Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who is my neighbor?

The last couple of weeks’ circumstances have me asking the question: “Who is my neighbor?” My family spent four days without electrical power or heat during a recent ice storm. There was lots of company as our entire street and much of our town of Amesbury, MA was without power. (Just a note, some folks in this region are still without power, two weeks after the storm.)

We learned during the outage that you can heat a room with candles, the old Coleman camp stove still works and cold showers lose their charm very quickly.

My older son and daughter–in-law stayed with us during those days as well. So they also learned that I snore. (According to them it was a toss up whether my snoring or a chain saw was louder.)

All through the dark nights the rumble of portable generators accompanied my dreaming and my waking. Of the seven houses near us, 4 had generators. (I wonder it that was the noise my family thought was my snoring!)

After the return of power, I had opportunity to reflect on the entire event. Here are some of my observations:

  • When you are cold it is hard to think of much else.
  • The novelty of candle light wears off after a while.
  • None of my neighbors, who had generators, checked to see if any of the non-generator folks needed help.
  • Before I become too smug, I realized I didn’t check on any of my neighbors either. I at least had a warm room and warm beverages to offer.

When I listened to the stories of some folks from one of the churches my wife serves, I realized what a lousy neighbor I had been. One fellow told of checking with his neighbors up and down his street to see if they needed help. He had borrowed a generator, but only needed it for a few hours at a time. So he offered it to other to help warm up their homes and cool their food.

I realized this fellow had demonstrated what it means to follow Jesus, to be a true neighbor, far better than I. I took it to heart and began to think of ways to help my neighbors. I’ve already snow blown a driveway and helped dig out a water delivery truck stuck by the side of the road, because I want to be a better neighbor.

See how one example can inspire us all to a greater good. I think that is what followers of Jesus are all about, living in a way that inspires the best out of others.

Who is your neighbor? Jesus had something to say about that. Those who follow Jesus have something to do about it.

Just one person trying to reform his neighborly ways,


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Challenge for Jesus' Followers

How does a follower of Jesus celebrate the birth of Christ amidst the onslaught of a cultural Christmas?

This time of year offers the greatest challenge for followers of Jesus to remain or become more faithful. As our culture kicks into Christmas high gear, Jesus followers are challenged to step back and slow it down.

Over the years an unease with Christmas has grown in me. As our society places greater and greater emphasis on buying, giving gifts and getting gifts, we’ve moved farther away from anything to do with the birth of Jesus. The pressure to support the economy, purchase more, do more seemingly escalates each year.

So this year I am trying to approach the cultural Christmas as an outside observer. My primary observation is that we approach Santa as a god. Listen to the language used around Santa. It is religious language. In November, Macy’s Department Store took out a two page advertisement in the Boston Globe exhorting us to “believe” in Santa. Stories and movies about Santa hinge on people believing. Belief is even encouraged by adults. Santa has taken on mythical and mystical characteristics.

In a culture that centers around consumerism Santa is a perfect god. What do you do with Santa? You ask for gifts. What does Santa do for us? Santa brings us things. If you do not believe Santa is a god, try saying that Santa is not real in church. Then step back and prepare for the backlash.

I do not begrudge our culture it’s holiday. I think there are many good things about it. But I do not wish to confuse the cultural celebration with the birth of Jesus.

I invite you to step back from Santa and our cultural Christmas. Ask yourself what is a suitable way to celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. Feel free to share your ideas. Find those who will join you.

Perhaps these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer will help:

Who will celebrate Christmas correctly?

Whoever finally lays down

all power, all honor,

all reputation, all vanity,

all arrogance, all individualism

beside the manger.

Grace & peace,


Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Already?

Have you noticed? The Christmas barrage has begun. Right after Halloween I began to hear Christmas songs in the stores.
I sense a deeper anxiety around Christmas this year. Stores are worried people won't spend. Shoppers are worried they do not have enough to spend or dare not spend what they have.

Recently four young adults have posted a YouTube video inviting folks to rethink their Christmas giving. It is called "
The Gift of Presence." Click here for the link.
They invite us to give our presence as a present this Christmas.
Watch it and let them know what you think.



P.S. For the sake of full disclosure, two of the young adults in the video are part of my family.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Leaf Drop

Carpet of leaves
Rose up overnight
Blanketing my yard
Covering imperfections
Hiding anything left behind

Carpet of leaves
Funeral shroud of summer
End of this life cycle
Leaving behind branches bare
Preparing for new possibilities

Carpet of leaves
Herald of winter
Time to sleep
Sleep to renew
Awaiting what is yet to be
Food for the future

Carpet of leaves
Leaving behind what has been
Letting go of what was
To make room for what will be
Release my grip on the past
Let what has been
Become the food for what will be


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Not More-Different!

I'm in the thick of church conferences. As a District Superintendent I lead the annual meetings of the congregations I serve. Between late September and Christmas I will conduct around 30 church conferences. Currently I am around half way done(some may think I am really just half baked.)

One theme I try to share at these meetings relates to our changed reality and how the church needs to respond. I speak about focusing on moving out into the community rather than waiting for folks to come to us. During the question and answer time of the meeting I'll often hear a question like this; "Mike, our plates are already full. We have trouble finding enough people to do the things we already do. How can you ask us to do even more?"

It is a great question. I believe the answer is not doing more, it is doing different.
These times challenge us to focus our energies where they will have the greatest impact. Frankly, that is not in our church buildings. More committee meetings, fund raisers and church suppers will not make our church strong. Neither will they advance the Kingdom of God. Now before I get too much hate mail, I don't object to committees, church suppers or fund raisers in principle. But if we have to choose between doing things in the church or being out in the community, then going out should win out.

It is time for us in the church to do differently. It may mean we need to leave behind some long standing activities in order to respond to God's call into our communities. Recently one church in our District stopped a 60 year old tradition of meatball suppers in order to find the time and space to do something new. It was a hard decision, but the right one.

What different focus is God calling you to? It is time to do different! Listen up, God is speaking to you.

Grace & peace,

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reflections on a Haircut

This week I broke down and sought professional assistance for hair control. Translated, I had my hair, what bit is left, cut. Since moving to Amesbury, I’ve settled on the local outlet of a national hair cutting chain as the location for my hair control assistance.

Several times, a young woman, who clearly lives on the edge, has cut my hair. During those visits I’ve learned a little about her. She grew up in Amesbury, but now lives in a neighboring city. She has no church back ground and t is not intimidated by cutting the hair of a pastor. (Sometimes once they learn I am a pastor, most, if not all conversation ceases.) She usually forgets about me between hair cuts.

This time she asked what I do for work. I explained that I am a United Methodist pastor who supervises other United Methodist pastors and churches. I mentioned that the United Methodist church in Amesbury was one of the ones I served.

Then she asked me the question which has me thinking; “Do you have all of them?” By all of them, she meant all the churches in Amesbury. She went on to share that she’d been in one church in town which she thought was incredibly beautiful.

I believe in her mind the churches were all one. Each related to the other. She had no knowledge of denominations, traditions and all the other ways we in the church divide ourselves up.

That is when it struck me. For someone outside the church, the church is the church is the church. There is little distinction between different denominations. To carry this the next step, when a church does something, it represents for them the action of entire Christian church

If one church is caring, generous or welcoming, it reflects on all churches. If one church is bigoted, judgmental or arrogant, it reflects on all churches.

This young woman understood what we so often forget, the Body of Christ is one body with many parts. I think the Apostle Paul had something to say about this.

As we go on with our competitiveness, petty fights and serious disagreements, the folks outside the church see it all very differently. They see us as one entity.

My hair stylist has challenged me to let go of some of my old prejudices and find new ways to relate and support my brothers and sisters in Christ who are not United Methodist. She has given my much to reflect upon (as well as a decent haircut).

I hope it will get you thinking as well.

Grace & peace,


Monday, August 04, 2008


Yesterday I worshiped at HopeSpring, a satellite church of St. Luke’s UMC here in the Orlando region. They offered us a wonderful welcome. They understand hospitality. The lay volunteer responsible for the welcoming ministry shared with us this explanation; “Every time we receive the Lord’s Supper we experience God’s incredible hospitality, how can we do any less for those who come to us.”

What an incredible, simple and deep understanding of hospitality and the Lord’s Supper.

Why do we welcome the stranger? Because God welcomes us each time to the table. Pretty simple isn’t it!



Sunday, August 03, 2008

What If?

Since last Wednesday I’ve been in Orlando, FL, at the School of Congregational Development. There are 9 of us from the Tri-State District attending this event. We are meeting United Methodists from around the country.

I’d like to share some musing or reflections stimulated by this time of conversation and learning. Most of my musings are in the “what if” category.

