Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blogging Break

Taking my daughter, Hannah, to Ohio on dad-daughter vacation to visit "Grandma" and won't be blogging until after my return next week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where are Your Patches?


Two pastor's wives were sitting together, mending their husbands' trousers.

One said, "Our church is in a terrible mess, and the devil is fighting us hard. We can't get anything done because of the squabbling, gossip and negativity.

The other said, "The Lord has really been blessing us. Week after week, we sense the loving presence of the Holy Spirit, and people are being helped spiritually. I can't wait to see what God is going to do next!"

One wife was patching the rear end of the trousers, the other one was patching the knees.

Wonder which was which.

(A story my daddy used tell.)

Am I With Anyone?

A great post from A Place for the God Hungry: Am I With Anyone?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bishop N. T. Wright Announces Retirement


The Bishop of Durham, Dr N. T. Wright, has announced that he will be retiring from the See of Durham on August 31. Doesn't look like he will be rocking on the front porch, however, or catching many fish.

Dr Wright, who will be 62 this autumn, is returning to the academic world, in which he spent the first twenty years of his career, and will take up a new appointment as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Announcing his move, Bishop Tom said, 'This has been the hardest decision of my life. It has been an indescribable privilege to be Bishop of the ancient Diocese of Durham, to work with a superb team of colleagues, to take part in the work of God's kingdom here in the north-east, and to represent the region and its churches in the House of Lords and in General Synod. I have loved the people, the place, the heritage and the work. But my continuing vocation to be a writer, teacher and broadcaster, for the benefit (I hope) of the wider world and church, has been increasingly difficult to combine with the complex demands and duties of a diocesan bishop. I am very sad about this, but the choice has become increasingly clear.'

Will the World End in 2012?


When I first saw Dr. Raymond Hundley's new book, Will the World End in 2012, I raised a skeptical eyebrow and thought, "Here's another quirky opportunist trying to cash in on evangelical hysteria."

However, upon actually reading the book, I discovered that this book is not so much about "creating hysteria" as answering it.

In a logical and systematic manner, Hundley analyzes the ten top reasons why some folks are saying that the apocalypse will occur in 2012, (including Mayan calendar, supervolcano, Planet X, solar storms. biblical prophecy) and then reveals the conclusions from his research on each perspective.

For the most part, Hundley's conclusions about a cataclysmic 2012 sound somewhat like Mark Twain's response to the rumor that he had died, "Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."

Nevertheless, Hundley gives each perspective a fair and balanced hearing before drawing his conclusions.

At the end, the author throws in a zinger. What if the would end in 2012? Or, for that matter, if you died in 2012? or 2011? Would you be ready?

Purchase here -- or you can wait and buy it for a nickel at a garage sale in 2013.

(Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson publishers via Booksneeze. for this blog review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own, in compliance with FTC 16 CFR part 255.)

World's Fastest Sermon

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Alot


Great post from Hyperbole and a Half: The Alot is Better Than You at Everything

The Knots Prayer

I shared this prayer in church yesterday morning:

Dear God,
please untie the knots
that are in my mind,
my heart and my life.
Remove the have nots,
the can nots and the do nots
that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots,
may nots, and
might nots that find
a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots,
would nots and
should nots that obstruct my life.

And most of all, dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind
my heart and my life all of the am nots
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought
that I am not good enough.

Amen.



(Author Unknown -- HT Fr. Austin Fleming)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unplugging

I will be teaching a FLAME (ministerial education) course and leading a small town pastors' workshop in eastern Pennsylvania all week, and am intentionally leaving my computer at home.

No blog posts until after I return, but if you happen to read this, please say a prayer for me and my students.

Missional Church Tutorial

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Unconstitutional?

A Wisconsin judge declared the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional.

In response, Matt Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, said, "If the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, then the constitution itself is unconstitutional."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Red Badge of Courage


After my friend, Charlie (I call him St. Charles) and I gave blood today, we showed off our bandages.

Treasure Your Children

Last week, my son, Wes turned 16. What a milestone! Another driver will soon be unleashed on northern Wisconsin’s highways. The last time, as we returned from practice driving, Wes said, “Dad, you’re doing much better. You didn’t scream once!”

My son’s 16th has put me in the pondering mood. No job in the entire world is more important that the molding of young lives. Years fly swiftly. They are little for such a short while, then they grow up and fly from the nest.

I have a special word of encouragement for the younger moms and dads reading this column: please take the time to treasure your children.

The following appeared in a church bulletin many years ago. The author is unknown.

If I Had My Child to Raise Again

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd finger paint more,
And point the finger less.
I would do less correcting,
And more connecting.
I'd take my eye off the watch,
And watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and
Know to care more.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious,
And seriously play.
I would run through more fields and
Gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd build self-esteem first,
And the house later.
I would be firm less often,
And affirm much more.
I'd teach less about the love of power,
And more about the power of love.


“Train up a child in the way he should go,” the proverb instructs us, “and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

With this in mind, Josh Billings noted, “To train up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.”

Smart Pants


You get a cell phone call and your sleeve answers it. You want to know how far you jogged and your pants tell you. Smart clothes are the latest trend to come down the runway. . .

A report at Advanced Imaging Pro shares the latest in the interweaving of clothing and computer technology.

How about a pair of preaching trousers, that will give pastors a swift kick in the rear when it's time to sit down and shut up?

When God Agrees with You

"You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." — Anne Lamott

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taxes

"I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money." -- Arthur Godfrey

Secrets of the Mountain

Family Movie Night is back on NBC tomorrow (8:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. central.)

It's good to see family friendly broadcasting for a change.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lilies of the Field


Yet the great ocean hath no tone of power
Mightier to reach the soul
In thought’s hushed hour
Than yours, ye lilies
Chosen thus, and graced.


Felicia Hermans in "Lillies of the Field"

International Wes Wilson is Awesome Day

Of course, I'm sure everyone knows that this is International "Wes Wilson is Awesome Day!"

Wes is one of the coolest people on earth -- and I'm glad to be his dad.

Happy 16th Birthday, Wes!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Impersonating

From my good friend, Ron McClung:

Matt Lydic got into his vehicle to begin his daily commute to work. Suddenly he saw flashing lights in his rear view mirror and heard the sounds of a siren. When the black, unmarked Ford Crown Victoria did not pass him, Lydic realized he was the target.

When he pulled over, the Ford drove alongside him. The driver told Lydic to slow down and then drove away. Lydic became suspicious and copied the license plate as the driver accelerated down the highway.

When it came back registered to a private citizen, officers went to the home of 62-year-old David Word and arrested him. Mr. Word, a civilian impersonating a police officer, had made the mistake of stopping a real police officer dressed as a civilian. Lydic was on his way to the Avondale, Arizona Police Department to begin his shift.

This spring, a jury deliberated four hours before finding Mr. Word guilty of impersonating a peace officer. The court scheduled sentencing for next month.

I don’t know what his punishment will be. Jail time? A fine? Community service? Whatever it is, it has to be significant enough that people realize the courts will prosecute crimes like this to the extent of the law.

One spokesperson in Maricopa County said an individual who impersonates an officer creates a trust issue between police and the public. If citizens see flashing lights and hear a siren, they need to know the person driving the vehicle is a legitimate law enforcement officer.

No one likes to be fooled. Yet those of us who are trying to take God seriously and live by His Word must realize that we too can fall victim to an impersonator. The apostle Paul warned his readers that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV).

So don’t be surprised if you hear people talk as if what you thought was wrong is actually right and what you thought was right is no longer “cool.” Temptation does not always come at us head-on; sometimes it sneaks into our peripheral vision when we least expect it. So be on your guard. Don’t let temptation catch you by surprise.

By the way, Mr. Word, the police impersonator, was surely surprised when police arrested him at his home in the community of Surprise, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. True story.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Pastoral Care in a Small Town Church

Here's a great article by Fred McGehee -- Five Suggestions for Pastoral Care in the Single-Staff Church.

Discovered at Pastors.com

Pastor's Evaluation

Last night, the church board conducted my evaluation. They did an excellent job, encouraging me in my strengths, and gently nudging me forward in areas that need some growth and attention.

They used Tim Keller's Pastor's Self Evaluation Questionnaire, which is an excellent and thought provoking resource.

Kudos to Steve Gerich who led the meeting and discovered the Keller Questionnaire for us.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

No Shoes


In solidarity with the One Day Without Shoes Movement, I went barefoot to my annual evaluation meeting with the church board tonight.

God's Man


At the Billy Graham Museum of Evangelism at Wheaton College, I noticed a letter from overseas addressed simply:

God's Man
Minnesota, USA

It was delivered to Billy Graham.

