BE LIKE CHAD THIS VALENTINE’S DAY

By DANNY MINTON

This time of year made me think of a story I read in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Dale Galloway. It’s about a young boy named Chad. Chad decided that he wanted to make Valentines for all his classmates. His mother had wished he wouldn’t because she knew others treated him as an outcast. She’d noticed him always walking behind the others on the way home, and she didn’t want him to be disappointed. As the little story goes, Chad went ahead for three weeks making Valentines for every classmate. When Valentines Day came, he happily headed with the 35 treasures to place in the decorated boxes of each of his classmates.

Danny Minton

His mother expected him to be disappointed so made some fresh cookies and had them out with milk waiting for him, hoping it would ease the pain of maybe not getting many Valentines himself. As expected, down the street after school, here comes Chad, head down behind the other kids, empty-handed. As he entered the house, his mother, holding back the tears of disappointment for her son, heard him say, “Not a one. Not a one.” Her heart sank. Then he looked up at her and said: “I didn’t forget a single one!”

It’s easy to love someone who loves you back. We all have friends that we spend time with at parties, travel on vacations with and most often just hang out with. We invite them over to our home, and in turn, we go to theirs. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and family milestones. We’ll check on them when they are sick, taking food, watching their kids, and making sure they are okay.

There are two things about Chad in the story above that bring out some thoughts. First, there are a lot of Chads in our world. There are those who have few friends and are often alone, living a lonely isolated life. They aren’t invited over for dinner or to hang out with the group. They don’t receive cards and phone calls on their birthday and will often celebrate it in the privacy of their own home alone and feeling unloved. Sometimes they are outcast because of how they look or act. Sometimes for unknown reasons they are just left to themselves. They are the Chads of society with few friends, seemingly invisible to those around them.

However, another thing about Chad that stands out is that he sees people in a different light. He wants to make sure that everyone in his class feels recognized with a Valentine. He’s not concerned about just a few but every one of them. To Chad, there are no outcasts, only classmates. His pride comes when he knows he didn’t leave anyone out. He didn’t forget to show his “love” for each one no matter who they were or how they treated him.

What about us? Do we pay attention to those who others shun? Do we have the eyes of Jesus in seeing the lonely and forgotten? Jesus was always seeing people with different eyes than others. He looked at a leper and saw a man who wanted to be healed and reached out and touched him. He stopped cold when touched by a woman in the crowd and loved her. He passed by a blind beggar and felt compassion for him.

Yes, it’s easy to love someone who loves us back. Just think what the world would be like if each of us took the time to give a Valentine to the lonely or to invite someone who never gets invited to a party. Every Christmas we invite some of our friends and Bible class over for a party. One thing we always do is to try and invite some who we know will probably not be invited anywhere else. It’s a simple gesture for us, but a light in the life of someone who feels alone.

Take time to send a card or note to someone who is lonely. Let those in the world who may feel unloved know that they are just as important as everyone else in your eyes and the eyes of Jesus. Look for the Chads in your life and show them, Jesus.

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Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Matthew 8:3

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

‘IT’S NOT OUR CHURCH, IT’S GOD’S CHURCH,’ ORTHODOX PRIEST REMINDS

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Father Joseph Huneycutt of Houston, left, led a retreat Feb.6-7 at St. Luke Orthodox Church, led by Father Philip LeMasters, center. Among the visitors was Father Mark McNary, right, of St. Peter Orthodox Church in Fort Worth. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By LORETTA FULTON

Father Joseph Huneycutt sometimes has to fight back the urge to say what’s on his mind, like when a teenager asks why there are no longer any miracles.

“I want to say, ‘you are a miracle,'” Huneycutt, pastor of St. Joseph Orthodox Church in Houston, said during a talk Feb. 6 at Abilene’s St. Luke Orthodox Church.

Huneycutt conducted a two-day retreat at St. Luke on evangelism. What the teenager really means, Huneycutt said, is “Why aren’t prayers answered?” People die despite fervent prayers. Why?

“God’s normal is not our normal,” Huneycutt said.

A person looks the same after confession, Huneycutt noted, but he or she is a new creation in Christ. Ordinary bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ and humans are changed by partaking in the Eucharist.

Huneycutt answered questions from the audience about the struggles the Orthodox church, and others, are facing for members. Huneycutt said there are seven churches in his deanery and all but one are suffering financially. But the church must continue to serve.

“It’s not our church,” Huneycutt said, “it’s God’s church.”

Huneycutt was asked if he sees people going deeper into ancient worship. Huneycutt’s own faith journey shows that he did. Raised in a Southern Baptist home, Huneycutt became an Episcopal priest and then converted to Orthodoxy. Everyone has to go deeper, Huneycutt said.

“For me,” he said, “I have to go to a monastery from time to time to recharge.”

 

 

 

MORE ‘RADICAL HOSPITALITY’ NEEDED

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Richard Beck talks about his new book with guests at a lecture Feb. 7 at First Central Presbyterian Church. Beck is chairman of the Department of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By LORETTA FULTON

“The battle to be like Christ is won or lost in a millisecond.”

