Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

Today is the day after Christmas, and after a day of presents, over-eating, leading worship, and remembering the birth of the Christ Child - I am off on vacation. I will be back on line around January 1. Until then, have a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Morning

As you may imagine, Sunday morning is a busy time at our house. Normally I get up first, get ready, and am in the office a little before 6:00 in order to get eveything ready here and repare to lead worship. But when there is snow on the ground, like today, the morning is even busier. So I was up very early, clearing the driveway trying to get all the cold weather gear together, and get my normal Sunday stuff done.

As I was playing on the driveway, in the below zero weather with the wind blowing the snow back in my face, I was not all that happy of a camper. But then I decided to try following the teachings of Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a monk a couple of hundred years ago who looked for the blessings of God in everything he did. So, as I was shoveling snow, I started thinking of my blessings. The blessing of being able to shovel, the blessing of having a driveway that needed to be cleared, the blessing of being able to go into a house and warm up when I was done.

As I looked at life through the eyes of blessing, my view changed. I was happy to be outside, and I even enjoyed the hard work of shoveling.

So often our lives are transformed by our outlook on life. When we are doing difficult work we sometimes get in the mindset of how hard life is - but when we see the blessings we have, we are more likely to enjoy the work we are doing.

So today, I challenege you to see the blessings that you have been given in everything you do, and in doing so, give thanks for all that you have.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Program

Tomorrow morning our Sunday School is putting on their Christmas Program, and today we had a rehearsal for it. It was great to see 30 to 40 kids running around, trying to figure out where to stand, when to sing, and how to get from one place to another. Many times it seemed like the leaders were trying to herd cats, but overall it went quite well.

As I sat in the congregation, watching all these little ones sing and dance to the music, I was reminded of the great joy of this season. Little kids singing about the birth of Christ, celebrating the joy of Christmas, and smiling like crazy. In the midst of all the craziness, there were moments of pure joy and fun. It will be great to see how it all plays out tomorrow, and yes, I will have the vidoe camera running for the entire thing!

For me, the best part of the entire rehearsal was at the end, when the kids finished up and walked to their parents, I was sitting holding Scarlett and Sierra came running up, gave me and Scarlett a hug and a kiss and said - Did you see how good I sang Daddy? The excitement on her face, and the all the fun she was having radiated into my life as well. Isn't it amazing how little things can bring so much joy to so many people.

And that is what Christmas is all about - a little person - baby Jesus - bringing so much joy and hope to all of us. For it is in this birth that we we are given hope, new life, and eternal love. No wonder it is such a special time of the year, for it is in thei birth of this child that our eyes are open, once again, to the love that God has for each and every one of us.

So mayyou experience the joy of Christmas with the eyes of a child once again. May you be blessed with God's love pouring into your hearts again. And may you always know that you are lvoed, cared for, and needed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peace

Last Monday I went out Christmas shopping - trying to find all those gifts and not wait until the last minute to do the mad dash to the stores. And one of the things that always troubles me when shopping, esp this time of year is the lines. People are stacked five or six deep with only two lines open, and the person ahead of me always seems to have a problem with the credit card machine or the price of an item. Monday was no exception.

So as I drove home, with half of the list complete, I was still a little upset about waiting in line for so long and not being able to get everything. So I turned on the radio, and flipped to a country station, and on came the song "My Hallelujah Song." As I listened to it I was reminded of the blessings that I have in my life and the joy that this season is supposed to be about.

I don't know about you, but there are many times in my life that I long for peace. I long to have that quite moment where everything slows down and I can just relax in the moment. And I am always amazed when those "God moments" come upon me and I am given that peace at unexpected times like in the car driving home from shopping.

And when those moments come upon me, I am reminded to look for them at other points in my life as well - like in the smile of a child, the touch of my wife, and the beauty of snow falling. For God is at work in the world, in both the little and the big things.

So today, may you be blessed with God moments in your life. May you see the hand of God at work in the little things you are doing. And may you always know that God is there, with you, traveling the same paths you are walking.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sing A Song

Last night we had our annual Christmas at Twilight concert. It was the first year that Sierra sang with the youth choir, and she was very excited about the whole thing. As soon as she woke up on Saturday morning she was asking when she got to go to church and find a robe to wear - same question, all day:)

The concert was wonderful, the music was inspiring, and Sierra had a blast. She and her friend Grace sat up front for the entire concert, and did well most of the time. During the songs that they sang the two of them danced and had a blast. During the times the other choirs were singing or playing bells, they quiety played with each other, and avoided looking at her parents as she played with the velcro on her shoes and swung the edge of her robe back and forth.

In watching all of this, I was amazed at how fast she had grown up. Her first Christmas at Twilight, four years ago, she was just like Scarlett, sitting in my arms, staring at the lights, and cooing to the music. Now, she was one of the choir, and loving the opportunity to sing with her friends.

Music brings warmth and joy to a persons heart. Last night that was esp. true. Not only the actions of my oldest daughter, but the music that brought us into the Christmas spirit. For me, this concert is the start of the Christmas season. The joy of the songs, candles, and smiles on peoples faces reminds me that God is a God of relationships, and his love for us is unending, full of grace.

So today, may you be blessed with the gift of song. May you celebrate this season by joining your voice to the choirs of angels, singing praise to the Christ who loves you. May you be blessed with warm memories and joyful hearts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Running

Today Jennifer had to get up early to go to a meeting in Madison, so I had to get the two girls up and going before their sitter came to play with them. Luckily, Sierra was in a good mood when she got up, so getting her going was easy. She got dressed, ate breakfast, brushed up, and was anxiously awaiting the sitter to show her how she learned to whistle. Scarlett, on the other hand, was one tired baby.

When she woke up, I was already running. I had to get her dressed, change her diaper (two times, since she thought it would be fun to wet the new diaper as soon as I put it on her), and get her bottle ready - which she was not anxious to have. The whole time I was also running around making sure I had everything ready to take to the office.

But then, right before I was about to leave, Sierra came running up and gave me a hug and a kiss. This is something she does every time I leave or return from somewhere, but today, it had a different meaning. With all the running I was doing, I was reminded in that short little moment that the other "stuff" would wait. Having a moment to hug my girls, share a time of love and affection, was much more important than trying to remember everything that had to be packed and taken in to the office.

We all seem to be running a lot more in the month of December, and we need these gentle reminders about what is important and what can wait, or even be forgotten. The true value of life is in the relationships that we have, the other "stuff" is all secondary.

So may we all take a moment off from running. May we be blessed with the time of hugs, love, and affection. And may we celebrate the relationships we have in our lives each and every day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Creation

Our confirmation class started studying the Apostle's Creed last night, so we looked at the first article - I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. In talking about this article we spent quite a bit of time talking about the gift of creation and how we are called to be stewards, or caretakers, of this blessing.

One of the things that I noticed is that the youth in this class are so different than the ones I started teaching 12 years ago. These youth are very globally conscious - they want to make a difference, they want to be involved, they want to leave the world in a much better place than it is now. It is exciting to see how active these 13 and 14 year-olds are and how they know that their actions make a difference in the world.

So as the roads are icing up and I am preparing for a long and cold winter, my thoughts this morning were on the gift of creation. We truly have been blessed with such a wonderful place to call home. We have been blessed with the abilities to make a difference and leave this world in a better place then when we came into it. But to do this will take work, and some sacrifice, on our behalf. But, when we make these changes, the rewards we and gerneations down the road will reap will be huge.

So today, may you celebrate the gift of creation in your life, and may you be blessed with the strenghth to make a difference in the world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow Day

Yesterday I got to spend half of the day at home as a snow day. My meetings were cancelled because of the storm, so the family gathered around the kitchen table and made a ginger bread house. We had a Wii competition (Jennifer won, of course), and we sat by the fire and listened to Christmas music. It was a wonderful little break in the midst of a storm and busy days.

Growing up in Montana, we only had school cancelled once in my high school career, and that was due to 50 below weather, not snow. I remember that day, and doing everything I could to get out of the house and meet up with friends. My how times have changed.

Being able to have time with family, to sit around a fire, to laugh, dance, and do puzzles is a true blessing. It is time that warms the soul and builds memories for a life time. And to have a day like that in the middle of December is a real treat.

It also got me thinking about all the running around that comes with this month. The busy-ness of shopping, baking, and decorating the house. Sometimes we run through December and miss the blessings of time with family and friends because we have so much on our to-do lists.

So today, may you make time to be with those you love. May you be blessed with a day of fellowship and fun. May you truly celebrate this season rather than running through it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sleep

There are times in my life when I struggle with sleep. My mind is racing and I have a hard time shutting down for the day, so I sit up and read, listen to music, or watch TV. Eventually sleep will come, but there are times that it takes a while.

Just after Scarlett was born the struggle with sleep was even greater. She was getting up a couple of times at night, and Sierra decided that it was fun to wake up before 6:00 am - so exhaustion set in early on those days.

But lately, the girls have done very well at getting their rest. Scarlett is only up once a night, normally around 5 (after going to be around 9:00) and Sierra sleeps until after 7:00.

And that has opened the door for me to get more rest as well. It is amazing how much better life is when you have a full night of sleep behind you.

We all need rest in our lives, and God knows this. That is why God created the Sabbath - a time for us to rest from the daily grind, spend time with him, and recharge for the week ahead. The Sabbath is essential for all of us, because we need to refuel before we do the work that God has set before us.

I once heard the church described as a Filling Station. We come in (our Sabbath time) to get fueled up in worship and then leave to do the work we are called to do in the world. I think this is a great analogy because God is at work in the world, and we need to be fueled up to do that work. And with all the busy-ness that December brings with it, we need the time of rest, that time of refueling, more than ever.

So may you be blessed with the joy of rest in your life, and may you be refueled to celebrate all that God has given to you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unintended Results

Yesterday I went home in the afternoon, as I normally do on Wednesdays, and was preparing to come back for Wednesday night activites. We had a nice little snowstorm, and the activities were cancelled, so I got to stay home with the two girls all afternoon. Now Sierra was not all that happy about it, because she wanted to come to SPYFF (the wednesday night program we have at church) and so she was a little upset about being home. So I had to try and be creative, coming up with something for us to do in a snowstorm while Scarlett napped the afternoon away.

Oh how I love books - they help out in situations like this one. Last week I happened to check out a book the had craft ideas for preshoolers. Since I am not the "craftiest" person on the planet, I need help in this area, and I got it.

So we opened up this craft book, and had our own little SPYFF session at home. We turned on the radio, sang Christmas songs, and out of paper plates, straws, and a little creativity, made a turtle whose head moves. Then, when Jennifer got home, I cleared off the driveway and they made their pizza, and we had dinner.

My goal for yesterday afternoon was to relax during nap time with the girls and then come back and do what needed to be done. This did not happen. Instead, I had the unintended result of an afternoon filled with imagination and creativity. An afternoon the I got to bond with one daughter, and watch the other sleep for 3 and a half hours (over time I am sure that Scarlett with be coloring and cutting with as much enthusiasm as Sierra).

Quite often in life we are thrown curve balls. The plans that we have fall apart, and we need to regroup and try something else, something new or different. That is part of the joy of life. In many ways, we need to adjust our attitudes, and embrace change as a friend, rather than something to be feared. This is not easy to do, but we we do it, we get these unintended results that turn out to be real blessings.

So today, may you be blessed with the opportunty of an unintended results. May you be blessed to have the chance to embrace change and celebrate new possibilites. May you be showered with joy, love, and the experience of God empowering you to do something new.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Snow

I know that it has been a long time since I have posted anything, and my goal is to get back on here every other day or so. Today I was motivated - by snow.

I love snow. I love watching it fall, sitting by a fire, enjoying the flakes coming down. I love getting out into it - skiing, making snowmen, and just playing as when I was a kid.

On Sunday we had a nice little snowfall, so Monday morning Sierra was all excited to get out and play in it. After I shoveled half of the driveway, she threw on her snowpants and was out helping daddy. It was a blast watching her with her little pink shovel pushing at the snow, trying to do what daddy was doing.

Soon she tired of it, so she took her shovel and went to the porch, being independent as only a 4-year-old could be, and cleared it off, at least somewhat. Finally dad was done, so we started to play. A snow fort was built, and then destroyed by the invading Sierra army. Paths were made, snowangels appeared (I forgot how cold it was making a snow angel), and the sled was dragged around the yard. Overall, it was a great morning, and the two of us had a lot fun, followed by hot chocolate by the fire.

During this entire time, I was reminded of the gift of imagination. When we were playing, Sierra's imagination was running wild, and it was a beautiful thing to see. She reminded me how simple little things can become wonderful adventures, all with the right imagination and the willingness to be a kid again.

Imgination is a true gift from God. We are given the freedom to create, to become something else, to grow in freedom - all when we allow ourselves to imagine new things in life. Spending time with a child, and meeting them where they are - whether that be in a snow castle with ice princesses dancing around or a wilderness path through dragon infested lands - it opens us to a new kind of freedom. One that we had at kids, but seemed to lose over time.

So today, as I watch the snow fall, I am excited to play in it again. sure, the driveway will be a pain, but the joy of dancing with the snow princess will be worth it.

So may you be blessed with the freedom of imagination again in your life. May you be strengthened with the curiosity of a child. And may you always remember that God has blessed you with his love, his grace, his imagination - treasure that blessing, for God has given it to you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History

Over the past few weeks I have been quiet on this blog. Part of that was having the time to blog with everything else going on (and trying to figure out when to sleep:). The other part had to do with the elections. One of the things I try to be very deliberate about is not making my political views known, as I have the honor and priviledge to serve people from all walks of life on the political spectrum. I love politics, I love true debate that raises the public awareness of issues, I love the process and the dream that is America.

Going into today we all knew that history would be made - either an African American would be elected president or a woman would be elected to the second highest office in the land. As I spent time preparing for this election, I kept thinking about what a blessing it is to be in a country where this can take place and where we all have the freedom and ability to look beyond a persons race or gender and see the gifts and abilites that person has been given.

And now we enter into a time of preparation for new leadership in this country. My first thought is to pray for our new leaders, asking that God watch over them, protect them, and give them the wisdom and insight that is needed to lead this country. My second thought is that I am so tired of the negative junk that comes out in campaigns. It is way too easy to tear people down - the hard work is building others up, and that is the hard work we are called to do as Christians. We are called to seek out those who are struggling and in pain and embody the Gospel as we enter into their pits of life, walking the walk with them. My prayer is that we can all work past the differences that separate us and unite in our love of God, neighbor, country, and world.

So tonight, as I watch the closing speeches, may we all celebrate the gifts that God has given to us. May we all work together to put the negative junk behind us and celebrate the gifts that are in others. And may we bless others as we have been blessed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Video

Hi all,

I have posted another video from GodTube today. It is a powerful video that brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. It is all about how the temptations of life sometimes get in the way of our relationship with God, but Christ is still there and he will break through those temptations and trials to restore our relationship with him. Enjoy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A while back I mentioned the song "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman. Today I am trying something new, and hopefully below will be that video and his explanation as to how he wrote it. Please enjoy.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Humor

Humor is such a wonderful thing. It helps to bring joy during times of struggle and lifts a person up when they are feeling down.

Humor also gives life. Last night I was up late waiting to feed Scarlett before I went to bed, and there was nothing on TV to watch, so I checked in on my facebook account. While I was there, one of Jennifer's friends was on-line, and we started chatting, via Jennifer's page. By the end of the conversation I was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes. Being able to laugh like that feels so good, and brings so much joy to my life.

But there are so many times when it is hard to laugh. Times when we are going through struggles, times when we are facing different pains, times when the world seems to be closing in on us. And it is during these times that we need people in our lives who bring a little joy, a little hope, and help us to see that there is more to life than the current struggle we are facing.

So I search out joy wherever I can. I try to find people who see the bright side of life and see true joy. It is not that I just pass over the bad things, but rather I work through them with people who make me smile.

So today, may you be blessed with people in your life who make you smile. May you be lifted up with joy and humor, always knowing that God is walking with you and he desires to see your smile as well. And may you laugh out loud, and feel the healing power of humor in your life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pastor Olson's family

I received the following e-mail from a friend earlier this week. Pastor Rolf Olson served at Our Savior's Lutheran Church 1981-1986. His daughter was murdered a year ago, and here is some information that they would like to share with everyone.

In case you have access to a TV next Friday morning... Rolf, Nancy, and Sarah [Olson] Richter will be on the TODAY show on Friday, October 17, talking about the ordeal with Katherine's murder and the aftermath. The show has been kind and persistent in asking us to be on ever since the event. Now that we have the memorial concert scheduled [May 1, 2009, at Prince of Peace in Burnsville] and some sense of when there might be a trial [February... perhaps as late as April], we feel it may be good to go on and tell Katherine's story.

The anniversary of her death is October 25. Our focus, as it has been for the past year, is trying to leverage as much good out of this horror as possible.

So, if you are around a TV next Friday between 7 and 8 a.m., we will have a short piece to share with a national audience. Prayers for calm and a safe journey please.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The girls




Here are a few pictures of me and the girls.

Blessings

Over the past few weeks we have seen a major financial crisis start to hit. It has been a time when the stock markets across the world are taking major hits, banks and other businesses are struggling, and people are very worried about how they are going to make it. It is a scary time for many people.

This is also the time when many churches, including the one I serve, are approving budgets or spending plans for the next year. As you may imagine, many are nervous about how these budgets will be viewed.

But with me just returning from leave, I am looking at life a little differently. It is not that I am unaware of the struggles of the economy or unaware of the fears that are out there, but rather, I still see blessings. My eyes have been opened, once again, to the multitude of gifts that I have been given in my life, and these gifts are such great bessings to me that they overshadow the struggles we all are facing.

So today I would like to invite you to spend a little time reflecting on the blessings you have in your life.

First, think about your friends and family. Think about all of the things that these people give to you - love, support, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, their loving presence in your life. These people are blessings for they are involved in your life in intimate ways and bless you with love and support throughout your life.

Second, think about the talents you have been given in your life - the things you are good at, the things you are passionate about and love to do. These talents are blessings for they help to give you purpose and in using them you live out your calling.

Finally, think about the God that loves you. He is the one who walks with you during the difficult times in life. He carries you when you cannot make it on your own. And his is willing to give everything he has, including his own life, so that he may be in a relationship with you.

When we think about these things, and the many blessings we have been given, we are reminded that no matter how difficult the storms in life are, we are still blessed. We are still loved. We are still needed and cared for. So may we all trust that God will provide for us, and that God will continue to bless us, even, or maybe especially, in the midst of our struggles.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Back from leave

As you may have noticed, I have not posted anything for the past couple of weeks. Our second child came a few days earlier than we expected, and I have been at home for two weeks adjusting to the new life we have with us. Scarlett Deborah was born on Sept. 24, and she is a true blessing in our lives. Everyone is doing well, and Sierra is loving being a big sister. She wakes up and the first thing she wants to do is hold her sister. It is a joy to watch these two and the love that is shared between them.

And as it is throughout life, these blessings bring with them change. Change in the amount of sleep we are getting. Change in our daily schedules. Change in our lives as a whole. And it is a wonderful change, I must say.

So last night, as I was up late feeding Scarlett, I looked down at this little girl and was overcome with emotion. In my hands was a little, 6 pound blessing, and with her came a whole new set of responsibilites and changes in my life. But what I saw at that moment was pure grace. A little girl who can only eat, sleep, and fill diapers (which she fills plenty of:). But even though she cannot "do" anything, she brings a new sensation to others. All you have to do is look at her, hold her, and you are given this warm feeling that all is right with the world. No matter what is happening out there, in here, with her in your arms, there is only joy and grace and love.

So today, as I came back to work, I left this child at home with her loving mother, and I miss her in amazing ways. Life has changed for me, and it has changed for good. Now I am getting ready to go home and have lunch with her, and I will hug, kiss, and rock her as much as I can. Knowing that these moments will not last forever.

So today, may you be blessed with the joy of change in your life. May you see grace and love in those you meet. And may you always know that God is holding you in his hands, rocking you, loving you, and showering you with his grace.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pondering

This morning I am sitting in front of the computer, after a round of golf that was verya verage at best, pondering the message for this week. The lessons have to do with the issue of forgivness andhow there are times in our lives we would prefer that God would not forgive people, because we don't want to forgive them either.

This side of human nature is not a pretty one. There are times when we like to hold onto our grudges, onto our pains, because we think that they give us power over others. If they hurt us, we may think, then the right think for me to do is hurt them back.

Luckily, this is not God's view. God is so concerned with his relationship with us that he is willing to look past all of the ways we may have hurt him in the past in order to have a healthy relationship with us now and in the future.

He also desires for us to have helathy relationships with others, and this means moving past the pains of the past so that we can grow in our love of others.

So today, I offer a challenge. Take some time and think of some of the strained relationships in your life. What is a healthy way for both you and the other person that you can move forward in your relationship? What needs to take place in order that you can forgive that person and grow in your love of them? Then try to put your thoughts into action.

May you be blessed with loving and caring relationships in your life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Ready

Yesterday was another trip to the doctor, and we set up everything for the arrival of the new one. We are only 11 days away from welcoming thi little one into the world, and there is a lot we need to do before that happens.

So we have made sure that the room is ready, the crib is up, diapers are ordered (yes, we get them online nowadays and get a nice little discount too), and have Sierra practicing her singing so that she can sing Wheels on the Bus when it comes home.

There are always so many things to do, so much to get ready for when you are preparing for a big event in life. And as I continue to put clothes into the dresser and make sure we have enough burp rags, I keep thinking of more and more things that need to be done.

Getting ready is a full time job.

Throughout our lives there are so many things that we need to get ready for. We need to get ready in the morning, get ready for a meal, get ready for a meeting, and the list goes on and on. But how are we at getting ready for the spiritual side of life?

This seems to be one area in life that we let slide. we have so many other things on our mind, so much more to get ready for, that the spiritual side doesn't always get the attention we need.

But getting ready for the spiritual part of life is needed too. For me, this means going to a place where I will not be distrubed for a while - like the prayer room in the church or closing my door in the office - home doesn't work well with a 3-year-old:)

It also means having the right matierials with me - Bible, pen, paper, and whatever devotional I am working with at the time.

Sometimes I also prepare by having a candle lit, burning some incense, or playing music - depending on my mood at the time.

When these preparations are in place, when I have gotten ready, I notice that the time I spend with God is more fruitful in the end.

So may you be blessed by getting ready for your time with God. May you experience his presence in a profound way, and may you see the face of Christ today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time

It has been a while since I posted, and I could come up with plenty of excuses, but the heart of it is time. It takes time to do so many things, and there are days when I just run out of time - and I bet I am not the only one who does so.

We are two weeks away from the new baby coming, and so time is becoming increasingly shorter. The room is pretty much ready - with the exception of me sorting through some papers that have sat in the office for years - and Sierra is pumped to be a big sister. But there is still a ton to do around the house, at the office, and in my own life.

So how do we do everything that needs to be done in the alloted time that we have? Jennifer once used the phrase, we have to distinguish between the important and the emergent. I think she nailed it.

There are so many things that are important to us, and then there are the emergent things that have to get done, no matter what. Having a place for the baby to sleep is emergent, sorting through papers is important, well sometimes at least.

And then there are the things we just want to do - the things that give us joy and empower us. Unfortunately, these are the things that get pushed to the back burner when everything else is piling up, and they are the things that give us teh energy to do everything else.

So now we have three categories - important, emergent, and joyful things. How do we do it all with the limited time we have?

Time management has been written on and spoken about over and over again, and I don't want to rehash everything that has already been said. Instead, I think what we need to do is look at our lives, talk with God, and say - what is it that gives me life and empowers others? What am I passionate about, and how can I live out that passion and still get done what needs to be done? For when we live out our passion, when we use the gifts that God has given us, other things start to fall into place.

So today, may you live out your passions. May you see the joy of life in everything you do. May you see the face of Christ in all you meet. And may the love of God be the center of your time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Off-line

This week the computers at work have been off-line - and I have come to see how much i depend on that conncetion. I need it to download confirmation info, work of stewardship stuff, and a host of other connections. So, I have had to come to the house to do some of the work that I normally do at the office, and it doesn't seem to work as well.

Isn't it amazing how one little thing can throw off our schedule and how we normally live our lives?

This week is the big prep week for the fall programs. W are busy getting everything ready, and the time on the computer is needed to accomplish a variety of tasks. But since it has not been available, I have done a lot of extra leg work, and gone to doing things differently then I have in previous years. In the big picture, this is a good thing, as frustrating as it may be from time to time, but it has gotten me to think out of the box on a number of different projects.

And sometimes that is what we need to do - try a normal task in a different way in order to get a new, and sometimes exciting, result. it can be a challenge, but challenges are made to be faced, and we start to see new blessings with new ideas.

I still want the internet back, and get back to doing things in an easier, more comfortable way, but the challenge is good. So today, may you see possibilities in face of adversity, and look at challenges with the eyes of blessing.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Letting Go

Today is our summer intern's last day. Amy has been with us all summer, working with Vacation Bible School, designing a Prayer Room, doing visits, and a host of other things. She has been a blessing to us this summer with everything she has done, and will do well wherever she goes in the future.

Our Summer Internship ends with the intern preaching. Amy's sermon has to do with Letting Go - letting go of our desires, our wants, our wills, and letting God lead us where he wants us to go.

This is a lot easier said than done.

So often in life, we want to be in control, we want to be in charge, we want a little bit of power when it comes to shaping our destiny. But as I have heard before, if God is our co-pilot, then we are in the wrong seat. God has created us with certain gifts, and he has a purpose for us in using these gifts. The question is, are we willing to let go and follow God, wherever he is leading us?

The first step to letting go is taking time with God to discern where it is he is leading us. This means making time in our busy lives to spend in prayer and Bible study. It means gathering with others who are searching as well - in worship, in small groups, wherever it may be. This may take months, it may take years, but we are continually asking God - what is it that you want me to do or be?

During this time we continually ask - is this your will for me, or is my will getting in the way of what you want? It is not an easy process, but it is one that reaps great rewards.

So today, may you make the time to serarch with God as to what he is calling you to do. May you be blessed with an open mind and heart to hear where God is leading you, and may you see the face of God every day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Setting the Table

One of the things that Sierra loves to do at our house is set the table. She takes each item, one by one, to the table and palces it where she thinks we should sit. First are the plates, then the silverware, then the cups. They all have their order, they all have their place.

Earlier this week, I was in a bit of a rush to get back to church for a meeting, and was going to set the table myself. But Sierra wouldn't hear of it. This was her job, and she wanted to do it as she had in the past. So I had to slow down and let her set the table.

When I look forward to a new school year at the church, I am reminded of how Sierra sets the table. Quite often we come to this table empty and hungry, and people are there to feed us, sometimes faster then we can handle it. But there is an order to setting the table. We cannot eat the steak until we have the plates, forks, and knives on the table. We cannot drink the milk until we have a cup to put it in. We need to start at the base of the table and build up. Sometimes it takes awhile to get to the steak, but the preparation is well worth the feast that is yet to come.

So this fall, I want to start back at an empty table. We will set it by laying out the plates of prayer, Bible study, and spiritual practices. We will add to it the silverware of blessings and worship, and we continue to drink of the fruit of the Spirit. Step by step, as we set the table, we will continue to grow in relationship with God and with others, always looking to see the face of Christ shining back at us.

May you take the time to set your spiritual table, and feast on the grace of God each day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Moving Forward

After the past week, which was filled with everything you can imagine, I have been trying to get in gear for this week. It seems like whenever I have a busy week, the next week is one of catch-up - making sure all the little details are taken care of, and this is draining to me. But, it is one of those things that just has to be done.

So this week I have spent most of the time in front of this computer. Working on youth activities, confirmation, planning studies for the fall. I love doing all this, but at times I am just dragging.

So today I picked up Sierra a little early from daycare and went to the park for a bit. We didn't stay long, because of the rain, but she got to run around and have some fun. I love watching her at play. After that short time with her I was able to come back here, feeling renewed and ready to get going again.

Then I looked at a confirmation lesson for this fall, and it was on the Sabbath Day. We all need these Sabbath days in our lives, times to recharge and get ready. Sometimes the sabbath rest we need can be a quick trip to the park with a child, other times we need longer breaks in order to get focused on what we are doing.

So what do you do to recharge your batteries? What are some of the things that give you strength to get back into the groove?

May we all be blessed with the rest and renewal that we need.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cleaning House

With only five weeks until the new arrival comes, I have started cleaning up the house. Currently I am working in the basement to make room for all the stuff that has to be moved out of the room that the new one will be living in soon. It is amazing how much junk a person can gather in such a short period of time. I have found boxes upon boxes of things that I forgot we had.

I have also come across a number of boxes that mom passed on to me. They are items that my dad had and never did anything with. See, dad was a guy that would find wierd things and then send them out to people as gifts, such as the plastic duck with a holder for the remote. There were a number of things that he collected, but never sent off to people, and now they are in my basement (at least until Friday when the garbage goes out).

In looking through all of this stuff, I was reminded of the great sense of humor that dad had, a sense of humor that I have inherited. He always wanted to make people smile and laugh, to see the joy in life. With everything going on in the world this is something I think we need more of - not necessarily the strange gifts (yes, I was given a singing bass as well) but the idea that we need to look for the joy in life.

So today, may we all see the joy. May our eyes be opened to the fun little things in life, and may we receive the blessings we have been given with a smile on our faces.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What a weekend

The weekend is finally over, and what a busy weekend it was. We had the 90th anniversary of the church on Saturday and Sunday morning, then we ran up to Milwaukee for my sister-in-law's wedding, then ran back here for another doctor appointment (the baby is doing great), and now I am getting ready for another funeral. It was a lot of fun, but I was just plumb tuckered out last night.

Sierra was a flower girl at the wedding, and she did a great job. She didn't even want to sit down during the service, so she spent most of it standing next to her aunt Becky pulling on her dress. After the service was over, we went down to the reception and she danced like crazy. As you may imagine, the photographer loved taking pictures of this little girl having so much fun.

With everything going on over the past week, I have been reflecting on the joy of family. It is a true blessing to have people around who love and care for you. People who are willing to stop whatever they are doing to help. People who will both celebrate and cry with you, depending on the circumstances. Since we are all human, we know that there are times when we struggle with family, but those struggles are often minimal when compared to the love and support that we get from these people who know are faults and love us in spite of them.

So today, may you celebrate your family. Take some time to write a note, send an e-mail, or call a family member and let them know how much they are appreciated. And may we all see the face of Christ in those who love us so much.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fear

This week we have been hosting vacation Bible school at the church. We have 20 kids who come for two and a half hours, eat, sing songs, learn Bible stories, do crafts, and have a great time overall.

Yesterday was water day at VBS, and our intern, Amy, planned a special time for the kids - with waterballoons. At the end of the night she had 300 waterballoons filled and they were given the chance to soak themselves and all the other kids.

When she opened the lid to the waterballoons, the kids did a mad rush to grab as many as the could. It was pure chaos. Sierra happened to be in the middle of all of this, and it scared her. Way too many kids running and screaming, and she just stood in one place and cried out for us to get her.

So I trudged into the fray, picked Sierra up, and carried her out of the mess. We got to the side and she started to calm down right away. Amy brought her a couple of balloons, and she and another little girl went off to the side and played catch with the balloons. At that point everything was good in her world.

There are times in our lives when we are overcome with fear. We feel the world crushing in upon us, and all we can do is stand there and cry out for help. The beauty of God is that he is always there to pick us up out of the chaos, and bring us back to the safety and the sanity of his grace-filled life.

So today, may you be blessed with the presence of God's love. May you be carried out of moments of fear, and may you always know that God's grace and love is given to you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics

I love the Olympics, the problemis that it affects my sleep cycle. I stay up late, watching as many events as I can, the cycle to ESPN in the morning as I try to catch up on what I missed.

As i watched the opening ceremonies, I was, like so many others, amazed at the show. The teamwork f so many people, the pagentry of the show, and the technology that was used was hugely impressive.

As I watched one of the things that impressed me the most was how the 15,000 people invovled worked so well together. I know that it took hundreds of hours of practice, but they seemed to move flawlessly from one amazing show to another.

Isn't it amazing how the gifts we are given, when honed, can do such impressive work?

This week I have been talking a lot about gifts in a Bible study - how we are blessed with so many different talents and passions in our lives, and when we use these gifts we not only bless others, but we also feel great about ourselves. When we do what we are good at, what we are passionate about, what we have been gifted with - we are using the gifts we have been given and honoring God at the same time.

So today, may you be blessed to spend time doing what you love, blessing others with your gifts, and enjoy your gifts and talents.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Laughter Take 2

After yesterdays blog, I kept thinking about what I wrote - how we are impacted by the people that we surround ourselves with. Today I had an opportunity to surround myself with some pretty great people, and I have had a pretty great day.

It started out with my regular Friday morning golf outing. Every week I meet with a couple of guys and we chase that little white ball around. None of us are all that good but we have a lot of fun. This is a time to relax, connect with friends, and laugh at a wide variety of things, including our bad shots.

After that I had a meeting scheduled with a friend who serves a church northwest of Madison. We are starting to meet regularly to tke about life, ministry, and how we do what we do. It was a great time to catch up and support one another.

Later in the day I ran into another friend at the library and we spent time talking in the parking lot about how we are both doing.

It is these connections, these times with people and the relationships that we build that impact us in such amazing ways. Relationships are one of the things that pull us through tough times and help us to see the face of God in a much clearer fashion.

So today, may you be blessed with renewed relationships in your life, and may you treasure the relationships that you have.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Laughter

One of the many great things about OSLC is the staff that works here. We have a lot of fun together, we laugh with each other, and we are there to support one another during tough times. Being able to work and live out the calling I have been given with such great people is a true joy, and I am reminded daily of how much fun life can be.

Coming in to work with people who bring joy and laughter to me is a true blessing. Being with people who are happy and upbeat makes my life a little better and I enjoy what I do even more.

A lot of this goes to the point that who we surround ourselves with has an impact on how we act and how we live our lives. If we surround ourselves with negative people, those who see the glass as half empty all the time, who live in the past and see nothing good about today, etc - well, we then start to fall into their traps. We start to see less and less of the joy of life and we start to wallow in the darkness that these people live in.

But, when we surround ourselves with the joy people - the people who see the good things in life, who celebrate the blessings that they have been given each and every day - well, we start to see more and more of that in our lives as well.

We are influenced by who we surround ourselves with - so my question for you today is - Who will bring you some laughter and joy today and why not give them a call?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Slacking

Earlier today I was asked if I was slacking with my entries on the blog, so I knew that I had to get a post up today. Since returning from my mini-retreat, things have been hectic, but the busy-ness is a good thing, for it keeps me focused and ready for the busy year that we have planned here.

As I have been getting ready for this weekends sermon, I have been thinking about the different storms that we face in life, and the different things that we fear. The lesson I will probably be preaching on is from Matthew's gospel, and it is the story of Peter walking on water, then being overcome with fear, starting to sink, and being raised up by Christ. There are three things in this story that stand out to me.

First, is that Peter thinks he can walk on water - why? Peter was one called by Jesus to be a disciple, and to be a disciple means more than just follow someone. Rather, to be a disciple means that you will follow, learn, and grow all the while knowing that sometime you will be able to do what the rabbi you are following can do. So Peter, being a disciple of Jesus, believes that he can do what his rabbi, Jesus, can do.

Second, Peter is overcome with fear. We all fear different things in our life, and sometimes we let these fears dicatate our lives. Peter's fear of the storm, or failing his rabbi, or the gust of wind, or that fact that he was doing something he never though he could do - it comes crashing down on him, and this fear freezes him and he starts to falter. Ever had a time in yout life when fear paralyzed you?

Third - Jesus is right there, with a hand, lifting up the one who is falling. You see, Jesus cares so much for us, that no matter what happens, he is right there with us, reaching out his hand, grabbing us with his grace and love, and promising to never let us go.

So today, may you bring your fears to the one who will always walk with you. May you be blessed with grace and love, and may you always feel the presence of Christ in your life.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Return

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and a great time to make the rest of the drive home. It is always heart-warming to hear Sierra say - Daddy, I missed you so much! - and see the smile on her face as she received a new Cornhusker dress and cap, to spend time just talking with Jennifer, and relax a little before starting back into the grind.

And so I was ready to jump back in today with a funeral. All the plans were made, and then the plans were destroyed - my worst cluster headache in the past couple of years came crashing down on me at 7:30 this morning. At 8:00 Jennifer started writing the funeral sermon, and at 11:00 she was at the funeral home instead of me, for I was dealing with this headache for over six hours.

After that experience this morning, I was reminded of two things: First, I am blessed. I am blessed to be married to a beautiful, intelligent woman who is a great pastor and can take over without blinking an eye when I am laid out. Second - I can have all the plans in the world, and often they don't matter. Life gets in the way of our plans sometimes.

On my retreat I saw (again) the movie "Evan Almighty." It is a cute show that tells a modern day story of Noah. There is a seen in the movie that I love. In it Evan tells God, "But this wasn't my plan. I had all these other plans!" After saying that he looks at God who is laughing. God says, "Your plans, your plans, what makes you think your plans are more important than my plans for you?"

Sometimes our plans do fall apart - it may be because of circumstances, headaches, or other realities of life. But God's plans do not fail. For God has plans for all of us, and at the heart of his plans is the love he has for us.

So today, may we seek to know what God's plans for us are, and may our plans not get in the ways of God's.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Retreat 2

Today I am in Iowa - driving past the acres and acres of corn fields, rejoicing in the very low gas prices here, and contemplating a variety of issues. I will be returning home tomorrow afternoon.

As I have been driving across the states and looking at the beauty of creation, my thoughts have been wandering back to the issue of stewardship. Now today, I am not talking about stewardship as in money, but rather stewardship as in how we care for the gifts we are given, esp the gift of creation.

Growing up in Montana, I thought very little about stewardship of the earth. I was more interested in the joy of playing in the mountains, making sure that there was enough time to get out skiing, hiking, camping, and just having fun in nature. But as I gorw older and look into the eyes of my daughter, I am reminded that we also have a responsibility to the earth and future generations.

In Genesis, God tells humans that we are to have dominion over the earth. The word that is used for "dominion" here means that we are to be the caretakers of the earth. We are to make sure that the earth is well cared for, and leave it better than when we first came upon it. This responsibility is also for our children and grand children, for they are the ones who will have to pay for our mistakes and our neglect, long after we are gone.

So as I look out over the ears of corn starting to pop up, I cannot help but think - what am I doing that will benefit the earth and my child(ren)? What steps am I taking to make sure that creation continues to breathe and life flourish throughout the world?

Today my prayers are for creation, that all of us may be mindful of our actions and we may help build up this earth the God cares so much for.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Retreat


Today I am of the first of a three day retreat. It is a time for me to put together some plans and ideas for the upcoming school year and get myself ready for everything that is coming up.


So my retreat has taken me to Nebraska. I drove out here yesterday and will start working my way back tomorrow. I met up with my mom here, visited the cemetery where dad is, and picked up some Cornhusker gear for Sierra.


As I was driving around the family farm, looking at the corn growing and seeing the trees that dad and I planted a year and half ago, I started thinking about roots - about where we come from and how that impacts who we are and the gifts we have been given.


My dad was always a farm boy at heart. He loved to work with his hands, dig up the dirt, and watch things grow. I do not have the green thumb that he had, but part of this has rubbed off on me. I like to plant and watch things grow as well - but not necessarily plants and flowers. For me, it is helping to plant the seeds of faith and encouraging those seeds to grow. My gifts are more in the area of spiritual growth rather than plant growth.
So as I continue on this retreat, I will be spending time asking God to open my eyes to the ways that I can continue to help others grow in their spiritual journeys, and I pray that you may see the good gifts you have inherited from others and find ways to share those blessings with others.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blessings

Today is a day of reflection for me, as you may have guessed from yesterday's blog. But in the midst of my time of reflection, I have spent more and more time reflecting on blessings - blessings I have been given in my life, and blessings I hope to share with others in their lives.

Sometimes it is too easy to neglect the blessings we have been given and focus on the frustrations, the struggles, and the bad stuff. But when I look at life, there are so many good things going on that the negative need to take a back seat.

Blessings in my life are easy to name - love, family, friends, joy of what I do, golf time (which is also a frustration since I broke another club today, but that is another story:), health, and the list goes on and on.

I also have the blessing of good memories - times growing up, relationships made and restored, times of play, etc.

And for me there is true joy in life when I see blessings in the lives of others. When they tell a story of something great that has happened, when they have a "God moment" and they just have a glow on their face. Yes there are bad things in the world, but when we are given that moment of joy, that moment of blessing, it reminds us that we are loved and cared for by a God who will be with us for all of eternity.

So today, I pray that you will look for the blessings in your life. I pray that you will be showered with God moments, and that you will share those moments with me - for I would love to hear them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One year

Tomorrow, July 25th, will be the one year anniverary of my dad's death. Obviously this is something that has been on my mind, so today's blog will be a combination of memory of a year ago and thoughts that move me forward.

July 25, 2007 was a Wednesday - Jennifer had left early in the morning for our Breakfast Bible Study, and Sierra was up quite early so we ran out to get a doughnut (with sprinkles) for breakfast. When we got back, the phone rang and it was mom, telling me that dad had passed away.

For those who don't know, dad had been battling ALS (Lou Geherig's disease) for over a year. During that time he had changed dramatically, lost his ability to eat, speak, and move very well at all. When it came to battling the disease, death was a gift of peace, since he was suffering so much, but the loss was still tremendous.

Over the past year there have been numerous times that I picked up the phone to call him - we were close and talked on the phone often when we has well - and there are still times I think, "I should ask dad about this." I think this is normal for all of us who lose loved ones.

And as I look to the future, I see traits of dad in me and continue to search for ways to pass his stories, gifts, and love on to Sierra. She still remembers him, but her memories are fading and they are of the man who was beaten down by the disease - not the man who played ball with me, taught me about nature, and loved to sit and chat for hours in a coffee shop. So I write down memories, introduce Sierra to things that dad loved, and try to answer her questions about him. when the new child comes, i will be doing the same thing with that one - since he/she will never have the opportunity to meet him in person.

So today, my thoughts are for those who have lost loved ones in the past year. May you be blessed with warm memories of your loved ones - and may you be comforted with the gift of God's loving arms wrapping around you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Check Up

Today I am due for my annual check up with my doctor. I schedule these check ups when I think my cluster headaches will start, and then run through everything with the doc. These are never things I look forward to, but I understand the benefit of them and it helps me set goals for the upcoming year.

So as I prepare for this check up (which will happen in a couple of hours) I started thinking about other check ups we need in our lives, esp spiritual check ups.

So today, I would like to run through a list of questions that I plan to answer myself, and invite you to answer as well - all to see where we are when it comes to our spiritual health.

1. How often do you read the Bible in a week?
2. How often do you pray in a week?
3. Are you involved in a Bible Study?
4. Are you part of a small group where you can share your hopes, fears, and concerns and feel safe?
5. Are you involved in a worshiping community?
6. In the past week, have you asked another person if you could pray for them or ask God to bless them?
7. In the next year, in what ways do you want to grow in your faith?
8. What gifts have you discerned that God has given to you?
9. How can you put these gifts into action?
10. Have you asked someone else to pray for you or with you?

These questions are designed to help all of us find ways to grow in our lives of faith. May we all be blessed as we continue to grow in love of God and neighbor.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Celebration

Last weekend our church had the first of two celebrations for our 90th Anniversary. It was an all choir reunion with a musical service on Saturday night. This celebration brought back some of the former members, a former pastor, and people from the community who love music. It was a wonderful evening and a great way to celebrate the years of ministry that have occured through this place.

As I was reflecting on all of the great music and praise of God, I was also thinking what the celebration might look like 90 years from now. With all anniversaries, it is great to gather with old friends and share stories of the past, but that cannot be all. There also has to be a looking forward to what God is doing here and now, and dreaming about what God will be doing through us in the future. The past gives us the foundation, the present gives us the work of the day, and the future gives us the goals a dreams of what God could make out of us.

The next day I went golfing with a friend, and we talked about this. His comment was that the church is always changing, and it needs to, because God is always doing something new through different people.

This is very reassuring to me, because it reminds me that God is not static, and neither is his Body (the Church). There is much to do in the world - there is love to share, forgivness to pass on, grace to bless with.

So may we all strive to do God's work and follow God's will. May we continue to be a blessing to others, and may we share the love of God with all we meet.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Headaches

As some of you know, I suffer from a wonderful disease known as cluster headaches. These are headaches that come once a year for about 6 weeks, I can get two a day and if I don't get my meds in me fast enough I can be laid out for hours. Well - they are back.

I normally get these at the end of July, this year they started a little early and I wasn't prepared for them. With everything else going on, I neglected to stock pile my meds, and so this morning I was out for about 4 hours.

As I was laying down dealing with these headaches, I started thinking about being prepared. What a difference it makes when we are prepared for whatever we may be facing, and what pains can come if we are not prepared.

Jesus knew about this preparation thing quite well. Not only did he know how things were going to go for him - since he knew the prophecies about his life and death - but he also knew about preparing us for what may come. One place we hear about this is in John's gospel where Jesus says - I go to prepare a place for you.

Jesus also prepares us by empowering us with different gifts in our lives - gifts that help us look to the future. One way we discern what these gifts are is by looking at our passions - what we love to do and are good at doing. We all have different passions, different gifts, different things we are good at.

So today, as we reflect on what we are good at doing and passionate about - may we all take the time that is needed to prepare our selves for what God is planning for us.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Connected

Earlier this month I got a new phone. The old one was wearing out and had been dropped enough times to make it look as if I had found it in a junkyard. So I upgraded to a phone that does everything - e-mail, games, planner, and yes, even make calls. I have been having fun trying to figure the thing out.

But one of the first things I did with this new phone was find out how to silence it. I have been in meetings and even worship services where phones have started ringing, and it can be a little annoying, so I wanted to make sure that mine could be silenced.

At the conference we were at this last week, there were a number of times when someone's phone went off - normally in the middle of the speakers lecture. I started to think, it is amazing how connected we want/need to be in life.

Years ago, in the dark ages before cell phones, we all, somehow, made it through life without being as connected as we now are. But today, and I am as guilty of this as anyone else, we "need" to be more reachable. Maybe it is our own egos, maybe we really do need to be in contact with others, maybe we get bored way too easy and need another outlet.

But, and here is the point I am trying to make, do we make the same effore with God? Do we try to stay as connected with God as we do with others in our lives? Are we willing to put a conference, a meeting, etc, on hold to spend time with God - the one who gives us everything in our lives?

So today, the question is - how connected are you with God? May we all make God the number one priority in our lives and spend time with him, searching out his will for us.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blessings

Yesterday a group of us from the church were at a conference with Reggie McNeal. It was a wonderful event, and was a very good reminder about how we "be" the church in the world.

I had heard Reggie speak once before, and one of the points that he continually makes has to do with blessings - and how we bless others who we come in contact with in our daily lives. This reminded me that people are so hungry for spiritual growth. People go out and buy books upon books trying to find meaning and purpose. People want to get in touch with the divine. And we have the opportunity to help them on their journey by offering blessings to others.

One of the stories that Reggie tells (and I am sure that this will come up in a sermon sometime soon) has to do with a waitress that he met at a local diner. Before he eats, he tells whoever is serving him that he is going to ask for a blessing for his food and asks if he can ask God to bless that person for anything as well. He did this with the waitress and she said no, then left immediately. She came back a couple of minutes later and asked Reggie if he prayed for her. He said yes, and she said, that is so amazing - here is what just happened.

You know, God likes to show off. God lives to bless others. God desires to have all his children be filled with his grace and love. And we are given the opportunity to help in this process by blessing others with our prayers and our actions.

So today, may we all find ways to bless another person. And when you do, let me know. I would love to hear and share your stories as well.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Crazy Dance

This afternoon I got to spend some time with Sierra after her nap. It started out with her waking up slowly as she tried to get her bearings and I cleaned up a little. Then it moved into a time of crazy dancing. She put on some music (Lost and Found - I love them), and just started jumping, swinging, and going nuts. Soon I was doing the same thing, shaking the house as we danced all around.

I thought about that as I came in to do some work this evening. You know, there are times when you just have to let everything go - swing and dance, and act a little crazy. It is not anything I would ever want caught on video tape - at least not my part of the dancing - but it is great to just let everything out and have fun like we did when we were kids.

I then came in to get ready for a funeral, and thought about the serious side of life. The 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes rang out in my mind - For everything there is a season.

There are times to be serious, and times to crazy dance.

There are times to cry over loss and times to celebrate the memories.

There are times to sit in silence with loved ones and times to jump and shout as children.

There are so many seasons of life - may we all be blessed in sharing in as many seasons as possible and seeing the blessings of God in whatever seasons we happen to be in at them time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

4 (now 5) funerals and a wedding

Okay, summer is not a slower time in the church, and you can guess what I mean with the title of this blog. This week we have been hit hard with the loss of loved ones, and blessed with the union of a couple - but it also means a lot more running around trying to get caught up, and missing out on some the things we need to do.

So it brings to mind a thought - sometimes life is a challenge to choose between the important and the urgent.

There are many important things we need to do in life, and there are also many urgent things we need to do in life. Often, we cannot do both, so we are stuck choosing between them. This is not always (actually it is rarely) an easy thing to do. So how do we make decisions as to where we spend our valuable time and energy?

A long time ago I was reminded that there are different levels of priorities - First is God and our relationship with him, second is family and ourselves (making sure that we take care of both on mental, physical, and emotional levels), and third is work.

I like the way this plays out - Our first priority is God, and this makes sense because God's first priority is us. He has given everything we are and have to us, and we are called to do the same to him. So first we must make the time to strengthen our relationship with him.

Second is our family and ourselves - we need to take care of both of these because they are so central in our lives. Making sure we are healthy, do the Dr.'s visits we might want to ignore, going to the gym, eating right, having quality time with our loved ones. All of these things are vitally important as well - and they also give us strength for our tough days.

Finally work - our vocation. God gave us gifts to do different things in our lives. It is in the work place where we can show just how much God means to us by our actions and words. And we also make a contribution to God's good creation by what we do.

So today, may we all reflect on the important things in our lives, and spend time building up God, ourselves, and others.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Freedom

Today, as you might have expected, I have been thinking about freedom. Today we celebrate the gift of freedom that we have been given in this country, and that got me thinking about freedom as a whole.

Freedom is one of those things that we often take for granted. When we have the fredom to do and say so many things without fear of retribution, we often go about our lives not recognizing what the cost of freedom really is.

But how about taking that one step further - moving beyond the freedom we celebrate on the fourth and thinking about the freedom we have been given by God.

This freedom came at a cost as well - the cost of Christ's life for us - and the blood that was spilled on Calvary has opened the door for all of God's creation to celebrate freedom - freedom from sin and death - so that we may live as the children of God.

And this freedom, well, all freedom, comes with responsibilites as well. The responsibilities to love as we have been loved, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to empower as we have been empowered, the bring the message of love and new life to those who have not experienced it for themselves.

So on this day of celebrating freedom, may we all recognize the cost of freedom, may we have our eyes opened to the responsibilites we have been given, and may we disern the gifts we have been given to live out these responsibilites in the most Christ-like way possible.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Prayer Room 2

So - why did we decide to make a Prayer Room in the church? This question has been asked lately as we have been getting this room together and I thought I would answer it today.

Those who have been around Our Savior's for the past few years know that we have been in the Natural Church Development Process. This is a process where members of the church take a survey and we find out what our strengths are as a church, as well as our growth areas. One of our key growth areas has been Passioante Spirituality. Basically, this means that when it comes to prayer and spiritual matters, we, as a church, have some areas where we can improve. Over the years we have had a prayer week, devotional booklets, classes on prayer, and the formation of prayer teams. We decided to go one step further and have a place set up where people can come and pray in the church. We know that the sanctuary is always available, but this place in more personal, not as large, and designed for individuals or small groups.

So this led to the development of the prayer room. This space is in a quiet part of the building, and when you walk in the tone is set for a time of quiet reflection. The labyrinth is there to walk and pray with, an altar is there with a kneeler in front of it to set the tone, and there is a chair to sit and reflect in. All of this is designed to help us slow down and spend time with God. We are so busy in life that there are times when prayer gets pushed back and we miss the time in conversation with the one who created us, loves us, and calls us his beloved.

So today, I pray that you may have that time to slow down and commune with God. May you be blessed with the Spirit blowing through your life, and may you celebrate the gift of prayer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Prayer Room

As I mentioned earlier, the church now has a prayer room. This is a place dedicated to prayer and is designed to help move us away from the busy-ness of the world and spend time talking with God.

Amy, our intern, has been working on this for us, and she has done a wonderful job. In the prayer room there is an altar, candles, a kneeler, devotional books, Bibles, a place to put prayer requests, and a prayer labyrinth to walk.

