Happy Family Day!

Family Picture from July 2015

Family Picture from July 2015

Today is the one year anniversary of Malachi joining our family. I cannot believe that it has been a year already. There has been so much change and growth in him and in our family. I’ve tried writing this post multiple times, but cannot really put into words what it has been like to have Malachi in our family- especially to see the way he has grown over the last year.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Andrea and I have gone from being caregivers to Malachi to being “Mommy” and “Daddy.” In the beginning, Malachi stayed close to us because he was in a world that was foreign and around people who sounded and looked different than him. This began to change around January of last year. This summer, we’ve seen another big move forward in his attachment to us as parents. One only needs to see the smiles when he calls our names and gives out hugs. We are truly blessed!

While here is a lot of joy celebrating Malachi being part of our family, he also had to lose everything in order to be part of our family. Today, we are praying for Malachi’s birth parents. We do not know their names, bu God does.

Words probably cannot express the last year the way that pictures can- so here are some pictures of our journey over the last year.

Picture from Malachi's file. This was our first look at him in May 2014

Picture from Malachi’s file. This was our first look at him in May 2014. The picture was from earlier in the year.

Andrea's first time holding Malachi on September 15, 2014.

Andrea’s first time holding Malachi on September 15, 2014.

Malachi at Fifer's Fall Fest in October 2015

Malachi at Fifer’s Fall Fest in October 2014

Bath time is one of Malachi's favorite times! January 2015

Bath time is one of Malachi’s favorite times! January 2015

Malachi received leg braces in May 2015 to help straighten and strengthen his legs.

Malachi received leg braces in May 2015 to help straighten and strengthen his legs.

2nd birthday for Malachi! (first with our family)

2nd birthday for Malachi! (first with our family)

Even little hipsters need to brush their teeth before going to bed.

Even little hipsters need to brush their teeth before going to bed.

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Pastor Confession

It’s time for a pastor confession…

…I like shiny things.

Whether it’s a new gadget, music, or something else, there is something that lures me in.

I wrestle with this in ministry as well. I have a pull to want worship to be shiny, new, attractive, and cutting edge. If it were up to me, especially a few years ago, I would have a Chris Tomlin/Hillsong United kind of band leading worship (probably scoring a lot of points on Jon Acuff’s metrosexual worship leader scale). Worship would feature slick transitions and great visuals.

My struggle is that while sounding good (and even looking good) is not wrong- I want to be authentic.

Our family attended a church this summer while on vacation. It was our third summer visiting the church. (In fact, when the pastor greeted us he asked, “Aren’t you the family that comes once a year while on vacation?”  My response- “Yes we are!”) When the service began, the worship team was your somewhat typical 20-something hipster dress. The keyboardist/worship leader wore a hat that I could never wear. There were sound problems. The segues weren’t smooth (in fact, there weren’t any, really). But worship that day was moving- because it was authentic. It was a bit messy. It was hopeful. It was seeking Jesus.

As we begin our Fall season of ministry at Hope and Magnolia church, I want to be authentic in worship- in joy, mourning, brokenness, and laughter. I hope that you’ll join me (wherever you worship) in a deep hunger for God to move in our lives.

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The Power of Small Things

File Aug 03, 10 22 07 AM

We are in week two of our series At The Movies at Hope Church and Magnolia United Methodist Church. Each week we are looking at a movie as a parable that can open up dialogue to teach us something about ourselves and about God. This past Sunday, we discussed the Marvel Comic movie, Ant-Man.

What is important to know about Ant-Man is that he is an ordinary guy looking to be a better father and to atone for the mistakes of his past. He has no superhero powers until he puts on a special suit- which transforms him into the size of an ant. His small size allows him to do things that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do if he were larger. Small things can make a big impact.

In our Christian lives, I think we can often struggle with fleshing out how Jesus makes a difference in our day-to-day living. Certainly, we are forgiven of our sins and called sons and daughters of the King. But how does that look on a daily basis?

Paul, writing to the church at Colosse, tells them about how to live in harmony with one another. He tells the believers that their lives are to be hidden in Christ- which is a beautiful image that other people should see Jesus in our living since our lives are hidden in Jesus. Paul writes to “put to death” sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed”- and to rid ourselves of “anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language.” This is our old life.

Instead, we are to “put on” or “clothe ourselves” with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Paul doesn’t tell the believers to preach to the masses or to hand out tracts to show a life hidden in Christ. He says to be kind. Be compassionate. Live with humility. Be gentle and patient. Bear with one another even when someone hurts you. Forgive as God has forgiven us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that my mom told me to do those things, too! It’s not rocket science. What a difference it makes when we show someone an extra measure of kindness, or patience (or when someone shows us extra patience!). Showing other people Jesus through our lives does not have to be difficult. It starts with the small things. Small things can make a big impact!

