Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bubbles In The Baptristry


BUBBLES IN THE BAPTISTRY


Church can be the funniest place on the planet. Too many people only see it in terms of the most holy and reverent, but if I’m actually made in God’s image then He must have a sense of humor because I certainly do.

Perhaps no ritual or rite in the church is fraught with more opportunity for disaster than a baptism service. I mean, think about it. You’ve got people in white see-through cotton robes, in water. You’ve got a tank of water and electrical cords for microphones and these days you have video cameras placed strategically in order to the the full impact of the visual image to be displayed on large screens in the front of the sanctuary. An entire reality show could be produced about baptism services.

The first time I tried to baptize people I was a rookie pastor in a nice church in Del City, Oklahoma. The church had a nice baptistery and I filled it with water mid week and turned on the heater. As the week progressed I realized that the “big boys” wore wading boots when they baptized someone. I didn’t have such boots. I was lucky to have shoes in those days. However, I knew that the Pastor of the big church up in Bethany had such boots. I asked to borrow them. Given approval I decided to run up after church Sunday morning and pick them up (I was doing the baptizing on Sunday night). Before making the 20 mile trip I looked once again at the water in the tank and realized that it had dropped about six inches in depth. I turned on the faucet to top it off and then did a few other things around the church before heading up to get the boots.

I was 20 miles away with the “had to have” boots in my car when I remembered that I had not shut off the water. Terror gripped my young heart as I stepped on the gas and broke every known land speed record getting back to my church. I could just see water running over the edge of the tank in a tidal wave down the center aisle. I prayed....oh how I prayed.  

When I arrived I couldn’t get the key in the lock fast enough. What a relief when I walked in and found no wet carpet, no flood. Water was still running into the tank and it was indeed full, but no tragedy.

Oh, and one more thing. Those high waders I was wearing? When I bent over to baptize the first candidate.....I stooped to low and they filled with water

When pastoring in Independence, Kansas our old church didn’t have a baptistery. As a result I would borrow my Baptist buddy’s church for a Sunday afternoon service. 

When you don’t have your own “tank” it becomes easy to put off having the number of baptismal services you might ordinarily have. Apparently Nazarenes hadn’t had such a service in quite a while for when I announced that we were going to be baptizing believers I had a great crop of converts lining up for the opportunity.

It was a precious time of worship until one particular lady stepped into the water with me. She was older...no, she was old. She moved slow and she was proud. She didn’t want to get her hair wet and be seen in such a humbling condition in front of her church friends. Her answer to that problem was to wear a full wig. She wore a wig. Hear me. She WORE A WIG. And that wasn’t all. She had a shower cap over the wig. Lord, what are people thinking. There is no limit to what we’ll do to save our pride.

I held out my hand to help her as she descended the stairs into the water. I had her stand in front of me, put her hand over her nose and mouth and I pronounced, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” I held her firmly and placed her under the water. As I brought her up the the shower cap and the wig had moved.  Now she had a knot of plastic and hair on top of her head. There it sat, nestled like a bun balanced precariously held in place by the elastic around the bottom of the shower cap. A wad of good intentions sarcastically laughing at her efforts to remain dignified. A cute little pink Bon Bon shining brightly while a crowd of amused witnesses prayed it wouldn’t fall off. The amazing thing is that she managed to exit the baptistery with it still mounted to her cranium. 

While in Independence we relocated the church and built a new facility on 37 acres of property. You can bet that we had our own baptistry installed. And the first time we decided to use it we filled the thing with water and turned on the in-line heating element. But when we arrived early for the evening service the water was still cold and I found John Van Dyne up on the roof of the church with long wires looking for a way to connect his stock tank heater into the line that powered the air conditioners.  We all thanked God that before he could get that done, the water “miraculously” got warm.

In Denver I emphasized baptism during one particular season and encouraged...no, I browbeat people into submission to be baptized. On the Sunday night when the  event was to occur even I was surprised by the number of people who arrived wanting to participate in the sacred ritual.  We passed out robes until they were gone and realized that some were going to have to be used twice.

I donned my waders and stepped into the water. It was warm and the pressure of the water caused the boots to hug my legs tightly and the black robe hid the boots from the folks watching from the audience.

