Please join your PCJH family as we head to Alpine to work on the new homes Habitat for Humanity is building there. We’ll carpool from PCJH, departing at 8am. Contact Katie-Chloe Stock at email@example.com to sign up.
As we begin 2014, Terri and I wanted to share with you that after much prayer and conversation this will be our last year in Jackson Hole. I have been privileged to share nearly 20 years of life and ministry with you. We have felt God closing this chapter of our lives and have known we must respond. Therein we met with the Session on Tuesday evening, January 21, informed them of our decision and had a special meeting with the staff of PCJH on Wednesday and shared this decision as well. As we near the end of this phase of ministry we know we have been blessed.
The normal process a pastor would pursue in concluding a ministry would be to seek a new call, receive and accept a new call, and then tell the congregation. As you can see we are not following this process. The issue of Terri and my transition from PCJH was mentioned a number of times in the Long Range Planning interviews. I felt announcing this decision now might allow PCJH to better evaluate and plan the future ministry to which God is calling this part of his family.
With this announcement begins a series of decisions PCJH must make. The first decision to be addressed will take place at our Congregational Meeting on Sunday February 9, following worship. The question before us will be:
How will PCJH pursue new pastoral leadership?
At the request of the Long Range Planning Committee, the Personnel Team has been researching PCJH’s options and will report those options to Session. At the February 9 meeting Session will present to the congregation this research, the option it feels is best for PCJH, and the rationale behind that option. It is the responsibility of the congregation to discuss and vote on its desired direction.
With the importance of this coming congregational meeting I need to remind you about a couple central elements within a Presbyterian congregation:
1. Presbyterians do things in a “fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 15:40). Prayer and dialogue are central to this process. We believe God directs his people as we pray, talk, discern and vote on how we believe the Holy Spirit is leading. Prepare for the future in prayer.
2. Only those who are ‘Active Members’ of the church have a voice and vote at meetings. An ‘Affiliate Member’ can attend and speak but not vote. An ‘Inactive’ or ‘Non-member’ is welcome to attend and listen. If you are not an ‘Active Member’ and have considered being one there will be a Church Information Class Thursday, February 6, 5:30 pm.
And what will the Hayden’s do next? God has yet to reveal this portion of our journey. In March I will be completing my second week of Interim Pastoral Training, a special program to help churches that are in transition. We feel God may be calling us to this unique ministry. In addition, if a church does approach us to serve we would prayerfully consider that possibility. Regardless, we will be completing our ministry at PCJH on or before August 31, 2014 but not sooner than May 15. Please keep us in prayer as this chapter of life comes to completion and we seek God’s leading as to what is next.
Finally, Terri and I have been privileged to live in Jackson Hole and honored to serve you, the people of PCJH and the broader community. With many of you we have become friends and with some we have become family. We have been blessed to be part of the work God has developed in and through this congregation. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your life, for the many ways you have supported us, and for your participation in advancing God’s Kingdom in and through PCJH.
January 1, 2014
Last evening, New Year’s Eve, Terri and I met some friends at the Four Seasons for hors de voures, conversation, and listening to some good music (Isaac Hayden if any of you want to look him up). It was great watching the Four Season’s crowd as they came in from a fun day of skiing or arrived for an early drink prior to some big New Year’s Eve bash.
Part of the festivities as “The Village” was the annual torch light parade down the mountain. First came the children with their little flashlights. Then came the adults with their flares blazing. It seemed like hundreds of skiers with flares wove their way down the Teewinot run. The crowd cheered amidst the beauty of the stream of lights. The final celebration came with a fireworks display. What fun.
As I was watching the parade from the warm confines of the lounge I saw that snow had began to fall. I thought what a joyful sight for this evening. The mountain had been a bit icy and as in most ski towns, when there hasn’t been fresh snow for a while, things also turn a little bit dirt brown. By the time we left the village and headed back into town for dinner the wind was blowing and the fresh white stuff was covering the ground.
New Year morning, 2014. I got up today with a sea of freshly fallen snow surrounding the house. It is always a spectacular scene. The foot prints of our little dog are filled in and covered. The branches of the trees surrounding the house carry the weight of the evening’s blessing. The snow on the deck railing revealed that it had only been an inch or two that we had received down on the valley floor, but that inch or two had done its transformative work.
The start of a new year can be like a freshly fallen snow. It is a new beginning. It carries with it the possibilities of something new and beautiful. I am reminded of that wonderful verse from Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though you sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
The grace of God given us in and through Jesus Christ transforms our souls like the snow transforms the landscape. What a beautiful work it is. But, God’s grace does even more. The dirt and grime is only hidden underneath the newly fallen snow. When it melts the dirt is seen again. The season that follows winter is “mud season” when that which was hidden is revealed and must be dealt with. Contrast this to Jesus who is the one who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). David understood this when he said:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11, 12.
May God through Jesus send the fresh, purifying snowfall of his grace upon you this new year and may your life, your behaviors, attitude, and motivations, be whiter than snow in 2014.
Happy New Year. Pastor Paul
Dear Members and Friends of PCJH:
It is with great joy that I share with you the news of a gift that has been given to the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole. Pike Sullivan, the husband of one of our members, Susan, died and left PCJH a portion of his estate. The amount is significant, approximately $600,000 this year and a similar amount next year. What a tremendous affirmation of the ministry and mission of this church.
With blessing comes responsibility. Large gifts can be divisive within any organization, especially one as diverse as our church. Such gifts can also undermine the ongoing giving because of the perception that smaller gifts are no longer needed. Because of these realities, your leaders (The Elders together with the Finance and Stewardship Teams) have spent time with each other in prayer and dialogue for discernment how we believe God would have us use this gift. As a result of this process the Elders accepted the following unanimous recommendation of the Finance Team:
The Finance Team of the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole unanimously recommends to the Board of Elders/Trustees that the first installment of the Pike Sullivan bequest of $600,000 be used as follows:
Repayment of Promissory Notes to members of the congregation $450,000 (1)
Repayment of non-interest bearing loan from Christian Foundation 100,000 (2)
Total “Repayment of Debt” 550,000
Matching fund challenge for CY&F vehicle purchase 50,000 (3)
Total Uses for first installment of Sullivan Gift $600,000
Additionally, the intent of the Finance Team is to recommend a tithe of 10% of the overall gift to the Mission/Outreach activities of PCJH.
This wise decision and the discussion that underpins it reflect at least three principles to guide the use of extra-ordinary gifts when given to PCJH (including the 2nd portion of the Sullivan gift).
1. Pay off debt following the scriptural instruction of Romans 13:8 which says:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Benefit: No “next” capital funds campaign as had been planned;
Save the church about $25,000 a year in interest payments;
Provide a “clean slate” as we define and implement our Long Range Plan;
Prayerfully define ways to “love one another and our fellowman.”
2. Tithe 10% for mission beyond the church following the example of Malachi 3:6-10.
Benefit: Set an example as to how we believe God wants us to steward his money;
Bless our community and the world as God has blessed us.
3. Unless specifically designated, use special gifts to move the ministry and mission of PCJH into the future, not to fund the annual operating budget.
Benefit: Planting the seeds that will grow the ministry and mission of the church.
I pray that you will give thanks with me for this wonderful gift. I also pray that you will see the need to continue to support the general operating budget of this church so that the ministry and mission to which God has called us will touch our congregation, community, and world as we Gather, Grow, and Go.
Serving our Lord with you,
1 PCJH members loaned the congregation money so we might pay off the 6% construction loan to our bank. This action saved PCJH about $70,000 per year in interest payments. Some of the promissory notes have already been paid by pledges/gifts to our facility fund. Others have been forgiven as certain families contributions to the capital campaign. This figure represents the remaining amount of money loaned to PCJH members.
2 A Christian Foundation which believes in the ministry and mission of PCJH loaned us $700,000 in 2007 (at no interest) to assist in the construction of the Christian Education wing, the Dalquist Chapel, and the remodeling of the sanctuary. $200,000 remains to be paid, half this year and half next. This line item reflects this year’s payment.
3 Part of our mission beyond the church and within the community revolves around our Children, Youth and Family programs. We have been made aware that our 15-passenger vans have become illegal within the Wyoming public school districts for transportation of children and youth because of safety reasons (vulnerable to rolling, etc.). Churches, private schools, colleges and universities are exempt from this law. We are choosing to address this safety issue by designating the remaining $50,000 toward the purchase of “safe vehicles” and challenge the congregation to match that amount with extra-commitment gifts.
…and thanks to all of you for your prayers and support as Terri and I spent our two months away in Scotland. It was a great trip. We experienced beautiful scenery, centuries of history (castle upon castle upon castle), tremendous art, interesting people, good local music, and the presence of the Lord. Not a bad trip you might say!
On the pastoral front it is always risky turning the preaching and teaching over to a person you have only met by e-mail. Four things made me feel comfortable in inviting Rev. Stevenson to do this exchange: The doctrinal similarities of the Reformed Faith in our denomination and the Church of Scotland; The newsletter of the Dunbar Parish Church that reflected their activity, Christ-centeredness, Biblical orientation, and dynamic; The level of comfort knowing Pastor Ben would be present, leading the congregation in my absence (true to form, Ben did a great job); the sovereignty of God. I firmly believe that when God is in charge great things will happen.
And what did Terri and I learn from the people of Dunbar Parish Church which we served?
1. People rich in faith. The people we met loved God and loved their neighbors.
2. People of prayer. Whether in homes or before services at the church we shared in a number of wonderful times of prayer.
3. People who are the history of the church. I became very aware of the reality ministers come and go, but, God’s people carry God’s work forward.
4. Hospitality is a spiritual gift and when lived can make people feel at home regardless of the differences.
5. We grow in many ways when we are will to take a risk, branch out of our comfort zone and try something different.
Did we see areas where there might be room to grow? Absolutely…just like at PCJH. When we stop growing we start dying. When we stop seeing the needs around us we stop being involved in our community. When we stop wanting to reach out and touch one another and care for our neighbor we stop loving. There is always a new generation to reach with the good news of the gospel. As some people say, “The best is yet to come.”
Once again, thank you for allow this exchange to take place.
When Terri and I returned from Scotland, in addition to all the adjustments of time, scenery, temperature, I felt the change in season. I have come to expect that change beginning those early mornings of Teton County Fair. The air is just a little bit more crisp and the darkness of the evening comes just a bit earlier with each passing day. The change signals that slow progression from summer to winter, the season we call Fall. It is an exciting time filled with lots of color but always transition.
As this Fall begins we are going to see some wonderful changes at PCJH. New children will arrive in our Little Lambs Pre-school. We will hear new music from our choir. Ben and I will be preaching textually as well as topically from the Book of Romans through the Fall and Winter. We will receive new members into the life of the church.
Maybe the biggest change will be in the ministry that our newest staff member, Ricky Emerlyn will bring to us. Ricky, Jody and the kids come to us from 13 years of ministry with “Youth With A Mission” (YWAM) where they have led missions in 50+ countries around the world and helped people deepen their walk with the Lord. As Director of Discipleship for Children Youth and Families we are opening the door for Ricky to do that in our congregation. Ricky has a heart to see people grow to know and follow Jesus. As part of the staff team we are asking him to assist us all in the deepening of our faith as well. What a great school year awaits us as we Gather, Grow, and Go.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
August 1, 2013
Shoes that fit.
When I was younger (OK, much younger) I played a bit of baseball. In fact, I loved baseball and to this day I catch glimpses or smells that transport me back to those younger days. I remember the smell of a man who smoked cigars at almost every little league game. There are times when I smell a cigar and if I am stepping just right I become 12 years old in my mind. Amazing how our smells can elicit such strong memories.
One baseball experience I had came from a friend who taught me how to break in baseball cleats. For you who have never worn baseball cleats it can be an awkward experience. My ankles are scarred from where the cleats hit my feet during those first days of spring training each year. Anyway, this friend told me to put on my cleats on a warm Saturday, step in to a bucket of water, soak the shoes, tie them relatively tight, and then spend the day in the shoes. “Let them dry to your foot,” he said. Personally, I thought the guy was crazy but also thought it might help. Long story short, it was the best fitting pair of shoes I had ever worn. They had dried shaped to my foot.
Several words of caution. 1) Do not do this during winter in Jackson Hole. 2) Only do this if you have the financial resources to buy another pair of shoes just in case it does not work for you. 3) Only do this if you have the time to allow the shoes to conform to your foot.
So, what is it like returning to Jackson Hole after having been gone for nearly 2 months? In many ways it is like stepping into a pair of shoes that have been conformed to my feet. Home is home. Gordon and Gail Stevenson did a wonderful job cleaning it in preparation for their departure and our return (I can only hope we did as well). The computers work, the car works, the television works, the stereo system is fine, the art work is still in place, the bed is still comfy, we have returned to our home. Shoes that fit.
We went by church yesterday and it had thrived under Pastor Ben’s marvelous leadership and grown under Gordon’s inspirational instruction. As Terri and I walked in we were greeted by Bill Hungate and Jo Holton, familiar faces and good friends. The chairs were in their same rows, new photos of Tierra Nueva had been added to the mission wall, the baptismal pictures on the hall wall were still the same (even though someone had suggested taking pictures of Gordon and pasting his head over mine), the JOY program was still being run effectively,… It felt right. Shoes that fit.
We drove into town and it was the same. The town was busy with tourists, road construction, yet remarkably green from summer thunderstorms. We went to the Post Office and went to the same mail boxes with the same solicitations and a few notes from friends. We went to China Town for lunch with Cameron and there saw the same staff and a few familiar faces. The home, the town, the church where we have spent so much of life are shoes that fit.
Here is what is remarkable to me, in 5 weeks Terri and I felt the same fit beginning to form in Dunbar. We started to call “The Manse,” home. We started seeing friends on the street and saying hello. Terri even went into Edinburgh one day with a couple of the girls and while walking through a store heard her name called, by a new friend from the church. Roundabouts had become easy. Driving on the left hand side of the road didn’t feel so much like the “wrong side” of the road. We had jumped into our new community with both feet, gotten our shoes wet and they had begun to conform and become comfortable. They were becoming shoes that fit.
Maybe there is a truth here that we need to recognize: If you can jump in with both feet there will be a fit. If you find that a fit is not happening then it probably is the wrong place or the wrong time.
Maybe there is a spiritual truth here we need to recognize as well. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in John 15:7.
If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you may ask whatever you will and it will be done for you.
That word “abide” means fit, like a foot in a shoe. My foot had to abide in those cleats in that risky and initially an uncomfortable process. But, no matter how new and uncomfortable, as the shoe began to dry it became conformed to my foot with shoe and foot becoming teammates.
In Romans 8:29 the Apostle Paul used a very Presbyterian/Church of Scotland word, predestined. Even though I believe this word is often misused or not understood, in this verse it has a powerful message for understanding God’s goal of what it means to allow the foot of God, Jesus, to be inserted into the shoe of our lives. Here is what he says:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
How do we become conformed “to the likeness of God’s son?” by jumping in, by abiding, by allowing Jesus to put his foot into the soul of our lives and letting our shoe become conformed to his image.
May we become a shoe that fits onto the foot of our Lord.
23 July 2013
When someone plans a trip like Terri and I have been on these past 8 weeks there is no way to know what will transpire. We had our list of places we wanted to see. We had our anticipations of experiences we wanted to have. We knew we only had so much time to travel and I knew I had certain responsibilities to fulfill. These ‘knowns’ were like the outline of a paint-by-number sketch. The actual colors that get filled in between those lines are an unknown until the artist picks up the brush and begins to paint, or in our case, your feet hit the ground and the rubber meets the road, and the experiences begin to happen.
We have had so many wonderful experiences in Scotland it will be hard to recount them all. Terri and I know that it will take us a while to process the many turns in the roads, scenic views, moments of laughter and the joyful surprises, and the incidents that took our breaths away either because of the beauty or because of the terror. We understand that our friends and family back in Jackson and beyond will have a polite tolerance for the short version of our Scotland time. We understand that most of what we have experienced will be lodged between our souls and be part of the glue that solidifies the foundation of our first ten years of marriage upon which we build our next years of life together.
One of the blessings that Terri and I have experienced is that of being a pastoral husband and wife team. It is not that we are not a team in Jackson, but, because our marriage started half way through my tenure at PCJH, and because she works full-time at the hospital, it is just different. People here have only known us as a pastoral team. We have learned a good deal about how we work and how well we work together. Truly this has been a great blessing.
Dunbar is a wonderful community in a beautiful country. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a beautiful region of a great country and a wonderful community. We have been blessed to experience both. In addition, like many of us, over the years I have been blessed to see many incredible landscapes, vistas, in various places around our globe. However, what I have discovered holds me to a place is not the natural beauty but the people. It is the people of the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole and the Jackson Hole community to whom I anticipate returning. We have shared a great deal together. You have taught me more than I will ever be able to express about the love and grace of God, the dreaming and pursuing of visions, seeing dreams become reality, and the practical ways of sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ with our neighbors and friends as we pass on the faith and inviting them in.
It is the people of Dunbar that I will miss more than anything else. They have been warm, generous, and patient with us foreigners. They have been open and even desirous to experience new thoughts and new ways. They have shared their homes and their families, shared their food and their faith, and shared times of prayer and worship. We have been able to laugh together and do some recreating together. They have shared with us the stories of their lives, the history of their community and treated us as honored guests. We have felt the love of Jesus Christ in their presence.
It is the people that make saying good-bye difficult. All I can say and Terri along with me can say is, “Thank you, Dunbar and Dunbar Parish Church, for welcoming us in. We will take you with us as we return to the United States and wherever we go you will be in our hearts. May God continue to richly bless you as you walk with Him.”
15 July 2013
Terri and I have learned a great deal about distance during these past few weeks. On the surface of things, mileage around the nation of Scotland is quite small. Scotland is about 1/3 the land mass of Wyoming. Even though it has 10 times as many people, the bulk of the population are located in the urban corridor between Edinburgh and Glasgow with a few large smatterings in the East around Aberdeen, the North around Inverness, and the South around Dumfries. With the exception of a few 4 lane highways that connect the major areas all other travel revolves around two lane roads with few shoulders. The result is that even though the distance between areas is relatively short the travel time can be quite long.
Not only have we learned about the distance around a nation we have also learned about the distance between people. I have now conducted three worship services at Dunbar Parish Church. I have felt the presence of God during our times of worship. The exciting part of worship has been seeing the folks with whom I have been able to connect with the message that God has given me to proclaim. The distance of different cultures and different dialects of the same language has been bridge by the Spirit of God.
What has aided the shrinking of the cultural distance has been the personal contact with people outside of the church setting. What a joy to spend time with the McDonalds and the Mannings, the Weavers and the O’briens, the Pattersons and the Coulharts. It is with joy that we anticipate getting to know the Wrights and the Hasties and the Hardies and Rev. Twaddle and the list continue to grow. It is in the moments driving to see the sites or visiting over dinner or tea that the distance between American and Scotsman, pastor and lay person diminishes. We get to know each other.
Distance is not only geographic and interpersonal. There are spiritual overtones when it comes to distance as well. I remember a person talking with me about the feeling that God was distant and the prayers offered simply “bounced off the ceiling.” Those moments when intimacy with God is felt are so incredible. The incredible distance between us and God when it feels that God is silent can seem so vast.
This week I am especially feeling the distance between Dunbar and Jackson. I guess it is not uncommon as children grow, go off to college, and start lives on their own, that distance begins to play a major role in the relationship. Yes, texting and the ‘telie’ are helpful, but, they are usually short lived. When coming to Scotland I chose to leave my cell phone at home because I couldn’t get international coverage on the old Blackberry. I told my boys, “Emergencies only and dial Terri’s number.” I didn’t realize the distance I would feel, especially when Cameron called with the news that his girlfriend’s father had died.
I guess the distance is augmented by the fact that Isaac, my eldest, is in Jackson this week with his friends The Collective out of Nashville, Tennessee. They are going to be putting on a concert at Walk Festival Hall at Teton Village. The 5,000 miles that separate us is huge. I will not be able to attend. I knew that being far away, experiencing this incredible land and brilliant people would have a price, but I didn’t anticipate the feelings that distance might produce.
And so on this 15th day of July, 2013, I simply want to say from this great distance: “Isaac, my heart is with you and I am proud of your passion and work to follow your dream. I am proud of you. I love you, son.”
9 July 2013
This week Terri and I are living in St. Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf. No, I am not here to play golf. Truth be told, my handicap does not allow me to play on the Old Course. When asked what my handicap is I usually reply, “I am one.” None the less, we have been to the course, walked across “The Bridge,” eaten dinner at the Old Course Hotel, and enjoyed the atmosphere of this ancient and historic town.
I will allow Terri to put into her own blog her activities during this week but I am attending the international conference for The Society of Biblical Literature. The course work is organized topically. My focus has been in the New Testament shifting between topics on Peter, Paul, John, and biblical leadership. Each section is three hours long. Within that time there are six twenty minute presentations followed by a five minute discussion. Usually there is a half-hour break in the middle of the session for refreshments and further conversation. All-in-all I have attended 28 sessions with 18 more to go. My brain is full.
Who are the folks who make these 20 minute presentations? In most cases the presenters are professors of the Bible at university level or theologians from various seminaries worldwide. In many cases these individuals have developed a focus which they have pursued for a lifetime. One presenter is writing his 4th book on the Gospel of John with three more in the queue. I have also listened to a few presenters who are in the midst of their PhD studies and are sharing their findings on their doctoral projects.
Here is another way of looking at it. There have been a number of days on our trip where Terri and I have elected to have a lunch of peanut butter and crackers. We came across an article in some of our shared readings that reminded us of George Washington Carver who discovered many uses of the peanut and became an expert in the field. In the years of his research he discovered over 300 uses of peanuts, including everything from peanut butter to glue to shaving cream to soap to insecticides to linoleum to Worcestershire sauce. He was invited to talk to The House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the United Peanut Association of America on his discoveries of peanuts and was given ten minutes. After speaking for an hour and forty minutes the committee told him he could come back whenever he wanted and take as much time as he needed.
These scholars are the George Washington Carvers of the Bible. Sometimes their interest is a single word (this morning there was a whole dialogue on the use and meaning of “glory” in the book of Romans). Sometimes it is one book of the Bible (although hearing 6 lectures on various aspects of the letter of 1 John was a bit more than I could handle). Sometimes there is the tackling of a theme such as leadership (this has been the least satisfying since it is presented by people who are scholars and not necessarily leaders. Theory verse experience). Whatever the focus may be, they are working to discover the 300 meanings within the texts and they are here to share their progress and their findings. Everyone I have listened to presents in English which is not always their first language. They tend to fill their 20 minutes with as much information about their process and their findings from hundreds of hours of research. Listening is hard work.
Did George Washington Carver eat peanut butter or, after all his studying, was it the last thing on his dietary wish list? In general what I have seen are people who are deeply devoted to understanding the peanut of God’s Word. They are committed to learning what the Bible says within the context and language of the day. They want to talk about how a text was shaped by the culture within the Christian community as well as by the secular society. These men and women know the scriptures and can discuss a theme and most passages related to it not only from the English text but also the Greek. Their knowledge of the scriptures is awe-inspiring.
Do they know the peanut or simply know about the peanut? Do they believe in the One the scriptures are talking about? To be honest, faith sharing is not the focus of this conference. People are not here to share their personal testimonies. However, in general I would say yes. There are certain ones who leave you know doubt. You can feel their passion and sense their love for the Lord. There are others from whom you feel it is such an academic exercise that faith does not need to be a part of it.
Does the information I have been gathering directly apply to life as a pastor and teacher? Well, not always. In one of the classes an attendee asked what I thought was a very practical question as to how one could apply the information that had been provided to real circumstances in life. The presenter responded by saying, “What, you want me to write your Sunday sermon for you?” There is a gap between the information given and applying it to everyday life. In another class, an insightful presentation was made on the physiology of leadership within the Greco-Roman world and its’ impact upon the tension between Paul and the church leaders displayed in 2 Corinthians 10-13 (yeowy). I raised my hand and commented on the parallelism to the 21st century (a profound insight I thought) and the teacher brightened up and said, “Wow, I have never thought of that.”
Getting the peanut from the laboratory to the grocery store is a challenge. Making research accessible to the consumer takes work. To say it another way, it is still the responsibility of the pastor/teacher to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
July 6, 2013
This week Terri and I put on more miles than we had anticipated. On Wednesday we drove from Dunbar south toward Dumfries. We had anticipated hiking, but, the tiny roads took longer than we had anticipated. In addition we had watched a BBC special on Sir Walter Scott and the opening of his restored home at Abbotsford. So, we tried to find it, went there, and then discovered it was closed because the Queen was there providing its official grand opening. We told the guards that we were friends but they wouldn’t believe us. Of all things. We then headed south, ended up going to Carlisle, England, didn’t like the city, and headed back to Scotland. 10 hour on the road was longer than we had anticipated or liked.
With the exceptions of cities, it seems that everywhere we turn we are in the midst of scenic wonderful. This time of year is incredibly green. We have seen cows, horses, lots of dogs and especially sheep. We have watched little lambs seemingly grow before our eyes. We have watched their elders go from having a full head of hair (OK, wool) to being nicely sheered, to starting to grow yet again. We have learned that Scotland has 62 breeds of sheep, more than any other country in the world (Australia has only 2). We have learned that there are more sheep in Scotland than people, I would guess well beyond the 5 million inhabitants (I’ve counted at least that many). We have learned that the wool industry in Scotland is hurting. One town we visited has lost 17 woolen mills in the last few decades. The low cost of labor in Indian and China has made competition unbearable.
When you are traveling over an extended period of time, one of the things that begins to develop is you begin to have inside jokes. Years back Terri and I watched the wonderful Pixar movie, UP. If you have never seen it, you should. One of the comical moments in the movie involves the dogs of the bad guy (it seems there is always a bad guy in kids movies). The dogs always seem to become distracted by squirrels. A squirrel didn’t even have to be present. All you had to do was utter the word SQUIRREL and the dog’s focus would shift. Terri and my word has become SHEEP. When we come around a corner on a road and see a hillside with many sheep nibbling on the grass one or the other of us will say, “SHEEP.” Yesterday we were driving on a small country road, came around a corner, and there were sheep standing in the center of the one lane and we said, “Oh, SHEEP” as I quickly stepped on the brakes.
When we first saw these cute little wonders of creation we thought about pulling over and taking pictures of each little beauty. Quite a few times we did. Now, we just say the word and scoot on by. SHEEP have begun to blend in to the world as we know it. No longer special.. No longer unique. They are JUST sheep.
I was thinking yesterday (or was it Thursday? Days and SHEEP seem to blur together) about the times that Jesus called his disciple’s sheep. John 10 is especially poignant…
“My sheep hear my voice and know me and they follow me”
“I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep”
…and I wondered, “Do we just begin to blend into Jesus’ world? No longer special? No longer unique? JUST sheep?” And I wondered, “Does Jesus get tired of trying to step around the fertilizer we leave on the trail (let the reader understand)? And I wondered, “Does Jesus agonize when we who were created to produce wool but have become irrelevant and are only good for mutton?”
The Lord is MY shepherd….
1 July 2013
It seems that each day we have been in Dunbar we have experienced the wind. There have been days when there is only a gentle breeze. Then there have been days, like yesterday, when it has been A WIND.
Yesterday, following church and after lunch at the East Links Golf Club in Dunbar (one of the sites where the final qualifying rounds for the British Open will be held on Tuesday) Terri and I went for an afternoon walk along the beach and experienced the wind full force. One golfer we passed estimated it was 30+ mph. We could lean into it. How do they golf in wind like this? I haven’t figured that one out yet.
As we journeyed down the shoreline we came to Bell Haven Beach, a long, clean, white sand beach that must stretch at least a half mile. On this expansive beach a few people walked but a couple of people were practicing the sport of sand sailing. We had first seen this sport on Omaha Beach when Terri and I went to Normandy on June 6. These sport enthusiasts had learned the fine art of harnessing the wind so they might sail on sand. They looked like they were having a great time and the dog that was chasing them was having fun as well.
As we walked we could see where the wind and water had eroded and shaped the sandstone rocks and cliffs making incredible sculptures. We saw similar beauty on many of the castle ruins we have visited, all showing the effects of these natural forces upon each other. This was John Muir’s playground as a young boy. It is no wonder that he was shaped by the beauty created by wind and sea.
Last night as I was anticipating the activities of today I visited the accuweather website. Even though it didn’t spell it out explicitly it revealed another impact of wind and water. The website said it so simply: “Temperature 50 F; feels like 38 F; my interpretation: the wind blowing across the very cold North Sea works like an air conditioner and gives another meaning to “wind chill.”
Being on the edge of nature and its forces, whether the North Sea like Dunbar, Scotland, or the Teton Range like Jackson, Wyoming, reminds me how Jesus often used the natural world to draw people to better understand God’s world.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:22-26
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8
How these images from nature must have captured those 1st century people because they knew the power of those natural forces. I wonder if the image of sand sailors might capture us as well. What would happen if we allowed the Spirit of God to be the wind in the sail of our life so God might move us, empower us, to go where he might want us to go? Just a thought from windy Dunbar.
June 29, 2013
Yesterday, Terri and I took a 12 hour venture into Edinburgh (the locals tell me it is pronounced “Edinbra”). It was a quick train ride in, 25 minutes. After a quick stop at the visitor’s center we proceeded over to the National Museum for their first day opening of the Mary Queen of Scots exhibit. It was a wonderful presentation of she who was queen at the outset of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.
The times were turbulent. Rev. George Wishart, teacher and friend of John Knox, had been burned at the stake by Cardinal Beaton for his anti-catholic proclamations. Yet, the Reformation continued to grow, especially amongst the independently minded Scots. Mary, crowned queen at 6 days of age, from a Roman Catholic family, was to face many conflicts through these difficult times when religion and politics walked hand in hand.
As we walked the timeline and saw some of the artifacts of Mary’s reign I thought to myself how times have changed, in many ways change for which I am grateful. Today there is an open dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. Even though there continues to be disagreement on the theology of the mass, the sacraments, the papacy, etc., we are also able to see that when the focus is on Jesus Christ and the salvation he won for us through his death on the cross confirmed by his resurrection from the dead we are more brothers and sisters than enemies. I pray such respect and dialogue will grow amongst those of other faiths (especially Islam) even when there is deep divide over the person and work of Jesus.
This having been said, I also wonder what we have lost in the transition? People believed passionately in their understanding of and commitment to truth. People were willing to give their lives for those beliefs. People believed that not only freedom but also eternity were based on those beliefs. In what do we passionately believe? For what are we willing to give our lives? I know and am grateful for the men and women who passionately believe in our country and are willing to give their lives for this land. But what about our spiritual beliefs? There are those in our world who are willing to take the life of another who disagree with them spiritually. But what about doing what Jesus did, not taking the life of another who disagrees but sacrificing one’s own life for that in which they believe?
So many thoughts.
Tomorrow I will preach my first sermon in Dunbar. I will share some of the things in which I deeply believe. Even though I have met some wonderful Christian folks in the Dunbar Parish Church, I have no guarantee that they will agree with me or how I present the message. However, ultimately they are not the one’s who write my report card. As a friend of mine once told me, “Paul, I was taught when you preach you do so for the approval of one, The One who gave his life for you.” And so, I am excited to share with new Christian friends what I believe the Lord would have me share and I look for his approval and for the challenge and blessing it will be to all with ears to hear the Good News of the Gospel.
June 26, 2013
As I write this blog today I am sitting in my new makeshift study on the first floor of the Dunbar Parish Manse (pastor’s residence). Gordon and Gail Stephenson have graciously switched homes, cars, and churches with me Terri. We have been warmly received by them, the church, and those members of the community we have been fortunate to meet. As soon as we ask if they know Rev. Stephenson, they light up and are happy for his family and for us. Gordon seems to be well liked in his home town.
Dunbar is a fishing village turned Edinburgh (pronounced edinbra) bedroom community. During its pre-railroad fishing hey-day in the late 1800s thousands of people were employed by the industry with hundreds of boats residing in the harbor and bay. Before that its’ ancient castle had seen many military battles as it stood strong to protect the town and adjoining lands against all sorts of marauders, foreign and domestic. Some place occupancy upon this piece of land by the sea to the pre-AD era.
Today Dunbar has the largest elementary school in Scotland. The downtown area has cute shops out of which young and old alike depart with smiles on their faces. We can tell you from personal experience that the pastries and ice cream are great. It is a delightful place to spend these five weeks of our exchange.
And what of the Scottish people we have met to date? They are wonderful. We have only had two bad experiences (not in Dunbar). The first was the response of a driver to my unfamiliarity with roundabouts. He did make me feel quite at home as he demonstrated familiar hand signals as he passed me by. The other was a restaurant owner who was obviously having a bad day (although he did smile and laugh with those who appeared to be “locals.”). Beyond that, shop owners are friendly, people we have stopped to ask directions are very pleased to assist, and people smile a lot and talk about the weather a good deal.
As for the folks at Dunbar church we were warmly received on Saturday Night at their end of the school year Jamboree and Sunday morning at church. They came up to us, introduced themselves, and offered to help us in any way they could. We were privileged to stay with the McDonald family (Derek, Marguerite, Matthew, and Katie) for our first three nights. They welcomed us warmly, included us in their family, drove us to church on Sunday, had a wonderful Sunday Supper with friends, and worked around all the stuff we brought with us for this two month sojourn.
And now my exchange work begins. This morning I worked on the bulletin and began writing my sermon. They use a bit more music in worship than do we so I am having to learn their style and how to fit in. As for sermons I have invited the congregation to respond to the questions, “Have you ever wanted to hear a sermon on a particular topic? Want to hear what God’s Word says about a particular issue?” People have submitted a few topics and those are the ones I will tackle first. This Sunday it is, “What’s so wonderful about ‘The Prize’ of an eternity in heaven?” referring to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. It will be interesting to hear the other questions people might want to ask.
Anyway, keep Paul and Terri Hayden in your prayers. We are having a great time and looking forward to learning more about the Scottish people and in particular the folks of Dunbar.
Blessings to all of you. Paul
June 19, 2013
It seems like an eternity since this past Sunday, Father’s Day. It was great receiving text messages from my sons from many miles away. It is amazing how modern technology allows almost instantaneous communication.
On Monday Terri and I did an all day drive into the Northern Highlands and our first stop was a museum dedicated to the discoveries of the ancient Pict people. Little is known about the Picts. We don’t know where they came from although it is not believed that they are the ancient indigenous people of Scotland. We do know they were instrumental in stopping the expanse of the Romans into the Highlands and probably one of the major reasons for Hadrian’s Wall. We know they were a powerful people, well organized and industrious. Their stone work was intricate and amazing. They responded to the Gospel when St. Columba and his believers started moving out of Iona and spreading the Good News to their region of the world. When we spoke with the docent at the museum she lit up as she shared information about this part of her heritage.
On Tuesday we traveled to the Isle of Skye. My great, great, grandfather, Alexander Mackintosh, was born on Skye in 1806. We tried to find some of his records in the archival library in Portree but found it closed on the one day we were there. However, we visited a museum that was based on a family that had lived on Skye beginning about the same time of Alexander through 150 years until they moved off the property in 1956. The ruggedness of those early “Crofters” was incredible. It was a difficult life in a difficult environment. It was also a difficult time in Scottish history.
My great, great, grandfather migrated from Skye to Prince Edward Island, Canada, sometime prior to 1839 when my great grandfather was born in Canada. What might have caused such a transition? From the mid-18th century until the mid-19th century an event occurred in the Highlands called the Clearances. It began with the defeat of the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charley at the battle of Culloden in 1747 and the avenging of the deaths of those who fought against the crown. But the real movement behind the clearances was an economic change, landowners needed to make more money. The long and short of it was that the peasant farmers (Crofters) who had been protected by their clan chief no longer had that protection. As a result some voluntarily moved off their “rented” property while others had to be forcefully removed. Those who were bitter over the change called it the great Scottish genocide. For those who took a step back it was simply a change that had to occur for economic stability.
I had never heard of the Scottish Clearances. It could very well be that my great, great, grandfather was forced to move from his Scotland to the New World through this process. I wonder if the determination to leave a bad situation and make a successful new beginning in a new country is in my genes? I know my grandfather, John Mackintosh, was not afraid to head to America as a 16 year old. He ended up in Southern California and made a new life for himself.
And so, these last few days I have been thinking about heritage and wondering how our heritage of faith impacts those within our family. What have my children learned about faith from my journey? What have they learned as they have seen me pray and worship? What have they learned as they have seen me respond to good times and tough times? What heritage of faith have I…am I passing along to them?
June 14, 2013
We were told that every stone has a story surrounding it in Scotland. Now, that may not be totally true, but, there are many stones and many stories.
Many of the stones with stories have been placed upon one another to form castles. Dunnatar Castle, South of Stone Haven and Aberdeen, is a magnificent remnant of an age gone by. Located on a point along the coast of the North Sea, it was almost impregnable for an enemy. It took Oliver Cromwell 8 months to final defeat those who stood against him. It imprisoned 17who stood against him. It imprisoned 170 Covenanters who stood by the faith in changing times, some to the giving of their own life.
After leaving Aberdeen we walked around The Balmoral Castle, the Highland home of the royal family. We were able to see the beauty created by Prince Albert on behalf of Queen Victoria out of his love for her. They so loved this royal getaway that the government in London had time getting the queen to respond to political inquiries. Today it continues to be used as an operating castle 14 weeks during the summer by Queen Elizabeth and Phillip and the family. Prince Charles had just arrived at a private location on the 50,000 acre estate a few days before we toured but none of the tourists were aware.
Today we took a short walk to the #1 picnic spot in Scotland, Loch ‘L Elaine. There, on a small island fifty yards from the shore, was a castle that served as a refuge for the local farmers when some of the politically or religiously charged opponents would wander through their territory attempting to defeat the perceived enemy in name of God or Country. It served its purpose for centuries but fell into disrepair over the past 200 years. Now you can sit on its String Lake like shore and eat your picnic in peace.
As we traveled through the countryside (Terri and I have tended to take the more narrow and therein the more exciting roads) it is not uncommon for a castle to appear on the horizon. They pop up at the most unexpected places. You begin to ask, “Why would anyone build that, there? How would they stock it? How would you get the food there so the family and their guests could eat? What type of income did they possess or business did they own that not only allowed them to build the castle but to also sustain the facility.” Questions that in a brief tour remain unasked. But, each castle has its’ story to tell. The assembled rocks cry out to be heard.
Sterling Castle is one castle whose voice has and is being heard. For centuries it lay at the center of Scotland. If you were going from Britain to the Highlands you had to go through Sterling. If you were going from Aberdeen or Edinburgh or Glasgow to Inverness you had to go through Sterling. Conversely, if you were heading from the north to attack people in the south, Sterling was the significant battle point to win. King Robert the Bruce knew this and ruled successfully for decades. William Wallace discovered this and his name is written in the history books and movies are made concerning his brave heart and his strategic mind.
After visiting the castle, Terri and I wandered into the Church of the Holy Rood. As the city was significant so had the church been. John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, had preached from the pulpit. It had seen the visit of kings and queens, had sustained its existence through many wars, and is still well maintained as a historical land mark by the Church of Scotland. The stones piled one on top of another cry out to be heard.
But, in 2013, the city has moved away from the church. Terri and I were fortunate to meet the pastor of the church. He had been pastor for 2 ½ years. He told us that the congregation worships about 60 people in a sanctuary that is about 3 times the size of PCJH’s and about 5 times as high in the interior space. The average age of the faithful congregants is older and the pastor wonders how he can reach a new generation in the midst of a city that has moved away from the ancient city core and ancient traditions of worship and liturgy. The doors are remaining open and the building is being maintained by the visitor dollars given by site seeing tours and not commitments of members who believe in the church’s mission. I can only imagine that the pastor wonders what the rocks of the Holy Rood will say about his generation a century or two from now?
And then I think about PCJH. We are such a young congregation. We first met on June 6, 1994 with 19 people in attendance. Since then we have grown, purchased property, built buildings, developed programs, created an identity within the Jackson community, seen people come and seen people go, and in the midst of it all gathered to worship God, grown to know and follow Jesus, and Gone to make a difference. I wonder what the proverbial rocks will say about us in the year 2094 and 2194 and…. I wonder if we even think about that in which we so passio nately believe and that for which we would passionately take a stand that the very rocks we used to build our present will cry out and give testimony in their future to our past. I wonder.
June 11, 2013
It is amazing how quickly one can adapt when one is forced to.
The Volkswagen Golf TDI is really quite an amazing little car. Quick acceleration, smooth handling, enough room for two months of baggage when the rear seats are folded down, good economy, fun to drive, all part of this fun, German, driving machine. But then you have to factor in the driver and the drivers’ assistant. All the good mechanics in the world do not remove the human components.
It took me a good number of miles to begin to adjust to driving on the other side of the road. However, that was not the most difficult task. Once you get the hang of cars coming at you from the wrong direction you begin to figure out how to line up your car near the center line so you will not continually steer away from oncoming traffic. But, this is not the most difficult task for me.
Learning to judge the distance to the passenger side of the vehicle is a challenge. Since obtaining my driver’s license in April of 1967 I have grown accustom to measuring the distance to that front right corner of the vehicle I am driving. It is almost natural now. I don’t even have to think about it. Then, in a few moments of turning on the key in a new car and a new country my perception is totally askew. My depth perception is off. I can now understand why this VW Golf with only 643 miles on it already has a few dings and scrapes on the passenger’s side.
OH! The passenger’s side. The side where my lovely bride sits; My co-pilot with many feelings and observations about my driving abilities and my adaptabilities; My partner who is beginning to understand why there are dings on her side of the vehicle and beginning to sense my need for Scottish driving lessons; My bride who has learned to express her opinions on a wide variety of topics. In a few brief moments I learn I must make an important choice, will my friend sitting on the passenger side of this new experience be my antagonist or my teammate.
Teammates. I have always been a sports guy, especially team sports. As a new season begins not only do you have to discover your teammates’ abilities but you also have to discover personalities and how everyone fits together. If a team is going to go somewhere you really have to become a team, not just a bunch of players. I am convinced this is why some teams with the best and highest paid players do not necessarily have great seasons (Go Yankees) and when teams that are not as skilled, nor as highly paid, when they understand their roles and play their roles can become quite competitive if not champions (Go Athletics…Moneyball…the movie for you who haven’t seen it).
What a difference a day makes! I have discovered that the eyes of a teammate can help me understand my vulnerabilities when driving a new car on a different side of the street on beautiful and NARROW scenic roads. Those eyes keep us safe. Those eyes help us enjoy. Those eyes help ward off danger. Those eyes help us successfully reach our destination. Those eyes are helping me adapt to a new experience in a new world. What a difference a teammate can make.
There must be something spiritual in all of this. The Body of Christ.
June 8, 2013
On Thursday June 6 we went to Normandy. It was an early morning after having become a little bit familiar with the city. Taxi at 6 AM to get to the train station. Catch the train to Caen…transfer to Bayeux…be greeted into a world unknown to us but intimately known to those of the Greatest Generation who had stormed the nearby beaches and gave their lives in an attempt to liberate France and ultimately Europe. The attempt was successful. The world we know today is the result of those lives given yesterday.
We attended a service of remembrance at the Cathedral of Bayeux, sometimes called the Notre Dame of Bayeux. A magnificent structure built in the later half of the 11th century. As with so many of the churches of Europe I stand in awe that they could envision such a structure and have the discipline to build the structure over several generations of builders. Cathedrals, built to bring the soul of an uneducated mass into the presence of an Almighty God, worked then. We are the benefactors of their vision and their work.
The service set the stage for what we would later experience on Omaha Beach and at the American Cemetery. We sat next to 4 or 5 men from the War College in Paris. One was from Colorado and his wife was from Evanston, Wyoming. Other representatives joined from around the world to offer prayers and express gratitude for the lives of those who were lost. The Chaplain of Normandy led the service with a Color Band from the British playing the hymns. There were no questions of separation of church and state. I guess there are no atheists in foxholes.
We then walked the beach where many of our young men died and were wounded. How they must have felt like sitting ducks as they came on shore only to be greeted by machine gun fire and howitzer shells. Now, all the land mines have been removed, few concrete barriers to stop tanks from being unloaded remain, just a beautiful beach stretching for miles. Peaceful. Almost like a sanctuary.
We then went to the cemetery. Row upon row of crosses and Stars of David. “How the mighty have fallen.” I can only guess that these men and women did not feel “mighty” on June 6, 1944, or the 7 or the 8… But, they had a mission. They knew they were an expendable part of an indispensible goal. They gave their lives so others might be free. The world we are experiencing today is a direct result of those who gave their lives 69 years ago.
A stark contrast today. We ventured out to see the great Lourve Museum, the Musee d’Orsay, rode a boat down the Seine, walked the Champ Elysee and ate dinner on the grass under the Eiffel Tower.
Works of art, incredible works of arts. Some hardly visible through the hundreds of people gathered around them. Works of art from millennia and multitude of artists, a few known, many unknown. Beauty. So many of the works represented themes from the Bible. I wonder how many artists today make their art from biblical inspiration/themes. My favorite was Monet at the Orsay. I have always loved his work but in this one location was able to see dozens. Incredible.
The Champ Elysee is now the Rodeo Drive of Paris. Sitting outside of a shop where Terri was hunting for just the right thing allowed me a quiet time to observe the masses of humanity. All shapes and sizes…mostly younger…some homeless…entrepreneurs attempting to get a few Euros by entertaining on the street…many fashion conscience…some who needed to be…all walking in seeming oblivion to the Arc de Triumphe that stood out at the head of the street. As we approached we noticed a French color guard and band under The Arc leading a memorial attended primarily by a contingent from the Orient. We didn’t understand the words. I think most people were there to capture the view of the city from the top of the Arc, not to remember those who had paved the way for an arc to be built because of victory in battle.
These two different days led me to reflect on “Contrasts.” Normandy and the Champ Elysee. Omaha Beach and the preservation of incredible works of art at the Louvre. The French Revolution and Giveny, Monet’s garden. Did those who gave their lives for freedom have any idea the behaviors and the productivity their victory would enable in the generations that were to come? Do those who are involved in society today ever contemplate the purchase price for the pleasures and lifestyle we currently enjoy? How many years, how many generations go by before their sacrificial act is so distant that it makes no impact on the present?
This is not just about war and freedom. It is also about faith in God’s act for us.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20
God purchased us through Jesus’ death on the cross.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burned again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
This is what I believe has happened. We have been set free by the heroic deeds of those who have preceded us: soldiers at Normandy, Jesus on the cross. But have we forgotten? Is our natural gravitational pull to return again to a multitude of “yokes of slavery” The contrasts have stirred my thinking over these past two days.
Well, we have departed and landed in Paris. Today was a day letting our bodies adapt to travel, new times zones, new languages, and new prices. Many new things to process. Tomorrow we go to Normandy.
As we were flying from Salt Lake to Paris, I went over in my mind what it had taken for us to get ready to leave for 2 months. We cleaned closets and got rid of unwanted stuff. We made sure our winter clothes were stored so there would be self-space for a new family. We finished projects to make our home look “Just right.” We tried to make sure everything was covered at our jobs. We made sure auto insurance would cover some guests from a country that drives on the wrong side of the road. We got our Last Will and Testament finished and informed our two oldest boys that they are the executors (something I am sure they have never considered). And the list could go on and on.
The point is, we made sure our house was in order when someone new came to live there.
After processing this tremendous amount of work it took to get out of Dodge so someone could be welcomed into Dodge I then shifted my thoughts to spiritual life. What do I do to make sure my house is ready for Jesus to come live in me and with me? I rightly understand that God loves me just as I am, I don’t have to become anything different for him to love me. But, if I am going to be a good spiritual host, if Jesus lives in my shouldn’t I want to do something more? And so I asked myself the questions:
How do I want my life to look for him?
Do I get rid of the old stuff?
Do I want everything to look new and fresh?
Are their projects that I could complete that would allow Jesus’ stay in me to be better?
What would my Last Will and Testament look like? Who would it honor? Who would be my executors, my closest earthly friends?
Some much for thoughts as Terri and I flew through the night skies to begin a time of renewal. I will look forward to sharing more reflections from our travels as the days unfold.
Last night we were having dinner with some friends and the topic of churches came up. They have tried a number of churches in Jackson. They like our church. They have felt the Spirit of God amongst this part of God’s family. They have been welcomed and embraced. They have discovered that PCJH is not just a “friendly” church but a church where they can make friends, something most people visiting churches ultimately desire.
What struck me in our conversation was the comment that they have visited many churches during their travels…a hundred +. They have visited churches of all styles and sizes. They watch a number of religious services on television and have had some occasion to visit those churches to see if what they see is what really takes places or if it is just a show.
Most of us by choice or circumstance do not do that. I can’t. I work Sundays for the most part. The majority of people seem to find a church home where they can
† find hope in a despair-filled world,
† find healing for the hurts of their body and their soul,
† make some friends,
† find a pastor/preacher with whom they can relate,
† be stimulated in their spiritual growth (not always agreeing),
† have something to help the kids learn about Jesus and Christian values,
† participate in a style of worship with which they are comfortable,
† be part of something that transforms and transcends them, and
† be offered avenues for Christian service.
When people find a place that meets these needs they tend to settle in to that community and enjoy the spiritual journey…often for a lifetime. Part of that ‘finding’ is the finding of a worship style that works. Folks who have moved here from other places (and most of us have) and have had a positive worship experience in those other places often want PCJH to incorporate the things they miss from their former church home. What a compliment to their former congregation’s ministry. Folks who have been a part of PCJH and have moved away often find it difficult to replace their experience. What a compliment to us. Styles of worship and congregational life are important.
A worship style of whatever ilk is called a liturgy. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives this definition of the word:
…from leito- “public” (from laos “people;” cf. leiton “public hall,” leite “priestess;” see lay (adj.)) + -ergos “that works,” from ergon “work” (see urge (v.)). Meaning “collective formulas for the conduct of divine service in Christian churches” is from the 1590s.
The simple emphasis underlined in the definition is that a liturgy is the work of the people as they collectively worship God. Every church follows a liturgy. Our ‘collective formula’ centers around our Mission Statement of Gather to love God, Grow to know and follow Jesus, and Go to make a difference in our community and world. We follow what is called a blended style of worship, i.e., taking some of the traditional elements of the past and blending them with some elements of the present to assist all God’s people in worship. This formula ‘works’ for most people who make PCJH their church home. It becomes part of the way by which our needs are met and the transforming work of God’s presence takes place.
However, what has happened in America over the past 30+ years is that the models many denominational churches have historically followed (including Blended Worship) are not resonating in a new era of Christian worship and minsitry. Seeking after God has not stopped. Most people in America see themselves as being spiritual and wanting that spirituality to grow and deepen. They will even pursue that growth in spiritual life within a group of people (church) if they feel the group is authentic. As a result new formulas for worship are being created. These new styles are working for a new group of people.
Because this is true it is important for us to experience those styles for two reasons:
1) to understand what is working to reach a new generation of Christians;
2) To see what we can learn (and possibly blend into our experience) as we worship in a style that others have developed.
This year on our 5th Sunday worships we will be exploring other worship styles. This Sunday, April 29th, the Cheyenne Hills Worship Band from Cheyenne, Wyoming will be leading us in worship. This style of worship is what many of the fastest growing, young adult reaching congregations use. The 25 to 45 age group is the target in this style. Music is one of their languages. The avenue for the work of worship will be simple: Music, Prayer, Sermon. Come and check it out. Get into this style of worshiping God and see how it feels to you.
On July 29 we will be experiencing what is called the Emergent Church Model. This is the style of church Pastor Ben participated in while in Seattle. He will be organizing and leading this experience on our behalf.
On September 30 we will be experiencing Taize Worship. A portion of this Wikipedia article gives a brief introduction to a style of worship and service which is reaching many young people in Europe.
The Taizé Community is an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France that has a strong devotion to peace and justice through prayer and meditation. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz, a Protestant.
The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.
The community, though Western European in origin, has sought to include people and traditions worldwide. They have sought to demonstrate this in the music and prayers where songs are sung in many languages, and have included chants and icons from the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
It is my prayer and that of the Worship team that these experiences will deepen our worship experience at PCJH. We also pray that it will be a wonderful opportunity for our three worshiping communities: Wednesday Evening; 8 AM; and 10:15 AM to join together as one body and share a time of worship. Please put these dates on your calendars and make every effort to attend, invite friends, and participate in the work of God’s people in worship.
What a magnificent 4th of July weekend we had. The weather was wonderful, church was spirit-filled, the parade was tremendous, Music in the Hole was outstanding, and the fireworks were fun. As I reflect on the weekend two thoughts cross my mind that I would like to share.
First, I am always amazed at the demonstration of love of country that is expressed on the 4th. Maybe it is because I don’t see this demonstration in the midst of the political wrangling that is often seen on news broadcasts or the constant criticism of our leaders and their decisions that fill the airwaves. It seems that part of our present day sport as a society is to run down this nations that has been such a beacon of hope for so many in our world. I often wonder how we can pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2) when we are actively bad-mouthing them.
This having been said, I am always pleased at the patriotic feelings that are expressed on the Fourth. People who have served and who are serving our country are honored and verbally thanked. Flags are flown and waved. People sing the songs of love for our nation. Tears seem to flow freely. That which seems to have been hidden is revealed. Still waters run deep.
There are times that the amazement of love of country is paralleled in our love of God, especially amongst Presbyterians. Traditionally we are not spiritual extroverts. We don’t shout “Amen” like our Baptist neighbors nor do we “lift holy hands to God” like those of the Pentecostal persuasion or “dance in the Spirit” of prayer and praise like our African-American friends. At times we haggle about the scriptures even as we attempt to understand and apply them. Like our Presbyterian forefathers there are many in our denomination that are passionate, political Presbyterians wanting to take their beliefs and implement them in the body politic.
But, there are times when the depth of faith sneaks out, when our love of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pokes out it heads. I remember the pastor under whom I first served telling me “The presence of tears in Presbyterians is the sure sign of the Holy Spirit working as the hearts of God’s frozen chosen are melting.” I have seen those tears. I have felt the Spirit. I am reminded that our faith run deeps. Just as with our patriotism, often our love of God goes unseen except with we gather to worship. In generally most of us don’t publicly talk about our commitment to know and follow Jesus. Our work to make a difference is often done in a “don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing” method. But, just as our patriotism sneaks out on the 4th of July so the depth of our faith reveals itself from time to time and it makes my heart glad for when that happens I know I have a brother or sister in Jesus Christ who shares that which shapes me the most.
The second thought from this 4th of July is from a brief encounter with an attendee from Sunday’s service. The individual said, “I want to take exception with what you said on Sunday. You said we have gone down a wrong road since 1962 when prayer in schools was removed. I think it was the right decision because it forced people who desire to pray to take more of the initiative in doing so.” I thanked him for his response and insight. I want people to think and process what I say. It says that they are actively involved in my monologue instead of sitting passively in a pew/chair.
Of course such comments always get me thinking as well. Here are a few follow-up thoughts in relation to our exchange.
1. Even though I believe we took a wrong turn by removing public prayer and a sense of God from the public schools in 1962, I do not believe we will ever return to a Christian presence or emphasis within the public schools and I envision a continued erosion of public acceptance of a Christian presence in public forums in general. I see at least two reasons for this:
a) The post-WWII Supreme Court moved us from understanding the First Amendment as a safe-guard from the establishment of a state religion to seeing it as a wall of separation between church and state (In the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education decision, Justice Hugo Black wrote, “In the words of Thomas Jefferson -1802-, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”). This understanding of the 1st Amendment has reigned in our country since that time. The result is the erosion of religious involvement in the public sector, especially of the dominant Christian faith regardless of its role in the founding of our nation.
b) The Supreme Court decisions in the 60’s and early 70’s applied the above decision specifically to prayer and Bible reading in public schools. I believed this has moved us to an educational model at best and a total absence of anything spiritual at worst. Here is Wikipedia’s synopsis of those rulings:
The issue was first brought before the Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), in which the Court decided that government may not sponsor prayer in public schools because it is a violation of the First Amendment clause stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Further, in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), the Court ruled that the government may not sponsor Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public school. Throughout the 1960s the debate continued. Then, in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), the Court established the so-called “Lemon test,” which set forth three conditions that had to be met for a challenged governmental action to be constitutional. First, the government, whether federal or state, may not sponsor or aid in the establishment of a state religion; second, the action must be secular in purpose and in its impact; and lastly, the action could not excessively entangle government with religion. This, in effect, made it difficult to introduce prayer into schools.
2) I understand the intension of the Supreme Court as outlined above. However, there is a deep sadness that occurs in my heart with their decisions (Let me add here…I believe there is a great deal of prayer that takes place throughout every arena of society. To assume that students are not praying in the midst of a difficult test or a challenging event is naïve. As an old friend of mine said, “Any time someone says ‘O God,’ whether they think they are praying to the Almighty or not, they are.”). There are also consequences within the functioning of society which only history will record. Here is my observation, we are losing or have lost our sense that there is a Sovereign Being who has structured an order to be followed within society, an order to which all people will be held accountable. When you remove this understanding of God from society a vacuum is created. Nature and society abhor a vacuum and will fill it with someone or something. American society says we will fill it with law for “We are a nation of laws, not of men” (President John Adams). The reality of our day and age is that a growing number of individuals believe their laws are as good as anyone else’s law and they have the right to live by those laws and at times impose them on others. The result is a questioning of authority and at times social confusion. This saddens me and threatens us.
