Angry Birds and Faith

I love Angry Birds.  This past summer I took my iphone to the Apple Store because of a faulty volume switch.  Even though I was eleven days out of warranty they gave me a new phone, which was great!  However, all of the work I have done on my games the previous year were gone, including getting three stars on every level in Angry Birds.  I spent hours upon hours flinging different color birds at wood, ice, stone, and green pigs to reach the ultimate .

Trying to regain my Angry Birds Crown I have played Angry Birds starting from level one.   I have learned important faith lessons.  Here are three important faith lessons on how Angry Birds has helped me become a better follower of Jesus.

1.  The Levels are always the same

Like the books of the Bible the levels on Angry Birds are always the same.  However, every time I play a level I learn something news about it — just like when I read the Bible.  I can read 1 Timothy 4: 12  “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  and I can interpret that passage many ways, it all depends on where I am at in my life, what I am thinking about, what I am reading and what my view on the world is currently.  On Angry Birds, I see different levels a different way every time I play.  There is a different angle I can use with my yellow bird – or I can use the black bird another way.  But John 3: 16 is always going to be John 3:16 no matter how I look at it and Angry Birds 3-16 is always going to be

2. I need to seek help when I get stuck

I have gotten stuck many times playing Angry Birds.  Sometimes I feel lucky to get even one star on a level!!  When I get stuck I have tried to look up hints online or through another app.

Sometimes I call a fellow Angry Bird fan and get some advice from them.  I do what it takes to understand what I am doing when playing Angry Birds.  Just like reading the Bible there are certain passages that give me problem.  For the life of me I cannot figure out what God is trying to say to me in certain scripture.  When this happens I try to seek help online by trusted websites, or in Bible commentary or I call another pastor friend to help me with some passages.  We are not meant to read scripture or play Angry Birds alone.

3.  Practice makes perfect

A simple concept said to thousands of people all around the world.  The more we do something the better we get at it.  No one can expect to play Angry Birds for the first time and get three stars. Just like no one can expect to read the Bible for the first time and completely understand it all.  We need discipline in our lives to continually play both in fun iOS apps and in inspirational books.  There are many versions of both that can help entertain us, comfort us and give us an overall sense of community and understanding.

Living a life of faith is never easy.  There are ups and downs, and

Beliefs

What do you believe to be true about yourself?

If you have negative beliefs about yourself, have you ever stopped to think about how they got there in the first place?

If you have positive beliefs about yourself, what in your life brought you to that conclusion?

We all have beliefs about ourselves, we have images of who we are, what we like, what we don’t like and what we hold true to our heart.  We were not born with these beliefs, who how did we get them?

One of the most common ways we recieve these beliefs is from other people.  Starting with the day that we were born we have recieved messages from important people in our lives (teachers, parents, friends, ect).  These messages have been both positive and negative.  Throughout our life we decide what messages we want to keep and what message we want to ignore.  That is not always easy, however it is easy for us to remember everything people say about us (especially the negative messages).

At some point we come into our own identity.  We may use the advice from other people.  Jesus did this.  He said to his friends one day:

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  Matthew 16: 13b-17

Jesus knew why he was sent into the world, he knew what his purpose was, but he still wanted to know what people thought about him.  His disciples were honest with him, they said that some people think he is John the Baptist, others think Elijah, still others are not sure — they know that he is important but they don’t know why.

Then Jesus said “you are my friends, you know me the best, who do YOU say that I am — and Peter got it right.  He said that he knew Jesus was the messiah.

Our good friends know who we are…..

Our God knows who we are….

When Jesus came out of the waters of his baptism God said “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  Matthew 3: 17

So when we are trying to figure out who we are, it is okay to listen to our close friends – it is okay to listen to people we trust.  But even more so let us listen to God.  God tells us that we are His beloved children and God tells us that He loves us.

So what does our God say about You?

Twitter Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”

Do you pray? I have to admit I don’t always have the best prayer life. Everyday things seem to get in the way of my devotional time. Something may come up and I push off my devotional reading and time I spend with God.