As people started stepping into the baptistery I realized that this was going to take a while. It did!! Two hours later the 95th person stepped out of the tank and I prayed a quick prayer of benediction and dismissed the crowd.  It was only then that I looked at the water I was standing in.  Can you imagine? 95 people. People wearing hairspray and makeup and deodorant? Some may not have bathed in a while?

To say there was a ring around the tub would be an understatement. It was grimy, almost thick, with gunk. I was so glad I was wearing waders and sleeves. 

I guess it was the detergent residue in the baptismal robes and thrashing around in that tub that created the suds. But by the time we were finished it looked like I was standing in a bubble bath

What I did was wrong. To subject people to that kind of toxic waste was a sin for which I’m still asking God for forgiveness.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Pope and the Pedestal


THE POPE OR THE PEDESTAL

Jane and I attend a church in a small mountain community that probably runs 125 or so in worship attendance on Sunday mornings. A few weeks ago we were driving home following the morning service and we stopped at Wal Mart to pick up a few things. On the way in I suggested that we just grab lunch at the Subway shop inside before we did the shopping. 

As we sat there I started thinking about other Sunday afternoons. “Jane” I said, “remember when Sunday lunches were actually brunches at some Country Club or a fine restaurant up in Denver? We’ve come a long way baby.” And indeed, we have. Life is different off the pedestal.

I’ve been impressed by the early days in the ministry of the new Pope. Francis I.  I see him washing the feet of young detainees in a juvenile detention facility and rejecting the temptation to live in the palatial residence, opting rather for a simple, humble apartment. I see him leaving the ruby slippers for someone else and even wearing a much simpler form of attire. I admire what I see him doing.

And as I watch him I reflect on how easy it is in ministry to be caught up on the “pedestal” mentality....and I’m guilty.   Some might ask “what do you mean?” Simply this, it’s easy to begin to believe what your admirers say and to totally dismiss what your distractors are saying.  

Understanding that I may be the only one to suffer from the “pedestal syndrome” (but believing I’m not) I offer the following explanation.

MInistry is fraught with opportunity to begin to believe that you deserve more, that you have paid a bigger price, that other people just don’t understand what you have to deal with. On some level that’s true. But it’s true of every profession. Unless you’ve actually done it, you DON’T understand.

But in ministry it’s easy to allow, even encourage, people to put you on a pedestal. After all, you represent all that’s holy.  If you were to ask people if they put you on a pedestal they would deny it, they wouldn’t believe it. They would say that they don’t. In reality, they probably don’t know that they have. But every time they walk out the door of the church and tell you how wonderful you are or how great the sermon was it’s easy to begin to feel that you really are something special. And if you grew up with as little self confidence as I did, those remarks are better than any drug.

And the pedestal is a wonderful place to live...until others come along who see you as a pretty normal human being, perhaps even less. They begin to shake the base of the pedestal and you become unsettled. “What’s wrong with these knuckleheads?” you think. “Can’t they see how important I am? How necessary I am to the future of this organization? How loved I am?”

And the air on the pedestal becomes addictive. Once there, whether actually placed there or having just ASSUMED that others thought you should be there, you don’t want to come down.

I had perks. I spoke to large crowds. I was invited to speak in other settings, not because I was talented, but because I held such an envied position in a popular pulpit. I had an expense account, a car allowance, a library allowance, a generous salary, and terrific benefits. The car was brought around for me, reservations were made in the finest establishments for me.

 “The Pedestal.”

 People used their best language around me, rarely allowing me to hear the earthy or the vulgar. I was with them when they were married, I dedicated their babies, I buried their family members. And all those activities only amplified the feeling of the pedestal. Not to mention that I was there when they were at their lowest. Bankruptcy, divorce, death, children in trouble. “Call the pastor.”

Oh, and the size of the church didn’t matter. Every church and every pastor has a pedestal to deal with. The only difference is how tall it is. The larger the church, the higher the pedestal and the rarer the air.

