Friday, August 5, 2011
Last Monday night the final softball game of the season was being played. Honestly I was quite happy it was our last game! At 49 years old my body was sore and hurting from playing and practicing a sport that is better suited for younger people. Shiloh Softball is a great example of the heart of the ministry. The team is a group of misfits, people from a variety of ethnicities, mostly made up of folks that get overlooked in life. In a 10 game season we had lost the first eight games until last week when we had an offensive outburst and hung on for dear life to win the second-to-last game. Now, going into our last game, we were minus a few of our regular starters, but we had enough people to play.
The game went back and forth until we found ourselves in the bottom of the 7th (final inning in softball rules) … down by a run. We scratched out a run to tie the game. And then, with two outs, a young man was on first—I’ve known him since he was a teenager who was a gang leader that brought 30 unwanted young people to the church I was on staff with at the time. He is now 30 himself, been a chain smoker for half of his life, has a ponytail that goes down to his butt and a life story of survival through abuse and neglect many would tremble to hear about. He is a societal misfit that loves God and loves to help his neighbor—few, if any, traditional churches would want him in their service let alone trust him with any responsibility …
At the plate was the oldest member of our team. He has a pacemaker keeping his weak heart running, bad knees, and he stepped to the plate already having popped out twice during the game. He is a father of a misfit teen who loves SLM. His family has been ravaged by the pain of addiction and the damage it does, and yet he’s the kind of man who loves to help reach out to those misfits who need to know: God loves them no matter what. On the sidelines the rest of the misfits shouted out encouragement to him. He smacked the first pitch he saw and sent a laser shot down the left field line. From first, the tall, lanky pied piper of misfits himself, ran as fast as his diminished capacity lungs would allow. Without hesitation I waved him around third to home plate … he hit the plate less than a second before the throw from the outfield made it to the defender. “SAFE!—SAFE!” shouted the umpire. The group of misfits, a collection of neglected, ignored, judged and abused people, swarmed home plate to celebrate the unlikely victory over a more talented opponent.
I fought back tears as I watched my lovable misfits in their moment of joy. Tears? No one cries in softball! Yes, tears. There on that dry dusty field, a snapshot of the heart of God through the ministry of SLM was being played out. In the past few months this ministry has been mocked, accused, abandoned and judged—starting with me as the fearless leader of the misfits. Yet through it all, this small group of people have found a way to stay together and to become a family more united than ever. Through the difficulties of this summer a group of people have not lost sight of the purpose of this ministry, a ministry that will now evolve and flourish.
Shiloh’s Lighthouse is changing. A renewed focus that returns us to our roots has come about and it is time for an upgrade to Shiloh’s Lighthouse 3.0. What will Shiloh’s Lighthouse version 3.0 be, you ask? Well you’ll just have to wait for that answer unless you live in the Saginaw area and want to be at our Community Center this Sunday for the unveiling that will happen during our morning fellowship time. I can tell you that this Sunday we will serve breakfast starting at 10 AM. Following the meal we’ll have a great time of spirited praise and worship music, and then I will tell all the folks there all about SLM 3.0. If you’re not in the area no worries—next week I’ll put out a blog detailing the changes that are happening.
I can give you a hint about the content of version 3.0 … I dare to open the doors of this ministry to _________ and let them know God loves them and has a plan for their life. I’ll be filling in the blank this Sunday and in the weeks to come as Shiloh’s Lighthouse Ministry 3.0 kicks into high gear. Grab a misfit or two, keep your fancy clothes on their hangers, and come enjoy the food, worship and fellowship this Sunday.
Keep the faith …
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
It is June 5th, 1984. The Tigers have come out of the gate beginning with a 35-5 record to start their eventual World Series Championship season. On a Tuesday night ABC has picked up the game as the Toronto Blue Jays (who in 1984 were divisional opponents) are in town for a 4 game series in their (turns out) futile attempt to catch the Tigers in the standings. The game has gone into extra innings in a 3-3- tie. There are two men on and two out in the bottom of the tenth inning. Dave Bergman, a role player on the team, steps into the batter’s box. In the announcers’ booth Howard Cosell is continuing his game-long assault against the Tigers. He doesn’t think they are the ‘real thing’—just a fluke, their gaudy 35-5 start, he’s quite sure—and when you're on Cosell’s “Poop List” everyone listening knows it.
