Questions

The following is my most recent article for the Buffalo Center Tribune. To God be the glory!


I am not sure how it started or when and where, but somewhere along the way I had developed a fear of asking questions. This was especially true in school and something that was exasperated while in seminary. Early on in seminary I perceived what I deemed a disadvantage. Many of my classmates were younger and coming straight out of college. But that was not the key disadvantage on which I dwelt. Many of my classmates were coming straight out of private Christian universities (i.e. St Olaf, Augustana, Gustavus). Many had taken religion classes, and some even had religion majors or minors. They had studied many of the theologians that we were studying and reading in seminary. And many of those theologians were ones of which I had never heard or read. Coming out of a state university with an accounting degree, seminary was not even close to my future plans. I felt unprepared and intimidated. So, when questions arose with me, I was afraid to raise my hand in class out of fear of looking ignorant or stupid and so, I kept quiet. Sometimes I worked up the courage to ask my professor after class, but always in their office, away from prying eyes or ears. But even then, I feared what my professor thought of me. And so, through unasked questions, I was left to search for the answers myself or just let it go.

In the Gospel text for Sunday, Sept 19 from Mark 9:30-32, Jesus is teaching the disciples privately saying, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they (the disciples) did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him (Jesus).” Maybe this fear stemmed from Jesus’ rebuke of Peter when Peter challenged Jesus about this earlier. Whatever the case, they kept the matter to themselves, but later would understand. But how many people today, “keep the matter to themselves” and never come to understand. Often it is not because of a fear of asking questions (it could be) but rather not knowing the right questions or even realizing that they have questions. Too often, we just assume that fellow worshippers or others are Christians. They never ask questions, and we never press the issue, but maybe we should.

Have you ever asked someone, “How’s your relationship with Jesus doing?” This may make you or that other person uncomfortable, but it could just be the question they or you need to hear. They could be looking for that right person who will not think less of them if their relationship with Jesus is lacking. You should never assume faith. In all places and in all situations, give them Jesus. As a follower of Jesus, I would love to hear that question from a brother or sister; someone who cares for my eternal wellbeing. Never assume faith and always assume there are unasked questions lurking out there that need answers. Become a safe place for someone to get the answers they need. To God be the glory and Amen.

Okay

My God hears me when I pray,
each and every day.
He hears me when I cry,
til the day I die.
He knows my very heart,
and yet He’ll not depart.
He knows my every sin,
the darkness there within.
He’s ready to forgive,
through Jesus I will live.
He’s ready to remake;
my heart He’ll not forsake.
So hear me when I say,
with Jesus you’re okay.

Uncomprehending Grace

Jesus my Lord, my Savior, and my friend.
With me always all the way to the end.

He heals me, saves me, and delivers me.
He holds me, loves me, and in him I’m free.

I’m disobedient and obstinate.
He’s always and ever compassionate.

Jesus my Lord, my Savior, and my friend.
Oh God, Your grace I’ll never comprehend.

Long Evening Walk

Well here we go, I am back at it. After writing articles for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for a few years while serving at Living Word Lutheran Church, I am now writing in my new community. Below is my first article for the Buffalo Center Tribune in Buffalo Center, IA. My articles are due the first and third Thursday of the month and will be published the following Tuesday. To God be the glory!


My family and I went for a walk one evening. We headed north on 4th Street NE and enjoyed the evening air. I was keenly aware of the beautiful corn field to my right. Quite a change from my former scenery in the Pacific Northwest. We used to live in the shadow of Mount Rainier in the Tacoma/Puyallup area. We had many scenic evening walks there, but this walk here was going to be different – a good different. As we headed north, we could tell that it was going to be a gorgeous sunset. We got to 7th Avenue NE and we had to turn west toward the setting sun. We arrived near AG Performance and there it was – the sun setting over the fields. I wanted to stare but that would not have been good for the eyes. So, I took glimpses through my shielding fingers and snapped a picture on my phone. Staring at that will not hurt my eyes but it definitely does not do the scene justice. We proceeded to head south and work our way home. It was a school night and shower night for the kiddos, so there was no time to waste, but as I said earlier, this walk was going to be a good different.


