Author Archive

Lest we Forget   5 comments

I know I have not written for some while and maybe what follows goes some way to explaining why. As Maggie has been working with her 6th grade students in preparation for returning to some form of in-person teaching, she has been encouraging them to write down their experiences of the past year to make sure they do not forget. As I sat in quiet this morning with my journal open I thought that maybe I should do the same. This is what resulted: 

I remember that the initial shock of beginning “shelter in place” was in some ways exciting. We launched into new and previously unknown territory with problems to solve and strategies to develop. For our church, our previously limited online presence became the main event. We worked as a team praying, thinking and planning. We learned from our mistakes and were all engaged in the challenges of helping one another. How could we respond to the needs of our community and maintain some connectivity? We learned to do church in a different way and asked ourselves what is God doing, what can we learn? Personally I began to appreciate the focus that came with working at home. I really enjoyed being with Maggie everyday as she grappled with the challenges of online teaching. 

Soon it became clear that the end of these strange times was not coming anytime soon. Phrases like “the new normal” appeared in articles and news bulletins along with “unprecedented.” and “unheard of!” At the same time as the appearance of this new language, cracks began to become evident in relationships. The inability to see each other face to face allowed those cracks to widen as differences of opinion and ideas emerged. Echo chambers formed as we found ways to talk with people that agreed with us and avoid those with whom we differed.

Little did we know that just ahead of us were two events that would again make significant changes to our cultural and social landscape. On May 25th the news of the tragic killing of George Floyd flooded the news outlets. Over the next weeks this brought to the surface fresh and necessary attention to the racism that infects our nation. However, rather than causing us to come together in the face of injustice it simply provided another forum for differences in life experiences, let alone opinions and perspectives. The cracks multiplied and became wider as the rhetoric in social media became louder and more combative.Then of course on the horizon, approaching rapidly, was the perfect storm of an election in a nation already as politically divided as at any time in recent history

As the year progressed, divisions and isolation increased. Along with them, some underlying questions seemed to become more and more prevalent “What about me?” Why is nobody listening to me?” We continued to search for people who think like us, so we can feel safe. But all the time culture and community became more and more divided, and as a consequence significantly more unsafe for everyone!

Now, as we approach the prospect of a much wider re-opening, we must face a new challenge. How will we deal with the bridges that have been broken and the cracks that have become so wide? Will we, like Adam and Eve at the dawn of creation, look around for someone to blame and hence simply reinforce the brokenness we are all experiencing.

Oh the other hand could we take a different and admittedly more difficult approach. Could we grasp humility in both hands, emerge from our echo chambers, and take the initiative to say sorry for the part we have played in divisions. Might we, in turn, forgive those who we believe have wronged and hurt us. As a consequence could we participate in the active healing of our community?

I know for me right now, I am tired and discouraged. I am struggling to find the excitement and anticipation of planning again for what will be new. I am realizing that soon I will be at home alone without Maggie in the other room (except of course I will have Maisey, our four month old boxer puppy!) I am recognizing the relationships with many that I valued and love are deeply changed. Can I find the energy to think, write, inspire and anticipate all that God is going to do?

I believe the answer, for me at least, is yes. I know that God is still on the throne, He still has a plan and He is still working it out. I believe that although it will be extraordinarily difficult at times, if I can humble myself, we can do this together. We can learn to love each other, while listening to and seeking to understand our differences. If we accept this challenge when the next crisis occurs, and it will, we will be better equipped and stronger to face it together and show the world what it really means to follow Jesus.

It’s our Anniversary!!   4 comments

Today is my 14th Wedding anniversary so I trust you will permit me a rather personal post. I am incredibly grateful to have been married to this lady for the past fourteen years and to hope for many more. She has truly revealed to me what the scripture means when it says “more than you could ask or imagine”

I expressed a little of this in a Facebook post this morning but here is where my joy is tinged with sadness. She will not see that post (unless I show it to her). Why? Because she has closed her Facebook account . Like so many others, the inability of so many to resist the temptation to post angry and divisive material has caused her to conclude that it is mentally healthier for her to close her account. 

That choice is hers and hers alone of course, but it make me sad that Maggie, and so many like her, are prevented from enjoying the positive aspects of Facebook and the like by those who seem unable to refrain from anger and meanness. 

This makes me wonder, has anyone ever had their mind changed by a Facebook post? Has any one “seen the light” because a post revealed to them how wrong they were? Maybe a very few but my observation indicates that the responses to such posts take two forms. First there are the admiring affirmations and then the equally angry arguments. So why post at all? Was it just to bask in the warmth of people agreeing with you? I have even seen people include in their post “if you disagree with me feel free to unfriend me” or even “ please unfriend me” so I guess that post was made for the soft cushion of affirmation alone. If, however, the purpose was to invite the angry arguments that so often ensue, I am even more mystified.

I recently learned of a similar app that has become a home for those who want to express with passion, opinions representing one side of the aisle. I can but hope that a similar site will be created so those wishing to share similarly passionate views from the other side of the aisle can do so. Then both groups can have their needs met on these sites leaving  Facebook for the rest of us to celebrate, communicate and encourage one another, enjoying the blessing that social media can provide us.

Posted November 10, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Dilemmas   3 comments

It’s the morning after election day and, at the time of writing, we still have no idea who will live in the White House for the next four years. A number of things have however become very clear. Firstly, whoever ends up winning will preside over a nation so deeply and toxically divided that one wonders if healing is even possible. Secondly, around fifty percent of the nation will find themselves with a government that they have already condemned in the strongest terms. Every election results in one group of people being deeply disappointed and finding themselves wondering how we can survive the next four years. How will they tolerate being governed by people who have such different ideas about how to solve the nation’s problems? But this time it seems different, the condemnation that has been poured out by each side on each other has included, in many instances, writing people off as morally reprehensible.

I was reading in Jeremiah this morning an incident that occurred when Isreal was taken into exile in Babylon. Representatives of the leaders left in Jerusalem came and asked the prophet to seek God for direction at what they should do next. (Jeremiah 42:5-6) The leaders commit themselves to act on God’s instructions said “whether pleasant or unpleasant.”  After ten days the prophet comes back with God’s message (Jeremiah 42:9-12). He tells them to go and settle among the pagan and Godless people of Babylon. This answer was, of course, morally repugnant. Their choice, trust God and His word through the prophet despite the nature of the guidance, or decide that they knew better and ignore what God had said. Sadly (Jeremiah 43:2) they chose the latter and it did not work out well for them.

When the counts, recounts and legal battles are over, it seems to me that one half of our nation will be presented with a very similar dilemma. Someone, who they have judged, not simply wrong, but as morally indefensible will have been elected to form a government for the next four years. The choice they have, either accept that God is still on the throne and the people have spoken.  Their task must now be to commit to pray for the incoming government. The alternative is to conclude that God is no longer in control, his plan has failed and He has made a dreadful mistake.

Whichever choice you make if you are a follower of Jesus, you find yourself with another dilemma. You are surrounded by people that you don’t just believe are wrong but whom you have publicly judged to be bad people with motives that belong in the gutter. I confess I struggle to understand how in our churches and small groups we are going to be able to repair and forgive those judgments and avoid retreating to enclaves of people who simply agree with each other. How then will we be able to fulfill Jesus’s command that we be united and known for our love for each other?

Posted November 5, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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What’s Next?   2 comments

I don’t suppose many pastors could say that one of the first sermons they preached was on the prophecy of Haggai. However, I can! I do not remember what prompted the sermon but it was certainly before I became a pastor and so must have been when I was invited to speak on behalf of one of the organizations I worked for before going to seminary. As a consequence, I have always valued this short book whose two chapters only take up two pages of my Bible.

Recently I was reminded of the book and as I turned its pages, once again it struck me that it had some important things to say to us today. Haggai speaks into the life of Israel after the exile and the collapse of the Babylonian empire. The people are just returning to the land. The Bible Project video summarizes the prophet’s message in four parts. First, he asks the people to consider whether it is right that they should give priority to refurbishing their own houses rather than rebuilding the temple. When the people take this criticism to heart, they can’t help but feel that their work on the temple is a poor shadow of its former beauty. The final two parts exhort the people to remember the covenant and be faithful. Lastly, the prophet articulates a vision for God’s eternal kingdom.

It is the first two parts that piqued my imagination. Of course, the church has not been sent into exile,  but COVID 19 has interrupted our customary lives in such a way that it feels a little like it. As I listen to conversations about the future, a recurrent theme is the re-creation of what we had.  I fear that is strangely parallel to Haggai 1:2-4. We are saying, “how can we rebuild what we enjoyed, the way things were before?” Could it be that God wants to ask why we are so preoccupied with rebuilding what we were comfortable with when His plans for the church have barely progressed beyond a building site? ( not quite ruins but close!) ” What if your inherited imagination of what the church should be is dying while the Spirit is stirring something new” Tim Soerens “ Everywhere you Look- -Discovering the Church Right Where You Are”

When the people turn their focus on the temple they soon get discouraged that their efforts at restoration to its former glory are a dismal failure.  God, however, responds with the most glorious and exciting words of encouragement.

“For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” Haggai 2:6-9

God says, I am not leading you back to what was, I am leading you forward to what will be . He does not say the past had “no glory”, but His plans for the future are for “greater glory.” 

So let’s remember that we serve a God who wants us to follow Him to eternity. The way He wants the church to look “next” may be different than the past and some ways may not seem as “good” to us as we enjoyed in the past. However, His ways are not our ways and He calls us to be faithful, trusting Him for the glorious eternity He has planned for us. So let’s reach together for His plans because He promises “to fill this place with glory”!

Posted October 1, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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The Great Divide(s)   Leave a comment

The relentless message we receive from the media is that we, in the US, are more divided than ever before in the history of the nation. We are divided over politics, morals, race, ethics, social policy… and the list goes on. And yet for those of us who claim to be Christians and who look to the scriptures for guidance, we are called to seek and value unity above all else (John 17:9-24). 

The upcoming election threatens to amplify and exacerbate our divisions. Do we have anything to offer that will demonstrate how unity can be cherished in the midst of differences in opinion and conviction?

My recent reading and listening has uncovered some really wonderful thinking that has been done on this subject and I want to share some of them with you.  They offer real help and hope in places where I often feel helpless and hopeless and are greatly influencing my thinking and communication right now. 

Firstly two books, both address the challenges with real life illustrations and practical suggestions 

Compassion and Conviction – The AND CAMPAIGN’S guide to Civic Engagement“ 

“Mobilizing Hope – Faith inspired activism for a Post Civil Rights Generation 

In January of this year Andy Stanley the Pastor of North Point Community Church gave a series of messages entitled “ Talking Points” which provide a great framework for riding out the storm together!

If you are concerned, as I am, that the church should do all we can to provide a clear and unmistakable witness in these times, that we can demonstrate that relationship and civility can be preserved, then I encourage you to read and listen widely. Engage with people you think you will disagree with as well as those who will make you feel comfortable. But don’t let it end there, talk (not text text or social media!) about these ideas with your friends, especially those with whom you think you might disagree.  Have these conversations not in order to change their minds but to understand one another better. (I know that, given the present restrictions, that is difficult but it can be done and it is worth it!)

One final thing I urge brothers and sisters in Christ I urge, regardless of what you hear on social media, or some else tells you, don’t allow a perception or assumption to divide you from each other. Take the time to listen and learn from each other. If I had a dime for every time I have heard the words” Oh I never thought of it that way” in the past few months I would be a rich man!!  

Posted September 8, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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What Price Will We Pay for Unity?   1 comment

I have never been more aware of the presence of diversity of every sort in our small congregation. It brings me great joy and I believe it is a gift from God and represents an unprecedented opportunity at this moment in history. 

At the same time I have never been more aware of the divisions and potential divisions that this diversity is surfacing amongst us. I see people not coming to the family table or even leaving the table because they find the conversations difficult and that deeply saddens me.

I want to make one more attempt to call you all back to the table. Why? Because the one thing that Jesus prayed for as He approached the cross was “ that they might be one.” He did not pray that we would all agree or see things the same way but that we would be united . In other words that we would remain at the family table because our love for one another is more important than agreeing with each other.

I recently listened to these two instagram posts that express very powerfully the pain that comes when the unity of the family table is disrupted. PLEASE LISTEN TO THEM!

Now please  ask yourself, what ever emotions were aroused by what you heard, am I willing to take the risk of staying at the table with my family.  I am willing to wrestle with the differences in opinion amongst us, confident that we are all trying to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. To do this not to have my mind changed but so that we can understand each other better. 

How can you do this? You can join a Race to Equality conversation, take the risk of contributing even if you think some might disagree with you. If you don’t feel able to do that call me, an elder or a member of the Race to Equality Team and have an open and honest conversation. (I deeply appreciate those who have already done this and had conversations with me)  

At this moment the issue on the top of the table is racism, closely followed by the issues raised by COVID 19. But approaching rapidly and ominously is the election in November. The decision we all face is will we let any or all of these divide us. Will we let them drive us to leave the family table because some of our family see things differently than we do. Or will we stay, accept the struggle and discomfort because we want to be part of the answer to Jesus prayer that we would be one.

I wanted to close with this Fourfold Franciscan Blessing that just seems so appropriate for us right now :

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

How good it is to center down   1 comment

I have not written for while mostly because the relentless cacophony of opinions and perspectives that assault us on every subject under the sun has been somewhat overwhelming.

I have been reading ” Mobilizing Hope – Faith Inspired Activism for a Post Civil Rights Generation” by Adam Taylor* and I came across this wonderful devotion from Howard Thurman’s “Meditations of the Heart” that I thought I would share with you:


How good it is to center down!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;

Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,

While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment

    and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense

    of order in our living;

A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion

    and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment –

    the kinds of people we are.

The questions persist:  what are we doing with our lives? –

    what are the motives that order our days?

What is the end of our doings?

Where are we trying to go?

Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?

For what end do we make sacrifices?

Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?

What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?

Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.

As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,

   there is a sound of another kind –

A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.

It moves directly to the core of our being.  

Our questions are answered,

Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round

With the peace of the Eternal in our step.

How good it is to center down!

Howard Thurman

*( By the way this book has one of the best chapters on Racial Reconciliation and Racial Justice I have read)


Is it Politics?   4 comments

Ever since becoming a pastor I relentlessly resisted  the introduction of party politics to the church in any form and I have not moved from that conviction. However recent events have caused  me to think carefully about exactly what this means.

Recently as I was preparing a sermon I read once again the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). I was prompted to give particular consideration to the “Levite” and the “Temple assistant” that “passed by on the other side”. In all likelihood, their decisions were significantly influenced by the fact that, if they had chosen to cross over and help, they would have been rendered ritually unclean which would have been extraordinarily inconvenient. So they chose to leave the injured man to be someone else’s problem. (This link will take you to the sermon I mention and the relevant section is at timestamp 1:00:45)

As I contemplated this I realized that this had, albeit in a rather different context, been true of me. There have been times when rather than take the risk of being perceived as “political,” I have kept quiet on issues, that if I am to “do what Jesus did” I should not keep silent. 

There are issues that can be termed “political” that if we are to be faithful followers of Jesus must not be seen that way. Reading the gospels makes it so clear that Jesus was passionate about the treatment of the poor and oppressed. His compassion was expressed both in His words and his actions. So if we are to follow Him faithfully we can do no less 

A while ago a march of protest was held here in Pacifica following the tragic death of George Floyd, an action that our own Police Chief described as “reprehensible.” The underlying issue was the need to demand changes to the patterns of systematic racism that are deeply embedded in our culture, so deeply embedded that many of us are only just becoming aware of their existence. I believe that by marching together I was able to stand in solidarity with those who have suffered from those injustices.

I was convicted that I should join that march because injustice is not an issue of party politics. Issues of justice and righteousness are issues that as a follower of Jesus I cannot keep silent about. I was also convicted I should not keep silent on such issues in the future. There were some who were troubled by my participation. I am grateful to those who gave me the chance to explain my thinking. However, I recognize that by being prepared to take a stand I will take the risk of being classified as “unclean” and aligning myself (and hence by implication our church)  with some political perspective or other. However, I believe that risk is one I must take.   

As the pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, I will continue to resist any attempt to bring party politics in any form into the church family. However, we will try to have the courage to speak out against patterns of injustice wherever and whenever they surface. We will recognize that there will be differences of opinion about many issues amongst us but we will do everything we can to respect one another and keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”.

Reconciliation   1 comment

Sometimes people send you things that you know that you just have to share. As we engage with the ongoing question of racism and racial unrest in our nation, one of our church family, Shannon Randolph, sent us a prayer that expresses powerfully how I feel. I asked her if I could share it with you:


We acknowledge our part in this time – our responsibility in this season. We come, with heavy hearts. On our watch, we have abdicated our duties with the sins of omission and commission, choosing not to see what is clearly in front of us. The foundation of Your throne, righteousness and justice, has not been upheld by Your people who know this. Now the fruit of our apathy, denial, disregard and ignorance is manifesting. We plead guilty to it all. We have not stewarded Your heart expressed in diversity. Every human is our brother. Though our hearts cannot truly comprehend or feel the weight of this egregiousness, still we come and repent. We want to change our ways. We fall on Your mercy, asking for help for our weak flesh. We can do nothing apart from You. We are Your people, called by Your name. We humble ourselves and seek Your face. We turn from our wicked ways. We know You hear from heaven and will forgive our sins. We repent of any participation in racist words or actions that we have fed the beast that has led us to this place in history. We take on this lifestyle and present our lives to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Holy Spirit pierce us until we practice every ‘one another’ in Your word. Lead us and show us how to do this. Heal our wounded hearts so we can do what’s in Your heart to heal our land. Have Your way.

Psalm 60:2-3
You have made the earth tremble, You have broken it. Now come and heal it, for it is shaken to its depths. You have shown Your people hard things and made us drink the wine of bewilderment. 
Acts 17:26 Lord, You have set the boundaries of peoples and nations, even appointing our time in history.

Lord, increase our sensitivity.  We bow in Your grace, that our words would become appropriate actions, that we would face correction, own our mistakes, apologize for wounds inflicted and represent You well.
Jesus, You came to reconcile ALL things to Yourself, the things of earth and heaven, making peace through Your shed blood on the cross. We focus on the triumph of the gospel. Let the redemption of reconciliation begin in this arena. Bind us together with cords of love that cannot be broken, that we may be made one, as You prayed, that the world would know You are love

Decree: Our current national pain of racial injustice will become the burning wick of revival and justice, fanned into the flames of the Great Awakening.

Posted June 23, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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In a Hurry?   Leave a comment

I have written often in the past weeks about the impact COVID 19 is making on the epidemic of busyness and hurry that has been infecting our culture increasingly in recent years. In many ways this epidemic far more subtle and dangerous than the current pandemic and threatens to last long after our current hardships are a thing of the past. Unless of course we decide together to take steps to make sure it does not!

It would seem the strategies that must be adopted to conquer this sickness are far more difficult to articulate. There are no vaccines or antibodies, there are just choices and decisions. These choices however may be strange and difficult for those around us to understand. If we find it difficult to wear a mask for the safety of others how easy will it be to resist the temptation to over schedule and allow the joy of family time to be squeezed out once again?

This short passage from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin explains the challenges of setting and implementing effective strategies to slow down and trust God and His word.  

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually— let them grow, let them shape  themselves without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete                                            Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The time to begin thinking and planning patterns for the future is now so we are as ready as we can be as we move forward. Have you any ideas you can share with us?

Posted June 20, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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