Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prayer Run: For Those In Between

My bib from doing the same race two years ago
I'm running a half marathon this weekend. I'm using it as a training run for the full marathon I am doing next month. And as I have done in previous races, I will again be doing it as a prayer run.

Half of a marathon. 13.1 of 26.2 miles. Halfway to a goal. In between. Midway.

In this prayer run, I will be running for those who are finding themselves in some form or state of being in between...

for those who are in between jobs...

for those who are moving, from one side of town to the other, or from one state to another...

for those in between school levels, those moving up a grade level...

for those transitioning from being a student to working and beginning a career...

for those in the middle of major projects in life...

for those in the middle of medical treatments...

for those in the midst of family transitions...

for those who are in the midst of picking up the pieces and figuring things out after the loss of loved ones to death or divorce...

for those who are in the middle of rebuilding relationships...

for pastors who are in transition in between churches/appointments...

for churches who are in transition, in between pastors...

for people transitioning into new faith communities...

for those who are in a season of waiting...

for those who are transitioning into a new state of being and new ways of doing...

... this "half" I'm running is for you.

I will say that completing a half marathon is in itself an accomplishment already. So, in whatever form of "in between-ness" that you find yourself in, I tell you to celebrate. Being where you are is already an accomplishment!

But I also encourage you to press on being "confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6, NRSV)

Praying and running for you,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Called to be Bees

Trees are budding and flowers are starting to bloom here in Anchorage. Its beautiful! And because the flowers are blooming, the bees are starting to get busy. Notice the bees in springtime. They do not stay in one place more than they should. They spend time on one flower, do what they need to do, leave what they need to leave, take what they need to take, and move on to the next bloom.

I think we can learn from these busy bees.

A former District Superintendent whom I was recently in a retreat with asked how I was doing. I said the job has given me my fair share of joys and challenges. I said I enjoy the time traveling to different ministry settings and seeing great things happening in churches and communities. Her response struck me. She said, "Yes, I loved that too! During those times, you get to be a bee spreading the pollen." What she meant was, that she was in a unique position where she can be the bearer of stories and best-practices from church to church, setting to setting, so that the ideas were cross-pollinated in her district, thereby allowing ministry settings to bloom and thrive.

Like a bee spreading pollen. Spending time in one flower and moving on to the next but making an impact in all the blooms visited.

Transiency is one of our realities here in Alaska. The state's population turnover rate is among the highest in the nation according to Alaska Economic Trends, published by the Alaska Department of Labor.
Our churches and faith communities are not immune to this "highly migratory" nature of the population. It doesn't take long for us to observe this ebb and flow. People come and go. And while many of our churches have maintained their numbers, a closer look would yield that the people we may be counting in our rolls today may not be the same people we were counting 5 years ago.

Even our clergy population is transient. This year, we are welcoming 7 new pastors to the Alaska Conference this year. We are also saying goodbye to 7. That is a 25% turnover!

This is where the metaphor of bees comes into play. Bees are transient in that they move from flower to flower. And as they move, they spread the pollen with them, allowing the plants to bloom and thrive. They leave some here and take some from here to bring to the next one, and so on.
Perhaps we are called to be bees.

To those who are coming in, both lay and clergy, we welcome you! We look forward to the pollen that you bring. May you infuse our churches and our conference with your fresh ideas of mission and ministry. May your time here be a blessed time of cross-pollination and growth!

To the those who are moving out, both clergy and lay, we will miss you! May you share the pollen about your Alaska experience and the great things that are happening here! May you be bearers of the word about the exciting ministry and mission opportunities and partnerships available here. May you take a little of the Alaska brand of United Methodism with you to your new setting of life and ministry.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Motherhood

Mother and Child by Rev. David Fison

Celebrating Mother's day in churches is always a sensitive matter. We want to celebrate but we also want to be inclusive and sensitive. A couple of years ago, I was searching online for Mother's Day resources for the church I was serving and I came upon this poem from the blog, The Messy Middle by Amy Young.

I found it very helpful for me and my congregation so I thought I'd share it with you today:

The wide spectrum of mothering
by Amy Young

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children - we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children - we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent - we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be - we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Here is a link to the blogpost. It is a good reminder for pastors and lay people alike - An Open Letter to Pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mothers Day.).