Saturday, September 29, 2007

Curious

I've been writing in this blog for some time now. I was hoping that over time it might become somewhat of a dialog, thinking about matters of faith. That hasn't become the case as the comments remain largely empty. It's okay, but I don't have a chance to know if people are reading or not. As I move forward I would be curious to know if I am writing for myself or if others are checking in from time to time. If you are reading this, I could appreciate you clicking on the "comment" link below and letting me know. Thanks!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Consequences

I really liked the devotion from Our Daily Bread today. Bill Crowder wrote about reaping and sowing, or perhaps you might say, "consequences." One of the things that troubles me when I look around society are those people who seem to have forgotten that our actions have consequences. Last night we spoke about the second commandment and how minimizing God's name has consequences. So to do our actions. Working 50-60 hour weeks instead of 40, has consequences on your health and family. We can chose to follow a temporary path of sin knowing that we have forgiveness, but there consequences. How we chose to live our lives has consequences. Follow the link to the devotion above, he says it much better.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WooHoo!!



Congratulations to our friends David & Becky! Yesterday they had their second child, Joshua Rahn... Dawn and I are excited to meet him in person in just over two weeks! WooHoo!!!

A Parable

With the recent visit and brew ha-ha about Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I was struck by the following parable written by Henri Nouwen.

Once there was a people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other: "How can we be sure that we will have enough in hard times? We want to survive whatever happens. Let us start collecting food, materials, and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs." So they started hoarding, so much and so eagerly that other peoples protested and said: "You have much more than you need, while we don't have enough to survive. Give us part of your wealth!" But the fearful hoarders said, "No, no, we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us, too, in case our lives are threatened." But the others said: "We are dying now, please give us food and materials and knowledge to survive. We can't wait..we need it now!" Then the fearful hoarders became ever more fearful since they became afraid that the poor and hungry would attack them. So they said to one another: "Let us build walls around our wealth so that no stranger can take it from us." They started erecting walls so high that they could not even see anymore whether there were enemies outside the walls or not! As their fear increased they told each other: "Our enemies have become so numerous that they may be able to tear down our walls. Our walls are not strong enough to keep them away. We need to put bombs on top of the walls so that nobody will dare to even come close to us." But instead of feeling safe and secure behind their armed walls they found themselves trapped in the prison they had built with their own fear. They even became afraid of their own bombs, wondering if they might harm themselves more than their enemy. And gradually they realized their fear of death had brought them closer to it.

Nouwen is writing at a time when nuclear weapons were proliferating. However, I think his words ring true. In talking about this parable that was published in "Lifesigns" he further writes:

... Never have nations spent so much to protect themselves against their neighbors near and far, and never have we come so close to the annihilation of the human race.
There is an urgent need for a spirituality that addresses these idolatries and opens the way to a new ecstasy. We must find a way to go beyond our national security obsession and reach out and foster life for all people, whatever their nationality, race, or religion."

A Fine Line

It seems to me there is a fine line between being meek/humble and allowing yourself to be a doormat. I enjoy watching the youth of our congregation play sports, but often I find myself wanting to encourage them to be tougher, to be more aggressive. That doesn't mean that you should be mean or try and hurt someone, but don't roll over either.

The world certainly devalues weakness, so when we hear things from Jesus like, "Blessed are the meek..." we don't understand... or we don't want to understand. I think there is an impression by certain segments of our society that want to suggest that Jesus was, or at least encourages us to be, a sissy. I can't imagine that's the case.

The devotional from The Upper Room today talked about this and really got me thinking. Today's author was Donald Maly and I will leave you with his last paragraph:

Jesus did not show timidity or spinelessness when he threw the merchants out of the temple courtyard. He certainly was not lacking courage or self-esteem. He was meek, humble before God, but he was bold in proclaiming God's truth.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Hodge Podge

How is your faith journey going these days? Are persevering? Hit a low spot? Today I came across an interesting devotion about persevering in faith. There was a reference to a 1968 marathoner who stated, "My country didn't send me here to start the race, but to finish." You've started the race, are you prepared to finish it... no matter the cost?

How is your loving going? Honestly, I'm not all so good. I wish I were better. Anyway, I was just struck by the Toby Mac song "Made to Love" with a chorus that rings with: "I was made to love You... I was made to love, and to be loved by You." I appreciated the reminder that I was made to love God.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sandy Wins

video
Here is video of Sandy being interviewed at the Twins game last Tuesday. You'll notice my mother is pretty excited to get on TV as well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Twins Game

Last night we got to attend the Minnesota Twin's game. It was cool to see Danielle throw out the first pitch. She had a lot of pressure, not only was she doing this in front of thousands of people but her dad is a baseball coach so we were looking for one right up the middle. She stayed cool under the pressure and did awesome.

We had a lot of fun chatting it up during the game, and then Sandy up and got interviewed on TV. Can you believe that? Not only that, but she won 100 lottery tickets. What a wild night.

It was good to see us just having fun hanging out as a congregation, as a Christ Lutheran family. It was great because we had kids as young as 1st grade with us and kids as old as 60+ years old. We do a lot of great things as a church, but we also need to remember to play together. I'm glad we got to play at the Twins game last night.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight

The Lord says, "When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:13 (NRSV)

When we were kids there was a gaggle of us who liked to play games in our backyards. We especially enjoyed games like hide-n-go-seek and kick the can, games where you get to hide. One of the neighbor girls learned early on (the rest of us took quite a bit longer) that hiding in close and obvious spots were often the best places. In fact, some of the best places she found were, by and large, in places that might be considered plain sight.

Sometimes it feels like God is so very hard to find, as if God is almost a non-presence in our life. I wonder if we're not making it too complicated, because God is "hiding" in what might be considered plain sight. The verse above from Jeremiah tells us that when we look for God we will find God, so God must not be "hiding" that hard. The psalmist encourages us to, "be still, and know that I am God." Maybe, when we are looking for God we just need to slow down and look right in front of us.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Everything

Here is a popular video these days. Take a look below... what do you think?


Jesus as Friend



One of my favorite movie "images is that of Buddy Jesus in the movie "Dogma" (seen on the right). It does make a bit of a mockery of our temptation to over promote Jesus as our friend. Obviously (at least I think it's obvious) the friendship suggested and offered in John 15 is something more, something much deeper. It is something precious. It is with that "caution" that I commend to you the devotion from "Our Daily Bread" today. Give it a read, it kind of gave me a nice warm feeling. Sometimes, I think you need those warm fuzzy moments.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Letting Go

One of the best things I get to do each month is to attend a pastor support group. It's a group of other pastors where we get a chance to share our challenges (personal and professional) with one another. More often than not we find that we're not the only one struggling with certain issues and we discover that we are in this together. It's amazing how helpful this process can be.

Anyway, at our group today a couple of people were talking about, "letting go." Probably a helpful thing for all of us to. We should probably all let go of those earthly things that tend to consume us and allow God to take over. It's a great concept, but sometimes it's quite difficult to practice.

As we talked about this I was reminded that I had learned this lesson a couple of weeks ago playing golf. I'll admit it, I'm a pretty lousy golfer. Although I like to think I have a lot of potential for the game (seriously). The one time I played this summer, a few weeks ago now, it was a gathering of pastors and church workers from around the synod. I started feeling the pressure (I have a tendency to do that to myself) to play as well as I possibly could. I swung as hard as I could in an attempt to keep up with the other players in my foursome. I'm actually impressed that nobody on the golf course actually got hurt I sprayed the ball around so much.

After about fifteen holes of miserable golf aside from about two or three decent shots I basically gave up. I stopped caring. An odd thing happened over the last three holes. I had my three longest and straightest drives. Isn't it amazing how, when you relax and let go things really kind of come together? It is true in sports. It is even more true in life.

If you are feeling stressed, struggling with something or other give this a try: stop trying to control the situation and let go of it. Give it over to God, listen for God's voice, and see what happens. I bet you just might be surprised by how things get better.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lesson from the Exercise Bike

I don't normally listen to country music. It's not so much that I don't like it, I just don't think of tuning in to those stations when I'm in a car that has a radio (my radio stopped working about 4 years ago now on my way home from internship and now this past summer even the CD player has stopped working from my battery going low... long story). For some reason when I was at the health club this past weekend I decided to tune in to the country music channel. I was struck by a song that blatantly said, "I want everything." (Although, now that I'm a couple of days removed I probably have the exact line incorrect.)

"That's bold," I thought. Then, again isn't that pretty close to what most of us are thinking? I didn't catch all of the words of the song, but the singer wanted not just stuff but to try and "do" everything as well. Most certainly, I think, the song was a snapshot of our society today.

No more than two songs later came a gentleman singing about having faith is just enough. He pointed to things like Noah and his faith allowing him to survive the flood. Isn't this quite true as well?

I found the contrast and the timing of these songs very striking. I'm guessing the person who programmed in the sequence of the songs did so unwittingly. However, I think it was beautiful. Here, in song, was named our problem and our solution. Our selfishness and greed lead us to want everything, to believe that we might even deserve it all. Yet ALL that we need is God, is faith.... Maybe I should work out a little more often.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Bible is "Alive"

Bishop Skrenes from the Northern Great Lakes Synod writes in a recent book review of "God's Continent":

Martin Luther wrote centuries ago, “The Bible is alive—it has hands and grabs hold of me, it has feet and runs after me.” The scandal of the Church that bears Luther’s name in 21st century America is that its members do not take seriously the Scriptures. The average Lutheran spends more time in our “checkbooks” than we do with the Word of God. Bible study in our churches reaches 1-2% of our members. Daily Bible reading is not common in our American congregations. Pastors report to me only minimal interest in adult studies of God’s Word. Perhaps, the people of God’s Church in the Global South are challenging us to find our roots again in the Word of God. We need to be challenged!

When is the last time you allowed the Bible to grab hold of you? Do you spend more time worrying about your checkbook or the word of God?

How about as a congregation? What a challenge that is to us. I bet if we did an analysis of recent council meetings we would see that we spent more time wrestling with the budget than the Bible.

I think we have officially been challenged!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cost of Convenience

Something has been nagging at me for a while now. How has Christianity become a faith of convenience? Read the assigned Gospel reading from Luke 14 and then come back and I'll share a little more...

What did you read there? Did you see anything that would suggest follow Jesus would be easy? Give away everything... take up your cross... It's a call to discipleship that appears to call for sacrifice and probably comes with a side dish of passion (at least I would think to be able to show such compassion so as to sacrifice on that level).

Now take a look at your average mainline (i.e Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) congregation and what do you see? Take a look at your congregation and what do you see? Sacrifice? Passion? I see a lot of people showing up when it's convenient or what it serves their needs or desires. How did things get so turned around?

As followers of Christ we are asked to take up our cross. Yes, there is suffering in the world, but that isn't necessarily your cross. Recent floods have decimated portions of Southern Minnesota. The floods discriminated equally amongst Christians and non-Christians. The floods are not necessarily their cross, nor were they God's judgment (at least I can't imagine so). To take up your cross means sacrificing and entering into the suffering with someone or on behalf (for the sake of) someone else. That, if you ask me, is a HUGE cost.

To be propelled by faith to enter into such suffering is not, in my mind, convenient in any way whatsoever. How did things get so turned around? How do we turn the ship back around again? How do we recover that radical sense of mission to the world? How do we instill that kind of passion to bring the Good News of Jesus to all the world, no matter what the cost?

What is faith of convenience actually costing us? Is it our lives?

Listening

Some might say that listening is easy. I think good listening is hard work. Listening can also be rewarding. To listen, really listen, one needs to listen beyond the words. So, in some ways, it is a little easier to do when someone is sharing about the death of a loved one. We recognize the pain, grief, and other emotions that come along side such sharing. We can listen deeply, we can empathize and we can know the rewards of allowing that person to share.

What about listening when what is being shared appears to be critical of you or something you are a part of? I believe a good leader is one who allows space for people to voice their criticism so that learning and growth can happen. As a leader you are often stuck looking to the future and can easily lose sight of the present.

My confession? I want to listen like this, but I don't think I do all so well. I need to hear the critique so I can grow, but when it comes it is easy to become defensive. I know that if I listen beyond the words I will hear a heartfelt desire to help bring improvement, a desire to help the greater good, but I hear attacks and fight back. How do you calmly listen as someone tells you that something you have poured your heart into has not gone as well as you had thought?

Listening is hard. Listening is necessary. Listening is rewarding. Listening is something I'm going to work on.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New Routines

Here are some potential new steps for the Lawn Chair Brigade... We may need to start practices soon, though.


Biblical Enthusiasm

Below is an excerpt from a soon to be published book, "Reclaiming the 'E' Word". I commend to you the exercise of taking the Bible seriously and asking the questions at the end of this section. It is true that as we engage with the Bible we are encountering God, that Christ has a way of showing up.

Likewise, I believe a lack of enthusiasm for the Biblical story is one of the reasons so many mainline congregations today are floundering. It isn’t just that so often Bible studies are poorly attended or that our meeting “opening devotions” are so anemic. It’s that too few people think in terms of the Biblical stories. They haven’t developed a habit of using the Biblical stories as a lens for understanding their own lives and contexts. And what’s frustrating is that, really, it just wouldn’t take that much effort. I’ve seen congregations come alive because the church council agreed to begin spending half of their time together listening for God’s voice through the Biblical story. I can’t say enough about the power of three simple questions: 1) What do you see God doing in this story?, 2) What do you hear God saying to you, personally, in this story?, 3) What do you hear God saying to us, as a congregation, in this story? I have seen people come alive because they have been courageous enough to dive into the Bible, asking questions like this.

(c) Kelly Fryer, 2007. All rights reserved.

Close to Home

This morning as I was reading a devotional the topic was about loving your wife. Funny how the timing of these things work. Just this morning before coming into the office Dawn and I had a little misunderstanding, a miscommunication, where the end result was that I wasn't very loving. This morning's reminder cut awful close to the heart.

Here is my challenge, though. I grew up in Minnesota, Lutheran, and with Scandinavian heritage. In many ways I embody the stereo-types that come with this sort of background. Oh, I can empathize with the best of them, but showing my very own feelings doesn't come easily. I can relate to the story of Lena on her 50th wedding anniversary saying to her husband Ole, "I wish you would say 'I love you' more often." To which Ole replied, "I said, 'I love you' on our wedding day. I'll let you know when that changes."

So how do you show love without being gushy, lovey-dovey? How do you show you love your spouse? Your family?