Monday, January 31, 2005


THE WELL (worship/prayer center) AT PENUEL RIDGE Posted by Hello

Friday Gavin and met up at Penuel Ridge Retreat Center for a Sabbath day of prayer, and rest. It was nice.

I arrived at 9am, unloaded my stuff in the Howard Thurman cabin, where I was staying. Then I wandered to The Well, a contemplative circular prayer room for midday prayer. The well is a unique structure- made out of straw bales and stucko.

I hiked around the lake and began reading a wonderful book- "To Pray and To Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church" by Roberta C. Bondi. This book became my focal point of conversation with God for the day. It is an absolutely beautiful book.

Gavin showed up and he went off to spend time doing afternoon prayers while I took a nap.

Later than evening we ate a nice meal in the main lodge- sandwiches, mac and cheese, grapes, and water.

Then we went and said evening prayer together in the well.

I stayed overnight in the cabin and continued a night of prayer and reading and woke up early and headed on my way.

Penuel Ridge was definitely a sacred place for me to Sabbath Friday. And I look forward to continuing this practice throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Ricky Martin stands up for Immokolee Workers and BOYCOTTS TACO BELL Posted by Hello

My friend Kevin posted some wonderful and challenging questions regarding the "Blessed are Those... pt.2" post in regards to the Taco Bell boycott. You should scroll down and check them out, and then see my feeble attempt at a response. :)

We're gaining ground- I'm sure when Ricky speaks out half the battle is won!

Monday, January 24, 2005


JACK BAUER Posted by Hello

Ok, if you have not watched the tv show- 24, then you are missing one hour of intense and great television!!! Kieffer Sutherland plays Jack Bauer, a special agent, who in each season has a top security crisis that he is helping infiltrate. I just have two things to say about this show- WATCH IT!!! (Monday nights on Fox) and JACK BAUER IS THE SHIZZLE!!!



Matthew 5: 9-10; 9‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I recently read a post at Shane Raynor's Blog, The Wesley Blog, entitled "Can't I just Order Tacos Without Tomatoes?". The post basically is questions whether or not it is effective for the United Methodist Church to boycott Taco Bell because of the low wages Taco Bell pays to it's South Florida Tomato Farmers. His basic argument is this:
"...the Taco Bell employees who depend on their jobs to feed families and pay college tuition. Unfortunately, as far as the radical left is concerned, all corporations are Satan and they must be cast down. The truth is, Taco Bell is made up of plenty of ordinary people. Yum! Brands stock is also owned by lots of main street Americans- much of it in retirement accounts. Is it smart (or Christian) to screw over a lot of people (many who are poor themselves) to help a few? "
Raynor's argument is a fairly weak one that, in my opinion, does not take the issue seriously. What this boycott is really about is STANDING ALONGSIDE THE DISPOSSESSED. Jesus used the phrase "blessed are the peacemakers", and "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake". Standing alongside people, like the Immokalee Farmers, is part of the Christian call to discipleship. I am one of the priveledged- socially, and economically (as I imagine Raynor is). I am not persecuted, so the question becomes- what is my responsibility as a Child of God? Part of it is to stand alongside those in my community who are oppressed. So I am called to be a Peacemaker- to stand alongside.
The reality is- my not participating in eating at Taco Bell, along with every other United Methodist (or other groups boycotting as well) is not going to hurt the employees who are working at Taco Bell, in fact, according to a recent article in USA Today low wage jobs are increasing at a fast pace. What boycotting Taco Bell will do is send a message that all people deserve a "living wage".
According to the Florida Department of Labor, the Immokalee Farmers' " average wage (40 cents per 32 pound bucket) has not changed in more than 20 years.” Six L’s Packing Co., one of the largest U.S. tomato growers, has been cited by the coalition in particular for exploiting its workers."
I have to admit that I have eaten at Taco Bell, even within the last two weeks, with my senior pastor. It happens to be our favorite meeting place to discuss ministry. But after reading Raynor's post I began looking into the issue more closely and I have to admit that I feel convicted to speak out on this matter; simply because my faith invites me to stand alongside those whom I see as dispossessed. I will not be eating at Taco Bell until the Immokalee Farmers feel they are getting fair wages for what they provide (however I still will probably poke fun at social issues that we stand for in the UM Church, that's just who I am:) So I invite you to consider looking at issues such as the boycotting of Taco Bell not as another looney venture by liberals in a certain denomination, but look at it from the perspective of those people that live day to day on slave wages.
So whether you consider yourself a conservative Christian, a liberal Christian, or just a middle of the road (barefoot Methodist) like myself, "the LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: "See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God." - Micah 6:8
Shalom all,

Thursday, January 20, 2005


BLESSED ARE THOSE... PT. 1 Posted by Hello

MATTHEW 5: 6-8 6‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are those... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are led to seek TRUTH.

Blessed are those... those who are merciful and full of compassion, showing compassion to others, and where compassion is- Christ Incarnate is there in the midst.

Blessed are the... the pure in heart, for through practices- prayer, meditation, fasting, sacramental living- our hearts are shaped.

Could one say that these three statements of Jesus are basic ingredients for a balanced FAITH DIET?

Moving away from the Balanced diet metaphor, let's use a metaphor that's one of my household favorites:

What if we even look at the Church as though it were a Cake. What are the ingredients that one might use to create a Cake? Eggs, sugar, yeast/bread/flour, icing, sprinkles, candles, chocolate chips, or cocanut shavings, etc...
The Cake has certain ingredients in that make it a Cake- the egg, leavened flour, sugar. Without this you can't have CAKE. I think quite possible that's the role that these beatitudes take- 3 central pieces that make up DISCIPLESHIP in the Church.

1. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness- The search/craving/desire for TRUTH/GOD. One needs this desire if one is going on a journey to seek a relationship with the Living God.

2. Blessed are those who are merciful- God shows mercy and grace to God's children, thus we are called to show mercy and compassion to others. It is in showing mercy that others experience God's grace and that we are shaped into more compassionate and loving people.

3. Blessed are the pure in heart- One becomes pure in heart through the practice of spiritual disciplines -such as fasting, silence/solitude, centering prayer, reading/studying scripture, worship, serving the needy (John Wesley would call this practicing the Means of Grace). Good Methodists like myself would call the process of having one's heart purified through participating in spiritual practices- Sanctification. All this means is that through spiritual practices we are trying to imitate Christ and become like Christ in spirit and practice.

All the other ingredients that we bring to Christianity- is what makes it RELIGION (I'm not sure about this statement, but I'm pondering it). And to go one step further, maybe all the differnent varieties and flavors of icing, or toppings that we put on our "CHRIST CAKES" are what make up all the many varieties of doctrines and beliefs that make each one (denominations/faith traditions) different and unique.

In the end, what we all have in common though is a Loving Savior who calls us BLESSED because we hunger and thirst for TRUTH, show MERCY and experience MERCY, and seek SANCTIFICATION through PRACTICING our faith.
Whatdoyathink? Shall we eat Cake? Come, taste and see!


Monday, January 17, 2005



One of my New Year's Resolutions for this year is to be more intentional to do Bible Study as a spiritual practice with my youth group. We tackle hard issues of faith and culture, we worship, but Bible Study has not been quite as intentional. So I have basically mapped out a plan for the entire year, utilizing a series of resources put out by the Mennonites, called "Generation Y" Bible Studies;

From now to Lent we're doing a series on Matthew 5 called: Rocky Road: What can youth expect in a life of discipleship? This series explores the Sermon on the Mount under four main sections: the Beatitudes, Salt and Light, Jesus and the Law, and Heavenly Teachings.

During Lent we'll do a study on temptation and sin from Genesis and Luke called: THE SERPENT'S APPLE: Youth are wrestling with many temptations. Each session of this unit invites youth to explore different temptations they face, including the temptations to control, to grab power, to have sex, and to have wealth. It challenges them to overcome these temptations and find courage to be followers of Jesus.

During the Easter Season and Summer we'll be back in Matthew doing a study on "The Radical Rein"- the parables of Jesus: Jesus used parables to reveal what the kingdom of God is like, and how God relates to us. This study highlights how the parables reveal God's reign as radically different from the world we live in, and what that means for the Christian life.

In the Fall we're gonna do a study on Romans called "Morphed- New Life in Romans": For youth, there is an ongoing war between wanting to do good, and being able to do it. Paul faced the same problem, and wrote about it in his letter to the Romans. He outlined the problem and how Jesus is the answer. This study helps youth begin to reconcile the war of internal will.

Matthew is the main gospel used this year in the Revised Common Lectionary, along with Romans for the epistle reading, (
) so the kids will hopefully make some connections in worship with what we talk about on Sunday nights.

Can you tell that I'm excited about the experience we are going to share together this year? I'm typically not one to use much curriculum to plan programs, but if you are a youth pastor- check out the Generation Y series- it is SOLID!!! The Mennonites "got it goin' on"!
peace- jn.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Ok, so tonight after Jen had finished feeding Abby she looked over at me and said, "I don't know why but every time Abby burps, I burp too."

I wonder why that's so? Mystery of Faith? Strange Coincidence? Hmmmmm.... I wonder.


I came across this brand new worship resource in Cokesbury's catalog and I must say, it looks great. In fact I urge EVERYONE to just drop what you're doing and run out and pick one up (well, don't run out until April). And I hear the author is simply DASHING :) Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Expect the Unexpected when it's Epiphany Sunday. Posted by Hello


So this morning for morning prayer I read the story of the magi visiting Jesus, Matthew 2:1-12, and what I heard through the reading was this- "Jonathon- today look for Me in the unexpected." Being a Sunday Church day and being a youth pastor (this may sound extremely practical and sacrilegious) I really don't expect for there to be much in the way of unexpected at Church. Sunday tends to be pretty routine- get the kids ready and out the door on time with a bit of sanity left, Young Adult Sunday School Class, Worship, Sunday Dinner at my Parent-In-Law's home, and then back to the church to get ready for Youth Fellowship in the evening. Yeah, right God, expect the unexpected....

So I get to church this morning and the youth and I have prepared to hand out flyers informing the congregation that the youth want to spearhead a special offering to go to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to help the relief effort in Southeast Asia. I get up, make my pitch and the youth hand out the flyers- SMOOTH SAILING NO PROBLEMS.

Then it happened... I opened a door and God walked through...

A member of our congregation approached me during the passing of the peace. Bob T. a wonderful person who films documentaries. He tells me that in Feb. he is travelling to Thailand for the month to help with the relief effort. He says that he wants to be helpful with our project in a huge way and to let him know how he can help. He then says he has a lot of resources. I am stunned. I just stood up and shared the effort of UMCOR; I wasn't ready to respond to Bob about what's next...

Then it happened again... the door obviously was still open and God walked through...

It was just after the worship service that Diane S. came up to me and said that what we ought to do next was gather health kit items and have a church wide assembly line day after church and assemble these health kits to send to SE Asia; care of UMCOR.... I said ok, and now I'm heading up the gathering of these materials and next Sunday our church along with our sister church- West Nashville UMC will have pizza after church and assemble health kits to send overseas.

When I woke up this morning I knew that I would be presenting our congregation with a way to be involved with supporting the relief effort in S.E. Asia, what I didn't know was that God was going to show up and expand my commitment to this.

In reading the story of the magi- when they visited the Christ Child, that little Jewish baby boy, they had no idea who he was or exactly what the fullness of his life was to the world. But they were led to him. And when they left the baby, leaving their gifts with him, they didn't leave the same way they came. God showed up and things were different. God opened a door through a dream and they travelled a different route. I suppose God shows up often and we are just so accustomed to living in our routines that we forget to look for God in the ordinary.

But today was the most unordinary ordinary Sunday I've had in quite a while. And now I have much to do this week to plan and mobilize for next Sunday.

Matthew 2:1-12
2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,a 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’b 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.c 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’d 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.e 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’
9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.
f 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.g 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL!!!! Posted by Hello