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Seek Adventure

Seek Adventure.

Seek: verb; attempt to find (something)

Adventure: noun; an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Simple words, but they’re not always the easiest to follow for a wanderlust traveler like myself. I have driven thousands of miles across the last few years in search of new sights, new creatures, and new experiences. Most of my time has been spent in the American Southwest. I’ve spent countless weeks in this area hiking along trails and looking for reptiles/amphibians. I love the heat, the giant cactus (especially the saguaro in Arizona), and the rugged beauty of the landscapes. More importantly, I love the sense of adventure.

When I think of the word ‘adventure’, I typically picture a several day trip to some state park, national monument or national park where I camp hundreds of miles from home beneath a sea of stars with a campfire crackling a few feet away. Even driving to these locations is an adventure because of the sights and sometimes the traffic. I can spend hours outdoors hiking and exploring nature. Going off the beaten trail in search of a lizard or snake I thought I saw. Standing in a forest or on the side of a mountain listening to the quietness that fills the moment. Someplace wild where I lose the familiarity and comfort of everyday life.

Adventures such as this are rare, particularly for the everyday working person. We wake up early in the morning for an 8-5 Monday thru Friday job and seem to only live for the weekend. Even on the weekends, we are too exhausted to do much besides things around the house or spend an evening out with friends. We now daydream of adventures with family and friends but we can’t break out of the daily grind we have found ourselves in. Having to deal with the real world just sucks some days, especially when you’re stuck in the office planning your next trip almost a year in advance. The longing for a wander will become a real issue at this point, and it will make you want to leave your job to find the nearest nature trail.

Leaving your job isn’t the best answer however, but I have found that in our daily grind, we can find small adventures. This can be anything from saying hello to a new person, to trying a new restaurant, or just driving around an area of town we aren’t familiar with. Just by saying hello to a new person we may make a new friend and that new friendship could turn into another adventure. By trying a new restaurant we may experience new tastes and possibly find a new meal that we fall in love with. By exploring a new area of town we may find a business or building that offers a unique service or activity for us to try out.

When I first moved to Lubbock, TX I worked at the University Medical Center. It took me a while to talk to the people I worked with but when I finally did, I became really good friends with them. From there they introduced me to a new restaurant that I love (Torchy’s Tacos is the best) and they invite me to random places where we hang out at. It may not seem like it, but I consider all that to be an adventure nonetheless. These smaller, personal adventures keep me going until it’s time for the next big adventure.

An adventure is meant to be something that gets you out of your element and to experience something new. As much as we badly long for the epic adventures, these adventures don’t fit into our daily routines. As much as I’d love to be outdoors hiking and seeing wonderful views, I’ve come to realize that the small, daily ones challenge me in different ways, and they matter just as much as the grandiose adventures.


18589082_10154791395419069_7623149350546830247_oJacob Kemmer is a young man from Lubbock, Tx who seeks adventure everywhere he goes. I’ve known Jacob for a long time and his passion for nature and the creatures in it is inspiring… minus the snakes… snakes are never “cute” or “cool”.  I’m pretty sure Jacob is one of the Wild Kratts brothers… GO WILD KRATTS!

(Sometimes I enjoy writing bios for people ~Zach)

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Where Do You See God At Work In Your Life Today?

Where do you see God at work in your life today? We ask this question often here at BeardedTheologians becasue we find ourselves answering it often.

Here is a blog I wrote as a continuation of my sermon from this past Sunday.

Ask yourself (1)

This past Sunday I ask the question, “Where have you seen God at work in your life this week?” in response to the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:7-8.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The promise to be pure in heart is to see God. I do not think that promise only comes in death, I think we realize that promise each day. I believe when we ask and respond to this question open and honestly we open our mind, our body, and our souls up to seeing God here among us.  These moments of God’s work may be so big we can’t miss them and they may be, in our minds, so small that they were right in front of us and we still missed them.

I asked the congregation to share their stories with me of where they have seen God at work this week.  I would be remiss if I didn’t lead by example.

The easy answer to this question of where I have seen God at work is how well our transition has been in moving to Montana.  The people of Brady, Choteau, and Dutton have welcomed us with open arms and have bent over backward to make sure we have everything we need.  My clergy Colleagues have reached out made sure I know that I am welcome. Mikel and I are truly grateful for all of this.

