All posts by Ben

Article: The Butterfly Effect

Have you ever heard of the term “The Butterfly Effect?” The term was coined by Edward Lorenz a research meteorologist who designed a computer program to model the weather. He was able to reduce weather into several formulas that were able to be predicted.

Edward Lorenz

In 1961 Lorenz was busy and wanted to shortcut his weather models by starting ½ way through. He inputted the numbers but rounded them off in order to hurry this up.

The output, the simulated weather pattern or prediction was significantly different than his earlier printout.  He realized that rounding off the numbers made a significant difference. One one-thousandth or hundred thousandth made a huge difference. 

Or to relate it to the Butterfly effect—tiny changes brought by a butterfly flapping his wings in San Francisco has the power to transform the weather in New York.

Meteorologists doubt that a butterfly in California can truly affect the weather on the east coast BUT it is the recognition that little things affect big change. 

I am not here to talk about the weather, but the Butterfly Effect has some validity as it relates to humanity. 

Think about it. One man from a remote part of the planet preached love and peace and he changed the world. Jesus changed the world’s future with his message. Without Jesus, the world we live in would be completely different. Not just in mindset or belief but the things his followers accomplished in his name would also be erased or irrevocably different.

One person can make all the difference. 

Before the pandemic, I went to UNLV to hear Father Greg Boyle speak. Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries which helps gang members in Los Angeles become more than they ever could be in a gang. Father Boyle’s work has transformed many, many lives including the city itself. 

The Butterfly Effect is real… at least as it relates to people. 

Believe it or not, you and I can make a difference too. 

If you worship with us on a regular basis at Community Lutheran Church communitylv.org, I have repeatedly cautioned those who worship there will be a “day after” the election. What we do right now will have a direct impact on November 4th

In a world of hate, I choose to be kind to individuals. I may stand against what they are for but I don’t need to hate them. 

I believe in love. I believe in Jesus. And I believe that those two things can change the world. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Press On!

Today I ran across a wonderful article by Dr. Aisha Ahmad. Aisha Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She is currently a Senior Fellow at Massey College and a Fellow at Trinity College, and was formerly an International Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

She takes the time to reflect the trauma of the past six months of the pandemic. I found this extremely helpful and wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Ahmad writes,

The 6-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal” but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going? 

First, in my experience, this is a very normal time to struggle or slump. I *always* hit a wall 6 months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone. The desire to “get away” or “make it stop” is intense. I’ve done this many times and at 6 months, it’s like clockwork. 

This time, our crisis is global and there is nowhere to run. That’s OK. I’ve had to power through that 6-month hump before and there is life on the other side. Right now, it feels like we are looking ahead at long, dark wintery tunnel. But it’s not going to be like that. 

Rather, this is our next major adaptation phase. We’ve already re-learned how to do groceries, host meetings, and even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get shorter and colder, we need to be ready to innovate again. 

This is my first pandemic, but not my first 6-month wall. So, what can I share to help you? First, the wall is real and normal. And frankly, it’s not productive to try to ram your head through it. It will break naturally in about 4-6 weeks if you ride it out. 

Of course, there are things we have to do. Work. Teach. Cook. Exercise. But just don’t expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+. 

Also, don’t be afraid that your happiness & creativity are gone for the rest of this marathon. Not true. I assure you that it will soon break & you will hit a new stride. But today, roll with it. Clear away less challenging projects. Read a novel. Download that meditation app. 

Frankly, even though we cannot physically leave this disaster zone, try to give yourself a mental or figurative “shore leave”. Short mental escapes can offer respite and distance from the everyday struggle. Take more mental “leave” until you clear the wall. 

In my experience, this 6-month wall both arrives and dissipates like clockwork. So I don’t fight it anymore. I don’t beat myself up over it. I just know that it will happen & trust that the dip will pass. In the meantime, I try to support my mental & emotional health. 

Take heart. We have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months, with resourcefulness & courage. We have already found new ways to live, love, and be happy under these rough conditions. A miracle & a marvel. This is hard proof that we have what it takes to keep going. 

So, dear friends, do not despair of the 6-month wall. It’s not permanent, nor will it define you in this period of adversity. Trust that the magic that helped you through the first phase is still there. Take a breath & pause. You’ll be on the other side in no time. 

