Ken L. Hagler

Author's details

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

Latest posts

  1. Jedi Pastor Ken: A Way To Be: Finding Grace In The Christian Year — April 8, 2014
  2. Jedi Pastor Ken: Why I Am Thankful I Did Not Give Up Facebook for Lent — March 11, 2014
  3. Jedi Pastor Ken: Do We Need More Effective Leaders or More Spiritual Leaders? — March 3, 2014
  4. Jedi Pastor Ken: Life Assurance – Reality of Mortality — January 8, 2014
  5. Jedi Pastor Ken: Do You Hear What I Hear? Away In A Manger — December 17, 2013

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

Author's posts listings

Dec 05 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Swords To Plowshares: What The Walking Dead Revealed About the UMC

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I am a recent comer to the series “The Walking Dead.”  I am not a
fan of the zombie genre at all but so many friends were watching it that I ran through the seasons on Netflix and am now thoroughly entranced in the story and up to date.  Like many others, I have, to a limited degree found myself reflecting on the moral messages of the story arc.

The mid-season finale of the fourth season clearly struck a chord with many of my friends and viewers.  I was not so surprised because the writers have done a good job of creating a universe where no one is immune to the reality of their mortality.  Even so, I was caught off guard by one word.


It was a word spoken by the “Governor/Brian” in response to a plea by the story’s hero, “Rick.”  Rick had laid out the possibility of two groups living in a prison that had in fact, become a fort protecting them from the zombie hordes.  The Governor declined the plea from Rick with one word declaring Rick to be a liar.

Had Rick lied?  Oh, certainly he had at other points in the story arc but Rick had also been humbled and broken by many crises.  The Governor, we thought, had been changed for the better too, up until this point.  But the Governor had been a liar and continued that path.  He had come to see in everyone else the sin which most tormented himself.  In one man’s plea for peace and community, all the Governor could see was the evil which had come to own him.

As I read and listen to conversations surrounding our United Methodist Church about the recent rulings in Pennsylvania and the actions of a retired Bishop in Alabama, I could not help but consider the many sides and the conclusions we seem to be reaching regarding one another.  I have no intention of calling anyone out for their posts on blogs, Facebook, or Twitter.  I willingly admit to creating “straw-men.”  I do not see how the other matters at all.

Sexuality and homosexuality specifically, has taken center stage for the UMC.  We have done much work according the “Quadrilateral,” making careful cases using Scripture, reason, experience and tradition.  I have read well presented cases from many sides of the issue.  Yet, it seems to me, we continue to fall for the same mirage which entrapped the Governor.  Are we really making our cases “for” or “against” a position or are we seeing in others the sins which we fear in ourselves? 

When Jesus brought up the issue of “specks” and “logs” in our eyes, he kept it simple, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)” It is incredibly easy to make this a measurement of how much sin we have compared to those we want to judge but I don’t think it is that at all.

We have got to come clean with the condition of our own soul and our own sin.  Jesus’ example is one of absurdity to try and show us the truth that it is most often what we fear the most in ourselves is what we see in those around us.  When “the right” is condemned for a lack of compassion and failing to love like Jesus, is this not what we on the left are failing to do ourselves?  When “the left” is condemned for being slack in their scholarship and wishy-washy about sin, is this not what we on the right fear in our own inner work? 

Liar.  With that word, the Governor proceeded to end the life of one of the show’s most prophetic voices.  The left and the right of this argument (and many other arguments for that matter) do not own a monopoly on having prophetic voices.  However, the quicker we are to cut with the sword, the fewer brothers and sisters we have to beat them into plowshares.  

Ken's Note: This is not an endorsement for watching "The Walking Dead."  If you are uncomfortable with gore and violence, don't watch it.  I think I did a fair job of describing the scene, just leave it at that.

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Dec 02 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Do You Hear What I Hear? O Come, O Come Emmanuel

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Click for this week's text: Matthew 1:18-24

How do songs, centuries old, full of religious imagery and messages, keep getting air play?  Simple, stop talking about the meaning.  As the season of Hallow-thank-mas gets to the final stretch, we will listen to every version of every Christmas carol in every store we visit.  Yet in many cases, the meaning has been lost.  My hope and prayer during the weeks leading up to Christmas, we’ll rekindle some of the glow.

