thoughtforthedayAs a chaplain for the 147th Reconnaissance Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, these are my monthly squadron presentations.

Listening Well – January 2017 (2/23/2017)

With all the divisive and negative talk within our nation, it is critical that we learn how to listen well. People feel most loved when they are deeply listened to by another. Here are some simple listening skills that you can do today to strengthen your relationships:

  • Get with another person and answer the question: What is the biggest thing impacting you right now (good or bad)? How are you feeling about it?
  • As the Speaker, remember to:
    • Speak in the “I.”
      • “I miss being with you and I feel lonely.” Vs. “You are never available to me.”
    • Keep your statements brief. Watching the rambling.
    • Stop to let the listener paraphrase.
    • Include your feelings
    • Remember to be honest, clear and respectful.
  • As the listener, remember to:
    • Give the speaker your full attention. Don’t think about your rebuttal.
    • Step into the speaker’s shoes – feel what he/she is feeling.
    • Avoid judging or interpreting.
    • Reflect back as accurately as you can what you heard the speaker say.
    • When you think he/she is done, ask, “Is there more?”
    • When the speaker is done, ask, “Of everything you have shared, what is the most important thing you want me to remember?”
  • Switch roles
  • Share your experience with one another by using the following sentence stems:
    • Most helpful from the listener was…
    • What I would have liked more from the listener was…

 

Clarify Expectations (12/15/2016)

Early in my marriage I did not call Stephanie about coming home late from work. She assumed the worse and had a search party looking for me. She expected me to call and I did not. You can eliminate 25-50% of your relationship problems by learning how to clarify expectations.
What clarifying expectations do is eliminate confusion, pain and disappointment in relationships. We are entering the holiday season and there are a lot of unexpressed expectations in families – travel, family, food, presents, and mental images of what the holiday season is supposed to be like.
Unmet expectations are like land mines. They are underneath the service ready to explode. It separates families, friends, workgroups, neighbors, nations, etc.
Many expectations are:
 Unconscious – We have expectations of others that we don’t even know we have until the go unmet.
 Unrealistic – They are unreasonable. You expect to have a great holiday experience with your family but it has never happened before.
 Unspoken – You are conscious of them and they may be realistic, but they are not spoken.
o My sister not going by to see our grandmother.
 Un-agreed upon – we have expectations of others that they did not agree upon and they have expectations of you that you did not agree upon.
o Stephanie expecting me to take out the dog.
What makes expectations valid:
 Conscious – I am aware of my expectations.
 Realistic – I believe there is evidence to support that the person can, or will, do it.
 Spoken – I have expressed the expectation clearly.
 Agreed Upon – The other person agreed.
Key Principle: An expectation is only valid when it is agreed upon.
The exceptions to this principle are between a parent and a child (chores), marriage vows of faithfulness, employee/employer and military.
Application:
1. Think of a recent expectation you had that went unmet and made you angry, disappointed or confused. For example: someone didn’t return a text or email; a close friend didn’t send you a birthday card; your roommate did not take out the garbage.
2. Use the following checklist to clarify in your own mind:
a. Conscious – Were you aware that you had this expectation?
b. Realistic – Is this expectation reasonable? Why or why not? What is the specific evidence that this person can, or will, do this?
c. Spoken – Have you clearly spoken the expectation, or do you just think the other person should know?
d. Agreed upon – Has the other person agreed to the expectations?
3. Practice clarifying your expectations and see if it is agreed upon. Here are possible sentence
stems to help you begin:
a. I’d like to clarify an expectation I have of you…Is this correct?
b. I expect…because…Can we agree to that?
c. I wonder…Are you willing?
d. I’d like to check out an assumption I’ve made…Is this true?
This material comes from the Emotionally Healthy Skills 2.0 Workbook by Pete & Geri Scazzero.

