Friday, December 30, 2011

One more step forward



Today was another large step forward in my cancer battle. I had another one of my appointments with my oncologist, getting the results of my latest CT scan. Quick summary - everything went very well. My CT came back clean and the doctor left with a smile on his face (which is not always the case with oncologists).

I always get nervous around CT time. I had the scan on Monday morning and then I have to wait for five days to get the results. Now for the previous three and half months leading up to the scan I am sure that nothing is wrong and the scan will come back great. But for the five days between the scan and the results, the nerves kick into high gear.

So today my appointment was at 9:15. Jen and I got up there around 9:00, after stopping for a mocha of course, and thought we would be in the waiting room for awhile. but the nurse came and got me within minutes of sitting down. I had to do the whole weigh in thing again (down four pounds from last time) and then the typical blood pressure, temperature, etc. Then she left and we wait, again.

But this time we must have been the first ones in because the doctor was their very quickly. The first thing he did was pull out the results and say - no changes, all is good.

That is the moment that I start breathing again.

He then went through all of the scans and said everything looked very good. Then set me up for another appointment in four months.

And that appointment is a big one. You see, that is the 2 year mark of my surgery. With this type of cancer when a person makes it to the 2 year mark the chance of recurrence is miniscule. So after 2 years we then go to annual CT scans without contrast.

So a quick heads up - in 4 months if you are anywhere near me we will be having a party as I certainly expect the CT will be clean then too!

It is amazing to see how fast the past two years have gone and all the amazing things that have happened. Through all of this I still see the blessings and celebrate the joys of all of you and the support and prayers you have shared with me.

May you all have a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

52 Weeks of Joy




This time of year I start to hear all of the New Year's Resolutions coming out. Now I am not big on resolutions - when I see the need to make some changes or grow (or shrink) in certain areas, I try to do so right away.

But this year I am trying something different. I am setting a goal for myself, and inviting you to be a part of it.

So starting in January I will have a regular Tuesday Blog focusing on Joy. One of the things I have continually noticed is how negative people have been getting and how hard life is becoming. So I want to spend some time seeing the good things, the blessings, the joys we already have in our lives.

So every Tuesday I will have a guiding passage and some thoughts about joys that I see in my life. I will also invite you to share your joys with me on the comments section here.

So for a year we will spend time looking at the good things, the joys, the blessings we have. I am looking forward to this and hope you are too.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve


Christmas Eve is a busy time around our household. We have two services and between them we go home, have dinner, watch a little Christmas Story, and then bring the girls back to sleep in the office while we get ready for the second service.

Sometimes we rush too much.

So tonight, after we got the girls settled into their sleeping bags and Jen was filling out some Christmas cards, we went and sat in the sanctuary for a few minutes. It was a time for me to just slow down and reflect, once again, on the beauty and the power of this amazing day.

Tonight we celebrate the fact that God come to us - as one of us.

Isn't it amazing.

God, the creator of all. The all-powerful one.

God came to us, became one of us, and did all of this because of the love that he has for us.

The message is simple, and yet, it is so powerful.

So this Christmas, may the story awe you once again, and may you experience the all-embracing love of God in your life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Pajamas


Okay, I did it.

I entered into the next level of Daddy Dorkdom.

I think this may be what happens when I am left alone with my 7 year old with too much time on my hands in a store.

But I did it.

Yes, I went aisle by aisle and I purchased Christmas pajamas for everyone in my family, including my wonderful wife.

Now they don't all match (I tried to make that happen but I couldn't find a set of four that would fit all of us). The ones above are the ones that Scarlett got. But I did manage to find a Christmas theme for all four pairs.

You can imagine just how excited my wife was when she came home and Sierra and I got to show her what we purchased.

Now I could stretch this and try to make some profound theological point or talk about how this is a wonderful bonding experience for our family, but it's not and I don't think you would let me get away with stretching it that far.

Nope, I just got in the Christmas Spirit in a rather odd way and decided to be Daddy Dork for the day.

I know we will take pictures, but I really doubt that they will be allowed on-line, so you can use your imagination.

So have you ever done anything that brought you to the next level of dorkdom?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections - Mary



Today is the last Sunday in the season of Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for the Lord. So this week we travel with Mary and I am including an excerpt from last years sermon on this passage - Luke 1:26-38.


Today we hear of a heavenly visit and a divine announcement. A young girl who was out and about, doing daily chores and an angel appears to her. In this greeting he says that she is a favored one, one beloved by God. But, to really grasp this message, to see the groundwork being laid – must go back a little, back to the beginning of this chapter, back to the story of Zechariah.

Zechariah was a priest, he was one who was chosen by lot to serve in the temple and called to burn incense during the time of prayer, and it was during one of these times that he was burning incense that a life-changing event happened to him – an angel appeared him as well. This angel, Gabriel, told Zechariah, your prayers will be answered, you and your wife, Elizabeth, will have a child. What good news this was for after many years of not being able to have a child, will now be able to do so.

But, in hearing this news, Zechariah is in shock. How can this happen? He asks, both my wife and I are old, this does not seen likely at all! Gabriel then scolds him for his doubt. He says, you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words.

In this short exchange, Zechariah demonstrates his disbelief. He has heard the word of the angel and he has not believed it.  He wants proof. He wants to know for sure that this is true. But, the angel of God is not about knowing.  But rather, the angel calls for faith, calls for belief, and punishes Zechariah for his lack of faith. Because you did not believe my words, you will become mute. And so it was. Zechariah stands before us, on this amazing and miraculous day, as a person of doubt.

