Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A friend got me hooked on a TV show last year. She introduced me to "House" and ever since then it has been coming to me via Netflix, one disk at a time. The worst part is, I lose sleep whenever the new episode comes because I stay up late watching.

Yesterday I received a new disk and last night I started watching the four episodes on it. The last one of the night had to do with a man who was dying and the disease he had was untreatable. He was losing the ability to breath, his muscles were collapsing, and he wanted to be out of pain.

In watching the show my mind immediately went back to my dad.

Last July my dad passed away after a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). It is a nasty disease that eats away at a persons body until they can no longer use their muscles at all. Dad battled this disease for 18 months, and finally passed away in his sleep on a Wednesday morning.

There have been times since his death that I have caught myself picking up the phone to call him, or turning on the computer to send him an e-mail. Then I catch myself and remember that I cannot do that anymore. I find myself watching a movie, like Field of Dreams, and missing the times we shared playing catch in the backyard. I find myself missing all those things that we used to do, and the pain of the loss comes back.

Dad was a vibrant man, full of life, who loved a good laugh and conversation over a cup of coffee. I think of all the gifts that he gave to me, and am quite sad that Sierra will not remember him, and our child to come will have never met him. So I have to keep telling to stories, sharing the memories of him, with them.

I have come to think of memories in two different ways. The first is the joyful reflections of the past - the events, people, and times shared. These are the good memories, and bring tears of joy to our eyes because of the good times and bring tears of sadness because we cannot share those times anymore.

Then there are the memories that keep us in the past. We are so stuck in what used-to-be that we miss what is happening today. These are the times that we cannot move forward because the memories keep us so tied to the past that we cannot live in the present or see the future.

As children of God, we are blessed in knowing that this life is not the end, there is that promise of the resurrection, the promise that we will see and celebrate with those loved ones who have gone before us. It does not mean that there will not be sadness or pain in this life - there will be and all of us know that because we have lived it. It means that the pain and sadness are temporary, and that God's grace and love will overpower any struggle or pain we are facing today.

So today, as I reflect on the memories of dad, I am reminded to be a storyteller. To tell of the time dad coached my baseball team and saw me hit my first homerun. To tell of the hiking adventures and trips to the mountains. To tell of the first job my sister and I ever had - cleaning his office building, and he helped us find the wastebaskets.

I am also reminded to tell the story that never ends - the story of hope, healing, and new life that comes in Christ. The story that death is not eternal, but God's love and grace is. To tell the story of stones that have been rolled away and tombs that have been emptied. For this memory, this promise, is the one that holds onto us when we cannot make it on our own. It is the story of God's love for his children.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Ahh - the best laid plans ...

So we went out golfing yesterday morning, and had a great time on the front nine, but by the time we started the back nine - it was sleeting. After one hole we decided to call it quits.

So I returned home drenched, and the plan of playing in the sandbox in the afternoon was rained out. Sierra decided not to take a nap (never a good choice), and the afternoon was quite different than I had planned.

Isn't that the way it goes sometimes. We have these plans in our mind. We have our ideas. And then something comes along, and what we wanted to do is changed. So we have to adapt and come up with new ideas, new plans.

I have some friends who have a really hard time when their plans have to change. They have it in their mind that this is the way and the time to do something, but then something else comes up and they have to adapt. They do not do well with that.

But change always happens. We are not in control of everything around us (just live with a three-year-old for a while:). So I guess the question is - how do we work with the changes that occur in our lives in the best possible ways?

For me, this has to do with slowing down during these times. I need that time to reflect on what happened, why the change occurred, and what is the next step to take. Sometimes this has to do with little things (like Sierra not taking a nap) and other times it is big things (like moving, losing family members or friends, etc.). With all of these changes, I need the time to get perspective, and see what is the best way to move forward.

I also have to remind myself that change is good. Change brings new opportunities, new ideas, and new relationships. Without changes in my life, I would not be where I am. These changes have helped me to see God in a new light - as one who opens different doors at different times, and gives me the gifts to walk through those doors, excited to see what is next.

So yesterday, after the no-nap time, we had to come up with new ideas, new plans for the afternoon and evening. So we did, we adapted, even went for a drive just to get out of the house for a little bit and watch the rain come down while we were in the car. That change gave Sierra and me and another way to bond, sing some silly songs, and have some fun. This morning she wasked when we could go for another drive.

