Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Rear View Mirror

Last week I was blessed to spend time with a young man who is seeking clarity about a call to ministry.  It is always a unique blessing to hear about a journey of faith that is beginning to bloom with excitement and purpose.

I was blessed to hear about his journey and to know that the adventure of faith and service is in the early stages of development.  He described his discovery of faith while taking part in a camp experience as a participant.  His eyes lit up when he talked about the fact that he would now be serving as a counselor and leader at that same camp while others come under his leadership and influence.  His eyes had the sparkle of hope that arrives when the Spirit begins to open the door to new relationships that are centered in mission and ministry.

I also heard about the influence of his family, his church, and his classmates.  He has surrounded himself with believers who are seeking and serving together.  It sounded like a garden of faith that was fertile, well nourished, and excited about growth that will produce fruit.

The conversation motivated me to take a look back at my own journey.  The rear view mirror is a great place to see the activity of God as it unfolds through relationships, experiences, opportunities, and even the painful journeys of life.

I celebrate the freshness of faith and am grateful for the reminder that God can always use that freshness of faith to teach an old dog a new trick!  Thanks Patrick!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The month of April

     For those who know me, you might understand how profoundly I have been impacted over the years by a Trappist monk named Thomas Merton.  His journey of faith was very different from my experience but his graceful (but often bumpy) spiritual life contains far too many connecting points to think it is a coincidence.
     Merton died on December 10, 1968.  He is buried at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky where he spent the final 27 years of his life.  He was only 53 years old but his influence continues on in to eternity.
     The month of April was an adventure for me because I spent the four Fridays of April teaching a course on Merton at the Benet Hill Monastery in the Black Forest outside of Colorado Springs.
     The group was made up of believers, philosophers, historians, and seekers of all sizes and shapes.  Most had some limited knowledge of Merton while several were there just out of curiosity and the opportunity to learn something new.  In the end, they were teachers to me.
     They taught me more about myself than they learned about Merton.  I discovered a passion that has been welling up in my for years.  It is a passion to know God and to understand how the experiences of life match up with the grace of the Almighty to create a discipleship journey.
   For Merton, it was the early death of his parents, his wild college days, his discovery of faith, and his commitment to Christ that was lived out behind the cloistered walls of an ancient abbey.  For me, it was my marriage to Sue, the discovery of Jesus, my first trip to Romania, and my April 1993 Walk to Emmaus experience that provided the chain of grace and developed my life.  Those four elements were key but they were amplified by thirty years of service within the life of the United Methodist Church.  Combined, they have changed me and given be a glimpse of God.
     April was a really good month!  I hope it was good to you as well.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Offer Them Christ

In less than 24 hours the Roman Catholic Cardinals of the world will begin their Conclave process of voting on a new spiritual leader for the Roman Catholic world.  In many ways (more to some than to others) the new Pope will represent the Christian faith to millions of people around the globe.  In fact, he may be the only significant Christian leader they will ever recognize.

The season of Lent has been inviting us to discover the life of Jesus.  In fact, we could easily say that the entire Gospel message is the foundational message of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Pope or no Pope, Jesus must be the first recognizable person that is connected to the faith.

After all, even though the Pope carries spiritual, emotional, and political weight...he is no match for Jesus himself.

John Wesley sent Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury to the "new world" of America with one simple message.  It was a message that not only launched a voyage across the Pacific, it was a word of wisdom that continues to change the world.  Wesley simply said.  "Offer them Christ!"

Oh, that we would do the same!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ray Robert , Arthur William, Jesse Alto, Golda Howe, Ivan W. Jessen
Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Lent for 2013.  I don't really remember Lent as a child except to know that the menu seemed to change at the Pleasant View Elementary School cafeteria.  I didn't know why.  It was just one of the unknown mysteries of life.

Turns out that it really is a mystery.  Not the cafeteria!  But the mystery of faith and the experience of discovery.

It is like looking back at your family and seeing faces that are familiar but knowing that there is so much more to discover about life, history, and even the joy of DNA.

My father's family is a good example.  None of the people in the picture are still alive but in a very mysterious way, they live through me and hundreds of others who currently walk the earth and share their DNA.

My grandfather and grandmother (Arthur William Jessen and Golda Howe Jessen) were adventurers.  They homesteaded on the dusty eastern plains of Colorado near Genoa and Hugo.  It must have been a challenging life.  Break the sod, plant a crop, raise some chickens, keep the coyotes away, and give birth to three boys in the same sod house that grandpa built with his own hands.  Life was different but God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I don't know if they thought about the season of Lent when the weather was a few weeks from spring. But I do know that sacrifice was a daily event on the plains.  It was daily creativity and ingenuity that created the basics of life.  Without thinking about it...they knew that there was a time for everything under heaven.

Grandpa moved the family from the plains to the community of Windsor in northern Colorado where he launched a business hauling coal in the winter, ice in the summer, and beet pulp in season.  Ultimately he became the Justice of the Peace and reigned with authority over law breakers of all shapes and sizes.  Grandma died, he remarried (twice) but things were never the same.  The Lord of Life was the same, but he spark and the adventure seemed to disappear from Grandpa's eye.

Lent is about regaining the spark.  It is about a relationship that grows deeper each day.  It is not about making it happen with your own hands and ingenuity but it is about creating life through your heart of hearts.

Do you need a bit of a spark?  I do!  Thanks be to God, tomorrow is the first Sunday of Lent!  Thank God for the DNA of faith that arrives in the form of grace that is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.