Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lent day 10

Matthew 6:6 instructs us to pray in secret. This is in touch with the idea that holiness is not for our social advancement. Yesterday's Luke passage also reminded us of the necessary element of humilty in our pursuit of holiness. There is much to learn about the humility and privacy of our relationship with God.

I am writing this morning while we await the possibility of a Tsunami coming to Hawaii and other Pacific Islands. Praying not so much in secret.

Sometimes we do need to pray publicly and noticeably. Not for the appearance of holiness but for the unique support that comes from knowing that we are connected together. I do not know personally anyone living in Hawaii. Yet, I can connect in some way as I pray for them. And, in doing so publicly I can connect not only with the people of the Pacific, but also with people I am with in this community.

We need to strike the right balance with our private prayers and our public prayers. Today let us pray publicly for the people of the Pacific as they await the unkown.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lent Day 8

Love the Lord your God.

Luke uses the commandment to introduce the parable of the Good Samaritan. Showing the distinction between knowing the right answer and living the right answer. Knowing we are to love the Lord is one thing, acting upon that knowledge is sometimes another.

This has been a fruitful week of sharing ideas, making plans and setting up possibilities for some exciting new ministries at Mill Plain UMC. Yet, I also know that the talking about ideas is not the same as acting them out. At one point in my church life attending meetings felt like I was working, that something was getting done. While meetings are often necessary, I do worry that sometimes we would rather meet than to do. Some of my doing today will be to prepare for worship on Sunday. Some of my doing will be to answer e-mail and to make some phone calls. And I will do work of preparing for the doing action of another day.

What will we DO today to be disciples of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lent Day 7

Frogs. Really a plague of frogs? OK.

What got my attention initially about this passage is that Moses and his people expressed their desire for freedom as a means to worship.

When I was in my final year at WSU my senior thesis was a study of the original state constitutions and what they stated about freedom of religion. Each of the original 13 colonies had some statement to the effect that people were free to worship. It is a freedom that we assume in our culture.

I suppose if our religion became illegal we would still find ways to worship. We might have secret signs, we might move our meeting place around, but we would find ways to worship together. I wonder if we would value that time more if it was difficult to arrange and a bit dangerous. Do we take our Sunday mornings for granted? Hmmmm.

Here is to efforts this week to not take the opportunity we have for worship for granted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lent Day 6

Jesus takes time to bless the bread before the miracle of the feeding of the multitude.

Do you pray before meals at home? Do you pray when you go out to eat? It is amazing to me the power of creating habits or spiritual disciplines. Even if it is to simply pause to say thank you. Your public prayers do not need to be demonstrative but I believe it is valuable to say a word of thanks.

Sometimes when eating with folks at a restaurant I will offer to pray in a traditional way with head bowed and eyes closed. Sometimes I will simply take a morsel of the food hold it up and say, "Thank You God" and begin to eat.

My father used to joke that he could tell how hungry his dad was by how fast he said grace. May we be less worried about the words or the form of the prayers, and may we concern ourselves with the opportunities we have to stop and say thanks this day and every day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lent Day 5

Psalm 84

I love this Psalm. I get absorbed in the writer's enthusiasm for the place of worship and the feeling of joy just to be able to be present in that place.

This past Saturday I drove out to Ocean Park for a meeting. It was a beautiful day. Driving out I had hopes that I would have the opportunity to walk to the beach and to enjoy some time in that holy place. Instead, as soon as I arrived I entered a tense meeting where I was working as the chair of a conference committee. From where we sat I could see the ocean waves and yet by the time the meeting was finished I had to immediately drive home. Sigh.

I regret the missed opportunities to stop and appreciate God's presence in a particular place. I am a bit saddened when work sometimes takes away opportunities to worship.

So . . . I remember the opportunities that come where I can worship. Yesterday's run on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, taking time today to pray with the ladies of the PLANT group, and even sharing some thoughts on a blog.

May God Bless you as you find the opportunities to worship today!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent Day 3

The text today from Deuteronomy reminds the people to welcome the stranger because they were once strangers in a strange land.

Kendra took me to her exercise class today. It was "bring a friend day." She has just started and so I got to be the friend. Of course I was the only man in the room besides the young man who was the instructor.

It isn't easy to be a stranger. One falls so easily into the "what if they don't like me" feelings. Its not as if in this class I expected to meet people, I was there to support Kendra in this new effort of hers. Its hard to be new.

I try to remember that when new people visit the church as well. Its hard when you don't know what is going to happen, if the people will accept you, are you wearing the right clothes. There are a number of social pressures to being the stranger. I suppose the best way to welcome the stranger in our midst is to remember what it has been like to be the stranger.

