Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This made me laugh today....

~ You've waded in a creek wearing a necktie.
~ You've ever dreamed you were preaching only to waken and discover that you were.
~ You'd rather negotiate with terrorists than the church organist.
~ You see a picnic as no picnic.
~ You've ever wanted to fire the church and form a congregation search committee.
~ You've been tempted to take up an offering at a family reunion.
~ You've ever wanted to give the sound man some feedback of your own.
~ You've ever wanted to lay hands on a deacon, and you didn't mean praying for him.
~ You often feel like you are herding cats instead of shepherding sheep.
~ Your sermons have a happy ending...everyone's happy when it ends.
~ You've never preached on TV, because your wife made you get down before you broke something.
~ You feel that it is your job to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Languishing hearts seek comfort and solace
Only the Holy One can satiate the longing of our soul
Verily Christ has promised us God's eternal love that we might be made whole
Earnestly I seek to love God in return--through patience, prayer, worship, kindness, relationships, compassion and justice

Giving Thanks

A few weeks ago my grandma was diagnosed with Colon Cancer, they decided it was operable and so they started making plans for surgery. She is 91 and so the surgery risks were high, though she is in good health, so that at least made her a candidate. Wednesday she underwent surgery and it seemed to go well--they said it had not metastasized and they got it all! She had two tumors in her colon and they removed both of those, she also had scar tissue from when she had radiation treatment for ovarian cancer a years ago, and they took some of that out too. She made it through the surgery well and seemed to be recovering well to boot! So that is marvelous! My uncle is with her now as my mom and dad are here with me and I continue to pray for healing for her, but sing out with thanks for a successful surgery!

Ahhh Camp....

This week I am co-deaning for Pasadena District Senior High Camp. Originally I was just supposed to be a counselor, but then the other co-dean moved to Texas and was just going to come back for the week of camp and the spirit moved for her to attend to her family and new home and life and for me to become the dean. Just for the record, I wasn't exactly sure what I was taking on when I said yes, and quite frankly, some of it is still pretty fuzzy, but hey, clarity has never been a pre-req for following where God leads me! lol. My primary pre-camp responsibility was writing curriculum. G, the other co-dean, had given me some pre-fab stuff, but I am not a huge fan of pre-fab, though I do use it occassionally, or at least some variation of it for my weekly youth group, and it felt like doing something from scratch would work better. So I read a book my dad had loaned me, The Ten Commandments from the Backside, which is absolutely wonderful and it forms the backbone of our curriculum.

Briefly about the book--it basically works off the assumption that people seem to resent the 10 Commandments as a bunch of rules that serve more as an imposition than a blessing. "Thou shalt not....thou shalt not.....though shalt not...." and he alters each commandment so that we come to view them more as a blessing and gift from God than some superstructure of rigid law. Hopefully when I have more time I will type them up for you so you can see what he means.

Back to camp, it looks like we have a solid staff. I was honored to bring two folks from my church (one a recent college grad and one an 80 year old woman who thought it'd be fun to be a counselor!!!) and invited my parents who agreed as well! I love camp. I love being in the mountains, smelling the pine, listening to the breeze rustle through the pine needles--it's so easy to hear God here, I absolutely love it and I love the opportunity to be a part of an intensive spiritual week for camp, and counselors too.

this morning I asked my dad if he'd think about "how I might be more dean-like". I don't feel like a dean, and I am not sure what exactly I am supposed to do to fulfill my role, but hopefully whatever I do it will edify the folks who have come and glorify God along the way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Guided Meditation

I am finishing up writing the curriculum for next week's Senior High youth camp. The close of each Bible study is supposed to have a guided prayer--I came up one prayer short from the materials provided from last year. So I created my own. I thought I'd share...(keep in mind it's written for a leader to read as others go through the meditation, feel free to adapt as necessary to suit your situation)

Sit up and sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Relax. Take a few slow deep breaths. (Pause 10 seconds).
It’s time for your shower. You go into the bathroom and close the door. Turn on the water. Take off your clothes and get in the shower. Let the hot water run over your body. You notice the water feels different today. You feel cleaner—not just free-from-dirt clean, but cleansed, inside and out. You remember the words from Sunday’s sermon “I am the living water”. You realize the cleansing you feel is from Jesus, not only is your skin getting washed, but your soul is being washed clean too. (Pause 10 seconds)
You pick up a bar of soap—it’s marked H.S.—Holy Spirit soap. As you scrub your body, the frustrations, pain, and irritations of the week surface. They rise into your chest and then to your throat. You feel them, lying there by your voice box—blocking the way. It’s harder to breathe. You want to be freed from them. (Pause 5 seconds) You scrub harder and as you do, you begin to cry. Your tears also wash over your skin and the pressure you just felt in your throat lessens. You begin to relax and your breathing slows. (Pause 10 seconds) You finish washing and get out to dry off.
Once you are dry, you put on lotion—it smells of frankincense and myrrh, (Pause 5 seconds) it’s anointing oil and as you lather it on, your wounds are healed. Scabs and scars disappear from your skin and you feel a tingle through your stomach, like free falling on a roller coaster, it’s exhilarating. You can’t help but smile. God has cleansed you and set you free from the scars of your past. Indeed, you are ready to start your day—cleansed and made new by the power of the Holy Spirit, the living water, and God’s anointing oil.

Quote of the Day

"When someone steals a man's clothes, we call him a thief; shouldn't we give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?" --Anonymous, Brazil.

Some pics of the Holy Land

A few years ago I was blessed to go on the Middle EastTravel Seminar (METS) and traveled through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, Israel/Palestine, and Greece. It was an amazing 3 weeks learning history, archeology, religion, politics, and from the diversity of my fellow bus mates. I have been thinking a lot about my trip because we are doing camp curriculum on the Ten Commandments and I keep thinking of our trip up Mt. Sinai. I finally loaded the pics onto my new computer and so I thought I'd post a few....

The city of Palymyra, Syria. All the green you see is Palm Trees. Most of the landscape in that area of the world is a nice taupe/beige....desert (a.k.a. wilderness), desert, and more desert, and then all of the sudden you come around a mountain and you see the beauty of Palmyra--a true desert oasis--not a single palm tree with a trickle of water for the sun-stroked traveler, but acres and acres of Palm trees to lure you in....

Sunrise at Mt. Sinai, Egypt. We got up (for those who went to bed) around 1:30 am to take the bus to the base of Sinai, where we each hitched a ride on a camel through the dark of night to the halfway point on the hill. Then we hiked the 800+ carved steps to the top to await the glory of the morning sun.

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel. I assume this Mosque is well known enough that it doesn't require much explanation....

Petra, Jordan. This ancient city was just voted as one of the new 7 wonders of the world. It is absolutely incredible to see. All of it is carved into the rock--no pillars etc brought in, all carved out of the rock....and many of the areas were carved just for burial--it was hard to wrap my head around putting so much work (I could imagine a life time) simply so you could die and lay there....

I'll probably post more on a later date, for now enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lost in translation

Last week I met a family in need of food assistance from the church. He was on disability and for some reason had only received 10% of what his check was supposed to be, so they needed help in getting through until the next check. While I was with them, they shared their faith testimony. They are relatively new believers (2 years ago) and have enjoyed some of the nondenominational churches in the area. In recounting their story, they said that the night they were saved, some big televangelist (though they couldn't remember his name) was brought to town, and they "couldn't miss the opportunity to be saved by him".

I didn't bring it up with them, I was grateful they felt safe enough to share. But, their statement definitely threw up some red flags--first off, no person, other than Christ, "saves" us. Pastors do not "save" us. Friends, colleagues, etc, none of them save us. God "saves" us. God does the saving action in our life. People may serve as vessels that help us hear God or see God, but God is the only one who can do the saving work. I am frightened that what people get out of a worship service is that the Pastor (whomever he/she might be) would be the one to save them, and that being saved is about who saves you--as in, you could/should wait so that __________ can save you, rather than responding to God's call on your life whenever that might happen, regardless of the pastor that stands in front of you.

