Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Recently, I was amazingly asked, "How do you remain humble when you are obviously gifted?" Obviously this person does not know me very well for two reasons. First, I am not all that humble. Second, I am not all that gifted. My response was, however, above ordinary and I wanted to share it here this morning.

First, I know that when it comes to grace, the unmerited love of God and salvation offered in Christ Jesus, I am simply a beggar. When I tell others about the love of God and the grace I have experienced in my life, I am a beggar telling other beggars where I found bread.

Second, I am to view every person as if they might be Christ. This is not always easy. As Mother Teresa said, "Lord, you come in some costumes that made it difficult to see you today."

The thought that I am a simple beggar and every other person might be Christ puts me in a proper perspective and position.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

God and Money and the UMC Clergy

This is a bit of what you might hear from me in a sermon on this Sunday morning:

It is pretty easy to see how we cannot serve God and money, manna, wealth at the same time. Our worship and focus on money often drives us to worry about things beyond our control and listen for things that are not of God. We suddenly worry about things like the stock market, our pension plan, our home equity. But God is not worried about the stock market. As one person said to me recently, “God did not lose a dime in this recession. God didn’t loss a dollar in the Madoff debacle.” God still has every resource in heaven and on earth. The problem is not God’s bank account; it is much more our unwillingness to trust God in all times and in all things.

Take for example, the reality of the United Methodist Clergy. We often speak about things like good news for the poor, there are a group who are going to the city council to speak against cutting the budget to aid the homeless here in Fort Worth. At the same time, we voted to maintain our healthcare coverage at an annual cost of about 4.2 million dollars in 2009 and the cost is going up in 2010. This is not paid for by the clergy. This is the cost handed on to the local churches of the Central Texas Conference in mandated health insurance payments and apportionments. What would happen instead if we pulled that mantel off of your backs and said, “We the clergy of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church will not take as a benefit any health insurance until all Texans have adequate health care.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not so good at this

Ok, so apparently I am not so good at this blogging thing. Again, it is because I have had a couple of friends recently ask me about my posts that I come back to this forum. Apparently, for some I am "a voice in the wilderness," a "social conscious", a "voice unheard." I am not sure exactly what all that means or if it is a good thing.

I will say that being on the CTCYM trip last week reminded me of the great painful divides in our country. Divides of education. Divides of wealth. Divides of race. Who am I that I can afford to go out to eat when just this morning a woman did not have money to eat at all? Who am I that I can receive health care when a brother goes without basic medicines? Who am I that sit in an air conditioned office when an 84-year old woman has not electricity? Who am I that I am not weeping in pain and changing my ways?

Maybe I don't blog more because I am not sure anyone really wants to hear the questions I find myself asking.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Ok, so this weekend, within 10 hours, I had two friends mention that I had not posted on my blog sight in a while. Really? Does anyone really care what I have to say? I mean, I am just a guy traveling down this road of life. Yeah, I am a pastor, who is supposed to have some sort of wisdom, but I also know many people do not pay much attention to what their pastor, or any pastor, has to say.

So, to whom do you listen? Who is it that gets your attention and somehow speaks to you? Who is the noise in your life? Who is it that if they shut-up you would only find relief in their silence? Who is it that you really want to listen to you?

Anyway, thanks to two people who may not pay attention to what I say, but notice, and question, when I say nothing at all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The New, Ancient Mandate

New mandate? What do you mean it is a "new" mandate? There is nothing new about it. We are reading from a book that is 1900 years old. How on earth is that considered new? And isn't that part of the problem? We want something new all the time. I just got a new car (a red Saturn Vue to be exact), and my wife just bought new furniture for the upstairs family room. (0% financing and good deals makes for a buyers market . . . recession ha ha ha.) And the faith we are given is ancient, almost timeless.

It is Holy Week and Passover, so even secular talk radio has religious experts on as guests. Emergent experts were a day or two ago. And yes, we need something new. The way we have done church for the last 150 years is not working. But how much has to change? It is hard to say what is most important. If we are given an ancient faith that will stretch into the end of time, how do we keep it fresh? If we really are given a new, 2000 year-old, mandate tonight, how do we embody that today?

I want to make a modest proposal that we start with our Christian brothers and sisters. We have to stop looking at each other as the enemy. I think one of the major broken pieces in the modern church is that for the last 150 years, we have said, "I disagree, so I am parting ways." We have churches all over the landscape, but we have little love for one another. The ecumenical movement of let us all hold hands and act cordial is ridiculous, because one group will look at another and overtly or passively say, "You are not REALLY Christian."

