Sunday, August 31, 2008

Isaiah 57:14

Build Up
Build Up
Prepare the Way
Remove the Obstacles out of the Way
of My People

What obstacles need to be removed?
What needs to be built up?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Small Town Politics

McCain picks country girl Palin as his running mate -- and the snooty city pundits mock her experience as a "small town mayor."

Seems to me, if she can successfully navigate the curious politics that happen in a small community, she certainly can handle the big city stuff.

(Note -- this is not an endorsement -- just an obervation about small town politics.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Heartbreaking Experience

Very early this morning, I was at the hospital with a dear couple who delivered a premature, stillborn baby.

In their grief, they looked to me, for answers that made some kind of sense. I didn't know what to say. There are no words sufficient for such a heart wrenching experience. It was so sad.

They asked me to baptize little LeAnn Marie. Surrounded by her loved ones, I held this precious infant in my arms, blessed her, baptized her and committed her into the loving arms of Jesus.

She was so fragile . . . yet beautiful and definitely cherished.

Please pray for LeAnn's mommy and daddy, as they walk the dark valley of grief.

As I drove home a little while ago, the hymn, "Children of the Heavenly Father" came to my mind:

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

26th Aniversary

Today, Cathy and I are celebrating our 26th Wedding Aniversary.
In honor of our 25th, we decided to go on 25 "aniversary dates" throughout the year. I'm happy to report -- we did it!!

Yesterday, I cut out of the office a couple of hours early and picked up my sweetheart for "Date 25." We made our way to Stout's Island Lodge, a rustic resort built over a century ago. (Thanks to Kurt and Deb who told us about this special getaway.)

Mr. Frank Stout became one of the wealthiest men in America after inheriting his father's lumber fortune in 1900. In 1903, he built a 31 room summer home located on it's own 26 acre island, for his family to enjoy.

Today, it serves as a destination point for visitors from all over. National Geographic Adventure Magazine listed it as one of the "Eight Best Summer Escapes in the U.S."
We found it to be a delightful and interesting experience. We glided around the island in a two person kayak.
We played billiards. After knocking three balls in on my first turn, Cathy said, "Wow!! I didn't know you were such a good pool payer." To this I responded, "They don't call me 'Mark the Shark' for nuthin'!" Then, Cathy proceeded to beat me soundly.
We played a bit of table tennis, where I was able to redeem myself somewhat.
We ate at their cozy restaurant -- and they served very strange food that cost a lot. I wished for a hamburger -- but had to settle for what looked like a few slices of pork and a clump of clover. It ended up tastier and better than I expected. I guess that's what they call "livin' high on the hawg."

This was the perfect place for us to celebrate our aniversary -- because my grandmother was a Stout! I remember her mother, Catherine Stout, who lived to be 105.
Fittingly, Cathy and I stayed in the Katherine Cabin!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

At Seneca Falls

In light of my last post, here's a shot from our visit to the "Wesleyan Methodist Chapel" at Seneca Falls last autumn. Cathy and Allegra are happy to exercise their right to vote!

The Wesleyan Connetion


Did you notice that Hillary referred to the Wesleyans last night in her speech at the Democratic National Convention? Well, she didn't say "Wesleyan" specifically -- but she did mention the "Women's Right to Vote" Convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church!
As I've said many times -- everything in America is connected somehow to Wesley.

Church in the Woods


Nature Sang.
Heaven Declared.
Rocks Cried.
Trees Clapped.
And I missed the whole service
Because I wasn't paying attention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Couple of Good Experiences

Sunday over to Monday, I went with my boys, Ryan, Luke and Wes, on an overnight campout on the Davis Flowage. It is a beautiful wilderness lake -- fairly close to town -- but feels like the Boundary Waters. There is no visible sign of civilization anywhere along the shoreline. It felt a million miles away from people.

I told the guys, "Whatever you catch, we're gonna eat!"

But the catching was slow. When Luke finally snagged a bullhead, I changed my mind. Good thing we brought apples, bacon and marshmallows.

We stayed up half the night swapping stories, watching stars and listening to loon calls. We were delighted to find patches of wild blackberries.

I returned, exhausted and content.