Marcia McFee lead a workshop around music and new starts, but it was really about good worship. The first “What if”; What if you or I could walk into any church in our district (or in the conference, dare I dream in the country?) and experienced truly “great” worship? My idea of great worship is fairly simple. In great worship the presence of God’s Spirit is experienced. Good worship moves me beyond my self into the reality of God and deeper into genuine community. Remember, God as revealed in Trinity, is Community by God’s very nature. In good worship we are moved, comforted, challenged and in some way changed.

Carol Howard Merritt ( opened my eyes to the reality lived by young adults today. She challenged us to see the challenge many young adults face today and the incredible gifts they offer to the church. The second “What if”;
What if we embraced our young adults and youth(they are not the same) and made place for them in leadership in our churches? Of course that means change and letting go of power. I wonder if we can do it. I know we can not afford to not take the chance.

One theme I’ve heard is the importance of disciple making. This includes new persons coming to a life changing relationship with Christ and all believers growing into persons guided by Christ in all they do (disciples). A small group of faithful disciples could change a community. “What if” number three; What if each of our churches understood as a primary task to grow every participant to the fullest spiritual maturity possible for that person? Our churches would dramatically change. They’d become places which followed God’s lead into remarkable, risky ventures of mission and ministry. Buildings would no longer tie them to their spot or continually sap the energy and focus of a congregation. The old tension between personal piety and social witness would be mute.

What if? Here are some of my “What ifs” for now. More may come later.

Grace & peace,


Wall-E Go See

Wall-E. Who would of thunk it! A garbage picking robot who teaches us about friendship, dedication, change and hope. Sure enough, Wall-E the star of the movie with the same name, does all of these things while entertaining us and making clear social commentary.

I won’t give away the plot or present a detailed review. There are folks who have already done this far better than I can. I will offer an endorsement. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to go. You can even take your kids. It is a story about the earth literally buried in our garbage. It is a view of the future which is bleak but also hopeful.

Wall-E is fun. Wall-E is provocative. Wall-E will spin off all sorts of toys, etc. which ironically is a great example of what Wall-E warns us against.

Wall-E – go see.


(Enjoying the rapid growth of his garden and two weeks of vacation)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Off To Annual Conference Again!

This week is the yearly meeting of the New England Annual Conference. I have attended sessions of annual conferences since 1974. My annual conference experiences include Western PA, Troy, Maine and New England. Some of those sessions were deeply political and sometimes deeply divided. Others contained inspiring worship and times when the agenda was interrupted by the unexpected in-breaking of the Spirit. Some sessions were engaging and some boring. Some times the annual conference contained all of the above.

Personally I long for a time when annual conference sessions are short on business and long on inspiration. I’d love to see delegates go home empowered, equipped and excited. I dream of annual conference becoming a launching pad for new energy and ministry for the coming year.

Now some of this occurs in our current form of conferencing. I appreciate the dedication and hard work of all who make our gathering possible. I do not believe our gather is a waste of time (at least most of the time). Still I dream of something more.

With all this said I’d like to make some simple suggestions for annual conference attendees. I think these may enhance the entire experience.

Make a new friend, particularly someone from a setting different from your own.

  • Learn something helpful for the ministry of your local church. Take advantage of the resources available in workshops, information tables and the people present from around New England.
  • Talk with someone who has a strongly held opinion different from your own—really listen to them and seek to understand their thinking. Seek them out with the attitude of learning from them. You’ll be richer for it. Our churches will be healthier if we learn to listen to each other and treat people with respect. Remember each person present is a beloved child of God and a person of faith.
  • Watch for Holy Spirit moments. You never know when the Spirit will break in.

If you are attending this upcoming session of the New England Annual Conference, I look forward to seeing you there. If not, please pray for us and pray for the church.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

30 Years Ago

This past week Jan and passed a mile stone, our 30th anniversary. Please excuse me if I indulge in a little history. Jan and I met in 1976, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, in the cafeteria of Conneaut Lake Amusement Park. Over a summer of working together we fell in love. A few months later we were engaged, and two years later, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we were joined in marriage. Little did we know what our married life would bring. Our plans were for me to finish my undergraduate degree and then attend seminary (Jan had graduated before we were married).

We’ve learned since those early days that plans change, particularly if you wish to follow God. During my final year of undergraduate school, Jan responded to a call to ordained ministry. So in 1979 we both started our studies at Drew Theological School and began the experiment of job sharing. This new plan grew from our desire to respond to our call to be parents and to be pastors.

Well the experiment has lasted 29 years and continues. Our calling brought us to Maine (a state I had never even visited) to serve churches in Newport and Detroit. We were the first United Methodist clergy couple in the Northeast to job share. We were warned that it would not work (“someone had to be in charge”) and our children would be seriously warped (“they needed to bond with their mother”). Still we chose to followed our calling to co-parenting and co-pastoring.

Again, after 23 years in the parish, following God took us places we never expected to go, to become co-district superintendents. This is the most challenging position I have ever held.

Looking back over these thirty years, I do not regret any of it. We’ve weathered challenges from within and without. Our children have grown up to be well adjusted, creative, caring, incredible adults (okay, so I am a little biased).

So is there some point to my nostalgic ramblings? Probably not. Maybe there is an invitation and a warning. Following God is an incredible way to live! God leads us to places we never imagined and to do things we did not know were possible. If you are a person who wants life all carefully laid out with an iron clad plan for the future, be forewarned, following God will make a mess of your plans. It has of mine and for that I am forever grateful.

Thirty years ago. Who would have thought it possible? I wonder what the next thirty will bring, probably something amazing, challenging and wonderful.



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teaching About Change

I have a question for the five of you who read my blog. How would you teach a group of people about change? I mean the reality of change, the need for change and the way to change? Have you seen a video or watched a movie that invites people to recognize our changing reality or offers new ways to think about the world in which we live?

I am part of a team of people designing a presentation to share with over 700 people who are a part of United Methodist churches in the Tri-State District, where Jan and I serve. The presentation will be shared with groups as small as a dozen and as large as five dozen. Most will be over 45, many over 60 with a few under 30. The presentation will be 15 to 20 minutes long with additional time for discussion. It is intended to stimulate thought about the changing reality in which the church exists today.

So I’m looking for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions for video clips or entire videos and whatever resources you think might be helpful. Please post them here to stimulate our conversation.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

In the Dirt

I have cultivated vegetable gardens for over 20 years. When I move to a new parsonage, locating a garden plot and starting a compost pile are always high on the to-do list.

Gardening is something which grounds me to my past and connects me to mystery. Gardens were a part of my childhood experience. Some of my relatives are farmers. All of my grandparents had gardens. My family had gardens from time to time. Some of my earliest chores involved weeding in the garden and flower beds. A home seems incomplete for me with out vegetables growing somewhere.

Each spring, when I drop a teensy tiny seed into the earth, I am struck by mystery. There is no logical way some speck of a seed can become a tomato plant, a head of lettuce, a bush of beans, a exhaustive supply of zucchini. Yet, a few months later I enjoy the bounty resulting from that tiny seed. This is an encounter with wondrous mystery!

My garden keeps me grounded in the dirt. It helps me mark the passing of the years as I watch the soil grow dark and rich from years of compost. It calls me out of my work routine since even for a low maintenance gardener as my self must take time to pull weeds, tie up branches and pick produce.

The image of gardening permeates my understanding of ministry. In seminary my “theology of ministry” senior paper used gardening as the metaphor for pastoral ministry. (My professors were not overly excited by this.) Yet it remains my primary metaphor focusing on cultivating grow and new life, recognizing the possible fruits, balancing mutually beneficial relationships and practicing selective weeding. Some people have suggested I excel in the production and distribution of fertilizer. I’m not quite sure what they mean.

The garden reminds me of my part in the larger picture. It reminds me of mystery. It reminds me of my own limits and my partnership with the Giver of Life.

So as the days grow warmer you may find me more and more in my garden. If I talk to much about the wonders of compost or seem to proud of my pile of shredded leaves, please be patient. (Don’t even get me started on the profusion of earthworms!) See, it is part of who I am and how I stay connected to the Creator of this wondrous, mystery laden earth.

May you find your way to connect to the mystery of creation and the Creator.


Friday, March 28, 2008

A Sterile World: Pastors, Parishioners, Candidates

A Sterile World: Pastors, Parishioners, Candidates

I’ve watched the debate over Sen. Barack Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright with some dismay. I’m distressed that our country, particularly politicians and media persons have such a limited understanding of the relationship of pastor and parishioner. In most Christian traditions one is not asked to check their brain and free will at the sanctuary door. Rather, preaching is meant to stimulate our thought, to challenge our complacencies and move us to respond. There is no assumption that the preacher’s word is the last word or the only word. I feel bad for the political figures in my former congregation if they were somehow held responsible for every sermon I preached!

