Author Archives: robert

Why 734 Pastors Quit

By Dick Koehneke

“Why 734 Pastors Quit (and How Their Churches Could Have Kept Them)”

(In many congregations October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  Here are excerpts from an article by Lisa Cannon Green that appeared in Christianity Today in January 2016.  I hope the insights it contains will be helpful and useful.)

No sabbatical. No help with counseling. No clear picture of what’s expected.  Hundreds of former evangelical pastors say these were the crucial elements missing from the final churches they led before quitting the pastorate.

A recent study by LifeWay Research points to ways churches can encourage pastors to stay in the ministry, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Nashville-based organization.

“Almost half of those who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help,” Stetzer said. “Having clear documents, offering a sabbatical rest, and having people help with weighty counseling cases are key things experts tell us ought to be in place.”

In August-October 2015, LifeWay surveyed 734 former senior pastors who left the pastorate before retirement age in four Protestant denominations: the Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Trouble begins early, the survey indicates, with 48 percent of the former pastors saying the search team didn’t accurately describe the church before their arrival.

Their churches were unlikely to have a list of counselors for referrals (27%), clear documentation of the church’s expectations of its pastor (22%), a sabbatical plan for the pastor (12%), a lay counseling ministry (9%), or a support group for the pastor’s family (8%). Almost half say their church had none of these (48%).

Most expected conflict to arise, and it did: 56 percent clashed over changes they proposed, and 54 percent say they experienced a significant personal attack. Yet almost half say their training didn’t prepare them to handle the people side of ministry (48%).  “These things are interrelated,” Stetzer said. “If you’re burning out, chances are when conflict arises you’re not going to respond well, and that will make the conflict worse.”

Almost across the board, the former pastors report more negative views than 1,500 current pastors who answered the same questions a few months earlier, in March 2015.

Current and former pastors agree the job is demanding: 84 percent of current pastors and 83 percent of former pastors say they feel on call 24 hours a day, while 48 percent of each group say the demands of ministry often feel like more than they can handle.

The churches in which current pastors serve look markedly different, according to the surveys. Current pastors report their churches are more than twice as likely as those of former pastors to offer a sabbatical plan and a list of counselors for referrals, more than three times as likely to have a lay counseling ministry and a document listing expectations of the pastor, and more than four times as likely to have a pastor support group.

(My question:  What do you see here that you can use in your congregation?) 

What’s Brewing – October 2018

THE SURPRISING JOY OF OLD AGE – REALLY?

A recent article in Time magazine (September 17, 2018, Jeffrey Kluger, author)  takes a refreshing look at aging and happiness. Good for Jeffrey!  It’s a creative and affirming article which re-enforces what many of us have been saying around the theme “Celebrating God’s gift of Aging!” 

It reports on a 2006 study of a group of 30 year olds and a group of 70 year olds who were asked which of the two groups was likely to be happier. Both of them chose the 30 year olds. However, when those two groups were asked about their own happiness level, guess what, the 70 year olds came out on top! Other experts on aging have long been reporting that old age is often reported as a time defined, “not by sorrow, dread, and regret, but rather by peace, gratitude, and fulfillment.”

Another interesting tidbit shared is that, perhaps surprising as well, is that the middle-ager tends to be the most miserable, as compared to children and older adults. Life satisfaction tends to follow a U-shaped course, with the youngsters and the oldsters being content, celebrative, and satisfied. This is reported in the book, “The Happiness Curve”, by author Jonathan Rauch. (May, 2018).

What might these statistics and findings say as to how congregations are “treating” older adult ministries? Might these findings be a strong indication that we older adults need to spend more time with the youngsters in order to continue to train and model a more positive and celebrative ministry style of living? Might we oldsters consider how we can model and rub ministry shoulders with our own kids and other middle-aged people to help develop a more positive view of living for and with them? Perhaps we older folks need to be more intentional about changing our lifestyle pace from being “do-ers” to being “be-ers” ; that is, to share our gifts of listening, modeling, coaching, and encourAGING from the sidelines in order for the youngest and the middle agers to learn and develop positive attitudes towards and with each other. Now that could be both challenging and rewarding as we oldsters share the satisfaction we have developed by celebrating and serving others in the Lord!

