Thursday, December 29, 2011

More meditations

Here is more of the retreat I have been working on, it is not finished but it is where it is now. I have had my parents in town for the last two weeks so blogging has slowed but there are some cool things to share and I hope to get to that soon. My daughter has a few pictures of children on Ebeye I would love to share and hope to do so soon.

I hope these meditations and your time in prayer brings you healing and peace.

Part Two
The sessions in part two are a sessions of meditations connecting with Christ’s suffering. Connecting with his passion helps us to be better understand our own suffering and to see it in light of Christ’s presence and redemption. These might be difficult sessions since the look at the wounds we have in our lives but ultimately they are designed to be times where the Great Physician can begin a healing work in us. Take your time with these sessions, be gentle with yourself and after the retreat share your experience with a trusted friend or mentor. Begin each session saying the Lord’s Prayer then simply be with God in each meditation.


Read Isaiah 53:3a
This is a precious verse for us to consider in our retreat.  We need to understand that Jesus suffered and was familiar with sorrow.  If he didn’t know suffering how can we connect our suffering with his?  If he didn’t know sorrow we might be lead to think that being a Christian means living without rejection, pain, sorrow and suffering.  We would be at such a profound loss because we would miss the compassion of Christ and feel the guilt of our own pain, somehow thinking we weren’t good enough.
Suffering and Christianity go together because suffering and life go together.  We are called to connect our suffering with the suffering of Christ.  This gives meaning and purpose to our pain and it gives it a direction; redemption.  It gives us healing and hope and ultimately the freedom of the saints in light.
The focal point for Jesus’ suffering is on the cross.  It is there we see him at his weakest and most vulnerable.  We will connect first in his rejection by humanity.
* Read Mark 15:1-15 à Journal about the rejection of Christ which is summed up in the words “Crucify him!”  When have you been rejected by people?  Who rejected you, how did it feel?  Are those feelings of rejection still driving you somehow?  Christ probably didn’t feel loved at that moment.  How did you feel in those moments?
As you see that both you and Jesus have been rejected let him minister to you in your pain and hurt.  Let him begin to heal you, know that he knows how it feels.  Spend prayerful time with this connection.
Take a break if needed or go right into the second session.
* Read Mark 15:21 à  Jesus wasn’t able to carry his cross by himself.  This is a profound insight for so many of us who want to do it alone.  We think that it somehow shows weakness or lack of faith to have help.
Notice again that Jesus needed help carrying his cross.  Each of us has a cross to carry, we have burdens we must live with.  We don’t have to do it alone, if Jesus needed help then it is okay for us to need help.  Allow God to help you through people.  For Jesus it was Simon of Cyrene.  Who is your Simon of Cyrene?  Who will help you carry your cross?  For some it is an AA group, for others a pastor, counselor, spiritual director.  Yet others find close friends and support groups.  The key is to connect with a Simon in your life, they are God’s gift to you.

This is a good time to break for a while…

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Retreat on Grace Parts 2 and 3

Here are the second and third meditations on the retreat on grace. Again, take your time (slower is better), bring a journal and come with an openness to Christ's leading. These are sessions to come back to multiple times over a series of weeks.

The second session focuses on the deliverance God has done and is doing in your life. Center yourself by saying the Lord’s Prayer and then begin.
Read Exodus 13:3-10
Remember how the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of slavery.  See how they began to know God as deliverer.  In what way has the Lord acted as deliverer in your life?  Think about this, journal on it and afterwards write a prayer of thanksgiving.
How does seeing God’s deliverance in the lives of Israelites and your life teach you about God’s grace and your place in the heart of God?

The third session picks up again the theme of your belovedness and the power of God’s love for you. Again, enter the space with the Lord’s Prayer.
Read Jeremiah 31:3
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
1.      Memorize this verse.
2.      Who is the lover?  Who is the beloved that is the one receiving love?  How long is the lover loving the beloved?
3.      What are the results of this love?
Meditate on your status as God’s beloved.  Think on that as your identity.  How long does God intend on loving you for?  Again, how does this shape your identity?  Let yourself receive the gift of belovedness.  Let it simply come to you as the gift that it is.  As you receive, if you are moved to confess, do so and then receive the forgiveness Jesus offers.  If you are not moved to confess, let it go and simply be with God as He sees fit.
What are the outcomes of God’s faithfulness in your life?  How has God been faithful and what does faithfulness look like in terms of eternity?
Notice God’s faithfulness is tied to His love and not us or our abilities.  How does this notion free us to simply be with God and to live for God out of freedom?  How do we live for God out of our identity as His beloved?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Least of These Message

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on my initial reflections aboout Jesus' words about how we care for "the least of these" being connect to how we care for him. Last night I posted my sermon that came from those reflections. I recommend checking it out. I am sure that every preacher thinks that every message is essential and life giving and most likely I fall into that category. That being said I feel like this message gets at the heart of Christian spirituality in a way that is accessible. At least that is my hope. The link to my online messages is on the right and my goal is to update it weekly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

4-H Blog

Sophie has been participating in the 4-H cooking club this year and two of the clubs on our atoll made the 4-H Pacific blog this week. To check it out and see a picture of Sophie in 4-H click here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Retreat on Grace Draft Intro and Part One

Following is a draft on a short three section retreat on grace. It is designed to be done in a day with space to really dig into the questions and to prayerfully reflect on the answers. This isn't something to speed through. Below is a draft of the intro and the first meditation. I'd recommend at least two hours on it to give yourself the space to work through the issues. Later I'll post the other sections I am working on along with a healing retreat I am almost through with. If you choose to spend the time on it I pray that God will meet you in that time.

