Monday, May 2, 2016

It's been years since I wrote on this blog page. About four of them, in fact. A ton of life (sometimes a ton of bricks, at other times a ton of refreshing water) has happened. I'm thinking I might just begin to unpack some of the last few years here on this page, and think out loud about some of the things that have been and continue to be on my mind.

Most likely what will emerge is a hodgepodge of thoughts and feelings framed by a personal story, situated in the context of a larger story. Both are stories of human frailty, deep pain, courageous struggle and a flood of grace. Along the way there is struggle; in the end there is joy.

The story will fan out in retrospect and into the future from today, the first day of my life that I have been unemployed. I am here because I made the choice to be, although every choice has experience and reasons behind it. After a 24 year career working for the church, my next vocational pursuit will be outside the church. All previous changes have come because the church called me to a new role. This time around, I'll be looking for doors to open in strange and unknown places.

And I am ready.

Here I go.

You're invited to go with me as I write and sing and pray, and stretch into and embrace a new day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May is everything month!

Apparently May is the month to remember, celebrate, emphasize and promote nearly everything! Perhaps it's because we're perceived as coming out of our winter cocoons and re-awakening to the needs and possibilities of the world. Whatever the reason, I thought I might as well start keeping a list of the May emphasis that I'm aware of, some that are near and dear to my heart already, and some that apparently are meaning to become near and dear to my heart. Check out these worthwhile competitors for our attention:

Williams Syndrome Awareness: a rare genetic disorder that has given our son Ben his unique encoding.

Older Adult Month: promoted by the Church of the Brethren.

Church Planting: monthly prayer emphasis

Pediatric Brain Tumor Month: at Lurie Children's Hospital, Chicago

Preservation Month: our community, Elgin, IL (note that the schedule that opens actually begins on page two)

Do you know of more? Leave a comment.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In such a time as this

Friday evening I had the privilege of preaching at the Middle PA District Conference. It was great for me to think about the biblical story of Esther and how her story informs us as we follow Jesus today. Click here to get the pdf of the manuscript.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Difficult examination

Many reflections on the recent Church of the Brethren Annual Conference have found their way onto blogs, facebook, email lists, and into private conversations, public forums, and virtually every avenue of communication. The reactions have been varied, nearly as widely as the breadth of perspective on the issues that made up our business, notably human sexuality, climate change, a resolution against the war in Afghanistan, and the election of leaders.

I myself have felt like much of what needs to be said is being said, but I do have one observation that for me signifies the deep sense of sadness I felt about this gathering of Brethren.

Wednesday morning worship was attended by fewer than two thirds of the registered conference attenders.

Why do I think this matters? For a number of reasons.

First, I believe it shows that worship as a priority for the Brethren is down on the list. Way down. When there is better attendance and passion for business sessions than there is for gathering to honor God and tend to our relationship with God, then we have a problem. After the week we had, could there have been anything that we needed more than a reminder that we are God's people, the sheep of God's pasture, not because of what we've done, but because of who God is?! Where did so many people go?

Second, I believe the lack of attendance shows that many Brethren attended this conference not for an encounter with God or with other Brethren, but primarily to promote their agenda. And I do mean their agenda. Making the effort to get to Grand Rapids was about political pragmatism, not spiritual activism. We learn this type of politics from the world: getting the vote out, caucusing our position, maneuvering for power. Worship is a spiritual activity that we can't learn from the world: confession, grace, hope, waiting, surrender, servanthood. It felt to me that many early departers had little interest in this spiritual activity.

Third, I believe that lack of attendance shows a disrespect for leadership, an unwillingness to be led through the service of our staff and volunteers. I don't view it primarily as disrespect for the morning's preacher, our General Secretary and my immediate supervisor Stan Noffsinger, at least not fundamentally. Rather, I see it as a posture toward leadership that only allows for leadership when it serves our own predetermined purposes. That actually sounds more like prostitution than leadership. The lack of leadership that is often referred to in the church may be true; but, the void of followership seems to me to be even greater, as evidenced in the mass exodus prior to closing worship. We don't want to be led by one another; do we really want to be led by God?

Some will say that it is typical that the last morning of conference sees a lot of early departures, with cursory business items and "only" worship to cap the conference. I myself have left early in the past to catch an earlier flight, beat the traffic, or hurry home to my family after a week away. I'm rethinking that now, though, because it is becoming clearer to me where part of our problem lies. Even in our primary gathering of Brethren, we are so focused on our own agendas, schedules, and comfortable life locations that we casually excuse ourselves from the worship of God, rejecting the shared voice, heart, prayer, and posture that rehearses once again that God is God and we are God's people.

I'm examining myself on all these questions. Is worship, is God a priority for me? Am I functioning out of spiritual guidance or political positioning? Do I really want to be led by God? Am I willing to follow wise counsel and gifted leadership of my sisters and brothers? Tough questions; difficult examination.

If you made it this far in this blog, you may be saying, "But I was there. It is a priority for me." Thank you. We need each other to stay committed, to keep our priorities ordered. And I may need you to remind me why it is important to stick around for closing worship at Annual Conference next year!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Feeling frustrated and misled

OK, so when I call someone out, CarMax, it's only fair that I say why. (see Twitter feed)

We purchased a used vehicle over the weekend. In the process of the purchase I questioned the integrity of the front tires, stating "they probably pass minimum standard, but they are nearing the end of their life, and I would like to buy this vehicle if it had better tires on the front." The salesman and a second rep looked at the tires and both agreed that they looked worn, and also probably passed the minimum requirement, but they went ahead and wrote what I thought was an order for new tires, but in fact was only a "consult and advise" for the service dept.

So we bought the vehicle. I took it today for what I thought were two new tires and was told "the tread is still good." I said, "I know, but it really is not good, and I was expecting two new tires." Then followed a sequence of "there's nothing we can do, sir"s. Except "if you're not satisfied with the vehicle you can bring it back and we will take it back."

Well, we love the vehicle and are not taking it back, but are less than pleased with the CarMax service at this point. If they inspected the vehicle, put it on the sale lot, and had already determined that the tires met minimum requirement and that they would not change them, why send me out with additional time and energy invested in going back to the garage for "advisement."? Just tell me that it will be sold as is or not sold at all, and then I make a choice.

I am sure that there were not violations of company "policy" and that they are following the letter of their law the way it is written. But I still feel cheated by being put through motions that obviously had no meaning.

I've spoken with sales managers, service managers and corporate customer service. I expect to be buying two tires before traveling for the holidays, and I expect to never again purchase a CarMax vehicle.

If anything changes, I will more than gladly post the resolution...

Side note: within minutes of tweeting my displeasure, I had a direct message from CarMax corporate asking me to call them ... the "power" of the internet.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another NPR story on Williams Syndrome

Gotta love NPR these days. They're giving lots of attention to Williams Syndrome. Check out the latest; brief but informative.

Monday, April 26, 2010

NPR story on Williams Syndrome

Check out this spotlight story from morning edition on NPR that talks about the trusting nature of people with Williams Syndrome, kids like our Ben!