Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet my dad...

I apologize that I haven’t been posting much on the blog lately. I set a gopal of trying to have something up each week, but I have done a poor job of meeting that goal the last few weeks.

Last Sunday at abour 3:20 my Father passed away after a massive heart attack. If you keep up with my blog you probably saw the post I made about it last Monday. Saturday was his Memorial service. It was one of those bitter sweet moments where you love seeing family that you haven’t seen for a long time, and get to share memories and time together, but there is the elephant in the room as to why we are all here together - because my dad has died. (i found in his library a stack of papers that was every entry of this blog that he had printed out i assume to make it easier to read)

As many of you know who have gone through the death of a parent or other family member there are lots of things that you need to do and take care of. Since i have some writing experience i volunteered (with the help of my brother and sister) to write dad’s obituary and a eulogy that was read at my dad’s memorial service on Saturday. Since there isn’t much else occupying my mind today i figured I would post up dad’s eulogy, and let you get a glimpse of this man that meant so much to me and as I have found out more this week meant so much to so many others. I apologize for its length but dad wasn’t really a guy you could sum up in half a page - in fact as i wrote this I found myself editing it down because there was so much about dad I could share... So here my friends is a BRIEF telling of my dads life...

As I sit down to write our shared memories of our dad, I realize my recollections will surface more than others, which isn't fair and I apologize. I know we all have so many wonderful memories overpowering our thoughts today. As we sat around the table on Monday night I realized our memories and impressions are so limited compared to all the things that dad was to so many people; a friend, a coworker, a teacher, a role model - the list goes on and on. I want to be sure that this is clear; although these comments are made in regards to our father, Steve, Nancy and I are keenly aware it was the partnership of our mom Gerry, with our father Bill, that filled our home with the joy and they together made our family a very special and unique entity which we treasure beyond words.

Bill was born in Pittsburgh Kansas on January, 22nd 1929 to Guy and Clara McMurray. Guy was a hard working school teacher who ultimately became a superintendent of schools and a very successful athletic coach, part of the reason Bill loved sports and was so successful at both football and basketball. Clara, Guy's wife, helped raise her all male family and was forever known as the grandma “who always made sure the grandchildren ate the crust on their bread whenever they visited.”

Bill attended the University of Kansas where he earned a degree in bio physics. On the recommendation of his brother Paul McMurray, Bill moved to Washington State to seek employment at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. At the time nuclear technology was the cutting edge of science and Bill was exploring new frontiers. It was here in Richland that Bill met a petite gorgeous young woman named Geraldine Sue Kelsey. Gerry was living with her brother and sister-in-law who also came out to Richland to find employment. Their first date was to a local football game and the two ultimately were married in a backyard ceremony at the home of her brother Bud Kelsey and his wife Joyce. Bill and Gerry were married for 57 years.

Bill's career spans 40 years at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and was mostly concerned with the area of health physics and emergency preparedness. Bill worked for years in the era where he wasn't at liberty to tell people what he did for a living. In the span of his career Bill was a member of the Health Physics Society and had several articles published in their journal and was a respected expert in the field. On a number of occasions his expertise was called on in the times of crisis. In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island mishap, Bill was requested to review safety procedures. Because he was considered one of the few people who had expertise in Graphite Core Reactors, he was on a short list of people who would have been sent to Russia in 1986, had their government asked for help following the Chernobyl accident. Our family was thankful he was never sent to Russia to deal with that situation.

Bill and Gerry adopted their first child Steve in 1958, and adopted their daughter Nancy in 1961. It takes special people to provide a loving home to a child and bring them into their heart. Both Steve and Nancy have commented on their eternal gratefulness that God provided them the gift of a mother and father like our parents. In the summer of 1968 I was born. In my less sanctified moments I would say I was the real McMurray to which Steve and Nancy would reply “mom and dad picked us... they had to keep you”.

Even with sibling fights and arguments the three of us are forever in debt to our mother and father for providing such a wonderful home and family for us to grow in. Our parents encouraged us to be anything we wanted to be-we never felt like there was anything we couldn't do. Our home was a place where we built 747's out of refrigerator boxes and forts with the couch cushions. Our home was a place where Steve could follow behind Dad with his toy lawn mower as Dad mowed the lawn. It was a home where Dad taught me how to shoot a hook shot, and throw a football in the backyard. Our home was a place where Dad always made sure there was plenty of lighter fluid for Nancy's flaming batons for her competitions with the Atomic Twirlers. Our home was a place where we packed ice coolers and blankets to head out to Tri-City Raceways every Friday night, or to the hydroplane races every July. Nancy remembers her friends loved the opportunity to spend the night because our home was a special place and they were always greeted with a warm heart and a warm cookie! Dad did most of the addition work to our house on his own, and no code inspector should ever go near there. Yet the home our Mom and Dad built was so much more than wood and shingles.

Over the years our family has grown. It's not uncommon to have 20 plus people gathered for a Thanksgiving celebration. People have come into our family through the front door, the side door, down the chimney or through a window, but no matter how they entered, they found themselves part of our family. Dad always loved us and welcomed us. Nancy recalls - “Dad never judged me--even when I made mistakes or was having problems--he always loved me”. Dad was so proud of his kids and grandkids, if you didn't hear about how great his daughter's apple orchard was, or how skillful Steve was at the bus rodeo, or what a great pastor I was, you certainly weren't listening to Dad very long. I wish my kids and the rest of Dad's grandkids could have known him when he was more active. But I know for each of his grandkids, there were few places better or safer than sitting on grandpa's lap.

Dad loved to travel and we as a family visited most of the United States together. We survived traveling through the desert of Arizona going 112 mph in a 1973 Ford Galaxy 500 to visit his parents. We survived a trip to Miami Beach in a 1975 VW pop-up camper van, even though the transmission disintegrated along the road side in the warm embrace of the wheat fields of Dodge City Kansas. Not to mention it was the first--and last time that I got to pee on a grain silo while waiting for a tow truck. Along the way Dad always gave us a sense of history and family on those trips.

Dad's faith has always been inspiring to us. Dad literally taught hundreds of bible studies in this congregation that he dearly loved. I would assume most of the people here honoring our dad sat in at least one class he taught here. For years Dad and Mom served as Lay Witness Mission Coordinators. They traveled the region leading lay run gatherings--helping people rediscover a deep and passionate faith--or helped people discover faith for the first time. One of my earliest memories is playing with hot wheels on the floor while Dad lead a meeting in a home during one of those Lay Witness Missions. It was not unusual in our house to have Dad pray or be reading scripture. Faith was something Dad and Mom showed us everyday--it was a very special gift they shared with Steve, Nancy and me. For me it was foundational in my own journey that lead me into ordained ministry. Dad's grandson Brian recognized it was 3:16 pm last Sunday afternoon when Dad passed away…is there a better time to be reminded of God's love for us as so beautifully stated in John 3:16?

In recent years Dad's health had sharply declined. For 28 years he battled diabetes, he was a prostate cancer survivor, then liver and heart problems ultimately wore Dad's body out. Yet his spirit remained steadfast and true, even if it meant using a wheel chair to visit his grandson Brian in the hospital for pneumonia, or walking slowly but surly to McDonalds with “the kids” to get a happy meal. Before moving to their house in Pasco, Dad had 20 years-worth of happy meal toys in every nook and cranny of their Richland house. Dad loved kids and as Steve said - “there was no place better than sitting on dad's shoulders and feeling like you were a mile in the sky”.

I wrote on my web blog Monday Morning “The most brilliant faithful man I have ever known went home today - rest in peace dad”

Steve, Nancy and I are better people because of our father Bill McMurray

Our beautiful mother and our families will miss you and we know an important part of us is missing--but we know Jesus was there to meet you with open arms. We hold-on to the thought of you with a body that works like it's suppose to, in a place where there are no tears, and you don't have to sneak your snickers candy bars!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A great man went home yesterday!

One of the most brilliant, faithful men I have ever known, passed away yesterday. My Father, Bill J. McMurray died after a massive heart attack at the ICU at Kadlac Medical Center in Richland, WA at 3:20 pm. Rest in peace dad.

Thank you Dr. Zanders, what a blessing to have a Dr. with such a strong Christian faith, as my family and I waded through all that together. I wouldn't expect anything less from the son of two Salvation Army pastors! And thank you to the rest of the ICU staff at Kadlac you were wonderful!

To my friends, drink a toast to Bill McMurray if you get a chance.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Gospel according to Walt??

Well, a couple of you have asked me to get around to giving you some reflections on the whole “Disney” experience I had while on Vacation a few weeks ago. One of the drawbacks of being a pastor is that the job and calling of a pastor tends to swallow up every aspect and experience. I find myself examining many things, not on their own merits, but in light of church/ church culture and faith. Disneyland was no different for me. I want to make it clear that I don’t think that Christ's Church and Disneyland are the same thing (at least most of the time). Disney is a very artificial carefully constructed creation that is extremely protected from the outside world. Hmm maybe there are more similarities then i first thought... maybe not with Christ’s bride the church, but the church we seem to have created in the western world...

I also want to preface this by saying that Disneyland is one of my favorite places, I know some of you reading are fighting a gag reflex as I say that, but it is. In fact there are some things about Disneyland I wish I could bring into the local church.

The first, is the fact that it is hard for people to be angry when you are at Disneyland. I know it can be done, I saw plenty of brothers and sisters screaming at each other, and plenty of Parents trying the “ok we are gonna just leave you “ and walk five steps away only to come back and grab johnny by the arm away screaming. (does the “we are leaving” thing ever work???). But as my wife and kids and I were walking past the bus drop off parking lot and the ticket gates, there was music playing, the sun was shining, you could see the top of space mountain and the Matterhorn, Grizzly peak and the Tower of Terror over in California adventure, I couldn’t NOT smile. neither could my wife and kids. In fact it was so obvious that it became a joke as we walked towards the entrance.

There is a huge difference between Joy and happiness. One is based on a situation the other surpasses situations and can even be experienced when you are sad or solemn. Disney’s happiness is definitely a situational fleeting experience ( just watch the taxi drivers on Harbor blvd. driving by the park when it closes.) But wow! there are few places where where there is that kind of feeling on such a large scale. I’m not sure I want the situational happiness in my local church, but boy it would sure be great so see people walking to the doors of the church with smiles on their face and expecting something. I was talking with a group of pastor’s a while ago about sermons that we gave that just pushed the edge a little too far for the congregation that was hearing it. Someone told the story of a Pastor (who at one time pastored the church I serve.. and now is a bishop BTW) who crossed the line with her congregation with a sermon titled “if Jesus is Lord why is everyone so pissed off?” I think I have wanted to preach that sermon. Those two places; the Disney ticket gate and the church front door, can seem like such a contrast sometimes.

The other thing I love about Disney is that it is such a diverse place, even though the magic kingdom is based in a pretty white bread story there were white, black, brown, yellow and red skinned people climbing on Dumbo’s back to spin around in circles with huge smiles on their face. There was a time in my daughter’s life when she was younger, when she equated any language that wasn’t english with spanish. So if you were speaking French, Dutch, Japanese or whatever the response you got from Adeline was “hola!” I can’t count the number of languages i heard in 4 days at Disneyland.

Part of that diversity also carried a sense of community. I know it sounds weird but I would be standing next to someone that I had hardly anything in common with, different language different culture but we had a sense of relationship because we were both experiencing the same event at the same time together. Often in the church we expect people to experience the “event” of worship, or faith in general, in the way that we do. Or worse yet the way we did some years ago. and if you don’t then the differences between us become large, we fall into cults of personalities, and in the worse case scenario we find ourselves saying “we” and “them”.

Those are just some off the cuff thoughts I’ve had, your milage may very.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blessing of the back packs

Last week we had an event that I was pretty exciting (well, I thought it was exciting, I’m not convinced anyone else was, but I’m used to being by myself on stuff like this) We had a “blessing of the back packs” during our Sunday morning worship service. About halfway through the service, we had all our elementary school kids come forward and put their back packs up on the alter. We as a congregation gathered around them and laid hands on and pray for them (again not sure every one was too excited about the getting up and touching someone, Methodists are a bit too stoic for that stuff. We would rather watch someone lay hands on someone and pray from our seat, or have someone “stand- in” for us ;-). Next we had our Middle, High School and College students come forward and we did the same for them as well. Finally, all the teachers and school faculty and staff we have who attend come forward and we prayed for them. Now that the altar was covered with back packs, we asked for God’s blessings for the kids who are represented by all these backpacks, that He would guide their steps, bless them with the spirit of wisdom and keep them safe.

I thought it was great! Did I mention I was pretty excited about it?

I mentioned a while ago on this blog that a few friends and I have been talking about the state of our world and our neighborhoods. It seems like Jesus and the rest of scripture speaks to us about those problems that we face today, but for some reason we don’t hear them speak. We often hear someone speak about Jesus, or about scripture, but being 1, 2, or even 3 steps removed sometimes takes a bit of the “punch” out of the revolutionary words of Jesus in scripture. So as my friends and I have been talking we asked what are the biggest problems our neighborhoods face? (I mean really literally asked each other ... out loud... between fork fulls of chimichanga at lunch). Two things seemed to surface the more we talked about it. 1) safety and security especially for kids. 2) crushing debt and a system that allows someone to get into a cycle of debt that they can’t get out of.