Now in retirement I reflect back on 40 years and wish that I’d resisted the pedestal more than I did and instead had been more like the new Pope.  And I’ve realized that it’s not too late. My life now is pretty much void of fancy restaurants and such. But without the vestments of clergy I’ve discovered that it’s much easier. I walk “incognito” through life. I’m usually called “Tim” instead of “Pastor” and I fit in to situations where people used to hold me at arms length because of my title.

Yes, I miss some of those perks, but in reality it’s much easier to be authentic. You see, being authentic in the church was dangerous. Dangerous because some people WANT you to be on a pedestal. When they find out that you battle the same issues they do, that you’re normal, suddenly your damaged goods. Once you try to climb down from the pedestal, they’re ready to find someone else to occupy that space.

I like the Pope. I want my remaining years to be lived more like him and less like me. I think I’ll take my ruby slippers to Goodwill.

Monday, February 4, 2013

GOD'S SENSE OF HUMOR

Sometimes God has a way of reminding you that you're not as smart as you think you are. That seems to happen to me often. Back in 1990 I accepted the invitation to serve as Senior Pastor at Central Church of the Nazarene in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a nice church in a huge building with no money. By that, I mean that the cost of the mortgage was such that the income barely covered the expenses of the month. However, the wonderful people there made it such that it was one of those pleasant challenges.

Our two girls were teenagers then. Staci was in high school and Jamie was in middle school. Staci was ready to begin driving and more importantly than that, she was ready to date.

There was this boy in the church. Brian. Brian was one of those guys that plays a guitar, wears his hair to his shoulders and doesn't seem to have a job. It was Brian who asked Staci to attend the district church banquet. She accepted. I was not happy. I think my comment to her was something like, 'You are not going to date that boy. He's going to end up in rehab or prison one day. He has no future!!"

After the banquet, she dated him no longer. In 1993 she left for college and shortly after, we moved to Denver and lost track of Brian. To my surprise, he left Tulsa and went to college.

Now for the surprise. When we retired and moved to Green Mountain Falls we started attending the Nazarene church in Woodland Park Colorado. Guess who are pastor is: BRIAN!!



God has the greatest sense of humor. Not only is Brian my pastor, but he's a TERRIFIC pastor. As I write this blog I have just returned from the church to check on the progress of the building that's being erected.

Brian has been the pastor here for about 6 years. The Sunday before he arrived to begin his ministry the church had about 10 people present. Now they probably have 125 or more each Sunday and the attendance expands in the summer to the point where two services are necessary in the small sanctuary. As a result, he has led the church into a building program. Not only that, he has insisted that they build it debt free.

We are home for just a couple of weeks right now before heading back to Topeka to finish our ministry there, but during this time I find myself looking for  reasons to drive by our mountain church every day to check on the progress. It reminds me of years ago when I was involved in building a new church. It was so exciting and I guess I live a bit vicariously through Brian. I envy the excitement of watching a crane lift large steel beams into place and knowing that one day soon I'll be able to stand in that new church and continue to lead a growing congregation.



I'm proud of my pastor. I pray that when he comes to the point of retirement that he looks back on these years with a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. He's doing a terrific job.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain

The summer of 2012 will certainly go down as one of the most exciting that our family has ever experienced. Oh, but it started out so normally. Well, at least it was normal for Jane and me. You see, we seem to have the ability to bite off more than we can chew often. This summer was no different. Back in January we had purchased a second cabin. I've written about that before so won't bore you with it again. The thing is, it needed lots of TLC and when we arrived home from our interim assignment in Houston the first week of May we started on the remodel. Lot's of work but also very gratifying.

We wanted to have it done by the second week of June so that our kids could stay there while visiting from California. That way we could have all of our kids and grandkids here on the "compound." Oh, and did I mention that my mother....?

Let me back up. The end of May or the first of June, I can't remember which, we flew to California with the express purpose of picking up three little ones and bringing them home with us for 12 days without their mom and dad. But BEFORE going to get them we had a child's playhouse (we call it the bunkhouse cause of so many grandsons) built at the end of our driveway. We wanted it here to surprise them when they arrived.

Going to get them was in the middle of the rental remodel. So now we have three little ones ages 17 months to 5 years to look after and more work to do.

Remodel finished, their mom and dad arrived as did Jamie and Andy from up in Denver with their two boys. PLUS we flew my mom in from Topeka so she could be with all her great grandkids here.

Great fun. Good food. Evenings around the fire pit roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories and all too soon it was over.  All the kids went back to Denver and holed up at Jamie's house. Just mom, Jane and me left at the cabin.

It's Saturday morning and I'm doing my Earl Pike act at a church conference in Colorado Springs. It's about noon. Someone says there's a forest fire burning up highway 24. I look out the door of the church and see the smoke. After I finish the comedy gig I get back in my little truck and begin to drive toward home all the while wondering if Highway 24 will be closed. I call Jane and she's alright so my main concern was getting home.

Upon arrival I am made aware that Green Mountain Falls is under voluntary evacuation. No big deal, though smoke is certainly visible from our front yard.
View from our front yard on that Saturday afternoon

The next morning. Sunday. I awaken, turn on the TV and hear "Green Mountain Falls is under MANDATORY evacuation." We wake up mom and start throwing stuff in the car. What do you take? We grab some pictures and a few papers like car titles and real estate documents and head down the pass. We are almost the only car. It's a lonely feeling. We are driving by herds of fire fighters and their equipment. Jamie, in Denver, is notified that we are on our way. Once again the entire family is together. Jane, me, mom, two daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren. Gratefully, Jamie and Andy have a large home. Everyone had a place to sleep.

For the next WEEK Jane and I camp there. Mom flew home on Tuesday and Staci's family went on Wednesday. I watch TV constantly monitoring the progress of the fire and realizing that if it jumps Highway 24 the chances are pretty good that it will get to our little home.  Thank God, it didn't. But I watched in horror as it crested the hill in Colorado Springs and destroyed over 350 homes. I realized that only the direction of the wind kept it away from ours.
Arrow on right is location of our cabin home
Manitou during the evacuation

The following Sunday we were permitted to go home. Now I wondered if looters might have broken in.

When we pulled into the drive, everything was in place. Doors locked, windows closed and not even the smell of smoke in the house. Not even any ash in the yard. It never felt better to be home.

And then the rains came. July and early August are known as the monsoon season in Colorado. It had been so dry that we had prayed for rain. Now it came and the little creek in our back yard that usually runs so clear and lazily became a hungry monster the color of chocolate milk. It cascaded through the yard and up the banks carrying with it anything that got in it's way. Beneath the water you could hear the boulders crashing together like marbles.
Above is how our stream normally looks.
And below is after a hard rain.

Again, we were spared. Though the water was high, I've seen it higher. The problem now was due to the fact that the fire had stripped the landscape just one mile from us, of all vegetation.  Flash floods meant mudslides.

Highway 24 was once again closed as mud and debris washed down the mountainsides and onto the pavement.  Three homes just 3/4 of a mile to our east were almost buried by the sludge that ran through their yard and pounded the front of their houses. It was a mess. As I write these words, that mud slide was at least three weeks ago and those poor folks are still trying to get their lives and houses put back in order.

Now there's the aroma of fall in the air. Snow fell on Pike's Peak a week ago and just last week when we stepped out into our yard we could tell that someone had their fireplace going on a chilly evening.

I pause this afternoon to thank God for our little mountain home, for our family and for the joy we experienced being together here and making memories.  And I pray for those who lost homes as they are in the process of dealing with bureaucracy and trying to put their lives back together. And I remember that they didn't lose their homes, just their houses. Fire doesn't destroy a home, nor does flash flood or mud slide. Home is that place where family gathers and stories are exchanged and memories are made, whether that be in an old homestead or a hotel room while experiencing evacuation. HOWEVER, it is awesome to get back to that dwelling, wherever it might be, that you refer to as home.

Today it's cool in the mountains. Jane's flowers are blooming beautifully and the little creek is it's normal self again. Humming birds are visiting the feeder and my heart is filled with memories of a summer I'll never forget.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fountain Creek Cottage


FOUNTAIN CREEK COTTAGE
RENTAL


Nestled near the heart of the quaint little village of Green Mountain Falls, Colorado sits this simple mountain cabin.  Let me give you a bit of history. In 1958 my uncle Sam Stearman (yes, I really do have an Uncle Sam) purchased a strip of property bordering Fountain Creek. He divided the piece of land into lots and sold them. At the time, almost every lot was purchased by one of Sam’s pastor friends. Almost immediately they all began planning and building their own little mountain getaway.  Over the years the cabins changed hands several times.  Sam even sold his. Then in 1985  he discovered that one of the cottages was for sale. He and son Scott became partners in purchasing that dwelling. They set about to remodel it and then found that another was for sale. Sam purchased it. Then another.



