Dan's Blog

Pastor Dan reading Pie-ku

It Does Depend On Us

     Okay. I have to confess. I think I am officially tired of it. I am tired of the rhetoric. I am tired of the debating. I am tired of people shouting over one another so as their voice is the one that gets heard.
     I am writing this on July 8, 2016. We know what has happened the past couple days. People are shooting people. People are dying. They are dying in streets. And what will happen is what most always happens. There will be more debates. There will be more shouting. There will be more calls to change some laws. There will be appeals to keep the laws the same.
     I am no longer going to assume a side in any of these discussions. Why? Because I am tired of it. People are dying...dying violent deaths. All the debate and discussion has not changed that tragic fact. Perhaps--just perhaps--there is something I can do.
     I can pray. I can step up my discussions with God. I can begin by asking God to cleanse my heart. Pray. And I can hear someone saying, "Of course we can pray." Some will tell me that is obvious. We have been praying.
Well, maybe there is something else I can do.    
     We are familiar with the song about letting there be peace on earth. The song asks for peace on earth, and that peace can begin with me. That is so familiar that it has almost become a cliché. Peace on earth. Let it begin with me. Sure. Sounds nice. 
     Then I read the words of Paul in his letter to the church in Rome. He writes in the twelfth chapter, "Live in harmony with one another...If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with one another."
     "So far as it depends on you...." So far as it depends on me....
     There are a couple of people with whom I am currently not at peace. (So far as it depends on me...?) I believe I will begin by contacting one of them. (So far as it depends on me...?) I will see if there is any way peace can be restored to our relationship...any way we can live in harmony. (So far as it depends on me...?) Then I will move on to the next person.
     Will this put an end to the violence and bring world peace? Probably not...not by itself. But what if we were to call a cease fire in the verbal wars...? What if we were to seek to actively make peace...to make that peace one person and relationship at a time...? It would at least be a start. And we must begin somewhere. You see, it does depend on us.
     Yep. I am tired of it. So I think I will do some peace-making today. That might just be exciting. Jesus said peacemakers are blessed; they are children of God. That's pretty cool.   
 
                                                                                           Peace,
                                                                                           Pastor Dan Doughty                                                   
 


The Big Coffee Cup Controversy

 
 
     I have often said the devil is a crafty one. He can be so subtle.
     Seems there is a controversy brewing over Starbucks' Christmas coffee cups. The cups are just going to be red for this Christmas season. There will be no designs or no little something that conveys in even a subtle way what this season is all about. There are certain followers of Jesus who are up in arms. At least one presidential candidate has called for a boycott of Starbucks. Oh my....
     The enemy is laughing. He has pulled off a good one. It is a subtle attack that has diverted our attention from things that perhaps matter more?
     First, let me say that I admire the passion. Passion is a good thing. But mis-directed passion is not so good.
     Second, the role of Starbucks in the world is just to serve a good cup of coffee...or a good cup of whatever else that fancy stuff is they serve. They have not been called to be a shining light for Jesus in this dark world. Followers of Jesus have been called to be that.
     We must direct our passion into being who and what we are called to be...and not waste it on trying to get a coffee company to change the design on its cup.
     There are hurting people in this world. There are hungry people. There are lost people. There are those who simply need a cup of cold water...and not our opinion on what that cup looks like. We need to be a light for Jesus in this dark world. That is what this season is about.
      So I think I will buy a cup of Starbucks coffee. I will tell the person giving me the cup of coffee that Jesus loves him or her. I will drink the coffee. And then put the cup in the recycle bin. That is where this debate over the design on the cup needs to go.
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dan


We Can All Care A Little More

     Robin Williams died. He was a funny man. He sure made me laugh. I remember the many "Mork and Mindy" episodes I watched. We also know that he battled depression. Behind the smile was a heart that hurt.
     Robin Williams once said that being alone is not the most tragic thing in life. He further said it is being with people who make us feel alone that is the most tragic thing in life.
     Community--Christian community--is so important. But it is important only if community is that place where we are with people who do not make us feel alone. In community we must feel accepted and cared for. If we fail to be this kind of community...well, we fail. In community, we are part of something...and not alone.
     We have no idea the pain and the struggle that reside in some hearts. Shame on us if people come away from an encounter with us feeling alone. We can all care. We can all care a little bit more. This is what Christian community is about.
    "There were no needy persons among them...." (Acts 4:34a)


It Is About What We Do For The Kingdom

     Last week I attended the Annual Conference session of the Minnesota Annual Conference. It was a good time...for the most part. I enjoy getting together with colleagues, friends I do not see that often. We heard reports, and debated several pieces of legislation. Of course, it was the legislation that was debated and acted upon that received the most ink...and stirred the most discussion and controversy.

