Tag: Being Human

A Bit of Sadness and a Prayer in Trust: Wesley’s Prayer and Committment

woman and candles

Today, I worshipped quietly at a funeral service for a well loved member of our community.  The music was beautiful, and I was glad to see so many wonderful people there to remember her presence and impact among so many.  I was reminded that we’re born, we live our lives with family, our friends and our communities, and live out our faith in a world where we are interconnected – often in a  winding and confusing but ultimately good way.  We are fragile though, and we age and see and experience the lives of those who’ve entered the world after us who bring change and renewal.  Then, inevitably (unless you’re like the prophet Elijah) we exit to return to our Creator, God, and those who remain feel the deep sadness of loss, but also the bittersweet memories that can be full of goodness and great joy.  I still feel the pain of losing my Grandmother Nancy Sampson, and my Great-Grandmother Alice  more recently as well.  The electric grip of loss still affects me years after these losses.  A few years ago, my wife remembered the life of her sister, who passed much too young, but left a deep and lasting impression on us all.   Also very confusing, but essentially part of being human.

When I returned to the office at Trinity today, I prayed for many people and made a few calls to visit with folks from our churches in the next week, but when I sat down at my computer, some immediate news hit me pretty hard.  I think that news, with the aid of technology always on, has begun to pang life with a constant stream of grief as we become reminded of the evils our world continues to face.  We haven’t made it yet.  This particular story, of at reporter and her camera man, being shot live on air hit me deep in the spirit as many stories lately have, and I walked out to the alter and stood in front of the cross, felt a shiver go down my body and soul, and I spent a moment without words sharing my deep sorrow with God.

In that moment, I knew God felt the same, but more so than I did, and it heightened my mourning over our inability to love one another.  It confirmed for me that God is deeply invested in us and that our work to make “Thy Kingdom Come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” is a mission worthy of continual and constant emphasis – and that the Good News – “euangelion” – The Gospel, needs fresh testimony among all people who are being pinged by the same reminders of evil in the world that we are.  By actively promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proclaiming a Kingdom where peace is possible inwardly, through right relationship with God, and through that inner spiritual transformation in the Holy Spirit, we bond together to form this amazing Kingdom without any geographical center, initiated by baptism in water, and through discipleship we’re slowly made whole.  This is the mega-polis where Justice and Peace are practiced (rather than merely preached, or politicized), and we are reminded that the depths of our selfishness and ability to self-destruct are temporary, and through grace and self-sacrifice, God will cap this age with the re-arrival of perfection in our affairs.  God will destroy evil once and for all.

All that and more. I surrender to this future reality, and I pledge to work towards it in my own life and to be more and more like Christ in His ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross.  So at the altar, now, I recommit myself, and I will pray Wesley’s Covenant Prayer because I can’t think of a better one for these times.  If you’d like to pray this with me, I would be honored and humbled:

“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

In all this, in God’s plan, I will not be afraid.  I will continue to celebrate what is good, I’ll mourn and feel these losses knowing that it is temporary, and I’ll actively seek to represent God’s joy and goodness when some desire to bring evil to us all.  Strengthen your people, Lord. Remind us of Your Presence.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  Amen, and Amen, and Amen.


Being Human: Asking Questions and Seeing How Others are Discovering Your Faith


Asking bold questions leads to stronger faith

Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013
I’ve been a huge fan of the actor Jeff Bridges, going way back to when I first saw the movie “Tucker” in a basic business and free enterprise class my sophomore year of high school. The movie was fantastic, presenting a dreamer imagining a new future for cars post-World War II, and taking on the auto giants to make it so. Bridges played the part well, being quite boisterous, young and symbolizing idealism at its finest.So when I heard his voice on National Public Radio the other day, I started listening. The topic of the day was the movie “The Big Lebowski,” also starring Bridges as a character nicknamed “The Dude.” This cult favorite — with parallels to Buddhism — popularized the phrase, “Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” They use the word “man” a lot in the film.Bridges was promoting a new book, “The Dude and the Zen Master,” a partnership with Bernie Glassman, who is a well-known Zen master. The intersections with American pop culture and an ancient religious/ethical system intrigued me, even as I realized how little I knew about Zen masters. There was quite a bit of talk about a kind of “go with the flow” ethos surrounding the book, but not a whole lot of structure (purposefully I’m sure – they want us to read the book).

So I began to have fun in the rediscovery of Buddhism. I’d taken a world religions class in college, so I had a few books on the shelf — of course, there is so much information online, and I had some background knowledge I’d forgotten that returned to me.

Questions arose within me, such as What is this system? Is it a good thing for people? How do people live it out? What size is this lifestyle? Who is the founder and how did his teachings develop? Where do people practice these beliefs? What are the beliefs and how are they acted or not acted upon?

