Big Hair & A Bigger Heart

My first real life experience with a Texas lady happened when I was 6 and my uncle married the daughter of one.  My aunt is a California girl, soft blonde and athletic tan, but her mom has never really left Texas.  She is immaculate with gorgeous pastel colored suits, matching shoes, coordinated jewelry, and hair teased to perfection.  She is elegant and proper with a side of sassy, a dash of fun, and just the sweetest hint of an accent.  Her look has evolved over time, she’s always current and polished.  I have never seen her less than fully done up and ready to take on the world. For years this mighty woman served as the wedding coordinator of her church, overseeing elegant events with hospitality and an eye for details.  She takes church seriously, a devoted woman of deep faith.  About 10 years ago her church turned over the worship band to some younger folks.  They were showing up to church to lead worship in flip flops and ripped jeans.  At first her sense of decorum was ruffled.  How can they take God, church, their role seriously when they look like they just rolled out of bed?  But then this wise woman paused.  She remembered that church wasn’t about her or her idea of how things should be.  It wasn’t about what she preferred or her sense of style.  The bottom line is that church is about helping people to have an experience of God.  So she looked around and saw other people, some of whom came to worship in their jeans & flip flops. These folks were...

Life Nourishes Life

We just got back last week from our annual regional gathering of United Methodists.  Every year pastors and church folks get together to celebrate our life and work, make new rules for our church, and to reflect on how we can best embody God’s call for our future.  We close churches and hear their stories, we sit through reports on our pension plans, we dance and sing together in worship, and we rejoice at the amazing things unfolding in churches and communities across the region.  It is all part of the life of being United Methodist. This year it was really important for Jeff and I to say thank you to the people of the region who have trained us, taught us, nurtured us, supported us, challenged us, and allowed us to experiment.  We’ve received a grant from the regional United Methodist Church to start the faith community and many others from the region have personally donated as well.  For a long time people in leadership have been sending us to trainings or encouraging our vision.  We would not be here at Sellwood if it hadn’t been for the support we have received from the regional church structure and from people at all points within that system.  We are thankful for the vibrant life of the church that has nourished this new shoot to begin blooming.  We created a booklet to share our story with folks at the annual gathering.  Most of it was edited down selections from this blog, but at the end were some facts and quotes I’d like to share again.Fast Facts:* We have had 42 unique participants this year.* We launched a weekly dinner 10...

Really Hard Conversations

Several years ago I was part of a church that a troubled young man was attending.  He was quiet, a loner, and wore the typical uniform of disaffected youth of the time, meaning a lot of black t shirts and ripped jeans.  I tried to build a relationship with him.  I talked to him and on the rare occasions he talked, I listened.  His walls were always up and there were long periods of time where I did not see him due to his struggles and the consequences of those struggles. One day I got an email from someone who knew the young man.  In passing the young man had said some things that worried this person and they asked me as the pastor to do something.  The comments had been reported to the police, but the person was still concerned.  And so I had one of the hardest conversations of my life with someone who I knew had a darkness in him.  I was terrified.  I did not want to make myself, or worse yet, someone else a target.  I did not want to accuse someone of something horrible that wasn’t true.  And I was worried that this conversation might not be enough.  How could I live with myself if something bad happened later? It would have been much easier to convince myself that there was not really a problem here.  To lie in my heart and say that there was nothing I could do since it was in the police’s hands anyway.  To stay silent would have been far simpler, but something in me forced me to...

We Are All Walking Art

A few months back our leadership team was brainstorming ideas to make our community more known in our neighborhood.  We decided that we wanted to share love with our neighbors, but were having a hard time striking on an idea that would be both a public invitation to come and see about us as well as a positive act towards our neighbors. Jeff had just taken down the strand of lights on the porch so that the painters could begin their work.  Our porch looked so bare I couldn’t help but notice the two large hooks that our plants had hung from last summer.  Those hooks, the conversation we were having, church signs in general, and a recent Portlandia episode all mixed together in my brain and the spirit took all of it and inspiration was born.  We decided to get a chalkboard and write positive, hope filled messages to our neighbors.  We live on a street where over 16,000 cars pass a day, some of them stopping right in front of our house due to pedestrians using the cross walk or heavy traffic from the bridge construction down the way.  Lots of people in a hurry forced to stop.  What a wonderful thing we could do here. So then began weeks of researching chalkboard building and types of chalk.  I found an old broken chalkboard behind the door in my office at the traditional church I serve.  Not only was it cracked with a hanging bracket missing someone had taken crayon to it at some point.  I hauled it home and painted it with blackboard paint.  I bought...

What’s in a Name?

Sometimes people ask why we don’t have the words “United Methodist” in the name of our new faith community.  To be honest the name we are using is a place holder.  It’s something simple and direct to let people know what we are about, and really Jeff and I couldn’t agree on anything else.  We took that as a sign that we needed input from the people who would make up the community to really create the right name.  I’m not sure who we are going to become, (my vote for Daystar United Methodist Gathering was laughed out of contention)  but I know that no matter what we are called we will never stop being grounded in the United Methodist Church. Part of that is because the leadership of this community is United Methodist clergy. And although neither one of us is a cradle Methodist we both came to the church early on, I as a pastor’s kid and Jeff as the organist’s kid.  Throughout our lives we have been fortunate to be actively involved in United Methodist Churches in Oregon, Illinois, Arizona, Washington, and Idaho.  We have friends throughout the world who we met at United Methodist trainings or in seminary. We are fortunate to know incredible people who have done amazing, transformational ministry over the years.  The gifts that they have shared in the work of God have been important and beautiful. This is not to say that there aren’t some serious drawbacks to the United Methodist Church.  Right now our global organization is going through the pains of dealing with our rapidly changing world and culture....