Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Vacation

People have asked me how this experience of Christmas was in my new role. I have to say that it has been wonderful. Our entire family was together in Ohio and don't think we ever laughed so hard. My two sons-in-law are hilarious and fit right in with our ever-teasing family.

We spent alot of time with Kim's family and we visited two former churches. I was amazed at how many of the same people are still there after 30 years in one case.

My brother asked me to lead communion at his church which was cool. All in all it was a real vacation where I only checked my work email a few times. Thanks be to God for such holy retreat times.

Grace and peace,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Turnagain and Girdwood Chapel

Only two churches to share with you this week. But are they ever alive and vital!

Who says a gray-headed congregation has to act a certain way? Turnagain UMC even has a retired pastor, Dale Kelley, but are they ever alive! They are reclaiming their mission and purpose, changing and rearranging the building, and reaching out to their neighborhood with the Good News of Christ. They even have a new youth group with 15 teens and a new youth director, Drew Phoenix.

My apologies for not taking any pictures or video. I was too busy being inspired!

Girdwood Chapel
Two worship services, holy communion with a cantored liturgy, children everywhere, a mother bolting out of a pew holding a throwing up child, visual aids projected on the wall, holy excitement. This are some of my impressions with visiting Girdwood.
Here they are blessing each other in a benediction song.

They are hoping to be in their new building by spring. Water is hooked up thanks to a generous donation of labor from a contractor connected with the Turnagain church! This church is discovering new ways to be in mission in their community despite the building delays. Here is a clip of Girdwood saying hi.

Kim and I are flying to Ohio for Christmas. I hope you all find a few moments in your busy days to reflect on God coming to be with us.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kenai Peninsula Churches

It was a joy to be back at my old church. It's been over ten years and I tried to be sensitive to those who have come to SUMC after I left, but it was hard not to take rabbit trails down memory lane! As with most of our churches I conducted a training for SPRC. Here is a picture of Richard Whetsell making his pastor's report.

Seward/Moose Pass
Pastor Peter had us playing a charge conference jeopardy game which was a blast!

We had to postpone Kenai's conference due to weather until Saturday afternoon. Pastor Marti Slater is in her second year and tells me the Kenai church is the most welcoming church she has ever experienced! Way to go, Kenai!

Charles and Karen Martindell and I have been friends for over 25 years. They were appointed to the church I left to come to Soldotna in 1991. It was great to see their nearly finished building with sun room, fellowship, kitchen, and expanded sanctuary. Here is Charles in the new kitchen.
Charles gave me a part of their skit in worship which highlighted the ministries of the church. Here is Charles hamming it up.

I am sorry to not spend more time with the saints at St. Peter the Fisherman. But my time there was rich. My first Alaska VIM trip was to Ninilchik in 1986 where we stayed with pioneers, Floyd and Marian Blossom. Pastor Julie Wasser is one of our two local pastors and works one quarter time providing full ministries for 35 people on Sunday mornings.

I was impressed with the large turnout for this church on the north road in Nikiski. The area has been hit with the departure of oil and gas industry. I do believe however that Northstar has the largest youth ministry on the Kenai. There were four teens attending the charge conference!

I put 750 miles on my truck in 5 days. It was a rich experience and I can tell you that God is at work in wonderful ways on the Kenai Peninsula!

Grace and peace,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chugiak Visit

Pastor Carlo Rapanut invited me to preach which I appreciate. I have discovered that this really helps connect me with the congregation. I also enjoyed offering an Advent sermon that fit with the worship pattern Carlo had mapped out for Advent. I much prefer this than me coming to deliver a message from the conference. So thanks to Carlo and the people of Chugiak. What a dynamic and growing church!

This is a clip showing their beautiful Advent wreath while the choir sings.

I'll have lots to share next week as I am spending the week visiting all our seven churches on the Kenai Peninsula.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Willow/Nome/St. John


It was quite cold when I left Willow at night after their charge conference. -18! But it was a warm experience to be with this thriving church. This is a picture of BJ Eldred showing me her vast collection of hand stitched stoles and banners.

Pastor Steve Eldred and Fran Lynch work well together as they address the spiritual and physical needs of Willow residents. We would do well to remember that in Willow like many of our churches that important ministries are extended to people who may never attend a worship service. They, too, are God's beloved children.


