Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Brother's Getting Married

The day after tomorrow, my brother is getting married. This is more than a little bit mindblowing. There's twelve years between us (with no other kids in-between... I guess the first child was so traumatic it took my parents twelve years to recover) so he's really always been a "little brother" to me.

He was born on a Saturday, which I remember because after mom and dad left for the hospital, I fixed myself a bowl of cereal and watched cartoons before mowing the lawn. I was pushing that mower when Dad showed up later that morning to give me a "gift from my brother" - a pair of baseball cleats. A few days later they brought home what looked like a big raisin with eyes, and our life with Andy began.

When you're twelve years older, you're really more of a babysitter/extra parental figure than you are brother, so the next six years were filled with many hours of me watching Andy... reading him books (he loved "The Pokey Little Puppy"), watching TV ("Teenage Ninja Turtles" and "He-Man"), taking him to the arcade (we could milk $5 like nobody's business), pillow fighting (where "Don't cry! Mom will hear you!" became my mantra), and bike rides (originally with him strapped into the childseat on my mom's bike). I've given him baths. I've tucked him to bed. I've changed his diapers (although, under protest). Somehow, in the midst of this, I became his hero, and he became a shadow who got upset whenever I'd go out with the guys or on a date and left him at home.

When I started at Miami, it was rough on Andy. For the first few months, he kept asking Mom when I was moving back home, and told me on the phone, more than once, that he thought me going to college was a bad idea. He looked forward to the weekends or holidays I'd be home, and I always tried to make time for us to do something together during the visit. He loved coming down for "Little Sibs Weekend" (weekends, I suspect he still holds up as highlights from his childhood) because we'd watch a lot of movies, eat a lot of crap food, and go to Kings Island. Usually though, when you're this far apart in age, this is where the story ends as far as relationships go. You graduate from college, and if you don't move home, you start your life, and contact is pretty much limited to special events and occasions.

But, upon hearing a call to ministry at the tail-end of my college experience, I ended up back in Lima, where after a couple of years I became my brother's youth pastor. That gift from God pretty much cemented our bond as brothers, and helped us transcend the decade-plus gap between us. And so, as he's grown, in between living, and not living together in the same town, through the miracle of unlimited nighttime minutes on our cell phones, my brother and I have remained close. He tells me stories about what it's like to grow up in this day and age, and I regale him with tales of what its like to become older, married, a father, and a somewhat-responsible human being. We've called one another late at night to keep one another awake on late night drives (although, as I get older, he finds me up late less and less), helped solved one another's problems (although, by virtue of my age, I'm the one who usually does most of the solving), and spend hours just trying to make the other guy laugh.

Now, 24 years old and in law school, Andy will officially, in my mind anyway, move firmly and securely into adulthood. As time passes, my extra 12 years of accumulated experience will more and more, help him less and less as he lives life that I suspect will be far different from my own. I expect that his life will become increasingly busy and complex, and as the years pass, the struggle to stay connected will grow more difficult. And that's OK, because it'll mean that he'll be growing into the person God needs him to be, in this time and place.

But, forever, we will always be the only two sons Dan and Judy Bucher ever had. That fact alone will give us enough reason, I suspect, to continue to pick up the phone to keep one another awake on late night drives, help solve one another's problems (which, by virtue of his profession, I suspect will result in a lot of free legal advice), and spend a few hours just trying to make the guy laugh. Hopefully we'll even be able to steal a day or two before we die, and sneak away from our families to catch a ballgame or a day on the slopes. I just know that every day I have with brother will be a gift, and I intend to treat it as such.

Ah, but I'm getting all mushy... if your reading this, boy, never forget that I'll always be able to kick your can in a game of one-on-one.

Congrats little brother! Never forget that you married way above yourself (Melissa is wonderful), and that your big brother will always love you.

God Bless,

Monday, July 25, 2005

Blast From The Past

Had a nice visit this weekend with Steve Clouse, the music director at Goshen (IN) First UMC, a former fellow staff person, and good friend. Steve graciously accepted an invitation of mine to come and see the house, visit our church, and sing a ditty or two at worship on Sunday. As an added treat, Steve brought his daughter Emma over to visit the boys, who enjoyed their time with her immensely.

This was really about the first time Steve and I had gotten together since we moved a little over a year ago. We spent most of our time just talking about life, God, family, and pretty much everything else under the sun. He shared with me all of the changes that have been taking place over at First since we left. I spent my time getting him acquainted with our new life. And, of course, we had a good time remembering all of the good times, of which there were many. He has a hard time getting used to seeing me without long hair, but outside of that, we pretty much just picked up where we left off. All in all, it was a great weekend, and a nice moment of grace in the middle of the summer.

It's tough when you leave, or lose, people who were a regular part of your life. It's hard to remember that the time you had with them was really a gift for God in the form of a moment in time that will never be fully recaptured. I mean, even though we returned to Shawnee after an eight year absence, while we were able reconnect with some old friends, the "Version 1.0" experience we had here can't ever be re-lived, or experienced again. Too many good people have passed or moved on, and, quite frankly, we've changed a lot too. "V2.0" is good, but not the same, and that's just life.

So, I have arrived at the conclusion that there will always be open holes in my soul that will never fully close, which has led me to two more conclusions:

1) Treat your relationships as gifts of God that tangibly, and intangibly, priceless. Maybe if we could remember this as we live together, the moments would be sweeter, the patience would last a little longer, and we'd understand just how good God really is. One of ourGoshen neighbors, Rolo Ortiz, helped me learn the importance of this around a fire ring on many a late night. "Buke", he'd say, "we'll never get this moment back again, so enjoy it". He said that enough times that I began to believe him, and now, as the opporunities for gathering with our beloved neighbors from Yorktown Drive have all but dried up, I have an ever greater sense of just how special those times under the stars truly were.

And 2), I look forward very much to someday being reunited with, and meeting for the first time, countless souls in the hereafter. I don't know, exactly, what heaven will be like, but I am convinced that it will be the full realization of true relationship with God and with others that will make the experience paradise.

Not golden streets, or mansions, or bright lights at the end of a tunnel, but endless time for good relationship, will make heaven a sweet, sweet experience, indeed. That's what I believe, and I'm sticking to it.

Until next time, God Bless,

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Gentle Revolution

A quick post before I head home. Am listening to Scott Krippayne's new album, Gentle Revolution, and enjoy it immensely. On behalf of my last church, I booked Scott to do a concert, and I must say it was one of the best I have ever witnessed. The guy had actually just spent the previous night flying back from a mini-tour in Europe, and pretty much just rolled up to the door of our venue to close out that journey. Yet, despite the lack of sleep, and the fact that the only musicians on-stage that evening were Scott and buddy of his that played a variety of percussion instruments, the show was phenomenal! Great vocal performance, a great stage presence, very intelligent... I can't tell you how many of the 500 people there that paid $5 to see the guy thanked us by saying that we had charged too little for the experience. Just a super evening.

His new album is a good one. More experimental and edgy than his past work, Gentle Revolution is packed with thoughtful lyrics, rock music with more than three chords, and some good theology. Scott doesn't write music that's just about "me and Jesus". He takes seriously the nature of the relationship between Christ's followers and the world they live in. The nice balance between the music inspired by Scott's own journey of getting to know Jesus, and this sense of where Christians ought to be in a world that needs to be redeemed, makes for an interesting record (am showing my age... only DJ's and collectors still buy records). Would recommend it to anyone who's spiritual journey has ups, downs, and is often not as simple as some preachers and teachers would lead us to believe it should be.

Just a note, about 12 or 13 years ago, I once took an executive with a Christian record label to task for the quality of the Jesus music being produced out of Nashville. I was, at the time, attending a conference for youth pastors, where we were constantly being browbeaten by artists and industry reps to push Christian artists on our kids and churches. My feeling was, and is, that the job of promotion and distribution of Christian music is the business of the Christian music industry, and that if the stuff they produced was any good, it would be sellable on its own. I find it interesting that a decade later, Christian artists are crossing over into pop, metal, and dance worlds with little, if any, help from local churches. Further, if you look in the CD case (so nineties now) or the IPod (there we go... into the 21st Century) of a typical teenager, you'll be more likely to find Christian music represented there (Switchfoot, Reliant K, etc...), than that kid in any church on a given Sunday morning. Just an indication of how far this segment of the music industry has come, and of the depth of talent it posesess.

