Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Remote Overload

It was a family gathering at my other brother, Larry's house.  The football game was on.  Now at this time, Larry's main television has more remotes than God ever intended.  I grabbed one of the extras.  As Larry was trying to adjust the television, so was I!  He would change the channel and so would I. Finally he looked around in frustration to see little brother smiling--holding a remote.

I was reminded of this as I sit in my daughter's house.  We are having a great time holding the new grandson, Carter.  Beside me are three remotes.  It takes that many to adjust the television, sound, etc.  I am the first up each morning so I had to have the short course in remotes.  

I still tell my children that when I was growing up (the youngest), I WAS the remote.

I think our culture has remote overload.  We are controlled by too many cultural devices in our world.  We are tugged by work. We are tugged by family. We are tugged by the church.  We find ourselves wanting to disconnect from all.  Surely all this technology was not designed to make life more complicated.  It was to make it easier.  But it has gotten out of control---as our life can be at times!

It is interesting to read the life of Jesus.  Jesus would go out to the remote places to pray.  (Mark 1:35 or Luke 5:16).  Even in Jesus' time, Jesus knew the value of disconnecting with the world in order to connect with God.  It was after this time of prayer that Jesus was then ready to sort out the day that the world had to offer.  What would your life be like if you began your day with the world's remotes OFF and God's remote ON?

Try this.  Get in the car and leave the radio off.  Get up in the morning and spend some time in quiet.  Be still with God.  Or in the evening, find a place and time to just breathe.  Make time tending your soul.  

There is an old hymn that says, "It is well with my soul."  If you read the verses of the hymn, life is in a turmoil.  Life is even coming to an end.  However, the chorus reminds us--it is well with my soul.    

Pray for me as I pray for you.
In the Master's Name,

Dr. M. Jack O'Dell

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Experience the Unthinkable.

It is Thursday.   Not just any Thursday.  It is Holy Thursday.

It is the day that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. 

During the time of Jesus washing feet was the work of servants.   It was hospitality.    The roads were dusty.  As one traveled, the feet would become quite dirty.  So as one entered the house, one of the servants would offer the guests a basin and water to wash  the feet.   The host would never wash the feet of the guests.  Only a servant would do such a thing. 

One of the last messages that Jesus gave to those who follow him was about doing the unthinkable.  For Jesus knew that the Gospel he had preached and the events of the days that followed were unthinkable for his disciples.

One of the obstacles to faithful discipleship is the attitude of "I am NOT going to do ...."  Sometimes it is the attitude of arrogance contrary to Christian humility.  The task seems to be beneath us and our dignity.   You want me to be a servant or a slave Lord?  The answer Jesus gives is "Yes!".

At other times it is about our perception of others.  Let's face it--there are people we do not like.  Okay maybe we just don't enjoy their presence.  No, let's be honest.  We do not like them.  We have marginalized them in our mind.  So this unthinkable Jesus wants us to reach out to them?  The answer is "Yes!"  Not only reach out to them, but SERVE them.   

The unthinkable Jesus then does what one just can not begin to believe.  He dies.  He dies a disgusting death while forgiving others.  And his disciples could not believe it.  It is so unthinkable that they scatter in fear.  They forget the power of the Gospel in the darkness of suffering and death.    Does that sound all too familiar even today?

We are slow to rejoice in sorrow and sadness. Our mind creates thoughts that are so far from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Maybe that is why it is so important for us to worship and meditate upon the cross from now until Sunday.  It is in the cross that we are reminded that Jesus came to give us a vision and experience of God that is unthinkable.  But while being unthinkable, it can be experienced.

Think about it.  Or better yet, think about the unthinkable.  Experience the unthinkable.  Become the unthinkable in your witness.

Pray for me as I pray for you.

Dr. M. Jack O'Dell

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Read and Study the Bible

A boy noticed that his grandma spent more time reading the Bible than most people. He became concerned.  Finally one day he nudged his grandpa and said, "Grandpa, is Grandma cramming for her finals with God?"  

