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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.

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What to do?

James 4:17 (CEB)  “It is a sin when someone knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it.”

Thinking about all the stuff going on in our world. What is the right thing to do? We can say we are praying for the victims but what does that really resolve? When was the last time you called on an elected official to have your voice heard? That violence like what happened in Las Vegas is unacceptable and the gun laws need to be changed.  How have you helped the people affected by the Hurricanes that have occurred in over the last month? What do you do about Mexico?  There is so much going on what do we do?

Where do you feel God leading you to do the right thing? Have you prayed for God to lead and guide you? Where do you feel the nudge of God pushing you? We need you to do something. And, “what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 CEB).” 

Here is what you can do.

  1. Pray: for those who are hurting, for those who are serving, for God to give you guidance.
  2. Do: Work with those who are already doing something there are many options. Perhaps Google: How can I help with…
  3. Go: find a place to connect into and connect in and be an active force.

May God be with you as you Pray, Do, Go.

Peace
MF

 

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Help Is On The Way

 

Hurricanes have always been a major part of my life in southeast Louisiana. As a child when my family decided to “ride out the storm”, I can remember filling the tub with water, taping our windows in the shape of an “X”, and parking our cars on high ground, praying the storm would pass us by. Hurricanes are a way of life that I never got used to. In the back of my mind, I am always wondering if this is the storm that will change my life forever.

Meteorologists can guess a hurricane’s path but we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We can’t possibly know where storms will go or what to expect when they hit. We have seen the chaos and havoc these storms can have on communities. People who have been affected by hurricanes, like Katrina, identify timelines in their life as “before the storm” and “after the storm”. An impact of a hurricane can be felt for generations.

Hurricanes aren’t’ the only disasters that have us on high alert. We have seen quite a bit of devastation in the United States over the past few months with heat waves, forest fires, flooding, and earthquakes. No matter what your views are on global warming or the environment in general, you have to admit these natural disasters are more dangerous and happening more frequently, and not just in the United States, but around the world. No matter where these catastrophic events happen it is God working in His people that remind us that it is not what we lose but what we gain in our most challenging times…each other.

Matthew 25:35-40 is assurance that when we are most in need, most desperate, God is present among us through the kindness and generosity we show to one another.

Our first responders are a perfect example of God showing up for people in distress, but they are not the only ones. We have seen heroic efforts from everyday citizens going above and beyond to help the “least of these.” We have witnessed an overwhelming response of donations and support to nonprofit organizations devoted to response and recovery, like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We have also heard reports of everyday citizens risking their lives to rescue souls from danger and getting them to safety, even going as far as offering refuge in their own home. God is present among us!

In 2015, I had the honor of traveling to Bellagio, Italy to share my experience of recovery after Hurricane Katrina with leaders from around the world. At this convening hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Art Society, representatives from countries impacted by natural or manmade disasters told stories of pain, recovery, and hope. Each delegate was faced with the question, “What makes a community resilient?” Our conclusion regardless of ethnicity, language or region, resilient communities exhibited determination, inclusivity, and philanthropy, which is parallel to the research conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities. Resilience is about people.

We sometimes want God to shield us or protect us from harm. We pray for grace and to be spared from pain. However, God doesn’t guarantee that we won’t experience heartache. The Bible has numerous examples of good people enduring the most extreme circumstances. Sometimes the storm hits and rocks us to our core, and sometimes it spares us. If a storm tears our world apart, rest assured, just as it entered our lives, it will also pass and the skies will clear. In the aftermath, we can give thanks and know that God’s love will be living and moving through the courage of His people. When someone helps a neighbor in need, or gives without expecting anything in return, or opens their heart to the broken, we know this is God showing up for us just as He promised!

So, when we pray for safety in these most uncertain times, may we also pray for resilience. Just as one is spared by Grace, another is seeking Grace. Our faith tells us that God will show up! May we each be used as God’s hands and feet, when our neighbors need to see His presence the most.

 


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Mrs. Sabrina N. Short is a ministry consultant specializing in community engagement and outreach. Mrs. Short has been recognized for her work with youth around social justice and youth-led community organizing. A former faith-based community organizer, with PICO National and All Congregations Together, she works closely with United Methodist Churches across the country and its national institutions advocating youth leadership in ministry, social justice and mission. She has over 15 years experience in the non-profit field, partnering with numerous organizations to serve disenfranchised communities.

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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!