Monday, April 28, 2008


I wanted to share another great section from "Dangerous Wonder" by Michael Yaconelli:

Time for a reality check, right? Playfulness is not a welcome idea for most of us. It sounds frivolous and shallow, distracting and irrelevant, inefficient and unproductive. That's because we live in a technological culture that worships busyness and activity. Under the guise of saving time, we now are inundated with e-mail, pagers, and cellular phones. We end each day smothered by the demands of our time and are greeted each new morn with more to do, not less. Play? There's no time to play. How can we play when the mountain of work and problems we are faced with each day get higher and deeper? How can we play when the world is overcome with poverty, famine, and war?

Play is an expression of God's presence in the world; one clear sign of God's absence in society is the absence of playfulness and laughter. Play is an escape; it is the way to release the life-smothering grip of busyness, stress, and anxiety. (Playfulness is a modern expression of hope, a celebration of the flickering light of the gospel that plays with the dark by pouncing on the surrounding darkness like a cat toying with a mouse.)

A Thought From Sunday

Yesterday, one of the things Pastor Dave talked about in his sermon was that we are called to be advocates. One of the reasons we are able to do that is because Jesus promised to send us another Advocate. (How cool is that? We have two! Jesus AND the Holy Spirit!) I thought that fit quite lovely with something shared at the Adult Forum, talking about the synod World Hunger Appeal. Are you sitting down? Here is the line, "To give charity is give a person the crumbs off your table. To give advocate for a person is to invite them to the table with you." I may slightly misquoted, but how cool is that? Where might you be called to be an advocate today?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Seriously, who doesn't love monkeys? Here's a song from VeggieTales, about Monkey's... sort of.

Maybe It's Time to Listen

For a while now we've been hearing reports about how the quality of education has dropped in the United States compared to the rest of the world. I heard someone claim the other day that we are the richest third world country. Then this morning I came across this clip...

It seems our life expectancy in this country is dropping. It cuts across all socio-economic lines. Yes the drop appears to be steeper with the poor, but it effects us all. The same, I would venture to guess, is true with the drop in education. Where else is this happening?

I don't share this to suggest that it's time to panic, rather to suggest that maybe it's time to listen. It's time to listen and recognize the poor around us. How long have we, as a nation, focused the rich and the wealthy? How long have we heard reports of a shrinking middle class and a growing disparity between the rich and the poor? We have, more often than not, held this up as perhaps a good thing. Then we allow the rich to run the country, both through laws of market and through politics (how many billions of dollars have already been spent on the upcoming presidential election?). We have assumed for some time now that it is good to let the rich rule because the reason they have become rich is because of their intelligence and talents, or they've acquired them because they have the means.

Now, it seems we are beginning to pay the price for ignoring the poor. Funny, how ignoring a problem doesn't just make it go away. It's about time we begin investing in the poor. We need to work on better educating ALL students. We need to work on providing affordable health care for ALL people.... Doesn't this sound like something Jesus once asked us to do?

Also, completely unrelated, check this post out from a partner in ministry. It includes a clip related to the emergent church, but there things that sounded awful Lutheran to me. I heard a claim to the priesthood of all believers. What do you hear?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Power of Prayer

A friend of mine sent me the following joke. I kind of liked it, so I thought I'd pass it along to you.

A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So, she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was walking slowly up to the holy site. She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane in a very slow fashion, she approached him for an interview.

"Pardon me Sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?"

"Maury Fishbein" he replied.

"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years?!? That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and hatred to stop, I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I've been talking to a fricking wall."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jump First Faith

This past Sunday my sermon was titled, "Jump First Faith." If you have the patience to listen, you might recognize a few things from last weeks postings.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Power of Plural

I'll admit it, I'm not really a big grammar guy. It doesn't often excite me. However, there are times when someone shares something with me grammatically and it just really strikes a cord. That happened to me this week. When we were looking at the gospel reading for this Sunday and we looked at John 14:14.

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

A scary place, for me, to end our reading. It leaves us with a picture of prayer that is one of God being kind of a Holy Vending Machine. I don't think that's the image of prayer I want to be promoting. But then it happened. Somebody (much more learned then me) pointed out that if you look at the original Greek you see that the "You" there is actually a plural version, not singular.

How cool is that? It's not about my prayers. It's about be faithful in prayer in community. It's not about some formula, bu it's about people being faithful in community. So pray...not just by yourself, but with others and may your hearts become one (with God and each other)!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fear First?

I consider myself fortunate to have grown up around water all of my life. Most of my childhood we had a modest house on a lake. When I was really little there was very little fear. I would just run and jump in the water. Before you know better you jump first and fear later. As you grow older you learn from the world to fear first and jump later. Sometimes that's a good thing.

When I got a little older I grew content with just staying in the shallow water. The deep water was scary. One day, in an attempt to help overcome my fear, my parents threw me off the boat into the water. I screamed and cried. You know what? I didn't die. It did help me overcome my fear and I loved the water even more than before, because I knew I could survive the deep water. (Lest you think my parents horribly cruel, I did have my life preserver on and they were right there, but to a kid those parts didn't register over the least initially.)

How often do we see Jesus in the gospels encouraging people around him not to fear? Sure, there are a lot of scary things going on in the world. In fact, they are everywhere. If we let fear run our lives we might ever leave our homes, maybe not even our beds. Or we can face our fears and "jump first" knowing that God goes with us. In fact, God is already where we are going, God is already fully active in the world all around us.

Wild, Faithful Abandon

I have been reading "Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith" by Michael Yaconelli. I LOVE this book. I think this is my third time reading it. I would like to share an excerpt from it here today:

"Last year Bill Harley, singer, songwriter and storyteller, told a marvelous story on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. It is the story of a young girl who ended up breaking the rules, rejecting the expectations of all around her, because she loved with abandon. Here is her story:

"Last year my son played T-ball....Needless to say, I was delighted when Dylan wanted to play....Now on the other team there was a girl I will call Tracy. Tracy came each week. I know, since my son's team always played her team. She was not very good. She had coke-bottle glasses and hearing aids on each ear. She ran in a loping, carefree way, with one leg pulling after the other, one arm windmilling wildly in the air.

Everyone in the bleachers cheered for her, regardless of what team their progeny played for. In all the games I saw, she never hit the ball, not even close. It sat there on the tee waiting to be hit and it never was. Sometimes, after ten or eleven swings, Tracy hit the tee (in T-ball the ball sits on a plastic tee, waiting for the batter to hit the ball, which happens once every three batters). The ball would fall off the tee and sit on the ground six inches from home plate. "Run! Run!" yelled Tracy's coach, and Tracy would lope off to first, clutching the bat in both arms, smiling. Someone usually woke up and ran her down with the ball before she reached first.

Everyone applauded.

The last game of the season, Tracy came up, and through some fluke, or simply in a nod toward the law of averages, she creamed the ball. She smoked it right up the middle, through the legs of 17 players. Kids dodged as it went by or looked absentmindedly at it as it rolled unstopped, seemingly gaining in speed, hopping over second base, heading into center field. And once it reached there, there was no one to stop it. Have I told you there are no outfielders in T-ball? There are for three minutes in the beginning of every inning, but then they move into the infield to be closer to the action, or, at least, to their friends.

Tracy hit the ball and stood at home, delighted. "Run!" yelled her coach. "Run!" All the parents, all of us, we stood and screamed, "Run, Tracy, run, run!" Tracy turned and smiled at us, and then, happy to please, galumphed off to first. The first base coach waved his arms 'round and 'round when Tracy stopped at first. "Keep going Tracy, keep going! Go!" Happy to please she headed to second. By the time she was halfway to second, seven members of the opposition had reached the ball and were passing it among themselves. It's a rule in T-ball-everyone on the defending team has to touch every ball.

The ball began to make its long and circuitous route toward home plate, passing from one side of the field to the other. Tracy headed to third. Adults fell out of the bleachers. "Go, Tracy, go!" Tracy reached third and stopped, but the parents were very close to her now and she got the message. Her coach stood at home plate calling her as the ball passed over the first baseman's head and landed in the fielding teams empty dugout. "Come on, Tracy. Come on, baby! Get a home run!"

Tracy started for home, and then it happened. During the pandemonium, no one had noticed the twelve-year-old geriatric mutt that had lazily settled itself down in front of the bleachers five feet from the third-base line. The tongue hung out, mouth pulled back in an unmistakable canine smile, and Tracy stopped, right there. Halfway home, thirty feet from a legitimate home run.
She looked at the dog. Her coach called, "Come on, Tracy. Come on home!" He went to his knees behind the plate, pleading. The crowd cheered, "Go, Tracy, go. Go, Tracy, go!" She looked at the adults, at her own parents shrieking and catching it all on video. She looked at the dog. The dog wagged its tail. She looked at her coach. She looked at home. She looked at the dog. Everything went to slow motion. She went for the dog! It was a moment of complete, stunned silence. And then, perhaps, not as loud, but deeper, longer, more heartfelt, we all applauded as Tracy fell to her knees to hug the dog. Two road diverged on a third-base line. Tracy went for the dog."

Two roads diverged in this little girl's life. One is the road of rules and expectations, the other is the road of love. The roads of our lives are much the same. Will we go for the safe, predictable road of rules and expectations? Or will we go for the ONE we love, Jesus, who bids us come with wild abandon?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Olympic Abandon

The summer between 3rd and 4th grade was awesome. My next door neighbor and I spent the summer participating in the Olympics. Often it was just the two of us and so we had to develop new games like 2 square, rooftop volleyball, and mega-hopscotch. I would wake each morning with eager anticipation of what the days activities might bring. Would we find ourselves in a 2 square grudge match settled in triple sudden death overtime? Would we be pitted against each other in an epic swimming endurance competition? I couldn't tell you how long these epic battles lasted because as we allowed our imaginations to run wild all sense of time was lost. I can tell you that we were called home from time to time eat and to sleep, but that's about all I could tell you.

It was a summer of complete and total abandon and as we gave ourselves over to the Olympics. We went where the competition was, and as best as I can remember I loved every minute of it because it was filled the joy of abandon, of giving yourself over. I was no longer contained by the rules of this world.

Do you remember reading about this in the early chapters of the gospels? As Jesus began his ministry he was rubbing elbows with tax collectors, fishermen, and all kinds of other people. He called out them saying, "Come follow me." Amazingly, with complete abandon, they left what they were doing to follow Jesus. We too are invited into that same sort of abandon, to shed the things of this world and to follow Jesus wherever He may lead us. We are invited to get lost in the joy of abandon, to get lost in the love of Christ. (Please note that it's about following Jesus not going our own way and then inviting Jesus to follow... there is a difference.) It is wild. It is reckless. It is our call.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fishin' For Religion

One of my favorite music groups from the early '90's is Arrested Development. They had a unique sound and a number of songs with thoughtful lyrics. I've recently started listening to them again. One of the songs that grabbed my attention this go round is "Fishin' For Religion" and the lyrics are just below.

Grab the hook, grab the line
Grab the bait, grab the box and wait
Tackle and shackle the topic the faculty has chosen
Chosen by many, chosen by plenty, chosen by any
man or woman who understand
the topic that's known and
[Go by the dock] flock and clock the topic
as I drop my hook and get a bite
The reason I'm fishin' 4 a new religion
is my church makes me fall asleep
They're praising a God that watches you weep
and doesn't want you to do a damn thing about it
When they want change the preacher says "shout it"
Does shouting bring about change ? I doubt it
All shouting does is make you lose your voice
So on the dock I sit in silence
staring at a sea that's full of violence
Scared to put my line in that water
coz it seems like there's no religion in there
Naively so I give it another go
Sitting in church hearing legitimate woes
Pastor tells the lady it'll be alright
Just pray so you can see the pearly gates so white
The lady prays and prays and prays and prays
and prays and prays and prays and's everlasting
"There's nothing wrong with praying ?" It's what she's asking
She's asking the Lord to let her cope
so one day she can see the golden ropes
What you pray for God will give
to be able to cope in this world we live
The word "cope" and the word "change"
is directly opposite, not the same
She should have been praying to change her woes
but pastor said "Pray to cope with those"
The government is happy with most baptist churches
coz they don't do a damn thing to try to nurture
brothers and sisters on a revolution
Baptist teaches dying is the only solution
Passiveness causes others to pass us by
I throw my line till I've made my decision
until then, I'm still fishin' 4 religion

