Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: holy spirit (page 1 of 2)

YouTubevotional: Disciples are Lifelong Learners

YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

Bishop Sharma Lewis casts a vision for the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in June. The vision states, “A disciple of Jesus Christ is a lifelong learner who influences others to serve.” In this 3-minute Stir video, Bishop Lewis talks about what it means to be a lifelong learner.

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YouTubevotional: ‘Mully’ Trailer

YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

Mully is a docudrama based on the life of Dr. Charles M. Mully. Mully will be shown in select theaters nationwide for three consecutive nights, October 3, 4, and 5, via Fathom Events.

Dr. Mully is often referred to as “the father of the world’s largest family.” Having been abandoned at the age of 6 himself, Mully has dedicated the past twenty-seven years, along with his wealth and resources to rescuing abandoned children in the slums of Kenya. His own story of surviving insurmountable odds and becoming one of the most respected humanitarians, is an inspiration to the young children he rescues.

Dr. Mully and his wife Esther formed Mully Children’s Family (MCF) – the world’s largest family – in 1989 to provide for the children whom they rescued.

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Mold Me, Use Me

Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
United Methodist Hymnal, #393

Mold Me, Use MeHave you ever watched a child play with play-dough? It is a pretty new phenomenon at our house. Baby J hasn’t figured out that she can create things with the play-dough, but she sure loves breaking it a part (an elder in training?). As her little hands grip the play-dough, and squeeze it between her fingers, she pulls the dough a part creating a new piece.

Here is the thing: the play-dough doesn’t put up a fight.

It was made to be pulled apart and molded into new things. The original container-rounded shape of the play-dough is not its intended shape. It was created to be formed into something new. And if, during the creation process, it doesn’t quite turn out the way you wanted it, you start over. You roll that play-dough back into a big ball of dough and you start molding and forming all over again.

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“Don’t Put God in a Box”

When I was in high school, our senior high youth group were gathered together up in the youth room on a Sunday night. The group was planning an upcoming Youth Sunday. We were making decisions regarding scripture passages, hymns, and prayers to use. Then, the question was asked, “Who will do the sermon?”

Everyone avoided making eye contact with anyone.

Honestly, I had spent the bulk of the time avoiding eye contact. I was one of the youngest in the room. What did I have to contribute?

Then, from the other end of the table, one of the seniors spoke up and said, “I think Jason should do it.”

It was one of those moments where I was thrilled to be thought of, yet scared to death that they thought of me! I would accept and began working on the “sermon.” When I finished it, I gave it my youth leader to look over. She made some suggestions, among them, “Be careful not to put God in a box.”

god-in-a-box

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Since Jesus Passed By

workcamp_9462c

A number of years ago while part of a work camp in Durham, North Carolina, I was assigned to work with a group of young people on the house of an elderly African-American woman. Before even meeting her, I was informed that she was a cancer survivor who had adopted her two granddaughters. I decided that I was not going to get to close to this woman. I was going to be there for the young people and minister to them. That, I had decided, was my purpose that week.

Why?

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Jaws (1975)

Jaws_MovieCoverBased on the best-selling novel by Peter Benckley, Jaws did something that no other film had done. In the careful and deliberate hands of director Steven Speilberg, Jaws is an action flick and a scary thriller, making use of a real shark as well as a mechanical shark. At times, you don’t know the difference. To our benefit, Speilberg made the thriller part more than on-screen blood and guts. It was in the context of a well developed story with well developed characters.

While all the elements are there for a typical archetypal story, Speilberg is careful not to draw too much attention to it. He leaves that work to the viewer.

Brady (Roy Scheider) moves his family from the streets of New York to a New England beach community (think Martha’s Vineyard). It is his first summer there as their chief of police. The Mayor and other locals are getting ready for the town’s big Fourth of July parade and events. It is a high tourist time of year, and the community relies on those tourist dollars for their economy.