So today, My prayers focus on change - for us to be open to the changes that come, and that we may celebrate these changes by seeing them as the gifts tat they are.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


This afternoon, after Sierra woke up from her nap, we made a trip to her favorite store - Menards. This trip actually had a purpose, not just a fun time to look at powertools and play on their massive playset. We were shopping for sand. Last year, with immense help from a friend, we constructed a playset in our backyard. The bottom of the playset has a space for a sandbox, and today was the day we brought that sandbox into being.

So after hauling 200 pounds of sand into the backyard, we dug up some grass, removed a little dirt, laid down a weed barrier, and poured out the sand. All three of us had a blast moving the wet sand around, filling in the gaps, and making little designs in it.

When we were done, and it was time for dinner, we all stood up and looked at our hands - filthy and covered with sand and dirt. When we got inside, Sierra said she didn't need to wash because her hands were clean - she has dusted them off. Jennifer made her wash, and the sand came pouring off.

That image has stuck with me the rest of the night. Claiming to be clean, but really in need of a total washing.

We humans are really good at trying to hide our sins - the mistakes we make, the secrets we have, the things we do that in the end can hurt ourselves, our friends, and even God. I think that part of this is that we really don't like to admit we are wrong. We don't like to admit that we make mistakes, or even that we hurt others - because in doing so we have to look deep into our own lives, into our souls, and see some of those dark things we would rather not see. So we try to hide them. We try ignore them. We try to shove them back into that deep, dark place and hope to never deal with them again.

But what we really need is to be washed. To be hosed down and get all of that dirt and grime, all of that junk, off of us and out of our system. And when that actually happens, it is amazing how much better we feel.

And we are really blessed as well. We are blessed because we have this great God who wants to wash all of that junk off of us and out of us. He wants to clean us up, and then send us out to that sandbox called life to enjoy all that he has created. And so, since God wants to do this - he does. He cleans us up by surrounding us with others who are broken and dirty as we are, and uses these people to support us and love us. He cleans us up by washing us with his word, and those physical signs of grace we call sacraments - bread, wine, and water - body, blood, and new birth. He cleans us up because we are his children, and he loves us so much that he cannot let us go about our lives with all of that dirt on us, so he washes us with grace, mercy, and love.

So tomorrow, after I make a fool out of myself on the golf course, I am going to go and get dirty in that sandbox. I will build castles, make sand pies, and do whatever else Sierra wants to do. And then, when we come back inside, I'm going to take a minute, as I stand at the sink and watch the water pour out, and think of the blessings of being washed with God's grace in my life. I invite you to do the same.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I love to golf. I love to get up in the early morning, drive out to the course, and smack that little white ball all around course (and yes, I do mean ALL around:). There are days when it is frustrating, and there are days when the shots come together like magic. Most days are somewhere in between.

Today I went out around 7:00 am with a friend. The two of us try to do this as often as possible, and as long as there isn't too much rain, we trudge through the grass chasing the dream of par. As I was walking down one of the fairways, which by some miracle I actually hit, I started thinking about how blessed I am. I am blessed to be able to get out and do play this crazy game. I am blessed to have a friend who liked to putter on the course with me. I am blessed to have a family I love and care about, and loves and cares about me. I am blessed with a faith community that is growing in faith and love of others. I am blessed ...

We are all given so many blessings in life. But we are also so busy that sometimes we miss see those blessings. There are also times when we have such tunnel vision that we see only the struggles, and the blessings don't make it into our line of sight. And sometimes we need to walk that walk, chase that ball, sit on that chair, and just reflect on those blessings we have been given. When we take this time and reflect on our blessings, our attitudes change and we start to see joy in more and more areas of life.

When we first came to Our Savior's we posted an acrostic that comes from Pr. Walt Kallestad. The purpose of the acrostic is to help all of us see the blessings we have in life and celebrate the joy of others. I thought it was time to revive this little phrase and get some feedback on it.

It goes with the word "Celebrate".

Cheer for others
Express nonjudgmental love for others
Listen wholeheartedly to others
Encourage others
Build authentic relationships with other
Receive the gifts of others
Appreciate others
Treat others with kindness
Energize others with grace

When we celebrate the gifts of others, and celebrate the blessings we have been given in our lives, we start to see that joyful side of God once again. This inspires us to keep celebrating and sharing our celebrations with a world that hurts too much at times.

