Living Our Commitments

Living Our Commitments

One of the things I love about introducing myself to a new congregation is that it gives you an opportunity to reflect on what is important to you. Each congregation wants to learn what I focus on, what is important to me in ministry, and where I believe God is leading us. That is important for the congregation to live into, but it is also important for me, as a pastor and follower of Christ, to reflect on and share.

There are many things that I value and hold as important in ministry. Among those is my belief that living sacramentally enables us to grow as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is more than just making sure that the church is celebrating communion and baptism. It is about living into their meaning and how they apply to our spiritual lives.

At our baptism, whether as an infant or an adult, we make a commitment to the witness of Christ, the church, and our fellowship with one another. Baptism is about entering into a covenant with God and other believers where we are identifying ourselves with the promises of God and desiring to live into a transformed life in Christ’s love.

In the United Methodist Church, we make a promise to be faithful to God as a response to God’s grace at work in our lives and desire to share God’s love in the world. That promise is lived out in specific ways through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

What do those commitments mean? How do we live them out? Continue reading “Living Our Commitments”

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Perseverance Required

Perseverance Required

If you haven’t noticed, yet, I love to watch sports. Baseball is probably my favorite, because it is a cerebral game that forces you to think three or four batters ahead. Football, though, is probably the sport that gets me the most animated. I’ve been told that I can get a little loud and crazy when we’re not winning or the referees make a call that I do not appreciate.

Most of the time, though, I am watching the games in my home office and with the door closed to give some protection to the family. We don’t go to as many games as I would like, primarily because of cost and the challenges of taking Noah to an event with a large crowd. The last time I went to a home college football game was probably 2007. I probably haven’t been to a college football game, in general, since West Virginia last played Louisville at Cardinal Stadium in 2010.

The one thing that I miss about going to games in person is the pageantry. You don’t get a good feel for the crowd noise, especially before a game, by sitting on your recliner with a Diet Coke and a bag of chips by your side. Those moments before a game are special. You have the band playing. You have the anticipation from the crowd for what will come. You have the players getting ready and jumping around in the tunnel. All of this rises to a point that it runs over with excitement and jubilation when the team runs out onto the field.

I love that moment. It gets you excited. Now, can you imagine if the pregame ritual was kind of “eh.” Imagine what it would feel like if you sat in the crowd and the entire stadium was discouraged or despondent. Imagine if the band stopped playing. Imagine if the team walked out with their heads down believing that there is no way they could win. How would we respond? We probably wouldn’t be too excited about the game, and probably would turn the channel or go home early believing that there is no way our team would win.

Imagine if that is how we treated our faith in Christ. Imagine if instead of players running out on the field, it was us going into our mission field of Huntington. What if we were despondent, discouraged, and detached from it all? Would we be growing in our faith in Christ? Would we be able to share the love of Christ with others in such a way that it would encourage people to come along side us? Continue reading “Perseverance Required”

How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?

How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?

I like to think of things in terms of: “What kind of world will Noah inherit one day?” As a parent, that seems to be an important way of thinking about our world and my contributions to it. One day, as hard as it may be to realize, I won’t be there to protect Noah, care for him, and make sure that he is growing into the person God has called him to be.

Noah is 6. I’m anxious for the world that he will not only inherit, but that he is living in today.

Since arriving in the world in 2013, Noah has witnessed more mass shootings than I care to admit. The other day, I took a look at how many mass shootings have occurred since his birth. I took advantage of research that was readily available that look at. Essentially, did a shooting event have multiple victims and receive media coverage? Since Noah was born, there have been 88 mass shootings, which killed 564 people and injured 1,1,45 people. Taken all together, the death toll is as if everyone in the town of Matewan was shot and killed since 2013.

That is too much.

It is hard to get a clear definition of what counts as a mass shooting. Different organizations use various standards to determine what mass shootings are or are not. A 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service suggests defining mass murders on whether four people were killed during the attack. Others, such as the organization Gun Violence Archives, defines a mass shooting as any event in which four people were shot, not including the alleged shooter. By the Gun Violence Archives count, there have been 255 mass shootings in 2019.

No matter how you define a mass shooting, it is clear we have a problem, and it is only getting worse. Continue reading “How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?”

True Riches

True Riches

I’m always on the lookout for things that make me laugh or brings a smile to my face. Life is too difficult and challenging to go through these years without a sense of joy and a chance to pause and laugh.

I still have to laugh when I am reminded of a trip to Abbi’s family in Chincoteague, Virginia. Whenever we go to the island, it seems that I have to go to the store to pick up extra food for Noah. Not only does Noah eat like a teenager at times, but he also has a very specific diet that is a result of his autism. He eats the same food nearly every day, and Lord have mercy on the parents who do not have that food readily available.

On this specific trip, however, I made an excursion to the Food Lion that is located off the island. As I did, I happened to look over and noticed the Sonic across the parking lot. It was there that I saw a hearse in the drive-thru. Yes, I said a hearse in the drive-thru line. I couldn’t stop laughing and took a picture that I have somewhere. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that even the dearly departed still want their mozzarella sticks and corn dogs.

That moment has been on my mind this week, as I’ve reflected on our passage from Luke 12:13-21. This imagery connects to what Jesus is saying to these two brothers who approach him to settle a family inheritance dispute. We’ve probably all heard preachers who have shared how you never see a hearse go to the grave with a U-Haul attached – “you can’t take it with you.” We’ll talk about how we shouldn’t be concerned with possessions and then move on without discussing the deeper realities that connect to the life Christ calls us into through these words. This parable is concerned with more than just our possessions. It calls us to consider the anxiety that often holds us back from being the people God calls us to be through faith. Continue reading “True Riches”

What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child

What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child

Every new pastor receives several questions when they arrive to a new church. Who are you? Where are you from? How will you preach? Will you root for my favorite team?

If a pastor and their family have young children, there are additional questions that you get asked week to week. They focus around the idea of how can we love your child? Those are some of my favorite questions to answer, because there is nothing like seeing your child loved and cared for by the family of God. Your immediate thought is to say, “Well, love them like they are your own.”

For me, though, I have to think about how to answer that question. It’s a lot harder to answer, because of our son’s autism.

With each new community, there are additional questions, concerns, and needs that come in welcoming a new pastor kid let alone one who is on the spectrum. While autism has been part of the general consciousness since 1943, there is still a lack of understanding and awareness of what autism is and is not. I include myself in that conversation. Questions about the basics of autism, what needs to be done, and everything that falls in between are welcome for not just our son but the general community of how to love all of God’s children.

While most conversations about our son focus on worship and interactions within the church – that is, after all, where the majority of people will see him – it only scratches the surface of what is involved in raising a child on the spectrum, especially as a pastor.

So, what is it really like to raise a child on the spectrum disorder as a pastor? Continue reading “What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child”