Prayer Napkin?

This is a scan of the actual note that was left on my car a couple of months ago.  Whomever penned this obviously wanted a lot more room to get or out of their vehicle.  Here’s the thing though, the parking structure where I was parked must have been built in the 1970s or 80s or in a time when bigger vehicles were not around.  I wedged my car in the parking spot WITHIN THE PAINTED LINES! Not with my back tire on the line or cutting into another spot, but within the lines.  If I had been in the wrong I would have taken my napkin and gone home and probably remembered the next time I parked somewhere.

This was not good enough for the prayer napkin writer.

I am glad that someone out there is praying for me even though it is for me to learn a skill I have already mastered, but nonetheless I am thankful.

Is this what Christianity for some has become?  Passive aggressive prayer warrior-ship?  Is this what the followers of Christ are supposed to do, leave napkins on unsuspecting cars starting off all nicey nicey and then hitting you over the head with your faults?  I have trouble believing that is something called for by God.

And then I began to wonder if it was because of the “clergy” sticker on the back of my car… sure it is helpful on pastoral visits at the hospital but did it make me a target?

Whatever the answer may be I got a good laugh out of it and a nice piece for my office.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Lent: Disconnecting in a Connected World

Below is a link to my first article printed in the Orange County Record.  It is entitled “Lent: Disconnecting in a Connected World.”

I was given some short notice for this particular article but I am pleased with it.

Link to the Article: Click Here

Also, they put me on their “Authors Page”- check it out here.

Let me know what you think and if you have any topics you think I should tackle!

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Weekly Column

I am happy to announce that The Orange County Record (The Record for short), a once a week paper made available for all Orange County Residents as asked me to write a weekly column for them in their religious section.

I have to say that I am pretty pumped!

When I told my wife that they asked me she said, “looks like I am married to Carrie Bradshaw!”

Stay tuned for links and posts from the Record!

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon- “We Want To See Jesus”

Today I preached a sermon entitled “We Want to See Jesus” based on John 12:20-33.  Below the link below to listen.  Also, you can listen and read other sermons I have preached by clicking on the Sermon tab at the top or by clicking here.

Sermon Link

Enjoy!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Easter and Parenting (Devotional written for Orange County MOPS)

Below is a devotional I was asked to write for the Orange County Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group here in Orange, Texas.  This was published in their monthly newsletter.

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Often devotionals aimed toward parents often center around the notion of God giving God’s son for the remission of sins for all of humanity.  Generally they follow a certain theme which goes something like this.  “God is a parent, God gave God’s son, it must have been difficult, aren’t you glad that you didn’t have to make that choice? Thank God today for Jesus.”  I’m not saying that I disagree with this albeit formulaic structure but it’s not really the hopeful, uplifting message we are looking for at Easter.  So because of this, I want to break the trend.

The story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the few stories that is found in all four gospels.  It must have been pretty important to the gospel writers considering that only two (Matthew and Luke) of them provide us with a birth account.  This story permeates the rest of the writings contained in the New Testament.   The glorious resurrection is referred to on a number of occasions as the central, most important event that has ever taken place.  So with that in mind what does this mean for us as parents?  How are we to share the Easter story with our family?

Ephesians 6:4 states “As for parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord.” (Common English Bible, 2011 Edition).  Every time I read this passage I laugh because of the opening line, “don’t provoke your children to anger,” but that is not what I want to focus on.  Let’s look at the last half of the verse.

Paul is writing to the church to encourage them to continue to teach their children the story of Jesus Christ, to be devoted to the cause, to make time for it, to set it as a priority in their family’s life.  For Paul the story must be preserved, it must be passed down; remember that this was during a time when the Bible as we know it is was not around.  Church communities relied on the sharing of letters and stories to encourage and lift one another up.

So what are we to do?  I am not advocating that you sit down with your toddler and make them watch The Passion of the Christ, but I do believe that children can begin to learn the story.  Read the Easter account in a children’s bible, ask them what they know about Easter and be prepared for bunnies and candy answersJ.

In whatever way you chose, chose to share the story.  We as parents can have a lot on our plate, from scheduling this to attending that, but if we heed the words of Paul and raise our children in the way of the Lord then we will see what God can do not only in our lives, but in our children’s lives.  Paul’s message to the Ephesians is one that can be translated to 2012, the story of Easter is one that never gets old for we find hope in the story.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

What The Church Can Learn From A Tornado Warning

I have lived in the great state and former county of Texas most of my life.  There are many things that Texas is known for: cowboys, barbecue, high school football, the heat and tornadoes.  Growing up I can remember learning at an early age what the name of the county we lived in and what its shape was so I could easily point it out on the TV screen when a weather alert appeared.  A couple of times my parents woke me and my sisters up to get into the closet in the bathroom because of the tornado sirens were sounding.  Luckily the few shares we had with tornadoes none of them ever struck our house or even populated areas of our town.  Nevertheless it is safe to say, I do not like tornadoes.

