Square peg, round hole….

Posted: October 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:6-10 NIV

to the best of my ability….to bring glory to God.
Up on the mountain
Where Your love captured me
Where finally I am free
This I know
Up on the mountain
Where You Taught my soul to sing
Amazing grace the sweetest thing
This I know
And then the storm rushing in
And here I am again
This I know
Take me up to where I was
When I never wanted more than You
Lift me up to feel your touch
It wouldn’t be that much for You
This I know
This I know
This I know
This I know
In the end, what I do and where I do it….a square peg in the round hole of God’s Ohana…..I will serve because of one thing….He is in charge.
This I know………..

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8–9 (NRSV)

“Held every 3 years since 1980, the LCMS Youth Gathering provides thousands of youth and adults the opportunity to come together as a community of God’€™s people to learn more about Jesus Christ, the Christian faith and their Lutheran identity.   During the five days of the Gathering, youth spend time together in God’s word, worship, service, and fellowship with others from across the synod. This event is organized by LCMS Youth Ministry in Saint Louis, MO.”*

In 1980, in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Gathering theme was “Rejoice in His Presence” and focused on the Three Articles of the Apostles’ Creed; Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification.  According to the historical records, about 25,000 have consistently attended these events every three years; and many return as Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs or the Orange Nation).  This year, the theme was “In Christ Alone,” focusing on identity, humility and community.  It is meant to support the 500 year celebration of the Reformation in 2017 with the theme STAND.

Most churches are already beginning to plan for the fundraising, development and registration of their youth to attend the next Gathering in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2019.

This was the first year that my congregation has sent youth to the National Youth Gathering (NYG) and it was already underway when I assumed my tenured call position as Director of Family and Community.  The youth leader informed me about the existence of this event within a month and we started to strategizing.  I was going to be the ‘second-string’ quarterback…..a fill in if the main QB, the youth leader, was unable to attend.  I’d learn all the stuff, alongside him, so I could step in if needed.  I was confident that such an event wouldn’t happen.  (Yeah, I’ve made that mistake many times; you’d think I’d learn).


The youth leader was blessed by the birth of a baby boy to his family of two and I assumed the duties of first-string a few months before the Gathering.  There went the stay-cation I was going to have when my two went to the Gathering.

I had lived in Baton Rouge and a little blimp on the highway to Alexandria called Marksville in my younger days.  I traveled as part of the Church bringing aid and hope to Katrina’s devastation.  The reason why I purchased a water-cover that sits under the coffee mug is in remembrance of seeing one imbedded in a tree that first post-Katrina trip.  I knew New Orleans culture and community.  As I was to re-learn about N’awlins rain (and a lot that I had forgotten), preparing for the Gathering started with a light misting that developed into a driving vertical rainstorm.

Through planning the trip, organizing the “interest centers” and planning for a little sight seeing; hours and hours went blindly into the preparation of the Gathering group.  There were thematic pre-Gathering bible studies (Identity, Humility and Community) and financial considerations and planning.  Fundraising events, praying about the event, seeking advice from other local leaders who have gone before and strategizing about how to maximize the impact such events have on the youth….at least, according to the media prep I read.

The day arrived, and we departed from St. Paul Lutheran with their youth and youth from St. Michael’s for the twenty hour (20) trip to New Orleans Louisiana.  And sanity went out the window without me noticing……..

We arrived on Saturday and began the adventure that N’awlins would be.  A different kind of heat, walking everywhere (up to 10 miles a day within a 2.5 mile radius) and being in the uncomfortable position of leading youth that I really didn’t know….beyond my two and even that was a toss-up in this environment.  Day one went without a hitch and we wearily sank into our hotel beds that night.

Day two, during the first adult session which I was late getting to, I learned that all the advice, preparation and planning was going to push my youth too hard and I threw out the hard work, the Excel spreadsheet and comfort of the plan.  Day three, disaster as I gave the kids too much responsibility and trust.  Day four, recovering from Day three and Day Five, eyes turning to the return to familiar sights and sounds as the time drew to a close.

Not a successful trip, if you were to ask me.  I failed the group, my co-leader and my congregation.  As I sank into the uncomfortable seats of the charter bus and nodded gratefully to the familiar face of the bus driver who had dropped us off four days ago, my mind said, as I looked at the swollen right foot underneath me, “I’ll never go to another Gathering again!”

And as I managed to drift off in the uncomfortable position later into a semi-sleep, I reviewed the Gathering events, the youth I had led and the troubles that have me convinced that I am not made for youth ministry……..

