Monday, July 09, 2007

8 months and counting

So it has been a while since I last updated. I unfortunately allow myself to get behind at times on meaningful things to take care of the necessary. Bad trait, even as it relates to the disciplines. I recently read a post on Monty Stewart's blog (a pastor buddy in Hawaii) with regards to the nature of exercise. I too despise the notion of exercise. I have friends who enjoy it, Jason @ The Shire and Che @ Cosmopolis, and are very committed to it. I, on the other hand, like to play. I like to play sports, ride bikes, swim, etc...I do not enjoy it for the reasons of exercise and health though. I enjoy it for the simple sake that I am a big kid and I like to have fun. I enjoy wrestling around with my boys and cannot wait until they are older so I can challenge then to games of one on one. Which ultimately means I had better not allow myself to go too far down hill physically or I will be losing badly to 7 and 8 year olds. But I digress, I do not like activity when it is labeled exercise. It carries a connotation of drudgery and oppression. Therefore, I avoid simple exercise. However, if I am challenged in a sport, or asked to take a hike, or some other form of communal activity involving persons that I enjoy spending time with then I am more apt to participate in healthy living.

Now this brings me to the point of my writing today. We often neglect many things in life because they seem difficult or tiresome. I am guilty of this at times as it relates to the spiritual disciplines. I know that I should read scripture, pray, journal, meditate, etc...but there are days that I just do not because it feels to tiresome and oppressive to me. However I end up coming to a place of unavoidable dryness and longing that brings me back to the disciplines is a way that is refreshing and needed. I do not see it as tiresome and oppressive but necessary and exciting. I am not advocating ignoring the disciplines for this reason, I am merely pointing out a shortcoming in my life.

I see this happening at times with the church also. So many folks come on Sundays and allow this to be the sole time they associate themselves with the community. I have preached a series of messages for the last 6 weeks on the characteristics of Christian Community and the necessity of giving ourselves to the striving of living in such a way. Most folks will nod their heads in agreement then walk out the door and not allow themselves to be encountered by community again until the following Sunday. Consequently there are times of dryness and longing that happen and suddenly they desire more interaction and wonder why no one has called them or came to see them. Living life within a community requires us to be intentional and authentic with one another. If we do not give ourselves over to such a life then we miss out on the joy of being united with others of faith in the pursuit of the Kingdom. I have been intentionally getting the folks of my church interacting with one anther outside the church walls. Sunday nights in the park and fellowship in homes has been the order of the day for us lately. It has it benefits but people will be people and therefore complain. to live intentionally in community takes a little more effort but the joy outweighs the sacrifice. These pictures are of our 4th of July fun night. Afterall, community is a little more fun when you get to play with fire. God bless.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Six months down...

I have now completed six months of pastoral care for the Butler Church of the Nazarene. I am often asked in some way to quantify what has happened in that time. I am not sure that I can. I am not sure that I want to. Each year, pastors in the Nazarene Church (as in other denominational systems) are asked to complete year end reports and submit them to their district leadership as an index of what has happened in the life of that church. Most of these reports deal with attendance numbers, financial information, etc...Numbers that in truth do not even come close to describing what has gone on that church spiritually for the past year. As a matter of fact, the numbers that are supposed to tell the tale (membership and baptism) fail to scratch the surface of the work that goes on in each parish.

I sit here tonight, thinking about the past half year and wondering how I would describe spiritually this time frame. The truth is that I am not going to try. Many pastors I know think of their time spent in ministry in terms of accomplishments. They speak about achievements such as buildings built, financial increase, membership increase, and what not. I fear that we miss out on the real work of the spiritual life that we have an opportunity to participate in each and every day when we only focus on the accomplishment rather than the time invested. These yearly reports do not give us opportunity to delinate the time spent with persons battling crippling addictions, asking difficult spiritual questions so as to understand one more aspect of the mystery, standing with a brother in Christ as he stands over a loved one in a hospital bed wondering if they can hear his words, and speaking words of hope to persons who simply want a break in life. These are the daily tasks of ministry that have no sense of accomplishment, no achievement, no finality. These are the moments that fill the time spent with a community of faith that cannot be quantified. I wander how we can report that?

