AT&T as a Means of Grace…

Two great truths. One, moving is traumatic. Second, waiting is a key skill in the Christian life. There are subtle lessons found in checkout lines and car repair shops. More dramatic ones in hospitals and funeral homes. Expected ones while on retreats and those crappy surprises that come in technology. AT&T didn’t set out to be one of those times of spiritual growth. However, their customer service terrorism can either tear at your soul or become an investment in our souls development. We will choose.

On Thursday, the Wi-Fi and TV died. A first world problem and hardly the end of the world. The crisis was not that it was cut off ONE MONTH EARLY but in the process of trying to turn them back on. It was deemed impossible. I didn’t show good emotional intelligence. Yet,God can redeem this experience if we look for Him.

The first call was to tech support and repeated several steps over and over. Then came the department changes, different phone numbers to call, representatives going back and forth to supervisors etc. It wasn’t a tech problem. My move-order was dated wrong by them and they cut it off. SO, “just turn it back on?” Nope, impossible. “We are saving you from paying for service you can’t use”. Days turn into weeks and over 20 hours on hold has passed. But I waited them out. Ten days later, man in a truck tapped on the door and said “try it again”. Service is restored but all sense of humor is gone.

UMC pastor’s move. Moving is trauma but this experience stole my soul-and I allowed it. Where is God in this. What do I do with this experience? Here is what I have learned.

  • Call centers where English is not the first language is the way it is. Accept it, Don’t speak in slang, speak slowly, DON’T interrupt their script, and don’t yell. They aren’t the problem.
  • There are no supervisors or special departments. No amount of explaining will fix it and you will start over every time. You need a tech in a truck. That is what you must repeatedly ask for. I am not sure why this was so difficult but it was a local, hands on solution that fixed it.
  • It is not racism to ask for a North American. With AT&T at least, they have better access to dispatch when things are complicated. You still get a rich variety of accents but they seem to have a bit more authority and they called me back. The call center people did not.
  • Fill out those customer service reviews. The call center personnel are not the problem. Here you can yell. However, I only got reviews for the “good” calls. The person in the truck did not get the rating he deserved. The Tech is where things got fixed.
  • Do something productive on hold. I read an entire book and packed while on speaker phone.
  • I missed an opportunity to be thankful for having access to so much information while dealing with this intense hassle. God is with you, you. Are not alone.

I waited them out. Clearly, the trauma of the move exaggerated the experience. In AT&T’s defense, they gave a credit for the entire month of June. I passed through the rage and even laughed toward the end. The real lesson? I should pray and seek the Christ with the intensity of getting the Wi-Fi back on.

Where will God meet you today with an unexpected lesson for life?

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Christian Life Hacks-INTERACTIVE

The Internet Universe is over stuffed with “Hacks”, clever, small actions that improve your life. There are hundreds of thousands of “Hacks” out there showing you what you have been doing wrong. With them, you can improve everything in life from peeling pomegranates to ironing shirts. This is a list of spiritual practices. You aren’t necessarily doing them wrong but you might need a little jump start in order to experience a bigger spiritual impact.

Some of this list was collected from other places while others are my own. This is a living document. Please add your own in the comment section!

1. Bullet Point Journaling:“BUJO” is all the rage and has streamlined my rather hit-or-miss journaling. Another post on this blog shares my heavily adapted system. This system of journalling systematically and efficiently uses your journal as icon, focusing your spiritual goals in everyday living. The first page is an index followed by few pages of lists and goals. Know where you have been, where you are and where you are going in Christ through them. The rest creates space for daily lists of your encounters from each day. Rather than prose, you make bullet point lists-simple, clear and focused lists. One small blank book replaced my scattered notebooks.

2. Use color in your journal: I am not all that artistic but adding a cheap assortment of colored pens to my $5 blank book keeps me in the word longer and opens me up to the scripture from a different part of my brain. Simply adding the act of doodling helps me pray more creatively and connect with the word.

3. Create a “Monday Morning Briefing”: I have three e-mail devotional sources of different perspectives that I read each Monday and glance at through the week. This is an addition to and not a replacement of Scripture and prayer. You should choose three-A single source is thin while more than three clutters your in-box. Here are my three: Cary Nieuwhof-leadership, Patheos-a variety of posts that either edify or tick me off, and “Talent Smart”/Travis Bradberry-Emotional intelligence.

4. Create an email account for devotional posts: This keeps Spiritual matters from becoming lost in the pile and keeps you from checking work stuff at prayer time. My IPhone made this easy to check.

5. Keep it simple: I have chosen a small blank drawing-paper book and a small double-spaced journaling testament for morning devotions. These reside in my bag and go wherever I go. Prefer a tech solution? I carry an Ipad and phone anyway but I find too many distractions in them for quiet time. Analog or digital, keep it simple and easy.

6. Create a fixed devotional space with a mobile solution: My desk at home and at word are sacred spaces. At my knee is a bag where my prayer and devotional items live. I can work on sermons or pray through an issue wherever I am. My prioritized work list and prayer list share the same space and carry the same spiritual weight. How could this work in your life and

7. Make a photo of a critical prayer matter and use it as wallpaper: My kids, grands and church family rotate across the front of my phone as a reminder to pray and not just talk about praying. Even if your are just praying about bad weather, keep it up front.

8. Bookend your day with God: Condition yourself to make prayer your first conscious thought and a disciplined habit of your final thought as you go to sleep. This simple habit will change your life in Christ.

9. Turn those daily repetitive task into prayer time: I hate unloading the dishwasher and folding clothes but look forward to the prayer time. These mindless tasks are exceptionally rich times for prayer. The old monks worked with their hands while they prayed. We can make any space sacred.

10. Make Lists: Lists of Books read, edifying movies watched, Bible verses by topic, birds watched, prayers answered, and such can provide focus and depth for your devotional time.

11. Own a Psalm: Choose one psalm, pray through it until you own it, then choose another. This is God’s own devotional book and will open you up to spiritual riches.

12. Have and be a prayer partner: Devotional time is solitary but you were never meant to travel along. Find your intercessor then be available to someone else. NOTHING opens a disciple of Jesus up to deeper things like blessing another person in prayer.

Book Review:Wiser Next Week by Kingston Lim

Wiser Next Week - Cover Image

“Wiser Next Week” by Kingston S. Lim is a commentary on how people read as much as it is a life-coaching book.   The Subtitle, “Navigating the Life Experience with Guidance from Great Minds”, shares the goal of finding specific direction through great books.

“Wiser” is a new book reflecting our culture’s new attitudes toward books and readings.  It is a compendium of stand-alone articles directing the reader to find good teachers in the wisdom of great writers.

The author begins with Thoreau’s story of the two boy and the jackknife.  One digs the ore and manufactures his own knife.  The other studies knife theory and receives a ready-made knife as a gift.  The author begins with the thesis that  one who knows the use of a tool  is more beneficial that the one who merely knows tool theory.  This book is intended as a tool to provoke particular action more than a way of thinking about a particular issue.

The book is efficiently written in short, mostly bullet point chapters around three dozen or so relevant topics.  Each topic begins with quotes, digested instruction, then suggested readings from a very broad book list followed by a “Take Away”.  These take a ways are general and can be customized by the reader’s need.

“Wiser” is not written to be read serially but flipped through by the reader to meet a particular need or interest.  It better suited as an e-reader but is also easy to navigate by paper-loving dinosaurs like me.  Each chapter is consistent with the topic that it addresses and will stand alone. The pieces are styled more like a social media post than a traditional non-fiction work.  However, there is still plenty of good content.

Each topic flows into the next to form a book that can be read  as a whole.    I grieve that we as a people read less for enjoyment and shy away from deeper works.  This style of book organization will meet the need of those in a hurry.  The introduction also includes a link to a 15 page summary to further digest the material.  With this summary is an online component and an email connection as well.  Each chapter still suggests and leads the reader to a specific work for deeper digging.

I enjoyed this work and admire the tremendous time and effort that it too to do the research.  I used  the section, “On Goals and Persistence” for some discernment in a current project of mine and found the chapter both relevant and useful.

The author gave me an advance copy in exchange for this review.  I welcome comments hope you are blessed by its reading.

