Sometimes God speaks to me through my kids. The other day as my family rushed out the door going the “next” thing my daughter commented, “Daddy stop! Why are we always in a hurry when we never go anywhere really important.” Intuitively, she picked up on the fact that hurry, the sheer pace of life got in the way of what was really important. Life is to precious to miss, and the faster we go the more likely we are to miss what really matters.
Perhaps you have experienced this as well. We can get so busy doing “urgent” things and so preoccupied with what comes next that we do not experience the now. It is almost as though in our fear of being late, we rush from the past to the future and miss the gift of the present. We do not get to our futures faster if we hurry and certainly do not become better people in our haste. More likely than not, the faster we go the less we become. As followers of Jesus, that is a shame.
Slowing is the way we counter our culture’s mandate to tend to the bottom line, to move it or lose it, to constantly be on the go. In Mark 6:31, Jesus observes a frantic crowd coming and going without taking time to rest and eat, so he says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The invitation always before us, yet slowing does not happen automatically, but with great intentionality. It is a way to honor our limits and the fact that God is found in the present moment.
As some of you know, my family will be on vacation for the next two weeks spending time with family in Missouri and Florida. Admittedly, our family tends to pack so many things into our vacations that we need a few days to recover upon our return home. My intention is to make this vacation different, to incorporate a slower rhythm to our days, to enjoy longer coffee times in the mornings, to concede longer naps in the afternoons, to linger at dinner table conversations and to stroll longer in the woods or on the beach.
So, how will you choose to slow your pace this week? How about driving in the slower lane, speaking more slowly, eating more slowly or pausing to look people in the eyes. Let us covenant to slow down my friends that we may find God in each other and each moment.
As most of you know, I am a third generation pastor’s kid. My dad was a pastor his whole career, as was his father (and my uncle as well). Some might say that any pastor’s kid is a long shot to turn out normal, much less the son of a pastor who was the son of a pastor. Perhaps it is becoming more and more clear why your pastor (me) is such a piece of work.
There are some advantages though. I grew up in the church. 365 days of the year, my family was at the church, serving the church, loving the church, celebrating and crying with the church. You might not know, but after a few years a pastor’s heart beats with the church they are serving. We feel the joys and pains, the highs and lows, the peace and restlessness of the church.
This past Sunday when I stood before you, I felt something that broke my heart. I felt a spirit of anxiousness and unhappiness, as though some of you were hurting. It wasn’t what anyone said or did, but simply a sense or spirit that I picked up on. On Sunday evening at the Board meeting, the cause became abundantly clear. Over the past few weeks, a rumor started among a few groups within our congregation that the times for the new worship service, scheduled for September 9, 2018, were already decided and that the time for the traditional service time was changed.
First and foremost, this is completely untrue. Sunday night’s meeting was the first time that the Board discussed any proposals from the New Service Planting Team concerning the new worship service, and no proposals were approved.
Secondly, I have to say that several revelations brought forth in the meeting broke my heart. It broke my heart that unconfirmed information was shared as though factual. It broke my heart that no one immediately sought to confirm the information with me or a Board member before spreading it. It broke my heart that many congregation members were hurt deeply by this misinformation. But mostly, it broke my heart that anyone in our congregation could believe that your pastor or Board would make such a significant decision in such an uncaring way without seeking to hear from you… our church family.
Friends, your pastor and Board love you and respect you. We would never make a decision like shifting the whole Sunday morning schedule without consulting you. To be clear, the Board is empowered by the congregation to make important decisions pertaining to church life, but rest assured that we represent you and seek your consultation so that we can make key decisions wisely.
And so, we must all claim this as an opportunity to learn and grow, to pray and evaluate how we can better honor each other and protect the treasures that we hold dear in Kingwood Christian Church. We must all seek ways to foster greater trust believing the best in each other. My vow is that I will try to do a better job of communicating and updating the congregation when big decisions, like those pertaining to the new service, are on the horizon. May we covenant to make every effort to grow our trust in Christ and each other as we move forward together.
