Monday, December 17, 2012

Trying to Make Sense Out of the Senseless…



In the middle of the Advent season, on December 15th a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT and opened fire killing 26 children and adults. Just minutes before in Memphis, TN a 15 year old shot two Memphis Police officers, killing one officer who was a single mother of five young children. In times of senseless tragedies, all faith leaders search for words of comfort as well as clarity. Some faith leader’s comments or reflections will be helpful, others unfortunately will not. While we all search of discernment and understanding, here is my first reaction and response. I pray you will find it helpful in the days ahead as we try to continue to celebrate Advent in spite of these tragedies and in honor of all the victims.  

Mary had every reason to feel betrayed and abandoned by God. She was a young teen, unmarried and pregnant, and lived in extreme poverty. Mary held on through this confusion to the promise of God, holding tightly to the words of the angel: “You are highly favored, the lord is with you.” And despite Mary’s confusion and emotionally troubled reaction in the angel telling her she was pregnant; we find her deep in the story holding on to hope and faith. In the gospel of Luke 1:46-49 Mary declares, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty one has done great things for me, Holy is his name.” It didn't matter what anyone else in the community would think or say about her condition. Mary hung onto the promises of God, and responded with a song of daring, boundless faith. Her focus was not on her emotional state or on her challenging situation but on the love of God, who promises a future of hope. Mary trusted in God’s promise, knowing God’s outrageous way of working good out of seemingly impossible, horridly, and tragic situation. Here is what I know from Mary. There is no reasoning or theology that can justify or clarify why someone would walk into a class room full of innocent children and systematically slaughter them. There is no platform or political view that can justify why a 15 year old kid, in my home town of Memphis, would open fire on two police officers, killing a single mother of five. There are no words of pastoral comfort you can give to a family who did nothing wrong, but instead of buy Christmas toys, will be picking out caskets to bury their children. There are no magical words or prayer that we could recite that would turn back time and prevent things like this for happening. There is no policy, procedure or drill that can keep our children 100% safe all the time when they are out of our sight. I wish it wasn't so but it is just the reality in which we live. I wish that life was not messy. I wish that life was always free of pain, hurt and disappointment. I so wish we lived in a world where only the guilty felt anguish and the innocent are always protected. I wish we lived in a world where children wouldn't have to die, where children do not go to bed hungry, and where every child had a healthy, loving, protective, and supportive relationship with both their parents. I wish no one would have to battle life threatening illnesses, feel the pain of the death of a loved one, or the severe consequences of addictions, divorce, or poverty.
Regardless of what we wish for in difficult and tragic times it is normal that we get derailed and loose our God bearings.  We forget the promises of God. In times like Friday we overlook Emmanuel that God is with us. God created us, loves us, pursues a relationship with us, and forgives us. We can begin to feel, especially when tragedy hits, even if we are not impacted directly, the lingering consequences as it affects our daily lives. We will worry more when we drop off our children at school. We will get angry at the one who caused this. We will want to blame someone or something. We will listen to everyone jump on their own agenda and soapbox and use this senseless tragedy to their own advantage. News broadcast will keep replaying it over and over again to keep ratings up. We will all want answers; we will all want to do something to help both in the healing and in the prevention.  It is especially vital in times like these we do not listen to all these voices but cling to the promises of God.
So in light of this advent season, in light of the past two days, it is important to return to the things we hold absolute. First and foremost, the God we serve and worship, the God that loves us, is the God of love and life. God did not make this happen to teach us anything, to punish anyone, or because God is mad at us. I honestly don’t need to know the why but I am certain with all my being that God welcomed those people into his kingdom with open arms. I know that those children, those teachers, that police officer is now in a place where they are feel no pain, where they feel safe, where they are comforted. God will do the same for us one day also. Second, God has designed us to live in community and what happens in a community affects us all. We must understand this is a two sided coin. On one side, my actions positively or negatively affect not only myself but others around me. On the other side, I must comprehend that I am not an island although I may feel alone; ultimately I am not alone in my pain, my struggles, or my current situation.  Emmanuel is with me and so are His people. This is a huge gift. We can influence those around us with God’s help.  It is a time of Advent which means “coming” or “arriving.” I don’t know how, when, or in what form but God is coming to those families who lost their babies and loved ones. God will show up. God will give comfort, strength, and hope. Just like that baby that was inside that pregnant scared teenager, God will remind each of us that he loves us and we are to love one another. Especially in times like these. I have said before but lastly: we don’t live in a spiritual neutral environment. There are forces, there is evil, there is the devil, Lucifer or Fred, death, cancer, disease or whatever you want to name it, but they are out there and they want us to panic, destroy relationships, or to lose hope and faith in God and one another. Trust me. There are things out there that do not want us to love our neighbor, trust our neighbor, and have compassion for one another. There are things and situations like the shootings in CT, but also in our everyday life that will cause us to question the reason of our own existence. That will tell us to just give in, give up, and destroy our life. Whatever you name it, it wants you to doubt your worth on this earth. We will think we are not lovable. But God love us anyway. Even when we try to make things better we will still make mistakes. Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. We will all still mess up and God loves us anyway. We will all sin, we will all fall short, and God will still pursue us, love us, and forgive us. In times of uncertainty, in times of turmoil, we must clench tightly to hope and faith. We must cling to the fact that we can make a better safer world for our children and grandchildren. We must live as those that have faith that God will protect the ones we love. Our actions, every single one, should be to reassure our children that they are loved and safe. Don’t be afraid to talk with them about the shooting. Listen to their worries, fears and concerns. Only will they be truly nurtured and flourish if they know without conditions that someone will protect them and that they are loved unconditionally. When we all feel loved and secure, we can begin to flourish, grow, and transform this dark world we see now into something brighter. We must love each other even when we feel unlovable or we feel the other person is unlovable. If we don’t we breed into the next generation mistrust and without trust there cannot be peace, security, or hope. We must also realize time is a gift. Treasure each moment you have with the ones you love, you never know when they will be gone. Hug more, talk more, and forgive now because you never know if you will get a second chance. Make peace; use this moment to repair damaged relationships. Put aside the petty, open up communication, and let healing begin. Pray daily for those who are hurting. God will answer your prayers. Please remember even in the hurt, confusion, anger, and scary times in our lives we can learn from the pregnant scared teenager: it is then we see Emmanuel, God with us, as we are loved by him and that love will propel us from this season of pain and confusion into a brighter future.
Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy:
Tommy 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Rockwell or Griswolds?"

What is Christmas like at your house? It is the Norman Rockwell version or is your family Christmas more like Griswold’s? Mine is somewhere closer to the latter. Many of us spend much money, time, and energy into chasing this unattainable ideal set for us by Norman Rockwell. Many of us are just trying the best we can to survive all the Christmas activities. All of us want the Norman Rockwell version but in reality we are closer to the Griswold’s. The first Christmas was pretty messy and life today is pretty messy but God shows up in the middle of the mess to bring us a message of hope. Mary was a teenager, unmarried, and pregnant. She was engaged to a man but the child was not his. Messy! She faced the shame and public humiliation and could have been put to death according to her customs. Messy! While she was in her last trimester, she was forced by the government to travel a rough road to be counted for the census so tehy could be taxed accordingly. Messy! While she traveled with Joseph’s family, she could still hear the whispers, see the stares, and feel the uneasiness her presences brought to the other women. Messy! When the contractions started, Mary had to give birth in a barn among the animals. Messy! Jesus was born into the most chaotic, unsterile, or unplanned time imaginable. In reality the first Christmas is more like the Griswold’s than Norman Rockwell. It was far from “perfect”.


What are our own unrealistic expectations for the “perfect” Christmas? Do you strive to cook, clean, buy, prepare, plan, invite, and attended events on your way to the perfect Christmas? If we are in search of the perfect Christmas we are simply delusional because the perfect Christmas does not exist. There will always be unmet expectations, people will let us down, either intentionally or unintentionally. There will always be the pain of the void left from our loved one who has died and cannot be with us. There will always be a dish that no matter how close we followed the recipe, we left something out and it taste horrible. There will always be a child, cat or dog that knocks over the Christmas tree that we spent three days decorating. Then there is the relative that shows up that we didn’t invite, you know the one that always starts a family feud. Christmas will and often can be a mess.

Even in the midst of the unexpected, the messy, and the devastating, you can still fully expect God to show up. This is truly what Christmas is about. When we begin to shift our focus just a bit we will realize that Christmas is not our birthday but Christ’s. Christ was born into a mess, Christ is presence in the middle of our mess, and He loves us despite of our mess. When we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us, we acknowledge and celebrate that in our mess, God is with us. In our pain, God is with us. In our struggles, God is with us. In our chaos of broken relationships, God is with us. We celebrate that undeniable fact that Jesus stepped down from His kingdom into the mess of our lives and into our lives with all our imperfections. That is something to celebrate.
Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy!
Tommy

Monday, November 26, 2012

It STINKS!!!

Now that Team FCC Honduras is safe back in the States I can’t help but reflect on our time away. It is evident that God did not just call the 15 individuals who traveled to Honduras but it was the collaboration of hard work and selfless acts from an entire faith family, our denomination, another congregation, CASM (the local agency in Honduras) and many others. But it is important to know a little bit about those who actually made the trip. There was some who were in a very dark season of their life. Some were struggling with relationships, financial stress, work place overload, and anxiety. There were some who were searching for direction and discernment in their life and in their faith. There were some representing the next generation of God’s servants who stepped up to serve God with a new sense of conviction, enthusiasm, and vibrant energy. There were some of an older generation who did not let their physical limitation keep them from experiencing doing missions. There where parents who were busting with pride as they got the opportunity to see their children live out their faith in a very relevant way. There were some who left their young children behind for the first time to step out of their comfort zone to do something that would change a stranger’s life forever. Then there was a close to burned out, grey haired, fat minister who made a ton of promises. He promised a lot of money would be raised, travel would be safe,(not comfortable but safe) and if the group would be open to God’s spirit, they would witness and experience the Holy presence of God like they have never experienced before. While we are fresh off the journey and have not had enough time to process it all it was a journey of faith.


I am reminded of what James, whom some scholars believe was the brother of Jesus, writes about how do we are to “do” our faith. James writes: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27

James reminds us that we are not only to use our words but our actions to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Team FCC Honduras’ mission was to traveled to Copan Ruinas Honduras to build stoves, that we did, but God had another unforeseen plan for us. On Sunday we visited Angelitos Felices. When we arrived at Angelitos Felices the first thing that hit us was the stench. A repulsive smell that made everyone’s stomach turn. Angelitos Felices is a home for children who have been abandoned because their parents were no longer capable of taking care of them. The group stood nervously at the door while the mass group of children took their seats. We lingered in the door way because of the stench. With over 24 young children and one or two adults to care for them one can imagine the amount of help needed to keep the children clean. Just by mere ratio of children to adults changing diapers is constant. There are children who at the age of two or three found themselves on the streets, abandoned, thrown out like garbage and having to fend for themselves. The children were not use to physical contact with anyone. Then it began to change. It began with a hug, a song, a round to two of the Hooky Pokey, as we began to intermingle their smiles began to rain down on us like a hurricane. They began to embrace us, hug on us, climb on us. You could not give out enough love to curb their enthusiasm. Then the stench was miraculously gone. Was it because we loved them or because they loved us? But for a brief time something mystical, magical, and indescribable happened. I believe it was a brief glimpse of the kingdom of God.

That was how our week began. Our week ended by returning to Angelitos Felices. We fixed their broken beds, brought some sheets, Dr. Rhonda examined all the children, and we took them on a picnic. For that day they got to be regular children and we got to be parents. Nothing we did was big but children and adults sharing an acceptance and unconditional love. Strangers up until that week but now connected forever in our hearts. What about that repulsive smell?

I will never forget that smell because I believe Christ doesn’t want me too. If you study the life of Christ you will notice that Jesus tolerated the rich at best but was drawn, went out of his way, to be with the poor. Christ’s heart was with those who by no fault of their own cannot take care of themselves. I strongly believe that in the stench, Christ was saying poverty stinks, abandonment reeks, and neglect is repulsive. It stinks that there are so many precious people in this world who have so little when I have so much. It stinks. But it is in the stench is where we find Jesus. Many times it is in the most undesirable conditions we find the unconditional love. In the most remote place we find our glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth. There at Angelitos Felices, which is translated as Happy Angels, we will never know if it was the love we gave the children or the love the children gave to us be we are sure without a doubt we felt a love, peace, hope, and joy like nothing here on this earth. Maybe it is in that place where we find God’s happy angels in the form of children at the place where my hearts longs to return.
Shalom, Tommy


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

After the 2012 Election is OVER, NOW What?

In the aftermath of last night’s election results I have been called to respond in some way. The results of the election on exactly who holds the office of president of the United States does not have to be the totality of the outcome. Here are just some thoughts I have taken away from this year’s electoral season.

The 2012 election and any election is just a season. The reality of the process of any election is that it takes division to become victorious. One side must recruit, persuade, or manipulate you into thinking not only that their way is the best but the other side is dangerous. Please remember that this is only one season. Seasons come and go. People will get on with their daily lives, going to work, paying taxes, and raising their families. Those that are celebrating in victory, your elation will quickly pass. Those who are experiencing the agony of defeat, this too will change. There will be other elections, other candidates, other pressing issues, and other times of division so do not let this brief moment in time define who we are as a nation.

Relationships are always more important than votes or candidates. Yesterday I had a choice of casting just one vote for one of two gentlemen. I had to choose between two people whom I do not know personally, have never met, nor will I probably ever meet on a personal level. The two candidates were presented to me and I chose one that was the closest in line with my ideology, my theology, my ethical decision making, and my moral compass. Honestly neither was a perfect or ideal fit, so I chose the one closest to my own beliefs. It doesn’t mean if someone voted for the other that they are any less intelligent, compassionate, or informed than I am. It simply means, given a choice between the two, they choose differently. I cannot think of one person I would want to be president that would cost me a friendship or strain a relationship I had with anyone. Presidents come and go, they will be judged for their actions by our Creator just like I will. Win or lose I pray people can begin to repair any relationships that was damaged or strained during this electoral season. If one’s truly goal is the betterment of our country, we must be able to look past the office of president and into the eyes of our friends and family and begin to heal. We must be willing to mend relationships if we are going to heal our nation.

