Friday, January 30, 2009


As some know we recently got DishNetwork TV. My wife claimed fears of the station never leaving ESPN. As it turns out it seems the remote can't make it beyond HGTV. Who's really in control here? Anyway, that being said I find today's Friday Five fitting... that and we just moved into the parsonage, so we're limited in the changes that are reasonable to make so it makes it a little more interesting (at least for me) to dream about possibilities since most can't even be tried (consequently they all remain good ideas in my brain).

And so, my questions to you this fine Friday involve your home past, present or future...

1) If you could, what room in the place you are currently living would you redo first?
I would probably start with combining two of the bedrooms upstairs (all 4 are upstairs) and making it one large master suite. I think it would be fun to have a large bedroom with our own fancy bathroom and walk-in closet.

2) What is the most hideous feature/color/decor item you have ever seen in a home?
I think there are few folks who would argue for the vase that we got from a White Elephant gift exchange at our church staff Christmas party a few years ago... although, I do kind of like it.

3) What feature do you most covet? Do you have it? If not, is it within reach?
Personally, I would love to have a large, flatscreen HDTV. I think we're a ways away from that. We're even further away from my childhood dream of an indoor swimming pool. I think that would be totally AWESOME, but not all so realistic.

4) Your kitchen - love it or hate it? Why?
I don't know that it's a love or a hate, but perhaps sliding towards the hate end. It definitely is larger than our last kitchen, at least cupboard wise. We also love that we finally have dishwasher that isn't human. At the same time, I would like to update the cupboards, you know spruce them up a bit. I also would prefer a gas range top instead of the electric coils. Although, I do love the magic my wife can work in there, I am so fortunate to be married to an excellent cook.

5) Here is $10,000 and you HAVE to spend it on the place you are living now. What do you do?
Ooh, that's a tough one. I might be tempted to go with the master bedroom project above. I also would be tempted to look at upgrading some of the things like the furnace to make the place more energy efficient.

BONUS: Why do you think there was such a surplus of ugly bathroom tile colors showcased in all homes built from the 1950's right through the early 80's? Were they really that bad? Maybe I need to work on my sense of color.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Worship as Dance

I came across something today that credits famed Christian author C.S. Lewis comparing worship to a dance, when arguing against liturgical innovators who seemed to be wanting to create a weekly variety show in worship. Here is what I found:

"Worship, Lewis wrote, should be a bit like dancing. Once you have learned how to dance and have become good at it, you are able to immerse yourself in the dance and just do it almost without thinking about it. But if you must constantly look down at your feet, if you have to think about each movement before you actually make it, then you can't dance yet but are just learning how to dance.

Worship is like that, Lewis thought. A believer should be able to move through the liturgy without having to check his every movement first. An ideal service would be one you hardly notice in the sense of your simply being immersed and caught up in a set of actions and a series of thoughts that are fully a part of you already."

I like that analogy because I too believe worship is to be something that should flow out of us. I like, as well, that a good dance is one that has a firm, technical base but when it gets really good is when the dancers improvise and make minor adjustments to the dance along the way. Finally, what makes for a good dance is a good dance partner and in worship we join with the best of partners... remember good dance partners are not strangers, but ones who have an intimate connection with one another.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


When was the last time you were astonished? What was it? Why were you astonished?

The gospel reading for this Sunday says that after Jesus taught in the synagogue the people were astonished. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems that Jesus has become more ho-hum than astonishing. Why isn't Jesus so remarkable... astonishing any more?

Sweet Relief

I tend to be the kind of person who doesn't really care about money. I've come to learn that my dislike for money largely rises out of the realization that money just seems to cause stress and anxiety... and I don't like those kinds of things. I've been trying to remind myself that the house not selling back in MN is "just money" and that there are more important things in life. I think I was doing pretty good with it, but then this last weekend we got an offer on the house that we're accepting. We're going to take quite the financial loss (at least for us it's pretty significant), but we're pretty sure it's worth the relief that we feel. Our start here in Rome has been great, which reassures us that we've come to the right place in trying to follow God's call. We'll still need to make a few more mortgage payments towards a house we're not using, but with paperwork signed it is much easier to say, "It's just money" because we are feeling a sweet relief this week.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Theology Thought

My understanding of the definition of theology is that it means, "words about God." It is, then, our attempt to use words to describe God and God's actions. Yet, they are our words. They are human words, not The Word. So why is that we act like theology is "done", that we have come up with the defining words about The Word?

We don't expect scientists to ever be finished. We expect that there will always be something new to discover. We don't expect artists to ever be finished. We expect that there will always be another picture to create or story to tell. Why, then, would we ever expect to be done discovering and telling about God?

Don't get me wrong, theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin were absolutely brilliant. Yet, somehow, I suspect that if we were to bring them back from the dead they would probably agree that they had not spoken/written the definitive word on God. Yet we teach people as if they have... is it any wonder that seminary education sometimes feels a bit lifeless?

I think that it's about high time we start reclaiming our wrestling match with theology. We need to recognize that our theologies are just human words and sometimes they will sound childish and maybe even be a misunderstanding. However, we ought to continue to mold and craft our understanding of God. I have a hunch that's part of what's been so refreshing for so many people with books like, "The Shack"... because it comes off as an honest, raw wrestling with theology.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration Coverage

After watching some of the media coverage of the inauguration this last week I have become more convinced that the media lacks, more than ever, the ability to differentiate, to keep things in proper perspective. We see it on both sides of the news now. When a tragedy like a hurricane, tornado, or flood wiping out a city happens they dwell on it for days on end, digging into every little piece of minutia. They refuse to break away from the scene of the story, even if they don't have any new developments.

Weather reports are great for that. You get a tornado warning and they'll sit and talk about tornadoes and the potential damage they can do for hours. They'll bring in a guy who survived a tornado twenty years ago, yet there may not be a single tornado that touches down in the viewing area.

The coverage of the Barrack Obama inauguration had a similar feel to me. I agree that the election and inauguration of our first "black" president was significant historically. However, did it need non-stop, 24-7, news coverage for 2-3 straight days? I am of the opinion that when you start analyzing and reanalyzing the fashion choices of the Obama family you are no longer reporting news. That, to me, is to suggest that the producers (the decision makers at the networks) have lost perspective.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Thoughts?

Yesterday, I made reference to the importance of "The Cosby Show." I hope you read it as it was intended in terms of its pop culture significance. Having celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. yesterday and now gearing up for the inauguration, I'm wondering what your thoughts are in terms of the significance of Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th president?

Also, who are those people that you see as blazing the path to make the election of an African American president? MLK? Muhammad Ali? Jackie Robinson? Malcom X? Others?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama Inaugaration Thought

It was interesting watching "The Today Show" this morning... OK, it did get old essentially only having one topic, but that they were focused on the inauguration of our first "black" president on the same day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the reports they had was speculating on whether Obama or 50 Cent will have a greater impact on this generation. Here is one response to the report they had.

My response got me to thinking about "The Cosby Show." One of the things that they are lauding about the Obama's is that they are a black family still in tact. Remarkable to many in a generation where that isn't always so much the case. I have a hunch that in the long run Barack Obama will have a greater impact on our culture. In the short term it just might be 50 Cent, or some other rap/pop music icon...

Yet, I think any positive influence someone like Barack Obama, 50, or even folks like Jay-Z or P-Diddy might have on the African American community has to have some roots in "The Cosby Show." I believe that show went a long way in portraying a smart, educated, African American family in an extremely positive, All-American, light.

An interesting (at least to me), related side note is that "The Cosby Show" was somewhat ground breaking by showing an intact African American family when that wasn't always so much the case in the the African American community. (Or so certain media critics suggested at the time.) Now it seems to be an aboration for our entire culture, no matter your race.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Persistant Call

In our Old Testament reading on Sunday from 1 Samuel we have the Lord calling Samuel. As you read the story I hope you notice the persistence of the Lord. Over and over the Lord calls out to Samuel and instead he goes to Eli. Finally it is Eli, who is going blind, who "sees" that it is the Lord who is actually calling. How awesome is that? How familiar does that sound?

