Sunday, December 31, 2006


Just the other day, I was talking with a friend of mine believes about "superpowers." So I had to chuckle to myself when I came across this super-hero test. You can see below who I would be, who would you be?

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Preparing for Christmas... that is why I haven't written much lately - working on getting Sunday's services ready as well as preparing to be out the first week of January, when I hope to spend a little time at the monastery. While there I hope to spend some time working my brief reflections on ebenezers to be posted upon my return.

So, I hope you and your family experience much blessing, peace and wholeness in the celebration of Christ's birth and eventual return!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Amnesia No More...

Earlier I posted about my spiritual forgetfulness. In that post, I challenged others and myself to remember. So I made a list of things I wish to make "ebenezers", or spiritual markers in my life. I hope over the next several weeks to be able to post a brief reflection on each. Here they are in chronological order:
  • my baptism (Age 5)
  • my parents divorce (Age 6)
  • my conversion (Age 14)
  • call to work in youth ministry (Age 22)
  • awareness of call to ordained ministry (Age 25)
  • appointment to Rectortown Church (Age 32)
  • a second repentance (Age 32)
  • a call to remember (Age 32)
I hope to give better titles to each section, but each of the points above will be the center of my reflections. If like me you suffer from spiritual amnesia, I invite you to join me on this journey of remembering. Although some journeys must be traveled alone, most are more fun with fellow travelers.

My Papers Part 3

6. Describe your understanding of clergy leadership from a Biblical and Wesleyan perspective.

From a biblical perspective clergy leadership is helping God’s people take the next faithful step, to borrow a definition from Lovett Weems. This is true both individually and corporately. Moses led the people out of a land of slavery eventually to the edge of the promised land. He did so under God’s direction, meaning he looked to God and listened to his direction. Thus he interpreted God’s faithful steps for the Israelites to lead them to the place God prepared for them. He helped them to take the next faithful step.

Jesus, as part of his earthly ministry, invested his life in 12 men. He taught them and showed them the way towards the next faithful step. Because of Jesus’ leadership (and the fact that he was the Son of God) Peter and James were instrumental (with the power of the Holy Spirit) in the founding, leadership and building of the church. From John we have several important (and much discussed) canonical texts. These men took the next faithful step.

Thus clergy leadership is helping the church as a body and as individuals to take the next faithful step to which God is calling them. We do this through participating in a relationship with God from which we gain our vision and understanding. We do this by spending time and investing our lives in other leaders who will then invest their lives in other leaders, etc.

From a Wesleyan perspective, clergy leadership seems to be the specifics of how to help God’s people take the next faithful step. For instance, preaching and the sacraments were very important to share God’s grace with others, thereby enabling them to follow the movement of the Spirit.

Additionally accountability and discipline as a community helps people to take the next faithful step, because it helps us to focus on where we are going. Disciplined accountability helps the church and individual believers, as Stephen Covey once said, to “keep the main thing the main thing by keeping the main thing the main thing.”

Sunday, December 17, 2006


The longer I live, the more I realize that my story is like that of the Israelites. They had this amazing experience where God rescues them from slavery, yet they continued to grumble and forget what God had done for them. Their story is my story. I forget.

I forget the lessons that I have learned about life and faith. I forget that when I trust in anything other than God I wind up disappointed. I forget that God's power and love are bigger than me and my mistakes. I forget.

This is why I love worship on Sunday mornings. I remember, if but only for an hour, that God is God, and I am not. I remember that Jesus is the cure to the disease of sin that infects the world and me. I remember that God's plan for creation is one of redemption, renewal and ultimately resurrection. I remember...

...then I forget. But, maybe tomorrow I will remember. In the desert the Israelites built piles of rocks called "ebenezers" to commemorate the events that took place. They gave those rock formations names that reminded them of what happened there. What shape might my ebenezers take? How might I name them? (I must admit my first thought is that tattoos would make good ebenezers. Don't worry, Mom. I'm not planning on any tattoos in the near future.)

This week I am going to work on remembering. As I do, I invite you to join me and ask you to ponder and maybe even share how you mark the ebenezers on your journey.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Soul food...

Preparing for Sunday's sermon, I stumbled across the words below; they fed my soul. Possibly they will feed yours too...