The young man who wants to be mentored to lead so that he can come back as a YAV and serve; the other who wants to take his faith deeper so that he can be what God has called him to be; a servant to others.  The young man, challenged by others reaction to him and his special needs, who walked with confidence around the conference center, greeting friends from other places and times in his life, and the young women who meshed together.  The bible study notes taken in bibles freshly made….by those who never did before.  Sitting next to some of the youth, enjoying David Crowder and the music that has made my heart soar and my burdens ease.  The helpful CRBs and YAVs, the leaders and volunteers.  The New Orleans Police Department who always seemed surprised when I shook their hands and said, “Thank you for your service to us.”  And, seeing the filming of NCIS: New Orleans with a favorite actor, Scott Bakula, as we were walking back to the hotel.  The heat.  The sudden rainstorm that soaked me and the two youth who went on a ‘mercy’ mission for one of the group…..the failures of my leadership, the pain in my bones.

I’m NEVER going on a National Youth Gathering trip again……..with the carefully crafted charts and graphs and expectations that I did with this one.  I’m never going to go again with the expectation of pomp and circumstance that will briefly light up the passions of the youth in attendance but die in the light of the new day.  I’m never going again with the unkind thought that there is no real power in spending so short a time with so many others.  I’m never going to go again with the sinful thought that God doesn’t know what He is doing placing the burden of leadership and care and direction upon my shoulders.

I’ve learned something; God knows better than I.  He thinks deeper than I can, knows more than I’ll ever know and cares deeper than my fragile humanity can attain.

But, In Christ Alone, I am made new.  In Christ Alone, I find the ability to think of others more powerfully than myself far beyond my own capability.  In Christ Alone, I belong to the greatest, craziest and blessed community of His Ohana; the Church.

In Christ Alone, I find joy…love…and identity in the humility, connection and community of His people.

You see……………………………….

The National Youth Gatherings aren’t just for the 14-19 year olds…….


The Processional Cross at the 2016 NYG (courtesy of Diana Moore Ringers, Elberta Alabama) 


  • taken from the 2016 National Youth Gathering website.

“And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for Israel.”  Judges 2:10b

During my devotional time today, I was struck by this sentence in the tenth verse of the reading for the Old Testament.  Not because it was a surprise, after all…..another generation…..was very much Israel’s cyclic relationship with God.  They would do well, bringing glory and honor to God, something would distract them, and then they “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

We are alive in the greatest time of all of human history.  Today, five generations of people are alive; the builders, boomers, gen-x’ers, millennials and a generation who has yet to pick up a moniker. A generation who knew what connection to family meant to a generation who is constantly influxed with a new definition of family.  And, I believe, all five generations have heard the Gospel, throughout the earth.

And yet………

Do we really KNOW the Lord?  What Gospel is being preached and lived and understood in this ‘greatest time of all of human history‘?  We argue about the characteristics of this God and how He reacts to humanity.  We disagree with His intentional designs and expectations of gender, marriage, and other human institutions built on Christian morals and values.  We celebrate an alphabet-group, applaud racial harmony and cry out for individualism in the public square.  We silence one group of spirituality while promoting others, some more violent than most and some simply a thought in the passing rumble of a bumble bee.  We expect entitlements and demand a god that is a vending machine….if I tithe, you bless.  If you don’t bless well enough, I’ll expect my tithe back.

Speak of being obedient to the point of uncomfortableness in the Church today and you’ll soon be finding another job.  Demand preeminence of Christ in the schedule of a family with sports, academic and leisure activities crowding their hours and you’ll hear nothing but the crickets at your outdoor event.  Ask a person in the pews or comfortable chairs in the sanctuary today what good reading they’ve done today; you’ll get references to the latest Harry Potter or Captain America or self-help book.  Say that you agree with the biblical text that say homosexuality is a sin…no more of a sin than anger towards another…and you’ll be labelled a ‘homophobe,’ possibly thrown in jail for ‘hate speech.’

We know OF the Lord……….

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.  Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.” v16, 17

This is the greatest time in all of human history…..and the worst of times in all of that history.  Once it was a whole nation, a chosen people, who cycled between love and hate, obedience and rebellion against the Creator God who created a covenantal promise with them.  Who loved and protected, guided and fed……

Now its a whole planet of the human race………Jews and Gentiles.

We perform rituals that have no meaning to us, because they were always done.  We find fault with things that are different, but convey the same message because that isn’t the way it was successfully done in the past.  We ridicule, despise and reject ‘outside the box’ as a way of doing the Lord’s work.  And yet, we are sinners….and saints.  Our way is best.  Our way represents what we know of the Lord God, the great I AM, better than anyone else’s.

Now more than ever before, Christians stand out from the rest of the human race.  In the chaos of ‘racial’ tension (really ethnic tension, there is only one race), gender confusion, medical universalism, profit, individualism, wealth activism, and whatever else you want to point to in the social culture that is slowly devolving into the primordial ooze most believe we came from now; a people who truly know God, NOT OF God, walk in a confidence and assurance through denominational lines, cultural chaos and secular decay.  They serve without boundaries, love without sin, and live a life dependent on the joy of the Lord Jesus despite the sorrow of a world in destruction mode.

Oh, the struggle is there…the war between sinner and saint but the sinner wins less and less each day.  Oh, they aren’t perfect…they don’t walk a straight line; no one can but they are known by their defiant love and consistent service.

Knowing me, knowing you….There is nothing we can do”  Abba

We can do nothing to save ourselves, yet we give into a doctrine that says we can or we sit on our backsides believing a doctrine that says we can’t and hope.  We demand our entitlement of salvation or moan our misfortune of not deserving it to begin with.  We expect support for godly work but none for working for God.


You see, Abba has it wrong…….WE have it wrong……there is something we can do; we can know our Lord…..we can challenge our assumptions and we can dig into the search for Him…..He has promised to allow us to find Him.

When you say the Apostle’s creed, when you pray the Lord’s Prayer, or when you listen to a preacher who speaks the Word of God (whether or not they are entertaining or not, whether they doctrinally are alien to the very book they are reading or not)….do you hear it?

God speaking to you…..informing you, making you aware of who He is, what He is and how He is.  He cries out with a Father’s joy when we raise our heads from the long dusty journey home from atop the hill.  He knows us well, having sent His only begotten Son to die upon a cross of our making.

This is He whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord, Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word.  Now He shines, the long-expected; Let creation praise its Lord Evermore and evermore.”  Of the Father’s Love Begotten.  LSB 384:3

Do you know Him?


Craziness…..sheer folly

Posted: June 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

“pluribus intentus minor est ad singula sensus”

 –The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (The Illiterati’s Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs and Sayings)

There comes a time in every scrapper’s life that they must realistically look at the bloodied and bruised landscape of their face, the aches and scars of their torso and the weariness of their soul; and admit that the continued punishment that they beset upon their own personage by entering the ring is at best craziness….at worst, sheer folly.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “a person who fights or struggles against something or to do something.”  In a way, we are all scrappers….those of us who call Christ Lord and Savior.  We struggle against sinfulness, against ungodly behavior, against the false doctrines of “I” and “Me” that predominate the narrative of the world today.  The world tells us that we can do whatever we want, be whomever we want, and love whomever or whatever we want.  There is no scrapping going on in the worldliness today.  We’ve worked hard, in our professions and our religions, to remove the necessity to ‘scrap’ for what we perceive is our identity.

A scrapper will continue to batter themselves against the walls of rejection, refusal and exclusion for the right ‘to do something.‘ The seasoned scrapper will fight for what is worth achieving, to the point of exhaustion.

One of the members of my church is a horticulturist scientist.  He takes care of the plant systems around our church building and is always ready to help you understand his passion for these systems.   This is a tree he has recently pruned…….right in front of where I park each day.  I call it the scrapper tree.


This tree was considered dead at one time, it was gone…..a transplant gone bad. Nothing was left and the remains of this shady tree was cut down.  A few years later, a tiny shoot was found during cutting the grass and it was protected.  I wasn’t around when the tree was originally planted, but from what the horticulturist says, this tree usually has branches that spread out from the center base of the tree.

One of the branches, when they had put supports on the tree,  grew too big and the support was not removed.  The tree grew around it and the support is still visible buried in the tree’s limb.  Another limb twisted and grew around the other, suffocating the normal growth of that branch, the scars of which will remain for a time since it was pruned off, the master horticulturist deciding the best course of action for the health of the whole tree was to remove that particular growth……so the tree can grow healthy in its current state.

It’s not a particularly pretty tree…there’s a host of microorganisms and various fungus that are growing on it.  It has scars from the battles of living that it has experienced.  The shade isn’t as complete as one may want it to be.  It will never be the picture of a perfect tree of this particular type. But it contributes and continues to grow, regardless of those ancillary things.  The tree is persistent; regardless of what others might think.

There will come a day when the tree is tired of being persistent and will simply start to fade…..and it will be cut down and hauled away.  Unless the care of the horticulturist continues to augment the tree’s strength, it will reach its limits and decline.  The scrappiness that kept it going becomes the impus of its demise.

Or will it?


What do you believe in? Why?

Posted: June 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

The Hammer of God: A Novel about the Cure of Souls was written by Bo Giertz, a  Lutheran theologian, novelist and bishop of the Gothenburg Lutheran Diocese from 1949 to 1970. “In this bestselling novel, three pastors learn the necessity of relying on God’s grace. They fall short of their pastoral duties through public humiliation, self-doubt, inability to accept God’s promises in their own lives, and divisions and quarreling among their parishioners. Ultimately each man rejects temptations and permits the Holy Spirit to work through him.” (Amazon review)

There is a moment of a powerful conversation between Pastor Fridfeldt and his superior.

“I just want you to know from the beginning, sir, I am a believer,” [the young Pastor Fridfeldt] said [to the older pastor]……”So you are a believer, I’m glad to hear that. What do you believe in?” Fridfeldt stared dumbfounded at his superior……”But, sir, I am simply saying that I am a believer.” “Yes, I hear that, my boy. But what is it that you believe in?” Fridfeldt was almost speechless. “But don’t you know, sir, what it means to be a believer?” “That is a word which can stand for things that differ greatly, my boy. I ask only what it is that you believe in.” “In Jesus, of course, ” answered Fridfeldt, raising his voice. “I mean — I mean that I have given him my heart.”…….”Do you consider that something to give him?” By this time Fridfeldt was almost in tears. “But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.” “You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy,” he continued to look at the young pastor’s face, in which uncertainty and resentment were shown in a struggle for the upper hand, “it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give him one’s heart and commit oneself to him, and that he now accepts one into his little flock; it is a very DIFFERENT thing to believe on him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not chose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it is.”

One of the books that I have been given to read, to expand my academic and professional vocabulary and knowledge base, is an old Concordia Publishing House book, Building Faith One Child at a Time by Becky Schuricht Peters printed in 1997.  I know how long ago that seems, my second eldest son was born that year.  Nineteen years ago….and yet it still rings truth today.

As I’ve studied for my bachelor degree and now as I continue into the Master of Science studies, a lot of the understanding of the developmental stages of humans is given attention to; predictable, sequential stages of growth (and change) that can be used to help us understand where we or someone else is on the ‘map’ of their competency, understanding, wisdom, and ability to affect their environment and world with an increased reference of a world view.

What Peters does, in her chapter entitled “Faith Development Theories” is to give us a sense of how development phases of our spiritual life happen.  With researchers like James W. Fowler, John H. Westerhoff III, and V. Bailey Gillespie, we can understand the development of faith, the faith that was given and is grown by God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The situation Pastor Fridfeldt is experiencing at this particular stage of development….what Fowler claims is the Synthetic-Conventional Faith stage,  where we as believers give emphasis on God’s love and forgiveness.  This stage, according to Fowler, is where most of us live for the rest of our lives in faith.  We do not question, nor do we encourage anyone else to question, the beliefs that we have.  This is the “We do this because this is what we have always done” mentality of the Church today.  So fearful of false and misleading doctrines, those who have protected the essence and depth of the Truth are afraid of letting it be challenged.  They have no question about whom they are…..at least on the surface.

They experience the qualms Fridfeldt does after a incident with some villagers who are less than stellar in their “christian” attitude and conduct, and the rector treats them like children of God ………

“Fridfeldt felt at once and the same time impressed and perplexed.  He could not quite approve treating everyone without distinction as a Christian.  But he was happy about the results.”

The problem is, there are a lot less of the shiny, properly labeled food sitting on the grocery store shelves of life anymore.  As the verse reminds us, “like a roaring lion, your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  Many in the world today have been the feast of this adversary.  All that is left is the rusty tin can of what once was a child of God, discarded upon the rust heap of this world.

But, it is these rusty, empty and castoff tin cans that are usually at the next stage of spiritual development, if they are given a chance like the “wonderful Lord” gives to them.  But it is fearful to those who live in the “unexamined way of believing.”  This next development phase of faith is called the “searching faith” by Westerhoff, and is indicative of Gillespie’s “resolute faith” 

Rituals and symbols don’t have meaning to empty tin cans, nor does the ‘unquestioning’ method of understanding biblical narratives and the great I AM.  They are empty, waiting to be filled with the promise of the Holy Spirit, seeking to clean out the majority of the junk that has accumulated in the confines of their opened tops.

