Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Youth News! For January 3, 2010

A little variety is in store for this Sunday!

High School Youth Group is at Richard’s House

This Sunday January 3. We will begin with dinner at 5:30, and will be finished by 7:30. We will eat, play some games, discuss, pray, share—all the stuff we do at youth group, only in Richard’s living room. What a great way to END (how sad, I know) your holiday break! Casual, informal, fun—don’t miss it.

Here are directions:

1-Go EAST on Broadway PAST Camino Seco.

2-Turn LEFT on to Gollob. Gollob runs between 2 apartment complexes and is the first cross street after Camino Seco.

3-Turn LEFT on to E Berkshire Place (this is the first left on Gollob).

4-My house is the second house on the left (9080 E Berkshire Place).

If you get lost, call me 403-2403.

If you need a ride, I will try to arrange it, but it would probably be with a youth.

Can you bring something? I could use brownies (or other dessert you eat with your fingers), cut up veggies, cut up fruit. Let me know ASAP if you are bringing something, so I won’t get it at the store. Feel free to bring friends.

Parents, if you are driving your youth, feel free to stay to avoid driving around too much. (Or you could park it up at Safeway and have a Starbucks or at McDonalds, etc)

Middle School Youth Group is Bowling this Sunday! Meet at Lucky Strike (Speedway east of Alvernon) at 5:30. Bring money for bowling and food. Parents are invited to stay and bowl! More info? Call Kristin 602-696-5411. I wonder how many of you can beat Kristin at bowling?

Youth Sunday School begins to meet at 9:30 this Sunday in E-225 (upstairs over library).

Snowblast 2010 registrations are due THIS SUNDAY!!!! Info is at

Project Hospitality Friday January 8 The youth group will be filling all the spots for Project Hospitality on January 8. Project Hospitality is a ministry of our church that takes 6 men from the Salvation Army shelter (they are too full when it’s cold) and houses and feeds them at our church. That means I will need a couple of you to come set up, a few to bring and serve dinner, a few (actually, anyone who wants to) to stay overnight in the library (kind of like a camp-out/overnighter), a couple to bring and serve breakfast. I will have specifics next week. But think about how you would like to help. Maybe your family or friends would volunteer to bring dinner or breakfast. Let me know!

Read a Psalm, high school students!!

Christmas Caroling Photos are at

We’ll See You Sunday!!

Richard 403-2403

Kristin 602-696-5411

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Epiphany Sunday

Epiphany is always January 6 (like Christmas is always December 25). It is the celebration in the church that commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. An intro to Epiphany can be found in the worship bulletin. Epiphany Sunday is the Sunday nearest Epiphany--so this Sunday (January 3) is Epiphany Sunday. I think Epiphany is a very important observance in the church. Come and find out why this Sunday! The worship bulletin will let you know about our music for this Sunday and give you info about the history and meaning of Epiphany.
Our study from Christmas to Lent is Who Is Jesus? We celebrate the birth of Jesus, but exactly who is it that we are celebrating? On Epiphany Sunday, we consider that Jesus is Lord of all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Catalina Youth: News and PHOTOS!!!

A few words for this week:

1-Christmas Caroling was great! Honestly, I think it was our best year ever! You guys participated very well, and we were received by our "victims" very enthusiastically!! Photos are at and on my Facebook.

2-Christmas Eve services are 5pm [sanctuary], 9pm [hall], and 11pm [sanctuary].

3-No youth group OR Sunday School this Sunday! We WILL be having Sunday morning worship [9:30 and 11]!!!!

4-January 3, Sunday School moves to 9:30am.

5-January 3, high school youth group goes to Richard's house. Word will come on the middle school plan.

6-I have signed up 20 out of 30 spots for Snowblast 2010. Get your paper and deposit in SOON!! Info is at


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Week Three: LOVE

This should be the crowning week of advent; after all, God IS love. Maybe this is why the climactic week is love and week three is joy-although joy is often portrayed as the main emphasis at Advent. The worship bulletin is here. There will be lots of great music this week, too.

The Body of Christ

This is another great post. This one from the blog Sunday Papers.

At the first Christmas God didn’t send a book, or a message via a body-less ‘audible’ voice, no text, no website, no thunderbolt but a baby, a vulnerable body. This was the most vulnerable act where this god-child could have been exposed to emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse.

‘The incarnation had nothing to do with theology. It was rather about vulnerability, about letting go, about emptiness, about surrender and none of that is in the head’ Richard Rohr

The two big events celebrated in the Christian calendar in remembrance of Jesus are united by the centrality of body. The commonalties include, nakedness, vulnerability, letting go and emptiness. At Christmas, the tenderness of new born soft flesh and at Easter, the torn, whipped stripped, beaten and wounded flesh and finally killed body.

Even though body is central to Church celebrations it remains uncomfortable with body and often is intent on rejecting and punishing the body. Society is full of people who are unhappy with body and feel the need to cover it, decorate it, change it, build it, enhance it and wound it. The Church often appears to be in constant conflict with body and continues to struggle to unite sensuality, sexuality and spirituality with sexuality and gender issues still hotly debated often causing disintegration.