To start, I’d like to share with you about the history of the lyrics of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The history of this carol dates back to between the Eighth and the Twelfth Century. During this era in Church history people would actually either sing or chant these phrases that all started with the letter 'O'. Songs were important because most people were uneducated.  Somebody would read a Psalm and then they would sing or chant phrases that started with the letter 'O', and they became known as the O antiphons. Over time, one of the lines they would sing birthed this song, O Come O Come Emmanuel  (from "Then Sings My Soul, Book 2 by Robert J. Morgan).  In the Methodist Hymnal, you’ll find these antiphons still listed!

But that is only part of the story.  It is a name meaning “God with us.”  It also doesn’t come from the night of Jesus’ birth.  It actually comes from the words of the prophet Isaiah found in Isaiah 7:14-15:  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat butter and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Names were important in the Bible.  The choosing of names and the titles one received were critically important.  One can easily dismiss the “Immanuel” with the idea of God being present through his Spirit or that God is present in his creation.  But Verse 15 of Isaiah tells us something unique – God became like us: he ate our food and lived our lives. 

           And at the transition between BCE and the Common Era, sometime around the year 1, the Jewish people were under foreign rule.  Rome and Caesars had the final say.  The prophets and people hoped and looked for a leader, a king, sent by God to free the Jews.  What they couldn’t seem to understand was God not only wanted to free them but all of humanity from our sinful nature, to make a way for us all to choose good. 

The Jews were looking for a Messiah.  The Jews and gentiles alike were looking for a savior from Roman rule.  Today those words have lost most of their meaning.  But when I read the headlines, articles and blogs, the one I still hear people looking for is a desire for God to be with us. John’s gospel describes that The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.  It almost sounds like Jesus meets us down at the Waffle House. As it was 2,000 years ago, it remains today, humanity is still crying out for Emmanuel, but how will the people of the world know God is with us?  It will be “...through every action of our life, that we begin, continue, and end in Jesus’ name” (from Clarke's Commentary on the Holy Bible).

There is a story told of a winter night where a farmer heard an irregular thumping sound against his kitchen storm door. He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth inside, beat in vain against the glass.

Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through fresh snow to open the barn door for the struggling birds. He turned on the lights and tossed some hay in the corner. But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, hid in the darkness, afraid.

The man tried various tactics to get them into the barn. He laid down a trail of Saltine cracker crumbs to direct them. He tried circling behind the birds to drive them to the barn. Nothing worked. He, a huge, alien creature, had terrified them; the birds couldn’t comprehend that he actually desired to help. The farmer withdrew to his house and watched the doomed sparrows through a window. As he stared, a thought hit him like lightning from a clear blue sky: “If only I could become a bird – one of them – just for a moment. Then I wouldn’t frighten them so. I could show them the way to warmth and safety.”  At the same moment, another thought dawned on him. He grasped the reason Jesus was born.  (story credited to Paul Harvey)

 And when we invite Jesus into our hearts, then the world will see the truth - God IS with us. 

Ken's Note: I am aware of the similar series done by Craig Groeschel  and  It is a work I have referenced in my own work but it has not been the basis for my work.  Where appropriate, I will cite.  

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Nov 25 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Losing My Way: Farther Down A Blind Road

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It isn’t hard to lose your way.  I’ll admit, it is rare for me to lose my way, or at least it was.  I have always had a good sense of direction.  I have done navigation with GPS and with map and compass.  I have navigated underwater while scuba diving both with and without a compass.  I have navigated with shadows and by the position of the sun as well.

With my vision loss, things have changed.  When people ask me about how I’m doing, I often tell them each day is a new experience and I learn something new each day. This past weekend is a good example.  I got an invite to help a friend dog training for upland bird hunting.  I had a great time but I realized my head and eyes now naturally look down when I’m in unfamiliar terrain.  This causes some challenges when birds get flushed when hunting.  Most times I only caught sight of one bird not two (or more) because it flew to the side and I have no peripheral vision now. 

