Sunday, September 30, 2018

I won a stole in a contest from Serendipity Clergy Stoles

Back in June, the day after my surgery, I was checking my email on my phone prior to checking out of the hospital.  I got an email letting me know I had won the contest for Serendipity Stoles.  I almost deleted it, thinking it was a joke.  I rarely win anything and in the recovery from hip replacement surgery, it took me a moment to remember that I had entered a contest for a free stole.

I don't remember how many months back I had entered the contest, but I had seen it on their Facebook site and I had entered the drawing for a free stole.  I wrote what stoles meant to me and how they are not only beautiful, but part of the visual teaching and visual art in a service.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn I had one the 10th Anniversary stole.

The company owner Tanja wrote about the 10th Anniversary stole here and you can see a picture of the first stole and the 10th anniversary stole.

I was so blessed to win this stole.  To come out of hip replacement surgery and to hear from Tanja that I had won was a gift.

I didn't wear a robe right away when I went back into preaching from surgery because I didn't want to trip.  But when I started wearing the robe again, I was able to wear the stole.  Because it is green and Ordinary time is a long season, I get to wear it quite a bit.  I switch it out with a special "joy" stole given to me by a group of ladies from a Tuesday Bible Study years back.

If you want to learn more about Serendipity Clergy Stoles, you can check out their website or their Facebook page.  You can also read blog entries.

When looking for a white stole for my niece's upcoming wedding in November, I decided to order from Serendipity Clergy Stoles.  I am looking forward to its arrival.

Blessings on your journey.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Power of Words-- sermon from September 16-- James 3:1-12

Last week's sermon was "The Power of Words".

Below you will find the church sign, the bulletin cover, the songs from the service, the sermon message and the recorded sermon.

I hope that there is something that speaks to you.

Blessings on your journey,




“The Power of Words”
James 3:1-12 (MSG)
September 16, 2018 (17th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC

James 3:1-12 (MSG)

1-2 Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.
3-5 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
5-6 It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
7-10 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
10-12 My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

I chose The Message again for today’s reading as I did for last week because it helps us to hear and read the Scriptures in a version different than the one we read daily.  The Message is the Bible in Contemporary Language and was created by Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002. It is an idiomatic translation of the original languages of the Bible.

In today’s passage we see several examples of how a small thing can control a bigger one: a bit in the mouth of a horse, a rudder on a ship, a small spark can become a large fire, etc.  James uses everyday examples to get our attention.  And we can even still relate to these examples today.  He uses them to help us understand the power of words.  Words can build up or tear down.

As we heard and sang in the song by Hawk Nelson this morning:

“Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out
Let my words be life  
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You”

Notice how the passage warns us to not be in a rush to become a teacher because we are held more accountable for our words.  So, if you don’t have the official title of teacher, you’re off the hook, right?!  Not so fast.  We’re all teachers in some way.  If you’re a parent, if you’ve been a leader in any group, if you have ever been a babysitter, if you’ve ever taught someone how to do anything (tie a shoe, drive a car, etc.), then you have taught someone.  In teaching, as in all parts of life, it’s the words we choose and use that will build up or tear down.

Tearing down happens.  In my days of teaching, I didn’t think twice of using some sarcasm in the classroom for the longest time.  I had seen it modeled and it seemed to be okay.  Yet, I noticed at times that it would cause hurt feelings.  I started watching what I said and what I did.  When I went to Middlebury College for some graduate French work one summer, the deal was sealed for me.  One of my professors there mocked me and other students in the classroom.  I don’t know about the others, but she mocked me outside of class too.  That helped me get rid of any remaining sarcasm that was left in my teaching.

Sometimes we aren’t aware of how we might be hurting others by our actions or our words.  That’s why we need one another and the Holy Spirit.  In community, we can hold one another accountable.  And the Holy Spirit can help us see things that we don’t see clearly.

A good prayer to pray is from Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)—

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,

    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Once we are made aware or recognize these things, we ask forgiveness and we take action to live differently.  When we’ve hurt someone by our action or non-action, we ask for God’s forgiveness and where appropriate, we apologize and seek their forgiveness.  Isn’t that the way it’s done?

