The God of the Universe

The story is told that Teddy Roosevelt would go outside, stand on his balcony, and look up at the sky on most nights. He would see the moon, the stars, the constellations and remind himself how immense the universe truly is. He would then reflect on God’s power, majesty, and wonder, then turn to his wife and quietly say, “ Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.”

The truth is Mr. Roosevelt didn’t know just how immense our universe is; science had not yet discovered the far reaches of it. He didn’t know that scientists have estimated that there are more than 250,000,000 times 250,000,000 stars in this vast universe. He didn’t know that not too long ago, scientists discovered one star, Betelgeuse, that is some 527 light-years away from us. Have you ever tried to figure out just how far 527 light-years are?

Well, a light-year is the distance light will travel in 1 year. Light travels 186,000 miles per second so in 1 year, light travels over 6,000,000,000,000 (6 trillion) miles. So how far is the farthest star (that we know of) 527 times 6,000,000,000,000…let’s just say it is pretty far.

Mr. Roosevelt didn’t know that the Milky Way is about 120,000 light-years from one end to the other. And he had no way of knowing that our tiny solo system is 25,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way. Nor did he know that it takes our sun 250,000,000 years to orbit around the center of the Milky Way. All of this amazes me and actually hurts my brain…

But what amazes me more than anything is that the God who created all of this, the God who placed every one of those 250 million times 250 million stars in their place, knows when I stand up and when I sit down. The same God knows every thought I am thinking and every word I am about to speak. And that same God believes that I am wonderfully and fearfully made. That same God truly does see me as the best of the best of the best. WOW!

I stood on my balcony this evening and saw the incredible moon and thought of Mr. Roosevelt and all that he never knew. I then smiled and whispered to myself, ” I think I am small enough. I am going to bed.” But then I had more thought before turning the light out, I might be small enough, but my God, the God who created it all, loves me. Not a bad thing to think about as I drifted off to sleep…

Breathe Peace….

God, Faith and Baseball

I believe in the Church of Baseball . . . For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary, and there are 108 stitches in a baseball.

Bull Durham, Susan Sarandon

The Church of Baseball

Somewhere buried in a file of “important” papers, there is a certificate with my name on it signifying that I was baptized at a small Catholic Church in Artesia, New Mexico. To be honest, not only do I not remember that day (I was less than 2 weeks old), it took me years to understand the significance of the moment when the priest placed water on my head. You see, on that day, I wasn’t just baptized into the family of God; God claimed me as one of His children. 

Continue reading “God, Faith and Baseball”

“Top Six” books that have shaped my theology and my faith


A few years ago, a friend asked me to compile a list of the books that anyone who wanted to grow in their faith should read. It wasn’t easy, but I finally made my “Top Ten” list for him. I hadn’t thought much about that list until a few months ago while having breakfast with Richard Burnham.

During our conversation, Richard and I began talking about books that have shaped our faith and our theology. Out of that conversation, the Family Faith Lenten study was born. I spent quite a bit of time looking through my library and developed a new and improved “Top Ten” list of books that have shaped my theology and my faith. But since there are only 6 Tuesdays in Lent, I had to whittle the list down to a new “Top Six” list.

In doing so, I also came up with a couple of guidelines I need to follow.

· I could not use an author more than once.

· I tried to choose books that might not be “top sellers” or widely read.

· I wanted to share the books that have also shaped my approach to preaching.

· Finally, I tried to choose books that would be “easy” reads. So, with those rules in place here is my Top Six books:

· The Furious Longing of God (March 3rd) Brennan Manning

· Blue Like Jazz (March 10th) Don Miller

· What’s So Amazing About Grace (March 17th) Phillip Yancey

· Life Together (March 24th) Dietrich Bonhoeffer

· Velvet Elvis (March 31st) Rob Bell

· Baseball as a Road to God (April 7th) John Sexton

I hope you will join us each Tuesday night during Lent to learn more about each book! We will have a few of each book available for purchase. And remember, reading the book is NOT necessary to come to class!!

Breathe Peace,

Recommitment of Baptism Vows


A few weeks ago, I was surfing the web and reading some sermons posted by various well-known preachers. I figure if I read some of their sermons, maybe I would become a better preacher. One preacher shared a story, that he implied was true, so I thought I would share it with you.

According to the preacher, a mother was at home with her two young daughters one afternoon. Everything seemed to be just fine until the mother realized that the house was too quiet. And as every parent knows, a quiet house in the daytime can only mean one thing: the kids are up to no good.

