Tuesday, April 17, 2018


As if on cue my sleep is stirred to consciousness in the wee small hours of the morning.

There’s several things that wakes a middle aged man in the night!

The aches and pains that normally cause some level of discomfort are present, to be sure, but they are muted by the ache that accompanies a memory.

This night. This hour. This shock.

No less than the moments of profound joy, the moment a wound to the soul occurs leaves an indelible mark.

Over the course of time the wound has healed over, yet the scar remains.

Scars are often roughly textured, never pretty. Some are hard to look at. Some we work so hard to hide. Others evoke curiosity, “How’d that happen?”

Every scar tells a story - the pain it caused, the path to recovery from when it was incurred to now.

I broke my ankle when I was 14.
40 years later, every now and again when the weather changes abruptly, I feel an ache there even though it has long since healed over. It’s just my body’s reminder that something happened.

So ache's echo awakens me this morning to remind me that 14 years ago my family suffered the soul wound of losing Jimmy, one who possessed so much of the family’s energy. It’s a loss that left us staggered. Yet somehow we still stand, scarred but not broken.

Is that Grace?

I feel the loss palpably some years more than others, and this year I feel it.
I don’t know why, maybe a strong soul cold front is blowing through.

It aches enough to awaken me. So I’ll sit with it for awhile.

I’ll remember what I could never forget.
I’ll wonder what could have been.
I’ll give regret for things unsaid no room because I’ve battled those demons and prevailed.

But mostly I’ll be glad for what was, this bolt of lightning I had in a brother. And if you were struck by him, on this day, you understand.

James Eric Jeffords.
To the glory of God.

Monday, April 17, 2017


I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning.  It's not that I wasn't tired from the weekend, or yesterday in particular.  Oh I was.  And I got 5.5 hours of good, deep sleep.  And it's not like I don't have to get up in the night...the older I get...am I right, fellas?

It was 4 a.m. 13 years ago that my phone rang.
Jimmy was gone.

There's something about the echoes of spiritual circadian rhythms from traumatic moments.  It's not a conscious choice to be aware, although one surely could be intentional about them.  No, there's something in us calling us to remember what was or what happened.

So while there's something about him I remember any day, everyday, today I bring my attention to his life and energy.  And I'm glad.

With all the family together yesterday sitting outside on a beautiful Easter afternoon, one of my children who has a penchant for hyperbole drew a reminiscent comment from several of us - "Hello, Jimmy!"

Love you, brother.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Exorcised Fear

So this morning the sun rose, as it does, and with my first deep breaths by the light of a new day I was reminded that the 3rd rock from the sun still orbits her Mother Star (Thank you, Copernicus--science, the more you know).

The outcome of the previous late night is now projecting its impact on our common future.  It's more than realizing that we are a 50/50 divided electorate (of those of us who voted...the other 45%..what's your deal?), or that we've endured as ugly and endless an election cycle as anyone should have to bear, or knowing we've been made pawns of media who profit by fomenting antipathy among its citizenry, and dark money PACs who expend millions to craft the narrative of their choice as truth without accountability.

It's more than swallowing hard in the recognition that the candidate who garnered my vote didn't win...Lord knows I'm used to that.  Shoot, the candidate I voted for didn't win the primary!  I've voted in 9 presidential elections... I'm 5-4...actually I'd argue I'm 6-3, but Florida, right?

Elections are supposed to be contests of ideas.  The presupposition is that with the winner comes the implementation of the ideas that framed the platform on which they ran because they won.  Elections have consequences. 

And that's just it, right? 

Recognizing that our system of government has checks and balances, when all branches fall under the control of one party, we should take pause at what the implications of that mean.

I serve as pastor of a church who is open to all, we sees the inherent value as children of God in each soul we serve, to each who comes to be part of our community. 

I pastor a church blessed by the presence, discipleship and leadership of members who are part of the LGBTQ community who must now worry that their rights to marry, to do business and to adopt will fall away.  

Whatever it is I thought of the Affordable Care Act (hated it, but not for the reasons those who will repeal it do), there are millions of citizens who have received the security of health care for the first time who are anxious.  Or what about adult children (like mine) who have been allowed to remain on their parent's insurance as a means of security during the years they're figuring out their lives?  Or what about those with pre-existing conditions?

What about the anger and venom spewed during this campaign and seemingly sanctioned by the campaign toward those of the Muslim faith, or the none too subtle anti-Semitic rhetoric, or Latinos, or those who are African American...basically those who aren't white?  

There was a day when misogyny lived in the secret places of work and home.  Not any more, it's been on full display and accepted as the way things are.  I think about the world my granddaughter will live in and wonder if she'll be allowed to reach her fullest potential without her gender being made a reason why she can't?

If the platform on which the President-elect ran is to be believed, then what then does that mean?  

