Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 MSG

Monday, November 19, 2018

Faith Responsiveness in a Turbulent World

The vision and voice of Martin Luther King Jr. is as needed today as ever.  He led with passion and purpose in taking on systemic racism and blatant injustice.  He was battered and beaten down but he never quit.  He had his eyes set on a vision worth giving his life to. 

In the midst of our world’s turbulent dysfunction, his principles of nonviolence and steps for nonviolent social change can lead the way.  The key is getting folks to gather at table and map a future together.  
A lie of this world is that we can be totally independent from one another and to hell with the rest.  That does not work and it has never worked.  We need each other.  We need to walk together.  We need to work together in creating a better world.  Demeaning, dismissing, and ostracizing the other – no matter the other – leads to separation and loss.  Working together, building each other up, listening deeply and then diving in to work hand in hand will lead to life.  
On this week of Thanksgiving, for which there is so much to be grateful and yet so much to work for, I offer these words from the King Center website. 
SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:
1.      PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. 
It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. 
It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  
2.     PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. 
The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. 
The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.                                                                      
PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. 
Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. 
The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
4.     PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. 

Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.    
5.     PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. 
Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.           
Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.  
6.     PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. 
The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. 
Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.    
SIX STEPS OF NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE
The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change are based on Dr. King's nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action. Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolence, as reviewed in the Six Principles of Nonviolence, guide these steps for social and interpersonal change.
1.      INFORMATION GATHERING:  To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent's position. 

2.      EDUCATION:  It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy. 

3.      PERSONAL COMMITMENT:  Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.

4.      DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION:  Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent. 

5.      DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a "creative tension" into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice. 

6.      RECONCILIATION:  Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the 'Beloved Community.' 

Based on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in Why We Can't Wait, Penguin Books, 1963.
We often view the Six Steps as a phases or cycles of a campaign rather than steps because each of them embodies a cluster or series of activities related to each of the other five elements.
May we the church, through nonviolence, create a Beloved Community for the sake of all!  In Gratitude for all those who pour out their lives in service to humanity and all of creation.
Pastor Chad

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Hive of Endless Thanksgiving


We the church are a Hive of endless thanksgiving - each and everyone here gathered into community where all are blessed and all are fed.  
Take a moment and just consider the activity that buzzes around this place of Grace.  There is an unfolding work that takes place every day that in turn builds up the life of the body.  Each person – each ministry – each mission – creatively working together.  Moment by moment – person by person – the Hive generates life.  
It is God at work within us that makes this possible.  God picking us up – God giving us faith – God growing perseverance – God making something of us for the sake of the world.  

One of the songs by U2 and Bono that I love is a song entitled “40.”  It is written as a Song of Thanksgiving - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XzHlySYR_Y.  As you listen what hope and life is grown within you?  What are you and we most thankful for?  Great questions to consider as we gather around tables this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is an extra special time in our home.  For the last twelve years it seems there has always been an international ministry focus that has blessed us during that week.  Several of those years filled with travel to India to accompany ministry partners in the outreach and compassion work of Titus and his family.  In India, Feed the Hungry programs, Aids Relief Nutrition Food Packet Distribution, Sewing Center Graduation Blessings and Dedication, After School Tutoring Programs, Worship and Dance, time spent exploring the World Religions and their Holy Sites, learning about Gandhi and the way of peace, and shared inspiration while visiting the Taj Mahal.  All of it blessed because of the shared time as God’s family and friends.  Another year spent in Ethiopia and South Sudan dedicating the work of the ELCA and Reconciliation Lutheran Church and Medical Center.  In 2015, traveling home on Thanksgiving Day with our daughter Jewel.  We landed at Washington Dulles at 8 am, her papers stamped by US Customs as a future US Citizen, and landing in Denver to a joyous homecoming and first ever turkey dinner.  Oh the memories of this time of the year are rich with so much life transformation and blessing.  This Thanksgiving Day, after a banquet with our family here, Susan and I will be flying to India that evening to preside over the wedding of our Indian daughter Maraline.  We have watched her grow up and we now get to participate in a joyous occasion of her life.  What a precious and thank-filled time!  

The Hive called the Church has been the collaborative swarm that has made all of this life possible.


(this pic taken at the Glass Museum in Tacoma – it gave me the idea of the Hive and the Church)
I hold this very idea of the beautiful work of the church in the world in tension with an article I read this past week.  The article was published by the New York Times and the title is: ‘Toxic’ Is Oxford’s Word of the Year.  No, We’re Not Gaslighting You.  Here is the link:  https://apple.news/ACe1Es1KNSKW0FDKq2_ktfA.

Toxic?  The word of the year?  While I understand the dynamics out of which this word was chosen I simply refuse to accept this as the core narrative out of which we live.  Yes it is part of our human experience.  Yes it seems that a toxicity has infiltrated so many aspects of our lives, but there is so much more!  I admit that I do not know how to live by the conditions and terms of a toxic world.  We are made for so much more than that.  I also get to participate in the work of the local church where I see and know the stories of thanksgiving and generosity that are leading the ways of our life.  The swarm of the disciples of Jesus are seeking to make an impact and to take on the ills and broken places of this world.  The energy and spirit is there to do it.  The compassion and faith to do it is alive and well in God’s people.  When we see the heartbeat of God alive within the Hives of the church we celebrate it.  We shout it from the rooftops.  We draw others into the blessed work of being the church.  We catalyze one another and the entire body for blessing.  
One example at Grace is that the hungry are being fed and provided for, the systems of injustice that keep people poor and hungry are being addressed, the resources needed are being given, the network of partnerships are being continually knit together, stories of transformation are being told, and others are being drawn into this good work.  Little by little, day by day, person by person, the hive is nurtured and lives are being changed.
Toxic will get us nowhere.  A Hive of endless Thanksgiving will generate life.  What will you and I dedicate our lives to this Thanksgiving Season?  Whatever you are rejoicing over, I rejoice with you.  Whatever you are weeping over, I weep with you.  May we be open to the story of life that God is writing with us – right here – right now – for the life of ALL!
With Gratitude,
Pastor Chad      




Monday, November 5, 2018

A Charmed Life? and the Aha’s of God’s Grace!


On Sunday, two of our daughters were blessed to attend the Birthday Party of some dear friends here at Grace.  While they were in the midst of their fun, I drove the side roads of the surrounding area, took in the sights and sounds of the beautiful hillsides, and stopped by Elliot Bay Brewing to read a book.  The next two hours rushed by as I viewed one TV with three different games playing on the screen, two TV’s with the Seahawks game, and two additional TV’s with the Sounders soccer game.  All while, music from the 70’s and 80’s played over the loud speakers.  I was able to get through about 100 pages and jot down some journal thoughts on life as well but by the end of two hours I was tapped out with the noise and activity around me.  On the drive home thoughts of the last week flooded my brain as our daughter’s shared their love and laughter with me. 
I love when the spirit moves and the right words seem to just flow out from the mouths of babes.  There is innocence – wonder – and surprise!  Our daughter Norah, while sitting at the dinner table, with her inquisitive mind whirring, stated boldly, “we all need each other!”  Yes, yes we do!

She went on to articulate how the grocery store depends on the ice cream maker to make the ice cream and that the ice cream maker relies upon the farmer and the cows and that they all depend upon the truck drivers and that we all need jobs in order to have the money to buy the ice cream that makes it possible for everyone to experience life.  Whew!  We went on to add several more links in the chain, which brought even more laughter to the table.

We need to remember, “We need each other.”  Life is not meant to be lived alone or in isolation.  Life is not a pull yourself up by the bootstraps and hope for the best exercise.  Life is not about a declaration of independence but rather a humble and vulnerable experience of grace.  We are interdependent.  We need each other.  We need God.  We need grace.
I saw this quote this week and it grabbed me by the gut.  "There is no culture that can fully keep out the descent of God. And when God comes, stuff happens." -Dr. Esther Meek, in conversation with Chelle Stearns and Dan Allender at the Stanley Grenz Lecture Series.

