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.