So I sat down the other day to think about my prayer life and things that I could do to improve my prayer life. God lead me to the above verses in 1 Thessalonians….In this letter Paul is telling the Thessalonians (and us) what the will of God is, and that is to pray without ceasing. So how do we do that? This does not mean that we need to be talking with God 24/7 – but what we can do is to thank God for all the little things that happen in our daily life.

For example, if we get up in the morning, we can say “thank you God for another day” – if we are not feeling well we can pray for help “Oh God, help me through the day” If someone cuts us off while we are diving to work, the store, or to school we can pray “God please protect them as they drive today and give them what they need to be a safe driver.” These are short prayers to God that can happen a number of times throughout the day. These are Twitter prayers!!!

For those who might not know Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.

So our prayers could be like tweets to God – short, to the point and we can say a number of things: “Here I am send me” – “You are the potter, I am the clay” – “The Lord is my Shepherd” – Most of these prayers can be said in one breath and said over and over again. They can be there to help us with whatever we are going through – to focus our life and our energy on the one who created us and who loves us. Hopefully God then will tweet back.

It is well with my soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;                               Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain — It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.                                                                               

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,                   That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole,                                    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll.                                          No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Refrain

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal;                           Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

Refrain

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;             The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

Low Sun Cross Waters

This hymn was written by Horatio G. Spafford after two major events in Spafford’s life. The first was the great Chicago Fire of October 1871, which ruined him financially.  Later in his life, Spafford’s wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic on a ship namedVille du Havre, headed for vacation (Spafford was held up due to some business).  All of a sudden their ship collided with an iron sailing vessel and 226 people died including all four of Spafford’s daughters.  However, his wife survived and she sent him a telegram from England that read, “Saved alone…now what shall I do?” Several weeks later, Spaffordleft to meet his wife and his own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, the Holy Spirit inspired the words to the song It is well with my Soul. Spafford once said that “They speak to the eternal hope that all believers have, no matter what pain and grief they experience here on earth.”

I have been thinking alot about souls lately.  I have talked with other clergy about the importance of walking with people as they search deep within their souls.

Bart_Sells_His_SoulMy first reaction when talking about souls is the episode of the Simpsons when Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5.  Lisa warns Bart that something bad will happen, but he doesn’t believe her until he can’t pass through automatic doors, and animals are afraid of him. Bart tries to buy his soul back but finds that Milhouse sold it to the Comic Book Guy, who sold it to an unnamed person. Turns out, Lisa bought Bart’s soul and returned it to him.

How many of us do not realize the importance of our souls?  How many of us have a soul that is not well?  How do I as a religious professional help people become well with their soul once again?  These are the questions that I have been pondering, and these are the questions that I do not have answers.  When I talk with people, it seems that everyone has something that they are dealing with, some more intensely than others and I want to be there for people, I want to empower them to take care of themselves which includes their soul.  So how do you build a network inside of the church to help people with their souls?  This is a question that I will be pondering, working with, talking about for the next year or so, hoping that one day it can be well with all of our souls.

What do babies think about?

I have been a father for about five and a half years.  I have two wonderful kids who I love very much.  The one question that I have asked myself over and over again as a parent is…..what is going inside the head of my children?

I know that babies don’t have the ability to think as we do —  but what would they be thinking if they did have a developed language?  I know this is not a new idea.  There is a 1989 film that brought this idea to life in the movie Look Who’s Talking. But it is one of the first things I ask myself  when I see a new little baby.

The time that I really wanted to know what a baby was thinking happened during the summer of 2005.  As a part of my training to become a pastor I had to spend a summer as a chaplain in a hospital setting.  Now I have to be honest with you – before I started this experience I was trying to do everything I could NOT to actually be in the hospital.  Before my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) experience I had only bad experiences in hospitals and I was not sure how I would handle the summer.

I ended up going to Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ.  This hospital met many of my requirements.  First I could get to it by public transportation.  This was important because at the time we only had one car.   Another thing I liked about this program was that I could do half of my CPE experience in the hospital and half could be in the community serving in another capacity.

Anyway, I got to the hospital and my the group of others that I would be spending my time with for the entire summer.  We did some training and then we had to choose which department we would be in for the summer.  I ended up in the pediatric unit and the psychiatric unit.

I want to share two of the many experiences that really impacted me that summer.

