Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Season of Angels

Do you believe in Angels? Some folks do not. Many prefer to look at the world as though the things we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch are the totality of reality. Still others (many of my best friends) look beyond the physical aspects of the "real world" to incorporate what the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 8:37-39.

Paul (and the general witness of the New Testament) seems to think that there are supernatural elements of life that we can not touch with our hands or see with our eyes. One of those realities is the presence of angels.

Father Damien Thompson (former Abbott of Our Lady of Gethsemani) even believes in personal angels. Much like the concept of a "guardian angel" that is somehow assigned to look after a certain individual. His angel is named Marco. I have not discovered a personal angel but I do not set it aside as impossible.

In fact, the when the angel Gabriel appeared to a young woman named Mary ... Gabriel proclaimed that "nothing is impossible with God" ... I think Gabriel is correct. If God is God, then nothing is impossible. Even the presence of individually assigned angels that come complete with clever names.

It seems that this is the season for angels to make the headlines once again. We read the Christmas story and discover personal messages of Gabriel, we hear the choir of angels at the manger scene, and we sing of them with a word of "Hark!" What other time of year would you sing Hark? There must be something in the air.

For me, at this moment, I am aware that I do not have a full-fledged well-developed theology of angels. I just know this...When the angel appeared to Mary he said "do not be afraid." When the angel appeared to Joseph he said "do not be afraid." When the angel appeared to Zechariah he said "do not be afraid." And when the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field they heard "do not be afraid...I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people."

That's good enough for me. I won't be afraid because "perfect love drives out fear..." (I John 4:18). Not that my ability to love is perfect, but because God's nature is best described as perfect love. Therefore, I won't be afraid of angels or their message. In fact, I will seek them out. Maybe I will discover something new this Christmas season. I am looking forward to the possiblites.

Meanwhile, I will listen closely to some of my favorite angels...You met them in photo form at the open of this post!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How Fast Are You?

I shouldn't tell you that I just ate a couple delicious chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven. Yep, there is nothing like a warm toll house cookie. Better yet, there is nothing like a cookie that is created by the hand and heart of your wife. It is enough to convince an Amish man to bet on a spotted horse.

Actually, this thought is not related to cookies at all...well, in way... but I am really thinking about the Tuesday 6:30 AM team. We had a discussion today about what it means to fast.

It is a strange word, fast. It can mean moving really quickly, loose moral behavior, or holding something very tight. But in this context it describes a spiritual discipline of intentionally abstaining from some or all food (or some other behavior or desire) for a period of time.

The question is, why? The answer is , why not?

Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline fame) talks about fasting as an inner and personal discipline. It is not like public worship where we gather to be filled. It is not like service that touches the lives of the poor. It is interior, quiet, and often unknown to everyone but the person who counts the most.

But, why?

Well, why do we pray? Why do we give? Why do we study the Bible? Why do we... Do we do it so someone (maybe God) will notice and we will earn an "A" in Spiritual Discipline 101? Or do we do it so no one (but God) will we do it so we will know God better?

Jesus did it. He didn't command it...he just said "when you fast..." as though it was a common activity not a forced march. He fasted in the wilderness and came out victorious. He knew the Father better, deeper, more completely, and he was now prepared to enter into the fullness of ministry that would lead him to Calvary. Ultimately the answer to the 'why' question is "because" ... Because we want to know God better, deeper and more completely. Our willingness to set something aside helps us focus our attention on God and on the call that rests on each of our lives.

Start small but take the first step. Make an intentional decision to discipline your life around a brief fast. Don't tell anyone. Just do it. Use the time to pray. Allow each reminder of inner hunger to remind you of God and the task that stands before us all. It is a task to the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (add stomach!) and your neighbor as yourself.

Why do you pray? Because we believe God listens. Why do we worship? Because be want to offer ourselves to God. Why do we fast? Because we want to offer ourselves to the world.

No more toll house for today!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Colorado Contrast

6:45 AM and I am driving West on Rockrimmon toward the church. The sky is beautiful blue with just a hint of pink arriving from the rising sun. Pikes Peak stands majestic in my windshield. It has a light cover of lingering snow that has been brightened white with an overnight dusting. It to begins to reflect the red orange of the early morning sun. It is a beautiful Colorado Springs day!

Just across the street from Eagle View Middle School ... another majestic sight. A huge multi-point buck is walking leisurely up the sidewalk like an early morning exercise guru. His neck is engorged and his body is marvelously muscular in the freshness of the day. His antlers look like something from a National Geographic photo. His presence (along with a multitude of his friends) is a reminder that we live in a unique and environment.

Thirty seconds later I arrive at Vindicator and Centennial. I am one intersection from Flying W Ranch Road where the church waits patiently. Just then, something catches my eye. Two military attack helicopters are flying across the front face of the Peak. They are in formation flying North toward the Academy.

The contrast struck me as a message about the world we live in today. At the core, it is filled with the beauty of God's creation. Life is good. But (very near the surface) is the real need to maintain a watchful and vigilant spirit of readiness. Even the beauty of the moment will not allow us to lay down our guard. It is the world today. It is another Colorado contrast.

In a spirit of Thanksgiving, I pause to pray for those who maintain the watch - here and around the globe.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The road to Gethsemani

This has been a really good week. It has been a week filled with blessings. I had a chance to be present for the worship service that officially established Dr. Timothy Tennent as the eighth president of Asbury Theological Seminary. It was a beautiful and spirit filled event!