Cosas Chistosas

The other day I was talking with F and both of us have Spanish as our second language, my first is English and his first is Portuguese. One of the primary sources of comedy in Spanish is mixing up words, or words with double en tenders, or words that sound similar but mean two different things. Yesterday we each had the opportunity to commit major language errors that are worth sharing.

I was talking about being able to cross cultural boundaries in High School and said:

"Yo andaba con todos, con los indigenas de aqui, con los hueros, con los mexicanos, con los filipenses..." which translates, "I hung out with everyone, native americans, whites, mexicans, Phillipians...."

For the record, the word I was looking for was "filipinos" = Filipinos not "Filipenses" = Philippians

Then later A was talking and he said:

"Fue una situacion embarazoso"--you lose something in translation, but basically it means "it was a pregnant situation" (embarazada is a false cognate in Spanish/English and the word for embarrassed is "avergonzado"), so A should have said, "fue una situacion avergonzosa"--"it was an embarrassing situation"!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Catholic Church document

The recent statements coming from the Pope have caused quite a stir, especially from those of us who believe ourselves to be "true christians" despite the our absence from catholic pews. Andy B. had what I consider a nice summary and pertinent concern....

Monday, July 16, 2007

The "Be with" prayer

Each night, I use my prayer journal and pray. Normally I write the names of those for whom I am praying specifically and then any other prayer I wish to lift up. More often than not, as I pray for those who are laid on my heart (e.g., who come to mind) I pray the "Be with" prayer. "Be with D...be with K and S, be with A, be with....." etc, etc, etc. One night, I had to wonder about the effectividad of the "be with" prayer--what was the heart of the "be with" prayer. Really, I consider it an all encompassing prayer. When I pray "be with C" I mean, guide her, direct her, draw her near to you, help her in her work, her relationships, her self care, give her energy, health, and animo in who she is. I'm a big fan of the "be with" prayer as is evident from this post. And hopefully, though I don't utter each of those petitions each time I pray, God hears the "be with" prayer for all of the intentions and hopes that lie behind it.

The breadth of things

Yesterday I assisted with a funeral for one of my church members. During the open mic part where people could share, a former colleague noted that J had taught over 2000 people in his 30 or so year career. The comment made me start thinking of how many people have been affected (at least potentially) by my ministry.

BFUMC 300+
HUMC 400+
Camp(s) 300+
CPE 250+
Approximate total: 1610+

Now, I am not so vain as to think I have had some life changing affect on all of those people, but in some way I have ministered to a whole lot of folks. I have taught a class, preached a sermon, offered care, or simply listened in the last 8 years to more people than I realized. It’s sort of wild to think of how broad the scope of my ministry has been and the potential for how many lives could be touched or affected. The other side of that coin being responsibility—I mean, if I screw things up, it’s not like just 10 or 20 folks would be affected, 1600 people is a fair number, so I better be stepping up and giving the best I can so that with the great number of people there is also great potential for doing the job right!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's not about me...

It’s not about me, it’s about God. This has been a theme for me for the last 8 years or so. I first learned it the summer after my first year of college; I had been asked to restart the youth group at my home church and had signed on with gusto. A few weeks passed after accepting the position and I began to think: “Who in the world am I to do this? There has to be someone with more knowledge, more experience, more faith who could do this job.” But despite my self-doubt, I was the one who had been chosen and who had accepted—so I had a job to do. What I learned from that experience was that it wasn’t about the gifts and abilities that I brought to the table—it was about what I allowed God to do through me. It wasn’t about me; it was about God. I learned that lesson various times through the summer—or maybe it took all those lessons all summer long for me to actually learn it! That theme has reemerged for me at various points in my life, work, faith, and ministry ever since. These days I seem to be relearning and reusing this mantra to support me in my work and in my discernment. When you get right down to it, it’s not about me, it’s about what I let God do through me. Now, that doesn’t mean that I just sit on my thumbs and wait for God to do something, I do LOTS of work, but the fruits that work produces is really about what God is doing through the work I am doing. It’s a relationship of mutuality, but the last word does not pertain to me, it pertains to God, so I can’t let myself be consumed by my own self-doubts or my own pretention about my capabilities. It’s not about me; it’s about God.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Over the centuries of Christendom and modern living, people have gotten the false impression that it is the holiness of the individual that gives authenticity to the mission. In both ancient and contemporary times it is the other way around. It is the authenticity of the mission that gives holiness to the individual. The sacrament is not a sacrament because the priest is a priest, but the priest is a priest because the sacrament is a sacrament." --Thomas Bandy

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Simple yet Profound

Yesterday I met with my new Senior to talk about various ministry, mostly those which I am in charge of. As such, we discussed the Latino ministry--our growth and our hopes/plans for growth in the coming year. He was talking to me about changing rooms for worship, from the chapel to a larger space. The chapel comfortably fits about 40, our next option is BH, which can seat about 60. There is also WH, which would seat closer to 200, but it is both currently being loaned out to another church for use, and for the size we are now, would completely dwarf our congregation.

As a small ethnic congregation, it regularly feels like we just get moved about as it seems to fit the needs of the larger, predominantly anglo, congregation. So, I wasn't terribly keen on just getting moved. But then he explained something to me--he said that a room or sanctuary generally fills to about 80% capacity. (Don't ask me why, that's just the statistic). But the implication of that stat is that our congregation, which is now totaling between 22-27 on Sunday mornings, doesn't have much more space to grow. (Somehow I have had it in my head that we would fill to *overfull* and then we would know we need to move spaces). So, if we moved to BH, with a max capacity of 60+, we would then have the potential for 50+ folks in worship--doubling our current worship size, AND giving us a screen to use for worship, and space for dancers or a praise band to lead us in worship. So, we are looking into making that move in the coming months. I hadn't realized that the size of our worship space could restrict our growth potential in such a profound way. So hopefully, the move will offer new possibilities.

**as a related note of success, in the fall we had set a goal of growing to 25 in worship for 2007 and then 50 for 2008. I hadn't remembered the goal but was delighted when I realized that essentially we had already met the 2007 goal, and was hopeful that a change in worship venue might allow us to meet our 2008 goal by the end of 2007! (Now, I realize that numbers aren't everything, and that is not the main motivation of my ministry here, but for a growing mission church, that kind of growth is very exciting and something to give thanks for!)

not the new kid anymore

I began this journey of full-time ministry a year ago, and to be quite honest, the early months were rough--there was division, manipulation, and just plain *ugliness* happening with many of the folks here. Well, it's now a year later, and things are much improved. There are various factors at work in that, not the least of which is the simple fact that I am no longer the new kid.

I first noticed the difference at Annual Conference. Last year, in addition to my family, I knew 15 pastors, more or less, and even fewer laity who gathered from around the conference. It felt like I had seen and greeted all those I knew in less than one day. This year, I couldn't even begin to tell you how many I know. Everywhere I went I ended up talking with someone, a fact which I am thoroughly grateful for, but which, at the same time, also generally made me run late for EVERYTHING! This year I actually knew what was happening at conference, what to expect, how to manage things (though my lesson this year was that I should NOT try and attend everything, because it is simply not possible). And there was that sense--I'm inclined to call it the "Second year sense"--the sense of not being the new kid anymore, the sense of knowing people, of having settled in a bit, the sense of confidence in being able to serve and help others as they too get accommodated.

