Saturday, February 27, 2016

Get Somewhere

 Are you groping for a blessing,
 Never getting there?
 Listen to a word in season,
 Get somewhere!

 Are you struggling for salvation
 By your anxious prayer?
 Stop your struggling, simply trust and --
 Get somewhere!

 Does the answer seem to linger
 To your earnest prayer?
 Turn your praying into praise and --
 Get somewhere!

 You will never know His fullness
 Till you boldly dare
 To commit your all to Him and --
 Get somewhere!

--  From Streams in the Desert

Friday, February 26, 2016

Everybody Has Baggage

The other day while in the Minneapolis airport, it dawned on me that every individual in the great throng of people around me had one thing in common; they all carried baggage.

It was true for all of them:  young and old, rich and poor, every race and class.  Some bags were extra heavy and awkward to carry.  Some were lightweight suitcases with wheels.  Some were backpacks.  But everybody had a bag.

And I thought, "That's the way it is in all of life.  Everybody you meet has baggage."

Some folks appear to be like Mary Poppins:  practically perfect in every way.  However, it just means their baggage isn't so obvious.  It's still there.   If you think you don't have baggage, ask your family or co-workers.  They will set you straight.

The problem is that our problem is not just our problem.  It directly impacts all the people around us -- whether we realize it or not.  "If we do not transform our pain," said Richard Rohr, "we will transmit it."

Everybody has issues:  some just get in life's way more than others.  There are obvious issues that wreak havoc in families such as alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling and acting out sexually.

But there are other not-so-obvious issues such as basing one's worth on performance, being a people pleaser, depression and internalized stress.

On the surface, the presenting issues seem very different -- but underneath the surface, we discover it's all the same stuff:  our real issues are primarily spiritual, emotional and relational.

A man who has a drinking problem needs to look deeper than the drinking,  to the underlying causes -- and so does the perfectionist.

This means that we should never label those who struggle as "those people."  We are all "those people" in need of Christ's healing grace.

The good news is that we don't have to fix ourselves.  Our job is to admit our need and turn to the One greater than ourselves for hope and healing.  The answer to all life's hurts is deeply spiritual.  We can find true freedom as we embrace God and His love for us.  As Jesus said, "If the Son set you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Wise Old Owl

A wise old owl sat in an oak;
 The more he saw the less he spoke;
 The less he spoke the more he heard;
 Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird? 
-- Anonymous

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wish Bones, Jaw Bones, Back Bones

Have you ever noticed that when a job is to be done, people fall into three different groups? The first group stands on the sideline and gawks. The second group holds lengthy discussions about how the task should be done. The third group just does it.

I've heard it said that people are like bones. The "wish bones" sit around and hope things will get better. The "jaw bones" gripe about how rotten things are and wonder why somebody doesn't do something. The "back bones" roll up their sleeves, and go to work. Why just sit there when you can make the situation better? I'm sure you've seen 'em all - at work, at school, at church, at home. Every organization has its share of "jaw bones", "wish bones", and "back bones". Which type are you? 

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, "Whatever you find to do - do it with all your might!" In other words, be a "back bone!" Be a person who gets things done! All this requires is a bit of self- discipline and enthusiasm. If you determine to be a "doer" instead of just a "talker" or "wisher", you will be amazed at the things you accomplish. You may not feel like getting the job done - do it anyway! You may have plenty of good excuses - do it anyway! You may have tried once and failed - do it anyway! The task may seem almost impossible -- do it anyway! Refuse to give up! 

As you become a "doer", you will notice a dramatic increase in your energy and productivity. You will accomplish more at work and home. You will find yourself achieving more than you ever have before. A commitment to action means a commitment to life. You can't merely exist if you're going to be a "doer". To get the most out of life, you have to make something happen. Don't expect others to carry you or to open up your doors. You have to do something about it yourself. 

The poet, Grantland Rice, captured this thought with the following words of inspiration: "For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He writes - not that you won or lost - but how you played the game".

Friday, February 19, 2016

Barnebirkie Memories

It's  Barnebirkie day! The Barnebirkie is Hayward's cross country ski race for children, which always occurs a day or two before our town's great, world class event, The American Birkebeiner.

