Sunday, November 30, 2008

Families: 1 Pastor:0

They wanted an Advent devotional to start the all-family Sunday school class. From the devotional time they would move to tables to assemble as families, Advent wreaths. When the incoming kids and parents saw the wreath-making stations around the gym, they immediately began assembling the wreaths together, eating muffins and talking with each other. Grandparents helped grandchildren, college students made wreaths for those whose homes were burned, youth made one for their youth group. It was noisy, fun and filled with energy.
I assumed I could interrupt this energy with my well-prepared talk on the history and symbolism of Advent. I did the work, made and outline, highlighted the key points. It would be brief and eloquent. But this was a group that had a momentum that could not be stopped, paused or hushed. They were not rude, but excited. They were having so much fun making their own memories, they had little interest in my words shaping them. So, after a few thoughts, I blessed them, and had a muffin!

New Position: Pastor For Gospel Action

Today we inaugurate a new position on staff at Montecito Covenant Church; Pastor for Gospel Action. This is a position we were planning to "pilot" in January 2009 for the year, but because of the many ministry needs and opportunities created by the fires, the staff and leadership felt now was an opportune time to launch this position. What is it? This is a pastoral role that links people to ministries. It does not create programs and committees. It does not lead mission trips or raise funds. This person's responsibility will be to identify and get to know the ministries in Santa Barbara that we currently support and find out how we can walk along side them more effectively. This person will also network and explore other vital ministries in our community our members and friends can partner with. On the internal side, this person will get to know our members' ministry gifts and potentials by working closely with existing staff and the data base.
When we dreamed about this position several years ago, the name we initially came up with was "Mission Pastor" but that carried too much other baggage. The title that worked best, but sounded too snooty was "Ministry Concierge". A concierge is the person at the desk who knows the community resources and the hotel guests, and whose success is "linking" them together. When the title "Pastor FOR Gospel Action" was proposed, our ears and hearts perked up and we knew that was the word.
Who is doing this very part-time position? Jon Lemmond, one of the members of MCC, PhD candidate in German History, part-time teacher at Westmont College, licensed pastor and a person whose heart beats for ministry. Jon is husband to Marriane Robbins, Professor of History at Westmont College and father to Jeremie, Emma, Jordan and Lea. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent #1: Song for a Shepherd

The texts driving Advent at Montecito Covenant Church this year will be the lectionary Psalms. The Psalm for the first Sunday in Advent is Psalm 80, a lament. Lamenting is an odd thing to do in Advent. It's so un-holiday like. It's so dark. But lament works here in Santa Barbara this year because the hills behind us are scarred with the ashes of the Tea Fire that ravaged over 2,000 acres, destroyed 200 homes, 12 of whom call Montecito Covenant home. Our staff is staying in touch with 30 families and individuals who have been affected by the fires.
Advent is a time to long for the Messiah, the Shepherd, to get us out of our stuck places into the light of his face. Come Shepherd, come!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Missional Church Gathering Blog

Today one of our members sent me a great blog byJRWoodward that collects an interesting combinations of what it means to be a "missional" church. Included is the Covenant's own Scot McKnight's work.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Swim

At noon, Isaac, Anna and I went for a walk along butterfly beach, and slowly acclimated ourselves to the water temperature and had a great swim. Brisk! Though no dolphins today.


I'm really thankful this morning. The sun is shining. We did not flood. Isaac is here and Martha's former student Anna arrived late last night. The second cup of coffee was fabulous. We are going to a friend's house for a big meal later this afternoon. Luke and Liz are happy and healthy in Chicago and Atlanta. Liz and Jeff's wedding is coming up in December. I am allowed to serve a church that accepts and loves me. I work with an intriguing and gifted staff who show great creativity and joy. My body works pretty well. I might try a swim today. I get to live with my best friend now for 33 years who puts great art on the walls and marvelous meals on the table and challenges my thinking. While my mother-in-law died this fall, my father-in-law is doing pretty well and will be with us for Liz's wedding and Christmas. My parents are aging in a good place in Minneapolis.
I think I'll get another cup of coffee now!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

L.A. Auto Show

It was raining again in southern California, so I took the afternoon off and headed to the Los Angeles Colosseum with Isaac to see the L.A. Auto Show. Isaac and I used to regularly attend three events together in Minnesota: the Minnesota State Fair, the Boat Show and the Auto Show. Since his visit overlapped the auto show, we went together. GMC monster SUV Tahoe that had a flex fuel giving it a whopping 21 mpg! Hello, anyone home?

