Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Two friends whom I love

It has been a stressful week with lots of work, and late nites, as happens from time to time when you are in full time ministry. Occasionally the stress backs up and I realize my wife and kids get the tired, used up, worst part of their husband and dad.

I have some friends whom I love, and who are far away in dangerous places. I realized this week, as one of them was injured, that some of the things I stress about, really don't amount to much, and people need to have a reality check, and be good to one another.

Anyway, I'd like to point you towards the blogs of my two friends, so you can read what their lives are like, and be praying for them both. I do everyday!

Aaron Stewart - Southern Sudan

LTC Rich Phillips - Salerno Hospital, Afghanistan

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ash Wednesday Pics

Hi there, thought I'd put up a few pictures from our Ash Wednesday Service. We had a pretty large turn out this year. It's been fascinating to see how this service has grown in importance to people in our congregation. Five years ago it was just a handful of people, and most wouldn't rearrange plans to be in attendance. Now this service, as well as the whole season of Lent, have a wonderful sense of meaning for us.

I hope you had a great Ash Wednesday no matter what your traditions are, and hope that if you are one who makes this journey through Lent it is a wonderful one.

More than ashes in your face, Happiness & Joy

Well, to further elaborate on the 10 lessons I have and am learning Click here to see my list I’ll look a little closer at this notion that Joy and Happiness are not the same thing.

To start with I wanna’ go on the record as having said that I am a big fan of both joy and happiness, and I am “for” both of them (as opposed to being “agin em’” as my friends in Kentucky would say). But I also think that of the two if I had to choose one to experience it would be Joy.

Scripture speaks quite a lot about joy - A quick word search of the Old and New Testaments show 164 references to the word.

Other than in the book of Job and the Psalms, "joy" is used very conditionally. Usually people sang with joy when something good happened, or had their joy taken away when something bad happened. In the prophets there is an image of joy when God does something wonderful , but an absence of joy in the troubles of the present.

In Job there is a sense that this Joy God speaks of isn’t conditional on your situation. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. “ Even in the midst of the terrible conditions Joy finds himself in the word “joy” is used.

In the New Testament "joy" seems to have a grander connection. As if it is connected with something bigger than just the fleeting situation we find ourselves in. Phrases like the Angels greeting to the shepherds “Do not be afraid; for see —I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” Or in Jesus words in John’s Gospel “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Or Paul's words to the Romans “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” or listed as one of the “fruits of the spirit - “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness...”

It seems to me that there are plenty of times when my situation makes me happy. I find a $5 bill in my coat pocket from last winter (or I put on someone else’s coat) Or my wife surprises me by making Jambalya for dinner, And there are plenty of times that my situation makes me sad or unhappy. Mornings when my motorcycle wont start or my child is sick or a friend is ill. It seems my happiness is very conditional, and I can spend an awful lot of time trying to avoid situations or conditions that will may me unhappy for a while.

But joy is connected to a bigger overriding feeling, and peace that comes not from my situation, but as a gift. I believe it is a gift from God. Joy is in the feeling that even though my child is sick I know God is good, and in control. Joy is in experiencing God’s creation as I ride around Lacamas lake on my motorcycle on a spring morning. Joy lets me know that no matter the condition or situation I am in, there is a God who loves me and I am in his hands. It can be a strange paradox. I have officiated more than one funeral where I have wept in sorrow but also experienced joy.

It seems to me that the life that is ruled my the joy that is given to us as a gift from God is infinitely better than just being happy in my situation. It's not by any stretch of the imagination easier, in fact sometimes it is more difficult, but it is good!

I have found that when I was merely living life looking for happiness, I often avoided difficult situations because I wasn’t happy in them at the moment. In avoiding those difficulties I was in reality missing out on the greater Joy that is accomplished when we spend times in those difficult places, and see the grander nature of our lives.

It reminds me of a friend who used to run with a group of us every afternoon when I was a sprinter in college. He would complain about how all this running just made him tired and hurt his lungs (not to mention he couldn’t smoke while he did it.... the ashes would blow in his face) But some of us knew that hard work and difficulty in the moment meant something bigger in the long run (no punn intended)

I think I’m mostly done chasing after happiness and am experiencing a peace and life that comes from God’s gift of Joy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Hi friends sorry to take a break from my 10 lessons theme but today is Ash Wednesday. Its one of the holy days our congregation as well as millions of others around the world celebrate (if that is the right word??) and marks for us the beginning of the season of Lent.