I also had a chance to make a quick (really quick) trip to the Abbey of Gethsemani. I have been to the Abbey many times for personal prayer and significant retreats. This time the Abbey and the monks took a back seat to the road leading to the monastery.

As I drove through the early morning haze I was captured by the faith of the people along the road. I didn't see any of them in the front yard kneeling in prayer...but I did see consistent evidence of their faith. Look close and you will see a small statue of St Frances under the oak tree. A quick glance reveals a grotto with Mary standing watch. Just a few yards away is a limestone outcropping that protects a small cross covered with a cluster of flowers. Evidence of faith fills the road and points the traveler toward belief in the Christian faith.

For many of my protestant friends...this particular expression of faithfulness may seem a bit out of place or too Catholic for your liking.. Others would be concerned about idols made of wood, gold and plaster. With concern for those issues, it was a wonderful reminder of me about how our image of God is reflected in the images that hold significance for our lives.

My friend Gabriel Tate is writing a dissertation on the images that became central to the Christian community in Liberia prior to, during, and after a very bloody civil war. Faith images make a difference. They give us hope. They help us remember that God is active. They remind us of the grace that is best demonstrated in the life - death -and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let me ask you...what images of God are important to you? Do you see faith, hope and love as you read the Word? Do you have a place that creates sacred connections? Are you searching for an image? Let me suggest a simple cross. The cross says it all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Holy Spirit prayer

Holy Spirit come
Open the walls of life

Holy Spirit come
Relive us of daily strife

Holy Spirit come
That we might learn

Holy Spirit come
That our hears may burn

Holy Spirit come
Allow your people praise

Holy Spirit come
Being us into your gaze

Holy Spirit come
Look deep in my heart

Holy Spirit come
May my life never part

Holy Spirit come...come.

Looking Forward!

I call this blog "looking forward" because it reminds me that our task is to be horizon people. We look to the future and think about possibilities. At the same time we depend on tomorrow to bring a fresh day and a brighter future. [I pray for those who look to tomorrow with a knowledge that the next day will likely be more difficult than this day.] I pray because the horizon is a significant point for our vision focus.

Each time we drive a stake to identify the future, we begin to make our way to reality. When we arrive, the horizon never moves always moves forward. For good or for bad, it moves us forward. Otherwise we are captured by the present and immediately locked into the past. The future is the only place that brings us hope because the future is filled with the reality of Jesus Christ.

God dwells in the this very we can know that God is real and walking with us at each moment. But God is also firmly planted in the future. Each step forward gives us a clearer image of God and his will for our lives.

Walk in faith, know that God is good, understand the Jesus inhabits the praise of his people, and depend on the power of the Holy Spirit for the core elements of your life.

Worship in your favorite church this week...Walk with God...perhaps you will encounter him like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reading List

I had a warm conversation yesterday with a young UM pastor from the Dakotas. We shared a bit about the places where we serve (some of the joy, and some of the challenge) and then shifted into personal "how are you doing" conversation. In the process he asked me what I have been reading lately.

The book that is on our coffee table or that sits beside the bed is always a good indicator of our mind set, our personal interests, and a statement about how we are growing in our faith and personal relationships. It can also speak volumes about how have fun.

Lately (in the last two weeks) I have been reading a bunch of Thomas Merton stuff. I visited Gethsemani Abbey two weeks ago so he is fresh on my mind. Merton lived within the walls of Gethsemani for 27 years before his death on December 10, 1968. His writings continue to impact many people who are searching for the inner realities of spiritual growth and discovering how to live "in the world but not of the world."

Once again (I am embarrassed to tell you how many times this has happened) I read Michael Mott's very complete biography of Merton. In addition I read Merton: A Biography by Monica Furlong. I also enjoyed a Merton biography by Jim Forest called Living With Wisdom. Both the Forest book and the Furlong biography have been updated and revised in recent years. The three books together provide a comprehensive picture Merton's life, thought, teaching, and struggle.

Here's a nutshell of what I gleaned from my Merton reading: Spiritual life is an up and down process! There is no constant experience that continues to move upward from left to right. In fact the growth curve (or sprirtual life chart) often looks a lot like a graph of the contemporary stock market. It has upward spikes, downward trends, and a roller coaster appearance. But like the stock market (which I understand always eventually -we pray- goes up) our spiritual lives that are focused fully on God will move through the cycle with an over all upward reality.

It is the Romans 8:28 principle in action! God (who is always good) will use our dedicated desire, our willingness to live by faith, and our committed discipline for ultimate good. It will be good for us and it will be a blessing to others. Our personal growth is always directed to the lives of others. It is never for our sake alone. We benefit, but our growing faith is really for the needs of the world and for people who do not yet know the joy of personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Bottom line...your personal journey may be on an upswing or you may feel like you are about to touch bottom...either way there is good news. God is faithful and wants to use this day to bring good into your life. Stay faithful, move forward, seek may not be easy but the journey is good.

Honk if you like Merton!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome Back...

Well, here we go again. I originally launched this blog to provide transitional connections during our move from Wilmore, Kentucky to Colorado Springs, Colorado. That transition is still unfolding but it is essentially complete. Therefore, it is time to get back into action.

I want to celebrate the Wilson United Methodist Church. Located in the north-west corner of Colorado Springs, it is near the Air Force Academy, ten minutes (or less) from the Garden of the Gods, and right in the heart of Flying W Ranch country. In short, we are blessed with a beautiful location.

But congregations are not really about location...they are about people. Some of the people are already a part of the church body while many others still need to connect to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Loud speakers will never do the trick! We can't blast our way into the lives of people. God doesn't work that way. We can only love our way into their journey and invite them to respond. Fortunately, God does most of the work. We just establish the relationship, God's prevenient Grace has already been working, ultimately transformation and joy are the result.

That is the world-wide task of the church and the Wilson community is geared up to get it done!

Blessed are those who serve the world by putting their faith in action.
Blessed are those who put their hearts on the line for the sake of others.
Blessed are those who consider the needs of others before seeking their own pleasure.
Blessed are those who seek God and respond to the faithfulness of God's Word.

Bottom line...we could sum up the Wilson community with one word...servant!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Starbucks and Starfish

I went to Starbucks this morning. You know the place. Green awnings, smiling faces, Italian names for paper cups, and a per-cup price that could fuel the gross national product of a small third world country.

Most Starbucks employees are young, bright and shining with enthusiasm. From time to time I run into the methodical, intense, no-smile, coffee servant who has little spark. Today was over the top! Two young ladies who were exuberant! I mean EXUBERANT! Caffeine is their early morning friend. It might be the equivalent life style of a fallen bartender.

"Good Morning" "Great to see you" "It is so excellent that you came by today" "What can I get started for you?" "I hope you have a really wonderful day" And then came the turning point..."Is that a starfish on your jacket? Does that have some special meaning?" Bingo!

Do you know the story of the starfish thrower?

It is attributed to Loren Eiseley who died in 1977. He told of a young man who was on the shore one early morning. He was diligently picking up beached starfish and throwing them back into the waiting waters. An older man came along, noticed the young man's activity, and could not help but to comment. "You know thousands of starfish wash up on this stretch of beach each year. You can't save them all." With that, the young man knelt down, picked up another starfish and tossed it gently into the ocean. His action was followed by a simple comment, "I saved that one."

I told an abbreviated version of the story to my new friends at Starbucks. They listened with delight. Then I said, "That's the story of the church. One person making a person at a time." No need to discuss doctrine, debate the incarnation, or decide if the economic stimulus package is right or wrong. Just let the starfish plant the seed. The people God through the life of the church will do the rest.

Starbucks and Starfish go together better than Peanut Butter and Jelly! Have you thrown any starfish lately?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July to everyone. I offer the same greeting / blessing to friends who live in other countries. For us, it is about the events of July 4 233 years ago that made all the difference. But we pray freedom for all the peoples of the world as we celebrate here in the USA.

Independence in this day and age seems to be a moving target. We celebrate individual freedoms but we also recognize that we live in a world that is increasingly interdependent. The global economic crisis tells the tale. When one major country struggles ... all others are impacted. Even the small villages feel the pain. It is a shared phenomenon that does not respect boundaries on the map. We are interdependent with every tribe and nation.

I wonder what would happen if our spiritual lives really became interdependent as well. Don't get me wrong, I don't want every one to believe exactly the same thing. But what if we could respect one another, learn from each other, and discover that love transcends (make us interdependent) everything that divides.

Today, we might take a moment to pray for those who find our faith difficult to understand or accept. We definitely need to pray for those who stand in the gap to insure that our freedom to worship remains intact. And please, don't forget to pray for people who are desperate to discover the reality of faith. Pray that they will discover hope and find joy.

Happy 4th with special greetings to members of the lawn mower brigade in the holy city!

Day one was Wednesday...first worship is tomorrow!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Did you hear? The new Transformers movie is coming out and people are so excited that many are camping out in front of the theater to buy the first tickets. Guess what? I will not be sleeping in the parking lot waiting for tickets. I love transformation but I am not crazy about this particular type of Transformers.

But there are a number of transformation sequences that do get my juices flowing. In fact, if I am reading the New Testament correctly, our primary job is the seeking and receiving of transformation that comes through the love of God. We are to "love the Lord" "love our neighbor" and "make disciples of all nations"... those themes are all about transformation.

While I am especially interested in how the love of God can change our spirits...I am also interested in other types of transformation. Let me show you what Sue and I have been doing the last couple of days. Typically I would avoid "bathroom" photos but here goes:

It started out as as a fairly nice bathroom in our new home. It was OK but it needed a bit of help. So, out goes the cabinet, up comes the floor, off goes the sheet rock, but the tub is cast iron! Finally it is down to the studs and ready to be rebuilt. The tub will become a large tile shower with some cool details, the floor will also be ceramic tile, and the cabinet /sink combo will get a fresh look. Before long, it will be transformed.

Isn't that the way it goes? It seems all lasting transformation starts with a bit of tear down before the rebuilding can begin. Not "tear down" like destroy or wound....but "tear down" as in confession, repentance and forgiveness. When those three are in strong connection with each other, the Lord has the opportunity to rebuild with great joy and wonderful results.

In the end, people who once were self focused become servants to others. People who found identity in holding on to everything discover the beauty of generosity. You get the picture! God loves transformation!

I could use a fresh dose of divine transformation myself! How about you

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Beauty of Grand Junction

If you are traveling along I-70 headed west toward the Utah boarder you will experience the beauty of the Colorado River. It sweeps through Glenwood Canyon on the way to the incredible depth of the Grand Canyon. Along the way it provides the fullness of life for everything in it's path. The Grand Valley is just one recipient of that abundance.

