Thursday, October 16, 2008

The economic Crisis

The economic crisis is hitting our lives in so many places and in so many ways. There is a lot out there in the media writing about it. It is enough to scare you to death. I was asked by one of our United Methodist Women circles to write something for them to use at their meeting to lead into a discussion. This is what I wrote.

When I was at the Catalyst Conference this last week, Dave Ramsey was one of the speakers. He reminded us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. He told us that the media has stirred up a lot of fear and reactivity. He said we should get ourselves out of personal debt if we are in debt. He thinks we should keep tithing and saving as we can and live within our means. He thinks the markets will rebound and that at the same time we are in for a rough ride for sometime. But that we should have a spirit of fear. He said that we as Christians who live within "God's principles" have a witness to those who have bought into Consumerism mentality and the fear mentality.

I think it is important to remember that no matter what the crisis is in our lives, God is on his throne. I won't lie or cover this up, it may get very bad before it gets better. We don't honestly know where this is going to go. But as Dr. Gattis and I were talking about this, no matter how bad it gets we will still be better off than most of the world. And that it is important to keep our focus on God and eternal things than temporal things.

The following was taken from an article by Al Mohler in Christianity Today: "Greed raises its ugly head when individuals and groups seek an unrealistic gain at the expense of others and then use illegitimate means to gain what they want. Given the nature of this fallen world and the reality of human sinfulness, we should expect that greed will be a constant temptation. Greed will entice the rich to oppress the poor, partners in transactions to lie to one another, and investors to take irrational risks. All of these are evident in this current crisis.

The current crisis sheds light on what happens when things get out of control, when various pressures distort the proper operation of the markets, and when irrational valuations entice investors to make poor investments. Dishonesty enters the picture at many levels, and the individual investor is too often left in the dark. When these things happen the economy is threatened by a lack of trust, and trust is the most essential commodity of all when it comes to economic transactions. Without trust, the entire system collapses.

Christians should think seriously about this economic crisis and ponder what it would mean to come to a Christian understanding of what it means to be participants in this economy. This current crisis should also remind Christians that we are not called to be mere economic actors, but stewards. Everything we are, everything we do, and everything we own truly belongs to God and is to be at the disposal of Kingdom purposes. This world is not our home and our treasure is not found here. We are to do all, invest all, own all, purchase all to the glory of God."

Our denomination, The United Methodist Church, declares in its Social Principles that all economic systems are “to be under the judgment of God … and recognizes the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities, and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes” (¶163 IV. The Economic Community, "Social Principles," The United Methodist Book of Discipline).

I think Jesus was very clear when he said Matthew 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If we follow this passage, then we have nothing to fear. We have a God perspective about what is going on. We realize that if unhealthy selfish greed got into the CEO's and money managers, that they had not laid up their treasures in heaven and did not have a God perspective. We also see this things for a God perspective. We do live in a sinful world, and thus we as humans are tempted to sin and do sin. But we can always repent and ask God's forgiveness and turn around. I say that to say, there has got be a whole lot of repenting going on by those who sinned when it came to the abuse of money, and lending practices. But there is a whole lot of forgiveness on God's part as well.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said the following about money;
"We ought to gain all we can gain but this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health. "
"Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then 'give all you can.'"
He said the purpose of earning and saving is giving and that you should then give to the following:

"First you should give to yourself--food, clothes, shelter--what moderate living requires. Second, you should give to your family and employees providing for their needs. Third, if there is still money left, you should give to the household of faith--other Christians. Fourth, you should give to all men in need."

This is what he thought it meant to "lay up" treasure and reasons to set aside money:
  • To pay your debts for this is right.
  • To provide yourself the necessities of life.
  • To provide for your family is your duty.
  • Necessary investment to carry on business.

“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.”