May your eyes be opened to the blessings God has given to you. May you be uplifed with joy and celebrations. And may you always be filled with the grace and love of God.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Creative Mind

Yesterday was one of the beautiful spring days with the sun shining and birds chirping. It was a joy just to stand outside and celebrate this wonderful gift of creation.

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to spend some time with Sierra, playing in our backyard. I love to watch her imagination at work - it reminds of the creativity God gives to us and the joy we we have in putting that creativity to work.

We were running around, climbing on her playset, throwing the football around, and just having a blast in the warm weather. Then she came up to me and said - Daddy, let's play duck, duck, goose. My first thought was this will be tough, there are only two of us, so basically we are going to be running in circles, but I said, sure, let's play.

So she led me over to the deck, pulled out a couple of chairs, and had me sit down, all as she was holding a stick and telling the dog to follow us. She then put her little hand on my head, and said, duck. She put her hand on the stick and said, duck. She chased the dog across the deck, caught her, and said, duck. She then repeated that over and over until she finally had her hand on me and said, goose. The she squealed, chase me daddy. And she ran through the backyard, ending up on her little chair. Then I had to do the same thing. We did this over and over throughout the afternoon.

I never would have thought of using a stick in the game, the dog, maybe, but not the stick.

This kind of play and the creativity of little children is such a blessing. It reminds me that we are created to be creative beings. But as we grow older, that creative seems to be lost. We are more concerned with image, doing what looks good in the eyes of others, and fitting in to the society we are a part of.

But creativity is a true gift from God. It is this gift that empowers us to come up with new and innovative ways to reach out, to support others, to show love and grace to the world. Creativity opens new doors and experiences, and remind us that there needs to be joy, laughter, and fun in our lives.

To be a physical presence of grace in someone's life means stepping out of our comfortable boxes. It means letting ourselves be open to the Spirit, listening to what God is calling us to do, and letting that creative spirit go to work in our lives - so we may go and work in the lives of others.

So my prayers today are that we may be open to the creative Spirit of God. That we may step out of the boxes we have put ourselves in and see the great gifts God has given to us. And that we may play - play with family, friends, and loved ones, always celebrating the gifts of love and grace in our lives.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Body

I spend a lot of time thinking of the Church as a body. This has a strong biblical basis, esp. in Paul's writings, and I believe it is great way for us to imagine what it means to be the church.

I remember one author I read said that the Church is not an organization, but rather it is an organism. It is a living, breathing body made up of many different and necessary parts. This body has a head - Christ - and it is this head that gives us the direction for the body to go. That is why we should always be in prayer, trying to discern what God's will is for us and how we can live out that will in our lives.

And the body is made up of so many diverse parts, as all bodies are. Each part is unique and plays an important part in the life of the body. Without all the parts, the body is incomplete. As members of this body, we all have different roles to play. We are blessed with different gifts and each gift needs to be used for the body function at its peak performance. That is why it is important for all of us to work at ways to discover what our gifts are and then put those gifts to work, making the body healthier and reaching out to others to grow the body.

So as I have been reflecting on the "Body Image" of the church, I have been thinking about the diversity we have in this body. We have gifted muscians, speakers, pray-ers, visitors, planners, do-ers, etc. Not all people can do all things, and this is the beauty of the body. We all have been given different gifts, and it is in this diversity we that we see the face of God in new and different ways.

And as a living, breathing organism, the body needs to function - exercise as it may be - to be the healthiest it can be. I know that with my body, when I exercise my body is healthier and I am able to do more with it. It is the same with the body of the Church. When we use our gifts, when we share what we have been given, the Body of Christ is healthier, and more able to reach out to others and welcome them into this body that gives life.

So my prayers today focus on the Body - and how we, as parts of this Body, can discern the gifts God has given us, and have the courage to use those gifts in the life of the Church and the world as a whole. May we all be blessed with insight and wisdom, so we may help to grow this Body and empower others to use their gifts as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celebration and Sorrow

On Thursday, Jennifer will travel to Wittenberg, WI to attend the funeral of Amy's husband. Amy has been surrounded by friends and family, which is so essential during these times, esp. since this was such a surprise and the shock is still overwhelming.

And it was in the midst of this shock that Jennifer, Sierra, and I went to a doctor's appointment yesterday (as many know, we are expecting our second child in September and this was a normal check-up). At the appointment, Sierra got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time. Everything is going very well on that front, but the contrast stood out to me as we sat in that little room.

Here we were, celebrating the upcoming birth of our child, and only a few miles away, a mother was telling her son that he would never see his father again.

Celebration and deep sorrow.

We spent yesterday afternoon playing in the backyard with another friend and his son. I saw Sierra and this little boy running around, going down the slide, kicking the ball around - all for hours on end. I was filled with both joy and sorrow. Joy in that I love spending time with my daughter and watching her grow, sorrow in knowing that Jon will not be able to do this with his son.

It is in times like this that I once again find myself on my knees. I find myself crying out in pain over the loss over others. I find myself asking questions. And it is again, on those well-worn knees, that I receive comfort. I know that God weeps with us - and sometimes that is only a small consolation, but it is a consolation none the less. I know that God will continue to come to those of us in pain. I know that God promises us eternal life. In the midst of grief, this sometimes does not seem like enough - but it is a start.

I am reminded of Psalm 23 - though I walk through the darkest valley, you are with me. We all walk through dark valleys in our lives, sometimes they have to do with loss, sometimes with health issues, financial issues, family issues, and the list goes on. And is in these dark valleys, these pits of life, that Jesus' presence shines on us all the brighter. He brings us the support we need, the hand to hold, the shoulder to cry on. He reminds us that he has walked these paths before, and he will make these tough walks again. And he does this because we are his beloved children.

Today my prayers revolve around the grief-stricken. May all who suffer loss, who walk in dark valleys, be supported and loved. May their sorrow and grief be shared by others and by Christ. And may we all feel the loving embrace of God in our lives.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sitting Shiva

This morning Jennifer if heading over to Amy's parent's house. She is going to be there for Amy and her son as they grieve this loss. I am sure that many tears will be shed and a lot of crying will take place.

In the Jewish tradition there is a rite that takes place called "Sitting Shiva." This takes place when a death has occured and what happens is that people come over to the house of the family that suffered the loss. They sit with the widow/widower during their time of grief. Sitting shiva has no liturgy, there is no specific way to do it, but rather people just come and sit with the one suffering the loss. If the person wants to talk, they talk. If the person wants to do something, they do something. If the person just wants to sit, they sit.

This rite is extremely powerful because it brings the love of God to those who are hurting in a physical way. Having someone around to be a support, to listen, to cry with, is powerful and needed during a time of loss. There is always someone present to be a support as a person goes through this time of grief and sorrow.

Today, I am being called to pray for the compassion givers. For those who sit shiva with others. For those who are the rocks of support when we are in turbulent waters. May we all be that physical presence of grace to those who suffer.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


This afternoon, Jennifer got a call from a pastor in the synod. Her best friend's, Amy's, husband Jon, passed away. He was 36. They have a very young son. The loss was unexpected.

We hear over and over again that life is precious. Losing loved ones is very difficult. And losing people who are so young and have so much to offer is very painful.

In times like this I am reminded of two things - first (and this is a theme you see over and over again on this blog), we really need to make time for those who are important to us. We never know how long we have with people, and we need to make the best of that time. This means working through issues, sharing love, and basking in each others presence.

Second - there is the promise of new life. In the church year we are still in the Easter season. We are continually reminded of the fact that Jesus defeated death and new life is promised to us all. This does not eliminate pain or grief. It does not mean that we are always happy and just moving past difficult issues. It means that in the midst of our grief, Christ is there. He is weeping with us, wrapping his arms around us, and loving us into his kingdom.

Please keep Jennifer and Amy and her family in your prayers.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Compassion has started to become a catch word in society today. A few nights ago I watched a "Compassion Forum" between two people running for president. Over the past few weeks I have continually heard people talking about compassion - how we share it, how we need it, how it affects all of us.

With all this talk about compassion, I started thinking about compassion and faith - how the two are linked together. Is compassion just a catch word for the day, or is the church, and society, actually trying to find ways to move forward in being compassionate with others.

In the previous blog I mentioned the people of the street yelling at cars as they went by and how we need to develop spiritual friendships with others. After posting that blog, I heard from an old and dear friend who said, and I paraphrase, why is it that Christians need to be careful about how we proclaim Christ, yet those who are anti-Christian do not have the same worries and are not criticized as Christians are.

