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Where is God?

It’s been a while and there have been many opportunities for me to catch up, but I have chosen not to do so. No reason other than I simply do not do it. So here is my attempt…

Recently, I have been pondering the issue of “pastoral care.” Not so much asking what pastoral care really is (although 10 people would have 10 different answers), but asking the overall purpose. As a pastor and occasional volunteer chaplain, I am sometimes amazed the response I get when walking into a hospital room. There are times when it is obvious that the persons in the room feel as though God has now entered the room. No, they do not think that I am God, but that some how God may not have been there until the “religious official” stopped by. This is not always the case, but it certainly does happen.

I see this from two perspectives. When I am working as chaplain, I often see it with folks who are dealing with major issues, including death of a loved one. Many times these individuals do not have a church affiliation and do not have a concept of God simply “being.” I understand this one. As the chaplain, I represent the wisdom and authority of religion, which in turn represents the power of God manifested through Christ which now works through the Holy Spirit. Lots of words to say that the chaplain brings God into the room.

In the church, I find this a bit more complex and more interesting. There are many folks who do not need (or want) a pastor to come pray with them before a surgery. Some will even make a special call to the church to make it known that they do not expect a visit at the hospital.

Here’s where it gets challenging. There are those who tell someone, who tell someone, who tell…(you get the idea) that they are having a surgical procedure and want the church to “know.” I often interpret these things as FYI’s, if you will. I make sure to put them in my prayer notes and pray for them. Sometimes that works just fine. Other times it comes back to bite me…hard! What I often interpret as an FYI, is sometimes meant to be more of a request. Meaning, “I’m having surgery, make sure the church (Pastor) knows so he can come visit with me in the prep room before the procedure takes place.”

Since I interpret this as simply a piece of information and not a request, it can make it’s way through the grapevine that “the pastor didn’t even come to pray with me.” This can be heard as the pastor not caring about a person. Of course, this is not the case, but how do we undue the damage that is done?

So, here’s the point. In pastoral care, how is a pastor (anyone doing pastoral care) to know the unwritten expectations? My first thought is for people to give clear expectations when informing the church of a procedure, hospital stay, etc. I’m not sure that this is reasonable. Would people feel comfortable saying, “I’m having surgery and I expect the pastor to come see me beforehand.” I don’t think that will happen. In the meantime, I will continue to use my best judgement and hope that I am correct. I have no doubt that will require more even more grace from the folks I serve.

Grace and Peace,


Childlike faith

This is an article I recently wrote for our church newsletter…

I highly recommend the book, “Dangerous Wonder-The Adventures of Childlike Faith.”   by Mike Yaconelli.  In fact, I will let you borrow one of my copies to read if you like.  You won’t regret it.  I thought of that book   earlier in May as we were taking communion at the 11 o’clock service.  The children had come back from children’s church to take              communion.  I do not know the exact details of their lesson for that day, but the general idea was “giving.”  The children were given a piece of candy and they were to think of someone to share their candy with. 

As I was serving communion, Braytin caught my attention.  He had taken communion in the  other line and then stepped over beside me.  I didn’t notice him at first but then he made sure I could see him as he was waving a mini snickers bar as high as his arm could reach.  I looked over to see that he was giving the candy bar to me.  As adults, we could say that wasn’t the “appropriate” time to give the piece of candy to the pastor.  As a kid who was expressing his “child-like faith” it was the perfect time.

Jesus didn’t always express his love for people when everyone thought it was appropriate.  He didn’t wait to show compassion since it was the Sabbath.  No, Jesus . . ., and Braytin, did the right thing.  They expressed love and           compassion when the opportunity presented itself.  I learned a lot from Braytin that Sunday morning.  Perhaps you have too.



Faith Challenges

Today has been somewhat challenging.  This morning I officiated a funeral for a 4 month old little girl, who has dealt with health issues since birth.  There just isn’t much to say about a little girl who has spent nearly every moment of her life attached to breathing tubes, feeding tubes and IV’s.  Though I’m sure it appeared today that I was focussing on the thoughts and/or feelings of this little girl’s parents, I was partly addressing my own faith issues.

It only seems “right” to read the 23rd psalm at a funeral.  I’m not sure I’ve been to one that hasn’t had that scripture read.  I even read that scripture today.  It didn’t fit.  Not at all!  Sure, I was able to talk about God being with us and God walking beside us during our “shadow of death.”  I read that scripture while looking at 2 parents who couldn’t even lift their head to look at the tiny casket when they first arrived.  So, I shared how inadequate I felt in this situation.  I want so badly to have the “magic words” that makes it all go away.  That my prayer at the end will make everything better.  That my faith will somehow strengthen their faith.  It just wasn’t happening. 