As a part of this "gentle revolution", give Scott a listen.... I think you'll enjoy him.

God Bless,

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Anonymous Letter

Received a letter today that was interesting (to say the least) regarding my sermon Sunday, and in the light of their perspective, I wanted to just to make a few comments.

The main issue the letter writer raised in my sermon was that I summed up all ministry in the two words, "slow death". The image came to me as I studied the core scripture for Sunday which came from John 21, where Jesus, upon "restoring Peter", foreshadows the death Peter will have as he serves and glorifies God the rest of his days.

Peter's life, while fulfilling the promise that Jesus sees in him, was a difficult one. At varying times he was beaten, jailed, and mocked for what he believed. Worse yet was the infighting that existed in the early church between various teachers, preachers, and apostles on the meaning of Jesus' teaching, and how it should be applied in practical terms in the life of the church. Paul often alludes to the varying disagreements he has with other early Christian leaders (including Peter), and expresses anger and disappointment with they way that a few of them try to discredit what he does or says. Remember, it's Peter who must live with the pain he caused Jesus in his repeated denial that he knew Him... something he would have had a unique perspective on as he too had to deal not only with the enemies of the faith, but with the criticism and outright rejection of fellow Christians. This kind of pain, in Jesus' service, is always the worst, but is, unfortunately, not something that is foreign to anyone that's served Him over time.

Joseph Bishman, our Senior Pastor, always says that the worst kind of pain comes from "friendly fire", that criticism and rejection you never see coming from the people you thought loved you. That's the kind of thing that causes us to "slowly die", and hopefully, instead of turning that pain inward and becoming bitter, we let whatever it is that causes us pain (our ego, sin, need to liked by all, etc...) die, and let Jesus' new life take place.

We must be born again, Jesus says, which means, that we must die to ourselves, so that he might live in us.

That was what I was trying to say. Hope that clears up any confusion.

Until Next Time, God Bless,

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Surprise On Sunday

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to worship yesterday. Hope you got something out of it, and put something into it too. For those who couldn't make it, check out for a re-cap and a quick set of questions that will enable you to go a bit deeper on the subject of "hard work". The devotion is great (Charlotte Hefner put it together, so you know it has to be good), and will help you immensely. We're hoping to have downloadable audio files of the sermon on-line soon, so please be patient while we play "catch-up" with technology.

Now, on to the blog musings...

Spent this evening with twelve wonderful educators planning our first ever "Back to School Blessing", which will be a worship service geared to lifting up teachers, students, and school support staff. Education is so important, and in recent times, the church has, in many cases, "cut its nose off to spite its face" when it comes to getting behind the public schools. Too often, we paint these places as "godless" institutions simple because prayer can't be conducted on a PA system to start the day, forgetting that as long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in school.

The best (or worst) example that I ever saw of this occurred about 10 years ago here in Shawnee. After two or three years of poor turnouts for the annual "See You At the Pole" prayer time at Shawnee High School, the group that organized the event decided that the best way to draw a larger crowd of students at 7am in the morning for prayer was to contact the pastor of the largest youth group in the community, and ask them to be a part of the event. It just so happened that I was that pastor, and thinking, at the time, that prayer could never be a bad thing, I readily agreed to help wherever I could.

So, after a couple of phone calls where I was basically told that I wouldn't really need to do much, just invite our youth group to show up and lead the prayer, I arrived that morning very optimistic. I wasn't disappointed at the turnout either, as the event which had never drawn more than ten people before, drew at least hundred students, teachers, and administrators that morning. I thought it was fantastic....

until the prayer began.

I learned a great lesson that day: The only stupid question is the one that isn't asked. And since I never asked any concrete questions about the schedule for the morning, I had no idea that 1) a teen had been asked to sing "America the Beautiful" (which turned out to be very cool), and 2) another pastor had been asked to open up the prayer (which turned out to be a disaster). I never knew that small group that been praying at the pole had used it as an opportunity to beseech and beg God to somehow break through the darkness that was the faculty, administration, and the school board, and help them institute formal daily prayer, bible classes, and the abolition of certain books or texts. I never knew that ALL (which was the word I heard used) the faculty and administration (many of whom attended our church) needed to be saved because virtually none of them were. That very few students were "living for God", and needed his "revival" immediately . That, in fact, God was currently not present in that school, and needed to be "allowed" to return.

