Category Archives: Inspiration

Church Leadership Inspiration St Paul's UMC United Methodists

My Address to St. Paul’s UMC, Church Conference 2015

Every year, each United Methodist Church conducts a Charge Conference or Church Conference to go over some business of the church. It’s also a time to reflect on the past year and dream about the future. Instead of having every committee share what they’ve done this year, they asked me to summarize the work of the church and share it at our Church Conference. This is what I said:

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Church Leadership Churches Inspiration

What Happened This Weekend

         Well, my daughter got her first hair cut, the Patriots won the Superbowl, oh yeah, and TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE READ MY STORY OF LEAVING THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE.

         Let me just say that having your story read by thousands of people you don’t know is nerve racking. At a certain point, you have no control of what people will do with you. Most people sent words of care and comfort. Some have shared their stories of staying or leaving. Some have questioned my story. A few have questioned my motives. As the number of views and comments grew, I prepared myself for some negative comments. But, you know, it’s still nerve racking.

I want to quickly say a few things and then share something that happened because of that post. read more »

Church Leadership Churches Inspiration St Paul's UMC United Methodists

My Address to St. Paul’s at Church Conference

Every year, each United Methodist Church conducts a Charge Conference or Church Conference to go over some business of the church. It’s also a time to reflect on the past year and dream about the future. Instead of having every committee share what they’ve done this year, they asked me to summarize the work of the church and share it at our Church Conference. This is what I said:

I’ve been the pastor here at St. Paul’s for just over 16 months, and a lot of things have changed over those months. 

When we arrived to St. Paul’s in July of last year, our daughter Clementine was only 6 months old. She couldn’t say a word. She wasn’t crawling yet. We were still combing her hair in ways to hide her bald spots. Today, Clementine is different, and that’s a good thing. She has a favorite song, a favorite color, she goes down slides by herself, and this week she formulate her first sentence all on her own. She said, “I see snow.”

Before coming to St. Paul’s, I had no experience in being a lead pastor. I had been a youth pastor for 8 years. If you’re doing the math, that means some crazy pastor hired me, to be a youth pastor when I was only 20 years old. Before coming to St. Paul’s, I was only used to preaching at most, once a month. I had only ever done 2 memorial services, and one of them was for a gathering of 3 people. Today, I am different, and that’s a good thing. In my first year at St. Paul’s, I’ve performed 5 memorial services. I’ve formed sermons and sermon series that I pray God has used to inspire, move, and direct you to our loving Christ. I’ve held hands with people as we’ve listened to last breaths of their loved ones. I’m changed by St. Paul’s, and that’s a good thing. 

Today, St. Paul’s is different, too, and that’s a good thing. read more »

Christian Culture Fun Inspiration Life

A Break Up Note: With Certainty

You just think about what you've done, Certainty.
You just think about what you’ve done, Certainty.

Dear Certainty,

Sorry to do it this way, but it’s over.

     We had our time, and it was good. You really strengthened me over the years. You gave me courage to say and do some pretty awesome things. Because of you, I–more or less–stayed out of trouble when I was young. You helped me in college, and that was nice. Because of you, I was never really unsure of where to go with my life. I really need to thank you for that.

     But let’s be honest, Certainty, you’ve gotten me into a number of fights, too. read more »

Devotional Thought Inspiration Justice Spiritual Practices What I'm Reading

“I Will Gather Still Others to Those I Have Already Gathered”

Isaiah 56:3-8

The Lord says:

Don’t let the immigrant who has joined with the Lord say,
“The Lord will exclude me from the people.”
And don’t let the eunuch say,
“I’m just a dry tree.”
The Lord says:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
choose what I desire,
and remain loyal to my covenant.
In my temple and courts, I will give them
a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.
I will give to them an enduring name
that won’t be removed.
The immigrants who have joined me,
serving me and loving my name, becoming my servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath without making it impure,
and those who hold fast to my covenant:
I will bring them to my holy mountain,
and bring them joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their entirely burned offerings and sacrifices on my altar.
My house will be known as a house of prayer for all peoples,
says the Lord God,
who gathers Israel’s outcasts.
I will gather still others to those I have already gathered.

Church Leadership Churches Family Inspiration

Portland, Hotel Bathroom 3 am, Thoughts on being better

where awake parents are exiled to.
where awake parents are exiled to.

Good morning or whatever it is for you when you read this. I am currently in the bathroom of of our hotel room in Portland, OR, and the time is about 3:00 am. More on why I’m in the bathroom later, and more on why I am awake later. I have a couple blog posts in the hopper and will be getting them up soon. I’m also going to try my hand at some videos soon, but for now, I just have a lot on my mind that I feel like I have to get out.

Well, now is later.

I’m in a bathroom
So, I’m here in Portland to attend my church’s Bishop’s Symposium, a time for all the United Methodist pastors in Oregon-Idaho to get together, hear big speakers, dream, worship, and make plans on how to better equip people to be awesome. Joanna and Clementine are joining me in Portland. We have family and friends here, and Clementine has never seen the ocean, which is what we’ll do tomorrow today.

Things are never that bad with these two.
Things are never that bad with these two.

So why am I in the bathroom blogging away on my iPad? Because we haven’t quite mastered the fine art of traveling with a 9 mo old. The trip’s been a little rough for baby Clementine-lemon-lime. She pretty much didn’t sleep yesterday and is pretty frustrated that her english just isn’t where she wants it to be right now. I try to encourage her, but she’s pretty hard on herself. So, I’m in the bathroom because C-town is asleep in the hotel room we’re sharing, and when she’s asleep, only sleeping people can be in that room. All the awake people have to go to the bathroom. read more »

Christian Culture Church Leadership Inspiration Theology

How to Make Disciples and Why I Don’t Like the Sinners’ Prayer

     If converting people to Christianity was like buying shoes, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is like swiping the credit card and signing the receipt. It’s kind of the linchpin to a proselytizing session. The goal of all the selling, persuading, and smiling is to get the person that believes differently than you to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” And like the credit card, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is an invention to make the transaction as simple as possible.

     I was trained as a teenager to proselytize my friends to my faith. I was trained to get into conversations, and the ultimate goal was to seal the deal by getting people to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

     My first encounter with the prayer was after a terrifying Christian play. I might have mentioned this before. I was 12 yrs old, and I attended a play consisting of something like 20 vignettes of people just before some sort of freak accident (like a brick wall falling on them). Each vignette then depicted the characters waking up in front of an angel with a book, and if they at some point in their life said the “Sinner’s Prayer” and really believed it, then the Hallelujah Chorus would play and they’d get to go to heaven. 

     However, the majority of the characters had not said this prayer, so Satan and his demons would slink from the wings to drag these poor souls, kicking and screaming, into a hell of cray paper and strobe lights. At the end of the play, some guy that I didn’t know and didn’t know me came out and told me that I needed to give my life to Jesus or I would go to hell, and then he led me and other scared children in the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Transaction complete, I even got a receipt.

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Devotional Thought Inspiration Theology

What If Adam and Eve Never Ate the Apple?

Think about guys...
Think about guys…

     For now, let’s not scrutinize the story. Let’s just accept it as it is. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate the fruit they were told not to, and a bunch of consequences issued forth: snakes lost their legs and became hated by people, women will have pain in child birth, the earth will be harsh and harder to farm, etc.

     But what if Adam and Eve never ate the apple? The story makes us imagine this “what if?” What if Adam and Eve lived on in blissful obedience? What if history marched on and no one disobeyed God? When I was kid, I used to imagine that world. I assumed it would be everyone in the Garden of Eden playing nude volleyball forever and ever. Makes sense.

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Devotional Thought Inspiration Music Spiritual Practices

Even the darkness will not be dark to You

Even the darkness will not be dark to you – psalm 139,12

I remember the first time I visited Carlsbad Caverns on a family vacation when I was a child. I remember going through a cave where we were going to experience absolute darkness, not a single photon to illuminate an uneven walkway or possible enemies lying in wait. We entered the sense altering cave. I clenched my dad’s jacket tighter. It was the only thing that I could be sure of in the darkness. Even though I was surrounded by people, holding on to my dad, I couldn’t help but feel worried. The darkness even made me feel — alone.

In Psalm 139, the writer is asking where can we go to get away from God. Where could we go that God’s presence wouldn’t be? If we went to heaven, God was there, if we went to the grave, God was there, if we fled across the sea to the corners of the earth, God’s hand would be there to hold us. Then the writer asks about the darkness. Even if the darkness is thrusted upon us, and we feel the dread and loneliness of the unknown, or even if we choose to hide in the darkness, hoping no one sees our pain or weakness, even then, God will be there. Even the darkness will not be dark to you – means that there is nowhere that God is unwilling to go for us. Even in the darkness, God sees the path out of the cave. Even there God sees us as we truly are, and God chooses to be with us. Know, today, that even when darkness closes in, God is with you, guiding you, loving you, and not afraid to go into the darkness for you.

Peace,

Ric Shewell

Below is a great song by Mike Crawford and His Secret Siblings. The song is Search Me, based on Psalm 139. Check it out and click the graphic to visit their site and listen to more music. Even the Darkness

Christian Culture Church Leadership Devotional Thought Inspiration Spiritual Practices

Christian Living is Like Improv Acting

 Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.15.19 PMThe second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND… to me, YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.

(Tina Fey, Bossypants)

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   I love stories. I love hearing about heroes, conflict, growth, redemption, victory, and love. I especially love hearing true stories, stories of peoples’ origins, struggles, and family. Stories are how we understand ourselves. When we describe ourselves to new acquaintances, we don’t describe our dimensions! We tell stories. Stories are how we understand our world, each other, and even things beyond our understanding.

     As Christians, we are a people of a particular story. It has a beginning, middle, and end, filled with dynamic and round read more »