On Tuesday, a massive storm swept through Southeast Texas dumping rain so fast the roads began to flood because the drainage system was so overwhelmed.  I tried to drive home, but did not want to have my car end up as a boat, I pulled into a parking lot and called my neighbor who has a gigantic truck.  I was glad he did because even if I had made it to the main road in Orange (which I am not sure I would have) I would not have made it into my neighborhood due to the flooding.

So I got back home a little wet but glad that my family was safe and sound in our home, a blessing for sure. We have recently entered the 21st century and have Dish TV I learned something… Dish and heavy rain do not mix. (check out the picture here).  No big deal… thats why we have a DVR. 🙂  My wife and I were watching something we had recorded when i looked up out our living room window to see the sky had turned green.  If you have ever lived where tornadoes are previlent, you know a green sky at night is not a good sign.  A green sky doesn’t always mean a tornado is coming or present, but that the condiditions might be favorable for one.

Knowing that the satellite tv was out, I took to the internet, going to  a couple of the local news stations’ pages.  Nothing to report… just flash flood warnings and tornado watch.  My computer was open to facebook and I noticed that the local radio station had reported that there was a tornado warning for Orange.  I thought it was odd that the radio station (KOGT 1600AM) knew this information but the news stations did not.  So I looked on the National Weather Service page and sure enough there was tornado warning for Orange County Texas.  My first question was why werent the news stations reporting this online, I couldnt get their tv signal to see if they were interrupting programming but a tornado in any state is important, so report the news!

So armed with my flashlight app (the power went out briefly), my accuweather app (to track the storm on radar) and my facebook app, my wife, my daughter and I went into the interior hallway of our house and waited out the storm.  The wind would whip up and then die back down, the rain would surge and then it would be a light pitter-patter.  The whole time I was checking the weather on my phone and reading posts from people in Orange and the surrounding areas on the KOGT facebook page.  People were writing things like “NWS [National Weather Service]  says out of bridge city/ orange by 7:45…” or ” according to the radio – about 7:27 in Bridge City, headed to West Orange at 7:30 and onto Starks” and “cell was moving fast (35mph). hopefully in the clear soon.”  Gone are the days of just sitting in the quiet or listening to the weather radio, rather people took the internet to express their frustrations and concerns about what was going on outside their window.  In the end, the cell moved on, dumped a bunch of rain and flooded the streets.

So what can the Church learn from this?

First, people are willing and seeking out to share thoughts and information freely about their life, they just need a forum, a place to connect.  Too often the church is a seen a place where people go to re-hear what they already know; as Brian McLaren once put it church/the gospel too often is seen as an “evacuation plan rather than a transformation plan.”  They have heard the stories from their youth and they pretty much have it under control.  Let’s not stir the pot, let’s not shake things up.  We do things this way because its been that way since Carter was in office and why change a good thing?  But the fact of the matter is that people are looking for a place to share, to explore and commune about what is happening in their world.  People take the internet via forums, twitter and facebook to share their thoughts with anyone who will metaphorically listen.  People want to be heard, they want to know that their stories, feelings and experiences matter… to someone… why do you think there are millions of blogs (like this one) on the internet at this very moment?

Second, Community is not bound by the confines of a walled building.  People are connecting in this highly technological world at a rapid pace.  The people who wrote on the radio’s Facebook page were from the same area but maybe didn’t have anything else in common.  People are connecting today because of their love of computers or even “The Hunger Games”…Men, women, boys, girls from 9 to 99 all coming around a common interest.  This however is not the cause when it comes to the church. More often than not people who were not raised in church or disenfranchised with organized religion are not going to come to a church building.  Why?  They have nothing in common with them.  If the perception is that people in the church all understand the Bible in a certain way, they all like the same music and that is that, then why would someone come to that community?  The Church has an opportunity to establish new communities where people can come and express themselves outside the confines of a stained glass windowed building.  Small groups or house churches are great places where the gospel can be shared and even questioned.  I have a small group at my house every week and there are times when people who do not attend my congregation but are looking for community and they find it at my house.  We do Bible studies and ask questions that sometimes someone might be scared or embarrassed to even bring up.

How the church reacts to the notion that  church as we know it, people in a stained glass building singing “A Might Fortress Is Our God,” may not be church of the future.  Not get me wrong, I like “A Might Fortress” and I love the stained glass window of Christ in my congregation’s sanctuary but I understand that church is different for people in different places of their lives.

I am not advocating for the destruction of ‘traditional’ church.  But I am advocating for the church to expand its horizons to different venues, to seek out a different “clientele.”   How can the message of Christ be ‘translated’ to this 21st century, iPhone/iPad driven, blog reading, society?  If you figure that one out, you win the prize.

I believe that the church is at the precipice of a major shift, the church needs to learn from a tornado warning.

Let us take heed.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

A Movement Is Only As Strong As It’s Leader?

Recently I posted about Kony 2012 (original post here).  After the video was released there was a firestorm of reaction.  People took to the web in various forms to either support to denounce the cause.  Twitter was a blaze with the hashtag #kony2012 for several days while the video has received over 83 million views on YouTube alone (that doesn’t count the video on Vimeo).