It is amazing. The entire valley is surrounded by wonderful mesas that shift from dry of dry to lush and beautiful. Throughout the valley you will find evidence of divine activity. The fruit of the vine, the fruit of the tree, the resources of the earth, and the joy of people. Many of those people are folks of faith and a many are fellow United Methodists. Those fellow sojourners were our hosts for the 2009 session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.

It was a time or renewal and celebration. It was fresh and joyful as our new Bishop led us in worship and encouraged us in the faith. Bishop Elaine has a spirit that shifts from a very easy smile and a quick sense of humor to the seriousness and strength of significant leadership. She will do well and we will be blessed.

The Annual Conference session is one of the significant touch points when it comes to the fullness of the United Methodist appointment system. Each year, the Bishop is charged with the responsibility of making appointments and "setting" them through the formal process of reading the appointments at Annual Conference. I was blessed to stand as my name was called in relation to the Wilson United Methodist Church. It is one more part on our journey of transition.

Rev. Keith Watson was called on to "pass the torch" from the retired clergy community to the newly ordained servants. His service to the church has been (and will continue to be) a very significant part of our United Methodist family. The transition for Keith and Mary Ann is very important and they deserve our faithful prayers and our full support.

Meanwhile, we all continue to move toward a full transition. Typically that transition actually takes at least one full year...often more! It is about moving in, learning the people and traditions, praying for direction, seeking the vision of God, and building trust one relationship at a time.

From a congregational side it is often a time of uncertainty. Who is this new guy? What will happen next? Is this safe? Is it right? Will it all work out? I understand those questions better than ever since Sue and I just completed a term as "congregation members" under the leadership of a new pastor. Here's what I learned...God is in control! And the Lord has a wonderful way of bringing things together under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It will be good and we are looking forward to getting started!

Peace and blessing to you all as you share worship together and honor the ministry of the Watson family. Give them your best, don't miss the opportunity to worship, celebrate the Spirit and join together in a spirit of hope!

The river runs and the vineyard is lush!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It is time for Annual Conference! We are here in Grand Junction Colorado where our Rocky Mountain Annual Conference is being held this year at the downtown Convention Center.

All is well after a 5 hour drive from Limon. We went to Limon on Tuesday so Ana could stay with our daughter, son-in-law and their family. Here's the interesting part. Three of our grandkids in Limon are full siblings of Ana's. So, our daughter's siblings are our grandchildren. Strange!

Anyway, even though the focus is on the Annual is an unusual time for the two of us. It is has been several years since Sue and I have been together over night on our own without Ana. It feels a little empty but it is nice to have the time together. We will all be reconnected on Sunday but for now ... she will enjoy the time with family and we will enjoy the time with each other.

Since my last post I loaded up a rental truck with my office stuff in Wilmore - drove two days to Colorado Springs - reconnected with Sue and Ana - and unloaded the office stuff at the church. My thanks to Jim, Dennis, George, and Dick for their help with all my stuff. My apology to the class that meets in the classroom right across from Cindy's office. It has become my temporary store room for more stuff than one person should need in a life time. Thanks for being patient with this transition process.

We are looking forward to July 1st when we will officially get started at the church. Meanwhile, we celebrate with you as Keith and Mary Ann wrap up their time at Wilson UMC. July 5 will be our first Sunday together. I have invited Keith and Mary Ann to join us for that worship experience so we can celebrate communion together as we pass the baton.

We are also looking forward to the opportunity to get to know you and your family. The SPRC is working to set up some meeting times when we can gather groups of people so we can have some introductory conversations. It will be good.

Meanwhile, we pray the Lord's blessing upon you and your family. Stay tuned, I will try to add more posts as we get closer to the first of July. Peace!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Father Elias (on the left) is the new Abbot at the Abbey of Gethsemani in central Kentucky. He is the senior temporal and spiritual leader with responsibility for the largest and oldest Trappist monastery in the United States. He is new to the job but a long time member of the monastic community that is located outside of Bardstown.

Over the years I have spent my fair share of time at Gethsemani. In fact, I was there most of yesterday. It is always a delightfully quiet and reflective experience to share worship with the monks and to walk the lush and peaceful grounds. My soul responds to the spirit of the place. I am captured by the commitment of the monks and the desire to know God through worship, work and study. I find peace here.

It is interesting to identify the places that become holy ground for our journey of faith. There are places and people who encourage us, lift us, and provide blessing just by being present. I hope you have some of those people and places that have become marking points for your spiritual life. Maybe a friend, a teacher, a neighbor or a pastor...perhaps a building, a church, a meadow, a cabin, or a temple where your spirit soars when you walk through the door.

I think I enjoy the Trappist community for the same reason I am captivated by the Methodist movement in South Korea. They all expect God to move in the world through the power of prayer. The anticipate the ministry of the Holy Spirit simply because faithful people have expressed their heart through deeply committed prayer. For Trappist communities it happens seven times each day starting at 3:15 in the morning. For the Korean Christians it is all about early morning prayer groups that gather seven days a week to provide intercession for each other, the church, and the world.

Interesting, God moves when people pray. Ministry become effective when it is under girded with prayer. Life becomes connected to the spiritual when faithful believers offer their hearts in consistent communication with God.

It is always a potent reminder to me. It is all about is all about our is all about the journey that is connected through commitment and obedience.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday, Monday!