During his time in England there was a great divide between the wealthy and the poor. Wesley became very concerned for the poor in England, and became very involved in trying to improve their lives. He proceeded to venture into London during much of his free time and work with the poor, providing medical aid where he could. Wesley and his Methodists worked hard to raise the money to provide food and clothing for the poor. One of his more innovative ideas, in my eyes, is that Wesley introduced interest-free loans to the poor in London, “rescuing them from lenders demanding extortionate interest that would have compounded their distress.” (Marquardt, 29). In addition, Wesley’s Methodists devoted themselves to helping the poor to find jobs. In a time and place in which many viewed poverty and sickness as an indicator of the worth of the individual, Wesley preached God’s love for all mankind and demanded unrestricted love for one’s neighbor.

And Jesus said;
Your father knows what you need before you ask him. So do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today's trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:8b, 31-34)

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest. (Luke 12:25-26)

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

I also highly recommend Sojourner Magazine and the blog God's Politics by Jim Wallis.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Feeling hopeful about Young People

Last week I went to another church conference called Catalyst. I was the clergy person with six other lay people. Of the six four were in the age group categorized as young people. Just being with those four from our church was energizing. But to be with all the young people who were at Catalyst was just awesome. I found hope for the Kingdom of God listening and being with them.

The worship was high energy. Young worship leaders led us in worship and I do mean led in worship, not just had us singing. Young people who are some of the up and coming Pastors taught. There were presentations as well by some of the Pastors who are considered good leaders such as Andy Stanley. And there were presentations from leaders in the business world, like the author of Good to Great. There was even play time. And there was presentations by different missions and social justice leaders. It was a powerful time. I haven't written my notes from this conference yet into my computer; I didn't take my laptop and I am glad I didn't. And I am still processing the experience. Would I go again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Yes.

The only criticism I found is that they are trying to diverse and be multicultural, but they did not achieve it. The Festival of Homiletics does a better job of that. They had an African American Female speak, and that's that. No other women leaders. No other African Americans, no others from other races. And it seemed to be dominated by White Males from the Baptist or non denominational groups. That's okay, but does that mean they are the only ones who know how to lead?

Next year they are going to do things differently. Not only will Catalyst be in Atlanta but it will also be in California. They also will be offering some one day events around the country. You can go to Catalyst Space to find out more about these events.

On our way home the four of us in our car did some processing of the event. We also asked the Young adult in our car to tell us what he got from it and what we could bring from it to Trinity. It was very insightful and I'll write more about this later. We plan to get together the 7 of us and then bring in more persons to join us in the discussion. Please pray for us as we do this. I'll also write more about what I learned from Catalyst later.

Bob was proud of me, I didn't buy any more books. However, I bought the Catalyst package and access to their online community. Am I going next year? Yes, if I can.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mayoral Election today

Today is local elections.
I find it interesting that the two candidates running for Mayor are both Methodist.
The present Mayor goes to First Methodist and the challenger goes to Trinity Methodist.
This is actually a run off.
Mayor Spencer has been mayor a long time here in Huntsville and has done some really good things, and brought in some major businesses. But in the last years there have been some lapses and problems in the local government. The city lost the VW bid to Chattanooga. They thought it was a done deal, but Chattanooga had the better deal for VW. I don't think you can blame it all on the Mayor but you can give some to her administration.The city prison that was being built is a major disastor and costing more than it should.

I like Tommy Battle, the challenger. He is an active member at Trinity.
He has some good ideas, and has some plans to continue the growth of Huntsville.
It is hard to beat an incumbent and one who is well liked and for the most part has done a good job. But even so, I am going to vote for Tommy.

It will be interesting to see the results at the end of the day.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fall Break

The weather is lovely, just lovely.
It is just cool enough, not too cool.
I love this time of year.

The school has a fall break this week.
I think it must be for the teachers as much as the kids.
It sure isn't for the parents.

We didn't get a week away, because of work, money, and cost.
I am on the bottom of the totem pole as the new clergy person,
so I get to put my dibs in for vacation last.
Two people had already gotten this week.

So pray for us while we have the kids at home the main part of the week.
This morning they woke up so excited they could not contain themselves.
They are already wild, and Zach is being smart-alecky already.
Fortunately the church is running their Camp Trinity this week for school age kids.