Then there was the ultra high end market that did not care a whit about environmental responsibility or fuel efficiency. These things were sleek, fast, and expensive. The wildest for me was the yellow Rolls!

Biblical Weather

Last night I did not get it at all. Over the past two weeks, our community has been coming to terms with the ravaging fires that hit us. My posts below indicate how overwhelmed I was to see house after house, valley upon valley reduced to a sea of ash. That's because it's so dry here. It hardly rains ever. We can easily go six months, sometimes a year without rain. But yesterday it started to rain, lightly, a "nothing" rain in the Midwest.
But at 8:30 pm our doorbell rang and there were four emergency rescue guys in yellow slickers informing me that we were under "mandatory evacuation" notice beginning at 9:00 pm. Bewildered, I asked what that means. They told me that no rescue vehicles would go up the road from the road-block after 9:00 pm because of concern for mud slides and floods. If we crossed the barricade after 9:00 pm we would not be let back in until the barricade was lifted. Like a dummy I asked when that would be, and they said when the Sheriff determined the area was safe! When pressed about what they were really worried about happening, they said that the hillside could be unstable after the fire burned off the ground cover and they were worried that the rains could trigger mud slides!
After some agonizing phone calls, I decided we could stay the night, with an emergency evacuation bag and flashlight ready if I got calls from neighbors warning me of mud slides. Needless to say, the night was a fitful sleep. Then, this morning I remembered what a woman from Minnesota said to me as I announced I was leaving Minneapolis for Santa Barbara "Why would you want to move someplace where they have only earthquakes, fires and mud-slides? Why leave Minnesota for that?" Her image of California was a land filled with Biblical weather conditions. Now all we need is some pestilence!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Enough of my whining about not experiencing a first snow! Walking the Gaviotta beach yesterday we came across a family with two little girls, earnestly making a Christmas Sand-man in lieu of a snow-man. It was like any snow-man, garishly decorated with bulbs and sea-wed, and delightful. I guess I can get by without the snowman this year!

Monday, November 24, 2008


It's one of the services I enjoy most. We gather in the gym that is decorated with a Thanksgiving theme and have apple and pumpkin pies. There is a lot of noise and chatter. Whole families sit together with the kids coloring on their place mats with crayons. We sang familiar songs, led by Bob and Lisa, harmonizing in that acoustically bright space. Then we heard four words of witness; from a 10 year old boy, a mature leader, a single-mom, and a college student whose home was burned down in the fire. The words were different, yet the same.
"I'm grateful for my mom." "Most thankfulness is borne out of suffering." "God is faithful, especially over the long haul." "Too many things define me, and now I have less things and more freedom." Nothing dramatic, nothing earthshaking, but just true witness to God's goodness....and good pie!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


After church, Isaac, Martha and I took a ride west of our house and up into the hills a bit. The neighborhood where the Westmont faculty lost their homes is devastating; every several houses a house is reduced to rubble on a foundation. But up in the hills, it is a wasteland. Black and white down one slope, up another and over again and up another slope. I looks like a battleground after a devastating attack. Wow! This was some fire!

A Different Kind of Kingdom

Kingdoms rule by power, might, wealth, influence. Editorial pages are full of speculation about the declining power of the administration of President Bush and the prospective administration of President-elect Obama. Names are bandied about for positions, and behind the names are the stories of influence, intelligence, success and the power to make change. Kingdoms work that way. Strength and power are attractive to us.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus described his administration, his kind of kingdom, a different kind of kingdom. The kingdom Jesus promotes and promises is a kingdom characterized by one word: care. The hungry get fed, the thirsty are quenched, strangers are welcomed in, the naked get new clothes, the sick are cared for and the imprisoned are visited. And it starts now!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can you believe he is 28 tomorrow?

Insistent immediacy turns most days into raging races to just keep up. The list of things we hope to get done, merges with interruptions and emergencies leaving many of us chronically tired and grumpy. Our lists never get shorter and only get replaced with more lists.
Then I'm reminded; that cute little boy in the photo above turns 28 tomorrow. 28? Can't be. I was just 28 a couple of years ago. When I was 28 I was.... (enough Dad, we've heard that rant before!). Anyway, my world is totally sweet being reminded of a son whom I love and am proud of who turns 28 tomorrow. Happy birthday Luke!!