But there was more. You might not have heard about this.

     "Million Meals Marathon." At the start of 2014, the Minnesota Annual Conference launched the "Million Meals Marathon". The goal was to pack one million meals through the ministry of Feed My Starving Children. Packing sites were set up around Minnesota: Mankato, Rochester, and Duluth. Meals were also packed at the Annual Conference session. By the end of Annual Conference 1,551,723 meals had been packed. To say the goal was exceeded would be an understatement. Meals will continue to be packed throughout the rest of the year.

     The hungry are being fed. This is evidence of the Kingdom of God.

     "Imagine No Malaria." In 2008, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church set as a goal the raising of seventy-five million dollars to combat Malaria in Africa. At that time a child was dying every thirty seconds from Malaria. The money raised would be used to purchase bed nets and provide vaccines. Each Annual Conference was invited to make a contribution to "Imagine No Malaria".

     So the Minnesota Annual Conference established a goal. We determined to raise 1.8 million dollars to help with the prevention this disease. By the end of the 2014 Annual Conference session...we had raised 2.2 million dollars. Minnesota is one of two Conferences to raise over two million dollars. Malaria deaths have gone from one child every thirty seconds to one child every sixty seconds. Obviously, there is still a long way to go. But progress is being made.

     The sick are being healed. This is evidence of the Kingdom of God.

     I felt I needed to share this. As I said, there were some issues that were vigorously debated...especially seven pieces of legislation dealing with human sexuality. This is what the press picked up on and reported.

     But there was so much more. The United Methodist Church is bringing food to the hungry and healing to the sick. The United Methodist Church is giving witness in word and deed to the Kingdom of God. And I am proud to be a part of this church.

 



Humility

So I was thinking about humility. The Bible talks much about being humble. We are told that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Jesus invites us to be humble like children. Those who humble themselves will be exalted. So what does it mean to be humble? What does it look like? How will we know we are being humble? See, seems to me--and I have often said--if we know we are humble, then we are not humble any longer. Know what I mean? But there was One who could claim to be humble...and still be humble. I am talking, of course, of Jesus. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." In John's Gospel we have that wonderful lesson on humility. The disciples and Jesus were gathered for the Passover Feast. The meal was being served. Jesus got up from the meal. He took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin and washed the feet of the disciples. He then dried their feet with the towel that was wrapped around his waist. How will we know we are being humble? That is a tough one. But what does it look like to be humble? It looks like Jesus. Here is the deal. Jesus' life and ministry...it was not about him. Jesus came for us. Jesus came to save us. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus did not come to be served. Jesus came to serve. Jesus was all about us. When he was arrested and tried, he offered no resistance. Jesus died for us. Jesus was all about us. Jesus still is all about us. That is what humility looks like.  And we are on the road to being humble when we, too, realize it is not all about us.  Or as the Apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...." Just a little something to think about as we strive to be more like Jesus. Peace and grace to all of you!


Resolutions

      The new year is upon us. The year 2013 is history, and 2014 awaits history to be made. Each new year is a time for making resolutions. Folks look to the past. They take inventory. Then they look to the new and determine some things will be different. New Year's resolutions. The apostle Paul made a resolution. We read about this in the book of Philippians. His resolution was not for a new year...but for a new life. He looked at what his life used to be. He was a person who put confidence in the flesh...in himself. As for legalistic righteousness, he considered himself to be without fault. He thought he was a pretty good guy. Then he met Jesus. His life was changed. He considered everything about his life before Jesus as a loss. In fact, he considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Then he made his new life resolution. He wanted to know Jesus. And he wanted to press on in getting to know Jesus. He said, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." This year let's make Paul's resolve our resolve. In 2014 we will press on to know Jesus more. And we will press on toward that goal. Spend more time in prayer. Spend more time reading and meditating on God's word. Attend worship. Do these things, and we will know Jesus more. God bless you with grace and peace as you press on to know Jesus more.