Today, I thought I would put down some info on the prayer labyrinth, since it is new to this church. Below is a little info on it from Wikipedia.

The prayer labyrinth was adopted by the Church across Europe during the medieval times, being often used as a means to meditate, pray and connect with God in a higher spiritual way. Numerous cathedrals in Europe have prayer labyrinths embedded into their floors, with the Cathedral of Chartres (Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral), located about 80 km from Paris having one of the most famous prayer labyrinths in the world. Prayer labyrinths were often viewed and modeled as a journey to Jerusalem and were even called Chemin de Jerusalem (Road of Jerusalem) serving as a spiritual pilgrimage for those who could not afford to travel to Jerusalem, the center of the world.

The widest accepted prayer labyrinth in the Church was the eleven-circuit labyrinth, which is more symbolic of Christ's cross with its four quadrants, and grace being symbolized by the never-ending path to the center and back, allowing the pilgrim to walk the path at his own pace, stop for prayer and meditation as needed.

By the 17th and 18th centuries however, prayer labyrinths had lost much of their spiritual meaning. Some clergy and other believers now associate them with New Age mystical practices.
With the practice of walking the prayer labyrinth becoming popular again in contemporary Christianity, particularly in the Emerging Church movement, many Christian denominations from across the theological spectrum are again adopting the practice of walking the prayer labyrinth. Some churches opening their labyrinths to any pilgrim in need of contemplation and prayer. It should be noted that the prayer labyrinth is not a maze in the popular sense, and rather has one path on which one cannot get lost, serving a powerful symbol of individual life journeys and pilgrimage in faith.

Walking the labyrinth

A Catholic writer describes their spiritual significance in this way: "The labyrinth is a universal symbol for the world, with its complications and difficulties, which we experience on our journey through life. The entry to the labyrinth is birth; the center is death and eternal life. In Christian terms, the thread that leads us through life is divine grace. Like any pilgrimage, the labyrinth represents the inner pilgrimage we are called to make to take us to the center of our being. In some Christian circles today the labyrinth continues to be used as an instrument to facilitate meditation, prayer, personal reflection, etc.

For example, when walking the Chartres style labyrinth the believer meanders through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the goal. An expectation is created as to when the center will be reached. At the center is a rosette design which has a rich symbolic value including that of enlightenment.

The best way to understand the prayer labyrinth is to experience it. The prayer room is located in the basement of the church in one of the old Sunday School rooms - the south west corner room.

Tomorrow I will follow up with more on the prayer room.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

vacation part 2

We have returned from a wonderful week of R and R. We went to the LaCrosse area and camped for the week. We rented an RV for the first time and it was a good experience for everyone. We also had a couple of friends from MN (Sierra's godparents) join us for the weekend, and the pastor who ordained me now serves in LaCrosse, so we had a night to catch up with him. All in all it was a very nice trip.

On the last morning we were there, Mitch, Sierra, and I went out fishing. Sierra was given a little pink, princess fishing pole a few months ago from me and she wanted to show Mitch how good she was at casting. So we spent a few hours tossing her line into the water, and she got very excited whenever she reeled in a weed on her line. I loved the look of pure joy on her face when she made a good cast and the squeals of delight when she yelled out to Mitch to see how well she was doing.

Isn't it amazing how important the little things are in life?

As we drove back and Sierra napped in the RV, I thought back to the many fishing trips our family took when I was growing up. It was wonderful family bonding time, and the memories will stay with me forever. I only hope that Sierra will have such fond memories as well.

As we continue through this summer time, my goal is to take things a little bit slower and not rush as much. I want to enjoy the little things more and more, for I know that this time is fleeting. The beauty of creation is a true gift, and I don't want to miss it (well, I don't mind missing the gnats and other bugs, I am still not sure of their place in creation:).

So tonight, as I listen to the peeps coming from Sierra's room, I pray that we all may awaken the warm memories of childhood, and celebrate the gift of the loved ones in our lives.

Also, I have seen that the Prayer Room in the church has been completed in our absence. So tomorrow I will write more about that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vacation

We are heading out on vacation in the morning, it should be a great, and needed, break. This year we decided to rent and RV and go camping for a week. At the end of this week, a couple of friends, Sierra's godparents, will be joining us as well. We are all looking forward to it, and since it is the first time in an RV for any of us, it should be an experience.

So, since I am mentally already on vacation, this post will be brief. My prayers for the upcoming week is that we all may find that time and place needed to refresh and renew us. When we get back, there should be a newly designed Prayer Room in the church, with a Prayer labyrinth to walk and pray with as well. I look forward to putting more up about that later.

Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Web

Over the past few months, the church has been working on ways to reach out to others on the web (one of the resons this blog started). Well, as we have been doing that I have been learning more and more about what is available out there, and it is pretty amazing.

One of the more recent additions has been a "Facebook" page for the church. This is a place where we can go and connect with others on the web. We can use it as a social network, or even to send out messages about what is going on in the church or plan events with others. All of this is really helpful when trying to connect with others.

So after our intern, Amy, got the facebook up and running, I decided to set up one for myself. So I went through all the steps, and started inviting "friends" to join with me. It was amazing - in a matter of minutes I was getting e-mails and notes from people I haven't seen in 15 years. Reconnecting is becoming a lot of fun.

When reconnecting with others, I have had many memories come flooding back - some good, some not so good, and some very embarrasing. It is one of those that when we look back on life and see everything we have done, it is a wonder how some of us survived.

The good news is that not only did we survive, but hopefully we learned from it as well. And this learning, this growing, has helped to mold us into the people we are today.

So today, my prayer is that you will celebrate your memories and friendships, that you will continue to learn and grow in your lives, and that you will always remember that you are a blessed and loved child of God.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Empowering Leadership

We are in the third year of the Natural Church Development process here. Every year we have a group of people take a survey that helps to give us some guidance as to areas the church can grow in, and then we spend the year working on one of the areas. For the past two years the area we spent most of our time on was Passionate Spirituality. At the July board meeting we will get the results from this years survey and start the process again.

One of the areas that we have scored high on for the past two years has been Empowering Leadership. Basically, this area has to do with how we empower different people in the congregation to grow in their leadership abilities. it all has to do with finding out what things people are passionate about, and then finding ways to use that passion in the life of the church and the world.

I think one of the struggles that the big "C" Church has had in the past was that that pastors did everything - and in the process the laity were left out of leadership roles. In my opinion, this goes against the very grain of what it means to be the church. We are all blessed with a wide variety of gifts in our lives, and these gifts vary from person to person. We need other to make us complete, to make the church complete. So empowering leadership is essential as we look at ways to help others experience the love of God in their lives.

So today, my challenege to you is to take time in prayer to discern what your gift are. What are you passionate about? What do you love to do? And how can you focus these passions to show others about the love of Christ? May we all be blessed by knowing that we have been given gifts and find ways to us these gifts to build up others.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Day

Today has been one of those wonderful summer days - the sun shining, the birds singing, and having the time to get out and play.

I spent most of the day with Sierra. We went to the Farmer's Market, checked out some books at the library, then went home, got her bike, and went down to the park by the river so she could ride somewhere other than the driveway.

As we started out, it was a nice little ride - then we came to the spot between the river and the lagoon, and we saw that the water had risen so high that the there was only a narrow sholder on either side of the bike path.

Well, that didn't stop us, and she rode the entire path around the lagoon - she napped very well this afternoon!

But as we walked and rode, I started thinking about the two extremes - such a great day, and so much destruction by the water around us. This water has flooded many homes and places of work. it has caused an amazing amount of damage. And yet, we were having such a wonderful time in the midst of it all.

And you know, that really is like life. Some people are having the greatest times of thier lives, while others are struggling with unbelievable difficulties.

Isn't it reassuring to know that when we are both celebrating and struggling we have a place to go and a people to gather with. You see, the church is such an essential part of life because it is a gathering of people like us - broken, in need, and searching. It is a gathering of those who are both joyful and sorrowful. It is a gathering where we can celebrate and mourn. It is a gathering of people on the same journey that we are on. What a blessing it really is to have this Body of Christ to gather with.

So today, may you be strengthened on your journey with the blessing of others. May you be lifted up by the Body when you are struggling. And may you be united with others in your times of celebration.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Baseball

Last night we had a group from the church go to the local baseball game. It wasn't a great game the Snappers got beat handily, but it was a nice night out. There was a break in all the rain we have been getting, and the weather turned out to be perfect.

It was also a break that I needed. The day had been very busy, running from hospital to hospital, doing a funeral, leading services at two nursing homes, and the list goes on and on. I needed a little break, to kick back, enjoy a game, and munch on some peanuts.

The human body is a strange and wonderful thing. And far too often we take advantage of it. We keep running from activity to activity, adding stress to our lives, and thinking that if we can just get this one last thing done things will finally get easier.

But there is always another thing to do - when I got home from the game I ran upstairs and started paying bills and doing household chores. The relaxation of the fun game disappeared and I was up too late to get up early and go workout.

