Sunday, December 23, 2007

Turning Harm into Good

When you have been hurt it is hard to let Out the agony
The denial of your pain is collaborated by Those closest to you
They do not see, they turn away when The harm is exposed
They evangelize against you.
Often, you are the only one who can choose a different way
But as a pioneer for good health,
You leave cherished ones behind, but not forgotten.
You know you cannot ever go back
Never choose the old habits,
Yet you wonder if you will always be alone
Unable to speak of the past
In a moment of circumstances
Reversed, you control the care of those Who did not care for you, and you cannot Choose with any good conscious to harm Them the same way their bitter hate Wounded you, and so the divide Becomes greater to those who do not try to understand.
Still others do understand for they have been there too
Unique in their stories, but woven together with yours
Partners in transforming harm into good.
SPM 2007

Sermon on the Messiah by Handel

Choices, the choices we make each and every day have an impact on how our lives are shaped, and how our lives impact the lives of others. As the shopping frenzy reaches its climax at sundown on Christmas eve, I realize the most anxiety producing, heart racing, brain freezing, action procrastination decisions I make to get the right present are at Christmas. No matter how much time I have, no matter how early I start, I always feel I have fallen short of the perfect gift choices! But choices are what I have to decide on, no one wants the excuse that you could not decide. The choices we make are important in our journey of faith as well. In today’s scripture, we learn our Messiah will choose good over evil, and will be a light for the nations. In our moments of indecision we need this light to guide us in the difficult times, in the ordinary times, in the joyful times of our lives.
This week I did some research on the life of George Frideric Handel , who composed the masterpiece being performed today by the Claremont Symphony Orchestra, Messiah, . This music which has become a tradition at Advent time, almost would not have been written Handel had made different choices.
If Handel's father had had his way, the "Hallelujah Chorus" would never have been written. His father was a "surgeon-barber," a no-nonsense, practical man who was determined to send his son to law school. Even though Handel showed extraordinary musical talent as a child, his father refused for several years to permit him to take lessons.
When George was eight or nine years old, a duke heard him play an organ postlude following a worship service. Handel's father was summarily requested to provide formal music training for the boy. His father chose to follow the summons of the duke. By the time Handel turned 12, he had written his first composition and was so proficient at the organ that he substituted, on occasion, for his own teacher.
Although Handel would go on to write great music in England, he suffered personal setbacks. Falling in and out of favor with changing monarchs, competing with established English composers, and dealing with fickle, hard to-please audiences left him on the verge of bankruptcy more than once.
Audiences for Handel's compositions were unpredictable, and even the Church of England attacked him for what they considered his notorious practice of writing biblical dramas such as Esther and Israel in Egypt to be performed in secular theaters. His occasional commercial successes soon met with financial disaster, as rival opera companies competed for the ticket holders of London. He drove himself relentlessly to recover from one failure after another, and finally his health began to fail. By 1741 he was swimming in debt. It seemed certain he would land in debtor's prison.

On April 8, 1741 he gave what he considered his farewell concert. Miserably discouraged, he felt forced to retire from public activities at the age of 56. Then two unforeseen events converged to change his life. A wealthy friend, Charles Jennings, gave Handel a libretto based on the life of Christ, taken entirely from the Bible. He also received a commission from a Dublin charity to compose a work for a benefit performance.
Handel set to work composing on August 22 in his little house on Brook Street in London. He grew so absorbed in the work that he rarely left his room, hardly stopping to eat. Within six days Part One was complete. A few days later he had his mystical experience of seeing heaven and wrote the concluding piece of Messiah, called Hallelujah! This was his attempt to express the joy of seeing heaven, and the witness of Jesus of life conquering death.
I have been to see or sing in Messiah, about 20 times in my life time, ever since I first learned the score in college choir. The words to the music always hit my heart so I would like to highlight a few choices Handel made from the Old Testament to introduce us to the expectations to who this Messiah would be. In doing so, perhaps we can also catch a glimpse of what inspired Handel. I do not include all the verses, only my favorites I will use to share my love of this music with you.

1.Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplish'd, that her Iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40 : 1-3)
The first word is comfort: a word that will create in us a sense of peace, of contentment. We live in troubled times, when war is claiming the lives, when hunger and poverty still have not been conquered, a time when the world seems to have lost its way. It is good to know that the expected Messiah, will first bring a word of comfort to our troubled souls.
2. Ev'ry valley shall be exalted, and ev'ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
In my last visit to my hometown, Chicopee Mass, I went to a picnic at Look Park in Northampton, a really neat outdoor park where you can build a campfire, throw rocks in the stream, rent a paddle boat. However, the skies darkened and we had a severe thunderstorm, a real down pour, and the winds knocked trees down, and the thunder made you jump! We ran back to our cars and then decided after a waiting until the crowd had left, and the rain lessoned to leave. However, in getting back to our hotel, I had to drive around downed tree branches, pools of water, and traffic that had slowed down to 25mph. All the time we huddled together, the heater doing its best to dry us out, until we could reach the warm safe room where we could change. There are times in our lives when we are trying to navigate through storms, of loss, of financial crisis, of a health problem when we wonder if we will safely arrive on the other side. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will help us through the rough places of our lives.
(Isaiah 40 : 4)
3. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
(Isaiah 40 : 5)
When we turn to Jesus, we will see the glory of the lord, the light will shine and guide us, comfort us.

Challenges: The Messiah does not only offer comfort, but challenges us to make right choices throughout our lives.
1.Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of Hosts; Yet once a little while and I will shake the heav'ns and the earth, the sea and the dry land: And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come.
I went to Danny’s Kosher Pickle for some good chicken noodle soup! The bonus was a guy playing the piano, and he played, “Shake Rattle and Roll”. One line of the lyric says: well you never do nothin' to save your doggone soul. The Messiah does shake up the world, the life and message of Jesus is all about saving your soul, which means you may need to make choices that willl shake you up, make you uncomfortable.
(Haggai 2 : 6-7)
2. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(Malachi 3 : 1)
Often when we try to change our ways, we might want more time, next Christmas I will make better choices, I will not wait until the last minute etc. But the moment in which Jesus enters into our lives will be a sudden and unexpected. We celebrate both the birth of Jesus into the world in Bethlem so many years ago, and the birth of Jesus in our souls which does not just occur once but in every moment and in every day.
3. But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire.
The Messiah comes to purify our lives, all the impure will be burned away, and our hearts will be renewed.
(Malachi 3 : 2)
Handel chooses then to move us from comfort to challenge to how we can respond to the challenge. The most important message is that God is not a distant God.
1. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, GOD WITH US.
(Isaiah 7 : 14)
God is with us, in every step, in every breath in all our lives. The presence of God makes all the difference as we travel through life. As I think about all the wonderful holiday memories I treasure, it is not what I received, or gave that really stays with me, what stays with me is who was there, who I spent the time with. This is my seventh Christmas with you here in Walnut, and you need to know I cherish the time we have spent together. I especially value the way you give to others at this time of year, through donations of food for Toberman Settlement house, gifts for those in foster care, time and effort in feeding the homeless, to giving for special offerings, you are surely a small membership church with a giant heart!

2. O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain. O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God! O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, Arise, shine, for thy Light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
Good tidings come in many forms, we proclaim the good tidings by choosing good over evil, by doing good works, by worshipping and singing, by sending cards and gifts. All of this work in whatever form we choose, gives us and those who receive strength.
(Isaiah 40 : 9; Isaiah 60 : 1)
3. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
(Isaiah 60 : 2-3)
In the moments we become lost, God’s light leads the way.
4. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9 : 6)
This is one of my most favorite pieces of the Messiah music, the infant who comes into the world in a hushed manager, goes on to be all of our dreams come true. A wonderful counselor, the prince of peace.

