Thursday, January 03, 2013

I've moved!

Well, as I've written my blog post announcing my return to blogging, I've also decided to move over to my Wordpress site.  You can find new posts (and all of my old ones, too) here:  (

Back to Blogging

When I started my blog in 2006, I was planning on blogging 4-6 times a month.  Unfortunately, over the last two years, I’ve been largely dormant on the blogging front.  I won’t bore you with what’s taken precedence, but I’ve decided that in 2013, it’s time to fire up my blog and get it started again.

In the coming year, here’s what you can expect to see:
  •   Periodic articles delving into an aspect of ministry with emerging adults
  •  Some brief posts with suggestions of resources in the areas of campus ministry and ministry with young adults, leadership, and Christian living
  • Personal musings from life in ministry at a small college in Kansas
  • Occasional snippets from sermons or devotions that I’ve written
  • Reposting some articles that I’ve written for another blog but never published here

As I’m getting my mind around blogging again, I’m reminded how much social media has changed the practice of blogging since blogging first appeared in the early 2000’s.  When I started this blog in 2006, I just wanted to share a few thoughts about ministry and practice my writing skills.   I expected few readers and even fewer comments from friends.  However, as time went on, I found that readers that I didn’t know were finding my blog from various United Methodist blog lists or other random avenues.  It was a paradigm shift for me to think that anyone, anywhere could read my blog (duh…it is the worldwide web, after all).  Now, I didn’t really have that many page views, but I knew that I could and that affected the frequency with which I wrote.
Then came Twitter.  Twitter was a gamechanger for blogging in a couple of ways.  First of all, it was originally touted as “microblogging.”  This is to say that it allowed people to write in miniature what they had previously said in a whole blog post.  Thus, where I would have previously written a post about a conference, I could now “live tweet” the conference, sharing thoughts throughout, or, summarize it at the end.  A whole article on my blog could be summed up on Twitter like this: 

#Conference was great! @famouspastor inspired, amazing worship, great colleagues, #city was beautiful!  See you next year! #lovemyjob

But, if I did write that extended summary as a blog post, I could now tweet the link to my expanded reflection and send people to my blog.  Add linking on Twitter to sharing on Facebook or Google+ and you’ve got blogging reaching more and more demographics. 

So, while there are many incredible voices out there on the intewebs, I’m going to be more intentional about adding my own.  Blogging as a discipline helps me to be more reflective, more honest, and more disciplined as I consider the work to which I feel called.  If anyone wants to read and join in the conversation, please do! 

PS  The image is courtesy of Kromkrathog/

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Word to Grads of 2012: Letting God and Remaining Connected

Graduation is upon us and we've just today sent off the graduating class of 2012 from Southwestern College.  I had an opportunity to give a short "charge" to the seniors and their families at the Baccalaureate service this morning.  Here is a portion of the words that I shared.

While the journey of education and preparation for a career has been different for each person with whom we celebrate today, I think that we could find some similarities in the stories of everyone.  Each graduate, and even their loved ones, have learned many lessons.  You have certainly learned more about psychology, or education, or business, or religion.  But I would speculate that you have also learned some practical lesson, such as how long you can wait before laundry becomes a critical need.  Or, how to buckle down and do work that you don’t really want to do.  And I hope that you’ve learned to get along with people who have a different background than you.  And you may have, without even knowing it, learned a basic lesson about horticulture.  If not, I hope to teach it now.

Our scripture tells us this basic word about horticulture, and it is this:  simply put, a branch that doesn’t bear fruit should be cut off, and that which does bear fruit should be pruned, so as to be even more fruitful.  While this may not initially seem terribly profound, it is a lesson that while you maybe didn’t learn it in class, you will need to learn in life.

In order to be fruitful in life, we must learn to prune, to let go of some things.  We are usually pretty willing to let go of things that are hard (like reading a challenging book, or staying up late to work on a paper), but the kind of pruning that Jesus is referring to in this passage goes beyond simply letting go of things that we didn’t want anyway.  He is referring to branches that don’t bear fruit.  Things like: small ideas, preconceived plans, grievances toward one another.  We must let go of things that tie us down to the ways of the world in order to be freed up for higher things like commitment to our mission, service to our world, and following after God’s purposes. 

The pruning doesn’t always involve simply lopping off the unfruitful things in our lives.  It also involves pruning that which is good, in order to grow that which is great.  Just after college, I read an article that brought the truth of this idea to life.  The author was talking about priorities.  He told the story of a wine company that advertized their product by saying “We cut off some of the good fruit, so that you can have only the very best.”   Their point was that they were less interested in producing a higher quantity yield than they were in producing a higher quality yield.  As I translated this into my own ordering of priorities, if I wanted to produce the very best in my life, I would need to cut off some things that were simply “good.”  Committing to too many good things prevented me from saying yes to that which would enable me to do the hard work that would lead to greatness later on. 

Pruning is painful—it requires discernment to know what to let go of, but pruning is purposeful.  It reminds us that what may seem like a sacrifice in the short-term, will yield long term benefits.

Learning how to prioritize by pruning is not the only word that John 15 has for us this morning.  The trajectory of this text is not about the letting go process, but actually about the remaining connected process.  Jesus’ words identify that in order to bear any fruit, a branch must remain connected to the vine.  The flower bouquet that you may give to your loved one as you celebrate today is beautiful, but the flower will not continue to grow.  In order for that beauty to continue to grow, the flowers must stay planted.

Graduate, you are beautiful today with your diploma and your cap and gown and the glow of accomplishment.  But, unless you remain connected to the life-giving vine, the beauty will fade, the vibrancy will diminish, the growth will cease.  So, stay planted.  A fruitful life is one that continues to bloom, season after season, year after year.  Remain connected to God, the Life-Giver.  Surround yourself with others whose lives show the fruitfulness that is a result of rootedness.  Allow yourself to be nurtured, even as you nurture others.  While pruning is about letting go, remaining in God is about staying connected. 

So graduate, it is time to prune.  Cut off those things that prevent you from living out the higher purposes to which you’ve been called.  And be willing to give up some of the good things so that you might be able to harvest the truly great things.  You’ll do this by remaining connected to the true Life-Giver.  You think that you’re beautiful now?  Just wait. May your life show the evidence of a plentiful harvest that is beautiful beyond all comparison.  And in that harvest, may you find the fullness of life.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I'm so excited....and I just can't hide it! (#Explo11)

I’m excited.  Yeah…if you know me, you know that it doesn’t actually take a whole lot for me to be excited!  I tend to run pretty optimistic about things, but today my excitement is warranted, I’m sure of it!  J  I am in Saint Louis preparing for Exploration2011, an event that the General Board for Higher Education and Ministry directs for young people to explore a call to ministry, specifically ordained ministry, in the United Methodist Church.  The Design Team has reassembled for the event, after starting work on it a year and a half ago, and as we met tonight and shared our prayer requests and expectations for the weekend, I was awash with excitement about all that God has done, is doing, and will do in the lives of the people who will be here and those whom they will serve.  We talk so frequently about the challenges in the church and in the world and hypothesize on how we are going to see our way forward.  I’m convinced that what we will see this weekend is a glimpse of the way forward.  We have young people who are gifted, called, and have a passion to serve in the world.  Hundreds of them have committed to being available to God this weekend to spend time in intentional discernment.  I’m praying, and asking for the prayers of anyone who reads this, that God will continue to draw them deeper into relationship and that out of the overflow of that vital relationship would result a passion to serve God in making disciples for the transformation of the world. 
So forgive me if I’m pretty excited!  I don’t think that it gets better than this!
PS  You can follow the Twitter feed of #Explo11 here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Praying for Exploration 2011

A year and a half ago, I was asked to serve on a Design Team for Exploration 2011.  I quickly said yes, as I was excited to be a part of an experience that will be a “spiritual marker” for some who attend.  Exploration is an “event” (though it seems shallow to call it that—it is more than an “event,” it is potentially an encounter with the Living God in discerning what may be a call to ministry) for people aged 18-26 to explore what it means to be called to ministry, specially related to ordination as a deacon or elder in the United Methodist Church.  Representatives from the 13 United Methodist Seminaries will be there, along with leaders who can articulate various important aspects of ministry. 

I attended Exploration 1996, which seems like a lifetime ago.  It was the first time that I understood what ordination was and was particularly interested in the new order of the deacon (which I would be ordained as in 2010).  I honestly don’t remember many of the details that happened at the event, but I do know that I left that “event” being confident that God had called me to something, even if I didn’t know all of the details.  I look back on that time and realize that it truly was a “spiritual marker” of sorts, as much for setting aside the time to go, but also for verbalizing to others that I had a call to ministry.  (I wrote more in detail about that here). 

Exploration is a time to set aside the other things on the schedule to listen:  to others who are sensing a call to ministry, to the equipping opportunities for ministry, but most importantly to listen to God.  This fall, on 11/11/11, hundreds will gather in St. Louis, and even as the final preparations are approaching, I would love to invite you to pray with me.  The things that I’m praying for in the days ahead are:
  • People registering—that God would bring people who are open to the work that God may want to do in their lives
  • Speakers and workshop leaders—that they would articulate what it means to live out one’s call to ministry
  • Churches and Campus Ministries who are “sending” people—that they would nurture the call of ministry well before Exploration and upon return home

The theme for this year is “Passion and Possibilities” and we are eagerly anticipating all that God will do in the lives of those in attendance.  I work with college students in campus ministry, in fact, 8 of my students will be joining me in St. Louis this year.  They are full of both passion and possibilities.  I am excited for all that God has in store in the days ahead.  And I’m grateful for your prayers joining in for this “event.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+ and College Students

I have been on Google+ for almost a week now and it's been fascinating for me to watch how it is evolving in my "circles," namely the United Methodist Church online world, campus ministry people, and my college students. I scored an invite first from a recent grad, but couldn't figure out how to accept the invite and then a fellow young UMC clergy sent me an invite which I did figure out how to accept! Within a day, I found people that I knew (in real life and in the digital world) and other people found me. It was fascinating to watch how quickly people popped up on Google+. I was actually an early adopter of Facebook (when I started, it was before it was public, as some Southwestern students lobbyed the FB folks for a network. I believe we got one in early 2006.) and a fairly early Twitter adopter. I got pulled in to Facebook by my students and I got pulled into Twitter by UMC young clergy colleagues, and I got pulled into Google+ from people that I followed on Twitter. We'll see how things take off with G+, but here are a few observations that I've made:
  • I have been surprised at how many of my college students have already gotten on G+. It seems that with the exception of a couple, most of my students did not jump on board with Twitter. In the last year, a dozen or so (that are in my world) have begun tweeting, but I already have that many students that have signed up for G+. This gives me great hope that all of the collaborative potential that I see for G+ might actually be able to be used!
  • I think that people really are gravitating toward the idea of selective disclosure of themselves, ie., the various ways that that they can reveal their online selves by posts going to particular circles. Facebook certainly has that ability, but one must be pretty savvy and disciplined to sort people, add to lists, etc., etc., in order for it to live up to it's potential.
  • I'm hoping that G+ stays away from the online games and such that has been the legacy of Facebook. I know that there is a certain kind of community in online gaming, but I don't want another Farmville request! I'm not interested! :-)
  • I "follow" many of the same people in FB, Twitter, and G+ and right now, everyone seems to be posting all three places. I'm wondering if that will change with time..if we will figure out where the best audience is for which type of communication and connect there. I'm sure that this will evolve as we figure it out, and I'm curious how it will develop.
  • I'm not a Mac devotee and I was pleasantly surprised that the G+ app was on Android first! It is awesome! I can definitely see how I would use G+ different on my phone and I like what I see!
Anyway...almost a week in and I'm encouraged that Google+ could actually do what FB and email haven't been able to do in my ministry: make communication with my students a little easier (they don't get on FB to "communicate"--it is for entertainment, and many don't read email at all or very frequently!). That remains to be could just be that it's the shiny new thing, but it looks promising!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Not Alone

It seems, at times, that we are alone. The situations in our lives have played out and we think we know the ending. I'm assuming that's how Mary Magdalene felt as she stood weeping outside the tomb. Alone and disappointed. And then...he was there. Jesus appeared...looking somewhat different than she remembered, or expected. And likewise, the disciples felt abandoned and alone inside their locked doors and self-induced seclusion. And yet, Jesus appeared, twice, to his beloved disciples to remind them that they are not alone. Slowly, at least some of the disciples begin to emerge from their seclusion and they return to their pre-Jesus lives as fishermen.

READ: John 21:1-13

Finally…Simon Peter worked up the courage, either out of confidence, hope, or boredom to go fishing! But even as that first day back on the water drew to a close, they yielded no catch. A long, probably uncomfortable, questioning night that thankfully came to an end with daybreak. They heard a fatherly voice from the shore: “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They didn’t know who it was, but it was a voice that seemed to understand something about them. Then, the voice gave them advice…the advice that they didn’t even know that they needed. The voice told them to put their nets out to the right side of the boat. They were in the right waters, but were approaching it the wrong way. When they obeyed and saw how much fish they caught, the Person behind the voice was revealed. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved knew it first! It was Jesus! And true to form, the impulsive Peter jumped into the water to get to his Lord first of all!

Jesus was there…on the shore all along. I even wonder if he was there the day before in their frustration of a day without a catch. Was he there waiting and hoping that they would notice him? Was he there ready to offer advice, if only they would ask? And then, that second morning, he spoke, only they didn’t know it was him. It was after they obeyed his voice, and saw that it was trustworthy, did they see that he was actually there all along.

Are there times when you are discouraged? Do you think that you’re fishing in the right waters, but things aren’t yielding the result that you’re expecting, that you’re praying for, that you know should happen? Is it possible that Jesus is there, all along?