However, when Jesus asked us to re-member him he didn’t ask us to read a book, obey certain laws, recall and repeat special words or perform a ritual. Instead he asked his followers to re-member his body, to embrace body, to eat body, to reconnect with body, to be embodied.

So this incarnation Christ invites us to hold his small vulnerable body and also his whipped, naked, beaten and wounded body. Christ invites us to love body, listen to body, and welcome body and to be tender with body; mine, yours and the body of Christ.

This is the body of Christ,
We are the body of Christ
We are body

This item was posted by James Hawes.

The Mood of Advent: We All Need A Savior

This post is from the Internet Monk blog. I think it speaks for itself. Think about it.

Whereas the first week of Advent focuses on the hope of the new creation, the second week looks around at the sinful world we live in now. The mood could not be more different. This is the week we learn to lament. Seeing the evil, corruption, and injustice around us (and in us), we cry out to the King of Righteousness to come and put the world to rights. “Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today!” is our prayer.

To promote the wholesome practice of lament among God’s people, today we run an iMonk post that Michael wrote in December, 2007.

We need a savior.

This is the time that we stop and see that the powers of evil are entrenched in the world. Evil authorities and and evil persons are having their way. A good creation is being ruined. Hearts made for love and light are imprisoned, crying out and empty.

There is war, terror, the loss of innocence and the curses of ignorance, poverty and death. The wise men of this age are propagating nonsense. Men and women made in God’s image are addicted to the worst the darkness has to offer. They think backwards and cannot find their way out of the dungeon. They have lost their will to live and love, and have settled for the cheapest and palest of imitations.
Advent’s darkness includes the failure of religion to bring any light to this fallen and dying world. Religion has become as empty as fool’s errand as can be imagined. The religious take themselves seriously, but the world hears the hollowness of it all.

In the Christian family itself, the prosperity gospel makes a mockery of the very savior it claims to proclaim. Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.

The real center of Advent’s dark mood is that we need a savior. We who sing and go to church for musicals and eat too much and buy too much and justify the season by our strange measurements of suffering.

We light candles and wait because, after looking around and taking stock, there should be no doubt that we need a savior.

Ironically, after 2,000 years of offering our Savior to others, we- Christians- need one more than ever. When we mark ourselves has “having” Christ more than “needing” Christ, we miss the Spirit of the Advent season.

Despite the fact that the world needs a savior, those offering him and his story to the world look no more “saved” than anyone else. In fact, with an extra facade of religion or two, we seem to be in every bit as bad a shape as the world we call “lost.”

The mood of Advent is that we are all lost. Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.

Can we find a way to celebrate Advent as those who NEED to be saved? As those who NEED a savior? Not as those who know for certain that someone else does?

Scripture says that we who had not received mercy have now received mercy. Those who were nobodies are now the people of God.

The key to Advent is not living as if we are the people of God and always have been. The key is to live as if we need a Savior, and he has come to us, found us, saved us and is there for everyone in the world.

The mood of Advent isn’t “come be religious like us.” It is “We are all waiting for our Savior to be born. Let us wait together. And when he comes, let us recognize him, together.”

When the day dawns, let us all receive him. We go to the manger and worship. We give to him our gifts. We take his light to the poor.

Until then, we are the poor, the weak, the blind, the lonely, the guilty and the desperate. We light candles because we who are in darkness are in need of a great light. We need a savior.

So we wait amidst the ruins, we protect the lights we hold in hope. We sing to one who is coming. We look and wonder. We pray for his star to take us, once again, to the miracle.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Second Sunday of Advent

This Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, the traditional theme is peace. Peace. Don't we need it? In all its many forms. Will there ever be peace in our world? Will there ever be peace in my life? Peace. Jesus is called Prince of Peace. Jesus will bring peace. Can I have a down payment or an installment now? The Scriptures for this Sunday are:
Isaiah 2.1-5
Isaiah 9.2-7
Luke 1.67-79
Isaiah 32.16-17
The worship bulletin is here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action

This link is to a letter from the United Methodist Church Council of Bishops. Take time to read it.
"God's creation is in crisis. We, the Bishops of The United Methodist Church, cannot remain silent while God's people and God's planet suffer. This beautiful natural world is a loving gift from God, the Creator of all things seen and unseen. God has entrusted its care to all of us, but we have turned our backs on God and on our responsibilities..."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Season of Advent – Holy Waiting and Watching

I found this great post on Advent over at Interrupting the Silence. It really goes with our theme of silence from last Sunday. Read and think about the implications for your life this Advent.

A new liturgical year begins this coming Sunday, November 29, 2009, with the First Sunday of Advent. The Season of Advent consists of the four Sundays before Christmas. The liturgical color for Advent is purple or sometimes blue. We will begin a new liturgical cycle of seasons, feasts and fasts, and scripture lessons. This year the gospel will focus on the Gospel according to Luke with The Gospel according to John interspersed throughout the year but primarily in the Easter season.

