Thursday, August 13, 2009

Refreshing Rain & Beginning Again

Kim and left CA at 4:42 AM this morning and drove to Tacoma. We arrived at 6:00ish (too tired to notice the exact time...I'm a morning person). We left three really hot, Sacramento days that had us sweltering. I know it's not hot like the South or like Houston, TX, but my theory is that anything over 100 is just hot -- dry or not.

Entering into WA today, God greeted us to our new home with a Texas style thunderstorm. They don't have too many of them in this part of the world, but the two I've witnessed are amazing. The thunder, lightning, rainbows -- all of it, was just wonderful. It was very refreshing to see, smell and take in.

I've now moved from New Mexico to Texas to the Bay Area of CA to Sacramento to Seattle. For the first time, I'm going to live in a world filled with God's refreshing rain. The words of the Christian song, "Send Your Rain" come to mind. It's going to be a great opportunity for a new experience in life and a new beginning for a new chapter of life.

Love to hear your ideas on making adjustments. Good advice is something I never get too much of.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ministry Screamin' Style, August 3rd, 2009

I'll have to begin with an explanation of the title. One of my favorite rides at Disneyland is named, "California Screamin'." It's a unique experience. Most roller-coasters are designed with the same beginning. You get in, strap down and start by climbing a hill. You can hear the click, click, click as you notice how slowly you are climbing away from the earth before you plummet to the depths below. Not for those riding CA Screamin'. You strap in, stop and listen to a countdown, "In five, four, three, two, one...," and you take off. You shoot up the first hill going from zero to sixty in four seconds and drop 108 feet as you crest the 120 foot rise.

As we get ready to depart from CA and head to our new home in WA, I'm torn between the two experiences. Since we made our decision on April 26th, it has felt more like the traditional slow ascent. However, with one week to go, it starting to feel more like CA Screamin'. You know the anxiety you feel on the traditional rise of a coaster? You have that same anxiety on Screamin', you just don't have as much time to think about it. The thrill is the same for both, but there is something very attractive about the take off with speed and power that keeps me coming back for more.

Paul gave us all some good advice about times when life feels like a roller-coaster: Put the past behind and press on forward toward the upward call of God. One of my friends put it this way, "Never look back." Others say, "Bloom where you're planted." It's pretty much the same message no matter how you put it.

Right now my stomach is filled with anxiety and excitement. I've been waiting along time but have that nervousness that comes with the unknown. A sadness persists knowing that relocating changes everything. Regrets roll around as you question the "could haves" and "might have beens." There is the enticement of an open book that has yet to be written in just as you're hesistantly recording your latest thoughts in a journal with only a couple of pages left.

The good news is this: heaven awaits us all. People have all kinds of heavenly expectations. One of mine is reunited friends and an eternal party that gives us a chance to really experience fulfillment.

This time next week I'm going to Disneyland. I'm going to strap in and listen to that countdown. I'll be nervous, scared, excited...all at the same time. For those of you wondering...that's pretty much how life feels right now.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moving In Ministry

Making a move is a very difficult choice in life. Moving in ministry is even tougher. Unlike many ministers I've talked to, Kim and I have never "had" to move. We have felt "called" to move.

We worked in Ft. Worth, Texas for fourteen months as our first work. When the minister left, we knew it was time to move forward. While we could've stayed, we didn't have the skill and experience to handle what that congregation needed. We also know our choice to serve there was really a choice to serve with the minister more than with the congregation. We left.

At the same time, we felt strongly led to the church in Livermore, CA. We had never heard of Livermore, but the people were wonderful and God really matched us up with the right church at the right time. Many of the teens from that era (1988 - 1995) refer to that as the "glory days" youth ministry. It was certainly a blessing for our family. Ashley was born three weeks after we arrived, Josh came 14 months later and Livermore helped us grow and mature.

In the fall of 1994, I became aware of some financial difficulties facing the church. We had some really tough times in the leadership, but had weathered those storms and moved past several difficulties. When we realized the church was only two months away from operating in the red and laying employees off, I sent out one resume to one church -- Cordova.

Cordova was again, the right church at the right time. While we could've stayed at Livermore, the congregation there wasn't in a position for me to preach and teach and write. They still needed me to wear more than a dozen hats. Cordova on the other hand was prepared and ready to help me focus my ministry in a new direction. Josh and Ashley started and completed school in Cordova.

Now, the next chapter. . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Week After the Election

I've been waiting for Barak Obama to be elected to say what needs to be said. Some will ask, "Why not write this sooner?" Well, sometimes you need the "other side" to be in a place of power in order to no appear like you're trying to benefit yourself. So, let's get to it.

The lack of respect and honor for the President of the United States of America has disturbed me for some time. Most Christians have acted (and I've gotten caught up in it) with an attitude of disrespect as long as we're criticizing the "other side." The problem with this is that as Christians, we are called to have an attitude of respect for those civic servants that run our nation. Jesus and Paul called Christians in the Roman Empire to have this kind of respect for one of the most ungodly, secular, sexually disturbed cultures in history.

