Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Saints' Day: Hebrews 12:1,2

"You're surrounded!" Is that good news or bad? When is being surrounded a source of threat, crowding, frustration or hope? On All Saints' Day we remember a truth: we are not running alone, but surrounded by a "a great cloud of witnesses." That's not a wish, but a reality. That reality makes a difference in how we "run the race that is set before us!"

Council/Staff Halloween Retreat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winter Defines

In my blog on Garrison Keillor, I mentioned how winter defines those who live in Minnesota; from October-May. My good friend Randy, with whom I shared many cross-country skiis, sent me the picture above on the route we always took from his yard. This was his first ski this year...October 10!

What trend do you notice?

A conference staff person made this comment to a pastor-friend of mine: "The professional expectations on pastors are growing while the professional respect is diminishing." Is that really true to your observation? Do you see churches expecting more out of their pastors while respecting them less? Has the wave of pastoral scandals over the years eroded public respect?
A consultant I have used over the years gave me a mantra that I try to both practice and employ with others: "If you are given responsibility over an area, you must also have commensurate authority." When you are assigned increasing responsibility and decreasing authority, a perfect storm is created for burnout and frustration.
Do these trends resonate with your world? Does it matter? Does pastoral effectiveness depend upon either respect or authority? Are these social terms necessary for the church of Christ to thrive and grow? Couldn't a case be made that the exact opposite is the reality around the world? Are not the most effective churches are those that suffer? exist underground? live beneath the radar of social respectability? Doesn't the life of Jesus show just that? Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Garrison Keillor

On the patio last Sunday after church a couple fairly new to the church approached me and said: "You're from Minnesota aren't you? Would you like these two tickets to hear Garrison Keillor on Tuesday night in Santa Barbara?" Speechless, I took the tickets and they walked off.
The tickets were fabulous, about six rows from the front of the huge Arlington theater on the right side facing the stage. I did not prepare myself to be swept into a place few in the audience could go to; childhood memories of Minnesota winters and the attitudes of those "dark and serious people called Lutherans" who populate the state. This gifted poet and singer, story-teller and theologian wove and uninterrupted tale for 90 minutes while I held Martha's hand and laughed and misted up.
What I most appreciated about Garrison (I must refer to him by his first name) is his ability to understand a region and tweak it. His language was not comic nor sarcastic, but gentle and tender. These funny folk he (and I) grew up around are both strange and dear. Garrison gets the reality that winter really does define those of us who grew up in Minnesota. There are some other seasons for certain, but the defining season is winter, beginning in October and morphing monstrously into January and February and then persistently lingering sometimes into May.
In Santa Barbara the people I know nuance winds and tides, different seasons of the ocean and the skies around us. I love sitting with friends on the beach just staring at the water, noticing the birds and spotting the dolphins and seals. But last night I had my first serious bout of homesickness for the region that shaped me. Walking through deep snows and blustery winds was fun. Hot coffee with friends in a Caribou on a cold day did create a suffering community. Cross country skiing in -10 degrees at night with Randy around the lake under the harsh light of the moon bonded a friendship. I'm glad I'm living where I am, and glad I came from where I did.

Monday, October 26, 2009


What is the shift that is going on? Is it just California, Santa Barbara, MCC, me or is it something bigger? We have offered a successive series of Inquirer's Classes (now we call them Welcome Classes) for a couple years, with dwindling attendance and interest. Is it that lack of interest in membership on the whole that drives this downward interest? Is it a Sunday afternoon format that is too intrusive into family schedules? Or is it a lack of interest in joining a church?
We have regular requests for membership classes, so the staff and I find two weeks months out ahead and schedule two successive Sunday afternoons. Then one or two people might show up. Is that the new normal?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling hurt or rejected. It's not about me, it's about something that is going differently than I thought it would go. What's working best in your context?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Craftsmanship & the Holy Spirit

It's an obscure text, not found in any lectionary I searched through. Exodus 31:1-3 is God's promise to Moses of Holy Spirit-filled men (Bezalel & Oholiab) who would have the ability, intelligence, knowledge and craftsmanship in every kind of craft. Moses is a "word" guy who could not build anything. he needed gifted men (and women) who could use their abilities (gifts) to bring beauty and skill to the people. The project was the Tabernacle, where form and function perfectly fit together.
Where are the gifted craftspersons today? Have we so democratized the word "artist" that everyone who makes a scratch on paper or an image on a screen can call themselves and artist? The altar-piece is my grandfather's old tool-box. Carl Larson was the resident carpenter for North Park College when I was a baby. He smelled like wood all the time. His calloused hands were meant for tools and sandpaper. He travelled with his toolbox, fixing squeaky doors and stuck windows, installing cupboards and shelves with ease and precision.
God bless the craftspeople in our midst!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Playing Together is a Good Thing

Kenton Anderson writes a good blog today about the possibility of playing together. The Covenant Church is initiating a campaign to bring malaria nets to Congo children. That's a good thing. There is another initiative that collaborates with the NBA, airlines and other companies to do the same thing. Do we need to do this alone or can we get more kingdom impact working with others?
I've gotten myself in a little hot water on this topic because of our ecumenical work with World Vision the the four churches (Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian along with Covenant) do. There was little encouragement or celebration that we worked with others because, it seemed to me, we were not contributing through Covenant World Relief.
It would be a great Covenant Companion piece or series about the ways the ECC already does collaborate with other NGOs around the world and what collaborative initiatives are on the horizon.

