The Fat Pastor

Author's details

Name: The Fat Pastor
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://fatpastor.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. The Fat Pastor: Find your voice for mothers — August 21, 2014
  2. The Fat Pastor: the Bible under my bed — July 25, 2014
  3. The Fat Pastor: There will be people there waiting for you. — July 20, 2014
  4. The Fat Pastor: A journal entry from 12 years ago gave me goosebumps — July 15, 2014
  5. The Fat Pastor: Prayer for Illumination — July 8, 2014

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Aug 21 2014

The Fat Pastor: Find your voice for mothers

Original post at http://fatpastor.me/2014/08/21/find-your-voice-for-mothers/


Healthy Families Healthy Planet

Click on the logo to apply for a Healthy Families Healthy Planet training seminar in Peoria, Ill. on Sept 6.

There are two little girls that I pick up out of bed almost every morning.  One of them is sitting in my office, cradling a stuffed turtle in her arms.  She is giving it kisses and singing it to sleep.  Now she has another little toy that her imagination has transformed into a bottle.  She wants to be a Mommy.

It may happen someday, and when that time comes, I will be a worried, emotional, joyful, wreck.  I pray that for her, like her mother, the decision to become a Mom will be completely hers.  I pray that she becomes a mother at a mature age, with a loving partner, and has access to health care during and after her pregnancy.  I hope that when she gives birth, it will be in a clean environment, surrounded by experts, and access to emergency treatments.  I know that giving birth is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do, and I will never take for granted the loving care with which she will be surrounded.

I won’t take it for granted, because I know that there are millions of women worldwide that do not have such care.  They do not have control over when they will be married, or when they will become pregnant.  They are valued for little more than the children they can produce.  They are forced into pregnancy too young, and once they have a child, their only option is to become pregnant again.  They are misinformed about how to avoid and delay pregnancies, and once they do become pregnant, they have little guidance about how to have a healthy child.

Giving better education and access to maternal health and family planning is a moral imperative.  This is from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s page about maternal health: 

Every year, complications from pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of nearly 300,000 women and permanently disable many more, mostly in developing countries. Mothers suffer primarily from hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labor, and disorders caused by high blood pressure.

In addition, more than 2.6 million babies are stillborn, another 2.9 million die before they are a month old, and many suffer neurodevelopmental disabilities and impairments. Most neonatal deaths are caused by preterm birth, asphyxia during birth, and infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis.

Effective, low-cost interventions are available, but they are not reaching all of the women and babies who need them. In developing countries, many women deliver at home and rarely see a trained healthcare provider before or after the baby’s birth. Skilled providers in poor countries often lack access to current tools or do not use them. Families may not seek care or follow medical advice.

This is why I am an ambassador for the Healthy Families Healthy Planet project.  HFHP is a partnership between the United Methodist Church and the United Nations Foundation.  The mission of Healthy Families Healthy Planet is to give mothers a voice.  Far too many women have no voice.  They have no advocate.  HFHP is trying to change that.  Two years ago I went to a training in Ohio.  I sat in awe of the powerful women that I met.  I wondered at that meeting if there was a place for me in this project.  

When I thought of my girls, my wife, my sisters, my friends who have given birth and never once wished they had a plastic sheet to lay across their dirt floor as they went into labor, I found my voice.  As I learned about complications that women I know and love faced and survived that would mean certain death in other parts of the world, I found my voice.  As I practiced my elevator speech, learned addresses of Congressional offices, watched documentaries, and met with Congressional staffs, I found my voice.

I am one father, and I have big dreams for my daughters.  As I realized that my dreams were not just for them, but for the daughters of the world, I found my voice. I am one father.  I am one voice.  I invite you – father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter – to find yours. 

On September 6, there is a Healthy Families Healthy Planet training seminar in Peoria, Illinois.  Follow the link below (or linked to the logo above) to read a little bit more about the training, and apply to come.  There is no cost for the training.  It starts at 9 a.m. with breakfast and ends at 6 p.m. with dinner.  Come and pray.  Come and learn.  Come and share stories.  Come, and find your voice.

Apply here for the training in Peoria on September 6.

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/find-your-voice-for-mothers/

Jul 25 2014

The Fat Pastor: the Bible under my bed

Original post at http://fatpastor.me/2014/07/25/the-bible-under-my-bed/


I still have that red Bible with the frayed edges.

I still have that red Bible with the frayed edges.

I found it under my bed.  I know, not the best place to keep it.  I have no idea how it got there, but one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had with my Bible came the night I found it under my bed.

I was living alone for the first time in my life.  A graduate student in a small apartment with a strange roommate, it was probably the most lonely I’ve ever been.  I missed my girlfriend.  I missed my friends and family.  I had some nice co-workers, but the relationships were still at the very superficial level.  I was about six weeks into a two-year commitment.  When I decided to go to graduate school, I thought two years wouldn’t be too long to try and have a long-distance relationship.  On that night though, sitting on my bed feeling sorry for myself, two years seemed like an eternity.

For reasons which I cannot fully explain, I decided to clean my room.  I started at side of my bed, picking up clothes and books and whatnot.  I looked under my bed and found the red book with gold letters on it surrounded by dust bunnies.  I felt a little guilty that my Bible had been pushed that far back under my bed.  I picked it up, and held it for a moment and decided that cleaning my room could wait.  I crawled back on my bed, and felt compelled to read.  I didn’t know what to read.  I didn’t know where to start, so I started at the beginning.

I had never really read the Old Testament before.  Seminary was still in my distant future, so I knew nothing about JDEP, historical criticism, or a post modern hermeneutic.  I simply read the stories.  They were confusing.  The story of Noah was redundant and seemed to contradict itself.  It was boring.  Seriously, do I really care about the sons of Ham?  It was troubling.  Abraham did what to his son?  Yet I kept reading.  I also found the stories to be direct, and easier to follow then I thought they might be.  It all read like a TV drama.  As I read I found myself eager to read more.  Then I read this line:

“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (Genesis 29:20)

The words stopped me.  I read them again and again.  I drew so much comfort from that little verse.  The truth is, Jacob was a pretty unsavory character.  In my Pulpit Fiction Podcast, we’ve been blasting Jacob as his story has unfolded through the lectionary.  He was pretty much a scoundrel.  The story from which this verse emerges is a sordid affair that wouldn’t do very well in modern romantic comedies.  Yet at the same time, there was something so pure about this notion.  There really isn’t a lot of romantic love in the Bible.  There are a lot of property exchanges.  There are relationships fraught with deceit and unfaithfulness.  There are some strange tails men claiming their wives are their sisters.  This particular story finds Jacob marrying Rachel’s sister and Rachel, nevermind the fact that Rachel and Leah are his first cousins.

The fact of the matter was, in that moment, I didn’t care about any of that.  I didn’t need to know the cultural context of marriage.  I didn’t need to understand the source criticism of Genesis.  All I knew was that I was hurting.  I was lonely.  I missed the woman I loved, and somehow that verse spoke to me.  A pain was lifted.  It wasn’t erased, but I was able to look at my situation from a new perspective.  Call it the Holy Spirit.  Call it the power of the Living Word.  In that moment, the Bible spoke to me, and I was renewed.  Did God move me to clean my room?  Did God direct me to look under my bed?  I don’t know, but a couple of years later, my sister read that verse at our wedding.

That is the power of the Bible.  That isn’t to say that the deeper, more scholarly approaches to the Bible aren’t helpful.  I believe in using all of the tools of scholarship, archeology, sociology to dig deeper into the Bible.  I love looking at Scriptures from different cultural contexts, and I try to be aware of the lens I bring to the Scripture.  I believe that the Word of God is made more fully alive when we bring our own understanding of tradition, reason, and experience into it.

But sometimes, encountering the divine is as simple as opening up the book and reading.  Sometimes we can have an encounter with God through the Bible that is free of trappings.  On that night it was just me and my Bible, and I was made new.  That is an important reminder for me as I surround myself with commentaries and studies.  Sometimes God’s grace comes through a scoundrel, and a simple and eternal message of love.

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/the-bible-under-my-bed/

Jul 20 2014

The Fat Pastor: There will be people there waiting for you.

Original post at http://fatpastor.me/2014/07/20/there-will-be-people-there-waiting-for-you/


I don’t think this was the exact motor we made, but they looked like these.

It was a hot factory in Elgin.  We were building electric motors that would be used in hospital beds.  Every morning at 7 am we would come into the factory and walk by the big thermometer.  It regularly read over 90.  My first job in the morning was to go into the huge walk-in ovens and take out parts that had been baking all night.  All of the jobs in the factory were monotonous.

Take part out of box. Sweat. Place part in machine. Pull handle. Put part in different box. Wipe forehead.  Repeat.

It was my first job out of college.  I found it through a temp agency.  I had a degree, but was going to start in the fall as a graduate assistant in Edwardsville.  The job was basically a filler.  I had left the world of college.  I had known that world well.  In that world I had a loving girlfriend, good friends, a familiar community, respect of my professors, and a good part-time job.  In the fall I would be entering a new world.

It was a strange new world with an unfamiliar city, a new boss and co-workers, and a strange roommate.  I was full of trepidation, and I had plenty of time with my own thoughts and worries.

One day I was sitting at table putting together the little motors, and started talking to one of my co-workers.  She was a tiny African American woman in her late fifties.  She had skinny fingers, with wide knuckles and big round glasses. She was the kind of person that was easy to talk to, easy to share with.  Or maybe I was just in need of an ear other than my own.

“In the fall I’m moving to Edwardsville, a city near Saint Louis,” I told her.

“Oh, there are lots of black people in Saint Louis,” was her bewildering response.  I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just said, “Oh, that’s good.”

Then she said something I’ll never forget.  “God will be with you,” she stopped what she was doing and looked at me.  “There will be people there waiting for you.”

Sarah and my Dad helped me move into my apartment in Edwardsville.  Their leaving was one of the saddest, most lonely moments of my life.  I cried that first night.  On the second night I bought a copy of a comedy to help me keep my mind off my sadness.  I cried that night too.

Eventually, things got better.  I adapted.  I liked my work.  I liked my classes.  I liked my boss and co-workers.  Then I tried to go to church.  I went to a Methodist church near my apartment.  It was my first time going to a church that was not the one I was born and raised in.  I was nervous. I felt out of place. I knew no one.

The hymns were familiar.  The order felt right.  The sermon kept my attention (though I have no idea what the topic was).  The pastor, Rev. Michael Smith, had a warm and gentle spirit, and I liked his humor and insight.  I sat next to a gray-haired woman who smiled at me at the greeting time.  She asked me if I was a student.  She told me there was a lunch downstairs after worship, and invited me.  I was a grad student on a tight budget, so I wasn’t going to pass up a free meal.

From the New Bethel UMC Facebook page

Soon after my first worship experience at New Bethel UMC, another older lady arrived at my apartment and handed me a loaf of bread.  She didn’t ask to come in, and didn’t stay to chat.  I went back.  I learned about an upcoming soup dinner.  So I learned how to make soup, and brought it.  I started going to choir practice and to a weeknight Bible study.  I discovered much about myself and the Bible in that study.  I learned that I had some insight into the Scriptures, and was able to help people gain understanding even while I was searching myself.

There was no one in that congregation that was my age.  There were no student ministries.  There was no praise band.  There were no brochures.  There was bread.  There was soup.  There were earnest people singing, studying, and enjoying each other.  When Sarah came to visit, we would go to church together.  When Sarah left, I would still cry.  That pain never left, but the utter loneliness melted away.

One night, while I was working in a gas station trying to save money for an engagement ring, my pastor came in.  We chatted for a while.  Somehow it came out that I had felt a call to the ministry many years before.  He told me we should have lunch, and he had a book to give me.  That was the official start of my ordination process that culminated 10 years later in a Conference Center in Peoria.

It wasn’t long into my time at Edwardsville that I remembered my friend’s words.  “There will be someone there waiting for you.”

It turned out she was wrong.  There was a whole church waiting for me.

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/there-will-be-people-there-waiting-for-you/

Jul 15 2014

The Fat Pastor: A journal entry from 12 years ago gave me goosebumps

Original post at http://fatpastor.me/2014/07/15/a-journal-entry-from-12-years-ago-gave-me-goosebumps/


photoWhile packing up my house last month I came across a notebook I had not seen in many years.  I didn’t recognize it at first.  When I opened it up, a torn page fell out.  On it was an entry into a journal that I started to keep in 2002.  At the time, I was 24 years old.  I was living with my wife of eight months in a two-bedroom apartment in Peoria.  I was working my first full-time job as the head of the Children’s Book section at Barnes and Noble.  It was a great job, but I had felt frustrated.  I first heard the calling into ministry at age 15.  It was my Mom’s idea, and try as I might, it was an idea I couldn’t ignore.