In 2004 Sam sold one of those to my wife and me and we made it our permanent home in 2009.

In August of 2011 we discovered that a second cabin in the row was for sale and we were able to purchase it thinking that we would use it for a summer vacation rental. My brother Terry and his wife Barb partnered with Jane and me. With the purchase of this second cabin Stearmans now own four of the seven in the row.



As soon as we purchased what we call the “Fountain Creek Cottage” we went to work to make it a comfortable place where people could enjoy some privacy along the banks of a wonderful little creek.  And believe me, it was a job for this cute little place had been neglected for a number of years.

We started by having a new roof installed and the exterior painted. Then we pulled up all the carpet and had new flooring installed throughout. Popcorn ceiling was scraped off the kitchen ceiling and new knock down texture was installed there as well as on the bathroom ceiling and the ceiling and walls of the smaller bedroom.
New appliances, sinks, vanity, toilet, faucets and light fixtures were brought in. New curtains were hung and new sidewalks and a patio were added as well as a washer and dryer in a spacious laundry room. For the media minded, cable T.V. is available on a flat screen as well as wifi.

The cabin features two bedrooms, each containing a queen sized bed with new mattresses and new bedding. Since both are on the back of the dwelling, opening the windows at night brings in cool mountain breezes and the gentle sound of water splashing over rocks in the creek. You’ll be pulling for the blanket before morning, even in summer.

The cabin rents for $800 per week (Saturday check in at 3:00 p.m. and Saturday check out at 11:00 a.m.). Through the summer months we try NOT to rent it for weekends only, however if dates have been left vacant we will rent it on a daily basis for $125 per night.

$200 deposit is required along with a signed contract (which I will email to you upon agreement of date). Deposit is refundable up to 30 days before scheduled arrival. All other information is included in the contract for your review.
You can contact me at:
Tim Stearman
Home: 719.375.5385
Cell: 303.870.3775

Green Mountain Falls is approximately 10 miles up highway 24 from Colorado Springs. Though the recent Waldo Fire caused our evacuation, we were left unscathed, without even the smell of smoke. For that we are extremely grateful.

Many of Colorado’s most desirable attractions are nearby. The Pike’s Peak highway is just over a mile from our cabin. The Cave of the Winds, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the North Pole (a favorite with our grandkids and FREE if you’re over 60), Garden of the Gods and of course shopping in Manitou and a visit to the Air Force Academy. Don’t miss Seven Falls or a drive up North Cheyenne Canyon to Helen Hunt Falls. Hiking trails abound and then, of course, there’s the option of just sitting on the patio and enjoying the sun while listening to the creek.
            

Sunday, March 25, 2012

TEXAS HAIRCUT

I read the following poem at Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston, Texas where I've been serving as Interim Pastor since the first of February. It was the result of two different experiences in Texas barber shops. The first barber cut my hair pretty well but then literally zipped off both eye brows with his clippers. Gone.

The second barber I got in the second shop would have been given a failing grade on his FIRST DAY in Barber School if he had performed he cut he gave me.

Hence:

TEXAS HAIRCUT

I DROVE IN TO HOUSTON, HAIR BEAUTIFULLY COIFFED
TILL A WILD EYED TEXAN CUT IT ALL OFF

IT WAS NOT MY FIRST CUT IN THE LONE STAR STATE
I ONLY LOST EYEBROWS IN THAT FIRST TWIST OF FATE

BUT THE SECOND WAS DIFFERENT, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER
WHEN THE BARBER WAS HANGING HIS CERTIFICATE LETTER

WITH GREAT PRIDE HE ATTACHED IT TO THE WALL UP BEHIND HIM
THEN OFFERED HIS CHAIR WITH A SMILE THAT DEFIED HIM.

