Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11- Ten Years Later

As I'm sure we are all aware, today is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Today, across America, we find ourselves once again confronted with our own humanity. We remember where we were when we found out about it- perhaps even what time it was. And for the first time in our nation's history we, as a nation felt fear. We were confronted with our own humanity, and for a moment in history- time seemed to stand still.
I remember having just started 10th grade at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, NY. I remember sitting in my 2nd period biology class and hearing the announcement made from the main office over the P.A. system. "A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center. We don't know if it was an accident or on purpose, but we will give you updates as we get more information."
A little while later on in the day- the second announcement came- "A second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. We aren't sure of anything, but it doesn't seem to be an accident."
I remember walking through the halls of Ward Melville, and at one point even stopping in the library and the commons to look at the TVs and watch the footage of what happened.
I remember feeling sad, confused, and shocked. If I were to say that I remembered what I learned in class that day, I would be lying to you.
And I remember that on that particular day, the status quo was suspended. I felt as though I could have gone up to any student there, and asked them about their experience, regardless of who they were, or what grade they were in, and they probably would have answered me honestly. Call it the resiliency of the American Spirit, call it a group of people coming together experiencing a tragedy with a thing in common. or, call it a group of New Yorkers coming together- but on that day, in some way or another, we all actually did.
As the day went on, the towers eventually collapsed, and we as a nation stood helplessly watching in horror.
Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters perished on that day- leaving behind a broken generation of families that to this very day are still trying to find ways to pick up the pieces.
My heart and prayers go out to those families who are still experiencing that void each and every day, who went to work that morning with "business as usual" in mind, only to find out that it would be far from that.
I remember that evening, calling my father (who worked in the City) to see if he was okay. I was relieved to know that he was. I remember playing catch with my stepdad to try and take our minds off of what was going on and telling him that "it seems like the world just got a whole lot smaller," little did I know how true it would turn out to be.
I remember listening to President Bush address the nation that evening, and feeling even more sadness, knowing that September 11th would forever become a black stain on our nation's history.
I remember sitting in Church the following Sunday (I had recently become a believer), and the Pastor commenting that there were quite a few visitors that day.
I remember starting to wrestle with the question: "Why does God let these things happen?"
I remember the President telling us to go about our lives, to go out and get gas and eat out and go to movies and go shopping and live our lives, because if we don't, the terrorists have won.
My experience of 9/11 was a typical one of a kid who was born and raised on Long Island, being only 2 1/2 hours east of New York City. But for those who lost a loved one that day, their experience would change their lives forever.
My prayer for all of you this day is that the Lord God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would come to you and grant you peace and mercy, that you would ever feel his Spirit there to comfort you, to remember with you, to mourn with you, to cry with you, and, to be there picking up the pieces with you.

In Christian love,


Monday, August 29, 2011

Intentional or Haphazard?

While I was at work today, I found myself thinking about this verse from Proverbs (27:19): "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man."
Now, we don't have to look very far to see that beauty is something that is coveted in our culture. Beautiful people are everywhere- on TV, in movies, on the internet, in magazines and newspapers. It seems like all the world cares about is what lies on the outside. But this verse reminded me that God calls us to be so much more.
If I take this verse for what it is, "so a man's heart reflects the man," I think this speaks directly to character, and it stands in direct contrast to what we find in our culture today. Think of this like a math proof:
If my words and actions stem from what is in my heart, and my heart reflects who I am, then what I say and do speak to the kind of person I am. And if that is the case, then I should very much be concerned with what is in my heart. This forces me to ask uncomfortable questions about myself: Who am I? What is in my heart? What kind of a person am I, based upon my words and deeds?
This is exactly where love and service come into play.
See, if we claim to be Christians, then love and service should be what stems from our hearts. Through our relationship with Christ, our hearts are filled with those things, so that we, in turn, can go out and love and serve others.
It's not about being the "hellfire and brimstone" style evangelist. Where in the Bible are we called to preach at others and make them feel bad about themselves?
No. Instead, we are called to "Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength," and to "love our neighbor as ourselves," (Matthew 22:37-39).
What is in our heart reflects who we are, and who we are should be directly related to our relationship with God.
And it's not even about us. See, far too often, we make the Christian life about me. But it's really about others. It is about loving and serving others, just because we have a desire to love someone who is potentially a complete stranger.
Want to talk about changing the world, or making the world a better place? Start there.
"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

T minus 12 days...