I’m encouraging our congregation to intentionally address those problems in our community. The blessing of the backpacks is a start for us. Seeing kids in front of us - putting a hand on their shoulder and asking God to bless them and keep them safe, asking God to give wisdom to those teachers who are given our trust to take care and teach our kids is a small step towards making our neighborhood a safe place with God’s help.

I hope you have a great week friends, and if you have kids heading back to school, or you are heading back yourself as a student or staff person I pray for God’s blessings and safety upon you as you go!


Monday, August 11, 2008

40 Years and one week old...

Well, it has been a busy couple of weeks. Last Sunday was my 40th birthday and the congregation I serve threw a wonderful party for me. One of my parishioners, who is actually attending seminary to follow a call to ministry, cooked me some of his special BBQ ribs Wow! Great stuff. The whole congregation managed to keep it a secret from me, so I was totally surprised when we turned the corner and saw a sea of people on the front lawn of the house! Who knew my wife was such a good liar.. well maybe more of a selective truth teller. I think I got enough coffee shop gift cards to last me the rest of the year. In fact , as I write this I am having a Latte’ at Brewed Awakenings on one of my gift cards.

Then, on Tuesday the family and I got up at 4:30am to get to the airport by 5:30am to make a plane at 6:30am bound for Disneyland and Southern California. Friday was my son’s 11th birthday so it was kinda a birthday trip for the both of us, complete with a birthday lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. Saturday morning before our flight home, we spent the day at Hermosa Beach with my wife’s cousin Lisa. It was a blast playing in the waves with my kids, but we got Sunburned... I mean SUNBURNED.. as in Chernobyl - radioactive sunburned! My feet are barely able to fit in my shoes they are so swollen, and shifting the foot lever on my motorcycle is not nearly as fun as it usually is.

I was thinking on the plane ride home, about the whole Disneyland experience. As a wanna-be-sociologist the whole Disney package is pretty fascinating. I will try to write some of those reflections down here next week. I’m still a bit exhausted from spending 14 hours a day on my feel and asking “how long of a wait is this line?”

It’s good to be home - Tonight starts our annual VBS program. Wish us luck!


Monday, July 21, 2008


I have had a couple conversations these last few weeks with folks who have visited the congregation I serve on a Sunday morning for worship, that have reinforced for me the notion that most people equate church to a one hour block on Sunday mornings. That leads to a next assumption that worship style defines you as a church, both of which I think are wrong.

The particular congregation I serve has two services of worship on Sunday morning. The first service is more relaxed and casual. The music is typically more modern in style (I’m trying to avoid the word “contemporary” as hard as I can.) Kids make noise, I preach from a bar stool down in the seats rather than up on the platform. We sing together, we pray together, we hear scripture, we laugh together on occasion cry together as well. Our second service is more of a traditional Methodist service. I typically wear a robe and stole (for you non liturgical folks - a stole is a fancy long scarf usually in the color of whatever season of the church calendar we are in). We follow a pretty set liturgy, most of our music we sing originates out of the hymnal.

So... we had a very nice visitor who came to our more traditional service. On that particular Sunday it was about 90 degrees outside, so that means that inside the oven that is Orchards United Methodist Church it was approximately 375 degrees. I opted not to wear the robe. After worship my wife was talking with a woman who was very interested in us. “I saw you were wearing a modern watch (Thank you Target $7 clearance table) , and you announced that you were leading a book study on one of Brian McClaren’s books, but most of the people here were older... so I was thinking what is going on here” As we talked more she was very into categories. She defined herself in very clear categories and wanted to know what my categories were. (BTW My Myers Briggs letters are ESPN, or is it Briggs and Stratton I can never remember) I also discovered that she was very interested in the categories as they related to the “Emerging church” movement... ooops i mean “conversation” to which she made the comment that she and her husband had joined “the conversation”... I kinda wondered if they sent out a mailer to people to notify them of this fact.

I personally have found quite a bit of life and spiritual renewal for my self in the midst of the emerging church’s “conversation”. I personally have been attracted to and "pastored" in such a way that fostered compassionate, missional communities, and focused on Jesus as the center of our faith. The verse that has been tattooed on my heart (figuratively) is “Love the Lord your God... love your neighbor as yourself” Ok so there are my categories... as best as I can shoe horn myself into them.

So as we talked more about those things she said “ ya know you could really easily turn this congregation into an Emerging church...” and she listed off some things that we could change to our style of worship. I then realized that she was equating our time in worship with what we are as a church. In her process, if we follow this form, or change our categories to worship in an “Emerging” style we will be Emerging... maybe even emerged... Crap! Then what will we do? I’ll have to find a whole new category.

The way my congregation worships together, the style we are comfortable in during that first hour has a lot of similarities to the way church’s who label themselves as "Emerging" tend to worship together. But beyond that, beyond the doors of our sanctuary, out side the one hour block on Sunday, we are still learning what it means to love our neighbor, what it means to be part of a compassionate, generous community, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the way we worship, the style of music we sing, the color of the table cloth and the scarf the pastor wears, if we never have lives that reflect a faith grounded in the love of God, made real in our communities and families then our categories are are just white washed sepulchres. (oooo i impressed myself there by tying this all together with a scripture reference!)

Have a great week friend... Love God and love everybody else!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fireworks, Reunions and The Police

Hi friends!

Yes I am still alive, as some of you e-mailed me to find out. It has been a busy summer for me and I haven’t had time to sit down and put any thoughts up on the blog. I try not to just post boring meaningless things here on “mark’s mind” ( Most of you really don’t care that my 10 year old son is quickly gaining ground and is about to cross the threshold of being better than me at Wii tennis)

I have a little break in the pace of life at the moment, so hopefully next week I will be able to contribute a bit more.

As for now... here is the meaningless stuff (well to you... not to me :-) )

Our Annual Conference for the PNW Conference of the UMC was in Moscow this year. Idaho... not Russia... I spent some time in Moscow, ID many years ago in a former life... when I was a student at Washington State, 8 miles down the road in Pullman Wa. Idaho’s drinking age was 18 at the time, while Washington’s was 21.. hence the reason i spent so much time in Moscow. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I almost got into a fight while eating lunch . Well the last time I was actually in a fight was in Moscow, ID, in a bar when I was 18. I drove by it and got sentimental while i was at Annual Conference. I’m kidding... there are actually more memories of that time in my life that I would like to get rid of, than remember, and I’m not very sentimental about them... That the subject of another blog... moving on...

On the way back from Idaho I was able to stop in the Tri-Cities area of Wa. where I grew up and spend some time with my family there. It was great! I forgot how much i love the desert of Eastern Wa and the Columbia River running through the middle of it!

We again operated a huge fireworks tent as a fund raiser for the congregation I serve. Well, to be precise we operated 3 tents in a shopping experience called “Boom City”. Three tents, no waiting. unlimited variety... The problem was that with the economy the way it is not many people were in the market to buy things that you set on fire. We did about half the sales we have done in years past... Oh well...

