Friday, June 30, 2006

Reading List

Here's what I've been reading lately.

Evangelical Disconnect

  • Paul Kind, in his excellent blog, Vagabonding, made the following insightful observation:

    To borrow the five purposes of Purpose Driven fame as a framework, many suburban church attenders experience
  • inauthentic community
  • showy worship,
  • attractional evangelism,
  • lack of service/sacrifice, and
  • inward focused ministry.

    No wonder many young followers of Jesus are expressing discontent with American, suburban churches.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

God's Grandeur

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with the warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
All things counter, original, spare, strange,
Whatever is fickle, freckled, who knows how
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers forth whose beauty is past change.
Praise him.


Question: What is the greatest water power known to man?

Answer: A woman's tears.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

William O. Cushing

On Sunday, I'll be preaching on God's 9-1-1: Psalm 91:1

My researched today led me to the beautiful old hymn "Under His Wings". I discovered that the author, William O. Cushing, wrote several other beautiful songs, including "Hiding in Thee", "Jewels", "Follow On" and the rip-roarin', "There'll Be No Dark Valley".

Cushing was experiencing tremendous success as a pastor (in the Christian Church), until he was hammered by unexpected, heart-wrenching trials.

First, his beloved wife passed away in her mid 40's. Shortly after that, a painful paralysis disabled him, forcing him to resign from the ministry.

His identity was wrapped up in being a pastor -- now, in these dark and difficult days, what was he to do?

He wrote hymns!! Over 300 of them -- some of them classics which are in the hymnals today.

At the end of his life, he was penniless and homeless, though rich in hope. A kind Wesleyan Methodist pastor and wife, Rev. and Mrs. E. E. Curtis, took him into their home at Lisbon Center, New York. While living in the parsonage with them, he joined up with the Wesleyans!

Losing Hair

This morning, as I was stepping out of the shower, I noticed extra hair in the drain.

"Oh no," I fretted, "I sure hope that hair didn't come from me!"

Then I realized the stupidity of that selfish statement.

Would I really rather have somebody else in my family losing hair? Would I wish that upon my wife? My kids?

No way!!

If anybody must go bald in the Wilson house, I volunteer! O Lord, let it be me and not them! After all, the cueball Kojak look is back in style these days.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Difference

The main difference between thriving and failing congregations is what they do between Sunday Services.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Journey Through the Psalms

Our congregation is reading through the Bible together -- we're figuring that half of our people are really rising to the "Year of the Bible" challenge. Many are reading it through for the first time!

We're now in the Psalms. So, today in church, we did something a bit different. Our whole church service was "Psalms." There was no sermon. There was not a set of praise and worship songs. Just Psalms!

We started with Psalm 1 -- and made our way through Psalm 72. (Part 2, Psalm 73-150, will be next Sunday!)

The order went something like this:

Psalm 1 -- Read whole chapter
Announcements -- In Psalm language! (Verily, Thou Bring Thy Children to VBS)
Psalm 5 -- Sing with guitar (the King James Version)
Psalm 6 -- Responsive Reading (alternating verses between leader and congregation)
Psalm 8 -- Sing, "O Lord, Our Lord, How Majestic"
Psalm 13 -- Read aloud -- and then an interpretive dance (to Shane and Shane's rendition)
Psalm 16 -- Read v. 5-11
Psalm 18 -- Sing "Praise the Name of Jesus"
Psalm 22 -- Read v. 1-2
Psalm 23 -- Congregation read aloud in KJV
Psalm 27 -- Solo, classical number, "The Lord is My Light and My Salvation"
Psalm 34 -- Read whole chapter
Psalm 36 -- Sing, "Your Love, Or Lord, Reaches to the Heavens"
Psalm 37 -- Responsive Reading (alternating verses between leader and congregation)
Psalm 42 -- Sing, "As the Deer"
Psalm 46 -- Read v. 1,2,10 & 11
Psalm 47 -- Sing (with children) "Clap Your Hands All Ye People"
Psalm 51 -- Silent Reflection Prayer (put one phrase at a time on the screen to ponder)
Psalm 55 -- Read v. 1
Psalm 56 -- Read v. 3
Psalm 68 -- Responsive Reading. The leader reads the verses, and the congregation, divided into three parts, responded:
1) Sing to God
2) Sing Praise to His Name
3) Extol Him who rides on the Clouds
Psalm 72 -- Read v. 18-19 aloud together for the benediction.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Over the years, I have conducted over two hundred weddings -- and most of them happened in June or February!

