Monday, November 26, 2007

Things I learn at the airport

On occasion I like to spend my lunch hours over at the Portland International Airport and watch planes land and take off. There is a little parking lot along marine drive right by the runway where I can sit and watch planes come and go. My dad and I used to go out to the airport and watch planes land and take off. I think that was the foundation for my love of airplanes. Every now and then I take my two kids with me and we drink hot chocolate or a coke and watch the planes too.

It's a good place for me to unwind and just think. There are a few lessons I’ve learned sitting there by the runway and I thought I’d post a couple of them here.

As many of you know birds around airports are a particular hazard. I assume seagulls and jet turbine engines don’t get along. PDX, like most airports I assume, has a system for keeping the birds off the grass around the runway. It seems to me as I sit and watch, seagulls are a particular problem, since the north edge of the Airport is about 100 yards from the Columbia river. Seagulls tend to wonder over the fence and land on the grass and access roads around the runway. About every 15 minutes or so a truck drives by on the access road and scares them off. Once in a while the driver will put it in 4 wheel drive and drive out on the grass and scare a flock away as well. The most dramatic way they politely ask birds to leave is by firing a series of air cannons. I don’t know if they are set to timers or if they fire them when the number of birds gets to a certain level. You can hear the first loud BANG at one end of the runway and the cannons will begin to fire in line down the length of the air field. BANG!.....BANG!.....BANG!....

Needless to say it scares the birds and they all take off in a group usually flying over us parked by the runway watching planes. For those of you that live near a river or lake or ocean you know what scared seagulls do when they fly over shiny parked cars.... they crap all over them! Especially scared birds.

Ok here is my lesson I've learned. When something scares me I tend to crap on people (figuratively of course) I think all of us do. When we feel like we are losing control or we are threatened by something we crap on people... We treat them badly. Churches do it a lot. When congregations find themselves in strange situations or facing uncomfortable changes they start to crap on each other. There are few places that I see people treat each other as badly as they do inside the walls of the church. I don’t know why that is. It's like we are scared seagulls!

It reminds me of King David. If you are familiar with David’s story there was a brief time in his reign when he was run out of town by an uprising lead by his son. As he and his little band of followers are leaving town a peasant on the side of the road, named Shimei begins to insult and chastise David. One of his generals says “should we kill him for cursing God’s anointed?” and David says in a sense “no, I deserve to be chastised a bit” and they move on. In my mind even though David is temporarily put off his throne he still knows he is king. Ultimately he regains his throne and rules over the united kingdoms of Israel for a number of years. Finally when he is old and about to die, he calls his son Solomon to his side and offers him some advise on being king, but he adds a bit about who he should trust and who he shouldn’t and says “There is also with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a terrible curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim; but when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man; you will know what you ought to do to him, and you must bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.” (1Kgs. 2:8-9) David swore he wouldn’t kill Shimei, so he tells his son to do it! What is different? David is in his chambers surrounded by wealth and all, but I think he is scared. He’s survived wars and battles and uprisings but he knows he is not going to survive much longer so he starts to crap on people, and he orders the death of a man he has held a grudge against for decades.

When we are scared we crap on people. As I contemplate changes in my life and ministry I know that there will be times when I feel like I have no control and I am a seagull flying with cannons blaring behind me. I pray that I wont resort to crapping on people when I’m scared. I pray that for the rest of us who find ourselves as ministers of Gods grace we wont act like scared seagulls either. That we can model a faith for those whom we serve that relies on God’s Spirit, not merely our abilities.

Have a great week friends.... BANG!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Buy a net . Save a life!

This summer I was made aware of a problem that effects millions in the world. To call it a “problem” is an understatement.

1,000,000 people, most of whom live in the Sahara region of Africa will die this year of Malaria - a preventable disease, just as 1,000,000 died last year. 20% of the population under the age of 5 in that area of the world will die due to malaria. 12 Billion ( yes- with a “B”) will be lost to African countries directly related to this disease. these numbers are staggering - that's 1 person literally every 30 seconds dying due to a preventable disease, 3000 people a day. That's the same number of people that died in the Sept. 11th attacks... everyday.

The United Nations Foundation, The NBA, Sports Illustrated, The United Methodist Church and now other partners, banded together to put an end to this carnage. One of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of this mosquito borne illness is to provide nets for people, especially children to sleep under. For as little as $10 you can purchase a net that will literally save a life, at $10! That's it! I am sitting in my usual coffee shop having a latte’ as i write this. I spent about $3 on it. for the cost of less than four of these i can save a kids life. How many times can we say that.

