Thursday, July 31, 2008


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.