Pastor's Message

RSS Feed

PULL UP A PEW, THIS IS A GOOD ONE

In memory of Charlie “Malarkey” Hearn

I remember growing up following my dad as he led construction crews that built roads into the mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.  This was not the type of road construction you see along I-75.  My dad and his crews blew holes through the mountains with dynamite and took down trees.  He built roads into the sides of mountains so high that if you went off them you would plunge hundreds of feet to your death.  The roads would later be used by logging companies to haul trees out of the forest.  Today people use them to get to picnic grounds or hiking trails.  It was hard and dangerous work.  My dad and the crews that worked for him were by and large from the greatest generation.  They had fought in World War II but when they returned home they didn’t do the thing that you hear in the 1950’s newsreels of using the GI bill to go to college and then start businesses and move to the suburbs.  Most of my dad’s crew like him had been loggers and construction workers before the war and so after the war they headed right back into the mountains of the Northwest.  There were also a number of them that after the war didn’t want anything to do with normal society.  Many of them lived on the edge of it and my dad spent countless hours counseling them and taking care of their families, sometimes taking money out of his own wallet so that their kids wouldn’t go hungry.  

What I remember most about all these men is that they were great story tellers.  My dad was one of the best.  He could tell a story, a lot of them semi-true that would hold you captivated.  My mom and I would live with the crews in the mountains during the summer and I would sit around the campfire and listen to these guys. I realize now that many of their stories were exaggerations and tall tales and they would regularly call each other out on them and then laugh about it.  My dad’s nickname was Malarkey, because of all the stuff he would add to his stories.  Even though they knew he was lying no one could stop listening.  I still remember the story he told about his spaghetti trees; there was one guy that actually believed it.  A good story is an amazing thing, it can make you laugh, but it can also teach and make you wonder and think.  It puts things in perspective and in many ways forms how we live. 

This Summer I plan to tell you some stories, but not the ones my dad told me, but the ones my mom read to me at night.  The stories my mom read to me made me think and wonder.  They were stories about men like Naaman who as a Syrian war general was healed by an enemy prophet and shown the grace of God.  Stories of women like Esther who saved her entire nation by an incredible act of courage that would result in a Jewish festival that continues to this day. Then there is Ehud who carries out a Seal Team Six like mission and lives to tell about it.  Stories about a guy named Balaam and his talking donkey.  These stories are amazing and thought provoking and in the end point us in different ways to Jesus himself.  So this summer pull up a pew and get ready to hear some true stories from the Bible, a few of them you may not have even known about.  Listen as the story points us ultimately to Christ.  God loves stories, he tells a lot of them.  Let’s take them in together.  Here is the schedule.  You may notice there is nothing for July; that is because I am going back out to where my dad built all the roads and where all those stories were told so many years ago.  I plan to tell some of them to my own kids, particularly the one about the boy named Falling Rock… Oh well that is another story in itself.  

MY TREE SAYS IT’S SPRING

I posted a picture of one of my trees on Facebook the other day.  It was full of flowers and looked beautiful.  I wrote on my post that, “One of my trees says it’s spring.”  This past Saturday our family was up in Rochester Michigan for a track meet.  It had to be one of the coldest track meets I have ever been to.  It was absolutely miserable all day.  I felt like I was in Siberia.  It was so cold that even my competitive daughter wanted to go home instead of compete.  I was still recovering on Monday from being out in the wind and cold all Saturday.  So when I saw the tree on Tuesday morning I had to take a picture.  It was sunny, the tree was full of flowers and it was projected to be 82 by the afternoon.  The contrast between Saturday and Tuesday was like night and day. 

The contrast between Good Friday and Easter morning was just as stark.  Good Friday everything was black and cold and depressing.  Jesus had died on the cross and been buried.  The disciples didn’t know what to do, they suffered great anxiety and depression and even went into hiding in an upper room.  Easter morning though brought the resurrection, it brought life.  The Son rose and everything changed.  Spring was in the in air. 

Life can be like that at times.  Our sins can bring us down and remind us that we don’t measure up.  Everything can appear to be cold and darkness with no hope.  We do have hope though, it isn’t found in the flowers of spring but in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We have our hope in our forgiveness and eternal life.  The empty tomb says it’s spring in God’s world.  It says that salvation is ours and the future is sunny.

Pastor Fred

IN THE MOMENT

IN THE MOMENT

               About 4 A.M. the other morning Sky, our dog, started barking.  Sky only barks when there is something outside so I got up and found her in our front room standing on a chair with her paws on the window.  I went over to where she was and looked out and saw three large objects walking in our yard.  There was enough light from the street lights to see that they were deer.  I then saw two others for a total of five standing in our yard and one was walking toward our porch.  One deer literally had his hooves on the first step and was looking in the window at us.  I grew up in Montana and Idaho so I am used to seeing deer but this scene was special.  First of all we are in the city where there is a lot of traffic, but also because these deer seemed as curious about us as we were about them.  They were looking right at us and yet did not seem the least bit afraid.  I lifted up my hand to wave at one and it looked startled for a second.  I put my hand down thinking, “What in the world are you doing trying to wave hi to a deer, are you going to invite it in for coffee or something?”   

               I was also filled with a desire to go and grab my phone and take a picture or film it.  I think we all feel that way when we see something interesting.  It is almost like we can’t help ourselves.  I remember the 1980’s when everyone was carrying those huge video cameras on their shoulders.  People spent so much time filming their vacations that they forgot to actually enjoy their vacation.  It is even worse today because if you have a phone you have a camera.  We are obsessed with filming everything so that we can see it later.  As I began to turn to go get my phone I caught myself and thought no I just want to take this in.  I want to enjoy this right now in this moment.  I want to be in the moment.  So I just stood there with Sky, who had finally calmed down, and we watched the deer as they watched us.  At some point the deer decided that we were not doing anything interesting so they left.  The dog and I looked at each other and we both went back to bed.  I don’t know about the dog but I left with a good memory.

               Many times as Christians we like to take pictures of God or film him instead of just enjoy him.  We like to read our Bibles and study them, we like to read devotionals and commentaries so that we can figure out every detail of what God meant by that particular passage.  This is all good stuff and we should do it, we should study God’s Word deeply.  At the same time sometimes we just need to be in the moment with God and his Word.  We just need to read it.  In addition to my prep work for sermons and other things, I like to daily read five chapters of the Bible.  I just read them and drink them in.  I don’t consult commentaries I don’t read the notes in the Bible.  I just read the words and enjoy them.  I will run into things at times that make want to investigate it more, but I always stop myself and say no not now just read, you can study it later. 

               I would encourage you to try this.  Just read the Word, be in the moment with God.  Watch how he moves through Scripture to accomplish his plan of salvation for you.  You will be amazed at how relaxing and freeing it is.

                                             Pastor Fred

CPE? WHAT?

CPE?  WHAT?

People have asked me what CPE is.  I tell them it is Clinical Pastoral Education.  Then they ask me what that is?  So then I tell them it is learning how to do pastoral work in a clinical setting.  At this point they usually look at me like they are even more confused.  So then I say it is really a discovery of self.  The conversation ends there most of the time and they walk off more confused than when they first asked the question.  To be honest it is hard at times to explain but let me try.  The unit I am in involves 125 hours in the classroom and 300 hours on the floor of the hospital working with patients, doctors and nurses over a six month period. 

            The 125 hours in the classroom involves around five and a half hours a week in the classroom, which for my unit is held on Thursday afternoons.  There are a variety of things that happen during that time.  We have books that we read on ministry and grief and other subjects and we write reports on these and present them in class.  Sometimes doctors from different areas in the hospital come in and talk about their specialties.  We have others come in and do demonstrations about how to deal with people who have just lost loved ones or who are dying themselves.  We even have classes on how to deal with minority patients and how to calm people down when they are angry.  We also present verbatims which are conversations we have had with patients.  The rest of the class listens to them and debates how we could have done it better, what we could have said differently.  We present theological reflections about our work at the hospital and those also get evaluated by the class.  We spend a lot of time talking about ourselves and our reactions to situations in the hospital and getting feedback from students and staff.  There are both tears and anger expressed around the table for and at each other.  It is part of the process of learning about ourselves so that we can serve others.

            The 300 hours on the floor involves visiting with patients in their rooms and addressing their needs.  We listen to them and pray with them and deal with their families.  We also do advance directives like powers of attorney and living wills.  We spend time working in the emergency room taking care of families of loved ones who are brought in and many times die there.  We deal with doctors, police officers, coroners and grieving families sometimes several times a night.  We also deal with strokes and heart attacks and people being extubated.  You may ask what an extubation is.  Basically it is when the doctors have concluded that the person is not going to make it and they remove the breathing tubes from the person.  Chaplains prepare and stay with the family until the patient dies.

            We take all of these experiences and present some of them in class as verbatims and case studies.  One of the questions we ask of each other is how did you identify with the patient and the family and what counter story was going on within you the whole time?  These are important to identify because they can reveal things in our past that we have suppressed and are now being brought to the surface.  These things can also get in the way of taking care of the patient and their family.  The goal is get it all out in the open so you can deal with it honestly and put it behind you and learn how to focus on the patient instead of yourself.  Needless to say all of this is emotionally exhausting but also very educational and helpful in dealing with others. I think this is a good program for a parish pastor because it teaches you how to talk to people at a different level and gives you experience working with people who are in distress and sometimes questioning God’s existence or his love for them. 

            The program I am in started October 12th of last year and ends April 5th.  So we are about a month away from the end.  I have enjoyed the class but I am looking forward to it being done, although I will miss working in the emergency room or ED as they call it at St. Vincent’s, it was both terrifying and exciting.  So that is Clinical Pastoral Education. 

                                                            Pastor Fred

CAN WE PLEASE GET OUR HOLIDAYS IN ORDER?

There is always a big ongoing argument in our house this time of year and it is about Christmas music.  My family accuses me of hating Christmas music.  I don't hate Christmas music, I just don't like it before Thanksgiving.  I like things in chronological order, do one thing before you do another.  My daughter walked out of her room today, October 31st, wearing all red.  She looked at me and then went on to explain that is was Reformation Day and her Lutheran school was requesting everyone wear red today in memory of it.  I was fine with that, but told her not to get any ideas about that red Christmas stuff everyone seems to like to wear around my house this time of year.  So yes you could say that I am a little "bah humbug" about Christmas in October or November.

I mean, why run so fast past Thanksgiving?  What about pumpkin pie and turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie?  Did I say pumpkin pie twice?  Yes, I will take two pieces thank you, and don't skimp on the whipped cream.  My point is that we need to stop and celebrate Thanksgiving as its own holiday and not just throw it in with Christmas and even New Years.  So why do I like Thanksgiving so much, besides the food?  I like it simply because it reminds us to be thankful, and being thankful is important.  When we are thankful we see things in a completely different light.

So what do you have to be thankful for?  Take a moment and think about that.  We all have much to be thankful for.  We can list things like our family, our friends, our health, our house, etc.  The most important thing that we have to be thankful for is our Savior Jesus Christ, because through him we have forgiveness and eternal life.  That is even better than pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  The thankfulness we have in Christ even ties us in with Christmas, but one celebration at a time.

As you get ready for Thanksgiving, be thankful for everything.  Rejoice in Christ Jesus and remember your salvation.

September Message - SET

SET

There is that moment in track right before the race where it is eerily quiet.  If you have ever been at a track meet when they have run a 100 or 200 meter final or watched one closely on TV you have experienced this.  The runners have been milling about and finally they are called to the line.  For the younger kids they get in their stances, for the older ones they get in their blocks.  At this point things tend to quiet down and everyone waits.  There is usually some guy at the end of the track with a white flag.  When he raises it that indicates that the track is clear, the computer timer is set.  At that point the guy at the starting line yells out, “Set!”  This signals the runners to get ready.  At most tracks this is also a time of complete quiet and anticipation.  It is all about to go down.  What is going to happen is going to be fast and furious.  If it is a 200 it will all be over in 24 to 27 seconds.  If it is a 100 it will be over in about 13 seconds or less. If you have someone in the race the hair on your head is standing on end. Finally the guy at the starting line raises the gun in the air and he fires.  There is a crack and a puff of white smoke and an eruption of raw speed and power, and the crowd begins to scream.  A few seconds later it is all over. There are winners and there are losers and there is no arguing about it because the computer with its camera reveals all.

 As we enter September we are in the blocks, the white flag has been lifted and the starter has yell out, “Set!”  The question is, are you ready?  The starting gun is about fire and the church calendar is full of activity.  We have a lot of stuff planned in the coming months.  These are not just things to fill time or space but programs and activities that we pray will bring the law and the gospel to people’s lives.  It is why we exist as a church.  We need to bring the law to our world, so that they can see the sin that exists in their lives and their need for a Savior.  We need to bring the gospel to people who have been convicted of that law to show them the Savior in Jesus Christ.  We are praying that what we have planned will do those things.  Some of the things we are doing are ongoing programs that we have done for years, others are new ideas that we want to try out.  I hope that you will take some of these into consideration as your plan your September and the months ahead.

May Message - School is out! Or is it?

I love May.  It takes me back to all those years of school when May meant the end of school was near.  The darkness of winter was over and final papers were being turned in, final tests were being taken.  In grade school, May meant more time outside, school movies and games as it seemed the teachers ran out of things to teach.  I imagine they were looking forward to June as much as we were.  In college it meant final tests and by the middle of the month you were moving out of your dorm or apartment.  Eventually it meant you graduated.  I remember the May I graduated from college.  Two weeks before it happened I realized I didn’t want to graduate.  I loved college, I wanted to keep going, but I had too many credits and they said no you are out of here.  I suddenly realized how good I had it; graduation meant I had to get a real job!  I didn’t though, I went to Seminary instead.  

School does have to end, real jobs have to be taken and worked.  Learning, on the other hand, never stops. That certainly applies to our spiritual life.  We need to always be learning.  May does not have to signal the end of our education.  This summer will have many educational opportunities.  Ted Ware will be teaching a Sunday Bible class that I encourage you to take part in.  Vacation Bible School is also coming up in July.  Maybe you are too old to be a student but you are not too old to teach or to help.  The summer is also a good time to continue to read your Bible and do your devotions.  In fact, summer is a good time to get a book from Concordia Publishing House to read.  Just go to www.cph.org.  It is the 500th year of the Reformation so there are many books concerning that topic.  If it you read it in the summer you will be prepared for the 500th on October 31st.  So don’t stop learning this summer, just learn something different.

Pastor Fred

Posts

The Lutheran Witness Current Issue