Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I love big things. I enjoy a big view of the ocean every day, I like going to big events, I like a big sound, I even take note of “big guys” (football/basketball size men who I am happy to not compete against!) and most of all I love the bigness of God who is far bigger than any big I could imagine.

I also love it when our BIG God makes things small. Today I had the opportunity to think small in my world of bigness. Here is where it began . . .

Many years ago, as a youth pastor, I had a seventh grader named Alissa show up to our ministry.

She came for awhile but decided her way was better than God’s.

Somewhere in those years my own daughter, Kelly, was born

Just before Kelly showed up in our youth ministry Alissa decided to make a change and attend Seattle Pacific University.

At SPU, Alissa’s heart softened and she decided to put her trust in God.

With eyes open to the big things of God she went on a missions trip to Madagascar with a guy named Jamie.

After awhile they fell in love and decided to spend the rest of their lives together serving God . . . in Madagascar.

We celebrated their wedding and their preparation began.

Not long after, Kelly began her college career at Seattle Pacific.

While there she began attending QUEST church, pastored by Eugene Cho.

Jamie and Alissa, were nearing the end of their schooling and began their fundraising to be missionaries with WORLD VENTURE and heavily supported by the people of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara.

In this same time period they were approached by EDEN REFORESTATION, a Free Methodist ministry founded to plant trees in deforested areas so the environment would be healed, people employed, churches started and lives saved. EDEN was ready to partner with them in re-planting trees in Madagascar.

Two years ago, Eugene Cho, the pastor of Kelly’s church began a non-profit called ONE DAY’S WAGES, a ministry described as this: “One day's wages is about 0.4% of your annual income. Simply donate one day's wages or another amount you want to invest.” With this money many partner organizations have been helped.

Jamie, Alissa and their three children left for Madagascar. Through the work of EDEN REFORESTATION over 25 million trees have already been planted there since 2006.

Today ONE DAY’S WAGES announced their partnership in MADAGASCAR with EDEN REFORESTATION. Now even more trees will be planted, hiring more people and saving more lives.

Two girls, two in-direct but significant connections, two successful organizations joining hands across the miles, doing something better together, making this world a little smaller and God a lot bigger.

By the way, those t-shirts on the kids? They came from Cliff Drive Care Center, FMCSB’s own ministry to the children of this community. Just another small world, big thing in our life with God.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I don’t like having enemies but, then, most other people don’t either. Thankfully, throughout my life I have had relatively few I can identify.

In leadership, I recognize, there may be more potential for inviting enemies into one’s life. When we lead, we occasionally, make decisions unpopular to those who follow.

When faced with enemies we want them to go away or “come over to our side.” On our most “human” days we may even wish they would experience a “challenge” or two!

In Chapter 11 of Eugene Peterson’s book, THE PASTOR, he directs us to ponder the contrast found in Psalm 108. The first half is filled with an expression of confidence in the God whose “glory shines over all the earth.”

The second half questions if God will really rescue the people from their enemies, specifically Edom: “Who will bring me into the fortified city? Who will bring me victory over Edom? Have you rejected us, O God? Will you no longer march with our armies? Oh, please help us against our enemies, for human help is useless. With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes. (Psalm 108:13, New Living Translation).

Peterson comments on this passage by saying he had to learn how to “re-frame” the Edoms in his life: “Edom is not the enemy that I curse or shake mu fist at or avoid or dismiss. Edom is the enemy whom I, with God’s grace and help, am led to visit and embrace.” (p. 78)

He further answers, “So what do I do with Edom? I ask God to bring me to Edom. And God does. Over and over and over again. The person, the task, the threat, the frustration, the circumstance to which my first impulse is to curse – ‘damn Edomites!’ – becomes, through the patient praying of Psalm 108, an occasion for recycling my swords into plowshares.” (p. 79)

Who or what are my Edoms? What about you? Am I really ready to embrace them?

Friday, November 11, 2011


Eugene Peterson, in his book, THE PASTOR, tells the story of a grade-school bully. He relates how he had grown up learning to forgive and to love his enemies. This made sense until the school bully turned his attention to Eugene and began to make him a target. He tells of the day when he could take it no more. “That’s when it happened. Totally uncalculated. Totally out of character. Something snapped within me,” says Peterson. He grabbed the bully, found he was stronger and beat him up.

Reflecting on this “Pastor Pete” says, ‘Garrison Johns (the bully) was my introduction into the world, the “world that is not my home.’ He was also my introduction to how effortlessly that same ‘world’ could get into me, making itself perfectly at home under cover of my Christian language and ‘righteous’ emotions.” (p.48)

It is difficult to escape conviction after reading this last statement. The world does get into us. It is relentless. We cannot afford to believe we are impervious to the invasion of compromised values that ever so slightly move us toward a destructive lifestyle.

Our best defense is choosing moment by moment to walk with our Father, following the example of Jesus and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. I have seen those who would outwardly appear to be good Christians be some of the meanest people I know. Why? In their effort to live for God they chose to live by their own rules rather than in live in relationship with our God who invites us to love Him, ourselves and others.

In what ways is the world “making itself perfectly at home,” in you? It’s a question I’m asking myself today.

Monday, November 7, 2011


In chapter 4 of Eugene Peterson’s book, The Pastor: A Memoir he talks about his father’s butcher shop as the place where he first learned the importance of treating people special. He said, “The people who came into our shop were not just customers. Something else defined them. It always seemed more like a congregation than a store.” (p.39). He went on to explain how his father knew his customers by name and knew many of their stories as well. Peterson shares, “He gave people dignity by the tone and manner of his greetings.”

One would think this is a “no-brainer” philosophy for any pastor but I have run into a surprising number of people in ministry who are more consumed with their ability to craft a fine sermon or build an exciting program or take care of their facilities than they are to know the names, hear the stories and walk alongside the people God has given them.

It has been said, “Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for people.” When people enter the equation of our planning and daily work, what once looked good on paper now includes unpredictable twists and challenges our ability to be flexible. Loving and shepherding God's people defines the profile of a pastor.

One of my favorite Henri Nouwen (from OUT OF SOLITUDE) quotes explains this well, “A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre Dame, Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said with a funny wrinkle in his eyes: “I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.That is the great conversion in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return. Our great temptations are boredom and bitterness. When our good plans are interrupted by poor weather, our well-organized careers by illness or bad luck , our peace of mind by inner turmoil, our hope by a constant changing of the guards, and our desire for immortality by real death, we are tempted to give in to a paralyzing boredom or to strike back in destructive bitterness. But when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then ‘fate’ can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace for joy.”

It’s all about the direction of our attention. Pastors, like anybody, else must love God first and out of this relationship will flow the healthy care of the people in our ministries. Peterson concludes, “My ‘work’ assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones.” (p.45)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I had the blessing of growing up in a pastor’s home. My dad was a pastor of four different churches from birth through high school. During those days I observed the highs and lows of a pastor’s life in the midst of everyday ministry.

Across the street from one of our churches was an auto garage. My dad be-friended the mechanics who worked there. One day they said to him, “We know you work on Sunday but really, what do you do the rest of the week? Play tennis?”

Most of the world sees a pastor on Sundays, and maybe once during the middle of the week, especially in youth ministry. Over the years I have had students call my house during the week thinking I work only on Sundays, Wednesday nights and special events. They assumed the rest of the week I was hanging out watching movies and taking naps.

Eugene Peterson takes a look at this picture by comparing our experience with John of Patmos. John, as you remember, was exiled for his commitment to following Christ. He was caring for seven different congregations but was now separated from them. During his exile he wrote letters to them and was given the words and pictures we find in the book of Revelation. Peterson reminds us when we define ministry only in the “events” we have exiled ourselves.

He puts this all in perspective by stating, “The only hour of the week that had any predictable, uninterrupted order to it was Sunday morning, when the story of creation and covenant was told and the prayers of confession and praise were said and sung. I was learning that for a pastor, the rest of the week was spent getting that story and those prayers heard and prayed in the personal and unique particulars of these people. I had just spent an hour of worship with them but now was mixing it up with them in a world dragons and whores, blood flowing as high as a horse’s bridle, and the news headlines trumpeting catastrophic disasters.” (p.22, THE PASTOR: A MEMOIR, Eugene Peterson).

The life of ministry and shepherding is being in the life of those for which we care, knowing their joys and sorrows, walking with them through life in the good and the bad. Who are the people God is inviting you to know and love outside your Sunday?