Over the past seven and a half years, I have witnessed this amazing community of faith grow in many ways. We have welcomed new members of the community, our staff has grown, our attendance has increased, we have experimented with and implemented additional worship services, our children’s programs have skyrocketed, we are reaching more and varied organizations, partnerships are being formed in the community, and the impact has been far and wide…and GREAT!
While all of these things are exciting and I am very proud to have been a part of it all, I feel the time has come for me to seek out new growth opportunities and challenges in a different career path. It has been a difficult decision, as I have loved working for the Chapel and care greatly for the Chapel community. While change can be scary and difficult, I truly believe God encourages us to continue learning and challenging ourselves. Therefore, it is time for me to start a new chapter in my life. I have accepted a position at Design Workshop in Aspen in their HR Department. I look forward to a new type of organization and culture – they have a much larger staff (over 100 people) and multiple offices nationally and internationally, which is a vastly different environment.
Thank you to each of you. I am grateful for the many friendships I have made, the opportunities to help a variety of people in difficult times, the chance to help grow this Chapel and the numerous lessons I have learned.
My last day as Administrative Director will be Thursday, April 6th. I am visiting my family for the Easter season, but look forward to seeing you in church as a fellow community member after my return.
Blessings and much gratitude to each of you,
I’ve found the word stymied to be quite useful in life. The noun stymied means, from one source, “a situation or problem presenting such difficulties as to discourage or defeat any attempt to deal with or resolve it.”
As an aside, what I never knew was where the word came from until recently. This is what I found on-line. “It was in the 19th century that the word stymie entered English as a noun referring to a golfing situation in which one player’s ball lies between another ball and the hole on the putting green, thereby blocking the line of play. Later, stymie came to be used as a verb meaning to bring into the position of, or impede by, a stymie.”
Whether being impeded or encountering difficulties in resolving a situation, certainly most if not all of us have been stymied at one point or another. Times in which we simply don’t know what to do or how to fix something.
Over the years, I’ve been stymied by math problems, chemistry equations, how to get out of a plateau in my tennis skill level, travel cancellations in a foreign country due to labor strikes, and even how to ski down a rocky chute I somehow ended up at the top of. While none of what I’ve just mentioned are big deals, there have been other passages when I’ve been stymied in far more significant ways.
Sometimes I just don’t know what to pray for. When my dear cousin Madeline at age 34 was dying of cervical cancer, as I sat at her bedside and knew she was in pain and not going to survive, I remember the painful feeling of being uncertain what to pray for. It was the same when my dad nearly 18 years ago was in the same shape. Sometimes I’ve felt this way with people I’ve had the privilege of walking along side of as a pastor who were enduring beyond what can be described as catastrophic.
And 20 years ago, while in seminary and I did not know where I’d end up after ordination and was questioning my sense of call to begin with, somehow praying “Thy will be done” did not offer me much comfort.
The other day I was visiting a friend up on Missouri Heights in the mid-valley. It was extremely windy. As we sat and talked, I realized that one reason I’ve always loved the wind is that it reminds me of the Holy Spirit.
I immediately thought of some of the times I’ve been stymied about very significant things in life, like now not knowing what to pray for, for my 94-year-old mom who doesn’t remember I called 3 minutes after I hang up. Or what to pray for, for a teen close to my heart that has been to hell and back.
I’ve learned over the years that when we are stymied by something, it is vital to remember the Holy Spirit. Recalling what Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, for me, is where the rubber meets the road with our walk with Jesus when we have either no idea what to do or what to pray for.
Paul wrote in Chapter 8 of Romans, “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” Another version of the passage says, “The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”
In other words when we don’t know what to pray for or even how to pray, it is precisely then that the Holy Spirit prays for us, on our behalf. When we are stymied, God does the praying for us.
This message from scripture is not only immensely comforting in trying times, but foundational to who Jesus is and what he is about, even in those moments in which he feels absent or far away or simply non-responsive to what we’ve been asking for.
Because the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, my friends, indeed we can endure all things through Christ who gives us the strength we need.
Although I typically use a keyboard on my computer or voice writing on my i-phone, I use pens daily. While a pen is much slower than a keyboard, there is something about a pen I prefer. Things slow down and there is more time to think before moving a word from the mind to paper. Perhaps this is why I miss slower attached ski lifts where there was more time for conversation and taking in the scenery with friends. Clearly faster is not always better.
This week we continue in the 40-day season of Lent. The season in which we ponder and pray about the cross and resurrection of Jesus. It certainly is an opportunity to come clean with ourselves and others with regard to things we have done we wish we had not and things we did not do we wish we had. And of course, these 40 days are an invitation to intentionally spend more time with our loving, gracious, and forgiving Creator.
A day or so ago I was putting some ideas down on paper for some upcoming sermons and for a variety of programs we are doing at the Chapel. I was sitting in a comfortable chair with a footstool. Before I fell asleep for a 15-minute nap, I slouched lower and lower in the chair, meaning the paper pad I was writing upon moved from a downward position to an upward position against my knees.
Just before dozing off, I noticed the ink was becoming lighter and lighter as I wrote, not because it was running out of ink, but because the tip of the pen slowly became pointed upward as the paper pad moved in the same direction. Wanting to get some more thoughts down quickly, I stopped writing, adjusted my position, and began to write a bit more.