The outcome of any election has no relevance to my faith in God. I strongly believe whether my candidate won or lost the outcome has no influence what so ever on my relationship with Christ. In my practice of faith, for me, Christ does not tell me to vote for one guy or the other but he does call me to be compassionate, merciful, understanding, and open to all His children. If my dude won last night it doesn’t mean God loves me more than another. If my guy lost, it doesn’t mean God loves or favors me any less. Simply put, it was two political parties that went head to head in one election, not two religions. What does have an impact on my relationship with God is how I act moving forward. Do I gloat and put down my neighbor because I somehow feel victorious? Do I spread doom and fear to those around me because my guy lost? Jesus didn’t tell me to vote, he told me to love. My faith is strengthened only if I continue to love, not vote.

The day after an election tells more about the resolve, freedom, strength and unity of a nation than a leader they elected. As a nation, do we stay divided or come together to make our a better place to live. If we are to be strengthened as a nation we must work to make this a better place for everyone. We must continue to keep our elected official accountable but also not just throw insults because our team lost. We should first and foremost all want the best for our country, demand the best out of our leaders, but also do our best to make our own neighborhood a better place to live. We must be an example to our children and future generations as they are watching, learning, and will repeat our behavior and attitudes. Remember our children and grandchildren are reading our Facebook statuses, Tweeter post, and blogs and setting their moral compass by what we do. What better lesson we have the opportunity to teach our future citizens than unity after division, collaboration after competition, and resolve after battle. We all want the same thing and many times our most furious rival can become our best teammate.

I would like to be remembered by who I am as a person, husband, father, and pastor. In the totality of my life, I pray that I was able to make someone else life better. My goals and calling in life is to leave this world a little better than when I entered. For me, I am called by God and given a vision of how to carry that out each and every day. Each day God brings me opportunities to live out my purpose. I get to meet incrediable new people, I get the warmth of a hug, I get to share a prayer with someone who is struggling, I get to blesss children, join couples in marriage, and honor and celebrate the lives of those who have died, and comfort their loved ones. At the end of the day, I will find my peace, my joy, and my satisfaction on how well I lived that out each day and not who I voted for in a presidential election in 2012. End the end, with God’s help; I honestly feel I can bring about more change than someone that holds an elected office. So join with me in repairing any relationships damaged during this election, remember it’s only a brief season, live you faith not your politics and we all well be fine.
Peace, Love & Happiness:
Tommy

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Righteous Anger


Last week we kicked off our sermon series Seeing Red. We acknowledged that anger is present in everyone life. It can pop up sometimes without warning and have damaging effects. Luckily the Bible has a lot to say about anger.  Last week we outline five characteristics of anger. If you remember they were: Anger is not always bad. Anger makes us acceptable to greater dangers. Anger makes us do foolish things. Anger never produces what we hope it will. Anger is our own punishment.
Today we are going to look at the first one: Anger is not always bad. We are going to explore righteous anger. There are things in our life that should make us angry. Righteous anger can be defined simple as what makes God made should make us mad. We serve a God who created us, knows us, and loves us so whatever makes God angry should make us angry as well. Righteous anger however is never anger towards another person but only anger towards the problem. Because when we are mad at a problem we will be forced, moved, inspired to take action.
It’s no secret that I am a University of Memphis Tiger fan both football and basketball. Like all college sports we have our rivalries. I think every college team has them. But for Memphis in football it is Ole Miss, for you non southerners, Ole Miss is the University of Mississippi.  Ole Miss is less than an hour drive from the Memphis; they recruit in the Memphis area for players. Great High School football players go to Alabama, LSU, or UT. That leaves Memphis and Ole Miss to fight for the rest. Memphis fans dislike Ole Miss Fans. When Will was about four, we are at the game and Will is front row right behind the Ole Miss bench Will screams, “You Stink” every time they came off the field.  It was one of those moments where I was in front of them like, “Will don’t say that.” And then as soon as they leave I’m like “That’s my boy.” See the problem was not anger at the player from Ole Miss, it was anger at the problem of two opposing teams who compete in recruiting. Or the problem was a father taking college football to an unhealthy level. It’s not the person that causes us anger, it’s the problem. So what makes God anger? Simply put it is injustices.
There are two distinct kinds of injustices that make God angry and that should make us angry as well. First are universal injustices.  Those are things in our world that happen that should as follows of God should make us angry. Some people in our faith community have questioned me and my integrity of why are we spending all this money for a mission trip to Honduras. The risk of death for women during childbirth is nine times the rate in the United States.  One in every 40 children dies before their fifth birthday, triple the U.S. rate. One in 50 children dies before their first birthday, almost three times the U.S. rate. In Honduras 70% of the people are illiterate. Most children work in the field to help provide income. That should make you angry because these are children of God who did not ask to be born there. In our own city of Centralia, 1 in 6 kids are food insecure. Being Food insecure simple means lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times. Education. Kids in our community don’t have what they need to succeed in academics. Our kids are hurting and struggling and we automatically want to get mad at the teachers, the teachers get mad at the parents, and the kids just don’t want to go to school. Instead of getting mad at a person, righteous anger gets mad at the problem. 
The second kinds of injustices are personal injustices. These are things that happen to us on a person level. Addictions, alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse are things we witness and we like God should become angry at the problem, not always focused on the person. I want to be perfectly clear here, getting mad at the problem does not in no means automatically relinquish anyone from the responsibility of their actions caused by the problem. We have all witnessed how addictions have torn families apart and damaged innocent children that have lived it. We have all seen how specially in divorce people choose sides and blame the person, not the problem that caused the marriage to end. We must at time must zoom out and not focus all our attention on the person but look at the overall problem.


 So how do we know if our anger is righteous? The litmus test to see if our anger is righteous or is our anger is in line with Gods is three distinct characteristics.
Righteous anger is always, always anger under control. Proverbs 29:22 “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” Because God created us, knows us, and loves us, God knows that deep inside of us, in real life, in real time, there is this thing called vengeance. You did something to me, buddy, I am going to do something more to you. It boils up side of us and we do things, say things, or plot ways to get back.  If our anger is not under control, we start conflict, we commit many sins, we do things that are not pleasing in the eye of God or others who are watching us.
Righteous anger motivates us when others are mistreated. James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Over and over again throughout scripture Jesus tells us over and over again to look after the orphans and widows. You know what that means. Don’t just be listeners but be doers. You know what orphans and widows means. Jesus says anyone who can’t take care of themselves. In my life I have gotten into some stuff because I cannot just stand by when anyone who cannot defend themselves are being abused, taken advantage off or mistreated.
Righteous anger is motivated by the right reasons. Last week I stated that many times anger can be wrapped around the statement of “I’m not getting what I want.” Because we have this selfishness about us. Whenever anything is done in our life, in our faith community we say through our words, actions, and attitudes, “What am I going to get out of it.” When we have righteous anger, anger like God’s, we have selfless. It doesn’t matter if it will get us something down the road, it doesn’t matter if we get recognized, and it doesn’t matter if it will benefit us. Here is where God is going to mature us as a faith community. Genesis 1: 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Did you get this? You were created in God’s image. That means we are all created equally. We are created equally. Equally! God created each of us equally. That means in the eyes of God it doesn’t matter where we live, how much money we make, it doesn’t matter what race we are, or what language we speak, or what country we might have been born in. God hearts breaks whenever He sees his people in pain. I got to hear Eli Wessel speak; his is a Holocaust survivor and wrote the book called Night.  He said the true tragedy of the Holocaust was not that over 6 million Jews were slaughtered. It was the fact that 6 million Jews were slaughtered and no one cared. The greatest sin is indifference. God hearts breaks even more when He sees us witness people in pain, when we see people hurting, hungry, and broken and we do nothing about it. Then God’s righteous anger is turn towards us. When our anger is under control, when anger motivates us when others are mistreated, when anger inspires us into action for the right reasons, we then can make a difference and attack the problem. Maybe the problem is not that we get angry, maybe the problem is not that our anger is not righteous, maybe the problem is we get angry and do nothing..
Pray for me and I’ll pray for you..
Tommy

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why Anger?