It was colder in Anchorage than in Nome. I couldn't even bring my new Arctic parka. I am doing some basic training with all SPRC's that includes duties of an SPRC and church conflict. The Nome SPRC was particularly engaged with this which was fun. Pastors David and Julie Elmore are leading this church into some new ministries such as Tuesday school and their Monday night worship.

Julie is showing me around the Nome Community Center office in this picture.

I attended a meeting of their board and learned much about their many vital ministries.

St. John

I think the reason I did not take any pictures during my visit to St. John was nervousness. It was a bit weird to see myself as their superintendent when I had served for ten years as their pastor. But it was great to see old friends and to celebrate the ministries of St. John. This is a major year of transition with the change of a senior pastor, youth pastor, and business manager. Pastor John Dodson has fallen in love with St. John and is leading this church forward.

Next up is Chugiak UMC.

Grace and peace,


Monday, November 16, 2009

Unalaska/Anchor Park/East/Korean

Anchor Park/East
Pastor Jon Disburg leads a game for the East/Anchor Park joint charge conference. Check out the video clip.

Both churches have a parish nurse ministry led by Cathy Feaster. They also have a prayer ministry where people leave prayer requests in the "wall" and take others home with them.


I spent three days in Unalaska with no flight delays. Being with the Wilcox family was a delight. This small church plays a huge role in this rugged and remote community. We simply cannot be there without the mission support of so many United Methodists. They have a thriving Kids Night Out program every Wednesday for 20-30 kids who don't get Christian Education.

Rev. Won Kie Kim is the superintendent of the Korean Mission in the Western Jurisdiction. Our Korean UMC has two superintendents. I told them he was number one and I was number two. I did manage to say hello and thank you in Korean thanks to my iphone. I also encouraged us to overcome the language barrier to be in community with the AUMC.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Palmer and Wasilla Visit

Palmer Fellowship - I had heard that finding the Palmer worship location was a challenge and it was. Armed with GPS and asking a man walking his dog I still had trouble finding it. But when I did there was music drawing me in as the band rehearsed.

Two things were striking about Palmer’s worship space: a beautifully decorated worship table and the excellent music group. I have to say that the addition of a soprano saxophone added tremendously to the music environment.

The Palmer Fellowship has struggled to hang on to their dream of becoming a UM Church. They receive excellent leadership from Pastors Robert and Tori Hicks. I encouraged them to participate in our UM connection and tell their story. I'd like to bring their band to one of our Anchorage gatherings.

Wasilla Christ First UMC. For children’s time they have a separate carpet in front for the kids to sit on. It gives them their special space and keeps them in one location for the message. Not everyone can reproduce this idea but their remodeled worship space drastically changes the worship experience for the better. Chairs instead of pews give them a flexibility for all kinds of ministries.

For years people lamented that this church was too far from town. Now the town has grown to the church! This church has a contagious spirit and has captured a vision. They feel they could become the second largest UM church in Alaska in five years! Wow. I tested this with the congregation and they enthusiastically embrace it. They have 13 acres and a new spacious parking lot and 100 in worship. What a joy to be with this vital and alive congregation.

Grace and peace,

Fairbanks and North Pole Visits

It was my privilege to conduct charge conferences at First UMC, Fairbanks, and New Hope, North Pole over the weekend. It has been a major adjustment for me to not preach/lead worship so I am grateful to Pastor Tom Telfer for the invitation to preach at all three services. This is one vital and energized church! I told them they should change their name to Fun UMC! Led by CE director, Clarice Moore, they had a Hee Haw theme complete with real corn stalks (Where did they get them?). Dozens of people popped up from the corn field and shared a ministry joy. We all shouted out, "Hee Haw!" I took a couple of video clips for you.

My experience at New Hope Presbyterian/United Methodist Church was a great joy as well. We celebrated their newly refurbished education wing. There are many blessings and challenges with being a union church shared with two denominations. Dr. Curt Karns from the Yukon Presbytery was present and having the two of us present was helpful for New Hope to continue to explore this important union. The video below is for you to see their new fellowship/dining room as our meeting was ending.

Happy to be in the AUMC!