The most famous movement is the "Hallelujah" chorus, which concludes the second of the three parts. The text is drawn from three passages in the New Testament book of Revelation:
1. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)
The reign of God is what rules the world, and in this reign we can take comfort, we can celebrate, and we are challenged to be faithful followers.
2. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
Christmas comes and go, but the work of the Kingdom continues on, every day of our lives, every moment of our faith.
3. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)
As we make our final preperations for Christmas, as we anticipate the new year, let us continue to sing this song of promise. As we make choices, as we live, let us do so singing to the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Scrooge in Me!

Just for fun I wrote an opposite piece:

This Christmas I want to create havoc and fear in the world
When I gather with friends and family
I want to be bitter and resentful
When I send out x-mas cards I want my worlds laced with
envy and malice
I will not be satisfied with gifts and resent others who got stuff I wanted
I will brood and fume over what could of been rather than enjoy the moment
This Christmas I will, out of guilt, fulfill the required outward signs of celebrating
the season
Go to Christmas Eve services
Give money to the poor
Drink a toast to the new year
But inwardly I will feel unappreciated, ignored, taken
advantage of and feel insecure.
This Christmas I will drink too much, eat too much
spend too much, and excuse the excesss to being in the spirit
Yet still get a holiday hangover that will only add fuel
To the yuletide log of guilt and emptiness.
Yeah, Christmas comes but once a year, but the gloomy cloud
of self pity lasts the whole year round!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sermon 12-9-07

Dead Wood: Roscoe, Texas a farm town with a population of just 1,300, is about to become Wind City U.S.A. — the locus of one of the biggest wind farms in the nation and the world. It's a striking development in a state better known as the U.S. leader in emissions of global warming gases.
The wind project is largely due to the vision of a one-armed, 65-year-old cotton farmer named Cliff Etheredge.
"We used to cuss the wind," he says. "Killed our crops, carried our moisture away, dried out our land. But because of the advent of the wind farms, we've had a complete 180-degree attitude change. Now, we love the wind."
A few years ago, Etheredge noticed wind towers sprouting up near his cotton farm and wondered if Roscoe could cash in on the great West Texas wind boom. He hit the jackpot. A company called Airtricity, out of Dublin, Ireland, is spending more than $1 billion installing as many as 640 huge windmills around Roscoe. Together, they'll generate 800 megawatts, enough to power 265,000 homes. That once-cursed wind that blows across the Big Country may ultimately pay royalties to as many as 400 property owners.
"No one could've imagined this three years ago," says Etheredge. "It's absolutely unbelievable."
He says the income from a windmill is more dependable than dry-land cotton farming, where drought and hail are constant threats. Depending on the size of the turbine, a landowner can earn between $5,000 and $15,000 per windmill per year.
A "lot of the farmers around here are getting 10 to 20 towers, so it's going to make living in Roscoe a lot easier for those of us that are farmers here," Althof says.
All of this came just in time for Roscoe, where the trains don't stop anymore. Worse, the Dairy Queen closed three years ago. Cliff Etheredge says that in West Texas, that means your town is really in trouble.
"When I was a kid, all the traffic from Fort Worth to El Paso came right through town," he says. "Well the interstate bypassed town, and that's when it began to just dry up. All these stores began to close and no one reopened them. And no one came back home from college or school, none of the young people did, or very few of them. So mainly we've got a lot of old folks in this town. That's about it."
Now, there are new signs of life. Walking along Broadway Street, Etheredge points with his good arm — he lost the other one to a cotton harvester — to the cafe that's just expanded and the new Mexican restaurant.
"Hopefully, we'll see Roscoe reborn here," he says.(NPR/Environment).
This is one example of how wind can make a difference in the lives of people who were feeling despair about their future.
Today’s scripture talks about the God’s Spirit, which Isaiah pronounces is life giving, future creating, world forming, despair ending power. The tree stump has had its very life ripped off from its roots. There was no trunk, no branches, no leaves, no fruit. But yet, life is still possible, a shoot, barely noticeable sprouts up, is nurtured and once again bears fruit. Isaiah and John the Baptist talk about the reality of such a leader being born into the world so we too can feel the power of God, in the midst of our lives.
A king with spirit
First , this king will have wisdom which is equals practical and FAIR leadership. The story of the wind farms is one of ordinary people who need to find a way of reversing the downward spiral of their economic reality. Cliff Etheridge used practical wisdom to research and then pursue the vision of using the wind, which had brought destruction and applying a practical solution to bring people hope. This project brought a town on the edge of poverty, a new beginning. So too for us the King will bring us a new vision for what is possible even in the times we feel despair and resignation.
The new king will be able to combine counsel and might which equals diplomatic and military SKILL. The New king would know how to make the possibilities become reality. Of course in the prophet and in the preaching of John, both anticipated a military leader who would lead a rebel uprising, ala Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, but as it turns out it is not a military Messiah that is born, but one that advocates for peace, and for people to learn how to get along. The non-violent resistance advocated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and many others has its roots in the teachings of Jesus. And as I learned in class at Boston University, Martin’s alma mater, non-violent resistance is still resisting the forces of evil, it is an active not a passive strategy to bring about peace in the world.
Lastly a King with Spirit will have a FEAR of the Lord which equals piety. Fear is used here to denote respect, honor, a giving away of ones own personal agenda to listen to the voice of God, to be in harmony with the deeply rooted values woven into life. This past week the presidential campaign coverage was focused on the speech given by Mitt Romney who addressed a fear that many evangelical Christians have voiced: He said his faith would shape his moral values, but he promised that his church would not dictate his policies.
"Let me assure you," Romney said, "that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."
This speech echoed the words of John F. Kennedy who had to address the fears raised about his Roman Catholic Faith. Political leaders are not religious leaders, and our system of separation of church and state is a hallmark feature of our government. Yes our political views need to be shaped by the universal morals of our life together, yet we do not need a preacher in the white house, we need someone who fears God but who has the wisdom and skill to lead us a country.
A true Leader that Isaiah points to has several qualities
JUDGES with Righteousness. This kind of leader is not open to bribes, or subject to propaganda, this kind of leader is concerned not with his own needs, but with the needs of the meek and the powerless. The messiah judges us according to how we tended to the needs of these forgotten ones.
A true leader: Believes in the power of GOD. It is a proven fact that leaders who are given too much power, will abuse it. Kings often would get in positions of authority and use it to their advantage, forgetting their pledge to serve God, and the people. A true King would never forget to be humble, and give all the glory to God.
A true leader Rules with Justice: there are far too many acts of injustice in the world, women who are sold as slaves, children who starve, men who are lost in the web of mental illness. Our world is hurting, just as much as it was in the times of Isaiah. We need leaders who will right the ship, who will help our world to function in a healthy fruitful way.
Advent is a time when we anticipate this new King to arrive into the midst of our lives. Isaiah calls us to trust in this new king, the new wind that moves over us, threw us, within us, and give up the ways of the past that have led to destruction. As we move to John the Baptist we go from hearing about the new king and what the king will do, to what our role is in this new kingdom.
We need to anticipate the king and John
Calls us to change FOCUS. This week I was talking to one of the staff people working at my wife Linda’s church. We were talking about her background, and her experience in the church. She said, “you know I really love when worship is for God, and instead of singing about God, we sing to God.” Her words did not really sink in until yesterday when our choir was rehersing for next weeks cantata. As I was singing, I tried changing my focus on my preperation for the cantata concentrating on singing to God. My whole attitude changed, and I had a much more joyful experience in singing. Instead of feeling badly about the mistakes I made, the missed notes, counting wrong, I realized this was all so I could sing of my love to God! Now as we prepare for Christmas, I wonder if there if we could all shift our focus, from having to buy the right presents, make the right food, seeing all the right people, to making things right with God, and making sure our focus is on praising God for the gift of a lifetime, Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
John states that once we repent of our sins, honestly desire to turn our lives around we will bear fruit. John Wesley said, “The fruit of faith whereby we are born of God is power over sin, power over outward sin of every kind; over every evil word and work”. To repent means to be a child of God, to believe in God, through Christ, and not to commit sin and to enjoy at all times and in all places, that “peace of God which passeth all understanding”. Lastly, we are to make our whole life a labor of love. When we honestly repent, we yearn to live a life worthy of God, and all we do worthy to God.
JESUS in redefined: As I mentioned earlier Jesus was thought of as one who would be a military leader. However, Jesus does not take on that role, rather he calls us to love one another, our neighbors, ourselves, the world. Again, Wesley emphasized for us to repent of anything that was contrary to the love of our neighbor: “Find jealousies, any evil surmisings, any groundless or unreasonable suspicions, malice, hatred, bitterness, envy, resentment, revenge, all which do not spring form brotherly love, all which does not agree with that golden rule, ‘What ye would that should do to you, even so do unto them’.
So What? What are we to do in this Advent time to anticipate, and to prepare for Christmas?
I repeat the three actions we can take that I mentioned last week
PRAY attention; By taking more time to pray we can then be open to how God’s spirit is moving in our lives,and in the life of the world. We can lift up all our confessions, all our needs, and refocus on God in prayer. It is free, easy and there are no right ways to pray, we can be formal or informal, as long as we are talking to God, and this is key, wait for an answer.
Prepare and be READY: It is a good time to take moments in the middle of the business of the season, to take account, of all things
WORK FOR PEACE: You and I are working together for peace. We does this in small ways, like studying the Bible together, serving the homeless, worshiping God.
This how we anticipate the messiah, in small ways guided by the wind of God, who turns desperate situations into opportunities for practicing peace.

New book

I am excited because I recently found my old journals packed up in the I am going to be able to put together a book of poems and reflections! I hope you will be interested in this project. Steve

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Link to an interesting article on Church history

If anyone is interested in reading about church history, this short article gives you a glimpse into the history of the church schism that took place. Steve


Greetings to all of you, I wonder if you could comment on what your favorite christmas movie is. I am preparing a sermon for Advent that will be talking about this so, need your feedback, thanks, Steve

Monday, November 26, 2007

Newsletter poem

It only takes a spark

One whispered promise
One enthusiastic hug
One gentle squeeze
One shout of welcome
One sip of tea

They all penetrate
My hardened heart
And cause a tear to form in my eye
And inspires my heart to love
SPM 2007
This will be published in our newsletter this coming month. So this is for those who do not get that publication! Steve

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday's Sermon

Be the Cup Overflowing
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-79

William Sloan Coffin, in his book “ The Courage to Love” states:
The currents of history are churning into rapids, sweeping before them all the familiar buoys that long have marked the channels of our lives. And when we look at the ship of state, ours or almost anybody else’s, all we seem to see and hear is the canvas (of the sails) tearing and cables parting. In such disorderly and frightening times, it is not wonder people want their answers clear, clean, and easy. But it is not the task of preachers to give their people what they want, rather, to give then what they need.

I would add that it is up to the church to give what the people of the world need, not what they want. This is the mission of God, this is our mission. So the question remains What do we need? What does the world need? More war or more peace? More hunger or more grain, more inequality, or more justice, more hate or more love?

The scripture lessons for today point to what God intends for the world and Jeremiah warns against leaders who do not bring to the people in their care closer to this intention. Jeremiah uses the very familiar image of a pasture, one we have heard used in the Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes lie down in green pastures. In God’s eye, all are invited to this pasture, it is a home, not made with stones and wood, but with eternal love, compassion, justice, peace, a land flowing with milk and honey, a place where there is no fear, no anxiety, no doubt, no depression. This pasture is a sacred place, all of us, are invited, all of us are welcomed, all of us are attended to.

Jeremiah starts in this section with three warnings, Woe to the
Leaders who destroy the sheep
Leaders who scatter the sheep
Leaders who do not attend to the sheep

Leaders who destroy the sheep: These are people who are in leadership positions who take advantage of their authority, to take advantage of those under their care. Sexual abuse is perhaps the most infamous case of how people can be destroyed by the actions of someone in whom they put their trust. However, cases throughout the ages have also revealed religious leaders who like the case of the salem witch trials put people to death. We as followers need to be careful about those leaders who call us to destroy others, and to hold them accountable when they destroy the lives of the sheep.

Leaders who scatter the sheep: When it comes to scattering the sheep, it is to take them from the comfort of the flock, of the pasture, and raise such a fuss that the sheep are then isolated from one another, and from the shepherds care. As a result the sheep are vulnerable to attack from wolves and other predators, they have no one to protect them.

On December 1, 2007 we will observe World AIDS Day, and it reminds me of the experience of working with men and women through the years who are living and dying from this horrible pandemic. I remember particularly well the story of one young woman, who was a single Mom who was a recovering addict, she had contracted AIDS through a infected needle. Once it was revealed that she had the virus, her husband left her to raise their two young children alone. Her church kicked her out they simply could not cope with her disease, or the fact she had been a closet drug abuser, she was a sinner who was no longer welcome. Her family also disowned her, and she hit rock bottom, left with no means to support herself, no resources to pull her out of the free fall her life had become. Fortunately, her doctor became her lifeline, and she started on the medications, got into rehab and then found the Strength for the Journey retreat financed and supported by the HIV/AIDS task force of the United Methodist Church here in Southern California. She found friends at this one week retreat, that gave her the support and the energy to live a sober life, and be a shepherd to her children.

Lastly, Woe to those shepherds who do not attend to the sheep. If you have any kind of pet, you know how dependent they are on you, to feed them, to keep them healthy. Sometimes it is a pain, like when my dog ate something, that well, shall we say did not agree with him, and I need to get out the carpet spot cleaner. Shepherds who do not attend to their sheep, are not aware of when to move them to greener pastures, when to bring them up the mountain for grazing, and back down for the winter are poor shepherds indeed. To attend to another is to know exactly what they need, not what they want.

God ends these warnings with a promise, again three fold, God promises to
Attend to the shepherds
To attend to the people
To raise up new shepherds

God promises to attend to those poor shepherds who have lost their way, and have led others badly. This is not what we want, instead we wished God would punish those shepherds, to make them suffer because of the suffering they caused. But God does not give us what we want, rather God gives those abusive shepherds what they need. This profound action is based on the law of mercy, no one is excluded from God’s pasture not matter how sinful, no matter how unlovable they appear to be.

Second, God promises to attend to the people. Even though we may wonder if anyone cares, even when the world turns their backs on us, hate us, God promises to give us what we need. My greatest fear is that I will do something to someone which will be so wicked bad, as we Massachusetts natives would say, that God would turn away. But even then, God promises to attend to me, to those who have been scattered, destroyed, ignored.

Thirdly, God promises to raise up new shepherds who are good, who are worthy of trust, and even will change the world. This summer after a 7 year absence from attending a strength for the journey retreat I was able to spend three of the 5 days with this years campers and staff. I was overwhelmed with joy as I observed how some of campers who had started when I was co-dean, are now experienced staff members who have found a new meaning and purpose for their lives in serving others.

As we move into Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke, we see many of the promises of God echoed in the words in the Gospel. Now however, we are told of a shepherd that will change the world, who will fulfill the promises of God. Zechariah also prophecies there will be one who will prepare the way of the Lord. As we consider the next few weeks the theme of Anticipation of the Messiah, I invite you to accept that you too are being called by God in three ways. We are called to prepare the way, to give knowledge of salvation, and to focus on God’s mercy

John the Baptist knew that he was not the Messiah, but he also heard the call of God to prepare the way for Jesus. John’s main task was to preach repentance, for people who had lost their way to commit their lives to the work of God. John called the people to turn away from their evil ways, and to turn towards the goodness, the holiness of God. Instead of signing a letter of commitment, a legal contract, pinky swear, they were only to enter into the water, be baptized by John, cleansed by God and start all over again with a new focus, and new strength.