Some make it, while others fall into the trap of being recycled and put back on the shelf with a new food staple…..and are afraid to question why and who they are.  They want to be shiny and ‘new’.

It is well and good to stand on protecting the Truth from distortion and twisted logic that seems to find itself into our sermons, Sunday School classes, bible studies and community life.  But only in the kindness of speaking it loud and proud, on the behest of Christ and not our own.  Our stage of development is dependent on our understanding of who God is and who we are in Christ.  Not in understanding whom God is fully, something we will never be able to do.

The only way that will happen is if the faith community, the Ohana of God, understands the journey that a tin can brought in the home of the ‘wonderful Lord’ is on.  While they welcome the questioning, understand the motivation, and recognize the need for such searching; the Ohana stands upon what it knows and can confidently embrace because it has undergone the journey itself…..”what do I believe?”  Then the rituals and traditions find deeper meaning, greater spiritual instruction and more powerful impact in the lives of all.

Martin Luther experienced this kind of faith, questioning and seeking God on His terms — yet knowing he’d never fully understand it.  It is interesting how the founder of this denomination never intended being excommunicated.

Each of us have been a rusty tin can….sinners through and through regardless of whether we have been baptized as an infant or later adulthood.  We all continue to struggle, at least we should if we are honest, against the resurrection of the old man over the new.  As Luther reminds us to say, “We, poor and miserable sinners”

We are all tin cans, rusted upon the refuse heaps of a “lion” that has devoured our heart of identity, but some have donned a new skin.  Still empty on the inside as they sit in the pews and speak Christian-ez language among the freshly scrubby faces of other grocery store cans.

Luther never wanted us to be ashamed of asking for more from our Heavenly Father (just as we once did with our earthly ones).  He would rather have us challenge God to answer and be assured in the Word, Sacraments and understanding about who, what, why and how………

“we believe”


“Thus when we declare, ‘I believe in God,’ we are not saying only that we believe that God exists.  Certainly, believing in God requires believing also that there is a God.  But this is not the main thrust of our words.  Their main thrust is that we trust God for our lives, and also that it is in this God that we live and believe, that this God is both the foundation and the context of our belief.”  Justo L. Gonzalez writes in The Apostles’ Creed for Today.
What do you believe in and why?

I am serving currently as the Director of Family and Community at Faith Lutheran Church in Avon, Ohio.  This is an article I wrote for the bulletin:

“A five-foot-four Polish Roman-Catholic woman who taught me a healthy respect for those who are “laterally challenged” told me once after a typical ‘dust up’ with my older brother, “You can pick your friends, even your nose (though I wouldn’t advise it), but you can’t pick your family.”    She was my mother-by-choice, socially known as my ‘step-mother.’  She raised me to be whom I am today……

What makes a family?  Families, according to most ‘generic’ definitions, is a group of primary connections – biological, emotional, social, economic, and legal – where individuals with personal needs and desires live in complex relationships with each other and from which society gets its well-being.  Today, less than 9 percent of society views family in a traditional sense that begins with a biblical union called marriage.

So what is the family?  Who is right and who is wrong?

The family is “Ohana” …. from the Hawaiian culture, “emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.” (Wikipedia) The family is an attitude; an attitude we carry into every relationship we hold dear…. for the family is the dearest relationship we have.

Ohana is the bind that ties us in diverse and unimaginable ways yet triumphs our own personal desire to champion others to be empowered, equipped and enthused to do the same to others.  It becomes a movement, born of our attitude that “no one is left behind, no one is forgotten” even as we travel at different speeds, different seasons, and different stratospheres of economic, social and even spiritual understanding and maturity.

In our churches, we must be committed to doing church as a family….to help shape homes to be Christ-centered so that with the family we can share the process of making disciples to serve the communities we live, work, play and neighbor.  To do OHANA in such a way that we not only collaborate with our families of origin, families of responsibility and families of choice, but we do so with the larger Ohana of churches in our city, county, circuit, and state.

We seek God, worship God, and confess to Jesus Christ our needs, desires and failures TOGETHER.  We embrace everyone, for the sake of Christ and the work that He has yet to complete in each of us, and walk at the pace of the slowest member of our clan, our family …. Why?