I thought about this a lot yesterday, and how it ties in with compassion. There is a tension between church and the secular world, and there always has been (even in the good old days). So how do we live out our faith, and the compassion we are called to have, in a world that sometimes attacks our belief systems, our faith, and even who we are as people.

For me, it all goes back to who and whose I am. I am human. I am broken. I make mistakes. I need forgiveness. I am not perfect. But I am also a new being - I am one who has been claimed and called by God as a child and a disciple. Because of my broken nature, I realize that I need the grace and compassion of God and other humans to live, grow, and share my gifts. Because of my claiming and calling by God I need love, be grace-filled, and have compassion for and with others.

And compassion is one of the hardest callings out there. To love someone who thinks, acts, believes differently than I do. To be a grace-filled person to someone who attacks what I believe, and in essence, who I am - this is not easy, and not something I can do on my own.

And then I remember the cross - I remember Jesus hanging there, about to die, saying - Father, forgive them. If Christ could forgive the people who nailed him to that tree, then Christ can, and will, help me to love, show compassion, and forgive those who annoy, attack, and are not compassionate towards me.

So I am sent to my knees. I am broken again - broken of my pride, my sin, my self-centeredness. I am broken so that I may be blessed with Christ's compassion and love again in my life. I am broken to be a light in the darkness that surrounds me and the world. I am broken to be a compassionate blessing to others.

So my prayers today revolve around being broken - may we all be broken - broken of our pride, our desire to focus on what we want rather than what God wants. May we be broken and sent to our knees to see the grace and compassion anew, and then may we be lifted up to share that grace and compassion with a broken world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spiritual Friendships

Last week, when I was on vacation, I was driving through Pensecola on a Saturday afternoon and saw dozens of people at different streetcorners holding up Bibles and yelling at the cars going by. They were holding up signs, trying to frighten people into believing in Jesus and saving their souls.

As I drove by I asked myself - is this effective evangelism? Are drivers really listening to what these people are saying, or are they, like me, making sure that the windows are rolled up and trying to ignore them.

I really do not believe that this "Bullhorn" method of evangelism works. The world is innundated with noise all around us, and this style of evangelism is just another piece of that noise that rubs many people the wrong way.

So, the question then is, is this is not effective, then what is?

One of the things that I think our society yearns for, what we as humans really need in our lives, are relationships. We need to have people we can talk to, relate to, ask questions of, and share our joys, dreams, and struggles with. We need contact with other humans where we can bare our souls and know that we will not be judged because of the questions and even doubts that we may have.

Essential what we need are spiritual friendships.

A spiritual friendship is one of those relationships where we get together we another person or people, where we talk about what is going on in our lives, and maybe even, over time, pray together and grow with one another. We need these relationships to grow in our own lives and walk with others as they grow in their lives.

And you know what, this is also the most effective way to do evangelism. When we show a deep interest in someone else, when we listen rather than talk all the time, when we build the relationship and trust that comes with it, we are then more able to share the love of God with another person. It is all about showing people that we do not have all the answers, we are still searching, growing, and struggling in our own lives. And we are doing so with others and with Christ walking with us.

So my prayers today revolve around the development of spiritual friendships, that I may have to opportunity to build these relationships with others, and that you may have that opportunity as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Saying Hello

One of the things I continue to think about is how we greet people at the church. One of the stats that I am reminded of quite often is that guests to a church will decide if they are returning to the church within 15 minutes of closing their car door. So much of this has to do with how they are welcomed at the church - are they greeted as a friend or are they left to find things on their own and treated like a stranger.

It doesn't take much to make someone feel welcomed - a little hello, a question like "Can I help you find the worship space?" or even an invitation to join that person in worship to help with the service. These are little things, but the problem is that many of us don't want to move out of our comfort zones and talk with people we haven't met before.

As many of you know, I was not a born and bred Lutheran. I was evangelized into the faith. A big part of my faith jounrey ahd to do with a little lady who greeted me when I went to church, sat with me to show me how they did worship at that church, and encouraged me to meet others at the coffee hour. It was because of her willingness to spend time with me, and make me feel comfortable, that I returned to that church and eventually became a pastor.

I believe that God brings people into our lives for different reasons. Sometimes it is to help us grow in our lives of faith, other times it is to show God's love in new ways. But we are called to welcome the guest in our midst and show everyone the love that God has for us. This is what it means to be part of the Body. To be welcoming, loving, and grace-filled to others.

So my prayers today focus on how we can show compassion and love to others, and that we may find ways to be little lights in someones dark world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

6:00 am flights

One of the things I have always struggled with is coming off of vacation, and esp. the day before I return to work. Part of my struggle is that final travel day - trying to get home and not forget anything in a hotel room.

Today we had a flight leaving Florida at 6:00 am, and with all the security issues and distance from the hotel to the airport, we had to get up at 3:45 am. Luckily, Sierra was very good, she got right up, threw on her clothes, and was ready to go. And, lucky for us, Krispy Kreme had a 24 hour drive through, so a little sugar and coffee always helps:)

The only real blip on the day was when i forgot to turn in the keys for the rental car, and had to go through security a second time just to get the keys back - but we still made the flight and got in on time - naps were had by all when we got back to Beloit.

So what does this have to do with faithsteps? Well, we can plan and plan in life, but there will still be blips and bumps along the road. We need to be flexible and open to different struggles and changes (yes, the "c" word) in everything we do, and always celebrate the time we have with our loved ones.

One the first leg of the flight I was sitting next to Sierra, who was jolted awake with her infusion of a sprinkle doughnut. She wanted to play, talk, sing, and work on her activity books like crazy. At first I was nervous she was too loud for those around us, but then I thought - isn't it great that she wants to have fun in a cramp space. So she sang her made-up songs and church songs (I heard "Halle, halle" at least a dozen times) throughout the flight. When we landed, the ladies behind us praised her for being such a good kid.

So - get a doughnut and a cup of coffee - sing some songs - enjoy what you have - for you are a blessed child of God, and let us share those blessings with others.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Visiting A Church

Since we were on vacation for a Sunday, we got to do something unusual in our lives - go to church as a family. Normally Sunday morning means rushing around, making sure that everything is ready, making sure Sierra is fed and ready to go to Sunday School, having a sermon prepared, etc. But four times a year we get to find a church and just worship together. What a blessing that is.

So last night we went through the yellow pages, and found out that the only ELCA church in the area was nearly an hour away from where we were staying, so we decided to try something else. We went to a Methodist church only 25 minutes from our place. The service we went to was at 9:45 (don't worry, there is no sleeping in with a 3 year old, so we were up at 6:25:). The 9:45 service was their contemporary service, and we thought that would be fun.

We got there early, so that we could find our way and check the church out a little in advance. One thing I noticed is a number of people said hello, but few helped us find our way around. We did finally make it to the sanctuary, found a "busy bag" for Sierra, and settled in. As soon as the music started, Sierra grabbed her ears and cried - its too loud. For the majority of the service we had to hold her and try to sing.

The sermon was very good, most of the music was new to me, but fairly easy to sing, but one thing was missing - communion. The Methodist church doesn't celebrate communion as often as we do - only a few times a year, I believe, and I really missed that part of the service. It is amazing how powerful communion is and how much I miss it when I don't get to partake of that holy meal.

It is always good to visit other churches, other denominations, and worship with them and learn from them. The body of Christ is so much bigger than a single congregation or even a denomination. It all goes back to how we are all wired so differently, and God uses us in different ways to reach different people.

It is also always a blessing when I get to worship with my family. Family times is always important, and worshipping together helps us to grow with each other, even if that means holding a child while she complains about the loud drum in the corner.

We will be flying back on Tuesday, so tomorrow we move to a hotel near the airport, since we have a 6:00 am flight on Tuesday. This has been a nice break, a good chance for Jennifer and I to reconnect, and has recharged me somewhat, so that I can come back with a fresh perspective and be ready to get started once again.

In my prayers today I am being called to pray for the diversity we have in this great body of Christ, and that we may continue to celebrate each others gifts and grow in our love and understanding of those who are different than we are.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beach Walking

The weather cleared today - almost too much for me as we hit the 80 degree mark - I like it at about 60:)

So in the morning, as Sierra likes to wake up quite early and I am more of a morning person than Pastor Jennifer, I normally take Sierra out for a walk on the beach. In the past this has been a wonderful time for the two of us to just stroll and see everything.

