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Showing posts from 2010

A Red Letter Year

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This has been a red-letter year* for Amy and me. We knew at the outset 2010 would be special: wedding in March, we turned 50 in April and October, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in June, and we spent four months together on sabbatical. As always, we planned but God has his own plans to make this year special.


It was a joy, after performing over 100 weddings to be dad and sit with Amy at our son's wedding. It was an awesome day to remember God’s goodness, his faithfulness and his love that brought them together. We are so happy to see them settled into life in Pasadena together.
Another son continued his masters and sang in several operas this past year. He came on staff leading worship at our evening service. What a joy to see him using his gifts and developing his music skills, and to see him become more and more of the man God’s calling him to be.
We underestimated the significance of our sabbatical pilgrimage, especially to the holy land with 26 friends and members of …

God on the Move: The Many Moods of Christmas

Last weekend I asked the musicians what it was like performing in our sanctuary. All but three of the 48 musicians are from the San Diego Symphony and they have played in every kind of venue and for every kind of audience. Many have played in our sanctuary for 15 or more years. Their response was unanimous: they love playing each year in our sanctuary because our people are so appreciative. They are inspired by the congregation.

I asked the choir the same question. This is not a professional choir. Every choir member (except for our soloist) is a volunteer who responds to the call to lead our worship services. They sing from the heart and believe what they sing. Dan is a great conductor and minister of music who chooses the texts, develops the program to communicate the message of Christmas. Their response was unanimous: they love singing with the orchestra. They are inspired by the amazing musicians.


I asked those who attended the services. There were 2500 people who attended our five…

Thanksgiving Worship

Wednesday night we tried something different for the Thanksgiving Eve Worship--we incorporated Students in each part. Students played in the band, read a litany and shared the reflection on Psalm 100. They also served communion alongside pastors. So how was it?

I think the students felt honored. 
'We are the whole message?'
'We get to serve communion?'

Spencer and Molly and intern Rachel did a great job reflecting on Psalm 100 ... personal, funny, deep.The congregation clapped after each meditation, not as a performance, but I think out of gratitude. Junior higher Grace and intern Jessica read the litany of thanks. Stew led us in a reading of Psalm 100.

'Best service.'
'Students have so much to teach us.'
'Inspiring.'


Jamie shared his experience of asking junior highers, "What celebrity would you swap for a family member?" None of them answered the question, saying, "I don't want to lose anyone in my family, but I'd like to add pe…

Grieving and Leading

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I have blogged recently about how we experience community in the church. We are brothers and sisters, we are family members, we are members of one body and all the parts work together. Because of our relationships in Christ, what forms is a kind of intimacy with each other. This closeness grows as we learn together, worship together and serve together--but especially when we risk together. The risks we take can be internal risks of trust and grace--can I share authentically with this person and still be accepted? Other risks are external risks of experimentation and leadership--can we walk through this new door together and come out the other side still friends, still trusting God together? The real joy of ministry is never the predictable times of meetings, worship services or planning sessions, but it is always those times of risk, both internally and externally where we depend on God together and we actually are transformed. That change is miraculous because it's not something w…

Building our Lives, Together -- Oct 18

"Build yourselves up in your most holy faith..." Jude 1:20

Last night at the 6:45 service we had a community question: What is something you have built that you are most proud of?

It's a great question because there are so many things that we can build and what am really proud of?

I thought about: building a culture in our church (better communication, service and small groups), building a house in Mexico (many times), building family traditions (like toasting each other for special occasions), building faith in students (over two decades of student ministries), building a staff that works well together.

But I quickly realize that I am proud of what has been built but I didn't build anything alone. Everything I mentioned above was built together with others.

In this little-read epistle, Jude (maybe the brother of Jesus) writes in the plural to dear friends, and to build yourselves up. Is it possible to build faith, ministries, traditions, alone?

As we consider what God …

Humility – Oct 14

"Humble yourselves..." 1 Peter 5:6

It's Thursday and I'm sitting in the Fuller Seminary Youth Institute "Sticky Faith Cohort", a gathering of pastors and youth pastors from twelve churches across the country who desire to make faith stick in the lives of adolescents. This morning Scott Cormode, professor of leadership, talked about leading change and the conflict that often comes with change. He acknowledged that in any conflict there are competing commitments or values that frame the conflict.

In conflict situations rarely are two people bad people who want the worst for each other, and usually conflicts involve good people who want the best. In the church, one person might value nurturing those who are already in the church, another values reaching out to the community. Both are good values, and we can assume both people have good motives. Humility means I'm willing to acknowledge my own agenda or my own commitments that might be in conflict with someo…

Love and Belonging -- October 13

...and each member belongs to all the others... Love must be sincere... Romans 12:5

We sang on Sunday night "We are the temple of God... Christ is here and he reigns, take a look around..." We are brought together from different backgrounds and experiences to be the place where we are no longer strangers to each other or to God. We are members of Christ's body, the temple of God. Only together are we Christ to the world. 

