NEW, not necessarily improved

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted anything on this blog.  There’s been a reason.  I needed the break.  I needed to make a break.  It just broke.

I spent quite a while writing about faith, life and topics that were important to me as a mid-council leader (aka Presbytery Executive) but that chapter in my vocation ended.  The work, while fulfilling and exciting, was also demanding and depleting.

I’ve returned to parish ministry and have the privilege of working with a wonderful congregation, Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church.  I’ve been re-energized in my calling.  I’ve been able to focus on a congregation’s ministry and context.  So I’ve spent the better part of the past year concentrating on something new.

I still have the urge to write…so I started a new blog today.  Its titled, Lost in Thought and while it is new, and hopefully but not necessarily improved, this blog will be a new chapter in writing for me.

If you’re interested, I hope it becomes a new chapter for you too.

P.S.  I will be modifying the new blog as time goes by.  Right now its pretty basic. Stay tuned.


What I wish my pastor knew

When an elementary school teacher in Denver gave an assignment asking students to write a statement responding to the query, “I wish my teacher knew” many of us were surprised by the responses. Her student’s answers reveal what life can be like outside the classroom environment. Some of the responses are hard to read.  They challenge certain ideas we might have about life – especially the lives of children. Some of the responses will make you smile.  I encourage you to read those that have been shared by teachers and others on Twitter using the hashtag, #IWishMyTeacherKnew.

Since I’m the new pastor at the church I serve, I have a curiosity about people and the way things are.  I get to ask questions and right now the question for my new congregation and you, the reader is,

How would you respond to the statement, “I wish my pastor knew…?”

Pastors have ideas about what church members are like. We get to know people when we encounter them in sanctuaries and meeting places and classrooms. We come to know people from our interactions at the hospital. But what do you really wish your pastor knew…?

In a similar fashion, I’d invite pastors to share their responses too.  Tell us, what do you wish your congregation knew…?

Are you willing to share your thoughts? If so, share them in a response to this post or send them out via Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyPastorKnew.

Watch for my response…

Selfie for Lent

O Lord, you have searched me and known me…

Psalm 139 was written for me. Even though it would be several millennia before I would be around to read it, the psalmist wrote its powerful words of examination with me in mind. As I read again, its powerful words of trust in God; words that acknowledge God’s presence in my life, I cannot help but consider them a mirror reflecting back my faith story. Continue reading

Praying twice

Come, let’s sing out loud to the Lord!

Let’s raise a joyful sound to the rock of our salvation

Let’s come before him with thanks!

Let’s shout songs of joy to him!
Psalm 95:1 (Common English Bible)

My first theological conversations were shared in song. My first theology textbook was a hymnal. My earliest awareness of God in relationship with me was expressed by the singing voice. Continue reading

A journey by stages

“And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.”

Genesis 12:9

Abraham has to be one of the more complex characters in the Bible. He is a man of incredible faith and serious doubt. He is honored as a patriarch yet is also a fearful husband.  He is the father to three world religions yet he is willing to commit atrocities a loving parent could not begin to comprehend let alone perform. The complexity of Abram is at times reassuring and yet bewildering.

Moving after a decade in Idaho, ending my call with the Presbytery of Boise, and spending nearly 4 months working as a stay-at-home dad are but a few of the recent events that remind me of the complexity of my life too.  I’ve grappled with the right way to describe this time and I found it in the story of Abram. It is the phrase, “journey by stages”.  I am drawn to this phrase because it captures the realization that like Abram; where the church and where I am going is a journey by stages.

The call to ministry, like the call to Abram, is complex. It is a inner response to a divine claim, the ability and persistence to succeed in training, and an approbation by a specific community of faith. That is only the beginning!  The journey while in ministry is equally complex as I fearfully and faithfully strive to live and encourage others to live in a manner that at times just won’t fit the world’s standard. Ministry takes you by the hand to lead you and when necessary stands behind you shoving you to places you had never considered and cannot fully understand until you have traveled a bit farther along the path. Ministry like life, is a journey by stages.

The season of Lent is described as a season of journey. The forty days, beginning Ash Wednesday and concluding with Holy Week, are depicted as a journey alongside Jesus – traveling a road to Jerusalem, to a garden at Gethsemane, to an upper room, to Golgotha, and a tomb.  Lent is a journey by stages.

When we begin this journey we cannot plan to reach the destination quickly. Lent needs to settle in on us. If you’re like me, the season begins in complexity with an uneasy feeling that things just aren’t right in the world, in me.  We cannot rush to answers but allow answers to settle in by stages. The journey begins with words that are hard to hear and confront us with a bit of life’s complexity.

It can be unsettling to hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. They speak of the finite to a people who haven’t considered and aren’t prepared for the end, or for whom the end is a very present reality.

Ash Wednesday is one of those significant mileposts in the journey in ministry. There can be no more powerful service of worship than the service of ashes on Ash Wednesday when you stand before individuals with ashes and oil at hand marking the sign of a cross on their forehead.  I am saying one of the most important things one person can say to another. As I do so I am reminded that life is complex and answers aren’t always easy and is best lived as a journey by stages.

I will continue to journey by stages personally and vocationally in this Lenten season.  Most of this journey will be spent in personal reflection, examination and in vocational preparation to assume a new role in a congregation.  It is a journey I am eager to continue and resume.  I look forward to seeing you on the road.