Thursday, March 30, 2006


Wesley Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
- John Wesley

Perhaps one of the ways to regain the method of Methodism is to pray the above prayer daily: that God might use us as a vessel, and that we might submit ourselves to the discipline of being available to God.

Dr. Jonathan Jeffords lectured at our district clergy meeting this week, and reminded us of the Wesleyan understanding of salvation: our salvation is not just about what we’re saved from, but also what we’re saved to. In other words – God saves us and loves us: unconditionally and absolutely. Now… what are we going to do about it?

Go forth, in Jesus’ name.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Beauty and Creation

Our daughter, Sarah, recently turned 13. Of course, we are proud parents. She wrote a poem this evening, and it reminds me how often I take God's grandeur for granted. With her permission, I have published it below.

Ode to the Earth

Earth so sweet, so full of life,
a sphere of light and dark,
with forests of trees and deserts of sand,
and oceans of blue,
oh how they sparkle.

Earth filled with life, so abundant and free,
trees so tall they tower to the sky,
and flowers, they smell so sweet,
the birds sing a song,
singing of your history

Earth filled with destruction,
with storms that blow me off my feet,
and your violent volcanoes,
as you shake the country,
and snow that chills

Earth, you amaze me,
with beauty unimaginable,
springs flowing with clear water,
and valleys full of sweet flowers,

Earth, you are so pure,
with rain that washes,
and the sunlight that dries,
a new day is around the corner.

Earth, you are oh so mighty,
with mountains that tower,
and valleys that sink,
You will never cease to amaze me.

- Sarah E. McCracken, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

God’s Story and Our Story

I wrote a few posts ago about God’s time and our time. Yesterday, I was reminded of a story that Tex Sample, a retired seminary professor, told about God's story and our story. Let me say that I don’t always agree with Prof. Sample, but there’s no mistaking the truth of justice in this story.

Prof. Sample has a friend named Jimmy Hope Smith who was born and raised in Alabama and talks with an exaggerated drawl. He has a Ph.D in aesthetics, but still talks the same way he always has. I’ll let Tex tell the rest of the story:

Now Jimmy Hope's got a daddy. He loves his daddy a whole lot. But his daddy is unredeemed in some serious ways. Well, he likes to go visit his daddy. In the morning in his daddy's house the first one up hits the button on the TV set and it goes on. Last one to bed at night hits the button and the TV set goes off. All day long you sit there and just watch that TV set. You eat breakfast and lunch and supper in front of it. You have conversation in front of it. You entertain company in front of it. I mean - it's just there. There is a sacred hour when "As the World Turns" comes on. Silence is stringently observed.

Well, they were sitting there one day having a conversation while the TV was going. Jimmy Hope's just having a wonderful time talking with his daddy about things. He learned a long time ago that when he argues with his daddy he better not argue with his daddy the way he learned to argue when he was at the university. Well, they're watching TV and suddenly the picture of Jesse Jackson comes on the screen and his daddy says, "Somebody ought to shoot that SOB!…They just oughta shoot him."

"Well, daddy, do you really believe someone ought to shoot Jesse Jackson?"

"I do! They just oughta shoot him."

"Well, daddy, if you really believe that I think you ought to go to church Sunday and I think you ought to pray for somebody to shoot Jesse Jackson."

"What's the matter with you, boy, are you crazy?"

“No sir, I just think that if you really believe that you ought to go to church and pray for it."

"Boy, you know good and well that Jesus ain't gonna put up with that sh--."

- from “Justice in the World: Getting the Story and the Practices Right.”

If we try to make our story fit into God’s story, we’ll fail every time. Jesus won’t put up with that. And if you don’t think Jesus occasionally got perturbed, maybe you need to reread the Cleansing of the Temple.

Now that was a house cleaning.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Seizing Opportunities to Disciple

One of my hobbies is voyeurism. Now before someone runs off and files church charges on me, know that I simply like to watch people in public. When I go to a mall, to Walmart, or a bookstore, I enjoy just sitting down and watching people come and go, usually with a cup of coffee in my hand to enhance my “cover.”

I took the picture above from my vacation seat at the Kentucky Sweet 16 boys basketball tournament in Lexington, KY. Kentucky is one of the last states to still have an open tournament – there are no classifications in basketball regarding school size. The best team in each of the 16 regions of Kentucky are here, and Rupp Arena is usually filled (the picture is how the view looks from my seat). As a result, you’re going to see white collar folks, blue collar folks, urban folks, rural folks, black folks, and white folks.

It’s pure heaven for someone like me who likes to watch people.

Whether it’s waiting in line for an ice cream cone, going into the hotel lobby for a Starbucks coffee, or sitting in one of the hotel lounges that inevitably fills with coaches, die hard fans, and officials from across the state – you see a lot of different people, and you hear a lot of different conversations.

While some of these conversations are light, there are others that become quite intense. Maybe it’s the anonymity of being in a different place, the freedom of being on vacation away from a stressful life, or the loosening of tongues in a lounge after a drink or two, but in overhearing some conversations (and becoming a participant in a few), I find that there are a lot of people in pain and in need of healing. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t wear my clerical collar everywhere, but I’ve never been ashamed to share faith, good news, and the healing Word when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes these opportunities have led to further conversation at another time, occasionally they have led to an office visit or lunch, and once in a while they’ve gotten someone to church and the faith.

