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Showing posts from 2012

Listen, Then Do Something

After several years of botching my New Year's Resolutions a couple of weeks into January, I decided to take a different approach.  Now, instead of listing feeble intentions, I develop a theme for each New Year.  This method gives guidance and direction, without the pressure of impending failure hanging over my head.

With that in mind, here's my 2013 New Year's Focus:  "Listen and Do.”

Yep, that’s it. Simple and sweet. Listen and Do.

1) Listen:

You and I have been given two ears and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. However, I've discovered that talking is easier than hearing.  Listening is far more difficult than explaining.

Why is it so hard to listen? Consider this. We speak at 100-150 words per minute. We are able to comprehend at 250-300 words per minute. We think at 600 words per minute.

So, if you are a fast thinker (600 wpm) and the other person is a slow talker (100 wpm), you still have 500 words per minute left over f…

The Day After Hunting Season in Wisconsin

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The Difference Between Pity and Compassion

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"What in the world am I doing here in Ethiopia?" I wondered, as I bounced in the jeep with missionary doctor, Harold Adolph.

Our motor vehicle was the only one in sight. Slowly, we navigated our way through a sea of pedestrians, ox carts, and chickens, down the deeply rutted dirt road into in the village of Soddo. It was just as if I had been plucked from the northwoods and dropped into a National Geographic documentary on Africa.

Arriving at the clinic, we emerged from the jeep, and were immediately swarmed by hundreds of needy people seeking medical attention. Most had been waiting for hours to see the doctor. Many would have to wait much longer. I observed a grieving mother, holding a lifeless infant in her arms. She looked at me with pleading eyes. I looked away.

The immensity of poverty and human suffering was absolutely overwhelming. Never, in all my life, had I witnessed such need, and felt so powerless to do anything about it.

A grotesque begger approached me. One eye an…

John Wesley Covenant Service

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This Sunday, in keeping with our annual tradition, Hayward Wesleyan Church is going to do the longer version of the Wesley Covenant Renewal Service, which was first published by John Wesley in 1780.  I've taken the liberty to adapt and combine a few versions of the Covenant for the pattern we're going to use.
The shorter version we've used for the past few years can be found here.   I drew heavily from the versions from George Lyons and Jeren Rowel.
Wesley Covenant Renewal Service An Adaptation by Mark O. Wilson from versions of the Covenant by George Lyon and Jeren Rowel
Introduction:Historical background of John Wesley, and the purpose for the covenant renewal. Hymn:“Come Let Us Use the Grace Divine” written by Charles Wesley especially for the covenant renewal. LEADER: "Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant which will never be forgotten" (Jer. 50:5, RSV). LEADER: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from …

Great Online Devotional & Prayer Journal

Recently, I was delighted to discover this free online devotional and journal:  Examen.me
It guides the reader through reflective reading of Scripture passages, and meaningful prayer. There are several Bible reading plans to choose from.
I've used this for a week now, and am really enjoying it.

A Heartwarming Christmas Eve Story

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Still Thankful in the Cold. . .

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Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began every prayer with praise. One brutally cold Sunday, his people filed into the church, wondering what the preacher could possibly find to praise God for on such a miserable day. Alexander Whyte stood, bowed his head and prayed,
"O Lord, we thank Thee that it is not always like this."

Don't Worry About the End of the World

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"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today -- It's already tomorrow in Australia.
-- Charles Schultz

Twas' 11 Days Before Christmas

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Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38  When 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.  Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.  They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there. 

They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say. 
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.  "Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.  "This is heaven." declared a small boy.  "We're spending Christmas at God's house." 

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,  But Jesus, Their Savior, the children gathered near. 
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.  Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.  And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring  Those children all flew into the arms of their King 

And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, 
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.  And as if He could read all the question…

Cutting Edge Youth Pastor

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What Kids do in a Christmas Program. . .

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The Prayer of the Magi in These Troubled Times

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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. Tradition 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 actually 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)

 …

Spread Love, Not the Fruitcake

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Asking "Why" Doesn't Help

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Last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, left us horrified, confused and grieving.

Poet, John Blase observed, "Of the things that befall us, this one pierces deeper, for the lost are the least of these. The killing of children is the killing of everything."

We try to fill the void with our own feeble explanations. We look for someone or something to blame.

Within the last 24 hours, I've heard several "reasons" (guns, violent movies and video games, bullying, national moral decline, family dysfunction, reduction of religion, etc.) but all these are mere smokescreens. We bluster and hide behind our philosophies, knowing deep down that they are lame attempts to make sense of the incomprehensible. All these efforts take us in circles, and we're no closer to understanding in the end.

Our struggle to figure it out -- to come to grips with this senseless slaughter of innocence -- falls woefully short Reeling in the afterm…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

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When Leadership Decisions Aren't Easy. . .

When Life is Like a Roller Coaster. . .

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Flags in Church

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I know some global, emergents will probably shriek about this, but we have an American flag in the front of our church. She stands, discreetly, behind the keyboards.