In the future I want to tell you the story of a Pastor who is helping serve the United Methodist congregation in Coeur D Alene, Id with my friend Heather. He is there as part of a peace studies program in hopes of changing the climate in his native African country. He is also a father who has lost a dear child to Malaria. I want you to hear his story.

The congregation I serve is working hard to raise money for nets as well as my family personally. My son has decided to give a percentage of any money he gets for Christmas to buy nets (Not all of it... I mean come on he is 10!) My family and I have set a goal of raising at least $500 dollars for Friends who usually get our lame gag gifts at Christmas are getting NothingButNets T-shirts. to advertise the campaign, which you can get at NothingButNets T-shirts for $20. ($10 goes to a net $10 goes to a shirt) and an invitation to make a donation to buy a net.

If you would like to help put an end to the deaths in Africa, or get more information and statistics please got to and look it up. If you would like to help my family raise the $500 follow this link to our NET-RAISING team we have created and make a contribution, or click the “click here to buy a mosquito net and save a life” link on the right side bar of this blog, which will take you to our netraising page.

Thanks friends

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

#10 on my list

Well I guess I should finish up my list of things I have/am learning in ministry. You can check out my list BY CLICKING HERE.

The last thing on my list was that I’m not responsible for someone else's spiritual life or relationship with God. It may be #10 on my list but in the last year this new realization has become more important for me to remember. I want to “re-post” a blog I wrote back in November of 2006 that deals with this topic... Rerun Warning!

On Monday nights I meet with a group of friends at the Horse Brass Pub on Belmont in Portland, Or. Some of us are currently pastors, some of us are former pastors, some of us are students, architects, musicians... jocks, dorks, dweebs they all love him. He’s one righteous dude... sorry I reverted to a Ferris Beuller moment there for a sec...

Anyway, I was speaking with a friend who is easing his way back into ministry after years professional ministry. As we talked he made a statement about having a sense of freedom now when he speaks knowing that its not about him or the audience but about what God is going to do. For some reason his comment stuck with me. I have always known in my head that this mission and ministry God calls me to are not about me. In fact that is my #1 frustration with church (not just the local church I serve but the church at large). Oh how easy it is for us to fall into that trap of this “institution” being about us, our wants our needs, our sanctuary and carpet and budget... Putting soap box back...sorry.

Where was I ??? oh, anyway... I realized that as a pastor, especially a pastor that feels called by God to be an instrument of transformation for individuals I connect to, as well as this institution of the church, I can easily fall into the trap of assuming it’s about me. Not in the sense that I have a big head, with certificates and trophies; More in the sense of if this ministry doesn’t connect with people ...its my fault; If people don’t participate ...its my fault; If someone says “I’m not being fed...” Its my fault. Living in that trap as a minister is hard on your heart. I guess the reason those words rang so true for me is that I find myself there a lot these days as the congregation I serve wrestles with ministry and mission, being disciples or consumers. I hear a lot of “that thing Pastor Mark started...” or “Pastor Mark’s...” and it’s draining.

As if that wasn’t enough of a reminder for me, as the evening went on and most of the others had gone home, there were just a few of us left sitting around the table talking. A friend who is a local musician in town, began talking with me about some of the incredible things God was teaching him about himself and about God.

As we talked he said “I don’t know how you guy’s (Pastors) do it man....” I responded “Well, we have our moments I guess.” We talked a little more and he said “I’m serious... you guys put up with so much, I used to go to a churches just like yours, just to discredit the pastor and the congregation. I dress different and talk different and had a chip on my shoulder, and leave cursing you all because you didn’t care and I wasn’t being fed, saying all the while they aren’t Christian... How dare I make you responsible for my Spiritual growth! How can I expect you to do something for me that I wasn’t willing to do myself and then walk out cursing you because of it. I mean I have a Bible... I can read... I never participated in anything other than the 20 minute sermon and that was just to get ammo to use against you... I’m sorry”

Now this friend has never been to a church I have served, and I only know him through the Horse Brass. But I know there have been plenty of people who have made me responsible for their spiritual growth and their relationship with God, either sub consciously, or intentionally. What's worse is I have bought it too. In fact if my friend had attended a congregation I served and left cursing us, I would have added to the wounds by assuming his lack of spiritual growth was my fault.

In fact it’s that trap that adds to the whole consumer nature of the church that breaks my heart. It’s so easy to say “if we just find out what someone wants... transformation will happen” so we chase this and that and church turns into institution. Programs become our core rather than discipleship.

There has been some freedom in all this for me this week and I mention it here because I know there are lots of you who read my musings on this page, who are giving yourselves to God in ministry and mission, and I hope you find some freedom in this as well.

God Bless you friends!