Today, Hannah and I went to St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, to visit three ailing friends. We prayed with each one. It is beautiful to see my daughter desiring to bring blessing to those who are hurting.

After the hospital visit, she and I went out to eat at Grandma's Restaurant -- and then collected agates on the north shore of Lake Superior.

2012 Class Mindset List

Each August for the past 11 years, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. The List is shared with faculty and with thousands who request it each year as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation.

Read the list here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fighting Fear

Fear can really do a number on us emotionally. It hinders our hopes,
cripples our character and destroys our dreams. I recently read that anxiety
(fear) is most common mental health problem for women. For men it ranks
second -- right behind alcohol related issues. (I guess that means guys
drink booze in order to mask their fears.)

Researchers have discovered that one out of nine Americans has a
debilitating phobia. If we don't deal with fear in a healthy way, it takes
over like a cancer of the soul.

Lloyd C. Douglas said, "If a man harbors any sort of fear, it percolates
through all his thinking, damages his personality, makes him a landlord to a
ghost."

Whatever you fear has power over you! You must face it if you wish to master
it. As Frank Tyger stated, "Fear fades when facts are faced." We can quickly
spot the "anxiety disease" in others. It's much more difficult for us to see
it in ourselves.

Do you know the difference between realistic and unrealistic fears? My
fears are realistic -- yours are the unrealistic ones!

When dealing with a tough situation, here are four important points to
remember:

1. If you ignore a problem, it gets bigger.
Deal with the issue directly instead of attempting to hide from it. If you
run from a difficult situation, it will chase after you.

2. Fear is a magnifying glass -- it makes things appear worse than they are.
"Over most men hangs the sword of Damocles. They have fallen into the
psychological trap of creating their own problems by trying to solve them,
worrying because of worry, being afraid of fear." -- U.S. Anderson

3. Not all problems are problems. Some are merely facts of life.
The difference? You can do something about a true problem. If you can't do
anything about it, you have a fact of life. Problems can be tackled. Facts
of life must be accepted.

4. The best growth occurs during the hard times.
God uses the hard times to grow you. If you don't get bitter, you will get better!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Luke!

Our son, Luke, is 16 years old today!

We're celebrating today by taking an overnight canoe-camping-fishing trip on the Davis Flowage.

Hi Mom!

A little bird told me that my mother is going to be checking my blog this afternoon --so, I guess I'd better be careful what I write today!

HI MOM!! I think you're awesome!

When I remember you, I recall these words of the great president, Abraham Lincoln, "All I am today, I owe to my dear mother."

And then Momma replies, "Now, don't go blaming me for that! I tried to raise you right!"

Unfailing

Bible References to God's Unfailing Love

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Passing A Precious Saint

I received the sad news, yesterday, that Beulah Heavilin passed away. Many years ago, her husband, John, served as pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church. Beulah ministered faithfully beside him.

Then, she began to suffer from crippling rheumatoid arthritis, which severly limited her physical ability and caused much pain.

Still, Beulah was able to pray and love. For decades, her dear husband, John, devoted himself to caring for her. Instead of serving in a church, he served his wife, which was the higher calling.

I happened to teach alongside their outstanding senior pastor, Steve DeNeff, last week. We prayed together for John and Beulah -- and both agreed that this selfless servant stands as a tremendous example to us. The love and care John demonstrated towards his ailing wife is the ultimate definition of success.

Now, Beulah is free. All the pain and suffering is over. Safe in the arms of Jesus! Free from all the limitation. Free to move without pain!

Please pray for John, and Beulah's other loved ones, which include her daughter, Keetha, who comments frequently on thie blog, and sister-in-law, Lois, who is married to Pastor Ben, who serves on staff at Hayward Wesleyan.

Pray that God will grant comfort and peace them all.

"Best of all," said John Wesley on his deathbed, "the Lord is with us."

Little Preacher



Now, this little fellow is a preacher!

Friday, August 22, 2008

To Encourage New Preachers



To my Homiletics (Preaching) students: This video should serve as a real source of encouragement for you. No matter how awful your sermon is -- it probably won't be as bad as this.