Ministry Among the Easily Offended

I'm in the middle of reading David Dark's new book "The Sacredness of Questioning Everything" and was totally intrigued by a chapter where he focusses in on our cultural predisposition to "being offended." Immediately faces emerged of church members and attenders over the years who were marked by their ability to be easily offended and instantly angry. Their spirituality was marked by a demand to have you be in agreement with them about a couple of banner issues: often political, economic, or social. The easily offended found it hard to maintain a conversation where their ideas were questioned or disagreed with. When that happened, the anger switch was flipped and opponents were dismissed as unworthy of future conversation or even love.
W. H Auden said "One thing, and one thing only, is serious: loving one's neighbor as one's self."

Luke Engaged!

Monday night we received the news that Luke asked his girl-friend Kelly Marshall to marry him. Yikes! That means all three of our children were engaged and/or married within one year! We are delighted for Luke and Kelly. Luke, true to his love of video, captured his unique approach on his blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Criteria for a new Conference Superintendent

A member of the search team for the replacement Superintendent for the Pacific Southwest Conference approached me the other day to ask me if I had any ideas of suitable candidates for the next Superintendent. I must confess that I have served churches under a number of Superintendents and Evelyn Johnson is one of the finest leaders I have ever had. She is clear, decisive, honest and fair. Her heart beats for the local church and she champions new initiatives to grow the church and God's kingdom.
The role of Superintendent is horrendous. It is filled with responsibility and endowed with little authority. Between denominational leadership and local congregational polity, Superintendents are often the ones called in to clean up messes and settle fights. So when asked, I had to pause. What I submit below are a series of disqualifications, exclusions for any candidate. We did this process at Salem Covenant when we went from a Council to Team Leadership model. We spent hours defining what "the senior pastor would NOT do." It was both weird and amazingly liberating. I was set free to preach, pray and lead. Here are some thoughts about who should NOT be a Superintendent and below, who SHOULD be a candidate.
1. Someone who sees the position as a promotion
2. Someone who has always wanted to return to California
3. Someone who needs to leave the church (position) where he/she is serving
4. Someone who believes he/she is entitled to the position
5. Someone who loves going to meetings
6. Someone who has always been loyal to the status quo
7. Someone who does not think out of the box


1. Someone who loves the local church
2. Someone who gets both emerging best practices and the need for new change
3. Someone who know how to empower others
4. Someone who demands team performance
5. Someone who is not afraid to speak the truth to pastors & church leaders
6. Someone who is intolerant of waste
7. Someone who is passionate for God’s kingdom to grow

Any more thoughts?


Saturday, October 17, 2009

M-4 Walk for Water

Anointed & Sent: as oaks of righteousness

Isaiah 61:1-3 is the text for Sunday. What does it mean to have "the Spirit of the Lord upon me?" The mantle on the table evokes the covering and shrouding that happens when God's Spirit covers us up completely. It reminds me of the funerals at Salem when we would take the shroud that had an embroidered cross woven into it and cover up the casket. As ornate or fancy as a casket was, or as cheap and simple, it was now cloaked and covered with one thing: the Cross of Christ. Being anointed is to be shrouded. And being shrouded is to be sent. Isaiah 61:1-3 has 11 infinitives "to..." indicating where we are to be sent.
My thoughts as I approach Sunday is that we have done a much better job over the years with anointing than with sending. What gets in the way of our sending? Is it the structure of the church that requires so much time and energy for maintenance? Is it the safety of gathering together in Christian community versus stepping into groups and lives where Christ is not known? Is it simple ignorance in that we have believed (and maybe taught) that the Christian faith is a personal possession to be owned and enjoyed, but not necessarily shared and given away?
May God's Spirit fall on me....fall on us!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bus Captain or Pastor?

I wore this badge for 10 days on our trip to Greece. The company, Educational Opportunities, who organized the details of the trip asked all passengers, and especially me, to wear this tag at all times. For me it meant that I was the go-to person for the group. If there was a problem with the hotel or luggage or schedule, I represented the 15 other travelers and was authorized to speak for them. If any traveler had a concern about the trip, they were to approach me first and we would figure out what to do.
All in all, it's a pretty cool and fun role. For those of you who know me, it was a continual challenge to manage data and lists, numbers and times, but we made all our stops and ate all our meals.
But it was a great relief to take off the badge in Los Angeles at the end of the trip and return to being Don, pastor of Montecito Covenant. But then I began to wonder and reflect; where am I more behaving like bus captain and where am I more a pastor? What's the difference? Are they interchangeable roles? Does one role enhance the other or detract from the other? One simple observation is that as pastor I am most productive listening, reading, reflecting and writing. As bus captain I am most productive moving, deciding, and managing.
I think I'll keep the badge around for a while to remind me.

What is this a picture of?