Which is why when a teenage girl goes missing, and parts of her are found on the beach, that the Mayor and others are not happy that Brady wants to shut the beach down. The ME who first told him it was a shark attack, changes his mind to say that it was a boating accident. The biggest fear for the town leaders was not what might or might not be in the water, but losing money.

Brady has a fear of water. He does not swim, and sits patiently and anxiously on the beach watching the waters after the missing girl is found in pieces. While he is watching, other town’s people are coming up to him asking him when he is going to take care of this problem or that problem. It is not so much that the people are missing the immediacy of a shark attack, it is that they are not aware. There is a lack of awareness.

Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) comes into town and is another voice of caution and awareness. Hooper is a rich kid who has found his niche as an oceanographer. In a quick, to the point tone, Hooper tells the town people that they are not safe until they rule out what is out there in the water. He knows all there is to know about sharks, and is even willing to get in the water with them.

Quint (Robert Shaw) is a typical crusty old seaman. He is the kind of guy you don’t want to mess with after a long day at sea. For most of the beginning of the film, Quint is part of the background. He tells the town during a town hall meeting that he can catch the shark, for the right price. And we see him glide by as other locals and non-locals board their boats to go out and catch the shark for the award money. He snickers at them, because he knows what they do not.

This isn’t just a shark, it’s a great white shark.

In a five-minute monologue while the three men are at sea hunting the shark, Quint shares his story and why he hates sharks. Quint has faced his fear and triumphed. But there were many of his comrades who did not, and for them he hunts this shark.

Brady has a fear of water. He does not – will not – get into the water. But he does get into the boat with Quint and Hooper in search for the great white. At point, while shoving raw meat into the water, Brady comes face to face with the giant of a shark, and says, “We need a bigger boat.”

Each man has boarded this boat in search of the great white that is holding a community in the bondage of fear

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  These three men – Brady, Quint, and Hooper – live this verse. They have their own fears, but they overcome them. God did not give us a spirit of fear, God has empowered us with power through the Holy Spirit and love and self-control. We are in control of how much we fear. We are in control of how much we love. And we are in control of how we use the power from the Holy Spirit. All three men, wise men in their own way, are hunting the shark because of the people they love, where the other shark hunters were hunting for the prize money.

These three men use their power to overcome the great white shark.

Jaws is a modern day parable reminding us that we decide how much fear controls our lives. We have to choice to love others as we have been loved, using the self-control that God has given us, and we have a choice to use our power for good. Let us all be hunters of great white sharks.

He Suffered

jesus_9087c“Look, my servant will succeed. He will be exalted and lifted very high. Just as many were appalled by you, he too appeared disfigured, inhuman, his appearance unlike that of mortals. (Isaiah 52:13-14, Common English Bible)

He was born into a broken world full of sin and hate. He grew learning and teaching that hate is not the way. He lived showing the world how love really works.

Because he loved us.

Yet, he was betrayed. He was arrested. He was denied. He was beaten. He was flogged. He was stripped. He was nailed to a cross.

He suffered.

Because he loved us.

Us – who betray and deny him.

Us – who beat others with his words; who flog those who disagree with us; who strip away the rights of the oppressed; who nail others to their crosses instead of picking up our own.

He suffered.

Because he loved us.

Even though we do not always love.

We chose hate over love. We chose malice words instead of words of respect.  We chose to ignore rather than to participate.

His generous act of sacrificial love was an act of justice.  He laid down his life so that we – who are broken and full of sin – may have eternal life.

And, yet, we have been shown love and justice, we continue to neglect love and abuse justice.

We turn the other cheek to avoid the piercing glare of the poor and the hungry; to turn away from the ringing of the hammer of systemic injustice; to demand forgiveness rather than to forgive.

He loves us.

Loving God, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lived and died so that we may have life. May your Holy Spirit dwell in us, around us, and through us as we strive to live this life we have been given as Christ lived his, with love and justice for all. Amen.

Guest Post: Grace!

by Rev. Charlie Baber

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comCenter With Prayer: 

Creator of birth and rebirth, remove the veil from my heart that keeps me from knowing you more perfectly.  Christ, lifted up on the cross of death to heal all who look upon you and believe, strengthen my heart to accept your Word as transforming truth in my life. Wild and untamed Holy Spirit, catch me up in your movements that I may go where you send me. Amen.

