Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

I spend most of the year encouraging, prodding, pushing (gently of course), challenging, visioning, and leading people to step out of their comfort zone.  Preaching does this nearly every time the Word is proclaimed.  There is a new insight or a new step of faith to take. 
Well, this is the weekend where the tables are turned.  This is the weekend I get pushed out of my comfort zone and do something I am not comfortable doing.  This was "cantata weekend".  This is the only weekend in the year I get close enough to the Wesleyan Choir to actually share in their ministry.  Oh, I don't sing. (That would not even qualify for a comfort zone challenge - that would be more like a - I don't know what that would be).  I narrate the cantata. 
That means I have to follow along and get up and read at the right time.  I suppose it would help if I knew more about reading music than this is a note, it goes up or down, and I wonder what that is? 
I am thankful we get to practice.  During the rehearsal it came time for me to do my first reading and of course I had no idea it was time for me to do the first reading.  Uh, "Dr. Breon".  Oh, this is where I start.  Thanks Walter.
After the first time through on Saturday night I was asked if I skipped a line on purpose.  Of course I did not know there was another line to skip. 
But when all was said and done things went great.  The choir was amazing.  All the musicians do superb work.  Nancy Sitzman, pianist, is as good as they come.  And then there is Walter.  What a gift.
I thought about the music and all the detail that goes into something like this.  There are a lot of notes to play!  It is specific.  It requires timing and pace.  Everyone needs to be together.  Individuals do solos (wow to Michael Short and Abby Morris) j\but it truly is a group effort.
This is so different from preaching.  I find preaching nearly relaxing but this narration thing calls for detail like nothing else I do.  It makes me tense.  Therefore, out of the comfort zone.
And at the end of the day it is great to know I joined with others in doing something that ministered to others in a way outside my norm. 
So, until the next time, I take a deep breathe and say "thank you Lord, for not letting me mess the thing up and actually doing my part."  I know you will want to follow suit and look for ways to step outside your comfort zone in service to others.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Burt Jolley was shopping for the Christmas baskets this week.  He was puzzled with "Christmas Candy."  We had a conversation about "what is Christmas candy?"  That was followed by the remark "that can't be that old, hard candy, can it?"
Well, I can't answer exactly what was in mind when "Christmas Candy" was listed as part of the Christmas basket. 
Personally I like chocolate covered cherries.  They are like, 12 for a dollar.  Others have delicious fudge, peanut butter balls, candy canes, peppermint bark (now that is tasty), white chocolate pretzels...the list goes on and on. 
But why not "Old Fashioned Christmas Candy?"  You can purchase 2 pounds of it for $24.99.  It includes cut rock candy, baby ribbons, straws, chips, waffles, and pinwheels.  I think mainly of the ribbon, hard candy.  It includes various colors and flavors.  Do you remember?
My church would give us kids a sack filled with nuts, an orange and hard candy.  Frankly, we were happy to receive it.  Do you get the idea things were simpler in those days? 
I never knew anyone who got a new car with a bow on it for Christmas.  (Still don't.)  What I remember is excited anticipation.  I remember happy smiles. 
I'm not sure if I want to go out and get some "hard Christmas candy" but it might really be something worth having.  As long as it puts a smile on someone's face and some joy in their heart. 
Let's look for ways to do that this year as we join together on our Christmas journey. 
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Our Leadership Council and some of our staff are reading Four Disciplines of Execution.  There are a number of take-aways from the book but one that stands out is the reminder that the urgent always overtakes the important and we need to find ways to turn this around.
The scripture we read today included the part where the disciples went to town to buy food (the urgent) while Jesus met the woman at the well and brought her Living Water that would prove life-changing for her and many others. (the important)
It is true that the urgent will always be there.  We do not neglect those things that need to be done on a regular basis.  But we seek ways to navigate the urgent while keeping our sights on the important.
In the church we might consider the important to be seeking and doing the will and work of God. (As Jesus indicated in John 4). 
What fits the category of important in your life?  How do we focus on the important and avoid allowing the urgent to take all our attention?
We are on a quest to discover the "wildly important goals" (wigs) for Platte Woods UMC.  Along the way I trust many of us will find our wigs as well.
On another note...
At half-time today Cindy and went and saw "The Man Who Invented Christmas".  I enjoyed that more than the frustration of the Chiefs - but of course I will be back with them next week.  Such is the life of a fan.
On yet another note...
It was a joy to baptize Ashton Hawkins today.  There is nothing that compares with a person making their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and entering the waters of baptism.  Bless you, Ashton.
So...It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

