Saturday, December 20, 2008

Confusion in Minnesota

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008


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

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

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

How about you? What's on your list?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Great Start

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


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

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

So go, get close, snuggle in with God.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


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

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

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Edge

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Discipleship Abuse

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


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

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

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

I don’t believe in student discipleship.

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


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

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

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

Not possible.

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

“Discipleship requires…”

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

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

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

“Ruin their lives…”

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

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

A Disruptive Gospel

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Family Pictures

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

A St. Olaf Christmas

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

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

Advent Friday Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Eyes Have It

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

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

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

Mother & Son... beautiful

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Twitter of Faith

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Smiles & Laughs

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

Why Are You Involved?

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 01, 2008

What Gives? (a rant)

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

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

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

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

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

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