So, I beg my fellow Christians, clergy and lay, to take serious the new mandate. "Love each other as I have loved you." Let's take something new out of this ancient word.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools

So today was April Fool's Day. I first realized this as I listened to one of my favorite five minutes of radio every week. At 7:55 Frank Deford gives a commentary on NPR's Morning Edition. To hear his commentary from this morning go to Sweetness and Light. Yep, I fell for it too.

Then, an hour and a half later, I sat with a gaggle of preschoolers trying to convey why fooling people and then laughing at them is not what Jesus wants us to do. I mean how many of us really want to be the butt of a joke? I assume most of you just said, "Not me." So, if the Goldren Rule says, "Treat others as you want to be treated," then why would we make anyone the butt of one of our jokes.

Twelve hours later, I found myself feeling the fool. I, along with the two music directors, made plans for Easter Sunday a few weeks ago. We felt a common face for our two Easter Sunday services would be a good effort and a way of bringing some unity in the community. Instead, what I realized after listening to some complaining, is we did not follow the Golden Rule. We did not treat the band or the choir like they want to be treated. We planned and idead without really considering what they wanted for Easter. MY plan sounded more like a cruel April Fool's joke to some of them.

So here I sit, playing the fool and it has nothing to do with Frank Deford.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Land of the Dying

When John Owen, the great Puritan, lay on his deathbed, his secretary wrote in his name to a friend, “I am still in the land of the living.”
“Stop,” said Owen. “Change that and say, ‘I am yet in the land of the dying, but I hope soon to be in the land of the living.”

What a thought as we come running into Holy Week! We are in the land of the dying. It is true for everyone of us who takes breathe. It is with this great reality that we came to Ash Wednesday several weeks ago, "From the dust you have come and to the dust you shall return." We watch over the next few days how even Jesus when faced with the reality of mortality breaks down in tears in the garden.

Still, ours is not the land of the dying. Our future and our hope lies in the land of the living that waits on the other side of the viel. With that in mind, what do we have to fear? Why do we continue to be held by fear? Do we not believe? Have we not faith? Have we not hope?

If we be Christian, if we truly believe that ours lies in the land and time God will make home among mortals, and God wipe away every tear and death will be no more and the covenant will be fulfilled, "I will be their God and they will be my people," then let us no more live as people who are going to grave, but live as people prepared to enter the land of the living.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trusting in Tough Times

Ok, so maybe life is not so bad. The DJIA went up 300+ points yesterday. But still the question hangs out there, "Do we trust that God will help us in our time of need?"

Through the scriptures God regularly hears the cries of the people. Consider the call of Moses. The LORD says, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their suffering, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians." (Exodus 3:7-8a)

The LORD God does deliver them from the Egyptians. God does bring them into a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This is the good part of this incredible story of our faith; they are delivered. The tough part is trusting God enough to hold on until the promise becomes the blessing. It took ten plagues, crossing a sea, and forty years in the wilderness before the promise was fulfilled, and even then the people doubted.

Trusting God in hard times is, well, hard. God does hear our cries. It may still take time to deliver on the promise.

Watch for "Do we trust God enough to share" coming soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Yes, it is bad. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is valued at 55% of what it was worth one year ago. According to the news this morning about $50 trillion dollars of net worth have disappear in the last year. Scary, huh?

But what is it that we really fear? Losing a job or a home? Not being able to retire "on time"? Finding out we are not as independent as we once thought?

God can hear our cries. Just like the LORD God heard the cries of God's people in Egypt and promised to deliver them, God hears our cries today. The question I find myself asking as a person still living well in the upper-middle class, "Am I the Hebrew in distress, or am I more like the Egyptian taskmaster?"

We have become so wealthy and powerful as individuals and as communities that we forget how much we really have. Yes, we might have fear and worry concerning our wealth and status. But ask yourself, "What do I really fear?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


A little girl, 4 years old, stopped me this morning as I was coming into the church. "My doggy died," she said. I knelt down and she came over for a hug.

Death is a harsh taskmaster. We are all caught up in its clutch from the moment we are born. We participate in it. We are affected by it. As much as we do not like death, it is always there. The ultimate pink elephant in the room.

Lent, these 40 days before Easter, are a season of self-reflection. Many Christians begin the season with a smear of ashes on their face and the words are said, "From dust you have come. To the dust you will return." A morbid moment really.

Yeah, death. Cold. Harsh. Real.

And there behind death is Christ. Laughing at the vain attempts to keep us in submission.

