Plates – 8/21/17

IMG_1962Now that the fall garden is planted and sprouting, I’ve been able to get back to the wood shop. After my wife gave me the lathe for Father’s Day, I gave a lot of attention to turning bowls and chalices. I’ve done a couple of small plates, but I have not had the time or the opportunity to work on larger plates that would work well for patens. Since I would like to start making communion sets, I’ve been wanting to work on some plates/patens.

Below are pictures of three plates I recently finished. I started to feel a little more comfortable with the process by the third plate! The biggest challenge I experienced was turning the underside of the plate — I ended up leaving a small rim to elevate the plates off of the table. Still, I am going to need to give a little more attention to smoothing out the surface of the plate.

This first plate is made from African Zebrawood. It is a little over 9 inches in diameter. It was very fun to work with this Zebrawood. I have about thee more pieces of it left, so I will probably be working with it again pretty soon.

The second plate is a segmented piece consisting of Walnut and Poplar. It is about 10 inches in diameter. The gluing process was not too difficult, but there are a few gaps. I went with a simply design, but I like how this plate turned out.

I am not sure what type of wood is used in this third plate. It came from a box of scrap pieces from Berlin G. Myers…good people. It is around 11 inches.

The Life of a Seed, Part Two

SeedThe second message in the series, The Life of a Seed, further emphasizes the need to “see” and hear” (or, to receive and respond) to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.

The verses examined in the second message, vv. 10-15, focuses upon the response of Jesus to the question of the disciples regarding his responding for speaking to the crowds in parables.

Jesus clarifies his reasoning for speaking in parables. The blessing of knowing the secretes of the kingdom is a gift of God given to those people who have chosen to receive and respond to the proclamation of Jesus. Knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom is essentially the hidden presence of the kingdom (inaugurated in and through Jesus) and the hope for its future realization!

Click on this link to listen to the second message of the series. 

The Life of a Seed, Part One

SeedThe first message in the series, The Life of a Seed, introduces the Parable of the Sower. The parable is the first of seven parabolic teachings in the 13th chapter of Matthew.

The first message in the series establishes the context of this particular teaching – Jesus offers this parable (and the other six kingdom parables) as a response to people, towns, and the religious authorities who have failed to receive or respond to his proclamation.

The first message resists the urge to move directly into Jesus’ explanation of the parables; rather, attention is given to the instructions he gives to the crows before telling the parable an directly following the parable! Jesus instructs the crowds to “see” and to “hear” the parable, which is interpreted as an imperative call to receive and respond to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.

You can listen to the full message here.

You’re Welcome (II): A New View of Christian Hospitality

You're WelcomeWhat does Christian hospitality really look like?

While preparing for a sermon a couple weeks ago, I came across the sermon I delivered on June 26, 2011 – the last Sunday of my first year in appointment to the Hampton-Varnville Charge.

The message that Sunday examined Matthew 10:40-42 in consideration of the relationship between our churches’ vision to Christian hospitality.

I revisited the sermon from June 26, 2011 on July 2, 2017, which marks the first Sunday in a new appointment year! The message, You’re Welcome (II), does not drift too far from the point of the original message: emphasizing a vision towards Christian hospitality as a humble response to God’s blessings upon our community of faith.

However, our reading of Matthew 10:40-42 is particularly interesting. While the message is certainly directed at a Hampton-Varnville audience, the interpretation of might exercise the minds of anyone with a curiosity towards the nature of Christian hospitality.

Here is a brief summary:

Matthew 10:40-42 is part of a much larger conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus authorizes his disciples to carry his message of the kingdom (as apostles) to the neighboring towns and villages. The message of Jesus is not only to be spoken, but to be demonstrated through deeds of power.

Christian hospitality is often conveyed as a willingness to receive “others” – to have open hearts, open minds, and open doors as our great UMC advertises.