Though my children are all grown now, I think I'll saunter down to Main Street this afternoon and ring a cowbell -- for the kids and also for their parents.

Heartwarming memories flood my mind this morning as I reflect on what it felt like to help my kids become Nordic champions for a day.

For nearly two decades, on race day, I'd feed my kids spaghetti, bundle them up, strap on the racing bibs, and bring them to the Barnebirkie starting line.

At the kickoff festivities, a sea of eager little faces anticipated the daunting wilderness trek before them -- a whole kilometer or two -- all the way through the golf course, by the armory, past the school and down Main Street, amid a cheering throng of spectators ringing cowbells.

Yes, for twenty years, I accompanied at least one of my children all the way down to the finish line -- shouting little encouragements along the way. "Way to go! You're doing great! Keep it up! Don't quit! Look! All these people are cheering for you!"

My fondest memories are when I've taken my preschool aged children on their first ski pilgrimage (five kids means multiple firsts!)

For a three year old, the Barnie is larger than life -- overwhelming at times. Impossible. There are so many big kids -- and it's such a long trek, especially when the mercury dips to five or ten below zero.

There are falls, scrapes,  shoves, bumps, runny noses, frozen toes, and tears. It's loud. It's crowded. It can even be a bit frightening, especially when they see the two huge Norse mascots on skis with spears.

For the three year old's daddy, the race becomes bigger than the Winter Olympics -- and far, far more important than how the Italian elites fare on Saturday. The only thing that matters is getting your kid to the finish line.

I'll never forget, after a few shaky starts, rounding the bend onto Main Street, with my little ones, and seeing hundreds of friendly faces: waving, smiling, cheering, and clanging cowbells. "Keep going! You're almost there!"

I swallowed hard and wiped a tear.

Once we hit the final stretch, it's a fresh burst of inspiration all the way to the finish line -- where every kid gets a medal, a cup of hot cider, and a big cookie.

Everyone goes home a winner.

And every year, while unstrapping skis, I wondered if there may be a life lesson tucked away somewhere in that experience.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." -- 2 Tim. 4:7

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cowbells for Hermann

In honor of the 43rd Birkie today, I am re-posting this delightful story from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

Hayward is home of the American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross country ski race. 10,500 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 middle of the afternoon, when all of the ordinary folks—lawyers, cooks, plumbers, and preachers come in. For them, it’s a painful struggle for survival. I wipe sentimental tears and ring my bell with vigor.

It was shortly after dusk several years ago, when my daughter, Hannah, asked if we could go back down to the finish line.

“The race is over now, honey,” I tried to explain.

“Please?” she pleaded, “It might not be over yet.”

So, against all odds, we packed up our cowbells and headed to Main Street. We arrived to see a busy crew removing snow and shutting down everything.

“See, we’re too late,” I began, when a worker with a walkie-talkie suddenly waved frantically and shouted, “Wait! Wait! There is one more skier coming in!”

Sure enough, long after the all other racers had hung their skis, ninety-one-year-old Hermann Nunnemacher crossed the finish line. Midway, Hermann fell and fractured four ribs, but he got back up and kept plodding forward!

With the crowds of spectators long gone, Hannah and I were the only cowbell ringers left—so we rang them for Hermann. We rang them with all our might!

For a few minutes, the workers stopped to shout and cheer. Some passersby also joined in the magical moment. Hermann crossed the finish line, and we all cried.

Terrell, the omnipresent reporter from the Sawyer County Record happened upon the scene and said, “You finished the race! How do you feel about that, Mr. Nunnemacher?”

Through cracked lips, the poor old guy croaked, “I hurt.”

The next Wednesday, Hermann’s picture graced the front page of The Sawyer County Record, the only time in history when the guy who finished last made the headline.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Discovering the Meanings of Love

Whenever Valentines Day comes around, I think about the day Cathy said "I do" back in ’82.  She was a beautiful bride, bold and confident. When it was my turn to say the vows, I blubbered and squeaked like Mickey Mouse – but she knew what I meant anyway.

 It’s hard to imagine that so many years have zoomed by. It seems like just yesterday that I was courting her – dating her – writing little valentines with x’s and o’s at the end, and saying goofy little things like “yours, ‘til the ocean wears rubber pants to keep it’s bottom dry.”