As the sun was setting and shadows grew longer, I realized how easy it could be for me to lose my way.  When your favorite place to be out is being way out, that is a sobering thought.

The thing is, there are adaptations I can make.  Using other visual cues, always having a flashlight, using a trekking pole in uncertain terrain would all help.  I have come to accept that solo hunting and hiking is likely a thing of the past too and this assures me there is a more reliable pair of eyes for me to lean on.

What happened to me physically though, also impacts me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  I am not so self absorbed that I think I have it worse than others.  The onset of a disability, regardless of the degree it impacts a person, still changes your life.  There are days when it is incredibly lonely.  I feel isolated from peers, friends and family.  I recognize when people don’t know what to say or how to respond.  I have prayed and wondered.  So for lack of better words, I have at times, lost my way. 

I think this is what has struck me so much about the transition into Advent this year.  For so many years, for so much of my life, I have thought about and prayed for what I wanted or what I thought God wanted.  Whether it was a fresh wind or clear purpose, I walked a road where the lines were so clearly marked, you’d have to wonder how anyone could ever “turn to the right or the left” as the writer of Proverbs noted.

But when your dreams crumble and platitudes become bitter on your lips, it does not take long before you find yourself off the path of least resistance.  It did not take long before I realized the path I found was not really a new path but an old one, one it seems had fallen into disrepair.  If you hike much, you will know what it is like to find just such a path.  Leaves cover the depression.  Bare ground occasionally breaks through.  Maybe a worn blaze marker on a tree.  Whatever signs are found affirm that while this is the road less traveled, it is also the road meant for thee.

I found it first in a book of little acclaim in most circles of the Christian tribe, called Shattered Dreams.  Then it was an article here and word of encouragement over to the side.  I began to discover voices from the Church, long forgotten or were they just ignored?  I’m not sure it even matters.  I caught the sounds in the chants of the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.  In the broken bread and juice poured out I tasted the sweetness and the sweat of a severe mercy and a suffering grace.  In the Jesus Prayer, I claimed a pattern of prayer that resonated with my soul.   

And so with each step I have taken these many months, I have slowly tried to wear out this path, to follow the way wear my spirit can see even if my eyes might fail me.  Sometimes we have to lose our way to find The Way.  If that puts me out of step with some, then so be it.  In all of this I have learned it best not to trust my own faculties for they will fail, of this I know.  More than all the world, this year I claim the advent truth: Emmanuel – the promise that God is with us.  

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Sep 02 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: One Day At A Time. What It Is Like In My Shoes.

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This is a post originally put on Facebook.  As I have had so many comments, phone calls and conversations about how helpful this has been, I thought I'd share it here for a better record.  I wrote this in response to being asked recently about how it is that I can need a cane and am still legally able to drive? As I am in the process of learning myself how disabilities are classified, I thought I might explain some of what I've learned and how it might help other's understanding. After you read this, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

1. The Low Vision Classification. 
Having low vision is unique for each person. Persons with low vision will have different areas of their vision which are impacted and different approaches to compensate.

2. What do I see?
My peripheral vision is impaired in both eyes. What is more, if you think of the eye as a circle, draw a line across the center and color the bottom half black. That is what I see. However, the top half of my vision is perfect and that is what I use. The signal my brain gets is a little tricky. The poor vision in the bottom half of my vision, is blended with my perfect upper vision, thus everything I see is somewhat blurred.

3. Why walking with a cane?
I have been walking without a cane for a while. But, I can tell you it isn't always easy. I have a bruise on my thigh from hitting the corner of a filing cabinet every day this week. I fear every Sunday running into a pew during the processional or falling down the stairs in the chancel. I trip over sticks and rocks regularly when hiking.  In working with a low vision specialist discovered that a cane helps me recover, to an extent, both some of my lower vision and peripheral vision as I walk. In the USA, it is a sign to other people that I have a disability.