Besides the church ceremonies, I've done a wedding on snowmobiles, and two on horseback. I did a wedding in the mouth of the Big Musky, and in the ruins of an old, abandoned chapel.

I've tied knots at the hospital, by a waterfall, in the woods, at the Moose Cafe, beside a lake, in a flower garden,next to a swimming pool,, aboard a cruise ship, and a sundry of other interesting places.

I conducted a "Robin Hood" wedding once, where the poor groom and all of his men had to wear tights. I was relieved when they let me stick with my suit.

On another occasion, I officiated for a German bride who didn't speak a lick of English. She had no idea what she was "vowing"!

I've experienced fainting bridesmaids, a drunken groom, hostile relatives, and "emergencies" of every sort. (most of which were remedied by safety pins or duct tape.)

I've seen the bride trip on her train, and a three year old flower girl shrieking in sheer terror, "NO! NO! PLEEEEEAASE DON'T MAKE ME!" It'll probaby require years of psychotherapy to repair the damage.

Weddings have been interrupted by pagers, cell phones, trains, mosquitoes and jet skis.

Once I said, "Please bow your heads as we hear God's voice."

Just then, a volunteer fireman's radio went off, "Paging City of Hayward Fire Department. We have a grass fire on Nyman Ave. Please respond immediately."

God's voice certainly sounded different that I'd expected, though somewhat familiar.

Thus far, all of my brides and grooms have made it to the chapel -- although one bride was over an hour late, and the groom feared she'd ditched him. Fortunately, it was just a bad hair day.

With all these experiences, I must say that assisting couples in their matrimony vows is extremely rewarding. The little glitches just make the event more memorable.

The only thing more beautiful than the love of a bride and groom is their love maturing through 25 and 50 years -- with lots of glitches in between.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Einstein Sermon

Our District Conference speaker, Steve Deneff, was stranded at the Chicago O'Hare Airport, and thus, our District Superintendent asked me to speak this morning in his place.

The words of Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle echoed in my mind, "Sir, you are no John F. Kennedy!" And I certainly am no Steve Deneff. He's the best preacher in the entire Wesleyan Church.

But, then I reminded myself that it's all about the Message, not the messenger.

So, I threw my shoulders back and gave it my best shot.

It wasn't the best I've ever preached -- sort of an Einstein Sermon. . . relatively inspiring. It's hard to preach to preachers.

Hopefully, though, somebody got some good out of it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Here is a link to a powerful poem on the Prodigal Son, by Vanessa Herrick. It was inspired by Frank Wesley's painting, "The Forgiving Father"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Masked Bandit

"Good morning, Mr. Chickadee!"
I greeted out the window.

Startled, the Masked Bandit
Stopped and chided me
For such a noisy interruption.

"How dare you intrude
Upon my solitude?"

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Musky Fest Car Show

On Saturday, we are having our second annual Musky Festival Car Show to support Missions in Guatemala!!

So far, we've sent three teams, and a fourth will be going in November. The story behind this ministry is really amazing, and you can read about it here.

I'd love to see our church help "plant" a daughter congregation down there!

Musky Fest

For the Wisconsin District Conference delegates coming to Hayward -- you might be interested in the other big event happening in our community this week: Musky Fest!!

It's one of Hayward's famous celebrations -- remembering the world record muskies caught in our waters. (Louie Spray and Cal Johnson landed some whoppers -- and maybe told a few whoppers, too!)

You can see a schedule of events here.

Note: There's a fishing contest! Isn't that tempting? Wouldn't it be fun to sneak out of the business meetings and wet a line?

"No, Mr. General Superintendent, I did not skip District Conference to play golf at Roynona Creek -- and I have the fish to prove it!"

Monday, June 19, 2006

Small Town = High Stakes

If you think what happens in a small town won't make a difference, consider this:

Control over the U.S. Senate, and thus the Control of the United States Senate, and thus of the next one or two crucial nominations to the United States Supreme Court, may well turn on the fortunes of John Tester, an anti-war, populist farmer from Big Sandy, Mont. (population, 710).

-- from World Magazine Article by Hugh Hewitt

I wonder who his pastor is.

I Measure Every Grief

A poem by Emily Dickinson:

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, Eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call "Despair" –
There's Banishment from native Eyes –
In Sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they're mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like My Own –

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Dad's Guide for Changing A Diaper

Spread the diaper in the position of a basball diamond with you at bat.

Then, fold second base down to home plate and set the baby on the pitcher's mound.

Put First Base and Third Base together. Bring up Home Plate and pin the three together.

Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again.

-- Jimmy Piersal

Bless Dad

A dad is a mender of toys.
A leader of boys.
He's a changer of fuses,
A healer of bruises
He's a mover of couches,
A soother of ouches,
He's a pounder of nails,
A teller of tales.
He's a dryer of dishes,
A fulfiller of wishes.

Bless him, O Lord.

-- by Jo Ann Heidbreder

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Free Resource

Group Ministries is providing a free dvd to strengthen your youth and children's ministries!
Absolutely free! No shipping, no handling , no kidding!

Only one freebie per church -- and only while supplies last. Good stuff!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Night Visitors

Usually, when I am awakened at 2:30 in the morning, it's because someone's drunk or dying. This morning, however, it was my wife, Cathy, alive and sober, waking me.

Gently, she nudged me out of noisy slumber, and whispered, "Look out the window!"

A black bear was digging in our garbage can! Then, a second, larger bear, ambled into the yard and joined the buffet line.

Cathy startled them with a firm, "Go away!" (I'm sure glad she wasn't talking to me.)

Bears can sure run fast!

I dressed and went outside to pick up the trash and bring it in the garage. I also noted that they had demolished our birdfeeder. . . again.

Birdfeeding is a little hobby of mine -- and it's hard for me to give it up. I love watching my feathered friends early in the morning.

However, after having lost eight birdfeeders to hungry bears, I'm beginning to consider a new diversion: bear baiting!

The Boundary Line

There is a line by us unseen that crosses every path,
the hidden boundary between God's patience and his wrath.
-- William Shakespeare

An atheist, wanting to prove to her kids that there is no God, stood outside in a thunderstorm, shaking her fist to heaven and shouted:


Nothing happened.

She walked into the house, soaking wet, and demanded, "There! What does that prove?"

To this, her daughter replied, "It proves how patient God is."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

summer residents

little flowers
familiar strangers
we have not learned each others' names

but that's alright
we smile the same

and give a friendly nod and wave
whene'er we pass

they're summer residents

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jeremy from Manitoba

Jeremy Sawatzky spoke at our youth group tonight. Normally, I steer clear of Wednesday night youth meetings (having retired from youth ministry a dozen years ago.)

Yet, tonight I volunteered to be in charge. I wanted to introduce Jeremy.

Jeremy is my blogger buddy from Manitoba. He is a Youth for Christ Director, and is doing some amazing work reaching young people for the Lord.

Although we had become aquainted through our blogs, we'd never met face to face until today. That was a delightful meeting!

Jeremy did a great job connecting with the kids. He's a gifted communicator, and everybody loved him.

After having a few people in my congregation go off to seek internet romance, it's kind of refreshing to see something positive from an internet connection

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The River Adventure

Yesterday, Luke (age 13) and I embarked on a two day canoe trip down the Namekagon River.

A giant blue heron guided our entire excursion. Every time we rounded the bend, we'd see the heron, standing like a sentinal. Upon our approach, he would fly ahead and out of sight, signaling, "Follow me! Adventure ahead!"

Either we had one amazing blue heron guide, or he has a few dozen stunt-doubles!

During the trip, we saw seven deer drinking from the river, and came within just a few feet of some. We spotted two otters, an oriole, five bald eagles, some beaver dams, several ducks, an osprey family -- with the mother nesting, a raccoon, and about fifty large brown trout!

We shot some class 1 rapids and maneuvered around rocks and fallen trees. Towards evening, we camped, made a fire and feasted on hot dogs (on the stick -- without the bun), canned corn, baked beans, and spaghettios. For dessert, we roasted marshmallows.

Tucking into our pup tent early, we did a lot of father/son "guy talk".

This morning, we finished the last few miles of the trip, and then hiked into the nearest village to call home for a pick up.

I missed a few hours of work to do this -- and it was a great decision.

Like a stiff, sunburned, arthritic old man, my arms and back are really sore tonight. But I wouldn't trade it for anything!

On the way home, Luke said, "Dad, that was so cool! It was one of the best experiences of my whole life!"

I smiled contentedly and replied, "Me too."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Family Blessing

O Lord,
Bless Ryan, as he serves today in New Orleans, helping hurricane victims rebuild their lives.
Bless Adam, as he serves today in Nebagamon, as a counselor for Kids Camp.

Bless Hannah and Wes, as they go to Kids Camp. May it be a delightful and growing experience for them.

