A Few Words on Boston
A lot of people are having a hard time with the terrorist event at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. I know this because I see status after status asking “How could someone or group of people do something so evil?” I think that people are still in shock, especially considering that the victims look like us. They were wearing clothes that we wear. The streets of Boston look like ours and the people look just like our friends. Isn’t this only supposed to happen overseas? Shouldn’t these events be more distant? Boston is such a great city? Why would anyone want to hurt anyone else?
Like in 9/11, when people full of hate hit the twin towers in NY, we are once again faced with the evil, which in this case is really just another word for “sin”. It is our very human tendency to harm others rather than care for one another like Christ calls every person of the earth to make an ideal: “Love God, Love others” (ALL others – everyone on the face of the globe).
Some good news is that these terrorists have already lost and failed in all their goals. The second that the bombs blasted, emergency workers, police and ordinary citizens ran towards the destruction and were immediately proving that violence and evil are not the final word in our world. If there is something that I’m proud of in being American, is that we believe in the dignity of all people and the wellbeing of God’s creation. It didn’t matter what creed, religion, race, party or philosophy the hurt had – everyone came together to make things right.
Though there have been many injuries, and three people have lost their lives in a senseless act, those who have acted on behalf of others have shown us a parable of God’s deep concern for us. It was Jesus Christ who gave his life and died on the cross, and only weeks ago we remembered that dark day. The greatest news is that death ultimately does not win. The people of God and the good done in His name is victorious.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.”
Christ has already conquered evil in the long haul. Let’s wrap ourselves in His goodness and press onwards in faith. Though these moments test our resolve and can shake our foundations. Take some time to press into God with prayer for Boston; pray also for our world that continues to deal with the consequences of our Sinful Nature, and personally call out to God in repentance for what each one of us has done to harm others.
The Revolution of Mankind against evil and destruction continues. The inbreaking of God’s Kingdom continues onward. Let’s make sure that we are filled with the Light of God and can give hope to those who are just barely hanging on! Let’s make Love and even Forgiveness rule over our hearts so we do not harden and let chaos take any ground in this battle.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
God is always with us!
I saw this today and couldn’t help but pass it on. This woman made an EHarmony video, and couldn’t help but delve into the depths of her need to love, hug, and adopt every cat that has ever lived. Its soooo catchy it hurts, and the clips of cats with auto tune catchiness is impossible to walk away from. Enjoy this video and smile:
Ingredients to a Happy Marriage Might Include Bacon
It actually came up this morning as an affirmation of how fast time flies when you are having fun — and working hard.
In contrast to the fleeting nature of celebrity weddings and relationships, I recall the romance and love in the Scriptures: “How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!” (Song of Songs 4:10).
There is a deep appreciation for the “other” in the relationship and a delight that can last throughout the years. I see those who have been together 50 years or more as the heroes and heroines of marriage. Often they say that they had some “best years,” but there were also some very hard years. They continued to invest in their love through the years, though, and found deep happiness in each other’s presence. That is the everlasting love, a love we can emulate. It continues to ride strong through the storms of life and builds a stronger unity.
As a husband, I hope to live out the biblical ideal that Paul spoke of: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25-28).
To fall deeper and deeper in love each and every day is not a fairy tale, but rather a choice, an honor and a great adventure. Christ gave himself for the church and gave it all, certainly, so we can emulate that great and sacrificial love that gives and gives and gives in our marriages.
A heart filled with the love of the spirit will always overflow.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
A Day In The Life of a Gordon Conwell Seminarian
Probably the most stretching period of my life was while I was living on campus at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, working at Grace Chapel in Lexington, and taking Greek my freshman year. I remember sitting at my desk at 12:30 am, exhausted, and my mind literally stopped working. It just didn’t want to go any further. I had to juggle quite a bit to make ministry and seminary work simultaneously, all while keeping up with Amanda (which is hard to do!). Three and a half years later (total of four years), I graduated, and felt the cool satisfaction of a hard season of life, but which has rewarded me in every other area and aspect of my life. Check out this video, and pretty much paste my face onto the main dude:
I remember going on a field trip to Concord, NH to see the Orchestra. My eyes were not immediately opened to the beauty (I was in Middle School), but once I heard the Star Wars theme song, my heart opened up, and I felt a whole new world opening up. Sometimes there are barriers that even beauty has to build bridges to cross. A friend of mine just posted this brilliant Copenhagen Flash Mob, and I am transported to my seat, and my eyes are opened once again. I simply love this, and perhaps it will awaken you as well:
(Image is of Christ Church United Methodist )
After graduating seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I felt called to minister at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church. The search committee was welcoming but discerning, the pastor was warm and incredibly intelligent, the congregants warm and welcoming, and the families were engaged. I knew that when I received the call, and was asked, “Would you come to Saint Andrew,” my answer was “Yes, I will.” God has greatly blessed me at this church the last three years, but I did have a bit of acclimation, particularly in the realm of Worship Style.
Very quickly, I discovered that SABTS worshipped by singing hymns, they said The Apostles Creed and prayed “Our Father” nearly every Sunday. A vigorous choir accompanies a talented organist – so the style is what some would call “Traditional” or “Liturgical”.
My background in the Pentecostal, Baptist and Non-Denominational churches would definitely be considered a “Contemporary” experience. Contemporary merely meaning that guitars, drums, bass and microphones are the main tools of worship. The songs have been written (mainly from the Psalms) by Contemporary Christian Musicians in the last 30 years or so. Hymns were more the exception, but were still sung from time to time. I had been used to the bright colors of lighting rigs, textured displays and projectors displaying the outlines of the talks. Pastor’s generally did not wear their suit jackets, and I had never been in a church where the pastor wore robes or a stole (a word I had never heard).
I had to ask myself if I was capable or worship in the new setting, so I began to write in my mind a list of priorities (values) that would guide me in this decision. In other words, what was most important to me about a worship service?
First, I had grown up in a tradition of good preaching. Pentecostal preachers are known for their passionate sermons, and Biblical Study is important to me. If I am inspired, I also need to learn something. Also, if I am not stretched as a person as a result of the preaching, I feel that there was no point. The application is as key as the main idea. And has the Gospel been faithfully represented? Is the preacher being faithful to God’s word. I checked SABTS’s website and listened to sermon audio recordings to get a feel for the head pastor’s preaching. I listened to three recent sermons and determined that this church had an excellent preacher who met all my expectations. Would I have come had the preaching not been so excellent? Perhaps. But it helps that our lead faithfully speaks the Gospel to us, and we are challenged each and every week.
Second, I asked myself about music style, “If things are going to change, what are the non-negotiables?” In other words, could I worship if I never heard a guitar again? I thought about this a lot, not just for myself, but my wife Amanda also prefers the more contemporary sound. I discussed this with her, and I communicated that I felt that so long as we were glorifying God in music, that I would be able to step into the context of my church (like a missionary would on another continent) and respect the styles of worship honored in the community where I would serve. I made a conscious decision to respect the community and allow myself to be transformed by their valued music. In the last three years, I have come to love certain hymns for their messages and their tunes. I don’t pretend to understand the notes in the hymnal (though I do try to look to see whether to go up or down in voice), but this congregation sings these hymns with vigor and reverence. They sing about God’s love, Repentance, Hope, Christ’s Sacrifice, Challenge and Tribulation, Happiness in Spirit and it all points towards the work of Jesus Christ. I cannot argue that we should never worship like this, in fact, those who refuse to worship this way are missing out on a way of communicating God’s love that is deep, rich, and full of passion. Americans are in love with what is “New” but we easily forget that hymns were once the “New” music as well. Concerning music, perhaps one day I’ll worship with guitars again (I am learning to play myself), but I am content to sing this way for the rest of my life. It is a good thing, regardless of my preferences.
