Monday, March 31, 2014

Letting Go

About 30 years ago in Ohio Kim and I bought an antique dining set from an elderly couple who bought it new in the 1930's.  We had planned to raise our four children around this table.  But when we answered a call for mission in Alaska we could not take it with us.

And today after more than 22 years in Alaska we are preparing to move to Oregon.  Just as we found ourselves having to let go of our beloved dining table so now are we facing similar decisions.  Large handmade framed pictures of each of our kid's school photos over the course of 12 years.  Snowmachines that took me into the wintry wonderland of the Alaska back country.  Oak beds I made for our kids.  My Shopsmith woodworking tool.  We are saying goodbye to all these things.

And you know what?  Once I begin the process of letting go it becomes easier as I encounter the next thing. It is like steering a disabled car.  Once you get it rolling it becomes easy to steer it.  But it is very hard to turn the steering wheel of a car that is not moving.

As I think about how we have become attached to the ways of doing and being Church I don't want to forget the lesson of that first separation.  Some of us Christian/Church people are way too attached to a certain type of music, worship style, or view of scripture.  We need to begin the process of letting go of some preferences as we focus on our core purpose to grow Christ-followers to change the world.  Antique dining tables are not nearly as important as our mission.  Music and worship preferences do not need to be locked in stone.  How we view scripture in today's world can grow and mature.

Perhaps the key is as simple as holding that beloved thing in our hands, breathing deeply, and offering it to God.  And saying goodbye to the next thing may just be a bit easier.  All this we do for the sake of growing the kingdom of God.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Balcony View

One of the great gifts of the superintendency is the view from the balcony of this amazing conference.  It is a view that feels lonely at times because no one else sees what I see in our churches across this great land of Alaska.  But I love what I see.  Part of my job is to share with you this vision of what God is doing in and through the people called United Methodists in Alaska.

For example, I see Pastor Charlie Brower in Nome connecting with native Alaskans in new ways.  I see First, Fairbanks responding to the call to mobilize others to be the hands of Christ in an emergency.  I see Christ First and Palmer learning how to start new missional communities.  I see Chugiak filling a need in their community to help people reuse unwanted stuff.  I see Anchor Park stepping up to become an anchor church for New Day Alaska.  I see First, Anchorage awarding grants from their foundation to strengthen Alaska ministries.  I see St. John starting new small learning groups where people are formed into disciples.

I see Ascent Alaska reaching out to people who need to know the God of creation.  I see the central Kenai churches offering serious education for laity.  I see Seward moving their ministry into the heart of downtown.  I see Homer extending the hospitality of Christ in the form of a regular free community meal.  I see our Juneau churches working together as never before with a shared youth ministry.  I see Sitka UMC growing in numbers.  I see First, Ketchikan offering grace and shelter to people at the edge.

There is so much more to see from the unique view of the balcony.  I invite you to climb the stairs now and then to see what I see...that God is alive and moving in the communities served by our 29 churches!

Grace Always,

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hanging Out with Mom and Dad

I have just returned from a 7 day cruise with my parents, Bob and Louise Beckett, from South Carolina.  Kim and I thoroughly enjoyed being with them.  Being in their 80's meant they were not quick at anything except cards.  And Dad brought a cane to help with his back pain.  This came in handy when we were all able to go to the front of the line when checking in.

There were many laughable moments such as trying to enter what I thought was our room only to discover we were at the wrong end of the ship.  Or the time we were warned not to take any fruit off the ship and told about being arrested and fined.  When we disembarked there was a fruit-sniffing dog checking out everyone's bags.  Dad asked Mom about the raisins in her trail mix so she deftly walked a wide circle away from the dog.  We joked about having to bail her out of a Mexican prison for raisin smuggling!

But the best moment happened the night of our final day on board.  The four of us were sitting in the main atrium listening to a live band playing easy jazz.  During one song my Dad stood up, left his cane on his chair, and walked to Mom.  He didn't say a word but simply held out his hand.  She stood up and together they danced...the only ones to do so.  It was not a dance floor and people were watching, but they didn't care.  They just held each other and danced.

Thanks Mom and Dad for your faithful love of 64 years.  And thanks for nurturing your childlike adventurous spirit and allowing me to be part of it.

Grace Always,