Fill’er up

It has been a week! Well, it has been two weeks actually. Last week the community I serve celebrated its county fair. The Central Kansas Free Fair in Abilene, KS, is a blast! Yes, it was hot. It is August in Kansas. And I had an amazing time.  I hope that if you were around here, you got to enjoy it too!

Then, I was blessed to spend the first part of this week in Schuyler, Nebraska, at the St. Benedict Retreat Center for a pastoral spiritual retreat. Fair warning, I am not a fan of any retreats, conferences, or seminars. I’m just not. I went anyway.

Few places in this world give you peace simply because you drive onto the property, but St. Benedict’s is one.  I hadn’t realized how empty my spiritual tank was getting. It was almost like I had been trying not to fill it up like I had trying not to fill up my gas tank. Was I afraid that the cost was going to be too high? Was I just not paying attention to the warning light saying I was empty? Was I simply too busy with other stuff to take the time to fill up? Probably a bit of all three.  And when I pulled into St. Benedict’s, I felt like the refilling process had already begun.

Ironically, I had been praying for peace in my soul. I had been asking for time to just be where I didn’t feel like I had to be busy with the church or busy unpacking boxes. I had been searching for insight into God’s plan with my life and that God hadn’t forgotten me like a text that had been read and then lost in the other texts. But I wasn’t slowing down and taking the time to let God speak to me on these things. I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me. Quite frankly, I was asking God for answers and then letting my pride answer instead of God.  But God has a way of breaking in and breaking through. Let me know if that has ever happened to you. I would love to hear about it!

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Don’t forget to bring your coins for the Coin Toss for UMCOR Relief and to help decide if we are wearing blue and red, or purple on September 4th.  (K-State fans are ahead of KU currently . . . ) Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Grace and Peace,

rev. mik

St. Benedict Retreat Center in Schuyler, NE.
Mik with a young Clydesdale house at the fair in Abilene, KS. 2022

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Sometimes, you have to just decide.

Hello All!

I have been so thankful for the cooler temperatures and the rain! I have needed the rain to help the grass in my yard.  My pets and I have appreciated the cooler weather outside. It has been a blessing! Well, it has been a blessing for me. Has it been for you too?

Blessings can be funny things for humans. Sometimes, when I am going through something that I see as a trial, it is actually a blessing in disguise.  Those really trip me up! I get annoyed that something is not going the way I planned it, but it turns out to be better than my plan.  Or perhaps, we find ourselves at a crossroads wondering which way to go and just hoping that we pick the “right” one for things to go “our way”. Again, so that we can have our idea of what a blessing should be.

As I have found myself at different crossroads over the years, I have begun to think that as long as I am being as faithful as I can be to God’s call on my life, that God’s blessings will come. They don’t always come in the way I expect or want, but they do come. Now, I’m not saying to go the opposite way of God is calling you and expect blessings (think Jonah and whale!).  My thought is this: if we are trying our best to be faithful and follow God, and we come to a fork in the road and both choices are in line with God’s call – it is possible for God to use either decision we make to help out the Kin-dom of God.  For example, perhaps God is calling you to go to college and both KU and KSU feel like good places to go (It’s possible!!! 😉) Perhaps which one you go to isn’t as important as the fact that you go to college. Perhaps God is calling you to be more involved in the church and it could be this ministry and or that ministry. Perhaps, it’s just a matter of choosing a ministry and then letting God bless it.  

I don’t pretend to have the answer you need on what your current crossroad is. I do promise to walk with you as you discern (that’s the big theological term for figuring out which way God wants you to go) your choice and then go and do it.

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Grace and Peace,

rev. mik

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Ordinary Summertime Blues

Greetings All!

When I was younger, I remember that there was a song by Eddie Cochran that I loved, “Summertime Blues.” It has a fantastic beat and an addictive riff. It also, has words, that many of us can relate to in the midst of a hot July.

Sometimes I wonder
What I’m a-gonna do
But there ain’t no cure
For the summertime blues

                                                -Summertime Blues sung by Eddie Cochran

Truthfully, it’s hot outside. (Don’t forget to check in on your neighbors!) Many are in between harvest and fair time and school hasn’t started yet. As such, we might be finding ourselves in that “in-between time.”  We are finishing up some early summer projects and getting ready for the last summer or even fall projects.  I always think that I want these times when my life is very busy. And yet, when I’m here, I’m usually a little restless just waiting for the next thing.

