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Showing posts from 2013

When You Know You're Doing It Right

Sunday afternoons as a clergy family are interesting...
In the fall, I typically turn on the Lions and watch them (attempt) to play football.  Yesterday was no exception (at least for me - The Lions didn't even seem to show up during the second half).  The boys will get out their Legos, monster trucks, and various other toys.  My wife will typically be seen watching a movie on Chicktime (Lifetime, that is).  Sometimes we will play a family game together, or just enjoy snuggling on the couch as we watch a family movie.  
Sometimes, the boys want to make things.  Usually out of play-dough or sand.  However, many of the gifts that I typically receive are in the form of artwork.  Andrew and Josh both enjoy making works of art and giving them away.  Yesterday, Andrew gave me this drawing of his interpretation of Joseph, from the Old Testament stories.  With a smile on his face, and a hint of pride in his voice, he said "Here daddy, put this in your office."  Not thinking any…

A Quarter and a Thankful Heart

For the past several years, I have enjoyed shopping at Aldi for many of our grocery needs.  When we moved last year, I was disappointed that we would have a longer drive to the store we would typically frequent.  However, just last week I discovered that there is an Aldi in Ann Arbor, YES!

But, why do I talk about Aldi?  And, what in the world does this have to do with my journey with Christ?

Quite frankly, a lot!

For those who have never had the Aldi "experience" (and that's what it is, let me tell ya!), let me elaborate on one of my favorite things about Aldi - You pay a quarter for your shopping cart.  That's right!  But, you get it back when you return the cart.  Not only do you get to back out of your parking spot without the surprise that someone left a cart, just for you, in your blind spot, but the quarter experience is something you can pass on to someone else.  For me, it means leaving the quarter in the cart so that the next person can use it.  I have bee…

A New Adventure Begins

Those of you who have been following my blog and my social networking status updates know that I have been working toward commissioning as an Army Reserve Chaplain.  I have posted previously about why I want to be a Chaplain, and have also talked about my time going through the MEPS in preparation for Army Chaplaincy.  Already, the journey has been quite an adventure as I have had the opportunity to witness and experience God's grace through meeting Army Chaplains and others who support this vital ministry.  Throughout the process I have been strengthened and challenged in my faith as I seek to honor God through this calling.
I am blessed to have the opportunity of knowing a brother in the Lord who is in my congregation and is also a retired Army officer, a Lieutenant Colonel to be more precise.  George had offered to swear me in when my oath arrived, and sure enough on 6 June around 1300, he did just that.  I am blessed because I know that my congregation is supporting me in thi…

Trespassing on Sacred Space - Or, What My Four-Year Old Taught Me About the Presence of God

"And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..." I am a Christ-follower who prays using the trespasses/trespass version of the Lord's prayer (no big theological issue with debts/debtors, sins/sin, etc. just what I'm used to).  I am a firm believer that it does not matter to God what method we use to pray, just as long as we are praying.  I know there is varied theological depth to the different words we use, and I appreciate the various ways that others commune with God in prayer.

Just a few weeks ago however, my eyes were opened to a new way of understanding what trespasses could mean for those who claim Christ, from the eyes of a four-year old.  As with many deeply theological lessons I have experienced in life, this one also arrived in the form of one of my boys.  Fridays are daddy day-care days with Josh, and also my day off.  On this particular Friday however, I had a hospital visit that could not wait one more day, and I knew that…

Relationships Matter

Remember the song, "Here is the church, here is the steeple, open up the doors and see all the people"?  I still enjoy doing the hand motions along with this song as I sing along with my children.

This song gives a clear message - The Church IS the people.  Another truth is blatantly clear - If you go to church, you will run into people (hopefully!)  

Read the gospel accounts of Jesus hanging out with people.  Who did he hang out with?

religious people people who don't care about religion people who had questions people who thought they had answers people who thought they had it all people who had nothing marginal people good - hearted people hard - hearted people healthy people hurting people ordinary people
Chances are, these people are in YOUR church!
How we interact with one another is central to the kingdom of God.  Relationships matter!
Even when we disagree with one another.  Especially when we disagree with one another, relationships matter!
Much like our churches today, …

Tragedy and Callousness

Ever since hearing the news on Saturday afternoon that Rick Warren's son, Matthew took his own life I have been wrenched in my heart and have experienced heaviness upon my soul.  It has been difficult to sleep and to focus on things that, for the time being seem so insignificant compared to the deep mourning and sadness the Warren family must be experiencing during this time.  I have spoken many prayers, in silence and out loud for the Warren family and many others who have experienced (and continue to experience) this pain.

I also feel sick to my stomach, not only in hearing of this tragedy, but in witnessing the responses of many who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  Not long after reading the news on Twitter and Facebook, I began reading responses from readers, many encouraging and uplifting as they offered prayers and virtual "hugs".  However, as I read further I began to see other comments that stank of judgment, callousness, darkness, and spewed hate-fill…

Staying Alive - or How I Survive Holy Week

Throughout the season of Lent, I have been preaching a series on the Journey of Stones, based on a book and series of the same name by Steven Molin.  The stones represent our failures and sins in trying to follow anything but God's ways.  The Journey of Stones has been a great way for our church family to experience the importance of self-denial and taking up our own cross in following Jesus.

Now that it is holy week, and Easter is approaching at light-speed, I experience what I am sure many other pastors experience during this time - stress. More than stress of deadlines for printing bulletins and preparing the worship space, I'm talking about the stress of practicing what I have been proclaiming from the pulpit.  Over the past five weeks, I have been immersed in and living in the space of metaphor, allusion, and symbolism of the stones that have been laid at the foot of the empty cross in our sanctuary.  Week after week I have placed my stones in the burlap-lined basket, se…

Ashes, Sidewalks, and Mortality - My Experience with Taking Ash Wednesday to the Streets

This year for Ash Wednesday, I participated in taking the ritual of the imposition of ashes to the parking lot and sidewalks of our local community.  Together with a clergy colleague, we set up shop at the corner of our church yard where parents on their way to work were dropping off their children for school (they use our parking lot daily as it is directly next to the elementary school).  With coffee in hand, and a bowl of ashes with anointing oil in another, we set out to offer an opportunity for busy folks to pause and remember their mortality before God.  Mostly we received many waves and smiles back as we smiled and waved at folks driving by, also alerting them to the sign that read "Ashes to Go" and "Receive Ashes Here".  Over the two hour period, we had three people actually stop in to receive ashes.  A man walking by was invited to receive but he declined and offered his greeting for a good day.

Stoles in hand, ashes and oil secured in the back seat of my…

I Am A Sheepdog

I have decided to rename this blog The Sheepdog Blog.  A few years ago, I was in conversation with my District Superintendent regarding what it means to be a pastor.  He suggested that, as we follow the True Shepherd (Jesus), we are called as clergy to be the sheepdog - keeping watch over the flock, helping to keep them on the path, and sometimes barking, but never biting.  He reminded me that sheepdogs get kicked, bit, and even maimed at times as the sheep try to go their own way off the path the shepherd has set before them.  The sheepdog will always put the sheep first, protecting them at all costs, and making sure they know where the safe places are.  In my time as a pastor (going on 8 years now!), I have come to realize this reality and have taken the call to be a sheepdog as a way of life.

See you in the fields!
~Aaron

Who's Following You?

So many times in life, it is the simple and seemingly insignificant moments that prove to be the most profound and life-changing.  Often, for me the life-changing events occur when I am spending time with my family, more specifically with my boys.  This was the case yesterday morning as I was preparing to take Andrew to school:

After warming up the car and opening the door for the boys to sit, I saw that Joshua was taking his sweet time walking from the house.  Being that the temperature was a balmy 8 degrees, I was slightly less than patient with my little angel.  I asked him to step it up, and asked what in the world he was doing.  Joshua's reply hit me like a ton of bricks.  "Daddy, I'm just walking in your footprints."  It totally rocked my day.  Step by step, Joshua was hopping from one print to the next, imprinting his tiny shoe treads within mine...
How often do we stop what we are doing and take the time to see who is following us? What kind of example are we …

One More Step Toward USAR Chaplaincy

A while back, I authored a post sharing why I want to be an Army Chaplain.  You can find that post here.  Since writing that blog post, I have had some updates that I would like to share.

To get you up to speed, the process so far has included much paperwork, an interview with a senior Chaplain, my visit with the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, and continued contact with my Chaplain recruiter.  Let me say right here that the Chaplain recruiter's office is fantastic!  They are very helpful in explaining what needs to be done and when, and when a roadblock comes up - they find a way to help you through it.  I had a few medical pre-screen issues that needed documentation prior to continuing on in the process (something that I was fearful would disqualify me even before my actual physical!)  Fortunately, the required medical documentation was obtained from my doctor and I was granted permission to process through the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).

One thing I need to …