Saturday, December 20, 2008

Confusion in Minnesota

Are any of my Minnesota friends confused by our states attempt to elect a senator? It seems Franken might actually be in the lead... for now. Below is a report from MPR.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reading

Reading, I rarely do enough of it. I am easily distracted and start with good intentions of reading but instead I end up watching a stupid TV show or doing something else. Yet, I know that reading stirs and strengthens my soul. When I get on a roll with reading I recognize a depth to my life that isn't always there when I'm not reading as much. So today, I'm wondering, what are you reading? Who are you reading? I would love for you to share some of your favorite books or authors in the comment section.

For what it's worth here is a list of some of my favorite authors (in no particular order):

Barbara Brown Taylor
J.K. Rowling
Mike Yaconelli
Ted Dekker
Max Lucado
William Willimon
Dee Henderson
Stephen King
Frank E. Perreti
C.S. Lewis

How about you? What's on your list?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Great Start

Here is my sermon from Dec. 7, the Second Sunday in Advent. We looked at the Gospel of Mark, The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Son of God... which begins not with the birth of Jesus but with John the Baptizer. It's interesting that the Good News begins with repentance, and with the Gospel of Mark being the beginning of the Good News story that includes our story it is probably fitting... Does our story not begin with repentance? Isn't it with repentance that we begin to see Christ?

Close

I remember visiting a friend of mine a few years back and being amazed at how he and his wife could decipher what each different cry of their baby meant, they all sounded the same to me. Now that I'm a father I still don't have the crying figured out, but I am amazed at how much I can understand Andrew communicating by paying attention to him. He is generally a pretty relaxed baby, but there are times he does get fussy and cranky. One of the most common things that sets him off is when he is left by himself as Mommy & Daddy are quick trying to get some things done. He just wants to be close to us. When I come in the room to a crying, squawking baby and he stops and cuddles into my chest when I pick him up my heart melts quicker than butter in a microwave.

When it comes to your relationship with God, do you ever feel like Andrew? Do you have those times when you just want to be close? I know I do. In fact, this season of Advent leading up to Christmas is one of those times. There are so many distractions with staff parties to prepare, shopping to get done, decorations we want to get up, along with all of the other hecticness of daily life this time of year. In the midst of the busyness it's easy to discover that you've become isolated from God and... BOOM!... it hits you that all of this other stuff doesn't matter in comparison to just being close to God.

So go, get close, snuggle in with God.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness

Here is Stephen Colbert wrestling with the role of God in his own quirky kind of way in his segment "The Word". You might want to skip ahead a minute or two to get to the very start of the segment if you don't want to watch the whole thing. I think it's kind of interesting... What do you think?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reflectors

At text study today we were talking about John, who appears again in this Sunday's Gospel reading. In our assigned passage it is noted that John was not the light, but came as a witness to testify to the light. One of our wise members of the group then noted that this meant that John was in the dark and testified from the darkness, just as we do as preachers.

This got me to thinking that perhaps our identity can be described as reflectors. Driving back to our house from my parents home there is one curve that seems to pop up out of nowhere every time we drive that way. Thankfully there are reflectors around the curve and I tend to catch it in time and we make it safely. Most of the time the reflectors are dark, until light shines on them. Perhaps we are similar. We live in darkness until the light of Christ shines on us.

I realize there are a number of ways in which the analogy breaks down, just as all analogies do. However, I do think we are called to reflect the light. We are called to point (testify) to the light. Sometimes, I think we can't help but to reflect the light, it is who we are... who God has created us to be.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Edge

About 15 years ago I hiked to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park with some friends. When you get on the top there is about an acre of rock you can explore across. My friends immediately went to the edge of the very steep cliff to look down and all around. I, on the other hand, have a, let's say, healthy respect for heights so I kept a reasonable distance. My friends made me terribly nervous. I did manage to creep over to the edge (or at least quite close to it) a couple of times, but they were very brief visits.

On Sunday evening Luther Seminary had a worship service for those graduating in December or January. I got to attend because Dawn will joyfully be done in just a couple of short weeks. The sermon preached was based on Sunday's assigned gospel and talked about living on the edge. She talked about how that's where John was, baptizing in the wilderness on the edge of repentance and Jesus showing up. It got me to thinking about my journey up Half Dome.

It was on the edge that my friends found life, real exhilarating life. Isn't that what the "extreme" sports movement has been about, finding life? I might be comfortable and safe sitting on the sofa watching TV, but am I really experiencing life like those who are living on the edges? I wonder what that might be like to live my life on the edge, especially when it comes to living out my faith? Can I really live out there? I mean, it's really kind of a scary place to be. I seem to recall Jesus saying something about coming to give life, but am I ready for that?

How about you? Are you ready to live on the edge with Jesus? What might that look like for you?... I mean to REALLY live on the edge?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Discipleship Abuse

I read the following article from the late Mike Yaconelli today and really resonated with me, how about you?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suppose I took a group of dedicated high school football players and said to them, “If you’re really committed, if you’re serious about football, if you genuinely want to be the best, then I’m taking you to an NFL training camp so you can be a professional football player.”

You would look at me like I was crazy. These young people, passionate and dedicated as they are, would be slaughtered on that football field. They’d be destroyed physically and mentally. And I, as a coach, would be arrested for child abuse.

Then why do we say to junior high and high school students who sincerely want to follow Jesus and give their lives to God, “You need discipleship class. If you’re really committed and dedicated, then attend a discipleship class where you can become even more dedicated and committed. We’re going to make you a disciple.” If we do this, we’re guilty of disciple abuse.

I don’t believe in student discipleship.

I believe in encouragement, affirmation, education, service, and study. I believe in relationship, community, and fellowship. I believe in training, beginning, starting, and learning. I believe in praying together, playing together, talking together, hanging together, and living life together, but I don’t believe in “pouring my life into a student.” I believe in showing my life to a student and living my life in front of a student; I don’t believe in discipling young people.

“Too…young”

Young people are too…well…young to be disciples.

Apprentices? Of course. Beginners? Sure. Trainees? Interns? Absolutely. But not disciples.

We’ve convinced adults and parents that we have a program that can produce disciples. We perpetuate the illusion that we can take 13-year-olds and make disciples out of them. We actually act as though we can transform a group of inconsistent, uncommitted adolescents into mature, committed disciples by spending an extra hour or two a week with them.

Not possible.

Are students capable of heroic acts? Absolutely! Can a 13-year-old be committed to Jesus? Yes, as long as we understand what we mean by committed. Can young people make a difference in the world? Of course they can, but we’re still not talking about disciples.

“Discipleship requires…”

Discipleship isn’t about coming to more meetings than non-disciples. It’s not about leadership or getting involved in service projects. Discipleship isn’t about filling out a booklet. It’s a way of living; it’s the process of figuring out what it means to believe in Jesus in the everydayness of my life.

Because most students in our youth groups have been protected from suffering (Remember all the parents who showed up for your Mexico orientation concerned about whether or not the trip would be safe? And you lied and said it would be?), because most students have been continually rescued by mom and dad, and because most students haven’t been prepared for the real world, they’re not prepared for the complicatedness of life.

