Monday, September 17, 2012

As part of my normal sermon prep I was reading the Bishop's comments and Don Carlson posted this link.  It was labeled Five Hard Truths That Will Set You Free .  Wow  Monsignor Charles Pope has a good point.  I thought I would share this inspiration.  Peace

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nancy Allen and her family have gracious opened their house to host a new small group that will be focusing on Faith in the Home.  The book that she plans on studying is Home Grown Faith by David and Kathy Lynn.  I downloaded the book to my e-tablet and was very impressed with the Foreward.  I want to share that part of the book with you.  
The Foreward is written by Dr. Jim Burns.

"All reputable studies tell us that the single most important social influence on the spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents. Of course, there are other great mentors like grandparents, youth workers, and peers, but parents have the greatest lasting impact on the spiritual lives of their kids. Dave and Kathy Lynn understand this fact as well as anyone in the world, and HomeGrown Faith is the best-researched and most practical book I have ever read on this subject. A phrase I often repeat to church leaders is this: One of the major responsibilities of the church is to mentor parents; parents then mentor their children; and the legacy of faith continues to the next generation. Frankly, there is no greater biblical calling than for parents to be intentional about energizing their family’s spiritual lives. The Bible is very clear that our job is to pass our faith from generation to generation. At HomeWord (where I work), we have a Web site that receives several million visitors each year. We ask visitors to check the top three parenting issues that interest them most, ranking what they desire for their family from their most important values to their least important values. Every month, the number one issue of interest to parents is that of passing on your faith. Not only is this a biblical mandate, it’s our calling. At the same time, you may be like my wife and I and find yourself saying, “I don’t feel qualified to help my children grow spiritually.” As Dave and Kathy write in this book, “The only qualification is a willing heart.” I don’t know about you, but that is very refreshing to me. Now, since you are reading this foreword, I would imagine you have a very willing heart with a desire to see an eternal spiritual legacy happen for your family. Many of us have the desire, but we need the blueprint for a solid Home-Grown Faith. With the Scripture as their guide, Dave and Kathy have done just that— given us a blueprint. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to build a home without following a blueprint. Yet many people allow their family to grow spiritually by circumstance and chance. As you read this outstandingly well-researched and practical book, you will be reminded over and over again that parents do matter to their kids! Parents matter when it comes to important issues, faith, school, drug and alcohol use, and a host of other life-transforming issues. Your influence and impact make an eternal difference. You can offer blessings or curses to your kids. Both will often make a lifelong, lasting impression. This book will teach you how to offer blessings. My suggestion is to use this book in several ways. Read HomeGrown Faith. It’s practical, it’s biblical, it’s challenging, and it will give you a blueprint to build a legacy of faith for your family. But don’t just read the book. After each chapter, there are stimulating questions for reflection and for dialogue. You can talk with your spouse (if you are married), and I would suggest that you discuss the group questions with a small group from your church or neighborhood. My wife Cathy and I were in a couples’ small group for several years during some formative years in the lives of our three daughters. In many ways, the entire group helped us to raise our kids. I strongly encourage you to use this book in a group format. Finally, don’t forget to use some of the “fifty nifty” ideas with your own family. David Lynn is one of the finest youth ministry experiential education experts in getting kids to talk about important subjects. Youth workers have used his material successfully for years. The ideas (beginning on Page 81) are practical, fun, easy-to-do, and inspiring. So get your kids talking about spiritual issues by using some of these great ideas in the book. Here’s a little test.What is the most often quoted scripture in the Bible? John 3:16? Psalm 23? No. It’s Deuteronomy 6:4-9. In Hebrew, it’s called the Shema. It is the holy strategy of the Hebrew people, and in every orthodox Jewish home today, it is quoted most every morning and evening. The Shema is recited at important feasts and holidays. When Jesus was asked,“What is the most important commandment?”, He immediately quoted part of Deuteronomy 6. In fact, these words might have been some of the first Scripture that was ever taught to Jesus.Here’s what it says: Listen, Israel! The LORD our God is the only true God! So love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning.Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates (De 6:4-9). That is our calling as parents. Church leaders are called to come alongside parents in our congregations and to follow the words of the Shema. HomeGrown Faith will help you follow the blueprint in that calling.

Lynn, David (2006-05-10). Home Grown Faith (Kindle Locations 86-97). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition."

