by Steve Borgard
August 4, 2017
Setting Aside Problem Solving Mode
I enjoy solving problems. It feels good to fix something that is broken or to creatively think through an issue and find a way to resolve it.
I can even spend my “down time” playing games on my computer that require me to “find a solution.”
As much as “problem solving mode” is needed, I carry it over into areas of my life where it just isn't helpful. It seems this is true for many and I've met people who approach life itself as one giant puzzle to be solved, rather than a mystery to be experienced.
Recently, a family member called and asked for guidance. She was sitting by her Father’s side as he was entering his final days of life. The doctors had told her, “he was actively dying.”
My first comment to her was, “there is no problem to be solved, but a journey to be witnessed.” In such circumstances, bearing witness and being fully present is the means of expressing love and embodying the sacred. It requires a different type of presence and focus than our ‘problem solving mode’ allows.
I have found it very difficult for myself and others to move into this alternative space. We are programmed by our society that values ‘production,’ to be actively solving and fixing problems.
Even in life's most sacred moments, I have observed people in “problem solving mode” rather than absorbing and bearing witness to the moment. I’m thinking of a mother of the bride who was worried about the reception details and couldn’t focus on the wedding ceremony. I have observed a person who watched a loved one pass, and almost immediately after the last breath, began making phone calls and arrangements. I’m thinking of the new parent, who is instantly posting on social media, rather than spending time with his newborn child.
I’m thinking about myself, and the many times I have missed the moment.
As a pastor, I can participate in a worship service, while in the back of mind I’m making a list of all the things that could be improved. I wind up missing the sacred, because I didn’t set aside “problem solving mode,” even while in worship.
Sunday morning worship service can be a place and space where we enter into a different mode of being. It can be a time where we turn off the fixing, correcting, judging side of our problem solving mode and give witness and gratitude for our mysterious and sacred lives.
If we can do it for an hour on Sundays, maybe it will begin to trickle into the other sacred hours of our lives.
July 14, 2017
Proud To Be A Disciple!
For the past week, I have been at the Disciples of Christ General Assembly. I'm still processing all that transpired, but today I will board a plane to fly from Indy to Oakland, feeling encouraged and energized that I am part of this wonderful denomination that has labeled itself, "A movement for wholeness in a fragmented world."
To be frank, over my years of ministry, I have made the local church congregation my primary focus of energy. I have worked on some projects and served on committees at the Regional level, but I haven't given a great deal of energy or focus to what was happening in our denomination nationally or globally. While I still believe in the priority of local congregations and being part of a grass roots movement, this General Assembly experience has led me to believe that I have erred in not paying closer attention to the happenings in our denomination.
There is much to celebrate. We elected a new General Minister and President - Terri Hord Owens. She is a woman of vision and possesses a set of experiences and skills that are needed for the future of our church. She is also the first African-American woman to lead a main-line denomination. Symbolically she represents our efforts as a denomination to overcome sexism and racism as we strive to be a 'movement for wholeness.' I encourage you to learn more about Terri Hord Owens on our denominations website: disciples.org.
A resounding message to me this General Assembly was, "We are not in this alone." Collectively we have many resources as a denomination. Some of our pastors and churches are making national headlines as they reach out into their communities. Dr. William Barber, a Disciples pastor from North Carolina was on the front page of the New York Times a few weeks ago. Other pastors and congregations are trying innovative ministries and 'doing church' in new ways so we can be a church of the future. They are willing to share their failures and successes so we can learn from one another. I met a large number of energetic 'new' clergy (of various ages) who are excited to serve our churches and communities with vitality, creativity, and integrity. Many of the 'newer' clergy were not raised in the Disciples, but were attracted to our denomination for its values and strengths.
We are a small part of this quirky and beautiful denomination called the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As we work and strive to share God's love in our own community and context, let us all remember this web of support, celebration, and responsibility that we share with all Disciples of Christ churches around the globe.
See you Sunday,
See HERE for an article about our General Assembly in the Indy Star.
June 30, 2017
Who Is the Audience?
Walking down the middle of Market Street in San Francisco, surrounded by thousands of people celebrating PRIDE, was an amazing experience. In many places along the parade route, the cheers swelled as the ‘audience’ realized our group, “United in Spirit”, was comprised of church members and clergy. I was slightly taken aback by the applause and cheers, but also quite encouraged.
I can only guess that many of those who cheered for us also belonged to faith communities, and they were thrilled to see church members and clergy communicating a message about God’s love for all people, and churches with open doors to the LGBTQ community. I can only imagine that many of those who
cheered for us have had negative encounters with religious leaders and faith communities in the past. Here was their chance to cheer churches that were making an effort to bring a message of God’s accepting and healing love.