We are going to spend a lot of time talking about anger, so much time as you may get angry at week after week we keep talking about anger and you will be wanting to move on. So to start off here is why I believe it is important and we need to spend a good amount of time on it. Anger is one of those things that pop up in our lives, sometimes expected, sometimes unexpected. The Bible has a lot to say about anger in our lives. It is ironic how anger shows up in all of our lives in weird ways. Anger is drives and fueled by the core values each of us hold. Some are small, dog eats you favorite pairs of shoes. Some are big someone betrays you, threatens you or you witness abuse in some way. No matter how big or how little depending on our personality and temperament, each of us has a different response to anger. Some people are criers. When they get angry the tears begin to flow. Others of us shut down, the silent treatment, clam up. Some of us become loud, and say or do things we would never do if we were not angry. Some people are slammers, doors, objects; whatever is close takes the brunt of their anger. And last but not least some become physically violent and very inappropriately. Jails are full of men and women who cannot control their anger.
Everyone experiences anger, everyone handles anger differently and each of us handles anger differently according to the circumstances or timing. The Good news is the Bible has a lot to say on the issue of anger. This morning we are going to lay out five thoughts or ideas according to scripture about issues of anger.

1. Anger is not always bad. Anger can mean that something is not right, expectations are not being met. Turn with we to Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”. Notice the Bible does not say do not get angry. It says “in your anger.” The Holy Word of God acknowledges that there will be times when you are going to get angry. But there is a difference between being angry and sinning. James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Anger in its self is not a bad thing but when handled in the wrong way, that is when it can lead to bad things.

2. Anger makes us acceptable to greater dangers. Anger can cause us to do or say things we wish we could take back the nanosecond they occur. Proverbs 25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” The image here is that our self-control is like a wall around a city, the thing that protects us, it comes crumbling down and we will be exposed to things we never been exposed to before, we will cross boundaries and lines in our life we never ever intended to cross. Anger is the gateway. My last mission trip to Honduras did not go as planned. I had promised Abby for her 16th birthday she and I would go to Honduras on a mission trip. All was well until we actually landed and approached customs. Abby had gone through with the group, I went to go through, the lady smiled and took my passport and left, they would not let me through. They took my luggage as I stood over to the side as everyone else on the flight went through. So I am standing there at customs, my passport has been taken, the group has already gone into the country, I can see the group, and they are not letting me through. I begin to go from laughter, confusion, to anger. So here comes this little 4’6’ man in a suit. You know it’s serious when the suit guy comes. He tells me I can’t go with my daughter into the country. I can see Abby crying and I am livid. Seeing all shades of red. Someone somewhere was going to pay. I could crush this little dude with one punch and go on into the country. I felt extremely violated in some way. Anger in our life is really a wall around one statement: “I am not getting what I want.” When we begin to dissect anger in our lives, the majority of the time it comes down to: “I am not getting what I want.”

3. Anger makes us do foolish things. Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Anger makes us do foolish things. I am not going to spend a lot of time here because each of us has done or said some foolish things out of anger. Its like the breaks from our mind to our mouths stop working. As the little 4 foot dude in the suit, looks at my passport, looks at me, I’m sure I look vicious as I’m red with anger, He shakes his head, “No!” I might not know Spanish but at this moment I know I’m not getting in the country. I see my daughter crying, I am busting with anger, remember I can take this dude with on punch, I know it, instead I say in my louder that already loud voice, “You are crazy, you are a evil person.” That is when the guys with guns showed up and took me to another room. They put me in time out. Here is why.

4. Anger never produces what we hope it will. James 1:20 “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Anger never leads us to where we hope to go. Getting mad, didn’t let the little dude in the suit go,” Ok senior you are anger, sure come on into our country.” Doing foolish things out of anger never leads us closer to God. Doing foolish things out of anger never leads us to be a better spouse, a better job, a better boss. We are never better parents because we acted out of anger. We are not better church members when we allow ourselves to speak out of anger. Acting out of anger never leads to the righteous life God wants for us. I got put on a plane to New Jersey, snowed in in New Jersey, but eventually I return home back to Centralia. It wasn’t the journey I wanted but the results were the same. I left Centralia, traveled to Honduras, and returned home. But my journey was not what I imagined. Anger is like that. It is not that you can’t complete the trip, its just it is harder, takes longer, and is further to get to the destination you were trying to get to. So when we parent out of anger, it is not that you won’t get the result you want, your just adding time, to the journey you are taking your kids on. When we lead out of anger there are these unexpected circumstances that come because feelings get hurt, relationships get severed, respect gets lost, the wall of self-control goes down and anger has influenced how we are leading and managing our lives.

5. Anger is our own punishment. Proverbs 19:19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again. A hot tempered person has to pay the penalty. Simple put when we live out of anger there will be a price to pay. When we act out of anger maybe that price is a severed relationship, yes the relationship can survive but it will never be the same. Maybe the price is distance between someone we love. Maybe the punishment comes in the form of a loss of respect, hurt feelings, regrets, embarrassment, we have all been there, but when we act out of anger there will be a price to pay. I didn’t get to share Abby’s first mission trip experience, but in November with others from our faith family, I’ll get another shot.

My prayer for the next five weeks is that God through the power of the Holy Spirit will do some work on your heart. It starts now. I want you beginning today to be aware of when and how you are getting angry. Be conscious of when and how you get angry. Where are those moments that get you angry. When angry rises up pause, rise above your anger and ask yourself why. Why am I angry? Why did that upset me? Why did that tone of voice upset me? Why does that person or this situation get you angry? Pause and ask yourself “What is it that I want, that I’m not getting” that causes me to get angry.
During this series I strongly believe God is going to do a lot of maturing of us as individuals and as a faith community. I believe that if you and I give God permission to do what He wants to do, that is put a light on those areas, this is how we get better, this is how we grow, it’s not complicated, it’s simple saying, : “God, I’m open, help me get better.” Help me to live an examined life.If we do that God will show up is some weird and crazy ways in our life. We will begin to see life changing stuff. Marriages, relationships, distances closed. Ife change will happen.

Some of us here have hurt someone out of anger and there is a distance intentionally or unintentionally. But there is a distance between a parent and child, a coworker, a family member, a spouse. Some of you know exactly what that is and are feeling it on the inside. That is called a conviction. Not at condemnation, so own it. Some of us need to make a phone call, send a text, write a note of email, and simple say I’m sorry for the way I acted, I’m sorry for the thing I said and begin to let God do some healing in your life.

Pray for you, simple is this. “Lord, you have permission to show me those times and places where I have seen red and help me to dig my way out and restore what I have lost. Amen”



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Seeing Red

Everywhere you look people are getting angry. It is a simple fact of life. I would challenge you to turn on the television, go to the grocery store or Walmart, (who hasn't seen a parent beat their kid in the Walmart)  or even read Facebook and something or someone will make you angry. Anger pops up in our lives both expected and unexpected. It can show it’s self in convenient and inconvenient times. It is funny how anger shows up in our lives in weird ways. Some are small like when you are in a hurry and there are hundreds of people in the checkout line and only one lane open. Some are bigger like situations when we feel we have been done wrong or hurt by someone or something. Anger is unavoidable in our lives. However because of our personalities and temperaments each of us has a different response to anger. Some people yell. The minute they get angry the tone and volume of their voice changes immediately. Others are criers. When they get angry they tend to tear up. Other people handle anger by totally shutting down, giving people the silent treatment, and totally avoiding the person or situation. Still others express anger physically my slamming doors, kicking or punching inanimate objects, or in unhealthy disastrous cases even lay hands on other people. Regardless of how we react, everyone experiences anger and everyone handles anger differently depending on the level of our anger and the situation. Wither we strive to avoid it, embrace it, or go looking for it anger is a part of our life.

The Good News is that the Bible has a lot to say about anger. In the next six weeks we will explore in our sermon series “Seeing Red” what the Bible has to say about anger. We will examine our own life to see the areas that cause us anger, how we handle anger, and areas where we can grow to be able to handle anger in healthy, productive, and constructive ways. If we are not careful anger can damage relationships, cause us to react inappropriately that can strain bonds between spouses, siblings, parents, and children. If we are not aware of the things and situations that cause us to get angry, anger can cause irreversible damage to both our relationships and health. Why is this sermon series important? Because anger has caused each of us to have done, said, or reacted out of anger in our lives that have caused us pain, hurt feelings, embarrassment, and a moment in our life where we hold regrets. If life has you “Seeing Red” join us as we explore what God has for you to avoid those times we regret our words, actions, or attitudes. Because life is too short to always be “Seeing Red.”
For those of you who can not attend or be apart of this sermon series I have been asked to post the written text here. Please note the written text and what is preached can be drastically different due to the interruption of the Holy Spirit..
See ya soon but until then take care of yourselves and one another.
Shalom,
Tommy

Monday, September 3, 2012

Big Miracles in Times of Crisis

One thing I have learned in my life is the simple fact that crisis is unavoidable in our life. One does not have to be very old to realize that crisis is not optional. Crisis comes without warning and affects our lives many times without warning or prior notice. Crisis will hit anyone at any time. Crisis in our lives are inevitable, unpredictable, and just part of life. When it comes to crisis in our life, we all make assumptions that crisis are bad. No one I have met has ever said, “Things are going awesome in my life, the only thing that is missing is a crisis. I need the wind knocked out of me, I need my faith tested, I could really use some tragedy, a painful time, and being stretched to my limits.”  It is in our human nature to assume that when we enter into a season of crisis that it will turn out bad. What if our assumptions are wrong?  What if there is a greater purpose to the crisis in our life?

When I think about the many crises I have endured in my life, I recall when God called us into ministry. I left a very well paying career to attend seminary and start my path towards ordination. While we drastically cut our expenses, some were unavoidable. We had two small children and struggled daily and we were broke. I mean counting out coins from the ashtray in the car to buy food, praying we didn’t have to drive far so our empty gas tank would last one more trip and paying just enough of the electricity bill to keep the light on. Needless to say the pressure of the crisis strained even the strongest of relationships all in the midst of the family sacrificing for me to go earn a graduate degree. Crisis even when we when following God’s call for us. While times were tough, when I look back now I see the crisis as not all bad. God provided for us. Without warning the church paid for childcare expenses, others invited us over to eat a lot, and day after day through the kindness and generosity of others we made it day to day.

The crisis was not all bad. We learned that family and not possessions are the most important things in life. We learned that when you follow God’s call it will not be easy, but He will not let you be destroyed. We learned lack of money is no excuse for not fueling romance, intimacy, and partnership in a marriage. We learned that no matter how alone you may feel in your crisis you are never alone God is with you and will provide sometimes in the most unusual and uncommon way.  We learned a new sense of joy whenever we have an opportunity to “pay it forward” and help out someone else. We learned faith is something that really can get you through to the next season and that love is the most valuable procession anyone of us can give to others as a gift. We learned the power of being a part of a faith family. In the midst of our crisis God provided miracle after miracle to get us to where we are now. God was not just providing miracles to get us through our financial crisis but was strengthening us and positioning us so God could put us in a position to help others. We know fully understand those others who struggle in crisis similar to us. We learned that no matter what the crisis is, it won’t last forever. Most importantly we learned that crisis is often the path to God’s big miracles in our life. May God bring you out of your crisis and into the miracle He has for you as God can make the impossible possible.
Peace, Love & Happiness
Tommy

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ten Lessons in Life I learned From Watching The Andy Griffith Show:


Reflecting on the recent death of Andy Griffith, it came to light ten life lessons I learned from watching the show. These lessons were slowing and unconsciously ingrained in me and shaped the way I navigate through life.  


1.       Enjoy your occupation. No matter what you do for a living, respect is earned not demanded. If you have respect your job is a lot easier.

2.       As with Earnest T Bass: Sometimes you have to do something crazy to get a girls attention.

3.       If you work with anyone who is incompetent, cover their mistakes and let them take credit. It will benefit you in the long run.

4.       Everyone has an Otis in their life. When they get drunk the first reaction is not to punish them but to keep them safe. Addiction is a disease not necessarily a crime.

5.       Life is too short not to stop whatever you’re doing to play a little bluegrass.

6.       Everyday can be a holiday, if you only sell moonshine on holidays and special occasions.

7.       It’s hard to be single parent, even if you have an Aunt Bea.

8.       Whenever serious crime hits you, first thing is to protect the ones you love.

9.       Whenever your children mess up, make it a teaching moment.

10.   Families should make eating together a top priority. It’s around the table values are formed, problems are solved, and information is shared. Not on Facebook.

Can you imagine what our world would look like if we had more Mayberry and less Jersey Shores?

Monday, June 18, 2012

“Developing Future Prospects”




If you watch baseball or any other sport you will agree that each sport possesses its own language. In baseball there are words like steal, bunt, sacrifice, and strike that have completely different meaning than when we use those exact words in our daily life. Baseball is a unique sport in which player development is essential. Compared to professional football, basketball, or hockey those lucky enough to get drafted, rookies in baseball do not start or play right away. Baseball has a strategic developmental system. Even when a player breaks into the majors, there are still veteran players who mentor the younger guys. There comes a time in every player’s professional career where they make a transition from securing their position to mentoring or sharing their knowledge with those less experienced. Players become great by what others have taught them both on and off the field not on talent and skill alone. This makes me wonder where am I in life, what have I done to develop future prospects. I seem to find myself most days somewhere between the rookie and the veteran.

