Monday, August 10, 2009

How is the church to respond?

I've been struggling with how the Church responds to its members when they 'make a mistake', 'commit a crime' or in church language sin. Do we offer grace? Do we offer hope? Do we offer reconciliation with God and community?

Three examples to consider:

1) Columbine. Last spring marked the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. One of the shooters parents, Dylan Klebold,were looking for a pastor to do his funeral. I understand they were refused many times and frantically called a Lutheran church. The Lutheran pastor, “the Rev. Don Marxhausen believed that Dylan's parents deserved to hear the message of God's grace.” The pastor extended God’s love along with God’s understanding of suffering and pain with this family. Eventually, Rev. Marxhausen would lose his pastorate because of his continued relationship with the Klebold family. He believed they should have been offered the ministry of presence after such a tragedy. Recently, my wife Amy went for a walk with a friend through the Columbine memorial at the city park. The memorial remembers the 13 victims of this crime but does not mention the 2 shooters, who also died of their own hands. Tragedy and pain is complex and in this situation very emotionally charged. God’s call on our lives is to remember this: the complexity that is pain and suffering leaves no one untouched and only God’s grace can help us walk into the light of healing.

2) BTK. I lived in Wichita during the BTK resurface. BTK was a serial killer who lived in the community for thirty years after his crimes were committed. After BTK, also known as Dennis Rader, was captured and arrested it began known that he attended a Lutheran church and was president of the congregation. Following his arrest, his pastor visited him in prison, sometimes twice a week offering pastoral presence and even communion. The pastor, Rev. Michael Clark, offered Dennis Rader his presence in his ministerial role. “Clark has received criticism from people upset that he has continued to be Rader's pastor. But that's his calling, he has said--to minister.” Even in the face of criticism, the pastor continues to offer support to a believer in God who seeks repentance and reconciliation. This takes grace to another level and especially the verse in Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison and you visited me”. This is our call from God, to be present with people.

3) Pennsylvania Gunman. Last week, George Sodini walked into an exercise gym and killed 3, wounding 9. He then turned the gun on himself; tragic and difficult to understand. For a brief time he attended a non-denominational Christian Church in the area. According to the article, he was asked to leave for harassing a woman. Clearly, there are some issues with this man and the church took appropriate action. However, the church did not pray for the man on Sunday, they don't pray for the dead. One deacon said this, "We believe in permanent security — once saved, always saved," Rickard said. "He will be judged, but he will be in heaven. ... He'll be in heaven, but he won't have any rewards because he did evil." Wow! I did not know there was a special ice cream section in heaven. So, this is why we do acts on earth, to get goodies in heaven. I know I'm being cynical and snotty in my response but making these statements pushes my sensibilities of God’s grace. Further, to not offer prayers for the man or his family is not grace-filled but judgment-filled. Where is God’s presence?

What is the difference between these examples? How does the church respond to people? How do we offer grace instead of judgment? I believe the church is called to offer opportunities for repentance. I acknowledge we must have boundaries and accountability for sins. I don’t live in an imaginary utopian society, there is punishment for crimes, both human and Divine. The Church exists to offer healing and a safe place for all sinners to come and leave whole taking Christ with them. If this is true, we should pray for people, we should visit parishioners in prison and we should hold funerals for the dead. Everyone deserves resurrection and it is God who gives this gift, not humanity. I invite you to be open to God’s presence by recognizing how God’s power of resurrection transcends all our human traits and failures to raise us from the ashes into grace and reconciliation with God.

Reference articles:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who? Why? Where? How?

Who? Why? Where? How?

What is this thing we call Confirmation? Confirmation is officially the process by which youth join the church in full membership. Alita and Clairissa have been going to Confirmation classes every week since September. For 8 months they have learned about the history of the Christian Church, history of the Methodists, the hymnal, the social creeds and a variety of belief topics. It has been a long journey for them and today is right-of-passage. But, confirmation is not the end of the class it is the beginning of a process.


How long have you been a member of a church? How long have you claimed the name Christian or Methodist? How long have you been a part of Christ Church? Tuesday, I received a letter from my home congregation, the church where I was baptized, confirmed. It is an amazing thing to receive this week of all weeks saying, congratulations on being a member of Aldersgate UMC for 17 years. I remember my confirmation experience; it was so boring. We talked about every important Methodist historical figure, we don’t even do that in Seminary. I remember the pastor putting a transparency on the wall that had these heads of historical men. It was in black and white and said what they were known for. Who cares!! We never talked about what we believed, we just answered the questions without thought or critical reflection.


Today, Confirmation is very different at Christ Church, be thankful. Our youth are asked to struggle with the process, with their beliefs and with their decisions. The Confirmands asked lots of questions but these Who, Why, Where and How ones are the most pertinent.

1)   Who am I?

2)   Why am I joining the church?

3)   Where is Christ in my life?

4)   How will I change if I claim to be a Christian?


Who am I?

Confirmation begins with an understanding of the self, a search for the inner you. We must be on the quest to find ourselves, to understand what makes us unique and unrepeatable as a people of God.


The youth wrote creeds, you will find in your bulletin.  In contemporary language, who God is to them, how they understand Jesus Christ. They have answered how they will support the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. These creeds embody who they are inside as believers. But, do these creeds define them forever? Maybe, but they might change too, you might be different a year from now, twenty years from now.


Thomas has sometimes been given a bad reputation in history. He is held as an example of what not to do as a Christian but I think we all agree, doubting is important to belief. Thomas was just allowing himself to be honest. It would have been very easy for Thomas to agree with the disciples. Yea, I saw Jesus. But, Thomas was honest; he stood alone and said, “I won’t believe until I see”. Thomas doubted and he was honest with himself and his friends. Thomas knew who he was and wasn’t willing to compromise to fit into the crowd. 


Why am I joining the church?

Confirmation is a choice. It is not a given that these youth will join. We do not begin the class by saying, you will join the church and you will believe these things. Do you have enough faith in the church to join it?


Each week in class, the confirmands were invited to ask questions. They had some really tough one. How do we know Jesus was white? If the Bible was written by humans, how do we know it is true? What is the holy spirit? Why do we base our religion off a book written thousands of years ago? If God is so good and powerful why is there suffering in the world? Those are some BIG questions, with no easy answers and maybe some of them are even unanswerable. Do you have enough faith in the church to join it? 


Mona was a member of my youth group and she was a doubter. She viewed Christianity as having often forced itself on others, she doubted Jesus had even existed but was created by humanity and she doubted anything that spoke of spirituality. But, she loved the church. During her confirmation process all she could say about religion was this: there is a creative force in the universe. That was it. Yet, this unbeliever chose to attend church, she yearned to belong. How could someone who doubts the mission and tenants of an organization want to attend it? Mona knew something others do not. She knew she needed the church because it was the one place that accepted her, that allowed her to be her unique self. She had faith in the church being a place for her. Remember your faith in the church and why you are here each Sunday, why some days you struggle through snow and wind or sacrifice sun and warmth. There is something we need from this place.


Thomas was not just a doubter, he was also a believer. Prior to the scripture that tells us about Thomas and questions, Thomas, in John 11, is the only disciple to believe in what Jesus has said. It is the story of Lazarus: the man who died before Jesus could reach him. Jesus says Lazarus is not dead and the other disciples are like, but Martha said he was dead. Yet, Thomas is the believer. Thomas the doubter is the only one who believed that Lazarus would be alive. Even when Thomas was asking to see the physical risen Christ, I have no doubt, he also believed. He believed in Jesus’ teaching, he believed something wonderful and scary was happening. He believed in the presence of Christ, he just needed a little proof before he would believe it all.


Where is Christ?

Winter Storm Advisory. The minute these words are uttered the anxiety of this town rises. People start asking questions, Where? How much? Weird…its April ( Ok, maybe that is just me). And then there is the disappointment, we only got 4 inches. Have you ever noticed how many people go to the grocery store when there is a Winter Storm Advisory. I’ve only lived here 2 years but I am skeptical of the weather forecasters ability to accurately predict the weather, especially when I heard snow ranges from 9-24 inches. I always tell Amy, “we are going to get snow, and this is going to be a big one, going to really get us stuck inside”. Her response, “I’ll believe it when I see it”.


Where do we see the risen Christ in our world?


Thomas waited to see the risen Christ, he would not believe until he witnessed it. Thomas and the disciples are in a locked room and I have a sense this room was full of fear. It was not locked to keep Jesus out; it was locked to keep the angry mobs out. The disciples were a rebellious sect, their leader had been crucified and now his body was missing. These were not ideal conditions for encountering Jesus yet this is where Jesus enters; this is when Jesus walks through the door.


