Out of My Mind
By Rev. Dr. Dyton L. Owen
Anyone who has known me even for a short time knows that I collect quotes. Any quote I like, that makes me laugh or think, quotes that hit me right between the eyes, quotes from the famous and infamous, the learned and the simple-minded. One of my spiritual practices is underlining meaningful thoughts or statements in the books I read. I can’t think of a book I own that isn’t underlined in at least several places, marking a quote or a thought that Iwant to remember.
One of my favorite quotes was one I first heard when I was a young boy of about five or six years. At the time, my family lived in a small southeastern town in Oklahoma where my father was a pastor. During our time there, the small black congregation - literally across the tracks - lost their pastor. Dad, hating to see any church without someone to serve as pastor, made arrangements to serve that small congregation until a successor could be found. Everyone agreed. So, every Sunday for over a year, my mother and two older brothers and I would go to worship at Paul’s Chapel at 9:00 on Sunday mornings, then back to First Church for the 11:00 service. I loved it! Getting to hear my hero of the faith preach every Sunday – twice! – was great…but getting to know the people of that small church and experience a different type of worship was something I looked forward to every week and grew to appreciate to this day.
At that small church, there was a man who operated one of the mortuaries in town. Mr. Rogan was a huge supporter of Paul's Chapel and my family during our time there. One thing he often said will stay with me forever: “God may not come when you call but God is always on time.”
How many times have you needed to hear that? Have I needed to hear that? So often, we pray and plead and beg for God to show up or answer us because we feel like if we don’t get an answer this instant, our world will fall apart. Then, at just the right moment God shows up, often in surprising ways, to meet our need…again, often in surprising ways!
Our time is not like God’s time. Not even close. We concern ourselves with “chronos” time, which is “tick-tock time,” clock and calendar time. But God operates in “kairos” time: eternal time, ultimate time, time that is immeasurable by our standards.
So, the next time you and I get impatient that God hasn’t shown up on our time, let’s remember God’s timing is perfect and that God is always on time, even when it is not on our time.
What would it take for us to start living on God’s time?
June 6, 2021
Too often, we confuse “fate” with “faith.” Nothing could be more different!
How many times have you heard someone say – or said yourself – “This is my fate. Nothing can be done to change it. What will be will be.” That’s fate talking.
Fate says things that are, cannot be changed. What we are is what we will be. Fate shows no signs of hope. It is pessimistic. It dwells on what has been, not on what can be.
Faith, on the other hand, says something different. Faith is the belief that things are or can be different, despite what we might see around us. Faith always points to what can be, rather than what has been. Faith is always hopeful, always optimistic. Faith is the belief that Someone greater than us is in control. Faith deals in possibilities and promises. Someone once said, “Don’t let what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can do.” That’s faith!
Fate focuses on what cannot be done, on what we cannot do.
Faith calls us onward, to do what we can do, to give it our best.
Fate says there’s no use trying.
Faith says trying is often all that’s needed!
It’s easier to live our lives by fate, believing that there is nothing we can do to change things or make life better. It’s easier to give up than to have faith that things can be changed. Why? Because faith requires something of us, fate does not.
Faith requires action on our part. Many of us have been taught that all we need is faith. Wrong! What we need is faith AND action. God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. Faith asks us to put forth an honest effort, trusting that God will add God’s grace and bring about the good.
Fate is easy. Faith is hard work. But the blessings of faith are untold!
By which do you choose to live: fate or faith?
May 30, 2021
In my opinion, one of the great stories of the Bible is of Jacob at the Jabbok River – the time when Jacob wrestled with God. It is one of my favorites because it is my story. And I’m guessing it’s your story, too.
There are times in everyone’s life when a dark moment comes. When all our dreams lay crumbled around us. At those times, we are so much like Jacob – down in the dirt wrestling with God. What good could possibly come from wrestling with God? What do we expect to happen? Jacob’s story gives us an answer.
Sometimes, the biggest need in the life of faith is to decide who we will be in relation to God. Jacob came away from his battle with a new name – “Israel,” which means “the faithful struggler.” When you and I struggle with God, we come away with a new name and I hope it is “faithful struggler” because that is what we must sometimes be.
But you and I may also come away, like Jacob, with a scar or a limp. Sometimes, we lose something in our wrestling with God, and we may have to limp along for a while. We need to remember this about limps and scars: they are marks of meaning. When we wrestle with God, we may come away with such a mark. God can use those marks to help us become more aware of those who need the good news of hope.
When we wrestle with God, we can expect to come away with a solid hope. There was a day – years later – when One stood among friends and said, “Touch my scars, Thomas.” Touch and see that the scars are not the final word about life. The final words are resurrection and hope.
The very place of struggle can become for you and me, like Jacob, the setting for salvation. The story concludes that “the sun rose upon [Jacob]” as he moved on…and he lifted his eyes to deal with the old struggles of life in a new way.
