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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Routines and Ruts

            I tend to be a creature of routine.  I like to have a schedule, and I like to follow the schedule.  That’s not to say I need to have every second of my life scheduled in, but I do like to know what’s going to happen at certain times of the day and on certain days of the week.  Like Phineas Flynn, I like to know what I’m going to do today.  That seems to make life fall into a natural rhythm for me and keep me on an even keel.

            Right now, of course, I’m not in a routine at all.  I’ve still been at the Wheatland Parish less than a week.  Everyone has been wonderful to us, and Wanda and I look forward to getting to know all the people here.  Still, I often feel a little off balance.  Instead of knowing what I’m going to do, I constantly have to think, “What should I do next?”

            That’s nobody’s fault, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  It’s a consequence of being new.  Eventually, I’ll learn my way around.  I’ll get into the habit of doing certain things at certain times.  At some point, I’ll develop a routine for my life.  That will feel good.

            At least, it’ll feel good for a while.  The thing about a routine is that, if we’re not careful.  I routine can turn into a rut.  When the rut gets too deep, then we can’t see over the top of it.  The trouble with that is that we then miss chances to do God’s work, because those chances are outside of our field of vision.  It’s not that we want to miss those chances, it’s that we can’t see them.  Our rut has grown too deep and too comfortable.  The longer we stay in our routine, the deeper we can make the rut, until finally the rut becomes so deep that it’s nearly impossible for us to climb out, even if we decide we want to.

            Breaking out of a routine can be good in other ways, too.  It can keep us fired up.  It can keep us enthusiastic.  It can help us see new ways of doing things, ways that may be better than the way we’ve been doing them.  While I’ve never been one to believe in change for the sake of change, I also don’t believe in doing things the way we’ve always done them for no reason other than it’s the way we’ve always done them.  Sometimes it’s good to realize that other people in other places have other ideas, and those ideas may be really good ones that will further our ability to do God’s work.

            Getting out a rut is not always easy, nor is it always comfortable.  The thing is, though, that God did not put us on earth to be comfortable.  God put us on earth to serve God and to love our neighbors.  It can be hard to do that when we can’t see over the top of our nice, comfortable rut.

            So, even though I still feel a little off balance, there are ways in which it’s a good feeling.  Being off balance makes me concentrate.  It makes me pay attention.  It may even make me a better pastor, one who’s better able to see ways to serve God.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting To Know You

            Well, we’re moved in, sort of.  I’m sitting here amidst a lot of boxes, some opened, some not.  Much of our stuff is in the garage, because we can’t use our basement right now because it has water in it.  That’s right, we left flooding in the North Sioux area only to find a flooded basement here.  God definitely has a sense of humor.
            Despite that, here I am, the leader of the Wheatland Parish.  Not.  I may be a leader by title, but that’s all.  It’s pretty hard to call yourself the leader of a church when you’re still trying to figure out where the rest room is.  Nobody can just walk into a church, or any organization, and think they’re automatically going to be the leader.  The authority that makes one a leader is something that has to be earned over time.  It’s not something that comes just from a title.
            That’s a good thing.  After all, it would be the height of arrogance for me to walk in to this parish and immediately start telling people what needs to be done around here.  There are good people in all three churches of the parish. They’ve already doing a lot of things in the parish.  I assume that, right now, the people of the Wheatland Parish know a whole lot more about how to do ministry here than I do. 
I’ll have ideas and opinions, of course, and as time goes by I’ll share some of those ideas and opinions.  More importantly, though, I’ll want to know the ideas and opinions of the people of the parish, because that’s where the best ideas usually come from.  In a church, ideas that work tend to come from the bottom up, not from the top down.
There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the biggest is that for an idea to work, it has to be something that a lot of people believe in.  No idea, no matter how brilliant or creative it may be, will work unless it is an idea that the people of the parish can commit to.  Note that I said “commit to”.  I used that term for a reason.  It’s one thing to support an idea, but it’s another to commit to it.  There are things that can get done with the support of the people of the parish, but for an idea to really work and make an impact for God, ideas need to have the commitment of the people of the parish.
Then, too, it’s not like we’re not starting from scratch here.  The churches of the Wheatland Parish have been around for quite a while.  They’re already in ministry here.  They’re doing a lot of things to reach out to people.  They’re trying hard to show God’s love and spread God’s word.  I don’t know what all those things are yet—as I said, I just got here—but I’m looking forward to finding out.
As I wrote recently, one of the joys of moving is that you find out there are good people wherever you go.  We’re looking forward to getting to know the good people of the Wheatland Parish and joining them in ministry to this area.  Together, we can build on the things the churches of this parish are already doing, try to think of new things we can do, and move forward to do God’s work for the people in and around Gettysburg, Onida, and Agar.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Moving In

           I have a new home.

           That’s true both for me and my blog.  For the past two years, I have been blogging as pastor of The ARK United Methodist Church.  I was living in North Sioux City, SD and my blog was on that church’s website.  If you’re new to my writing and want to check out that prior blog, you can go here; the entries through June 20, 2011 are mine.

           Now, as many of you know, I’m the pastor of the Wheatland Parish.  That consists of three United Methodist Churches, located respectively in Gettysburg, Onida, and Agar.  So, now I’m living in Gettysburg and my blog is here.  I hope, at some point, to be able to be able to post these entries on the Wheatland Parish website as well.

           Moving around is part of the deal when you agree to become a United Methodist pastor.  There’s good and bad about it, as with many things in life.  The good, though, is that when you live in different places you get to meet an awful lot of nice people.  When I lived in Pierre, I met some wonderful people, including one who is now my wife.  When we lived in Wessington Springs, we met some wonderful people.  When we lived in North Sioux City, we met some wonderful people.  We’re confident that we will meet wonderful people in Onida, Agar, and Gettysburg as well.

           Another good thing about moving around is that you get to have different experiences and try new things.  A good friend once told me that trying something new is what keeps you young, and I have to agree.  Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve done some things I’d never done before, and even though I’m fifty-two, I still feel young.  I’m looking forward to having some new experiences in the towns of Agar, Gettysburg, and Onida.

           Wanda and I are especially excited about this move because it gets us back to small towns.  That’s nothing against the people of North Sioux City, because they’ve treated us wonderfully.  The thing is that Wanda and I both come from small towns (Wanda’s from Blunt, I’m from Delmont), and we both have a love of small towns.  We recognize that they’re not for everyone, but we feel very comfortable in towns of the size of those in the Wheatland Parish.  We look forward to getting to know those towns and the people in them.

           When we decided five years ago that I would go to seminary and become a pastor, Wanda and I termed that decision “our adventure”.  We look forward to taking this next step in that adventure.  We hope you’ll keep reading this blog, and will join us on the journey.      

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Coming Soon

If you've stumbled onto this blog, please know that it is not quite open for business yet.  Launch date is hoped to be June 23, 2011  Please check back then, or perhaps a few days later.  Thanks.