Monthly Archives: May 2013

Memorial Day: A Time For Reflection

Memorial Day A Time For ReflectionMy mind goes back to the days of my childhood when my father called Memorial Day “Decoration Day,” as it was commonly known to past generations of Americans. It was a day for decorating the graves of our departed family members. Rising early in the morning, we would go to the garden and pick the flowering blossoms of the snowball tree, peonies, day lilies, rhododendron, or azaleas– anything that happened to be blooming at the moment, colorful and fragrant. Dad was particularly fond of iris, which he always called, “flags.” Depending upon the weather patterns of spring in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we might have an abundant or meager floral supply—but there was always something. These cut flowers were carefully arranged in mason jars and taken to the cemetery where they were lovingly placed on the graves of those departed loved ones whose memory my parents cherished. There, our “flags” took their place amongst the American flags commemorating departed veterans.

I must admit, I failed to recognize the significance of this ritual and tradition at the time. Most of those being remembered pre-dated my memory, and I felt no personal connection to a person I’d never known. The noise of the nearby boat races on the Willamette River sounded much more exciting than the dead silence of a graveyard to my way of thinking. Over time however, I discovered my parent’s traditional genes also flow through my blood. These days I consider it a privilege, if not a responsibility, to follow their ancient rituals in remembering loved ones from the past on Memorial Day.

It is ironic isn’t it, that we sometimes must be faced with death to consider the importance of life. Jesus calls us to come to him, to pause and find rest for our weary souls (see Matthew 11:28-29). In the Sermon on the Mount, he encouraged us to “consider the lilies of the field” and recognize that worry and a hectic pace adds little of substance to our lives. In so doing, we may reflect and consider what God has done for us, and in so doing discover how we should then live. In essence it represents a call to pause and consider the meaning of life. Our life.

Iris - 5-24-13

Iris blooming in my neighborhood (c)2013 Don Detrick

What will others remember about us on some distant Memorial Day? As human beings, we are prone to action more than reflection. We are human beings, not human doings, yet we seem to love doing much more than being. That is why it is good to occasionally pause and reflect—to examine ourselves. But this requires us to slow down, to wait, to think, to meditate, things we often avoid.

Growing up on a farm, I particularly enjoyed tasks that involved driving the tractor. It is a job that does not require great amounts of concentration, and provides you time to reflect. One thing I learned is that you can observe things at the speed of 7 miles per hour that you miss at the speed of 70 miles per hour. You notice the little things that have fallen by the wayside, and have time to think and reflect. Things like the vibrant beauty of flowers contrasted with flags and gravestones. One representing the glory of life in the present, the other significant for remembering the blessings of heritage and freedom. Both are important for a balanced life. How might you add a moment or two of reflection to your busy Memorial Day weekend?

Tradition: A Slippery Slope

Slippery-SlopeTradition is a slippery slope. We grasp for a handhold and cling to some treasured memory or memento, fearing what might happen if we let go. So we hold on for dear life, not realizing that not far below lies the firm soil of present reality, the best place to safely chart a path to the future.

I am basically a traditionalist. I love history, antiques, and stories from the past. A visit to my office will show you that. But these things must be kept in perspective or they can easily become shrines to what used to be.

Nostalgia always clouds opportunities in the present with the foggy memories of prior success. To worship at the shrine of the past is to plant the seeds of tomorrow’s harvest in the dry, sterile soil of yesterday’s dust. Those seeds might survive as relics in a museum, but in that environment, they will never produce life.

Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for traditionalists, not because of any disrespect for the past. As the, “Alpha and Omega” Jesus had the clearest perspective any human being could possibly have on the past, present, and future. He understood the limitations of viewing time only through our own lens of the present. Jesus criticized traditionalists because of what they enshrined: adherence to a set of rules only they were empowered to interpret and enforce, rather than valuing a vibrant relationship with the living God.

