Reverse PLOM with a Reverse Easter Egg Hunt

Are you familiar with the PLOM syndrome?  It’s where for various reasons, Bad Things happen, people shift focus on “Poor Little Ol’ Me” (that’s “PLOM”), the Bad Things become the only reality the person can see, and things go from bad to worse.  It’s often a very individual thing, where a person faces a series of failures or losses, until that’s all they can see, and their collection of Poor Little Ol’ Me scripts keep playing in the head.  The isolation of the current crisis is the perfect breeding ground for the PLOM syndrome on a massive scale.   

This crisis coming on the doorsteps of Easter makes me all the more glad that the Powers That Be recognize that religious activity is just as much of a social essential as groceries, pharmacies and medical care, because the practice of faith is the practice of active hope, and the practice of active hope is probably the best treatment for PLOM.  Maybe I’m just making up this phrase of the “practice of active hope” to concisely describe what we churchy folk do, but it fits well.

“Practice” implies continual effort—not just an occasional thing, not something we wait till we’re perfect for, but doing it again and again while we are, in Methodist words, “moving on to perfection.”  “Active” means it’s something we DO, and do NOW, not just sitting back and expecting “faith” or “hope” to happen like a sunrise, without any effort.  “Hope” is that light at the end of the tunnel, that recognition with the ancient wisdom that “this, too, shall pass,” that holding onto the trust when though things can be bad now, new life is coming.  I heard a great preacher focused on this theme with Good Friday in Easter in mind, who kept coming back to the refrain, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

So what can we DO to “practice active hope”?  My son was on the swim team, my daughter on the hockey team in high school.  Both entailed early morning practice—whether you feel like it or not—get up, go in and practice (and dad get up too to drive them in…).  Likewise, whether we feel like it or not, get up to “practice” this active hope—do the things that flesh out the connection with God and with others, even when we can’t get together.  And this is not just for adults, but kids too, as kids are also having their worlds turned upside down. 

Kids and Easter make me think of Easter Egg hunts.  I’ve been really struggling with how we might do one this year, as they’re a great, easy way for churchy type people to take hope and the church outside the walls.  I think I had a visit from the Holy Spirit recently with a little inspiration on how we might put together a REVERSE Easter Egg Hunt—and this is one that families can do themselves, or that churches can organize to make it even better.  Here are some thoughts:

Families still have to go out a bit for groceries and other necessities.   People still have dogs to walk, and on the nicer days, I’ve been seeing more families out taking walks together than in a very long time. Might we be able to turn these kinds of outings into blessings of active hope through a kind of REVERSE Easter Egg Hunt?  Perhaps “hunt” for ways to sneak a little Easter hope into others’ lives, that might be more about sharing the Good News of Easter, and might better reflect our memory verse: “Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves.” (Phil. 2: 3)

Read on for some thought, both for ourselves, and that may be worth sharing with other churches!

Keep being an EASTER blessing and share!

Rev. Jim Lewis, with other “Easter Eggs” at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jlewis21

Easter Surprises

How to do a REVERSE EASTER EGG HUNT: 

Either with kids or not, when going to the store, when walking the dog or walking in the park, bring your Easter Basket and “hunt” for ways to share through this REVERSE EASTER EGG HUNT!  

To plastic eggs, tape a YARN loop big enough to loop onto any car door mirror (or home door handles).  Remember to have your teams work with clean hands!  Attach a (decorated!) small note to yarn loop, saying something like—

A Touch from Heaven, even when people can’t touch!

To remind you of our Easter Hope—that New Life WILL come!

(remove with key or stick)

This Egg is as EMPTY as Jesus’ Tomb—even death can’t win!

From Neighbors who care at

TwinFallsUMC.org (or YOUR church website!)

STAYING ESSENTIAL

Despite our increasing concern and isolation from the Corona Virus, I was excited to see a bright spot that I hope you’ve noticed too.  Have you seen what’s been high up on the “Essential Services” list consistently across the various iterations of guidance from the Governor’s office and others, is religious gatherings? 

