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JOE’S NOTEBOOK: Church & State

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.

It must be the guide and the critic of the state and never its tool.

If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. — MLK, Jr.

BONUS: Look

Ron Bogart, longtime friend and colleague, has graciously given me permission to quote and share the following.

I think he speaks for many, and certainly not just your pastor, about the dynamics and the moving parts of all of our lives —-

On Thanksgiving 2021 I tried to examine my ministry of 43 years and found the majority of them were fulfilling times, and some were challenging, especially as I got older and churches wanted a younger pastor who could attract young families.

I served some of the larger churches of the Conference who expected the work day to include a full day’s work, plus an evening meeting almost every evening. That made some extra pressure on Doris and me, with little time for ourselves.

Although I found the ordained ministry to be rewarding on many levels of interacting with people’s lives, but trying to be honest with myself, I wish that I had remained a Permanent Deacon rather becoming an Elder.

In seminary I minored in Christian Education. While serving eight years on the Conference Staff I discovered that I had enough credit hours to become certified as a Minister of Christian Education. As such I did training workshops for local churches and taught lab schools on the adult and young adults levels in several different Jurisdictions.

I was also chosen by The Upper Room to be a facilitator for “Weekend of Living Prayer” Retreats. I also taught classes in the UMW Schools of Christian Mission during those eight years and beyond.

During this same period I was certified by the Illinois State Board of Education with a Professional Educator License, with an Endorsement in Secondary Education. I kept renewing that license until June 2018. Although I never taught in public schools, after I retired I volunteered as a teacher’s assistant on the elementary level, working especially with children who were having problems with reading.

To be honest with myself, I enjoyed being a “preacher,” but I think that my true calling from God was as a teacher!

As I stated earlier I should have remained a Permanent Deacon, which is an important and honorable calling by God and the Church.

—- Since you’ve read this far, I would love to know your response. Feel free to contact me in any of our usual ways, and thanks in advance.

And profound gratitude to Ron for his transparency!

Been Feasting on What This Week?

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

It’s axiomatic that we are the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the people we spend time with, and the conversations in which we engage.

“Choose carefully what you feed yourself,” someone told me a long time ago in this regard.

How you doing with that this week?

JOE’S NOTEBOOK: You Had It

You had the power all along, my dear. — Glinda, The Good Witch

Blessed are Those. Blessed are We.

How many of these groups are you in? – – –

“Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those whom no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers. The closeted. The teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.”

Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

I imagine Jesus standing here blessing us because that is our Lord’s nature. This Jesus cried at his friend’s tomb, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross. He was God’s Beatitude— God’s blessing to the weak in a world that admires only the strong.

Jesus invites us into a story bigger than ourselves and our imaginations, yet we all get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of this moment and this place.

We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. May we never neglect that gift. May we never lose our love for telling the story. Amen”

—- by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber

All I can add this day after Thanksgiving is a resounding, if tearful, Amen.

You?

JOE’S NOTEBOOK: Bad Days

There are people who would love to have your bad days.

“We Find That at the Table Together”

A couple of weeks ago I heard Gloria Estefan being interviewed by Jess Cagle. She was telling about the sixth stage of grief.

Quick Review: the first five named by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 are —

Denial:

shock and disbelief that the loss has occurred

Anger:

that someone we love is no longer here

Bargaining:

all the what-ifs and regrets

Depression:

sadness from the loss

Acceptance:

acknowledging the reality of the loss.

David Kessler wrote in 2019 that it’s Finding Meaning beyond those five stages that can transform our grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience.

Gloria Estefan shared about herself, her family, and their losses and grief.

She cited Kessler’s work with Finding Meaning and said, “We find that at the table together.”

On this Thanksgiving Day and beyond, I have three hopes and prayers for you —-

  1. May the Thanksgiving Table be a place of Finding Meaning together
  2. May the Table of Holy Communion be a place of Finding Meaning together
  3. May all of this be framed in the context of the love of The One who said, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

JOE’S NOTEBOOK: Headline Warning

“Headlines are what mislead you, because bad news is a headline, and gradual improvement is not.” —- Bill Gates

Contentment — part 4

“A lack of contentment, writes Rachel Cruz, “leaves you chasing the next big thing you think will make you happy.

“It’s exhausting!”

—- Hold up here a minute with me.

Let’s be honest — she’s right.

You don’t have time for me to run through my own list of examples, and maybe you have a collection of those yourself. —-

“You may run in one direction and then another, but you’ll always come up short and out of breath.

“Contentment, however, encourages you to walk.

“To take it easy.

“To trust that your needs will be met and your life will be full of joy.”

“Contentment reminds you to fix your thoughts on what really matters and to move toward those things.”

—- Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Let’s season it with what we’ve been thinking about here these last several days.

Ready? Or is a review in order?

“Contentment reminds you to fix your thoughts on what really matters and to move toward those things.”

JOE’S NOTEBOOK: A Great Coach

A good coach can change a game.

A great coach can change a life.