Or what about the little girl who proudly proclaimed to the entire congregation during the children's moment,  "Yes, we have a Bible in our house.  But no one ever reads it or even is allowed to touch it.  Momma will spank you hard if you do that!"

So be honest for just a moment--Do you read and study your Bible?

When I am asked to do a funeral, many times I will ask the family if the person that has died had a Bible.  If so, I ask if I can flip through it.  Sometimes the family tells me there is no Bible.  Other families will hand me a Bible that has evidently not been opened much.  There are no markings.  There is nothing that falls out of it.  

Then there are some Bibles that are full of information.  Scriptures are underlined.  Notes are written in the margins.  Inside there are clippings, scraps of paper, and even sermon notes that fall out.  The cover is worn out.  It obviously has been through many storms.  

What does your Bible say about how much you study or read it?

In our culture it is interesting that there are more available resources for reading and studying the Bible than in the history of humankind.  Yet, most churches have very poor results when offering a Bible study.  It is not the right time, place, topic,---you get the picture---there is some excuse.  

Bible study and prayer is the fuel that energizes the passion of faith.  It confirms the "why" of how we do what we do.  Without it we limp along in life.   A love affair with the Bible leads one into being a disciple.   

Let me encourage you in your daily reading of the Bible and your prayer life.  It will change you life.  

Pray for me as I pray for you.

In the Master's Name,

Dr.  M. Jack O'Dell
Lead Pastor

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Practicing Forgiveness

Energy is a limited resource in our world.  You can be sure that energy is a limited resource in your life.  Common sense says that one should use energy wisely.  So I have a question for you:  How much of your daily allotment of energy do you use in harboring grudges, bitterness, or resentment?  Another way to asking the question is how forgiving are you?

The mind does not help us in our battle of forgiveness.  There is a part of your brain that has more memory space than you want.  Your brain remembers hurts that happened to you that you can even access.  It can find you though.  This part of the brain has no time mechanism.  If something looks similar to past hurts, it sends you a random memory message.  This part of the memory system tells you that everyone is out to get you.  It screams to you that you cannot trust people.  However this part of the brain can be silenced--if you choose.  But it must be an act of your will.  It will not happen without your will.

There is another part of your brain that is very much attuned to time.  It is the part of your brain that sees you as you are today.  This thought process knows that people can only hurt you as much as you let them.  This part of the brain is able to distinguish between friend and foe.  This part of the brain wants you to experience love instead of bitterness and pain.  It screams for you to "think new thoughts!" and "risk being who you are today!"  This part of the brain invites you think differently and once you think differently you will act differently.  Once you act differently you will begin to feel differently.  

Forgiveness is when you choose to think differently  It is not about forgetting.  It is about choose to think differently and invest your limited amount of energy into spaces and places where there is wholeness and love.  It begins when you can wish others well who have harmed you.  It begins when you stop your thought processes that are filled with hurt and revenge.  It begins when you realize that it is silly and useless to keep "walking a dead dog!"  (one of my favorite lines!!!)  

Jesus made an interesting connection in the Lord's Prayer about forgiveness.  The prayer says, "forgive me my trespasses AS I forgive those who trespass against me."   Jesus wanted us to understand that as we experience God's forgiveness (which is so vast and loving), we can then pass that forgiveness to others (which is comparatively small to ours!).  When we are honest with ourselves, we know how bad we are!!!   And yet, God forgives us!  

So the key is to practice forgiveness!  Practice the thought process.  Abandon the "dead dogs" that we keep dragging around behind us.  Heal the open wounds.  And experience the good stuff of life!

Pray for me as I pray for you.

In the Master's Name,

Dr. M. Jack O'Dell

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hang on to the Good Stuff

Being a pastor in today's world is more difficult than it used to be.  I think about how much has changed in ministry since I began.  I sometimes wonder if people realize this.   There are times when as being a pastor it is very painful and lonely.  I think this is why so many pastors burn out or have heart attacks.  It is why pastor's families struggle in a more quietly than most. 

