AiR_E002 – Authenticity (Rob Hill)

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podium-picIn this episode I talk with my good friend Rob Hill.  Rob is currently the State Director of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in Mississippi.  Rob’s main focus is working with the HRC’s Project One America.  This is an effort to bring equality to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people throughout Mississippi.  He is just celebrating two years at this position.  Before this new roll with the HRC, Rob was a pastor, an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church, for twelve years.   He made this transition to enable him to live as an out and practicing gay man.  This conversation is about that adventure and his current work helping the people of Mississippi to be treated equal no matter their sexuality.

 

Rob is a graduate of Mississippi State University and Duke Divinity School.  He has been working  If you would like to connect with Rob you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some of the links that Rob discussed in our conversation.

The next guest on Adventures in Revland will be Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City.  We will have a conversation around her journey in ministry and what it is like being a female Baptist preacher behind one of America’s most historic pulpits.  This episode will go up on October 3rd.

Until then, enjoy your Adventure in Revland and peace be with you.

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AiR_E001 – Casualties (Ben Williams)

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The first episode of my new podcast is now up and ready for your listening pleasure.  TodayBen Williams I talk with the Rev. Ben Williams.  Ben is the senior pastor of St. Mark’s UMC in Raleigh, NC.  He was my roommate for two years at Duke Divinity school and one of the best men at my wedding.  He is a dear friend and does amazing work at St. Mark’s.  This is a great combination to be my first guest on this inaugural episode on this new podcast.

Ben is a graduate of Wake Forrest University and Duke Divinity School.  He has been appointed to St. Mark’s UMC in Raleigh, NC for well over a decade now.  He is married to Anna and has two children Stuart and Maggie.  Besides always looking dapper, Ben enjoys sailing, soccer and cycling.  You can follow him on Facebook HERE or on Twitter HERE.

Show notes: Here are some links to some of the things Ben and I talked about.

St. Mark’s UMC Website

Royce and Jane Reynolds Program in Church Leadership

Academy of Spiritual Formation

Please subscribe to this podcast and please leave a review.  If you know someone who is on a wonderful and unique adventure in ministry, please let me know.  I am always looking for more guests for this podcast so leave a comment with your email and we can connect.  (I won’t publish those comments but use them to contact you via email)

The next episode will be with Rob Hill, the state director of the Human Rights Campaign in Mississippi.  It is a great conversation about his work in Mississippi but also how he left the ministry to live authentically as a gay man.  It will be up on September 19th.

Until then, enjoy your Adventure in Revland and peace be with you.

NEW Podcast Launching NEXT WEEK

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I am launching a new podcast and it will go live next Monday.  The title of this podcast is Adventures In Revland…go figure.  The goal of this new adventure is to share the stories of people doing unique and wonderful things in ministry.  I have had some wonderful conversations with people and I am excited to bring them to you.  I hope they enrich your understanding of what ministry is like and the adventures God call us on.

I will publish a new podcast every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month.  Each episode is between 45-60 minutes in length and is in a conversational style.  Each week has a certain focus and concentration that makes the guest’s adventure in ministry unique, refreshing, and/or interesting.

I hope you will come back next Monday for the first episode and then please subscribe in order to download the newest episode when it become available.  I am excited and nervous about this new avenue for this blog.  As an avid podcast listener it has been fun to journey into this new frontier and to learn in the ins and outs of this process.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds and I am sure there will be bumps along the way.  But that is what an adventure is all about.

Stay tuned for Episode 1 – Casualties with the Rev. Ben Williams…which premieres next Monday morning.

May Mercy Win

We don’t hear about it much and it is my fault.  We don’t hear about it because I don’t talk about it.  It isn’t that I don’t want to, I simply forget the power and the call to action in these words.  I forget that as much as John Wesley was for personal holiness he was also for social holiness.  Prayer and study were important but so was visiting the sick and prisoners.

Alton Sterling died this week.  Philando Castile died this week.  Video captured this horrific moments and my heart hurts.  Three police officers are now dealing with the mental and emotional aftermath of taking another person’s life.  My heart hurts.  My hearts breaks.

John 11:35 happened again…”Jesus wept.”

As I prepare my sermon on this week’s lectionary text, Luke 10:25-37, or better known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I hear the cries of the man on the road.  I hear the cry of someone stranded, beaten, broken and left for dead.  I hear the man…

Who am I on that road?  Am I the Levite?  Am I the priest?  Am I the one who stops?

Just like the taillight on Philando’s car, our system is broken.  When a system is broken justice must prevail and people need to speak up to share the news of the one who says mercy wins.

This week my congregation and I will say together the Social Creed of the United Methodist Church found in ¶166 of the Book of Discipline. I truly believe this world needs personal holiness.  We personally need to know the love and grace God offers in Jesus Christ.  I also truly believe we need social holiness.  We, as the Body of Christ in this world, need to stand up and proclaim a way of living that follows the life, death and resurrection of the Savior we worship and follow.

When my heart breaks I am reminded it does so because I am attempting to “love my neighbor as myself.”  May mercy win in my heart and in my world.

Social Creed of the United Methodist Church

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

North Carolina’s House Bill 2

When I learned that the state I live in, love and adore worked in a called session and in the dark of the night to pass House Bill 2 I was embarrassed, disappointed and frustrated.  I have not been thrilled with the legislator in Raleigh because it seems from my place, in Union County, we have stepped backwards and have been for a while.  When it comes to our educational system, the rhetoric towards the poor and how minorities are being treated we seem to be going backwards and progress is stopping in the Old North State.

