Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Off to the Vatican

This morning, I'm heading off to the Vatican -- er, I mean Headquarters -- in Indianapolis, for the Doctrinal Symposium.

I'm going a day early so I can plunder the Archives, and dig up the 1843 abolitionist Wesleyans. (The guys in my church go fishing in Canada for fun. I go to dusty libraries. Isn't that odd?)

My computer decided to stay home, so, unless I can pilfer one for a few minutes, there won't be any posts here for the next few days.

A Miracle for Jim

Jim, one of our members at Hayward Wesleyan Church, had a pancreas transplant last week.

It's mystifying, really. Through the death of a young Utah man, and the kind generosity of his family, Jim will have a new life.

Everything was going well until Sunday morning. Just before I was going up to preach, someone came to me with an urgent message. Jim was not doing well. He had a fever of 104, and there was serious concern about his body rejecting the new organ. We stopped and had a special prayer for Jim in the middle of our three worship services.

Monday, I called the hospital. Pandora, his wife, answered the phone. "How's Jim doing?"

"Great! Really Great!" she replied. "We heard that you prayed for us during the worship services. Well, guess what?? At each service, while you were praying, his temperature went down a degree or two! By the time the 11:00 people had finished praying, it was down to 99!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Miracles and the Mission of God

At the Doctrinal Symposium later this week, I am responding to this paper, by my good friend from California days, Dr. Frank Robinson. His "outside the box" thinking inspired my faith, and has led me to pray more boldly. That's my kind of theology!

By the way, how many theologians does it take to change a light bulb?

An Ancient Prayer

O God,
Who has taught us to keep
all your heavenly commands
by loving you and our neighbor.
Grant us your Spirit of peace and grace
that we may be both devoted to you
with our whole heart
and united with each other
with a pure will,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

(AD 460)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Christina's Faith

Yesterday, at the end of the worship services, I invited people who desired prayer to come forward.

I prayed with over a dozen different people with a wide variety of needs. It was a joy to pray with a friend to commit her life to Christ.

One lady, whose husband is suffering from a serious illness came forward. "I know why you're here." I said, assuming it was on behalf of her husband. To this she replied, "I am concerned for my son. He needs Jesus." In her heart, this was the most urgent and pressing need. I stood properly rebuked.

Christina, a young lady with downs syndrome came forward for prayer. "I hurt right here," she said, pointing to her ear. I anoined her with oil, laying my hand over her ear, and prayed for her healing.

Later in the day, Cathy and I ended up at Christina's house for her brother's graduation party. "How's your ear?" I inquired. "ALL BETTER!" she beamed.

Then a cloud of concern came over her face, "but Sophie's scared."

The noisy crowd had frightened her little puppy, which was shaking, wide-eyed in her lap.

Then, a lightbulb turned on inside Christina. She motioned for me to come near, laid her hand on her Sophie's head, and prayed, "Dear Jesus, Help Sophie not to be scared anymore. Amen."

A couple of minutes later, Christina and her puppy bounded up to me. "Pastor Mark!! Look!! Look!! Look!! Sophie's not scared anymore!"

Sure enough, her little dog had calmed down completely, and seemed to be enjoying the party.

Oh, for a simple childlike faith.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Burning Bush

It was a presence, not faith, which drew Moses to the burning bush. And what happened there was a revelation, not a seminar.
-- Aiden Kavanaugh (OSB)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ryan's Graduation

Cathy and I are holding our son, Ryan's graduation party this afternoon -- rain or shine. We're praying for the shine!
Ryan has developed into quite an outstanding young man. We're really proud of him. He is an excellent musician, a creative writer, a deep thinker, and a fully devoted follower of Jesus.
I'm also proud of Cathy, who has homeschooled him to the finish line. I guess you could say he's our "Valedictorian", and Cathy was once again selected "Teacher of the Year " by the Wilson homeschool administration.
(photo by Chris Comstock used with permission)

Friday, May 25, 2007


I am scheduled to present a response paper in Indianapolis next week at the Wesleyan Doctrinal Symposium on the subject of "Miracles and the Mission of God."

All the other presenters hold doctorates and are among the "Who's Who" of Wesleyan theologians. My doctorate is from HKU -- Hard Knox University, and I'm listed among the "Who's He?"

