A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57


Monday, September 29, 2014

A Real Life "Living Generously" Story - Day #2 of Five-Week Spiritual Focus


So, I guess it doesn't take long for God to provide an opportunity to practice what was preached the previous day in worship. This opportunity occurred exactly 24 hours after we sung the last song in worship yesterday.

A family of five children, ages 4 months old to 16 years old stopped by our church today. They left their home in Columbus because they live next to a drug house and there was a murder in their neighborhood. For the past week, they have been living out of their van and looking for shelter. Our shelters in Lancaster are currently full.

Some of our church staff met the family at a gas station and put $40 of gas in their van so that they will be able to continue driving to another town where they will hopefully be able to live with an uncle. With the help of today's Monday lunch crew, we were also able to give them some food and table settings.

As one staff member shared, "They are certainly at rock bottom." Let's pray for this family as they seek to find a new place to stay where they can be safe and get back on their feet again.

Join us this upcoming Sunday as we continue our "Living Generously" church-wide focus. Let's continue to be open to the opportunities where God may be calling us to live generously and be a blessing to others.

See you Sunday!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Worship Preview - October 5


Sunday, October 5 - (9:00 am & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, October 8  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Features - 17th Sunday After Pentecost; World Communion Sunday; Holy Communion; & Living Generously Church-Wide Focus

Scripture - II Corinthians 8:1-7 & Matthew 6:19-24

Sermon "Living Generously: Who Is the Boss?"

Theme - Living generously means that we empty ourselves so that we can be freed to serve God and others. True giving comes from our essence and just just from our excess. 

Sermon (September 28) by Rev. Robert McDowell - "Living Generously: First & Best"



[The sermon begins with this video introducing us to the fictional Frank Donovan family. Use the password, rhemedia to access the video.]

     So, I’m wondering. How many of us like stinky sheep? I don’t know of too many people who like stinky sheep.
     This seven-minute video that we watched together is just the first part of a five-part story about Frank Donovan. I don’t know about you, but I can identify a little bit with Frank in the movie. Like Frank, I find myself struggling in what it means to be generous.
     Did you notice Frank’s dejected look when his wife mentioned that they would be hosting a dinner gathering to raise support for a missionary family who had returned home from the Philippines? Frank felt like they had already helped this family enough by sending a check to support them in their ministry. This family was now in need of additional assistance since they weren’t able to bring their belongings with them.
      You get the impression that Frank is more concerned with getting ahead in life more than he is with the needs of this family who was in need of some support. Frank’s heart just wasn’t in the right place.
     When you’re heart isn’t in the right place, have you ever noticed how easy it can be to offer our leftovers? Instead of giving this family his best, he settled for searching through a drawer and he found a dusty old watch that he was going to give to this family.


     When his son decided to give his favorite toy away which was the antique vintage plane, do you remember how Frank put that old watch back in his pocket? He was embarrassed that he was about to give away an old watch when his son was willing to give away a very special toy of his, his favorite toy.
     If I have to admit it, there are times that I don’t want to offer my best either. My heart isn’t always in the right place. 