Right up there with food, fire, police and medical is religious services!  

; Continue reading

CONNECTIONS

One of my all-time favorite passages is where Jesus talks about the importance of staying connected to Him, in John 15, with only a few of those powerful verses here: 

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers… “

Though it is one of my favorites, it’s a really difficult one these days, when our physically connecting with one another is so important to our “abiding” in Him– seeing Christ in each others’ eyes, feeling His presence in a holy touch.  Yet now we can’t.  So how can we abide in Him under these circumstances?

Through much of the history of the church, we have the model of the spiritual powerhouses who were hermits—living often for many years in all but complete isolation.  On such monastery we saw while in the Holy Land was literally on the side of a mountain, where people outside the monastery provided for the few hermits’ need there with baskets on a rope.  At least we’re not in as isolated a situation as that!  Yet many of those were mystics whose spiritual insights still move us many centuries later.

Their idea was to try to remove distractions in order to focus on and abide in Christ.  Yet even in our isolation with this virus, we would tend to prefer to fill our lives with distractions instead.  No wonder it can be difficult to abide in Jesus, when it’s too easy to abide in the TV or other distractions. 

Perhaps these coming weeks can be an opportunity to re-discover quiet times with God, a bit of time in the morning or evening to read and meditate on scripture or other spiritual tools, or to re-learn the art of writing—either in a spiritual journal, or as a way to reach out to others in safe ways.  So as some of us are working on being creative in how to cultivate worship from a distance, I would encourage all of us to also be creative in how we find ways to abide in Jesus, even in this pseudo-hermit phase of life.

Keep being a blessing—Pastor Jim

Death and Taxes?

They say the only things you can really count on are “death and taxes.” 

Events of the past week, even the past day, seem to amply testify to that claim.  Not much stability these days.  Borrowing words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”– that most of life is safe, stable and dependable, right?  Not this week.

We proclaim God is all-loving, all-powerful, willing and working toward our good.  But how can we boldly proclaim with St. Paul, we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called to His purpose, when the world is reeling with this virus crisis that seems to be shaking our very foundations?  

What, then, shall we say to all this?  This memorable passage in Romans 8: 28 is followed almost immediately by even more powerful words, starting at verse 35:

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Perhaps Jesus’ words in the Gospels, saying whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all applies here as well.  A child does not have to understand to accept.  Kids are eager to wrapped in the mama’s love, though they can never understand it, just as they are eager to play with digital doodads without any understanding of how they work.  But we, with our adult “maturity,” instead bring an arrogance that says “If I don’t understand how God’s love/grace/healing/care can work in this circumstance, then it must not be true.”

It is a very good thing that the effectiveness of the computer and internet I’m using aren’t dependent upon my understanding how they work!  So why do I insist that I have to understand the mysteries of God for me to rest in the assurance of God’s grace?

It is times like this that, though I am quite the lover of words, I find my words are woefully inadequate. Yet still I trust.  Perhaps a prayer from one of the most powerful services in our Methodist tradition, summing up many of the truths we followers of Jesus hold dear, can serve:

God of us all, your love never ends.  When all else fails, you still are God.  We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, anywhere, who (struggle) with us this day.  To those who doubt, give light; to those who are weak, strength; to all who have sinned, mercy; to all who sorrow, your peace.  Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another.  In all our ways we trust you…

Keep being a blessing—

Pastor Jim

Epiphany Sunday

Daniel 7: 13-14 (Pew Bible O.T. pg.  828)

  In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

EPISTLE READING:  Hebrews 1: 1-3a

  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  The son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. 

GOSPEL READING:  Matt:2:1-11

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was   disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 

“In Bethlehem in Judea” they replied “for this is what the prophet has written:‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah

are by no means least among the rulers of   Judah; for out of you will come a ruler
      who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 

He he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child.

are by no means least among the rulers of   Judah; for out of you will come a ruler
      who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’
As soon as you find him, report to me,   so that I too may go and worship him.” 

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

True JOY

While the song says “‘Tis the season to be jolly,” it sure seems to be the season for a lot more these days.  Networks and media outlets ever putting out more content, so products of the season seems to grow and evolve all the time.  But one of the continuities that seems stable as ever—and unfortunately, even more stable than the role of Jesus in the holiday named for Him—is JOY.

The cynical side of me says “JOY” has this staying power largely because it’s such a short word that can easily be shaped into countless products to be sold over and over again; maybe that, too is part of how God works in mysterious ways!  JOY is certainly a word deeply embedded in our Bible, so it is very much a God word—remember how “the JOY of the Lord is my strength,” and of course this month’s memory verse: “Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful!” (Philippians 4:4 [NIrV])

Perhaps JOY, then, can be our secret witnessing tool this season.  With it being such a powerful word both for the season and for our faith, it can easily become a part of any conversation.  It’s a powerful word, yet one that can also seem to be very elusive, especially for people who have lost, or who may have never had any real sense of rootedness, or purpose for anything other than an endless search for “happiness.” 

Ages ago, St. Augustine—who started out his life as a rich boy chasing happiness with plenty money to buy it. Eventually he realized and put the words into prayer, “our hearts are restless until they find our rest in You, Lord.”  Likewise, centuries later, a brilliant Enlightenment era mathematician named Pascal put it a bit differently to say “inside each of us is a God-shaped hole” that is never satisfied until we fill that hole with our relationship with God. So, that emptiness that many feel, often heightened in this season, is an integral part of the human experience.   It is a part of how God made us in His plan to bring us all to Him.

The nugget of wisdom my mom sent me off with when I left home for the Navy, was a short tool for how to remember the source of JOY—put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. That’s how you find JOY!  I don’t know how to wrap it up and put on a nice little bow, but consider this little nugget your Christmas present this year, and one you can freely share as much as you would like, without ever having to pay shipping!

Merry Christmas- Rev. Jim

Family Matters-Boo!

Family Matters—BOO!

                BOO!  It’s that scary time of year with spooky things around every corner!  How is it that we so enjoy these spooky times?  Whole genres of movies and books make all kinds of big bucks and huge industries are built around the scary, yet we hate the real fear?  Maybe we think the make-believe fear will help us better deal with life’s real terrors?

                I’ve done a lot of puppet shows over the years, and I think my favorite is built on the Veggie Tales song, “God is Bigger than the Boogie Man.”  It’s a great song that recognizes there are things in life that are scary.  But when we do encounter real challenges; God is bigger than all that. When we face the fears with the armor of God and in the presence of God, we can make it through any “valley of the Shadow of Death.”

                And just like scary movies, we are able to make it through much better when we share the fear with others (who wants to go to a scary movie alone?) Life’s real scary times are also best managed when we face them with a spiritual battle buddy by our side.  Whether you’re the parent comforting a scared child, the kid eager to face down fears (even if you need a little help along the way!), the one finding a companion with whom to face life’s haunted moments, or the one terrified by demons of cancer or disease seeking soul solace, God never intended for us to journey these dark paths alone.

This is a perfect time of year to remind our children, our friends, and even to remind ourselves, of the bible memory verse:  “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31: 6).  The Valley of the Shadow of Death can certainly be more real than any ghosts or goblins we might run across this month, but even more so is the peace and comfort God brings in and through those darkest of valleys.

                Good thing we’re in this Body of Christ together, so that wherever 2 or 3 are gathered together wrapped up like a mummy in the arms of Jesus, the Guardian of the Galaxy that is the Holy Ghost will be the Super-hero Friend that helps us put on the full armor of God to protect us as He guides us through every haunted moment we face!  So let whatever costume we put on remind us of how each day, God calls us to clothe ourselves in Christ, to take with us wherever we go, the perfect love that casts out all fear.

Getting all dressed up for the season—Rev. Jim