It is certainly an honor to be included, but I'm just a small town preacher, and not a brilliant theologian. If church ministry was the NFL, I'd be a quarterback on the field rather than an analyst in the booth.

Hopefully, I can encourage them a bit, inspire their faith, and remind them that God is still in the miracle working business.

If somebody asked YOU if God still performs miracles, how would you respond? What evidence would YOU give?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Celebration

The church filled up with Maira's friends and family today, as we celebrated her homegoing. We had two choirs, a praise band, a duet, two soloists, a videographer, and two preachers to help bid her bon voyage.

I'm wiped out right now. Personally, Maira's memorial was hard to officiate. I've conducted over 200 funeral services over the years, and usually can keep my emotions at bay, while I'm speaking. This time, however, I found myself choking back tears the entire time.

Robyn, an accomplished musician, sang "I Can Only Imagine." It was absolutely beautiful -- and I blubbered through the whole thing.

Afterwards, I asked her how she did it. I cried just listening - -and she was able to sing each word with calmness and clarity.

She said, "I did my crying before the funeral -- and then I made sure not to look at anybody and channeled my grief into the song for a deeper meaning."

I wish I had thought to ask her that BEFORE the service.

Tackling Troubles

1. Troubles are common to everybody.
We shouldn't be so surprised when they come. Often, a problem arises and people freak out. "Oh my goodness! This is just awful! What am I going to do? Why did this happen to me?" Instead of being shocked when the difficulties come, expect them. A trouble free day is exception rather than the rule.

2. You can't choose whether or not to have troubles. (They come to everybody.)
You can't choose when they come (They always seem to come at the wrong time.) -- but you can choose how you are going to react to them.

3. If you remain open-hearted, you will grow through your troubles.
If you close down emotionally, the hard times will make you bitter.

4. You do not have to face your troubles alone.
God promised to be a present help in the hour of trouble -- Can you think of anyone better to have beside you when you face life's problems?

5. Troubles are never neutral -- If they don't do you good, they'll do you harm.
You can harvest wisdom from them, or waste them. The choice is yours.

6. Troubles are like babies -- They grow larger by nursing!

7. Troubles don't seem so bad when you maintain your sense of humor.

8. The "school of hard knocks" provides wonderful learning opportunities!

9. Troubles are seldom solved by procrastination.

10. Overcoming Troubles requires a new way of thinking.
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level at which we created them." Albert Einstein

11. Many troubles can be avoided by looking ahead.
Remember the 5-P Principle "Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance."

12. Remember, there is always somebody worse off than you.
Socrates said, "If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart."

13. Do your best one step at a time.
"Have you got a problem? Do what you can where you are with what you've got." Teddy Roosevelt.

"Just take things as they come and handle them the best you can." Robert Frost

An anonymous poet penned the following message of hope in adversity: "The Hard Way."

For every hill I've had to climb,

For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat,
My heart sings but a grateful song -
These were the things that made me strong!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Heresy of Cool

Running From the Call

The word came
and he went
in the other direction.
God said: Cry
tears of compassion
tears of repentance; cry against
the reek
of unrighteousness; cry for
the right turn
the contrite spirit.
and Jonah rose
and fled
in tearless silence.

-- Thomas Carlyle

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Motivation for Excellence

An older man needed surgery. He insisted that his son, a renowned surgeon, perform the operation.

Just before the anesthesia was administered, he asked to speak with his son.

"Yes, Dad? What is it?"

"Don't be nervous. Do your best, and just remember this. If something happens to me, your mother is going to come and live with you and your wife."

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Healing of Another Sort

My heart is heavy today. Yesterday, about the time I was praying in the 11:00 worship service that God would heal our dear friend, Maira Koser, she passed away.

I was called to the hospital to go in with her husband, Don and a couple of good friends to pray and say farewell

She was a beautiful and kind young lady who loved Jesus. She sang a solo in the Easter Musical last month. She was starting a Spanish speaking Bible study in Minong. She had served as a small group leader here at the church. A few months ago, she gave a powerful testimony of the transformation Christ made in her life. She beamed with the love of Jesus in her heart. It has been such a blessing to watch grow in grace.

Just two weeks ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. She went downhill fast. Even in her suffering, at the hospital, she was a shining example of God's love and peace. She blessed all the nurses and doctors when they came into the room.

