Friday, September 3, 2010

Family Grief

In June my family was shocked at the sudden and unexpected death of my Uncle Mike (my dad's brother). As of Tuesday we found ourselves again shocked as my grandfather (Mike's and my dad's father) Walter died of a sudden and massive heart attack. This has been the most up and down summer I have ever lived. My uncle died, my son Cade was born and now my grandfather has passed away.
We gave our son the middle name Walter after this grandfather. And this grandfather got to meet our son, his first great grand child on July 10th, Grandpa Walter's birthday. Both Walter and Cade were born in Mt. Vernon, WA.
Grandpa passed away exactly one day before he and my grandmother would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. As one might imagine my family is shocked, overwhelmed and deeply saddened having lost two dear family members in sudden ways and in such proximity to one another. Please pray for us as we grieve together, pray together, cry together and hold each other...Grandpa Walt's service will be in the afternoon on Friday September 10th in Spokane, WA.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a prayer for your Church

Blessed Trinity, I have seen the beauty of Christ-like love bring healing and transformation to the hearts, souls, minds and bodies of hurting and broken people. I have seen your Church do things that overwhelmed me with joy, knowing that you were using disciples to accomplish wondrously redemptive things. But, my Lord, I must confess that I have also seen darkness. I have seen people use your name, and your Scriptures to hurt, kill, steal, destroy, abuse and scar others. I have seen people, who claim to be disciples, judging others, labeling others, and casting out people they don't think are worthy...as if they are qualified to judge others when they themselves are sinners saved by your grace. I must confess, Lord, that I have also done these things. I ask for your forgiveness for my contribution and for the distortions of your love done by the Church. I ask for a sense of deep conviction in your Church. I ask that you would speak by your Holy Spirit, to those places where we have fallen short in loving you and loving our neighbors. Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

I began reading a book by Ruth Haley Barton titled: Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. I did not know what to expect once I began reading it, I had only once heard someone quote a passage from the book and I was not familiar with the author.
It did not take long for me to see that there were many lines and paragraphs in this little book that seemed written just for me. In the first half of the book the word solitude jumped off the pages at me more than once. I have now found myself profoundly drawn to the practice of spending time alone with God.
Two quotes from the book (among many others) have stood out in my mind; and I have been mulling over these two quotations for the past several days.
"One of the primary functions of solitude is to settle into ourselves in God's presence. This is not easy and it takes time. But it is the answer to the heart cry that erupts when we have been distracted for too long by surface concerns. "I have lost myself!" we cry. Solitude is the only way to find ourselves again. And the longer we have been lost to ourselves, caught up with external stimulation, the longer it takes to find our way home again." (Page 41)
"Our transformation is never for ourselves alone. It is always for the sake of others." (Page 74)

These two quotes have resonated with me this past week because I have been preparing for the final sermon of a three part series on Jonah. The fourth and final chapter of the book of Jonah is a window into Jonah's heart and mind while in a time of solitude with God. I have always read this last chapter of Jonah's Journey as if it were merely a record of complaints, but I realize now that it is an example of a person in solitude with God - dealing with the deep dark stuff inside himself.
Solitude with God has a way of revealing to us what is going on down in the depths of our souls and what things we have not really dealt with yet...but need to.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jonah's Journey

Beginning this coming Sunday (July 25th) I will commence a three week sermon series in which I want to explore the book of Jonah. The book has four chapters: 1 and 2 blend together well and I will be exploring them this coming Sunday. Chapters 3 and 4 will each be a sermon on their own. As I have been reading and rereading the story of Jonah I have come to realize that many people have oversimplified and boiled down an already short story to fit into neat moral categories. When I have heard people talking about Jonah there is a consistent common thread in all of their words. "Jonah exemplifies what not to do." they say. "When God tells you to do something you do it."
I have to admit it has been hard to put these comments aside and read the story of Jonah's journey with fresh eyes and an open mind. This common and classic reading of Jonah's story is not without merit of course, but my hope in returning to this story is to find a deeper and more complex person in Jonah. I wonder if instead of looking at this story as a neat and tidy example of what not to do, we paused, read it, and then asked ourselves if this is maybe a window into the human heart. Maybe there is a little bit of Jonah in all of us...and maybe the story is about both what not to do, and who we are as human beings.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cadence

On June 13th, my wife completed the journey of pregnancy by giving birth to our son, Cadence Walter Schaar. He was 7 lbs 2 oz, 20 inches long and he came three weeks early of his due date (July 2nd). Despite coming early he had quite a healthy size and weight.
The experience of watching my wife give birth to our son was one that I will never forget and that has changed my view of the world forever. The beginning of a life is a beautiful and wonderful thing. He came a week in advance of Father's Day! Just in time for me to celebrate my first Father's Day!
On another note, my dad's side of the family has been grieving the passing of my uncle (my dad's brother). He passed away on June 2nd. It was sudden and left my whole family shocked and deeply saddened. The memorial service for my uncle was scheduled for June 14th at 1:30pm in Spokane, WA. The fact that Rachelle gave birth to Cade on June 13th around 9pm was totally God's timing. For my family to experience this birth at a point in time when all of us were (and still are) grieving was a gift from God.
Cadence is a musical term meaning rhythm or timing and this little boy lived up to his namesake. He brought us joy while we were still in the thick of sorrow.
I have had several experiences since Cadence's birth that have granted me special insights into God's timing. I must say that God's timing is perfect.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Message Many Metaphors