So here's my plea: Let's use the election of Obama as an opportunity to restore some Christian respect for the office of the President. Obama is a good man with a good family. You may or may not agree with his policies and positions...that will play out in good time. However, to show open disrespect and disdain for a many elected to the highest political position in the world only teaches our children and grandchildren a behavior that is clearly condemned in scripture.

Pray for your leaders...especially for Obama. We need to pray for his wisdom and integrity. We need to pray for his safety. We need to pray for his girls. We need to pray that he will govern from the center and publicly support those Christian beliefs he has touted during the election. We need to pray for his purity because temptations will be presented to him. We even need to pray for his protection from his own party. A number of democrats view him as a puppet to utilized for their own agendas.

God has blessed us with freedom. Let's use that freedom to pray for him. Either way, you're on God's side. If you consider him a friend, then prayer only makes sense. If you consider him an enemy, Christ taught that you should pray for your enemies.

These are just a few of my thoughts one week after our nation accomplished an amazing thing: popular and electoral votes...a black man that 50 years ago couldn't even be considered as a candidate. Praise God we've come this far and let's hope God will be part of his thinking and governing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Aching for Empire

With only a few days to go until the election for the next United States President, people in America are indifferent, depressed or wildly enthused. As a conservative in this country known as the USA, I get caught up in the political game known as elections. We relish the idea that as a people we get to choose or elect our leaders. We forget that someone else chooses -- long before we do -- who will even have a shot. It really is an illusion of control. Perhaps that's why a record turn out this year would still expose an apathetic electorate that has become disillusioned with our democratic process.

I recently attended a conference centered around the Old Testament story of the Exodus. This story was used in a variety of ways to help people see how "empirical" our world is. Men and women are devoted to empires. Humans seem to ache for empires. Back then it was Egypt, today it could be the US or Japan or choose. Actually, you don't usually chose, your parents chose for you and their parents for them and on and on it goes.

People often get confused when they find out that I'm a Christian. Attitudes towards Christianity are similar to attitudes towards our an all time low. Self-inflicted stereotypes have left many believing you can't be an intelligent educated human and believe in God or Creation. [Funny that you can only be considered intelligent if you believe that no intelligence was involved in our existence; only random acts or accidents. Another topic for another day.] I'm educated and I'm a believer. I don't/won't apologize for that.

But consider this: Nations come and go. World leaders are born and they die. Presidents are voted in and ushered out. Through all of this, faith lasts. However, when Christianity becomes part of the "empires" of the world -- when it is linked to government and politics -- it too will fall when the empire falls [not the real Kingdom of God, but those manipulated into Empirical actions to support the state]. During the past few decades, American Christians have sought to force the US to become a Christian nation (I said become because I don't believe it is or has been a Christian nation; only a nation that has embraced some key Christian teachings and freedoms).

The problem with this attempt is that you cannot legislate morality and you can't confuse an empire of the world with the Kingdom of God. Empires exist because of their willingness and desire to impose their codes and laws on others; Jesus lived without forcing people but by serving, loving and calling people. As a matter of fact, the only pushing Jesus did was centered around those we would term the "religiously elite." There wasn't a vote, a call to arms, political action committees or legislative authority. The authority of Christ came from who He was and was reinforced by what He did.

It's interesting to me that in a nation where religious freedom is supposedly protected, belief is on the decline and where religious freedom is forbidden (i.e. China), belief is on the rise. This has caused great concern for many who live in this nation and know what happens when God decides to remove His blessing from any nation (believing or not). Imagine what God's reaction is to a nation so blessed and yet so anxious to chase Him out of existence!?!

In a few days I'll go cast a vote. I'm not too excited about it because I've come to believe that the system (while still the best system in this world) is corrupt top to bottom and corrupts the very few good men and women who get into our political arena. Those who have selfish and personal agendas are fueled by those who despise faith, are funded politically, financially and morally by these people and eventually find themselves one of these people. Neither the experience of John McCain nor the freshness of Barack Obama will be able to stand on principle because wealthier, more powerful people pull the strings of the marionettes we call leaders.

I've stopped aching for an empire. Don't get me wrong, I still hurt for my nation, but won't seek to burden my faith with the misguided meanderings of a people who despise the God I love and the Jesus I serve. And this is where I leave you this week: Moses was born into a corrupt empire. He worked for justice and the freedom for the oppressed. Jesus was born into a corrupt empire. His ministry was self-described with these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Sounds a great deal like Moses to me...but without all the mistakes men are prone to make.

In this year, it doesn't make one bit of difference who becomes president: We still work to encourage the poor, fight for freedom, help the helpless and give a fair shake to the oppressed. In doing this we proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and prove that we're Kingdom people and not political pawns!

God bless!