Dealing With Las Vegas

Sadly, we’ve heard the news of another mass shooting in our nation this week in Las Vegas. I find myself at a loss for words in the face of another tragedy of this magnitude. Then I opened an email from the Presbyterian Mission Agency today and found a prayer which speaks so well to this moment. Here it is for each of us to use in these days of grief and loss.

God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
As the sound of gunfire again echoes over another American city,
we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.
As death rained down from above in the dark of night,
We pray this day for the Sun of Righteousness to arise with healing in its wings,
and rain mercy, grace and peace upon our broken people.

So many have been lost: brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends
gathered in the unity of music, scattered by evil and hatred.
We pray for solace for all who loved them.
We pray for those who have been spared and those whose lives are changed forever
that they may find healing, sustenance, and strength in the hard days to come.

We give thanks for first responders:
who ran toward gunfire, rather than away
who dropped everything to save the wounded and comfort survivors
We pray for doctors and nurses and mental health providers
who repair what has been broken
who try to bring healing and hope
in the face of the unchecked principalities and powers of violence .
We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering and traumatized.

We cry, how long, O Lord?
But the same words echo back, again and again
as if the question comes to us from You— how long, how long, how long…
In the wake of an event that should be impossible to contemplate
but which has become all too common in our experience,
open our eyes, break our hearts,
and turn our hands to the movements of your Spirit,
that our anger and sorrow may unite in service to build a reign of peace,
where the lion and the lamb may dwell together,
and terror no longer holds sway over our common life.
In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.

Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus
Director, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

October 2017 Shavings Letter

It was Martin Luther who said there are three conversions necessary to become a
Christian:

• Conversion of the Head (Belief)
• Conversion of the Heart (Will)
• Conversion of the Wallet (Money)

Guess which of the three is the hardest? In the universe of spiritual concerns,
money is indeed, the final frontier.

I can tell you that in my 20+ years of ministry, it is far easier to have conversations
with people about their beliefs or their actions. Generally, folks are pretty open to
discussing changes that need to be made in those areas. Conversations about
money are a different matter. The walls go up, the conversation shuts down
and suddenly the discussion shifts to things that are ‘private’ and ‘no one else’s
business.’ It is not unusual for someone to talk about how they ‘resent’ that the
subject was broached and the Church would be a lot better if they stopped talking
about ‘money’ so much.

Granted, it would be a lot more comfortable around church not to talk about money.
But it would also stop being the Church – at least a Church that follows Jesus. Jesus
talked about money/treasure more than prayer, more than sin and a lot more than
about being ‘comfortable.’ The only thing Jesus talked about more than how we
approach our wealth is how we approach the Kingdom of God – and he seemed to
think the two were related. In fact, there are several times when Jesus indicates that
while wealth won’t get you into heaven, it just might be the thing that keeps you out.

I guess that is why I am glad we have moments like Set Your Sail Sunday (Nov. 5).
Churches have different ways of dealing with finances. In our congregation, this
is the Sunday we will gather to make our pledges to God regarding next year’s
budget. In part, it is how we keep the lights on, support programs and equip people
for mission and ministry. But Set Your Sail Sunday is not about simply giving
to a budget. It is about giving to God’s kingdom work of grace and redemption.
Pledging and giving are some of the key disciplines we use to help with the hardest
conversion – the conversion of the wallet. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but it is also
essential if we want to be followers of Christ.

I hope you will make a point of joining us for Set Your Sail Sunday. More specific
information about this special day will be sent out in the weeks to come. Until then
may we each give thanks for the conversions of head, heart and wallet that have
taken place in our lives so far and be open to the ongoing conversions yet to come.

Blessings,
Pastor Erik

Life On Loan – Wildwood This Fall

Here we are at the end of September!  The weather is cooling down reminding us the crisp, cool days of Fall are upon us.  The leaves are just beginning to change color and miracle of miracles the Cubs are preparing for the postseason!  What a great time of year this is.  As we enjoy the change of seasons we are also in the midst of a sermon series at Wildwood PC – Life on Loan!  Here is a refresher to remind us what it is all about.

“A life on loan- like every loan- is given with the expectation of a return.  We are to return more than we are given.  One day we will be held accountable for how we spent or invested our lives.”  So begins their book, Living a Life On Loan, written by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson.  They continue, “Life begins with- and is accountable to- God.  Though we often speak of life and all it comprises as gifts from God, they are unique ‘gifts’ in that, technically, they still belong to him.  It begins when we think of our life as ‘on loan’ rather than as a life ‘you own.’

We began our series two weeks ago passing out puzzle pieces.  Each one of us is a piece of God’s redemptive work in the world.  Our piece is integral to the overall puzzle, our story, our lives matter.  Hold on to that puzzle piece – we’ll bring them back in November and assemble the whole puzzle!

This past Sunday I challenged us all to the 4 x 1 challenge.  In short, we are invited to spend four hours a week choosing intentional Christian practices that shape and transform us into the people who experience “Abundant Life” as Jesus spoke of it in John 10:10.

1 Hour of Worship

1 Hour of Study/Devotion

1 Hour of Community/Fellowship

1 Hour of Service

It adds up to only 2.5% of our week and yet if we commit to these practices it will change who we are for the best!  What will you choose to do with your time?

I look forward to hearing how the 4 x 1 challenge impacts our lives in the days to come!

Blessings

Pastor Erik

September Shavings Letter

FROM THE PASTOR’S KEYBOARD…

Hello Wildwood Presbyterian Church Friends – I know we don’t truly know each other
yet but I certainly consider you, the congregation of WPC, as the new community of
friends that my family and I can’t wait to meet! We are excited to move to Illinois which
brings us significantly closer to Karleen’s extended family in Michigan. Thank you for
the warm welcome and generous hospitality you have already displayed as true
Midwesterners. To help us get acquainted I want to share with you a little about
myself as we begin this season of life and ministry together.

First, a few words about who I am:
•Born and raised in California and lived three years in Caracas, Venezuela
•Came to faith as a sophomore in high school at a Presbyterian church youth group
•Enjoyed undergraduate studies in Psychology at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA
•Married my college sweetheart, Karleen Dekleine (100% Dutch) a year after college
•Attended seminary in New Jersey at Princeton Theological Seminary
•Served 15 years as Associate Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church
•Finished a Doctorate of Ministry in 2014 at Fuller Theological Seminary
•Parent of three amazing daughters – Karis (1st year at William Woods University
in Fulton, MO), Abby (Junior at Grayslake North High School), Anneke (6th
grader at William L Thomson School)
•Love a good movie, trying new foods and exploring the great outdoors
•Avid baseball fan supporting the San Francisco Giants since the days of
Candlestick Park
•Favorite season of the year is March Madness
•Favorite week of the year is serving with youth and families on annual mission trip
•Play sports of many kinds including basketball, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, golf, etc.
•Marvel often at the paradox that is displayed in the cross and have a collection
hanging in my office to remind me of the powerful mystery and mercy of God
that is displayed in the empty cross!

While that is a brief synopsis of who I am, hopefully it gives you some sense of my
history and personality. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch so we can
share a meal, enjoy a cup of coffee or play a round of golf.

Now, a few words about life at Wildwood this Fall. As we move into a new season
together as a congregation my first priority is to meet you and hear your stories.
To that end a team is working right now organizing what we are calling “listening
sessions.” A session will take place at a home with 10 – 15 people in attendance. My
goal is to have several different sessions all around the area so that everyone has
a chance to participate. The agenda for each gathering is simple. Each person will
be invited to share a favorite memory or two of life connected to Wildwood and then
express a hope or dream for the future. This is a simplified form of a strategic process
called Appreciative Inquiry. Would you like to host a session at your home? If so,
contact Barb Hunt so we can add you to the list. I hope you will join us for a session
to share your history and your hopes for Wildwood Presbyterian Church. Together, we
have an exciting future ahead as we follow in the footsteps of the risen Christ!

Blessings,
Erik

August Shavings Letter

“Continuing the Journey”

With the election to call your new pastor (this article is being written during the
time when we still cannot publicly release his name) on Sunday, July 17, Wildwood
Presbyterian Church prepares to begin a new chapter in its journey of faith. What a
wonderful day July 17 was in WPC’s life! It is obvious that you, the congregation, are
eager to continue to follow our Lord Jesus Christ with new called and installed pastoral
leadership. Please know I am excited for you! It is good to see you not simply grateful
for WPC’s past but also looking forward as a congregation to a God-filled future.

My journey of faith will continue as well. “The only constant in life is change,” declares
a popular truism. An Interim Pastor soon learns this. In fact, the most frequent
question I’ve been asked in the weeks before the congregational meeting, and even
more so now that it has occurred is, “What will you do next, Bill?” The short answer is,
sooner or later, God willing, I will do another interim pastorate. One can never be too
sure, though, about the timing of another such opportunity.

For the time being, I will remain at WPC through the Sunday before Labor Day,
September 4. I will be in touch with your newly elected pastor and will continue to
work with the session, WPC committees, Gregg, Jill, Kathy, and Barb to ensure that
the transition is as smooth as possible. Upon leaving, I will sign the Presbytery of
Chicago’s Covenant of Closure that will officially end my relationship as a pastor with
you. However, since I live in Grayslake, I am sure I will be running into some of you
from time to time in the community. But I can only speak to you if you are wearing a
WPC nametag and have signed the pew pad the Sunday before!!

More seriously, in the midst of my journey together with you I have been inspired by
your faithfulness and impressed by the leadership skills that are prevalent among you.
WPC is a vital and vibrant church. As I contemplate the future of WPC, I am filled
with hope. Your gifts and talents are many and they will be enriched by the pastoral
leadership that your newly elected pastor will bring. He will begin his work at WPC on
Tuesday, September 6, while his first Sunday in the pulpit as WPC’s new pastor will be
September 11. Blessings on him, his family, and all of you! I am deeply grateful for the
myriad ways you have been “church” to me and to so many others!

Grace and peace,

Bill

July Shavings Letter

Summer Sermon Series
Welcoming and Supporting Wildwood Presbyterian’s New Pastor!

Let me begin with the disclaimers. No, you were not asleep during some
congregational meeting when a new Pastor was called! (Maybe you slept during a
sermon, but not a congregational meeting!) A new Pastor has not been called. No, I
don’t have special insider information as to when a new Pastor will be called. Interim
Pastors are ethically bound not to be a part of that process. But I am guessing that with
the Pastor Nominating Committee having publicized that they are now interviewing
candidates and with Wildwood Presbyterian Church being the vital and vibrant church I
know it to be, the day a new Pastor is coming cannot be too, too far off.

With that in mind, let me say the final “developmental task” of the five “developmental
tasks” in the interim process is called: “Preparing for New Pastoral Leadership and a
New Future.” We are there now. By the way, the other four steps which I wrote about
in my April, 2015, “From the Interim Pastor’s Study” article (I’m sure you remember it
well!) are as follows:

• Coming to Terms with the Congregation’s History
• Renewing the Congregation’s Identity
• Facilitating Shifts in Congregational Leadership
• Rethinking and Renewing Denominational Linkages

We worked a lot on those first two steps during our WildFuture meetings last summer.
Those meetings also were designed to collect helpful information for the Pastor
Nominating Committee which was yet to be elected. But primarily they were designed
to help us through those first two developmental tasks. Tasks three and four above
have been ongoing throughout much of the interim process.

So here we are, ready to begin to prepare for new pastoral leadership and a new
future. How do we begin to do that? Being a preacher means that one way I want to
come at this is through preaching! Specifically, off and on for much of this summer
we will be having a sermon series entitled “Welcoming and Supporting WPC’s New
Pastor!” We will specify and publicize this more as the summer schedule becomes
more apparent.

But for now we know that there will be sermons on practicing Christian hospitality as
Jesus exemplified it, speaking and hearing the truth in love when facing differences
of opinion, cultivating a culture of generosity in the church, and doing mission as a
great end of the church. These sermons and perhaps others will help us focus on
welcoming and supporting WPC’s new Pastor. If you’d like to be at your best in this
upcoming, exciting time, please join us in worship when you’re in town this summer!

Grace and peace,
Bill

June Shavings Letter from Pastor Gregg

Leaving Home

At the last Session meeting, I informed the Elders of my plan to conclude my ministry
at WPC. August 28th will be my last Sunday. So it is time to start the process of
preparing to leave this wonderful church which has been a spiritual home for me and
my family for 21 years.

Why? My wife Anne finished her interim pastorate at the LaGrange Presbyterian
Church on April 30th. At the end of the summer she will be looking for her next
opportunity for ministry, and after all the years of long commutes, we are committed to
the idea that we will live within walking distance of her next church. We are getting our
home ready to sell, and we expect to move in the fall.

Where will we go? As I write this, we don’t have the answer to that question. Anne
regularly receives calls from all over the country inviting her to talk with churches
that need an interim pastor. She will seek to discern God’s call from a congregation
that will benefit from her skills and experience, in a community that will offer us
an interesting life. I will be open to opportunities to support Anne in her church, or
perhaps to use my skills in the Presbytery or denomination’s programs.

It is challenging for me to describe clearly what a blessing it has been for me to be a
member of the WPC church family. We moved to Chicagoland when I took a job as
a mental health counselor at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. I felt deeply
uncertain about how I would live out my calling to be a Presbyterian minister. It was
a profound gift for me and my family to find WPC just a few miles from our home and
to be welcomed warmly by the Bostroms and the whole congregation. Through the
years, my identity as one of the pastors of WPC became stronger, until I was invited
to join the church staff as a Parish Associate pastor. It has been a particular privilege
to work with Jill and Bill as we have led the church through the interim process since
Greg and Kathy left.

The end of August will be my time to leave as well. I will sign the Covenant of Closure
that will officially end my relationships with all of you as a pastor. I am glad that there
are no secrets about my plans, so this summer we can all figure out together how to
conclude my work and say “God be with you” as we move forward into the future of
blessing that is God’s will for me and for WPC.

With gratitude,
Gregg

May Shavings Letter

Confirmation Class Was Received April 24th

“Christians are made, not born,” said the third century theologian Tertullian. Following
Jesus Christ is not something that comes naturally, without faith, commitment, and
training. Confirmation is an historic means of helping to shape Christians. Today,
making Christians has become challenging work for the church. So many factors in
modern life seem to conspire against the church in its efforts to make disciples.

Confirmation in our church began last October for eighth grade students who chose
to participate. A gifted leadership team consisting of WPC Pastor Jill Paulson and
members Juli Beucher, Rob Nordeen, and Anthony Szot taught and guided the
process, with input from Christian Educator Kathy Gillmore and an adult WPC faith
partner for each confirmation class member.

I thought it would be helpful to share some information about the Presbyterian
understanding of this process. Confirmation has as its goal discipleship, helping form
people who more closely resemble disciples of Jesus Christ in their lifestyle, beliefs,
and values. Thus, we are more interested in our youth (and adults!) knowing and
following Christ than we are in them knowing “about” Christ.

On the one hand, “the life of the mind in the service of God” is important to
Presbyterian Christians. It is important to know what we believe and why we believe it.
A person who knows what he or she believes has a strength which others lack. On the
other hand, the Christian faith is much more than a mere “head trip.” It is a way of life
together. It is loving God with all our being – heart, soul, mind and strength – and loving
our neighbors as we love ourselves. The Christian faith involves the total person. It is
a personal experience and a relational experience.

Confirmation does not begin or end our growth as Christians. Our youth are already
“children of the covenant.” Confirmation is a major step but not the only step in one’s
life-long faith journey. Our prayer is that each of us, no matter how young or old, is
continuing to grow in the faith.

Those in this year’s confirmation class who professed their faith in Jesus Christ and
became active members of WPC on April 24 are:

Ruthie Baldwin
Augustus Bankson
Riley Bishop
Emily Beucher
John Beucher
Delaney Carolan
Erin Custod
Grace Goodrich
Reese Goodrich
Hannah Hunt
Emma Johnson
Daniel Karl
Brooke Moeller
Jack Murrie
Cameron Newton
Daniel Ota
Heather Sealander
Matthew Snavely
Brody Solbrig
Jordan Twadell
Meghan Williams

Please keep them in your prayers as they and all of us seek to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

Bill

April Shavings Letter

Eastertide at WPC

At Wildwood Presbyterian Church, we invite you to make Easter and the Sundays that
follow a time of special joy. On Easter Day we discover for ourselves the wonder of
the empty tomb and feel the joy that comes from knowing that God conquers death
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But Easter is more than just one Sunday. For centuries, the church has celebrated the
season of Eastertide, which consists of 50 days and seven Sundays, including Easter
Day, and ending with the Day of Pentecost. At WPC, during the seven Sundays of
Eastertide we hear the stories of Jesus’ appearances following his resurrection. We
experience the astonishment and joy that his followers felt when he appeared among
them to show them the reality of his new life and to teach them how to live as followers
of a resurrected Lord.

We celebrate this season in festive ways at WPC: by singing the Hallelujah Chorus
and hearing our brass band play, by renewing our baptismal vows, by displaying
special banners outside and in the sanctuary. It is the season we receive our
confirmation class as new members and are led in worship by our youth on Youth
Sunday. This year guest preacher Bryan Sirchio will return (see article in this
Shavings) to emphasize our mission to Haiti and we will sing each Sunday words from
the glorious Easter hymn, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”

Here is the schedule for the weeks of Eastertide:

March 27 – Easter Day – John 20:1-10 (or perhaps Mark 16:1-8) – “He is risen!” – The
empty tomb – All who wish are invited to sing the Hallelujah Chorus

April 3 – 2nd Sunday of Easter – John 20:11-18 – “Woman, why are you weeping?” –
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene – Communion & WPC Renewal of Baptismal Vows

April 10 – 3rd Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31 – “Do not doubt, believe!” – Jesus
challenges Thomas – Guest clergy Bryan Sirchio preaching – Haiti mission emphasis

April 17 – 4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday – John 21:15-17 – “Feed my
sheep
” – Jesus speaks to Peter (perhaps paired with verses from John 10 – “I am the
good shepherd”)

April 24 – 5th Sunday of Easter – John 21:1-14 – “Come and be fed” – Jesus meets the
disciples on the seashore – WPC Confirmation Sunday

May 1 – 6th Sunday of Easter – Luke 24:13-35 – “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” –
The road to Emmaus – Communion

May 8 – 7th Sunday of Easter – Matthew 28:16-20 – “I am with you always” – Jesus
gives his followers the Great Commission – WPC Youth Sunday/Mother’s Day

I hope you will join us in worship in this joyful Easter season!

Grace and peace,
Bill

March Shavings Letter

Easter- A Complete Transformation!

In an Easter sermon preached in Germany in 1940, just before he was arrested
by Hitler’s Gestapo, a pastor, Helmut Gollwitzer, said this: “On Easter, a complete
transformation took place…that which was certain has become doubtful, and that
which was doubtful has become very sure.” Notice this transformation that takes place
when the women visit Jesus’ tomb that first Easter. (Mark 16:1-8)

As they made their way along in the first light of dawn, what were their certainties?
The main one was that Jesus was dead. They had seen him crucified, watched him
die, seen his body taken down from the cross and buried. There could be no doubt
about that. And that led to another great certainty: here in this world, death is stronger
than God. For it was in Jesus that God’s own self was revealed to them. Yet death had
taken him as it takes us all. God may be almighty in heaven, but here on earth, death
is king. There could be no doubt about that.

And from those two certainties, came all those bitter, worldly-wise certainties that
people have lived by in every age. Let me mention only a few:

Nice guys finish last.
Might makes right.
Look out for number one.
Don’t get mad, get even.

Surely the women thought that these tough and disillusioned views of reality were the
only certainties that we have. Here they come around the bend with their certainties
and when they looked up, they saw a sight that turned everything upside down. The
stone was rolled back. The tomb was empty. There was a messenger there saying,
“He has risen!“ (Mark 16:6)

What was demanded of them was a radical transformation. As Gollwitzer says, “That
which was certain has become doubtful, and that which was doubtful has become
very sure.” They were certain Jesus was dead, but now it was doubtful. They were
certain death was stronger than God but now it is doubtful. They were certain “nice
guys finish last” and “might makes right”, but these and all those other worldly wise
views of reality are now doubtful.

And on the other side, their doubts became certainties. They doubted the stone could
be rolled away (Mark 16:3), but now they know it can be. They doubted there were
any cracks in the universal reign of death, but now they know the cracks are there.
They doubted God’s power on earth, but now they are sure of God’s power. Yes, a
remarkable transformation took place. Christian friends, we are to live in light of that
Easter transformation and in the power of that transformation!

Grace and peace,
Bill