     I heard about a church that came to the realization that they were not offering their best gifts to help people in need. This church had an annual toy drive each year and they gave the toys that were collected to the needy families in their community.    
     One of the church members noticed a dirty old doll that had been given to the church to give away. This old doll had stains on it and it was missing an eye. As they looked at some of the other worn out and broken toys that had been given that year to give away, they decided that this just wasn’t good enough. God expected better. They decided they would do things differently.
     They discontinued the used toy-drive and for Christmas that year and they asked each family in the congregation to adopt a needy family for Christmas. Instead of giving them toys and clothes that the people in the church didn’t want anymore, they were to buy their adopted family brand new gifts.
     The pastor was enthusiastic about this new approach and he encouraged the congregation to offer their best to help others. His wife went Christmas shopping one day for the family that they were assigned to help.
     When she came home, she showed her husband the electronic toys, the Nike shoes, and the Gap clothes that she had purchased for their Christmas family. He said, “Why did you shop in those stores? You could have purchased cheaper things in the less expensive stores.”
     She responded, “But you told us in church to buy things that we would buy for our own families. And these are the places where we shop.”
     This pastor was speechless because his wife was right. Why shouldn’t they treat others in the same way they treat their own children? Isn’t that would Jesus calls us to do, to offer our very best?
     Sometimes we want to offer God our stinky sheep, but God calls us to offer our finest sheep. When our hearts want to give God our best, we will offer our very best to others as well.
     In our Gospel reading, one of the religious leaders asked Jesus which one of the commandments is the greatest. Without any hesitation, Jesus answered by saying,    
     “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
     I think that one of the reasons Jesus cited these two commandments was because they help us to remember to give God our very best. I never really noticed this before, but did you hear the word, “all” mentioned over and over again?
     We are to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind. The word, “all” really makes a difference in living out our faith. Our faith means more to us when we offer to God and to others our very best.
     I think that this is why Re, the gardener is always smiling in the video. Re has learned what it means to give his all. When Frank’s son asked Re why he was taking a plant to give to the missionary family, Re said that it wasn’t something he had to do. It was something that he wanted to do.
     Living generously is really a matter of the heart. It’s something that we do because we want to give our very best to God and to others.

     When we think of living generously, we often first think about money, but that’s only one part of what it means to live generously. Our video began with Frank meeting with his financial advisor.
     Frank and his advisor were working on a financial plan that would help him to cover all of his expenses for the rest of his life. Did you notice that Frank never talked about giving any money away? When his financial advisor said something about charitable giving, Frank told him that could wait for another day.
     It’s important to save money for colleges costs, for an emergency fund, and for retirement, but it’s also important to remember that the financial gifts we have really belong to God. If we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and with all of our mind, that will include how we use our money to bless others.
     The dictionary defines the word, “generous” as “showing a readiness to give more of something than is strictly necessary or expected.”
     Being generous doesn’t just include how we manage our money. It also includes our time and our service.
     One of our church members shared with me a time when she received a generous gift from some folks in our church. It wasn’t money that she received. It was the gift of time.
     This past October, her father passed away and the visitation for the funeral was held in Columbus. What a surprise it was when she was at the visitation and looked up and noticed the people from her small group bible study standing there to offer their support and love.
     She said that it wasn’t until that moment, that she realized how important it is for people to offer their gift of time. She said, “I am so blessed to have my church family!”
     Another member of our church shared that she received the gift of prayer from a nurse in a doctor’s office during a family crisis. She can still feel her hand holding her hand as she prayed for her and for her son.
     Those moments when we are on the receiving line of generosity are special moments. Generosity reminds us of just how much God loves and cares for us.
     I have a friend who told me about a time when her car broke down and the repair was going to be more than she could afford at the time. She and her husband prayed about how they were going to handle this situation since she needed a car for work.
     She said, “Robert, you won’t believe this but somebody heard about my situation and donated a car to me. It was a nice car, too. It was an answer to prayer. One day, I walked out the front door of our home, and there it was in the driveway.”
     I said, “Diane, What an incredible answer to prayer!” She said, “But that’s not the end of the story. Around that same time, there was somebody in my small group who also needed a car, even more than I did at the time. My husband thought about it and prayed about it and we decided that we should give the car to her.”
     She said that it was wonderful to see what a blessing that car was for this woman who desperately needed a car. And so I said, “But what about you? How did you manage without a car?”  And she said, “Well, my husband and I prayed some more, and somehow we were able to put some money together and have my car repaired.”
     As I think about this woman’s story, even the first part of her story would be an incredible answer to prayer. Someone generously provided a car for her just when she needed it.
     The bigger miracle in this story was in how the generosity of one person led to even more generosity where two people ended up being blessed with cars. When we live generously, there is a ripple effect of God’s grace that touches more and more people. When we give the best we have to be a blessing to others, more people experience God’s grace and love.
     Our video ended with Frank standing in front of his house thinking about his son who had just given his favorite toy to a boy who needed it more than he did.  As we go through our week, I want us to also spend time thinking about whether or not we are offering our best gifts to God and to others.
     This is a great question to think about in your Sunday School class or small group. What we offer to God reflects what’s in our heart.

