A 1915 Perspective on 100 Years

The Centre Grove United Methodist Church in Clearfield will celebrate 200 years in 2015. In the program for the church’s One Hundredth Anniversary celebration in 1915, there was a perspective offered on the advances of the previous century. The piece may have been an ad for the local Clearfield Hardware Company …

One hundred years seems like a long time, but it isn’t—It’s only a drop in the ocean of time or eternity as verified by the old hymn we sing, ‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise then when we first begun.’

However one hundred years brings a lot of changes in things temporal on this old kaleidoscopic-sphere.

What mighty empires have risen and fallen. What wonderful scientific discoveries have been made. What marvelous improvements have been made in lighting, transportation, and communication. Through these improvements the methods of modern merchandising is scarcely less marvelous. Within the century this church is celebrating, and not so very far back either, the lone store was lighted with the tallow dip, goods were packsaddled across the mountains over the tow paths from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and later from Tyrone. When a merchant was out of an article, he was out ’till after rafting time’ or ‘after harvest’ when the annual buying trip was made, but now, thanks to the brain and brawn that brought to the present standard of perfection the mighty ocean steamer, the fast express and freight trains, the automobile, the airship, the telegraph, the telephone, the wireless, and the electric light and power, you don’t have to wait ’till after rafting time for the Hardware you need, nor do you have to make a long tedious journey on horse back to make selection of your purchase under the rays of a tallow dip and then ‘pack’ it back home. You sit in your electric lighted home, phone your order to the Clearfield Hardware Company and have the goods delivered the same day by auto truck. If perchance the article is out of stock, a telegram and fast freight or express or parcel post brings it in a day or two.

Fascinating. What might be written in 2015?

Your Energy Level Matters

I’ve always been a fairly high-energy person.

But in the last couple of years, my energy level has suffered, ever since my “wake-up call” (elevated heart rate over the course of several months). I wrote a little about it in 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better. While I’m mostly recovered from that experience, my energy levels are still recovering!

Where I notice it the most is with energy-intensive tasks that require heavy thinking, reflection, and intense study, which makes weekly sermon prep more challenging!

Tony Schwartz, who leads The Energy Project, writes in Fatigue is Your Enemy

it’s not the number of hours we work that determines the value we create. Rather, it’s the quality of energy we bring to the hours we work. By renewing regularly, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably. When we’re less fatigued, we’re not only less prey to negative emotions, we’re also more likely to access the positive ones we need to feel to perform at our best.

So, managing your energy level is vitally important. In stewardship language, we must be good stewards of our energy level.

Here’s how I’m trying to manage my energy level …

1. Make the most of my early morning routine.
I find that if I get up early to spend time with God, exercise, and read, the rest of my day is much more productive and enjoyable. My energy level is higher. This has always been important for me; it’s even more important with kids!

2. Eat well.
I’ve always been interested in healthy nutrition, but my discipline doesn’t always match my desire. Still, over the past two years, I’ve dramatically reduced my intake of sugar (it effects my heart rate), which cuts out most junk food. What you eat can affect your energy level.

3. Rest.
Stopping to rest a little everyday, sometime during the day, will always be a challenge for me. Between work and family obligations, there always seems to be something going on. But, I know I need to carve out time each day, and a day each week, to rest and catch my breath.

4. Hydrate.
Lately, I’ve been drinking more water. CamelBak has a lot of good info on hydration. They say a “recent study found that almost half of men and women are not drinking enough water.” Their ten facts about hydration include: hydration keeps your heart rate lower, longer, and dehydration is the number one cause for afternoon fatigue. Another article states, “drinking water helps keep … your energy levels and focus maximized.”

5. Do high-energy tasks when my energy is highest.
Unfortunately, I don’t always do this well. But, I know I should work on energy-intensive tasks when my energy levels are highest. My energy levels are highest in the mornings, so I should work on sermons and other high energy tasks in the mornings. And, I should use the afternoons for things that don’t require as much energy.

How’s your energy level? What do you to do improve your energy?

If this is something you’re struggling with, you may be interested in my review of “Leading on Empty” by Wayne Cordeiro.

Managing Chaos With Online Calendars

With the adoption of Ethan in 2008, Joleen and I went from being a clergy couple to being a clergy couple with a child. In other words, the chaos only increased!

Shortly after bringing Ethan home from Korea, we set up online calendars using Google Calendar. The benefit is that either of us can access our shared calendars anytime so we don’t overbook days/times. And, with mobile technology, we have access to our calendars anywhere with a mobile device.

We have set up multiple calendars (each with their own color) that all appear on one calendar. At the moment, we have Randy’s Work, Joleen’s Work, Our Work, Family, School, and Special Days.

For time management, especially family time management and communication, this is the best thing we have done. We use our calendars to schedule appointments, activities, and remind us about special days.

