JENGA!!!

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It’s the super fun party game that is sweeping the nation!

Or did, rather, back in the 80’s.

Actually, it’s still quite popular today.  More than 50 million games have been sold.

You know the drill, right?  A square stack of blocks, and players take turns carefully moving a block from the bottom to the top.  Sooner or later, the tower becomes unstable and the blocks come crashing down.

And everybody yells, JENGA!!!

I’ve played some variations on the game over the years, most noticeably what I call “Kitchen trash Jenga”.  My wife and I will take turns adding more trash on top of an already full can.  The first one who can’t keep the trash from spilling over — has to take it out.  JENGA!

On a more serious note, people play Jenga with their lives.  Adding one more thing to an already busy schedule.  Piling more onto a precarious existence, whittling away at their stability, and hoping against hope things won’t come tumbling down.

“JENGA?”  Somehow, when your life threatens to come crashing down, it doesn’t feel like a game anymore.

I must admit that I go through phases when I look at the world through JENGA-colored lenses, so to speak.

I look at the government, the environment, the economy, and I think…are we down to the last block here?

Are we at a tipping point?  Game over?

Even in my own religious denomination I can feel that way.  Are we to the point where things are about to crumble around me?

I cringe, hoping not to hear the cry of “JENGA!” because I don’t want things to end.  And certainly not in a pile of rubble.

Suddenly the word takes on feelings of doom and desperation!

WATCH OUT EVERYONE! WE’RE ON THE VERGE OF JENGA!!!!

The problem with real-world Jenga is, it’s no fun. Not a healthy way to live.

May I propose another game to live by?

It’s called, Follow The Leader.  And by “Leader”, I mean Jesus.

Jesus is always on the go.  Into new places and old places.  Precarious places and stable places.  The perilous heights, and the rock-solid foundation.

Follow the leader, and you can’t go wrong.  Wooden blocks can be tumbling down all around you and Jesus will show you the way through.

Governments, environments, and economies can teeter, but Jesus will never totter.

Even a church or a denomination may find itself at risk of JENGA sometimes, and yet our Leader leads us onward, because the Kingdom of God will never fall.

Keep your eyes on the Leader, and you’ll go where you’re needed.

You’ll be on the unassailable path of love.  Ready to build up the Kingdom.

Things may fall apart.  They sometimes do.  But I’m done cringing at the thought of “JENGA!”

Instead, I’m loudly proclaiming,

“JESUS!”

Have a great week,

Mitch

followleader

Is the universe conspiring against you?

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They say that bad things happen in threes.

Like, when three well loved celebrities all die in the same week.

Or when your car breaks down, you lose your house keys, and your dog chews up your remote control.

Threes? I have no idea if that’s true.  I think it’s more likely that people tend to just group things into threes and call it a lousy week.

But what I want to talk about today are those rare and potent times in life when bad things seem to happen in sevens.  Or dozens.

Or too many to count.

Ever gone through a time like that?  When disaster lurks around every corner.  When failure appears to be the only option. When you’re no longer surprised by your own bad luck.

In other words:  A seriously, colossally messed up week.

Those are no fun.  I’ve had a few myself.  But is this really an issue of occasional bad luck?

What if the universe has conspired against you?

Maybe it’s karma for your past actions. Maybe you won (lost) some cosmic lottery.

Maybe God is mad at you and has directed all the forces of nature against you.

There are some places out there (even in the Bible) that could lead you to think that maybe God IS out to get you.  Those are typically stories in the Bible told to illustrate a different point.  Trust me, the overall message of the Bible is very different from that notion.

For instance, take a look at Luke 21:5-19.  You can click here to read it yourself.

In this passage, Jesus describes all manner of terrible calamities that may befall disciples:  False prophets, war, earthquakes, plagues, famine, being arrested, family turning against you, and even the possibility of death!

(How’s that for a seriously, colossally messed up week?)

But Jesus concludes this list by simply saying, “if you have endurance, you’ll get through it all okay”.  In other words, if you keep your faith, even when awfulness comes upon you, you’ll be okay, because you’ll still have God.

Or rather, God will still have you.

Hmm.  That seems to rule out God being the cause of your lousy week, doesn’t it?

If anything, God is your escort through the tough times.

That should make you feel a little better, although when you’re in the thick of it all, it may still be hard to appreciate.

Just hold to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and you’ll get through it eventually.

See?

Good things happen in threes, too.

Mitch

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Dancing Unawares

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I witnessed a miracle.

It was in a likely place (at church) but at an unlikely time (shaking hands at the door).

I watched a woman walking towards me.  Bulletin in her left hand, purse and jacket in her right hand.

She was totally unaware of her actions as she walked toward me, but this is what I saw:

  1. She switched the bulletin into her right hand that already held her purse and jacket.
  2. She opened the bulletin awkwardly in that same right hand, allowing her to pull out the announcement insert with her left hand.
  3. She dropped the rest of the bulletin into the recycling bin.
  4. She switch the jacket and purse onto her left arm,
  5. which allowed her to reach out her right hand, and shake mine.

Could you follow that?  It happened in about two seconds.

I know.  Doesn’t sound like much.

I’m not sure why, but time seemed to slow down, and I watched her maneuvering with something close to awe.

She had initiated this really elaborate series of actions during those three steps towards me, and she was totally unaware of it.

In my slowed down vision, this movement back and forth from hand to hand and arm to arm made it look like she was working magic.  Or dancing.

There was something beautiful in this moment.

Beautiful, but otherwise overlooked.

I wondered:  How many times do we dance like this, moving our arms and legs in beautiful ways, without even knowing it?

Once I’d noticed it with her, I noticed it with everyone.  Pulling on coats, carrying toys, adjusting papers, waving goodbye, shaking hands.

Subtle movements, easily missed, but once I’d recognized it, I was transfixed by the beauty of it all.

As I watched hundreds of bodies dancing past me, shaking my hand,

it was as if their physical beings were still praising God even after their mental beings were already thinking ahead to lunch and the rest of the day.

What a revelation! What a miracle!

We might not even notice it, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped worshipping.

Our minds may be focussed on other things,

but our bodies continue to be

dancing unawares.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Announcing: The UMFL!

Football

–Lawrence, Kansas

In a surprise move, the United Methodist Church announced this week that it will launch a new semi-professional football league in time for the 2014 season.  The UMFL will begin in the newly formed Great Plains Conference, which encompasses all of Kansas and Nebraska.

Rev. Mitch Todd was one of the organizers of the league.  The idea, he said, came from equal parts frustration and innovation.

“2013 has been a fantastic year for Chiefs football (The Kansas City NFL franchise), but it’s definitely hurt our attendance.”

Once Todd and other area pastors recognized that Sunday football was the primary reason for the reduction of Sunday morning worshippers, they put their heads together, and the UMFL was born.

“Right now we have 16 churches signed up for next fall,” Rev. Todd said. “We invited any church to join.  Thankfully Church of the Resurrection (a 15,000 member mega-church in Kansas City) politely declined.  They already have several Chiefs on their rolls.  They would have wiped the floor with us.”

“Basically,” Rev. Todd explained, “we’d have football on Sunday mornings, instead of regular church.  We’ll start with tailgating, then have a short coffee hour, and then have the game.”

When asked about actual worship and Sunday School, Todd turned reflective.

“Oh yeah.  Worship.  Sunday School.”  He looked off into the distance, wistful for a moment, and then his smile came back.

“Did I mention that every church will come up with a crazy mascot to run around the sidelines?  The kids will love it.”

Rev. Todd says if things go off as planned, the UMFL will be a fun and economical sporting event for the whole family.

“I predict a 40% growth in attendance,” he announces.

While some see the idea as an effective way to bring more fans to church, others are skeptical about the loss of a regular opportunity to both reflect and act upon the presence of God in one’s own life and world.

God, when reached for comment, had this to say:

“I never miss worship.  It’s one of the high points of my week.  I’m sure Rev. Todd means well, but I would never want church to go away!  It’s where my children gather.  It’s quality time, with me.  I guess you could say it’s where we’re all on the same team.

“Now, I’m also a football fan.  Love it.  I don’t want to miss a single play if church runs long…”

“And that’s why I created…

the DVR.”

😉

Have a great week,

Mitch

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