Saturday, February 13, 2016

Discovering the Meanings of Love

Whenever Valentines Day comes around, I think about the day Cathy said "I do" back in ’82.  She was a beautiful bride, bold and confident. When it was my turn to say the vows, I blubbered and squeaked like Mickey Mouse – but she knew what I meant anyway.

 It’s hard to imagine that so many years have zoomed by. It seems like just yesterday that I was courting her – dating her – writing little valentines with x’s and o’s at the end, and saying goofy little things like “yours, ‘til the ocean wears rubber pants to keep it’s bottom dry.”

We’ve done a lot of living since then. We’ve had our share of joys. We’ve had our share of tears. We’ve had our share of heartaches through the years – but as our love has matured, it has grown stronger and sweeter over time.

A while back, Cathy made an astute observation: “You can’t really love somebody until you’ve been through something with them. Before that point, you’re just acquaintances.” You know, she is right on the money with that one.

Maybe that’s why I love her so much – because we’ve been through so many things together.

I’m learning the true meanings of love. I say “meanings” rather than “meaning” because there are many facets to it. Just when I think I understand what it is to love, I realize I am barely scratching the surface. One can never plumb the depths of love because it is eternal.

The word “intimacy” literally means “profoundly interior.” Relational understanding, like gold and silver, is discovered deep underground. It comes from the core of our being. Of course, there is the exterior dimension as well. A “deep down” love is revealed by our actions for and towards each other.

A loving intent without a loving follow-through isn’t worth much.

One reason so many couples lack satisfying interactions with each other is because they have not paused to reflect enough on the deeper meanings of their relationship.

Maybe it would be good for couples to stop and ask these questions: What is our story? What are the themes of our relationship? Have we looked beyond the surface issues to the deeper substance? When are we most fully alive and free? What is or delight and desire? How can we turn duties into delights?

Marriage takes work. It requires much patience. If it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t require patience! Marriage might be made in heaven – but it has to be worked out here on this earth. Maybe that’s why it’s for a lifetime – because that’s just about how long it takes for people to finally understand. Before then, we should probably put “Under Construction” signs in front of our homes.

The romance of love is splendid. It’s a beautiful gift from God. The warm friendship of love is sweet, and there is nothing that compares with comfortable familiarity. The choice to love sacrificially is the most sublime. It is love in the highest form.

I am reminded of these words from the poet, Rainer Marie Rilke, “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect, border and greet each other.”

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Prayer Empowerings

 We kneel how weak, we rise how full of power!
  Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,
  Or others -- that we are not always strong;
  That we are ever overborne with care;
  That we should ever weak or heartless be,
  Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
  And joy, and strength, and courage, are with Thee?
  -- Richard Chenevix Trench

 (Note:  I discovered in the back of an old book I inherited from my father's library:  How to Pray by Reuben Archer Torrey (1916).  The poem had been handwritten by the previous owner, Belle McMillan, a mighty prayer warrior and holy woman.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Order of Service Hayward Wesleyan Noon Ash Wednesday Service

Dr. Tom Correll drafted the following liturgy for our Noon Ash Wednesday service.  We also have an evening service geared more to youth.

Welcome and Prayer

Hymn: Faith of Our Fathers (279)

The Liturgy of Lent

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

We invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a strong beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now bow our heads before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn: Trust and Obey (349)

Readings from the Letters of the Apostle Peter:

I Peter 1:3-9 AND II Peter 1:2-11

Meditation  --  Tom Correll

Our Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father: We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We ask you to forgive us!

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. Have mercy on us Lord.

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Let us Pray together Our Lord’s Prayer

The Imposition of Ashes!

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and repentance, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

You are invited to receive the sign of the ashes as a true follower of Jesus Christ!

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Pastoral Prayer


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You are invited to our continuing Lenten services each Wednesday at 12:00 noon in the sanctuary.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Rest in Peace

I have learned the secret of being content. . . . I can do all this through Christ. (Phil. 4:12-13)

 A frazzled mother continually complained about her stress level. "I just need some peace and quiet!" she groaned. So, for Mother's Day, her daughter Jessica went to the florist shop and returned proudly carrying the perfect gift for her mother. The arrangement included a pink bow inscribed, "Rest in Peace."

 Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, in their groundbreaking book Jesus Manifesto, said, "Knowing Christ as your rest' and allowing Him to live His life through you is one of the most freeing things you can know as a Christian" They continue, "Resting in Christ doesn't mean being passive. It means allowing the Lord to do the heaving lifting."

 My favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, sums up what Paul called the "secret of being content": "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The secret to contentment is indeed about dying—but to truly rest in peace, we must die to self and rest in Him.

This is an excerpt from my book Filled Up, Poured Out

 Prayerfully seek the contentment that only God can give, by helping you die to yourself.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Only Way to Get There is to Go There

Self examination and difficult conversations are hard.  That's why so few are willing to "go there."  It's painful.

"Going there" means humbling yourself enough to face the truth, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.

"Going there" is mustering up the courage to say what needs to be said, even if the other person may not react well to it.

"Going there" means caring enough to confront, but often feels uncaring.

"Going there" takes the risk that things will never be the same.

"Going there" forces you to face your fears.

"Going there" reveals your secrets.

"Going there" requires looking beneath the actions to the underlying cause.

"Going there" shows your shadow self.

"Going there" is nerve wracking and gut-wrenching.

"Going there" means seeing or hearing things you would rather ignore.

"Going there" may make you feel defensive.

"Going there" may make you feel vulnerable.

"Going there" may make you feel under attack

But. . . 

"Going there" leads to beautiful breakthroughs.

"Going there" transforms relationships.

"Going there" increases mutual understanding.

"Going there" helps you get unstuck.

"Going there" reveals truth that will set you free.

"Going there" brings boldness you'll never discover by avoiding.

"Going there" is the first, courageous step towards healing.

Consider the improvements you desire in your life and relationships.  The only way to "get there" is to "go there."

Friday, January 22, 2016

Six Steps to the Throne

Here is a helpful guide for prayer,  inspired by a chapter from In The Day of Thy Power, by Arthur Wallis:  Six Steps to the Throne.

In 2 Chronicles 9:18 we read that there were six steps to the throne of King Solomon.  And in our prayer life, there are six steps to the throne of God:  The King of Kings.

Step 1:  Abiding in Christ
John 15:5-7 
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

This means being connected to Christ -- living in Christ - being at home with him.  There is a huge difference between saying prayers and being a person of prayer.

Two ways we become disconnected:  Disobedience (Ps, 66:18) and Neglect.  Is Jesus your spare tire or your steering wheel?

Step 2: In the Will of God
1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Bobby Richardson, baseball great, once prayed, "Dear God, your will.   Nothing more.  Nothing less. Nothing else."

Will of God should not be used to excuse our doubt and unbelief.  It is a great statement of faith!
How do we discern God's will?
A.  Scripture -- God's Word is always His will.
B.  Leading of the Holy Spirit - If we ask, He will show us.

Step 3: In Faith
Mark 11:22-24:
Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Faith is bold confidence and quiet trust:  laying hold of God, and believing His promises.

Step 4:  In the Name of Jesus
John 14:13-14: 
 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

The name of Jesus is not a little tag or magic incantation at the end of a prayer.  It means praying in the authority of Jesus.  There is power in his name!

"Amen" doesn't end the prayer -- but shoots it out!  "So be it!"

Step 5:  In the Spirit
Jude 1:20-21: 
 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Wesley Duewel calls the Holy Spirit our indwelling prayer partner (Jesus is our enthroned prayer partner.)

The Holy Spirit draws us to prayer, energizes us, convicts us, brings a prayer burden (especially in emergencies), and provides vision for future direction.

Praying in the Spirit means praying in holy love.

Step 6:  In Unity
Matthew 18:19: 
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

Not in unison but in harmony with one another.  We may have differences, but our hearts are in harmony.