A final quote from the article: “Yes, death is nonnegotiable…something that can only be delayed, never avoided. It’s a mercy, then, that when we do reach the end, so many of us arrive there smarter, calmer, and even smiling!”  And as we as God’s people move on to our heavenly home, we rest assured that the Lord has used us to serve and to celebrate with the younger, the middle, and certainly with our peers. May we all keep celebrating the joy of aging, in the Lord, whatever age we are!

Rich Bimler

Just Watching – October 2018

Audie and I have made “the move”.   Teetering on the edge of 90 we have joined Abraham, Sara and Lot by putting our Ur of the Chaldees (101 Villa Way) in the rear view mirror while heading for our personal ultimate Promise Land with maybe a layover or two in between, the latest being Windsor Park Manor.

Our Windsor Park Postal Service address is 130 Windsor Park Drive C304, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.   Our e-mail and cell phone addresses remain the same but the telephone land line number has changed to 630-933-9395.  With all the data in hand we feel we will be easy for our friends and family to find – when and if they seek.

As I write out all those new numbers needed to locate us my mind turns to an old post card that was addressed to my grandfather, William Steinkamp, in the1890s.  It was simply addressed to Teacher Steinkamp, Topeka, Kansas.  That’s it – and he got it.  Skip any digit of my numerical descriptive and my mail is likely as not to end up in the dead letter box of Pocatello, Idaho.

In my current circumstance I am reminded of George Burn’s line about reaching 95 years of age.  He said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”  My spin on that is that if I’d known how tough it to move your residence when nearing 90 I would have taken that step years ago.  And so say many who are matching our age while experiencing their own pilgrim’s progress.

In the midst of our transitioning I came upon something by Dr. Roger Weise, a highly regarded Chicago area geriatrician (and LCMS pastor’s son) that I had quoted over a year ago.  He said:

  1. Age is change over time.
  2. As we age it takes us longer to adapt to change.
  3. The older we are the more unique we become.

In reference to #1 I keep forgetting that change is and always has been a constant.  Every new day is actually a brand-new day.  Like Moses’ manna, my yesterdays get stale and nearly inedible as time passes.  That’s nothing new – except that it keeps surprising me.  Tempus fugits.  Panta rhei. Whether in Latin, Greek or English it’s all the same truth: time flies

A year or so after I had retired as a parish pastor a kid came up to me in a grocery store and asked, “Didn’t you used to be Pastor Mueller?”  Yep, I used to be, but no longer.  Now I’m another being busily trying to figure out how to handle life in a new and very different world.

I also like Wiese’s #2 and #3: change doesn’t come easier as time passes nor does being unique mean being better.  I am a one-of-a-kind, not only as compared to others but as compared to what I did in the past.  Today names can fail me; words can escape me; specific memories often fade.  I need and receive unsolicited assistance from so many people – and I gladly accept it.  Dr. Weise is so right!

All he says that applies to me as a person applies to everyone else, too, though age related denial is rampant – and often laughable.  

It also applies to families and congregations.  Many don’t see  that unstoppable steam engine of change that is high-ballin’ down their life’s main line, bell ringing and whistle blowing and  fail to hear Johnny Cash as he sings, “Do you hear that train a-commin’?”  Well, do I, we, they?

As I’ve aged I have noticed that today’s younger folks-families-congregations accept, adapt to and then adopt their choo-choo of change.  Many have clearly adopted Alexander Pope’s 1711 advice (which shows how long this thing about change has been around),

“Be not the first by whom the new are tried,

Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

In that quote I didn’t pick up on his “are tried” in the past.   Pope’s “the new” that “are tried” is a plural.  There’s a lot of new going around.  Some of it turns out pretty good – others don’t.  But it was a constant in his day.  It is still a constant in ours. 