What if somebody sent a letter like that to your town? Who would receive it?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Gridiron Grandpa


Troubled

Troubled?

Well, join the club! You're in good company.

Troubles are simply a part of living. It's a package deal. You have to accept the bad along with the good. The only way to be trouble free is to be dead!

Some folks think they deserve to be excused from problems. Whenever a difficulty arises, they whine and complain about how unfair life is to them. They don't realize that life isn't fair to anybody -- and thus, become swamped in the mire of self pity.

Instead of griping about a hard situation, wouldn't it be better to face it boldly -- committed to see things through? You can cry until the cows come home, and that won't fix the situation one bit. It takes courage to buckle down and face the truth.

I do not know why heavy hardships are a part of life's package. I don't have a pat answer for the difficult perplexities.

Yet, I do know that the struggle helps us grow, if we maintain the right attitude.

1. Troubles teach us wisdom.
There is no such thing as a wise person who has not gone through the dark valley. Your problems are your teachers. John Maxwell says, "If you fall down, you might as well pick something up while you're down there!"

2. Troubles keep us humble.
Just when you think you're the big cheese -- WHAMMO -- a hefty difficulty plops into your lap. It's hard to be puffed up when you're carrying a load of trouble. In bad times, we realize we can't control everything, and we have to trust God more.

3. Troubles bring us patience.
James 1:2-3 states, "Is your life filled with difficulties and troubles? Then, be happy! It is only then that your patience will increase. So, let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems."

4. Troubles turn us into helpers.
We become more compassionate through suffering, Instead of nursing our sorrows, it is far better to encourage others in the same direction. There is nothing more comforting than a genuine friend who understands.

We can face our problems with greater courage when we realize that they are only opportunities in disguise.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter Earthquake


My friend, Wendy, teaches college in California and is earning her doctorate at my alma mater, Fuller Theological Seminary.

This week, she sent me this delightful message regarding the earthquake they experienced on Easter Sunday:

Pastor Mark: As you can imagine, all the talk around the water coolers and in the grocery store lines here is about Sunday's earthquake. In the middle of Trader Joe's in my town a woman cried out gleefully,

"Oh, my! When the house started shaking I thought to myself. . .

'Hallelujah! Christ is coming back on Easter Sunday!!!---and then I found myself so disappointed when it stopped!'"

You don't hear Christ's name mentioned too often in southern California so this comment just made my day!!!

Resurrection


“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone but in every leaf in springtime.”
-- Martin Luther

Monday, April 05, 2010

Straining at Gnats

These little gnats are such a nuisance
Buzzing around my head
Flying up my nostrils
Swirling in my mushroom soup.

I'm trying to strain the little critters out
Before they're down the hatch.

Strain! Strain! Strain!

Such a bother.
What a chore.

There is no task so strenuous as straining little gnats.

Gulp! Uh Oh!

I think I swallowed a camel!

Jesus Is My Friend



Special Music from Easter Sunday

HT Ed Stetzer

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Small and Local


A great post from my good friend and ministry partner, Heath Davis, at his blog, A Northwoods Life:

If we desire to make wide sweeping change in the world, I think we must begin in the small and local. In today's global society we have become so enamored with the elephant-size agendas and global-change that we foolishly dismiss change at the local level as unimportant and insignificant. Nothing could be further from the truth!


My Easter Poem

Faith, the seed of heaven

planted by surprise in earthen soil.

The barren ground reluctantly invites,

mostly disdains

this small possibility of hope.

Stirs slightly, irritated,

yawns and then settles

back in lazy slumber mostly convinced

that the interruption is merely

a burial of another empty dream.

Entombed in heavy darkness

the seed of heaven sings

as it reaches for a land beyond its grasp

and hopes for the hand of God it cannot see.

But no dark place can silence

the song of faith and hope.

And calloused soil cannot withstand

for long refreshing rains.

Slowly, steadily,

the seed of heaven toils

upward, onward,

through the dark

towards heaven's gate.

Sometimes singing.

Sometimes sighing.

Always longing

for destiny awaits.

Heaven beckons,

Earth responds.

That is the order of

all created things.

The earthen tomb

becomes a womb

of life anew --

and resurrection!

A seed, a sprout, a stalk,

and then a splendid crimson flower

Blooming where it first began

It’s morning hour.

Looking up to see the smile of God

Looking down upon the sordid place

from which it came.

And bearing precious treasure. . .

another measure of

the seed of heaven -- faith!