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 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?