Ask 4 an Intentional Faith: A simple habit for life’s complex answers

The equipping skill: creating and strengthening good and intentional faith habits.

A recent health scare forced a month of isolation and reflection upon me. This created time to take stock. I realized, reluctantly, that I was living much of my life on auto-pilot with Body mind and soul. After much reflection I’m making this response, I am beginning a “Year of Intentional Living”.

Join me and see where we might go together. Add a reply at the bottom and share your journey.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” James Clear, from his book Atomic Habits

For better or worse, we are the sum of our habits. I want to be and become a person of intentional faith in Jesus. People of any faith have faith goal goal. I take this journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to be intentional about faith. My daily habits should include actions that lead me to an INTENTIONAL, thriving faith.

One daily habit is to test yourself. Ask four simple questions at the end of each dlay to test the intentionality of your faith-building. I am journaling my answers nightly. A reminder card is taped to my bedside lamp to cue me to stop and think. Weekly I share my journey with fellow church members and a trusted small group, for accountability. The reward is to go to sleep at night knowing that I truly lover each moment of the day. Here is how it might work for you

Printed cards provide the “Cue” to act. this one stays folded up in my pocket. More than anything, the card is a constant and intentional reminder. Write down your answers daily. If you don’t have an answer, intentionally do better tomorrow. Here are the four questions.

(You can have a card by request-contact me or enter a reply. I don’t share your contact info. )

When did I Pray today? Read Mark 11:15-26. When did you Thank, listen, speak and then move in prayer. Can’t remember? Make an appointment with God for tomorrow.

What did I learn today? Read Matthew 7:9-13 and find a familiar starting point. Poke around the scripture for a few minutes. Can’t remember? Make an appointment with God’s word tomorrow.

What did I teach today? Read Romans 12:1-8 and seize an opportunity to be a living sacrifice. Don’t TELL, SHOW your faith. Can’t remember? Think of a way to live what you learn from scripture and show someone.

What did I leave behind today that mattered? Read Romans 12:9-21. Where did you Love, Encourage, forgive, comfort, or do other meaningful things? Can’t remember? Watch closely for a God size opportunity tomorrow.

For added punch, share your victories, or opportunities for improvement, with a trusted friend. The journey of faith is always better with a co-traveller.

Where could Faith make your life richer? what do you intend to do about it? Take this cue and “Ask 4”! Make a bold and intentional step for yourself.

For additional study, read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, Avery Press, 2018. A sensible look at creating positive improvements in life-including your Faith Journey.

(C) Alan van Hooser, “thethoughtfulpastor”, 2021 all rights reserved.

This post accompanies a sermon series at Friendship UMC, Porter Texas in October of 2021. Catch us on Facebook Live or at www.fumcporter.org

The reluctant art of waiting in faith

Your equipping skill:
Waiting in faith-persevering in prayer

I love being a pastor. My life is filled with amazing people and their stories all tangled up with my story. Today my chin is on one pillow with my forehead on another, 4 inches above my phone. As I try to speak this post into the blog, I take sips of my tea-that I couldn’t brew myself- through a straw without raising my head. I will never again take for granted the ability to sit on my little bench in the back porch enjoying my tea. I am waiting.

On the last Wednesday of August, the retina of my right eye suddenly detached. Three weeks into recovery a piece of scar tissue came loose and then a second surgery. I started all over. Four days after that, a third surgery. At this writing, 5 weeks after that first terrible tear inside my eye, I am still laying face down and waiting. The eye is stable but the ultimate outcome is uncertain. I have another 10 days to wait and, I pray, See.

Hardly the trials of Job but I sit here waiting for unseen healings, relearning how to live as I wait. From a scriptural perspective, waiting is essential to faith. From personal observation, waiting sucks.

Luke4:3 “For forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.”

Type “ 40 days Bible verses” in your search bar and you will Find someone in sucky surroundings waiting for that waiting to do God’s work. Even Jesus was not exempt. This post should take minutes, but may take days. I am being reinvented. There are no options. I wait. Waiting in Christ is never a waste! What is God teaching you in your dark night? Here are Some of the Truths that I found during a season of waiting. Try these-add your own in a reply.

Relearn to pray. Cry out to God And struggle through To find new intimacy through prayer search the psalms. An fearlessly pray the words of people that have been there.

I’m unashamed to have cried out with these words.

Treasure those people close to you and tell them often that they are appreciated and loved. Accept their help. It’s hard for me and humbling BUT the hand of a friend may be the hand of God. Simply say yes and thank you. It’ll be enough for now. You can contact them later.

Fight with all of your might against self-pity and dark thoughts. Your life depends on it.I’ve been listening through the Psalms over and over. It reinforces this very Important thing.