It is Monday morning and I am back in Wilmore. Sue and Ana are in Colorado Springs where they can look down our street to see a fresh covering of snow on Pikes Peak. For our Colorado friends, that sight is all too normal. But our Kentucky friends will find a bit of awe in seeing the beauty of God's backyard. Happy Monday to all!

Some of you will remember the Mama's and the Papa's and the song Monday Monday. Others will hear John, Michelle, Denny and Cass as just another list of strange first names.

For those who know the tune, you will remember that the "preacher likes the cold...he knows I'm gonna stay." It is a story about a Monday morning journey that finds a lost soul stopping by a church to find shelter. We don't hear the end of the story to find out if the preacher was pleased with the encounter or if a conversation every even took place. We just know that the church became a place of refuge.

My lasting encounter with the church didn't happen on a Monday morning but it was definitely a place of refuge. In my journey, the church shifted from a place to be avoided at all cost to a loving home were hope and transformation had been waiting all the time.

It started at the First Methodist Church in Golden, Colorado where my parents attended and were I was confirmed. My confirmation commitment didn't last long. In fact, I physically, spiritually, and emotionally left the church the evening of my confirmation banquet. From the ripe old age of 13, through the turbulence of teenage years, on into young adulthood...I was an active and intentional non-believer. I was an "evangelistic" atheist with a mission of discovering personal identity through the lens of the contemporary self-actualization and the life style of a mental health professional.

Then came March 22, 1975 when Sue and I were married in a small ceremony at my parents home. Things changed! We left the mental health community and set out on our own to find the world. We actually found it (the whole world!) in a small town on the Eastern plains of Colorado. The 'city' of Genoa came on our radar. Little did we know that Genoa would become our new residence and our life long spiritual home.

In good mid-70's tradition (read: left over 60's) we sold everything and started over. We bought a building in downtown Genoa on the corner of Main and Kunkle Streets and started a new life. 'Monday Monday' was catching up with us!

Our building became the home of 'Jessen's Sunshine Market' (name after Sunshine On My Shoulders by John Denver). The back of the Main and Kunkle property provided a small living area while the second floor featured a 60 X 60 hard wood floor ballroom. Rumor has it that Glenn Miller (from the University of Colorado) and his big band played in the Genoa ballroom years ago! It was a beautiful building even though the roof leaked a bit. As it turns out, all 'Monday Monday' experiences require a reasonable amount of unexpected water!

Ultimately, we found spiritual water and the joy of new life through the ministry of the Genoa United Methodist Church that was just down the street on Main past the Post Office. It became our home and the epicenter for an earth shaking transformation. God had been preparing the way!

It was the first Sunday after Easter when we entered the doors of the Genoa church. I remember looking around thinking that everyone knew I did not qualify to be present of Sunday morning. I could read their minds...I knew that they knew that my motives were not pure. I was searching for something but my mind was focused on feeding my family by inviting people to buy bread and mile at the Sunshine Market. We needed to make a living and these people were potential customers. I didn't realize that they were seeing me in a different light. They didn't see the customer relations staff from the Sunshine Market down the street, they saw someone who just needed to be loved. So they did. They loved us right into the Kingdom! We owe our lives to the Lord and to the Christian community at the end of Main Street in Genoa, Colorado!

It all happened fairly fast from that point. Commitments were made, the waters of baptism were applied, and the journey began. The first stop included a quick trip to Metropolitan State College to finish my undergraduate degree. Step two called for a move to a place called Wilmore Kentucky were we spent three formational years at Asbury Theological Seminary. Step three (these are big steps) provided an encounter with Bishop Melvin Wheatley who appointed us to serve at the Fort Mogran United Methodist Church where we would test drive our faith, enthusiasm, and life journey with a wonderful group of young people.

From there it was on to Longs Peak UMC in Longmont, nine years in Broomfield, service at First UMC in Colorado Springs, and then back to Wilmore to serve as the Dean of the Beeson International Center on the Asbury campus. Now the journey continues as we prepare to serve the people of the Wilson United Methodist Church.

The church is still our refuge. It is still the call of God that motivates our foot steps. And it all started (if you don't count the eternal journey of previent grace) with a little group of ultra loving people at the end of Main Street in Genoa, Colorado.

The Monday Monday theme might leave you wondering when it comes to "don't trust that day" ... for Sue and I ... Monday Monday is always a day to trust, discover, and grow under the loving guidance of the Lord.

How's your Monday going?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On The Road to Wisdom?

OK, I have a confession to make. No, not that kind of confession. I need to confess that this is a really strange world and that unusual things have been happening. I am guessing you could make the same confession on some Sunday morning when you are trying to get the kids ready for church or when you are applying the brake while a red light flashes in your rear view mirror. Strange things happen.

For me, the heart of the confession has to do with wisdom. The Book of Proverbs draws a strong focus on the nature of wisdom. "Wisdom calls aloud in the long will you simple ones love your simple ways?" (Proverbs 1:21-22 condensed). Wisdom has do do with complex things, mysteries, relationships, and knowing the heart of God. Sometime we catch a glimpse of grace and in that moment we grow in our understanding of Godly wisdom. The pursuit of Godly wisdom becomes a potent goal for the individual and for the Christan community gathered as the Body of Christ.

But my wisdom story is a bit different. You see, in late may my lower right wisdom tooth started to talk to me. You know the story. It talks loud, then soft, but mostly at night. I went to the friendly local dentist who knew that I was getting ready to pack a truck and make a cross country move. He said, 'wow, that should come out!' But there was no time so he gave me some meds, offered a blessing, and sent me on my way.

