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How are you doing this week?

You know how we pass people during our day and say, "What's up?" or "How you doing?" Do we really want them to answer the question? If they did, that would mean we'd have to stop our day. Get off our schedule. Get distracted. And listen.

Back in the 1800s, our world was about progress. The Industrial Revolution taught us we could accomplish anything through new technologies. Life was good. We depended on our neighbors and community for everything. We got food from our farming friends. Someone handed us a newspaper. Doctors and teachers were often paid in agricultural or farming products. We lived near or with our immediate and extended families. We needed each other and we were optimistic.

Then war and international crisis changed our worldview in the 1900s. Our country turned pessimistic. New technologies enabled us to distance ourselves even more from our community. Today in 2008, we can attend school online and never face a live teacher. We can bank online and never talk to a teller. We can pass our neighbors at Walmart and not realize they live right next door to us.

In one sense, technology is connecting us more than at any point in known history. I live 5,000 miles from my parents but through email, instant messaging and cell phones, they feel very close.

But in other ways, we are growing increasingly distant from each other. We're tempted to believe we don't need each other anymore. We have a "crisis of community."

This is where the church comes in with an authentic hope for creating real communities. The gift of the church is that it's our community. Once a week, we come together and share our lives with each other. We share the blessings that fill us with joy. We laugh over the random and funny moments of our day. We hug, cry and pray when a loved one is struggling.

God created us for community with each other and with God. There's a reason we feel alive in community. It's a glimpse of heaven.


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Why Some Experienced Clergy (and Lay People) Have a Hard Time When Younger Clergy Take Renewal Leave

This is a guest post from my very own dad! He's a United Methodist pastor serving in Bend, Oregon. I enjoy chatting church leadership with my dad and it's fascinating to see how our generational differences bring different perspectives to our calling as pastor. We need each generation to walk with each other as we figure it out in this new world. We've been reflecting lately as I finished up a renewal leave and he prepares to retire this June. 
By David Beckett
I fall into the category of experienced clergy which is a polite way of saying I am old. I’ve been pastoring for nearly 40 years. When I was a young pastor my role models were mostly white males who presented an image of success that equated with dedication, overwork, and sacrifice. My first senior pastor talked about the 20 hr/wk he invested in sermon preparation. And he expected his staff to work beyond their stated hours. During those three years of full time seminary and a large youth group I put in up to 80 hr/…

Why pastors need collaboration, not competition

There's competition in every industry. Some get promoted over others. Some work incredibly hard but their gifts go unnoticed. Others do good work and people assume they're fine but underneath, they feel like they could never be honest about how hard life is in this season. People spend more energy figuring out how they measure up in a work culture instead of doing the actual work.

Competition itself implies there are two sides.

I remember field days at my elementary school in Alaska. The half-frozen spring ground was covered with clumps of dirty gray snow. Jackets were thrown on the ground as the fourth graders tried to beat the fifth graders at tug of war. Rope burns were shrugged off as sweat dripped down our young faces. We were determined to beat those fifth graders. Our pride was on the line.

Whether you're a fourth grader or an ad manager at a fancy marketing agency or a senator trying out for attorney general, competition runs deep in our DNA.

We want to be the bes…

99 sheep

Reading Matthew 18:10-14 on this cloudy Anchorage summer morning. Parable of the Lost Sheep. A guy owns 100 sheep. They belong to him. These sheep are loyal and depend on their owner for everything. But then one wanders away. I wonder if this sheep wandered on purpose or accident?

The guy leaves the 99 sheep grazing on the hillside to look for the sheep who got lost. One word in verse 13 jumped out to me. "Andifhe finds [the sheep]...he is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 that did no wander off." IF he finds it. This guy who owns the sheep probably knows the hillside very well and knows his sheep's behavioral patterns. But he may not find this lost sheep. 

When someone wanders off, it's up to them if they want to get found. 

When it comes to our connection to God, some of us may wander on accident. Or on purpose. 

We wait for someone to rescue us. Bring us back. Make it okay. But we have to turn towards the one rescuing us. God will leave the other 99 sheep…