Killers in the Church

I can see the heads swirling around now checking the corners and the hallways.  No, there is no mad monster with a power saw and a Halloween mask stalking the halls leaving beheaded corpses in his wake.

A killer walks but not that kind.  The killer is that personality type that professionals call the psychopath or sociopath.   Some sources indicate as many as 1 in every 25 people is a psychopath.

Simply put, these are people who lack certain elements of their makeup associated with the best of human nature.  They lack sympathy, they are manipulative, they lie, they are self-centered, and their own needs come first.  

The Gospel speaks of being born anew, Romans stresses the need for transformation by allowing Christ to consume the human nature changing it into His own, and Corinthians and the Letters of John warn of what happens when this does not happen.

What happens is there are killers in the church.  There are people who are hard at work slaying the souls, the hope, and the dreams of those in the community of faith.  They stalk like a hungry lion, leaping out when least expected and shredding human hearts.  

They are often invisible, the classic mild next door neighbor who never caused any trouble, until they are captured and charged with a string of horrific murders.  

The weapon for such stalking killers in the church is prayer and an ever deepening spiritual relationship with the God who saves, makes new and brings love.


Have you heard this time honored Scripture passage?  I have heard it preached or taught more times over the years than I can count.  It is usually linked to admonitions to continue to do so-called good works as a Christian.  This is not inaccurate. We need to be diligent about putting our hands to benevolent activities whenever possible.  Goodness knows that there is more than enough need on our world to keep us all occupied on a daily basis.  Further, I also believe that we live in communities where there are people all around us who are more than ready to step up and make a difference whenever there is a need for compassionate response.   
However, let us consider another possibility.   

Well doing can be more than just episodic acts of charity or compassion.  Well doing can be the determination to embrace a manner of living that is committed to the highest standards of ethics and morals.  In the past, this might have been referred to as ‘righteous living’ in the sense of living as closely to a Godly lifestyle as possible. 

 In the Bible, the story is told of a Roman officer by the name of Cornelius who though he was not a Christian, was a determined God seeker.  He was committed to living the loftiest life style he possibly could and the biblical writer portrays him as a noble person for that commitment and one who received God’s special attention because of it. 

 I submit that this is hard work.  The discipline required to choose the high road of life on a daily basis is demanding.  All around us are enticements to lower our standards.  We are invited to behave in ways that are lesser in ethics and values with the false assurance that it will not really matter and after all, everyone else is doing it.  To overcome such messages and continue in well doing requires energy that may at times leave us weary.  But, make no mistake the benefits of staying the course are well worth it. 

Let me mention only two or three of the most pragmatic.  You can sleep at night, which is the gift of a clear conscience.  You can be the role model for those around you that they truly need.  You can face life without the feeling that you have sold a piece of your soul thus leaving yourself the lesser for it. 

Press on friends.  Be not weary in well doing.

Hudson Takes Up New Assignment

Dr. Marvin J. Hudson, Intentional Interim Ministry Specialist,  was appointed May 30, 2013 by Bishop Hayes at the Oklahoma Annual Conference to serve as pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.

Dr. Marvin J. Hudson,  “I consider it a great joy to be appointed to serve at Wesley UMC. The community is full of creative and capable people who will do great things, I am sure. I look forward to our shared journey of faith and ministry.“

Wesley is located in the heart of the cultural and historic districts of Oklahoma City, near Oklahoma City University, and was established in 1910. His first Sunday will be June 9, 2013.  


Random Lives

Once upon a time, every week had a special beat to it, an orderly progression, and a sense of completion.  The Monday through Friday was the work week, Saturday was the chores and fun activities and Sunday the day of worship and family.

Somewhere along the way we dropped the beat, and the steady ebb and flow of life is now an intermittent mess.

I remember older women sharing the order of their lives as they had wrestled a large family, a husband, and sometimes older family who lived in the house as well.

Monday: Wash Day
Tuesday: Ironing Day
Wednesday: Sewing Day
Thursday: Market Day
Friday: Cleaning Day
Saturday: Baking Day
Sunday: Day of Rest

That masterful time management always seemed so accomplished and those women able to do a surprising amount of volunteer work in their communities. Somewhere along the way we - men and women - became a little random in how we did things.  We started to let things slip, and our follow through was left behind.  We lost a sense of purpose, of order, and the sense of pride in accomplishing things.
Many women were made to feel their lives were a drudgery, they were limited in their options, and they were take advantage of by spouses and families.  Many men failed to see that their wives were working just as hard as they did in just a different way and often doing twice as much!  Many men failed to see they had no special rights as a man in the family and none whatsoever to make another feel less.  There was a combined loss of pride and of respect that chipped away - like those little foxes the Bible tells us destroy the vines - and caused things to go bad in many relationships.

Many people are so stressed and feel their lives are an untamed beast.  This creates conflict in the home, in the marriage and in relationships.  Somebody has to be at fault, fingers point, and feelings are damaged.  

Maybe - just maybe - the answer might be to make our lives a little less random.  To add a solid dash of discipline, order, and pattern to life.  In most marriages one person does not do all those house jobs like those women 'back in the day.'   Even shared tasks can  be made more efficient and a rhythm created  by a plan, some order, and a game plan.  Then, when the weekend comes - enjoy, refresh, and renew!

 Marilyn A. Hudson, Guest


Can You Weather the Storm?

Sounds like an ill advised title, right?  Along about now we would not like to see any storms ever again.   For most of life, however, we can anticipate a lot of storms in the environment in our own lives.  As we eagerly, and rightly, rush to the help and pray for those impacted by the storms, we cannot but help to find questions and fears in the back of our heads.  How could I survive?  Would I be strong? What would I do?

The types I am thinking of are the storms that threaten our health, livelihood, families, and wellbeing. These are the so called “tough times” that come to us all.   We have all faced them and more often than not, we have pulled through one way or another.  But, is there something we can draw from to make that journey easier?  I believe so.

Christ’s teaching to the disciples in the Gospels clearly informs us that God both knows what we need in life before we can even form the words of a request, and is so willing to respond to our daily needs that we do not have to stress and obsess over answers and solutions.   

This sounds very idealistic - simplistic even - to our way of thinking, but it is a lifestyle that generations in the past found profitable.  Our fore bearers in faith called it “providence”.  It was the calm assurance that God was walking just a step ahead preparing the way so as to allow us to relax in the midst of the storm. 

 Think about it. How much of your stress in tough moments of the past really helped the situation?  Is it not true that the proper answers and solutions presented themselves (so to speak) as you moved along?  Could it be that whether you were aware at the moment or not, you were experiencing God’s providential care?

You may face tough moments today. If you do, consider pausing for a moment and asking, “God, are you there?  What are you about to do?” Then, whatever your response to the storm may be, try to relax, for God cares about you. The storms may come but we have a Companion before, during, and after the turmoil. 

Ducking for Cover

I was traveling to an appointment in the later afternoon. I drove into the heavy storm that was crossing the metro area and watched with fascination as I saw large hailstones begin to pelt the road ahead of me. Even more interesting was the reaction of the cars ahead of me.

As the hail began to fall, car after car began to look for a place to shelter. Every overpass had an almost comical image, as drivers appeared to be playing a game called “how many cars can we park under this bridge?”

The scene prompted me to reflect about how it is natural to seek shelter in a time of storm. We recognize that life presents us with situations that are simply beyond our control. That is the image of our relationship to God in Scripture.

As one hymn writer paraphrased it, God is our shelter in the time of storm. I know that many of us have proven that true over the years. It is an important reality for persons of faith. God is a source of refuge for us in crisis moments akin to the sheltering overpass that shielded those autos from the damaging force of the hail.

Do we have an equivalent lively awareness of the presence of God in our life? There are storms in life that are beyond the scope of any physical shelter. What is our alternative?

“The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.”

(lyrics by Vernon J. Charlesworth ca. 1880)


Just Practising Their Beliefs

Recently, I read an essay in which an individual sharply commented on the presence of “religions” in our world. Rather than being a positive reflection, or even a cautionary against dangerous religions, the message was more sweeping. According to the author, our world would be a far better place, if and when, it was entirely devoid of religions. According to the author’s lights, human history has been the unqualified recipient a host of ills that can all be placed at the feet of formal religions.

Granted, there is something enticing about this line of thought. It is easy for many to read an essay such as this and suddenly be swept in a world depicted by John Lennon in which we have no ills including religion. We have instead only a utopian warm fuzzy universe populated by Teletubbies and the offspring of Barney the purple dinosaur. Nevertheless, is religion really that bad, or is it the straw man for a very different matter? I remember years ago when religion as a term was first defined to me in a comparative religions class. The term religion was defined as all the “Discrete modes and methods by which one lives out or practices their belief system.” In my opinion, this is a good definition, for it encompasses all religious practices, formal and informal. Such religion may be organized or disorganized. It may be well thought out or rather random. It is all religion by the link to a belief system.

With that definition in mind, I would suggest that the writer was being religious in the act of expressing a disdain for religions. By this, I mean that the writer had a belief system that was formed by a collection of ideas, concepts and anecdotes which led to the conclusion that all religion is a plague upon human existence. In the act of living this ideology out through thought, word, and possibly deed, the writer was practicing a belief system. In short, the writer was one more example of a living religion in our midst. By this definition, there are most likely multitudes of religious people around us who do not consider themselves religious. However, they are and daily they act out their belief system with lesser and greater degrees of fervency. One might remember this the next time someone goes on a tirade against the presence of religion in our world. They are just practicing their beliefs; they are being religious.

On Commencement

It is that season when graduating classes will sit in tight and airless auditoriums or hot outdoor venues and on their heads will sit the cap and tassel so representative of their achievement. The culmination of effort, accident, and parental dreams.  The hard won finish line to the first great race of any student's life.  Take a deep breath, that is not the flower arrangements in the air, that is the stuff of dreams and hopes.

It is a time when wise and sage advice are actively sought and so occasionally given. Having attended many of these events, in my own academic efforts and as member of a faculty of higher education, I have some thoughts on such matters.  Were I able to be at each and every one of those events I think I would tell them this...
Dream! If you can find what you love and then do it.  Your biggest barrier is your own belief or lack of belief is yourself.     Remember  these important things - 

  • Never stop learning. The wise store up knowledge but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.  Prov. 10:14
  • Keep a gentle spirit all your life.  A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. Prov. 11:16
  • Choose your companions carefully.  He who walks with wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools comes to a bad end. Proverbs 13:20. 
  • Keep going and never give up. But he knoweth the way that I take: [when] he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 13:20. It is not the falling down that counts but the getting back up to face the challenge. It is the determination to never give up but to get trying, striving, and doing.
The gathered crowds at all those events will finally toss those caps high in the air, give a rousing cheer and slap one another on the back.  
Those students, friends and parents will pose for photos, laugh and share hugs and then go out to celebrate the milestone achieved.
When the dust has settled and life looks them in the face....
I hope they remember those few simple things.  They make life a lot easier when all is said and done.  Because...when all is said and done  - that is what you made of your life. 

Poland Music Trip