Category Archives: Church life

A new “normal-ness”

It’s my first day back in the office following my post-Easter vacation.  I traditionally take at least a week off after Easter to rest, breath, get stuff done around the house that got neglected during Lent and to reflect.

It was glorious.

Now I find myself lost.

Each year I get so accustomed to the busyness of Lent that when it abruptly stops, I am thrown into somewhat of a tizzy.  I have to reorient myself to the “normal-ness” of pastoral life.  And when I say “normal-ness” I say that tongue-in-cheek; knowing that there is nothing “normal” in pastoral ministry.

But to make matters worse, summer is approaching which means:
~ No confirmation classes
~ Earlier worship times
~ No Wed Night Live (our Wednesday Sunday school program)
~ No release time (3rd – 5th grade)
~ No monthly ministerial meetings

Basically, my schedule frees up a lot.

The temptation for me is to procrastinate; thinking that I have all summer to get confirmation planned for the fall, etc.  But summer really isn’t that long.  Time does flies by and before I know it, September will be here and a new season of “normal-ness”.  And after nearly 10 years of pastoral ministry one would think I would be used to this.

But I’m not.

It’s kind of like jumping into a cold lake.  There’s an initial shock but eventually you get used to the water.  And it makes no difference how many times you jump into cold water ~ there’s always a shock.

So maybe I just need to tread water for a day or two; slowly acclimating, before beginning the long swim across the lake.  So if you see me with a deer-in-the-headlights look for the next couple days; just politely wave and try not to stare to much. I’m not being lazy; I’m just treading water trying to adjust to the new “normal-ness”.

The pastor -|—

Ministering to children

Gracious God, I have just been struck with the awareness of the awesome responsibility that is looming; children coming to this church building to see you.  Twenty one 3 – 5th graders coming soon;  8 confirmation students later this afternoon and 40 some Wednesday Night Live students tonight.  God…bless everyone of those students that they may see you.  Bless the teachers that will be teaching those students.

Gracious God, I am thankful that you have placed me here in this place.  I am thankful that you have found me worthy to minister to these children.  I am thankful that you walk along side of me during these times.  May you be glorified in my words and actions.  Grant me patience and wisdom as I interact with these great kids.

So…here we go.  Let’s have some fun.

Amen!

The pastor -|—

Legendary potluck

I consider the potlucks at the churches I serve (Salem and Belmont) to be legendary, but Sunday’s meal was one for the record books…and for a reason you might not expect.

This past Sunday, freezing rain slowed SW MN down to a crawl. Actually…it was way too slippery to even crawl.  Sidewalks, roadways, gravel, everything was covered in a very slippery coating of ice and I have a bruise on my leg and an achy arm to show for it.  My 8 mile drive from Belmont (my country congregation) to Salem was driven at 25 mph, which at times felt very fast for the conditions.  Call me a dare devil if you want, but I had another worship service to lead that morning.

As I inched down the slippery road, in town, going to Salem, I darn near slid right by the parking lot at a whopping 5 mph.  After managing to will my 4×4 Jeep to turn left, I slowly got to my garage.  I then gingerly crept over to the church with my arms full and hoping I didn’t fall again.  Upon entering the secure footing of the inside of the church building, I hurried to get ready.  You see…it was also annual meeting Sunday and I began to wonder if we were even going to have it.  I found my council president and walked to the sanctuary with him to access the situation.  Very quickly we decided to postpone the meeting for 2 weeks.  But what about the food those few people brought for the potluck?

We decided that since we were here and that there was food, why not eat it (following worship of course).  The hot portion of the potluck consisted of a crock pot of BBQ wienies and some corn hotdish thingy.  There were also a few relishes, some homemade bread, a couple salads and a bunch of desserts.  Not the healthiest meal in the world but very yummy.