When we look closely there is really no difference between baseball players and those of us who call ourselves “Christians” or followers of Jesus. Christians use words like faith, hope and love but may not have a clear, relevant, working definition of exactly what those words mean. Even though we use them all the time, they sound spiritual, they seem inviting and comforting, we may have no idea what they actually mean. I know churches named Faith and another named Hope but when you ask individuals connected to them what that means many find it hard to articulate the meaning of faith and hope. It's essential to have a clear working definition for such spiritual sounding words. The working definition of faith can be describes as in Hebrews 11:1 as: "being sure in what we hope for and certain about what we cannot see." To have faith in someone is to call out things that are not as though they are. Meaning we call out in people not what is there but what can be. This is done to us when someone takes a chance on us. Someone has faith in us, gives us a opportunity, or trust us on a task when we have no clue what we are doing. Jesus was the master of this. Some of us believe in others but faith takes belief a step further. If faith is calling things that are not as though they are then what is hope? Hope is seeing those things others don’t see. We have to see past what is and see what has the potential to be. As I approach my 44 birthday this week I began to compile a list of all the people in my life who saw something in me that I couldn’t see myself. I ahve been so blessed. My wife, my children, my parents, my siblings, my 2rd grade teacher, my friends, pastors and other church leaders, all these people who saw something inside of me that I could not see.

Here is the deal; the Bible mandates that if we want to play for Jesus, then we must live our lives so it will resemble the life Jesus lived. We are to pour out our knowledge, experiences, and what God has placed inside of us into other people. We are to play an important part in the development of future prospects. We are to be able to articulate a clear definition of faith, hope, and love. We are to demonstrate those definitions in our daily lives. In I Corinthians 13, Paul is writing about faith, hope and love and a chapter of scripture we have all heard at weddings, he reiterates that out of faith, hope and love, that love is the greatest. Why is love the most important? Because we can place our faith in people, we can give them hope and they still can let us down. But love is to have the patience to walk with someone during their development not just after. Love is walking with someone through the ups and downs, the highs and lows, when they let you down and make you proud, and being there with them as they develop into all-stars in life.

Who needs your faith in them right now? Who needs you to call out things that are not there as if they are there? Who in your life today needs hope? Who is that person that needs you to tell them what you see in them that others can’t? Who in your life needs that kind of love? Is it your children, coworker, grandchildren, friend, or spouse that needs that type of love? Call them, text them, drop them a note, have coffee with them, reach out to them help develop them into superstars on life. Don't give up on them, love them. It is time we begin to transition from securing our own position and begin to mentor those less experienced.

Peace, Love, and Happiness;
Tommy

Monday, May 14, 2012

“It Only Takes a Spark”

This time of year brings back memories of summer camp. For me it was Bethany Hills Camp in Tennessee. It was the place where my faith was shaped, molded, and developed. I am confident it was the beauty and serenity of the place along with the awesome people God put in my life as our paths crossed during our faith journey. I know God is everywhere, but that rustic camp in the hills of Tennessee was the location God spoke to me, reached out to me, and formulated the foundation of my faith. It as a place where I found a peace that seemed to avoid me elsewhere. I don’t know the mystery of the place but it has had the same affect on hundreds of young people who have traveled through there on life’s journey over a century. It brings me great joy and assurance that both of my children continue to journey there each summer knowing God is working on them also. It is where God plants seeds in the souls of young people. Many of us have special places like that where God’s presence is more audible than in the confines of our daily life. Not only was my faith shaped there so was taught lessons in life. I learned quickly that the guys who could play guitar also held the attention of all the young ladies. So during the winter away from camp, I taught myself a couple of chords and learned the poplar campfire songs. While I had ulterior motives, God put a spark in me that grew to a fire of a love for playing music. One of the popular songs of the day was Pass It One. I’m sure you have heard it. Sing along with me.

It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.
And soon all those around, can warm up it it's glowing.
That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it,
it's fresh like spring, you want to sing, you want to pass it on.

The Online Dictionary defines the word Spark: as anything that activates or stimulates; inspiration or catalyst. It only takes a spark to change the world in which we live in. God places a spark in each and every one of us. When we decided to intentionally fan that flame it will quickly spread into large flame. The book of Acts speaks of a spark that ignited a flame which eventual grew to a fire that is known as the local church. We are one of them. We can change the Centralia community with the fire that was started long before us. The flame is bigger than one person or one group of people but we can add our fuel to it that will be the catalyst for change. We can be the spark that activates, stimulates, inspires, and the catalyst to change in our community. Join us as we kick off a new sermon series The Spark. We will discover how to fan the flame that God has put in our own life to bring about change in our relationships, our careers, our faith and our community. It really does only take a spark, to get a fire going. It’s it really time to ignite something big.
Peace, Love and Happiness:
Tommy



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

“Smart Phone Theology”

In keeping with my ministerial colleges and in order to do ministry in today’s environment, I bought a smart phone. I feel in my own mind that I am a pretty tech savvy guy. Just ask my mother as she thinks I am a techno genius because I can change the blinking time on her VCR. However, no matter how savvy I believe I am it never fails that I will run into to some teenager who has the same phone as I and I begin to feel savvy and hip. Then they will do something incredible with their phone and I quickly feel dumb. I will respond with “Wow! I didn’t know it could do that, cool.” I leave with ego bruised but excited with the new discovery of the new function. My point is for those of us who have smart phones, it is one thing to own it, it’s one thing to have it, it’s one thing to poses it but it is a whole issue entirely to actually take full advantage of what you have in your possession.

In different areas of our life, do we take full advantage of the things we possess? While the analogy can be found with materialistic things it can happen in other areas of our life as well. In our relationships that we inhabit do we take full advantage of them? In our careers, it is one thing to have a job but it is something different to take full advantage of what we have. In our families, do we take the fullest advantage of the love between spouses, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, sibling to sibling? In our faith do we take our relationship with God to the fullest? I strongly believe that God has a destiny for each us. It’s a destiny that is life beyond our own imagination. God wants us to not just own it but utilize it to its fullest advantage. As we continue to look at the life of Joshua, there was a time when under Joshua leadership the people of Israel conquered all the land God had promised them. In the middle of the book of Joshua, God goes into great minuet detail of how the land was to be divided up among the people. God didn’t intend for the people to just possess the land but to inhabit it. God didn’t intend for his children to just own the land but to use it to the fullest. God wants the same for our life. God’s desire for us is not to have a relationship with someone one but a healthy relationship to the fullest. Not just being married but a marriage that fulfills both individuals to the fullest. God does not desire for us just to have a faith but a solid faith filled with hope that will sustain through the ups and downs of life. God’s desire for us transcends just having something in our procession and knowing how to use it to the greatest potential. Simply put; there may be more to our life than we realize and that we can take advantage of.
How do we get smart? I believe there are three essential principles that are paralleled in the life of Joshua that carries over to our life as well. We can live life to the fullest if we adapt ourselves to live our life with praise, share what we have with others, and live with honor. Start each day in praise to God. Turn on your ipod, car radio, whatever and begin each day listening or singing along with praise music. You will be amazed at how better your day will be just because you started out with a bit of praise. Second, understand that we don;t live on a island. God has placed others in our life. Some God has placed there so we can help them. Others God has placed there to help us. Last we must live with honor. Honor is something we as a nation has failed miserable teaching to younger generations. I believe our nation is the best on this planet and we still h ave our problems but we have failed to teach our children honor. Honor is lacking n our society because we have failed to demonstrate or teach our children honor. I strongly feel is not our governments job to teach honor, it is not our educational system to teach honor because each are deprived of honor themselves. I believe it is the church of Jesus Christ responsibility to teach, illustrate, and demonstrate honor into the fabric of families and eventually into our society. With these three, maybe we can be smart after all..
Peace, Love and Happiness:
Tommy



Thursday, April 26, 2012

"What's Missing in Today's Church"

I have always said I strongly believe that what is good of individuals is also good for churches. Let’s be honest. Older existing churches are in a slow downward spiral of decay while new churches are springing up like wild fire only to burn out quickly. So what is missing? Why are old churches dying and new churches burning out? Why are individual’s in older churches complacent and new believers in new churches are ignited but quickly burn out?

