Saturday, January 30, 2010


Midwinter Reflections

The Midwinter Conference has been a fixed event in my life before I was a pastor. My dad was a regular attendee and would offer me free lodging with him and his roommate whenever I could attend in Chicago. Now I've been going for 30 years pretty regularly. The conference has changed in size, venue and musical style over the decades, as it should.
A friend and colleague, John Notehelfer wrote some thoughts down about his experience this year that struck me profoundly. I asked his permission to cut and paste them here and he gave it to me. Here they are:


Experiencing “Midwinter” in Colorado

“Midwinter” – my season in life and ministry

Feeling strangely alone in a crowd.

Colleagues who mentored me - many not here,

Some gone to be with the Lord.

Colleagues I mentored –

Too busy to hang around – to connect.

Strange emotions, having passed the baton

To those who now lead

Why in ministry acquaintances are so many

Lasting friendships so few?

Wondering if relationships are only “useful”

While truly needed;

Forgotten and passed over

Once tasks and calling no longer serve as the glue.

What lingers as I am flying home…….

I am now becoming part of that cloud of witnesses

Watching others run their lap;

Truly in awe of what I have seen the Lord doing

In and through the ECC over the 50 years I have now served.

Rejoicing in spite of my strange aloneness

To be part of the organic, living BODY of Christ;

Always picking up and responding to the promptings of the HEAD;

Realizing anew that the cells in any body constantly replace each other

For the body to stay vibrantly alive and renewed in health.

“Midwinter” always precedes “Spring time resurrections” —

Generations give way… to the next …and the next.

Aging means a lot of letting go,

Being once more eternally thankful – and “Yes” –

Experiencing anew that in Christ I am really never, ever alone….

You, I, all of us – never alone in the crowd!! Yes!! Yes!!

John 16:4b-15

When life changes, we look for direction. In John 16 Jesus promised the disciples and us that the promised Holy Spirit would witness, convict and guide us through times of change into all truth. Pretty cool!

Surprise or Reality?

Seth Godin today wrote an interesting piece on a cafe in Japan called Ogori where a customer gets what the person in front of him ordered and paid for, and who orders and pays for what the person next in line will be getting.
Does that sort adventurous eating intrigue you or scare you away? I proposed that idea as a student ministries event some years ago, and was soundly and instantly rejected. The students I was with were too food-fussy to allow anyone to choose food for them.
But isn't the on-the-ground reality that my life-choices do impact those who come next in line? The way I choose to spend my money and use the environment have a direct impact on my children and grandchildren. The way I choose to exercise leadership in the church as its pastor now has a direct consequence on my successor and future church leaders. We all need to be aware of who is down-stream from us.

Carter Crocket makes the news

Carter Crocket member of MCC and now co-partner with two other men called "Karisimbi Business Partners" based in Rwanda is making news these days.

Friday, January 29, 2010

After the storm

The storms of last week made a major impact on our landscape, especially our seascape. The beach sand has been was down to the rocks and the wreckage of boats remind us of the power of unrelenting waves.
Today was warm and sunny with slight waves, so I went for a long walk. The waters are still too dirty to swim in yet. Just down the beach from where I normally swim was this big hulk of a boat, wrecked. Its hull torn open at the stern and bow. Once a source of joy and pleasure for fishing and cruising, it's now an eyesore needing to be demolished and removed. When the storms come, they do damage.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


A cracked cockpit windshield, sitting in a truck bed beneath the passenger waiting room is not, I think, sending the most inspiring message about safety.

List Person

Lists are both joy and bane. When I make a list, it helps me remember what I want to do, get, or accomplish. When others make lists for me, it seems onerous, imposing and demanding. But there are times when good lists really help, like the weddings we have been a part of hosting. It helps when Martha gives me a list of things she wants me to accomplish as the wedding draws near. Lists help as we get ready for travel and especially when I go off to the store. I can remember two things, but the addition of a third requires a list.
But I met a person recently who lives life according to a list...of persons. Once you get on this list, it's almost impossible to get off. And being on this list is not a good thing. I recently met with him/her (lest you try to figure out who he/she is) after being apart from each other for quite a long time. When we got together, out came the list of bitter memories and infractions with minute details. I was impressed by the amount of accurate recall he/she had about affairs in the past, and how they still control his/her life.
What saddened me was that there was little room for much joyful living because the list was everything. I wish I was bold enough to challenge this friends enslavement to the list. I hope I can both draw up lists.....and forget them too.

