Monday, November 26, 2012

When You Have a Dropped Call

Serving in a church that is led by God's call can be confusing. It's difficult enough to discern whether God is calling you to a particular ministry. But how can you tell when the call has dropped?

You've been on the phone, talking with a friend, and just kept going. And going. Suddenly you realize there's a silence which grows longer. Then you know the call was dropped. You don't know how long you were talking into the silence, with no one on the other end of the line. You feel a little foolish.

It's awkward when ministry is like this. Sometimes you keep working long after the connection with God has been broken. And who knows how long it's been? It may have been habit. You may have become so absorbed on your end of things that you didn't realize the conversation was no longer two-way.

What's the solution? Well, after feeling some moments of embarrassment, and, let's face it, a little anger (we're all human after all) you hang up and wait for another call.

What happens next is really important.

You can wait for God to call you into a new ministry. In the words of the Taizé song, "Wait for the Lord whose day is near. Wait for the Lord. Keep watch. Take heart." Farmers especially understand the importance of the fallow field. It takes the land time to recover before something new can grow. Waiting is prayerful time, listening time, discerning time.

But it's equally important to know when to pick up the line and call out to God. Because, as important as listening is in prayer (waiting, too), God's call is not just a one-way dictation. There is an outgoing signal available.

"Tell me: What to do, What comes next, How long, O Lord, how long?" Scripture is full of people just like us calling out to God asking what to do, where to go, what to say, who to meet.

And sometimes the answer will not be very clear. You may have to work your way into hearing God's call. Try out a new ministry. See if it fits. Does the shovel feel right in your hand? Are you well-suited for the job? Perhaps some schooling is required. Or shaking a few trees. Or finding the right people to help.

A dropped call on the phone can be frustrating. But a dropped call to ministry can set you free. You are now free to listen, to experiment, to explore. It can be a hard thing to explain. But if the dropped call happens in a community that truly understands, then you're likely to experience some measure of grace.

I suppose that's my main prayer for you, if you've experienced a dropped call to ministry: a community well-practiced in creating safe, grace-filled space for reconnecting with God. It's also my prayer for the church: That love and grace abound and we listen for God's call together.

Blessings and peace.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jesus, it's Election Day

I wonder what Jesus would make of us. Our representative democracy, that is.

I'm pretty sure he'd be temple-table furious at the way money is poured out, not only in the campaign but as a weapon mightier than any Roman sword. So seldom is money used to empower the weak. It favors the strong. The last will not be first. The last simply get lost in a sea of cash used to manipulate. "Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink."

But what would Jesus think in principle about democracy? After all, he had most likely heard of some of the same participatory ideals. The Antiochenes might have been run out of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, and the Greeks and Maccabees alike might have been conquered by Rome, but something of that old Greek idea of a self-ruled demo-cratic people remained in the air.

I wonder what Jesus might have thought about that. He may have been on the fringes of social and political power (consider stories of the rich young man, perhaps a ruler?, coming to him; tax-man Matthew; associate professor Nicodemus, small business builders the Zebedee boys--these we're exceptions, not the rule). He knew that from the margins, truth can be told: pay attention to the hungry, the poor, the blind, the lame, the lonely. Health care, anyone? Come to me.

"You will always have the poor with you" wasn't an excuse but a tragic reality. I imagine Jesus would be surprised to hear we cite him to withhold health care or food. From the fringes, you can tell what people really need.

Messianic hopes were more often than not political. They were also eschatological, yes, but pertained to how justice might be done. And that meant they were also economic. How ironic that Jesus' future hopes from the margins have become packaged in tax breaks for the wealthy.

I suspect Jesus would go to the polls in NYC where the generators are running and the lines stretch for hours and would see a living parable. The kin-dom of heaven is like a woman who stood for hours on a dark line in the cold waiting to vote because in the end it's not about the money but her voice.

When his disciples asked what he meant, he said, "Can't you see? She believes her voice matters. And it should matter to you because it matters to me, and it matters to me because it matters to the one who sent me. Let those with even one good ear to hear, listen up!"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Eve of All Things New

I was in college when I first heard The Pogues sing Eve of Destruction. Shane McGowan has a voice that sounds like we're no longer on the eve of destruction but the day after! But it wasn't his to start with. The song was actually written 20 years earlier in 1965 by Barry McGuire. McGuire laments the evils of the day, which haven't changed much in my lifetime, and ironically asks if don't believe the world really is about to end.

The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin', bullets loadin'
You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'
You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'
But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction.

He's right, of course, in a way. In every age we wonder. Will there be a tomorrow? Are we on the eve of destruction?

My faith takes these concerns and holds them with hot pads, and gently. Because it's true. There will be another flood, another war, another economic meltdown. There will be violence, shootings, injustice, and pain. There will be destruction, if not tomorrow, then another day.

BUT, and this is a great big BUT, I am holding out in confidence for us to prove the conventional, ironical wisdom of the song wrong. I'm holding out for hope.

Today is not the eve of destruction. It's the eve of something better, at least for the community of faithful people who call ourselves church. Halloween, All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, is a good time to give thanks for the saints who have stood against the violence, injustice, and pain of the world. It's time to remember the ones who said no to war, yes to peace, and amen to justice.

It's the eve of the day when we can imagine a brighter future. In Revelation 21.6, God doesn't "make all new things" but "makes all things new." There's a difference.

To "make all new things" would be to give up on the world, to give up on us. To "make all things new" is to take all that is corrupt and violent and wrong in us and clean us up and make us better. As individuals, certainly, but that's only a minor part of the message. God makes all things new in our community, nation, and world. This is the big picture.

Evil? Yes, it's real. And it's far scarier than any Halloween mask.

But never forget that we're on the eve of God making all things new. Call it the Eve of Reconstruction.

Storms and God, Meteorology and Metaphor

Sandy took me by surprise. Not the wind, rain, flooding, and snow, not the power outages--these were clearly coming, and there wasn't much to do but watch. No, what took me by surprise was the feelings it brought up from Rita and Katrina when we lived north of Houston and the derecho winds that ripped through Virginia this summer.

Some responses come naturally. You get to know your neighbors. You share tools, propane, and tips on where to find ice. You cook meals, if you have power, for those fleeing a flooded Ninth Ward or who ran out of gas on the evacuation route. The clean-up is just work. You cut up and cart off branches, repair the shed, call insurance for the roof, and discard spoiled food. You share chain saws, shovels, and rakes. Being without power when it's hot out is miserable. You open windows, sleep downstairs, hope for a breeze. Being without power when it's freezing is even worse.

This is where those feelings I mentioned come in--not the pragmatic, "let's just get it done" things that take over while you're getting the yard in shape or cleaning out the freezer, but the feeling of powerlessness, the awe of staring into the face of nature's God and feeling incompetent, the paralysis of the fly trapped in the spider's web. The lack of electricity blurs the line between the metaphorical and mechanical. The mechanics of storm response are manageable. The metaphorics of powerlessness, less so.

No wonder people in crisis look over their shoulder for signs of God! And I suppose it's no surprise that the God we find can seem capricious, arbitrary, unpredictable, mean.

But one thing I'm only now beginning to understand is that the place to listen for God's call throughout the crisis isn't in the wind, the rain, the earthquake, or the fire. It's in the needs that emerge in the silence. And as Elijah discovered so long ago, the silence always follows the storm. God finds us, like Elijah, doing all the practical things to save our own life and then calls us from our isolation to serve the common good.

So, where is God when 16 so far have died? Calling us to help. Where is God when 6 million at last count are without power? Calling us to empower.

Some will wrongly see God's judgment in natural disasters, and the list of ills the storms address will correspond to the evils the interpreter already sees in society. But this isn't a time to look for judgment or to assign blame. It's a time to look for grace and by our actions pass it on.

If you want to make an immediate difference through the church, I invite you to write a check to the church and designate it to Week of Compassion emergency relief. Like Spirit of Joy's Blessing Quarters, 100% of designated moneys go to fund needed assistance, blankets, clean water, food, medical supplies, hygiene kits, shelter. Week of Compassion is always among the first on the ground responding to natural disasters, both here and through ecumenical partnerships around the world.

You can't completely overcome feelings of powerlessness when the storm clouds roll in and the wind begins to blow. But in the calm silence that follows, you can be part of the empowerment of recovery and restoration, one blanket at a time. And as a wider church community, we'll weather every storm together.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mary, Marry?

I worked the phones tonight at Minnesotans United for All Families, calling voters to start conversations about their opinions on the upcoming marriage amendment vote. A yes writes marriage as only between a man and a woman into the state Constitution. A no leaves room for more conversation while we work for greater equality.