Currently I serve as a pastoral intern at a Free Methodist Church which is located about an hour north of Seattle, Washington. I have enjoyed working here and have found myself reflecting more and more on my specific giftings in pastoral ministry. I knew that I liked teaching and preaching before I began to partake in these responsibilities as part of my role as a pastoral intern; however, the opportunities that I have had for teaching/preaching thus far have revealed to me that it is more than liking, it might better be called loving. I love to teach and to preach. There is something that just lights up inside of me when I do it.
Beginning next Sunday (May 30, 2010) and continuing through all four Sundays in June I will be preaching a five week sermon series which I have titled One Message Many Metaphors.
The heart of this sermon series will be communicating the Gospel through various metaphors that are found in scripture. My hunch is that the vast majority of people who self-identify as Christians think about the story of salvation in Jesus Christ through predominantly legal terms. This metaphor for the Gospel sees sin as a condemnation or guilt and that the work of salvation in Jesus Christ is a pardoning of our guilt. This metaphor is most definitely there in Scripture; however, it is not the only way the Bible talks about salvation, hence my series.
The five metaphors I will be exploring are as follows: Medical Metaphor, Provisional Metaphor, Victorious Battle Metaphor, Adoption Metaphor, and finally the Lost and Found Metaphor. Each of these various metaphors for salvation has different implications for how the Church is to respond. Should anyone reading this blog post be interested in hearing the sermons they can visit the church website where they will be posted within 5 to 7 days after each sermon is delivered. www.wbfmc.org God Bless!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

boy

My wife and I recently found out that the baby we will be having this summer is going to be a boy. If had been a girl we would be have been excited, but knowing what it is (boy/girl) is really exciting! The experience of seeing his arms, legs, head, backbone, ribs and other parts on an ultrasound screen was indescribable. His hands were tiny, his mouth opened as he yawned, and he even seemed to smile for the camera at one point. Slowly but surely the reality of the experience is setting in. After the ultrasound my mind was filled with all of the possibilities. Playing catch in the yard (if he is in to sports), walking and talking, reading books together, laughing together, crying together, watching him grow and learn and love and experience life. It is a bit overwhelming at times to think that I will very soon be a father, but it is also very exciting. The experience of sharing in the role of parent with my lovely life-partner, Rachelle, is exciting and fills me with unspeakable joy. It's a boy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Memoria

Memoria is the Latin word for memory. I have been bathing in the idea of memory over the past two years or so. Isn't it profound how much we depend upon memory? All of the day to day functions of life depend upon being able to remember things. Our self-perception of our identity seems to be inextricably linked to our memories. But, what happens if we can no longer remember? What happens if our memory fails us? I am not simply talking about forgetting where you put your keys, or forgetting to turn a light off when you have left a room. I am talking about catastrophic memory loss, the kind of which happens when you suffer from Alzheimer's or another related disease or occurrence that wipes away your memory. Those who have had friends, relatives or spouses who have encountered memory loss of this kind know the devastating effects this has on relationships, families, and the self-perception of the one who suffers from the memory loss.
A couple of months ago, the senior pastor of the church I work at began talking to me about his vision for a support group that offers care and encouragement to people who have loved ones with memory loss. He wanted to offer a support group type of ministry that encouraged, informed, and ministered to these people (the loved ones and caregivers). Over the past several months I have been working on creating that very support group. I titled the name of this group Memoria because this is the Latin word for memory. It has been a difficult process researching, planning and creating this support group from the bottom up. It has at times been overwhelming because of the staggering statistics about people facing diseases such as Alzheimer's which over time wipe away memory.
The overly simplistic perception I had of Alzheimer's before I undertook this project was that it simply made it harder and harder to remember things. That is of course true, but this disease and loss of memory in general is a far more complex experience than just losing one's memory. That is where it all begins, but with loss of memory comes a whole host of other devastation's. For example, once someone begins to lose their memory due to Alzheimer's disease they will never again recall the memories they have lost. Over time their ability to reason through to logical conclusions disappears, their ability to do routine tasks disintegrates, their ability to interact with other human beings is hampered, and much, much more.
All this is to say that memory is a profound gift. Centering my understanding of what it means to be human in my understanding of a God who created human beings, I believe that God gave us memory in order to be able to establish self-identity, share in life giving and loving relationships, communicate with one another, and look back in order that we might see the way forward.
May God grant us all the ability to remember his faithful acts and to place our faith in him knowing that he has brought us thus far and that he will carry us through the tough times we might face ahead. Amen.