Lastly, concerning prayer, I had been used to an extemporaneous style of praying in past churches. Pastors full of the Holy Spirit would call out to God, and the people of the congregation would pray out loud together. It was sometimes cacophonous, and I think it would scare some folks who are more used to order. I had seen at a non-denominational church where I had served, people praying from written notes during services, and it had fascinated me, but some were from notes and others weren’t. Here at SABTS, each portion of the service was carefully prepared, pulled from liturgy, and steeped in tradition pulled from the Church Fathers, Liturgies of the church carefully written, and from John Wesley’s (the founder of Methodism) hands himself at times. I discovered the Methodist “Book of Worship” and amazing prayers for every occasion, and found a deep wellspring of spirituality in the faith of saints long gone. They had written their lives with God down on paper, and their communities of saints spoke to us today. It was deep, and as spirit filled as the extemporaneous prayers of my upbringing. God opened my eyes, though I felt at home, considering how much I love to write and read. This became a new avenue I had never considered. The liturgy was also freeing to me, because in those times when I did not know how to pray, there were words that could express my spirit even when I could not. I saw the hand of the Holy Spirit across the millennia recorded for the future. I am likely to have a prayer book the rest of my life regardless of where I minister, and I am thankful for this liturgical experience. If simply to have the “Doxology” memorized and to sing it when I am thankful is such a treasure. Again, my eyes have been open.
The apostle Paul, walking on a line between the traditional Jewish faith, and the new and developing traditions of the Gentile believers in the Roman Empire, always held onto the roots of his Jewish heritage, while simultaneously celebrating the new work among the new people who were coming to faith in Christ. He said in a trial that, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (The Book of Acts). He is part of the Way, which is a new thing in Christ, as many Jews believed in Jesus as the culmination of their messianic heritage, yet he held to the Law and its teachings simultaneously.
I feel like I am walking a line as well, between the music of my peers (which has its own pros and cons) and the worship of Christian tradition, which has been proved in the past to encourage believers in faith. I honestly find myself comfortable in both settings, and can see services where both are used wisely for the edification of believers and for promoting God’s glory. The fact is, God is amazing, and there are not enough styles of worship that can completely capture that glory for us. We have to continue to innovate while preserving the past for future believers. If we only worship in the style in which we are comfortable, we are becoming less Christian, because these values – diversity, unity, and even perseverance through discomfort for the “other”, must be lived out if we are to believe that Jesus calls us to be “one” in His body.
We are a diverse people across a globe with many people, with various liturgies and forms of worship, but if a church preaches Christ, challenges us to action in our faith, and stretches us beyond our comfort and leads us to love others, we have found a good place. I encourage you, if you have a qualm with the style of worship (either way), to try to re-engage in a spirit of unity, putting Christ and the promotion of His Good News and His Good Kingdom above our own personal preferences. I believe that this is something all Christians can and one day will have to do. The world is getting smaller, and our divisions blur the vision for the future of the church. Let’s put on the heart of the optimist. Christ has already won. Let’s live out the values of the Kingdom today.
As a youth minister, I often hear young people talking about how annoyed they are with their parents rules. These rules are seen as oppressive to some, while others just dislike the constraints and are waiting until they are older to come out from under them. These rules usually are communal rules based on teaching responsibility or a value that the parents think is important for the family to live out.
An easy example is “We respect others.” This is a huge concept that is not easy to grasp, but I believe that all teens wrestle with it at times. There are teachers, peers and neighbors that young people just don’t “respect” because they feel they have been wronged for some reason. Say a teacher reprimands a young girl for talking too much in class. The young girl feels that she was not the only one talking, others should also have been reprimanded, and she was ultimately embarrassed to be called out. The young girl also seems unable to comprehend that one teacher, in a class of 20 – 30 students cannot individually reprimand each person in a group. A teacher looks for a leader among the talking tribe, or someone who is closest physically, or someone they know will listen, and calls that person out, hoping that one reprimand will bring the talking girls back to focus in order to continue teaching. That young girl from that point forward says that she “hates” that teacher, that teacher is “Horrible” “Mean” or “Nasty”.