I reject the notion that my ministry can be quantified. I reject the notion that the time invested in the lives of others can be listed on a piece of paper in terms of finances, attendance and awards. I am blessed to serve the servants of Christ in Butler, MO. I live life with them, I preach to them, I care for them, I share my family with them, and I prayerfully act as a guide to them. I am not bitter at the task of reporting. I am simply wanting to speak into the void a word of confident assurance that my time is well spent. Maybe my reports will somehow reflect this truth as well. We shall see. In the mean time I will simply share my life, my family and my love with the community that I believe God has led me to. I will continue to grow here personally and spiritually and prayerfully bring others along with me. In any case, I still have the cutest kids in the world. God bless.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Life and Blogging and Relationships

I have to say, I do appreciate those of you who have asked me to update my blog. Life has most definately gotten away from me. I looked at the blog and realized that it has been since January that I have submitted anything. That is too long. The simple truth is that when you get so far behind and do not know where to start then it is easier not to even try--I suppose that could be analogous to about anything that requires continual maintenance. Marriage for instance is a continual maintenance job. We do the necessary things each day that help keep that relationship strong. When we fail to cultivate such things then relationship deteriorate. My wife and I work hard on our marriage and I believe that it is strong due to our persistence and God's love. I know it is strong because I asked her last night--go to the source if you need the answer. The same can be said of our Spiritual lives. Particularly as it relates to Christianity. We exist not in a religious state but in a consistent relationship with the God of all creation that requires maintenance. The same as human relationship deteriorate without care, so does our relationship with God. If we do not do the necessary, then we find that we have gone weeks and months without having had communication with The Source and therefore are lacking. I choose to tell my wife that I love her daily so that she will know it. I choose to help around the house, care for the boys, do little nice things for her without any prompting--why, because I want to keep this valuable relationship strong. The same is true of my relationship with God. I have to take time to pray, to study, to share, to love others, to proclaim--so that my connection to God will remain constant.

Why am I saying all this? Well I have been reminded recently of the alternative. I have seen the neglect and I realize that continual maintanence is the way to remain secure. My job as a pastor is a constant reminder of this fact. I mourn the death of faith, relationships, and trust. I can see how failure to do the necessary is the culprit and we each and every one have to do what it takes to care for our relationships--both with God and man.

I will try to keep up better now. I will try to share my life a little more regularly. Please forgive me friends and let's continue the journey together. God bless.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Let it Snow!

Typically I would just now be getting home on a Wednesday evening. When I was a youth pastor this was nothing new and I was used to getting home at 9pm or later on most hump days. Since shifting roles I thought that my Wednesday nights would not be as hectic. However I was mistaken and I am usually not home until 8:30 or 9:00 pm just as it had been. However tonight I never left the house. I arrived home at 4:30 pm and have not left to go back to church. I was forced to cancel our Wednesday night activities due to about 5 inches of snow that fell today (as opposed to the 1-2 inches that were forecast). This has been quite a winter here in western Missouri, one unlike many folks here remember in years past. Snow and ice have been the norm since the middle of December and now we add bitter arctic air to the mix. I have had to experience several "firsts" since assuming the role of Lead Pastor. Most of these "firsts" have consisted of administration issues but the one that bothered me the most was the first Sunday (January 21st) that I had to cancel morning worship services. Now I have to admit that as an associate I usually did not get too upset if services had to be canceled for a Sunday. I typically saw it as an opportunity to sleep in an enjoy a day of legitimate rest. However I found myself feeling lost, empty, and without purpose (other than the quality time spent with my family) as I sat at the house. I was ready to lead my people in worship and to preach the gospel but I was prohibited from doing that. I had never felt that before. I have never had this deep sense of responsibility that I carry now. This is not to say that I did not feel responsible as a pastor when I was an associate. I had a deep sense of responsibility for my teens. However Sunday was not the day that I was given the platform to lead them in worship and proclamation. We sat under the guidance of another on Sunday. My day for that was Wednesday and I took that evening very seriously as it was my opportunity to be lead my group as a whole through worship and the word. Now I am the leader of the church as a whole. Sunday is my day to lead my people in worship and to prayerfully proclaim to them the word of our Lord. I found myself second guessing my decision to cancel all Sunday morning. In truth it would have been a very poorly attended service and some would have came out to worship out of obedience and put themselves in jeopardy to do so. I missed my time with my people. I missed my time to share with them and to worship with them. In short, I missed my people. That is a good feeling for a pastor to have. It means that I genuinely enjoy my time with them and I truly am loving them as I should. I am not as saddened tonight. I am charged right now with leading the children's program and teaching my adult leaders how to to this. It takes more out of me to do this and truthfully I needed the break tonight. I am certain that I will experience many more firsts in my time here. Some of them will hurt and others will be joyful. I am pleased though that my love for my people is growing. I praise God for this "good fit" that He has helped to create between myself and those I am given charge over to love and journey with. I leave you with a blessing: "May God grant you the peace to live faithfully in the land in which you journey." Grace and Peace.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Johnny's Back

Hello faithful travellers on the road of life; I am back. I apologize for laying low for such a long time. My only excuse is that I switched over to the new beta version of blogger and it wiped out some of my settings and having the unfortunate disposition of occassional laziness I scraped blogging for a while. However, like anyone who likes to write it has called back to me and now I have returned to the world of screens and words. Please forgive my laziness if you have been waiting anxiously for me to post another amazing photo of my awesome boys or write some witty quip from our life. I am now planning to be prompt again in my blogging and to ever update my sites, books, and such on my blog. Ok, with all of that explanation said and done I will get on with the point of my post today--aging. I am now 33. I hit this record milestone yesterday (January 18th) and now I have reached the age of enlightenment. Ok, that really is not true but age does tend to cause one to stop and pause for reflection on life and all of its mysteries. As I told my Pop yesterday when he asked me to enlighten him on all the new knowledge that I have acquired with this new year of age, "I need to stop and debrief so that I can fully assimilate all that I have come to know in this world now." I am now the age of crucifixion so I pray that this little fact does not indicate hardship, frustration and turmoil this year. However if it happened to our Lord then why not me? However, I do need to stop and think about a few things that I am thankful for. I am thankful for my wife: she continues to journey through life with me and doesn't complain too much about socks on the floor or my complete inability to find anything the first time I look. I am thankful for my boys: they have an uncanny way of filling my life with the just the right amount of joy and complete insanity. I am thankful for my church: I now serve a wonderful group of poeple who are forgiving, loving and willing to learn from a green pastor. I am thankful for my growing relationship with God: each day I am privileged to carry on relationship with the God of all creation inspite of my unworthiness. He calls me to His table and offers me a seat. He forgives my shortcomings and teaches me to be better. He pursues me when I am distant, He leads me into the best possibilities of life. In short, I am continually in awe of the God who allows me to work with Him to bring about His good will in the world. In the coming days I will post more devotional and homiletic thoughts as part of my blogging. I am glad to be writing again. May you experience God's grace today in prrofound and intimate ways.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"My Son is Sleeping With Your Daughter" and other happenings...

I suppose tonight I am simply writing to write. I have not updated or spilled my guts in a while on any given subject so I am feeling a bit guilty. Life has become a bit more busy as of late. I have gone from the camaraderie of 3 other pastor's to share my thoughts and ministry ideas with to talking to myself while I sit in my office contemplating the state of my church. I find myself talking to God more these days as well. If nothing else I have been practicing living in the companionship of the Holy Spirit more as of late. Being the new guy, I was asked--they said given the opportunity to make it sound more palatable--to be the speaker at the Community Thanksgiving Service sponsored by the local ministerial alliance. I found myself saying yes before I had even had time to think one solid thought on the subject. I am eager to make acquaintences and get involved in the community afterall since now I am looked upon as a spiritual leader in Butler. As I was studying the lectionary passages for Thanksgiving I began to find myself moving in a direction that I did not know if I was ready to preach yet in this new setting. I do not know the community or its people and most of the time in a setting like this you preach a quaint message of gratefulness to God and leave it at that. I however began to find myself moving more into the realm of Theodicy and Open Theism as I prepared. I did not plan to but, as I prayed and studied and wrote that is how it came out. After all was said and done and I looked at the sermon that I just completed a wave of concern flowed over me. "Perhaps this is too much for a community (ecumenical) MA service and I should tone it down a bit" was the first thought that came to mind. I prayed again and decided not to change anything. I went home and allowed Brenda to read it. She looked up after finishing and said it was good and then added, "but". Whenever there is a "but" you immediately have that shock come over you and the sinking feeling that you now had no time to work on something new and you are stuck. Her comment was the same as my initial thought, "it might be too much for a service of this type." I contemplated pulling something out from the archive; you know, that trusty list of prior sermons you have written that you are certain will have something for just this occassion. Brenda and I both agreed that I should simply stick with what I had already written since I had spent time in study and contemplation prior. So I went to the service at the local RLDS church (also known as the Community of Christ) and waited my turn to step up and proclaim the Word of God to those who assembled. There were about 15-20 of my own congregation there which did bring me some satisfaction and when all the singing ended--a local Assemblies of God pastor organized the service so there was a good bit of singing and music--I stepped up, introduced myself and opened the scriptures. I preached for about 20-25 minutes and then sat down. I felt the presence of God throughout the process and that wonderful calm that comes from knowing you have done and said the right thing for the moment. After the service there were the complementary "good sermon" and "wonderful job" but there were also some very heartfelt words of appreciation that carried with them a sense of sincerity and gratitude. I received several calls that night from members of my congregation expressing their pride in their pastor for his contribution to the night. I appreciated the warm words from my people. They are my sheep and I am grateful that they are willing to follow me. My time in Butler has been good thus far. It has had its moments of frustration and doubt but all-in-all I continue to believe that we are right where we should be. One quick humorous comment and then I will end. My son, Joshua, has made a new friend. Her name is Mikayla and she is 4. He seems to have developed a bit of a crush on her and regularly talks about her being right there with him, almost like an imaginary friend. The other night we were tucking him in; going through the regular activities that we have developed with him. He then proudly proclaims to us that Mikayla is in his bed sleeping with him. I looked at Brenda and immediately said, "we cannot tell her dad that our son is sleeping with his daughter". I suppose the humorous part for me is that her father is one of my board members. Oh the scandal! Grace and Peace.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Kid in Town

I feel a need to once again apologize to anyone who has been waiting with baited breath to see what I will write next. I have been a bit out of the loop lately. We have just completed our second week in a new locale with new faces, a new job, and a new church to get used to. I am the new Lead Pastor of the Butler Church of the Nazarene in Butler, Mo. The transition has been a bit tougher than I anticipated. I find myself still thinking like a youth pastor. Now before my fellow youth pastors chastise me for this remark let me explain what I mean. Residing now as the Lead Pastor of a congregation means that I am responsible for a congregation as a whole. They are all my flock and I am learning to love them. However, I catch myself watching the teens and wanting to join in all the time. The teen group here in Butler is considerably smaller than the one that I am used to leading. They are young and can be a bit immature at times but I am also getting to know and love them. I find myself thinking more of how to deal with the children and youth than I do the church as a whole. I am sure that this will improve with time but for now I am on the learning curve. My wife and kids are doing well. The boys have adjusted to the move and seem to be getting settled in. Brenda seems to enjoy herself here but she needs to get out of the house. She is not used to staying home with the boys and she enjoys working also. I pray that we can find a way to secure childcare and help her find her fulfillment in a job. All in all God has blessed us and we are enjoying our new home. I will write more later but I just needed to update. Grace and peace.