Ken L. Hagler

Author's details

Name: Ken L. Hagler
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Jedi Pastor Ken: Lectio Visual for Advent with Isaiah — December 9, 2014
  2. Jedi Pastor Ken: Santa, Stormtroopers, and Spiritual Formation: Why All Three? — December 8, 2014
  3. Jedi Pastor Ken: Is There Room for the Miraculous In Your Advent Plans? — December 4, 2014
  4. Jedi Pastor Ken: When It Comes to Ferguson, Does the Church Have Good News or Just More of the Same? — December 1, 2014
  5. Jedi Pastor Ken: The Integrity Of My Faith: Thoughts from a Cancer Caregiver — November 24, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Jedi Pastor Ken: How Losing My Sight Has Helped Me to See More Clearly — 2 comments
  2. Jedi Pastor Ken: Undoing Our Souls — 2 comments
  3. Jedi Pastor Ken: At the Edge. My First Thoughts On My Wife’s Fight. — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Dec 09 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Lectio Visual for Advent with Isaiah

Original post at

It is tempting to skip the time of Advent and jump right to Christmas.  As far as the Church goes, Christmas has not even begun yet!  Advent is our time of preparation and a chance to consider the state of things in the world prior to the coming of the Christ child.  The prophet Isaiah was one who lived in that time and God's coming and it is he who is pictured above.   Before scrolling farther down, let me invite you to take time to just "soak" in the image.  Then begin considering each of the five parts of Lectio Visual.

Take time and move through each step.  Note the questions in the following paragraph for suggestions as you practice Lectio Visual.

            Look (Read):  Consider deeply the image and what is being “said.”
            Linger (Reflect):  What is the verse or word being given to you?
            Led (Respond): How are you being called to respond?
            Lay (Rest): Be in God's presence.
            Live (Return): Moving back into the world with how we've been changed.

As you look at this image, what words come to your mind?  Look at the people,their body language.  Note the colors chosen.  What speaks to you about the location?    Specifically, what Scripture passage or phrase does the Holy Spirit inspire them to speak to you?   You may think of a recent news article or a quote by a famous person.  So it maybe from another word or phrase that you are  inspired to look up a Scripture.  If you need help, you might try going to to do a search through the Bible using a key word that comes to you.  You might consider looking up an Isaiah text from the church calendar such as Isaiah 40:1-11 or 61:1-4 & 8-11.

Remember that there are those images, icons or symbols that appeal to us.  We are  now an incredibly visual society and images are important.  Christianity has been using images since the earliest days of the church.  BUT, we need to realize that there are also images that don’t attract us or inspire us with joy or peace that are just as likely to be used by God. 

Whatever that verse or word or phrase, take it as a guide for your prayer through this day.  Read or say that verse or phrase out loud if you have time or space to do so.  If not, silently reflect and pray.  If it is a full story, consider using more of Lectio Divina which I talk about elsewhere on my blog.  

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Dec 08 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Santa, Stormtroopers, and Spiritual Formation: Why All Three?

Original post at

So, are you on the naughty or nice list this year?  You don’t have to confess or anything but just wondering if you’ve thought about it.  Right after Santa’s visit, well, there is New Year’s and all those resolutions to do better.  Nothing like a good guilt trip to ruin a holiday and leave it to a pastor to remind you of it!

But seriously,have you thought about it?  I know I have.  Being a parent has a way of doing that to you.  How have I done as a parent?  Did I find the right mix of patience and punishment or did I lose my temper too much and now my kids are scarred for life.  How about my job as a spouse?  As a son or as a friend and neighbor?  Dang, I could just go on and on

Start talking about religion and it only gets worse, I know.  Nobody wants to see the clergy coming around, everybody tries to run and hide.  If not, you get caught trying to run through excuses as to why you “can’t do this one thing” or “couldn’t be at that thing the other night.”  I get it.  It really isn’t the most important thing to lay it out before me every time you see me.  
You’ve got me all wrong.  My work is to help you misbehave!

I wrote in a previous blog post, “A spirituality that only informs or conforms and does not transform is not Christian spirituality.”  Christian theology points out the human race is corrupted by sin right out of the gate and God has made a way in Jesus Christ to redeem us.  Christian spiritual formation reveals the way by which we respond to God’s grace and then, misbehave with the status quo of sin.