The young girl’s father eventually hears the young girl on a tirade against the teacher, and quickly realizes that the daughter is not “respecting” the teacher. Certainly there must be another side to this, and so a conversation happens. Feeling pressed, the young girl, not understanding why the parent is supposedly taking the teacher’s side in the issue, lashes out and disrespects the father, furthering her family “sin” and is pressed for remorse and repentance and a genuine change is required by the father. Punishments, like taking away ipods or video games, becomes a way of enforcing family values, and if the young person is stubborn, eventually the young person starts decrying their loss of Freedom.
Isn’t this America? Aren’t we free to do what we want? My parents are dictators! Everyone is out to get me.
To the adult this is selfish, but this is not uncommon among young people who are yearning to grow out of the boundaries of their childhood, but still are not capable of having their fences completely removed. Trust is hard for parents who want to protect their children, and are not sure of how far their children should be able to go while making mistakes. Each situation is different and in my opinion, the parent has more or less leigh way in proportion to how much danger the youth is actually in. Parents have to maintain fences so that the impulsiveness of youth does not destroy the child, yet there can be a lengthening of the boundaries, and the conversation needs to change from directives to a two way discussion where the teen has some input (but not authority).
“Because I said so” will no longer work. The reasons must be discussed, weighed, and values need to be communicated, lived out and permeate the experience of the child. And those things which a parent does not budge on become the framework with which the child builds their adult life.
But what about Freedom? From the young person’s perspective, this is the ultimate aim. To be free of constraints and able to do whatever they would like to do. If only I could play Skyrim (a video game) for three days straight, drink nothing but energy drinks and eat nothing but candy and Pringles all day. Or Why can’t I tear up my clothes, wear all the makeup I want and date as many boys as I like?
Obviously all these questions revolve around the natural yet selfish need to satisfy Number One. Freedom to the young person is the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want to and go wherever I want to go as often as I want. The world really is still new to them, whereas an adult has already “been there and done that” and so the appeal is not so great to drive the car downtown, or to take a first date to the movie theater. These moments of great excitement within safe boundaries are wonderful. But that lack of experience, and overvaluing of the rewards versus risk make for a dangerous mix. For example, an adult would not likely jump off a bridge to impress their wife if the place does not look safe. A young man would be much more likely to take such a risk, if a girl he likes is present, even if she is scared of him doing it. Even to impress the buds. A parent who discovers this activity will likely shut it down. Lockdown would ensue. Long conversations and lectures would happen until the point is drilled. And still the young man could sit there and think about how awesome it would have been to get those “cool points.”
It is in response to this ethos of youth that I’ve been pondering a simple tool for helping teens realize true freedom. I discovered it recently while reading John Wesley’s early sermons and diary entries prior to visiting Savannah, GA. In the sense that we are all sinful creatures, all burdened by our passions and desires of the self, and unable to stand up on our own to “lift our eyes toward Heaven”, we need a path to throw off that burden, to be free from that guilt which comes from harming ourself and others for our own desires, and essentially to be Truly Free.
The only path to freedom is to rid ourselves of the desires of the self. Our rebellions all come from our nature, fallen since the time of Adam, to put ourselves before everything else. A baby knows how to cry for its wants, a child knows how to make a scene in a toy store, a teen knows how to argue to pursue unhealthy relationships and adults know how to burn out friends, jobs and marriages. It comes natural, and it takes a certain discipline to keep one’s “self” from taking over one’s whole universe. We forget that the people of the universe outnumber our “one” vote, and that the needs of those people might be worth considering, even before our own. The young person who has never been overseas, and who has never seen poverty, sits in their mansion, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich thinking of how his or her parent’s have abused him/her for not cooking steak for dinner. It is a matter of perspective, and our perspective is skewed towards self satisfying and sinful behavior.