For the record, there is no way to improve on Margaret’s sermon this past Sunday. She did a fantastic job of giving voice to the absent “mother” in the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15. For me, it was as though Margaret’s retelling brought completion to an unfinished story, one missing a character key to the plot line and lesson Jesus is offering.
In the Luke account, Jesus makes very clear that the forgiving Father represents God. And yet, if we believe all people are created in the image of God – “Male and female, God created them”- then half of God is found in the male gender and half is found in the female. Anybody who only gives you only half that truth is only representing half the mystery of God. Is Jesus guilty of this? I don’t think so.
The father that Jesus described and knew looked amazingly like what most cultures would call mother. While likening the “father” to God, Jesus portrays him as a complex blend of the traditional patriarch… and matriarch. The God of Jesus’ parable is soft and hard, grace-filled and accountable, freeing and responsible, vulnerable and empowered, an optimist and realist, and both traditional and egalitarian.
Do you see it? God’s image is only fully represented in our beautiful diversity, “both male and female.” God is revealed in the collective masculine and feminine together, and to portray God any other way is an injustice.
It is hard to believe that the end of this month, Chris Aleman will have worked with our students for three years. From our first conversation, I knew that I was meeting a brother with an incredible heart for God and passion for young people. Over these years, he touched the lives of our students with wisdom, kindness, joy and sincerity. Without question, it is my belief that God has called and gifted Chris for vocational ministry. If you were in worship this past Sunday, Chris’ gifts were on full display as he led us in heartfelt prayer and sang a song called, “Come to the Table.” It was truly beautiful.
Chris’ ministry at KCC is coming to an end. He has decided that God is calling him to a new, full-time Youth and Worship Leader position in Texarkana. He will start in early June and looks forward to the opportunity for he and Marissa (his wife) to step out and follow God into a new adventure. His last Sunday will be May 20, Graduate Recognition Sunday, followed by a reception. Our blessing and prayers will go with him.
With our recent growth in children and students, and the launch of our new worship service on the horizon, our student ministry is in need of new, strong leadership. On behalf of our search team (Karen Tillett, Stan Hollibaugh, Zach and Reagan Morris and myself), let me introduce you to our new Youth Director, Lorellye Graham. Lorellye is a recent TCU graduate and Christian Church (DOC) pastor’s kid who loves the church and seeks to offer her gifts to see it flourish. Here is an excerpt from her resume cover letter.
I’m grateful to be considered for the position of Youth Director at Kingwood Christian Church.
I am a hardworking recent college graduate from Texas Christian University. During my academic career, I accrued nearly 3 years of work experience. I had the privilege of working for Central Christian Church, Waco, TX in a Youth Ministry Intern role in my free time, where I learned valuable professional skills such as creating and maintaining relationships, and planning and orchestrating programs. My time at CCC in Waco was spent collaborating with the other staff to plan mission trips, vacation bible school, and going to camp.
I have led music in both the Tri-Area and Mission west area camps. In both my academic, spiritual, and professional life, I have been consistently known as proactive by my professors and peers. Whether working on academic, extracurricular, or professional projects, I apply proven critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills, which I hope to incorporate into the Youth Ministry position at your church.
Lorellye is currently working on her Masters in Psychology at University of Houston and has plans of staying close to family here in the Houston area. The search team unanimously agrees that Lorellye is the perfect leader for this unique season in the life of KCC. With great excitement and anticipation, Lorellye begins her ministry at KCC on May 22.