Talk about a downer.... pretty much every faculty member, administrator, and student there that morning was "called out" in that prayer, in ways that weren't accurate or truthful. Never before, or after, have I ever received more negative feedback in regards to prayer than I did the rest of that day (and pretty much the rest of the week).

The "Back to School Blessing" won't be about that kind of division that so many Christians feel exists between the public school and church. We'll be thanking God for all the dedicated teachers and administrators who are giving their best effort to raise up students intellectually and morally. We'll pray for students so that they might remain focused on their studies, be good to one another, and celebrate the progress they will be making in the coming year. And mostly, we'll thank God for the way He is present in the school, all of the time, reaching out to every person who will listen, working in ways that can, and can't, be understood. We will thank God for our schools, and for people who choose to home school, and ask for his continued blessing.

September 11th @ 11am. Don't miss it!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

(continuing the discussion "Hearing God" from yesterday)

So, to hear God one must get to know Jesus, and as we do, we can witness how his words resonate in the world, and our lives.

This is why prayer, meditation, and retreat is so important, as it's essentially "de-briefing time" we can use to finally get a sense of what God has been saying.

Last summer, I took a couple of days to meet three friends at a Renovare' conference in Cleveland, Ohio, which featured Dr. Dallas Willard and Richard Foster speaking on the spiritual disciplines (check out for more info on this wonder ministry). The chance to hear two minds like Foster and Willard express themselves on the meaning of Jesus' teachings, coupled with the great company of three other friends, and the beautiful location of the conference itself (not to mention our housing... Thanks again to my sister-in-law for the use of their house that weekend!) created an environment where all of the things percolating in my soul had the chance to coalesce, and become understandable.

Time spent in collective, and individual prayer that weekend resulted in some pretty important decisions being made. One of us (a pastor) finally acknowledging that he was ready for a new challenge in his career (ultimately resulting in his relocating to a new church). Another member of our little group made the decision to answer a call to ministry that had existed more than twenty years (he'll be starting school this fall). A third member of our collective received new insight into his strengths and weaknesses when it came to building relationships with others. And as for myself, I was able to start processing a number of tumultuous events (the death of a friend and mentor, a difficult church situation, and the move to Shawnee UMC) from the past year of my life.

When we are in constant communication with, and study of, the Living God, we prepare ourselves for those kinds of "eureka" moments where we are able to receive a Word that will truly have an impact on our lives. Times of regular prayer and meditation that will help us process conflict, reach new levels of self-awareness, make a breakthrough of understand in regard to our purpose in this world, and generally get a sense of our role in the folding "Kingdom of God" Jesus told us was present, here and now.

My father grew up in very humble surroundings. While he was greatly loved by his parents, his childhood was a difficult one spent on the "wrong side of the tracks". His was a life where he shined shoes as a child to earn money to buy new school clothes. I've always greatly respected him, because the place he has arrived at in his life (standard of living, professional position, etc...) he largely earned on his own. I think, though, he never forgot about the people and places that offered him the opportunity to better himself, and as time passed, starting asking God what He wanted him to do in terms of "giving back".

In 1995, after introducing him to "mission trips" via the youth ministry I had served, I took Dad to Haiti on a mission experience where we were going to help build a school in a small rural village. In the context of those nine days, my father's long-standing prayer was answered. His entire life he had heard the words of Jesus about serving "the least of these", but it was in a worship service done entirely in Creole that he finally heard those words spoken to him. He found in passion in the context of those people, and that school, resulting in the re-organization of his life so that he can make a physical and fiscal impact in that country of great need. His purpose in life was re-defined in that process, and now he feels like he's being fully utilized by the God who created him.

And that, I think, is how "hearing God" works.

God Bless,

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's Wednesday, and I'm amazed at the inordinate number of comments I've received about my sermon from this past Sunday. Who would have thought that expressing the idea that God really wants to communicate with us all of the time, about matters that mean something to us in this life, would strike such a chord. People seemed surprised that God might have some interest in how you do your job, raise your family, deal with unpleasant people, etc... In things we encounter and deal with on a moment to moment basis.