ARMS COVERED WITH TATTS AND A BENCH FULL OF CLIPPERS
SCISSORS AND RAZORS AND ALL KINDS OF NIPPERS

"JUST A TRIM" I SAID WITH PLENTY OF PRIDE
THEN HE SLIPPED UP BEHIND ME AROUND BY MY SIDE

HE FLIPPED ON THE SWITCH AND HAIR IT DID FLY
AS HE RAN THE CLIPPERS FROM EYE TO EYE

BUT NOT ON THE FRONT, THE EYEBROWS REMAINED
IT WAS FRONT TO BACK AND AROUND TO THE SAME

HAIR FLYING, HEART DROPPING, I KNEW IT WAS GONE
MY BEAUTIFUL HAIR, LOST LIKE THE DAWN.

NO LONGER TO STYLE IT OR SPRAY IT OR FROST IT
IT LAY IN MY LAP AND I KNEW I HAD LOST IT.

"BAD HAIRCUT" YOU SAY? WHY, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
IT'S THE SORRIEST HAIRCUT THAT I'VE EVER SEEN

GOUGES AND RIDGES AND SHELVES IN THE BACK
AND I'VE GOT TO PREACH! THE PEOPLE WILL YACK!

WHAT SHOULD I SAY TO GET THEIR ATTENTION?
I'LL SPEAK ON SAMSON AND THEN I WILL MENTION

THAT I DID IT ON PURPOSE, THIS HAIRCUT ATTACK
BUT I'LL PROUDLY PROCLAIM, "MY EYEBROWS GREW BACK."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fountain Creek Cottage

It's been quite a while since I've taken the time to write a note on these pages. No good excuse, just lazy I guess. But in all honesty, I've been busy. Oh, sure there have been the usual preaching assignments here and there and then there was that trip to Seattle to help Staci and Josh and family move to Monterrey, California. And Christmas was in there along with Jury duty on a capital case but forget all that.

I'm writing today to tell you about what my brother and I have done (along with our wives). And I have to admit that this is a bit of a commercial but please don't stop reading. I'm not going to try to get you hooked up to some pyramid scheme.

Terry and Barb and Jane and I purchased a cabin on Fountain Creek in Green Mountain Falls to use as a summer rental.  It won't be ready until about mid-June but it's going to be a sweet little place to spend a week. The delay in preparation is due to the fact that Terry lives in Topeka and that Jane and I are in Houston for three months serving as Interim Pastor at a terrific church there. And in all honesty, the cabin needs some work.

I had a new roof put on during the third week of January. The painter is coming as soon as weather is warm enough to paint the exterior. New carpet, remodeled bath and kitchen will be part of the jobs Terry and I are taking on during the last of May, first of June.



The cabin has two bedrooms with new mattresses and hotel style bedding. It has a beautiful fireplace, television, DVD and OF COURSE, I wouldn't call it the Fountain Creek Cottage if it wasn't on the creek. A beautiful crystal clear creek runs 10 steps from the back door. Imagine going to bed at night with the window cracked open listening to the gentle, yet hypnotic sounds of water splashing playfully over mountain granite rocks. I promise, you'll never sleep any better. And the creek is shallow enough and slow moving enough that your kids or grand kids will totally enjoy splashing and wading on a hot summer day.

The rent will be $800 per week. A week will begin after 3:00 p.m. on a Saturday and end by noon the next Saturday.



Winter weeks or weekends are also available as long as you stay at least three nights. The cost per night in that case is $125. The cabin is about an hour from Monarch (if you want to ski) and only an hour and a half from Breckenridge.

It's also located just about two miles from the toll road up Pike's Peak and only 9 miles from Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs with all the wonderful things those two areas provide.

The little village of Green Mountain Falls offers a delightful pond for fishing in the summer or ice skating in the winter. You'll also want to have breakfast at The Pantry and if you do, make sure to have their cinnamon raisin toast along with your omelet and country potatoes.



Well, that's all the "sales job" I know how to do. If you're interested in reserving a week you can call me at 303.870.3775 or send me an email at tdstearman@gmail.com.

Come experience a Rocky Mountain High.