My Mornings With Thomas Merton

My Mornings with Thomas Merton: The Craft of Devotional Living

A Meditation on the book “Contemplative Prayer”

The Craft of Devotional Living

Devotion living is a craft to be learned, a connection to Christ, and a commitment to grow in Grace. While this article is a commentary on a particular book, I offer a starting point for forming your personal plan for spiritual growth that could use the Bible or any book that touches your faith.

One mark of the Christian disciple is to desire growth in intimacy with God. The process of growth takes time, intention, and faith in Christ. God provides the faith and we learn how to craft activities together that add spiritual muscle. A balance of prayer and meditation, described as meditation, prayers of the heart or contemplative prayer, are the foundation of devotional time and books are tools to build with.

TIMING!

Devotional living must be daily, at your most alert time of day, focused and guided. Time with God can too easily become talking to oneself or vacant naval gazing without a plan. Any appropriate book, whether a “Devotional”, a timely topic or a book of the Bible, can provide direction.

I want to know how to grow into the next level of prayer and chose the book “Contemplative Prayer”, written by Thomas Merton in 1968 as a guide. Contemplation/Meditation is not natural to me but is learnable and does fit my goals.

This is a brief writing with depth and it leaves you with the feeling that there is something more discover. It is also written in short chapters which fit nicely into daily readings.

My devotion time is in the morning on front porch bench. I am most creative in the early times of day and can imagine myself sitting with Merton in my prayer time, encouraging me onto a deeper relationship with God.  From that I have a conversation of sorts and journal my responses.  Here is my journey with Brother Thomas Merton.

Here is my devotional journey in brief bullet points:

• First, the goal is to grow spiritually and discover where contemplative prayer/meditation help? The start is with a simple plan-this post is a suggestion- a listening ear and GO!

• This article is about learning your devotional process more than a book review. Your process will differ and the only wrong way to spend time with God is NOT to do so. This is a starting place to trying new things. God honors disciplined action with faith.

• The Holy Bible is the obvious choice for a guiding book and the book of psalms is the foremost devotional guide and should be present in devotional living.

• “Contemplative Prayer”, by Thomas Merton, is my companion with scripture for this season and not a replacement. Check out my journal entries below for more content and LEAVE COMMENTS. Don’t worry if you have to look up a few terms in the reading. Fr. Merton uses a few technical terms that you may have to Google.

My daily rhythm is: BE SILENT AND STILL-Turn the phone off, Read the passage and then journal answers to: 1: What did I read? 2: What did I learn? and 3: What will I do with it? Leave your meditation with a Bible verse or Psalm. I allowed an hour a day with 20 minutes spent reading. Some chapters took more than one day and I missed a few too. Silence is critical. Don’t rush. Make the time! I had to get up early and it takes as long as it takes. Don’t have an hour? Give God what you have.

• Merton’s message overall is: The goal of the interior life is to pass through the spiritual desert to find that raw, honest and unhindered connection with God. Contemplation, a Christian based meditation, is where you invite these “dark nights” and form a genuine faith- connection by faith. The interior journey is a balance; empty self to be filled with God, find true humanity to know God’s divinity, silence to hear God’s voice, and experience dread to find eternal joy in Jesus Christ. He fleshes out numerous controversies within Christian contemplation and struggles with them to find balance.

• I learned that meditation is indeed a Christian principle and not owned by other world religions. Also, how important this emptying time is to healthy and productive living. Another is that the interior journey is not the domain of the pastor or other Christian vocations but ALL who seek to live in Christ. This is a skill for all honest and seeking Christians and is supported by scripture in the new and old testaments.

• My direct action from the readings is to take more time writing and creating prayer benches, which is “sawdust therapy”. I cannot stress enough that silence in the morning is more important than talking and reading. I learned to grow in comfort and fearlessness as I face contemplation’s darkness and “dread”. This is where faith is formed

I am better for the journey and wish you the same. Ready to grow in Grace? Set spiritual goal, assemble spiritual tools and set a time for disciplined, focused meeting with God. It’s really that simple. Find your own scripture and companion books. Start with the expection that God is meeting you on the way!

Journal Entries

Following are book details and a final reflection on how God grew my soul through this journey

** the journal entries are under construction**

This is my journey and you are welcome to travel with me and make comments while reading the book for yourself.

