Sunday, July 21, 2013

Being a Worshipper

Today is the fourth Sunday of our sabbatical, which means it is the fourth Sunday that we are worshipping in the pews (or chairs) as a family and not leading worship in one way or another.

It is a weird experience.

Sunday mornings are normally the busiest mornings of the week in our household, but during our sabbatical I have been able to sit back, do some devotions, drink coffee, watch the final round of the British Open, and let the girls wake up on their own.

The rush of the morning has slowed down.

A lot.

And as weird as it is, it is also nice.

The time that we have to eat together, worship together, just be together is a real blessing, and I am grateful for this time to just "be" with the family.

I am grateful to be the dad in the pew who hears his daughter give a strange answer in the children's sermon and just smile and laugh.

I am grateful to commune with my wife rather than give communion to my wife.

I am grateful to hear the Word preached and not think about what has to happen next in the service.

I am grateful to leave after the service and not wonder if I forgot to turn off a light or lock a door.

I have been grateful to be a worshipper.

And .. I am getting some great ideas to bring back when this sabbatical is over!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rodeo, Worship, and seeing old friends

Two weeks ago we started our sabbatical by going back to Montana and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first church I served. It was a wonderful, soul-filling trip.

On the way out we visited some dear friends in Odin, MN. They are good friends of mine from seminary who I hadn't seen in way too long.

We then went to Dickinson, ND. Due to the oil boom out there right now, that town is exploding. New buildings are going up everywhere. It was also in Dickinson that we got to go to a rodeo. It was Roughrider Days, so there were a number of activities going on, and the evening ended with bucking broncs, barrel racers, and mean bulls.

I loved it.

Back when I lived in Montana I went to rodeos quite often. The power of the animals, the courage (or craziness) of the cowboys, the speed of the horses...all of it amazed me. The girls enjoyed it, but not as much as dad did. Scarlett was upset though, because she wanted to go out and ride on the horse and didn't understand why she couldn't.

Luckily that was dealt with the next day.

We then went to Savage for the 100th anniversary celebration, and it was wonderful. I recognized many of the people from when I was last there, in 2000. I was reminded that I am aging because the first child I baptized is taller than me. And I missed a few people who have passed on.

After the service there was a nice lunch at the town hall, a time to visit and catch up. Then we went to a friend's ranch where the girls got to ride horses and we went for a hike.

It was a great day.

During my time in Savage I was reminded what a special place it is to me. It was here that I started my ministry, which meant I learned a lot by trial and error. I would come up with ideas and ways to share the gospel that may have been a little different, and they went along with it, forgiving me when I made a mistake, encouraging me as we moved forward, and showing me what grace is through their words and actions.

Savage was/is one of those "thin places" for me, where I feel the power of God in a very profound way. I have memories of hiking the dirt roads with my dogs, hunting with my dad, and fishing the Yellowstone while celebrating this amazing creation that God has blessed us with.

Savage is a place and filled with people who have left a mark on my soul, and when I drove in I felt the power of that place once again.

I was reminded how much I miss that entire area out there. Making that trip through North Dakota and into Montana was making a trip home.

Over the past few weeks, after returning to Wisconsin, I have been spending some time thinking about those "thin places." Places where we experience God is powerful ways. I believe we all have them, and they all touch us differently.

Savage, the Dakotas, Montana, wide open spaces - all of these are thin places for me. What are some of your thin places?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Taking A Knee

Back when I played football in high school the coach would often gather us up and yell for us to "take a knee." Then he would go into his speech of the day.

Whenever I heard the phrase "take a knee" I would think back to Billings Senior High and that coach.

Except earlier this week.

Earlier this week "take a knee" took a new meaning for me.

A little background first - the medication that I take for my cancer has a number of side effects. Luckily I do not get many of them. Occasionally I have some vision issues, but they are minimal and go away quickly.

But one thing that does happen is quite often I get light headed. It normally happens when I am getting up from the chair, but sometimes is delayed until  I have taken a few steps.

Earlier this week the girls were at school, Jennifer was off doing some work, and I was home alone. As I walked into the kitchen I was hit with a head rush.. It was one of the more severe ones I have had, and I had to take a knee in order to avoid losing my balance.

It is a strange sensation realizing you have to do something to avoid collapsing.

It passed quickly, as it normally does. But for a few minutes I remained on my knee, thinking about what had just happened.

It is times like this, as rare as they are, that I reminded that I am still battling this cancer.

I can go days and not think about cancer. I can take my pills, go to doctors appointments, and live my life pushing the idea of cancer to the back of my mind.

But sometimes I am faced with a pretty blunt reminder. I am still fighting this disease.The fight is going well. I am in remission. But the battling is ongoing.

So as I was down on that knee having this reminder take place, I was also reminded about how blessed I am. I am blessed not only in the medical advances they have made, but I am also blessed with the support, guidance, and love of those around me.

And it is through them that I am blessed to see the face of God.

Eventually I got up, and having forgotten what I was going into the kitchen to get, returned to the living room and spent some time writing down the names of all the people who are blessings to me. It was a tangible reminder of many ways God continues to be active in my little part of the world.

So the next time you need to take a knee, why not spend some time down there and reflect on the people who are blessings to you.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sabbatical starts with a sick child, leaking roof, and water in the basement

This week we start a six-week sabbatical, and it kicked off with a bang. On the first day we were awakened at 3:00 am with a sick Scarlett. After getting her settled we went in the basement and found water due to the massive rains we have been getting. Then, after dropping Sierra off at summer school, I was led into the bedroom to see water marks on the ceiling. A tree limb fell and punched a fist sized hole through the roof.

