Category Archives: Pastor’s Blog

January 2019 Shavings Letter

The new year is soon upon us and we are deep into our journey together with the book, We Make the Road by Walking. Every journey has its twists and turns, deviations and detours. While those unplanned parts of the trip seem a nuisance at the time, they are in fact an integral part to who we are becoming. I look forward to our journey together in 2019 and all the surprises we will encounter on our journey of faith, hope and love together, a journey to aliveness. I recently discovered this poem and was moved by its honesty and wisdom. As you look toward 2019 may this poem speak for you as a prayer.


Down the Road: A Poem for the New Year
by Katy Kauffman


I look down the road before me.
Only a few hundred feet are clear.
I don’t know what all lies ahead
As I start walking in this new year.

One crunch, two crunches, three.
My steps crack the thin ice.
Will I fall? Will I slip? Is it all
Left to chance, like throwing a pair of dice?

Then I hear a voice behind me,
“I’m with you, My child. Don’t you fear.”
I look around and see no one.
Yet I know He is here.

“God, You know what I’ve been through.
You know the pain and suffering.
Will this year be the same?
What good can it possibly bring?”

“I have adventures ahead,”
He says over my shoulder.
“I have new mercies to give
When the days grow colder.”

“There are too many who suffer alone,”
He whispers like a soothing father.
“Too many who don’t know Me yet,
People no one will bother.”

I think about my journey,
the long road left behind.
I turn around and look,
Squinting against the snow’s glary shine.

I see my crooked footprints,
Where I hobbled steadily along
As I squint harder, I see something else.
I see the evidence of a throng.

Footprints of seen and unseen travelers.
How can it be?
What are their names
But hope, friendship, and mercy?

I wasn’t alone—God, You were there.
So were Your faithful companions.
I know it’s true—You’re with me,
And this soul You have never abandoned.

Send me where You will,
My feet, my words, my love.
Let my voice be heard across the world,
“We have help from God above!”

Speak, Lord, words of hope and strength.
Your Word will see us through.
Guide us on the difficult paths.
Remind us of the good we can do.

Help us to see others who hurt,
Those who need Your grace and truth.
Show us how to love them,
How to point them steadily to You.

I will trust You on this road,
This new chapter of adventure.
I will listen for Your voice to guide me
And to remind me that I’m Your treasure.

December 2018 Shavings Letter

Dear Wildwood family,

Welcome to Advent! You made it through Thanksgiving and now the build up toward Christmas. As a child I struggled with all the waiting. Presents started showing up under the tree weeks before Christmas, but I had to wait to open them. As an adult I still struggle with the waiting. I want the kingdom to come as Jesus prayed to happen now. I want to see justice and mercy and grace abound. Yet our screens fill up with division and discord. What is the hold-up God? Yet, like Job, I am reminded that I am not God and I have to trust God has this world under control. So I wait as we all do.

As I prepare for the coming of the Christ-child once again I find the following prayer from Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann helpful as he addresses the challenge of waiting.

God of the seasons,
God of the years,
God of the eons,
Alpha and Omega,
before us and after us.
You promise and we wait:
we wait with eager longing,
we wait amid doubt and anxiety,
we wait with patience thin
and then doubt,
and then we take life into our own hands.
We wait because you are the one and the only one.
We wait for your peace and your mercy,
for your justice and your good rule.
Give us your spirit that we may wait
obediently and with discernment,
caringly and without passivity,
trustingly and without cynicism
honestly and without utopianism,
Grant that our wait may be appropriate to your coming
soon and very soon,
soon and not late,
late but not too late.
We wait while the world groans in eager longing.
I hope you will join me in worship throughout this Advent season as we wait together for the coming of the Christ-child once more!

Blessings,
Pastor Erik

November 2018 Shavings Letter

Dear Wildwood family,

Have you been walking with us on our trip that we began in September? I’m talking about our year-long all church journey through the Bible connected to the book We Make The Road By Walking. We started this venture just after Labor Day and we will continue on this trek all the way through August next year. No worries if you haven’t picked up the book yet. There are copies still available and you are welcome to join in whenever you can. I hope you will jump into the journey with us because our goal is Aliveness! Who doesn’t want that? By way of review, here is a recap from the author of our book, Brian McLaren –

We’ve come a long way in our story already. We’ve discovered…

Creation – God brings into being this beautiful, evolving world of wonders.

Crisis – We step out of the dance and enter into rivalry with God and our fellow creatures, throwing this planet into disarray.

Calling – God calls people to join in a global conspiracy of goodness and blessing, to heal and restore whatever human evil destroys.

Captivity – The people who have joined God’s global conspiracy of goodness experience the horrors of slavery, but God eventually leads them by the wilderness road out of captivity toward freedom. (Taken from the beginning of Chp. 11)

As we move into the month of November our exploration takes us from the Exodus wandering to the challenging texts that include the Conquest of the promised land. Have you ever wondered about Joshua and Jericho? Did the walls really come tumbling down? Were French peas really involved? All that and more will be covered so be sure to join us live as we continue our journey to Aliveness together.

Blessings-
Pastor Erik

March 2018 Shavings Letter

Hello Wildwood,

While the Winter Olympics in South Korea are winding down, we are just getting
started into Lent. Lent is that season we model after Jesus’ 40 days spent in the
wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. Jesus took the time to fast, pray and
study so that he would be ready for the challenges he would face over the course
of the next three years on his way to the cross. So it is, we take time in this
season to inspect our souls so that we will be prepared for the challenges that lie
ahead. May we take the advice offered us from Hebrews 12: 1 that says, “…let us
throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us
run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” To that end I offer this prayer
I found recently to guide us daily in Lent. Perhaps, as we pray it daily we might
throw off what holds us back from more faithfully following our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ.

A Prayer for Lent: Letting Go

O God, help us to use this season of Lent
to examine our attachments,
and to sense where You invite us
to live more simply and deeply.

Shine the light of Your love
into the private corners of our lives
where we have acquired so much clutter
that it has begun to restrict our freedom.

Grant us the strength to free ourselves
from appetites and needs that drive us
into taking, having and wanting
more than we need or have time for.

Teach us that in letting go
we become free, rather than deprived,
generous rather than covetous,
and spacious rather than restricted.

We offer You our Lenten observance,
and today we place our feet
on the road to Easter, and walk
the Way that You have walked before us. Amen.

Blessings,
Erik

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

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