Read the Scripture: John 3:1-17.

I recently drew a comic about God’s love and a Methodist understanding of the Way of Salvation. It’s also based on my experience with animal rescue and fostering.  Prevenient grace is the Holy Spirit at work in every single person, beckoning us all to God.  Since all my students take Spanish and not Latin or French, I told them to call it “Pre-Vamonos” grace: “Everybody, Let’s GO!” It’s like the porch of a house, inviting you to come in. Justifying grace is the turning point, where we recognize our profound need for God, repent and trust in Christ.  It’s “Just-if-I’d” never sinned, and the faithfulness of Christ fills up and covers over our faithlessness.  It’s like the door into the house where the party is going on. Sanctifying grace is a life in Christ, growing to be more and more like God as we grow closer to God.  It’s the whole party house.  But we can make some pretty terrible mistakes, and turn our backs on God.  Fortunately, God’s grace is always first, always going before us, always calling us back.  We love because God first loved us.

Take a moment to read the comic below.  Reflect on the ways God has fostered salvation in your life and rescued you.  Then go forth in your salvation and love the world that God has so loved…

55WB

Rev. Charlie Baber is a deacon serving at Highland United Methodist in Raleigh, North Carolina. Charlie has a weekly comic-blog called Wesley Bros.

My Call to Ministry Part 1

When I was in high school, through the combined experiences of youth group, being on the Ashland District Youth Council, and participating in a summer work-camp called Richmond Metro Workcamp, I began to experience a call to ministry. I don’t remember sharing it with others. But it did reach a point where they shared it with me. It all became very real when the pastor of the small United Methodist Church where I grew up asked if I had ever thought about going into the ministry. As I finished high school, I was much more comfortable with the idea that God was calling me to ministry.

But, doubt would creep in. I would go to community college and get an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development. I envisioned myself getting a teaching degree and teaching in a school. After getting that degree, I got a full-time job at a United Methodist church working with their weekday children’s ministry. During that time, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in about eight months would claim the promise of the resurrection. Those eight months would send me into a whirlwind of thinking and rethinking my vocational call. The reality of death and loss hit much harder than Bambi losing his mother ever did.

This whirlwind sent me through many days and hours pondering in an empty church or walking alone on a nature trail. I was asking myself questions like, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose?”

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

My father claimed the promise of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 2001. Before he passed, two things happened. I applied to Randolph-Macon College, the college I had wanted to attend since I was six, and I applied for a new job as the Youth Director at another United Methodist church. A week before my father passed, I was hired as the Youth Director. When I told Dad, he replied, “That’s good, Son. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do.” (Two months later, I was accepted at Randolph-Macon.)

In June of my first summer as a Youth Director, I took a small group of youth to Durham, North Carolina for a youth work-camp. The work crew that I was assigned to worked on the home of an elderly African-American woman who had adopted two teenage girls and was battling cancer. I had resolved, subconsciously, not to get attached. I did not want to experience the grief and pain that I had just experienced through the loss of my father.

During lunch on that first day, the youth on the crew had invited the home owner to eat with us and join us for our devotion time. The youth had decided that we would eat lunch in her bedroom because she was unable to move freely on her own. I was the last one to enter the room, and when I did, the home owner announced, “There’s the minister!” I was quick to correct her that I was a not a minister, and she was quick to correct me that I was. “When you walked passed me this morning,” she said, “I felt the Holy Spirit move through you.” Not sure how to respond, I politely said, “Thank you,” and sat with the youth for lunch and our devotion.

Prayer for Pentecost

God of wind, word, and fire, we bless your name this day for sending the light and strength of your Holy Spirit.  We give you thanks for all the gifts, great and small, that you have poured out upon your children. Accept us with our gifts to be living praise and witness to your love throughout all the earth; through Jesus Christ, who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

from Tirabassi & Tirabassi’s Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship

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