Many people believe that all you need for the church to grow is a new, young, nice looking charismatic pastor with a gorgeous family and that will solve it. All the church needs is someone who looks like Rob Bell, writes like Rick Warren and draws them in like Joel Osteen and all problems are solved. That may be true but what if the real answer already lies within the faith community and the people haven’t even realized it.


What I uncovered through my experiences as a new church planter as well as revitalizing a congregation that is over one hundred fifty years old was actually found in a parallel of the life of Joshua and the life of churches. Joshua was one of the greatest leaders of all time and was called by God to lead the people of Israel during a time of great transition. Moses their leader was dead, God chooses Joshua to lead the people into their destiny that God had promised. The Israelites were transforming from wondering newly free slaves into a great nation. God chose Joshua, Moses assistant, to lead them. When the Israelites arrived at their destination they found that the land was already inhibited. Joshua being a warrior wanted to take the city of Jericho but God had other plans. Joshua had the ability, the experience, the enthusiasm, the expertise, the training and the determination to conquer the city of Jericho. But God didn’t ask Joshua to be the great warrior that he was, God asked Joshua to obey him. Don’t fight just walk, blow some horns, and scream like a bunch of girls.


Like Joshua many new churches have that same vigor. They launch their new church with awesome new shinny programs ready to do battle. Their leaders have the knowledge, the expertise, and the passion but maybe lacking the ability to slow down, listen to God, and obey God in an uncommon way. They rush into battle when battle might not be God’s plan. Even with their determination they are slow to slow down and obey God in some uncommon way. Many new church leaders have prepared for battle when God wants them to walk around, blow some horns and scream like girls. They have determination but maybe lack restraint and wisdom. When God wants you to walk and you want to fight, burnout, frustration, and discontentment quickly set in. New churches are set on advancement when God may intend on relenting.


After Joshua takes the city of Jericho, he goes on a thirty one kingdom conquering winning streak. Joshua leads the people and they take them down one by one. When Joshua is finished he is tired and old not unlike many older existing churches. In Joshua 13:1&2 God says to Joshua: “you now are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” (NLV) Like many older churches, Joshua had done a lot, been through tough times, conflicts, and battles. The church as Christ body is old, tired, and battle worn. God even called Joshua very old but still had important things to accomplish. So are older existing congregations. Many from an older generation are content on sitting back on past victories and relinquish it all to a younger generation. The older generation finds contentment of what they have accomplished in the past. Like Joshua they are old, body covered in battle scars and content on sitting on the sideline. This generation is relenting when God is calling for them to advance.


So what is missing? What is missing for both new churches and older churches I believe is collaboration. Speaking for my generation I must express that young people are crazy, energetic, full of energy, and will try anything. Young people have a deep passion to serve Jesus. We believe in those quiet moments that we really can change things for the better. We feel strongly that we can make a difference in people lives and in our community. But we are missing wisdom and insight. We are missing someone to believe in us. There is this aching hole inside the younger generation that is looking to the previous generations and asking, “Do you believe in us? Do you think we can do it?” Look we may dress funny, yes we may rely on technology for everything, we may talk weird, but you know what we love God the same as you do. I believe there is a younger generation that is looking across our churches and desperately wanting you to say, “Yes! I believe you can do it. I believe in you.” We need you to say, “let us bring our wisdom alongside of you to help you be more efficient. Help you look out for the blind spots that you are too young to notice yet. Help you slow down and listen to God and when to fight” The older generation has something vital to give. We as a younger generation need to hear you say, “I’ve made some mistakes in my life but here is what I’ve learned.” We so desperately need to hear how your marriage survived sixty years, how you made it raising your children, how you survive cancer, how you put your life back together after your spouse died. We need to hear it because where we sit we think you are perfect. The older generation needs to know we look upon you and your life and say to ourselves, we hope we are like them when we are their age. We need you, we need your wisdom, most of all we need your belief in us. I don’t think it is possible for any church new or old to become everything God wants it to become in the future without your wisdom and confidence. To the older generation please hear us; we need you, we can not do it without you. Don’t relent; we must advance the bride of Christ together, side by side, hand in hand, wisdom and vigor with the same love of Christ and the church. We may be old, we may be young but together God has called us for to progress together as one unified body.


Rev Thomas J Henegar is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who has worked both as a New Church Planter for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tennessee. He is currently serving as the Senior Minister of a one hundred fifty plus year old church in rural Southern Illinois. Rev Henegar is a graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree and has extensive research and continuing education in new church development and church transformation. He is married to wife Kellie for over 18 years and is the proud father to Abby 17, and Will 13. He only dreams of looking like Rob Bell, singing like Chris Tomlin, writing like Rick Warren and a smile that draws them in like Joel Osteen.




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“Centralia Has Me Seeing Green”

Every where I turn in the town that I live, I see green. Green signs, people wearing green t-shirts, and green lettering on local businesses and vehicles. The green is not to just to celebrate spring, our High Schools colors, but a community effort to save something priceless. Everyone in the community have united together to display green to save one of its most valuable assets, the Murray Center. The Murray Center provides a caring home and excellent care to 280 special needs residents. Governor Quinn, the governor of Illinois, has decided to close the facility and displace all the residents and employees. But the green is not about saving the jobs of 550 staff members. While jobs are crucial and important, the main explanation I hear for saving the Murray Center is more about the quality of care and life of what Jesus called the “least of these” and their families. Governor Quinn explained his actions were taken because of green cash despite the fact that the Murray Center has turned a profit of millions of dollars in last years.

So what is all the green about? The color green symbolizes self-respect and well being. Green is the color of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony. Not being from Centralia I see green as the perfect color. Green has displayed the self respect and well being of the care given to the residence at the Murray Center. Green causes each of us who live here to find this balance between activism, politics, religion and community involvement. I have witnessed churches putting theological practices aside and coming together to pray and seek God’s guidance. I have witnessed local political leaders put aside personal egos and party lines to work together. It does not take long to see people gathering together in a show of solidarity to keep green in our community. I am not sure of the outcome but I know that during this whole journey our community has grown closer together. We have put others needs ahead of our own, lifted up to God in prayer our current circumstance, and bonded together. In a green cash strapped community, people have given of their already limited resources to help in the fight. The people of the Centralia area have begun to work in harmony with one another. Yes green is the perfect color for our community. In a society when division is profitable it is refreshing to see unity.

