I just saw the trailers for these documentaries and they seem like moving and compelling films to watch.
I just saw the trailers for these documentaries and they seem like moving and compelling films to watch.
The other day I watched this incredible documentary on Netflix, The White Helmets. It shares the story of a group of volunteers in Syria who run to the places that have just been bombed and seek to find and rescue survivors. The White Helmets motto, “to save a life is to save all of humanity.”
Watch the trailer below:
Worship is a topic I think about often. I have been to Methodist Sunday morning worship services the vast majority of my life and the more I contemplate and reflect on worship the more I realize that we use way to many words in our services.
The whole service is a continuation of words being spoken with hardly any break. If there is silence between songs you can feel the awkwardness in the room. Sometimes there is silent or mediative prayer before the pastoral prayer, but that is often only 15 seconds and all I can think about is how much I would like to pray for but keep thinking any second now my prayer will be interrupted by the beginning of the long prayer said by the professional.
I long for more silence wordlessness in worship. I believe these brief moments slow us down. It gives us time to be still, to pause, to know God is near. It gives time for everyone to share their voice to God, and not to have a few people speak to God for you while you listen.
In church we talk so much about God but it feels to me that so often we do little to actually be with God. I see this everytime in youth group when we stop our regular schedule to do a night of prayer. It’s a beautiful thing to witness youth journeying throughout the church or room to different prayer stations and being authentically engaged in prayer. What they often share is how grateful they were to have an opportunity to actually be with God and to not have to listen to someone (me) speaking and simply to be in presence of God. It never fails, for every time we give the youth space to be with God, our hearts are filled, we feel heard, our souls are cared for.
I also can’t help but wonder how much more powerful corporate worship could be if there was space for more conversation. It seems people gather to be told information about God, to sit there and listen and then to leave. Very seldom do we invite everyone to share their voice and to connect with one another in deep conversation.
I long for less words in worship, less speaking about God and more time to actually be with God. Some books I have been reading have reminded me that I have not done a great job of helping youth practice the presence of God. I have tried to teach them about God instead of inviting them into sacred space to experience God.
Some of the most God encountering moments in worship happen for me when there is slow music playing with no words being said, because in those moments its a real invitation to bring my life before God; whether I speak or don’t, I know God is there and receives me. Often in worship when we talk so much about God, God often feels so far away from our worship. I often feel I don’t know where God is but God doesn’t seem here. But in silence, when I get to be with God, then God doesn’t seem distance, but is a real presence in the mess of our lives.
Silence reminds us how noisy our lives are. Silence invites us into vulnerability where we are naked before God. It’s restful but also terrifying, but there is a sense of peace that comes along with it
I want to share a few great videos I have watched recently. They aren’t all related, but they are good.
This video shares and honors the stories of those affected by the war in Syria. Click here to make a donation.
This video is a great Ted Talk about the power of introverts.
This is a great talk about millennials in the work place
Let us stand for love and inclusion, especially for our Muslim and immigrant friends and family.
And because our lives always need laughter, I have recently discovered honest trailers and they have many based on comic book characters that have hit the screen.
Dec 1st is World Aids Day. Check out the video below from Blood Water Mission – a group started by the band Jars of Clay that helps provide clean water in the world and also works in the HIV/AIDS Crisis. You can also support the United Methodist Global Aids Fund and support our church’s work in the fight against AIDS.
“World AIDS Day is a time set aside worldwide to celebrate the advancements that have been made in support of the international HIV/AIDS crisis. However, it is also a sobering reminder that there is still crisis-level urgency behind our work to reach zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new infections, and zero discrimination. One way our local partners respond is by initiating support groups in their communities. We encourage you to take a few minutes today to watch this video and be inspired by the transformation that is possible when support groups are in place
Find out how you can take action in celebration of World AIDS Day at bloodwater.org/worldAIDSday.
These are some reflections from books and podcasts I have read and listened to lately:
It’s no secret that churches are facing issues of decline and wondering how to reverse their trends. The United Methodist Church, which I have been a part of almost my entire life and love dearly, has a strong emphasis on numerical growth being the most important thing that we should focus on. It almost seems that the purpose of every church is to become a mega church. That is the goal and so every event and program of the church is designed to get more people on Sunday morning. One church leadership book I recently read suggests that if your church is not on the path to becoming a mega church then you are doing something wrong (yikes!)
I don’t think church growth is wrong, but I just can’t help but wonder if Jesus actually cares about mega churches. Jesus seemed much more interested in smaller gatherings. Jesus would actually be a horrible model for a church growth program. He wasn’t afraid to turn people away and told others not to tell others about who he was. He was also pretty serious about the demands of following him and not everybody wanted to be a part of that. He also healed people and then wouldn’t allow them to come with him, but sent them somewhere else to be a witness.
Some have suggested that the reason for the decline of the church is God’s doing. Maybe God is killing parts of the church. One pastor and former bishop shared that God will kill in inward focused church. So maybe God is cleansing the church to make room for something new to breathe and live.