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Vision of Ecumenical Partnership in Alaska

Most of us know that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to be in full communion with the United Methodist Church. At General Conference in 2008 we also made this historic step. Among other things this means that ELCA pastors can serve UM churches and vice versa. I have had conversations with Bishop Michael Keyes of the ELCA in Alaska about just such a possibility. We also are planning a large celebration most likely in January in Anchorage that will include the Presbyterian Church and Episcopal Churches.

I am grateful to be in this position at this time to have a part in working with the other denominational executives. Dr. Curt Karns of the Yukon Presbytery is an old friend and former pastor of our New Hope Church in North Pole. Dr. David Dobler of the Southeast Presbytery is a former pastor of our Jewel Lake Parish. Fran Lynch’s long ministry in Anvik is the site of the first Episcopal Church in Alaska back in the 1800’s.

Some of our dreams include joining together to train lay leaders for our native villages. Charley Brower of St. John UMC and Fawn White of Nome Community UMC are in Barrow this week for the training for Commissioned Lay Pastors of the Presbyterian Church. I have asked our Professional Ministries Unit to work on the certification requirements so our conference can raise up our own Certified Lay Ministers.

Other big, hairy, bodacious dreams include having our annual gatherings at the same time in the same venue with separate plenary sessions. We could share meals, celebrations, and training. I felt it was important for you all to know about these exciting developments. I encourage our lay and clergy leaders to consider strengthening the ecumenical ties in your community. At the January celebration we would love to display photos showing ecumenical events. Please send a few to me.

One other note. Soon we will be able to post every issue of the E-Aurora on our AUMC web site. Until then pastors may want to forward this to your congregation. Our hope is to make this broad enough to appeal to all Alaska United Methodists.

Grace and peace,


Friday, October 2, 2009

Video Parable on Laughter

Susie Smalley, my "older" sister in Kenai, posted this video today which I found remarkable. It reminded me of some of the really old parable films of the 60's. Watch this and see if you feel that this should be part of the mission of every person of faith.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Autumn Fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska

After 7.5 years in Soldotna I was appointed to St. John in 1999. That was ten years ago. For the past ten years I have not fished Alaska’s rivers or lakes ONCE! I think that may qualify as a sin. I don’t know. I have no one to blame but myself for not making it a priority. My excuses ranged from being too busy to disliking fighting traffic to get out of the city to a huge distaste for combat fishing!

On Saturday that all changed as Jon and Cindy Dawson invited me on my first float trip on the Kenai River in Cooper Landing. I had second thoughts as I got up at 6 and headed out into the blackness and rain. All along the Seward highway the wind blew and the rain pelted my truck. What am I doing? I wondered aloud.

As I climbed up towards Turnagain Pass dawn had revealed fresh snow on the mountain peaks. Only now as I rose to meet them I wondered if there would be snow in the pass and on the road. The temperature steadily dropped towards the freezing mark. No snow at the pass but the white stuff laid very close to the base of the mountains.

The float trip down the Kenai was nothing like the drive from Anchorage. Clear skies. Crisp autumn day. I love this short period where the golden colors of the forests share the landscape with white peaks jutting into the sky. It was such a gift to my soul to spend 6 hours on the river. Jon and Cindy both caught nice rainbow trout and I could tell that they really wanted me to catch one. Finally at the last stop just before leaving the river I caught a pretty arctic char.

But that wasn’t the most exciting thing. The most amazing event happened as Jon was making his final cast of the day. I had my little video camera rolling. We joked about him catching a fish, and that is what actually happened! You can check out the video here.

So the moral of this story is this. Sometimes we need to ignore all the excuses we use to stay in our comfort zone and keep to our routines. There are fish to be caught, beauty to be absorbed, and souls to be renewed if we’ll only head out into dark and rainy mornings.

Grace and peace,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Trip to Southeast Alaska

What a joy it was for me to get to know the people and places of SE Alaska. I had never been to Sitka or Ketchikan. I experienced the patience of waiting in airplanes and being diverted due to poor weather.
I almost didn't make it due to weather but was able to spend about 5 hours with Pastors Teri and Ev and several lay leaders who shared with enthusiasm the long and rich history of First UMC. They have wonderful stories of ministry in Ketchikan that need to be told. I hope to be able to be with this church on Sunday when I return for charge conference. If you get a chance be sure to ask Ev about their Pigs In Mission program. It's great and easily duplicated in your church.