That’s the problem with religious tradition. With the best of intentions, we may wish to preserve a valid object or practice that brought yesterday’s blessing, without realizing that our efforts to do so will be no more successful than Israel’s efforts to preserve yesterday’s portion of manna. Those objects and traditions held over from the past can easily become idols, and distract us from worshipping the living God in the present.

Of course I’m not talking about abandoning our Christian heritage, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, or orthodox doctrine. I am talking about our tendency to consciously or unconsciously promote our own version of the past above those non-negotiable elements of our faith and practice.

A healthy view of tradition values the past for what is was. We learn from it, and move forward. We choose not to live there because we can’t. Those moments are gone forever. It was, but today is and thus is full of promise by acknowledging and accepting the present, and by planting our feet in and sowing seeds in the soil that now exists. We cannot live in a constant state of reminiscence without detachment from reality and eventually becoming critical of everyone and all things contemporary. As R.T. Kendall once observed, “The greatest opposition to what God is doing today comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday.”

Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Madeline Detrick late 1970-early1971 Cropped PSAlthough she went to heaven more than ten years ago, I bear my mother’s imprint and think about her every day of my life. And although she never held any formal office or position in life (other than being my Cub Scout Den Mother, or Sunday School Teacher, or PTA President), and only graduated from the eighth grade, she was a leader in her own right because she influenced others–especially me. She even nurtured my love for photography, posing for this photo I took when I was in the eighth grade or so, around 1969. Here are a few lessons I learned from her. The first few of course are written tongue in cheek, but nevertheless I can literally remember her voice speaking these things:

  • My mother taught me about the circle of life: “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of this world.”
  • My mother taught me about the road to insanity: “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ and driving me crazy making all that noise.”
  • My mother taught me patience: “You are going to sit there until you eat everything on that plate.”
  • My mother taught me about world concern: “There are millions of starving children in the world who would love to eat a meal like this.”
  • My mother taught me about delayed expectations: “You just wait until your father gets home, you’re gonna get it!”
  • My mother taught me to increase my animal vocabulary and mark my words: “You just hold your horses, if you don’t stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off, mark my words, I’m gonna be mad as a wet hen and tan your hide!”
  • My mother taught me to appreciate big numbers: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times!”
  • My mother taught me to appreciate bony fingers: “I work my fingers to the bone around here, and you don’t appreciate it.”
  • My mother taught me about bungee jumping: “I suppose if everybody else jumped off a bridge, you would, too!”
  • Finally, my mother taught me that we are all mortal: “You better think again about what you’re planning to do because you’ll do that over my dead body!”

As a boy, I never took a lot of my mother’s hyperbole in speech very seriously. And I didn’t expect that sometime in the distant future I really would look be doing something “over her dead body” and sadly, one day more than 10 years ago her life on earth did end, and I conducted her funeral on August 30, 2002. As I reflected on that day and today, here are three of the most important lessons she taught me:

First, my mother taught me about faithThe Bible says in Hebrews 11:3 that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” My mother taught me about faith in Jesus and prayer from the time I was born. As a child I never doubted the existence of God, or the goodness of God, or the love of God because I saw God as a reality in my family. My mother was intentional about this, and she taught both by example and by being sure I was involved in activities that would nurture my faith.

Second, my mother taught me about hope. The Bible teaches us that without a vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Vision is all about hope – it is about the future. My mother taught me to be optimistic – to be sure, there were times she could be moody and discouraged, but overall, she usually had a smile on her face and enthusiasm for life. She had the advantage of perspective, and an unwavering conviction that we had a destiny and purpose in life.

From the time I was a little boy, I remember my mother telling me that God had a plan for my life – that the Lord had spoken to her that I had a call upon my life. Even though there were times as a teenager when I resisted or even resented that idea, I could never lose sight of the vision my mother instilled within me. She majored on my strengths, not my weaknesses. Although I had plenty of weaknesses, my mother and dad both instilled in me the idea that I could do anything – that I was destined to be a leader. Others conspired with her in this initiative. I still have my 3rd grade report card from Mrs. Winnogene Baker, my teacher at Dundee Elementary School in Dundee, Oregon. On that 3rd grade report card, Mrs. Baker wrote:  “Donald is a leader. Let’s hope he continues to lead in the right direction.”