I want to search into the depths of this question. Where have I missed God at work in my life? Where was God right in front of me and I missed it?  I think it has been with my kids.  They have been absolutely amazing through this move to Montana.  From the word go there have been minimal tears and yearnings to go back “home”. All three have been excited about the new adventure. Zoe and Noah started school last week and have made friends and feel like they belong.  Ryann starts preschool today and she is excited to be a “big girl”. This something is so easily taken for granted because our transitions in the past have not always been smooth.  Zoe started the fifth grade in what will be her fourth elementary school. Noah started the second grade in his third elementary school.

Zoe and Noah continue to teach me what faith and peace look like.  I say that knowing full well there have been tears and questions, and restless nights worrying about a new school in a new town. Each day they wake up ready to walk to school and see their new friends and sharing with me what they are excited about for that day. Today, Noah was excited about playing Skylanders at recess with his friends and Zoe was excited to go to band because she wants to play the French horn. More often than not they share something they are excited about rather than what they are nervous or scared about.  I believe this is God at work in their lives answering their (and our) prayers for peace.

It is these moments that pass right in front of me that I often miss.  God’s peace is at work in my kids and too often I miss the lessons they have for me.  My prayer is that I hope to see more of these moments than I miss. I pray I am able to focus on what excites about my day and not what makes me nervous or scared.

So, again, I ask you “Where do you see God at work in your life today”?


 

15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_oZach Bechtold is Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians and a pastor of three beautiful churches in the Northern Plains of Montana.

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When Books Pick You

     Have you ever had a book pick you? Recently, my family traveled to stay at Lake Erie. We were doing some shopping as a family. My seven year old asked to go into the bookstore. So I journeyed with her to the children’s section. While I was waiting, I thought I will peruse the religious section beside the children’s section.  My eyes rolled across book after book. There was one book that I noticed, but I was not in a book buying mood.

     I walked back to my daughter and discussed her selection.  As I walked to the front, I picked up the book that had caught my eye. I actually thought to myself, you don’t need another book. I didn’t even know what the book was about. Waiting for the cashier, I glanced at the back of the book. I noticed that two of the people making comments were football people, Tony Dungy and Chris Carter. I was still not excited by this book, but I could not convince myself to put it down. I purchased the books, one for my daughter and one for myself. As I exited the store, I chastised myself in my head to myself about all the books I own that are not read or not fully read. “All I need is another book.”

    The next day I started reading the book. I was finished reading in 3 days. I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to make my purchase of the book that day. I am very thankful for the promptings of the Spirit.  That book was exactly what my heart needed. It very much prepared me for the journey I would take in the next couple of weeks.

    In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born of water and the Spirit. Uncertain of Jesus’ words, Nicodemus questions the meaning of this birth. In today’s world, I fear, we have lost our understanding of what it means to be born of the Spirit. When we accept Christ we become a vessel of the Spirit. That means we are transformed by the Spirit of the Living God. Wow! Impressive! Overwhelming! How amazing is it that we can be filled with, transformed and guided by the Holy Spirit!

    In the world today we need the Holy Spirit so desperately as we encounter issues such as addiction, diseases, financial crisis, and relationships (just to name a few). I am drawn to the words of Francesca Battistelli’s song, “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what my heart longs for to be overcome by your presence Lord.”


 kara

 

Kara Rowe is an ordained Elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She currently serves Newell and First Chester United Methodist Churches. She lives in New Cumberland, West Virginia with her husband, Michael and her three children: Caleb, Abigail, and Jakoba. In Kara’s free time she is a crime fighting ninja, but don’t blow her cover!

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Speaking In Tongues: A Reflection on My First Experience.

 

This reflection came as follow-up to a recent sermon I preached about speaking in tongues.

Speaking in tongues isn’t a gift I have ever experienced personally. But I have been in services and groups where people were speaking in tongues. I’ll never forget my first experience of being in a worship service of speaking in tongues. In 1999, I was asked to be a music leader for a little congregation in a little building in backwoods east Texas.

I was new to leading music in worship so I jumped at the chance to serve to gain experience. I confidently began leading “Lord, I lift Your Name on High” (an easy go-to song for someone new like me).