Discipleship requires maturity, experience, and depth. Discipleship requires extensive time. Discipleship requires intensity, isolation, and independence. Discipleship requires spending time with Jesus, not with you and me. Discipleship requires a lifetime of figuring out what it means to follow Jesus.

“Ruin their lives…”

Before the mail starts, by all means, spend time with young people, study with them, pray with them, introduce them to Jesus, affirm them, encourage them, challenge them, attract them, motivate them, suffer with them, cry with them, and push them. Ruin their lives by introducing them to the compelling, attractive, demanding, frightening Jesus.

Most of all, love them. Believe in them. Trust them. Be an example for them. Stick it out with them over the long haul. And some day, when they’re older, when they’ve weathered a few storms, when they’ve been beaten up by life a bit, they may actually start looking like a disciple—not because you discipled them, but because you refused to give up on them.

A Disruptive Gospel

The gospel from this past Sunday is still rattling around in my head. In my sermon I talked about how our opening passage from Mark really kind of sets the tone for the rest of the story, and really for the rest of our lives (since I theorized that the Gospel of Mark is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God). It just keeps striking me over and over again how the Gospel of Mark has way of abruptly bouncing you around like a pinball in a pinball machine that is nothing less than disruptive and intrusive and that's exactly how Jesus tends to act in our lives. We're called this way. Asked to do that. Sent another way. Invited to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and befriend (pray for/love/forgive) our enemies. Jesus certainly has a way of getting our attention... I just don't know that it's through a warm, fuzzy disneyfied version of a deity.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Family Pictures

Last Sunday, our friend Krystal took some super cool family pictures. She's posted a few of them here, if you want to check them out.

A St. Olaf Christmas

Last night we had the privilege of attending the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which, as usual, was awesome. It seems it should be streamed and broadcast live on Sunday for those who might be interested. Attending is always great because it brings me back to some wonderful years when I attended there. It was also a wonderful reminder of just how very many talented musicians there are in this world. It is amazing to realize all of these extremely talented musicians are under the age of 22. It is also an incredible reminder of the power of music to draw you into worship and the proclamation of the Word. There is something special about music that draws you into the story in a deeper, more layered, kind of way. It was just about the perfect way to kick the season of Advent into high gear and to begin to prepare the heart for the celebration of Christ breaking into this world.

Although, on another level it also tickled my pleasure of people watching. It was fun to see so many people all decked out in their Norwegian sweaters. It's almost obnoxious really. Still, I proudly wore mine. Yet, more fun than that was watching the musicians, especially the choir members. I enjoyed watching those who sang with their whole body, singing seemingly from the very bottom of their toes. I was struck by the lone young woman singing tenor with all of the other men. I was drawn to those who appeared to be a little more rough around the edges yet here they were singing like an angel. It really was pretty awesome.

Advent Friday Five

"Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas)


The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound....


But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour the Emperor or Christ?"


And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism....


Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again...


Christ is with us at this time of advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty.



What do you long for this advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today?
In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five advent longings....

Given the twists and turns of this past year I can see that my longings are a bit more selfish and materialistic than one might anticipate in a season intended to focus on Christ... I guess sometimes that's just the reality of life. With that being said here are my five:

1) That we sell our house. Every day there seems to be a new report about the economy falling apart. I'm not too worried about us personally, except that I recognize these reports can create panic in others leading them to believe they can't afford to buy our house. At this point an unsold house may not totally break us, but it certainly will be much more of a hassle than we want to deal with.

2) I hope that our transition to a new call goes as smoothly and seamlessly as one could possibly hope for. What will the good-byes entail or bring? What will the new stop be like and how will we be greated?

3) That Dawn might find a call that is fitting of her and our life, that it might fit with my call in a way that works for our whole family.

4) That I might be recharged spiritually. I want to see passions of faith rekindled so that it might be infectious for others.

5) That I might find a group of colleagues as helpful and supportive as I've had here with our text study group who has been absolutely AWESOME!!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Some say the eyes are a window to a persons soul... It is true you can learn a lot by looking into a persons eyes. We have found that to be particularly true watching our 3 month old son. I really love to watch as he sits up and immediately his eyes start to dart around the room. He's soaking everything in, learning anything he can about his surroundings.

Lately, Andrew, has started to discover his hands. On several occasions we've caught him working really hard to fold his hands (about the cutest thing ever). He has also recently discovered he can put his hand in his mouth and have something else to suck on. Oh yeah, and if it doesn't fall too far he is figuring out how to get the pacifier back in his mouth.

What I see is eyes looking to constantly learn. As an infant child it appears that Andrew has found great joy in learning. In fact, his eyes are constantly searching to learn more. I wonder, what happens to us that we lose that insatiable desire to learn? Where did it fall away? Oh, from time to time I enjoy learning. but it's not a passion. Some people still have it, how did they maintain it? Why is it when I give in to my desire to explore, and hence learn, the people around me make fun of me?

Mother & Son... beautiful



Here is another great picture from Krystal from last weekends wedding. (Again, you may need to click on the image to see the whole picture.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Twitter of Faith

Over at the Youth Specialties Blog (Youth Specialties is a leader in Youth Ministry) they wrote about a social experiment where they asked people to "twitter*" their personal faith statement. Take a look at some of the results, how might you state your faith in 140 characters or less? Share your answer in the comments section.

*Twitter is an online way to update friends as to what you are doing in a pithy 140 characters or less statement.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Smiles & Laughs



A great shot from our friend Krystal at our friend's Hannah & Jarod's wedding on Saturday. Turns out we had fun during the free skate following the ceremony. (You might need to "click" on the picture to see the full picture.)

Why Are You Involved?

I'm wondering, as an adult in the church, why are you involved? Is there an event, an activity, or a relationship that connected you to the church that has now stuck for life?

I'm thinking about this today because as you look at most youth ministries it is typical that as the grades get older the participation becomes less. As congregations and ministry groups we are working hard to implement great programs and ideas, but still we seem to lack the staying power. It used to be assumed, in many mainline traditions, that youth might disappear after being confirmed but they'll return when they have kids. It seems that's no longer quite true. So despite our best efforts we're losing people. It makes me think that maybe we need to rethink how we're doing things... but how?

When I look back on my formative years I can see several things that played a role in my being where I am today. First, God was active through my family who laid it out as an expectation that we would be participating in worship. Then, when I was in 3rd grade I was asked to participate in worship for the first time by reading the lessons in worship (as in the whole congregation, not children's or youth worship). When I was in 5th grade there was a Young Life leader in town who was about to start seminary who stopped and asked who I was and what I was interested in. When I was in 9th grade I was asked by the adult youth leaders to participate in a retreat for planning for the future of the youth ministry in our congregation. They all, I think, affirmed my importance in the eyes of God. I learned that I was important enough for God to use me. Now I'm hooked. I want God to use me, to involve me in what God is up to in the world.

So why are you involved? Is there an event, an activity, or a relationship that connected you to the church that has now stuck for life? Please post a comment and share your story.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What Gives? (a rant)

Greetings faithful checker inners, as you may have noticed this past month has been a bit sporadic. It turns out that when I'm not in the office I also get out of the habit of posting. In my final weeks here at Christ Lutheran I hope to be more consistent in sharing my thoughts, including a few reflections on the transition process.

For today, I would like to ask, "What gives?"

In a world that is hyper sensitive to child safety, especially in terms of touch, sexuality, and abduction issues, why does it seem socially appropriate for complete and total strangers to come up and touch my child? For those of you I don't know, please don't touch my child. He is the single most precious thing in my life and I don't where your hands have been, what you are going to do to my child, so please don't touch him. Am I allowed to touch and tickle you in return? This last weekend while at a wedding reception I had someone with the audacity to come up behind me, without me knowing it, and reach around in front of me to touch my child. Then when I went to go change his diaper I literally had people chasing after me to touch my baby. Oh, and did I mention I have never met these people, they never introduced themselves or anything. I might have been arrested if I had touched them the way they touched my child, yet it's supposed to be OK for them.

A few weeks ago we were at a pastors conference and a woman I had never seen before in my life came up to me and said, "Can I hold your baby so it's not a burden for you to eat." OK, first of all I don't know you and you asked in such a way that I feel rude for saying, "No." Second of all I REALLY love spending time with my son and it is in no way a burden to have him with me as I eat. If I don't get to eat as much, I end up eating cold food, or I struggle to eat it is well worth that price to be able to hold my son. There is NOTHING better in the world.

Honestly, I don't get it. I am on the verge of snapping (OK, I'm sure a number of you feel I already have, but I don't think I'm quite there yet). If we were the only parents in the world experiencing this I might be able to chalk it up to something like having the cutest baby in the world (which we just might have), but I'm pretty sure this is not a unique experience. So what gives? Why has this kind of behavior been allowed to flourish?

My child is the single most important thing in the world and he is at the most vulnerable stage of his life, so if I don't know you please keep your distance. If I know you and we have a relationship, then I most certainly am willing to share with you the most amazing boy in the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Funeral and a Moving Truck

Today is the funeral for a member of our congregation who battled cancer for nearly three years. She was, and is, the embodiment of so many cliches you here at a time like this like: "She was far too young to die" or "She was so full of life." She absolutely was those things and more. She leaves behind three teenage children and a husband. However, she was a vibrant person here on earth and so I fully expect the service today to be the same... a true celebration of her life.

What I hope I don't here is those platitudes so often uttered at a time like this. Oh, they are well meaning, but I think sometimes people miss the implications of what they're saying.

"God must have needed another angel." Really? God needed her more in heaven than her husband, kids, other family, and friends? That must be a small weak God you believe in if you believe that God needed her more. Yes, God will benefit by her presence at the banquet table, but I highly doubt God needed her more.

"Don't worry, God doesn't give you more than you can handle." I don't know, call me crazy but I am pretty confident that having your wife die in the prime of her life is more than someone can handle alone. I suspect having to try and raise three teenagers alone who are now, understandably, acting out because of their mother while you are dealing with your own personal grief is probably more than one can handle alone. I have a hunch that having your mother die while you are still a teenager is more than one person can handle. I do, however, believe that God will help you handle whatever life dishes out. With God walking by their side they will be able to handle it... eventually... Which leads to the other problem with the statement. It implies that God has given this family this situation, that it was God who killed their wife, mother, or daughter. Really?

Anyway, I suppose it's an appropriate day for a funeral. Today we are taking a moving van of stuff to Rome. The "For Sale" sign is in the yard and today the moving process "officially" begins even if my call doesn't quite end yet. So today, as we start closing another chapter in our own lives a little piece of us will die.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Smiles


I've found it interesting that one of the first things Andrew has learned to do is smile. It is also one of his favorite things to do. It turns out this is pretty normal behavior for a baby. So it got me wondering, why do babies like to smile so much? What happens to us as adults that so many of us lose that natural desire to smile?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Take A Chance

Yesterday's gospel reading was the parable of the talents and I'm wondering if anyone else had an Abba soundtrack running through their head? Anyone else hear God saying, "Take a chance on me?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are You Ready?

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday. For those who have been following along with this Blog, my apologies for not posting in a while. Last week I was in the office only one day and really only a couple of hours of that one day. I think things are settling out a bit... we'll see though.

Mistakes

I came across this quote earlier today:

YOU MAKE MISTAKES. Duh. Of course you make mistakes. That's what happens when you follow Jesus with passion. Mistakes are part of success. Mistakes validate your ministry because it means you're taking risks.

If only more of us felt so free to make mistakes, to shed the expectations of culture and society and instead to follow Jesus with reckless abandon. Imagine what this world might look like if we lived this way.

If you are a leader in your congregation then I hope you hear this as your call today: Go forth and make mistakes!... for the sake of Jesus of course.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yes We Can 2: A Lesson in Stewardship

Did you hear Barack Obama's charge to his supporters throughout the campaign? Did you hear what he asked of them? He asked people to sacrifice. He asked people to give what they could be it $5 or $500. The amount didn't matter so much, but the act of giving mattered more. The result was unprecedented amounts of money flowing through his campaign. The result was unbelieveable support and loyalty that came with remarkable celebrations in the street upon Barack Obama's victory.

I don't know about you, but that sounds a lot like a church stewardship campaign to me. Or maybe it should sound that way. Are we asking people to sacrafice? Are we asking people to give what they can? When people respond to this responsibility of ours as followers of Christ I believe we will find that there is enough money for the ministry as well as a support and loyalty to the ministry of the church. As leaders in the church we need to remember that it's not about us, or our personalities, but it is about the mission that we are trying to accomplish. Barack Obama's campaign in large part was about something bigger than him, something historic. Isn't that true in the church as well?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can

Specific issues aside, last nights election brought some wonderful moments.

I loved how John McCain presented himself in his concession speech. He showed me that if he had been elected he would have made a good president as well. It was the John McCain that had me excited about the possibility of him being one of the final two candidates. He showed a level of class and support for Obama that I wish more of his supporters would have shown. I have a hunch that if Barack Obama winds up with a legacy of bringing this country back together and setting us on a new, positive path that John McCain will be a big reason behind the scenes.

I admit I shed a tear of joy during Barack Obama's speech. I was struck by how when I first paid attention to politics, just a little bit, in my teen years and there was talk then that we would probably never see an African American elected president in our lifetime. That wasn't all so long ago. What about my parents generation? My parents were born before Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. How differently have things changed in that generations lifetime? Now, I'm looking at a world in which my son will grow up in world where an African American President of the United States is normal, which I think simply opens the doors further for an Hispanic President, a Female President, and whatever other barriers yet remain. If for no other reason, this was a good day.

On a more minor note, I think it was good day for many of us because now the politcal advertising should all be gone. To inappropriately misquote the African American spiritual, "Free at Last, Free at Last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free!"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween

I'll admit I'm a bit of a bore when it comes to Halloween. I just don't find a whole lot of joy in celebrating it. This often comes as a surprise to many as it is often viewed as a holiday that celebrates the child in all of us and many are still waiting for me to grow up. However, for some reason, I'm still a stick in the mud when it comes to Halloween. On the other hand, I know many of you love celebrating Halloween. If you are one of those people that gets a kick out of Halloween I would love for you to post a comment and share your favorite Halloween memory.