Messy Church

In a supervision session with a staff person today I asked her what she was learning about the church through this crisis of the fire. She paused, then said: "I realize how it's much more important to be a family and not just a congregation." Everywhere I look I see the "family" principle being modeled. I just came back from a walk through the campus. Out front is the Red Cross disaster truck. Behind it is a huge tent with volunteers fro Red Cross guiding people through next steps. Next the the Red Cross tent is a Salvation Army tent providing food and beverages to anyone in need. The nursery is filled with kids, dropped off by parents to have a safe place to play while they sift through the ashes of their homes. The gym has been taken over by a neighborhood association helping families sort through insurance technicalities and available resources. Last night we opened the gym to victims of the fire. I was gone at the M-4 Thanksgiving service, but support staff said the Santa Barbara mayor, Assemblyman, council representative, Sheriff's Department, and local news trucks gathered while over 300 showed up. I arrived after it was over and was continually thanked by residents for "all that we were doing" which was basically being available and letting go of control of our space. It's messy, but it's right!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sifting; through ashes and stories

Tuesday I took a tour of the neighborhood where MCC members and friends lost so many homes. My good friend Byron, a resident, navigated and narrated what I was seeing; indiscriminate destruction and protection. One home a pile of ashes and the next one standing untouched with no seeming rhyme nor reason. He told me about the fluid-like path the fire took through the neighborhood at 80+ mph, jumping, skipping and howling.
Then we came to Art's house (above). Art is a retired Westmont professor, recent widower, WW II veteran and totally up-beat person. He came out of his ashes smiling, with a prize: his safe. "Well" he said "We'll see if it lives up to its advertising" He then poked through stuff he found in the ashes that now rested in his trunk.
Home after home, neighbor after neighbor, story after story. This will need time and grace to sift.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Faculty Neighborhood

Some of the hardest hit in the recent fire were Westmont faculty who live in a neighbor adjacent to the school. Here is a picture from a friend.

Walking Westmont

In addition to talking with all those families who lost their homes this weekend, Martha and I had to see the damage, to walk the paths and get an on-the-ground sense of what just happened to our community. So we walked up the path to Westmont, the same path we walk whenever we go up to the campus. Midway on the path a young man in a golf-cart with a "security" badge on him asked us who we were and where we were going. Martha announced herself as adjunct faculty and I was the pastor at MCC. He said "OK" but told me I could not leave Martha's presence for security reasons. By the time we got to the Administration Building, we had been stopped by four security staff with the same warning. Martha got her check. I visited some of our members on staff and we walked home, taking these pictures above. Only when we got home did Martha get the email that no staff were to be on the campus for security reasons. Oooops! I'm glad they were forgiving.

What the Church Does Best

I have heard echos all day long. This morning I set out to contact as many of the families who lost everything in the Tea Fire last weekend. Time and time again I heard them say, "Yes the fire was horrible, but Oh the worship was tremendous!!" The church staff strategized all weekend to find a suitable off-site location (Montecito Country Club) for worship. They planned on 150-200 and almost 400 showed up. 11 families who lost everything were there and gave testimony to God's grace and mercy. Hands were laid on these families, songs were sung, prayers were made for thanks and intercession, lament and supplication. The sermon was traded for witnessing and the Lord's Supper provided food for the hungry travelers. As for me? I was 30,000 feet in the air flying home. The staff planned, drove and executed worship without a senior pastor...very well. Hooray!
Crisis times help the church remember what is essential and what is secondary. Gathering, singing, praying, caring are non-negotiably central to the vitality of the body of Christ. When we do that, everything else falls into place. But when that is not present, it's time to shut the doors and turn our buildings into condos. Crisis times also reveal the truth that Alan Hirsch points out graphically in "The Forgotten Ways" that the two or three gathered in Jesus' name have all the requisite DNA to be the full and powerful body of Christ. Ordained senior pastors are valuable, but not absolutely necessary. If we get hit by trucks, the church goes on. I saw the church I serve go on and minister in and through the staff and the body. How grateful I am to serve this church!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