As I began playing, people clapped along and called out to me to bring it loud and bring it faithful. The sounds of praise filled that tiny little building in a mighty way. But at the end of the first verse, I heard something different from the lyrics I was singing and leading. It was a sound I had never heard before.

one woman’s eyes were partway closed, her hands in the air, and was loudly singing something I cannot completely describe. I didn’t understand the language coming out of her mouth. I was so taken aback I didn’t realize I had stopped singing and was just standing there staring! Oops. I regained my composure and just focused inward on what I was doing so I wouldn’t get tripped up further.

Well, that voice started a chain reaction and by the end of the song I was about the only one of us who was singing lyrics. The same thing happened the next song. I went from shocked, to puzzled, to weirded out thinking in my immature mind “what did I get myself into?!” But by the end of the songs, I was the weird one out as I was about the only one not trying to speak in tongues. The pastor was engaged in tongues as well and encouraging others to experience that deep expression of the Holy Spirit. He told me after the service I shouldn’t be ashamed or worried I wasn’t speaking in tongues because it would come to me one day and I would know the Spirit in a much deeper way. It hasn’t happened (yet?) but I have gotten to know the Spirit much deeper than my 18 year old self did.

My Reflection and How I look at worship practice differently today

What do I make of that? Was I not being faithful? Were they not being faithful? Could I truly not experience the Spirit deeply without speaking in tongues? After this experience, I thought to myself “what a load of bologna.” And, I have to admit, in that instance, by biblical standards, I think things were a little off in that setting and it helped form an unhealthy assumption about tongues for me at the time. I didn’t understand it. Nobody interpreted; we just had to trust the Holy Spirit was present by way of “tongues.” Since then, much has transpired in my life through experience and through study that leads me to believe the Holy Spirit moves and lives and empowers people in many different ways.

I’ve learned in worship that as soon as we become gate-keepers to the power of the Spirit one way or another, we let way too much of our need for human power and human control (typically over others) take over. Whenever we condemn and judge another person’s faithful experiences as valid versus not valid—no matter how foreign they are to us—we become judge and jury about God’s work and revelations to this world. If God is going to work in us, and through us, we have to check our ego and anxiety at the door to the throne and humble ourselves in worship. It’s the only way we can see where we are united in Christ, not divided by how “we” or “they” think worship and faith is to be practiced.

Now, plenty of guiding and accountability is needed in the community about understanding how we worship and receive the Spirit, but not to where we tear down another’s—or an entire community’s—faithful expressions. We have to take our experiences personally and collectively, and reason them with Scripture and traditions, human faculties and discernment tools that are God-given in our lives.

When we truly try to see with eyes of grace, we can become more aware of what Paul the Apostle wrote about the subject of tongues and Spiritual gifts in his letter to the Corinthians (especially chapters 12, 13, and 14), that Spiritual gifts are of God and they are meant to build up the Body of Christ, not destroy. They are not meant to place us above or below another sister or brother (a problem Paul felt the Corinth community was having with a variety of practices). They are not meant to be taken in isolation, but collectively as the Body. They are to be tested and observed to discern God’s will through prayer and discussion, through study and more prayer. How do you experience the Holy Spirit?


final-bridges2Rev. Matt Bridges is an ordained elder in the United Methodist church and currently serves in New Mexico as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lovington. Matt has served in ministry in one form or another for the last seventeen years. In particular, he has a passion for music ministry and other types of worship ministry. In all of the things he’s learned in ministry, if he were to write a book on worship right now it would most certainly be titled1001 Times (and counting)  I said “Well, I’ll Never Do It ThatWay Again” in Worship. He is joined in ministry by his wife, Corinne, and daughter Emilie. And they all love being the church together.

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Do all the good you can, every day, in every way that you are able.

As you all know, I’ve been sewing pillowcases for charities for a while.  So far since Jan. 1 of 2016, my mother and I have made 400 pillowcases for charities such as the El Paso, Lubbock, Amarillo and Albuquerque Ronald McDonald Houses, St. Andrew’s Hospitality House and more recently I made them for Veterans in local nursing homes.  I still have some to deliver, but more than half of them have been distributed to their intended locations.   The more of these I make, the more ideas I have of who these pillowcases can serve.