Today was supposed to be an easy workout day. OUCH, I hurt in place where I forgot I had muscles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lent Day 2

In Romans 15 Paul is working to the close of this letter. Verse 7 simply states "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."

As an extrovert it is generally easy for me to welcome people. At church I am very much at home as the Pastor welcoming people. Of course, sometimes I am distracted with the many things going on during a Sunday morning and I am not always at my best for everyone, but for the most part I enjoy being with the gathered people. I also know how important it can be for the people that when they gather there is someone to welcome them and greet them by name if possible.

Saying that, I am still learning names. Sometimes a name will just fall out of my head, sometimes I mix names up, sometimes I am just a blank. The problem is now I have been around too long to claim that I'm still new. I want to know those names! Older people, children, regular attenders and irregular attenders. In general the hardest names to know are the people who only attend on Sunday mornings. Especially if they don't ever wear their name tags.

So, I will pull out the picture directory again. Try again to remember a few more names before Sunday. And if I am lucky I will be able to welcome a few more folks with their name this Sunday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

I love the readings for this day. "do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do . . . do not look dismal like the hypocrites . . ."

Sometimes for lent I give something up. Sometimes I tell others about my intentions. Often during Lent in order to set an example I will talk about what I intend to do not as a way to sound a trumpet but more in an effort to set an example AND to have others to hold myself accountable.

This year I am primarily focusing on doing rather than giving something up. I intend to write on twitter and this blog during the 40 days of lent. (note that during lent Sunday's aren't counted in the 40.) I also intend to exercise even more. The plan is to run 5 days a week. Giving myself the day before and after the weekly long run a day off. Up to now I have been doing about 3 days a week sometimes 4. In order to do these things essentially what I have to give up is about an hour of junk TV time in the evening and get to bed earlier so I can get up at 6 rather than 7:30.

So one day in and so far so good. I have done all three of those goals; run, twitter and blog. One day down, 39 to go.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time for Pancakes

Hey its "shrove" Tuesday, AKA Mardi Gras, AKA the day before Ash Wednesday.

I had an interesting phone call yesterday. Apparently one of the elderly couples of the church was having an argument and they wanted to know what Ash Wednesday was. I didn't know what I might be settling but he asked, "So what is Ash Wednesday?" I explained simply that it was the first day of Lent. "So why 40 days?" I began to explain it represented a long time with God such as the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Then came the interesting bit, "so how did they know when Jesus was going to be crucified?" I can only presume know that they were having an argument about the origin of Lent and if it was in the Bible or not. I explained that it was a tradition of the church it happened years after the Crucifixion. "So it was an afterthought." Well . . . it was a tradition that developed later. "OK, thank you pastor." And that seemed to be the end of the phone call.

For many protestants this is just another day although mainline churches have taken up the traditions of Lent and many are now holding Ash Wednesday services. So it is understandable that a faithful older member might be a bit confused about this. There may have even been Methodist preachers in the past who would refuse to have an Ash Wednesday service based primarily on the idea that it was, "too Catholic."

My first Ash Wednesday service was during my second year at WSU. The mainline churches held a combined service and a few of us from the campus ministry went to find out what this was all about. Of course all I remember about the service was the imposition of the ashes and the great internal debate I had about should I wash this stuff off of my forehead or not? I don't actually remember the decision I made but I remember the debate I had about it in front of the mirror in the dorm.

Today is in some traditions a day for pancakes in order to use up the last of the fat and oil from the household. Of course now most homes don't bother. At one time though this was a season to make sacrifices and the pancakes represented one sort of sacrifice to be made the following 40 days.

So party on, its Mardi Gras! Tomorrow the 40 days begin.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting Ready

I am sitting here in my office on another mild February day in the PNW while the organizers for the Winter Olympics fret about the lack of snow and people on the East Coast continue to shovel their way out of a week of heavy snowfall. I am trying to collect my seemingly random thoughts for the Sunday sermon.

What changes do we as individuals need to make to be better stewards of this gift of life that God has blessed us with?

Do the people of New Orleans really feel better about the damage from Hurricane Katrina because a football team won a championship? Should the NFL expand to Haiti so then maybe the people there could feel better about the earthquake?

How will we continue to make a difference for others during Lent this year?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Lent 2010


This blog has been basically down since moving to Mill Plain UMC. Primarily I just didn't know what to do with it in my new ministry.

So let's get this restarted with a Lent 2010 kickoff. 40 days of updates? I have a week to get ready for Lent . . . can we do it? Yes we can! (thanks Bob the builder.)