I absolutely love knowledge — whatever it may be. In this quest, I began to reflect on my zig-zags, getting the big picture and I realized and pondered, as a Christian, that this may be what it is like for people who are learning about Jesus. To many here and across the globe, Jesus is an unknown entity. When I tell people “Jesus loves you” or “God is with you” at Christmastime, a large portion of people are confronted with an unknown set of characters, beliefs, practices and even misconceptions.

To those who have grown up in a culture that is predominantly Christian, this might come as a surprise, but I find it to be more and more true. Those I care about and minister to here in the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton areas often are discovering Jesus for the first time. I mention Abraham, King David or Matthew, Mark and Luke and in return I receive blank stares. It is then I know that I am living among the questions rather than the knowns.

I find this exciting because I know that I will be able to rediscover what I believe with new groups with fresh perspectives.

As you journey, remember to grow in knowledge and goodness. Accept that we will have questions, because discovery always opens up new frontiers. As one who follows in the footsteps of Jesus, I try to remember this passage from the second book of Peter: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a world full of people asking questions, my prayer for you is that your journey will never end, that you will continue to meet new and interesting people, that you will discover the hidden angels (messengers) across our universe, that God’s love and wisdom will shine brightly and that love and goodness will increase in our world.

Let’s make it so.

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.

Being Human: Dealing with Stress

Life can be stressful, but God is always there to get you through

Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Growing up, I had an uncle Bobby, and he was pretty much the coolest guy ever. He owned a go-cart, so I immediately loved hanging out with him. He also lifted weights and looked quite buff.One day I noticed that the license plate on his big truck (also very cool) spelled out “S-T-R-E-S-S.” My mom asked him about it.

The reason for Bobby’s unusual choice in vanity plates? Well, because life, quite simply, can be very stressful.

During a study I lead with another Dan I know — called “Lunch with the Dans” at noon Thursdays at Zeppelins in Bluffton — we got to talking about stress recently. I was personally very stressed about whether my wife and I should get a dog. We finally decided to go all in and get a miniature schnauzer, and we found a beautiful 5-month-old named Bruce, but the adoption ended up falling through. Before we knew this, however, my wife had sent me a number of texts worrying about the cost and how we’d take care of Bruce while traveling. Who would check in on him during the day? How would we train him?

I suppose I was more “in” than my wife, but because of her questions I began to stress over her stress. It is funny how these decisions make you re-evaluate everything in your life.

In the Scriptures, the hero of faith, Abraham, had many times of horrible stress. Particularly in Genesis 14:8-15:1, in which the kings of Canaan lay waste to each other in war, and Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is taken as a captive along with all his possessions. Abraham hears about this and has to decide what to do next. Does he run from this place and let Lot find his own fate? Or does he sit tight and wait until the war comes to him? He decides to go to the men of his household (318 of them who were able to fight) and in the night he plans a raid on the armies of the victorious kings.

The life of Abraham is fascinating. In fact, I’d love to see a movie about him — showing imperfections and all. Abraham’s men win the raid and in this amazing victory they bring Lot home. All the spoils of war are brought back to the lands. Abraham is a hero, and yet there is an interesting verse with God’s voice to our hero immediately afterward: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

Without this voice of God, we would not have known that Abraham (here still Abram) was afraid. Only after the battles end and the mighty men have stepped into great dangers — after Abraham has given away all the spoils to the people and has kept nothing for himself — do we see how stressful this really was for him.

At this moment, God comforts him and reminds him that in the midst of all the evils surrounding him, especially this one, which was not of his own making, that God is in the middle of it all.

And God is the great reward.

What are you stressed about? Are you afraid and wondering about the future of your family or your own journey? God doesn’t promise us a perfectly peaceful world, but he has promised he will be our peace in the midst of crisis.

In times of stress, remember Abraham and his family.

You, too, will make it through.

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.

Being Human: A Youth Ministry Stress Dream While on Vacation

Having an life encompassing job means that sometimes it takes a while to get it out of your system.  Even when I am on vacation, I find myself having dreams about my profession, which is Youth Ministry.  Last night I awoke from a dream that had felt completely real.  What I mean by that is that I was genuinely flustered by the situation and was using all my energy and mind power to try to solve the issues associated with the dream.  What was that situation?

In this dream I had been pre-booked to speak all week at a High School Youth Ministry Retreat by a former colleague (aka my former YM Supervisor), Todd.  I was running an incredibly successful retreat with my wife and a bunch of volunteers I currently work with, when I receive a call from Todd’s assistant (Leah), on a Tuesday, and he’s flustered because I had been booked by him that same week to speak – all week.  I was quite a ways away from them, but I figured (it is a dream) that I could get up there asap and finish his retreat.  My wife could run the current retreat (who I believe would destroy me if I’d actually put this into her hands), and I would find a way to get up there.  Suddenly, a cargo plane touches down near our retreat center, and Todd himself jumps off.  The pilot says, “That’s going to cost you, like, a billion skymiles.”  Todd laughs, and jumps off.  He then tells me what I’m about to do and we’re going to fly back.  I am confident that we’ll work it all out and then  I wake up.

