Reality

Have you seen those Virtual Reality glasses? Have you used them. Almost real, but not quite…

Have you heard of Augmented Reality? Where your smartphone or tablet or computer helps you see what’s real, but even better?

What about “real” reality? Anybody still interested in that?

This weekend at Norwood Grace we’re going to “get real”. We’re gonna get really real. Check back on Sunday for the sermon, or come visit us in Norwood, OH at 10:45 on Sunday morning. Click here to find your way.

Roman Holiday: The Real Meaning of Freedom

So, as some of you probably know, today I started as a part-time pastor at a wonderful church called Grace United Methodist Church in Norwood, OH. Great leadership team there, and I’m really excited (not internet excited, where you say that about everything from breakfast to clipping your dog’s nails… but real excited) about what God is going to do as we make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the whole world.

I decided to start with some simple preaching out of the lectionary, and lo and behold, the readings for the summer are the very heart of the book of Romans. PERFECT!

So we’re going to take a Roman Holiday together for the summer. It’s amazing to me that the reading for the weekend we in the US celebrate our Freedom and Independence is insanely appropriate.

But… does Freedom, in regard to the day we celebrate on July 4, the same as freedom in the Bible?

Look closer.

Okay, the view of our bushes in front of the garage isn’t much… We were trimming bushes (Kathleen was doing it, I’m not allowed… she’s SO much better than I am at it) and as she was trimming these Juniper bushes…

…she heard quacking (and later HISSING…)

Mama stays right there sitting on the eggs most of the day, so any day now…

I’ve had birds make nests in my trees before, it’s fun.

Never had a family of ducks move in before.

Before you get all “Aw, how cute”… they’re a little nasty, think they own the place, complain about the coffee, have NOT paid a DIME in rent, never pick up after themselves, and are leaving a mess of feathers EVERYWHERE….

Can’t wait to see the chicks, though…

Don’t Bother Figuring It Out

I’ve been making music and video and multimedia magic with computers for a very long time. Back in the day (that’s what old people say, but I’ll say it, too…) when we hit a wall, we called tech support, or a friend who also did what we are doing, or we just busted our heads against it until we found the solution.

But not anymore.

Recently, I discovered some very old stuff I wanted to open. Files that were nearly 20 years old, that aren’t recognized by the most recent version of the software (which still exists) that created it.

Normally, I’d search for weeks for answers, call tech support, call friends, and bash my head against the desk trying different things.

When I got on Facebook and asked on a forum of similar users, I had a relatively convoluted and difficult answer within FIVE MINUTES!

I ran into some problems and had to find some other answers. They came within seconds with a google search.

Folks, your parents and grandparents didn’t have the knowledge of the world in the palm of their hand. But you do.

So… here we are, in 2017, with all the knowledge of humanity seconds away.

Why aren’t we “better” yet?

God Our Help…

Here’s a song I recorded about 5 or so years ago that I think really works for this time in our US History. Thought I’d share it today.

O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
You are our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Your throne,
Our hope will stay secure
Sufficient is Your arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or any thing was named
For everlasting, You are God
Forever you’re the same

O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Lord, be our guide while our lives shall last
You are our eternal home.

An Open Letter to My Evangelical Friends

I love you guys, I truly do. I am, at heart, really still one of you (even though I’m a Methodist, and technically mainline). Even though some of you have told me that you’ve decided I’m not (literally praying for my soul).

But there is a large group of you who have decided your faith is defined by a political position that now consists of attempting to put a man into power who is, in the eyes of a shockingly high number of people, a danger to public safety (even as just a candidate).

I’ve argued that with some of you for a while, and I’m not doing that here today, because work starts soon.

Instead, I’m reminding you that not everyone who disagrees that this reprehensible individual should be president has abandoned their faith. No, on the contrary, we are seeing the current political landscape through the lens of faith. The lens of a faith that teaches us that the very highest and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor (that includes our “enemy” as Jesus CLEARLY showed) as ourself.

That’s it. So… those of us who are not only not thrilled with the Republican party’s sad choice of candidate but who actively oppose him… we have not left the faith.

We are, in fact, making our decisions based on our living active faith in the God who rescued the refugee, elevated the place of women (even allowing a woman to bear the Son of God for the salvation of the world), and taught us that even if someone is different from us, they are worthy of love, of respect, of rescuing along the side of the road if need be.

We are faithfully considering that as we choose for whom to vote.

We are not sure you are.

Together

This is the last of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) Here’s the final one for you.

 

I  couldn’t end on such a down note. The opportunity to be part of a community of faith that is potentially such an amazing example of God’s work in the world is humbling and marvelous. We are, indeed, all in this together, and that’s an opportunity, not a trap.

I need to dedicate this one to the late David E. Bish, my pastor and boss from July 2005 until March 2011, for “assigning me” to write this song for a service when we realized we couldn’t find a song that said what we wanted to that particular week. Dave passed away suddenly in February and will be missed by all who knew him, but waits to greet us in glory.

Done With You

This is the seventh of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) Here’s one I wrote just a few months ago.

 

In the church circles I run in, we like to categorize people to better understand them. We have now got some groups called “nones”, who no longer identify with a religion, and the “dones” who are so disenchanted with religion and Christianity that they no longer want to be identified with it. Some of those people are not really done with God, some are, sadly, only because of the way they see believers behave.

I am noticing yet another group that is really done with the very public Christianity that is espoused by certain Christian leaders, but are very much still lovers of Jesus and faith. Some of us have stayed in the church (a lot of us work there) and some of us have even given up on that.

In the last few years, and even more so in the past few months (as of September 2016 when I am writing this), certain parts of the Evangelical movement have morphed into what is now more of a conservative political movement than anything remotely religious or spiritual, and many of us feel that this represents a move away from many of the core teachings of Jesus towards a pursuit of some kind of influence and power in the world that Jesus would have us be wary of and perhaps even actively avoid. So a lot of people who once called themselves Evangelical are becoming part of the “dones”, even though they still believe strongly in Jesus. This song is for us.

This is another song I tried desperately to “soften”, but opted not to, simply because it better represents what I was feeling at the moments I wrote it.