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.