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Life in Southwest Wisconsin

July 13, 2014 2 comments

It has been over 6 months since we left the familiar life we had on Cape Cod for a totally new way of life in Southwestern Wisconsin.  Let me tell you , it has been a journey.   We have found this community to be a huge blessing to us and our kids.  We have also had opportunities to meet kids and families in the community that has only proven to make our transition smoother.  My kids have developed a working knowledge of crops.  “Hey dad, that looks like corn!”  or “I think that is soybeans” have become common conversation.  When we arrived here they thought that milk was only something that came from the milk store.  Now they know what a cow is and will point all of them out when we drive.

This part of Wisconsin is quite scenic and not as flat as most people think.  The sunsets are something to enjoy every night and the culture is just more laid back than we had grown accustomed to on Cape Cod.  This has made our summer more enjoyable.

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset (no filter)

Sunset (no filter)

I have been able to fish more than I ever did on Cape Cod and we have actually gone to the beach more also.  (ironically)  The main reason is that it is much easier to get around.

Scenic

Scenic

 

Fishing

Fishing

On the flip side,  my kids were not used to severe weather.  Tornadoes had become such an obsession for my 7-year-old son that he has checked out every book on tornadoes from the library.  I showed him slides from my storm spotting class and he has increased his understanding of things like wall clouds and shelf clouds, among other things.  This has been fun to see him develop.  That all changed a few weeks back when at 10 pm we were hustling our kids from their beds to the basement as a tornado quickly formed just outside of town.  Once the kids stopped crying they decided we needed to move somewhere else.  Our tornado chaser in training exclaimed “this is the worst day of my life.”  Of course I told him “you are young”   We only lost the tree in front of our house, but out of town they had true tornado damage.

Good-bye tree

Good-bye tree

We are enjoying summer as much as we can because we know that everyday is one day closer to winter.  We went canoeing, went to Lambeau Field for a Packer Clinic for the kids,  and played some little league.

batter up

Batter Up

Kids Clinic

Kids Clinic

Beach

Beach

Canoeing

Canoeing

 

But God has been so gracious to us and this is very simply my testimony to that.  I know God has plans for our family here as we continue to walk forward and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.    In the mean time we are going to enjoy every day because each day is a gift.  Make the most of it!

oh, yeah, we rode a ferris wheel also

oh, yeah, we rode a ferris wheel also

Are God’s arms too short?

May 15, 2014 2 comments
It is all in His hands

It is all in His hands

It seems there are impossible circumstances and people all around us.  In ministry I find the challenge is to balance out ways to help someone and be realistic about the results.  It is those times when our faith is increased because it is something only God is able to do.

There is a story in Numbers 11 about Moses and Israelites.  Naturally they are being an impossible group of people to lead because they are taking the blessings of God (freedom from slavery, daily food to eat) and complaining that they are not good enough.  Really?  Do you guys even remember what slavery was like?

But it was an impossible scene and God was not pleased with the people.  Moses heard the complaining and he also grew increasingly angry.  God decides he is going to give them meat to eat for a whole month and, as He tells them, “the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.”  (I would add “and you will like it”)  Moses, as the rational leader that he is, wonders how God is going to provide so much food for so many people for so much time.   God answers Moses with such graciousness.

“The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?  You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” – Numbers 11:23

It seems every day is a new day to question how God is going to take care of a situation.  These are opportunities for Him to get the glory and for us to stand back and praise Him.  I know of lives that are in complete shambles, but we are seeing God’s work in lives in the smallest, yet most profound ways.  I have seen situations where our own family has been wondering how we would pay a bill and God has reminded us that His arm is not too short.

The arm of God is not too short.  It is so wide and powerful that He knows every part of the vast Universe .  His arm is wide enough to climb the tallest mountain,  leap over the oceans, and yet still find each hurting heart right where they are at.  God’s arm proved to be just the right length too as Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, spread His arms on the cross to do the impossible.  He took sinful man and God back together again!

May you be encouraged today in whatever you face.  God’s arm is not too short for whatever you face today.

The Right to Remain Silent

April 21, 2014 2 comments
Be still and know that He is God

Be still and know that He is God

Despite the inherent right that we have to remain silent, we sure don’t exercise it very often.   The need to talk or at the very least fill the silence with something is overwhelming for most people.  There is a young man who drives around the streets of town with some sort of speaker system in his car commenting on what he sees as he drives around.  It is only funny the first time.  This need to fill the quiet is something I wrestle with as I allow for a moment of silence at the end of a sermon so that people might be able to respond to what God is saying to them.   There are people who want more and there are people who just cannot bear the dead air.  And to be fair, I live in a house with 4 children (3 boys) so there isn’t a whole lot of silence in my home.   If there is we probably want to figure out what is going on.

