Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Church Builder

I just finished reading The Church Builder, an action packed novel by A. L. Shields.  It's the story of attorney, Bethany Barclay, who unwittingly becomes embroiled in a struggle between mysterious forces of good and evil.

Falsely accused of murder, the story traces her desperate search for truth, while avoiding capture by both the law and the "bad guys" (whoever they are.)

It's a riveting page turner with twists and turns galore, as the reader keep wondering what's coming next, all the way to the end.

Shields' style reminds me somewhat of one my favorite mystery authors, Harlan Coban.

Purchase here

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided to my by the publishers for impartial review on this blog.  I was not obligated to provide a favorable review.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Live for the Long Haul

You were designed to live for the long haul! Life’s a long distance
marathon, not a 50 yard dash.With that in mind, it's vital to keep the
big picture in mind. Most of us get tangled in the minutia of the
moment and forget to look beyond the current situation.

Most worries aren't really that important in light of the big picture
– the long haul. The next time you find yourself “all worked up” about
something, ask this question, "Will this really matter ten years from
now?" That question puts it in perspective. I’ve discovered that most
of my frettings of very little consequence.

Long haul living requires some long range thinking.
What are you willing to sacrifice today for a greater gain tomorrow?
What habits today will destroy your health and/or relationships tomorrow? I
f you continue in the same direction and at the same pace as you are
going today, where will that lead you tomorrow?
If your money management patterns today continue, what will your
financial picture be tomorrow?
What does your spiritual condition today say about your spiritual
destination tomorrow?
Are you content with where you are heading in your life? If not, what
changes need to be made?

Here's a wild idea: Think of something you really should be doing --
but you've just not gotten around to it.

Get up from reading this and go find a mirror. Look at yourself in
that mirror and say, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now! Do it now! I’m
not going to delay another day. I’ve been wanting to do this someday –
and someday starts today. I’m going to do it now! “

Then, go out and do it!

This very instant is the first moment of the rest of your life.
There’s no better time to get going than right now!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The True Measure of our Love for God

From the Diary of Father Frederic Baraga, the snowshoe priest:
There is no doubt that the love of God consists neither of sweet tears nor inner comfort and sensibility, but rather in that we serve Him with righteousness, fortitude, and true humility.

A truly loving soul finds its greatest peace by expending everything that it is, has and is capable of for the Beloved, and the more dear and admirable something may be, the more readily it is given.

The highest and truest perfection of the spiritual life consists not of inner charm or comfortable sentiment, nor of raptures, appearances and offerings of prophecy, but rather of the uniformity of our will with the will of God.

Whoever adheres to that which is mortal, everything that he does under those circumstances will be for him incomplete. Whoever follows that which is lost, also will be lost.

Whoever owns such mortal things to the extent that his whole will is possessed by them, he has and owns nothing. Rather those things will imprison, own and torment him.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How to Make Good Decisions

Usually, it’s not too difficult to make a good decision. Most
decisions we make can be determined by plain old common sense.

The CEO of a major corporation once said, “95% of the decisions I make
could be made by any intelligent fifth grader. I’m paid the big bucks
for the other 5%.”

Of course, as we have seen lately in the news, some CEO’s are paid the
big bucks and make crummy decisions anyway! An intelligent fifth
grader understands values such as honesty, uprightness, and

Nevertheless, there are certain decisions in life that are not the
“slam dunk” variety. Sometimes, it’s really hard to know what to do.

When faced with a difficult decision, here are a few points to ponder:

Have you prayed about it? God can give you wisdom beyond your own for
this situation. Most people panic first and pray later, “God, get me
out of this mess!” It’s much better to pray first, and then you won’t
have to panic later!

What is the bottom, bottom line? When all else is said and done, what
is the single most important issue at stake in this decision?

What are all the possible courses of action? Often, people fall into
the trap of thinking there are only two options. Usually, there are at
least ten different ways to address a problem. List as many as you
can. Try for ten! Which item on the list seems to be the best path to
pursue first?

Do your heart, head and gut agree? If not, why not?

What are the pro’s and con’s of each course of action. What is the
most logical decision based on this? Do you have peace about that?

What do wise friends and counselors say? (Emphasis here is “wise” –
There are plenty of people who will toss out unwise advice. You don’t
need that kind of influence. Think of the person you most respect. How
would that person handle this situation?