Preparing the way included then the act of Baptism, and then people would experience the gift of salvation, of a place reserved just for them in the heavenly kingdom. John called people to repent so they could open their hearts to the gift of salvation, which was poured from God’s heart to their own, in such abundance that all their sins were washed away, and they were right with God. This of course was not only a one time event, but was in fact the reality of life, to strive to make your life a holy service to one another, yet also recognizing we would from time to time need to offer confession when we had strayed off the path.

Preparing the way, give knowledge of salvation and always focus on mercy this is the way we anticipate the messiah.

I want to push this second task a bit further in our understanding of how God and Salvation works

First, we need to be abundantly clear that our salvation is in God’s hands. it is not our actions, but Gods that offer the way of salvation.Yes, we can act in ways that will bring us woe, bring others woe, but God never gives up on us. We are never discarded, we are always a prayer away from God. The Messiah of the Old Testament gives way to the life and teachings of Jesus. So many of the laws and regulations had done more to exclude than include people in the Kingdom. Because Jesus is our King, our shepherd, we are all invited, we are all welcomed, we are all attended to, and given what we need. Humans often cannot believe in this all inclusive mercy. Many would rather set up rules and regulations thinking they have to guard their salvation, to justify their standing to God. I remember one summer camp, my first in fact, when I spent a week in the Appalachian mountains at the Boy Scout reservation in Woronco, Massachusetts. I was less than a tenderfoot, brand new to the troop. I slept under a tent on a platform, the only tent that had room. All the other Scouts knew each other, and had already reserved tents with their friends in them. One particular tent group even went to the extreme of posting guards outside their tent to keep out the riffraff like me! I never forgot that feeling of being excluded, and I owe that early experience to leading me to church where all were welcome, and no guards were at the entrance to keep out the riffraff, in fact the ushers were always friendly and welcoming. God includes even the worse sinner, the worse law breaker, the person who you hate!

Repent: even though we are given our salvation as a free gift, we still have a choice to make, we either chose to accept this gift, or to deny it, curse it. Sometimes it is hard to let go of these addictions, to let go and let God. Again, Jesus calls us to lose our lives, to lose all the wants, let go of all the destructive patterns, and welcome the mercy of God into our hearts. This is a life long process, often we will take two steps forward and three back, but if we continue to turn over our lives to God, we will experience our needs being fulfilled and will be able to lead others to Christ so their needs will be fulfilled.

Third, we need to trust in God’s forgiveness. We often try to put down ourselves or others. So often we do not understand how complete the mercy of God is. We want to dictate to others the requirements that are necessary rather than trust in God. We want to determine which sheep are worthy, when God welcomes all.
In the early days of Christianity, you were welcome if you first have been circumcised, later if you payed for pew, later if you were anglo saxon. Many religious sects sprung up due to the various requirements required for followers to believe, you must be baptized by immersion, you must take communion using real wine, you have to be a man to be a pastor. How must God look at all this division, how must God wonder why the pasture that is open to all be partitioned off by shepherds, this is mine, acting on what they want, not what the people need. Because we remain divided, the great needs of the world are not met, people starve, people die, people war with one another, because we give into the temptation of want.

We as a church, and as individual Christians need to provide leadership that do three things
First, Invite the scattered. We need to find those who have been isolated, those who have no community, no family, who have been labeled as unworthy of care and attentiveness. Jesus does so much to show how the sinners excluded by the religious institutions in his time, were loved by God. John Wesley took on the religious leaders of his time to bring the gospel to those who had been left out by the church, the prisoners, the miners, the sinners. How is God challenging us to attend to those sheep who have been left out? And do we justify our actions because we fear our own salvation being taken away if we associate with certain others? If this is true would Jesus sat down with tax collectors, with adulteress, with Samaritans?

Instead of excluding we need to
Attend to the sheep. In the book Cracking Your Congregation’s code, the authors say this: The principle of service is what separates true leaders from glory seekers. Jesus the leader, served his people. Most religions teach that we are put here to serve God; yet in Jesus, God is offering to serve us. True service inspires service. The true attitude of serving-is a softening agent that works on the hardest of hearts and situations. True leadership therefore is sharing of oneself.”(p. 135) This is the light we can offer to the world/

This is what it means then to attend to the sheep, giving of ourselves and giving up of judgement, want, and self serving attitudes.

The mercy of God is overflowing abundantly to all of life, once we are connected to that mercy through repentance and desire to serve, our cup will overflow with justice, compassion, peace and love.
So BE The light! Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Vitality is

prayer said
hymns sung
smiles shared
hugs embrace

Vitality is

the Spirit inspiring
Jesus Teaching
God creating

Vitality is


Vitality is


Vitality is

Serving in the choir
sitting on committees
trimming bushes
fixing the sink
attending worship
cracking a joke

Vitality is
offering ourselves
our time
our blessing
our love

every moment
every breath
every day
without end
without reward.

Poem from Sunday

It only takes a spark

One whispered promise
one enthusiastic hug
one gentle squeeze
one shout of welcome
one sip of tea

They all penetrate
my hardened heart
and causes a tear to form in my eye
and inspires my heart to love
SPM 2007

(Used in my thanksgiving sermon)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Breath Prayer

Prayer is as easy as breathing
out with confession
in with forgiveness
out with praise
in with glory
out with petition
in with healing
out with with concerns
in with answers
out with confusion
in with mystery
out with chaos
in with order
out with fear
in with peace
Prayer is as easy is breathing.
necessary to be alive. Amen
10-20-07 SPM

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


God of constant creation,
Help me let go of the need to see all that I do as having an immediate result. Let me see how to act in the moment trusting in your blessing to make a difference to others, now or in the future. I have been so wasteful in trying to get approval and feedback that I have missed the satisfaction of following your will. Bless me again, so I will continue the pilgrimage through unknown territory, turning over to you my every breath. Amen

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I have been a bit overwhelmed with all the wildfires that have threatened the homes of so many, have pushed the firefighters and all those in public safety to the limit. My prayers of thanks has continued even as the networks have turned to other breaking
news. The fall out from the destruction will continue to press us to offer care for those who lost all or most of their possessions, and in some cases the lives of their loved ones. The soot and ash is still in the air and many have developed illnesses in the post fire environment. I must admit it is hard to imagine what it must be like to lose all those possessions I have carefully collected through the years, books, furniture, pictures, art, clothes. I would be discouraged and depressed I am sure.
This week I am studying the prophet Haggai, who was given the job of helping people find it in their faith to rebuild the temple of Solomon. He preached a message of hope for those refugees who had been exiled from their homeland for 70 years, and many of whom had to depend on their younger family members to do the work required. Haggai, talked in terms of saying that God will support and protect them and give them energy for the work. I think of my home church in Chicopee Falls, the building which had stood for over 160 years was leveled, and now only a few bricks remain, the land turned into a parking lot for another church. This is so discouraging for the congregation, as they struggle to be a witness for the Gospel. Many wonder what is in store,what is the future for us now that we have no building to call home? Haggai seems to answer my questions, about the future, trust in God and God will provide. This is hard when their is no proof to hold on to, no physical structure to inspire, but it is true that as we rebuild our churches, our homes, our lives, God is there every nail, every brick, every step of the way. I wonder do I trust God that much?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where have I been?