  • That’s why some church’s avant-garde parish practices look so weathered and worn today. Michael’s boat was rowed ashore long ago. 
  • That’s why many of yesterday’s tried and true family traditions are so irrelevant today. They no longer address reality – few families regularly eat supper together nor do they believe that no one should eats until all have prayed together. 
  • Yesterday’s clothing fashions and its pop music look and sound so dated today – like the CDs, tapes and records I dumped when we moved and the scads of old, old clothes Audie and I reluctantly pitched when we relocated. Neither of us kept up with the changing times. 

Older people like Audie and me know all that full well.  We have down sized our home three times over the years and in the process reluctantly dumped “tons” of what we no longer use, no longer need and our kids don’t want. 

Weise’s Observation #2 opens the door to Observation #3:  “…with the passing years, each becomes more unique, unencumbered with much of yesterday’s absolutes”.  Or, maybe were weighed down with yesterday’s irrelevancies.

The truth seems to be that one way or another, people/families/churches are more unique as the years pass.  It’s fascinating how older churches take on a patina of uniqueness while denying change.  One nameless “old lady” refused for years to translate its original German language Constitution into English even though only a few spoke their mother tongue.  When tough issues arose they would tussle with it long enough to develop a kind of group consensus and then ask the pastor, whom they all trusted and whom they believed read German, what their hallowed document had to say on the subject.  Once he sensed what the group was ready – or not ready – to do he announced that their group opinion was supported by their Constitution!  He was their 20th century Oracle of Delphi. 

That church also had Easter Sunrise Services at 9:30am for two reasons: 1) fewer members each year were willing to drive to their inner city location before dawn, and 2) and the neighbors whom they were trying to attract didn’t get up early.  So they did the Joshua-thing: they announced that their Easter Sunrise Service would be held at 9:30 AM.  Only an older congregation, unique in many ways, could pull that off.

To Dr. Weise’s three bullets I would offer as a footnote that those of us who are really old are like Timex watches in the past that can take a licking and keep on ticking.  Nothing makes that point clearer for me as an older pastor than liturgical vestments.  Robes have radically and constantly changed since I bought my first black de rigueur Geneva gown in 1949!  Who wears one today? ‘Time and tide wait for no man.”  True, but it is also true that, “Time and change don’t dawdle either.”

So here I am, face to face with Dr. Weise’s simple formula that touches me, my family and my church: “Age is change over time” – and the times are certainly a-changin’.  Ain’t that the truth!

Blessings,

Charlie “Just Waking Up” van Winkel

I plan to stay on this super-senior kick including what that means, since no one else seems to have much good to say about it and there’s certainly little that’s positive.—and there is so much that God has reserved for us as our life’s stars begin to shine.

AH-HA Moments – October 2018

HOLY HILARITY!

Whenever I think of AH-HA Moments, I am reminded of the sign I saw many years ago, which read, “Until Further Notice, Celebrate Everything”! What a great motto for living a life in the Lord!

What is your favorite saying that describes your life in the Lord? Perhaps it’s a Bible verse or an old saying your Mom used to share. All I remember my Mom saying was, “Richie, don’t eat with your mouth full!”  Maybe it’s a catchy phrase a teacher reiterated. One of my model educators liked to quip, “Laughter is carbonated holiness!” Then there’s author Ann Lamont’s quote, “Laughter is another way of crossing ourselves!” And let’s not forget good old Woody Allen who murmured, “Laughter is great…except when milk comes out of your nose!!

So, Holy Hilarity people of God, what keeps you focused on the joy we have in the Lord? We know that we live on “this side” of the Resurrection because of what He has already done for us. We’ve read the last chapter of the book, and so we know how it all turns out, in Christ!

Personally, during these days of worries, woes, whimpers, and wars, within us and around us, I need to keep remembering that the Lord has already redeemed us with His death and Resurrection. That does not make things “right” with the world, but it does put life in perspective. In the midst of the slander, sleaziness, and short-sightedness of today’s world, we as God’s people can still share and show the AH-HA’s of a life lived in the Lord!

So take time today, and tomorrow, and the next, to see the gift of laughter and joy as so crucial, especially in times like this. We can’t “laugh away” our struggles, but laughter does help to keep life in perspective, as we celebrate His joy-filled presence among us!