My wife and I had found a church which we kind of liked, but it was difficult to get involved more than an occasional Sunday worship.  Working retail hours made it difficult to plan more than a couple of weeks out.  It was nearly impossible to join a Sunday school class, or the choir, or any of the regular things that help get acclimated into the life of a church.  So I started to pray.  I prayed that God would help me find a new job that would make it easier to get involved in church again.

Shortly thereafter I found a four-line ad in the Peoria Journal.  A small church about 30 minutes away was hiring a part-time Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.  I applied.  “I have no experience.  No training.  No qualifications,” I told the interview team.  “There is no reason you should hire me, except that I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  And I think I’d be pretty good at it.”  They believed me.  They took a chance on me, and hired me.  Here’s the first page of my journal before starting at Mackinaw United Methodist Church.

March 6, 2002

I bought this book because I am about to embark on a remarkable journey.  It is a journey I have been waiting to make for quite some time.  On sunday I will be introduced to the congregation of Mackinaw United Methodist Church as the new Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.  My sister once told me that she believes I have a story to tell.  I have a feeling this is going to be quite a story.

In a few days I will begin the toughest, most demanding, and most important job I’ve ever had.  Right now I’m excited because I think I can be a very good youth minister.  I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  I feel like I can relate well to teenagers because I will respect them as individuals.  I think I have a lot of insights into the Bible and a strong-enough faith to instill it into others.  I feel like I will be able to lead a group of young people to Christ.  I have a lot of good ideas.  Right now I feel as if I’m ready to dive in and start shaping lives.

At the same time I’m terrified.  I’ve never really done anything like this.  I don’t know the Bible that well, and I have no idea how to teach others about it.  I have no idea how I’m going to answer tough questions.  I still have questions myself.  Is homosexuality a sin?  Can you be gay and be saved? Are all Muslims going to hell?  What about the people who have never heard of Jesus, where do they go? Are we near the end times?  What if they see through me and realize I’m just a big impostor?  What if they see I have no idea what I’m doing?

On the job training is one thing, but we’re talking about souls here, not putting a book on the wrong shelf.  This is the most important job I’ve ever had, by a long shot.  I mean, second place isn’t even close.  Since I was 15 years old I’ve known that this was my path.  I’ve always felt it was a part of God’s plan for my life, but it was always somewhere in the future.  Well, it’s still in the future, about four days into the future.

Like I said, I’m about to embark on a journey.  Tomorrow I will meet with Rev. Dan to start figuring out some details of my job.  I have a feeling I’ll be figuring out the details of this job for some time to come.  “The first year as a youth minister for a totally untrained young man.”  It could be an interesting story.  I’m looking forward to writing it.

Those Mackinaw kids will forever hold a special place in my heart.  They’re all grown up now.  College, jobs, marriages, kids.  They were an amazing collection of young people, and Sarah and I have stayed in touch with many of them.  We were in Mackinaw for a year and a half before we decided to go to seminary.  Saying goodbye to those kids and that church was a difficult time.  Yet we left with so much joy at the time we shared, and so much hope for what was to come.  I’m now serving in my fourth church since Mackinaw.  Each goodbye was difficult.  Every hello has been a blessing.

12 years later.  Joy and hope.  Goodbyes and hellos.  A few questions answered. A few lessons learned. I’ve started as the Pastor of Two Rivers Church in Rock Island.  I’m still figuring out the details of this job, but I’m having a blast writing the story…

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/a-journal-entry-from-12-years-ago-gave-me-goosebumps/

Jul 08 2014

The Fat Pastor: Prayer for Illumination

Original post at http://fatpastor.me/2014/07/08/prayer-for-illumination/


I’ve long said that the motto of the United Methodist Church is best read as a call to action.  It is not a descriptor so much as a call to action.  I take the word “open” to be a verb.  It is a call to action to do all that I can to open hearts, doors, and minds.  Including my own.

A prayer for illumination, to be read responsively in worship before the reading of the Scripture.

One: Open our hearts

All: That the Holy Spirit may move through the reading of the Word.

One: Open our minds.

All: That we may hear again the story of salvation.

One: Open our doors

All: That all may know the love and grace of Christ.

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/prayer-for-illumination/

May 02 2014

The Fat Pastor: The Dad Life (2:04 is me, to a T)

Original post at http://fatpastor.me/2014/05/02/the-dad-life-204-is-me-to-a-t/


It’s the Dad Life, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other.

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