“Contemplative Prayer”

The foreword and Introduction:

Merton sets the stage for the reader to understand this book’s journey to know Christian meditation/ Contemplative prayer. “Prayer is to religion what original research is to science” (xvii) It is hard work and not the possession of the monastics. Mental or listening prayer must never be complacent or centered in oneself but quietly focused and genuine. This is the foundation for a life of prayer rather that just the act of praying. This meditation is never a “Psychological trick but a theological grace.” (XX). This grace is a call of God to devote ourselves to metanoia or conversion. This is done by emptying through solitude, fasting etc. and being filled with abandonment to God. Contemplation is simple really but can only be done with the beckoning of our Lord Jesus the Christ and keeping His name ever present.

Chapter 1: Contemplation creates “Flowers in the Desert”.

1. What Merton wrote; Prayer is a. “Twofold consciousness of sin and redemption, wrath and mercy. This is especially evident to those who dare to look at the internal life whether by Psalm, liturgy, Bible reading or personal prayers of the heart. This is not a communal act BUT we need a praying community to keep us invested.

2. What I learned; I learned of the importance of an accountability partner in this process of learning. I learned that the negatives of sin etc. are not failures but necessary to work through honestly in order to know the Grace.

3. What action I will take; I meet with another pastor each Monday morning and will keep my friend and accountability partner up to date on my journey. I will keep a silence each morning and at odd times throughout the day. Focused on Psalm 41

Chapter 2: The Way of Prayer and its Components

1. What Merton wrote; The Psalms, Readings, personal prayer and Contemplation are parts of the unified life of a praying Christian. It is the means and the end of the journey to seek God’s presence. Silence must be sought and is inseparably in unity with monastic prayer (5). It is more of a resting than a working. Contemplation is an Easter notion but these “Prayers of the heart” truly seek God and are rooted in the Christian’s being. Again, there is no division in the parts of prayer, they form a whole. Monks and laymen alike can share this simple, Bible based prayer life.

2. What I learned; I tend to complicate the process rather than keeping things simple and speak to build awareness rather than just being with God. I crave the silence more than I really thought and the depth of it all can be scary.

3. What action I will take. Force myself into silence in the morning and find odd moments in the day to be still. “KISS” (Keep it simply and sweet) is God’s way. I will begin this time before the news and not after. Psalm 37

Chapter 3: The System is not Meditation.

1. What Merton wrote; Rather than planning your method, simply “Cultivate and attitude, an outlook: Faith openness attention reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, joy”. (10) Ask for faith because faith is always the sufficient answer to prayer. Good intentions are not enough. We must meet God with humility and acceptance or Acedia/Spiritual apathy will be the poisonous fruit.

2. What I learned; Keep your plans separate from your devotional time. Go to devotional time with a Bible and a minimum of anything else-not even a pencil or coffee. Bring your faith or lack of it to God and expect to rise from prayer better than you sat down.

3. What action I will take; leave my work, prayer list and the usual stack of books inside. Go to the bench on the porch with empty hands and ask God to fill them up. This gets harder before it gets easier, It will not always feel this clumsy. Psalm 37

Chapter 4: The Obstacles are Real.

1. What Merton wrote; Many quit the prayer life due to a lack of confidence, discouragement, confusion, helplessness, and even cowardice. This can imprison you.The drier your inner life, the more likely you are to have a false start. “Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in LIFE”. Faith is the way forward and a “cooperative submission to grace” the way. (18)

2. What I learned; This is the third time I have read through this book. The first two, I was illuminated by not touched in the heart.

3. What action I will take; I announce this project to my coach and congregation. I cannot “weenie” out now. It is time for a real follow through. Psalm 37

Chapter 5: Deep Silence is Deep Power

1. What Merton wrote; Prayers of the heart can run deep if you let them. Kept simple and will few activities or words you can become more receptive to the working of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God and taken you to the “darkness”. This is not a punishment but a guide. To work through a dark time is to know spiritual cleansing. The darker it seems, the brighter the light. Again, psalms, prayer, meditation, Bible reading and liturgy and ways to prepare for a brighter inner light. Obscure prayers come with pain. Receptive prayers a few simple words from a psalm bear fruit.

2. What I learned: There is much more to be experience in the life of Christ through contemplation/meditation. The Bible can indeed focus your mind on the way to roughing your heart.