Hope For Prostitutes: Mocha Club

Beyond the Shame: Webisode 11 from Mocha Club on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pastoral Road-Kill

I heard a disturbing new word today: pastoral road-kill. A friend told me that he felt like road-kill as a pastor, not only dead and on the side of the road where all the traffic buzzed by, but almost unrecognizable anymore.
One of the primary functions of the Midwinter Conference is for pastors to care for other pastors they know (or are coming to know). It's an exciting place to be when things in your church are going well and you have stories to tell of the ways God is blessing. It's another thing altogether when you are wounded, exhausted, feeling defeated and incredibly lonely. I see it now as I write these words, little huddles of pastors talking together, chairs close together, bodies leaning in to hear painful words, hands on shoulders offering prayer for each other. Denying the label of road-kill and affirming the word: called servant of God.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday night worship

Reasons for Volunteering

Mark Beeson lists eight good reasons why people volunteer. Does it describe you?

Living Waters?

John Ortberg led a powerful devotion time this morning inviting us to a mature christian life driven and fueled by grace, culminating in the call of Jesus in John 7:37. All who are thirsty are invited to come to Jesus who promises that out of our lives will flow streams of living waters. It so connected to the altar-piece above, flowing with water.

Morning Devos

Monday, January 25, 2010

Necessity of New Birth altar-piece

Midwinter Connection: what's changed; it or me?

Our experience at Connection is now over and Martha and Jeanne are getting material gathered to construct the Midwinter stage altar-piece (I'll get a picture up later). I've been attending the Connection, formerly called Youth Workers' Connection, then added on to with the Worship Connection, church planters, world missions, chaplains, etc. Since I'm not in the center of administration, I can only observe from the perimeter. But it seemed a lot smaller and a lot louder this year. Again, it might be my aging ears. The worship service last night could not have been more than 250 people in a large hotel ballroom. Is it the economy making the numbers smaller or is the Covenant Connection segmenting into interest areas of ministry? Was the worship time geared for all attendees or just the youth worker component? I know that Denver makes it more remote than Chicago, but it also seemed a bit more fragmented and disconnected. The economy certainly played a part in it, smaller and more vulnerable churches elected not to send pastors and/or youth pastors as a cost-cutting measure.
I will be interested to see how the bigger gathering tonight and into the week goes. Several long-time friends I usually met up with will not be coming due to the economy. Is this a temporary thing or something new we need to grapple with?

Sacred Space seminar

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Communion Service at Connection

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dinner at Piattis while Martha sketches an idea

Drawn to the Beach

Since the onslaught of this rain and the storm swells, I've been drawn to the beach every day to observe the raw power of the ocean and water. The beach where I swim has a stairway to the sand, that, at low tide goes 70 yards out to the water line. It's a nice, sandy beach for walking, kids, dogs, volleyball, etc. The beach (above) is gone. But not only gone, it's been washed down to the rocks, at least 4 - 5 feet of sand that was there last week.
But the cowboy in all this is my friend Lennis, who lives in the boat (above) anchored off the beach where I swim. He's lived in this boat almost 10 years by himself. His outboard motor is not working so he must continually bail out the water and clear the anchor of sea-weed (that is accumulating now). The seas since Monday have been in the 6-11 foot range, meaning he's been tossed around like a cork with no let-up. Please pray for the safety of my friend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why Join a Church? Annual Meetings!

Last night MCC held it's Annual Meeting. If your are around Southern California this week you know what kind of night it was: cold and miserable. It's been raining biblical amounts since Monday and shows no signs of letting up. But about 50+ members and friends gathered in the sanctuary after a brief dessert in the narthex. In 29 years of ministry I have gone through 29 Annual Meetings; some better than others, some organized, some chaotic, some contentious and some celebratory. But they were all one thing: real!
The people who gathered last night were the ones who carry the load, follow through with commitments, arrive early to set up and stay till things are put away. These are the ones who "get" body life and what it takes to sustain a diverse community over the long haul. These are also the ones who ask the tough questions and feel free to disagree with each other, vote, then pray with each other and leave as friends. These are not consumers but producers. These are the ones who hold me accountable and love me simultaneously.
While I love blogging, facebooking and spending time on the web, this is not "The Church of Facebook" described by author Jesse Rice. These are called brothers and sisters in it together for the long haul. And the cool thing is that it can be found, seen and experienced in an Annual Meeting. What fun!

