“And The Answer Is…” (Retaking the Village Green 2/23/18))

“I am the generation that has always known violence in schools.” That sobering statement was made by one thirteen-year-old survivor of the Florida shooting.

We have all watched in sorrow and felt the outrage at the most recent school shooting. Everyone has an opinion, a solution to offer. This past week, I have heard some civil and not so civil conversations as people wrestle with trying to understand, and solve an abhorrent trend in our culture.

Plans offering arming teachers in schools, staffing more law enforcement on campuses, changing gun laws, providing training to recognized signs, better mental health treatment options will be debated for months to come. The range of discussions highlight the need for a very complex and holistic solution.

In the midst of this maelstrom of pain and suffering another event occurred, the passing of Billy Graham. Mr. Graham from the time he was sixteen to ninety-five dedicated his life to telling people that there was more to life than what we can see. That every life has infinite value and worth because each life was created by a loving God who desired each of us to know his son Jesus, and in the knowing be changed- both now and for eternity.

I stopped to ponder the juxtaposition of these two messages. One a message of confusion, uncertainty and hopelessness; the other a message of love, hope and the power of re-creation.

There are many reasons that come into play that can cause someone to perform such heinous acts as we have seen in Florida, and repeated in far too many schools- and communities. It struck me that one reason I have not heard proposed in any of the moderated discussions is that of a broken moral compass we each carry that would allow someone to contemplate and perform such an act.

There are many contributing factors to violence and the solution needs to be multifaceted. All the laws put into place, all the resources made available, all the preventative solutions provided will still fall short unless the moral compass within us is redirected. It is that compass which regulates the choices we make in our lives, and choices have consequences. God created us to be physical, emotional and spiritual beings and all those pieces need to be addressed in order to be whole. Mr. Graham and others like him understood that truth, and that is why he spent his life addressing the spiritual side of life which is so often neglected.

Solutions will be debated. Meanwhile families and a community will still grieve. The nation will move on, but this tear in the fabric of our individual and collective morality will continue to grow and we will continue to unravel. The good news is that through God’s remaking of our spirits through His son Jesus, help is available.

May that help be invoked for those who are grieving. May that help be invited in by those looking for answers to stop these events in the future.

New Year’s Mayhem in My Life?

He did it.

“Mayhem” is a character created by an insurance company. In their commercials, “Mayhem” created havoc for people, highlighting their need for insurance. On January 1st, “Mayhem” made a resolution to no longer instigate havoc, but to be helpful to people, protecting them, keeping them from harm. Two weeks into the New Year, “Mayhem” decided he just could not do it, and is back enjoying the crisis that he brings to life.

This is the story for many with New Year’s resolutions.

We make resolutions with the best intentions and desires. People want to improve their lives, their well-being and give themselves a chance at a fresh start- only to find that the power, desire, and ability to sustain those resolutions fade quickly and we convert back to old patterns and behaviors.

God is not interested in bringing about a new resolution in our life, but a revolution. His revolutions are life altering, life changing and sustaining. Nowhere in Scripture do I see God desiring to “fine tune” us, but always wants to remold, remake us into something brand new.

Nicodemus was a teacher. He knew his theology. He had studied scripture and taught it well. One day he meets Jesus and tells him that he knows God is with Jesus because of the miracles he sees Jesus doing. He affirms that he sees the supernatural at work. Jesus turns the tables on him and says (my paraphrase), “Great that you see it, but it means nothing unless you have allowed God to bring about a spiritual revolution in your life, unless He has totally changed you from the ground up.”

For most of us, we ask God for “fine tuning.” That is what most of our resolutions are- “tweaks” to our lives. We find after a short time, we have reverted to old patterns, behaviors and nothing has changed.

This year, I do not want another resolution I make to come and go. I want God to bring about a revolution in me- one that is fueled and filled by a fresh encounter with Him. A revolution that will be sustained and bring about lasting change in me, and in others around me.

“Mayhem’s” character may continue to sell insurance for those whose lives need repair. I want my life this year to create wholeness in myself, and others around me. I need God’s revolution.

What about you?

“Repeat the Sounding Joy?” (Retaking the Village Green 12/6/17)

During this season, the emphasis is on joy, happiness and celebration. As followers of Christ, we have reasons for great joy as we remember the birth of Jesus the Savior.

For many, the season is less about celebrating than surviving. Alongside the smiles and greetings of “good cheer” are those who simply wishing to “get through” these days. Next to the wrapped presents, hiding delights are the unwrapped boxes of lives filled with hurts.

This morning, I opened an email to discover that a pastor friend of mine elsewhere in the country weighed the hidden hurts in his life against the joy of the season- and he allowed the hurts to win over the joy. He leaves behind a grieving and bewildered church and family.

At Christmastime, God gives the entire world a reminder of his overwhelming love, patience and presence. The birth of Jesus causes us to annually stop and remember God who has not left the “phone off the hook” in the midst of our trials, and the struggles of the world. That in the birth of Christ, we have the opportunity to reflect that there is hope despite what we are seeing or experiencing.

It takes special courage in a person to come alongside someone who is struggling. Most people want to avoid those who seem down, lonely or depressed. We tend to shy away from those who we feel will “steal our joy.” This season is filled with people, who because of events in their own lives, or the actions of others feel lost, alone and abandoned. This Christmas, can we especially be on watch for those who are sidelined from the joy of the season. May we, by God’s leading, step out of our carefully orchestrated holiday plans, and with courage take a step into another’s world.

In the wonderful prophesy of Isaiah 11, Isaiah describes the realm and impact of the coming Messiah. That His rule and reign will be one filled with peace, “The wolf will live with the lamb…”

Christmas reminds us that the Messiah, Jesus has come. His reign of peace has begun, and one day it will find its culmination. In the meantime, may each of us be prepared to be His ambassadors of peace to all we meet- especially those we tend to pass by.

