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No Chocolate. 46 days. by Kelly Carpenter

Haters gunna hate and it makes me a little sad each time someone slights the practice of giving up chocolate fornochocolate.jpeg Lent. I do it. I’ve done it since the 6th grade. I cannot come up with anything else that I have elected to do by choice every year since the 6th grade. So, why stop now? Shake it off.

The bigger question for me and Lent is WHY chocolate. When Lent and the concept of fasting was first described to me around 6th grade it was more about what would provide a daily (or more) reminder to connect to Jesus. It was also about giving up vices which is why soda took the Lenten road in the 10th grade and just never came back.

I LOVE me some chocolate. ALL chocolate. Except when it is ruined with mint.

I reach for chocolate at least several times every day. During these seasons of withdrawal abstaining, I find myself reminded to re-center upon God in little moments that might otherwise pass by unnoticed. I become glaringly aware of how often I think about, crave and do something about my love of chocolate vs. how rarely in a day I actively think about, crave and do something about my love of God.

Okay, I confess, it is not just chocolate or soda, there was one year without meat and those years sacrificing all things sweet. But Lent is about more than food (is anything not about food though?) But seriously, I also take up a spiritual practice during Lent each year as well. Anything from new daily devotionals, walking meditations, photo meditations, Hatmaker’s 7, and so forth. This year I’ve taken on a daily prayer of self-examination. I feel that I am in a place of both contentment and complacency with God and am feeling the need to very intentionally ‘check-in’. Life is in a crazy phase with job responsibilities shifting, my first nephew arriving and our own first baby on the way (hence the obsession with food?), so in practical ways God is doing a lot in my life right now.

At the same time, God also seems pretty quiet.

I just feel complacent when it comes to my own faith journey.

Then on that 13th day my Lenten journeys collided. During a committee meeting lunch.

I routinely filled my plate answering mental question as I picked up each item: will I feel averse to the taste of chicken today? Will the baked beans give me indigestion? Can I eat potato salad or is that a pregnancy no-no? Grabbed the big ole’ classic church meal chocolate chip cookie and went to my seat. After finishing the meal that passed all the tests for pregnancy eating, I cleared my plate and took a huge bite of that cookie….

Ah! Mouth. Full. I realized instantly what I had done.

My journeys had collided. I spent great mental work to determine every bite related to the development of Woodchuck (that’s our fetus’ name). I was grateful to those who prepared the meal. I was intentional to eat enough to nourish but not too much to upset the delicate balance of the pregnancy digestive system. I spent no time. No mental energy. Not the slightest thought to my spiritual practice. My complacency hit me right between the taste-buds.

So, once again I’ll let the haters hate because chocolate has opened the way for God and I to have more unexpected moments than I could ever account for. (yeah, I spit out the bite, washed my mouth immediately and waited a solid hour before going for one of the oatmeal raisin cookie…give a pregnant woman a break!)

What is keeping you from God? What could you do for these remaining days of Lent to encounter God in surprising moments throughout the basic tasks of daily living?

Do it. Give it up. Take it on.

Own it like Marion Kelly walks into a room.


KellyBioPhoto.jpgKelly Carpenter works in Faith Formation at the Center for Leadership Development of the North Texas UMC. She also serves as co-executive director of Reaching Others Through Christ Jr High Missions ( Kelly attended Texas Christian University where she received her BFA in Theatre Scene Design. She attended Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA where she received her Masters of Theological Studies in Religion and Art. She grew up in the United Methodist Church serving on local and conference councils as a youth, working in camping and campus ministry through college and serving on local church staffs for over 10 years.


Where is God at Work?

We are well on our way to Easter but there is a load of road left until April 16th.  I hope that you have had a chance to join us in our  40 Days of Beardedness Lenten Devotion.  Regardless, of what resources, spiritual practices, or whatever it is you gave up or took on I want to ask you a question, “Where have you seen God at work in your life the last few weeks?” All of our journeys are different.  We encounter God in different ways. God encounters us in different ways.

I hope this is a familiar question for you, but I hope you answer is not familiar.  My hopes and prayers for all of us are that we not only encounter God in news ways but we see where God is already and work in the world around us and we accept the invitation to join God.

God is at work in our lives and in the world around us.  Do you see it?  What do you need to let go of mentally, spiritually, and even physically to see it and to accept the invitation?

As you search for the answer to these questions, let this prayer from the Dr. Martin Luther king Jr rest upon your heart.

God, grant that we wage the struggle with dignity and discipline. May all who suffer oppression in this world reject the self-defeating method of retaliatory violence and choose the method that seeks to redeem. 

Where do you see God at work in your life and in the world around you?


15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_o Rev Zach Bechtold is one of the Co-Founders of BeardedTheologians and a Pastor in New Mexico.  In his free time, he is a crime fighting superhero, although he cannot tell which superhero as it would put many people in great danger.  When Zach is not preaching, teaching, and saving the word he enjoys adventures with his family and watching baseball.


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Sweet baby Jesus, the Beatitudes are HARD. By Rev. Jenna Morrison

We hope you have enjoyed our month looking at the Beatitudes, I want to thank all three of our contributors,  Rev. Jerry Herships, Christy-Anna and our final contributor for this series Rev. Jenna Morrison

I am a workaholic.

A self-professed, time-tested, and experience-proven workaholic (so what if I maybe just made up a couple of words? You get the idea.).

I work to make a living (also: shoes). I work so I can tithe. I work so I can spoil my dog-child. I work so I can keep a roof over my head and sometimes afford organic produce like a full-fledged adult. I work so I can afford the new washing machine that was delivered to my house this morning. These are all honorable-ish reasons to work, I think.

I also work to give my life meaning. I work so I have a place to ground my sense of self and root it in something bigger than my own little life. Who doesn’t also love a good pat on the back every now and then for a job well done? I work so I can feel like I’m playing a tiny little part in the world. I have a tendency to forget that my part is tiny and that I’m not in center stage, but that’s a problem for another day. It’s a part nonetheless.

As a pastor, this usually works out pretty well for me. I somehow have convinced people in my community that I am worthy of being invited into some of their most vulnerable, sacred moments. I get asked to pray, a lot. I also get asked to speak for big groups and small groups about grace and mercy and love and forgiveness and hospitality and faithful living in the world. I have stacks of big, fancy-titled books and a beautifully framed (expensive) diploma stating that I have the proper education to lead people to Jesus (aside: is that even really a thing?).

These things are generally good for self-esteem, it turns out.

It also turns out that pastors are easily swept up into the world of paperwork and meetings and trying to force a budget to balance. I am easily distracted by endless lists of things to do and people to see. The urge to cross things off of that list is almost debilitating to me (ok, ok, it also gives me great, great joy, which may or may not also be a larger problem). I believe that putting out a good product is really important, so I spend countless hours editing and formatting brochures and bulletins and handouts.

Because, you know, the church with the best handouts will inherit the earth.


When I was asked to write a little diddy about the Beatitudes, I groaned, out loud. Thankfully the invitation was over the interwebs so no one knew my exuberant “YES!” was partially forced.

The Beatitudes are HARD.

I mean, can we just talk frankly about this for a second?

Sure, the Beatitudes read like poetry. Yeah, the imagery is lovely.

In fact, they sound like wonderful aspirations and dreams to accomplish in order to inherit the earth, to be fed, to be made glad, to receive mercy and see God.

Sweet baby Jesus, I even have the propensity to turn Scripture into a to-do list.

But the Beatitudes are anything but a list; these aren’t things that we can necessarily achieve and cross off. They aren’t characteristics that we can fake or force, and if we’re really being honest, these are not things that we would want to aspire to (yes, please. I would like to grieve more. In fact, let’s go straight for hopelessness. That sounds like a good one today.).

I think we often do this with Scripture—especially Matthew 5—as a way to swallow the bold pronunciations that Jesus makes in his Sermon on the Mount; we turn these prophetic declarations made by the Son of God into a list of practical advice. We assume that these statements by Jesus are common-sense accounts about Christianity instead of a topsy-turvy blessing on the authentic body of Christian community.

If the Beatitudes aren’t a list of things to aspire to, and they aren’t common sense, and they aren’t even really for an individual consideration at all, what the eff am I supposed to do with them?!

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that, while the mystery of Scripture maintains that we can never know with full certainty what exactly is meant, the Beatitudes are a message to me about my work. Not just the whole pastor thing, but a message about the way that I work and the things that give my work and life meaning.

Here’s where this all gets super complicated, even (especially?!) for a pastor: the Beatitudes make it clear that the important things in life—the things that will ultimately bring us peace and fulfillment and mercy and comfort—have very little with our vocations. It doesn’t matter if I’m a pastor, teacher, stay at home mom/dad, janitor, business professional, CEO, or if I have no official employment. It doesn’t matter how much money I make, how many shoes I have, or even ultimately if I buy organic or not (blasphemy!).

Jesus makes it clear that for the gathered faithful to enter into the Kingdom of God in the future and now, on earth, we don’t have to cross everything off our lists or achieve anything of note, according to the world. We simply have to gather together with the meek, the grieving, the hopeless, the hurting, the peacemakers, the ministers of mercy; the Beatitudes are not addressed to me, but to us. They are addressed to all of us who proclaim Christ as Lord so that together, we can experience the kingdom of God now, and forever.

It will not reduce our stress or shrink our waistlines. It will not save us from illness or cause us to advance in our careers, necessarily. Our faith—our witness—and our hope in Christ will instead lead us together into a life where righteousness and peace will prevail, and God’s future will be one of mercy for all of us.

IMG_4969.JPGRev. Jenna Morrison is the is currently serving as the Associate Pastor at First UMC Rockwall. She is awesome. She watched our kids one night on our vacation so we could have just time with adults. This is the only picture we had from our trip to the GYPLCA in 2014. This is what happens when we have to write bios.

What fruit do you produce?

Still looking at at the Jesus sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 5-7. I came across another great Jesus statement in Matthew 7:20 (CEB) “Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.” 

I like the list of fruit of the spirit that Paul give us in Galatians 5:22-23 (CEB)  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.” To help me know what fruit I need to help produce for Kingdom building.

In the midst of the chaotic world that we live in today. What kind of fruit do you produce?



Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians


A Prayer for Today

As I was reading through several books of prayer and liturgies trying to find a prayer for a community event, I came across a prayer by Walter Brueggemann titled “Our Charter of Entitlement”.  Rather than simply post the words here or on Facebook, I decided to record it and share it with you.  I found the words timely, I found the confession pure, and I also found forgiveness at it hearts.  I pray God’s grace lay upon your hearts and souls as these words resonate through your mind and world.


Love, Pray, Give, and Rejoice!