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.

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September Bible Teaching Series

Join with our church family in studying five stories that we all know…or think we know.  Will you be surprised by what you think the Bible says about these foundations of faith?  Feel free to study with us on this schedule.  Email me at revavanhooser@aol.com for a hard copy or email attachment.  Comments are always welcomeseptember 2018 worship planner with study guide jpg

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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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Ashes and Crosses: A Deeper Lent

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Lent is a 40-day season of preparation that reflects Jesus Christ’s 40 days temptation by Satan in the desert. It begins with acts of fasting and self-denial on Ash Wednesday.  The season is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday – the six Sundays in between are not counted, as they are “mini-Easters” and feast days.  People follow Jesus’ example and give up something important to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.

The dates for Lent and Easter follow the Lunar Date of Passover.  We know from scripture that Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover.  Passover begins on the first full moon on or after March 21. (The Spring Equinox) That gives us the date of the Sunday for Easter. You then count back six Sundays for season of Lent and the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent is Ash Wednesday.  Before the glorious celebration of resurrection, we look at our sorrow and mortality, represented in the ashes, which makes the cross necessary.

The ashes are an ancient symbol of death and an expression of sorrow.  One of the earliest uses of them in worship is found in the book of Job.  The ashes used in worship are traditionally made from the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  Mixed with a little oil, they become a rich and meaningful means of grace.

2018 is an oddity of Lenten tradition.  The Fast Day of Ash Wednesday and the Feast Day of Valentine’s Day fall on the same day, Feb. 14.  That presents a problem for some people who observe both holidays.
The observance of Ash Wednesday requires fasting and “giving up” something for Lent that fosters spiritual growth. Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love, often celebrated by eating out and giving gifts of candy. Some will just allow the overlap while other Christians will celebrate St. Valentines feast on the previous Sunday.

The Ashes of Wednesday are placed on the worshiper’s forehead in the sign of the cross withAshes and collin the words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” The cross is worn until the next morning as a witness to the Work of Jesus

Our prayer for you is that the season of Lent is more than just giving up Diet Coke or chocolate but provides a time to meditate on the deeper things of God.  Find that one thing that pushes your soul along that internal journey of salvation.  Rather than food fast, try a technology fast, give up a grudge or even a bad habit.  Consider giving up a block of time each day to devote yourself to searching the scriptures. It is between you and God what this sacrifice should be.

You are welcome to join the Cheatham Memorial United Methodist, 205 S. Houston (859 at US 80) in Edgewood invites you to two worship services on Ash Wednesday, February 14.  From 10-11:00 AM we will have “Come and Go” time to share the gift of ashes with a full service at 6:30 PM. Check out www.cheathamumc.net for further details.

The Balancing Act

 

(This is the third post and an exploration for January 2018 sermon series at Cheatham Memorial UMC, Click here for more information)

Success is more than just how we feel. What are the touchable parts of success and how do they link together? This will be a central part of the first of these January messages. These posts are my personal journey but can apply to anyone who to struggling to find success.

This Sunday is “Epiphany Sunday”, the last of the 12 days of Christmas and begins our quest to find success. This is the Sunday that we traditionally tell the story of the Magi and their three gifts to the Christ Child. The mysterious treasure of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The gold is easy to understand. This “metal of kings” is still a portable store of wealth and tradable for just about anything you want. Frankincense is not a western thing. In the orient, this incense. was a common item of worship. Owned by the rich, it is burned and produces both smoke and aroma that are a see-able gift to God. Myrrh is a fragrant oil, often used as a burial preparation, usually reserved for people with wealth. These were the best gifts for Jesus and the trappings of success.

My lesson is that of balance. Success is not just one thing. Scripture gives us clues through the gifts of these mysterious strangers.

  • Gold-life must have money in it. Money to keep things together, money to manage well and stretch its worth, money to share and help others. Monetary wealth is not inherently evil and poverty is not inherently spiritual. There are both wealthy and impoverished people in the Bible’s witness. The spirituality of money is more than accounting.
  • Frankincense-Life is worship. The successful life must express God. This is done through personal and corporate worship and brings strength and certainty. A life with churchy stuff but the absence of faith is empty too. Success stems from spiritual integrity.
  • Myrrh. Life includes death and all of its stuff is temporary. The successful life is an investment that grows and not merely a safe that holds the experiences and possessions that we acquire. Value on our things, possessions, experiences, or feelings, must be seen in light of their permanence. Salvation keeps death from defining life as failure.

Lesson for Success:  You are not successful simply because you got the promotion, built the house, earned the degree, married the girl, had the baby or got the really cool car.  You may feel successful for a moment but, without balance, you will come up empty and success will be false.  

Faith can make wealth and poverty, varying worship styles and doctrines, and qualities of life and death successful. Our plan must contain all of these three gifts bound by God’s Holy Spirit. This study is an exploration and must parse out the role of faith in success. The acquiring of success must include this trinity of things and concrete ways to express them.

More to come…..

The First Step to Success, STEP UP!