Friday "Fried" Five

As I zip around the webring it is quite clear that we are getting BUSY. "Tis the season" when clergy and laypeople alike walk the highwire from Fall programming to Christmas carrying their balancing pole with family/rest on the one side and turkey shelters/advent wreaths on the other.And so I offer this Friday Five with 5 quick hit questions... and a bonus:

1) Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do?
I would really like to say I exercise or something healthy like that. Reality, however, is that it is more often than not TV. In large part because what gets me "fried" is thinking too much about stuff and TV has a wonderful way of allowing my brain to turn off, which is really a release I need. Things like exercise and reading simply help stimulate my brain, and that's not always a good thing in my life.

2) Your work week is done and the brain is fried (for some Friday, others Sunday afternoon), what do you do?
Sunday afternoon is absolutely nap time. My wife and I typically like to try and do something that gets us out of the house. For a while our tradition was to drive into town to a coffee shop and relax with a cup of coffee and a good book on our Friday off. Unfortunately, her class schedule hasn't really allowed for that in quite some time. Perhaps when the semester is over we can begin the tradition anew.

3) Like most of us, I often keep myself busy even while programs are on the tv. I stop to watch The Office and 30 Rock on Thursday nights. Do you have 'stop everything' tv programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments?
I am absolutely saddened to answer this one. Our list of shows is far too long. They include: Chuck, Prison Break, Boston Legal, Law & Order: SVU, Survivor, ER, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It appears "House" my be getting added to the list, which is unfortunate because we've been working hard to remove some. If either of our teams (Vikings, Packers, Badgers, or Gophers) are on TV we'll usually make a point of watching them play as well.

4) When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny?
Last spring after one of the evenings of Synod Assembly a bunch of local pastors and their spouses gathered at one of the pastors houses. I couldn't tell you what was specifically funny, but I clearly remember laughing from deep down in the bottom of my belly. Part of it was just some really great people with some wonderful senses of humor. Part of it was that we were all pastors who understand the inability to let down our hair in the company of parishoners and we were finally able to do it in this particular setting. I'm going to get to spend some extended time with them this coming week at our synod theological conference and I am very much looking forward to that.

5) What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not.
At the risk of sounding totaly lame or trying to cop out, I think we (especially me) are cheap when it comes to everything... Of course, now that I look back on it, this just might be a political season inspired answer.
Wow, after reading my friends answers here, I realized I needed to amend my answer to look a lot more like his. You shouldn't... no... can't go cheap on either beer or coffee, especially coffee. The difference in taste is well worth the price... Thanks Pastor Scott!

Bonus: It's become trite but is also true that we often benefit the most when we give. Go ahead, toot your own horn. When was the last time you gave until it felt good?
I don't know if I can recall the last time, but there is a giving moment that stands out in my head. About ten years ago now I was meeting with a group of friends for a bible study at a local coffee shop. Just a day or two before we were meeting I had come into a good chunk of money, at least for me. (I think it was a tax refund, but to be honest I no longer remember where it came from.) I decided I wanted to do something fun with it. So I arrived at the coffee shop early and I wrote a check for $100 and said I wanted to anonymously pay for everybody that came after me until the money was used up. I swear they started giving discounts on drinks for the number of people that got free ones. It was so much fun to watch peoples reactions. Eventually we went into our meeting room and one of my friends came in with so much excitement saying, "You got hurry out there, they're giving free drinks." It was worth it to see that smile from ear to ear. A few days later I received a thank you note (because my address was on the check) from the coffee shop that was even signed by a number of customers. That was a REALLY fun night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Zehnder

Here is a group that recently came recommended to me. They produce worship music out of a Presbyterian congregation in Los Angeles. What do you think?

Sin and Money

The last two weeks I've gotten to have some marvelous discussions with a couple of different groups of 8th grade girls. Last night we got to talking about the upcoming election. The group was divided on who they would vote for for president. There was some lively banter back and forth with some excellent points on both sides. I wish more adults could have that kind of discussion. It was also fun because they kept trying to tie back into faith issues including baptism (which we talked about at confirmation last night). Had they talked about this at the lunch table I doubt the faith stuff would have come up as much. It made me think we might need to talk politics as well as other difficult issues more often at church. It was a wonderful healthy discussion that wrestled with how our faith informs our positions.

One of the more striking topics was that same debate that our presidential candidates are hotly engaged in, taxes and distribution of wealth. Talking about it as we did in the context in which we talked really brought to light the flaws on both sides... SIN.

On the one side of the argument you have a more conservative, Republican, point of view that says we shouldn't be penalized for success. If I earn/make the money I should be allowed to decide the best way to use it to help. We are seeing how greed takes over with that theory with the recent news from Wall Street. Just this last week Alan Greenspan essentially said, "Oops! My bad. I thought the goodness of people would regulate the market just fine. Turns out greed won the day."

On the other side of the argument is the liberal, Democratic, point of view that says the rich can't be trusted with the entire burden therefore the government needs to put rules in place so that all get cared for. You push that theory further and you get to something that looks like communism. I still believe the Marxist notion of sharing the wealth at that very base level of everybody being equal is good. The problem is that sin still exists and what we've seen in recent history with communism is the sins of power and greed have overwhelmed leaders and it all breaks down.

Both theories, I suppose could work. The problem is sin. We need to get rid of sin. If it just weren't for that stupid serpent and the fruit of the tree of life. It really kind of messed things up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lutheran Song

In honor of Reformation Sunday yesterday, I invite you to click here and listen to Lutheran Song and the montage that was created to go with it.

Snuggling

Every now and again Andrew will be lying on the middle of our bed as we're getting ready for the day, ready for bed, etc. I'm often overcome with an almost uncontrollable urge to lie down myself and snuggle and hug the little guy endlessly. So far he has yet to hug me back or give me a kiss. Heck I haven't even gotten a smile out of it. In fairness, I guess he kicks randomly and produces spit bubbles. I'm told it has something to do with him only being 8 weeks old and not capable yet... But I do wish we would return the love with something other than filling his diaper.

It makes me wonder, though, if it might be similar with my heavenly father sometimes. Are there times that God comes and attempts to snuggle with me and I respond by staring aimlessly and kicking randomly. I do know I'm good at spit bubbles too if called upon. Am I largely oblivious to the love my heavenly father has to share with me? Am I simply incapable of returning that love because of my lack of spiritual maturity?


Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Five Favorite Locations

This post is about locations. My husband has lived at 64 addresses in his life so far (16 with me) and he suggested the topic since we have moving trucks on our minds.

Therefore, tell us about the five favorite places you have lived in your lifetime. What did you like? What kind of place was it? Anything special happen there?

Here are my five favorite (I think) places I have lived listed in no particular order...

Nome, AK
I did my internship there. It is one of the few places I've lived where I had friends I could just drop in on and visit with and have no further expectations. I got to co-host a morning radio show and experienced a number of different adventures including skijoring. I watched, and broadcast, the finish of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Mostly, I made some really good friendships.

Portland, OR
I did CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education...kind of a chaplaincy requirement of seminary), which was a great experience for me. Portland allowed for a lot of fun outdoor adventures. The hiking and camping around the area was pretty awesome. I also got to spend the summer with a good friend from high school and his wife, which was pretty cool as well.