Lots of questions though about "I'm glad that God wants to talk to me, but how do I hear Him?", which is pretty important too. Since I'm the one who used the metaphor of "tuning in God" just as we would tune in a frequency on a radio, let me expand a little on the subject (and remember, this is only one man's opinion, and opinions are like armpits, everyone has a couple, and they usually smell, so take this advice for what it's worth).

Just as I described what is happening to my son, Max, as he learns to read (the process of slowly being able to de-code all these hieroglyphics that have been surrounding him all of his life, to the point now where he's reading everything he sees as we motor about our lovely town), my experience has taught me that "tuning in God" is very, very similar. That, while many of us were taught about Jesus as children, it isn't until his words start really making sense in a real way in our life that he begins to have an impact on who we are.

So when Jesus calls me to humble myself to become a servant of all, or to not worry about tomorrow, or to not love money as much or more than God/others/love itself, and somehow I learn those lessons in practical ways, it's then that I start to pay attention to what it is he has to say. So when I shoot off my mouth in defiance or pride, and it truly hurts somebody needlessly or costs me something dearly (which is a hazard of this ministry business), I begin to understand, in practical terms what it is Jesus is trying to say, and wants me to become. Or, when I encounter the lady who draws together her two brothers who have refused to speak to one another for more than twenty years (because of a bad business deal), and witness the tearful joy as she relives the forgiveness that came out of her actions, that Jesus' words make more sense, and thus have greater impact.

So as we draw nearer to Jesus, making him our rabbi (teacher), in time we become attuned to what it is he, and ultimately God would want in this world. We can actually begin to hear him "speak" with clarity, because his values are slowly becoming ours. And, we can also begin to understand some of the stumbling blocks that we will encounter along the way.

One of Jesus' toughest sayings for me was that he came, not to bring peace, but division, to the point that father would fight with son, and mother with daughter. I never really understood what he meant, until the day when a young man named Dave (changed to protect the innocent) started attending the last youth group I pastored. Dave's family was a really "rough" bunch. I doubt they've ever had a family reunion without numerous kegs, and fights (and sometimes, fights over kegs). After Dave started coming to church, as a part of his unfolding commitment to Jesus, and in response to a lesson he encountered in youth group, he decided that he would practice an act of self-denial as a form of spiritual discipline, and that act was giving up smoking for as long as he could. Now Dave was 16, and had been smoking with his parent's blessing for at least five years, so you could imagine my joy (because it would be physically good for him, let alone any spiritual insights he might stumble on) upon hearing about this act of faith. I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that anybody would thing Dave giving up smoking would be a bad thing.....

until I received the phone call from his mother.

Apparently, Dave's decision caused all kinds of commotion in his family. They were afraid he was becoming "too good" for him. They were afraid church was making him judgmental (even though not a word had ever been spoken by him, or us, in this vein). They were upset that Dave wasn't smoking on the porch with them, and demanded that he quit going to church, which, after much indecision, he didn't do, but we saw him far less often in deference to his mother's wishes.

Now do Jesus' words make sense? How new values accepted can clash with old values still held by those who loves us, setting up fireworks of epic proportions?

So, as what Jesus teaches is proven out practically in our lives, and we grow increasingly more aware and in tune with those teachings, understanding what is required of us is not just a nebulous ethereal set of ideas, but practical sorts of things that help us see ourselves as we are (and hopefully what we want to become!). And thus, God is able to speak, and be heard because we grow in our understanding of the values (love, peace, mercy, justice, forgiveness, tolerance, self-discipline), integrity, and character he desires for all of us.

More on this tomorrow.

God Bless,
Why do this?

It's a question I ask myself, even as I type these words. Seems like everyone has a blog, and I'm not sure the world really needs another.

Why not!

Seems to be the answer I've arrived at. So here it goes...

Welcome to "From Bryan's Office", a place where I can hopefully make comments on a variety of topics that will be helpful to others, and theraputic for me. If you don't know who I am, besides the family and professional info displayed on the page, I'm just a regular guy trying to live the life Jesus called us to, in a simple town in the midwest. I've been blessed to serve a church I love, in a town I grew up in, with people who are my friends. Can't ask for more than that.... so here we go.

Thanks for checking this page out!

God Bless,