June 3, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,
The wind blew.
God was present.
Tarsheka danced the wind.
David Diaz and Jorge sang "Open the Eyes of my Heart" in Spanish.
Kites flew in the sanctuary.
We sang "Let's Go Fly A Kite", reminding us of the presence of wind.
Five languages were spoken last Sunday in worship: Russian, French, Spanish, Korean, and English.
Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" was sung.
Jerry blessed us as he sang "Creation Calls".
Holy Spirit, wind and flame, move within our mortal frame.
The story of Nicodemus was told - "The wind blows where it will.  You do not know where it comes from or where it goes."
The story of Pentecost was shared - "There was the sound like the rush of a mighty wind."
Blow, Oh Spirit, like a mighty wind;
Move my feet to dance
Move my heart to love
Move my mind to challenge
Move my hands to build
Move my eyes to see the unseen
Move my ears to hear the unspoken
Move me in a circle of oneness
Draw me closer
At one with You
Move me to the Mystery
Last Sunday we danced with God. 
Robert Earl Keen, a country singer/songwriter, wrote and sings about a non-dancer who was gently persuaded by a loving partner to trust and take courage:
"I tried hard to tell you I was no kind of dancer,
You took my hand to prove I was wrong.
You guided me gently though I thought I could never;
We were dancing together at the end of the song."
(No Kinda Dancer by Robert Earl Keen)
Yep... no doubt about it... we danced with God... even those of us who thought we could not dance found ourselves dancing with God. 
"Almost" American Idol Chase Guyton will be with us in worship this Sunday.  Chase competed in the 2008 American Idol competition and received his "golden ticket", making it all the way to the top 24.  Pretty impressive!  Chase is a friend of our own Philip Elder.  Philip was the one who worked out this link. Philip and Chase will join the band in sharing some very special music from Los Lonely Boys, Paul Simon, John Mayer, and Jack JohnsonWe also will have some familiar hymns.  Beth will be preaching and telling stories.  Her title:  "The Winds of Change" (John 14:25-27).   In these days of massive changes (economic, political, social) how are to deal with the changes?  For many people change looks (and feels) like failure.  Come Sunday and let God again invite us to the dance floor as our hearts two-step with God's Spirit.
Grace and peace.
Tim Bagwell
Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


 June 18, 2009

Dear Centenary Friends,

Louis Armstrong was a gravelly-voiced genius who had a profound impact on American music in the 20th century.  He was an ?at risk? kid.  Howard Hanger says that Armstrong could well be the ?At-Risk-Kid-Of-All-Time? poster child.  Raised in abject poverty in one of the roughest sections of New Orleans, he daily witnessed drug deals, prostitution and violence.  Born out of wedlock, his father left the family when Armstrong was an infant, so his mother became a prostitute to support the family.

The red light district of New Orleans was a gathering place for musicians, so Armstrong listened to them as his mother turned tricks.  As one would expect, he got into trouble and was sent to ?The Home for Colored Waifs?, a reform school just outside of New Orleans.

A Russian-Jewish family, the Karnofskys, took him in, gave him odd jobs and loaned him money to buy his first trumpet.  For the rest of his life Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David to honor this family who blessed him with kindness and generosity. 

The fascinating thing is that Louis Armstrong had every reason to sing the blues?. But he didn?t.  He sang and played love songs, torch songs, toe-tapping-fanny-wiggling songs. 


35 years ago, stereo technology evolved to the point of providing us with cassette decks.  I saved my money and finally bought the best I could afford.  The VERY FIRST cassette I played on that stereo was by Louis Armstrong.  I can still hear Louis crooning:

?I see trees of green? red roses too?

I see them bloom for me and you?

And I think to myself? What a wonderful world!?


Let me get this straight ? Mom?s a hooker, no money, little to eat, sent to reform school, cops chased him, no respect, no social standing and he still writes and sings, ?What a Wonderful World? and ?When the Saints Go Marching In? and ?Hello Dolly??  Does that make sense to you?


My guess is that the Karnofskys gave Satchmo his chance. 


I may not be able to write, sing, or play like Louis Armstrong, but I sure can be a Karnofsky for someone, or several someones and that is good enough for me.



This Sunday I will be preaching ?The Gospel for the Seasick??  I hope you will be present for worship!  




Grace and peace,


Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.





 June 25, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

Fireflies fascinate me.  When the first fireflies of the season appear I find myself asking the question:  ?How do they light up like that??  Some of my Mercer and Wesleyan professor friends could explain the mechanics to me, no doubt? but I prefer to think that it is magic.

For a period of 3 or 4 weeks at the beginning of the summer, fireflies are in their mating season.  They go crazy in a quiet sort of way.  Since their lifespan is only 2 months, their whole being is pointed to this one brief open window, so to speak.  And when they are done, they are done.  As in the BIG DONE.  Fireflies do not eat during this time.  Not a nibble.  Every ounce of energy they can muster is pumped into frenetic flying, flashing, and transforming themselves into a love bug.

Both male and female fireflies flash.  Each flash is either a ?come-on? or a ?forget it.?  Males fire off their show and females respond with ?tonight is the night? or ?I?ve got a headache.?  All of this communication takes place in firefly morse code through the flashing.

These little creatures which light up our backyards are actually beetles? not flies.  They are magical signs of the playfulness of God.  There is mystery.  When they are gone, I wonder to myself whether I have spent enough time watching the fireflies.

And perhaps this is what Jesus was talking about when he said ?Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, care-less in the care of God.  And you count far more to him than birds.? (Matthew 6:26)  He constantly questioned our propensity to get caught up in ?making a living? and accumulating stuff.  He encouraged us to watch fireflies.

Consider the fireflies? they are silent and passionate.  They are a delight.  Watch them.  Let them inspire you.  Then fall in love again? with the moon or the moment, with a song or a silence, with a dad or a daughter, with a friend or a lover.  When you are loving you light up the place.


Mark your calendars:  Friday, August 7, 7:30 at Centenary UMC.  Friday night at the movies at Centenary.  We are showing Clint Eastwood?s most recent movie, Gran Torino.  The movie is filled with theological and spiritual implications.  After the movie we are going to talk about it.  BUT the movie is also not for children.  Be forewarned ? the language is VERY rough at points and there are some difficult scenes.  However, if you are willing to plow through and not be offended, the theological depth is profound.  If you enjoy this sort of movie interaction and discussion, you are invited.  Jerry Elder and Tim Bagwell will be leading the discussion.


This Sunday the service will revolve around the most famous Psalm of all ? Psalm 23.  I hope you will be present in worship!  Lots of great music is planned? some traditional, some contemporary.  In fact, I bet you did not know that Carole King sang the essence of Psalm 23 in one of her hits.  She did not know she was singing Psalm 23, but Jerry, Beth, and I decided she was, so come sing with us a Carole King classic. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell