10Q10Q -- faith, life, rethinking church, following Jesus...stuff

Come join in the discussion of faith at the Koinonia Page where scripture and life intersect in conversation and exploration. Visit on Facebook, Twitter, and Dave's Web Page too! I'd welcome your company at Palmyra First United Methodist Church, where I hang out, too, come and see!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Women on the Edge

What if love, not force, is most important in life?  Getting ready for Christmas, Advent in my circles, is all about entertaining a relentless Love-that-will-not-let-us-go, and that does the impossible.  Getting close to such a thing takes us close to the edge, dangerously amazing places.

Speaking of Mary & Elizabeth in Luke's Gospel, Brian McLaren writes, "...the actual point of these pregnancy stories... is a challenge to us all: to dare to hope, like Elizabeth and Mary, that the seemingly impossible is possible.  They challenge us to align our lives around the 'impossible possibilities' hidden in this present, pregnant moment." (We Make the Road By Walking, Brian McLaren p. 69)

The seemingly impossible is possible...hmm.  While pondering this for teaching and worship this week I watched Kathryn Schulz's video, "On Being Wrong,"  a TED talk, about a basic human aversion to being and feeling wrong, and how it limits us. (Well worth the 18 minutes to watch.)  This same human predisposition also makes it hard to willingly believe God can make the impossible possible.  Schulz unwraps why we feel "right" even when we're wrong.  She prompted me to ponder if I might be wrong in my assessment of the "impossible," anything labeled impossible, especially when it comes to God.   

Schultz presents a choice to either, be misled by our feelings of rightness, or to embrace a different perspective beyond the "...tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say, 'Wow, I don't know.  Maybe I'm wrong.'"  Could I be wrong and the impossible really is possible because of something I can't see or feel at the moment?  Trusting something bigger than a feeling seems to me a fair description of what Mary & Elizabeth did.  It might be a reasonable way to describe faith.

Let's look at the story about these two women in Luke's Gospel.  Elizabeth, unable to have a child, learns a baby is on the way.  Mary, young and unmarried, is invited to participate in the life-threatening impossible, and she says, "Yes!"  (Luke 1:5-48) to this possibility.  Both circumstances and participants illustrate paths of feminine leadership, the kind that is a conundrum to the religious establishment (then and sometime now).  Both exhibit allegiance to God, "...who doesn't rule with the masculine power of swords and spears, but with a mother's sense of justice and compassion." (We Make the Road, p.69)

What if you and I regularly entertained the realities of our limited rightness, along with Schulz, and considered the possibilities of God's mothering justice and compassion that births such a love impregnated impossible?  What would change?  What would unfold?  Mary's son "...Jesus ...consistently model(ed) her self-surrender and receptivity to God." (We Make the Roadp.70)  Christmas is undoubtedly a time of wonder, imagination and faith.  I certainly think so.  But, maybe I could be wrong.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Let Love Win

I was a bit surprised this morning by the election results.  Not what I expected, or preferred.  And truth be told, my preferences are not what count the most here.  I do trust that God is at work in this territory.   I pray that we can find new ways to work together and love one another,  love the stranger, and love our enemies, because I believe Love is more powerful than anything. Love wins.

If you rejoice today, I rejoice with you in your gladness.  If you lament today, I willingly wait with you in your pain.  If you are hopeful, or fearful, anticipating or dreading, I pray that Christ's Light and Love may speak to your greatest hopes and fears, leading you in the way of Shalom.  

I commit to continuing to work for the common good and God's justice in the world.  I commit to continuing to seek love over hate, both within myself, and in the world.  As I tell my congregation, "When I say 'Everybody's Welcome', I mean everybody.  God is working with us all. And all of us need work!"  My door and my phone are open to you all.

I share a few of my friends facebook posts here because I think they offer something that may be of use in our quest to be with God and one another in this spirit of love.  At least they have invited me to reflect:
  • Today I hold my head high ... For I look to the hills. From where does my help come? My HELP comes from the Lord! -- Jennifer Williams
  • Jesus followers are people of hope. In victory or defeat, Jesus followers find hope. Oh, be inspired today! Decide that both wins or losses move you only to hope (Psalm 27). Be well. --Pastor  Vance Ross 
  • Today, I return to the words that taught me my worth years ago (refuting those who told me I could only be a Pastor's wife since I was a woman...). These words remind us of who we are called to be as God's people: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." May our churches truly be sanctuaries for all people right now. -- Dawn Taylor Storm
  • By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? - Psalm 137:1-4   --Eric Law
  • Congratulations to our new president-elect, Donald Trump. I am praying for you, especially that you will be successful in keeping these promises you made during your victory speech: " I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans...See More  --Dan Roth
  • I write this from a tree stand in the forest on a rainy gray morning. I cannot deny that I'm disappointed in the choice our country has made. I have been blessed in my life to gain understanding and perspective from many people who are different from me. I have been blessed that I've never truly been fearful of the person who holds the nuclear codes. I have been blessed that I've been raised in a culture that preaches love over hate. Please consider your neighbors whose fear...See More  --Dan Kirby
  • "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" were words written 600 years ago by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) in her Revelations of Divine Love. This is believed to be the earliest work in English written by a woman. Julian of Norwich's words are worth repeating this night: “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." --Leonard Sweet
  • To my African American friends, I love you. To my LBGTQ friends, I love you. To my Muslim friends, I love you.  To my friends with disabilities, I love you. To my fellow women friends, I love you girl. ... See More  --Jessica Yagel
So many thoughts. Such division, among Christians, in our nation. John Wesley said, referring to the Love of Christ, "If your heart is as my heart, lend me your hand." Jesus prayed, "I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other... Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me."  (John 17:20-21 CEV)

You matter to me and to God.  Love is more powerful than hate. (1 John 4:18)  May we all help Love Win!  In your mercy Lord, hear our prayer.

And with my friends I pray for all, our leaders, those forgotten...all.

Check out devotionals for Nov. 9
Upper Room

Thursday, September 22, 2016

7 Keys of a Powerful Life

Dillon Rooke at Hot Metal Bridge
Pittsburgh, PA -- A New Thing!
What a wonderful summer.  Thank you for making the time available. Thank you for the wonderful ministry that you cared for with such skill and faith.  Thank you for welcoming Pastor John for your needs;  he did a marvelous job.  Thank you for daring to be God's called people of Love.

Here are some quick observations:

Seven themes arose for me:
o Community -- intentional outward reaching relationships;
o Listening -- Deep, constant, responsive listening to one another and the world;
o Flexibility -- The speed and risk-taking were amazing, faith-filled, and a consistent theme;
o Prayer --  Every last group spoke of prayer and discernment;
o Authenticity --  Holding conversations about all of life in everyday language of faith;
o Focus -- on calling, people, mission and strategy at hand;
o Tables-- There was a lot of eating!  A place of relationships, learning, caring, & holy conversation.
Three Commonalities:
o All sought to Love with the "Everybody's Welcome" Love of God and it showed. 
o All worshipped-- and no two worship services were the same. 
o All cared for administration, staffing, funding, education familiarly and experimentally.

In the weeks ahead I'll be listening to you and to the Holy Spirit for where this takes us.  I have some ideas and invite you to what I hope will be monthly food and conversation.  I do know that we've accomplished some amazing things with God's grace and there are things we have not accomplished.  I do know that continuing to do exactly what we've been doing doesn't hold much of a future and I also know adapting quickly is hard and necessary.  And finally, I do know that God has entrusted this community and congregation to all of us, so it won't be me telling anyone what to do, but God guiding us all.

I'm excited about the possibilities.  Check out the September sermon series on some of the Themes, they're archived on www.pfumc.us.  Join in the fun of food and conversation together in the weeks ahead.  Pray diligently.  Talk with your Koinonia group about where God is leading.  God is doing a new thing!  Can we see it!

10,000 Joys in Jesus Christ, Pastor Dave

This was written for the Palmyra First UMC Newsletter October 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Study Renewal Summary

It is good to be home!

It is busy to be home with all the resting routines bouncing into place.

Here's a summary of the summer.

"The best experiences are surprises (beyond our control) or invitations (relational and personal)."
                                                                                                                                                      -Journal note Mon. June 27, 2016

"I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams[a] in thirsty lands."
                                                                                                                                                      -Isaiah 43:19  (CEV)

No easy answers emerged by taking time apart, but clarity and renewal surfaced.  The path yet ahead holds many challenges, all able to be met with God.  Experiencing God in this summer stands above the information, although the insights and learning will be vital.  God moments flowed. Here are a few:

