Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a deacon dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Category: Christianity (page 1 of 3)

Prayer: Foggy Days

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God has prepared for those who love him – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10, NIV)

Lord, today is a foggy day.  We aren’t fans of foggy days. We have places to go, and the fog only slows us down.

Lord, you know that foggy days are a lot of things.

Depression and anxiety.  Continue reading

Book Review: An Exact Likeness

27297236._UY200_An Exact Likeness: The Portraits of John Wesley, Richard P. Heitzenrater, Abingdon Press, 2016.

The latest from Dr. Heitzenrater is for all the Methodist nerds.

Heitzenrater is the leading Wesley scholar of our time. In his latest book, An Exact Likeness, the Duke Divinity professor explores the many different portraits of the great preacher. As in paintings, engravings, and busts of the founder of Methodism.

If you want to call it biography, you can. But be forewarned, the subject is the portraits, not Mr. Wesley. Heitzenrater’s writing is approachable as he explains the history of the varying portraits. Heitzenrater draws connections between historical evidence and Wesley’s journals as to which portraits Wesley sat for and which he did not.

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More Than Firewood

More Than FirewoodWhen I was a kid, in the cold of winter, we heated our home through a wood stove – a fireplace. One of our chores during those cold months was to bring firewood up to the house so that there would be wood near by in the cold of the night.

The firewood chores, however, started well before winter. Sometimes as early as the summer, but always during the fall. Any trees that had fallen during a summer storm, or that just needed to come down, were fair game. Dad would cut the trees with a chain saw, and then the splitting would happen with an ax. We would be responsible for hauling the split wood to the wood pile and stack it just right.

It was sometime in 2008, while working at Lebanon United Methodist, I got a phone call about firewood. There was someone in our community without firewood to heat their home in the cold winter days. In the county over there was a church who had a firewood ministry, and as such they had a stock pile. They allowed us to use their wood. I called the United Methodist Men‘s president, Claude, and we rode out to load up a trailer full of wood and deliver it to the home in need.

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Pete’s Dragon: Discussion Questions

Petes-Dragon-Movie-PosterPete’s Dragon is the newest family film from Disney. It is a brilliant film filled with adventure, laughs, and plenty of tear-jerkers. It is a great film to take a youth group, or other group, to. You can read my ponderings on the film here.

Below are some discussion questions you can use with your group. I’m sharing them here for those who are looking for such a resource. As a Christian educator, I should tell you, if you use these questions, don’t feel like you have to use them all. If anything, let the questions be a guide to having a conversation around the themes presented in the film.

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Yellow Butterflies

“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthrone

Yellow ButterfliesAs I was preparing worship and a sermon for what would be my last Sunday at Peakland United Methodist as their Associate Minister, the communications coordinator, Kim, shared with me the bulletin cover she designed. It had a key verse from one of the scriptures I was using and a picture of a butterfly. It was perfect on all sorts of levels.

I hesitated to ask her to change anything. Finally, I asked if it would be possible to make the orange butterfly a yellow butterfly.  She gave me one of those, “that’s an odd request” look, and then said, “Sure.”

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Loving God, Loving Each Other

The following is the note I wrote for Peakland Pages, the monthly newsletter at Peakland United Methodist in Lynchburg. 

In a seminary class we were asked to identify five theological rocks that grounded our ministry. These “rocks” were to be the things behind why we did what we did in ministry. I could only think of two: love God and love each other. For me, this is the bottom line of the gospel.

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Sermon: Trouble Maker

Here is the audio of my sermon from May 29, 2016 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was Galatians 1:1-12, Luke 7:1-10, and 1 Kings 18:20-39.  You can also listen on the Podcast app by subscribing here.

Giveaway: ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV-Family-Devotional-BibleStudies have shown that the most influential person for a young person’s faith is his or her parents. The ESV Family Devotional Bible aims to help families read and study scripture.

This hard back Bible includes the entire English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. A fairly new translation, in the midst of quite a few to choose from, the ESV is not all that different from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The ESV seems to have been presented as an alternative to the traditionally used King James Version.

The ESV Family Devotional Bible includes 130 key stories retold, along with questions and a key verse. There are colorful illustrations for each devotion as well. At first the illustrations were a bit nostalgic, as they reminded me of the pictures in the story Bible at my grandparents’ home. I’m not sure, however, they would be the most kid-friendly today.

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Book Review: Fear of the Other

cover87517-mediumFear of the Other: No Fear in Love, William H. Willimon, Abingdon Press, 2016.

True to form, Bishop Willimon approaches theological themes in a no-nonsense and gutsy matter. This little book (less than 100 pages) is the Bishop’s response to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. “If not for them,” Willimon writes, “I would not have been asked to write this book.”

Willimon shows no fear in addressing current social topics. He covers it all. The desire for a bigger wall across the border to keep out Hispanics. The call to keep Muslims out of the country. The exclusion of LGBT individuals in the life of the church. And, he even takes on Jerry Falwell, Jr.

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Wait. What’s a Deacon?

This was originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate. The focus of this issue was the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Deacon. 

A group of church leaders had gathered for a meeting. The district superintendent mentioned the possibility of hiring a deacon to help the congregation reach beyond the church walls. A woman sitting across the table looked back at the DS with a quizzical expression. “Wait,” she said, “What’s a deacon?”

It’s not the first time that question has been asked. For twenty years, the United Methodist Church has been struggling to articulate the answer, “What’s a deacon?”

I welcome these questions. When I first experienced my call to ministry and I was told about the ministry of the deacon, that was my response. I had never heard of an ordained deacon. While I felt a strong call to ordained ministry, it did not look like the pastor of a church. But, I had no words to express what it did look like.

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