19 October, 1999

Making Change

Lately, it may seem that “normal” is only a setting on your washing machine. There’s been change in the air, and some are still asking, “What’s happened?” “How come?” or, “What’s next?”

Change is a part of life. Something that is no longer changing is either dead or never had life. The seed changes into a germinated sprout, a seedling, a sapling, and then a fruit bearing tree. If it stops changing, it will die. Everyday our bodies change as cells die and are replaced by new ones. Not even the sky stays the same – if it did we would have no seasons. Change is the only constant in life. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change hurts. And when change hurts, we have to make an intentional decision to grow amidst the change.

Change has already happened, and will continue to happen at Bethany Church. So it’s the job of an “Interim Pastor” to help everyone deal with the changes positively and to help each person and the whole congregation make it work toward growth. I want to make these changes like money in your pockets – a useful tool to help this congregation grow. This is my long-term goal for my time amongst you.

But first we must deal with the hurt – because pain is not “small change”. Ignoring it can be very expensive. We need to voice the pain, and we need to listen to one another. We need to talk honestly and openly together. Communication is the key to making change work for us and not against us.

I plan to actively listen to each of you as I visit you in your homes and as I gather with you in meetings and classes. I will ask each of you to share your reflections of what’s gone on and what Bethany’s future holds. I will encourage each of you to not bury the dirt, but to air it and let it be fertile soil for new seeds to grow.

One of my favorite hymns is In the Bulb there is a Flower. It was written in 1986 by Natalie Sleeth as her husband was dying. The second stanza says:
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody.
There’s a dawn for every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future, what it holds a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
© 1986 by the Hope Publishing Company
Natalie Sleeth held fast to the faith that even amidst the pain of the change in her life, God was present and along side of her in her pain as well as in her joy. She held fast to the hope that change could bring the hope and dawn of a future that would unfold before her.

Let’s choose to make change together.

14 June, 1999


I don’t always like the human nature. It would seem that sometimes we human folk are so tied up in looking inside ourselves that we assume that everyone else is looking inside us too. That everyone else is as critical of me as I am of myself. In my more rational moments I realize that this simply can’t be true. If I’m so busy looking at my own faults, surely others are too busy looking at their own faults to see mine.

In less rational moments, especially when I’m feeling insecure and as though my world is caving in, I read criticism into every word spoken or written to me. A passing comment about a child, the work place, or even someone else’s home is taken as a stabbing and painful criticism me, my child, my workplace, my home. I mull over the words looking for hidden meanings. I interpolate and extrapolate every phrase.

Of course what I’m really doing is examining my own doubts, insecurities and imperfections. The ones I know best. The ones others probably don’t see but I assume they do. I assume they not only see them, but that they spend as much time and energy worrying about them, talking about them, mulling over them as I do.

It’s a paranoia, really. Paranoia that feeds on my self hatred. Paranoia that is fueled by my need to be self-critical. Paranoia that is self sustaining and spiral in effect. The more I doubt myself, the more critical I am. The more critical, the more I read into others comments and the less secure I feel. It plunges when I strike out at others and further isolate myself from them with my scathing words in defense of my weak self-esteem. The more isolated I am, the more self-critical I become. It is a set up for loneliness. A game plan for depression.

How to end the spiral effect I don’t know. I do know that the only way out of the basement is to climb the stairs or crawl out a window. Reversing the downward climb means reversing the trend. Looking for the positive in everything. Being more like Norman Vincent Peale and less like the fear mongers. More like Emma Bombeck and less like Willa Cather. Not that I’d want to emulate either Bombeck or Peale. I can’t be someone I’m not. But the first step is to turn away from the negativist tendency. The second step is to find things in myself that are likeable and good.