Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thinking Past the Future

This Sunday marks a milestone for our family.  Our youngest son, Jeremy, graduates from UAA.  From the moment our first child, Jenny, was born, then Ryan, Lauren, and Jeremy our focus and vision has been centered around our children.  29 years worth.  For me this graduation marks the end of an era and the beginning of another.  The problem is that I have not spent near as much time thinking about our future without children than I did when their future was more in our hands.  Now it is out of our hands, except for college loans we still owe!

I wonder how much of our thinking about the future affects our relationship with God.  Can we spend too much time in the future that we miss the present God-moments?  How helpful is it that we think about the kind of person God desires us to be in 5 or 10 years?  It's just so different because I have always been a visionary, future oriented person.  Now I don't have responsibility for my childrens' future.  What kind of future do I envision now?

Some of this is linked to identity.  I'll always be a father but now a father in a different way.  More equal.  More adult to adult.  I like it but in the past being a dad has often been about the future.  Then there is my identity as a superintendent, or more accurately, as a former pastor of a local church.  This has been an interesting adjustment as I think it is for most superintendents.  People often ask how I like the new job.  In the few seconds that I hesitate to find the words they have their answer.  

How much time do you spend thinking about your future?  What is "future" for you:  20 years, 5 years, next month, or making it through today?  Somewhere there is a balance point between our present and our future, sliding this way and that, but never fully one way or the other.  I believe we are called to think about the future but it is never just about us.  It is God's preferred future and how we as disciples of the risen Christ fit into that future.

May God be in your present and future moments.

Christ is Risen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Healthy Church Workshops

In 1991 I began serving as pastor of the Soldotna UMC. In 1997 we went through a "necessary conflict."  To help me process the feelings and systemic realities I studied at Graduate Theological Foundation and earned a D.Min. in 1999, the year I became pastor at St. John.  Last month I returned to Soldotna UMC and shared with them some of what I learned with a sermon and a workshop.

I called it Healthy Church Workshop and it was well received.  Since then I took the workshop on the road north to Fairbanks First UMC and New Hope Methodist-Presbyterian.  What fun it has been for me to be in a teaching role and to get to know our laity.

The workshop content is about church systems.  People are given the chance to talk about the unspoken agreements that exist in a church.  The central point of the workshop is that healthy churches don't have a bunch of unspoken agreements.  They work hard to talk about most of the issues that come with doing church well.

The workshop lasts 90 minutes and I am available to come to your church.  Perhaps we might explore doing it online or when I come to your church for charge conference.

During my visit at First UMC, Fairbanks I recorded this clip of a youth group game.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Today marks the end of an 8 day trip to Seattle and Idaho. The front end was a meeting of representatives from PNW, Oregon/Idaho, and Alaska conferences to being our work to prepare for September, 2012, when we will share one bishop. I will be asking Alaska leaders to weigh in on specific questions very soon as we continue our work. We are hoping to leverage this as an opportunity to enhance the mission of Christ in the northwest.

Then I flew to Boise and drove to Idaho Falls to visit my daughter, Lauren, and husband, Rob and help them install flooring in their new home. The big joy for me was to watch Lauren teaching her kindergartners. Kim and I tried to raise our four kids in such a way that we would be good friends as adults. I thank God for such times.

Then it was back to Seattle where I joined the PNW cabinet. I appreciate their including me from time to time. It makes me feel less isolated when I am with them.

Looking forward to coming home!

Grace Always,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Choose Respect Rally Follow Up

Two weeks ago I encouraged all of our Alaska UM's to join one of Governor Parnell's "Choose Respect" rallies.  There were 64 of them on March 31 across the state.  I was in worship at Willow UMC recently and Pastor Dan Lush brought a willow walking stick with a sign on it reading "Methodists Choose Respect."  He had marched in a rally in Talkeetna and was sharing it with the congregation.

I had intended to ask Dan to borrow his sign for the upcoming Anchorage rally but forgot in the midst of an energizing after worship fellowship time.  So Crystal Feaster created a similar sign which I took to the Anchorage rally.  Walking with other UM's from First UMC, Anchorage, community members, and the governor it was an enlightening time as we listened to stories of abuse and violence inside the walls of Alaska homes.  Sixty percent of Alaska women have suffered some sort of abuse.  We rank #1 in the nation with abuse and violence done to children, women, and men in our homes.  It is not confined to one social or economic class.

I stood there in the cold and wondered how prevalent this problem is in our United Methodist homes.  Do you know someone who is trapped in the cycle of abuse either as a victim or a perpetrator?  I thought about God's desires and clearly this Choose Respect movement is aligned with God values.  So I encourage us all to focus some of the light of God's healing love and justice on this issue.  Help is available.  Healing can begin today!

To see the photo that appeared on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News click on this link.  Notice our sign just to the left of the cross.  

Grace Always,