After reading the 23rd psalm, I read a few passages from psalm 22.  Surprisingly those words seemed much more appropriate.  I didn’t read the entire chapter, but found a few passages that were spot on with how I was feeling.  If my CPE supervisor knows what he’s talking about, those 2 parents (and many others) were probably feeling the same thing.  “My God! My God, why have you left me alone?”  The frist 10 words of that chapter pretty much say it all.  I have no doubt that they felt alone, afraid, hurt, angry, abandoned by God…etc.  Nothing I could say was going to change that.  Did it need changed?  Do they have to suddenly not be angry any more?  Do they need to not look at God and ask “Why?”  I’m confident that God’s shoulders are more than large enough to carry our pain, fear, hurt and yes…our anger towards God. 

Somehow, through the fog of this awful experience, we can find our faith.  We find it because it wasn’t ever really gone in the first place.  We didn’t “lose” our faith.  Perhaps, it was just “misplaced” for a while.  Even in the middle of all the chaos we are moved by the Holy Spirit to seek God’s rescue.  We are called to remember, even in the faintest way, our faith.  We are called to remember who God is.  We are called to remember Psalm 139.  Even the psalmist had moments of total anguish followed by total faith and back again.  Why would we think it should be any different for us? 

Today was a difficult day for me.  God carried me through as God always does…even when I struggle to recognize it.




Ambassador for Christ

The Awkward Season

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

When my mother first took me to church 28 years ago, I had no idea what was in store for me.  Since that time I have been to many churches, many denominations and some that “claim” to be non-denominational.  Quite honestly, I’m less convinced now of the accuracy of non-denominational.  We all have a history and our lives typically reflect that history.  It is not my intention to debate or even discuss the aspect of denominations so I digress. 

It was the spring of my fourth grade year and my mother took me to the church Easter drama that was very well-known in the community.  After that, we went every time the doors were open.  I cannot verify the accuracy of that statement, only that it seemed that way to me.  sometimes I loved it and sometimes I begged (literally, begged) to not have to go to church.  I do not recall the grade that I was allowed to start youth group.  Typically that would be 6th or 7th, so I’m guessing it was within a couple of years that I was able to attend.  I was very nervous…ok I was scared to death!  The day finally came and I went.  I don’t remember if anyone talked to me, if I sat alone, if I looked as scared as I felt…I don’t even remember if I went back the next week.  I’m sure I did.  One thing I do remember, the name.

In this particular denomination the youth groups were all called “CA’s.”  CA stands for “Christ’s Ambassadors.”  Nope, I had no idea what that even meant.  Essentially I signed up to be an ambassador to the King of Kings and yet had no idea what I was doing.  admittedly, that feeling comes and goes even today.  I am an authorized messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  Today’s scripture says the same thing.  Paul is writing to the Corinthian church pleading for them to be reconciled to God through Jesus.  He tells them that “they” Paul and his disciples (missionaries) are Ambassadors of Christ and have been authorized to share the good news.

I am an Ambassador of Jesus Christ.  If you are a follower of Christ…YOU are an Ambassador of Jesus Christ!  Overwhelmed and humbled, I accept this call and pray you do as well.  Even with all my faults, failures, issues and any other name you want to give it…SIN, God still has called me and charged me, not with sin, but with being an authorized representative of the One True God!  What a journey this has bee and will be.  I’m glad you are joining me.  Let’s be ambassadors together so the world may be reconciled to the God…THE God!

Lenten Blessings,



The Awkward Season

I did it!  I managed to fail on day 2 of Lent.  I’m glad I serve a God who loves and forgives.  While I had some wonderful thoughts about yesterdays devotional, I want to stick with today (friday 2-15).  The frist words I read from today’s devotion are from the Psalmist.  What were those first 4 words?  “Wait for the Lord!”  Great!  That’s what I need today (sarcasm button).  I mean, come on…This is the Lenten season and I know it’s about preparation, but “waiting” isn’t something I really have time to do.  I would suppose you may feel the same way.  It’s not that I don’t want to wait, I simply don’t have time.  There are far to many things that need done and now that I’ve added a commitment to blog during Lent, I have even less time.  I know, it’s not really making sense in my head either, but I digress.  I do have a somewhat new perspective on waiting that I would like to share with you. 

Today’s scripture is 1 Peter 3:18-22.  Vs 20 really spoke to me. “God patiently waited during the time of Noah.”  God could have done anything to make things move along faster, but chose to allow Noah and his family to do the right thing and God…”waited.”  And how many did God wait for?  Eight!  Yes, just eight!  Hardly seems worth it doesn’t it?  I mean maybe you wait that long for an entire community, but for one small family?!  God is truly amazing. 

