Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Not about Shaming or Lock-step Agreement but about Goodwill

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

There are many days where I yearn to totally unplug, to disconnect, to go back to the time before social media existed.

Where ideology trumps facts, where outrage outraces reasoned discourse, where hurt feelings gain more oxygen than loving compassion, it can feel rather hopeless at times to believe that the art of real conversation is not forever lost.

But we choose right.  We can choose how much to engage or not.  How to converse. Powerful words from Seth Godin…

Shaming a person is a senseless shortcut. When we say to someone, “you’re never going to amount to anything,” when we act like we want to lock them up and throw away the key, when we conflate the behavior with the human–we’ve hurt everyone. We’ve killed dreams, eliminated possibility and broken any chance for a connection.

The alternative is to be really clear about which behavior crossed the line. To correct that behavior at the very same time we open the door for our fellow citizen to become the sort of person we’d like to engage with.

That is what many of us desire I imagine … an “opening” where the others (or ourselves) are given the space to become the sort of person we would like to engage with.

An unfolding conversation then, not about shaming or lock-step agreement, but about goodwill.


				

When Does Peace Come?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Some words sound like what they are.  The word “shalom”, Hebrew for “peace”, is one such word.

How is it that we find peace?  How is it that we find shalom?

One way to hold it is that peace will come when our external circumstances change.  Peace, in other words, arrives when we finally have more money or more time or a more amenable partner. But that kind of peace rarely comes.  We either fail to attain those goals or we attain those goals, only to still find ourselves still anxious.

Peace comes, quite simply, when we decide it does.

As part of this job, I have been honored to meet some real heroes, people whose life story many would characterize as horrific.  Matt Pennington who lost a leg in Iraq, Eva Korr who survived the Holocaust, Kevin Hines who attempted suicide, Scarlett Lewis who lost her son Jesse at Sandy Hook. Despite unspeakable tragedy, all of them carry a palpable peace about their lives. I think they are there because they traveled through the fire and came out the other end with a choice, a choice they made in the direction of forgiveness and love.

New Church theology puts it beautifully … God does not rest until love takes the lead. When love takes the lead, regardless of life’s circumstance, we find peace. Shalom.

.

God Way Beyond Words

Friday, May 25th, 2018

We come, over our lives, to experience God often out beyond language.

“Mystical.”  Nothing detached here, nothing disembodied here, but an attempt to find a word that captures what is beyond words, the root of “mystic” going back to the Greek word for closing your lips.

We KNOW this.  That much of God lies joyously beyond words.

Two evenings ago, on one side of the porch donations for Stenton Family Manor homeless shelter, all organized by Lee.  On the other side a small offering of food to go to Prevention Point for an evening meal, all organized by Mary. That is an experience of God beyond words.

Maybe the stories of love-in-action, shared in community, are the closest words we are given.  And all that brings a smile!

.

 

 

Adventures in Missing the Point… and Finding It Again

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

It is forever easy to miss the point.

As a Pastor, personally, missing the point happens when I value study over relationships, a packed house on Sunday over service with those who suffer, my insights over the lived word of the congregation.

Study, full Sunday services, and personal insights are wonderful things.  And they place second to relationships, service, and an honoring of the lived experience of others.

Keeping to the right metrics is challenging. Relationships, service, welcoming other voices becomes messy, lacking edges, embracing discomfort, requiring trust, opening the field as it were where God can do His work.

And with the right metrics, with that mess, comes a much better adventure!

 

The Need to Invite: Thoughts from Rev. Mac Frazier

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Mat. 22:8-10)

The theme of invitations occurs frequently in the Word of the Lord. Sometimes, it is the Lord inviting His people to follow Him. At other times, it is the Lord instructing His people to go out and invite new people. One particular kind of invitation that happens repeatedly is an invitation to a feast.

A feast is a gathering in which people come together to eat and drink with one another, but also to enjoy one another’s company and conversation. At it’s best, a feast is a party in which people grow closer to one another while learning from one another’s perspectives and from one another’s wisdom from experience, while also enjoying nourishing and delightful food and drink. A perfect feast is an event that nourishes both the body and the soul of all who attend.

Feasts in the Word (as in life today) are often held to celebrate some important event, either to commemorate something important from the past (e.g. holy day feasts) or to kick off something wonderful and new (like at a wedding). The greatest of all feasts in the Word is the sharing of the last Passover meal among the disciples, which we commemorate in the church every time we celebrate Holy Supper.

Given all that can be said of feasts, it is not hard to see how a feast in the Word is also a symbol of a key function of the Lord’s kingdom—both of heaven and of the church. Whenever we gather together to worship, to serve others, or to support one another, we are participating in a spiritual feasts.

And feasts don’t work if you don’t invite anyone to come. A party without invitations is a sad affair. But whom should we invite?

Repeatedly, in the Lord’s Word, we are taught that it is not enough to just invite those we are already close with, nor is it good to invite with the idea of benefiting oneself. Rather, we are to go out and invite people who are in need of help, who are outside of our inner circle of comfort, and to do so in a way that focuses on their benefit, not ours.

