Showing posts from October, 2007

A Good Solution

If you find a good solution and become attached to it, the solution may become your next problem.
-- Robert Anthony


Definition of Lutefisk: A piece of cod which passeth all understand.
Garrison Keillor wrote in Lake Wobegon Days: "Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat. We did this in honor of Norwegian ancestors, much as if survivors of a famine might celebrate their deliverance by feasting on elm bark. I always felt the cold creeps as Advent approached, knowing that this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, "Just have a little." Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot."
"Lutefisk is not food" noted Jeff Steingarten, "it is a weapon of mass destruction."

William Cullen Bryant Field Trip

Yesterday, I took the kids on a field trip featuring the poetry of William Cullen Bryant. It was sort of like a scavenger hunt.

First, we found a flock of Canadian geese, and and read "To a Waterfowl." (inspiring) The geese seemed to appreciate the the serenade.

Then, we snooped out a patch of dead flowers near a river dam. Holding brown boquets, we read "Death of Flowers" (heart rending)

Finally, we found a graveyard next to a country church, where a funeral had just finished. There, appropriately, we read "Thanatopsis" (mind stretching)

I had to do a lot of explaining -- but all in all, they understood and enjoyed the excursion. Sort of reminded me of "Dead Poet's Society."

5 Characteristics of Effective Leaders

The great leadership guru, Warren Bennis, once shared that drawing from decades of studying leadership, he noted that effective leaders share five characteristics:

1. They have a strong sense of purpose, a passion, a conviction, a sense of wanting to do something important to make a difference.

2. They are capable of developing and sustaining deep and trusting relationships. They seem to be consistantly caring and authentic with people.

3. They are purveyors of hope and have positive illusions about reality.

4. They have a balance in their lives between work, power, and family or outside activities.

5. They have a bias toward action and, while not reckless, they do not resist taking risks.

What Would Wesley Say?


Gerry's Passing

Yesterday morning, Gerry Anderson died. He fought a valiant battle against kidney cancer. He also kept it quiet, because he didn't want to be a burden to anybody.

It's hard to believe things progressed so quickly. I was with him and Linda just two days prior. We had deep conversation then, and a significant time of prayer.

Less than 48 hours later, I was back at their house to comfort the grieving family, and bid farewell to my beloved friend. It was difficult.

The Memorial Service will be 6:00 p.m. Thursday, November 1 (All Saints Day) at the church -- and at a later day, his ashes will be scattered at his deer stand.

This morning, in my quiet time, I found this in the Book of Common Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies' sake. Amen.

Chinese Reincarnation, Ghosts, California Fires and Short Sentences

Free Stuff

Pushers and Pullers

In any organizations, there are three groups of people -- the pushers, the pullers, and folks in the middle.

Pushers are the ones who promote change and new ideas. They are the enthusiastic folks who "go for it" wth vision and energy. They are the ones who vote "yes" in favor of change -- and lead the way.

Pullers, on the other hand, are the reluctant ones who are not so excited about change. Their motto is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Or perhaps, "If it's slightly broke, use duct tape, and keep 'er going."

In between the pushers and the pullers are the majority in the middle. They can go either way -- depending on the credibility and influence of the folks on each end.

Pushers speak words of faith. God knows we all need more of that. Faith requires a measure of risk. Consider the law of the turtle: You won't move forward unless you stick your neck out.

Pullers, on the other hand, speak words of wisdom. They realize that &q…

Holy Kiss

Strange Wedding

I've conducted my share of unusual weddings down through the years -- but nothing quite like this.

Trends in the Life of the Church

1960's -- Koinonia, Jesus People, RSV, Revival Services, Flannelgraph, Missions and Billy Graham.

1970's -- Bus Ministry, Personal Evangelism, Puppets, Film Strips, Living Bible, Moral Majority, and Billy Graham.

1980's -- Preaching, Church Growth, Evangelism Programs, NIV, Youth Ministry, Calvary Chapel, Billy Graham Movies, Leadership, and Billy Graham.

1990's -- Seeker Sensitive, Purpose Driven, Suburbs, Powerpoint, Drama, Praise Bands, Small Groups and Billy Graham

1995-2005 -- Worship, Church Health, Worship Videos, I-Worship, Children's Ministry, Mission Trips, and Billy Graham.

2005-2010 -- Missional, Venues, Church Planting, Emergent, Inner City, Authenticity and "De-Churching", and Billy Graham

Stressed Out

One Third of Americans Under Extreme Stress

I wonder what the stats are for church goers?
For pastors?

Could the programs and various ministries we offer at the church ADD to the stress level?

Reminds me of the bulletin blooper: "Don't let worry kill you. Let the church help!"

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

One day last week, while teaching, I wore all black.

People kidded me, calling me "Johnny Cash" or "The Man in Black" or "A Boy Named Sue."

During break time, on a whim, I decided to play the part -- picked up a guitar, and sang a wobbly version of "I Walk the Line."

"Thank you. . . Thank you very much."

On Sunday Mornings

Tommy Mitchell, the Rurban Church Blogger, made a good obervation about what's going on in our communities each Sunday morning. Ouch!!

My wife and I were traveling back home yesterday morning (Sunday). As we traveled along in Mobile it was impossible not to notice that a lot of people are out and about living life on Sunday! We had to stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of items for the tail-gate party. It was about 11:00 am and when we left I told my wife that we in the church, while we are in the church, tend to think that everyone else is probably at church too!

That is not the case! The vast majority of people in our area on any given Sunday are unchurched! More than that - they are not "studying" us - the church! I think about our conversations at church! They are far too often "me" and "us" centered - what we like about worship, music, Sunday School - the structure, the activities etc.. Most of our conversations are not about connecting…

Barratt's Chapel

Last week, while in Maryland teaching FLAME courses, I had the privilege of leading a prayer service for our students at Barratt's Chapel, the oldest surviving church building in the United States built by and for Methodists. It was the place where Asbury met Coke, officially launching the Methodist Church in America. We conducted Wesley's Covenant Service, including three Charles Wesley Hymns. It was beautiful.


The secret of my success is a two word answer: know people

-- Harvey Firestone (founder Firestone Tire and Rubber Company)

Thanks for the Prayers

Steve, my older brother, told me tonight that he's coming home from the hospital tomorrow! He was really sick -- but has shown a marked improvement.

Steve's a definite believer in prayer power.

When Steve told the doctor of all the prayers being lifted up on his behalf, he said, "God is the only reason why you're still here."

The Berry Patch

Strong winds blew down a swath of trees -- leaving jagged trunks jutting from the earth. Driving by a few days later, we shook our heads and sadly recalled how beautiful the land used to be.

I grumbled against the wind.

Good hearted loggers tried to clean it up a bit -- by clearing some of the windfall. Their honest efforrts, however, seemed more an invasion of nature than a healing. Their cuttings left deep scars, cold and stark.

I drove by, shook my heard, and grumbled against the loggers.

The burning followed. How the fire started is still a puzzle -- perhaps a lightening strike, an engine spark, or a careless cigarette. Regardless of the start, it took the firefighing volunteers a full effort for the finish. Acres of charred stubble marred the landscape.

I grumbled against the fire.

But passing time has a way of healing scarred soil and human hearts. From blackened ground, new life emerges.

Twelve seasons later, quite by accident, we happened upon the barren place and were amazed to fin…

Who Is Your Candidate?

USA Today has invented a nifty little Candidate Match Game to help you determine who to support for president.

Dear God

(special thanks to Ben Witherington)

Small Town Church Growth

Prayer Concerns

My brother, Steve, is in the hospital with the dangerous new "superbug" staph infection. I'd really appreciate it if you would remember him and his wife, Sandy, in your prayers. He was really sick -- and has undergone some major surgery. Still not out of the woods.

Pray also for our Wesleyan brothers and sisters in Nicaragua. Heavy rains and flooding have forced many from their homes.

My mother told me today that there was a brutal murder just a few houses up the road from her home. A 39 year old mother was stabbed to death by her daughter's ex-boyfriend. News reports say that he had parked his car at the church down the road . This means that after the slaying, he walked right past my mother's house (or through her field) to get back to his vehicle. Creepy. Please pray for the victim's family as well as the family of the young man who committed this horrible crime.

I received an e-mail from my online friend, Hanna Massad, who pastors in the Gaza Strip. One of h…

Flies in the Soup

A Senior Pastor, a Youth Pastor and the Church Treasurer sat together at the church soup supper. As soon as the soup was delivered, three flies circled overhead and landed -- one in each bowl of soup!

The Senior Pastor discretely picked up his spoon, gently lifted the fly out of the soup, deposited it on the saucer, and covered it with a napkin.

The Youth Pastor yelled, "OH Gross!!" and flicked the fly out of the bowl with finger onto the floor.

The Church Treasurer analyzed the situation, reached in and grabbed the fly with both hands -- shook it and shouted, "Spit it out! Spit it out!"

Back From FLAME

Arrived home safely after spending a week teaching FLAME Courses in Denton, Maryland. The classes (Evangelism and Spiritual Formation) went very well and seemed to be quite helpful to the students. Several amazing things happened this week -- but I don't have time to write about them now.

Hannah and Cathy are playing in an orchestra tonight -- and so I'm going to be a Patron of the Arts.

The Rising Generation of Pastors

What the next generation of pastors needs is a firm grounding in sound doctrine and loving pastoral care.
-- Al Mohler (article here)

Blogging Break

Heading out of town today to teach FLAME (ministerial training) classes in Denton, Maryland. I won't be posting again until after my return on Saturday, Oct. 20.


A great msnbc article on bi-vocational pastors -- the unsung heroes of faith, who selflessly give themselves to bring the Water of Life to small congregations.

Historic Congregation Leaving Episcopal Church

Our Youth and Worship pastor, Loretta, happened to visit Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia last week. It's where John Wesley pastored briefly, while he was a "missionary" in America. Wesley was followed by George Whitefield.
The vestry of this historic congregation voted September 30 to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and place themselves under the authority of the Bishop of Uganda.
This is in response to a drifting of the Episcopal Church from historic orthodoxy as expressed by the Anglican Communion around the world.
There will be a congregational vote tomorrow, Sunday, Oct 14 during their 11:00 service to express agreement or disagreement with this action.
The Bishop of Georgia isn't too thrilled, but I'm pretty sure both Wesley and Whitefield would enthusiastically endorse these revolutionary renegades.

Missional Marketing

My dear friends, Kent and Hannah Peterson, have recently established International Treasures, a non-profit company to import goods from developing countries, selling them here in the States, and then putting the profits into Mission Work.

Currently, they are selling items from our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua -- but soon they will have items from Swaziland as well as other countries.

Stop by and pay them a visit!

Eating Right

My brother Steve recently shared this with me:
Yesterday I went to the doctor for my yearly physical. My blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was high, I'd gained some weight, and I didn't feel so hot. My doctor said eating right doesn't have to be complicated and it would solve my physical problems. He said just think in colors; Fill your plate with bright colors; greens, yellows, reds, etc. I went right home and ate an entire bowl of M&M's and sure enough, I felt better immediately. I never knew eating right could be so easy!!


21 year old, Adam and his fiancee, Allegra are driving in today from Waterloo to visit us for the weekend. Yippee! We're delighted -- and looking forward to carving pumkins.

Made It!

I appreciate those who prayed for me during the last couple of days. I was "out of commission" and slept (sort of) for about 36 hours.

This morning, I woke up wobbly, to face a funeral and a board meeting. In my devotions, I read II Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness."

I found that verse to be very true today. He grace WAS sufficient. His power was displayed in my weakness.

The funeral went well -- and I was able to speak words of comfort and strength to the grieving family. On top of that, I had plenty of energy left over for a great board meeting.

God is good!

Happy Birthday Adam

Our son, Adam is 21 years old today. Doesn't seem possible. It was just yesterday when we brought him home from the hospital. He's now older than I was when I married Cathy!

We are really proud of the fine young man he has become, and look forward to seeing him and his lovely fiancee', Allegra, this weekend.

On another note -- I've been under the weather for the past 24 hours. Pray for me. I have a funeral and a board meeting tomorrow, on top of preparing for FLAME classes I'm teaching next week in Maryland.

Belief and Submission

John Drury had an interesting post a couple of months ago at Drulogian. He writes:

I once heard a story about a 16th century Jesuit mission in Brazil. After a long interaction with the people and some individual conversions, the chief decided to become a Christian (presumably bringing with him the rest of the tribe). As part of the process, the chief met with the leader of the mission to be examined. The priest began asking doctrinal questions. He asked the chief, "How many natures does our Lord have?" The chief responded, "As many natures as you say he has, Father."

Setting aside the more obvious missiological issues surrounding such a tale, this story raises for me the question of the role of submission in belief. To what extent was the chief's answer the right one?