Then I discovered something else.  As I was praying for the different areas in the devotional, which all have to do with waiting, I received a text message.  Typically during my prayer time I would not even look at it.  I can’t tell you the reason, but I automatically stopped praying to look at the message.  God was slapping me in the face.  The message was from a woman who was updating me on her husbands recent organ transplant.  I have visited with this family a few times in the hospital and talked with them on the phone, at church, etc.  I watched a healthy man become so ill that I honestly wasn’t sure how long he would be with us.  Because of this particular organ failure, other organs were failing, which is awful to say the least.  I’m not a doctor, but common sense says we didn’t have much time.  She had updated me on a particular evening and I was praying and worrying, as were many others.  Just two days later I received a txt message in the middle of the night saying that an organ was on its way and the procedure would be starting soon. 

That all transpired a couple of weeks ago and ever so slowly things have improved.  As I read that txt message moments ago, I couldn’t help but feel almost ashamed at my “huridness” of life.  It wasn’t so much the idea of how life goes by so fast, although I seem to be reminded of that daily.  This was different.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that the family shared the issues that were taking place with the organ and how bad things were getting.  In fact, I have noted that it seemed like just a couple of weeks ago, we were hearing the news of the illness that had just been discovered.  Well, for the family, the last several months have been anything but fast!  They have waited…for medication to ease the pain…for blood transfusions to sustain brain function and other organs…for doctors to determine what could be done…for hospitals to dismiss them from another several day stay in the hospital knowing it would only be a short time until their return due to complications…for the hope of finally being put on the transplant list…for the first possible transplant that wasn’t able be done after being prepped and ready for surgery…for a new transplant with hopes that other organs would also begin to work…for the fog of being unconscious to finally lift…for eyes to open…for audible responses…for someone to say, it’s going to be ok!

That’s waiting!  God waits for me constantly.  The only logical thing to do is to “Wait on the Lord” and give glory to God for God’s steadfast love.  So, Lord, I’ll wait.

Grace and Peace


Ash Wednesday-Clearing

The Awkward Season

I have started day one of “The Awkward Season-Prayers for Lent” by Pamela C. Hawkins today.  As you may have read, this is part of my Lenten commitment; to post each day on my reflections/meditations/readings, etc. 

Today began with a familiar passage from Psalm 51…”Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”  Clean is an interesting word.  I know there have been times when we say, the house needs cleaned when really the house just needs “picked up.”  It isn’t necessarily dirty, but cluttered.  On the other hand, there are times when “CLEAN” is certainly the correct word for the actions needed.  I cannot argue with the fact that I needed cleaned and de-cluttered!

I could spend more time on the “clean” issue, but there is something weighing on me today that is much heavier.  You may read it and think it’s trivial, but nonetheless it is something I have struggled with for some time.  Today’s scripture reading (The Awkward Season) comes from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.  The summary of this scripture is to not be “showy” with your faith.  Pray in your room and not whaling in public so everyone knows you are praying…clean yourself up when you are fasting so everyone doesn’t know you are fasting…you get it.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of the ashes on Ash Wednesday.  I embrace the importance of the season and the time to begin a serious time of reflection for the preparation of Resurrection Sunday.  I argue that many of us have lost the preparation side of this season and want to get right to the celebration of Easter.  So, it is not the worship of Ash Wednesday, the meaning of Ash Wednesday or even the call the remembrance of our mortality that I take issue.  If you read the scripture, you may be able to conclude for yourself my issue.  I take issue with the ashes themselves.  If we are not to be “showy” about our faith, what exactly are the ashes for?  I am not saying they are for show so that others may “know we are Christians by our (ashes)” or anything like that.  It is for our reminder that we use the ashes.  I can appreciate reminders as I live and die by them, but in this case I have a difficult time having ashes on my forehead as my reminder.  Honestly, it seems to resemble some folks talked about in that Matthew scripture from above.

I have a colleague who does not like that I wear a clerics collar occasionally.  I don’t wear it all the time, but occasionally I will and the comment is usually something about being “showy” that I am clergy.  I do not see it that way, but I do respect his/her opinion for thinking that.  I do not see wearing a stole on Sunday morning as being “showy” either, but one could argue that case as well.  I have the title “pastor” on my name tag that I wear on Sunday mornings, but I don’t see that as being “showy.” 

The list goes on and on.  I’m sure you could think of several things that could appear showy in faith and yet are not.  Yes, this is my “issue” and one that I must reconcile is some fashion.  I may never be overly comfortable with the ashes of Ash Wednesday, but that will not keep me from the practice and allowing others to take part in this meaningful worship setting.  After all it’s once a year and I’m quite certain I can handle it that often.

Grace and Peace,


The Awkward Season

Yes, it has been a great while since my last post.  I have no excuses to give except my own laziness, I suppose. 

