Monday, January 12, 2015


There’s a poem called “86,400 Seconds” by a man named Jim Yerman
It’s become one of my favorites as of recently:

“If we were given 86,400 dollars every day to spend any way we could
And at the end of the day what we didn't spend would be lost to us for good, What would we do?
Whatever time we lose today is time that's lost forever.
That when we wake the next morning- each day we start anew.
The 86,400 seconds are less important- than how we choose to spend them.”
We wouldn't have to think too hard, or engage in a long discourse. 
We would take that money, go right out and spend it all, of course! 
Each day we are given 86,400 seconds, it's been this way for centuries. 
86,400 seconds every day- to do with as we please.
There is one limitation, you might say, this gift comes with a hidden cost
Whatever time we don't use wisely, at the end of the day is lost.
Yes, it's free and it's ours to spend, no strings attached...however
Yet such is the nature of this gift- true our daily seconds don't accrue
I believe the lesson we are shown here- since there's no way to extend them."

Our first text this morning comes from Genesis 1:1-5:

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

This is the Creation story, the beginning of Scripture as a whole.
Every story needs has to start somewhere- this is it.
This is the story of how God brought the Universe into existence.
And it starts very simply: “In the beginning…”

God begins to create the heavens and the earth
In other words, God is starting to do something new, something big, something awesome.
Something is coming into existence that wasn’t there before.
God is acting.

In v. 2 the Earth is described as a “formless void,” with darkness all around it.
There’s nothing really there yet, except that “a wind from God,” or, as other translations put it “the spirit of God” swept over the face of the waters.

So right away, we’re only two verses into Scripture, and we already see the presence of God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, two of the three persons of the Trinity.
And while the word "Trinity" never appears anywhere in Scripture, texts like these remind us of our need for theology- for making sense of God, Scripture, ourselves & the world around us.
It's fascinating.

Next, in v. 3-5 God finally starts speaking things into existence: 

“Then God said: “let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”

The first thing God does- He makes time.
And all in these three short verses, we have three different “sets” of time:
Light & Darkness, Day & Night, and Evening & Morning.

Before God creates any living thing- be it plants or animals or people or anything- God establishes order: Light & Darkness
And it’s called time: Day & Night.
It’s a way to arrange things- to structure things in an orderly way.
It’s also a way to denote the passing of time: Evening & Morning.

By the way, it’s interesting to note here the word order: Evening & Morning, as opposed to Morning & Evening.
The Hebrews thought that the new day starts in the evening, rather than in the morning.

It makes sense if you think about it.
Before technology and computers and cell phones and watches, people told time by looking outside, observing the position of the Sun, and when it got dark out, they knew it was night time.

And all these “sets” of things represent one bigger thing:
The start of something new:
A new day, A new evening, A new week, A new month, A new year, etc.
The list goes on and on.

In a lot of ways, I think time is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to us.

Think about it: We’re all given the same amount of time during the course of a day, like we heard in the opening poem.

God even ordered it so we would know when it’s time to do different things:
Like working & resting, eating & drinking and sleeping & waking up

Genesis 1 really seems like a fitting text in light of the Calendar New Year.
Especially when our culture is rolling out its “New Year, New You 20- whatever year it is” ad campaigns to make us buy more stuff.
And pushing to make changes in our lives from our New Year’s Resolutions.

But maybe, instead of trying to keep resolutions,
What if we recognize what’s already here?

What if we recognize that while seeking to change & better ourselves is a good thing- part of that process means paying greater attention to what’s around us?

Psalm 29 says this:

“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

Clearly, this is one of those Psalms that offers perspective- especially between man & God.
The first two verses command the singer/ reader to “Ascribe to the Lord,” or, in other words, recognize what God is, which, in this Psalm have a lot to do with God’s glory.

And in v. 3-11, almost all start with the phrase “The voice of the Lord…”
In other words, God’s voice.

Which is described, both in the Genesis story of creation, and here in Psalm 29 as well, as being able to create & destroy things as God seeks fit.

Granted, most of what is described here is destruction, except for v. 3: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters,” which is very similar to the “Let there be light,” that we heard a moment ago in Genesis 1.

In both cases, God is present, and God is speaking.
It’s clear to see when we read the story & hear the poetry.
But come on, let’s face it, we don’t hear God’s booming voice in our daily lives, do we?

