Friday, May 16, 2008


I just spent an hour with the most amazing young woman. My job was to listen to her. JUST LISTEN. I did ask some questions to keep her talking. I listened to her face and body language. I listened to her tone and attitude. I listened to her eagerness and reticence. I feel guilty because I was so blessed by her story. I was there to help her and once again God blessed me. By listening I was able to let God's light shine into her darkness.

I just spent an hour with the most amazing young woman. My job was to BE with her. JUST BE. She had come through surgery with flying colors. The painkillers made her drowsy and she needed to keep her heavy lids closed. So I sung songs and told stories. She listened. I put a cool compress on her forehead and said healing prayers with her. She listened. I held her hand as she slept. She listened. I was blessed. The restful look in her mom's eyes and the quick smile made all the difference to me. When I hugged my friend the patient goodbye I could feel how grateful she was that God had been brought into her recovery room.

Listening is the skill that will always be in need of improvement. The skills of knowing when to shut up and knowing what to say, at the right time and the right way constantly escape me when they are needed most. But today I spent time with two amazing women who taught me how to listen and how to be listened to.

How do you listen? Who listens to you? What do you have to say? What do you need to hear?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giving you my DIGITS, an article in the making

When I was growing up the most common way to "see" the pastor was face-to-face. I saw him/her from the pulpit or during a pastoral visit at my home (very rare). Occassionally the pastor would call. Those calls were not for pastoral care but for information. "Would my mom bake, could my mom take?" I was never called. I assumed, (I know dangerous ground here) that I was not old enough to have anything to offer.

Now I am the pastor and things have changed! Communication and Care are very different. The personal call is only one tool in my arsenal. Phone calls, book readings, emails, snail mails, text messages, instant messages, blogs and face-to-face are all methods to reach people for the Kingdom. This is the world I occupy. Teaching, preaching, caring, and daring are immersed in this digital world. Now I am not even beginining to talk about evangelism, these people already attend my church. I see them almost every Sunday but my primary relationship is at some other time in some other format.

My readers and I exchange books and give reviews of both the writers and the ideas. I choose books that will help them along their journeys and also prepare them for what lies ahead. I have given them fiction and training books. They understand what I am preaching and teaching becuase they have previewed it in the texts I am using.

The people I call often need the facelessness of the phone in order to bear their soul. They also need the immediacy of the interaction the phone calls allow. There is something about the soothing sound of the human voice that cannot be captured or manufactured by anything else but the phone.

Emails and Snail Mails harken back to the age of "Pride and Prejudice." I can create an image with words that is physical. A person can literally hold on to my words and I, theirs. I can reread and brood over these words and tease out every level of meaning. On dark days I can bring sunshine by revisiting a compliment or success story. Yet this medium asks for brevity and a smart use of words to keep up with the busy-ness of today's world.

Texting and Instant messaging are alike since they give brevity and immediacy. These mediums weed out those pesky emotions that often cloud an issue. That quality makes my job even harder, because I need to be specific and check my inferences. However, I should be doing that all the time. I hone my communication skills using this new foreign languages of abbreviations and icons.

But does my ministry change based on the medium? Am I reaching a different demographic with different mediums? Are people less cared for? Where is all this speed taking us? I don't know. This is the world we live in and I think the conversation needs to begin with the medium. I am lucky, as my more "vintage" colleagues remind me, I can use all of these forms. Yet, I am not the model of what every pastor should be. That is why a church needs to develop how it will communicate with this new world. What abundance the Lord has afforded us! Let us not be poor stewards of our words or the WORD.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"In the beginning" God created

What God created was formless and shapeless, a void. Doesn't sound much like the God I've seen create. John Wesley describes it as: 'Twas shapeless, 'twas useless, 'twas without inhabitants, without ornaments; the shadow or rough draught of things to come.' I love the idea of God's rough draft. How often do we think that in God's perfection, God didn't need a rough sketch, an outline, a rough draft of what was to come? In my hurry to get to what God was creating, I overlooked what God started with.

I am praying for several people right now regarding health issues. Some may be family issues, fear issues, strength issues, grief issues, transition issues, but all are spiritual issues. I have been looking towards what God will do. I have forgotten to look at what God has already done. What seems to me to be a wasteless void, a chaotic confusion, and a formless mess is really God's rough draft of what is to come.