     But this is just the beginning. God has more in store for Frank. We’re going to continue to hear about Frank’s journey next Sunday in a court case you won’t want to miss.

     May God bless each of us as we seek to live generously.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lancaster First UMC - Another Really Old Picture


A big thanks to Ted Unks, one of our long-time church members who provided us with yet another really old picture from our church's history. Ted believes that this picture is around the time our church began holding worship services at our present main building. His father is somewhere in this picture.

My guess is that this photo was probably taken during the winter of 1908. The picture of the world's largest men's bible class was taken in April, 1915.

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary - September 28


Note: The scripture readings for this Sunday through October 26 will not be based on the appointed lectionary readings. We will be using other selected readings as part of our "Living Generously" church-wide focus.

Sermon (September 28) - "Living Generously: First & Best"

Leviticus 22:17-20

This passage helps us to see that Priests are to receive the people's gifts in proper ways. Lay persons are not to eat of the food given for the priests.

Gifts are to be given without any physical blemish.

These meticulous commands regarding the offering of sacrifices relate to the concept of holiness which is what helps God's people to be set apart and unique in their vocation of being God's covenant people.

This scripture passage invites us to think about the gifts that we offer to God and the church. Are we offering our very best gifts or do we give to God our leftovers? The Book of Leviticus also refers to the tithe which is 10% of one's harvest. See Leviticus 27:30. This is the minimum expectation of what one is to give to the Lord.

Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus responds to a question about which of all the many commandments is the greatest. Jesus replies with the Shema, a prayer that would have been recited daily by the people of Jesus' day. It speaks of loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Jesus adds a second commandment which is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Even though Jesus gave a traditional answer by referring to the Shema, we are left with the question as to how we can obey this commandment. The word, "all" appears several times int he Shema. How can we offer God our very best (see our Leviticus passage) each day?

To answer that question, we need to think about the bigger question and how it's through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, that we are empowered to live as God's people. We can't do this on our own strength. We needed Jesus not just to give us the right answer but to live this commandment out fully, even to the point where he offered his life on a cross to bring salvation to the world.

Scot McKnight, a Christian author and blogger has a book entitled Jesus Creed which invites us to recite the Great Commandment as people would have done in Jesus' day. By reciting it, we not only continue a tradition that has been established over several centuries, we also become more aware of living out this commandment in our day to day living.

We are in the beginning of a five-week congregational focus on the theme, "Living Generously." Both our scriptures for this Sunday remind us that to live generously, we are called to offer God our very best gifts.

[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Wrong Phone Number In a Small World


Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
The usual response is...
I'm sorry, you have the wrong number

But after two months it became....
I'm sorry, but you have the wrong person,
or maybe not......

Let me explain.

The first call, she left a voicemail on my house phone.
She sounded like she was 102,
with a crackly voice,
and she spoke very slowly.

"Floyd, this is Emma, please call me."

Since I have never been christened a "Floyd",
I chalked it up as a wrong number.

A couple of days later,
another voice mail.

"Floyd, this is Emma, I need to talk to you"

Evidently Floyd must have a similar phone number to mine, I thought.
I let it go.

A week went by.
Then, another voice mail from Emma.

"Floyd, this is Emma,
I'm worried about you....I haven't heard from you.
Please call me."

I stared at the phone.....
okay, now I have a lady who is older than dirt worried that Floyd has been abducted.
But I didn't know how to call and tell her that Floyd was probably just fine....
just at another telephone number!

Another week....
like clockwork Emma called again during daytime hours...

"Floyd, this is Emma.
Meryl has been asking for you to visit him at the nursing home.
He's worried about you, and so am I.
Please call me."