I can not predict the outcome but I truly believe no matter what our community has already won. We have unselfishly fought for the quality of life for those who can not take care of their own basic needs. We have battled for the families who can rest easy at night knowing that their loved one is safe, loved, and taken care of. We have brawled side by side in unity using all our resources with those in power to secure a safe home for those who need it most. Nothing can take that away our self respect and pride as a community as we know we have done the best we can. I was not born in Centralia but God chose to call my family and me here and once again it has proven to be an awesome place to live and raise our children. For that i am thankful. I believe in our community there has been awakening for each of us to see the beauty within that sometimes eludes us. That is something no governor can take away from us. Yes Centralia has me seeing green and I could think of a more beautiful color.
Peace, Love and Happiness,
Tommy

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life In Transition

Has there been a time in your life when you were in transition? Parents know what I’m talking about. I believe that parenting is the single hardest job in the entire world. In case you didn’t know I have a daughter who is 17 and a son who is 13 and every single time I think I got this whole parenting thing down, it changes. There was the small baby phase were all I had to do is not drop them, feed them change them, feed them, put them in a bouncy seat, and as long as they were not screaming, I was good. As soon as I got that down, here comes the toddler phase. They start to walk, start to become mobile, and start to get into stuff and make messes. As soon as I can keep them out of all the stuff in the house, they transition into the why stage. “Why? Why Daddy? Why?” My reply usually was “I don’t know why it’s because I’m not a good parent, just go ask your mother.” As soon as I got to answer every question under the sun, they transition into what I call the “Dad is great” phase. I like this one. It is where they become mini me’s. They think I hung the moon, follow me around, and imitate me. Just while I’m loving this stage, they transition in to beginning to have their own thoughts and ideas. I went from the smartest person in the world to not knowing anything in 24 hours. Then it is a transition into a teenager where I am embarrassing to be around and no longer cool and annoying. Every time in the parenting thing I get down, they transition on me.

What is true in parenting is also true in life. Every time we think we get life figured out. Every time we master a season or phase in our life, it is as if almost by divine coincidence we transition into a new season. How do we handle these transitions in life? Life is lived through season or what I like to call defining moments. These defining moments can be time of joy: graduation day, wedding day, getting your first “real” job, the day your kids were born, the day your grandkids were born, and other highlight ion your life. Our defining moments can be not so great: the day the Dr tells you the test results show its cancer, the ending of a relationship, when you hear the words, “your laid off”, the moment you get a call and someone tells you your loved one has died. Good or bad these are defining moments in our life. They either make us stronger or the devastate us. But what do we do in those in between defining moments are or times of transition. These times can be scary and our natural reaction is to freak out. I strongly believe it is during these seasons or time of transition God is preparing us for something bigger. I believe every season good or bad has a purpose wither we see it or not. We can become impatient and only look forward to what we want ahead. We can step boldly into the next season of our life knowing that God is with us. Knowing that it is with His grace we can confidently transition into the next season of our life. We go forward with confidence not in our own strength, talents, gifts, or abilities, but with the grace of God. It is God’s strength that God reaches down and says “I choose you for the next season of your life. As I have walked with others I will walk with you. It is not by your power but with mine you will embrace the next season of your life. You might not feel worthy, qualified, or you have the experience but God says I choose you. Go boldly into it…
Peace, Love and Happiness,
Tommy

Monday, April 9, 2012

“Embracing Your Season”

Isn’t it interesting that when you and I reflect on our lives that there are defining moments or defining seasons? Life is lived through seasons. Some of them are good: like getting your driver licenses, graduation day, wedding, birth of your children or grandchildren, your first real job. Then there are not so good defining moments or seasons: when the divorce became final, the day the test results came back and the Dr. said, “it’s not what we had hoped for”, the day a loved one passes away, the day the factory closed for good, having to change living accommodations, or struggle daily with health problems. These moments good or bad are defining moments or seasons in our lives. In these defining moments, as we transition through these defining seasons and on the back side of them, when they are over, no matter how painful or tough those times were, we can come out on the back side stronger, more determined about life than ever before. Unfortunately we have walked through defining moments or seasons and we have come out more broken, bruised, discouraged and defeated. These seasons of life can be scary to say the least. Some of us resent the season we are currently in and can only look past our current season and hold out unto it can pass. Some of us just when we think we have our season figured out God transitions us into another season. When we do this it is easy to miss what God is preparing us for the next season. As we grow older, we become jaded to the fact that God may still have a purpose for us to that the fact God is still developing who we are as His child.

As we kick off our new sermon series Joshua: Unleashing the Leader Inside You, we will examine Joshua’s life and his seasons. Joshua went from the son of Nun to Moses assistant to the leader of God’s chosen people, who would deliver then into their ultimate destiny. Joshua went from being Moses assistant to leading a million people into the promise land. This during the time when the people were freaked out by the death of their leader.  God transformed Joshua from an administrative assistant to the leader who would conquer the land for the people and help them transition from wandering ex slaves into a great nation. Just as God was there transitioning Joshua, God is there for us during our seasons as well. We must be willing to listen carefully to God’s instruction as we transition from one season to the next. We can learn how to embrace each season good or bad in order to live the life God desires us to have. What season are you in? Are you in transition between two seasons in your life? How can you be a leader in your family and help your children transition from one season to the next. Join us each week in Fusion Worship or watch each message online as we examine Joshua's life to help us unleash the leader inside you as you embrace each season.
See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Peace, Love & Happiness,
Tommy

Monday, March 26, 2012

“WEiRD Time”

During the journey through the Lenten season, we stop and focus on the last season of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. One of the great mysteries for me was why did Christ decide “now” was the time to radically change his ministry. Jesus was at the peak of his ministry, fame, and his teachings. Just when Christ was making the greatest impact on the lives of many, he chose to transition his ministry to something radically different. Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, was the mark of time for all creation. The people had one normal expectation that the time was right for the Savior to free them from Roman control. Jesus had this weird time of reconciling all creation for eternity.  
This week we end our six part sermon series WEiRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working. The intent of this series was not for you to just listen to, agree with, be entertained ,or inspire other pastors of other churches, but for each of you to slow down, ponder God’s message for you, and most importantly begin to adjust your life from normal to weird.  Simply put, the series is about life change.  If you missed any of the messages we encourage you to go to our website and watch them or watch them again. God has a message for you. My prayer is that you begin to live a WEiRD life, not weird for weird sakes but a God WEiRD kind of way.
Today we live in a weird time. Radical changes loom at every corner of our conscious. The threat of the closing of the Disease Control Center and the Murray Center, unstable countries obtain nuclear weapons, and a government election, so it’s vital we understand God’s principles for weird time.  
Normal tells us that busyness equals success. Normal has convinced us that if we stay busy, moving at a hectic pace, we will be successful. Normal tells our church if we just offer more “stuff” no matter if its relevant or not, we will be more successful. Normal concepts of time have us running our children from sports practice to sports practice playing every sport because the busier they are the more successful they will be.  Normal says we don’t have enough time.  WEiRd time reveals to us, we seem to always find time for the things we place value on.  Normal says our job is where we should give our best.  WEiRD time tells us we should give our best when we walk into our house and greet our family. Normal has us convinced that we are too important to disconnect. Normal feeds my ego telling me that others need me. I must stay plugged in all the time. WEiRD reminds me that I am 100% replaceable except in my relationships with God and my loved ones. WEiRD time tells us we are too important to God and to our loved ones to settle living a normal life. Normal is  not working so get weird before you lose something you can’t get back. Jesus’ time for now was about reconciliation, maybe it’s time for us to reconcile the priorities in our life, a broken relationship, our own forgiveness and guilt, and celebrate that our Savior has come to save us. Save us from normal.

Peace, Love & Happiness,
Tommy