Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trayvon, Carmello, Q, and Me

by Ken Brown

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, I remember sitting in the Chapel with a mixed bag of emotions. I was saddened by the loss of a teenager, conflicted by the case’s racial overtones, and stunned by the reactions of Christians in my Facebook community. I concluded that the most tangible things I could do were to preach the following weekend a message on the fatal messiness of community, and to personally pour energy into an African-American male’s life. Last Friday, February 21 I checked off the later pledge.

I was invited to be a facilitator at DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence’s 5th Annual Black Male Initiative Summit. I spent the entire day with a small group of seven African-American males engaged in conversation on the topics of resilience, activism, and social change. The young man who stole my heart is Q, an eighth grader at a Denver Public Schools middle school. Imagine a Carmelo Anthony mini-me – braids, charm, smile – then you can visualize Q. He is slightly height-challenged for the NBA at 4’11”, but he towers with confidence and aspiration.

Q wants to attend Yale law school. I inquired as to why and he replied, “When I told my mom I want to be a lawyer she told me to Google the country’s top law schools and Harvard was #1, followed by Yale. I chose Yale after reading more about it.” “I chose Yale.” I love it! Q’s mother, who is single-handedly raising four children, spurred her son’s dream onward with one action step- “Google” where you want to be in 10 years. I pray for Q daily with a hopefulness that he’s going to accomplish whatever God has in store for him.

Are you holding fast to your dreams? Have you Googled any possibilities lately for your 10 year plan? Take the next 10 minutes and consider your dreams and dare to believe, again.

Romans 5:5 This hope doesn't put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Ken Brown is the senior pastor at BUMC.   He can be contacted here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Go for the gold... and silver and bronze

by Jordan Shute

I have a slight obsession with the Olympics. Two years ago, prior to the Summer Games in London, I painted the Olympic rings on a t-shirt and a headband. And I have accidentally (OK, knowingly) worn the t-shirt in public. I also made an Olympic “torch” out of tissue paper that I prominently displayed throughout the two week event. I have yet to make a torch for this year’s Winter Games, but my husband has a set of stacking, Russian dolls that we set next to the TV before the Opening Ceremonies this month. Kind of our tribute to Sochi, Russia.

I think I simply love watching lesser-known sports, cheering for the underdog, celebrating great wins, learning about other countries and their customs, and watching all the countries come together to celebrate sports. Of all things, sports bring differing nations together. I also get a real kick out of the uniforms that curlers wear. Because, come on:

What I find most impressive is the dedication of Olympic athletes. Some of them literally had to beg, borrow or sell a cow in order to get to a competition. At times, I’m sure it would have been a lot easier to hit snooze instead of getting up to train; stay home instead of traveling long distances to a competition; or remain on the couch instead of going to the gym. I mean, I’ve seen some of these athletes crash. If I had the chance to crash and potentially break a leg every day, I’d probably give up before I got to the Olympic level.

But God doesn’t let us give up and waste the talents he’s given us. And he doesn’t let us give up on the things we’re passionate about. Trust me, I’ve tried. But God always finds a way to steer me back onto his path. A lot of us won’t stand on a podium or earn an award for finding or acting on our God-given talents. But I know God has a specific plan for my life, and I’d really like the gold, silver and bronze medals at the end. And some goofy curling pants.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jordan Shute is the Executive Ministry Assistant at BUMC. Reach her at

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Shape of a Blessed Life

by Thomas Cross

My recent research on the beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel piqued my curiosity. As I discovered in preparing for my sermon on Matthew 5, a beatitude is a declaration of blessing, of well-being, from God’s perspective. As we look at the biblical beatitudes, we learn what it is to thrive; we learn about the shape of healthy human life from God’s point of view.

We are constantly being told many things by all kinds of experts on what it is to experience well-being. But what does God say? After exploring the beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, I was curious to explore the other beatitudes in the Bible. Most of them are found in the wisdom literature of Psalms and Proverbs, but others are sprinkled in the Prophets, John, Acts, and the New Testament Letters.

So I grabbed my trusty Strong’s Concordance and looked up the Bible verses that start with the word “blessed” and are focused upon general blessings to all people with a certain characteristic. Then I looked to see how these blessings are clustered. As it turns out, these biblical beatitudes are clustered into several basic categories of well-being. The shape of blessed life has some specific contours.

