Uncategorized

In Memoriam XV

Dear Garrett,

These fifteen years of conversation have been filled with reflections about my pastoral life. A life that your leaving confirmed, strengthened, and changed. In some ways it was a loss of innocence and idealism, in other ways it was a growing up moment that prepared me for many other heartbreaks, disappointments, and surprises. What is still a bit surprising is that I am still at it. Still gathering, still proclaiming, still leading ritual, still listening to the rhythms of the soul, and still working towards justice.

I have often said that I will walk away from pastoral life only if I feel released to do so. The Spirit called upon me for this work has been hard-headed and I find myself constantly called back to it. Obviously I have not been released yet, though I have had to face the reality that it had to change. The ways In which I lived into this calling had to become more grounded in who I was and the ways that the gospel is life in me. The praxis of pastoring had to express my own circuitous journey of life and faith, my sojourning identity and my rooting hunger. It created a crisis that in some ways was similar to the one I faced at your leaving. Who am I? What am I doing? Why should I continue doing it?

It does not escape me that life is messy, I know messy well. There are some twists and turns of life that we do not expect, it is scary to face those and at times it seems like we will not make it through. These events change us, these moments transform us, and our old selves are hard to even recognize. Your leaving was one of those but it has not been the only one. Flourishing seems so distant at those moments and yet in the midst of transformation there is life. In fact transformation means that we are alive! Change is living, as Octavia Butler reminds us “All that you touch change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.”

I recently presided at a funeral and thought of you. Thought that you might have welcomed these beloved ones to the reality that is eternal life. Though it was a very sad situation that momentary thought brought a smile to my face. I could feel you next to me reminding me that I still had good news to share, love to proclaim, and curing of souls to tend. There is so much pain in the world, so much animosity, and so much brokenness . . . good news is needed, healing needed, understanding needed, new life needed! Thank you again for your persistence in companioning me and reminded me of this calling. I love you G, I’ll see you at the Great Feast!

Peace & Love, Juan Carlos+

Uncategorized

In Memoriam XIV

Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

Dear Garrett,

As you know we’ve embarked in a new adventure. The way here has been filled with Spirit moments, seeded in an angst that is hard to describe but blooming in the fertile ground of the layers of soil, the organic material of the last few decades. Each layer with its fruitfulness and fitfulness, each layer with its signs of life and its signs of death, each layer important for blooming to take place.

I thought about you often during the discernment. As you know more than once I appealed to the saints, asking for wisdom, clarity, and intercession. More than once I could see you with Abuelo, my Abuela Yia, and Abuela Lico who joined the great company in February. Though there have been the difficult moments I could feel you all’s presence, wisdom, and love. You all faithfully supporting and helping me awaken to joy.

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

On Forty-Two

On Forty-Two

“Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world.”

St. Oscar Romero

“I believe in a church that is a sign of the presence of God’s love in the world, where men and women extend their hands and encounter one another as sisters and brothers.”

St. Oscar Romero

Since I can remember I’ve strived to be a peacemaker. For me this meant a certain discomfort with conflict, a desire for people to come together, I thought with right words I could “convince” people to find middle ground. It should not surprise you that I was an early talker, who was argumentative, people person, and connector.

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

In Memoriam XIII

World War One Destruction, Altar in the church of Segusino
@austriannationallibrary

Dear Garrett,

I can understand why it might seem like the end of time is near. So much is happening around us, every day brings a new surprise, and it seems like the entire world is walking on eggshells. The entire world filled with angst about the worst possible outcome coming true, a nightmare becoming reality.

I get it.

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

I Have Some Things To Tell You: A Review


 

Reading I Have Some Things To Tell You reminded me why letters make up such a large portion of the New Testament. Pastoral letters are ways to expound on the preaching life, ways to explain, struggle with, and communicate to God’s people. Letters help all us slow down and take it in, reflect on it, and use it into the future. In the same way I Have Some Things To Tell You invites us into a conversation and like other pastoral letters it is both contextual and universal. The realities that Smith describes in her context are the realities to many (if not most) other congregation-pastor relationships. Her courage in expressing those struggles encourages other communities and other pastors.

At the cornerstone of Smith’s intimate correspondence is God’s grace. This grace is at work in the messiness of life, in the difficult intersection between personal relationship and our relationship to God, in the complicated nature of pastoral relationships, and in the acknowledgement that pastors, like all other followers of Jesus, are people in desperate need of divine grace.

Continue reading →

Uncategorized

A Running Reflection: Pandemic Pastoring Edition

In this season of social distancing I’ve been teaching a bible study on the Gospel according to Mark. The Zoom experience has provided much needed community and an opportunity to learn more and feel connected as a congregation.

Any time I go back and dig into the gospels I am reminded why I call myself a follower of Jesus. It also reminds how deeply my sense of meaning has been shaped by the Christian story — not the Christendom story and not even the Christianity story — the transcendent exists, its primary character is wholeness (shalom) expressed in loving-kindness, it became incarnate to show us what the divine looked like and that it was obvious that God’s image lives in all humanity, shalom though loving-kindness was once again rejected by our bent to want to be god, the divine showing solidarity with all those who die everyday due to humanity’s bent, as it turns out death could not, is not, and will not have the last say, resurrection becoming an act of revolution against the forces of sin and death.

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

A Facebook Sabbatical

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

(And maybe more since I have not used Twitter in almost 2 years and will not be very active on Instagram.)

I still remember an article on UM Communications about the emergence of social media. It was 2007 and I was an associate pastor at a mid-size congregation in the middle of Louisiana.

Though I am a social person I had resisted the pull of MySpace and Facebook but after reading the article I thought it was worth a try.

It has been an interesting, frustrating, and rewarding journey to this point. But now it is time for sabbath and I am purposely taking it on an election and General Conference year.

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

Prolegomena

Calle Cementerio, San Juan, Puerto Rico by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash

I want to begin with some first things. These are very personal and because of that they provide a way to interpret my writing, past, present, and future. These are markers to my identity, many of whom I’ve had a difficult time claiming. They are also my experience, for it is the only thing that I am an expert on.

In North American parlance I am a multi-racial human. I say this very specifically ‘cause the idea never crossed my mind until that first encounter in a U.S. High School. It quickly became apparent that there were sides based on skin color and identity. It would take me years to realize that it was more than that!

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

Guide our Feet into the Way of Peace

I fell in love with the Benedictus—the Canticle of Zechariah—when I began praying Morning Prayer my senior year in College. Every morning and now all these years later I can say it from my soul. There was something powerful about beginning my day by reminding myself why a savior came, why the promise was fulfilled, and why that promise is still real and being fulfilled today.

Over the years different verses in the amazing prayer have guided me and helped me through difficult times. “That he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us,” “you will go before the Lord to prepare the way,” and “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,” And today, “guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Continue reading →
Uncategorized

On Forty-One

It would be difficult to describe my 41st year of life. As my 40th birthday approached last year I knew that forty provided a new beginning. Not just because it was another decade but because I felt this move inside of me, this angst, a difficult to explain shifting happening deep within my soul. Sabbath, do not be anxious about anything, children getting older, my beard graying, a post-Maria Puerto Rico, a culture around me that seemed to be turning against people like me, and the continued struggles in United Methodism and in the local churches of this great tradition where some of the words, phrases, and happenings that kept me alert to the stirrings going on within me.

Continue reading →