Thursday, April 23, 2009

Generous Leadership

The following is an article I read this week that really inspired me to share its message with all of you. I hope you find this article to be planting some vital seeds in you generous heart. God Bless.

Generous Leadership
By Paul Extrum-Fernandez: Paul is vice president for institutional advancement at Pacific School of Religion
- This article is from May/June 2009 issue of Interpreter


It is difficult to speak of generous leadership in a time marked by greed, malfeasance and economic uncertainty. yet, it is precisely the time for those of us who serve God's people to consider the enabling power of generosity.

"Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." (Luke 6:38, NRSV).

Luke places this verse within a larger context of Jesus' teaching to His disciples - reflecting on blessings and woes, love for our enemies and forbearance from passing judgment upon others. It also reminds us that God's "measure" of our lives is directly related to our "measure" of our relationships to others.

I cannot help but think of cookie recipes that call for one cup of packed brown sugar. I tend to be an overzealous abider of cooking law, pressing and packing every possible grain of sugar into that one cup. I don't want to feel like I have cheated the cookie or myself!

How can we ensure that we "pack" everything we have to give into our relationships with the people we serve? How might we practice generosity in a period of recessionary angst? How can we give it our all when we feel like we have little or nothing more to give?

In a recent conversation with some of my staff, we were discussing some of the concerns we f ace as an organization. As I was outlining some of the issues, one of my younger colleagues chimed in and reminded me of the opportunity we have to think and act creatively - especially in these financially challenging days.

It was during this encounter that I understood more fully the relationship between leadership and generosity. Whether we call it "thinking outside the box." creative engagement or even "wishful thinking," our opportunity as leaders in the church is to explore today where we would not have yesterday. Ideas are not in short supply, only our willingness to receive them as leaders. God's generous gift to us is the capacity to see hope in places where before we would not have dreamed it could be found.

Generous leadership is more than just a substantial financial contribution - although that certainly incarnates it! Generous leadership is more about leading with a spirit of grace and compassion. Living and leading generously means discerning between the frivolous and the meaningful. Too often in our local churches we leaders can become sidetracked by petty arguments so that we miss seeing God's activity within and beyond our doors.

Jesus' invitation is before us: Keep our eyes and hearts on God's eternal promises. "Give and it will be given to you." Press down your measure, shake it well and share it abundantly. Our witness as Christian leaders is an invitation for those who encounter us to follow our example.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Remembering Columbine

10 years ago today, April 20th 1999, the actions of two high school boys, shocked our nation. Two boys perpetrated horrific acts of violence that resulted in the death of 12 students, one teacher and the injuries of 23 other students before the tragedy ended with their suicides. Ranked the fourth deadliest school massacre in the United States, Columbine High School is remembered this day.

10 years ago today, I was a high school senior in Colorado, not too far from Columbine H.S. I was at home that Tuesday and remember receiving the phone call from a friend that something had happened and I had better turn on my TV. I did just that, and watched in horror as students my age ran from their high school, leaving others behind whose names would be remembered forever. I remember feeling for the first time, that my little safety bubble had been burst. I realized the reality that is our world in a completely different light than I had ever before. I recall to this day, participating in concert competitions at Columbine High School. I remember walking the same halls shown on TV and I remember sitting in that cafeteria and the library during a debate competition. In fact, I remember having met one of the killers briefly during that debate competition. I will never forget that face.

As today is a day of remembrance, it is also a day of great grief for those who buried their loved ones ten years ago. It is a day when we continue to reflect on humanity and wonder if we've really come that far at all? Our country has seen many more tragedies since that day like 9/11 and the Virgina Tech shootings, just to name a few. I know many are praying for the families of the students and the teacher who were lost. I can't help but wonder though, if anyone is praying for the families of the shooters? I know its hard to wrap our heads around such a thing sometimes, but did they not also loose their sons? Their babies? Are they not living every day with the guilt of what their son's did? I cannot imagine a greater burden.

As I remember that day and the days that followed, I pray for all who suffered. As I can recall the funerals that were televised, the agony on the faces of the parents, the flag at half staff, the endless array of columbines seen everywhere, even the dedication page at the end of my senior year book, I pray. I pray that no other parent ever has to suffer that way again. I pray that we can overcome the evils that lurk within all of us to avoid such tragedy in the future. I pray that we can learn to live out of love and not out of selfishness and hate. I pray that the families have found forgiveness in their hearts and that the families of the killers have been able to forgive themselves for the guilt they have adopted. I pray that as a parent, I never have to see my child's school on TV and wonder if they're alive. I just pray that we never forget our past so that we can avoid repeating it in our future. Our world needs healing. May we all pray for that, each and every day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day of Fasting and Prayer

Tomorrow I will observing a day of fasting and prayer and would like to invite anyone who would like to participate.