Daily Temperature Reading (11/5/2016)

At the last Commander’s Call I handed out a relationship tool called “Daily Temperature Reading.” The essence of the tool is to create healthier relationships through honest and open dialogue.

One element of the DTR is “Complaints and Recommendations.” The purpose of complaints and recommendations is to help each person be aware of and take responsibility for the small irritations and annoyances that arise every day and share them maturely.

When complaints are unspoken, they unconsciously leak out through a poor attitude or passive-aggressive behavior. When spoken poorly, they immediately drive a wedge in the relationship. This is not about arguing about or solving concerns, but how to hear each other, learn to negotiate and perhaps agree to disagree.

Here is how it works: The person with the complaint takes responsibility for coming up with a possible solution. As my wife said to me this weekend, “I noticed you let the dog roam around the house today when you left. I would prefer you keep her in the utility room unless you are home.” This is much better than, “Why did you let the dog out of the utility room?!”

This is a hard skill to master because I am rewiring my brain to handle complaints differently. But, I can say that after 31 years of marriage that I am no longer afraid of saying the wrong thing and escalating an issue into an argument and I am not as defensive when given a complaint.

By using this skill regularly and keeping our complaints current, our conversations are much better and our marriage is healthier. For a fuller description of the DTR, go to http://www.pairs.com/dtr.php.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION (9/21/2016)

“Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.” -Aristotle

HOW TO TAKE A TIME-OUT

Some conflicts become heated as levels of anger and frustration rise. Rather than speaking assertively, partners begin to accuse, criticize, or yell. Rather than listening actively, partners interrupt, belittle, and ignore. Physiologically, the “fight or flight” response is triggered as each person goes into a protection mode with little or no regard for their partner. In this state of escalation, it is not uncommon to say or do things we later regret. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to have a productive conversation leading to a mutually agreed upon resolution. This is when a “time-out” can be beneficial. A time-out provides couples with an opportunity to cool down, identify their feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how to approach the issues they face.

  1. RECOGNIZE your need for a time-out. Are your fists clenched? Is your face red? Are you breathing fast? Are the tears streaming down your face? Do you feel like screaming or throwing something? Are you afraid of your partner’s intensity? Do you feel emotionally closed off?
    • Learn to recognize the signs that things have become too intense for you to have a productive interaction with your partner.
    • What physical and emotional reactions indicate you need a time-out?
  2. REQUEST THE TIME-OUT. Call a time-out for yourself by saying something like “I’m just too angry to talk right now; I need to take a time-out . Please give me an hour to calm down and gather my thoughts.”
    • Remember to call the time-out for yourself. It is seldom helpful to tell the other person “You need a time-out!” Suggest a time when you think you’ll be ready to resume.
  3. RELAX AND CALM DOWN. Take some deep breaths. Go for a jog. Take a walk or a bath. Write in your journal. Read, pray, or watch television for a while.
    • Do something that will help you relax and recover from the emotional intensity.
    • What method(s) could you use to calm down?
  4. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT.
    • Try to identify what you were thinking and feeling that became so difficult to discuss.
    • Think about “I” messages you could use to tell your partner what you were thinking or feeling, and what you need from him/her.
    • Try to spend some quiet time considering your partner’s point of view and what they are feeling.
    • Remember the two of you are a team, and the only way your relationship will “win” is if you work toward a solution that both individuals can feel good about.
  5. RESUME THE CONVERSATION. Bring in the skills of Assertiveness and Active Listening and/or the Ten Steps for Conflict Resolution. These structured skills can help contain the intensity as you attempt to resolve a conflict. Honor your commitment to return to the issue when you are ready to have a more productive conversation.

 

Thought of the Day: “I’m puzzled…?” (8/3/2016)

Whenever someone does not respond to your email, text or call, where does your mind take you? Do you get angry, disheartened, concerned or upset?

We know that normally our brain fills in uncertainty with negative thoughts. We assume the worst and when the person does respond, we have a little attitude or caution. This little phrase, “I’m puzzled…?” can keep your brain from going to those places.