Specifically, what role should submission to one's church play in belief?
Does submission spoil belief?
Is belief possible without submission?

Chronological Hymns

A great site that lists the great Christian Hymns in chronological order.


Our prayers go out on behalf of the residents of Crandon, Wisconsin, who have experienced an unbelievable tragedy.

Crandon is located 150 miles east of us in northeastern Wisconsin.


All men should strive to learn before they die what they are are running from, and to, and why. -- James Thurber

Fire Within

Genuine motivation is not an external aura or cape thrown over another leader by the chief. It is unlocking what he calls a "fire within people."
-- James C. Hunter

Big Macs and Bible Literacy


A Hannah Celebration

Our daughter, Hannah, turns 11 years old today! What a happy celebration! As I write this morning, the Monkey Bread is already in the oven. We snapped this picture a few weeks ago, while passing through the little village of Hanna, Indiana on Route 30. Turned it into an ice cream stop. What a lucky kid -- identical double digits -- and she has a town named after her. I've never yet found a town named "Mark."

A Great 46th

Yesterday, my 46th Birthday, was filled with lots of special surprises.

It was a splendid autumn day -- one of the most beautiful of the entire year!

My "Backroads Coffee Card" had ten punches -- so I got a free coffee!

My family turned my vehicle into a "Happy Birthday Car" and took me to Perkins for lunch. A group of ladies from the church was sitting in the booth next to us, and gave us nice discount coupon!

Wayne, our plumber friend, came by the house for a repair -- and threw in a new water valve as a birthday gift. (His jingle is let Wayne-o clear your drain-o)

I received an e-mail from a church planter in Swaziland, who heard an interview I did for pastors on a cd -- and wrote to say "thanks." That was amazing.

A thank you note arrived in the mail from a man who received significant spiritual help this week. We're going to light the faith candle for him this Sunday.

A lady I don't know stopped my on the street and thanked me for my newspaper c…
Now, if they can only invent one of these for Church Pews!

Big Tree or Big Forest?

Great blog interview of Bob Roberts at Ed Stetzer's blog -- Glocalization!
Over 100 congregations have been planted from Bob's church, Northwood Community, in Texas.
Just yesterday, my dear friend, Roger Ciskie, told me that Summit Church in Naples, Florida (where he attends), has grown to 1200 people, since it launched three years ago. This week, they'll open their new facility -- which seats 600 -- intentionally. They have also launched eight other congregations during that short span of time.
Their main focus is not just to build a bigger church and hope the community comes. Rather, they believe God is calling them to reach out and bring the love of Jesus to every man, woman, boy and girl in the entire region -- and to also bless the nations. That requires multiple churches.
Now, that's missional!
I've been re-reading Phil Stevenson's excellent book on this subject, The Ripple Church. Ordered a copy of it for all my board members and pastoral staff.
What's be…


Alarming new research from Barna, about 16-29 year olds in America, and their views of the church. Ministry leaders need to pay attention to this.

The God Match

Tonight, a debate between two academic heavyweights will be on the radio: Richard Dawkins, known as "Darwin's Rottweiler" author of The God Delusion v.s. Christian apologist and scientist, Dr. John Lennox, author of God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Sounds like an interesting program, and quite a match-up. I predict Lennox with a KO in the first round.
More details here

Litmus for Living

So live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
-- Will Rogers
(posted by Lisa Johnson at Surviving Motherhood)

Story Behind the Song

The Heart of Worship tells the storybehind several of today's most popular worship songs, told by the songwriters themselves. Some are mundane, but many are inspiring!

On the Record

Have you noticed that hardly anybody on television news tells us what's right with the world? The "news" isn't really new, but just a re-hashing of the "olds."

Same old situations.
Same old opinions.
Same old complaints.

Now, of course there are plenty of things to complain about. Certainly, injustices should be addressed. Sufferings should be alleviated. Challenges should be met.

However, when I watch the new programs, I don't hear much about solutions -- only the problems. It doesn't take any brains to find fault. Finding answers? Now, that's a different story.

Are the nightly rants the sum of what's happening in American society? I suppose the yellings boost the ratings, but don't they shrivel the soul of our nation?

After watching two consecutive news shows where talking heads bellowed, disrespected and interrupted each other non-stop, I wrote this little poem:

Ragings of the nation
Like churnings of the sea
cagings of creation
burnings on tv