Sometimes you just see something great and need to stop to celebrate it. Well I had one of those moments this past Sunday morning after worship. Our church has entered a season where God is sending visitors our way, entrusting us with new, precious individuals and couples with teenagers and children. It is so humbling to see these new faces walk through our doors again and again because they sense that God is a work in this community of people. “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
These precious souls, old and young, are not just visiting once or twice never to be seen again. They are visiting and returning. They are trying out Sunday school, Children’s Church, Sisters groups, Big Gig and Songaze. They are joining us in deliberative dialogues, service projects and work days. They are beginning to join committees and care teams. Again, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
Why are these new folks coming and staying? Is it because of the beautiful music offered every Sunday? Perhaps. Is it because of a thoughtful and engaging sermon? Maybe. Is it because of our core values of love, not judgment, extravagant welcome and inclusion, open-minded conversations and compassionate service? Probably. But what is the primary reason we are seeing more and more new faces joining our church family? It is because of what I saw on Sunday morning. I saw easily 20-25 of our members, new and old, actively engaging and befriending our visitors. Literally, our visitors were late for lunch because so many of our folks wanted to say “Hi,” shake their hand, be friendly, hear about them and let them know how glad we were that they joined us in worship. Once more,”Hallelujah, praise the Lord.”
Let me just tell you. That sight made this pastor’s heart swell with gratitude and pride. Church family, we are reaching new neighbors and growing because of God’s Spirit at work inside of you. You inspire me!
In my devotions this morning, I came across a provocative and powerful prayer based on the writings of Saint Francis that I offer to you as a focus for meditation. Allow its challenging sentiment to speak to you as make your way through the day.
Creator God, give us ears, make us rich soil like the rich soil in the Gospel parable of the seeds (Matthew 13). Fill us with life so that we can receive the words of life that you offer. We thank you for loving us and for leading us to this moment of life.
This day, allow us to hear anew. Allow us to receive afresh. Allow us to become all that you want us to become, for your sake, for the coming of the Kingdom.
Teach us to be poor. We don’t know how. We only know how to be rich. We’ve had everything. We do not know how to live without. We do not know how to trust you Lord.
Renew our world with the love of Jesus. Give us hearts in fire for Jesus so we can look and see nothing else. In the name of Christ we ask these good things. Amen
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor (in Spirit), for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” May we be people who embrace our poverty, our need for God that we might be like fertile, receptive soil for the Kingdom to flourish in us and through us.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
It is my fervent belief that God is constantly at work bringing resurrection, calling “new things,” renewed life out of dried up wasteland. That wasteland might be internal, within people whose hearts are bound by hate, sadness or addiction. That dry wilderness might be collective, as churches lie dormant, complacent having lost sight of their greater calling to serve and bless their neighbors, especially the poor and those in need.
The agent through which God moves, awakens and ignites people of faith is the Spirit. Often, we forget that it was through this forgotten part of God that the church was born. The church did not exist before the outpouring of the Spirit and would not exist without it. The Spirit brings energy, courage, wisdom and vision to the church. The Spirit or Pneuma (Greek feminine), like the wind that blew at Pentecost, is uncontrollable moving when and where she desires. She seems to thrive on the nurturing surprise, cultivating new and unexpected things in and among us.
As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, embracing the Spirit means living in a state of perpetual expectation of “new things.” When we no longer expect new things from life, we are for all practical purposes atheists. When we are longer open to do something new, to see and feel in new ways about old things, you might was well hang it up. There is always more of the Spirit for us to receive.
We are in a season where God is calling us into something new, new energy, new visions, new expressions. In the wake of a very productive Board meeting and budget discussion, we are “finally” ready to present a new 2018 budget to the congregation in the coming weeks. If approved, we will be searching for new staff members, starting new services and planning new initiatives to grow and bless our community. This is handiwork of the Spirit. Though it might be unsettling, it is in these precious seasons of Spirit movement that God’s most exciting and transformative work is accomplished. Friends, may we embrace this season with positivity, with openness, with resolve and above all faith that God it with us and will provide for us each step of the way.