In the church, this is called “Ordinary Time.” Ordinary does not refer to “ordinary” like we use it in English. It refers to ordinal numbers as in what number of Sundays it is after one special Sunday or season and before the next special Sunday or season.[1]  But I admit, it can feel a bit “ordinary” at times. (oh, please laugh when you read that!) Summertime blues can begin to feel a bit appropriate.

However, there might be a different way to look at it. Over and over again in scripture, we can read how God changes up the ordinary. A young shepherd boy becomes King. A woman of dubious social standing saves Joshua, a great military leader. A well-known persecutor of the early church becomes its most well-known apostle.  What if God uses the ordinary to make the extraordinary happen? If we looked at this time like that – would it change how we acted and perhaps reacted to things? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Grace and Peace,

rev. mik


[1] For more information on this please see https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-is-ordinary-time

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Hello All! 

I want to say thank you again for the warm welcome that I have received here! You have been very gracious and grace filled as we have stated our journey together and I am very grateful for that. It’s hard to start something new. Even if you have started something new many times, each time is  . . . well . . . new. 😊 And beyond difficult, sometimes it’s just plain scary.  

You might be shocked to learn that I like water slides. I don’t ride them often because I feel like I’m getting older, but when I do, I remember that I’m still young-ish.  On Wednesday, I got to go with the youth group to the water park in Salina.  And there were water slides.  I stepped out with trepidation and asked myself why I was doing this again.  I almost let the fear of the unknown stop me. And, then I went I sliding down, around, and all over and I’m so glad I did! It was awesome!  

As we continue to look at new beginnings this week, we will be looking at beginning with courage. Sometimes, fear can make us Forget Everything And Run. Other times, fear can make us Face Everything And Rise. I have faith that when God is calling us into a new beginning, we are called to do the latter. Where is God calling you to go with courage? What is God calling us to do with courage? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!  

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:30 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. 

Grace and Peace, 

rev. mik 

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You’ve got to believe it’s getting better . . .

That song has been in my head for a while now. Well, that and VBS songs because they NEVER go away. The lyrics to this song by the Beatles are actually really intense. I was surprised when I looked them up. The idea is that this guy’s life is so bad that it can’t get any worse, but it is getting better. There is some serious truth in that for all of us. Not that it can’t get worse, because it can. But it can, and it does get better. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. (wait! I’ve switched to movies now!)

I do believe that though. I have hope and faith that it does get better than this. I realize that the world we live in isn’t perfect. And for some, the world is downright dangerous and broken. I don’t deny that. What happened at the July 4th parade in Indiana is a very stark reminder of things being bad. And, I also believe that we can make things better.

When Jesus called his first disciples he said that the Kingdom of God was at hand. At Pentecost, people who couldn’t communicate suddenly, through the Holy Spirit, could. What would happen if we started living like that right now? The Kin-dom is at hand and let’s figure out how to communicate with those we haven’t been able to before. Let’s live into this getting better idea that God is calling us into.

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:30 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Grace and Peace,

rev. mik

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Breathing Grace

Just about the time I want to rant and rail at the world, I am reminded that everyone has a cross to bear.  Everyone is going through something.  Now, that’s not an excuse for people to be mean to one another. Just because you are going through something doesn’t mean you get to treat other people cruelly.  And, it’s not a reason to let someone walk on you, cheat you, or take advantage you. Just because someone is hurting, doesn’t mean you have to be their physical, mental, or emotional punching bag.  That’s not how this works.  But it is a reminder to take a breath before we breathe fire and brimstone at the world or others.  It is reminder to practice, in the words of Nate Regier, compassionate accountability with others and with ourselves.

 

Maybe if we could all just take a breath, we could see that we all breathe the same air on this planet.  We are all trying to survive and make a better life for our kids, our families, and ourselves.  None of us are perfect and, none of us are beyond redemption.  So, here’s hoping that we can begin working together and see the divine spark in each person we come across.  Here’s hoping that grace is more than word, but a way of life.  Here’s hoping we can begin to breathe grace.

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How did it feel?

 

I wonder how it felt.   What happened to the disciples when the resistance they thought was God planned and anointed turned out completely different than they expected?  In a world that was oppressive to them, from numerous sides, they thought they had found a hero.  No, more than that; they thought they had found a messiah.  How did it feel?

 

 

 

How did it feel to learn to that it wasn’t just that they were oppressed, but that they were oppressing others?  How did it feel to learn that the lines drawn between them and the “others” were needing to be blurred in more ways than one?  How did it feel to learn that all that righteous anger and frustration were going to have to give way to love and forgiveness as opposed to a military coup? How did it feel to let go of the preconceived notions of neighbor and friend, and realize that they had to work with all for the betterment of all?  