The liturgical cycle is not, however, simply about passing time. The liturgical cycle tells the story of God’s life in the world. But it is more than just reciting the story. We are participants in the story not simply spectators or listeners. It is a ritual re-living of the life of Christ. Liturgy is the means by which we tell, live, and experience the story. It becomes real. It becomes our story not in the sense that we own it but in the sense that the liturgical cycle tells the story of our lives.

It has been said that liturgy is humanity’s yearning for God and grace is God’s yearning for humanity. Liturgically, this story of holy yearning—God’s and ours—begins in Advent. Advent means coming or to come. Advent is really about two comings. It is waiting and watching for the coming of the Christ child—new life, new birth, new hope coming into our world and our lives. It is the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is also waiting and watching for the coming of the eschaton—the end times when the fullness of God’s kingdom will be present. These are both future events and at the same time a present reality. They are already and not yet. Both of these advents are about the coming together of humanity and divinity.

The four Sundays of Advent are too often seen as the countdown to Christmas, as the time when we get things ready for Christmas. Santa Clause has been out since well before Halloween. Shopping lists are growing and the number of shopping days is shrinking. Menus are being planned. Travel is being arranged. Families are gathering. Expectations and hopes are growing. The countdown is well underway. Trees need decorating and presents need wrapping. Somewhere in all that is the stuff of everyday life – work, school, car pool, sports, paying bills, and running errands. There is so much to do and time is running out. The temptation is to live a “hurry-up, get busy, Christmas is almost here,” Advent. That is not the liturgical understanding of Advent. That kind of Advent can only lead to a “hurry-up, get to church, open the presents, take down the tree, Christmas is over,” Christmas.

The four Sundays of Advent are not the time when we prepare for Christmas but the time in which we are being prepared for Christmas. Advent is a time when the Church stands up in the face of the busyness of life, shopping, parties, cooking, traveling, and decorating and asks us to slow down, be still, and be quiet. We are to keep awake, looking and listening for the God who is always coming to us. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord. We watch and reflect on who we are. We look for the Christ in all the unexpected places – in the stuff of everyday life, in the poor, the hungry, and the needy. We live with expectancy and anticipation of God’s presence in our lives. We wait for the angelic messenger that promises us that the womb of our humanity will bear a child named Jesus.

That is hard work any time but especially in one of the busiest times of the year which may just mean it is even more necessary. Advent reminds us that waiting and watching are holy work. So how do we do this? Silence is the key. Silence is a way of waiting, a way of watching, and a way of listening to what is going on within and around us. We come to self-knowledge through stillness and silence, through attentiveness and watchfulness.

The desert mothers and fathers knew well the practice of waiting and watching. Abba Arsenius said he heard a voice say, “Arsenius, flee; be silent, pray always.” And Abba Poeman said, “Be watchful inwardly; and be watchful outwardly.” These practices are not just for the ancient desert dwellers. Living as we do in a culture of excessive distraction, noise, busyness, comfort, and instant gratification the wisdom of the desert should not be ignored.

So I wonder what we would discover if for the Season of Advent we took five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes even an hour each day to just sit in silence and stillness waiting and watching. What would the Coming One show us, say to us?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lets try this for Advent: each Wednesday evening from 6:15-6:45, I will host a time for silent meditation in the chapel at Catalina UMC. No experience or preparation is required. Just come and enjoy the quiet. We will meet December 2, 9, 16, and 23. Everyone is welcome!


This Sunday, I am attempting to give you a pre-emptive inoculation against the stress and hurry of the holidays. Yes, they are upon us. Our worship service will feature a theme of silence this week. The worship bulletin has everything you need in it: live links to the Scriptures and to the video we are going to watch. We will also talk a little about Thanksgiving, and this Sunday is Christ the King Sunday (there's a link in the bulletin to info about that, too).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wesleyan mDNA By Steve Manskar

This post first appeared here.

“What if the church is not about attracting people into a building but living as God’s people in the public space of their own community and neighborhood?” (Alan J. Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 170.)

This quote, and the book where I encountered it, have awakened me to a clearer perception of my work and ministry. To use a much over used phrase, I have experienced a paradigm shift. I think I now see more clearly the nature and purpose of the church as it is revealed in Scripture. And, I now see why the United Methodist Church in North America is declining.

Church is what we do between 9:00 am and 12:00 pm on Sunday. It’s where we know we can go to receive religious goods and services. In other words, we have turned the church into a religious version of Wal-Mart.

We have forgotten our Wesleyan DNA. Or, to use Alan Hirsch’s term, mDNA (missional DNA). We have turned the church into an institution. We have encumbered it with structure, bureaucracy and real estate. Consequently, we talk about the church as a static edifice. It is the place we go on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. We go there to be blessed and to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Church is what we do between 9:00 am and 12:00 pm on Sunday. It’s where we know we can go to receive religious goods and services. In other words, we have turned the church into a religious version of Wal-Mart.