As a citizen, I have to figure that out.

As a pastor, as a person of faith, I must as well.  Because the measure of all we say we believe about God, Jesus, and the Church is not gauged when all is right in our worlds, but precisely when it isn't. So what then shall I do:

I cannot do less but more--
     in my advocacy for equality for all God's children that "liberty and justice for all" is realized.
I cannot live in fear, but in hope.
I can be discouraged, but I cannot yield to despair.
I can be angry, but I cannot allow anger to do harm, only to bring intensified focus to bring about     
     good, the goodness of God and the common good of my fellow citizens.
I cannot be less graceful, but more graceful than I've ever known.
I cannot be less welcoming, but open wide the doors of my heart and my church for those seeking    
I cannot be less loving, but must let "Love Reign O'er Me".
I must pray for God's wisdom 
     for all who were elected and for those who celebrate on the day I'm left gobsmacked
     for the unity of citizenry.
I must claim with deepest conviction that "Perfect Love Casts Out Fear."

1 John 4 - from The Message
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.

"You've got to love both."  Why? For the sake of the Gospel?  Maybe. 

But far more likely it is for the sake of my own soul.
The power of Christ compels it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dispatch from Portland 3

A short post....

As I write this tonight, 9:18 pm. PST, the Council of Bishops remain in session.  The General Conference has asked the Bishops to convene to offer a  way forward how we might transcend the impasse on human sexuality.  They bring that word to us tomorrow.

Bishops have no binding authority on the General Conference, and yet the General Conference is pleading for leadership.

I'll report and reflect tomorrow on what they bring, and all that has occurred during the sessions this week.

Pray for our Bishops tonight.  Pray for those who have been harmed by our decades of inaction.  Pray for the unity of the Church.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dispatch from Portland 2 - "Where the Spirit of the Lord Is, There is the One True Church"

"When the Day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.  But because the house didn't give the requisite permission for the sound to be heard on the floor, it was ruled out of order."

I know what you're thinking.
General Conference over Pentecost. C'mon, that's a God thing, right?
Surely, of all things and at all times if there was a moment to crystallize and clarify the hope and promise of The United Methodist Church's witness to make disciples and transform the world it is right here, right now.  My Lord, we've got scriptural precedent on our side and everything.

Truth is, the Spirit has been in the room all week. There have been powerful words of witness, proclamation and worship.  I'm bringing home a bunch of liturgies that will be a gift for our worship at home.

And while we've been in the same place physically, there is no question we are far removed from each other spiritually.  It's in the room all the time. I'm INFP on Myers Briggs.  Let me share what I intuit, what I feel.

Power plays among a few---Sure, there are 860ish delegates on the floor, and a couple of thousand reserve delegates, representatives of General agencies, and visitors in the house.  The outcome of this General Conference will not be framed from a powerful address or sermon, but from the wrestling match of a handful of individuals who lead and manipulate their caucuses. Yes, it's as disgusting as it sounds.  It's beneath the dignity of the congregants I've been blessed to serve across my years.  Which raises the larger point - this body does not represent the hearts and spirits of ordinary United Methodists, even those who disagree.  Rules under which this intractable body operates perpetuates power at the hands of a few.

All of which is sad commentary. Because there are some wonderful people here from all over the world who love God and are seeking to be faithful.  While it seems Rule 44 wasn't ready to be implemented, whenever something rises as a differerent mechanism through which conferencing may occur, it will be met with similar parliamentary challenges.

Anger and Distrust -
These are the feelings that are strongest in the room.  The theological straw men created by groups about other groups is amazing to me.  The anger exhibited toward people who seek nothing more than to be included and welcomed stuns me.  To be sure, I have a particular antenna tuned to that frequency so I'm watching for it, but it is there. No one seems to get the disconnect between refusal to engage in relationships with fellow Christians who disagree and being a Christian at all, since the sole basis of the faith is relationship!

And yet, there are moments of universal gladness.  Our connection is capable of powerful things across the globe.  There have been countless lives saved.  Relief has reached the afflicted.  The witness of a 14 year old girl (age of Jack) from Indiana who felt led to raise money to build fresh water wells in Africa was stunning.  That girl is a world changer.  I wondered to myself as the whole room stood in affirmation of her witness how she'd be received if she were to discover something about herself that would be "incompatible." Is her witness any less meaningful?  Or course not!

Or take the Young People's report that bore witness to the Church they want to see, the Church they want to be part of.  Let the young lead us, we'd settle out issues right quick.  And yet that report was questioned as suspect.  One delegate came to the floor to suggest that the youth were being coerced to say what they did.