Hello everyone, sorry not to be posting on a regular basis, I have been following the Red Sox in the playoffs and so have been chatting on line with folks about the games. Now they are on to the world series!! I have been writing a bit, but must say the work of the church has been keeping me busy. I will be posting a few new things, but also some work I have done in the past, which I am going through.. keep all the firefighters in your prayers, the wild fires are really out of control right now, Steve

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Back to Walnut United

Well, as you can read I have not been keeping up with this blog! I am finding myself trying to get into a good rhythm in my work and writing. I am delighted to see everyone and have been catching up on all the business of the church. I am in the midst of reading proposals for the Jubilee Grants, and will be sending my rankings soon. Our church went to Aldersgate camp (go to Pacific Palisades for an overnight retreat. It was sure a great experience, and I highly recommend this facility for small retreats it was great, the staff is great and the food was wonderful! I will be editing a few poems I wrote there and posting soon, but just wanted to let you all know today I am still here! Blessings, Steve

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wedding Photo! July 2007

Ghost Ranch Class

Well, here is my first attempt at publishing photos, below is my writing class in front of kitchen mesa at ghost ranch which was back in July-August

Coming soon: art and poems/prayers

Hi, Our church is raising money by taking 5 dollars and investing in something that will double, triple our investment. This is a challenge to me, what can I do? So, I finally decided, bookmarks! I am creating bookmarks with a watercolor scene on one side and a poem on the other. So, I try to figure out how to put them up on the blog for you to view, and order. I have no idea what to charge, so what do you think? Steve

Monday, September 24, 2007

Time to come back home!

Okay I took your advice. I am coming back home. I went into my office today and it was great to see Julie, and Chris our pre- school director came by, and I made a few phone calls, went through the mail, and worked on a worship service. However, I went too long without lunch and my blood sugar dropped. Okay, remember to eat at regular intervals Steve. Then tonight I went to the Jubilee Grant task force meeting. I now have 30 proposals to read and vote on before October 12, we then meet on October 20th to award the top vote getters with funds. I am one step away from sending out stuff to publishers, this is a harder step than I realized, I begin to wonder if my work will be okay or will I get rejection letters. I wonder if maybe I should just keep it to myself, and not take the risk. I think that maybe what I have written is not good enough. Anyhow, I am trying to work up the courage, and send some samples off, pray for me!
Thanks to all for your support, and if you are reading this for the first time, since I did send out a bunch of invites to new folks now that this will be a regular blog, I invite you all to read some of the earlier posts which has much more creative writing, and less of this babbling. Steve

Friday, September 21, 2007

Time for going back to work!

Well folks it is almost time to go back to work! I am already working on making my reentry into next Monday. I am thinking of changing the name of this blog, a new title to inspire me to keep writing, and posting. I will take any suggestions! Steve

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wedding Anniversary

Well I am back folks, arrived safe and sound tonight, too tired to write much but here is the service I wrote for my parents:
50th Wedding Anniversary Service for Neil and Norma
Marshall 9-15-07

Friends and Family, We have gathered together today
under the care of God. We gather to celebrate love and
all love inspires commitment, dedication, joy, courage
and faith. All these virtues make our relationships to
God and one another fulfilling and purposeful.

We gather here to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of
the Marriage between Norma and Neil, a journey that
started right here in this sanctuary. Marriage is a
commitment to be faithful to another person for
better, for worse, for times in sickness and health.
This is not an easy promise and many challenges can
threaten the bond between the two partners.
So it is with great joy we celebrate the love of Neil
and Norma, a love that has weathered the storms and
grew deeper still. Their faith in God to protect and
guide them has grown stronger and their witness to
others of their love and faith has stood the test of

Today we stand as witnesses to Neil and Norma’s love
and faith and give thanks to God for this milestone in
their life together: Let us pray:

Dear loving Creator, You know us even before we were
formed in the womb. Your Spirit spills into our souls
even as our physical form takes shape, and as we take
the first steps into life, you guide us and offer your
unconditional love. Your love inspires us to love one
another as you love us and so we find friendship and
soul mates in the journey of life.

You have taught us to be faithful to one another in
friendship, in partnership, in marriage, give us
courage to keep our promises and strengthen our
commitment to be faithful. Be with us now as we
celebrate Neil and Norma’s marriage, give us joyful
hearts, and renew your love in each of us. We pray in
the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.

The marriage of Neil and Norma unites them and their
families. We would invite all those family members who
were present 50 years ago to rise. (People rise). We
thank you for your blessing and the care you have
given to Neil and Norma all these years. You represent
all those family members who have gone to be with the
Lord, especially Walter and Gertrude Marshall, Neil’s
parents, and Clifford and Elizabeth Whittier, Norma’s
parents. Who in their lifetime nurtured Neil and Norma
into adulthood and whose love they still cherish.
(Please be seated).

No marriage can survive without the caring of friends,
so all those friends who were present 50 years ago
please rise. We thank you and all those who are absent
now for the blessing and care given to Neil and Norma
all these years. New friends also are present, we
celebrate your presence today, and so would you now
stand. We thank you for your faithful presence in all
the moments of Neil and Norma’s life. (Please be

Marriage often produces new members of the family,
Neil and Norma raised three children: Steve, Janice
and Gary (please stand). Neil and Norma have spent
many hours of their lives lovingly giving of their
time, energy and resources to raise their children. As
with any household there has been times of joy and
celebration, times of trial and tribulation. Yet,
through it all the family has found a way to persevere
and to love. The family has also grown so would all
the family members now rise; this includes all the
family who were not present 50 years ago, all the
in-laws, nieces and nephews, grandnieces and
grandnephews, grandchildren cousins. Neil and Norma
have continued to give and receive support from all
these family members, who has made their marriage
(Please be seated)

To all of you family and friends thank you all for
your presence, which is the greatest, present anyone
can give to one another.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but
have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all
mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am
nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver
my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain
nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous
or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not
insist on its own way; it is not irritable or
resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices
in the right. Love bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love
never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as
for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it
will pass away.
For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is
but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought
like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a
man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to
face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand
fully, even as I have been fully understood.
So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the
greatest of these is love.

Words by the Pastor

Closing Prayer

Let us pray

Dear loving God, You have continued to bless Neil and
Norma in their Marriage. We ask now for your continued
blessing and guidance over them as they start the next
50 years! May your presence in their lives, inspire
them to continued in deepening of their faith in you
and one another. May they be blessed with the
continued presence of friends and family in the giving
and receiving of love. May we be inspired by this
milestone of love and commitment and practice
faithfulness in all our relationships. We pray this in
the name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray....Our

You are invited to participate in the reception
downstairs in the fellowship hall with food prepared
by Orange United Methodist Woman.

Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
Walnut United Methodist Church
20601 La Puente Drive
Walnut, California 91789

Monday, September 10, 2007

Poem read at Ghost Ranch

Well, I have now come to the poem that I read for my 'performance' at Ghost Ranch. On Friday evening, the last night of our class, we were asked to read one of our works for the rest of the Ranch. There were about 100 people present for this reading, and my class picked me to go first. So it was a bit intimidating to read something you are not sure about, whether the people there would appreciate my creative side or not? The assignment was to write a list poem, that is a poem that lists a number of characteristics of some aspect of life, we were to write as fast as we could without thinking too much, which was easy for me. Okay here it is
Voices in my Head

The voices in my head are like
an off key quartet
an angry swarm of bees
a driverless bus of senior citizens going down the mountain
golf sized hail hitting a tin roof
fingernails on a chalkboard
the screams of lobsters being boiled
poets arguing about style
presidential canidates debating the economy
a child setting off a mine
the crunch of steel against steel in a head on accident
the dried out brakes that whine at the slightest touch
the scrape of a walker without tennis balls
a cascade of water roaring over the falls
the whine of a dog who has been stepped on
buzz of a drill
the buzz of an alarm clock after a long evening
the noise of a tire rim rolling against asphalt
the cry of the poor asking for handouts
the click of a computer losing power
the complaint of a teenager who can't do Whatever they want
th sound of a punch in the gut
the break of a bone twisted the wrong way
the bursting of a pimple
fighting of two humming birds at a feeder
drone of leaf blowers before coffee
the commentary of any sportscaster for any sport
the cursing of my father
the snowplow hitting a fire hydrant
a car turning over
an ancient tree being cut for timber
a golfer throwing clubs
a temper tantrum in the empty auditorium
a life guards whistle
the scrape of trains on tracks
peeling rubber
the taking off of B52 bombers
breaking of a grandmother's glass vase
the shot that killed my cousin
the mourning cry of a mother
the rage of a mentally ill person being strapped into restraints
a surgeon having to reset a bone
the agony of being lost
the unawared friend who talks but doesn't listen
the wild colt fleeing from danger
the bite of a horse fly on the ankle
the taste of a bitter herb
the crack of a non-stick frying pan left over a gas flame too long,
the soda shaken opened
the screams of a woman in child birth.

SPM 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ghost Ranch writing

Well, glad to hear you all took naps. One of the problems I encountered at Ghost Ranch was very sore feet. I found out that my hiking boots which I have worn in very well, just are not the right size anymore, my arthritis was making my toes swell up and so I have had to move up a size to 14 or 15 depending, and double wide. Then come to find out my other issue was a condition in my heel was fasciitis, which kept me from hiking as much as I would of liked. Now, after a few weeks of motrin and a RX I am feeling much better. At the time I wrote this:

My Feet

The toes were cramped
just for a day
The blisters formed
along the way
The feet squeezed in
hollering out in pain
Now my toes are
swollen just the same

I had so much in mind
this day and the next
But now I read and write
while the feet rest
Tommorow promises more
plans broken
The blisters on the bottom
have spoken!
SPM 2007

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Well, I can't remeber any hotter labor day weekend than this, and we were just 5 miles south of the 4.7 earthquake that hit so we felt it, but no injuries! Linda is off today to help her cousin get through a back surgery for a bulging disc in Las Vegas. So she should come back on Friday if all goes well. I am tired from the heat, no air conditioning at my sister in laws house, but it was good to see her and my niece for the weekend. So napping is on my mind so here is a poem:


My eyes are closing
My mind is drooping
My muscles are slacking

"Huh, What?'

my ears are open

until... they are overuled in favor of

SPM 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Labor Day weekend!

Is it hot enough for ya? Well, I have retreated to as much air conditioning I can get to. I have been catching up on reading, I have started reading the Message Bible and am working my way backward starting with the last book of the O.T. and moving towards Genesis. It is so fun reading with new eyes. I am also working on writing and tidying up the work space here at home, and in honor of labor day weekend made some repairs and even installed a ceiling fan, I have also made plans to attend my parent's 50th wedding anniversary back in Massachusetts. The invitations are now out, so the details are falling into place, I just hope people can come, it is being held in my home town of Orange Massachusetts, at the Orange United Methodist Church. Okay have I mentioned Massachusetts enough yet?
I was saddened this week by the news of a member of Walnut UMC dying this week. Prabhu Rawate, who was undergoing treatment for cancer. This is the third person from the congregation this summer to enter the eternal home, Jackie Behrens and Enid Andrews died earlier this summer. I find it most difficult to be away during the time of a loss, visiting with the family. As a pastor, that is one of the most important times to offer care to those in the congregation. These three losses have caused me to realize how much I miss everyone at Walnut, and look forward to returning with a sense of renewal and revitalization. In the meantime now and everymore take good care of one another!

Monday, August 27, 2007


One of the themes that seems to be running throughout my summer is of isolation: Peace makers feel isolated, people feel isolated from God, those with HIV/AIDs feel isolated from support and help, I have often felt a sense of isolation in my life which prompted me to write this:

When you are not chosen
When you are labled
When no matter how you try
you fall short...of the expectations
you have of yourself

When you feel you are the only one who is
Isolation eats at the DNA which
binds us together
with one another
until we are unraveled, unnoticed

Isolation is taught
by those who want us to
forget our worth
so they can rule
the world we try to feel a part of.
Isolation is an illusion, a deception, a lie
We can never be isolated
community is woven into who we are

So the next time someone calls you
Clobber them with truth
YOU are not a label
YOU are not a number
YOU are not a disease
YOU are not a sexual preference
YOU are... in fact:
with a Creator who
HAS chosen us to love
one another with all our hearts, minds, and strength
One day at a time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

TIme is moving fast!

Hello, sorry about not posting before this, my computer has bit the dust. The motherboard is now broken so although I can access my info, I can't use it for posting, so I am dependent on computer access from the family. Okay, I am still writing, and have started on the books I wanted to read. I have finished two books, one from Peter Lundel on Renewal and revival, and have found myself needing to spend more time in prayer. Today, I spend two hours for the first time in a long time, praying and writing to God, not for publishing but for my own renewal. This does not mean that I have stopped writing for publishing, it is just an addition. Also, I have been very aware of how out of shape I have become. Even with being able to rest, I am sore, I need to build more muscle so my arthritis will not bother me as much. So I have started practicing yoga to a tape, and this seems to be helping me become less sore and feel more in shape. I plan to keep walking as well, and will gradually increase the miles. I am up to two miles a day right now. I would like to be able to walk about 5 miles at a time. I am also eating better food now that I am home and can decide what to eat. I am back to taking more vitamins that were reccomended by my acupuncture consult at one fo the retreats I attended. I will be publishing more writings. I am glad to hear from you, so far it seems only three folks have been brave enough to post a reply, but if you are reading this, please let me hear from you either here or at my e-mail address. Blessings, Pastor Steve

Friday, August 17, 2007

Strength for the Journey

Hi folks, I have just returned from three mind blasting days with the Orange County Strength for the journey camp. This is the 15th year of the camp for people living with HIV/ AIDS. Ever since I have been serving on the Board of Congregational Development, and Jubilee Task Force, I have not had the opportunity to attend any of the four camps the Conference HIV/AIDS sponsors. I have been serving on this committee that seeks to support the work of the camps as well as educate the church about the issues related to HIV/AIDS. So this was a wonderful blessing to see how the camp is doing after I served on staff with Katherine Gara, and Jeff Notke 15 years ago. We have lost many campers and staff since we have started offering the retreat,yet I am glad to report it is going on strong. In fact, there has been full camps for the next 13 years, and this year 30 folks could not attend because it was full. The staff changes, and several years ago we lost Katherine due to a Brain Tumor. That next year the staff was not sure if they could carry on without her leadership. She was such a vital presence, and was passionate about offering unconditional love to those members of our society that were hurting. She was a preacher who inspired everyone who was fortunate to have worked with her. Now, as they gathered for the first campfire on the first night of the retreat, Jeff as Dean, her son Joel, and daughter in law Erika had mixed emotions as they faced doing a camp without her. Just then, a shooting star, the brightest they had ever witnessed crossed across the sky. They knew in that instant, that Katherine was with them and that they could continue the tradition she had started, offering a safe place for hurting souls. Now, as I visited the camp 13 years after I left to form a new camp, I was pleased to see the power of the retreat still working. The stories of how this camp has transformed lives still echo in my soul as I write this. I am tired by inspired by the courage of those I met and I know Katherine's halo is glowing with pride.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Assignment: Someone who taught you something

From Ghost Ranch, Abique New Mexico
"Out here in the outdoors, close to Philemont Scout Reservation I remember my Boy Scout troop leader: Mr. Raz short for a Polish name I could not spell. Mr. Raz was a naturalist at heart, who taught me to treat the outdoors as a place to respect. Mr. Raz worked in an office, I can't imagine him there, because he was so at home backpacking, or camping with us. Now knowing what I know about kids of that age I was, I have added respect for him. Mr. Raz never lost his cool, even when on our trip to New Mexico from Massachusetts, he had to stay in camp for a few days because his blood pressure had shot up due to the altitude. He rejoined us in a few days, happy and glad to see us. I would of been furious, after planning and training for a year, raising money for the trip, and then not to be able to go withy us. Mr Raz did not kill bugs or litter, he taught us to leave a place better thatn we found it, always put out your campfire and stay on the trail. He also taught me how to lead. It was on a particular camping jamboree that each troop was to send several 'volunteers' to help with various chores around the grounds. I got stuck with toliet duty. I couldn't figure out what I was chosen, wasn't I a good scout? Why would Mr Raz punish me? And if there was anything a teenage boy dreaded more but to have to clean toliets that other teenage boys had misused, I could not imagine it. Begrugingly I complied resenting every moment, hating the smell of bleach and ther various bathroom smells to upsetting to list. I stormed back to camp, and glared at Mr. Raz. Later as I complained about how I had been punished, ether by someone's counsel or my own self realization, the details are now too foggy to remember, I came to learn that to serve others was a priviledge and I was participating in making the jamboree experience more pleasent for others. That insight led me to volunteer for the next several years for the leadership corp, a select group of scouts who undertook the traffic control, cleaning, and security for this event. However, I did not get there on my own, Mr Raz had to reccomend me as someone who had the makings of a leader." (sorry about the spelling, my spell check is not working)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

ghost ranch writing class


The world still hurts
crisis everywhere
News a step away

Yet here and now
is a place aware
of how sacred
it is to be.

There is a well here

You and I can drink deeply anytime
and find our sacred voice

There is a well everywhere

You and I can drink deeply
and find our own voice
7-31-07 SPM

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Writing: Back in California

Well folks, I tried my best in New Mexico, but the internet was down a few days and the computers were being used everytime I had a free moment to try to use them. So let's pretend I am sending you these writings as though I am going through the week and you perhaps can get an idea of what my week was like. I was in the writing class: The hear and now; writing to the rythm of your world taught by Jane, a poet and writer. There were four people in the class which worked out wonderfully because we could spend time writing, and giving each other detailed notes about the other's work. I have been in classes so large you do not get much feedback. We met for three hours each morning, and we were given homework to work on the rest of the day. We had a joint class with another writing group on Wednesday, and then on Friday read our work for the whole Ranch, although not everyone could come due to conflicts so we had an audience of about 100. I will include later this week my reading. Okay, so enough details here is the first piece:

Ghost House


Seperately Good
together strong

creating a
sanctuary for writer's and painters alike

Six beams
secure the roof
creating coolness and shelter

From the storms that rage outside and in!
SPM 7-31-07

Friday, July 27, 2007

Leaving Town: Again!

Well, I have been doing some interviews of writers who have published and what their experience has been like. I have been so busy going to workshops, and learning new stuff, I have been squeezing in some writing, but expect this next workshop in New Mexico to help me focus now on writing, and I have planned to use the weeks after to write away. I dropped by the office today and it was good to see a few of the folks, I remebered how much I miss you! I am so grateful for this time and will give you more samples of writings as long as the internet holds up while in New mexico. Take care, Steve

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Back Home Again!

I am back to Southern California, I see we had that water from the sky here as well! On the plane I finished the new Harry Potter book, so am ready to discuss this with others who have as well. We are all tired, and took a long nap this afternoon. We will be taking care of business, doctors appointments etc the next couple of days. The kids have a few days before Senior High Camp, to rest up. I will be getting ready for my writing seminar in New Mexico, I have been writing on and off, and look forward to being able to pick up some hints for directing the writing I have done, as well as stretch my wings in new directions! Blessings, Steve

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What a weekend!

Hey everyone! Since my last post, I have been a bit busy. We finished helping my sister prepare for the wedding on Thursday and Friday, although we had quite a lot of rain, on Thursday, we managed to get her yard in shape for the reception that followed the baptism but I am getting ahead of myself. Anyhow, the rehersal went well, we met in the Liberty Church in Springfield. For those who might not know, my home church, Chicopee Falls UMC was yoked with Liberty UMC in my years growing up. However, in the last few years the two churches merged and formed the New Hope UMC but still shared a pastor with another church. It was decided to sell the Liberty property first because there was already a church who wanted to buy it, and have the new church meet in the Chicopee Falls church with the eventual goal of finding a property that was half way between the two properties. However last fall, a critical support beam exploded due to the weight of shake shingles that had been added in 1912 to the roof and was too heavy for the church. So the buidling was condemned. The cost of demolishing the building was high due to some toxic materials that needed to be removed. So the Baptist church across the street offered in exchange for demolishing the building, to be given the site for a badly needed parking lot for their church. So this winter a contractor salvage materials like the pews and boards, beams and even those heavy shingles and of course the Revere Bell, were removed. The New Hope church took certain items with them to incorporate to the new church buidling when it is built, however for now they are worshipping in the chapel of the Liberty Street Church, and will meet there even after that buildings sale is finalized, until they have time to plan for the future church. The Baptist church was gracious enough to allow them this space even though the New Hope Church had left it to worship at Chicopee. Anyhow, we were able to use the sanctuary for the wedding on Saturday. So the rehersal went well and then the wedding day arrived. The weather was mild and so those in Tux's and robes did not melt. We had perfect weather for outdoor photo's and then went to the Portugese -American Center in downtown Chicopee! We partied (should I mention we had great food, I of course had Scrod, broiled just right, and I got to sit at table number one! Usually us pastors are stuck in the back with the photographer! Anyhow, my Aunt Ann, my Mom and Dad, and my sister the proud mom, were at our table, and I talked for a long time with them, but my nieces wanted to dance so I did a little of that with them, and some with older family members as well. We went back to the hotel tired but with joy in our hearts. My neice and nephew spent the night with us, so we all could get up at 7:30 est to get ready for church and the baptism of the son of the newlyweds. Lucas Wesley (middle name is the same as my Dad's in his honor) was baptized and I gave the message, without slides but it went well anyhow. Afterwards off to my sisters and the baptism party which was great, the weather was perfect and we sat outside under the big Maple in the back yard and ate and talked and ate some more and talked some more finally packing it in about 8pm and checked in the hotel we are now in. Oh, and just for fun we stayed up on Friday night to purchase our Harry Potter books at the Barnes and Noble here in town. Amber was glad to get her book at the stroke of Midnight EST which is three hours ahead of any of her friends on the west coast, not that she would gloat or anything. At this post, Susy has finished the book, Amber is 50 pages away from finishing and I started today and have logged 200 pages. Tommorow is our last full day here, it is time for more lobster before flying home tuesday! Hope you are all well, thanks for your comments! Steve

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Did you know Nelson Mandella has the same birthday as I do? Anyhow, on my birthday, July 18 to be exact we spent on the road returning from our Boston Trip, it was raining off and on so we decided to spend some time relaxing in the am, had breakfast and then hit the road. The Mass Pike has some construction going on but we made it to my parents home in good time. We stopped there and had lunch, I had scrod another dish I love here, and then we went over to my sister's to see if we could help with plans for upcoming wedding. The rain was too heavy to do any work outdoors so we took my neice and nephew home and then came down to the hotel and checked in. We took a nice nap and then went out for dinner, I had a lobster roll and then on to my sister's. I was able to go over the wedding service with Stephanie and Jose and so will be typing that up today, the rehersal is on Friday and the Wedding is 2pm Saturday. We sat around and talked for a while and then we came home and picked up a cake so my family sang me happy birthday, and gave me a few gifts. I received a new tie, fisherman's platter, and a few other goodies. Thursday will be trying to get done the bullentin for the wedding and getting ready for baptism on Sunday am. I have been asked to preach for the service so will have to dust off my preaching skills! Hope you are all well! Steve

