Tag: Kingdom of God

Less Stress: The Big Picture Belongs to God

Stop stressing: Leave the big picture to God

Published Monday, March 7, 2011

Sometimes seeing the big picture is hard. I once heard a story, and I will tell it how I remember it, about a newly married woman. Her husband made enough money so she felt blessed that she would be able to be at the home to keep up the house, take care of future children, cook meals and do the day-to-day business of the family.

One day her husband returned home and noticed half a bag of potatoes sitting around the kitchen sink. Hearing sobs, he followed his wife’s voice until he found her. He asked, “What is wrong? What happened?” She just continued in tears unable to speak. The husband felt terrible and figured he had done something wrong.

When she composed herself and was able to speak, the woman told her husband what had happened. As she was peeling the potatoes, she started thinking about all the years she would be married. She multiplied how many potatoes she had by an approximate amount of times she would have to peel potatoes over the years. Millions of potatoes filled her mind and she was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of her commitment.

When we look at the big picture on any project or the human condition around the world it’s easy to be overtaken by a sense of helplessness. Big is big — no way around it. We want to count our lives in minutes, and then realize as we age it’s easier to tick off decades. If we counted each minute and accounted for everything we have put our hands to, we would simply shut down. While it is nice to reminisce, spending too much time on the past can leave you stuck there.

The Prophets weren’t well-liked in the old country of Israel. I think it was simply because they told people what was going to happen, and it often wasn’t good news.

God saw the end of an age and in sorrow allowed a few people to tell their friends that faith was dying and self-dependence had replaced a prayerful dependence on the Lord. Isaiah spoke God’s word, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” God calls them to seek justice, end the evils among them, and turn back toward their original love for God’s goodness. In foreknowledge he knows of that the destruction of their nation was on the way.

I am thankful God never leaves us to wallow in our distress. Though we have times of trouble, God speaks blessings such as this, also from Isaiah’s book: “Zion will be redeemed with justice and a promise is given that in the last days,” the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

After all the potatoes have been peeled, even after we have spent eons tending to our world, God promises to shore up our efforts with His strength. So we do all the good that we can, but also are assured that the greatest good is still coming. We remember that God walked among us 2,000 years ago, and His spirit is with us today.

This promise is for everyone who has been worried about the big picture. Anyone who has lost sleep because they see the world ending in a great fire with all lost to chaos.

God is saying to all of us: “Leave the big picture to me. I am your strength.”

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

The Depth of Marriage

Marriage is [and can be] AWESOME

If someone only listened to popular media outlets and read the statistics about marriage, it would seem that marriage as an institution is dying out.  And then, if one spent some time watching films about marriage and other television shows, one would think that those in marriage tend to be unhappy with the arrangement.  Adultery, spousal neglect, and idiocy that makes comedy work – also creates an accepted norm for marriage that devalues the relationship.

We’re talking about “love” in our youth group, and I’ve been thinking about how our culture sees love in a 1 dimensional way.  Love is often seen as merely a feeling, and it can come and go.  If I hear someone on television say, “I just don’t love your mother anymore,” or “He doesn’t make me feel like he used to,” I’m going to walk out of the room.  Love is more than a feeling.

After 7 and a half years of marriage, Amanda and I are still finding new ways to be in love.  In fact yesterday we had another “first” as we bought a second bike, and for the first time, took a bike ride together around the neighborhood.  At the end of the evening we were both talking about some other “firsts” we could do together – and I realized that every day there are more firsts, more exciting adventures, and more things to discover about my amazing wife – who I value because she grows into a more amazing person each day right in front of me.  I just have to keep my eyes open and my mind aware to recognize it.  I realize also that the second that I stop paying attention to her, is also the moment that I stop treating her like she deserves.  If I truly LOVE my wife, I will know her, and connect with her each and every day in every way that I can.  Other than my relationship with God, she should be (and I try to make her) my highest priority.  Its amazing what a bike ride together can remind you of.  Hopefully our next first together will be going on a vacation out of the US together. That’s a dream of hers.

More than my own opinion, in 1 Corinthians 13,  love is presented by the Apostle Paul, as more of an all encompassing worldview rather than an emotion, or something that comes and goes on the wind:

1 Corinthians 13,  (NIV, Emphasis added)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Here is the same scripture read for you if you would like to watch as a moment of devotion:

Honestly, if love, as presented in 1 Corinthians 13, became the foundation for marriages, it would remain the rock of a strong culture as it has been in the past.  Unfortunately, like all things, we forget over time what the simplest of things mean.  Living a life in LOVE, and not for oneself, is a difficult task – it is more than a task – it is a process.  A process of perfection, in which we realize our imperfections and realize that we are not always loving and course correct ourselves, rather than continuing to drive towards cliffs that will inevitably destroy our relationships.  A marriage that is not making progress towards the goal of being better is going to disintegrate.  It is always a work in process, as we prioritize our lives [God -> Spouse -> Family ->Work/Church/Education/Friends].  Our order of operations need to flow from the strength of God’s love, and not our own.  One day, working on our own, we will run dry and that is why we must go to the source of life itself to replenish ourselves for the “other” person in our lives that we have promised to be One with.

The fact is – Marriage is [and can be] Awesome.  But like all things, there is daily maintenance that needs to be done.  Doug Fields, a youth pastor in California, recently talked about marriage and how couples really want to connect more (as opposed to just talking all the time).  In order to connect, you have to set aside good portions of time with no agenda other than your spouse.  Put aside the “To Do” lists, stop thinking about your kids or your job for a while, and look into each others eyes.  Hold each others hands.  Feel the wedding rings click together and remember putting them on one another and promising to live your life together.  And ultimately, rely on God’s strength by praying for one another and caring about needs without asking anything in return.  Connect and remember how to love.

Its Not a Debate About Religion or Keeping Government Out of Religion – Its a Hate Fest

I grew up reading the Union Leader, and I still have a fondness for New Hampshire paper’s positive news reporting.  I particularly remember the Hometown Heroes section, and I loved reading what was going on around the state I lived in.  I Google track the term “Derry” in GoogleNews now, and I noticed an article about a church that has been meeting in West Running Brook Middle School (of which I am a graduate of).  The church is named North Ridge, and the article is great.   Its about the church wanting to raise some funds for a building to worship in, and they did a creative media campaign to raise $1 or more from a million people.  That’s a good deal, and people can decide what they give their dollars to.  No big. Its a neat story, but many would probably pass it over.

The part that really got to me, however, is the comments on the article.  Many years ago I vowed not to read comments thanks to an AOL experience that showed how bad anonymous humanity can be to one another, but since it was a small town article, I read the comments.

What quickly develops is two camps.  (1) Those who have attended the church and are glad to read an article about their pastor’s idea.  I imagine they think its affirming that the paper took the time to tell their story.  Then (2) the voice of those who really do not like religion at all.  A quote: “I guess anyone can start a church today and call themselves a “pastor”.  Nice way to avoid work, live off other people’s hard earned money and avoid paying taxes.” There is an open disgust with churches and those associated with them, and regardless of whether they know anyone at the church – they lambaste whoever comes to its defense.

Next, something even more troubling happens.  People not associated with the church come to defense of the church.  By this time the argument has become so convoluted, that it eventually becomes a Religion vs. Anti-Religion debate. Personal attacks on argument style ensue, and people forget the actual article and just duke it out.  This happens in every article that has a Religious association.

I’m trying to understand the other position on this, but this is what the argument looks like against religious folks:

(1) “Separation of church and state” means total and absolute non-existence of a religious world view in the public sphere. Especially government.  There is no consideration that religious word views are core to many people’s lives, so technically every decision they make, and the very way they think is wrong.  Thus, it should be erased with shame, maiming, and personal attacks.  Sounds a bit like fascism to me.  Several concerns were about how the town of Derry should not support a church.  They don’t seem to realize that these churches rent out the space and pay their way based on availability (at a time the school would usually be not used at all – in fact, those complaining are probably asleep).  But perception, and lack of knowledge combine to create the griping.