Visalia, CA
This is the first place I lived after college. It is located in the Central Valley of CA so there were adventures to be had in LA, San Fran, in the mountains and on the coast. I learned a lot there about doing ministry and the importance of great parents to the "success" of youth ministry. I made some pretty wonderful friends that supported me through a lot of growing experiences. I was really validated in my call to ordained ministry there... it just took a few more years to explore that call.

Gypsum, CO
How can you really argue with living in the mountains? I spent a summer preaching in a Lutheran congregation there. Really, all I did was preach on Sunday so I had the week to run and play in the mountains. I learned to whitewater kayak that summer, which was totally awesome. I got to get on the river every Thursday evening. I also got work as a water at a cool 50's style malt shop just three blocks away from where they were hosting the Kobe Bryant trial (what a zoo that was). It was interesting getting to know the "regulars" there and building relationships in that sort of setting. I also got to spend some good time with a friend from high school, including hiking two 14ers.

Minocqua, WI
I stayed with one of the greatest families for a summer in Minocqua. I preached at three campgrounds every Sunday. I spent the rest of the week reading, napping, and water skiing. That was also the summer I discovered Culver's frozen custard and their flavor of the day, which was great for my taste buds but not so good for the waist line.

The common thread I see flowing through each of these and the number of others I could add to the list as well is the people. What made each location great that I've lived in is the people. What is great, and comforting, is that these locations represent a variety of different geographic locations really, which tells me that there are good people wherever you go. So as we take on new adventures in life we can be happy wherever we end up because there are likely to be good people there, even if the terrain and weather looks different than what we're used to.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Andrew's Baptism

Here is the clip from Andrew's Baptism this last Sunday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bus Drivers

Last week on WCCO they did a report on the Independence Party Candidate for Senator, Dean Barkley. One of the things they talked about was earlier this year he had hit upon some hard times and he found himself driving bus to make ends meat. Dean Barkley made a comment to the effect that people were surprised that he would stoop to such a job. He was a little floored by that and said, "People go, how could you drive a Metro Mobility bus. Well, what's wrong with that? I felt good. That was a fun job." What a great question. Now, I don't want to suggest that I am now officially backing Dean Barkley to represent the state of Minnesota as our senator, but I do want to suggest that his take on driving bus is something for more of us to consider. (If you are interested in the whole report you can read/see it here.)

We are all given different gifts and interests from God. I think we need to pursue our passions more than we need to pursue the almighty dollar. In fact, it seems that sometimes these positions considered to be "lesser" jobs can actually have more of an impact than one could ever imagine. When you're driving a bus or working at a fast food restaurant just imagine all of the differents lives you cross paths with each and every day. Just think about the kind of impact you can have on such a wide variety of lives. In fact, all of this reminds me of one of my all time favorite songs by Caedmon's Call called "Bus Driver" which talks about just that.

Here is one kids take on that same song:


Monday, October 20, 2008

Death of Conservatism?

Early Sunday morning before heading off to worship I was watching the Chris Matthews Show. Towards the end of the show it was suggested that the success of Barack Obama indicates the death of conservative era which began with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan in 1964. One of the panel members who views himself very much a conservative, so much so he suggested getting chills just thinking about Pres. Reagan and some of the things he championed, suggested that maybe it's not done but Pres. Bush has killed it for the time being.

Then I learn that on Meet the Press Collin Powell is now endorsing Barack Obama for president. So I'm starting to think maybe there's something to this notion.

So here's what I'm wondering: Since I wasn't born until after 1964, I tend to fall a little more liberally politically, and I haven't really paid real close attention to politics until the last 5-6 years I'm wondering what others think about this notion. Are we seeing the end of the conservative era? Did Pres. Bush essentially kill it? Just drive it into hibernation? What does this seemingly substantial lead by Barack Obama say about conservative politics, if anything?

Slow Down

Over the past week or so I've read a number of devotions that have talked about the busyness of life. One today talked about hurried discipleship. How often do we look at discipleship as a set of programs, twelve step process, or something we can power up to in a relatively short period of time. Yet, isn't discipleship about relationship...the relationship... our relationship with Jesus? When have you ever built a relationship in 8 steps or 6 weeks and then were able to call it good for life? You haven't! Discipleship is something that takes time, takes a lifetime, and only happens by slowing down, setting "doing" aside, and nurturing that relationship.

We talked about this notion a little bit last week at our church council meeting. I asked the question, "What would it be like, what would happen, if we shut down all programing here at Christ Lutheran and hung out with Jesus for a year?" One person was actually brave enough to give the answer as most people were probably thinking with "It wouldn't work." We as a church have programmed people to think that the way we counteract the busyness of the world is by creating our own busyness. The response also gets at the concern that if we're not doing "stuff" then we also won't be bringing in money. So it becomes a bottom line issue as well.

But what, if we did slow down and take this discipleship thing seriously? What if we shed some of the things of the world and focused on building a relationship with Christ? The world would likely push back. We might find ourselves living with less money in our bank account. We might find ourselves volunteering at community service organizations. We might find our priorities completely readjusted... But would that be all bad? Would the rewards be worth it?

What do you think?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Five Coin Toss

Well, Gals and Pals, this weekend we'll be rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and that has me thinking about coinage.

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person?
Oh boy, it's hard to recall how long ago, exactly, it was. However, if I remember correctly it was at a restaurant when I couldn't decide between two choices. Often that is the best way for me to decide... Probably my favorite coin flip of all time (at least to this point in my life) was in "No Country for Old Men" which I referenced in an entry a little while back.


2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from?
I know I have some German coins from when I got to travel there in college. Where are they? Who knows, but my bet would be the fanny pack I took on that trip. I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing Dawn has some from China after doing mission work there for 2 years.


3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place?
Well, it's hard to say. On the one hand, they say you can't take it with you. On the other hand there is the old joke about a million dollars to us being worth a penny to God (along with a thousand years being a second to God) and the gentleman asking God for a million dollars, to which God responds, "In a second."


4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.)
If I remember correctly I got a quarter growing up. When I lived in CA some family friends of ours gave 50 cents. I was over visiting one night and their son had lost a tooth and was all excited to show me. That night I stayed up late with his parents splitting about a bottle and a half of wine with his mother. Before we knew it the clock was pushing 2 a.m. and Mom hadn't left the tooth fairy money. It just so happened I had gotten a 50 cent piece for change at restaurant earlier in the day, so I offered her that. Bright and early the next morning their son excited woke me up (much to the chagrin of an achy head) to show me this super cool gift from the tooth fairy. It was tough to feign excitement... still, it's a good memory.

5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it?
Initially I did not, I wished I had. Then, I married someone who had been collecting them with her grandmother. My wife, Dawn, has largely lost interest, but I can hardly wait for Hawaii (the only one we have left). I think it's super cool! I'm guessing Andrew will love it one day as well... at least he better :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Please Say Goodbye to Jesus For Me

Here is an article I recently came across by Mike Yaconelli that was published Nov. 2000

Every month the youth group at River Road Church visited Holcomb Manor, a local nursing home, to do the church services for the people who stayed there. Daryl Jenkins, a reluctant youth group volunteer and former alcoholic, didn't like nursing homes and had avoided the services. But because of a flu epidemic, Daryl was asked to join a depleted group of sponsors to help with the monthly service. He agreed to go as long as he didn't have to be part of the program.

