Thursday, July 30, 2015

Family

Family.

When you see that word, what or who comes to mind? This simple word can bring up many types of thoughts and feelings, both good and bad, depending on whom you may be talking to. We so often think of family as the “unit” that we were born into. Working in Family Ministry for many years, and being connected to a church, I’ve learned that family can look many different ways and can be many different things. God continues to broaden that definition for me!

My family story goes like this: I grew up in a family of 4 – my dad, mom, younger sister and myself. I left home to go to college, and made a new “family” of friends there. Shortly after college, I moved to Florida with a good friend and began to find new “family” there. It was there that I met and married my husband, Dave. Our family continued to change. We had no “blood” relatives around, but there were amazing people at our church who became family for us. They loved and surrounded us as we got married, when we had our daughter, and now continue to love us well even after we’ve moved away. Now here in Broomfield it is the same! We’ve been blessed with another church family that is amazing. I have some cousins in the area as well to add to our family list here. Our “family” is ever-changing.

I’ve been thinking about family a lot this week, as I’m writing this today from my mom’s house in Bald Knob, Arkansas. I’ve been here almost a week, really enjoying spending time with relatives. Arkansas has always been a place that I associate with LOTS of family. I grew up in a small town in Illinois, but my mom was originally from Arkansas, so we traveled here regularly in my growing up years. My mom being one of seven kids means that I have many aunts and uncles, and MANY cousins! And these days many of those cousins have kids and even grandkids. So this side of my family is pretty large! But little did I know just a few years ago that it was about to get larger……

My dad had passed away in the late 90s. My mom had continued to live in the small town in Illinois that had been their home for over 40 years. Then God intervened, and connected her with an old friend from her hometown in Arkansas, whose wife had passed away. This handsome guy was the football captain when my mom was the homecoming queen back in high school. And now I’m proud to call this guy my stepfather. ☺ A new branch and definition of family – I now have 2 step brothers and sisters in law and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and the list goes on. A little bit of adjustment for us all? Yes. But 4 years in, a big blessing in our lives.

Who do you call family? I know that everyone reading this could tell their own story, similar to what I’ve just shared. You may have friends who are like family to you. You may or may not want anything to do with your “blood” relatives. You may have step family that you love, or not so much! Your story will have different people who live in different places. But here is what we all have in common. God created us to be in community - to love and be loved, know and be known. God puts people in our lives for that purpose, who can be family to us. No matter what our family of origin looks like or how that may change over the years, the church can be a place that we can find family-- brothers and sisters in Christ. It is up to us to engage and put ourselves out there a little to reap the huge benefits that this can bring.

At the end of August, there will be a GREAT opportunity to do just that. BUMC will be coming together to celebrate our church family with a super fun event. Mark your calendar and please plan to join us for the BUMC Backyard Bash- an all church picnic, Saturday, August 29th, from 4-7pm. We’ll be gathering at the Girl Scout Pavilion and Midway Park in Broomfield, with the purpose of having fun together and joining in community with our BUMC family. There’ll be games and activities for all ages, great food, desserts, and much more. Please plan to join us!

How has the church, BUMC or others, been family to you in your life? Please share in the comments below.

Vicki Cromarty is the Family Ministry Director at BUMC.  She loves getting to know families and kids and having the privilege to learn with them about God’s amazing love. Vicki has been married to Dave for 16 years and they have one beautiful daughter, Lauren, who is 12 years old.  She loves spending time with her family and friends, enjoying all that beautiful Colorado has to offer!  You can contact her at vicki.cromarty@broomfieldumc.org.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Best Invitation You'll Ever Receive

Many times I’ve sought my purpose in life through two invitations: the invitation to do something I’ve always wanted to do or the invitation to be where I’ve always wanted to be. I admit that I’ve been driven by these two invitations. I’ve eagerly sought out “what” and “where” invitations thinking that by accepting them I would be satisfied and fulfilled.