In the vast majority of United Methodist congregations membership has very little meaning because there is very little expected. Church membership has been reduced to something akin to membership in Sam’s Club. You pay your nominal dues and then you are entitled to all the benefits of discounted goods and services. This is particularly true when most congregations reduce membership vows to “will you faithfully participate in [the local congregation’s] ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness.” Nothing is asked about rejecting the evil powers of this world and repenting of sin, accepting the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice, and oppression, or confessing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

When we reduce membership to “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness” we put ourselves and the local congregation on center stage. Christ and his mission for the world are relegated to the margins. The church’s ministry is focused upon attracting as many people as possible to itself. Discipleship becomes an optional program. Mission is relegated to sending money and prayers to missionaries in foreign countries. And if the people who come happen to meet Jesus along the way, well that’s a special blessing. What really matters is that people come to the church. To that end, the governing principle of most congregations is the General Rule of Pastoral Prudence: “The absolute minimum in obligations in order to keep the maximum number of people.”

The Wesleys understood that the church does not exist for itself, it exists for the world that God loves. People are drawn to it when it is like salt of the earth and light for the world.

I am convinced that one of the reasons the North American United Methodist is declining is that more and more people today are looking for meaning and purpose. They are drawn to communities that are missional. They yearn to give of themselves to something bigger than themselves. They want to meet and experience the power of Jesus Christ. They want to make a difference in the world.

The Wesleyan movement was essentially missional in character. It attracted people because of the mission to “reform the nation, particularly the Church; and to spread scriptural holiness across the land.” The Wesleys and Methodism were all about participating in Christ’s mission for the world: to prepare Earth for the coming reign of God. They were a people on a mission. And the mission was centered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Wesleys understood that the church does not exist for itself, it exists for the world that God loves. People are drawn to it when it is like salt of the earth and light for the world.

We need to reawaken this latent Wesleyan mDNA present in the North American United Methodist Church. God’s reign will come with or without the United Methodist Church. Our task is to become the church that God can use; the kind of church that is like salt and light; the church that witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world, and follows his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Steven W. Manskar is the Director of Wesleyan Leadership for the General Board of Discipleship.

Guilt-Ridden Faith?

Another video by Tim.

Guilt-Ridden Faith from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

How To Pray

Pray With Your Feet from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

How To Pray

Pray With Your Feet from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

Forgive Me My Shellfish Ways

The quote below is from Forgive Me My Shellfish Ways at the United Methodeviations Blog. Before you get offended by something said, read the article. You may not agree, but you might be spurred in your thinking.

"What would really be great? To have a faith based on a Savior and not a book. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could find a religion based in grace and goodness rather than rules and judgement? I would like a faith built around doing good, not worrying about who is doing “bad.” But I know that what I eat for dinner is much more important than people dying of curable disease, hunger and malnutrition. I am so thankful that I am part of a church that expends millions of dollars to hold annual and general conferences to argue over personal behaviors and beliefs instead of making disciples to transform the world. Otherwise how would I know who to love and who to condemn? I just hope and pray that no one raises the biblical issue of shellfish, because I would be in big trouble."

Monday, November 09, 2009

WOW! The BEST Christmas Post EVER!

Well, that may be overstating it--a little. But read this post from the LobotoME blog about keeping Christmas simple.

{ a simple Christmas }

On average, it takes 6 months for families to pay off holiday bills...ouch. The mode of our culture is to consume and shop throughout the year. During the holiday season people feel they have to shop even MORE than normal. But it doesn't have to be that way. This year can be different. You don't have to spend a lot to have a meaningful celebration. Instead of shopping like crazy, here are some ways to simplify your holidays. { Here is my original post on this topic and here is a great article from the Seattle Times about moms taking back the holidays by taking on consumerism. }

1) Establish or honor family traditions.

2) Sit down with a calendar and make a list of things everyone in the family would like to do over the holidays. I like to build these things into our advent activity calendar.

3) Schedule in some "helping other" activities...donating food at the food bank, donating blankets to the homeless shelter, adopting a family for Christmas, etc. Involve your kids in choosing and taking part in these acts of giving. For example, I have Sam decorate paper bags that we then fill with food for the food bank, go grocery shopping and deliver them together.

4) Celebrate the Winter Solstice on December 21st. We always do a fancy dinner at home with sitting outside looking at the starts & drinking hot chocolate.

5) Light a special candle each night during the month of December and take turns reading stories, poems or saying things you are each grateful for. We generally try to incorporate this into our evening dinners together.

6) Make Christmas Day about spending time with family & friends and not about the gifts. We do this by having a simple bunch- Swedish coffee cake (my Gram's recipe), bagels & cream cheese, egg casserole (make ahead of time)...And then we all don our snowshoes and go snowshoeing together.

Last year we pared down the gifts for the kids into 6 gift giving categories...But this year we are doing advent calendar activities and only 3 gifts. Note: Sam thinks Santa leaves ONE gift for each child (lots of kids to give things to...only one per child reasoning). We have again asked all of the grandparents to go easy on the gift giving (1-2 gifts per child) or donations to the kids college funds. So for Samme this translates into:

1 Want from Santa: A piano. I found a great (and super cheap) piano at the thrift store a few weeks ago. Score! Sam has wanted a piano forever....

1 Need: Winter gear - she outgrew last years snow boots.

1 Read: A new book.

Henry gets...