We also display a Christian flag -- which is strategically placed on the platform, to the speaker's right. (This is the place of dominance. I learned that from Keith Drury.)

Actually, I took a few hits for placing the Christian flag in that spot.

"Anybody who knows anything knows that the the American flag is supposed to be on the speaker's right!" growled one veteran, "Just check the flag code!" (I did -- Par. 174:K -- and he's right, but the code's wrong, and I'm willing to risk the censure.)

One guy actually stopped coming to church because I disrespected the flag, by putting it in the wrong place.  I feel bad about that now.

For a while, we quietly "put the flags away", stashing them in the back corner of the church library. Nobody seemed to notice. . . at least that's …

It's Not Where You Start, But Where You Finish

It's not where you start, but where you finish.

 Remember the tortoise and hare fable?. In a head to head race, Mr. Hare started with sizzle, and, noticing his huge lead, decided to stop for a snooze. Mr. Tortoise, on the other hand, slowly plodded along.

At first, he was left in a cloud of dust, but refusing to quit, he just kept putting one foot in front of the other. After a while, he waddled right past the napping hare, and crossed the finish line. His persistence, not his swiftness, made him a winner!

 Are you a tortoise or a hare? Do you finish what you start, or do you leave a trail of unfinished projects behind you?

 Sometimes, the people with the greatest talent lose life’s race because they are undisciplined, and unwilling to go all the way to the finish line.

 Oh yes, these folks have lots of great intentions, but little things just seem to crowd them out. Any expert in goal setting will tell you that to reach a big goal, you have to tackle it one step at a time.

Achi…

It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish

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Ted Haggard, Restoration of Fallen Ministers, and Deciding to Forget

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Michael Cheshire's post in CT, Going to Hell with Ted Haggard, struck close to the heart and went viral last week.  It poses a haunting question:  What should be our posture towards ministers who have fallen from grace?  By and large, the church doesn't handle these situations very gracefully.  I've seldom seen this done well.
There is great wisdom, of course, in not short-circuiting the restoration process, but I wonder if there is a better, more compassionate path to wholeness.
Several years ago, a dear friend experienced experienced moral failure, and was removed from his congregation.  They put him through a punitive process of discipline which he honestly tried to embrace for a while, but like Ted Haggard, stepped away from it before the disciplinarians thought he was ready.
He ended up starting a non-denominational church in the same city -- and, quite frankly, for the last decade, has done a splendid job serving the Lord, extending His compassion and grace to those…

Rural Communities, Churches Becoming Less Relevant?

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Rural America, specifically farmers, are losing clout -- according to USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack in a speech sponsored by the Farm Journal.


"We need a proactive message, not a reactive message," Vilsack said. "How are you going to encourage young people to want to be involved in rural America or farming if you don't have a proactive message? Because you are competing against the world now." "It's time for us to have an adult conversation with folks in rural America," Vilsack said in a speech at a forum sponsored by the Farm Journal. "It's time for a different thought process here, in my view." He said rural America's biggest assets – the food supply, recreational areas and energy, for example – can be overlooked by people elsewhere as the U.S. population shifts more to cities, their suburbs and exurbs. "Why is it that we don't have a farm bill?" Vilsack said. "It isn't just the differences of policy. It's …

Where Wesleyans Walk on Water

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An excerpt from Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose: In Wisconsin’s northwoods, all the Wesleyans walk on water. So do the Baptists, Lutherans and Catholics. Shoot, we don’t just walk on water – we drive on it! Every February! Each winter, little makeshift ice fishing villages pop up everywhere on area lakes. I’ve considered holding church out there on the ice, but the board hasn’t gone along with me yet. I figure we can convert a few anglers, drill a big hole, and baptize them with bungee cords. We’ll call it the Holy Jesus Polar Plunge! The first winter after my arrival from sunny southern California, I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I observed people driving their pick-ups on the ice, heading for their fishing shanties. In December, I thought, “Those people are nuts!” In January, I just accepted it as natural part of tundra life. By February, I mustered up enough courage to join ‘em. While taking our family on a Sunday afternoon drive, I impulsiv…

Remembering Zig Ziglar

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Zig Ziglar, the great motivational speaker, passed away last week at the age of 86.  Ziglar was a great inspiration to me.  Through his writings, I learned the power of a positive attitude, determination and faith.
I'm devoting this column to his memory by sharing a few of his insightful quotes:
*  Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.
*  Failure is a detour, not a dead end street.
*  A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.
*  If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner.
*  Every choice you make has an end result.
*  If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost.
*  Every obnoxious act is a cry for help.
*  It's not what you've got, but what you use that makes a difference.
*  Failure is an event, not a person.
*  Expect the best, prepare for the worst, capitalize on what comes.
*  Many marriages would be better if husbands and wives clearly understood that they …

Rural Church Relevance

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Here's an article I wrote for Light and Life Magazine (Free Methodist) last spring, listing a few valuable things the rural church has to offer:  Rural Church Relevance.

The Impact of Long Term Stress

Take this little test to discover how much stress you're under:  The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale

Old Stumps Carry No Hopes or Dreams. . . Or Do They?

