Posts Tagged ‘next steps’

Maxie’s Weekly Word

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 | By Maxie Dunnam
Filed in: Maxie Dunnam, Maxie's Weekly Word









The Bucket List is the film story of corporate billionaire Edward Cole, played by Jack Nicholson, and working class mechanic Carter Chambers, played by Morgan Freeman. They have nothing in common except their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room, they decide to leave it and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die according to their bucket list.

I thought of this film when I invited a friend to accompany us on a visit to the Holy Land. In a note she expressed her happiness at the thought, but her happiness turned to tears when she realized the time and opportunity had come and gone because her body was no longer capable of such a trip.

Time flies. Make a bucket list of the things you want to do before you die. Do them when the opportunity arises. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you could do today.

This is my word of encouragement. Make Life Matter.


Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

What’s your next step?

It’s a good question – in this case as it relates to the United Methodist Church – what’s our next step? General Conference is a (sort of) distant memory; our regional Jurisdictional Conferences have come and gone. Various groups and people have publically staked out their claims about keeping their covenants or breaking them. So what’s next?

Jason Vickers

Jason Vickers

Now that my PhD work is officially over I’ve begun trying to catch up on my reading. Jason Vickers’ book, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal was a timely read in the aftermath of all the church politics that have unfolded thus far in 2012. The book is full of important insights that are particularly relevant to the current state of affairs in the UMC. I hope to explore some of those insights over the next several posts.

The first idea I want to highlight comes at the very end of the book – literally the next to last page. Jason writes:

…Many liberals and evangelicals are blinded to the shifts taking place around them precisely because they cannot take their eyes off one another long enough to take notice. It is as though evangelical and liberal Protestants are locked in a death embrace in which both sides are equally obsessed with killing one another. All the while, we keep buried in our basements the solid food for which a spiritually hungry generation is searching far and wide.*

I’m not sure I’ve read a better description of General Conference 2012. But more than that – Jason is spot on in his insight when it comes to the overall UMC. That’s what troubles me. How can we really understand the nature of the church, of what God has called us to be and do in the world, if we are so distracted?

Many folks these days talk about reviving the ‘movement’ nature of Methodism as a way of renewing the UMC. I find that somewhat ironic since in its institutionalism, the UM of today resembles the Church of England of John Wesley’s day. Being or behaving like a movement seems unlikely. A better option might be Wesley’s own approach of seeking ‘the lost sheep of United Methodism.’**

For that to happen though, we’ve got to take our eyes off each other long enough to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, on whom the very life of the church depends.


*Jason Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 106

**In Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England, Wesley described his work as being for ‘the lost sheep of the Church of England.’



Worldwide United Methodism – an attitude or simply geography?

As a “worldwide church” the United Methodist Church might be wise to listen more carefully to voices from Africa. Here is one such voice. Forbes Matonga provides his opinion of the strategies for restructuring that are coming before the UMC General Conference in April. What’s our next step US UM’s? Do we really take the voice of Africa seriously?




Interesting thoughts and happenings...

This week’s worthy reads…

Warriors for Peace

Floyd Holt, photo courtesy of PhotographyServed ~ Warriors for Peace

War & Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era -

The Pew Research Center DataBank provides a ‘daily number’ – this week’s caught my eye:

52% – More Than Half of Post-9/11 Combat Veterans Report Emotional Trauma

To read more about this number click here.

Not surprisingly, given the wide variety of news reports that have been relentlessly provided, according to the Pew Research Center, “the re-entry process has been more difficult for post-9/11 veterans than it was for those who served prior to 9/11. More than four-in-ten post-9/11 veterans (44%) say they had difficulty readjusting to civilian life, compared with 25% of pre-9/11 veterans. This may be due in part to the fact that post-9/11 veterans are much more likely than those who served before them to have seen combat. Among post-9/11 veterans who served in combat, half (51%) say they had difficulty readjusting to civilian life… Nearly six-in-ten post-9/11 combat veterans (57%) say that since being discharged from the military, they have experienced frequent incidents of irritability or outbursts of anger…Nearly as many combat veterans (55%) say they have experienced strains in family relations…” Read more.

Our communities and congregations are full of veterans, families of veterans, friends of veterans. Do you know who they are? What’s happening in your community? What’s happening in your church? What’s your next step in coming alongside those who are struggling?


empty pews

Young Adults and Women…

There are some themes here that seem to be converging & I want to read/write/talk more about them. There’s nothing worse than blog topics of the moment that then get lost in the next big thing but are really worth pondering & talking deeply about.

Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church ~ Christian Piatt for Red Letter Christians

Four More BIG Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church ~ Christian Piatt for Red Letter Christians

15 Reasons I Left Church ~ Rachel Held Evans

It’s the Simple Moments that Stick ~ Susannah

Rush Limbaugh and Three Evangelical Blind Spots ~ Rachel Held Evans

Because we’re United Methodist, and therefore “mainstream,” some of us may be inclined to think we’re immune to these kinds of issues. But I wonder. Considering that I was called “an out of control little girl” by someone in my first appointment, makes me think that maybe this whole conversation is hitting closer to home than we’d like. Seems like we need to think a bit longer about all of this…

Tattooed Love

Many of you know how important stories are to me – faith stories, family stories – they’re all significant in shaping us.

Steve Beard

Steve Beard

Here’s one I came across that made me smile. I can just picture my father chatting it up with a bunch of tattoo artists. Steve Beard wrote about it back in 2003 in Good News Magazine. Here’s what Steve wrote:


Bobby Doran is not exactly your typical evangelist. He spends most of his time poking people with sharp objects for a living. Ink, blood, rubber gloves—and a smile. Doran is an artist at The Tattoo Shop in Forth Worth, Texas, and recently garnered headlines by becoming the latest record holder for 30 hours of continuous tattooing.

Even though you won’t find his vocation listed in a seminary course catalog, Doran considers tattooing his ministry. “The church for years has looked at tattoos as a bad thing. We are trying to show a different side of it,” he told Knight Ridder News Service. “Ninety percent of the people who walk into a tattoo shop will never walk into a church. So if we can be the only church that they see, well, that’s good.”

Doran is no high-pressure preacher. “I don’t force anything down anybody’s throat, but when God says talk to them, I talk to them,” he says. His wife Tanya reports: “We’ve had people break down and cry and give themselves up to God. If it happens, it happens.”

Doran’s world record reminded me of a story I heard recently from the Rev. Jim Smith, pastor of St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Amarillo, Texas. It seems that a few years ago, Smith found himself in an elevator with an exotic couple. The young man’s hair was spiked, his sleeveless shirt displayed his ink-colored arms, and his eyebrow and earlobes were pierced. Her tattoos and piercings were displayed through her less-than-modest leather and denim outfit.

On the other side of the elevator stood Smith in his blue blazer, striped tie, and white starched shirt. He was, after all, on his way to chair the board meeting of the Confessing Movement, an evangelical reform ministry within the United Methodist Church.

In order to break the awkward silence, Smith said aloud, “Well, I don’t suppose we are going to the same meeting.” That sparked a laugh and began the conversation between the buttoned-down preacher and the inked-up couple. It turns out that they were at the hotel for the Old School Reunion—a tattoo artist convention. The couple even invited the pastor to check it out for himself; he thanked them for the invitation and went off to his meeting.

Maxie Dunnam

Maxie Dunnam

After the board meeting, Jim was invited by Dr. Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, to grab a cup of coffee. Smith told Dunnam that he had already been invited to an event at the hotel.

“To what?” asked Dunnam. “To the Old School Reunion,” Smith responded.

The two of them scooted through the hotel in their business suits looking around for the tattoo convention. When they found the registration desk, they were greeted by an older gentleman covered in ink. He recognized that the two men were obviously not there to get a touch up on their dragon tattoos.

Bedecked in a sleeveless t-shirt, black leather vest, and rings wobbling off his earlobes, the man turned out to be the head of the convention and invited Dunnam and Smith to look around as his guests.

Jesus tattooAssuming the pair knew little about tattoos, he held out his right arm and showed the two visitors a picture of Jesus ascending into heaven. They both stared in amazement at the inked forearm.

Unsure if his new friends recognized the figure on his arm, the man said, “Jesus was the son of God. His Father sent him into the world to be our savior. He died on the cross to forgive our sins and was raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is praying for you.” He then winsomely asked his two guests, “Have you ever heard this story before?”

The two ministers had just heard the most succinct presentation of the gospel ever. When they confessed they were Methodist preachers, the tattooed man shouted, “Praise God! You’re my brothers!” He proceeded to hug his new friends right in the middle of the convention.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

“That was the first time in my life I’ve been hugged by a man in a leather vest and earrings,” Smith testifies.

The three of them went from booth to booth as the man told his tattooed colleagues to “meet my two brothers.” Pierced ears. Crew cuts. Leather vests. Navy blazers. Sleeveless t-shirts. White starched shirts. Tattoos. Neckties. Two worlds collided and the grace of God settled in some unpredictable directions.

