Sharing the Word

bible-pictureI am headed to Saint Starbucks for my weekly Tuesday 8:00 am ritual of a cup of joe with preacher colleagues to talk about last Sunday and plan for the coming Sunday. starbucks1

These guys (alas, we are all men) are my scriptural soulmates–because each week we wrestle with how to carry what God shows us in scripture to the good people who show up to share God, and expect us to have something to say.

We are an odd group–two Baptists, two Episcopalians, and me, the MCC guy with earrings. 

I loved seminary and this reminds me of the “bull sessions” we used to enjoy–often better than the formal classes. Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor of First Baptist Church, first called us together and I learn something from him every week.  But everyone else teaches, too.

What a blessing! Good coffee, yes, but even better conversation.

God’s World of Wonders

Jonathan and I had breakfast with some strangers this morning. We are staying in a B&B in Washington, D.C. 

As we ate too much, we met a retired couple from British Columbia, and a firefighter from Death Valley National Park and her park ranger husband (at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park). death_valley1

The firefighter, who flies a helicopter looking for forest fires, talked a lot. Pointing to her husband, she said, “He’s very quiet.” She laughingly acknowledged she made up for him. 

Jonathan went off to his conference while I stayed to chat with the Canadian couple. They both liked to talk, as do I, so we shared observations about Washington, Richmond, and Vancouver.

vancouver-aerialAfter the others left, I sat for a few minutes, sipping coffee, thinking about the vastness and variety of God’s creation. So many distinctive human beings, and all the extraordinary natural landscape and animal, plant and mineral varieties–and how six people at breakfast could share so much of it.

I thought of the opening of Psalm 98, “Sing to God a brand-new song! God’s made a world of wonders!”

Slow Cooking Produces Tasty Life

Fast food is fast. Sometimes, it even tastes good.

But slow food makes for better company.

One purpose of Lent is to help us slow down, to take time to connect with what is important in our lives. It is very difficult to connect with God, or even each other, while rushing through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

An impatient Christian a few years ago said, “Lent is too long. In the old days they needed 40 days to get anywhere; now we can go places much faster. We can do Lent in one week or less.”

Actually, it takes just as long, if not longer, to connect with God today. We can’t build a deep relationship in a hurry, even, or perhaps especially, with God. crockpot

Perhaps Lent is like a crock pot. If you put your fears and desires in, pray for some special seasoning from God, and let the ingredients simmer slowly, you might be amazed at the tasty, nutritious life you can share.

To Tell the Truth

I love Facebook. I love YouTube. I haven’t checked out MySpace or Twitter yet, but I imagine I will be intrigued by them, too.

I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, but when I do I connect with friends, and I even learn things about the world. 

This morning, I checked out a YouTube video a friend posted on Facebook. It was an excerpt from The West Wing, where President Bartlett shows off his brilliance and his openness.

Entitled “The Bible Lesson,” he addresses a visiting advice show host about her negativity about homosexuality. The excerpt reminds me why I loved Jed Bartlett so much–he speaks his mind.  Most of the time I agreed with him, but even when I didn’t I still liked him for telling his truth.

I think you’ll like this excerpt. He sure tells the truth. Would that all our leaders would do so.

It Is Good to Have Help When Herding Cats, Part 2

I wrote recently about how pastors often speak of our work as “herding cats.” And I said that I appreciated the help that members of the Board of Directors provide–they help with the herding.

Little did I know that a former seminary professor of mine (from EDS, the Episcopal Divinity School) would then post a video on Facebook–very much on topic. I can see my Board colleagues and myself in this wonderful minute-long film (and you’ll understand why she posted this particular video).


Seen a Robin Today?

american_robin-10The second day of spring.

When I lived in the north, the big deal used to be seeing the first Robin. In Virginia, Robins are not so scarce. They are not the harbingers of spring.

All four seasons are godly. Even winter (in small doses).

But spring, after a cold winter, may be the best.

What seems clear to me today, as I go out  to do treasured yardwork, is that the joy of spring is to be savored and shared. Maybe that’s why we used to get so excited by the first Robin. As s/he flew and hopped about, and hunted for worms, we felt like flying and hopping too (maybe not hunting for worms). Remember the song, “Rockin’ Robin.”

Whether I see a Robin or not, I am filled with joy today. Every day is Robin Day for me! [I know, I know….corny….]

It Is Good to Have Help When Herding Cats

herding-cats3Yesterday was Board day. And it was good.

When I first became a pastor, I dreaded Board day. I knew it was coming each month. As we got closer to it, I began to fret, even though I knew it was necessary.

I have heard some women talk about their menstrual cycle: It is coming whether you want it or not, and you wish it didn’t–but then, if it doesn’t there is trouble.

As I grow in pastoring, I have come to appreciate the gifts and commitment of Board members. God has called us to be colleagues in serving and leading a great enterprise.

I love my church, the church I serve and lead as pastor. And I love those who join me in service and leadership.

Pastors often describe our work as “herding cats.” It is good to have help when herding cats. That’s what Boards do: they take turns with the herding, and help make things work better.

Thank you, Board members: past, present, and future.

Bon appetit!

stew-pictureFolks at our monthly discussion, The Meanings of Your Life, last night liked my soup. Someone asked for the recipe.

There is no recipe, I said, aside from a willingness to use what I have and add what seems missing.

In other words, this soup began 10 days ago as a simple white beans and veggie sausage dish. Then, with some added liquid and vegetables and spices, it morphed into soup for the Sunday’s ministry leader’s meeting and potluck. Then, with some more liquid, a few different vegetables (including left-over collard greens), some more spice and  beans, it became Wednesday night’s soup.

Isn’t that like church? It starts with a few folks, some drift away (having given and taken what they can) and others show up, on and on over many years. With each shift, particular ingredients become weaker or stronger, a dash more oregano now, less at another, etc.

Perhaps church is a stew pot, always on the stove, serving up savory aromas and filling bellies, especially if those who partake of what they need also put in a share that others may be fed.

Bon appetit!

On the Road to Home

Lent is a spiritual journey. 

Wendell Berry writes, “The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles…only by a spiritual journey…by which we arrive at the ground of our feet, and learn to be at home.”

Sometimes, I feel like I imagine Jesus felt in the wilderness. Temptations to abandon the journey are everywhere. Why did I decide to claim more prayer and meditation time as my Lenten journey? Why didn’t I decide to give up chocolate? That would be easier (for me).

Faith promotes healthy relationship–with God, myself, and others. But, as Stephen Covey says, “The greatest battles of life are fought out everyday in the silent chambers of our own heart.”

How is your journey going? What are you learning about the ground at your feet, about being at home in yourself, the beautiful self God created for you?

Thank you, Charles Darwin

charles-darwin1I attended a lecture today by a leading scientist, Francisco J. Ayala, who has written a book, “Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion.”

He is a charming Spaniard, who speaks knowledgeably and understandably (to the layperson) about natural selection and evolution. But it was his comment about Darwin and faith that really touched me.

He pointed out that before Darwin people blamed God for everything.

Now, thanks to Darwin showing us about natural processes, he says we don’t have to blame God–no more “Acts of God,” no more saying God is responsible for people dying, getting sick, not getting a job, etc.

I wish more people would follow Dr. Ayala ‘s advice. He’s a pretty good theologian!francisco-ayala