Even before God it is hard to be silent despite the fact that we can all recite the verse “be still and know that I am God.”  We wonder if being still is something that actually involves moving and talking.  Maybe “still” is a word that when we go back to the original language actually means “be boisterous.” Or perhaps being still is something we do while we sleep?

Silence is an appropriate, often overlooked, response to God’s Holiness.  Silence helps us take time to listen to what God might be saying to us.  Silence puts our heart in a posture to revere God in ways that we can’t when we are rattling off a list of prayer requests or lamenting about something in our lives.

I was reading Leviticus 10 the other day and was completely blown away by the phrase at the end of verse 3. “Aaron remained silent.”  What was that in response to?

Aaron’s sons were doing what boys do- playing with fire.  Except this wasn’t just any fire, it was fire that was to be used for God’s purposes.  It was holy and needed to be looked at that way.  The boys were playing with fire and they should have known better.  The text says that they offered unauthorized fire, which of course means that there was time and place for this fire.  They did not follow the rules and fire came out and consumed them.  I guess their dad never mentioned that if you play with fire you will get burned.  But here is what Moses said to Aaron:

“This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” – Leviticus 10:3

Do you see what was at issue here?  It was not about the fire; it was about the holiness of God.  We can approach God so flippantly, but He is to be revered and honored  as Holy.  And so Aaron’s response, to me, was the more genuine response he could have had.  Most people would wail at God for that, but Aaron was just silent!  I mean, what could he say?

Do you need to spend some time in silence before God?  I would encourage you to do that because I know there is real refreshment in that time.   Are you experiencing heartache or struggle?  Be silent before God and worship Him.  There is fresh perspective gained as God is honored in our lives.  It is time to exercise your right to remain silent.

The Big Transition

April 1, 2014 2 comments

We are beginning to settle into our new home even with the adjustments of a new season of the year.  If I reflect a bit I am amazed at the faithfulness of God through the whole journey.  On the day after Christmas we packed up a large moving truck and took an early morning departure the next day to make a long journey to Wisconsin.  We managed to make good time and the cat even managed to travel well.   It all happened so fast, but turned out so perfectly.  The day we arrived in Wisconsin it was quite warm only to drop in temperature significantly the following days.  It is the little things that we often overlook but I am grateful.

It has taken some time to find true rhythm to the week here.  As pastor my week is rather unpredictable even if I do know that Sunday is always coming.  We have found the church to be a great fit.

My kids are thriving in this new setting.  The two older boys will do little league this summer and the two younger kids are looking forward to their own things.

IMG_20140330_153509So as we start to settle in, I have a lot of things to write about.  I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts again.  The kids seem to never stop giving me things to think about.  My 7-year-old son tonight asked me why his sin deserved death?  He then asked me why God created the world?  These are some great questions and what a joy it is for me to be able to talk with him about God.

For those that have prayed for us, thank you.  God continues to lead us along.  I never thought I would be here.  I have learned that when you are obedient to God the destination is not as important as the one in whom we keep our eyes on.  One step at a time he has led me from Cape Cod to Wisconsin.  Everyday is a new adventure and opportunity to be faithful.  That is the biggest transition we all need to make — to go from my will to His will.

 

Through Eyes of Faith – Avoiding Isolation

March 3, 2014 2 comments

Yesterday I mentioned a story in 2 Kings 6 about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him.  The servant saw the army and wondered what they were going to do to stay alive.  Elisha encouraged his servant to not be afraid, but he also prayed for him.  He helped to connect the dots between what God was doing and his life.  “God help him see it” God answered the prayer and he saw.

Don't wander off!

Don’t wander off!

Isolation is no friend to someone walking in faith because we are easily shaken on our own.  A life of faith is not something we just do on our own, nor should it be.  We live it out with each other.  We grow together.  What a privilege to be able to help someone see what God is doing in the midst of crisis and to receive the same ourselves!  It is awesome to be able to look at our brother and sister in Christ and say – “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Let’s do this together.”

How can you encourage someone to keep their eyes on Jesus, not in some cliché way like — “it will be okay”, but in a real way?  How can you help someone in a way that doesn’t diminish the junk they find themselves swimming in, but instead helps them look up out of it to the Lord who walks with them through it.  We need to pray with each other that God would open our eyes to whatever He has for us in any circumstance and to give us the faith needed for anything that might happen.