So this manna is for pastors.  The rest of you just sit quietly.  Pray quietly.  Or maybe you might pray for  your own pastor.

It is Sunday morning (before the service).  Geez it IS Sunday morning.  Sunday school teachers call in sick or even worse, just fail to show.  "We have company...." (There is an invisible sign somewhere on the church property that says, "Company cannot attend worship!")  The Junior Highs need a teacher so you are supposed to be ready to teach (or your spouse).  The tenor section of the choir  (both  of them) have decided it is a good day to visit somewhere else or somebody else.  You can sing so you will move over to the choir loft when it is time to sing.  There are ten people who think that they need to make an announcement.  So the announcements could technically be fifteen minutes.  There are three people who have told you what was left out of the bulletin or pointed out the mistakes that are in the bulletin.  Ms. ???? (you fill in the name) is upset because you failed to visit her relative/friend/spouse in the nursing home.   (Her relative/friend/spouse has Alzheimer's and cannot report to her that you did visit her within the last two weeks).  The chair of two committees  feel the need to talk to you about their area prior to the service.  There are three new families entering which you try to get to speak to before the service to welcome them. They have sat in Mr _____'s pew and he has chewed them out and asked them to move. The flowers have been shown to have one of the following deficiencies--too small, wrong color, too large, or in the wrong place.  The acolytes cannot get the wick to work.    

So it is now time for worship to begin.

Worship begins late because you cannot get away from Mr _____.  He is telling you about his fishing trip last Sunday.  Ms **** (you fill in the name) took five minutes to make her announcement--all of which was already printed in the bulletin insert. (There are five inserts because everybody needs an insert for their cause)  The prelude lasted eight minutes.  The children's sermon was ten minutes.  You know that you will begin preaching with forty five minutes of the service having passed.  There is another service or Sunday school immediately behind this one.   The microphone is buzzing and making weird noises because someone thought it was a good time to adjust something.  There is a wasp winging its way around the pulpit area. It is obvious that at least two people did not sleep well during the night as they continue to yawn and do the infamous head bob.  (One can interpret this as an silent "Amen!" to your sermon, they will never know.) Two cell phones go off during the service. One of them is answered (!!) and a conversation is carried on as the person in the choir ducks out.

After church when you are exhausted.

Ms ***** tells you that it was too cold.  Ms. ****** complains that it was too hot.  Another three people come by to tell you that there were errors in the bulletin, your grammar, your reading, your robe, your tie, your shoes, your children, and yes--even your spouse.   You go to leave only to discover that no one else has thought to turn off the AC/Heater, the coffee pot, the lights, etc.

Then as you are about to walk out the door, there is one person standing there.  The middle aged man has waited patiently to see you.  He looks at you and says quietly, "I know you are probably in a hurry and tired, but I want you to know that your sermon changed my life today.  It gave me hope that life--my life--is in the hands of God.  Jesus is both my friend and Savior.  Thanks!"   And with that he walks away.

The good stuff comes in small doses. 

Hold on the good stuff.  It will keep you safe from all the other.

Pray for me as I pray for you.

In the Master's Name,

Dr. M. Jack O'Dell

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Don't Miss These Olympic Events

Who has not watched the Olympics of late?  I must admit that some of the events are more exciting than others.   I am totally convinced that curling was invented by some housewives who wanted to trick their husbands into doing some sweeping.

So I am thinking of the some new events for the next Winter Olympics that might involve church folks.

Acolyte Exit Jump--Most of the altars are built up a few steps.  So as the acolytes leave, could they do a two and half twist while keeping the candle still burning.  Extra points could be awarded for a stunt off the front seats or pews as we know they are unoccupied.  A perfect score could include startling Mr. Smith who sleeps soundly each week.