 

 

 

Was it humbling?  Was there a touch of guilt?  Did they feel remorse?  Did they want to try to do better?  Was it . . .  freeing?  Was it freeing to learn that they did not have to sit in judgement of who was saved and who was condemned?  Was it feeing to learn they were to love all because they were loved first? Did it help to know that they had been offered a chance to change and others had that same opportunity?  Did it make it easier to know that they were not God and as such, were not going to get it right every day?  That some days they would actually get it completely wrong but they had the opportunity to turn and get it right?  And did it help to know that EVERYONE had that same opportunity?  Was it helpful to know that the whole point was to keep trying, to not give up, to keep loving, and to keep following that messiah who showed them a different way?

 

 

 

I think so.     

 

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Ash Wednesday

And here we are- Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  I have been asked many times why my protestant church, United Methodist, participates in a “Catholic” ritual.  There are many answers that could come from this such as the idea that we are an off shoot of the Church of England, which is an off shoot of Catholicism (with the monarch as head, the archbishop of Canterbury, and without a Pope). As such, we still have Ash Wednesday.  That is oversimplified.  The longer version, as shared by www.umc.org says this, “In the Bible, sprinkling oneself with ashes was traditionally a sign of one’s sorrow for having committed sins. In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday also marked the beginning of preparation for the understanding of the death and resurrection of Christ.”  

 

But does that really answer the question?  Like many services and rituals, Christian or not, the answer is somewhere in both of these answers mixed with a personal understanding.  Ash Wednesday, regardless of denominational affiliation, is a set aside time to acknowledge where we are.  Yes, Jesus offers us grace and salvation, but if we don’t acknowledge we need it, then it becomes a beautiful gift that stays wrapped up on the top shelf of the closet.  It stays out of reach, and unused.  Ash Wednesday is an opportunity to see ourselves for where we are in our lives and to refocus our lives on God.  It is time to time to turn from the clutter in our lives that keeps us from God and to turn to God.  It is an opportunity to repent.

 

Is there something in your life that is keeping you from God?  Is there something in your life that is getting in the way of your following in Jesus’s footsteps?  I know that I have things I need to let go of this Lenten Season.  I know that I must acknowledge my mortality and my need of God’s precious love and grace made manifest through Christ.

 

O God of Creation,

You know exactly where I am and what I have done.

Forgive me. 

Help me.

Let me accept your help and your gift of love.

Allow me to follow your path.

And then let me share that love with others.

Amen.

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Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  It is 2 days shy of the 2 month anniversary of his death.  I still find myself wanting to call him.  I want to watch his favorite TV shows, not because I really like them, but because I remember how he loved them.  I am finally in a spot that I can post the Eulogy I gave at his service.

Good Morning.

It is my honor to be able to speak to you about my father, Ray King.  When my son found out that I was speaking he asked me what I was going to say.  I asked him what I should say and he told me, “You should say that Pa Ray was a good guy.”  And he was.  He was a very good guy.  And my dad said that a lot to Jacob, “You are good guy Jacob.”  So this is a very high honor.

Jay also said that I should let you know that Pa Ray was a joker.  He was.  He loved a good joke.  He loved a bad joke for that matter.  I can’t speak about him without asking if you are ready for the bad joke of the day.  He asked everyone that.  And people did not tell him no.  They responded to him.  So this is the first joke that I really remember him telling.  Are you ready for the bad joke of the day?  And, you have to say yes. J

Did you hear about the shipwreck?  Well there was a shipwreck and there were 3 survivors.  They made it into the life boat and as they floated away they noticed the storm was coming.  They said, “We should have just stayed on the ship!  We aren’t going to make it!” The first guy said, “I wish I knew how to pray!” The second responded, “I’m just as scared as you, but I don’t know how to pray either!” The third spoke up. “Well . . .  . . . We didn’t ever go to church but we lived next to one and sometimes they got loud!”  The storm was coming closer! “I don’t know that that I remember it exactly  . . . .” His friends said it didn’t matter and encouraged him to pray!  The third man went into a trance, with his eyes shut and his hands raised he spoke out, “B 9! I 27! N 40! G 55! O 72! Bingo!!!”  (I totally get the irony of this joke and my profession!)

Dad was a joker but he had a very good philosophy. Daddy’s philosophy was based around giving it good effort.  His question for me many times was, “Did you give it good effort?  And remember, your good effort today is not the same as your good effort yesterday or your good effort tomorrow.  But did you give it good effort today?” See, he understood that sometimes the outcome was going to be what you wanted and sometimes it wasn’t.  But if you gave it good effort every day then you were doing all right.  And that effort was meant for work, school and family.