It can be argued that it’s impossible to create a church growth strategy based on Jesus. Jesus never seemed that concerned about numbers. If he was, he wouldn’t have made this faith so hard. Telling someone to give all their stuff away to the poor, to take up the cross everyday, is not an endearing message that will attract a lot of people. Perhaps that is a reason that God might be involved in the killing of the church. Maybe Jesus is trying to weed out all of us who are not really that committed.
It seems many church leaders are aware that the current way we do church is not a faithful expression of God’s desires for us. Yet, we keep doing it and it feels as though we are trapped and suffocating. May we find courage to let the Spirit breath. May we let God kill parts of the church that need to end and give room for new life and new expressions of faith to breathe.
I would recommend reading Longing for Spring by Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker. This short books speaks to those longing for something new in the church and the transformative practice of missional mic0-communities who are centered on small communities committed to prayer and service.
What I love about this book is that it’s not another gloomy article or book about how sad church decline is, and it’s not “here are 12 things to do to turn your church around,” instead it’s a joyous expression of Christianity based on life sharing, contemplation and activism within community.
Traumatized by the election results, many Americans are asking: What now? Here are steps that any of us can take that can make a difference at the margins. Onward!
1. I WILL accept that my side lost, but I won’t acquiesce in injustice and I will gird for battle on issues I care about. I will call or write my member of Congress and express my opposition to mass deportation, to cutting 22 million people off health insurance, to nominations of people who are unqualified or bigoted, to reduced access to contraception and cancer screenings. Better yet, I’ll attend my representative’s town meeting and put him or her on the spot.
2. I WILL try to do small things in my own life, recognizing that they are inadequate but at least a start: I will sign up on the Council on American-Islamic Relations website, volunteering to fight Islamophobia. I’ll call a local mosque to offer support, or join an interfaith event. I will sign up for an “accompany my neighbor” list if one exists for my area, to be an escort for anyone who is now in fear.
3. I WILL avoid demonizing people who don’t agree with me about this election, recognizing that it’s as wrong to stereotype Trump supporters as anybody else. I will avoid Hitler metaphors, recognizing that they stop conversations and rarely persuade. I’ll remind myself that no side has a monopoly on truth and that many Trump supporters are good people who want the best for the country. The left already has gotten into trouble for condescending to working-class people, and insulting all Trump supporters as racists simply magnifies that problem.
4. I’LL DO my part to support the society I’d like to see. I’ll eat Chobaniyogurt because its owner has been subjected to racist attacks for his willingness to hire and promote refugees. Likewise, I will give blood and register for organ donation — for at least they’ll make me feel better. As will a tub of Chobani.
5. I WILL support groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center that fight hate groups, and back the center’s petition calling on Donald Trump to disavow bigotry. Depending on my interests, I’ll support an immigration rights group, the A.C.L.U. or Planned Parenthood. And I’ll subscribe to a newspaper as one way of resisting efforts to squelch the news media or preside over a post-fact landscape — and also to encourage journalists to be watchdogs, not lap dogs.
6. I WILL support refugees, one of the most demonized groups in the world. The International Rescue Committee’s work for refugees can for the first time be supported through donations to The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. In many cities in America and abroad, volunteer can help refugees through this I.R.C. portal. More refugee resettlement agencies are here.
7. I WON’T let it slide if a friend makes degrading comments about a minority or women. Even if it’s over Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll push back and say something like: “Come on! You really think that?!” Similarly, I may not be able to prevent a sexual predator from reaching the White House, but at events I attend, I may be able to prevent a sexual predator from assaulting a drunken partygoer.
8. I WILL resist dwelling in an echo chamber. I will follow smart people on Twitter or Facebook with whom I disagree. I will also try to enlarge my social circle to include people with different views, recognizing that diversity is a wonderful thing — and that if I know only Clinton supporters, then I don’t have a clue about America.
9. I WILL do what I can in my own life to make sure that the needy aren’t forgotten in the next four years amid paroxysms of tax cuts for the wealthy. I can support Reach Out and Read, an outstanding program that helps at-risk kids learn to read: A $20 donation covers one child for a year, or one can serve as a reader. Or I can be a Big Brother or Big Sister or help through iMentor.
10. I WILL understand that progress may unfold at the state or local level, and I will engage there. It’s encouraging that voters in four states passed minimum wage measures, and in three states approved gun safety measures, while other states and localities are wrestling with climate change. And, of course, a starting point is to get my friends to vote.
11. I WILL take on sexism and misogyny, which in forms like domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking affect women and girls across the country. Even today, Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together to get funding for women’s shelters or to prosecute pimps.
12. I WILL not lose hope. I will keep reminding myself that politics zigs and zags, and that I can do more than shout in the wind. I can fight for my values even between elections, and even at the micro level I can mitigate the damage to my neighbors and attempt to heal a social fabric that has been rent.