The day of the service, Daryl felt awkward and out of place. While the service was in progress, Daryl leaned against the back wall, between two residents in wheelchairs. Just as the service finished and Daryl thought about a quick exit, someone grabbed his hand. Startled, Daryl looked down to see a very old man in a wheelchair holding on to his hand tightly. The man was frail and obviously lonely. What could Daryl do but hold his hand back? Oliver Leak was his name, his 91-year-old frame bent and twisted, his face covered with deep wrinkles, and his mouth open most of the time. Oliver's face was expressionless, and Daryl doubted whether the man could hear or see anything.

As everyone began to leave, Daryl realized he didn't want to leave the old man -- he'd been left too many times in his long life. Confused by his feelings, Daryl leaned over to Oliver and whispered, "I'm...uh...sorry. I have to leave, but I'll be back. I promise." Without any warning, Mr. Leak responded by squeezing Daryl's hand and then let go. Daryl's eyes filled with tears, and he grabbed his stuff and started to leave. Inexplicably, Daryl heard himself say to the old man, "I love you." (Where did that come from? What's the matter with me?)

Daryl came back the next month...and the month after that. The routine was the same: Daryl would stand in the back, Mr. Leak would grab his hand, Daryl would say he had to leave, Mr. Leak would squeeze his hand, and Daryl would say softly, "I love you, Mr. Leak." (He had learned his name, of course.) Soon Daryl would find himself looking forward to visiting his old friend.

On Daryl's sixth visit, he could tell something was wrong. Mr. Leak wasn't at the service. Daryl wasn't too concerned at first because it often took the nurses a long time to wheel everyone out. But as the service went on, Daryl became alarmed. He went to the head nurse. "Um, I don't see Mr. Leak here today. Is he okay?" The nurse asked Daryl to follow her, and she led him to Room 27 where Oliver lay in his bed, his eyes closed, his breathing uneven. At 40 years of age, Daryl had never seen someone dying, but he knew Oliver was near death. Slowly Daryl walked to the side of the bed and grabbed Oliver's hand. Oliver was unresponsive, and it didn't take long for the tears to come for Daryl. They had never spoken, and Daryl knew he might never see Oliver alive again. So much he wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come out. They were together about an hour when the youth director gently interrupted Daryl to say they were leaving.

Daryl stood to leave and squeezed Mr. Leak's hand for the last time, "I'm sorry, Oliver, I have to go. I love you." As he unclasped his hand, he felt a squeeze. The tears were unstoppable now. Daryl stumbled toward the door, trying to gain his composure.

A young woman was standing at the door, and Daryl almost bumped into her. "I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't see you."

"It's all right. I've been waiting to see you," she said. "I'm Oliver's granddaughter. He's dying, you know."

"Yes, I know."

"I wanted to meet you," she went on. "When the doctors said he was dying, I came immediately. We were very close. They said he couldn't talk, but he always talked to me. Not much, but I knew what he was saying. Last night he woke up. His eyes were bright and alert. He looked straight into my eyes and said, 'Please say goodbye to Jesus for me,' and he lay back down and closed his eyes. I whispered to him, 'Grandpa, I don't need to say goodbye to Jesus. You're going to be with him soon, and you can tell him hello.' He struggled to open his yes again, but theis time his face lit up with a mischievous smile that he only gave to me, and he said clearly as I'm talking to you, 'I know, but Jesus comes to see me every month, and he might not know I've gone.' He closed his eyes and hasn't spoken since.

"I told the nurse what he said, and she told me about you coming every month, holding his hand. I wanted to thank you for him, for me, and...well... I never thought of Jesus being as chubby and bald as you, but I imagine Jesus is very glad to have been mistaken for you. I know Oliver is. Than you." She leaned over and kissed Daryl on the forehead. Oliver Leak died peacefully the next morning.

May God give us m ore volunteers like Daryl Jenkins.

Hmmm....


Here is a picture of me when I was about Andrew's age. I find a certain relief that he looks a bit like I did back then. No need for a DNA test here. It is interesting because one of the most common comments that Dawn and I hear is something along the lines of, "Andrew looks nothing like his father. Look at all of that hair." What we find funny, now, is that we've heard it approximately 800 times, yet people say it and feel like they're being terribly original....



Somewhat related, I'm wondering why it is socially acceptable to make fun of bald people? Often I lament the loss of my hair and it hurts when I'm reminded of that loss. I know people mean no harm so I laugh along with them, but it's hard sometimes... Speaking of socially acceptable, why is it socially acceptable for strangers to talk to me because I'm carrying a baby? Why is do some of those people think it's OK to touch my baby, or even ask to hold him? People I know, I am thrilled to show off my child. People I have never met, I am not real thrilled to have you interacting with my child. How do I know where that stranger has been and that they're safe?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One Doozy of a Wedding

Here is my sermon from this past week where I talked about the parable of the wedding banquet to talk about a call to righteousness... perhaps something we all could afford to hear. If you've read previous entries you might recognize a few previous rants as well...


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Support the Troops

I have heard it said that the biggest fear is public speaking. Since I get up and speak in public on a regular basis some might argue that I'm a pretty brave person. They might be right (whoever "they" are). However, I would suggest that anybody who is willing to go into an area where they may or may not try and kill and do their part in attempting to bring peace (or at least a cease fire) is somewhere around 100 times braver than me. Anyone who is serving, or has served in the military absolutely amazes me... if for no other reason than I don't think I'm capable.

This afternoon I had the privilege of preaching at a nursing home in Rochester. The volunteer who played the piano for us also graduated from St. Olaf. She graduated about 50 years before me. She was there during the war. She mentioned it was a different time then. No kidding! It really struck me when she mentioned that. We see signs and hear politicians say, "Support our troops!"

It sounds good doesn't it? Support Our Troops! You bet we do. Those men and women are amazing people and I am grateful for everything they do. Here's the problem I have: "Support Our Troops" doesn't appear to be much more than a slogan to me. What, honestly, are we doing to support our troops? The way things operate around this country you would hardly know we were a country at war. Here is a poster from WWII:


What have we sacrificed? How are we REALLY supporting the troops? What can we do? What should we do? How do we make it something meaningful, something more than a politically correct slogan that is spouted off to keep from being lambasted?

Proud Father

I can't help it. I've tried to be limited on talking about and sharing about Andrew, but he really is great. We have been so very blessed. He is a mellow kid, who sleeps really well at night. Here are some of my favorite recent pictures of him:







































Locks

I've noticed something interesting. Over the three years I've been here we keep adding more and more locks. Now, some of them are for good reason but it feels like we spend more time keeping people out than inviting people in. Aren't we called to welcome the stranger?

It's easy to notice putting a lock on a door or a thermostat, but we put them in other places as well, don't we? We make assumptions like people know where to get coffee and where acceptable places are to sit, who to talk to, and how to behave during worship. We use code words like gospel, sermon, and sacrament. We sit on the end of the pew so that people need to crawl over us to get to an open spot instead of sliding to the middle so the open spots are easily acceptable. Aren't we called to welcome the stranger?

As we move forward in ministry what are we going to do? Add more locks? I suspect that would be our natural human instinct but perhaps not where God is calling us.

In Fairness

I know at times I have been a bit more critical of the Republican party. As they say on the local sports radio station, "FICA (Fairness In Conversation Act), the Republicans are certainly trying to do the right thing."

As I've watched some of this financial stuff unfold I think Pres. Bush is working hard to try and do the right thing. I think he has even said some good things in regards to encouraging us not to panic in face of what we're seeing on Wall Street, etc. The problem, I see, is that he said similar things as we entered into Iraq and the majority of this country see the war as a colossal blunder of policy by Pres. Bush and the administration. I hope he continues to work in a positive direction.

Speaking of Pres. Bush, this current financial situation has brought something interesting to light for me. Regardless of what you think of the President and his policies he is still our president, our leader, right? Whatever happened to being supportive of our leaders? Now, I don't have a problem offering advice for making improvements, or even disagreeing with decisions that are made. Even so, I think we need to find a way to support our leader. I think that's going to be critical as we elect a new president as well. If the polls are correct close to half of us are going to be disappointed with whomever wins.

Finally, did you see the rally/town meeting for McCain this last weekend where the woman accused Obama of being an "Arab" (which I suspect if she could come up with the word would have said "terrorist" instead)?




(Uggh, did you notice these questions came from my beloved home state of MN? I thought we were level headed reasonable people?) Did you see the way Sen. McCain deflected those attacks on Sen. Obama from the crowd? Oh, I suppose, the McCain campaign can be accused for stirring the pot with their rhetoric, however, I really like the way that Sen. McCain responded. I really, really hope this is a sign of the way things are going to go with the campaign in the final month.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Building Rejects

After a month away for paternity leave, here is my sermon from a little over a week ago (Oct. 5). The gospel provided quite the challenge for us that day with the parable of the evil vineyard tenants. Here is my attempt to address it.


Comfortable?

In our gospel reading a little over a week ago one of the things we heard was, "The building block that was rejected has become the cornerstone of a whole new world." So with that we talked briefly about Jesus being the foundation of our lives. I wonder, though, if people really understand how unsettling and uncomfortable that can be. I wonder, how many people show up at church on Sunday in hopes of making Jesus not the foundation of their lives but of Jesus enhancing their already comfortable lives?

We act sometimes as if Jesus died on the cross so that our kids would score higher on the SAT's, behave better, or become captain of their sports team. We act sometimes as if Jesus died on the cross so that we might get a promotion at work, own that SUV, or have people admire us. If those good things happen for you in life, great! However, I highly doubt that's why Jesus died on the cross.

Part of the panic over the current financial situation is that it makes us uncomfortable. We have led ourselves to believe that following Jesus will make our lives better. We have led ourselves to believe that if act nicely and participate in the church "correctly" our lives will be comfortable. I don't think Jesus came to make our lives comfortable.

Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." That doesn't sound comfortable. Sure Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." However, notice that there is still a yoke (work) and a burden (uncomfortable). It seems to me that comfortable isn't the word to describe our lives of following, maybe bearable.

You see Jesus died on the cross so that you might serve your neighbor. Jesus died on the cross so that you would sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Jesus died so that the unrighteous might have a chance at forgiveness. Jesus died so that you might be freed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and give shelter to the homeless.

Are you starting to feel uncomfortable yet?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Case You Missed It

In case you missed it, on Thursday night Saturday Night Live gave us an a brief recap (reliving?) of last weeks debate.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Freedom

I've recently been reading "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis, it is Book 7 in the Chronicles of Narnia. In this book there is an Ape named shift who is very clever and he is friends with a not so clever donkey named Puzzle. They come across a lion's skin and decide to dress Puzzle up and try and play him off as Aslan (the lion who is the character of God in the series) so that Shift can have all kinds of power for the sake of making changes he wants around Narnia. By and large it works.

There is a scene early on in the book where the ruse is pretty early on where Shift is explaining to some of the other animals in that part of the forest the deal that has been made with the neighboring country. In the deal various people of Narnia have been given to the neighboring country in exchange for money and goods that will be used to build up Narnia into the kind of nation it "ought" to be. After this shared the following exchange happens:

"But we don't want these things," said an old Bear. "We want to be free. And we want to hear Aslan speak himself."

"Now don't you start arguing," said the Ape, "for it's a thing I won't stand. I'm a Man; you're only a fat, stupid old Bear. What do you know about freedom? You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you're wrong. That isn't true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you."

Huh! It sounds almost like something you'd hear from a government official these days. What is freedom to you? What do you think about when you hear expressions like, "Freedom in Christ"?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Sacramental Movie Scene

Sometimes I wonder if movie makers and others realize how very theological they are being when they are creating their art. Here is a clip from the movie "No Country for Old Men"





Perhaps my Lutheran sisters and brothers will recall that in the Lutheran Church we recognize two sacraments, baptism and communion. To be a sacrament it needs to have a Biblical commandment and promise and have an earthly element (water, wine, bread). Our understanding is such that in baptism the water is just water, it's special different, but it's just water. It's kind of like the coin in the film clip. What is at stake? Everything. Do you suppose the Cohen brothers realized the depth of their theological statement here?... Either way, I like it.

Some Radical Thoughts

In recent days I've heard a number of people sharing about their grave concern over the current financial state of our country. The problem I have with some of the rants I hear, especially on TV, is the panic and gross over reaction. Yes, this is serious business. However, to this point for most of us is money lost on paper, money lost that is set aside for our retirement. So it's serious, but for most of us it doesn't effect our ability to buy groceries, etc. I think this is especially true where I live. On the news update this morning they report that IBM had a growth in profits this last quarter and anticipate more growth as we move forward. They are the second largest employer behind Mayo, and I don't anticipate few people getting sick. So from where I sit the flow of income should remain fine for a while, even if retirement funds might take a hit.

Here is the irony of the situation, as I see it. On our money we print, "In God we trust." If we actually lived that we would far less anxiety than what I'm experiencing around me. The problem is we have instead put our trust in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Wall Street among others. This has led us to focus on money and material things and we have allowed that to represent security for us instead of our security being found in the love of God.

So here is a radical idea for the sake of your current financial situation. As you are looking at things and you're thinking you might need to rearrange your financial priorities you are going to be tempted to put things like church offering and other giving to God's ministry at the bottom and give what you have left over. To the world that would appear logical. However, I want to encourage you to take a risk and put your trust in God. As you rearrange priorities try putting your offering and charitable gifts at the top. Give to God first and then let the other bills fall into place. You might just be surprised by how well you really are doing.

===================================================

In a somewhat unrelated note, I have to admit, I'm starting to get drained on this whole election thing. Part of this is related to a realization I have recently come to, I don't think God really cares a whole lot about our election... at least not in the sense of whether McCain or Obama wins. God may be watching with interest. God may already know is going to win. However, I believe God cares more about you and your relationship with God than about the particular outcome of the election.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Random Campaign Thoughts

* I was watching a news update this morning when they showed a clip of some recent comments from Gov. Palin. My thought? "She was mean!" It was a clip of her making a remark about Obama's former pastor as well as fellow board member Bill Ayers. I also thought, "She's good." She was absolute genius in those clips in making mean attacks while saying it in a super, sweet voice. To be fair, Barack Obama is pretty good at speaking in a similar way, but I think Sarah Palin just might be better.... Here's the problem. When I was a kid, just because I said it with a nice tone of voice I still wasn't allowed to say mean things about people. I wish our politicians could learn that lesson.