We Christians need to perfect the craft of “pro-active listening.” There’s a lot of pain out there, and we should be the experts in helping people heal. We just need to seize the opportunities, in the name of Jesus.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

License to Lament?

Actually, instead of lament, I wanted to use another word... but hey, it's got alliteration, and it's a nice biblical-sounding word. Besides, one of my church members might be reading this.

I awoke this morning and read through my usual news pages and blogs, and realize that today no one is happy. Politicians are unhappy with each other, constituents are unhappy with those representing them. Pat Head Summit (sorry, she'll always be Trish Head to me, as I remember her college basketball days at UT Martin) is unhappy with UT's seeding in the tournament. Billy Packer and Jim Nantz are unhappy with the Men's tournament selection, while selection chairman Craig Littlepage is unhappy with Packer and Nantz and CBS in general for their criticism. Coach Calipari at Memphis is doing a great job, but his own hometown press and Memphis pundits trash him at every opportunity. At least they don't want to kill him, as John Chaney once wanted to. At least, not yet.

My denomination isn't immune: some are not happy with our bishops, one bishop seems to have made an error according to the Judicial Council, and now said bishop is criticizing the Judicial Council with filed legal briefs (ever watch Law and Order?). In my own state of Kentucky, a referee was unhappy that he was not allowed to officiate a regional final... so upset that he got a court order to postpone the game.

Is America just one big bitchfest? (oops, I said it after all... but hey, it has alliteration!)

I asked my wife and daughter just now, "Are y'all unhappy this morning?" My daughter said, "I'm not - I'm happy. If you're upset, just hang around me today and you'll be happy too." She'll be 13 on Thursday. While most people are lamenting life and getting older, she's loving life.

Works for me.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Our Time vs. God’s Time

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - II Peter 3:8-9

I tend to want to do things and get them done; I don’t like to leave things undone. However, I continue to be spiritually prompted and reminded to be aware of the difference between chronos and kairos. Chronos (in Greek, χρονος) is our time – the time of our clocks and calendars. However, in the Kingdom of God, we find that things run according to kairos (in Greek, καιρος). Kairos is “the appointed time in the purpose of God.” In short, kairos is God’s time.

Chronos and kairos don’t run concurrently. Actually, God could care less about things being done in our time, and that frustrates us. Timetables, schedules, estimates, Protestant work ethics – God will not be rushed, nor slowed down, by these human efforts. I want the church to grow, I want new programs to start, I want new disciples to be nurtured. These things might happen – but they will happen in God’s time, not my own.

Living in kairos takes some spiritual awareness and maturity – to be able to hear God’s still small voice, to discern the will of God through spiritual promptings, and to come to repentance so that we might know sin, grace, and forgiveness. Perhaps one of our prayers in the Lenten season can be for God to teach us how to live in kairos.

Patience, fellow grasshoppers.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Learning to Say No

I shared in the sermon yesterday that two things usually lead us into temptation: (1) Not being “prayed up,” and (2) being physically and mentally tired. It makes sense that if we’re not in conversation with God we lose our center and our resolve. But if we’re physically and/or mentally tired, our guard drops. We have lapses in judgment. We become susceptible to suggestion. Pride can be mistaken for faithfulness.

Sabbath time is important; it allows us to renew and refresh. It is a time to listen to God and listen to ourselves, and then to adjust accordingly.

As a society, we probably don’t say no enough. Between the demands of society, demands of work, the demands of raising children and the activities they’re involved in, and the demands of the household, we often let something go – the demands of discipleship. In the list of priorities, discipleship should come first, not get leftovers.

Let us look at our schedules, our calendars, our PDA’s, and ask ourselves this question: are all the things that we do really that important? Have we left time for God, our families, and ourselves? Learning to say no is good practice for learning to say no to temptation, and may be a way of saying yes to God, yes to Sabbath, and yes to faithfulness.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Clergy: Leaders or Buffoons?

Every time I see this picture of Rowan Atkinson, I can’t help but chuckle.

And although a part of me bristles when I see the clergy lampooned, another part of me knows that it is sometimes well-deserved. Attorneys tell me the same thing about lawyer jokes.

Jokes and comedy are often rooted in perception; Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show survives on such perception, and there are many like myself who often watch it in lieu of the evening news because it tends to be more honest! I’m one of those persons who has become politically cynical, and I find myself laughing uncontrollably (and nodding my head in agreement) when I watch the program.

But I realize that there are a lot of folks who have become cynical about the faith, too. We clergy are often to blame for that: we can be pompous, arrogant, self-righteous, and aloof. At times I find myself falling into roles that are less pastoral and more managerial. Would Jesus call himself a CEO, or allow Peter to place that after his name on his business cards? I think not.

In all fairness, clergy have to balance a lot of roles, but the key word is balance. If we’re coming across to others as just managers/CEO-types, we’ve got some work to do. Likewise, if we’re only theologians and allow administration, program, and finance to go by the wayside, we’ve failed. We are priests, evangelists, and prophets, and have to be in touch with the Spirit and the world to see what our role is at the given time.

The term Professional has lost some of its meaning, but it firmly has a place among the clergy: we profess Christ and profess our faith as servant leaders in the Church. In the best definition of the term, we owe it to those we serve to be professional. That might be our best combat against cynicism and apathy toward the Faith.