Pastor Luther Oconer, Marion, and Ilena showed me gracious hospitality. Mike drove Luther and me around Sitka and we all bought some Sitka-made chocolate. Luther and Marion have connected with a few Filipino families and a new ministry has already begun. The best part of my visit to Sitka was playing with Ilena who turns 2 this month.

Northern Light, Juneau
Pastor Kim Poole and her mother hosted me in their home. I met with Northern Light's council and worshipped with them on Sunday. She had us all playing with Legos and teaching us about tithing and God's grace. People are happy to have Kim as their interim pastor.

Douglas Community UMC
I used Kim's car to zip across the bridge to Douglas to catch most of worship at this church. Pastor Imelda Ramos led a baptism for a baby that awed everyone there. After worship I met with their SPRC to talk about future pastoral leadership. Imelda and Bob will move to California next summer where she will pursue her doctor of ministry degree.

Last on this whirlwind tour was worship at Aldersgate for Pastor Judy Shook's celebration of being the "settled" pastor. Previously she had been interim. There were clergy and laity from other churches and I was privileged to preach the homily.

God is certainly present and working through the many hands and hearts of Alaska United Methodists in the Southeast! I am grateful to have this experience.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Notes: Global Health

Thursday, Global Health
Dr. Scott Morris, UM pastor and medical doctor. Church Health Center, Memphis TN. Private, church run health care system.

Third of the New Testament is about healing the sick. Problem today is that hospitals in the healing business are separated from worshipping congregations. What does it mean today to be involved in a healing ministry?
James 5 – Is anyone among you sick? Call the elders and they will anoint you with oil.
Matthew 25 – goats and sheep. When we minister to the sick we are ministering to Jesus. If you want to be a disciple of Christ and you want to find him, you will find him among the sick, the poor, and those in prison. We should be looking in these places if we want to find Jesus.
Wesley understood this. Every Friday he spent time in his dispensary caring for the sick. He saw a static electricity demonstration by Ben Franklin and invented his own device he called “electrifier.” He wrote book “Primitive Physik”, widely used in the mid-19th century in America. People used to go to their pastors for healing. Darwin influenced the separation between faith and healing. Also there was a separation of body and spirit. Medicine dealt with body. Church dealt with spirit. This is a non-Christian idea.

People come to doctors today for reasons they used to go to pastors. Medicine today does not recognize spiritual dimension of life. In medicine, the spirit does not exist. You can’t MRI the spirit.

Our task as disciples is to find a healing mission. We need young doctors who will commit to healing the poor. This is not on the Church’s agenda.

Church needs to care about:
1. End of life. 25% of medicare budget is spent on last 6 months of peoples’ lives.
2. Keeping people healthy. Childhood obesity is major problem. Often the least healthy meal we eat is at church! If we don’t take care of our bodies we are not being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ! UM clergy are 20% heavier than rest of population.
3. Global health. Top three diseases are preventable. Malaria, TB, HIV. Many lives could be saved if Africans had access to condoms.

www.hopeandhealing.org News magazine from Church Health Center in Memphis.

You have to walk the walk. What are you doing to improve your health? Are you eating right, exercising? Wesley believed that riding a horse was the best exercise. Average American gains 3-5 lbs a year. Three things you can do:
1. Figure out your average daily steps. Goal is to increase that number by 2000 steps.
2. Decrease your calorie intake by 100 a day.
3. Eat three servings of dairy a day. Yogurt, milk, cheese.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Notes from Superintendent School: Ministry With the Poor

Wednesday – Ministry with the Poor

Wow! We heard the most amazing, inspiring presentation from Rev. John Edgar and Donita Harris, from Columbus, Ohio. They told their story of a 6 year old Church of All People, and their sister group, Community Development 4 All People.

Ways to be in ministry WITH the poor.
Book by Rudy Rasmus – Touch (good read)
Five C’s
1. Common Sense – be reasonable about your first encounters with poor
2. Commitment – passion to invest your time and energy
3. Collaboration – use community resources to partner
Needs assessment is not the first step. Identify assets. Good question to ask the poor: What are you hoping for? Key asset is to listen to peoples’ dreams.
4. Consistency – take what you need, share what you have. Myth of scarcity. There is a divine economy of abundance.
5. Contributions – cash or in-kind. Everyone has something to contribute.

Free Store was the beginning of what is now a huge community development. Main idea is to be with the poor. God does not call us to fix their problems, but to be with them and to hear their dreams and hopes.

