Friday, January 29, 2016

The Power of Opposites

On almost a daily basis in my preschool class we talk about words and their opposites. A few years ago, when we were talking about opposites, a preschooler asked me what opposite meant. Uhhhhhhhhh….. For the life of me, I could not think of how to define opposites, so I think I said something like, “two things that are very different.” Good enough for the preschooler, but not quite right- curious how others would define it, I asked around, and someone gave me a definition that totally made sense, “Two things that can never happen at the same time.” Much more clear and it’s stuck with me through the years whenever people reference them.

Just this week on Instagram, Rob Bell posted, “For many people, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren’t opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that you’re owning your path, engaged, thinking, feeling, that your heart is alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites; they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.” 

Made sense, but if the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, then what is it? What one thing cannot coexist with faith? I would argue as it is presented in the Bible, the opposite of faith is fear. Fear differs from doubt as doubt means uncertainty, whereas fear is an emotion, it’s without knowledge, thinking something bad could happen. Sometimes fear comes from doubt, but not always. We can have doubt or uncertainty and not have negative emotion that ties them together. 

Time and time again, scripture places fear and faith in opposing corners, my favorite being, You of little faith, why are you afraid? Matthew 8:27. This scripture is one way I gut check where my faith lies on a day to day basis. Am I living in fear of how my life will play out OR the opposite, living in faith that God has a plan and will take care of me no matter what happens?

Opposites help us to make meaning of concepts that are difficult, and Jesus speaks often about them in the Bible- love and hate, yourself and others, sick and healed, hungry and full, dark and light. I think all too often we (definitely myself included) try and convince ourselves that we can live harmoniously trying to make opposites coexist in our lives. I think God is sending us a different message- to live out our full faith, we chose one way or the other. 

I would love to hear in the comments some opposites you have found in scripture and how that helps guide your understanding of how God wants us to live. 

 Andrea is an Early Childhood Special Educator, as well as mom to Paxton, 7, and Wyatt, 3. She and her husband Steve, have been members of BUMC since 2009.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Shining Bright

Last week, we reluctantly took all of the ornaments and the lights off of our Christmas tree and boxed them up. I put the tree in the back of my truck and unceremoniously dumped it at one of the Broomfield tree recycling sites, on the last day possible.

I love the Advent and Christmas season. It really is my favorite time of year, and I hate it when Christmas lights get put away. Whether our own tree, the neighborhood displays, or the lights and decorations at BUMC, I just don't like to see them go. Advent and Christmas are such a crazy and busy time for those of us on staff; I just never can seem to get enough. As soon as I feel like I've gotten ahead of all of the preparation for Christmas Eve services, it's all over and Christmas seems distant.

This year was no different. So I thought about leaving our tree up until all the needles were gone. I thought about trying to keep Christmas stuff around as some kind of buffer from the real world and all of the depressing news that comes at us day after day. But of course that never works.

Then I saw a post on Facebook from my good friend Mark Gersmehl. Mark is an incredible musician with a true artist's heart. He was apparently feeling the same thing I was and his words spoke right to my soul:

"This year all of our many decorations were pulled down, boxed up, and placed up in the attic on January 3rd. Except for the lights in the studio. Day after day I plugged them in first thing in the morning and kept them on until late in the night. Why? Why this year could I not let go even after Epiphany? Usually that is not a problem; after Epiphany I am ready to move on. Not this year.

Yes, the the lights were magical, inspiring, and beautiful. My keyboards shone like multi-colored mirrors and the walls gleamed like a child’s dreams. Still, why was I so reluctant to move on?

Today I know why. The answer came this morning in a whisper I heard in my heart. It said, “You have been enjoying the lights all around you. Now it is time to look to the Light that is within you.” That’s it, I thought, that is what I have been feeling. The path of this new year is not yet clear. I don’t need decorations. I need illumination. I need the Light."

Yes! Ephesians 5:8-9 says that "Once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true."

As we start this new year with our three simple prayers of "help, thanks, wow," I'm thankful for a friend who reminded me that Christ, the Light of the world whose birth we celebrated less than a month ago, now creates Light through my life. Light that is supposed to illuminate the world around, not hide from it.

Mark mentioned Epiphany in his post. Epiphany is the season that happens after Christmas - it begins on the 12th day of Christmas as we remember the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem. It continues until Ash Wednesday as we celebrate and remember important marks in Christ's life such as his baptism, his presentation at the temple, and the transfiguration where Jesus was called "Son" by the voice of God while on a mountain with Peter, James, and John. So we have this Epiphany season to think about this Light that Christ has put inside us and figure out just how to share it in a dark world. With Christ, we can shine a lot brighter than any Christmas lights.

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Year: New Me?

I love New Years resolutions. I like the idea of a fresh start and a chance to make changes for the positive. While I believe that any time of the year is a good chance to be a better you there is a certain opportunity to the first day of the year.

"Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." – Carl Bard

I tend to stack resolutions on myself and then fail come the end of January. I’m going to run every day, I’m going to quit carbs, I’m going to quit sugar, I’m going to lift weights, I’m going to fold my laundry as soon as the dryer cycle ends, I’m going to stop leaving the kitchen cabinets open. Big resolution or little resolution, I start with gusto and then taper off as the month progresses.

This year, I’m trying a new tact. My 2016 resolution is to be kind. Simple, right? One goal that covers so much ground.

