Category Archives: Ministry Reflections

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” -M. Luther, The Small Catechism

It is in our nature to try and make sense out of the interactions we have with people. We gauge all sorts of ques, trying to interpret things like words and body language.  We then attach significance to these interactions, sometimes doing this well or maybe not so well.  In particular, I have been thinking a lot about giving others the benefit of the doubt. I have been thinking about this a lot because I  have been quit sensitive to people jumping to conclusions.

I have been dealing with this sensitivity by asking people questions when I feel like they might be not giving the other the benefit of the doubt. I will ask them, “How do you know this?  Have you talked about this with that person? Did you ask why they did (or said) what they did?”

This line of questioning will often go in one of two directions. The first, in my opinion, is hubris. The person assumes that they can trust their interpretation without allowing me to question it.  This person usually doesn’t like the questions asked. They dismiss me fairly quickly and continue with their own line of thought. I think they have too much self confidence, and I might be convinced that I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. The second response is openness.  The person will ask more questions, maybe starts to see that they might have assumed too much.  Maybe they will back down from their unwarranted judgements.  Sometimes, they will provide more information as to why they feel what they are saying is a good interpretation of what happened.

So I wonder, how do you respond when you notice someone not giving another the benefit of the doubt?


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Our Table is a Place of Peace

Boys will naturally turn anything into a weapon. Enrique and I knew that this occur naturally and thought that we were not really going to be buying guns or weapons for them.  This of course turned out to not be the case.  They now have arsenals that would make most militias proud.

Well, our two boys have great imaginations and like to play  fight/fight…most of the day.  They will take their Nerf swords and Nerf guns and chase each other through the house.  They will put themselves in wrestling moves that defy physics. They are just active little guys.

I have only one rule about their fighting and horseplay. No weapons on or around the table. I believe our table is a place of peace and hospitality. All are welcome there. When we sit a the table it shall be a place of peace and safety.  No one is to strike another.  Sometimes one will try to keep a gun on their lap and I make them put it on the couch.  I say, “No weapons at the table. Our table is a place of peace.”

I hope that our ideas of an open table extends to other parts of their life. I hope that they grow up with a deeper understanding of our table being a place of peace.

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“this i believe” an Advent Experiment

This advent our congregation will be gathering for soup suppers, holden evening prayer, and a reflection.  We will be modeling the reflection on the radio program “This I Believe.”

One of the things I really like about this experiment is that we are not giving much guidance besides the suggested guidelines for how to write the essay. Mainly this is just helpful hints since the essay can only be 350-500 words.
The essay can be about whatever the author wants to talk about, we have not limited it to faith statements or beliefs about God. In fact, I hope people talk about politics, food, forgiveness, purpose, community, science, or whatever deeply held belief that they hold.

My hope is that our community learns something new about the presenters. In a community where people have known each other for a long time, I hope that they are surprised by what they learn about their friends.  I hope that they are challenged and inspired and find themselves praising God for the diverse community in which they reside. But, most of all, I hope that hope is birthed in them.


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Sticky Faith: Your Default Setting

I read some harsh words today in Sticky FaithThey were both Law and Gospel to me.  It’s something that I know I should do, but have a really hard time with it, especially toward my children.  So, here is the quote:

When our kids go through rough spots, whether it is because of circumstances beyond their control or the choices they make, their greatest need from us is gentle stability and compassion. Regardless of the offense, whether getting a D or getting arrested, underneath the rhetoric and even outright outbursts, your child is not doing this to get at you.  Even the most egregious of situations, remember that they are, at the core, suffering, and they need you to care. As Jesus cares for all of us in all we go through, so we too are dispensers of his grace. -Kara Powell & Chap Clark

Its hard for me to default with compassion because in the moment the anger and frustration that are coursing through my body are very real. It’s hard to default with compassion when I just react instead of trying to understand.

My oldest son will sometimes become so tired at night that he starts to act especially aggressive toward anything moving.  He will yell, scream, and be mean to anyone in his path, especially when his extra ordinary requests are not going to be met.

I have also met his attitude not with compassion, but with frustration and equally, if not more, aggressive tones of voice. Recently, I have been trying to meet his aggressiveness with compassion. I don’t always remember.  Instead of letting him be distant and distraught, I have sought to bring him closer, holding him tightly, letting him know that I love him and that he is tired. I’ve tried to meet his aggressiveness with compassion and found that is actually what he needed. He needed to know that while he was out of control, I had him and would love him, no matter what  I wish I remembered to do that all the time.  If my children will embody the faith I practice, I want one of the fruits to be compassion.

So, what’s your default setting?

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Sticky Faith: Chapter 1


I started reading Sticky Faith today by Kara Powell and Chap Clark.

The first chapter lays out what the contents of the book are and some initial research into why “sticky faith” is important. For instance, 40-50 percent of kids will shelve their faith in college.

What popped out to me in the first chapter is that parents are the number one influence on children in matters of faith. Not youth workers, pastors, or other adults, it’s parents that will influence their child’s faith the most.

So, what do you do with your children to show forth the faith?  What would you like to do but haven’t?

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Starbuck’s Chaplain: “He’s a pastor.”

After finishing at Fuller Seminary in 2008 I had to complete a final, unpaid, internship.  Luckily, I was able to find an internship in San Diego and we were able to move in with my in-laws.  Since, the chaplaincy was unpaid I needed to find work. I know a guy, who is probably one the better humans beings I’ve met in my life, and he willingly gave me a job, again.  We had worked together previously before I started at Seminary.

So, I started working Starbucks and as a hospice chaplain intern. And interestingly enough I started doing chaplaincy work at Starbucks too. I didn’t mean to.

There was a guy who always came in at night at sat at the comfy chairs tucked away in a corner near our front doors.  He knew what I did with my time outside of work and I knew what he did for a living. We talked God too. They were nice conversations.

I remember one night I was cleaning up the store and he walked in with a friend. He came straight to me and said, “When you get a break I’d like to talk to you.” He was serious.  It wasn’t busy so I took off my apron and sat with him and his friend.

He introduced me to his friend, “This is Josh. He’s a pastor.” Then he said to me, “This is my friend John. His wife died last night from cancer.” He stopped talking and looked at me as if I should start talking. And I did. I don’t really remember what was said, the Spirit does give us the words when we don’t know what to say.

I didn’t know that I would be doing pastoral care on my break at Starbucks but is seems that the Holy Spirit uses even Barista’s to accomplish her work.

Have you been open to the Spirit’s working during the unexpected times? Does God show up where you least expect it?

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I’m a Born-Again Christian

I must have one of those approachable faces, because often when I’m walking the street I’ll run into a street evangelists who wants to talk to me. He’ll approach me and ask, “Have you been born again?” Now I’ve been asked this question enough that I have begun to phrase my answer in this way, “Yes, it was December 14, 1980, a little over one month after my birth. The day my parents had me baptized.” This will often throw them off guard because it doesn’t fit their paradigm of what it means to be born-again, typically meaning saying the sinner’s prayer and being baptized as an adult.

As Lutherans, we shouldn’t shy away from saying that we have been born-again.  We were born again when we were drowned in the waters of baptism and raised into a new life with Christ. Every day, every hour, every minute, we are to remember our baptism, and claim our new life in Christ. Every time we claim our baptism we are born again.  Luther wrote in the Large Catechism, “Therefore let all Christians regard their baptism as the daily garment that they are to wear all the time. Every day they should be found in faith and with its fruits, suppressing the old creature and growing up in the new.” So, if asked if you have been born again, tell them the day you were you died in the waters of baptism and were born anew into Christ.

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