Isn’t that great advice for us? 

We are encouraged to endure a little longer. That might sound impossible right now. I get it.

We might be more like King David when he wrote Psalm 6. Things weren’t going well when he wrote… 

My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when they are dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Psalm 6:3-7

I certainly have days like that too.

However, we are the church. Church is not a destination nor is the church just the staff. WE are the church. WE are not alone. WE have each other. 

Enduring is always easier together. But are we taking the time to connect with each other? I know we don’t have the luxury and the gift of meeting at church right now and so we must take the time to make a call, send an email or a card. We should not suffer alone. Let us endure together. 

I understand that many won’t read this article and quite possibly the ones who need the most encouragement.  For those who are still reading… Don’t give up! We will get through this, if we endure!

Let me end with the words of Saint Paul who blessed the church of Rome with these words…

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus… Romans 15:5

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Change is Hard

2020 has been the year of unwelcome change. (That may be an understatement!)

Change can often produce anxiety, sadness, anger, apathy, listlessness and sleepless nights. I am sure we all have experienced at least one of those symptoms this year. I know I have.

This may be the most difficult year of my ministry because of the change that is beyond my control. 

I mentioned the other day in our daily broadcast that this is a time of testing for the church. Let me be clear, God isn’t the one testing us, but it is a test none the less. We always have a choice to endure or to give up. I, for one, refuse to give up. The love of God will see us through if we don’t quit or walk away. 

Life is obviously not normal right now. Tensions are high and frustration abounds. I feel it too. 

In times like this I am reminded of what John Maxwell once said, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” 

Most of us don’t like change, especially when we do not choose it. Yet, change happens all the time… even when there is not a pandemic!  However, in 2020 we are inundated with daily reminders in our socially distanced and masked world that life has changed and there is not much we can do about it. 

Between the moments of anxiety, I turn to Jesus to calm my fears and ask, “What do I need to learn to grow in my faith and grow as a person/pastor?” 

What have I learned? I have learned to let go. I do not have control over much and that I can only do so much. I leave the rest to Jesus through prayer. I have come to greater trust that God is leading the way and I will continue to point to the One who is still out in front us.

I have taken many deep breaths in the past months and remind myself that Jesus is watching over us all and promises to lead us forward through this “sea change”. I remind myself that we haven’t gotten this far by chance. 

In moments of uncertainty and anxiety I turn to this passage in Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:1-3

I believe that with my whole heart. Life may not be easy at times, but we are never without help and comfort.  God is with us and we have each other. 

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Who Are you Listening to?

Who are you listening to? What are the voices in your life that are influencing you? 

  • Family?
  • Friends?
  • 24 hour “news” channels?
  • Politicians?

Does Jesus even make the list? My guess is yes. But, to what extent?

There are voices all around telling us: what to believe, what to hate and what to fear. Often these same voices will tell you that only they can protect your family, your finances and your way of life. 

I hear all the voices competing not just for our attention but for our heart, mind and soul. It is easy to be distracted by the opinions of others. The noise becomes dangerous when you are convinced these voices are compatible or in total agreement with our faith.

Pastor Paul wrote a letter to the church he started in Galatia. He saw that they were being influenced by others in an unfaithful way.

He cautioned them and he cautions us…

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:7-8

Paul saw his fledging church diligently following Jesus and then they went off the proverbial rails. He asked the same question I asked earlier, “Who is influencing your thinking?”

Then Paul tells this church point blank, “The way you are thinking doesn’t come from Jesus.” Wow. 

This isn’t the only place where we are cautioned to NOT listen to every voice that tickles our ears. 

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, shares God’s heart with Jerusalem as they go down a path toward destruction (literally)…

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:16

Remember that old Sunday School Song?

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear…

If you didn’t go to Sunday School as a kid, we sang lots of songs like this. Some good, some cheesy. But you get the point–be selective of what you give your attention to.

Jesus reminds us of this simple truth…

 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Are you listening to the Great Shepherd? Don’t buy into the fear and hate. Listen for love. Everything else is just noise.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Lines in the Sand

We are great at separating people. At a glance we can discern if someone is on our team or should be shunned and ridiculed. Humans are particularly good at drawing lines in the sand and then determining who belongs on which side. 