I was asked recently what I would be giving up for Lent.  I hadn’t really thought about it to be honest.  In fact, I decided that I would not be “giving up” anything.  Instead, I have decided to take on something a bit new.  Recently I purchased a wonderful prayer book/devotional entitled, “The Awkward Season-Prayers for Lent” by Pamela C. Hawkins.  For Lent I will be working through this prayer/devotion/meditation book.  I have also decided to add an element to my commitment for Lent.  I have been journaling off and on for some time (more off than on) and have decided to make the committment to actually journal every day for Lent.  Moreover, I have also committed to sharing some of my thoughts and/or discoveries here.  It is my hope that this will help me stay focused and help me keep my commitment to journaling through Lent.  I figure that after 40 days (plus Sundays) it should actually be a habit by then!

May this Lenten season be a time of reflection, prayer, meditation, fasting…a time of becoming closer with the one who most desires a close relationship with us.



Annual Conference

It’s been quite a week to say the very least.  Of course, I already know that I have completely failed at keeping up with the blog and for that I apologize.  This past Thursday I was presented to the clergy session at annual conference and was approved for commissioning.  Though many would say the vote is a “formality”, I would contend that it is still a vote, none the less.  Being told “yes” is still very important and was very nice to have that part of the conference over with. 

While there were several highlights of the week, it was extremely nice having my family with me as I was commissioned on Saturday morning.  I wish I could have spent more time with them during the conference, but just knowing they were there meant the world to me.  Even Tyler, who had to leave shortly before the service was over on Saturday, was able to be there for my commissioning.  For the last several years of finishing school, seminary, CPE, commissioning paperwork and the list goes on, I have often times been preoccupied with the many other things going on around me and unfortunately that was often times not my family.  Yes, they “understand” what this all means, but that doesn’t change how difficult it was. 

So now, I am relieved and yet, I know there is still a very long road ahead.  I have entered into year one of a three-year residency.  (at least three years)  I’m looking forward to it as I continue to serve a wonderful congregation and continue working towards ordination in the UMC.  I am truly blessed.



Been a long time!

I can’t believe it is March 31st and I’m yet to blog ANYTHING in 2012.  I even made a commitment (to myself) to get better at this…not worse.  At any rate, this is at least an attempt to begin moving in the right direction again.  I’m not filled with incredible insight or anything crazy like that, at least not today.  Tomorrow begins Holy Week and I feel more than unprepared.  I have had many, many days to do the things I needed to do, in order to be prepared for this time of true passion and love during this movement towards the resurrection.  But alas, I have not done so.

It was just last Friday night and we were getting things ready for the final night of Upward basketball practices, final game day and the end of season celebration.  All of these wonderful things were happening in a matter of 24 hours.  What’s more, I was not happy with the sermon that I had prepared for that Sunday and felt that God was wanting me to do something more with it.  I looked at Amy and said, “You know, in just a few short weeks I will be past Upward, Easter and CPE!”  Ok, I’m sure you get the Upward part.  It was an awesome season but I’m ready to have a saturday that isn’t spent at the church all day with games.  Perhaps you understand the CPE part.  This is part of my ordination process in which I am a chaplain at a local hospital and have classes there as well.  I spend eight hours a week doing clinical time, 4 hours of class and two 12 hour on call session per month.  I am ready for that to be behind me. 

What I can’t believe is that I linked Easter in with all that.  I want to be past Easter????!!!!!!!!!  I can’t believe I said it and I certainly can’t believe I’m blogging about it.  After much thought, I have realized that it isn’t Easter that I want to have behind me, but the business that comes with Easter.  I think of my pastor friends and those in ministry for the Kingdom during this time of year.  We spend a great deal of time doing our best to help others experience the resurrection of our living God and help foster their relationship with Jesus Christ…and for ourselves…???????????

I can’t say I have the answer, but I can say that I am most definitely making sure that my relationship with God isn’t just about making sure others have a relationship with God.


Advent Journey

It’s been a while since I have sat down to blog.  It seems as though there are always other things that just have to be done “right now” and there is little time for anything else.  As I have moved through this time of Advent, I have been pondering the journey of Mary and Joseph.  It isn’t picture perfect by any means and they certainly had more than their fair share of issues to navigate.  I believe their story is difficult for us to understand simply because our cultures are so different.  I have thought of the things that would have been said to them from those who found out the “secret” they were keeping.  Did they suddenly lose friends and family?  Did the ones they counted on most turn their back on the young couple?  What if this happened today?  I can’t imagine anyone would even consider believing Mary’s story.  I know I wouldn’t believe that kind of story. 

Take a look at this short video entitled “Social Network Christmas”

Would it look like this if we heard this story today?  Pay attention to the “un-friend” part and how true that may really be.