Matthew 5:23-24 (MSG)

23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

If your friend was hurt by something you had said or done and you went to your friend and, instead of making it right, only said to them that they had hurt you by saying they were hurt, what healing has taken place?  What good in God’s kingdom has been done? 

Praying those verses in Psalm 139 and allowing God through the Holy Spirit to lead us along the path of everlasting life will help us go a long way in learning to watch our words.

In Toby Mac’s “Speak Life”, he points out the power of words. 

Here are a few of those lyrics:

“Well, it’s crazy to imagine
Words from my lips as the arms of compassion
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die
So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak…
You speak life”

We have the power to speak life, to speak love, to speak hope into people’s lives.

That is a great blessing and responsibility.  In order for us to be able to speak love, life, and hope into other people’s lives, we have to continually be filled with love, life, and hope.

The power of words goes beyond simply speaking life, love, and hope into other’s lives.  How many of you have heard of people choosing a word for the year?  They choose a word to live into for the year, such as “joy”, “hope”, “forgiveness”, etc.

There are websites with information on this.  Many people have gone from New Year’s Resolutions to choosing a word so that they can focus on one thing and be intentional.  One website,, notes this:
Let me let you in on a seldom recognized truth: Change is possible, but focus is required.
You don’t need a gym membership or more will power, a new organizational system or a financial planner to make the changes you desire this year as much as you need clarity and sustained focus over time.
That is why our goal is to help you choose just one word to be your focus for the next twelve months, and to help you keep your attention fixed on your word.”
That ties in with the philosophy behind “Intentional Living” in that they are always talking about choosing one thing to focus on, to be intentional about—and do it.

As we focus today on the power of words, listen again to these last verses in today’s passage:

10-12 “My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

What imagery! What is inside us WILL come out. We must be faithful in filling up with the Living Water that Christ offers us through spiritual practices of prayer, study, Scripture, silence, solitude, time apart, communion, worship, fasting, etc.

Richard Rohr notes: “We must be aware—almost hour by hour—of what our reservoir is holding, or we will never feel the need to fill it with a new kind of positive flow—or recognize the brackish and even poisonous waters from which we are drawing.” (Just This, 14)

Luke 6:45 (NLT)—A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Let’s take a moment, as we close this morning, to allow God to examine our hearts.  Will you pray with me?

God, we come together this morning, recognizing the power of words.  We have the power to build up or tear down.  We can offer hope or destroy it.  We desire to speak life, love, and hope.  We want to be the arms of compassion for others.  We pray those verses 23-24 from Psalm 139: ‘Search us, O God, and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in us that offends you, and lead us along the path of everlasting life.  Show us how we use the power of words for the good of others and the glory of your kingdom.  Amen.

Songs from worship:

"Words" by Hawk Nelson

"The Power of Words" by Andrea Gardner [This is not a song, but it merits watching.] ["Change Your Words,  Change Your World."]

"You Say" by Lauren Daigle

"Speak Life" by Toby Mac (mentioned in sermon)

If you'd like to listen to the sermon, click here. (.wav)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Live Out Your Faith-- sermon from September 9th from James 2:1-17

During the month of September I am preaching from James.  I like the book of James.  I taught it once at a middle school after school Bible Study and I did a study for one my Ordination paperwork.  I have preached it some too.

This post will include the sermon and one song from worship at one of the churches.  I also recorded the sermon for the first time (outside of requirements) and have attached that at the bottom of the post.  It is from the 2nd service.

The opening song we sang at Flintstone UMC was "New Wine" by Hillsong:

                                                         (longer version than what we sang)

“Live Out Your Faith”
James 2:1-17 (MSG)
September 9, 2018 (16th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC

James 2:1-17 (MSG)

1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

8-11 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I chose the Message for today’s reading because often it helps us to hear and read the Scriptures in a version different than the one we read daily.  If you read the Message translation daily, it wasn’t different for you today and you might consider reading today’s passage in the NLT or CEB later.

The lectionary passage allows us to omit verses 11-13, however, by doing that we don’t have the flow, so I chose to keep it.

The author begins in verse 1 by saying, “My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out your glorious, Christ-originated faith.”  That statement by itself could take an entire sermon. How often do we allow others to influence how we are living out our glorious, Christ-originated faith?  May God help each of us to live out our faith under the sole influence of Christ.  Amen?

