Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God Moments

During the children's moments in worship one time I talked with the kids about a God-moment.  I was interested in how children experience God-moments in their homes.  Sometimes we feel that a God-moment has to be a religious, churchy moment.  But God-moments happen to us every day.  And they are not always joyful, happy moments.  Sometimes a God-moment can happen after a car accident, or when we learn that a loved one has died, or when our families can't seem to stop arguing and fighting. 

Do you have a tendency to experience God only when life is going well for you?   For some folks the reverse is true.  They find it hard to think about God personally acting in their lives until a crisis engulfs them. 

During worship a young child was misbehaving.  The parents did their best to maintain order in the pew but were losing the battle.  Finally the father picked the little fellow up and walked sternly up the aisle on his way out.  Just before reaching the safety of the foyer the child called loudly to the congregation, "Pray for me!  Pray for me!"

God-moments are right before our eyes even as you read this.  Our job is to notice and be aware.  

Grace Always,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Choose Respect...End the Violence

I spent time last weekend at Kenai UMC (Check out their new sign.) and Soldotna UMC. While the Whetsell's were leading a Walk to Emmaus I got to spend the night in our old house and preach and teach at SUMC.  The topic was Healthy Churches.  At one point I asked, "If I were to ask several people in this town what they know about Soldotna United Methodist Church, what would they say?"  

In your community what is the reputation of your church?  Wouldn't it be amazing if people in your town began to say something like, "Isn't that the church that really made a difference in reducing domestic violence in Alaska?"

On March 31 at noon I encourage all United Methodists to join Governor Parnell's rally cry to put an end to domestic violence and sexual assault in our state. In the ongoing effort to raise awareness of DVSA, the Office of the Governor and non-profit groups across the state are sponsoring simultaneous “Choose Respect” events in more than 50 communities across Alaska.  There will be free parking at First UMC, Anchorage where the march will begin in the park strip. The march in Juneau will begin at noon at the capitol building and end at Marine Park.  You can learn more about Choose Respect events across Alaska at: www.chooserespect.alaska.gov

Pastors, please consider preaching a sermon about this vital issue.  Laity, think about getting involved in your community's efforts to reduce violence in the home.  To be sure this is God's desire that all people live in peace.

Grace Always,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Value of a Faith Community

What's the old song?  You don't know what you've got til it's gone.  Hmmm...tempted to sing...They paved paradise, put up a parking lot! 

Now that I'm no longer a pastor of a local church, going on two years now, I am learning a few things.
1. I miss the ongoing relationships with people, especially children.
2. I miss the rhythm of preaching.
3. It is much more difficult to get into the liturgical experiences of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost because I am not present in one faith community.
4. Playing my guitar recently for the first time in two years at Soldotna UMC I realized that I can worship when I lead worship.  And this is a good thing.

There are many more aspects that make this life of superintending very different than pastoring a church.  But the simple truth I want to point out is this.  Cherish your church!  Savor the little things that come with being a part of a faith community.  You know what they are.  The giggle of a 3 year old sitting next to the pastor.  The magnificent way your pianist and choir draws you in to music and lifts your soul to heaven.  The sorrow shared from a long time member who recently lost a loved one.  The teen who drove you crazy at the retreat but gave you a big hug and said thanks at the end. The banter between the pastor and the people in worship that makes you laugh.

Faith communities come in all shapes and sizes.  They are full of needy, loving, difficult, forgiving people.  They are God's people.  And they are your people.  Enjoy this amazing gift of your faith community.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Letter to My Son (Published with his permission)

Dear Ryan,

I feel a need to write to you and all other young people whose rational and logical minds make it a bit hard to allow room for a living, loving God without empirical evidence.  I invite you to think about this question.  What would life be like if there was indisputable, observable evidence that God is who people of faith have been saying for centuries?  Think about this.  When you see sunlight you follow the source and look up into the sky and see the sun.  You see it with your eyes and feel its warmth on your body.  This is how you know the sun is real. 

What would it be like if God were that physically real so you could see and feel and hear God any moment of the day?  I encourage you to really think about this.  Do you ever look at the sun and not really see it?  In other words do you take the sun for granted?  Of course you do.  We all do.  Would your life be different if God physically spoke to you each morning to let you know how loved you are and shared ways God wanted you to think and act for the day?  For example, if God audibly told you to speak to a homeless man on the way to work would you be likely to do it?  If God literally whispered in your ear to resist the temptation to buy a luxury car so you could give more to the poor would you listen?

My point is that even if God were to reveal God’s Self in a scientifically measureable way people would still live as if God did not exist.  We would still find ways to ignore God’s desire for us to love God and neighbor. 

I remember one day when you were in kindergarten.  We had recently moved to Alaska and you and your brother and I were in the woods laying in the snow observing a moose.  At one point while lying on our backs I said to you boys, “Isn’t it beautiful?  Isn’t God amazing?”  And you said to me, “Dad, you always say that!” 

Where in our scientific minds is there room for beauty?  Can you measure it?  Is it logical?  How can you know it exists if you don’t have eyes or heart to see it? 

I believe God gives us glimpses of God.  We see God in creation.  We see God in and through the witness of countless people of faith who caught these glimpses and found wholeness and salvation.  We see God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  We see God every day in the midst of our mundane routines.  We just need eyes of faith to see Love that cannot be isolated in a lab.  We need hearts that are seeking these moments of grace, hearts that want to learn how to catch them when they are flung at us. 

One thing I know, Ryan.  These God moments are real.  The case I am making in this letter is that human, scientific logic doesn’t need to be a barrier to you discovering these God moments.  Give yourself some time to appreciate wonder and beauty.  If your heart is open to matters of faith God will speak to you in a powerful way. 

I love you.