Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

As someone who has participated in many kinds of races to date, half-marathon,5k, 10K and Sprint Triathlons, I have faced my share of pre-race fears. The voices of fear are many, "You didn't train enough", "You trained too much", "look at that course, no way you are getting around it", " I can't do this what was I thinking?" so on and so on. Usually, once the race starts and I start breathing in a nice rythm the fears melt away and I can concentrate on what I need to do.
In the church there can be times when our faith fails us, we hear voices of doubt and uncertainty, "Look at all the empty pews, our church is shrinking and may die", " we have so many expenses, how will we ever pay all our bills and salary's". " We have a huge building, how can we keep it maintained with fewer and fewer people in the church?". And these fears show up in criticism of others, of pastors, of those who left, and other scapegoats that are in our field of vision.
Some try to circle the wagons, which was a winning strategy perhaps in pioneering days, but it does not work well in todays realities.
The fact is that the way we do church is changing, well it has been changing for a while but we have not always felt the shifting sand underneath our feet.  It is churches who have figured out to be the church in their context that has led to changes which have made some uncomfortable afraid but they have forged through listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that have found a way to be vital disciples and welcome new disciples into their fellowship. There is no magic formula, no easy path, no universal idea that works, except this, not to listen to the voices of fear.
I have completed every race I have entered so far, and most always laugh as I cross the finish line because I have left the voices of fear behind, for the moment, and it feels good to say, I did my best.
What voices are you listening to? Which ones do you believe?

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (NIV)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Beginning of Lent

One of the important parts of training as a triathlete is the proper breathing techniques for each sport, Breathing is as natural as, well breathing, but in sports training there are many ways to muck it up. Swimming especially is a challenge for me, sometimes I hold my breath too much, other times I breath too much. Neither helps me swim well.
The most important breathing I have discovered is not when I am running, or biking or swimming. It is when I am in the midst of my day. I find that as I get tense, I often forget to take deep breaths, and the tension mounts, taking just a minute to breath deeply helps shed the unneeded anxiety and tension that builds up. Also, when I take time to breath, I find myself more focused, and less anxious overall. I even tried a sleeping meditation before a night of a race, when is it  so hard to settle down for a good nights sleep. I was able to get more sleep than I have ever had for a pre-race night.
As Lent approaches, for us here at the Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church, and Christians around the world, it is a time to deepen our relationship to God. There are many ways to use these 40 days before Easter, and there are many different practises you can take on to see if they help you in your journey with God. I have tried many of these, fasting, praying more, special studies, but for this year I am going to make sure I am breathing enough. It is good my I watch helps remind me to do this, but perhaps we all can figure out how we can take time to breath deeply and see if it does change your life. There are many free apps out there than can help, but I would suggest joining a class or group because that helps you to be accountable to yourself as you practice this new discipline.
Breathing is natural, but we sometimes forget to breath deeply, which can be unhealthy for us.
I hope you will join me and breathe each day very deeply.
Pastor Steve

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Put up a parking lot"

I have just returned from vacation and from visiting friends and family back east. I was able to meet my new grand-nephew and celebrate a wedding. I also enjoyed seeing people at the 18th Chromosome Registry Annual Conference. As I reenter life here on the west coast. I am reflecting back on the experiences of vacation, and one image I cannot get out of my head is the parking lot which is all that is left of the church I grew up in. It is a complicated story of how my home church went from being a thriving congregation where I experienced the presence of God, heard my call to ministry, and was nurtured in the faith by those wise Christians who taught me the stories and lessons of the Bible is now gone. In fact I was happy to see one of my Sunday School teachers, who now attends another church cross town where my parents and other family are also members. They all went to this new church when the church we all used to go to was condemned and then demolished.
I think of the parking lot as I go back to my work here in this church where I have been appointed for the last three years and I wonder, what will this church be like in 20 years? Will it be a parking lot? Will it be relevant? Will it thrive or die?
There are many distractions in life that can keep us from being attentive to the call of God to be witnesses of the faith, to work for peace with justice, to be a voice for the outcast, to transform the world. Sports, or robotics, or karate or band or tutoring or any number of activities can draw us away from being attentive to the Spirit, to the soul. I find myself wondering if I am failing in teaching , inspiring others to follow God when I see empty pews. I have no problems with the activities people choose, I worry however for their souls , for their foundation, is what they are choosing helping guide them in the tough times, helping them to see the pain they can help heal, to see the ethical way of living, of following the lead of the Spirit?
The path is not always visible, the way not always easy, the ground always level, yet I renew my vow to serve God, trusting wherever the journey takes me I will be faithful, loving, transforming pain into healing. Perhaps this makes me a fool for Christ, to trust even in the face of the realities of life. What do you think? I would be interested to hear what you see, hear, feel. Because we are in this together after all.