Friday, March 24, 2017

Before I die, I want to _____: A Lenten reflection

This post was written by Joe Iovino and was shared with permission from the blog roll on the National United Methodist Church Web site which can be found here:

One day, not far from her home in New Orleans, artist Candy Chang noticed a large abandoned building.
“I thought about how I could make this a nicer space for my neighborhood,” she said during her TED Talk, “and I also thought about something that changed my life forever. In 2009, I lost someone I loved very much… Her death was sudden and unexpected. And I thought about death a lot, and this made me feel deep gratitude for the time I’ve had and brought clarity to the things that are meaningful to my life now. But I struggle to maintain this perspective in my daily life. I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you.”

Candy Chang's "Before I die..." wall turned an eyesore into art. Photo by Tony Webster [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
With permission from the town and her neighbors, Chang turned the eyesore into a work of art. She covered one side of the house with chalkboard paint. Then, she stenciled a few words on the wall approximately 80 times. The stencil read, “Before I die I want to _____________________.”
She put a bucket of chalk near the wall.
Before the wall was finished people were stopping by, asking if they could write on it. She reported on the TED Radio Hour that one of the first people to finish the sentence was dressed as a pirate, as people in New Orleans are wont to do. He finished the sentence, “Before I die I want to be tried for piracy.”
In her TED Talk, she reads some other things people wrote on the wall.
  • Before I die, I want to straddle the International Date Line.
  • Before I die, I want to sing for millions.
  • Before I die, I want to plant a tree.
  • Before I die, I want to hold her one more time.
  • Before I die, I want to be completely myself.
After playing that clip from her TED Talk, host of the TED Radio Hour Guy Raz, explained, “The power of the ‘Before I die…’ wall is that it actually didn’t make people think about death so much as it made them think about life.”
When Chang posted a few photos of the wall online, she was surprised how quickly the idea spread. “My inbox blew up with messages from people around the world who wanted to make a wall with their community.” Today there are more than 1,000 “Before I die…” walls in cities all over the world.
Asked about their death, people talked about life, real life, exciting things they would like to do with their lives. People focused on things of life that really matter.
In the interview Raz asks Chang what she has learned about death. “I think that contemplating it can lead to a lot of great things,” she says.
What a great image for reflection during Lent. Contemplating death can lead to a lot of great things.
Jesus taught this to his disciples as he contemplated his own death. Preparing his disciples for his glorification, Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24 CEB).
Life, real life, abundant life, comes when we are willing to die to self.
The power of the "Before I die" wall is that it makes people think about life. Photo by Tony Webster [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Later in her interview with Guy Raz, Candy Chang expounds on the thought. “Contemplating death really clarifies my life and regularly contemplating death,” she continues, “has been a really powerful tool for me to restore perspective and remember the things that make my life meaningful to me.”
In a lot of ways, that is exactly what this season of Lent is all about. A time to restore perspective and remember the things that make life meaningful.
And so we fast. We give up chocolate or Starbucks or soda, not just to do it. Not to prove anything to anyone or to impress God. We give it up to remind ourselves that those things don’t really matter. Our life in Christ does.
We worship on Ash Wednesday reflecting on our sin, asking forgiveness, and seeking to live a new life free from it. We don’t do this for a front row ticket to heaven, but because we know we have short-changed life by living our own way rather than God’s.
We receive ashes on the first day of Lent with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We remember our mortality, not to be morbid, but to remember to live for God now, because our life is a precious gift that we should live to the full.
Like Candy Chang, we struggle in daily life to maintain a perspective on what gives our lives meaning. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you.” Lent invites us to remember what gives our lives life.
During these 40 days, how will you restore perspective and remember the gifts you’ve received from the Lord Jesus Christ that make life full and meaningful?
Then maybe you’ll be ready to truly live.
Before I die, I want to _______.
Think about it.
*Joe Iovino works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.
This story was first published on February 10, 2016.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Watching Them Grow

I am so blessed two have two young sons. The boys are the 
This last week was a bit of an odd one. First, my youngest son was sick for two days and couldn't attend daycare. This unexpected break gave us two full days together for me to build some fun memories. Despite the fact that we were home and he was in his PJ's all day, we still had hours of time snuggling on the couch watching movies and playing together. It showed me that I don't have to be far from home to have a good time with my children. I'll remember the couch time with him and I know that the next time he's home with me all day, he'll be a little older.

