All Saints Gather Lutheran Church

'People of Christ, Living in Community & Working in Partnership'

AllSaints

Pastor Alan Eschenbacher of All Saints Lutheran Church in Spokane WA since June of 2002. Undergrad from Gonzaga University in Spokane WA, seminary studies at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley CA. Married to Laurel in 1980, three children, nine grandchildren.

Mental Illness and violent acts

This past week or so has been a troubling time as the nation and especially Roseburg Oregon, endures yet another mass shooting event.
These events usually wind up with a lot of disparaging talk about the shooter and their family and the laying of blame. People seem to need to attach labels, like; crazy, terrorist, insane, nut job…etc. to the perpetrators … I suppose in order to label them and box them up for trial and disposal from daily life. Eradicating the memory of the person from life does much to help the general public deal with the crime, but it does little for victims families and little for the mental health community. As with most crime, it is only a small minority that commits the crime that often winds up labeling the whole group.
The trouble with labels is that they promote and drag on the stigma that goes with a mental illness diagnosis. The stigma then reinforces the general public’s views of “those people” and then the unwillingness to engage followed by the lack of concern and avoidance and… you get the idea. No one wants to address the problem, let alone actually DO something to help. Our nation needs a lesson in compassion and forgiveness, and after the lesson a much larger group of people needs to step up and ACT like caring citizens and learn what it takes to become a companion to a mentally ill person … instead of a judge.

Loving the Fall season!

There are already some beautiful photos out there of Fall ! The colors are great! I really enjoy the Fall season and relish in it each year. Looking forward to rain (if it ever does rain!) and the renewal that will bring. Of course all the seasons are important in their own way but it’s okay to have a favorite! What’s yours?

Do you really want to know?

The question on the WordPress site asks me “What’s on your mind?” The way I am feeling lately …. very dangerous question indeed!
I have been a fan of watching the political scene for years, local, state and federal levels and especially presidential election cycles. The wrangling over issues and such was always entertaining to me. This political season has left me speechless. The presidential race is a circus that deserves to have the big top dropped to try and cover up the nonsense that emanates from ALL the candidates. If nothing changes before next November I will consider NOT voting at all for the first time.
In local politics, the rancor surrounding the sitting mayor and his “deal” making with the police union and with local “rich guys” and with the abandonment of HIS own appointees has me wondering what it will take for the people of Spokane to stand up finally and say “STOP” and get involved and force the city and its officials (elected or not) to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, the people of Spokane and the rest of the country and great numbers of the rest of the world … are so enamored with consumerism, militarism, patriotism and any other “ism” you want to talk about, that they are unable, certainly unwilling and impotent to ACT. As long as ignorance and apathy dominate, and buying and selling are the only motivators, then we will continue to sink into the pit until the wake up call is so loud that we can no longer ignore. Hopefully the rest of the world of today and our children and grandchildren of tomorrow will forgive our lack of action.
HMMM… maybe electing “The Donald” will so speed our descent into the abyss that we might reach the point of understanding what “ENOUGH” is and then maybe we can get back on the road less traveled … the road of love for God and neighbor.

How do I prioritize my worldly life and my kingdom life?

We all live in an age of mass media, advertising, digitally enhanced everything. We are called upon to work more hours, produce more, eat more, buy more and most of all to participate virtually NON-STOP in what the world has to offer. There is no escape from the din that surrounds every possible way to make a buck. So what is the Christian to do? We are warned to keep our distance, to observe Sabbath rest, to participate IN but not be OF the world. Jesus spent much time telling us what the “Kingdom” is like because that is where we are to put our time and true effort. Unfortunately Kingdom work is not as fun and attractive to most people as the world seems to be. As a pastor I struggle with honoring people’s commitment to their families and work and at the same time watching the church struggle to get any meaningful ministry done with folks that are too busy with worldly things to even think about Kingdom things.