While he was on the elevator first surveying the tattooed couple, Jim Smith had wondered who would be able to witness for Christ to them. Culturally, he and they were from two separate stratospheres. But later as the three new friends went from booth to booth at the tattoo convention, Smith was reminded that God is never left without a witness—even a few colorful ones to keep us on our toes and remind us that he is covering all the bases.


God is never left without a witness. What’s your next step?

Click here to read part 1.


Kimberly Reisman

Kim Reisman

…What would it look like if the God of the world – the High God – actually was the God of all nations and tribes? What would it look like if we could get a handle on the fact that the God of the world loves each tribe and nation equally?


It’s easy to talk about the world being one, about all of us being children of God and of equal value and importance. But I don’t think we realize how absolutely radical that concept really is. As Christ followers, we don’t realize how radical it is because we’ve inherited the idea from the Gospel – it’s an essential part of the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s one part of the message that turned the world upside down when Paul and the first faith sharers began to witness to it.

This idea that we’re all of equal value and importance isn’t a human idea. That’s why it turned the world upside down when people first started sharing it. Humans could never have come up with an idea as radical as the thought that God loves all of us, regardless of tribe or nation. We couldn’t have come up with it because we’re too focused on tribe and nation. It’s that focus that’s torn God’s world apart. Whether it’s between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, or between blacks and whites in the United States, or between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East; whether it’s because of gender differences, economic differences, religious differences, class differences, the result is always the same – one group positioned against another, violence in body or in spirit always at the forefront. That’s the human idea. That’s the force that Peter and Paul fought against so desperately; that’s the elementary human evil the whole bible squares off against.

A friend of mine tells a story about meeting a Muslim woman from Indonesia on an airplane shortly after 9/11. They struck up a conversation and my friend admitted that he’d been praying a lot in those frightening and confusing days. The woman said, yes, she’d been praying a lot too, and she’d decided that it was time to find out exactly what her prayers really meant. She didn’t speak Arabic, which is the only language of Islam, so she didn’t understand any of the prayers that she’d prayed daily all of her life.

What a contrast to the God made real in Jesus Christ, the God of all languages, not just one. The God who invites us to speak in our heart language, the language our mothers taught us. That God would hear us as we pray in our heart language – whatever language that might be – points to the fact that the gospel, that secret hidden from the beginning of the world, is outside every culture – it’s supracultural. It broke into our world from the outside, from beyond any of us, in order to be offered to all of us.

It seems to me one of our problems is that we’ve confused the gospel with the church. The church has become the vessel of salvation so that those who are inside are saved and those outside are lost. But salvation isn’t some kind of magic formula. You don’t get it because you discover the perfect mixture of the sacraments and church membership. Salvation is the result of the love of God and God’s grace at work in each of our lives – and God’s grace doesn’t exist exclusively in the United States or anywhere else. Every nation and tribe that would seem “foreign” to us is a nation or tribe already loved by God. Before we ever arrive, before we ever encounter, before we ever begin to build a bridge, God is there, loving and making signs of that love manifest in the lives of all the peoples of the earth. Before we ever make any connection, before we ever attempt to share our faith, God is there and God’s saving work has already begun. If the God made real in Jesus Christ were not already in love with the entire world, he could not truly be the High God we know him to be. Instead, the wise old Masai man Ndangoya would be correct in saying, “This High God of whom you speak, he could not possibly love Christians more than pagans, could he? Or he would be more of a tribal god than ours.”

Vincent Donovan

Vincent J. Donovan

That brings me back to my original question. Do we really know the High God? When others look at us, do they see what Vincent Donovan saw – that we have not found the High God, that our tribe has not known him, that for us, too, he is the unknown God? How would our lives change if we really understood the fact that the God made real in Jesus Christ – the God of the world – loves each tribe and nation equally? How would that understanding change how we looked at other tribes and clans – even in our own communities? How would we act and relate to others? What next step do we need to take so that our lives really reflect the gospel truth that the God made real in Jesus Christ – the High God – actually is the God of the whole world, of every heart language, of every nation and tribe?

Do you know the High God? Are you searching for him? I invite you to search for him with me. Let’s search for him together. Maybe together we will find him.

The Islamic community in my town is planning to build a community center and worship space down the road from St. Andrew United Methodist Church where I attend. It’s raised quite a stir in the overall community. A couple of weeks ago, the pastor from a large Baptist church wrote a great op-ed piece supporting the building plans – his focus was religious freedom.

Tim Burchill

Tim Burchill - St. Andrew United Methodist Church

My pastor, Tim Burchill, wrote a piece as well. I have to admit, I was very proud…

WWJD? Take me on first. Why I’m ready for Islamic center neighbors.


What are you doing to support your neighbors? What’s your next step?