Friends, there will eventually be no Glenview New Church if we do not get our heads around the idea that it is our responsibility to invite new people in. We can handle some of the “inviting” through things like paid advertising, signs out on the road, and other such impersonal, institutional means. But in the end, the invitations that work the best are the personal ones. A sign, a website, an advertisement—these can’t really communicate love the way a one-on-one conversation can.

Break out of your comfort zone. Try inviting someone.

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” (Luke 14:13-14)

- Mac Frazier

One of the most revolutionary Swedenborgian concepts for us to embrace….

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote…

Anyone who lives a life of love for others knows everything there is to know about a life of faith.” (Secrets of Heaven, 1798)

That is revolutionary stuff.

What does it mean for me as a Pastor?

  1. The goal of Sundays, small groups, and service is to help people become more loving
  2. We must care for each other, for the planet, for the less fortunate.  “Care” is a primary metric.
  3. Faith must move from historical faith to living faith.  Living faith arrives when the heart comes center, and love then gains its own wisdom
  4. Repentance means ridding ourselves, with God’s help, from what gets in the way of being loving

Of course I want to have a conversation with God and His Word in its many forms.  AND, most importantly, I want to listen with all that I am to the conversation people are having with God.  Their conversation will be different from mine.  It will be beautiful.

What a blessing to discover what people already know of God.  What a grace, as a church, as we share together what other people are doing in the world.

“Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.”

Monday, April 9th, 2018

I love the line from Seth Godin, “Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.”  I would add “And building is the best legacy we can leave.”

We live in a culture that appears to have shifted its focus from building things to being entertained by things.  And churches are here to build things!

We face many interesting problems to solve.

  1. What does it look like to serve people in this era of rapid change?
  2. How do we create a viable in-person community when Sundays are no longer a sacred space but a space in which churches compete with hockey, soccer, travel, and online options from Joel Osteen to Rick Warren to Andy Stanley to Joyce Meyer?
  3. How do churches create a rhythm of sustainability?
  4. How do we remain focused outward, embodying the deeply-sourced acceptance latent in the Swedenborgian idea that “the multiplicity of heaven is indescribable.”

These are very real questions.  And the most interesting problem to me is this… How do we embrace and embody the Christian message, seeking to humbly serve God and others as best we can as God gives us to see it?

There are practical questions.  And there are missional questions. Both are interesting.  Both important.  The New Church perspective … solve the big one first and allow the answers to the other questions grow from that place.

Every time we gather on a Sunday, every time we serve together, every time we connect it is an attempt to answer those most interesting questions.  Living our way to the answers we seek.

The ever-present invitation remains this … Solve the interesting problems.  And build.

Hope Restored

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Five stories of hope over the past week…

  1. We planted our Easter Flowers, collected just a week ago, at Interfaith Housing Alliance,  a local homeless shelter. The director proudly showed Angela where the flowers from last year’s planting were coming up.
  2. Harry died at 90.  His last Christmas toy/ present to his two sons? Drones.
  3. In preparing for Minwah’s funeral, a loving wife and mother of two adult sons, her younger son chuckled at the memory at debating with his mother what they would listen to on the way to school – a local FM music channel or “Hooked on Phonics.”
  4. Doing work in a hotel, hearing the cleaner enter the room next year, and talk online to a toddler grandchild while he cleaned the room.  I could not understand a word they said but the joyous tone said it all.
  5. Officiating at our oldest son’s wedding. Seeing a few days later, his wife honored by a local hospital as Julie BLAIR.
All of it Holy.
.
Somehow that holiness and hopefulness connect.
.
Maybe this is how.  Maybe we can learn learn to see it is all as holy. Even in the broken places, where we travel often, there is always a preciousness hidden somewhere.  In the husbands tears. In the family’s connection.  In the toddler’s laughter.  In the son’s pride.  In memory.
.
Holy, holy, holy.
.
And hope restored, at least in part, at least for today.
.

Honoring the 50th Anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King’s Death

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

So much I could say here.  I know, personally, that MLK’s message deepens with time.  Becomes more and more a miracle over the years.  And a call.

My favorite document … “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”  Addressed to clergy, lines like those below are always cause for serious soul searching.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

So we honor this anniversary with a moment of thoughtful consideration of a life well lived and an ever-present, pregnant call towards a better world.

Cardinal Virtues

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Christianity, historically, holds to four cardinal virtues.

  1. Fortitude
  2. Temperance
  3. Prudence
  4. Patience
And I love this little word play!  The word “cardinal” goes to the root “cardo” which means “hinge.”  These four cardinal virtues are “hinges” upon which the door of the spiritual life swings.
.
The “hinge.” Not the destination.  The “hinge.” Part of the means.  Part of Jesus’ words, “Behold I stand at the door at knock.  If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them.”
.
Much of religion confuses love of control vs. love of other people.  In much the same way, it is easy to center on the religious message in regards to moral virtue as the be all and end all of all spirituality. But it is not.  Moral virtue is a means to an end and the end is always, always love.
.
The door matters.  And so do the hinges.  Both there to move us to where we deeply desire, in our souls, to be.
.