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 Wounds

your Daily GODWORD is wounds
Psalm 23:5-6 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.“

All wounds heal. Scars are a reminder of the Christ that carries us through. May your cup overflow with hope today. -Alan van hooser

YESTERDAY’S GODWORD

Your daily GODWORD is vision

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

I pray you clearly see God guide you in unexpected ways today. Life’s random moments may be Gods biggest blessing. -Alan Van Hooser

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.

Not So Virtual Worship

Psalm 145:  “Jehovah is near to all that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth.”

As I was writing this post, we had a Covid exposure and shut down our in- person worship for two weeks! I’m disappointed. It is more important than ever to keep our online worship REAL!

Hearts open even with faces covered

We are in a chapter of Porter Texas-Friendship UMC’s history that has as many people worshiping online as are meeting in person. We have been calling this video worship, “Virtual” but what does that really mean.


According to Mr. Webster, the definition of virtual is, “Adjective-almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition. Similar, Near, Or near enough,
to all intents and purposes not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.

I will never again refer to our online worship as “Virtual”. When we gather to worship, whether online or in-person, ourworship is not “Almost” or just the appearance of being true worship. When we gather, we gather around the truth of God in Jesus Christ, expecting to meet Him face to face. THIS IS TRUE WORSHIP and not just “near enough.

Some prefer the video, I must admit that I love the people, the buzz of interaction, and the unpredictability of the live and in-person gathering of God’s Called out disciples! But, here we are in a place when online, in-video worship is either our only option or our best option. What can we do to create true worship from a remote location. Here are some suggestions that keep the Good News in our online worship experiences.

  • Pray for God’s presence to be touchable before turning on your device
  • Turn off non-essential stuff and tune in the people around you
  • EXPECT God to touch your heart. Ask him to show up
  • Worship with a Bible open, even if it is on your pajama clad lap
  • Watch all of the worship service and not just your favorite part
  • When its over ask, “What did I feel”, “What did I learn”, and “What am I going to Do!”
  • Prayerfully leave your device and then call someone from church and just talk for a while. We were never meant to worship alone!

God is near to all that truth-fully mean business in worship.  Whether on an Ipad or in a pew, God is engaged and inviting you and I to do the same. 

May your worship be warm, connecting and shareable. Jesus walks with you !

Worship outside when you have the opportunity

Pastor Alan van Hooser

Faith is life: opening a produce bag while wearing a face covering

Faith is found in the practical…

Have you ever “prayed” over one those slick produce bags that just won’t open? In this season of face coverings in public, a mask adds to the frustration. I offer you a way and a challenge. Follow the video for a no-saliva option. Then, repurpose that passion! Pray positively with an energy equal to the frustration over opening a stubborn bag! Your life will change and you could build God’s kingdom with your witness.

Blessings to you as you bless. -pastor Alan