By the time we were driving 1200 miles from Wilmore to Colorado was a talking, no it was providing a running commentary on the nature of temptation. The pain was like trying to give a Great Dane a bath in the kitchen is bearable but it always leaves a huge mess, lots of anxiety and a few choice words. Thank God I was driving alone!

Bottom line, I finally got an appointment with an oral surgeon and as of 1:00 today I am now short two lower wisdom teeth. The pain is now different but it is still a reminder that there is much more to wisdom than just knowing the right thing to do. Wisdom is about patience, a loving family, and people who are skilled at a wide variety of skills.

Back to Proverbs--- Chapter two reminds us that the Lord loves wisdom. The Lord especially loves those who love wisdom. The Lord loves us all but there is a special relationship that begins to grow with new insights into the nature of wisdom. "Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." Proverbs 2:9-10

I am still learning about Godly wisdom. I am grateful that the Lord used the skilled hands of an oral surgeon to teach me patience. More so I am eternally thankful for a wonderful family who demonstrated grace upon grace. They are my teachers and I am doing my best to learn.

I pray that the Lord is teaching you something new today as you walk the path of faith and continue your journey of hope.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stuff, Stuff, and more Stuff

Why would one family have a whole truck load of stuff to move around the country? It beats me, but I plead guilty as charged.

The truck came yesterday, loaded up all our stuff, and is now on the road somewhere between Lexington Kentucky and Colorado Springs. With any luck at all the Lord will find a way to connect all the dots so we meet our stuff at our new home next Friday.

What an adventure. We now are officially homeless. The Wilmore property closed this afternoon but we will not close for another week in Colorado Springs. For now, we live in a car that apparently is going to be traveling through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and into the great state of Colorado. Pray for us!

Actually, being homeless is not an accurate way to describe our situation. It would not be fair or just to think that we understand anything about what it must really be like to be without a home. We don't live in cardboard or sleep in the park. We don't wonder if our next meal will be today or two days from now. We don't even have to worry about is we have enough money to care for our needs. Being truely homeless in a land of plenty is a unique experience even though this night it is the shared journey for thousands of people across our nation. Pray for them, work for them, love them, and create a pathway that might provide a pathway to a new promise.

For Sue, Ana and I...we will spend this night in Wilmore and then be on the road. We are looking forward to the adventure!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It seems like forever since I last shared a thought or two. The past two weeks have been a whirl wind...selling a house, buying a house, packing up the office, getting the house ready to load...that's just what Sue has been doing!

Meanwhile, I have been working through a group of doctoral dissertations as we prepared for graduation. On Saturday May 23rd, 196 students graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary. 36 members of the graduating class of 2009 were Doctor of Ministry students. Out of those 36 DMin students, 26 were students within the Beeson Center programing where I have responsibility.

The group you see in the photo represents our 2009 class of Beeson International Leaders. This particular group started their course work back in September of 2005. They came to campus each year for six weeks so they can maintain the flow of ministry in their home country.

From left to right:
Alfred Kalembo from Zambia / Director of International Leadership Training
Randy Jessen from Wilmore / Colorado Springs
Fernando Lua from Philippines / Professor with Asia School of Theology in Manila
George Weagba from Liberia / Professor with the oldest theology school in Liberia
Stephen Hance from the UK / Anglican Vicar in South London
Dr. Ellsworth Kalas: President Asbury Seminary
Sergiy Golovin from Ukraine / Founder of faith and science institute
Andrea Baare from Germany / Work place pastor
Dr. Tom Tumblin: Director DMin
Fohle Lygunda from Democratic Republic of Congo / Denominational leader
Hwai Teik Ong from Malaysia / President (Bishop) Trinity Methodist Conference
Reniel Nebab from Philippines / President (Bishop) Christian and Missionary Alliance Church

These students along with our North American pastors make up an incredible student body within the Beeson International Center here at Asbury. They are world class leaders who impact the global church every day.

We send them home with great blessing and our strongest congratulations!

Now for our personal schedule... Sue, Ana and I will welcome a big green truck from Mayflower on Thursday morning May 28th. It will load, depart, and meet us in Colorado Springs the following week. We will remain in Wilmore to close on our home here before we start the trek to Colorado on Saturday morning. If my "move memory" is correct, there is more cardboard on the other end of the rainbow.

I hope your day is blessed!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Housing Search and Search and Search!

Our travel week is now in the rear view mirror but the task is not complete. We are in the search for a new home. It is a big task. Our new home will be a place where our family will live day by day ... but it will also be a place of ministry, sacred gatherings, meals with friends, commotion of all sorts and joy that abounds.

By the way, for many who are kind enough to read are also becoming a part of our family prayer support. In that light, I say a huge "thank you" for two reasons. First, my thanks for your prayers. Second, I am grateful that you take a few minutes from time to time to read these strange ramblings.

Now, back to the search! Sue and Ana arrived in Colorado Springs last week armed with a notebook full of potential homes that were gathered with thanks to our agent an to the Internet! They faithfully started the search with the hope of narrowing the field. They were semi-successful. That means that they looked at a lot of houses, narrowed the possibilities, and came up a exhausted and a bit dry.

I flew in on Thursday evening, had a great meal at my favorite restaurant with my favorite people and we started section two of the search on Friday morning. By evening, we were in the car, headed east in preparation for a two day drive back to Wilmore. The drive was filled with talk about this house and that house along with the occasional call from our faithful agent who was shifting to real estate by long distance.