It all starts here out in the hot sands of repentance. The gospel begins here, if it starts up in your life at all, that is. The gospel begins not with the cry of a baby in a manger, not when shepherds hear the angels sing, and certainly not when the stockings are hung by the fireplace with care or any other such cozy holiday image as we usually think of them. The gospel begins, the gospels say, with John. The gospel begins out in the desert, out in that place that, throughout the entire Bible, is associated with death, chaos, and danger. The wilderness is not the place to go if you're looking for a good time. The wilderness is not safe. But the prophet Isaiah once predicted, and the man John the Baptist later fulfilled, the promise that it would be precisely in the desert, in the place of death, where God would build a highway to new life. You go into the desert to die, the gospel says. But in baptism, you not only drown, you rise back to new life.

Have you ever heard John preach? It's the most refreshing thing in the world! It's new birth, gospel-style. It's a fresh start. It's good news. It's like going to the doctor convinced you've got a tumor the size of a basketball pressing on your abdomen only to be told it's just gas. Take some Rolaids and go home. A new start. Good news! It's like getting called into the boss's office convinced a pink slip was coming only to get promoted to be the head of a whole new department in the firm. A turn-around, a reversal of fortune, good news. You get on the phone and gush, "Honey, you won't believe this but . . ." and then you go on to make her believe it anyway because it's true.

John offered that. A new start. A fresh beginning. The Messiah is coming, John says. He's coming soon and he's going to dip you right into the life-giving waters of no less than the very Holy Spirit of God. But don't get me wrong: none of this means that everything will become instantly hunky-dorey in your life. For instance, if you are celebrating Christmas this year without a certain loved one who died since Christmas last came and went, that's going to hurt. The gospel doesn't say it shouldn't hurt, but only that through the hurt shines the light of Christ. For now at least, even the gospel can't fix everything. Relationships fracture. People up and die on us before we get the chance to say we're sorry. It hurts. John the Baptist knows that. The One for whom John prepared the way knows that, too. Jesus doesn't leave the room in disgust if you find yourself weeping in front of the Christmas tree--as though your sorrow is ruining Jesus' holiday cheer. Instead, Jesus catches a salty tear or two on the tip of his finger and quietly whispers, "I know. I know. That's why I came in the first place."

John helps us to see and remember that. John takes a buzz-saw to the tinsel and glitter of it all, but he's not finally wrecking anything but building something more lasting, more real, more full of the gospel. John is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It starts here or it starts nowhere. Because if it starts here, the gospel will have some longevity to it. If it starts here, the gospel can endure long after we put the decorations away on January 1. If it starts here, the gospel will have depth to it even if we find ourselves merely going through the motions this month because of how sad we feel on the inside. If we start out right, we may finish right, too. And then in between the start and the finish, our lives will bear the gospel fruit of repentance, showing that we really do get it.

Have you ever heard John preach? If you haven't, you should. Because the gospel tells us that the only way to get to Bethlehem is to travel through the desert first. Well, that's not really true. You can get to Bethlehem without going through the desert. But if so, then once you get there, you won't find Jesus.

(Adapted from “Have You Ever Heard John Preach?” A Sermon by Fred Craddock.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Tech Buzz...

For those who are not interested in my paper responses, here's something about technology. (You may not be interested in that either...sorry.)

Over the past couple of weeks I found two need tools I have enjoyed working with and I hope to use more. The first one is Airset. This on-line personal information manager is pretty cool. It is great for keeping track of calendar, making group calendars and I can even make a public link to the group calendar from my church's website. Cool stuff.

The other cool program is Skype. This program allows you to call either other Skype users or regular phone lines over the internet! For free!!! (Please note that as of 1/2007 Skype calls to regular or cell phones will cost money.) The other thing that is incredibly cool is the video portion of it.

Cingular and Palm just began offering a Treo 680, a cheaper version of the Treo 700. I have been wrestling with whether or not to get this. My plan is to wait until January to make any decisions. (Waiting is killing me! My poor wife has to listen to me talk about it until then.)

Finally, a very good friend of mine is blending and stretching the boundaries of education and tech with a colleague of his with a new website. Check this out!

How about you, any cool tech discoveries?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

An Excerpt from My Papers - Part 1

How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of God? (¶330.4. a) (1) for deacon; or ¶335 (7) a) (1) for elder).

My understanding and experience of God has been shaped in three ways as through practice of ministry over the past three years: the preparation for the proclamation of the word each week; leadership of corporate worship, including celebrating the sacraments; and finally through the practice of pastoral care.

As I prepare for sermons, I enjoy spending time with the text and other resources learning the cultural context and trying to gain a better understanding for the way it spoke to its original audience. This shapes my understanding of God, because it becomes easier to connect with the Biblical witness and seek practical applications for my/our contemporary context. This connection with the text helped me to realize that God has an overall plan (I know it sounds cliché, but I think I better see that overall plan, not necessarily the specifics) for the renewal and redemption of Creation.