So I guess, todays blog is about balance. Balancing all the activities that we need to do, and making sure we take the time to get the relaxation we need to really enjoy the life we have. I know that I need to slow down and remember that everything will get done, but if I don't take the evenings out to enjoy the games and friends around me, then life becomes a whirlwind and I don't take care of the body I have been given.

So today, may we all make sure that we take care of ourselves. May we be blessed with the times of R and R that are needed in our lives. And may we all treat our bodies as the temples they are.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Time

Some days, I think I have everything under control - enough time to get everything done, and then have some great family time before the day comes to an end.

Then there are the days when I cannot seem to get caught up - where my to do list never gets an item checked off and I keep running, thinking that something just has to happen, sometime.

Ever had days like that?

Summer is a time when things are supposed to slow down in the church, but around here that just isn't the case. We have so many new things going on, and planning for the fall, the I don't there really is a slow time in the church.

And that is a really good thing.

At one church I served we had summer worship hours. We would drop from two services to one, and basically told the community that in the summer, we don't really do much here.

But living out our life of faith - we never take a break from that. There are always people hurting, there are always people with questions, there are always gifts to share - we really cannot take a break because there is so much more to do - and it is so much fun to do it.

So tonight, as I get ready for bed, dreaming of all the things going on in the church, I am so happy and excited to be a part of this place and these people. God is working here, and it such an honor to be a part of that work.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Joy

Yesterday Sierra had another swim lesson, and I was blessed to be there and watch her. Near the end of the lesson, when all the kids were standing up and getting ready to jump into the water, Sierra stood, and started to dance. She was singing to herself, twirling around on the edge of the pool. I had to tell her to stop so that she wouldn't slip and fall in, and so that she would listen to her teacher.

But in the short time that she was dancing, I saw a look of pure joy on her face. Her she was, loving her time at the pool, meeting new friends, and dancing to some tune that was playing in her head. I loved watching it happen.

Joy is one of those things that we are short on in our lives. We see the negative, we see the problems, we see and hear things that tear all of us down. And joy is often lost in the rat race we call life.

Wouldn't it be great if we all had those tunes playing in our heads, and we could just stand up and dance, celebrating the joy of life?

In the book of psalms there is a line that says, "Joy comes in the morning." Quite often this line is used to help get us through the tough times in life. But you know what, the morning is here. The morning is now. We are given joy right now because of what Christ has done for us - and we are invited to celebrate God's many gifts with joy and celebration. Joy is here - but do we see it?

So today, may we all see the joy of life. May we celebrate and dance and sing, because we are so blessed and given so many opportunities in our lives. May we have our eyes opened to joy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Swim Lessons

Yesterday Sierra had her first swim lesson. We thought that since she loves water so much that it would be good for her to learn the basics - make playing in the water a little safer for her.

Before the lesson, she was very excited. But when the lesson started, she was a little timid. The teacher was great, took her time with her, and by the end of the half hour she was having a blast and is excited to return today.

In watching her I was reminded about how new things scare us. We are frightened by the new and the unknown. It takes a while for us to get comfortable. But after we get there, it is a lot of fun and new things can enhance our lives.

Throughout scripture we hear God tell us that he is going to create something new. He is going to create us anew. This can be frightening - since many of us are comfortable in the places we are now in our lives. But when we listen to God, follow where he is leading us, even if it is some place new and unexpected, we see that God knows us better than we know ourselves.

A while ago a preacher in Texas did a sermon series on "Comfortably uncomfortable." The basic point was that God calls us out of the comfortable to the uncomfortable in order to reach others. That share his life-giving message with those who have not experienced it for themselves. It is not easy to do this - but it is our calling. For there are so many people who are searching, and we are invited to be a part of their search and show them, in our lives and our words, the powerful gospel and how that gospel changes lives.

So today, may we enter into something new. May we be blessed by stepping out of our comfort zones and trying something new. And doing this so that we may show others how much God loves them.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rain out

Well, today my weekly golf outing was rained out. We had gathered to try a few holes, but the weather did not cooperate. So three of us headed down to a local diner for coffee and breakfast.

We sat there for about an hour, me sipping on my coffee, the others eating a nice breakfast, talking about everything we could think of. It was a wonderful time - sitting back, laughing enjoying each others company - and not worrying about having to be somewhere or do something. Just enjoying the moment.

As I was driving back to the office, I started thinking that we, as a society, don't always do enough of that - sitting, talking, enjoying each other. We turn on the tv and tune out those around us. We keep looking at our watches, wonderfin where we have to be and how fast we have to get there. We just don't take the time to sit, and be, and really treasure the time we have with others.

One of the themes shown throughout scripture is how people take time before they make decisions. They pray, talk with others, and trust that God will lead them in the right direction. What if we did more of that today? What if instead of trying to rush a decision to make an arbitrary deadline, we actually sat down, talked with others, and prayed about the decision we needed to make? What if ...

So today, I was reminded again that making the time, and talking with others, was something I need to do more of, for it is the relationships in life that are so important and need to be treasured - and when we slow down, pray, and talk with others - who knows what direction God will lead us in our lives.

So may we all be slowed down. May we all have the opportunity to sit with others and talk. May we all be blessed by God as we go about searching for where he is leading us.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Saw God Today

I am a huge country music fan. I love the music, the lyrics, the style, etc. One of my favorite artists is George Strait. He has a new song out entitled "I Saw God Today." It is a great song about see the hand of God in both the big and the little things.

I was listening to this song late last night before bed, and started to think about all the places I saw God in the previous day - the time Sierra grabbed my hand without me asking for it, the person we picked up some garbage in the street, the joy of watching Sierra and her grandmother plant flowers in the front yard and the list goes on and on.

God is active in so many and different ways every day of our lives. Sometimes we miss seeing him because we are running, not paying attention, or just consumed by the busy-ness of our lives. But even when we don't see him, he is still there - doing what God does - loving, building up, caring for, blessing, etc.

So today - where have you seen God? What has he been doing in and around your life? Take a moment and celebrate the gifts of God by seeing where he is and what he is doing with you. May we all see God each and every day of our lives.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nightlight

A couple of weeks ago Sierra started something new. For quite a while she has had a little nightlight in her room, but lately that has not been enough. She now "needs" to have the bathroom light on to shine a little extra light in her room as she goes to sleep. Some nights, when we go to turn the light off after she has fallen asleep, we will hear her cry out "No, no, no, I cannot see." And the light stays on longer.



Light represents safety for her. When the light is on, there is she is more comfortable and the darkness is not as scary. When looking at life through the eyes of a child, it is no wonder that the light/darkness images appear in the gospels as much as they do. Darkness is the scary stuff in life - evil, chaos, frightening things - and light is the good stuff - hope, peace the presence of God.



We all go through times of darkness in our lives. We walk through those "darkest valleys" often fearing what may be lurking out there and where we may be going.



But we have the ultimate nightlight in our lives as well. That wonderful, never-ending presence of God who brings the light of his presence, grace, and love to us in amazing ways. Sometimes our darkenss may be shattered by a call from someone unexpected; sometimes it may be broken by the loving touch of a friend; and sometimes it may disappear with a God moment either big or small that tells us that God is right here, with us now, and blessing us with what we need to make it every day.



So may you see that sliver of light shining in your life. May your darkness give way to the light of God. And may you always be blessed with the knowledge that you are loved, cared for and needed by the one who created all and loves you to the end.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Starbucks

One of my weaknesses is coffee - and I mean good coffee and some of the fun flavors that go with it. Every once in awhile I will make a trip to the local Starbucks for a Mocha and sit back and enjoy that treat.

Yesterday Jennifer was tied up all day with sermon writing and a wedding, so Sierra and I had the day together. We did some cleaning, since my mom has come to visit for a week, picked up some supplies, and played at a park. Then we made a trip to Starbucks. Sierra loves to go there as well, because of the Strawberries and Creme drink she gets as a treat occasionally.

After we got our drinks, we went home and sat in the backyard, enjoying the sunshine, our drinks, and our time together. It was a wonderful morning.

As we were sitting on the deck, I looked over at her as she had this little drink that looked massive in her hands, sipping through a straw, sitting at her princess table, and I got a wee bit emotional. This little girl, full of energy and always wanting to please her dad, is growing up so fast. It seems like just yesterday when I sat rocking her in my arms trying to get her to stop crying and go to sleep, so I could get some sleep.

When we finished we went back inside and she helped to clean the house, wiping tables, picking up, and trying to fold my clothes. As I watched her I was reminded of the words Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me."

We are all God's children, and God is that loving father who watches over us, and I am sure gets emotional, as we grow up. He sees us try new things, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. He weeps with us when we are in pain. He celebrates with us when we are happy and filled with joy. But most of all, he loves us, for we are his children and we always will be.

So today, as Sierra plays with her grandma, and runs around with all that energy I wish I could bottle up for myself, may we all know that we are loved unconditionally by God. May we celebrate that love, and grow in our relationship with him. For we are loved, cared for, and needed by the one who created all.