Hurricane _________. (Insert your name here)

“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord…and after the earthquake a fire…and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” — 1 Kings 19:11-12

This is not a devotion about Hurricane Sandy.

It’s about Hurricane Yours Truly. Hurricane Mitch.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch swept across the Atlantic and killed more than 11,000 people. It was the most destructive hurricane in the Western Hemisphere in over 200 years. And I shared the same name with that beast! That was a long summer for me.

Having the same name as a hurricane makes you think, though. Makes you ask questions, like, “Are there other things I share in common with a hurricane? Are there ways in which I’m destructive?”

I think back through my life, and, yes, I’ve left some damage in my path. I have regrets about the ways I’ve mistreated people, walked over people, hurt people. Hurt myself.

What about you? Do you have any hurricane traits in you? When you lose your temper do you tend to mess with anyone that gets in your way? Are there times your actions or words do unnecessary damage?

Or maybe you have a hurricane raging inside yourself, doing deep damage to the hidden parts of you.

Most of us can think back to some hurricane times when we’ve hurt ourselves or others and literally spun out of control. Those times happen when we’re stressed, afraid, or backed into a corner. Remember, hurricanes form when pressure mounts!

When you get to feeling that way, remember that God is with you. God is there, in that quiet place inside you, like the eye of a hurricane, urging you to be still.

Human beings aren’t just forces of nature. We are called to be forces of grace. We are tied in to God, connected to God’s love. When human beings stick together and care for each other, we can spin grace out into the world, instead of destruction.

With God’s help, we can greatly reduce the number of human hurricanes that get produced.

And so, I hope that you will continue to pray for hurricane victims this week…

And if you know anyone named Sandy, give them a great big hug.

Have a great week,

Mitch

SANDY RELIEF:  100% of what you give goes to those in need: no administrative costs. Donate to United Methodist Committee On Relief, Advance #901670, and select Hurricanes 2012 from the drop-down menu. You can also text the word RESPONSE to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.

You may recognize this devotion…it’s modified from one I wrote for a hurricane in 2005. So if you know any Katrina’s, give them a hug too! 🙂

Going Undercover To Save The Church

There’s a reason I sport a moustache and a goatee: Without them, I look about 18 years old.

So, why not put my youthful features to use?

Maybe I could make a difference by going undercover.

That’s right. I’m going to attempt something right out of “21 Jump Street”.

I’m going to infiltrate today’s youth. I mean, we have a great group of youth at our church, but I want to get to all the others.

Yep! I’m gonna fake some enrollment papers and “move” to town as a High School senior.

I’ll get to know the different groups of kids–The dweebs, the jocks, the brainiacs, the preppies (I’m a little out of practice on slang terms for social groups)–and I’ll find out why young people are staying away from church in droves.

And then I’ll make them change their minds.

I’ll show them that being part of a sports team isn’t worth it if you have to play games on a Sunday morning, missing church.  Of course, our attendance goes down for all ages whenever there are sporting events happening.

I’ll convince them that our church isn’t hypocritical like some other churches.  Of course, we try so hard to be open minded that many folks have no clue what it is we stand for.

I’ll explain to them how much the Holy Spirit is present in our church.  Of course, we tend to sit on our hands and mumble-sing through most of worship.

I’ll list examples of  how much we care about the world.  Of course, we have a hard time trying new things in new places.

I’ll remind them how important rituals like communion are.  Of course, sometimes it doesn’t feel very spiritual. We tend to rush it so we don’t run overtime.

I’ll invite them to serve on committees.  Of course, they tend to meet at inconvenient times, doing things that may or may not seem very vital.

And above all, I’ll make it clear how much the church cares about them.  Of course, our budget and volunteer involvement don’t always reflect that.

Hmm.  The more I think about it, the more I see how hard of a sell the church can be for today’s youth.

I have another plan.  Instead of trying to go undercover in our approach to today’s youth, let’s not just tell today’s youth they’re important to the Kingdom.

Let’s show them, by listening, collaborating, funding, and giving power to them!

Remember, you can cover it up with a moustache…

But merely talking about (or at) the youth

is still just giving lip service.

Have a good week,

Mitch

Double Negative

Sometimes I can be so singularly negative about my life.

I look at the world and only see what’s broken.   The place on my floor that creaks. Facebook friends who won’t stop sending me game requests.  The chip fragments at the bottom of the bag.

Don’t get in my way when I’m feeling negative like that. I’m likely to growl. Or sigh.

But then there are other times, when negative doesn’t even begin to describe how warped my vision is.

At those time it’s like I’m Double Negative. Twice the suffering in the world. Twice the bad stuff to endure.

