Flying Stand By

downloadI attended the National Leadership Institute Conference in Atlanta a week and a half ago sponsored by Center for Progressive Renewal.1 A friend let me use their buddy pass which means flying stand-by. There is a saying “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Which means, no matter how well you plan circumstances may change. I was bumped twice before I got on a flight and I was frustrated. However, before the day was over my attitude had been transformed. What if some circumstances are meant to change? What if some intentional course corrections are influenced by God?
I was bumped two more times before a seat opened up. I got to sit next to two lovely, young college students, cousins who were going to Florida for vacation. They asked me where I was heading and I told them. As we conversed one of them shared that she was a sophomore at Regis College. I responded, “Wow what a coincidence, I am Regis College Alumna!” They were both raised in a Seventh Day Adventist church in Malden. When they told me the address, I was taken aback. I had been a member of the church that sold the building to their parents, both ministers in the early 90’s. When I shared about Phoenix Rising UCC, they opened their tablets and explored the website, soon asking many questions. We parted with hugs and good wishes. Clearly, this was not a coincidence.
The conference was filled with wonderful fellowship and insightful information. It felt like being hit with a fire hose filled with grace. A highlight for me was the opportunity to share the Phoenix Rising UCC story with author Brian McLaren who was the key note speaker. His writings have had a profound effect on my ministry so meeting him was as much a stand-by moment as my fight.
On the way home I sat next to a pastor of an interdenominational church of thousand from Alexandria VA. What are the odds that I would sit next to yet another who shares my love for Jesus. When he opened his laptop There was a line highlighted: Jehoshaphat said: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” I leaned over and said I love the story of Jehoshaphat. He smiled, “Are you Christian?” “Yes I am” I replied. Our conversation was very interesting; me a liberal progressive God is Still Speaking Christian and he a spirit focused Pentecostal Christian. It was a delightful harmonious conversation. I got to share Brian McLaren’s influence and Phoenix Rising UCC. He gave me his card and asked if we could chat again sometime.
Brian McLaren wrote: “…Faith was never intended to be a destination, a status, a holding tank or warehouse. Instead, it was to be a road, a path a way out of old destructive patterns into new and creative ones. As a road or way, it is always being extended into the future…To be a living tradition, a living way it must forever open itself forward and forever remain unfinished- even as it forever cherishes and learns from the growing treasury of its past.”2
My experience has opened my eyes to the profound reality that we are flying standby every day. I think it is reasonable to conclude that flying stand-by is truly living by faith. If you could grasp this concept what would change for you? I am convinced that crossing paths with the folks during my trip was not a coincidence. I can’t help wondering how many opportunities we miss when we get upset and angry when plans and expectations go awry. How could living by faith modified discouragement and frustration? Would we be less likely to see ourselves victimized by circumstances? What would be the likelihood of being more purposeful? Imagine how your life could change if you began walking by faith as though you were flying stand-by! If we are awake and aware and let ourselves seize the day intentionally what amazing experiences will we encounter or even become a part of?


[1] Center for Progressive Renewal:

[2] McLaren, Brian D., We Make the Road by Walking: A Year Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Aticvation, Jerico Books, pg xii,© 2014

Moving To and Around Haverhill

ImageThe past 6 weeks have been a whirlwind of change. Packing up and getting ready to move, meeting new people, making new friends and learning about Haverhill.  Finding the perfect house near the 400 year old Worshiping Oak tree, the very spot a small band of visionaries founded Haverhill lead by John Ward their first minister.   Having lunch on the Roma Patio and watching the Eagle flying above us.  I am grateful that I have been awake and aware of all the spiritual implications that have helped affirm my call and make meaning for the reemerging FCC Phoenix Rising UCC.

My conversations with folks has been insightful; I will share two stories:

One person who referred to himself as a recovering catholic with a small “c” shared:  

 “I was raised in the Church did all the sacraments but when my kids came along My wife and I  did not want to subject our kids to the doctrines that promoted more fear than love.  I now question if that was a good idea. They are good kids. But they don’t even entertain the idea that there is a God who exists. I may not go to church but I am spiritual and it bothers me. I wish there was a place that I could go and discover why I have these conflicting thoughts.”   

As we continued to talk it became clear to me that he was a seeker.  I was able to tell him that church is much more than right doctrine, or right sacraments. Church is about connecting to God, being a part of a community who believe they not only belong to God but to each other and beyond! Then I challenged him saying, “Maybe you are more than a Recovering Catholic!  You sound more like a rediscovering catholic with a small “c”. He sat back and laughed out loud. He said, “You know what, I think that is what I am.”   We are now Face Book friends and look forward to talking more.   

Another person wrote to me from the website:

“For many years I was around people who wondered where there first love and excitement over finding God’s love had gone. We were in an evangelical, independent church that was becoming more conservative, fundamental, and political. When we first started to attend there, we were mildly out of step with the thinking of the average attender. But over time, the distance between us grew greater. It was the rediscovery of God’s grace and amazing love that helped to lead us away from that church. We are looking for a place where everyone is welcome and people are intentional about their interconnectedness with God, self and others. I went to your website and filled up with tears.  It sounds like Phoenix Rising might be a place to consider. Can you tell me more?”

Moving to and around Haverhill, informs me that the Spirit of God has been preparing the way.  It excites me to think that FCC Phoenix Rising UCC was not simply an idea in the minds of a few people.  This reemerging Christian Community is emerging from the very heart of God!  The people I have encountered are spiritually aware of God and want to experience more! The interesting thing about being a seeker is that you may be unaware that you are one. You may not know  exactly what you are looking for. I can tell you this that when you find it, you will not only know it, but you will be transformed in the process.   Another  interesting component concerns my call as  pastor of this new church start. I go out with the expectation and intention to find seekers and together we will become a  Phoenix Rising!

A prayer for you:  As you venture out this Fourth of July weekend remember to Live simply, care deeply, love generously, forgive freely and know you belong to God, God Belongs to you and We belong to each other.  AMEN