It is at this point that we are no longer paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, but are empowered by faith in the risen Savior.  This changes how we live! Elisha acts on what his eyes of faith tell him and he prays that God would strike them with blindness in verse 18 and God does it.

It would appear that the servant takes a deep breath and calms down also.  He has now seen that God is up to something big and he rests in it.   Do you rest in Him?  Do you find ways to stop, in the confidence of God’s Word and the ministry of His Spirit to rest in Him?  Do you apply that which we confess with our mouth about Jesus being the Lord?  That means giving up the desire to have it all perfectly arranged before stepping out in faith.  That means coming before the throne of God with open hands and knowing that the assurance we have for each day does not come from a paycheck or a career, but a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We need to be connected with each other.  We do know is that we will accomplish more walking in faith together than we will when we try to do it alone.

 

Through the Eyes of Faith – Finding Calm in Chaos

In 2 Kings 6 there is a story about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him.  Early in the morning Elisha’s servant wakes up and looks out to find that a superior military force surrounded them while they slept. This terrified him as he could see the dangers, but he had no concept that there could be deliverance from it   He wondered to Elisha, “What should we do?”

Truthfully, we relate pretty well to this servant.  We worship together on Sundays and declare great truths about God together only to be discouraged by the chaos we find ourselves in on Monday.  How do we apply faith to daily life?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

IMAG0138I remember when I would take my children swimming when they were babies. They would be absolutely calm and happy if I held them so that they could see me.  They would laugh, splash in the water, and even let me toss them in the air.   But the minute I spun them around in the water, and they could not see me any longer, they got tense and started to cry.  My hands never left their bodies and I never came close to letting them drown, but they lost sight of me and panicked at the sight of the mass of water around them.   While this seems funny to us, we just as easily do that when the circumstances of life overwhelm and we take our eyes off our Jesus.

 Life through eyes of faith is life fixed on Jesus Christ; we are called to look to Him in all things.  In Christ we receive the ability to stand firm no matter what circumstances come our way and gain confidence to take faith-filled risks.  There is a calm that comes upon us as we decide to keep looking to Jesus Christ and not to the circumstances around us.

Elisha tells his servant, “Do not fear! Those who are for us are greater than those who are against us.”  It took eyes of faith to see that.  It took assurance that there was greater power and purpose than what could be physically understood.

Calm in Chaos

Calm in Chaos

Everyday brings new opportunities to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ; He offers Himself to us.  It means to follow Him, even when the odds seem against us and the challenges are overwhelming.   We do well when we remember that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.  We gain confidence when we let God’s Word remind us that if God is for us who can be against us.  Our job is to glorify God by walking in obedience to Him, no matter what happens in life, because our life of faith is not built on life circumstance, but on Jesus Christ.

 

 

The Lego Jar – A Brief North Pole Visit (3/1/14)

It has been a while since I have written one of these.   We moved to Wisconsin the end of December, which gave us many things to do in a very short time.  Moving is a stressful endeavor.   Moving in the middle of a school year is difficult.  Moving to Wisconsin in winter seems kind of crazy.  But since when have things made sense?

I grew up in Wisconsin, but 3 of my 4 kids were born on Cape Cod.  That means their idea of winter is snow that melts in two days.  That has made for some minor complaining and wondering about the deep freeze and the cold.  I have been asked on more than one occasion if we will ever see the grass.  The sunsets are beautiful though.

sun

 

 

We do have some snow.

snowmoun

The kids do amaze me with what they come up with.  My daughter told me one day that she wanted to cut my hair “all by herself” and then ran off to get a knife.  One of my boys came home with something that made us smile.  His dream is that everyone would read the Bible. How can you not smile?

dream

 

The kids have been making new friends.  Last Sunday after church we went out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  Somehow we managed to have a whole bunch of young kids with pool sticks running around.  Well, actually, they were attempting to play the game.  I just stayed out of the way.

pool

 

As I reflect on the last year, I am amazed at where we are today and especially God’s faithfulness to us.  For example, we moved from Cape Cod to Southwest Wisconsin in the winter and had no problems with weather.  In fact, the day we unloaded the truck was really warm.  It was the last warm day before some very cold weather.  I mean it feels a like we have turned the page on a different life.  I know that sounds weird, but things are much different here.  We are so grateful for how God lead and planted us here.

But for some of us, it will be nice when summer comes.