Quietly walking into each of the girls’ rooms and not finding them there, she began to get worried. Then she heard it: the sound of whispering followed by the flushing of a toilet. Following the sound, she soon realized where it was coming from. It was coming from her bathroom. Whispers, flush. Whispers, flush. Poking her head into the room, she was able to see both of her daughters standing over the commode. Whispers, flush. One of them was holding a dripping Barbie doll by the ankles and the other one had her finger on the handle. Whispers, flush. Wanting to hear what her daughter was saying, she slipped quietly into the room. Whispers, flush. And this is what she heard: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and in the hole, you go.” Flush.

Since the story was on the internet AND in a sermon, it has to be true right? Okay maybe not… either way, I know there have been times in my life when I have felt like that soaking wet Barbie doll. There are those times when my life is filled with chaos and unrest; I feel as if someone has me by the ankles ready to flush me. That is when I try to remember the story of Jesus’ baptism that Matthew records.

I remind myself that God tore open the heavens and claimed me as one of His own. And that is really good news, but it gets better. You see, not only does God claim me, Matthew reminds me that God declares to the world that I belong to Him. That isn’t just good news, but that’s GREAT NEWS!

Wesley’s Covenant Service


Sunday in worship, we join many other United Methodist Churches in kicking off the New Year by participating in an adaption of John Wesley’s Covenant Service. Central to this Service is the opportunity for us to hear God’s offer to enter into a loving, covenant relationship with Him. This covenant is not a business contract between God and us so that certain goods and services can be exchanged. Rather, it is the means of grace by which we accept the relationship God offers and then seek to sustain it.

The focal point of the service is Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

This prayer embraces the whole of life in all its parts. It is a difficult prayer to say and really mean it. If we are honest, it not only challenges us, but it also makes us uncomfortable. It asks questions of our faith and demands that we examine our relationship with God.  I hope you will take some time today (and maybe this week) to reflect on some questions and Wesley’s Prayer:

Read through the prayer slowly, a line at a time.
• What jumps out at you?
• What would you find easy to say?
• What would you find difficult to say?

Think about how it might apply to your life, to the whole of your life.
• What things might God be asking you to stop?
• What might God be asking you to continue?
• And what new things may God place in your life?

If you want to chat about it, let me know. Together we can grow as those who have chosen to be Jesus followers.

Breathe Peace,


Christmas is the best time of year….until it becomes the worst. Sure, there are many aspects of the holiday season that are great, but there are also more than a few reasons Christmas is the most stressful time of the year. For some, the stress comes from managing a crazy, jam-packed schedule. For others, it is buying the “perfect” gifts for your favorite people or maybe having to deal with less-than-functional family dynamics. And, we are supposed to do all that we do with grins on our faces so that we are not accused of being the Grinch.

Look, I love the season for Advent and Christmas, but the reality is that sometimes, it just feels overwhelming. If I am not careful, I get in such a hurry to get everything done that I let the Grinch of stress and anxiety steal Christmas from me. If not for some of the people in this church, it would have happened to me this year.

Tuesday of this past week, the Grinch almost won. I was heading back to the church to teach the last night of my Advent study. Driving the Jeep and listening to Christmas music, I hit something in the middle of the road. I won’t go into all the details, but I eventually discovered that a large piece of rebar had lodged itself in/around the rear axle (see pictures).

I was stranded on the side of the road with some 30 people waiting for me to teach about the Prince of Peace. Plus, I was worried about how much the repairs would cost. Oh yeah, did I mention that I was working on the sermon about stress and the Christmas season? As you can imagine, my anxiety and stress levels were on the rise!

When I finally got to the church, Richard was telling an amazing story about Advent and keeping the focus on what was most important. The people who were waiting? Because they were filled with grace and peace, I felt the anxiety and stress begin to fade away. Add to that the generosity of the Clines who drove me to the Morans who loaned me a car, the stress faded away even more. Then there was M’Liss who had us both laughing on the phone as I was driving home! Was I still concerned? Of course. But when I walked into the house, Jill did not have to deal with the Grinch!

Maybe this is the secret to handling stress during a season sometimes filled with it. Breathe in the grace and peace of people who love you. Breathe in the grace and peace of the community that surrounds you. Then the words of Paul can fill your soul, “…peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).

Breathe Peace,

Marty Signature BROWN

Are You A Swan?


A few years ago I saw a movie with a powerful message that truly resonated with me. The core message in “Up in the Air” is centered around the idea of humanity’s need to be in community.

Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) is a businessman who travels some 332 days a year. In fact, his goal in life is to accumulate 10 million frequent flyer miles. Bingham travels for work as a “career transition” counselor, meaning he goes from city to city to fire people whose bosses don’t want to do it themselves.