The reason I'm a little leery of using the word celebrate is that Ash Wednesday and Lent in general are a time of self inspection and deep reflection that brings us to the wonderful celebration of Easter. Typically (at least for me) that time of introspection usually illuminates things in my life physically, spiritually and otherwise that I know are a hindrance to my faith and relationship with Jesus, and it doesn't feel like a celebration at times.

BUT having said all that I'm always up for a good laugh. Some may feel this link is irreverent ... and it is... but it made me laugh.

Ash Wednesday Joke

I hope your season of Lent is wonderful and challenging and that the God of Love, Grace and Forgiveness meets you on this journey!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Starting with #1...

I’ve been doing some thinking about lessons Ihave learned in life . Like many of you I have several hats I wear - Pastor, Husband, Dad, Old Man, Young Whippersnapper, and the list goes on. In the complexities that are me, I have found a few things that I think are incredibly important lessons I’ve learned (or am learning) so I thought I would jot them down. I’ll try to expound a little on each one in the weeks ahead. I’ll give you the whole list and then give you some more insights into #1 to begin with. (#1 is always a good place to start, even though Three Dog Night taught us all that “1 is the loneliest number”... ok I saw those words come across my computer screen too, and I’m as troubled by the reference as you are... let it go... somewhere along the way I turned old)

Here is my list (at this point in history)

1. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is always better than being a Christian.

2. Joy and happiness are not the same thing

3. Tell your kids they can be and do anything they dream of.

4. Never underestimate the power of the negative voice.

5. Original sin is alive and well

6. Wesley’s entire sanctification isn’t just a theory

7. Being involved in something bigger than yourself is important.

8. if your involved in “ministry” don’t let it destroy your family

9. ”Be excellent to each other”

10. I’m not responsible for someone else's spiritual life or relationship with God

1. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is always better than being a Christian.

In resent years this has become an important part of my call as an ordained minister. I find myself talking more and more about being a disciple of Jesus, or a follower of Christ, rather than being a “Christian”. I also must admit that the amount of strange and confused looks i get has increased since coming to this belief.

In my mind there is a difference between the two: the main difference is see is that one can be a “Christian” w/o being a disciple. I’m finding that an increasing number of us in the “Christian church” are finding our identity in a belief system and a prescribed set of behaviors rather than being disciples of Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us and the world. I’m not convinced that what Jesus meant when he was talking to Nicodemus in John Ch 3 about belief meant that we we merely check a box at the end of the apostles creed that says “agree” like we are loading Mac OS10.4 on our iBook, and therefore get a reward. We can rejoice in John 3;16 but forget to read vs 21 when Jesus gives Nichodemus some insight into what “belief” really means - “But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” The word “Phaneros” that is translated “clearly seen” in the NIV and “made manifest” in KJV has a sense of being real, provable, - not just a check in a box. When Jesus is asked about the kingdom of God he responds with stories like the good Samaritan, or an image of sheep and goats - (Matt 25;34-40 - “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ ) Jesus repeatedly gives us stories and images that model for us tangible actions that flow from a changed heart.

Believers who merely subscribe to a belief system, or a set of behaviors are more prevalent than germs on my son’s shirt sleeve during cold and flu season (and have roughly the same effect.... oops was that in my outside voice??) What I’m convinced God is calling us to, is to be people so transformed by God’s grace and hope that we can’t be satisfied with anything less than being tools in the hands of the holy spirit to transform our world and see God’s kingdom come. That requires us to be disciples of Jesus, to take seriously what scripture tells us about love and justice and mercy, to question our ideas about power and wealth, to ask the question “what would Jesus do” rather than make it a bracelet or a bumper sticker.

My call as a man set apart as an ordained minister, and even more importantly as a man transformed by God’s grace, is to be about the work of being a disciple of Jesus, and that road is always better than checking the “I agree” box.