One of my sons is a trumpet player and before he came home from college this summer, he contacted our local orchestra leader about volunteering to play for the community production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The leader was very appreciative and told Nathaniel that he would get back with him.

Four weeks rocked along and he had not contacted him, so Nathaniel thought the worst. “I can’t believe he didn’t call me back and at least tell me that he didn’t need me!” I asked Nathaniel, “Why don’t you call him” You never know what might have happened.” Reluctantly, Nathaniel called only to leave a voicemail. The next day, the orchestra leader’s wife calls and says, “I am so sorry my husband did not get back with you. He’s been extremely sick for the last month and, in fact, his tongue is paralyzed and he can’t talk with anyone, but he does want you to play in the orchestra.”

So how do you think my son felt? Like a jerk.

“I’m puzzled…?” can keep your brain from assuming the worst and be a gentle reminder to the person that you need a response from them. Use it as a tool to maintain healthy communication in your relationships.

The Wake Behind You, June 2016 (6/16/2016)

When a boat moves through the water it leaves a wake behind it.  Wakes can be fun to a wakeboarder, but they can be dangerous to a kayaker.

Likewise, as we pass through life we leave a wake.  The wake can either be enjoyed by others or it can be disastrous.

There are two sides to our wakes.  There is the professional side.  This is the impact we leave in our work environment.  Would our co-workers say that we have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and are dependable or would they say we are undependable, lack motivation and do not strive for excellence?

The other side of the wake is our personal side.  This is the impact we leave on those closest to us.  Are people’s lives better because of our commitment and love or are their lives a wreck because of our selfishness and unforgiveness?

When people experience your wake, are they saying “Oh boy!: or “Oh no!”?

Characteristics of A Giant Killer – May ‘16 (5/19/2016)

Last drill I spoke about the Bible story of David and Goliath and what giants reveal about us. All of us have giants, like Goliath, that we need to face and all of us can be like David and defeat them.

  1. Giant killers see potential rewards if they defeat the giant – a wife and no taxesDavid saw the potential and then the problem;
    1. If you want the fruit, you have to get out on the branch; this was courage over fear; he probably was afraid, but motivated by the reward
    2. What are the rewards if you defeat the giant that stands before you?
    3. Oswald Sanders: Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare.
  1. Giant killers don’t listen to doubting critics – his brother and the giant.
    1. We must get by the Eliab’s. They are over us emotionally – family, close friends. Criticism hurts… when it comes from someone who is close to us; known us for a long time; questions our motives and ability; it’s continual.
    2. We must get by the Goliath’s. They are over us experientially. Some are immobilized b/c they hear the criticisms of “experts” and think that since they said it then I’ll never be able to do it. Every person who has never killed a giant will tell you it is impossible.
  1. Giant killers deal with giants in a timely manner – 40 days
    1. They don’t allow giant problems to perpetuate, but they deal with them forthrightly.
    2. We become overwhelmed when our giants continually show up and we do nothing. Goliath came every day and he defeated them w/o fighting them. When we don’t deal with giants quickly the 40th day is a lot worse than the 1st. The longer you put it off, the bigger the giant becomes.

Everyone faces giants and everyone can be a giant killer so take courage and take on your giants.

The Purpose of Giants In Your Life (4/5/2016)

Everyone has giants in their lives: giant opportunities, problems, challenges and failures. From the story of David and Goliath, there are four things we can learn about giants.

  1. Every giant introduces a person to himself. The giant revealed that David was a man of courage, skill and faith. Giants reveal who you really are; they reveal your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. People who reach giant positions have defeated giants. This event propelled David to eventually become the king of Israel. No team or individual achieves greatness without facing and overcoming a giant. I appreciate the Commander challenging us to take the initiative to address giant problems and issues.
  3. When we defeat the giant other’s benefit. David’s victory over the giant led to Israel’s victory over the Philistines. Giants often represent much more than themselves and once defeated the whole group is better. When you deal with the giants in your life, your family benefits.
  4. Giants are killed by persistent and intentional aggression. Why did David get five stones? One rock is many times not enough to kill a giant. You have to keep hammering at some giants before they drop. Relational, finance and personal giants aren’t usually resolved by one shot; it takes an intentional, sustained effort.

