Thursday, December 29, 2011


Over the last several days the abundance of happiness has enveloped our home while all five of our family are under the same roof. With older kids these moments are not taken lightly. We have enjoyed being together but this time next week will find us once again going our separate ways.

Many years ago when Nancy and I first made the move to Southern California from the eastern part of the United States I would often feel the sting of sin at the airport as we said “good-bye” to our parents and extended family. I was reminded in the Bible in heaven there will be no more separation. When we are together with those we love we experience a little slice of heaven.

In my continued reading of THE PASTOR by Eugene Peterson he describes a new revelation he had on the profile of the church, “It had taken me a long time, with considerable help from wise Christians, both dead and alive, to come to this understanding of church: a colony of heaven in the country of death; a strategy of the Holy Spirit for giving witness to the already-inaugurated kingdom of God.” (p. 110).

The church SHOULD be a place where we can experience the belonging of community, the prayers of those who care, the teaching to equip us for life and the attitude of generosity. This is the gift of togetherness at its finest. Eternity has already begun!

Today I count myself blessed to pastor in this “colony of heaven” found in Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A. It is here I see those who not only care for each other but long to bring life to the “country of death” and despair around them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

WHAT I DON’T KNOW: Another Look at God’s Blessings

Here is what I know . . .

*My God loves me

*He sent His son to die for me

*I am forgiven

*My immediate and extended family loves me

*I have friends who love me

What I don’t know (a partial list) . . .

*Why I was born in the United States of America

*Why I was born to two parents who loved me, provided for me and have remained faithful to each other all of their marriage.

*Why I had the opportunity to attend elementary/secondary schools, college and graduate school.

*Why I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman to whom I have been married for 30 years.

*Why we have three great children who have chosen to put Christ at the center of their lives and live for him in amazing ways.

*Why I have had the honor to be an associate pastor in a healthy church with a nurturing Senior Pastor/staff and invest in the lives of youth for over 30 years.

*Why I live in a place where I can see the awesome creation of God through the mighty Pacific ocean and majestic mountains every day.

My life has had its share of ups and downs but when I look back at the “highlights” I am astonished to see all the gifts placed in my lap. I have not “deserved” any of these. I could have been born anywhere else in the world in a war-torn, impoverished country to a single mom with little to no resources, no home, little opportunity to ever attend school, all without the benefit of hearing God’s great news and experiencing it in the ways it has been modeled to me over all these years.

God loves all his creation. Why I landed in this wonderful situation I cannot reasonably explain but I can thank God for this blessing. He has blessed me with a gift I did not earn but a gift I will humbly and happily accept.

What has He given you?

Friday, December 2, 2011


Yesterday our office administrator called and said she had someone on the phone for me. She said the person had some “spiritual questions.” As I talked to the lady on the other end of the line it was clear she had less than great experiences with pastors who only smiled, greeted people at the door, ran meetings and preached sermons. After asking me a series of other very specific questions she inquired if I really knew the people in our church. Did I know their needs, did I know where they work and did I visit them outside the four walls of the church?

When I answered “yes” to the lady’s question she was shocked. She said she had never experienced that in any other church. My heart grew heavy, my compassion expanded and I expressed my sadness on how she had never received the love and care God would want her to have in the community of faith.

Eugene Peterson, in his book, The Pastor: A Memoir, quoted a pastor/mentor as saying this: “What is the most important thing you do in preparing to preach each Sunday? . . . For two hours ever Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I walk through the neighborhood and make home visits. There is no way I can preach the gospel to these people if I don’t know how they are living, what they are thinking and talking about.”

These words should be convicting for any person in any type of ministry whether volunteer or paid. Our words ring hollow if we have not taken the time to know and love the people we teach.

I have high regard for excellent teaching and preaching. It requires research and preparation but when this part of ministry becomes more important than me walking with people in their lives it ceases to be effective and I lose the right to be heard.

As the lady asked her pointed question I was immediately thankful for all those mentors over the years who modeled for me the importance of preaching the word AND loving the people. The mentors include my own dad, a pastor, who spent many afternoons visiting his people and the three wonderful senior pastors with whom I have worked and who have tirelessly celebrated and comforted their “flocks.” What they did became a natural part of my life and ministry.

I have heard it said, “Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for people.” All we seek to offer can look good on our computer screen. When we bring real lives into the picture those plans often look differently.

Planning events, preparing for sermons, working on creative teaching experiences are worthy work but only a piece of what we are called to do. In what ways are you too easily letting the “events” more easily define your ministry than knowing and caring for the people you serve? It’s a question I’m asking myself today.