I had a strong feeling that God was going to work a miracle, and raise her up. She had so much to do still. I prayed that way: "God please heal her." I prayed in faith. I prayed with unusual boldness.

God chose to heal her in a greater way. Heaven is the ultimate healing.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Cor. 4:17)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fretting for Nothing

We had some financial pressure at the church this past year. (Our fiscal year ends April 30.)

Starting a daughter church in Minong and bringing on another pastor to the staff (a good decision, and very VALUABLE addition, I might add) was quite a stretch for us.

I spent too many hours over the past twelve months fretting and stewing about how we were going to meet the financial challenge. We have a few thousand in reserves from more plentiful years, but I figured those funds would soon be depleted, and then, I'd be on the street selling apples.

Well, the treasurer shared the end of the year report last Thursday night: We ended up spending $346 more than we took in for the year! That's less than a dollar a day!

Just think, I did all that fretting for less than a dollar a day! Good grief!

Lord, I believe -- help me in my unbelief.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Add a Little More

We recall the kind old grocer,
When the sugar he would pour,
How he'd tip the scales to balance,
Then he'd add a little more.

And his business, how it prospered,
Folks were always in his store,
For he gave an honest measure
And he'd add a little more.

So it is with life, my brother,
We would write a better score,
When we've done what is expected,
If we'd add a little more.

-- Author Unknown

Friday, May 18, 2007

Big Fish Vow Renewal

Yesterday, I conducted a marriage vow renewal in the mouth of "The Big Muskie" -- the great Hayward landmark.

Clint, the creative husband, decided to surprise his wife on their fifth wedding aniversary. He arranged to have her kidnapped, blindfolded, and delivered to the muskie mouth (located at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.)

Several fishermen friends gathered, and Clint was thoughtful enough to contact Terrell, the omnipresent photographer from the Sawyer County Record.

When they removed Teri's blindfold, I thought she was going to sock him one for a moment -- but she ended up being a good sport, and by the time we were finished, everyone was wiping tears.

The groom apologized to me for not having an honorarium, as he was running short on cash. That was fine with me, as I wasn't expecting one.

Then, he happened to mention that Teri is a pie baker for Norske Nook, and that she recently won a blue ribbon at the national pie contest for her invention: white chocolate raspberry.

"I'll bake you one!" Teri beamed. I accepted!
Sometimes, ministry is really sweet.

Thank a Cop

This is National Police Week in the United States. It's when America remembers its fallen law enforcement officers and honors those who continue to serve. Throughout our country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, local, state and federal officers protect and serve.

During these violent times officers go out each day not knowing if they will return home alive and help our citizens life safe and free lives.

Please say a prayer for those families who have lost a loved one and for current officers who will carry on.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Plant a Garden

We cannot always choose our setting, situation or circumstance. Our plans and ideas don't always go the way we had hoped.

Life has a funny way of suddenly careening out of control, and putting us in the ditch. One thing I know about the ditch - nobody ever intends to go there. It just happens.
(A variation of a popular bumper sticker: "Stuff Happens")"

Bad Luck" often brings with it a sense of despair and pessimism. When the problems pile up, we lose our hope, and find ourselves singing the children's jump-rope rhyme: "Same song, second verse. It ought to get better, but it's gonna get worse." 9
Whatever happens -- you can make the worst of it, or you can make the best of it. The choice is yours. Wherever you are in life, you can just sit there and complain, or you can start planting a garden. If you plant, you may not see the results right away. The tiny seeds need time to grow - but they will sprout and bear fruit if you keep the faith alive.

Perhaps your dreams have been shattered. Maybe life has been one big disappointment for you - not at all like you had thought it was going to be.

It could be that you are facing: Financial struggles, poor health, relational difficulties, failure in business, inadequacy and loss.

Here's a question to ponder. Will the situation get better by feeling bad about it? Will anything improve if you operate out of self pity? I don't think so.

Problems are like babies - the grow bigger by nursing!

The only way things will get better is if you take positive action. Inaction means no change. The first thing to change is your mental attitude. Focus on what you have left, rather than what you have lost. Think about your blessings instead of your troubles. Spend your energy on what can be done rather than what can't. Reflect on the good instead of the bad.

Whatever your lot in life - plant a garden!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blogging Break

I'm leaving on vacation today
And leaving my computer behind!

So -- I won't be posting again until May 17.