Archive for Pastor Kevin’s Blog

Another place for Pastor Kevin to throw out some thoughts and ideas for your education and entertainment. These blog posts often deal with faith and the changing culture around us.

The Cab Ride… God comes every day

On Sunday, December 19, 2010 I preached a sermon about righteousness. I defined righteousness as bearing the cost of God’s intrusive presence in our life every day. The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of Joseph, who forfeited his rights as a Jewish, First-century male in order to provide a safe and stable environment for the Christ to be born.  as part of that sermon I read a story about a taxi driver who spent an evening driving an elderly woman through the neighborhoods of her life before she entered a hospice. Several people have asked about that story. You can find the full version here:

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget by Kent Nerburn

Since preaching that sermon several people have shared some pretty remarkable stories about the way God has appeared in their lives in the form of someone in need of grace, love, kindness, encouragement etc… It has made me begin to wonder how many of those stories exist within our congregation.

How cool would it be to start a collection of those stories? Not to make ourselves appear to be wonderful people, but to inspire someone else to see that God appears every day in our lives. When we forfeit our time, energy and/or resources to share the goodness of God with someone, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, then we have become like Joseph. We bear the cost and the Christ is born in us and through us. New life is the result.

Would you consider sharing a story of God’s intrusive presence in your life? Tell it in the comment section below. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling or getting things just right. Just share your story as an inspiration to others.

A Tale of Two Days

This is a tale of relearning a lesson that I know to be true and yet seem to forget with regularity.

Monday evening I made the decision to show up at work early Tuesday morning and get at the myriad tasks I was responsible for before spending the afternoon in a more meditative state. I had an appointment with my spiritual director scheduled for early afternoon and thought it would be good to use the whole afternoon to do some writing and reflecting. This was a change from the routine that I was trying to get established; namely that I would spend an hour writing and reflecting in the morning before going to the office.

So Tuesday morning I was up and out of the house extra early. But on the brief drive to the office I admitted to myself that I was avoiding. I realized that I had come to a place in my writing that I didn’t want to face and putting it off until the afternoon was simply a form of procrastination. So I sat down and started to write. At the end of the hour I put my writing away with smug satisfaction that I had tackled a difficult task. Which was exactly the problem. I was in task mode as I wrote, not reflection mode. And when I was done writing I moved right on to the other tasks on my list.

It wasn’t long before frustration set in. One after another, little hurdles appeared. Nothing major, just a steady stream of interruptions and annoyances. Tasks that should have taken 20 minutes were now taking 90. I spent 45 minutes chasing down an unannounced change in my internet browser settings (thank you Google) that affected one of the tasks that needed to be completed. I got further behind. I left for lunch 20 minutes late and with several tasks unfinished. That meant that I would be arriving at my spiritual direction appointment with no time to spare in a frazzled state of mind.

The time with my spiritual director was good. It calmed me down and helped me realize everything that had happened in the morning was simply annoying, nothing else. But as I left that time of reflection, the rest of the day became filled once again with the unfinished tasks of the morning and was topped off by an evening council meeting. I went to bed feeling like I had been tossed around in clothes dryer.

Wednesday was a different story. Wednesday has come to be known in my life as Never Ending Wednesday. It is a day that I often get to the office by 7:30 am. and leave somewhere around 9:30 pm. It is a day that is normally a jumble of tasks, meetings, worship, teaching and preps for all that is going on that day.

But on this particular Wednesday I didn’t go in early. I spent time writing and reflecting first. By the time I looked at the clock I had just enough time to shower and dress and still swing by the coffee shop to pick up some quality brew to carry me through our staff meeting. At the coffee shop I ran into members of the congregation and even though I knew I didn’t have time, I decided that I could be late for our staff meeting (something I usually deplore) and visit a few minutes with this couple. Since I was late to the meeting I left my laptop in my bag and went to the meeting with pen and paper which meant that I wouldn’t be slyly working on other tasks . When the meeting was done I spent time with individual staff members (in the meeting after the meeting which is where the real work gets done) and then walked out of the office to go take my dog for a walk.

It was a great walk. I found a trail where she could run and I could walk and think and pray. By the time I got back to the office and finally sat down to the tasks on my to-do list, over half of the day had gone by. But with a clear, undistracted mind I began to tick off the tasks one at a time. I didn’t procrastinate. My mind didn’t wander. I didn’t find extra websites to browse. I was focused and was able to deal with distractions. I simply worked around the kinds of things that had annoyed me on Tuesday. I went to bed tired after such a long day but much calmer than the night before.

I sit here today and wonder how many times I am going to have to learn this lesson. When I put tasks and work first those are the only things that ever get done. The idea that I can get my work done and out of the way so that I can have time for other things later is a lie. Work is never done. If I ever get today’s tasks done I eagerly start on tomorrow’s tasks, telling myself that I will have more free time the day after that. But it doesn’t happen that way. The free time doesn’t come. There is always another task, and another until we break down and our free time is taken up with getting healthy.

In some strange way (that probably isn’t as strange as it seems) when I make reflection, meditation and prayer first on my priority list all those tasks end up getting completed anyway. Additionally, I end up having reserves of energy and patience for use in personal relationships. I don’t know why I keep forgetting this lesson that seems so intuitive every time I relearn it. I hope that some day the lesson sticks.

Chillout Song from Pr Kevin’s Sermon

On Sunday, October 24, in the  sermon Kingdom Inclusion I showed a clip from a talk by Ze Frank which told the story behind the Chillout Song. Many people have commented on the clip and have asked where they can find it.  Here it is. Feel free to pass it on.

A downloadable version of the song can be found here.

The story behind the song can be found here.

The entire TED talk by Ze Frank can be found here.

Moving to a Culture of Individualism

Whenever a person (or group of people) emmigrate to a new land there is a mixture of hope, excitement, fear and grieving. What is familiar is left behind. What is uncertain is lies ahead. One culture is left behind and the person moves into another culture. When you move to a new land you understand that these things exist before you move. But when you don’t move to a new land and the culture changes anyway, it can be confusing and frustrating. Realizing that our culture is changing, knowing the ways it is changing can help us bring the accumulated wisdom from the previous culture into the new one.

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell

The Basic Unit of Community: From Family to Individual
For the past 500 years or so, the nuclear family has been the basic unit of community structure in Western culture. The term “blood is thicker than water” demonstrates the idea that family ties are more important than anything else. If you grew up before 1950 you grew up in a culture that instilled this notion through television, radio, newspapers, magazines and all other media. It was a notion that was taken for granted. Norman Rockwell’s painting of the multi-generational family at Thanksgiving dinner is perhaps that quintessential image of this cultural assumption.

This was not always so. Prior to 1500 the basic unity of community in Western culture was the fiefdom. These geographically located kingdoms provided identity to those who lived within their borders. People “belonged to” or “lived under” the rule and protection of the nobility. At other times the tribe or clan, a larger version of the family, was the way in which people identified themselves.

Today, the idea that the nuclear family is the basic unity of community has all but disappeared. Slowly, the individual has become the basic unity of personal identity. Images like the lone cowboy (think John Wayne) or the person who, unaided, overcomes all obstacles to obtain their goals are the images of the new culture. Loyalty to a larger group like a family, tribe or nation, takes second place behind loyalty to one’s self. Individualism also has a part to play in the increased rate of divorce in our country. Other trends such as couples living together for years before getting married (if they do get married) and waiting longer before starting a family are partially due to a cultural emphasis on self-fulfillment. Finishing school and establishing a career come first. We also see people moving away from extended family and relocating for jobs or simply because they want to live elsewhere.

In essence, family has taken second place to individual fulfillment. People raised in the family-unit culture generally find the culture of individualism to be a selfish and dangerous choice. I believe it is natural to see it that way because individualism threatens the very fabric of the family-unit culture. But it is important to remember that no culture is 100% perfect. While a culture of individualism has many flaws, the family-unit culture wasn’t perfect either. Emphasis on the family meant that many people stayed in loveless marriages because of societal and cultural expectations. Many times adult children stayed near parents or extended family who had abused them exposing their own children to further abuse. A culture of individualism makes it easier and more socially acceptable for people to get out of unhealthy family situations.

So what does this mean for people of faith? It is hard to say. But one of the most immediate things we will notice is that we have to start talking about families in a different way. A family that consists of a man and a woman who have only been married to each other, living in the same household with their children is no longer the “average” family. Like it or not, families can have one parent, two parents, four parents or more.  They can have just two moms or two dads. They can have brothers and sisters that have different parents or just one parent in common. And families now include people who are not blood relatives or the result of adoptions at all.

Secondly we will need to stop equating Christian values with family values. They are not the same thing. In a family-unit culture it is helpful to use family values to help explain Christian values. But in a culture of individualism we will have to find new ways to teach people about Christian values. How do you teach a culture raised on the notion of self-fulfillment about self-sacrifice or being servants? When we talk about purpose and contentment and being the people God made us to be we are searching for ways to teach Christian values in a culture of individualism.

We shape our culture as much as we are shaped by it. Perhaps it is ironic that the pinnacle of the family-unit culture paved the way for the culture of individualism. Only when a culture is so willing to sacrifice everything for the family unit do children begin to believe that their happiness and well being are more important than anything else. Thankfully we have a God who is with us, regardless of the culture we live in, calling us and leading us to bring grace and love, beauty and truth and forgiveness and reconciliation to our time and place.