A Lesson from the Fierce Five

This is the text of an article I wrote for the local newspaper.  This was my first of what will be monthly reflections published in the Altamont paper.  Nothing controversial here, just getting established. 


I love the Olympics.  It’s not just about the sports.  I love the narratives we impose upon them.  The Olympic Games are always rife with stories of people overcoming adversity in order to participate.  The world records are always overshadowed by the human milestones that are achieved.  It isn’t just that Michael Phelps is perhaps the greatest Olympic athlete we’ve ever seen; it’s also that he once was a fidgety overactive kid with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder whose mom took him to the pool because she didn’t know what else to do with him.  Oscar Pistorius became history’s first Olympic runner on prosthetic limbs.  David Boudia took home Olympic gold for the 10 meter platform dive, but he first had to overcome his fear of heights to even climb the ladder.

But the interesting narrative to me was that of American gymnast Jordyn Wieber.  If you remember, Jordyn is a member of the US Women’s Gymnastics team, who now call themselves “The Fierce Five.” Going into the Olympics she was the world champion in women’s All-Around gymnastic competition.  But on the Olympic stage with seemingly the whole world watching, she failed to even qualify for the All-Around event.  She had every reason to enter the qualifying round expecting gold, and ended up excluded from the competition.  A lesser soul would have been crushed, but when the time came for the team competition she performed like a champion and made a massive contribution to the Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team gold medal.  The Jordyn Wieber story became one of putting aside her own feelings in order to make a selfless contribution to her team.  She gave the best performance she could, not for her own glory, but for that of her friends and teammates. What a great narrative!

As a new pastor in this community, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from Jordyn Wieber and the women’s gymnastics team.  The church I serve is only one member of a fantastic team of churches in this community.  The idea that the Methodists are in competition with any other denomination is false.  We are in competition together, seeking not a gold medal for ourselves, but rather victory for the Kingdom of God.  I strive for success, not purely for my own ministries or my own church, but for God’s Kingdom right here in Altamont.  And as I work to make my own contribution, I root for the success of my teammates of every denomination as well.  Yes, my goal is to be a great pastor for the First United Methodist Church, but my greater goal is to be one of several great pastors in service to the living God for the people and community of Altamont.  We’re all part of the same team with the same goal.  I look forward to working with my new teammates in this great community.

That’s my narrative and I’m sticking to it. 


Preach Rides Again (or, A New Life Deserves a New Blog)

This is just me. An ordinary guy with a call to an extraordinary vocation. I come here to reflect on the theology and practice of ministry. I come here to post about random stuff I find interesting. I come here as an outlet for my musical passions. Like a journal, this blog will chronicle my growth, my progression, my formation as a pastor, as a person, as a child of God.


So I decided I should blog again.

And as I sit here composing at the keyboard, I can’t help but wonder, “What in the Sam Hill for?”

I quit blogging when life got more complicated than I had anticipated.  I was okay with claiming a prophetic voice regarding the ordination process in my denomination and conference.  I’m still not sure whether the Board of Ordained Ministries voted to ordain me in spite of or because of my critiques and public venting of my frustrations.  I genuinely worried that they would continue me for a year or two, postponing my ordination until they deemed me penitent enough.  But it was a risk I was willing to take.

And I got ordained.  All I really heard back was, “He’s good.  He’s met all the requirements.  He’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” and “Welcome to The Orders!”

Then life got REALLY complicated.  My marriage of nearly 21 years ended.  I wound up physically sick and emotionally wrecked.  I experienced ungrace from places and people I never expected.  And I experienced love and support from equally unexpected places.  I was busy grieving the loss of hopes, dreams and expectations I had held dearly for so many years.  I was busy rebuilding my life, reconnecting with God, and healing my spirit.  I was busy doing my job, even on days that it meant proclaiming hope while feeling utterly hopeless.

I was also busy falling in love.  Just as I began to envision my life as a perpetually single (divorced) man, a stranger from Seattle sauntered into my life and became my best friend, my buddy, my (as much as I resist this term) soul-mate.  We just had to figure out how to make a 2,000-mile long-distance relationship work, and the cell-phone-and-Skype thing wasn’t cutting it. So we found a way to close the gap, and I became her husband.

I quit blogging because I needed my life to become private again.  My divorce, my new relationship, my feelings of abandonment, my new set of hopes and fears and dreams and terrors, my struggles to redefine my relationship with my kids due to the changes in our living arrangements, my feelings of abandonment, depression, shame, recovery and ultimately my rebirth were – to be blunt – nobody’s business.

Some parts of life are too private for a blog.  And I needed those parts of my life to BE private.  So I disappeared.

Now I have a new life.  I can honestly say that I’m not the same man I once was.  I’m softer.  (I have a theory that divorce makes some people more bitter, cynical and hard, and it makes some people kinder, less bitter, more sensitive and somehow softer.  I went the latter way, though I could just as easily have gone the former.) I’m a better husband than I was before.  I’m a better father than I was before.  I’m a better pastor than I was before.

So here I am.

Since I haven’t figured out what this blog IS, I suppose I could reflect a moment on what it is NOT.

  • This blog is not “an inspirational moment with Pastor Willie.”  That kind of writing is simply not one of my gifts, and I suspect that well would run dry pretty quickly.
  • This blog is not “a short course in systematic theology with Willie Deuel, M.Div.”  I’m not really interested in flexing my intellectual muscle in some self-aggrandizing way.
  • This blog is not “why the UMC is superior to other denominations.”  Nor is it “what’s wrong with the UMC and why those who disagree with me need to get out in order to fix it.”
  • This blog is not a place for political rants.

Is there a chance I’ll post about the UMC?  Absolutely.  But it’s not to defend or to indict the church.  When I post, it’s just one guy’s opinion.

Is there a chance I’ll post deep theological thoughts?  Sure. But that’s more “me working out my thoughts” than an attempt to convince you (or anyone) to believe as I believe.

Is there a chance I’ll post some opinions that others will disagree with?  You’re darn tootin’. But I’m not out to court controversy for the sake of page hits.

This is just me.  An ordinary guy with a call to an extraordinary vocation. I come here to reflect on the theology and practice of ministry.  I come here to post about random stuff I find interesting.  I come here as an outlet for my musical passions.  Like a journal, this blog will chronicle my growth, my progression, my formation as a pastor, as a person, as a child of God.

Anyway, that’s enough of an ice breaker.  Welcome back to my world.