Big Challenges

Do you know where you were and what you were doing 50 years ago?  I do, at least for a very specific moment in time.  The date was July 20, 1969 – I was 9 years old at the time (yes, now you know my age.) The moment I’m thinking of was when we, the United States, landed a manned spacecraft on the moon. 

 As I remember it, in the late afternoon of July 20, mom and dad herded all us kids into the car and we drove to the home of Wesley and Jean DeHaai.  A bunch of mom and dad’s friends had gathered there to watch TV and share in this historic moment.  There were other kids present from the various families assembled, many of them were playing outside.  However, I was fascinated with “space” and the idea that we were actually sending a human to the moon, so I was glued to that TV.  I remember watching a sweating and anxious Walter Cronkite as he talked America through what was going on.  There was relief and even joy when the words came from the surface of the moon, “The Eagle has landed.”  meaning the spacecraft, named the Eagle, had successfully landed on the moon.

 As we were leaving later that evening, I remember looking up at the moon and thinking… “Wow, there’s a person up there now!”  For me that moment brought the realization that something that seems impossible to accomplish is likely quite do-able when enough effort, energy, and determination is applied. 

 The journey toward this great accomplishment didn’t begin just days earlier when Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral.  It didn’t even begin the year or two earlier when the parts for the rocket and spacecraft were being designed, created and assembled.  No really, the great accomplishment of putting a man on the moon began with President Kennedy stating the challenge that America would put a person on the moon by the end of the decade – and it was 1962 when President Kennedy gave that speech. 

 A famous line from the “Moon” speech is “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard.” And indeed, the challenge, the difficulty, the opportunity seemed to bring the nation together to accomplish an incredible goal.  And we did it!

 Today we live in a world and nation filled with many challenges.  There are many difficulties facing the Church and even our local church.  The number of people not attending a worship service on any given weekend is growing.  The percentage of people who don’t have ANY knowledge or experience with a church is growing.  The number of people who are turned-off by what they see in the church in our nation is growing.  All of this can be so despairing…or it can be a point of realizing there is an opportunity before us as a church to do something hard, but something that will impact this world for God’s Kingdom.  What’s the “hard” thing we are being called to reach for?  What’s our next big step?

This question I just asked comes from a huge ten-foot banner I saw at NASA a few years back.  The picture was of the famous “footprint on the Moon” and the caption on the banner said, “What’s our next big step?”  This banner was intended to keep the people looking to the next challenge, even BIG challenge, and not just settle for what they’ve already accomplished. 

 So, my question is, for us as a church what is our next big step to keep us reaching beyond the walls of our church to share the love of Jesus with the next generation from the heart of downtown?  We have a mission to accomplish!  It might even seem impossible…but so did putting a person on the moon to a nine-year-old boy 50 years ago.

 I was struck just the other day by a Facebook post by friend and fellow pastor Adam Weber of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls.  Adam posted… “If we spend even half of the time and energy we use criticizing other Christians, pastors, and churches…on loving, serving, and pointing others to Jesus instead, we just might change the world.”   Amen!!  These are hard days…but we are drawn toward overcoming hard things!  Yes…let’s change the world!!

ATTITUDE!

 ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!!  No, I’m really not shouting at you through the printed page (all caps and bolded letters is akin to shouting in the texting or messaging world).  It’s just that I want to emphasize what most of us know to be true.  Attitude is really a very powerful force that we can control.  Truly, attitude is everything!!

 I felt this truth lived out in my life not too long ago.  I was having a “Crabby Pastor” kind of day which was coloring my outlook on things.  I walked into a store to do some business.  The salesclerk greeted me, but by the expression on her face I sensed that she wasn’t having the best of days either.  I told her what I was there to pick up.  She found the order and rang it up.  The total cost was more than what I expected.  I questioned it, she had a response.  I felt like two potentially crabby people were staring at each other and both on the verge of taking their crabbiness up on notch.  Nope, we didn’t want to go down that road.  I paid the bill and moved on, hoping that each of our days would go better.

For my next purchase I decided to do something a bit different.  I thought I’d try changing my attitude and see if that would change the overall experience that I had with the sales staff.  So, I picked up my items to purchase and went to the checkout station.  The clerk was rushing around trying to stock shelves in between caring for customers.  I was interrupting her progress with getting things on the shelf.  I recognized a potential crabby moment approaching. 

