In a pastor…

Where does God show up?

In a pastor!!

I spent some time this summer in Cookson Hills, Oklahoma at the Cookson Hills Center with the youth group from my church. As a group, we taped and mudded drywall, painted, worked with jewelry, fixed siding on a house, sanded concrete floors, moved a couple from their home of 14 years, picked up sticks, cooked ate and sang together. It was a good week, challenging and life-giving. Here is a bit of what I discovered:

Pastor Deb

Wednesday during lunch at the senior center, I saw the pastor of Stilwell Mission United Methodist Church, Pastor Deb. She was wearing a wonderful cross necklace. I commented on her necklace we chatted for a second about it and then we both went on with our day.

#iseethismoment  Central theme to my next blog...


On Thursday, we watched the amazing puppet show that the youth performed for us. I asked the women, Sherri and Jenny about the vitality and life that I felt in this small church. They both believed that their pastor was the reason for their vitality. Before Pastor Deb they had less than ten people in worship every week, after only a year, the church had more than doubled that amount. They had amazing plans for being a positive force in their community; they were excited and enthusiastic about their church. This was a church, tiny, and full of vitality.

What was it about Deb that brought vitality and life to her church? Well, of course, I asked her. I asked how she accomplished so much, before she answered, Colleen, our host (and boss!) for the week, told me it was Deb. She is an amazing pastor, who simply cares. She shows up to preach, cares about how her people are doing, and understands their needs. Deb simply loves her congregation.

But Deb did something I will never forget. As we were eating dinner on Friday night, she gave me the beautiful cross I saw her wearing earlier in the week. I don’t remember what she said, but I DO remember how I felt. When she gave me her necklace as a gift, I felt like she believed in me. I felt like she saw something in me that I have a hard time seeing in myself. She had confidence in me, where I sometimes do not. And in that moment I knew, she turned the church around, not because of her amazingness…but because of her ability to see the amazing gifts in others and sincerely communicate what she sees. I am grateful for Deb and her gift to me. It is not every day that someone makes it so clear that they see something in you. It was a powerful gift that I am forever thankful for. Thank you, Deb!!!


Questioning the text…

via tiffkei


September 23, 2012

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Read the texts online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library:

Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1 (UMH 738)
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Color: Green

I like reading the text, I enjoy allowing it to wash over me, shape me, form me, live in me. But really, I like asking it questions. From brainstorming questions to studying academic essay’s on a text…that is just as fun. It’s interesting…I allow the text to shape me and I get to take it apart verse by verse!


When was James written? Who is the author? Why does the lectionary skip James 4:4-6? Why was the author so mad? Who was he writing to? “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder.” Ouch…that’s harsh! Do pastors still need to do this today? If so how? “Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind” does this mean that anywhere there is disorder and wickedness that there is envy and selfish ambition? Did the community change after this letter? What were they fighting over in the first place anyway? Where else is wisdom used in the Bible? Where does is talk about earthly wisdom and wisdom from above? Is wisdom “Sophia“?


As I read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 this morning, it strikes me that I think I know what David’s motivations for building the temple were. I needed to step back from the text a bit before I could really see that I don’t know why David wanted to build a temple. It could be that God was living in a tent and David desired to give back to God. I think that is possible but it is not the only possibility.

Pretend with me for a moment…

Imagine a moving to a small town. As you enter the town you see a beautiful building, obviously the best the town has to offer, you ask a local about it, and discover that it is the home of the leader of the church. As you wander through the streets you see a tent, well taken care of, another place of great value but still a tent. Your tour guide informs you that this is the House of God.

I am not sure what I would think. Maybe I would think that these people have their priorities a tad bit backwards or that the person that lives in the magnificent house is very important, maybe even more important than God even.

Maybe David wanted to build a house for God because he wanted the external things of the world to reflect the internal-value system of his people. God needed an amazing temple because he was an amazing God. My guess is that reason is at least partially true. God is an amazing God; it can look bad if he is living in a tent! An amazing God should have an amazing place to live.

But what about…

There is an inspiring Christmas story that seems to have gone viral. People are walking into Kmart and paying off stranger’s layaway tabs. It is an amazing story that gets me all teary eyed when I think about it. Can you imagine not having the money to buy your Christmas gifts but they are randomly paid for by a stranger? Wow, heartwarming. Until I read the comments. Sure most of them were inspirational but not all.

The pessimist in me thinks this is a Kmart marketing scheme,”

“Call me a cynic if you must, but isn’t it strange that Kmart is the store getting all this attention? Why that chain?”

I am not a “cynic,” I think this is an amazing story but I see this commenter’s point. Since, Kmart is getting all of the attention with this story isn’t it possible that this is a marketing scheme? I think we ask this because we know that people are very capable of doing great things in the name of personal gain. We give so we can feel better, we write blogs so someone can say “wow, great blog”, or maybe we give to church so people are grateful for us…

David was human too, and maybe his motivations were not altruistic. I wonder if he wanted to build a temple because he wanted more power. As I read the text this morning I listened closer to God’s response…

”I took you from the pasture… [I] appointed you ruler…I have cut off all of your enemies…I will provide a place for my people…I will give you rest from your enemies” (2 Samuel 7:8-11)

And in the verses that the lectionary skips (2 Samuel 7:12-15)…

“I will raise up your offspring…I will establish his kingdom…I will be his father…I will punish him…my love will never be taken from him.”

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me;your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16)

I really wish I knew God’s tone of voice here!

If David’s motivation is altruistic, he simply wants to give to God, I imagine God’s tone of voice would be soft, comforting…

”It’s ok, I know you love me. I take care of you; you don’t need to take care of me.”

If David’s motivation has to do with how bad it looks to live in a great house while he left God in a tent…Maybe God’s tone was reassuring…

”I have protected my people from their enemies, they know I am God. No worries.”

But I can see it another way too. If David’s desire for a temple has to do with personal power, God’s answer is clear and concise, almost a lecture…

”I am the one that has done all of these things, I have big plans for the future, don’t start thinking you can gain more power from anywhere but me.”

I don’t know David’s motivations but I know God did. I believe that God answered to the motivations of David’s heart not just his words.