I had a wonderful moment in worship yesterday (in addition to the hearing and preaching of the Gospel). It’s a moment that I suspected would come eventually but I was still caught by surprise when I saw it. It was so uber cute and I’m glad I got to share it with the congregation (at least with those who were sitting along the aisle and could see).
About half way through the final hymn I got up and approached the altar to silently pray. I thanked God for sustaining me through a busy morning (2 worship services) after a night where Mayah (my 1 year old) did not sleep much. I asked that His holy Word would continue to work in the hearts of those who heard it this morning and I praised God for His awesomeness, love and grace.
Upon turning around to walk out my wonderful moment happened; my little girl was excitedly walking down the aisle towards me.
[Mayah just started walking this past week so we are still smitten with the cuteness of it all]
My heart melted as I got down on one knee with my arms open wide; waiting to receive my little girl. I could see smiles cascading down the aisle of those privileged enough to be able to witness this moment. When Mayah got to me she lunged into my arms as if she could hardly wait to get there. I scooped her up and proudly walked up the aisle with a huge smile on my face.
For me it served as another great reminder of God’s blessings in my life. It was extremely difficult to get out of bed on Sunday morning after only sleeping a couple hours and the coffee was barely able to give me the boost I needed. With a lot on my mind, God was faithful to send His Holy Spirit to give me what I needed to lead worship and preach the Gospel. And to top it off (like icing on a cake), God sent my little girl down the aisle as if to say, “You are loved“.
What a moment :-)
I do feel blessed and not just because I have a wonderful little girl and loving wife, but that I have an awesome God who loves me so much. God was faithful so that He may be glorified through this weak and tired body of mine.
So many wonderful moments and blessings all around.
What a great day.
What an awesome God!
The pastor -|—
Thirteen years ago today; at 8:30 in the morning; a Tuesday, God used my dad to utter these words:
“Eric, it is time for you to go to seminary.”
I was totally blown away by this and didn’t know how to respond. My dad went on to say some other words but I can’t remember those…only that call from God. The rest of the day was a blur as I spent the morning with my two pastors trying to discern what was going on. They were quick to affirm this call and the rest is history.
Now…13 years later…I am sitting in a church parsonage reflecting on the past 13 years. What a winding road God has lead me down.
There were times in seminary when I doubted I could do this. I questioned God and wondered if this really was the road I was supposed to be on. I nearly got off the road a couple times but God used various people in my life to keep me going. And I thank God for them because as I reflect back on these 13 years it is clear to me that God was indeed leading me along a winding road to bring me here; to Jackson, MN. I still wonder sometimes why I am here but then God does something and I smile.
Sometimes it is hard to see or imagine that God has a plan.
Sometimes it is tempting to think we know better what we are supposed to do. Sometimes it is hard to hold the course when the road does wind and bend.
But God has been and always will be faithful. And it is so much fun to look back and see those moments. In those times when I thought God was crazy, confused, oblivious, God was working out something wonderful. God sees the whole and complete picture…and…God is working out something wonderful in your life as well. Listen to God; listen carefully. Trust Him…for God will not lead you down the wrong road. Let God be your guide because in the end you will indeed experience something wonderful as you see God being glorified in your life.
So I sit here today; in this church parsonage; reflecting on that call 13 years ago. It’s been an interesting ride and I look forward to seeing what else God will do through me.
God is awesome!
God is faithful!
Praise be to God!
The pastor -|—
When instances of God’s faithfulness humbles you to the point of tears welling up in your eyes you just have to share the story…and that’s what I am doing here.
A couple weeks ago friends suggested a fundraiser idea to us: Tip Night at the Pizza Ranch. What happens is that the indivdual(s)/organization schedules a night with the Pizza Ranch (usually a Monday or Wednesday) and they receive 15% of the sales from 4 to 8pm plus any tips. The people bus tables, clean up and talk to the customers. Basically anything that doesn’t involve working in the kitchen or running the till. So Connie and I scheduled a Tip Night for Monday, Feb 18.
Now the advertising begins.