When I’m Double Negative I go big. I see democracy falling apart at the seams. I see corporations as hungry giants. I see The Church in ruins. My life in tatters.

When I’m Double Negative, stay as far away from me as you can.  That kind of negativity is doubly toxic. Doubly contagious.  Doubly dangerous.

If you’ve ever been in that place, you know what I’m talking about.

All my life I’ve been told that a Double Negative = a Positive.  Like saying,  “I don’t know nothing about the Bible” is grammatically  saying “I know something about the Bible”.

Well, that may be true in grammar, but when it comes to attitude, or outlook, or faith, there is nothing positive about being Double Negative.

And while it’s easy to bounce back from one negative day, or even the occasional Double Negative day, some folks just spiral downward until they may be doing permanent damage to their soul.

Is there any hope for those of us who suffer from Double Negativity?

Here’s an answer from Paul, that I think applies:

…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5)

Paul is suggesting that two wrongs can make a right.  Suffering and endurance can lead to character and hope. All it takes is a glimmer of faith and perseverance.

How about that? A double negative leading to something positive after all.

Not for nothing,

But isn’t that something?

Have a great week,

Mitch

God’s Time

God’s Time…..by Mitch

God are you impatient with me?  I know you’ve got every reason to be.
All those things that I swore I would do.  All those things I never got around to.

And all the while I was shirking my share, all the world was in need of repair.
All I’m asking is a brand new start, I’ll follow the beat of my heart

To God’s time now. God’s time now.
Follow the leader, pick up the beat or fall behind.
In a moment things can change unless you rearrange
your priorities and put them all in line

In line with God’s time.

Now I’m hearing something different.  I could swear you said be patient
When temptation swallows me whole, and when I neglect my soul.

All the dreams that I’ve tried to juggle, all I needed was to give up the struggle.
Before the harvest you plant the seed, the waiting is hard unless you believe in

God’s time now.  God’s time now
What’s in the hurry?  The joy is the journey, so take it slow.
A life fulfilled is found by making every moment count
So count your blessings now and you will find yourself

In God’s time.

So are you patient or impatient, I wish I could understand.
Sometimes it feels like you’re saying hurry up, slow down as fast as you can.

But when I think about it, yes I see some truth in this paradox.
The world would be a marvelous place, if we felt God’s grace,and set our clocks to

God’s time now. God’s time now.
Life unfolds slowly, so we must live boldly what we believe.
And when life on earth is through, time goes on for me and you.
For eternity is waiting right behind
God’s time.

________________________________________

You can listen and download here: http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/536931

Have a great week,

Mitch

Keep Calm And Carry On

My mom published her first novel last week. I’m so proud of her.

If you’re interested (yes, this is shameless promotion) the book is called “Like Sheep” and it’s  available here on Amazon .  It’s a great whodunnit set in a tiny rural church back in the 80’s.  I’ve read it 3 times already!

Ironically, I was preaching an unrelated sermon about sheep this past Sunday, so I looked up the scripture my mom’s title comes from. Here it is:

4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53, NRSV)

This was written hundreds of years before Jesus, and yet as a Christian I can’t help but read these words and think about Christ.

Typically, I think of sheep as docile and obedient, but in this scenario we’re apparently the most unruly, poorly behaved sheep you’ve ever seen.  Every sheep for themselves. Not only are we unwilling to follow our shepherd, we’re unwilling to fall in step with each other.

It sounds like chaos. All we like sheep have gone astray.  

That’s a pretty depressing view of humanity: A bunch of riotous sheep, wreaking havoc wherever we go.

Actually, I can see how it fits with the characters in my mom’s book.  And it’s kind of true about people in my life, too.  Sometimes people are just apathetic or meek in the face of a threat.  Other times, though, people can freak out.  Panic.  Go astray.

Not on your average day, of course — on your average day we all seem to get along just fine.  But when there’s a threat, a danger, a fear…well, watch us run. And after all, how many non-average days have you had to face this week?

I take this passage from Isaiah as a reminder that Christ can reestablish order when things get chaotic.  It’s a reminder that there is somebody willing to take some bruises for the sake of the flock.

Have you seen one of these “Keep Calm And Carry On” posters before?  They’re very popular lately–but their origins come from London during the war.  They were designed to speak, with a royal flair, to the masses who might be facing a Nazi occupation.

The posters themselves attempted to bring order in the midst of chaos, and they may have worked, for all I know.

Jesus goes a step further: He helps us keep calm and carry on and leads us in the right direction.

I, for one, am eternally grateful that the Lord is my Shepherd in Psalm 23,

But Isaiah 56 reminds me that Jesus saves us, whether we’re

a little riotous

a little sheepish,

or both.

Have a good week.

Mitch