4. You can drive?
Yep, I'm still legal. I don't determine this, the government does. Because I have that upper vision, I can still drive. So you know, I try not to drive at night or during bad weather conditions. I like right hand turns...a lot. And the speed limit? Yep, that is the limit for me.

5. Reading is work...period.
Remember how I've lost the bottom half of my vision? The bottom half of your vision is the vision used when reading. Even with the CCTV and magnification software on the computer, it takes longer for me to read. Do my eyes get tired? You bet.  I find that it takes me longer to do the work that once came quickly whether that is reading, research and writing.  To a degree, it takes me longer to collect my thoughts in general.

6. Are you giving up hunting?
Nope. For the principles of fair chase, my hope of taking up bow hunting is out and trying to hunt with a rifle doesn't seem much fair to animals so those are out. That keeps me in the game for upland bird, waterfowl and turkey for sure since I can use a shotgun. I can still see with the top half of my vision and that is where birds are flying.

7. Interdependence.
I appreciate the offers to help and to drive. Ask me first, don't assume I need it. Offer to help before extending a hand or let me bring it up.  Through the help of my Vision Rehab Specialist, I learned recently how others can lend an elbow and guide me in certain situations.  On Sunday, one of my fellow clergy helped out in this way during our processional and it was a huge help.  I am still the same person. I am not always aware of my limitations but like a child learning to walk, I need to fall sometimes to learn.

Please feel free to ask me questions. Whatever you do though, don't pity me, I am husband and a father, losing my vision doesn't take that away. I'm blessed to be given the title pastor too and I will continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I don't have to see to know what love is, to experience it and share it. I pray you find this post helpful.

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Jul 17 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Looking at the church through Blinded Eyes: 7 things to reach out to those with vision impairments

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My experiences with low vision have greatly influenced how I see the world (pun intended).  Because of my vocation, I have begun to consider how people with low vision or no vision experience worship.

In talking with the team at Vision Rehabilitation Services in Smyrna, Georgia, I learned of some of their conversations.  The leading cause of vision loss right now in the United States is macular degeneration.  While this is primarily a disease that effects older people, it should not keep us from ministry for them and ministry with them.  Many of these people who have sought help from V.R.S. have indicated how important their church experience is to their lives.  More to the point, they want to be able to continue in ministry!

Like me, there are others whose lives have been impacted by various other causes that have taken some or all of their vision.  An estimated 19 million in the USA have problems seeing that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts.  While there are a multitude of other impairments effecting people, churches can do some practical things to reach out and care for these people.  Here are seven observations I have made recently.

1. Make Large Print Hymnals and Bibles Available.
This simple addition to a sanctuary can make a world of difference.  Keep them stocked in a central location in the worship space or lobby.  Have it printed in a large font in the bulletin that “Large Print Hymnals are available” and make sure you state where they are and/or who to ask.

2.  Closer Seating.
This may not be easy to do but would certainly be a welcome addition for those with vision problems.  Even where I sit on Sunday mornings, I can barely make out faces of the minister preaching or the choir singing.  Services where communion is celebrated can be difficult with walking.  The shorter the distance for walking is often for the better.

3.  Thirty Point Font (or larger) on Screen.
Guy Kawasaki has long recommended taking the age of the oldest person in the room and dividing that age in half to determine the font size for a Powerpoint Presentation.
Thirty Point Font is the minimum size one should use to project text on Sunday morning.  No argument from me.

4.  High Contrast Colors on Screen and Signage.
Moving backgrounds, detailed images and multi-colored slides can be difficult to read even with good vision.  Those in higher education and technology say, “yellow is the color of learning.”  In other words, yellow or white text on dark, simple backgrounds is best for songs & sermon notes.  Apply this same principle around the church campus for signage too.

5.  Transportation to Church.
Many churches do provide bus or van transportation from nursing homes on Sunday mornings.  Not all with visual impairment are in long-term care facilities.  Considering reaching out to the larger congregation with a carpool could make a huge impact.

