Saturday, June 30, 2012

Supply the Caption

I'm interested in your caption for this picture.  The best place to share it is my facebook page

(Thanks to my friend, Wayne Richards, for being a good sport and letting me post this!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Subway Stairs and Stumbling Blocks

A Brooklyn communter noticed a funny flaw in the 36th Street subway stairs, which he captured for our entertainment.

In church, as well as subway exits, something small can make a lot of people stumble. Rather than scorn the stumblers, it's best to fix the flaw in the system.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Governance and Fishing

"This day you and I will discuss the governance of the universe." said Philip Melancthon to Luther.

Martin Luther responded, "This day you and I will go fishing and leave the governance of the universe to God."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Significant Moments and Pastoral Work

Preparing to conduct a wedding today, and reflecting on how my life intersects with others at their most significant life events.  What a privilege it is to be a pastor and to share these meaningful moments. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Mountain Top Experience

We were privileged to host the Wisconsin District Conference at Hayward Wesleyan Church this week.  What an amazing event! 

Representatives of all our congregations across this great state attended, as well as several other national and international leaders, including General Superintendent, JoAnne Lyon, who chaired the conference; Henry Smith, president of Indiana Wesleyan University; Mark Gorveatte, president of Kingswood University in New Brunswick; John & Marge Connor, directors of the Jesus Film Project; C. K. Chitty, Director of Hephzibah Ministries in Macon, GA; Perry Hubbard, missionary to Panama; Rich Avery, Director of Wesleyan Native Ministries; Arnie Eastburn, representative of World Hope International; Filipe Macaringue, president of Xai Xai Bible College in Mozambique;  and Osman Zamora, National Superintendent of Nicaragua.

We've heard glorious victory reports of happenings across Wisconsin.  I am glad to be a part of this team, under the outstanding leadership of Dan Bickel.

The highlight of the conference was the ordination service last evening, when pastoral authority to "preach the word and administer the sacraments" was conferred upon Jason Rhoads, Lonnie Selje, and Andi Wittwer.  There was hardly a dry eye in the place.

I was honored to speak the "prayer of enduement" over Andi.  It was a rewarding milestone in my own life -- a heartfelt moment of deep joy and gladness.  Having walked so many years with Andi along her faith journey, this was certainly a mountain top experience.  This is why I am a pastor!

What a journey!  What a privilege!  What a life!

Just this morning, I read Jose' Luis Navajo's definition of ministry (in his precious little book, Mondays With My Old Pastor):  "Sit every day at the feet of Jesus, and then tell the world what you have seen."

Or, as the Psalmist said, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm 118:23

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Lies Beneath Us

"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!

However, there are plenty of blessings to go along with those troubles. It's a good mix, really -- a gallon of grace for every teaspoon of difficulty. God is with us.

Therefore, we must not succumb to the tears, nor cave to the fears. Regret and anxiety are terrible dictators.

No -- we just need to live one day at a time.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Mountain Top Experience

Last week, I had a mountain top experience.

 My son, Wes and I visited my brother, Steve in Tennessee, who took us on a Sunday afternoon drive on back roads in the Smokey Mountains. I’ve never experienced so many ups, downs, twists and turns in my entire life.

 After marveling at a cascading waterfall, climbing a few rocks, and picnicking by a beautiful mountain stream, Steve said, “Now, let me show you something cool!”

 We ventured upon an old logging road, and were soon far beyond the tourists. I’m glad Steve was driving and knew where he was going, because I was lost within the first twenty minutes.

 We veered off the logging road and up a craggy dirt path, filled with potholes and rocks. Someone should make a commercial about the durability of Steve’s minivan: “Built Dodge Tough!”

 The journey was treacherous. I gasped, held my breath and cringed on several occasions. Steve just laughed and kept on trucking up the road.

 When we finally reached the summit, after a long bouncing, I finally understood. The spectacular panorama made it all worthwhile!

We could see for miles. Four states were visible from our observation point, though it was difficult to tell where Tennessee ended and North Carolina began. Wes and I found the highest knoll on the mountaintop and stood on it triumphantly. Steve beamed while his wife, Sandy, took pictures.

 Then, after a few minutes of soaking in the splendor of creation, we hopped back in the minivan, and headed back down the hill.

 Reflecting later, I realized something important: You can’t reach a mountain top without a challenging climb. You’ll never have a mountaintop experience if you’re not willing to take the uphill journey. Mountains always include valleys. After the struggle, the view is spectacular.

 I also recalled the words of my favorite English poet, William Blake, who said, “Great things happen when men and mountains meet.”

 My trip up the mountain gave me a fresh perspective of Moses who scaled Sinai to hear from his Creator, and then climbed Nebo, where God finally brought him home. There is a close connection between mountain tops and heaven.

In Wisconsin, a few days later, however, driving back roads home, I realized there’s a close connection between Hayward and heaven too. Any place where one experiences creation, nature, beauty, mountain tops, valleys, challenges, an upward journey, and a fresh perspective is a great place to develop faith and discover God.

 Some places are sacred spaces. The Smokey Mountains certainly fit in that category. And, of course, so does Hayward, Wisconsin.

Broken Lawnmowers and Jubilant Weeds

We have two lawnmowers -- a rider and a pushmower.  Both of them broke down last weekend. 

Our yard looks somewhat like a kid with a bad haircut -- the kind Daddy gave me, along with lame encouragment, "Don't worry, son.  It will grow back eventually."

A half scalped lawn, seems a worthy cause for complaint.  In fact, last evening, I grumbled against the weeds in my overgrown back yard, fussing over the fastest, cheap way to fix it. 

This morning, a reading of Psalm 96:12, re-set my attitude:

"Let the fields be jubilant and everything in them.  All the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth."

While I grumbled, the weeds praised.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Win a Free Copy of Breakthrough

I've just been reading Breakthrough, an outstanding book by Tim Clinton and Pat Springle -- and I have an extra copy to give to one lucky commenter.

If you leave a comment at a Breakthrough update on my Facebook page, before noon (central time), you'll be entered in the drawing.  If you're not on facebook and would like to be entered in the drawing, send me an e-mail (you can find it on our staff page at

Breakthrough is a guide for untangling complex relationships. Sometimes, we find ourselves in confusing situations where we're feeling stuck relationally.  When you really care about someone, it's easy to get trapped in painful, unhealthy communication patterns. 

Tim Clinton (a noted Christian counselor) and Pat Springle (bestselling author) provide excellent insights into why we behave the way we do, how we can experience significant breakthroughs from unrealistic expectations and how to love with healthy boundaries.

Going through this book is like sitting down with a personal counselor.  Clinton and Springle bring understanding and clarity for those who feel controlled or manipulated by a family member, friend, or co-worker.

The insightful, probing questions at the end of each chapter, alone, are worth the price of the book.

Purchase Here.

Good luck on the drawing!  I hope you win!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wind, Loggers, Fire and Blueberries

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 efforts,

however, seemed more an invasion of nature than a healing. Their cuttings left deep scars, cold and stark.

 I drove by, shook my head, 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 firefighting 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 find bushes loaded with raspberries -- and a new patch of wild blueberries growing near the earth!

We joyfully filled a couple of ice cream buckets with sweet treasure.

 Before dinner that evening, we bowed our heads, thanked God for the berries and

Blessed the wind,
Blessed the loggers and
Blessed the fire.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Best in Smoke

The re-run of my friend, Famous Dave's appearance on Food Network's Best In Smoke will show this morning at 9:00 AM Central.

Dave's "can-do" attitude despite being hobbled by a broken ankle is inspiring.