Why have we so dismissed the Biblical understanding that there is a prince in this world other than the Prince of Peace?  Why, when this really does explain a great deal to us regarding God’s insistence on coming to save us?  One of my favorite authors at this time, Fr. Simon Tugwell, puts it well, “ is the devil who is the prince of this world (Jn 14:30, etc.).  We are being incited to misbehave in his court, as well as to behave ourselves in God’s court!”  Tugwell draws on an ancient hymn to describe how we are called, “ be unfaithful to our first love and forsake the snake who wooed and wedded us ("Prayer: Living with God," pg 26).”

What are we really getting away with when we run from God and do our “own” thing?  We are getting away with no thing as we fall again and again for the nature of the accuser, of evil itself. All we are offered is lies (John 8:44).  

While I am "Jedi Pastor Ken," I don't throw around Star Wars quotes, often or lightly, but I cannot help but think to the scene of Star Wars: A New Hope, as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo make their attempt to rescue Princess Leia from the Empire.  Dressed in stolen stormtrooper armour, they make their way to the Princess’ cell.  Upon declaring to the princess that they had arrived to rescue her, Leia responds, “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”  

Do we not blow off the incarnation in the same way?  “Isn’t a baby a little small for a messiah?”  “Isn’t the church a little archaic for changing the world?”  “Aren’t Christians a little too arrogant about being the ‘only way?’”  This is why spiritual formation matters to us today for we shouldn’t be surprised when our salvation, our new life of freedom, comes in an unconventional package by the world’s standards.

God calls us out, beckons us, implores us, “hollers” at us, or what ever by a grace which never ceases. We are called to be a peculiar people in this world.  We need to look no further than Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2, NRSV)”  

Spiritual formation, by any means of grace, be it prayer forms for private prayer, the community of faith in worship, by public or private reading of Scripture, the sharing of the communion meal, etc., is evidenced in our transformation and how are minds are renewed to be attentive to God.  In large measure then, our lives should no longer resemble the pattern of the world.  

I’m not so worried about keeping Christ in Christmas as I am about keeping Christ in Christian.  We aren’t called to measure ourselves by how we conform to the world but by how we are being transformed into the image of Christ...even if we do come up short, God’s grace is abundantly sufficient.

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Dec 04 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Is There Room for the Miraculous In Your Advent Plans?

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Last week, I, like many fellow Star Wars fans awaited the release of the new movie trailer.  With great anticipation we sought to gain new insight into the unfolding of one of the greatest movie franchises of all time.  We listened and watched and then debated what was revealed.  Yet nothing in the world actually changed.  The tragic and hateful actions of ISIS remained.  The debate surrounding grand jury decisions in Ferguson, MO and now New York, remain.  That, and another black Friday complete with the usual slate of horrific actions of greed once again came and went.

What also happened over this course of time was that there were cancers removed from people.  There were homeless who were fed and in some cases, even housing and new jobs began.  Babies were born too.  These are ordinary though.  I don’t think it so much that we have allowed Christmas to be commercialized to be the problem.  I am beginning to think it is we no longer consider the birth of Jesus Christ to be that miraculous.

Back in January of the year 2000, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and our unborn daughter did a back-flip in the womb to put herself in a breech position.  Our son was just 17 months old.  A hundred years prior and certainly just 200 years prior, it would have been a real good chance that both my wife and daughter would have died in childbirth and a few years later, I would succumb to cancer, leaving my son an orphan.  We understood mortality.  There are many who still do all over our world today.

"The miracle that breaks the rules reminds us that the rules themselves are miraculous,” writes Simon Tugwell.  I have no idea what the mortality rate in giving birth would have been in the Middle East over 2,000 years ago but I suspect it was much worse than what it is today.  Every birth, I suspect, was seen as a miracle to some degree.  

Like so much, I think we take for granted and have ceased to see the miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ.  We do not resonate with the despair of the Jews of the first century living under the rule of Rome.  Being desperate for the newest iPhone or game system or upgrading to the newer model of BMW, does not qualify as despair.

We need Advent.  We need the fullest expressions of the season we can muster.  We need to find in our hearts the real despair of our souls.  It may mean we have to get in contact with the despair and isolation of someone else.  What we dare not do is to neglect the time and preparation leading up to Christmas morning for if we do we will miss the miraculous!  Advent gives our imagination permission to walk in the footsteps of those whom the prophet Isaiah describes when he declares, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.  On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned (9:2)." We might also find we find we are in the darkness ourselves.