For whatever reason, it just dawned on me that I start my fall semester at Asbury Seminary in 12 days, and, upon further reflection realized that the "summer of freedom" I was so looking forward to is rather rapidly being put behind me.
It seems that the older I get, the faster time goes by. Being the ripe old age of 24 (25 in a few weeks), this might be strange for me to say, but I can remember throughout my childhood that elementary school years seemed to last forever. Perhaps it was because I had a lot less responsibility than I do now, but my sneaking suspicion is that I have forgotten how to "seize the day."
I am reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:34- "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
In its larger context, this entire passage (6:25-34) is Christ addressing the same people who went up to hear him on the mountain in the Beatitudes in Chapter 5, and he is commanding them to seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the earthly stuff will get worked out.
But even in light of this text, I would venture to say that us working-type-people far too often tend to drift from one activity to another, and end up getting caught up in the mundane things of life, allowing the familiar rhythm of our days to make us comfortable with where we are, and letting time pass us by.
I'm not suggesting that we should drastically change our schedules so that every day is different (which is ridiculous), but re-frame our thinking about how we live our lives. What if we looked at everything as an opportunity to to love or serve someone else? What if I saw doing the dishes as serving my wife, or changing my daughter's diaper as serving her (because she LITERALLY) can't do it for herself?
As a Methodist, I have come across this simple phrase, and I love it because it speaks to the heart of what it means to be a Methodist: "Love God with a warmed heart, serve God with active hands."
If we approach the activities of our day as a means of loving and serving others, whether it is our wives or husbands, daughters or sons, friends or family, co-workers or complete strangers, I think we would find that our days would "spring to life," and we would, rather rapidly I think, find that time is not passing us by, because we are directly influencing the people around us, for the sake of love.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The next stage of life...


Apparently my posts on this blog are haphazard and come at random times, but I guess life can be haphazard and random...
Anyway, on to the real reason I am posting today: a personal update.
For those who are interested (and even those who aren't, I suppose), here is the latest and greatest:
I finally finished my bachelor's at GC this past semester, (I am now officially a college graduate, and have been since December) and I applied and got accepted to Asbury Seminary to begin my M.Div this Fall. I am both excited and scared at the same time, but I know that many good things will come from it.
Also, I will be starting a Saturday night service at our Church beginning in the fall as well. It will, essentially be its own "church" in the sense that the people serving will be different from those who serve on Sunday mornings, and our target group of people are different as well.
My idea for this church is to have continuous music going throughout the entire service. Whether this is hymns, praise music, instrumental, etc. will more than likely all be used.
My sermons will be expository, and I will be using the Lectionary as a guide, not only for preaching, but also for the worship service.
I plan on preaching both biblical and topical sermons, with an emphasis on discipleship, and connecting it to real-life issues that people in this town experience.
Here is my other reason for posting this: I am hoping for some feedback.
I want the worship experience to be creative, using a variety of mediums to creatively engage in worship. (Please be aware that when I use the term "worship" I am not simply referring to music, I mean worship as a whole- experiencing God in a worship service)
I know that music, sermon, and the sacraments will be central aspects of this service, but as far as the "secondary" things- " (use of icons, liturgical prayers, art, etc.) I am not sure what and how often to use those things.
Anyone who is willing to share some of their worship experiences, (as far as what took place, style of music, length of service, etc) with me, please feel free to do so. I am trying to gather ideas to see what else is out there.
Also, if anyone has ideas for creative mediums that I could use in the service would be helpful as well.

Grace and Peace,