The “legendary” status of this meal came in the fact that we all gathered together, at three tables, and ate.  Not one person minded the skimpiness of the selection.  There was laughter, conversations, fellowship and safety from the treacherous conditions.  And it was very clear to see that great potlucks are not measured by the quantity of food available for plate heaping but rather the quality of the time that is spent together with the Body of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong…I love those potlucks that force me to strategize my eating (so much food; so little plate and stomach room), but Sunday’s potluck will be one I will not soon forget.  Quantity or not, we had a great time.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Holy buzz

We tried something new yesterday at Salem.  Shocking…Lutherans trying something new.  Wow :)

Anyway…what we did for the first time was have coffee fellowship time BEFORE worship.  I know that this is not a revolutionary thing as I have experienced this at other churches in the past, but it was new for us.  And from what I heard from a number of people this was a big hit.

[By the way...I take no credit for this idea.  I wish I could.]

When people arrived they seemed pleasantly surprised by the crowd in our small narthex.  When I told them about the coffee time a smile quickly formed on their face :) Many people grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to visit.  Before long there was a holy buzz in the narthex.  People were talking and laughing.  One of the cool things I noticed was that there were people participating in this holy buzz that normally don’t stay after worship for coffee fellowship time.  That put a smile on my face :)

At about 10:10 a.m. (worship begins at 10:15) I began to wonder how I was going to break up this holy buzz.  I almost wanted to have worship out there in the narthex (but there were people in the sanctuary waiting to begin).  So I walked inside; waited for the organist to stop playing; and I starting talking.  People quickly filed in as I shared the morning announcements.  It was a smooth transition.

As worship continued I quickly noticed something else (something others shared with me later).  There was a different kind of “energy” in the sanctuary.  It’s hard to explain but that pre-worship holy buzz drifted into the sanctuary and something happened.  One person said, “It felt warm“, and I would agree. Following worship some people continued to hang around in the narthex for another cup of coffee and another quick treat.

More holy buzz.

All in all it was a great morning.

I think it is so easy to take Christian fellowship for granted.  Worship, scripture reading and prayer are important and essential but so is taking time to visit and listen to people.  I know we can not recreate last Sunday but I think it is safe to say that pre-worship fellowship time is going to continue…and definitely with my blessing.

edh -|—

God is Good

image

God is Good!

This was my supper at Wednesday Night Live (Sunday school on Wednesday) a couple weeks.  I am willing to bet you can guess what was on the menu :)

After I took this picture I showed it to a parent/church council member and she laughed (she is the one who came up with the caption for the picture).  She then said that she was in charge of devotions at the council meeting (which was slated to begin soon) and she didn’t have anything.  Now she did and shared this as part of her devotions (with her talking and me passing my phone around the table).

God IS good for countless reasons but if God were pancakes I imagine God would be the best pancakes ever.  Sweet enough that you wouldn’t need syrup (which I did use on the above mentioned pancakes).

God is good…all the time!
All the time…God is good!

Amen to that :)

edh -|—

First Day of School

We didn’t serve Doughnut holes this year but we were still out in full force :)

Today was the first day of school…and like last year Salem Lutheran Church was out in the parking lot to greet kids and their parents.

You may remember from my “Doughnut holes” post from last year (see link above) but the church parking lot provides a convenient way for parents to drop off their kids and pick them up from school…and the first day of school is the busiest.

This year the Salem Lutheran Church council had more time to plan and brainstorm.  So this year we were out in the parking lot with coffee for mom and dad and juice for the kids (like last year).  Something different from last year is that instead of doughnut holes we gave the kids a choice between a box of raisins or a granola bar; something they could take with them and eat later if they wanted (and it was healthy). We also had pencils with various sayings like “Jesus loves you“.

And…we had a box of kleenix…which was a welcomed sight for a couple parents :)

Why did we do this?
~ It wasn’t to gain more members
~ It wasn’t a fundraiser.
~ It wasn’t to bring more visibility to the church.

The reason was simple:  To share the love of Christ in a very practical way.

…And we had a lot of fun.

After we were done ideas were starting to flow for next year…but hopefully it is not a full year until we show the love of Christ in a practical way.  Hopefully this is a daily habit for people.

And for the Church…I look forward to the next opportunity :)

edh -|—

Don’t wear red

I saw a question on Twitter this morning that asked:

Are you wearing red today?