Why is it important to hear this story, this story of doubt, as we look at and hear the story of Mary as well? Because with Mary we see and hear the exact opposite. Mary, too, is approached by an angel, the same one in fact. She too is told that she will have a child. But she is very different than both Zechariah and her cousin Elizabeth – she is young, she is unmarried, she is a common peasant woman. And, she is the model of faith

As the priest of the highest order in Israel doubted what the angel told him, Mary, the peasant, one of the lowest in society, believes. When the angel tells her of the impending birth, she responds as only faith can, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

These two stories, as different as they are, belong together for they are both stories of faith, and faith has everything to do with hearing the promised word of God and trusting in that word.  And this wonderful childlike faith that we see in Mary lays the groundwork for what is going to happen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Elf on the Shelf


We have an elf in our house.

He is a cute little guy with a red suit who only comes during the month of December. Every day he keeps watch over the house, and those who live in it, and at night he scurries back to St. Nick and reports in about the days activities. The next morning he has moved to another part of the house to keep an eye on everyone.

Now the girls love our elf. Every morning they jump out of bed and run around the house trying to find him. Yesterday he was sitting on top of a light fixture in the kitchen, and when discovered shouts were made to us parents that we could not turn the light on because we did want to "burn the elf's butt."

As parents we are always nervous that the elf will forget to move the overnight.

As a little game of hide and seek, the elf on the shelf is fun. As a tool to teach kids to be good, well, I don't think the elf really works, nor should he (in my opinion).

But what I like most about the elf on the shelf is the fact that this is the second year he has appeared at our house and he is becoming a family tradition. At the end of November Sierra was already asking us where the elf was and when he would be back.

And I like family traditions. They are things we do that are special to us, to our families, to those we love. Traditions like this help to strengthen the bonds of family and grow in unique ways.

So what are some of your family traditions and how did they get started?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Valley





Recently I was reminded about a time when I was sitting with a lady in the hospital as she was struggling with the diagnosis that she was going to die soon, her disease was terminal.  As we talked she said, “There is one thing I know as I enter this last leg of my journey, I am not traveling alone.”  We hear that promise throughout scripture, especially in Psalm 23, and we are reminded that as we journey into what may seem as the darkest parts of our lives, even as we journey to death, we are not alone.  God has promised to light the way for us, and he sent his Son to show how death and darkness have no power over us.  This is the light of God, that his light is never extinguished, and our journeys will only bring us to a greater light, an eternal light, blessed with all the love that God can shower upon us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seeing Thankfulness in Odd Places




I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
                                                            Psalm 9:1-2

I remember my high school days when I was playing football. We had three-a-days in the August heat, and after the sessions we would just collapse out of exhaustion and pain.

I remember my rugby playing days in college. There were some mornings after a match that nit would be hard to move.

Yes, I remember soreness, and I think one of the reasons I remember it so well is that today, I hurt.

Yes, I am sore, really sore. Yesterday my wonderful trainer worked us out hard, and I am paying for it.

But I wasn’t going to let that soreness beat me. So I slowly creaked my way out of bed this morning and went to class again.

But as I was showering after the workout, I was reminded that the soreness really is a blessing. It is a blessing because I am able to get up, go work out, and physically get healthier. As my trainer says – It’s a good pain.

So today, as strange as it sounds, I am thankful for the soreness and the ability to get up and go work out.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections - Light



Today we travel with John the Baptist once again, but the time we hear the story from John's gospel. When I read through this lesson I kept hearing the word light over and over again. How the light of the world is coming to us. Here is an excerpt from today's sermon.




Just imagine if you were standing on the banks of the Jordan with John that day. Here is this guy, this prophet, speaking to you and the great crowd you are with, and then some religious leaders come up to him and start questioning him.

Who are you? They ask. We know you have gotten a lot of people to follow you, we know you are teaching and baptizing, but we don’t know who you are, so tell us, they say.

And then John responds to their questions in the strangest way, for instead of telling them who he is, he tells them who he isn’t. I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah. I am not the prophet. The religious leaders must have been very frustrated at this point. Yeah, so you’re not these people, but who are you?

John continues on and says, I am the one who is preparing the way for the Light of the world. I am the one who is making sure that people are getting ready. And you know what, that light, that one you seek, he is here. Right here, right now, right in this place. Yes, he is here, and his light is so bright that the darkness of the world is going to be shattered.

Yes, imagine if you were standing there listening to all this, and you hear this prophet telling the religious leaders, and even you, that the one you are seeking is here. The one who will bring peace is here. The one who will bring wholeness is here. The one who will bring forgiveness is here. The one who will bring new life is right here.

What good news that is. He is here. The light is here. The Messiah is here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Day of Thankfulness





12Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
                                                Psalm 97:12

I remember riding in the back of the car as a child, peppering my mom and dad with questions as we drove around town or went out on our family vacations. Back then, no questions was too silly to ask and every answer was longed for. Part of the fun was trying to stump my parents and see how they would respond if I happened to ask them that tricky question.

Now the tables have been turned.

Earlier this week, Sierra was riding in the back of the car and started asking me all sorts of questions – the kind of questions I used to ask my parents, the kind of questions that as adults we tend to pass right over and silly. But as I answered all of her questions the best that I could, I was taken back to those innocent and care-free days of life. To have the freedom to ask any question, and not think it was silly. To have the trust that asking a question would not elicit a laugh, but rather a thoughtful answer, and to have the ability to see the world as an overall good place. With just a few questions, my mind flashed back to what it was like to live in that innocent 7-year-old world once again.

So I am thankful to see the world through my daughter’s eyes. I am thankful to have my eyes opened to her world and the beauty that resides there.  I am thankful that silly questions can be asked and answered, and that the innocence of a 7-year-old can inspire others.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Morning Coffee - Be Still






I am not always good at sitting and being still. I like to be active, to get up and move, to take care of what needs to be taken care of. Quite often, even on my days off, I have a hard time just sitting and taking things in, instead I am running around the house, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, cleaning the girls room, and the list goes on and on.

But I need to be still.

I know this, I know that I need to sit, to rest, to take my sabbath time and embrace the joy of being still, and being still in God.

I think part of it goes back to my cancer battle. When I was recovering from surgery and undergoing chemo treatments I didn't have the strength or energy to get up and do what I wanted to do. I had to sit, I had to be still, I had to take that time for my body to recovery. And it was good for me as well.

But now, now when I sit and be still I am doing it by choice. And when I actually do it, it is something that I enjoy and has a calming influence on my life. I know that I need this time, that my body and soul needs this time, but all too often it gets pushed to the bottom of the list because of everything else that "needs" to get done.

So during this Advent season, I have been making myself take more time to be still. I have been rest in the presence of Christ and it has been making a difference. During this time I have had more experiences of the Spirit than I have had in long time. And it has helped in my other relationships as well. I have learned that when I take this time, when I am still, it benefits me in body, mind, and spirit; and in turn it benefits my relationships with others as well.

So do you sit and be still? Do make time in your schedule to rest in the presence of God?



Monday, December 5, 2011

Joy


Okay, I will admit it - there are times I get depressed. There are times I feel down and the happiness and joy of life seems to be missing. There are also times that I am passive about trying to feel better, just waiting for someone or something to come by and pick me up.

I read a quote from Joyce Meyer today - Stop giving others the job of making you happy.

Too often, I think, we are passive when it comes to joy and happiness. Too often we expect others to come to our rescue and make things better. When, instead, we need to take the step forward ourselves. We need to do something a little different, look at life froma  different perspective, and realize that they joy, the happiness, the blessings of life are there and ahve been there the entire time.

So now, when I get in a funk and feel a little down, I take a look at my girls (like in the picture above) and my wife and my friends and my life and see all of the blessings that I have been blessed with. I also physically move myself to another place to get a new perspective and I don't rely on others to make me happy.

So today, what are you going to do to see the joy in life?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Morning - Water


We got rain yesterday. The start of December in Wisconsin and we got rain, not snow, but rain.

Okay, I am tired of rain. I would rather have snow this time of year. I like to ski, to make snowmen with the girls and make forts to have snowball fights in. Yes, I am still a kid at heart.

But we got rain, and the rain got me thinking about water as a whole.

Water is life-giving in so many ways. Water gives life to crops, quenches our thirst, and helps all of creation to grow.

And, in baptism, water and the Word is where new life is born in each of us.

This week we hear from John the Baptist for the first of two weeks. This week he is out in the River Jordan teaching, preaching, and baptizing. He is preparing the way for the Christ. He is messenger that new life is coming, and caming to each and every one of us.

So on this Sunday I would invite you to reflect on what it means to have new life in your life. If you have been baptized, what does that mean to you? If you have not, then what questions do you have about it?

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Little More Upbeat

After yesterdays post on funerals I decided to go a little bit more upbeat today. Below is a video of one of the songs I enjoy listening to when I need a little pick me up. It is a little more "pop" than I normally do, but hey, lets have some fun.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Funerals



Earlier this week the brother of one of our staff members passed away. He was diagnosed with lung cancer 8 months ago and despite all the treatments the cancer was too aggressive. I was asked to do the funeral in a neighboring town because of my relationship with the family and because of my own battle with lung cancer. I am sure that the service will be very personal and meaningful to all involved because of all the people that will be taking part and the large family who will be coming to celebrate his life.

As I was preparing his service this morning I got another call from the funeral home. A 101 year old woman had passed away. She had no real ties to the church, no family or real friends around, and they asked if I could do a graveside service for her tomorrow. They said, "All we need are a few prayers, the only person who will be there is a lady from LSS (Lutheran Social Services)."

Such polar opposites - a man who was too young and has an amazing amount of family and friends coming and a woman who outlived her friends and has no one to come and say their goodbyes.

And then, holding these two together, is the cross. The cross that is bare, the tomb that is empty, the promise of new life that holds on to all of us, even when we are struggling to comprehend why or how. Yes, it is the cross, the life-giving cross, that reminds us that there is always at least one, the one who created all, gives life, forgives, and empowers, who will be with us every step of the way, even when we take that step into the grave ourselves.

So today I celebrate the lives of two people, two children of God, to forgiven sinners. For God has blessed them with amazing gifts and promises, and they will be fulfilled.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday Morning Coffee - Entering December


Okay, I may be a day early, but that's okay.

I always have mixed emotions when I enter into the month of December. It is a month that is filled with joy, Christmas Shopping, visits to Santa, programs and amazing worship services, and cutting down the Christmas Tree.

But it is also the month with a lot of extra work, there seem to be more funerals than other months, and the stress level at work and at home seems to be on the rise.

So I love December, but there are also times that I dread it, and then it goes by so fast I seem to have missed half of it.

So this year I am doing something a little different. Since I want to be fully present during this month, and I want to enjoy the Advent journey to the manger as much as I can, I am doing an intentional slow down for December.I am looking at the things on my calender and seeing what really needs to get done this month and what can wait until January, prioritizing my list, and then making sure that the time I have is used in the best way possible.

And I have also come to realize that there is no perfect gift, rather it is about the people we gather with and the time we have with them. Again, I want to be fully present. I want to go to my daughter's school program and truly enjoy the time she dances around as a penguin rther than thinking about the million other things that need to get done.

Basically, I just need to continually slow down and enjoy life rather than running through it.

So that is my goal for this month, to slow down and enjoy. To take in all of the sounds, all of the time with family and friends, all of the quiet moments in life (okay, with two kids those quiet moments are few and far between).