Live life and shorter increments. I am living An hour at a time , I get a five minute break each hour. And for hours at a time, when I stop and put in eyedrops, this makes time manageable

Occupy your mind. I could not watch TV! Recorded books for free from the library. The Bible Can be read to you by some nice person on the Internet. (Thank you Biblegateway).

Never miss an opportunity to encourage a person in need. Don’t compare wounds, just be there for someone else. You experience connects you to the injured. You have been there. I had much weakness revealed and personal darkness challenged. Share you healed heart.

I have been in the dark and now see the possibility of a greater light. I love with a pastors love and I have been strengthened through this time of waiting, some of it with reluctance. Faith has taught me that this season will not last forever. When my faith was so fragile, Jesus kept a tight grip. I am a grateful disciple.

Anything that you’re going through can be over come. God is with us all. We have never been left alone but sometimes we can only see this by looking back on this time.

I am a better person for this month of darkness and changed forever. My eye will always be at risk for injury-I trust that Faith will be there when it is needed.

You are stronger than you can see while the battle rages. Don’t give in and don’t give up. Faith is real. God is with you and so am I. You are the beloved of God.

(By the way: Glory and thanks to God and Friendship UMC. Also, Thank you Dr. Shawn Kavoussi, his assistant Catherine, and the Houston Methodist hospital. You went far beyond what you had to do. Through you all, I can see )

(C) Alan van Hooser, “thethoughtfulpastor”, 2021, all rights reserved.

Every Day is Labor Day, God is near

Labor Day 2021, from Houston Texas The Equipping Skill: Make your workplace a place of Spiritual Growth.

Labor Day is and should be more than a Monday off. Labor day began in 1894 to celebrate the American worker after many, public riots and other atrocities took lives on both sides of the management/worker struggle. At this time the workplace was often a dangerous and soul-less place where the worker’s needs were ignored. Children were cogs in the machine and workers of all ages were used up and discarded. Things have certainly improved, but we must never forget that our nation was built by thick handed craftsmen (and women), who grabbed their tools and invested themselves in their work. This is the way that families were fed, children educated, and our society built. Faith, in my case a Christian’s faith, teaches that our vocation is an integral part of a living faith.

The work of your hands matters to God. This verse from Colossians is an answer to the question, “how does work fit in to faith?” They were trying to make sense of bad bosses and back breaking labor even back then. The answer begins with knowing that God is ultimately your boss, regardless of who signs your check.  May we remember the People who built their lives as a foundation for us to build ours.  May we pick up our tools and build well on their shoulders, remembering that we also build faith, on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Work is not separate from faith. The word “Vocation” from the Latin “vocare” means to call. Your work should be spiritually inspired-whether glamorous or not. There is no WORK-LIFE or FAITH-LIFE. You can be a God-called plumber just like you can be God-called as a preacher. The source of the calling is the same. Bloom where you punch-in. You matter and your work matters.

Work is not punishment but a privilege At least when you see it a a gift from God and a stepping stone to building your life. In Genesis 2, people were put to work in the Garden before there was sin. The world is our garden. Whether you wear a suit, mom clothes, waitstaff aprons or shop uniforms, what you do builds the world around you. Work it with all you have. We have more choice that we think about selecting or changing our work. Any vocational move comes with a price, so be careful. Choose your calling well and don’t settle. Pray when you are stuck. Change comes with pain but it can be made.

Work or Faith, Learn your Craft. Jesus worked. He was a man of skilled trade, a carpenter. He knew about farming in the hot sun first hand. Being a Christian disciple is an honorable trade. The difference is the tools you use. You equip yourself as a disciple when you pray. From there all manner of witness-service, worship, Bible study and casual conversations become trade school and build you up. This makes sense out of life when work doesn’t feel like a good life. It doesn’t matter the color of your collar

Managing work means managing your life. Know how to do things that others will pay for. Choose honorable things and don’t settle by cutting dark corners. There is no way to get rich quick. Manage your money, tithe, help those in need and save for retirement. Have an educational goal, whether it comes in a classroom or someone teaches you. Have insurance, take care of your body and your mind. These are your most valuable tools. John Wesley said, “Make all you can, save what you can, and share what you can.” This defines a real life

It takes a lifetime. Work is more than a check. I am committed to a life of growth in my faith. In my job as a pastor, my church is a place to equip those who build God’s kingdom. What’s in your toolbox? Find those tools and relationships that fit your soul.  Its not about doing things, even if they are good things. Its all about growing closer to Christ Look and your passions, those things of the spirit that energize and interest you. Then, look for new opportunities to use your tools to grow in faith.  FOLLOW YOUR CALLING to your workplace!

