Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Anticipation, Joy & Hope!

In a little over 24 hours we will again launch our congregation's LOGOS ministry. Now for those of you who know a little bit about Presbyterians, you will know that we love the alphabet soup of acronyms. But in this case, LOGOS does not stand for anything other than the Greek word for "word" (logos) as in, "In the beginning was the word (logos)".

LOGOS is a midweek ministry for Children and Youth to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ as well as with Christian adults. It is also an opportunity for the adults involved to come to know Christ at a deeper level by entering into relationship with the young people God has called them to serve as well as their peers who are serving alongside of them.

So why have I titled this Blog post "Anticipation, Joy & Hope!"? Well, simply put, that is how I feel about our start-up scheduled for Wednesday, October 1st. I am feeling a lot of anticipation as I think about all that needs to fall into place, between my own responsibilities as well as the adults involved and of course the kids who have some idea of what to expect, but for whom new beginnings can be a challenge.

Then again, I am feeling a great deal of joy that this ministry is launching off on a second year. This summer 11 people from our church went to training, including me, and we got so excited and recommitted to this ministry of bringing children, youth and adults into a more intimate relationship with Christ. That and it is a heck of a lot of fun in the midst of a week of pastoral ministry.

Which brings me to the hope: Hope that this year to come will be filled with all the laughter, insights, and growth that last year saw. LOGOS is an incredible time, not only for our children and youth, but for adults who may see each other in the sanctuary on Sunday or out shopping in the community, but who come together on Wednesday evening and make a difference in the lives of young people as well as within their own lives in more fulling comprehending what it means to be loved by our gracious God.

So I hope you will pray for us as we, at FPC, Twin Falls, once again head down the path of LOGOS.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

God Is Here!

It is Saturday morning and my cup of Starbucks Home brew is starting to kick in as I sit here at church readying my heart, body and mind for part two of "God Is Here! Taking Worship to the Next Level" a Consultation/Seminar on Presbyterian Worship led by the Rev. Dr. Mark Smutny, here at First Presbyterian Church of Twin Falls, Idaho.

Last night we had about thirty people gather to consider what makes Presbyterian worship distinctive--not better--just distinctive from other traditions. At it's heart, Presbyterian Worship is centered on God, in contrast to a "Jesus and Me" approach. Also, our worship has at it's center God's Word Proclaimed, usually by a pastor delivering a sermon based on a Biblical text that conveys the good news of the Gospel--God's love for humankind found in Jesus Christ.

There was some give and take, but mostly the group was attentive to Mark's compelling case that Presbyterian Worship has something to offer, not so much as a niche in our consumerist culture, but because, in a world hungry for God--hungry for something more than self--a regular order of worship that attributes awe, honor, and glory to God is something worthy of our time and effort and when done with those things in mind will be of benefit because people of all stripes are looking for excellence.

Today we enter more into a discussion of what the implications may be for how we at FPC, Twin Falls manifest our regular worship of God. So we will remember that, as God was with us last night, so too will God be with us as we gather this morning for prayer, scripture, and an understanding of how God is directing us to worship and into deeper relationship with God who loves us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

10 Years

Wow! I can hardly believe it, this past Saturday, September 20th marked my 10th year of ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)!

I have so much to be thankful for over those years; Executive Presbyters and Presbyteries that ushered me through to this point, Church members and sessions who granted me the privilege of serving them, my wife and son who have patiently walked by my side from Kentucky to Colorado to Idaho, a wonderful God who has given me gifts for ministry and has humbled me along the way to learn many lessons for the betterment of Christ's church.

I look forward to another ten years and many more beyond that to be privileged enough to officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals; to watch over the spiritual growth of young men and women in confirmation classes; to share insights with adults who explore the depths of the Bible and consider theological implications of the world around them; sit at the bedsides of those who are sick; work with others in bringing about the kingdom of God among us; growing in my own sense of the presence of God and God's glory in the here and now.

May God watch over me and all those whom God has called me to serve. Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Fullness of Time

"The Fullness of Time". I just love that phrase. For Presbyterians, we hear it mostly in our communion liturgies which outline the mighy works of God from Creation through the lives of the Prophets. And then, so the liturgy goes something like, "Then, in the fullness of time, God sent His only Son, Jesus."

I guess I like that idea so much because it helps us remember that God's concept of time and our own are so different and yet, "fullness of time" makes the difference sound so poetic, instead of condescending.

We see this idea of the "fullness of time" in our own lives when we have an idea and then it takes years to come about. Just last week, for instance, I was taking a walk with Rev. Chris Erdman of Fresno, California and he was talking about seeing an installment of origami peace doves at a conference or some other place he had been, about a decade ago. He told me that he had always wanted to have something similar in one of the churches he served, but it was not until he was in Fresno and shared the idea with the right person, some nine years after he had first seen the original installment, that it actually came about, so to speak, in "the fullness of time."

