Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mission Accomplished? By Dr. Jim Savage

It has become fashionable for businesses - and churches - to write mission statements. A mission statement is a brief summary of the meaning and purpose of the organization for which it is written. It is a guide for the leadership of an organization as to how they will relate to their customers, stockholders, employees, parishioners and to one another.

It is a good idea. When everyone in an organization pledges themselves to a statement of purpose, it saves the organization from getting away from its central purpose. Good idea!

A few years ago a minister friend came across a mission statement from a well-known major national corporation. I was so impressed with the statement that I decided to share it with you. Here it is.

RESPECT - We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don't belong here.

INTEGRITY - We will work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.

COMMUNICATION - We have an obligation to communicate.

EXCELLENCE - We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.

I like those values. Would you not like to do business with a company, or attend a church, which includes those values in their mission statement? Sounds like it would be a great place to work. But what happens to our trust level when those values are just words?

The values listed above are in the mission statement of the Enron Corporation. I doubt that any of you need to be briefed concerning the Enron Corporation. At one congressional hearing, a legislator spoke of Enron as the "Betty Crocker of Cooked Books".

Does your church or your business have a mission statement? Do you have a mission statement for your life? The world does not really care how pretty your statement sounds. The world only wants to know if you accomplish the mission of your statement.

Any organization (or anyone) who has a mission statement should have some point on a continuum where some objective test is administered to see if the mission is being accomplished.

Monday, June 29, 2009

On Celebrating Independence Day

Yesterday we quit what we were doing, laid aside the working tools of our vocation, and celebrated the birthday of America’s Independence which officially dates back to July 4, 1776 – 231 years ago. The specifics of that celebration vary so widely that it would make an alien in our midst wonder if we were all celebrating the same historical event; if, indeed, any historical event at all. Many made their way to the river or the beach to picnic, party, fish, barbeque, or just sit in the shade and enjoy the scenery. Some gathered around the flag pole at parks to hear patriotic speeches and remember fallen comrades from at least as far back as 1941; while children climbed on and played around decorative abandoned instruments of war – tanks, planes, old ships, and cannons. Old men wore ill-fitting uniforms which when they were young fit so well. There were misty-eyed old soldiers whose chins quivered at the sound of Taps as they remembered with painful specificity the names and faces and lives of comrades at arms who did not make it. Here and there some made their way to cemeteries to touch the grave stones of friends, loved ones, and fallen comrades who lie forgotten by the thoughtless many for whom they died, but remembered by those sacred few who promised never to forget – and they never have. Then there were the mindless many who not only know no history, they do not care to learn, and thus they celebrate "the 4th of July" as "a day off" with little or no thought of the sacrifices, drama, and sacred history that bequeathed them the privileges and freedoms so thoughtlessly exercised as entitlements without root or reason.
The thoughtless thousands for whom the day had no meaning beyond a "day off" remind me of the lazy worker who waltzed into the workplace 45 minutes late. The supervisor said to him/her: "You should have been here at 8:00," to which the tardy worker replied: "Why? What happened?"
What happened 231 years ago yesterday, which we tend to refer to so non-specifically as "the 4th of July?" The brave people who are our ancestors – who came here as aliens from so many different places and for so many different reasons, finally were fed up with the disrespect with which they were treated. It was not just taxation without representation, it was the tyranny and oppression from which they fled which followed them across the ocean. One anonymous pamphleteer characterized our forbears like this:
"They left their native land in search of freedom, and found it in a desert. Divided as they are (were) into a thousand forms of policy and religion, there was one point in which they all agreed: they equally detested the pageantry of a king and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop." They decided to be done with unelected political and religious authority which listened to no voice but their own."
It was Patrick Henry who in March of 1775 articulated the sentiment of the American masses. "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what the course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Some 56 leaders in the fledgling colonies took out their pens, stepped up to the table and signed the Declaration of Independence; indicating, at risk of life and fortune: "So say we all." Brave men and women have affirmed that declaration many times over the past 231 years. Many died in and for that cause. And, if we hope to continue as a beacon of hope for freedom loving people around the world, doubtless many more will continue in that endless line of splendor.
That was what yesterday was all about – not "the 4th of July", please.
Repeat after me: "Independence Day," long may it last!
AN ENCOURAGING WORD FOR July 12, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Monday, June 22, 2009

Signs and Wonders (1)


"God delivers and rescues, He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth." (Dan 6:27)