As we marched along the parade route, the lines between who was the ‘audience’ and who part of the ‘performance’ began to blur. Our church banner and presence was supposed to send a message of encouragement, and the cheers we received were a message in return. I was watching and witnessing the multitude of diverse faces in the ‘audience’, as much as they were watching me. Who was the audience? Who was the message? The lines were blurred and we all seemed to be part of a living, moving, participating, and observing moment in time.
I believe this dynamic of ‘blurred lines’ between audience and performance happens in church worship. Perhaps some people go to church to see a good ‘show.’ Many mega churches certainly seem to be performance oriented. But for me, when I read the New Testament, I see that worship was truly a collective community dynamic. At Lafayette Christian Church, while we have some people who play an ‘up front’ role in worship, we should never think in terms of performance or audience. The lines are blurred and worship is a collective experience where we are all sharing a message with each other. We are all a part of a living, moving, participating, and observing moment in time. Even God should not be thought of as being outside the process and merely observing. (This is an illustration I have often heard from Christians-- that we are all the performers in worship and God is the audience.) We are all co-creators and co-observers in worship. The same can be said of God.
I believe this idea lies at the heart of many of Jesus' teachings. God is not some distant observer who occasionally intervenes, but rather, a loving presence that is intimately involved in all moments of life. Humans should not be divided into those who ‘perform’ for God, and those who ‘observe’ the ritual. Rather, where two or more people treat one another in the manner of Jesus, that is where God is.
Let us continue to co-create and co-observe with God and one another.
June 23, 2017
Dispatch From Mexico
I'm writing (tapping on my cell phone) this article from the dusty floor of my tent. My body is feeling the effects of several days of: construction work, sleeping in a tent on a sleep pad, and being in the hot sun. But I am also feeling the spiritual effects of working with a great group of people, the joy of seeing a family receive a roof over their heads, meeting warm hearted locals, and reflecting on all the amazing people who made this trip possible. The Spirit of Christ's love is certainly present.
I am proud of the work of the entire team. And I am especially impressed by the amazing teens and young adults on this trip.
Hopefully, in a few hours we will be crossing the boarder and making our journey home. We will arrive home Saturday eve.
Pray for our travels and thanks for all your support. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!!
Go with God,
June 16, 2017
The Pace of Change
At times the world seems to be moving at a rapid pace. The computer that I swore I just bought, suddenly is out of date. My friend’s little child just graduated from high school. “How can this be?” I wonder. It is very hard for me to believe that when I started my ministry at Lafayette Christian Church, President Obama was still in office. It already seems like a long time ago… in a galaxy far far… (okay, I’ll stop there with the Star Wars reference).
In other ways, I feel like I’m just beginning my journey at Lafayette Christian Church. I’m still experiencing the church’s annual cycle for the very first time. I’ve packed my bags and I’m getting ready to head out on my first Mexico Mission Trip with LCC. While I feel I have gotten to know many people in the church, I still feel that there are many people in the church that I still don’t really know.
Yes, I still feel like a newbie in many ways.
We can all experience the pace of change in a wide variety of ways. Unwanted change can often feel like it is upon us too quickly. Change for which we long for (think civil rights and equality for all), seems to move at a snail’s pace.
Someone once jokingly offered up an analogy relating to church and the pace of change. He quipped that many church people are like a snail riding on the back of a tortoise going, “Wheee!” What is slow for one person, is fast for another.
It is interesting to read the stories about journeys in the scriptures. How long was the ministerial journey of Jesus? It depends upon which gospel you read. The gospel of John records Jesus' journey with his disciples as being approximately three years. (They share three Passover meals together.) The other gospels record the journey in roughly a year’s time, particularly Mark, who moves the action from Galilee to Jerusalem at the pace of an action movie. And how about the forty years of wandering in the desert by Moses and the Hebrew people. Their approximately 250 mile journey took 40 years! (Remember that when you are traveling this summer.) I mention these stories to remind us, that time is relative. Some journeys feel too slow, other too quick.
What feels too fast? What feels too slow? What is the pace of the events of your life? How does the pace at church feel? Did you expect more changes from the ‘new’ pastor? What changed too quickly?
These are questions that can help us self reflect. To know how our soul’s tempo is aligning to the life events around us is an important insight. I believe by being aware of this dynamic as individuals, we have a better possibility of coordinating our tempo with the tempo of others in our church, family, and community.