Yesterday, Sierra and I went out for our normal walk, went about five paces, and then she started to tell me she needed to be carried and was tired of walking. So we turned around, got a doughnut, and watched the sunrise from the porch. Initially, I was disappointed. I like these morning walks with her. I like watching the sunrise and the waves break. This was one of those moments that I truly treasured.

This morning, she wouldn't even go near the beach in the early am. No walks, no shell hunting, nothing. Later in the day we went and she played in the sand, but I was starting to think that the morning walk ritual was coming to an end.

Then tonight, a new twist. After dinner she was climbing the walls, so I asked her if she wanted to go fo a walk on the beach, expecting her to say no. She jumped at the chance, so off we went. This time we saw the sunset, rather than the sunrise - just as beautiful, just as precious.

Who knows what tomorrow morning will bring.

Taking advantage of the many opportunities in life is a true blessing, and we miss those rituals and little walks we when rush through them rather than enjoying them. I also see the windows that are opened when other doors close in life.

So I will keep asking Sierra to go on walks. I will keep taking trips to the putt-putt course with Jennifer (don't ask about the last game:), I will keep spending time with the people I love and treasuring every minute of it. We only have so much time on earth, let us enjoy it and enjoy the people we spend it with.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Airplanes and Wierd Weather

We are on our vacation right now, and it was a bit of fun getting here. The second leg of our flight was late, for no apparent reason, and we were stuck n the sirplane for 45 minutes with no air conditioning and a child whose bed time was well before we took off - gotta love a tired child n a hot flight.

But we did make it into town, got the rental car, and arrived at the condo we are staying at. But, for those who really like beaches, the weather has been awful. Jennifer and Sierra have been dying t get n the beach, but with wind that gusts like crazy, rain that comes and goes, and temps that jump up and down, beach weather has not prevailed.

So, I guess it goes back to - you can plan and plan, but so many things are out of our control. We cannot control the weather, the airplane, or many others things - but we can still have a restful and fun time with family - and isn't that the main point.

So today we did some shopping - Sierra picked out a nice pink shirt I will wear sometime this summer - and we got some indoor card games - we are teachng her to play "Go Fish."

Spending time like this, with family and friends, is a great way to recharge and celebrate everything we have been given.

So I am going to head out into the stormy weather, back to the room, and play a little more Go Fish before we search for dinner.

Have a great day,

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sabbath Time

This afternoon we are heading out on our post-Easter vacation. It is a little later than normal, but seeing that Easter was so early this year, we decided to wait. For us, this is one of the more important vacations that we take every year. After Lent and Easter, with all the services and planning that goes into those celebrations, this time of renewal is much needed. It is easy to get burned out with everything we do in daily life, and time away is very necessary to recharge the batteries and get ready for what comes next.

Whenever I get ready to take a break, such as this one, I am reminded at how brilliant God is. In creating the Sabbath, a day of rest, God shows how well he knows us. He knows that we are a busy people, that we have tons of activities to run to, meetings to attend, work to do. So he was intentional about creating the Sabbath - a day of rest and renewal. This is a time when we are to take a break from the daily grind and recharge for what comes next. It is a time designed to reflect on what God has blessed us with and spend time resting in God's wonderful arms of mercy and grace.

But so many of us, myself included, get tied up in the work of the day that we do not always take this Sabbath time. We keep running, meeting, working and run out of energy. In the process, we forget what a joy life really is because we are too busy to see the gifts that God has shared with us.

So we are called to rest - to rest from our daily work, rest from the hectic nature of life, rest and recharge - celebrating God's love for us and our love for others. Who knew that one of the callings we are given as disiciples is the calling to rest?

As I have time over the next week I will update how things are going on our vacation. I know that my family will be running in the sand, building sandcastles, and enjoying the bright sun. And I am sure I will find a coffee shop somewhere where I can log-on and let you know how things are. I also pray that you will find ways to honor the Sabbath and get the rest you need that will inspire you in your daily lives.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


One of the biggest hurdles many people have in life is that of money. We see that in the world today, as we hear of recession, foreclosures, and people struggling to make it day-to-day. And I also hear of people who have issues with the church because, they say, "All the church wants is my money."

Money is one of the major factors in relationships - sometimes a factor so great that it brings relationships to an end. It is something we all have to deal with, so the question is - how do we deal with this touchy subject and do so in a healthy way?

