Sunday, February 22, 2015

Prophetic Voice

It’s one of those things pastors are called to do. We are called to speak truth into the lives of God’s people. Prophets point out our community sin. They bring us back to core issues of faith. They challenge us.

But mostly they make us uncomfortable. We hear their warnings as threats. We see their ability to speak out as an affront to our personhood. We make excuses, ignoring and chastising their calls. Things don’t go well for the prophet.

I have a lot of fear around being  prophetic. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I second guess myself. I listen to the voices who seek to quiet me. I pull back and hide in safety.

God, I hope you change this about me. I pray that you give me courage to do and say what needs said. I pray that you give me wisdom in when and how I say it. I pray for perseverance in the face of adversity, when what I do and say is not well received. I pray that you would raise up my voice.

I pray this that I may be more like Jesus. Jesus…who ticked off community and church leaders, relatives, and even his disciples. I want to be like him…but I fear the cross his voice led to.

So God, I need you. I need you to quiet my heart and strengthen my soul. Perhaps I need not be fearless. Perhaps I need just to know you are with me.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Lydia and I are doing a photo lent devotion together, and today’s word is “Alone.” I have been reflecting on that word today, and thinking about how I have been taught to practice a spiritual discipline of “alone” time with God. You know what I am talking about right? Where you sit alone for an hour praying, journaling, and reading scripture. 

Bishop Mike made some keen observations about this practice earlier this year. He was talking to a group of us clergy about self-care and he mentioned that spiritual discipline books are usually written by introverts. Introverts get energy by being by themselves, and this practice of “being alone” naturally works with their personality. He shared that for extraverts, this practice can be really hard. Because we naturally get energy from being with others, alone time can have the opposite affect on us. He recommended that for us extraverts, a good self-care practice is having a small group/covenant group that we meet with on a regular basis to feed our souls. He added that even if we are extraverts, we should still practice alone time, precisely because it is so hard. Hard disciplines have a way of growing and strengthening us that easy practices do not. As an extravert, it was really refreshing to hear this perspective.

Lately, I have felt pretty spiritually drained. Hey, pastors have seasons too. I am very aware that I have been leaning heavily on those spiritual disciplines of community. I have been spending more time with other Christians, more time with my family, more time seeking out corporate worship. Through these disciplines, I have felt like the lame man, whose friends brought him to Jesus. Jesus healed him because of the faith of his friends. Right now, the faith of those around me is carrying me to Jesus.

So I want to say thank you to all of you who are those friends. Those in our church, on pastor parish relations committee, our worship team that lets me sit in during practice, those who have asked about my son when he was sick, those who have made us special treats, other pastors and their families, Nick and my family, and...the rest of you. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  Thank you for energizing my soul. Thank you for letting this extravert know, I am not alone.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Let the children come to me"

Zeke goes to daycare/preschool at Wabash 1st UMC, and once a week, the senior pastor comes to their room. They sing a few songs accompanied by Pastor Kurt’s guitar, and Pastor Kurt tells them a Bible story that the kids in his church on Sunday morning are learning. It seems like such a small thing, but it has really impacted Zeke’s little 5-year-old life. I remember when he heard the story about Abraham and Sarah, and he told me, “They moved because God told them to.” In that little comment, this little kid who can’t even read yet found the answer to why we had to move this summer. 

But even more than the stories, I am grateful that Pastor Kurt takes the time to do this ministry himself. I mean, the teachers could sing songs and teach stories just as well, right? They could, but there are some internal things that happen in little Zeke because Pastor Kurt, the Senior Pastor, takes time for him. For one, Zeke refers to Pastor Kurt as HIS pastor. And when we happen to run into Pastor Kurt around town, Zeke always points him out. Do you know the theological term for introducing someone who doesn’t go to church to your pastor is? Evangelism. Not only that, but Pastor Kurt says “hi” to Zeke by name. 

Someone asked me the other day, why I take the time to be part of k.i.C.k, our afterschool program. The lay leadership there could tell a story and lead singing just as well as I do. That is true. But it is probably true about everything I do as pastor. There are probably laity who are better at pastoral care, teaching, preaching, evangelism, you name it. I am part of k.i.C.k. because I am those kids’ pastor. And I want to equip them with every tool I can to be disciples. One of those tools is having a pastor they can call “MY pastor.” Just like Pastor Kurt, their little eyes light up when they see me out and about. They introduce me to the adults in their life. 

I hope we never forget that these kids are living out the church’s mission to “Make disciples for the transformation of the world.” They worship with passion and engage in intention faith development with more regularity than some of us adults. They engage in mission. They invite their peers and those much older than them to be part of the faith community- some kids do this more than once a week. They make new disciples- out of each other and as they share the story of scripture and how we are then to live at home. For those of us who engage in this ministry, we see God moving in a new generation. That is why we press on.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Importance of Youth Ministry

Last night, we had our kick-off informational meeting for a cooperative 4-UMC youth group. As we started the meeting, I asked the tables to discuss this question:

Why is youth ministry important?

They had some great answers. I would like to share some of my answers to that question as well. So here it goes…

5.       Research has connected youth ministries as a driver of congregational health.  Healthy churches have youth programs.
4.       Research has also shown that most Christians experienced transformational Christian formation when they were youth. It makes sense. As teens, we are making decisions that affect the rest of our lives.
3.       I have seen teens change the attitude of congregations. They have a way to bring joy and hope into a congregation. They also often are those who shift an activity from “something we always do” to “something God calls us to do.”
2.       As a Methodist, youth ministry is often the closest match to Wesley’s class system within our churches.  It creates a community of accountability and encouragement.  It provides opportunities for mission engagement. It creates new leadership within very quickly. It has to, because youth are continually aging out of it.

The most important reason for me that trumps all these other good reasons above is this:

1.       I was called by God to be a pastor as a junior high student. Youth gave me an opportunity to provide leadership when the pastor and church didn’t quite know what to do with me. To this day, when ministry gets hard and I think about quitting, I think about the kid I was then and how God used youth group to give me my first taste of leadership in the church. Youth ministry didn’t just help me to respond to God’s call, it continues to empower me to follow that call.

As we form this new group, I am excited to see how God uses this small group to influence all his disciples and to build his kingdom. I am excited to see how our churches become healthier, how young lives are transformed, and to see a new generation of pastors receive their calling.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mom-post: Operation Immovable Meltdown

I decided to start this blog as a personal practice. After I finished seminary, I wanted to continue to challenge myself to write on a regular basis. My goal is to write once a week, though I often come up short. When I started, I took an unofficial survey of what I should write about. Everyone who responded said I should write about being a mom.  So, naturally, I decided to write mostly about the life of the church and reaching their goals in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Well, today, for all those who wanted to hear about motherhood, this blog is for you!

Today , we had a 2-hour delay. You would think that with two extra hours, the morning would be more relaxed. You would think that. But you would be wrong. Two hour delays almost always mean we will be running late.

But not today. No sir. I woke up with a plan. I would get the kids dressed and fed, and THEN let them play for awhile.

I shared this plan with my five-year-old son. Clothes. Breakfast. Fun.  Now my son is not a giant fan of getting dressed. And he has been on this kick of matching his shirt to the theme in preschool. So, together we searched the drawer, the clean clothes stacked on his floor, and the clean clothes in the hamper in my room (Ok, so I am a little behind on getting the clothes put away, but I am just satisfied that they are clean.).  Nothing Australian. Nothing that starts with K. So I start getting creative.

“Look honey, this double decker bus is from the United Kingdom.”
“This shirt says ‘basketball’ which has a K right in the center!”
“If you wear this brown fleece, you will look like a kangaroo.”

He was having none of it. At this point he disappeared… I think to "check" on his sister. 

I knew what had to be done. 
If I was going to survive, I needed coffee. I was dressed, so I could have breakfast, right? 
Well, after some coffee, I headed back up. This kid who had been content for a half hour (hey, it was a big cup) all the sudden meets me on the fourth step from the top, starving. The years of being a human fence, probably the one skill from showing hogs for ten years in my youth that has been the most helpful in parenthood, were now put to the test. But this kid is no amateur when it comes to effective methods to get-your-way-and-avoid-ever-getting-dressed-again. He commenced "Operation Immovable Meltdown."

So now I’m feeling good and guilty. The kid is hungry, after all. I, on the other hand, abandoned him to feed myself. Do I feed him? Or do I stick to my guns? If I don’t stick to my guns, I will have nothing to hold as collateral for getting dressed. So I stay. And threaten punishment if he can’t get to the top of the stairs by a count to 10. He makes it. Whew. He gets dressed, still tear-y, but not resisting as I help in the clothes. Don’t ask me what he wore, I have no idea.  

He also ate two bowls of cereal. And was out of the door 3 minutes early. So, as I drove them to school, I considered making a comment on Facebook about not enjoying 2-hour delays. But then I remembered how my daughter and I just had a conversation about how we are not morning people, and would totally be fine with school always starting at 10 am. So maybe it wasn’t the delay as much as just one of those days that we all have. At least I hope I’m not the only one.