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

Nov 13 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Storytelling Week 1: It is God’s Story

Original post at

I began this series because we need to talk about evangelism.  When I say "we" I do mean my church here at Bethelview UMC but also the larger Church.  The Church, mainly in the west, has shied away from it.  We have many reasons for doing so but coming up with reasons doesn't mean much when it is central to our mission.  That being said, we seem to have a hard time doing a lot of things the Bible outlines for us to do as well.  

This is a much more personal approach for me, I like good stories and I prefer to be IN those stories.  It seems to me, we've neglected one of the most important ways we can evangelize and share the Gospel and that is Storytelling, telling others what God has been about in the world.  More specifically, I think the best thing we can do is learn to tell our own stories of God's Good News in our lives.

This makes the Gospel real and current.  It brings us back to the Gospel truth that we don't worship just a crucified Christ but a risen Savior, God incarnate who cares what WE face - TODAY.  My story right now is raw and very real.  My fears fight to overcome my faith.  I have struggled to be available to my family and meet their physical needs as well as the emotional and spiritual needs as my wife fights cancer.  This IS where telling our story matters because Jesus IS alive, God IS faithful and the Holy Spirit IS present - right now.

So welcome to Storytelling!  I pray God's Story is more real to you and you'll get active in your part of telling it!
 Philippians 2:4-114 Let each of you look not to your own interests (gifts/spiritual endowments), but to the interests (gifts/spiritual endowments) of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedientto the point of death— even death on a cross.  9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.      
There is a story of a conversation between Jesus and Gabriel which is purely fictional, but illustrates a good point...
      ‘After Jesus ascended to heaven, the angel Gabriel approached Him and said, "Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there."
      "I did," He said.
      "And," continued Gabriel, "do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?"
      "Oh, no," said Jesus, "not yet.  Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know."
      Gabriel was perplexed.  "Then what have you done, to let everyone know about your love for them?"
      Jesus said, "I've asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell other people about Me.  Those who are told will in turn tell still other people about Me, and My story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe.  Ultimately, all of mankind will have heard about My life and what I have done."
      Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical.  He knew well what poor stuff men were made of.  "But what if Peter and James and John grow weary?  What if the people who come after them forget?  What if way down in the twenty-first century, people just don't tell others about you?  Haven't you made any other plans?"
      And Jesus answered, "I haven't made any other plans.  I'm counting on them."’
                                               -- Lifestyle Evangelism,” Joseph Aldrich, p. 15-16

Evangelism is a scary word to most of us.  It brings ideas to our mind of walking up to some stranger or knocking on the door of someone in your neighborhood and asking them, “Have you met Jesus?” or “Are you saved?”  Even for those TYPE A, Extrovert People, this is intimidating.

The reality is most people who make decisions for faith in Jesus Christ do so because of the life and involvement in church with family and friends.  In his book, “The Unchurched Next Door,” Thom Rainer notes that 82% of people who are unchurched are “somewhat likely” to come if invited.  If that person is a friend, it is all the more likely. 

Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is an important one, and it remains so to this day.  I think one reason for this is the comparison he makes in the verses I read at the beginning.  Paul tells the listeners we are not to be concerned just about our abilities; our gifts, but others, and emulate those good things in our life.  But then in verse 5-6 he tells us, as God’s Son, Jesus looks at the Father, and sees the role he is to play, and takes on OUR form.  What does he show us in doing this?  Not that we try to be God but to walk the path of being a servant, a slave.  High and mighty is not the goal but humble and meek.

We are called to be storytellers.  We are called to tell God’s story in our lives.  We do not have to be knowledgeable in theological terms or in Hebrew and Greek.  One of the reasons Rainer gives for why Christians are not reaching those who are unChurched is because we don’t witness, we don’t tell God’s story. 

You have family and friends who are not going to church but who are wondering and wrestling with their faith.  There are also people watching and waiting for a genuine friendship to happen with a Christian.  Rarely is difference going to be made if your friend Earl meets your friend, Pastor Ken.  I too have a mission field of friends and acquaintances I’m working to reach.  What if you told God’s story to a friend?  What if we all did that, what if we all lived the story and told the story?

And that story is the story we tell everytime we come to the table.  It is the story of God becoming like human beings – same skin and same blood.

 ‘I have given you an example’ (Jn 13:15) and in whose footsteps we are to place our feet (1 Peter 2:21).” (Pg 95, Tyndale NT Commentary on Philippians)

What Next?

The acrostic FRAN, stands for friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors.  Think about one or two people in each category who you know is not engaged in a church or with God.  Write their first name down and start praying for them this month.  This week, simply pray for God’s best for them. 

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Oct 20 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: At the Edge. My First Thoughts On My Wife’s Fight.