1 Want from Santa: An Ikea Trainset

1 Need: New PJ's

1 Read: A new book.

I've also created a year in review photo book from Shutterfly for all of the grandparents and birthparents. This is all our parents/grandparents are getting {oh and some custom (painted by Samme) artwork}.

Teachers are getting homemade bread and LobotoME notepads. Neighbors are getting bread or cookies. Hostess gifts will be wine & LobotoME notepads.

We are putting up our lovely reusable tree after Thanksgiving (I prefer the term reusable to much fun it would be to tromp into the woods and cut down a tree I can't bring myself to do it)...the peace on the front door, a live tree with white lights on the front porch (that we'll plant in the spring) and our stockings hung by the chimney. That's it. The rest of the holiday decor went to the thrift store last year.

The holidays are about spending time together. Peacefully. Not rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off.

What are you doing to keep it simple this year?

Friday, November 06, 2009

All Souls Procession

NEWSFLASH! We are going to the All Souls Procession downtown for youth group Sunday! This is something I've wanted to do for a couple of years, but we always had conflicts in schedule, so I forgot about it. Chloe suggested it Thursday, and I thought, "Why not?".

DINNER WILL BE AT 5pm and NOT 5:30. Do not be late, we will leave you. We hope to return by the regular 7:30 ending time, but regardless, we will return close to that time and if there are any changes, you can call.

This is a Tucson tradition (since 1990) that is creative, fun, spiritual, and centers on remembering and honoring those who have left this life. The website for the event is

The low for Sunday is 56, but that will not be the temp at 6pm, but I would wear pants and comfortable walking shoes and bring a sweatshirt or jacket in case you want it. If you have any questions, email me or call me. Parents and friends are welcome to join us!!


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Half of U.S. Kids Use Foodstamps Before Age 20

Mark R. Rank of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis co-authored a study analyzing the financial circumstances of U.S. kids (ages 1-20) over a period of 30 years. Key findings include:

* 49% of all U.S. kids will be in a household that uses food stamps at some point during their childhood.
>> 90% of black kids
>> 37% of white kids
>> 91% of kids in single-parent homes
>> 37% of kids in married homes
* Nearly 25% of all U.S. kids will be in households that use food stamps for 5+ years during childhood.
* 97% of U.S. kids by age 10 who are black and whose head of household is not married with less than 12 years of education reside in a food stamp household.

Even limited exposure to poverty can have detrimental effects upon a child’s overall quality of health and well-being.
- Mark R. Rank :: George Warren Brown School of Social Work

While these findings encompass decades of ups and downs, do not forget that current food stamp usage is at record levels (10%+ of the total U.S. population). Simultaneously, 80% of food banks can not meet demand (based on May ‘09 research).

Churches can help fight this hunger.

(via USA Today)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Psalms Wiffiti

To add a thought on the Psalms, you can
1-post a twitter with "psalm" in it and it will eventually get picked up.
2-Text @wif10874 + your message to 87884
3-Go to and post your thoughts.
[You can click in the right corner of the screen to go full screen.]

Challenging Article on Prayer

I ran across this article on the United Methodeviations blog. Good (but challenging) thoughts on prayer. What do you think?

Why People Think We’re Crazy November 3, 2009

Posted by doroteos2 in Congregational Life, Critical Thinking, prayer, spiritual practices.
Tags: , , ,

charles-finneyThere are times when Christians drive me absolutely nuts. One way this happens is when I hear well-meaning and sincere Christians confuse faith and superstition, relying on prayer as a magical talisman or incantation. I listened to a United Methodist colleague share recently that he no longer prays because it never makes any difference. He told of a time when he was getting a cold and he prayed fervently that he not get sick, but got sick anyway. “I have better things to do with my time,” he concluded. Well, duh! Prayer isn’t our opportunity to tell God what to do or to corrupt it as a selfish want list. This irrational magical thinking does nothing more than give Christianity a bad name. We don’t need any help looking less enlightened than we already do to a growing educated and informed segment of our society. Ignorance, self-centeredness, judgmentalism, and narrow-mindedness are the four most prevalent reasons younger non-Christians give for avoiding the church (and the faith). When we promote a mythical-magical, pre-rational (irrational?) faith, we do ourselves no good. For example –

A weepy woman pastor wails on about how Down Syndrome babies are a gift from God. She explains that this affliction is a blessing to test parents capacity to love. That Down Syndrome children are the happiest and most carefree of all His children. She explains that Down Syndrome children are the earthly equivalent of cherubs, and that anyone with a Down Syndrome child is doubly blessed and will be richly rewarded in heaven — where their Down Syndrome children will be restored to full health (though why God would want to tamper with their perfection and blessedness is beyond me…). This lunatic actually invited mothers to pray with her that they might experience the blessing of having a child with Down Syndrome. Now, I don’t know what this lady’s brokenness is, and she may sincerely think she is offering a message of hope to families with a Down Syndrome child, but I do not for one moment believe that it is “God’s will” that a child or a family endure torments and heartache — especially as a test! OMG!