(Thanks, Todd, for the lead)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pastor Knievel


Robbie Knievel, son of the legendary, Evel Knievel, came to Hayward this past weekend, and set a new motorcycle jumping record, clearing four helicopters and a plane. (All with a broken shoulder, by the way.)
Our family drove by (on the way to Famous Dave's) and glimpsed the action from a distance.
Warning for Pastors: similar stunts at church may end up with results like this: Rev Tries To "Be One With the Bike!"

Or this. (Ingrid shares videos of Pastor Knievel in action)

"He Couldn't Have Beaten Me!"

Mark Spitz, on the amazing Olympic performance of Michael Phelps.

OK Mr. Spitz, let's just see you try to beat him now.

FLAME Video



Here's a little video taken last week at FLAME, where I was teaching. No, I didn't tape any of my Homiletics students to the wall -- and I did not attack the small town pastors with water balloons.

Thanks to Dale Argot for the lead.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Results Through Delegation

Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
-- George S. Patton, US Army General

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vote

I encourage you to cast your vote at the poll at msnbc on removing "In God We Trust" from our U. S. currency.

Wild Goose Chase

My friend, Mark Batterson has knocked the ball out of the park again! A Grand Slam Homerun!!

His new book, Wild Goose Chase, is an inspiring and insightful call to live dangerously for God. Celtic Christians called The Holy Spirit "An Geadh-Glas", which means "The Wild Goose."
Batterson challenges us to get out of the cage and "Chase the Goose!" You can read a sample chapter by clicking here or purchase it here.

Mark's first book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, was one of the best books I've read in recent years. Now, I'm delighted to discover that his second work is just as wonderful!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bi-Vocational

Last week, I taught FLAME Courses at Frankfort, Indiana. I had a class of 35 outstanding students in Homiletics (preaching) for the first half, and then, in the second part of the week, I conducted a special course for a good group of small town and rural pastors.

The "preachers in training" did much better than expected. I thought I was in for a long line of bad preaching. Instead, we were all surprised, inspired and blessed by the presentations in class. I took notes!!

My heart was deeply moved by the commitment and plight of the rural pastors. They love the Lord. They love their people. They want to serve wholeheartedly. However, they are often in a very difficult situation.

Over half the pastors in my second class have other jobs besides working at the church. Some of them work all day at the factory, school or post office -- and THEN their ministry at the church begins. They are willing to serve bi-vocationally in order to help struggling congregations that cannot afford to pay them anything close to a living wage.

They feel the heavy burden of ministry -- caring for the flock -- but they do not have the time to do it in a way that is satisfactory to them (or, in many instances, their congregations.) As a result, they always feel like they're falling short.

Regardless of the ministry assignment, pastoring, by nature, is a "task undone." There is always a mountain of things remaining. No matter how much you do, you'll always let somebody down. The pastor wearing two hats feels that pressure continuously.

On top of this, some (not all) congregations make unrealistic demands upon their pastor. Churches want and expect a full time ministry, even when they can't (or won't) support it.

When, due to human frailty, the pastor fails to meet these expectations, parishioners criticize, condemn and complain. They pay a reluctant pittance of pastoral support for the "right of ownership" so they can tell the pastor what to do and how to do it.

Seems to me, the only expectation congregations should have for bi-vocational pastors is that they love like Jesus.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Blogging Break

Heading out of town today to teach FLAME Courses in Indiana, and will not be posting again until after my return on Aug. 16.

The courses I'm teaching this time are Homiletics (preaching) and a seminar for small town and rural pastors.

I was sharing some details about the homiletics class with my daughter, Hannah this morning over breakfast at McDonald's. "I'm going to be teaching a class on how to prepare and preach sermons", I told her.

A tourist in the next booth was listening in on our conversation.

"I hope you teach them how to keep people awake!" he said, "Most of the sermons I've experienced have been dry and boring."

"I'll do my best to knock 'em alive", I replied.

Safe Purses


Just finished a powerful book by Paul Scanlon, called Crossing Over. It's the story of how a church transitioned from an internal focus to external. . . reaching out to their community with the love of Christ.
Pastor Scanlon knew their church was in trouble one Sunday, when during a fellowship time, he noticed that all the ladies just left their purses sitting around unattended while they visited with each other.
This meant, although their church was vibrant and growing, their increase came mostly from tranferring church people rather than bringing in the thieves.