Extreme Carp Hunting!

My friend Kenton Anderson reminded me that bow hunting season begins in the upper midwest. This morning in the New York Times there is a great article about bow hunting for flying carp in Missouri rivers from the back of speeding boats...called extreme!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

M-4 Walk for Water: Oct 17, 1:00 pm

It's raining here in California after a long, dry season. We are all really aware of water right now. On Saturday the four churches of Montecito are gathering at All-Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church to walk a 2.5 route through the lower village of Montecito and then along the beach. Why? Because millions of people in dry climates spend hours each day walking for water...that's not even clean. The M-4 Churches want to make a difference by raising awareness and funds through World Vision to cover the cost of a deep well in Ethiopia. Take a look at the video below and consider joining us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Franklin Graham's salary??

In today's Monday Morning Insight there is a scathing article about Franklin Graham's $1.2 million dollar salary from both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association AND Samaritan's Purse. I don't know. Is being a CEO of a christian organization devoted to sending shoe boxes full of toys and evangelistic tracts worth that much? Isn't this a good reason to seriously evaluate participating in Samaritan's Purse in favor of the Evangelical Covenant's Children's Christmas Initiative in Congo? I know our denominational staff do not pull down those kind of dollars!

Legacy Gift: a press

My wife Martha is not just an artist. She was a born artist. Her mother Ruth was a printmaker and painter until she died last year. Martha and her mom wrote to each other weekly since she left home for college (too many years ago for me to put in print). They always discussed art, trends observations and insights. It was the same sort of relationship I had with my dad, who mentored me in ministry like no other person. We could talk at a depth level like with no one else.
Well, Martha purchased her own press shortly after we were married, but knew she would inherit her mother's large, Charles Brand press someday. While we were in Greece, the press arrived and all morning today we unpacked it and set it up in the studio next to her other one. In many ways it stands there as a living legacy to Ruth and the spirit of the artist that fires Martha's creativity and soul. Peace to her memory!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tired travelers home

After an early wake up and good flight from Arhens, we missed our
plane at JFK and were on stanby for a later flight ...and were the
last ones on board. Now we wait for a delayed Air Bus and we're on the
way to SB.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Greece 2009: Day 08 Video

The final recap video will be hopefully making its' way online while we are waiting to board planes, but if it isn't up until we arrive back in our homes, don't be surprised. The group leaves this morning in about 45 minutes for the airport and then we take an Athens to New York direct flight.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Greece 2009: Day 07 Video

This will be our second to last video post as today we will be venturing to the islands before our final night's rest and flight home Saturday

A New Kind of Traveling

This is a different trip for me in many ways. The biggest one is that I did not carry my trusty Cannon camera bag with lenses and gear. Instead I brought a little HD camera from church and my iphone for all my photos. Then, I gave the cameras to Luke and Sid for the entire day. I guess I've taken maybe 50 pictures total for the whole trip. Instead, I concentrate on the group, while Sid and Luke take the shots (like the one above Sid took last night on the roof-deck of the hotel in Athens). Then, we went video, shooting highlight videos of each day that the boys put together and launched each night before they went to bed. Then, lastly, the pictures I have taken were mostly from the iphone...camera pictures. And I like them. It's a new and lighter way for me to travel and record.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Greece 2009: Day 06 Video

This video chronicles our time from Thessaloniki to Athens...

Greece 2009: Day 05 Video

Sorry that this is coming a day late... Last night we had very limited wireless internet and ran out of time before getting the upload linked on the blog. Here it is a bit delayed. Tonight's will not be as interesting as we only visited a few places on our way back down to Athens (most of the time was spent in the bus traveling).

Monday, October 05, 2009

photos From Greece 2009 Trip (Monday's shots)

Here are shots from Monday... And here is the link for all of them.

Greece 2009: Day 04 Video

Greece 2009: Day 03 Video

This is the recap from Sunday, October 4th.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Greece 2009: Day 02 Video

Greece 2009: Photos

My son Luke will be posting photos along the way and decided to create a collection with each day's worth of shots that he is loading onto his flickr account.

The collection can be found here.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Greece 2009: Day 01 Video

Photos can be seen here.

Friday, October 02, 2009

First Night in Athens; a rally

After our long day+ traveling and a nice evening meal, a group of us went out for a walk, that turned into a major political experience. Sunday is the election for the new Prime Minister of Greece, and one candidate was having a huge rally on the streets last night. Against my better judgement, the group of us wandered through the carnival like atmosphere, with Luke and Sid tossing the disk on the steps of the National Archeological Museum building.

We all made it to Athens...almost!

Taking 3 flights with short connections is a challenge for a group of 13 that then became 16, but we did...almost. We arrived on time on the right flight from Paris to Athens and all the luggage made it but Martha's brand new orange suitcase! The lost luggage people (does that sound pastoral?) found it in Paris and coming in tonight. So hopefully Martha will have all her clothing and we can now enjoy Greece.
We hope to keep you updated here.

Our adjoining 8th floor rooms actually see the acropolis if you stretch, like Paul Marcantonio is doing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

About to board in LAX

Air Bus on hgwy 1 to LAX

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