I created a Facebook event and invited people; a friend offered to create a poster for us and I emailed the local churches about a bulletin announcement. Yesterday (Thursday) I decided to email the editor of our local newspaper (Jackson County Pilot). I told him about the fundraiser and wondered if they would be interested in helping us promote it and/or do a story about adoption. I mentioned that I have encountered a number of people touched by adoption since we announced to the community we were adopting; stories we probably would not have heard otherwise.
Today I got an email back from the editor and I was…
Embraced with God’s love
The editor told me that my email was uncanny as they were discussing on Thursday about doing a story about adoption.
[Cue the goose bumps]
I told my wife this and tears started to well up in her eyes. She said, “Guess who was involved with that?“
…and Praise be to God!
Through out this process I have felt God’s gentle touch on my shoulder as we deal with preparations and decisions. God continues to assure us that we are on the right path. But more importantly, God continues to show us His faithfulness that leads us to glorify God. Because you know, in the end, that is what matters; glorifying God.
My prayer now is that any story that is published, whether in the Pilot or not; or through our testimony, that people see God’s glory and run to God in worship. I continue to pray for the child God has chosen for us. I continue to pray for that birth mother and family. And I pray that God may strengthen, encourage and guide us as we raise this child. In all we do, may God be praised and glorified.
Thank you, God, for your gentle touch this morning and for your continued messages of love through supernatural acts in our lives. This was no coincidence but your hand was and is involved. Thank you for the wonderful reminder. May you always be praised. Amen!
The pastor -|—
Just in case I haven’t communicated this yet:
The adoption process can be overwhelming.
Surprise, surprise, I know. But it is only overwhelming if you attempt to do this alone.
As our adoption process moves along I am finding myself exploring a number of resources: websites and blogs. I am also talking with others who have adopted. Those conversations have proved to be extremely valuable and I will continue to seek people out. Just yesterday I was speaking with a good friend/colleague/mentor about our adoption process. He had gone through the adoption process a while back. I was sharing some feelings I was (and was not) experiencing and listened to this wise man share what he went through. I found a sense of peace come over me as I realized that I wasn’t abnormal; that my feelings were not necessarily wrong. It was like God had ordained this conversation for that particular moment. After I hung up the phone I prayed and thanked God for His faithfulness.
Wow…God is amazing.
The websites and blogs I have come across have also proved to be valuable. I recently came across a blog from a family in our area who is adopting ~ for the third time. I am thinking I will be in touch with them eventually. Recently, my wife and I were given a website that contained a number of adoption fundraising ideas. Some of them were so simple and brilliant. Ideas, support, prayers, etc are out there…you just need to look and access them.
So as I come across some of these sites I am going to be adding them to my new blog roll on the right hand side of the screen called “Adoption”. My hope is that people who stumble across my blog will find comfort, as I have, in knowing that they are not alone. And…if you are reading this and are in the adoption process, please feel free to share your resources here.
God is so amazing. I praise Him for those “little” moments when He reminds me of His presence. I am thankful for the people He has brought in our lives. And I hope that some day soon I can be a resource to someone going through this process; that God can use me to give someone what He has given me.
Praise be to God!
The pastor -|—
When my wife and I started the adoption process back on June 28, 2012, I was scared silly as we were entering a world of unknowns. My wife was ready to start this process a long time before I was. I remember many times when she would bring it up but I wouldn’t give it much time in conversation. I would find ways to divert the topic and hope it would end.
I knew it was expensive and that scared me.
I knew we didn’t have the money.
I knew it would be hard.
I knew it would forever change our lives.
I also knew that I wanted to be a father. I was caught between my fear and my dream. I didn’t know what to do or how to proceed. I was praying but I don’t think I was listening very well.
I don’t remember specifically what the turning point was but we finally dove in. We decided on an agency that my wife found (God’s Children Adoption Agency) and off we went. We met with one of the case workers and got the information we needed. My wife immediately started the paper work and I started feeling more overwhelmed.
What have I gotten myself into? [I was still worried about money.]
The home study process started and things seemed to fall into place. It wasn’t too long into the process that we received our first financial contribution from a friend. Then our parents pledged support. At the outset of this we had friends praying for us. There were times when we would talk with these friends and they would end up gathering around my wife and I to pray.
It was overwhelming…but this time in a good way.
Now we are 6 months in and I am feeling like this has been God’s plan all along. I still know that this will be a lot of money but I don’t worry about that anymore. God has showed me over and over again that He has us covered. Various financial gifts have come in; showing me that God is not going to leave us hanging. God is faithful and always has been faithful. There are still a lot of question marks but feeling that my hand is firmly in the grip of God’s hand is comforting. We are not walking alone. And I am so thankful for our wonderful family and our wonderful friends. There is no way we could have gotten this far without them. They are indeed a gift from God.
So we continue waiting; knowing that God has a little one out there waiting for us. And when that child enters our home they are going to be so loved; not just by my wife and me but by our wonderful and supportive family and friends (including the congregations I serve).
Despite my fear God was faithful. What an awesome God we have.
Thank you, God, for walking with us in this process. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for calming my fears. Thank you for your love. In Jesus name, Amen.
The pastor -|—
The appeal about roller coasters for me is the:
and the upside down views.
The feeling of exhilaration is so much fun. I especially like those roller coasters where you can’t see what is coming next – like Space Mountain at Epcot Center. That is a fun roller coaster. It took a lot of convincing from my dad to get me to try it when I was young, but once I did I didn’t want to stop.
Roller coasters are fun.
But when you are on that proverbial life roller coaster then those things that once held appeal for the real thing become heart-wrenching and hard.
I am not a fan of those “roller coasters”.
But praise be to God that I am not riding this one alone.
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
I share with you the following prayer with the invitation for you to use it as your own today. Dip your finger in some water and make the sign of the cross on your forehead as you say, “I have been seal with the Holy Spirit and MARKED with the cross of Christ forever.”
Almighty and merciful God, through my baptism you
and spoke to me: “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and MARKED with the cross of Christ forever.”
Wow God…that is amazing.
When I consider this “marking” I can’t help but think that you claimed me because I am somehow valuable, otherwise why would you claim me? After all…
I am sinful
I am unfaithful
I am disobedient
I am definitely not worthy
But despite that you have placed a claim on me through baptism. You have said that I belong to you. You have comforted me with the gift of life. You have saved me from this world. What belongs to Caesar is that which belongs to the world. What belongs to you is that which you have marked and claimed…
Thank you, God. May water be that everlasting reminder of you your:
through Jesus Christ my Lord.
Thank you, God that I belong to you. May your name always be praised.
May God bless your day :)
Yup…I am still here. This past week has gotten busy…which is normal for this time in December. Let’s see what we have here: (1) Christmas open house at the parsonage is coming up; (2) along with our Christmas program; (3) Christmas worship services need to be planned; (4) and of course there are board meetings with the synod, Bible camp and congregation; (5) Plus the everyday, normal church “stuff”; and (5) For good measure I have a funeral next week.
…But don’t get me wrong…I am not trying to whine and complain; sharing my sob story here. But it never ceases to amaze me how I forget about the mayhem that always seems to hit this time of the year. It’s like I get amnesia…and maybe that is a good thing, because if I were to dwell on this craziness all year-long I might have run for the hills a long time ago. But as it stands, I am still here…and…God continues to be faithful.
I am a little stressed, but I know everything will turn out great. The Gospel will be preached and the Holy Spirit will do its thing. And after all…isn’t that the point? To let go and let God be God. I think so.
So I am going to get back to my “lazy” afternoon of sitting in my favorite chair; drinking coffee and reading scripture. A combination that you can never go wrong with. And oh ya…all that Christmas planning and other “stuff”…it will get done. To the glory of God.
Posted in Bible, Christmas, Church life, Devotion, God's faithfulness, Lutheran Study Bible, Ministry, Personal, Religion, Scripture
Tagged Christmas, God's faithfulness, Holy Spirit, Scripture, Worship
If there was ever a time when I needed to be reminded that God will never give us more than we can handle…it is now.