However, Jesus offers a different point of view in these three verses of Matthew, which pushes his followers to move well beyond “openness.” Having already addressed the possible rejection the disciples may encounter in their mission, Jesus declares, “Whoever welcomes you welcome me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (10:40) Jesus does not emphasize an expectation for the disciples to be open to receiving others; rather, Jesus cast “others” in the role of the welcomer. Others are the one expected to be open to receiving…namely, the disciples and the message they carry! The disciples, therefore, are the ones to be welcomed. 

By implication, therefore, the follower of Jesus is more than an open recipient of other people! No, the follower of Jesus is to humbly approach others with the message of Jesus – a message of God’s grace, mercy, and love!! The follower of Jesus is to approach others with the message of the kingdom, which calls for repentance so others might live a full life in the presence of the Almighty!

Christian hospitality certainly assumes an openness to the reception of others! But, Christian hospitality is more than passive receptivity. Christian hospitality embraces a willingness to humbly (and respectfully) approach others with the message of Jesus. Christian hospitality is a willingness to go to others and to offer oneself as a witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Welcoming a stranger in the pew is a good thing, but Christian hospitality asks more of us…

We must go beyond the pew into the dark places of our world, the forgotten places, the broken places and offer ourselves in the name of Jesus as a witness to the grace, mercy, and love of God!!!

Check out You’re Welcome (II) if you would like to hear the message!

Speck: Choosing to See with Compassion and Empathy

fontcandy“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. — Matthew 7:1-5

I got a speck of saw dust in my eye yesterday. The speck posed an annoyance yesterday evening as Ginny and I sat down to watch America’s Got Talent. I did not mess with my eye, figuring the speck would be flushed out when I slept later that night.

I woke up this morning in a bit of discomfort. The speck had not flushed out. Worse, the speck was rubbing against my eye forming tiny scratches. I tried a couple different approaches to remove the speck: rubbing my eye (not a good idea); wiping the eye lid; eye drops; and, flushing my eye with water. Nothing seemed to help. The speck remained and the discomfort increased as my eye became more bloodshot.

While delivering his “sermon on the mount,” Jesus asks his disciples, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

The question is asked so Jesus can further encourage his disciples to first remove the log from their eye so they may see clearly to take the speck out of their neighbor’s eye.

These words are likely familiar to many of you. Jesus uses the imagery of speck/log in reference to the human tendency to judge others. The point of Jesus is to first attend to one’s shortcomings before addressing the shortcomings of others. Or, a more strident reading of this teaching suggests Jesus commands his disciples to attend to their sinful tendencies against the tendency to judge the sinfulness of others. And, of course, this is a teaching that speaks beyond the Twelve to all followers of Jesus — Judge not, lest ye not be judged! 

While judging others is certainly the central issue, Jesus makes a comment towards the end of his teaching, which brings another point into view. Jesus instructs his disciples to remove the log from their eye so they might see clearly to remove the speck out of the eye of their neighbor (Matthew 7:5).

Jesus does identify the ability to assist in the removal of a speck from the eye of a neighbor. The emphasis is a matter of one’s approach: do not seek to call out (judge) others for the specks that limits the view; but rather, approach your neighbor with compassion and empathy as one who knows the pain of having one’s sight blinded by a log!!

A little speck of saw dust is still floating around in my eye. It is uncomfortable; and, it is limiting my ability to see clearly.

Our tendency towards sin is no different. Sin limits our ability to see clearly. Sin blurs our view of God and it disrupts our ability to see and live into our relationship with God through Jesus. Life lived out of rhythm with God through Jesus Christ can be extremely uncomfortable.

That is the point we often miss!

Judging others is not just unhealthy, because it points out the flaws of another without acknowledging the faults of our own. Judging is ineffective! (Dare I say, negligent?)

When we choose to judge, we are choosing to withhold compassion and empathy from our neighbor. We forget the smallest speck can cause a great deal of discomfort and limit one’s vision.