So how about you, how are you going to celebrate this month?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks



Tomorrow we are heading off on a short little vacation to see Jen's family and then take a few days R and R before the busy Advent Season begins. So with that coming up soon, I wanted to post my Giving Thanks blog today, a little early.

As you can see, I give thanks for my family. These three are the light of my life and I treasure them each and every day.

- For the rest of my family, Mom, Kristi, Krystal, Kyrsten, Joe, Dottie, Kyle, Trisha, Becky, Leon, Christina, and Jack - all blessings in my life

- For work and the staff and members of the church

- For friends who have walked both joyful and difficult paths with me

- For those who have gone before me and inspired me

- For the blessings of daily comfort - heat, bed, food - the things I often take for granted

- For health - every day I am thankful for this

- And, of course, for the God who has blessed me, loved me, forgiven me, and cared for me - for God I will always be thankful.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Morning - The King



Today in the Church Year, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. It is the end of the church year, which means that Advent starts next week, and celebration of the kingship of Jesus Christ. This year Jen is preaching and, I believe, she will be talking about the various seasons in the church year and how Jesus is King through all of them.

One of the themes that has been sitting with me this week is that of power - esp. how we want to have power, especially power over others. There are times when people think that having power, that demonstrating that you are stronger or smarter or braver or (fill in the blank) than someone else means that you are a better person than they are. This type of power has nothing to do with being better than another, rather it is all about selfishness - wanting to elevate the self above others.

But true power, the power we see in the kingship of Christ, is the power to move beyond our own wants and desires, the power to move beyond our selfish ways, the power to move out and serve the other with all of our heart and mind and strength. Yes, true power comes in service to the other and the building up of community.

So what are some ways you can demonstrate true power today? What are some ways you can build up the community and serve the other?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Change of Mood



Ever get in a funk and just can't seem to get out of it?

I've had days like that. Days when it seems like no matter what I do I just cannot get out of the bad mood I am in, and even the littlest things set me off.

I don't like those days. I want to be able to change my mood.

I had been reading through some stuff and ran across a line from Tony Robbins: Emotion is created by motion.

Basically what he is saying is that if you want to change your mood, your emotional state, many times what you need to do is get active, to do something.

Michael Hyatt, a leadership expert, said if you don't believe this then try this little example:

Slouch in your chair.
Round your shoulders.
Take shallow breaths.
Close your eyes.
Frown and then sigh.

If you do this there is a good chance you will start to feel down right away. What you do physically can effect how you feel emotionally.

And it is the same for feeling positive, for changing your mood for the better. Here are a few things I do to help get me out of my bad moods:

1- Get up and get out for a walk. Just leaving the space I am in and doing something different, even if it is just a walk around the sanctuary on a cold day, makes a huge difference in how I am feeling.

2 - Think back to a good thing that has happened during the week. No matter how bad or tough my week has been, there is always at least one thing that has been good and positive. I take some time to focus on that moment.

3 - TAPS prayers - TAPS stands for Thanks, Ask, Praise, and Supplication. I take a moment to pray through the TAPS prayers because it helps to move me away from focus on self only and lift up the good things and others that are in my life.

4 - Music - I crank up my i-pod with the most upbeat music I can find. Again it takes me out of that moment and brings me to a different place where things are better.

So if you need a change of mood, push yourself to do something a little different, a little more physical, so that you can make the move into a more positive area. May your eyes always be opened to the blessings of God in your life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday Morning Coffee - Looking for the Rainbow


I don't know about you, but there are some days when I am just feeling down. I don't have enough time to make all the visits and calls that I need to, I don't have the energy or inspiration to write the newsletter article or devotional piece, I don't have the creativity needed for the new idea I had, and to top it off, I have a cold coming on and I can't sleep very well with a stuffy nose.

Okay, that might be this week for me.

Yes, there are times, there are days, when it just seems so dark and depressing, times when it feels like all of our energy has been pulled right out of us, and we are just there. Just there sitting in the darkness, sitting in the storm, and hoping that it will end soon and a rainbow will appear.

Because a rainbow is a sign of hope, right?

A rainbow is a sign that the storm is over and a new day, a bright day, is coming.

Yes, sometimes it feels like I am just waiting for a rainbow to come, and that is not an easy place to be.

Many times when I am feeling like this I jump back to the book of Psalms. I love the psalms because there is a psalm in there for just about every emotion I could ever feel.  So this week I was spending a little time with Psalm 46. Verse 10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."

That one little line reminded me that in these dark times, in the times of struggle and trial, in the times where it seems like there is no hope - God is there. God is there in the midst of it all and he is bringing the rainbow, he is bringing the new day, he is bringing the hope that we all long to experience in our lives.

So today may your eyes be opened, may you sit in God's presence, and may the rainbow you need appear.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Borrowing a Blog

I read through a number of blogs every day - some to inspire, some to make me laugh, some because I know the authors. Every once in awhile I come across a blog that sticks with me, and yesterday was one of those days. So below I have posted a blog by Jon Acuff. You can read his stuff at jonacuff.com. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

1 table everyone needs.

