Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not Rushing off

How many ads on my email, facebook, twitter pages tell me to hurry up and rush right in for the last minute deals? Too many to count. But it doesn't matter I am rebelling against all of those messages, I refuse to rush anywhere. The weather is rainy, the roads flooded, so on a practical note, it is not safe to rush about on the roads right now. However, the other reason is that it is against my religion. I am not saying shopping is against my religion, but rushing through this time of Advent is. Christmas is a great time to celebrate the birth of Christ, and how his life changed the world. So, I am spending more time thinking, meditating and celebrating that gift more than worrying about rushing right in to my nearest mall to buy something. Of course it is true our family is not giving very many gifts this year due to a recent vacation where we spent money on having a great time. So there is that practical side of the season I do not feel as much pressure about. But I have also been giving people smaller thoughtful gifts, to tell them how much I appreciate them and their relationship. I am so blessed with friends and family who enrich my life, who challenge me, who care for me, and I for them. What I wanted more than anything this Christmas was time, time to spend with those who are important to my life, time to express my thanks to them. As the rain pours outside, I want to take the time to pour my heart into those relationships, for they are the gifts that last my whole life through.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Comfort Ye

For these next couple of weeks I am leading a Sunday School class on the scriptures contained in "The Messiah" by Handel. I am struck on this World AIDS day of the command found in this particular scripture and used by Handel in a very moving recitative for tenor. In my work with people who are living with the reality of a HIV+ or AIDS I find that comfort defines the work. I comfort those who have been dismissed by their families, congregations, work, friends, and left alone. I comfort those who have friends or family members who have not put up walls and want to be of comfort to those they care about. I comfort those who hear the statistics and wonder who is the voice calling in the wilderness for the rights of those suffering.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus and what his presence means for us in this month. I believe Jesus brought comfort, especially to those who are so often are uncomfortable to care for. On this World AIDS day, I challenge myself, the world to bring comfort to those who are suffering those who are considered holy in Jesus' eyes, those who are looking for hope, love , peace and joy in the midst of the struggle to be whole.
I include a link to Linda Bales sermon, which speaks to this issue and who inspired me to write!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Friend Bill/ Sermon for 11-21-10

The other day as I was paying for lunch, the most extraordinary event occurred. As I reached in to pull out a twenty, the one-dollar bill in my wallet started talking to me!
“Hey there, Steve, I hope you are not going to use me cause I am all tired out!” After I recovered and scanned around to make sure it was not a ventriloquist getting a laugh, I asked, “ Tired from what exactly?” The dollar bill said, “ I have been traveling around quite a bit this year, ever since someone put me in the offering plate in your church”. Still not believing this dollar bill was talking to me and expecting to wake up at any moment, I nevertheless pursued the conversation,
“So where have you been?” The dollar bill said, “First, I went to the bank, some teller named Jim Moran put me in the night depositary, and I awaited my next assignment. The other bills I came with were counted and soon we were off on our new assignments, I know some went to the electric company, some to the water company, those were all the big bills, but me, I went first of all to a place called Pasadena, where a bunch of United Methodists work, conference center I believe” I said, oh, I have been there, a nice place to visit!” “Yeah”, the dollar bill answered,” I met other dollar bills who arrived from all over Southern California and Hawaii, even Guam was represented. We were counted again along with everyone then we were off again. Some bills went to paying staff salaries, others went to pay the electric company, some went to summer camp at Wrightwood, and others went back to Hawaii to a university campus to help a campus minister there provide devotional materials for the students. Bill paused (I called him Bill because by now we had formed a intimate relationship) then went on. Some bills did not go so far at first, some of us stayed in the Conference center for a bit, and I was glad for the rest it had been a very hectic trip so far, so many new people, and so many new experiences. The center was such a busy place, letters and packages going in and out, people busy working on computers, talking to all kinds of visitors, and praying. That Bishop, she has that group praying about everything, and anything. And you know, after prayer decisions were made, and that is when I received my new assignment”. I asked, ‘so what was that?” ‘Well by George, I was shipped off to a place called Africa University. It was a long trip, but once I was there, I joined other bills from all around the world to help Students who are from all over Africa. I saw students there studying and singing and praying and even volunteering for the AIDS hospice that tended to people right outside the campus door. I did not stay long there, I moved right along because the Students needed school supplies and medical supplies for their mission work, soon I was shipped off to a manufacture of medical supplies in Kenya. “Well, “ I said, “You must have been able to get a rest then?” “Oh, no,” Bill said, no sooner than I arrived I went away with one of the workers who could buy a whole days worth of food with me at the market for her family. Soon I found myself being put into another offering plate where the supermarket owner went to church. “Oh dear”, I said, “I suppose you started all over again!” “You got that right”, Bill said, “Soon the church was sending me with a missions coordinator for all of Kenya back to New York City for an important training for missionaries. I was back in the states, and wouldn’t you know it, I was only there for a moment soon I was sent on a mission trip to Mexico with someone who was building a church there. Once I was there, I met missionaries from Southern California who had come to help build the church. They invited the pastor of the church to come to Annual Conference in Redlands California and share the good news of the work going on in Mexico. And wouldn’t you know, I went along to help pay for the trip there. “ “Well, I said, that was back in June, I am sure you have been able to rest up since then?
“Are you kidding? “ Bill said. “ Since then I was back on the local scene, I ended up at Colby camp to help with the rebuilding so summer camp in 2011 can meet there again, I went up to Strength for the Journey camp at Cedar Glenn in San Diego and then from there went to Young Adult camp at Lazy W. I went to a food pantry at the Holman United Methodist Church, and eventually ended up at some bicycle factory. They were shipping out bicycles for pastors who needed transportation. I can’t tell you all the places I have been, I get tired just thinking about it”. “ Wow”, I finally said. “ You are a very busy dollar bill, you have been so many places, and I hope you can rest up during Thanksgiving?” Bill sighed a very long sigh, “No, I am afraid not, my travels are never done, but you know what would help?”
“No,” I answered, “What would help?” Well, there are a lot of my friends and relatives, other dollar bills, and our bigger cousins the 20’s and 50’s who are all rested up, they have been ready to work for a long time, but they are kept hidden away. They have been unused for so long, just accumulating interest, but they are hoping for a chance to get out there and make a difference! “ “Okay,” I said, “ I ‘all put out the word, and we will see what we can do this year!” I paid my check, and left Bill there with a few of his friends, for my waitress as a thank you for her service.
Then I went to my doctor too see why dollar bills were talking to me!
We do celebrate on this day, the opportunities we have had to give with all our hearts to make this church and this world a better place. We celebrate our connection to ministries and missions all across the world, and our ministry right here in Walnut. We give thanks for all our relationships that have been so vital to our lives, we celebrate our water leak finally being repaired!
And when we celebrate all the ways we have been able to follow God this past year, of all the ways we have have received so much more than we have given, we celebrate all the moments of God’s grace and how the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives this past year. The times when we have found new energy for practicing our faith, times when we grew closer to one another, times when we met challenges upheld by the grace of God. When we celebrate our past, I believe we are given strength for the future, whatever it might hold.
This past year, not all has gone according to plan, and there are times when I have failed to do what I needed to do, what God was calling me to do. There are times when I saw others get caught up in the temptations of this life, and ignore their calling to bring grace into the world. There are goals that I had hoped to achieve, but fell far short of, and I am sure if I went around the church today, we could spend some time talking about those failures. The good news is that God forgives us even before we ask, and frees us from the weight of sin to go boldly into the future and practice grace.
So as we do let’s keep in mind our Steward ship motto provided by the Finance committee, and change the wording just a bit so we can use it as our call to follow God in the coming year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Maybe ifs, should ofs, could ofs all
Emotions from the decade boil
Deep inside our spirits gall
We wonder: Were our efforts worth the toil?

yes our discussions do reveal
our strife did touch a life or ten
When our memories we do unseal

The best now cools our doubt
Raining laughter douses our angst

We see now as we look back
How love did work in ways so coy
Carried us forward to bravely act
Creating precious moments of glorious joy

This day we sing "God Be With You,Until me meet again"
Keep us, guard us, God of love forgiver of Sin
Bring us home where our minds, hearts and souls can mend
Carrying forward all lessons learned here at Union!
SPM October 17, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Different is Good

A different way of speaking
of Standing
of sitting

Who sticks out in the normal crowd?

A different way of thinking
A different way of writing
A different way of socializing

Who does not know the right rules?

A different way of playing
A different way of working
A different way of relaxing

Who does not blend in?

We look
We act
We sound
We smell
We hear

But we are all the same

We breathe the same air
We taste the same water
We feel the same sun
We hear the best of life
We are all part of creation

No better, no worse, than another

SPM -2009

Monday, October 18, 2010


Recently I read an article, referred by a fellow clergy person who said to read it with an open mind. The article was on church growth and the failure of some churches to grow because their preoccupation with homosexual rights. The article then quoted how a Hispanic pastor who went on record in support of same sex relationships which caused quite an uproar in churches in Central America, to the point where that denominations churches were held as suspect for supporting this pastor, and rights for homosexuals.The article then went on to say the church is shrinking while other churches who have taken rigid stances against homosexual rights are growing, so we need to leave this issue behind.
My conclusion is much different, is it not shame that there are those who think there are those in the world who are not worthy of God's love even when Jesus promises that we all will be included in the kingdom due to God's grace, not due to anything we do or not do? I am so saddened by the violence done in the name of Jesus and especially when it comes to those who happen to born with a different sexual orientation than mine. Who are we to judge when it is Jesus who will judge, and how many suffer needlessly because they are hated for their sexuality, thrown out of churches, or even killed? Why can't we take a stand and say this hatred is contrary to God's love? Why do we chose to remain divided so the power of God cannot work to bring our world closer to peace? I remain as always confused about why we allow this issue to be a preoccupation when so many die of starvation, from war, from HIV/AIDS, are abused, and are striving to live. Anytime we say someone is not worthy of God and another believer is wrong to include this person, I believe God sheds a tear. I wonder is this being open minded enough?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Strength for the Journey Camp

I have just returned from Strength for the Journey Retreat for people living with HIV/AIDS. I serve as the spiritual team leader for the camp and was privileged to have served with a wonderful staff who provided leadership for the camp. The camp was started 18 years ago, as a way of providing unconditional love and care for all those seeking strength for their journey. Some are open to talking about God, some already belong to a faith community, some are looking for a home to live out their faith, and others are not sure if they can trust God. I was able to lead worship with the other Spiritual team members, talk one on one with those seeking for direction for their faith, provide workshops on theology and lead a small group.
I am always so humbled by the stories of the campers and staff who have struggled to live with this horrible disease. They teach me so much every year, I feel so blessed honored that they would open their hearts and pour out what questions they have about God.I am troubled by the stories of how when their place of worship found out about their diagnosis, withdrew any support or care. The stigma of having HIV/AIDS is alive and well, even after all this time. I feel so angry, so depressed, so startled by this shunning, I am reminded of how lepers were treated, how those who are different are treated with suspicion and hatred. This is not an attitude unique to the issue of HIV/AIDS, in many ways those who are different than what is considered the norm are often ridiculed, excluded, abused, and even killed. I believe God sheds an abundance of tears for any part of creation that is disrespected, abused, and violently neglected. I also believe we can make a difference to those who are hurting, to a world that is in chaos. God's power can overcome abuse, neglect, war, hatred, stigma, if only we turn to God for guidance and wisdom. I also believe since we are all God's creation, all are loved by God, with no exceptions. So if we could treat one another as God does, as precious, I wonder what the world would look like?
Thanks to all the campers and staff of Strength for the Journey 2010! You are my hero's and heroines!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yes Man!

Our family has not watched many movies in the past year, so we took advantage of a deal to subscribe to HBO and record those we have missed on our DVR. I am enjoying seeing these movies, some more than others. I am thinking about the last one, Yes Man, with Jim Carrey. If you are like me and miss the movies when they come out in theaters, I would recommend this particular film. Yes there are typical Carrey moments, when he tends to look a bit out of control, but the message of saying yes, so your life will be open to new possibilities and joy, is one I can get behind. I wonder as I reflect on my life, how often I say no, no to experiences, to opportunities, to service. As someone who lives with chronic depression, it is a family genetic thing, I realize that my depression often says no to life. That sounds a bit weird, so let me explain. When I am depressed, I feel vulnerable vulnerable vulnerable and susceptible to criticism that will feed my self criticism about who I am. Also, I feel disappointed because I place high expectations on people or events, and when they disappoint, I feel more depressed. Often my depression manifests as anger, and when I am feeling angry I do not want to be with those who I am angry with. If the anger is self directed, I don't feel like I deserve to be with people until the anger is gone away. I can easily abandon those things that keep the depression from life, writing, praying, spending time with friends, enjoying my family. I often say no to these life fulfilling things, no it does not make sense, but that is how depression works for me.
In the movie, Carrey's character says no, spends time alone, has a failed relationship that he still grieves over, friends he says no to when they invite him for drinks, or a meal etc. That all changes when he starts saying yes to every request, and despite his hesitancy, finds that saying yes does lead to some very good experiences, connects him to people who enrich his life and takes him directions that fill his life with joy.
I wonder how many of us say no to life, and no to God when we are asked if we will help create a world that is more compassionate, more just, more loving? I wonder if we say no too much, and deny ourselves the fullness of God's joy. I wonder if we live too much in fear of what might go wrong rather than trusting in God?
These are questions I am living with and look forward to discovering with you how to say yes more often!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Our church secretary,Julie, is retiring and taking some time to travel. As I reflect on our working relationship, I find myself grieving the loss of her presence in the office. I am so grateful for the time we have worked together to meet the needs of this congregation. Working as a church secretary is not for the faint of heart, it takes a perfect blend of compassion and skills to fulfill the multiple tasks that are required to succeed in this position. Julie gave her heart to the work, carefully attending to the various concerns of people who called or emailed or walked in our door. So often her caring attention to the sometimes overlooked details, made each event each worship service a better experience.
She put up with my quirks and helped me be a better pastor, and a better person, because of her loving attention to the needs of others. Her ministry made coming into the office a real joy, and allowed me to spend more time in the community and attending to the needs of others. I will miss her smile, her gentle spirit and her insights.
Fortunately, Julie remains with us as a member of the church, and so I will continue to see her and be able to share in ministry with her.
Thank you Julie for your careful attention to the work of the church, for enduring through all the demands made of you, I will miss working with you, the preschool will miss working with you, the church will miss your work, yet we all look forward to seeing you, walking with you as members of the same family in Christ!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cancer Survivor

Melanoma Skin Cancer
Little did I know when growing up and getting sun burns as sort of a badge of honor, would I be diagnosed with a melanoma. Fortunately, I see my dermatologist on a regular basis and when I had a patch of skin that seemed suspicious, he was able to diagnosis and treat it by removing the cancer in a simple office procedure. I feel fortunate that there has been no reoccurrence. However, I have not educated myself very well about Melanoma until I participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for life in Walnut. I heard stories about how how Melanoma if untreated can enter the body and there is no cure for when that happens. All of sudden my easy encounter with cancer became very serious. Now I am paying attention to making sure I am using sunblock, stay out of the direct sun, and wear clothes that protect me.
Emotionally, I have not really thought of myself as a cancer survivor, especially when I see how devastating can be to others. But the more I thought about it I realized I benefited by early detection and if more of us did self exams, and paid attention to our bodies and the warnings they give us, perhaps more people would find cancer earlier and have a head start in treating whatever cancer they find. Ignoring the signs, staying away from Doctors, can be decisions that lead to much more serious implications.
I wear my survivor t-shirt with thanksgiving that I was so fortunate to have a good relationship with my doctor, I was educated enough about skin cancer to know that spot on my skin was not normal, and get the support I needed after treatment. If you have any suspicions, I hope you too will seek out advice from your doctor, and find the support you need for what ever the news is.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A poem for the grads!

Dear Graduates
On this day in 2010
Your life is about to change again
No longer under the protection of those who have taught you,
You will need now to apply all to the future new.

A lifetime of work to learn the basic tools
This will serve you after you leave school

English, math and science, history too
Will be used in good times and the blue

This is a joyful time to celebrate all you have done
The finals, papers, homework and test fun
Now behind you, now you can get a tan in the sun.

But, let me warn you now,
Life is not always a celebration, wow!
Events and people will kick you hard, POW!

You will be tested again and again,
Your have a choice with which to begin
Will you be force for healing
Or will you hurt others sending them reeling?

Will you love with all your heart
Will hate from you soul depart?
Will you care for the stranger
The weak, the child, without anger?

God calls you, yes you,
To answer the question who are you, who?
Are you the one who will pray
To see if you can bring joy in this day
Or will you be the one who causes destruction?
Will you listen for the instruction,
Of saints, friends and the Spirit Holy,
Or will you choose spirits in a bottle lowly?
Will drugs be your choice of high
Or will you seek God of sea and sky?

All these choices will define who you are
Showing others your true nature.

There will be no assignments from teachers
Only support from fellow seekers
When you choose you will never be alone out there
Your church, your family will offer care
As you travel down life’s crooked path.

Even if you were bad at math
Could not write a perfect paragraph,
Or remember who invented the telegraph

As you graduate this day
And go to work for pay

God’s Spirit, our love, will remain steadfast
As you take up a new task

Where ever the road may lead
Let me plant this seed,
Choose to walk with God
Walk with Jesus
Walk with the Saints
Walk with us
Allow all the blessings to enter you soul
And your life will be blessing to all.
No matter what problems befall.

SPM June 5, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nashville and the Flood

We just returned from Nashville from the Festival of Homiletics, a time of immersion in worship, music and fellowship. Being there so close to the floods that impacted the area on May 2-3, I had the opportunity to witness the some of terrible devastation, hear the stories of those who lost homes, lives.
So often being immersed is used as a positive thing, but being immersed in flood waters is messy and toxic. So using this insight from my wife, I wrote a poem that contrasts these two ideas.