Because “no one is left behind and no one is forgotten.”

A family-orientated church is not a pristine sanctuary for the perfect, but where everyone is being made perfect.  A family-orientated church is about strengthening the family so that faith is recited, not regurgitated; empowering, not enabling; life, not a zombie-like death.  The church is a place where the family gathers, fellowships, worships and does life together….

At Faith Lutheran Church, they are moving forward in developing that attitude; Family Intergenerational Sunday School, more engagement in events, community and other key places like marriage, parenting and teaching faith at home.  Catechism and Faith legacy.  Unique to its community, and not so unique.  Intentional.  Family doing family processes and events that promote, emulate and expand our Ohana.  Not for the pews, not for our edification, but for the glory of God.

Faith has designed their family orientation in a forward motion that is symbolized in our image, the three colored circles of Church: Home: Community.  They have the character, the passion and the ability to develop this attitude of Ohana.  It is evident in how they served their neighbors at the first community meal of the year in Lorain, how they have stepped into the lives of families through Love Inc., and the discussions Faith engage in about how we want to be known…. not as Faith, that church at the end of the street.  No, as Faith…God’s community in the city of Avon that lives, breathes and delivers Jesus’ gifts to us to the city, the county, and the state.  This is something that shouldn’t be just a “Faith Lutheran Church” attitude but an attitude for each and every church within the family of God.

Family Life is the “how” by which we do church, for we are family…..we are Ohana.  We have our crazy Uncle Sals, our doting Aunt Graces, our annoying brothers, and weird sisters, harried dads and harassed moms.  We struggle and succeed, tested and blessed, and we have our sorrows with our joys.  But in the end of it, we move forward together.  We lift each other up when we are down and we challenge each other to do the work that our Father above has empowered, equipped and called us to do.

As a church, a community and as OHANA………

because “no one is left behind, no one is forgotten.””


Posted: February 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

A inspiring and challenging blog from a colleague and sister in Christ.

Source: Expectations

So this is Christmas….

Posted: December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

Faithavon navitity 3


“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  

Zephaniah 3:17

Not your atypical Christmas verse, I know.  We think of Linus Van Pelt and his famous oration of the “real meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown!”  About the shepherds, the Heavenly Host and the family in Bethlehem being serenaded by the heartfelt beat of a drummer boy’s drum.  As Faith Lutheran’s pastor pointed out at Advent services last night, Linus’ chronic security blanket problem that had unsuccessfully tried to be removed from his clutches by the Peanut gang countless times is deliberately and without provocation dropped as he begins with “Fear not…..”

Our visual signs of Christmas are in full bloom by now, less than ten days away from the celebrated day of Christ’s birth….a pagan holiday for a imaginary god that we wanted to offer an ‘alternative’ to.  The mistletoe that is alleged to be a druidic way of celebrating winter that have become a festive celebration of color, and a means to ‘steal’ a kiss from a loved one.  The poinsettias that grace our homes and sanctuaries, symbolic of the star of Bethlehem.

So is that Christmas?

The Christmas Tree, a symbol of life in the starkness of winter.  It is thought that Martin Luther was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles because of the beauty he saw as starlight shone through the branches of a fir outside his home.  The candy canes we use to decorate (and fill our sweet tooth) the tree with, symbolic of Jesus; the shepherd’s crook, white (Christ’s purity and sinlessness), three small stripes (Jesus’ pain/the Trinity), a bold stripe (Jesus’ blood shed for us) and the letter “j” that you see when you turn the candy cane upside down.

And who can forget that jolly old guy that is the “Man” of so many Christmas celebrations, St. Nicholas.  A very pious Christian, known for his generosity with those who were poor.  Imprisoned and tortured by the Romans, Constantine freed him and sent Nicholas as a delegate to the Nicaea council in 325 A.D.   A patron saint of sailors, a few countries, and children, he has become the behavioral specialist for countless homes….as we all know about a naughty and nice list.

So is that Christmas?

We stand in the cold darkness of the night, still hung over from our festive gluttony of turkey, ham, pumpkin pie and family/friends that were gathered together to celebrate the ‘thanks for all we have’ to get more stuff that the retail stores say we have to have to be thankful in the next year.  Credit cards in hand, “buy happiness” now mentality and cutthroat shopping fall the day after a thankful celebration, three days after online and the frantic shopping ‘season’ runs right up to the eve of Christmas, with the procrastinators and grateful Christmas bonus recipients rush to get that ‘requested gift.’