If one were to live life and make every decision according to the principles of Love, that person would suddenly find that they have been set free. As Wesley spoke about in his early writings. True freedom comes from putting others first. Primarily, putting God, our creator, as primary among all things. Once we recognize that we are not a god, and all we do is not divine, we can begin to let God’s will to work in our lives. As we empty ourselves, and begin to ask God what we ought to do rather than what we want to do, we find ourselves in a refreshing stream, moving us forward, rather than using all our strength to push against the waves of God’s Holy Spirit. Wesley several times quotes Jesus’ primary command, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.” We learned this in Sunday School, but barely have put it into practice, because by putting God in a primary position, and recognizing that we are not the center of the universe, we threaten the most streamlined version of the universe that we could imagine. No person would naturally want to see themselves as a secondary creature, but that is the truth. God has placed us on a planet, it has the resources we need to live good lives, we are surrounded by people who we are to care about, and we have to decide how we will work within this system. God has given mankind responsibility to govern this world as either good rulers, or as we often do, as tyrants. If we live in sin, we dictate our own desires and plunder the earth. When we push off the burdens of sin thanks to the guilt destroying power of Jesus Christ (and his great love for all people!), and the washing and cleansing we receive, our heads are enabled to look up towards heaven, realize our position in the universe (as a creature and not the creator), and we can finally be unleashed to do the greatest amount of good possible. Not in the Mark Twain way, of doing good only to satisfy one’s own need to be recognized, but because we were originally made good, and we are being restored into living in the image of God – which is the perfect image of Love itself.
Yes – When one lives in love, one lives in perfect freedom. If a person considers their neighbor as if that neighbor was oneself, and we realize that others deserve consideration, great things become possible. When I was in college, I remember realizing that if everyone tended to the needs of three or more others, all our needs would be met. Putting aside logistics of who would help who, if a need was seen, it could be met. This is a good pattern for a marriage. Often people go into a marriage thinking that the other person is going to satisfy that God sized hole in their being. That person is merely a drug, used and consumed, until there is nothing left (because only God can fill that place – only he can eternally fill the human with love), and then the marriage falls apart. The more selfish a society, the more hardship the institution of marriage will have. Why? Because marriage requires that the man and the woman put God first, and find nourishment and sustenance from the Creator. Then, the married person must put the other before one’s self. If each person does this, even if one fails and repents and tries to make things right, they are still far beyond what two selfish people could ever accomplish. God first, spouse second, and then everything else. If both give of themselves all in all, the marriage has a greater ability to succeed, to be full of love, and to have two members who feel complete freedom – to love the other.
Being free, means being in love. When individuals and societies fail to love, wars become reality, walls are built, words become venomous and full of poison. Storage containers become filled with atomic weapons and militaries march to meet enemies who are no longer seen as human. In our regular lives, we sit in separate rooms, we live within our gadgets and leave home to find fulfillment in other people in things (all of which cannot satisfy the heart, and the body will wither away as it is abused seeking happiness and satisfaction).
To find happiness, to be fully free, to hope for a better future, we will have to live our whole being in a state of love. First for God, and because God made us all and loves us all, we will begin to see the people of the world as they were created – as children of God worthy of being brought into the family. To love is to be completely free.
Imagination and Deep Thoughts
(This is the full text of the article that ran on Wednesday April 4th, 2012 in The Bluffton Packet)
By Daniel Griswold
A family sits together in a living room in front of a television screen watching American Idol. Every few minutes, someone hears a beep and a phone screen appears.
Actually several phones appear because everyone is reminded of their phones and tablets. Dad gets on his Ipad checking stock prices and his daughter uses the moment to do a few rounds on the Kindle Fire playing Angry Birds (she’s accomplished 78 of 99 levels) and switching between that and her Facebook app.
After texting a bit with his bud, the son opens YouTube and watches several funny cat videos. After the television-show ends, the mother is asked what Randy had said about a contestant and who sung the best. The television has been merely a backdrop for the connectedness that so many screens provide. The family sits together, but they were all in different worlds on different screens.
And with all this entertainment, education and content streaming to us constantly, I still see and hear this odd statement, “I am sooooo bored.” I suppose that there is a point in which we have been saturated with media – and yet we still want more. Our appetites are so large that when a quiet moment comes, we become scared because we have been passive consumers for so long.
