Transformation

Transformation

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gethsemani

If you head south on Highway 31E from the Blue Grass Parkway and grab a left at State Highway 247 (better known as Monks Road) you will discover a ancient bell tower that slowly becomes more visible through the trees.  The next bend in the road will bring you to the flashing yellow caution light and the entrance to the historic Abbey of Gethsemani.

Today the Abbey is home to about 70 monks.  Some are priests while others are brothers.  A handful are there to ponder long term vows.  All of them live, work and pray in the Trappist tradition in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict.

Gethsemani is most famous for being the 27 year home for a monk / priest named Father M. Louis Merton.  Some would know him better as Thomas Merton.  To his friends, he was simply Tom. Even though he died in December of 1968, his spirit continues to draw pilgrims to his spiritual home in the knob hills of Nelson County Kentucky.

Merton was a writer, a poet, and a spiritual leader of his day.  His spiritual autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain became a best seller when it was first published in 1948.  It continues to find new readers every day as people of all faiths discover themselves through Merton's spiritual journey.

My first visit to the Abbey was in the winter of 1983.  It was a bitterly cold December with unusually heavy snowfall.  I finished reading The Seven Storey Mountain while I was there at the Abbey.  It was a remarkable journey and extraordinarily memorable set of days.

The Retreat House was closed for some updating so I was assigned a room in the south wing of the monastery.  I spoke with Father Michael (the guest master) after supper on my first evening.  We spoke and prayed about my upcoming ordination.  At the close of our conversation in the library, he walked with me back to my room.  The stone hallway was filled with the echos of our footsteps.  With little more than a passing glance he whispered, "Oh, you have Father Louie's old room."  It was all uphill from there!

Some of you will join me at the Abbey on Friday August 10th.  Be sure to bring your open spirit!


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Housing Update

Lots of kind folks have inquired about how we are doing with our housing situation.  I can tell you that (other than lots of cardboard on the horizon) we are in good shape.  It now looks like our home here in Colorado Springs is moving toward closing.  And our new home on Crow Hill Drive in Parker is likewise on track for a positive closing date.  At the same time, you all know that these situations are never really final until a thousand signatures are placed on the dotted line.  So far, so good!

Many others have asked about programing and opportunities for Ana after we make the move.  She is currently involved with a wonderful Christian organization called Mosaic here in COS.  She is involved with their day vocational program and it has been great.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to make advance arrangements for the next step in Parker since most programs are orcharstrated through various county based clearing houses.  As a result, you actually need to reside in the county and move through a qualification process before any formal program connnections can be made. We are anticipating that there will be a similar program that is connected to the Douglas County system.

Meanwhile, we are invested in our last days with the Wilson United Methodist Church and the wonderful folks who have faithfully made some wonderful things happen here.  The days are getting short!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bonhoeffer 1939

Dietrich Bonhoeffer rebelled against the nationalist Nazi movement in Germany through several different avenues.  He was a pastor, professor, and prophet who provided a powerful witness through his own road to martyrdom.  One of his most significant and best organized rebellions took place in a place known as Finkenwald where he gathered a group of young people to establish an underground Christian seminary.

The Finkenwald experiment became a journey into the intricacies of Christian community.  The students lived together, prayed together, worked together, and shared every aspect of an organized Christian community.

The 'Brothers' House,' as it was known, became such a thorn in the side of Hitler's system that is was ordered closed and the students scattered.  But the two years at Finkenwald were not isolated to the  personal experience of Bonhoeffer and his students.  In late 1938, Bonhoeffer and his close friend Eberhard Bethge (who would later become the key Bonhoeffer biographer) tucked themselves away for a month of reflection and writing.

Bonhoeffer invested day and night in writing his theological and structural reflections of the Finkenwald experiment.  The result became a small book known in English as Life Together.  This small personal document was published in 1939.  It caught fire and by the end of the year it was commissioned into a fourth printing.  Today, it is a classic image of Christian community with neo-monastic structure, and a strong theology of personal discipleship.

Life Together provides a model for the current neo-monastic / Christian discipleship lifestyle that is being lived out around the world.  It is a memorable work for people of faith who want to understand how community can become the root of faith development for individuals.  Grab a copy, read it, live it; you will never be the same.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wilmore Days!

The local church has always been a clear calling.  We really have only had one other thought about where God might use us.  That one thought has always been related directly to the students and system of Asbury Theological Seminary.

With a chance to invest in high impact students through the Beeson Doctor of Ministry connection...I knew that God was in that opportunity.  We had a chance to leverage and magnify our connection to the local church by investing in students who had already demonstrated strong potential.