We spent the 4th of July down in Southern Oregon with my wife’s family. Lots of good relaxing days in the In-law’s swimming pool. My wife’s 20th High School reunion was the same weekend, so we went to a dinner for that. I didn’t know anyone, but It was pretty fascinating to see how cliques reform, and people really don’t change all that much. It was pretty interesting to be an outsider looking in. Second only to the Tri-Cities, Southern Oregon is my favorite place to be.

Last Friday, Jennifer and I went to the Police concert at the Amphitheater in Clark County. Wow! What a great concert. The opening act was Elvis Costello. I was very disappointed with Elvis. The sound was terrible. I never understand why opening acts have the crappiest sound set up. I literally couldn’t understand a word he was saying and barely recognized most of the songs... “what's so funny bout what?... oh! Peace, Love and Understanding ... I think i recognize this...” BUT The Police were Awesome! For three 50+ year old guys they “brought it” as my daughter says. One of... if not THE best concerts I have been too. The place was packed and hearing 15,000 people chant “Yeeeoooo, Yeeooo, Oh, Oh” to Walking On The Moon with Sting was pretty amazing. Andrew Summers still plays the guitar incredibly and Stewart Copeland can hit a giant gong like few others!

In August we will be heading down to Disney Land for my son’s 11th birthday and my 40th Birthday. (Feel free to wear black arm bands to mourn the passing of my youth on August 3rd if you like)

So that's the update on all that is going on in Mark’s life. I hope your Summer’s are going equally as well!

Have a great week friends!

Friday, June 20, 2008

I thought I was a nice guy...

I think some people just generate strong emotions in people. I’m not sure if I’m one of those people or not but I generally like to think that i’m a mostly nice guy - at least after I have my latte’ in the morning.

I had two odd experiences this last week that challenged my thoughts about myself. First, last week while I was eating lunch at a local restaurant, sitting at my table quietly eating while I read a book a group of hard workin’ guys obviously construction workers sat at a table next to me. Now, I have framed houses and worked in lumber yards in the course of my life so I’m not a fragile flower when it comes to conversations at the work site. As I ate a beautiful young woman walked across the parking lot out side the window. Immediately the table of guys took notice... no surprise. A few comments of a sexual nature were made... not in good taste but like I said I’m no stranger to the work site banter. Then another was made more graphic and a third and a fourth and ... Finally I put down my fork and said to the group “hey guys have some class huh?”

Now in the world in which my mind lives the proper response from my rude restaurant mates would be “Oh I’m sorry...” or some other similar response. Unfortunately the world where my mind lives doesn’t exists... The actual response I received was “F*** you!” there were several other comments tossed back at me as well. At that point I know I should have just kept quiet but I responded back “What is this the 2nd grade playground?” One of them was in the process of getting up to get some more food and stopped at my table and responded “why don’t you just shut the F*** up (insert name here that wasn’t really at all close to Mark)” I said “I will if you will” After a long pause and a the "tough guy" stare, he left. I really thought I was going to have to throw down and get into a fight with three guys in a pizza restaurant at the salad bar. I wasn’t always a Pastor, I have been in a couple of fights but not since I was about 21... and I’m not 21 any more... I haven’t been 21 for a long time. It has been a while since I took a punch, or three or several... luckily it didn’t come to that but I really thought it was for a moment or two.

Second, It has finally been sunny and (kinda’) warm in the Portland/Vancouver area so I have been able to FINALLY get out and ride my motorcycle. Two days after my “enlightening” conversation at lunch, I was riding my motorcycle down the street to work. When I ride I am a pretty defensive rider. I have been hit by a city work truck and have had to dodge several other vehicles while riding in the past so I keep a sharp eye out. As I was rolling along. I noticed 2 Yippie dogs (I think that is an official AKC breed. I may be wrong) in an unfenced yard next to someone working in a garden. As I got closer one of the dog’s (Yippie #1) noticed me and began yipping. Soon Yippie #2 noticed and decided that I couldn’t hear his yipping adequately so he began to run towards the street with Yippie #1 close behind. The owner shouted at the dogs to come back neither paid any attention. I assumed that the dogs would stop at the side walk when they reached it, but to my surprise they did not. They both bolted past the side walk at full speed and into the opposite lane of traffic in their mission to destroy me. As they entered the street a large Buick coming the other direction slammed on the brakes and and SCREECHED to a halt about .33 inches away from Yippie #2. Both dogs stopped quickly and then aborted their mission to destroy the rider on the Ninja driving by and returned back to the yard safe and sound.

I hope that you all have had a more peaceful summer that doesn’t involve fisticuffs or dog bites!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An hour on Sunday morning??

From time to time I am asked to make presentations on the act or preaching and worship, usually as it relates to younger adults (Which i think is ironic since I am going to be celebrating my 40th birthday this August... black arm bands are optional as we bid farewell to my youth!) Recently i was asked to consult with a group as they formulated a couple seminars for people wanting to explore worship to a greater degree.

In thinking about worship there are several things we can consider. Some of those things sing incredibly important on the surface. In light of what worship is truly about they may not look as grand as they one did. Often we focus on an hour of our Sunday morning as “worship”. In that hour we concern ourselves with things like formats, style, what music we listen to, what version of scripture we will read from, how long we stand, how long we sit, as well as a host of other things. All those things have a practical importance. I can remember standing for 1 1/2 hours at a worship service at a Greek Orthodox Church in Ohio, praying for a opportunity to sit down. An elderly woman stood next to me like a rock reciting litanies unfazed by being on her feet for so long. I’m not convinced any of those things really get at the heart of what worship is.

I truly believe that worship is not merely confined to a one hour (or in the case of a certain Greek Orthodox Service... more than an hour) block on Sunday morning. I believe worship is something much larger. It is an attitude of thanksgiving, joy and honor we have for God that is expressed in various ways in our lives, well beyond Sunday mornings. In fact i don’t think that the grace we find in worship comes because we meet on a specific time at a specific place but that God chooses to meet us there, and in the various places our life journeys take us. Along those same lines, worship isn’t judged as “successful” because of the quality of the music played, the songs sung, the ability the congregation has to read beautifully and responsively from the Psalms, or how the service “flowed”. The test of true worship comes from the missional and life transforming activity that happens in the lives of the community which follows from worship.

In a life of worship we are constantly reminded of who God is and who we are. We are drawn into lives that are transformed by joy and the Spirit’s presence. Out of such worship filled lives we see, as scripture describes, “ rivers of living water “ that quench the thirst of a parched world.

