Thursday, April 28, 2011

My epistle to the Beloved Saints in Bellevue

Dear Friends,
Thank you for all the wonderful cards, emails, phone calls, and letters that we have received since you learned that we will not be returning. Paul the apostle once wrote a letter to a church that he had served. He was thinking how he could show a new church his qualifications.
          It was common then as now to have a letter of recommendation.  But he said this, “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts,” (II Corinthians 3:2-3). 
I feel the same way about you. Paul said that the people of that congregation were like open letters to be read by all. He was proud that by the power of the Holy Spirit he had written the Lord’s name on their souls. And so if anyone wanted to know what Paul had done for the people or for God, all they had to do was get to know the people he pastored. That is how I feel about you all. If anyone wants to know what I did for the Lord at OPPC, they only need to look at you and know that I preached Jesus Christ. 
You are my letters of Christ, prepared by me, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on a computer but on human hearts. In the letters and phone calls I have received, I was surprised to learn things like, “I became a Christian because of you,” and that from a man who was in the church decades before I arrived on the scene. I was delighted to hear things like, “Because of Charlie we have Jesus in our hearts.” I can not tell you how happy this makes me feel. 
When I came to you fourteen years ago, I was asked to bring Christ’s healing to the church. I saw and felt a people who had been battered and yet who had a great gift. You felt broken and wanted more of God. That was your gift - your realization that you needed more of God’s presence, more of God’s guidance, more of God’s incredible holy power.
         I recognized that and began to preach and teach Jesus. It felt like rain falling on a thirsty ground. Dormant seeds opened to release tender shoots of life. I began to preach and teach the Holy Spirit.  The tender shoots grew tall and strong watered and fertilized by the God’s Spirit. Power and joy were released as we all grew in love and unity.  
In truth, I have sought to do nothing more and nothing less than preach in words and actions and even silent stillness the love of Jesus. I led you to value faithfulness to Christ above all else. 
I thank you for allowing me to enter your hearts and homes as your pastor. I thank you for trusting me with the most important things of your lives - things like sorrows, dreams, and failures; fears, hopes, and tears; confusion, smiles, and hugs. I thank you for asking me to lead you. I thank you for asking me to counsel you. I thank you for asking me to lead you in worship. I thank you for asking me to teach you. I thank you for asking me to live among you. 
And just as your lives show my holy work, so also mine shows yours. On my heart are written words of Christ’s love and grace and passion which you penned through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
I chose to leave you because I discerned through various signs that my ministry was completed. I feel so good about the the work that has been done. God called me to you when you were very broken. You are know a healthy, strong, well functioning church which is ready to go new places with a new pastor. And I will go to lead another church that needs the gifts I have to spur them on to a new experience of Christ’s kingdom. As the kids say, “It’s all good!” 
And yet of course when people love each other as we do for each other, to part is to cry to weep, to feel loss. Debbie, Henry, and I cannot express how much we love you and will miss you. It will be wonderful to be with you all for a farewell party the second Sunday in August. I will get to preach to you one last time. Bring plenty of kleenex - you know I will cry!
Christ brought us together for a set time for holy and wonderful reasons. Let us give him thanks for that! 
In Christ’s love and fondness, 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thoughts of this year

Life is a gift. This year is such an amazing gift for all of us. We never would have had the chance to live with my mother if we had not come out. It is so great to reconnect with her in a daily way that I have not done since I left for college in 1978. Debbie and I are learning more about each other after 28 years of marriage, if you can believe it. As corny as it sounds, our love is being renewed daily. (Debbie stuck her finger in her mouth when I read that line outloud.) But really, spending time together, is like the VISA commercial says, "Priceless."

I am in a different place in my grieving than a month ago. I no longer feel so weighed down by the loss. My perspective is changing the farther I get away from the event. I no longer feel that terrible sadness that was so heavy in the fall. It has helped to talk with others about the loss and to write about it. I imagine you reading this have been helped in similar ways in your own times of loss.

After about three months of writing, re-writing, writing, re-writing, etc. I finished a short story. It is called "Just Nine More Holes". It is about the relationship of a father, son, and God as the father dies. It was very satisfying to write. Within the story I was able to say things that I wanted to say about that last year of my dad's life. It was healing to write and has been healing for family members to read.

The first Sunday of January I preached in my home church. It was a wonderful experience. I never become as engrossed in the Scripture as when I am working on a sermon. The Holy Spirit inhabits my mind in a marvelous way that does not happen to me at any other time. So he week before I was so happy as studied and struggled, prayed, and wrote. When I preach, I connect people to Christ more effectively than any other way I know. I feel used by God in a way that is significant. I have missed preaching and felt such joy doing it again. And of course it was special because it was in the church I grew up in. Henry was proud of me and that felt really cool. The next day I was so disappointed that I did not have another sermon to prepare that week! I will preach two times later this month. I do look forward to picking it up again when I get back.

At the same time, I am enjoying the opportunity to worship with my family as a "regular" member. How cool to just come to church and receive. Most of you don't know how lucky you are! And if I am five minutes late, the service goes on anyway! The Pastor of my mom's Methodist church is a super pastor and exciting preacher. Each week I look forward to what God will say to me through him. And as long as I am listening, he always says something which speaks directly to me. We have made friends in the church and enjoy seeing them on Sunday. God is showing me anew how great it is to be a member in a church.

Debbie wants to tell you what she has been up to.
"Hi Everybody! I miss you all. Around the week before Thanksgiving I suddenly became manic and stayed that way for about 5 weeks.  That was followed by the usual up-down-up-down of recovery. I have been back to my usual self since about mid-January.  I did not, thankfully, ever have to go in the hospital.  During this time I had a bad sinus infection, which was treated with two rounds of antibiotics.  Those wiped out the flora in my colon, causing me to get a thing called c. difficile (a severe colitis).  I was sick enough to be reduced to a Gatorade-only diet for 8 days, and we all went up to Mansfield, Ohio (2 and a half hours north) to stay with Charlie's sister, whose husband is a general surgeon.  Dan took excellent care of me and I avoided surgery.  Diane took excellent care of all of us and we had a really good time, all told, but had to flee in the dark of night to avoid an ice storm coming in.  I'm eating again, and it seems that all's well that ends well.  I wish I had some cheery, happy story to tell, but I will say that as a native New Englander and survivor of 10 Minnesota winters, that I (and Charlie and Henry, too) am really enjoying the snowy 10 degree winter.  It's really beautiful."

Monday, January 3, 2011


The sledding has been great! We had a good snowfall the week before Christmas that lasted almost two weeks. Henry and I went out every day for ten days.We developed an icy run down one of the hills by the red barn. It was so much fun! You can't believe how fast we went. Henry had friends from school over on Christmas-break to sled. They all had a great time. Even Daisy our little beagle got into the act!