We need the church for this.  We need the gift of age and experience for they often have known despair and the shadow of darkness is often a closer companion.  And we need the imagination of children, the playfulness and willingness to imagine.  In the end, it is choice we make to be willing to follow the story as it has been past down to us.  I’ve always thought Janet Hagberg said it best when she writes, “God does not make us move.  God’s grace allows us to move. (The Critical Journey, 14).”  If we are going to move; if we are going to be moved by the Advent story, it will be God’s grace which will free us.  We need a kataphatic spirituality, a spirituality with room for symbols and beauty for we need the full support of the Church for the story, the story of incarnation - the birth which is more than a birth - a miracle which reveals the miraculous!  

The symbols surround us.  The liturgy is present to guide us.  The music paints the pictures for us.  The proclamation speaks to us.  Why? “Because Christ is God’s real symbol, the icon of God, God is really present in a positive way,” writes Harvey Egan (“Christian Mysticism,” 403).  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet God in the fullness of this season!  We dare not miss the miraculous because we see miracles as commonplace - God has not abandoned us...the Prince of Peace IS coming.  

Let me suggest at the least, fourteen suggestions of ways to make room this Advent:

  1. Been in worship for every worship service.
  2. Attend worship where the Advent readings take place.
  3. Find a Chrismon tree and spend time learning about the symbols.
  4. Research the meaning of all the Christmas colors used in churches.
  5. Volunteer to help where ever there is a need.
  6. Don't miss the Children's programs and pagents.
  7. Hear any special choir performances.
  8. Help feed the homeless.
  9. Give away at least one coat in a coat drive.
  10. Ask your pastor why they are preaching on certain texts during this Advent.
  11. Volunteer to read and light Advent candles.
  12. Volunteer in the nursery.
  13. Hold a baby at least once during Advent if you can.
  14. Attend worship at least once at a church of different denomination.

The question remains: will you seek Him?

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Dec 01 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: When It Comes to Ferguson, Does the Church Have Good News or Just More of the Same?

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Media of all types, it seems, add to the confusion and struggle of what has happened in Ferguson, MO. I, like most of us, have friends with differing opinions who often discuss, listen and disagree. I've tried to do more listening (but I've also been 'told' being silent isn't an option either). But divorced from our friendship, from covenant, our words can and do cut and hurt and become easily misinterpreted.

My son tried to do this very thing. The court of public opinion and open discourse seems to have no place for our young people though, not really. Instead of being welcomed as a young voice seeking his way, he was subsequently condemned and shouted down.  His words were misconstrued and no attempts to clarify were acceptable. As one with many clergy friends, I can find numerous posts where we are failing to consider the younger voices (and eyes/ears) entering into our conversation (not saying it was a clergy who wrote to my son either but it could have been).

As the United Methodist Church, we have said the voices of youth and young adults should have a place.  We all must remember that young minds and hearts are part of this too and as such, we need to be attentive to how their opinions are being formed. It is to this that I write because we need to be aware of how we are informing them.

So I would like to enter an additional opinion to what we (the Church) face in addressing what our society faces (not just in Ferguson, but also the world community as they watch and comment). That this past week was the Thanksgiving holiday but also the beginning of the Church year, should not be missed on us. In examining the role of thanksgiving on the life of the Church, Simon Tugwell notes that in times of suffering, it is here that it is the Church offers a true word of thanksgiving. The Eucharist contains both of these realities (suffering and thanksgiving) and “This is the hour of glory, this is the nub of St. Paul’s doctrine that we must rejoice always in the Lord.” He goes on to point out the reality of evil, the reality of the demonic (often present in suffering),

  "The devil is not interested in possessing our bodies, except perhaps as an incidental amusement, and he detests the carnal sins he incites us to commit - he is, after all, a fastidious spirit. What he wants is to make us despair and conclude that all is darkness, everywhere, for all time. It is against this creeping insinuation that we sing and shout “Alleluia!” (from “Prayer in Practice,” 96-97)"

The Church has a better word to speak and we ought to consider speaking rightly before we speak rashly. We are informing young hearts and minds, often younger than we realize. Do we have Good News or just more of the same news?