Or is it that we’re just not listening hard enough?

Think about it:
How many of us have laptops?Cell phones? TVs? Internet? Jobs? Families?
Life can be busy, I get that.But are we too busy for God?

If we ever hope to become true followers of Jesus, we need to have time to mute some of the distractions in our lives

This month, we’re focusing as a church on Spiritual growth, specifically growing through Scripture.Our banner over the Communion Table says “Grow in the Word”.
Simply put, that’s what we’re called to do.And in reality, we can’t live for God if we can’t hear him speak, can we?

And the first place you go to hear from Him is- you guessed it- ScriptureBut it’s not about how much you read in a day, or even how fast you read itIt’s more about the process, the journey of it.

Thomas Merton once said to: “Cover less ground more slowly,” in terms of ScriptureI think that this really speaks to the heart of how we should read Scripture.

For those who follow our Facebook page, you know that we post daily devotional readings from Seedbed, the publishing arm of Asbury Seminary.

J.D.Walt, the “Sower-in-Chief” for Seedbed, writes the Daily Text, and he made a lot of helpful suggestions with this in mind:

Here’s a few I want to leave you with for more effective Scripture reading:Instead of “extracting” what we think is relevant for us, he suggests an “immersion” approach
Further, he adds that: 
“It’s not about leaving our world to go into the bible to get something to take back to our world. It’s about a fusion of the horizon of Scripture with the horizon of our own lives and communities. As we read our way into the Word, the Spirit will lead our path into the World.”

On a practical level, he suggests taking one verse, and sitting with it for a month or two

His example was from Psalm 119:105:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” and to quietly recite it out loud to yourself in the morning when you reach for the light as you’re waking up in the morning."

Again, the idea is to be immersed, to let it master us instead of trying to master whatever it is we’re reading.

I know what you’re thinking: one verse?That means it would take me a lifetime to get through all of it!


Because the point is to have our lives changed so radically that we see the world as God sees it.

And that doesn't happen overnight.

The author, Leighton Ford, in his book The Attentive Life states that: “God wants us to be attentive people, as He is an attentive God.”

Let’s strive to be attentive people today, church
Attentive to God by being attentive to Scripture.


This post is one of my sermons, preached at the Alexandria First Free Methodist Church, on 1/11/15.

(All Scripture texts used from the NRSV translation of the Bible).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Failing Forward

I have a confession to make. I failed the other day. Earlier in the week (I think it was Monday or Tuesday), as I was walking out of work (Target is my second job), there were two guys sitting on the bench outside the exit doors. They appeared to be traveling musicians (not that their appearance should make a difference). One of them asked if I could spare some change, which, for once, I could (I don't normally carry cash). Without even looking up, I said that I didn't have any, and kept walking. I was a bit preoccupied, because my wife was out of one of her medications, and I was looking at my phone to see if it had been filled so I could grab it on the way home.
The guy's response was priceless: "okay, have a nice day." But there was respect, and honesty in his voice that I wasn't expecting. He said it in such a way that I was sure he was perfectly okay with my lack of giving. He could have been a jerk about it, but he was kind. I think that's what got me the most. As I made it to the car, I realized too late that I missed an opportunity to minister to someone else. And I started to beat myself up about it. I'm a pastor, and a Methodist pastor at that. Serving the poor and disenfranchised is what Methodism is all about.
And while I recognize that my understanding of the situation now changes nothing about the outcome, the simple fact remains, that, when the opportunity came to be Jesus to someone else, I blew it, big time. The thought also occurs to me that in one sense, this random stranger showed Jesus to me.
Would a dollar gave put me out? No. Did I have change to spare? This time, I did. And once again, his kindness is what got me the most.
If I had to do it again, it would look something more like me giving the guy the dollar I had in my wallet, and stopping to take the time to ask about who they were and what they were doing. They had guitars, maybe we could have talked about that, or I could have asked about their music, or whatever.
Several months earlier while at work, I was helping a guy buy a pair of Bose ear buds, who openly admitted to me that it had only taken him about an hour or so to get enough money to buy them, and that he lost the previous pair in a drug deal gone bad.  Having heard that, it forced me to re-evaluate my position on giving money to homeless people (or seemingly homeless people, for that matter).  And, while, you could make the argument that how they spend the money you give them should be a reason for concern, or at least, further inquiry, that's not "the more excellent way." When I reflected on it, further, however, I realized that my position shouldn't change. At all.
Just like for our salvation, God extends love and grace to all humanity, regardless of who they are or what they have done, being a disciple of Jesus means doing the same thing for others. Just because I might be a bit put off by how someone looks, or dresses, or acts, my duty as a Methodist (and further, as a disciple of Christ), is to "freely give" as I have freely received (Matthew 10:8).
But what's done is done. Instead of internalizing it, and putting myself down over it, though, I'm choosing to see it as a learning experience.
Here's to failing forward, friends.
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An open letter to Apple

