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Showing posts from February, 2014

A Tribute to the Sons and Daughters of Consolation

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Here is a beautiful tribute to those who devote themselves to the shepherding and encouragement of others. It recognizes the example of St. Barnabas, the "Son of Consolation."  I discovered this delightful little gem in an old 1914 hymnal from my collection this morning:

O Son of God, our captain of salvation,
Thyself by suffering schooled to human grief,
We bless Thee for Thy sons of consolation,
Who follow in the steps of Thee their chief. Those whom Thy Spirit’s dread vocation severs
To lead the vanguard of Thy conquering host;
Whose toilsome years are spent in brave endeavors
To bear Thy saving name from coast to coast. Those whose bright faith makes feeble hearts grow stronger,
And sends fresh warriors to the great campaign,
Bids the lone convert feel estranged no longer,
And wins the sundered to be one again. And all true helpers, patient, kind, and skillful,
Who shed Thy light across our darkened earth,
Counsel the doubting, and restrain the willful,
Soothe the sick bed, and share t…

The Happy Old Men's Club

The Happy Old Men's Club launched a couple years ago, when I started meeting regularly with my good friend, Nate and Steve over breakfast. The purpose of our meetings is not just chit-chat. Our aim is to encourage and support each other in the most important areas of life's journey: faith, family, friendships, leadership, the inner life, and making the world a better place. I cherish my times with these dear brothers.

 A while back, we named our group The Happy Old Men's Club because we've chosen to be happy, rather than grumpy in the sunset years of our lives.

 Now I realize age is a matter of perspective. The young geezers believe we're already over the hill, while the octogenarians call us whippersnappers. As far as we're concerned, we're still growing up.

 The bottom line is that we hope to maintain a youthful spirit regardless of age. Our little club reminds me of Samuel Ullman's poem, "Youth", which was often quoted by General Dou…

A Hymn for Mid-Winter

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Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.
Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.”
Here see the bread of life, see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heav’n can remove.
Hear a beautiful video rendition of it here

Lutefisk, Lent and Great Faith

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In honor of Ash Wednesday which will be observed a week from today, I'm sharing the following story from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out:
Northern Wisconsin is Lutheran and Catholic territory, and this means two things: Lutefisk before Christmas, and Lent before Easter. I didn’t know much about either growing up. Until moving to Hayward, I had never heard of Lutefisk, and figured Lent was stuff you trap in the dryer. Living in the Northwoods, I’ve discovered that Lutefisk is a piece of cod that passes all understanding.(Actually, it’s a rather unappetizing, gelatinous Nordic dish made from dried, salted whitefish and lye.) We’ll let the Lutherans keep it. Lent, however, is something we’ve happily pilfered from our more liturgical brethren. We start with Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter. I smudge ashes on the foreheads of willing parishioners, repeating, “From dust you’ve come, to dust you shall return.” For a few years, I drove over to St. Joe’s a couple days before the Lenten …

When You Have Seen Enough

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Good food for thought from my friend, Ron McClung:

Walter Johnson was a record-setting pitcher who played his entire baseball career for the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927. I read somewhere about a major league player who faced Johnson for the first time when the great pitcher was in his prime. According to the story, the first pitch came blazing across the plate and the umpire yelled, "Strike One!" The second pitch came burning into the catcher's mitt to another called strike. The batter turned on his heel and headed for the dugout. He told the umpire to keep the third strike because he had seen enough.

It makes an amusing story, but it's not a great way to approach life. Yes, we have all faced the giants of life at times when we felt overwhelmed, but when you give up, you never know what victories you might have achieved.

The apostle Paul said, "Therefore we do not lose heart" (2 Corinthians 4:16NIV). But what were the conditions under which he said t…

Cowbells for Hermann

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In honor of the 41st Birkie today, I am posting this delightful story from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

Hayward is home of the American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross country ski race. Over ten thousand skiers come from almost every state and many nations to compete in this world-class event. Spectators line snow-covered Main Street, ringing cowbells and cheering weary skiers across the finish line.

For two decades, I’ve been a Birkie cowbell ringer.

A day or two before the Birkebeiner, I always pine a little, wishing I had pulled the skis from the rafters and joined the throng of brave souls testing the limits of their endurance. But, as Birkie day arrives, I find myself content to ring cowbells. After all, if everybody skied the Birkie, there wouldn’t be anybody left to cheer.

Normally, we ring in the elite skiers who finish first. Usually the winner is some Olympic European who hardly broke a sweat. I’m always impressed.

The best part of the race, though, is the mi…

Here Comes The Sun

Storms Are My Choosing

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Blow, winter wind outside my door,
I only love my hearthstone more
For storms are not my choosing.

But how could trees their fruitage bear,
Or summertime its glory wear,
If storms their sting were losing?

If God in love sends snow and rain,
If my life needs its toil and pain,
With Him -- storms are my choosing.

--  Clara M. Krag

An Open Letter to Hayward Wesleyan Church

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Dear Hayward Wesleyan Church Family,

I need to apologize for something I said on Sunday during my sermon, when comparing today's church with the church of Acts.  I expressed skepticism and doubt about God raising people from the dead and working miracles like we see in the New Testament.

Instead of using the marvelous stories from Acts to inspire faith, I spoke words of disbelief.  I should have known better.

Yesterday, a kind friend spoke gentle correction to my heart concerning this, and he was absolutely right.  I appreciate his candor and am inspired by his faith.  The bottom line is, God is able to do anything he jolly well pleases, and that includes far out stuff -- like resurrections.  Just because I've never seen it, doesn't mean it is impossible with God.