You’ll always have giants in your life so begin facing them now knowing that victory is assured.

The Death Spiral of Negativity (3/1/2016)

Intro – What happens in your thinking when bad situations occur to you? Bad relationship exchange, bad financial decision, bad personal decision, ongoing health problems, etc. Most bounce back, but some get stuck in negativity and you may enter into the death spiral of negativity that is characterized by 3 P’s. This is how your brain interprets the negative events.

Personal

You think, “What made me belive I could accomplish that…why did I even try to fix that…I’m no good…I’m not smart enough…I don’t need to take that kind of risk…I’ll never be good at that…there must be something wrong with me…”.

You take it personal. Julianna’s experience at Preparatory Academy and we think we’re the only parents having a hard time understanding the class assignments. “What’s wrong with us?”

Pervasive

It’s everywhere I look; it’s not just one issue in my life but its multiple issues in my life; it’s in every situation and with many people.

Permanent

It will always be that way! Things are never going to change. I will deal with this problem, fear, issue…Even the best people get here sometimes and this is when people come see the chaplain.

How do you get out of it?
  1. Personality Type – the introspective types have a tendency to drift in that direction; you can’t change your personality, but you can change your response.
  2. Be aware that if you find yourself in the 3 P vortex that when you take a risk, your tendency might be to: become critical, not take the risk or attempt to dissuade others.
  3. Catch it early.
  4. Stop the beatings and start the learnings.
  5. Write down the things you can and can’t control.

These five things will pull you out of the death spiral of negativity and put you on more solid ground.

Thought for the day – November 2015 (11/1/2015)

Your brain and change.

Think about these three statements:

  • The First Sergeant approaches you and says, “The Commander wants to see you.”
  • You get a memo from Finance: There has been a change made to your pay, please contact us.”
  • You get a text from your spouse/partner: Please call me asap.

How did you respond to that information? Where was your mind taking you?

Each statement illustrates how our brain responds to new information and change. Brain research gives us insights on how the brain processes new information and change, which should help us as we promote changing.

Three Reasons Why It’s Hard To Change & how to address it

  1. We naturally assume the worst – “The Commander wants to see you.”
    1. 2/3 of the brains cells in the “fight or flight” part of the brain are wired to pick up threats.
    2. Therefore, we are instigating change we shouldn’t be surprised when people respond negatively or suspiciously to new information.
  2. People will fill in knowledge gaps with fear – “There has been a change made to your pay…”
    1. When we have gaps in our knowledge about change, we fill in those gaps with resistance, fear and negativity.
    2. Therefore, when we are promoting change communicate early, often and with enough information about the changes so those gaps are filled.
  3. The brain can handle only so much change at once.
    1. Like trauma, too much change done too quick and too often engages the fear center of the brain and causes people to resist the change in all kinds of weird ways.
    2. Therefore, changemakers need to make major changes in phases to give people time to adjust.

Conclusion

The next time you begin to think about change, keep these brain insights in mind as you develop your plan. Likewise, when you are undergoing change reflect upon these realities so you are better able to respond.

minimessagesShort video summaries of each week’s message.

frommyheartThoughts from both my monthly newsletter column and personal journal.

From My Heart, July 2017 (7/16/2017)

“From Friendly to Family” is our theme for the year. Many guests have commented that Willow is an incredibly welcoming church, which is a wonderful attribute. People have also said that they want to develop deeper relationships within the church, but they have found it a challenge.
The Sunday Morning Experience Team (SMET) labored over these matters for two months and they developed some solutions. Though space will not allow me to address all of them, I want to mention a few.
First, we developed the vision and the supporting affirmations as illustrated in the following diagram. One affirmation is outward focused and the other is inward. Both reflect lifestyle choices of growing believers.

