04 February 2017

Here is my Super Bowl story

Here is my Super Bowl story. 10 years ago I was seeking a new call as a pastor. My prayer was "Lord, I want to be a pastor in a Major League City." Today, 10 years later, I live in a major league city, Houston, Texas. This weekend we are hosting the Super Bowl. The stadium where the game will be played is five minutes from my house. Prayer answered. Thank you, Lord.
So, what is like living in a major league city that is hosting the super bowl? Does it make you tingle 24/7 and lose sleep at night? No. It's more like living in a small town that is hosting a Cherry Festival. If you are on the Cherry Festival Planning Committee or really into cherries then you will be caught up in the excitement of the Cherry Festival. If you are not on that planning committee or a big fan of cherries, you probably won't notice anything different.
That is what it's like living in a city that's hosting the Super Bowl. If you are on the Super Bowl Planning Committee or if you are a huge NFL fan then you are very excited and it seems to be happening all around you. If you are not involved in hosting the event and not a big NFL fan, then you don't notice anything different except maybe a little more traffic the day before and the day of the game.
The reason for that is when you live in a major league city there are big events happening every week if not every day. There are big name rock concerts, plays, symphony concerts, art gallery openings, new restaurants opening, NBA games, MBL games, NFL games, college sports, etc. happening all the time. So you really don't notice any one event because that's just part of the ongoing flow of activity. However, if you are really a big fan of some particular event or activity, then of course you notice it and get excited.
I share this because it came as a revelation to me. I moved here from a small town. I soon noticed that what would have been a big deal in my small town was hardly noticed in the big city. There's too much happening all the time to take notice of any particular event for long. It's an interesting dynamic and I didn't expect.
By the way, the photo is from my high school days when I played quarterback at my small town high school. It was a big deal to me and the whole town because high school football is still a big deal in small towns all across America. However, I'm not sure it's such a big deal now as it was when I played back in 1978-80. I put a team picture because football, like life, is a team sport.
I learned a lot from playing football. I learned when you get knocked down you jump back up on your feet as quick as you can and act like nothing happened and it didn't hurt even when it did. I learned to be a leader by going first and inviting others to come along and follow your enthusiasm. It was a valuable experience but there are other ways, less dangerous ways, of learning such life lessons.

20 January 2017

2 old donkeys get a big surprise and watch this now

My APCE Workshop: Speaking Order into Chaos

Next week I'm teaching a workshop at the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators in Denver.
The title is "Speaking Order into Chaos:  How to Cultivate a Research and Writing Team in Your Congregation." Here is a link to the workshop notes.

Here is the workshop description:
The religious landscape looks bleak and chaotic. Yet God is doing a new thing! Discover and tell good news stories about what is working in the church today. Learn where to find such stories. Learn how to speak them into eBooks that you can publish for free. Grow your congregation’s platform. Foster cohesion among your congregational leaders. Become a writer and publisher! This skill may develop into a side business for you over time.
This course covers my 2016 research into writing and self publishing. One outcome of my work on that last year is that our congregation wrote a book in honor of our 60th anniversary called Healing Happens Here: Faith Stories from St. John's Presbyterian Church. You may read it for free here.

Now this week is a chance to get a broader perspective on things.

I'm in Denver presenting a workshop at the annual conference of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE). I started out some 30 years ago as a Director of Christian Education (DCE) and the APCE conference was huge to me then. So this is a homecoming of sorts for me. These are "my people" and "my tribe" and I'm excited to get reconnected to them. My workshop is one of 80 so you get a sense of the size of this conference.

And my course is called "How to Cultivate a Research and Writing Team in Your Congregation." I'm going to tell them how we did that last year at St. John's. We produced a little book called "Healing Happens Here" with some faith stories from some real people like you. 

That book, and our story, is not finished yet because each of us is writing a story with our lives. After our lives on this earth is over we will have plenty of "time" to read that story and get all the different angles on it. We will see in exquisite detail how each of our actions effected the other people involved. Our life stories will be like a research project we will review over and over again in the future life to come. While some of our thoughts and actions will be disappointing to us, we will overall be astonished at how well we did. After all, life as a human being is truly a challenge!

We will feel encouraged by how well we did and most of that encouragement will come from God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Three in One. I think they will sit there and watch with us the movie of our life over and over again and maybe even eat some heavenly popcorn with divine butter and salt on it. And boy, oh boy, are they and we going to laugh out loud at that movie! There will be also be drama galore. That's my idea of the afterlife. Who knows if it's accurate?

Which means whatever you are going through today that seems like the end of the world, at some point in the future it may look to you like a comedy. Project yourself into that future now and imagine how funny it will seem then. That may help move you to a different position above and beyond the stuck and suffering place you are in right now, if that's where you are. If you're in a good place right now, relax, enjoy, have fun. Cherish each moment of your life for what it is: A gift from God to you and those around you.

St. John's Presbyterian Church :: NEW Book!!

You may want to read our church's new book for free here now: 

This book was written in celebration of our 60th Anniversary.

20 August 2016

In Memory of T. Hartley Hall

T. Hartley Hall was a memorable figure. He served as president of Union Union Presbyterian Seminary when I was an M.Div. student there in 1992-94. I have a few memories of him to share. He was a Southern gentlemen of the previous generation. He was a Presbyterian from a previous generation. He smoked cigarettes constantly (as did many of us in that time) and often expressed concerns about his tobacco company stocks.

T. Hartley Hall (he always used his full name) toured the Middle East with a group of us from the seminary. On the flight over from New York to Iman I couldn't sleep on the plane but he had no such trouble. He put on his eye shades, stretched out his hands behind his back and snored like a baby. He was a loud person even when he slept.

Every afternoon at 4 pm or so wherever we were, on a bus or on a plane he pulled out a small, expensive looking wooden case and put it on his lap and ritually opened it up. The case contained a fifth of high quality Single Malt Scotch with glass cups. If you were sitting next to him he invited you to partake. I did share the cup with him from time to time on that journey.

Another memory was when we were having a spirituality conference at the seminary. We had a guest speaker and were having dinner with the faculty and conference leaders. The conference leader asked us all to describe what we mean by "spirituality." I tried to say something profound as did everyone else. When it was T. Hartley Hall's turn to answer he cleared his throat and I rolled my eyes. I didn't expect much from him. He was not very "spiritual" in my eyes. He then went on to eloquently and briefly describe spirituality as stewardship by which he meant giving 10% of your income and above to support the work of Christ's church. That blew my mind. It was so basic. It took me many years to grow into his definition of spirituality. Come to find out, he was actually much more spiritual than me.

Rest in peace, T. Hartley Hall. I'm glad I got to know you in your prime. You were a mentor to me. I look forward to glad reunion in the life to come.