The next several verses go on to give us a scenario in a church setting where there is the possibility of showing favoritism or partiality.  If we are honest with God and ourselves, then those verses can help us see inside our motives and actions. 

In verse 5, we hear/see that God operates quite differently.  This is a very good thing.  If it were up to us, we would likely live inside our comfort zones, but we are reminded that the kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.  The Royal Rule of Scripture is: “Love others as you love yourself.” 

In verses 8-11, we are reminded that we contradict that Royal Rule if we give precedence to others or if we are influenced by others in our faith instead of by Christ.  Verses 12-13 exhort us on how we are to live:

12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

What does this mean for us as followers of Christ who are seeking to grow as disciples of Christ, to be transformed so that we can make other disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?

It means that as we love others as ourselves, we are set free.  It means that kindness, compassion, and love win. Kind mercy wins.

It takes quite a bit of energy to allow kindness, compassion, and love at times, especially when we are tired or hungry.  Have you seen those Snickers commercials where the people just aren’t themselves and they are given a Snickers bar and they become themselves again?  When we need to show kindness, compassion, and love to others, we need to make sure that we are spending time in spiritual practices that are filling us up—prayer, reading Scripture, silence, solitude, fasting, worship, Holy Communion, and other practices such as spending time in creation, journaling, prayer walking, play, rest.  If we are not allowing ourselves to receive kindness, compassion, and love from ourselves or God, then we will not be able to offer it to others.  As we receive and give, there is freedom. 

Verses 12-13 remind me of one of my favorite verses, Micah 6:8.  It has been a life verse for many years.  I first memorized it in an older NIV:  “He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”   On a church sign in Red Bank that I pass several times a week after PT (physical therapy), they have two of the three commandments: “act justly, love mercy”.  There wasn’t room for the third: walk humbly with God.  Just as the greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself sum up how we are to live, so does Micah 6:8.

In verses 14-17 of today’s passage, if we haven’t felt the conviction yet, we do here.

It begins: “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?”

That is one of those moments that is either an “ouch” or an “amen” moment, depending on where you are at the time.

One of my colleagues posted a quote this week that caused me to reflect on James and putting our faith into action.

"I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please."(Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty, 1979)

Sometimes we want just enough of God to get by.  How do we break out of that to live more abundantly, to live into the freedom that God has for us?

It comes as we live out our God-talk with God-acts.

As we love God, love people, and live like Jesus, our faith becomes action.

As we reflect on today’s passage, may we be the kinds of people who are influenced by Christ and not others as we seek to grow as individuals and as a church.

May we not stop at what we’ve already done to put our faith into action, but rather daily seek opportunities to love God, love people, and live like Jesus.

May we, as individuals and as a church body, be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit to help us be people who keep growing in our relationships with God and one another.

May it be so.


If you'd like to hear a recording of the sermon, you can click here (.wav) or here (.mp3).

Because I mention the Snickers commercials, I thought I would put one here.  There are many to choose from and finding one to go here wasn't that easy.  I chose to go with one of the more recent ones with Elton John attempting to rap.

Church sign in Red Bank, TN that has 2/3 of Micah 6:8

Thanks to Steve McDaniel for converting my .wav file to .mp3.  Community working together to make things happen for the good of all and the glory of God is a beautiful thing.

Maybe there will be something that meets you in this post where you are on your journey and encourages you.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Be Strengthened by the Lord-- August 26th sermon from Ephesians 6:10-20

The sermon for August 26th was different in that I preached from sticky notes.  It wasn't the first time.  In fact I have preached several times from sticky notes.  I tend to preach from sticky notes at Fort Oglethorpe more often than at the other locations, though I think I may have done it at Flintstone, maybe. 

I tend to preach from sticky notes when the sermon stays stuck inside me all week, swirling around. When it doesn't come out on paper, it goes on to sticky notes.

That is what happened this past week.  Sometimes it happens because there are other things going on in life, mission, and ministry and the pipes just don't get cleared up sufficiently to get it out.  At other times, it just seems to be a wrestling act with the Holy Spirit.  Regardless, I try to study and prepare all I can and allow the Holy Spirit to help me put it together and get it out of me, whether it gets out onto paper or sticky notes. 