And then there is the crying couple who discovered that their son, missing for months in Afghanistan, was released and is coming home. “Our prayers brought our Son home safely from Afghanistan,” said the father. Mom added, “Jesus saw the love in our hearts and rewarded our faith. He gave us our baby back!” Touching, sentimental, and as the commentator said, “a powerful testimony to the power of prayer!” So, what about the hundreds of praying parents who receive word that their son of daughter is dead — killed in a senseless war while back home faithful people ask God’s protection and grace? When you link the answer to prayer to one’s level of faithfulness, what are you implying about all those who don’t get their heart’s desire? Is one person’s faith qualitatively different from hundreds of others? When ten people pray for rain and ten people pray for sun, is it an automatic proof who God prefers when it does one or the other? When one town prays the hurricane won’t hit them, is it an indictment of lack of faith on the town it does hit? When a terrorist prays that the bullet they fire will hit with deadly accuracy and it hits and kills the young person praying fervently that they will not be hurt, does that mean the terrorist’s version of God is stronger than our version? Prayer indeed is a comfort in time of distress and tragedy, but it is not some magical incantation that makes us somehow exempt from the uncertainties of life that plague everyone else.

The willingness to ascribe a supernatural cause to the unpleasantness of real life is widespread and has a long history. I sat on an airplane with a thirty-something woman who told me that her ”cancer occurred because I let Satan into my life.” She went onto say that “cancer isn’t really a disease, but an outward manifestation of what you really are. If you are a truly good person, you don’t get cancer. Cancer is the darkness of sin when it takes over your life.” There are so many things wrong with this worldview I don’t even know where to begin. Every person who has ever had cancer got it because they are evil? All the people who avoid it are good? The key to beating cancer is to be good? Where did she get this crazy idea from? “My pastor,” she told me. “She had cancer at a time when she was living in sin. She renounced sin, prayed to God for forgiveness, and IMMEDIATELY,” she reported breathlessly, “her cancer went into remission! I’m not there yet, but I am really trying to be good.”

542421-FB~Woman-Praying-with-Money-Rosary-PostersOh, yeah, and this guy — “My wealth came when I gave my life to Jesus and learned true prayer!” he enthuses. “I began to pray holding money in my hands so that what I had would attract more! The very first time I prayed this way, I held a ten-dollar bill. That same day, I found a ten-dollar bill in a parking lot. Now I have a dedicated prayer space in both my home and my office, and whenever I pray, I place my wallet — my cash, and credit cards, and check book — on the altar. God has yet to refuse to bless me!” Take that Joel Osteen! Even he isn’t this blatant. The “Prosperity Gospel” has all kinds of problems — too many to list here — but once again the implications are troubling: good people get, bad people do not. If you are wealthy, you are blessed of God. If you are poor, or merely middle-class, you possess a sub-standard relationship with God. Shame on you…

I feel sad when I encounter these kinds of “simple faith.” I emphasize the simple, because they reflect a non-critical, non-rational, almost hysteric clinging to magic, where God is little more than a grand genie in the sky waiting to serve our every whim. Many studies into people’s understanding and practice of prayer indicate that these are not isolated examples. Millions of Christians hold this children’s Sunday school understanding of prayer. They might hold Harry Potter in contempt, but they practice no less a Hogswartian approach to prayer as magical incantation than poor Harry and friends.

Readers of this blog know that I regularly raise the questions, “What is prayer?” and “What is prayer for?” I truly believe these are not rhetorical or simple questions. Prayer was a staple of the primitive and pre-modern roots of our faith, where myth, magic, and mystery ruled human understanding. But times have changed. Our spiritual understandings and practices cannot stay mired in archaic and unenlightened times. I believe there is great power and benefit in prayer, but not as a metaphysical means to manipulate the physical. I do believe in spirit and essence and energy, but not so much in magic and occult machinations.

Even our critics often denounce us — not because we believe in magic, but because our magic doesn’t work for them. I remember reading an essay by Steven Weinberg, “A Designer Universe?”, where the main argument was there cannot be a God because of all the bad things that happen. Abdicating all human responsibility for evil and illness, the essay basically says that a God that won’t do what we want him to is no good at all. Only a God that responds to our every whim and absolves us of all responsibility for our actions is worthy of our belief. Yeah, good luck with that…

Christianity in a consumeristic society is bound to be a compromised package at best. We are a culture that wants all the benefits but with the fewest costs. We want an easy faith that will take care of us, but that demands little. Prayer as a discipline? Not a big seller. Prayer as metaphysical mail-order, no money down, no monthly payments? Now you’re talking!

Something That Is Working!!

Last week, my wife Joy and I were front and center when Bill and Melinda Gates launched their new Living Proof campaign in Washington, D.C. I have to imagine that this campaign launch sounded a lot like one of Microsoft’s shareholder meetings. It was replete with charts, graphs, well-defined metrics for success, best practices, and market projections. But present throughout Bill and Melinda Gates’ talk on the state of global health and poverty were not just numbers but the real people whose lives are being saved every day by their U.S. investments in global health. As the Living Proof Web site states,

Much of what people read and hear is bad news — terrible statistics and sad stories. The purpose of the Living Proof Project is to share good news: Together, we can help the world’s poorest people improve their lives. We know, because we’ve seen living proof. People’s lives are improving in measurable ways … They are testimony to the fact that when you improve health, life improves by every other measure.