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Nov 24 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: The Integrity Of My Faith: Thoughts from a Cancer Caregiver

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When one is a pastor, people look to you for answers. Those answers often have as much to do with how we act as they have to do with what we say. Thankfully, clergy (and their families) do not live in the same “fishbowl” which just a few decades ago dictated much of what pastors were to do and how they were to behave.

We can look at a generation of pastors that “broke the mold,” so to speak, particularly when it came to church planting pastors. For good or for ill, we have seen pioneers, a raising of a new generation of hip pastors. Forget just wearing jeans and frosting your hair, we added cussing and craft-beer drinking to the list of things which were “acceptable,” well, at least for some. Technology gave us a whole new way to refine our “style.”

Many of us, myself included, took advantage where we could of some of these new freedoms and approaches. Sometimes we experienced the grace of more wise clergy and friends who cautioned us. Sometimes we did not. In many cases, we suffered, our churches suffered, and our witness suffered.

No matter how we might package ourselves, no matter how we might try to position ourselves to advance the Gospel or our “brand,” there is one thing we cannot escape. At some point we are going to come face to face with the reality of the integrity of our faith.

Integrity is important to me. Those who know me know this is a core value in my life, maybe THE core value. But even so, I come up short, “....for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...(Romans 3:23).” I am not able to escape this reality anymore than I can escape my need for sleep or to eat.

So when I speak of an “integrity of my faith,” I am talking about the nuts and bolts, the nitty gritty, knee deep in the muck and mire reality of whether my faith counts for anything at all. We can talk about all the surveys and stats. We can talk about vital congregations, but from my experience and conversations, people looking for God, looking for faith, want to KNOW that you KNOW God and that you KNOW you are KNOWN by God.

The integrity of my faith has been tested in a number of personal challenges. It was tested when I went through testicular cancer, in two battles with clinical depression, and in loss of nearly 50% of my vision to name the more public challenges.

Now, the integrity of my faith is being tested by my wife’s cancer and my role as a husband and father. The integrity of my faith strains at cords of my covenant as a United Methodist pastor and as a caregiver. It is not straining because I lack help or support, heavens NO! I am surrounded by the love and care of my church family and friends and colleagues.

The integrity of my faith is being tested because this is life. What is being tested is the integrity of faith which has been nurtured and has grown since I first responded to God’s prevenient grace back in 1987. What is being tested is the integrity of marriage vows, of my wife’s faith in me (and my children’s faith). And this faith is not, no, cannot be measured by the state of my interior life. The state of my interior life will be measured and made evident by the integrity with which I live.

Father Simon Tugwell writes so appropriately in his book, Prayer in Practice, “...we read that ‘the Word was made flesh”, not that the Word was made mind. Of course his humanity includes a human mind and the Church fought long doctrinal battles over it. But even so the Bible says ‘The Word was made flesh”, and there is an appropriate exteriority about our religion which we should take seriously.” He goes on to state more pointedly, “...we are human beings, and it is our humanity that is redeemed in Jesus Christ. So let us not be afraid to use human language in human ways when we draw close to God.” The integrity of our faith is tested more than just in our declarations of morality. I think it is tested most clearly in the facing of mortality - the recognition of the frailty of ourselves and those around us and those most dear to us.

With each breathe and prayer I make throughout my day, this is the integrity of my faith which is being tested. The truth is, it always was being tested. James even makes clear (I'm still not sure that  joy is how to describe what I’m experiencing right now), “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James1:2-3)” What I can say, is be attending to your faith now! Do you KNOW that you KNOW God? This is the assurance of salvation which we find promised to us (Romans 8:16-17) by St. Paul and passed on through the Methodist Revival. It is a true promise to us, do not wait for it, ask for it, seek it now when your faith is not in a time of testing.

I know whom I have believed in and HE is able to sustain the integrity of my faith. And that I say with all the scars upon my body and my heart.

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Nov 14 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Storytelling Week 2: It is Our Story

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Act 16:25-40 CEV  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened.  (26)  Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail to its foundations. The doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.  (27)  When the jailer woke up and saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself.  (28)  But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! No one has escaped."  (29)  The jailer asked for a torch and went into the jail. He was shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas.  (30)  After he had led them out of the jail, he asked, "What must I do to be saved?"  (31)  They replied, "Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone who lives in your home."  (32)  Then Paul and Silas told him and everyone else in his house about the Lord.  (33)  While it was still night, the jailer took them to a place where he could wash their cuts and bruises. Then he and everyone in his home were baptized.  (34)  They were very glad that they had put their faith in God. After this, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his home and gave them something to eat.  

