The Kentucky Fried Chicken Incident!

 

We can be anywhere and witness God, even in a fast food restaurant.  The question is:  Are you observant enough to know it when you see it?  

As Christians, we often go through life, wearing crosses or making some display of our faith to the public, but if someone asked you the question:  How does the fact that Christ died on the cross affect you on a daily basis?  How would you respond?   99% of people that profess to be Christians don’t know what Christ’s crucifixion provided us on a daily basis.  I saw this on a TV show recently, a researcher trying to figure out the reason that attendance is down in churches nationwide, asked that question of hundreds of professed Christians.  They had an overwhelming response of silence. (You know, when the editor of the TV story puts in the sound of crickets chirping in the darkness and the video does a close up on their blank expressions!) They know why they are Christians, because He died for us to receive eternal life in heaven.  But they didn’t know how that gift affected them in their daily lives.  

I thought on that for a while.  It is not an easy question to answer right away.  Your first thought is salvation, but we don’t witness it daily – or do we?   

Last Saturday, my family was sitting in Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It was early for the lunchtime, and the crowd hadn’t shown up yet.  We were the only ones sitting in the restaurant, and there were 4 employees in the cooking area relatively bored.  A man looking to be about 20 to 30 years old walked up to the counter.  He was cleanly dressed in fairly fashionable clothes.  He asked for a certain employee.  They asked if they could say who was asking for this girl, and he said, “No one of importance, I just want to thank her.”  This caught our attention, and we couldn’t help listening.  We were sitting in the closest table to the counter.  The girl came up to the counter, a co-worker stayed back for her protection, because they watch out for each other.  The man said to the girl, “Do you remember me?  I came in here early in the week and didn’t have the money to pay for my meal, and you paid it for me?”  At first, the girl looked at him as though she was trying to figure out if she really remembered him.  Then her face opened up like she couldn’t believe this man had come back to thank her.  He then handed her an envelope and said again, “ I just want to thank you, I hope you enjoy this” and quickly walked out.  He never spoke his name.  The co-worker looked shocked too and quickly asked the girl what was in the envelope.  She said with a smile on her face, “It’s a Caliche’s gift certificate”.  Caliche’s is a local frozen custard shop.  At that point, my family looked at each other at the table and thought, “Awww, how sweet is that”.  It was sweet of the girl to pay for the man’s meal, and sweet of him to repay her in kindness.  And by the look of this man, he was not homeless or destitute.  How many people would have paid for his lunch in the same way they would help a needy person?  We are often quick to help people who we think are worthy of our money or time based on our need to judge their situation and our need to feel good.  But sometimes, you may not be helping someone who is physically hungry; maybe you are helping someone who is spiritually hungry.  

 

There are at least four lessons here.  One, be quick to do a good deed like the KFC employee did.  Two, be purposeful in repaying kindness.  Three, while passing on the good deed in a pay it forward motion is nice, and keeps the idea of “Good Karma” going, it is also important to thank the individual who was kind to you.  Why?  Because so often, good deeds are overlooked, unappreciated, and taken for granted, and people need to have their good habits reinforced, because if they don’t get that positive feedback, they quit doing those good things and become hard hearted.  God doesn’t want us to become hard rocks, he wants to keep us tender hearted enough to not only know when to react positively, but also be able to witness when others do it.  The fourth lesson is about the man who paid the girl back.  He may have needed to be able to learn how to receive God’s blessings.  He may have needed to have his faith restored with this girl’s act of kindness.  It is obvious that no one works as a fry cook in a KFC if they are financially secure.  So his way of paying her back was sweet because he could have handed her the money, but in her perspective that money was already gone.  So he gave her a sweet treat that she could enjoy in a different location to where she worked.  

It is this witness of small random acts of kindness that we need to see on a daily basis.  This is what keeps our heart well in a spiritual way.  Loving your neighbor is the key to salvation.  An old friend, Fr. Peter Sanderson’s favorite sermon was his shortest.  He said, “Little Children, love one another” and he was done.  He knows it is the key to all things in faith.  If we live in love, we will be walking with Jesus, and we will be on the right path every day of our lives.  It is the key to our salvation.   

