Showing posts from December, 2007

What Does This Painting Say to You?



There is someone I love, even though I don't approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, thought some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love most. That person is me! There are plenty of things I do that I don't like, but if I can love myself without approving of all I do, I can also love others without approving of all they do.

-- C. S. Lewis


In keeping with Hayward Wesleyan tradition -- on this last Suday of the year, our worship services will consist of favorite hymns (we dust off the hymnals, and people get to choose), testimonies (expressing what God has done, giving thanks, bringing a helpful passage of Scripture, and sharing prayer concerns), and a condensed version of the John Wesley Covenant Service.

We'll finish the service with communion.

I'm looking forward to hearing from my church family.

Wide Awake

What a wonderful discovery for preachers!

I'll have the ushers administer a whif of this to everybody right before the sermon.

A Million Minutia

I thought, if defeat came at all, It would be in a big, bold Definite joust With a cause or a name. And it came.
I had not thought the daily skirmish With a few details, worthwhile; And so I turned my back upon them Year on year; until one day A million minutia blanketed together Rose up and overwhelmed me. -- Author Unknown

Holy Turf Wars

Seems like making mountains out of molehills to me -- of course, most church fights are turf wars of some sort.

Spirit of Humility

Pour into me the whole spirit of humility; fill, I beseech thee, every part of my soul with it, and make it the constant ruling habit of my mind, that all other tempers may arise from it; that I may have no thoughts, no desires, no designs, but such as are the true fruit of a lowly spirit.
-- John Wesley

Faith is the Oil

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life -- faith is the oil.
-- Dr. E. Stanley Jones

What Lies Beneath

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Sometimes, we are tempted to let the hurts of the past direct our lives today. Certain moments have a way of defining us.

the accident
the death
the divorce
the argument
the illness
the failure

Painful experiences come in broken shards with jagged edges that cut deep and pierce the heart.

If we hold our hurts close, clutching them tightly in our grasp, we will never move beyond the pain. Sometimes, it's more "comfortable" to hang on to old hurts than to risk releasing them. Maybe doing so means letting go of our very identity.

But faith calls us to release the past -- to begin the long journey of healing.

Looking the other direction . . . towards the future . .trouble is a brewing! Every person has problems coming down the pike.

Why are we so surprised when trouble knocks at the door? It's normal! Hardship is just a part of the package of living!


Christmas Eve Services

Over 700 people attended our three candlelight Christmas Eve Services last night. It was wonderful to have so many friends and neighbors join us as we celebrated our Savior's birth.

I concluded my "Christmas Prayers" series with "The Jesus Prayer". John 17 was my text -- the High Priestly Prayer. Here's what he prayed for his friends:

1. Protect (Keep) them by the power of your name. (v. 12)

2. Fill them with the full measure of joy. (v. 13)

3. Sanctify them by your truth (v. 17)

And this is His prayer for YOU!

Immanuel and Love in Galoshes

The job of a pastor is to help people experience Immanuel -- God WITH us (bringing God to people.)
That's my prayer for tonight. Three Christmas Eve services this evening (4, 7 & 9 p.m.) -- and I know they will all be packed. This will be my 17th year of candlelight Christmas Eve services in Hayward. They are always beautiful and heartwarming.
My hope this year, however, is that hearts will not just be "warmed" -- but set ablaze with the Love of Christ -- That those who come merely out of family tradition, will truly experience the powerful presence of Jesus.
On another note, the church family rose to the "giving tree" (and Angel Tree) challenge. Over 250 needy children received Christmas gifts, because our people cared enough to make a difference. Now, that's love in galoshes.

Lotsa Snow

It snowed like crazy last night -- with several more inches to come today. The good folks of Hayward Wesleyan have a good excuse to stay home from church today -- but those who brave it and come out will get the blessing. Today's theme -- The Shepherd's Prayer.

Christmas Church

Our good friend, Lisa Johnson, made a cool gingerbread church for the Wilson gang this Christmas -- complete with a "There's a Place for You" sign over the front door! Thanks Lisa!

We took pictures -- oohed and ahhed -- and now, we're going to eat it!

Aged Pastor

Thy love, O God! from year to year,
Has watched thy faithful pastor here,
Till fifty years of toil have now
Engraved their tokens on his brow.

Fast have the seasons rolled away;
A moment in thy sight were they,
Yet while their rapid course was run,
What mighty works thy hand has done!

What empires rose, and, at thy frown,
In sudden weakness crumbled down!
What barriers, reared by earth and hell,
Against thy truth, gave way and fell!

Meanwhile, beneath thy gracious sight
This flock has dwelt in peace and light,
By living waters gently led,
And in perennial pastures fed.

Oh, when before thy judgment seat
The pastor and his flock shall meet,
May thy benignant voice attest
Their welcome to thine endless rest.

-- William Cullen Bryant


Inspiring Story

The Seven Ups

Just a few days before she died, my friend, Leah emailed this inspiring little message to me.
"Happy Wednesday, Pastor Mark! I thought you might be able to use this sometime." (I used it at her funeral service Tuesday night, and several people requested a copy)
The Seven Ups
1. Wake Up! Decide to have a good day. "This is the day the Lord hath made;Let us rejoice and be glad in it."Psalms 118:24
2. Dress Up ! The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.Man looks at outward appearance,But the Lord looks at the heart." -- I Samuel 16:73.
3. Shush Up! Say nice things and learn to listen.God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.
"He who guards his lips guards his soul."-- Proverbs 13:3

4. Stand Up! For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.
"Let us no…

Blue Jean Funeral

Bobo hated suits and ties. So, yesterday, at the family's request, I wore jeans as I conducted his funeral. Now, I've officiated a couple hundred funeral services over the years --and that was my first one in blue jeans.

Also, they put together a memorial slide presentation, with "Turdy Point Buck" as background music. That was a first, too.

Mark, our church custodian (and Bo Bo's brother in law), played the piano -- "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace." That was the first time he'd ever played for a funeral. He was nervous -- but did a fantastic job. Occasionally, Mark surprises everybody and plays a piano solo at church, but mostly he just tickles the ivories when nobody is listening -- late at night after he finishes cleaning the church.

The funeral procession was led by Bo Bo's buddies riding on ATV'S. A fitting send off, for a good man who loved the woods, worked with his hands, and had a heart of gold, especially for child…

Leah's Funeral

Going into it, I really dreaded Leah's funeral. I didn't know how we were going to make it through. What I discovered, though, was something I've experienced many times before. God gives strength right when you need it. (He doesn't give the strength BEFOREHAND -- only when you need it. That's where faith comes in.)

Half the town showed up, bringing their love with them. We all cried together (holy water.)

It ended up being a beautiful celebration of Leah's life. We had the whole worship team -- drums, bass, guitars, flute -- and sang her songs (There are two kinds of singing, I told them -- singing when you're happy, and singing when you're sad, which gives you comfort and strength.)

We sang "Reign in Me", "In Christ Alone", and "When Its All Been Said and Done".

Four pastors read passages of Scripture (John 14, Psalm 139, II Cor. 5, Rev. 21)

Several people shared beautiful thoughts and memories. We had a moving slide presentati…

Today's Prayer

Today, the staff will gather, along with our spouses for our annual Christmas gathering. It's not exactly a party this year -- because our hearts and thoughts will be with Leah Conner's family, and her memorial service, which is scheduled for this evening.

We're going to have a big crowd tonight. Our worship team is going to lead us in some of the songs Leah loved (new music) and we're going to also draw strength from a couple of old hymns.

My prayer is that God will give me a special anointing to bring a word of faith and encouragement as we grieve together -- and that tonight, we might point someone to Jesus.

Sadly, before the visitation this afternoon, I am meeting with another family who lost a loved one in the prime of life. Bobo, in his mid 40's, died suddenly on Saturday. Tomorrow, another precious family will be gathering at the church in need of a word of comfort and hope.

The Lord is our strength.


David Classen wrote an encouraging piece called, "Feeling Good about Feeling Inadequate"

“Christ is never strong in us until we are weak." wrote William Tyndale, "As our strength diminishes, the strength of Christ grows in us. When we are entirely emptied of our own strength, then we are full of Christ’s strength. As much as we retain of our own, we lack of Christ.”


Yesterday, in the lull between church services and caroling, (during the Packer game) there was a knock at our door. A group of dear friends had stopped by the Wilson home to carol to US!

Now, that was quite a surprise. Cathy and I sat on our stairs with warmed hearts.
We're always on the OTHER side of the carolings. What a joy to receive such a gesture of love and kindness.
I took their picture before they left. A fine crew, indeed!

The Prayer of the Magi

Three kings bow before the infant in a manger. The heartwarming image touches our hearts as we open our Christmas cards.

Of course -- there's a lot to the story we don't know.

1. We don't know if they were kings. The Bible says they were "wise men" or "magi".

2. We don't know if there were three of them. Tradtion says so, but the only thing we know for sure is that they brought three gifts.

3. We don't know if they showed up at the manger. Again, the Christmas narrative tells us star appeared two years before. Some scholars say that Jesus, then, was two years old when the wise men showed up.

As a sentimentalist, however, I'd like to think that there were three wise men and that the star appeared two years before his birth, so they actaully showed up at the manger on that special night along with the shepherds (can't prove it -- but then, nobody can disprove it either, and it sure helps with the logistics of our Christmas pageant)

There's …

Bell Ringer

Just returned from ringing the Salvation Army bell for an hour at the Co-op.

Finally -- I got to be the one shaking that little bell that says, "Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty."

My schedule is really demanding right now, full of pastoral duties and obligations -- but it was a good exercise for me to take a little time out and be a soldier on the front lines.

After my ringing stint, I had the opportunity to help a poor fellow who had been in jail for a few weeks, due to an unpaid traffic violation. When he was released yesterday, he discovered that the people he lived with had moved away, without any forwarding address. They took all of his clothes with them!

It was 15 below zero this morning -- and the poor guy only had a t-shirt and shorts. I met him at Wal Mart, and (thanks to the kind folks who gave to our benevolence fund) helped him obtain a coat and some warm clothing.

This thought from Jesus rings a bell, "I was naked and you clothed me.&qu…

Yucky Stuff

A little boy was telling his grandma how everything was going wrong -- problems at school, relational conflicts, unreasonable parents -- on and on he went.

As he poured out his litany of complaints, his grandmother busied herself, making a cake. "Would you like a snack, honey?" she asked.
"Of course!" he replied. (No kid ever turns down a snack!)
"Here, have a couple of raw eggs," she offered.
"What?? You've got be kidding, Grandma!"
"How about some cooking oil, then? Or maybe some flour? Perhaps some tasty baking soda?"
"You're nuts, Grandma! That's disgusting, yucky stuff! I wouldn't ever eat that!"
"Oh, but you do," the Grandmother replied. "When I put them all together into a cake, they're wonderful!"
When tempted to whine about our problems, we need to remember that God is able to mix them up, pop them in the oven, and turn them into good.
"All things work together for good for thos…

What a Ride!

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out and proclaiming, "WOW! WHAT A RIDE! (sent yesterday by a friend)

On Tough Conversations

Four great posts by Craig Groeschl on how to handle difficult conversations. Good stuff.:

Tough Conversations (1 of 4)
Tough Conversations (2 of 4)
Tough Conversations (3 of 4)
Tough Conversations (4 of 4)

Religion Incarnate

"Culture is nothing more than religion incarnate." -- interesting thought by Chuck Colson in a Rev Magazine Interview

Presidential Small Town Preacher

How a Small Town Preacher Became a Rising White House Contender

There are four basic things to succeed in either politics or the pastorate,” said the former Baptist preacher, Mike Huckabee.

“You have to have a message. Secondly, you have to motivate volunteers. You have to be able to understand and work with all types of medium to get your message out,” he continued, “and you’ve got to raise money.”
(Of all the candidates right now, I like Huckabee -- and I said that back when he was getting only 2% in the polls. But I have to admit- It's kind of hard to imagine having a president named Huck.)

Holy Water

The chaplain at St. Mary's, observing our tears, remarked, "That's holy water."


Our precious young friend, Leah Conner, died yesterday afternoon from a brain aneurysm.

Leah was so full of life and vitality. Yesterday morning, she dropped her two little boys off at Grandma's, kissed them, said "I love you! Bye, Bye!", went out the door, and never returned.

She experienced a severe headache in the morning at work, which grew so painful that they decided to take her into the emergency room. A few minutes later, with her husband, Aaron, by her side, she slipped into unconsciousness.

The staff worked valiantly to save her, and then she was airlifted to Duluth. They pronounced her dead at 5:54 pm.

The family made the courageous decision to donate her organs to others who need them. This course of action prolongs everything -- but it was the good and right thing to do -- and they all agreed that Leah would have wanted it that way.

I am so happy Leah knew Jesus. She was a part of our church since she was a little girl in Sunday School. I recall those day…

With Malice Towards None

Whenever you see a penny, remember the "Abraham Lincoln" attitude, and clear your heart of malice.

In 1864, there was, perhaps, not a more hated man in our nation that the gangly president. People on both sides of the Mason Dixon line blamed him for the deaths of their loved ones in the Civil War.

False friends betrayed him. Enemies assailed him. Throughout the course of his first presidential term, he had been misunderstood, condemned, despised and scorned.

On top of that, there were issues at home. In 1862, his son, Willie, died of typhoid fever, at the tender age of twelve. His wife, Mary, suffered from dark depressions, hysteric fits of rage, and mental illness. Poor Abe had his hands full -- both with a fractured nation and a dysfunctional household.