Even though we don’t see the Jesus Thomas saw, we have everyday reminders of the risen Christ. We have each other here, we have nature out there and we have our daily encounters with the world. See it and believe it, the risen Christ is all around you.


How will I change if I claim to be a Christian?

The symbol of the butterfly has often been associated with Christianity and the resurrection. It is a symbol of new birth, change from an old self to a new self, metamorphosis on the journey of life. That you are not the same person you were when you began the confirmation experience or when you joined the church.


You will change; you will be different because you claim to be a Christian. Richard Rohr says, “Jesus keeps us on the necessary search”. We search for the risen Christ. We are searching for answers to our questions. Along this journey we are transformed, where we are today is not the place we began. God leads us not to certainty or superior faith but allows us to experience our journey, wherever it leads us.


The monarch butterfly descends every year on an epic journey. The monarchs rise form their cocoons and start to fly from Canada, across the U.S. to a small patch of Mexican forest they have never seen. 1800 miles. They get there by using the sun at a specific time of day to get directions. This journey of the butterfly is beyond comprehension, how does an animal with a brain the size of a spec of sand know to go to a forest, which is only 60 miles in total size out of hundreds and thousands miles in the North American continent.


Thomas went on an epic journey. He was a disciple of Jesus, and led a radically different life. Tradition tells us Thomas went and evangelized in India. I doubt we really know what happened to Thomas, but we know Thomas has a place in our faith, an important place. Thomas questioned. Thomas doubted but he kept going on the journey. He was changed inside and outside. He left his job as a fisherman to follow Jesus. His doubt was replaced with belief by seeing the risen Christ.


The butterfly cloth is a symbol of the change of life. Alita and Clairissa you will spend the rest of your life trying to make sense of this God and the risen Christ you encounter. Your quest for identity, your journey of life is like a monarch butterfly heading towards Mexico. It is epic.


In a few minutes you will kneel here, you will answer questions and we will pray over you and you will join this community of both believers and doubters.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Holy Time-Out

In The Holy Space 

Before I begin this morning I would like to say Thank You for your thoughts and prayers this past week. Many of you know my brother Matt was in a terrible car wreck two weeks ago. Last Friday, he took a dramatic decline and we spent a harrowing 24 hours. Yesterday, he talked. He has a long road of recovery yet to go but I wanted to thank you for your thoughts and your care on behalf of my family. 

Communion means different things for different faiths and different people. A friend recently told me a story, which captures this point:

At a spiritual retreat the group she was participating in had a ritual where participants go through the communion line twice. The first time, a dying moment, every one takes a piece of bread and stands before the altar allowing that piece to symbolize an impediment in their relationship with God. The bread is left on the altar. The second time through the participants take the bread and partake of communion with the cup. They offer two loaves of bread – one for the Dying Moment and one for communion. After the dying moment, the clergy lifted the breadbasket asked the people, “Do you know what we are going to do with this?” With one swift movement she dumped the communion bread from the basket into the trashcan at her feet. A huge cheer erupted from the crowd. Participants jumped to their feet, applauding. Everyone was overjoyed – everyone, that is, except the two Catholic participants who sat with their mouths open, shocked at what had just occurred. While everyone else saw a symbolic act of getting rid of our roadblocks, the Catholics had witnessed Christ being thrown in the trash. 

Christ Church you are a Sanctuary filled with different people, and you bring your histories to the communion table. Whether you were born and bred Methodist, raised Catholic, or associated with any other protestant denomination, you all bring your individuality to the Eucharist. What does communion mean to you?  