In this short retreat we are going to “consider the steadfast love of God,” Psalm 107:43 NRSV.  The purpose of the retreat is to create a space to deepen your understanding and integration of the steadfast love of God and your identity as His beloved.  This is central if we are to understand and integrate grace into our lives.  Grace flows from God’s love for us and it comes as a gift out of the riches of God.  It is not conditional on our need; rather it is the natural outflow of love, and yes we need it. 
In a retreat we can’t program what God will do, it is between the individual and God, yet we can create space, we can come open and available to the Spirit.  In a retreat we use the gifts of God’s Word, prayer, our mind and tools like pen and paper to do our work with God.  Whatever we plan in the retreat, God’s plan is better.  So use these devotions and the plan as a guide only.  Hold to them loosely.  If God wants to dive more deeply into one and ignore the others, follow the Spirit’s lead.  If you are tired you probably need a nap, our bodies are often over tired and over worked.  If you need “light” times, take “light” times.  Take a walk, draw a picture, and take photos of the beauty around you.  In all of this cultivate an open and willing heart.  Let it be a sacred space and let yourself take a risk in these devotions.  Take a risk to grow and to stretch into a deeper and fuller person, one who lives rooted and centered in their belovedness and grace.  Peace be yours as you retreat.
Part One
Schedule
When you arrive at your retreat site put all your belongings away, get settled and just sit for a bit, relax and unwind from the trip. After this consecrate the time, offer as much of yourself as you can to God and then say the Lord’s Prayer slowly and let each phrase sink in. Say it two or three times and let it guide you into a prayerful place. This will be the start of each session.
First session for meditation and journaling:
Read Luke 15:11-32
This story is about two sons who have broken relationships with their father and each other.  Some of it is rebellion, some pride and some stubbornness.  As you pray through the story, where do you connect?  Who do you connect through now?  Is it the younger son, the elder son, even perhaps the father?  How might you have connected differently in the past?  Is there growth?  Underlying the story is unconditional love which is highlighted in the embrace of the younger son in vs. 20.  How has God embraced you?  Have you ever felt like you had to earn this embrace?  Is there a sense you might have resisted the embrace?  Maybe thinking it is too good to be true, that it can’t surely be for me?
* Read Romans 8:39 à what does it say about the eternal embrace of the Father through the Son?  How does that impact and shape your sense of self, who you really are?
The true self is who we are in Christ.  It is the deepest part of what is real and true.  So often we choose to live at the surface, substituting a lesser version of ourselves for who we really are.  We allow the superficialities of the society shape our self image and not the depths of the soul’s embrace by God.  We are indeed temples and vessels of the Holy Spirit; therefore we are God bearers in our world, children of the Heavenly father.  We are so much more than we often realize or even know.  Our business clouds our understanding and we live like we are asleep, all the time called to awaken to the presence of God in our lives and the world.  Life is to be lived at the depth, deeply centered and as Psalm 1 says “a tree near streams of water.”  Our identity as discovered in prayer and the scriptures and enforced by the witness of the Spirit is to be our source of life and the place where we live from.  This gives us a centered and rooted life.
Think now about all the identities you have and use.  Start with “I am” statements, like “I am a…”  Fill all those in.  Seek to discover the depth of who you are in Christ.  Let that sink in, pray over it and then probe what it would look like for you to live from this center.
Finish the meditation with the Lord’s Prayer. Rest, read, relax and take some time to be after this time of prayerful reflection.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sermons

I have added two more messages to my channel on sermon net.

One is my Reformation Sunday message where I focus on two key words in the Christian life: freedom and grace. The other one is part of my series on prayer. In this series I look at various biblical people, their life and how that influenced their prayer. This particular message is looking at King Solomon and his prayer for wisdom.

The link is here

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Weekend Update

It was a busy week for me last week. I preached on Roi Wednesday night, at the Chapel Thursday night and then a separate sermon on Sunday morning. We spent Thanksgiving dinner at the REB (religious education building) which is where we hold Sunday School and other community related activities. The Christian Women's Fellowship sponsors the event by providing the turkey and one of the women and her family cook the turkey and set up all the tables. It was a very nice event with around thirty people attending.

The following night we celebrate Santa's arrival and tree lighting ceremony. Yes, we light a palm tree. The event has various people performing music and or dance acts and a greeting by the commander. This year Sophie was part of a K-2 girls dance group that participated and they did great. Sophie also received an award for her artwork on Christmas card that was sent to the troops who are in combat zones. Each year the art teacher selects on card from a child in each grade as the "winning card" and the local VFW prints those cards and has them sent from the school children. We were delighted her card was chosen this year.

In addition to being a fun weekend it was a hard weekend with feeling homesick. Thanksgiving weekend has traditions for Kim that have gone back over 25 years and we have often been in Seattle for this weekend even when we lived in Minnesota and Oregon. Being away from family and friends this weekend has been hard and the kids seemed to have really felt it. My parents are coming in a few weeks and that will be great for the kids and really help them through the holidays.

Below are a few photos from the weekend.

Sophie and her American Girl doll.

Emon beach where we swim, about a 5 minute bike ride from the house.



Gavin in his elf hat at the parade.


Sophie in in her dance dress with some of the other girls.



Santa coming in the Small Boat Marina

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forgiveness Sermon

Last night on Roi I was able to upload one my sermon's to the Internet. My laptop's speakers aren't great and the sound was really low but I think it worked. I think with external speakers I would have been able to hear more clearly. I am still learning the program and up until last night I thouht I had to send the sermons to the States to be uploaded.

Anyway here is my first attempt. As I learn more I hope it gets better.

The website I am using is called sermon net and I have a free account and a "channel". Below is a link to my stuff. If it works I have four more messages I can get over the next few weeks.

For those who are trying to listen online thanks for the effort, I appreciate your support.

http://sermon.net/pjoimc



Least of these part two

Last Sunday in our fellowship we heard Jesus speak about caring for the least of these. This week our congregation's board was faced with an opportunity to Jesus' parable. We had a person who needed to leave the island for personal reasons and didn't have the resources to go. Tickets off the island right now hover around $3000.00. Hearing this person's need and knowing the issue the board unanimously voted to meet this need with no discussion, they just acted.

I must say I was so proud of God's people for being the Church and loving someone who isn't part of our fellowship. They just acted out of love for our Lord and this person. When the people of God are living as they are called to live it is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. When we live this way people will say "we know they are Christians by our love".

TRCP

Here is a little blurb from the Theordore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

A study commission by the National Shooting Sports Foundation reveals that more than 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate last year thanks to the donations of venison made by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat was served at shelters, food banks and church kitchens.
Donations were largest in the Midwest and the South. The Midwest provided 1.3 million pounds of game meat, and the South provided 1.25 million pounds of game meat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Least of these

Jesus says that whatever you do to the "least of these" you do to me (Matthew 25:40). That is the key verse for tomorrow's message and it is a challenge since most of us tend to shy away from the least of these. We are naturally drawn to beauty and so to see Christ in those our society rejects is a necessary part of our growth process. I have been challenged by this text. The challenge is not so much trying to figure out if I am a "good person" or "in". Rather, it gives me pause to ask about my own growth in love. Am I growing in love for my neighbor? Am I making choices that benefit those who have less power than I do? Can I see Christ in more places now than I could before.

Those of you who know me know that I have often said that we shouldn't take our spiritual temperature all the time. Yet at times it makes sense to pause and ask some hard questions. Self reflection is a good thing, conviction from the Holy Spirit helps us grow. If we aren't growing then we become stagnant and our capacity for life seems to diminish. Following Christ should increase our capacity for life, love and forgiveness. We should be people who are generative, that is people God uses to generate life in others. Sometimes it means that we put ourselves aside in order to serve others, trusting that Christ will meet our needs.