My pride in my 5-year-old son was at an all-time high this week as well. My family was at a housewarming party with a large group of my co-workers. My oldest son was having a fairly ornery and whiney day, and I was somewhat concerned that he'd be a pain in the neck about going to hang out with a bunch of adults. Before we exited the car, I asked (okay, told) him to be on his best behavior while at the party and he told me that he would. Lo and behold, he was so well behaved and polite. I watched him repeatedly approach adults at the party, put out his had for a handshake and say, "I'm Alex, it's nice to meet you."
I once watched Joe, our BUMC music director, turn around and nod at his son, JJ, on the drums after he played what sounded like a particularly tough drum rift during the contemporary service. It was pure paternal pride and I knew exactly how he felt. 
All of the hard work that we've poured into being parents was there on display! I was so proud of him. All week, I've had friends remarking on what a well behaved son I have. I was reminded of a time when I asked my mom about when I learned good manners and she replied, "Everyday." Raising kids is a constant task. My wife and I are constantly saying "please and thank you" and correcting minor mistakes. I guess it must be working! 
It took me having children of my own to fully understand what my mom meant and I look forward to seeing both of my boys grow into well-mannered Gentlemen. I can't wait to see what the future holds for them.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  -Proverbs 22:6

Eric is a Boulder County Sheriff's Deputy and Colorado native who loves to spend time with his family and (self admittedly) gets way too absorbed in the Broncos.  He and his wife, Cristen have two boys and  have been members of BUMC since 2011.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Quiet Voice Of Lent

Post by: Joe Mazza

As we begin the season of Lent, these 40 days before Easter can be a rich and meaningful time in the life of a believer in Christ. I read a quote recently that describes the season beautifully:

If you’ve ever climbed a mountain, you know that it’s a struggle. Things start out well, but soon exhaustion sets in and each step becomes a reconsideration. If you hold out long enough, there awaits the sweet joy and relief of being so close to the top that you can see the view. You may be worn out, but the glory of the sight gives you new life… Lent is a climb toward the breathtaking panorama of what Jesus has done for us.

One of the best gifts this season offers us is the opportunity to be quiet. We have so many loud voices around us - non-stop news, the demands of work, and the often overwhelming expectations of our personal lives and schedules. On top of that, if we only look at our Facebook feeds, it seems like everyone else is handling life a lot better than we are. Oh look, there’s a beautiful picture of my friend on vacation! I wish I was in Hawaii. Oh wow, what a great party that must have been!  How come I don’t get to go to great parties? Has that stupid giraffe been born yet? That's a beautiful quote about peace and serenity that my friend just posted. She must really have her life together… more than I do, I bet. With the exception of the giraffe thing, this relentless stream of only the best of other people’s lives can tempt us to follow suit - to post only our triumphs, only our most fun moments, and that one picture out of a hundred that got our best side.

I used to write in journals all the time. I’d write about my day, my frustrations, and things that made me happy. Then at some point I stopped. I think maybe posting things on social media started to take the place of keeping a journal, but I lost something valuable along the way. I lost the place where I could express the struggles, the failures, the darker corners of my life into which I needed to invite God. Lent is the quiet voice that calls me back.

In Psalm 139, King David (who had some pretty serious triumphs and failures) starts out by resting in the fact that God knows him perfectly. Not just what he posts on social media, but everything.

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."

For 18 verses, David goes on about the safety and love he feels being known so well by God. Then, after a quick little complaint (David was great at complaining in the Psalms), he ends by saying,

"Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."

I recently picked up a journal and I’ve been trying to get back into writing in it. I admit, it hasn’t been easy. There’s something less satisfying at first about writing in a book and then not being able to scroll to see if what I wrote was as good, cool, or interesting as what other people wrote. But I’m getting back into the hang of it and I’m committed to sharing with God more openly there than when I post things online. And as I climb this mountain towards Easter, I know that our faithful God will lead me in the way everlasting, as King David described in his psalm.

Joe Mazza is the Director of Worship Arts at BUMC and leads worship at our 8:30, 9:45, and 5:05 worship services.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Share God with Others…..Let one count the way(s)

Post by: Frank Oligmueller

While sitting in one of our recent Sunday services and listening to a brief announcement by a parishioner, our churches core mission was verbalized - Worship God, Grow with God and Share God with Others. I believe one of God’s primary purposes is for us to have a relationship with Him and each other, particularly through our salvation in Jesus Christ and the help of the Spirit living in us. Relationship is defined to be a connection by blood or marriage or a condition of being related. For all intent and purposes, it primarily involves having a physical interaction.

As our country has transitioned into, what you might say, a new experience of Presidential behavior including tweets, a growing examination of social media’s impact and moral responsibilities, and sometimes just puzzling whether news and information is being publicized for truth or merely sensationalizing opinions on events, the Share God with Others portion struck a thought of how this statement is being played out within the communication fabrics of this world. The fabrics of communication can involve anything from focused physical interaction to use of a social media platform for broad sharing with all in the chain of connections.