In about 15 minutes we will share in the ritual of communion. I’ve often wondered what goes through the mind as we walk slowly towards the bread and cup. These are some of my musings over the years:
“God, I really made some big mistakes this week”
“I’m glad that sermon is over”
“I’m very very hurt by my partner’s actions”
“How long is this going to take, the broncos are playing in 45 minutes”
“God, thank you…”
“Am I worthy to take?”
“Got to remember to get milk on the way home”
Maybe you have silently spoken one of these statements, or something like them, as you are standing in the communion line. This is the 5th consecutive week we have done communion, what are you contemplating as you walk towards the bread and cup?
Communion is supposed to be a time of meditation, serenity and solitude.  It is a time to connect with the Divine in our midst. However, the Last Supper started out as anything but tranquil. First, we have two disciples arguing over who will be the greatest. Who will sit at Jesus’ right and who will sit at the left? Arguing about petty details. Then Jesus shares that one of the twelve will betray him, one will destroy it all. You can see the disciples fearfully claiming, is it I? The disciples are focused on themselves. Jesus is trying to have a final meal with his friends, the people closest to him and they are all arguing with each other. This is not a situation where the disciples are seeking out God; rather they are letting the chaos of the moment take over. But, then Jesus calls for a sort of holy time-out. Jesus does something he isn’t supposed to do. In Jewish tradition, at Passover there is always a cup placed on the table for Elijah. This cup is left untouched as a symbol of the return of Elijah. Jesus reaches for this cup, signifying something different was happening. The disciples had entered a holy space with Jesus. Jesus is making the moment about God and not about the individual.
What is communion all about? Some answers might be: asking for forgiveness, bringing our sorrows to God, taking a symbolic step into new life, or engaging in the remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. These are true answers but they all focus on the self. They are individualistic. They limit what God can do in the holy act of communion. God’s possibilities are endless when we get of out the way and let God work. Have you ever said to a friend, in sarcastic honesty, it is not always about you? The same approach can be taken with communion. It does not always have to be about us.
A few weeks ago, I asked Jill Conner and her son, Cael to join me in serving communion. Jill was holding the cup and Cale was standing next to her. During the communion ritual, Jill overheard Cael saying something, very softly to people as they passed through the line. Very softly. It took her most of the time to realize what Cael was saying. As each person was walking though Cael would say, “Jesus Christ.” “Jesus Christ” “Jesus Christ” Cale gets communion, it’s about something other than ourselves, it’s about Jesus. It’s about emptying ourselves to meet God ready to be filled.
Henri Nouwen, a catholic priest and theologian says this of communion with God. “God does not hold back, God gives all.”  This is a holy space that God hold for us. God brings everything to the table, nothing is held back. Are we vulnerable enough to leave everything in the pews? To come to the table with nothing but the desire for God’s grace? To be willing to let the unimaginable happen? This is the vulnerable communion of Jesus. Recognizing how far we are from being in union with God and all creation is part of the vulnerable act of communion. Bearing in ourselves the hope of a new promise and the pain of a broken past.
When we approach communion vulnerable, we keep God at the center of the experience. But, what does it take to be vulnerable walking down the aisle? Jesus gave us the example, the holy-time-out.
In 1994, I was a freshman in high school, spending a week of my summer vacation in Okemah, Oklahoma. This is in the middle of nowhere. My youth group was working to frame a fellowship hall for an Indian Missionary Church. We worked for four days framing for a church where the youngest member was 69. Putting 2 x 4’s together, nailing and nailing. It was hot exhaustive work in the middle of a July Oklahoma summer. We were cleaning up the job site on Friday afternoon – delirious from our work - when the pastor of the church came to us with a few of the parishioners.  She wanted to offer us communion. It was the strangest communion I had ever experienced and yet it was also the most spiritual communion act of my life. The pastor put the communion elements in the center of the framed hall. She put on the ground, a hot dog bun and a Dixie cup, which she poured grape pop into. My initial reaction was anger. This is not communion; we use Hawaiian bread and Welch’s grape juice. A hot dog bun? Grape pop? I needed a holy-time-out. (pause – slow) And my holy space was delivered. The pastor asked each of the parishioners to share what the building will mean to them when it is completed. “A space of community.” “A place for meals.” “Shelter.”
For me, communion is not about getting it theologically correct, getting it spiritually right. Communion is about being vulnerable enough to let God work in our lives, to let God lead, to let the holy space be.
The pastor offered no words; she just read the scriptural passage from Matthew. “Take and eat. Drink from it, all of you.” We stood in a circle as she passed from person to person, each of us taking and drinking. I had to do a holy-time-out, to be reminded what communion is all about.

Walking back to the pews, what is on the mind after communion? 

“I hope that kid didn’t have a cold”

“Ok, I can do this”

“I felt nothing, is it me?”

