Transformation

Transformation

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Connections!

The last six weeks have been an adventure!  During that time I was in Kentucky for one week with a group of students.  The rest of the time Sue and I have been working hard to keep up with the calendar.  Each day (almost) we wake up and check to see where we are going that particular day and what time folks are expecting us to arrive.

We have been meeting with groups throughout the church.  Mostly in home gathering where gracious families are opening their living rooms to 10-15 of their friends.

So far (we have a couple more to go), we have met with 18 different groups.  The gatherings have covered every age group, each part of the community, and about every area of interest you might imagine.  It has been wonderful to make connections with so many people.

So what have we learned?  Here are some highlights...
  • Many folks are exited about being a part of a small group and hope that more groups are created so the congregation can develop strong relationships
  • Several have expressed a deep interest in the youth and children of the church.  They are excited about what is currently happening and wonder what it would be like to have more children and youth
  • Some have been interested in what is happening so we can get on solid financial ground
  • Others have expressed a desire to strengthen of facility through the development of more (and larger) classrooms, paving the parking lots, and creating a plan for friends who are disabled
  • We heard loud and clear about a desire to have a van that could be used for the XYZ group as well as youth events and Sunday morning transportation
  • There was a very strong interest in learning how I saw the future of the church unfolding.  I can say it in one word, endless!  Only limited by our desire, design, or decision making
  • We had a number of folks who were interested in a growing mission ministry within the congregation
  • And still others were interested in the worship opportunities that we offer to the community
The groups ranged in size from eight individuals to our largest that had over fifty gathered at the church so we could provide stronger child care.  The average group was 12-15 members strong.  Most were hosted in homes with gracious individuals making it happen. 

From the bottom of our hearts, Sue and I give thanks for every host home and for every person who came out to hear our story and to think together about the church.  It has been a wonderful blessing.  We are delighted to be here!

BTW: Genese and Linda really went the extra mile to make it all come together!  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Early in the Day

It is early.  For me, it is the best time of the day. I know that does not fit for everyone.  For many, the early morning hours are only good for sleeping and then trying hard to wake up.  The late evening and really early morning hours are best for them.  They are creative, insightful, and energized when the clock shifts from PM to AM with the midnight hour.

But my best hours are in the morning.  Before sunrise is always the sweet spot.  It is a time to pray and a time to think.  I jot down ideas, thoughts, and must-do's on  a list before setting out for the day. 

Just a few days ago I had a quick conversation with Brother Christian at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  I happened to bump into him on the sidewalk that leads to the retreat house.  It was early morning just after the full break of dawn.  We shook hands in silence.  Then he spoke.  The first words of a Trappist monk are always interesting.  "Great time of day,"  he said.  "Yes, beautiful."  "I saw your bus, how many do you have." "Ten this time.  I will be back next month with ten more."  "May God bless them with a beautiful day of prayer."  He climbed into the Abbey pick-up and gave a quick wave as he drove away.  We hadn't spoken for almost four years.  We may not speak ever again.  But it was indeed a beautiful day.

The dawn is beautiful.  The early morning air is something to behold.  A fresh sunrise will refresh my spirit. But it is the gift of relationship that gives meaning and value to each new day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day By Day

The stage drama called Godspel hit the live theater scene in 1971.  It lives today through productions large and small.  At the center is the life and teachings of Jesus with a bit of a 'left-over-60's' twist.  There is truth and personal interpretation that sometimes helps and sometimes hinders the full presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the center of the story is a song called Day by Day.  The song plays host to a refrain that recaptures the words of a 13th century prayer.  Dear Lord, these things I pray...

May I know Thee more clearly, Love Thee more dearly, Follow Thee more nearly.

Years ago, I started wrestling with classic spiritual disciplines.  I launched a journey that would lead me to an experience with Jesus that has been sustaining for decades.  In many ways my experiment with the disciplines of the church reflect the words of the prayer that became a song.  These three things, O Lord, I pray; to know you more clearly, to love you more dearly, and to follow you more nearly.  

Some might call it the CDN of the Christian life.  It is the core of daily devotions and the center of faithful lives that are lived out around the world.  Clearly, Dearly, Nearly are three words that add value to our spiritual vocabulary.

My friend Will Mancini says that "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything."  That is true when it comes to living out a vision for the church and it is true when plotting a course for the spiritual life. Clarity in the way we see and seek Jesus will make all the difference.

Dearly, talks about relationship.  It is a loving relationship that is growing each day.  Wouldn't you want to describe your relationship with Jesus in this way?   Would that word be a part of your testimony of faith?  To love God with passion, conviction, and with a spirit of hope ... that is the goal.

Then there is the language of proximity.  To follow you more nearly.  I don't want to be left behind.  I don't want Jesus to get out of sight or out of mind.  I want to stay on track, to stay close, to draw ever closer because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

CDN is a day-by-day process.  Day by day, these things I pray...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Process of Prayer

I spent most of last week thinking about, talking about, and experiencing prayer.  It was a beautiful week.   We knelt before God and echoed the words of Ephesians 3:14-15.  "For this reason (we had lots of reasons) I kneel before the Father from his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name."

We prayed about family, places of ministry, and vision for the future.  We invited God into our space and made commitments of grace to one another.  We offered words of Scripture as acts of praise.  And we were silent so we could hear clearly from God.

I have always been intrigued with the reality that our natural form of prayer is not something that was common in the early church.  In fact, our current worship experiences often separate prayer into a particular liturgical category that is separate from the reading of Scripture.  Is is as though we read the Word to receive instruction but we pray to share our lives and receive blessing.

The early church was different.  When Benedict wrote his 'little rule for beginners' there was no thought that prayer and Scripture would ever be separate liturgical elements.  In fact, prayer was the act of reading the Word.  So the Psalms would be sung and the people automatically knew that prayer had been offered.  And the connection with God had been made.

Maybe we should shift back to that pattern.  What do you think?  Could we simply read the Word in a way that allowed everyone to know that God had just spoken into their lives?  Could we digest the pages of Scripture so we would be nourished in our spirits?

For this reason (so our spirits can be nourished) I kneel before the Father...

BTW: To my BPNR partners in prayer...keep up the good work!  And thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I've been lately thinking...

I am sure there are a handful of people out there who will remember a young man named Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.  Maybe you will remember him best as a folk singer who called himself John Denver.  Ah, yes, Far Out!

John Denver wrote a song called Poems, Prayers and Promises.  It was recorded on an album of the same title and released in April of 1971.  Ah, yes, those were the days.

The song was an autobiographical reflection.  The lyrics were a journey through Denver's memory of people and places in his life.  The song starts of in a very reflective mode: I've been lately thinking
about my life's time all the things I've done and how it's been... 


I have been in that same frame of mind over the last couple of weeks.  I've been lately thinking...

  • About all the people we have been blessed to know and serve.  My journey of reflection always takes the path of congregations we have served...Fort Morgan, Longs Peak, Broomfield, First Colorado Springs, Wilson, and now the Parker family of faith.  What a gift each group has been in our lives!  There are so many individuals we have known and loved.  Each one has added significantly to our lives.  We have served together in mission, laughed together at tables, cried together around loss, and learned to love one another as people who are committed to grow in our faith.  Thank you...( I name you in my heart )!
  • About the way God has shaped our lives around experiences that challenge, encourage, and grow our spirits.  Shiprock, Arad, San Jose, Port au Prince and a thousand places in between.  But the place is just a gathering spot where relationships can be nurtured into bloom and fruit.  So the mission of the church provides a garden that grows and flourishes with the tending of a trellis made of hands and hearts connected by faith.
  • About the assurance God has provided along the journey.  Assurance that we are serving and investing in the right place at the right time.  I confess, there have been times when I have wondered if our wanderings have been productive and if they have all been centered in the will of God.  But as soon as I lift the question in my heart...along come the mystery of the incarnation that provides the power of assurance once again.
So I've been lately thinking.  It is good to reflect.  I talk to students about a three fold process of reflection, integration, and application as we look at our physical and relations journey of faith.  Without looking back, we will never know where we have been...or at least we will not see the fullness of the journey that is only revealed in the fullness of time.

Poems, Prayers, and Promises...not a bad sequence!  Amen.