You see, during our walk we encountered something to which we were not accustomed: Friendly people smiling and wanting to greet us and talk. No, they did not know I was the new guy in town, they were just friendly, down to earth people. One woman was walking her dog and let my kids pet it. Pretty soon my son was talking to her about the pines cones he had just found. Other people we encountered did not try to divert their glance but made a point to make eye contact with us in order to say “hi”. I passed by the home of a church member who came out to talk with us. This school night walk took longer than anticipated but I have no complaints. It was a good different.


Do not get me wrong, people in Western Washington are not rude. There are many kind people there that we grew to love dearly, but the culture is just different. It is not small-town Midwest. Maybe you have not noticed but after living away from the Midwest for five years, we definitely noticed. Walking around town here in Buffalo Center is almost like walking around your yard filled with family. I feel safe and I feel comfortable letting my kids go outside to play without me right there.


So, who is this “new guy” writing in the Buffalo Center Tribune? I am the new pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. I am a western central Minnesota kid who was called to Western Washington for five years and now back, called by God to return to the homeland, the Midwest. There is definitely more to me than that, but gauging by our beautiful evening walk, you will probably learn much more about me and my family very soon. Thank you for the warm welcome to the Midwest. Praise be to God and Amen.

Uncomprehended

I just cannot comprehend –
Holy that you are –
that you would save
A sinner such as me,
You, the Creator of the land, sky and sea.

But it is me that you redeem,
Through Jesus Christ my Lord.
It is me that you redeem,
Forever I am adored.

So instead of wasting time,
Trying to comprehend,
To You my praise will ring,
To You it will ascend.

Glory in the Cross

Oh, in the cross of Christ I glory,
For it tells my salvation story.
A sinner,
dead,
lost,
and condemned;
floundering,
here and there,
and going nowhere.
Seeking pleasure,
worth,
all here on earth.
Striving after wind,
and Breath,
and gaining only death.
But on the cross my Savior died,
taking all my sin,
this life,
my strife.
Then Jesus rose from death for me,
taking all my self,
my soul
now whole.
And now I live, I mean, really live,
a life unending,
all transcending.
For, now its Jesus,
only Jesus,
now and forever,
He will never sever.
And so I’ll glory in the cross of Christ.
Oh Jesus my Lord,
it’s you I adore.

Confession in the Morn

I rise in the morn and raise my prayer,
Seeking earnestly to clear the air.
My sins are great and many are they,
But Jesus died and for them he did pay.
He paid for my sins so lovingly.
He saved my soul so amazingly.
Redeemed am I and thus I will live.
Redeemed am I my life I will give.

Raise Your Hands

Raise your hands to the Lord,
and all that is in you.
Raise your hands to the Lord,
for He is faithful and true.
He has redeemed your life from the pit.
He has saved you from death.
The Lord is mighty to save.
So praise Him with your every breath.
In Jesus you have a new family.
In Jesus you are not cast away.
In Jesus all hope is secure.
So raise your praise on this day.
Why wait? Why wait, to praise the Lord?
For He is worthy of praise now.
Look into His Word and know,
I promise that you will say “Wow!”
Raise you hands to the Lord,
and all that is in you.
Raise your hands to the Lord,
For all praise to Him is definitely due.

My God in My Chaos

To say that my last two months have been crazy and chaotic is an under statement. Actually, my world was turned upside down and inside out. God opened doors but Satan came swooping in to trip me up (literally, in one case). My faith was challenged and my family was and has been stretched thin. But through it all, God has been my stronghold and mighty fortress. He has been my life preserver when it felt like I was drowning. God has been awesome and amazing. If only I had kept my eyes open, it would have gone so much better.

The following is a summary of the wild events that took place and the subsequent faithfulness of my God:

Sunday, June 13 ~ I received and accepted a call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Buffalo Center, IA.

Monday, June 14 ~ I got up early in the morning as I normally do. After getting into the bathroom I became light-headed (doctors later determined I was dehydrated). I passed out and upon falling and hitting the floor, I fractured the right side of my face in three places. The next thing I remember is my wife standing over me. Thankfully she heard the thud of my fall. I spent the next 36 hours in the hospital, all in the ER as there were no regular rooms available. It was a miserable experience.