My friend Brewster and I invented a table.
I know what you’re thinking right now:
“Of course you did. I’ve seen your photo online. You’re burly and rugged and clearly know your way around a band saw.”
While I appreciate you noticing all of those things, it’s not that kind of table. It’s not made of wood. It has no legs and can only hold one thing, but I promise you it’s a table that everyone needs.
What is it?
A brag table.
Brewster and I created it after having breakfast for a few weeks. We’re trying to become better friends and encourage each other and realized we were being a little dishonest. Every week, we’d edit the things we were proud of or excited about because we didn’t want to appear cocky or arrogant. We’d paint our weeks with a bit of false humility, and share them with each other.
But eventually we realized that’s really dumb.
Excitement isn’t the same thing as arrogance.
Talking about a project you knocked out of the park doesn’t mean you’re cocky.
Celebrating some accomplishment or goal doesn’t make you a jerk.
We decided that everywhere else in life we might need to be quiet. We might need to downplay things or stand behind the scenes, but at the brag table we would cheer as loud as we wanted for each other. We refused to believe that your only two options as a young leader are to be a cocky jerk or to never openly discuss something you’re proud of and excited about.
We decided to create a middle ground. And we call it the brag table.
There,at breakfast, we celebrate each other and share our triumphs without the fear of someone online saying “That’s a humble brag” or “Get over yourself.” Being vulnerable about your failures is only half of the story, you have to be vulnerable enough to share your successes too.
Which is why I loved getting a text from Brewster the other day. It said, “Can I approach the brag table?” I said, “Of course!” And then we got to cheer over text messages about an award Brewster had recently won. The brag table went virtual! It was no longer just the table we had breakfast at.
Today, I’m turning this post into a brag table.
Today, in the comments I want you to share something you’re really excited about and proud of. Something you did! Leave the false humility at home. This is the brag table.
And to make sure you know I’m serious, I’ll go first:
I’m really excited that Steven Pressfield endorsed my book Quitter. As I’ve mentioned before, his book “The War of Art” is one of my favorite books and I honestly didn’t think he’d ever give me an endorsement. But look what he wrote about Quitter:
There are friends (I might be one of them) who will tell you, “Quit your job and follow your dream.” But Jon Acuff is smarter than that. Quitter is about going from cubicle-bound to Outward Bound without committing financial and marital hari-kari along the way—and actually succeeding in the end. This book is wise, personal, funny and loaded with practical, real-world insights from Mr. Acuff’s own ongoing odyssey. If you’re torn between living your dream and putting food on the table for the wife and kids, don’t make a move till you read Quitter.
Steven Pressfield, Bestselling Author of The War of Art and Do the Work
How fun is that? I can’t believe Pressfield said that!
Now it’s your turn.
Pull up a chair to the brag table.
What’s something you’re excited about that you’ve accomplished?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A little humor


Today I was in the mood for a little humor, and I ran across this video from the Skit Guys. Even though it is a week early, it will hopefully make you laugh and makes a great point as well.

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Morning - How do you view life?



My focus for today's sermon has to do with perception - how we view life and how that view affects how we live our life. I was inspired by a professor at Luther Seminary, David Lose, who opened my ideas to a new way of looking at the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In the parable the third servant does nothing with the talents he is given because of the fear he has of his master.

Fear can paralyze us.

And if we view the world through glasses fogged over with fear, we can see how it will affect the whole of our lives.

And the opposite is true as well. If we look at life through glasses of blessing, then we see so much more joy and hope in the world.

How we view life affects how we live out our lives.

So how about you - do you view life through the glasses of blessing or fear?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Morning Music

I am working on the sermon for this weekend and I am mulling over the perceptions we have in our lives. How do we view things? What baggage do we bring with us to certain situations? Can we see the good in the midst of the bad?

As I have been thinking about all of this I flipped on Pandora Radio and the first song that came was "Blessings" by Laura Story. It is a song that speak directly to how we view things and if we were to look at things in a little different light life would be different as well. Enjoy.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Morning Coffee






Today is Jen's birthday. So this morning, as I sit in the office and drink my coffee, I am spending time reflecting on the gift of family.

Family is one of the greatest blessings we are given in life. As I think back on all of the birthdays that I have had the opportunity to share with Jen, I see blessing after blessing. I am reminded of all the places we have gone, of all the sights we have seen, of all the amazing experiences we have had the joy to celebrate together. And I look forward to so many more of these experiences as we continue to grow with one another.

Now this doesn't mean that there haven't been struggles - there are struggles and trials in every relationship. But those struggles and trials are so minimal compared to the good things, the good times, the blessings that we have shared with one another. I treasure the times I have had with my wife and children and cannot wait to see what the future brings to us.

So today I give thanks for my wife and wish her the best as she celebrates another year. Jen - you are a blessing to me and I am in awe of your gifts, your grace, your love. May you have an amazing birthday.

And I pray that all of you may celebrate the blessings of family every moment you have together.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Morning





Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday in the church year, so I decided to post a sermon I preach back in 2007 on this day.


All Saints Sunday 2007

I remember you.

Back when I was in seminary I went on a cross-cultural experience and spent the month of December traveling through Israel. It was a time when I had the opportunity to walk the land of the Bible and see all of these ancient sites with my own eyes. It was powerful experience, being able to see all the places I had spent so much time reading about.

One day we took a trip to a memorial, a museum called Yad Vashem. In Hebrew this means “hand” and “name.” It is a memorial that has been designed for all of the children who had died in the holocaust. These were the young innocents. These were the ones who didn’t have the opportunity to grow up, to live their lives. And this memorial was named Yad Vashem because of Jewish tradition. You see, in Jewish tradition there are two things that are supposed to passed on to next generation, Yad – hand, or work – what you do, and Vashem – your name – your genealogy – who you are as defined by family. And these children never had the opportunity to pass on either of these things to the next generation.

As we walked into memorial building the first thing we saw were the pictures of children – large picture of this angelic faces that covered the entry way. Then we entered a huge room, larger than the size of this sanctuary. This was a room that was filled with candles and in the middle was this path leading through the candles. All these candles were lit in memory of the children. And then, over a loud speaker, there was a reading of all their names. This recording ran continuously. You see, this was how they passed on their hand and name, the reading of names, the candle light for their hands. It was a powerful day, seeing all those little lights, lights representing those whose lives had been snuffed out way to early in life.
I remember you.