I have been thinking about what to write about HB2 but I have been too caught up in disappointment.  Then Lory Beth Huffman wrote an excellent article on it in her blog.  She completely sums up my thoughts and feelings on this manner.  I realized after reading it she basically took the words out of my mouth.  Thank you Lory Beth for your wisdom and insights in this matter.

PLEASE VISIT HER BLOG AND READ HER POST ON House Bill 2.

As I read the bill and then her post, I agree with her it this bill doesn’t make sense and seems only as a dirty political ploy.

I will send with her two closing paragraphs which sums it up nicely.  I pray for my state and for the people who will be harmed by this bill.

So to me, this feels like so much more than a safety issue concerning transgender people and which bathroom they can use. It feels like pretext.  It feels like a step backwards in public discourse, policy making and statesmanship.  It appears to me that this is going to hurt our state economically. Consider the national reaction to boycotting the Furniture Market- an already struggling industry that could negatively impact High Point’s and the Triad’s economy. Some scoff as large, multi-national companies and organizations like Bank of America, Facebook, Apple, Google, Wells Fargo, American Airlines, Starbucks, the NBA and the NCAA are condemning HB2.  But sometimes an outsider needs to hold  the mirror up to your face and show you things you don’t like or don’t want to admit.

And as a spiritual leader, I am struggling to discern where Jesus would land in the midst of this mess.  I don’t see a lot of love in play.  How we treat one another matters.  How we solve problems matters.  How we disagree with one another matters.  How we balance safety and protection of all people – women, children and transgender people matters.  How we get along in the cities and in the rural communities matters.  Surely we could have done a better job than this.  I speak as a Christian, not as a Republican, Democrat or Independent.  And because I am a Jesus follower, my heart is heavy over this.

The Myth of the Modern Christian Candidate

10000227-00-00-00-00_lgI confess I am not a huge fan of politics.  What I mean is I don’t get all excited about elections or backing a candidate.  I won’t attend rallies or conventions.  It is just something I have never really been into.

The first US Presidential Election I truly remember is the 1992 race between Bill Clinton, George H. Bush and Ross Perot.  I remember taking a mock election in Boy Scouts where I voted for Ross Perot with the comment, “If we are looking for change, let’s go with a ton of change.”  This was my big political insight at the mere age of 15.  Honestly I didn’t understand how the whole system worked, only enough to pass civics class.

Leading up to the 2000 election I remember having a discussion in a college class on God, Politics and Society how we truly needed a Christian Candidate.  I guess George W. Bush and Al Gore weren’t Christian enough for me…who knows.

This Presidential Election will be the sixth one I can vote in, although I confess I didn’t vote in all of them.  I have paid attention and followed the last four pretty closely simply to be an educated voter. I do not affiliate with either party and I am registered as an Undecided in North Carolina. The reasons behind that decision will have to wait for another post.

As a Gen-Xer, cynicism is engrained in my DNA. I look at the US Electoral System and I see how it is run (only from the outside). I watch the news and read about super PACs, fundraising, and deep pocket donors. I have enough years behind me to understand a little more clearly how life works and I am not as naïve as I once was.

As I watch the train-wreck that is the 2016 Presidential Election I have come to a firm conclusion. I now understand that the idea of a Christian Presidential Candidate is a myth. I do not believe that you can live up to the standards of Christ found in the two commandments to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself AND run a campaign to be elected President of the United States (POTUS). It can’t happen.

It can’t happen because a piece of that person has to sell their soul. You cannot serve both wealth and God at the same time, see Matthew 6:24 or Luke 16:13. It takes millions upon millions of dollars to win the election for POTUS. How can someone run a successful campaign and escape nestling up, snuggling or even get in bed with wealth? It can’t happen.

There is also some part of a Presidential Candidate that has to believe they are focal point of the universe. They have to believe the world revolves around them to seek the highest and most powerful position in the world. Show me a truly humble person…truly humble not politically humble…and I will show you someone who doesn’t believe they are worthy of the job. A person with this humility, who puts God above all, even themselves, would never be elected POTUS.

I firmly believe that local politicians can. I believe mayors of small towns and even some state legislators can. However, once big money has to be made, conflicts of interest arise and a part of one’s soul has to be sold out. This is true in all politics no matter how big or small but the larger the office the more these Faust opportunities present themselves.

Maybe you agree or maybe you disagree. Maybe my assumption of what a follower of Christ looks like, a person who follows the greatest commandments of Jesus Christ, goes too far. Maybe a political Christian is someone who exists and my cynicism simply runs too deep to see it.

When I vote…I will vote knowing that there is no “True Christian Candidate” because that person is a myth. We need to stop looking for a political messiah or thinking candidates who can raise millions of dollars are one. Let’s face fact a “True Christian Candidate” is simply a myth.

 

10 Inner Thoughts while Preaching

I am not sure about you but when I preach there are two things that are happening at once.  I am concentrating the physical act of speaking in front of people and trying to make sense but then there is the inner dialogue that is happening too.  I usually have a conversation with myself in my own brain while I am preaching.

I know I am not alone…at least I pray I’m not.  I feel confident that I am not.  Moving on.

I decided to make list of the ten common thoughts that go on in my head while preaching…please feel free to add your own in the comments.

  1. I hope they are looking at the Bible on their phones.
  2. Did I pronounce that right…oh well, just go with it and move on.
  3. Where was I?
  4. Am I saying “um” too much?
  5. Is it hot/cold in here?
  6. ________ is sleeping again.
  7. Is anyone hearing what I am saying?
  8. ________ is giving me good energy and eye sight, THANK YOU!
  9. We are going to run over…where can I trim a little on the fly?
  10. Was that the Holy Spirit talking right there?