(This is the second post from a January 2018 sermon series at Cheatham Memorial UMC, Click here for more information)

Enjoy the Lord, and he will give what your heart asks. Commit your way to the Lord! Trust him! He will act and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like high noon.” Psalm 37:4

I am in the first few hours of the morning of New Year’s Day 2018 and will choose my first words, first foods, first TV images, first posts and first influences of this year. These choices at the start will define the results at the finish. I choose Success and I know that God will be central to that living success. I don’t have this figured out, so we can do that together. Comments are welcome.

My first step to success, or better seeing daily success, is to define what it is. This exploration of personal success began at a retirement retreat hosted by our denomination and redirects my attitude. I was very anxious about providing for my wife in retirement and the planning set my mind at ease. The plan includes financial, tax and health care BUT also adds physical wellness, mental health and spiritual preparation. What failure it would be to gain a huge retirement and forfeit my soul to get it. Ultimately it must lead to more than that to be called a map to success.

The First STEP: START. Success is lived in the present moment-not in a vague goal in the life future. Working toward goals is necessary for healthy living. However, the goals themselves are not success but the life that is guided by them. We need that step by step SMART* plan. That plan must reflect a God sized definition of success or we plan to fail. How is my life a success and how can God use my first step to guide me to a deeper sense of success? Here is my start.

Seek God: There no wholeness without the Creator’s vision, focus, and eternal connection. Searching the scriptures, listening in prayer, engaging worship, and learning in small groups are powerful tools to understanding and achieving true success. Psalm 37 will be my meditation scripture for the year.

Seek counsel: “Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22. There are only a few people that I trust enough to converse with this. SO, I have included the blog and social media crowd to weigh in. The results. have been interesting. I have a coach who helps with vocational things and a trusted friend with the personal.

Success is not one thing: Think Broader than money. The social media responses so far center on Finances, Work/Vocation, freedom, influence/power, friendships, good health, and “happiness” . Spiritual matters have not been mentioned frequently by others so I will add them. Simply achieving anyone of these is not success.

Choose your areas of success: Start with your relationship with God. Seek and you will find your way. Choose five areas of success, I chose God, maintaining relationships, finances, Church (Work) goals, Educational goals. Inventory where you are and look to where you should be. Let faith define what is realistic. Think about the end and not the rocky first steps. JUMP!

Write it down and look at the plan often: Mine is taped to the lid of my iPad. You could put in on your computer start up or tape it to your bathroom mirror but if you don’t look at the plan you lose its vision. By the way…things change. Plan for course corrections without compromising on the big picture.

A warning. Not everyone should be allowed in this part of your life. You will need people that love you enough to critique but you DON’T need people that will selfishly drag you down or talk you out of your success. Find that one companion and visit regularly. START YOUR SEARCH AT CHURCH!

More to come

*Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Check out YouTube “SMART Goals, Quick Overview.”

Success, Elusive Success…

What is success? The common answers are usually and emblem of success such as money or power. OK, but what is the essence of success and how does the Christian life inform it. Success will be our exploration for the January 2018 sermons at Cheatham Memorial UMC.

It is also a personal reflection from a personal struggle and would apply to anyone struggling to find success in their life.

I am turning 60 this year. For the first time, people are offering to give me the senior discount at restaurants! I feel fruitful as a Christian, passionate as a pastor, loving as a husband and grandparent, and a real part of my community. However, looking back, I really struggle seeing my life as a success. Do you ever feel that way? I would like to know what God’s definition of success is through scripture, witness and a season of prayer.

Please share the journey with me. Write a comment below with an answer to these questions: What is a picture, emblem or symbol of true success? Who is the most success person in your life and why? Finally, “what is success in your life and what does that look like”?

The four sermons for January will explore Christian success in four characteristics, through the witness of four Biblical Figures, These messages are:

  • January 7, in Communion Sunday and will explore, ” Success requires Focus: Peter’s success” from Mark 8:27-Peter grows from a bumbling disciple who is always tripping on his own tongue into the ͞rock͟ upon which the church is built. His influence is still felt today and his success transcends monetary success.
  • January 14 brings, “Success Requires Love: Ruth’s Success” from Ruth1:1–22. Relationships and family ties have more to do with success than money does. In Christ are the seeds to strong families and and influential faith.
  • On January 21 , “Success Requires Direction: Paul’s Compass to Success”” from Galatians 5: 13-25. Following the dollar is not enough. The spiritual compass is not always the easiest to follow and the life in Christ is hard to account for. We need to know how to read our scoreboard.
  • Finally on January 28, ” Success Overflows: The Wealth of the Christ. ” looking to Matthew 25:14-30. True success brings in the Kingdom of God-That means everyone’s lives improve. Success was never meant to be held but to overflow in ways that bring salvation .

I continue to look at these questions very personally. My answer? Success happens when my surroundings, family, church and community, are better because I am there. Faith in Christ is central to my definition of success but Jesus must be more than an excuse to explain any short comings. Journey with me as we find our way together. Success simply must be more than just driving a nicer car.

(Photo credit: Amanda and Jason Patzke)