I encourage you to call Nancy Allen and let her know you are going to be there Sept 9.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I am reading a good book titled, "If You Want To Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of The Boat".  Chapter 6 is about fear and the end of chapter questions are as follows:

  1. On the "Fear Management Scale" of 1-10, where would you rate yourself between 1 ("I'm often paralyzed by fear") and 10 ("I almost never let fear stop me")
  2. What lessons did you learn about fear as you were growing up?  Was your family more fearless or fearful?
  3. What is your greatest fear?
  4. Which of the "high costs of fear" do you feel most keenly these days?
  5. What is one step you can take today to "feel the fear and do it anyway"?
Good questions to think about even if you didn't read Chapter 6.  What do you Fear today?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I have mentioned several times that the church wants to help parents and grandparents form the faith of their children.  Our church website, , has a tab called faith formation.  There is a link to a ministry called "Vibrant Faith@Home.  It is a free ministry site, but you do have to register with your email address.  They have a blog that I recommend to the parents of St. John.  Read it and use it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Giver, Giver, Giver

Occasionally God places words in my way and they have such meaning.  In the midst of the Sundays of Bread,  I stumble across the Prayers of Walter Brueggemann.   I open the book at random and read the first prayer and every time it is meaningful and timely.  Here are his words:
Giver, Giver, Giver
Creator, giver of goodness, creator of all that is…..
                                                          dayenu….loaves abound!
Redeemer, giver of new creation…
Spirit, multiplier of loaves…
We are children of your bounty,
          daughters and sons of privilege…
We live midst ample food, ample clothes,
          ample housing, ample cars, ample stereos,
          ample friends, ample security….
We have ample and count on it,
          reckoning our luxuries to be necessities…
And we are grateful….
In our gratitude,
          we notice the war refugees in Kosovo…
          we notice the war on poverty,
                   even with our government surpluses
          we notice our ample housing
                   along with 20,000 in Atlanta on the streets…
          we notice how you grace our church
                   midst our fear and rage and cunning…
          we wonder about our grades
                   and our worth and our honor…
          we ask about inheriting eternal life…
          and turn away with our great possessions…
Giver, Giver, Giver who overrides fear in utterance…
                   who overrides scarcity in abundance…
                   who overrides parsimony in generosity…
                   we are among the 5,000…
                   we are dazzled by twelve baskets left…
Our gratitude does not match your generosity,,
          but we are grateful…
For all your gifts including the gift of your very own life to us,
we give you thanks…Amen.  And all the people said…

                                       Prayers of Walter Brueggemann,  October 20, 1998

May these words speak to you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When I was an Associate Pastor in Austin I had the opportunity to Interview for the position of pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in San Juan, TX.  I was excited because this was the church where I was baptized and confirmed.  I was an Army brat but my family returned to St. John for these milestones of my faith.  St. John was as close to a home congregation I had, so I saw this possible position as a chance to go home.  But, I was married now and Elida was mortified when she looked at a map, San Juan is in the Rio Grande Valley. Still, paperwork was exchanged and an interview was setup. The interview with the Call Committee went off without a hitch, everything was going just fine.  We started touring the property and I asked if the parsonage was still in back.  They were a little surprised that I knew about the parsonage, since it hadn’t been used in 10 years.  Then Mr. Lozano had an epiphany. He asked, “You are Juanita’s son?”  I said yes my mom is San Juanita Lopez and added that Mr. Lozano helped teach me in Confirmation.  In that one exchange I went from Pastor Lopez, a viable candidate for Pastor to Janey’s boy Petey, the rambunctious Eighth grader who jumped off the roof of the fellowship hall. I was sunk. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house."
This experience did not stop my ministry, in fact, it help me realize that I still had a lot of work to do at Triumphant Love Lutheran Church.  
Jesus’ lack of acceptance and inability to do things slowed him down a bit, but it did not stop him.  In fact, he started training his disciples on how to do evangelism.  He starts teaching Evangelism 101.
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. In today’s language it means Step one: Assemble a group of like minded people had give them a mission, a task and give them the authority to do it for your church.  He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.  Step two: Don’t take things that will distract you from the work you are doing, no ipods, no phones."Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.”  Step three: Don’t browse for the best looking house, don’t go with predetermined conceptions, everybody deserves to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”  Step four: Don’t take it personally when you are not welcomed by a household, say a prayer for them and go on to the next house.
I would like to add a little more to what Jesus advises us when it comes to knocking on the spiritual doors of the unchurched. Take it from  an old door to door salesman; it takes 20 “no’s” before you get one yes and there is no way around the no’s.  You move on because it’s not about you, it’s about letting people know about the product.  
Many of you know that Elida and I love movies, but we love TV too. A tiny excerpt from a scene from the series M*A*S*H comes to mind when thinking about Evangelism. I say “tiny excerpt” because the episode really isn’t about Evangelism, but the dialogue used in this scene is perfect for our purpose this morning. The character Hawkeye and Margaret are leaning over a gravely ill patient when the decision is made to go back to surgery and Margaret says that she’ll wake people up to give blood.  Hawkeye turns to Margaret and said something like “wake them gently, Margaret, a simple tap on the soul will suffice..”
That is how it is for us this morning.  We don’t need to literally walk a neighborhood and knock on doors; if you don’t want. I mean, I don’t want to discourage someone from doing just that; if that’s what they like to do.  Go to town. Knock away.  But if knocking on doors isn’t your speed, then tap on a soul. Jesus never wanted his disciples to force people to join, Jesus did not want his disciples to coerce people to join with empty promises.  Jesus wanted the disciples to minister to those who were receptive, those who were ready to hear, those who needed to hear the Good News.
Tap on a soul by doing a loving act in the grocery store checkout line; chat them up while you’re waiting. If they appear to enjoy the chat, tell them where St. John is and invite them. That’s it. They go on their way and you go on with yours. The chat may seem small but remember, all you have to do is plant a seed. You may not be there for the harvest, but it’s not about you anyway. It’s about sharing the Way of Life in Jesus Christ. Opportunities are all around us.  
Then again, that person in line may be having a bad day, bad month, bad year and is in no mood for conversation.  They may even snarl something back when you talk to them.  It will hurt your feelings, but you’ll survive, you have Jesus who heals your heart. Love and forgive others as we ourselves want to be loved and forgiven. After the surly person turns back around to face the front, say a prayer for them, turn to the person Behind you and start talking again.
  • The Good News is that Jesus is more than a product to sell; he is a way of life, and that’s definitely something worth sharing with every door you approach. We share the story of life with Jesus because Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations; he out and out TOLD us to do it. That’s good enough for us. But we also share the story of Jesus because of the impact he has had our on our own lives. Remember that when we opened our hearts to Jesus, he gave us the authority over unclean and unchurched spirits. Everybody here has the power because we have been blessed. We are loved unconditionally by Jesus Christ and he forgives us every sin. That is the authority of Jesus Christ. So let’s go out and wake them up gently with a simple tap on the soul; because people sinned long before we were born and will continue to do so after we are gone. But we have a chance now to share our story with the people that we encounter in everyday life.  And like the old hymn says:
  • I love to tell the story, ’tis pleasant to repeat,
  • What seems each time I tell it more wonderfully sweet;
  • I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
  • The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.
  • I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
  • Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest who want to hear our story, the old old story, of Jesus and his love.  AMEN
  • (Sunday Sermon 07/08/2012)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We are much drawn to circuses

We reckon bread and circuses is a good political routine.
We are much drawn to circuses,
          and we imagine that we own the bakery.
On our own we do not want to choose between guns and butter,
          so deliver us from all the guns,
          all the butter,
          all the circuses,
          all the bread that we bake.
Give us the leanness to understand and receive and celebrate
          the few nourishments for our common life
          that come from you
          that is all we need.
So override our anxieties about what we shall eat
          and what we shall drink
          and what we shall wear
          and where we shall live
          and what we will save
          and how we will spend
          and what we shall have
          that in intentional and visible and public ways
          we may live as befits your liberated partners.
We pray in the name of Jesus who,
          as far as we know,
          never went to the circus.

From Awed to Heaven Rooted in Earth, Prayers of Walter Brueggemann 

I read this prayer right after have a brief conversation about politics.  Nothing bad, but a general conversation about the dissatisfaction of the state of politics in general.  We the people have to become a little more responsible.  If a politician promises to cut taxes and increase service we need to be skeptical.  We have to remember that one person’s essential program is another person’s wasteful program.  A prime example is free breakfast and lunch for school kids.  At the other extreme is waiting periods for purchasing a gun.  We the people have to stand up and be counted.  Not in a radical or militant way, but quietly, with certitude, with confidence that the system does work. Don't let the radio, TV or internet tell you how the system is "supposed to" work.  Remember the US History Class you took in Jr. High and Elementary.  We have been taught how the system works.  Trust what you know.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trends in Ministry

As I was reading this Sunday's Gospel text, Mark 4:26-34, I had an unusual thought.  As I re-read, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." I own a lot of books that teach how to sow seed, how to prepare the ground for the seed. Of course I am speaking metaphorically about Church Growth. Every year there are more books, seminars, blogs, webinars and consultants than I can keep up with. I am part of a internet group that is for small rural congregations, they send a monthly magazine with helpful hints. In my years of ministry I have noticed that these events and resources seem to come and go in trends. If you listen you can catch the trend language. In 2003, when I arrived in the Synod the trend language was Transformational Ministry. In 2008, it was Re-Rooting in our communities and this language is still around. Today, the language is 21st Century and Faith Formation. Please note that I am not be critical of these movements, but note what the parable is saying:"The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." We scatter the seed on the ground. We are not preparing the field, we are not planting in straight rows or on raised beds. We are not even providing irrigation and the seed sprouts and grows. How the seeds grow is a mystery to the sower. But as soon as the harvest is ready, you take your sickle and you harvest. As a pastor, I sometimes take credit for things I didn't do. I have to be honest and know that Holy Spirit does so many things in our ministry.  We just don't know how those seeds sprout and grow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prayer for this day by Walter Brueggemann, titled "Your word"

Your word is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path.
Your word is a glue of the universe wherein the whole creation coheres.
Your word is the address of promise and command by which we live.
Your word has come fleshed among us full of grace and truth.
              We are creatures of your word and we give thanks for it. 
For all that we are more dazzled that your word
               is carried, uttered, acted
               by frail vulnerable human agents.
We ponder and give thanks for those who this day
              speak your word where it is desperately need 
                        and deeply resisted.
We ponder and give thanks for those who this day
               act your word for newness and peace and justice.
We ponder with trepidation that among us
               you will yet designate such carriers
                                                such speakers,
                                                such actors.
In our thanks for your word,
              we pray for courage in the name of the one
                       who emptied himself.   Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This is the Introduction for the Book of James from My Lutheran Study Bible.
Background File
The letter of James contains few details about authorship, dating, and recipients.  Tradition identifies the author as James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church until his martyrdom just prior to the Jewish war of 66-70 C.E..   Still, many scholars see this as the work of a later author who was dedicating the letter to a hero of the faith, a practice common in the ancient world.  They would place the writing as late as 130-140 C.E.. The letter’s address to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (1:1) is also unclear.  It probably refers to the early Christian community in its relation to the people of Israel
What’s the Story?
 As even Martin Luther noted, it is difficult to outline this brief letter’s 108 verses.  Its opening verses (1:2-27) introduce themes which are then revisited in the rest of the letter: joy, wisdom, creation, word, first fruits, faith, blessing, growth, endurance.  These themes give powerful encouragement for responsible Christiana
 Action amid the complex realities of daily life.  Christians are urged to conduct their lives according to the wisdom “from above,” from God who is the giver of “every perfect gift” (1:17).  Empowered by God’s “implanted word” (1:21), Christians are called to be not only “hearers” but “doers” (1:22), whose faith shows forth in specific acts of love that sustain the neighbor and community.  The remainder of the letter illustrates aspects of this practical “wisdom from above” (3:17): showing mercy rather than partiality (2:1-13); using speech to bless rather than harm the neighbor (3:1-12_; being humble before God and preventing conflicts and disputes (4:1-12); living by God’s mercy today rather than worrying about tomorrow (4:13-17); working for justice for the poor and needy (5:1-6); and, finally, praying constantly and confidently for healing, forgiveness, and life in community (5:7-20).
What’s the Message?
Martin Luther once characterized the letter of James as an “epistle of straw.”  As a result, Lutherans have not always appreciated the message of James.  What was the basis for Luther’s comment?  He believed that Jesus Christ and his cross and resurrection were the heart of the Scriptures.  For Luther, then, the two brief references to Jesus Christ (1;1; 2:1) in James and its lack of any reference to the death and resurrection didn’t offer enough of what was centrally Christian, when James is compared with other New Testament books
Many other Christian readers, however, have drawn comfort, strength, and power from the letter of James.  William E. Hulme tells how the letter of James “spoke” to him when the tragic death of his oldest daughter immobilized him spiritually and emotionally: “James does not present the techniques for effective change.  Rather, he affirms the power for change that is ours through the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (The Fire of Little Jim: Power for Growth from the Letter of James [Abingdon, 1978], pp. 9-13).  That “implanted word” (1:21) of God’s gift of wisdom affirms human freedom and the power to use God’s gifts to change those things that can and should be changed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost 2012

Today is Pentecost, sometime it is referred to as the Birthday of the church because the arrival or distribution of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of the church as we know it today.
The Holy Spirit is a touchy subject within the church.  It is the least understood part of the Holy Trinity and it is the most authoritatively talked about.  That’s my nice way of saying that people who know the least about the Holy Spirit are the loudest ones talking.
I grew up Lutheran because my Mom was Lutheran, but I belong to a family that was half Roman Catholic and half Assemblies of God.  My immediate family was and is the only Lutheran family. Still, my mother is a traditionalist and she believed that the husband was the head of the household and thus should direct the family faith life.  This meant that occasionally we visited the local Assemblies of God church where dad grew up and if he ever decided to take the lead as leader of the faith life, Mom felt we better be familiar with that church.  So as a child I was exposed to speaking in tongues, prophetic revivals, and being slain in the spirit.  I was  also exposed to some of the negatives.  Once as a 10 year old visitor to a Sunday School class, I made the mistake of raising my hand.  I identified myself as a visitor during the opening and apparently the adults who were there decided that I needed saving.  I was brought to the front of the room and surrounded by adult teachers who laid hands on my head and the started to pray the Holy Spirit into me. I started to cry. They announced to the assembly that my tears were a sign of the Holy Spirit being present.  Truthfully, the tears were a sign of my being scared to death of  the strange people grabbing my head and saying words that meant nothing to me.
Growing up Lutheran I understood that the Holy Spirit is part of the Holy Trinity, but some of the churches that I visited treated the Holy Spirit like it was a lesser part of God’s Creation.  Something that could be manipulated, something that could be controlled and exploited.  It seemed that the Holy Spirit could be accessed if you knew the right chant or right ritual or right prayers.  Even as a child I thought it was very close to making magic or magical incantations.  The Holy Spirit is not a magical being that can be subjugated by the pastor or priest or evangelist.  
The Gospel of John talks about the Advocate, When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.  I learned a lot in confirmation and I still am amazed about how all encompassing Luther’s response at the Third Article of the Creed.  The “What does this Mean?” section:  I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Does this explanation sound like the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to pray to him or ask him or find him? The Holy Spirit came once to the church and we have that account in Acts today.  Thankfully, there are many other descriptions and  accounts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
But today we reflect on the Holy Spirit’s presence in people from around the world.  We have it too. The reality is this: the spirit is alive and surrounds us now, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives.  The Advocate that Jesus talks about is referring to the Paraclete.  “Paraclete” means the one who walks next to me in court to speak for my benefit, to defend me against evil, to advocate on my behalf when I cannot.  The Holy Spirit is next to us, over us, under us, around us and in us.  Every day I see the spirit active in my life.  Do I fully understand it? Can I explain all in one sermon? No, but I am okay with it
Should we expect to be able to understand everything about God? No. After all, we're merely human beings. If we could understand everything about God, we would be God. Since we are not Gods, we simply cling to what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible...No more, no less.
We are just like the great writer St. Paul, who also realized he could not fully understand God. He said:Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?"  
We can't understand God. But we rest in the Advocate who Jesus sent to help us, guide us, educate us, empower us, and so much more.  Just like the kite image that I used in the children’s sermon.  The Holy Spirit is helping us move when we raise money for confirmation camp, when we walk to raise awareness and money to cure cancer.  The spirit is moving when we visit the sick, when we warmly greet the stranger in the pew or when we cry together in hard times.  The good that we do is with our Advocate at our side.  Thank God we are never alone.

Monday, May 7, 2012

While doing sermon prep I stumbled across the fact that it is Teacher Appreciation week.  I thought to the teachers who influenced me through the years.  Miss Salinger, Texas History, who taught me to think beyond the facts on the page.  To seek out story and tradition as well as facts.  Miss Curtis, my first grade teacher, who taught me how to be polite to other students.  Miss Skow, Computer Science/Typing, she saw potential in me and encouraged me to dream about computers even when all the school had was a key board attached to a dot-matrix printer and a phone coupler.  Dr. Beck, Theology, saw God's hand in my life.  He helped me see the direction God was calling to go.  And to all those other teachers whose names I cannot remember and yet their imprint is there.  The Math teacher who took a slow day and taught us that 1+1=3, if you allow division by zero.  He showed me that we create the rules by which we operate and sometimes it is fun to ignore rules, as long as everything goes back to normal when the bell rings.  This rant is partially inspired by a video poem that I linked to.  I share the link in hopes that you will be inspired.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This entry will be from another journal.  Dec.18, 2008      Quo Vadis?
This basic concept seems to be actively eluding me lately.  I know that it has been 5 months or more since I have commented on page.  Fear, gnaws at my gut and reminds me that the future is unsettled.  The reality is that God is in charge of the future.  I am a slow learner in that I trust totally, then the wind blows and like grass: I shake, shiver and bend to wind.  Then guilt tags in with fear and says that I should be standing tall, strong in faith.  But because I am weak and utterly dependent on God.  I fall.  Then Jesus Christ quietly takes my hand and whispers comforting words in my ear.  Then I am at Peace.  Until the next Breeze.  The Holy Spirit reminds me how blessed I am and I am strengthened and uplifted.  
I thank you, GOD, for my Elida.  She is my love and my angel sent by you.  Continue to teach me how to love her more.
The journey continues..................

Un Written Rules

There are some unwritten rules that follow a Pastor in Public.  One of them is that I cannot allow "anonymous" postings on the blog named "Pastor of St. John".  I am sorry to the person who posted under the name of "anonymous", you posted nothing wrong or offensive.  Your anonymity is the problem.  I hope you understand.
There are many other rules for Pastor's behavior that are just plain common sense.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I have to confess I am a failed journaler.  I have always envied people who have the discipline of journalling.  I have many journals that start strong and then about 20 pages in they stop.  I have no idea why.  Here is an entry from Jan18, 2006. This journal was called "Quo Vadis", "where are you going", this is in reference to a traditional story involving Peter.  When persecutions started in Rome, Peter fled on the way he encountered Jesus. Jesus asked Peter, "Quo Vadis".  Peter responds that he is fleeing the persecutions in Rome.  Jesus starts walking into Rome and Peter asks "Quo Vadis".  Jesus responds that someone needs to witness (martyr) to the Gospel, so he is going.  Peter then returns to Rome and to his martyrdom.  

The Entry Jan.18, 2006:  Proverbs 14:4 "Where there are no oxen, there is no grain: abundant crops come by the strength of the ox."  Where there is work, there is food.  My father once said to me; "Stay in School, because once you leave school you work until you die."  I am not sure that I agreed, but I did stay in school.  Pr. 14:4 is stating a truth that work is needed for grain.  One cannot live if someone does not work.  Education or lack there of determines is you are the ox or the one steering the ox.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I've been reading a book about Faith Formation 2020.  It is a book that leans heavily on the Sociology of why the church is in decline.  Lots of facts and figure, assumptions and suppositions.  I was blessed to attend a trip to Turkey. While we were visiting the Ancient Church site at Philadelphia, which is simply several large column bases and a rose garden.  The column bases were huge and hinted at the enormity of the building it once held up.  It was a mega-church in its day.  I lamented out loud; "I wonder why the church died."  Our Turkish guide, Muhsin or Moses, thought I was blaming the Ottomans (Islam).  He said that both religions lived side by side in peace.  The Christians focus on the big buildings and the Muslims took over feeding the widows, orphans and poor.  What he was saying is that the Christians lost site of their initial purpose.  Maybe we need to stop worrying about "Growing in Size" and go back to old school Christian discipleship, for the sake of the Gospel and not the budget.  The conference is beginning.  Peace

Friday, February 17, 2012

This is from Wikipedia "
Incense (from Latin incendere "to burn")[1] is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term incense refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification[2][3]aromatherapy[4]meditation, for creating a spiritual atmosphere, and for masking unpleasant odors. The use of incense may have originated in Ancient Egypt, where the (oleo) gum resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies.[5]"

I am practicing burning incense in the church. I am in my office with the leftover charcoal with a smidgen of incense grains still burning.  Thank God I have a ceiling fan to circulate the air or I would not be able to see the computer screen.  Here is a small quote from the ELCA website:
 Incense deepens our experience of the liturgy because it incorporates the sense of smell. The liturgy involves all of our senses, showing the significance of our bodies and all of God’s creation. The sweet swell of incense is a doorway to the holy in the same way that beautiful music, flowers, and stained glass can lead us to ponder the mystery of God’s presence. As “catholic Christians” we rejoice that we can incorporate the richness of Church’s tradition in many forms, and thus feel connected to the Church around the world and through the ages.

I guess I never thought of the sense of smell in worship.  Maybe I will continue to experiment.  Baby steps.  I plan to use incense during Ash Wednesday. Especially in morning when I am making my self available for Imposition of Ashes from 6am to 8am.  Why are Lutheran so "anti- Catholic" when it comes to incense.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I am reading the Book "Simple Church" and "Church Unique".  Church Unique is written by Will Mancini from Houston.  He is a Church Consultant, a very costly one.  I am on his mailing list.  I will paste an article from Auxano Insights email.  Read the post and see why am excited about these books.

Vision to Reality: The Real Challenge
It has been said that vision without action is a daydream, and that action without vision is a nightmare. I have never met a leader who wants to fly without the twin engine of leadership- vision and action. Yet we all have confronted the great dilemma of how these two relate. More specifically, leaders constantly wrestle with the question of how vision crystallizes into reality. What are the most important steps to translate a God-sized dream into meaningful progress within the church?
Several factors amplify the challenges that arise when defining how vision translates to reality. Let’s consider two. First is the diverse “wiring” and gifting of church leaders. Some are entrepreneurs who thrive on creating chaos in order to seize the next dream. Others are managers who create order to effectively “metabolize” steps toward the dream within the organization. Clearly, ministry progress requires both roles, positioning teamwork as a crucial aspect of the vision to reality equation.
A second consideration is the change tolerance of people within the organization. Some folks adopt early while others do so painstakingly late. Some are change junkies while others are status-quo addicts. In keeping with a digestive metaphor, some congregations have fast metabolisms while others resemble a bear in hibernation. Leaders often identify their church in nautical terms- is “turning the ship” in your church like driving a speedboat or ocean-liner?
As important as these two factors are, I believe they are just two aspects of a numbingly long list of leadership topics that call out for our attention. Book after book, and article after article, leaders reach for tools, ideas, and practices in order to beef-up their horsepower. But what if the very volume of resources and ideas out there is actually distracting leaders from the real challenge of translating vision to reality? What if in the clamor to put more tools in the toolbox, one has missed finding the keys to a better one?
This article is about those keys.
But before talking about the keys, let’s pause for a moment to consider why we need a set of keys. Great “solutioneers” know that studying a problem very, very, very well is the most important aspect of finding a solution. Einstein once said that if you gave him an hour to solve a problem, and his life depended on getting the right answer, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and figuring out what questions to ask. "For if I knew the proper questions," he said, "I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes."
So here are some of my questions: What if the real challenge of translating vision to reality is something inherently wrong with our current models for vision? What if strategic planning models and long-range planning teams spend countless hours developing a vision or a plan that by its very nature is “unrealizable?” What if we changed our paradigm or working definition of vision in a way that made it naturally and organically more likely to blossom? What if we could make vision so clear, that action was inevitable?
I believe the real challenge of translating vision to reality is the seven-letter word: clarity. By identifying this as the real challenge, I mean that it is both more fundamental and logically prior to other discussions. Similarly, drawing a blueprint is more fundamental and logically prior to buying two-by-fours when building a house. Let’s think about this seven-letter word a little more.
Our vernacular applies “clarity” in a jillion ways. We speak of clearing our throat, clearing the football field, and clearing the air. We shop on the clearance rack, hope to be legally clear of charge, receive security clearances, and clear the narrow bridge with our car. We long for clear days, clearer colors on our laptop, and clearer sound with noise - canceling headphones. Teenagers long for clear faces. What is clarity really about? A synthesis of definitions, brings clarity to the concept of clarity: it means being free from anything that obscures, blocks, pollutes, or darkens. Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact. The leader helps others see and understand reality better. Leaders constantly bring the most important things to light: current reality and future possibility, what God says about it and what we need to do about it. A leader’s clarity is the sun in the vision to action solar system.
We might say that clarity is the fuel that runs the twin engines of vision and action. Think about it for a minute—Aren’t communicating vision and taking action only as good as they are first, clear? Clarity is the golden thread that links the two. Let’s consider further the benefits of clarity.
Clarity Makes Direction Unquestionable
Followers cannot travel an unmarked path. The leader’s compass can’t be broken; the trumpet blast can’t be uncertain. Does your church have many missions, or just one? Does your ministry team exist for a purpose or not? If you can state it, don’t just tell me what it is; be so clear about it that the very articulation will generate a gravitational pull. To make the way definable and obvious, you must have clarity first.

Clarity Makes Enthusiasm TransferableWhen a leader leads, there is always an exchange of enthusiasm. Many times this comes with clarity — the moment when a follower gets it. The very experience of capturing a clear idea or mission makes people want to share it. But the ease of sharing it is directly proportional to clarity. When passion and a clear idea are wed, the passion can more easily spread. Cascading contagion requires clarity first. 
Clarity Makes Work Meaningful 
Tasks easily become routine — dull, hollow, and void of significance. The role of the leader is to make sure that brick - making churchgoers always see the great cathedral their bricks are ultimately building. Clarity can lift the mind’s eye to a greater reality. There can be no cultivation of meaning without clarity first.

Clarity Makes Synergy Possible
Collaboration is lost to sideways energy every day in the local church. Why? The three reasons I see most are mistrust, personal ego, and lack of strategic clarity. I have observed that lack of strategic clarity is the most prevalent of the three. Leaders rarely clarify what working together really looks like. Breaking ministry silos requires clarity first.

Clarity Makes Success Definable

Everyone wants to be a winner. But in too many churches, people don’t know how to win. What does scoring a touchdown together look like? Where is a scorecard I can carry that lets me know whether or not I am making a difference? Painting the picture of victory and unleashing people’s drive for achievement requires clarity first.

Clarity Makes Focus Sustainable
Henry Ford said that the great weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once. How does a leader or organization learn to say no to the good things that are the enemy to the best? Where will they get the best missional returns, given limited resources? They must have a conviction forged from clarity about what matters most. If the secret to concentration is elimination, you can’t do it without clarity first.

Clarity Makes Leadership Credible
The silver bullet syndrome has left many leaders impotent. Firing one disconnected idea after the next, year after year, leaves church members cautious at best and disillusioned at worst. Real visionary leadership is not about just having a bunch of creative ideas; it is about having creativity within a clarity that builds momentum over time. From this clarity the consistency and passion of a leader is more credible because followers are able
to internalize what matters most in the church. Leaders earn more confidence with clarity first.

Clarity Makes Uniqueness Undeniable
Many church leaders get stuck photocopying vision form other churches. But the leader’s role requires stewarding what God has uniquely given, and being in tune with what God is uniquely doing. The first step for a leader is to draw attention to this uniqueness, to make it obvious, make it attractive, and show how remarkable it is. Only then can the leader leverage the uniqueness and play to the collective strength of his or her church. There is no appreciation of uniqueness without clarity first.
Clarity Makes Uncertainty Approachable
To fear the future is to be human. It can paralyze people and deter them from living with courage and investing into kingdom initiatives. Even though the biblical leader can talk about ultimate certainties, he cannot talk about intermediate certainties. Questions such as “What will happen to my children?” or “How many people will the church plant reach next year?” retain uncertainties. The leader can combat uncertainty with a clarity that inspires hope and expectation. Marcus Buckingham comments, “By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear; to define the future in such vivid terms, through your actions, words, images, pictures, heroes, and scores that we can all see where you, and thus we, are headed.” To lead by rallying people around a better future, albeit unknown, requires clarity first. 
Clarity- the Real Challenge
I hope that as you read through the benefits of clarity, you discovered what I have found over the last decade—that much of what happens in the name of vision and planning does not necessarily bring clarity. I grieve when I watch teams try to find solutions to their challenges without clarity first, whether it be hiring the next staff, launching a new service time or multi-site, or turning around a situation in decline.
If clarity is so crucial, how can you know when you have it? I would suggest a simple five-point test. Leading with clarity is evidenced when people can enthusiastically answer five irreducible questions:
What are we doing?
Why are we doing it?
How are we doing it?
When are we successful?
Where is God taking us?
While I have much to say about each of these questions, the primary observation is that these questions remain unanswered in most church leadership contexts. In these contexts there will be hundreds of topics and ideas floating around about turning vision into reality. But if these five questions are not quickly and enthusiastically answerable, there is either no vision, or no effective working model for the vision.
The answer then is not a new tool, but a new toolbox. And the keys to open it are found in clarity. With a commitment to clarity first, any leader can maximize the twin-engines of vision and action. Only then, will he or she walk out of daydreams and nightmares with a vibrant vision that creates a better future. - Will Mancini

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

nihil sine Deo
Some of you may have noticed that this Latin phrase is part of my email electronic signature in Outlook.  it is not an attempt to seem intellectual, but rather it is a statement of faith.  Nihil sine Deo simply means "nothing without God".  I do nothing without God.  God is with me when I sleep and when I wake.  The good that I do or don't do, I do in the presence of God.  The bad that I do or don't do, I do in the presence of God.  I truly believe that God is involved intimately in my life.  I know that God knows the deepest, darkest corners of my soul and yet He loves me.  God sent his Son so that I could have life, today and tomorrow.  I truly believe that the beginning of Wisdom is fear of the LORD.  As a creature of a loving and caring Creator, I walk by faith.  So is say again.  nihil sine Deo

Friday, January 20, 2012

I found this random collection of words that I jotted in a journal.  I am not sure when I wrote these words and I am not sure what the situation.

Sometimes, even out BEST efforts fail.
       Don't give up in spite of how badly it goes

Keep on keeping on!
       GOD does not force himself upon people

When you fail, dust off your feet and keep going
       When a cat misses killing the mockingbird, 
        it does not lament.  It stops, cleans itself, takes a little nap 
and then moves on.

May GOD continue to inspire us forward in love.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I read this prayer in the book; "Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth" by Walter Brueggemann.
  And then you

We arrange our lives as best we can,
         to keep your holiness at bay,
               with our pieties,
                       our doctrines,
                       our liturgies,
                       our moralities,
                       our secret ideologies,
Safe, virtuous, settled,
And then you --
         you and your dreams,
         you and your visions,
         you and your purposes,
         you and your commands,
         you and our neighbors.
We find your holiness not at bay,
         but probing, pervading,
                 insisting, demanding.
And we yield, sometimes gladly,
                  sometimes resentfully,
                  sometimes late....or soon
We yield because you, beyond us, are God.
          We are your creatures met by you holiness
                               by your holiness made our true selves.
          And we yield.  Amen.

I read this by accident.  I was looking for books on discernment and read this prayer.  Wow, my niece is considering becoming a nun.