Nothing I Can’t Handle

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11

Lord, could you make nothing happen today?

I’m just not in the mood.

No drama. No stress. No surprises, not even the good kind.

Just keep things even keel.

Nothing new to ponder. Nothing requiring thought. Nothing revealing. Nothing to learn.

No new people. No new ideas. Do you hear me? NOTHING!

Except I don’t want to be bored.

I don’t want to be bored and I don’t want to be stagnant.

This is the only life I have to live, and I can’t let it go by with my head in the sand.

Hmm. Do you have some kind of a menu I could look at?

I wish I could pick the people I will interact with, and the situations I will face.

Could I order up a morning that is just mildly engaging? An afternoon that is interesting but relatively unimportant?

Somehow I expect there will be more than that on my plate today.

Well then,

Thank you, God, for going through it all with me.

Thank you for giving me nothing I can’t handle today.

Even when it ends up being a lot, I have faith that you’ll be near.

And you know what, God?

That counts for SOMETHING, after all.

Have a great week,

Mitch

We All Fall Down

“Ring around the Rosies, a pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”  –Nursery Rhyme

The first time you fell down, I’ll bet your parents were anxious. But that’s why you were born with a soft skull and a padded bottom.

The first time you can remember falling down, perhaps you skinned a knee. Twisted an ankle.

The most recent time you fell down was on the ice, maybe, or while you were carrying too much.

The worst time you fell down, you broke your ankle or an arm. You needed stitches. It really hurt.

We all fall down. Just like the old Nursery Rhyme says.

Unlike some of us were told, this rhyme from the 1800’s was NOT about the plague from 500 years before. (Snopes.com) It started as a harmless rhyme about circle dancing, which was popular at the time. The “Ashes” part was probably just an evolved mispronunciation of some other words.

But today, Ash Wednesday, I’m reminded of the ways we all fall down, not physically, but spiritually.

The first time you fell down, I’ll bet God was anxious. It was your first sin, but certainly not the last. But that’s why you were born with a soft heart and a forgiving God.

The first time you can remember  falling down, it was probably something that seems trivial today. Perhaps you twisted the truth. I stole a pen at school and lied about it.

The most recent time you fell down was a slippery slope, I’m guessing, or while you were carrying too much. Stress and anxiety can push you off your feet.

The worst time you fell down, you broke a vow or a commandent. There was a lot of pain. You may still be trying to recover.

We all fall down.

And as we begin this Lenten season I encourage you rend your heart, not your knee, before God.

It is only by the Grace of God, after all,

That we are able to stand.

Ashes to ashes,

Mitch

My Mom’s Valentine

Here’s a very simple story for Valentine’s Day.

I talked with my mom yesterday, and she told me what she did to celebrate the holiday.

Last week, on a whim, she decided to send a Valentine bouquet to a friend of hers who was recovering from hip surgery.

That felt good, so she ordered some more flowers for another friend whose birthday was on Valentine’s Day.

And while she was on a roll, she thought of another friend who was about to turn 80. More flowers!

Was there anybody else she should send flowers to? She told me she almost sent some to herself, but decided against it. The giving was happiness enough.

I think that’s a nice enough story right there. It reminds me that even though Valentine’s Day is an artificial holiday created by greeting card companies, it can serve as a genuine opportunity for reaching out to the people we love.

Here’s the punch line, though. On Sunday morning after church one of the women handed my mom the beautiful flowers from the altar and asked her to take them home.

It’s like God was wishing my mom Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now, when I asked my mom if I could tell this story, she said yes, but she didn’t want it to sound like some example of Karma. She’s a Presbyterian Minister, so she knows her theology.

The flowers my mom took home from church weren’t some Valentine reward for her generosity. But they were a reminder of something more powerful than anything Hallmark ever put on the inside of a card.

Love is meant to be given. Love is meant to be received. And when you make Love the centerpiece of your life…

Every day will be wonderfully fragrant.

Have a great week,

Mitch

Sexual Misconduct

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…” — 1 Corinthians 5.1a

I’ll bet that title got your attention. Me too.