So, I ask again, is that Christmas?

Depending on whom you ask, you’ll get affirmatives (with less sarcasm) to each statement.  Atheists say its a co-opted pagan holiday, which is true.  Most of the symbology is repurposed.  And even the old fat guy with superhuman (or god-like powers) of sight and presence has been contorted over the years to be something he was originally not.  Linus, in his 50-year old proclamation, is the closest to our Christian worldview…..to us, a child is born.

But that child was first begotten, of the Father.  And the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three-in-one…the Trinity, was there when the world was made.  That child was a King, God incarnate, and seated upon a throne in the realm of heaven; his birthright, privilege and rightful place.  That child, born as a baby, shaped the world He came to and altered its path forever.  That child came to a place where He was not loved by most, hated by many and ignored by a lot of the people who knew Him personally.

Not because it was a requirement, though the requirement for the sinfulness of humanity would be met.  Not just for love, for love can be tough some times and harsh….. Not just because it was something to do, a holiday to create and an excuse to get some ‘recognition.’

Look at the verse from Zephaniah again.  Think of that baby, lying in a manger in the town of Bethlehem that held the animals food just moments before.  Think of the life that would be led by this baby for 33 plus years….and where it ended on this earth.

Gather your family and friends, go to your congregation’s celebrations and worship and look around.  That is the reason…..

God so loved us….He desired nothing more than to stand in our midst, save us from our fate and rejoice over us….making us greater than our great accomplishment and purer than our greatest hope.

And He sent Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to earth to be fully God and fully man, so that we may become children of God.

I think you’d drop your security blanket too.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

And that is the true meaning of Christmas, my friends.








City on a hill…

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work……….So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?”

                                                                Ecclesiastes 3:16, 22 (NRSV)

   It has been almost a month since I formally accepted the call to Ohio, specifically Lorain County, and the position of Director, Family and Community Ministry here at Faith Lutheran Church and Preschool in Avon.  The adolescent units, Casey and Sara, are in their prospective grade levels and we are progressing towards the hammering out of IEPs and other specifics to support their academic pursuits.  The stresses of moving, new community and area are beginning to fade from our awareness.  With the paying of our first ‘rent-only’ check to the landlord, we will have turned the corner.

   We have participated in the Rummage sale with the congregation, fundraising for the National Youth Gathering coming in July of 2016, promoted “Coffee Shop” as a direct outreach to the community around our church and have begun incursions into Lorain; meeting with Reverend Jimmy Madsen of First Lutheran and becoming aware of the system that has existed in the city for years and years.  To my eyes, the urban churches seem battered by the sheer weight of the needs and their dwindling resources to meet them.  Meet them, they do, but we can come alongside them and help do it less stressfully.  Not to remove, revision and restart but to replicate what is working, refresh what is needed and recreate what has disappeared.

   The shipyards that spanned the lake are gone, replaced by a housing development and the docks are a memory of what was, replaced by a beautiful and well-thought venue site along the waterfront.  There are those who are still in the city, but they are leaving…they must….for the work that is no longer in Lorain.  Skilled and talented shipwrights, steelworkers and the trades that supported building massive ships that ply the waterways of our world languish in the world that mistakenly overlooks their talents and vitality to the economic success of the city, the state, the country and the world.  Lorain needs jobs…….and the people to bring it back to its fame as an “international city”.

   I look at the need, the ways that it has been met and the resources that dribble through the urban mission system.  You see improvements everywhere near downtown and the waterfront.  But, there is a weight in the city that defies the eyes.  Congregations are wearing themselves out trying to use limited resources to meet expanding and overwhelming needs, others are barricading the doors to wait the coming nightfall and others simply are limping long….triaged into hospice, silent and sullen.  The field is ripe for replanting, for strengthen the crops already planted and to till the soil that has become harsh and unyielding.  But it will take investment and service.

   My friends and dear supporters ask me now how the mission field looks, how the ministry is shaping up and how I’m feeling about the Call.  Sometimes, when I think of all that has to be done, discerned and developed, I feel like Solomon…”But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—-like chasing the wind.”  (v11) and I wonder how improbable this idea that I have is………… seriously!, revitalize hope by a grass root urban movement to help the people reclaim their dignity and honor by investing in them, their families and homes, neighborhoods and city?  The financial need alone is overwhelming!  And that’s just the beginning.

   We have to teach the people how to hope again.

