Sunday, December 31, 2006


At the launching of a brand new year
I banish care and doubt from here.
The Old we leave without at tear,
The New embrace without a fear!

Behind us lies our history.
Before us lies uncertainty.
We must step boldly into the new horizon
Unhindered by misgivings
Undaunted by anxieties.

Certainly, we have plenty to worry about. If we allow it, concern can seep into the soul and corrode the joy.

We can worry about the state of the world -- terrorism, war, homeland security.
We can worry about the economy -- investments, debt, retirement.
We can worry about relationships -- conflicts, misunderstandinds, unresolved issues.

We don't have to look far to find cares of every kind.

Yet, in the face of it all, God is alive and well! He understands the situation fully, and has it all under control. He is good on his Word, and never fails.

As Corrie Ten Boom said, "God has no problems, only plans!"

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dad and Daughter

Cathy and the boys went to northern Minnesota for a Bible Quizzing tournament this weekend, leaving Hannah and me back home to "mind the ranch."

Hannah was my little helper. Together, we made a hospice visit and attended the 75th birthday party of Bob, a dear parishoner.

We also went out to breakfast together at the Co-op, and to the movies to watch Charlotte's Web.

We finished off the evening, by making a suprise visit to our daughter church in Minong. I was pleased to see a church full of people when we arrived five minutes before starting time.

It's amazing to realize that we have a healthy, viable congregtion now, that did not even exist a year ago.

Driving home in a drizzly snow/sleet mix, we sang praise songs the entire trip. It was fun.

Death of the Wicked

"Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?"

-- Ezekiel 33:11

Unlikely Source

Remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence ...
I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave a space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking and keeps away one from balanced thinking and making the right choice ...

-- Saddam Hussein

Friday, December 29, 2006

Blogger Breakfast

For any of you blogging Wesleyan pastors -- we're going to have an informal Wesleyan Bloggers Breakfast during the Pastors' Conference in Orlando next week.

8:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan 4 at Augustine's, which is onsite at the Wyndham.

It's a bit spendy -- around $14.00 for a buffet breakfast, but hey, the company will be outstanding!

Grow For It!

We either just "go" through life or we can GROW through it.

The difference between going and growing is the big "R" -- Reflection!

Life is not so much about what happens TO us as what happens IN and FROM us.

When we take the time to reflect upon our experiences, we learn important lessons from them.

Failing to glean truth from circumstances, leads to a long rough journey of difficult consequences. going from bump to bump with a few ditches between.

Reflection brings wisdom and understanding. Why just suffer through difficult experiences, when we can gain something from them? Why waste mistakes?

"Experience is not what happens to you," said Adlous Huxley, "It is what you do with what happens to you."

My good friend, Famous Dave, made the following observation:

"Failure is the hallmark of success. It can be the starting point of a new venture such as when a baby learns to walk, it has to fall down a lot to learn the new skill. Failure is also the mark of a success you've worked for. When a pole-vaulter finally misses in competition, it shows how far he's come. That failure becomes the starting point for his next effort, proving that failure is not final!"

I once heard John Maxwell say, "When you fall down, you might as well pick up something!"

I say, "Grow for it!"

Conflict Resolution

Stephen Shields wrote a great post at Faith Maps on conflict resolution.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Brethren, Hang Loose

A couple of weeks ago, I had a delightful phone conversation with Bob Girard, author of Brethren, Hang Loose, or "how to do church in a 1972 Jesus people hippy style."

(I dusted it off and read it again last week. Although somewhat dated, in many ways he was before his time. He sure sounds a lot like Barna, the folks at the Ooze, and the cell church groupies.)

Years ago, he was the pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church -- and that is where he received his "minister's education!" (The REAL education which begins AFTER graduation from seminary!)

I was amused by the following incident he relays in the book:

"One church I pastored was known for feuding among its members. One of its charter members told me one day, 'I've never liked any pastor we've ever had, and you're no exception!' And she meant it!" (p. 21)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

What a Christmas Eve!

In our four Christmas Eve services at Hayward, a total of 1024 people attended. It was a delight to greet many old friends. Some, I've not seen since Easter.

We had a sailor from Virginia Beach, a lady who had been stuck in the Denver airport for 57 hours, and several friends from the community who have been on my prayer list. There was a beautiful spirit in all the services as we lit the candles and sang "Silent Night" together.

A fun highlight of the day was driving the thirty miles up to Drummond between the Hayward services.

My Episcopal buddy, Art Hancock, the Youth for Christ guy, Dave Johnson and I opened up the empty Lutheran church and held a non-denominational Christmas Eve service. It's hard for me to imagine a town in America that doesn't have a single church -- but that's the case with Drummond.

Art covered the "closed" sign out front with a Christmas banner.

Fifteen minutes before the service began, I wondered if anybody was going to show up, but my concerns were definitely unfounded.

A stream of beaming strangers poured into the little, musty church on the corner. There have been no worship services there for months, and the "I need to be opened up" smell lingers in the air. Yet there was an "air of puzzlement mixed with expectancy."

One person counted 90 attendees, who sat in the mahogany pews and folding chairs.

We lost our piano player -- and so I substituted with guitar. It seemed to fit the situation just fine. One 20-something guy in the second pew exclaimed, "Cool! I've never seen guitars in church before!"

There were several families with little kids!

Cathy helped me by leading the singing, She and Hannah also joined with the Jackson's in a Christmas violin quartet.

Suzanne, the village librarian, read Scripture, a wonderful young couple from the town, provided some music, Father Art told the Christmas story, and Dave led the candlelighting.

We didn't take an offering. The service was a free gift to their community.

My friends, Horst and Elisabeth, came early from Hayward, just to help out -- so they became our "official" candle distributors. Horst smiled and said, "Last Sunday, I was at Willow Creek. This experience is just a little bit different!"

Horst was right. It was much more like Lake Wobegon than Willow Creek, and that was perfectly fine with the good northwoods folks of Drummond. They had a meaningful Christmas Eve, and a darkened church was lit up again. I sure felt good driving home.

Joy to the World, the Lord has Come!

Somebody asked me how we advertised.

I said, "I just whispered it to a couple of people and said, 'please don't tell anybody'."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Light in the Darkness

The blasts of chill December sound
the farewell of the year,
And night's swift shadows gath'ring round
O'er cloud the soul with fear;
But rest you well, good Christian friends,
Nor be of heart forlorn;
December's darkness begins again
The Light of Christmas morn.

-- Norval Clyne (1817-1888)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bethany Hilgendorf Memorial

The Memorial Service for Bethany Hilgendorf will be 2:00 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28 at Hayward Wesleyan Church.

There will be a visitation an hour before the service at the church, as well as Wednesday evening, 5 to 8 p.m. at the Anderson Nathan Funeral Home.

Please pray for this beautiful family as they walk through the dark valley of grief.

Eight Christmas Eve Services

Tomorrow, at Hayward, we will have four identical Christmas Eve Services: 8:20 a.m., 9:40 a.m., 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. I expect that the morning attendance will be rather light -- and we'll be packed in the evening.

I've had one complaint about all the services being the same -- but a lot of positive feedback. I'll focus on the positive. I think it's ok if our people are expected to attend only one time on Christmas Eve, and the time spread takes away the excuses.

Our daughter church in Minong will hold three services -- one tonight at 7:00 p.m., and tomorrow at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. It was last year on Christmas Eve when we held our first service there. I think it's pretty cool that they've come this far in such a short time!

A highlight of the day for me will be our 2:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Service in Drummond, which is a logging town a half hour to the north.

That little village has only one church building, and it is closed. Can you imagine a community in America without ANY church? There's a sign that says "Closed" out front.

My Episcopal priest buddy, Art, and I cooked up the idea of holding this service for the dear people of Drummond last week. It took a bit of last minute scrambling, but we're going to do it!

We don't have a piano player, so the music will be by guitar.

There wasn't much time to advertise, but in these northwoods hamlets, word of mouth travels fast.