Short line from Ephesians lesson for today.

I remember you.

Paul is telling the people of Ephesus that he continually remembers them in prayer and thanksgiving, he remembers their lives, he remembers their faith, he remembers them.

I remember you

That is what today, All-Saints Sunday, is all about.

Remembering. Remembering those who have gone before us. Remembering the saints in our lives. Remembering loved ones who have passed away in the last year. Remembering the promises of God – that this is not the end, but rather stones will be rolled away and tombs will be emptied. Remembering.

Now I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to preaching today.

For me, it was still a little too fresh, a little too close to home. Remembering my dad. No I wasn’t looking forward to reading the All-Saints litany and reading my dad’s name, but as I prayed, reflected, and wrote, these three words stuck with me: I remember you.

I remember your life, I remember you teachings, I remember your blessings, and I remember that you are a child of God.

You see, our remembering, my remembering, has more to it than the Jewish tradition I experienced at Yad Vashem. There is more to it because there is more than hand and name that we remember. There is also the promise and action, the promise and action of God - A God who always remembers us. Remembers us because we are his children and we always will be.

Yes, All-Saints Sunday is about remembering, it is about reflecting on the candles sitting on the altar, reflecting on the lives of those who have been saints in our lives, reflecting on the lives of family and friends.

But it is not, it cannot be, only that. For we know that there is more. We know that God is still at work in the world, we know that death has been defeated, and new life has been born. We know, for God has told us this, God has demonstrated this, and we trust in the one who gave his life so that all may live, and live eternally.

Yes, our remembering consists of the past, but it is also a remembering that moves us into the future. A future where we remember the guidance of the saints who have gone before us, a future where we reflect on their lives, and then are empowered to live out our lives. Lives filled with gifts that have been passed down to us, lives filled with love and grace, lives lived out to the glory of God.

Yes, we remember the past this day and we look forward to the future. A future that is bright, a future that is filled with opportunities, a future that inspires us to live as the saints we have been called to be.

I remember you.

I remember you, church, living body of Christ. I remember you in my prayers. I remember you in the lives of faith you live. I remember you, for you have been claimed by Christ and empowered by the Spirit to live as saints, as ones with gifts from God to share, as ones with blessings to give, as ones with a message, a gospel word, to share with all the world.

And so on this day, as we remember the past, as we remember our loved ones we also remember our calling. Our calling to bring words of hope to those who are struggling, our calling to bring love to the unlovable, our calling to bring strength to the weak. And as we do this, we see the face of Christ shining back at us, a face that smiles at us, says, in a loving voice
“I remember you, for you are mine, and you always will be.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Own Little World

Today I was out and about most of the day. I spent a lot of time in the car which meant I was listening to the radio quite a bit. Normally I switch for station to station depending on the song that is on. Today I was listening to one of the Christian stations around and a song came on that spoke to me. It was a good reminder about the blessings we have been given and how we are gifted to help those who are in need. Have a listen.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday Morning Coffee








Knowing me means that you know how much I love coffee. When I am in the office there is always a pot going, I like my occasional trips to Starbucks, and I look forward to sitting with friends and family talking about life while celebrating a cup of coffee.

So today I am attempting to start a new tradition on the blog, Wednesday Morning Coffee. On Wednesday mornings I will be posting so thoughts and questions that I hope will be fodder for conversations that can take place for the rest of the week.

So today my thoughts have to do with relationships and communication (yeah, big surprise, I know:).

Yesterday our Intern Jeremy and I were at a training session for Interns and Supervisors. During one of the sessions the presenter was telling us about a study that has been going on for over 15 years in the Pacific Northwest. There is a psychiatrist who has dedicated his life to studying couples and seeing what helps to make marriages stronger. One of the amazing points of his work is that with all of the data he has gathered he has a 92% success ratio in determining if a marriage will work or not.

And he has come up with one major key as to the success of a marriage, any guesses as to what it is?

What he has come up with is the ratio of affirmations to critiques. Those who have a ratio of at least 7 affirmations to 1 critique in their relationship have a much higher percentage of having a healthy, happy, lasting marriage. Now, I will admit, I always thought a ratio of 1 to 1 was what was necessary, but after thinking about it, this makes sense.

It is easier for us to take criticism when we have been affirmed in what we are doing, and it also seems to take longer to hear the affirmations, while the criticisms cut to the bone rather quickly.

So how do you do with giving affirmations? Do you give positive feedback to others on a regular basis?


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reformation Day

Today in the church year we celebrate the Reformation and the gifts that Martin Luther helped open our eyes to. In order to celebrate this in a fun little way is a video I recently found. Have a blessed day.



Friday, October 28, 2011

Casting Crowns Review

As I said in the blog yesterday, last night Jen and I went to the Casting Crowns concert in Madison. There were three opening acts, who played for a total of and hour and 15 minutes, and then Casting Crowns came on and played for over two hours. It was a great concert with some amazing music.

One of the songs that they played is a new one, and is very, very powerful. Take a look.



After hearing this song and watching as a painting of Jesus was being done during the playing of the song, I was moved. The love that God has for us is so amazing, may we always be reminded of the blessings we have been showered with.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Casting Crowns





This evening Jen and I are heading up to Madison for a Casting Crowns concert. Casting Crowns is a Christian band and I am excited to see them for the first time, Jen saw them at a worship leader conference last summer and loved them.

It is also an early birthday gift for Jen, as her birthday is next month and to have a night out is a great celebration for both of us.

Being able to take a little break, to have some fun with Jen, to celebrate the gift of marriage and our time together is a true blessing, one that I don't ever want to take for granted. So I continue to look foe little ways to make sure that we have that time together, and that it is a special time for both of us.

So what do you do to take a break in life? What are some of the little things that help you to get the R and R you need? Do you and a significant other have special things you do together? If so, what are they?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book


Last year, when I was going through my cancer battle, I started writing about the journey. Eventually this turned into a manuscript which was picked up by Tate Publishing last winter. After 10 months of editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing, it is finally in the publishing stage. 

Because of all of the support of Our Savior's through this entire journey, we thought it would be right to release the book here first, so on Sunday, November 13th we will have the books available at church between services, and I hope to have copies available myself within three to six weeks. If anyone is interested in a copy, please let me know.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Reading

I remember in the summer, when I was growing up, my mom would take us down to the public library and get us signed up for the summer reading program. Every year we would check out a load of books and see how many we could read throughout the summer, and of course, see how many prizes we could get.

I do the same thing with Sierra now, and this year will probably involve Scarlett as well. We go to the library on Saturday mornings, after the Farmers Market, and get our books for the week. Then we read through them, marking them off on the little blue sheet that comes with it, and see how many they can get through in a summer.

I always loved the summer reading program.

This year we are going to do the same thing at the church. On June 1 we are starting the 90 Day Read Through the Gospels. So over the summer we will read through all four Gospels. I am looking forward to this journey again, as I love the stories in these books and the faith they continue to inspire.

I invite everyone to join us on this. If you are interested, let me know and I will get a reading guide to you (it is basically one chapter a day).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

CT is Clean!

So my third post-treatment CT came back clean, and even the area that was affected by radiation damage was not as pronounced. The doctor was very impressed with everything - I love seeing the oncologist smile!

The other piece of good news has to do with the follow up. When I started this journey, I was told that I would have 4 CT's a year for 3 years, then 2 CT's a year for 2 years, and the magic number was 5 years, where the chance was recurrence was very unlikely.

Today I was told that with all changes to treatment with lung cancer, those numbers have changed as well. Now I need 3 CT's a year for 2 years. After that it is annual exams. What this means is that the magic number of years for a recurrence is 2 years instead of 5. I only need to do three more CT's and I reach the magic number! Oh, yes, God is good!

So there is my good news today. Blessings upon you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Celebrating One Year as a Cancer Survivor

A year ago at this time I was still in the middle of surgery. I would wake up to find out that I had an extra tumor of a different cancer on my heart and that they surgery was at least two hours longer than expected.

I would also have a friend spill his coffee over my bed within an hour of making to my room - something, even in my medicated haze, I will never forget :)

What a difference a year makes!

Today I met with the Radiation Oncologist and received a good report. The lung function sounds good, the upper lungs moving more air than the lower lungs, but not a big deal. There are no bumps or nodules he could feel. Overall a good report and he said that this is another lap down, just keep taking the laps as we move on with this.

Tomorrow I go in for my 3rd post-treatment CT and I get the results from the Oncologist the following Wednesday. Overall I am feeling very positive about it, things seem to be going well and the breathing issues from the radiation damage have actually gotten a little better. I know I will be nervous going into that meeting, my blood pressure is always the highest when I meet with Dr. Vogel, but I am sure that the end results will be good and I will not be back for another 4 months.

Thinking back in everything that has happened in the past year, it is so easy to see the hand of God every step of the way. There have been blessings upon blessings throughout this journey, and I thank all of you for being a part of the journey with me - I couldn't have made it as easily as I did without you.

Next Wednesday I will post results, until then - God Bless.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lazarus Sunday

Today we will hear the story of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus who died and was brought back to life. It is a powerful story that opens our eyes, once again, to the power and love of God. And the image of new life is something I have been reflecting on a lot as of late.

This week is a rather emotional week for me. On Friday I will be celebrating one year as a cancer survivor, because on April 15, 2010 I had the surgery that removed the tumor from my body. On Friday I will also be having my 3rd post-treatment CT Scan. With all of these scans I know in my head that things will be fine, but I still get nervous that something might pop up once again.

So it is a big week for me on a personal level, and it is a big week in the church because it is the last week that we have mid-week services and we will be entering into the march to cross next Sunday.

So you can see how the issue of new life is one I have been reflecting on. New life in the second chances we are given, new life in the ways our eyes are opened so we celebrate everything we have in this life, new life in the promises given to us by the God who loves us, new life in the way these promises hold on to us when we are struggling.

So this weekend, may your eyes be opened, once again, to the new life that God showers upon you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mud, Spit, and Sight

This week I will be preaching on the story in John's gospel about the man who was born blind and healed by Jesus. It is a story of healing, of new sight (and new life), and the power of the God who walks among us, cares for us, and loves as we are.

It is also a story that is dirty.

Earlier this week, the girls and I went into the backyard to play. it was a warmish day and the playset had been calling to them, esp. to Scarlett, so off we went. At first, Scarlett just climbed up the ladder and slid down the slide, but as time went on, she changed activity.

It was then that she found the sandbox.

Ahh, yes, the sandbox. A wonderful place to dig and bury and get as dirty as possible. And that is what she did. She was in that sandbox for nearly an hour, and you could by looking at her. And when I took her out to clean up before dinner, she cried like crazy.

Every day since then she has begged to go into the backyard and play in that sandbox.

Dirt is so much fun to play in (I still like to:), and it is an essential part of creation. In the lesson I am preaching on this weekend, I see how God uses this dirt, this part of creation, to make someone clean - and it always amazes me.

God using the unclean to make clean.

God using the broken to make whole.

God using death to make life.