The new focus of this blog is common sense equipping for the thought-Full Christian. Watch this blog for sensible equipping resources and challenges. I’m always up for suggestions.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:23

(c) Alan Van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”, 2021 all rights reserved.

Today’s GODWORD is Technology

Want to receive the GODWORD-a daily text or emailed blessing? Send Your cell or email address to revavanhooser@ aol.com .No info. is ever shared! See the next post for background information.

Your daily GODWORD is Technology

Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

The means is never greater than the message.  Speak with a heart full  of grace through whatever technology and God will be heard. -Alan van Hooser

YESTERDAY’S GODWORD

Your daily GODWORD is study

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Study for transformation not information. Bible study is soul work not school work. Find your joy in God’s book today. -Alan van Hooser.

(c) Alan Van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”, 2021 all rights reserved.

Meet the Day; Lose the “MASK”

Face coverings come in many styles ranging from industrial-disposable blue to fashion-colored bling. One man, seen at Kroger, wore one with the lower half of his own face printed on it. They help filter any COVID laden spit, can help our current crisis and certainly won’t hurt anything.   Meet the Day, Wear this MASK.

Equipping skill: being transparent with God by faith and growing in genuineness with others

There another mask that we choose to wear to make us feel safer.  This one  won’t help but does hurt and some choose to wear them anyway. This is the false face we often use to hide our true self.  I don’t mean a positive attitude in a bad situation or the courtesy of not unpacking your emotional junk in a social situation. Wear this mask, Lose the day.  This mask is the stress inducing false face that we wear before others when we think we aren’t enough.

Face coverings mess up our communications. From Travis Bradberry, (wearing masks)“…our facial expressions are blocked. And we rely on facial expressions to understand emotions when words are mismatched with tone even more than you might think. According to a UCLA study, facial expressions account for 55% of successful communication when words and tone sound inconsistent.” Protective masks can create misunderstanding in communication, whether intentional or not.

Intentional false coving is far more destructive. The energy needed to maintain it is exhausting. We eventually believe the lie and even think we can hide our true self from God. This denies access to God’s forgiveness and blocks the daily living communion with God that we desperately need. This mask tells God to step back, that we are the authors of our faith, and we lose the capacity to be genuine with God or people.

Romans 12:9-13 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

This describes the true face of faith, the place of healing and the source of peace. The genuine life is loving, rejoicing, hope filled and lived in ACTION. So, live well. Cover your mouth and nose. Uncover your heart. You are His beloved, you are enough and you don’t need the false stuff. This is where true life comes from. Live it well.

Pray the REBEL’s prayer with me, “Jesus in you I am enough!”

Worship in Post-Covid Christianity

“Corona’s” Extra Lessons for Life

Bottom Line…Worship, especially Christian worship, is a lifestyle and not a scheduled event in a fixed place.

There is nothing wrong with worship as a congregation in a church building. Problems arise when the building becomes the only place where God is at work. The pandemic forced us to look at options. We gathered on Facebook live, streamed Bible studies, and did our best to say connected. In other words, we innovated to worship together. The Hebrews innovated, the first brutalized Christians innovated, and over the centuries our organizations would be challenged and changed.

This season of Corona/COVID has forced this return to ancient ways. The followers of the Christ-Way worshiped around campfires, dinner tables and in crowded markets. Christians would hide together through three centuries of persecution and then finally become legit in 337 AD. It would be 500 more years before a parish/church structure would be organized. This was modeled after the Jewish synagogues organized in the Sinai desert by Moses. Until the 800’s, worship was sent out into the world rather than calling the world into a building. From here would come fractures, arguments, atrocities, renaissance, reform and cycles of revival. And then…COVID

So, Here we are being challenged by a virus and, for the most part, have risen to the occasion-we have worshiped together in different ways. I pray we will not stop but see this season as permission to worship together in more than one way. Christians! Insist on it. Lead new ways to share the Gospel in ways that celebrate Christian Salvation and not simply promote our “Brand”. GO for it!

The second gift of COVID is to give permission to quiet, contemplative and personal ways of worship. Permission to turn off the music and listen. How can you and I reclaim a quiet time. There are many apps, book and helps. This blog has a section called “My mornings with Thomas Merton”. This will follow a nine month season of reading and journaling his book, “Contemplative Prayer” devotionally. As a Christian disciple, or just a “spiritual” person seeking answers, reclaim the silence where God can take hold of our hearts.

Here are some resources for your Reflection: The Centering Prayer App from Contemplative Outreach, books, “Centering Prayer” by Basil Pennington, Centering Prayer in Daily Life and Ministry by Thomas Keating, The War Room Bible Study by Stephen Kendrick, and “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You are Going: Leading in a Liminal Season” by Susan Beaumont

My homemade prayer bench, sharing space with a few plants on my back porch. Boring to some, precious to me.