3. What action I will take. Shut up before going to prayer and never take the sermon text to it for the sake of writing. Focusing on God will bear better words from me. This takes time.

Chapter 6: The tension that isn’t There

1. What Merton wrote; The early fathers and mothers of the church did not find conflict with public, private, liturgical and contemplative prayer. Modern Christians have divided and complicated prayer. Contemplation is the connection to all of them. It is good to prayer privately and even secretly but stay in your community/Church. Have a “Cell”/specific prayer place and use it but don’t hide from the world in it. Prayer should also be experienced in the work of our hands, whatever that might be.

2. What I learned: Prayer is not an excuse for not serving, serving in not an excuse for not praying. All things spiritual are inter woven-especially in the apostolic and pastoral callings. Before praying for others I must connect with God alone first. This is the root of distractions and a lack of fruitfulness.

3. What action I will take; Pray beyond the prayer bench and find moments of solitude in the day. Turn the car radio off and pray when my mind wanders and wonders about things that it shouldn’t. Find solace in God before initiating the vocational stuff.

Chapter 7: Prayer as Work, Work in Prayer

1. What Merton wrote; Is prayer better than service? Is service a distraction to the Christian’s calling to pray? St. Benedict prayed in the wee hour and then called everyone to work after morning prayers. This was the example of Christ at the cross, lived our in Benedict, and taught to other. Contemplation seem to be better than action but “prayer-with-work” is a way to achieve a balance and create a deeper connection with God. This applies to secular business, pastoring and other active pursuits.

2. What I learned; service is a part of the Christian’s prayer life. Action treated as prayer creates either contemplation or distraction. When God is the point you fill up as you act, when the work is the satisfaction you get dry and empty.

3. What action I will take: Pray before work and work as a means to a deeper relationship with God and not affirmation or job-satisfaction. Exhaustion is not a trophy. Find daily rest, weekly sabbath, monthly retreat and annual reflection. How often I have re-learned this lesson. This year has been must more disciplines.

Chapter 8: More on the Action-Prayer conflict

1. What Merton wrote; Action conflicts with contemplation. You can’t do both at the same time, yet you must do both in balance. Contemplation is a priori, “rest from exterior action”. This creates a conflict in our workaholic culture. Time apart in prayer yet “Alone with the alone” in community is essential and should be a part of church-life. Thomas uses the story of Christ with Lazarus the penitent, Martha the active and Mary the contemplative, to demonstrate that we must have all three in union within our life in Christ.

2. What I learned; It’s ok to crave some alone time and at the same time wish to be at a task with your people that is bigger than just working. I am neither extrovert nor introvert but what one writer calls “ambivert”. Lived in balance this can lead us to a deeper and more honest elation ship with God.

3. What action I will take. I cannot default to the work of ministry as the Christian life. Caregiver fatigue and burnout stem from a lost if intimacy with God. Pray then work, pray then work with others, picture God looking over your shoulder and examining your motives as you work. *

Chapter 9: Virtue Matters!

1. What Merton wrote; Using the example of the great monastic reformers, and Thomas’ personal heroes, we learn more of the interplay between Mental/liturgical or active-Prayer and Meditation/contemplation-or prayers of the heart. “without virtue there can be no real and lasting contemplation. Without the labor and discipline there can be no rest in love.” (37) God. Is a work in us best when we rest in Him. The conflict of “Active” and Contemplative is a false competition. These notions both work together. From John Chrysostom “It is not enough to leave Egypt, one must also enter the Promised Land.”( 38)

2. What I learned; Quit worrying about what you label things and PRAY. Don’t use prayer as an excuse to stay home while there are active pursuits to accomplish. Contemplation is not some badge of honor. Prayer at worship and in your words is still valuable-even necessary. Leave the old and enter into the new relationship with God through deepening both aspects of prayer.

3. What action I will take. Build more benches for others to pray upon but use them personally first. Separate the sermon texts from the morning readings with contemplation. I should start with readings for devotion, then pray, then study sermon and other pursuits. This is a proper privatization of God.