Today, all things are a little better. Scarlett is her normal busy self, the water in the basement is gone, and the hole has been repaired.

So today, hopefully, the sabbatical really begins.

The sabbatical is a time for us to take a break from the busyness of the church life, refresh and renew our souls a little, do some studying, and do some traveling with the family.

Our first trip is to eastern Montana. We will be heading out to my first call, in Savage, MT, where they will be celebrating their 100th Anniversary. I am excited to go back to this church that helped to form me as a pastor and see the people. On our way we will be visiting some old friends, go to a rodeo (which the girls are almost as excited about as I am), and spend some time in the badlands (which I think is some of the most beautiful country around).

I have a couple of books I plan on reading during this time, and I am looking forward to being able to travel and not worry about getting back in time for some work event.

I will be updating our sabbatical journey over the next few weeks. Off we go...

Friday, June 7, 2013


One of the things I have tried to do over the years is slow down and look for those "God Moments" that pop up every once in a while. These are the times when you see God at work in wonderful ways - sometimes they are big moments, other times they are small little things. But they are always moments when God shows up and does something that is either unexpected or very much needed in our lives.

These God moments are a continual reminder that God has a deep interest in our lives. It is not like God is out there, just sitting in heaven, watching everything take place with amusement on his face, but rather he is active and present in our lives. God cares about us. He has a deep, loving, parental desire to be involved in what we do, and he wants to be involved with us. God moments are those times when we see the face of God appear - sometimes through others, sometimes just out of the blue.

But sometimes we miss these moments. I have written about this before - sometimes we are so busy with everything going on in life that we miss seeing God at work right in front of us. We get so consumed with the daily grind that we miss the loving touch and gift of grace that God gives to us.

So, we are called to slow down. To take time to look at the beauty of creation around us. To call an old friend. To share a gift of grace with another. When we do this, we are more apt to see what God is doing around us, to us, and through us.

So take some time today, slow down, and ask God - what are you doing today, and how can I be a part of it. I am sure you will be amazed at the answers you get.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Seeing God

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

I was listening to this song as I was driving back from Minnesota earlier this week and I started to think about all the places I saw God in the previous week - the time Scarlett grabbed my hand without me asking for it, when Sierra was practicing her pitching, got a strike, and smiled like crazy, the person who chased some garbage down the street, the joy of watching the girls and Jennifer plant flowers in the front yard and the list goes on and on.

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

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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Joy Comes in the Morning


This week our season of swim lessons is coming to an end. Every year week take the summer off and then resume in the fall. Sierra was amazing as usual, she is a wonderful swimmer.

This was Scarlett's first year of swim lessons, and she progressed a lot. But Scarlett was also Scarlett, she love to play during lessons too. There are times when she would stand on the edge of the pool and dance. She was singing to herself, twirling around on the edge of the pool. There were numerous times I had to tell her to stop so that she wouldn't slip and fall in, and so that she would listen to her teacher.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Fast Five Friday

1 - This week has been filled with visits and seeing people. There are times this is exhausting, but it also brings a lot of joy to sit and be with people where they are.

2 - The Memorial Day Parade was long and cold, but everyone on our float had a great time. Every year I am reminded how much I love being a part of it.

3 - We have a summer worship schedule at our church and it is fun to see people merging from our different services and spending time with each other again.

4 - This was Scarlett's last week at her day care. They are closing and we have found a new place for her to go. We have been taking our girls there for over eight years, it is hard to say good bye.

5 - Softball seasons starts this weekend - Go Comets!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Being Fed - Lunch Meetings

Today I am meeting a colleague and friend for lunch. I saw her a few weeks ago, but today we will get to sit down and chat about whatever without interruption. I am really looking forward to it.

So today I am being fed in two ways - a great meal at a restaurant I have not been to before and a visit with someone who makes me laugh. With everything else going on this week, I need this time, this break, to be fed.

What is feeding you today?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Funny of the Week - Scarlett Waves

Photo: Parade time

Every year on Memorial day our church has a float in the parade. This has been going on for about eight years now. Sierra has been involved for a long time, Scarlett started riding on it a year ago.

Last year Sierra and her friends started a Memorial Day chant. It was quite creative and would have been great, except they never stopped. That chant rang in our ears for days after the parade.

This year Scarlett decided she wanted to be like her sister, so as we were riding along she would shout our "Happy Memorial Day" at the top of her lungs over and over again.

And then she would wave.

And not just a nice little parade wave. No, with Scarlett it had to be, well, fast.

Scarlett is always on the move, always running, always fast.

And so was her wave.

She looked at me and said, "Daddy, see how fast I can wave?"

And then boom, she would shake that hand back and forth as fast as possible. Over and over again. Always wanting to have the fastest wave around.

To see a child get that much joy for waving, it fills the heart.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sing a New Song

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 VeggieTales while traveling in the truck, to the chagrin of my daughters.

A number of years ago, when Sierra was a little girl, we had a little ritual we went through. We read some books, pray and bless each other, and then she would get tucked in. Sometimes, when she was lying in bed she would ask to sing a song. Often times this was done to delay bedtime, but who can resist singing with a child.