We packed up, said good-bye to friends in Colorado Springs, and made our way back to Wilmore, Kentucky where I began my journey as the Dean of the Beeson International Center.  What a ride!

Great students, a powerful program, world travel, and the opportunity to serve the seminary that I love.  From my point of view, it doesn't' get much better than this.  My thanks to Joel Green, Leslie Andrews, and Jeff Greenway for the chance of a life time.  It was sweet but the learning curve was steep.  I had been engaged the local church for so long...I thought like a pastor but I now had to shift to academic lifestyle and mindset.  A major change!  Leslie became my teacher in all things academic.  It was a whirlwind tour.

The very best part was the opportunity to invest in our Beeson students.  They came from all across the country and from every corner of the world.  About half were North American pastors who were highly motivated and excited about growing in their faith and in their understanding of the church.  The other half were international students who were dominantly leaders in their denominations, seminary professors, and high level leaders in their countries.   It was a double blessing.

That blessing continues to this day.  Even though I am no longer serving on campus, I still get to engage the students.  I teach a Doctor of Ministry course called Spirituality of Leaders with both Beeson groups.  My next sequence comes up in August and September of this year.  It is always fun and incredibly refreshing for my soul. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Three Groups of People

Every time I write, I think about three (maybe four or five!) groups of people.  I think about the Wilson folks who have been such a wonderful blessing.  And I think about the Parker folks who are yet unknown.  In addition, there are students, friends, and other odd assorted people who drop in here from time to time.  You all are agents of grace in the world!

An update:  So far our prayers have been answered regarding our housing details.  We are still believing that everything will come to closing in a sequence that will be a blessing for all.  We are not there yet but we are very hopeful.

Now, let me pick up where I left off in 2002!  It was about to be the end of a wonderful run in the community of Broomfield on the north suburban edge of the Denver metro area.  Nine fruitful years were about to come to a close.  The worshiping body had grown significantly and now numbered almost 1000 on any given Sunday.  Mission ministry was blooming, people were growing in faith through the Walk to Emmaus, and the Cornerstone Church had left the launch pad.  Great days, wonderful folks, and the presence of God that was faithfully available.

I remember the day I met with my D.S. Dr. Steve Burnett at a truck stop on I-25 to talk about the possibility of serving at our largest and most historic congregation in the Annual Conference.  I threw my hat in the ring, was tossed around in the competitive circles, and came out on the other side as the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Colorado Springs.

I remember yet another day when I prayed with David Jackson in the morning and then met with David Buttery and Harvey McAnulty in the afternoon.  We met in the second floor conference room at the new Woodland Park Library with a view that was filled with the full magnificence of creation.  We were trying to nail down a vision that would honor God, motivate the congregation, and propel the ministry into the future.  David, Harvey...if you are out there you will remember that EPIC meeting.  It came together in a moment.  We knew we were on track.  Thanks!

I remember another day when Dr. Jeff Greenway came to town with his oldest son.  They were in the area at my invitation but they had an ulterior motive.  They wanted to ski Breckenridge!  Jeff and I were in seminary together in the 80's.  He was now the newly elected President of Asbury Theological Seminary and I was serving as a member of the Asbury Board of Trustees.  We sat in the hot tub that night talking about ministry, the seminary, and the way God had shaped our lives.  Several weeks later, Jeff called to offer me a position at the seminary as the Dean of the Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership.  It was a mouthful!  Ultimately, I said yes.  We were headed back to Wilmore to fulfill a life time dream of serving the place that had blessed us so deeply.

Goodbye ~ beautiful Colorado Springs! Hello 105 Hunter Circle, Wilmore, Kentucky.  I would be moving into the Dean's office that was currently occupied by Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas.  Impossible!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Morning

There is something special about Sunday morning.  Not just for me, but for all people of faith.  Somehow we become more attentive to the presence of God.  We may not wake up on Monday morning with a word of thanksgiving on our lips but on Sunday...things are different.

It is about a quarter to seven on Sunday morning as I write this.  The musicians are gathering for a quick rehersal, hospitality folks will arrive soon, and before long people will start to arrive.  They will come from north, south, east, and west.  Some will come as a regular and faithful expression of life.  Others will arrive with hearts that are broken or discouraged.  Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference because we have a way of smiling, greeting friends, and covering our tracks on Sunday mornings.

Even though it seems to be the socially acceptable thing to do - let me invite you not to work so hard at covering your tracks.  God already knows the joy and the difficulties you face every day.  Why hide it from other people of faith who want to walk with you.  Together we can experience the journey to wholeness.  We seldom find fulfillment, healing, and wholeness alone.  We find it together.  We find it as the Body of Christ.

Through all of it's short comings and faults...the church is still the best answer to Sunday morning.  It is also the best answer for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...you get the idea! 

Together, we are always better!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parker Starbucks!

Here we are, Sue - Ana - and I are at the Starbucks just off Twenty Mile and Parker Road.  We are in town to do the inspection on a house that might become our new home.  It is just a few blocks from the church and we are excited.  It will be great to be settled.

Things are coming together for our Parker arrival sometime toward the end of June!  Piece by piece God is providing a focal point for our wrap up in Colorado Springs and our first day at the Parker UMC.  It will be a sad / happy bitter sweet time as we say good bye to some great folks and meet a whole new group of friends!

You are all (ALL) in our prayers!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Subruban Broomfield

The community of Broomfield was designed to be a residential area with no downtown and no real business district.  It was housing only with a target population made up of commuters who worked in Boulder or northern Denver.  Dwight Eisenhower and a group of investors actually purchased the land, drew up the street structure, and built the first few homes.  Early adopters were proud of their water meter number that started with home #1 and went up.  Low numbers were a sign of an adventurous spirit.

Rev. Jim Calhoun (my DS at the time) suggested that Sue and I consider moving from Longs Peak UMC to the Broomfield community.  By this time the two congregations were about the same size.  Longs Peak had been growing and Broomfield had been on a moderate decline.

Years earlier we made a commitment to the United Methodist process and to the office of the Bishop.  We said, if the Bishop calls we will assume that God is at work and we will say yes.  So we did.  We said yes to an introduction with the Broomfield Church. 

They were in pain at the time.  Lots of turmoil and confusion seemed to be the order of the day.  But they said yes, and we arrived November 1, 1993.    From that date until Advent of 1996, it was a daily struggle.  The first three years had more than their fair share of sifting and sorting.  Then, at a very low moment just before Christmas 1996, a group of folks in the church began to recognize the level of pain and the toll it was taking on the system.  They gathered in the lower level youth room for a surprise prayer session.  They invited me in, laid hands on me, and prayed for the church.

God used that moment (and it was quite a moment) to flip a spiritual switch in my heart and in the life of the Broomfield congregation.  From that day forward it was onward and upward with the fastest growth curve in the Annual Conference.  We moved from 350 in worship to 1000 in six years.  A new children's wing (the Judy Davis Children's Center), a full size gym, and a new sanctuary unfolded during those days of the Holy Spirit.  Global Hope was born, mission ministry touched many lives, the Walk to Emmaus became central, and spiritual leaders began to surface at every level.

The church became a center for teaching and sharing ministry ideas.  It was a place of encouragement and hope for many who were searching for strategies that could turn around stale ministries.  The days were good, but after nine years God had new things in store.  We said goodbye to a wonderful group of people and headed south.  We would never be the same.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Foot of Longs Peak

At first the appointment process seemed to be super secret.  Sorry, we can't tell you where it is or why we think your gifts match or anything more than 'it is a missional church' ... strange!

Then it all started to come clear.  We were invite to serve at the Longs Peak United Methodist Church in Longmont, Colorado.  Our arrival for the 'introduction' with the SPR group was interesting.   A husband and wife team met us at a location away from the church to show us around town.  We were anxious to see the church but they had been instructed to keep us distracted.

The church had been through some hard times with a split, a rebellious pastor, and a serious financial struggle.  It was (and still is!) located in the middle of an intentionally designed retirement community.  In fact, it was moved from a downtown location for that purpose.  It had one classroom, a small fellowship area, a office, and the worship center.  There was obviously no plan for children to be a part of the ministry.

The SPR group was also interesting.  In the middle of a question sequence, one member of the committee made a long statement about his ability to know a lot about a person by the type of car they drove.  We were safe, we had been doing youth ministry so we had a clunky Ford van.  Apparently that was the correct answer.  He drove a beautiful new Cadillac!

We were excited about our first worship service.  On Sunday February 15, 1988 almost 90 people were present for worship.  On Sunday February 22nd there were 35.  That is not a good sign!  However, those 35 faithful people wanted to move forward.  They wanted to grow.  Six and a half years later the average worship attendance had grown ten fold to 350 with new education space, an expanded fellowship area, and a plan for a new sanctuary.  Those were great days!  Thank you Longs Peak!

By now, Jim Calhoun was my DS.  Jim loves to tell stories and dream dreams.  He started dreaming about our next appointment.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

First Appointments!

May 26, 1984 marked the day Dr. David McKenna (what a great guy!) handed me a Master of Divinity diploma and sent us forth into the world.  We packed our stuff, loaded a truck, and headed to Colorado.