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I told my two kids that the emotions they would feel would come and go and be like a roller coaster.  Yes, even in the middle of class, tears might have to be fought back.  A simple thought or moment could stun them.  How did I know?  Because this is not my first rodeo with cancer.  The difference is I’m not the one fighting, my wife is.

I’m on the sideline this time and I’m going to be up front, it sucks.  This is the woman I love.  My best friend, my partner in crime, the one I share my memories with and the mother of my kids.  We’ve been married for 19 years, going on 20 and that means I’ve now spent more of my life in a home I have shared with her than the home I shared with my folks.  It took a few minutes for that to sink in today.

What’s more is that I’m a pastor.  I’m supposed to have answers for this.  Bible verses should just pop right out.  The right one, at the right moment, and said in just the right way.  But they’re not coming, not like that anyway.  

I am really thankful for all the Facebook messages and notes.  The e-mails from fellow clergy really mean a lot, really. 

I think something should be different but I know, from experience, it won’t be, not just yet.  Right now is the calm before the storm.   We’re just on the edge of things, “There Be Monsters” signs are posted but we’re not far enough into the forest to get a sense of the danger.  Not yet anyway. 

I don’t know what I don’t know but what I do know is we have faith.  We have hope.  We have love.  There is no banging gongs here.  This is a place of shadow and even here, God has placed the standard of His reign.  Even in the darkness, the presence of Providence is near. 

Faith.  Hope.  Love.  These three have been enough.

Faith.  Hope.  Love.  Heather, my love, God is here.  God is enough.

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Oct 13 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Invested: Make Your Life Count

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These days I live a bit on the redneck side of life.  I wasn’t always that way but I get it honest as my family has pretty deep roots out in Texas.  Whether it was the oil fields of west Texas or the farm land to the east, I eventually came around.  Back in the high school days when I was trying to get as far away from my parent’s way of doing things, I wondered and struggled with just who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.   God got hold of my life as junior in high school and it was then that I heard God’s call into ministry. 

At the heart of that calling, was a desire to make sure that my life counted.  As I got older I realized that making our life count, may not always mean being counted as the best or the greatest.  One of my favorite songs on the subject comes from a Montgomery Gentry song from few years back.  Take a listen…

(I started the video at 2:20)
I learned quick those GTO's don't run on faith
I ended up broken down in some town north of L.A.
Working maximum hours for minimum wage
Well, I fell in love, next thing I know
The babies came, the car got sold
I sure do miss that old hot rod
But you sure save gas in them foreign jobs
Dad, I wonder if I ever let you down
If you're ashamed how I turned out
Well, he lowered his voice, then he raised his brow
Said, lemme tell ya right now

That's something to be proud of
That's a life you can hang your hat on
You don't need to make a million
Just be thankful to be workin'
If you're doing what you're able
And putting food there on the table
And providing for the family that you love
That's something to be proud of
And if all you ever really do is the best you can
Well, you did it man

I suspect you’ve got a song or two like that one that bring you back down to earth.  I suspect that when that song comes on the radio or pops up in your play list, you want to belt it out at the top of your lungs and you hope no one else is in the mini-van.  In those moments, you wonder, how have I made my life count?

I suspect Moses was a lot like we are.  He’d been run out of Egypt for fear of getting caught for murder.  He won the hand of a shepherd’s daughter and was spending his life living the life taking care of a bunch of sheep when he met God in a burning bush

Exodus 4:1-5 ESV  Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'"  (2)  The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A staff."  (3)  And he said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.  (4)  But the LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— (5)  "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."

Bob Hulsman of the Barnabas Foundation brought to my attention what maybe one of the most overlooked questions in the Bible, “What is that in your hand?”Moses saw a staff.  A stick.  A tool.  God saw in it an instrument of grace to free a people who would be God’s chosen ones.  Whatever we have God, God can and will use! 

Stewardship and giving is not and never has been about trying to give all your money to a church.  I can see how you might feel that way though.  But stewardship is exactly like the conversation between Moses and God at the bush, we respond to what God is doing (a bush that is burning but not burning up) and react to what God calls us to do (throw down the staff).

A word from God should lead to action for God.

I was 16 when I was offered the opportunity to give to an organization called Compassion International.  Back then it was the cost of a cup of coffee a day.  For $16, I could adopt a starving child.  At 16, I had a job and I realized, “I can do that!”  I did, and that was how I learned to tithe.  A word from God lead me to an action for God.  God didn’t need me to give.  I needed to give, I needed to understand everything isn’t about me.  Eduard needed me to give too, because he needed to live.

You may not believe that what you have is a gift from God.  I get that but also suspect that along the way in the life, you had some circumstance, some person that helped you out and gave you a step up.  There is word for that, it is called prevenient grace, or the gifts God gives you before you even know God is giving it!