Water, clear, pure, shinning in the light.
Water, muddy, toxic, flooding in the dark.
Water contained, managed, purified,
Water wild, uncontrolled, escaping,
Water flows in us, flows in the world
Sometimes uninterrupted,
Sometimes channeled,
Water we cannot live without
Can sometimes cause death
Both reminders of the power of the one who created water.
SPM 5-22-10

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Mother’s Day 2010

We live in a world full of threats
People, events, which cause upset
Waking up sometimes with dread
We feel if not for a bit of luck we could be dead.

We live in a world full of love
People events, which at our hearts tug
Waking up sometimes with abundant hope
We feel the blessings, wrapped in a protective coat.

On this Mother’s Day Sunday in church
We pause to give God thanks
Honor our families
Dare to believe in the promise.

We are not alone no matter what life brings,
Our treasured companions
Steady our nerves, make our soul sing.

Some on this day are mothers for the first time
And for the first time some have said goodbye,
All seeing life differently than before

Families come with all kinds of differences
Some sad, some fun, some easy, some tearing apart,
Families can also be a place where righteous and peace kiss each
All called to practice peace
To be a safe harbor
Amidst all the fierce passions
Causing war all around.

The task might be hard, huge, impossible
The resources so inadequate
God seems so unapproachable

In those confusing, dangerous, burning moments
We need to rely on the creative, unending, breathtaking
Lord all-powerful
Drawing upon the Spirit to inspire us to love, no matter what.

On this day, we give thanks for all who have chosen the path of peace,
Who have given their every last precious drop of care
Those who stand firm in uncertain times
And have passed on such wisdom and
Brush your teeth
Be careful
Don’t run with scissors
Make sure you go to the bathroom before you get in the car
Brush your hair
Pick up after yourself
Time to get up, go to bed, take a break, get back to work
Go outside and play
Eat your vegetables
Let me kiss it and make it better
Here let me do that for you
I am proud of you
I love you.

Help us O Mother God to
Love steadfastly
Trust you deeply
Care for one another peacefully

Help us to protect each other from harm
To find ways of transforming our world
From a dreadful place to a glorious home

Help us to plant seeds of hope
In our daily adventures
To allow hate to die from inattention
Help us to turn again, and again, and again towards your light
Allowing your arms to hug us

Help us to listen respectively to the concerns of others
Breathing compassion in all our actions.

All these things we pray on this Mother’s day, Amen
SPM 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Father of a child with a Disablity

I sort of hate that title, a "child with a disability". Instead I wish we could recognize that we all have unique qualities that do not always reflect what is normal. I hate even more the title "Mentally Retarded" and hate it when people call each other "Retarded" as a put down. What if we turned that phrase around and it was a positive label to call someone: Wow, your love, you hug, your smile, your joy, your simplicity, your faith, your concern, your work, your play, your life is just like someone who is Mentally Retarded, yes that good!
I have a child who has a designer set of chromosomes, which makes her unique and often I can judge someones authentic caring by how they treat her. So many can talk about how to care for someone, how to love, and can care for "normal" people that way, they can even have pity for someone less fortunate, but to authentically care for someone who is does not fit others definition of normal, means treating them as 'normal', no more no less. It may take a bit of extra care to listen to my daughter's speech, because she has low muscle tone and it is hard for her to pronounce certain words, it takes extra patience because she does not always process information as fast as those of us with college degrees, and it may take extra guidance when she is unable to make a decision cause she just isn't sure, and it may take extra kind of assurance when she gets afraid, sudden noises startle her easily, and it might take extra care to help her understand since she has gaps in her intellectual understanding and function, and it might mean helping her stretch a bit further cause she can be lazy, but what if we practiced that sort of extra with everyone we meet? Maybe we could learn to understand one another better, help one another better and make a better world together? I just hate it when all we seem to be good at is divide one another, put down one another, commit acts of violence toward one another. My faith teaches me there is a different way, one in which we can be the beloved community, if we just take a little extra time and effort, or in some cases extraordinary amounts of time and effort. I love it when you and I can care for one another with abundant love! It is what I have learned from my child with a disability, we can if we only want to.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Vigil

Today is the day to prepare for Easter for us Pastors. I am putting together slides for the worship with the scriptures I am using: Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24 and Acts 10:34-43 for me this year. I had some fun too, as there is a huge Hot Rod and Classic car show here today. I am following Molly the Owl and the drama of her owlets as I type and the sun is out so I am enjoying the beautiful weather.
I can see next door to the church we live next to, the original United Methodist building, which was sold to an independent church, and they have been over there all day bringing lilies, and folding chairs for their outdoor 6am Sunrise Service and so I am reminded I am not the only one preparing, and it is not only pastor's but all kinds of folks who are getting ready. In some parts of the world Easter has already begun in fact.
I am simply awed by the connection all those who celebrate Easter together this weekend. This year I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be with the same congregation for the tenth Easter together, I have learned so much from serving in this place.
I am mindful of putting aside all the tasks I need to get in to wait for the Spirit to guide and move me to put together the sermon. It is such a great responsiblity and priviledge to preach, and tomorrow many guests will be coming to church for the first time since last year, or Christmas, as well as those who are members who attend almost every week. What is the message God has for all of us this year, this Easter? I want to get it right!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Have you seen my Son?

Tomorrow night, we have a reader's theater presentation called, "Have you seen my Son?". It is a play based on the night Jesus is betrayed, tried and crucified. Each character is a mother of one of the people who were with Jesus, not all of course but a few including Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Hearing the story of the events leading up to Easter from the mother's perspective, reminds me that the disciples, were real people not characters, they were born, raised by mother's, and struck out on the mission with Jesus. Their journey was unusual, full of unknowns and dangers. It was not an easy life, but one they pursued with passion, and dedication. Putting a human touch to the story enhances the power of their testimony to me, how frail and timid they were at times, how scared they were at times, how they abandoned Jesus at this crucial time. Yet God welcomes them back and uses them to spread the good news, their voices echo through time to our day. Even with how imperfect my witness is, God still is able to use me, use you for good, what a miracle is that!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter Preparation (streaming thoughts)

Living, living a life that is worthy of the gift, living in a world where others can live healthfully, living to the fullest, playing, working, resting, all part of living a life, all I take for granted, all I give thanks for this day, an empty tomb, the defeat of evil, the cycle of death and rebirth, all concepts too massive to comprehend fully, yet trusting that doing the dishes, trimming the orange tree all is done in appreciation, in celebration, I did not die on the freeway, or from cancer this day, yet others have, other families grief, do I meet their suffering with healing in all I do this day? And do my decisions come back to enrich my life, or break down the sanctity of life? Does the empty tomb remain simply empty? My tenth Easter in this place, why so long in one place, why this place, what have I heard from the Spirit what have I missed, what am I still working on, what have I completed and need to move on? Friends everywhere and yet business gets priority, is this right or wrong, imperfect or perfectly understandable? What would Jesus say to me , to you to us, and what has he said and we were too busy to listen or care or act? It is a heavy week, remembering the life of Jesus, I wonder if it really has caught hold of my soul so that I can leave behind fear and anxiety just this week, and be prepared to leave the empty tomb and fill the world with love?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Laughing out loud!

Pastor’s Article
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” Psalm 36

The remarkable thing about this line from Psalm 36 is I happened to read it while sitting next to the fountain at the outdoor patio in the shopping center on the corner of Valley and Grand in Walnut. I was there instead of my office because I have become intentional about studying the Bible in public, and this spot is fun cause of the fountain, and because it is a popular gathering place for people to have lunch, or Boba or Starbucks.
Prior to reading the bible,I was reading some material I had stuck in my briefcase for this time outdoors in the Spring weather. I have been trying to keep to the ritual of reading from "Openings" a book by my friend Larry Peacock, and had forgotten the book, so I guessed which Psalm I should be reading. As it turns out Larry has it on March 21, so I was a few days early,however,for me to turn to this psalm and read it while sitting next to a fountain, I felt a smile arise from my soul and laughed at the notion of God planting the idea in my mind to read this particular psalm at that particular location.
As I start my week, and continue my preparation for Easter, I want to keep awake to the way God is directing me in these small but profound ways in my life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Not preaching just living!