An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Apple,

          I am the proud father of a daughter with Autism. Her name is Abbey (short for Abigail), she is 2 ½ years old, and was diagnosed this past fall.  In case you aren’t aware: “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors “  (taken from, article title What is Autism?). Since then, we have been working hard with our local school district and other outside agencies to help, and she has made substantial progress over the past several months.
          Through various social media outlets, as well as from my daughter’s teachers, I had heard that the iPad had a number of apps specifically designed for children/people with Autism, helping to teach them basic life skills (language development, potty training, even using it as a communication tool for those who are more severe cases).  After a bit of investigating, and seeing her teachers use it with her during their home visits, my wife and I finally decided to buy one for her, to continue to work with her over the coming summer months.  Obviously, the price was a hurdle that we had to conquer, but we finally went out to our local Wal-Mart and made the purchase.
          We have only had our iPad for about a month or so, but in that short time, I have seen my daughter learn new words, discover new animals and their sounds , made substantial progress in the area of potty training (something my wife and I have been dreading for months), been able to watch Sesame Street episodes (which helped greatly on a recent 6 hour road trip), and have fun in the process.  While I am indebted to the individual developers of those apps specifically, I am indebted to you for your development of this technology, because without it, none of these things would have been possible.  I am excited to see how much more we will be able to teach her in the future, and am hopeful that someday, she will be able to function normally and contribute to society in profound ways in the future. In short, thank you.


Nick Scutari

Daughters, Guitars, God & Autism

Well, since the semester is (finally) over, I have had time over the last number of days to do those things that I never had time for while still in the midst of spring classes. Things like play my guitar, play more with my daughters, make banana bread, and do some reading that isn't seminary-related.  The one that I enjoy the most has to be playing my guitar.  For one thing, I've been playing since I was a teenager, and it's just something I enjoy doing.  For another, it puts my older, 2 1/2 year old daughter in a good mood.  When I get the guitar out of the closet, she starts screaming "MUSIC!! MUSIC!!"and her excitement continues from there. (More than once, I've used it as a re-direct tool when she starts acting out because of her Autism).  My almost 6-month old daughter Zoe either stares at me or the guitar as I play, or it puts her to sleep (haha).
One song in particular that I play is John Mayer's "Daughters."  I've been playing the guitar part for years, but only recently was able to pick up the lyrics and play it all together.  What struck me about this song, though is its message. The obvious meaning to the song is that the guy is in love with a girl who was hurt/abused/abandoned by her father, and now he's gotta figure it out.  But it seems like every time my own life circumstance changes, I find myself coming to see it with a new meaning.
In college, I heard it as a love song to my then fiancee, now wife. Not that she carries any kind of baggage from her father, but as I would listen to it, I really did feel like she was "the girl who put the color inside of my world."
As time went on, and we had our first daughter, Abbey, I heard it in a new way from the perspective of a new father, whose daughter I knew was going to change my life in substantial ways.  Then she was diagnosed with Autism.  I got upset, I cried, I got angry, I yelled at God. I asked "why?" and said "it's not fair." And then I accepted it.  Now, as I hear (and play) it to her now, I hear it in a new way once again. The "girl who puts the color inside of my world," is still my daughter, but she does that because of her different perspective and experience of life.  It has pushed me to appreciate life in a new way.
As I was playing for her yesterday, I played and sang the song once again, but this time, became overly aware of how much influence I have over my daughters, and reminded me of the responsibilities I have to them as a parent, beyond the day to day stuff.

So there it is. Keep looking up everyone.

Much love,


Saturday, May 19, 2012

There's more to life than seminary...