  •         On June 5th, the day before departure, I received two glorious prayers and one complaint.  The email complaint clouded my mind briefly until Dave Yascavage stopped in the office and offered to prayer for me as I set out.  What a gift.  Then Mike Poltonavage led the 9am congregation in prayer for me, hands laid, and encouragement abounding.  Unexpected.  Unparalleled.  Wonderfully uplifting.  God at work.
  •         Toward the end of June (29th) I was driving toward Haywood St. UMC in Asheville, NC.  Frustration was high between their pastor being on paternity leave and playing email and phone tag for months, so I was just going to drop in and see what I could find.  150 minutes before my arrival I took a call from Haywood's Executive Director letting me know that their weekly meal was on Wednesday and followed by weekly worship at noon.  It was 9:30am Wednesday!   I made a bee-line to a most amazing worship service and ministry setting.  God's timing.
  •         In July (26th) I spent a week with my extended family at Ocean City New Jersey, only to discover "A Future with Hope" United Methodist Housing ministry working 2 doors down from us.  I peeked my head in the door to meet Katie Quigley, their regional coordinator and a team of High School girls doing rehab work.  Turns out this work parallels our PF 6:8 work, and John Schol (Now bishop and previously long-time Eastern PA colleague) was instrumental in its beginnings.  A moment of celebration and learning from being present between the plans.
  •        There are more stories about the amazing ministry of PFUMC with youth taking new leadership,  Noah's Little Ark team intentionally stepping into and handling new challenges, and SPRC hiring a new choir director.  I could add many "aha!" moments where God spoke deep in my soul to my dreams and my fears.  All important and ready for our conversations and work together.
These God Moments strengthened my faith, enriched the time of study and renewal, and illustrate the hope we have in Christ.

Of all the ministries I visited, 5 stand out as most relevant and most enjoyed. (See notes that follow summary)  All taught me something important.  The 5 are Haywood St. UMC-A ministry with the Homeless,  A Church for All People UMC-A ministry with the community, Calvin Presbyterian-A contemplative ministry approach, Rutherford Campus of Crosspoint UMC-a church restart with a homey feel, and New Birth UMC-a ministry rooted in the Latino community of Lebanon.  If I am to keep this report manageable I must move to the common ground these and other churches demonstrated to me.  As well as a few insights.

Small, large, rural, urban, new, established, contemplative, active...no matter the unique personality and circumstance of the congregation, they each shared these 7 attributes:

  1. Community -- Each congregation found ways to build intentional outward reaching relationships that made a difference in the life of the larger community, that if withdrawn would be noticeably missed.  This was not a single ministry but an ongoing dialogue;
  2. Listening -- Deep, constant, responsive listening to one another and the world.
  3. Flexibility -- Each ministry could tell stories of hearing about a changing need or circumstance and within weeks adapting structure, funding, staffing and/or program to address that discovery.  The speed and risk-taking were amazing, faith-filled, and a consistent theme;
  4. Prayer --  Every last group spoke of prayer and discernment.  It took varying forms in each setting, while consistently looking to God. More often than not, the prayers were non-traditional and interactive.  (Walking prayer, labyrinth, staff devotional exercise, intentionally listening conversations in the community...)
  5. Authenticity --  Holding conversations about all of life, including sin and salvation.  Not a finger-point or blame game, but a consistent acknowledgement of our struggles and God's desire for transformation.  This honesty was always a mutual journey with one another, and never a spiritual fix-it clinic.  It's expression often used language of love, support, challenge and mutuality, grounded in Christ.
  6. Focus -- Each church was persistently listening for their calling and continuously adapted to meet that calling by going somewhere new, ceasing something familiar, failing often and trying again and again and again.  This was a discipline of passion.
  7.  Tables-- There was a lot of eating!  Eating around tables provided connection to community both within and beyond.  Tables openned to the homeless, the inquirer, the questioner, the friend.  Tables set weekly at a predictable place and portable meals.  The Lord's Table consistently showed up in worship on a weekly basis.  And tables were a primary place of relationship building, learning together, caring for one another... holy conversation.

What I haven't accounted for are the predictable church commonalities
  • All sought to Love with the "Everybody's Welcome" Love of God and it showed. 
  • All worshipped, even though no two worship services happened the same way or all at the preferred Sunday Morning slot. 
  • All cared for administration, staffing, funding, education, and the variety of method continued to span the spectrum of familiar patterns to experiments of grace.

I note the alignment of these common observations with the Bishop's 5 Call to Action measurements of worship, small groups, new faith commitments, people serving in mission and resources given to mission.   I can see many of these elements in the work of Palmyra First UMC.

So what does all this mean?  My growing insights and thoughts are:

  1. Pay attention to the common elements.  For PFUMC we struggle with focus and flexibility (quickness), perhaps most, but they all are important;
  2. Build on Assets, strengths, and gifts.  Asset Mapping and encouraging people to work in areas where they have passion, gifts, strength, and interest is key;
  3. Encourage Stories and Conversations.  We are a task culture and not always encouraged to share leisurely conversation or stories.  Testimony is story.  Teaching is story.  Strong community is built on healthy conversation and story.  We need to intentionally make space for these encounters;
  4. Engage a systematic approach to life together (not legalistic) but a pattern to help with the routine.  (Remember these communities might change on a dime too!)  This was harder to quantify yet evident and anecdotally important to pastors and staff;
  5. Focus with Love-- Hold tight to the mission and not the method. Welcome all knowing that our call may only touch a particular group today.  We trust that God is bigger than any one moment or movement.

Next Steps that I'm suggesting:

  •        Study Renewal Conversation -Sept. 18th, 11:45-1:15pm.  The format is a coverded dish or simple lunch (30min), a 20 min laity presentation on insights from "Faith in Action" and summer,  a 20 min presentation by Pastor Dave on insights from the Study & Renewal time, and finally 20 minutes to begin a conversation and ask one another questions.
  •        Plan Monthly conversation gathering(s) for 90 minutes around tables to explore Asset Mapping, our call, our focus and things that grow out of our learning.
  •         Leadership look at staffing and structure for emerging ministry, consistently simplifying board/council/administrative structure and staffing for focal areas was a common observation.
  •        Pray, Worship, Love -- stretching ourselves to renewed openness to the Holy Spirit.

There are many more stories and observations to be shared in sermons, around tables, in conversations, and beyond.  God was at work when I crashed into the bee on I-26 in South Carolina.  God showed up with power as I attended AA meetings.  God spoke to me through two Taiwanese strangers and my grandson.  Ask me to tell you more stories.  They are many because God's generosity is great.

Salvation/Discipleship is not a commodity to be distributed or traded, but an adventurous relationship to be invited into.  Places making disciples and making a difference in the community are engaging the 7 common elements listed and the predictable commonalities with passion, and God-given uniqueness, on a journey with Jesus Christ.

One last word.   On my return I am not planning to change everything.  The only changes will be God's.  I'm simply planning to ask renewed questions and share the stories of my journey and see where God takes us.  Remember that this journey unfolded with your willingness to risk a new experience of Study Renewal.  Never forget how powerfully God used you during these summer months.  Hold tight to the God who promises us new life and willingly walks with us in the good and the hard.   Onward in Christ!

10,000 Joys in The One Who Makes Us Whole

Pastor Dave

Monday, August 29, 2016

10 Gifts of Rest and Renewal

Fountains, living water, captured
my imagination and lens this summer.
Renewal has been a planned part of the summer Study and Renewal leave.  My training, my job and my culture teach me to seek and report tasks, but they seldom encourage rest and renewal.  Thank you for being a part of God's design for rest.  

Below are 10 Gifts of Rest and Renewal.  They are refreshing and wonderful.  Just recall a time you've had time with a friend for a long lunch, or a weekend with no scheduled tasks...nice, eh?  Here are 10 of the gifts that have renewed my spirit:
  1. No Evening Meetings, allowing time for family and offering a restful stopping place at the end of each day;
  2. Walking an average of 5 1/2 miles each day has entertained life-giving prayer, transportation, engagement with the world around me, and improvements to health;
  3. Traveling in my truck, navigating the countryside.  I enjoy the adventure of new places and conversations with new-found friends;
  4. Woodworking offering creativity and clear accomplishment.  (I love working with people, and it's hard to know how much is accomplished on any given day.)  I finished my Ukulele, built a Cajon (wooden drum), and crafted several walking sticks;
  5. Family Time with Penny, the kids, grandkids, my sisters and their families...it's just great to have some additional weekends when they're free, and a slower pace permitted quality time for family;
  6. Worship at Many Tables means that I've experienced the ministry of others and enjoyed the variety in the Body of Christ.  I've worshipped on the boardwalk by the ocean and with a homeless congregation,  in satellite congregations and in historic downtown churches.  Each place and people sharing gifts, experiences and insights;
  7. Learning growing from my natural curiosity, partnered with time to explore everything from places to people, books to museums--every experience a building block;
  8. Pacing that is life-giving.  In our American/Western Culture I/we frequently live as if there were not enough time in the day.  The truth is that God has made plenty of time for that which is important and necessary.  This summer I'm remembering the core of those essentials;
  9. Encouraging Conversations with friends, colleagues, and all those who surround me too often gets hurried in the busy-ness of life.  This summer offered reminders and invitations that it is OK to be right here, right now;
  10. Emptiness draws attention that which makes me richly filled.  There have been moments of personal emptiness beckoning me toward new spiritual and emotional resources.  There have been times of emptiness felt in lost routines, causing me to appreciate deeply the loving congregation that has walked with me through a dozen years and a summer of study and renewal.  What a gift...thank you!
There are more gifts to be appreciated and in this celebration I  rejoice that the familiar rhythms of pastoral life return later this week.  I look forward to reconnecting with the people of Palmyra First UMC-- I've missed you all.

I anticipate renewing familiar tasks with fresh eyes, seeing in the conversations of old and new, glimpses of transformed life promising hope-filled ministry ahead.  I'm excited about this next season of conversation, life and being followers of Jesus together. 

10,000 Joys in Jesus Who Gives Life

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adventure Ahead -- SRL Video 3

Video 3 is here.  It's a wrap-up with events from video 2 until now and has some next steps and common themes (Vital churches that are making a difference and making disciples all have open conversation, genuine listening,  missional focus,  radical love, amazing flexibility,  gathering around tables, and honesty that gathers brokenness to wholeness--sin to salvation in personal transformation and story.)

Adventure Ahead -- SRL Video 3

Video 3 is here.  It's a wrap-up with events from video 2 until now and has some next steps and common themes (Vital churches that are making a difference and making disciples all have open conversation, genuine listening,  missional focus,  radical love, amazing flexibility,  gathering around tables, and honesty that gathers brokenness to wholeness--sin to salvation in personal transformation and story.)

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Guide to Study Renewal

If you scroll back through posts here you'll find them all.  To share easily I thought I'd make a list.  What an amazing gift this adventure is, has been and will be!

Here You Go:

  1. Video Report 3 -- wrap ups and next steps
  2. Video Report 2 -- Bringing the hectic distance travel to a close.
  3. Video Report 1  -  Early Common Threads
  4. 3 Things My Grandkids Taught Me  -- About curiosity, trust and patience.
  5. I Talk to Myself -- Prayer's surprises and when prayer doesn't look like prayer.
  6. True Love, Trailers and Truth -- The accident, my wife's wonderful support, and some of the rest of the journey.
  7. One Step At A Time --  Failure, story and the roles they play.
  8. When Life Takes A Turn -- The bee, the trailer crunch and other times life doesn't turn out like we expect.
  9. Surprises and Invitations -- Gifts come from invitations, relationships and surprises.
  10. Love, Grace & Pancake Corndogs -- Early experiences and a "Place of Possibilities."
  11. Palmyra First Makes the News -- Some local coverage and links to first stops.
  12. Family Rest, Sabbath, starts Study -- Taking time to trust God and connect in fresh ways.
  13. Thanks & Prayers -- Appreciation for a great and supportive congregation at Palmyra First.
  14. The Study Renewal Journey Begins -- an introductory video and some basic info.
  15. The Journey Begins --  A few key document links
  16. I'm Taking Jesus Off My "To-Do" List --  Being and doing and our God-given lives.
There may be a few more, but this gives you the idea.

It's been an amazing journey and in these final weeks I'm reflecting, writing, resting and preparing for the adventure of conversation and next steps with the awesome people of Palmyra First UMC.

Friday, August 12, 2016

3 Things My Grandkids Taught Me.

     Each of my 3 grandkids has taught me an important lesson this summer.  Family insights have been a part of my study-renewal time, because of the margins that have been created by this gift.  Here they are:
     Lesson One: Be Curious and Engage the World --  My oldest grandchild, Jon Jeremiah, in Washington DC this past week, turned to a young Vietnamese man speaking on his phone and said "I don't understand you."   A moment of mild panic for me, Gramps--wondering whether to allow, moderate, or avoid this encounter--became a gift.   A gift of an amazing conversation about culture and the multiplicity of World languages. A gift of honest conversation between a young adult traveler and a 7 year old. 
     Thanks be to God for a stranger's grace and a 2nd grader's boldness.  His curiosity and willingness to engage others is so important in this world.
     Lesson Two: Trust, Play and Enjoy the Dirt -- My son's middle child Miah May easily dives into every day to find a bug, seek out a swing, climb a tree or a door or whatever is in front of her  (There's another story here for another time). She does it with every ounce of emotion and personality that she has. She will freely yell out my name, "Gramps," and then throw herself in my direction, fully trusting that I will catch her. Trust, play, and a willingness to get dirty I learned from my four year old granddaughter.
     Lesson Three:  Be Patient, Content and Present -- Lillee is my two year old granddaughter and is not as easily read at this point. What I do know is that from her I always get a joyous greeting, a hug, and a great willingness to simply be present with me -- she sits and enjoys whatever we happen to be doing. I'm learning new things about patience, contentment, and being fully present in the moment, from Lillee Jane.
     Thinking about my summer exploration of Making Disciples and Making a Difference, I notice that my grandkids' lessons point me back toward practices I've observed in every place I've visited and seen strong, healthy faith community. They embrace these three lessons:

  1. Be Curious and Engage the World
  2. Trust, Play and Enjoy the Dirt
  3. Be Patient, Content and Present
From that joyous, chaotic, curious faith grows new life.  
     Where do these lessons touch your life?  What might you add?

Friday, July 22, 2016

I Talk to Myself-- Help!

Yep, I do, I talk to myself.  It's frequently my transition into prayer.  Sometimes when I struggle in prayer I feel like all I'm doing is talking to myself.  Yes, I do answer.  Yes, God answers!  Yes, the Holy is my help.  And, my praying doesn't always look the same.

A common thread in the places I've visited this summer is prayer, is that, "prayer" doesn't seem to look quite the same in any two places.  Many forms.  Many relationships with the Divine.  All connected.

Prayer at Nuevo Nacimiento UMC (New Birth UMC), Lebanon, PA looks like conversation with neighbors, musical praise, new ideas,  a night apart for listening, and indeed some of the usual hands-folded, or hands-raised prayers.   What I observed was that God answered prayers with the heart, the community, the world around and an inner voice of ideas.

Prayer at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelionople, PA permeated the work of the church in contemplative ways.  Outside the front door was a labyrinth for prayer walking.  In the processes of leadership and planning were moments for silence to listen for God.  Prayer included traditional and corporate prayers in worship liturgy.

Prayer at All God's Children UMC in Aulander, NC shone with action, caring for children, families and neighbors daily.  Prayer was often prayer on the move.  Prayer showed up around worship formed in the spirit of 12-Step meetings and indeed in more familiar ways.

Prayer's common ground was a deep and passionate relationship, connection, seeking-after God. Each community lamented moments that this relationship had taken a second-best position, and how secondary status led to disconnection in practical things like succeeding at tasks in ministry, lost vitality in worship, exit of people, wandering direction, and/or a loss of hope.  Prayer only needed this common ground of seeking God, not a common form.

So, I talk to myself and always believe God is ready to join the conversation.  My prayers are at their best and most exciting when I too am pursuing the Divine.   I find that God's not fussy about my skill, my method, my location, my tools...only my intention to seek the Holy.

In Shamokin, PA, more than 20 years ago, this truth began to find a deeper place in my life as I daily walked the neighborhood, past the culm piles and into town.  Each foot fall moved the rhythm of my prayers forward.  It was the rhythm of listening.  It was the rhythm of lives.  It was the rhythm of retreat.  It was the rhythm of silence.  It was the path to health and life seeking God.

Be encouraged in your seeking the Holy, God, Jesus, Spirit.  Jesus himself modeled conversational prayer on the road to Emmaus.  He gave us a guide to prayer in the Lord's prayer.  He shared contemplative prayer in his retreats to the wilderness.  He shared practical healing, feeding and life-giving prayers.  He celebrated God's grace and offered encouragement.

Maybe your self-conversations, walks, acts of kindness are where your prayers begin.  I'd love to walk with you in this journey of seeking God.  I'd value hearing the forms your seeking takes.  Tell me how it's going.

Emergency Vest -- No Worries!

The emergency vest is for servants.  I was serving at The Northeast Jurisdictional Conference of the UMC.  Here's the second update video from our Study Renewal leave.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

True Love, Trailers, and Truth

Penny and I picked up the Study Renewal adventure as she flew into Columbia South Carolina. That's true love, when your spouse flies in to join you on a study trip!  And we had great fun exploring the Savannah area, our Wesleyan history, as well as, our national history.

The trailer remained in a mysterious whirl of parts complexities, insurance conundrums, and personal patience exercise.  In short, we stayed in a motel in Savannah and bought a tent at Walmart to camp at the Wild Goose festival in Hot Springs, NC.  Finally, we drove home leaving the trailer at Camping World awaiting parts and repairs.

The truth is that this study snafu reflects life. Plans don't always...er... almost never, go exactly as expected.  Love, grace and faith offer the choice of how to respond.  How I respond, depends on how I practice.  I hope this adventure was an opportunity to practice love, grace and faith.  I could tell you, "Of course I was gracious, loving, and faithfully patient," but you'll have to ask those around me to get an honest and complete answer.

What I do know is that the God of Love is, was, and will be with me.  I do know that I made it everywhere I planned to go.  I do know that navigating the unexpected served as an invitation to grow and trust God.

What's your day held?

PS an update video coming soon.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

One Step At A Time We Make the Road

A beginning in Savannah, GA
   "We Make The Road By Walking" is the title of a book by Brian McLaren on the story of the bible in our lives.  It is also how we do life.  A journey always requires taking a step at a time.

    In my last post I mentioned a bit about John Wesley's feeling of failure regarding his mission in Georgia.   Here are some of the reasons:

  1. John was accustomed to success at Oxford and in much else;
  2. He had come to bring the Gospel to the Native Americans,
    and he failed to understand their culture, needs and willingness to hear him out--no luck here;
  3. In the new world John tutored a young woman, Sophie Hopkey, with whom, he fell in love.  Unwilling to act in a timely way, Sophie left and married another.  John, spurned, refused to serve communion to Sophie and her new husband.  Sophie's new husband, protective, brought civil charges against John (with a bit of a biased jury). And John high-tailed it back to England, heartbroken and disheartened;
  4. Wesley Monumental UMC
    Savanah, GA
  5. As a well-educated and ordained priest of the Church of England, John was now doubting his salvation and his calling.
All, in all this was not feeling like a good season to John Wesley, but his journey and God's grace was still to unfold with next steps.

    In London John found his way, on May 24th, into a Moravian Church on Aldersgate St. (We now refer to this as his Aldersgate Experience), where his heart was "strangely warmed."  He reconnected to God's love and grace in a personal way.  His "failure" was a next step that eventually led to a Methodist church in America on every crossroad of the new world.  (UMC.org UMC History)

Wesley UMC, Thunderbolt, GA
        A bit like the Emmaus Road (Luke 24) experience of the disciples, John didn't recognize God's presence in everything at every moment.  He did, however, find God's presence in the steps he was yet to take and in the places he could not yet see.  (Cf. Hebrews 11:1)

     We make our faith journey by walking one step at a time.  We don't usually see very far ahead.  We don't as individuals, nor as churches.  Just like the disciples and like John Wesley, God always has greater things beyond or moments of failure, discouragement and fatigue.

     So, we take a step.  We go forward, backward, sideways, but we take a step.  In the walk God is there to be found and grace with love ready to show up. 

     So what are your failures?  (I have mine.)  Can you embrace them?  Can you trust God to use them in the next steps of the journey?  I encourage you to join me in keeping notes, journaling, about your insights, prayers, thoughts, questions and ideas.   Then perhaps we can share, in due time.

    Grace and love in this step and in the next.

10,000 Joys in Christ
Pilgrim on the Journey with God, Pastor Dave

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Here Are the Answers!

   Guy Noir, Garrison Keilor's detective character, is always,"seeking answers to life's persistent questions." Truth is we'd all like clear, quick answers to questions like: What should I do next? Is this the right time and place for this? What does God want? What should my church/community/group do next/now?

    In truth there are few easy answers. Psalm 62 starts, "For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation."  Psalm 121 begins, "I lift up my eyes to the hills--from where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth."  Answers come in waiting, working, things bigger than ourselves--all the places that take commitment and time.  Answers come from things, the One, bigger than ourselves.

    Along the way on this Study-Renewal journey I have met a seminary student, several pastors, church interns, people of all sorts and all seem to rejoice in the time to renew, listen for God and to learn.  One pastor said "I'm jealous."  and another reflected, "It's important to have that time as we serve longer pastorates."  Although there seems to be a broad recognition of the need for renewal, listening and learning (the stuff of prayer), there is also a confession that few people of faith and congregations take time to meet the need.  We have a great start!

   Having seen the sites of John Wesley's first mission work in Georgia and reviewed his assessment of the effort as a failure,  I'm reminded that answers come with time, work, waiting and needing help. I expect to come home with new questions, ideas and conversations to hold.  (See previous posts.)  I suspect that I will come bearing no easy or quick solutions to our congregation's struggles to make disciples and grow.

    So, if we want answers, then we prepare for holy conversations with Holy Spirit redirections.  If we want new possibilities, then we commit to time with God and one another in fresh ways.  In September we're planning to have a dinner (I hope covered dish) and a time for representatives from Palmyra First to share learnings & insights from the summer.  Also I'll share a few learnings and insights.  I anticipate that from there we'll continue the conversation around tables (food tables, the Lord's Table, meeting tables, kitchen tables, restaurant tables...), maybe even a monthly food and conversation around a lunch, dinner or dessert!

   Yes, I'm seeking answers to life's persistent questions!  It will take effort and require persistent patience.  We'll do it together and the report of 2000 years of followers of Jesus Christ is that God has never let us down!

   I trust you will keep praying, learning, resting and sharpening one another, while I commit to doing the same.  I look forward to seeing you soon.

10,000 Joys in Christ
Student and Disciple Pastor Dave

Monday, July 4, 2016

When Life Takes a Turn...Say Thank You!

    I was traveling on I-26, just barely across the South Carolina line, when a bee starting buzzing in my face.  One swat and I felt the brush of metal on my fender;  truck and trailer had swerved in into the center media guardrail just feet from the yellow line.  
    I pulled back toward the lane.  The combination of soft shoulder, incline, and bump of pavement, sent the trailer tilting and bouncing.  In the blink of an eye I wondered, "Can I keep this on the road?"  Thankfully, I did!
     Pulling off to the roadside, I discovered my passenger side trailer tire was gone, and the rim damaged.  A roadside help call and the wheel was replaced with a spare.  