When we choose to judge, we miss the opportunity to serve the well-being of our neighbor – to honor the pain they carry; to comfort them in their distress; or, to offer them a guiding hand.

I guess, at the end of it all, its a matter of the way you choose to see things…

Are you able to see clearly with the love of God? Or, is there a speck in your eye blurring your vision?

Blessings,
RC

Against the Wind

Against the WindThere are times when we feel like we are sailing against the wind.

An adverse wind hits us in the face and we find ourselves struggling to move forward.

What can we do when we are against the wind?

Our message for this week focused upon a similar experience of the disciples. While they were trying to sail across the Sea of Galilee one evening, these men encountered an adverse wind. They struggled at the oars as they attempted to make their way forward.

The story can be found in Mark 6:45-52. Jesus sees the disciples in their distresses. His response brought comfort and peace to the disciples. And, his response stands to offer comfort and peace to us during our times of struggle.

Jesus response can be quickly summarized by four observations:

  1. Jesus goes to them.  Jesus does not pass by them; rather, Jesus goes to his disciples in the midst of their struggle. Likewise, God has a funny way of coming to us through our relationship with Jesus in the midst of weakness and struggle. 
  2. Jesus reveals himself to the disciples. He does not simply come to them; rather, he reveals his identity to them in the midst of their struggle. Our times of struggle may not seem like the most opportune time for God to be revealed, yet God has a way of not only showing up…God reveals God’s love to us (in and through Jesus) when we are most in need of love! But, be clear, God’s revelation of love must be received. God’s grace and mercy must be accepted. 
  3. Jesus climbs into the boat with the disciples. Jesus takes it a step further, literally. Jesus doesn’t simply come to his disciples in the midst of their distress, nor does he only reveal himself to the disciples in the midst of their struggle. Jesus climbs into the boat with them — Jesus enters into their struggle alongside of them! To those of us who are willing to look for God in the midst of our struggle and to accept God’s  revelation of grace, mercy, and love, we will be quick to discover the presence of God alongside of us as we struggle against the winds in our life. 
  4. Finally, the wind ceases, but the disciples must continue to row. The presence of Jesus alongside of the disciples delivers a sense of peace, comfort, and calmness. The presence of Jesus, however, does not negate the struggle!!! The disciples must continue to cross the sea…only, crossing the sea is a little less of a challenge and a little more peaceful with Jesus in their boat! The presence of God in our life will not remove the struggle of needing to move forward, but the presence of God through our relationship with Jesus (and by the power of the Holy Spirit) brings a peace, comfort, and calmness to our lives. The struggle is real, but there is peace in the presence of God.

So, these are just a few quick notes on the message from Sunday! If you have a moment, I would invite you to listen to the full audio message.

Blessings to all!!!

Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Not able to make it to a worship service this morning?

Feeling a little uninspired?

That is okay!

Because, sometimes we just feel a little uninspired.

But, have a listen to the message Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way.

Because, there is peace for us still…!

 

Wilted: Exhausted of the Spirit

WiltedEver feel like you are wilting? Does it ever seem as if you’ve been exhausted of the Spirit?

The issue of “spiritual wilt” was the topic of a message from a few weeks ago – Rivers of Living Water.  The message covered the words of Jesus in John 7:37-39 — where Jesus encourages those who are thirty to come to him and those who believe him are invited to drink. For a more complete consideration, I would encourage you to have a listen to the full message.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post about my new adventure into gardening and how this new adventure has begun nurturing inspiration for my spiritual growthMuch has occurred in the garden (and, I am sure a few more reflections will arise in the coming weeks).

Something very interesting happened about a month ago: my family and I returned from a 48-hour trip to discover our largest plants in a terrible way. Both of the plants were beginning to wilt. The leaves had no life in them and the stems were already limp.

I took a quick inventory of the garden and soon realized the plants were completely out of water. While I drench the garden the morning we left, the following 48 hours were extremely hot. The plants had fallen into distress with the two largest plants already beginning to wilt.

The lives we live are often big and busy – we try to do all we can and as often as we can.  And, quietly frankly, living this way is exhausting.

Even when the betterment of others is our aim, we are susceptible to exhaustion. Sustaining our family, supporting our friends, serving our clients/patients/students is all very exhausting!

Living big and busy lives can wear you down, physically.

For many of us, the exhaustion is more than physical.

The exhaustion is something else; something different.

The exhaustion brought out by our big and busy lives is felt from within — within the body, within the heart, within the place where joy is supposed to thrive.

When our lives gets a little too big and a little too busy, the thriving of joy feels a lot more like a wilting of the heart and the wilting of the spirit.

Back to my plants…

One was of a squash variety and the other was a zucchini.

They were in terrible shape…serious exhaustion, serious wilt.

Over the course of an hour, I began to slowly add water back into the containers. An intentional offering of water was contributed to the roots of these distressed plants.

The response was almost immediate as the stems began standing tall and the leaves became firm within an hour.

The water restored life to the plants.

The water offered to these plants would further sustain their life.

And, most amazingly, two weeks later those plants were producing “fruits” (vegetables) that would sustain the life of my family.

Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now [Jesus] said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive. — John 7:37b-39a

The more complex our lives (and, by here, I specifically mean the more we attempt to do, the more frequently we attempt to do it, and everyone we attempt to serve), the more susceptible we are to wilting of a spiritual nature.

“Out of the believer’s heart will flow rivers of living water,” which is true. But, the believer must first go to the source of the water and drink. The believer must receive and be filled by the water that sustains authentic life. Then, and only then, will the heart nourished by the Spirit grow and bear fruit.

Discover the hope in these words of Jesus for all who have or may be feeling a little wilted…

You are not meant to be the source of water that sustains, supports or serves.

You are invited to come; and, you are meant to drink, to be filled, and to allow the Spirit to work in you and through you.

The fruit produced by you (through you) may sustain the authentic life of another, but you are not the source of the water that restores and sustains. You are simply a witness to the power of the Spirit at work in you.

Feeling a little wilted?

Has life gotten a little too big and a little too busy?

Do not be discouraged!

Your exhaustion does not signal your insufficiency. Your exhaustion is simply a reminder of your need to pause before his presence, to receive the restorative and sustaining power of the living water, and to joyfully experience the power of the Spirit at work in you and through you.

Side Note – I encourage those who have time to listen to the message related to this topic. Properly understanding the full significance of the invitation of Jesus “to drink” requires consideration to a key detail in the passage – Jesus spoke these words “On the last day of the festival, the great day.” (John 7:37) The message takes the timing and the setting of Jesus’s words into account for a more complete interpretation of the significance of this Scripture. 

Mothers Moving Mountains

Mothers Moving MountainsWhat if your lack of patience is actually the presence of faith?

Parenting is difficult.

Parenting certainly requires patience.

Because parenting requires patience, there will be times when a parent’s patience feels a little thin…

The presumed lack of patience does not have to signal inadequacy as a parent! What if the lack of patience distracting a parent’s heart is actually the presence of her faith?!

Patience has its place within parenting, but it is not the most significant component of healthy parenting! The faith of the parent is the most influential aspect of healthy parenting – the parent’s faith in God; the parent’s faith in herself as a parent; and the parent’s faith in the potential of her child!

The thinning of patience may actually be the revelation of one’s faith in her child – the belief in the potential of her child to grow into an even more amazing person!

The faith of a parent – faith in God, self, and child – has the ability to do the impossible. A little faith has the power to move a mountain…faith has the ability to move a child into adulthood!!!

So, the next time you find yourself praying for patience…maybe don’t! Rather, ask God to strengthen your faith – in God, in yourself, and in your child.

If you would like to hear more, check out this week’s message, Mothers Moving Mountains. Consideration is given to the amazing influence mothers have upon the hearts of their children…and, the how faith strengthens a mother to move a mountain!