The need to be selfless and generative is true not only for individuals but for congregations as well. A congregation can get so caught up in making ends meet and taking care of those inside it's walls that it can forget who it exists for. A congregation fundamentally exists for those outside of itself. It is the only community that exists to give itself away. The congregation gives away the gospel each and every Sunday. It forms people who can grow in love for the neighbor who isn't part of the congregation. It offers healing and wholeness for the downcast and broken hearted. All of this is for free, no charge. A congregation makes ends meet when it is faithful to it's calling and gifting. Christ has a way of opening people's hearts and wallets in support of a generative community.

When a congregation becomes about itself there is never enough. There is never enough money, people, space or time. People stop coming and the panic increases about paying the bills. At this point the community must ask the question: are we growing in love? They must ask if they are helping people grow as disciples? They must contemplate whether they are holding all that Christ has given them to tightly and not willing to give it away? The answers to these questions will tell much about the future health and life of the community and those who are part of it.

To be a person who ministers to the least of these takes great fidelity to a life that is rooted in prayer, study and community. It takes a willingness to be available to Christ and to one's neighbor. It takes vulnerability to treat people as people and not projects. It takes the ability to take a risk and dare to grow in love.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Upcoming Themes etc..

One of the technical issues I am working through is how to post my sermons to this site. Much of my creative and prayerful energy each week is dedicated to my preaching and the Sunday morning bible study I teach. Our sound technician records each week's service of which my message is a part. I am working on figuring out how to take that raw media and get it into a form that I can upload to my blog. I am working through those issues and hope to make my series on prayer available through this website.

Also I am looking at rewriting some of my essays on availability and vulnerability and will make those accessible through this site as well.

Finally I am trying my hand at writing a retreat for one of our members and if there is anything worthwhile that comes out of that endeavor I'll post it here as well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Yesterday was Veteran's Day here on Kwaj and we had a ceremony not unlike our Memorial Day ceremony. We gathered at the flagpole where there are memorials to those who fought and died taking the atoll and where the flags of United States and Republic of the Marshall Island fly. We were fortunate to have the keynote address from the US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands. During her speech she asked the veterans to stand. Since we live on a military installation many of the people stood and were recognized for their service. Then she asked the veteran's family members to stand and another group stood. I was reminded again that this holiday is really about people and their service. We wouldn't have the freedoms we enjoy if people hadn't served. It was good celebrate the service of the people we see day in and day out here on the island and to thank them for their sacrifice.

Another touching moment was last weekend as we celebrated All Saints Day at our church. In a normal church we would remember and pray for the congregational families who lost loved ones in the previous year. This place being different than a normal  congregation we haven't had any deaths since I have been here so I decided that we should pray for the families and remember the names of those who have died in combat this last year. So at our second service we had a slide show with all their names followed by prayer and in our first service we had members of the congregation read their names during our prayer time. What struck me was the sheer volume of names. It took six volunteers nearly ten minutes to simply read the names (no title or rank) of those who died this past year. We can easily forget their sacrifice and the grief that their loved ones experience. I think it is good to remember them in our prayers regardless of how we feel about our wars or foreign policy. For the families they simply experience the pain of grief and the sting of death. Therefore they should be held in our prayers.

For the veterans who read this thank you for your service and happy Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rain, Rain

Rain rain go away come again another day.

I think we have finally hit the 100" mark this week for total annual rainfall. That puts us about 25" over the normal and we still have all of November and December left. I came from a place that I thought had a lot of rain. What I am realizing more fully is that Seattle has lots of gray days with rain but it certainly doesn't have tropical rain.

Tropical rain is a beast unto itself and almost a year into it I am still impressed with how much rain can come down in a such a short amount of time. Being outside for a minute is enough to soak you to the bone. Riding a bike for 5 minutes in the rain without a coat is enough to leave you miserably wet and if you have to go into an air conditioned building for any length of time miserably cold as well.

The difference between Seattle and Kwaj is that when it is done raining here it will eventually get clear; the blue sky will come out and it will get hot. Seattle on the other hand stays well, gray. The folks here struggle when the day is completely gray (doesn't happen all that often) and Kim and I find the gray days actually remind of us of home and make it feel like winter. That is of course when we step outside to 85 degree weather, then we feel like we are in the tropics.

Another major difference between Seattle rain and Kwaj rain is church attendance. When it rains in Seattle people still come to church and when it rains here people stay away since they don't want to put full rain gear on over their church clothes, drag their kids fully laden and make their way to worship. Seattle is the opposite in that when it is sunny people want to enjoy the beauty of the Northwest and stay away. We have enough sunny days here that people can still make their way to worship and then go to the beach.

Personally I don't mind the rain but if I am going to be living in the tropics I would rather have the sun.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Surfing

I have really been into surfing lately and so insted of being under the water I am on the water learning how to catch waves on my bodyboard. I really like bodyboarding since you are right in the wave and can really feel its power. I am starting to learn more about where to be in a wave and how to move around within it. Pretty fun..

Earlier in the month my friend whose is my surf "instructor" and I took our daughters surfing. The waves were small and it was a little overcast so the girls got a little cold but they had  a great time. The small waves made it perfect for learning and Sophie caught one perfect wave which was her "gem". She had a great time and hopefully she will want to go again.



Weekend Update

This past weekend was the beginning of the Halloween week here on Kwaj. The kickoff event is an almost 50 year old tradition called the Shaving Cream Social. The social is a time when they fill the ravine in the fields here with about 8-10 inches of water and then send the kids out by age group with a can of shaving cream to smear on their friends. It is a hoot. The little kids go in with their parents (Kim went in with Gavin) and then they figure out how fun it is to smear the old fashioned kind of shaving cream on their friends and then roll around in the big puddle they are in. Remember that even though it is October it is 86 degrees out with over 70% humidity so it is warm enough to roll around in a puddle.



The Second round was the early elementary age which Sophie was a part of. She and the kids didn't have parents (only life guards) and they were allowed in a larger area of the ravine with a little more water. It was fun to watch the older kids really go for it with the cream. Each age group had about 10 minutes before it was time for the next group so there was a real energy to it and the kids really went for it.


That was Saturday afternoon. Sunday afternoon was the Halloween carnival with a haunted house, face painting, story time, crafts and the costume parade. This too was timed for the different ages and thankfully are kids are still in the age group for these events so we can go as a family. The kids had a good time and it was fun seeing the kids in their costumes.





It was a fun weekend with some new experiences for us and for our kids. That is one of the things we keep trying to emphasize with our kids. Living here is only for a season and we are having some experiences we might never have again so we want to be sure to enjoy them while we are here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Now

Yesterday I was able to go surfing in the afternoon for a few hours and it was fun which was odd since the waves were at an almost all time low. They came in infrequently and when they came in they weren't that big and yet with a little patience and some good timing there were some good rides. I took advantage of every wave that came in and rode it as far as it would take me since I knew I might have to wait awhile until the next one came. As a result I had a great time at it was wonderful to be out in the water.

While I was waiting it made me think about how we live life. So often we can miss what is right before us because we look at what we don't have and don't take advantage of what we do have. We can lose our gratefulness and our awareness of how God is blessing us now. Currently we are in a budget reduction here and we have less goods and services than we have had in the past. It is painful since we have so little already and it is tempting to dwell on the loss rather than to see what we still have.

Don't get me wrong, we need to process loss and be honest about what we are feeling, we just shouldn't let it dominate our time and energy. If it does we will be so miserable and then regret that we missed out on life. The same can be said if we live in the States, we can focus on what we don't own or don't have and miss all of what we do have and do own. We need to cultivate an openness to the gifts that are being given now.

For us the gifts are related to living in the tropics. We get to look at tide pools, go to the beaches (which are never crowded), be close to everything, go sailing and powerboating, pet sea turtles at the turtle pond, search for cool shells and whole host of other things. It would be a shame to spend so much timing thinking about what we miss about the States that we don't enjoy now. For example when we lived in the Washington it was always tempting not to climb something since the mountains aren't going anywhere. The fact is I missed out on some good opportunities and when we are here I don't want the same to be said about our life here. There is a pass I want to surf and a few places I want to dive and the key is to make the plans and simply go.

God gives us so many opportunities to live life now and we should steward those opportunities well so that we can live life in its fullest.

Friday, October 7, 2011

LWR news release

Drought Conditions in East Africa Remain Dire; Lutheran World Relief Mounts Long-Term Response


Fatumah Muhammed Abdi arrived in Dadaab with five small children, none of them her own. She traveled six days with her nieces and nephews and an orphaned girl from her village to get to the Kenyan border, where they arranged transport to Dadaab.

"They needed to be taken care of," she said of the children. "Older children can take care of themselves, but these ones stressed me. I'm not so worried for the children now that I'm here. I feel like I'm at home and there's no stress. I'm especially happy for them, a chance to grow up and have an education and have them a better future."

Baltimore, September 27, 2011 — By the thousands, hungry, weary and desperate people continue to arrive at the gates of the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, seeking refuge from the drought and food crisis that has driven more than 13 million people across East Africa to the brink of starvation.

Fatumah Muhammed Abdi fled to Dadaab with five unaccompanied children from her village, for whom she is still caring. “When we had nothing else to live for there, we decided to come all the way from Somalia to Kenya,” she says.

Amina Bulle, 18, traveled 20 days on foot with her infant son to reach the camps. “We had no food in Somalia,” she says. “My people were herders but the livestock are all dead so I have fled to Kenya.”

In response to this crisis, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is working with its partner, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), to meet the immediate and long-term needs of communities suffering the effects of drought.

LWF manages the Dadaab camps and reports that while they were originally built to host 90,000 refugees, they are now hosting over 400,000 people with 1,200 new arrivals each day. By the end of 2011, the camp population will likely exceed 500,000 people in need of immediate and long-term humanitarian assistance.

LWR and LWF have been working to provide water, baby care supplies and psychological support to new arrivals, an extension of the work LWR and LWF have done in Dadaab since 2008, through a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), linking vulnerable refugees to social services, providing shelter and promoting security within the camps. BPRM recently awarded LWR a $440,000 grant to continue this work with LWF. In addition, LWR and LWF are supplying water to people waiting outside the camps and to communities surrounding the Dadaab complex.

“It’s important to remember the host communities in Dadaab,” says McCully. “Reaching out to them with assistance promotes peace and fosters their long-term recovery as well.”

In Ethiopia, LWR and LWF are working to reach underserved rural communities, distributing food as well as training farmers to improve natural resource management and agriculture and providing tools and other supplies to begin replanting.

“Relief is only the first step,” stresses McCully. “To move past this crisis and help rural communities stand up to future droughts, we must make a long-term investment in agricultural livelihoods.”

Long-term plans should seek to ensure that farmers have access to water, supplies and technical training to successfully grow crops and raise livestock. Efforts to promote soil conservation, improve agricultural infrastructure and increase access to local markets will help smallholder farmers become more resilient to future droughts. LWR has seen success with this type of agricultural approach in other drought-affected communities in East Africa and hopes to carry out similar work in response to this crisis.

To mount such a long-term, sustainable development response to the East Africa drought, LWR needs to raise $3 million in 2011 and is accepting donations to its East Africa Drought fund. Donations can be made online at lwr.org/donate, by phone at 800.597.5972 or by mail at P.O. Box 17061, Baltimore, MD 21298-9832 USA



Jonathan Ernst for Lutheran World Relief

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Freedom and Giving

I received the following email (see end of post) from a good friend of mine and mentor today. My email inbox also had a  notification about the starvation in Somalia. It makes me think that there is always a need to think beyond our own needs and concerns. So often we can get caught up in issues that are indeed difficult and challenging yet I think Christians are called to look beyond our own needs to the needs of others.

The love of God actually frees us from selfishness to selflessness. We are freed because we know that we are loved and that God's love reaches into our daily needs. We are taught to pray "give us this day our daily bread". Praying this helps us to see God's gift for daily bread as well as calls us to be vehicles for daily bread for others. It is a prayer for a community where sharing is the norm and not the exception. In this community we come to learn that in God's kingdom there is always enough and that living in the kingdom means both giving and receiving; blessing and being blessed. We realize that God is a providential God. It is ultimately God who provides all good gifts. Through prayer we are given eyes to see how God provides in our own lives and how God wants to use us to provide for others. All of this is done freely because we are loved by  God in Christ and this love overflows into love for our neighbor. The economy of God is truly brilliant.

One of the ways to express this freedom and love is to give of ourselves, our time and our possessions. This is a concrete expression of love and care in others lives. Knowing that we are responding to God's love and being loving is a reward in and of itself. We don't have to demand anything from the one who receives the gift, we can give it freely just as it was freely given to us.

May God us me and you so that many may know His love and care. Amen.

Below is the email I received.

Friends in Christ,
I (Pastor Fecher) received the following communication from SHARE. If the closing actually happens some of our loved ones will be shelterless. We will want to pray about how to respond. Maybe we can pray along with this scriptural admonition from James 2:15-16 "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?"

The note from SHARE mentions attachments which I am not sending. You can join the SHARE Google Group and receive updates by going to this link:

Friday, September 30, 2011

October Newsletter Article

Here is a copy of my congregation's October newsletter article.
Last week I celebrated the anniversary of my ordination as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the day after that we celebrated my son’s fourth birthday. Every year I celebrate two important dates back to back and prepare to celebrate my wife’s birthday the following week. It is good to celebrate; in fact some would say that it is an essential part of the Christian life.
Christian celebration is about giving thanks for the gifts that God has given us and gathering people together to recognize God’s goodness and generosity in our lives.  In celebrating my ordination I celebrate God’s call on my life and the privilege of serving Christ’s Church. While ministry is challenging it is also deeply rewarding. Practicing celebration draws my attention to the blessings of ministry and the ways God has used my life and ministry to touch others.
In celebrating my son’s birthday we celebrate the gift that he is in our lives and the lives of those that know him. We give thanks for his unique personality, gifts and skills. We look back on his life, celebrating where he has come in this last year and look forward to God’s movement in his life in the year to come. It is good and right to celebrate the people in our lives and we will do the same for my wife in a few days.