Snack Time Never Ends

I never noticed it until our first trip to France in 2000. Cars had no cup holders and people did not eat when they drove, or walked, or worked. Meals were for meals and then you did not eat.
Returning to the USA made me aware of the ever-presence of food in every office, lobby, gas station, event and occasion. I'm not against food, but do wonder why we cannot gather to meet without eating? Check out this recent article on snack time to see how all-pervasive our need for snacking has become.

The cost of being online

What's the long-term cost for always needing to be online and connected? An article in Wednesday's New York Times raises disturbing observations about the impact on children...and maybe us adults?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cold Spring Trail....all mud!

The Cold Spring Trail on East Mountain Drive has a stream running across it. When it rains, it's fun to drive a car through the stream, sending up a shower on either side. I ran through it today to find it was not a water-filled stream, but a slurry of mud that encased the car in...mud. I felt kind of foolish! Good thing I have a strong hose to wash it off.

Storm beaches large boats

Between rain squalls today, I went to the beach to find a two-masted sailboat beached. Down the shore was another smaller boat also beached. There is some power in this strom.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rainy Sunday afternoon

4:15 and rainy. Fire in the fireplace and Regina Spektor on the cd. Martha to my left writing letters and the New York Times in a pile at my feet. Worship was great and in an hour and a half I get to go to jail for an evening service.
This is a season of deep gratitude; for three new children-in-law, a creative wife and best friend, a challenging church that allows me to explore and be creative, friends close and far who will listen when I call. God is good!

The Power of the Holy Spiritls

There is very little self-help when you read the Gospels. Jesus is the source of healing. Jesus initiates healings of all sorts, sometimes without a lot of cooperation from the one being healed.
In the text for today, Matthew 12:22-30, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was also blind and mute. This healing triggered some major questions: what sort of power gets that done? Son of David or son of Beelzebul? We know the answer of course.
But behind this exchange is the question I have; what sorts of changes has your encounter with Jesus made?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our New Family!

January 16 & swimming!

Covenant World Relief update

Haiti Relief Message from David Husby from Covenant Communications on Vimeo.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I just finished having a cup of coffee with Kelly and Luke as they headed off to LAX for their flight home to Chicago. It was both easy and poignant. We now have two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law all within the time frame of 13 months!! Our "children" have doubled in number and complexity, and both girls are red-heads (no more of those jokes!).
It brings me back to our launch as a couple in 1975, off on the grand adventure of life in Chicago and beyond, ignorant and yet very confident that anything that came along we could handle (and we did). I smile, I pray, and this evening will enjoy the quiet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A unique announcement

Monday, January 11, 2010

Looking for Covenant images

The Covenant Midwinter Conference again asked Jeannne Heckman, Martha (my wife) and me to lead two seminars on sacred space like we did last year. What I'm hunting for now is a variety of pictures of Covenant church interiors, specifically the chancel, stage, worship center.
We found last year that our use of the chancel space of Montecito Covenant Church was helpful, but not all that transferable to other locations. I'd like to have a number of other chancels for the seminar participants to look at, imagine, critique and use as resources. So if you are a Covenanter and would be willing to send me a couple digital pictures of your church front worship space, I'd be most grateful! Please send them as attachments to donnjohnson@mac.com

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Martha & Dad on beach

Luke & Kelly Johnson; married!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Another wedding pic

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Isaac Johnson <isaac.johnson@gmail.com>
Date: January 9, 2010 3:14:12 PM PST
To: "donnjohnson@mac.com" <donnjohnson@mac.com>
Subject: 2/2

Luke @ Kelly married

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Isaac Johnson <isaac.johnson@gmail.com>
Date: January 9, 2010 3:13:50 PM PST
To: "donnjohnson@mac.com" <donnjohnson@mac.com>
Subject: 1/2

Friday, January 08, 2010

Wedding flowers

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Super Cuca's with John & Anna

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Discipleship Pedagogy

Dr. Martin Marty is a brilliant theologian and commentator on faith & culture. I subscribe to a journal he sends out monthly (paper only) called "Context" where he assembles the writings of thinkers he respects. It's a content-dense journal.
He introduced us to the writing of Fr. William O'Malley who teaches at Fordham and authored a new book entitled "Help My Unbeliefs" (Orbis) on the nature of catechism and discipleship training today. He writes "our audience does not have a personally validated Christian faith. A majority are baptized but never converted and prefer not to be." How then do we engage young people with the truths of the Christian faith? O'Malley proposes a new pedagogical grid that looks intriguing:
1. Heighten the awareness of the miraculous order of the universe.
2. Develop a familiarity with prayer.
3. Demand a rough understanding of epistemology (why we know some things are true)to challenge universal relativism.
4. Make clear that faith is not absolute certitude but moral certitude, which is a calculated risk.
5. Explore other religions and cultures and the power of stories that bear truth.
6. Foster and awareness of the insidious influence of media-brainwashing.
7. Help them to grasp the radical difference between the standards of the self-seeking world and the self-giving kingdom.
8. Explore the difference between morality that makes one a decent human being and the faith that brings a person to be forgiving before a perpetrator ever earns it.