I believe that my thoughts were about planning a Youth Retreat when I fell asleep, so this wasn’t expected.  But I am on vacation, though my mind seemed to need a bit more challenge than I’ve been giving it the last few days.  Though I’ve enjoyed the time off, and perhaps this is a break I have really needed.

Do you dream about your job?  

Being Human: Break Out of the Mold – The Mass Cookie Cutter is “Scary” – Be Original

I was meandering the internets and noticed this clip from Conan Obrien’s late night show (Team Coco, as known on Facebook).  I watched this clip of television reports inanely repeating the same line over and over …and over…and over – ad infinitum.  Basically, there seems to be one writer somewhere who called the shot, and all the reporter does is read a script.  They all did try to put their own panache on the situation.  Inflections were slightly different, they laughed at different times…some left out the “Well” marker, but ultimately, the scene becomes scary as we realize that they’re basically actors/actresses – puppets singing someone else’s song.  Take a look and continue below:

My first gut reaction was the same as Conan’s – “Thats not even funny – that’s scary.”  He’s pointing out something that we really need to be wary of.  In Youth Ministry, I do source culture and have in the past used curriculums.  In fact, for my confirmation class, I have a curriculum from the United Methodist Church that is a guide as to what the church feels is important to pass on to our youth.  Someone wrote it up, placed games, pictures and activities in their.  They even made videos that we showed as discussion starters.  But when it came down to it, it was up to me to convey the passion of faith to our youth. I also had to convey that my individual relationship with  God is unique – not something that the church as pre-scripted for me.  I have the Bible as my guide, I have the church and tradition to remember and help in times of trouble, and the Holy Spirit is like a river flowing through my soul – but when it comes down to it, there is a path and a passion that God gives to me uniquely and I have to communicate that uniquely. If  I did not, the youth would know that I am a fake merely reading a script, and that is what they may do for the rest of their lives.  I can’t do that.

In your life whether a reporter or a pastor or a small business owner or an employee at McDonalds – you have a script that is all your own.  When you repeat others thoughts as your own, you become a robot.  If you agree with something, process it, think it through (deeply over time) and then articulate why it is meaningful to you and your community in your own words.  Don’t just “Scream for Ice Cream” infinitely into the void of ridiculous nothingness.  You are meaningful.  Mean what you say.  Know why you are doing what you do.

Waking Up is Hard to Do: Growing Up

Time to wake up, grow up and face adulthood

Published Sunday, July 8, 2012
Growing up is hard to do. With growth comes responsibility, and that usually means a good deal of effort up front — an investment that becomes a bit easier over time with repetition. Unfortunately, those in the process of growing up often do not have the perspective to realize that pain can lead to gain.I began thinking about this after reading an article in The New Yorker about spoiled American children. The writer spoke about a visit to another country, where the children are mostly ignored, but somehow, on their own, they begin to pitch in with the needs of the family. In the everyday course of survival, while a mother makes food, a child picks up a broom and cleans up — without being asked. Then the writer details a few family situations in Los Angeles, where one child had the father tying his shoes, and another would do nothing but play video games. Exasperated parents — hoping that one day their children would pitch in, but not wishing to put the energy investment into teaching the child a lesson — merely tie the shoes, both literally and figuratively.

This seems like a horrible comparison of extremes, but it does appear that in many cultures, young people grow up earlier and come into adult responsibilities merely by taking up what needs to be done. In many American homes, children do not.

The article I read posited that we impose that our children are “special” and must do things perfectly, and when they often don’t, they give up and the parents finish the tasks so the family doesn’t lose face and the child remains above the fray. Looking at the other cultures, “special” doesn’t seem to mean anything, especially when survival is such a large part of existence. Everyone works together for the sake of the family.

Seems like a romantic notion, except most of us wouldn’t trade our comforts for a simpler way of life.

In industrialized nations, there is a prolonged route to adulthood. Turning 13 and the sweet 16 are symbolic, but the real benefits of being an adult aren’t bestowed until later in life. I would argue that the real age of adulthood in America is somewhere in the mid-30s. Around that age, many people are starting to make enough money to support their families. The lessons of keeping finances have been eked out, jobs become more stable (one hopes), owning a house might be within reach, and a person is starting to gain more respect in the workplace (with a few gray hairs starting to show). In the meantime, the period of odd angst that was once a bastion of the teen years is extended through the 20s. Some sociologists are calling this period “Emerging Adulthood” or “Extended Adolescence.”

