Sunday, May 14, 2017

Playing and Passing it on

Last night I was reminded of a story from my youth. Really there was no good reason to be reminded of this story, but I remembered it with a smile and I have so few of them I felt it was worth sharing.

When I was little and we would go to visit my Grandmother in Mexico, MO. When we got there I would immediately go next door to visit Kenny, the son of the next door neighbor. He was about six or seven years older than me and we would play. We'd play football or tag or just go to the park across the street. He made me my first pair of stilts and watched me bruise my knees and elbows until I finally found my balance. Success was sweet. It was a good time and what was fun was that this was an older guy letting me hang out with him. Good fun.

Eventually he got older. This meant girls and cars and a job and less time for me. I was sad, but I was getting older and I understood. I was kind of sad, but I understood. That was when I met his little cousin Matt.

I was about six or seven years older than Matt and when I would come to town we would play together. We'd play football or tag or just go to the park across the street. More than anything else though, we'd wrassle around a lot. I'd let him crawl all over me, try out new holds and find his balance and his strength. It was a good time and what was fun was that he found an older guy who was letting him hang out. Good fun.

And he became an All-State Wrestler in Missouri.

When we were in our twenties, I was sitting on his grandfather's front porch, Kenny's front porch so long ago, and he told me how much fun it was playing so long ago. He asked why I did it. He asked what he could do to pass it on. I told him about Kenny. I asked him if he did the same thing with a little brother or cousin or neighbor and he said yes, he did. I told him he passed it on without even knowing it. Shoot, I passed it on and didn't know I was passing it on. I was just playing.

So here's the thing. Be in the moment. Play. You may be passing on something you don't even know you're passing on. As for Kenny, was he passing it on or did he start a ball rolling that may still be rolling today? The only answer I have for this is yes, and I'm glad he did.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Last year, I was working at the Motel 6 in Marshall, Texas. Yep, one of the most important roles in the Christmas story and that was me, the Innkeeper.

Allow me to back up for a moment, on the Sunday before Christmas Eve, I told my pastor The Reverend Doctor James Freeman that I would not be in worship because I had to work at the Motel. I added that IF Jesus and Maria came in a Bronco and she was pregnant I would text because it was going down.

Note: No, Jesus and Maria isn't racist. Admittedly, Spanish is the only language where the name of our Lord is commonly used as a proper first name and Maria is a common first name in Spanish speaking countries, but if ascribing these two to be the modern doppelgangers of the parents of the Lord is racist I would ask, "Wait, is being parents of the Lord a bad thing?"

The defense is restless, on with the story.

So that night, some guy (a white guy for those keeping score) came to get a refund for the room and said his girlfriend would be up in ten minutes with the other key. Thirty minutes later, she still wasn't there.

I went to the room to rush her out. Kind of a Motel 6 no-no, but I did it. So she answers the door and what do I see? She's pregnant. She's smoking. There are beer bottles all over the room. I get to tell her not that there is no room at the inn, but her boyfriend checked her out and she has to leave. What a guy.

She begins to cry and load her bag. She starts with her smokes. Gets the rest of the beers. Grabs her phone. The whole time she cries about the friend whose house she was supposed to be going and where is her boyfriend. If I was a betting man, he was in the bathroom. Their car was still outside.

I get the key. I get her out. I see them drive off ten minutes later. Ever want to feel like Scrooge? Kick a pregnant woman out of a motel on Christmas Eve.

Let me say again, corporately I was right. Legally I was right. Morally I was right. Now let me add this, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan left the injured man with enough money for an estimated two month stay and promised to come and pay the extra. The boyfriend took the money back, he didn't pay for the night.

Yeah, I didn't bother to text this story to Jim. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Men (and Women) in Albs

Reformation Day has passed, but before it did, I remembered this bit from the movie Men in Black when Tommy Lee Jones as K is talking to Will Smith as James Edwards before he became J:
Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.

So how does this apply to Reformation Day? Imagine if you will, as I did, a conversation between Martin Luther as he is putting his Ninety-Nine Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church door and a fellow cleric...
Cleric: Whatcha doing Martin?

Luther: I've got some problems with our theology, some big problems. You know that. And it's high time everybody knows, not just the bishops.

Cleric: What do you mean Bishops, you're the Father of Lutheranism, you're not Roman Catholic! Your reformation started the whole Lutheran Church thing!

Luther: Stupid! Don't you know anything about church history! I'm Roman Catholic and so are you! So is most of Europe in 1517! Dumbkopf!

Cleric: So what is this about?

Luther: The Church needs to be reformed if...

Cleric: There's that word!

Luther: Yes, and do you know what it means? Reform, change, big change, very big change, maybe even change in italics! It doesn't mean schism, it means change. What comes of it after my death, well, we'll see where it goes from there, but what I want is for the Church Universal to change.

Cleric: What do you mean by Church Universal?

Luther: That's all catholic with a lower case c means, universal. When you read it in the creeds it doesn't mean Roman Catholic or even the Eastern Orthodox, it means the universal church. Do I have to explain everything to you?

Cleric: Looks that way...

Luther: What's causing you problems here?

Cleric: Well, here it says you want us to stop selling plenary indulgences. Why would we ever do that?

Luther: Insert eye roll here! With these indulgences we sell, with cash money we sell the holiness of good people to bad people so that they can get into heaven, right.

Cleric: Sure, that's the only way my Uncle Stugotz will even sniff heaven!

Luther: That's what I mean! You can't sell holiness! Where is that even found in scripture?

Cleric: Er, in the book of...

Luther: Yeah, don't bother. It's not found in scripture. We soil ourselves to believe this is even possible and for what, a few coins in the treasury?

Cleric: Hey, don't knock it. Giving is down. We gotta do something to put butts in the pews. We gotta get giving up Martin. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling didn't paint itself. Pope needs cash to do the work of the church.

Luther: How is another fresco going to serve the poor and the widowed and the travelers and the...

Cleric: Well Pope Trump is going to build a wall across the Rubicon so...

Luther: There is so much wrong with that statement I'm not even going to try to correct you. The point is the work of the church is not nice things. The work of the church is outside the walls, not inside the walls.

Cleric: So why put this stuff up on the door? You want the biships and doctors of the church to discuss this stuff right?

Luther: Surely yes I do. But I've been neglected in small groups. Maybe posting this on All Saints Day when we all come to Wittenberg will cause us to act.

Cleric: If you mean your trial, excommunication, and death sentence, then yes, your call to action will be met.

Luther: Yes, I suspect you're right. And do you know why, because a person is smart. We're having a decent conversation, except for your lapses in church history and that "Pope Trump" crack. A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, superstitious animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody thought Jesus was a poser and a Jewish heretic. Five hundred years ago the bow was the latest in war technology, and fifteen minutes ago, you thought money could take holiness from the treasury of merit to help your Uncle Stugotz. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
Well, that isn't what happened, but as Kurt Vonnegut once said during a Palm Sunday sermon, you can always count on a crowd to look at the wrong end of a miracle. A person is smart. Two people can have a conversation, we can have coffee and a streusel. We can discuss and if we can keep a calm head we can discuss the matters of the day.

If our day and time has shown us one thing for sure, if it's the church or politics, and let us remember a secular government is an American invention, people are dumb, panicky, superstitious animals. And you know it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pastor Paul's September 20 Newsletter Article

Pastor Paul's Letter to the Church at Weatherford

So, what do you hope? The Cowboys can keep it up with fourth-quarter-pull-it-out victories? Both Dallas and Oklahoma State pulled that off last weekend. Both are either at or above .500 for the season! Maybe you hope Ohio State will quit scoring on Oklahoma, finally, as the Sooners fall out of the Top 25. (Sure, they’re only #26, but still, it’s out of the glory.)

Maybe you hope this semester, only a few weeks old will let you take a breath soon. I saw a sign the other day that said “ONLY 35 MORE DAYS UNTIL FALL BREAK.” Wow, now there’s hoping. Classes haven’t been in session 35 days and somebody’s counting the days until fall break.

As Christians, our hope is in Jesus Christ. That’s it. As Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

We remember and we are remembered. Our work is prompted by love and love is returned. We endure by our hope in Christ. If our hope is in being friendly, or charismatic, or family or anything other than in our Lord Jesus Christ, we fail. Our only hope is in Christ, everything else is loss. That other stuff, that is because our hope is in Christ!

So remember, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

See you in Church, Paul

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pastor Paul's September 13 Newsletter Article

Here's my article for the Federated Flash, the newsletter of The Federated Church in Weatherford, Oklahoma!

Paul’s Letter to the Church at Weatherford

Reading the announcements in last Sunday’s bulletin, you saw this…

Monday, September 19
6:00 pm Preliminary Budget Meeting—If you have anything for the 2017 Budget, please get it to Pastor Paul, Bruce Magill, or Suzy Maness by Sunday September 18.

First off, don’t let the image put you off, it’s true, budget work is God’s work, Christ’s work, the work of the church. I would tell people I loved statistics because it took numbers and translated them into English. “Yes, based on all of this gobbled-gook there is a 20% chance of rain.” That’s just statistics and weather and the percent chance your picnic will be rained out. (We’ll leave the statistics on how trustworthy the meteorologist is for another day.)

Budgets are just how we translate how we do the work of the church into dollars and cents. How much did it cost to heat and cool the church building and parsonage last year and how much do we estimate it will cost this year? How much do we send to the three denominations so they can do their work? How much money do we send to missions? Do we tithe? How much does it actually cost to have a pastor? Is there more than salary? What does it cost to run Positive Pathways? How much does Ronda make? Do we even pay Ronda? (The answer to that one is “not this year,” she volunteers and puts money into the program.) What do we get from… well, what do we get?

These are all good questions, and deserve good answers, so here’s the Board’s tentative time frame:
Monday, September 19—Pastor Paul, Treasurer Bruce Magill, and Board Chair Suzy Maness will review the budget from 2016 with an eye to 2017. If you have any suggestions of things you want to do in 2017, let’s say a yoga class in the Fellowship Hall, a Music Program in the Sanctuary, or a Bible Study, put something in writing and share it with one or all of us! This is a closed meeting, we’re going over numbers and not making any hard decisions.

Monday, October 3—Board Meeting This is the meeting where the Board will review the budget. All Committee Chairs are board members so they have voice and vote. Make sure your suggestions are in so considerations can be made! If you have a suggestion that falls outside of the normal structure, find an advocate on the board, it’s the best way!

Sunday in late October or early November to be decided: The board has not decided on what day the budget will be presented.  
Sunday November 20—Consecration Sunday That’s the day we put ourselves in the offering. That’s the day we pledge to offer what we have of our time, talent, and treasure to make this ministry plan happen. Because the budget is a ministry plan the way an accountant sees it.
So like the statue says, Church budgets are Christ’s work too. We must treat them like they are the work of God to do the work of the Church to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, because if it’s not, we’re just a Sunday Social Club and there are better ways to spend a Sunday morning if that’s all we are. But I say we’re more than a social club, we’re the Body of Christ, so…

See you in Church, Paul

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I'm Beginning to See My Problem with Colin Kaepernick

I think I've begun to figure out what bothers me about Kaepernick's protest and especially the followers...

When I got out of school in 1985 I couldn't find a job in my field, Reganomics decimated hiring in Higher Ed. Does any of this have to do with my "winning personality?" Maybe, but five years later, after throwing drunks out of bars for a few years I found an entry level job. Thank you David Shellberg and Lamar Community College.