Review the following list of why laughter is such “good medicine” for the soul, and add some of your thoughts as well:

  1. It helps us maintain our perspective on life.
  2. It gives us a sense of power.
  3. It helps us cope.
  4. It helps establish communication and rapport.
  5. It relieves tension.
  6. It increases learning and retention.
  7. It can be used as a diagnostic tool.
  8. It works because of the incongruities of life.
  9. No need to tell “jokes” – just think “funny”. Look for humor in everyday situations, starting with your own foibles!
  10. Laughter is a Gift…”The Lord has done great things for us…and we are filled with joy! (Psalm 126:3)

As a doctor friend says to his patients, “Open your mouth wide and say, “AH-HA”!

Rich Bimler

 

 

 

Speaking About One Another

By Dick Koehneke

“I am writing these things to you so that you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”  (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

In my family of origin, and when our children were growing up, we had several activities and family traditions that were not up for debate or even discussion.  It was understood that “that’s how we do things in this family.”  Paul is saying, “This is how we do things in the family of God, the church of the living God.”  He’s saying we need to behave in such a way that the truth of God – of which the church is a pillar and buttress – is not compromised in the eyes of others by the way we conduct ourselves.  As the household of God, this is how we behave to bear witness to that truth. 

That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Our mutual love testifies to the truth of the gospel.  Because we are loved by God, we love one another.  Let’s focus for a couple of moments on one expression of that love – how we conduct ourselves in our speaking about each other as the family of God, the church of the living God, as we testify to the truth of which we – together –  are a pillar and buttress.  The pillar and buttress stand strong and firm when we speak about one another in love.  This principle applies to families, friendships, workplaces, schools, communities, congregations, denominations – in other words, in all situations.   

Pastors and other people in spiritual leadership ought to understand the destructive power of the tongue.  Spiritual leaders are subject to all sorts of gossip, sarcasm, ridicule and attacks on character.  A pastor went to a member family’s home for dinner one evening.  While the parents were in the kitchen, their little daughter and the pastor were talking in the living room.  “So what are we having for dinner?” the pastor asked.  The little girl replied, “I think we’re having old goat, ‘cause I heard my daddy say to my mommy that we’re having the old goat for dinner tonight.” 

The internet has opened a vast new universe of possibilities for speaking ill of one another.  We need to hear the words of the inspired apostle Paul to the Ephesians:  “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32) 

This is the obedience that comes from faith.   As Paul said to the Philippians, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)

Here’s something to consider.  Say you’re person A speaking with person B, and person C comes up in the conversation.  You realize that what you’re about to say to person B about person C might cause person B to think less of person C.  Should you go ahead and say it anyway?  In most cases you shouldn’t.  There are times when you should, such as unethical behavior by person C when person B is someone who needs to know, or when person C has a problem that person B might help to address, like financial issues.  Besides these kinds of cases, what do you think you should do?  How would you like to be treated if you were “person C” in a different conversation?     

Let’s do away with sarcasm, ridicule, and criticism of the other person’s character and motives.   Let’s commit ourselves to speaking well of one another and explaining each other’s actions in the kindest way, as Luther says in his explanation of the Eighth Commandment.  When we disagree, let’s debate the point at issue; let’s not attack the integrity or motives of the other person.   It’s not difficult to find fault.  We all have plenty of faults, and most of them are not hard to find. 

Faultfinding is not our way.  As members of the household of God who live by the Spirit, we’re not interested in faultfinding.  We don’t get fired up by attacking or ridiculing.  We’re into encouraging.  We speak about one another as we would like to be spoken about.  When a conversation in person – or online – takes a turn toward sarcasm, ridicule, and character assassination, we challenge it and try to put a stop to it; at the very least we disengage from it.  “That’s not how we live in this family.”   

If people choose to make you the object of sarcasm and ridicule because you no longer join them in their ungodly behavior, what should you do?  Rejoice!  “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14)  People who talk critically to you about others most likely are talking critically to others about you.  Now you have given them something good and God-pleasing to talk about! 

What’s Brewing – September 2018

WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?

The questions and discussion these days around St. Arbucks is focusing on the question, “Who are your Heroes?”  It surfaced after the death of Senator John McCain last week. Many tributes continue to pour in in memory of and in honor of Mr. McCain’s service to his Lord, his country, and the world. Young and old, Republican and Democrat, and people from all walks of life and ancestry, continue to hail him as a true servant and stalwart of the U.S.A. and of humility, truth, honesty, and civility. May more leaders recognize him as a true hero and model of humanity at its best!

So back to the conversations around the aromatic atmosphere of St. Arbucks! Why not spend some time these days remembering your heroes, both past and present? It serves as a significant exercise in thanking and praising the Lord for the people who He has placed into our lives. Hopefully, it will trigger in each of us the thankfulness, the memories, and the specific reasons why these people popped into our minds as our “heroes”! Keep thinking now as I recall a few of my own heroes:

  1. Belma Boyer, my 2nd grade teacher. First of all, I must confess that I liked her because I knew that she liked me! She was patient, thoughtful, energizing, and she laughed a lot, with me rather than at me!
  2. Bill Gust, an adult member of my home congregation. I saw him as a hero because he was about the only adult who would actually talk to me before and after worship services. He convinced me that there really were at least some “older people” who liked “younger people”, although I do wish there had been many more Bill Gusts around for me to like also!
  3. Andy Pafko – Mr. Pafko was the All-Star 3rd baseman for the Chicago Cubs. He visited our grade school one day and I was so impressed, first because he was personable and friendly, and also because he was a Lutheran! Imagine that – a star professional baseball player who was actually Lutheran! I “worshipped” the autographed baseball he gave me that day, although my Mom somehow lost it a few years later (But that’s another story!)
  4. Dolores Murray – Dolores was the first secretary I had ever served with in our first parish, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas. She quickly became one of our best friends, support people, and confidant. She listened, laughed, forgave, and modeled what friendship, families, and faith are all about.

There are so many other “heroes” that come to mind for me, but now it’s your turn. Think through your memories and jot down a few of your heroes. Think about why you thought of them, and then thank the Lord for them! What a “Holy Habit” this exercise would be if we would do this regularly to thank God for the wonderful, lovable, forgiving folks that have blessed us on our journey of life! Thanks Lord, for those remembered and even for those forgotten!

The final assignment for us from St. Arbucks is to ponder the question, “Who in our lives today, as well as yesterday, might be “mentioning” our names as their “heroes”? Really? Really! Might it be helpful if we intentionally looked around us to see how we can make a difference in younger people’s lives, right now?  Who needs to see us as a friend, a listener, an encourAGEr, right now, today and tomorrow and into the future?

Well what are we “heroes” waiting for? Blessings on bringing hope, joy, peace, and civility back into our culture, all in the name of Jesus!

Rich Bimler

 

 

Just Watching – September 2018

Audie and I have been so involved in gathering our earthly good in preparation for what we think will be our penultimate life move to Windsor Park Manor (sound elegant, eh?) on or about September 20 that my Just Watching deadline snuck up on me. 

One reason that happened is that even after major down-sizing three times in the last fifteen years, I’m in a state of awe over how much still has to be moved.  I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have such great children by birth and marriage plus some wonderful grandchildren who together have made our imminent move possible. 

Not sure how to get at this month’s Just Watching. I decided to check out what I wrote last year.  It still speaks to our family’s moment. A year ago I wrote:

“It looks to me more and more each day that Henry Lyte’s 1847 hymn, “Abide With Me”, had it right: “…change and decay in all around I see…”.  Change for sure.  And a lot of what’s left of my surroundings looks like decay. 

Lest you think you are about to be hit with the rant of a cranky old man let me assure you that as I write, I know, accept and glory in the rest of that verse: “… Oh Thou who changest not abide with me.” 

Henry completed this hymn three weeks before his death from tuberculosis.  Knowing that has helped me appreciate his masterpiece as a whole and that familiar line in particular.  His theme and the way he peppered his end-of-life hymn with the pronouns “I” and “me” has made it a faith favorite for nearing 300 years. 

Change has been a generational constant from our world’s Day One whether as between generations or within them.  And decay?  The ardent evolutionist’s premise that creation trends toward improvement over the eons on its own doesn’t match my perception or experience. 

Maybe that’s why a precis of Concordia Seminary’s Dr. Paul Raabe that I found in www.concordiatheology.org struck me as it did.  His topic features challenges (he called them “Elephants in the Room”) that LCMS congregations as a whole and her members individually face every day.  I’ll list his specifics and then leave it to you to determine how each plays out in your world.  By the way, he says they are all interconnected.

Elephant 1.  The challenge of a geographical mismatch we face in that most congregations and schools of the LCMS are located in the middle of the country and in rural areas, but most of the US population lives on the two coasts and in huge metro areas.

Elephant 2.  The challenge of reaching and attracting the multi-ethnic population in the U.S., (Hispanics, Africans, and Asians, for example) to our predominately Caucasian congregations.  Families?  Communities?

Elephant 3.  The challenge of non-church-attendance.  Surveys show that on any given Sunday only 18% of the U.S. attend a church…over 80% do not.  Are most Americans simply not “into” church and as Robert Putnam would put it, go “bowling alone?”

Elephant 4.  The challenge of working in a multi-religious environment not only with non-Christian religions but also with many different versions of Christianity.  Many Americans we seek to evangelize have preconceived notions about Christianity that are distortions of the Christian faith and life – at least the one in which I was reared.

Elephant 5.  The challenge of biblical illiteracy among church-going Christians.  Many Christians cannot speak and think in larger biblical ways; they only know a few biblical sound bites.  Along with that many Lutherans are unfamiliar with the basic documents of our denomination like the Small Catechism (not to mention the Large).

Elephant 6.  The challenge of living the Christian-life in this time and place.  What writes the script for non-Christians view of life writes the script for many Christians as well: the entertainment industry, social media, corporate America, radical individualism and current popular and/or political ideologies (take your red, blue or multi-colored choice).  As a result, the life of many Christians differs very little from that of non-Christians.

Dr. Raabe’s “wrap” is as challenging as his Six Elephants:

“Every generation is called to be faithful in its own time and place, to confess the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:5), to teach the written Word of God in its truth and purity (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17), to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2), to proclaim repentance unto the forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:44-49).  With such huge, overwhelming, elephant-like challenges facing us, we are tempted to lift up our hands and cry out in utter despair, “What’s the point?”  But it is 2017 anno domini, in the year of the Lord.  Jesus the Messiah, crucified and risen for all, is that Lord.  Therefore our labor in his name is not in vain.”

So…

How are you dealing with the Six Elephants in yourself and in your world of family, church and community?  Denying that the Elephants do not loom large in your life won’t cut it.

I once saw a book plate featuring a sailing ship hull down heading toward for the horizon and the words, “More to Come”.  That’s a very Biblical take on life both existentially (our day-in-day-out stuff) and eternally (Henry Lyte’s abide-with-me views).  We are all that ship, sails full and billowing, driving through the waters toward a horizon over which we will topple into oblivion (as some see the future), or are heading with Henry and millions of God’s people past and present toward and into our home port.  What about you? 

As for me and my house we believe there’s more to come – and more to do – until as we are safely harbored with Him.”

So far the replay of 2017 thoughts.  Now as Audie and I move on into another of life’s chronological levels and a brand new residential arena, we move forward believing that. “… yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery while today is His gift – which is why we call it the present.” Whoever originally authored that phrase is not important.  Knowing that its truth for me and my house, is.

On September 20th Audie and I will say again, “This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” Amen to that.

Vaya con Dios,

Charlie

AH-HA Moments – September 2018

“He is, and He is here – the signs are all around us!”

This is a favorite quote of mine from Sister Corita Kent. She captures the presence and proclamation power of our Lord in our daily lives. We only need to learn to see and sense the Lord’s presence in and around us, big and small, known and unknown. Through the Spirit, we need to encourAGE others to do the same. How can we more intentionally listen for the chirp of the morning sparrow, the chuckle of a child, the glance of the grandmother, and the sounds of our world around us? If you are like I am, we too often miss the beauty and grace of the presence of our God in all that we do, because we are so focused and intent on dealing with ourselves and our own issues.

