Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mission vs Missional

While leading a workshop in Sitka a few weeks ago one woman posed a question.  What is the difference between mission events and missional?  And then she answered it herself.  It would seem that in some churches mission events are planned where Christians are given an opportunity to do good...serve in a soup kitchen, conduct a food drive, go on a mission trip, etc.  These are very good things for churches to do.

However they should not mean they can ease our guilt for a few months until the next big church mission event.  The world needs missional Christians today.  This is an orientation towards those pushed to the margins of society.  Being missional means that we believe God can use us to be the incarnational love that people need from God's people.  It is a way of looking at people with lenses that does not allow prejudice and judgment to reach our minds, but rather a child of God who needs love. 

I fully support mission events in the life of the church.  We need to be doing all the good we can.  But let's also remember to encourage our people to be missional.  This means we activate our spiritual radar while we are going about the business of our daily lives so the Spirit can help us truly see people and their needs.  Sometimes being missional is offering a simple smile to someone who appears unhappy, or offering to help an exhausted young mother while waiting in the grocery line, or stopping to get to know the man on the corner with a cardboard sign.

The world is hungry for God.  And many people will have a hard time seeing the fullness of God unless we become the lens that helps them see the living Christ.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sitka, Alaska

This may sound like a travelogue but it is important especially for new UM clergy and laity to get a broader picture of our conference.  In January I conducted a charge conference with Sitka UMC by Skype.  This enabled me to spend last weekend in Sitka.  Pastor Ferdie Llenado put me to work!  I led  three workshops on spiritual type, healthy church, and missional church.  And he had me preach and do the children's sermon.  I enjoyed walking around town during three gorgeous sunny spring days.  Saturday evening was a community dinner honoring Marcia Hirai, one of the very involved leaders at Sitka UMC.

I stayed in the parsonage enjoying Filipino food and playing with Ferdie and Louie's three boys, J.D., Hiram, and Theo.  Ferdie and I had several deep spiritual and ministry conversations.  He gave me a copy of his book, "Home, I Am" A minister's metaphorical memoir on midlife meaningless. At the end of the weekend Ferdie shared with me that he feels very connected with the conference and the denomination.  Living and ministering on an island can be isolating.

I invite us all to send a note to a fellow pastor or lay leader in our isolated regions.  Strengthening our connection is especially important to us in Alaska.

Grace Always,


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Granddaughter Time

I love my granddaughter, Isabella Smith.  I also love my grandson who does not yet have a name and will take his first breath by the end of May in Idaho.  For the past five days while her parents vacationed in California 15 month old Isabella stayed with us.  There is something about being responsible for someone that makes you think about their needs and desires.  Does she need her diaper changed?  Is she eating healthy?  How is she sleeping? 

Spending time with her helps me to know her more deeply.  It's not just a family tie that binds us together, but a love that grows from knowing each other.  And for me it was helpful to know that Isabella needed me during these past five days.  I experienced her smile when I picked her up at day care.  I know that holding her by the window watching falling snow helps distract her from whatever was causing her to cry. 

Scripture tells us that God knows us inside and out, our yearnings, our temptations, our struggles.  God is more in tune with my needs and hopes that I was with Isabella.  Do we know this?  Are we aware that God is able to spend time with each of us 24 hours a day?  If this is to be a relationship then we need to spend some of this time with God.  Living in the present moment.  Time together leads to knowing each other. 

I will build on my time with Isabella this past weekend and our relationship will grow.  The more we come to know one another the more we will want to deepen our relationship.  Thank you, God, for the gift of knowing and loving Isabella.  You offer yourself to each one of us with the dream of being in relationship with us.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where Do Clergy Rank in List of Best/Worst Jobs?

Okay, pastors.  What is your best guess as to where our profession is ranked in a list of 200 jobs in America?  Towards the top?  Middle?  The bottom?

CareerCast.com ranked 200 jobs from best to worst based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. To compile its list, the firm primarily used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies.

The best job?  Software engineer.  Worst?  Coming in at 200 is lumberjack.  Clergy come in near the middle at 92, right behind funeral director at 90.  But we're ahead of security guard at 117 and flight attendant at 175.  

In another report I read that clergy have the fourth toughest job.  President of the U.S. was the toughest. 

All this is to say that pastors are very aware of the difficult parts of our jobs.  Let me invite the pastors reading this to comment on the toughest parts of their jobs.  Pastors have a hard time talking openly about this because for us it is a calling from God, affirmed by the Church.  Some of us have embraced this calling without question from day one.  Others of us have struggled with the calling like Jacob wrestling with the angel.  Sometimes this calling can mask inner feelings of inadequacy, hidden resentments, or being unappreciated.

Let me also invite the laity to comment on your perceptions of the hardest parts of the job done by clergy.  Perhaps you might send your pastor a note of encouragement acknowledging the difficulties your pastor faces.

If you want to see the full list check out this link. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303772904577336230132805276.html

Grace and peace,