Saturday, June 30, 2012

On Fire and the Promise of God

For those who have not seen anything but the news reports about the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs.  Here are a couple of photos that will remind us all of the power of flame.

The Wilson United Methodist Church is visible in the lower right hand corner of the first picture.  In spite of the fact that 348 homes burned to the ground from the edge of the parking lot and up the hill 1/2 mile...she still stands today.

The second photo is an image of North West Colorado Springs being evacuated.  There is terror behind every steering wheel.

But in every disaster, every painful experience, every moment when you think you will never breathe again...the promise of God continues to show up in the most interesting places.  In the Springs, we simply call it "The Garden" but to all, it is The Garden of the Gods.

Thank God for rainbows!

And Now...The Time Has Come

There is a line at the close of the song 'My Way' that says, "and now, the time has come, it's time to face the final curtain..."  I think when Frank sang the song the line was a thinly veiled reference to the end of life.  I want to shorten the line just a bit today so it just touches the fullness of life but does not actually arrive at the end.

We have been talking about turning points, times of change, things that move on and shift into the future.  So, (for me) it is now time.  The time has come.  As of today (midnight I suppose), I will no longer be the Senior Pastor of the Wilson Church in Colorado Springs.  At 12:01 AM my appointment will click into gear at the Parker United Methodist Church.

Let me translate a bit...that means that we (our family) is living in grief and excitement.  Sorrow for the changing relationships that have been past and dead run excited about the ministry, mission and relationships that will be launched in a new setting. 

And so, the time has come.  It is a good time.  It is God's time.  And it is our desire to live fully in God's kairos time.  Kairos is the intersection between the purpose of God, the dream of his people, and the calendar/clock that often takes charge of our journey.  When it all comes together...good things happen.  I know it is true because I have seen the faithfulness of God time and time again.

Thanks be to God who always has something new for our life of faith.  It may be a challenge.  But it will always be a blessing if we are in alinement with the heart of God.  I may not always be on track or in exact alinement but I want to sing a song about living life "God's Way."

Thanks for joining me on the journey.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Waldo Canyon

It is Monday morning.  For many, it is just the start of another work week. But for many around the State of Colorado it is another day to wait, watch, and pray that the flames do not crest the hill, roll to the west, or catch a warm wind.  It is fire season and the state is aflame with at least eight major fires.

Many of our Wilson friends have been evacuated due to the Waldo Canyon fire.  It is currently burning west of Colorado Springs and east of Woodland Park.  It is raging from Manitou Springs to the Garden of the Gods and moving toward to the Air Force Academy.  For those who know the geography, you will recognize the western foot hills that unfold to set the stage for the majesty of Pikes Peak.  It is also the nestled home of the Flying W Ranch and the Wilson United Methodist Church.

I stood in the church yard yesterday and watched the boiling smoke rumble just beyond the ridge that is the last line of protection for the church.

From a philosophical and spiritual point of view I understand the reality of natural disaster that results in danger, damage, and general evil that invades without concern for anything that might get in the path.  I also know that the Word of God invites us not to be anxious.  But we were and we are.  Everyone is anxious because no one knows what will happen next.  The options are not wonderful!  What should you pack in your car?  Should you go to the shelter or bunk with friends?  What will we do it the house is destroyed?  Is everyone safe?  Anxiety!

Yesterday I spoke on the phone with a friend and colleague who was impacted by another Colorado fire.  This one was on the west edge of Estes Park.  Dale and his wife retired from active ministry in the mid-west and moved to their dream retirement home in the city of Estes Park just west of the Big Thompson Canyon.  Two days ago, their home (along with 20 others) burned to the ground. 

Dale's voice sounded calm.  He was mostly captured by the kindness of the people at Hope United Methodist Church were he was leading his final worship service this past weekend.  They demonstrated an out pouring of grace, compassion, and generosity as they gathered around Dale and his wife to provide support.  His voice sounded calm.

This morning my thoughts went back a few years ago when I was with some of our Beeson DMin students at an event in San Diego.  At the time, the hills of San Diego were aflame with wild fire.  We didn't know until the last minute if the event would take place or be cancelled because of the raging Southern California fires.

On one particular afternoon we drove north out of San Diego through a large area that had just burned a couple of days earlier.  We were on our way to the office of Ken Blanchard.  You will remember Blanchard as the author of The One Minute Manager and a whole series of leadership resources.  We found his office and were greeted at the door by Dr. Blanchard himself.  He escorted us into a conference room, greeted and chatted with each individual, and offered us the hospitality of a large snack buffet that had been prepared for our arrival.

He sat down and shared about his role as the Chief Spiritual Officer of The Kenneth Blanchard Companies that he founded with his wife Marjorie.  It was a delightful conversation with profound leadership insights shared in a very informal setting.  At the close of the session one of our students inquired about the next steps that were on Ken's mind.  He casually shared that he and his wife were meeting with their son in just an hour to decide what to do next.  Then he shared some remarkable news.
Just one day earlier, their home had been completely destroyed by the fires.  We couldn't believe it! Here he was taking time to serve us drinks and share his story when he knew that his family home had just been destroyed.  His voice was calm.

Waldo Canyon, Estes Park, High Park, and the hills of San Diego.  Jesus said, "Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, also believe in me.  For in my Father's house....."  His voice was calm.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Life Verse

I remember the first time I heard someone speak about a 'life verse' that gave shape to a call to ministry and provided an internal motivation for specific types of service.  Since that time I have noted with great care when someone mentions a life verse.  It is a very personal thing that becomes a part of your spiritual being.  It is a message from God that draws a focus on the way the Lord desires to use an individual.

Years ago, I was blessed to serve as a 20 hour a week volunteer with a remarkable youth ministry.  At the head was a young man named Duffy Robbins.  His real name is David but Duffy was always Duffy.  In fact, he still is.

Duffy had been discipled by a Christian leader who developed a traveling musical group like Up With People but with a flair for Jesus.  Duffy traveled with the group, played the drums in the band, and became one of the key leaders of the group.  They lived together, prayed together, ate together, and worshiped together.  Today, we would call it an incubator for discipleship.  Better  yet, you could say it was a neo-monastic community on wheels.

Duffy loves to teach.  He is a remarkably captivating speaker and has a deep commitment to the process of shaping young Christians.  I remember Duffy teaching about the 'bookends of evangelism and discipleship' as the ebb and flow of the spiritual journey.  I also remember his teaching about developing a philosophy of ministry.  Apparently, ministry was not intended to be random but ordered around a sequence of principles and systems that were put into action in unique ways.  It was all connected to the way God shaped the individual Christian through experience, growing faith, and spiritual gifts.

One day, (it must have been the winter of 1983) Duffy asked me about my live verse.  I stumbled for a moment.  I had only been a believer for a short time and my confidence was a little shaky.  He looked right past my anxiety and asked me again.  This time with that classic Duffy half smile that said I care about you and this will be OK.

I remember speaking slowly as I said, "I think Ephesians 4:11-13 might be my life verse."  "You think?!  It MIGHT be!  What's up with that?"  OK, OK, it definitely is Ephesians 4:11-13!  Then he asked the key question, "Why?"

For almost 30 years, I have been answering that question for others and for myself.  Each time, it gets deeper.  Every explanation make it more significant.  And each time I read it, recite it, or preach on it...the whole reality explodes once again.

Let's talk more about that explosive passage.  It is powerful enough to shape a life, deepen your discipleship, or build a bridge to a positive future!  Alfred Nobel would be amazed!

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 

Do you see what I mean?  Let's think about it together!  We are always better together!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Life!

Yes, I do believe in new life that comes to us through Christ.  I believe that Jesus gives us all the opportunity to discover life that is fresh, new, and positive.  But today, I am thinking about new life from a more technological point of view.  Theology is great but the Internet bring life to life!

It has been just over one full week since we have been without a connection.  And now, here it is, life that comes through a strange cable and then is sprayed throughout the house like oxygen connecting to hydrogen to create living water!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Turning Points

It is Sunday morning June 10...not a stardate, but a day to remember.  It is a turning point.  A corner in time.  A moment when things formally change.  We have been here before but never with such potency. 

The Body of Christ is a unique critter.  She ebbs and flows, shifts and changes, but she always is on the move.  She is made up of diverse people of faith, who are equipped to serve, growing in unity, and ready move toward a spirit of maturity.  We have been here before!

There is an old song "what a difference a day makes...24 little hours."  It is true, we will walk away, turn the corner (Bob Seger would say 'turn the page') and everything will be different.  We will move away from one group of faithful folks into the sight of another group of faithful people.  We have been here before!

Best yet, God has been there all the time!   So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu!  Is that Charles Dickens or Julie Andrews...I never can remember!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Corners and gate posts!

The Grand Sweep of Scripture has now brought us from an uncertain exile in Babylon to a rebuilding of the rubble city of Jerusalem. (by the way - off topic - [sorry] - check out Rubble Nation by Paul Jeffrey to learn about Haiti today and tomorrow).  Ok, back to Jerusalem!

Ezra was the adventure guide for the first group to make their way from captivity in Babylon to return to their homeland in Judah.  They found that the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, the temple was ash and rubble, and the city barely breathing from the 587 beating.  Nehemiah followed with a second group and a leadership plan.

Nehemiah's plan was simple.  Set a vision, motivate the people, mix some mortar, and lay a few tons of stone as quickly as possible.  All this while fighting off the opposition.  No problem!

52 days later a dedicated group of people stood back and looked at the walls.  They must have walked from corner to corner so they could view the next section.  They admired the gates and gave thanks for the various people who worked on each section.  It only took 52 days to make it happen.

52 days from today would be Saturday July 28, 2012.  I am going to mark that date on my calendar so I can look back and see what God has accomplished at each corner.  Open the gates, gather the people, everyone get a trowel, prepare for the potential of the Spirit, and let God set the plumb line for success.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Last Things

Within theological conversations the topic of last things is always a reference to eschatology.  The study of last things, the end of time, the return of Christ, the fulfillment of spiritual history.  Some folks spend their lives thinking about such things.  I don't want to discount the focus on eschatology but that is not where my heart is today.

Today, I am thinking about the fact that I will be officiating the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for the last time with our Wilson faith community.  One by one I will serve the cup and the loaf as a sign of God's presence in our lives today.  Piece by piece the loaf will be broken.   Person by person the words will be spoken.  "This is the Body of Christ, broken for you."  "This is the cup of the New Covenant offered for you."

July 5, 2009 was the first time I had a chance to speak those words within the Wilson community.  Pastor Keith Watson and I served together on that day.  In one month, I will speak the same words within the context of the Parker United Methodist Church. Both settings will bring great blessing.

But here is the real blessing...the same Lord (who has been present since the waters of creation swirled together to bring light, land, and laughter) will be right there every time those sacred words are spoken.

Prayer + Repentance x Trust in God = the fresh wind of the Spirit

This is my body, broken for!