In the midst of our human madness, God comes here and stuff happens.  It is the experience of grace that keeps us going.  It is the shared experience of grace that draws us together.  It is the never throw in the towel spirit of God that changes us.  How often we forget that.  How often we rebel and desire to go it alone.  How often O Lord have we missed the grace amongst us.

In our family’s recent journeys of endings and beginnings, several who have gotten to know us have stated how it seems that we live quite the charmed life.  Each time that the words were stated I busted out in a fit of laughter.  Yes, we are surrounded with much joy and grace AND we are no picnic of perfection.  In the midst of the madness called US, we try as much as we can to choose joy.  Not always easy and we often miss the mark.

Try riding in a mini-van of madness with our five and you will soon discover that it is close to an experience like the movie A Night at the Museum.  All hell breaks loose early and often.  When we arrive at our destination, it takes a good five minutes for mom and dad to compose ourselves. 

The pace of life for a family of seven is intense.  We spin the plates called homework, housecleaning, laundry, dishes, arts and crafts, a home based business, a pastor, lawn and garden, fish and a favored dog, bedroom messes galore, after school activities, and the making of family memories – and sometimes the plates come crashing down.  We stopped buying glass dishes and are into cheap but durable.  The crashing of the plates seems a bit more bearable that way.  In the midst of the hive of busyness, there is grace.

Our oldest really struggles in school.  Academically yes.  Relationally even more so.  The daily rodeo of bull riding for her is going to be a challenge.  Our prayers a bit longer and yes a bit more intense.  Recommendations are helpful and the list of decisions to make is long.  Which pathway do we take O Lord?  Sometimes those school fights come home to our doorstep and they spill into the evening of relating to one another.  Where did I put my zebra striped shirt and whistle?  Wait, I can’t whistle because our dog barks and freaks out to that blowing sound.  The last thing we need is more barking.  Sometimes one of our littles will climb up on one of our laps and offer up suggestions on how we failed as parents and how we can do better tomorrow.  Ahhh, to be understood and corrected at the same time.  Keep spinning, and transforming, and moving forward. 

Leaving friends and family behind in our moves, it bites.  Having two mortgages the past seven months is dizzying.  I tip my hat to those who can manage two homes with grace.  For us it is stressful.  Feeling angry comes easy.  The first week of every month I find myself a bit grumpy and a little less willing to laugh.  As the month progresses I sing “Let It Go” on repeat and de-ice a bit with each passing day.  Just as I begin to emotionally regulate that all is well the first of another month rolls around.  My joke of owning a vacation farm home in a county without a natural lake doesn’t tickle my fancy as much.  This financial stuff has long-term consequences on our kid’s future education choices and on our ability to be a blessing to others in the here and now.  The good news is we can cover the bases and that certainly means we are spoiled.  We live in an area of increasing homelessness.  Folks sleep on our church floor each night because they have no place else to lay their heads.  That reality smacks us in the face every day.  The old adage of focus on what you can control and let go of that which you cannot crosses my brain daily just like the old Good Year blimp crossing the field with an advertising banner during the holidays.  Okay, I will remember – I will remember – I will remember – and I keep telling myself that. 

Family and friends dealing with physical and medical challenges, Parkinson’s disease, a heart attack, home health care, pregnancy struggles, cancers, retirements, college funding, relationship hurts and hopes, and the list is endless.  The world continues to spin.  New Life. Life Struggles.  Transformed Life.  End of life.  Parts of our life are charmed.  All parts of our life are graced.  Can we see and hold on to that?

We all need each other!  We all need God.  In the silent, momentary, laughter-filled, stress-induced, pauses of each day I want to remember that.  Will you remember that with me?  Will we each remind others all along life’s way that God’s grace is here – in the place we find ourselves – wherever that place may be? 