 The clerk noticed what I was purchasing (OK, it happened to be two large bags of mint M&M’s).  She kind of grunted.  I said, “These are my favorites.”  She said, “They are the best!”   I said, “I know, and these are the last two bags, I didn’t leave any for you!”  The clerk laughed and proceeded to tell me about her favorite Christmas brownie recipe using mint M&M’s.  After her mouth-watering description, I said, “I’m coming by next Christmas.  I want to try those.”  She laughed and said, “Come on by, I love to bake.” 

 And just like that, my purchase was rung up, cash was exchanged, my items were bagged, and it was time to move on so the next customer could be cared for.  We both exchanged, “You have a great rest of the day!”  We both left that moment feeling good, with genuine smiles.  I can even say the “crabby pastor” feeling was pushed way back into the deep recesses of my mind, all because of a brief one-minute conversation. 

 I walked out of that store feeling more positive and light-hearted than I had when I walked in, all because of a shift from focusing on the troubles of my day to that of considering how to connect with another person experiencing the journey of life with me.  Attitude is everything! 

 It seems that our world is filled with tension, anxiety, and psychological or emotional darkness.  What the world needs is more light.  Thank goodness, as Jesus followers, we know someone who said, “I am the light of the world.”  Today, let’s each focus on bringing the light to the world.  Think of all the lives we can touch and maybe even impact for the better.  Attitude is everything!!  This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine!

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

"When"

Words can be so important!  How we use them…how we say them…how we understand them.  Words can be so important!  Just this morning as I was taking some time to connect with God by reading in the Bible, I was reminded of how one word can change, or at least effect the understanding of a verse.

 During my quiet time this morning I was reading from Isaiah 43.  Specifically, I was reading the first couple verses of Isaiah 43, and even though these are verses that I’ve read numerous times in the past year (it was a used with VBS last year, it was often referred to in a study I led recently, etc.) in my reading this morning a specific word jumped out at me.  That word… “when.” Here is the specific passage I was reading;

 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

 I’ve added the bold and underlining just so we all notice the number of times the word “when” is used.  The passage is saying that difficulties and challenging situations will come our way in this world and in our life.  To help show this perspective, below is The Message version of Isaiah 43:2.  I really like the way it puts it.

 When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.  

When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—

This passage is wanting us to get in touch with those moments in our own life when life is difficult, when we’re feeling all alone, when we’re unsure what the way out is, when we are unsure if we can make it through, when we’re feeling discouraged and helpless.  Wow, that hits me where I live, as they say.  I’ve had those moments!

 This morning the word “when” really hit me.  You see, I believe that at times the word we tend to hear is “if.”  If you pass through the waters, if you pass through the rivers, if you walk through the fire…  “If” conveys these situations, or these struggles might not happen.  All too often I find that I read the word “when,” but my mind thinks “if.”  It’s easy to do.  At times the thought process is, “Well, I go to church, so bad things won’t happen to me.”  “Well, I live in this part of the community so bad things won’t happen to me.”  “Well, I live in this great country, so bad things won’t happen to me.”  Or “I’m from such and such family, so bad things won’t happen to me.”  Have you ever sensed one of those lines popping up in your mind?  I have. 

 What Isaiah is saying is, it’s just a matter of time – it will happen.  Darkness, hurts and struggles are a reality of life.  But WHEN struggles come your way, just remember that God is with you.  We do not have to be defeated or overwhelmed by the circumstance of life…God will be with us.  That is what Isaiah wants us to know!

 It seems there are so many struggles that fill the world.  So many difficulties touch our lives.  Today, Isaiah 43:1-2 are words that I am going to hang on to…  In the midst of the struggles of life, in the midst of the hurts and challenges, another short little word is so important to remember, “will.”  God says, “I will be with you.”

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

Breakthrough Prayer

Lord, use me for your breakthrough Kingdom purposes, in our church, in our community, and in our world. Amen

 It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve written a Friday Pastor’s Reflection.  So, I’ll give it a try this week and see if I can still remember how!   

 We have a new Breakthrough Prayer for our church family to be praying together.  I’ve already heard several people say they really like this prayer.  It’s short, it’s simple, and it has a laser like focus on what is important…God using each of us for God’s Kingdom Purposes wherever we are needed. I hope you will be using this prayer daily.    

 I’ve had people ask me why we keep repeating the breakthrough prayer?  Why do we come up with a new one every so often?  Or another way I’ve had it put to me is… “What’s with this breakthrough prayer thing…?”