   Yes, there are a lot of denominations, some Christian and others not so much.  And there is the world……seeped like a used teabag all over the city.   Drugs, gangs, violence, despair and decay…..yep, its here.  Humanity grasping at the desperate fragility of human intervention in a world departing from its moorings like a rusting ship at the docks; frayed lines breaking from misuse and age.  Ministries are working like bucket brigades to meet the needs that keep pouring in, keeping the ocean at bay but they are tired too….ministry is a hard, complex and wearying task.

   Social ministry is that dangerous tightrope we walk between liberalized ideology and conservative support.  With the profession of Gospel, there are equally enticing and slightly altered versions filtering down through the social fabric.  How do I maintain the purity of the mission with the urgency of the need?

   Improbable, definitely.  Impossible, humanly so.  But when I look at the overwhelming need and it butts against the overwhelming compulsion to be Christ’s hands, feet, lips and ears to those who have lost hope and dignity and simply look into a dirty glass out upon this world with despair in their bones…….I remember Chip Ingram’s statement that “God doesn’t want our big, exciting and big dreams.  He wants our crazy, hairy and audacious dreams that we cannot do so that He has to come and make them come reality.”

   So, yes……its improbable, though not for God.  It is impossible, but not for God.  It will not bear fruit by my effort, but not God’s.  Its risky, but not for God.  Its crazy, but isn’t Grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense) crazy as well?  It’s audacious, but then so was God’s plan for your salvation, redemption and eternal life.

   I see a vision of a city……the glory that once graced its streets once again shining from the pavement and the dignity of its people for all (from the lowest to the highest) a treasured gem protected by its leaders, nurtured by its churches and the cash crop of its exports.  Maybe in my lifetime, maybe not.  But the lamps need to be replenished and restored, and lit………

   To be a city on the hill shining for the glory and acknowledgment of the one True God.

It can happen……..

The Call

Posted: October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

“……………….today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies; let not your heart faint.  Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”

Deuteronomy 20:3b,4 Treasury of Daily Prayer Old Testament Reading for 21 October.

It happens; more than I would expect it to and a lot more often than I believe even I recognize.  With my background and history, with the limitations I’ve imposed upon myself and the ones that others have yoked me with; one would suspect that I’m padding the story, telling a tale and being a lot less than honest.

I often say, “I know what not to do, because I’m the idiot that’s done it” and try and save others from making the same foolish and often painful mistakes I’ve made.  I look to others and see their mistakes as “oopsies” rather than epic natural disasters but I can’t give myself the same grace.

And, here I am.  The DREAM JOB!!!!!!!  That epic and sweet job where I get to live what my passion is, do what my calling is and live the dream that God has given.  That job that was everything I wanted but nothing I honestly expected to get…..and the challenges, the barriers and the limitations I had that in another time and place would have prevented it’s assumption have fallen like dominos.

We have settled in, the kids in their new high school and I here at the ‘base camp’ where I’ll launch from in outreach ministry and help with the family life programs.  I’ve started setting up meetings with people I know I want to meet and will mine their knowledge for those whom I should meet so that we can start building consensus and resources to partner and impact the communities here in Lorain County….

The field is HUGE……and the enemy; sinfulness, hopelessness, helplessness and despair are massive and mighty.  Who am I to lead this little band of believers into the field of battle to win souls, redeem communities, and restore hope into a world that gets more brutal and harsh with each passing day?  Who am I?

Yesterday, I went out with a member of the congregation to minister to someone in need….delivering mercy and comfort during a transitional moment.  Through it all, I felt God present in the Holy Spirit as we stood in the field and were His hands, feet and mouth.  It wasn’t me….for I’m not fit to accomplish the work of such divine purpose, but it was me that He used and empowered to be a part of His work.

We hide from the expectations of what we, as the children of God, are called to do; whether in our businesses, homes, communities or even congregations.  We look at our less-than-perfect struggling lives and feel we cannot dare dream the impossible, because we might fail or be declared unfit or ‘gasp’ succeed.  We get in our own way and the way of God.  And lives continue to break, families continue to shatter and children despair the future.

But, God is for us…..He strides into the battle already victorious and stands for us, with us and through  us to accomplish the purpose to which He shares the victory with us.  Who am I?

You are right if you say I am no one, for I am.  But I serve a mighty God who stands with me and for me….to accomplish the work He puts to my hand.  And I will believe in myself because He believes in me.

The Dream Job…..with the Dream Employer.

How will you do what He has called you to do in the harvest field He has purposed and equipped you to serve?

As for me and my house………..