Here is why I think my new goal will stick this year: I am going to choose to be kind. I’m going to make a conscious effort to think about how everything I do could affect those around me. Isn’t that what kindness is, taking responsibility for your actions and how they affect others?

When I get annoyed while trying to get my kids to bed and there’s a gallon of water on the bathroom floor from a splash competition and the youngest is crying and the oldest is whining, I’m going to remind myself that the best way to handle the situation is to be kind. I’m not going to yell (or at least I’m going to try not to yell). I’m going to think about how my reaction to the chaos that is bedtime affects them.

My mom is in a nursing home and I’m going to try to visit her more and really focus on her. I’m going to spend time with her and put away my phone and skip checking that next email or text that comes in. She has Alzheimer’s and asks the same questions again and again or makes nonsensical statements but they say that those who suffer from the disease may not remember what you said or did but they remember how you made them feel. I want her to feel like my priority during the time that we spend together.

I’m going to be less critical and less rigid in my need for perfection. I’m going to smile at strangers and do my best to help where I can. I’m going to take a moment to pet my ancient dog instead of grousing that she needs to go out again. I am going to remember that all of my actions and reactions affect my family.

So here goes, a year of being more accountable for how I interact with others. Hopefully it becomes a part of who I am so that next year, I can go back to quitting pizza and gaining a new love of Spinning and boot camp classes.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

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

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Power of Interaction

A couple weeks ago, when Ken gave the congregation the assignment to talk to an African-American person, and a person of Middle Eastern descent, I laughed in my mind. I knew this would be an easy assignment for me. See, I oversee 120 Gifted and Talented kids at Wheat Ridge High School, who span age, diversity, and economic status. I had already picked out the two kids I'd talk to.

So I sat down to talk to my "person of Middle Eastern descent." It's a girl I talk to very frequently, and we've known each other for a few years. This is a teenager who comes to school dressed in her hijab and shawl, while underneath, wearing an American Eagle shirt, jeans, and Converses. She's such a cool citizen of both worlds, and has never left either side of herself behind. She also calmly explains her religion any time a person asks why she wears a hijab and shawl; she prefers to educate people, instead of becoming frustrated that they don't understand her culture.

So I sat down with her and jokingly said, "Alright, this is going to be very difficult, because I was charged this week with talking to a Middle Eastern person; who will I ever talk to for this?" She laughed heartily, but her laughter changed almost immediately to tears. I was so confused, and asked her what was wrong; she is a very cheerful and friendly person, and I had never seen her cry. She explained to me that her extremely traditional Muslim father, who is the "I am the head of this house, I am never to be questioned" type of father had just had a falling out with her. She questioned a decision he made, which none of her sisters or mother had ever done, and he told her to leave. She explained that she ran away, and was not living at home. We ended up talking for an hour and a half, through one of her other classes, and made arrangements for her to live with her grandparents. She told me she had never had a male who she could talk to, and trust with her feelings. She also said that the interaction meant so much to her, but she has no idea how much it meant to me.

So this whole interaction stemmed from listening to Ken's advice to strike up conversation with someone who I even regularly talk to. I'm not sure where she would be living right now if this conversation hadn't happened, but she now has a place to stay, is safe, and is with people who understand her and her feelings.

Elliott has been attending BUMC since 2012 with his wife, Kyla. Since attending, he has worked with technology for services, as well as camera work on Easter and Christmas, while Kyla sings. He is a high school Gifted and Talented teacher at Wheat Ridge High School, and is in his 6th year of teaching. He lives in Arvada with his wife and two dogs.

Monday, January 4, 2016

WOW Moments

On this New Year's Eve I did something I haven't done in 30 years. I partied with friends outside my own home and theirs (spoiler alert: as you age you tend to be more home bound for the holidays and then you die!). The party was hosted by a very dear couple from BUMC at a high-rise in downtown Denver. We were at private residential club with a splendid view of the skyline, the Rockies, and a Christmas colors-lit rooftop pool. The prayer WOW filled my mind, spirit and soul as I scoped the venue.

One to the traditions of this party is for guests to introduce themselves to one another and share a memorable event from the prior year. I celebrated that I no longer have to pay college tuition or expenses for any of my daughters after seven year stretch of  digging deep to make it happen. My three daughters collectively have earned six degrees and now one has career path job and the other two are pursuing doctorates on their dime. The prayer WOW fills my mind, spirit and soul! Stunningly, every guest lifted WOW moments from 2015: survival of a bone marrow transplant, beating cancer for ten years, and finding ones' soulmate at age 65 all made the highlight reel at the party. The theme of the highlights was "God provides."

I was reminded on the last day of 2015 that the best provider the universe has ever known is God. Pastor Timothy Merrill teaches:  

 "Remember Abraham and the ram in the thicket which God provides for the burnt offering, thus saving the life of his son? The Bible says, "Abraham called the name of that ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it will be provided’"- Genesis 22:13-14.

How can you anticipate God's provisions in your life in 2016? I believe God is a God who not only sees our conditions, but he does something about them. To do nothing for us would be neglect and to continue this pattern of neglect overtime would be abandonment. God never abandons! 
It's been said that God sees us and then God sees to it that we are provided for rather generously. This upcoming year I pray you enjoy the bounty of God's provision. May you lack for nothing you need, and be WOWed by God's provision for things you want. And above all else remember, "God is with you in everything you do" -Genesis 21:22.  Happy New Year!

Ken Brown is the senior pastor at BUMC. You can contact him at