Stop and adjust. As I think about it, stop and adjust are two great concepts and ideas to act upon during this season of Lent. Perhaps there are ways of being, ongoing conversations, manners of thinking, or methods of approaching situations and people in which we need to simply stop, adjust, and start over again.
Sometimes we have to simply stop to get perspective, to create an opportunity for things to start flowing again in the right direction, and to give ourselves a moment to collect ourselves and make needed adjustments. It can be hard to adjust without stopping sometimes and stopping without making any adjustments can keep us stuck in non-beneficial ways.
Over the days ahead, I invite you to join me in thinking about those situations or relationships in life in which, like a pen pointed toward the sky, things are just not flowing like they should. Think about hitting the pause button and while stopped, think about needed adjustments on your part.
And the idea of stop and adjust is what repentance is all about. It is about stopping and turning ourselves back toward God instead of away from God. The Good News is that God never needs to stop and adjust when it comes to you and to me. God is always in the right position in that regard, which is one of welcome and love.
Overwhelmed. I’ve been hearing this word a lot recently.
I hear it on the news. I hear it in music. I hear it in the lift lines. I hear it in the middle school. I hear it in parents. I hear it in the bus. And if I’m honest, I hear it in my own head.
Yes, I think if we are honest with ourselves we all have times (days, weeks, months or even years) where we feel a little overwhelmed. This feeling is so squarely within the range of normal emotions that I think it almost goes without saying that everyone feels it. The question then becomes what can I do about it.
But before we get to that question I figured I needed to have a solid definition of what it really means to be overwhelmed. So I looked up a couple definitions and found one that I think will resonate with you all. It said, “to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as an avalanche.” Now, I know that this is speaking to the more physical sense of the word overwhelmed. However, doesn’t it sometimes feel like life comes in avalanches?
A couple weeks ago I was on top of Buttermilk with a troop of six graders digging in the snow for an avalanche beacon. They were preparing for their 6th grade Outdoor Education Trip (which is a hut trip) and part of their preparation was a lesson in snow science and a chance to simulate searching for an avalanche victim using an avalanche beacon. An avalanche beacon is a device that can both receive and transmit a certain radio frequency. If someone is caught in an avalanche the beacons can be used to search for the victim under the snow. My group (can you tell I’m proud?) was super quick to find the beacon buried in the snow— something that I’m sure the victim would appreciate if there was actually a victim.
This experience made me think about what it would be like to be skiing with a group of friends and then all of a sudden be separated from them by a wall of white snow. I wonder if it’s anything like my spiritual life when I’m cruising along and out of nowhere an avalanche of life hits me and all of a sudden I feel separated from Jesus. Why is it that prayer is the activity that gets pushed to the side when we get busy and overwhelmed? Isn’t prayer the beacon that allows us to talk to Jesus even when life is so overwhelming we feel like we are far from Him? Even Jesus knew that He needed to pray when life became the craziest. In the Gospels, it is common to see Jesus withdraw to a lonely place to pray (Luke 5:16). I figure if Jesus needed to maintain that connection to His Father, then I definitely do!
So next time you find yourself covered up by the aftermath of a life avalanche think about the true priority of prayer. I know it’s easy to focus on all the things that need to be done and the wrongs that need to be righted (because I do that sometimes!) but I think you and I both will be pleasantly surprised at how differently life goes when we pray first.
P.S. If this resonates with you and you would like more thoughts on the topic consider coming to our event entitled “Fear, Anxiety, Shame, and Wellness” this Wednesday evening. Click here for more details.
Lent, which began this last Ash Wednesday, is a 40-day period from Ash Wednesday through the Saturday before Easter. Lent excludes Sundays because the focus of every Sunday is the resurrection of Jesus and the hope it brings.
The word Lent comes from a word meaning the lengthening of days. 40 is an important number because of its huge biblical significance. 40 was the number of years the people wandered around the desert after leaving Egypt.
40 days was the length of the rain during the great flood. 40 was the number of days Jonah told the people of Nineveh they had left before God would destroy everything. And of course, 40 is the number of days Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil.
The season of Lent offers each of us the opportunity to pay attention to some of the central themes of Lent, which include the following.
Mortality. We are all temporal flesh and blood. Our mortality invites us not only to approach life and others with humility, but with an utter dependence upon God who gave us life to begin with. Such dependence reminds us we are never alone and we are filled with God’s presence regardless of our awareness or strength of our faith.
Justice. Justice is a fundamental biblical theme and the need for justice continues from generation to generation. Our world is broken. Relationships are broken. Suffering abounds and as followers of Jesus we are to seek restoration of what is right and reconciliation wherever we find ourselves.
Repentance. Lent is a season of repentance and repentance simply means to turn around or turn back to putting God at the center of our lives. Repentance is freeing precisely because we can let go of trying to control everything and turn our lives and challenges over to God.
Salvation. Indeed, we each need a Savior, a Savior who will save us from ourselves and our perishable nature. Christ is the doorway to life beyond this one.
Forgiveness. The season of Lent culminates with Jesus dying on the cross. One of the most liberating truths is that through Christ we are forgiven and therefore we can not only release our own guilt, but are free to forgive others and the healing it brings to all.
My prayer for all of us in the weeks ahead is that we will intentionally take time to sit with God and turn all that is within over to God. And my greatest hope is that God’s love will fill each of us so that we will approach each day with hope, joy, service, and the knowledge that indeed, when it is all said and done, all will be well.