrived and used
their actual answers in the skit.  It was
like taking a peek at how the brain of a middle schooler works.  It was very, very interesting to say the

One of the
questions was, “What is a way that cool people greet their friends?”

Top 5
answers on the board….#3…..YOLO….

For those
of you who do not know, YOLO stands for You Only Live Once.

How that
is used as a greeting, I still do not know. 


It has
become one of the most popular sayings, acronyms, twitter hastag, etc.  It can be heard as a theme in almost any rap
or hip-hop song.   This saying is often times credited to the
rapper Drake in his 2011 song, “The Motto”. 

In reality
the saying, “you only live once”  is
attributed to Mae West.  It is the same philosophy
as in the common expression “carpe diem” and even has roots in the 18th
century in the works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Then of course there is that ever popular 1855
Johann Strauss jam we are still waltzing around to called “Man lebt nur einmal!”  Which is German for “You Only Live Once!”

Well now
that we have been properly educated on this term, let’s take a look at the
lectionary for today…YOLO.

So the
Gospel reading for today is Matthew 24:42-47. 
It is very similar to Gospel reading that we heard this past Sunday. 

Let’s be
real, you probably don’t fully remember that do you?

Well today’s
reading goes like this…

Jesus said to
his disciples, "Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your
Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in
what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and
would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready,
for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his
household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time?
Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly
I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions."

When I hear
this, I typically think of it like when you are a teenager and your parents
leave the house and give a list of things they want done before they get

So naturally
you sit around and do nothing until you see the car lights pulling up the
driveway, the dog starts barking and ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!

You have never
gotten of the couch so fast in your life! 
You turn the TV off, start throwing the dishes in the dishwasher,
throwing all your stuff into your room and closing the door, hiding the laundry
that you were suppose to do… In about 45 seconds you try to knock out as much
stuff as you possibly can before sitting down and start doing the homework you
were suppose to finish before you were allowed to watch TV.

Let’s be
honest…we have all been there.  I know I
have done that many times.  I can admit
that because no matter what, your parents always know that that is what you
Have done.  Just sometimes they let you think
you fooled them.

Now, even if
they let you think you got away with it, do you feel guilty?  Maybe just a little bit? 

Do you feel
good when you deceive your parents?  I
know I don’t.  It is one of the most disappointing
feelings in the world!  Letting someone
down that cares for you like that!  Geez
Louise, it is not a fun feeling.

So in this
scripture from Matthew, it is called The Eschatological Discourse.  In this part of Matthew, Jesus is pretty much
setting the stage for his parusia, or his reappearing (second coming).  Jesus is answering the disciple’s questions
and preparing them for when he will not be there.

The reading
for today was his response of what they should do to be ready for his

When we look
at how we live our lives and the choices we make, are we just doing our own
thing while our parents are away?

When the time
comes, is our plan to jump up and run around the house trying to clean up
everything last minute?

How would you
even do that?

When will this
parusia happen?  When should we start “doing
our list of chores” that our parents left for us?

Unlike when
your parents leave and say, “We will be home by 10!” Jesus does not tell us
when.  It will be “at an unexpected hour.”

We are asked
to be prepared.  We are asked to be

Are we? 
Look in a
mirror and think…How am I living my life? 
How should I be living my life? 

For me, the
answers to those questions are not the same.

But I want to
try to make the gap between the two smaller.

I don’t think I
can rush through that list in 45 seconds when I see the car lights pull

It means
making changes now.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Just for you Baty!!!!!!

via Instagram http://instagram.com/p/csntrfp-Oz/

STOP....and just be....

Tuesday greetings everyone!  It has been a long time since we have been together on a Tuesday evening to read all about what is going on here at Holy Communion Memphis!
For many of you, school started yesterday.  Within the next week, almost all of you will be struggling to get back into your regular groove, trying to find your stride again after the long busy summer.

As you are waking up early and doing your homework and getting used to your new non-summer schedules; I will be doing the exact same as I get reacquainted with being back in to office after a very busy summer and as some of you may know, a small change in staff.

The Gospel reading assigned for today comes to us from Luke.  In the reading, Peter, John, James, and Jesus all go up on the mountain and Jesus began praying.  While he was praying, he transformed and his face changed and he his clothes were dazzling white!  Two men then stood there in front of James, John, and Peter.  Moses and Elijah. 

Now some say that this was a sign of the coming of the Son of God.  In the Old Testament, there is talk about how the prophet Elijah must make his return before Christ would come to power.  So this is a very significant moment in the Bible!

But how can we take the message of this Gospel and relate to our own lives?

Once the disciples see the faces of Moses and Elijah, Peter offers to build 3 shrines in honor of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. 