Little by little the bird builds the nest.  One little offering at a time. 

Onward,

pc

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living Saints


A few years back I was traveling in Tennessee and ended up one night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.  With a bit of luck I ended up with a ticket to the evening show.  It is the longest running live radio show in America.  As part of the entrance fee, we got a backstage tour and got to stand on the stage and hold the mic that most sing from.  It was pretty cool to stand where so many have stood and performed their greatest life’s work.
Later that evening, Randy Owen came on stage.  He was the lead for the band Alabama.  I remember listening to his music as a young man and would often run the section with his tape playing in my headphones.  That evening the Grand Ole Opry was raising funds for St. Judes Children’s Hospital.  Randy, through his band and his life’s work, had spearheaded an effort that has raised over 400 million for this work.  So he talked about that blessing and then he brought his children and their children on to the stage.  And then, two children who were patients from St. Judes came forward and stood with him as they all sang together, Angels Among Us.  This was one of my childhood favorite songs of Alabama. 
It was powerful.  Tears streamed down my face as my mind ran like a motion picture of those heavenly saints and angels who have gone on before us.  The earthly saints and angels danced in my mind as I thought of how they continue to teach us to live, pray, give, and guide with the light of love.       
Take a moment today to watch this video and reflect on the Saints both in heaven and on earth.    Our call to action??????  Be living saints with the life that we have been given!
Peace and Hope
Pastor Chad


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

REFLECTIVE NATURE


After the flurry of birthdays and anniversary that run intensely from August to the end of October for our family each year, my soul always deeply reflects on the gift that life brings to all.  When I say life I mean both the life that is lived here and now and the life that is to come.  Whatever that looks like.  Tomorrow.  Next Week.  Next Month.  Next Year. 

Moments matter.  Every single moment matters.  The call is to not miss it!  Oh how so often do I – do we – miss it!

This morning I was blessed to share in conversation with a young adult that is so wise, discerning, and ever thoughtful.  As we shared our stories of life I was so thankful for the gift of just that – a shared story.  The world – education – travel – relationships – struggles – hopes – all of part of our shared story on this planet.  Tears of my own struggles spilled out for a few moments as I reflected on the inner parts of my own soul in this hot bed of a mess world. 

And then I read of the story of Teddy, a young boy who invited 30 kids to join in a birthday party and how not one – not even one – showed up to celebrate with him.  Wow just wow!  In a world that suffers from a culture of loneliness, isolation, and despair, even our youngest children are suffering the effects of such a life.  Come on world we got one job – just one job – love love love – and we do that most by showing up for one another!  This is getting me so wound up I want to become a birthday party crasher!  Let me know and I will come eat cake with you!  To reflect on the story the link is copied here:  https://nypost.com/2018/10/23/kindergartener-parties-alone-after-no-one-shows-up-to-birthday-bash/?fbclid=IwAR3bKwwqgQwBtCSpnE_XDLGBT-8aO08OG9UZFRMsgE_sXzyUFZ49iwYSmjM

And then I saw the note about a dear friend from my doctorate program who passed away today.  Too young.  Too full of life.  Diagnosed with cancer just a few short months ago and today were his final breaths here in this place.  When I think of Terry I think of life life life.  He gave it to all and he gave it his all!  We are better because of him.  Our world will greatly miss him. 

As I approach my 45th birthday this Sunday, I was blessed to see this article last week.   It is time for me to build a reflective tool that honors the gift and blessing of this life.  Each stone a reminder – of what is – of what can be – and of what is to come.  But ever reminded, that I may never get to hold each of the stones.  The odds are high that many of those stones will never be held in my hand.  Such is the journey of this life.  We know not when or where or how?  We only know the end comes for all of us.  The death rate is and has always been, one per person. 

Here is the article from ESPN:

EAGAN, Minn. -- In front of Kirk Cousins' home, in between a few shrubs, stands a curious tower. No more than four feet tall, it's filled to the top with stones. Inspired d├ęcor? Sort of.