*To hear this sermon and others, visit hopedover.com to listen to archived sermons.

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Excluding Jesus

2015-05-17 17.19.22

Abbie helping make Guacamole at our local Men’s Shelter.

Our oldest daughter, Abbie, spent one year in pre-school before moving on to Kindergarten. Her preschool was not a typical preschool experience. Our school district has a county wide school for children with special needs. It’s a school where my wife, Andrea, taught for about 9 years. This is the school that Abbie went to preschool at. She was one of a handful of typical students integrated with more students with special needs at a varying degree of severity. This year of preschool was a year long glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Children of all colors, cognitive and physical abilities formed a community and a bond with one another. I remember standing with some of the parents of children with special needs and one remark how beautiful the class was because it may be the last time that their child was integrated with “typical children” and given a high level of acceptance.

Jesus was present in that class. That year, I saw so many examples of love, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness that came through the children learning to live together in community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing on community says this:

“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. We must, therefore, be very careful at this point” (Life Together, 38)

When we look around at our churches and our faith communities- have we made room for the poor and the homeless? Have we made room for those of bad reputations? Do we look at the margins of our community and invite those very people into our communities? Our social circles? Our families?

If we do not, we may actually be excluding Jesus from our church, our communities, and our families. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:45, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did no do for me.”

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Bonhoeffer to Pastors: Don’t Complain!

I reread chapter one of Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer this morning. While there was a lot that stood out about how we are to live in community, what stuck out the most was Bonhoeffer’s advice to clergy in regards to their congregations.

“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order the he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.”

As pastors, we are called to shepherd and lead people. To encourage them in the path of discipleship. It is, however, very tempting (and easy) to complain about a congregation who is stubborn, immature, or dysfunctional when, as pastors, we should take responsibility for our calling to lead such people and to be their shepherd. We are to recognize our own shortcomings, intercede for our flock, and commit to shepherding our congregations for the glory of God.

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How Do We Go On?

Woman Studying

I’ve been preaching through the Book of Acts this spring/summer. It’s been a lot of fun seeing how the Holy Spirit called and equipped ordinary men and women to spread the Good News of Jesus. Yesterday, while I was studying I was forced to stop and consider a scripture that is easy to move past. Luke records in Acts 14:19-20

“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconic and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

Opponents came from miles around to oppose Paul. They stoned him and dragged him outside of the city. The stoning was so bad, so severe that the crowd believed that Paul was dead. So they left. I assume that Paul was unconscious for the crowds to believe he was dead. The disciples in the area gather around Paul- and he was able to get up and go back (!) into the city.

Isn’t this a picture of how the church should live in the world? This is a picture of community. We have so many brothers and sisters who are physically, mentally, and spiritually abused and beaten- yet we will often leave them behind because ministry takes a lot of time. But the believers show us how to care for the one in our midst who is left for dead. When we feel like we can no longer go on, it is our fellow brothers and sisters who surround us, gather us up, and help us put one foot in front of the other.

If you read this- meditate on this text today. How must have Paul felt to be opposed like this? How would it change his ministry? His outlook? What would his response to the beating be? Do we surround those who appear defeated? Or do we gather them up to bring healing into their world?

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Change Is In The Air

This Sunday, I shared with Hope Church some changes that are being made in my life in regards to my ministry with The United Methodist Church, and I want to share some of that with you here.

Andrea and I have spent a great deal of time over the last 8 months talking and praying through our life, our priorities, and our goals. Part of the process was that my passion is with the local church. I love serving the people of the church and community and seeing them connect and grow in their faith. One of the difficulties during the past three years was that as a pastor and campus minister/chaplain I felt like to couldn’t do either job to the level that I wanted to. So last Wednesday, I turned in my resignation as campus minister/chaplain at Wesley College, effective June 30th. I have enjoyed my three years serving Wesley College. I can think of many great conversations, times of pray, and ministry here at the college. I am grateful for the many great students, faculty, and administration members who encouraged me during my time here.

While I resigned from Wesley College, I will continue to be the pastor at Hope United Methodist Church. We have been through a lot together over the past five years and I am looking forward to the next five (Lord, willing!). I believe that Hope is in the right place to be a vital congregation in downtown Dover.

In addition to Hope, I will become the pastor at Magnolia United Methodist Church in Magnolia, DE beginning June 28th. Magnolia Church is at the epicenter of a small but growing community just south of Dover. I am excited to get to know the people of Magnolia and to see how both Hope and Magnolia can make famous the name of Jesus in Kent County!

As you read this update, please keep me and our family in your prayers as we make this transition. Pray for Hope and Magnolia Church that we would be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus. Pray for Wesley College and their search for a new chaplain that spiritual growth and development will continue to be part of the Wesley College experience.

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