Think back over this past summer.  A time that we do not have to go to school everyday, do homework every night, go to sports practices, games, church, youth group…

Summer is supposed to be a time for use to sit back and relax, right?

What did you do this summer?

Most likely you went on vacation, went to camp, had summer training for sports, maybe had a summer job, you still probably were going a thousand miles an hour to get everything packed in to a small amount of time.

We are always on the go, always doing.  That is what Peter is doing here in the Gospel reading.  He is doing.  This spectacular event happens and he wants to do.  Wow, this is great!  Now what can we do about it.  We are a society of doers, always on the go, always busy, always leaving something early to get to something late.

This story in the Gospel teaches us to stop doing and to just be.  Why can’t we just stop and let it happen.  Just stop and marvel at all the wonderful things that surround us in our everyday lives.  Just stop…

No seriously, whatever you are doing, stop…

Just take a moment and rest. 

Just be and experience God.

Be still in the presence of God.

“Be still and know that I am God”
-Psalm 46:10

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Incarnational Theology and the Ocoee: Ministering through Rapids

Episcopalians....they are not even really Christian.  

They don't have set firm beliefs.  

They don't read the Bible.  

They don't do ANY kind of evangelism.

They are simply lazy!

Has anyone ever heard anything along these lines?  I know I have.

Who also cringed a little bit at that word.....you know the one I am talking about.  Evangelism.  

The definition of Evangelism in the dictionary is defined as  1. Zealous preaching and dissemination of the gospel, as through missionary work or 2. Militant zeal for a cause.


These are pictures of street Evangelists doing their thing at my old stomping ground.  Walking to class at the great University of Tennessee, you always risked running into someone who would tell you that you were going to Hell. 

On my way to class and not church.  Going to Hell.

Going to a football game instead of reading my Bible.  Going to Hell.

Spend more time in the library studying than in worship.  Going to Hell.

I even think I was once told I was going to Hell because I laughed at something they said on my way to class.  I found humor in his message.  Hell Bound! 

Maybe it is me but I don't think the response to someone spreading the message of God should be "We hate you." Maybe that's just me.  Maybe yelling at and condemning people to Hell isn't the best way to spread the word of God.

Well, yea Matthew, that is why we as Episcopalians don't do that!

So, Episcopalians don't or are not suppose to evangelize?

Well, yes and no.  At least that is what I think.

Earlier I gave you the definition of Evangelist but where does that word come from?

Believe it or not, it was a actual the term used for the four authors of the Gospels.  They were "preachers of the Gospel" or "bringers of good news".  Hmm, intersting... Also if you break down the word "evangelist" to the core root words you get -eu-"good" plus angellein "announce" which comes from angelos meaning "messenger". 

Angelos, well that word looks familiar! 

So what happened that this word given to the authors of the Gospels, these bringers of good news, these angels of God has changed so much that the militant can be found in it's defintion!?

Honestly, I do not know the answer but I do know that because of this change in the words connotation many Christians today feel that evangelism is wrong and we shouldn't do it.

Again, I disagree.

We are called to evangelize.  We are called to spread the word of the Gospel!  

Mark 16:15 "And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."

Ok, so we are suppose to evangelize...if you use the original meaning of the word of spreading the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:17 " For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."

Wait....what did the second part of the that!?  Not with my words?  Then HOW!?!?!

Incarnational theology.  The believe that things are good.  Everything is good!  Yes, things in excess can be bad.  But things in moderation in the right amounts are GOOD!  God is good.  God made everything.  And after he created it he sat back and saw and said what?

And it was good!!

I recently returned from a trip were a group of 21 traveled to Ocoee, TN to go whitewater rafting trip.  This has been an annual trip for some time now and is always a blast.  This year, we just focused on being "here" and remembering that "this" is good!

Seeing a group of youth, a few who have never done any trips or retreats with our church, who did not grow up Episcopal, all come together to form this wonderfully beautiful community in a matter of hours...to me that is what it is all about.

Whether it was during the questionable food at Dairy Queen.  The successful and failed attempts at doing magic tricks.  Not being in the van you wanted to be in.  Wearing your helmet backwards.  Getting hurt.  Doing the dishes.  Cooking dinner.  Falling out of the raft.  Getting thrown out of the raft.  Swimming through underwater tunnels.  Seeing 17 high schoolers make the decision to spend time with each other and not texting people that weren't there.  Doing Compline each night.  Not wanting to go to sleep because you just want to stay up talking with you friends all night.  Spending 10 mins in self reflection at the foot of the cross at Sewanee.  

It was good.  

I watched as this group unknowingly worked miracles as evangelists.  Not with their words or by yelling or condemning anyone.  But by living a life of love and compassion.  And by sharing their gifts of laughter and joy with each other.  It was a wonderful trip.  

It was good.