If we look closely at our lives we will find that are numerous causes to celebrate. We can celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, promotions, new jobs, new homes, school years, friendships, sports achievements, academic achievements, etc… As Christians we gather weekly to celebrate God’s gift of forgiveness and new life through Jesus.   While there are so many opportunities to celebrate and give thanks to God for his goodness and love we often overlook these opportunities. We get into a rut aka the rat race and simply miss the opportunity to celebrate. It becomes one more thing to do in an already overcrowded schedule.
In not celebrating we miss out on the joy of pausing to see the goodness and beauty that is part of our lives. We can begin to take for granted the gifts we have and the people we love. Taking people for granted is never a good thing. Celebration helps connect us to those people and events in our lives that are truly important. Celebration connects us again to the God who is the giver of all good gifts and who longs for us to enjoy all that he has given. Celebration is about slowing down and looking at who we are and what have. It gives us a joyous spirit and helps shape us into a people who are profoundly thankful.
A great journaling exercise is to take a look at the people, events and circumstances in your life and begin to list who and what you are thankful for. This will begin to give you a sense of God’s generosity and movement in your life. From there develop a plan as to how to celebrate and give thanks to God. You’ll find that it will build your faith and fill you with joy and thankfulness. Time well spent in my opinion.

Monday, September 19, 2011

High Hunt

September  15th to the 25th is a special time in Washington State. It is the time that hunters are allowed into the high country for a rifle deer hunt. I was fortunate last year to go on the hunt with my brother-in-law into a gorgeous area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The high hunt combines two great things, hunting and backpacking. It takes a hunter by foot into remote country to meet the deer head on in their own environment. Needless to say the harvest ratios are low and the experiences wonderful. Last year we heard one deer move away from us at lighting speed and the deer we might have wanted saw us enter the alpine basin and moved out hundreds of yards away from us on the mountainside. After a long hike up there all we saw were large hoof prints and lots of scat. Oh well, it was a grand time. In honor of the high hunt I am wearing my short sleeve, collared camo shirt to work today. Yes, I am wearing camo to work in the tropics. I am sure that many people envy my camo shirt.



It is times like this that being here are harder for me. While there are some wonderful things to do here and things we won't likely do again so easily it is still hard. It reminds me of being with people I love doing the things I love. It was so great to be in the mountains looking for deer with one of my best friends. We were in a secluded area so we felt like we had the whole woods to ourselves and in the off times we were able to talk about important things. During the hunt I was praying about coming to Kwaj. We knew moving to Kwaj was a possibility and I remember vividly talking to Marcus about what that would mean for my family's life, our relationship and life in general. Our talking while doing something is what men do. So often in church we try to get men together for the sake of talking and it just doesn't work. Women might be more open to getting together just to talk but men really aren't. What we need to realize is that men communicate alongside each other, that is when they are out doing something. We need to start getting men out of the church building doing things together and then we will start to see lives change, especially when you have more experienced men alongside less experienced men.


One of the things that is part of life is missing people and experiences. We know that when we move from here we will miss this place and the experiences here even though we treasure being with the people we love. Life is a mixed bag and we need to learn to let that be okay. We seem to have bought into the idea that we can have pleasure all the time with no pain. We have been sold down the river in believing that buying more and having more will leave us content. What is true is that live is mixed with pleasure, pain and everything in between. The key is for us to be grounded in who we are in Christ and to live from there. It is knowing the love of Christ that then informs all the rest of our lives. Getting the order right is essential. Christ's love and grace are first and foremost, this is our baptismal identity and it is our eternal future.



Being grounded in Christ's love changes the way we experience everything. We experience everything with our Lord alongside us with hope, mercy and love. While I am missing the high hunt and my friend this week I am held in love. Therefore my soul is content and I have peace in the midst of my longing to be in the mountains with Marcus. The two experiences/emotions can happen at once. They are not mutually exclusive, yet the love of Christ is more powerful than the longing. The result is the longing to be home doesn't capsize my life and steal my joy. This is true of all of life. Learning how to hold both things together is something we learn and a gift all at the same time. I think much of it is a result of prayer and longing to experience the love of Christ. I am convinced that God will give the experience of being his beloved in Christ to any who seek it. It is worth seeking, actually there is nothing greater to seek.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Simple Mission



This link is an interesting and easy read on how to reach out in the workplace. It is a short read but has 30 simple ideas to help be missional at work. Doing some of them sure would change some work places and people's days. Give one a shot and see how it goes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Newsletter Article

Here is a copy of the September newsletter I wrote for our chapel.


It has been said that we are living in anxious times. People are concerned about the economy, unemployment is still high, the stock market is turbulent and the country is still fighting two wars. In response to these things we are seeing proposed changes some basic areas of budgeting for the government with the defense budget getting a big hit. Living on a military installation we can’t but feel the weight of these changes as we hear about FY 13 and FY 14. We don’t know what decisions will be made and we don’t know how this will impact our lives and our future plans. This is a recipe for fear and worry both of which can steal our joy and deaden our life now.


It doesn’t take a change in the federal economy to increase our anxiety. For many it is closer to home. One person I know in the States is working through some significant health issues that will require surgery in the near future. Others are working through grief, issues with children or aging parents. Some are dealing with personal financial challenges. The list of life challenges seems as endless and varied are there are people and the temptation is to live in a state of constant worry, fear and general unease. No one really wants to live this way but in many cases it feels like the only way.


There is a different way to live life. It seems hard to believe but it is doable. In Philippians 4:6 St. Paul writes “Do not worry about anything, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. As we give things to the Lord in prayer it is helpful to think about whose hands are requests are being given.


It is into the hands of Christ that our requests go. These hands know hard work in a carpenters shop. These are the hands that touched lepers and made them well. These hands took little children into them and pronounced blessing and wholeness in their lives. These hands reached out and took Peter by the hand as he was sinking down. These hands took the dead hand of a little girl and spoke life into death. These are the hands that broke bread and blessed wine. The hands of Christ were laid bare on the cross and had nails driven into them so that we might know and experience the depth of the Father’s love. The hands of the risen Christ still have these marks as an eternal reminder of the love, forgiveness and new life offered. It is these hands that reach out to us in invitation as he says “follow me”.


If we spend time meditating on the hands of Christ, we can’t help but feel a profound thankfulness that these are the hands that hold each life as if it were the only life to hold. This is no better place to be than in the scar stained hand of Christ. When we come to realize that our lives are constantly held in love then when we pray we can simply let our requests be made known and then trust that He who gave his life will work in ours. The result is the gift of peace. When worry or fear starts to build go back to meditating on whose hands hold your life. Instead of focusing on the issue, focus on Christ and be thankful that God loves you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It Takes a Team

Last week I wrote about my experience on Black Peak and how it was a symbol of living strong and choosing life. A person can only live strong if he or she has a team supporting them.

I am blessed to have a team who each in their own way helps me to live life in it's fullest.

My wife is extraordinary in her support of my life. She is patient and kind when I don't feel well. She lends a listening ear and is constantly supportive. Her support is concrete and tangible. She does all the housework so that I am free to sleep longer, train, work and be available to the kids. Her support allows me to be a better father and my kids have little understanding of my disease. She allows me to pursue those hobbies which are interesting and life giving even though they are varied and more often than not expensive.

My parents often do the gopher work for me like pick up my meds and send them out. They go to the natural health doctor and pick up supplements which are key to my health and wellness. All the while never complaining about it or sending me a bill. This is hidden work and doesn't get much glory but it is essential and I am deeply thankful for it. They are also ready to do what is asked and their love for me is certain.

My extended family is ready to listen and be patient with me while I am tired and not always in a good mood or available to participate in a family activity. They make me feel loved and important no matter how I feel or how well I perform. They are gracious people who extend grace to me and therefore teach me graciousness. My climbing partners are in my family and they go with me even though I am not the wilderness athlete I once was and yet that is never an issue.

My supervisor here allows me the time to train and is supportive of me, my training and my ministry. This is a wonderful gift that I am thankful for.

My friends are partners in prayer with me and for me. This is a special gift and one that nobody can quantify the value. It is priceless..Thank you...

God in Christ is on my team. It is clear on the cross that God is radically for me and all who trust Him. There is such peace in experiencing the love and peace of Christ.

Thanks team! Live strong, love Christ!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Black Peak



I have loved being in the mountains since I was in my late teens. I started rock climbing after my freshman year in college and have loved it ever since. I have had my ups and downs with my ability to go climbing depending on where we were in life and available time but I have always kept the mountains in my heart. One of the most challenging things for me is when I first started to deal my neurological issues was the ability to go climbing and be in the mountains. Mountaineering is inherently physical and takes a certain stamina and ability.




As I started dealing with chronic pain I got out of shape, put on weight and generally felt lousy. The thoughts of pushing myself in an endurance activity like climbing seem unrealistic. That always pained me and when I would go climbing it would be so hard that I really ceased to have fun. At the same time I hated that because I felt like the disease was winning and that I was losing, and I have hated losing my whole life; just ask my folks or my wife. On second thought don’t ask them because they would tell you lots of embarrassing stories.

When I came to Kwaj I began to have more time since I wasn’t commuting and I started to use this time to increase my exercising. I had read that exercise was essential for people with my issues and so even though it hurt and really didn’t feel that great I began. When my enthusiasm would wane I remembered one of the members of my former congregation who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He was such a fighter. He would be bed ridden and still fight by doing his finger exercises so he could use his hands. His determination to live fully and fight until the very end still inspires me to choose life and live strong.




So I began again to exercise and change my diet. I did it slowly and while it didn’t take away my pain it allowed me to feel more alive and stronger in the midst of my trials and issues. I got it into my head that if I really worked hard that my body could get strong enough to climb a peak again and actually enjoy myself. More exercise and better eating lead to weight loss of 20 pounds and 3 inches off my waist. The mountains seemed to become more of a reality in my life.

As it got closer to me going to the States I contacted my favorite climbing partner of 14 years and told him we were going to make a trip this year. He was thrilled and we decided that we should get another one of our favorite partners (his brother and my brother-in-law) to join us. After much discussion we settled on Black Peak in the North Cascades of Washington State. It had been over 10 years since I had been up the peak and being nearly 9000 feet made it a good objective.

Finally the day came and even though it was cloudy we made the drive and started off for the lake we would camp at. The approach went well, I only fell three times in the soft snow (having little or no feeling in one’s feet makes balance more difficult) and we made our campsite with little or no trouble. The climb itself wasn’t too eventful other than a rogue and aggressive mountain goat incident (which is a totally different issue) and we arrived on the summit before lunch. We were high enough to be above the clouds and to see only the highest peaks in the surrounding area.





It was so emotional for me to be on the summit. I tried to communicate to the guys that I was so happy I wanted to cry and while they listened lovingly they really couldn’t understand the power of that moment for me. I really thought my disease had taken the mountains from me and therefore taken part of me I didn’t want to give. It felt like such a defeat. To have been on that summit was to say yes to life and to prove to myself that I can live strong. It was an answer to so many prayers by so many people who asked our Lord to heal me. While I am not healed I am living healthier and stronger and therefore, I am filled with more hope and life than ever before. I wish I could be free of my pain and other symptoms but I am not, it is a thorn in my flesh. I am resonating with the Apostle Paul who said that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. The summit of Black Peak was God’s gift to me. That day serves as a symbol of the renewed hope I have through my Lord. It motivates me to keep choosing life and to push hard this year to see what next summer’s summits might be. My stronger body and stronger heath give me the ability to endure my symptoms and to be a better husband and father in the coming year.

Choose life, live strong, praise Christ Jesus.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Article

As a pastor who went to seminary I enjoyed this article and thought I would share it.

Why Seminary Matters

Thursday, August 18, 2011

back on Kwaj

We made it back yesterday morning after two long days of travel with the kids. They did well, yet it is still hard waking children out of a deep sleep to get dressed, get on a shuttle, check in, go through security and wait at the gate and then get on a plane and fly for 5.5 hours and then wait for bags and then get on a shuttle to go the airport only to have to do it again the next day. Wow, I am tired again just thinking about the process.

We left the PNW saying goodbye to friends and family and that was hard and we came to Kwaj to say hi to friends we have made here. We feel blessed and thankful for the people we get to share our lives with and we are thankful that we are loved.

I had a chance to spend one Sunday at the congregation I used to serve and I am reminded of how loving and supportive the people at MLC are to their pastors. I don't know if it is rare that a congregation would be so supportive and yet I know how thankful I am for the years I spent there and how positive people respond to ministry. While in the States I talked often with my father in law who serves as their visitation pastor how supportive the people are of preachers. It is a great place to preach and the people listen well to the gospel and are supportive to those who preach it in their midst. I count myself privileged to have been a preacher in that place. Thank you to those of you who are reading this from that place.

Now are about the work of settling back into a routine and continuing the work that is set before us in this place.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hectic

Vacation has been hectic and fun, so it has been hard to blog lately. I have had so many experiences that have been interesting and my perspective has definitely shifted after having lived on Kwaj. I find that there are things that I really appreciate about Kwaj that maybe I didn't before and there are things here in the States that aren't what I might have expected.