* Any chance we will learn anything new, or see any "major" slips by either of the candidates in tonights debate? I'm doubtful. I'm intrigued, but not terribly hopeful. Maybe I'll take advantage of the time to catch up on some of the programs I missed last night while I watched my Vikings win on Monday Night Football.

* Sen. Norm Coleman has an ad out that makes me giggle every time I see it. In the ad he mentions tightening up the borders, while showing a picture of a border crossing with a Canadian flag in the background. To be fair, I appreciate Sen. Coleman speaking to what he plans to do with a specific issue, and border patrol is a legitimate issue (even if I don't personally care about it all so much). What makes me giggle is the Canadian flag. It makes me think, "Thank goodness! I feel so threatened by those darn Canucks!"

* Thank goodness for places like "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live" that help us laugh at all of this stuff, otherwise we might need to cry.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Normal

One of the great things about looking at these "What's happening with my baby" books is the most common format is a section title that says, "This is happening with my baby" and the response is more often than not, "It is normal." Isn't it nice to hear "normal"?

Today we went to the doctor for Andrew's one month check up. He had grown almost 2 in. to 23 inches and gained just over 3 lbs. and is now 11 lbs. 2.5 oz. The doctor told us that was "normal" growth. That was relief. It was also reassuring that we are still "normal" as parents and not just becoming week. Lugging around an 11 lb. kid can wear a person out after a while.

"Normal" was reassuring for us, but it is also comforting to me that he is taking after me. So far, he is growing out faster than he is growing up. He's looking more and like Daddy every day. Unfortunately for me I am done growing up, but not out. Fortunately for Andrew he will eventually grow up more than he will grow out.

For now, we'll keep praying for "Normal" for Andrew... and for you.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Debate Last Night

Not that you really care, but here are some of the random things I find myself thinking about after watching last nights Vice-Presidential Debate:

* Gov. Palin largely did a nice job establishing herself as a Washington outsider. However, she also appeared to be a typical politician by not necessarily answering the question asked. Is that really all so different from the politicians in my lifetime?
* It was interesting to see how many stations turned to a panel of women to get their reaction. I hope some of these women can be tapped for their "expert" opinion beyond commenting on Gov. Palin, we might find that there are more than old, wrinkly, white guys who have helpful insights on politics.
* I have to admit I was a little disappointed there wasn't some sort of meltdown from either candidate. Let's be honest, I was watching in hopes of catching a train wreck.
* I would have liked a format a little more like the first presidential debate where the candidates would have been encouraged to go more directly at each other.
* It was nice to see Gov. Palin conceding that there were places in which their opinions lined up, unlike Sen. McCain was willing to do last week. It is not a sign of weakness.
* I wonder, at what point will it no longer be noticed that one of the candidates is a woman? Or African American?
* While I think it's silly that a woman would vote for McCain/Palin just because Gov. Palin is a woman, I think I can understand a little. I live in Minnesota. In 1984 one of our own ran for President (Walter Mondale). How many people voted for him just because he was from Minnesota? Had Gov. Pawlenty been running for Vice-President instead of Gov. Palin, I bet there would be a good number of people from around here who would vote for him because he's from here.
* I wish the two candidates would share more about what they really think and not so carefully couch everything into their talking points. Honestly, do I need to hear that Obama will bring the waves of change and that McCain is a Maverick any more?
* I am amazed by how much more interested I am in this election than I have been the last few. I wonder if it's the candidates, or is it that I'm just getting older.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Meet Them There

Last Saturday at our council retreat Pastor Dave started us off with a devotion based on Acts 1. The biblical story is a recounting of Jesus' last moments on earth. There in his final words we hear Jesus say, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." That is our charge as well, to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

So how do we go about that? Well, I guess there isn't really just one way. However, I do suspect the way that we've tended to do it is not the way. I've witnessed many a Lutheran church who has viewed their call to be witnesses to all the earth as a call to put a sign in their front lawn. We have reacted the way the disciples did on that same day. We stare up at heaven and talk about about wonderfully blessed we have been by God, and hope that others might wander by and notice us... and on a rare occasion maybe even join us. If you keep reading the story you will see a couple of angels show up and ask, "What are you doing just standing around?"

I think we need to take this call to go seriously. You see, to be witnesses we need to go and meet people where they are at so we can share our story. We can't just sit around and hope people show up. One of the beauties in going and meeting people where they are it is that you begin to build relationships with people. It is in the midst of relationships, I believe, that ministry happens. When we build relationships we share our story and in doing that we are also sharing God's story.

Here at Christ Lutheran the Youth Committee has caught a vision of this very notion. In their call to do ministry with youth they have come to realize they need to build relationships and meet them where they are at. They have also come to realize that this is not a call just for them, but a call for all of us. Consequently, in the coming weeks and months they will be highlighting some of the activities that our youth are involved in around the community.

You are invited to go and meet our youth where they are at. If you are inclined to go to a football, volleyball, or soccer game you should go. We then invite you to talk to parents, congratulate the athletes and meet them where they are at. If you are inclined to attend a play or choir concert, go and connect with people while you are there. Perhaps you're not inclined to go to these school events, but you do have an evening free and are looking for something to do, why not go to a basketball game and build relationships instead of channel surfing or shopping on e-bay?

You are called to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. So go, and meet them there.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

3.39

Earlier this week the price of gas here in town dropped to $3.39. My instinct was to fill up my car immediately. There was a part of me that started thinking that I needed to find a way to stock up on gas because who knew how long this wonderfully low price was going to last. What have the oil companies done to me?

Honestly, I don't understand how these gas prices work. Various experts have used some very sound logical reasoning to explain things in the past, but I'm still confused. They have explained that these various financial struggles effect the price of gas. At least that's what they've told me as prices kept going up and up and up. Now we appear to be on the verge of financial armegeddon unless we get this bailout passed. The price per barrel of oil is still quite high. The state added a $.03 per gallon tax today. Yet, despite these factors (which made gas double over about a year) the price of gas has gone down. That same gas station had gas today for $3.29. Honestly, what's a guy to do?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Giving It All

I came across this story today:

Once upon a time at a church meeting a wealthy member of the church rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith.

"I'm a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life." He went on to recall the turning point in his relationship with God. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar and he went to a church meeting that night. The speaker at that meeting was a missionary who told about his work in the mission field. Before the offering plate was passed around, the preacher told everyone that everything that was collected that night would be given to this missionary to help fund his work on behalf of the church. The wealthy man wanted to give to support mission work, but he knew he couldn't make change from the offering plate. He knew he either had to give all he had or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give all that he had to God. Looking back, he said he knew that God had blessed that decision and had made him wealthy.

When he finished, there was silence in the room. As he returned to the pew and sat down, an elderly lady seated behind him leaned forward and said, "I dare you to do it again."