This morning, while pondering and praying over this, I realized I need a fresh faith infusion.  Like the disciples, I am saying, "Lord, I believe.  Help me in my unbelief."

God reminded me that faith, …

How to Interpret Overreactions

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"Yaaargh!" he shouted.

I never expected that sort of reaction when I gave my friend a warm greeting and a little pat on the shoulder.  I expected him to smile and greet me in return.

Instead, his eyes bugged out and he yelled, "Yaaargh!"

At that moment, I had accidently hurt him.  He had shoulder surgery the week before, and the painful mending was just beginning.  I forgot -- and remembered too late.

My small pat, intended in kindness, cause severe pain.

The problem wasn't with the pat.  It was with the wounded shoulder.  Normally, a pat like that expresses friendship.  This time around, to him, it felt like a declaration of war.

And here's the lesson from the painful misadventure.  When you touch a person where they are hurting, you're liable to get an overreaction.

Have you ever wondered why some people erupt unexpectedly?  Have you experienced someone flying off the handle over something small?  Maybe you shock yourself by how upset you respond to certain …

Pilgrim Holiness Valentine Candy

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Realistic Love Songs

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In honor of Valentine's Day, my friend, Jim Watkins, provided a few realistic love songs.
 For example: "The Rose -- and Thorns"
Some say love it is a feeling, that makes the heart rate rise.  Some say love it is a hormone, that makes our race survive.  I say love it is a diaper that's changed at three a.m.  It's attendance at recitals, and games that never end.  I say love is buying Playtex products for your mate.  I say love it does for others, the things you truly hate.
Several more here

Clearing Relational Ice

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Arctic air glazed my windshield over with thick ice overnight. Early in the morning before the sun woke up, I found myself trying to carve a hole.

I searched for my scraper in vain. It was gone. Some dear friend borrowed it and forgot to bring it back. I improvised by using a cd case, which, though handy and somewhat practical, seemed hardly sufficient for the task.

Undaunted, I attacked the windshield with vigorous enthusiasm, struggling in the frigid blasts to shape some semblance of visibility.

Unfortunately, as soon as I scraped the ice away, it just frosted over again.

A half hour of scratching and scraping brought nothing more than a small peep hole, barely big enough to see while driving.

At lunch time, the same, day, however, I went to my car and was surprised to discover all of the windows were clear! Not a patch of ice on them! When the sun rose, it melted all the ice away.

I thought, “Now, there’s a lesson on how to deal with difficult situations and relationships…

A Leap of Faith or Wait of Faith?

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"People of great faith, wait."

--Rick Warren

A good quote -- and I need to remember it -- however, on the other hand, sometimes great faith requires us to jump!

How about looking at it like this? If you are naturally an impatient "jumper", great faith makes you wait.

If you are naturally a hesitant "waiter", great faith will make you jump.

How to Make the Most of Your Troubles

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Everybody reading this is either in trouble, heading into trouble, or getting out of trouble.

If you have troubles, you're in good company.  Life is loaded with them and everybody has their share.

Troubles are simply a part of living. It's a package deal. We must accept the bad along with the good.

Some folks think they should be excused from problems. Whenever a difficulty arises, they whine and complain about how unfair life is, and remain swamped in the mire of misery.

Instead of griping about a difficult situation, it's better to face it boldly and figure out what you can do to get through the best you can.  You can cry till the cows come home, and that won't fix the situation.  It takes courage to buckle down and face the truth.

I do not know why hardships are a part of life's package. I don't have pat answers for life's perplexing questions.

However, I do know that struggles help us grow, if we maintain the right attitude.

1. Troubles teach us wisdom.

Every w…

Super Bowl Hand Signals and Predictable Preaching

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The mystery of the Broncos' Super Bowl trouncing was solved when Richard Sherman revealed how the Seahawks cracked Peyton Manning's hand signals.  Manning showed Seattle's defense exactly what was coming before the ball was snapped.

What a relief.  For a while, I feared aliens from outer space had kidnapped the Broncos and replaced them with Detoit Lions.

Reflecting on the debacle, I realized I've experienced something like that myself -- while preaching.  Without  prayerful reflection and careful consideration in the study, sermons easily become predictable.

Most preachers have favorite themes, phrases and delivery styles, which are unique strengths, but when overused, are overfamiliar.  Overfamiliarity in preaching = boring.

This is especially true of "fill in the blank" sermons - -the ones accompanied by notetaking guides. A few preachers do this masterfully.  Most don't.  Far too often, a note taking guide just gives away your hand signals ahead of t…

How To Brighten a Room and Inspire Others

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Have you ever noticed that when certain people walk into a room, the whole place brightens?  Somehow, they bring inspiration and hope just by showing up.  Gary Nathan, of Woodlands Developments and Realty is like that. So is Dr. JoAnne Lyon, General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, and founder of World Hope International.

I've pondered what sets my friends, Gary and JoAnne, apart and makes them different from others?  Why does the room light up when they show up?  Is there something the rest of us can learn from them regarding this kind of charisma?

There are certainly several other factors, but let me suggest a few:

1.  Outward Energy Flow

JoAnne and Gary both exude an outward flow of energy.  In other words, they bring energy to people, rather than hoping others will bring energy to them.  The focus is outward.  "What can I do to help you?" rather than "What can you do for me?"

The other day, my car battery just didn't have to juice to face the brutal Ja…

Just an Ugly Old Stump

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A few people asked for a copy of my poem that I shared in yesterday's sermon.  The picture was taken by my friend, Heath Davis:

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 s…