Leadership of corporate worship has changed the way I experience God. Previously I used to mainly seek God in personal devotions and “quiet times.” However, I now experience God more fully in corporate worship (in conjunction with regular devotions). I think it has something to do with the discipline of gathering each week in expectancy – somehow be shaped by that act of corporate worship. The idea that we have set aside all other things to gather before the throne of grace and seek to be shaped and molded in community. And when the hour ends our shaping and molding doesn’t stop, but we continue to try and live out our worship in the world around us. There is something very beautiful to me in that idea.

Finally, the practice of pastoral care has affected my understanding of God. As I have sat with families who just lost a loved one, or individuals who are crumbling under the weight of guilt, or people seeking meaning in the midst of tragedy, I feel so very small. There are no words I can offer, no comfort I can give other than my presence and a spoken prayer. As I sit in those situations and as I now reflect back on those situations, I realize that I have come to understand God as One who sits with us in our pain and brokenness, yet the Living God is not bound by that grief, sadness or despair, because just as Jesus was resurrected so God can and will help us to experience little resurrections from the figurative deaths we experience living in a creation that is ravaged with the effects of sin.

I am sure that as I continue to grow, mature in all areas of my life, my practice ministry will continue to affect how experience and understand of the Living God, the Author of Salvation.

An Excerpt from My Papers - Part 2

2. What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace? (¶330.4. a) (2) for deacon; or ¶335 (7) a) (2) for elder).

Over the past three years, I have noticed a trend in people’s responses to me when they find out that I am a pastor. They inevitably have one of three reactions: they either look for a way to exit the conversation as soon as possible, they try to make sure I understand how good they are and how they are so active in their home church, or they want to make sure I understand why they are not active in church or faith. This says something to me about humanity – we are constantly looking for some king of assurance that we are okay. Or else, we will avoid those things that might tell us otherwise.

Another example of this is the story of a young mother who came to my office in my first year as an associate pastor. She had been suffering from extreme depression which required medication. While under treatment for this depression, she became pregnant. The medication she was taking for her depression was hazardous for the baby so she stopped taking the medicine. While off the medicine she fell into deep, deep depression. She could not function. She could not be a mother to her children. She could not be a spouse to her husband. This woman went to the doctor seeking help at which point she was asked to choose between her unborn child and the ability to function and be a mother and a spouse. She chose the latter. Which brought her to my office.

A year after choosing to abort the child, she was still wrestling with guilt. She was afraid that God was angry with her that he hated her for her choice. That somehow she had made God not love her anymore. She came to my office desperate for some assurance that God might still love her.

My heart broke for this young woman. To have to make a difficult choice and then to have to wrestle with whether or not her decision might have somehow stopped God from loving her.
I wonder if much of humanity is not in this same situation – we are afraid we have somehow angered God and prevented him from loving us. We are seeking some assurance that we are okay.

Which leads to our need for divine grace. I believe there is nothing we can do to stop God’s love for us; if there were that would make us somehow stronger than God. I believe God freely offers divine grace to humanity to give us the assurance that we are loved, not by virtue of what we did or did not do, but by virtue of God’s infinite capacity for love and mercy. To be sure, I imagine God is not pleased by much that we as humans think and do, yet in spite of our sin and brokenness, divine grace is offered freely, without cost to us.

My practice of ministry over the past several years has helped me to this understanding. As I study the Scriptures and experience God in corporate worship, service and Bible study I think I see that God had great desires and plans for humanity – the biggest of which is right relationship with the God who made us, our fellow humans, and the created world. Yet I see how we turned away from God’s plans and tried to follow our own plans. The story of the fall is my story as it is every human's story. We abused the gift of freedom of choice to choose wrongly.

Thus our need for divine grace. We need our hearts, our very core to be renewed in that image in which and for which we were originally created! We cannot do this ourselves – only the God who made us can set us back into the right relationships for which we were created. This grace rescues us from our waywardness and reorients us to face in the right direction.

This grace enables us to be in right relationship with our Creator. It then allows us to be in right relationship with our neighbor. Finally, it changes our hearts in such away that we then see the need and the purpose to be in right relationship with the creation.

Papers Submitted...

It is good to be back writing for fun again. Friday I turned my papers to apply for ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. I enjoyed the practice of reflecting on some of the questions. I will post some questions and my responses in later posts over the coming week.

In addition, I hope to get back to posting semi-regularly as before.