A Snowy Advent Morning

It was quiet and dark this morning. The cold keeps people in and reminds us that we aren’t as invincible as we like to think. This morning, even though I scrapped my windshield, there were still lots of ice crystals clinging to the glass. They cling temporarily because the defroster starts working and by the time I get into work the windows are all fully clear.

The way the ice melted reminded me that life changes quickly. One minute we are thinking about making chili and being sure all the ingredients get in the crock pot, and the next we are on to work. We pass beautiful scenery along the way. Moment by moment, everything changes right before our eyes.

We as Christians are not called to stop the changes happening around us. No more than we can stop the ice from melting. We are asked to move with the moments and seek God in all things. Today, as I came to work (on clearer roads than yesterday) I saw a glimpse of God.

The small lake near the edge of Berthoud had a great frozen bit of ice with snow on it. The backdrop for this lake was snow capped mountains of the grandest heights. I was happy about not having to drive in these freezing temperatures all the way to Fort Morgan today. And, due to the freezing temperatures the lake had a mist of steam rising from the relatively warm water. In front of the lake were trees frozen in ice. It was so beautiful. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but I had promised Shirley I would be on time today.

Keeping our word is important too. Living up to what we say we will do may keep us from other enjoyments or pleasures in life, but we are participating in the Kindom of God when we do this. So, as you see the moments changing quickly before your eyes, remember your part in it all. Remember that what we do matters. We can both appreciate what God is showing us along the way, and live into the truth.

Holy God of Wonder, thank you for snow and ice and cold. We rest into the season of waiting and silence. We make room for the way life changes around us as we invite you into every moment. Show us the beauty of life all around us. Help us to be willing to be true to our word. Keep us honest in spirit, action, and thought. Hold us to the standards you have set for us. Thank you for leading us into this season of expectation with hope. We love You, You are the center of our ever changing lives. Amen

Posted in Practical Theology | Tagged | 1 Comment

Flood Relief

September 12th marked the beginning of the flood. People went home early. Things were strange that day. Roads started closing. Water started pouring out of its banks. People were trapped, evacuated, and displaced. My road home from work was dry. Our apartment, although only two blocks south of the flooding Big Thompson River, was dry. We had our regular church meeting that night. No signs of water there. It took a while to take in the scope of the surrounding flood. Driving became more challenging that weekend with I-25 shut down, lots of roads closed, and many trying to get to one side or the other of the almost impassable rivers. Sunday, it rained again. The roof in our church leaked. People started sharing stories of their loved ones who were stranded, evacuated, or displaced. Monday, help started pouring in, people offered all sorts of help for people. We started working together to respond. It was an honor to help people in our own community. It was a privilege to be able to go into Lyons with three other pastors to listen and be available for people whose whole lives became part of the new path of a river. The water was running through lawns, doors, garages, and homes. In some cases the water is still flowing through these places. In other parts, things have dried out. Some places are under mud. We are learning now how we can help provide tools to help people. We have flood buckets filled with cleaning supplies. Some of the supplies came all the way from Laramie, Wyoming. Youth, who have been helping where they can, put the buckets together. We have a volunteer coordinator who can connect projects and volunteers (volunteer@berthoudumc.org). A page on our website is set up to help tell the stories and get flood relief projects as well (Berthoudumc.org). We are making a great impact on the people we have helped so far. God is partnering with us as we partner with our community, our church members, youth, and the many people who have been affected by all this extra water.

Lord, the water is subsiding. Mountain roads are done sliding. You know the destruction. Be with those displaced, discomforted, and discouraged. Let us be your hands. Dry the waters. We offer ourselves as solutions. We are available to our community and your people. Lead us in your paths. May we become bridges where new rivers have formed. Let us be strength alongside those who are cleaning now. May we be blessed, broken, and given for you. Amen.

Posted in Practical Theology | Leave a comment

Faith and Work

Many people have discussions and questions about faith and works. What do we have to do, or not do to be acceptable to God. But today, I am not talking about works, I am talking about work. How do our lives of faith impact our lives of work. Work often consists of doing email in my office in the mornings. Today, internet was not connecting with my machine.
Work.
I wanted so much to have internet so I could post this blog, and settle in to answering emails. I was pretty patient (for me). I went through all the steps of unplugging things and plugging them back in. I finally broke down and texted our tech support, who in the end reconnected me with the outside world.

In this case, work and faith connected in my own patient response. On my own frustration leads me to take my computer home and work, instead of staying and working through the actual problems. Faith allows us to work through to the end. Faith allows us to keep hoping, even after the third attempt of turning on and off everything you know how to turn off and on, the computer still works.

When it all works again, I come back to how my work seems less connect to faith than my inability to work causes faith. How odd, when I am reunited with the internet and the outside world the connection brings me closer to God in a short praise of thank you. Glad to be back “in touch.” And then, on to work. Scheduling, figuring. Being content with the work God gives us is a blessing in itself. To be grateful for the emails, the questions, the paperwork yet to be turned in, these are the true signs of faith.

God, help me be more faithful in my work. Allow my patience to flourish in times of waiting. Thank you for the beautiful place you have planted me to cultivate faith. Keep me growing in your way. Amen

Posted in Practical Theology | Leave a comment

A Long Journey (2600+ miles)

We live in a beautiful country. This past week Erik and I drove through much of it as we went to see family in Birmingham, Alabama. We had a great time and all the prayers for safety as we traveled were answered. We had a small tare in a fender guard, but they had the part in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We stopped there the first day and it was able to be replaced while we took in the Aquarium. We had a great time catching up with our friends and former choir director/youth director from Canon City First United Methodist Church. We spent some time in Hot Springs Arkansas, a state I hadn’t been to until last week. We really liked our walk downtown after being in the car so much. The food was great, the place was charming and our inn keepers really know how to keep a good inn. We drove through Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, retrieving a cup from each state as we went. We stopped along the historical Natchez Trace and learned of some of the early history of routes through that area. Some early traders would fill their boats and float them all the way down the Mississippi River from Nashville, TN to New Orleans. In order to get home they would walk! Think of how many months that journey would have taken by foot. At this point, we were very glad we would not be walking home from Alabama. We continued on eating trial mix and thinking about the early settlers of our country at various stages. We listened to books on tape. Finally, on the 4th of July we made it to Don and Janine’s house, where we were offered southern hospitality. We ate BBQ and talked about life. The rain was nice for keeping it cool, and brought out God’s natural fireworks– fire flies. We were able watch the “Thunder on the Mountain” fireworks show from the couch. The next morning we went to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The tour was self guided, but the volunteers told important stories and we saw a lot of history. Did you know that only 50 years ago there was a church bombing killing 4 African American children in Birmingham? We saw a picture of Rosa parks in a context that brought tears to our eyes. The bus boycotts went on for over 381 days. The church was extremely instrumental in civil rights during this time, but out of 700 churches in Birmingham only 60 participated in the movement. We touched the bars of the Birmingham Jail cell where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous letter to fellow clergy who had criticized his ways of doing things. We know it as “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” I didn’t realize it is 15 pages and hope to read it soon. We had a wonderful visit with Erik’s family and saw much of the history and learned stories from his Dad’s side of the family. We slept in! We enjoyed delicious southern delicacies such as pork ribs, Mississippi mud cake, and pimento cheese sandwiches washed down with Sweet Tea. Mmmmm, it was wonderful. We headed back to Colorado by way of Oklahoma City where it was nice to see some dear friends. We went through the Oklahoma City Memorial and saw how quickly life can change for so many people with the angry act of one or two people. We saw how a community could refocus their efforts to do what needed to be done. We also saw the resilience of people in the timeline of the museum’s creation. Erik and I both really enjoyed a small road trip place on Route 66 called Pop’s. It is a fun place to eat lunch and check out different types of soda. Back on the road again, we were very glad to be home when we got there. We were rested and relaxed and as I pulled into Berthoud on Wednesday morning, I was very grateful to be home again. What a joy to be a servant of the Lord, no matter where our hearts may take us. What a joy to be home.

Posted in Practical Theology | Leave a comment

Christian Conferencing

The main purpose for Annual Conference in the United Methodist church in years gone by was to connect pastors again. Bringing all the pastors together from their far flung various appointments to three and four point circuits, brought joy to the community and lots of Christian Conferencing. Annual Conference this year was more joyful for some and less for others. We turned a corner somewhat between the past and the future as “tweeting” became part of how we conferenced with one another. The days were long, but we clergy could be glad that we didn’t also pack all of our belongings to be sent home a different direction from whence we had come. The changes in some aspects of the church have happened naturally and without fight. We have recognized the shifts in some areas so well. We have adapted already in many ways as you can tell from looking at our history. However, there are still ways that we need to adapt more. Excluding people comes naturally and easily to our ways of doing things and talking. We don’t mean to be self centered with our petitions, we’ve just done it that way before. We talked about and concentrated on Health insurance for our own clergy, where we are as a conference, the state of the union address in multiple forms over the three long days. When the kingdom of God broke in, it was exciting. There were times when we enlarged our scope and thought about the ideas and dreams of God. One conversation reminded me of my limited thinking when the biggest thing I could think of was the internet or world wide web, and Jason (our lay delegate) shared his thoughts…”What about the Universe.” Well there is that. So, my perspective was again widened. I was reminded of how small and significant we are. Yes, somewhat small, but still important in the lives of people who seek God in this big Universe. We are part of what helps connect people to one another with a different story. We aren’t telling the same old narratives about get more, keep what you have, and stay isolated. We have a remarkable story that makes the idea of a new state called Northern Colorado seem insignificant. We serve God, who is greater than the Universe. God has a plan that is encompassing for all who are hungry and thirsty. We are part of making God’s vision a reality. The reminder of how significant we are in the lives of people here in Berthoud and around the world is further enforced with our Youth missionaries who are making a huge difference in a place where real need is a daily reality. We are part of what helps God’s way come about in the world. We are all together in our Christian conferencing. We are still learning about what we are doing to be part of God’s vision. With 5000.00 for the Black Forest Fire, more offerings for No More Malaria, and baptism at a memorial service, we are participating in the great cycle of life that goes beyond what we churches can do alone. We are part of God’s story, and we were blessed to be able to share in that story this past weekend at Annual Conference. We are all going on toward perfection. Perfection in love, in this lifetime. What a wonderful journey to be part of, praise God for our connection and Christian conferencing.

Posted in Practical Theology | Leave a comment

Make A Difference Day

May 19th we are going out into our community to make a difference. We all make a difference every day we live. Some differences are more beneficial than others. This week we have specific projects that will help us actualize our faith. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are going out to serve our community in hands on ways. I am excited for the challenge. I hope that we are friendly. I want us to listen to people we meet as we work together. Maybe we will meet people in our own church in a new way. Perhaps we will make an impact in the town of Berthoud in such a way that people will ask, “Who were those people in the Red Shirts?”

We are people of faith. We are ready to serve in tangible ways. I am going to be taking pictures of the projects we work on this weekend. I will attempt to post them in the blog after we are done. Technology is a growing part of how we tell the story of our faith. Hopefully, we will make a difference and will be able to share the results in pictures. May God be blessed through the work of our hands. Praise God for a different way to celebrate Pentecost!

Holy Spirit, use us. Be in our midst as we serve. Help us make a difference that will reflect your creativity, your shape, your enlivening in us. Thank you for being with us as we serve. Amen

Posted in Practical Theology | Leave a comment

Holy Spirit

Holy, Holy, Holy, God of wisdom awaken in me the joy and purpose you have for me. Thank you for the dance you created through breath, life, and hope. I am so grateful for the newness that comes because of your imagination. Imagination ignites and opens the smallest idea into the most fruitful garden. You lift us all into the blessed communion of interconnected mutuality. The dance is so prehistoric, and primordial. Light of life is given to us in accordance with your desire to create us in your image. What a joy to participate with you in Holy community. Amen

I am grateful for the opportunity to shed light on the person of the Holy Spirit in our next section of sermons. The Holy Spirit is often overlooked or not talked about in worship, church, and Christian community. I am grateful for the chance to remind myself of the depth and meaning realized in the doctrine of the trinity and specifically in the Holy Spirit. I am encouraged to uncover the primary functions of the Holy Spirit: creation, shaping, and enlivening. I hope that our congregation will be awakened to these functions in knowledge and practice alike. As we focus on creation, I recognize our own desire to start projects, but not finish them. The Holy Spirit is careful not only to initiate life, but also to finish the creation at hand before moving on to the next accomplishment. One of my favorite quotes I have found while preparing for this series is by Leonardo Boff, a catholic liberation theologist. He says “Figuratively we could say that the Holy Spirit is the creative imagination of God.” Wow, we are invited to participate and be in relationship with the creative imagination of God. As a creative imaginative person, I am enlivened by this invitation. I hope that we will all respond with grace as we are continually shaped by the mutual life giving power, hope, and grace of the Spirit. Arguments over who proceeds and subordinates to whom in the dance of the three persons of the trinity seem quite opposite to the connectedness and holy mutuality that actually are available in the Trinity. One more important reminder, the doctrine is not unimportant, however, our life, and living out of mutuality because of the Holy Spirit are more important than the words we say about who God is. My hope is that the knowledge and learning about the Holy Spirit will directly translate into our hospitality for all, our own imagining with God, and an enlivening which compels us to love in action.

Posted in Practical Theology | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment