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We are all in this TOGETHER.


Over the almost eleven years that I have served as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church I have come to recognize more and more how it takes every person in the parish, doing his or her “job,” to make God’s ministry happen. Focusing on mobilizing the saints for ministry means that the length and depth and breadth of the Spirit’s work in the world is multiplied exponentially. Imagine it, if every person who is a part of the congregation gets out there and uses their particular gifts for the kingdom of God, we as a people of God, are making a collective difference in the world that the pastor alone cannot make. It was never meant to be “the pastor’s ministry”. . . it is the work of the people, the liturgy in the world, so to speak. This kind of grassroots, down to earth, communal thinking and being takes a complete shift away from our cultural norms which dictate autonomy and self-reliance and success that can be measured and reported.

So then, on to my main point which is that when a ministry happens, even if it is the brainchild of just one person, it takes many, many disciples to make it happen. One person has to be present to answer the phone while others are planning and executing the plans. (Answering the phone is a big deal because it rings ALL the time.) One person has to think through the details. Details are important, otherwise we waste precious time working through the kinks when we could be “doing.” Many people need to be praying for the soil to be fertile and open to the Spirit’s work as we venture onto paths unknown. Others have to pick up certain slack in the system to free up others to do what they do. We are all in this TOGETHER!

When a ministry happens, it is not just the visible people who are doing God’s work; mission is heavily dependent upon those behind the scenes doing what they do to make the path straight and smooth to accomplish the objective. Even if we aren’t particularly interested in one ministry (maybe it isn’t where our passion or gifts are) we still support that ministry in prayer and encouragement, recognizing that it is meeting a need in the community and it is Spirit-led. That is a vital part of all that we do: support and encouragement. 

Now, I know that you know all of this. It’s not rocket science. However, sometimes I think in the church that we fail to see the truth in all of this; the way that God works to use every single one of us working together, in tandem, side by side, to accomplish his holy will. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about the world that God loves and the people God loves. And we are so very blessed to get to be a part of it all every single day of our lives. 


We can never do this thing called mission alone. But together with Christ, we can do amazing and wonderful things. Let us put aside any spirit of competition and embrace the collective ministry that Christ has entrusted to us for the sake of the good news. 

Have a very blessed day!



In the Way


The Baptismal Font at St. John’s is in the way.  It stands right there in the middle of the aisle before the steps up into the chancel area.  Why do we put it right there—other places would work too.  In fact, several Sundays ago, as I was doing the children’s sermon, a little boy wasn’t paying attention.  He turned and ran his forehead right into the font almost knocking it and himself down.  Fortunately he wasn’t hurt (and neither was the font).

But it reminded me of two important facts.  First, having the font right there in the middle of the aisle is a nuisance.  It gets in the way.  Second, that is the point!  The baptismal font gets in our way because our Baptism is intended to get in the way of our life.  Bumping into the font every once in awhile helps to remind us to daily return to our baptism and walk wet.  In other words, every time we need to step around the font is a chance to remember that it helps us step around the dangers, temptations, and sinfulness that we encounter and commit each day.  The font in the middle reminds us that we are to live as people who have been washed, claimed, and named in its waters.  Our life in Christ is to be at the heart of our living.

When Deanna and I got married there was a similarly placed Baptismal font.  But, instead of being right in the front of the sanctuary, it was at the entrance; it was in the aisle between the back pews.  The reason for this is that Baptism is the entrance to the church.  In fact, many old European Cathedrals have a second building structure outside of the church proper where the baptismal font is—a Baptistery—for this same reason.  You couldn’t even enter the church unless you were baptized.  Anyway, back to our wedding day.  At the first note of the recessional anthem, Deanna and I—newly married and grinning from ear to ear—started walking back up that aisle arm in arm as husband and wife.  And it didn’t take us to long to be reminded that baptism still remains a crucial part of our identity.  We had to navigate around that font or risk the same error as that little boy several Sunday’s ago.  The font was ‘in the way’ just as it is always supposed to be.

Sometimes my faith gets in the way of the things I want to do and the things I don’t want to do.  As a follower of Jesus, I’m called to live my life in His shadow.  It means I can’t do whatever I want—I am in the constant process of discerning what He wants, trying to follow suit, and finding his grace and forgiveness when I continually fail.  But I keep trying.  This is why the font is in the middle.  That no matter how many times we fail, we return to this place to be reminded of His love and propelled forward in His love to do His will in obedience.


Seeking Closure


We all have a past. Sooner or later we all need to face it.

On Monday of this week, I went to Camp Calumet for a Dean’s Retreat.  Arriving at Camp early, I set out to find the scene of my sledding accident where I fractured a bone in my head on February 21, 2013 ( I have felt incredibly grateful since that day, both in the way others cared for me and that I have healed so well since it happened. What I didn’t know was how I would feel about my accident when I would walk back up the toboggan run: Awkward? Out of place? Angry? Sad? Remorseful? Regretful? Maybe I would feel a little of each of these things. I knew I would never know unless I went there. Whatever I would feel or think, I thought I would benefit from the closure. So I walked up the path alone to find my tree.

Back to My Tree

tree.broken.head.2It only took a couple of minutes to identify “my tree”. The day I crashed into it I remember looking straight at the tree, and a particular stain upon the side of it. While I was lying there, I studied it as if to take a mental picture. Even then I suppose I knew that if I could I would want to retrace my steps back to this spot, and here I was. I approached the tree closely. I looked at it, I reached out my hand and touched it. I paused for a moment and just stood there. I took a few pictures (of course). I attempted to recall the events of that winter’s day. For weeks afterward I remembered the crash in images as I fell asleep. But in that moment, touching the tree and remembering that day – all I saw were the faces of people who surrounded me like the great cloud of witnesses, and in my weakest moment gave me the courage and strength that I lacked on my own.

Swooped Up

During the next twenty-four hours at camp, I remembered one moment in particular. It wasn’t hitting the tree. It was lying in the hospital. Surrounded by Tammie and my cousins and the doctors, my head spinning from the events of what happened, the medication and the trauma. The chaplain walked into the room and introduced herself and she discovered who we were. Her statement was extraordinary, “you must be the one all the Lutherans keep calling about.” I knew in that moment of frailty and great anxiety that somehow, no matter what happened things were going to be ok. It was if, as a colleague reminded me in a conversation the next day, “God had swooped me up in a big warm embrace.” She was right. That was how it felt when I broke my head. thought I might feel standing there. Instead the image I saw was an open future, no longer defined by a broken head. Instead I saw a whole new life to live. In the end it is only a tree. It can go on growing right where it stands.

Facing our Past

We all have a past. We all have to face it. Maybe yours isn’t filled by an accident. Maybe it is. Maybe it is littered with guilt about past decisions. Maybe it is filled with choices not made. Maybe it is haunted by things others have done that impacted your trajectory. Maybe yours collided with an immovable object that left you lying helpless on the ground. Whatever it is, how do you feel about it? Awkward? Out of place? Angry? Sad? Remorseful? Regretful? Maybe you feel a little of each of these things. Whatever you feel or think about it, don’t run away. Turn around and face it. You may feel like you need to face it alone. But we’re never alone. That’s the point of what faith is all about. In Christ we face our past together, and whatever else seeks to define us is washed away. In the end we have a whole new life to lead. In the end it is only a tree.

Into the Future

tree.broken.head.1I walked back to the Conference Center and met my colleagues and friends. We had wonderful conversations about where the church was now and the future to which we are called. I felt privileged to be part of it. I was grateful for my colleagues and friends and the community into which I am grounded, a community that stands rooted in the promises of God – as we face the truth of who we are, to receive the promise of who we are called to be. We face our past not only alone but together. By this act of truth-telling; confession; repentance; we reach out and touch the thing that has kept us in the past until now. We seek also the closure; forgiveness; and warm embrace of God who calls into a future where our past no longer defines us. In Christ; his cross; his death; his resurrection we have that open future, and a community of other renewed people claimed not by a tree, but by the closure of the one who makes all things new.

Face your tree. Receive the promise: In Christ you are made free. It is only a tree. Embrace this closure: Walk forward in the newness of life in Christ.



“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

What is Confession? Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive the absolution, that is forgiveness, from the pastor as from God himself and by no means doubt but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven. (Martin Luther, “Small Catechism, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005], pp. 1165.)


Originally Posted May 15, 2013.

Eyes Wide Open


When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

“The eye is also the mother of intimacy, bringing everything close to us. When you really gaze at something, you bring it inside you. One could write a beautiful spirituality on the holiness of the gaze. . . When you really look deeply at something, it becomes a part of you.” Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue




One of the most amazing things about Jesus that I have often reflected on is the way that he SAW people. Really saw them, in all of their pain, misunderstanding, beauty, and humanness. And when he saw them, something happened to them: they were healed. Whatever ailed them was changed for the better. Like the woman at the well (John4) who it seemed had never been truly seen by anyone, knew without a doubt that she was seen by Jesus. And it changed her life, she felt the gaze of God and she was transformed. As children of God, our loving gaze can also transform. When we see, really see, things change for the better.

But how often to do we go through life and fail to see, really see what is right in front of us? Do we see one another or are we so busy that we even though we look, our eyes do not take in the beauty that is all around us? Ask yourself as you get ready to go to sleep tonight, “What did I see today?” Did you really see the faces of your loved ones? Did you look into their eyes and see that they were truly present with you, even for a moment? What color were those eyes that you love so much (the iris changes slightly based on mood, health, vitality)?  How do we know if someone needs our service if we fail to see them?

Our eyes take in so much information in the course of a day that it can be overwhelming just to think about: 20-60 frames per second they say (as if life came in frames, but you get the idea). As O’Donohue says, once we “see” something it becomes a part of us and he is not talking about a cursory glance. I think what he means is to dwell on it, study it, memorize it so you can call it up in your mind later, like the faces of my children that I have studied for many years by now- first as I nursed them, then as I rocked them to sleep, now as they dart around living their own busy lives, their faces are the most precious things to me. They are a part of me forever. Through them I am connected to the God who made them.

I also adore flowers, not flowers from the flower shop, but flowers that grow alongside the road, flowers that pop up in my yard, flowers that are actually weeds to other people. So I look for them and try to absorb the color of them into my heart and mind, and that connects me to the Creator of the universe.

As I walk daily I am always looking for interesting patterns and shapes in nature. The above picture is one I took of a decaying log. Just look at the patterns of the wood on it, isn’t it magnificent? God puts so many beautiful things in our path each day. . .but our eyes have to be wide open to even see them.

What have you seen today? Share your visual and spiritual joys right here.


Hitting the wall…


Last Monday evening, Nana and Papa got to mind Baby Caroline while her Daddy and Mommy went out for dinner. How wonderful! We had been enjoying each other’s company all day…a long-awaited family vacation that included pool time and play time and beach time…great fun with one another and so much the sweeter since we don’t get to see each other very often.

It had also been (for Baby Caroline, at least) a rather exhausting day. We got about two-thirds of the way through dinner when suddenly her world fell apart. There were tears…many, many tears…and great sobbing.  Neither food nor bottle nor a fresh diaper nor a prayer nor a song was able to stem the tide. She was simply worn out…had hit the wall. Nana (who is much better at these things than I) soothed her to the extent that she could be soothed, and then laid her in her bed. And in about two minutes, she was sound asleep…resting in that deep and confident way that babies seem to possess.

Babies (at least babies like Caroline) are so lucky. When they are done…when they have just had it with the world…they can cry. And someone who loves them will pick them up, hold them close, calm their fears and tuck them in. It doesn’t matter where they fall apart. It might just as easily in the middle of Wal-mart as at the dinner table. The Mommies and Daddies and Nanas and Papas of the world understand. And they will scoop them up and hold them close and dry their tears.

Have you ever wanted to just sit at your desk and cry? Or stand at your place along the assembly line and weep? Has the world finally just overwhelmed you (or nearly overwhelmed you) in the middle of dinner…or at a meeting with the boss…or during the break between classes? And when you hit the wall, who is there to pat your cheeks and sing you a song and hold you close?

Most grown-ups, it seems to me, have become pretty adept at hiding what’s really going on inside. And…you might argue…as well they should. It’s probably inappropriate to fall apart every time somebody gives you the stink-eye. And yet, we need to recognize that, just like our little ones, we too have limits. At the end of the day, we too need strong arms in which to rest.

Psalm 130 is one of my favorites precisely for this reason. The psalmist cries out as if from the grave…already feeling alone and separated from the One who saves…and yet acknowledging that “with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.”

Later in the Bible we see this born out in Christ Jesus who cries out on the cross, convinced that he has been forsaken. But the “One who saves” raises him to new life. I’m sensing a powerful word of hope here for you and me, too. When we have hit the wall…when we are worn out by the world and our own brokenness…when we have just simply had enough, still we are not alone. God…like a good Nana…embraces us, comforts us, soothes and calms and (yes) changes us, so that we might be refreshed for wherever life’s journey leads us next.




Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.





This past Saturday I realized something incredibly important. I already knew it but I was reminded in an “in your face” kinda way. I realized that I was absolutely STARVING for God. You would think that one who is a pastor would never starve for God, wouldn’t you? Not so. I’m not the only one who is serving a parish who is starving for the divine presence. And that my friends is a very dangerous thing.

Hungry is an interesting thing. We have these nerve cells in our stomachs called proprioreceptors that tell us when we are hungry or full. That signals to our brain to go find something to eat as our blood sugar drops and our hands begin to shake or we get a raging headache. Feed me! Feed me, our bodies say to us. So dutifully obeying our bodies we wander to the kitchen and peer into the fridge, grab a sandwich or a piece of fruit and are satisfied. Not so with our hunger for God, unless we are paying attention to the spiritual proprioreceptors that God programmed into us at our conception.

You are the salt of the earth. But what happens when salt has lost its saltiness? It is useless, it cannot do what it is meant to do: season, flavor, preserve, stabilize. Might as well throw it out if it’s no longer salty because frankly it is simply disgusting. It’s the same with the Christian walk with Christ. When you and I get so busy, filling our days with more and more stuff to do, running hither and yon attending to everyone else and forget to pay attention to our most significant relationship, we lose our saltiness. We lose our first love. We forget who is our top priority. . . and then we starve— to DEATH. Spiritual DEATH.

Now I know there are people in my parish who say to me quite frequently, “Go home. Take a day off. Take care of yourself. Slow down. Rest. We don’t want to see you tomorrow.” All said in love. And I try, I really do. But I haven’t tried hard enough. Friends, we have to take care of ourselves first. This is not selfish, this is essential. If we lose our saltiness (our love of Christ, our connection to God, the renewal of our spirit) the we are good for nothing, nada, nil, vilch, zip. . . get the idea?

It may just be sodium chloride to you, but it is essential for life according to Christ. (And when you think about the metaphor, salt is actually essential to life. We can’t live without it.) I owe my parish a huge, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry I haven’t been taking care of myself. I’m sorry my bible has been on a shelf. I’m sorry I have neglected to pray. I owe you more than that! I’m sorry for the shallow messages. I’m sorry for the triviality of my sermons. I owe you more than that! If I want you to live like salt of the earth, then I must first live like salt of the earth. Please forgive me, and bless me as I spend some much needed time with my Lord.



Holding Your Family Together


I realize that this blog has not been a place where we have typically advertised various books or materials.  But I feel compelled to share this information because it changed me.  In powerful ways, this work has changed me.

Dr. Rich Melheim, of Faith Inkubators, is celebrating the release of his book today.  Holding Your Family Together is a book that is really his life’s work.  It outlines the 5 step process of the Faith 5–which I have written about in this forum previously.  It is wonderfully written with profound insights, terrific word play, and humorous stories.  But mostly it will motivate you.

I’ve been doing the Faith5 in my family for about 4 years now.  And, in this time of sharing, reading, talking, praying, and blessing I have become closer to Jesus and closer to my family.  Melheim finally gives parents the nuts and bolts of how you do faith with your kids.  If you have kids–read this book!!  If you have grandkids–Read this book.  If you ever come in contact with kids–Read this book.

Jesus captured my heart when I was young.  And my heart was captured again the moment I heard the cry of my first born son.  The teachings in this book have shown me how to do everything I can to help Jesus capture his–and all my kids–heart as well.  I’m a better husband; a better father; a better son; and, I’d contend, a better pastor–all because I have put into practice the teachings that are laid forth in this book.

If you are going to read one book today, open up your Bible!  But, if you are going to open up two–make it this one!


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