          At times I honestly never thought this day would come.  I've been going to school at Asbury Seminary for my M.Div since last fall, and this second semester has to have been one of my more difficult ones as a college/graduate student.
          Trying to figure out how to do homework with two kids has proved to be more challenging than I thought, and it's forced me to plan my time much better than I used to.  Of course, I still have had to stay up until 11 or midnight to get stuff in. But I learned that with a little planning, and working on it a little bit at a time, I wasn't as stressed, and was more productive in the time that I did spend on it. Of course, by the time I got the hang of it, it was the last week of the semester. But now I know what to do in a few weeks for my summer NT Greek class.
          Of course, my daughter, Abbey's autism also played a factor.  When she was having her "extra autistic" days, it made it more difficult to get stuff done. Between not sleeping well, the autistic fits, the screaming, and hitting her 5 month old little sister, there were days when I got nothing done at all.
          But now, I breathe a sigh of relief, because I turned my final assignment of the semester in last night.  I've designated today an official "day of rest," and Steph and I have nicknamed it the: "day of awesomeness." We're going out to wander around the mall later, probably go out to dinner, and then see the Avengers, which we've been waiting to see for weeks. I've heard some mixed reviews, so we'll see, but I'm hopeful.
          In sum, I feel very blessed that I have the ability to go to seminary, and I have learned a lot, but I'm also grateful for time off, too. I think I'm finally beginning to understand what Paul meant when he said: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

Grace and Peace,


Monday, April 23, 2012

When life gets real...

Right now, as I sit with Abbey while she falls asleep, I've been thinking about today while listening to John Mayer's "Half of My Heart." If anyone who reads this isn't already aware, my daughter, Abbey, was diagnosed with Autism last fall, right around the time she turned 2.
We have been working with the local school district's early childhood education center, and Abbey has learned so much in 6 short months. Recently, the Autism specialist at school suggested to us that we take Abbey to another place in town, called The Village, who work with kids like Abbey (they offer other services as well), and after a few observations if Abbey, at school and at their center, Steph and I went to find out the results.
Now, a point of clarification here- Steph and I found out about Abbey's Autism through the school last fall. It's not like we didn't know what was in store. But we were hopeful that she would be high-functioning, or even borderline PDD-NOS (kids who show SOME but not ALL the Autism symptoms). Today, those dreams were dashed, as we were informed that Abbey shows all the symptoms of Autism (with the exception of eye contact).
For our family, it means that Abbey's chances of living a somewhat normal life go down substantially (statistically speaking).  To help put it in perspective, let me put it this way: Imagine not knowing what your child's future looks like. Not knowing what they will or won't be able to do. High School Graduation? Prom? College? Getting Married? Having a career? We just don't know. Obviously, we still cling to hope, and we look to the future, but the future is scary when you don't know what that will bring.
Obviously, it's something that Steph and I have known about, but The Village can give a medical diagnosis, which is a bigger deal than the one we got from the school. One isn't more accurate than the other, but the medical diagnosis is more formal. As we walked out of our meeting, I felt as if I had been stabbed. I felt the same way when the new CDC numbers for Autism came out. "1 in 88 children, 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls," are the numbers I read. My first thought was: "seriously? 1 in 252" That stinks." As I have these experiences, I feel like I'm getting my heart broken all over again. I guess that's just normal for something like this.
And as Steph and I went to Target to look for a few things, "Half of My Heart," kept playing in my head: "Half of my heart's got a grip on the situation, half of my heart needs time..." Maybe it's far fetched. I don't care. But listening to this song in light of my daughter's Autism has actually helped a little bit.
To be honest, I don't really have a conclusion to this post (maybe that's a confession, I don't know).  But I do know that I love my little girl very much. Period.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday- A day of death and a day of life.

You know, this morning I got to thinking about today- how it's good Friday. I skimmed the lectionary texts on my iPod briefly as I was eating breakfast, and I was reminded of another verse in Paul's letter to the Colossian Church:
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips," (Colossians 3:5-8, NIV 1984).

Today, when we read the story of Jesus death on the Cross, and as he cries out to God "It is finished," our sin is covered. Jesus died an earthly death to pay for the sins of humanity. Jesus has died- and now we must wait patiently for Sunday to encounter the resurrection story.
But shouldn't we recognize today as a day of death?
Shouldn't we, too, declare today a day to "put our sin to death?" and experience the forgiveness of sins he so freely offers us as we wait for his resurrection story this Sunday?

Grace and Peace,