Category Archives: Leadership

Life in 3D

For several years I received an in office visit from a traveling salesman inviting me to try some curriculum and services provided by the publishing house he represented. Although I never did make a purchase, he continued to stop by, and we often had interesting conversations. This man had been a local church pastor in a previous chapter of life and carried his understanding of that experience with him. He would say things like, “How are things going Pastor Dan? Are you busy with the 3 D’s?” “The 3 D’s?”, I would ask. “Yes, you know the 3 D’s of pastoral ministry: death, disease, and dysfunction. That’s what pastors always have to deal with.”

I try not to carry such a pessimistic view of the pastoral vocation, but I can appreciate where he was coming from, having had a fair amount of exposure to those 3 D’s over the years. And it’s telling that his reference has stayed with me through time.

This week the United States surpassed the one million mark for lives lost to Covid-19. As I have with each 100,000 milestone, I wanted to acknowledge this one. I choose to do so by assigning the coronavirus those 3 D’s my friend introduced me to. Death, disease and dysfunction have certainly been companions of the virus. One million (and counting) is now the number associated with deaths, in this country, due to Covid-19. World wide the number is much higher. The disease is still circulating. Thankfully not with as much potency locally as the devastating outcomes of before. This is thanks to mitigation efforts including new treatments and vaccinations, along with a higher communal immunity level, due to the prior widespread contagion of the virus. Many of us have had it. More continue to yet today. Dysfunction? Well, surely I don’t need to relitigate the multiple ways dysfunction has companioned the pandemic! Yes, that D is well represented.

My salesman friend has offered an apt description of the past couple of years, and those of us less impacted would do well to remember the many who continue to grieve as they attempt to put their lives back together. But, just as I didn’t want to yield to his description of pastoral ministry, I would rather add a few of more “D’s” to our vocabulary when it comes to our future with Covid than leave it with just those three. Determination is word that comes to mind, as in let’s be determined to move forward doing better by one another and public health in general. We can add discernment, as we learn to listen, watch and promote patient engagement with one another in a mid or post-Covid world. How about discovery as an option? We can discover new opportunities, new expressions of community and compassion in these emerging days. Development may lead us to better cooperation and building better responses. Decency is due all in our common humanity. Being diligent in our hygiene, health protocols and consideration of our neighbor can’t hurt. Maybe this can all contribute toward dynamic changes in how we treat the next crisis of life?

Finally, I look to the Divine One – whom I know as God and Creator, our Savior Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – with humility and intercession, asking God’s grace for our nation and world. What other “D’s” would you add to the conversation?

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Faith, COVID-19, Ministry, Pastors

Boomerang

His AKC registered name was “Hogan’s High Dollar Boomerang” but we knew him as “Boomer”. His sire was an award winning Welsh Pembroke Corgi, so he came from good stock. Sadly, he succumbed to lymphoma at the age of 9.

When we adopted Boomer at the tender age of 8 weeks we were not looking for a show dog, just a family dog from a breed we had enjoyed before. He was our second Corgi, little short-legged dogs with big dog attitudes, best known as the preferred dog of the Queen of England. High energy, herding instincts, loyalty, curiosity (some would say “nosey”) are all characteristics of this breed. Boomer had them all.

He spent countless hours looking out the front window of our home, watching over the neighborhood, alerting us if something was slightly different. He had his nemesis’ – the squirrels that ran the fence tops of the back lawn, chucking at him with derision as he stood sentry, barking from below; and (for some reason) a certain greyhound who’s owner walked him past daily (never figured out what he took offense to there – maybe it was the long legs?). He faithfully chased rabbits away, nearly catching one or two young ones in the past, but uncertain what to do with them when he had them cornered.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Family, Leadership, Uncategorized

Why?

*Note: It has been my practice through the pandemic to acknowledge the 100K milestones in deaths in the USA with a post. Sadly, its time for another post as America surpasses 900,000 deaths due to Covid-19. When one factors in unreported and excess mortality numbers (deaths over and above the norm during a crisis situation) 900K is most likely the low end of this data!