Thoughts from J. D. Walt

No new year’s resolutions this year. No “one word to capture what I want this year to be about.” I’m committing myself to one thing: s-l-o-w-i-n-g.

S-l-o-w-i-n-g. I think I first learned the term about ten years ago in a chapter by the same name in one of John Ortberg’s books. I’ve always liked the concept and every once in a while I remember it, but these days something magnetic about the idea pulls me into it’s orbit. Maybe that idea of “orbit” and “gravity” is the real issue. The world I so regularly create and commit myself to has such gravitational pull that it holds me in a very close orbit. The closer the orbit, the faster we must move to get around it. Consider this:

Time it takes pluto to orbit the sun: 248 years

Time it takes the earth to orbit the sun: 365 days

Time it takes the moon to orbit the earth: 28 days

Time it takes the International Space Station to orbit the earth: 91 minutes

The closer the orbit the faster we must move. The faster we move the less we see. The less we see the more limited our perspective. The more limited our perspective the shallower our wisdom. The shallower our wisdom the more anemic our life.

J.D. Walt

I’m slowing. Practically speaking it means I will drive at least 5 miles under the speed limit, especially around town. I will work in focused segments of time, at least 20 minutes in length, doing only one thing. This necessitates not checking email, facebooking, twittering, texting, or answering my phone out of turn. Whenever I have the chance to walk somewhere I will walk. I will “behold” other people when together. I will read one poem a day. I will gaze at artwork every time I am near it. I will put away my iPhone between the hours of 6pm and 6am. I will take my time when I wash dishes or fold clothes or brush my youngest’s teeth. I will keep Sabbath weekly. I’m s-l-o-w-i-n-g.

In his book, The Contemplative Patstor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, Gene Peterson writes, “It is far more biblical to learn quietness and attentiveness before God than to be overtaken by what John Oman named the twin perils of ministry, ‘flurry and worry.’ For flurry dissipates energy, and worry constipates it.”

If this strikes a chord in you, please join me.


I’m with you JD…

Kimberly Reisman

Kim Reisman

What’s Your Next Step?

In the flesh…

An intriguing commonality between those who follow the Jesus way and non believers is a general distaste for evangelism. Certainly this dislike doesn’t apply to everyone, believer or not; nor does it stem from an accurate understanding of what evangelism is all about. But the dislike is there. From the world’s perspective it’s an aversion to anything smacking of targeting, any attempt to “convert,” alter, or change another person in the area of faith. From the Christ follower’s perspective it’s a deep embarrassment about sharing something as profoundly personal as the experience of being in relationship with God through Jesus; it’s a strong fear of being seen as manipulative, coercive or simply overbearing. The negative image of the televangelist looms large in all our consciences. Mary Chapin Carpenter sings about this sense of leeriness in her song I Take My Chances from the CD Come On Come On:


Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter

I sat alone in the dark one night, tuning in by remote.

I found a preacher who spoke of the lightbut there was brimstone in his throat.

He’d show me the way according to him in return for my personal check.

I clicked my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette.

I take my chances…yes…forgiveness doesn’t come with a debt.


Yet those who follow the Jesus way actually have great news to share – the truth (to mention only one) that forgiveness really doesn’t come with a debt! And that news, when shared as it should be, is not the least bit coercive or manipulative. But our dislike for faith sharing is so great, our fear of being lumped in the same category as the preacher who speaks of the light but has brimstone in his throat is so paralyzing, that Christ followers have abdicated the witness of our faith to others, seeing it as something that happens at special times, in special places, led by special people with special gifts.

How sad that sharing the good news, news the world so desperately needs to hear, has been limited to such special (and seemingly rare) environments, when instead it could be a natural part of the relationships of trust that make up our daily lives. How sad that we’ve missed the foundational concept of faith sharing – that it is incarnational.

As Christ followers, our relationship is with an incarnational God – a God who came to us in the flesh, willingly choosing to become human in Jesus. That’s not just part of the message we proclaim, it’s the model for the way we live in the world and the way we share our faith. When we come to see following the Jesus way and sharing our faith in that way – as an incarnational undertaking – we realize the importance of entering the world of those we seek to reach – being with them in the flesh, not just on the surface. As the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, entering our world fully and completely, we seek to be vehicles through which Jesus enters the worlds of those around us – our co-workers and friends, our neighbors, strangers we meet as we go about our day.

Incarnational thinking broadens our understanding of what it means to share our faith, moving it beyond special events and attractions toward a more holistic concept, one that emphasizes entering the worlds of others fully and completely, through word, deed and sign. Our entire existence as Christ followers – the connections we make between our faith and our daily lives, the way we live in the world – should be laid on the holistic framework of word, deed and sign. A deep and lively faith will always hold these three elements in balance.

