Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Life is so full of risks. It seems that most of our lives are spent in risk management mode. Sometimes I wonder why that is, although most of the time it makes sense. Honestly, I don't like to get hurt. I don't like to fail. So I try and manage the risks to the best of my ability so that I don't get hurt in any way. Still, sometimes that seems a little silly. You can lock yourself in the house to try and avoid risk, but then they say most accidents happen in the home and most traffic accidents happen within a couple of miles of home. Heck, I recently read somewhere that something like 1,000 people each year are seriously injured from getting caught in the cord for their curtains. Nowhere, it seems, is REALLY safe. So why not step out and take a risk, take a chance. If you don't give it a shot you can't succeed. What's the worse that will happen? Failure?

I was reading this morning from John Ortberg's book "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat." In there I came across the following quote:

"Failure is not an event, but rather a judgment about an event. Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things. It is a way we think about outcome."

He then goes on to talk about Jonas Salk not failing, but finding 200 ways how not to vaccinate for polio. He talks about Churchill not failing a grade, but being given a second change. You see failure is more about perception. If something doesn't turn out the way we had hoped is it a failure? If we judge it so, but that doesn't have to be a case.

How might our lives be different if we approached success and failure in this sort of way? I can't imagine God judges us as failures when things don't turn out as we had hoped or expected. Why should you?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book of Faith Puppets 4


There was a fun article in the paper this morning about new Viking's Defensive End Jerad Allen. For those who aren't football fans he plays one of those positions where he is intended to be a holy terror to the opposing team. If you watch him play he can be a holy terror. He is, in a word, a man's man. The fun part of the article reveals that he still sleeps with his "b'ankie". What?

It struck me because in my sermon today I make the comparison of the kingdom of God, the Dream of God, as being like our blankie (or stuffed animal, nook, whatever) from our childhood. An item, much like a treasure, something that if gone missing we would sell ALL that we have to get it back. The article about Jerad All ends like this:

Can he hook up some of his teammates? "Nah,'' he said. "You can't just claim a blankie. A blankie has to have some significant meaning.

"Otherwise, it's just a blanket.''

I wonder, if something similar couldn't be said about the Dream of God? What is the significance to you? Or, How does it have significance to you?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book of Faith Puppets 2


Is the time really right for a Black President? Larry Wilmore explores just that with Jon Stewart. Perhaps we should think this through...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book of Faith Puppets

This last Lent, I wrote a series of 5 puppet dramas for our Wednesday evening worship services. Today begins a series of postings of those puppet shows. For those that may have come across them because you are a pastor, or congregation leader of some sort, and for some reason you find yourself interested in the scripts know that I am working on fixing them up and making them available as way for congregations to work with the Book of Faith Initiative. So without further ado here it goes....

I do apologize, though, for the sound quality. These were taped before we got in our new recording system this spring. Hopefully you can make the best of it.

Wisdom and Google

Our first reading on Sunday we hear Solomon ask for wisdom. It actually got me to thinking about a post I wrote earlier this year. The thoughts from that post were reaffirmed somewhat as I was pointed to an article printed in the Atlantic. The question posed in the article is, "Is Google making us stupid?" Perhaps it isn't necessarily making us stupid, but the evidence appears clear that Google, and the Internet are changing the way we read and think. In fact, the leaders of Google are brash enough to want to create a search engine that will essentially think for us. They are willing to filter for us, we no longer need to think or learn more about a subject to decide what to learn more about. How often do we think beyond the quick snippet of information to the implications, the wider ramifications, of that information and how it might be used? We no longer appear to have space to ponder, discern, and use wisdom. Yet God allows Solomon to ask for anything he could ever dream of, and he asks for Wisdom. Perhaps there's a lesson in there for us as well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Falling in Love with the Ordinary

Last Sunday our friend Kari was ordained to be a pastor in the ELCA. One of the things the pastor pointed out in his sermon was that the word "ordain" or "ordination" comes from the same root word that gave us "ordinary." It was a great reminder that while we are set apart for the particular ministry to which we are called, we are common ordinary people. (Although, as children of God I would also argue that we are extra-ordinary, but that's perhaps for another time to get into.) Yet, how often to do we shun the ordinary as we quest to be extra special. To encounter the ordinary feels dull, or even at times as if we are settling.

Yesterday, we had friends visiting from South Dakota. We decided to go over to the zoo figuring their 3-year old would enjoy doing so. I got the impression we were right, he had fun. However, it struck me that one of the animals he was most fascinated with was a gopher hanging out in the goat pen. He has gophers in his back yard back at home. Here were all of these animals he could only see in a zoo and one he likes the best is a common, ordinary gopher he could see any day of the week. What is it about kids? When we brought our nephews to the same zoo a couple of years ago the same thing happened. They grew up on a farm, but they were most excited by the farm animals at the zoo.