I believe the Gates Foundation has been so effective in their work for two primary reasons. First, they aren’t afraid to make the “smart case” through clear and definable metrics and at the same time make clear the “moral imperative” for improving global health and ending extreme poverty. Second, they recognize that solutions to problems this big come when everybody is at the table. That means private philanthropy, government policy, NGOs, local leadership, and the faith community all have roles to play.

Too often the well meaning case for the moral urgency of global health and poverty is divorced from a hard nosed look at both what is most effective and what makes the best use of limited resources. The Gates Foundation is changing that. In the “I’m Living Proof” video, they show child after child proudly proclaiming, “I’m Living Proof” that these programs work. They talk about the “Lazarus effect” of how HIV/AIDS drugs are bringing people back to life who were nearly dead. They profiled a small child who nearly died after her mother’s death from HIV/AIDS. Just one year after starting HIV/AIDS drugs, the video shows this same child now thriving. The change is almost unbelievable.

These compelling stories are combined with big goals and measurable outcomes. Bill and Melinda Gates called on each of us to join them in advocating for U.S. investments in reducing the number of child deaths worldwide by nearly half by 2025. That may sound like an ambitious goal, but we’ve already made real progress. The number of children who die before age 5 has been halved since 1960 — from 20 million to fewer than 9 million per year — even as the number of births increased by more than 20 percent. The child death rate declined by more than a quarter (27 percent) from 1990 to 2007 alone. Now we need to further reduce child deaths by half once again.

The kind of gains we have seen in the past and the ambitious goal of repeating them in the future are not the result of any one sector of society, approach, or organization. It is not a choice between private charity, government aid, debt cancellation, trade policy change, or NGO cooperation; rather, it’s a question of getting them all to work together. Change happens most effectively when there is coordination and cooperation between different sectors and forces, not a choice between them. Bill and Melinda make it very clear that even as the Gates Foundation is the single largest philanthropic organization in the world, they can’t accomplish their goals without the cooperation and coordination with government and the nonprofit world — including the faith community.

Bill Gates is known for the smart approach; that came through as he made the compelling case for the results we can have with more investment. Melinda struck me as a real evangelist as she spoke naturally and passionately for all of our involvement. She spoke in moral terms about the “preciousness of every human life.” But the most successful CEO in the world also spoke in moral terms about the deeply held American value of equality and how we now need to be consistent in applying that value around the world. In other words, the poorest kids in the world shouldn’t die from diseases that none of our kids do anymore.

As I spoke with a person at the foundation at the small reception afterward, he explained to me that the Gates had been on Capitol Hill for two days and in almost every meeting they had, Members of Congress told them that the faith community will have to be centrally involved if the U.S. is to make an even deeper investment in global health. At the reception, I thanked both Melinda and Bill Gates for their work and promised that we would be involved.

I almost expected an altar call at the end of Bill and Melinda’s presentation, and I would have gone down the aisle. Because when it comes to the health and well-being of the world’s poorest people, Jesus is already there, and its time the rest of us Christians joined him. And as I suggested to Bill, the combination of the smart case and the moral case is the winning strategy.

The Spiritual Practice of Serving Others

This is a great post from Off the Map blog. Click on this link to see a good video about this subject.

The Spiritual Practice of Serving Others


By Jim Henderson

Word association game time…

I say spiritual practice – what images come into your mind?

If you have been formed or influenced by any of the major world religions (including Christianity) you will think of things like
mediation, prayers you recite, ritual liturgical gatherings you attend, mental disciplines and maybe fasting
What you probably won’t include on that list are things like

  • Listening to someone
  • Holding the door for someone
  • Noticing someone across the room who is struggling
  • Asking someone how they are doing and actually paying attention
  • Feeding someone who is hungry
  • Visiting with or advocating for someone who is trouble with the law
  • Dropping clothes off at Goodwill

You may think of these practices as spiritual

You may even do them intentionally, not for points, but in order to be faithful to the God you follow.

Nevertheless you won’t often hear these practices being referred to by church leaders with the same degree of reverence, frequency or fervency as what has become known as the interior spiritual practices.

For some reason, when it comes to being a serious follower of Jesus, the spirituality of serving others doesn’t count for as much as prayer, worship or church attendance. More insidiously we’ve learned to transfer these same values to God who apparently lacks the capacity to see or value the small and invisible things human beings do in their day to day lives to serve others.

This in spite of the fact that Jesus clearly favored the small, invisible and private over the public and obvious saying such things as when you give don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing and when you pray don’t be like the Pharisees and if you want to be my disciples do things like give those without the ability to thank you something as small and ordinary as a cup of cold water (our cultural equivalent would be paying attention to someone without drawing attention to ourselves).