Sharing God with others can be applied to us within the walls as well as outside the walls and involve any method of communication. So, one question that could be asked is – does a method of sharing matter more than others?

If we look at the New Testament, there are two key communication methods used. One is by way of direct contact. This is exemplified by the territory covered by Jesus. Physically travelling primarily within the regions of Judea, Samaria and Galilee and engaging people in person. Another example is then by Paul, and the Disciples that took their testimony to Asia Minor, Greece, Rome and further. The second method displayed is via written letters by Paul, Peter, and others. And, the yet subsequent missionaries to other corners of the world. Given its timeframe, it would easily be surmised that those were used due to the known and available technology at the time. Advance 2000+ years, there is now the electronic age of emails, facebook, texting, and growing for communicating electronically. However, though faster, is this method more effective versus physical/direct engagement methods used many years ago?

We have seen evidence that the former methods of communication were effective by the mere fact that it established Christianity to build and take hold to this day. Infusing use of technological advances (not including voice since that is a form of direct contact) has helped become an enabler of the electronic communication methods to more quickly and more broadly emphasize Christian beliefs and personal stories to re-enforce what had already started hundreds of years ago with non-electronic means. In the definition sense, does a relationship exist or more importantly is it maintained via electronic methods?

I asked a member from my small group what their preferences are in sharing God with others. Her response was to primarily take action first, then, if needed, to share by a verbal interaction. These methods were inherent for how Jesus and his disciples shared God with others and thereby built relationships so fundamental to God’s desire. And, in the New Testament, there were several examples of when a physical encounter was given testimony (sharing God with others) to others causing a growth of believers. One of the many instances, is the case of the Samaritan women’s conversation with Jesus and later her testimony to others in the village.

Given the Bible provides us examples and guidelines for living our lives, we can’t ignore the impact of physical communication methods and its effectiveness. The electronic technology, though having its value to share and connect, lacks the ability to create and maintain relationships as God intended. I can repeat a verse I have submitted before - Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hallow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” At times I find myself deflated a bit from the aspect of having and then not having what I felt was a relationship. After my finding/having a wonderful relationship with a brother and/or sister in Christ but had, overtime, faded into a myriad of electronic exchanges because one or both sides couldn’t find the time to maintain the relationship. God has called us to be out to be face to face or voice to voice and not constantly behind and interface.

In Sharing God with Others, be careful not to let the ability of technology over take the ability (and opportunity) to build and maintain relationships.

I grew up in the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. After finishing my Computer Science degree at University California - Irvine, I eventually moved back to Colorado with my wife. Over the past 32 years, I have worked in both the aerospace and commercial industries with my degree getting many opportunities to grow in my professional life. However, there always seemed a gap in the growth of my spiritual life. That gap has began to fill measurably since my attendance and involvement at BUMC for which I praise God to have brought us at a key time of our lives. Outside major interests include playing hockey, but time and the physical ability has been an increasing challenging, planning a yearly 14er climb and trips to Disney - most favorably - Walt Disney World. However, I love spending anytime and anywhere with my wife, family and friends. All the while - inviting Christ with me.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Transforming My Mind One Telephone Pole at a Time

Post by: Nicole Stegink

I believe in the concept of synchronicity. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung explained synchronicity as “events [that] are meaningful coincidence if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.” There could be long discussions on whether synchronicity really is just random chance or if it’s some phenomenon of science or nature, but for me when it happens, it’s a God moment. It’s God reaching out to me or instructing me through a set of seemingly unrelated messages that merge in some way to alter my thought patterns, re-direct me toward Him and help me recognize His will for me. I recently experienced a moment of synchronicity when a text conversation I had with a friend, an old photograph I had taken and a quote I like converged and caused an epiphany of sorts.

In one of my previous blogs, I wrote about how I navigated my way through my own painful divorce by connecting to God through photography. Since then I have discovered God delivers many of his messages to me through pictures I have taken. And sometimes it takes one of His acts of synchronicity, such as this story, for the veil to lift and my mind to be transformed.

My friend went through a divorce a few months ago. He expressed some of the challenges of achieving balance between work, being a single dad to four children and finding time to heal and practice self-care. In this particular conversation he was without his children for the weekend, and struggling with a few things: fatigue, motivation and whether he deserved to take time for himself. His brain desired to get up early and go do an outdoor activity; his body wanted to sleep in the next morning; he heart questioned whether indulging in a “me day in the mountains” was selfish. The only thing I could think of to help him was to send him two things: a passage from Brendon Burchard’s book “Life’s Golden Ticket” which speaks to being present in your own life and a photograph I had taken a couple of years ago.

I had taken a photograph of a sunrise from my backyard, and I thought maybe if I sent my friend this photo it would inspire him to get up early. A kind of “see what you miss when you don’t get up early.” Part of me didn’t want to send the photo, because while the colors of the sunrise in the photo are stunning, there is a huge, unsightly utility pole featured prominently in the frame. It has always really annoyed me because my backyard is bookended on the east and west sides by large utility poles. Every sunrise and sunset picture taken from my backyard -- and believe me, there are hundreds -- is not without wooden poles, wires and cables interfering with view.

So I sent a text of the book passage. Then I sent the photo. Finally, I sent a text with my own message that taking time to recharge is not selfish, that practicing self-care is one of the healthiest things we can do and that maybe the words and my photo would inspire him to wake up early and head to a place that would restore his soul. He responded, “When I first looked at the photo, I saw a cross and a beautiful sky – which is always an inspiration. Then when I read your text, I was shocked that you took this picture and realized I was looking at a telephone pole! How cool is that?”

And in that moment of reading his response synchronicity happened for me. My mind instantly recalled one of my favorite Thoreau quotes, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” That quote, the photograph, and my friend’s reply all wove together and suddenly took on meaning. How had I not seen it? I had put so much focus on being irritated with what I was LOOKING at that I didn’t SEE. Clothed in my own earthly concerns and biases, my brain misdirected my heart and soul. I made the telephone pole be the thing that mattered to the point it inhibited my ability to see the cross. I had been looking with just my eyes so therefore, I was closed off to seeing with faith. That thought led my mind down a path of transformation, recognizing our human tendency to look rather than to see. I wondered if the Bible could offer any insight on this important matter of observation and perspective.

Researching passages in the Bible brought me to two verses: Romans 12:2 and Colossians 3:2. In the New International Version Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I also like the New Living Translation version which states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

No doubt this passage means different things to different people, but for me it essentially explains the dichotomy between looking and seeing. I equate “Looking” as the part in Romans about being conformed to the patterns of the world. It is being rooted in our own minds, in our own perspectives, in our own problems, in our own worldviews, without the ability to open ourselves up to receive God’s will and God’s grace. There is potential to place more importance on our own take on things than God’s. “Seeing” is the part in Romans about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. It is changing our thinking, replacing human truth with God’s truth. And once we transform our minds in this way, we no longer look with human perspective, we see with God’s perspective.

Is there an area in your life where you are stuck? Where you have been “looking” and not “seeing”? Is there a way you can let go of this world and allow yourself to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” so that you can “see” God’s good and pleasing and perfect will for you?

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

Nicole Stegink is a Colorado native and currently lives in Arvada.  She is active in the music ministry of BUMC, singing for both the traditional & 505 services and has been a member of the church since 2010.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing but currently works in the legal field and doesn’t get to exercise her writing skills as often as she would like which is why she is excited to be contributing to the church’s blog. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Life is Too Short for Matching Socks

Post by: Sara Godwin

As I have grown older, I’ve come to several conclusions; epiphanies if you will. These include, but are not limited to, the following: fighting with male members of the household over the position of the toilet seat is trite and not really worth it. Over is always better than under when one is talking about toilet paper positioning. Oreos can only be eaten after having been dunked in cold milk. The front row is absolutely fantastic; unless you’re in a movie theater, and, lo and behold, curds and whey is really just a fancy name for cottage cheese. Thanks Miss Muffet, that one confused me for years. What’s my latest and, truly, greatest realization? Life is too short for matching socks.

Yes, you heard me right, I’m talking about socks. This realization has rocked my world. Please, let me explain. I have spent a really large portion of my life trying to conform, to fit in, if you will. When I was a child, it was really important to have a cool lunch box. If it wasn’t just the right cartoon character or action hero, the entire school year could really be wrecked. One year my mom bought me a Fozzy Bear lunchbox and I thought I was going to die. As a tween and young teen, it was the need to be invited to the right birthday party, the quintessential sleep over (and to not be the first one to fall asleep), that really, really mattered. I worried about this one all the ding dang time. As a teenager, just finding my niche, being in the clique that really fit my personality, was all I could think about. Problem was, I didn’t really know who I was, what I wanted, where I wanted to go, or what really yanked my chain, so I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. It led me to do some pretty stupid things, all in the name of “fitting in”. 

When I was in my very early 20’s, I wanted so badly to please a person, that I married him. He wasn’t a person who wanted me to have a voice or my own opinion and because I desperately wanted to be liked, I allowed him to tailor my thinking to his ideology. I knew deep down that I was making a huge mistake, but I just didn’t know how to find my spine or how to stand up for myself, so I jumped in with both feet to a situation that I knew I couldn’t make last. At least I learned a few lessons from that one. As a young mother I wanted to do everything “the right way”. I read all the books, all the articles, all the blogs, on how to birth my babies, how to feed my babies, what sort of doctor I should look for, etcetera, etcetera. I was terrified of being criticized.

It wasn’t until I began to teach 4 and 5 year olds that I started noticing something. This need to fit in and conform can begin at a very early age. My students love to say things like, “If you don’t play this with me, I won’t be your friend.” “You’re not sharing with me, I don’t like you”. And the coup de grace, the one that really cuts deep, “You’re not invited to my birthday party”. I spend my days helping the children navigate these touchy waters, encouraging them to be kind, to stand up for themselves, and to resolve their conflicts without hurting each other. If I can help them, then I decided that I better be able to help myself!

I have finally decided that I no longer (for the most part) care what people think of me and my decisions. I mean, I want people to think of me as a good teacher, a caring individual, and a generally all around good person, but at the end of the day I’m not going to get all wrapped up in the drama of trying to please everyone. It’s just not worth it. That is why I have decided that I will no longer wear matching socks. It pleases me to wear goofy socks. It pleases me to wear as many goofy socks as possible. If I wear socks that don’t match, then I get more bang for my buck. And guess what? I don’t care if anyone else cares. I’ve decided to apply this philosophy to everything I do.

The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2. Yup. That pretty much sums it up. God’s opinion is the one that really matters and it’s the only one that I’m going to worry about.

Sara Godwin has been a member of BUMC since 2003. She is the Assistant Director and Teacher at Apple Tree Christian Preschool and Kindergarten where she has worked since 2007. She has two wonderful children, Rachel and Ian, a loving husband, Shawn, two awesome kitties, Lewis and Lucy, and a sweet dog, Minnie. She began at BUMC working in the Children’s Ministry, assisting with Sunday School before moving to the preschool. She also helps with Wacky Wednesday and is the self-described crazy lady who wears all sorts of costumes every year at VBS.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Serving and Protecting

Post by: Cristen Underwood

Three years ago, the dynamic of our family life changed drastically when my husband made a major career switch from being a banker to being a Sherriff’s Deputy. There is a lot that comes with the police life. Much of it we knew about going in; crazy hours, missed Holidays and Birthdays, insane amounts of training.

But there’s so much more that we weren’t expecting. This is a tough time to be a cop. There are more people than ever that are vocal on their dislike of law enforcement. There are crooked cops but there are also crooked doctors and lawyers and teachers and store owners and taxi cab drivers. However, unlike most other career fields, police officers are judged by the actions of a few. I see often see quick judgement when I tell people that I am the wife of a Law Enforcement Officer.

But here’s the thing, I am beyond proud of my husband. He is giving up so much purely in service and the desire to help others. What angers me most about these people that are preaching hate for our law enforcement is that those very same officers they rage against have made a conscious decision to protect them. The brave men and women that sign up to be cops run towards the problem instead of running away. These officer are the ones that come when there is trouble and fear and chaos and work to provide safety and peace.

I’m sure that my husband sees way more than he’ll ever tell me. I know he’s dealt with fatal car accidents and been there after suicides. I’ve seen him come home in tears after dealing with a child abuse case. He left a family outing to go help during a wildfire and came home covered in black soot, so tired he could barely move after working for 16 straight hours. Yet, after all the negativity and the difficult days, he comes home and plays with his sons and smiles and tries so hard to rejoin our regular family life.

I started following the police blogs and the police spouse pages on Facebook and just about every day, somewhere in America, a Law Enforcement Officer is killed in the line of duty. A wildly troubling statistic for the spouse of an officer. Several times a week a picture of a stoic man or woman in full uniform shows up on my news feed with the story of how they were killed and the spouse and children that they leave behind. And yet, even with a job so dangerous, my husband and all of the other Law Enforcement Officers get up to go to work at weird hours, put on a bullet-proof vest and promise to run towards the danger.

So, next time that you see a Law Enforcement Officer, say thanks. Tell them you appreciate their dedication. Tell them that you appreciate that on Christmas morning, while you were home with your family eating breakfast, they were out on patrol keeping you safe. Tell them to stay safe so they can go home to their families that love them.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13

Cristen Underwood has been a member of BUMC for five years.   She lives in Westminster with her husband, five-year old son, two-year old son, a very old Siberian Husky and a really fat cat.