 As a refresher for us all, our church family was introduced to the Breakthrough Prayer Initiative as a part of the MCCI training process.  The leader of this process, Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey, believes (and just so you know, I totally agree with her) that everything in the church needs to begin and be surrounded in prayer.  So, as we seek to be a witness for God’s Kingdom, as we strive to be servants of God in this community, as we yearn to do ministry that touches lives with the Love of Jesus, it all needs to begin with prayer!!

 This really goes hand in hand with my message from Sunday about the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Remember what I said about the phrase from Acts 1:8, “You will receive power…”  Part of the meaning behind that phrase is “to take a hold of.” Remember the demonstration I did in worship – handing a bottle of pop to someone.  But really, I didn’t just hand it to them, I made each person lean forward and reach for the bottle.  In other words, they had to “take ahold of” the bottle.  They had to be involved in the process of receiving it.  So, it is with the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s there waiting for us; we just need to take a hold of it. 

 This is exactly where I believe prayer comes in.  Prayer isn’t just about us giving God a “to do” or “I want” list.  Prayer is about being open to the voice and Spirit of God guiding and empowering us to do the work, the Kingdom Work, that God wants done here on earth. 

 We are continuing with our MCCI process.  The work is not done.  Actually, it is just beginning.  This is why our continued praying of the breakthrough prayer is so important.  Please join me in praying this prayer every day…and then be open to God’s Holy Spirit using each of us for God’s Breakthrough Kingdom Purposes…wherever it may lead!

 Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

 Lord, use me for your breakthrough Kingdom purposes, in our church, in our community, and in our world. Amen.

Learning Never Stops

This is the season of graduations.  Over the past three weeks I’ve seen the pictures of the graduating seniors for all the area high schools.  I’ve attended several graduation parties.  I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of everything from preschool graduations to graduate degree graduations.  This is truly a time for recognizing accomplishments and achievements in learning. 

 So, the question I want to ask today is this, “What have you learned this past year?”  Or another way to put it, “What new degree could or should you receive, or what accomplishment do you need to recognize in your own life?”  Now understand, I’m not talking about a “participation trophy” for just being in an event or making it through a situation.  I’m asking what have you learned?  How have you grown this past year that is making you a better person today than you were six months ago? 

 Now, just so you know, I get it.  Once many of us get out of “school” we’re tired of it and we want to get on with our lives.  When I graduated from seminary back in 1986, I calculated that I had been in school of one type or another for 20 years of my 26 year life…and that’s not counting Mrs. Sorenson and Kindergarten.  When I graduated from seminary, I said, “I’m done” with school. 

 But the truth is, even though I did complete my formal education back in 1986, I have continued to learn new things year after year since then.  It’s just that I generally haven’t gotten a degree or certificate (diploma) to go along with my learning.  For instance, this past year, actually, just the past 3 months, I’ve been working with an executive coach.  In just the short time we’ve been working together I have already learned some new things about myself and how I can be more effective in ministry.  (By the way, in case you’re wondering, an Executive Coach is intended to help me learn to be a better leader and to be more effective as a Lead Pastor.) 

 The reason this coaching is important is because with only having one pastor on staff at Downtown Mitchell First UMC, namely me, I am going to have to learn to do things differently.  I am going to have to learn to be more effective and diligent in giving ministry away to the people of our church, because my time and ability will not allow me to do what Jerry and I have been doing together. 

 Actually, this is the way that ministry is most effective.  This is what Jesus modeled with the disciples.  He was continually equipping and sending the disciples (lay people) to do the work of ministry in the communities in the Jerusalem and Galilee areas, the places where Jesus spent most of his time. 

 So, today I’m going to take a piece of paper and write on it the things I’ve learned this past year.  I’m going to roll it up and tie a ribbon around it.  After all, if you do a Google Image Search of “graduation diploma” a common image you’ll see is a rolled-up piece of paper with a ribbon around it.  I’m going to hand it to myself, congratulate myself, and then challenge myself to keep on learning.  You see, God isn’t done with me yet…and there’s always more to learn.  I would also challenge you to do the same thing.  Write down the things you’ve learned this past year.  Take a moment to celebrate what you’ve achieved.  And then, jump back in, keep on learning and growing, because God isn’t done with you yet either.  Here’s to all the graduates of 2019… including each of us!!!

 Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

Mission Work

There are many things about this church family that makes me proud to be the pastor here at Downtown Mitchel First UMC, but one of the main reasons is how we do missions.  The mission emphasis that our church has and that our church members carry out is really quite significant for our community.  