Two competing feelings struck me hard. The first was just how far we have to go before all loving families are recognized. The second was admiration spilling over into awe at the energy and commitment of people who have more at stake than I do and yet are willing to set aside the combativeness of argument for the far more risky danger of genuine conversation.

But underneath it all, there was a third feeling, harder to identify. Not quite melancholy, but somewhere between sadness and hope.

You really don’t know how it’s going to go. The terrible, blank wall of a phone call to a stranger is a daunting divide to cross. But it matters. So, time and again, you pick up the phone.

“Hi, is this Mary? Great! My name’s David and I’m a volunteer with Minnesotans United for All Families calling to talk with you about your opinion on marriage …”

Mentally and emotionally, you throw yourself into the breach.

“If you had to vote today, would you vote yes and change the Constitution, no and leave the Constitution the same, or are you still thinking about it?”

That call with “Mary” tonight just won’t let me go. Like so many, her voice isn't heard in the horse-race reporting that passes for election-year journalism. She isn’t a hard-liner, yes or no. She’s still thinking about it, torn but probably leaning toward a yes vote. Sure, she has gay friends. One was in her wedding. Her husband later stood up with two of their close lesbian friends at theirs. But she just can’t bring herself to call what their friends have “marriage.”

“Is it so awful,” she asked, “that I want full equality for them and for their daughter who I love, but I don’t want them calling it marriage?”

She wants equal rights for all. She wants the benefits that go to children in married families to go to children of same-sex couples. But she feels we’ve lost so much, there’s so much change swirling around out of control in our culture, that something has to stay stable. “Can’t we just call it something else?” she asks.

“You mean separate but equal?” I ask. “No,” she sighs, “that would be wrong. I’m just torn.” “So a yes vote will make your life feel more stable?” I ask “Yes, well … no. Oh, this is so hard.”

I’m sad that she feels life has become so hectic and uncertain. She feels something eroding, but she doesn’t know what. As she kept saying, she’s torn. Maybe a yes vote, even if it hurts her friends, will keep things whole. Surely they would understand.

Most “leaning yes” people I talk to aren’t hard-line, right-wingers with an ideological ax to grind, for fear the heavenly temple will fall if a single brick is removed. Most “leaning no” folks aren’t radical anti-religious leftists salivating at the thought of anarchy. Few of us fit the stereotype.

It’s not ideological warfare we wage but day-to-day navigation of relationships with friends, neighbors, lovers, and even with our own parents and kids. And we want what Mary wants. We want a sense that our lives are whole.

As we talked, I heard a caller next to me deep in conversation with another voter. “Yes, I’m sixty, and my partner and I have been together 40 years… oh, that’s longer than your marriage? Yes, well, I just hope we can get legally married before we both turn 90… Go to Iowa? No,” he laughed. “What would we tell my mother? Yes, Minnesota. It’s home.”

There’s the humor I’ve been looking for, and it’s not cynical, not sarcastic, but gentle, hopeful, knowing, a reminder that underneath it all we’re talking about the deepest good we can find within ourselves and offer to another. It’s not about a definition. It's not even about rights. It's even more inalienable.

“So you’ll vote no?” I hear him say. “Great. Thank you.” because he knows what I also know inside. We’re talking about something larger than any law or constitution, something that can’t be legislated or judged, but something we need society to honor and protect no matter where it is found and regardless of gender, race, and sexual orientation. We’re talking about love.

“Thanks for your time tonight, Mary” I hear myself say. “I hear that you’re still undecided. I also hear that in your heart you want one thing and in your head you want another. That’s honest. I hope between now and the election you’ll talk with those friends your husband stood up for and ask them to share with you what their marriage means to them. They might be waiting for you to ask, and it might help you feel less torn… You will? Great. It’s been good talking with you.” And I mean it. “Have a good night.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Place Matters

Place matters. Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin wrote in this morning's Huffington Post that when she was reading the first three chapters of Deuteronomy, she was struck by how much unnecessary detail there seemed to be about place.

As is often the case, I got hung up on the opening. I had pulled the Torah off the shelf, settled in for a good study, and got stuck on the very first verse:
'These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan, in the wilderness, in the Aravah, near Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Di-zahab...'
She suggests that it's not just the ramblings of a storyteller gone wild, but instead that there's something spiritually important about place. Think of it. Where were you when you heard the Twin Towers fell? When the Challenger exploded? Or, if you're older, when Kennedy was shot? We remember where we were when something rocked our world. Place matters.

But it's not just tragedies that are tied to place. Tell me about how you got engaged to your partner, and nine times out of ten, you'll start with, "Well, we were skiing at Copper Mountain, and I had the ring in my pocket..." or "It was at her dad's diner at Court and Main." 

We're in the middle of a move from Virginia to Minnesota. We get the comments about the weather, the shift from Southern hospitality to Northern, from chess pies to hot dish, and, did I mention that some people are obsessed with snow? But the question that people ask most is, "Have you found a place to live?" 

It's not the "no" that surprises me. It's the curious way my stomach twists when I say it. It's almost like, if I don't know where I am, it's hard to know who I am. There's something incarnational going on here. Something about being embodied. Something about being in and from a place.

I think the rabbi is right to wonder about the particularity of Moses' final address to his people on the other side of the Jordan, in the wilderness, in the Aravah, near Suph, one block off the corner of Cedar Avenue and 210th Street West. Some of the most important words we hear are spoken to us in the in-between places of wilderness and wandering, often a stone's throw from the Promised Land.

I'm noticing that the corn and bean fields smell like they did when I was a child in Illinois. The bigness of the sky reminds me of the way I could see storms from miles away in Texas. The rolling landscape is lush like the Shenandoah Valley. And the highway drivers have that comfortable big-city confidence and nerve. I'm getting accustomed to this place because there are bits of it that make me feel I've been here before.

It's a spiritual connection I sense, a joyful Walt Whitmanesque roiling of sweat and laughter, rootedness, prayer. I sense that something new is happening, and hard as it is to be in between, and lonely without my family here, it's as if a voice is calling from across the threshold, across the Jordan. And I can't quite make out what they are saying. But if I'm patient, if I listen...

What words, what Word, will I hear? Or you? Because it wouldn't surprise me if you're on the verge of Jordan, too, looking forward to feeling at home in a place, looking forward with a little anxiety in your stomach, but looking forward, listening carefully. Looking to the future with a tiny spark of wonder. Looking to the future in hope.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bring Hope to the Table

My morning devotional time is usually brief. With a kid to get out the door to school, it fits between the alarm and the shower. Daily lectionary readings in my inbox keep me grounded in scripture. And inward/outward (an online ministry of Church of the Saviour in Washington, D. C.) challenges me with a thoughtful idea. But this morning, breakfast came first, and the surprise spiritual spark of the day was on a box of Kroger Corn Flakes.

A cereal box usually has some sort of marketing message for its target audience. Lucky Charms has cartoons. Cheerios talks cholesterol. Special K shows slim, attractive women touting weight loss. Odds are your breakfast cereal knows a little about you. You are what you eat, after all. But the advertisers know you also eat what you are.

My corn flakes this morning spoke to me (but not like Rice Krispies' "snap crackle pop"). The back of the box said something about hope.

Yes, it was written by someone who probably works in the corporate offices of a large food distribution company, and yes, it was probably approved by some mid-level executive whose job it is to protect the company's brand and drive profits. But the message was a good one. It was about Kroger's partnership with Feeding America. Among other things, it said:

"In the past five years, Kroger and you have helped provide 560 million meals to needy families in our communities."

It talked about their food rescue program, bringing perishable foods from the store shelves to local food banks. I thought of the fresh breads and baked goods, the sandwiches, salads and fruit, that we serve at Daily Bread to Lynchburg's food-insecure. When I see employees at our local store pulling the deli sandwiches off the shelf at the end of the day, I know who will eat them tomorrow.

It talked about in-store donations to stock food banks with dry goods. And I thought not only of the food donation boxes by the check-out line, but of the hundreds upon thousands of starter sacks of food we've packed at the Rivermont Area Food Pantry over the yearsFinally it said that to make an even bigger difference, customers should hold food drives in their communities and make donations themselves.

All this is well and good. I was impressed with Kroger's commitment to feed the hungry. When good and generous corporate citizens address the critical needs of the communities in which we live and they do business, it's a sign of hope. But something nagged at me after I spooned the last drop of milk from the bowl. Good as it was, something was missing.

