Friday, October 31, 2008


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


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.


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.


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:


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.


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


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


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


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?