“ Thank you, God”

Before you stand to walk down this aisle, I invite you to take a holy-time-out and remember we never know what will happen during communion: the person in front of you might have to dive into the cup for their bread, the server may sneeze all over you, someone might drink from the cup, you might leave changed and so full of God your life will never be the same, you may feel nothing and your bread might get thrown in the trash.  

We come to the table vulnerable but we are not alone. There is someone in front of you and someone behind you and the presence of Christ is always with us. 


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Letting Others Help



There are lots of things they don’t teach you about being a youth director. No one teaches you how to handle a broken radiator on a 15-passenger van in the middle of Texas. No one teaches you how to eat a banana in under 30 seconds.  No one explains the world of teenage hormones and angst. No one teaches you that you have to watch the extension cord on the moonwalk bouncer because teenagers think it would be cool to have collapse on them inside. No one can teach you or prepare you for the moment when during a retreat you have to make an emergency trip to the hospital and you are the reason for the trip, you the leader, the one-in-charge needs help.


The unexpected of life. I was 22, leading my first retreat with a group of 30 youth at a retreat center in remote southeastern Kansas. It was in the middle of the proverbial nowhere. After a long day of hiking and exploring God in nature we were settling down to a movie. The group was walking from our lodges to the meeting cabin when I suddenly fell over. The youth thought it was funny; I was confused to find myself on the ground. I got to my knees and stood up and immediately was walking titled to my left side. This was strange. I let the youth continue to think it was funny but knew something was terribly wrong. The youth started their movie while a sponsor and I conferred with my doctor. After an hour of dizziness and slumping to my left side, it was decided I should go to the hospital. I had to let others help lead the youth. I was unprepared for either – leaving the youth and going to the hospital. The unexpected of life had just dropped me to the ground. I had to let others help me. Help me get to a hospital and help the youth finish their weekend. Nothing prepares us for the unexpected.


The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus is preaching in Capernaum. He is preaching to a packed house. The house is totally full. We don’t know what Jesus is saying but it is getting the attention of the people. Jesus is always doing something unexpected. However, this time something unexpected happens to Jesus. Jesus is just preaching to the people and he seems to be oblivious to the efforts of the paralyzed man’s friends.  Now, the paralyzed man’s friends are trying to get him in the house to see Jesus. They try the front door – nope, blocked by too many people. They try to go through a window – again blocked by people. So, they can either dig under the house or drop him through the roof.  To the roof they go. Jesus is preaching when all of a sudden, dirt begins to fall on him. I can see Jesus moving back, nonchalantly, and looking up just as a man comes crashing down in front of him. This is not a typical thing to have happen, a paralyzed man falls through the roof. I imagine the man dangling by the rope of four friends, looking at Jesus, looking directly into the eyes of Jesus. (gesture to represent man in front of Jesus)  I imagine Jesus clears his throat, taking that momentary pause to gather himself from the shock. Jesus lets the dust settle and he looks at this man dangling in front of him. Nothing prepares us for the unexpected.


The hospital. It was a long journey to get from that camp to the trauma center. At a rural hospital I was diagnosed with an inner-ear infection and sent home for rest. I reluctantly went home, leaving the retreat. The next day, still not feeling better, I went to my doctor to get some answers. I walked into the office and the nurse looked and me and said, you are having a neurological problem you need to go the hospital right now!

 I was in the ER, waiting to be taken to a room when my Senior Pastor walked in. I was already on edge because we had no idea what was happening. She was a source of comfort that I needed. She walked to my bed and looking at me, almost eye to eye, putting her hand on me, taking a breath and clearing her throat and saying, “Well, this is not the way to end your first retreat”. (gesture to represent man in front of Jesus)

Most of the next couple of days is a blur, I remember only bits and pieces of my time in the hospital. It was a total of 5 days with lots of tests. The diagnosis was, I had a stroke, a blood clot in my brain had caused weakness to my left side. A stroke, at 22. Nothing prepares us for the unexpected.


In the gospels stories of Jesus, there are minor characters that often play major roles. In this setting we have a paralyzed man. A paralyzed man in the context of Israel was an outsider, not as bad as a leper but most likely ignored by society. But, this man was lucky he had friends, people who took him from place to place and in many ways cared for him.