What an amazing God we have - and what a blessing that he keeps coming to us, loving us, and caring for us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One year later - the Surgeon

One year ago I met the surgeon who eventually took this cancer out of me. That was a very long, very strange day. A year ago, it was on a Wednesday, in Lent, so we knew that we had services that evening. Jen and I decided we should have a friend go with with us, a retired doctor, to help process some of the stuff that would be said. This was a good plan, because the surgeon was running late, three and a half hours late, and Jen had to go back to worship before we got in to see her.

In fact, Jen only met her once, for about 1 minute right before the surgery. The rest of the time the doctor would come after Jen had left.

But for me, the most important part of this day, and what I truly celebrate, is that this doctor was the first one to use the word "treatable" with me. Before this there was no talk about being treatable, only what we would do for treatment. She told me I was in the top 20% of the people she saw, and it was treatable. I remember leaving that meeting and just floating because there was such a sense of hope.

A year later I am so grateful for this doctor, and as much as I love her, I hope to never go to her office again. She is gifted and gives hope, and a true blessing I will always treasure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One year later - first meeting with the oncologist

As I think back to this day one year ago, it was probably one of the more frightening days of my journey. As a pastor, I had met with a number of people who had seen oncologists. It was one of the few doctors that I feared, and that was because of the disease he focused on - cancer. So when I was first told that I needed to meet with Dr. Vogel, my blood pressure went up, this meant it was real, I had cancer.

Dr. Vogel is a brilliant man who serves people who are facing life-threatening diseases daily. I truly admire him and the work he does, but to this day, I still get nervous when I have an appointment with him. Again, it is not him, it is the disease and, now, the fear of recurrence.

But at that first meeting, we were not sure what to expect. Jen and I already knew I would be having surgery, but the rest of the treatments were up in the air. So as we sat down and he went over the scans and biopsy, we started to see that there would be more than just surgery.

One thing that impressed me at the beginning was that he already had an idea what caused the cancer. His assumption, which turned out to be right, was that I had a genetic mutation that affected a very small percentage of white males under 40.

So I was/am special:)

But he picked up on that right away. He then went through the surgery and finally said, after surgery we will have radiation and chemo too.

This was the first bombshell, esp for Jen. At this point we were hopeful that it would only be surgery, but to add radiation, and esp. chemo, that sent up more warning flags.

How would I react to the chemo?
How would the girls react?
How much extra work would Jen need to do, at home and the office?
And the list of questions went on.

Looking back, again I was very blessed. I handled the treatments very well and the congregation was an amazing blessing to us every step of the way. It could not have gone smoother.

It is so nice to be able to look back and see those blessings, and see the hand of God every step of the way on this journey.

At my next meeting with Dr. Vogel I am sure I will be nervous again - waiting for results from my April 15th CT Scan. But I am also reassured, because I see God at work in this process and in my life, and I have an oncologist who is a true blessing to me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2010 - One year later

As I think back to March 22, 2010, I realize that it is a day that things became more real to me. It was this day that I had a breathing test. Now the test itself wasn't that big a deal, my lung capacity was good, quite good actually, but it was also one of those times that reality set in. as I sat in that little glass tube and blew out a tube in my mouth, I started to think, "How will my breathing be affected after the surgery? Will I be able to run around with the girls? What does this mean for walks around the riverfront with Jennifer?"

But it was also a moment of hope. As I sat with the tech who as doing the test, she told me about the surgery I would probably have. It turns out it wasn't that kind of surgery, but the fact that she sat there and took time to ease my mind, that was a blessing in itself. She also told me that my lung capacity would not be affected that much. Initially she was right, it was the radiation that has affected my lungs more than the surgery.

Looking back the test helped me get a better grasp of what was going on, and it helped move me forward to get ready for the next step of the process.

Tomorrow - One year after my first meeting with Dr. Vogel, the Oncologist.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Diagnosis - 1 Year Later

So it was a year ago today that I was sitting in Dr. Patel's office with Jennifer getting the news that I had cancer. That moment still seems quite surreal to me - looking back and reflecting on all the emotions, thoughts, prayers that were running through my mind at the time.

And what a difference a year can make.

Today I went in for a blood draw, since I have a regular doctor's appointment on Monday and all my levels need to be checked. As I was sitting there, have a needle gently pressed into my skin, I started thinking back to all of the needles I have had inserted into me over the past year. There must have been hundreds of them (thank God I have good veins, or this would have been awful!)

But with all the needles, with the surgery, the treatments, the prayers (I seem to mention that one a lot:), this past year has gone as smooth as it possibly could. I have had two clean CT's and feel wonderful. Yes, the diagnosis from one year ago truly has been a blessing, because the cancer was caught and treated and I can go on living this gift of life to the fullest.

The past year has also slowed me down in many ways as well. I make more time to celebrate the little things - a daughter's laugh, my wife's smile, the squeal of joy coming from an infant - all these things mean so much, and are such a treasure that I will never take for granted again.

So one year down, and many, many more to go - always celebrating the blessings of life!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reflections

As we entered March, my mind started wandering back to a year ago. It was on March 1, 2010 that I started the medical journey to discover I had cancer and then have the surgery and start the treatments. Over the next few weeks I will be posting some reflections about what I am feeling on some of those milestone days.

It is hard to believe that it has been a year, the time has gone very fast. I am reminded each and every day of how blessed I am that I had a doc who went the extra mile to find out what was going on with me. When I started this process back last year, I had a hard time looking past the next test or next doctor's appointment, let alone looking forward a year or more. But after two clean CT's, lots of prayers, and being blessed with docs that are the best at what they do, now I look forward to the future in amazing ways. It is about living with hope - hope in the God that loves us, hope in the healing hand of the Spirit, hope in the future.