Keeping a Balance Through It All

It was a wonderful summer!  I sat by the lake in my hammock.  I completed work around our property that I have wanted to do for 10 years, but never had time to engage when we were only there for a few days.  I traveled to North Carolina for a wonderful conference and I got food poisoning on the way to the United Methodist night at the Tigers, (that last one wasn’t one I want to repeat)! It was indeed a renewing summer.  Thanks to all those who prayed for me and encouraged me during these months.

But it wasn’t all renewal.  A few times meetings, I had to attend and congregational issues in the Conference, brought me out of renewal into reality!  And the reality I speak of, we all know well.  It is the reality that life goes on.  We may have a plan, (and I hope you do), to be disconnected to rest and recuperate, but sometimes the needs of our work press in and we need to respond.  I’m guessing that at least a couple of pastors reading this article had vacations interrupted by funerals this summer.  This is a typical scenario, a leader in your congregation died and you knew you had to go back and care for that family.  By the way if you did that, you still have those days off and you need to pin them to your next vacation (have your SPRC call me if there’s any question about that).  But, the fact is, stuff happens and it doesn’t always happen on our schedule.

There is a balance here to be sure.  Some of us as clergy have an over developed sense of self-importance.  So we either never take vacations or we come back for things that others in the church could really handle.  That savior complex some of us have is not helpful and will most likely lead to LESS effectiveness as well as difficulty getting through the door because our head won’t fit!  Oh yes, I know, some churches love those pastors who do everything and never care for themselves, but it isn’t healthy and it ultimately isn’t good for the church either.  So while there are times when we appropriately work on a day off or a part of a vacation so that we can care for the needs of the people God has called us to serve, there is a balance that we must keep.

It is good to be in the office today.  I’m OK with the fact that the earliest hour appointment Liz could give to the person that called today is in October. I appreciate the work I have to do.  It’s a gift.  I have appreciated the pastors I met with today and the work they are doing on behalf of the kingdom of God.  Work is a gift.  Rest is a gift.  There is a balance in it all.

It’s been a wonderful summer!  It’s going to be a wonderful fall!  Thanks be to God.

Peace,
Bill

Rev. Dr. Glenn Wagner-New Book Signing on July 14 and 17

Press Release

The United Methodist Church of the Dunes is pleased to announce the arrival of the new book, God Incidents – Real-Life Stories to Strengthen and Restore Your Faith, by Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Glenn Wagner.  This book, which was the number one best seller at the recent state wide conference of United Methodists, invites persons who are struggling with belief to reconsider God.

With honesty, empathy, and inspiration from four decades of global pastoral experience, Pastor Glenn shares many different ways that God is made known so that persons who doubt God and those who seek to help them may find new perspectives for living.

“In nearly four decades of pastoral ministry, I have had the privilege of meeting many people who reject God.  They disbelieve with strong reasons.  Their authentic doubts have helped me grow. They have caused me to stretch my understanding of faith.  They have humbled me. They have taught me to listen – to them and to God.  Their attitudes about God are increasingly commonplace.  I wrote this book as a personal and pastoral response to their very real and legitimate questions about God.”  ~ Glenn Wagner

Pastor Glenn shares life shaping events that have helped him to deepen his understanding of God including the inspirational story of his special-needs sister, Jane. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book supports Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois, a world-class community for special-needs adults that has been Jane’s home for over thirty years.

Chapters cover different facets of God by examining topics such as defining God-incidents, miracles, creation, prayer, dreams, places to discover God, ways to discover God, what to do when God seems absent, dealing with disappointment and doubt, discovering God in community, and more. Discussion questions for each chapter are offered at the end of the book, and will also be used in the 5-week book discussion class led by Pastor Glenn on Wednesday evenings, beginning July 27.

Pastor Glenn Wagner (188x239) (2)
Rev. Dr. Glenn Wagner

Meet the Author, Rev. Dr. Glenn Wagner at his book signings on Thursday, July 14 at 7:00 p.m. at The Bookman, 715 W. Washington Street, Grand Haven or Sunday, July 17 at 9:30 a.m. at Church of the Dunes, 717 Sheldon, Grand Haven.  Sunday morning’s event will take place in the Wiltse Center from 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.  Pastor Glenn will be on hand at both events to meet you and sign your book.