It happens as quickly as looking away from someone in need–or looking at them. Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, Richard Beck said to a group Feb. 7 at First Central Presbyterian Church. But we don’t become the Good Samaritan ourselves because we don’t notice. Seeing “Good Samaritan opportunities” takes intentionality and sometimes a change of heart

“To rewire one’s heart is hard,” Beck said, but worth the effort.

Beck, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Abilene Christian University, was guest speaker for the Feb. 7 Wednesday evening program at First Central Presbyterian. He based his talk on his new book, “Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise.” A promotional blurb for the book says that when Beck first led a Bible study at the maximum-security French-Robertson unit north of Abilene, he went to meet God.

Beck’s faith was flagging, but he still believed the promise of Matthew 25, that when we visit the prisoner, we visit Jesus. And sure enough, God met him in prison. In his talk and in his book, Beck talks about how psychological experiments show how we are predisposed to like those who are similar to us and avoid those who are unlike us.

The call of the gospel, however, is to override those impulses with compassion, to “widen the circle of our affection.” In the end, Beck turns to the Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux for guidance in doing even the smallest acts with kindness, and he lays out a path that any of us can follow.

The Bible is filled with stories of “radical hospitality,” which Beck called “God’s thermometer,” and that is what the church should practice. We may be good at welcoming people into the church, he said, but there is a bigger question.

“Will we welcome people into our hearts?” Beck asked.

“Radical hospitality” calls for widening our moral or “affectional” circle, Beck said. That circle includes people who are like us. Expanding that circle to take in people we sometimes turn a blind eye to is what Jesus calls for.

“That’s a challenging practice for all of us,” Beck said.

Beck not only is popular guest speaker, he also is extremely popular with ACU students. He is an award-winning author, speaker, blogger and professor. During his tenure at ACU, Beck  has been selected Teacher of the Year, Honors Teacher of the Year, McNair Mentor of the Year and has won the College of Arts and Sciences Classroom teaching award.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT DOES CHOCOLATE HAVE TO DO WITH JESUS? RECONSIDERING LENT

By JANICE SIX

As the season of Lent draws near, even Christians from non-liturgical denominations and traditions can be heard discussing what they plan to “give up” during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning. It’s baffling to me what people choose to “give up” as a spiritual practice during Lent. For example: Chocolate. Yes, it’s considered to be a temptation and some even consider it addictive, but what does giving up chocolate have to do with Jesus? We all have a bad habit or two that we wish we’d never started, but is giving up an innocuous habit Lent-worthy?

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Janice Six

It concerns me that this spiritual practice, which is holy to many, is unintentionally being trivialized by those of us whose practice of it has little to do with repentance and more to do with short-term self-control. Giving up something during Lent is more than a test of our willpower. In fact, testing our willpower may be the antithesis of this spiritual practice that’s intended as a means of recognizing and confessing our weakness and dependency not on ourselves but on God’s grace extended to us through Jesus the Christ. Electing to give up something for 40 days with little or no thought given to how its continued practice threatens to undermine or stunt the growth of our relationship with the risen Lord, is to practice it in vain.

Are we not robbing this holy practice of the reverence it is due each time the something we choose to give up has more to do with vanity or accolades from our peers than enriching our relationship with the triune God? Are we robbing ourselves of a spiritual annual check-up when we fail to prayerfully exam our lives, admit our weaknesses, repent of wrongdoing, and submit our will to God’s will? This is not to suggest that we give up giving up something during Lent, but rather that we enter into this practice with prayerful forethought and an appreciation for the way the Holy Spirit might exercise its transformative power to change us during this time of contrition.

For those of us who have limited knowledge of Lent’s liturgical back-story, the first step we need to take is to educate ourselves about the purpose and contemplative practice of giving up something during Lent. The second step—if we choose to take it—is to thoughtfully and prayerfully examine our lifestyle, motives and goals to see if they are God-centered or self-centered. And the third step is to admit our powerlessness in the face of temptation and earnestly seek God’s strength and refuge in times of trial. Finally, a less conventional suggestion is to redefine what we mean by “giving up.”

Instead of focusing on the sacrifice or the act of laying down that which we are being led to give up, let’s consider God’s loss when we remain in our self-centered ways. For example, once watching television escalates to bingeing on entertaining movies, my interest in delving into the church’s response to human trafficking or listening to lectures by some of my favorite theologians is lost. My attention has been drawn away from justice efforts or edifying lectures that are surely pleasing to God and given over to guffaws and Hollywood drama.

God’s loss is my attentive ear and compassion for the oppressed. Therefore, rather than simply declaring that I am giving up bingeing on entertaining movies, I go a step farther and consider what will be gained by abstaining from the obsessive behavior. The gain then becomes the offering–with arms raised and outstretched hands. In this example, what I am offering is my attention and compassion for the oppressed and enslaved. No doubt, this pleases God…even more than giving up chocolate.