"Our work is constant, our homes are full. The problems of the poor continue, so our work continues. Yet everyone, not just the Missionaries of Charity, can do something beautiful for God by reaching out to the poor people in their own countries. I see no lack of hesitation in helping others. I see only people filled with God's Love, wanting to do Works of Love. This is the future----this is God's wish for us-----to serve through Love in Action, and to be Inspired by the Holy Spirit to Act when Called." ( Mother Teresa)

Even Comedians Cry, by Dr. Jim Savage

Eighteenth Century British physician, Dr. John Abernathy, was visited by a patient complaining of depression. After an examination the doctor pronounced, "You need amusement. Go and hear the comedian Grimaldi; he will make you laugh and that will be better for you than any drugs". Said the patient, "I am Grimaldi".

Comedians are sometimes sad, comforters need comforting, and even the most optimistic get depressed sometimes. After her death, we learned that even Mother Teresa had some serious doubts and nagging depression.

There is a recurring theme in bumper stickers these days in which different professional groups proclaim they need love, i.e., "School Teachers Need Love, Too", "Truck Drivers Need Love, Too", etc. Even comedians cry sometimes.

We tend to think that certain professional groups are immune to the ills and troubles that are common to those of us who are just regular vanilla human beings. Most people have a difficult time envisioning their doctors being sick, their psychiatrist depressed, and a school teacher not knowing something or their pastor having doubts. This comes (at least in part) from our habit of defining personhood by vocation. When we say: "Hello, Reverend", Good morning, doctor", "How are you, judge?", "Goodbye, commissioner", Greetings, counselor", or Goodnight, professor", we tend to miss the personhood of the individual. In being too conscious of the titles people carry, we can ignore the delicate and unique personhood of the individuals behind the titles.

Some of us may have a need to think that our 'professional idols' are immune to the ills that are common to all, thinking that if they are not perfect they will lose their power to help us. Whether perfection would improve the quality of the labors of those we look up to, I am not sure, but that they are not perfect, I am sure. We sometimes wish we were. Sometimes we try to be. God forgive us, we occasionally pretend to be. But the truth remains: comedians sometimes cry, even doctors get sick, and clergy have doubts occasionally.

Tomorrow, when you meet and greet your favorite professional idol, the one you hold in highest esteem, and the one you suspect may walk on water in his/her spare time, let your greeting penetrate the title. There is probably a real live human being back there who needs some understanding, kindness and warmth.

Monday, June 15, 2009

AFFIRMATION: I Boldly Believe in Ongoing Conversion, by Dr. Jim Savage

One change in my Life may initiate nothing more that me making simple modifications. Another Change may lead to an incredible Transformation for me....for others.......Learning....Sharing....on the Journey together........Christians Need one another!

I consider each day a Golden Opportunity for me to have a fresh outlook on my world. My outlook effects others.......

No matter what the situation or timing of it, God IS my Constant Companion, and with God, I am Always Making Progress...alone....together with others........All of us.........

"All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the Glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being Transformed into the same image from one degree of Glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:18)

"A frequent intercession with God, earnestly beseeching Him to forgive the sins of All mankind, to Bless them with His Providence, Enlighten them with His Spirit, and bring them to Everlasting Happiness, is the Divinest exercise that the heart of man can be engaged in." (Wm Law, 1686-1761)

"Our prayer for others ought never be: 'God! give them the Light Thou hast given to me!' but: 'Give them All the Light and Truth they need for their highest development!' " (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian statesman, national leader)

"The Seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hardworking farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, Whose Seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God Seed into God." (Meister Johannes Eckhart, 1260-1327)

"Four elements of Love: Lovingkindness, Compassion, Joy and Inclusiveness." (Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk)

God Who Loves and Who Loved first, open my heart to accept Your Love and Believe that it is for me....for All.

Thank You, Father God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit. Amen. In Christ, Jim

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lest We Forget, by Dr. Jim Savage

On Memorial Day weekend, we honored the men and women who died in service of our country. We also expressed our heartfelt appreciation to those living veterans who risked their lives, but who were not called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. We also honored those members of the Armed Service and military reserves who have never been called upon to put themselves in harm's way, but who were and are ready to do so when called upon.

In times of peace, or when the war is far away, we tend to forget those who serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy. I love the poem, Recessional, by Rudyard Kipling. There is a certain solemnity about those elegant lines which call upon us, not only to remember, but to see ourselves in the light of the larger picture of history. Read these first two stanzas:

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine -

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget - lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;

The captains and the kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Host, be with us yet,

Lest we forget - lest we forget!

