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Showing posts from 2006

Launching

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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!"

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

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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

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 al…

Conflict Resolution

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

Brethren, Hang Loose

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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)

Drummond Christmas Eve

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Here's a shot taken before the Christmas Eve Service in Drummond.

USC Wesleyans

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Did you know that the USC football team used to be called the "Methodists" or "Wesleyans?"

12 Most Significant Religious Findings

George Barna has published the 12 Most Significant Religious Findings based on his polls in 2006. I consider it a call to prayerful, intensified action.

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 u…

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)

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 …

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 cou…

Difficult

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 …

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.

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

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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.

Convicted

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.

Legacy

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

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…

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.

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?

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Every pastor could use a couple of these!

Brooding

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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

Pastor Bozo Bop Bag

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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…

Same Wind

"All bend in the same wind."
-- Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky

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

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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!

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 traditio…

Faith

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

New York Trans Fat Ban

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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!

Delicious!

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

F.A.I.T.H.

Fantastic
Adventures
In
Trusting
Him

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

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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 in…

A Hug From God

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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.”

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 pre…

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.

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 …

Does Granny Really Need A Gun?

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

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%

3 Steps from Vladimir

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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!

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?&quo…

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 F…

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)

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.

Hmmmm.

Unavailable

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

-- Richard Neuhaus

Reading

Here's what I've been reading lately.

Ready for Christmas?

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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…

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.

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.

Recant?

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Recant?
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.

Power

The weak are supplied it.
The strong are denied it.

-- Darrelyn Tutt

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 mo…

Gossip

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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)

Christmas Gift

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How about this for Christmas? Just what every pastor needs, and for only $15,000, it's a steal!

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!

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

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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

When Leaders Implode

An insightful article by Gordon McDonald on Ted Haggard

Complaint Department

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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!
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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…

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.

Hope's Arising

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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."

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

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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.

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."

Micajah McPherson

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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

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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.

Backwards

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.

Miracle!

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?

God's Chariot

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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, …

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…

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 m…

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?

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.

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

Reading

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. . ."

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!

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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

"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.&qu…

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.
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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

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Good Word

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

Trunk or Treat