I invite you to check out their web site: http://www.4allpeople.org/index.html

Monday, August 24, 2009

Notes from Superintendent School on Leadership

Some of what I am learning at Lake Junaluska. This is from Gil Rendle on Leadership.

Management seeks to answer the question Are we doing things right?
Leadership seeks to answer the question Are we doing right things?

DS is asked for leadership but rewarded for management.

Convergent situation: question is same for everyone and answer is same for everyone.

Divergent is one which question is same for everyone but answers is divergent.

Cultural shift from convergent time to divergent time.

So many consumer choices that we are trained to deal with our preferences first. Going down cereal aisle with so many choices. Question is what do I need from a box of cereal?

Book of Discipline gives us more management information than we need.

In divergent environment you cannot make a decision that will not make some feel unhappy.

Leadership shift: not providing answers but asking good questions.

Best book: Ron Heifetz “Leadership Without Easy Answers.”

“We listen long enough to figure out what we’re going to say next.” -Covey

Leadership is about helping a community face its problems.

DS role is not to make churches happy with right appointments, but to meet our mission.

Superintendents walk boundary between local church and global church. We have the power of agenda. Schnase’s book is not magic. It gives people ways to have better conversations.

We need better stories.

More important to be appropriate than to be right.

Two settings leaders do their work: reactive space and balcony space.(doing vs learning).
Learn to ask questions about purpose not about problems.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Call Story

I was a Christian teaching in a public school when I felt God’s urging to go into ordained ministry. I was single and teaching 8th grade science in Atlanta and dearly loved my students. I built a high ropes course and we used it to blast apart cliques. I took them into the north Georgia mountains where they learned how to be real with each other. Those kids were my ministry even while I was heavily involved in my United Methodist Church. There was however this nagging desire to teach the Power behind the science.

On a spring break after teaching five years I drove to Panama City Beach, pitched a tent in the sand, and wrestled with God. At sunrise I was sitting on a picnic table reading the Bible, Matthew 28 to be exact. At some point a decision needed to be made. I could only wrestle and think and pray so long. The sun blazed across the horizon, warming my body while I read those commissioning words of Jesus, “Go into all the world and make disciples…” I focused on one word, “Go.” Just go. It was at that moment that my decision to leave my school and go to seminary was made.

And I never viewed my call into ordained ministry as better than my ministry as a teacher. Both were different callings and one was not more important than another. So I went without doubts, but with a sense of excitement about this new adventure. That road took me north to United Seminary and Sidney, Ohio. It led me to my wonderful wife now of 29 years, four beautiful children, 10 years of ministry in Ohio, and 19 in Alaska. I am so glad that God chose me to walk this amazing journey.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trip to Nome

The heavens opened up for the two days I was in Nome (Aug. 15-16). Blue skies and warm temperatures are rare in that part of the world, especially in mid-August. I was there at the invitation of David and Julie Elmore, co-pastors of Nome Community United Methodist Church. They were great hosts, showing me fish camps, overlooks, historic buildings, and churches. I saw boys swimming in the Bering Sea! I got to sing with the Inupiaq choir in their language. Well, mostly I lip synced.

The Elmore's live in an attached residence to the church which is not always the best arrangement. A perfect example of boundaries blurring happened before Sunday worship when Mukluk, the mission intern's dog, got loose in the building. Suddenly scooping up doggy surprises in the sanctuary became part of David's morning routine! Julie asked if this was going to get into my dibble and I replied, "You betcha!"

Worship was full with about 35 people, 12 being children. The Elmore's have started Tuesday School which is a children's CE experience. They have also started a Monday worship service twice a month. David and Julie also work half time each at the Community Center.

Sunday morning as I walked through the quiet streets I met a little boy, Martin, playing on the church's playground. Martin must be about 6 or 7. I helped untie a knot in his shoe and we talked and played on the monkey bars. I asked him if he ever had been inside the church building and he said no. He wanted to know what we did in there. Martin didn't join us for worship but maybe one day he will.