My friend who fears going to the doctor will show how restoring a relationship with health care will lead to health regardless of the diagnosis. But right now, she is relying on God to lead her and protect her as an act of faith.

The family that is in crisis will learn how to listen to each other and communicate their needs and independence to each other. But now they are looking outside the family and asking for God reconciling power to act.

The women who are dealing with grief and grieving issues will see how God will unite them and use the gifts of the Keepers of the Faith that have gone on before to bring forth the Kingdom. But now they are living one minute at a time and living it with raw emotion and sharing the stories of these legends.

The church that is dealing with a pastoral change will show how they are the body of Christ that can never be defeated. But right this very moment they are cementing relationships through outbursts and forgiveness. They are fighting and making plans with God.

How could I have missed all that? I was in such a hurry for God to get to the part where light was created and a happy ending became possible, that I forgot the beauty that is, was, and will be contained in the struggle. I threw out the rough draft because I forgot that it was the foundation for what was to come. I hope you can learn from my mistake. I know I did.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What This World Needs

I am a big Casting Crowns fan. In their third album, "The Altar and the Door," the first song is entitled "What This World Needs." It got me to thinking what does this world need? Near the end of the song there is a spoken part that may never reach a radio.
"People aren't confused by the gospel,
They're confused by us.
Jesus is the only way to God,
But we are not the only way to Jesus.
This world doesn't need My tie, my hoodie, My denomination, or my translation of the Bible,
They just need Jesus.
We can be passionate about what we believe,
But we can't strap ourselves to the gospels.
Because we're slowing it down
Jesus is going to save the world,
But maybe the best thing we can do Is just get out of the way."
I never thought that what I do may actually get in the way of another person getting closer to God. I am humbled when I consider the role I may play as a believer, a mom, a wife, a friend and a pastor. Am I a bridge or a barrier? I am taking a preaching course right now and I think the big message is "Get out of the Gospel's way." When I preach for the class and when I preach again on Sunday my hope is that I unwrap the scripture in a relevant way that allows it to transform peoples' lives. My past-pastor used to pray before every sermon "Lord, let Your Word speak either through me or in spite of me. In Jesus' name, Amen. I guess that is the best that we can hope for, "Lord, let Your will be lived through my life and in spite of my choices. In Jesus Name, Amen. AMEN?

Friday, May 2, 2008

What are we so AFRAID of?

I went to breakfast today with several clergy. It was our monthly meeting where we share church happenings and such. One clergywomen suggested that we, as clergy, establish a mission: a community outreach, a youth center, some helpful impact on the community. I was all for it. I said that if we can make eating a priority (we meet at a local Dennys) then serving God should be no problem. I was amazed that her suggestion was NOT met with passionate Hallelujahs!! and earth shattering AMENs. At the same time, in the same restaurant, my ex-mentor was meeting with someone. I know that if he wasn't retired, he would have been behind the mission. Also at the same restaurant was another clergy member who is known for community outreach: he would have been onboard.
What was it that stopped the rest of the clergy from jumping into the fray? What was it that shut their mouths? Their silence made me doubt whether or not I was on the right side of the idea. I'm glad that God put the subtle reminders of the other clergys' presence to shake me out of my doubts. I am BOLD because God made me this way. If this clergy venture fails, it won't be because of apathy. Any attempt adds to the Kingdom of God at the very least by its example.
Nothing was settled by the end of the meeting and I'm kind of glad that my clergy friend and I have time to stir up God's kind of trouble. Are you with us?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

And Away We Go

I just finished reading Erwin McManus' book, "The Barbarian Way." It was a quick, easy read. I laughed out loud several times. It definitely made me say "hmmmmmm." I thought the ending was abrupt. I guess he left me begging for more.
The basic idea was that the institutions of religion have domesticated the believer. McManus encourages us to live out our lives in the spirit we received when we first believed. We are to embrace our rebel spirit and not be deterred from God's will. I think the kink in his plan is getting the rebels to work together cohesively. This book was about the Barbarian's spirit and motivation. McManus did not give us a method for our madness.
I have several books to read for Course of Study, several for information, and some more for work. This book drew me in and I devoured it in less than 2 days. I recommend this book for anyone who feels anchored and imprisoned by bureaucracy and institution. Let me know what happens when you follow "The Barbarian Way."