(2) The church is a mooch. The pastor lives off of fools who give money, and there is no benefit in return.  Its a numbers game, tricking as many people into your flock as possible, getting as much out of it as possible, and doing silly things to make them think its worthwhile.  But many pastors are people who could have gone into another field and have made millions more doing something else, and yet they have chosen, on faith, to come to a community, and serve people by performing marriages, caring for the sick, praying for the people of the church, and deal with community strife, among trying to build consensus among very strong personalities to bring about Good in this world.  There are bad pastors, but most are trying to do good – and are accomplishing it!

(3) Believers are all ignorant and uneducated. I can see where if you don’t believe, church would seem somewhat silly sometimes.  But the religious texts, histories, traditions, and beliefs have been around much longer than any of us and need at least to be considered.  While some religious trappings may seem odd to those who don’t practice (even to those of faith looking at another way to celebrate the same faith) – we still should respect another human being – AND respect their Human Dignity and allow them the benefit of the doubt that if they choose to have faith – that there is some rationale to it.  Faith and Reason certainly can go hand in hand.  And a word to Christians – we know we look like Fools to others.  Accept it, and stop fighting fire with fire.

It is unfortunate that online we think we are allowed to be like animals.  Tearing into each other will only leave everyone wounded, laying on the ground, unable to make a move.  This no win game wastes energy, and distracts us from some very human goals that those of faith, and those without could be doing together.  I think that is what sickens me the most, and I hope that we can begin to realize that the people on the other side of the internet are humans too.

The Hate Language Has Got To Go

Extreme Home Makeover Builds More Than A House

‘Extreme Makeover’ builds more than a house


Published Monday, January 24, 2011

Few things get entire communities excited these days — but the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has a way of blowing into a neighborhood like a fresh wind.

Rallying people around families in need of proper housing and telling their stories to the world make for a stirring occasion. Honestly, I have a hard time watching episodes of “Extreme Makeover” because I get emotional and my wife likes to look over and see if there are any tears.

Two recent local builds, one in Savannah and the other in Beaufort, have highlighted the power of this production to bring together people from all walks of life to reach out and make heaven on earth a reality for some very deserving people.

We all need a place to call home. The desire for safety and comfort away from trouble is deep-rooted and always has been necessary for us to feel truly human. The hidden reality of the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve made the first family, is that the garden was a safe place. It was not only a place where there was plenty of food and water, but it was a place filled with God’s presence, and the love that God had for his creation was stated over and over, “It is good.”

Since losing that perfect safety, people have cultivated the earth to rebuild paradise, and success is sometimes fleeting, depending on the times.

People do have a global outlook now more than ever, with access to information in every corner. It is easy to lose oneself in the data, as it is obvious that multitudes of people are not in safe situations and need help.

“How can I do anything to bring hope to the world, when I am such a small person?” we might ask. But outfits such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and its energetic crew, remind us that a few people with strong vision, lots of energy and the attitude of “We’re going to do something good” can actually bring about change in a modern version of an Amish barn-raising.

Ty Pennington hasn’t started something new with his show. The needs that his crew addresses have been met by many in the past and in the present. The churches of the world and the good people who have seen the call to “go out” to the world have been building homes, orphanages and lives for centuries, out of pure love for God’s diverse people across the globe.

When the cameras leave town and those in the community reflect on what has happened, hopefully they see a symbol of what all our communities are capable of.

With or without a television program, there’s still more work to be done.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Read more: The Island Packet

Big Thinking Can Lead To Even Bigger Doing

Big thinking can lead to even bigger doing


Published Monday, December 27, 2010

At a recent youth ministry convention in Nashville, I had the opportunity to attend a small group led by a man I had never met before, Shaun King. I went to hear King’s talk on how social media can change the world. I was interested in hearing more about this topic because I see Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and other similar sites as potential resources for ministry.