Not only does he fire people, but he also gives motivational talks. His favorite theme for his talks is to teach people how to travel lightly through life. The point of every talk he gives is consistent. Relationships and community slow us down in life. He encourages the people hearing his talk to be sharks, not swans. What does that mean? Well, swans are often seen as creatures that build and maintain relationships for a lifetime, but sharks, are solitary hunters. “We are not swans,” he says, “we are sharks.”

I wonder if the Grinch ever heard one of Bingham’s talks because he lived his life as a shark. In fact, thanks to Lucy Tonnesen (an incredibly cute and smart 8-year-old), I learned that being a shark just might be the reason why the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small. After all, God created all of us (including the Grinch) to be swans, to be in community. You and I are created to not be alone.

If we lived in an ideal world, everyone would truly celebrate Christmas with the love and joy that are meant to accompany it. But, the reality is people are lonely at Christmas. In fact, this time of the year can make our loneliness seem even more pronounced. And if loneliness can cause the heart of the Grinch to shrink two sizes too small…

Well, let’s make sure that the Grinch of loneliness doesn’t steal our hearts or the hearts of people we love. We are created to be swans, not sharks…

Breathe Peace,

Marty Signature BROWN



Last Sunday (December 1st) was not only my birthday, but it also marked my 6th anniversary as the pastor of First United Methodist Church Missouri City. I have spent the last couple of weeks reflecting on the previous 6 years. I even spent time going back through old sermon series that I have preached since that 1st Sunday.

Part of being a huge baseball fan is having a love for numbers and statistics. So, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the statistics from the last 6 years:

  • I have preached 268 sermons (usually times 3).
  • I have been honored to officiate 110 funerals.
  • I have been able to experience God’s grace by performing 82 baptisms.
  • I have been part of confirming 57 young people and have received 172 new members into the life of FUMCMC.
But my memories and reflections have been more than numbers. I want to share with you some of the thoughts that have filled my mind and my heart:
  • I feel the need to apologize for ruining Christmas for some of you by teaching that we don’t know how many magi came to see Jesus AND that they didn’t arrive on Christmas morning.
  • I miss the staff that have moved on to other positions and opportunities.
  • I am thankful for our church staff, who work hard to make a difference in the Kingdom of God.
  • I am thankful that FUMCMC is a church that is truly an inclusive and diverse congregation. I love that I can look out on the congregation every Sunday morning and get a glimpse of what heaven is going to look like.
  • But I am sad because we are inclusive and diverse some have chosen to leave our community.
And most importantly, I understand how Paul must have felt when he wrote to the church in Philippi. After all, through the hard times and joyful times, through the ups and the downs, I am grateful that God has allowed me to serve as your pastor and look forward to this next year. Paul writes it so eloquently, so let me use his words:
I thank my God every time I think of you… (Philippians 1:3)

I look forward as we work and serve together in the coming year!

Breathe Peace,

Marty Signature BROWN

Missing Pieces


Years ago, an older gentleman who was chatting with me said something I will never forget. With a tinge of sadness, he said, “I feel like there are parts of myself that have been lost along the way, and I don’t know if I can go back and find them again.” Even way back then, I knew exactly what he was talking about. And lately, it seems to be even more true as I think about the parts of my life that have been lost along the way. Some of the losses are fairly recent, while others are from long ago, but never forgotten.

I imagine that the words of this man resonate with many of you as well. I imagine that you can probably name parts of yourself that have been lost along the way. Like my lost parts, some of them may be from recent wounds, while others are scarred memories. And while I cannot speak for you, there are those haunting questions that echo in my heart: Can I find the lost parts of myself? Can I become whole again?

Sometimes we lose parts of ourselves to grief and sorrow when life becomes overwhelming and confusing, to the pain and wounds of life, to circumstances that are nobody’s fault, and sometimes to the choices we’ve made. Sometimes we lose ourselves to fear, anger, and jealousy, while wanting to be right more than doing right, We make judgement of others, refusing to forgive. Sometimes the lost part of ourselves is faith, hope, a dream. It is so easy to lose a piece of ourselves and it can happen in a thousand different ways.

Being lost, then being found. This is the very core of the Gospel. You see, the Gospel of Jesus is not about making bad people good. It is about bringing people back to life. It is about you and me, finding those parts of our lives that might have been lost so that we might be whole. It is about tasting the abundant life that is promised by Jesus.

I want to thank the Bishop, my DS, the staff, and you for allowing me time off to have the opportunity to find some of my missing pieces. I hope you will pray for me as I walk this path to wholeness.

Breathe Peace,

Marty Signature BROWN

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