Now she had me.............
Emma was worried,
Meryl was worried.
and for all I knew,
maybe Floyd had been abducted.

If only 102 year old ladies could tweet,
or chat, or text......
But it wouldn't matter
I am not a techie.
I have no interest in pushing buttons,
and I have no desire how to learn about the latest gizmo.

But I looked at my phone closely for the first time.
There was a button marked menu.
I pushed it.
It said, "received calls"
I pushed on that,
and up came a list of phone numbers,
including a local number that was consistent with the days and times that Emma had called.

I debated whether to call Emma.
I'd like to say that compassion motivated me,
but I was more concerned that eventually Emma,
in an effort to rescue Floyd,
would call 911
and give them my phone number.

I picked up the phone and dialed.
That now familiar, older than dirt voice answered.

Ma'am, my name is David.
"Who"
My name is David.
"WHO!"
My name is David, You have been calling for me several weeks now by mistake.
"I don't know any David"

Emma proceeded to hang up on me.

Okay, now Emma was starting to tick me off.
And I wasn't making her very happy either.

2 days later, Emma called.
"Floyd, this is Emma.
Meryl's not doing too well
and he wants to see you.
Please visit him.

Okay, now I am envisioning Meryl on his death bed,
wishing to tell Floyd his last thoughts.

Sometimes guilt can motivate you.
One more call to Emma
(without mentioning that my mother named me David).

Ma'am,
I have been receiving calls from you about a man named Meryl.

"Oh no, is Meryl dead?"

No Ma'am,
but you have been calling me to visit him

"Is this an insurance agent?"

No Ma'am, I am a pastor.

Emma hung up on me again.
It appears she wasn't interested in a pastoral visit.

I gave up .........
sorry that Emma couldn't find the right phone number,
hoping that Floyd hadn't been abducted,
and praying that Meryl wasn't dead.

Three weeks later,
I was visiting my aunt,
in a nursing home.
It was my first visit to see her there,
so I was checking the room numbers as I walked down the hallway
Just before I got to her room, #106
room #104.........
and a gentleman named Meryl was listed.

It can't be, I thought
I can't, I tried to convince myself.
But it could be
and I could.
I knocked on the door jam and entered.

Pardon me,
but are you Meryl?
He acknowledged that he was.
Do you happen to know someone named Emma or Floyd?
He acknowledged that his wife was named Emma, and he had a friend named Floyd.

Chills went down my spine.
The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.

I didn't bother to explain the craziness of wrong phone numbers.
But I did ask him if he wanted to pray.
He did, and we did.
He had never been a church goer,
but he believed that it wouldn't be very long till He met the Lord,
and he wanted to be ready.

I left a note at the nurse's station,
for Emma.....
Explaining to her that she had been calling me for weeks by accident,
that she needed to correct Floyd's number if she wanted to reach him,
and that I, by chance (not really) had come and met Meryl.
And if she needed any pastoral assistance, she could call me.
(She certainly knew my number)

I never heard from Emma again,
the wrong numbers ceased.
But I am convinced that nothing happens by chance,
that all that we do is ultimately under the Lord's authority,
and that He can and will use the strangest circumstances
for purposes that we can't imagine.

So if you think that God is calling the wrong person, when He calls you,
think again.
There are no wrong numbers, when it is God calling.

I know it, Meryl now knows it.
I hope you do as well.

I am the Lord.
I have called you in righteousness.
Isaiah 42:6

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Message from Lulu - Sign Up for Your Church Directory Photo Today!


Lulu says, "This is the last week to sign-up for your church pictorial directory picture." Yes, pets are allowed! LifeTouch does a great job. There's no pressure to buy pictures and you get a free photo and church directory! Members & non-members are welcome to sign-up. We want our whole church family in our new church directory! To sign-up, contact the church office at 653-3330 or simply make an appointment on our church website @ www.lancasterfumc.org

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Worship Preview - September 28


Sunday, September 28 - (9:00 am & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, October 1  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Features - 16th Sunday After Pentecost & First Sunday of a Five-Week Church-Wide Focus on Living Generously

Scripture - Leviticus 22:17-20 & Matthew 22:34-40

Sermon "Living Generously: First & Best"

Theme - Living generously means that we are giving our very best in loving God and others. Are you giving your best? This is the first part of a five-part church-wide focus on "Living Generously." 

Sermon (September 21) by Rev. Robert McDowell - "A Life Worth Living"


     I read in the news about a man who was recently hired to begin a new job. He is so excited about his new job that every single morning, he wants to do a back handspring out of bed, because he is that excited about going to work.
     If you are interested in trying this, I want to show you a little demonstration of someone doing a back handspring. This is one of our own church members, Alli Romans, who is a gymnast. Let’s watch her demonstrate this for us.
video

     I’m sure that most of us can do what Alli just did on that video! What a positive way to begin each day by doing a back handspring  out of bed every morning!
      Please do not try this unless you know what you’re doing and you have approval from your physician. I just wanted to offer that disclaimer.
     I really like this man’s approach to his new job. He is that excited about his day.
     The Apostle Paul strikes me as somebody who did back handsprings out of bed every morning. He couldn’t wait to begin his day so that he would be able to share his faith in Christ with the people around him. Nothing was going to stop him. Being an apostle of Jesus Christ brought him great joy.
     This is someone who founded at least fourteen and maybe up to twenty churches during his lifetime. He wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books that are in our New Testament.  About half of the Book of Acts is about this man. And on top of all of that, he led three missionary journeys to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
     This man probably did back handsprings out of bed. He was that excited about his faith. If you haven’t already done so, I want to encourage you to read the Letter of Philippians from beginning to end.  It doesn’t take long to read at all. If you are feeling discouraged, this letter will probably cheer you up.
     Some of my favorite bible verses are in this one letter. Verses like the one that we already heard read a little bit ago. “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
     Philippians 2:13 – “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
     Philippians 3:10 & 11 – “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead”
    Philippians 3:13-14 – “But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
     Philippians 4:4-9 – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
     And probably my favorite of all the verses. Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Say that verse over and over again and see if it doesn’t change your outlook and approach in a given situation.
      In writing this letter to the church at Philippi, Paul is pointing us to a life that is worth living. It’s a life that is centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of life where you want to do a back handspring out of bed when you wake up in the morning. You can’t wait to begin your day because you know that Christ will be with you in every single moment.
     In our scripture reading from Philippians, Paul offers three ways for us to live a life that is worth living. These three reasons can make a huge difference in our lives.
     The first way is by having a purpose in life. In our passage of scripture, Paul is wrestling with the idea of which is better; being with Christ for all of eternity, or serving Christ while here on earth.
     His answer is that both of these thoughts are wonderful! While he is looking forward to that time when he will be with Christ for all eternity, he also knows that he has a purpose here on earth.
     Several years ago, Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in California, wrote a devotional book with the title, “The Purpose Driven Life.” The book offers a forty-day personal spiritual journey that offers five purposes for every person who is seeking to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  What a wonderful thing to know that your life has a purpose!
     I came across this funny story about three guys who wanted to sneak into the Olympic Village. I don’t know if they thought someone there might mistake them for athletes or if they just wanted to meet female gymnasts, but they kind of loitered around the screening table. Soon a big, hulking guy walked up with his athletic duffel bag, bulging biceps, size 19 neck, and said to the guards: “I’m Angus McPherson. Scotland. Shotput.” The security team looked in his bag, saw a huge shotput ball, and waved him right through. They gave him room keys and even meal coupons for the Pizza Hut and McDonalds and Häagen-Dazs food court. 

    So these three guys said to themselves: “Cool. We can do this.” The first one sneaks outside, slices all the branches off a tree limb, comes back in and says to the guards: “Chuck Wagon. Canada. Javelin.” The guards inspect his “javelin” and hand him a bulging envelope with his athletic pass, room keys, meal ticket, everything. This was pretty lax security—probably pre-9/11.