Second, we are taking steps in our ABF and YBF ministries to ensure everyone knows each other. We are encouraging for both more time be given within the Bible study hour so members can know each other and intentional events outside of the church setting so members can connect with each other.
Third, the first service will continue its normal greeting time, whereas the second service is encouraged to do their greeting during the five minute countdown prior to the service. The SMET believes the current “meet and greet” in the second service is not long enough and seems too forced for genuine relationship development. We are asking those in Bible study to dismiss their classes by 10:50 AM so people can make their way into the Worship Center and visit with one another.
Fourth, we are striving to have leaders for each of the sections within the Worship Center. Their responsibility would be to connect with those in their section. They would also help guests to find common ground with others in their section.
Fifth, we want to develop an Information Desk in the atrium. It will serve as the main information distribution point on Sundays. The volunteers will provide information and help attendees get involved in “family building” activities, such as small groups, events and ministry opportunities.
“From Friendly to Family” is a long term goal and it is part of our 2020 Vision “to build stronger relationships within Willow.” We know we are to love one another, but practically you spell love, T-I-M-E, so take the time to love your Willow family by building new relationships and strengthening existing ones.
Much love,
Pastor Scott

From My Heart, June 2017 (7/16/2017)

On June 4 we will celebrate Pentecost. After his resurrection and 10 days prior to Pentecost, Jesus told his disciples they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.4). He defined the baptism of the Holy Spirit by saying, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1.8).
These are Jesus’ last recorded words on earth. We have typically emphasized the Great Commission as Jesus’ last statement. But, if we spread the gospel without the power of the Holy Spirit, we have a proposition only faith (that is, a faith based upon stated beliefs). Proposition is critical but you must have proposition with power…the Word and the Spirit.
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message and Christian life are only superior to other faiths by degrees, but with the power of the Holy Spirit they stand in a league all to themselves.
Christian spokesman, Lou Engle, writes: “A leader in the body of Christ was watching an Islamic TV program in the Middle East, in which the Muslim cleric was describing the worldwide missionary expansion of Islam. Suddenly the cleric despaired saying, ‘But we have lost Africa! The Christians are healing the sick, raising the dead, and multiplying bread. We can’t compete with this.’ ”
NO RELIGION CAN COMPETE WITH HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED CHRISTIANITY!
Make no mistake, at the moment of conversion we were sealed with Spirit (Eph.1.13-14) and baptized by Him (1 Cor.12.13). But, I do not believe the regenerating, uniting and sealing work of the Holy Spirit of 1 Cor.12 and Eph. 1 is the same as the empowering work of Acts 1.8! Yes, we received the Holy Spirit at conversion, but there is still more of Him available to the believer. Praise the Lord!
Let us this Pentecost season seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the gospel!
Pastor Scott

From My Heart, May 2017 (7/16/2017)