By giving, you are investing.  You are going to be an instrument, a gift of grace to someone else.  Like Moses, you have something in your hand, something in your life, something in your career, you may not think it to be much at all but as Shawn Lovejoy, Pastor at Mountain Lake Church, noted a few years ago to me, “God qualifies the unqualified.”  God takes a Moses and he takes a Jonah, a Noah, an  Elijah, a Peter, a Paul, a Martin Luther, a Martin Luther King, Jr.  But he also takes a Ken, and a Don, and Deborah, and a Logan, and a Donny, and a Josie, a Randy, a Bob, a Patience, and a Ruth.  And God calls us.  And a word from God leads to action for God.

“And if all you ever really do is the best you can, well, you did it man.  That's something to be proud of,  that's a life you can hang your hat on.”

What kind of life are you hanging your hat on?

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Oct 07 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: The Return of Lectio Visual (for Tuesday)

Original post at

From Iconreader

This coming Sunday I begin a new sermon series and the first sermon comes from this encounter between Moses and God.  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.  In this case, the upcoming Sunday is regarding Moses and his conversation with I AM at the burning bush so you may want to spend time with Exodus 3-4

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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Oct 06 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Haikus on a Monday

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Awkward and alone.
No longer whole: shattered.
Pot shards and soul shards.

A hidden treasure
in shelter.  Shining.  Gleaming.
Ravaged.  Tried and torn.

I heard my soul speak.

I get stumped at times and I lose track of my own thoughts and feelings.  I misplace parts of my experience.  When I do that, and do it for long enough, I find poetry helps me center.  The haiku form seems best for me.  During my experience with the Two Year Academy of Spiritual Formation there were many friends who found their voice in poetry.  I rarely did but I do know when my soul cries out, it will, at times, cry out in poetry.

Long before there was Twitter limiting our characters, the haiku developed rules to keep the syllables to a minimum.  5. 7. 5.  I need those rules.  They function much like a rule of life and the simplicity and guidelines those rules offer, well, they push me to dig deeper, not just into vocabulary but into the soul work.  My soul work.

The Psalms are the reminder to us of the raw power of the spiritual work.  The words found there are real, raw, and ripping.  Some of them we do not like at all.  I think that is because they reveal our own base natures, the real needs we experience as human beings when our outer facades fade and fail us.

I heard my soul speak.

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Sep 22 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: For Lack of Better Words?

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I would love to write every day and I know I am not alone in that desire.  Most days I do write something though it is rare, at this time, that I feel the need to share it. 

But I feel there is a pressure to respond immediately these days.  I’ve been asked to respond to tragedies in public forums at times.  I get it, those are times people are looking for a comforting words and counsel from a clergy.  But that is not what I am talking about.

Maybe I am wrong about it but my feeds keep blowing up with everyone feeling their need to give an opinion.  


About anything. 

About everything.

Maybe the solution is getting off social media completely, or just learn to cope.  But I wonder if it is doing something to us, to our relationships, our lives, our society, and our friendships.  And here I am now, giving my opinion.

We need to find better words.  We need better words to describe those who we disagree with on important issues.  We need to choose better words before we condemn an entire race, religion, and gender.  We need better words to speak about those experiencing injustice, poverty, and unemployment.  We need to better words to speak about the rich, the 1%, our leaders.  We need better words to speak about those of a different political perspective than our own.  We need better words to talk to our children, our friend’s children, or a stranger’s child.  We need better words when we speak to our partner.

And we need better words when we speak about and to our enemies.

I don’t think we lack better words, I just think we are too lazy to use them.  It is so much easier (and far more fun) to build a silo, an ivory tower, a fortress of solitude, and cast verbal grenades and condemn others for what?  They vote differently?  They believe differently?  They speak different?  They act on different convictions?

Here is where I am.  I am stuck in the middle (though I’ve been told there is no middle).  My conviction is that I can’t be like Jesus if I take sides without hearing another point of view.  I don’t mean READING another point of view, God knows, I think, that we’re failing at that as a practice of faith or friendship or dialogue.  In the written word, we only seem to demagogue.

We are a lot like Hugh Laurie’s character, “House.”  He avoids dealing with patients believing he’ll be a better doctor to them.  The problem is, he does the same with everyone in his life.  It is really hard to love people at a distance who you’ve never known up close.  That is what I get out of Jesus’ words,
Rather, love your enemies, help them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward. You will be the children of the Most High God. After all, he is kind to unthankful and evil people. (Luke 6:35 GW)

It is hard lend to someone you've not met.  It is hard to help those you've not ever known.  If you lack better words, then just be quiet for a while.  Just love others for a while.  Just listen to other people for a while.  Stop writing for a while.  And be glad that the Most High God does in fact keep his word and is kind to unthankful and evil people.

Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner, another unthankful and evil person.  Amen.

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