Bergman, a lefty, finds himself in a battle with the pitcher. With a full count, he hangs in there and fouls off pitch after pitch—a total of seven vicious tosses in a row. And now, with the crowd holding its collective breath, the next pitch flies, barreling down the strike zone …
He clocks it. With the solid smack of wood on horsehide the sold out crowd leaps to its feet. The play by play announcer is exclaiming with obvious excitement, “It’s hit hard, deep, it’s going up, up … still going, it looks like this one could—“
His elated recounting of the ball’s trajectory is interrupted by the sound of Cosell’s morose, disdainful droning, “Oh, it’s gone.”
The Tigers never looked back that season—they were destined to be World Champions, with even the staunchly disbelieving Cosell himself singing their praises by the end of the season.
We all love champions. Many dream of the opportunity to be part of something special, something that goes down in history. What if I told you that little ol’ you could actually be part of something that would change the world?
“Who, me?” you ask
“Well, Pastor, I’m really no one special and, to be frank, I’m just not the ‘church type.’”
Well, if by “church type” you mean someone who judges others and keeps a Cosell-like ‘poopy list’ then you know what I say?
I say, “Great, neither am I!”
"Yeah, but Pastor, honestly—I’m pretty sure my name is on the list of bad things good church people are not supposed to do.”
“Oh really? Like that list of nasty sins in Romans 1:29-32?”
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
“Yes, Pastor—I do some of those things on that list! Really—I’m not your type. I don’t want to be judged by your churchy folks, even if they are nice.”
“Now just hang on there, friend. While the Bible is divided up into books, chapters and verses, it is important to read entire thoughts to get the whole picture. Do you know what comes after that section of scripture? A very important word continues the thought in the next chapter … “therefore.”
1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
You see, I know a simple truth: we all sin! In fact, sin is in our spiritual DNA.
I also know something very important. God sent His Son Jesus to us, to forever change our spiritual DNA. I know that once anyone discovers who they are in Jesus that they can live a life free from guilt, condemnation and judgment. Even the Cosells in your life will have to admit, “Oh, its gone,” when it comes to your sin, as here at Shiloh’s Lighthouse we teach and live in the freedom of the redemption from sin Jesus gave to us all freely by His death on the cross.
Come join a group of misfits—people who simply want to enjoy a personal relationship with God, provided through His Son Jesus, people who many look at not as stars, but at best “role players” in life, yet individuals that God knows are ready to step up to the plate and deliver an unexpected home run. The long ball of life that will forever make a difference in your playing field, and that of those who you encounter. We are a community of faith and love that reaches out to neighbors as together we work to make Saginaw a great place to live. There may be people who don’t think you are the real thing; maybe you don’t even think you are! Come join us any Sunday starting at 10:30 A.M. and find out what a loved, important winner you truly are.
There is only one “list” this Pastor is concerned with, it’s called the Lamb’s Book of Life. I want to make sure that you and everyone of your neighbors’ names are on that list. Along the way, I want to help you know who you were created to be and encourage you to fulfill your created purpose in life. Come on—time to get off the bench, pick up your bat, get in the game and get involved. I think you have a walk-off home run in you … just waiting to be hit.
Keep the faith …
Posted by The Old Silly at 4:09 PM
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Many don’t go to any church nowadays. Less than half of the population of the USA is found in church on any given Sunday, even less than that claim membership to a particular church or denomination. For many they see religion as an attempt for them to be “fit” into a mold they simply are not interested in or believe in.
Who is interested in being the square peg that a religious group is trying to make fit into a round hole?
When you take the simple message of Jesus, “Love God with all of who you are—mind, soul, body & strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,” then add on conditions, or “explanations” of what that entails, you have the beginnings of religious rules that attempt to make us all a cookie cutter form of whatever image that particular religion views as “godly.” Try getting all of the various religious folks together and ask them to agree on their rules—wow, good luck with that! The old saying I know to ring true is, wherever there are two Christians gathered there are three opinions.
Here’s the deal for this simple preacher. At Shiloh’s Lighthouse we operate as a Community of Faith & Love. We are not a “church” or denominationally bound; if you want to get technical we are non-denominational. I see people more like Jell-O Jigglers (the non-alcoholic kind of course!)