As we live each day, we proclaim the good news – both formally and informally – in our conversation, in our expression. This is the framework of word. The world hears our words, the words of every Christ follower, not just those of our preachers and teachers. All those beside whom we live and work and play hear and listen. When we struggle, they hear our struggle. When we celebrate, they hear our celebration. When we enter their struggle – in the flesh, not just on the surface – they hear those words as well. When we share their celebration – in the flesh, not just on the surface – their joy is enhanced by the sound of ours. For every divisive word spoken by a Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, the world waits to hear a word from us – what will our word be? A word of confirmation or a word of the gospel?

As we live each day we proclaim the good news and we act – practicing what we preach and preaching what we practice. In this way word and deed come together. They are as intimately entwined as breathing in and breathing out, deciding which is the most important depends on which one you did last. As the world hears our words, the world watches our actions. The world watches as we live out our faith – in the flesh, not in theory – even in the most mundane elements of our lives. The world watches the way we treat or mistreat others, the way we reach out or ignore those who suffer, stand with or against those who are oppressed, work for or against reconciliation, trust and love. What will our next step be? Will our actions reflect our words?  Will our words ring true when illustrated in the flesh, by our behavior?

As we live each day we proclaim the good news, we act in ways that provide evidence for that good news, and we engage in activities of significance that point to Jesus Christ. This is the framework of sign. We participate in and provide opportunities for those around us to experience signs of our living God, those visible tokens of invisible realities that are spiritually significant – Eucharist, prayer, art, music, miracles, healings – any and all pointing to Jesus Christ and his redemptive power.

Word, deed and sign. In the flesh, not just in theory or on the surface. That’s the only way to follow in the Jesus way with integrity and faithfulness. That’s the only way to avoid the world’s image of Christians as those who speak of the light but have brimstone in their throat. So what is your next step? What will you do next? Word? Deed? Breathe in? Breathe out? I suppose it depends on whatever you did last.

Standing By…

Kim Reisman

St. Stephen

Stephen - the first Christian martyr

In the book of Acts there’s a story of the stoning of Stephen. I’ve read this story many times but the most recent time it struck me a bit differently. I love how the story begins:  “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” That’s a great description – full of grace and power. How amazing would it be to have someone describe you as full of grace and power! But of course, when people are full of God’s grace and power it can be threatening to those who hold worldly power, and that’s what happened with Stephen.

He was sharing what he’d experienced, how it all fit together with what he believed as a faithful Jew and those in power decided he was a threat so they set him up to be arrested. As he’s standing before the council his speech makes the high priest and the rest of the council really angry. Here’s another great description – they were so angry at Stephen that they gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen is empowered by the Holy Spirit and God is revealed to him in a vision as he stands before the council. Well, this is the last straw; they can’t take it anymore so they drag him out of the city and stone him.


The stoning of Stephen

Here’s the part of the story that struck me this time. Apparently, while they were stoning Stephen, a young man named Saul was standing by watching. That, in itself, isn’t that significant. This is the Saul who was persecuting Christ followers with a zeal that would make your blood run cold. So we shouldn’t be surprised that he stood by, watching and doing nothing. But this Saul is also Paul, that champion of the gospel. Actually it was Paul, BCE (before his Christ Event). Paul, BCE could do what Paul, AD (After Damascus) could never do. Paul, after Damascus, would never just stand by.

That’s the way it should be with all Christ followers. If we’re following in the Jesus way, we can’t just stand by. That’s what the whole incarnation thing is all about. It’s not about standing by, it’s about entering in. So the question for me as I begin this season of Advent – when we’re focused on the incarnation – God becoming human in Jesus – the question is, when have I just stood by? What’s happening in the world right now that I’m standing by, just watching? If I take the incarnation seriously, if I truly believe that the miracle of Christmas is that ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us‘ - that God really did put on skin and bones and made God’s home on earth – then I really can’t stand by; I have to enter in.

St. Paul

Paul of Tarsus

The Jesus way can never be about standing by in the face of injustice, or poverty, or hunger, or oppression – or any of the other aspects of our world that break God’s heart. The reality is that if it’s bad news for the world, it’s bad news for God. So the Jesus way can never be exclusively about a private experience that stands by and watches the world go by from the safety of our spiritual sanctuaries. We’re not to be Paul, BCE, we’re to be Paul AD.

Thankfully the Church has a long history of entering in. But we’ve also done our share of standing by. So where are you on that spectrum? Are you standing by? And what’s your next step if you are?

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