It is so important that we have a strong presence in Nome to be the hands and feet of Christ to be there for children like Martin. This small church does incredible ministry in a place where the needs are great. This presence could not happen without the generous support from others. If you would like to support the Elmore's in their ministry you can make a donation by going to http://new.gbgm-umc.org/advance Julie's salary support number is 3019685. David's is 3019686.
You can see pictures of the trip at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/album.php?aid=146863&id=511802393&ref=mf

Grace and peace,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Travels in Alaska United Methodist Churches

I have put in some miles on Alaska roads. Unfortunately they were not on my motorcycle. Guess I’m not wild enough to be crazy to ride in the rain. First stop was Wasilla Christ First. It had been about 8 years since I was there and it sure has changed. All kinds of new residential developments are going in around the church. They have remodeled and enlarged the sanctuary and parking lot. Did you know that Pastor Tori writes her own Wednesday family night curriculum?

It was on to Willow where Fran showed me their Food Bank (pantry) where a record 28 people received food during their 4 hours of operation once a week. She and Steve Eldred drove me around the community. I saw some of the tremendous needs which are being addressed by this small and vibrant church. Their new parsonage is about a year from completion and will be quite nice. I met with their SPRC to talk about the appointment of their new pastor next year. I also met with Fran’s board who oversees her church and community ministries. A great visit.

Then it was south to the Kenai and a glorious day in a log home overlooking Cook Inlet in Ninilchik. Great food, fellowship, and sharing with lay and clergy leaders. Leila was able to be there also. Kim and I worshipped at Soldotna, our former church. Richard did a great job leading worship and teaching us to memorize scripture. I left Kim and buzzed to Kenai to catch Pastor Marti’s sermon. It was fun to see some folks I remembered from my Soldotna days. I met with their SPRC to talk about how to deal with their financial crunch. We talked more about new mission possibilities than anything else! Very energizing.

I hope you all will be able to see our connectional ministries and leaders in new and fresh ways as Leila and I share our experiences of being in our churches. This week I’m going to Nome for berry picking and relationship building.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alaska and Pacific Northwest Conference

I just returned from attending PNW's annual conference which was a real delight. There were several reasons to go: being there for David and Julie Elmore's commissioning, telling the AUMC story at their Ministry Fair, networking with leaders, and playing on the bishop's basketball team to raise money for Nothing But Nets.

The commissioning/ordination service was inspirational with retired bishop Woodie White preaching about feeding the shepherds. He challenged the laity to feed their pastors. Bishop Hagiya asked people to come forward if they were feeling a call from God into professional ministry. The superintendents prayed for them. It was a holy privilege for me to pray with several people who came in tears.

I was able to spend time with Craig Parrish, our treasurer, on a few AUMC issues. I also was briefed on the role of Volunteer's in Mission. My past work with PNW's board of ministry helped in making connections with folks.

You should know that our bishop is quite a good basketball player. The game got crazy as people bribed the officials with donations to Nothing But Nets. I wondered if we might do something similar in Alaska next year.

I am trying to be patient with myself for not being up to proper superintendent speed. It is not an easy transition to go from being a pastor for 30 years to this new role. I ask for your prayers, and for Leila and Crystal as we forge a new team.

Grace and peace,
Dave Beckett

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My last dibble for St. John UM Church

After ten years of pastoring St. John United Methodist Church the time is quickly approaching for my departure June 14. On June 15 I will become the new superintendent of the Alaska United Methodist Conference. This is my last piece for our newsletter.

This is my last dibble! For the past ten years I have tried to poke some holes here and there to make room for some seeds of grace and truth and love to sprout in all our lives. I know that St. John will continue to thrive and grow as you move forward with your mission. I am deeply grateful for the many ways you show God’s love to the world. Kim and I enjoyed the second chapter of raising our four children at St. John. You have understood our struggles as parents. Lay leaders and staff have encountered my weaknesses and shown me grace. Kim and family will continue to be at St. John. We will remain at our home and I will have a longer commute to the conference office at East Anchorage United Methodist Church. I will return for my daughter’s wedding in July and another in September. But I will not come to worship services unless I am invited in my new role as superintendent. You need time to bond with your new pastor. I am thrilled to hand over the reins to Dr. John Dodson. John will serve you fully and ably for the next year at which time the bishop will appoint your permanent new senior pastor. The good news is that I will be involved in that new appointment. Keep in mind that this is not my church, nor is it yours. We are God’s church. This is God’s work in and through us, sometimes even despite us! So I pray for a continued servant attitude for St. John, for a deepening desire for God, and for a spirit of contagious joy that reaches out to create new places for new people.
I love you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bad Faith vs Good Faith

This is the opening from my March 15 sermon using Brian McLaren's book, "Finding Faith." I really think he makes a great point between good and bad faith.

Do you have questions and doubts about God? I do. My favorite prayer is from the famous Catholic monk, Thomas Merton, who wrote this opening line: O Lord, my God, I have no idea where I am going.” Sometimes a wave of doubt just washes over us, the kind that filters down to the deep places of our souls. And we wonder at times if God is real. We sing a hymn in church or hear the scriptures read or listen to a sermon and we ask ourselves, “Do I really believe this?”
I have often thought that we should be known as St. John United Methodist Church, where it’s okay to ask questions. Not all fleeting thoughts and doubts should be given our energy and attention. But the nagging ones should be asked and explored and talked about in a safe and trusted environment of Christian community. I have witnessed peoples’ questions take them away from God and the church. I still believe that the church can be a safe place where questions are honored and faith is explored.
Do you know what prominent Christian leader said these words? “In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.” Would it surprise you to learn that these words were spoken by Mother Teresa? Mother Teresa knew, of course, how much people the world over admired her for what she was doing, picking up the sick and dying from the streets of Calcutta and caring for them in their last days. She knew she had plenty of admirers who, as soon as she herself died, would propose her for sainthood. “If I ever become a saint,” she wrote, in her later years, “I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’”[1]
When Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover with thousands of other Jews he knew that people were believing in him simply because of the signs and miracles he was doing. He knew that faith that rested merely on signs and not on God to whom the signs point is shallow and unstable. Where is your faith centered? Some people believe that sincerity matters. If I am sincere about what I believe then it must be true.
Brian McLaren, author of “Finding Faith,” uses the analogy of thin ice to drive home this point. “If you’re walking on a lake that’s covered with one inch of ice, no matter how sincere you are in believing you can do it, you’re in for a cold soaking at best, drowning at worst. If you’re walking on a lake that’s covered with twelve inches of solid ice, even if you are plagued by doubts at every step, you’ll still be upheld. So the issue is less the sincerity or intensity of your faith than it is the trustworthiness of the object of your faith.”[2]
[1] —Cited by David Van Biema, “Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith,” TIME, Thursday, August 23, 2007; and, James Martin, “A Saint’s Dark Night,” The New York Times, August 29, 2007.
[2] Finding Faith, Brian McLaren, p. 30.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on Desire during Lent

Have you ever desired something but decided to simply be with that desire without fulfilling it? Sometimes I hear my children say, "I'm hungry." And sometimes I say to them, "It's okay for you to be hungry." It's not the answer they want to hear. They assume, as do most kids, that we are not meant to be with our hunger. Hunger is a desire that should be fulfilled immediately. Instant gratification.

Love is a desire we all have within our hearts. One of the reasons so many of us do not have as much love in our lives as we want is because we act on our desire for love inappropriately. We become attached and addicted to people, things, and ideas. We are so interested in fulfilling that desire that we fail to simply be with our desire for awhile.

It is in "being with our desire for love" that we come to receive the gift of love. We wait for it and become ready to receive it when it arrives. Love is a gift that can only be received.

Lent is approaching. It is a good time to ponder what we want from God, from life. Instead of framing it as a time to give up something. What if we tried to spend some time with our desires without fulfilling them?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is asking for help good or bad?

I have a tendency not to ask for help when I need it. I suspect you may have this trait as well. The thing is that there have been times when it worked and other times when it did not. Once I needed some help moving a new 200 lb hot tub to the back yard. Did I wait for help? No way. I lifted it up on its side and stuffed a piece of cardboard under and slid it. This resulted in a big gouge in the plastic side!
On another occasion I needed to lift my aluminum teardrop camper off its base. I knew I needed help but instead moved forward. With a lot of thinking and planning I was able to accomplish my task. I remember standing back and feeling pretty good about myself.
So we have this double message in our world today. Be independent, self-reliant. At the same time recognize that you need others for your work, your family, your spiritual life.
I want to say that there needs to be a balance between these two positions. Sometimes we need to use our own God-given abilities to solve problems. And there are times when we need to ask God and others for help. As we move into the Lenten season may we discover that balance that makes sense for us.