Some thoughtful writer put it this way:

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

We salute all the men and women, dead or alive, wounded or well, who have served our country in the name and spirit of freedom and truth. We owe them a debt that money cannot pay, and which words cannot describe. It is not a matter of which war in which they served or during which years of peace they stood ready to protect and defend the citizens of this country. There have been big wars and little wars, but no war is little to the soldier who risks his/her life for our country. And, no death is diminished by the size or length of the engagement in which a brave soldier dies. We salute, honor and offer our thanks to every soldier who has served this country, from the Revolutionary War, which made us a nation, to the present war against terrorism being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world.

Five years ago, we dedicated a long over-due memorial park in Washington, D.C. to the soldiers of one of the most extensive and serious wars in which we have ever been engaged. WWII. Sixteen million people served in that conflict. Four hundred thousand American soldiers died and hundreds of thousands more were wounded in some way. Approximately three million WWII soldiers are still alive and they are dying at the rate of 1100 each day, and that number is increasing each year. That is almost a half million each year. Soon we will not have among us the brave men of this community, whose names I will not try to recite, who fought in that war to save the world from a tyranny worse than death. Well, let me recite one name. There is not a man I know that I hold in higher esteem than that irascible, grey-haired, loveable old soldier, Charles Ray Skinner. His story will send chills up and down your spine, and bring tears to your eyes. Charles Ray Skinner had a dozen excellent chances to get killed. He never thought he would live to come home, but he did come home to tell his story, and what a story that is. He is a cardinal example of the bravery Tom Brokaw called the GREATEST GENERATION. My hat is off to Charles Ray Skinner and his kind.

I did the funeral service for my oldest brother in January this year. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, which was Hitler's last futile attempt to gain a significant victory in WW II. My Cousin Louie went down on the USS Savannah on September 11, 1943. Another cousin Bill came home, but was deeply emotionally scared by the war. There was hardly a family in our community that did not have someone in that war.

To you, the old soldiers of WW II, whose grey heads are filled with terrible memories, some memories too awful to speak, we salute you. We want you to be mindful of our love and appreciation before you leave on the LONG JOURNEY. You are truly our heroes!!! LORD GOD OF HOSTS, BE WITH US YET, LEST WE FORGET - LEST WE FORGET.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

TRINITY SUNDAY: First Sunday After Pentecost by Dr. Jim Savage

God Lives In Community

Matthew 28:16-20
"Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee....."

The eleven do go to Galilee, and Jesus appears as promised. Jesus says He has been given all authority, and then He authorizes His disciples to make disciples of all nations, which is said to involve baptizing in the Trinitarian name and teaching the converts to obey all that Jesus commanded.

But Jesus does far more than just authorize and empower His "learners." He promises to be with them (Immanuel) as the divine Power, Presence, and Wisdom of God until the close of the age. Never again will they be bereft of Him. Thus, the Gospel closes with a presentation of Jesus as God's Wisdom, His wise Presence, who dwells within the People of God and guards and guides them.

As God's people we are called to live and call others to live according to the counterorder Wisdom of Jesus, the sage. The Gospel for learners is also the Gospel for teachers. Ultimately, there is only One Teacher, One Sage, One Wisdom-----Jesus.

Why did Jesus tell the disciples that He would be with them to the end of the age?
In what ways is Jesus Christ with us today?
Consider choosing one of those ways and attempting to be especially sensitive to Jesus' Presence with you this week.

SEEK LOVE (Andrew Murray):
"Has our daily habit been to seek being filled with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Love?
When the body is divided, there cannot be strength. In the time of great conflicts, one of the mottoes is: "Unity gives strength." It is only when God's people stand as One Body, One before God in the fellowship of Love, One toward another in deep affection, One before the world in Love----it is only then that they will have Power to secure the blessing which they ask of God......Give yourselves up to Love, and the Holy Spirit will come. Receive the Spirit, and He will teach you to Love more."

"And Hope does not disappoint us, because God's Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)

We are All God's beloved creations and One in Spirit.
As divine creations, we have Love within that Connects us One with another.
Following the leading of God's Love within, I Connect with others. God's Love links us heart to heart.

Thank You, Loving God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit! Amen.

"If we Love One another, God lives in us, and His Love is perfected in us." (1 John 4:12)