End of Life

One of the privlidges that I have as a pastor of a church is to be invited into life’s most precious moments.  I am there to celebrate at weddings, at births, baptism, first communion and baptisms.  I am invited to walk with people, to pray and support them during the harder times in life including surgery, sickness and death.

Recently we lost a dear member of St. Mark’s.  I have been walking with her the last several months as her health declined.  I saw God in her and in our conversations recently.  I am so amazed by people’s faith expecially during times of stress and hardship.  We all have our times of wondering and questioning God and how we interact with God.  But then there are times of great faith and I see that so many times when I work and walk with people.

Thanks be to God.

More Than Leftovers

Chuck Schwartz is a graduate from The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and faithfully served as an ELCA pastor.  He was at Prince of Peace in Clifton Park, NY where he retired from full time parish ministry but still keeps active leading worship, and preaching.  He blogs at The Isaac Papers.
Daddy, I had no idea that you were this much fun!” Those words pierced my heart and out flowed guilt and remorse for what should have been. The words were not meant to elicit such pain but were simply the honest reaction of my 13 year old daughter, Carla. It was her first time to attend a youth group activity that I, her Dad, was in charge of. Almost every Sunday evening of her life she had watched me leave the house to go to youth group. She had heard stories about the crazy activities that took place and she observed the positive relationships that I had with many teens. On this night, she was finally old enough to be involved in this important part of her father’s life. After arriving at the church she went off with her friends and I took on the energetic, enthusiastic, and fun loving persona that I had developed over the past decade of doing youth ministry.

As we got in the car to drive home, I could tell by her smile that she had enjoyed the event. Then she spoke those words that changed my life and approach to ministry. Was it true that I had given my best to others and not to my own children? I prided myself on giving 110% to the youth I worked with. Was I giving less than 100% to my family? I realized that I put more planning, energy, and patience into my ministry with youth then to those I loved the most and who loved me.

The temptation is to take the love of our own children for granted. To expect patience and understanding from then because of course, they know that you love them. They know that you work hard and often come home exhausted from giving so much to others. The result is that our children get the “leftovers” and not the best of what we can offer.

Following that fateful night at youth group I promised to always remember my daughter’s words and to share my “fun” side with my children. Overwhelmed at times by the demands of ministry I have not always kept that promise but I’ve tried. Our children are the greatest gift that God has given us and they deserve the best of who we can be. They deserve to experience the fun of being with Dad.

The Hippo and the Birdie Song

Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance, it is a time that we acknowledge our brokenness and sin.  During worship on Ash Wednesday we realize our dependance on God, we realize that we have a desperate need for the Living God.

We gather together and contemplate our mortality and received ashes in the sign of a cross on our foreheads.  It is a powerfully humbling moment, and one that carries me through the rest of the season of Len.   Not only is the service moving but everything leading up to the service greatly impacts me as well.

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What is your God Moment

I have a few things that I am discerning this Lenten season.  There are a few disciplines I am going to want to take on and there are a few things in my life I am going to give up (I hope to share more about that soon).  One of the things that I am going to do on this blog is to share with you different God moments in my life.

A God moment is something that you experience in your life where you can see God working.  What are the times when you feel God’s presence working with, in and for you?

I hope to share a God Moment with you during Lent and I hope to hear your God moments as well.  My friend and colleague Becca has started sharing some of her God Moments on her blog.  But I want to share mine as well.

Here is my first one….

Kittens — about a week ago I shared the story about my cat “Luther” (we call her Mama Luther now) having kittens.  Besides the laughter that ensued about us not knowing that our cat was pregnant or even a female, it was awesome witnessing the new life that was brought into the world.  Recently I have seen a lot of death, both physical death as well as death in relationships, and spiritual death.  I have been walking with people in the times of personal need and it has been sad.  But to be a witness of new birth has been amazing!  Not only to witness that personally but to share that with my kids has been great.

With this experience I have seen God in…..

  • The Birth of the kittens
  • The look in my children’s eyes as they witness the birth
  • The care my kids have shown both for Mama Luther as well as the kittens
  • The excitement my family is showing in the hopefulness of a new family member
  • The way my wife checks on the kittens throughout the day
  • The care of Mama Luther to her babies (and how that is just a natural thing)

What God Moments do you have to share?

First Place Derby Car

A few weeks ago my son competed in his second Pinewood Derby car race through his cub scout troop.  He has been great both years.  The first year I had high hopes.  I went online did research about how to make the best car, I worked with my son on design and before I knew it — the race was only days away and I did not start building his car!!!  I quickly called up one of my congregational members and he did the cutting of the car and then we took it home and sanded it and painted it and it looked real nice.  We ended up getting I think fourth or fifth overall and he was pretty happy.

lojo cub scouts

This year I did not want the same thing to happen.  So we again made a design and we spent more time putting the car together.  This year he wanted a Lego theme.  I for one am pretty impressed.  I cut the wood but Logan did the rest.  We both were pretty proud of ourselves.  Then it was race day…..

I was nervous – since he did so well the previous year, did he have high expectations?  We tried to tell him win or lose he is there to have fun….How would he react?  Would his car go down the track?  Here is a picture of what we were seeing most of the day…

That’s right first place!!!!!  Granted he did lose some races but most of the day he got first or second place.  Again he was pretty happy with how he did.  However, in the end he did not get enough points for a trophy (for the second year in a row a boy in his den won first place in the entire pack!).  But he had a good time and he did get a certificate for the most creative car.

More than the trophies and the other awards, I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my son building the car and seeing his creative mind at work.  Both years he came up with the idea and both years he did most of the work on the car.  I was there to guide him a long the way, making sure he was going to be as successful as possible.

There will be so many times that my son is going to succeed and be number one in his life.  There will also be many times that he is going to fail — but as long as he has the creative juices flowing and as long as he keeps his sense of humor and practices good sportsmanship, I truly believe he will be successful in life.  I see so much confidence in him, and I hope he is able to harness that and use it for positive things in his life.  He has the personality to be a great leader, I hope he keeps up with that and takes advantage of it in the future.  We as parents can only give our children the tools for success and give the rest to God.