A Heart Warming Gesture

Tom Shrum, a student in my Evangelism Class, recently shared this story. I am reminded of the old adage, "Preach Christ at all times; when necessary, use words."

For the past few months, our youth group has been planning an outreach to a woman and her child in our community. Today, we finished it. We started with a dresser that was donated from a local furniture store that we stained. We wanted to fill the dresser with baby clothes and give it away to a needy family for Christmas.

I made some contacts about finding a family who would really be blessed by the gift. After we found the family, I had the teens go to each of the adult Sunday school classes in the church and tell them about our outreach. I equipped them with a script of dialogue and a list of items that the family needed. We wanted to make this a whole church outreach, instead of just our youth group.

We then set a date that the clothes had to be in by and we got the dresser filled. We had so many gifts that we could not fit them all in the dresser. Today, we delivered the dresser to a family in our community who had an 8 month old baby. As we pulled in to the low income housing apartments, I had the teens get out the vehicle and pretend to play hacky sack in the parking lot. Meanwhile, myself and another youth leader carried the dresser to the apartment. We set the dresser down, knocked on the door and ran. I had a girl taking pictures from far away so that we could capture their reaction.

As we were running away, a man opened the door and to his amazement there was a dresser on his porch. He called for Nicole and they both came out to see it. We all watched them open the card and the drawers from a distance. The family was so excited about the gift that they got their neighbors to come over and see it. We were excited too. We didn’t want to leave. We wanted to stay and watch them open the drawers and discover all of the clothes.

The best part about all of this was that they will never know who gave it to them. Our card simply said: “Merry Christmas, Jesus Loves You Very Much. We hope you have a holiday filled with peace and joy, from someone who cares.”

Praise God!!! A family gets blessed and God is the only One who gets the glory.

Friday, December 22, 2006


This afternoon, I received word that a young friend, Bethany Hilgendorf, died this morning in her Indianapolis apartment. She was so young -- so full of life and boundless enthusiasm. It's hard to grasp that she is gone.

They believe she slipped into a diabetic coma.

Her folks, Gary and Michelle, are dear friends, and very much a part of our church family, and over the past few months, Gary has been pastoring the Spider Lake Church, a non-denominational congregation a few miles south of Hayward. We work closely together, and Bethany has been my friend since she was a little girl.

I went to their home and cried with them.

This is such a difficult thing for the Hilgendorf's to endure -- especially right before Christmas. My heart is heavy. Please pray for them, as well as Bethany's sister, Rachel, and her brother, Curtis.

Also, I really messed up this afternoon. I forgot to show up for a Memorial Service I was supposed to officiate. I've done a couple hundred funerals -- and that was a first. I just totally blew it.

Horrified, when I realized my mistake two hours later, I hurridly drove to the Veterans' Center, where the memorial was to be held. Most everybody had left, but the deceased's daughter was still around.

I apologized profusely, and she just smiled and said, "We all wondered what happened to you!"

Fortunately, she was kind and gracious. She forgave me, and said that her Aunt had stepped up to the plate, spoke some words of comfort, and then said a prayer. Thank the Lord for a godly Aunt who knows how to pray.

I still felt like an absolute dunce.

Nevertheless, as I write this, forgetting the funeral was not the worst thing that happened today. The death of my precious young friend, Bethany, puts it all into perspective.

Learning Points

From the troubled waters at Calvary Chapel Albuquerque, Pastor Skip Heitzig shares three important lessons he's learned from his experience:

1. Communicating expectations is crucial in any transition.

2. Choices must be owned by those who made them.

3. By nature, people make judgments based on incomplete information.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jesus Was a Small Town Preacher

I'm wondering if you would do me a favor? Would you head over to Rev Unplugged (I serve on their blogging team), and read my post entitled, "Jesus Was a Small Town Preacher?"

I also welcome your comments on that site. Thanks!

J. R. Salzman

I received word yesterday, that one of our Hayward hometown boys, and champion logroller, J. R. Salzman, lost his right arm in Iraq. What a tragedy. Please pray for J. R. and his family.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The Holy Spirit convicted me about my last post. I was trying to be funny, and ended up being unkind. That's been a blind spot for me, and God is helping to develop me in that area.

So, please forgive me.

Upon further reflection, this is the most "kid-friendly" Ministers' Conference I've ever seen.

Family Friendly Conference

While perusing the info concerning the Wesleyan Pastors Gathering in Orlando in a couple of weeks, I was amused by the following statement:

Bring your family—The site of the conference is very family friendly. We are sorry, but we have sold out of the family suites. Nursery/child care will NOT be provided during the conference. . .

Hmmm -- tell me how family friendly is that??

I recall getting ready to go to Family Camp one year. My son, Wes, protested, "Dad, this isn't Family Camp! It's Pastor Camp and the families are just going along.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


If your name is to live at all, it is so much more
to have it live in people's hearts
than only in their brains.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, December 18, 2006

Life Is a Mirror

Life is a mirror which reflects your attitude.

If you wonder why people are giving you the "cold shoulder" it might just be that you're dishing out ice, yourself.

If a rotten, foul mood, pervades your home, perhaps it's the overflow of your own negativity.

If it seems like nobody is grateful for all you do, maybe you should measure your own motives.

If you want people to be nicer to you, you need to sow a few kindness seeds.

If the folks you meet are unfriendly, it's time to check your own FQ (friendliness quotient.)

If all you hear is "complain, complain, complain", you might just be the biggest complainer.

If your friends are finding fault, turn it aroud and find some good.

If the situaiton seems dark, you can light a candle!

If people are always dumping their garbage on you, remember, misery loves company. It is not a compliment to be on the receiving end of a gossipy garbage-load.

If everybody around you is frowning, give 'em a good smile!

Never go fishing wth a crabapple for bait.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Favre Tops Marino's Record

Today, Brett Favre passed Dan Marino as the NFL's leader in passing completions.

If he keeps going, he might beat Blanda's record too -- most interceptions!

The Giving Tree

We have a "Giving Tree" set up in our church foyer, to help needy children. The people in the church select a tag hanging from the tree that contains information about a child (age -- boy or girl -- what kind of things they like.)

Then, we go buy a present for the child.

This week, just when I thought we had distributed all the tags, a respresentative from the Mission Committee came in with 50 more!

As the new tags were being hung on the tree, and realizing the time contstraint, I wondered out loud to Pastor Ben, "We don't have the time to get rid of all those!! How are we ever going to do it???"

He just grinned, and replied, "Faith."

This morning, by the time church was over, all the tags were gone!

Over 200 kids are going to be blessed through the Giving Tree.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

20,000 Visitors

This morning, the 20,000th visitor came to my blog! This traffic has come, pretty much, within the past twelve months. That's pretty amazing.

Thanks to all my regular visitors who helped me reach this milestone. Blessings!

How About This?

Every pastor could use a couple of these!


A reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog; they keep him from broodin' on bein' a dog.

-- E. M. Westcott in David Harum

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pastor Bozo Bop Bag

I felt like Pastor Bozo Bop Bag at our board meeting last night.

Took a few hits, and kept coming back up grinning.
At least I can say they're passionate bunch and not a school of dead fish rubber stampers.

Missional Success

J.R. Woodward defined ministry success this way:

Success is…

Not simply how many people come to our church services, but how many people our church serves.

Not simply how many people attend our ministry, but how many people have we equipped for ministry.

Not simply how many people minister inside the church, but how many minister outside the church.

Not simply helping people become more whole themselves, but helping people bring more wholeness to their world. (ie. justice, healing, relief)

Not simply how many ministries we start, but how many ministries we help.

Not simply how many unbelievers we bring into the community of faith, but how many ‘believers’ we help experience healthy community.

Not simply working through our past hurts, but working alongside the Spirit toward wholeness.

Not simply counting the resources that God gives us to steward, but counting how many good stewards are we developing for the sake of the world.

Not simply how we are connecting with our culture but how we are engaging our culture.