So we would sing, quite often we would sing "Jesus Loves Me" or another song she has learned at church or school. But for awhile the song she liked to sing was "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?

What I am Reading - Tony Jones

Tony Jones is a theologian in the Twin Cities, and I read his blog on a daily basis. While he and I may not agree on everything, he helps me see things from a different perspective. One of the things he does is take theological questions from his readers, spends a week mulling them over, then gives his answer pared with the responses the question has received on the blog. Some interesting stuff comes up.

If you want to see some of his stuff, take a look at

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mentors in the Faith - Mr. Anonymous

This week, the person I was thinking about as a mentor in the faith was someone who inspired me and helped me to grow in amazing ways. And while it was not "church" related, his actions had more to do with my journey of faith than many others.

For this to make sense, one thing you need to know (if you don't already) is that I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober over 19 years now. My drinking career was short but furious.

And Mr. Anonymous is one of the people who helped bring an end to that furious time in my life.

Part of AA is the Anonymous part, so you won't get my friend's name in this post, I will just call him Mr. A.

Mr. A and I were drinking buddies, and when I hit bottom and started to see I had a problem I called him. It turns out that a few months earlier he had hit bottom and realized the same thing. So he became a sober buddy with me and the two of us commiserated, supported, and walked day by day, hour by hour with each other.

He is also a person that I will never be able to repay, because he was the one who picked up the phone when I called and challenged me to stay the course.

For the first few years of my sobriety Mr. A and I did a lot together - going to meetings, talking on the phone, working with others who were struggling, going out and find ways to have fun without alcohol.

It was a transformative time in my life, as it needed to be. And it was made easier, maybe even possible, because of Mr. A.

It was also through him, and the people that he introduced me to, that I saw what true hospitality was. For any time I entered a new group or went to a new meeting, I was welcomed with open arms. I was welcomed as a lost son returning home.

And over the years I was inspired by that welcoming and strive to make the church the same type of place. A place where, when a new face appears, they are welcomed in as ones who are loved, cared for, and needed.

I still talk with Mr. A. He manages to call at just the right time and bless me with the strength I need. He is one of my brothers. I know that I can never repay him for what he has done for me, and a lot of my faith walk is due to the fact that he is in my life.

So thank you, Mr. A, you are a true blessing to me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Reflections - Micah 6

This week we are starting our summer sermon series. We were inspired by another pastor in the area, so we are following his lead and doing "Sermons By Request." What this means is over the past month we have been taking requests from parishioners on what they want to hear us preach on, and we received a lot of good ideas. This week the request was on Micah 6:1-8.

I don't remember preaching on Micah before, and there are some wonderful passages from this prophet. So I had to do a little research as I got ready for the weekend.

One of the things I learned was that Micah was called to talk to religious leaders about how they lived out their lives of faith. Micah was reminding them, calling them, to see that this relationship with God had to do with a changed heart. It wasn't about how many rams were need to atone for a sin or how much grain needed to be offered up to pay for a mistake you made. Instead it was about how you lived out your life of faith, and did your words and actions match up.

And that is a good questions for us as well. Do our words and actions match up when it comes to our walk of faith? And what does it mean for me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God in my daily life?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Joy of the Week - Hand in Hand

As I briefly mentioned in a earlier post, typically when I pick up Sierra from school, she comes running up to me, takes me hand, and we walk hand in hand back to the truck.

This is a daily joy for me.

Holding her little hand as it has grown over the years is one of the most parts of being a dad. It is a connection I have with her that is powerful and meaningful in so many ways.

Now I know some day this ritual will come to an end, and that means I have to take advantage of it for as long as I can.

For she might get too old to hold hands with her dad, but I will never be too old to hold hands with my girl.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fast Five Friday

1 - I get to see my oncologist this morning. I have gotten to the stage where I do not dread these meetings and I actually enjoying getting to see the staff every month. Of course, this is not a PET Scan month, so that makes it easier was well.

2 - I am really glad that I have friends with a burn pile. The number of branches that have blown down over the week was huge.

3 - This weekend I am preaching on Micah. I haven't ever preached on Micah before and I am excited about it.

4 - Staying in touch with old friends is one of the best medicines in the world. Thanks for having a listening ear out there.

5 - Last night was Sierra's spring musical, and she was sick and unable to go. It was a big disappointment but she handled it very well. I am proud of this girl!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What are you afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

This week the issue of fear has come up in a number of conversations with people, and so I have been spending some time reflecting on fear.

There is a lot of fear in the world, and this fear can either paralyze us or it can challenge us to grow.

Growing up my greatest fear was snakes - I still hate the critters. I always had a fear of being bitten (growing up in rattlesnake country) and what might happen if I was. For a while this fear kept me from playing on the Rims (some rock formations that surrounding Billings that were breeding grounds for rattlers) and exploring with my friends. Because of this fear I missed out on a lot of fun. Finally, a friend of mine pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me up on the Rims to explore. The snakes were still there, but if I was careful, and respected the snakes and their space, things were fine.

If we let fear dictate our lives, we miss out on a lot. We miss new experiences, we miss time with friends and family, we miss growing in a variety of ways.

I think one of the keys with our fears is to face them - and to do so with the support and care of others. There is the story in the Bible where the disciples were afraid of what might happen to them after Jesus was raised from the dead - and they holed themselves up in a locked room - paralyzed to move. But after they were blessed by the risen Jesus, and given the gift of the Spirit, together they faced their fears and continued the mission, the opportunity, that they were given to form the church.

We need to do the same thing when it comes to our fears - to gather with others and face the fears we have. We still respect the fears - as I respected the snakes - but we do not let the fears govern our lives. In doing this we are freed to experience the great gifts of God in new and exciting ways.

So my question today is - what do you fear? And how can we, the Church, the body of Christ, help you to face those fears and continue to grow?

Being Fed - Movie Time

One of the ways I am fed is by being able to let go of everything that is going on in life and enter into another world, and movies have always been able to do that for me.

I remember the summer after my Freshman year in college. My buddy, John, had moved in with us for the summer and even though we worked a lot of opposite shifts, we would often find time to sit down and watch a classic. I cannot count how many times we saw Casablanca that summer. I still look back on that time very fondly.

And now, when I have those insomnia-driven nights, I search Netflix for something to watch. It may be a classic, it may be something new. Whatever it is, I search for something that will take me away from my thoughts, my worries, my .... whatever may be going on inside.

Sometimes being fed is about being able to truly relax and be renewed, whatever that form may take.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Funny of the Week - Sierra naps

Sierra, our oldest, has never been a napper. From the beginning, she has not liked naps and done whatever she could to avoid them.

So on Monday afternoon I went to pick Sierra up from school. It was a typical pick-up. I got there a few minutes early, looked at the construction being done on the building, visited with some of the parents, and waited for her to come out.

Her class was late, but eventually she came. She took my hand, as she does every day, and we walked hand-in-hand to the car talking about how her day went.

Then she said, "I have something silly to tell you dad."

"What's that?" I asked.

"Well today, during our Take 5 time, I took a nap."


"I laid down by the magazine rack, and I just fell asleep. No pillow or anything. I was tired."

Sierra, the non-napper took a nap at school. I was shocked.

But I was also impressed with the teacher who told her to lie down since she was so tired. A tired Sierra is a cranky Sierra, and after her nap she was much better I am sure.

So, the funny of the week for me is imagining Sierra, lying on the floor of her classroom taking a nap. I am sure this will never happen again.

Of course, I never would have thought it would have happened this time, either.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What I Am Reading - CPR

Tonight some of us at the church are going through a CPR class. It is part of a new Health and Wellness ministry at the church and hopefully we will have the funds to open it up to more of the congregation soon.

So I have been doing a little advanced reading before the class starts. The last time I took a CPR class was when I was studying to be an EMT in Savage, MT. So it has been a while.

In looking through the material I was reminded how important it is to continually grow in our education - whether it be for class work, personal growth, or just because. The joy of learning, and learning form others is a true gift.

So may you try something, learn something, new today.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mentors in the Faith - Anna

Anna was one of the saints at my internship congregation in Big Timber, MT. She was involved in many aspects of the church, truly showing me how it was the women who kept the church going.

And she helped to mold me into the pastor I am today by her advice, seasoned words of wisdom, and gentle corrections when I started to wander a little.

Internship was the first time that I truly had a leadership role in the church, and Anna helped me to see what it means to be a leader, especially a leader in a faith community.

She also introduces me to lutefisk, but I will forgive her for that :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Acts 2

I love Pentecost.

I love the celebration. I love the meaning behind it all. I love what God does - gathering people from all walks of life into one community, one body.

Yes, I love Pentecost, and it scares me.

It scares me because it is one this day that we are reminded that we are not in charge, God is.

And with God in charge, freely blowing his Spirit wherever it wants to go, who knows what might happen.

Sins might really be forgiven.

Outsiders might really be welcomed in.

The unclean might really be made clean.

The dead might really be brought back to life.

These things won't only be on the pages we read or the stories we hear. They will really happen, and happen to us.

Pentecost is scary because it demonstrates that God is really about action - loving, forgiving, grace-filled action.

And he is working in us just as he worked in the lives of the disciples on that Pentecost day so many years ago.

So as you enter into this Pentecost day, may you feel the breath of the Spirit in your life, and may you be open to the way God is working in and through you.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Joy of the Week - Dilly Bars

Thursday was a beautiful day here in Beloit. After I got Sierra from school we went home, transplanted some hostas, and then mowed the lawn. It was a great afternoon to get yardwork done and work up a wonderful sweat (which isn't hard for me to do :)

After dinner Jennifer went off to choir, and I decided to take the girls out for a treat. So we went to Dairy Queen for Dilly Bars. Sierra had been treated to a Dilly Bar is school earlier in the week and Scarlett wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

We picked up our Dilly Bars, sat at the table outside, enjoyed the amazing weather, and had fun laughing with each other.

It was a beautiful evening. Ice cream and the girl's laughter made for a night to remember.

Often times it is the little things that slip by unnoticed. but when we take the time to celebrate them, to treasure them, it brings an amazing amount of joy into our lives.

So may you notice the little things today, and be filled with joy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fast Five Friday

1 - The softball season started this week. Sierra is determined to be a pitcher, so I will be spending a lot of time have softballs flung at me this spring.

2 - Scarlett had a 4K orientation earlier this week. It is hard to believe that she and Sierra will be at the same school in the fall.

3 - I am excited about our summer preaching series. We are taking request from congregation members about what to preach on and the ideas are wonderful

4 - Spending time doing yardwork it therapy for me.

5 - Nothing brightens my day more than the smile of one of my girls and the little giggles they have.


I have taken the past week and a half off from the blog to catch my breath and ruminate on a few different things. I will be resuming my regular schedule soon.

But today I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on struggles that many of us face during our lives.

I have a number of friends who have been going through a wide variety of struggles lately. People who have lost loved ones, are having marital issues, are struggling with addiction or depression, are facing health issues, and the list goes on and on.

And it seems like once one of my friends makes it out of the pit they are in, then another one enters one.

There is a lot of darkness, a lot of struggles, a lot pain.

And sometimes it is hard to see the hope.

There are many times when I wish I had the magic pill that would make all things better. There are times I wish I could just grab my friends, hug them like crazy, and everything would be fixed.

But I can't.

And it doesn't work that way.

We all have struggles, we all have pits we stumble into in life.

But there is hope.

The West Wing was one of my favorite TV shows for years. I have watched the episodes over and over again thanks to the DVD series I was given as a gift a few years ago. And there was a modern day parable (adapted from a Biblical parable) told in one of the episodes that reminds me about hope.

A man was walking down the street and as he was walking he fell into a pit that he couldn't get out of. So as he is at the bottom of the pit, he looks up and sees a doctor walking by. He yells out:

"Doctor, I am stuck in this pit, can you help me?"

The doctor looks down, then pulls our his prescription pad, writes a prescription, tosses it into the pit, and walks on.

Then a pastor comes by. The man yells out again:

"Pastor, I am stuck in this pit. Can you help me?"

The pastor pulls our his prayer books, copies down some prayers, tosses them to the man, then continues on.

Then a friend comes by, and the man yells out:

"Friend, I am stuck in the pit. Can you help me?"

The friend looks down, then jumps in the pit.

The man asks, "Why did you do that? Now both of us are in this pit."

And the friend responds, "Yes, but  I have been in this pit before, and I know the way out."

When we are going through struggles in our lives, which all of us do and will at some point, the hope we have is that we do not face these struggles alone. We have friends, we have family, we have a God who loves us.

So my prayer today is that if you are going through a struggle today, may you be blessed with a friend who jumps in the pit with you. And if you are not facing a struggle today, may you be that friend.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Signs of hope in cancer treatments

I ran across this graph earlier today on another blog and had to share with all of you.

Hope is alive well.

Mentors in the Faith - The Mystery Lady

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, when I was in college I spent a lot of time searching. When I first went to First Lutheran in St. Peter, MN, I was not sure what to expect, but it was a defining moment in my life and my life of faith.

Part of that story includes a lady whose name I cannot recall, but who had a profound impact on me. When I went to First I thought I would hide in the back and just check everything out. Not long after I sat down a little, old lady come over, plopped down next to me, and said, "You look a little lost. Can I help you to understand our service. Why don't I just sit with you today and help you through it. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing."

So she worshiped with me that Sunday. Told me when to stand and sit, how to take communion, and figure out the hymnal. Then after service, when I was about to leave, she grabbed my arm and said, "Where are you going? We are Lutheran which means we have cookies and coffee down the hall. Come with me."

And I did.

Once there she introduced me to a number of people and made me feel welcome.

One of the main reasons I went back was because of her and her hospitality. She made such an impression on me that you can still see it in my relational theology.

So thank you for welcoming me to your home.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jerusalem Council

Acts 15:1-17

This week we hear the story of the first church council, the Jerusalem Council. At this meeting the big debate was what did you have to do to become a Christian. There were come who believed that to be a Christian meant that you had to follow all of the Jewish traditions and laws first, such as being circumcised. But there were others who disagreed and thought that baptism and the gift of the Spirit were enough.

At the end of the reading we see that the conclusion they come up with is that our identity as Christians does not come from follow the rules and customs, but rather it is in what we believe - our faith.

This council opened the door to the Gentile believers in a way that is had not been opened before, and the church continued to grow and demonstrate its inclusive nature.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

PET Results

Yesterday I got the results of another quarterly scan and it came out clean. I was going to post on this earlier, but I got tied up with some work and plain, old forgot. Sorry about that.

As usual, I was nervous going into the oncologist's office, I don't know if that will ever change. The appointment started late, which didn't surprise me, but added to the anxiety.

In the past he would come in with the results on a piece of paper that he had, but not this time. Instead, with the new computer system, be didn't have the results yet either. So he logged on and eventually found them.

All this time my heart is beating faster and faster.

But when he got to the page, there it was - Scan was negative for cancer.

Another quarter of the drug working.

They have said that one day the drug will stop working, but I keep hoping and praying that is a long time from now.

Thanks for all the prayers.

Joy of the Week - When things come together

Our church is a land locked church. We are on a corner lot and the back is parking lot.

Last summer we discovered that a neighboring lot had a house on it that was being condemned. The city then had it torn down. A month or so later they got in touch with us and asked us if we wanted to buy the lot.

I believe that anytime a land locked church can get property, it is something to seriously consider. The questions, always, is price.

Well, they wanted to sell it to us for $500.

Yup, $500 for the lot. How could we go wrong. So we jumped on it.

Then we discovered the joy of red tape. Turns out the house was demolished with federal funds, so there was a stipulation about who could buy the property, and the church wasn't eligible.

So the lot sat there. We talked about a lease with the city, but nothing came of it. It was just a vacant lot that the city had to care for.

Last week we got an e-mail from the city - and the requirements had changed. Now the church was eligible to buy the lot and they asked if we were still interested. The purchase price was the same, $500.