I could tell when I heard her voice on the phone, she was not happy.  “Pastor, I need to talk with you,” she exclaimed.  Jenny had begun coming to our new church start about a year after we had begun.  She had grown up Catholic but had not engaged God until recently as she and her daughter began coming.  At our new church, she wanted her daughter to learn about God but Jenny was on her own journey and had begun to ask questions about God.  We had given her daughter a Bible and they had begun reading it and had come to the story of Sodom and Gomorah.  That is when she called me.
“Ken, this is NOT a kid’s book!”  “How could God kill all those people?”  “Why would someone even write about this?”  How can I read this book to my daughter?” 

I’m not going to relay everything in our conversation as it was quite lengthy and it was a conversation that really taught me a valuable truth: our faith story does not happen in a vacuum.  Your story and my story of seeking God takes place in life, with people and in the midst of real life situation and sometimes, the real, messy, sometimes offensive and sometimes joyous, moments of life.  My life and my faith will forever be shaped and formed now by these past few weeks and these recent days of Heather’s cancer and the impact you, as a church community have had on me, on Heather and our family.  Our story as a family is now part of our story as God’s family here at Bethelview.  Our years of ministry together will be tied together because of this experience.

Christians, especially Methodist Christians, are a people of “One Book.”  That was a point that John Wesley made very clear.  Bethelview has been forever influenced by this truth.  How do I know?  For one thing, I’ve listened to many of you but I’ve also noticed something you may not have picked up on.  Each week, when you’ve come to worship, you have seen a picture of an open Bible.  You have a seen a Lamp on top of the Bible, reminding you that God’s Word is a Lamp to your feet and light on your path.  There is an open Bible with the greek letters Alpha and Omega, reminding you that Jesus is God’s Word, the beginning and the end.  And, those of you who have come back into the closet, the original pastor’s office, there is the Ten Commandments.

Some good, godly people wanted to be sure the Church here at Bethelview didn’t lose sight of what mattered.  They are still telling the story of God to us today.  It isn’t their story.  It isn’t your story,  It isn’t my story.  It is our story.

As we read the story of Acts 16 (see above), we look at the impact of choices and connections, we see action and reaction.  Rarely do we ever consider earthquakes as good things.  In these circumstances, the jailer clearly is distraught by the events that transpire. What happens if Paul and Silas sneak out when the doors open?  It appears likely the jailer would have died.  His family would be left without a father and husband.  It may have meant Paul and Silas (and others) would have become fugitives.  It might also have meant the jailer’s family would come to blame their loss on Christians.

But those things DON’T happen.  The story of Paul and Silas becomes the story of the jailer.  The story of the jailer becomes the story of jailer’s family.  I think we get the miracles mixed up.  It isn’t about the earthquake and that Paul and Silas get out but that the jailer meets Jesus and so does the whole family.  What do you think Paul and Silas were most excited about?!?!?  We need to remember that this book is full of our story. This is the story of the ways God intervened and changed the storyline. That story line is one that God is STILL changing.

There are three things that I take away from this passage, three things I'd hope you'd remember:

1. The worst of circumstances can be used by God. Prison and earthquakes? This is why we need the blues and why I asked Brandon Reeves to come be part of this service and singing the blues.

2. Our actions can transform reactions. Be attentive to others. Always be looking out for others. People are always surprised when other’s serve. Ya'll know I wear a nametag just about everywhere and I've been an unpaid employee at places like Lowes, Home Depot, Dollar Tree and Target, to name a few. People are always surprised to learn later that I was willing to help them even though I didn't work there.

3.     Simple storytelling saves souls.  Verse 31 is all we need.  Simple question and a simple answer.  When life is most real, no one is concerned about what “-ism” you are in or what “-ology” you subscribe to.  “Keep it simple storyteller!”

Today, one family is responding to God's Story and becoming part of Our Story here at Bethelview UMC. Not only are we excited their joining, we're also celebrating the baptism of a father and son together...

What Next?

Week 2
Pray for an opportunity to share God’s story with them. Maybe it is something in your family, something at church, or something at work, where God was evident.

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