Recently I have had a similar experience. About half a dozen years ago, while I was the associate pastor at Church of the Hills in Evergreen, CO. I was either surfing the net or looking through a magazine when I saw a Prayer Labyrinth on the floor of a church--it may have been at the famous Episcopal Church in San Francisco--and I thought that would be a great thing to bring into a Presbyterian Church. However, the church in Evergreen was not the place. When I came to Twin Falls I shared the idea with a group that were exploring different prayer practices and they got the conversation started and in Fall 2007 a simple Cretan Prayer Labyrinth was installed in one of the rooms. Recently the Cretan one was upgraded to a 6-Circuit Neo Medieval Prayer Labyrinth that is simply beautiful and it came about through the "fullness of time."

So where and how is God at work in your life, bringing about something through the "fullness of time."

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Novel of Divine Politics

If you love God and you love politics then consider picking up a copy of "American Savior" by Roland Merullo.

In just over 300 pages Merullo tackles a very interesting subject, that of Jesus coming back again and this time choosing to enter the world of politics as a third party candidate. I hope you will agree that it really is a fun read.

Merullo's Jesus doesn't seek to be a James Dobson wannabe or a Jim Wallace wannabe for that matter. Instead, Merullo does an admirable job of portraying Jesus as a twenty-first century version of the Lord and Savior portrayed by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Granted, there are points at which trained theologians and biblical scholars will call into question Mr. Merullo's take on Jesus, but all in all it was a fun book in this season of bickering and ad wars.

Although the book starts off a bit wooden, it quickly develops into a story that is difficult to put down. I hope you will agree that this is a book that seeks to call into question assumptions of both the left and the right.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Too Busy for a Haircut

Wow! I can hardly believe the Lord's Day is finally here. And as I sit here with the hair on the back of my neck pushing over my starched collar I can't help thinking about the wide range of responsibility that kept me from going to the barber this past week.

From worship planning and sermon writing to retreat attendance and presbytery meeting to webinar watching and ministry planning to pastoral responsiveness and the joy of discussions with the Deacons this has been one full week. Too full, in fact, to find a time to visit my Barber Tom at the Varsity Barbers. And even as I sit here and wonder if anyone will ask, "When are you getting that hair cut?" As church folk have done in previous calls, I can't help but give thanks for the many responsibilities entrusted to my care and the wonder of God's blessings in my life.

For no matter how busy I get, ministry in Twin Falls is never boring and that is truly a gift that I give thanks for every day. And, in the midst of all the planning and meetings and conversations, I at least found the time to schedule a haircut for Tuesday morning. So thank God for small miracles!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Moving Day

Often, we Presbyterians along with other Mainline/Oldline Christians (Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists), are labeled the "Frozen Chosen". Well, this past Sunday, September 7th, a few Presbyterians thawed out somewhat.

The occassion for our thawing came with a response to a family in need in our congregation. The family had returned to the area after an extended absence after some difficult family issues. And they were in the process of moving into a rental home and starting life anew. So the congregation responded, first and foremost, by each pitching in and bringing baking supplies, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, and other goodies, enough to fill a minivan full on their way into Sunday morning worship. And then, later in the day, this same congregation full of the so-called "frozen chosen" descended on the returning family as they moved into their rental home. Several women helped clean out the kitchen. Another group help with finding just the right place for furniture. Several children of the congregation helped their old friends get to know Twin Falls again. One group of men moved furniture while another figured out how to get the appliances into the house and yet another group of men removed a large decorative cactus from their backyard so that the small children of the resettled family would have some place to play.

As the pastor of this congregation it should be noted that they had done something similar with at least two families in need of moving and resettling. But, seeing it first hand, was an amazing and humbling experience. Between restocking a family in need's pantry to helping get the house in order so that a family could settle in, chocked me up several times throughout the afternoon and nearly brought me to tears, when I stopped to think about it.

For a congregation that has as part of it's mission statement "being living examples of Christ's love" they sure lived up to that goal on the first Sunday of September 2008!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Our hometown newspaper, The Times News (through an AP wire story), in this morning's edition ran a story on Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's religious views as a Pentecostal. And whereas the article itself was pretty normal stuff, there was a throwaway line in the article that was pretty shocking. The line read something to the effect of one of her pastors while in Wassila wondered in a sermon whether or not people who voted for John Kerry in the 2004 election could get into heaven! I hope that VP candidate Palin was not in worship on that particular Sunday, because what does it say to have someone running for one of the highest offices in the land, for them to be o.k. with a question of damning Americans? I mean, if Rev. Jeremiah Wright was criticized and by extention Barak Obama was criticized for Wright's damning of America, why not be just as upset at Sarah Palin's pastor for damning Americans (suggesting that they would not have access to eternal life for a particular vote, instead of their devotion to following Jesus Christ, God's Son)?

Is that really where we've come to as a nation? That one pastor is thrown into the outer darkness for damning an idea, America; whereas another pastor who damns American is not questioned? Where is the media bias in this story? Where is the outrage from Fox News? Where is the indignation from so called America Firsters?