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Greetings from Boston! We took the Beantown Trolley around town today and had a blast learning about some of the history of Boston. We also fed ourselves well, I had a lobster roll for lunch and scrod for dinner. My neice and nephew joined us and even though they have lived here in Massachusetts had never been on a tour, they had been to a few places, but that is all. One of my favorite spots was Old North church which has a plaque in it dedicated to Charles Wesley hanging up in the sanctuary on the wall. Does anyone know the fact about the one if by land two if by sea tale? I will give you a clue, Paul Revere did not successfully complete his ride but someone else did! Steve

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Rainstorm

Howdy, greetings from Massachusetts!
Today we spent time up in Northampton at Look Park. We celebrated birthdays by having a BBQ and being in the great outdoors. Now the next part is really got dark, it got cloudy,,and then there was some loud noises, some called it thunder...then we all quickly packed up and this liquid came from the sky. I am told is called in Southern California, I have forgotten this strange sort of weather that takes place here...rain, thunder and lightening, the summer? I have forgotten this does take place. So we tried to wait out the storm but as I said it really got intense and so we gave up and went to the hotel and invited the clan to come to the hotel for cake and the continuing of the party. It took quite a while to make the journey because the storm dumped so much rain the highways were flooded and traffic was very backed up. So we finally got back on track a few hours later after quick stops to change into dry clothes, and we were able to sing happy birthday to Lucas my grand nephew who turned 1 on monday, we had cake and then went off to see the new Harry Potter film! It was great. Tommorow we head for Boston for a few days of sightseeing! Steve


Here we are in Chicopee, Massachusetts. We went to a Jack and Jill shower for Jose and Stephanie, my niece and her fiance who will be getting married this Saturday. The weather has been terrific that last few days, mild and sunny, with white puffy clouds occassionally blowing by. I saw my sister who is busy getting ready for the wedding, my nephew Bryan and brother Gary, and his wife Beth. My parents and Linda, Susy and I came over together to the house. It is amazing that so many changes have taken place since being here last, new buildings being built, old places changing their face, and of course the trees are so green! There are flowers out everywhere, and I wish I knew the name of them all, but lily's, roses, are among the blooms! The rivers are full and the ponds are lovely. Amber arrived safely last night, fresh from Elementary Camp in Wrightwood. The camp went well, we are to see pictures later today. She arrived at 1am last night and we didn't get to sleep until after 2am. This is fine if you are on California time, but we are adjusting to east coast time, so I am a bit sleepy this morning. In a bit we are to go to Look Park for a joint birthday party, besides my birthday, it is my neice's, my grand nephew who just turned one and my brother's step daughter's. So we are having a big birthday party today at the park which has good sites, and a pool, paddle boats, basketball courts and is a pretty place to have a picnic. Take care, Steve

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Moving right along!

As I checked the blog I found the last two posts did not make it. So I will try to catch you up, sorry, I was trying to keep you all up to date. We arrived back in Covina and then made final preperations to leave again to the East Coast. We arrived safely in Hartford Conn. at 1:00 am and then spent the night in a hotel that night. The next morning we drove up to Chicopee, Massachusetts and spent a few hours with my parents until we left for Plymouth, Massachusetts for the Chromosome 18 conference. Most of you know my daughter Susy has been diagnosed with a partial deletion of the 18th Chromosome. That particular Chromosome has a band that seperates the top 1/3 from the bottom 2/3rds. She has a deletion of the top so she is labeled as 18p-. Exactly how that manifests is different depending on what actual genes within the chromosome are missing. She is one of 53 children in the world that has this particular diagnosis. There are many more kids who have a partial deletion of the lower part of the 18th chromosome which is known as 18q-. In addition there are several even more rare types, of a ringed chromosome, and a third extra chromosome. So we go to the conference to see what research has taken place to teach us more about what challenges our children might face, and hear from experts about what therapy stragedies seem to work well, as well as just support one another. This year Susy became part of a young adult discussion group that met seperately from our main group. There is a group of about 15 older kids who come who are the first generation of those who have been diagnosed with a 18th Chromosome change. She also participated in a panel, which was designed to give them a chance to talk about what their experience was like growing up with this diagnosis. Since several are in college and high school, they had alot to talk about! Then the audience could ask them questions. Susy spoke in front of about 50 people with a microphone for the first time ever. She did great! Some of the younger parents with children who are just diagnosed asked the panel if they had any suggestions about what they as parents could do, Martin, a young man from Australia said, " Treat us as people first! Everyone has different abilities, those who are diagnosed and those who have no diagnosis, we are all differently abled!. What a great young man!
The conference ended on Wednesday night and so we traveled to Falmouth, Mass. to take a ride over to Martha's Vineyard to visit a friend and check up on a custom made weathervane which is being crafted by an artist for my wife's church. This artist started making custom weathervanes when the movie Jaws was being made and they needed a shark weathervane, and so that was the first of the company and since then they have been making beautiful works of art. So after we came back, we went down to Newport RI to see the old mansions that were built in the early 1900's. It was like being wisked back in time. Anyhow now we are in Providence RI preparing to go back to Chicopee and get ready for the wedding next week! Blessings to you all! Steve

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Greetings from Denver! Linda and I are attending a smart marriages conference. There are people from all over the United States and several from other countries attending. We are a part of the largest conference in the 11 years of existence, over 2000 are attending. We have taken several workshops on subjects like: The 5 languages of love, Why talking is not enough 8 loving actions, wilderness training for marriage enrichment, and have heard from several national recognized speakers including Tony Robbins, last night. We have one more day before returning home. This has been an enriching experience for our ministry and our marriage. Next year the conference is in San Francisco and we are already planning to attend. I will be posting some more learnings in the next few days. Blessings, Pastor Steve

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Annual Conference

Hi all, we have just returned home from Annual Conference, to see photo's, news and to get more information about the activities of Conferene in Redlands California go to I am still processing the experinces of the sessions, the bible study, the worship services, and will post more reflections in the next couple of days. Until then, I am grateful for the fact that I was not injured during the annual clergy basketball game which raised 1,800 dollars for the Los Altos United Methodist Church. I am grateful for visiting with clergy friends, many who I have not chatted with since last year. I am grateful for being int he chapel at Redlands University and as I watched the ordination of new clergy was reminded of my own ordination, and the great honor it was then, and now to serve full time as a clergy person here in southern california. Redlands has become, as our Bishop suggested, holy ground, a place where I get a dose of the big picture, of how God is at work through the world. I was able to talk to a few friends who have published books of late and have some suggestions for focusing my efforts these next few months.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Greetings from Covina
I have been up to Bandon Dunes Oregon and back this week. However my computer is needing a new power cord so have not been able to post pictures yet! Will work on it. Steve

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


June 10th preach for worship then leave for vacation days for three days on a golf trip to Bandon Dunes in Oregon,
June 13 Return home prepare for Annual Conference, make final arrangements for study leave
June 19th - 24Annual Conference
25-26 prepare for trip to Marriage and Family Conference in Denver27th leave for Denver July 2 Return home
July 3-6 Writing time
July 7 Leave for Plymouth Mass for 18th Chromosome Conference
July 11th-16 Writing and reading
July 16th-24 Vacation time with family in Massachusetts which includes my niece's wedding, a baptism of her baby, and seeing the family
July 24th return to California July 25-27 Prepare for writing workshop
July 28-August 6 Writing workshop in New Mexico August 7-12 Writing and reading
August 13-31 open time to start submitting writing to publishers
August 20-21 Sermon Preparation Retreat in Pacific Palisades
September 1- 7 Writing and reading
September 7-18 Attend 50th Wedding Anniversary for my parents in Massachusetts September 19th-23 Prepare for going back to Walnut UMC
September 24 First day back

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Here I am creating this blog so you can keep in touch during the time of renewal leave. I will be posting activities and thoughts and will respond to your questions in time. I hope you will keep up with me during the next three months!