The sound, the message, of the joy of Christ’s birth needs to be repeated as often as we can, because we never know whom we pass that may need to know that the joy of Jesus can overcome their hurts.

“Will the Last Peacemaker Leaving the Room, Please Turn Off the Lights?” (Retaking the Village Green 11/6/17)

Headlines no longer surprise me.

This past week we watched in horror as a person used a rented truck as an instrument of devastation on the streets in New York. Just as that story began to fall out of the news cycle, our focus was again transfixed on a story of a lone gunman opening fire and wounding or killing an entire congregation in Texas. We wonder if sanity and peace have left our corporate consciousness.

It seems today that all the adults have left the room when talking about peace. There is no model of peace coming from public figures. Peace is elusive from legislators, pundits and commentator’s posts, blogs, tweets and comments. Creating chaos makes better headlines than forging peace.

Peace is that fleeting commodity that people long for, but its presence is far too fleeting. Peace is treated as a feeling or emotion. “I feel at peace today,” some will say, until something rattles that peace.

Peace is sometimes treated as an equation: “My weapons – your weapons + luck = peace”

Peace is sometimes seen simply as a lack of conflict- a truce that has been called by parties in disagreement.

Because our understanding of peace varies, we do not really know it when it occurs, or where to look.

So where do we look for peace?

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

Peacemakers are called God’s children. That means that God’s children should be the peacemakers that people need and to whom they should look.

It means that to see lasting peace- peace that bridges race, gender, socio-economics, family structures, we should pursue to understand what it means to be God’s children, grow as His children, and then step into our culture to be enactors of God’s peace. It should be the people of God, followers of Christ, whose voices we hear in the media, whose hands we see at work in the community, and whose are lives are lived in such a way that people see and experience peace at work. Peace that will last. Peace will never come from a politician’s tirade, or banalities made, but only through God’s presence practiced and enacted by His people.

As we watch events unfold, it can appear that all the adults have left the room. It is time for the true peacemakers to step up, and step into the fray and lead.

The motto of Motel Six is, “We’ll leave the light on.”

Will I be a light of peace, a person of peace, a child of God?

Our culture is waiting for our answer.



“Hurricane? What Hurricane?” (Retaking the Village Green 9/19/17)

I should not be surprised.

After watching the morning news headlines I was informed, “The Emmy’s were political, North Korea was aggressive, new tropical storms were forming in the Caribbean, and whales were seen off our coast.”

Didn’t we just suffer through two devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean and in the south?

The hurricanes past, people not suffering have moved on.

The media programs us to have our attention drawn to crisis, but then after a few news cycles, we are diverted on to other stories. The problem is most of life’s pains cannot be solved within the context of normal broadcast cycle.

Jesus told his followers, “The poor you will have with you always.” He knew, and wanted to make his followers know that there will always be people in pain, people suffering around us. There will be people overlooked, forgotten or quickly passed by. The challenge for Jesus followers is not to have our compassion or our vision diverted. I was thrilled to hear that we were able to send over $13,000 to “Samaritan’s Purse” to help with relief efforts. That is a great gift to those in need. Let us make sure that unlike the images we see on TV that can quickly fade, we do not allow our compassion to fade. We are reminded in Scripture, “not to become weary in doing good.” God enables us to act and respond to the needs around us, well beyond what our natural ability allows.

Next month we will engage in our second “Day of Service”- helping people in need in our own communities. Last year we had a great response for those helping, and those that received help. Let us be able to extend the compassion of Jesus, even when images fade and the story lines change.

Remember, after a crisis, people still have to pick up the pieces of their lives- Houston, Florida, or right next door to us. They will still need help delivered.

Let us make sure we are ready to respond.

“Does Your Church Have a Purple Door?” (Retaking the Village Green 6/28/17)

You could not miss it.

My wife and I were out for a casual drive years ago. We were meandering around roads in New England, when suddenly on the left- there it was. A typical small New England style church, with an atypical glaring purple front door. Being a pastor in New England for 30 years, it caught my eye. I slowed down to try and catch a glimpse of what flavor church it was and who was listed on the sign as pastor. I had a few questions. To my disappointment the marquee outside did not list the expected “First_____ Church” (fill in your favorite denomination), but had a name of a village art gallery. After driving away, disappointed there was no bold church decorating team to interview, I determined to do some research later. I learned that the former church had existed for over 75 years in that location, and when it could no longer attract new members, it finally had to sell the property and encourage its dwindling membership to seek solace elsewhere. As the years went on, I began to notice more buildings throughout our region, that at one time were set aside for worship, now commissioned for other purposes. For many, their story was the same as the “Church of the Purple Door.”

There could be many reasons for a church to fade away. Economic realities and population shifts can hurt. The saddest reason of all is when a local church loses its focus and ceases to be a lighthouse, and begins to exist only as a clubhouse for those who attend. A clubhouse exists for the comfort of its members. A lighthouse always has an eye on the community around and asks, “How can we welcome others in? How can we serve others in order that they can meet Jesus?”

I have been fortunate in the churches I have served in New England that each one has had as its mission a desire to welcome and serve others in the name of Christ. To be a lighthouse. To do that is hard work. Ask a lighthouse keeper. It sometimes means, like in a marriage, to set aside personal preferences, for the well-being and advancement of another. It means living, as Jesus did, sacrificially and lovingly.

Purple is a great color for some clothing, select sports cars, and maybe even hair- on the right person. I am glad the people in the churches I have served have had Jesus’ vision and the building will never be set aside for any other purpose than to fulfill the mission of being a lighthouse and an outpost for God’s kingdom in their community.

I pray God would raise up more outposts in our region in the years ahead.
Pastor Kevin