It starts by noting that the word of the Lord was rare in those days. Sound familiar? I don't know about you, but I haven't noticed any burning bushes or any clear voice of God thundering from the sky lately. What I wouldn't give for an e-mail or even a status update from God. Yet, there is God calling... to Samuel none the less. Unfortunately, he doesn't recognize the voice all so much. It makes me wonder, how often is God calling our name and we simply miss it?

This resonates with me as a pastor as well. Unfortunately, many people want to think that pastors are ones who more in tune with God than others. Yet during my years in seminary I don't recall any one sharing their call story and saying, "So one day I was called by God and next thing you know I was enrolled in classes." In fact, the story was more one of God nagging at them and tugging at their hearts. For most it was a matter of years before they responded. I would say most stories were more stories of finally giving in to God than snapping to action in response to a clear voice.

Thank goodness God is persistent since most of us don't hear all so clearly... not all so unlike Samuel.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Call: To Evangelism

Looking ahead to this weeks assigned texts, I get an overwhelming sense of call. In the gospel reading there is a calling to evangelism. As a life long Lutheran there is something that makes me a little nervous when I hear the "E" word. Although, it is a little ironic since "Evangelical" is the "E" in ELCA.

It's an evangelism that seems almost fitting of a Midwestern, Scandinavian Lutheran like myself. First of all, with the way Philip approaches Nathanael I get the impression they know one another already. So it seems to me the first step in this form of evangelism is to talk to a friend. If for some reason you don't have friends I suppose the first step is to make a friend or two, but I somehow doubt that's the case for you.

Then, did you see the profound theological statement that Philip used? He said, "Come and See." So Philip didn't need any sort of eloquent explanation of why Nathanael should come to believe, but rather said, "Here take a look for yourself." Perhaps you might say something like, "Would you like to join me for worship on Sunday?" or "Would you like to join me when I go to activity x." Then you can let someone else do the talking, or even better let Jesus do the talking.

Although, you should probably also note the response of Nathanael. If I were to paraphrase I would say it was, "You're nuts!" So it's not going to be shocking if your friends don't just jump at your invitation. However, the seed has been planted and Jesus can work with that.

Now, I think that's the kind of evangelism I can get on board with... at least for now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I think it's unfortunate that we've come to think of "Amen" as "the end" because that's not what it means. It is an adamant acclamation saying, "Lord, let it be so!" "This is what we want, Lord, make it happen!" Perhaps that is why I like the line in Steve Curtis Chapman's song, "Let Us Pray" where it says, "Just because we say the word 'amen' doesn't mean this conversation needs to end."

So, come on, and let us pray!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Let These Gifts, To Us Be Blessed

This petition begins with a reminder that all comes from God. It was God, who in the beginning, created and God continues to create. It was God who gave us the ability to work that we might make money so that we can purchase things like food, home, and clothing. So this petition begins with a reminder that this building in which we sit, this food before us, and the good people surrounding us are not of our doing but but rather is a gift given to us by God.

This petition also asks that these gifts would strengthen us so that God might be glorified. It is prayer for the blessing first bestowed on Abraham, that we would be blessed to be a blessing. We ask in this prayer that we might reflect the love and grace that first comes from God.

Pancake Five

The boxes, OK not all of them but a good number of them, have been unpacked. We're reconnected to the internet at home. Thanks to these circumstances coming together I figured it was time to take dip back into the Friday Five circle.

So pull up a chair to the kitchen table and tell us all about your pancake preferences.

1. Scratch or mix? Buttermilk or plain?
Of course they taste best from scratch, but more often than not we go with the "just add water" mix because we just don't allow for the time. We tend to go with the buttermilk, however my wonderful wife has a great recipe for Oatmeal Pancakes that she got from a kids cookbook.

2. Pure and simple, or with additions cooked in?
Pure and simple is good, but I like a little fruit mixed in. Blueberries? Yes! Bananas? Yes! Raspberries? Yes! There is a restaurant in St. Paul called "The Egg & I" and they have what they call Kamakaze Cakes. You can get them in plain, buttermilk, buckwheat, and I think wholegrain. They have fruit, granola, and a bunch of other stuff. Really, one pancake is an entire meal. They are absolutely AWESOME!!!

3. For breakfast or for dinner?
I'm not so sure you can go wrong either way. I think we end up having them for dinner slightly more often, but I honestly can't complain either way.

4. Preferred syrup or other topping? How about the best side dish?
I am most definitely a syrup guy, however in a strange twist for many I must request that you leave the butter off. On the side I would say it's a toss up between sausage and hash browns, but I think I'm going to give a slight edge to the hash browns.

5. Favorite pancake restaurant?
The Egg & I is excellent as is the Highland Grill in St. Paul. However, I think I'm going to go with the Copper Dome in St. Paul. In fact, even Barack Obama stopped there for pancakes when he was in St. Paul campaigning. Unfortunately, I'm in Wisconsin now, so I'm going to have find someplace new.

Bonus: Any tasty recipes out there, for pancakes or other special breakfast dishes? Bring 'em on!
I don't really have any, but if others want to share with me, I certainly won't object... I'm getting hungry now. I think I'll go make me a stack.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Abused Child?

Today at a new text study someone suggested an image for many congregations that I had not heard before: an abused child. In my frustration I have often seen people sitting in the pews not really engaging in any meaningful way and I have seen it as a country club mentality. It's sort of that notion that if you show up, punch the holy time clock, pay your "dues" every now and again, then you will have your place in heaven. I suspect that is still the case in a lot of places.

However, I had not considered the abused child image before, and it kind of made sense. (I probably won't do his explanation justice, but here's how I understood it.) That many people feel abused, burned, or whatever similar term you want to use, by the church. Yet they feel they need to be there. However, their job is to show up, lay low, don't rock the boat, and make peace when necessary.

What, I think, you wind up with is similar behavior from members. However, it is for vastly different reasons. This probably means we would need to respond in very different ways as well. I, honestly, haven't had a whole lot of time to think about it, but on a gut level there is something about it that makes sense. What do you think? If it's a true, or helpful, image then what implication do you see it having upon our ministry?

Be Our Guest

At first blush this petition is much like the first one we prayed. You see, it certainly is true that Jesus is present with us and so we, once again, are asking that Christ would be present with us at this table. Thanks to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, Jesus most certainly comes and joins us in the meal. It is with little irony that it is in the meal that this petition gains power. It is the meal that reminds us of the Last Supper, which is the prelude to the greatest servant move of all time. So this petition becomes a reminder to us that just as Christ humbled himself we too are to humble ourselves as we are called to serve. First and foremost we are to serve Jesus, whom we are asking in this petition to be our guest so that we might serve them as good hosts. Consequently we also are proclaiming that we desire Jesus to be glorified in all that we do.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Come Lord Jesus

We were praying the common table prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus" the other day and it dawned on me that while more often than not I just whiz through the words and don't think about it, there really is some wonderful depth to the prayer. So I got to thinking that maybe over the next few days I might share some of my thoughts on the petitions in the prayer, kind of like Luther did with the Lord's prayer in his small catechism, but perhaps not with the same depth.

We begin with, "Come Lord Jesus." First of all, it is a wonderful recognition, confession if you will, that Jesus is Lord and that we truly are in need of a savior. It is true that Jesus is Lord of all, but in this petition we pray especially that Jesus would be Lord of us as well.

Similarly in this first petition we are asking Jesus to come and to be present with us. Oh, it is true that Jesus is ever present with us, even without our asking. However, in this prayer we particularly ask that Jesus would be present, here and now, with us at this time.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Moved... sort of...

Well, we have finished packing all of our stuff and loading a rather large U-Haul (and a couple of cars) plumb full. We have driven to Rome and unloaded the truck (and a couple of cars) and here we are. We have officially "moved" to Wisconsin. Am I ready? I don't really know, but I guess it doesn't matter a whole lot since I'm here and it's going to happen regardless. It will be good in the end, but like most things it is a bit daunting as we begin. We are wondering if we'll ever get all of our "stuff" unpacked, sorted, and arranged in a way we feel comfortable with because there is waaaay too much "stuff" that we own. My hope is that returning to a regular routine of posting here will help me out. I've got a few things rattling around in my head that I just might need to get out sooner than later. So stay tuned... and we'll all see what happens.