Hopefully this will all blow over and we will find out that Sarah Palin was not worshipping God on that particular Sunday at that particular church or we will find out that, that sermon drove her to reconsider her membership with that particular church. It is really amazing to me to find such a similar story in the media and no reaction at all. It really makes me wonder what is going on in this great and blessed nation in which we live.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Perinne Bridge Festival

It is a beautiful day in Southern Idaho! There is a slight breeze, high thin clouds, and plenty of sun with temperatures in the mid-70s.

The Perinne Bridge Festival got off to a great start today with an amazing meal of either steak or salmon at the Outback Steackhouse out by the Snake River Canyon Rim. Then about 1:15 p.m. Miles Daisher announced to a full restaurant of Festival goers that he and several others were going off the bridge soon and to come out and watch the sheer joy of BASE jumpers doing their thing.

Kathy, Eric and I got out to the rim and there were about two dozen people already there eagerly awaiting the jumpers to make their way to the midpoint on the Perinne Bride for jumping. It wasn't long after that, over the course of about twnety minutes that about a dozen BASE jumpers made successful jumps and landings. Some did unpacked jumps while others had their chutes neatly packed away for the few second free fall. Others did back flips off of the handrails while some gingerly straddled the rail with one leg and then another and jumped from the deck of the bridge. Everyone who was watching from the edge of the canyon cheered and watched in awe as the jumpers made their way from the bridge to the canyon floor below.

It ought to be a wonderful weekend for the festival and for all the money raised to help children and families in need!

Coffee Filters & the Kingdom of God

This morning started off like any other Friday. I had the week's preaching assignment in mind and every intention of getting to the office, settling in and then getting to work on the sermon by now.

Instead, I lit my candle asking God to guide me through the day. I cleaned off my desk so that I would be in a good space for listening to God's inspiration as I snapped at the keys on my laptop. And then I went out to the work room to make coffee. It was then that I remembered, that I needed to buy more coffee filters.

I realize that shouldn't be all that big of a deal, but I am someone who like's his routine and so breaking that routine to run out to Albertson's doesn't really get me in the mood for being inspired by God in preparation of a message for Sunday morning. So I got my keys and locked up the office and headed out to the store, granted that I have a job, a car, and the ability to run off and buy what I need should make me feel content; but like most of you I simply took all of those things for granted and headed out.

Once I finally located the filters and paid for them with every intent of getting back into my routine as quickly as possible. It was with that in mind that I noticed that a woman in the parking lot was focussed on me in an uncomfortable way, I mean she was staring right at me. Not that I was too terribly disturbed by this, after all her car was parked right by my own. As I got closer she asked if I had a minute, which I felt that I did not, but said "Sure." What she called my attention to was that she had purchased a case of Arizona Iced Tea which was heavy and wedged into the bottom of her grocery cart. She wanted me to help her get it into the car.

It turned out to be a pretty heavy case and it didn't want to budge. So I put my coffee filters down and got down on one knee and pushed and pulled and moved the cart and finally, after a few minutes liberated the case of tea and placed it into her van. She thanked me and I got back in my car and came back to settle in for the day.

So what do coffee filters have to do with the Kingdom of God? Well, I believe that God's Kingdom isn't just something that exists in the life after this. It is also, for followers of Christ, something that we are to try to create in the here and now. It's not that I believe my liberating the woman's tea is going to make that big of a difference, but stopping and helping someone out is a witness to the Gospel, a witness that even though I wanted to be about my day, that another child of God was just as deserving of my time and effort. And so, maybe coffee filters can help bring about the Kingdom of God, even in some small way.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Settling in for the Day

Settling myself for what may come, as a pastor of a medium sized Presbyterian Church, is something that I am working on but that I don't always achieve. For the past ten years this month I have been an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(U.S.A.) and you might think that means I am always centered in God, but I'll tell you it takes some practice. One thing that I almost always do is to say a brief prayer while I light the vanilla scented candle that sits on my desk, it is a prayer that goes something like, "God watch over me this day, help me to be about your work this day. Amen."

In the last year or so I have also incorporated the practice of keeping the hours, that is saying Morning Prayer when I arrive at the office, then saying Midday Prayer before I head home or out for lunch and then saying Evening Prayer before the multitude of evening committee and board meetings that keep a Presbyterian Church going about the business of Christ. And I have to say, if you have never tried keeping the hours it can be a truly rewarding experience.

I use our Presbyterian "Book of Common Prayer: Daily Prayer" edition to lead me in my efforts to "pray without ceasing." Each hour of prayer is full of Scripture as well as promptings to pray not only for what is on my mind and heart, but reminders to pray for the Body of Christ across the globe and for many people that I might forget in my day to day responsibilities.

So, in a nutshell, when I can, when I take the time to be with God and settle in for the day, one of the best ways for me to give God the glory is by turning to God with prayer and pray throughout the day.