Archive for the ‘Thursday Thoughts’ Category

As I write this on June 8, I’m witnessing the Senate Intelligence Committee questioning James Comey, and thinking about the importance of leadership without intimidation or coercion, with mutual trust and respect for differences. Presidents can abuse their authority, and so can pastors. We can abuse our position: rank or title, our resumé, our uniquely defined roles. We can abuse our personal characteristics: size, gender and personality traits. We can use these positional or personal realities to get our way even when it’s wrong, illegal, evil. And we can do damage.

Even in the United States, with its government of the people, by the people, and for the people, presidents can seek to become autocrats. Even in the Church, which exists for God’s glory and the development of disciples of Jesus Christ, pastors and laity can abuse the authority God and church give them.

Jesus said to them, “The rulers of the nations lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. … I am among you as one who serves.”   — (Luke 22:25-27 NRSV, alt.)

I, and most pastors and laity I know, desire to lead like Jesus, without domination or manipulation. But now and then, in our denomination and in our congregations, we “throw our weight around.” (Isn’t it interesting that this common saying portrays aggressive use of physical size as a metaphor for inappropriate coercion using positional authority!) Now and then we seek to get our own way using force or emotional manipulation: we threaten; we use anger, we take offense, we withdraw, we use financial pressure, and more. Instead, we should work together as partners who seek to understand and collaborate, appreciate, and come to a shared way that’s better than our own.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with this prayer:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. 

Grant that we may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
           — source: Book of Common Prayer

May this be our prayer as we work with each other, especially if we are called to lead, in church and in nation.

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Note: This was written on Thursday, July 7. This week, I expect to catch the blog publication of Thursday Thoughts up with the email distribution to the two congregations. (By the way: Sophia, Millie, and Helen, mentioned below, sit in the front row at Brownsville. The very public, very proud average age of these three saints is 98. Balancing them demographically, the average age of Blain, Lucien and Maclaren, in the back row, is 7.)

Dear household of God at Brownsville and Tracyton,

In my Thursday Thoughts, I want to share some of what  I’m learning, what I’m seeing, and what I’m wondering, with both the Brownsville and Tracyton congregations.

This week, I’ve learned:

  • In Brownsville, I’ve learned that some of the liveliest members are also some of the most senior: my gosh, Sophia, Millie, and Helen, you’ve got stories to tell, prayers and concerns and love to share!
  • Brownsville’s people care about the church, whether they attend it or not. A 4th-of-July night phone call forwarded from the church phone let me know that people were doing fireworks in the church parking lot. Had a nice in-person visit with the caller on Tuesday morning, and thanked her for the call.
  • Tracyton: you made a BIG adjustment in worship time, with grace and commitment. Forty-nine of you gathered for the 9:00 service last Sunday — 23 from the old 8:30 service, and 26 from the old 11:00! Good job! Didn’t it feel good having the sanctuary so full that you had to decide where to sit? Wasn’t it fun being able to hear ourselves sing?

This week, I’ve seen God at work:Some of Wes's family at Wollochet Bay, July 4

  • In holy conversations of caring about some of our more vulnerable church family members.
  • In just-as-holy conversations in 4th-of-July gathering of my extended family.
  • In the way people’s lives can move through grief or other wounding, into a new kind of wholeness.

This week, I’ve wondered:

  • How we learn to call a new congregation, and a new pastor, “our” congregation, “our” pastor.
  • How to keep the beautiful vision of the Beloved Community before us, when we are so deeply enmeshed with systemic hate, violence, and a reliance on injustice.

What are you learning? What are you seeing? What are you wondering?

Katherine Parker speaking at Tracyton UMC           This evening, Thursday the 7th, I’d like you to meet my cousin Katherine. Katherine Parker is a United Methodist missionary serving in Nepal [Note: this link from Paul Jeffrey contains a video of Katherine’s work, at the end of the article; it’s mostly about last year’s Nepal earthquakes, and the work of recovery.] She’ll be at Tracyton UMC this evening for a simple meal at 6:00 and a 7:00 program. Katherine is one of the best spokespersons for Missions you’ll ever meet. I hope you can come!

I look forward to seeing you again in worship this Sunday at Tracyton, 9:00 a.m., and at Brownsville, 11:00 a.m. To prepare, you may want to review the prophet Amos, especially chapter 7, and Luke 10:25-37, the parable we call “the good Samaritan.”

Next Tuesday, July 12, you’re welcome to join with me for Word on the Street lunch and conversation at Putter’s, at Rolling Hills Golf Course on McWilliams. We’ll be considering a key scripture or idea for the coming Sunday’s worship service.



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[NOTE: As of July 1, I’m appointed to serve as pastor of both the Tracyton church, where I’ve been pastor for four years, and the Brownsville church, 5 miles away across our little peninsula. It’s a large transition for me, and for both congregations. I’m picking up a Brownsville traditional communication, the weekly “Thursday Thoughts,” to keep folks in touch with where we are — where I am — through this time of transition. The “Thursday Thoughts” are emailed, and put up on the Brownsville web page, but sharing them here makes sense, too.]

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dear sisters and brothers,

The “Thursday Thoughts” email was initiated in the Brownsville congregation to keep the church updated during a major funding project a few years back.

I love the idea! In fact, I love it so much, I think I’ll spread the joy, and share Thursday Thoughts in the Tracyton congregation as well.

Change happens. You make a change, you’re done. Get a new shirt, you have a new shirt. Trade in the car, the new one fits where the old one was.

Transition, however, is another matter. Transition is how our minds are a-swim and our eyes are boggling, and we can’t remember who we are or what we’re looking for in the bookcase, or why we’re gathering for song, and prayer, and a few words, and a meal of bread and juice so skimpy it hardly gets the appetite started.

So we are walking through the wilderness of this Transition together, and it helps to pay curious attention to what we’re learning, what we’re seeing, and what we’re wondering.

It’ll vary from time to time, but I’ll be sharing some of my experiences in these areas … and inviting your reflections in return.

This week, I’ve learned:

  • Joe and Susan Tollefson’s infectious enthusiasm and their love of their Brownsville church’s story
  • More of who Sally Klein is, as she stayed in the Stanton/Bogue one-star motel and shared rides to and from Puyallup for Annual Conference where she served as Tracyton’s Lay Member
  • and, via Geoff Colvin’s Humans Are Underrated, I’ve learned that we humans need physical presence, not just phone & Facebook, and that empathy is a skill that can be learned.

This week, I’ve seen God at work:

  • in the Annual Conference’s difficult, grace-filled conversations and risky, courageous decisions
  • in a friend’s joy as she received communion at Conference for the first time in years, because it felt to her like a truly welcoming body for the first time
  • in Hildegard’s sharing the story of the Brownsville Garden Club with me (okay, this was actually a couple weeks ago, but Oh! What a holy project, helping kids learn the value of caring for plants’ growth, the earth’s health, and the value of patience and partnership).

This week, I’ve wondered:

  • Uh-oh. There’s a problem. When I get too busy, I tend not to wonder enough. Wonder and curiosity are related to awe and worship. So are delight in the exquisite, lament for the tragic, breathing deep in times of serenity, and the desire to allow the Mystery to unfold and to enfold me.
  • One place I’ve come close to holy wonder this week is in opening Rebecca Solnit’s book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. I’m halfway through … which means, I’m totally awestruck with amazing writing, lost in it, and not at all sure how I will be changed when I arrive out the other side.

This is how Transition is. When we find ourselves oriented again, (to paraphrase Solnit) we cease to be lost not by returning, but by turning into something else.

This week I wonder: Who will I become? Who will we become?



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