Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Most Compelling Moment in 2015

Ok, so I haven't received any comments on anyone's most compelling moment in 2015.  No problem.  I'll just share mine and we'll go on from there.

I actually had a difficult time choosing just one moment.  From my list, I was captivated by our visit to Arlington National Cemetery and what I learned there regarding the Cemetery's history.  I also was amazed at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider's changing of the guard - I so appreciated the reverence for that location and what it represents. Another moment that was very cool was when I was able to baptize my seventh grandson in the Atlantic Ocean.  Yeah, that was a great moment.  I also had a number of times that I connect with my children and grandchildren which were terrific moments and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  These were just a few of a number of personal moments that I believe were compelling.

I have to add one from a professional perspective.  It was during October of 2015.  That time of year is a time reserved for Pastor's Appreciation Month.  Over the years this has never been a time of great revelation.  I haven't always placed a lot of stock in the amount of appreciation that has been shared - or hasn't been shared.  In all of the churches that I have been appointed, I've never felt unappreciated throughout the year.  So when this time of year comes around, I usually don't expect anything unusual.

This calendar year of 2015 was different.  Honestly, I received more cards and well wishes during this October than I have in 25 years of ministry!  It really threw me for a loop.  I didn't anticipate this kind of response.  In truth, I wasn't really prepared to respond to it myself.  I was in the twilight zone - a place I had never been before.

One definition of compelling is something that evokes interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.  For so many people to express their appreciation to Nancy and me for our shared ministry was irresistible.  It was a special moment in time, which I shall always treasure in my heart.  Mostly because I didn't go into the ministry seeking accolades or measures of appreciation.  I would hope that my only motivation was to help others grow closer in their relationship to God and Jesus.  

So, yeah, there it is - a compelling moment in 2015 that I never anticipated nor expected.  But I cherish it and give God all the glory for it.

There should be a month for congregational appreciation from the clergy.  Worthington First and Emmanuel United Methodist Churches would get my appreciation, right from the heart.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Your Most Compelling Moment for 2015

I was listening to WCCO 830 AM radio while traveling home this morning and the DJ had sent out a request for people to share their most compelling moment in 2015.  I did not stick around long enough to hear the responses.  

But I have one of my own... but before I share it, I'd like to know what your most compelling moment in 2015 was.  Please send your reply by hitting the "Comment" button below.  Once I receive a number of responses, I will send my most compelling moment from this past year.  

I promise you - I won't wait long.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Love the Snow

After watching about 8 inches of snowfall in Rochester, I really wondered about all things white - snow, White Christmas, sliding down the hill on fresh new-fallen snow, building snow forts when we were younger.  We never had a snowblower growing up - why would we need one?  There were ten kids in our family.  Everyone grab a shovel!

There's just something about snow that is pristine - pure and unblemished.  It drapes itself over trees, fences, homes.  It might be tough to navigate on the roads, but on a snowmobile, it's all good!

If you are from the great Midwest, you have more than likely learned to love the snow.  If you haven't, then Florida or Arizona calls to you in the winter months and you answer that call.  My guess is that you've learned how to negotiate these days living with the reality of snow.

When the Bible talks about snow, it usually makes the comparison to something that is pure and holy.  From Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."  Other verses describe the appearance of the Almighty as one of clothing as snow.  It's a helpful comparison - snow to purity.  We aspire to live lives as pure as the driven snow.  [I'm not talking snirt here - snow and dirt combined - just soft, pure white glistening snow].

Enjoy the snow and remember what it can mean to live a life of pure holiness.

Just like the snow.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Model of Consistency

I was looking at the previous post and realized I had really gotten carried away with the past history of two National Football League teams - the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.  I really wanted to make the connection between the model of consistency shown by the Green Bay organization and how (as followers of Jesus) we are called to be consistent in Christ.

There are a host of characteristics that we are called to demonstrate consistently - characteristics such as honesty, fairness, justice, not making judgments, responsibility - just to name a few.  

The author of Hebrews compares living the Christian life to running a race.  Think about the example of those who compete in the Olympic Games.  We see the training that goes into preparing each participant for a game.  That preparation begins at a very early age.  It requires discipline, dedication, commitment and hard work.  Running a consistent race depicts a believers struggle to run in the race of life.

Not unlike an NFL team that models consistency, we are called to do the same as we journey through our own daily lives.  It does require a disciplined approach.  It can help us tremendously if we can stick to the disciplines that we embrace - even in the difficulty moments in life.  We may not always win every battle, but the war has already been won.

Followers of Jesus are the victors!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." - Hebrews 12:1-3a

Greenway and Green Bay - Forever Linked

One thing we possessed while growing up in northern Minnesota was a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers. Before the Minnesota Vikings were established in 1961, the Packers were the National Football League franchise of choice in our area.  In fact, many old time residents continued their allegiance to the Green and Gold well after the Vikings established the border battle between the two teams.

It wasn't that difficult for me to identify with Green Bay... I graduated from Greenway High School - our school colors were kelly green and white and the logo on our high school football helmets was the letter G, not surrounded by gold, but white.  It was fashioned after the G on the Green Bay helmet.  Even though our mascot was the Raider, Green Bay's influence on our school was as plain as the logo on our helmets.  So, I'm sure that whoever designed the helmet logo thought everyone would resonate with the letter G - Greenway and Green Bay.  

Through the years, I've enjoyed that relationship... adversarial as it may be at times. I've watched the purple gang battle the latter years of Bart Starr, Zeke Bratkowski, Lynn Dickey, the Magic Man Don Majkowski, Brett Favre and currently Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers and Favre have been in that role since 1992 - an amazing run of two starting quarterbacks in 24 years!  That is the model of consistency*.  

By comparison, during that same time frame (since 1992) the Vikings have had 21 different starting quarterbacks - Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn (who?), Gus Frerotte, Tavaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, Donovan McNabb (that was a big mistake), Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman (nope, sorry, that was a bigger mistake) and currently Teddy Bridgewater.  2 starting quarterbacks versus 21 in 24 years... fan or no fan of Green Bay, that is remarkable!

We can only admire the effectiveness of Green Bay's front office when we understand how this model of consistency has also impacted the records of the two teams in that same time frame - Green Bay's cumulative regular season record during these 24 years is 244-138-1 compared to Minnesota's 206-175-1 (the one tie for each team was a 26-26 tie game in 2013 against each other).  Green Bay has missed the playoffs only six times in that span of years compared to Minnesota missing the playoffs eleven times.  In fact, another amazing stat is that either the Vikings or the Packers have finished first in their division 18 out of the 24 years!  

So what does all of this conversation do for me or for you?  I suppose it depends upon if you are a fan or not.  No matter, it's just a backdrop to the biggest game of the year for both teams next Sunday when they square off on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay for the 2015 division championship.  I'll be watching and rooting for the Vikings to win (as I always do) but I still possess that healthy respect for the Pack.

I just hope they are not all the way back this Sunday.  It's Minnesota's time!

(*note: Green Bay did have a couple of games in that time frame where Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, and Seneca Wallace started a total of 9 games - all during Aaron Rodgers tenure. Rodgers was injured during that time. Favre had an amazing run of starting every game since he took over for Don Majkowski in 1992. He didn't miss one start in all of those years at Green Bay until Rodgers took over the starting role in 2008.)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter Storm Warnings

I hear that the weather report for tomorrow and Tuesday calls for a winter storm warning and no travel is advised. Usually, that's enough for me.  I don't have any desire to battle the elements when I can stay inside in relative comfort and warmth.  I suppose you could say that I have no sense of adventure.

You'd be welcome to that opinion... but you'd be incorrect in your assumption.

Because there have been adventures in the snowstorms of life that I have experienced over the past years.  Times when I've slipped and fallen.  Moments when I've been buried in the avalanche of change and transition.  Events which have brought the howling winds of distress down upon my life.  I would call these moments adventures. I have no wish to go back and relive them.  Once is enough.

The one key constant that has always been my saving grace has been just that - the saving grace of God.  So many times the Spirit of the Lord has cleared the way.  How I am grateful for the moments when the presence of the living God warmed my heart and comforted my soul.  Even when I haven't been paying attention, God has always been the snowplow of my life, forging ahead and clearing the way so that I may travel along the adventure in safety and security.  God was present when I was preparing to enter the ministry.  God was guiding my steps along the way.  God was there.

And the great thing about all of this is that God is still there.  God's presence is the constant that we can count on.  
"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."  Isaiah 41:13(NIV)
Trust in God during the storms of your life.  Best thing you can do.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Day After...

The day after Christmas is one of the busiest shopping days because stores are hoping to move the Christmas merchandise off the shelves and make room for the next big push, whatever that might be.  Most stores offer 50% off or more on selected items and if you are in the market for that item, you're in business.  More than likely, if you are looking for a bargain, you won't be alone.  You'll have plenty of company of people who are looking for the same thing.

Which brings us to the conversation that we left off from yesterday...we're better when we are in connection with others.  Maybe not power shopping, but as a whole, we need others to connect with in our daily living.  The writer of Hebrews is one place in scripture that lifts this dynamic up:
"24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25 - New International Version (NIV)
I love the part of that which states "not giving up meeting together".  Surely we need our down time away from people.  We need our private moments.  But don't give up on connecting with others.  Find ways to make that happen.  Join a group.  Get out of the house and be around people.  You won't find this kind of connection on FaceBook or Twitter.

It's face to face with others that makes the difference! 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day - 2015

So, here is the latest attempt at sharing a few thoughts via the blogger's route.  I've been here before and haven't been very successful at sustaining a consistent blog.  I think the last entry I had was two years ago.  A lot can happen in two years.  

So, I'm not suggesting that it's going to be an easy thing, but I'm resolved to doing my best.  I write enough during the week just getting ready to preach on Sundays that writing a blog may be a daunting enough challenge.  So let's just get this started.

It's Christmas Day and I'm waiting for my wife to finish working so we can visit with our daughter's family.  It's been an unusual Christmas for me in many respects.  I'm used to being around people - family.  I've always awoke from a long winter's nap to the happy sound of children who are ready to open the presents.  Every year - but not this one.  It was - as I said - unusual.

And yet, we have FaceTime, which allows us to be in the homes of our children's families no matter where they are (in this case, on the eastern seaboard of the United States). Amazing thing - FaceTime.  Grateful to be able to see and hear the grandchildren as they share their day with us.  Never had that opportunity as a child.  I was talking about this with my own mother earlier today... this being the social media dynamic of this world we live in compared with the face to face need we all have to interact with one another.  She wondered what would happen if the system crashed - would people who are so dependent upon the internet be able to function without it?

I told her I thought they could because we are wired to have connections.  We are better when we have connections.  I don't think it would be too hard to get back to face to face interactions if these social media venues weren't available.  

It's how we are made.

Let's look at that a bit more closely in the next posting.