A Walking Paradox
Dealing with the contradictions and challenges of faith, disbelief, and living and dying
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Thursday, March 14, 2013
I mentioned the other day that I was undertaking the practice of writing letters to persons during this Lenten season. I wrote my grandmothers the other day here, because I could not send letters to the deceased and wanted to push myself in my writing. Today, there was another that I could not bring myself to send the letter to, and that was someone who hurt me, and I realize that writing such a person online here in a public forum could open itself wider than I wish, so I will write with feelings, but without specifics.
Dear Person Who Hurt Me,
I want you to know that while I still remember that pain you caused, I also realize my own failures to stand up for myself, be confrontational of the problems, and call upon the help of others.
I forgive you. I know you are better now than you were then. I give thanks for your presence in my life as it allowed me a friend for a time, and taught me good lessons as I went through life about how to deal with conflict.
Know that I pray for you often, and especially during this season of Lent in the church.
May you find peace and joy in your life now.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I have been working this practice for Lent 2013.
However, as I came to the letters for March 8 and March 11, it occurred to me that these were just letters I could not actually send.
I decided to write both of my Grandmothers, and both of them have passed away, so I thought perhaps I might write them up here.
Dear Grandma Ruth,
In some ways it seems that so much is now done, as we have laid your ashes to rest, sold your old house, relocated any items that were not sold or donated, and memorialized you in other ways, like the dog park in Bishop and our own All Saints' Services.
What is not done are my memories. This day, I am reminded of those times where you were a very strong mother figure to me. I am very aware of your mothering, with Sue and Wil. You took John, Connie and Dayle under your wing and cared for them, and called them your own. As your grandkids you cared for us, as babysitter, friend and playmate. You looked ahead, and were generous with your giving, as well as sending along particular bits of advice.
I remember riding in the back of the station wagon, running about to Griffith Park, to Lacy Park. I marvelled at the treasures you had, from the kitsch in the closet, to Cokes in the fridge, stacks in the garage, swords and books.
You were sure to help me get settled when I got out on my own with my first appointment at Santa Barbara FUMC, with some furniture, rugs and helping me look just so, with the gift of a new robe for my role as pastor.
Thank you. I love you.
Dear Grandma Roberta,
Thank you for keeping after me to send Thank You letters for the gifts I have received over the years. One that has been too long in getting written is a simple thank you for who you were, your inspiration, and your love shared with me during my life. I miss you.
I miss the opportunity to talk with an intelligent woman about the world, the markets, politics and religion. I appreciate the admonitions you gave me about ministry, and the way in which you helped me to look the part.
I miss days of playing in the pool, badminton, picking lemons and limes and games of chess, cards or scrabble. In fact, I think of you almost every time I open up my game of "Words with Friends" and wish I had had this years ago, as I think you would have had a blast playing with your grandkids and chatting with us in this unique way, even after your strokes.
I miss having the comfort of a crash pad along my routes to and from places across the conference for ministry, and a smiling warm face to greet me in my passing, and the knowledge that Grandma's house might be a chance to encounter family that I might not get out to see otherwise.
I miss the family parties, and the central gathering focus you provided for drawing us all in.
I miss you. I love you.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Quote of the Day
Thanks to my friend Rev. Steve Felton, of Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Santa Maria, CA for mining this gem.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
November Voice Notes
Pastor’s Corner November 2012
We have spent a lot of time over the past several months, and even the past few years trying to determine what the focus of our ministry at St. Andrew UMC ought to be.
We have been very clear about several things we have used to define our sense of effective ministry. We desire to have a clear, balanced budget. We desire the care and nurture of the pastor, as well as a clear sense of leadership from the pastor. We desire to be informed, fully, often and in a variety of media, such as email, phone, personal contact, text message and print materials.
We have noted ministries we feel are not up to the standards we would like them to be. These have ranged from how Sunday worship is conducted, to a sense that the groups who use the church facility are not pulling their share.
We have found niche ministries where St. Andrew is doing something different and where we are filling a void. These niche ministries have been things like using the church parking lot for overflow parking for football games and other events at Righetti High School, the Disability Closet, and SummerFest on the Green - complete with area agencies, music, and games for the family.
We have done paperwork to generate the Academy of Music as a separately incorporated 501c3, capable of fundraising and advertising through non-restrictive channels.
We have refined and fine tuned areas of ministry we felt needed some additional work, such as church accounting, Happy Hollow Administration, organization of church facilities and files. We have ongoing processes to negotiate the relationships between the church and the many ministries who use our facility.