Date 24


This past Wednesday, Cathy and I went to Eau Claire to the Fanny Hill Dinner Theater. This was date #24 of our 25 Aniversary Dates we've had this year. (for our 25th wedding aniversary)

After a chicken cordon bleu lunch, we were privileged to watch Forever Plaid, the tale of a young quartet, killed in a tragic accident, but given the opportunity to come back to earth and do "one more show." They sang a lot of oldies.

I nodded off in the first half. The music was excellent, but I was full, tired and comfortable. Sort of gave me some sympathy for the good folks at church on Sunday morning. After shaking myself awake, I glanced over at Cathy. She was nodding off too! The second half was much better, however, and kept us awake. (Diet Coke at intermission helped.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

888

I thought I would be creative for today's wedding and weave in a passage of Scripture that related to this special date -- 8/8/08

I wondered if Psalm 88:8 might be appropriate. So, I looked it up -- and decided I'd better not use it.

Walleyes, Dilly Bars and the Name of Jesus

This morning, Cody Conner, one of the best fisherman in the entire northwoods, took me fishing in his canoe. We caught some really big fish -- a dozen smallmouth bass and four walleyes (not to mention three suckers.) It was a fantastic day of fishing -- and I learned a lot from a master.

With so many things to do back at the church, I felt a little guilty about taking a half day to fish with Cody -- but, then I remembered -- It's biblical. Jesus spent time hanging out with fishermen too! Besides, there are several principles of fishing that apply to church leadership!

After a busy afternoon at the office, I officiated at a small, lakeside wedding. Later, I went to the Relay for Life event at the high school track field, where I said the prayer for their "Luminary Ceremony", and defended my title as Hayward's Dilly Bar Eating Champion. (Undefeated, after four contests! When you have five kids, you learn to eat fast!)

I happened to mention our upcoming baptism to a lady who was walking a lap to fight cancer. Her nephew gave his heart to Christ, and is planning to be baptized on the 17th.

Instead of being happy for her nephew, she scowled at me.

"In what name do you baptize people?" she demanded

"The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit," I replied.

"You're not doing it right. You need to baptize 'em in the name of Jesus only!"

Uh Oh! We've been messing this up for 2000 years!! Somebody should have told Jesus the "correct formula" before he gave the Great Commission to his disciples.

I suppose when this dear sister gets to heaven, she'll just have to tell Jesus he got it all wrong.

Living in Hayward

A vacationing visitor from Chicago recently said, "I wish I could just quit my job and live in Hayward full time. It would be like living in heaven!"

I smiled, and thought, "He doesn't know what it's like to live here!"

Later, relating this conversation to a Hayward native, I said, "Poor fellow doesn't realize that living in the northwoods is a far cry from vacationing here."

To this, my Hayward friend replied, "If that's the way it is for you, then you're doing it wrong."

"I think the citizens of Hayward ought to act like tourists," he continued, "We should take advantage of all our community has to offer! We should jump in the lake, canoe down the river, hike in the forest, go fishing, attend the Lumberjack Show, and buy candy at Trembley's. We should travel the bike path, go camping, have a feast at Famous Dave's, window shop on on Main Street, drive go karts, play mini-golf, and have homemade ice cream at West's Dairy"

"We live in a glorious place, and it's a sad shame if we don't make the most of it!"

His response hit me right between the eyes! Of course! Why didn't I see it before? Here we are, living in one America's most beautiful communities -- and we end up too busy to enjoy it.

My friend is really on to something. The good folks from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana are willing to drive for hours to get what we have in our own backyard! Let's take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

One of the great things Hayward offers is a chance to slow down, relax and recharge. Nature provides a good place to reflect on life. We need to take advantage of that too.

Of course, we have to work to make a living -- but can't we work in context? Can't we pause, relax, and be grateful for living in such a beautiful place? Quiet reflection will improve both our work and attitude.

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection." said Peter Drucker, "From quiet reflection will come even more effective action."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pastor Favre Traded


After much deliberation, and despite loud protests by the congregation, the church board voted to trade Pastor Favre to the Presbyterians.