It has been five years this month that I swore in to the United States military. Thank you for your support and encouragement as I serve our country by meeting the spiritual needs of our airmen. I want to catch you up on some of the recent activity in our Wing.
Colonel Gary Jones is the new Commander of our Wing. He is a resident of Angleton, fighter pilot and descendant of the original colonist of Texas. He is a strong Christian and attends First Assembly of God in Angleton. His wife, Terri Jones, is the Assistant Principal at Angleton Christian School. They have four children. I hope to have Col Jones speak at Willow this year.
Our Wing has been re-tasked from the 147th Reconnaissance Wing to the 147th Attack Wing. We fly the Predator, which is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), in conflict zones around the world. Beginning this summer, we will transition to the Reaper UAV which is a bigger aircraft that carries a much larger payload. Most people don’t know that all Air Force UAV operations are run by the Air National Guard, not the Active Air Force.
In August, Ellington Field will celebrate 100 years of military service. The military began training pilots at the base to serve in World War I. It is a bit ironic that currently we have work crews digging up unexploded bombs dating back to WW I. Our Explosive Ordinance Team showed me a terra cotta bomb they unearthed during the excavation work.
We are ending a deployment cycle this month. Approximately 300 of the 1000 airmen were deployed from October through April to fill in Active Duty slots all around the world. Most were stationed in the Middle East and they were taking the fight to ISIS. Our deployment cycles are every four to six years and last six months.
God gives me opportunities to minister to individual and groups of airmen each month. I am assigned to four squadrons and one Group. I speak at their Roll Calls and usually address a relationship issue. I typically visit personally with 30 airmen a weekend. The time goes by quick.
The thing I love is that I am an active witness for Jesus to a group of people who have very few dedicated Christians in their lives. There are many strong believers in our Wing, but for the most part, few airmen have ongoing contact with a spiritual leader.
When a personal or faith based need occurs they reach out to me. Just this past month, an airman approached me and essentially said, “What must I do to be saved?” I was literally there to catch this spiritual babe as she was born into the Kingdom of God.
At times I wonder about my impact and this past drill it was brought home. We had a Family Day the last half of Sunday and many brought their families and everyone dressed casually. I could hardly sit down for lunch because so many people wanted to introduce me to their families and have me pray for them about a special need. It was incredible.
Thank you Willow for allowing me to serve those who serve our nation!
Pastor Scott

(2/23/2017)

 

Here are a couple of great posts by Kris Vallotton about the link between the body, soul and spirit and how they affect our faith journey:

 

 

From My Heart, March 2017 (2/23/2017)

Living in the Kingdom of God is a lot of fun.

We have been delivered from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light (Col.1.13). We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are God’s own children who are heirs to all things (Gal.4.6-7).

The Earth Cursed System (ECS) has given way to the Kingdom of God. We still war with it, but it does not have to dominate our thinking or lives. The ECS originated with Adam’s sin. It brought pain, toil and sweat upon humanity and we assume that’s just the way life is supposed to be. It is so engrained in us that we don’t even see it.

There is nothing wrong with working. We will do that in eternity. It is the lack, hardship, constant struggle, never quite enough, pay check to pay check mindset that is counter to God’s will. You hear this echoed in Matthew 6 as unbelievers are running about squawking that they never have enough _______________ (fill in the blank).

According to Galatians 3 – 4, Jesus redeemed us from the curse and we now live under the blessing of Abraham. God blessed Abraham with “life more abundantly” (John 10.10). He was: a friend of God, lived a long and satisfying life, overcame all his enemies, financially prosperous and the father of many nations. As Gen.24.1 says, “the Lord had blessed him in every way.”

I believe the followers of Jesus can live in the same abundance. There are hardships, setbacks and persecution, but I do not live below it, but rather above it through the blood of Jesus. I do not accept the ECS as normal but as a curse defeated by His blood.

The way above it is through Matthew 6.33 which tells us to seek the Kingdom of God above everything and to live righteously and he will give us everything we need. The Kingdom operates like an earthly kingdom. There are laws that govern it and when we follow those laws we experience the abundant life.

I view the Earth Cursed System like sickness. The redemptive blood of Jesus applies to every area of life. I once believed sickness was not under the blood and whatever happened must be God’s will.  Since my mind has been renewed, I see sickness as an enemy and part of the curse defeated by Jesus. Yes, people still get sick and die, but I no longer default into the “whatever will be, will be” attitude. I war and rest in knowing what God’s perfect will is.

Mind renewal is the key to live in the Kingdom. We see everything through the finished work of the cross. Therefore, just as the Israelites lived under the blessings of God through their obedience, we can live in abundance through faith in Jesus.

Press In,

Pastor Scott

From My Heart, December 2016 (11/28/2016)

I recently preached a two part message entitled,  “The Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do.” It made some uncomfortable and struck a deep chord with others. It challenges our belief about Jesus making all things  new.

Jesus said in Mark 12 that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. To rephrase the last portion: I am to love you just like I love me. What does that look like?

1 Cor.13:4-7 tells us that love is patient, kind…it keeps no records of wrongs…never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. This is how God loves me. This is how I love others. And, this is how I love myself. I believe I am to love others the same way God loves me (unconditionally) and I am to love myself the same way He loves me (unconditionally).

Our unrenewed mind rebels against this because we consider how inconsistent, apathetic, and judgmental we are and it reveals how little we believe in the power of Jesus’ blood which makes me pure and whole through and through whether I feel it, live it or fully believe it or not.

It is only  possible to love yourself the way God loves you by abiding in Jesus—John 15, 1 John 4. You know you are abiding in Him when you see yourself as a dearly loved child of God who is completely and eternally accepted and enjoyed by Him.

This is terribly hard because sin corrupted and broke everything. We began working towards love based on effort and performance. We believe: God loves me if I’m good; you love me if I treat you right; I love myself if I am doing well. It is a conditional love. The first Adam’s sin brought brokenness and death but the second Adam’s righteousness brought restoration and wholeness. Perfect love from God, for you and for me is now possible.

This is not a call to compromise or justification for my sin. In other words, just accept who I am…sin is okay…I don’t need to worry about changing.,  No. Rather, I see those things, but I accept myself unconditionally just as God does. I know the inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and disobedience but so does God…a WHOLE lot better that I ever will, yet He still loves me unconditionally.

Are we not to love what God loves and in the same way?

Here’s my Christmas present to you. For a week, stand in front of a mirror and say, “God loves me unconditionally, wholeheartedly and without reserve and so I love myself unconditionally, wholeheartedly and without reserve.” Watch what begins to resist that statement, because those are the things God wants to make new.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Scott

 

From My Heart – Quick Thought (11/5/2016)

Darren is a long-time friend and former member of Willow. I believe this article addresses a critical issue on what it means to love others well.
 http://www.darrenhibbs.com/loving-people-to-hell/

From My Heart – November 2016 (11/5/2016)

From My Heart, 11.16

Often we take the most basic things for granted. Things like water, love or freedom seem to just exist and we become lax in our appreciation of them. The same is true in our appreciation for Sunday.

For many, Sunday is just another day off. It has taken upon the feel of Memorial Day. We know it’s important, but we go about doing our own thing anyway.

The Bible says much about “keeping the Sabbath holy.” Passages like Ex.20.8-11 and Isa.58.13-14 are very explicit in keeping the day set apart for the Lord. In the New Testament, Christians met on the “Lord’s Day” (Acts 20.7, I Cor.16.2, Rev.1.10). The “Lord’s Day” refers to Jesus’ resurrection, which was the first day of the week.

Now I am not a legalist, and I don’t believe we are under the old covenant obligation to keep the Sabbath the same way the Jews did. We have been liberated from the law and walk in freedom, but my freedom must not be used as an excuse for apathetic behavior either.

So why must the Lord’s Day be a priority?

Every year we celebrate significant days in the life of this nation, such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving. These days are of monumental importance. If what these days represent had not occurred, then who knows where we would be or even if we would be a nation.

But foundational to both is Sunday. For if there had not been a Lord’s Day, then there would not be an Independence Day or Thanksgiving.

On the Lord’s Day we are both remembering the freedom Jesus bought us and rejoicing over His present activity among us. In the natural, creation began on Sunday. In the spiritual, the new creation began on Sunday! Forgiveness, freedom, hope and joy were released that day from an empty tomb.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s worth getting together weekly and shouting about!

The Lord bless you,

Pastor Scott

From My Heart – October 2016 (10/13/2016)

Folks, I have never been so overwhelmed in my life!

Thank you so much for the wonderful, indescribable gift you provided me on Sept. 25! I honestly was not sure what to do with the worship service after the presentation. Frankly, if the sermon had not been so personal to me, I would have dismissed the service.

For those that don’t know, Doug and a group of people raised over $5,000 to buy me a road bike (the kind you peddle) from Cycle Works in Clute. I was overcome with emotion and I still smile and laugh when I think of it.

A few years ago I started biking and I average between 30-60 miles a week. My current bike is a hybrid between a road and trail bike and it is really not conducive to longer rides. I needed a good road bike, but I could not justify spending a minimum of $2,000 when we have other financial needs.

Well, now I can. The gift card is only good for Cycle Works.

The rigor of pastoral ministry takes a toll. Statistics show that many, if not most, full time ministers get out of the pastorate within the first ten years. The biggest culprit is the stress that comes from the job. Every Sunday, pastors look into the faces of congregants facing everything from cancer to divorce to bankruptcy. Walking with people through these challenges takes a huge toll at every level on a pastor.

Some pastors’ hunt to relieve the stress and others immerse themselves in books. The way I deal with it is by sweating. Ever since elementary school, I have done endurance-type sports. If you remember the 1970’s ABC Sports show “Superstars”, you will remember the obstacle course that ended each episode. I spent hours trying to replicate those courses—pits, fences, monkey bars– and then raced anyone who dared.

Today, the only thing that has changed for me is the cost of the gear. I find great satisfaction from running, biking and swimming. God made me so that I find  joy in pushing myself physically. It is a way that I cope with life’s pressure.

The gift of the bike is more than an incredible act of generosity, it is a profound way of loving me so I can remain healthy to love you.

In deepest appreciation, Pastor Scott      

 

From My Heart – September 2016 (8/30/2016)

Romans 12 says, “Take delight in honoring one another.” Honor is a way of demonstrating love. It is “giving weight” to someone’s character, sacrifice or position. It is saying that you are grateful for them and what they have contributed to your life.

It is with this in mind that we honored Kris on August 28. I am so thankful for her integrity and tenacious spirit. Willow’s financial clarity and building expansion are due to those noble traits. She moves to Arizona on Sept 12, so you still have time to bless her with a card or email.

As you know, we began “40 Days of Love.” The Bible says that in the end, “These three things remain: faith, hope and love. And, the greatest of these is love.”

Why is love the greatest? Because, God is not faith and He is not hope, but God is love. Love is at the center of who He is. Since we are made in His image, it must be at the center of who we are.

This is my belief—until we continually live under the experiential revelation of the Father’s love, we are incomplete. Living in His love is what allows us to walk each day with peace and purpose. Jesus walked in complete freedom and joy, because He lived in the Father’s unconditional love and the same is available to us.

Oct. 12-15, Willow is hosting, “The Heart of Sonship School” with speaker Trisha Frost. During these few days, I believe you will experience the Father’s love like never before. You move from a theology about God’s love to an encounter with it. During this time, you will:

  • Learn how to walk in peace, security and rest—no matter the circumstances.
  • Break free from always feeling guilty , shameful and condemned.
  • Enjoy your spiritual inheritance as you walk in your true identity as a child of God.

If you’re wondering if this really works, just ask Keith and April Jones. They were broken people who had an incomplete view of the Father’s love, but a major transformation in their lives and marriage began when they attended a “Heart of Sonship School” in South Carolina. It was one of many gifts God brought their way for emotional and spiritual healing.

Whenever you cannot be honest about who you really are and your tendency is to either run, hide or blame like Adam and Eve, then you have not been changed by the Father’s perfect love. This school will bring you into a fresher, deeper and more fulfilling relationship with the Father.

Go to our website to register. The school is limited to 40 students..

Grace to All & Godspeed to Kris, Pastor Scott