I hope that as summer rolls around, no matter where you may find yourself on a Sunday morning, all of our lives will be an act of worship, and we are filled with gratitude joy and life as a result.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Two wheels of fun

Hi friends. Well I have been away, doing things other than contributing to this blog. I have been spending most of my spare time working on my motorcycle. We have had to spectacular weekends so I have been riding a lot. Well... riding and repairing and riding again.

A few weeks ago. I rode with a group of people up to a spot near mount saint helens. The ride was beautiful and a lot of run until my carburetors got clogged in a little town called Cougar (actually in the wood about 8 miles away from Cougar where there is no cell phone signal) Anyway after a nice 4 hour stint on a bench outside the one gas station in Cougar I had my friend Scott help me trailer the ol’ Ninja off the mountain. (Thanks Scott!)

After one full day off and several after work evenings of tearing into the fuel system and ignition system, and some advise and encouragement, when I was frustrated, by friends on the PNW Riders forum, I got her up and running like a champ.

So last weekend, I got everything all screwed back together and spent most of it riding. Friday I took off early from work and headed up the Columbia River Gorge. Saturday, I returned to Cougar and Mt St. Helens to redeem that ride. It was beautiful! Then Sunday night after a “stump the pastor” night ( I once a year meet with our church’s youth group and they can ask any question they want of me) I headed back up the Gorge with my friend Rich who has recently returned from Afghanistan.

Now it’s cold and rainy again, so I am back in the garage delrusting a new fuel tank and prepping it for paint and working on the exhaust waiting for another sunny weekend.

Have a great week friends!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sharing a confused look...

Here is the "pastor's note" for my congregations newsletter this month:

I was watching cartoons with my daughter Adeline the other day and an old Tom & Jerry cartoon came on. This particular cartoon was created in 1947. If you are familiar with the plot of every Tom & Jerry cartoon, Tom is a cat that spends all his time trying to catch the mouse Jerry. Typically explosives, knives, various contraptions, and lots of raise bumps on cartoon heads are employed in before said mouse catching strategy.

In this particular cartoon there was a slight variation to the theme - Jerry had a baby mouse with him;Nibbles.(His name was changed to Tuffy later in the series as I found noted on several Tom & Jerry web pages) I don’t know if Nibbles is Jerry’s baby, or if he a nephew or what, i’m not as informed on the family structures of cartoon mice as I should be... Anyway, as we all know, cartoon baby mice wearing cloth diapers complete with safety pin the size of your leg, need to drink milk... as do cats... thus the problem. Jerry wanted the saucer of milk for Nibbles, and Tom wanted it for himself... Lit the hijinx begin. The Tom chased the mice all over the house trying every way possible to exterminate them. Anvils were dropped , sticks of dynamite were exploded, at one point Tom even had Nibbles at gunpoint. Tom fired the gun narrowly missing the Nibbles and blowing off all the fur from his own smoldering tail. Then in a plot twist Tom swings at the baby mouse with a spatula and smacks him on the behind. Nibbles’ eyes grow large and big alligator tears begin to flow as the baby begins to cry from being spanked. That's the last straw Jerry appears furious at someone spanking the child and proceeds to beat the day lights out of Tom with hammers, chairs and dishes. The cartoon ends with Tom bandaged from head to toe complete with crutches, handing over the saucer of milk to the baby mouse.

Adeline and I both turned and looked at each other with puzzled looks. Adeline said “OK that's just stupid... Jerry freaks out over a swat with a spatula, but doesn’t care that Tom was using bats and guns to try and shoot his baby!???” I was thinking the exact same thing. Now I don’t want to get into a long discussion of violence in cartoons. I grew up watching Wily Coyote purchase bomb dropping hot air balloons from Acme like many people my age. What I was struck by in watching Tom & Jerry was how different communities have become. 50 or 60 years ago it was totally acceptable to have characters point guns at each others heads as a comedy gag. The communities we live in are entirely different than they were a generation ago.

Our taste in Cartoon humor isn’t the only thing that has changed. The way we view our world, the things we value and don’t value, the attitude we have about ourselves our families, our faith and beliefs have all changed so much.

Two weeks ago I witnessed a similar exchange. One person talking with another about one aspect of his faith that was incredibly important to him. As I watched the interaction the young woman listening had the exact same puzzled look that Adeline had while watching Tom & Jerry. I could almost hear the voice in her head saying “But what about this part of my life, or this way I view others, and the world?” To her credit the young woman didn’t lash out and try to negate or nullify the other persons values and beliefs, as many of us do sometimes with out thinking, but I could tell that the faith the person was so devoted to didn’t ring true for her.

As our communities change I pray that we all realize that the timeless message of Jesus, offers hope to every generation. I pray we will never loose sight of a savior who meets us where we are, and interacts with us as his beloved children.

Have a great May friends and look out for Cats bearing dynamite

Monday, April 14, 2008

The question... 2.0

Last week I mentioned a “conversation” I had with three high school kids on a pier in Seattle, as the asked me the question - “what will happen when you die?” as part of an evangelism program. Friday night at a Bible study that meets at my house, one of the women who attends voiced guilt she felt about not “sharing her faith with people”. It wasn’t a hedged in comments of “my faith is personal ... between me and God” or any of the other excuses we often throw out when we feel guilty about not being more “Evanelistic”. Her concerns came from a place of not wanting to alienate her friends, by always pushing Jesus on them, or running into that attitude people have when the Christian faith is mentioned - the Christians hate gays, or don’t like people like me, or only want our money attitude.
Here is the ironic thing, I would find it unimaginable to know Natalie for more than an hour and not know that her faith in Jesus is a huge guiding factor in her life. But because she wasn’t being confrontational in her conversations with people about Jesus, or because she doesn’t have a check list of friends that she has asked “do you have a personal relationship with Jesus”, or worse yet asked the big what happens when you die question, she feels guilty.

I just started reading Brian McClaren’s book “Everything Must Change”. I purposefully have not picked it up until lately because, to be honest, I have been pretty disillusioned with the Church in the Western world. This last year I have become disgusted that the biggest issue for many of us in the church is “who is going to paint our church building” or “the piano player at church plays too slow” or any of another million things of no significance at all, while at the same time millions of people have died of Malaria in Africa, or a hundred kids walk by our building everyday on the way home from school to be abused and/or neglected. I didn’t want to pick it up because I was working on a pretty good mad as it was, and really didn’t want any more gunpowder for this keg that was ready to blow already. (Sorry counting to ten... breathing deeply.... serenity now...)

Anyway, I was talking with a couple friends this last week on this topic. As we sat around the table we asked what are the biggest problems our communities face? In an effort to make first steps, we didn’t want to tackle wars in the middle east , or dependance on fossil fuels, or other global concerns, but what does my neighbor struggle with on a daily basis. As a disciple of Jesus I believe scripture speaks to us about those things and as disciples we can do something to address them. In that question I found some sense of peace and some ease in my frustration. I decided that the fuse had gone out on my keg, so I’ll pick up Brian’s book. Low and behold in the first chapters of the book Brian lays out the premise of the book based on two questions 1)What are the biggest problems in the world? 2) what does Jesus have to say about these problems? CRAP! He wrote the book before I could! Dammit!