I am very thankful for...
my family - Cindy, Bobby and Leslie, Andrea and Billy
parents that I still get to see
my friends
PWUMC  - the church I am privileged to serve
basic things in life  - I have food to eat and get to live inside
luxuries, like a garage door opener and bars of soap
my city
my country
forgiveness
hope
a spirit of encouragement
opportunity
And the list goes on and on and on.
This is a great week to take a few minutes and think of what you are thankful for. 
I continue...
We had a really blessed weekend in worship.  More new member who are finding this to be their church home.  Another baptism.  Untold numbers of people touched by the Holy Spirit.
On another note...
Chiefs playoff tickets for upper deck seats run from $72-$82.  I could think of better ways to use your money!  But I don't want to be a critic of my team.
Enjoy your week.  I pray you have some time with people you love and get to say "thanks".
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

It was a real joy watching so many people step forward today and offer themselves in various forms of service. I was especially pleased to see elementary age kids come with their cards. 
The response to the call to engage through service will surely result in extending the mission and mission of Jesus Christ through our church.
It becomes increasingly clear that when a church discerns a call to "lead people to follow Jesus" these followers will "fall in love" with Jesus and then seek to honor and "serve" the Lord.
We reinforced the idea that we love God, not only with words but with deeds.  We easily say "I love God".  We demonstrate our love for God by loving one another.  We give tangible expression of our love by serving. 
On another note...The Turkey Dinner on Saturday was a joy.  I heard comments on how well organized it was and how great the food was.  The fellowship was also super.  Well done youth!  Especially Britton and Brandy.
On yet another note...Joshlyn Barajas' testimony and baptism was a great blessing.  Wow!
On still another note...Welcome Mark and Sally Harpst to Platte Woods!
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

We had a blessed day at church today.  Worship was uplifting.  Preaching (thanks Nancy) was strong.  We gathered at the Lord's Table and shared in God's grace.  We were blessed.
The people of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were also having a blessed day of worship when God's presence was shattered by violence and death.  God in your mercy...
We hear calls for prayer and we will find the Holy Spirit leading us to pray for the church and those affected by this act of violence.
There will be many opinions expressed in the next few days.  And then this event will fade from our consciousness.  God in your mercy.
I wish I had an answer for this.  But I do not.  I do believe we are seeing things in life that we consider unthinkable.  At the same time what we are experiencing in America is something that much of world Christianity has been going through for ages. 
From the days of Jesus the followers of Christ have been persecuted.  It appears to be a fact of faith that those who love Jesus will be in conflict with those who don't.  Our American experience has not reflected this.  Our persecutions are more like inconveniences rather than death.
Death is seeking to encroach upon the life of the Church.
I pray for the people of Sutherland Springs and I pray for Coptic Christians in Egypt.  I pray for Palestinian Christians.  I pray for Iraqi Christians and Christians in other places in the Middle East.  I pray for the underground Church in China.  I pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.  And today I pray more specifically for First Baptist.
We will also talk about safety.  I promise that we have continual conversations about what we can do at our church to deter situations like we read of today.  We have people who are always alert to situations.  We will continue to move ahead.
At the same time our mission is not "being safe".  Don't hear this wrong.  Of course we avoid risk that has no place among God's people.  But we are people of life.  We do not live in a bubble.  We do not avoid people.  We do not screen everyone at the door. 
We do continue to worship, serve, and love one another.  We will love God and serve people when we feel safe and when we experience fear.  We will trust in our God of love knowing that perfect love casts out fear. 
So we pray.  We remember.  We continue.
In spite of it all...It's been a good day because it is God's day.
steve

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Reflections From Sunday Evening

It was around 30 years ago I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang.  I lived in Blue Springs and a person was calling to make appointments for an upcoming blood drive at the Presbyterian Church. 
They asked if I had ever donated before.  I said "no".  They asked if I would.  I thought about it and could not think of a good reason to decline, so I said "sure".  So they made my appointment.
I remember my dad was "on call" for blood donations.  It was not as organized in those days.  If the hospital needed a blood donor they would make a call.  I did not think much about that at the time but when asked to give blood I remembered. 
I must say I felt a little nervous as the time came to go make my donation.  I was not sure what was going to happen.  I assumed it was not some excruciating experience since the whole basement of the church was full of people giving blood.  I don't remember the details but evidently it was a good experience.
From that beginning I became a regular blood donor and have continued the practice to the present.  There have been times when I was not eligible.  When returning from a mission trip I have had to wait a year to donate.  But it has become something I am able to do.
I appreciated all our people who took the time to donate blood today.  I have not heard the numbers but it seemed like we had more than normal.
It is a very simple thing to do.  And the difference it makes is huge.  Lives may literally be saved. 
Isn't that how it works with things of faith.  Most everyone has some past experience of knowing a person who believed and lived out their faith.  Then the call comes inviting one to consider faith in Christ.  Have you ever made a commitment to Jesus?  Would you?  For those who can't think of a good idea not to, make the appointment.  Faith is an on-going, life changing matter.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve