Friday, January 13, 2012

Looking in and on

For the next few months this blog is an invitation to look over my shoulder as I get ready to attend 2012 General Conference for the United Methodist Church.  The Interpreter Magazine has a great article outlining the issues and actions that are lining up.  Its alot to try to take in.   There are 15 of us from New England:  5 delegates to GC, 5 delegates to Jurisdictional Conference who are reserves for GC, and 5 reserves for Jurisdictional.
As a reserve delegate to GC, I'll be prinarily a resource person to the 5 delegates from April 23-May 5.  In June, the 10 of us will become the Jurisdictional Conference delegation. (more on what happens there later).
General Conference is the only official authority of the greater United Methodist Church.  No one else can speak for the denomination or act on its behalf without GF authorization.  No one person is in charge.  Its a crazy, highly structured, full of surprises, organic movement that's been going on since 1784.
pen & ink by Gloria White
The church I serve, Readfield UMC in central Maine, is the descendent of 5 earlier congregations founded by Jesse Lee beginning in 1793.  So we've been at this almost as many years as the denomination.
Use the comments box to add your questions or observations as we share this journey. It's an exciting time with lots of changes in the air!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"I am a Witness"

Today is “All Saints Day” among Christians all around the globe.  It’s a chance to celebrate the witness of lives who encourage us in our own faith journeys.
             “Witness” is such a powerful word and concept that Nike picked up for their “swoosh campaign.  Lebron James became a “star” in one of the Nike commercials  The ad campaign’s use of religious language in interesting and, I’m sure, intentional.  It builds an origin myth (“Before he was even out of high school, LeBron James was already a household name, and by the time he was taken number 1 overall in the NBA Draft, the expectations for greatness were inevitable …. The eighteen year-old was built like a hardened veteran in his prime and his skill-set and athleticism had arguably never been seen in a player of his stature”) The ad develops a heroic quest narrative (“As we follow LeBron’s ongoing quest for an NBA ring”) It appropriates religious authority (“the King James legend grows daily”). And it rallies disciples (“Since he first came into our awareness, we have all been “witnesses”). * Watch this:

Do you know Jesus well enough to get this excited? 
Do WE know Jesus well enough to offer this kind of rousing endorsement?
Is what we're witnessing to worth saying, "watch this?"
It’s easy to settle for a watered down witness, to say what we think we ought to say rather than proclaim our experience of God’s goodness.  Sometimes a bumper sticker’s all you’ve got to go by. WWJD is not a bad thought exercise.  But it’s not very satisfying soul food. Apparently, Steve Jobs was leery of the WWJD effect.                                                             When Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook took the microphone at a memorial tribute to Steve Jobs at the company’s campus last week, he shared a piece of advice Jobs gave him before his death on Oct. 5.  “Among his last advice he had for me, and for all of you, was to never ask what he would do. ‘Just do what’s right,’” Cook said. Jobs wanted Apple to avoid the trap that Walt Disney Co. fell into after the death of its iconic             founder.                                                                                                                                                    The article goes on:  [Jeffrey] Sonnenfeld said. “He was constantly breaking glass and moving forward. Walt Disney was surrounded by a cadre of creative people who were every bit the equal of Jobs’s lieutenants, but they became haunted by the question, ‘What would Walt do?’ … Jobs told Isaacson that one of his great hopes was that Apple would remain as innovative and committed to product excellence after his death.
I think that Jesus wanted that too:  innovation in the face of challenges, excellance in serving God. Otherwise, what was “I go so that you may do greater things” about? If I had to figure that out just in my own head or with my own hands, I think I’d be in trouble.  But the lives of the excellance seeking saints who have gone before, and the community of innovative saints all around get me excited. I see the best of what people are doing in the name of Jesus, and pray “God help me to be one too.”

A Prayer for All Saints Day by Safiyah Fosua
    We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
    Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
    We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise: 
   Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
   Strong hands and those gnarled with age
   Holy hands
   Used as wave offerings across the land.
   We thank you, God, for hardworking saints; 
Whether hard-hatted                                     
   or steel-booted, 
Head ragged or aproned,
   Blue-collared or three-piece-suited 
   They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
   Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
   Bless the memories of your saints, God.                                                                         
   May we learn how to walk wisely 
   from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.***

*Nike as quotations from
**Peter Burrows, Published: October 25, Washington Post

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Calm before the storm 
Today is probably not the first time most of us mid-Mainers have experieced the calm before the storm.  While the ariways are already raging with pictures and projections of Hurricane Irene's impact, we sit under a hazy sky blanket in reasonably cool air, puttering at normal Saturday activities:  yard work, art shows, funerals..... that intersect with preparations for what may come.

I think about what my island of calm is and whether its one that will carry me through a storm as well as being there on the other side.

Yesterday, as part of the General Conference Delegation's worship, We Hyun Chang asked us to contemplate "what is saving you?"  Hearing it in the first tense, rather than past or future, reframes the notion.  What is life-giving in our life, our community, or our world?  For me, its emerging partners in ministry and art.   What is saving you?  What is saving us?
Preparing for a hurricane is a good time to remember how saving the physical body of Christ is.  I've been checking in with beloved seasonal residents today, seeing where a hand might help. Others are calling older community residents or those who live independently and might could use some neighborly partnering.
In all things, God is a present island of inspiration and energy, our calm in the storm.

Monday, August 1, 2011


The Blog will be taking a rejevenating break and returning in late August to partner with the new site.  Blessed Summer Days!

If you need in formation on activites at the Readfield United MEthodist Church, please contact the church office, 207-685-4211

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DOWNstairs UPdate

….everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. -Ezra 1: 5b

After a very busy couple of weeks, the renovation project is taking a breathe, though not a nap, for a few days. Larry and Paul were in framing windows today. Its been an interesting time of intersections.  Most of this weeks' workers are being fed by Sara Munson over at Camp Mechuwana (thumbs up on the pizza).  Buzz, who reconfigured our spare front door, is one of our UMVIM co-workers from the Slidell, LA site, though he calls Ohio home. 
     Dusty (an apt name for meeting over a pile of drywall shavings) came with a group from Pembrooke, VA. His pastor and yours discovered a beloved mutual friend.  This group also made the glad discovery that The Apple Shed is now offering nichey cupcakes-yum.
Meanwhile, Jeff and I spent a day with cousin Tom, also from Ohio, a student at the wooden boat school (Ask me for a look at the bronze cast ammonite he made me!).  Tom supports a village outside Port au Prince, Haiti and caught us up on life there. 
Can you follow the lines of Methodist connection being drawn?
       We arrived back in Readfield just in time to join the Wed. night crew:  staining, measuring (2x) & cutting (1x) heating covers, sweeping up dry wall dust, prepping window wells.  The storm didn't keep a dozen from ages 12 to ??? from pitching in. We're now up to 49 pairs of helping hands.  You can add yours Thursday night, July 14, as we clean up in time for this Sat's supper.  Stop by and say hi to this week's Ohio missioners too.  They'll be building a new ramp into the Jesse Lee Meeting House.
     Millard Fuller once wrote, "Maybe, just maybe, God wants to use "the theology of the hammer" as a means to draw His divergent family closer together.  Perhaps God is calling us to issue a joint invitation to "the strangers" of this world to come in and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus said he came to bring."  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Measure Twice, Cut Once

measure twice
Carpenters have a number of handy rules for making a project come out,,, well, functional. Measure twice, cut once is the one I always remember (having measured once and cut twice way too many times).
cut once
           Noah knew,  "Build yourself a ship from teakwood. Make rooms in it. Coat it with pitch inside and out. Make it 450 feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. 
                  -Genesis 6:14-16

gun safety
    Project Manager Jeff’s favorite rule for mission teams is ten fingers, ten toes, the same number in the evening as you start with in the morning.  I couln't help but think of that one as I watched George give John a gun saftey update in the entry hall. 
     Another biblical insight, safety first on site!  When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof to make it safe so that someone doesn't fall off and die and your family become responsible for the death.- Deuteronomy 22:8

     These other Mr. Munson rules may come in handy as the project moves on:
            All work is noble.
            Excellence in the enemy of good enough

Theology of the Hammer

Clarence Jordan  was known for inviting folks into the “God Movement,” It was his term for the Kingdom of God.  In the 1950s & 60s, Jordan pointed out that most Christians were more interested in comfortable rituals and familiar scripture readings than actually doing applying holy insights to the world. (My favorite definition of a prophet is not one who predicts the future but one who challenges God’s people to be God’s partners in creating it).
Jordan & Fuller at Koinania Farms
Never one to sit still his friend and follower Millard Fuller began Habitat for Humanity (and later The Fuller Center for Housing-ask Lynn Twitchell about their programs!) and the God Movement picked up the theology of the hammer. Millard left a thriving business a tthe age of 29 to serve the poor. “Our Christian faith demands that we do more than just talk about faith and sing about love.” In other words, we’ve got to get out of our navel gazing kumbaya circles to be Christ’s living body in the world. Once the Spirit “comes by here,” we’ve got to move on out there.
That’s probably why mission trips are so powerful.  We get to:
1. get off our duffs
2.  let someone else know we love them with Christ’s heart.

            Plus there’s no better way to get to know someone than swinging a hammer/washing dishes/sanding drywall/dishing beans/finger-painting with children/________________(fill in the blank). These photos are a glimpse of the theology of the hammer at work among us this summer.
     Every study I know of confirms the common sense wisdom that men build relationship most comfortably and naturally when they are working side by side.  (We women are grateful to work as your partners in this community!)  What difference might it make if more churches took up crow bars and hammers as faith tools?
       Of course real koinania (Christian fellowship) only begins working side by side.  It grows as the community under construction opens itself up and out.  Our renovation is a forward thinking exercise in discipleship.  The relationships that are also under construction are being strengthened for the next, harder, and even more joyous work of creating a new generations of disciples, of all ages, for the transformation of the world.
     We can count our new disciple growing spaces-1...2....3.
     What can we count on as our goals for their purpose?
     More professions of faith in Christ?  What's our 2011/12 goal? The possibiities are practically endless.
     More calls to ministry-I believe we can cultivate the call of 5 new Lay Speakers in the next year and at least 3 ministers in the next five years to serve local congregations as Licenced Local Pastors and Ordained Elders or Deacons.  (BTW, when's the last time you sent encouragement to our person in process now, Tom Frey?  Please pray for him as he moves to serve People's UMC in South Portland.)
More intentional growth of everyday, extraordinary, side by side gifts as we learn to recognize and encourgae the gifts the Spirit gives us.
      Like those hammering in faith this summer!
The word of God came to Solomon saying, "About this Temple you are building—what's important is that you live the way I've set out for you and do what I tell you. -1 Kings 6:11

Rocko positioning.

prepping for the next supper?