Does gender determine your ministry ability?

Here is a link to an article in wrote for Immerse Journal recently about our need to not look at Gender in ministry as a limiting factor for ability or possible roles but instead calls us to make ministry as diverse as God’s big created world

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Youth Mission 2011 in an uncomfortable setting (for me)

Today is the Midway point through our mission trip. It has been a good experience for both the youth & myself. At the beginning of the week we were asked to think of something we wanted God to do different in us. I challenged myself not quickly dismiss the evangelical leaning of the organization putting on the trip. I have done pretty good.  given that right after this they launched into a “Father God” prayer. I immediately thought this was not going to be easy. However upon pointing this out to the leadership they committed to try not to do it. So far so good!
I often struggle with jumping to quickly in judgements of conservative Christians. Being able to set that aside I have been able to see some amazing ministry I might have missed simply because of a difference of perspective.
For example, Salvation Army 614 a group I would often not look into is doing some incredible incarnational ministry in a way that has led to many changed lives not by seeking to “save sinners” but by recognizing the responsibility the larger society has for it and looking to do something about it. Another was Alience church, they are a church of white upper class (conservative) folks who are opening their doors to the people in need of a little extra support who live in the shadows of their doors. They are not chasing them off the property and making sure the doors are locked and the Organ is well protected but reaching out to discover ways to make the neighborhood a better place.
All of this is occurring under the direction of an evangelical organization.(Youthworks)  A place I do have experience with but was a bit concerned about.
None of this seems to be stopping this group of open minded youth either. Last night when asked to come up with an idea of how students can go home and make a difference in our community they wanted to start a safe place for LGBT students in our schools!
I am recognizing that I can’t be to quick to jump to conclusions about folks. While the long term trajectory of some of these theological positions taken may not be positive it still allows lots of work for God to work. I need to think more about this in the future weeks and hopefully find a place where I can more openly accept these brothers & sisters just like I desire of them for myself & others currently perceived as the unloveable.
This is just my thoughts for now & of course they are subject to change, but I hope not too much!

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Change Happens when you least expect it.

I like to think myself an agent of change.  I like to move the furniture around for no other reason than it has been in the current position for a while.  I have a condition that does not allow me to own a car for more than about 3-4 years.  Basically I seek ways to change what is happening.  I recently found that Doug Pagitt discovered a label for this personality type, a “contrarian”.  It is not that we are not happy with what is happening we just wonder, is there a better way to do this.  As you may know my secret twitter id is @PCUSA4change.  The whole point of this account it to spread the propaganda of the contrarian lifestyle to all who will listen and in particular to thumb our nose at the tall steeple pastors who seem to be against change.  (so far 138 people have found it interesting enough to follow)

The one thing all these things have in common is that I bring them upon myself.  However, when the change comes from an external source it is not nearly as easy to deal with.  I am facing some of these changes in my life right now.  All of a sudden it is not me asking what is wrong with this picture but somebody else telling me something about what I am doing seems wrong.  It is not easy to be told you are wrong.  It’s even harder when it is about something you have a great deal of passion about.

This has led to a lot of doubt about what I am doing and what I am called to be doing.  I have been questioning all the questioning I do.  I wonder if I am going about it right or if I am way off base.  Today I watched a TED video @ggbolt16 was promoting shortly after the PC(USA) vote on 10-A had officially passed.  It featured Kathryn Schulz.  She wrote a book recently called “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error”.  Her talk really struck me.  I reiterated to me that I am afraid of being wrong.  I am afraid that I will be shown to be a fool.  I am afraid that I will be laughed at.  But this was part of her point.  She pointed out that long before Descartes ever said “I think therefore I am”, Augustine said “Fallor Ergo Sum” (I doubt therefore I am).  Taking chances and being wrong is a major part of what makes us human.  Asking questions may not be the comfortable way but it is distinctly human and something that separates us from much of the rest of creation.  It is what allows us to find our way forward to make progress as the human race.

I once heard it took Edison hundreds of tries to get his light bulb to work.  He was trying to design a new light bulb because they were too expensive and unreliable and he asked “why?”  Because he was willing to keep on asking why and trying again he achieved a practical electric light bulb and changed the world.

So while I have no idea what my future holds, I do know that God will use it to continue to use my passion for the work Christ has called me to.  I know that being a radical follower of Jesus means action not apathy.  And I feel with all my heart that Jesus was a contrarian too.

as a foot note my wife is not a contrarian.  She could use some prayers in time of change like these.

Why would God hate anybody? How I discovered God’s great love for all Humanity

“Why does God hate me?”

The question pierced the silence of of my office, pinning me down for a lack of words.  What was I supposed to say to this young lady in the 10th grade standing awkwardly in my door.  The same young lady who for the first few months of my time at this church barely shared pleasantries with me when we passed in the hall.  My theological training crashed to the ground as I turned and faced this child of God.  I stopped what I was doing, looking into her tear filled eyes and simply said: “Colleen God does not hate anybody.”

Her response was equally debilitating. “Then why does everyone tell me that?” Holding up her well used Bible I could only imagine had been her companion since 3rd grade she added, “And why do they tell me this book says so?”  Over time she would prove that she knew that book far better than any run of the mill seminary graduate like myself.  What do you say when an otherwise vibrant young person shares this out of the blue? As if her first questions weren’t tough enough, what came next left me reeling for answers.

“You see I’m a lesbian and everybody tells me God thinks I’m a bad person because of it.”

To complicate things this young lady had been chosen as the youth elder fully ordained and installed in that office.

I invited her into my office and we talked for what seemed like forever.  We talked about love.  We talked about acceptance.  We talked about God.  When we had cried it all out we both left different people.  She was well on her way to accepting that God did love her.  And I too was well on my way to understanding that God loved her, accepted her, cared for her every bit as much as every other person created in the image of God.

I realized that day theology may teach us a lot about God but it can never us how to love and accept another person.  We only learn that through relationship.  It is only in relationship that we can struggle with one another and truly understand God’s desire for us to live in community. It is here we experience God’s overwhelming love for all of creation.

The friendship that ensued since has taught me much.  It has taught me that the Journey toward the new Heaven and the new earth goes straight through justice and justice will not be satisfied until all may freely serve.

We as a denomination have unfortunately lost this bright child of God.  She has moved to another church that accepts and loves her just as God created her.  That’s our loss. But I hope we never have to see anymore Colleen’s leave because of it.

I support 10-A

Early Post #Unco11

Have you ever had one of the experiences that just seem important but are a bit overwhelming to process? Yeah me too. It happened this week. I’ve had a very busy month with air travel 3 out of 4 weeks. This last week however was the one thing I really wanted to do.  I was excited to arrive and meet in person for the first time many of the people I have had conversations with via twitter and to spend time knowing them more.  Upon arrival I saw some old friends and many, many, many… many new ones.  They all came from such diverse backgrounds.  It was exciting! I wanted to sit down and talk with each and everyone of them. But I didn’t. In fact I felt such an overload of people I struggled to have more than a couple of quality conversations.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not taking anything away from this event and the excitement that was felt by so many people… it just overwhelmed me. The idea even excites me enough that I have been in conversation with the developers of this un-conference about putting one on out west.  This in fact is something I am very excited about.  I can’t wait to be able to help move this conversation along.  This conversation of not needing an “expert” to be the talking head up front and the rest of us nodding along in agreement then maybe just maybe getting him/her to sign my copy of their book.  Instead we get to build relationships with each other, learn about differences, grow to respect those differences then go out and do the work of Jesus the Christ in the world. That was the power of this time. EVERYBODY was the experts! But it was also what was overwhelming for me. I wanted to listen to and talk to each of these experts, I wanted to find out how my ministry can expand from their experiences, I wanted to share my own ideas about the future of the church… but in the meantime I was just overwhelmed.

As I go forward from here I will look forward to reading what other attendees will write and share about their experiences. I also look forward to see what things happen in the action category from this event.  My process will be to figure out how we can get the most out of the next Unco to connect people, grow as a community and most of all continue the work of building the Kingdom of God we have all been invited to take part in. And most of all get lots of rest prior to it so that I can make the connections I so desperately want to.

In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer, Peace be with you 🙂

It is not failure it is just change

So yesterday may not have seemed a lot different than a lot of conferences you have been to. We gathered and shared in worship, had a meal and did some great socializing till the wee hours.  Today however you definitely found yourself down the rabbit hole! For any of the introvert or type A (tell me what to do next) type folks  the roller coaster was at the top of the hill.  This morning after the not-so-dull roar of breakfast we were greeted by a “so what do y’all wanna talk about?”

The group began to suggest things they wanted to talk about and after about 20 some minutes we had our schedule for the day. (Check out the schedules here) It was an interesting dynamic to see the variety of issues that people wanted to talk about. It was also intriguing to see the group get excited to see what our un-conference was becoming.

I attended four different sessions with four different topics but what struck me most was that  all the discussions seemed to gravitate toward one similar topic.  The need for change.  Regardless of denomination or geography we all recognize one thing, reformation is upon us and change can no longer be ignored.  It was not about looking at the church as a failure but as a once in a life opportunity to do the things God’s church will need for the next period of time.  Nobody seems to be certain how long this next epoch will last but it seemed very certain that it was indeed here.

What can we do to make this change as painless as possible? What can we do to help usher those saints that have brought us this far, faithfully?  How do we gracefully engage the culture that has written off the church?

All these questions are what the church is facing, today.  All these questions are what the folks at Unco are asking.  I guess I better quite sitting around and get to work!


I was supposed to put my 10A story up next about Collen but I forgot my notes at home so that will be put off a bit longer yet.  Plus I arrived at #unco11 last night and am a bit distracted by it now. Unco is short for un-confrence, a hipster term for a gathering of fairly like minded individuals to build there own conference. As one of our hosts says: “You are the ROCKSTAR!” The discussions will come from the minds of the individuals that show up (which this year has nearly 70 participants and something like 9 kiddos). In fact the participants are the speakers, hosts, techie’s, organizers, bar tenders, child care providers, etc.

I for one have not been to a conference like this before but felt it was such a great opportunity that I shoe horned it into an already busy May. I am here with old friends and many I have never meet other than on twitter. We have Presby’s, Methodists, DoC, UCC, even a Mennonite!  I am tasked with helping to make sure the tech stuff happens. Of course I would gravitate toward that. I am excited about how this will all work out and hopefully seeing the wizard behind the curtain won’t ruin it for me. I just may even do more writing like I want to because of it! Well that is my shot post for the morning if you want to follow #unco11 check out the twitter feed or go to the web site to find out how you can watch some of the events live streaming!

PS I’m sorry to my family for being gone so much this month I guess my ADD mind just can’t stop when this kind of craziness is happening!

Suffering is the path to Easter

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.  It is a time to contemplate our own life’s journey.  The hurts and lost dreams of life.  The times when we don’t know what to do next, when hope seems lost.  We can never the full impact of the resurrection unless we are honest with the Good Friday’s of our lives, the times when hope seems to escape us, the times when what next had no answer, the times we felt abandoned by life itself.  Make no doubt about it the journey to Easter is a time we must contemplate our own life struggles, in order to recognize our own progress in faith.  They are all the more necessary to appreciate the journey that is on the other side of the empty tomb.  The Ezekiel passage we heard takes place in a valley a low place in the history of Israel.  It stands as a metaphor of the challenges in life and the opportunities that lie ahead of us.  We know from this tale that God is not only the source of life but the restorer of hope.    The dry bones on the floor of the valley are our opportunities to ask what dry bones exist in our own journey and what can we take away from these lonely and parched experiences in life.

Ezekiel is speaking in metaphorically about the dry bones as they represent the dusty sense of hopelessness that Israelites would never find their way home, but it also represents the promise that God made to them that one day they will return to the Promised Land.  It represents to us the same promise that God will not leave us alone in the dust and dryness but will not somehow but triumphantly be with us in glory.

John Calvin said of this passage that it was given to arouse the despairing refugees to hope of their eventual return home.  The story is both a political one of expectation to overcome the oppressor while reminding us and them of God’s longer term promise in the recreation of the world to come.  That is the source of all hope in the world.  It is a power outside our own ability that necessitates us to trust in something greater than ourselves and our seeming inability to get it right.

It is also important not to read to quickly and jump ahead to the “Good Part”.  The part about the joy of new life.  Of the bones coming together and God breathing new life into them.  Of Lazarus coming forth from the grave.  Of God’s breath upon our face blowing us in the  direction of the New Jerusalem.  We must ponder, for at least a moment, what we need to learn from our dry bones.  This could be individually or it could even be corporately.  What is it that we have to learn from our relationships, our world, and our place in it.

I have been doing a bit of this myself recently.  As most of you already recognize my personality is a change agent.  I like change. I look for ways to bring about change.  I sometimes don’t even ask if folks are ready I just bring on the change.  One of the first things I was involved with here in Estes upon my arrival was Baccalaureate.  Two years ago I jumped right in and helped plan this event.  At first it was just helping to implement some liturgy to the evening and maybe helping to educate others involved on just what liturgy is.  Last year I even presented an invocation along with a historical bit about just what Baccalaureate is.  Well this year the inter-faith council the group in town with responsibility for the service to secure a speaker for the event.  To most people I asked nobody could recall a women speaking at the event.  So I went out with the intent of bring a top notch women to preach the event with the hope of opening the eyes to the many, many students who likely have never heard a women in this role before.  After some research and talking I found a women that I felt would be awesome.  She is from Broomfield and therefore familiar with this part of the world.  I contacted her and she was not only available but excited about the opportunity.  I began to tell some of the other folks in town about her and her excitement to be here.

At the first planning meeting for Baccalaureate I was met by a couple of people that never show up to these meetings. It was a bit surprising but I began to become concerned at the same time.  It quickly became obvious why they had choosen to show up.  They were there to oppose this women being the speaker.  This upset me much more deeply than I think I recognized.  It upset me that people of faith could really be that closed minded to a women of faith.  It upset me because this was an organized opposition to a view held by many people in this town, present company included.  I had to contact the speaker as well to tell her sorry it’s not going to happen.  She happens to be a writer along with being a pastor and wrote the following blog on her web site and I want to read it to you…

Both our Hebrew scripture and Gospel passage tell a story of exile and return.  They are stories of displacement and a journey down a long road a long way from home and a longing to return.  This plot of exile and return in a part of the deep structure of the Bible and our own lives.  It tells of a desire for humanity to indwell with God, again as we did in the beginning.  It tells of broken systems of oppression that exclude simply because “they” are different.  It reminds us that we may have traveled a great distance from that garden but pints out that we still have a lot of work to do ahead of us.  We must push on in our journey.  Just as Jesus would not allow fear of others or sorrow of lost hope stop him from taking his own journey, we must say with Thomas “let us also go that we may die with him”.

That is the power of Easter faith.  It tells us that sometimes what happens to us when we suffer is that we become open to the mercy and grace and gratitude and gift and appreciation and joy that are always around us, all the time.  We are going to suffer.  And it is going to shape us.  Somehow, we will become better, open, more aware, tuned into the power of resurrection all around us.

The dry bones are all around us.  They are just waiting for us to breathe life into them to take part with God and make it on earth as it is in heaven.

Rob Bell is so Cool!

Never mind he is saying stuff that others have been preaching, teaching, spouting off about for quite a while now, nobody else has gotten people any where near as fired up! This is really awesome! And for the record I agree with most everything I have heard him say so far.

For the first time in my 16 years of following Christ has somebody finally laid down the challenge to these demigod evangelical right wingers. An argument that has them frantically throwing ashes into the air and reaching for sack cloth that has not been seen since “The Last Temptation of Christ” (which coincidentally occurred during a period when I was not a Christ follower and evangelicals bugged the day lights out of me too). The difference I  am hoping for this time is that instead of just screaming HERATIC! they actually do some study to understand why they believe something different. While I had no desire nor time to engage any of these people in argument today I did read a couple of comments from folks that showed just how little they seem to actually know about what they are standing for (or against!) Case in point almost none of these modern day Scribes seem to know the understanding of the Devil and hell they hold comes from Dante NOT the Bible.

Christ and God did not call us to be mindless drones that do not even understand how or why God loves us. Instead we were given minds so vast we barely even understand how it works! God wants us to use this chunk of meat on top of our shoulders. God wants us to question EVERYTHING! I for one love it when people question points I made in a sermon. I love it when they have to stop and make sure they know why they don’t agree. Heck I don’t even mind if I am convinced that I was wrong and they are right. The conversation is the point. Living into a relationship with the people around us, understanding our diffrences and loving each other any way.

Is Rob Bell a universalist? Nah I don’t think so.  Is he wrong on any of the other points he is making? Probably. Will I still lay down my $20 for his latest book? Hell Yes! And I will gladly engage people in conversation over the points he makes. My only requirement is that 1) you have read the book 2) you understand why you believe what you believe 3) that we both agree we could be wrong!

Skiing is Life death sucks!

I wrote this post in response to a friends blog about another common friend that recently died while skiing. Her blog is here.

I too was blessed with the opportunity to be on the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol with both Paul, and you Kim.  Pual did have a passion (possibly addiction) to skiing. If I remember correctly he left the patrol to drive snow cats so he could have more free time on the mountain. There’s one thing I’m sure of in all this, Melby would rather be skiing today.  I have not seen him in at least 4 seasons but I rember he had a passion for life, for doing crazy things but mostly for living.
I left the ski patrol in 2003 to become a Presbyterian Pastor.  In that time I think I have learned a thing or two about death.  As somebody who now struggles to get in 25-30 days a year I miss skiing every time a big dump comes and I have to work.  I also know how much satisfaction I get when the planets align and my ski days coincide with a big dump! I feel more alive than ever!  But even as somebody with a passion for life and a familiarity with death, there is little reassurance that I can give to a family who looses someone they love.  I have been at the bed side of many people as the fight for every last breath.  They want to hold onto life! We are human beings we have a fight for life nearly unmatched in all the animal kingdom. Simply put people prefer life!
I think back to last year when I found out about Arne Backstrom dieing.  Arne was another incredible skier I got to watch grow up at Crystal.  He had achieved a level few in the world do (except the Backstrom family!) All I could think of was Steve & Betsy how no parent should have to bury their child. How they would never say well at least he died doing what he liked.  They I’m sure wanted to watch him continue to succeed & maybe even start a family to pass on his passion for life to another generation. I venture Paul’s parents feel the same.
When we loose a loved one we are left with a void we must try and figure out.  We must make sense of it in our own lives.  We must find our own way to keep this person’s memory alive in our own lives.  We must never pass on any life with a cheap “Oh well…”
Live life to the fullest.  Take every opportunity that comes your way.  But always do it in such a way as to be back for the next day.

Are we there yet?