We are really talented at breaking down community. We eagerly identify our foes so we can sling invectives and any verbal dirt we can scrounge up. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very bad people in the world but those are the exception and not the rule. Yet, we want to ostracize a good portion of the population for any number of reasons. Our default is to surround ourselves with people who agree with us 95% of the time. 

Those 95% are called friends. Often friendships are build upon our mutual affinities and those commonalities forge deep and lasting relationships. However, if you write off the rest of the world, you are missing an opportunity to serve, grow and love. (Yes, I know it is hard to love those you disagree with. Remember, I am a pastor.) 

I believe it is time to resist our nature proclivity to only spend time with those who agree with us.  Ministry happens when you build bridges and not throw bombs. The Kingdom of God grows when we are reconciled to each other and not estranged. 

We are reminded of the importance of unity within the Bible. Let me give you a few examples.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unityColossians 3:12&14

God is all about unity. Clearly Jesus wants us to be one! Saint Paul reminds us that all believers form one body… the body of Christ. 

Jesus once corrected the disciples about drawing lines in the sand…

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Mark 9:38-40

Wow. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” That is generous of Jesus to make that statement. He is willing to let a lot of things go to get to that position. I hope you see that too. Jesus could have said, “Unless thouest agree with me in the ninety-fifth percentile, thouest is against me.” Or he could have just as easily agreed with the disciples. “You are right, they aren’t with us, let’s be against them.” Jesus is looking to build unity and so should we. 

Erase that line in the sand, walk across the aisle and build a relationship first. Not everything has to be a litmus test of acceptability. We worship an inclusive God who offers radical grace. 

God bless you, 
Pr. Ben

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Article: Kindness

I ran across this news story that I want to share with you written by Michael Goonan from the Good News Network…

It seemed that life was finally giving her a break. A single mom down to her last $7 found a $1 bill in a grocery store parking lot. So she walked back into the store, bought a lottery ticket, and won $100.

Just like that, her luck began turning around.

Most of us in that position would probably keep the $100 and breathe a sigh of relief. But not Shetara Sims. At the urging of her 12-year old daughter Rakiya, she decided to donate all of her winnings to the family of a local Kansas City police officer wounded in the line of duty.

For the Sims family, the desire to pay it forward is personal. When Shetara’s eldest daughter was killed in 2012, Kansas City police officers went above and beyond to support her family as much as possible.

“The detectives were really there for us. They were there for us more than anyone I can imagine. They did things they didn’t have to do,” Shetara told CNN. “They came to see my kids. They did a lot. They were fathers, therapists. They were everything.”

Not wanting to make a fuss about her generosity, Shetara called the Kansas City Police Department and made her donation anonymously. She told the officers on the phone that she had been dealing with several hardships of her own, recently losing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It didn’t take long, though, until the local police precincts were abuzz, touched by Shetara’s kindness and gratitude. A group of officers became determined to find her to express their own thanks.

After finally locating Shetara, the Police Department decided to set up a GoFundMe page to help her family with their financial situation. They called the campaign, ‘Helping the Woman With a Heart of Gold,” and the response was overwhelming—with strangers and officers donating more than $145,000.

“People like her are hard to come by,” wrote Kansas City resident Chantale Childs on the police department’s Facebook post that announced the campaign. “A person that would give to a stranger and not eat for herself… she deserves support. It’s amazing to see my community come together for this person. Makes me proud!”

This story reminds me of something a lot of people have forgotten, the importance of kindness.

I hear how people will fight for their rights and go to war over this and that but all we need is kindness.

Kindness is glue that holds society together. It is not drawing lines in the sand or anything that fosters an “us vs. them” mentality. 

When we extend ourselves to others, relationships are built. When everyone does it; cohesion happens. It is not hard to see that we are not unified. However, kindness can reverse this condition if we all invest in this rare commodity.

King Solomon reminds us of the importance of kindness…

Those who despise their neighbor sins, but blessed are those who are kind to the needy. Proverbs 14:21

Deep down we are all a little needy… needy for some kindness. Give a little and see if it comes back to you. We have to start somewhere.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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