 Of course, Love Feast is one of the main mission focuses we have, which also entails the backpack/school supply give-away in the fall.  As I type these words, a blood drive is taking place here at our church.  That’s another way we are in mission.  There’s our support of the Mitchell Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, etc.  Yesterday evening a number of our High School Youth Group delivered flowers and Mother’s Day Cards to some of the women of our church who are shut-ins at home or are in one of the care facilities in our community, because they wanted these individuals to know we remember them and that we care. 

 A percentage of our offerings go to various mission projects our Church’s Missions Team has identified for us.  There’s the “Kits,” a team in our church assembles these faithfully.  The prayer shawls, and quilting ministry.  There’s the United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men who quietly do mission work that most of us never hear about.  If we identified the number of organizations, the hours our church family dedicates to various causes, and dollars given in support of these ministries and programs, it would truly be amazing. 

 So, the question becomes, “Why?”  Why do we do all this mission work?  There are a number of valid answers to that question; we want to make a difference in our community, we want to help people, our faith calls us to serve.  These are all possible answers.  But another answer might be, because it is “life giving” for those involved in the work. 

 Recently in my personal quiet time, I read a passage from the Book of Psalms.  It was Psalms 52 to be exact.  In this Psalm the writer is showing the difference between the life of one who follows the path of godliness and the one who follows the path of evil.  Part of the imagery in the Psalm says the person who follows the evil path will be uprooted.  Another passage says, “God will break you down.”  The visual image is that the person who focuses on evil in this world will cut off and eventually wither away. 

 After our recent late spring snow storm, I’ve been amazed at the number of limbs that were broken off trees.  In fact, I’ve seen an entire tree toppled by the wind and the snow.  It is slowly dying.  That’s the image the Psalmist wants us to have – those who chose to live apart from God will slowly die off and fade away.  But then the writer also goes on to say that he is a “green olive tree” in the house of God.  In other words, he’s saying he finds “life” and “bears fruit” because of the steadfast connection to God. 

 Missions is not the only way to stay connected to God, but it is a great way to live the values of God.  It is a great way to be the hands and feet of God.  It is a great way to know that one is making a difference in the world for at least one other person.  If you see someone with a bit of a bounce in their step and a gleam of life in their eyes, chances are they are involved in mission work in some way.  Are you feeling disconnected, cut off from people or from God?  It isn’t a magic answer…but you might give some type of mission work a try.  You too can be like a “green olive tree in the house of God.”  You too can find life!

 Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

The Cross

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.”   Those are the opening words of a rather well-known hymn, a hymn that is popular this time of year.  Today is Good Friday, so there is much focus on the cross – the Roman instrument of execution.

 Now I understand what the hymn is communicating in that first line.  The writer is saying that Jesus death took place a long way from where we live here in America, where the writer penned these words, “On a hill far away…” Jerusalem is literally a long way from here.  Yet the truth is, crucifixion was intended to be an up-close-and-personal means of execution. 

 Rome was truly “large and in charge” in the region where Jesus lived.  They were able to maintain their power and control by intimidation and by sheer force.  Thus, crucifixion was not only a form of punishment, it was also a means of communicating a clear message to the people of the region.  For this reason, crucifixions took place in public places.  One preacher I was listening to recently made the comment that just as billboards, in our society, are put up in the places where they know there is high traffic numbers, the same was true with where crucifixions were carried out under Rome.  They wanted as many people as possible to see it, young and old alike, because part of the message was, “If you cause trouble for Rome, this could be you!” 

 Often it is portrayed that the bystanders present for Jesus crucifixion were kept at a distance.  But the reality is that friends and family of the one being punished were often allowed to get close, possibly even close enough to touch the person…without interfering with the dying process.  Of course, this was intended to maximize the emotional pain for friends and family; being so close and yet unable to do anything to stop or change what was happening.  Yes, crucifixion was truly a horrendous practice, which is why we like to keep Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified, at a distance. (On a hill far away…) 

 

However, part of the reason we recognize Good Friday on our journey of Lent, is because this day is an important part of the story.  It’s an important part of recognizing God’s desire to connect with humanity.  It is an important part of realizing the extent to which Jesus was willing to demonstrate God’s love for all people.  This day has an important part to play in our understanding of what it can mean to say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

 We may sing “On a hill far away…” but my hope for myself, and for all of us, is that today especially, this “hill” will be close, very close.  I pray that it will be close enough to break through the hardness of my heart, that it will pierce the unloving attitudes that sometimes pop up within me, and that it will allow me to once again hear Jesus utter the word “FINISHED!” and then realize there is nothing I can do to earn God’s forgiveness.  “On a hill, close at hand…is a cross…”

 Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

 Join us here at Downtown Mitchell First UMC for our Good Friday and Easter Services

Good Friday – April 19 – 7:00 pm – Good Friday service in the sanctuary

Easter Sunday – April 21 – 7:00 am – Easter Sunrise Service

                                            7:30 am – Easter Breakfast

                                            8:30 & 11:00 am – Easter Worship Celebration

A Day of Rest

Winter storm Wesley…  He has delivered quite a blow to South Dakota, one that we’re going to be feeling for a while.  As I write this article on Friday morning, we are snowed in here at home.  I’ve already seen two 4-wheel drive pickups get stuck on the streets by my home.  Thanks to my trusty snowblower, my driveway is clear, but there’s no guarantees beyond that! 

 I’m sure this storm will be talked about for years to come.  The damage and affects of the storm are still being assessed.  Of course, many of the school kids are happy.  They get a couple days out of school.  I remember feeling that way when a blizzard gave us a “snow day.”  However, when these days have to be made up by the end of the year…well, that won’t be such a point of celebration.  I know of a few adults who were celebrating the fact that they too got an unexpected gift…a day off of work because they couldn’t get out.  Woo Hoo!!! YA for unexpected gifts like that!!!

 We do tend to pack so much into our days and weeks.  Work, activities, appointments, tasks, etc.  We all tend to be constantly on the go.  I know I tend to be that way, and my personal and work calendar reflects this reality for me.  It is sort of nice when the gift of having a day where one must stay home, comes along.  It really is a gift.  It is something most of us need. 

 But you know, the reality is we have been given this gift of Time-Off.  It’s just that we ignore, or don’t use the gift.  What I mean is if you read the creation story in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God displays for us and then tells us that 6 days we can work, etc.  But the 7th day is to be a Sabbath, a day of rest.  God knew from the beginning the importance of having a break, having a time of rest in our lives, and having a time to reconnect with God.  So, God built “rest” into the rhythm of our week, that’s how valuable it is.  But the truth is, we humans have pretty much chosen to ignore the “gift” that God said we needed and provided for us.  I have heard people proudly say, “I’m on the go 24/7!”  But that isn’t as it is supposed to be.

 Maybe we Methodists should say that winter storm “Wesley” is a gift from our founder, John Wesley.  Wesley was a hard working / driven man.  But he also recognized the need for rest too.  So, maybe “Wesley” is simply reminding us…we need to pause…we need to slow down…we need to rest.  Rest really is a part of God’s plan for our lives.  Rest really is supposed to be a part of the rhythm of our week.  Rest really is a gift from God. 

 I realize that a blizzard brings a different kind of work to many of us.  I’ll be out shoveling and blowing snow once the snow plow makes its way down Sawgrass Avenue.  And yes, computers make it more difficult to have a snow day…because we can work from home (like what I’m doing right now).  But still, may we allow Wesley, the storm, to remind us of the importance of the gift that God gave us “In the beginning”…REST.

 Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

 Join us Sunday for our Palm Sunday celebration.  Worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  The children will sing at both services.  Also join us for all our Holy Week activities.  Wednesday’s Downtown meal/worship/studies, beginning at 5:15, Maundy Thursday Service, Thursday at 7:00 pm; Good Friday Service, Friday at 7:00 pm; Easter Sunrise at 7:00 am, Easter Brunch at 7:30, Easter Worship at 8:30 and 11:00 am.  Hope to see you there.

Always Going the Same Way

  As I write this reflection, I’m in Kansas City attending a 2-day training workshop at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.  This morning, as I was on the way to the church, from my hotel, I had my first learning moment, even though the workshop hadn’t even begun. 

 I’ve been to COR (Church of the Resurrection) a number of times for leadership and training events, so I have my usual hotel that I like to stay in.  Just to make sure I remembered what roads I was supposed to go on, I turned on the navigation feature in my smart phone and told Siri to get me to COR. 

 So, I’m making my way in the rush hour traffic, heading to the church.  Siri was taking me the way I remembered, so I felt like I really didn’t need the navigation help.  Suddenly, Siri told me to turn left in a quarter of a mile.  “Wait a minute,” I thought, “I usually don’t turn there.”  I was in the left lane anyway, so I was looking up ahead to see if I was forgetting a turn.  “Turn left in 500 ft.”  Siri said.  This can’t be right, I thought.  But I got in the left turn lane.

