Mar 23, 2011

Wow! Another One!

I am 42 years old. I have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and heart disease. In the last two years, I've had a quadruple by-pass, three angiograms, and two stents placed in my heart. I take 13 pills a day that keeps me alive.

I have no business being alive.

Two years ago, I had no idea I had heart disease. I went to the doctor because my big toe was tingling. I went from tingling toes to a quadruple bypass surgery in less than two weeks.

Out of the four arteries that feed the heart, two of my arteries were 100% blocked and the other two had 90% blockage. I was barely alive. It's not good when doctors and nurses call you a walking heart attack waiting to happen.

The only reason why I am still around is by the grace of God.

So every morning I wake up and say, "Wow! Another one! Thank you Jesus!" I am keenly aware that every day is another day I would not have experienced had it not been for the tingling toes and the doctors and nurses that diagnosed my disease. And I am absolutely aware, that had it not been for God's grace I would not have paid attention to the tingling toes.

But you know what, you don't need heart disease or any other medical condition to realize that every day you get up in the morning is another day you get to live because of the grace of God.

The only reason why we are still around is by the grace of God. And if we're still around it's because God has a purpose for our being around.

Every day is a gift. Live each day to make it count. Live each day to the fullest. Live each day to make a difference.

Wow! Another one!

Thank you Jesus!

Mar 19, 2011

Olympia Presbytery and the GIANT, HUMONGOUS, WHITE ELEPHANT We'll Pretend We Don't See

This past week, the Little Church on the Prairie hosted the presbytery meeting for Olympia Presbytery.

The volunteers at the Little Church did and amazing job of welcoming and serving! You folks were awesome in the way you extended hospitality and welcome to our friends in the presbytery.

The reason why I am posting this blog is because I still feel uneasy about the presbytery meeting. With the voting trends of the 10-A (where our denomination will change ordination standards) the PC(USA) is closer to implosion as we have ever been in our 30-40 year history as a denomination.

The stark reality is that there may not even be a PC(USA) as we currently know it and understand it at this time next year.

While we have this monumental change looming before us, the presbytery acted as if nothing was changing.

For instance, there was a motion to encourage sessions to support the presbytery either at previous year's giving or to increase their giving.

Ok. Let me get this straight. The denomination is in the midst of monumental change where the likelihood of giving trends decreasing is highly likely, and yet we are going to budget and act as if congregations are going to give more than the previous year or maintain their giving?

I don't get it.

In my humble opinion, every other institution and organization around, if they want to continue to be around and increase their effectiveness, would operate slightly differently. Given changing realities (the economy has taken a brutal hit, job market is down, housing market is down, stock markets are down, personal income is down, etc.) organizations and churches would plan and budget with those realities. And unless there was a very good reason to think that giving trends would be maintained or increased, the most logical thing to do is to budget and prepare for a down trend in giving.

That's how other organizations and institutions would do things.

But not the presbytery.

We're just going to pretend everything's going to be fine. We're going to act as if nothing's changed. We're not even going to talk about or even name that our denomination might not even be around.

Not only are we not going to talk about these realities, we are going to encourage congregations to give more.


I don't get it.

Mar 14, 2011

Reclaiming the Reverend-ness of the Office of Clergy

Been reading a book called, "Odd and Wondrous Calling" by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver. In one of the chapters, Martin Copenhaver talks about a time when he received a phone call from the police department when he was a young pastor.

The officer on the line explained that he was going to have to place the author under arrest because he ran off from the gas station without paying after he had filled up his car in the morning. The author explained to the officer that he was a pastor and that he did indeed put gas in but because of all the things going on in the life of the church, he forgot to pay before driving off.

When the police officer found out that he was a pastor the officer said, "If my wife finds out I arrested a pastor she's going to kill me." And the officer had the young pastor meet him at the gas station to pay the owner and to explain the situation.

My oh my how times have changed.

I don't think there would be many police officers who would have trouble arresting clergy today. There was a day when people respected the office of pastor. Pastors were respected members of society. Pastors were respected because pastors, for the most part, did their part to live into the office of pastor.

The days of people respecting the office of pastor are long gone.

This story made me reflect on my own ministry. I, like many other clergy of this generation, have overplayed our humanness while underplaying the call to the office of pastor.

Many, like myself, prefer to be called by our first names. When someone calls me "Reverend Kim," I look around looking for my dad who was also a pastor.

My dad, lived as a pastor 24/7. As soon as he got up in the morning, he would dress in his suit pants and his dress shirt even if he was going to just hang around the house. He never dressed more casually than that. He was always Reverend Kim.

During all my years of living with dad, he was always first and foremost, Pastor or Reverend Kim.

Growing up seeing that aspect of ministry, I kind of went the other way. I don't dress like a reverend, I ride my motorcycle to the office, my shaved head doesn't look like your typical revered hair cut.

But perhaps the underestimating the office of ministry and playing up our humanity has negatively impacted ministry both for the clergy and for everyone else around.

I think it has negatively impacted ministry for the clergy.

Yes, we are human. But we must not forget that we have also been called and set apart. And because we have been called and set apart, it is only right for people to expect more from pastors. Pastors ought to be leaders by our lifestyle first.

I can't help but wonder if it's because of our overplaying the humanity of the pastor that more pastors have in fact been all too human. We have become so human so that others cannot see any difference in how we live. And the thing is, we ought to be demonstrating Christ-likeness in our lives.

Perhaps it is precisely because people have come to see so much of our human frailty and not enough of Christ's holiness and joy in our lives that people no longer respect the office of ministry.

While I don't think I will ever go around wearing a clerical collar or a suit and tie 24/7, I am realizing that God has indeed called me to live a life that demonstrates his glory and joy in all of my life - even in my jeans and leather jacket.

Mar 2, 2011

Three Types of People Around Jesus: The Crowds, The Groupies, The Core Part 2

Wherever Jesus went, there were three types of people around Jesus Christ: the crowds, the groupies, and the core.

Today we will look at the second of these groups: the groupies.

The groupies were the people that followed Jesus from place to place. Jesus would tell his disciples that they were going across the lake to preach at a different place, and groupies are the ones who'd look around and say, "Hey, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat and they've left." The groupies would then run around the lake to be waiting for Jesus when he and the disciples arrived.

The primary relationship Jesus had with the groupies was that of influence. The groupies wanted to be around Jesus and liked what Jesus had to a point.

As soon as the teachings of Jesus became difficult and inconvenient, they would bolt.

The groupies of Jesus are ones who love who love the teachings of Jesus that deal with the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, the salvation of God. But when Jesus goes deeper and starts talking about the cost of discipleship, that the way is narrow, that God doesn't want just a part of our lives, but all of life...when the teachings of Jesus are no longer convenient, the groupies desert Jesus.

You can find groupies at most church gatherings. They love all the positive teachings of Jesus. But once the teachings of Jesus start meddling with personal tastes and preferences, once the teachings of Jesus become inconvenient, the groupies drop away.

Where as the crowds were interested in Jesus as consumers, the groupies were influenced by the teachings of Jesus but the key distinction is one of convenience.

The thing that makes this so hard is that groupies tend to be good and nice people. They go to church. They attend worship. They look and act like disciples. But instead of conforming their lifestyle to the teachings of Jesus Christ, often times they conform their beliefs to support their lifestyles.

As someone rightly observed, "If Jesus is not Lord of all, Jesus is not Lord at all."

One final note about groupies. The Kingdom of God cannot be built by groupies. Because as soon as the Christian life becomes hard and costly, you can't count on the groupies to be present.

Crowds - Interest - Consumers
Groupies - Influence - Convenience

Traveling From Seatac - One of the Benefits of Living in the Pacific Northwest

One of the realities of living in the Pacific Northwest instead of Dallas is that traveling to anywhere for meetings except for the west coast takes a lot longer. The Presbyterians for Renewal board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to Friday afternoon. The only way I could make it to Lakeland, FL in time for the meeting was to either catch a red eye or to fly the day before the meeting.

Red eyes used to be okay when I was younger, but I try to avoid red eyes whenever possible now.

One of the benefits of flying in a day early was that the host church organized an outing to the Detroit Tigers spring training game. The Detroit Tigers spend their springs in Lakeland.

I love baseball and this was my first spring training game.

When I left Seattle, it was cold and raining. Lakeland is in the mid seventies and sunny. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to spend the afternoon watching baseball.

There's something about baseball games that's so American. I loved it.

So here's to living in the Pacific Northwest!