Usher Free Style Figure Skating--Why could not the ushers do a skating routine that is both stylistic and functional?  Imagine the ushers twirling around the corners of the aisles graciously offering the plate to those waiting.  Loss of anything from the plates would mean points lost.  The music would be adapted for each service.  Oh and just imagine what the costumes could look like if it were held during Mardi Gras. 

Two or four Person Bobsled Parking Competition--Fill the parking lot with ice or water and see who can push the bobsled fast enough to move through the parking lot missing pedestrians and cars while ending up perfectly parked in the handicapped parking lot.  By the time they get there someone would be handicapped. 

Speed Skating--Two versions of this could be offered.  The first round could be the Sopranos rushing through the parking lot and into the choir room just in time to get their robe on and sing!  An alto or two might qualify for this competition as well.  The most exciting round would be the exit from worship through the back door, out the parking lot, and into the eating establishment to "beat the other denominations."  Again penalties would be given for those whom you knocked down, did not speak to, and whether you shook the preacher's hand.

Olympic gold medals are treasures of this world.  They represent hours and hours of dedication and discipline that focus on a very intense time of performance.  It is an honor to even compete.

Let us celebrate the accomplishments of all.  By the way, maybe we could increase church attendance if we handed out gold medals every once in a while?  Nah, I don't think Jesus would go for it!

Pray for me as I pray for you.

In the Master's Name,

Rev. Dr. M. Jack O'Dell
Lead Pastor

Thursday, February 13, 2014


So it is almost Valentine's Day. 

Relationships are precious jewels in our life.  Significant other relationships are the most precious jewels that we can possess.  Sadly enough, sometimes these relationships receive the leftovers of time and energy.  May I share some thoughts with you?

Intimate relationships require work and energy.  We like to think they do not, but the reality is just the opposite.  At the end of the day when you have worked all day, you simply must find time to do some more work.  It means doing the little things.  It means taking the time to talk.  You understand this.   In our day we confuse physical proximity with intimacy.  One can be present physically and yet very far away emotionally and spiritually.

Intimate relationships require clear communication.  I urge people to make a list.   Make a list of ten ways that you are loved.  Give it to your significant other.  You are responsible for teaching them how you want to be loved.  You will hear them say, "I never knew...."  Call it a dummy sheet.  Call it a cheat sheet.  But you will call it in the end clear communication.

Identify and stay clear of people that threaten your primary relationship.   Misery loves company.  People who are miserable in intimate relationships love to bring others down as well.  If you hang out with people who constantly gripe about their significant other, you will find that sooner or later you will join the gripe club.  There are people in the world who see it as a challenge to destroy good relationships.   Just say to yourself, "I love my spouse too much to hang out with folks like this."  Guard this precious jewels as you would any other valuable asset in your life.

Cherish and nurture your friendship with your loved one.  Someone said, "It is not the lack of love that has destroyed relationships.  It is the lack of friendship."  Before you became what you are today, you were friends.  Do the things that brought you together.  Date!  Laugh! 

Learn to say, "I am sorry" and "I forgive you."  These are the most important words you can say.  Let go of grudges.  Refuse to drink from the river of bitterness and resentment.  Ask for and give the gift of forgiveness.  It will only bring you closer to one another.

Celebrate something each day!  Celebrate little things.  Celebrate big things.  Become your significant other's best cheerleader!  

Pray for one another.  For years now, Mandy and I have had prayer cards that direct us to pray for each other.  She keeps hers on the kitchen sink.  I keep mine in the bathroom.  I wonder what that says about us!  However, each day we are reminded to pray for each other.  We have a prayer book (A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie) that we each read from.  Whether we are together or apart, our prayers are one!   Let God work in your life.

Mark Twain tells the story of Adam after the death of Eve.  Adam is filled with sorrow and yet joy.  He is remembering the blessings of Eve's life.  And then he says this wonderful line,  "Where ever Eve was, Eden was."  May your  days be filled with the jewels of Eden!

Happy Valentines Day!

Pray for me as I pray for you.

In the Master's Name,

Dr. Jack O'Dell