Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Why I Prefer Paper/Physical Books to Ebooks January 14, 2016

Filed under: pastoral leadership,Technology,Uncategorized — billmacphee @ 11:57 am

I prefer physical books for many of the same reasons Michael lists here. Primary among them is the feel and interaction I have with books, taking notes, flipping pages, reviewing the big ideas. I have the same feeling about reading the Bible online versus my paper text. Maybe it is because I am used to the format, but I like being able to look at two pages in a paper book or Bible, because this trains my eyes to see context. Ebooks and YouVersion for my Bible is useful and used often, I just still prefer the kinesthetic engagement.



The National Day of Prayer at Village Christian School – May 1, 2014 April 29, 2014

Filed under: pastoral leadership,Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 12:19 pm

Village Christian School is observing The National Day of Prayer this Thursday by inviting you to set aside about 10 minutes to pray near the beginning of our Late Start schedule at 9:30 am. Whether you are leading students in a classroom, or working in another capacity on campus, we ask you to invest a few minutes to join with millions around the world seeking God through prayer.

Here is a Guide [national day of prayer 2014] which teachers can adapt for their classroom time, or others can use with an office mate or two. Parents, Circles of CARE, and others are welcome to join us at 9:30 am, Thursday, May 1.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, and intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone …” 1 Timothy 2:1


Jesus walked on my campus November 26, 2011

I fell off a 70 foot cliff while serving as a volunteer in a mountaineering class at San Carlos High School. I’ve decided to celebrate the friends who saved my life by writing some posts about the experience. I do not pass a single day without reflecting on November 16, 1981 and the courage it took for my friends to make decisions and take action that spared my life.

You can read part one here: the best job I could imagine – November 16, 1981. You can read all posts related to my mountaineering accident by searching the Categories for Accident.


Part Two: Jesus Walked on My Campus … and his name was John.

In addition to teaching outdoor skills to students, John Woodhall served as the head football coach at the San Carlos High School. John is by nature a gentle man, but demonstrated his capacity for strong leadership at practice and on the sidelines. Though he rarely raised his voice, he could get a linebacker’s attention when needed. John was strong, focused, disciplined, and deeply loved his students. His strength and care emerged out of a heart deeply transformed by the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating when I say that John seemed to me to be the embodiment of Jesus walking about his campus. Kids loved and flocked to him. Students wanted to be near him and touch him. John made himself freely accessible to kids–all kind of kids. This is what set John Woodhall apart. He loved and cared for all kinds of students. Not just the strong athletes, or the Christian kids who mirrored his spiritual values. Every person found it possible to easily slide into his span of gentle care. This was especially true of the kids who desperately needed a mountaineering class to keep them engaged in the relentless and unforgiving grind of public high school.

I met John through the Student Ministries family at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, CA. The church has a long legacy of quality leaders in ministry to adolescents, including not only professional staff, but maybe more importantly, gifted and called volunteers. I tried to be sensitive to John’s schedule–as a teacher/coach his life was full. Add his deep commitment to his family and it continued to amaze me that he made himself available as a trustworthy volunteer youthworker at PCC. Through John’s faithfulness in ministry to students both at church and school, I came to be his friend and co-worker. In some ways, we had a reciprocal friendship–he served as a volunteer in the ministry I supervised, and I served as a volunteer in the classes he supervised. John’s involvement with students through church became a natural extension of his growing relationships with teenager’s all over our community. John would often invite students at school to join him at our weekly high school gathering. My involvement with John and outdoor mountaineering trips was a natural extension of the ministry I was carving out through the church. Our joint ministry was externally and outreach oriented–we kept the trajectory of our main weekly gathering on the widest range of students, especially those not likely to come inside a church building. In retrospect, the students enrolled in the San Carlos High School Mountaineering Courses were blessed and fortunate. They gained intimate access to a grace-filled teacher in John, and by extension, received the mentoring of caring adults whom John invited to help lead the “Field Study Projects.” As I reflect on my experience, I could not have been happier. I had boundless energy, considered it my calling to be with adults and students in ministry, and was invited to make my second office the mountains of California.

More to come …


The best job I could imagine – November 16, 1981 November 16, 2011

Today marks the 30th anniversary since I was rescued in the Ventana Wilderness area, some thirty miles south of Big Sur, California.

I fell off a 70 foot cliff while serving as a volunteer in a mountaineering class at San Carlos High School.

I’ve decided to celebrate the friends who saved my life by writing some posts about the experience. I do not pass a single day without reflecting on November 16, 1981 and the courage it took for my friends to make decisions and take action that spared my life. I also freely admit that human effort and courage can not fully explain my survival from the fall and the 18 hour ordeal till I was plucked out by helicopter and transported to the nearest hospital. I am alive, I believe, by the grace and choosing of God. Every day and every step is a gift not taken for granted.

I intend to write briefly about the experience and the lessons learned. I won’t take too much time refining my words, so apologies in advance for poor sentence structure, or disjointed paragraphs. I’m just going to get the stuff that I have spent years talking with others about into written form. I’m writing mostly for me, but I know some of these posts will strike a chord for someone else and prove helpful.

In 1980, I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary and began as an energetic youth pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, CA. One of the best parts of the ministry I was privileged to engage was to help out my friend, John Woodhall, as he taught several Mountaineering courses at San Carlos High School. Students learned basic mountaineering skills in the class room and then took their Mid term and Final exams, affectionately called “Field Study Projects,” in the wild. I participated in many projects and thoroughly enjoyed the treat of hanging with kids in the beautiful outdoors. I loved camping, backpacking, rock climbing, and sleeping under the stars. I couldn’t imagine a better job–getting paid to explore the woods with high energy, risk-taking, adventurous kids, and my good buddy John.

The only challenge of this particular weekend mid term was the torrential down pour of rain. I love to sleep outside, but I hate to sleep in the rain. Especially when the students were responsible for our rain shelters.

More to come …

You can read all posts related to my mountaineering accident by searching the Categories for Accident.


Michael Yaconelli – a rare prophet January 1, 2011

Mike Yaconelli was a unique youth ministry pioneer and prophet. I had the privilege to know him, work for him briefly, and benefit greatly from his counsel and wisdom. Anyone committed to youth ministry and the church owe him an unpayable debt. This video speaks for itself. I post it as a remembrance and reminder. “What a ride!”



Break the Chains pt 3 March 9, 2010

Filed under: Adolescence,pastoral leadership — billmacphee @ 10:47 pm
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8 minute version of the 2010 “Break the Chains” human trafficking video developed by the Dept. of Women Ministries of The Evangelical Covenant Church

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Break the Chains pt 3", posted with vodpod

A powerful video revealing a dark secret in our country. I’m contemplating what response is appropriate. I wonder what the reality is in Los Angeles.

More helpful resources are available at http://www.covchurch.org/humantrafficking


Pat Robertson speaks out on Haiti January 14, 2010

Filed under: pastoral leadership — billmacphee @ 4:11 pm
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I’m trying to write this with humility because, really, what do I know. Pat Robertson made some comments on his CBN 700 Club program in regards to the devastating earthquake bringing utter chaos, destruction, and misery to the people of Haiti. You can read all about what he said, and even watch the video, since the media has perked up about it … maybe that is too soft a word … it might be better to say they are crucifying him. Just google “pat robertson haiti comments” and you’ll get an earful.

Pat Robertson made reference to ancient Haitian legend concerning the people’s pact with the devil, if only they could be free from the French. Now, according to Robertson, there is some connection with this pact and persistent suffering in the country.

At the same time I was contemplating the absurdity of this connection and the audacity of making these public comments I have been reflecting on Jesus’ words in Luke 6, in the sermon on the plain. They are difficult words, hard to understand, more difficult to live. “Love your enemies … do to others as you would have them do to you … if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you … if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you … be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

I don’t doubt for a moment that Pat Robertson has love for the Haitian people, and in fact his organization has already mobilized massive resources to send to the suffering people. But it is common for Christians to create an “us” versus “them” division by our words and attitudes. How do we live out God’s mission in the world? Jesus seems to be talking about and then acting out an extravagant and risky, mercy, love, and grace. This is no time to be even hinting at cause, blame, or religious divide. Instead we must join forces with those able to get real relief on the ground in Haiti, including CBN’s own efforts.

I love what Covenant World Relief has been doing in the name of Christ and commend their efforts to you. You can trust their integrity and results. Jesus extended crazy grace to the most unexpected people with no strings attached other than that they would let him serve them. I’m trying to do that in helpful ways today.


Celebrating Life after Confronting Death August 18, 2009

Filed under: pastoral leadership — billmacphee @ 6:56 am
Tags: , , ,

I stepped into the privilege of officiating a memorial service yesterday. Facilitating a sacred space for processing grief is never easy, but can’t be compared to the heartache of family and friends who have just lost one they deeply love. Preparing the words and then moments for quiet reflection for a memorial gathering is a challenge not to be entered into without humble and thoughtful trust in God.

Sometimes there is a tension brought into the worship setting. Some present are downright angry as they wrestle with the hurt and confusion of loss, and their anger is thrust outward toward God, the church, the minister, family members. They need care and a resilient environment of grace–sometimes just silence in which to sit and wrestle. Others are hoping a message on sin and forgiveness will fix all the hurt and right all the wrongs surrounding the relationships of those present. Often these two emotions and expectations can complicate an already difficult worship environment.

I chose to bring the presence, hope, and grace of Christ into the room through prayer, key Scriptures, and family remembrances [I know the grace of Christ was already present, I sought to be a reminder of that grace]. I acknowledged the power of community as we collectively waited on God to help us move with hope into tomorrow. We read Psalm 23 – God is our very present companion on this journey. We reminded ourselves that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and lays down his life for the sheep – John 10:11. Jesus’ invitation still stands – all who are weary and burdened can come to him – Matthew 11:28.

I led the crowd in a prayer based on Psalm 124:8 – “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

A beautiful and respectful eulogy was delivered by a personal friend.

We sang “Amazing Grace.”

Family members spoke their intimate, sometimes funny, and meaningful remembrances. It is so helpful to laugh through tears.

A message of hope was mined from Romans 8:1, 28, 31-39 – God is the God who is for us and with us-demonstrated most clearly by his choosing the cross of Christ.

We sang “The Old Rugged Cross” and then a final prayer/benediction was offered: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” [Numbers 6:24-26].

I sought to keep the focus on Christ as a demonstration of God’s extravagant grace. If God is for us, who can be against us? I wanted to be faithful to honor both the reality of allegiance to the cross of Christ and also represent his gentle and gracious compassion. I hope I did both well. We need more honest and loving conversation about life’s deepest mysteries.