I seem to recall Jesus encouraging us to have faith like a little child. I wonder if it's not time we started falling in love with the ordinary, the familiar once again. Maybe it's about time for us to recognize our call to ministry as being ordinary and embracing it like a child at the zoo, falling in love with it again.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who Would Do Such a Thing?

Today's gospel left me with an interesting image. First the farmer plants his good seeds of wheat. Then in the middle of the night a neighbor comes along and sows seeds of weeds. It kind of leaves you wondering, "Who would do such a thing?" Honestly, who would scatter weed seeds? Jesus suggests later in the reading that it would be the devil and that kind of makes sense.

Then I got to thinking about previous times I've talked about dandelions. How many times have I unintentionally allowed dandelions to go to seed, which were scattered into my neighbors lawn? Is there really much of a difference? It kind of makes you feel a little more like a weed...or at least maybe a little more sympathetic to weeds. It's also the beauty of God that we can be made wheat, even in our weediest of states.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


We had a funeral today for a 19 year old who was killed in a car accident this past Sunday. As I sat in the sanctuary and was thinking about the tragedy of this event I couldn't help but think about how this coming Sunday's gospel reading might fit the situation.

I see the parable of the wheat and the weeds being shared to address of the question of why is there evil in the world around us? Why do we, as believers, end up suffering. Our instinct is often to suggest something, in tragic moments, like it must be God's will. Really? This parable seems to suggest that God didn't plant the weeds, the evil, but it was the devil. The problem is we can't really tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds, so we need to allow them both to grow.

Why did the evil ugliness of Brady's death happen? I don't know, but I am awful tempted to blame the devil. What will come of this? I don't know that either, but I do suspect time will inform us much better. What I do believe is that we were given a promise in our baptism that we are wheat... you are wheat.

It's Simple, It's Jesus

Here is my sermon from July 6, the Sunday before beginning vacation. One of the things I repeat a couple of times is something to the effect of "It's just that simple. It's just that complicated." After hearing the sermon my wife had a couple of great analogies for this idea, both very similar. It's kind of like a magic trick. On the one hand when you look at it the trick seems very complicated, but when someone explains it to you, shows you the secret, it's often really quite simple. The other thing that is quite similar are those puzzle toys. You've probably seen them before.

These twisted metal contraptions appear nearly impossible. Yet the solution to them are usually quite simple, although not always all so obvious. Isn't our Christian walk kind of like that? It all really boils down to Jesus. It's just that simple, but it's also just that complicated.

Center of the Universe

OK, so it's been a while since I've posted. I was away on vacation and all of the relaxing and driving just didn't lead to a whole lot of writing. Oh, there were a number of things I considered blogging about, but I was never anywhere near a computer at the time. Who knows, they may have been brilliant, but those thoughts are gone now.

Not surprising to many, my thoughts have been consumed with baby thoughts. I suppose it's natural now that we're just about to t-minus 5 weeks for the due date. Anyway, one of the things I've been thinking about is how the baby shows up thinking it is the center of the universe. Why wouldn't it? For the past 40 weeks baby has lived with Mom attached to it fulfilling it's every need and whim (thankfully whims in the womb are simple). How harsh it must be over the coming months as the baby discovers it is not the center of the universe? Eventually the baby must learn that crying doesn't produce milk or a simple, sweet smile doesn't always get you endless attention. As the baby grows it will learn that Mom and Dad are important, in fact might even continue to rely on them, but also that they are not the only creature in need of Mom and Dad's attention and care. There are just some parts of life they will need to live on their own. It's part of the maturing process.

Doesn't our faith work that way sometimes as well? At some point we mature and begin to realize that we are not the center of the universe? We begin to realize that while we do need God we are not the only ones that need God's attention and care. So we learn to live certain parts of our lives on our own. Oh, we'll always need God, but we may not always need God to hold our hand through every step of the way. That's a good thing. It means we're maturing and realizing we are not the center of the universe. Now, there may be times (like tragedies in life) where we revert to needing God at our side every step of the way and when we don't get it we'll cry louder. In the midst of these storms of life we may cling to things like candles, medallions, or pictures to get us through. This regression of faith just might save our lives, but it is not a mature form of faith.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Beautiful Savior

Here is a touch of beauty from my alma matter.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Things You Don't Say to Your Wife

Thanks to my friend Scott over at Nachfolge for posting/sharing this video.