While the lack of understanding of pastor-parishioner dynamics is disturbing, it points to something of greater concern. The standard we seem to hold for our highest political leader seems to be one which devalues exposure to a differing ideas. We ask our president to think in a narrow box. But we know that engaging ideas which are different (even opposite) our own broadens our world view and sharpens our own beliefs.

It is no different when it comes to faith. Engaging new ideas does not weaken our faith, but rather gives it new depths as we are forced to think more fully about our beliefs.

What would have happened if the media (and we) focused on what we could learn from the experience out of which Rev. Wright preaches. Those of us who are white would benefit from understanding the experience of those who are black. If we set aside our fears, imagine the new levels of understanding and empathy we might gain.

Also, the pressure to repudiate Rev. Wright speaks of a narrowness of relationship reserved only for those with whom we agree. In my own experience I have benefited greatly from friendships with persons who were on different sides of heartfelt issues. In the community of the church we recognize that we do not have to agree about our ideas to remain in Christian fellowship. (Of course sometimes we forget this in the church as well.)

I was impressed that Senator Obama was able to separate out the ideas from the person, rejecting one while still embracing the other. Do we really want leaders who only relate to people like themselves? Do we want leaders who are afraid of exposure to different, even radically different ideas from their own?

I for sure don’t!

Grace & peace,


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Test of Love

I’m preparing to attend Quest Church Planter Training Intensive, a three day training around new church starts. A part of the pre-training preparation includes the reading of “A New Testament Trilogy”. I’ve not yet completed the book, but the following quote leapt out at me.

“The homogeneous church is not a picture of heaven but of earth dwellers who find it hard to relate to those who are different. Loving those like you, as worthy as it is, is not an award-winning activity. Jesus made it clear that even the Pharisees greet those that greet them. Or as Dallas Willard boldly asserts, the Mafia is nice to those that are nice to them. Loving those who are not like you and even those who abuse you and use you (Matthew 5:48) requires a supernatural Jesus-like love. This kind of love can only come from the person of the Holy Spirit in yielded hearts that long to reflect the truth and grace of God and exists between the persons of the Trinity. Maybe this has something to do with why the Church is America is so impotent to change our cities and communities. The love we employ is natural and centered more on the self than upon God, geared more towards personal fulfillment than the extension of God’s Kingdom, and tends to decline when not received, rewarded, or acknowledged. In this respect we are much more like the world in our practices and lifestyles. That is, those who have a sense of morality in the world.” A New Testament Trilogy, Our God, Ourselves, Our Community. Tom Johnston & Mike Chong Perkinson, pp.31-32.

Does this describe your church, your walk with God. I’ve seen it at work in many churches. We’ve learned to love those who are like us. Some congregations are very good at loving each other, but those who are unlike us, that is a more difficult proposition.

Try this simple test:

1. Imagine you came to church next week and someone was sitting in your pew (I know most of us have a regular pew). Your choice is to sit somewhere else or share the pew with this stranger. Imagine the kind of person with whom you would choose to share the pew. Imagine the kind of person with whom you would choose to sit somewhere else. In this scenario it is not an option to ask the person to move (even though I’ve heard and even witnessed such actions).

I suspect if we are truly honest there is a long list of persons we might choose to avoid. The are likely different from us in some way; age, sex, race, dress, hygiene, etc.

This could be a simple test of love. Are we willing to love them, not from afar, but right up close, shoulder to shoulder? By loving I do not mean a warm, fuzzy feeling, but a way of acting, behaving that is accepting, welcoming and caring.

1 John 4 reminds us:

My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life. We are now God's children, and we know him. God is love, and anyone who doesn't love others has never known him… But if we say we love God and don't love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don't love the people we can see?

I pray the time will come for you and me when others will know us as followers of Jesus by the way we love others, particularly those who are not like us.

Grace & peace,


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is this the place you would come if you did not already belong here?

This great question is posed in a weekly email newsletter, “Leading Ideas”, created by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. The Lewis Center is part of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. (Here is a link to their site:

Is this a place you would come if you did not already belong here? This question invites not only a “yes” or “no” response, but an additional question; Why?

Why do you attend the church you attend?

Why would someone else wish to attend?

Is your (or my) reason for attending the same as someone who does not currently attend?

If you didn’t attend this church, would you attend another?

If so, which one? Why?

I invite you to think deeply and move beyond the simple first response. Share the question with others and listen to their response.

See what you can learn.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Where Are The Youth?

I get asked that question all the time. It comes in many forms. Some ask why there are no youth in their church. Others ask why parents don’t bring their kids. One church even asked how they can make the kids like what they do.

I find it frustrating. Last time I checked most of our communities have schools and those schools; elementary, middle, high schools and colleges all have kids and young adults in them. I drive through communities and see kids playing. I drive by soccer fields and see all ages running around. So the problems isn’t that we’ve suddenly stopped having children. People in New England are still perpetuating the species and a reasonable rate.

This rant isn’t about blame. It seems we get hung up on blame. We blame parents, society, kids, sports, schools for the lack of people under 25 in our churches. But blaming hasn’t increased their numbers in our pews. If it did we’d have run out of space long ago.

So where are the youth? Maybe that is the wrong question. Rather where is the church? Do we really want youth in our church? What are we willing to do to reach them and bring them in? One church in this district provides a place for teens to hang out on Friday’s? Another has an active group which engages in mission activities. Some even have worship services geared to reach youth and young adults.

I am beginning to suspect that most of our congregations (of course that is us) don’t really want youth. We want the “idea” of youth who will then continue on what we are doing. But we are not willing to learn what they need or invest the time and resources to really reach out to them. How many of us have had a conversation with someone between the age of 12 – 18 in which we asked about their interests, listened to their ideas and paid attention to their concerns?

What kicked this off for me was another request from someone looking for a United Methodist church with youth or young adults. They are looking for a congregation who care about young adults and youth. I find it frustrating when I can not direct them to a place within 30 miles of their home, because none of our churches around them reach out to people between the ages of 15 and 25.

Does it frustrate you? Do you have a heart to do something about it in your church? Well, what are you waiting for?


Hey, if you are already engaged in an exciting outreach to youth, share it here. Talk back, let’s hear it.

Handle this Prayer with Care

Wesley Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Do you realize, Lent is coming?

Two weeks from today is the beginning of the season of Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a time of preparation, preparation for Easter. It is a great time to take on a new spiritual practice. Many use it to do something that will refocus their lives closer to God. The tradition of giving up something for Lent, is really about shaking up the normal routine to refocus our lives on God.

Lent is a great time to try out fasting, tithing, intentional Bible study, service to others, prayer, daily devotion or many other spiritual disciplines. I’d like to offer one here, the Wesley Covenant prayer. This prayer, from John Wesley, offers a radical refocusing of life. It challenges us to dependence upon God. To place ourselves completely in God’s hands.

I offer it to you as a daily Lenten practice. Pray this prayer each day during Lent and see what happens. It is the kind of prayer we grow into. We might first pray with the intention that we will someday really mean it. That is okay. That is honest. The prayer challenges us to grow, to let go, to become more fully what God wants us to be.

Please be warned, this prayer when practiced regularly, will change your life. Pray it with care.



Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year

New Year resolution. Hmm. How many New Year resolutions have I made in my life? A bunch. Actually bigger than a bunch. Maybe a whole bushel. (Been looking at seeds for my garden, can you tell?)

There are the usual resolutions: lose weight, eat right, take time off, watch less tv, read more, pray more, …

Some of those I’ve kept, some I’ve not.

But this year I feel the need for something different…something… well new! I resolve this year to learn something new: a new way to see the world, a new way to be a leader, explore some new way for the church to be a church, or maybe something about how I order my own life, my own priorities. I suspect you will hear about it if I do learn something new.

Do you have any resolutions you’d like to share?

One thing I do know is if we share them with someone else, we are more likely to keep them. Mutual accountability can be a wonderful way to keep us on track. Do you have someone in your life who holds you to your word? Who reminds you of your commitments? Who offers support, encouragement or a needed kick in the pants to help you keep on track?

I value those persons and those relationships in my life. They help keep me on the right path and call me back when I stray. In my life, the church community has often been a place of mutual accountability. It involves speaking the truth in love. It includes appropriate boundaries combined with tenacious (stubborn) commitment to relationship. It means loving someone enough to tell them the truth (particularly when it is hard and painful) and then sticking with them through the messy process of change. It means moving through forgiveness to real change and transformation.

Change. Maybe that is what the new year offers me (and you). The chance to change, to start over, to begin again, to move on, forward.. New year, new day…

“Behold, I make all things new.”

May this be a blessed new year.