For more information about God Incidents, including excerpts, visit www.glennmwagner.com. Copies will also be available for purchase at The Bookman.

God-Incidents is endorsed by Bishop Kiesey with a forward by Bishop Sharon Rader. A simple way to learn more about the book, link to a preview of the book, or to booksellers to direct order, is through the website www.glennmwagner.com

Churches interested in having Glenn come for a book signing or in arranging for volume discounts for book study groups are welcome to contact him at 616.510.1770.

Purchase a paperback copy HERE

Purchase a Kindle copy HERE

Be a Guest Blogger: Your Story Can Appear Here this Summer!

This summer you can be a featured guest blogger on DS Castings! Please read Bill Haggard’s message below to find out how.

I will be on renewal leave through Labor Day.  This means, among other things, that I will not be writing this column each week!  I know that many of you are asking, “How will I make it through these long summer months without this weekly word from my DS!!”  Well here’s what I was thinking…

What if castings became, for the summer, a place to tell stories?  What if it became a place where the good news of life transformation in our churches was shared?  So often there are things happening in our ministries that don’t get told.  There are lives being changed, people discovering hope, receiving fresh meaning and joy in all kinds of ways because of what we do and how we embody God’s love, but the story never gets told.  The Good News is received but the “light” gets hidden under a bushel.

So this summer what I want to invite you to do is share those stories!  Write them up and email them in to Liz and we’ll share and celebrate the work of God in our midst.

Too often we focus on the negative side of our church.  We highlight the differences we have.  We center on the scarcity we struggle with and the problems we are encountering.  Let’s take time this summer to talk to one another about the ways we, the United Methodist Churches of the Grand Rapids District are seeing God touching and changing lives!

~ Bill Haggard

Please submit your essay to Liz in the GR District Office by email at grdistrict@wmcumc.org deadline is any Monday!

Watching General Conference #umcgc

I have watched more of General Conference this year than ever before.  The live streaming has been of high quality and I have had some time to invest in watching.  And there have been wonderful things to see.  Awesome worship.  Inspiring presentations about lives changed and situations effected because of our ministry around the world.  Those things have warmed my heart and I celebrate the wonderful work we have been about and are planning to be about into the future.

But of course into the midst of that great and significant work are our struggles, and the deep challenges that are before our church.  And while I don’t know what will happen from the decisions yet to be made in Portland, as delegates board planes for home on Friday, I pray that they will have chosen, even in the midst of deep disagreement, a path of respect and love.  I know to many that may sound like a naïve hope, but it remains for me a sincere one.  Because I honestly believe that God cares more about how we live our lives especially how we treat one another than God cares about our “correct and accurate” theological beliefs.  I know some would disagree with that statement, and I don’t believe that it’s ultimately an either/or, but I hold to my statement.

Scripture teaches us beliefs and theological perspectives to be sure, but belief in any theological position is not very meaningful if it is not accompanied by a life lived in Christ.  And if the primary call upon our lives (as Jesus said it was when asked about it), is to love God and neighbor with everything we are, then I don’t care what belief or theological position you are arguing for or against, the way in which you approach the other is of vital significance.

Now love is not synonymous with submission.  That’s not what I am suggesting.  Sometimes love calls us to take a stand, to present our case with conviction and passion.  But when that conviction closes us off to listening and to valuing the “other,” when we are so sure of our righteousness that we are not open to the possibility that we have missed something and could grow and learn, then we have moved outside the leadership of God’s Spirit and become, dare I say, a god unto ourselves.

I am praying today for our General Conference.  There are things I believe they should do.  There are actions I hope they will take.  But in the midst of the conversations in Portland I pray all parties will show genuine love for one another, I pray that they will listen and respect one another even when the disagreement is great.  What a witness to the world that would be. From the General Conference to our local churches what a witness it can be.