Chapter 10 :The Harmony of Liturgy and Meditation

1. What Merton wrote; Liturgy is active while meditation is contemplative but the two acts live in harmony. The conflict that meditation and action seems to bear is false.  When they come together, they form the foundation for the Christian life. Liturgy is less laborious while contemplation is more spontaneous and much more work. Both may “at any moment be illuminated by contemplative grace.” (40”) Sadly, structured liturgy can lose its soul and editation is too often seen as the curative by adding disciplined personal piety. Contemplation does not have to wait until the daily office is over to begin. “Actives” tend to be in charge while “Contemplative” tend to be heralded as more genuine. This deepens the false divide of these two stations of prayer. The Christian life requires both.

2. What I learned: Liturgy is genuine and a means of grace when embraced in the Spirit of God. Contemplation can and should flow from liturgical/shared prayer. Liturgy should be more effective when it flows from the quieted mind.

3. What action I will take. I will read and write liturgy. Some could be shared but all can be a point of focus for deeper prayer in general. Our shared worship has lost its taste for the shared word. Perhaps this should be reclaimed.

Chapter 11: The Purpose of prayer

1. What Merton wrote; The purpose of prayer-the sum of all of its parts is, “yearning for the simple presence of God.”(45). The outcome is 3-fold; A personal understanding of God’s Word, God’s Will, and the capacity to hear and obey. Prayer is about understand God AND understanding ourselves with God. Meditation penetrates our life to reach into God’s will and then live it. This is an “imitation of Christ” and not and “Impersonation of Christ.” Prayer renews God’s gifts of grace, mercy and faith. These are not ours to merely possess. Humility must be our attitude and receiving this grace our desire. God wants us to have these! (49)

2. What I learned: How humble I am not and how much negotiating I do with God while calling it prayer. My disciplined time is usually pretty focused but the busyness and overwhelming interruptions of the day can derail it quite easily. Thomas Merton is asking us to unmask our true and often hidden self (49) in prayer. This can only be accomplished my humbling ourselves in a time of prayer, silent and alone with God.

3. What action I will take: Daily re-commit my prayer time, Daily , create time for silence and seize control of my calendar by removing trivial-though good-things from it.

Chapter 12: The Discipline of Virtue as Freedom

1. What Merton wrote: The life of self denial and sacrifice are not sufferings for their own sake. Our is not a “cult of suffering”. These sacrifices are transforming. Allowing God to be ginger than our thoughts and desires requires and provides freedom. This is the freedom to put God first, relying on the Holy Spirit to convey the power of God. Self imposed sacrifices often become pretense and “Symbolic Gestures” (52). Interior prayer is both serious and humble but the external routine is not the point. The true sacrifice is that of ourselves-union of prayer and sacrifice-then letting God decide about our progress.

2. What I learned: How easy it is for the spiritual process to be the standard of spiritual progress. I have tried to focus my time with routine and have done so with some success. However, have I become prideful that I have done these thing more than I have actually grown in Christ.

3. What action I will take: Recommit secret prayer time and financial giving. I will do these as sacrifice for my awakening of the Holy Spirit rather than a sense of accomplishment.

Chapter 13: The Mysterious Language of Prayer.

1. What Merton wrote: Language about prayer is not “scientific” and precise. The goal is not understanding but “Unitive”. (53) “Aridity can almost be taken as a sign of progress” more than a richness of sacrifices of our own choosing. the unconscious takes Ofer and anxiety rather than peace is felt more acutely. In prayer we face darkness, fear and doubt. It is easy to find that we don’t know what we are doing. Don’t doubt God! In the dark, God is more accessible and not less. This is the field of testing and the win is finding God, to know that God is Lord.

2. What I learned: I do many spiritual activities so I may teach them rather than simply being with and unifying with God. Knowing the lingo is not as important as knowing the Son. By focusing on Jesus while in the darkness, I am more able to teach the lesson.

3. What action I will take: Add more silence into my mornings and mid afternoons. To seek God in times of anger and anxiety through silence rather than seeking human council and self wrought strategies. Fewer Books-More Time.

Chapter 14: Knowing God Beyond the Ideas of God

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

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[i] Ephesians 4:11-13. “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.

[ii] See Luke 10: 38-41 for the story and John 11-12 for more background.  This is very helpful to me!

[iii] http://www.talentsmart.com/articles/9-Signs-That-You’re-An-Ambivert-952454316-p-1.html   From the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”, by Travis Bradberry, A spirit lifting read.