When I was in college, I was asked to open for a Christian recording group called Truth. It was my first time opening for anyone in concert. I was nervous but I made it through the few songs I'd written. The very next day, as I walked into my dorm, one of my roommates told me that the phone was for me. It was a member of Truth calling to ask me to audition for the group. I was shocked! How did my nervous attempt to open for a professional touring music group, turn into an invitation like this?

This was by far the most surprising invitation I'd ever received. My first thought was, "My parents are going to kill me.”

For days I wrestled with this unexpected invitation, the expectation to finish college was weighing on me, but this was what I wanted to do. I would sing all over the country and get a chance to record albums. After a stressful audition process and struggling with the decision to put college on hold, I accepted the invitation to do what I’d always wanted.

This was an amazing invitation that certainly changed the course of my life. I learned so much, grew in my faith, practiced a calling, and I’m so grateful I accepted the invite. While accepting the kind of invitation that directs us to what we want is often on course with God’s plan for us, there’s another type of invitation that I’ve been thinking about. This invitation is far more important than the “what” or “where” invitations life has offered. This invitation knocks on our door every single day. It is the simple yet powerful invitation Jesus extends to us to be. Jesus invites us to be exactly who he has created us to be, connected to him, loved by him, one with him, satisfied when he is at the center of our life and we become like him.

This invitation to be is not about what we do, or where we’re going, or who we will become, it is fantastically about who we already are, his beloved, fully forgiven, always covered by his grace. Are we ready to extend this kind of simple invitation to our neighbors and the world around us? Can we extend an invitation that is not about who people will become, but is about them being accepted and loved for who they already are? Can we invite others to be fully loved, fully forgiven, and surround by grace and support? I believe we can. I believe that God gives us the opportunity to extend this invitation as an expression of his love.




Theresa is a youth advocate, writer and speaker. She’s also a professional singer who has performed with Travis Cottrell and Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live conferences, Nicole C. Mullen, Truth and many others. She’s married to BUMC’s Worship Arts Director, Joe Mazza. Check out more from Theresa at theresamazza.com.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Striving for Excellence

Today a colleague and I were talking about a perfectionist mindset versus striving for excellence. Perfectionists often focus on their own shortcomings and failures, often causing feelings of fear and shame; perfectionism after all, is an unattainable goal. We strive for excellence by focusing on what we do well, and repeating. Along the way we celebrate what goes well. Excellence is attainable and gives us the gift of confidence which gives us more to celebrate. It's like a snowball of awesomeness!

This idea of excellence is what God wants from us. He doesn't ask us to be perfect - in fact, he expects our flaws and gave his life to protect us from them. As a Christian, I'm going to try not to dwell on my sins, but focus on my kindness and generosity. I want to strive to love my neighbors more and forgive more easily. Wouldn't that be excellent?


Steve Laser has been a member of BUMC for over five years. He will begin serving on the finance committee in 2015, and has previously been involved in the First Friday Fellowship, Theology on Tap, and has served as an usher. He is a native to Broomfield, Colorado, and lives here now with his wife and two children.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Crash Course in the Book of Revelation

Our summer sermon series about the Book of Revelation is one of the most hotly debated books of the bible and the most misunderstood, with much context and history to consider.

In Chapters 1-3 of the Book of Revelation we learn about the original readers of this book. Like much of the New Testament, the book of Revelation is written as a letter, one of the longest in the Bible, addressing different communities to which early church fathers had a connection. The original readers of this letter were a group of seven first century churches in the Roman Province of Asia, a.k.a. modern day Turkey. These seven churches were very diverse in background, economics, and population. The Book of Revelation was written for a Greco-Roman world that had seen their friends and fellow Christians persecuted and killed for sport. They saw the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and expulsion of the Jews from the Holy Land, and the passing of the first generations of Christians, where there was no longer a living witness to the life and ministry of Jesus. They were just beginning to realize the second coming might not be happening anytime soon and they might have to wait generations.

In Chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation John writes specific messages to each of seven churches addressed in the letter. Some of these messages are words of encouragement and others are words of warning; however, all of the messages came from the author’s deep connection to and interest in seeing those young Christian communities thrive in a world that was actively persecuting them. For example, the church in Ephesus once known for its spiritual passion for the worshiping of God had begun to tolerate its members embracing the pagan culture and practices around them. In Smyrna and Philadelphia, the local synagogue was persecuting members of the young church. The Christians in Pergamum were being forced to compromise their faith and worship under the pagan culture, possibly at a massive altar to Zeus. Many archeologists think this may be what John is referring to as “Satan’s Throne,” which is now located in a museum in Berlin. People in Thyatira were teaching that it was ok to eat food that had been sacrificed to pagan gods. John warned the people of Sardis their faith had become empty and they had “soiled” themselves in the culture of the times. Lastly, John advised the church at Laodicea to revive their passions for God, which had fallen flat.

In the Book of Revelation, everything John wrote was aimed at the readers of these letters and the issues and problems of the Christian communities described in the first few chapters. Here he addressed the willingness of these early Christians to give in to the temptations, to compromise and “go with the flow” of the pagan communities around them. John asked them to be faithful to their beliefs despite the hardships they were going through. John was telling them that although the cost of faith could be high, it would work out in the end and the kingdom of God would prevail; faith would live eternally in the love of Jesus.

To get his point across, John used a type of writing that would have been very common at the time, and well know by the Gentile and Jewish people in the first century. Today this type of writing is referred to as “apocalyptic.” It is a way of describing a vision of the future using powerful and provocative imagery and language. This language is not meant to be taken at face value. For example, the city of Rome, the Roman Empire, is described in the 17th Chapter as a “great whore” and “drunk with the blood of the saints.” Cities cannot be “drunk;” however, the slaughtering of the martyrs in the arena for the entertainment of the Roman citizens necessitates powerful imagery to describe the situation for those who had not seen it for themselves. The closest example in our modern world to the classic traditions of apocalyptic writing is the work of Pablo Picasso, specifically his comic strip called “The Dreams and Lies of Franco,” in which he used odd and grotesque figures, as a form of protest against oppression and megalomania of General Francisco Franco.

In general, there are four ways of reading and viewing John’s Apocalyptic writing to the seven Churches in Asia: futurist view, historicist view, preterist view, and idealist view. The futurist view is one used by TV evangelists and is very popular in the United States; the Left Behind series of books and movies is one example. This way of reading the Book of Revelation is laying out the path for the “end of days.” Many people who take this viewpoint look for signs and connections in the events of today to show that we are living in the end days before the Second Coming of Christ. The historicist view of reading and interrupting John’s writing sees it as foretelling what is to come, that John was having visions about times to come. Some would see the fall of Rome and the spread of Christianity in Chapters 6-8, the spread of Islam in Chapter 9, and the Protestant Reformation in Chapter 10. This way of interpreting the Book of Revelation was popular up to the 1800’s, but has fallen out of favor. The third way of viewing the writings in Revelation is called preterist. In this approach people would see all of the events being describing as pertaining to people and times that John was writing to and in, i.e. the second century C.E. And, by putting John’s writings in that context we can see what lessons he was teaching those churches can be applied to our lives and world today.

Lastly, there is the idealist lens. This lens sees the writings in Revelation as describing the battle between good and evil, God and the Satan, or the challenges of following the path laid out for us by Jesus in a pagan, or today secular, world. In this view all people and generations can find meaning and useful words to resist the temptations of the world and remain faithful. Most of the leading scholars and theologians in the western world today find themselves as some combinations of preterist and idealist. The different ways of reading are not mutually exclusive. It’s more like a spectrum, and that people fall somewhere along it; however, this creates a deep divided between most Televangelist and mainstream conservative preachers, who favor the futurist view of interrupting the writing of John in the book of Revelation.

In the writings of John we are asked to examine where is the place of God. Is it in our heart, our mind, or in someone else? The author asks us to be careful of the culture in which we find ourselves, to see what is influencing our lives, and to ask the question whether we are influencing people around or are the people around us influencing us. No matter your view or interpretation of the Book of Revelation, John is telling us that resisting evil and following God’s path come at a cost. But, that cost, even if it is our lives, buys us a part of the coming glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.

For more information about the Book of Revelation the following books may be helpful: What does Revelations Reveal? by Warren Carter and Breaking the Code by Bruce Metzger.


Dave Lockley is a life long Methodist who has attended Broomfield UMC for the past 8 years, with his wife Jamey and children Eddie and Anabella. He has degrees in History and Education from CU Boulder and is a teacher for the Adams 12 School District. At BUMC, he teaches classes and small groups studies on Christian History and the Bible. You can contact him at David.Lockley@colorado.edu.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Effort of Hope

My favorite novel is The Neverending Story. It's the best book most people have never read, a riveting fantasy story in the spirit of the Chronicles of Narnia, though directed more at adults and young adults than children.

The book was made into a movie, which does a pretty faithful job of telling the first half of the story. The author, Michael Ende, wrote the novel to sound the alarm about a specific issue in his time. That issue was the dearth of imaginative faith in his late twentieth-century context. The book was a clarion call to re-stoke the creative imagination, to start telling stories again, lest we perish from lack of vision.

It is a good and noble thing to tell a story well, to speak to the spirit of your times, and plant the kind of seeds that can germinate and bear tremendous fruit. This is what Michael Ende did to our benefit. Few of us can remember how barren the world of fantasy was at the time The Neverending Story was published. Remember the 1970's and 1980's, when rarely a book was written or a movie made that might inspire the imagination and faith of children?

Christians, for our part, tended to view fiction and fantasy with some suspicion, not realizing how vital for faith it is to be able to visualize worlds you cannot see. After all, heaven is such a world. Ende's project lit the fuse for what has been a torrent of comics, young adult novels, and all manner of creative movies. We live in a time when the human imagination is now pulsing with new life.

Yet there is a difficulty. What if we direct our imagination toward dystopian futures devoid of freedom, vibrancy, and hope? What if we fill the human imagination with visions of dread and calamity? Would the very act of doing so become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

This is the question addressed by Tomorrowland, a movie I saw with relatively low expectations. How good can a movie that is based upon a theme park really be? Well it is certainly better than a movie based upon a single ride, if you know what I mean! Tomorrowland tells a fascinating story while raising a clarion call for our time. It is the fitting follow-up to The Neverending Story. It's message is delivered with blunt force: Start telling some hopeful stories! The time has come to plant the seeds of optimism for the future rather than rehearsing endless narratives of gloom and doom.

The dystopian vision, the movie suggests, is the lazy person's way out, because dystopia requires nothing of us but to accept the inevitable. A hopeful future requires much more effort and innovation. But guess what? God has equipped us as human beings for this very task! And in Christ, God has given us the opportunity to experience holy imagination, sanctified imagination, so we can turn ourselves loose upon what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. If we meditate on these things, might we be able to steer the earth's future in a direction that pleases its Creator?

Who will tell the stories that suggest a hopeful future, stories that inspire courage and optimism, stories that call forth the best of our humanity? It won't be those who have no belief in God, nor will it be those who believe in a “god” that is cruel and hurtful. No, that job belongs to those who carry the torch of biblical faith, those who believe that God can overturn the most devastating defeat simply by speaking a new word to the world. It is time for a new generation of storytellers who have caught a glimpse of the best of what can be and choose to believe, “Why not?” Shall we offer some encouragement to our young people? After all, we do know how the story ends, and it's a very good ending indeed! 

-Thomas

Thomas Cross 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!