I have learned several things about this simple, repetitive, project.  One thing is that repetitive action, if productive, is very relaxing, and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.  Spending my time producing something useful is very gratifying.  The other thing I learned is that, small things mean a lot especially to the two ends of the life experience.  Very small kids and older people in nursing homes respond the same way, with delight, when receiving even the smallest gift when it is given personally.  Most institutions will take your donations, have you sign a donor list and send you on your way.  When you get the opportunity to personally give your small gift to individuals, it makes you more connected to the recipient and more likely to want to continue to give more of yourself in the future.  If you are one of those people that like to give anonymously there are lots of opportunities to do that.  But if you want to share the light Jesus put in you and spark that light in someone else, find the thing that lets you make human, one on one contact with someone.   

I had two of the best experiences happen in the past month.  I had been praying for a personal experience of connection with someone who would receive one of my pillowcases.  The first was delivering red, white and blue pillowcases to Veteran’s in nursing homes on Veteran’s Day.  Responses of nursing home residents were as varied as their physical and medical situations.  Some didn’t know I was in the room, most didn’t know what to say and were surprised that a stranger came to give them something.  But the ones that sat up and started telling you stories of their military adventures were really enjoyable.  I knew I sparked a memory in them that was important, and it was important to them that someone heard it.  I was glad to be that person.    

Then on Thanksgiving week, I got to deliver to Ronald McDonald House in Amarillo, Texas.  The coordinator there, Mrs. Jan Plequette, has been my contact person there for 4 years.  She arranged for me to meet the Child Life Specialist at North West Texas Children’s Hospital.  When I got there, the staff picked out a pillowcase that they thought would perfectly fit a particular patient they wanted me to meet.  Her name was Mila.  She was 4 and receiving infusions that day.   I was not allowed to know her illness because of HIPAA regulations, but they put me in a disposable isolation gown and gloves and let me give her this specially chosen pillowcase myself.  This little girl was the brightest piece of sunshine I have ever met.   The nurses there at the hospital said that this little girl keeps them all cheered up.  And she was so sweet I had the best time talking to her.  I wish I could have taken her home with me and kept her for a sister.  I would love to have someone like this in my life on a daily basis.  Her mother was so sweet too.  She said she was happy and grateful that a complete stranger would give her daughter a little gift that made the time they spent there at the hospital more comfortable and a less bland and boring experience.  

That experience was my ideal, the dream I had in my mind all along, coming true.  On Veteran’s Day, after delivering pillowcases all day, we went to the VFW for their fundraiser dinner in Cloudcroft, NM.  There I saw the man I knew as Santa Claus my whole life.  He was the man that worked at our local mall and posed for Christmas pictures.  He has been Santa for every Toys for Tots event, every charitable Christmas project and event in Alamogordo for my entire life.  He was there, eating dinner and had a Vietnam Veteran jacket on.  I had never spoken to him outside of his role as Santa.  As he left, I went to our car, and picked out an extra red, white and blue pillowcase and gave it to him.  I thanked him for his service to our country, as I had with all the veterans in the nursing homes I met that day.  And he thanked me and said he knew I made a lot of old people happy that day, and that’s what is so great about being Santa – so we had a little something in common.  I guess if I had to choose a title, I’d choose “The Pillowcase Fairy”.   I really can’t pull off Santa Jr.   

The marketing director at North West Texas Children’s Hospital said she hoped that my doing this would spark interest in others to do something and hopefully encourage kids to do things that were small random acts of kindness.  That is what I hoped to do with this article.  To tell kids that they are an important part of the world and that their outlook on life, if carried with them through adulthood, can affect the world around them.  At the least, an attitude of giving can affect their own life, and at the most, it can affect all those that have received from them.  It may spark others to pay it forward in their own way.  And every different way you can think of to pay it forward is necessary in some way to someone.  

To all the kids who dream of affecting the world in a big way, do it in a way that you know makes Jesus proud, have him as your partner, and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.


100_3566   Madeleine Fazenbaker is 14 years old and is a wonderfully gifted young lady that lives in New Mexico.  She is very active in her church and her community and truly is a young woman after God’s own heart.  Why pillowcases?  Because when you lay your head on a pillow to rest you can remember this:  “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 One of her favorite scriptures for small acts of kindness:  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.