Bless Luke and I as we have some Father/Son bonding time in the wilderness this week.

Bless Cathy, as she will have a quiet house for a change!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Valley of Vision

Today, at church, I preached on Job, and the questions that arose from his sufferings:

Job's wife's question: "Why try?" (Curse God and die!)
Job's question: "Why me?"
Job's comforters tried to answer the "Why me" question with "What's wrong with you?"

Then, finally, God speaks up with a few questions of His own: "How many worlds have you created?"

As I started the message, we prayed this prayer aloud together:

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

--by Arthur Bennett in The Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan prayers)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Point the Way

The man pulling radishes
Pointed the way
With a radish

-- Issa, the 18th century haiku poet

My translation for small town pastors:

Use whatever you have in your hand to point the way!

Friday, June 09, 2006

"What If" and "Yeah, But"

There are two kinds of thinkers in this world: the "What If's" and "Yeah, But's".

There's a good reason why God allowed both types to exist. They need each other!

Nothing would ever be accomplished without the "What If" folks. Every great achievement started with somebody asking a simple question.

"What if. . .?" said Thomas Edison.
"What if. . .?" said Bill Gates.
"What if. . .?" said the Wright brothers.
"What if. . .?" said Rosa Parks.

"What If" creativity brings the vision for a better tomorrow, and the energy to accomplish it.

However, the world cannot run on "What If" energy alone.

Much like a battery that has both positive and negative poles, we need a little bit of "Yeah, But" mixed in.

Left to it's own devices, "What If" will blissfully and enthusiastically drive right over the cliff!

Although "What If'ers" see the opportunities, they often fail to recognize the pitfalls. Great creativity is usually accompanied by a discernment deficiency.

That's where the "Yeah, But's" come in. They have the discernment! They're the quality control department!

A good hearted "Yeah, But'er" is a tremendous gift to any planning process.

Of course, you can't let "Yeah, But" run the whole show. If that happens, you won't go anywhere.

"What If" is the ignition and the transmission.
"Yeah, But" is the steering wheel and brake.

"What If" gets the job started.
"Yeah, But" gets the job done right.

"What If" keeps us from stagnation.
"Yeah But" keeps us from stupidity.

Together, like peanut butter and jelly, they make a pretty good sandwich!

Belittled Ambitions

"Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great!"

-- Mark Twain

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Nobody, Unlike a Frog

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you -- Nobody -- too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! They'd advertise -- you know!

How dreary -- to be -- Somebody!
How public -- Like a Frog --
To tell one's name -- the livelong June --
To an admiring bog.

-- Emily Dickinson (Poem 288)

Declutter Your Church

Start with defining your process of disciple-making. Align all that your church does around this process, and get rid of the programs and ministries that don’t facilitate or nurture that process.

--Thom S. Rainer

This quote is from a great article posted on

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Weathered Old Barn

I think you'll like this web page: The Weathered Old Barn.

It fits with my upcoming sermon on Job.

Rough times are necessary to smooth us out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


"You may exceed other people's expectations, but you will never exceed your own."
-- Stan Toler

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I've Been Reading

Here's what I've been reading.

How to Have a Good Day

1. Determine to have a good day.
Make up your mind that you are going to make the best of this day, no matter what! A firm decision to live positively is half the battle.

2. Start your day with a prayer.
Before you get out of bed, pause to thank God for your life and ask for guidance through the day.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Isn't it funny how we can become so uptight about non-essential issues? My friend, Eunice Walker, calls these petty frustrations "bugs on the windshield of life." Refuse to let minor annoyances get the best of you.

4. Look for the postcards from Heaven.
Every day God sends postcards that say, "I love you." He hides them like Easter eggs - and you have to look in order to find them. Each day is packed full of blessings for you to enjoy.

5. Release your resentments and regrets.
Some people are hostage to the past. Regrets and resentments (the Siamese twins of misery) bind us up so we cannot enjoy the present. Yesterday is history. You can't go back and change it - but you can do something about today. Make the most of your moments - and do not allow baggage from your past to steal your joy.

6. Invest your life in service to others.
One of the best ways to be happy and fulfilled in life is to be a blessing to others. Look for ways to help other people, and you will be rewarded with great joy. I've never yet met a generous grouch.

7. Always tell the truth.
Honesty brings freedom to the soul.

8. Nurture your most important relationships.
Be sure to cherish your marriage partner, your family, your friends. Don't get so caught up in the hectic pace of making a living that you forget to have a life. The human heart is richer when it is full of love.