I will say that Halloween coming has added to their excitement also.
We got their costumes this weekend and they are cute.
Kara is a pirate girl, Katy has a medieval costume, and Zach is Darth Vadar.
They were running around this weekend with their costumes on
pretending they were actually those people.

Kara has pirate sword and Zach has a light saber,
so Katy had to get her some thing to hold.
The store didn't have any thing that really fit her costume,
so she got a pitchfork.
They have been chasing each other with these things.
Had to tell them if you break it, it isn't going to be replaced.

Fun, Fun, Fun.
Memories, Memories, Memories

Saturday, October 04, 2008

isee and iphone

Well, I gave in and got an iphone yesterday. Our contract was up on our old cell phone and I was looking for a phone that I could do some things I could not do with my other cell phone. It is suppose to be easy to use. However, it has such a learning curve for people like me that it may take me awhile to learn how to do those things. But other than that, I really like the iphone. It is so cool. Now I won't be the only one in meetings not surfing the web or not texting. But man is that annoying. The next thing we are going to have to do is connect our worship services with text messaging or web stuff so people who are tempted to pull out their phones in worship will have something to log into that connects with the worship. MMM not a bad idea.


Friday, October 03, 2008

The St. Francis' Friday Five

Sally would like to dedicate this Friday Five for RevGalBlogPals to St Francis of Assisi. (She has written a nice history of St. Francis as well in the blog post.)

1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call, has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle? Yes, I have run into several events that has altered my life and lifestyle. The biggest turn in my life as of recent was the adoption of my children. I wouldn't trade the change for anything, I think it is a change for the better.

2. Francis experienced mocking and persecution, quite often in the comfortable west this is far from our experience. If you have experienced something like this how do you deal with it, if not how does it challenge you to pray for those whose experience is daily persecution? Sally, what a great question. I am so free from persecution especially living in the Bible Belt of the south. But how do I remember to pray for those who experience that daily Persecution? I think having children from China, going to China, and meeting people from China reminds me. I try to keep up with the news about persecutions in the countries, so I can pray for them. I am aware that Christianity was founded on the very blood, persecution and death of the early Christians. And my Savior was beaten, and killed.

3 .St Francis had female counterpart in St Clare, she was influenced by St Francis sermon and went on to found the Poor Clare's, like the Franciscans they depended on alms this was unheard of for women in that time, but she persisted and gained permission to found the order. How important are role models like St Clare to you? Do you have a particular female role model whose courage and dedication inspires you? If so share their story.... You know, I love the stories of people like Clare, and other women of the faith. We are just now beginning to appreciate their stories and writings. It is interesting that you would ask this question. I want to lift up my mom. I spoke about her yesterday in a book study group I have joined, and realized anew what a woman of faith, courage, and grace she was and still is. I truly admire her coming to know Jesus in her adult life, wanting to know more, growing in her faith, willingness to love and serve others. When all the civil rights movements were going on and churches had deacons standing at the doors ready to throw any black out attempted to come in like my church, my mom took a different tact. She went to their churches, had a friend that was black, helped them with their VBS, and other events. I really don't know what that cost her in the church, but in my eyes that raised her several notches high.

4. Francis loved nature and animals, how important is an expressed love of the created world to the Christian message today? I think we have neglected this message for a long time. I think it is more important now than ever, after all it is God's creation. In Genesis we are told to be stewards of the earth, and frankly we haven't been very good stewards.

5. On a lighter note; have you ever led a service of blessing for animals, or a pet service, was it a success, did you enjoy it, and would you do it again? No, I have offered at the churches I have served, but not been allowed to do so. Maybe one day. I have done funeral services for them, but that's not very light. But I do think the episode of the Vicar of Dibley on the service of the blessing for animals is one of her finest.

Bonus: My first intro to St. Francis was in the movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

You can find a lot of clips and songs from the movie at YouTube; Here is one: Donovan singing Brother Sun, Sister Moon