To some of you this may seem like a strange question so allow me to put it into context.  Today is Pentecost Sunday (liturgical color: Red).  This is the Sunday when we recognize the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in Acts 2.  A great story of the birth of the church and the work of the Holy Spirit. But I have serious problems with this question and the encouraging of people to wear red today (other than the fact that we don’t encourage people to wear clothing to match other liturgical colors throughout the year).

Think about it:  If you were to visit a church on Pentecost Sunday (not knowing what this day was or forgetting it was Pentecost) and upon entering the church you notice a sea of people wearing red, what would your first thoughts be?

For me I would:
(1) Start to wonder if there was a special celebration going on that I wasn’t invited to. I might be a little leery about going in; thinking I was crashing a party.

(2) Wonder if people were looking at me wondering why I didn’t wear red today. Kind of like going to a Vikings tailgate party and not wearing purple and gold.

(3) Feel like an outsider; not part of the group.  Kind of like wearing a Packers jersey to a Vikings tailgate party.

(4) Feel left out; like I am not wanted in this group…like a Packers fan at a Vikings tailgate party :)

(5) Probably not return to that church…because I would not want to feel like this again.

The encouraging of people to wear red on Pentecost (and Reformation Sunday…the other Sunday people are encouraged to wear red) is done in order to give those Sundays a special emphasis; not to isolate visitors.  But it does have that effect.  So I have stopped inviting people to wear red.  If they do…great.  Will I wear my red stole today?  Absolutely.  But I want ALL people to feel welcome.

Think about that today and other Sundays:
~ Are there things that we do in our churches that might cause people to feel like outsiders?
~ Are we truly welcoming communities?
~ When visitors walk into the church do they feel like they are wanted?
~ When visitors attend worship do they feel self-conscience about not knowing the “rules” of the church?

Let’s not become so comfortable that we exclude others.  Make it a point to say “hi” to someone who is visiting and befriend them.  Don’t let your church become an exclusive club but an inclusive family…the Body of Christ.

So don’t wear red today…wear the love of Christ.

edh -|—

Holy Week support for your pastor

Holy week begins on Sunday, April 1…and that’s no joke.  Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday is considered the holiest week of the year for Christians and the busiest week of the year for pastors.  And…if you’re a solo pastor it is even busier (not to say pastoral teams are not busy or have it easy).

So with this busy week coming up I wanted to give you (the people sitting in the pews)  a little heads up.

Your pastor WILL be busy…

…and maybe a little stressed and  maybe a little over-tired.  There are a bunch of worship services to plan, details to line up, multiple sermons to write and maybe some small group studies to lead (among other things).

So with all this craziness that is coming up I wanted to clue you in on the top ten ways you can support your pastor during this busy and crazy week.  These are not necessarily time tested things but from where I sit I think they would work…because I wouldn’t mind them.  So here we go (in no particular order…and…definitely not an exhaustive list):

(1)  Stop by your pastor’s office sometime and ask them: Have you taken some time for yourself today?  If the answer is no then as a person from the congregation whose offerings help pay their salary, gently encourage them to go for a little walk ~ 10 to 15 minutes at least.  Anything to just get outside and clear their head.  Tell them you’re doing this because you care about them.  And…if it’s raining then be a little flexible about the outside walking part.

(2) Drop by your pastor’s office with a cup of coffee (or their favorite drink) and let them know that you are praying for them (and actually be doing so before you stop by).

(3) Drop by your pastor’s office with a cup of coffee (or their favorite drink) and offer to do devotions with them.  Sometimes we forget to spend time in personal prayer and/or scripture reading during Holy Week because of everything else on our plate.  Have something planned and them pray over them before you leave.

(4) Volunteer to help with something such as:  Read scripture for a worship service; help set up the sanctuary; make some phone calls; help with the Easter breakfast; basically…offer to help remove something from your pastor’s to-do list so they can spend more time preparing for worship and proclamation.