 The light was red, and as I sat there, I found myself thinking. “This can’t be right…I know this isn’t right.  I usually don’t turn here.  Where is Siri taking me?  Did a new destination get plugged into the system?”  There was a small break in the westbound traffic and I briefly thought about quickly jumping back into that lane of traffic in order to go the “usual” way to my intended destination.  Just then the turn arrow lit up, and I decided to go that way and see where it took me.  I was convinced I was on a road to the wrong destination because this wasn’t the way I had gone before. 

 Once on the “new” road, Siri said that I would turn right in 2 ½ miles onto Roe Avenue.  Hey, Church of the Resurrection is on Roe Avenue. I just might actually make it!  And you know what…traffic was actually really light on this “new” route.  That’s when I realized Siri knew something I didn’t, that there was significant rush hour congestion on the route I usually take to COR, but this new way (which actually wasn’t available a few years ago) now offered a new route with a LOT less traffic.  Hmmmm…I just might have to go that way again tomorrow!!! 😊

 As I reflected on this experience several lessons came to mind.  1.  My “usual” way is not always the best way.  2.  Sometimes I need to trust “someone” with a better perspective on things.  3.  Just because I haven’t gone a certain way (or done something that way) in the past doesn’t mean that it isn’t the best way to arrive at a desired destination now.  4.  New information, though unexpected, can be helpful on the journey.  5. Taking a new path can be really uncomfortable to begin with, but it just might lead to something positive and even beneficial in the long-run.   I’m sure there are other lessons, but these are the immediate ones that come to mind.  E-mail me your similar experiences and your take-aways / lessons learned. 

 Sharing the journey with you…as together we grow in Christ!

Pastor Keith

 

Do You Need an Automatic Update?

Most of us have probably heard the saying, “Technology is great…when it works right.”  What that means is that when it’s functioning properly, technology (computers, smart phones, etc.) is a great tool.  But when it isn’t functioning properly, technology can become the biggest aggravation imaginable.  For this reason, many computers and computer software companies utilize something called “automatic updates” to keep their equipment and programs running smoothly and correctly. 

 How “updating” is supposed to work is that the user sets the time that is convenient or acceptable for the update to take place.  However, my experience is that isn’t always the case.  It might be that the computer is turned off or isn’t connected to the internet when the update is to happen.  There can be many different reasons, but the transfer of new information, the update, doesn’t take place when scheduled.  Thus, the next time the computer is turned on or is connected to the internet, the update automatically begins, sometimes at a not-so-convenient time, thus causing frustration because the equipment isn’t usable until the update process is complete.

 The other issue I’ve discovered with an “update” is that at times it will change how things appear on the screen or it will change how something functions.  Again, frustration abounds as the “user” must re-learn how things work and how to do what they need to do.  On one hand, automatic updates are great.  On the other hand, automatic updates can be a real pain in the neck. 

 Sometimes I wish our faith came with automatic updates.  You know, when new information is available from God, or when new knowledge gives new insights about how to live out faith, I wish it would just automatically download within us…and the update would take place, no fuss, no muss.  Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the way things work in our journey of faith.  No, usually there’s a fair amount of praying and struggling, wondering and wrestling that goes on within a person as “updates” are made in our hearts and souls. 

 In my personal quiet-time I’m reading from the Old Testament prophets.  They were bringing a faith “update” from God.  But the people of God weren’t interested in an update on living God’s way.  They just wanted to keep on living with the unhelpful and even unfaithful behaviors and patterns that were actually taking them further away from God.  Yet God was pleading for the people to realize there was a better way. 

 In some ways you could say Lent is a time of focusing on updates for our faith.  Lent is an intentional time of listening for God’s voice and Spirit speaking to us and nudging us onward on this journey.  It’s a time of asking deep questions and seeking to grow in our understanding of who God is and how God desires us to live our faith.  A question I often ask during Lent is, “Am I following Jesus more closely this year than I was last year?”  or “Am I reflecting more of Jesus in my life this year than last year?”  Sometimes it’s hard to answer that question, but then when I think about my faith journey of five years ago, I can see the growth more clearly. 

 Today, as we continue through Lent and reflect on our faith journey, there won’t be any automatic updates that come our way, but by spending intentional time with God in Bible Reading, Prayer, and other spiritual disciplines, it is likely that God will speak to each of us with the wisdom and insight that will help us walk more closely with God.  The journey isn’t always easy, but it always leads us towards God. 

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith