Monday, March 31, 2008

A Hero of Mine

If we were playing a mixer type game and you asked me something like, "If there were one person dead or alive that you would like to have dinner with who would it be?" I just might answer it with Mike Yaconelli. He was a youth ministry "guru" for years. He had a way of looking at the world, the church, in way that is completely upside down from the way most of us look at it... and I think he was dead on! Below is a tribute video created (as I understand it) shortly after he died a few years ago. (I just recently found it online.) It is a little long, but I think it's well worth watching. I pray that there are a few comments that get you excited about Jesus, since that's really what it's all about.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Proud Daddy

So this may be of interest to about three people in the entire world, but I'm still going to share with those three. For those uninterested, feel free to just skip past the pictures and join me again some other day. Having shared that disclaimer I now share with you the very first of our baby pictures (and I suspect there might be a few more shared here in the months/years to come).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Couple Things Struck Me Today

I've had a couple of things strike me yet today. First, on the news this morning there was more talk about Barack Obama's pastor and some things that were printed in bulletins on Sundays gone by. Why are they digging into his pastor's life, etc.? Are they somehow related? Somehow sharing a brain? Perhaps he pastors differently than me, but I can't imagine any members of our congregation being so brainwashed that they believe every little thing that I believe. They should be judged by their thoughts and what they've done and not by what I think or do. Am I crazy to think this?

On a completely unrelated note I discovered something called "Twitter". It's a "web service" (my words not theirs) that is available because real life happens between blog posts and e-mails... so let's inform people of our every move online. I honestly don't know what to think of it. Part of me thinks it's kind of cool. Part of me really, really wants to mock it. Take a look at this video that explains it. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Let me first start with an admission/confession: I know that I am not going to be the greatest parent in the world. I also recognize that parenting is going to be FAR more difficult than I can even begin to imagine right now.

With that in mind, let the rant begin...

While I know there are a great many challenges to parenting, I believe there are some things that are relatively simple (at least from the outside). This morning on The Today Show they had a segment where parents were expressing concern about how much time their kids were spending interacting with their electronics and not interacting with real people. There was even a brief moment of lament, like conversations I've had with people around here, that kids just don't go outside and play any more. So far, so good, I feel your pain.

Now, here's where the disconnect begins for me. They showed a statistic that said that 20% of kids under the age of 2 have a television in their room. Parents talked about their kids having computers, i-pods, weii's, xboxes, playstations, and cell phones. This is where I begin to get confused. If you don't want your children playing with a lot of electronics, why have you purchased multiple electronics for them and allow them to be used (to exclusion if they so chose) in their rooms? Have a computer, but keep it in a public space so others can join in the games you might play.

If you want your kids to play outside then what ever happened acting like your parents (or at least mine) and say (and expect) things like, "Go play outside for a while." When they respond like I often did with, "But what am I going to do?" You can always answer like my parents, "I don't care, just go outside and play. You'll figure something out." Here's the funny thing, I usually did figure something out, and often found myself not wanting to come back inside.

Again, I am not a parent and I realize it's not always that simple. Still, I can't help but think there are some aspects to parenting that really don't need to be that complicated. You are the parent, they are the child, and as parent you are in charge and you set the rules. I wonder where some of that has gone. Perhaps I'll be learning in the years to come.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Every Day Easter?

I was looking at Monday's devotion in "Christ in our Home" this morning. The author took a quick look at groups like AA where the motto is "one day at a time." You see it takes time to change. When changing habits, really, we're just exchanging one for another. A smoker gives up cigarettes, but takes on popping M&M's instead. It's the way we seem to be wired. That's why AA encourages things like "one day at a time," because to never have another drink for the rest of your life is a HUGE, daunting. Yet to not drink today has the chance of being doable.

So that's where the author drew us back to Luther. In talking about baptism Luther talked about daily dying to sin. So there it is, a daily thing. I don't just show up for worship on Sunday morning and I am done with sin for good. We need to return to our confession and forgiveness every day. In the same way many of us found great joy in celebrating the resurrection this past Sunday.

There was music, enthusiasm, new clothes and all kinds of other things to signify the festiveness of the occasion. However, just like all of these other things that one time event just isn't going to do it for us in the long run. We need to return to the resurrection on a daily basis. Make EVERY day Easter. It wasn't a one shot gift, so let's celebrate as often as we can, both in big and small ways.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Warrior Servant

A friend of mine (DanaLee), a pastor in the Salt Lake City area shared this story with me, and I would like to share it with you. (She didn't give me "express written consent" but I'm going to assume it's OK for now.) She might not admit it, but she is a warrior servant for sure!

Turbo kickboxing is one of my favorite ways to get my cardio workout these days. My Monday night instructor is pretty awesome – spiritual, motivational, strong, inspiring. . . At the end of our workout this past Monday night, we were cooling down and she was taking us through a dance (a series of moves) we’ve done before that is meant to bring out our “inner warrior”. I’m all good with that. I don’t mind tapping my “warrior” within. J But, something she said in passing threw me off. “You’re either a warrior or a servant,” she said. “You choose.” Like they were two separate things. Like a warrior was strong and a servant was weak. It flustered me. It struck a chord in me. I think mostly because earlier that day I had prepared my sermon for Maundy (Holy) Thursday. In the Gospel for this night, Jesus takes on the form of a slave and washes His disciples’ feet. Then he commissions them to serve each other in this way. He sends them out with a new commandment to love one another as He has loved them. The world says, “You’re either a warrior or a servant.” Jesus says, “To be a warrior you have to serve.” (Later that night after teaching his disciples in this way, Jesus would be arrested and led to his death on the cross – and act of the ultimate Warrior Servant.)

I’m not sure why I felt so compelled to share this learning. I think of the list of people to whom this will be sent and this is nothing new to you. You are warrior servants already – to you kids, to your parents, to your friends, to your co-workers, to the people, known and unknown, who have been entrusted to you. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. Reminded that God’s word becomes clear in any old place when we listen – even at the gym. Reminded that as we love others through our service, we are following Jesus’ new commandment. Reminded that when we are tired in our serving – (and we do get tired and overwhelmed and taken beyond where we ever imagined we would ever have to go) – that Jesus serves us. From the cross, certainly. But, today, too. Now. In this moment. Never giving us more than we can handle. Never allowing us to be alone in our serving or suffering. Never letting anything we do or don’t do keep Him from loving us.

Blessed Holy Week, dear ones – warrior servants.

A Good Friday Irony

Again, yesterday was an interesting day around here. We gathered at both noon and 6:30 to remember the day that Jesus hung on the cross and died for us. It is a solemn and somber day, that is for sure. Yet, it was also the day that Dawn and I went to the Doctor's office and had an ultrasound. What an incredible thing it was to see that there really is a living, squirming baby in there with arms, legs, and feet. We saw the heart beating. We experienced new life in a way I have never experienced it before. It was INCREDIBLE!... and I have pictures to prove it! Funny how life and death seem to go hand in hand. Kind of like Good Friday and Easter.

Good Friday Thought

Yesterday (Good Friday) was an interesting day here in Southeastern Minnesota. It was the first full day of Spring, two days before Easter, a time when you're brain is starting to thinking of warm sun and flowers starting to poke their heads out of the ground. Instead we got about 5 inches of snow. Not really the weather I would typically envision for a Good Friday.

Yet, as I thought about it a little bit, it seemed like perfect weather for symbolizing Good Friday. You see it was one of those "warm" snows, with big giant flakes. On the one hand, because it was snowing there was a certain chill in the air. On the other hand it was about 34 degrees with calm winds so it was actually kind of warm. (Okay, so if you're reading this from somewhere like CA or AZ you might think it odd that 34 would be considered warm, but you need to understand we've had a good number of days below zero this winter so 34 begins to feel warm.)

Good Friday, is a "celebration" that is filled with both cold and warmth. It is a time that we in the church gather to remember the day that Jesus hung on the cross and died. There is a cold pain in death, especially of one we love. Yet, in the midst of the chill of death there is a certain warmth to the day as well as we are reminded of Jesus' great love for us... that he died on that cross "For You!"... "For Me!"... "For All!"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gospel of Avodart

I do believe it is the Avodart commercials that say, "It's not a going problem, but a growing problem." As I look at the readings for this coming Sunday, which really ultimately resonate through every Sunday, I see once again that call to go. The women show up at the tomb, they are scared, and Jesus says, "Go." How many of us are filled with fear, especially when we hear Jesus' call to "Go"?

It's understandable, this call to ministry is scary. It's understandable because we live in a world filled with fear. We've cultivated a culture of fear. Over the past weeks we've heard lots of gloom and doom coming from Wall Street. Over the last several years politicians have been running on a platform of fear. "Don't let the terrorists win, elect me!" they proclaim. We hear regular reports of predators on "Nightline," Dateline," and "20/20." Fear surrounds us everywhere, so it's natural to be scared. We can't compartmentalize fear, it just sort of creeps throughout all of our lives.

So what do we do to confront this fear? Our instincts make us think we need to grow in faith. Yet, like becoming a parent, are you ever really ready? Are you ever prepared enough? Honestly, as a father to be, can I ever read enough books to prepare me for what will happen with my child? I just need to go and experience being a father to really understand what that means. Likewise, are we ever really fully prepared for anything life may bring our way?

See, I think what we've got going is a situation similar to an Avodart commercial. "It's not a GROWING problem, but a GOING problem." Jesus' solution for the fear the women faced was to tell them to "Go and tell." When faced with this fear we are called to mission, to evangelism, to "Go and tell." That doesn't mean the fear goes away, I don't know if it ever really does (because if it's not one thing we fear, then it's another). However, we can learn to live through the fear. We have the promise that when we go God goes with us. We have the promise that when we go God goes before us. So GO!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Passion Sunday Sermon

Brief as it may be, here is my sermon from Passion Sunday. We tried to allow the readings to do the preaching.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Leadership Fine Line

This morning I was watching the Today Show and the Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, was on talking about the state of the economy. I have to admit I was struck some by his comments in light of some of my desires for leadership. He did what so many in the Bush administration do well, and that's portraying an air of confidence and calm.

Our church council has been reading the book, "Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times" by Peter Steinke. One of the things we talked about in there is the need to be a non-anxious presence. It is important for leaders to be calm and confident when confronted with anxiety. When we confront anxiety with anxiety we just raise the level of anxiety. When we confront anxiety with non-anxiety we tend to diffuse the anxiety.

So then, I see this clip posted below. It didn't feel quite right. Take a look and see what you think.

I think it is good that he is attempting to diffuse the anxiety by not being anxious himself and projecting an air of confidence. The problem that I see (and feel free to disagree with me here) is that by projecting this confidence it comes off almost as arrogance because it feels like there is a denying of reality.

It got me to wondering, do I have the same problem sometimes? Perhaps in being non-anxious as a leader I also need to be clear that I recognize the reality of the situation. It seems, then, that we need to be both confident and realistic. So how do we find that balance? I can't say that I have any great answers, but I do recognize that it is critical for leadership.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Honestly, I think we take ourselves too seriously. It's about time we start having more fun. We read or hear reports about schools cutting things like physical education, art, music, and now even social studies because we need to focus on improving test scores (which are Math, Science, and English). Interestingly it feels like the more we cut these things the more test scores seem to drop. What's the connection? The things getting cut are fun, playful sorts of activities (with maybe the exception of social studies). I think we need to play more at school, both in the classroom and at recess.

I don't think this is just a problem for kids, though either. I work in a church so consequently I hear on a regular basis how mainline denominations are fading, falling apart, or any number of other ways of describing the same decline. What do we have in common? One of the things I see is a common tradition that pushes us to be more and more serious (devout? pious?) and say things like, "We don't do that around here." Why not? It might be fun. I think (and I may be wrong here) that we all like to have fun and laugh. When looking at any sort of "singles scene" what is one of the most common things people are looking for? A sense of humor. We as adults need to play as well.

I think maybe that's why I liked the post I came across last week. (You can read it here.) In essence it suggested that we need to take play more seriously. When is the last time you "cut loose" and just played? When was the last time you were silly just for the sake of being silly? When is the last time you laughed at yourself? These are good things my friends. If your answer to any of these things was something along the lines of being a long time then I suggest you've got some serious playing to do. Oh sure, there are things we do have to take seriously, but we also need to play as well.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gift of Freedom

Here is a clip from "The Daily Show" this past week as Jon Stewart tracks the logic of President Bush entering the war in Iraq.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


So this past week has been a bit crazy. I've wanted to post more, but it turns out that you need to actually be in the office and around a computer. Go figure! Turns out that hasn't happened a whole lot. So for those who check out my blog on a semi-regular basis in hopes of something new to read (to mock, be inspired by, or whatever) I do apologize the going has been slow lately. I should also warn you that I don't anticipate next week being any better... You know, Holy Week and all... maybe I can find some other videos to share.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Resurrected Life

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday, based largely on the story of the Raising of Lazarus found in John 11.

Give Big

It turns out that Oprah has a new show called "The Big Give." (Like she needed to something else to make more money.) It's a reality show where contestants are challenged to give away large chunks of money to "deserving" people. It's kind of an interesting concept. Their slogan is, "Give Big or Go Home." Perhaps a philosophy we could all grab a hold of. In fact, I heard one of the contestants say last night, "If you want to live big, then you have to give big." I don't know about you, but I liked that. I think that's something all of us could afford to learn.... And I don't think we need a sappy Oprah/network producer to make it happen.

I Don't Get It

I saw a report on the news this morning that kind of disturbed me. If you are familiar with Minnesota politics you will know that recently there was a new gas tax (first one in about 20 years) passed thanks to an override of a governor veto. How did they override the veto? Thanks to six republicans siding (gasp) with democrats and voting to override. In the initial days following that those republicans were stripped of their leadership positions in the house/senate. Now as the republicans are gearing up for another election series these six republicans did not receive the endorsement of their party. In fact, one of them is currently totally unopposed and he didn't get the endorsement. I just don't get it.

I know, I am a simple man, but I thought elected officials represented the people that voted for them first and then their political party somewhere else down the line. All six of these folks claimed that they were voting for what their constituents wanted. What's the problem then? I haven't heard any stories of other outlandish behavior by these six. Is it really a crime for a politician to listen to the people they represent and then (gasp) think for themselves? I just don't get it.

I am, once again, totally disgusted with politicians right now. I would like to think this is just a republican fault, but let's be honest here the democrats probably would have acted similarly were the rolls reversed. YUCK!!

Woman at the Well

Here is a video clip of my sermon based on the Woman at the Well, that I preached on Feb. 24. If this works as I hope, I'll try and post other sermons as well...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Moving On

OK, Ok, I'll admit I've been a bit distracted this week. I've been busy hitting F5 on various Iditarod update pages. I have been completely sucked in once again. It also hasn't helped to have Brett Favre retire at the beginning of the week and all of the various updates on that situation as well. Honestly, who has time to blog in the midst of such chaos?

Anyway, I've been struck recently by the news medias ability to let go of things, to mourn, and to grieve. It started last week when WCCO news anchor Bill Carlson died. Every night since he died last Friday they have spent a significant amount of time talking about the life and impact Bill had around the station, and the country really. An interesting side note to all of this is the greatest compliment they keep sharing over and over is how he treated everybody the same, "Whether you were a Hollywood movie star or a fan of his attending the state fair." Too bad we can't say that about more people, because it seems like such a simple thing to do. But I digress... On the sports stations it has been nonstop talk about Brett Favre and his retirement.

What gives? Yes! Bill Carlson was a wonderful man. Yes! Brett Favre was a tremendous football player, and seems like a nice guy as well. What makes it so hard to move on? I wondered about this when the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis this last summer. What is it about our culture that encourages our media to obsess in this sort of way? Is it because we're so removed from death in our culture today? Is it because we're so connected from one another relationally? Is it because we lack faith and trust in God? What is it? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that there is a disconnect somewhere and perhaps as people of faith we need to figure it out and begin to address it, to pray about it, to bring God into this.

Monday, March 03, 2008

It's That Time of Year Again...

It's back! The start of the 2008 Iditarod was yesterday. A high school classmate of mine is running again this year. He had an impressive showing at the Yukon Quest this year, so who knows what he's up for this year. His website can be found here. If you've ever tracked the race you know how exciting it can be. It was amazing to get to live in Nome for a year and watch the finish. It is an impressive event.

For those of you who check this blog out looking for "churchy" things, let me share a lesson I learned from the Iditarod that I've shared a number of times. One of the things they've found with these sled dogs is that they run faster when there are twists and turns in the course, when there are exciting new things around the corner. The dogs run a lot slower when it the course never changes, when it's long and straight. Might this be a lesson for leading the church? Especially, when you combine it with the notion that this is something these dogs were born to do. The year I lived in Alaska PETA put a big stink about the cruelty of the event. So the Iditarod leaders invited to come watch. The people PETA left with their proverbial tails between their legs. They learned that these dogs were born to run and to not run them in this way would be cruel. I think it's time we unleash our church folks in the same way. Set them lose to do what they were born to do (serving Christ and neighbor) on trail full of twists and turns.... I don't know about you, but that sounds like a radically different picture than what typically operates in the church.