This Gospel mind-set can also be called “God Sightings!” How can we train our minds and lifestyles to look more for the love and joy and forgiveness in the world, rather than be captured by the daily headlines of today? Or, to say it a different way, how can we become aware that “God Sightings” do come to us even from the worries and wars and woes in ourselves and throughout the world? Perhaps these “God Sightings” are beckoning us to become more involved in helping others see His Presence in our lives and witness!

A few examples from my own experiences these past days:

  1. Lutheran Summer Music Program was held again at Valparaiso University this summer. Around 100 high schoolers from all over the country gathered for a month of intensive study, practice, relationships, learning, and performances of their musical gifts. Talk about God Sightings! What a powerful witness to the talents of young people as well as the leadership of adults to encourage and involve these youngsters in worship, music, and relationships in intentional ways. For more information, contact Mr. Tom Bandar, Executive Director, Lutheran Music Program, TBandar@lutheransummermusic.org . Consider encouraging young people from your family and congregation to register for the July, 2019 event!

 2  Author Parker Palmer has just come out with an excellent new book that surely will be a “God Sightings” resource for many! Titled, “On the Brink of Everything – Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old,” (Berrett- Koehler, 2018), Dr.Palmer affirms the gift of aging in so many insightful ways. It is so affirming to hear this 80 year old begin by stating, “I like being old!” From that simple, yet profound statement, I knew I was going to like this book! And what about this one: “Aging and Dying – one is a privilege and the other is not up for 

negotiation.” ! He speaks eloquently about the fact that our culture celebrates youth, disparages old age, and discourages us to face our own mortality. He urges us to see the “God Sightings” around us as we reframe aging as a passage of discovery and engagement and not decline and inaction.  Check it out and watch for the “God Sightings” imbedded throughout these pages!

3.One final item: September 9 is “officially” Grandparents Day! Celebrate it well, whether or not you are a grandparent! What better gift can we older adults give to our own grandkids, and those other kids around us, than to let them help us “celebrate” our lives together? Don’t worry about whether your grandkids remember this “big” day, make it a “God Sightings’ day by thanking them for being …..kids! And then follow up with them through additional activities, notes, kind words, encourAGEments, and prayers. Happy Grand Parents Day, as we continue to become “God Sightings” for others, the younger and the older.

Have a great “AH-HA Moments” Month in the Lord….and watch for those God Sightings popping up all around us!

Rich Bimler

Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn

By Dick Koehneke

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for

human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  (James 1:19-20)

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was the perfect listener.  Examine the four Gospels.  Look closely at his interactions with people.  People said many things to Jesus.  Sometimes they asked questions of information.  Sometimes they made requests for help.  On occasion they gave him thanks and praise.  Or they made statements, or tried to trick him, or even falsely accused him of wrongdoing.  In every case, Jesus responded with exactly what was needed by the other person – not always what they wanted, but always what they needed.  He was able to respond to people perfectly, because he really listened to the other person: not only to hear what was being said, but also for the deep meaning behind the words being spoken. 

Sometimes he responded with a direct answer, other times with teaching.  Often he would ask a question of the other person, or tell a story to make a point.  There were times when he spoke words of conviction and confrontation.  He always did or said exactly what the other person needed.  He was the perfect listener.

He still is!  You can go to Jesus with whatever is in your mind or on your heart, and you can be certain that he is listening.  You can be sure that he will respond in his perfect will for you, to give you what you really need – not always what you want, but what you really need – not only for right now, but for the future; not only for the future, but for eternity. 

As followers and friends of Jesus, powered by his Spirit, our heart’s desire is to be like him.  We want to follow his example, walking in his steps on the way to heaven.  Here is some wisdom from God’s Word: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  (James 1:19-20)

Have you ever noticed that God gave us two ears but only one mouth?  Did you ever wonder what it means that the resting position of the mouth is closed, but that your ears are naturally open?  Maybe God is trying to tell us to learn to listen.

Someone has said, “When you’re talking, you’re probably not learning.”  We need to listen to learn.  Many a pointless argument has begun over a simple misunderstanding of meaning.  When the other person says something you don’t like, ask, “What do you mean?”  Or you could say, “Why do you say that?”  Don’t just respond to what you think they said. 

