Thursday, March 26, 2015

21 Days to a Complaint Free Life

If I can go the next fourteen hours without complaining I will have made it 21 consecutive days without uttering a complaint.  During Lent I have encouraged our congregation to take this 21 day challenge.  The idea came from Will Bowen who has written two books about the idea.

Going 21 days without complaining was very hard.  I learned a lot about myself.

I learned that when I am in the car I make comments about other people’s driving.  I didn’t realize how often I do this until I started this 21 day challenge.

I learned that I will sometimes make comments that seem to be funny, but are really complaints about another person.

I learned that I am highly susceptible to complaining when I go shopping with my daughter, Hannah.

And I learned the difference between complaining and sharing a statement of fact.

I shared two sermons on these issues.  The last one in the series can viewed at:

The idea of going 21 days without complaining is not meant for everyone.  Some folks have lives where intentionally trying not to complain does not make sense. 

This idea is also not meant to silence people and is not meant to be used as a power play to prevent others from sharing ideas or news that we might like.

No idea or program is perfect. 

However I do think that going through this process has been helpful for me.  I learned things about myself that I didn't realize.  And I learned yet again how reliant I am on God.  I messed up many times.  I first started this process in early January.  It’s now late March.  You can see that I went back to day one many times.   I don’t think I could have gone 21 days (assuming that the next fourteen hours go well) without complaining if I hadn’t asked help on a daily basis from God.  I can’t become the person I want to be without God's direction and help.  

I would encourage everyone who is reading this blog to try to go 21 days without complaining.  What have you got to lose?  And you might learn quite a lot about yourself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Twin Cities Area Presbytery meeting March 2015

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area met for our regular meeting this past Saturday, March 14 at New Life Presbyterian Church in Roseville.  I was privileged to have Sally Narr and some of our Confirmation students from Chain of Lakes come for part of the meeting. 

The meeting began with a rousing worship service.  The Kenyan Fellowship led the music at worship.  Their growing congregation worships at New Life Presbyterian Church.  Their music brought a fresh spirit to our gathering.   

In his Treasurer’s Report Ed Martin shared that the year has started out well financially for the Presbytery.  He also shared in his written report that the bulk of the Hope Presbyterian settlement was invested with the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program.

The Presbytery voted to go forward with a restructuring proposal shared by the Presbytery Leadership Team.  The proposals can be read in their entirety at:

As I understand the proposal the Presbytery committees that will be changed are the Committee on Ministry (COM), Church Development Team (CDT) and Mission and Witness Committee (MWC).  The proposal passed with no discussion from the floor.  In part of his report David Colby, chair of the Presbytery Leadership Team, encouraged people to share ideas for the use of settlement funds from departing churches. 

In the Self-Development of People report Karen Kennerly shared a moving report about how the Presbytery has helped an organization called Minnesotans Standing Together to End Poverty.  Representatives from the group whose picture is on the top of this blog came to share their appreciation for the Presbytery’s financial support.   

Right before lunch Dr. Sarah Henrich shared a terrific lecture on the last four chapters of Romans.  One part of her lecture that interested me was her understanding of how the Apostle Paul wrote about friendship.  Friendship is of particular interest to the people at Chain of Lakes as part of our Purpose Statement is helping strangers become friends.  Henrich shared that the Apostle Paul believed that people should be friends in Christ in order to help each other in helpful ways.  This was revolutionary in its time as Paul understood friendship to go beyond the rigid class structure that existed.  Some characteristics of ancient friendship are that it is self-chosen, exists among equals and for mutual upbuilding, requires truthfulness, and that people connect in one soul and one spirit. 

A significant part of the meeting came after lunch when the Presbytery received a report from the Administrative Commission (AC) who has worked with Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.   The AC and the Session of Christ Presbyterian have come to an agreement on the general terms of a proposal for Christ to leave the PC(USA).

A person on the floor asked representatives from Christ why they want to leave.  John Mitchell, from Christ, shared that the church doesn’t seem to have deep congruence anymore with the Presbytery, and that it’s hard to be an evangelical congregation within the Presbytery.  He also shared that the church has not had success in having pastors within their congregation become ordained within the PC(USA). 

The general terms were approved by voice vote.  I would guess that at least 95 percent of the commissioners approved the vote.  The next steps are for the congregation from Christ to approve the negotiated final terms on May 3 and then the Presbytery vote on the final terms on May 12.

Like all the conversations that have taken place on the floor of Presbytery with congregations thinking about leaving, the discussion was civil and respectful.  Sadness hung in the air.  But the vote was handled decently and in order.  David Van Dyke, chair of the AC acknowledged that if Christ departs the Presbyterian Church (USA) our Presbytery will be diminished but not without hope.   

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mc Farland

On Sunday night, my sister’s family and I went to see Mc Farland, the new Disney Movie at the East Bethel theatre.  I’ve wanted to see the move ever since I saw the previews.  Mc Farland is a farm worker town.  When I worked for the farm workers in the late 1980’s we talked about Mc Farland quite often.  The town is a place surrounded by fruits and vegetables that are picked by farm workers who live in Mc Farland.

The movie is the story of how Jim White—played by Kevin Costner—was able to organize a cross country team at Mc Farland High School.  The film chronicled the challenges that Costner faced in developing a team that ultimately won a state title in the first year of its existence.   As a sports film the story is like Hoosiers or even Friday Night Lights. 

But the movie was more than a sports story.  At a deeper level the story illustrated the hardships that farm workers faced.  Many of the boys on the team had to get up before school to go work in the fields.  One of the best scenes in the film is when Costner joined the boys work in the fields.  The literally back breaking work showed how much the students had to overcome just to be on the team.  And it revealed to anyone watching the film an important reminder that the fruits and vegetables that appear in our grocery stores come with a lot of sweat labor attached to them. 

And the story was about how Costner’s family came to appreciate the Latino culture of Mc Farland.  One of the best scenes in the movie was when Costner—at the encouragement of the local grocer—threw a Quinceanera for his daughter.   Many in the Latino community showed up with food and music and symbols of the tradition.   Costner’s family felt at home because they were embraced by the townspeople.   This was not a movie where a white savior came in to help the poor, Latino farm workers. 

I shed a few tears at the end of the movie because the team won the State Championship.  My heart was touched.  But my appreciation for the movie went deeper than what my heart experienced.  My head was touched because I saw an example of how people from different races came to respect and admire each other.  Sure the movie was made by Disney, so we have to be careful about drawing too many conclusions about race.  But the movie shared some possibilities of what can happen when people, despite their race, go out of their way to help each other.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Watching God Girl at the History Theatre

This past Friday I had the privilege of attending “God Girl,” a play written by Rev. Kristine Holmgren that was performed at the History Theatre.  The play was a story about Holmgren’s journey through seminary.  She and other women encountered sexist roadblocks that many in the Presbyterian Church knowingly and unknowingly placed against them.  As a Presbyterian pastor in the Twin Cities Area Presbytery I’ve talked a few times to Holmgren, but know her more through reading her writings and watching her ministry.

The story was a gutsy one to share.  Holmgren faced obstacles of sexism in every scene—from a man knowingly walking into her shower with at what was previously a male shower, to professors who would only call on men in the classroom, to a lecherous supervisor who groomed her towards sexual harassment.  The scenes are tough to watch, but it’s important for all of us in the church to watch them.  They share a history that many of us who believe in full equality in the church for women need to know and appreciate.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has made tremendous progress towards equality in the church for women since the early 1970’s.  It is now taken for granted that women can be ordained.  My sister is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church and the church would be less of a place if we didn’t recognize her gifts.  I tell people who come to Chain of Lakes that if they can’t accept women in leadership in our congregation and in our denomination that this might not be the faith community for them.

Even though the issue of women in church leadership seems to be a fight of the past, we can never take this for granted.  Over half of the people who attended a church in Anoka County this past weekend attended a church where women are second class participants.  Other Presbyterian denominations have failed to realize that Jesus fought against the sexist standards of his day by embracing women as leaders.  I have no doubt that he would celebrate today when women share Communion behind the Table.  And despite the progress in the Presbyterian Church (USA) the glass ceiling still exists.  Most of the largest churches in our own Presbytery and in our denomination are led by men. 

Holmgren and many like her were pioneers.  They paved a hard way so that today we can enjoy a more brilliant church.  Kudos to the History Theatre for sharing her story.