He believed in good effort in all.  He was drafted into the Army, but was given a medial discharge because his disease was manifesting even then, though they believed it was something else.  He still gave it good effort.  He was dedicated to his job and believed that every kid deserved the best opportunity to succeed.  His calling was Middle School counseling, (you can insert your own bad joke here) and as the first Middle School Counselor of the year for the State of Kansas it was acknowledged that he gave it good effort.

He also gave good effort to his family.  He loved his mother, grandmother and siblings so very much.  When he married his wife Jani in 1971 he could not believe that this beautiful woman was his wife and they spent the next 44 years living, laughing, traveling and loving together.  When his grandson was born in 2004 he was so proud and excited and he and Jacob were as close as could be.

I wish that I could tell you all the things that make my dad wonderful.  I wish I could tell you about all the car shows and the train shows and the concerts and trips and the coffee mugs and the hats and the random tools that ended up in my garage – I got an engine hoist this year as part of my graduation gift.  I wish I could explain a man who saw God as someone who cries with us in the midst of tragedies.  But I don’t have a life time to tell you everything.  So I will leave you with this.  This June we went to Orlando as a family.  We went to Magic Kingdom, Disney World and Universal Studies.  Dad had a ball.  We did the rides he loved from Peter Pan, Small World, the Haunted Mansion as well as doing something new the Hogwart’s Express.  He was tired.  But he wanted to live his life all the way.  And he did.  He was passionate, funny, smart, annoying with one liners, and a good guy who gave it good effort every day.  He was loved, is loved, and will be missed by many. To my mother I am so sorry.  My heart is with you.  To his sister Kathryn and his brother Robert my sincerest sympathies. I thank God for Raymond King.

Did you give it good effort today?  Whatever your good effort was for today, did you give it?  And if you did, then it was a good day – no matter the outcome!  So what is your good effort?  What can you celebrate today that you gave your good effort to?  Start a movement!  Maybe if we gave our good effort everyday- we could make this world a little bit better and little bit brighter!  #GoodEffort

And because it is his birthday- and he would call early in the morning and sing this song on my birthday- I share it with you.

 Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday to you!

 

Grace and Peace,

Mik

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Kick In the Pants

Sometimes, you just need a good kick in the pants.  I have to admit I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure.  It happens, probably more than I care to admit.   When we hold people up as leaders, we look to them to have some answers.  Or at least to be surer about the things they are leading than we are.  It doesn’t always work that way.   I love my job!  It is my calling and I am blessed to be able to do it.  But sometimes, I wonder if I am cut out to do this.  Sometimes, I wonder in the midst of my stuff how on Earth I could help others.  Sometimes, I think, “God, is it possible I answered someone else’s call???”

The answer is, of course, no.  I answered my call.  But that doesn’t mean that it is always easy or without  . . . challenges.  So today, I was feeling it.  I woke up dreading the day, the drive, and daunting tasks of finishing school and graduating, saying good bye to my wonderful churches, and full of nerves that I would actually have the gifts and graces to be a good match for the wonderful church I am going to.    I sent my son off to school and finished getting ready and packing my car.  And I prayed for something.  I wasn’t even sure what I was praying for.  Maybe I just wanted to feel bathed in the Holy Spirit as opposed to checking things off the list.  My father, who is staying with my son while I do my weekly trek to Tulsa, let me just talk and was present with me.  He’s good at that. 🙂   I went to work and made a phone call on the way. (Yes, hands free! 🙂 ) My mom, gave me the pep talk to at least get me moving.  She’s good at that. 🙂

I hit the office and started checking off the list.  In the midst of this, a member of the community stopped by my office.  He has done this before and I enjoy our time together.  He talked about some of the things he is going through and then reflected on how God had been moving in his life.  In the moment, listening to someone else, I was bathed in the Spirit.  I was reminded that God works in our lives even we are unaware or are simply going through the motions.  It was humbling.  And empowering.  It reminded me that we are not alone on our journey.  We journey with others who are also going through the ups and downs of this life.  Broken and mangled and misunderstand as life (and all of us!) may be, it is still full of wonder, mercy and God’s ever present love and grace.

Jeremiah has a verse that speaks to me a lot.  “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV).  Sometimes, this is hard to live into.  But I have noticed that when I am afraid, or worried, or just dreading whatever is coming that hope finds me.  Even when I am not necessarily looking for it.  It gets me out of the doldrums.  It reminds me that I am a child of God, just like you.  And I felt peace, love, and the Spirit surround me and kick me back into gear with a smile on my face.  Thanks be to God.

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