I worked eight and a half years in Lamar and three more at the University of Arkansas, ten years of that was spent working with low income students and students who would be the first in their family to earn a Bachelor's Degree. Statistically speaking, people who qualify for these programs are more likely to be people of color, but don't believe for a minute that there aren't a lot of white children who fulfill those qualifications too.

So here's the deal. These programs, and the nearly 2,800 like them are a part of the United States
Click here for the Department of Education TRIO Homepage
Department of Education's TRIO programs. These programs include Talent Search, Upward Bound, Veteran's Upward Bound, the Talent Search Math Science Initiative and a few others. They help students whose families are less likely to get their kids into higher ed into Higher Ed and on toward graduation and even graduate school.

These program's are a part of President Johnson's War on Poverty. That's right, that "Redneck Som-Bit from Texas" Johnson, the President who made sure the Civil Right's Act didn't die with Kennedy on a Sunny day in Dallas worked to make sure kids who never considered higher education not only considered it, but had the support and the tools to succeed.

These problems have existed for hundreds of years in America. So why in the world are we paying so much attention to this guy? I'm sorry, he's a Johnny come lately to the party with the assets, the charisma, and the authority to do more than just whine. I've done more for race in America after someone called one of my regular customers who was black "The N-Word" in the bar I managed than he did and that took fifteen minutes.

I have sat in rooms full of people who could do more with what he makes in a single game sitting on the bench to further justice in America than he has ever dreamed. I've done more working ten years in higher education working with students and working to secure the jobs of the people delivered services to these students.

People aren't actually talking about race or society or justice, they're talking about Colin Kaepernick. He's more of a distraction. Colin Kaepernick doesn't need to keynote a discussion on race, he needs to go to a regional or national TRIO convention and see what people are doing to move toward a just society. He doesn't need to talk, he needs to listen, he needs to pay attention, and he needs to get involved and maybe put some of that money where his mouth is.

By the way, these are federally funded programs, you know, the federal government, That thing he protests by taking a knee. And I thought taking a knee was how a football player gives up on a play. All hat, no cattle. All protest, no action. Sorry Colin, spend ten years as an Upward Bound counselor helping kids get into college, which you seemingly took for granted, then you might have a better idea what the problem is.

Then you can go to your gated community and your swimming pool and tell the world how bad life is for people of color.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pastor Paul's September 6 Newsletter Article

Here's my September 6 article for the Federated Flash, with lots of clipart!

Pastor Paul’s Letter to the Church at Weatherford

So, what in the world is Rally Day? It’s the Sunday School equivalent of “Back to School Night.” It’s a chance to meet new teachers, get into new classes, and find out what’s going on with Christian Education at The Federated Church. That’s really pretty easy, isn’t it? No big secrets. Nothing mystical. No big to-do’s.

What makes this Rally Day special is the many offerings this year. The Seeker’s Class will be studying “Grace” by Max Lucado. A new class for adults will be doing a video study in the Library. Of course there will be youth classes, and for the first time in years we have a confirmation class! Yes, this is a thrilling time at Federated!

This Rally Day will also feature Ashlyn Dillon presenting information about her Mission Trip to Africa during worship. She will be bringing a multimedia presentation so come ready to see and hear about the work the Lord is doing there.

Finally, that evening at 5:30, we will have a Potluck Supper! Bring your favorite covered dish or try something new and see how we like it. And please bring some school supplies for the school teachers here at Federated. It is estimated teachers spend over $500.00 per year out of pocket annually out of pocket for their classrooms. Let’s help make a dent in that. Then we’ll see what we can do about having the Cowboy’s game playing here so nobody has to worry about that either.

The weather forecast right now looks sunny and mild, so let’s get together Sunday and have a bang up time! This week’s gospel reading will be the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-10). Don’t make me come looking for you…

See you in Church, Paul