Uncategorized

A Day at the Beach

Winter in Minnesota can be feel long.   It actually is the same time as anywhere else. It certainly is not as boring as those warm places.  But we needed to do something different, so we went to the beach.

img_0631

It looked a little different than it does in the summer.  We managed to only fall a few times on the ice. There were no injuries.  We then went for a hike.  I noticed that my son was still in his pajamas. Well, at least he had a jacket on.  For whatever reason they do not want to wear jackets anymore.  Perhaps a resolution for the new year.

img_0634

The trail is just as icy as the lake.  But it was a brisk walk (literally)

img_0635

We did see some deer.  Actually there were like 10 of them here.  They didn’t seem at all threatened by us.  We had lulled them to sleep with our calm.  (we were in the pick up)

img_0637

So for those that wonder how we manage to survive here.  I would say, we do more than survive.  We even go to the beach in February!

 

Advertisements

The Most Important Thing Now

To the untrained eye it might look like dad is being kind and letting his daughter win.  If that is what you are seeing, then look a little closer.  Actually what you are seeing is dad lose back-to-back games of Candy Land.  The game is all about how the cards are stacked. (or in our case pile up since they are so bent) But, yes, I get it.  There is no real skill involved in this game. But is it possible that my 5-year-old daughter actually has skill in this?   There is another game she likes to play called Spot It.  You spot things on cards and then you get that card.  She will win those too.  I think I am easily distracted or just too slow.

img_0627The other morning she got out Chutes and Ladders.  I was making breakfast, so I couldn’t play.  That didn’t matter to her.  She just grabbed her toy dog, Max, and played with him.  She would move him over to the board, spin for him, and then taunt him when he was not winning.  Where does she come up with this stuff?  I am fairly certain I would have lost that game also.

img_0629Kids have a way of slowing life down a bit.  They want to stop and look at the caterpillar on the road.  They want to slow down so we can look at the deer.  They don’t have the same pressures on their time that we do.   “Hey, dad, do you want to play Candy Land?” is a hard thing to turn down. And do you know what that does?  It allows me to enter her world for just a little bit.  The truth is I have things I need to get done.  But what is the most important thing right now?  I think I need to lose another game of Candy Land.

If you are alive today, you have opportunities to enjoy life.   What is the most important thing right now?  It might not be what you think it is.

 

Forgiveness: A Journey of Healing

Sunset

Forgiving is a journey of healing

If I had to choose one area of life that is the most difficult to do as a follower of Jesus Christ, I would have to pick forgiveness.  I know it doesn’t make sense when you look at it in light of the cross and the forgiveness Jesus has provided for us.  But words hurt.  Personal attacks stay with us.  People who are friends betray us and we are left wondering what we are to do with the broken pieces.  It is tough, raw, and never as easy as it seems it should be.  Deep down in us we want justice.  We want to feel like God has taken care of the problem. (in other people of course, not in us)

I have struggled with this and God has been gracious to give me insights from His Word on this.  What does it look like to forgive someone?  What does it feel like?  And how do you know it is actually done?

Joseph was just another one of Jacob’s sons.  Yet, God had given Joseph a special ability and that really irritated his brothers.  I mean, he sort of rubbed it in, but that is just what siblings do.  So we see them come up with this plan in Genesis 37 to kill him and throw him into a cistern.  Yikes!  My brother annoyed me, but I never planned to do that.  Thankfully Reuben had a little more sense than that and he talked them into just throwing them into the cistern and leaving him there.  So they throw him into the cistern and then they sit there and eat their lunch!  I mean, can you imagine what kind of strange scene that might have been. How do you enjoy your sandwich when your brother is down in a hole yelling for help?  They then end up selling their brother as a slave to Egypt and then telling their father that he is dead.  That is not nice.  Don’t do that!

Fast forward now and Joseph has been given a position of power in Egypt.  He actually ends up being in a position to inflict harm on his brothers who have come looking for food in a  terrible famine.  It was his chance to get revenge.  But what does he do?  In Genesis 45 we see a broken man loving his brothers despite the abuse.  Yes, the same ones who had hurt him so deeply!  What does this tell us about forgiveness?

Forgiving Does Not Mean Forgetting

Genesis 45:2 says that Joseph wept so loudly in this moment that everyone heard him.  This was the heart of a man who saw his brothers, loved his brothers, but felt the pain of what had taken place.  It hurt him deeply.  And yet he decided that he was not going to hurt them.

The other people involved are in pain also

Let’s be honest.  Just because I said that mean thing or did that in anger, it does not mean I am free and clear of the pain.  The pain is shared.  It doesn’t matter who you are, if you have been on the side of the offender, you have been hurt by it also.  I have no doubt in my mind that at some point his brothers kind of said to each other “hey, you know I kind of feel bad about that.”  We have all been there.  So when Joseph starts weeping  it makes these guys panic.  What is he going to do?  Will he hurt us? No.  He has no intention to.  In a true moment of God’s grace here recorded in scripture, they embrace each other, allowing the pain to be released.  And then it says they talked.  What a picture of forgiveness and the grace of God!

Joseph was able to recognize God’s hand in the pain

He said that despite what they had hoped to accomplish in seeing him sold off, God had accomplished his good purposes.  His pain was used to save lives, ironically even their lives.  That is really hard to see in the moment, but what a beautiful mess it really is when we get that.

Let the past remain in the past

After he sends them back to get their father he gives them instructions.  Do not fight on the way back.  I love that because I know I would probably want to have a conversation about who was more at fault in the whole thing.  It is never my idea, is it?  But Joseph is telling them to forget about all of that and just go get dad.  Do not go back in the past.  Let’s move ahead.

This all reminds us of Jesus Christ

This makes us look to Jesus Christ again because he was rejected, sold off and beaten.  He was betrayed in the most cruel ways.  We rebelled and put him on that cross.  Yet, he is willing to forgive us which saves us from our own mess. What a wonderful Savior!   He is willing to send out sins far away and restore our relationship with God.

Oh, God, help us all to be just as kind to other people who wrong us.  It hurts us for sure, but Jesus Christ is able to help us in it. If you are struggling to forgive, look to Jesus Christ.  It is not easy at all, but He understands fully and is able to help.

 

The Difference It Makes

I spent some time vacuuming up the pine needles from our Christmas tree this morning.  The tree had held up quite nicely, but it was time to show it the door.

img_0584

The door just wouldn’t open.

Naturally the door I wanted to show it to was frozen shut.  I guess the below zero temperatures and the snow up against it actually froze it shut.   Well, that was awkward.  That’s okay, I have other doors.  The only problem was that pulling this tree out of this other door, involved tree sap and pine needles all over the place.   They got everywhere, including in my clothing.  (enough said)

 

As I was deciding what to do to clean it up, I asked and answered a question that I answer many times each day:  What difference does it make?

We all want to make a difference.  It wasn’t very long into my attempt at cleaning that I realized the vacuum was not actually picking the needles up.  That immediately made me reevaluate what I was doing.  I do not want to waste my time running this machine over the carpet only to have the same little prickly things in the carpet when I was done.

I have thought about this a lot as it relates to ministry, parenting, marriage,friendship and my time in EMS.  Everything I do comes out of that desire to make a difference.  I hope that my ministry matters in someone’s life.  I pray that the way I raise my children impacts them positively for their entire life.  I hope that my marriage is making a difference in our lives.  I trust that when I go to help some stranger who calls for help that what I do helps them.  Nobody wants to waste their time.

But can you actually measure all of that?  I mean, who is to say that even if I can’t answer  that question, that a difference isn’t being made?  I have been on many EMS calls where the only help I provide is someone to talk with.

img_0512

“Being with cows makes me happy!”

Did that make a difference?   I have  had many parenting moments when I have wondered if anything I was doing was even making a difference.  And yet, my kids surprise me at times with the way they reciprocate affection to me.  One of my sons loves farming so much that just spending time with the cows makes him happy.  The other kids don’t care that much.  To him it makes a difference.  In my over 10 years of ministry, I have preached sermons that have connected and some that have been somewhat flat.  And yet, God takes those efforts and uses them for His purposes.

 

One day I decided to send a card to someone who I had not talked to in a long time.  I had no idea why they came to mind that day.  I sent it off and thought nothing of it.  What difference would my simple note of encouragement be to them?  Would they even read it?  A few weeks later I received a response.  They said that they had received my note at a dark moment, on a day when they needed to know that God was there.  I had no idea, but it made a difference.

I guess this is a challenge for all of us to live a little more free.  Free to love.  Free to give.  Free to be so full of life that you are willing to do things for people even if it makes no obvious difference to you.  Why?  Because it makes a difference to them.

Goal: Be a Worshiper of God

IMG_20130210_111705

Set your gaze on the Lord in 2016

Since I started this blog, many things have changed.  My kids are continuing to grow up- despite my efforts to slow them down.  I started writing this when my daughter was just a newborn baby.  She is now 4 years old.  In that time, I have moved from Cape Cod to Wisconsin and then to Minnesota.  I have learned a few life lessons and I have gained new skills.  I am a pastor, yes, but I have developed a wider ministry.  I have also become an EMT , which has opened up opportunities all over the place.  Why do I share all of this?

I want to provide some context for the things that are now on my heart.  I care a lot about the local church and what it does.  I have read many things about the health of churches, making disciples, and strategies that have worked all over the place.  I believe in the church (obviously) and still think that it is the primary means by which the message of Jesus Christ is shared with the world.  I also care about the message of the Word of God, which is still relevant and real today.  I care about people and the complicated issues that so many are facing.  But the more I think about all of that, the more I realize that what drives it all is a desire to live with a proper view of God.  I want to be a better worshiper of God.  Being a worshiper of God is a full-time, life-changing, decision-making, Jesus-honoring pursuit.  It means that all of who I am somehow exalts God.  This involves some inward looking because there are plenty of things that will distract any of us from this. But  doesn’t it seem like worship of God is really what is lacking today?  Why so many issues in the church?  Why so many issues with people deciding for themselves what truth is and what it isn’t?  It is because we are not worshiping God well.

I have started a series in the church to start the new year focused on worship.  I believe it is so foundational to who we are as believers.  We must get it right!   I wonder what would happen if we really were worshipers of God.  What if our lives reflected a sense of awe?  Would it change our relationships?  Would it change our attitudes?  Would it change our communities?  Would it make us appealing to those who are searching for answers?  One thing I do know is that inwardness increases as worship of God decreases.  It is at times when I lose sight of God that I start to look at me and then the complaining starts.  God why don’t you do this for me?  God why is my life so difficult?  God why do I need to reach out to that person when they don’t even care about me?  A worshiper approach would be “God you are….good…faithful…loving…kind..forgiving.”  Starting prayers with God you are, I believe, is one way to help get us in that right mindset.

So a goal this year for me:  Be a better worshiper of God. So I wonder:  What are you doing to keep God center this new year?   How do you keep your heart close to God? Do you think there is more to it than what I suggest here?   May the worship of God increase in our hearts, homes, and churches this year!

Tree hugging?

Here’s my son hugging a tree with a new friend.

image

The Lego Jar (8/3/13) – Wedding Tour Week 1

This week I am in Wisconsin for my brother’s wedding. There are two interesting things to share here this week.

First of all, leave it to my son to walk in the mud and get stuck. He was wearing his flip flops, so that is good. But, he did have to retrieve it. This was at the wedding site, but before rehearsal.

image

The other thing is a conversation between my son and his cousin. They were talking about God and sin. My son described sin and the way it kills. I was impressed because he just went for it without my input. Kids can share the Gospel.

Well, I will share more on that later. For now, have a great weekend!