It appears to be a critique of the Baptist church (I'm assuming at least one person in the group came out of that tradition), but I can see it being a critique of any mainline denomination today, especially the ELCA (which I am a part of). As you may have noticed, I highlighted the lyrics that hit me the most.

The preacher says "shout it." When we see an injustice in the world, what is typically our response? Let's do a study. Let's talk about it. How much do we need to talk about it? Do we really need a committee meeting to decide whether or not we should help the flood victims in SouthEastern Minnesota? What if we just rolled up our sleeves and went and helped them dig out? Do we really need to do a study to discover whether or not we are "properly" loving our homosexual brothers & sisters? Couldn't we just open our arms and try loving them?

The word "cope" and the word "change" is directly opposite. Granted, there are times when "cope" is perhaps the appropriate prayer, such as a terminal diagnosis of cancer. However, when we're talking about behavioral type things (i.e. gossip in the community, broken relationships, etc.) wouldn't "change" be a much more appropriate prayer? I've had a number of difficult relationships in my life and more often than not my prayer has been asking for help to "deal with it." Why not pray to change the relationship so it be healthy once again?

Maybe it's my generation, I don't know, but I want to see action. We talk about things so much, but when do we begin living this stuff out? We use politically correct talk to cover how we actually feel. It's time we start actually loving our neighbor... and not just with words.

Can I Get a Witness?

As some of you know, yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday. Here at Christ Lutheran one of the things Pastor Dave talked about in his sermon was an analogy of the sheep pen and worship. We gather together in worship of God, like the sheep in their pen, and then we are sent out into the world as witnesses to the love that we experience on Sunday mornings, just as the sheep leave their pen each day. Out in the world there is much challenge, potential dangers, but we go knowing that the shepherd goes with us to watch over us. I liked the sermon. I liked the analogy.

This morning, I was reading a friends blog and was pointed to this video.

My friend, Kelly, then pointed something out that made a lot of sense. While it is good, it comes up a little short. With this imagery, have we created an us vs. them scenario? Are we not a part of the world and the world a part of us? What can we learn from the world? If God is already at work in the world, then we ought to be looking for signs of God's presence there already. As believers, as followers of Christ, we are invited to join in what God is already up to. It is not, at least to my understanding, up to us make God show up in the world. Certainly we help point people to where we witness God at work already, but it is not up to us to make God show up in the world.

At the same time, it is still good for us to gather in worship. It is good to give God thanks in worship. Sometimes we even find our time in worship to be a "recharge" to continue with our journey of ministry. It is good to go and to share what we have learned about God and to be ambassadors to the world. However, I just want to encourage you to look for where God is already at work as well. To remember that we can learn from that, we can learn from the world. A witness can go both ways.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Presidential Pondering

I keep hearing all of these different reports about how the democratic party needs to get down to just one candidate... and the sooner the better. Various leaders in the party have been encouraging super delegates (wouldn't it be cool if you were a super delegate because you had a super power?) to cast their votes in a block by various arbitrary dates. I keep hearing that the more the process is prolonged the more it hurts the party. Being the simple minded person I am I wonder, Why?

What I've observed is that as long as the race is close between Barrack and Hillary the press tends to cover them non-stop. I don't tend to see a whole lot of coverage of McCain. In a "what have you done for me lately" society we see what Barrack and Hillary are doing, but we don't really see Mr. McCain doing much. As long as the media is covering them intensely, it seems to me that the two democratic candidates have ample opportunity to lay out who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to make changes. I would think that would be a good thing.

I guess we'll find out in November what sort of effect these prolonged campaigns will have... then what will we talk about?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lessons from a Cow

I came across this story today about how ends up lost on a road, despite the many fences ranchers might put up. I found it kind of interesting, almost insightful, so I thought I would share:

A cow is nibbling on a tuft of grass in the middle of a field, moving from one tuft to the next, and before you know it he ends up at some grass next to the fence. Noticing a nice clump of green on the other side of the fence, the cow stumbles through an old tear in the the fence and finds himself outside o the road. "Cows don't intend to get lost," the farmer explained, "they just nibble their way to lostness!"

Isn't that how it happens in our life? We set out intending to be lost? We set out trying to cut ourselves off from God? I don't think so. I think we find ourselves there it's because we've nibbled our way there. We sleep in on a Sunday. We stay after work an hour or two here or there. We take one project and then another. Before we know it we've nibbled ourselves to a place of lostness in our lives.

If you are one of those people who might be feeling lost today (or when you get to that point) I want to encourage you to try and listen for God's voice... I want you to listen not for what God wants you to do, but listen for how much God loves you. My prayer for you, and everybody really, is that your relationship with God return to a point where it looks like little kids chasing each other giggling, laughing, and unclear as to who is chasing who.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Room Full of Knuckleheads

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday (Easter 2) about Thomas and the disciples. I titled it "A Room Full of Knuckleheads" and I suspect you might see why if you have the patience to sit through all of it. The Easter Sunday videos have not been returned yet. When, and if, they do I'll share that sermon as well. For now, you'll have to settle for this, I guess.

Evangelism Saves Lives

I was directed to a blog this morning of mission developing pastor. On that blog was this neat video. I actually saw her story a while back, but had kind of forgotten about it. Talk about putting your life on the line for the gospel! What would you have done? What do you think of her boldness? Take a look:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Culturally Savvy

I was just reading an article in "Youth Worker Journal" that challenged me. Author Dick Staub offered the challenge that it used to be that Christianity/Christians influenced culture. Now, if anything, Christianity seems to be influenced by culture. We rush after trends in order to try and attract people. Even worse, I think, sometimes we try and remove ourselves completely from culture, even creating our own "sub-culture." Consequently, we end up with a shallowness or a Christianity-lite. Perhaps it's time for us to reclaim our place in culture and be the movers and shakers that God created us to be. It's time to rekindle our passion, experience the depth of our faith and begin being the influencing force that we are.

No Foolin'

I was doing some snooping around the Internet last night and got learning a little more about some of this emergent church movement. I'll admit, I'm still a newbie diving into this stuff, but I kind of liked what I learned. (If you want to see some of the places I was looking check out here, here, or here) Most of what I gleaned was from watching the video on Tony Jones' blog.

Here are a couple of the key points that I heard. The world is not black and white, but filled with much gray. Consequently our theology should be reflective of those shades of gray. (That sounds quite receptive to Lutheran theology.) I also heard about how as a culture we made a move towards "big" and things like "mega stores". The church followed with large denominations and churches that came to be known as "mega churches." Now there is a cultural movement towards smaller, local stores, etc. Consequently the emergent church is a move in that direction as well. (Not very Lutheran, but something that I like)

The bottom line, at least for me is, who cares about congregations, denominations, rules, structure and all of that other "stuff" that we tend hold up as so important. Sure, there is probably a necessary evil in needing some of that stuff, but we can't let that get in our way. What IS important is Jesus! It's about building a relationship with our Lord and Savior. How do we do that? If we trust in the wisdom of the Bible (and I hope you do) we just might see that we work this out as a community. Wasn't that largely the basis of the Bible? It was written to tell God's story to the community and then the community turned to each other and said, "Now what? How do we live this out?" Have we changed all that much?

I guess it turns out that I'm a Lutheran who is liking what he is hearing coming out the emergent church movement... No Foolin'!