Time management expert Laura Stack suggests calendaring everything …

I’m not sure if we calendar everything, but one area most people, including us, need to improve is learning to prioritize what goes on the schedule and what doesn’t. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, suggest having a not-to-do list …

I’ve written a lot about time management over the years, including Task Management, Task Management 2.0, Time Management, Early Methodist View on Use of Time, and a post on the task management app, 2do (I still use the 2do app but the app is long overdue for an update, which the developers have been promising for a long time; I may write a new post on how I use 2do after the update). I’ve written a lot about time management, not because I have a lot to say about it, but because it will always be an area I want to improve!

How do you manage chaos, especially with others (families, teams)?

Marking Moments and Making Memories

We’ve always tried to mark moments and make memories by taking photos, especially with the kids. Over the last several years, the blog has given us a place to document part of the journey (much of which is in the category of adoption).

Another way we’ve tried to mark moments is by creating photo books through services such as Mixbook and Shutterfly. So far, we’ve created photo books telling each of the kids’ adoption stories. We created a photo book at the end of last summer with photos from the summer (including our trip to Maine). And, since we celebrated Christmas with family in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, we created a photo book for Christmas, as well.

For the last few years, we’ve created a photo calendar with photos from the previous year (i.e., photos for a given month normally include photos from that same month the previous year). The kids enjoy seeing the photos on the calendar posted in our kitchen.

I remember flipping through photo albums when I was a kid. In this age of digital photography we have to find creative ways to mark moments and make memories. I trust Ethan and Sarah will cherish the photo books and photo calendars we create.

What do you do to mark moments and make memories, especially with your family?

Our Worship Playlist

Music, particularly worship music, plays an important role in our family. In fact, one of my favorite spiritual disciplines is listening to worship music.

In 2007 (before kids), I wrote Songs for Leaders, a post reflecting on some songs that were encouraging me and challenging me, at the time. In 2010, I wrote about how we began listening to worship music with Ethan in Ethan’s Repertoire. And, last year, I wrote Sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs! on the role of worship music in my life, particularly as it impact my passion for God.

I believe the music we listen to is formational for us, giving us hearts for God and making us more and more like Jesus!

Now, it’s not like we listen to worship music all the time. Mostly, we listen to music when we’re on the road, usually traveling out of town, though we may occasionally listen to music around the house. Of course, we sometimes go days without listening to music, but we try to make it part of our lives as much as we can.

I try to add an occasional new song to the playlist, one that I think will be catchy for the kids (not to mention contain good theology). Previously, I’ve written about songs like, “Trading My Sorrows” (the song that started this spiritual discipline), and “My Savior Lives.” Recent favorites include, “God’s Not Dead” (Newsboys), “Build Your Kingdom Here” (Rend Collective), “Your Grace Finds Me” (Matt Redman), “Open Up Our Eyes” and “Nothing is Wasted” (Elevation Worship), and the latest, “Our Great God” (Casey Darnell, North Point).

I enjoying hearing what phrases and concepts the kids pick up on. I love it when the kids pick up phrases that haven’t grabbed me yet.

How does music (especially worship music) inspire and shape you?

Replenishing After Easter

Taking a break after Easter has become a family tradition. It started before we had kids, but now, it’s more important than ever.

We used to take off a few days after Easter, but with kids, we have to work around the school calendar. This year, we took two days off after Easter (school holidays), but because we had expected to lose those two days for snow makeup days, we had also planned to take the weekend after Easter off. So, we ended up taking two mini-breaks this year. And, it was a good thing: Joleen was sick on Monday, and I was sick on Tuesday (Ethan had been sick the day before Easter)!

After Easter, we spent a couple of days relaxing in a borrowed cottage along the Juniata River. The kids got to play, fish, watch a couple movies, while we took turns being sick!

This past weekend, we went to Pittsburgh and spent several hours at the Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Here are some photos from Easter and our post-Easter break …

The Resurrection of Jesus

It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. It is central to our faith as followers of Jesus!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9, CEB). Jesus told his friend, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And, I think he asks us what he asked her: “Do you believe this?” (John 11.25-26).

Everything rises and falls on the reality of the resurrection!

If there was no resurrection, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the rest of the gospel has no foundation. Paul put it like this …

If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins … If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else. (1 Corinthians 15.17,19)

This year, I was particularly drawn to Luke’s account of the resurrection. Luke conveys how much of a surprise, and how hard it was for Jesus’ disciples, to comprehend that Jesus had risen from the dead.

When the women arrived at the uncovered and empty tomb, “They didn’t know what to make of this” (Luke 24.4). The angels they met there asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised” (Luke 24.5-6).

After they reported what they heard to the rest of the followers, “Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women” (Luke 24.11).

Even after repeated attempts by Jesus to prepare his followers for his death and resurrection, the resurrection was still a total surprise!

