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.