I know there are lots of lonely people out there.  I know that telling them Jesus loves them often falls on deaf ears.  But the fact is, we don’t have to be in love, or feel love directly from another person to know what love is.  We can witness love in many different ways.  Witnessing love on any level, from a distance, or seeing an incident in which you yourself are not involved, is how we know God loves us.  That “Aww” moment you feel when you see something really sweet is a reminder that God is near and loves us.  Now, we just have to recognize it and not live with blinders on, look past the distractions and witness God’s love.  

So, if someone asked me on Saturday afternoon, after I got to witness this incident, “How does the fact that Christ died on the cross affect you on a daily basis?”  I could answer like this:  He did it out of love for us, and because of His love for us, we can see love in others.  If we can’t see that, life is hard, so hard, it is not worth living.  Anyone who says they can live without love of someone or something is full of rocks!

Hebrews 6:10 God is not unjust: He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him, as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  


100_3566Madeleine is a young woman, who at a very young age heard God calling her to mission.  Over the years she has brought God’s love and hope to children who are fighting for their lives in hospitals receiving treatment for various childhood cancers but providing handmade pillows cases and port pillows. She continues to be an inspiration in the lives of youth and adults.

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I’ve Been Called Weird…

I’ve been called weird and odd in my life. They were just labels I accepted early on, because I couldn’t even explain the way I was in a manner that made sense with the rest of the world happening around me. No one could truly lay a claim to understanding me. I was the eccentric friend, brother, son, uncle, husband… At least some people liked me and loved me anyway, right?

I left high school early, only to remove myself from college before getting done. Once I got done with college, I swore I would never go back, only to go back twice over (to this point). My worst class was always math, but math has always been one of my strongest abilities outside of school.

I’ve always had people that made assumptions about things I’ve said or my specific behavior in any situation. Always had trouble with it in school. Thought I had gotten away from it outside of school, but haven’t escaped it when I’ve tried to make professional leaps to better myself and my family. There are grown adults spreading rumors about me just in the past two years because they never took the opportunity to figure out who I was and how everything worked with me.
There was one day that my wife and I were visiting with some friends, and I apparently cut one of them off with a correction in a mean-spirited manner. My wife asked me later what in the world I was thinking, doing that. However, I couldn’t recall that feeling ever being present at the time that occurred. That friend, who is also an educator, later told my wife the more she thought about it, she thought I might be Autistic.

I did what I always do and read everything I could find on the subject. I could see how that would be the case that I would be Autistic, but didn’t do anything further with that information at the time. Being parents of a toddler trumped a lot of things at the time, including this. But those two would dovetail together after we began to suspect that our toddler might also be Autistic.

At a later date, I had a really bad day at work. It felt like I was having a bit of a breakdown, so I sought out a psychologist. In one visit, that psychologist had identified me as Autistic. (To be fair, he said Asperger’s Syndrome, but the current diagnosis standard has everything rolled under the same umbrella as Autism Spectrum Disorder.) So my breakdown that led me to the psychologist could more accurately be described as a meltdown.

In the last 18 months, it’s been tough to walk around quiet about it. Some days, I’m really spent because certain things just violate the sensibilities I have that sometimes only make sense to myself. There have been things that seem to be new issues for me when the truth is I am only just now understanding things that have caused me trouble my entire life.

It’s been an interesting ride at home not only re-learning about me, but also learning about my son in an additional light finding out he is Autistic as well. I’ve also selectively told people I thought would be open-minded.

I share my story now for a few reasons. One, it really is tiring not to share with those that know me best out of everyone. I’ve always been an open book for people, and that still hasn’t changed. Two, the battle amongst the growing Autistic community to dispel the stigma of being Autistic requires education and understanding of others about the troubles gone through to persist in a world not designed for you. I like to make bold moves, so I decided I wanted to jump from one at a time to many
at a time.

A little about Autism:

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurotype that is legally classified as a disorder in the United States, as well as many other countries. Diagnoses have spiked in the past decade because the knowledge of what Autism is and isn’t has only just started hitting its stride. Most adults diagnosed as such probably should have been diagnosed as children. There is still a lot being learned about Autism.