It’s apparent that by his words and practices, Jesus – the founder of our movement and our Master – clearly thought of serving others as a spiritual practice.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Does the Holy Spirit Lead You?

This is a short video discussion on how the Holy Spirit can lead us in our every day lives. It is from the folks at

Friday, October 23, 2009

Studies in Mark: The Temple Veil is Torn

Not much time this week. The worship bulletin is here. Watch this video by Petra called "Enter In". It's about the topic of our study for this week in Mark 15.32-41.

Catalina Youth: News and PHOTO!

OK, friends, this has been a crazy week for me, so no newsletter this week; just a few announcements:

1-YOUTH GROUP MEETS SUNDAY NIGHT! EVERYBODY should be here! Dinner is at 5:30.

2-If you are going trick or treating on Halloween, PICK UP YOUR REVERSE TRICK OR TREAT CANDY this Sunday. Just pick up a bag from me or Kristen. Here is the deal: You go to a house and say "Trick or Treat!" and hopefully, they give you a treat. Then you say "Thank you" like your mother taught you many years ago (and probably reminded you before you left the house). THEN you say, "Here is a treat for you!" and hand them a card with the fair trade chocolate attached! The point is to raise awareness about Fair Trade practices. This is a way that you can have fun and do something for social justice all at the same time!

3-VOTE IN OUR TWO POLLS!! U of A football game tickets:
Youth Group Super Bowl Party

4-UofA Volleyball vs ASU!! Friday, Nov. 13 at 7pm Tickets are $2! (I've got 16 tickets available). UofA volleyball women beat ASU convincingly last weekend in Tempe, now they are at home for the rematch. Details on where to meet, and at what time will follow. BUT if you want a ticket, I would reply to me or text me and I will put you on the list. If I run out of tickets, you can buy one at the door, but the line will be long! And the ticket will cost $3. If you want to visit the concession stand, you are on your own for that.

5-The photo of the week is...well, you see it!

6-National Mix-It-Up at Lunch Day is Tuesday, November 10. Info is at Talk to your friends, teachers, administrators, student government, school clubs, or just do it yourself!!! This event is sponsored by Southern Poverty Law Center (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr founded it) and encourages students to sit with someone new, someone different at lunch on November 10; you get it: MIX IT UP!

7-UofA Football Game vs Oregon Saturday, November 21, time to be announced. We are taking a group to this game. Next week, I will announce which ticket package you guys chose and give you the details about ordering tickets (YES, you can bring friends!!). But VOTE IN THE POLL!! See above.

8-PRAYER FOR THE DAY Parent me God where I am lost. Soothe the struggle of my soul. Where I have left the simple trust of childhood, heal my heart.
[from Twitturgies by Gerard Kelly]

9-Set up Twitter on your phone and then follow richardinaz for all youth news! Or you can just go to and set it up on your computer.

I'll See You Sunday!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Catalina Youth: One More Poll!!

I am considering buying tickets to take youth who want to go to the Arizona v Oregon football game. Start time has not been announced. The two options are:
The Family Zone ($17 adult, $10 student), which is the north end zone. You are close to the field, but can't see the screen/big scoreboard.
The Economy Sections (Marked with an "E" on the stadium diagram) ($15 package includes ticket, hot dog, peanuts, and a soda), which is upper level at each end of the east side of the stadium. You are very high up, but you can see the screen. Vote on which you would prefer, but ONLY VOTE if there is a good chance you will go to the game.

Click on the stadium diagram and it gets bigger.

Skips answers 3,4,5. I forgot to take them off before I published the poll.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Catalina Youth: Take the Poll!

we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives

"The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives - altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and we are not only saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it." - Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
HT: Tony Steward

By the way, I have read this book and I recommend it without reservation--as I do with anything written by Richard J. Foster.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ending Extreme Poverty...Just Over the Horizon?

Over at Compassion International's blog, I found this great post written by Brianne Mullins. Read it all, (especially to see that charts and stats--they are encouraging, really!) but here are a few quotes.

We used to say that 40,000 children under age 5 die every day of hunger or preventable diseases. Then about 6 to 7 years ago this number was 30,000. Today, 24,000 children under 5 die every day of hunger or preventable diseases.

These statistics show that in 20 years the number of children who die every day of hunger or preventable diseases has been cut in half. Yet, the birth rate is actually going up. The population is increasing.

“Ending extreme poverty* is a practical, achievable objective and is an objective that can be completed by our generation.”

“The wealthy church today, the American church, has been entrusted with a purse of the Kingdom. The majority of Christ’s followers live in the developing world. What do they think of us as treasurers? Are they assuming that we would put the treasuries of the Kingdom to celebrating God’s goodness or caring for the poor? How are we doing?”

The annual income of Christian American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion. The amount of money needed to end global poverty is about $74 billion a year.

Did you crunch the numbers?

Basically, 1 percent of our annual income a year is what is needed to end extreme poverty.

Can you imagine? It could be said of our generation, “And there were no needy persons among them.”

To add a little perspective, the green bar represents the amount of money Americans spend on entertainment every year. We spend ten times more on entertainment ($705 billion) than what is needed to end poverty.