It doesn't take long for us to realize how badly our world is hurting. People across the globe are in need of our prayers and the healing of the Holy Spirit. Some qualify prayer as "the least they can do" but prayer is the first thing we should always do. Before we give advice, donate money, cook a meal, go on a mission trip, protest injustice or make any decision, we should be in prayer. It seems like an overwhelming task to be in prayer constantly, but the more you practice it, the more it becomes like breathing to you and you realize that you actually never stop praying, you're just in a constant dialogue with God. Prayer is a powerful agent of transformation in our world and not only touches the prayed for, but also the pray-er.

A list of things I will be praying for tomorrow are listed below. Please let me know if there is anything I can pray over you about. Also, let myself and those reading know if you will be praying and fasting with us and what things you might be praying over. God bless all of you this day, and may the presence of Christ be felt in your lives.

Prayer List
  • Robin - who suffers from MS and is considering a new and risky treatment. Also for Robin's family and direct caregivers that they made me strengthened and confident in the will of God.
  • For marriages across the world - for those about to be married, newly married, happily and unhappily married and for those marriages ending in divorce.
  • For those suffering in Uganda, Rwanda, Darfur and other parts of our aching world who are in such great need of hope and love and healing.
  • For the women of Afghanistan who have been sentenced to marriages condoning rape and who are being stoned for protesting.
  • For the women, men and children who are being trafficked around the world in the labor and sex slave trades.
  • For the families around the world and here in the United States who are suffering because of lost jobs, lost retirements, a sluggish economy and who are in need of hope.
  • For inmates in our prison systems that they might seek and find the face of God. That redemption and salvation may surround them and those who are in danger of being a part of the prison system. We also pray for the families of victims as well as the families of perpetrators. We pray for those who serve our prison systems with honor and those who disgrace it with their hatred and prejudice.
  • For those who desperately long for a family but are faced with infertility. Those who cannot afford expensive treatments or adoption.
  • For those in the armed forces and government who take seriously their oath to serve and protect as well as for those who have lost sight of their call to service and integrity and have fallen into corruption.
  • For the teachers who wake up every morning in the face of adversity to teach our children and who grow to love and nurture our children into the people God created them to be. We pray also for those teachers who lack the commitment to make a difference and who become stumbling blocks to students.
  • For doctors and nurses, pharmacists and techs who work around the clock in their mission to seek out healing and wellness and to serve the sick. We also pray for our pharmaceutical companies, crooked doctors and insurance companies who often stop believing and having faith in the power to make a difference in lives of those around them.
  • For public figures who could do so much good with their fame, yet choose only to spread ungodly behavior. We also pray for those public figures who strive to live a righteous life, one of honor and dignity and class.
  • For the leaders of our states and nations, that they may be led by the Holy Spirit and not by their own will. That they take their leadership seriously so to make a real difference in this world. We pray that they understand the importance of caring for humanity, of seeking peace and resolution, not war and torture and chaos. We also pray that they lean not on their own understanding but on God's.
  • For those who have been lost and are not yet found. We pray that these, our brothers and sisters, take a step out in faith and get to know Jesus as we have gotten to know him. We pray for their salvation, for their transformation and for their enlightened walk. We also pray for the friends and families of these brothers and sisters, and ask God's blessing on them all.

This is just a short list of all that I will be praying for. In encourage you to add your prayer requests to this list and to consider joining me tomorrow in prayer and fasting.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday - A Look at this Day in Holy Week

The Last Supper by Da Vinci

Maundy Thursday, also know as Holy Thursday or Great Thursday, is the day directly preceding Good Friday. Today, is Maundy Thursday. But what happened on this day so long ago that we remember every Easter season?

Four main events occurred on Thursday. The first, is Christ washing the feet of his disciples. The second is, as pictured so famously above, the last supper or Eucharist - Christ's celebration of the passover with the disciples. Third is the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane in prayer with God. And finally, this day is a rememberance of the betrayal of Judas.

Many churches in various denominations celebrate and recognize Maundy Thursday. You may find your own church or churches near you holding services Thursday and Friday night this week as well as Easter morning.

It is so easy for us to only remember the resurrection story and although that is a pivotal chapter, we can not fully appreciate the weight it carries if we do not acknowledge and understand the events that unfolded before that glorious day. We must remember the fully human Jesus, who suffered, who prayed, who was humble and who was forgiving. We must remember why it is we partake in Eucharist or Holy Communion. You know, I find a great comfort in picturing my savior in the garden with God this night. Knowing that Christ had human feelings, that he prayed and asked for God's help, is the beauty of the essence of Christ. And to know, that even knowing all that he did, Christ surrendered himself to God's will. Something very few of us can claim we do...surrendering to God's will over our own.