    Heading down the road I became quickly aware something was still not right!  So, a bunch of stops, conversations, and insistence landed me at a Camping World for assessment.

     The verdict, a bent axle, among other lesser things.  The prognosis, as of this writing, is still up in the air, awaiting insurance adjusters, estimators, and schedulers to all chime in--interupted by a July 4th holiday

    Once the accident happened and the remedy set in motion, I went to pick up my bride, Penny, at the airport, to head to see John Wesley sites in Savannah and stay at Skidaway National Park in the trailer.  Oops! Regroup.

      In the mix I was overwhelmed at first.  Then I was a bit discouraged.  However with a bit of time I was able to give thanks for no injuries in what easily could have been worse.  I was grateful that Penny was joining me and I'd have company for some of the decisions.  I was rejoicing that I had resources to meet the needs--insurance, a credit card, a hotel and more.

    Reflecting, I'm reminded that few journeys that are worthwhile in life, go directly from point A to point B.  They almost always have some accidents, incidents and outright failures to go with the progress and success.  

    Watch for my next post that will have some "Easy Answers" and connections of failures to John Wesley's life and mission in Georgia.  Thank You for your prayers and support.  All is well.

10,000 Joys in Christ
Pastor, never swat bees and drive, Dave

Monday, June 27, 2016

Suprises & Invitations

Big Eds in Old City Market-Raleigh NC
The best experiences in life are invitations and surprises !

Invitations come from relationships.  Some come from passing relationships, striking up a conversation with a stranger or new quaintance. Others from deep friendships.  All lead somewhere of value to the one who made the offering, the invitation.

Invitations are how I have found many of the churches and ministries on my Study-Renewal Leave journey.  Friends like Alan Rice or Bishop John Schol or Vance Ross have taken time to reflect and share.  Invitations are how I find my way deeper into God's presence.  Just today, as I began exploring the streets of Richmond,  I felt a holy nudge, an inner sense, God's Spirit invite me to allow the day to be restful, walking and praying; to take time to be present to whatever came my way and breath.  That prompt was freeing for me.  It opened the door to 8 miles of walking, and much journaling.  All this comes from invitations.

Now, surprises are things out of my control.  They are not all evaluated as good when they come my way, but many of the great experiences I have begin as surprises. For instance, the recommendation to eat at "Big Eds" in Raleigh, was shared with me this week by a college.  Not only was the food and service great, but I stumbled upon a motorcycle show in the midst of the quaint shops on a historic Old City Market.

As I scanned the street from my table by the window; eating my burger and engaging surroundings lifted my spirits. This surprise guided my feet for an hour or so and put a gift in the day, when I was missing family.

God works with invitations and surprises.  I'm not the only one.  It simply takes being open to the possibilities, saying yes and seeing where they lead.  No matter where they go, there is a gift to be found.  Often there are experiences that mark a trip, a friendship, a life... when we are open.  On pastor I met in my travels said,  "If I can't tell you a new story of what God is doing in my life, from the last few days, then I'm not paying attention."

What invitations and surprises have you noticed recently?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Love, Grace and Pancake Corndogs

Miss Laura introduced me to the kids and offered me a pancake corndog.  That's how we got started at a Place of Possibilities, a part of All God's Children UMC, in Aulander, North Carolina.

Pastor Laura Early began All God's Children 20 years ago and now she and this work is woven into the fabric of Aulander.  She is a self-described rebel, mystic follower of Jesus.  Her reflective, powerful presence lives out her conviction that, "Ministry is not about what you do, but about who you love!"

The Place of Possibilities is a gym building with classrooms and a stage that house the six week summer literacy program and so much more for kids who need love and support in the community.  Miss Laura recounted building this facility 6 years ago as she told the story of God moving through relationships in the community.

In all the places I have gone are the constants of listening to God, serving with abandon, and radically following Jesus.  Each has a bit of the spirit of not quite fitting in the boxes (systems) around them and a sense of joy where ever God takes them.

None of the places or ministries is the same.  Many personalities, perspectives and patterns, yet all with the constants of listening, serving, and following.  Both the uniqueness and that similarities are freeing.  God is bigger that each of us, uses each of us, and grace abounds.

That corn dog, a "pancake" corn-dog, was a part of the summer feeding program through the school. I wasn't brave enough to try it.  I am emboldened by the testimony of the saints of All God's Children--Place of Possibilities, to try whatever God goes on this trip and in Palmyra.  How about you?

By the way, what have you been noticing with God... the Mission Hub.... beyond?