Category: Updates

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.




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.

my kids…

I remember loving this time of year as a kid. I still do but the reasons have slightly changed. The highlight of thanksgiving was always the simple fact that I had 4 whole days out of school. Most of the time my teachers didn’t even give us homework over the break. The idea of a very short week felt incredible!

Oh, how things change. I find myself on monday morning of thanksgiving week wondering how I will possibly get everything done. Thursday will be here before I know it and after a quick blink of the eye, it’s Sunday (the first Sunday of Advent) and the business will not end.

I’m blogging today from the dentist office while I wait on Tyler and Jenna to finish with the first “braces” consultation, impressions and the ringing of the cash register. As I sat waiting for Jenna, Tyler asked me if I used “touch of gray” this morning. After counting to about a hundred or so, I responded with a simple “no.”. He then informed me that I have a lot of gray. I quickly blamed him and moved on.

I’m not sure what causes our hair to turn and I guess it doesn’t really matter. I suppose stress does have something to do with it. As I approach this week of endless “stuff” to do I will be working to change my perspective. Perhaps you would like to join me. We’re entering “the most wonderful time of the year.”. Perhaps I’ll start acting like it.




Hard to believe that Advent is coming up in just a few short weeks.  As I look over “The Journey” by Adam Hamilton, I can’t help but think about those difficult months those two young kids endured.  We really don’t hear a great deal about that pregnancy and what they went through.  I’m not sure we can truly appreciate those details today.  Our cultures are so different that I really have a hard time comprehending what that must have been like…what it might have felt like…the fear…the anger…the tidle wave of emotion they surely experienced. 

This year at New Haven United Methodist Church we are going to Journey through that time using the book from Hamilton.  I hope to see you this Advent and may your “Journey” be fulfilling.



This weekend we will be sending out our pledging opportunities.  This includes opportunities of service within the church.  We have so many areas where folks can serve and become more involved with the work we are doing in the community.  What can be more interesting is the idea of a “stewardship” campaign within the church.  This isn’t anything new, but for some reason we don’t like to talk about it much. It’s not like I don’t know why we don’t like to talk about it.  Everyone has a different idea of what it means to give to God.  The idea of a “tithe” holds strong for some and for others they will quickly point out that it is simply and Old Testament term that is irrelevant for the church today.  As the official Christmas shopping season begins and/or continues over the next few weeks I have to ask myself and urge all of us to ask ourselves about our giving to our creator.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I can actually afford, I still want to give my children the best that I possibly can.  I don’t worry about the amount of money I spend on them, but that I offer them the best.  When we give to God are we striving for the same thing?  Do I give to God working to give my very best, or trying to give what I “have” to give and still have enough left for me to survive?  Or do I come up with a reason to not give to God? 

Where do you stand with these questions? 

If you are looking for an interesting read coming in to the Christmas season, take a look at Mike Slaughter’s blog and his book about Christmas.  It may just change how you think about giving!


What do you do all day?

As the associate pastor of NHUMC I have a variety of roles.  Currently we are seeking a director of our children’s ministries.  With this vacancy, we are all faced with working together to maintain our ministries and make sure the children in our congregation and community stay connected in their faith.  Along with this, I work with our adult ministries, worship, student ministries and other various areas.  This is not unique, but certainly keeps ones schedule very busy. 

Not only am I the full-time associate, but I am still a full-time student in seminary as well as working through the ordination process which requires a unit of cpe (working 12 hours a week at the local hospital and 2-12 hour on call shifts per month).  This leaves very little time in which I have to spend with my family.  This of course becomes very challenging for me and frustrating for my family at times. 

Just the other day at one of our youth events, one of the students was laughing at something I had done and said something about me having too much time on my hands.  We both laughed it off and then I noticed he was saying something under his breath.  He was going through my “schedule” (at least as he saw it) and then said what he was thinking.  “you have Sunday services, Sunday night youth and Wednesday youth; that leaves a lot of free time.”  God gave me the self-control needed at that moment 🙂  I wanted to say “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!”  Of course I didn’t say that and simply explained very briefly that it may look like there isn’t much to do, but there really is.  I stay quite busy, but I truly love what I do.

I had to laugh when I thought about it later that evening.  At times life seems so simple and it seems impossible to have such a busy life that we cannot make the much-needed time for our family.  I learned something from that young man even though he may not have meant it this way; I believe he was telling me to look at what’s filling my life and decide how important it really is.  Not everything is priority #1.  I really should have some free time on my hands.