Bishops Palmer and Dyck spoke words that touched me.  Palmer's words were encouraging.  Because of the faith we claim we aren't allowed to be without hope.  We must push on.  Dyck's words were as singularly prophetic as any I've heard. All that sermon needed was a mic drop.  It was the sound of the Spirit in her words that could/should bring a new visitation of the Spirit.  It shouldn't surprise anyone that it was not universally appreciated, but since when is that which is truly prophetic ever so?

Those two did for me what I needed for the next chapters of ministry.  Despite being tempted to despair, I will not lose hope, and I will not yield the belief that codified exclusion diminishes our witness and violates our core principle to "do no harm."  I will not yield to the conviction that we practice radical hospitality not "regardless" of who someone is, but "precisely because" of who God made them to be.  I hold this conviction only because I believe in the Rule of Love first and foremost.


The Pentecost story involved being together in one place, yes.  It was the presence of the Spirit among them that people were able to hear their language from someone they least expected to speak it.

If we're not willing to listen to one another it really doesn't matter what anyone is saying.  I'm more and more convinced that the construction of this body, the General Conference, makes that purposely impossible.

Veni. Sancte. Spiritus.  Come, Holy Spirit.  Please.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dispatch from Portland 1

Beyond the real time social media reporting I've provided during our plenaries, many are asking for more insights. It's then I recall that I've had a blog since before it was cool and then passé, so I'll report as I can longer form impressions. 

As a reserve delegate, my work is to be available should the delegates ahead of me in the order of election need a break or become ill. As of yet that has not happened, but I anticipate it will before the Conference is over.   As a reserve, I'm not assigned to any legislative committee, so I get to sit in on any that interest me. Yesterday I sat in on Discipleship. Technically I have no voice or vote, but in queuing Sky who is at the table, we were able to tag team on amending legislation. Text messages can be effective. 

Even as I write I'm in line outside the Church & Society Legislative Committee room.  That room is packed out, so a line forms with hope that some observers leave to make room. Interestingly enough there's plenty of room in Discipleship room.   So there's that. 

On Plenary Sessions - 
It took me a couple of days to really appreciate what I was observing. I'm not sitting in a room with elected delegates coming to be open to the Spirit's leading with hope that the outcome will result in a deeper, more faithful witness.  Rather, I'm among entrenched positions of every kind intent solely on protecting their position and interests.  So what you end up with in plenary is a parliamentary wrestling match whose prize is control...who gets to call the shots. 

I guess at some level I knew this. Heck, I've participated in it in much much smaller spheres. To watch it on display is disturbing. Nothing can rob the Spirit an opportunity to transform the body like Robert's Rules of Order.

Logistics -
Those of you who know me know how much this drives me nuts. Yes, even at the General Church level, videos don't work on queue, mics don't come on as they should, and other logistical matters that should have been accounted for...which, strangely, leads me to Rule 44. 

Rule 44 - 
Coming out of the 2012 Tampa General Conference, the GC made a request for an alternate mechanism for the body to confer and discern what to do around very difficult issues. Yes, human sexuality could be one of them, but it was not the only issue through which this process could be employed. The process was formed and defeated. And here's why:
The usual alliance of Good News and the African delegation voted against it. Why talk with someone you see only as a sinner and a not child of sacred worth. And, a number of people who could/would have supported it but could not in its current form who were aware that the infrastructure to make it happen wasn't ready. 

To use a tool without being properly trained in how it works is a recipe for disaster. 

And here's my problem---you had four years to get this ready. You knew we were coming , right?

Finally adjusting to Pacific Time. 
Portland is beautiful. 
Public Transit great. 
Getting my steps in. Yay!
Tripped and fell first day...battered a little. Back, arms and shoulders. Thankful for screen cover for iPhone!
Working mightily to get Sky ready to meet delegates next week. 

That's it for now. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Most of us have certain dates on the calendar that haunt us.

Today does that to my family...to me.

There have been occasions across the years when this date has triggered what I can only describe as a PTSD response.  And I use that term not to demean or disparage those who suffer from that.  Rather, I think it helps me empathize more than ever with those who do.  Jimmy's unexpected death rocked our family.  Those of you who walked through that with us know this is true. 

Those of you who know me and love me anyway know all too well what that traumatic event did to me...what the recollection of it can do to me.

In these days, though, I'm struck with curiosity of who he would have been.  When he died I was in the last months being 39...now, I'm ever closer to being 52.  

He'd be 46...father to an impressive young man.

Most of Jimmy's adulthood he struggled to figure out who he was and what he was supposed to be.  I can only imagine that at 46 he would have found it.

While there is joy in remembering my little brother today, there's sadness, too.

Most of our adult lives together, Jimmy and I struggled to figure out how what our relationship as brothers would look like.  I grieve deeply having never done all I could then to work toward that.  I take it as grace that the gift of imagination of what would be now serves as healing balm for the pain of what wasn't and could never be.

Today my family's scars will likely throb a bit.  As you have all along just hold onto us and love us through it.