Janice Six is associate pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church

 

 

‘THE WIZARD’ AND 1 CORINTHIANS 13

By MIKE PATRICK

When L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz, I doubt that he had the famous love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) in mind, but an uncanny parallel exists between the two.

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Mike Patrick

In his book, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, meet three interesting characters on their journey down the yellow brick road—the Tinman, the Scarecrow, and the Lion. Each one had a purpose in wanting to find the Wizard of Oz: Dorothy wanted to go home to Kansas; the Tinman hunted for a heart; the Scarecrow searched for a brain; the Lion desired courage.

1 Corinthians 13 begins with some expressions about the value of love. Though I speak with tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (v. 1-3).

The first verse says that no matter how emotional or ecstatic my faith may be, even if I can speak the language of God’s angels, but have not love, I am only making a lot of noise. Emotional faith – love = 0

Verse two states that I can be intellectual in my faith. I may have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries and have all knowledge, but without love I remain nothing. Intellectual faith – love = 0

Verse three contends that I may have a very active or volitional faith as evidenced by my works and deeds. Even if I voluntarily give my life for others, without love I have gained nothing. Volitional faith – love = 0

In the movie, the Tinman wishes he had a heart when singing, “I’d be tender – I’d be gentle, and awful sentimental regarding love and art. I’d be friends with the sparrows and the boy who shoots the arrows if I only had a heart.”

The Scarecrow sings, “I’d unravel every riddle for any individ’le, in trouble or in pain. With the thoughts you’ll be thinkin’ you could be another Lincoln if you only had a brain.”

The Lion fearfully pines, “It’s sad, believe me, Missy, when you’re born to be a sissy without the vim and verve. But I could show my prowess, be a lion not a mou-ess if I only had the nerve.”

Notice the parallel between the quality of the character and the expression of faith.

Character:  Tinman
Quality: Heart
Faith: Emotional

Character: Scarecrow
Quality: Brain
Faith: Intellectual

Character: Lion
Quality: Courage
Faith: Volitional

At the end of the story, the characters discover that the Wizard has no special powers because he simply hides behind a curtain, a man of the cloth, so to speak. To encourage her friends, Dorothy says to each of them that he already has within himself the quality for which he searches. With God in our hearts, we already have what we need. With love, we genuinely express our faith with heart, with mind, with courage.

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.

CALLED TO SERVE GOD’S PEOPLE

 

 

 

(Editor’s Note: Karen Boyd was ordained as a deacon on Jan. 30. She shares her experiences, from discernment through ordination.)
By KAREN BOYD

I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons on January 30, 2018 in the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene. I look forward to the future with joy, excitement and more than a little bit of trembling.

My adult life was spent without a relationship to God, but I believe God found me. While still living in Mesa, Arizona, I felt a pull to fill a void inside and after much prayer and searching I found the Episcopal Church. I fell in love with the all inclusive love I found and I knew that I was home. I was formally received into the church in May 2012 and soon after began to feel a call to ordained ministry.

That call comes in many forms for many people. Not only did members of my congregation in Arizona tell me they felt I had a calling and could see me serving God’s people, but I felt what I can only explain as a tug at my soul, this time to ordained ministry.

I moved to Abilene in the latter part of 2012 to marry the man who is now my husband. We were married in the Church of the Heavenly Rest. I became involved in many ministries as I continued to privately discern my call. I began to actively seek the diaconate in 2015.

The path to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church is long and involved. After meeting with my rector, Father Luke Back, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas, Scott Mayer, there were discernment committees. I met several times with my peers, a committee called from within my parish to help me discern this call. With support from my home parish, I met with committees at a diocesan level. There were also medical, psychological, and spiritual assessments.

In the autumn of 2015 I began to attend the School of Ordained Ministry (SOM) in the Diocese of Northwest Texas in Lubbock. SOM is in conjunction with the Iona Collaborative through the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. It is designed for bi-vocational (those who still work full-time) priests, and deacons. Unlike formal seminary, SOM does not require full-time attendance. SOM meets 10 times during the school year, approximately one weekend a month for three years. We study the same core curriculum as seminarians but it is abbreviated to allow those who must continue to work full time an opportunity to answer a call to serve. Even though I am now ordained, I will continue to attend SOM until I complete the program and graduate in May of this year.

The diaconate is a special calling to serve. While I will assist with worship at Heavenly Rest, I am no longer a member of just that parish. Rather, deacons belong to the entire diocese and report directly to the bishop. In the vows we take during ordination, we are called to serve in the name of Jesus Christ, particularly the poor, the sick, the weak and the lonely. We are to interpret to the church the needs, the concerns and the hopes of the world. We are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless, we are serving Christ himself.

I am overwhelmed and overjoyed by this unique opportunity to serve God and his people. I have received grace upon grace, and blessing upon blessing. I hope to serve God and his people and pour out his love and compassion to all I meet.