If you haven’t pickled up “Everything Must Change” I recommend it (although I am only about half way through it.) And If the titles scares you... It should... When Brian says everything must change, he means it. So do I!

So in asking our local question there were a few things that seemed to rise to the top of all of our discussions. 1) Safety for kids in our neighborhoods 2) Financial issues, more specifically debt and addiction to a consumeristic identity. Out of those discussions I have proposed a couple ideas to the members or Orchards United Methodist Church to address those problems our community faces, and there is some traction and excitement about them.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a community that is not known for convincing people they were headed to hell, but as Jesus says in John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Have a great week friends!

Monday, April 07, 2008

The question...

Hi friends,

I have been in Seattle for the last week. Part of the time on vacation with my beautiful wife and two above average children. The last part of the week I was interviewing candidates for ministry as a member of my Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry.

The Vacation time was a blast! We spent some time at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field . I have been a huge aircraft fan since I was little and have always loved Air Museums and the Boeing Field one is one of the best in the country. At first my wife and kids were kind of just going along to humor me, but I think everyone in the family said it was the highlight of the trip.

After the trip to the Museum of Flight we had a birthday dinner for my wife at the Rain Forest Cafe which was a lot of fun. Complete with giant cake and ice cream desert with sparklers! WhooooHooooo!

The second part of my week was spent talking with candidates for ministry about the written materials they have submitted to the Board. I walked away form those meetings very enthused about the quality of pastors we will have serving churches in The Pacific Northwest Conference in the next few years, and it gives me some hope that the progress I am many others in our church are making in steering this battle ship of a conference towards renewal and revitalization, could happen.

I had an experience on Thursday night after dinner. It was about 7:30pm or so and I had just completed a long day of interviews along with my colleagues. After dinner I drove down to the Marina at DesMoines Beach Park just to look at the water and pray and kinda’ collect myself. So while I was leaning over the rail three young high school aged people (a girl and two boys)approached me and asked “Sir would you be willing to answer some questions for a religious poll we are taking?” Ok, after the initial oddity of a high school girl calling me “Sir” wore off I said sure. They proceeded to ask me questions; Do you believe in God?... Do you believe God cares about people?... Then the tried and true question... If you died tonight... (Which by the way is probably a bad question to ask someone alone at 8pm at a marina. I wanted to answer “Why? You guys have a knife or gun in those hurley hoodies?” To tell you the truth, these three kids were so timid I think if I had shouted “BOO!” loud at them they would have all three crapped their pants and run for the hills)

As a pastor I admit I have a sadistic side. There were a few minutes where several scenarios played out in my head. I could act like the king of all sinners, and challenge them on every point of their argument, then ask where I could score some drugs... As tantalizing as that sounded, I opted not to do that. Then I thought I could play the miraculous convert. After they said two words I'd tell them a horrific story, but because they asked me what would happen when I died, I was a born again convert.... I opted out of that one too. When the poll asked if I belong to a church or place of worship, I confessed that I was a pastor, and they all sighed a little and relaxed. (It wrecked my opportunity to screw with their heads but oh well..) So anyway, when they finished their poll, and I gave them the good answer that my evangelical heritage drilled into my brain, about having a ticket to heaven if I die tonight, cause Jesus died for me, I actually got to talk to them a little.

I asked them how the poll had been going? Their reply was “not too good.” You could have knocked me over with NOT surprise. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to keep these three kids out on a dock, and I didn’t want to crush any fervor they had for their faith, but I can’t imagine anyone would really be too excited about talking with three kids, who were obviously scared out of their heads to talk to people about their faith, and especially using the “what will happen if you die?” angle. These kids were nice and I felt bad for them. It reminded me of the experiences I had as a youth with youth pastors who told me that I needed to go out and win arguments with people about sin and the afterlife. It made me sad. No concept of God caring about our lives now, No questions about transcendence or transformation... nothing for someone now. It was all about heaven and ..”someday”.

It reminded me of another experience I had in seminary. I was to write a paper after having interviewed three people regarding their decision process to become a Christian. So I asked three of the members of the little church my wife and I were attending in Central Kentucky at the time; Two long time members and pillars of the church, and one high school aged girl. When I asked them about how they came to make a decision to be a Christian, they all told me stories of someone who loved them and cared for them. Two of them said it was a grandmother who was most important in their decision. The other told the story of a member of the church who has since passed away but who was instrumental in their decision. When I asked all three what they thought was the most important thing someone needed in order to make a decision to follow Jesus - all three answered (In so many words) “You will go to hell if you don’t say the sinners prayer.” Even though that played little, if anything in their own decision to follow Jesus.

Friends I hope the faith that the world sees in us is not merely about someday. I hope that “hell” and “death” aren’t the first words out of our mouths when we talk about Jesus. I pray we love God with all our hearts and minds and souls, and love our neighbors as ourselves!

Have a great week friends

Monday, March 24, 2008

Party Shirts on Parade

Hi friends,

I hope your Easter celebrations were wonderful! Today is kind of my relax and recoup day after holy week and Easter. Our Worship Services were wonderful on Sunday at Orchards UMC. We have a tradition that started about 5-6 years ago at the church I wanted to post up here. In my family when there is a party that we are going to, Dad (me) wears one of his collection of bowling or hawaiian party shirts. Since Easter is about the most significant celebration I can think of I wear a party shirt every year to worship on Easter Sunday. My kids usually get the final pick of which shirt I wear.

Several people in the congregation have picked up on the tradition. So Easter morning is a sight to behold, not only for the celebration we take part in, but for the celebration represented by the shirts worn. Here is a brief photo collection of some of the shirts that made an appearance on Sunday.

Have a great week friends

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter didn't happen

Hi friends,

As I write this it is Wednesday afternoon, and I like thousands of other clergy people, am gearing up to jump into the teeth of Holy Week and Easter. I have often said that one of the ironic things about being a clergy member is that often I find myself so busy doing “church stuff” that i miss out on some of those meaningful moments that I am in fact called to hold before people. Easter and Holy Week is one of those occasions. There is the Maundy Thursday Seder dinner, the Good Friday Tenebrae Service, the Sunrise Service the Easter Services... (I also have a wedding on Saturday... this is the last time I will say “oh that date is pretty early, sure I can do that wedding”, without checking to see how early Easter is this year!)