(5) If you have small children, bring them in sometime and instruct them to run into your pastor’s office and give them a big hug.  But make sure your pastor isn’t on the phone or having a private conversation with someone before sending the kids in.

(6) Have I mentioned the coffee part (that is if your pastor likes coffee)?

(7) Remind your pastor to spend quality time with their family.  Your pastor’s family may “understand” the craziness of Holy Week but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to see their husband/father.

(8) If you see your pastor around town and they don’t wave at you or say “hi”…be patient.  They are not trying to be rude.  Sometimes when there is much to do we have a tendency to put blinders on and get really focused on the task at hand.

(9) Get a group of people together, stop by your pastor’s office and sing some Easter hymns (kind of like Christmas caroling).  Now how can someone not smile at that.

(10) If your pastor is doing a good job, then take some time to let them know.

Once again, this is not an exhaustive list but just some ideas to help your pastor relax and enjoy this week.  For me…this is my favorite time of the year.  Maundy Thursday and Good Friday always give me goose bumps when I think about why Jesus would go through all that for me.  And Easter…well…that is just awesome.  I may be exhausted on Easter Sunday afternoon, but every single year I say to myself “It was worth it”.

God bless you this Easter season and may you know the joy of Jesus Christ died and risen FOR YOU.

Praise be to God!

edh -|—

Holy community moments

Last night (Sun, Feb 26) brothers and sisters in Christ from Jackson gathered together to pray.

Back in January we had a special prayer service for a family mourning the tragic death of their 20-year-old son.  A lot of people showed up and it was a powerful moment.  Following the prayer time a few of us were talking and wondered:

“Why do we need to wait for a tragedy in order to gather to pray?

So yadda, yadda, yadda…

…we decided to hold a community prayer service every month on the 4th Sunday.  The location is to rotate among the churches.  Last night we were at Salem.

The agenda is nothing more than to just pray.  I set up circles of chairs in the fellowship hall.  I lite candles in the sanctuary in case people wanted a quiet place for private prayer.  I began our time with scripture and off we went.

That was 7pm.

By the time I looked at the clock again it was nearly 8pm.  Wow…how time flies when brothers and sisters in Christ unite in prayer.  And it didn’t even seem that long.  Our little circle prayed about a variety of things and people.  No rhyme or reason, but then again that is how it should be…pray however the Spirit moves you.

It was great!

But what really meant a lot to me was to see and hear people’s hearts.  We poured ourselves out.  We weren’t afraid to speak.  We weren’t concerned about “proper format”.  What I heard was people talking to God as one would speak to a close friend.

Very intimate time.
Very powerful.
Very moving.

Afterwards we just visited.  We drank coffee.  People caught up with one another.  More holy moments :)

The only things that bothers me about this is this:
Why didn’t we start doing this a long time ago?

Let us pray…

edh -|—

Time with God

This morning I started something new here at Salem:
Men’s Morning Prayer
Tuesday mornings from 7 to 8am 

This past Friday God placed it on my heart to do this so I set it up.  I sent an email to my Salem and Belmont list; set up a Facebook group; put information on the Salem web page and made announcements during worship and at the annual meeting on Sunday.  I didn’t know what to expect.  After all this was pretty sudden, but I still felt it was important.

So I showed up at 6:30am this morning, made some coffee, got the juice out and began reading…and waiting.

No one showed up.

Correction…

…God showed up.

So I sat there in the church library and read the Bible, prayed, read some more, prayed some more – and stayed there until 8am.

There was a time when I would have been very frustrated.
There was a time when I would have left after maybe 30 minutes or so.
There was a time when I would have considered dropping this plan.

But this morning I had a great time with God.  I found myself dwelling in 1 John.  I read a section; stopped; meditated; prayed; re-read it and moved on.  It was great.

Do I wish some men had showed up?  Sure.
Did I waste my time this morning?  Absolutely not!

So next Tuesday I will show up again at 6:30am; make some coffee; get out the juice and wait.  And I will continue this each and every week.  If no other men show up then so be it.  At the very least I will have an hour of quiet time with God.  And one just can’t go wrong with that :)

edh -|—