Forward Together, -Chad
Why should you not miss this Sunday? Let me count the reasons. First, it is a pity to miss an opportunity to gather with such a wonderful, kind and authentic group of Christ followers as you’ll find at Kingwood Christian Church. Secondly, the worship service, both in spoken word and song, is sure to be inspiring, thoughtful and life-giving. Thirdly, Bill Cowsar is, for a limited time only, offering free rocking chair test drives in his stunning, hand crafted marvel.
Finally, following worship on Sunday you are invited to join the KCC Staff and Board in the fellowship hall for lunch and an important presentation. This presentation will include a full report from the Evangelism Task Force on our visits to three of the Christian Church (DOC) most vibrant and growing congregations. Our team is filled with new insights and inspiration that we want to share with you.
The second half of the presentation will include an update from the Board on our congregational, strategic goals and budget for 2018. We are making some significant steps forward and want to keep you informed. Following the presentations, we will offer time for questions and comments, but plan to conclude by 1:30pm. PLEASE, Don’t Miss This Sunday. Don’t miss this opportunity to listen, learn and find your place to serve.
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to Lazarus’ tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus, said, “Take away the stone.” Martha said, Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed,
you would see the glory of God.”
This morning in one of my devotional readings Richard Rohr offered these enlightening and inspiring thoughts. I hope they are living water for you as well.
Jesus taught us about resurrection not long before his own resurrection, when he called his friend Lazarus back from death. In John’s telling of the story, Jesus comes before the tomb, the tomb symbolizing the deadness, the coldness, the hard-heartedness in all of us. He stands as the victor, the one holding all power over that deadness.
Then Jesus does something unexpected. After asking the family to roll away the stone, he requires a further sign of faith. He asks, “Do you believe that I can do it? Can you be with me as I do it? Jesus is calling the people to step out in faith. Make a bit of a fool of yourself, “Move away the stone, never mind the smell. Untie him and let him go free. Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the wonders of God?”
Notice, John may well be saying something revolutionary to the community. Though Jesus brings us to life, he needs us, the Body of Christ. He needs the church to believe in Him and respond faithfully in unbinding Lazarus. Yes, we (the church) are invited to cultivate and participate in the resurrection stories of our friends and neighbors. Make no mistake church, Jesus calls us to believe in him, to go into the tombs of the dead and dying, to get our hands dirty in the Lord’s healing work and we will see the wonders of God. May it be so.
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Exodus 3:5
If you imagine a land cleared and cultivated, prepared and blessed with new growth, Holy Week is the time of its consecration. The word consecration means to claim or set aside for holy purposes. Remember with me the extraordinary scene where Moses encounters the burning bush. He stumbles into a cave, seemingly by accident, and finds a bush that is burning, but not consumed. Then a voice emanating from the bush calls his name, “Moses, Moses! Come no closer. Remove you sandals, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” The voice identified itself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overwhelmed with fear, Moses hid his face in reverence for God. With the act of removing his sandals and closing his eyes, Moses claimed this cave as a holy meeting space with God. It was in that holy space that God revealed an extraordinary calling to Moses.
This week, I encourage you to claim your holy ground, your sacred meeting place with God somewhere in your home. You might use an entire room or just a corner or alcove. Design the space so it feels comfortable and welcoming, include furniture or pillows to sit on. Bring into the space any objects you regard as sacred – books, photos, candles, nature objects, icons, or other sacred symbols. Display them in such a way that you feel surrounded by them.
Enter this space each day and allow yourself to rest in it. As you enter, remove your shoes and close your eyes. Imagine yourself and the space filled with holiness, the very Spirit of God. Pray, using words if you like, or pray without words by sitting quietly in the presence of God. Perhaps on Thursday, commemorate the Last Supper by taking communion in your holy space. And on Friday, read the scriptures and mediate on the Passion of Christ’s crucifixion. Then on Easter morning, claim your holy space as the empty tomb.
Friends, please know that God yearns to meet with you. So claim your Holy Ground, then listen for the still, small voice of the Spirit to whisper God’s hopes and dreams for your life.