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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
For those of you who would like to support the vision & ministry of Woodland Hills Community Church (the faith community I serve that continues to encourage me to minister outside the box), please click on the link just above.

Saturday, October 13

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 15 & 24; Micah 6:1-8; Luke 17:20-37; & Romans 6:1-11

While there are a few things I'm pretty good at, cooking is definitely one of those areas in which I have few if any skills. Consequently, I'm more of a survival cooker. Just give me the basics (i.e. how long do I heat the soup on the burner, how long do I microwave the frozen dinner) and I'm in business. That no frills approach has gotten me through my first 40 years. This morning I encountered another no frills approach in today's lectionary readings. It was the last verse of today's reading from Micah. For folks like me who are easily distracted, the prophet lays out three easy steps to capture the essence of what God asks of you. You ready? Here it goes. Number one: do justice. Number two: love kindness. Number three: walk humbly with your God. Sounds simple enough, right? I've discovered over the years that while it may sound simple while you're looking at the "cookbook", once you take those ingredients out into the real world and try applying them, the challenges begin. Today, I invite you to take those ingredients (justice, kindness, and humility) out of your cupboard and start applying them. See what "dish" begins to emerge. Happy cooking! Til next time...

Friday, October 12

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 62 & 138; Micah 5:1-4, 10-15; Luke 17:11-19; Romans 5:12-21

As the church calendar year continues drawing us toward the onset of Advent on December 2, the words of the prophets in our lectionary readings begin to take on added significance each day. Today’s lectionary reading from Micah is a good example of this. That’s because it points us toward the one who “will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4). The piece of the passage that most caught my attention this morning, however, was the verse that came just two verses before this. Micah 5:2 reads: “But you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me, one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” This verse reminds me once again that God’s ways are not our ways – that great things often come from the smallest, most unlikely of places. This morning, I invite you to explore your own life and look for those small, seemingly insignificant areas where God is breaking forth in new and unexpected ways. For while there may still be 73 shopping days until Christmas, it’s never too soon to begin giving thanks for the arrival of God’s grace and love within your own life. Til next time…

Thursday, October 11

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 122 & 48; Micah 3:9-4:5; Luke 17:1-10; Romans 5:6-11

It is so easy these days to theologically construct a God that looks and acts just like us. And if you are not careful, you can pick up on theological streams in the scriptures to justify that practice – for instance, constructing a God that will like us if we like him; and reject us if we reject him. Needless to say, I’m always bowled over when I run into those pieces of Scripture that challenge those notions by presenting a God that looks nothing like us. I found two glimpses of that in today’s reading. The first glimpse came from Micah 4:3. In speaking of the last days – days when most would expect a sort of cosmic playing out of human agendas (i.e. you messed with me, now you’re gonna get yours) – the prophet presents an image that goes against this approach. He presents a culminating image of God who motivates humanity to “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore”. What a curveball. The second glimpse I got of a God that looks nothing like us comes from Romans 5:6, 8. Using human standards, God’s timing was really off because “when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While some may take pleasure in a God that acts predictably by human standards, today’s scriptures reminded me that I find great encouragement through my faith in a God who often acts nothing like us. Til next time…

Wednesday, October 10

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 18; Micah 3:1-8; Luke 16:19-31; Romans 5:1-5

There are lots of words associated with our faith that get tossed around: words like love, grace, peace, and mercy. Unfortunately, all too often these words don’t often get fleshed out or defined. As a result, some of them become little more than clich├ęs in our lives. I loved today’s passage from Romans because it takes a word that often gets used – the word “hope” – and goes into some depth in helping us understand the term. In fact, verses three and four present a recipe of sorts that tells us what produces hope. The recipe is as follows: suffering can produce endurance; endurance can produce character; and character can produce hope. What I most appreciate about Paul’s recipe for hope is that it reminds us that even the most difficult moments in our lives – those periods of suffering – can lay the foundation for a future sense of hope. I know there are areas of your life in which you are currently experiencing a sense of suffering. I know there are in mine. Today I invite you to try something new. Instead of thinking of that suffering as producing seeds of despair, try thinking of that suffering as planting the seeds of hope. I'll try it too. Let's see where that shift of thinking gets us. Til next next time...

Tuesday, October 9

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 120 & Psalm 28; Micah 2:1-13; Luke 16:10-18; Romans 4:19-25

Last night, I had an amazing experience. As a part of Colorado College’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Week; I was invited to speak to the topic of religious concerns surrounding LGBT issues. The teaser tag line for the event was “Would a loving God promote hate?” What impressed me about the event was that the 40 students who attended represented a wide spectrum of theological beliefs. There were conservative members of an evangelical group in attendance as there were students who identified as agnostic and atheist. The wonderful thing about the time together was that as we explored things like scripture, history, and personal experience; everyone in the room was remarkably loving and respectful of one another. In some ways the experience helped me connect with Psalm 120:5-6 – at least in a backhanded way. Let me tell you why I say that. Psalm 120:5-6 reads as follows: “Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech, that I must live among the tents of Kedar. Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.” You see as a gay Christian, all too often I have found myself in hostile camps during my life. Either my presence in the gay community is met with distrust because of my Christian faith (i.e. Christians are seen as those folks who have led the persecution of LGBT folks for decades), or my presence is met with controversy due to my sexual orientation in the Christian community. In other words, I too have felt like an alien in Meshech. As a result, I can resonate strongly with the psalmist as someone who has had trouble finding places of peace. I thank God, however, for experiences like last night when – despite our differences – I felt wonderful things: not only peace, but a sense of hope for the future as well. For that I say, “Thanks be to God!” Til next time…

Monday, October 8

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 5 & 24; Micah 1:1-9; Luke 16:1-9 & Romans 4:13-18

Each of us has particular passages of the Bible that are a great challenge for us not only to face but to understand. This morning’s parable about the dishonest manager from Luke 16:1-9 is one of those passages for me. The parable tells the story of a desperate manager who is about to be let go from his position who – in his desperation – resorts to less than honorable means to get by: he speaks to his employer’s debtors and reduces their debts without permission in order to win the debtors’ favor so that he could perhaps stay with them after he loses his job. Jesus’ has the master’s employer say the praisworthy principle involved was not the master’s mercy toward the debtors, but rather his shrewdness in dealing with the difficult circumstance. Even more troublesome are Jesus’ words at the conclusion of the parable in verse 9: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” The only other time Jesus spoke in such a way was when he was quoted in Matthew 10:16, admonishing his disciples to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (NASB). I guess the lesson hidden within these passages is that there are certain “survival skills” that serve us well if we are to live out our faith in a world that has very different values and ways of being than our own as Christians. Shrewdness, for me, implies a savvy that helps us not only anticipate the road blocks before us but navigate around them as well. I’ve said for years that my background in politics provided me some of the best training I ever received for parish ministry because it helped me (1) get to know pure unadulterated human motivation and behavior, and (2) learn to work with it in hopes of drawing out the best in folks. I guess in that way I have been shrewd. This shrewdness helped me endure some of the day-to-day challenges and frustrations in parish life that have driven many of my ministerial friends and colleagues out long ago. Are there areas of your spiritual life where a little shrewdness might serve you well in your faith journey? Just a little something to ponder today. Til next time…