None was more surprised than Lincoln himself, when he re-elected for a second term. On March 4, 1865, he stood before a mighty throng of spectators and spoke these words at the inauguration:

"With malice toward none, with c…

Wedding Bells

Last Friday night, our oldest son, Adam, and his lovely sweetheart, Allegra, were married in a small, intimate ceremony at the Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse in Waterloo, Iowa.

Our son, Ryan, drove in from Indiana to meet us there for the beautiful occasion. (Going home Saturday, he was stranded in an ice storm -- but that's another story.) Cathy and I love and bless Adam and Allegra with all our hearts. We are certainly proud of them, and wish them much happiness as they travel the years together.


Our heart-felt prayers go out on behalf of YWAM, New Life Church, and everyone impacted by the senseless shootings in Colorado.

Joseph's Prayer

Joseph's Silent Prayers:

1. Your Will Be Done
2. Thank You

Actually, there was ONE word in the Bible that Joseph spoke -- sort of. He named the baby "Jesus." That's the answer to his prayers.

Joseph's Prayer

I'm preaching a sermon series on the Prayers of Christmas. Last week, I spoke on Mary's prayer -- the Magnificat.
This Sunday, I'm speaking on Joseph's prayer. Now, here's a challenge for you -- what was Joseph's prayer?
Hint: You'll have to guess at his prayer, because he didn't speak it. There aren't ANY recorded words spoken by Joseph. Still -- I can guarantee you, he prayed! His was a silent, deep down prayer. I'll say what I think on Sunday morning -- and it's very similiar to the prayer I have in my own heart right now.


Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults -- unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly smear on your own.

--Luke 7:1-3 (The Message)

Favre and Ministry

We're thrilled to hear that Packer great, Brett Favre, was selected this week as Sports Illustrated 2007 Sportsman of the Year.
In response to this honor, Favre said, "You do that by setting an example, by doing things the right way. I've always shown up, I've always been prepared, I practice every day." "I practice hard. I study. No matter what happens on the field, I never point blame at anybody else. Everything I do comes back to leadership, the example I want to set."
So. . . how does that perspective apply to pastoral ministry?

Megachurch Protests and Deer Hunting

And speaking of mega-churches . . . this should not come as any surprise. Up here in the northwoods, everybody knows that all the hunters are looking to shoot the big buck. (Just watch how these churches respond. They won't fight back. I'm predicting they will demonstrate grace and love -- like Jesus would do.)

Megachurch Map

There are just over 1,300 megachurches in the United States, according to the most recent survey by Prof. Scott Thumma at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. These are churches that average at least 2,000 in weekly attendance. This is where they're located. Here's the link to see it better (New York Times.) Also, a fascinating article accompanying the map

15 Measures of Love

The Bible clearly tells us that God is love. If He is at the center of my life -- If He is everything to me -- then I should "BE LOVE" too. It's a lot easier to say, "I'm a loving person" than to really be one. Love goes beyond feeling or intent -- it is character and action.

Here's the filter. What's your LQ (Love Quotient)? What would those around you say about you in these areas?

Does Not Envy
Does Not Boast
Not Proud
Not Rude
Not Self Seeking
Not Easily Angered
Keeps No Record of Wrongs
Does Not Delight in Evil
Rejoices With Truth

The More Excellent Way

Love is not self-seeking. That's what the Bible says. Popular culture, on the other hand, says something different.

Movies, television shows, and top 40 songs on the radio give us a different message. According to them, love is more like the old Toyota commercial: "I love what you do for ME."

Self seeking love approaches the relationship with a set of expectations: "You are here to meet my needs."
Self sacrificing love comes from opposite perspective: "I am here to meet YOUR needs."

Self seeking love is based on a feeling.
Self sacrificing love is based on a commitment.

Self seeking love is about getting.
Self sacrificing love is about giving.

Self seeking love insists on its own way and demands to be understood.
Self sacrificing love is willing to consider another opinion, and desires to understand.

Self seeking love tries to change the other person.
Self sacrificing love accepts the other person.

Self seeking love attacks.
Self sacrificing love attracts.

Self see…

From Every Stormy Wind

Troubled in spirit this week, I happened upon this beautiful hymn in the old Methodist Hymnal. It was written by a rural pastor, Hugh Stowell, and published in The Winter's Wreath (1828)

From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat:
Tis found beneath the mercy seat.

There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all beside more sweet;
It is the blood bought mercy seat.

There is a scene where spirits blend,
Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
Tho' sundered far, by faith they meet
Around one common mercy seat.

Christmas Films

Outback Steakhouse Church

Some time ago, Keith Drury asked, "What would church planting look like if done the Outback Steakhouse Method. Good FOOD for thought -- and makes me steak hungry!