Setting priorities in our lives is the only way I know of to resolve this issue. This is a huge gamble on my part as a pastor because I cannot set your priorities or even suggest what they might be. It may very well happen that Kingdom work through the church is nowhere near the top of the list for most people. The church may have to muddle along being supported in the “if I have time” mode. Again, I know I am risking much here by possibly making people feel guilty about their choices. Unfortunately ALL Christian churches in this country (even megachurches) are experiencing declining in numbers. In Washington state church attenders are down under 20% and the number of “active” members is much lower. I apologize to all, but I don’t have time to worry about offending people. The Christian church has a great message of love and grace to share with the world. Our church here at All Saints is doing a good job of reflecting that love and grace and we need to do a better job of telling the community what we’re doing. There is no longer the luxury of time, people in our midst are hurting and in need of what we can share now. There is no better time or place to do the Kingdom work that we are called to. For us and for those we serve the time is now!

Life is hard, why do I have to be so soft?

No one likes a hard person. In order to get along, fit in, be liked and respected, the world mostly demands that we be soft and flexible and anything BUT hard.

On the other hand … Life is hard. People get smacked around by all sorts of things from health issues to financial woes to harassment of various kinds, bullying etc.

So what are we to do in a hard world when we are expected to be soft and cuddly all the time? I think for me the challenge comes down to one of mindfulness and meditation and prayer. I try to be mindful of the situation I am in and act accordingly, I plan meditation time if only for a few minutes every day, centering thoughts and physical stretching and relaxation techniques help with this, and making time for prayer. For me daily prayer takes the shape of many moments of short prayer throughout the day, and hopefully some much longer times once a week or so. The challenging part is getting it all done within the confines of all the other things on the “to do” list, and of course the length of the list is mostly of my own making and I fear some things get lost or forgotten. You may find yourself in this position as well sometimes. If the prayer and meditation and focused thinking are there I can usually adapt my actions to the situations I encounter … so I can be soft most of the time and hard if needed. As an extrovert it’s difficult to be soft and cuddly all the time but given my role as a pastor it is more often than not the mode that’s called for. Therein lies my point for today … YOU need to find the mode that life calls you to … I’m guessing it will need to be soft more often than hard, but it depends on your life’s vocation and work, being flexible is the key. Understanding that you will make mistakes and blunders in all areas is a must to not getting smacked down TOO hard by life, and worrying about whether or not LIFE is fair … let me answer that for you … LIFE IS NOT FAIR, not now not ever … so worrying about which way to go and how to be is fruitless and frustrating. Life is HARD … GOD is GOOD. Live in the now, in whatever form you need to be … LOVE people no matter what they throw at you and try not to take it personally. You will be less frustrated and more effective in your day by day striving with work and play and relationships.

One more step

Hi everyone! Day two of my effort at daily postings, I know it seems like a long shot but I am determined to make the effort! If you visit the site daily you will hopefully get a blurb from me that helps your day or gives you some information about All Saints!
Today’s thought is of course on the passing of that well known child of God – Robin Williams. Facebook has had hundreds or even thousands of comments and videos and such already, so I thought I would go another route … Thousands of God’s children died yesterday … not one of them less important to God than the others. Like Robin Williams, many of those who died suffered a brain illness. Depression is, from what I have been told, one of the worst things to imagine. Sadness so deep and penetrating that it physically hurts, and drags you down into a state of catatonic nothingness. I have only experienced situational depression on a minor level, so I have no first hand knowledge of it except what people who do suffer with it can tell me. The stories about depression and other mental illness and the evidence I have seen over the years prompted me to be very interested when the opportunity to form a mental health chaplaincy in Spokane
came about. That was in 2010 and I have been slowly working on it since then. Recently I wrote, and received, a grant for the chaplaincy to do training and to try and get other faith based organizations involved in the chaplaincy. The plan will be to provide training so that churches and other faith based organizations can participate in a companionship model of support for mental health patients and to from a “circle of care” for as many folks as possible. Please pass the word if you have opportunity to do so, about this upcoming training and encourage churches to participate!

Construction for Community Center update

Construction is on schedule to be finished in Mid September. The Ramey Construction team has done a great job with a minimum of mess and disturbance. Stop by and see the progress!

The waiting is almost over!

After months of negotiating and delays and bids and re-bids it looks like everything is finally ready for the construction project to go forward. Ramey construction company got the bid and they estimate a starting time of around June 1. God blesses the patient ones!

The question of worthiness

So now that we are all gaining a new appreciation for our status as “Child of God” I though we would begin discussion on how that looks not only for us but for our brothers and sisters who live on the margins. I believe that one of the biggest hurdles for Christians is that of “worthiness”. What does it mean to be worthy of whatever it is that I have, and if I don’t have anything does it mean I am not worthy? Many programs designed to help the poor and homeless are taking stock of how they are going to survive the coming years, there seems to be no end to the needs and our government has promised more cuts in benefits like SNAP(food stamps) and the never ending costs of war keep most of our tax dollars flowing toward the Pentagon. Programs to help the poor are getting squeezed and so many are working on ways to change and cut costs or limit who they serve. A common theme is to ask that the homeless or poor receiving a benefit do some work to “earn” whatever benefit they will be getting. In other words by doing this work you will be “worthy” to receive the benefit. Now I guarantee that any of the agencies doing this would argue with me; determining worthiness is not the point, having the person contribute and do some meaningful work will help them feel better about themselves and by doing this we can  start to break the cycle of dependency. No matter what side of this issue you are on, there remains the elephant in the room … why are there this many people in need of services in the first place? In this the richest of countries in the world, why do we have so many poor and homeless … people living on the thin edge of financial disaster? How did we go from having less than 100 food banks in the whole country in 1980 to more than 7000 in 2014? The disparity between the the richest and the poorest continues to widen and 80% of us go merrily on our way participating in an economy that has unashamedly crushed the lives and hopes and dreams of a growing portion of the population … to the point where charitable service providers feel is necessary to ask completely destitute persons, living on handouts,  to “do a little work” to be deemed “worthy” to receive. The idea of ignoring the cause of the problem by shifting the focus to the poor …  “see they’re not willing to do anything to get themselves out of the situation they so stupidly got themselves into so why should we help them … the deserve what they are getting and I am not giving of what’s mine to help those who won’t work”.

I am not trying to start a class war here … people wind up in need and desperate situations in any number of ways … some of their own making others just by being in wrong place at wrong time. The need remains … if someone loses their job due to drug use or due to unscrupulous business practices … doesn’t really matter since both are now in need of help. I think God is pretty clear on this … you help without judgement and without determination of worthiness. None of us is worthy of the great grace we have been given and if I must “work” for an hour before I receive the grace and forgiveness of God then I am doomed to fail .. .there is no amount of work. That is why God decided to “give” us our salvation through Jesus Christ, no work necessary no worthiness checkup … free gift of salvation. After receiving I can choose to live into that salvation by doing things to help others and to tell them about the great gift I have received. We must avoid the “transactional” trap …”if you do this then I will give you this”. That only works in the world’s economics and even there it is greatly abused, as is evident by the massive power and money struggles between nations that lead to war and great loss for all humanity.

I have said it many times, the system we have is broken, it works for less than a quarter of the worlds people. The remaining three quarters struggle to live, many do not live for long. We cannot compare our own life with someone we do not know, and ask of them what they may not be able to give, even if its a seeming small request. We cannot try to “fix” those who are different from us and who don’t seem to want to work. What we can do is form relationships and connectedness with all our neighbors and of course we are to love that neighbor as well.

Our credo for 2014!

As I mentioned in my sermon on January 5, 2014 it would be good for us all to take hold of what we believe and make it part of our daily life! I got the idea from David Lose, an ELCA pastor, teacher and writer who gives me regular inspiration through his blogs and articles!

Remember …. “I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use me to change the world”

Repeat at least every day and more often would be great!

Peace and blessings to you !

Pastor Alan