In the end, we are still praying for the right place to pop up in a way that works for buyers, sellers, and the fullness of the future.

We arrived back home in Wilmore on Sunday evening after two full days on the road. How it is back to daily life with lots of decisions to make and a plate full of things that must be done.

Whew, moving is exausting! From your end, waiting and wondering is likewise a great way to get very tired. At this point our prayer is simple. We do not want to let the decisions of the world invade the sacred space of relationship and compassion for one another. A wise person once (and still does!) invited us to cast all our cares upon him and to remember that his burden is light and filled with joy.

That's where we are. I hope you are well and that your burdens are located approprately in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Peace!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Travel Day!

Today is a day for travel in our family. In fact, this whole week has been about travel. Sue and Ana started the trek to Colorado Springs on Monday morning. They have been in the area searching high and low for a house that will soon become our new home.

While they have been on the road and in the search...I have been taking care of details here in Wilmore. But today is different, I will be engaged in a doctoral dissertation defense with one of our students from the Philippines and then I will catch a plane for DIA. Our son David will pick me up and we will make our way south on I-25 to connect with the rest of the family.

You all know that buying a "house" is different than purchasing a "home" where a family will take root and find peace. It is quite a process. It is an important process. Some may say "where ever I lay my hat is home" but it may not always work that smoothly. That image is a great way to say I am comfortable with myself and my place in the world. But there is still a great difference between a house and a home.

Home is where you can be who you are with the people you love. Home is where you can sit back, laugh, cry, discover and share your life with a spirit of intimacy that you may never find in any other setting.

With that in mind, we are looking for a home. At the same time we know that there are many people who never find a home. They may have a place to live but they long for a home. Others search daily for a place to sleep or a meal to sustain their life. They too need a home. In fact, wouldn't you agree that all God's children need a home? The world would be a better place is the average house simply became a home.

Peace to you and your day. Safe travel, wherever you are going!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A New Song

No one would ever accuse my father of being a great singer. In fact, he often struggled to find the right tune. Apparently that is a genetic trait that is passed from father to son through the mystery of DNA!

Even though Dad would never win the American Idol competition, he loved to sing. He especially loved (this will miss most of you - but ring a strong bell for others!) The Sons of the Pioneers! Do you remember them? Leonard Slye (better known as Roy Rogers) got his start as a part of that famous vocal group.

As I remember, and as Dad would often sing, The Sons of the Pioneers had a song with a line that said, "Give me land, lots of land, don't fence me in!" Unfortunately, Dad only knew that particular line so he sang it over and over. Sometimes it was under his breath as background music. Other times it was loud and proud with great gusto. Either way, it became one of his many theme songs.

Give me land, lots of land, don't fence me in! It really is a multi faceted statement that includes personal philosophy, an image of home, a picture of expansive elbow room, and a desire for individual freedom. For Dad, it was also a message about his family that included his desire to provide abundantly. It represented open opportunity, no regrets, a positive and lush landscape that included much more than clean air and a place to spread your wings. It was a magical family address that mysteriously described a residence with no boundaries. It was a vision statement, a dream, a positive image of a future that was not yet, but was alive somewhere just over the horizon.

Dad didn't know it, but he was a planter of vision seeds. He saw things that were not yet available and made them a part of every day life. He sang his song in a way that reminded everyone that some day, some how, there would be blessing and abundance. In theological terms we would simply call it a vision of grace.

I wonder, does your home include a consistant vision of grace? In your heart, is the future bright and overflowing with possibilities even though today may not be filled with blue sky and green lights?

Do you have a new song, a vision song? Can you find the tune? Hey, what if we all sang it together? It would be a vision choir..."Give me land, lots of land, don't fence me in!"

Lord Jesus, we rejoice that you do not limit the grace that is available to our lives. Help us to sing your sing with glad and joyful voice! Amen

Thursday, April 23, 2009

104 Hunter Circle!

It happened! God is good! Our house went on the market late last week and six days later...we have a contract! It is a day of great celebration at our house but the details continue to move us into the future.

First, we need to close on the sale of our Kentucky property. Meanwhile, we need to find a new home in Colorado Springs. Then we need to invest in a cardboard box factory, load a truck, drive 1,100 miles, unload, take a deep breath, and begin a new phase of our journey in faith. We anticipate that all will go well but we need your prayers.

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our Family

We often confuse people when we speak about our family. We might be talking about the three (Randy - Sue - Ana) of us who are at home together. Or we may be talking about our grown children and their children. We could even be talking about our close friends or the kids of Global Hope who live in Romania. It gets confusing. Most of the time it just means the three of us who live under the same roof. Even that is a bit of a story.

Our daughter Ana came to us when she was five and a half years old. She has been and will be with us forever and forever. Amen. She was born in western Romania to a family of impoverished gypsies. As an infant, she was abandoned into the state orphanage system. Things went on that way until her little sister was born and abandoned at the maternity hospital. As the Lord would have it, Sue and our daughter (Cheri) just happened to be in Romania looking for a child to adopt when Ana's sister was born. She (Loredana) was just five days old when they saw her for the first time.