Last week, a prominent United Methodist Pastor in Texas, Tyrone Gordon, resigned and surrendered his credentials amidst multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. He was one of the stars of our denomination, and though nothing has been proven or disproven, the allegations against him are daunting.

NOT AGAIN!

Every time a pastor engages in sexual misconduct (or sexual harassment), God weeps. That’s what I think. This is not Kingdom Behavior.

In our conference we have mandatory sexual ethics training for all pastors, and safe and sacred certification for all who work with children and youth. We work very hard to make sure our churches are sanctuaries from all kinds of abuse.

It pains me to say it, but despite our denomination’s best efforts, some pastors are repressed, and some never learn appropriate boundaries. There are even some who are predators. Some just make stupid mistakes. What I’m trying to say is, sexual misconduct is a rare yet nevertheless present aspect of The Church.

It’s scary, and it sickens me. But sexual impropriety is by no means restricted to clergy.

I would suppose God weeps whenever any doctor, or foreman, or supervisor, or teacher, or co-worker misuses their sexuality in the workplace. It’s a widespread problem.

Here are some stats on work related sexual harassment (from hr.blr.com)

  • About 70% of women and 20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • There are about 15,000 cases of sexual harassment filed each year in the United States.
  • These charges cost U.S. companies almost $40 million each year.
  • The number of complaints filed by men has more than tripled in recent years, indicating this is not just a woman’s problem.

There’s a good chance that you or someone you love has been a victim of some level of sexual harassment. Unwanted advances, aggressive behavior, inappropriate humor, power plays, physical assault, etc. This happens more than it should.

When it happens via the clergy, the moral outrage is often stronger because of the perceived higher ethical standards clergy must meet. But the truth is, Christians in all sorts of workplace environments find themselves making poor decisions, inappropriately crossing boundaries, and hurting themselves and others as a result.

Again, this is not Kingdom behavior. So how can we respond?

The two words that come to my mind are: Responsible love.

Responsible love for the victims means listening, believing, showing patience, helping to rebuild trust, and being an advocate.

Responsible love for the one who has engaged in misconduct means counseling, accountability, justice, and hopefully, forgiveness.

Perhaps, most of all, responsible love teaches and promotes healthy sexuality throughout the system.

Painful events like these bring forward so many emotions, and every one of them is acceptable to God. The path to responsible love is a rocky one, not always attained. Still, as Kingdom people, I believe it must be our goal.

I am truly humbled by the recent events in our denomination. It is a reminder that we must all (not just clergy) be mindful and vigilant in our interactions with each other. As painful as times like these can be, we must seize the opportunity to learn and grow.

Because, if we don’t learn and grow…

God weeps.

Have a great week,

Mitch

The ABC’s of Poor Communication

“The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,
his word is upon my tongue.” – 
2 Samuel 23:2

Annie likes Brian, but he doesn’t know.

Brian’s unhappy, but won’t let it show.

Craig has a secret that he’s never told.

Darla’s just desperate for someone to hold.

Ely’s elated, but wears a blank stare.

Freddie believes that nobody would care.

Greg’s given up on relationship stuff.

Hosea shut down, when the world got too tough.

Irene is irate, but she won’t tell you why.

Joe is a “real man” — you won’t see him cry.

Kate won’t contribute, too scared to be heard.

Lou thinks that Love is a four-letter word.

Moira’s a fortress, prepared for attack

Ned talks about you behind your back.

Oliver learned long ago to be fake.

Pete can be open, but he’s taking a break.

Qadir lives in fear that his lover will leave.

Ross knows the truth — but no one would believe.

Sherry acts scary to push you away.

Terry says nothing, but wants you to stay.

Ursula talks, but won’t listen at all.

Violet is waiting for someone to call.

William stays quiet to blend with the crowd.

Xavier gets nervous and talks too loud.

Yvonne can’t share, ’cause she never learned how.

Zach won’t ask, but he needs help RIGHT NOW.

God gave you a mind and a voice and a heart,

If you’re not communicating…

Now’s a good time to start.

Have a great week,

Mitch