Our youth group, for example, has its own page on Facebook and a profile on Twitter. I wanted to find out how we could use these sites for the greater good. Instead of simply learning, though, I became inspired by King’s stories. What struck me most wasn’t just that he had started the site http://www.twitchange.com, which used celebrity endorsements to raise money to purchase tents for people in Haiti, or that he has raised tons of money for causes in urban Atlanta — both of which are awesome achievements, of course; it was his almost pathological ability to think BIG that blew me away the most.

Big ideas, regardless of practicality or available resources, have the potential to change the world. Without big ideas, we wouldn’t have mass distribution or massive poverty relief agencies like World Vision. Shaun King, like other big thinkers, basically asks, “What is the need?” and then begins the process of coming up with unique and creative ways to provide for that need. As humanity becomes more globally aware, big dreams become more and more necessary, and we need to talk about how these ideas come about.

Big ideas often start in small places. There was a time when the billionaires behind the computer revolution were garage hobbyists on the fringe of mainstream ideas. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were once eccentrics with a vision for something new — and their dreams are what fuel our “Tron”-like lifestyles. Because of big thinkers like them (and electrons), grandparents can talk to their progeny across the world through Skype and Facebook.

Big ideas come from unexpected places. Plato’s “Myth of Metals” speaks about how everyone has a sort of metal mixed in their soul. Some, fit for ruling, are mixed with gold. Others, the warriors, are mixed with silver; and the last, the producers, are mixed with iron or bronze. The philosopher pointed out that no one knows which metal a person has until they have been observed. While the myth seems classist, it is quite revolutionary in ancient paternal societies, in that it emphasizes the potential of every person to prove his or her worth by quality and merit. The takeaway is that the lowliest person, even those living in abject poverty with no attributed merit or rank, can rise above and bring about the transformation of the immediate community, and, through time, the entire world.

A final thought on big ideas: All big ideas mean sacrifice. If something is worth anything to a person, it has to become a passion to spread to others. When changers of the future tell stories, you hear in their voices that they have given up much for what they believe in. I sometimes wonder how the president feels when he wakes up and realizes he can’t play with his daughters as often as he likes because he has to build relations in Asia. And I’m going to guess Shaun King would probably like to spend more time with his wife, but tents need to find their way to Haiti. In the gospel of Luke 14:33, Jesus says, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” If that seems tough, one must ask, “Do I believe in the cause?”

Missionaries and aid workers around the globe sleep in bags rather than on a mattress in solidarity with those they care about. And from sacrifice, wells are built, food is delivered and young people are educated. All these things help build a foundation for a better world for future generations. At last we ask ourselves: What are the Big Ideas for us? Who will dream them up? And how much are we willing to sacrifice in order to transform the world?

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church.

Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

People need to be together, but more than just online

People need to be together, but more than just online

Published Monday, November 1, 2010

I remember the first time I saw someone using a social network. It was in the college library, and a cool kid was using a site called MySpace. I noticed a box in the lower righthand corner labeled “friends,” and every once in a while this girl would click on the picture of a person, then leave a comment. It was almost like collecting baseball cards of your friends.

I was fascinated, so I immediately sat down to create an account. It was about connecting with friends and I loved it. Quickly, I found 50 friends online through their e-mail addresses and became part of an online group.

The heart of social networking is about being together. While it starts at the computer, conversations soon spill into real life. Even when you are face to face, you talk about what you posted on Facebook. And when a phone call comes through, you laugh at the latest YouTube video that your friend found, or you comment on a Scripture verse someone posted from your pastor’s sermon last Sunday.

Suddenly the notion of being together is remade.

Being together isn’t a new concept, but I think that in our busy lives, we forget how to do this simple thing. Two words we need to look at: “being” and “together.”

Often, we think that “being” means getting all our “to dos” done, or working a lot of extra hours, basically the idea that we are what we do. It’s good to make a name in the community, but when the end of the day feels like a whirlwind, and we lay down in bed just barely gaining breath, there is a problem.

“Being” is bigger than our “to dos” — it is the sum of everything that makes a person a person and not a tree or a chipmunk. It is the thoughts, the stories, the emotions, the places visited, the images of oneself, the choices we make and the people we love. “Being” is a conversation with ourself — and to understand it, we need quietness, and brief moments (or long sabbaticals) of time to remember who we are. A life not reflecting on itself will act on impulse and fall apart in its inconsistencies.