One thing that I have found interesting this year, is to listen to what other people have to say about Easter. Is it just me, or have you noticed that there is more advertising around the notion of gifts to be bought for Easter this year than in years past?. I have always been down with the chocolate Easter bunnies. I know there is the whole pagan worship mixed metaphor thing there, but there is something satisfying about biting the ears off of a chocolate bunny! It seems that Easter is the next target for the consumer driven culture we are a part of. It makes me wonder what those saints who came before us would think of the baskets full of video games, candy, gifts, new dresses and shoes, when they were giving their lives to another empire that was ruled by a risen Jesus. It makes me wonder what they would think of our ability to turn Jesus and Easter into a metaphorical and existential self help program that leads us to pin stripe suites and shiny cars, when they were proclaiming the bodily resurrection of Jesus and that death, the ultimate weapon of tyrants and empires of injustice had no more power.

Having heard those voices proclaiming Jesus as the ultimate self help guru, and Easter as consumer Christmas Ch 2 I’ve decided to title my Easter sermon this year “Easter didn’t happen” for two reasons 1. The Jesus as gateway to Hummer H2's and pinstripe suites isn’t the Jesus of our Holy cannon, The easter devoid of resurrection and re-creation seems to be absent from our scriptures as well. And 2. Even if we proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus and all its ramifications to the empires of this world, it isn’t merely an event of the past that “happened”. It is a reality that is happening and will happen in the future if we truly cling to the miraculous, revolutionary message of of a risen savior and reconciliation of all creation. One of my favorite Charlie Brown comic strips ends with Charlie saying “The greatest burden in life is to have great potential”

I hope Easter is a holy day for you and that these last few days of lent usher you towards a life of resurrection, hope and life!

Have a wonderful Easter friends.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Hi friends,

I made a commitment a while ago to post something on this blog each week. Some weeks are harder than others to find things that are worth blogging about and wont just add to the existential landfill that much of the internet is these days. (wow, i sounded like a grumpy old man there... that is happening more and more... GET OFF MY YARD!)

Anyway, on a more serious note I am personally in a bit of a funk today. I have been writing quite a few things lately, but this isn’t an appropriate venue to publish them. I feel like i have lots of kettles on the stove right now and none of them are done simmering yet, but they all take a lot of my time and emotional energy, and I am feeling a little thin and tired. Plus its the middle of the rainy season here in SW Washington and i miss the sun, and need to be riding my motorcycle much more than I am.

I have always been someone who relies on my abilities, and I struggle quite a bit with allowing God to totally be Lord of my life, mostly out of selfishness, and impatience. At the moment I am in a place of having to wait on God’s timing, and I’m not good at the whole “waiting” thing.

Maybe next week I will have more deep thoughts to share, or at least some shallow ones.

Have a wonderful day friends

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Good Day!

Every once in a while you have one of those days as a pastor where you really feel like you accomplished something. Ministry Is a strange thing because you can put lots of effort into something and not really see any result. Not because nothing happens, but because you aren’t always there to see the change happen, or sometimes a spiritual milestone for someone doesn’t happen with fireworks and parades. Sometimes God completes a work that I may have only been step 2 of a 24 step journey this person has been on.
Anyway on Saturday I got a glimpse of the wonderful nature of what God’s grace can be like. I performed a wedding for a couple who I met in an unusual way. I met Eric and Tina almost two years ago. They showed up at our worship service one Sunday morning with coats and suitcases in tow. They wanted to know if it was all right if they put their luggage in the closet during the service. I said of course and struck up a conversation with them. As it turned out they had been sleeping at a winter overflow shelter a block or so away, that volunteers from our congregation were manning that week. They had met some of our members at the shelter and decided to take them up on their invitation to come to church that Sunday. To make a long story short, our congregation welcomed them, some full well knowing their situation, some having no idea the struggles they were facing. I was able to help in their process of finding work and a place to stay other than on our porch or at the shelter. In the process of meeting and befriending this couple, the life of generosity and love that God is calling some of us to in this congregation, was gaining faces and names. It isn’t merely a great idea or a philosophy, it is friends we love.
So on Saturday Eric and Tina marched down the aisle and exchanged vows and rings, I got to stand next to Eric and hear him say “oh wow!” when he saw his bride for the first time in her wedding dress. I served them communion and as a congregation we prayed and asked for God’s blessing on these, our friends as they begin this next step of their lives together. The congregation hosted a reception for them and we ate cake and cheered for them. It was a great day!
This time of year gets to be a bit of a blur for me. Lent is underway and Easter is fast approaching, I have work to do for the Board of Ordained Ministry, and the Board of Congregational Development for the conference I am a member of, so the process of planning this wedding and meeting with Eric and Tina was mostly another event on my blackberry. It wasn’t until Saturday Morning that the joy of this wedding struck me, and how good God is.
I just wanted to record these thoughts today for someone else to see.
Have a great day friends!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Not so easy oil change

I had an experience that I wish I could say was unusual but it seems pretty common at its heart. I took my chick magnet of a 97’ green Ford Taurus to one of those quick lube type places to get the oil changed before I had to drive up to Seattle for a Conference Board meeting. All was well, I paid my $19.98 for the oil change and the next day hit the road. When I pulled into the parking lot in Seattle I noticed the smell of burning oil, not a huge white cloud of smoke. (I have owned that car in my past). Just enough that I could tell there was oil burning somewhere. I wasn’t in a position to grab my coveralls and lay down in the parking lot and crawl under the car to investigate. Since my oil light wasn’t on, and the car seemed to drive fine, I just let it go - went to my meeting and drove back to Vancouver that evening. I got home and the same smell was there. I hoped that maybe the oil change guy had just spilt some oil on the manifold when filling it or something, but I figured 5 hours of driving would have burned up any spilt oil. I went to bed and decided to tackle it in the morning.

Got up the next morning, went to the garage looked under the car and there was a pancake size oil puddle under the car ( The ma and pop style restaurant pancake size, not those little 4 at a time size pancakes). It was right under the drain plug so I figured that the oil change guy just hadn’t tightened the drain plug. I hopped in the car took it back to the shop told them the situation. The guy at the counter was very nice. He got me right in and yelled down to the tech who was working in that 7th level of hell oil pit below the cars to check for an oil leak. I hear in about 2 seconds “Nope it’s not our stuff, there is oil all over the back of the engine...” The guy by my window repeats the message I just heard coming form before mentioned pit of despair. “Great now I have to go to the mechanic and shovel money into the car to figure out why oil is shooting out the back of my engine.” I was thinking.

I am a pretty mechanical guy, so before I took it to my mechanic, I figured I’d jack up the car and just take a look for myself to see if it is something simple like a gasket leak or more involved. I jacked the car up, got on my crawler, slid underneath and sure enough there was oil all over the oil pan streaking back to the catalytic converter where it was smoking. BUT, as I am laying under my car I can see about every two or three seconds a drip of oil coming from the oil drain plug. I grabbed an old shop rag wiped the oil off of everything checked for any other trails from other leaks found exactly ZERO. I put my socket wrench on the drain plug gave it a half turn and wallah!! leak stopped.