Whatever may die in our wrestling with God, remember that God not only waves us from yesterday, God also calls us to tomorrow.
Advancing by Adversity
May 23, 2021
One of my faith heroes, E. Stanley Jones, told the story of the experience he had while living in India, as he watched an eagle face a storm high in the Himalayan Mountains.
The storm brewed at the edge of the valley toward which the eagle was flying. The question rose in Jones’ mind whether the eagle would fly around the fury of the storm or fly carelessly into it and be dashed against the rocks. His question was answered before Jones’ very eyes. The eagle set its wings in such a way the air currents sent the bird ascending high above the storm. The eagle had used the force of air currents - which threatened its life - to rise to greater heights.
If eagles have the ability to use a negative force to rise above a threat, imagine what you and I have the ability to do with a similar force. Jesus is the supreme example of what can be done in unpromising situations. He faced a “kangaroo court” and came away the only one with a pure
heart and noble motives. He took the raging brutality of a rugged cross and lifted it as a symbol of forgiveness for all. It was history’s most noble act.
From the example Jesus set, it looks like the difference between the desire for good and its becoming real is our own choice: the decision to allow every adversity to do something for you rather than to you.
Light the Dark
May 16, 2021
A rabbi was once said to have asked his students “When can we know that the night has ended and the day has begun?”
“Is it the moment,” one student asked, “when you can tell the difference between a sheep and the dog?”
“No,” said the rabbi.
“Is it,” another asked, “when you can see the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree?”
“Not that either,” said the teacher.
“Then when is it?” the students asked.
The rabbi answered, “It is the moment when you can look at a face never seen before and recognize the stranger as a brother or sister. Until that moment, no matter how bright the day, it is still night.”
God calls us to be salt, leaven and light. Salt was such an important symbol in the early church that when someone was baptized, a pinch of salt was placed on the new believer’s tongue. It was a sign of being purified in Christ and a reminder that we are called to be purifying agents in the world.
Leaven was given as a reminder that the Church as leaven exists to be an everlasting, ever-leavening agent that can turn dough into bread for a hungry world. In other words, the body of Christ is called to feed the hungry, both spiritually and physically.
Light illumines the darkness. If there’s darkness, the blame should be attached where it belongs: not on the world that is dark, but to those of us (the Church) who have failed to provide the light.
In This Together
May 9, 2021
If hospitality and generosity are marks of spiritually mature Christians – and they are – then Tammy and I must be among some of the most spiritually mature people we have ever known!
We are certain that we have never been as warmly welcomed and received such hospitality as we have at Chapel Hill UMC. I think every one of our expectations have been not only met but exceeded. Every need has been anticipated. We have never been as excited about an appointment as we have been about Chapel Hill…and it is all because of your hospitality and generosity, even before we arrived.
We would like to thank everyone who make this transition easier; those who provided meals during the days after our arrival, the cards and emails, and those who have simply asked if we are settling in and if all is going well. Such actions and questions from you have shown us that you are a very caring and out-going congregation. We noticed right away your enthusiasm for the work of the church as well as your genuine discipleship. We appreciate that about you!
We noticed, too, the excellent staff Chapel Hill has in place. I hope you will continue to thank them and show them your support. Each one of them has been a blessing to me as I settle in and hit the ground running. They are all a joy to know and work with! A church is only as strong and effective as its staff. I can tell you now that this staff will be as transparent with the congregation as we can possibly be. We will work as a team toward the same goals and you will see us being supportive of one another. We are all in this together, and we will all be each other’s “balcony person.”
Let me ask you to do several things:
1). Pray for the staff and Chapel Hill every day.
2). Prepare yourself for worship each Sunday before you arrive (listen to music, pray,
get up early enough you don’t have to rush…whatever it takes).
3). Be ready to be a part of something great! Throw your hat in the ring and jump on
board…great things will happen (and are going to happen!) if we all work together.
4). Be sure to invite and bring someone to worship and Church School with you each
week…even if they don’t come, keep it up. The Church grows because you and I
work together in bringing people to Christ.
5). Keep the Fire burning…if you are not already, get involved in at least one small
group in the church (Bible study, choir, Church school, mission trips, etc.). This is
how we continue to grow and mature in our discipleship.
Let us not be afraid to take risks for the work of the Kingdom and the Church. Remember, we’re all in this together…we’re all each other’s cheerleader…we’re all moving toward the same goal of making disciples for Jesus Christ.
We are looking forward to being a part of Chapel Hill and OKC (again). We already love the people of CHUMC!
May God continue to bless you as you have already blessed us.
Rev. Dr. Dyton L. Owen was born and raised in Oklahoma. He began preaching in the church at the age of 20, while he was still in college. Dyton has a B.A. in Religion from Oklahoma City University and his Masters of Divinity from the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He completed a Doctor of Ministry in Theology and Worship at Northern Seminary/Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.