     The second guy goes down an alley, pries loose a manhole cover, marches up to the front gate and announces himself: “Dusty Rhodes, Australia. Discus.” Welcome to the Olympics, Mr. Rhodes. So these two guys who have impostered themselves into the inner sanctum loiter around the gate to see if their third beer-drinking buddy can weasel his way in.

     A couple of minutes later, he walks up to the front gate with a huge roll of barbed wire painfully tucked under his arm. “Who are you?” the guards ask. “Foster Bean,” he says. “Vermont, USA. Fencing.” 

     I guess the moral of that story is to not try to be somebody else but to live out who God created us to be. God has given each one of us a purpose and that purpose it to be in a relationship with God. Jesus invites us to follow him every single day of our lives. That’s our purpose. This is who we are called to be.
   
     A second way to live a life worth living is to serve others. This is what the Apostle did throughout his ministry. He had a gift of starting churches and encouraging them along the way.
     Paul writes in our scripture passage that as long as he is alive he will continue to help them be faithful in their ministry. Even when Paul was away from them, he wrote this letter to encourage them.
     It’s when we serve others in the name of Christ, that we are able to live a life that is worth living. Every time we help prepare a meal for the homeless, fold a church newsletter that will be mailed from the church, greet somebody at the door as they enter our sanctuary for worship, teach a Sunday School class, split firewood to help someone heat their home this winter, and lead one of the games for our fall Halloween festival, we are living a life that is worth living.


     Some of you might know the name, Mike Singletary who was a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Chicago Bears back in the 1980s. He was a member of a church in the Chicago area during his playing days.
     He asked his pastor if there was anything he could do to help serve the church by keeping a low profile. He said, “Well, there is something that just might be the perfect way for you to serve.”
     He went on to tell him that every week when the custodian vacuums the sanctuary following the weekend worship services, the vacuum cleaner cord gets caught on the pews and the custodian has to always stop and straighten out the cord. He said, “How would you like to be the person who holds up the vacuum cleaner cord?”
     And this ended being a very practical and humble way for an all-pro linebacker to serve in his church. I always think of this story when I happen to come across one of our unsung heroes tidying up our pews on a weekday morning. Every act of service in the name of Christ; great and small, seen and unseen, is what helps us to live a life that is worth living.
     A third way to have a life worth living is to live a life of integrity. We see this in our scripture passage where Paul encourages the church at Philippi to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
     We all know how important it is to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk. If our actions don’t match our words, not only will people be turned away from the faith, our lives will become shallow and have little meaning.
     Our like the quote that our Discipleship Director, Dan Kemp puts at the end of each of his emails. It’s a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assissi. “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
     Yes, our words matter, but so do our actions. Paul wants the church at Philippi to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
     A young officer being considered for a promotion stopped to purchase a newspaper. A passerby dropped some coins in the machine, took out a paper, and held the door open for the officer.
     “Go ahead and take one. Nobody will know,” he offered. For a moment, the officer held the door as the man went his way. Finally, he shut the door, inserted his coins, and took his paper.
     Later that morning, in the interview for his job promotion, the attending general retold what had happened at the newspaper box. “I watched to see what you would do. Had you taken the paper without paying, I was determined to pass you over for the promotion. You see, I am looking for a people of character who live their principles even when no one is around.”
     God calls us to back up our words with our actions.
     What are the ways that we live a life worth living? We live with purpose. We serve others. And we live with integrity.
     A woman who suffered with Parkinson’s disease made it a point to comfort her children by saying, “You must live until you die.”  She didn’t want her family members to stop living because of any adversity they may face, including the medical challenge that she was facing. This woman taught her children to lead a life that is worth living.
     So what do you think? Will you do a back handspring out of bed tomorrow morning?

    Better yet, will you wake up tomorrow morning, ready to lead a life that is worth living? I hope our answer to that important question will be, “Yes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Don't Read This During Lunch


Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.