"It's there to remind me how brief life is, and how important the time we have here is," the Minnesota Vikings quarterback says.

But ... a tower of stones?
Cousins laughs. "Oh, it's a little morbid," he admits, "but it's a tool my Bible teacher taught me in high school, and I'm carrying it with me."
The stones were inspired by a Bible verse, from the Book of Psalms, first shared with Cousins while attending Holland Christian High School in Holland, Michigan.
Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
"It's about the importance of leaving a mark and making a deposit in people's lives in a way that matters," Cousins says. "In other words, when you have an understanding that life is coming to an end someday, and that we only have so many days? There's wisdom in that."
For Cousins, it was important to transform the verse into a visual reminder: 720 stones.
"Let's say I live to 90, that would be a pretty good run," he says. "We went month to month, and we added it all up, and it was 720 stones because I turned 30 this year.
"Every month I'm going to take out a stone, put it in my pocket, and think: 'Once this month is over, this is gone. You can't get it back, it's gone for good.'"
The stone for each month represents the amount of time he likely has left, but it also serves as a reminder to Cousins on how he is spending that time, both on and off the field.
"Like everybody else, I am naturally selfish, and so I'm going to think about myself," he says. "And I think at the end of my life, it's not going to be about what I did for myself, but what I did for others. Maybe it's staying after practice to do hand signals with the guys to help them get caught up to speed. To make it about others -- I think that's what leadership is all about, quarterbacking is all about."
As Cousins removes a stone each month, the feel of it in his palm is a reminder of the time passing. But it's the questions that come with each stone that perhaps carry more weight.
"What impact are you making, not only today, but for eternity? What impact are you making to leave a legacy?" he says.
He pauses.
"It's just a healthy reminder, make life about other people, invest in other people, knowing that in the end, that's a life well-lived," he says.
A life well-lived – a well-lived day – moments – our life moments deeply matter.
Yesterday was my daughter Jewel’s 5th Birthday party – she was not alone – and party we did with unicorns and all!  She teaches me daily that moments matter.
Today E, Teddy, Terry, and Kirk have all taught me lessons about life.  
If blessed with another moment, there will be more learning to experience – more love to share – and more life to be lived.  
In this moment – as you pick up and put down those memory stones - know that you are loved – neighbor – friend – world.  
Onward
Pastor Chad 


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

TRUST

TRUST
Some of my favorite stories from Scripture come from the disciples when they are out on the seas with Jesus.  Rare are the moments where there is peace and quiet.  There is chaos.  There is stress.  There is uncomfortability.  Jesus may be restful.  Jesus may be walking on the water.  Jesus may be instructing the wind and the waves and the fishermen but rarely do we see the disciples enjoying those moments.  
In one particular sea story the disciples are freaking out and they cry out, “Jesus, do you not care?”  Whoa!  A big question.  A gutsy in your face moment of questioning whether their Lord and Savior cares about their lives.  Dare I say that we have all asked that kind of question?  In the midst of our chaotic lives and world we too wonder where Jesus is in the midst of it all.  All too often it seems God is silent or that God has simply gone away and left us to figure it out on our own.  And yes that is one of those lies that we tell ourselves.  
In the midst of our storms Jesus speaks a word of loving support, “Peace Be Still!”  I think he speaks these words not just to the winds and the waves but to each of our souls.  We need peace.  We need centeredness.  We need comfort in the midst of unruly chaos.  Jesus is saying, “Don’t let fear paralyze and rule your life.”  “Trust that I am in the midst of your storm!”
You see peace isn’t simply meant to be something that we experience as a feeling.  Peace is not a passive emotive response to an impending disaster.  Peace for Jesus is a relationship.  Jesus is saying, “trust me.”  Whatever you are going through, “trust me.”  Whatever storm is reigning down, “trust me.”  Whatever fear you are facing, “trust me.”  Jesus is not saying just have a little faith or grow up and get over your fears.  He does say over and over and over, “trust me!”  
Where is our faith?  I think we ultimately know it is not in things.  It is not in the stuff we fill our lives with.  It is not foundin the principalities and powers of this world.  Our faith, our trust, is in a Lord and Savior named Jesus.  Jesus, “I trust you.”  Jesus, “I trust you.”  Jesus, “I trust you.”
This is deeply profound to consider.  We are told repeatedly by this world that we are good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, and that we can take on any storm of life if we just have enough belief in ourselves.  Not true.  We are not made to do life alone.  We are not outfitted to stand in isolation within the storms of life.  We are made to do life together.  We are made to see Jesus active in each other’s lives and while doing so able to put our trust into one another.  The Jesus community, the church, is a living embodiment of that trusting relationship in Jesus and in each other.  Yes Jesus holds the past present and future.  YesJesus is the Alpha and the Omega, our beginning and end.  YesJesus is right here and right now within us and drawing out into the winds and waves as we take of the storms of life together.  Trust in Jesus.  Trust in each other.  What a gift!
A great story of how a person’s life was transformed due to that trusting relationship was between Lt. Dan and Forrest Gump.  Lt. Dan was literally saved by Forrest.  A bomb destroyed his legs and Forrest carried him out of battle.  While life got increasingly difficult for LT. Dan for many years after that, Forrest and he matched up to start up Bubba Gump’s shrimp.  There is a scene from that movie where Lt. Dan and Forrest were out on the seas.  Lt Dan asked Forrest where this God of his was.  Immediately the winds and the waves picked up and tossed their boat about.  Lt. Dan, instead of hunkering down in fear, was up in the crows nest yelling out to God, “is that all you got – nothing will destroy this boat.”  They survived the night.  The rest of the shipping vessels were destroyed.  Many during the storm sat idly in the marina and were crushed between the waves and the land.  Others sank to the bottom of the ocean.  Forrest and Lt. Dan in faith rode the high seas and survived.  That night of the storm, Lt. Dan had some of his faith restored.  Afterwards he experienced a peace that he had not felt in a very long time.  Forrest and Lt. Dan went full tilt into catching as much shrimp as they could.
Sometimes we have a spirit that is filled with fear and timidity.  Other times our spirits may cry out in reckless abandon.  Both are normal responses to the storms of life.  Our challenge during all times is to lean into our relationships with Jesus and one another.  
I have been changed by this Jesus.  Along the journey I have not always received the answers or outcomes that I wanted.  That is so often the case!  I remember well back in 1997 when my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Almost immediately we were thrown into a storm that we did not see coming.  One day she was out living her life to the full and the next she was on an operating table with a stage four cancerous brain tumor.  The next day she was told she had six months to live.  She fought the good fight.  We prayed mightily for healing and hope.  She went to speech therapy to regain her voice.  She took the chemo and radiation.  She was riding the waves of the storm.  Seven months later, we knew full well, that our boat was being swamped.  We cried out, “Jesus don’t you care?”  Through community, through Jesus relationships, through the church, we began to hear our prayers anew.  You see we prayed, “God save our mom, God heal my mom, God give our mom her life back.”  God was doing that – not how we had hoped – but our prayers were being answered.  Mom’s life was resting in the peace that surpasses all human understanding.  God was going to do God’s greatest work in raising her up.  Exactly ten months after her surgery – and just 15 days after our wedding – my mom passed on to the heavens.  A dear high school friend of mine – who lives in Montana came to the memorial service.  I was able to say hi to him before the service but missed out on saying goodbye.  As we closed up the church and began to head home, I opened the door to my old Pathfinder and there on the driver’s seat was a quilt that had he left for me.  On a crumpeled up envelope he had written the words, “the storm is over, it’s time to look for the rainbows.”  
Church……that right there was a gift of peace.  Yes Jesus, you are in the midst of all of this.  You promise to never leave or forsake us.  You have given us each other – the church – to do the good and necessary work that needs to be done – building trusting relationships where we truly can put our trust into one another all while putting our ultimate trust in Jesus.  What a beautiful vision of peace and hope!  
Now if you have forgotten all that you have read above, remember this.  I think Bob Marley stole these words from Jesus when he wrote the song:  “Don’t worry, about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be alright!”  Yes, yes it is!  That is a Jesus promise!  We are counting on Jesus and Jesus is counting on us!  
Peace
Pc          

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

BEING

Our Being is often defined by our Doing.  We get so busy Doing we tend to lose our sense of Being.  When we lose our sense of being, we listen to the voice that says, “try harder,” “work more,” “do, do, do.”  We end up exhausted and burned out because our doing lost its sense of purpose.  Our Being is to define our Doing and not the other way around.    
What happens when we deeply listen to our soul or how does God speak to you through the following:
Be still and know that I am God…….
Be still and know that I am……
Be still and know…….
Be still…….
Be……
Frederick Buechner once said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  
May we align those hurts and hopes in our lives so that our Being is fully enlivened as we go out to serve!
Onward
pc

Monday, June 11, 2018

Jesus Gets Passionate

In 2015, I was blessed to hear Dr. Mark Allan Powell present on the driving concerns that determined Jesus life (and death).  Dr. Powell was one of my seminary professors and one who leaks the Jesus spirit wherever he goes!
Dr. Powell addressed a handful of concerns that appear to have motivated just about everything Jesus said and did.  These driving concerns shaped the faith of Jesus into a powerful dynamic that would survive his horrific death and ultimately make him the most influential person that ever lived.   
Here are the points Dr. Powell addressed:
Jesus was passionate about God!  
Mark 1:15 offers a one verse summary of the central message that Jesus called “the gospel” or good news.  “God is ready and willing to rule your life – believe this – and act accordingly!”  Jesus was more about surrender than seeking.  
Jesus was passionate about love!
All that God wants or expects of us can be found in two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind!” and “Love your neighbor as yourself!”  (Matthew 22:34-40; Deut 6:5; Lev. 19:18).  When you hug a child you hug Jesus.  When you beat a child you beat Jesus.  We are called to love love love love love.   
Jesus was passionate about community!
Jesus wanted everyone to be a part of a loving community – a community where people prayed for each other, forgave each other, and worshipped God together. (Matthew 16:18; 18:12-22).  Did you know that in Jesus time when he was preaching and teaching, one out of four people were slaves?  Jesus was constantly working to restore all into loving community! 
Jesus was passionate about service!
Jesus maintained that the one who was the greatest was the one who served others – and he insisted that power be used not to control over people, but to serve them.  (Mark 10:42-44).  Jesus was turning upside down the paradigm of coercive power into a power to serve!   
Jesus was passionate about justice!
Jesus took his “mission statement” words from the prophet Isaiah, claiming that he had been anointed by God to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and to set free all who were oppressed (Luke 4:16-21; Isa. 61:1-2).  Justice breaks out when God is on the loose in our lives.  This justice is not justice as the world gives but justice as only Jesus through us can give!  His body broken and poured out as we serve as the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus.  
Jesus is passionate about God, love, community, service, and justice!  Church……live with Jesus passion!
pc

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fair Winds and Following Seas


In Leonard Sweet’s book entitled “I am a Follower,” he works to inspire us to live out of our given identity.  That identity is as a Follower of Jesus who leaves a wake!

To follow a person means you are a following someone who is alive in you!  Everyone follows someone or something.  The only question is, who or what will we follow?  Everyone’s life vibrates to some tune.  The only question is, who is the singer?  The old sailor’s blessing went like this: “Fair winds and Following Seas.”  When you are sailing in the winds of the Spirit, there will indeed be “following seas.”  Jesus makes waves.  Don’t make a splash with Jesus.  Make waves. 