Going Soft


From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified.
From all that dims Thy Calvary
Oh Lamb of God deliver me!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Blaming the Wrong Guy

The Aaron Rodgers era has begun in Green Bay, and if you don’t like that, you’re taking it out on the wrong quarterback.
-- Michael Silver, Yahoo Sports columnist

A Mighty Deacon


My old friend from yesteryear, Sam Crabtree, serves on staff with John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Recently, following a discussion about changes in their Deacon Ministry, Sam penned a new hymn. It is posted at Desiring God, and sung to the tune of "A Mighty Fortress".


A mighty deacon is our man;
He does what others think he can.
Qualifications he doth meet.
Electing him they thinketh sweet.
And so they cast their vote;
They do not rock the boat
Their craft and pow’r are great:
Quorum! Electorate!
That deacon look is in his eye.

Did he in his own strength confide,
That deacon would be freakin’.
But what’s a deacon spozed to do?
His job is what we’re tweakin’.
Dost ask what tasks they be?
Might they be two? Or three?
How shall he play the game?
From age to age the same:
With deacon look there in his eye.

And though this world with deacons filled
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for votes have willed:
Electing deacons to us.
If you’re a deacon, deek!
If you’re a beacon, beak!
Let goods and kindred go,
And rationale also.
The deacon is forever.
---- AAAMEN

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Racial Issues in Church

An insightful article at CNN: Why Many Americans Prefer Their Sundays Segregated.

Northwoods Adventure

Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wilderness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man.
-- John Eldridge (Wild at Heart)

We bought a used lightweight canoe, to meet this deeply spiritual longing! It is patched -- but "lakeworthy."

Just before dusk, a couple of evenings ago, Ryan, Hannah and I took the old boat out on the Davis Flowage for her "maiden voyage" with the Wilson's. It was a delightful, heart-thumping experience.

We paddled silently towards the sunset into another world of pristine nature. The stillness of the lake was interrupted only by the dipping of our paddles.

Suddenly ---- KASPLOOSHHH!!!!!!

There was a humongous splash right in front of us! Then a leap and a long slithering of green and pink. It seemed to go directly underneath us.

"Holy cow!" Ryan shouted, "That was like a crocodile or hippo or something! It's nose was sticking out of the water!"

It was neither a crocodole nor hippo -- but a magnificent northern pike.

"Paddle fast!" I yelled.

We turned the corner and came within a few feet of a busy beaver, who didn't seem very happy to see us. His scowl reminded me of the bumper sticker I saw many years ago while moving to Southern California. "Welcome to California, Now Go Home!"

Like the pike, he ended up diving under our boat, and we paddled like crazy to get out of there!

Pulling the old canoe onto shore, we all agreed. "That was AWESOME! "

Monday, August 04, 2008

Uncle Buddy's Prayer


Oh Lord, give me a backbone as big as a sawlog,
ribs like the sleepers under the church floor,
put iron shoes on me and galvanized breeches,
give me a rhinoceros hide for a skin,
and hang a wagonload of determination up in the gable-end of my soul,
and help me to sign the contract to fight the devil as long as I've got a fist
and bite him as long as I have a tooth,
then gum him till I die.
All this I ask for Christ's sake.
Amen.
-- Early 20th Century Nazarene Evangelist, Uncle Buddy Robinson

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Touch One


Just finished Touch One by Chris Shimel.
It's a powerful and heart-touching story, reminding us that each individual is precious in the eyes of God. Ministry to the hurting individual is just as important (even more) than ministry to the masses.
Shimel writes:
If you are too busy to help one person, then you are way too busy. If you are too busy to touch the one you may meet along the way -- the one who may come as an interruption to your objectives and your schedule -- then you have ceased to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

With Jesus, the one in need always took precedence over any objective He pursued, whether it was a location, an appointment or a ministry. (p. 135)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Preaching for a Decision


The Christian Gospel is a matter of decision. It is to be accepted or rejected. All that we who communicate this Gospel can do is to make possible a genuine decision. . . .

True communication of the Gospel means making possible a definite decision for or against it. We who communicate the Gospel must understand the others, we much somehow participate in (their) existence so that their rejection means partly an ejection, a throwing it out in the moment in which it starts to take root in them. To this point we can bring them, and that is what communicating the Gospel means.