Last Sunday twenty-four people became members of SBPC and will be presented to the congregation on October 24. Thirteen from the hispanic congregation and eleven from the english speaking congregation.

Our new Campus Master Plan and Phase 1 specifically has our spanish speaking and english speaking worshipping congregations facing each other. My prayer is that somehow we will know and love each other and we can see Jesus more fully in each other.

God has brought us together, not to be strangers Isn't that a great picture of the church? How will the wo…

We are home -- Oct 12

You are no longer foreigners... but members of God's household. Ephesians 2:19

Most of four months we were on sabbatical we felt like foreigners. Street signs and menus in different languages, finding out where to buy bus tickets, adjusting our meals to fit the local customs, decifering the meaning of words spoken in English but carrying a different meaning.

There were times when we were welcomed into a home, a restaurant, a bed and breakfast and no longer felt like strangers, we felt like we belonged. Other times we felt out of the conversation, not really apart, not understanding what was going on, on the outside.

To be a foreigner (xenos in Greek) in bible times was to be an outsider. Some outsiders were separated out (gentiles), despised (ie, samaritans) and others feared (babylonians). In the temple there was a court designated for the gentiles. They couldn't get as close to the Holy of Holies as the female jews (close) or the male jews (closer) or the priests (closest). J…

Belonging and Covenant -- Oct 11

He is a faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations... Deuteronomy 7:9

Covenant is not a word we use very often. We talk about the covenant of marriage which describes a relationship of mutual love and commitment. In marriage (which scripture tells us is an illustration of our relationship with God) a man and a woman make a promise to love and be partners in life regardless of the circumstances (for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health...) and do their best to fulfill their vows.

In scripture, God is the one who commits himself to us so that we can commit ourselves to him. He loves us first and last with an unconditional love. He chose us to be his people. He is the faithful God who never leaves us or forsakes us. He takes the first step and then we respond. John says, "This is love, not that we loved him, but he loved us and gave us his Son..." (1 John 4). In Jesus we see the unconditional love of God in its fullest ex…

Resting -- Oct 7

"My soul finds rest in God alone..." Psalm 62:1

Amy and I have taken Fridays off for more than 14 years (I wrote this on Thursday). We found we needed one day a week to spend together. I don't have real weekends because I preach on Sundays, and we often have events on Saturdays and midweek evenings. If we don't set aside that time together weekly we can easily miss each other, pass by each other, ignore each other, misunderstand each other, etc...

We're able to find rest in each other as we spend time alone without any distractions or appointments. I'm reminded of who Amy is to me and what she means to me as my friend, wife, partner and fellow adventurer. But it's also true that because Amy is who she is, I can spend time with her.

The same is true with God. As we spend time alone with God we create a space where we can be reminded of his greatness and his goodness. The Psalmist says when he finds rest in God as salvation, the rock, mighty rock, fortress, r…

More Children in Worship -- Oct 7

...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

As I was getting ready to leave the sanctuary on Sunday morning a first grader came up to me with an offering envelope. Inside the envelope was one dollar, but the real gift was on the outside of the envelope. She drew a picture of a cross on a hill with clouds around the cross. Over the picture she wrote:

"I like to go to church. I do it difrint today. I go to big church. I love you God!"

I put the dollar with the other gifts received in the morning and put the envelope in my bible as a reminder of what we are about as a church.

Three observations and three questions:

She talked to me. I like adults talking to me after the service, but I love it when children and students are comfortable talking to "Pastor Mike."She knew something was difrint. Her parents prepared her for "big church" and made it special.She gave of herself. The picture…

Children in Worship -- Oct 6

The Lord went ahead of them ... to give them light, so they could travel by day and night. Exodus 13:21b


Our job is to be attentive to his presence; to see what God is up to, to listen to his voice, to watch for his leading. And when we believe God is leading us, we respond. For the Israelites it meant traveling, because that's what God was calling them to. Sometimes God calls us to sit, sometimes to discern, sometimes to listen. 


Last Sunday we launched our Generations Campaign. After years of conversations, decisions, feedback, prayer and discernment, we moved forward. We shared the vision and the plans for building new buildings on our campus that will provide places of welcoming and transformation for our children, students and families, as well as bring us all together as the generations of our church. 


We also launched a new way of worshipping, especially in the morning services in the Sanctuary, with children first through sixth grade in worship for the first 25 minutes, and j…

God's Presence -- Oct 5

If your presence does not go with us, do not send us from here. Exodus 33:15
What other assurance does Moses have but God’s presence to go to places he’s never been before? In the next verse Moses says, “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (v.16)
What distinguishes us from anyone else, any other association of people except the presence of God to lead and guide and forgive and shelter and save; to shape us into the likeness of Jesus and to reflect his glory to the world?
While we were on sabbatical we had the opportunity to describe our church to people who don’t know what churches like ours are like and to people who don’t know what any church is like. I tried to think of words that were common, understandable, and relatable to anyone.
I started with “We take relationships seriously, so most of us are in a small group with people where we can talk about the message I preached and pray and support each other through life. It…

Amor Ministries -- Oct 4

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Abraham... obeyed and went, even thought he didn't know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 

Saturday night Amy and I attended the Amor Ministries 30th Anniversary Dinner in Fullerton. Not only did we attend, but I had the privilege of emceeing and together with Amy introduced the founders Scott and Gayla Congdon. Thirty years ago Scott and Gayla began a ministry that would build houses in the Tijuana dump so families could stay together. After working in an orphanage they realized that many children are given up to orphanages not because they have no parents, but because the parents couldn't afford to raise them.

So what if they had a house to live in?

So Scott and Gayla began to invite churches to build homes with them for these families. They trusted God. They didn't know where it would lead them, but like Abraham, God put a promise in their hearts that would be an eternal promise, one that would change lives forever.

Saturday night we celebrated 300,000 participants from all …

London: Last day

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In just a few hours Amy and I will fly from Gatwick to Atlanta to LAX. Since May 3 each of us has been living out of a 21 inch roller bag and small backpack: few pants, a few shirts, toiletries, art supplies and a few books. We've learned to live the pilgrimage by traveling for the love of God, letting go, being led, praying, giving thanks for all see and meet, and telling stories. We are ending our sabbatical, but we know we are not ending our "pilgrimage" as we travel back home.

We have spent the last 12 days in London in flat of our friends who have been back in California these last two weeks. It's been a great gift to us to be able to relax and begin our transition home.

London is a great city. We walked for miles and didn't run out of things to see. The shows are so good it's hard to choose. Public transportation is amazing. The museums are free and so are the evensong services.

We worshipped at All Souls Church, where John Stott served as pastor for man…

London: Hospitality and Belonging

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There have been two pieces of art that have caught my eye on sabbatical and have taught me something about our pilgrimage.
The first was Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal which surprisingly hangs in the Columba Room of the Northumbria Community. Surprisingly because I have kept a small postcard version in my journal for the last year or so. Part of my discovery in the last year has been the story of the prodigal, the desperation and poverty of the son and the blessing and embracing love of the father. I had hoped we would have been able to see the original in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg with others after the choir trip in Moscow, but we decided instead to fly to London. So when I saw the large poster hanging in Hetton Hall I had to smile.
But today we went to the National Gallery, one of the great museums of the world. The one painting that caught my eye, and represents themes of our sabbatical is the Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio, the Italian master. This painting has Jesus …

A morning prayer for ourselves and each other

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Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Blessing
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

We prayed this prayer each morning at the Hetton Hall. Since the Northumbria Community is dispersed, companions and friends follow along online or with the book of Celtic Daily Prayer.

Durham and York, England

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Note to reader: Since so many enjoyed Amy's blog last week, this blog is written by another guest blogger who is anonymous.

Mike and Amy left the Northumbria Community on Saturday morning. It was like leaving home, they told me. Apparently they grew attached to the creaky floors, ancient Aga (oven stove that heats and bakes at the center of the old farm houses in England), friendly people and daily offices (community prayer four times a day) in the old Hetton Hall, which the community will be moving out of this fall and into their new home in Acton, about 20 miles south. Sorry for the run-on sentences, but I don't know what they have already told you.

They arrived in Durham on Saturday afternoon on a cloudy, almost rainy day. They rolled their 21 inch bags to Hatfield College where they stayed in one of the student dorm rooms. Hatfield College is named after Mike's ancestor Thomas de Hatfield on his mother's side. Here's what I found out about Thomas:
Hatfield was bi…

Edinburgh and the Northumbria Community, Part 2

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Hi there it's Amy here…I'm going to try my hand at the blogging this week. I think we left off at Iona… well we went on to Edinburgh by way of 2 ferries, a long bus ride, and 2 different trains. It was actually our hardest transition yet. Maybe it's because we have had a long string of traveling, maybe because Mike's allergies were the worst they have been so far, maybe it's b-cuz we paid double the fair for the bus ride as we should have (and couldn't get the refund), maybe it's b-cuz when we checked into our hotel in Edinburgh they had not received our online confirmation so we had to pay the higher price, or maybe we were just tired; maybe all of these! Anyhoo, we spent a few moments pouting …then pulled ourselves together and went out to tour the beautiful city of Edinburgh with our walking shoes on and our rain jackets handy.
Edinburgh is a great city, one of my favorites so far, with its beautiful buildings, large sidewalks, lots of pubs and lively fo…