Disunity, resentment and unforgiveness hinder our prayers.  When we are united in love, our prayers have more power.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Listen, Then Do Something

If you've botched your New Year's resolutions already, maybe it would be helpful to take a different approach.  Instead of throwing in the towel and feeling guilty about how you didn't achieve your feeble intentions, why not select a focus -- a theme for the year and keep plugging on towards it?  This method gives guidance and direction, without the pressure of impending failure hanging over you head.  

If you are looking for theme, how about this one?   Listen and Do.  It is simple and sweet and will keep you going for the full 365 (actually 366 since this is Leap Year!)

1) Listen: 
You and I have been given two ears and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. However, I've discovered that talking is easier than hearing.  Listening is far more difficult than explaining.

Why is it so hard to listen? Consider this. We speak at 100-150 words per minute. We are able to comprehend at 250-300 words per minute. We think at 600 words per minute.

So, if you are a fast thinker (600 wpm) and the other person is a slow talker (100 wpm), you still have 500 words per minute left over for thinking about other stuff. For efficient folks, that’s a lot of wasted communication space. Therefore,  fast listeners zones out, and end up thinking about things besides what the other person is saying.

When someone zones out, they respond like this: “uh, huh”, “Yes, dear”, “I don’t know” – all the while, filling up the empty communication space with other thoughts. True listening is hard work!

Declaring 2016 your Year of Listening, doesn't mean listening to the 100 words and then zoning out. Instead, it means listening to the 100 words – really hearing those words – processing them– seeking to understand the depth of those words – thinking about them words – mulling them over!

As Margaret Wheatley said, “Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen."

Listening means hearing the whole thing without creating a rebuttal while the other person is still talking. It means not cutting people off mid-sentence because you already know what they’re going to say. It means, in the words of Steven Covey, “Seeking to understand before seeking to be understood.”

The best kind of prayer, by the way, is listening prayer, seeking to hear to God’s voice to discern his wisdom. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

2) Do:

But we can't just stop with listening.   We need to do something about what we hear. We won’t make any progress if we let the communication flow in one ear and out the other.

Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24)

A lot of folks spend tons of time thinking and discussing, but don’t get around to doing anything about it. They spend too much energy “chewing the fat” and not enough “burning it.” It it is far better to be a doer than a hearer only (James 1:22.) I believe in a practical faith. That is, a faith that you can put into practice every day. It’s action oriented!

Life is about action. What we do is more important than what we say or think. Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” It’s better to attempt something and fail than to attempt nothing and succeed.

A friend once told me that Divine guidance is like a rudder on a boat. If the boat is tied to the dock, the rudder is not much help. Unleash the boat, however, and set sail – then the rudder does its work! You have to be moving in order for the rudder to operate! You might even start by moving in the wrong direction, but the rudder will guide and correct your course. If you want to discover your destiny, you need to hoist anchor and set sail. In other words -- do something!

Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year Reflection

Here we stand at the threshold of the New Year. 2015 will soon be passed and packed away, living only in the attic of memories.  Looking ahead to 2016, I can guarantee one thing: a lot of living will go into it.

How will it turn out? Only God knows. This chapter may be drama. Perhaps it will be romance. Action adventure. Comedy. Tragedy. Mystery.

Next December, upon reflection, you will be able to describe the events of 2016 – but not now. The best you can do is throw your shoulders back, trust God, and march right in.

You see, although you don’t know anything about the upcoming months, God does – and He will be with you as you travel from mountain top to valley.  Nobody knows what tomorrow holds, but we do know WHO holds tomorrow.

Sometimes, in lonely moments, it feels as if we are alone, but God has promised never to leave you or forsake you – even in the darkest hours.

An anonymous writer captured this idea with these inspiring words:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,  “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”   And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Transition from one year to the next calls us to:

1. Sober Reflection. 
2. Sane Calculation. 
3. Serious Resolution. 

So, don’t let yourself. . .

Fret – when you’re doing the best you can.
Rush – when success depends on accuracy.
Assume – evil of someone unless you have the facts.
Judge – another person’s motives.
Belittle – others with your actions and words.
Quit – in the face of difficulty
Allow -- bitterness and resentment to remain in your heart.
Make -- excuses for not doing what should be done.
Waste – time and energy on things that don’t matter.