When I think of money, both in the church and in my own life, I think of it in terms of stewardship. We are blessed in many ways, and one of the ways we are blessed is with what we have - our goods, our time, and our treasures (money). Our calling is to find ways to use these blessings in the best possible way.

And with that in mind, I really have no problem talking about financial issues in the church, and there are two reasons for this. First, God talked about money issues throughout scripture. It is actually the number one thing that Jesus talked about in his ministry. God knows that our heart is where we put our treasure - we value the things that we invest in. Second, it takes money to make the church run. We, as the Body of Christ, have expenses to do the ministries that we need to do in order to reach out with the gospel message.

So we go back to the question - how can we be the best stewards possible of everything we have been given? I think this requires us to go back to the basics, look at what we have been given, and find ways to use our gifts, all our gifts in the best possible way.

One of the ways the church can help with this is education. Here is a little plug for a new ministry. We are starting a minsitry called "Good $ense." This ministry is designed to help find ways to honor God and the gifts we have been given by becoming a diligent earner, generous giver, wise saver, cautious debtor, and prudent consumer. The course will be on Saturdays starting April 12, from 10-11 am. Please let me know if you want to take the course, as there is some pre-work to do. There is no cost for the course.

Okay, enough of the plug.

As I spend more time meeting with people and discovering where they are on their faith journey, I keep seeing the struggles many people face. When we work together, when we share our gifts, we grow in ways of helping others and facing the struggles we face with others. This is what it means to be part of the body, part of the church. We are not in this alone, we have God and our brothers and sisters walking with us, giving us the support we need, and empowering us to share our gifts with others.

So what struggles are you facing today, and how can this great body help you as you go through them?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Holistic Life

One of the issues I continually struggle with is that of balance - being able to balance everything in my life. As of late, I have been thinking of this in terms of the "holistic life." The holistic life is a life where we make the time to balance all the important things and continue to grow in body, mind, and spirit.

For me this takes time and focus. To focus on the body part of life I get up early, go to the gym or go for a jog, make sure I get to bed at a decent time at night, and am active with my family. The parts I slip on the most are the physical parts - going to the gym especially. This is a struggle, but important so that I can be as healthy as possible.

For the mind part, I try to spend time daily reading, listening to music, and doing other interactive ideas.

For the spiritual part I have time every morning in the office when I close my door, read scripture, and pray.

Then there are the other parts of life that are as important and needed for the holistic life - such as time with Jennifer, our daughter, friends, and family. These are all essential to have a healthy family life, which makes my life healthier as well.

But keeping the balance is tough - there always seems to be more to do, especially when it comes to work and the ministries happening here. So trying to keep everything in check, making the time for all parts of life - it isn't easy.

So today I would like your input - what do you do to keep balance in your life? How do you balance family, work, and time for yourself? What do you do to make your life more holistic?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Those of you who know me know that I am the "joyful noise" guy. I love to sing, I love music, but I am not gifted at singing. Even when I was in junior high I was asked to leave the choir because of my poor singing ability. I didn't sing again until I was in seminary.

But now, even though I am not great at it, I sing - I sing hymns, praise songs, and childrens songs. I even sing to the Wiggles when I must:)

When our daughter goes to bed at night we have a little ritual we go through. We read some books, pray and bless each other, and then she gets tucked in. Sometimes, when she is lying in bed she asks to sing a song. Often times this is done to delay bedtime, but who can resist singing with a child.

So we sing, quite often we sing "Jesus Loves Me" or another song she has learned at church or school. Lately the song she likes to sing is "We are messengers." It is a call and response song she learned at school that goes like this:

We are messengers we are messengers
Messengers for God messengers for God
We can tell our friends we can tell our friends
Love one another love one another

It is a simple song, but it is a wonderful reminder of what the Christian life means.

God loves us in amazing ways, and this good news is something that is so great we cannot keep it to ourselves. So God invites us to share that gift, that good news, with others. And the heart of the good news is two-fold - God loves us, and we are called to love one another.

Wouldn't it be great if that is how all of us lived our lives - loving God and one another above all else. Imagine how the world would be if love - the love of God and others - was what dictated the actions of all people in the world. No more war, violence, or threats - just love, peace, and compassion. A view of heaven maybe?

So, I am going to keep singing. It may not be pretty, it may not be on key, but it will be a joyful noise to God. For the love of God and the love I aspire to have with others, is something worth singing about, wouldn't you agree?