The gospel never describes how this man interacting with Jesus becomes paralyzed. What we know about antiquity is the social location paralyzed people took. They were left to beg for charity to beg for help. This man requires the help of others to move him, bathe him, get him food, cook for him, every living function required help from someone. In a hospital, we require the help of others to care for us. We give up control to doctors and nurses. It is not easy or comfortable to need help. But, there are times when we must rely on others, when we have to be lowered into the presence of God. (gesture to represent man in front of Jesus)

Jesus, looking at the man, looks up and sees his friends peering through the gaping hole in the roof. Jesus looks back at the man and speaks to him. Jesus offers him grace and compassion. Jesus gives. Jesus heals.


Change. The recovery. I was lucky? I was spared any MAJOR lasting effects of the stroke. I had some short-term weakness that, through physical therapy was resolved but my recovery was anything but pleasant. My life was not the same. I could not drive. I could not work as I had before. I could not control my life. I’d done it all myself before, but now it was different, now I needed help. I had to let people take on certain roles. My mother had to drive me to work. I had to have blood checked on a monthly basis. I had to manage medication. No, it was not a horrible transition but it was a change from the way things were. And I mourned the way things were, I grieved to have my old life back before the unexpected came. I was angry, I was hurt. My entire life changed after my stroke. 


We have to learn to let others help us. This is not always the way society thinks, we are told to be resilient and reliant on ourselves. We are told trust no one.  We can save ourselves. Our culture has bread these stigmas: There are stigmas about seeking counseling and taking depression medication.  There is the stigma associated with the fear of asking to talk with a Pastor or a religious leader. There is a huge market for self-help books; some from a religious perspective others from a psychological perspective. Either way they give the illusion we can do everything on our own. I believe that these stigmas and examples are not life-giving. They only add to our despair and suffering. We need each other and we need a God who will look us in the face. (gesture with arms outstretched again)


I’m not very willing, even today, to let others carry me when I am burdened. I have this false sense that I must stand strong, being an example of the steadfastness found in faithful people. This is life-destroying rather than life-giving.


We cannot journey alone in the world and we must share our lives or we will be consumed by our suffering. Pastoral Care Theologian, Sharon Thornton, says, “Consider the darkness of suffering, the mystery of suffering for which there is no answer, there is only response. Part of this mystery is this, when I allow you to enter my suffering or when you allow me to enter yours, the darkness is lifted. Our connectedness allows us to envelope our individual suffering”. Suffering is consuming ultimately destroys us. Sharing our suffering and experience allows it to be released into the world. But, we also have to share our suffering with God. This is not a journey alone. God knows our suffering. A journey in the darkness is never completely without some light. The light of God shines through, pushing us to share our darkness with others to create more light.


A year later, almost to the day I was back at that southeastern retreat center on a trip with youth. What the youth didn’t know is I visited the camp the day before. I needed to bring supplies down and set-up and it was time to do some healing. I parked the car, got out and walked across a gravel road towards that spot. No noise, just the sound of my feet crunching, towards that place where my life changed forever, where every struggle of the previous year began. I stood at the spot, letting the wind whirl around me, letting God help me heal. And these words from a Hootie and the Blowfish song came to my mind,

         Yesterday, I saw you standing there

         Your head was down your eyes were red

         I said get up, and let me see your smile

         We’ll walk the road together, for awhile

         Hold my hand, just hold my hand

         Because I want to love you the best I can.

I stood up, took my pain and suffering and I walked away from that spot. I have a very clear image of God standing with me – walking with me – loving me. My mat, comes with me, I don’t lie on it anymore. 


Where does the man go from here? Our story leaves us with little to ponder, other than he stood up, took his mat and left the house out the front door and not the ceiling. The important piece here is he took his mat with him. The thing that kept him connected, and together, the tangible object that identified his paralysis, he took it with him. The unexpected, changes in life always stay with us. They become part of our journey and part of how we represent ourselves to the world.


You can imagine how I have gravitated towards this story. I have thought of it often because throughout my journey I have seen my self as the paralytic man, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Whether I am needing to feel the eyes of Christ on me, or learn to let my friends carry me, whether I need healed or I need to pickup my hurt and carry it with me while I continue the journey – at some point, maybe often we all journey as the paralytic man. We all need the love of God, we all need to let others bear our weight, we all need to let something go and we all continue to walk through life with our mats.