Tomorrow is a heavy day filled with emotion and grief and despair. But for many it is also filled with hope, but, that's because we know the rest of the story. Tonight and tomorrow, as you reflect on the Crucifixion of our Lord, think about how it might have felt to have been at his feet and to see your faith and your hope crucified along with your Lord. How great that despair must have felt. Also reflect on the sacrifice to be made tomorrow. God wasn't the only one who sacrificed Jesus for us. Christ willing sacrificed himself. Jesus is divine, but he was also human. He knew what it was like to have our fears and emotions and he said yes to this great suffering for us, for the Kingdom of God. There is much more to all of this than just Easter bunnies and Lily's. Feed your soul and seek the truth.

Good Friday Poem

In preparation for Good Friday, here is a poem for reflection.

The choices, even though You knew the lines

You’d have to cross for me
You made them anyway
Voices, as You knelt there in the garden
‘Neath the olive tree
You heard me call Your name
I cannot pretend to understand it all
But heaven knew the reason You were there

It was all about a man

It was all about a cross

It was all about the blood that was shed

So I would not be lost

It was all about the love

That was bigger than a life

It was all about a freedom that was given

Through Your sacrifice

‘Cause You would rather die

Than to ever live without me

Helpless, that’s humanity

Without Your saving grace

So misled

Selfless, You could have called ten thousand angels

Down to take Your place

But You took mine instead

I cannot pretend to understand it all

But heaven knew the reason You were there

A greater love has no one than this:

That he will lay his life down for his friends

- Jody McBrayer

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday Prayer for Holy Week

The associate pastor of my church shared this prayer with me today and I want to share it with you. Be blessed.

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.

(Hat tip to Gavin for this prayer from the Northumbria Community)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Non-Negotiable Factors of Christ

I'm currently sitting in my Systematic Theology class. The professor has asked the class to consider two very compelling questions. I'm curious what your answers might be.

1. What are the non-negotiable factors about Jesus of Nazareth?

2. What significance does Jesus as the Christ have for you?

Friday, April 3, 2009

"He is With You"

I came across this video/song for the first time this morning. It has ministered to me in a priceless way. I hope that by sharing it with you that you will also have a renewing hope in your hearts today.

"He is With You" - by Mandisa

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thankfully Thoughtful Thursday

It's a bit of a dreary day here in the neighborhood. The wind has been blowing my new flowers (and my attempt at a good hair day) around and the sky looks like it could unleash a downpour at any moment. Never-the-less, it seems calm and uneventful. Very few cars have driven by. My phone has been eerily silent today and my son is napping like the little angel he is.

My heart has been heavy and my mind stirred. Seems like my allergies aren't the only things this wind is rousing up. But I must say, it has been a great day for thoughtful reflection. With gray skies, the house is darker. I collected some of my favorite candles for meditation and lit them, allowing the fragrance to fill the room. I then proceeded to enjoy a very calm yet intense Pilate's workout. Now that I had centered my body, it was time to center my mind.

One thing I've started doing more lately is meditation. I find a great sense of peace and stress relief when I do it. The music, especially when I listen to Tibetan singing bowls and traditional Indian flute, whisk me away into beautiful zen. Though both the Japanese and the Sanskrit languages have words and definitions for zen, I enjoy that the Chinese refer to zen as "quietude". This sort of plays off of where I was going on my last post. This fundamental concept of simply being still.

Stillness is nearly impossible in a world of ringing phones, screaming children and endless stress. But when I am able to truly center myself physically and mentally, I find that my ability to center myself spiritually is heightened. When I'm truly "quite", I can sense the Holy Spirit deeper and I can meditate on the Word of God.

These days, in this time of lent, when we are approaching the heart wrenching realization of Good Friday, I believe we are called to be quite. Jesus, on the night in the Garden of Gethsemane, sought the quiet, the stillness in order to truly communicate with God. I think about how Christ must have felt those last days. How he knew of betrayal, but loved anyway. How Jesus knelt before God and prayed like we pray, even to the point of asking for pardon. But in the midst of this garden, in the knowing of what was to come, Christ had confidence in God's will. In a similar position, or even in the trials we are facing today, do we have the same confidence? Are we quiet enough, often enough and good enough to hear God? To pray for God's will to be done?

Good Friday is also a day when we remember the sins we've committed that we know we shouldn't have. We recall the pain we've caused Jesus with our transgressions.

Whatever you need to do to be quiet, do it for yourself, as an Easter gift. Give yourself the time to be thoughtful and reflective on what this season really means. Also, take this time to be naked (in the spiritual sense) before God asking for forgiveness for that which you need to repent of. Lastly, be thankful. Thankful for the sacrifice of God, the suffering of Christ and the forgiveness of your sins. I'm a firm believer that unless you take the time to truly reflect on that which happened on Good Friday, you will never fully appreciate the gift that is Easter. Do yourself this favor. I promise, it will have a renewing and transforming affect.

Be Blessed!

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