Mom & Dad Detrick 50th Anniv 1-2-89 Newberg AG cropped photo

My parents on their 50th Wedding Anniversary January 2, 1989

Of all the lessons my mother taught me, most of all she taught me about love. My mother was an equal opportunity lover of all people. She never had a cruel thing to say about anybody and showed her love through her gift of hospitality. She never saw a problem that couldn’t be worked out over a good meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy with all the trimmings, and topped off with coconut cream pie and a good cup of coffee. She gave my wife and children the same gift of her love and acceptance that she freely offered me. She imprinted all of our lives and we are all better because of her. Thanks, Mom!

Perspective: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What's Wrong With This Picture“Wow, look at Mt. Rainier this morning, what a magnificent view! Can’t you see it?”  From my perspective sitting in a window seat of a 767 flying at about 25,000 feet, it looked like I could almost reach out and touch Washington state’s highest peak. Just after sunrise, the view was spectacular.

“No, I can’t see a thing,” replied the attractive woman sitting next to me, who happened to be my wife, Jodi.

“Well move over a little closer to me, now can you see it?”

“Still can’t see a thing,” Jodi replied. By then we had flown further east and left Mt. Rainier behind.

“Well, you should have seen it—simply amazing!”

“Sure,” Jodi replied, sounding somewhat unconvinced and perhaps a little chagrined that I had interrupted her nap and occupied the window seat. At that hour of the morning, I could understand why she didn’t share my enthusiasm for something she could not see.

Perspective. It all depends upon your point of view. From where you are sitting you see one thing, and you see it clearly, perhaps with a great deal of certainty. But the person sitting right next to you might see a different picture. Maybe something entirely different. Or maybe they see nothing at all.

This can be frustrating, and lead to disagreements. I am convinced that a lot of the conflict we experience in life stems from the tension of differing perspectives. People with diverse points of view may not see eye to eye. That’s why we need to learn to listen and ask questions, so we can sense what others see and maybe understand them a little better. Instead, we are often too quick to try and tell how things look from our point of view, and grow increasingly frustrated if they can’t seem to view things our way or immediately agree with our perspective.

The photo above was taken from an airplane. What’s wrong with the picture? Well, you probably notice that the blue sky is above the clouds, something you could only see from a perspective about six miles above terra firma. From where most of us are usually standing on planet earth, the view below would be cloudy and dark, much different from the view above the clouds.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could always see what is happening above the clouds? It would not only change our perspective, it would probably change our attitude. And really, isn’t that what faith is all about? Standing on the ground on a dark and rainy day, we may project the darkness and dreariness that we see. But above those dripping clouds, the sun is shining. We know that. Yet we see no evidence of it at the moment. Maybe that is why the writer of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

Perspective. That is the difference between faith and unbelief. Between a life attitude ruled by the view from ground zero and a life attitude ruled by believing the sun is shining above the clouds. And you really should have seen that view of Mt. Rainier. Well, I did take a picture, so you can!

Aerial View Mt Rainier - Don Detrick c 2013

And by the way, if you would like a different perspective on what it means to follow Jesus Christ, my new book, Growing Disciples Organically: The Jesus Method of Spiritual Formation is now available in tree or e-form at the following links:

http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Disciples-Organically-Spiritual-Formation/dp/1937756815/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368201234&sr=1-1&keywords=growing+disciples+organically

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/growing-disciples-organically-don-detrick/1113026834?ean=9781937756819

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=756819&product_redirect=1&Ntt=756819&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP

Crossing the Gap

Crossing The Gap - CaterpillarIt requires courage to cross the gap from where you are, to where you want to be.”