The one confirmation the medical community has made about how a person ends up with Autism is that there is a heavy genetic causality.
Autism manifests itself differently in every individual identified as Autistic. Because it can cause a severe effect on development, some Autistics will require assistance the duration of their life. Others may need no assistance because they’ve learned ways to “fit in” to a level where most people would never know how different they really are.

There are some general areas in which Autistics process differently than everyone else.

1. Executive Function: This is the ability to operate every day, doing normal tasks that anyone has to do. This can be a minor or a major issue. For me personally, I operate nominally as long as I have things hammered into a routine. The moment that routine has to change is when my world can get turned upside down, even on the tiniest of things. This is why I like project management. I am a planner!

2. Processing of emotions or emotional information: The stereotype is that Autistics have no emotions. This is untrue. They just process differently. If you allow me to be a fly on the wall, I will have the entire room read in no time flat. However, if you insist I interact and be involved with anyone, it can take me hours to days to process their emotions and what they said. This makes me seem uncaring at the time, and “late to the party” when I revisit something later. Even just a little bit of distance allows me to be more efficient.

3. Sensory Processing: This is something that manifests itself differently for every Autistic person out there. This is something I am even still learning more just about myself. Sound, smell, touch, sight, taste… All these things have the possibility of being hyper-enhanced. I often have issues with sounds that are needlessly loud. They create physical stress reactions. I can function through them, but in the case of attending a college football game where the loudness of the experience (not including the noise produced by the fans in attendance) was indiscriminate, it took me about 3 weeks to recover.

4. Honesty: The saying goes that honesty is the best policy. But that is never held to be true always. Some people will lie, or withhold the truth, to spare feelings. Others will do it to avoid consequences. There are many reasons people will lie. The way Autistic people are wired, they tell the truth…every time…practically. For most Autistic people, they would be bad liars. Manipulative ulterior motives are rarely ever existent for an Autistic who is telling the truth about something. Some people have suggested this is tied back into the emotional processing issues.

5. Meltdowns: Over-stimulation in any area can cause meltdowns. Meltdowns are basically when the brain short-circuits on you. Meltdowns can be loud and messy, especially with, but not exclusive to, younger kids. They can also be very quiet, where someone just shuts down and doesn’t participate in the world for a little bit. Meltdowns go away at some point after the removal of the over-stimulation.

Goals for Autistic people to self-regulate often include exercise, diet adjustments, yoga, and meditation. Goals for “normal” people to be inclusive of Autistics include having an open mind and allowing time (in multiple ways) for whatever the relationship is supposed to be to form, as well as always communicating in the most direct way possible (we don’t normally understand innuendo).

In spite of these differences Autistics have with “normal” people, we often learn things faster, are very loyal (sometimes to a fault), and are already extremely hard workers just trying to keep on par with others in a world not designed for us.
Remember, Autism is a little bit different from person to person. What I would share with you that specifically applies to me may not work in the same way for anyone else. That being said, I am always happy to answer anything I can.


63618_182980491719336_5407577_nTim Brewer is an awesome Husband and Father to his wife and son.  Tim currently lives in the Panhandle of Texas, where the star are bright at night and you can watch your dog run away for three days.  Tim is also a great friend of the Bearded Theologians.

Facebook Prayer Time

Rev. Katie Bishop

It is 8:30 pm on Thursday night and I am sitting on my living room couch. My iPad has the latest Upper Room devotional open and my laptop computer is open to a post from my Facebook feed. In the palm of my hand, my phone is open and after a deep breath, I press “Go Live.” It is Thursday night. Prayer time.

About six months ago, amid some real struggle in our broader community – real heartbreak – I started this Thursday night prayer time. Out of a desire to speak HOPE, I flipped my phone’s Facebook app open and started to pray. As people gathered to watch, the movement of the Spirit was palpable. Tangible. Powerful. Even across the screen.

Since then, I have posted an invitation soliciting prayer requests on my Facebook page every Thursday morning. And every Thursday night – sometime between 7 and 10, I hop on Facebook Live to gather God’s people.

We start with the Upper Room’s daily scripture reading and then move into the prayer requests that people have posted on my feed. People are invited to add requests to the Live Feed, and most do. To finish our time, I remind people why we pray.

First, prayer helps align our hearts to God. We step outside of ourselves and center ourselves in God’s Spirit.

Second, prayer activates the Big God Family – the community of believers. As we lift up prayers and concerns, we can witness the ways God has blessed us, testify the power of resurrection in our lives, and stand with each other in brokenness. This has been one of the greatest blessings about Thursday night prayer. Since we have been praying overtime, we have been able to celebrate how God is work in our world. We have celebrated answered prayers. We have celebrated changed expectations. We have celebrated God’s grace even in the brokenness.

Finally, prayer witnesses God’s action in the world around us. We recognize that God is not done with us yet. That God is still moving in the world around us. That God uses us as God’s hands and feet to usher in the Kingdom.

After I speak these truths out loud, we pray. I pray with words, those watching pray with me. Comments continue to fill the screen as a chorus of “hearts” and “likes” join the words that are uttered. We pray. Across phones and iPads, computer screens – we pray. Sometimes by ourselves – sometimes with others.

And when I say “Amen,” a chorus of Amens join in.

I remind everyone they are loved – and it is done.

In total, most weeks, it is about 5-7 minutes. Sometimes – if I have more prayer requests, or if my two daughters “help” then it is longer. But really, it is just a few minutes – across screens for prayer.

The big question is – why?

And for me, it gets back to my Methodist roots. Wesley, when starting a movement of revival in England, went to where the people were. Why do we, as the church, wait for people to come to us? Wesley went to where the people were, “submitting to be more vile” – a quote from his April 2, 1739  journal – so that people would come to know God’s love and grace.  He was willing to meet them in their brokenness, in their everyday, in their ordinary, in their heartache. Why do we, as the church, refuse to move to where the people are?

Facebook – it is where people are. And love it or hate it, there is a huge segment of our population that are always on Facebook. It is where we share stories of our greatest joys and our greatest struggles. It is where we “connect” – however inauthentic or authentic it may be.

And taking time every Thursday to pray, seeks to meet people where they are, resurrecting the brokenness, the heartache, the ordinary.

It is not much – by any stretch of the imagination. It is very simple. It takes hardly any time and very little effort.

But it is powerful. It is Spirit-filled. It is resurrecting.

So, if you are feeling a burdened, or broken, lost or weary… If you feel like you need some Family time… If you have seen God move and can’t keep it to yourself… come and join us some Thursday. We are but a click away.


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Katie Bishop is a United Methodist pastor serving in Frederick County, Maryland. She is married to Chris, also a pastor in the UMC, and they have three children- Eden (10), Bethany (5) and a son they are waiting on from Haiti.

Thankfulness in the Ups AND Downs

As I reflect upon the last several weeks, we as people have experienced a lot of grief, fear, devastation, and tragedy.  There have been earthquakes, hurricanes, shootings, political decisions, day to day struggles, loved ones have succumbed to illness, others have started treatment for cancer, and the list could go on and on and on.  As we approach the holiday season when we are supposed to be thankful and cheerful we may find it hard.  Do not feel guilt or shame because you find it difficult to be thankful and find joy this season.  There is a lot going on in our world near and far that makes our hearts weigh heavy.

On the other hand, there is a lot to be joyful about this season.  Despite all this is going on in the world, our lives have brought us hope.  There have been opportunities for healing, to see family and friends, maybe even starting new projects or jobs that are life-giving.  I am hearing stories from people across the country that in the midst of tragedy they are finding hope.

My encouragement for all of us this season is that we take a cue from the Psalms. When we read the Psalms we find there is often great lament for the heavy heart.  There is an outpouring of grief and pain.  In this season if this is you, please pour out.  Please grieve, please name your pain.  In this outpouring remember that the Psalms teach us with an outpouring of grief, comes an outpouring of thanksgiving because we have opened our hearts up to healing and with healing comes hope and thanksgiving.  Don’t forget to pour out in thanksgiving as well.

Life is a lot like a rollercoaster.  There are ups and downs, twists and turns, anxiety, anticipation, fear, joy, excitement, and sometimes we get off the ride and our stomachs hurt, others times we can’t wait to ride again.  No matter where you find yourself, in the ups or downs of life, God is always there.  God is there in the ups standing with you.  God is truly there in the downs, reaching out a hand to help you up. Psalm 138 is a great outpouring of thanksgiving and in its conclusion reminds us that Gods faithful love endures forever.

No matter where you find yourself this season, up or down, grieving or joyful, God’s faithful love endures forever.


22366779_10155962606633694_6767176542225626637_nZach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians, as well as a Husband, Father, Pastor, an avid Colorado Rockies fan.  In his free time, he enjoys hiking and being in the mountains.  You can listen to his sermons and find out more about his church at http://www.umchoteau.net.

It’s Time #MeToo

#MeToo is popping up all over social media in response to sexual harassment/assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The news cannot stop talking about the women who have come forward, his alleged behavior, the women who were paid to keep their mouths shut, and the consequences he is now facing.

They all sound shocked that this happened…shocked that so many women would be quiet for such a long time…shocked that such a successful man could possibly do these things.

Before Weinstein, the press was preoccupied with Taylor Swift’s groping trial. Again, there was shock – a DJ grabbed Swift’s backside during a photo shoot. You can clearly see this in the photo and a jury agreed that Swift was NOT, in fact, responsible for the DJ’s shattered career.

Before Swift, we saw photos of the women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. We even saw an artistic image with an empty chair sitting next to women who had been brave enough to come forward; that chair reminded us of all the other women who might have been assaulted, but whose silence made them invisible. How many were there? Will we ever know?

What did we see and hear from the media? Shock. Absolute shock. A beloved American icon was facing abhorrent accusations and for some reason, we found it very difficult to separate our admiration for the lovable, Cliff Huxtable, while grasping the overwhelming possibility that Cosby might not be quite as respectable.

Before Cosby, there was #YesAllWomen. Women flocked to Twitter and used this hashtag to express how they had been sexually assaulted, harassed, and degraded. More than 1 million tweets went out within the first four days of the hashtag’s existence…1 million tweets showcasing misogyny at its finest.

You know what we heard from the media? Shock. It was shocking! It was ridiculously shocking that so many women would have these experiences and would talk about them on Twitter. It was also distressing, so much so that another hashtag developed. #NotAllMen (Obviously, their shock caused them to miss the point entirely.)

Here is the problem. This isn’t shocking news. Women have been talking about these issues for years, generations even.

Women shouldn’t have to feel compelled to keep talking about it so others will believe this is a real issue. Women shouldn’t need to feel compelled to share deeply personal and tragic stories of sexual assault and harassment on social media – telling their stories so society can finally realize the massiveness of this problem. We have already told these stories

Women do not owe it to society to continually prove this is real.

The shock needs to end. It is dismissive to women across the world. It reinforces the idea that our experiences are not believable and questions the possibility that men, especially talented or powerful men, could perpetrate such despicable actions. We can allow men to be innocent until proven guilty, without perpetuating the nonsensical charade of shock. Doing so will not make us anymore complacent about misogyny than we already are.

If women are only ever allowed to tell their heart-wrenching stories of harassment and assault, while society listens with attentive shock, we will never start addressing misogyny. Things that truly shock us are unexpected. They are anomalies. We are stunned by them in the moment and then we continue with our lives. This isn’t an unexpected anomaly. Sexual harassment and assault are real problems that can be solved when we choose to hold people accountable for their actions.

It is time to stop the shock. It is time to stop expecting women to tell these stories over and over again as if they were revelations. It is time to get to the part of the story where we fix the problem. That is called the climax and resolution people, the very best part of the story. Do women get to experience that part of the story? Trust me, women are ready to be at that point in the narrative. We are exhausted from living and retelling the ugly first parts as if society at large is just now hearing them for the first time…


leiawilliams

My name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames. I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. I served The United Methodist Church for 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications. Currently, I am working as a consultant, but in November I will return to my work with The United Methodist Church.