From Behind We All Look the Same

Funerals are great gatherings of family who seldom see each other. Martha's sister's daughter is someone I have not seen in 15 years. When I saw Rachel and her dad Fred today, I introduced myself to them and we hugged and got caught up. The service for Martha's mom went very well. I shared some reflections about Ruth. We sang great hymns and read great texts. The pastor delivered a solid homily. Then we stood around and ate at the church. Then we left the church and all the relatives gathered back at the house and we ate and talked some more. It was genuinely fun.
Upon leaving, Rachel came up to me and hugged me and said something like "I'm sorry I didn't recognize you, but in church, all men look the same from behind!" Hmmm. What does that mean. All men over fifty? All balding white-haired men? All men in suits (a lot of them in Presbyterian churches)? All older men with stooped shoulders, dark suits, white hair with bald top-spots? I think I might need to grow a pony-tail!

Sorting Through an Artist's Life

Yesterday Martha's brother and two sisters gathered in the center of the Ensign family....their mom's art studio; a sacrosanct space where Ruth worked since all of them were born. Studios changed locations, but there was always a studio in which their artist-mother worked up to her last days. Surrounded by the kids and John, they began to talk about what art was to go where; colleges, art schools, churches, etc.

10 families burned out

10 church families lost everything in the fires Thursday night and countless others are displaced with uncertainty awaiting them. The church staff and members have gone into high gear, generating immediate assistance checks and coordinating housing and support. The sense of deep pride I have in the staff working at a fevered pitch while I am away is overwhelming. Today the staff will make the decision about where to worship tomorrow. Westmont officials are now meeting to determine where to house students and where to conduct classes. No doubt the church will be available to them in a number of ways.
Sitting in the quiet of a rainy Richmond morning (how I pray for rain for Santa Barbara!) I wonder what it means to begin again, to start all over. We have gone through a house fire in Minnesota, losing the home for 2 months and a kitchen, but not everything. We moved across country, halving our personal goods and proximity to family and friends, but not everything. We still had stuff, we carried our precious objects with us. When it's all gone, what's left? I'm guessing that these next months and years will be times when these brothers and sisters who need such immediate care right now, will emerge as the real teachers to us about what is of ultimate and lasting value.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Compassion Fund

Montecito Covenant Church is planning to offer as much direct help to its friends and members and possible through a special fund called "The Compassion Fund." If you wish to contribute to this fund that will be used for fire victims, send your check to Montecito Covenant Church, 671 Cold Spring Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 with the notation: "compassion fund." For latest updates, check the church website www.mcchurch.org and double click the "ministries" icon at the top right.

Hot Parking

As another evening begins in Santa Barbara and I am far away in Richmond, I heard reports that the winds are still and everyone is holding their breath for a calm night. At this writing 9 Montecito Church families have lost their homes. I'm sure over time we will hear of more. Gratefully no lives were lost in this inferno due to the great work of the Westmont security staff and evacuation planning and the bravery of the fire personnel.
The church staff has met to devise action plans to provide immediate aid for those most inconvenienced. This will be a powerful time for the church to be the church. I wish I was home!

A Strange Place to Be

This is my father-in-law, John Ensign, age 85. He lost his wife last week after a long battle with cancer, all the while staying in their Richmond home. Now his three daughters, son and I have gathered to prepare the house and get ready for the service tomorrow at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, where I will be officiating with the pastor their.
I am bouncing between being a good son-in-law and husband and pastor in absentia from Montecito. Thank goodness for text messages, facebook, cell phones and wifi!!

Thursday Night at Church

My secretary's son took this picture from his cell phone last night as they were evacuating the church and parsonage. As of 11:00 EST time the church and parsonage have been spared, but not so for members and friends from Westmont. Some homes are burned. The fire crews hope to contain the fire today before the Santa Anna winds kick up in the afternoon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pray for Montecito

We were getting on a plane in Detroit to go to the funeral service for my wife's mother in Richmond Virginia. We'd been flying all day and my phone rang "What do you want from your house, the area around Montecito Covenant Church and Westmont College is being evacuated right now!" Brave friends of our went in and carried away what they thought was valuable and were forced by officials down the hill. Pray for the fire to abate and for lives to be spared!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Got Baggage?

What sort of baggage do you carry?

Veterans' Day

In every village, in every church, in every town hall are plaques like the one above. This was in a church in a tiny little village in France where we went on a rainy Sunday to worship. Most of these plaques honor the young men who died in World War I, sometimes all the young men of a village. I do not know about war memorials in Italy, Germany and England, only France. They are sobering reminders of the high cost wars take on a land and people.
In a cynical age, trips to the countryside are good for the soul. When we visit with people there and they discover that my grandfather fought in World War I in France and my father in Germany, they uniformly stop and thank me for what my grandfather and father did to protect France and all of Europe. It was a really big deal!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Afternoon

There is nothing like an empty beach at low tide and good tunes on my ipod for a day off walk. Getting out and walking is a great brain-clearing activity. The water was inviting for a swim, but I decided to walk a couple of miles and let my mind float. It's been a weird couple of days after my mother-in-law's death last week. It's as if I am walking around with sunglasses on...indoors. I grieve her loss, especially for Martha, who bounced art ideas off her weekly in letters and phone calls. My staff is stepping in alongside me wonderfully, with Diana preaching yesterday and another member preaching for me next Sunday.
It's the first death among our four parents, and it signals our own mortality. So quietly walking the beach stilled my mind and heart.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Saturday Breakfast

Forgot the cereal last night, watched a late movie, slept in and decided to change our routine and have breakfast out....with a spectacular view!

Wise or Foolish?

Matthew 25:1-13 is the parable of the wise and foolish maidens, waiting for the wedding. Some carried extra oil to keep their lamps burning, while others....forgot and were left in the dark. Not many of us feel very wise these days. Each week brings some new collapse, threat, drop or bleak forecast. How different November 2007 was. Electioneering helped create new fault lines among friends and families. Topics that used to be approached are now taboo. Once proud and confident community leaders now wonder how they will handle new needs. Schools face the challenge of operating under reduced resources and staff with students having higher needs. I don't even comprehend the retail world!
Wisdom? Yeah, I need some full jars of it. But the wisdom from God is peace-creating wisdom. It's the wisdom that brings deep joy and contentment. It's the wisdom that savors sunsets and loves interrupting phone calls from friends.

Thoughts on another bailout

The papers have nothing but bad news about the condition and future of the Big Three automakers, GM being in the worst shape, bleeding billions of dollars each quarter. Should the US government bail out American automakers like it is AIG and the banks? Having lived in Michigan for many years, I am aware of the fall-out of GM going under. There are so many peripheral businesses that feed into the auto industry that would also dissolve, worsening our already shaky economy.
But unlike the banking industry, do we really need what the big three are making? large, fuel-inefficient cars that are clearly not the future? There is no sustainable future for the big SUV's that clog highways and views from those behind. If they retooled and made vehicles that were small, well-built, long lasting and fuel efficient, there would be an eager market for their products.
I had this argument with a next-door neighbor in Indiana in 1982, when he objected that I bought a Honda Accord instead of a Ford. I was not buying a Honda to be anti-American but to be truly pro-American and free market by purchasing what I believed was the best product that my money could buy.
Is now the time for the auto industry to wake up and woo the US consumer with the news that they really get it?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Elegy for Ruth Ensign

Ruth Ensign died this morning after a long a valiant battle with all sorts of cancers and heart issues. Ruth was my mother-in-law pictured on the left above. She was a short and powerful woman, artist, liberal intellectual and conversationalist par excellence. She and Martha wrote weekly letters to each other for 35 years. She was forgiving to a fault, far more gracious with others' foibles that I am (except when it came to racist fundamentalists..watch out!). She was a champion of the underdog in every situation.
What touched me over the years was the way this mother-in-law welcomed me into her family and home. I was instantly accepted the moment Martha and I announced our engagement. I was not agreed with, but accepted. She was not sure about her daughter marrying a Yankee like me, and an evangelical (she was a Presbyterian Elder). But she did. Her memorial will be Saturday, November 15 in Richmond, VA. Peace to her memory.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Pastoral Cost of Nonpartisanship

