Sep 23, 2016

Noah’s Ark


In an article titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Noah’s Ark, I was amused, but also struck by how the elements on the list below help how we look at life. So, you decide which ones are worth pondering—and then ponder!

1. Don’t miss the boat.
2. Don’t forget that we’re all in the same boat.
3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big.
5. Don’t listen to critics, just get on with what has to be done.
6. Build your future on high ground.
7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
8. Two heads are better than one.
9. Speed isn’t always an advantage; the snails were on board with the cheetahs.
10. When you’re stressed, float awhile.
11. Remember that amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.
12. Remember that woodpeckers inside are a larger threat than the storm outside.
13. No matter the storm, when you’re with God, there’s a rainbow waiting.


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Sep 16, 2016

Perspective


Perspective is a position or standpoint from which something is considered or evaluated. Or, we might say it is the place from which we observe or understand something. John Green wrote almost exactly four years ago about the perspective of being college educated:

When I was in college, I remember fearing that the dreary grind of adulthood would feature infinitely more existential dread than frat parties had, but the opposite has been true for me. I'm much less likely to feel that gnawing fear of aimlessness and nihilism than I used to be and that's partly because education gave me job opportunities, but it's mostly because education gave me perspective and context.

In a similar vein my friend, Tom Long, once wrote of this kind of perspective (a story related in Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It). Long was in a grocery store and it is important to know that for Long, grocery shopping was nothing but a painful experience.

He was in a somewhat foul mood when he ran into a couple of people who were actually enjoying grocery shopping. It was a mother and her young son, and they had learned how to make a game out of grocery shopping. She would read him the first item on her list—paper towels, aluminum foil, whatever—and he would hear what she said, and race around the store until he found what she needed.

Then he would bring his trophy back to her shopping cart and place it inside. She would applaud him for what he had done, give him another item and off he would go. They were laughing and having a great time with it all. Well, you know how it is when you meet somebody going down a grocery store aisle—you’re going to meet them several times before you finish your shopping. It was about the third aisle over when it dawned on him that the little boy had a mental disability. The mother caught him staring at them.  He said, “I was just admiring your relationship with your son.”  “Yes,” she responded, “he is a gift from God.”

It is all a matter of perspective.


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Sep 9, 2016

Fall Kickoff: The Power of Community


Our First United Methodist Church Fall Kickoff will be this coming Sunday. It will include a cookout in the North parking lot, a live DJ, an ice cream truck, bounce houses, a Connection Fair, and fellowship for all.

Our very own Arlington Police Chief, Will Johnson, will speak in worship and we have made certain to invite law enforcement officers to come eat and mingle with our congregation. The Mission Team will have a booth to sign up for prayer partners with individual officers of the APD.

Being proactive to unite churches and communities is something that we should all strive to be a part of—especially in these days when tensions seem to run so high. Being upbeat and optimistic with respect to our communities is something that we can all do to add our little part to the harmony of the places where we live. This kind of attitude reminds me of a story I once read about President Abraham Lincoln.

During the War Between the States, a young teenage boy enlisted to be a soldier for the Union army. But he was not ready. He was much too young, and when the time came for his first encounter with the enemy, he became terrified and ran away. He was caught, arrested, judged guilty of desertion and sentenced to be shot by a firing squad.

His parents wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, pleading for mercy, pleading for a pardon for their young son. Touched by their letter, President Lincoln called for the facts and when he realized the situation, he overruled the death sentence and granted the teenager a full presidential pardon.

In his official statement explaining his action, Mr. Lincoln wrote these words: “Over the years . . . I have observed that it does not do a boy much good to shoot him!” (James Moore, When All Else Fails…Read the Instructions, Dimensions for Living, Nashville, 1993, p. 55).

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Sep 2, 2016

Labor Day


As the late John Claypool reminds us on this Labor Day: “When we offer up our daily work to the glory of God and the benefit of our families and communities, we proceed to play our roles in the daily struggle to make God more visible in the world and bring God’s realm into fuller realization.”

Labor Day is a day to celebrate the work we do in the world. Often, our work is one of the ways we define our lives and thereby celebrate our lives. I suggest that this week, and in preparation for Holy Communion, we use the following prayer from Reinhold Niebuher, who offered it up to God and for us:

O God, you have bound us together in this life.
Give us grace to understand how our lives depend
on the courage, the industry, the honesty,
and the integrity of all who labor.
May we be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness,
and faithful in our responsibilities to them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May this Labor Day be a day of thanksgiving for our honest work in God’s Realm.

