February 2018 Shavings Letter

Hello Wildwood,

Awakening
…That moment after you realize that you had been asleep and didn’t know it.
…That experience that suddenly everything fits in ways you couldn’t see before.
…The realization that the world is somehow bigger, more connected and more sacred than you ever suspected.
…The experience of many people who encountered Jesus. It was true in the Bible. It still is.
…It’s the hope for this season called “Lent”- the weeks leading up to Easter. If it has been awhile since you have been startled by God’s presence, amazed by reading a familiar passage or overwhelmed by your connection to others, then perhaps you are ready for a season of…Awakening.

Here are some things that may help:

Sermon Series: Awakenings – Encounters with Jesus
Beginning February 18 – Easter (April 1). Each week, we’ll explore a different encounter with Jesus from the book of John. After the prologue (John 1:1-18) the gospel of John pulls together significant, and dynamic stories of what happened when everyday people and life encountered Jesus. Our goal this Lent is to put ourselves into the life situations and through Nicodemus, the woman caught in adultery, Lazarus, and the others, experience the collision of our lives as they are today with the “life to come” embodied in Jesus’ call to follow him.

Devotional Reading: Read-Reflect-Pray-Live
Using the encounter from Sunday, we invite you to make that scripture passage your reading for the week, using our Read-Reflect-Pray-Live method (Lectio Divina). This helps us go deep into a passage and awaken to what God has for you. You can do this by yourself or with a small group – family, study group, neighbors. We’ll send an electronic version of the devotional out in early February and have copies available Sunday mornings.

Mission: One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS)
Proceeds from this offering are used for immediate disaster assistance around the world. You can give to it through our children’s fish banks. The OGHS will be collected on Palm Sunday, March 25.

I hope you’ll join us for this Lenten season and may we all experience awakenings as we encounter the living God!

Blessings,
Erik

January 2018 Shavings Letter

Hello Wildwood,

As I look back over this past year of life and ministry of WPC I am filled with
gratitude. I am grateful for the myriad ways that people stepped up to serve
each week throughout the year. The list is quite extensive if you stop and think
about it. There are, in no particular order, Sunday school teachers, singers in the
choir, ushers, greeters, PADS volunteers, MOPS mentor moms and Moppetts,
musicians, sound booth support, liturgists, committee members, food distribution
volunteers, bulletin folders, Extracare volunteers, adult mission trip workers,
Wildworks participants, elders, deacons, (can you believe the list continues,
keep reading) Confirmation leaders, meal makers for the Baptist relief groups
we hosted in August, Quilters, Greeting card creators, VBS volunteers, office
support volunteers, garden keepers, Coffee House talent and organizers, youth
mission trip volunteers, Sunday coffee set-up angels, Tiny Treasures board
members, middle school and high school leaders, finance volunteers, Sunday
offering counters and the list goes on. I am sorry if I forgot to mention your
service, but you get the idea. Without each person giving of their time and talent
we would be a lesser place, unable to do and be the church God has called us
to become. A huge thank you to everyone who served in 2017 and helped God’s
kingdom presence be known more and more.

One particular servant furthering the kingdom who deserves
special recognition is Andrew Mott. Andrew has served as our
High School Youth Coordinator for the past 10 years. This past
October, he let Session know that he would be “retiring” from
his position at the end of 2017. Andrew has led our high school
students and leaders through a decade of Sunday night WildFire
gatherings, retreats, service projects, all-night lock-ins (He should
be given sainthood for those), mission trips, fund-raisers and
countless other moments. Over the past year I have seen his
deep love for our students and devotion to their physical, social,
emotional and spiritual well-being. We have been well served
with “Mott” at the helm of our high school ministry.

I hope you will join me in saying thank you to Andrew Mott for his decade of
service both formally and informally. Formally we will show our appreciation at
our annual meeting on Sunday, February 4. More details to follow soon about
how you can be a part of that celebration.

Of course, with Andrew retiring there is a big gap to fill in the role of High School
Youth Coordinator. Thankfully, since Andrew shared his “retirement” plans with
Session a few months ago the personnel committee has been at work looking
for a suitable replacement. I am happy to report they found one in long-time
member and youth advisor Mike Hilty. Mike will start officially as our new Wild
Fire coordinator January 1. We look forward to his leadership with our students.

For all that has been in 2017 thank you. For all that God has in store for 2018
may we say yes!

Blessings,
Pastor Erik

December Shavings Letter

Hello Wildwood,

Except for the biblical story of the birth of Jesus, there is probably no other
Christmas story as popular as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Though the
story takes place in 1843, there is a timeless quality to the story’s characters
and morals which has made this tale a classic. The story of the miraculous
conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge has been performed on stage (as a play and
as a ballet), and there are several movie adaptations (my personal favorite
being the 1992 The Muppets Christmas Carol).

In the spring of 1843, Dickens set out to write a pamphlet about the unjust
conditions in industrialized England. Curiously, at the same time Dickens
took interest in some lost Christmas traditions. The 19th century was the age
of romanticism, and a general strong interest in customs and traditions of a
‘better’ past. In the first part of the 19th century, Christmas in England had
almost entirely become a holiday which would be observed in church, but not
at home. Dickens, passionate and romantic himself, sought for a way to infuse
the holiday with the more secular traditions of music, dance, feasting, family,
and gift giving.

Dickens never succeeded in finishing his pamphlet. Instead, his passion for the
poor and the quest for long lost Christmas traditions led to A Christmas Carol.
The book was an instant commercial and critical success. All 6,000 copies of
the original printing were sold within a month. It has often been said that the
truth, told in a matter-of-fact way, usually doesn’t have the same impact as the
same truth conveyed in a (fairy) tale. One can safely say that a mere pamphlet
about the plight of the poor wouldn’t have had the same impact as Dickens’
inspired story of the true spirit of Christmas. Just think about it: Christmas still
is the most charitable time of the year. In the end, our charity, our giving, is a
mere reflection of the ultimate gift God gave us – Jesus, the Son, child in the
manger and man on the cross. This is what we celebrate.

This Advent season in worship we will explore the familiar Scriptures of the
Christmas story while also examining the lessons Ebenezer learns amidst A
Christmas Carol. Together, may we all be transformed as we explore our past,
present and future in light of Immanuel, God with us.

Blessings,

Pastor Erik

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