Not simply how much peace we bring to individuals, but how much peace we bring to our world.

Not simply how effective we are with our mission, but how faithful we are to our God.

Not simply how unified our local church is, but how unified is “the church” in our neighborhood, city and world?

Not simply how much we immerse ourselves in the text, but how faithfully we live in the story of God.

Not simply being concerned about how our country is doing, but being concerned for the welfare of other countries.

Not simply how many people we bring into the kingdom, but how much of the kingdom we bring to the earth.


He makes a lot of sense -- and what he says resonates deeply with my soul. If I were to make the list, however, I'd put more emphasis on evangelism -- helping broken, lost and hurting people experience the powerful grace of Jesus. That's missional!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

O Holy What??

I'm not sure if the goof up was with Cyber Hymnal or the Yahoo Search Engine, but I don't think this is what they meant to say. (Number # 2 on the list)

Ontario Preachers

According to the Anglican Journal, a majority of Ontario clergy in six major Protestant denominations, including Anglicans, are lonely and unfulfilled, exhausted from working long hours and are suffering a “critical crisis of identity,” with most feeling like a chief executive officer rather than a pastor, a recent study shows. (from Monday Morning Insight)

Gosh, I'm sure glad I don't live in Ontario!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Work of the Church

Sharon Rhodes Wickett, her powerful sermon, "Collapsing the Distance" shares the following story:

I attended the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The meetings were held in the large sanctuary in the capital city, Freetown.

Each day as we entered the large doors into the sanctuary there was a young girl, maybe about the age of 8, who begged at the door. She looked ragged, dirty, her hair was matted and knotty, and she had on tattered clothes. No one seemed to know her, and people brushed her aside upon entering. Some of the pastors tried to tell her to go away. We were busy doing the work of the church. She was a bother. This went on for several days.

As I sat in the pew observing the Conference one day, my peripheral vision caught some motion outside. I looked out the window, and there on the patio, outside the sanctuary was a woman, a lay member of the conference. She found a bucket and some soap. Although dressed in a beautiful traditional tie-dye gown, she pushed up her sleeves, and she was giving that 8-year-old girl a bath. She soaped up her hair and was tenderly making her all clean and new. She washed the clothes the child had been wearing, and they were spread out on the bushes in the sun drying. The woman went out and got another dress for her to wear, too.

Hundreds of pastors and devoted lay persons poured into the Methodist Church of Freetown to do the work of the church. But outside, on the edges, quietly and without notice, the work of redemption - the work of Jesus Christ was being done. It was not the work of committees and reports and programs. It was the work of soap and water and human touch and being able to see the face of Jesus in that of an abandoned 8-year-old girl.

(Thanks to Dean at Atlantic Transplant for the lead.)

Monday, December 11, 2006


Yesterday, during the sermon, I shared this poem by David Whyte.

New York Trans Fat Ban

O.K., let me get this straight. There's a prohibition on stuff fried in Crisco, but they can still serve Jack Daniels?

Watch out for those black market cheese curds!

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Thanks, to Todd at Monday Morning Insight, for passing along this funny story: The Christmas Bird.



Today at church, I shared the fantastic adventures from my Evangelism Class in North Carolina. You can find the Peaches and Shears story here.

300 Sara Lee Pies

Yesterday, Chip Chipman called me, "Say Pastor, could you use 300 Sara Lee Dutch Apple pies? My nephew's a truck driver for a company that wants to donate them."

"Sure!" I replied, not quite sure how we would find freezer space for that many pies -- but not wanting to turn down such a fantastic offer.

"O.K.!" Chip replied enthusiastically, "I'll bring 'em to church early tomorrow morning!"
Now, the dilemma -- what to do with 300 apple pies.

"Hey!" I thought, " We could sell them, and put the money in our general fund. After all, we've been trying to figure out ways do improve our financial situation."

Then, the Lord spoke to my heart, "That's NOT what I want you to do with them. They're not General Fund pies! They're Blessing Pies!"
So -- I told everybody at church this morning to take a pie, bake it, and then bless someone with it and invite 'em to our Christmas Eve Services!

It will be interesting to see what happens. I have a hunch somebody's going to meet Jesus through our Sara Lee Dutch Apple Pie Distribution Program.

A Hug From God

My friend, Wendy Sanders, recently relayed the following story she heard from our mutual friend, Roberto Barrantes, a Wesleyan pastor from Costa Rica:

One night, he awoke in the early hours of the morning. He knelt to speak with God. He felt closer to God than ever before; The guidance he received was clearer and richer than ever before.

With boldness, he prayed, “God, I feel so close to you, could you possibly give me a hug?” Roberto felt no response. He prayed again. “God, I feel so close to you, is it asking too much to touch your feet?”

God responded: He gave Roberto the image of a Nicaraguan child’s face. God spoke,

“If you touch the feet of this Nicaraguan child, you touch my feet. If you hug this Nicaraguan child, you will hug me.”

Friday, December 08, 2006

Farewell to Father Bill

I avoided the little trip across town as long as I could. Goodbyes are difficult for me -- especially, when it comes to dear friends like Father Bill.

Nevertheless, with only five minutes left before the retirement reception ended, I reluctantly climbed into my car and made my way over to 5th and Dakota.

It was hard to find a parking space. The lot at St. Joe's was full, and cars lined the streets for several blocks. The only other times it's been this crowded were the Birkie, the Fat Tire Race, and the Community Christmas Cantata.

I worked my way through the crowd towards Father Bill, who was sitting on a stool at the front of the hall. A parishoner strummed his guitar, singing a ballad he wrote for the occasion. One by one, the beloved priest tenderly blessed his parishoners.

When Father Bill saw me, his face lit up, and he motioned for me to come near.

Suddenly, I realized I couldn't speak. I just stood there, with eyes brimming, and a big lump stuck in my throat. All my preacher's eloquence evaporated, as I choked out, "I'm. . .I'm going to miss you a lot Father Bill."

He simply smiled, reached out, placed his hand on my head, and and spoke a beautiful blessing over me. Then, I gave him a big bear hug. We sort of laughed and cried together at the same time.

Down through the years, we have served side by side on various occasions. We have done funerals, weddings, and hospital visitations together. We have prayed, shared our hearts and swapped good books.

On one occasion, we went, in tandem, to the emergency room to bring solace to an out of town family grieving the loss of their teenage daughter. We entered into their sorrow, and prayed our hearts out. It was a very difficult experience, but I was deeply moved by how much Father Bill loved these grieving strangers.

On the way back to the car, he said, "You know, we make a pretty good team." I agreed.

Early one Sunday morning, Father Bill took me cruising in his new P.T. convertible. The story of our little excursion made it into both of our sermons that day!

And now, the time has come to bid farewell to a trusted and treasured friend. I shall remember, though, that good friends are never lost to us. We always carry them close in our hearts.

"I'm . . . I'm going to miss you a lot, Father Bill."

Pastor's Christmas Gift

Here's something you could get your pastor for Christmas. I'm sure he would just love it. Either that, or another set of praying hands.

All the Way to Derby

One of my articles, "The Power of a Compelling Vision", recently made it all the way to Derby, England.

It is a small world after all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Defining Moment

Yesterday was an aniversary celebration for me. 16 years ago, on December 6, 1990, I had a spiritual experience that changed my life. I knelt in the front of an empty church sanctuary, emptied myself and asked the Lord to take over my whole life. Praise God, He did!

That day, He filled me with his Holy Spirit.
He overflowed me with His love.
He settled my soul with peace.
He lifted all my heavy burdens.
He washed away all my interior cobwebs.
He fired me up!

That day, He gave me the gift of Evangelism -- and I have been helping folks come to faith ever since.

I came to Hayward Wesleyan Church a few months later, as a direct result of this experience. It was, indeed, a defining moment in my life and ministry.