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P. S. Our Lectionary Bible Study begins this Tuesday night with a covered dish meal at 5:30 pm and then the study will begin at 6:00 and end promptly at 7:00. If you would like a lectionary sheet they are available in the office or you may get one on 6 September 2016 from Rev. Kay Lancaster.

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Aug 26, 2016

School is Now Upon Us!


As I pondered the beginning of a new school year, I remembered this fine story of a wonderful professor which ought to inspire all of us:

In 1947, a professor at the University of Chicago, Dr. Chandrasekhar, was scheduled to teach an advanced seminar in astrophysics. At the time, he was living in Wisconsin, doing research at the Yerkes astronomical observatory. He planned to commute twice a week for the class, although it would be held during the harsh winter months.

Registration for the seminar, however, fell far below expectations. Only two students signed up for the class. People expected Dr. Chandrasekhar to cancel, lest he waste his time. But for the sake of two students, he taught the class, commuting 100 miles round trip through backcountry roads in the dead of winter.
        
His students, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, did their homework. Ten years later, in 1957, they both won the Nobel Prize for physics. So did Dr. Chandrasekhar in 1983.
        
For effective teachers, there is no such thing as a small class.

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Aug 19, 2016

“Sometimes, there just aren't enough rocks”


There is a heart-rending scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump,” based on the novel by Winston Groom. Jenny, the childhood girlfriend of the mentally challenged Forrest Gump, has come home from one of her many self-destructive prodigal escapades. She and Forrest go to the abandoned home place where she lived out her tragic years as a child. The sight of the house brings back to Jenny an overwhelming tide of the tragedy and pain she experienced there.

All of these repressed memories rush in on her, and she loses it, and storms toward the house screaming and throwing things. She throws her shoes, clods of dirt, and all the rocks she can find. When there are no more rocks to throw, she falls exhausted and sobbing to the ground. After an awesome stillness and a silence, Forrest Gump moves lovingly toward her, and as he lifts her up says: “Jenny, sometimes, I guess there just aren't enough rocks!”

We each have a variety of things from which we pray healing and sometimes we feel as if we do not have enough prayers to throw. Yet Wesley talked often of God’s “prevenient grace” which is the grace that runs ahead of us and meets us at our point of need. This is indeed something to be thankful for!


PS. Don’t forget our Blood Drive this Sunday the 21st of August from 9:00 am-1:00 pm.



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Aug 12, 2016

Hope for a Better Past


My friend, who at times appears in my blog, wrote something worthy of our pondering these searing days in August. Tom Butts, pastor emeritus of FUMC Monroeville AL, wrote “Hope for a Better Past” on June 10, 2010 and I share it here with you:

One of the basic lessons of life, which some people never learn, is to let go of the hope for a better past. In spite of the obvious futility of this effort, we see people wasting years of their lives hoping to change the past. While it is true that we are shaped by our past, we cannot change it. It is not going to improve. But we are more than our past. We are more than the voices and experiences from behind us. We can have total control of our attitude and a modicum of control over the events of today and tomorrow, but we have no control over yesterday. 

Some 70 years ago a Russian writer by the name of P.D. Ouspensky wrote a novel entitled The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin. It is the story of a man who wanted to amend his mistakes by living his life over again. “If only I could get back all the chances which life offered me and which I threw away,” he said. “If only I could do things differently.”

Ivan visits a magician who reluctantly and magically gives him the chance to live his life over again, but warns him that nothing will be different. Ivan watches his life like a screen play. As he watches the repetition of the life he so desperately wants to amend, he sees himself helplessly reliving the bitter failure of his school days, the sweetness of early life, and the reckless experiments of his particular temperament. The second time around he does the same absurd things, right down to the smallest detail.

Ivan desperately pleads, “What am I to do?!” The magician said to him: “Remember, if you go back as blind as you are now, you will do the same things over again. Repetition is inevitable unless you first change yourself.”

 Ivan Osokin is no stranger to me. I have been seeing him/her two or three times a week for 70 years. He was here last week. Some days I look in the mirror and see him. The Ivan in me and in the "Ivanisky" people I see every week are continually doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a different result. And, it never happens. What is it in us that make us buy into that same illusion over and over again?! It is as if we are haunted by something that is not there.

The possibility for a better future begins when we let go of the hope for a better past.



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