Sunday, December 31, 2006

Launching


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

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 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

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.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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

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!

Brooding


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

Faith


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

Delicious!


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


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.

Hmmmm.

Unavailable

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

-- Richard Neuhaus

Friday, December 01, 2006

Reading

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!"