The United States has long prided itself on being a leader on the world’s stage. We like to think of ourselves as the best, or at least among the best. This past week we were right there again, leading the way (or at least among the leaders) when it comes to persons who have died from Covid-19. Why?

It astounds me, and embarrasses me, to be affiliated with such a callous national approach to the death toll this pandemic has racked up in our nation. Because it doesn’t have to be this way. It didn’t have to be this bad. Sure, initially while the world and science was trying to get its thinking around the virus, how it spread and why it seemed to attack those most vulnerable; death was on equal ground globally. But then we acquired knowledge on how to mitigate the spread, and then we acquired tools – incredible tools like vaccines – to further mitigate the spread and impact, including the number of deaths.

The response to those tools in the land of the free? Don’t inhibit my freedom! Don’t tell me what to do! Rather than embrace these tools as the gift of science and hope they represent, the tools themselves became politicized and . . . . well, if you’re paying attention at all, you know the mess we’ve found ourselves in. Why?

I think it’s a question worth thinking about? Why? For example, why in a society that continues to have such heated debate on the right to life, protecting the unborn, do we show such disregard for the right to continue living on the other end of life? Why? Why in a nation where we show pride and respect for those who go to war to protect the freedoms and lives of others internationally, do we find it so difficult to agree on measures for fighting a viral enemy at home? I don’t understand.

It does little good to rant, I know this. I have lamented these same things elsewhere, and unless you happen to agree with me, you are probably not paying attention or your just tired of it all and want it to go away. 900,000 no more gets the attention of the masses than did 800,000 or 700,000. It’s just a number – except, of course, it’s not. It’s a name, a face, a person, a loved one, a family member, a parent, a child, a friend, a spouse.

One of my less generous responses to those who want to dismiss the virus as “just the flu” or something with consequences to be ignored, has been to ask: “Have you ever officiated a funeral for someone who died from Covid-19?” Yeah, that’s usually a conversation stopper. But the point is, I have. I’ve looked in the eyes of those who lost a loved one and wished for a different outcome. It was and is very personal, very difficult, and very real.

So, 900,000 is a number that gives me pause, as did the other milestone numbers prior. It’s a number I lament because it represents lives lost. Why?

TOPSHOT – White flags are seen on the National Mall near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on September 19, 2021. – The project, by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, uses over 600,000 miniature white flags to symbolize the lives lost to Covid-19 in the US. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Faith, COVID-19, Ministry

What I’ve Learned From Having Covid-19

It was bound to happen. My son often says, “I think we’re all going to get it eventually.” I had begun to assume he was correct with the highly contagious omicron variant in high transmission. And, last Thursday, despite my fully vaccinated and boosted status, I tested positive for Covid-19. My first thought, a couple of days before, was that it was another cold, or the resurgence of a cold and sinus infection I had a month ago. But by Thursday things were a different. Achy muscles, low grade fever, congestion, a slight cough along with the prior sore throat from sinus drainage – these were the symptoms. It felt prudent to pay attention to them.

It was nearly impossible to find a test. All the test sites in our county were booked up until the following Monday – four days later! Graciously, a colleague dropped off an at home Covid-19 Antigen Self Test, which proved to be both easy to use and “positive”. I wasn’t really surprised.

Still, I had been careful, not only in getting vaccinated but wearing a mask, avoiding large indoor gatherings, keeping social distance when possible, sanitizing, eating at home or only eating take out with very few exceptions for the past two years. I happen to be married to a very cautious and diligent woman who has stressed these precautions in our home for a variety of reasons: a) Her 95 year old mother with whom we have regular contact, b) three grandsons all too young to be vaccinated, and c) a class of 25 first graders half of whom are not currently, and probably will not become, vaccinated. Plus, as a pastor I did not want to become a carrier of the virus to those in my care, nor be rendered unable to respond to needs that may arise. Nonetheless, while it may have been caution that kept me/us virus free for nearly two years, now I had it.

Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under COVID-19, Leadership, Ministry, Pastors

A Weary World Rejoices

In my experience some of the best ideas in life and ministry are borrowed, so with a nod to Pastor Adam Hamilton of Resurrection United Methodist Church, who’s Christmas Service message bears the title “A Weary World Rejoices”; I offer my own musings on that theme. I assume Hamilton is borrowing the title from the well-known lyric of “O Holy Night”. One can quickly go down a rabbit hole searching the origin of that song, but let’s assume, for the sake of giving credit, that it was an adaptation of a French-language poem by poet Placide Cappeau, written in 1843, composed to music in 1847 by Adolphe Adam.

I confess ignorance as to what may have prompted reflection on being weary in 1840’s Europe, but I imagine each age has its own reasons to feel weary. Indeed it is the juxtaposition of that phrase “a weary world” that can yet “rejoice” that captures my eye and ear. We are a weary world these days, are we not? Weary in so many ways. Let’s recount just a few: We are, of course, weary of the Covid-19 pandemic, weary of death and disease, weary of yet another variant and spike in cases the world over. We are weary of tests, weary of masks, weary of wondering if it’s safe to gather, and what the vaccination status of our neighbor or extended family member at those gatherings may or may not be. In addition, we are worn out by the residual layers that have piled on and fueled our fatigue: division, politics, protests, animosity, recklessness, selfishness, anxiety, stress, and a lack of regard for the other. Yes, weary comes in all kinds of expressions these days the world over. But is it any worse, any more severe than in days past? Even the days that greeted the birth of the Messiah?

That world, at least the part of the world into which Jesus was born, had to have been weary. The people of Judea knew occupation, the absence of true self-rule, oppression at the hands of a foreign empire which taxed them economically, socially and spiritually. It was a world divided, where various sects and groups sought a better future through varied means – strict legalism, power through political partnerships, zealous separatism. Disease and a short life expectancy were also common place for the common person. Weary? There was surely some weariness present in Herod’s, Caesar’s and Caiphas’ world. This was the world of Joseph and Mary, pilgrims who trod from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a long three-days journey by foot, to comply with a mandated registration.

Yet, it was into that world that rejoicing broke forth. Luke tells us that an angel of the Lord broke the joyous news to shepherds, near Bethlehem: I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Lk 2:10-11) In response a “multitude” of angels brought forth a celestial flash mob singing: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors! (Lk 2:14)

Yes, a weary world rejoiced. Shepherds and angels among the flocks and fields of Bethlehem, and not far away a young couple who had just experienced the miracle of birth and new life – swaddling their son in cloth and putting him down for a first nap in a manger. Weariness and joy are natural partners in childbirth, when it goes well.

So, I ask: If then, why not now? Why can’t the weary world of today wrap its collective self around this simple yet profound natal story and rejoice yet again? To think, ours is a world with a benevolent Creator, who having given us free-will did not then walk away from the creation, but set forth a plan to redeem it. Ours is a world created by a God who loves us, seeks restoration with us, and came to be among us – one of us – in order to sort out the mess we humans had made of things. Isn’t that a cause for rejoicing?

We humans continue to make a mess of things, in my opinion. We can no more come to agreement, much less collaborate for the common good, today than in the days of the Herod’s and Caesar’s. The names of those in power have changed, but the behavior isn’t much different. Nations continue to be at odds with one another. Rather than rally together in response to a virus that threatens life, we’ve splintered into camps that point fingers and seek to lay blame. Might we instead set aside the discord for the harmony of Christmas? Can we come together in this season to once again rejoice in the birth of a Savior? That in itself might serve as a balm for our weariness. The act of rejoicing, joining in common joy, thanksgiving, and praise; it’s an other centered act. It takes our focus away from self and puts it on the reason for joy. It’s a recipe for the thwarting of weariness. Let’s try it. What do we have to lose?

Consider afresh the lyrics from the carol, O Holy Night.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees,
Oh, hear the angel voices
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born
O night divine,
O night, O night divine,

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees,
Oh, hear the angel voices
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born
O night divine,
O night, O night divine,

O holy night

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Faith, COVID-19, Holy Days, Hope, Ministry, Pastors, Uncategorized