For example paying for the Starbucks wasn't as great as I thought, no offense to the shareholders who are liking their current earnings with the rebounding company. I have however really liked the beauty of the mountains. We have been in Central Oregon for the last few days and the South Cascades are so gorgeous. I appreciate them so much more now that I have spent time away from them. I have some photos I'll try to get online in a few days.

When I have a little more time I'll organize my thoughts and share in a more ordered way what I am learning and what I am thankful for in this experience. The one thing I continue to learn is to be thankful to the Lord for what he is giving now and that there is always so much to be grateful for.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vacation

We are leaving for our trip to the States in a few days. We are going to the Seattle area and then spending some time in central Oregon. It is the longest time away from work I have taken in one shot (about a month). It will be nice to spend time doing some things we haven't had the ability to do lately. I am looking forward to hitting the Starbucks in Hawaii.

It is also very interesting that it will be the only opportunity we will have to do certain things or see certain people for a year. For example we have no sit down restaurants with servers on the island. When we are in the States it will the only time this year to go to a restaurant. The same is true with shopping opportunities. We have no real clothing store here so this is the time to buy the children's clothes for another year along with our own. It is an odd thing to wrap our brain around.

I am looking forward to a rest from creative thinking and preaching for four weeks and Kim is looking forward to a break in the daily routine with the kids. The kids are just so jazzed to see family and friends and do stuff like go to the zoo they can't stand themselves..

I am also hoping to blog some as to our reactions to being in the States and what God is teaching us through this next part of our experience. For those of you who read this from MLC, Kim and I will be at the 815 service on the 24th and will stay through the 1045 service that day. The kids will join us for worship at 1045 when Pr. Jim and Carol bring them. I am looking forward to seeing many of you next week.

Friday, July 8, 2011

iPhone

It has been almost seven months since I have had the use of my cell phone. While I was in the States I can honestly say that I almost "loved" my phone. What wasn't to love after all. An iPhone with all the latest gadgets and devices is a really cool thing. With all the things that it does you don't need to go outside or have friends. You can entertain yourself with such great apps as Angry Birds, Google Earth, Peakfinder USA and Cut the Rope. While you are stuck in traffic you can search webcams and find shorter routes, not to mention surf the Internet with blazing speed and even read my blog....All at the same time. Wow. So far this sounds like an Apple add..

The funny thing is that after seven months of living on Kwaj I don't miss my phone at all. I still play some of the games on it but the phone doesn't have the same sway over me that it once had. (Maybe its because we don't have cell coverage out here.) I find that am no less happier or satisfied now that I am cell-phone less. I don't feel naked without it like I once did. It makes me wonder why I was so enthralled with the device when I lived in the States. I also wonder if I would have been able to live without the latest device there. Kim and I talk about when we move back some day if we will have the resolve to live more simply.There are so many things we spend our money on that we feel like we have to have and I wonder if there are more simple options staring us in the face that either we don't want to see or that people are spending billions of dollars to help us not to see.

Contentment and joy don't flow from the things we have or don't have. The Apostle Paul says that he has "learned to be content in whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11b). He finishes that passage by sharing that he gained strength for all situations from his relationship with Jesus. The secret for his contentment was in his relationship with Jesus and the strength he received no matter what happened in life. It takes a certain courage to look to Jesus as our source of contentment and joy. It is the courage to seek to cut through all the noise and chatter to what is real and to ground ourselves in the real and to live from that place. We are called to live from the place of deep love and truth rather than a shallower superfical life that leaves only boredom and discontentment.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quote

I came across this quote and thought I would share it.

Base your life on that spirit of conversion. Everything flows from that. Turn to God. Be open to his infinite love. Respond to it. And everything else flows from that--what we should do, where we should go, everything flows from that deep spirit of conversion. It requires courage.

--John Main

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kwaj Challenges

Sometimes people wonder if there are challenges to living on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There are some unique things to this place and so I thought I would share some of those in this post. It is important to remember that in our challenges are opportunities to reflect on life and to learn about ourselves and God. Also our joy comes from Christ and not from having a lack of challenges. Here are a few challenges in no particular order.

1. The Grocery Store.
Our fresh produce comes in on a plane once a week on Tuesdays. Therefore Tuesday afternoon is the day to shop at the store since if you go Wednesday the selection is not that great and well you can't go Thursday because the store isn't open Thursdays. Yes, that is right our grocery store isn't open 24/7 and well it isn't open 10-6 either. It is only open about 30 hours a week. It is the only grocery store on the island so if you want an item and it isn't there you aren't getting it. Since we have been here they have been out of milk, cheese and chicken. Currently they are out of ginger and poppy seeds. Sometimes our family mails food items to us.

2. Mail.
Our mail comes twice a week on the plane. Once a month we get a special mail delivery. If the plane is delayed or something happens we don't get mail or produce etc.. Mail comes Tuesday and Thursday mornings which means it is available late Tuesday or Thursday but definitely on Wednesday and Fridays. We all have PO Boxes so if you get a package you must pick it up at the package window which is open probably 20 hours a week at best. Most mail takes at least 2 weeks and sometimes up to 6 weeks to get here. There is no instant gratification for online shopping. We online shop for most items since our store has very little to choose from.

3. Budget Cuts
We all work for the government in some capacity and we all know the government is trying to cut back spending. This means a remote place like ours is a good place to cut. That means layoffs for us and reduced hours at places like the grocery store. Layoffs mean people have to move back to the States jobless and possibly homeless depending on whether they sold their house when they moved here. It is scary for people and we are expecting more layoffs throughout the summer and into the fall. For example the elementary music teacher was cut and the elementary PE teacher moved and wasn't replaced so the school has less staff this year. Everyone will be expected to get the same work done with less people and resources. That's a tough go here.

4. Dial up Internet
Yes, our homes have dial up Internet, 52k. Enough said on that.

5. Missing people
We miss our people back in Washington. We are having a great adventure and learning so much and hopefully serving faithfully but we still miss our people. We love you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wheelchair Ministry

Our congregation has a growing wheelchair ministry that is lead by the chair (Jack) of our missions committee. The attached photo is of a ten year old boy on Ebeye who has been disabled from birth and who has never had a wheelchair since his parents can't afford one. Therefore his parents have had to carry him and he has had a limited ability to get out into society. Yesterday Jack and a few people delivered his wheelchair and here is a photo from that event.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Learning

Living on Kwaj for us has been a great time for learning. I have always thought that God wants us to learn from life. One author said something like “God comes to us as life”. I think what he meant was that God can teach us a lot about ourselves and about Him though our life. The key is slowing down and noticing. Moving to Kwaj has changed our routine so dramatically that we have been forced to slow down and notice our life and seek to learn from it.