Luke also includes the story of Jesus encountering the two disciples on their walk home from Jerusalem. Over the course of a lengthy and painful discussion, their eyes were slowly opened to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, when all of a sudden, they realized that it was Jesus they were talking to!

The gospel writers conclude their accounts with a commissioning to go and be witnesses of Jesus. Especially for Luke, the end of the gospel is also the beginning of our mission and work on the earth. In Acts 1, Jesus is with the disciples, challenges them with the great commission, and returns to heaven. And several days later, the Holy Spirit is poured out on Jesus’ followers, empowering them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth!

This all happened because Jesus is who he said he was. He lived, suffered, was brutally killed, and was also raised from dead, conquering sin and death forever. Everything rises and falls on the reality of the resurrection!

Each of us, like Peter, who went to the tomb to check out the women’s story, must investigate the claims of the gospel, including the resurrection. We must choose whether to embrace the reality of the resurrection or to reject it.

I believe Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount apply …

Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock. But everybody who hears these words of mine and doesn’t put them into practice will be like a fool who built a house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed. (Matthew 7.24-27)

Rejecting the resurrection is like building on sand. But embracing the reality of the resurrection, and living in its power, is like building on solid rock. The resurrection is that important!

Everything rises and falls on the reality of the resurrection!

Pray for The United Methodist Church!

If you’ve been following church-related news lately, you know The United Methodist Church is in turmoil. Some are even calling for schism, seeing no way out of the current mess.

The best thing we can do, though, at this point, is PRAY.

That’s what the Aldersgate Covenant is planning to do. They have called a gathering for May 16-17, 2014, which will take place at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. (I’m not able to attend; I keep hoping some or all of it will be webcast!)

I wrote in 2011, What The United Methodist Church Needs is nothing short of an awakening by the Holy Spirit. As I noted, John Wesley said …

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

Wesley seems to indicate that survival of the organization isn’t the most important thing; being faithful to God and staying connected to God is.

I’m grateful for the UMC and I’m hopeful that God will revive us and make us a movement again. Here are a few posts I’ve written in recent years that come to mind …

What are your prayers for the UMC?

2014 Confirmation Trip

The Clearfield Cluster of United Methodist Churches offers a two-day confirmation bus trip every few years. We left last Thursday morning around 5:30 and returned home around 10:30 Friday night. It was a full, fast-paced two days!

The trip included nine youth from three area churches plus seven adults. We made stops at the Pennsylvania Capitol Building, The Neighborhood Center, the United Methodist Home for Children, the Conference Center of the Susquehanna Conference, Mission Central, before ending the first day with dinner and free time at the Galleria Mall in York.

After spending the night sleeping on the floor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, we embarked on our second day with visits to Strawbridge Shrine and Lovely Lane United Methodist Church. Both locations are significant in United Methodist history.

Everyone enjoyed the trip. The youth also seemed to enjoy getting together with youth from other churches.

One of the highlights of the trip was a spontaneous one. Driving by the Governor’s Mansion, we saw Governor Corbett in his gated driveway. We stopped and a couple of women from our group approached the gate and asked Governor Corbett if he’d be willing to greet the confirmands. Surprisingly, he agreed!

While the Governor was on the bus, I tweeted (and the Governor’s staff later retweeted) …

Pretty wild. Not only did the Governor greet the group, he also took photos with everyone on the bus. The Governor certainly scored some points with the group!

Here are some photos from the trip …

Leaders Go First

“Leaders go first.” It’s a fairly common phrase. I thought of it the other day as I was reading 1 Chronicles 29.

King David, nearing the end of his life, is preparing the nation for its new king, his son, Solomon. Specifically, David is making preparations for the building of God’s temple. The temple was David’s dream, but God wouldn’t let him complete the project. It would have to wait until Solomon’s reign.

David said to the people …

My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is just an inexperienced young man, and the task is great, for this palace is not for man, but for the Lord God. So I have made every effort to provide what is needed for the temple of my God, including the gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, as well as a large amount of onyx, settings of antimony and other stones, all kinds of precious stones, and alabaster. (1 Chronicles 29.1-2, NET).

Then, David modeled the kind of investment he would invite others to make. He said …

Now, to show my commitment to the temple of my God, I donate my personal treasure of gold and silver to the temple of my God, in addition to all that I have already supplied for this holy temple. This includes 3,000 talents of gold from Ophir and 7,000 talents of refined silver for overlaying the walls of the buildings, for gold and silver items, and for all the work of the craftsmen. (1 Chronicles 29.3-5)

And, finally, after all that, David challenged the people, “Who else wants to contribute to the Lord today?”

I love that. This is what I’m doing. What are you going to do?

David went first. He set the bar. He modeled for others the kind of commitment and ownership he was looking for. Then, he made the invitation and gave the challenge.

Leaders go first.