Peace,
Bill

Jesus Taught us a Third Way of Thinking

A third way. It’s a concept that I like. Third way thinking says simply that very often there aren’t just two ways to go. There isn’t just a right or wrong, forward or backward, this way or that way option, but rather there is very often a third way we might follow as we deal with a given situation. The interesting thing about third way thinking is that most of the time it requires us to work a lot harder.

Two sided thinking is easy. It is clear. I’m right, you’re wrong. This is the way to go or that is the way to go and those are the only options. Two sided thinking by definition creates opposing, conflicting, perspectives. It is either this or that. Third way thinking requires us to go beyond the easy course of two sided conflict to discover a new alternative. It requires creativity and often humility. It demands that we push beyond what is easy to embrace that which may stretch us and cause us to find a way we never considered before.

Jesus taught third ways all the time. His culture demanded that one was either Jew or Gentile with all kinds of rules around what that meant and how one lived out that reality. Jesus found ways to embrace the humanity in everyone and widened the circle beyond the two sided cultural construct. The culture says there are enemies and friends and everyone is treated appropriately according to those categories. Friends you treat well and enemies you seek to hurt or kill. Jesus invited a third way that called us to love enemies as well as friends and end the circle of violence both real and emotional, that always seems to accompany the way enemies are treated. Jesus third way invites us to see again the humanity even in the enemy and treat them accordingly, giving the best opportunity for a change in the relationship.

Two way thinking says that evil, anger, and violence can only be defeated by a stronger force ─ greater violence ─ that overcomes the violence first perpetrated upon us. My mother invoked this thinking when I told her that my friend had gotten angry and hit me. Her response was, “hit him back.” Jesus’ third way thinking invites us to resist evil and violence differently. He invites us to resist it to be sure, but to resist it without engaging in it, to resist it without falling into its cyclical spiral, to resist it in ways that actually defeat it by pointing out its futility and evil through creative non-violent means.

I suppose that the ultimate third way is seen in the reality of Easter. Until Easter, there was life and death. Jesus invites us to see a third way which is life through death. That reality really changes everything and opens up all the avenues of third way thinking.

May we be those as individuals, as congregations, as a Denomination, who choose not to settle for two sided thinking, but who instead seek to discover third ways, ways that often only come through humility, prayer, and the guidance and the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Peace,
Bill

Being Humble in the context of Race Equality

I read a very interesting post this week on Facebook.  The post was shared by and author who identified herself as “Christina.”  The post addressed a number of issues related to the present political climate in the context of race and privilege.   One statement in particular stood out for me in the article. “To people of color like me” Christina stated, “the movement toward a more level playing field is occurring at a painfully glacial pace. But to many white men, the change is happening so fast and it all seems so painful!  Sociologists Henderson and Herring note that when white men begin to feel the effects of equality (e.g., they realize that they no longer receive preferential treatment or have power over others), it feels like discrimination to them. Being treated like everyone else is not discrimination (in fact, it is the textbook definition of equality). But when you’ve lived atop the racial hierarchy for your entire life and grown accustomed to preferential treatment and disproportionate amounts of power, it’s emotionally painful and destabilizing when they’re taken away.”

I have been thinking about this statement all week.  I see its reality in so many places.  I see it being lived out in so many situations ─ those named in the article to be sure ─ but also well beyond just race and gender.  I see it being lived out where shifts are bringing about change and those who have held power in the past are seeing a growing equality as discrimination.  I see it in the culture as a whole and I see it in the Church as well.  I see it in others and I have felt it in me.  It is a reality to which we need to pay attention.

My hope is that we might allow God’s Spirit to work in all of us when we encounter that rising tide of angst that usually accompanies this experience.  My hope and prayer is that we might invite God’s Spirit to check us when we encounter that rising indignation about how we are being treated and seek to humbly discover if it might be that we are experiencing exactly what Christina is naming from a privilege perspective.

These are not easy things to admit.  As the article points out all our defenses go up when we are confronted with this experience.  But as followers of Christ, it behooves us to constantly be looking for the places where our privilege may be affecting others and where we may be holding on tightly to power.  And when we find those places, to then as Jesus did, pick up the towel and basin and choose the path that leads to life.

Peace,
Bill