We’ve done a lot of living since then. We’ve had our share of joys. We’ve had our share of tears. We’ve had our share of heartaches through the years – but as our love has matured, it has grown stronger and sweeter over time.

A while back, Cathy made an astute observation: “You can’t really love somebody until you’ve been through something with them. Before that point, you’re just acquaintances.” You know, she is right on the money with that one.

Maybe that’s why I love her so much – because we’ve been through so many things together.

I’m learning the true meanings of love. I say “meanings” rather than “meaning” because there are many facets to it. Just when I think I understand what it is to love, I realize I am barely scratching the surface. One can never plumb the depths of love because it is eternal.

The word “intimacy” literally means “profoundly interior.” Relational understanding, like gold and silver, is discovered deep underground. It comes from the core of our being. Of course, there is the exterior dimension as well. A “deep down” love is revealed by our actions for and towards each other.

A loving intent without a loving follow-through isn’t worth much.

One reason so many couples lack satisfying interactions with each other is because they have not paused to reflect enough on the deeper meanings of their relationship.

Maybe it would be good for couples to stop and ask these questions: What is our story? What are the themes of our relationship? Have we looked beyond the surface issues to the deeper substance? When are we most fully alive and free? What is or delight and desire? How can we turn duties into delights?

Marriage takes work. It requires much patience. If it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t require patience! Marriage might be made in heaven – but it has to be worked out here on this earth. Maybe that’s why it’s for a lifetime – because that’s just about how long it takes for people to finally understand. Before then, we should probably put “Under Construction” signs in front of our homes.

The romance of love is splendid. It’s a beautiful gift from God. The warm friendship of love is sweet, and there is nothing that compares with comfortable familiarity. The choice to love sacrificially is the most sublime. It is love in the highest form.

I am reminded of these words from the poet, Rainer Marie Rilke, “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect, border and greet each other.”

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Prayer Empowerings

 We kneel how weak, we rise how full of power!
  Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,
  Or others -- that we are not always strong;
  That we are ever overborne with care;
  That we should ever weak or heartless be,
  Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
  And joy, and strength, and courage, are with Thee?
  -- Richard Chenevix Trench

 (Note:  I discovered in the back of an old book I inherited from my father's library:  How to Pray by Reuben Archer Torrey (1916).  The poem had been handwritten by the previous owner, Belle McMillan, a mighty prayer warrior and holy woman.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Order of Service Hayward Wesleyan Noon Ash Wednesday Service

Dr. Tom Correll drafted the following liturgy for our Noon Ash Wednesday service.  We also have an evening service geared more to youth.

Welcome and Prayer

Hymn: Faith of Our Fathers (279)

The Liturgy of Lent

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

We invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a strong beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now bow our heads before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn: Trust and Obey (349)

Readings from the Letters of the Apostle Peter:

I Peter 1:3-9 AND II Peter 1:2-11

Meditation  --  Tom Correll

Our Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father: We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We ask you to forgive us!

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. Have mercy on us Lord.

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Let us Pray together Our Lord’s Prayer

The Imposition of Ashes!

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and repentance, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

You are invited to receive the sign of the ashes as a true follower of Jesus Christ!

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Pastoral Prayer


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You are invited to our continuing Lenten services each Wednesday at 12:00 noon in the sanctuary.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Rest in Peace

I have learned the secret of being content. . . . I can do all this through Christ. (Phil. 4:12-13)

 A frazzled mother continually complained about her stress level. "I just need some peace and quiet!" she groaned. So, for Mother's Day, her daughter Jessica went to the florist shop and returned proudly carrying the perfect gift for her mother. The arrangement included a pink bow inscribed, "Rest in Peace."

 Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, in their groundbreaking book Jesus Manifesto, said, "Knowing Christ as your rest' and allowing Him to live His life through you is one of the most freeing things you can know as a Christian" They continue, "Resting in Christ doesn't mean being passive. It means allowing the Lord to do the heaving lifting."

 My favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, sums up what Paul called the "secret of being content": "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The secret to contentment is indeed about dying—but to truly rest in peace, we must die to self and rest in Him.

This is an excerpt from my book Filled Up, Poured Out

 Prayerfully seek the contentment that only God can give, by helping you die to yourself.