The box talked about essential moral actions, which are relvant for any person of faith, any person of good will. It didn't say it in so many words, but as a Christian it wasn't a stretch to get from the Kroger message to the charge that not to feed the hungry would be like walking by on the other side, ignoring the man robbed on the Jericho road. It would be like letting a bleeding person bleed, or withholding CPR . It would be like denying an AIDS patient the lifesaving drugs that commute the death sentence of the disease. Jesus had clear words for those who have two coats when a neighbor has none.

Let those with ears to hear (even if it comes on a cereal box)...

Because there's more that has to be said. I supposae what niggled in my mind's ear was this. For those who have not only ears to hear but voices to speak, more is required. We have a further obligation. Feed the hungry, yes. Of course. But then take it to the next level. Speak up and speak out. Work to reform a system that allows hunger to persist.

No one who studies such things denies that we can produce enough food to feed the entire planet. We have the capacity. We have the technology. We even have the ability to distribute food wherever it is needed. What we don't have is the will, the sense of moral necessity to take care of our neighbor with more than a charitable donation. What we're lacking is a collective will to establish justice.

There is nothing just or equitable about anyone in this day and age dying of malnutrition, undernutrition, or starvation. God tells Micah the first thing required of God's people is to "do justice." So we shouldn't just talk about it it. Let's do it! We have the ability to grow, process, and distribute healthy food to every human being on the planet. What we lack are just economic and political systems and a collective moral sense of urgency. Sometimes we have the urgency, but we don't believe we can make a difference. What we then lack is hope.

Hope for the Christian isn't aimed at the improbable or unprovable but is aimed at God's vision of human flourishing. Our hope translates into concrete actions like sacking starter bags in the food pantry. But more: it means advocacy, education, and lobbying efforts to reform unjust distribution systems and transform hardened and cynical hearts. It means calling out bad corporate practices that deny life's necessities to those who can't afford them. It means being critical of any form of capitalism that is so completely laizzes faire that it elevates self-centered liberty above the other-regard of unconditional love. It means using democratic processes of the public church to persuade, to inspire, and to implement.

Do all this in faith and we "bring hope to the table," as my Corn Flakes copy writer suggests. But the hope of food for the hungry comes from a larger, even more inclusive table than any board room or editor's desk. Hope that will change the world comes from a table set with the memory of sacrificial love. Hope comes from a table where all are welcome and no one is denied. Hope comes from a table where justice and peace kiss, and they promise to spend the rest of their lives in partnership for the flourishing of all of God's children.

It takes courage to bring this sort of hope to the table, a hope that feeds the hungry, yes, but also works to eliminate the structural causes of hunger. It takes a willingness to imagine a better world, more just, more loving, more reflective of shalom.

So, what are you having for breakfast?

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Racism is prejudice plus power

This morning a member of Spirit of Joy asked me if I'd ever written a racial autobiography. The answer is, sort of. Yes, I've written about my experiences of race, but it's been in the context of preaching. And yes, I've talked about my awakening to issues of power and prejudice, but usually it's been in the context of teaching or part of a dialogue group.

So, here goes...

We moved to Eureka, Illinois, from the south side of Chicago when I was a few months old in 1965. Dad was a minister working on his doctorate at the University of Chicago, and Mom was a first grade teacher in a newly-integrated school. This was the same year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was used to overturn local ordinances against a person of color spending the night within the Eureka city limits. It was news when the first black family moved to town. They were not welcome and didn't stay long. We were white and therefore more welcome, and we stayed.

Dad had taken a position as chaplain at Eureka College. His most controversial sermons in chapel dealt with Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. Sometimes when he preached , we'd get burning smudge pots thrown up into our yard by students. This wasn't Berkeley, after all. Not all college students in the 60s were advocates for justice. Some were more comfortable with the status quo.

One of my earliest memories was helping Mom sew banners to be used in the College chapel. By helping, I mean getting in the way, of course! One that fascinated me was of four interlocked hands: black, red, yellow, and white. Another was a large peace sign. I didn't know these would be seen as radical statements. They were just our values.

Mrs. Colburn taught second grade. She used to spend her summers on the Navaho reservation weaving with tribe members. She brought looms and weavings back to class in the fall, and she taught us about Native American culture through activities and stories. I learned something about acts of solidarity from her, even if I didn't understand yet about economic and political oppression. She taught me to weave, and so my Grandpa made me a simple loom based on a Native American pattern. I tried to recreate some of Mrs. Colburn's Navaho designs in my own weaving. I still think of her when I think about race and economic and political justice. She planted a fertile seed.

During middle school our family moved to Bethany, West Virginia. I learned in WV history classes how the state formed out of the racism of the Civil War. But the only "race" concern my friends and I really noticed was who was Italian or Irish, Polish or Greek. If you were a mix or couldn't identify with one group or the other fully, you didn't fit in.

It was in college that I became more fully aware of the white privilege that precedes me everywhere I go and the institutional racism from which I benefit every day without having to lift a finger. A teacher who'd fought in the Battle of the Bulge helped me understand just how elite my position is in our culture. Nobody pays attention when I walk into a department store past the jewelry counter. I won't ever be racially profiled. I can go to court and expect a fair trial. I can trace my family back to our origins in Germany because public records are available and family lines are intact. I take such things for granted. Those whose ancestors came here as slaves cannot.

White privilege was driven home for me when Katy and I discovered we were approved for our first rental house because the landlord preferred us to an Hispanic couple. Why? Race. Does benefiting from white privilege make me racist? Sigh. Yes. Let me explain.

In Dismantling Racism, Joseph Barndt argues convincingly that racism is prejudice plus power. Of course, anyone can be prejudiced. Most of us are. We make judgments about people based not on full knowledge but simply first impressions. Cultural assumptions are our starting place. Most, if not all, of us are prejudiced. But not everyone has power to act on prejudice. In our society, power (which means wealth, education, health, and access to decision-making) is still largely held by white, heterosexual, married males. Power is personal, yes, but it's also institutional and cultural. People like me hold all the trump cards. And we don't give them up without a struggle.

Does this make me racist? I'm white in America. So, in a word, yes. The playing field isn't level. I start every touchdown drive at first and goal. Or to use an apt metaphor from hockey that has a nice double meaning, I'm always on a power play, whether I want to be or not. I benefit from the prejudice plus power equation culturally and institutionally, even if personally I don't want to think of myself as prejudiced. The reality is that even with the liberal, aware parents I had and the education and awareness I've gathered over the years, I live in a white power culture that gives my voice credibility before I've earned it. I have access where others do not. If you're white, so do you.

Yes, this makes me squirm.

But It's a matter of faith for me to share this, to confess it, because I know full well that many of us have more in common with Jesus' oppressors than with his disciples. I read the Christ hymn in Philippians 2 as a challenge for my life: to empty myself, to pour myself out. This means divesting myself of power while at the same time using what power I have to empower others. I'm not very good at it yet, but I'm getting better. This awareness shapes me theologically and politically. It gives me a deeper sense of God's redeeming and saving presence among those I may think of as marginalized but who don't need my guilty pity. They need justice. And I need it. God expects it.

My hope is that as the church of Jesus Christ, we can recognize injustice when we see it and work to balance the playing field, and in doing so completely change the game. Equal opportunity won't exist until relationships are fair and just, and we treat each other not as types or races or genders but as beloved children of God.

I realize the conversation is only starting. And this is a weighty place to begin. Still, as we set off along the way, I wish you:

Blessings and Peace.

Getting to know each other

This summer I'll enter into a new pastoral relationship. Spirit of Joy Christian Church in Lakeville, Minnesota, has called me to be their next pastor. Jan and Joy Linn gathered this community over a dozen years ago and have served as co-pastors since its conception. I have the distinct honor and challenge of serving as their successor in ministry.

When I talked to some of the leadership of the church yesterday, we agreed that it would be good for folks to have some way of getting to know me better. We talked about sending a letter to the church, perhaps sharing some things in my ministerial profile on my Search and Call papers. Some of that will happen. But we agreed that whatever else we did, it needed to be personal and direct.

Just this morning I got a facebook message from a member of the church. He was gracious and welcoming. He also started a conversation with me about race and racism. I started to respond privately but then realized I was writing a blog-length post. Epiphany! I have a blog that's been inactive a while. Why not reactivate it and use it to help the church get to know me? That's what you'll see here.

If you're part of Spirit of Joy, feel free to be in touch. Friend me on facebook or follow me on Twitter, or simply email me, and if there's a topic that might help you get to know me better, I'll share what I can here.

Blessings and Peace,