Thanksgiving

November is soon here. The "official "Thanksgiving season. Football. Fellowship. Food. There is that special feast on Thanksgiving Day. Turkey is usually at the center of the meal. But there are the mashed potatoes and gravy, the sweet potatoes, the stuffing, the cranberries, the rolls, etc. I remember one Thanksgiving. I was twelve-years-old. My family feasted on cheeseburgers. We were living in St. Paul. My parents rented our dwelling. My father, due to injury and illness, had been out of work. My family went through a time of...well, we were poor. I did not know at the time how difficult it was. My parents did not complain to us kids. But looking back, I now know how much of a struggle it was for Dad and Mom. Dad worked hard to regain his strength and health. He did. He was able to secure a good job. My parents saved money. Eventually they were able to make a down payment on a house in Brooklyn Center. We were about to move into our home. I would also get my own bedroom. It was 1967 when we made the move. Moving week was the week of Thanksgiving. In fact, the move was completed the day before Thanksgiving. So the rest of that day and Thanksgiving Day were spent unpacking and putting things in their proper place. With the hustle and bustle and all that, there was not much time to prepare the usual feast. So Mom fried up cheeseburgers. We also had some fries. To this day that ranks right up there as my fondest Thanksgiving memory. It was the best Thanksgiving. Why? Because it was not about what we were eating. It was about those things for which we were thankful. Strength. Security. Health. And, finally, we were home. We were home. I want to resist the cliches and all that. We know what the season is about. We know we should be thankful always. But we must always reflect upon those blessings in our lives, and then say, "Thank you." I know we live in some troubling times. But I am thankful for the strength and security and protection I find in Jesus. In this world, I am thankful that I am always at home in Jesus. Paul said it well in the book of 1 Thessalonians. "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." For followers of Jesus, there is no official season for remembering blessings and being thankful. We are a thankful people.


The Run Completed

Well.... My two sons completed the Warrior Dash. In fact, my younger son, Jon, finished in 243rd place. There were over five thousand entered. They told me that next year they would like me to enter with them. Yeah...right! My running days are behind me. They tried to encourage me by saying there were many "older people" my age who just walked the course. I am not sure I found that very encouraging. Anyway, they entered and finished. They gave witness to their faith by wearing their T-shirts with the Bible verse stenciled on them. But by the end of the race, the words on their T-shirts could not be read. They had to crawl through mud. The mud covered their shirts. The words on the shirts could not be seen through the mud. It has been said that we are to proclaim the Gospel. And, if it is necessary, we are to use words. You see, as we share our faith people will not always hear what we say. The words get lost amongst all the noise of the world. People cannot see or hear the words through all the mud. But people will always see how we live. We follow Jesus. That is how we live. And how we live will speak more clearly than any words we use. Our lives are a proclamation of the Gospel. Proclaim the Gospel. Use words only when necessary. Grace and Peace, Pastor Dan Doughty


My First Blog Post

            The Christian life is not a quick sprint to the prize. It is an endurance race. There are obstacles.         My two sons are running a 5K race. The race  is September 7. It will be run in Hugo, Minnesota. But  this is not your “normal” type of 5K race. It is called, “The Warrior Dash." The three plus mile course contains obstacles…twenty obstacles to be exact.         I went to the website for this warrior dash. There was a map of the course. There were also pictures and descriptions of the obstacles the competitors will face. There will be mud. Running in mud has its challenges. The runners will encounter cliffs. They will  run through trenches and scale ledges. They will have to climb peaks and go through valleys. This is not your everyday fun run. I wish my sons luck, and I will offer up a prayer.         I was talking to my younger son, Jon, a few  days ago. He told me they were having T-shirts made for the event. The shirts will have two Scripture references stenciled on them. One will be Psalm 27, Jon's  favorite Bible passage. The other reference will be Hebrews 12:1.         He quizzed me. He asked me if I knew, without looking, what Hebrews 12:1 says. Sure. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”         He commended me and then gently reminded me that I had left out a key part of the verse. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”       I had left out the part about throwing off sin and everything that hinders. More than once running a race is used in Scripture as a metaphor for following Jesus. Following Jesus is not a quick sprint to the prize. It is an endurance race. There are obstacles.         We must rid ourselves of those things that weigh us down and slow us down. Sin. Yeah. We know we need to rid ourselves of sin. But what about “everything that hinders”? What are some of those things that hinder? I'm sure we could all come up with a list. On my list would be regrets, hurt feelings. They can weigh me down and get me off course. Discouragement is a big one. Ever feel discouraged? What a weight that can be. And it hinders.         As followers of Jesus, we have a race to run. The going may get slow at times. There will be times when it may feel we are at the edge. There will be peaks, but we will also have to negotiate some valleys. Let's rid ourselves of all that stuff that hinders…and run.        Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)  Grace and Peace,  Pastor Dan 



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