If the other person’s comments are getting you upset, don’t respond out of anger.  You might say,  “I’m not very comfortable with this conversation.” Maybe you can explain why you’re feeling uncomfortable.  Maybe the two of you will agree to suspend that particular conversation until another time.  You might agree to switch subjects, and you may even agree to disagree!

I try to remember this little saying:  “If you say everything that’s on your mind in a moment of anger, you will probably make the very best speech you will ever live to regret!”  We need to get control of our words so that our words build up, not tear down; so that we speak words that create, not destroy; words that heal, not harm.  “O Lord, may my words today be sweet and tender, for tomorrow I may have to eat them!”

As we think about the people in our lives, let’s ask God to help us LEARN TO LISTEN and LISTEN TO LEARN, always with Christ-like LOVE in our hearts.   

What’s Brewing – August 2018

The focus of conversation at St. Arbucks this month has been how we older adults can become more engaged and connected with the younger generations. Here is an exciting list of possibilities for you and your friends. Enjoy…as we continue to celebrate God’s gift of aging!

BACK TO SCHOOL – FROM THE “GOOD OLD DAYS” TO THE “GOOD NEW DAYS”!

As children and youth head back to school, burdened down with their bulging back-packs, we older adults can also be involved in the “back-to-school” process. Here are some handy hints of activities available for the over-65 crowd . Feel free to add your own suggestions as well:

  1. Offer your assistance at an elementary or high school as a volunteer in a class, in the cafeteria, in the library, or on the playground,
  2. Give a “Welcome Back to School” gift to a favorite youngster in your life, like a Starbucks card, food card, prayer booklet, necklace, or …..
  3. Write an e-mail or note to a young person or two, saying that you will be praying for them.
  4. Contact the parents of a student and offer your support and help to them during the school year.
  5. “Sneak” a favorite student or three some spending money, just between you and them!
  6. For college students, bake some yummy cookies and get them in the mail as soon as possible! They will enjoy your thoughtfulness and it will also prevent you from eating them yourself!
  7. Let them know that you will be praying for them throughout the year…and then do so!
  8. Plan to visit the school, just to say HI, to offer to volunteer, and to meet their teachers.
  9. Enroll in a class yourself so you continue to grow and learn along with your younger friends! Lots of on-line courses, community college courses are available.
  10. Send a selfie to a young friend with an “I’m praying for you” tag line.
  11. Text a special young person once in a while, just to say HI, but do not do it tooooo often!
  12. Ask the parents how their kids are doing and inquire how you can continue to help and support them.
  13. Be a greeter at the local elementary school. If Wall Mart can do it, why can’t you do it also!
  14. Look for mentoring and tutoring opportunities in your local school. As you share your gifts with the students you will receive so much more in return from them!
  15. Encourage other older adults around you to join you in doing these and other activities with you. The more the merrier!
  16. Invite youngsters over to your home when they are out of school – just to chat, laugh, tell jokes, and listen to their stories and challenges.
  17. Take youngsters out for a special breakfast or lunch on weekends or when they have a day free from school. Ask them to tell you about their high points and low points of the week, and then listen wisely!
  18. For grandchildren especially, make plans with them to go on a Grandparent/Young Person Vacation Trip to a destination of their choice during a break or long weekend. Obviously, it is best if you set the financial limits and guidelines of such an adventure! One-on one excursions can be great experiences for all!
  19. Plan to attend as many sports events, plays, concerts, and special events where your young friends are participating. Be the best cheerleader, encourager, fanatic fan you can be, but it is probably not wise to point and shout out “There’s my grandchild – isn’t she the best!” (Even though she is!)
  20. Think of at least one specific activity you can do each week to connect with one or more school age kids, whether they are grandkids, neighbors’ kids, or kids from your congregation.

Free One: Remember to thank the Lord for the gift of children of any age as you continue to encourage and empower vibrant, grace-filled living across all generations, in the name of the Lord!

And that’s what’s brewing at St. Arbucks this week!

 Rich Bimler