WARNING Grumpy old man alert!!! What the hell? So the oil lube guy was either incompetent and couldn’t see the drip of oil coming every two seconds from the drain plug, or was so afraid to make things right which might require some extra work that his automatic response is “It’s not our stuff...”

Have you ever been in the position to do something that is good, or is the right thing, but decided that it was too inconvenient? I find this attitude everywhere. What is even more sobering is that as I work with local churchs I hear it all the time. “That would be great but I don’t have time...” “I am not willing to be in charge...” “It would be great if YOU did something about that...” “That's pretty inconvenient. What if we did something less than that?...”

It is now the second week of Lent and like many years before, the congregation I serve has many members who are observing Lenten disciplines like prayer and fasting, reading scripture, introspection and meditation, and confession. For many of us we find that Lent is that time where we really discover what our lives are dedicated to. If you are like me you find that the things I am really dedicated to aren’t the things I should be dedicated to, (Or better said THE THING I should be dedicated to).

So as I was starting to work up a good mad about my lazy oil change worker, I realized that I have said “nope its not my stuff...” too many times myself - over things more important that an oil grain plug.

I hope this is a wonderful, enlightening and holy season of Lent for you friends!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fat Tuesday Leaves Its Mark...

It’s hard to believe but this last week we celebrated Ash Wednesday as a congregation. I know this is a sign that I am old now, but sheesh, it feels like last year’s Ash Wednesday was just here! (All be it Easter is very early this year, thus making Ash Wednesday even earlier) Which brings me to the whole subject of Lent in general.

I have kinda’ learned an appreciation for Lent later in life. As a kids it always had a feel of being one of those “don’t do this or that” kinda seasons. We all know what happens with kids and teen agers when we tell them don’t do something... thus Fat Tuesday was born.

Ok, I have to tell a story kinda on topic before I go on. My kids were sitting in the back seat of the car in the garage waiting for mom to come down and get in the car so we could leave for our Ash Wednesday service at church. So my son asks “Dad what is Mardi Gras? Is it the same thing as Fat Tuesday?” Half heartedly I gave the 73 second version of what Lent and Ash Wednesday are about. Both my kids are pretty Liturgically savvy so they got the concept. I added. “I think Fat Tuesday kinda’ got to be the way it is, because some people merely see Lent as a time to give up something. So the Tuesday before Lent starts they get one last shot to do whatever thing they are giving up for Lent...” My son quickly grasped the irony of someone giving up something harmful for just 40 days and bingeing on it before you start the fast. My daughter.. which may be a sign of things to come... got more into the Fat Tuesday mindset when she said “ You know those ‘It’s a Girl’ things on my shelf in my room?” “Oh you mean the cigars I got and handed out when you were born?” I replied. “Ya I’m gonna come home and smoke all those for Fat Tuesday.” After I talked her out of the idea, which didn’t take very long... thank God! I had to laugh at the image of my daughter running home trying to smoke a dried out, 8 year old, two dollar, “its a girl” cigar... I know that makes me a terrible parent on so many levels, but hey, I think my little girl and me share a kindred heart on all those levels.

Ok I was going to have something thought provoking to say about Lent but I lost it . I hope ya’ll have a holy and meaningful season of Lent. Have a great week friends.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It may be a while till I am on the PBA tour...

Not a lot to write about this week, but I thought I would share something that struck me as funny this week.

This Monday was the MLK Jr. Holiday for most of us. My Wife and kids had the day off from school and Monday's are my usual day off so we decided to do some family things on Monday. One of the things we did was go bowling.

Vancouver Wa has a pretty large population of blind people, at least it seems so to me. I see more blind people here in the malls and in the community than any other city I have lived in. I assume that it is because for over 50 years the Washington State School For The Blind has been located in Vancouver. It's truly inspiring to see people without, or with very little eyesight overcome obstacles those of us with sight take for granted. Anyway... in the lane next to us at the bowling alley were three blind people bowling. Not all of them were completely blind. At least one of them could tell what pins were still standing by looking very closely at the scoring monitor at the table. (The days of scoring on a piece of paper are long gone my friends) It was fascinating to watch them bowl and help each other by saying "The # 3 and 4 pin are still up" and have them throw a ball and hit the # 3 and 4 pins.

Anyway... as in most bowling allies, now your scores are projected on a screen for God and everyone to see. When we were done, it dawned on me that I got beat at bowling by a blind guy. To add insult to injury our lane had the bumpers up for my 7 and 10 year old and I still didn't score as high as the blind guy in the lane next to me. I'm not sure if that is a testament to how good the guy in the lane next to me was at bowling... or how much I suck at it... or a little of both, but I just thought I'd share my public humiliation with you.

Have a good week friends!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Writing a good story...

Hi friends,

Well, as I write this, I’m sitting in the terminal of Portland Intl. Airport waiting to board a flight to Houston, and then to Fayetteville Arkansas to attend the New Congregational Leadership Institute. (cool name huh?) Since I am just sitting here watching planes take off and land, I figured I’d do something constructive, and add a little something to my blog since it has been a number of weeks since I have put anything up (Since before Christmas).

I have written a few things but decided not to post them up on the Blog (at least for a while) I need some time to see if some of my written thoughts are a little too personal to share with the world.

Anyway, I thought I would share a little bit of something I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while. I have mentioned before that one of my favorite authors is a guy by the name of Don Miller who lives across the river in Portland, I have met him once and he seems like a good enough guy in person as well. One of the things I appreciate about Don is that he has a pretty well developed theology of story. Even before I read any of Don’s books, or heard any of his presentations, I was working on this idea of God/story/life on my own. Don has given me a few more handles to grab a hold of on this topic.

It seems to me that every good story has some elements in it that make it good no matter what culture you are a part of. A Hero (or protagonist), a desire, passion or a goal of some kind, some conflict that causes change either for good, a comedy, or for bad, a tragedy, and then some climax that resolves the story. It seems that God kinda wires us to resonate with those elements. They reflect something in our own lives and story. I was talking to someone who said she thought the story of her life was happiness, I think we all want happiness, and joy, but that is a way boring story. It seems that the conflict is the place where the life is in any good story. The change that happens to our protagonist, or to us in our story.

I was listening to a podcast from Mars Hill church in Mich. and Don happened to be the speaker that Sunday. Lo and behold, he was speaking on this topic of faith and story. One thing jumped out at me as I was listening. Don commented that many good authors or screen writers will write the climax first, then figure out how our protagonist gets there. It got me thinking about story and life... What do I want my climax to be? Don joked about it, he said “Don gets a new Volvo... But that's a boring story” So I have been thinking a lot about what the climax of my story is.. and how am i getting there.

I hope your stories are full of life and love and spirit. Have a great week friends