Within 48 hours we had all of the paperwork signed and sent back to the city. It should be ours officially in a month or so.

There are so many different possibilities with what we can do with that lot - green space for the kids, BBQ's, volleyball tourney, and list goes on and on.

I love it when things come together.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fast Five Friday

1 - Yard work uses muscles I haven't used in quite awhile. I was quite sore earlier this week.

2 - There are some very good, very helpful doctors out there and I have been blessed by being able to be seen by a number of them. Thank you for all of your good work and wonderful personalities.

3 - We have been fighting with some raccoons who took up residence in our roof. I think we got them out yesterday with tennis balls soaked in ammonia. They are a pain to deal with.

4 - I am really looking forward to getting my year cleaned up. That brush pile has been there way too long.

5 - Our Synod Assembly is coming up next weekend, please keep us in your prayers.

Extra - I get my PET scan results later this morning. I will be posting abut that this afternoon.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Being Fed - Yardwork

Growing up one of my summer jobs was running a lawn care business. I would spend my summers mowing, trimming, planting weeding, and watering. It was a great job, and I loved what I did.

Then I burned out, and I took a break from lawn care. Too long of a break.

But lately I have gotten back into it, and I love it. I love working up a sweat in the yard, seeing a job done, and done well. Watching the flowers bloom and working the yard so that the grass is beautiful.

For the past few years we have been collecting all of the tree limbs that have fallen in the yard in a massive pile behind the garage. Every once in a while a friend would come and removed some of it. Well, yesterday I decided to make a dent in that pile. So Scarlett and I loaded up a couple of truckloads and brought them out to a friend's burn pit. When I was done, I felt great. I was dirty, sweaty, had some cuts on me, and I felt like I had accomplished something.

I love that feeling.

I feds me, gives me strength, and gets me ready for the week.

Is there something physical you do that feeds you?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Humor - Look Down!

Every once awhile, in the middle of the night, I get a call to go upstairs. Normally one of the girls is having a bad dream or in need of a drink of water or just wants to alert me to the fact that they are going to the bathroom.

Last week I got one of those calls, and it was a little different.

So it's about 1 am and I am awakened by Scarlett yelling for me. So I lumber up the stairs, open her door, and as gently as I can, ask, What is it honey?

There is no response.

So I ask again, while wiping the sleep from my eyes. And then Scarlett says, Look down.

So I look down and at the edge of her bed, on the floor, is a foot waving in the sky.

She says again, Look down.

Then says, I fell out of bed.

She starts laughing hysterically. I fell out of bed, I fell out of bed.

So I pick her up, put her back in bed, and remind her to not fall out again. She says, I know, but it was funny.

What child stories do you have that make you laugh?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Reading - Romans

This week I want to highlight one of the books of the Bible that I am currently reading. First, a little background on how I currently use my devotional time.

Most mornings I am the first one up, so I head to gym and work up a nice sweat then come home, make a cup of coffee and start to read something in the Bible.

As most of you know, I love technology, and I have integrated it into my devotional life as well. On my I-pad I have a Bible app that I love, YouVersion Bible. Now it isn't perfect and it doesn't have my favorite translation, but it has helped transform my devotional life over the past few years.

With this app I can select different reading programs. Over the years I have read through all of the prophets, the OT, the gospels, Acts, and many more. Some have devotional material with them, others are just a reading plan that break it up day by day as to what you need to read.

So right now I am reading through the Acts and the Letters in the New Testament. Every day I get a chapter from Acts and one of the Letters. The Letter I am reading is Romans. (I know, it took me a long time to get there, but I made it:)

Romans has always been one of my favorite letters by Paul. I especially love the fifth chapter, which is what I was reading yesterday. In this chapter we are reminded of the grace of God and how salvation comes not from what we do, but rather through what Christ has already done. This is a freeing word that empowers me to take risks, live my life of faith, and trust that when I make a mistake, God will be there to lift me up, dust me off, and help me continue on. This is one of my favorite chapters in scripture.

Is there a passage in scripture that is powerful to you every time you read it?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mentors in the Faith - Jan Bloesser

As I have been thinking about the different mentors in the faith that I have had, Jan's name kept coming back to me, and it is not because she was a teacher or pastor who influenced me, but rather she was a parishioner at my first congregation who was a mentor because of what happened to her and her family and the impact that it has had me ever since.

Savage is small little town (and the church is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year - congratulations!) in eastern Montana. It is part of a two point parish that I served 15 years ago. It was here that I got my feet wet as a pastor, I made a number of mistakes and they had the grace to forgive me and help me grow. And it is also where I learned a lot about the frailty of human life.

While I was there Jan and Rollie had a stillborn daughter. I was with them during this time and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever walked with a family through.

It was also the hardest funeral I have ever done. There are images from that service I will never forget.

And the reason I list Jan as a mentor is that she allowed me, and even welcomed me, into her time of grief and loss. She let me walk with her, be a comfort when I could, always hoping I was bringing a message of peace and hope to her. Because of the time I spent walking with her I grew as a pastor in ways that I never dreamed.

It was because of her willingness to be open and vulnerable with me then that I am now able to walk into difficult situations trusting that God will work through me to bring that word of peace and hope to others. She helped me to grow in "pastoral" side of being a pastor that I wasn't sure was even there before I met her.

So thank you, Jan, for your openness and grace to me, and may you continue to be showered with God's peace in your life.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reflects on Philip and the Ethiopian

Acts 8:26-39

This week we travel with Philip as he heads out into the countryside to share the gospel message. In his travels he runs across an Ethiopian who had some power, as he was in charge of the queens treasury.

He was also an outsider. Because he was a eunuch he was not viewed as whole and was not allowed into the temple.

As he is traveling he is reading through the prophet Isaiah, but doesn't understand it. So in comes Philip, who offers to teach the Ethiopian, and after their conversation the Ethiopian wants to be baptized.

So they stop at a little mud puddle on the side of the road and he is welcomed into the body of Christ.

It is a beautiful story about the power of God's word and how it comes open us to changed lives.

And it is a story that reminds us to be open to meeting people on the road. There may be times in our lives when we are like the Ethiopian, not understanding, feeling like an outsider, and in need of someone to come to us, mentor us, guide us. And it is at these times that we need to be open to the people that Spirit sends our way.

And there are times when we need to have the courage to walk up to the person who is struggling and offer to give a hand to them.

When you read through this passage, what speaks to you?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Joy of the Week - Conversations

This week I have been involved in a number of deep conversations. Some have been in group settings, trying to figure out the best way to move forward with things, others have been one on one, and in them I felt the moving of the Spirit in wonderful ways.

As I have talked about many times in person and on here, my theology is very relational. We were created to be in relationships, and in these relationships we are blessed to see the face of God in many and various ways.

This week I had an overwhelming sense on joy in two of the conversations that I had, with people I don't often get to sit down and talk with. As we were talking I felt the breath of the Spirit blowing across us and they were two of the better conversations I have had in long time.

And I was reminded, again, that often God talks to us through other people. And what a blessing it is that he does.

Did you have any conversations this week that moved you or brought you joy?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fast Five Friday

1 - Our daycare is closing at the end of June. We have been talking the girls there since Sierra was 8 weeks old and love the people there. Finding a new daycare is not an easy, or fun, task.

2 - I love the fact that Sierra is into country music, when we can drive and crank up Sugarland and life is good.

3 - Jennifer is am amazing story-teller. This isn't new, I just was reminded of it again this week.

4 - There are a lot of senseless acts of destruction in the world. I pray for all those who have been hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

5 - God meets us in the lowest places of life, of this I have no doubt, and I am so thankful that God brings the peace and comfort that is so needed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being Fed - Reading Time

I love to read. I bring my I-pad with me everywhere and I always have something on there to read - a novel, a theology book, a blog, a paper, a magazine ... Something that I can dive into even if it is for a short amount of time.

And  want to share that love of reading with my girls, which seems to be working. When Sierra wakes up in the morning and it is not yet 7:00, she pulls out a book and reads. And Scarlett is jumping in with both feet, she is sounding out words and reading like a champ for a four-year-old.

And reading feeds me.

Sometimes I am fed with the life of the characters that I enter into with the fiction books I read. Other times I am fed by reading authors I agree with, or disagree with, and challenge my beliefs. I am fed by having my mind expanded, my horizons broadened, my world made bigger.

I am reminded that there is always something new to learn out there, and being able to read about it helps me to grow in so many different ways.

What do you read on a regular basis that has an impact on you?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Weekly humor - Bowling

Last Sunday we had a church bowling outing. I always love these time to get together with people outside of church and have some fun.

And I like beating my wife at bowling.

Which happened one out of two times.

The other time, well, she whooped me.

And Sierra tied me.

It was a bad second game for me.

But the greatest joy of the day was watching the two girls bowl. Sierra has come a long way. She is figuring out her approach, how to throw the ball, and even get a little spin on it. It is impressive.

And Scarlett, well, she is a creative bowler. We still use a ramp for her, as you can see her sitting on it in the picture above. And then she bowls with, well, style. When she puts to ball on the ramp she then decides what body part to use to push the ball down the ramp. Often it is her elbow or head, but my favorite was the "belly ball." She puts her belly up to the ball and pushes it down the ramp. It is wonderful to watch.

It reminds me that there are way too many times that we take life too seriously. We need to kick back and enjoy life more. Smile at the little things, celebrate the joys, and take in the wonder of those around us.

Who knows, if they let me use the ramp, maybe I would do a belly ball too :)

What made you smile over the last week?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday Reading - Rob Bell (again)

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently started Rob Bell's new book, "What We Talk About When We Talk About God." I am only about a quarter of the way into it so far, but I thought I would give my initial impression with you.

In this book Rob talks about the baggage that comes with the word, and the definition we have, of God. No matter where we come from, we have an image of God. This image has been shaped by what we have read, what has been said, and who we have learned from. Rob tries to move the reader past what we have brought to the table to be opened to a different view of God.

The book centers around a few words that have made an impact on Rob over the years.

and So

Like I said, I haven't gotten very far, but I am into the section on the word Open. In this chapter he discusses the either/or stances many people have when it comes to faith.

Faith or intelect
Belief or reason
Miracles or logic
God or science

Then he moves into a conversation where he talks about how we do not need the either/or stances. Instead God is bigger than the either/or's of life. He has a long section on science and how everything is connected. It is quite interesting, and I had to stay focused as I read through it.

So far I am intrigued with the book and I am looking forward to see where it is going.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mentors in the Faith - Kyle Pasewark

Kyle Pasewark

Back when I was in college and going through my searching stage I took a religion course with a visiting professor, Kyle Pasewark. In this class I fell in love with religion, theology, and even with God. Eventually Kyle became my adviser, and one of my degrees was in Religion.