In March of that year we attended a preaching event in Lexington that featured Bishop Melvin Wheatley Jr. from the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.  Sue and I went to the event and introduced ourselves to Bishop Wheatley.  He was gracious and invited us to have a cup of coffee following the evening worship service.  We actually met in his hotel room where he inquired about our Asbury experience and shared news from the Annual Conference.  It was a great conversation but one that was also very sad.  He was grieving the potential death of his son.  While he was in Lexington, his wife was caring for their adult son who was in the last moments of his life.

Bishop Wheatley was a dignified man.  He was easy to talk to and gracious to the end.  He happened to mention that the Cabinet was having difficulty filling an Associate Pastor position in Fort Morgan, Colorado.  It was hard to fill because the responsibility was dominantly focused on youth ministry.  "Do you know anything about youth ministry."  Our eyes lit up...that is what we trained for and dreamed of from day one.  We thought we would either do full time youth ministry or serve small rural congregations like Genoa.  So far, only part of that has come true.

Sometime in late April of 84 we got a phone call from Rev. Al Unger who was serving as the Senior Pastor of the Fort Morgan United Methodist Church.  He inquired about our background, training, and our theological positions.  Then he offered us a position.  We said yes but wondered why we didn't hear from the District Superintendent.  It seemed a little backwards but it was all good. 

Our yes was complete even though we had no idea where Fort Morgan might be.  We got out our map and started to dream.  Those dreams came true!  Al became a good friend and faithful mentor.  I was honored to call him 'boss' and double honored to be a part of his funeral service a couple of years ago.

The Fort Morgan church loved us and gave us room to grow.  Our youth ministry started off with a circle of four young people sitting on the floor of my office.  Sue and I were the initial team and those kids were the nucleolus of things to come.  The group began to grow, the church let us expand the youth room, and young people came to faith in Christ.  Soon it was the fastest growing youth group in the Conference and the largest gathering of young people in the city.  50-75 young people came every Wednesday evening and the adult team grew with a group of faithful disciples.  God was good!

I was in a meeting at the old Conference office when Rev. Bob Link and his DS partner Rev. Mason Willis quietly opened the door and invited me to join them in the hall.  "We have a missional church that we would like you to consider. Where, we can't say.  Are you interested?"

I must have nodded my head!  By February 15, 1988 Sue and I were the new pastoral couple at the Longs Peak United Methodist Church in Longmont.  Did you ever notice that when things change they often stay the same?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Asbury Journey

It was a beautiful day in early September 1981 when we pulled out of town, headed east on I-70, drove past Genoa, and made our way to the I-64 cut off in St Louis.  Unfortunately, the next day wasn't so pretty.  The U-Haul shredded a tire and the great adventure came to a halt just outside Belleville, Illinois not far from Scott Air Force base.  We could have used a really strong military action!

Ultimately we came to the Y just south of Lexington and started down Highway 29.  It rolls and turns through beautiful pastures until it changes to Lexington Avenue.  From there is is downtown Wilmore and a mile later you are on your way to the Kentucky River and the community of High Bridge. 

It was beautiful!  But it was also hot...I mean HOT!  September in Colorado is cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and cool again for sleeping.  Not so in Wilmore, Kentucky!  We started to unload the truck in front of 303 E. Morrison Street in the middle of the gray ghetto.  Three minutes later I was a dripping wet.  Something must be wrong here.  This is not right.  What happened to our Colorado climate?  Somehow I thought at least a little bit of Colorado would come with us.  No way!

On day one we were blessed to meet about 20 other students who all came to help us move in.  It took about 30 minutes to unload the truck, get everything set up, and learn some new names.  As it turns out, we were experiencing Wilmore hospitality.  It rubbed off!  Over the years we helped lots of students load for departure and unload for a fresh arrival.  It was  a wonderful tradition that goes on today.

Day one at Asbury Seminary was memorable.  I walked home at lunch all excited to tell Sue that my New Testament class was going to read and outline all 27 books of the New Testament.  It was going to be great!  By afternoon I learned that our Old Testament course was assigned the task of reading and outlining (in great detail!) all of the 39 books of the Old Testament.  And there were three more courses with high expectations to balance along the way.  I was still excited but I wondered if an old brain could really pull off the task.

In the end, our three student years in Wilmore were some of the best we have ever experienced.  Life long friends, a fresh filling of the Spirit, wonderful years of worship, and a bunch of things I was ready to try out in the church.  I wouldn't trade those years for anything.  In fact, over the years I have recommended and hosted a number of students on campus.  Several of them have taken the plunge, graduated, and are now serving here in Colorado. Three of our finest are there right now.  You can pray for Stephanie, Joy, and Aaron as they prepare to serve the church.

Maybe you are next!  Let's talk!