The first had to do with a baby less than a year old.  The baby was sick,  not injured and she needed fluids and antibiotics.  She was in the hospital for about 2 weeks.  The one thing that stuck out in my mind during her hospital stay was that I did not ONCE see her parents, or any other family member.  I can’t remember how she got to the hospital or how she left (I assume her parents did that).  But I would visit her everyday and I would talk with her and hold her little hand and sometimes I would cry with her.  Babies that young need constant care and attention and I thought that I could give her some of that when I could. I knew that the nurses were doing their best at spending time with her as well but they were caring for many, many children at the same time.

I also prayed for/with her.  Now this brought up some issues in my group because I was making assumptions about the faith practices of this baby and the family that she belongs too.  Since I did not have any information about a faith practice and I did not have anyone to talk with about about it, I thought it was okay to pray for the wellness of this baby and for the family unit.  But the question that was posed to me was “is it appropriate for me to impose my faith on someone who is not old enough to choose their own faith?”  I still wrestle with that question because I am not sure how to answer it.  I am making that choice for my own children but do I have a right to do that with a complete stranger?  Would I be offending the baby (or more likely the family) by praying with this baby?

My answer is no –

I say that because  I was praying for her health and wellness, but I say that with a slight hesitation…….  I can see the other side of the argument as well but if I had the opportunity to do back and do it all over again I would still make the same choice.

The other baby that will forever have an imprint on my heart came to the hospital because of an accident.  She was the same age as my son at the time.  I walked into the situation about 15 min after the baby came to the hospital.  Doctors and nurses worked on the baby for awhile but they could not bring her back to life.  This was my first experience with the death of a child.  It was worse for me because my son was the same age and I could not stop myself from imagining him in the same situation.  I went home that night and I held Logan so tight telling him over and over again that I loved him.

I was glad to be there on one hand because I was able to be a support for the parents and the hospital staff.  I talked with them, cried with them, and tried to listen to them and talk with them as they asked the unanswerable questions.

Besides my own upbringing, I feel these experiences have had a significant impact on how I am as a father.  I have realized from them the importance of contact with my children and cherishing every moment I have with them.  I don’t have a constant fear of them getting hurt or dying.  But I do appreciate all the time I have with them.  They are going to be young for so long and then I will lose them to teenageism, collegeishness, and adulthood.

What do babies think about?  I don’t know – what I do know is that we can learn from babies just as much as anybody else.

Being Lutheran

I have been Lutheran my whole life.  Growing up I went to a Lutheran church and a Lutheran Bible Camp.  I attended three years at an ELCA Lutheran College.  Then I worked full time at a Lutheran Bible camp (same camp that I went to as a kid).  I have worked at Lutheran churches as a youth director and I went to a Lutheran seminary and now I am a Lutheran pastor.

Overall, I have been ingrained with Lutheran Theology and that is a major part of who I am….

Sure there have been times that I questioned my beliefs.  My faith journey has not always been easy.  But I must admit that when it comes down too it, I do love Lutheran Theology.  Knowing that  we are saved wholly by God’s grace, through faith is an awesome thing.  I love the fact that we as Lutherans can believe with our hearts as well as think about why we believe what we do with our heads (more about that in another post).

But above all of that, I love how we can poke fun at ourselves. I have heard joke after joke about the traditional stereotype Lutheran and I love it.  I would like to share with you today a list of typical Lutheran type things — a list  that I received in a recent email.  Enjoy!

The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who, observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:

1. Lutherans believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.

2. Lutherans like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.

3. Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there.

4. Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.

5. Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.

6. Lutherans feel that applauding for their children’s choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited.

7. Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle.

8. Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.

9. Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom make for a mixed marriage.

10. Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.

11. Lutherans are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.

12. Lutherans think that Garrison Keillor stories are totally factual.

13. Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole adds too much color.

14. Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.

15.  You know you’re a Lutheran when you hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can!

16.  When donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.

17.  The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked up tight.

18.  All your relatives graduated from a school named Concordia.

19.  When you watch a “Star Wars” movie and they say, “May the Force be with you,” you respond, “And also with you”.

20.  You actually understand those folks from Lake Wobegon , MN.

21.  And finally….you know you’re a Lutheran when it’s 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service.