Are your emotions clouding your decision making process? It’s very
difficult to make a good decision when you are angry, discouraged,
fatigued or afraid. Sometimes, it’s best to step back and for a fresh

When you've done the best you can, lie down and go to sleep. God is still awake.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

She Prayed to Win the Groceries

Living on a one-income pastor’s salary was challenging.  Growing boys
eat a lot.   Cathy struggled with increased pressure on our food

Then, one day, Marketplace Grocery Store announced a drawing for a
free year’s supply of groceries.  Cathy submitted her name, and
decided to pray to win the groceries.  I rolled my eyes when she did
that.  It reminded me of the times people told me they were praying to
win the Lotto.  So far, none of those prayers have availed.  So, when
Cathy started praying to win the grocery lotto, I made a joke of it.

Drawing day happened to be on Sunday.  Our family sat at the breakfast
table before church, and Cathy said grace.   “Dear Lord, I just want
to remind you that today’s the grocery drawing.  We could sure use
them, and, if it’s your will it would be wonderful if we won.”

As soon as she said “amen”, I decided take advantage of this teaching
moment, and rebuked her right in front of the kids.  “Now, Honey,
that’s not the way we’re supposed to pray.  It’s not proper to ask God
for free stuff like that.   God doesn't work that way -- and even if
he did, what would that teach our kids?  That you can get something
for nothing!”

“Well, I disagree,” Cathy responded.  “First, I’m not demanding that
God do this.  I’m just asking, and if he says “no”, I’ll be fine with
that.  And secondly, if we happened to win, it would teach our
children that God loves us and that he hears and answers our prayers.”

The kids all sided with her.  “Yeah, Dad!  You should listen to Mom!”

I left for church in a huff.

During the worship service, I was giving announcements when the office
phone rang.  One of our ushers answered, then bounded up the middle
aisle with a goofy grin on his face, waving a little piece of paper.

It was a note saying, “Marketplace Grocery Store just called.  Your
family won the groceries!”

Well, this was a thrilling announcement!  I shared the news with my
congregation, and they cheered, delighted that it was their poor
preacher, rather than some wealthy tourist from Minnesota, that had
hit the jackpot, and now they wouldn't have to give me a raise!

It sure was hard to preach with gravitas that Sunday,  knowing that
our family had just won a years supply of groceries.

After church, we arrived home, and found our answering machine
blinking.  The grocery store  manager, had called our house before
dialing the church.  “Hello, this is Jon from Marketplace.
Congratulations Cathy Wilson, you just won the groceries!  Come to the
store as soon as you can to claim your prize!”

I feel goofy telling you about this now, but here’s what our family
did -- all seven of us held hands in a circle, jumped up and down, and
shouted with glee, “We won the groceries!  We won the groceries!  We
won the groceries!”

Then, one of my boys said, “Hit it again, Dad!”

So, I hit the button  and we heard the message all over again, and
then repeated the jump up and down and shout exercise.   We did that
four times, before finally piling into our conversion van and heading
to the store.

When we arrived at Marketplace they were waiting for us, holding a
giant check with Cathy’s name on it.  Terrell, the omnipresent
photographer from the Sawyer County Record was there to cover the

He leaned over to my son, Luke, who was five, and said, “It must be
wonderful for your family to win all these groceries.”

“Yeah,” Luke answered, “Mom prayed that we would win, but Dad didn't
believe it could happen.”   Cathy grinned.

“Shut up, kid,” I whispered, though I suppose he had the right to rub it in.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Leadership Shooting Lessons

Best Option = Ready, Aim, Fire!

Second Best Option = Ready, Fire, Aim!

Second Worst Option = Ready or Not, Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!

Worst Option = Ready, Ready, Ready, Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim

Monday, October 07, 2013

Consider Becoming a Country Parson

Tim Keller's advice to young ministers -- "Consider Becoming a Country Parson."

That's good advice for those who are eager to get out into the field of ministry. As a solo pastor, you'll get a chance to do just about everything everything.

Most young people upon graduation, hope for a staff position in a larger suburban church, but that kind of ministry does not equip one for the multiple demands of senior/solo pastorate or church planting.

The fact is -- there is a shortage of rural/small town pastors -- and a glut of people hoping for staff positions.

One important reminder, however, is in order: a country pastorate is not merely the stepping stone to a "bigger and better" ministry. It may BE the bigger and better ministry for you.

With over 22 years of experience as a country parson, I can honestly say it is the most rewarding ministry position I could possibly imagine.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Fear Nothing

Go courageously to do whatever
you are called to do.
If you have any fears, say to your soul:
"The Lord will provide for us.”

If your weakness troubles you, 
cast yourselves on God, 
and trust in Him.

The apostles were mostly unlearned fishermen, 
but God gave them learning enough
for the work they had to do.

Trust in him, 
depend on his providence;
fear nothing.

-- St. Francis De Sales (17th Century)