At confirmation class last night, the students were wired. They wanted to talk about the election (still going on) and peppered me with questions about who I voted for. I told them I would not tell them who I voted for, but that I did vote. They asked why. I told them that as a pastor I was obligated to care for all the people and speak about that which I am called and trained to speak, and be silent about topics outside my calling. I told them that I knew and loved really good people who supported Obama and supported McCain. My job is to preach, pray and preach to both/all parties. They did not like the answer, but understood.
So now, in the quiet of the post-election morning, I'm wondering about my many friends whose candidate(s) won and whose candidate(s) lost. I wonder about the breakfast conversations my very conservative friends are having this morning.
While President-elect Obama delivered a stirring acceptance speech, I thought Senator McCain's speech was an eloquent picture of the heart of citizenship and reconciliation. Over the years in the church, when I have "won" battles over various initiatives and issues I was not always the most gracious with those with whom I disagreed. In fact, I think I learned more about leadership when I "lost" than when I won. I became more self-reflective and self-aware. Now as pastor in this time, I'm ready to listen deeply to with those whose candidate(s) won and even more to those whose candidate(s) lost.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Citizenship 101

I could not read the paper after breakfast. I had to vote. The polling station is on the church campus. So I threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt and stood in line with 15 or so other neighbors as the doors opened. Stickers and buttons are not my thing, except on election day.
Election days were not always a big deal to me, until we traveled to Congo, Kenya, and Egypt. The transfer of power, especially in Congo and Kenya had violence as its companion. Incumbents can't let go of power, so they steal it back with violence. Looking at the troubled countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq make me all the more grateful for our system, flawed as it is. In one sense, it does not matter who gets elected so long as the people can speak, even if I disagree with the results.
My brand of patriotism is not chest-thumping and flag waving, but the quiet pride to stand in line with neighbors to cast a vote that will be respected and counted.
Now I can get back to work!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Saints' Sunday

All Saints' Sunday makes sense two ways; for those with nostalgic sentimentalism, who love remembering deceased ancestors and then it makes sense for those who are desperate, who are clinging to a thread. If I am self-sufficient and doing very well, All Saints' Day is nice memory time for church history and family acknowledgement. But when worlds collide and resources implode, I need to look deeper. I need to find the real heros who faced lions, who stared down kings, who refused to cave in to the crowd, but clung to Jesus.
These are such times; times of uncertainty and shift. "I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears!" Psalm 34:4

Saturday, November 01, 2008

inheritance, Succession, Entitlement or Not Letting Go?

The story of the Schullers has all the markings of a seminary case study on how transition can go wrong, especially when it involves family members. If Robert Sr. brought young Robert on Board to be the "senior pastor" why did he stay on and not step down and retire? Robert Sr.'s comments indicate that he wants "Hour of Power" to go beyond a family name? But are not his wants exactly that? "His Wants?" Who does set the vision and direction for a ministry: sitting senior pastoral leadership, board of directors, pastor emeritus?
Was young Robert called to the position by God or given the position by dad? Was the senior pastor position his by birthright or by call? Did young Robert yield to and follow the vision cast for him by the Board, or was the new vision of ministry uniquely his, like his father's initial vision was his?
I cannot imagine my dad "releasing" me from a ministry. But neither could I ever imagine my dad calling me to join him in ministry. In fact, during my first call (1980-1985 in Lafayette Indiana) we were driving to a study leave together. I asked dad if he could ever envision calling me to join him on staff. Without missing a beat, he said "I'd never call you to work with me, you're way too independent!" Was that a criticism or blessing?

Insistent Immediacy

The term is not mine. My brother used it as we talked today. It's the chief culprit in the erosion of personal prayer and quiet time. It ruins stillness and calm. It's the screen of CNN and FOX News, banners top and bottom, background moving and deep bass tones thumping about something "breaking" right now that you need to know about, new fears to be concerned about, new threat levels somewhere, storms surging and winds howling. Hurry! Hurry! Don't change that channel!
It's the red number at the bottom of the screen indicating waiting emails or the red light on the phone indicating voice-mails left that need answering. It's the post-it notes and pink slips of people who need you to call them. When you take "insistent immediacy" and put it into a room of pastors, whom Eugene Peterson called "quiverring masses of availability" you end up with always tired, low-grade grumpy, never-done, restless pastors. Who wants that? The late John Nilson, former pastor of 1st Covenant Seattle asked me, when as a seminary student I showed him how full my appointment book was, "who wrote all that in there?"
"I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4

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