The second word is “together.” It is when you venture from the refinement of solitude to give from what God’s given you, back to God and to others.

Growing up in a warm and caring church, I knew what togetherness meant in full. Jesus himself talked about “The Kingdom of God,” and I believe one of the greatest outward expressions of the love of the church (at least that I knew as a child) was the pot luck.

Basically, everyone who was able to cook would bring something to eat to the church table. There would be three types of baked beans, four types of casseroles, macaroni salad with and without onions, green beans, squash and an infinite supply of chocolate chip cookies as well as my favorite — pink ambrosia.

To a growing kid, there was no greater expression of love than the chocolate chip cookie and pink ambrosia, and being surrounded by the adults who were able to make such glorious creations. Being together at the church is necessary because, while you can entice someone with a picture of a cookie on the Internet, you have to be face to face in order to give it to that person.

God bless the ladies of the church.

How interesting that MySpace isn’t the dominant social network any longer. A recent bottom line analysis was made of MySpace, saying “the emphasis will be on entertainment and celebrities, rather than friends.” How unfortunate, as they have missed a basic understanding of why social networking is popular. The core need is this: People just want to be together.

Whether at church, online or at the coffee shop — we need each other.

Read more: http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/11/01/1428317/people-need-to-be-together-but.html#ixzz14HsCtpzs

Pastor’s Corner – Sometimes the world needs a reminder there’s good news

Sometimes the world needs a reminder there’s good news

Published Monday, October 18, 2010

Some countries get a lot of news coverage: Russia, China, England, Australia and Canada, to name a few of the major ones. But Chile? I hadn’t thought much about that nation until recently when news media began focusing on what seemed to be just another run-of-the-mill mining tragedy. A mine had collapsed and rescuers were frantically searching for survivors. It wasn’t until it was discovered that miners had, in fact, survived the collapse and were trapped deep below the surface that it became a different story.

For the weeks that followed this discovery, global audiences watched the news each night to see how the effort to save the men was progressing. The suspense gripped us because we know that people rarely survive these types of disasters. Was it possible the miners could go crazy, like in an episode of “X-Files”? How would their hope hold out? How could they be saved when they were so far below the surface? After seeing how quickly stories can go from bad to worse — such as the Gulf oil spill — one had to wonder what the future held for the trapped miners. We all hoped for the best, but there was a very real possibility this could turn to horror.

Then these men were saved.

A drill reached the miners and created a hole big enough to send down a container to save the crew, one man at a time. Chile celebrated, the families of the crew rejoiced, and the world watched as prayers from across the globe were answered. Who ever thought these hard-working men would have their faces in every home with a television? They’re now famous for remaining patient while waiting to be saved.

I remember someone once saying why the musical group The Carpenters was so well-received at their debut: “The world was ready for something good.” After so much angst, so many failures, so many disasters — from Hurricane Katrina, to the great loss of life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the harm the spilled oil has done to the Gulf — we were all in need of good news.

All bitterness in the past is put aside for now, because the world has found goodness — a reminder of our beginnings, when God made man and woman and felt satisfied with what he had created.

We were made in God’s image and we need reminders that despite the threat of the walls collapsing, and darkness overwhelming us in our ordinary lives, there is something within us that helps us get through tough times. It is in our makeup, and though we have screwed up in the past and continue to make mistakes, we are also capable of great things.

Our faith in a good future is an important thing.

Jesus rocked the disciples, when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

In commissioning them to do greater things, Jesus told them they would perform miracles; they would speak a new message of hope to the world, of a place where God’s goodness is shown, and people work together to end evil and destroy the darkness.

It is good to have heartwarming stories like the rescues in Chile because it gives us hope.

It is also a good reminder to the people of the church that the world is still looking for good things, and the love of Christ is the greatest thing of all.

Read more: http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/10/18/1412275/sometimes-the-world-needs-a-reminder.html#ixzz130VJ4yRq