“Donnie, the neighbor called and our cows are in their pasture.” That meant round up time for this young cowboy. And it was not a welcome call. Getting those critters back to their home pasture often proved to be an exercise in futility. Growing up on a farm, I never saw a fence our cattle could not eventually find a way through. After all, fences break and the electricity sometimes goes off.

But there exists a sure way to stop them from seeking greener pastures that works in certain situations. For some reason, cows are afraid of crossing a gap or slotted surface. That’s why you’ll see cattle guards on bridges or crossings in cattle country – just slotted planks with space between them that keep them safely within the boundaries of where they are supposed to be. They take the place of a gate that would need to be open and shut every time a vehicle or person passed through. Sometimes even lines painted on pavement serve the purpose. Even though there would be little actual danger from them jumping or trotting across, they stay put because cattle somehow perceive danger in crossing that obstacle, even if the grass is greener on the other side.

In contrast, the above photo I took shows a caterpillar crossing a gap in the concrete on his way to who knows where. He was making good time, and the gap did not slow him down one bit. Relatively speaking, the gap in the concrete was larger to him than the gap a cow sees in a cattle guard. No matter to the caterpillar. Whether guided by instinct or a simple need to find something to eat far from the barren pavement, the caterpillar did not mind crossing the gap.

It got me to thinking. Am I more like cattle, or more like caterpillars? I’m glad it’s not completely an either/or proposition because frankly I would not care to be either one. Yet how often am I hindered or stopped altogether by some gap in the road that distracts me from my true destination? While I’m not suggesting a reckless strategy, how often does fear of the unknown keep me from moving forward?

How about you?  Are you known for prudence and counting the cost, or do people see you as an adventurer, undaunted by gaps in the concrete, clouds in the sky, or rain in the forecast? More importantly, how does God see you, and how do you view yourself?

Prudence and counting the cost are both biblical virtues. However, an excess of caution can lead to a shortage of progress. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. To move forward requires some risk, but do you want to spend the rest of your life resting where you are—especially if God has given you a vision for something more? What will happen if you stay where you are? What might occur if you venture forth and cross the gap between where you are where you want to be?  What would it take to make a decision to cross the gap and venture ahead? What would it take to bridge the gap once you decide to do so?

It requires courage to bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. My wife, Jodi knows this. She excels at life coaching where she helps people cross crucial gaps because she has done so herself. My heart will be swelling with pride as I watch her at commencement exercises this weekend at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO. Because I know as she crosses the line to receive her doctoral diploma, this accomplishment occured because she courageously crossed many gaps to get to this point.

Don & Jodi Wedding Cake 6-8-74 PSWe married as teenagers, and she worked full time as a dental assistant so I could finish Bible college and enter the ministry. With her many gifts and skills, not to mention her winning personality, she could have had a career of her own. Instead, she chose the career of staying at home and being a mother to our three children and helper to me as an unpaid assistant pastor. Her imprint is clearly seen on our children’s lives, and the lives of hundreds of others to this day through her life, ministry, coaching, and writing for The Seattle Times and her new highly acclaimed book, The Jesus-Hearted Woman.

How did she get from where she was to where she is today? After our children were off on their own, she courageously accepted a call to serve as leader of our network’s ministry to women. Then, without a college degree of her own, she began a decade long journey filled with books, classes, papers, lectures, books and more books to read in pursuit of those degrees. And she did so with disctinction, having been chosen among her fellow seminarians to be one of the commencement speakers.Don & Jodi Detrick 5-2-13 lower res

She will be crossing the line this weekend as Rev. Jodi Detrick, D.Min. with a 4.0 GPA in her doctoral classes. She crossed a lot of gaps to get from where she was to where she is today. Gender gaps, educational gaps, economic gaps, and age gaps did not deter her. She enjoys coaching others who benefit from her own experience of gap crossing. And if you notice, as she takes her place with her fellow graduates this weekend, you’ll see me smiling broadly. I couldn’t be more proud.