Despite our culture’s obsession with being young forever, becoming an adult is a good process; one that I believe could be started much earlier. In fact, I see in many young people the potential for leadership and yet they have been given permission to do nothing for so long that there is a great amount of strain to do things that, over time, have become simple.

Let’s wake up early so we can work. “Oh man — that’s hard.”

This decision has to be made regardless of the consequences. “I don’t like the sound of consequences. Can we do that tomorrow?”

Your speech will be tomorrow, are you prepared? “What day is tomorrow? What? When?”

Growth is frustrating for everyone involved. Especially for those who hold the keys to the world adolescents are growing up into. When King Saul saw that young David had defeated Goliath, he became jealous. David and Saul’s son Jonathan became good friends, and at many times Saul tried to kill David. David eventually became king and the administration of Saul and his family faded away.

In Ecclesiastes, it is written that there is “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot …” and many more times to do many things. If you have grown up and been grown up for a long time, is it your time to build someone into adulthood? Or if you are growing and wish to be planted as a seed to grow, how are you going to be reborn? I think there is a connection that needs to be made. More of the wise could be reaching out to those who need wisdom. It is clear that we have the time, how will we grow the future?

And what is your part?

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.

Quick Thought: Turning 30 Years Old – Am I Any Different

I have officially turned 30 years old this morning.  That’s three decades.  I remember turning 10, that was a big deal in 3rd grade.  I honestly have no recollection of my 20th birthday (I was poor in college and not yet married).  And now my 3rd decade has begun.  For others who have turned 30, there is dismay or a soul searching.  In the show friends, there is an episode where Rachel turns 30, and suddenly every becomes shell shocked remembering how horrible their 30th birthday was.  I think I remember Joey just yelling, “Why, Why Why?”  I’ve thought about it a bit, and I decided a while ago, when I realized I would turn 3o today, that I’m glad to have made it this far.  Someone posted to my facebook page that “Birthdays are good for you.  Statistics show that people who have more live longer.”  I feel that way, and I feel like I’ve used those 30 years well.

Here are a few things I’m proud of:

(1) I was born in 1982 – I am glad that I exist.  Non-Existence does not suit me.

(2) I love my family.  Some people don’t have that, and I am so grateful.

(3) I am a disciple of Jesus – totally a game changer.  Nothing will ever be the same for me, Thank you Mr. McDuff, Bud, Mark and Trinity Assembly of God

(4) I went to college.  Flagler was eye opening for me, and I’m thankful for the professors who kicked me around a bit.  Anastasia Baptist Church, you took good care of me too.

(5) Dj Why and the Image, a college band with Matt and Ryan, was so much fun.  I remember the shows in my mind, and it was good for me to be so nervous but have so much fun.

(6) I married a strong, courageous, and intelligent woman – all of those traits,  you would have to have to stay married to me for long.  I can’t imagine life without her.

(7) Seminary was the hardest thing I have ever done.  God gave me a wall and said Climb.  I did, and I can’t believe I made it through.  The Bible is a rock and I know that more solidly thanks to Gordon Conwell.  Too many good friends from there to count.  I miss you all.  Grace Chapel and Gravity, you are all in my heart.  Sometimes I wake up and think I’m about to head to Lexington.

(8) Saint Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church, her people have welcomed us, and I am so glad to have discovered Methodists.  I hardly knew my theology was already articulated so well and practiced so fully.  Glad to be here.  Bluffton and Hilton Head have become a home.

Oh, and I know I have failed up the ladder as well:

(1) Tying shoes was tough.

(2) I didn’t have much compassion for my little sister and her shenanigans.  (So glad we are good friends now)

(3) I rebelled hard in High School (no drugs, no alcohol, just angst that pushed outward) – which I think my parents have forgiven me for.

(4) Freshman year of college was no breeze – thank you to my English Professor for taking me aside and asking me what was going on.  It changed everything.

(5) Amanda – I asked you out in the worst way possible.  Thank you for marrying me anyway.

(6) The guitar is something I love, I think I will master, but never have.  I love it….I hate it.  One day I will conquer that hill.

(7) Gordon Conwell, midnight, Greek workbook – head on table about to break emotionally.  It wasn’t fun, but I have it forever.

(8) Learning to lead – I’m still figuring this out.  Pray for me.  I’ll pray for you.  God is with us.

All in all, I’m excited that I survived this long.  Many don’t see life this way, but I am a strategist at heart and I see life as a battlefield.  My favorite scripture verse is from the book of Joshua in the Old Testament.  Chapter 1, verse 9: Be Bold and Courageous for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua was leading the Isrealites into battle, and they won some, they lost some.  We all do the same, but God is with us regardless.  I can feel his presence and I’m looking forward to walking in His path for the next 30 years, and hopefully…the next 30 years after that.  Peace to you.