3. Is there an answer? If the public forum does not teach children to respect God in prayer (we have allowed the school system to take over a number of areas of life that should be in the domain of the family: diet, faith, sex,…) then who is left to do so? The task seems so great. With the erosion of the family what social institution can instill social mores if not the public school?
It has always been the intent of Scripture that the home be the place where the most important details of faith should be taught. Listen to the words of Scripture:
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
I must say, in our busy world, we adults must examine our priorities and then align them to reflect what is of greatest importance. The eternal values of the Kingdom of God must be highest on the list. If the 60+% of Christian homes in America cannot teach and model these values to our children no public school can ever accomplish the task. Statistically parents remain the most significant determiner of what children value. I applaud all of our families who are working intentionally to pass on the faith.
The Church should be an organization to assist the parent(s) and the home to talk openly about these things that are of eternal importance. We have called this practice the partnering of home and congregation. Every week Cindy Zabriskie provides handouts to assist any family that is willing to have conversations of faith in their home. Pastor Ben led a class this Spring to assist in this process. Parents, you have been given the most important role in shaping the future of our faith within our country. Please step up to the plate and let us help. Take advantage of the resources your church makes available to you.
Finally, in my sermon I read one of my favorite texts in the book of Chronicles. It says:
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (NIV)
13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I believe it is time for us to enter into the process of humbling ourselves before the throne of God, praying and determining to follow God’s ways. We can’t demand that others will follow us. But, we can do our part and maybe transformation of our society could begin in Jackson Hole. Here are some ideas:
† Set aside one meal a month for beginners to focus on prayer for our nation. Fast during the meal. Give the money you might have spent to a local charity, the food bank, to PCJH Deacons to help others.
† Find a group of friends with whom you might meet in our chapel for a time of prayer. I will help you organize a process of prayer you might follow.
† Create a “Keep America in Prayer” sticker for your bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Every time you look at it lift our nation to the Lord.
Certainly these are only suggestions and certainly this doesn’t mean we stop praying for family, friends, church, etc. However, we do need to keep our nation, the nation in which God saw fit to birth us, before the throne of God’s grace. I believe this is a great way through which we can walk in the prayer request sung almost every July 4th, “God bless America, land that I love…”
Welcome back Pastor Paul!!
What a storm has taken place since I went out of town. Wow. The protests of the last week over Abortion and our support of Israel were front and center in conversations, classes, and today’s News and Guide. I felt the letters to the editor illuminated a cross section of feelings within the community, the injuries that were done, the processes that were followed, and the support by some of the message but not the method. I have to affirm that I agree with people’s rights to free speech and am disappointed that the methods used were in any way associated with faith in Jesus Christ. As has happened so frequently within history, people have hijacked faith as a way of promoting their political agenda.
In light of these events there are some things I would like you to know. Here they are:
1. My sermon on June 5 will focus in on “Problems and How Presbyterian Christians Address and Work to Resolve Them.”
2. Abortion. The Presbyterian Church (USA) for almost 4 decades has taken a Pro-Choice stance as a denomination. In this stance they are very clear:
a. Abortion is not an appropriate means of birth control. However, there are times when abortion can be a morally acceptable decision for a women and man: when it is determined that there will be severe deformity to a fetus; when there is threat of death to the mother and/or child; rape; incest;
b. That having been said, women will and do make choices as to what takes place within their bodies;
c. It is important to have an environment where those choices can be made with healthy dialogue and information rather than in secrecy that often leads to injury and dysfunction;
I wrote a sermon on this topic in 1991. My personal and pastoral position has remained pretty constant since then. If anyone would like a copy of that sermon I would be glad to make one available or, if the demand is great, present it in a class or as a Sunday sermon.
d. Among the earliest Christians the type of protest we saw this weekend was not an option. In general, prior to Constantine establishing Christianity as the state religion in 312 CE, Christians were the focus of the protests and such protests often led to their imprisonment and execution. In regards to children, children were seen within that culture as property and if a family (let’s emphasize here the father in that family) did not want a child they would place it outside the city gate where it was illegal for anyone but the birth parents to reclaim it. Often the baby would be killed by exposure or by rabid animals. The early Christians were known for rescuing those children at risk of their lives for breaking the law and certainly risk of their livelihood to raise those children.
3. My 9 AM class on May 29 will focus on a Presbyterian’s understanding of the relationship between Christians and Israel.
Blessing to you all,
It was Sunday night. I was at the Little America in Salt Lake City walking over to get a quick bite to eat. Terri called. Reports are stating that Osama’s been killed…Waiting for an announcement by the president. Just as I hung up a group dressed in Muslim apparel walked by. I thought I might be attacked. Later I discovered they were interfaith clergy from Nigeria visiting America to see how people of diverse faith can live side by side without killing each other.
Later Sunday night I heard the news. Confirmation. We had just had confirmation service in the morning for 8 young people who believe in Jesus. Now we were seeing confirmation of another type: Osama is dead. This started my mind to reflecting. Two thoughts dominated.
The first reflection was on the nature of justice. St. Paul in Romans 12:19 says: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay.’” There is such a fine line between revenge and justice, especially after we have waited 10 years. Our motive? President Bush said it well long ago, “Whether we bring him to justice or bring justice to him, justice will be served.” Maybe the wait helped us move from revenge to justice. Either way I feel like bringing such an action places us in a god-like position and we need to act in great humility even as we acted with great precision.
The second reflection focused on three images from TV. The first was January 1989 after the execution of Ted Bundy in Florida. Justice had been served to this horrific murderer. What disturbed me were the citizens who had lined the road leading to the place of execution. They were cheering and dancing over this death. The second image was from September 11, 2001. I was watching The Today Show when the 2nd plane hit the tower. Later that day I was struck as Muslim’s danced in celebration of this attack on what Muslim Fundamentalists call “The Great Satan.” I am sure they felt a great justice had been served against this evil influence in the world. The third image came Sunday evening May 1, 2011 as people around America gathered to dance and celebrate over the death of bin Laden.
On all three occasions I felt in my gut that something was wrong with these celebrations. I can understand the joy of good triumphing over evil. Certainly this sense of joy exists when we remember our victories over Germany and Japan in WWII. Certainly when evil is defeated there is a sense that the petition of the Lord’s Prayer has been fulfilled in part: “lead us not into temptation but be our deliverer from the evil one.” However, in the midst of triumph I missed the sense of humility, humility that as human beings we had steps into the courts of heaven where God inflicts the ultimate determinations of justice and punishment. The joy of those moments, joy expressed by different people in different places at different times contained a sense that the power, the justice, resides in us and us alone. I believe when we act in this fashion we leave ourselves vulnerable to being the next to fall.
In conclusion, I am glad justice has come to Osama bin Laden. I am sad that evil and arrogance has grown to a place where such justice had to be inflicted. I also pray that Christians in America will reflect on our actions with due humility trusting that the decision and action to assassinate was done as a way of stopping evil and not simply seeking revenge. I hope we will grow to understand that our greatness as a nation does not reside in our power to wage war against one individual or nations, but upon the moral character we develop and our commitment to love God with all we are and loving our neighbor as our self.
For you who were able to attend Easter Services you know the joy of the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. What a great day it was on the top of High School Butte; what a great day it was as we worshipped in the chapel; what a great day it was we heard the Cantata and reflected on “Who do you say that I am?” What a joy to celebration and affirm with Peter, those early disciples, and God’s people through out the ages that “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” What a joyful Easter Celebration
Now it seems that we are back to living. Back to school for our young people; back to jobs for those of us who are pre-retirement; back to the realities of life for all of us. One of the great challenges we face is how we let the risen Lord into each day of our life. How will you let the risen Christ guide each day’s decisions? How will you allow the love he shared fill you and flow through you? How will you transcend your fears knowning that the ultimate fear…death…has been taken out of the equation? How will you allow the light of God to dispell the darkness in your soul? How will you share God’s love with others, especially those in need? If the resurrection is only about Easter Sunday then we have missed the point. The resurrection is to shape us and mold us and encourage and empower us each and every day.
May the joy of Easter and the reality of Easter fill you this day and this week.
Walking with you from Easter to Pentecost. Pastor Paul
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