As the church we make waves in the Jesus spirit of life when we work to transform this world.  When we engage the hurts and hopes of people we are making waves.  When we seek to overturn systems of injustice we are making waves.  When we worship and serve out of passion and purpose we are making waves.  When we go to live faith in every sphere of our lives we make waves.  Those waves enable others to experience life.  Those waves make possible what was once thought impossible.  Those waves equip others to make waves wherever they find themselves. 

An old camp song verse had this line…. “waves of mercy, waves of grace, everywhere we look, we see your face.”  Indeed, we are called to see and experience Jesus in all we do.  Where is he most active?  Where does he need our hands and feet?  When we come alongside humanity and all of creation, we are to bring that witness of light and life to all.  We are called to see Jesus in each other.  It’s his waves of mercy and grace that make this possible!

Today is a day to ride the waves.  Today is a day to make waves.  Today is the day for the church to chart its course upon following seas.

As Soren Kierkegaard said, “A believer, after all, is someone in love.”  Love Jesus.  Love All.  As we make waves just watch what that love will do!

Peace and Hope,

pc  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

How He Loves Us


The theme of David Crowder’s song brings tears to the eyes every time.  As the words sing out the heart wells up with joy.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzfPHnoT0-0

When I think on these Three Days of Holy Week that culminate in resurrection, it is God’s Yes that breaks through for all of creation.  

Oh how he loves us!  Oh how he loves us!  

Love most often looks like laying down our lives.  Love most often looks like letting go.  Love most often involves suffering and pain and tears.  

Jesus gathers at the table……and he feeds all of them.  He withholds not one ounce of himself from the gathered community.  Jesus kneels to serve as only Jesus can.  He washes…..makes clean….blesses….encourages….models…..witnesses to the way we are to live our lives.  

Jesus prays….and we sleep….Jesus prays through blood, sweat, and tears….and we lazily engage in faith….Jesus wrestles deeply with the call on his life….and we take for granted this one life that we have been granted to live.  

Jesus is arrested….and we watch and wonder.  Will the same happen to us?  Would we bear the cost that Jesus bears?  We betray in small and significant ways.  The world barely notices….and so we continue in our betrayal.  

Jesus is mocked and ridiculed in the kangaroo court.  Jesus is beaten nearly to death.  Why?  Because we would rather have God in a box versus God unleashed.  God far removed versus God incarnate.  God that mimics our self-made world view versus a God that radically reshapes and transforms lives.  

Love….no.  A life of service….no.  Grace upon grace….no. Bearing the cost….no.   Suffering and pain....no.  Death and resurrection….no.  One humanity….no.  One world….no.  

Military might…yes.   Country allegiance….yes.  God on our terms…yes.  Religious persecution….yes.  Racism, sexism, every human made ism…..yes.  Judgment and condemnation…..yes.  

The Cross is raised because the world constantly demands pounds of flesh in our brokenness.  Nails piercing his body…holding him there for all the world to see.  The stone is rolled shut.  Away with him.  Finally we are done with his vision and voice…..we can listen to the idle chatter of our own.

And yet…..God’s Yes is bigger than our No!  God speaks…..the earth quakes….an unshakeable God shakes the earth to the core and rattles the cages that seek to hold us back and down.  Even death….stinking death….will not have the last word.  Jesus leaps up off that cold hard granite and breathes deeply in….and out…..inhaling and exhaling in new found life.  Jesus alive….for you and me.   Jesus alive for all of creation.  The angels….the women….the disciples…..forever changed.  A new thing has taken place.  

You cannot go back to the ugliness of that day.  You can only move forward from that place of death knowing with full conviction that God is up to something beyond compare.  Resurrection…..in the here….in the now….lives forever changed.  All of creation….given this gift in order to be made fully alive.  

Love often is like letting go, laying life down, dying to self, dying to the ways of the world, being emptied, SO THAT God can take that empty tomb space and fill it to the brim with new life.  

Are we fully alive?  If not, why not?  Jesus was raised for you!    

Oh how he loves us!   Oh how he loves us!

May we squeeze every ounce of life out of the resurrection of Jesus and may it radically shake us and our world to full and complete life!