What remains undone is a focused ministry which would define who we are at St. Andrew UMC. In this I want to note several times during the past of St. Andrew when we have been clear about what we wanted to create, and dove in to make this place known in positive ways. We talk about the founding of a Methodist Congregation for the community of Orcutt in 1962, and our rapid development and charter over 5-6 months, moving into a full relationship with the Annual Conference as a non-mission church, on our own and in the black. We talk about the creation of Happy Hollow Preschool, and the needed ministry to families in our area for childcare, whose standard was taken up by Lee and Mary LaFaile. We outgrew our space for worship, developed a second worship service, and put things in motion for the building of a new sanctuary and office spaces. As schools began to cut back on the offerings for music and the arts we designed the Academy of Music to offer low-cost music lessons for the youth of our community. Around the same time we were growing into other areas of music ministry - we purchased a more substantial organ, enhanced the choral offerings with the development of and partnership with Coastal Voices, committed to a Bell Choir, and even bought new choir robes to show off the energy around music ministry at St. Andrew.
Each time we took on a focused approach to enhancing ministry at St. Andrew, there was other energy that was created and spun off to help foster and nurture other ministries. We have reaped those rewards in the successes of the Food Pantry, Vacation Bible School, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as renewed maintenance on old ministries, even to the extent that it meant new coats of paint were applied, new plants planted, new signs were created, and enhancements to the audio and visual systems of the church were added.
There is a bit of church wisdom which states, “A church should always be building a new building”. The wisdom is a result of years of observation that have noted when churches build new buildings, they do it to create new ministries, and that old ministries get an overhaul to keep up, develop greater goals, and focus the energies and commitments of the people of the church. In short, a new building, also builds up the church.
This doesn’t always have to be a structural building, but some building ought to take place. Some of the recent ideas that have been posited for the building up of our facilities at St. Andrew UMC have been to build a parsonage on our site, add a community garden, rehabilitate our front lawn space to include multiple soccer fields, as examples of non-structural building. Structural ideas have suggested finishing some of the building projects outlined in earlier renditions of church planning, such as “blowing out” the walls of the Social Hall or the Narthex to accommodate more people and create new space, adding a bathroom adjacent to the sanctuary and accessible through the indoors, adding on to the playyard, or creating more classroom space for the various uses of the life of the church through the week.
As our pledge campaign for 2013 says, “Committed to the Whole”, we find that growth generates growth. Caring for one area of building, creates other areas where we can build and grow. Using all that you have seen go by, and what you see God calling us to become in the future, take some time to write down or share with the leaders of this church the places where you see the need for us to build, and let’s create consensus to build it together.
Grace and peace,
Monday, October 01, 2012
October Voice Notes
October Pastor’s Corner
1) People; Open to All; Community; Ministry to others; Our Youth (future); Location and Facility; God is in it (Jesus)
1) Body of Christ: The hands and feet of Christ “God/Christ has no hands/ feet but yours”; Congregation: We are the church; Community of believers; Extension of God’s work; Light of the (to the) world; Safe Haven for those in need
1) The Body, Community, Place of Worship, Dwelling Place for Holy Spirit, Source for Help, Place for Music
1) We are, Community of People, Place to worship, God’s House, Place for Children and People to learn about God’s Word, Nice place to come hear choir/organist
2) Spreading the Word of God - through teachings and actions; Worship and communion; Acts of Ritual; Ministry to others; Deepening relationship & knowledge of the Lord; Supporting One another at all times; Community Presence
2) Serving the people; Worship; Focusing God’s energy; Fellowship; Educational Growth; Making Disciples; Preparing the people for the return of Jesus; Praising God
2) Gather to Pray together, Nourishment, Education, Fellowship, Missions/Outreach work
2) Worship, Learn, Fellowship, Caring Community, Supporting Missionaries, make Disciples, Spread the Word of God, To be God’s hand and feet in the world, Place to go on SUNDAY
3) Sermons; Lead Worship; Pastoral Care - Visitation; Counseling; Community Building; Availability; Communications; Ritual - Sacraments; Face of the Organization; Liaison between the local church and UMC structure
3) Overseer of church business; Provide Leadership; Provide Communication; Counselor/Arbitrator/Leader; Servant; Provide Spiritual guidance; Provide correct information; Visit the sick; Developing the tools for congregational discernment; Rituals of the church: Baptism, Communion, Funerals, Weddings; Liaison to the District, Conference and General UMC; Administrative; Biblical Interpretation; Managing the church’s business; Preach; Teach
3) Counselor, Administrator, Umbrella (Gotta get it covered), Jack of All Trades, Comforter, Healer, Resourcer, Visitation, Shepherding, Follow the Rules of the Book of Discipline, Teach, Liaison between local church and UMC structures, Sacraments (Baptism & Communion), Worship, Lead, Provide a Vision, Coordinating Governing Bodies and Ministries, Preach
3) Leadership (worship Leadership), Caring for the ill/homebound, Teacher esp. Bible Study, Someone to take your troubles to: listener, counselor, Glue that holds it all together, weddings/funerals/communion/baptism
4) Supportive ideas; Spiritual Focus - moving away from operational; Communications; Fellowship; Education (UM polity & Knowledge of Discipleship); Bible Study; Courage
4) Discernment of Talents; Knowledge of the Bible; Compassion; Willingness to step forward; Fellowship & Support from other believers; Confidence/Courage/Conviction; Practice; Knowledge of what others are needing; Training; Mentoring; Energy
4) Generosity, Understanding of Stewardship, Prayer, Time in the Word (Daily), Prioritization, Brokenness, Tolerance, Patience
4) Patience, Live the Word, Prayer, Guidance from God, Bible Study, Love, Support, To take part (participation)
These are the answers from the congregation, and I got to thinking about what the answers to these questions were back in seminary, and how they correlate to what comes next for us as a church.
The seminary answers were:
Question 1: What is the Church?
The Church, the universal body of people who call themselves Christians, is God’s living embodiment in the world today. We are to be “little Christs”, acting, teaching, and glorifying God as Jesus did.
Question 2: What is church for?
Church is for the gathering of the Christian people for strengthening one another in faith, holding one another accountable, and sending each other out from the gathering to continue to share the Word of God in all the world.
Question 3: What is the job of clergy (ordained ministers)?
The job of the clergy is the administration of Word, Sacrament and Order. That is teaching, preaching and living the message of the Bible as Word of God. Sacraments in the United Methodist Church are Baptism and Communion, and are the only activities restricted to the clergy. And Order is to ensure that we are following the rules, of the United Methodist Church, as outlined in the Book of Discipline and the Conference Rules, and rules defined by local, state and federal laws.
Question 4: What is one thing YOU need to become a better disciple?
To be a better disciple there are two things we need. We need to know what makes one a Disciple, and then we need practice at doing so. Discipleship is at the core of what we do as United Methodists, not just because it is our Mission Statement, “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the World”, but because it is a mandate from Christ himself, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
For a full overview of what Discipleship is and entails, in the tradition of the United Methodist Church, consider checking out this article from the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church website. http://www.gbod.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=nhLRJ2PMKsG&b=5503321&ct=7922219
We will also be looking at Discipleship more in the coming months in the Pastor’s Corner here in the Voice.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
August Voice Notes
HOW ARE WE GOING TO ALLOCATE OUR RESOURCES?
During August, and September I will be leading discussions with the church surrounding a focused approach to our budgeting and ministry plan for 2013. Already I am working with UMW (Monday, September 10), UMM (Saturday, September 8), Choir and Bells, and Youth Group (Sun/Mon August 12-13) to set up times to meet with them. If you would like to join any of those relevant groups for those meetings you may. Additionally, I will have open meetings on Sunday, August 26th following worship at 12noon, with a light lunch provided; Tuesday, August 14, 10AM; and at Church Council August 23, 7PM. All are invited, and welcome to attend any of these meetings.
Utilizing the information provided from our other gatherings, and the decisions of the Church at Church Conference, we have a budget of $260,000 for 2012, and a desire to “live within our means” for 2013 and following.
If we were to commit ourselves to a budget directly related to our regular income level trends over the past few years we can expect about $190,000 for 2013. This would account for some more deaths, no major gifts, and that no further persons would leave the church, as well as that all persons would continue to give at current levels of giving.
Decisions will be based on what ministries we deem most important, and what resources we feel we can bring to bear on these ministries. In an effort to make these conversations more effective, a draft budget of maximum $190,000 will be brought forward to each of the gatherings, built from the ground, up.
Additional meetings are in conversation with our current ministry partners, Happy Hollow Parents and Families, Academy of Music Parents and Families, Boy Scouts Troop 87 Parents and Families, Girls Scouts Troop 50072 Parents and Families, and Coastal Voices Participants. Each of these groups has a vested interest in our success as a church, and has the potential to be a draw for the church, as well as additional support. We need to talk to determine how we can support one another for successful long-term ministry.
The ministry plan will then outline specific ministries we will focus on, means by which we will engage and support new persons to the church, and care for those already in our congregation. Funding will be one aspect of this ministry plan, as will evangelism, congregational care, lay ministry and pastoral roles.
For further consideration on your part - here are some of the highlights of the recent demographics report on the Orcutt area surrounding St. Andrew UMC.
WHAT ARE THE NEEDS IN ORCUTT? (ref. Demographics 2010 census and updates)
[This report is available in the church office, and can be reviewed in full if desired]
People growth highest: D04 (MissionInsite Index -p.363) Small City Endeavors [Lower income, young, old, singles, families, working-class towns;] F02 (MissionInsite index - p.498) Moderate Conventionalists [Mobile, middle-class singles/couples, modest homes, second-tier cities]; L03 (MissionInsite Index - p. 1008) Grey Perspectives [Small towns, prison and institutionalized population, some military barracks.]; B03 (MissionInsite index - p.158) Urban Commuter Families [Upscale, college educated Baby Boomer families and couples living in comfortable, single detached homes in city neighborhoods on the metropolitan fringe]
Persons over 55 growing in Orcutt at faster rate than CA.
High Drive for Affluence
High Devotion to Family
High Commitment to Career
High Faith and Practice
High Desire to Broaden Horizons
Low Sense of Wellbeing
Population Definitions: Global, Traditional, Sociable, Planned, Secure, Leaders
Lower education rate
Poorer Household Income than average/CA
Higher family size per household (5+)
HIGH Hispanic population (160%ORCUTT/100% CA)
HIGH Filipino/Japanese populations
High Blue Collar population
No Management Services
Low Professional Services
High Carpool/Vanpool population
High Close proximity to work population
Trending down Family/Empty Nest Population (35-55)
Increasing Some College Education Population
High Farming/Protection/Sales force
Ultimately we need to answer the question: “Who is Jesus Christ? What has he done for me, personally? Why would someone else want to participate in following Jesus Christ?”
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Thinking about missional engagement recently, and we have a dashboard worth of goals from the denomination, but I kept thinking about making it more concrete for some of the basic principles I understand about Discipleship.
What about Bold Goals?:
-That everyone in the congregation would reaffirm their membership vows.
-That everyone would bring one friend to church during the next year, and then take some time to listen to the other person’s evaluation
-That every member of the church share three other people they will commit to visiting this coming year
-That every member participate in a Bible Study during the next year, and lead one in the next 5.
-That every person in the church would, within the next 3 years (that works out to a chapter a day), read the entire Bible.-That every member commit to praying for this church, the pastor, the United Methodist Church, Santa Maria/Orcutt, and at least 3 other people for 5 minutes each day.
- To faithfully engage in at least one local Mission Area ministry with an extra mile gift, or participation in time.
- to establish at least one way to tangibly show each of the fruits of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Gentleness and Self-control; then to show each at least once a week.
-To fast for 24 hours at least once this year (barring medical reasons)
-To share at a non-church function one or more meals with one other non-family church member this year
-To surprise another church person from your church, from a distinctly different age bracket than your own, with a generous act of kindness
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Thoughts for today
I started blogging several years ago, at first to connect to other bloggers, then to provide a digital storage space for some of my thoughts, and those ideas that captured my mind.
From Emergent Village
Confidence in leadership
I have no idea what's going to happen, or if my specific plans are going to come out the way I envision them, but I am completely confident that if we get people together and keep service to the Lord and to our neighbors at the center of our thinking, that He will make something wonderful come out of our efforts, one way or another. My personal ego has some very specific ideas of what the Lord ought to do with our efforts, but I know my God is wiser than me, and thinks bigger than I ever could, and sees the long-term big picture, and so I'm ready to find out what it is He will make of all our plans and efforts.
Friday, February 10, 2012
There was an old game called Values Clarification, sometimes called Lifeboat. Christian artist Steve Taylor even wrote a song about it.
Monday, February 06, 2012
Challenging the Pastor
For most pastors, the role is understood in many ways, but some of them include poking, prodding, coaxing and challenging the congregation to the "Next Step" of faith.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Not that bad...
Mikey's Funnies is generously hosted by Agathon Group, website development and hosting with a ministry heart:
YOU KNOW YOU'VE HAD TOO MUCH COFFEE WHEN...
~ You can type sixty words a minute...with your feet.
~ Instant coffee takes too long.
~ You chew on other people's fingernails.
~ You answer the door...before people knock.
~ You sleep with your eyes open.
~ You go to sleep, just so you can wake up and smell the coffee.
~ You don't even wait for the water to boil anymore.
~ You're the employee of the month at Starbucks and you don't even work there.
~ You lick your coffeepot clean.
~ You go to AA meetings just for the free coffee.
~ You're so wired you pick up FM radio.
~ You have a picture of your coffee mug, on your coffee mug!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I have to admit I am a bit of a Methodist Geek...but more uniquely in the reading kind of way.
Lately, I have been cataloging my collection of Disciplines, and next it will be the Hymn books (I just have to find a good reference book for a Methodist Hymnograph)
I read all kinds of literature, and subscribe to countless (okay I could count them, but I don't) UM blogs, twitter feeds and Facebook friends and pages.
I recently opened up the UM Connector from the Oregon Idaho Conference, to find them quoting a Bishop from Minnesota, Bishop Sally Dyck (found online here: http://www.umoi.org/enewsletterarchives/detail/147 ) I have reprinted that here at the end of this post. And then a little more about the Nativity scene as we know it from another Methodist Blogger from Wales - Richard Hall is here:
The Smell of Christmas Is Not Always Pretty
By Bishop Sally Dyck*
Imagine this. You go to church, and the pastor dumps a bag of manure in the center aisle. Soon the stench begins to overwhelm the other aromas: the cologne people received in their Christmas stockings, pine branches, candles burning.
That might be the best Christmas sermon you could receive: a sensory message that jars your thinking about what Christmas is.
You see, the Christmas story begins with a certain stench. It’s not just the cattle in the barn, but an economic situation where the emperor is taking a census to increase taxes in an already depressed economy. Political situations where people live as captives. Personal situations, such as Mary giving birth away from home. Her new family being homeless.
Christmas was born in stench.
For many people this Christmas, life stinks. Today it stinks that Grandma has Alzheimer’s and sometimes doesn’t even recognize your voice. It stinks to get that cancer diagnosis. It stinks to endure surgery. For some, it stunk long before the economic downturn, before they lost their jobs, before they wondered if anything would ever be the way it once was, before they got cancer, before the divorce, before bad things happened. For others, the stink is fresh and new, overpowering in its physical and spiritual pungency. We’ve all faced times in our lives and with each other that stink.
But life stinks sometimes, whether we made the stink ourselves or it just happens to us like a pile of manure being dumped on our parade.
Yet, even in the midst of the stink, the message of Christmas is: God is with us . . . and there must be a pony in there somewhere!
But how will people know God is with us and there’s hope, like getting that pony, unless we who claim faith in Christ Jesus share that love with them?
It’s a sweet-smelling Christmas for others and us when we share the love of God, the love of family and a faith community, and a hope that only comes from Christ Jesus to make a difference in a world that sometimes really stinks.
* Bishop Sally Dyck is episcopal leader of the Minnesota Area
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Okay, so I probably need more help from my more scholarly friends out there on this one.
I have been preaching Wesley's forms of Grace - Prevenient, Justifying, Sanctifying and Perfected in Love, with the attendant actions of human kind, repentance, restoration, and holy action during the Advent season this year.
I have also been doing this backward, which means it was Prevenient Grace that I preached this past Sunday. As such, I delved a little into Augustinian Theology.
Now, this is where some corrective may be necessary. I understand Augustine to tell us that we are at Core, born into original sin, and therefore sinful. I held this in contrast to Wesley, who seems to say, we are at Core made in the image of God, and therefore Holy beings. Original Sin, then, in a Wesleyan context is our own "bent to sinning", which introduces Prevenient Grace. Prevenient Grace is God's permanent call to each of us that we are loved and desired for relationship. God doesn't sit idly by while we figure out whether to come back, but is constantly searching the horizon for our return (those who are hearing the story of the Prodigal Son in echo may have a fuller picture of the sermon).
Justification then is what happens when we return to God, but does not stop upon our return to God.
I dare say that Augustine might well be missing the Sanctification element of Wesley. For if we are at Core sinful beings, and justification restores us to God's presence, then there is no real chance of losing salvation for Augustine, which Wesley definitely says is possible - losing salvation that is.
Just thinking out loud, and checking myself.