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Just an ugly old stump -- that's all it was -- and old stumps carry no hopes or dreams.

Only maps and memory rings

of thirsty days, hard toil, and weary longings
embedded to the core.

Just an ugly old stump -- a dwarfed reminder -- of what once was. . . and all that might have been.

If only.
If only.

But old stumps carry no hopes or dreams --

Only scarred rememberings. . .

of lightening strikes and howling wind,
of squirrels and hammer heads,
of children's summer play,

All these now faded away

To just an ugly old stump -- useless for humans, but to
to sit
to rest
to think

And hurried humans hardly take the time to do such things.

Just an ugly old stump -- that's all it was -- and old stumps carry no hopes or dreams.

Or do they?

Look again. Could it be? A tiny sprout of green?

What could this possibly mean?

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse" Isa. 11:1

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast. . ." Alexander Pope

"The thrill of hope, the w…

Dance it Today

"Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; faith is the courage to dance to it today."
~Peter Kuzmic

The Fierce Urgency of Now

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Shortly before his untimely death, pitchman, Billy Mays was interviewed in American Way Magazine. He remarked, "I'm not going to let other people who may have a problem with me-the way I pitch--deter me because I have a lot to give and a lot to do yet in my life. I think there's a bigger platform out there for me now."

Dr. Jeff Myers, professor at Bryan College, happened upon this article and made the following observation:
"I think there's a bigger platform out there for me now."
Those words haunted me. How often have I pinned my hopes on the platform I could stand on in the future, or the greater good I could do tomorrow, or the ideas I have for someday.
This simple interview with Billy Mays reminds me that there are no guarantees. My careful planning for tomorrow must not trump the influence I must seek to have today.
When it comes to mentoring, coaching and discipling the next generation, this moment, now, is the most important platform there is. Take …

Good Morning Ozarks Radio Interview

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Enjoyed doing an interview about my book, Filled Up, Poured Out this morning with Charlie and Keith on KLFC's  "Good Morning Ozarks" radio program in Branson, Missouri.  Listen online here.

On Zig Ziglar's Passing

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I was saddened today to hear that motivational speaker and writer, Zig Ziglar passed away after a brief bout with pneumonia.  Through his inspiring writing and speaking, he helped me develop a positive perspective on life.

We'll see ya at the top, Zig!

Stressed Out? Try This Approach

I saw an interesting sign on a box a while back-- "Warning, contents may explode under stress!"

Don't you wish volatile people had labels like that? "Warning -- This person is stressed out and ready to explode!" Then, we'd all know when to steer clear! Of course -- from time to time, we'd all have to wear a label like that -- because stress is common to everyone.

Life is stressful. The day you're free from stress is the day they carry you away in a coffin. We can't expect to be stress-free this side of heaven. Businessman, Malcolm Forbes recognized this when he said, "If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job."

We can learn to deal with our situations, however, so the stress won't get the best of us! Here are a few thoughts on beating stress in your daily life:

1. Try to take life one day at a time.
Poet Robert Frost said, "Just take things as they come, and handle them the best you can."

2. Remember…

Giving Free Reign to Complaint

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Reading Job this morning, I happened upon an interesting verse (10:1) which strikes me as profound:  "I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free reign to my complaint."

Frequent complaining reveal more about the condition of one's soul than the conditions (or people) causing such upset.


How to Nurture a Grateful Heart

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Humans are created to be thankful. Deep in our hearts, we know we're supposed to be content. Unfortunately, envy, resentments, and various circumstances derail us along the way.
Instead of being positive and thankful, we become negative, ungrateful, and petty. (In other words - hard to live with!)
Think about it for a moment. If you were to measure your uplifting thoughts of gratitude v.s. your mental visits to the "complaint department" during the last week, which would win out?
Most folks would find that the complaints far outweigh the praises.
Nobody is grumpy on purpose.  We don't intend to be ungrateful. Discontent sneaks up on us and attacks us from behind. Often, we don't even realize when we are being a negative pain in the neck!
The Bible recognizes this fact of human nature, and reminds us to "Give thanks in all circumstances." (I Thess. 5:17)
If you wish to nurture a grateful heart, consider these suggestions:
1) Declare war on petty negati…

Whatever Comes. . .

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I referred to the following experience in my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  It holds deep meaning for me.

One day, after making a hospital visit in Duluth, Minnesota, I was drawn by the spire of the old First Presbyterian Church. A kind secretary opened up the sanctuary for me to sit and pray for a while.

Gazing around, my eyes fell upon a beautiful stained glass window. It was the picture of a gravestone with dark purple and black hues overshadowing it. But at the top of the window, squarely in the center of a black night, shone a bright golden star -- which seemed to exude hope and light. The star was the focal point of the window.

At the bottom, the following words were inscribed: In memory of Sarah Agnes Graff 1853-1889 Build a little fence of trust around today. Fill the space with loving work and therein stay. Look not through the sheltering bars upon tomorrow. God will help thee bear whatever comes, if joy or sorrow.
I wonder…