One of the things we are learning about is healthier eating patterns. One of Kim’s girlfriends has shown her how to bake a healthy bread so our kids don’t have to eat the white bread sold at the store (they only sell one type). With the healthy bread she has been shown where online to purchase healthy spreads like almond butter and natural jams and jellies. We are learning how to be healthier and realizing that what we eat and how we exercise is a matter of stewardship. We are coming to a better understanding that our bodies are a gift from the Lord and caring for them is an essential part of stewardship. Stewardship isn’t only about money or time is it about all that we have and all that we are which of course our bodies are a key part.

We are learning about living three dimensionally as a family. We have spent time talking about what it means to live UP, IN and OUT as a family with small children. I think we have been able to do that because we have more time as a family since I live close to church and we aren’t spending as much time in the car. Actually we have spent no time in the car.

These are just a few of the things we are learning through our life here. God teaches us wherever we are if we are open to observing how he comes to us. It is really not a difficult process; we just need to be intentional about the process. Mike Breen’s work on learning from life is a great tool.

Choose to learn from life keeps our life with God fresh, current and dynamic. It keeps us growing and maturing in Christ and can break us out of the ruts we are in. One doesn’t have to move to Kwaj to do it, learning happens right where we are.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thanksgiving

I was talking with one of the members of our congregation earlier in the week and she was telling me how she was grateful for hand written mail in these days of email and impersonal mail. I was struck by how well she is practicing gratefulness. It is so easy to miss the little things in life like a letter. A letter, written by hand takes time and energy and to notice that effort and be thankful for it is wonderful.

To practice gratefulness we need to be awake and aware of what is going on around us. So often we are going to fast and doing too much and as a result we miss what is actually happening and what we are actually doing. To notice a letter means that we need to slow down and look around us. The other day it was raining here (we get over a 100 inches of rain a year) and I was thankful that I had a place to be dry and when it was time to go I was thankful for a rain gear to keep me dry. (Riding your bike in intense rain is quite an experience. When it rains here it rains hard)

What really grounds us in our practice of gratefulness is when we realize that "Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light (James 1:17 The Message)" It is God in his love and faithfulness who is giving us all the good gifts and so our gratefulness is thanksgiving to a loving and generous God. The natural outflow of gratefulness is worship. Worship is about thanksgiving and praise to a God who is generous and kind.

Our ultimate source of thanksgiving is the cross of Christ where we see God's love and mercy so clearly. Praise be to Christ!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Memorial Day on Kwajalein

Over the weekend we had a simple memorial ceremony on one of our historic WWII battle sites. It was powerful to celebrate this holiday on a battlefield.

What brought the meaning of the holiday home was when one of our on island visiting families was recognized as a gold star family. A gold star family is a family who has lost loved one in combat. This couple lost their son in Iraq. They were part of the group who placed wreaths in honor of those who gave their lives in service of our country. Our Colonel in his speech reminded us that this holiday is not about a day off or more shopping, it is about people. It is about the people who lost their lives and about the people who grieve.

Our ceremony finished with a 21 gun salute followed by the playing of taps. While the ceremony was short and simple it was a powerful reminder of the meaning and purpose of memorial day. I think all of us found ourselves thankful for the men and women who serve our country and therefore serve us.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Underwater photos

Here are som shots I took without the use of a strobe. Underwater photography is tons of fun.







Monday, May 23, 2011

Up In and Out

When I lived in Oregon I discovered some great work by Mike Breen. I thought about it a lot then and now I find myself rediscovering the importance of his work.

Life, to be lived well and to be balanced should be lived in three dimensions: upward, inward and outward.

Following is a short breakdown of up, in and out.

UP: time spent focusing on God (fasting, prayer, journaling, worship, simplicity, confession, solitude, silence, study)

IN: time spent focusing on others in the body (community, accountability, encouragement, corporate worship, time with others, celebration)

OUT: time spent focusing on those who don’t know Jesus' love and care (service, risk-taking, witness, thanksgiving, testimony, generosity, justice)

Friday, May 13, 2011

visitors

The last week or so we have had Kim's younger brother and his wife in town. It has been fun to show them around and to see Kwaj again through their eyes. Even tough we work hard at it we can still take for grated the goodness around this place.

They got here and the first few days were cloudy and we felt so disappointed they din't get good weather. Then they reminded us that a cloudy day here with temperatures in mid 80s was better than home.

Watching them enjoy the color of the ocean, the beauty of the sunset and the uniqueness of places like Glass Beach has been good for us. Kim and I like so many can get in the groove of life and miss the great stuff that is right in front of our eyes. We figure that we will see it tomorrow and so we really don't see it today. This complacency doesn't allow one to practice gratitude and being in the moment.

When we slow down and see again the gifts that God has given us we are struck again with wonder and awe. We can be in the now and take advantage of what is here. I wonder how many of us never take advantage of the great things in the areas we live because we figure we will see it tomorrow or that it will be around later.

We shouldn't put that off, we should see the gifts that are now and take advantage of the great parts of our cities and towns. I think we should all be tourists in our cities once and awhile so that we can rekindle our gratitude for what we have.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Simplicity

Our adult Sunday School class has just started a study on simplicity and fasting. Jan Johnson states that "in simplicity we abstain from participating in activities and owning possessions that extraneous and do not further the purposes God has for us."

Here on Kwaj we are forced in many ways into simplicity with our possessions since there are so few stores here and so few opportunities to shop. Some people are champion online shoppers and many of us shop online regularly since the things we need are often not in our stores here. But shopping for fun or entertainment is nonexistent here. We are all in government housing so remodeling is not an issue and since none of us have cars on the island we don't talk about our cars.

While were talking about these common realities one woman brought up an issue that is key to simplicity: sharing. She told this story about how sharing is different here than in the States. She was out running before worship and one of her friends was baking for the women's lunch after worship and she ran out of flour. In the States one would go to the store and buy more, but here the store is closed on Sunday mornings so that isn't a viable option. She called her friend to borrow flour and got the answering machine so she went over. When she got there she found that her friend wasn't home so she went into the kitchen, got the flour she needed and then went home and left a message on the answering machine detailing why the flour was gone.

When the woman got home from her run she found that she had two messages on her machine detailing why she was out of flour. The odd part of that is that she was totally fine with it. In the States, it would seem weird or creepy but here it is fine. We live with a different set of boundaries and we are more open to sharing with each other since we don't have the luxury of being self sufficient like in the States.

We were commenting in class that our life here is teaching us lessons about sharing and simplicity. We recalled how easy it was in the States to let our lives be run by our stuff and our spending. It is amazing how life can be about stuff and how hard it is to learn to have a new relationship with things so that we can deepen our relationship with God.

This is a lesson I hope to take with me when we are living in the States again some day. It is interesting because Kim and I often comment about what we are learning through our life on Kwaj and this study is highlighting and deepening that learning.