What kind of outline would that look like for you to teach?

Changing Schedules

Do you remember the Verizon ad where an actor stands around locations yelling “Do you hear me now?” That’s kind of how the church staff felt over the past week since the public announcing of the Winter/Spring 1st Things schedule of only one adult option during the 2nd worship service time at 10:45 am.

Many of you spoke up to us about what this schedule does to your family’s ability to worship together. The entire staff met this week to address your important concerns.

While the reasons for offering one class during the 2nd worship service time are still worth considering (providing a strong adult learning time for 1st service attendees, dealing with the shortage of available adult teachers, recognizing the lower turnout to 1st Things in the Winter/Spring time), we do not feel they off-set the high value of families worshiping together.

Beginning this Sunday: the Living Word class on Holiness will change times from 10:45 am to 9:15 am. This will allow children, students, and adults (parent-types) to attend both Sunday School and worship together.

We will explore additional learning, growing, sharing options for those who attend the 1st worship service time, but that will come a bit later. I want to thank Diana Trautwein for her flexibility in rearranging her schedule to flex to our needs.

Grace & Peace,

Don and all the staff

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Brit Hume to Tiger Woods

On Life

Martha texted me today a message that stopped me in my tracks. It was a copy to our daughter Liz and it said "Happy being alive-day!" That's our code for January 5th every year. Fourteen years ago Liz underwent radical surgery for cancer and has vibrantly survived. God was gracious to us all and now that event has no longer dominated our lives like it once did. Liz is far more than a survivor of cancer. Cancer no longer defines her, but now she is defined by her musicianship, her marriage, her faith, her dancing and all the other things that surround adults.
And so on this January 5th, I was deep into the complexity of church budget discussions in an on-going economic slump, Bible study preparations on Obadiah for tonight, a staff meeting in an hour-and-a-half, several staff proposals that need to be discussed through, an Executive Committee meeting to discuss the 2010 budget and then the many guest coming into our lives in the next days for Luke & Kelly's wedding. The list of things that need to get done yesterday gets longer by the minute. I can find myself sighing in self-sympathy for all that has to get done. I can complain about the interruptions and dislocated devotional time (even though I got to the office extra-early). Basically, I allow myself to get caught up in myself and then I got the text "Happy being alive-day!" and everything gets clarified. All my stresses are gifts and privileges of being alive. They are problems of abundance and excess.
Thank you Lord for the gift of being alive!!

Now That's Cold!

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Trends in Technology

Check out the recent Wired on-line magazine about gadgets.

Four Trends

Brady Boyd in his blog post this morning identified four trends that mark the vital church over the next 10 years: smaller, missional, ancient, supernatural. The mega-crowd is not life-sustaining over time. Does this mean a re-thinking of the multiple-service schedule that even impacts a smaller church like MCC? The response I see to Jon Lemmond as Pastor for Gospel Action is a direct validation of this deep hunger to be more missional on a person-by-person level in the local church. This past Sunday we linked holy communion with renewal of baptismal vows and the Lord's Prayer with strong response. The people I serve yearn for those practices that have endured over time, not the newest and glitziest. Our whole theme of worship this year is on the Holy Spirit and tapping into God's immanent presence among us right here and right now.
These trends really make sense to me, how about you?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Liturgical innovations carry a risk of bombing. When you bring in a change to a known pattern, there is the likelihood of push-back and resistance. Today we tried communion from two stations, served by the pastoral staff. Worshipers were invited down side aisles and then were invited again to the baptismal font, front and center (turquoise image) to dip their hands in the baptismal font to renew their baptismal vows.
Today it worked. Worshipers were ready to respond to the good news that they were God's children, loved by God and well pleased in his eyes. The pastoral staff flexed with the situation and were there to cover gaps. There seemed to be none. It was a good day of worship!

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