TO INSANITY AND BEYOND! (The U.M.C.)

As an adult, I absolutely loved the movie Toy Story. And some will want to flog me with a wet noodle for saying this–but Buzz Lightyear is my favorite character. Even though that was nearly 25 years ago, I still love to watch that movie. Now I am seeing why I am drawn to Buzz Lightyear. It was his catchphrase: To Infinity And Beyond! But seriously, how can one go beyond infinity since infinity has no end?

And for the last few weeks, I have taken his catchphrase and replaced one word–and it is a word that describes my beloved United Methodist Church; and thus the title of today’s edition: To Insanity And Beyond! How does one go beyond insane? Clinicians in the world of behavioral science have pretty much agreed upon their definition of “Insanity”! But there is a better definition that is easily understood and on which there can be no disagreement. Well. . .unless you are insane. OK, here it is:

Insanity is doing the same things over and over and over–and expecting different results.

I am hearing, and I’m being told by my fellow United Methodists, that we are at a critical crossroads in our Tribe. I laugh to myself when I hear the word “crossroads”. The United Methodist church is at a crossroads, and the Democrats and Republicans want to be nice to each other. HAH! This may hurt the feelings of some of my fellow United Methodists, but. . .oh well! Toughen up, buttercup.

To say we are at a crossroads in the United Methodist Church declares that we have four options: go straight, turn right, turn left, or go back the way we came. This has been the situation going on for 5 decades, and the United Methodist Church continues to be in a serious state of decline every year. And what should have been decided this year has been postponed until 2021–the affect of COVID-19.

A group in my own Conference has started a movement called Stay UMC (click here for their website). Centrists and Progressive sincerely believe that we can stay UMC and maintain a diverse view of the authority and reliability of the Bible. Friends, this has been attempted now through 5 decades and we continue to be in a state of decline. It is insane to continue this way.

The image of where the United Methodist Church is at is not a crossroads, but we are at the T-Intersection!

At a T-Intersection you can’t go straight. The road has ended. Now you must choose a different direction. And because it will be a different direction, it means that we will no longer together be United Methodists. Truth is, it’s insane to think over the past 5 decades that we have even been in the same area code of United. We are fragmented and broken and the time has come for a kind and civil farewell to each other.

Make your choice because the road that the United Methodist Church has been traveling has come to a T-Intersection. It is insane to think that doing what we’ve been doing is going to produce a different outcome. If you believe that, then I refer you to my statement after paragraph 2. My fellow United Methodists, this madness must stop! I join the growing crowd who is giving up this game of Kicking The Can down the road. I know that this moment is not a Crossroads moment. Make a choice. Either we can trust The Bible or we can’t trust The Bible. Really, one cannot go beyond insanity.

A Fantasy Life

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Fantasy is a word that has been hanging around my mental space.  I can’t shake that word so I guess it’s the Spirit prompting me to get back to writing.  What provoked that word in my gray space is all the hype I’m seeing and hearing about Fantasy Football.  I mean, networks, websites, podcasts, even magazines all about this cultural obsession with this thing called Fantasy Football.  They form leagues, have drafts, and each week they see how “their” players performed, and in some magical way, determine if their teams won or lost that week.

Me?  I’m an active college football fan and I am so excited that College Football begins this week.  (Roll Tide!)  Real teams gather on the gridiron.  Real players who have been practicing and honing their skills go face to face.  Real coaches who have been instructing players and working out the game plan put it on the line to see if they are prepared for this clash on the turf.  And I admit, I don’t understand this obsession of this alleged sport of football based on something that is not real.

But it has nudged me into thinking of other types of fantasies; fantasies that some people try to get through this thing called life.  Think of it from this definition of that word “fantasy“:

supposition based on no solid foundation

And I look at my culture and I realize that so many are trying to live, cope or simply survive on a supposition that has no solid foundation.  And I weep!   Many have a Fantasy Family.  Instead of providing moral guidance, parents choose to be friends.  Kids affections are bought.  And to maintain this facade, it’s ad infinitum debt all to maintain this supposition without a foundation that they are a family.

There’s Fantasy Church, where people define the church rather than to be defined BY the Body of Christ.  Regular gathering for study, worship and fellowship once meant every week.  Now we are being told that regular means once every 3-6 weeks.  Worship is defined by entertainment value.  Preaching is formed by the latest cultural values.  Those who attend expect to be the consumers of what the church produces.  Fantasy!  A supposition that has no solid foundation.

There’s Fantasy Purpose in life.  People give in to and pursue what the culture says is our true purpose.  People live for money, status, sexual identity, politics, football and the list goes on ad nauseam.  Purpose is rooted either in selfishness or in identities given to them by the culture.

And the list of other “fantasies” goes on.  And “life” has become a fantasy.  And for many, it’s become more of a nightmare fantasy, and for others?  Life seems just an empty pipe dream.  So they turn to the fantasy world to escape the vain and empty things.  So what is the alternative to the Fantasy Life?

God, the Creator of Life, never designed this life to be a dread, a drudge and a dead-end.  In Luke 12:22-32 (NLT) Jesus gives us the Truth about life:

22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

The key to unlocking Life is first to come to the realization that, in Jesus’ own words, For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.  Some of you may be thinking, “Well, duh!  Tell me something I don’t know!”  There is a second step that comes out of Verse 32–“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”  It’s living in the Gift of Kingdom Living.  

God designed and created life to be lived in deep, caring and loving relationships.  As family, friends, neighbors, community, and even with strangers.  And these relationships take on meaning and give us purpose when we live them the way HE lives in Relationship with us.  It’s through Self-Giving.  It’s about caring more about others than self.  It is about helping, encouraging and inspiring others.  This Life is no fantasy and it’s not just another pipe dream.  It’s life as God designed it.  So walk with Him.  Listen to Him.  Talk to Him.  Lose your self, your sense of self-importance.  Lose your fears, your sense of worthlessness.

Make God happy–accept Life as He designed it to be–lived faithfully in relationship with Him, with others, and with yourself.  And don’t forget….

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!