Summertime in America,
It’s all about baseball, hot dogs and……..oh  no, not that…….

The cars were coming up the highway by the hundreds.
If you happen to be in north central Pennsylvania in late August,
you can’t help but notice the migration
of thousands of fans to the Little League World Series.

I was in the vicinity that day, coming from a prison visit.
While heading home, I realized that I needed
to get something to eat for lunch.

The only food option around was a convenience store.
It was an older style store of which the exterior walls were glass.

As I entered, I found a hot dog rotisserie.
The smell of frankfurters cooking quickly lured me.

The rotisserie was next to the wall,
so I had a full view of the parking lot.
While I pulled out two buns,
I saw a van pull up in the parking lot.

Out sprang an all-American family,
no doubt headed for the little league game.
The son had a baseball glove
and the daughter was wearing a baseball cap.

The father was escorting his daughter towards the store
for what appeared to be a bathroom stop.

Instead of coming in,
the father and the daughter came up to the wall of the store,
just feet away from me on the opposite side of the glassed wall.

It seemed somewhat odd but I smiled
and continued to choose over the best looking hot dogs.

The father smiled back nervously.
I thought it odd that they chose to stand at the outside wall
gazing so carefully at me while I was preparing my lunch.

I am not quite sure about specifics of hot dog rotisserie etiquette,
but it seems that there should be a buffer space
similar to that of an ATM machine,
even when separated by a pane of glass.

It was somewhere between the application
of the mustard and the ketchup that I realized what was going on…..

The all-American girl was sick and was losing her cookies
into the parking lot waste can……
two feet away from me.

Now some things just don’t go together…….
Upchucking  and hot dog preparation is another.

Only a thin layer of glass
separated my condiments from utter vileness.

The father now realized that I was preparing my lunch,
as his little girl was losing hers.

There are many sacred and high holy moments in any man’s day.
Preparing a meat sandwich is one of them.

Having invaded my inner sanctum of meat preparation,the father feebly offered an “I’m so sorry” gesture through the window pane.      

I must admit that I have a strong stomach,
but nothing says “let’s skip lunch”
like an unobstructed frontal view of regurgitation.

But as the champion of sacred moments that I am,
I pressed on.
As I reached for the relish packets,
Little Miss Shortstop lost it again.

The resemblance of the relish to the projectile
was more than I could bear.
Game over.

I bagged my hot dogs,
headed to the cashier,
and paid for a lunch that would never be eaten.

As I left the store,
the father now offered a verbal “I’m so sorry,”
while his little princess continued to expectorate.

Sometimes, a kind deed is just as important as a word.
I offered him my napkins,
knowing that the hot dogs were of no good to anyone.

“I hope she feels better” I said.
And with that,
I departed knowing that I would never again
view hot dogs the same way.

As a Christian,
I should and need to be moved
when the lovely things of my world
are confronted by the unlovely realities of other’s worlds.

Each day, I return home to a comfortable residence,
while many in the world live in sub-standard or no housing.

I receive hearty and delicious meals several times a day,
knowing that children throughout the world go to bed hungry.

I have excellent medical resources at my disposal when I feel ill
while many in the world die prematurely from preventable diseases.

I live in a land that is relatively safe
while others dwell in war torn countries.

How do we as  people of faith reconcile all of that?
It starts with an abiding sense of gratitude.
But it needs to go further.
Gratitude should prompt us to action.

None of us can end world hunger,
or cure all diseases,
or build suitable housing for all of the world.

But we can make a difference in at least one person’s life.
What if the Body of Christ all rose and did so?

No one needs to see vomit while preparing their lunch.
But seeing can and should lead us to compassionate and healing works.

Jesus told us as much…..

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,
and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

It’s interesting to note that Jesus predicates this on His return to the Father.
It’s because it is then that He sends the Holy Spirit to empower us.

We are without excuse.
And sometimes we need to see the unlovely immediately in our faces
to move us to service.

It’s not always pretty.
Just remember to bring extra napkins…………