I remember sitting in his office and discussing faith in very deep and theological way, and then he would bring it back to a daily application which made it even more meaningful to me.

One of the classes I took from him was a J-Term class where we study the theology of John Updike. This was the first time I really looked at faith in novels and inspired me even more.

Kyle was also one of my greatest cheerleaders in getting me to apply to seminary and be a pastor. I am not sure I would be here, doing this, if it were not for him.

I haven't seen or talked to Kyle in over 20 years, but he was a true mentor in my life of faith.

So thank you Kyle.

Was there anyone in your late teens and 20's who inspired your faith?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reflections on Stephen

Our lesson this week comes from Acts, Chapters 6:1-7:2a and 7:44-60.

In this reading we hear the story of Stephen. Stephen is the first martyr in the church, dying because of his belief in Jesus as the Son of God. But before he was put to death he was selected as a leader to help care for those in need.

What was happening was that the early church was going through some growing pains. They kept gaining more and more followers and the apostles were spread pretty thin. So they selected some people to help care for those in need. Stephen was one of the ones selected for this task.

The story of Stephen reminds me of the diversity of gifts we are all given. Some are blessed to preach and teach, some to serve others, some to sing, some to write, some to comfort, and the list goes on and on.

The fact is we are all blessed with different gifts, so how can we put our gifts to use to further the Gospel message?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Joy of the Week - The little things

As I look back on the past week I am reminded of the joy of the little things in life. Here are some of the things that gave me joy:

- Being able to sleep in the car. We drove 17 hours straight on vacation and I was able to get a few hours of sleep, even if it was uncomfortable. Without that sleep I would have been really grumpy, or grumpier, if I hadn't.

- Watching Scarlett bark like a dog. Yeah, she pretends she a dog often and when she gets on all fours and barks, well, it makes me laugh.

- Swim lessons - watching the girls grow in their swim ability gives me great joy

- An embrace from Jennifer - another little thing, but there are times when a hug, a touch, a kiss from her just lights up my day

- Getting something done - there are days when I don't feel like I accomplish anything, and when I do get something substantial done I feel great.

- Sleep - When I was on vacation I slept great, I love having a good night sleep and the energy it gives me.

What are some of your joys over the past week?

Friday, April 12, 2013

- Fast Five Friday

1 - We are back from vacation and there is new carpet in the church. I love the smell of new carpet.

2 - I love our staff. There were a few bumps while we were gone and they handled them in amazing ways. Great people who do a great job.

3 - There is a lot going on at the Synod right now, and a lot of prayers are needed. My heart continues to break.

4 - I have bouts of insomnia occasionally, I had some this week. I wish I could be productive during those times.

5 - I have a simple wedding tomorrow, and I am really looking froward to it. I love this couple and wish them all the best.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Being Fed - Playtime

One of the greatest joys in my life is playing with my girls. These two have a bundle of energy and when I enter into their worlds I see some absolutely amazing things. They are creative, joyful and filled with a zest for life that inspires me on a daily basis.

Of course, there are those times that push my buttons, but I try to look past that as often as I can. Especially at 2 in the morning when I have to stumble upstairs and assure them that there are no monsters in the dark.

But even then, as I am walking, stumbling, down the stairs, I am fed by them. Then love me enough to call me up there, and trust that I will come. What a blessing that is.

So my girls feed me, and when I am really down and need a bit of a boost, a trip to the bowling alley or a bike ride with them will often give me what I need.

What has fed you over the past week?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Weekly Humor - caption please

Lately our family has gotten into the habit of taking silly pictures. This was one from when we were on vacation.

What would you write as the caption for it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I am reading - Jon Acuff

Today is my first day back in the office after a nice little post-Easter vacation, so I haven't jumped into any big books over the past week or so. I read a few murder mystery novels on vacation, but not spectacular.

So today I want to talk about one of the blogs that I read on a regular basis. It is called "Stuff Christians Like" by Jon Acuff. It is a blog filled with satire about the Christian life and is quite humorous. It also makes some wonderful points about faith and how we live out our lives as Christians in the world.

Jon has a second blog as well where he writes about ways to better yourself and follow your dreams. It is good, but I don't spend as much time with it as I do with Stuff Christians Like.

What did you read over the past week?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mentors in the Faith

First Lutheran Church of St. Peter - Saint Peter, MN

When I was in college I went through a major time of searching. Entering college I was not an active Christian. I had been baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal faith, but didn't actively attend anywhere.

There were a number of things going on in life, and I started searching for a deeper meaning of life. It was at that time that I would up at First Lutheran in St. Peter, MN.

How I got there is a long story, I will save that for another time.

As I attended there I got to know the pastor, Mark Solyst. Over the next couple of years  I spent a fair amount of time with Mark, talking with him, talking faith, and dealing with my questions and even some of my demons,

Part of the reason I wound up going to seminary and becoming a pastor is because of Mark. He was a mentor in my faith and I will always appreciate everything he did for me those years.

Who has been a mentor for you in your faith life?

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Looking back on the past few weeks there have been lots of joys in my life. I always love the Holy Week Services, and the celebration on Easter Sunday is a highlight every year.

But the one I am reflecting on today is the joy of vacation. We are down at the beach, celebrating family time, renewal time, and a time away from the busy-ness of work.

What was a joy you had over the past week?