No matter what form it gets out onto, the Holy Spirit is still in charge of how it is presented in the moment and things continue to change during the preaching of the message.

That is one of the things that gives me life about preaching-- that the Holy Spirit breathes into it, breathes into me.  It isn't about me. 

I will share my notes and a quote I shared from yesterday.  I will share the bulletin cover. I will share some reflections about the special music, which dovetailed nicely with the service.

The Call to Worship came from Nancy Townley, who writes for the UMC.  Her "Calls to Worship" can be found on Ministry Matters, in the Worship Connection.

Yesterday's Call to Worship was #4 for August 26, 2018:

Call to Worship #4

L: Whom do you seek here in this place?
P: We seek God, the Creator, who brought us to life.
L: Who has told you of God?
P: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has shown us the love of God through his life.
L: Discipleship is difficult. Are you ready?
P: We want to be ready. Lord, strengthen and sustain us this day. AMEN.
The songs that we sang during the service were: "Standing on the Promises" from the UMH (United Methodist Hymnal) #374, "Who You Say I Am" (by Hillsong), "You Are My All in All" (by Dennis Jernigan), and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" UMH #140.

If you'd like to sing (or listen to any of those songs, you can check out the links below.

The Special Music feature was "The Master's Touch" by Carson and Evelyn Madwell, assisted by Gail Coleman.  Carson did a recitation of "The Master's Touch" while Evelyn played the violin and Gail played the guitar.  It was a beautiful and touching piece.  I had heard the song many times, but not a recitation of the piece in this way.  We were blessed.

Carson and Evelyn Madwell, Gail Coleman
"The Touch of the Master's Hand" was written by Myra Brooks Welch in 1921. It was sung by Bill Anderson and many others, but it was made popular on Christian radio by Wayne Watson.

One link that tells how she wrote this is found here.

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!" "Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three----" But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game--and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

Bulletin Cover Image and take away card image

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. 11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12 We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. 13 Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. 14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. 16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
18 Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. 19 As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known.20 I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say.
My sermon notes:  (Even though these notes come from my sticky notes, please recognize that what was shared in the message would not be exactly what you see here.  I expounded quite a bit.)

"The version you choose to read will help you focus sometimes on different words or phrases.  I initially read from the CEB-- thus the title from verse 10.  In the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), the phrase in verse 10 is "be strong in the Lord".  The preposition change is slight, from "by" to "in", yet it changes the meaning.

How many of you are familiar with this passage?  Being familiar with a passage can sometimes cause us to tune it out.

How many of you pray it daily?  Especially verses 13-18?

Why would we want to pray these verses?  Why would we want to be ready and/or strengthened?"

[Share an example here from France.] [Quote from Feasting on the Word.]
[I shared a little about how this was meaningful to me as a descendant of French Huguenots.]

"Just one day after France surrendered toe Nazi Germany, a pastor preached to a small village congregation with a prophetic vision that "The responsibility of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the Spirit.  These Huguenots would provide sanctuary for 5,000 Jews. They discovered the Pauline "weapons of the Spirit". Christians can be awakened to weapons of the Spirit such as prayer (v. 18), Christian truth (v. 14), and the Spirit (v. 17b)" (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, 379.

[Below you will find a movie clip of the Le Chambon movie.]You can search for other historical and documentary clips on YouTube.]

                                   Movie Trailer to Le Chambon: La Colline aux mille enfants

More notes from the sticky notes:

"Putting on new humanity. [talked about getting dressed, uniforms from Scouts, teams, military, martial arts.  I mentioned my TKD (TaeKwonDo uniform].  How can these "weapons" become life-giving?  Not just for you personally, but for those around you, so that you are equipped as a disciple to make disciples for the transformation of the world?"

As I am going back over the sticky notes and finishing up today, it has been a couple of weeks since I gave this sermon.  I started this blog the day after, but have had many other things going on in life.  Though I preached from the sticky notes, it was still a fairly full sermon.  I attribute that to the Holy Spirit.  

I don't know what you might get from this blog post, but there is certainly Scripture and history here.

May you find something here to encourage, bless, and strengthen you.

Blessings on your journey,