"Daddy said, 'Our doggy has gone to heaven,'" she said.

"Yes. And someday you will get to see him again," I said. And I thought of my favorite dog, Danny Boy. And how someday, after I have become dust, I will sit in a swing under a live oak tree, watching the late summer sun set with Tammy by my side, Danny boy at my feet, and a baseball game playing on the radio.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Today I stepped in at the last minute to help lead a discussion for the United Methodist Women at University Church. The topic they are currently studying is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With little time to prepare I began with the questions, "Why do we care? Why are we emotionally hooked by this conflict? What natural resources are they really fighting for?"
In terms of wealth, we have no reason to care. It is arid, resource poor, rocky ground. But we get hooked because as Christians we call it "Holy."



It is the "Holy" Land. We get hooked because we want to defend, hold, touch, have what our faith has called, "holy." But, if we take the "holy" off the table and look at the land itself, it is just a junk piece of property. When will we be able to step back and be rational about the fact that God is holy and the rest is just rocks and dirt and water?

Tell me what you think. Can we be non-emotional about Jerusalem and the "Holy" Land?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tent City

Every year as the end of February hints at the thaw of March (so ok, yesterday it was 86 degrees), a small tent city forms on the edge of our the property of University United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. Here the families who are hoping to transfer their student into Paschal High School gather and wait.

It is interesting for several reasons:
  1. One gets to see just how tough mom really is as she tries to sit on a curb in a lawn chair from Thursday morning until Sunday evening and then spend the night in the high school auditorium.
  2. One finds just how creative humans can be in finding shelter, building shelter, and exactly where they can sleep.
  3. One does wonder, "Where do all those people go potty?"
  4. The crowd grows every year.
  5. The parents line up the church curb because they are not allowed on the school property until Sunday evening.
  6. This one is my personal favorite: These people are idiots. I have watched this happen every year and every year all the parents who are here at 5:30 on Sunday evening get their precious child into Paschal High School.

Sorry, normally I do not get into school politics. But this is just plain silly. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Ok, so this is the beginning of Lent. A time of self-denial and self-reflection as we think about Jesus' time in the wilderness and we prepare for the Great Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter).

How did I start my Lent? With about twenty children ages three to five years. We sang together praising God. We prayed together. We shared a Bible story. Then, I went and played 42 with a group of Senior Citizens. Yep, I got beat two games to none by a couple of ladies in their 90's.

I don't know that this is what most people do as the beginning of the Lenten journey, but I have been blessed in this morning and am deeply reminded of the journey of life from wide-eyed wonderment to the frailty of age.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Scarcity and Faith

This morning, I find myself still thinking, in part because of several comments and questions, on the subject of scarcity. Scarcity means we have an inadequate supply or items or resources. We, as people of faith, buy into a theology of scarcity when we begin to believe that God will not and cannot supply our every need. It was the belief of the disciples when they had only a few fish and some bread to feed 5,000 people, and miraculously, Jesus provided more than enough.

Often our sense of scarcity comes not from a lack of God’s giving, but from our focus on the wrong things. Victor Frankl was one of the many Jews arrested by the Nazi’s. As a psychiatrist, he had written a manuscript and hidden his life’s work in the lining of his jacket. When he arrived at Auschwitz the manuscript was taken from the lining of his jacket along with all his other processions. Eventually, even his jacket and clothes were taken from him.

Frankl says, “I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn out rages of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber. . . . Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, Shema Yisrael.” The Shema reads, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

We want an abundance of what we think is important, valuable, and worthy. These are often things that have little real importance, value or worth. God has already poured out, many times over, everything that we need for life, for joy, for salvation, and for peace. We do not lack for anything except the faith to trust that indeed God will provide.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Ok, so I am home on a Monday with both of my boys. A five-year old, a ten-year old, and I are sitting watching the movie Madagascar. This is the joy of remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Really? This is what our government wanted when they set aside the third Monday of January as a national holiday? They wanted us to have more opportunities to watch TV with our kids?

I wonder, "Is this what Dr. King would want?" Would a man who gave his life to justice, to education, and to hope want all the children of this great land missing a day of school to remember him? This was a man who worked in the kitchen to attend college. This is a man who wanted better for our children. So now, the best way to honor him, to remember him, is to sit at home and watch a movie on DVD.

Dr. King, I am sorry that even as we have come so far since you lead the movements of your day, your great speeches of passion and vision, and your tragic death, that we have not come as far as you would have hoped for you children and mine.