Don’t worry; you didn’t miss the class in school where they taught people how to deal with the unexpected in life. No one prepares us to move forward into something new and different. No one prepares us for how we will feel and grow when life changes. No one teaches us to deal with tragedy. No one teaches us to deal with sorrow or heart-ache.


But, the unexpected changes us. We don’t leave the same way we arrived. We are different. We arrive through the roof, sometimes dangling from the ropes of friends letting our suffering look into the eyes of God. And we leave by the front door, taking the unexpected with us, but we carry the mat now, instead of lying on it.







Friday, September 19, 2008

Something New...

I'm in Estes Park at a retreat center for the Board of Trustees for Iliff. It is great to interact with the leaders (movers and shakers) of the institution. But, more so, it is important that the student's voice is represented. While I may be the elected Representative, am I really the one who needs to be speaking? How do I balance my own personal viewpoints with the opinions of the student body, especially when the two are in tension? Thomas Jefferson said that is the single dilemma for any elected official - how to speak for an entire constituency when you cannot possibly represent every ideal. Taking this concept a step further into the world of the marginalized, I, the white under 30 heterosexual male, represent a community varied in age, race, sexual orientation, social status, life goals, purposes for being at Iliff, and value systems. Why am I the Representative? Because I ran for office? Because I feel I have something to say? Because I want to try to represent the concerns of students to the institution's leaders? Because I might be able represent the concerns of the marginalized in a realm of power and domination? Maybe this is how Moses felt, inadequate, unfit, overwhelmed, and humbled (very humbled).

And yet, God used Moses for a greater purpose, and may it be so with us.

A quick prayer of thanks to HaShem (For my Hebrew Bible friends) for leading me to Iliff and a new inclusive worldview.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Points to Ponder at the DNC

First, I was watching Hillary's entrance into the DNC and I admit, I got teared up with the music and her words. I haven't really been a Hillary fan but I was moved by her words, concerns, and passion to change this country. Further, her speech was amazing. Speaking for the invisible and oppressed--I loved that phrase-"those invisible to the government". Let's care for those persecuted in Darfur but also the ignored on our street corner.

Second, MSNBC is adding a new political commentator. Her name is Rachel Marrow and she is awesome. A progressive, lesbian who will anchor a network show in prime-time. Beginning Sept. 8 at 8 pm (CST). Why is this a big deal for a white, heterosexual male? Because she was and is the invisible. The church is guilty to not seeing the GLBT community along with disabilities, special needs, and other groups of people who have been wounded by Christians and the church.

Third, why am I a democrat? I was having a discussion with a family member and we were talking about how I purchased an Obama T-shirt. This persons' response was I needed to leave the dark side. My entire family is republican. I don't feel like a black sheep but I don't bring lots of subjects up at home: guns, abortion, nuclear weapons, justice issues - illegal imprisonment, immigrants rights, and ecology. I do support and stand for my position with the GLBT community as an ally. So, why do I claim to be a democrat? My political beliefs and values are not always in sync with the democrat party. I think people should be allowed to have guns. I'm against abortion as contraceptive. I'm fiscally conservative. Why am I a democrat? Because the democrats care for the little invisible, oppressed people. Do I agree with every part of the party platform? No. But, I see the democrats caring for people.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Early Morning...

It's 6:29 am. I'm sitting at my dad's desk on the second floor of this home. Looking out the window at Tropical Storm Eduard. Palm trees bent over from the blowing wind. Rain – sprinkling and then downpour, sprinkling and downpour. The sun is just rising, still dark out but light enough to see around. Read my sermon text for Sunday, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. We look to what cannot be seen, for it is the eternal. I’m sure Paul is talking about salvation in a Jesus we cannot see. But, there are so many unseen eternal things. Where will I be in 2 years? Who will I be when I’m done with my education? What am I becoming? Who am I becoming?
Seminary is about transformation, changing one’s self. I’m becoming so many things and trying to change other things in an attempt to be who I want to be. I have a dream of the pastor I will be, the preacher I will become, and attempting to live into the child of God I know I am. Poet Mattie Stepanek writes about dream but more important he writes about the vision that comes out of dreaming.
“Last night, I had a dream. A spectacular dream. An enchanting dream. A vision of a dream to be true. When you have the vision to look.” Are we visioning ourselves? Are we dreaming as big a Martin Luther King Jr.? Are we dreaming as small a child? Are we fighting to make our dreams come true?