I think that the ability to consume entertainment and educate ourselves at any point we choose has given many a feeling of power and confidence. When stripped from the sources of connectedness, we feel like we are not accomplishing anything anymore. This fits the picture of the good American – always on – always productive, even when enjoying a morning cup of coffee.
But this “always on” culture is blocking two huge facets of human growth:
(1) Imagination – Our minds are capable of dreaming big, and making new worlds by envisioning better combinations of what we know. Disciplined imagination changes the world (“I have a dream”), and gives guidance and hope to the individual. It comes from within and is inspired by the world of the spirit. When Christ taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven,” we have a moment to imagine what our world could be like and what it will be like – if we take the time to draw it out in our minds. It is an act of creation that mirrors God’s creation of the universe. From daydreaming to action, the world is made into a better place.
(2) Deep thinking – After a good cup of coffee or right after waking from sleep or during a walk through the woods, there are moments in life where our logical mind has time to dig deeper into the problems we are trying to fix. No matter what the commercials say, life will always present intense challenges. That means that to face them, we need time to process and think through the best course, the best way to act, or the best words for a speech. Great leaders often need times of sabbatical to read for lengthy periods of time, but not just to gain information, but to make space and time to design the future plans for their projects, whether building teams, skyscrapers, philosophies or contemplating the intricacies of God’s interaction with Creation. These structures in our mind take time and training to build strong foundations for growth of the individual and the society they plug into.
When Jesus had spent a great deal of time speaking to people and work with the disciples, in Mark chapter 6 there is a picture of Jesus looking for a quiet place. People were coming and going, so much was going on, so many distractions. But to grow and assess, Jesus needed moments of peace to process and commune with his Father. In verse 46, Jesus has to literally climb up a mountainside to find time to pray and refresh his spirit.
We all need quiet times, but many of us are afraid of what might change if we dive deep into our minds and hearts. There, God waits on us patiently, but we often wait too long, finding new distractions, and our spirit breaks down. The greatest thoughts, the greatest peace, and the greatest projects are waiting for you there, so step in and see. You’ll find living water that never runs dry.
Daniel Griswold is the Director of Youth, Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC, email@example.com, twitter name: dannonhill
Friday though Saturday March 16 – 18th, thousands of young people from across South Carolina came together at the Colonial Coliseum. To describe it in a few words: “It was BIG.” We worshipped with the Spark band, danced to hip hop with Humble T.I.P. (To Increase Praise), rocked with DecembeRadio, and were challenged to the core by Jennifer Dake concerning our discipleship and understanding our relationship with Jesus Christ.
We were created perfect, we became imperfect, we need to be perfect, Christ was perfect, Christ died to make us perfect, and we can have faith in an amazing God of grace. The challenge to discipleship, to put away sin and walk forward with Christ was amazing.
Here is a bit of the worship from The Spark:
We also had an opportunity in mission to pack bags full of protein, vegetables and rice to send to East Timor, where some of the most impoverished conditions on the planet exist. We put on hair nets and weighed 8,000 packets that were ready to ship out in the weeks from the Stop Hunger Now warehouse in North Carolina. And we also learned the game Ninja while we chilled ;D
It was truly an amazing event packed with the funniest (and most fun) Intermission Dance (see below). We had fun in Columbia getting to know each other at the hotel, while walking and driving around Columbia, and while seeing youth from last year’s Salkehatchie trip, and went deeper in devotions each evening. God did some amazing works in us, and we can pray that our hearts remain passionate and on fire. God is good.
Here is what one of the youth wrote on Facebook:
“Wow. Revolution was so amazing, The Spark was there, Demberadio, Humble T.I.P. and mrs. Jennifer. It was so amazing to see a HUGE group of teenagers get together and just praise God. Not even thinking about what the person beside them thought of them. There were tears of pure salvation and SO MANY hearts were opened to God and to letting him consume our bodies. Im never.ever. Going to forget this weekend. Even though I was sick and had NO voice, it’d come and go, it was a blast.”
Thank you Amanda and Tina for being amazing leaders, and thank you to our youth who went and soaked in God’s goodness all weekend long. You made the retreat fun for everyone.