In the wake of the backlash of Kony 2012, Invisible Children (the non-profit organization behind the movement) has responded with posting answers to frequently asked questions and compiling their financial statements.   All seemed to be fine as people moved on to March Maddness and Payton Manning Watch 2012 until Jason Russell, one of the co-founders of Invisible Children got arrested.  And it wasnt that he just got arrested it was the fact that he was arrested naked, and maybe drunk and maybe doing inappropriate things in view of the public.

News of this spread around the web faster than the oringial Kony 2012 video… hashtags of #horny2012 or #bony2012 began to pop up all over Twitter, even making it to “top trends.”  While the exact cause(s) have not been officially released but that hasn’t stopped the speculation.

Now I know I am a bit late in writing about this but I wanted to see what would come of it.

This got me thinking… how will this effect the Kony 2012 movement?  Will the movement now be tainted?  Should people who are supporting this not because of Jason Russell’s actions?  If Russell’s arrest teaches us anything is that no matter how well intentioned, at our core we are all human and ultimately can make mistakes.  I hope that it was just dehydration and not something more serious.

In our culture, we hold up people to almost perfect standards.  At the sign of struggle or making a gaff then everything you stand for or are fighting for is put into question.  Campaigns, causes and movements are all examined under a metaphorical microscope to point out flaws and inconsistencies.

Prior to this very public incident, Kony 2012 has completely sold out of their ‘action kits’, t-shirts and wristbands.  Is this because Kony 2012 a fad?  Will it actually help to find Kony and have him brought to trial with the ICC?  Is shedding light on Kony making him famous like Invisible Children want?  Or is it because this is a cause that people resonate with?

Honestly, I do not know… only time will tell…

I do believe that shedding light on Kony’s actions which most of the world did not know about it a good thing.  If hearing about the plight of the children that have been effected by him turns our stomachs then something must be done.  Sure there are children dying around the world and even in our own backyard and they need to have a voice too.  God’s call for humanity to love is one that transcends country barriers, skin color and language.  It is at the core of the gospel message.

In the end I am sure we will never know the full extent of what really happened with Jason Russell, but the fact still remains that the Kony 2012 campaign is still a hot topic of debate.

I’m Keeping My Day Job

In a previous post, I laid out for you my predictions of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Bracket Challenge.  My goal 40-50% correct.  Through the first 3 rounds I am at 58.3% correct….but, with the quick exit of Missouri, Duke and Florida State the next few rounds aren’t looking so good.  I had Mizzou going all the way and Florida State in the Final Four.

All of this to say that I am keeping my day job and will not be accepting the position at ESPN to be their Senior Bracket Analyst.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon- “Light”

Today I preached a sermon entitled “Light” based on the scripture John 3:14-21.  You can find the link below.

Click here for the sermon.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

The Gospel According to Starbucks?

Given the influx of technology into the popular culture, it is hard to miss its influence. I mean for starters you would not be reading this if it were not for the complex interworkings of the ever famous inter-web.  More and more people we are becoming connected through social networking, media and e-mail. The world has become a lot smaller because of it. If something was to occur on the other side of the world, like an earthquake in Japan, we would know about it in a matter of minutes. News travels fast these days.
Because of this increase in technology more and more people are able to share their ideas about various topics: politics, sports, religion and others. Blogs, books, manifestos and websites are created so that their voice and opinion and understanding on a certain topic may be heard.  Because of this many from all walks of life are connecting, sharing and creating all centered around a common interest and theme.  Has the church seperated itself too  much form the public that people, especially young people, are searching and seeking out spiritual resources elsewhere?  The answer is a resounding…. Yes.

Not all communities of faith are this way but the fact remains the church has to serve something newer, fresher, livelier than what the overwhelming majority are providing.

I was given a book a few years ago and at first glance I didn’t know what to think of it. Then I read it and it had some pretty good insights, some I agreed with and some I did not.

The book is entitled The Gospel According to Starbucks. That’s right… Starbucks the coffee and tea company.

Here is a quote from the book:

Jesus did not endure his time on earth out of a sense of obligation. His life was characterized by joy and energy; it was spent in relationship with others. Today, too many Christians line up to follow out of duty of guilt, or even hoping to win a ticket to Heaven. They completely miss the warmth and richness of the experience of living with God. They fail to pick up the aroma of what God is doing in their part of town. Here’s the truth: God has set up shop where you live. The doors are open and the coffee is brewing. God is serving the refreshing antidote to the conventional, unsatisfying, armslength spiritual life—and God invites you in. God won’t make you stand in line.

I thought that this was a great metaphor for the church and the relationship that we have with it.
The church is serving something that other places are not, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We as the church body need to be aware of that fact and find ways to share the Gospel message with all people.  This means trying new things, new styles, ways of interpretations and experiencing the Divine.  Within the ever unfolding story of God we find the warmth and richness portrayed in quote above, the only problem is that we have to find ways to share it better.  Sadly, there is no quick fix.  All we can do is strive for the time when the faith that we hold so dear to us and have experienced so richly is kindled in someone else.

The Church has a pretty big task ahead of it… but the church has changed before and it will do it again…

May the invite of the Church be: The doors are open and the coffee is brewing, God is waiting.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan