Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spritual Disciplines

I was reading a fellow pastor's journey in his blog, and was reminded of the latest additions to my spiritual practices.

For a few months back in October and November I was fasting once a week, as John Wesley admonished his pastors to practice. And during that time I was especially mindful of the divisions and the nastiness in the church, and I was praying for healing to come about. God managed to bring about some healing in the areas I had targeted at that time, though there have been some exceptional items of late causing division.

In an effort to restore some of my spiritual disciplines I went this past weekend to hear J Phillip Newell speak (at the Presbyterian Church, but don't tell anyone) here in San Bernardino. He was reminding us of the power of John and Johanine communities in the the Celtic Traditions. John made regular reference to the whole of creation and that our communities need to be righteous with each other and with all of creation. I tune into this type of understanding well, and have a special affinity for creation order.

As such I took the time to purchase a couple of books he had on sale at the presentation. I have been making a habit of sitting down at the breakfast table with my breakfast and my coffee and reading the prayers and benedictions before I eat and drink. I have a candle in the center of the table (leftover from a few weeks ago when I was trying to "fumigate" with candle odor) and have taken to lighting it when I start and blowing it out when I finish. (don't get too impressed it was a suggestion in the text of prayers)

I found myself running about this morning for visitations and taking care of church business, when I realized I had not had the morning prayer time I had been making use of in the past week. When I finished the morning activities I came home and took the books and carved a few minutes for me and prayer. What a blessing this addition has been.

I may have to pick up another - like the fasting for Lent, or another for Lent and the fasting just because I saw it work.

God is ever so faithful. Amen.

I can identify

See more of "The Norm" at

Think of Norm as a Dilbert, with a real life storyline.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In Christianity we talk a lot of Brokenness, before God, in our lives that led us to God, in the church, and in our society.

The challenges in the world around us are immense to be sure, and we claim a God who is bigger than all our problems. And yet, I keep coming back to something very simple and altogether extremely difficult - the Great Commandment. You know the one, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind, and the second which is like it to Love your neighbor as yourself.

I have to say I have been struggling with that second part of the great commandment this week. First I have been struggling with some difficult persons who are dealing with some very deep psychological problems. I have learned, after being burned over the years, that this is not an area where I can be of help or assistance and so I run away as often as possible. Second, I got a reprimand this week from the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, through the Conference Director and a sit-down with members of the District for our lack of self-care as clergy. I was given a reminder of this again in my blogroll today. We are being groomed for self-care once again, which I think would follow more easily if we kept to the first command of the Great Commandment, to love the Lord our God with all of our being - which somehow incorporates the need for Sabbath rest too. And then, last night on the news I see even more news that disparages the health care that I am capable of receiving if I am not managing to stay healthy.

So I am left with a renewed sense of brokenness. Our pastors are broken in their understanding of the role of pastor, to the detriment of their health. Our churches and pastors are broken in their covenant with God to uphold the Ten Commandments, including the role of the Sabbath. Our system designed to help people who have brokenness in their health is also broken. And relationships that should be nurtured are being broken because of displaced roles and values.

I am convinced that God wants nothing more than right relationship among creation, restoring the relationship with God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Now, if I could just bring myself to care about myself and others. Right? And in that statement I realize my downfall. The challenge is to order our lives according to God, the love of neighbor as self will follow. This is not a situation where one can "fake it 'til you make it", by showing and heaping love on others, to discover love of self, and then love of God. Nor is it something that must go inward first to manifest love of self, to understand how to love others, and then be enlightened that "God loved us first". (1 John 4:19)

It is time to restore order, to our pastors, to our churches, to our members (and our meetings), which will in fact restore our relationships with the world, and creation. Love God first and follow God's commands. Now, for the real task - to see how I can do this more each day.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Young Adults on the Rise

The latest news out of the Cal-Pac Conference office is the announcements of two new District Superintendents, for Long Beach and Los Angeles Districts.
Grant Hagiya and Lily Vilamin have both left the cabinet. Grant was the Dean of the Cabinet, and with his departure the man with the tenure to hold the position is the Riverside District Superintendent John Valles.
I share this information so that you might be aware of the dramatic changes made in our Conference Cabinet.
Kathey Michelle Wilborn has been announced as the new DS for the Long Beach District. She comes from the Board of Ordained Ministry, where she was serving in an administrative capacity. Additionally Kathey is a ordination classmate of mine, and I am thrilled to have her leadership in the cabinet.
Cedric Bridgeforth has been named the DS for the LA District. Cedric is also from my ordination class, and comes to the cabinet after serving on the Board of Congregational Development. Cedric has demonstrated an ability to energize congregations and pastors and will be an asset of great measure to the cabinet.
Bringing the adage that the cabinet is Old White Guys to task, Cal-Pac has now stacked the deck in a new order, with several clergy under 50, 1 under 40, several non-white and non-male members.
Way to go Bishop Swenson! May the future be guided by the grace of God, the wisdom of the ages, and capable leaders.

Friday, January 18, 2008

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five

RevHRod brings us this weeks play along from the RevGalBlogPals. After spending several hours organizing some of my books this week on Shelfari I do love a good set of questions about books, even after the loss of many of my books recently. With that said,
I think that some books ARE better than others! How about you?
  1. What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?
  2. The Dip, By Seth Godin

  3. What is one of your favorite childhood books?
  4. The Monster at the End of this Book

  5. Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!
  6. I have a new affinity for the prophets after teaching them this summer, in Bible Study and Sermons. I also love James.

  7. What is one book you could read again and again?
  8. The Bible; Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal; Atlas Shrugged

  9. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?
Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal; I recommend it because it ends with an account of Holy Week that is well informed, slightly askew, and incredibly moving. I also appreciate the "stories" and "legends" of Jesus that are well incorporated into the full book.

And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be?

My wife's D.Min. project, with a snappy title: "Changing the Church through Small Group Evangelism" or some such.

Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?

My talent lies in resourcing others, and teaching, very rarely does it exist in the commodity itself. Writing is just the same. So my jacket cover blurb would be about the publisher, not the author.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter Camp

The chill is in the air, the weather turning darker, and the threat of snow this weekend is increasing. I guess that means it is time for Winter Camp with the Riverside District - Elementary and Jr/Sr High camps will both be happening this weekend at Camp Wrightwood.

This exciting time to delve into issues of faith and practice come home with friends and great staff.

Del Rosa UMC is sending about 10 kids and 3 staff this year and I am excited to be one of the staff members and a cabin counselor for the weekend.

Youth arrive Saturday afternoon and we are done around 11AM on Monday morning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hitting the Wall

One of the hardest things in ministry to deal with are the power struggles of the people, with each other and with the pastor.

I often contend with myself and with the congregation about getting out there and exerting their powerful ministry, and wind up caught in power struggles about place.

The purpose of ministry is to be the best you you can be, using all the of the gifts God has given you, and moving into the world to be present in the world in this way.

I got an interesting article in an email today from Kevin Witt, who is the General Board of Discipleship Director of Camping. He pointed to an article from Lovett Weems about the leadership of the pastor.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with Lovett would do well to know that his primary interest is growing the church, through the development of our younger clergy and making the pastorate viable again as a career option for young people.

I find it interesting to read through the article and see the "preacher" lifted up as the key for the two lives Weems presents. Preaching is indeed one of the things I love about ministry, but it is not THE piece of ministry that I keyed in on when I discerned my call.

I love the teaching aspect of ministry. I love to teach the Bible, in my preaching and in classes. I love to teach how to change the church and make it more effective. I love to teach about how to do the things we do better, and why we do the things we do so that more passion can be inserted into the ministries we do. I love youth and children's ministries because of the teaching. I love camp because it provides a constant avenue for teaching, as this is a group of people who have come together with an expressed understanding that they will be changed, transformed and educated in their time together.

Teaching is what holds the ministry together for me. Other aspects of ministry are about being taught and educating others, from the committee meetings, to the preaching, to the liturgy, to hospital and in-home visitation. This is all about teaching and learning for me.

May your ministry be grown through your gifts, recognizing that they shape you, and allow you to shape others.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Parking Lot musings

I was a box boy for a grocery store in Bishop when I just reached the age of 14, and could go get a workers permit. For the summer I bagged and sold ice for the concessionaires at the Rodeo and at Mule Days. I spent much of the summer caged in the "beer box" with all the various items that need to be chilled, stocking and restocking the shelves.

Manor Market had a few shopping carts, and I had the distinction of being the lowest on the totem pole and the step-and-fetch-it for a variety of items. This included the shopping carts as they made their travels around the parking lot, and into the street, and across the street.

We are not talking long distances here folks. For the 12 or so carts we had, I probably had to fetch about 8 through the course of the day, which included myriad runs through the store and out to cars and most of the carts made it back.

We did not have any nice storage areas in the parking lot as so many of the grocery stores today have, due to the shortage of parking spaces on the lot and across the street. This meant that if a cart was in a parking space, it definitely needed to be rounded up and brought back to the store.

Which may explain my bothered behavior when I encounter so many shopping carts strewn through the lots of so many of our local grocery stores with boatloads of parking. I hate the shopping carts left in the center of a parking space so that no one can use the space, without getting out of the car to move the adrift cart.

I noticed a few that had been stacked into the medians of the parking lot, and several that had just been left around this morning in my grocery run, and thought back to my time moving carts back at home.

I value those parking spaces, and I plead with you, return your cart, and please if you can handle it go ahead and pick up a stray on your way back to the cart storage area.


Sunday, January 13, 2008


I have mentioned before how I have been trying to simplify my life, and minimize the stuff in the house.

I have managed to get many boxes sorted, files effectively organized, the kitchen re-established, and clearing space to bring new boxes in from the garage so that I can sort and organize those. In the process we have decided to get rid of some of the furniture we have, as well as make some specific changes to the types of furniture we have - particularly the desks we have.

This is all good, and then there is the slightly amusing way that I have begun to minimize and simplify. We have teas for weeks on end. I have shared that we have enough tea, cocoa, cider and coffee to have one cup every waking hour, each for about three months.

In an effort to minimize and help me to unwind and simplify I have been working on the coffee in the mornings - no surprise there; but then in the evenings I have been working my way through the teas, taking a cup with some honey to relax - AND MINIMIZE our stores of foodstuffs.

What a fun way to have a Sabbath moment each day.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Just Because

With Christmas now gone, and Epiphany likewise, I was doing some reminiscing.

During the live nativity at Santa Barbara FUMC it seemed lots of folks came to see the camels. The gentleman standing with me is the former senior pastor there, LLoyd Saatjian, who had quite a collection of camels himself.

But, once again, this epiphany I was reminded of the sermon I promised him I would preach and have yet to actually do. Maybe it will have to wait until I can get him to come and join me for such an event.

The as yet unpreached sermon is "It's NOT About the Camel"


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January Cadence

One of the books I read this year was call The Dip, by Seth Godin. I picked it up at the recommendation of Sam Davidson, the author and creator of Cool People Care. He proposes a simple way for people to do something to better the earth and the world around them each day Monday through Friday. In Sam’s blog one day the book came across the blogline to share with people how to even out their lives. The Dip shares tips about when to press on to the end, and when to quit because the end has already come.

Seth Godin describes the dip as that little dip in the road, sometimes a big dip, that causes you or me to get discouraged and to think about quitting, when the results are just on the other side of this dip. Too many of us quit before we hit the jackpot with the full payout from settling in for the long haul, and pushing through the dip.

Part of the reason so many of us quit before we get the full benefit of the goal we set out to reach is that we have so much experience with what Seth calls “The Cul-de-Sac”. The Cul-de-Sac starts out looking like the dip, when the downslope begins. But the truth of the cul-de-sac is that it only leads to circles in the same place, ending up in a full-on dead end. There is no way to push through the cul-de-sac. You cannot make a breakthrough to the rewards of the goal you set out to discover.

Seth reminds us that the trick is to have discernment about whether the dip we have started into is a “Dip” or a “Cul-de-Sac”. Through discernment Seth shows us that we can quit spinning our wheels in areas that are of no real purpose except to keep us spinning our wheels, and get on with the projects that are going to need our full energy to push on to the rewards that have been promised.

Jesus Christ offers us much the same kind of promises. We have to let go of our attachments, you know the ones that keep us spinning our wheels in the same spaces, like whether we are going to keep the pots or pans in this cupboard or that cupboard, or staying in the rat race to chase after the almighty dollar, that only leads to chasing more dollars. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39).

Are you willing to lose your life for the sake of Jesus Christ, letting go of the attachments, push through the challenges of real ministry that extends a helping hand to the person you least want to help and to the person you might otherwise ignore. Are you willing to do the work that you think someone else ought to be doing, simply because you know that Jesus Christ loves that individual and the need for ministry is before your heart and mind in that moment?

That is the “Dip” of ministry that provides great rewards on the other side. Doing church for the sake of doing church is only going to serve as a Cul-de-sac. Let us quit the things that are running us in circles, and focus instead on the goal ahead that we will have energy to push through the hardships that are bound to come as a result.


Pastor David

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I hit a landmark today.
I did my first MySpace Wedding.
I was introduced to the couple a couple months back, when the great-grandmother of the bride let her know that Del Rosa UMC was a good place for a wedding of the size (75) they were planning on.
The groom is a metal worker doing a odds-and-ends metal work for construction. I couldn't help but shed a tear when the Bride began her walk down the aisle and the groom looked at her with such love. I remember that same day in my life and the joy it brought me. Pretty cool stuff.
When I first met the couple I asked how they met. She said that she was looking for some new friends and was looking around on MySpace. He was killing time and the two began to chat, and talk online, and then they met a couple months down the line. After meeting they quickly started dating, and moved toward marriage even faster.
Thanks to the Wymers and the Wrights for letting me be a part of a such a special occasion today.
All the best to the new Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Wright.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


As I have already mentioned, we have been trying to sort and organize two houses worth of stuff into one house, with the useful and the sentimental being retained, while extra items are finding their way to the give-away pile. This stuff may go out to other pastors, members and friends in need of items we are giving away, likely charities, and possibly even a yard sale.
But the cleaning and sorting at the house has spurred an additional round of cleaning and sorting at the church. I have been working my way through the shelves and shelves of books I have in an attempt to determine which are the most important and which are just dross to be sloughed off. Now, my dross may just be good books for another person (ain't that the old story anyhow?), for the church library, or for the trash bin. Many are good books, but I have duplicates, I have some that I find more useful than the ones that I have on the shelves alongside. Some are great books that I have no interest in reading.
Well, today I had a hard lesson in attachment and whether or not my attachment to books is unhealthy or not. While I often like to think that if I know where I give the stuff away at least I can go back and recover it, even if I go so far as to give it to the Salvation Army, the local Goodwill, or even the Legal Aid Society, or any other great charity in our area that has its own social services outlet. I can always go hunt it down at the local shop and see what I can get back that I "errantly" threw out. But today I had to go ahead and chuck a large section of my library at the church. As I started sorting I came across a lovely little nest of termites, that found my books a better meal than the wood shelves they were sitting on, let alone the lathe and plaster walls they had previous bored into for food and shelter. I think the walls are still in their primary plans for the future (until the exterminator arrives tomorrow). But, for now I have thrown those books out rather than go through them with some sort of chemical treatment, or checking more carefully to see what ones were affected by the termites. Fortunately, I think the books were only those on the lower shelf that were affected, which took out the larger portion of my marriage and sexuality books, my world religions library, and more than a few authors of religious thought. I have to let go. I obviously wasn't referencing those books all that often or it wouldn't have gotten so bad, and I think I have more than enough of each for the days ahead.
All in all, after I sorted the other books in my church library and those affected by the termites I think I was able to cull out about 1/3 of all the church books I own. That is fantastic!
Now to find the right home, even if it means more are headed to the trash can.