Yesterday, to celebrate, I had of day of joyful, prayerful, soulful, Scriptural, poetic solitude. I spent it in Ashland so I would be free from interruption. First, I prayed at the Black Cat Coffee Shop, then I had a powerful time at Northland College's Dexter Library where I read about the Haystack Prayermeeting which resulted in great revival and missions. After that I spent a couple of hours at the historical society archives, perusing the letters, sermons, and personal books of L. H. Wheeler.

In one letter to his parents (April 3, 1840) he wrote: "Holiness of heart and life is what renders christians emphatically the light of the world."

Shortly before he left on his voyage to the Ojibwa, a missionary mentor sent this reminder: "Don't forget that holiness is a most important requisite for Christ's missions."

Amen brothers!

What a day! What a celebration!

Does Granny Really Need A Gun?

Of course, anybody in their right mind knows Granny needs a gun!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Negative People

"Negative, critical people have never come up with a positive solution to anything."
-- Perry Noble

Well then, these folks certainly must not be negative and critical. I think they have some good ideas -- and hope the president listens.

Good Leadership

Leadership, particularly that of a pastor, is really not tied to one's ability to do great things but to mobilize people, in the context of community, to do more than they could have done alone--more than they ever could have dreamed possible.

-- a quote from Bob Roberts at Glocal Trekker

Rick Who?

Todd, at Monday Morning Insight, recently shared a George Barna report concerning "name recognition" of the Christian Celebrity Preachers.

Americans who have never heard of. . .
Rick Warren: 72%
James Dobson: 57%
T.D. James: 68%
Tim LaHaye: 73%
Joel Osteen: 67%

In comparison, those who have never heard of. . .

Denzell Washington: 7%
Mel Gibson: 4%
Rosie O'Donnell: 5%

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

3 Steps from Vladimir

Congratulations to my friend, Jo Anne Lyon, on the west wing meeting with President and Mrs. Bush last Friday -- and the $7.7 million she landed for AIDS prevention in Haiti.

I was thinking:
I know Jo Anne Lyon
She knows George Bush
He knows Vladimir Putin

I'm just three steps from Vladimir!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bad Company, Good Company

Just dodge the bullets , Rick, and remember you're in good company.

Jesus was also criticized for associating with publicans.

Hard of Hearing

(My brother, Sam, shared this funny little story with me. . .)

A man feared his wife was not hearing as well as she used to, and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem.

The doctor told him there is a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doctor a better idea about her hearing loss.

"Here's what you do," said the doctor

"Stand about 40 feet away from her and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you.

If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response."That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He says to himself, "I'm about 40 feet away. Let's see what happens."

In a normal tone he asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

No response.

So the husband moves to closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife, and repeats, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Still, no response.

Next he moves into the dining room where he is about 20 feet from his wife and asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Again, no response.

So, he walks up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Again, there is no response.

So he walks right up behind her. "Honey, what's for dinner?"

"Sam, for the 5th time, CHICKEN!"

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pick It Up, Boys

I don't know what to say," Favre said. "We're losing 31-to-nothing at halftime. `Pick it up, guys?' I mean, that's embarrassing."

Church Today

Today, the children of the congregation performed a heart-warming musical at our 11:00 service: Celebrate the Celebration (Based on Lisa Welchel's book, The ADVENTure of Christmas.) What a blessing to see the children singing praises to God, and bringing the gift of joy to the grown-ups. Holly Luedke did a fantastic job directing, and we had a full house.

Our theme for the first two services was "Pure, Unbounded Love." I preached on 1 Corinthians 13 -- just going verse by verse through the chapter, and expounding on it in practical, everyday terms. (Love is not just something that you feel -- it's something that you DO!)

My son, Ryan, and the youth group praise team led the worship music this morning. It was really good. Ryan's developing into a fine worship leader. I think he will be a worship pastor somewhere someday. I'm glad I bought him the Ovation!

We sang, "Blessed Be Your Name", "You Love is Amazing", "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever", and "Your Love, O Lord."

Barry Bubb lit the advent candle and shared about his recent experience in Guatemala. "They're the most loving people you'll ever meet." he noted.

Then, an ensemble led us in Charles Wesley's classic, "Love Divine, All Love's Excelling."

Before the sermon, we recited together a 1000 old prayer by Anselm.

I love blending the new and old together into a worship service. Well over 700 people came today, and there was a beautiful spirit throughout the morning.

This afternoon, my body is tired, but my spirit is refreshed! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

A Prayer By Anselm

O Lord, grant us grace to desire You with our whole heart;
that so desiring, we may seek and find You;
and so finding You, may love You;
and loving You, may hate those sins
from which You have redeemed us.

-- Anselm (1033-1109 AD)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Conservative Jam

In an attempt to find the origin of the term, "conservative" -- I discovered the following definition of the word "conserve."

Conserve: a jam made of fruits, stewed in sugar.



It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God.

-- Richard Neuhaus

Friday, December 01, 2006


Here's what I've been reading lately.

Ready for Christmas?

December is upon us -- bringing the dreaded question everybody hates: "Are you ready for Christmas?"

Whenever that question is asked, the response is always a groan -- "Are you kidding? Don't remind me!"

The assumption here is that "Are you ready for Christmas?" means "Are your decorations all up, your cookies all baked, and your gifts all purchased? Are you finished with all of your Christmas preparations?"

Of course, the answer to that question will most likely be a resounding "NO!" (Unless you are one of those rare breeds who plans way ahead and finishes your Christmas shopping sometime around Halloween.) Many of us are "adrenaline shoppers. We wait until the last minute, and then scurry off in a shopping frenzy.

I wonder what would happen if we moved being ready for Christmas from the "finished" side of the holidays, to the "beginning". Instead of thinking we have to be done with everything before we're ready, can't we "get ready" ahead of time? If we wait until all the tasks are finished before we are ready for Christmas, we miss out on the beauty of the season. A properly prepared heart changes the way a person experiences the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

One early December day, I was on a solitude seeking drive, and happened upon a monastery. If there's solitude anywhere, a monastery tops the list! As I entered the building, I noticed the sandaled monks chanting around in their brown robes, along with a white haired lady who was obviously a visitor.

"What are you doing in a monastery?", I wondered. "I'm getting ready for Christmas," she replied. Looking around, I didn't see any gift wrap or cook books.

"How are you getting ready for Christmas here?" I wondered.

She answered, "I'm reading the works of C. S. Lewis." "Oh," I mumbled, "I didn't know he wrote Christmas books.

"She smiled as she responded, "He didn't!"

Today, as December 25 approaches like a freight train, I'm pondering: What can I do to prepare myself for Christmas? How can I tune my heart so I will fully embrace this sacred season?

Here are a few thoughts:

1. This Christmas, don't over-do it. Think ahead and refuse to overspend, overeat, or overextend yourself.

2. Refuse to succumb to commercialism. Gadgets and gizmos are merely clutter.

3. Practice the art of intentional generosity. (i.e. caroling, ringing the Salvation Army bell, helping others)

4. Renounce all "grinchiness" and willfully embrace the Christmas spirit -- love, joy and peace.

5. Keep Christ first in Christmas.6. Express love through simple acts of kindness.

I hope the next time somebody asks the banal question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" You can respond with a surprise: "Absolutely! Bring it on, Baby!"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

When Criticized Unfairly

Bob Roberts had a great post over at Glocal Trekker about dealing with unfair criticism. (It was in response to the shrapnel Rick Warren received for his recent trip to Syria.)

Sometimes God allows people to say things that aren’t right to keep you humble.

R ecognize God is at work in you.
E xpect significant attacks proportionate to impact.
J ust blow them off.
O pen God’s Word for comfort.
I ncrease your vision every time you’re attacked.
C riticism can always make you stronger.
E xercise discernment.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

X Ray

Cathy had a final x-ray yesterday -- and they said everything is clear and good! She doesn't have to go back for any more procedures.

We are truly thankful. It has been a long autumn -- and educational.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I cannot!
Here I stand!
I can do no other.