We come in all shapes sizes, colors and genders. None are perfect; all of us are on a journey toward eternity, one that I believe Jesus died on a cross for, so that we all could experience that eternity with Him in heaven. Since we are all different in so many ways I like to see people as far more Jell-O-ish rather than attempt to make everyone fit into a religious one-size-fits-all mold. No. don’t try to read into this some goofy “many paths” religious nonsense—John 14:6 for me all day, folks. What I am saying is that since we are all different, yet wonderfully made by the same awesome God, it is not my job to make any person “fit.” into my idea of what a Christian is. My job as a Pastor is to share the truth of who Jesus is—with open arms to all people, welcome them into our Community of Faith & Love, and afford them every opportunity to find the joy and freedom found in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Yes, I will do my part to help you with your personal life issues, as will the others in our fellowship. What I will not do is try to make you conform to an image I have of you; rather I will challenge you to know Jesus in such a real way that He will transform you as your faith and relationship with Him grows.
My question and challenge to all who are part of Shiloh’s Lighthouse is this. What part do you play in helping make Saginaw a better place? Together we can make a difference in the lives of our neighbors here in Saginaw. My offer to you who are reading this who think the ceiling of a church may fall in on you if you were to enter, or that you would be judged and rejected so why even bother going … come visit Shiloh’s Lighthouse and see what it means to be free to be who you were created to be while helping your neighbor and making a real difference at the same time. Here you will find a true oasis of faith and love where you can enjoy discovering who God created you to be while helping others do the same. Whatever your “shape” you are welcome. I promise, no religious hammers here, but I may put a rake or shovel in your hand as we go and help a neighbor.
Keep the Faith ...
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The job of running a Community Center has many ups and downs. I have been ministering to at-risk youth and needy people in the Saginaw area since 1983. In that time I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many families and helping mentor more young people than I can even remember if pressed for actual numbers. Just this week has had the classic challenges—from confronting the financial stress of the ministry bills to the many personal needs people come to me with, I will confess ... my mind does wander off to that Smoothie Stand on a Hawaiian beach I'd love to be running ….
But my work, my calling, is here. And the needs here are enormous, and challenging. Here is a sample of some of the things I have heard this week either in person or via private messages:
From an adult attending our worship service for the first time - “Pastor, we have no food in the house and we are waiting for the food stamps to kick in, can I take an extra plate home from the meal today?”
Received via Facebook - “Is there a spot on your website for one time donations? All I could find was a monthly supporter option. I have run into and met people whose lives have been changed through Shiloh’s Lighthouse in the community.”
From a teen I am mentoring – “Pastor, I haven’t had anything to eat today (it was 9 @ night), can you get me some food?”
An email from a concerned mother about her son – “Please call (XXXX) ... he's having a tough day ... wants me to keep in touch with him.Would you please call him right away? Talked about coming to see you ... said this is a real hard day for him ...”
Another message, from someone I mentored years ago, via Facebook in response to my personal blog about being a dad, said in part – “I do want you to know that the care and mentoring you did with me has had a huge impact on me and my life. You were there for me whenever I needed a friend and more importantly a father figure.”
Ups & Downs—all part of this great Community of Faith & Love we call Shiloh’s Lighthouse. This week at Shiloh’s Lighthouse at-risk youth are being mentored. Music lessons are taking place. Young people are being trained in the sweet science known as boxing. Fun & fellowship was had during a softball game in the local Y Church League. The community garden is looking like a masterpiece of healthy nutrition soon to be harvested. Two different local bands have used the multi-purpose room for rehearsals. The weather forecast is looking great on Friday for a time of fellowship around the Fire Pit. My personal days begin around 6 AM and don’t end until around 10 PM each day of the week—so constant is the activity and need here.
As the economy has faltered, the need for ongoing financial support of this ministry has steadily increased. I know many people read these blogs and other messages that we send out about SLM. I need to let you know that currently we have a very significant need to raise additional support. We do not receive any kind of government funding or grants. We exist solely on financial support from people just like you who know even a small amount can make a big difference. Would you prayerfully consider a donation? If you would like to become a regular part of the support team, all I ask is a pledge of $20 per month, just $.66 per day, less than the cost of a small soda or cup of coffee. One-time donations are always welcomed, of course, and very much appreciated! A financial gift of any amount will really help us out right now. Pledges and donations can be made online safely and securely through our PayPal account by visiting our web site HERE. If you are mailing in a check, please address it to our main address – 1215 S River Rd., Saginaw, MI 48609.
Thank you in advance for helping SLM continue to provide whole-person community services to people of all ages in the Saginaw area. Together we can get through all the 'downs' this depressed, crime-infested valley has suffered (and still struggles mightily with), and be proud to know we did our part to turn those downs upside down!
Keep the faith ….
Pastor Dana Wilson
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