Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

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

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Beginning of Lent

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