Here’s the situation in brief:
–As I have mentioned before this weekend is Salem’s 125th anniversary and there is an open house at the parsonage tomorrow (Saturday).
–The bathroom is being remodeled. We ordered flooring but as of Thursday is just arrived but no one was available to put it in = messy house for open house = stressed wife = stressed husband (me). Help!
–[Here's God intervening] One of my trustees has a son who installs flooring (why I didn’t remember is beyond me). She heard about our setback and called her son and he said he could come on Friday to install the flooring. PRAISE BE TO GOD! He just left (Friday morning) to get is tools so he can start. The bathroom will now be done by the open house = less stress for my wife = less stress for the husband (me). PRAISE BE TO GOD!!!
–[Here's God intervening again] Project #2…the patio. One parishioner is working on this (former landscaper) all by himself = lots of work. Yesterday and this morning people have been calling me left and right saying they are coming over to help Joel and get this done (Joel is happier). PRAISE BE TO GOD!!! And now I am feeling overwhelmed by God’s greatness and faithfulness.
–[The priesthood of all believers] People from the anniversary committee, the congregation president, various other council members, parishioners, and friends from the community (a friend of mine who happens to be the council president at the other Lutheran church in town) have stepped up to make this weekend happen. Thank you and PRAISE BE TO GOD!!!
In response to this all I can say is “God is good…all the time. All the time…God is good!!!”
PRAISE BE TO GOD!
Posted in Church council, Church life, Connie, God's faithfulness, Ministry, Personal, Religion, Small town life
Tagged 125th anniversary, God, God's faithfulness, Salem Lutheran Church
I love storms…
…especially if they don’t cause lots of damage and no one gets hurt. When a good ole fashioned summer thunderstorm rolls in I am all eyes and ears. One time when I was in seminary, a tornado warning was issued for my area. People in my dorm were heading downstairs to the storm shelter but I took a detour…I went outside to see if I could see the funnel. No such luck. Recently I attended a storm spotters training session lead by a guy from the National Weather Service out of Sioux Falls, SD. I went not to become a weather spotter, but because I like storms; I want to know what I am looking at. I learned a lot and plan to attend more spotter training classes to hone my weather knowledge…because I love storms.
Casting Crowns sings a song that my wife and I really like called “Praise You in the Storm”. Since this is a Christian song they are obviously not talking about a summer thunderstorm, but referring to the ole cliche…”the storms of life”. We all encounter them but the difference is how we react to them: Do we run and hide; crumble under the pressure; curse the storm (and maybe curse God); or do we look at the storm as something that can build us up. In the Gospel text for this Sunday (Pentecost 3) from Mark 4:35-41, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus when a nasty storm pops up. Jesus is sleeping but the disciples are scared silly. Pushed to their breaking point they wake Jesus up and accuse him of not caring for them. Jesus rebukes the wind and the storm becomes quiet. He then says “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?“
In Job, Job is questioning God about why this suffering has come upon him when God finally speaks up and says “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Etc, etc… Job has no other reply than “I know that you can do all things; no plan of your can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) The storms of life will not “thwart” any plan that God has and therefore we can have faith and trust that God has still won the day.
How do you respond to “storms”? Do you run and hide? Do you crumble under the pressure? Do you curse God?
Do you “Praise Him in the Storm”?
We can praise God in the storm because God has overcome this world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ FOR YOU and FOR ME. A mere thunderstorm can never define you. A tornado can not take away what God has given you. A hurricane can not have power over God.
God may not take away the storms in your life, but one thing is for sure…God will be with us through the storm; we will never be alone. When the next storm brews and threatens all you have…give praise to God for the life you have in Jesus Christ and let the world’s storms take their best shot…you already have a home that no thunderstorm can destroy. For that…I will praise God in the sun, wind, rain, clouds…and…I will praise God in the storm.
Praise be to God…ALWAYS and forever, Amen.
Posted in Bible, Book of Job, God's faithfulness, Gospel of Mark, Jesus, Ministry, Preaching, Religion, Scripture, Text study, Weather
Tagged God's faithfulness, Gospel of Mark, Job, Thunderstroms