Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The below question was generated via a question from my good friend author, Derek Maul.  The story here was my response.

Do you live into your potentiality as a child of God... 
living as you were created to live? 

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At this past spring's retreat one of our guest speakers had to leave before he thought he had to.   He'd intended on Saturday to do 2 sessions before heading back to see about someone in the hospital, but a lengthy, intense and much needed discussion prevented the second session. 

As we broke from lunch to enjoy some free time, a good friend of mine, one of several clergy in attendance, walked with me passing the clanging of the beginnings of the horse shoe pitching contest.  He mentioned to me how disappointed he was that our presenter, a close and familiar colleague, had not the opportunity to finish up as he'd intended.  My friend explained how because of his knowledge of where his colleague's presentation was most likely going in it's second half, that it was a shame that it wouldn't be presented.  I too had expressed my disappointment and took the opportunity to engage our retreat's other presenter.  I then beckoned for my friend to come join our conversation and asked him to share again what he'd explained to me a few moments earlier.  Our first presenter listened intently.  He was very intrigued and agreed that it would be very unfair to the men gathered to not give them a chance to hear where the presentation should have gone. 

So, our first presenter asked my friend and personal pastor to do as he suggested; finish the presentation out.  Once given the green light to proceed, he asked me for my bible and then began immediately making notations and writing out a brief outline of what he'd speak about.  As my friend came forward he explained how he felt he needed to make sure we understood he wasn't putting words in his colleague's mouth or claiming to be anywhere near the caliber of a speaker, but he felt compelled to try and finish what was started. 

I sat amongst the men and watched my friend speak from the heart and began to smile as a listened.  Then he made a concluding comment that gave me full knowledge that what I'd just experienced and seen, from the time of our initial conversation to this comment, "It would be wonderful if all congregations could all be like you all in this room".  He'd made that statement because of the intense respectful discourse that had transpired earlier in the day and how our weekend was focusing on how we men of the church were beginning to realize the importance of doing something different, to not be afraid of change, to come into the 21st century and be Jesus Followers. 

Creek scene near Northern VA 4-H Ctr., Front Royal
The moment was intense because of some issues my friend had been dealing with.  I saw him exhibit his God given gift of pastoral care in bringing a message, in this case picking up where someone else left off, his energy was such that I'd not seen him that inspired and moved in months. 

I told this story the following Tuesday over the phone to the presenter who'd had to leave early.  He was quiet as I said concluding, "Again, I'm real sorry that you had to leave", to which he quickly answered, "No, no...you don't understand...I was meant to leave.  I just got goosebumps from what you've told me.  Our friend needed that and the Holy Spirit was there to make it happen.  A true God moment!"  So...I must say my friend was the embodiment of living into full potentiality, living as he was created to live.  Living to capacity?  I don't know...I think there's more from where that came from!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The First Step

Pastors Greg Ott, Marvin Zaldivar and translator
At the end of April men from the regions of Virginia and the Capitol Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) came together for a weekend of retreat and fellowship and took the first step.  The weekend came to a close with the men conducting a brief vespers service where we asked ourselves the question, "Where did you see God during the weekend?"

What transpired at the conclusion of the vespers no one could have imagined.  As our group began preparing themselves mentally for departure from the picturesque Front Royal, Virginia mountain setting, we asked them to leave the conference room and process outside onto the hillside just behind the beautiful Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center. There we would partake in the sharing of bread and cup; a closing communion to send us on our way.

Also gathered that weekend at the 4-H center were members of Iglesia Los Hechos Mission from Manassas, Virginia (Church of Acts Mission Manassas) http://www.iglesialoshechos.com .

They described themselves as an evangelical Christian group.  The group was made up of men and women of all ages from Mexico and other areas of Central America, but primarily they young people; many young children with their parents.  The group was relatively the same size as ours numbering approximately 80.  The group like ours had come to retreat and fellowship together in the beauty of the Front Royal area.

We encountered them each time we dined together in the cafeteria of the retreat center.  That's where I struck up a conversation with their Pastor, Marvin Zaldivar who told me a little bit about himself and the church he helped start within the confines of his home basement.  Now, four years later, the church was meeting in a space they rented from a Baptist church in Northern Virginia.  I took the opportunity to introduce Pastor Marvin to several of the clergy within our group.

At breakfast on Sunday I pulled Marvin aside to ask him what his groups plan for the morning was.  I explained that the men would be conducting the short vespers followed by communion and that we'd very much like it and be honored if they would join us on the hillside and share in the holy meal.  Pastor Marvin said that the group would very much like to join us and that they had even discussed amongst themselves how moving it might be to share some time with us.  Once on the hillside, our group began to form a large circle.  Once formed the people of Iglesia Los Hechos Mission came down and joined the circle. 

Earlier, I'd asked my friend, Pastor, Greg Ott if he would conduct the communion service.  Greg and only a handful of other men from our group knew that the two groups would be sharing communion together.  Pastor Marvin joined Greg in the center of the circle as well as a young man who agreed to act as translator for the fellowship time. The words of institution and prayers for bread and cup were all done alternately in Spanish and in English.  But the acts were in a universal language.

 There on that hillside a group of Jesus Followers came together to partake in an act that transcends language, culture and ethnicity.  By intinction they all came forward singing praises of emotion and thanksgiving.  At communion's conclusion, hugs, hugs and more hugs were shared.  Conversations lingered as our time of retreat concluded.  Many tears were shed as the two groups dispersed.

One man said to me that this was the first step.  In light of our conversation and discussions during our fellowship time over the weekend I had to agree that the men gathered recognized that this loving act of hospitality and spirituality that we had just shared was the first step of many for men of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other mainline denominational men.  We must be open to receiving the movement of the Holy Spirit and be cognizant of the compassion and love of following in those first footsteps of example given to us by a man over 2000 years ago.  Jesus was present on the hillside with us smiling with joy.  So, did I see God during the weekend?  You bet I did.

Being together with those people that morning was one of the most humbling and spiritually moving experiences I've ever been a part of.   As I think about my first Father's Day this weekend I think about the day when I can proudly and excitedly share this story, the first of many, with my son.  

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Enjoy the Next Few Minutes Smiling!


this is what I feel compelled to share with you my readers.  As a Jesus Follower, a Disciple of Christ, I feel it my calling to share uplifting stories and ideas and pose questions around issues and controversial topics that will hopefully bring about positive discussion.

There's been a few things lately that I've been giving much thought too regarding church.  It's amazing how God, our parent, has a way of interjecting instances into our lives to give us what we need, when we need it.  That's what happened to me this week.  All I needed to do was think about my son, Gabe and the simplistic joy that oozes from him whenever he smiles is infectious.  I have found myself smiling as I walk down the hall of his daycare facility in preparation of picking him up for the ride home.  It's truly amazing how he can lift my spirits.  I pray that his happiness and positive demeanor grows everyday with him.  I sense a spirit of optimism in him.  As his father, I am committed to teaching him to grow his happiness into a life of powerful positive action in whatever he decides to do in life. Growing up, I can remember how negative and pessimistic I used to be.  Optimism can be an amazing thing.

This week I heard how a city responded to pessimism and negative media publicity.  As I watched the attached 9+ minute video I found myself wanting more, smiling more and more in reaction to it.  If you watch it and don't smile, well...I don't really know how you can do that...honestly, I don't.

Have a great rest of the week and enjoy the next few minutes smiling! 

Friday, June 3, 2011


A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! 
-James 3: 5-10 (The Message)

I often like to write about the importance of renewing positive societal civil discourse or to address issues facing our world and the church.  This is one of those occasions and is meant to, as with everything I write, attempt to bring about thoughtful, respectful discourse and more importantly a positive thought process.

Communication is something we do everyday and we do it in many different ways.  Communication is essential to our humanity.  Communication can be used for good or it can be used for bad.  It can be misunderstood and ambiguous.  It can be delivered loudly or even in silence.  It can convey hate or feelings of love.  So, if communication is so varied and essential to our lives, why do we have such a difficult time doing it in a way that promotes good and well being?  

When was the last time you had communication with your minister, pastor, priest or some other spiritual adviser that you identify or connect with?  Do you talk to them as a friend outside of the confines of the church or religious setting?  If perhaps you're not close friends but still consider him or her your spiritual adviser or mentor, do you feel at ease to communicate your thoughts and ideas, concerns, questions and positive or negative feedback?

Communication with a pastor (I'll use 'pastor' to cover all the various references) can perhaps be no easier than communication with a co-worker, family member or close friend.  As is the case with co-worker, family member or close friend, communication with a pastor...your pastor...can be a very important opportunity for growth and well-being.  Alternately, bathroom gossip and parking lot side-bar conversation leads to ambiguity or misinterpretation even if perhaps the conversation may have had potentially positive intentions.  We know all this don't we?  Why do people risk hurting someone with misinterpreted talk and gossip and do we really listen like we should?

Recently, I asked the following question of several pastors...

What is it that keeps people in a congregation setting from feeling confident enough to speak freely with the pastor? What keeps them from sharing positive or negative feedback or comments directly with them?

The responses talked about how pastors work to give individual church leaders encouragement to promote positive direct communication be it, positive or negative. 

One pastor, "had an old mentor that would actually carry around a notepad and pen. When anyone came to him complaining about someone else, he would take pen in hand and notepad out of pocket and say, "Now let me write this down so I can quote you correctly."  Most didn't stay around to complete their remarks."

Another pastor called it the 'purple gorilla' that stands directly behind us as we stand in front of a mirror, but we fail to see it because it has no reflection.  Most agreed that in the end it's just human nature and that it's not just limited to church, but we tend to pick up on it more in church because our expectations of one another there are higher.

It may be human nature, but isn't it also human nature for us to care for one another?  I believe we should be cognizant of it not only in church, but in everything we do and every communication we have?  If we're committed Jesus Followers shouldn't we commit to having positive conversation that lifts people up rather than tear people down?

I feel that meaningful communication; thoughtful, respectful, insightful, deliberate dialogue is lacking within the church and in the world.  A lot of conversations I've been involved with over the last several months have been about the use of positive words when we're talking and how much of a difference it makes.  The use of positive language and the promotion of respectful civil discourse can and will bring about peace and goodwill to the world.  As a Jesus Follower I'm committed to that.

So, with whom and how did you communicate today?