A life of well-being has several basic characteristics: Worship of Yahweh, Generosity and Justice toward the Poor, Experiencing Forgiveness, Living with Integrity, and Following Christ’s Example of Service are all hallmarks of a blessed life. Waiting upon God, Enduring Testing, and Remaining Alert are also signs of well-being in God’s economy.

But the clusters of blessings with the most biblical references are centered upon a relationship of deep trust with Yahweh, and showing your trust in God by responding in several specific ways. Yes, a life of well-being begins by trusting God for all your needs, and asking for his help. In a society where we are often taught to “go it alone” and “tough it out,” the Bible offers a completely different approach. One of the first verses I memorized (from Proverbs) is foundational: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In fact, the verses which appear in exactly the middle of the Bible, Psalm 118:8-9, reinforce this point: “It is better to depend upon Yahweh than to trust mortals. It is better to depend on Yahweh than to trust influential people.” The truth which underlies this blessing is the utter dependability of God. Because God is so reliable, we can turn to God for protection and empowerment. Accordingly, there are five blessings associated with taking refuge in Yahweh and finding your strength in Him. Jesus adds to these by declaring we are blessed if we believe in Him even without seeing Him (John 20:29).

To trust in God and turn to Him for your needs is the foundation of a healthy life. Out of this trust flows a desire to learn from God, to reflect upon the teachings of Yahweh and pursue wisdom and understanding. The Bible includes at least five clear blessings related to learning and seeking wisdom. But learning God’s ways does not produce the fullest blessing until we practice them. So there are seven more blessings associated with respecting Yahweh, obeying his instruction, and accepting his discipline.

Quite simply, a life of well-being takes the shape of trust in God and response to his teaching. We are blessed as we learn to trust God with confidence for all our needs, especially protection, strength, and wisdom. In response to these blessings, we seek to learn more about God’s ways, pursuing deeper understanding -- and practicing deeper obedience.

As we put into action what God teaches us, our trust only grows, because we discover just how true God’s wisdom is, and how wonderful are God’s ways. This is a life of worship, to abide in God’s presence with faith and an open mind and heart. If you want to live a healthy, happy life, God invites you to trust in Him, learn from Him, and apply his teachings. As Psalm 34:8 says, “taste and see” for yourself how good God really is!

Thomas is one of the pastors at BUMC, starting his seventh year here.  He loves to help people grow in Christ and start new small groups.  He says his passion is ‘to introduce people to the God I know through Jesus Christ, the God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.’  He enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, going to movies, working out, collecting art, listening to jazz music, and watching the Broncos for fun.  And he has a blast meeting with the diverse small groups he facilitates!  He can be contacted here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feeling Grateful

by Cristen Underwood

Sometimes it is tough to take a step back and feel grateful for all of the blessings in my life. I would like bigger bedrooms in my house. I wish I had nicer cabinets in my kitchen. I would like to be able to send my son to the more expensive, fancy daycare up the road. I would like to buy only organic vegetables. I wish I could go spend two weeks travelling around Europe. 

But wait…would those things make me any happier?

I have many, many, many, many blessings in my life. I have a healthy, happy, active two-year-old boy that loves to play sports and wants to snuggle with me every morning before we get ready to start our day. I have a husband that I love. I have parents that love me and care deeply about my well-being. I have friends that are willing to lend an ear when I am feeling overwhelmed. I have a funny Siberian Husky and a really fat cat that always make me smile. I have a warm, comfortable house and food on the table every night.  I have a car that is safe and reliable. I have a great job that I enjoy. I have the freedom to attend church every Sunday.

I am so fortunate to have such a comfortable life. Even with the ups and downs and the occasional frustrations I have many blessings for which to be thankful.

Many people can’t afford to feed their families and pay their heating bills.  Many people are without work and a safe place to live. Rather than think about what we don’t have, my husband and I are trying to focus on what we can do to help others in 2014. Habitat for Humanity, the Denver Rescue Mission, the many opportunities to help others offered through BUMC, these are all organizations that could use our time and labor. Spending time helping others would make me happy, probably happier than new cabinets or bigger bedrooms.  

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Cristen Underwood has been a member of BUMC for two years.  She is actively involved in the First Friday Fellowship. She lives in Westminster with her husband and two-year old son.