Tuesday, June 15 ~ I returned home with a dent in my face, broken facial bones and swelling. I was on a no sneezing or blowing my nose restriction. Let me tell you, that was no picnic for a guy with allergies. Two hours after returning home, I attended the scheduled council meeting at Living Word Lutheran Church and submitted my resignation. This had been the plan since Sunday, just not my hospital stay.

June 15 and following ~ I began sitting at home icing my broken face and beating myself up. I was thinking that I could have prevented this if only I had returned to bed or sat on the floor when I got light-headed. The guilt on my shoulders was heavy as I saw my family paying the price (at least that is how I saw it).

Sunday, June 20 ~ Not feeling very well, I lead worship and announced my resignation to the congregation. A very emotional day.

Thursday, June 24 ~ I had my pre-op appointment and got scheduled for surgery. This was also the beginning of four dark days for me. Because of the fall, my back arthritis was exasperated causing me a great deal of pain. The weird thing was that it took just over a week to flare up. I would eventually end up on crutches. And to make matters worse, the one thing that would have alleviated my pain – Advil – I could not take because of my up coming surgery. The next few days I was literally crying out to God. I am not afraid to say it, but there were a lot of tears shed.

Sunday, June 27 ~ Still in a lot of pain, I wasn’t sure how I was going to lead worship. But before even asking, a retired pastor in the congregation was already prepared to help me. A power outage, though, eventually canceled in-person worship so I got to live stream worship from the comforts of my couch.

Monday, June 28 (9 AM) ~ What a way to start my first day of vacation – a broken face and surgery looming. But first things first, I had one more chiropractor appointment before surgery. Upon returning home from that appointment, I was in so much back pain I could barely step up into my house. There was more crying out and more tears.

June 28 (12:30 PM) ~ We left for Seattle for surgery, but more importantly, God alleviated my back pain.

June 28 (2 PM) ~ I checked in for surgery. It was supposed to be a 1 1/2 hour procedure to have one small titanium plate put into my face. When they got in there, though, they found more bone fragments than expected and had to put in a bigger plate and an additional L-shaped plate. Four hours later I was in recovery and returned home later that night.

Tuesday, June 29 and following ~ (remember, I’m on vacation) Because of my recovery we had to cancel our annual family vacation back to the Midwest. There was much sadness over that (and some tears). And, I felt incredibly guilty as I was still blaming myself.

Sunday, August 1 ~ I presided over my final worship service at Living Word Lutheran Church. Another very emotional day.

Monday, August 2 ~ I had my third and final post-op appointment and my doctor was extremely pleased and impressed with my recovery. Some of the numbness had gone away which surprised her.

Now:
I’m Iron Man (my wife is rolling her eyes someplace) and feeling much better. I still have some numbness in my face due to the crushed nerve from my fall, but I am getting more and more feeling back. It could be a year or more before all the feeling is back (if it ever does come back). My back is much better but still gets stiff if I over do it. All in all, I am returning to more and more normal activities and for that I praise God.

Why am I writing all of this:
I say all of this to glorify God because, after all, He is awesome.
It is HIM who sustained me and my family during this chaos.
It is HIM who kept me grounded.
It is HIM who brought me healing.
I could not have kept my sanity and my faith if it were not for my amazing, awesome and faithful God. And those dark moments days before surgery — yes, they were scary and awful. I thought I was abandoned and left alone to suffer, but that was not the case. I was never alone. I simply had my eyes closed and did not see my Father standing there with His arms wide open. I wish I had opened my eyes, but now I know. I know for certain. My Father will never leave me.

Chaos, suffering, pain in one’s life is not the absence of God. It is a result of the sinfulness of our world. The Good News is that God has overcome the sin of this world and has redeemed you and me through Jesus Christ. I was never alone. YOU are never alone. Through Jesus I have the victory. Through Jesus YOU have the victory. I am a child of God. Through Jesus YOU are a child of God. In your suffering, open your eyes and see. Your Father is there.

So there you have it — to God be ALL the glory!

Amen!