One thing led to another and before long our already confused family became the ultimate blended family unit. While our daughter adopted Loredana, we adopted Ana. That all seems just fine until you try to sort out the relationships. You see, our granddaughter (Loredana) is our daughter's (Ana's) sister. Don't worry, it get better. Since that time our daughter (Cheri) and our son-in-law (John) adopted two more Romanian kids who are also full siblings to Ana and Loredana. I told you it was confusing!

For now, let me focus on Ana. She was twenty years old on March 8th of this year. She is tall, beautiful and funny. The photo to the right was taken within the first week of her arrival here in the United States. Since that time she has exceeded all expectations and surpassed every benchmark that was ever set. She is a gem! Check out this video link on YouTube to learn about her equestrian gold medal from the Special Olympics.

Ana reminds us each day that our God loves to do miracles. Most of the time those miracles take place right in front of our eyes. Sometimes we see them and sometimes we miss they all together. Have you found that to be true in your life? I know it is true for me. That's why I am thankful for Ana's daily reminder.

You see, when Ana was just an infant, she received an injection of a small amount of whole blood. As it turned out, that blood was contaminated with a number of life threatening infections. The most significant was HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

I like to think of it this way...Genesis 50:20 speaks about the life of Joseph. His brothers sought to do him harm but Joseph saw God. He saw a situation where certain behavior was intended for evil but God used it for good. The same thought is echoed in Romans 8:28 where we learn that all things work together for good. Even difficult health situations can work for good! The key is to have 50:20 vision so we can see God in action.

Today, Ana is healthy, strong, and filled with a wonderful sense of humor. She is also quiet, shy, and takes some time to feel fully comfortable with new people. She loves to watch from the sideline, take it all in, and then talk about it when everyone is gone. I think you will love her.

That's our family, confusing, unusual, unique, but centered in Christ and committed to faith.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring time in Kentucky

Sue and I keep a close watch on the weather each day. We obviously keep track of the weather patterns in central Kentucky but we are much more comfortable with spring time in the Rockies. That means that we connected with the spring snow storm last week. It brought back great Colorado memories to see that swirl of white flowing across the weather map. (It may not have been quite as much fun for some!)

At the same time, here in Kentucky, April means green grass, plenty of flowers, lots of fresh leaves, and rain that won't quit. Here is a good way to measure of the difference between the bluegrass country of central Kentucky and the mile-plus altitude of Colorado...(don't tell anyone, but) I have already mowed my lawn 6 (count them) 6 times! And it needs to be mowed today but it looks like rain! Bummer!

Along with the regular transformation that comes with warmer temperatures, we are dealing with one change after another. It is good, but it makes for a long string of busy days. We have been getting our house ready to go on the market. In fact, it was listed last Friday with a very successful open house that happened on Sunday. Two more showings on Monday and one this afternoon! We are pleased but continuing to pray for the right family to connect with our property.

At the same time, Sue is getting Ana ready for the move to Colorado and working faithfully to keep the house "ready to show" at a moments notice. She continues to work with our Beeson Pastor spouse group with Bible study and prayer groups.

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts transitions get filled with things to do and calendars to manage. But that is just the surface. We all know that the real issues are all about relationships.

Relationships need to be nurtured as they come to life, as they mature, and as they come to points of change. Saying good-bye is always a change point that many folks would really rather avoid. At least, I would like to avoid those words and moments of farewell. Isn't it great that 'in Christ' we never really need to say good-bye! Good friends are always good friends and new friends are just another a way of extending the links of love that start with the heart of God.

I was reading Matthew 5:1-12 this morning. I was thinking about many of our international students and how they are working faithfully around the globe to serve the Lord. I thought about how they (and we) are 'blessed to be a blessing' to others. That is what a life of faith is all about. How to I link to the love of God so my life can then become a blessing to others? How can I find my own life in the words of Jesus while still staying focused on those who are in relationship with me? How long can the chain of blessing become? Or is it really a chain or is is more like a series of strong links that knit us all together into a tapestry of joy?

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." I like it! It plays in Peoria, Colorado Springs, Wilmore, and in every corner of the globe.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shifting Gears

Saturday April 4th was one of those turning point days. It was cold and windy with a bit of snow in the air. We all know there are times when snow can create a mystical playground when large flakes gently fall to the ground with a gentle whisper. But this was horizontal snow. Horizontal and snow do not really do well together! Even in Colorado.
But there we were, gathering in the church for our first official meeting. The technology of Skype was supposed to connect Sue and Ana from Wilmore, Kentucky to our meeting room scene in Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, there was a minor glitch that was worked out on site by the tech team.

After a couple of hours the Bishop's appointment was endorsed and I was welcomed as the newly appointed pastor of the Wilson United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs. We were delighted!

As of July 1, 2009 I will have the privilege of following Pastor Keith Watson who has been faithfully serving the people of Wilson UMC since he completed his work as a District Superintendent in 2004. It is my sincere desire to build on his work and on the foundations of faithful ministry over the past 20+ years. Each person connected with the Wilson congregation has made an impact. Together it will be our task to discern what God has in store for the next chapter of life shared together.
For now, it is time to complete our ministry here at Asbury Theological Seminary, sell our home, find a new home in Colorado Springs, pack a truck, say good bye to good friends, and (after a couple days on the road) arrive safely back at the foot of Pikes Peak.
We all know that every journey is about God's activity in our lives. Every person of faith knows that there are some essential elements that must be a part of any healthy soul. At a minimum we need to know that forgiveness is real, that hope is available and that the journey is not a solo flight.
Anyone want to buy a home in Wilmore, Kentucky?