It's second year hear at the church and that too feels different. Not only do we have a new Senior pastor, but I know people--I go to an event now and end up circulating at all of the tables so I can greet people--and by in large, at most gatherings I know at least 90% of the people--there is comfort in that. There's ease.

One of the key components of my character is that I am a helper--I like being of service to people--able to answer questions, give directions, whatever. And no longer being *new* to everything makes that A LOT easier. So, I breathe a little easier these days--not because the work is any easier (though it at least is less cantankerous), but because I am settling in, and it feels good!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quote of the Day

Next time somebody asks me, “Hey, how’s your congregation doing?”
I think I'll reply, "Oh, we’re moderately neato."
--Andy B.

Quote of the Day

"For prayer exists, no question about that. It is the peculiarly human response to the fact of this endless mystery of bliss and brutality, impersonal might and lyric intimacy that composes our experience of life." --Patricia Hamphl

Monday, July 2, 2007

Additional blog

I have found myself to be more and more preachy as of late on this blog. And I have also found myself wanting for more preaching resources for spanish worship. So, being the advocate for our own role in making change happen, I have started posting my sermons--not that they will lead to profound theological revolutions, but maybe they might help fuel someone's sermon prep along the way, or some such thing. I have made it a separate site since sermons tend to be much longer posts. Most of my preaching is in spanish, so you can plan on that, but I also preach in english and sometimes I have to do translations for various reasons.

A miracle

Yesterday I had the privilege of witnessing a miracle. For a couple days now I have been visiting a parishioner in the hospital. First he was on the third floor, then after surgery in ICU. In ICU he did not look good. He was conscious, but on a respirator and by all accounts, not long for this world. His condition continued to worsen and in talking with his son, he was not holding out much hope. In addition to the respirator he was going into congestive heart failure and he still has a condition they have yet to be able to fix, or really have a good solution for. Having spent my fair share of nights in ICU rooms and around the hospital with folks, it was clear he was not "on the verge" so to speak, but he was clearly not well. Then yesterday I dropped by, mostly expecting just to check on the family, and there he was sitting up, no more vent, and talking and carrying on like normal. At the sight of him I was grinning from ear to ear. I said, "you couldn't ask for much more" and he DID care to differ, but compared to the day prior--it was a miracle. He's not out of the woods so to speak, but he is so much better it is amazing! Praise God!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Oracion para el pueblo

Muchos dias O Dios, el dolor del mundo es demasiado para nosotros. Mientras que nos acordamos de tus hijos e hijas por el mundo, te buscamos a ti. Oramos por los que están en guerra. Por los en korea del norte, en darfur, en el congo, en afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Palestina, y Israel. Por los que temen la explosión de otra bomba. Por los que no pueden dormir por los disparos. Por los que han declarado a sus propias cuidades una zona de guerra por las peleas entre las gangas.

Oramos por los que han sufrido destrucción. Por los que tienen cases inundadas. Por los que tenian una casa que fue desrumbada por el viento. Por los que no tienen casa y viven dentro de una caja o con solo una manta.

Oramos por los afligidos. Por los con la SIDA. Por los con cancer. Por los con enfermedaes. Por los con enfermedades mentales. Por los que no saben lo que tienen.

Oramos por los que sufren abuso. Por los ninos que temen por sus vidas y su propia seguridad en sus casas. Por las esposas que temen el toque del pareja. Por los ancianos que son maltratado. POr las victimas de violencia sexual. POr los ninos que sufren los ataques de otros ninos.

Oramos por tantos mas que estan en nuestros corazones.

Hoy buscamos refugio en ti. Buscamos seguridad en tus brazos. Buscamos consuelo de ti. Buscamos sanidad de tu uncion. Buscamos paz del principe de pas. Buscamos reconciliacion por la redencion de Cristo. En ti, O Dios, hay esperanza. Esperamos por la respuesta. Esperamos por ayuda y sanidad. En ti confiamos, y a ti buscamos. En el nombre de Cristojesus nuestro Senor y salvador.