6.  Provide Prayer, Healing Services and Caring Theology.
Jesus provided a  powerful ministry of healing that was taken up the Apostles.  Through the centuries, people have experienced healing in the name of Jesus Christ.  Churches need to not shy away from offering prayers and services of healing.  We also need to wrestle with the reality that God does not always heal according to our desire or design.  We need not feel guilty as the Church when this occurs nor should we heap blame on those who come to us even as we try to understand what God is up to in a person's life.

7.  Understanding and Empathy.
Low or lost vision can be very embarrassing.  With my vision, just because I look in your general direction does not mean that I recognize you or see you, especially at a distance.  Older people with macular degeneration have expressed concern that friends have interpreted their lack of recognition as being “uppity” or “snobs.”  What does this say about the church if our first response is offense?

 I regularly have to break eye contact in order to shake a person’s hand.  I fear going up and down steps wearing my clergy robe each week in the chancel for fear of missing a step. I used to love large crowds.  Now I get very uncomfortable in very small crowds so Sunday mornings can be tough for me.  I have just about 50% of my vision.  Try imagining the difficulties of dealing with even less. 

The story told in Luke 5:17-26 regarding Jesus, the paralyzed man and his four friends can tell many different stories.  It is about forgiveness and healing as well as about faith.  It also expresses the love of four friends for a fifth.  They were willing to go all out to help.  But I wonder too, was this a common occurrence for these friends?  Did they regularly drop by and literally, pick-up their pal to go the market or temple worship?

I also note that the paralyzed man’s disability was also quite visible.  People with vision loss, like myself, are not always so easy to recognize.  We make our way and try to remain independent as much as possible.  The line between humility and humiliation in these cases is a very thin line.  One reflects a broken heart before God.  The other reflects a broken spirit.  The people of God have the Good News both need to hear if only we’ll look deeper and go into the world where people are blind in both spirit and body.

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Jun 28 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Some Get It – Some Don’t: What I Learned From Public Transit

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Some get it.  Some don’t.  Granted, learning to navigate the public transit systems around Atlanta can be difficult the first time for a sighted person.  For my newly developed super power known as low vision, said public transit, becomes that much more difficult.  Still, this past week, I had a goal – make it to my eye rehab appointment in Smyrna on public myself.

When you have lived your life with the freedom to get in your car and drive wherever – whenever you want to, having a change in vision can be like getting chained up on a leash.  Suddenly, your freedom is hindered.  It is not that I don’t want to accept help from others, it is about freedom. Public transit systems become a means of reclaiming freedom – independence can be returned.  Some get it.  Some don’t.

It is not whether one has family and friends who can drive you about.  It is a matter of being able to go wherever – whenever you want.  I found that sense of accomplishment on Tuesday.  I “got it” and so  much more.

Along the journey, I was the recipient of acts of kindness and I had the opportunity to return the favor to others.  I saw Jesus in others, in strangers, and the encouragement of friends.  I also got to discover my definition of a crowd had changed.  Where my definition of a crowd used to be a group of people shoulder to shoulder in numbers of the hundreds and thousands, crowds for me can be 10- 20 people!

But transportation was only part of the day.  At Vision Rehabilitation Services, I discovered an incredible group of people committed to helping people like me with low vision and blindness.  It was the most empathetic environment, one that celebrated our victories with us and is there to assist us overcome or cope with the next challenge. 

I got to put my hands on magnifiers and technologies at no charge to determine what might work best.  I had the chance to ask questions, not about treatments, but about everyday; what do I have to look for with my vision?  I learned that my vision does, in fact, fatigue when I read over time even with assistance.  My experiences of stepping on my cat, bumping into door frames and desks, and losing balance on uneven terrain is to be expected.

What I also need is the opportunity to make it on my own.  I have to adapt.  I have to work on new habits that will benefit me long term.  I will welcome your offer to help but I do not need you to assume I need help and step in. Ask me first.  If you have offered, please understand, I am not turning away from help when I choose to do things on my own.  I do it on my own because I can and, for my own self-esteem, I need to do it, I must do it, and I will do it. 

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