Trudging the Road of Happy Destiny


One of the happy perks of being your pastor is being invited to all sorts of holiday events, and one of my favorites is the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by our Monday night Alcoholics Anonymous group.

This year’s extravaganza was no different — a rich smorgasbord of fantastic food, including all the season’s favorites, followed by an even richer time of testimony. The group leader read the following passage from the The Big Book:

Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

Then we went around the room, and people shared their thoughts on the passage, as well as expressing their gratitude. The things they shared were humbling and powerful. More than one person expressed their thankfulness that they could remember holidays now; several admitted outright that they knew they would be dead if not for AA.

As I listened, I realized that this group is nothing less than a “church.” Here is a group of people who recognize, admit, and confess their sin, who submit their lives to a Higher Power, and meet weekly to hold each other accountable as they move forward in sanctification. Their fellowship is marked by openness, authenticity, genuineness, tolerance, and acceptance. They don’t wear masks with each other, or pretend to be somebody they aren’t. Their conversation is marked by a deep humility, and also a sparkling sense of hope.

This is exactly what I hope for Kessler Park UMC; this is the kind of fellowship I hope we become.

Isn’t it ironic that perhaps our best example of how to “be the church” has been meeting right here, on church property, every Monday night for the last 16 years?

As you celebrate Thanksgiving, please give a prayer of gratitude for these fellow members of the body of Christ, these fellow trudgers on the Road of Happy Destiny.

Risk Big


    I walked out of a church committee meeting recently with something weighing on my  mind. We had made some solid decisions, but something bothered me. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.
    The dog woke me up early the next morning as she often does, and as I was trying to go back to sleep, in the fog of drowsiness, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized what was wrong with our meeting: we had made our decisions out of anxiety and fear, out of a kind of fear of what might happen if, instead of from a sense of anticipation and hope.
    As I lay there in bed, I reviewed our decision-making. We had voiced concerns about “what to do”; we had discussed worst-case scenarios; we spent plenty of time talking about why we couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do something.
    That’s what committees do best, to be honest. Committees are inherently conservative; they exist to protect institutions, and safeguard what the institution does and owns.
    There’s nothing wrong with that, except that institutions have to also grow and adapt to change. Organizations must experiment and risk and dare. There have to be counterbalances to committees.
    This is especially true of a church. A church is supposed to represent the presence of Christ in the world, and so it must be quickly responsible and adaptable to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And it must be resistant to anxiety.
    We are to be led by faith, not by fear; we are not supposed to act out of anxiety. As Paul put it in II Timothy 1:7, “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” The old King James Version put it like this: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
    Sometimes I wonder if I act like I have a “spirit of fear” rather than the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I wonder if our church committees do the same.
    When we make decisions based on anxiety, we are too cautious for our own good. We start looking inward, we worry about things we can’t control, and we stop dreaming.
    I know that this is a dangerous world. This is a world in which there are too many guns, too many wounded and damaged people, too many addictions. This is a world where too many nations have nuclear weapons, and too many world leaders think only of their job security. This is a world where fewer and fewer people go to church, more and more activities compete with Sunday morning worship, and the public reputation of Christians has never been lower. This is a world where the United Methodist Church as a denomination is irreparably divided, and on the verge of a split.
    These things are all true, but they don’t mean that we should close our doors, fire all the staff, and go home. Not at all.
    The way forward is in the opposite direction. The world needs Jesus, and the world needs us. We’re needed now more than ever. And so, rather than being cautious, we ought to go bigger. Now is the time to find more resources, spend more money on kingdom work, become more active, do more mission, find more social justice causes to support, sing more songs, and preach more sermons!
    If this makes you nervous and anxious, just remember what I say every week in our benediction — “May God give you the grace to risk something big for something good.”
    It’s time to risk big.

My Church Shooting Flow Chart

I'm glad I didn't know anything about the Texas church shooting until after our worship service was over. Because I don't know how I would have reacted.

Even now, I don't know what to think. I've been a blur of emotions, thoughts, and sensations. It's very difficult to put words on paper, so I decided to draw something instead. I drew a kind of flow chart of the thoughts in my head since learning of the massacre in Sutherland Springs. I present it to you simply for what it is -- a picture of my brain.


That's where I am at this moment, midway through this hellish week. Looking forward to being in worship with you on Sunday so that we can take comfort and solace in our God and our own faith community.