This week our Chinese outreach pastor, Rev. Jimmy Nih is preaching. As I start this week, I am aware that not having to prepare for a sermon which gives me the freedom to work on other projects on my to do list. It also gives me an opportunity to take a breath, not have to concern myself with what I will be preaching on Sunday. I welcome the opportunity to take more time to read, to work on connecting with others via the internet, and take time to pause and discern how the Holy Spirit is guiding me and if I have been listening!
I love to preach, don't get me wrong, I love the discussions I have with others about the scriptures and what they have to say, putting together a worship service, with hymns and prayers,of writing out my thoughts to see if what I am hearing in the holy words make sense, and consider what action we are to take as a community of believers. This interaction with the sacred book feeds my soul, and give thanks to God for the opportunity to proclaim the good news.
I have discovered that taking a break now and then, helps me to think more deeply, and having to wait two weeks to preach again, gives my schedule time to delve more deeply into the book I am reading, or the scripture I am meditating on, to spend more time with friends, family, and members of the community, without the worry of having to rush home to finish the sermon prep!
How about you? What breaks do you need to take so you can breath a little more deeply?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Theology after Google

How do you see the world? As a photographer and sometime sketch artist, the quest to slow down and see the beauty all around, to breath in the air, to glory in the creation, helps feed my soul. In the holy moments of slowing down long enough to see the world as a place of beauty not just to be consumed connects me with the earth, and my role as garden keeper.
Seeing others who I am photographing, helps me see them in a new way, I may of missed the way the light dances off their hair, how one eye is set a bit lower than the other, they smile which is so joyful.
What helps you see the world in a more in depth way? How do you get connected to the beauty of the earth and the beauty in those we know?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The prodigal son

This week we will have a reader's theatre presentation of the prodical son, four voices will play the part of each of the characters in the story. I link this story to the words of Jesus on the cross, "Father forgive them". For his entire ministry, Jesus teaches about relationships, how to mend them with God, how to see the stranger as a brother or sister, to allow for those we have written off a place at our table. The world tries to push the model that we need to have a hierarchy, that those elected to public office have more power and prestige, those who are more successful and have more money are wiser, those of a certain skin color are more valuable. Further, when it comes to righting the wrongs that have been done to us, it seems that revenge, holding grudges, not trusting, punishment are higher values than forgiveness.
The kind of forgiveness Jesus preaches is not an easy task, or without its risks. Who says the younger son of this story in Luke 15, does not go out once again and spend all his father has given him? What if the oldest son is just in his reluctance to welcome his rebellious younger brother back? Forgiveness on the cross means that even in our most dangerous moments we are asked to reach out and care for another, to do all we can to restore the relationship to God and to us. It is not easy to forgive, and it is not easy to find a way of living beyond the celebration of restoration, life will continue to challenge that connection as long as we live. However, this is the life Jesus calls us too, the pilgrim path, full of pitfalls and unknowns. May God continue to guide us the whole way!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Story for Sunday March 7, 2010

A Story of a recent convention! (Modified by me, Homiletics Online has the original I used for the idea)

There was a worldwide convention of all who opposed God. The keynote speaker addressed the crowd and showed many pictures of Christians. The speaker commented on their task of undermining the work of God: “We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from Biblical values.

“But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.

So let them go to church, let them have their Biblical lifestyles, but steal their time so they can’t gain that experience in Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do, angels. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” shouted the convention goers.

“Keep them busy in the non essentials of life and invent unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.

What kinds of things? The crowd shouted back

“Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow.
Do not let them be satisfied with what they have, Tempt them with bigger and better things, a better car, a better computer, a better cell phone. Advertise, on billboards and TV ads, radio ads and on the Internet!

This will result in convince men and women to go to work for long hours, to work six or seven days a week, ten to 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their families and friends. Soon their main source of meaning and purpose will be in their work, and how much they can produce. They will not invest in their family or friends relationships, and soon they will get the message that they don’t really need relationships outside of the work. Divorces will become more and more common and soon the will to remain in relationships will be diminished, people will become happy with Face book and texting, and they won’t have relationships that will satisfy their souls.

What else? the gathered asked.

The Keynote speaker continued, “Overstimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that small, still voice of God. Entice them to play the radio, or IPOD whenever they drive, go to the gym, or while taking walks to keep the TV, VCR, DVDs, Cd's and their PCs going constantly in their homes. Do not allow the mind to wander from this constant input. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.

“Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail-order catalog and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.

The crowd was working itself into a frenzy: “What about their free time?”

“Even in their recreation let them be excessive. Have them return from the recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. Don’t let them go out to nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead.

Introduce drugs to help them work when they are exhausted, and more drugs to have them calm down when they are at play.
Cause them to think this is all normal!

The Crowd went crazy: We love it, tell us more!

“When they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.

And let’s champion the cause that people should not forgive each other, lift up revenge and envy as the way people as normal ways to resolve conflict, increase war and decrease peace. If we increase their fear of being harmed, they will forget how Jesus taught them to forgive one another.

“Let them be involved in soul-winning, but crowd their lives with so many causes that they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”
This is the most important part of our plan because if we can distract the Christians it will weaken the churches, cause congregations to fight amongst one another, we can divide them with theological battles, and keep them from uniting, so they will not be connected to God’s power to which can change the world.

Lastly, we must convince the world that the problems they face are too big and too complex to solve. Let us keep them separated by religious beliefs, culture, race, age, so they will not discover the power of connection, of being united as brothers and sisters in Christ.

It was quite a convention in the end. The evil ones went to their assignments, causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.

Has their mission been successful?

You be the judge.

Their goal is to take our minds away from Christ and steer us toward the cares of the world. When we become disconnected from the Holy Spirit, soon we feel overwhelmed and under prepared for the cares of this life. God wants us to enjoy life, but God must be first. If we are too busy for God, then we are too busy!

—Source unknown.( Revised by SPM)

Monday, February 22, 2010

From Fear to Forgiveness: Waiting

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27 starts with these words and then concludes with: Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
To let go of the fear I harbor in my heart and mind means allowing God to be the stronghold, the one I trust to give me courage. This I understand, but to wait? Bridges from fear to forgiveness have to be built! I need to work really hard to make this possible don't I? What do you mean I have to wait?
I wonder if it has anything to do with what they say on the Olympics broadcast concerning the skiers or the bobsledders or the skaters. They have trained very hard, they are in great shape, but if they over train, or if they do not relax then they force the performance, and due to their tension lose precious seconds that means the difference between a medal or not.
Of course we do not get gold or silver or bronze rewards as Christians, but I wonder if I am so busy, so focused on working hard, that I miss the presence of the God of my salvation? Maybe I do everything but take the time to wait, to listen, to feel how the Spirit is guiding me?
God has already built the bridge to forgiveness, God invites us to make the crossing, to allow the Spirit not fear to guide us over all the obstacles along the way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lent: From Fear to Forgiveness

Today is Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. During Lent, our worship will be centered around the passage from Ephesians 4:31-5:2 "Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."(NRSV)

As I think about what radical behavior it takes for us to go from fear to forgiveness, I like the image of a bridge. I have always admired bridges for their beauty, as well as the engineering it took to build. Many persons have lost there lives in the building of these spans, due to the difficulty of building them. Growing up in Massachusetts we had many types of bridges around us, a singing bridge in town, there was the bridge of flowers up the road, just to name a few.
The bridge that God builds for us to grow closer to our creator is a gift. We do not earn it, we do not create it. But for us to go from fear to forgiveness, it means leaving behind our old ways of bitterness and wrath, anger and slander, to live a life of love. This is not any easy choice, and not one we make only once.
Lent is a reminder of how dilagent we need to be in crossing the bridges that bring us closer to God and one another.
John Wesley the founder of United Methodism was passionate about the practices of faith that would lead to this life of love. His called his followers to gather in small groups, classes so they could learn how to leave behind their old ways and accept the new way of Christ. Lent is a time to practice a new way of living, of giving up something that has caused us to be bitter, unforgiving, and cross the bridge to a new place in our lives, of forgiving and loving. We cannot do this alone, it is a journey we need to take together. So I will be posting more often and want you to tell me, what gets in the way of your being able to forgive, and what has given you the courage to forgive? I pray together we will learn about how to forgive more powerfully!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When the Earth Shakes

In the December issue of Christian Century magazine, author Herbert O'Driscoll wrote an article called "Shaken". He talks about his personal journey and concludes: "To serve in an age of earthquake is to be forced to decide what it is, for each of us, that cannot be shaken". As I have heard the news from Haiti, I wonder what remains with those whose lives have been so terribly shaken by the series of shakers that continue to threaten their lives? And I wonder what can I do about it, the need is so great, and our resources so little in my church.
My belief is that there is something solid to grab onto, something that can anchor me when life is such a stormy place. This foundation cannot be shaken, not matter what might come in life. That is not to say that I never fear, that I never worry, only that there is someone to hold onto even in the midst of my fear. Jesus walks with me and I am never alone. Jesus who cares for me when I am shaking, when I fear. And I do not fear his love, but trust in it, because I believe Jesus does not want me to suffer needlessly or endlessly.
I also trust in the united power of the world to help and care. I believe we have all we need to meet the horrible events that unravel before us, but too often we are caught up in bickering with one another to truly unleash our common care. We get caught up in differences, rather than capitalizing on our common strength, to care for one another.
So I turn over my fears and worries for the people to God, trust in God to lead me and to unite me with my brothers and sisters in the world to transform the world from hurt to healing, from war to peace. How about you? How are you able to be transformed from fear to faith?