* The Emotional Intelligence of Jesus, Oswald and Jacobson, 2015, An application of relationships through the eyes of the Christ and His gospel. Look at effectiveness in Chapter 11

OUR KIDS: Robert Putnam asks “What is to be Done?”

“Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” is Robert Putnam’s latest book and addresses our current crisis in public education. Better said, he takes a thorough look at the crisis of the widening gap in American classes with the defining characteristic being education.

Putnam’s book is well written with many anecdotes balanced by a thorough statistical analysis. The stories are relevant, interesting and impeccably documented with a 100 pages of notes and index. It is not an easy read and sent me scrambling for Google several times. It is written like a college text book but the message is bigger than a sociology or economics class. Like his best seller, “Bowling Alone”, this is a warning for our times and a call to action. We must rely less on the re-distribution of wealth and more on the re-distribution of opportunities. Education, higher and higher quality education are the most fertile fields for these opportunities.

I love the data, graphs and scissor charts. If you don’t, this is still an important read and worth the effort. The personal interviews and childhood stories are important, engaging, and make a forceful case for action without all number crunching. If you were to cheat and go to the end, Chapter 6, “What is to be done” gives a 45 page synopsis with sharp and practical conclusions directly from the data.

I read “Our Kids” through the eyes of the pastor. This is not a church-book but the faith community, especially the Christian Church, needs to take its message seriously. The schools especially the public schools, need full community support with informal mentoring, high quality extra curricular activities for the disconnected, community college support, paperwork coaching, resources for those in subsidized housing and a thousand other ways to close the opportunity gaps. The missing piece? Relationships-you and I have these.

Read this book. Find your place in the community and take action. You’ll be better for it and so will your community.

Summer Worship: Don’t miss the possibility!

Christ meets us in the summertime too. Don’t miss an opportunity for growth in faith. Cheatham Memorial has a summer focus on teaching the equipping-skills that make our discipleship and disciple-making fun, fruitful and frankly, possible! Over the summer we will talk about concrete tools like public and private prayer, and study, small group leading. Watch for posts with “Take Aways” from this sermons

June 3,2018. 1 Samuel 3:1-20 “Equip for youth” The Skill of listening The life of faith is the key to a young soul. Our bodies age but we can keep a youthful and excited spirit by being equipped for and equipping others for healthy eternal living in the here and now! What does equipping mean anyway ?

June 10, 2018. Mark. 3:20–35 “Forgiveness is standard equipment”. The Skill of ForgivenessWe are born to forgive and lose this skill along the way somehow. When we forgive we are freed, even if others think we are crazy for doing so. How do you forgive that one who doesn’t deserve it?

June 17, 2018. 2 Corinthians 5:6-17. “I See…”.The Skill of DiscernmentDad’s only know where to go when they walk by faith. Many don’t and bear the bitter fruit of walking alone. This applies to all disciples. Discernment is a skill learned through prayer and applied in every day ways. The voice of the Spirit is often dismissed. How do you listen for God’s direction. Prayer is an essential skill.

June 24, 2018 Mark 4:35-41. “Life-Speak” The Skill of Planning for AdversityAdversity is real and essential to our witness. How do we speak of our “storms” as victory and not failure. Holding a spiritual conversation in our own words is an essential skill. How do we speak life?

July 1, 2018 Acts 20:8-17 “Pay Attention” The skill of Sacramental LivingThe sacraments are a gift to the church and a pattern for living for each disciple. How can your life be a means of grace EVERYDAY?

July 8, 2018 Mark 6:1-13 “ A Mutual Education” The skill of TeachingNo one out learns a true teacher. The gift of teaching is not upon everyone BUT the ability to teach is a skill that can be learned. We all teach others the things we know. How will we share the gospel honestly and personally.

July 15, 2018 Guest Pastor: Rev. Mike Toland!

July 22, 2018 Music and Worship with ”Tin Top Road”July 29, 2018

2 Samuel 6:1-13 “Real Might” Worship. The skill of communicationWorship is directed to the one true God but interpreted differently by different people. True might in worship is that connection between hand and heart that comes when we let down our guard and celebrate the Holy Spirit.

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