-- Martin Luther (Packer fan)

This Kid Knows Something

My friend, Naomi, shared this this delightful incident from Sunday School last week:

Our Sunday School lesson this week was about Isaac and Rebekah. During assembly, Jeremy told the story, intertwined with the story of how he and Amanda met, became engaged, married, and soon to be parents.

In shifting back to Isaac and Rebekah, he asked, "And what happens after you get married?" Josiah raised his hand and responded, with great seriousness, "You have a really hard time living."

The adults in the back of the room did our best to suppress our laughter.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Inspiring Morning

The worship service this morning was inspiring. We sang two great hymns, as well as my favorite chorus.

After putting all our plans into place, we discovered Friday that we were starting "Advent" a week too early! Instead of scrapping the plans, however, we decided to go ahead and just start Advent before the rest of the world (after all, the stores have all had Christmas stuff out since October!)

We began the service with a choral reading, moving into "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (It's 12th Century Latin lyrics, translated into English, and combined with a 15th Century Fransiscan melody -- with some substantial "jazzing up."

After that, we lit the first Advent Candle: Hope. Kathy Baker shared an inspiring story of how God gave her hope in the dark valley. "God took the I out of bitter," she testified, "and made me better!" It has been beautiful to watch her grow spiritually in the midst of very difficult circumstances.

We paused for a moment to welcome infant, Benjamin Munich who came into this world on Monday, and to remember Earl Richards, who passed away the same day.

Then, we sang a little spiced up Beethoven (Joyful, Joyful), followed by "Days of Elijah" (Ever exegeted that song?), "How Deep the Father's Love for Us", and "In Christ Alone" (That one rivals Amazing Grace as my favorite song.)

Pastor Heath preached a powerful message using the inspiring video of the Hoyt's, as a launching pad for Romans 8 -- The Goodness and the Groanings of the Father."

At the conclusion of the 11:00 service, I led Dennis and Linda Waystedt in a renewal of their wedding vows. 35 years ago, they were married in a courthouse with a judge. Since giving their lives to Jesus, they've been longing for a "church wedding."

Dennis masterfully orchestrated the whole event. Friends brought flowers and cameras.

After I called them forward, before the puzzled congregation, the nervous groom told his bride how much he loves her, and asked if she would marry him again.

Fortunately, she agreed -- "You bet your sweet bippies!" was the actual wording -- which, I believe means "yes!"

Boy, was Linda ever surprised!

After a passionate kiss, they marched out to a cheering congregation, and the tune of the "Wedding March."

Linda told me later that this one was a hundred times more meaningful than the first time around.


Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker.

-- George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Grateful Thanksgiving

Yesterday, our family was, indeed grateful. Cathy was able to eat Thanksgiving Dinner! Just a few days ago, that would have been impossible.

We are thankful for the prayers of our friends and family. They really do work. She's pretty much back to normal!

49 Million

I found this powerful thought in a recent post by Keith Drury entitled, "I've Solved the Immigration Problem."

Since Roe V. Wade in 1973 this country has aborted the lives of 49 million children. That’s 49 million. These US citizens who were never born would be up to age 33 today.

Of course I condemn these deaths on moral grounds, but there are economic ones too.

These 49 million citizens would be building homes today, having children themselves, serving as customers for business… and paying taxes.

Sure, some would be on welfare and others would be in jail, but there would be plenty working to pay taxes—especially Social Security taxes.

Ironically the boomers destroyed 49 million of their kids who would have been able to foot the bill for their own impending retirement!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Community Thanksgiving Service

I just witnessed a miracle at the Community Thanksgiving Service, held at First Congregational Church on Main Street -- five preachers spoke, and the service was finished within an hour.

I think that just might be a world record.

As the offeratory began, I reached for my wallet, and realized that I had accidently left it in my car. "Uh oh," I whispered furtively to Tim Warner, my full gospel preacher buddy who happened to be sitting next to me, "I didn't bring my wallet!"

Graciously, he opened his billfold, grinned, and handed me a buck. That was really generous, as he only had two dollars to begin with.

So, the plate passed by and we both put in our George Washingtons.

Tim whispered, "We're lucky. Church is the only place left where you can still get in for a buck!"

Church Health Profile

The Church Health Profile, created by our Evangelism Department, is a great tool for Wesleyan Congregations.

It's similar to the Natural Church Develpment Survey -- but better -- because it's free!

Baaaad Sheep

If you love good disciples, it is no credit to you, but rather, seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome."

-- leter from Early Church Father Ignatius to Polycarp

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When Leaders Implode

An insightful article by Gordon McDonald on Ted Haggard

Complaint Department

Looking Good

Cathy's health is improving every day. Yesterday, she was actually able to get out of the house for a few minutes -- to do a couple of things at the church. She was getting stir crazy.

She's been eating, and that's a real blessing. Our next prayer is that she will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner.

This morning, she left the house early for her quiet time. That shows me she really is feeling quite better!

On another note, I made three trips to the hospital yesterday:

1. In the morning, to see a friend who is struggling with a number of significant health issues. I'm concerned for him.

2. In the afternoon, to welcome Benjamin Munich into our world! His proud parents, Charlie and Julie were beaming. He sure is a cute little guy. It was, indeed, an honor, to pray a "blessing" over him on the first day of his life.

3. At midnight, to bid farewell to my old friend, Earl Richards, who took his last breath about a minute before I arrived -- or maybe I should say his first breath of heaven's air.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sit Down, If You Need Prayer

Yesterday, during my sermon, I had the entire congregation stand.

Then, I said, "If you're carrying a heavy burden and need the prayers of our church family, I want you to sit down right now."

The response was absolutely overwhelming.

In our first service, everybody sat down! A large percentage of our second and third services sat down also. In all, I'd say it was more than 75% of our church family.

I had no idea how many of my people are walking around with troubled hearts, carrying a heavy load. That little exercise sure opened my eyes.

During the first service, I just sat there and blubbered.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hope's Arising

I wrote this poem in the hospital waiting room at the Duluth Clinic, overlooking Lake Superior.

Troubled waters swirl and crash
in restless waves
upon the Great Lake's southern side.

And somehow, I identify
with heavy sighings.

But still, looking up and long
I see a large horizon
deep waters fading blue,
reaching up to touch the morning sky.

And in my sighings,
hope's arising. . .

just in time to whisper,
"All is well. Peace be still."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

She's Eating!

Yippee!! Cathy was able to eat lightly last night -- and then, again this morning.

Apple sauce and rice never seemed so good before. Thanks for your prayers. They're working!

It's "iffy" whether she'll make it to church tomorrow -- but hey, it's deer hunting opener weekend, so it's "iffy" whether half the congregation will show up.

A Turkey T.V. Dinner

The Wall Street Journal, recently reported on preachers who swipe their sermons from the internet.

Preaching an internet sermon is like serving a frozen turkey t.v. dinner to your family for Thanksgiving.

I suppose, if you can't cook, it's better than starving to death -- but not by much.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Slow Progress

Cathy's recovery is taking longer than either of us anticipated. It's a slow inching kind of progress.

Except for a couple of saltines, she hasn't had any solid food since Monday. Please pray for her strength, and that she will be able to eat soon.

Pastors Out of Touch

"In general, pastors are less informed about the culture in which they live than are the people in their churches."

At least -- that's what the researchers at LifeWay Christian Resources concluded.

In their survey, pastors knew less about politics, television, movies, the internet, clothing and fashion, video games, and celebrities, than the average pew potato.

Now, I think pastors ought to do their best to understand their culture -- but there's a much bigger issue at stake.

How deeply do they know Jesus?
Do they understand the heart of God in the face of human suffering?

Imagine someone going up to Mother Theresa in heaven and saying, "You know, your ministry would have been much more effective if you had known the latest fashion trends and learned to play video games."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Micajah McPherson

During our Wesleyan History field trip last week, we stopped by the grave of Micajah McPherson to pay our respects.

Micajah was the leading layman at Freedom's Hill Church -- the first Wesleyan congregation in the south. Many times, he placed his life in peril, courageously standing against the evils of slavery.

One day, during the Civil War, a mob of angry men came to Micajah's house while he was doing farm chores, and dragged him to the woods.

Standing him on a rock, they placed a noose around Micajah's neck, and hung him from a leaning dogwood tree.

A while later, they needed their rope to hang another abolitionist -- and so they came back and cut him down.
Amazingly, Micajah was not dead -- only unconscious. A few hours later, he revived, and crawled home -- much to the surprised joy of his loved ones.

Micajah lived another 30-plus years, before his death in 1896

popsicle communion

Cathy's feeling somewhat better today. Last night, she had a popsicle and some 7up.

It was almost a holy sacrament, making me, indeed, thankful for God's work, somewhat like communion.

Adam Crooks

Thus far, only one biography of Adam Crooks, the first Wesleyan in the south, has been written. It was penned by his wife, Elizabeth, shortly after his death.

Maybe somebody needs to write another one.

Freedom's HIll

Last week, I took my Wesleyan Church History class on a field trip to the site of Freedom's Hill, the first Wesleyan Methodist church in the south.
Adam Crooks, a young minister from Ohio, came into the heart of slave territory, preaching abolition. His ministry was not much appreciated by the community at large.
They shot at him, dragged him from the pulpit, poisoned him twice, and eventually imprisoned him -- but that didn't keep him from speaking the truth.
A couple of years ago, the building was moved to Southern Wesleyan University and restored. The woods where the little chapel once stood, is now overgrown with brush, and off the beaten path.
Amy, one of my students, was inspired to start working on placing a historical marker at the site. That's fantastic! The rest of the world needs to hear this amazing story.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


After yesterday's elation, we had a backwards move today. Cathy wasn't feeling well, and ended up back at the clinic for testing. The doctor confirmed that the pancreatitis has flared up again.

Fortunately, it's a mild case -- not nearly as severe as the first time around, and we're believing that she will be doing much better in a day or two.

Our innards don't appreciate such intrusive pokings.


Cathy did really well through the procedure yesterday, and was able to come home in the evening.

Dr. Bernardino was surprised. Shortly before the operation, he told us what he expected to happen -- and it wasn't encouraging. He said she would almost certainly be hospitalized -- and that often, people in her situation, have to come back for a couple more sugeries before the issue is resolved.

Then, when he went in, he couldn't find the pancreas stone! There was no blockage, no narrowing, no need for cutting of any kind. He was baffled.

"As far as I can see, your pancreas is back to normal," he declared, "I sure can't figure out what happened to those stones!"

Hmmmm -- how about an answer to prayer?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

God's Chariot

In just a few minutes, Cathy and I are leaving for Duluth, where she will have surgery on her pancreas. Please pray for her.

If all goes well, it will just be an outpatient procedure, and we will be home tonight. There is a possibility, however, that there will be complications, requiring hospitalization for a few days.

I'm reminded me of what Hannah Whitehall Smith said about life's difficult trials:

We may make out of each event in our lives either a Juggernaut car to crush us, or a chariot in which to ride to heights of victory. It all depends upon how we take them; whether we lie down under our trials and let them roll over and crush us, or whether we climb up into them as into a chariot, and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward.

Get into your chariot, then. Take each thing that is wrong in your life as God's chariot for you. No matter who the builder of the wrong may be, whether men or devils, by the time it reaches your side it is God's chariot for you, and is meant to carry you to a heavenly place of triumph. Shut out all the second causes, and find the Lord in it. Say, "Lord, open my eyes that I may see, not the visible enemy, but thy unseen chariots of deliverance."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Peaches and Shears

During "Ask the Lord Time" in my Evangelism Class (see last post), a new student, Nick, from Plymouth, Indiana, had a strange picture that came to his mind -- two words: "Peaches and Shears."

He felt rather silly sharing this with the rest of the class, but had the courage the blurt it out, adding, "I know this seems crazy. . ."

Later in the afternoon, a few classmates were walking in a shopping mall, when one of them nudged Nick and said, "Hey, there's your shears!" They were standing in front of a hair salon.

"Why don't you go inside and see if you find the peaches?"

So, Nick, stepped inside and asked, "Is there someone named Peaches here?"

"Yep," said one of the workers, "She's right over there."

Nick's eyes bugged out, "REALLY???"

He went over to the bewildered hair sylist and explained how an unusual prompting during prayer time led him to her. "Is there anything I can pray for you about?"

Peaches burst into tears, and wrapped her arms around the surprised ministerial student.

A co-worker remarked, "See, I told you God was powerful!"

Peaches was at a major crossroad in her life, and facing some significant moral decisions. Nick ended up praying with her, and she went home with renewed faith.

Nick came back to class rejoicing! God works in mysterious ways!

Faith Sharing

Something amazing happened in my Evangelism Class last week.

On Tuesday, I sent the students into the community to bring a blessing to others. Before we went out, we spent 45 minutes in solitude -- opening our hearts and minds to God's promptings. (I called this "Ask the Lord Time."

After the season of listening prayer, we gathered back and shared what came to our minds.

The students shared several different pictures or leadings -- i.e. a homeless man, the polling place, outside a porn shop, a mechanic with greasy hands, an elderly man on a Wal Mart bench, the shadow of a steeple and a discouraged pastor.

Those impressions seemed a little strange -- but by the end of the afternoon, ALL of them came to be!

Our students blessed a homeless man and provided some food for him. A student blessed people coming and going from the polling place. A couple of our guys prayed with the owner of a porn shop. A class member led an elderly man to Christ on a Wal Mart bench. A group found a mechanic with greasy hands, and prayed with him after he shared the heavy burdens of his heart. In the shadown of a steeple, members of our class blessed a stressed waitress, and lifted up a discouraged pastor.

All in all -- it was a good day fishin'!

The best one, however, has to do with "Peaches and Shears" -- and I'll tell you that one next time!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Incremental Confession

When I heard the report about Ted Haggard, I was absolutely stunned. I felt like the little kid who shouted out to Shoeless Joe Jackson during the Black Sox scandal, "Say it ain't so, Ted! Say it ain't so."

And Thursday, he did say it wasn't so -- at first.
Friday, he said it "sort of" wasn't so.
Saturday, it was so.

Although I was floored by the report, I was not surprised by the response.

I've noticed that often, when people are caught in some kind of sin, they confess incrementally.

First, they deny it. Then a day or so later, they admit a little bit. Finally, in a couple more days, they come clean (although not always entirely.)

Have you noticed this tendency in human nature?
Why do people behave that way?
How should a church deal with someone who is confessing incrementally?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm Back!

Arrived home not long ago from a week of teaching in North Carolina. Some amazing things happened in Evangelism Class -- but I don't have the time or energy to expound right now.

For an insightful read, check out Keith Drury's last post, "The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall."

Also, it was a real delight to spend some time with my blogger buddy, Dale Argot.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blogging Break

This afternoon, I'm heading out of town to North Carolina to teach Evangelism and Wesleyan Church History FLAME classes.

I don't anticipate having internet access -- so I'm not planning on blogging for the rest of the week.

Life's Poundings

Butch, the 4th grade bully, cornered little Albert and was preparing to beat the stuffing out of him.

Scrawny Albert was not match for burly Butch. He didn't run very fast either. It looked certain that he had met his doom.

Yet, a gleam of confidence sparkled in Albert's eye.

Defiant, head up and shoulders back,he stood on his tip toes and thumped the bully on the chest with his skinny finger.

"I DARE ya to hit me today, Butch! I DARE ya!"

"You stupid litlle runt," Butch growled, "Do you really think you can beat me up?"

"No," grinned Albert, "But my big brother can! He's a Marine. He's home on leave, and he's standing right behind you!"

Relief! Rescued from the pounding!

If you've been on the receiving end of life's poundings, remember this:

"Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isa. 41:10

Head Heart Combo

Unite the pair so long disjoined
Knowledge and vital piety
Learning and holiness combined
And Truth and Love let all men see.

-- Charles Wesley

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Here's what I've been reading recently.

Death by Caffeine

Click here to find out how much coffee or soda it would take to send you to the "other side."

Under the Weather

I'm in bed, under the weather -- trying to feel better.

Clay Cross came to town, and did a concert last night at our church. Today, he and his wife, Renee, are holding a marriage conference, and I'm in bed, under the weather -- trying to feel better.

I'm really disappointed to miss these special events.

Our church planter, Ben Kidder, is scheduled to preach tomorrow, so at least I don't have that hanging over my head right now.

However, I'm scheduled to fly to North Carolina tomorrow afternoon for a week of teaching, and that won't be too much fun if I'm still under the weather.

Baptism Cannonball

He said, "I've been a pastor for 25 years, and that's a first. . ."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Negative Church Political Advertisements

Todd Rhoades, heard another negative political ad on the radio and wondered what it would be like if Christians used the same format to campaign against those they disagreed with.

He posted the results HERE.

Drop That Sandwich Now!

Orlando bans compassionate food distribution to the homeless.

Say It Ain't So

I feel like the little boy, who shouted out to Shoeless Joe Jackson during the Black Sox scandal.

"Say it ain't so, Ted. Say it ain't so!"


"Worry is like a rocking chair," the old saying goes, "It keeps you busy, but you don't get anywhere."

Thomas Brokovec, a noted authority in worry research, said that 30 percent of us are non-worriers. 15 percent of us are chronic worriers. Everybody else fits somewhere between the two extremes.

This means that 70 percent of us worry at least some of the time (not to mention the "macho's" in the 30 percent who just won't admit it.)

Chances are, you worry too much. Before you even know what's happening, a tidal wave of anxiety crashes upon you, and it takes ever ounce of energy you can muster just to keep your head above water.

When floods of worry enter your mind, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas.

1. Face the Issue: Instead of being overwhelmed by the problem look for possible solutions. rite down your options and examine them objectively. Horace said, "Reason and sense remove anxiety, not villas that look out upon the sea."

2. Do What You Can: Just think of all the energy that is drained by worrying about things we cannot control. "Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind," stated Arthur Somers Roche, "If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." Forget the things you cannot change, focus on the things you can do, and then move into action.

3. Try Prayer Power: If a worry is too small to be made into a prayer, then it is too little to be a burden. There is nothing that lifts the heavy soul more than time spent with God. Jesus said, "Don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrows. Live one day at a time."

Shelley Duvall sums it up like this:

"I think that life is an adventure. A few problems arise every day. You're never going to be completely problem-free. In life you're always going to be working on something, trying to overcome something, trying to learn something, or achieve something. You might as well enjoy the process."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Sad Loss

My good friend, Rebeca Dunlavy, and her infant son, Samuel, were killed this week in a terrible automobile accident.

Tomorrow, in Clark, South Dakota, she will be buried with little Samuel in her arms.

Rebeca had a beautiful spirit, and a heart of love for God and others. She was the leader of our efforts to have a Spanish speaking service in Minong. We will deeply miss her.

Please pray for her husband, Alan, and their precious three year old daughter, Abby.
Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Reaching the World?

How are we going to reach people across the world, when we won't even change our style of music to reach our own kids?

-- Erwin McManus at the A2 Conference (Thanks to Perry Noble for passing along the thought provoking quote)

Men and Women

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Good Word

Hayward on the Run had a good word about our Trunk or Treat last night.

Trunk or Treat

Last night, we must have had every kid in town Trick or Treating on our church property.

About 40 of us parked our vehicles on the ball field, and distributed candy out of our trunks. I came loaded with an enormous stash from Tony's Candy -- enough for 500 kids -- and it was just about gone in 20 minutes. We were all running out of goods with more than two hours left to go, and kids streaming in from everywhere.

Fortunately, two or three brave souls made a quick dash to various stores in town, wiping out the entire candy supply, and refortifying the front lines!

I don't believe there have been that many Hayward children at one place and time in history!

It was a tremendous connection with the young families of our community, and many thankful parents expressed their heart felt appreciation for what we did. I'm sure we will see some of them in church over the next few weeks.

I'm glad our children's pastor, Jeremy, saw October 31 as an opportunity to creatively reach out and bless our community, rather than a time to hunker down and hide from the devil.

At our home, trick or treating has never been an issue. We know that God is stronger than the enemy -- and we think of Halloween as "Stomp Satan Day!" We are on the Winning Side!(Besides, it's also Reformation Day! Celebrate!)

When I saw the mountain of candy my kids brought home last evening, I thought this might be a good time to teach them a lesson about tithing! Give Daddy 10%!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Great Halloween Costume for Pastors

Pastor, do you need a great Halloween Costume idea? Click Here.

(brought to us by the folks at Addison Road)

Three Chairs for the Lutherans

Once, the Catholic Church was celebrating the dedication of their new building. The place was crowded and overflowing as the service began.

Then, the priest was pleasantly surprised to see the local Lutheran pastor walking in the door with a couple of representatives from his church. "Well, isn't that nice," the priest thought to himself, "We need to treat our protestant friends well."

He glanced around, noting that every pew was filled and that his Lutheran friends did not have a place to seat.

Furtively, the priest leaned over and whispered in the ear of the altar boy, "Get three chairs for the Lutherans."

"What??" the altar boy asked.

"I said, get three chairs for the Lutherans!"

"I'm sorry, I still couldn't hear you."

"Three Chairs For The Lutherans NOW!!"

The puzzled lad shrugged his shoulders and shouted,



Way to Go Marty Baby!

Here is an excellent translation of the 95 Theses Martin Luther hammered to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chrysler Goes to Church

Patti LaBelle and Chrysler are joining forces, to make a 14 day tour of megachurches. (Starting with T.D. Jakes and company)

The megachurch folks are getting some good gospel music, and Chrysler is getting some fantastic promotion.

I think GMC ought to do a Blaze Orange 4 Wheel Drive Tour featuring Banannas at Large. I'm sure if that happens, they'll make a stop in Hayward.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Cathy is recovering in good order -- but the progress is slower than she'd like. She's not quite ready to venture out into public yet -- so I don't expect she'll make it to church this morning.

I guess I'll just have to unload the sermon on her one on one.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Yesterday's Visitors

five dear ladies came
bearing precious treasure -- dinner
apple pie and muffins.

they left with loving hugs.

two stiff unpleasant mormons came
bearing strange ideas of treasure -- inkings
from the pen of shyster smith.

they left without a hug
only foot shakings.

(latter day saints would fare much better with apple pie and cookies)

two deer, a yearling and her mother, came
to forage old tomatoes in our garden bed
their visit was a treasure

though they left with neither hug
nor shaken feet.

Friday, October 27, 2006

5 Blogging Questions

Cory Miller, of Church Communications Pro, recently posted my answers to his Five Blogging Questions for Pastors (in his "I Help Pastors Blog" Series.)

He has a great site, filled with tons of helpful resources for churches on the information highway.

Lot's Wife

sodom's fury fleeing
she turned and took
a longing look
towards yesterday

sulfur of the soul
fossilized in salt

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Next Big Issue

"I think we've focused some good attention on racism in the last 20 years, but I'm starting to wonder if 'ageism' is the next divide we will have to address."

-- John Burke, Pastor of Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. (from Out of Ur)

Silly Prayers

I believe God always answers prayer -- but sometimes, he answers with a "no."

In the end, I'm glad.

"Where would I be now," wondered C. S. Lewis, "if God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life?" (From Letters to Malcolm)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Back Home

Cathy had her gall bladder removed this morning, and we just arrived home a few minutes ago. She feels like she was run over by a Mack truck -- groggy, and in a lot of pain. I hope she starts feeling better before too long.

She said all her "It's gonna be a piece of cake" friends didn't give her the whole picture. Still, we're on this side of the hill now, and it's just a matter of recovery.

I'm planning on staying home the rest of the week, to take care of her and teach the kids.

Amazingly, the lady in the hospital bed next to Cathy attended a wedding I officiated this past Saturday. She's the bride's sister -- and the newlyweds were in the waiting room. I told her that was not a "coincidence" but rather God's "providence" at work: a postcard from heaven to remind her h0w much she is loved.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Kind Word

Ruth Tucker spoke a kind word about Hayward Wesleyan Church, at her River Rat Reflections blog. We really were honored to have her and her husband, John, come and worship with us.

Gall Bladder Date

Tomorrow, Cathy is going to have surgery to remove her gall bladder. The doctor says it will be a relatively "minor" procedure -- three small incisions, a couple of snips, and she'll be good to go.

Well, it might be "minor" for him, but it's Major for us (A good definition of Major Surgery is any cutting they do on YOU!)

There is one fringe benefit, however. We are planning to head up to Duluth this evening for a romantic overnight date. We plan to dine at Red Lobster (thanks to our friend, Mark and Lori) and lodge at Hawthorne Inn and Suites on the harbor (thanks to their special "gall bladder removal" rates.)

If all goes well, we will have her home by tomorrow evening -- though they say recovery will take a while. I'm planning on staying home to take care of her, and teach the kids the rest of the week.

Over the next couple of days, we'd really appreciate it if you sent up a prayer.

Dear Church

If you want to know what the 20-somethings think about the way churches do ministry, check out Sarah Cunningham's site: Dear Church.

Some of the letters broke my heart. How can we do a better job of showing the love of Jesus to the rising generation?

Thanks to Scott McKnight, at Jesus Creed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Grow Like a Tree, Not a Fire

We must see the error of our effort to live by fire, by burning the world in order to live in it. There is no plainer symptom of our insanity than our avowed intention to maintain by fire an unlimited economic growth.

Fire destroys what nourishes it and so in fact imposes severe limits on any growth associated with it. The true source and analogue of our economic life is the economy of plants, which never exceeds natural limits, never grows beyond the power of its place to support it, produces no waste, and enriches and preserves itself by death and decay.

We must learn to grow like a tree, not like a fire.
--Wendell Berry

(Thanks to Heath Davis for this thought provoking quote from the Kentucky poet.)

How would this apply to spiritual growth and church leadership?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Friends

I was delighted to meet one of my favorite writers, Ruth Tucker, today. She and her husband, John, attended our 11:00 service, and then we lunched at Famous Dave's!

Ruth encouraged me to really get serious about writing a book for small town pastors. I think I'll take her up on it!

Ironically, Ron Carlson and his wife, Marge, also attended church today. Ron travels extensively and speaks about the Christian worldview, and it's challenges. He is also a noted authority on cults.

I found it absolutely astounding that Ron and Ruth both ended up at our 11:00 worship service!

I admit, Hayward's a small town -- but wow -- what a small world!

In Evil Long I Took Delight

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:

I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:

My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now is fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!

-- John Newton, redeemed sinner, former slave trader, pastor, author of Amazing Grace

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Surprise Me, God

I like this idea! For 30 days, conduct this experiment:

Every morning, when you get up, pray these three words, "Surprise me, God"

- no agendas
- no lists
- no complaints

Just, "Surprise me, God"

And be prepared for something unusual!

(This simple, but profound concept comes from Terry Esau of Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Friday, October 20, 2006

20 Most Influential Wesleyans

Here's my list of the 20 Most Influential People in the History of the Wesleyan Church:

1. John Wesley
2. John Fletcher
3. Francis Asbury
4. Barbara Heck
5. Phoebe Palmer
6. Orange Scott
7. Luther Lee
8. Adam Crooks
9. Seth Rees
10. Martin Wells Knapp
11. Eber Teter
12. Roy S. Nicholson
13. Orval Butcher
14. Earle Wilson
15. John Maxwell
16. Steve Babby
17. Keith Drury
18. Jo Anne Lyon
19. Phil Stevenson
20. Andy Wilson -- o.k. I admit it -- he was my daddy, and just a country preacher who stayed at the same church for 30 years. He wasn't too famous beyond Marengo, Ohio -- but he made a significant impact on his community -- and he certainly influenced me! (After all, this is my list!)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dysfunctional Boards

This week, USA Today interviewed former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiona, who was fired in 2005.

The conversation touched on "dysfunctional boards."

Q: HP doesn't have the only dysfunctional board on the planet. What can other boards do to stop the ugliness and focus on their responsibilities?

A: Don't become consumed by personal agenda. Put tough issues about the business and personality conflicts on the table and talk about them face to face. The ability to talk directly instead of taking issues underground is a big part of keeping any team functioning.

As Jesus

"As Jesus to the world, so the church to the world."
-- N. T. Wright

If we took that seriously, what would the church be doing differently?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cussing Preachers

The recent trend of preachers spicing their sermons with expletitives bothers me.

Just a few years ago, the only "cussing preachers" were Gene Scott, and a few backwoodsy independant baptists who didn't have any accountability.

Now, the cussing preachers are keynoting at Pastors' Conferences.

I realize that addressing this issue will open me up to charges of legalism. I also understand that "cussing preachers" aren't any worse than "gossipy preachers" or "doubting preachers." Then of course, someone might ask, "And what about the gluttons?"

Nevertheless, the Bible says that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Whatever is coming out of a person is from the heart.

If somebody goes around saying "BLANKETY BLANK!!"
It makes one wonder, are they full of "blankety blank?"

My concern is that the rising generation of cussing preachers will find an audience of young ministers who, thinking it's cool, will pick up the habit themselves.

The deacons will ask, "Where did you pick up that filthy language?"
The young minister will reply, "I got it from the Preachers' Conference!"

“Now the reason of common swearing is this; it is because men have not so much as the intention to please God in all their actions. For let a man but have so much piety as to intend to please God in all the actions of his life, as the happiest and best thing in the world, and then he will never swear more. It will be as impossible for him to swear, whilst he feels this intention within himself, as it is impossible for a man that intends to please his prince, to go up and abuse him to his face.”

-- William Law, (1729)

Monday, October 16, 2006

College Visits

Today, I am in St. Paul with my son, Ryan, scouting out colleges. Last night, we went to the Guitar Center, where he tried out two dozen different instruments, and then enjoyed dinner at Chili's.

We plan to go to Bethel in the morning, Northwestern in the afternoon, and back to the Guitar Center for a purchase before we head home.

My vote for his education is Indiana Wesleyan -- but, I realize, that decision is not a democratic process.

Maybe I could apply some exterior motivation. "If you REALLY want that guitar. . ."


A careful exegesis of Romans has convinced me that salvation is not God's gift TO the church.
It is God's gift THROUGH the church!
-- Bishop N. T. Wright

(Thanks to my great friend and colleague, Heath Davis, for sharing this powerful quote with me.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Field Trip

Yesterday, I took a team of leaders on a field trip to the Twin Cities. We visited four churches that had recently built new or additional facilities.

We had the privilege of meeting three of the senior pastors. (The fourth congregation is between pastors right now.)

It was a valuable learning experience for all of us, and although it is impossible to give you every insight gleaned, I'd like to share a few key "take home" points:

1. Be careful not to overbuild.

2. Build what you really need with a masterplan for future expansion.

3. Maintain a missional mindset -- but be sure to remember the local church is at the very heart of the mission.

4. Building expansion can either catalyze or implode a congregation. Much of it depends on morale going into the project, discerning leadership, and perceived need.

5. Coffee shops in church foyers are warm and inviting.

6. A capital fund drive should be about MISSION rather than just mortar.

7. The mother ship needs to stay strong for long term mission effectiveness. It is possible to "over-extend" in church planting and global efforts, to the detriment of the local church. (the opposite is also true -- some churches only think about themselves to God's dismay and their demise.)

8. A church's facilities speak the congregation's priorities more accurately than the official written mission statement.

9. You can get a fairly clear picture of how things are really going in a church just by touring the facilities and spending twenty minutes with the pastor.