National Day of Prayer 2015

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Today is the National Day of Prayer. It is a national observance that takes place on the first Thursday of May. The Jackson Kiwanis Club alongside the Jackson Ministerial Association leads prayer time for the teachers early in the morning and then at the flag poles, just before the school day starts, at the four schools in our district. At 12 noon today there will be a prayer service on the steps of court house (weather permitting, otherwise we’ll be inside).

Today, I was leading the prayer time at Riverside Elementary which is next door to Salem Lutheran Church. There were a lot of kids and community members that showed up to pray for our government, Church, military, families, education, media and businesses. What a privilege to be able to do this.

But my cute story from this morning happened as I was welcoming the crowd at the flag pole. I was talking about what we are going to be doing and thanking everyone for showing up. As I was talking, a little boy on the other side of the circle had his hand up. He had to be in kindergarten or 1st grade or so. So I called on him, half expecting a prayer-type question, instead I got this:

[Looking up] How big is this flag pole?

Got to love kids 🙂

With a smile, I directed him to his principal, but part of me wishes I had been more on my toes with a better response. At least this little boy was looking up, and maybe I should have recognized that and encouraged him to keep looking up, to God, not just now or this one day in our year, but always. What a teachable moment. Maybe next time I’ll be ready for the random/cute question of a child.

In the mean time, look up to God and pray, not just today but always. Our nation needs our prayers.

Holy God, on this National Day of Prayer, may we be a praying people always and not just today. We want to follow You and be obedient. So send Your Spirit, oh God, that we may be a blessing to others and for Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Martyrs ~ A Prayer

Next week, Feb 23-27, 2015, I am schedule to broadcast devotions on our local radio station (KKOJ/KRAQ). And as I thought about what to do, I felt moved to write and lead the listeners in prayer over a number of topics. The following prayer is the one I wrote for Monday, Feb 23.

Scripture inspiration:
[9] When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. [10] They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” [11] Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
[Revelation 6:9-11]

Let us pray…

O Sovereign Lord, our hearts are still heavy with grief over the slaying of those Egyptian Christians at the hands of terrorists. We can’t help but weep over the brutality that was shown those Christians. There are many around the world who are fearful, angry, confused, discouraged and inflamed. Oh Sovereign Lord, may we not sin in our response to this tragedy. But I as remember those 21 individuals I give you thanks for their faithful witness. They stood strong to the end; showing many that faith in Jesus Christ does not mean eternal death but everlasting life. They met a cruel end but saw a glorious beginning. And so I ask for your Holy Spirit to move among us here in this country and in Christians all over the world. May you inflame our faith to stand strong and to cling to you, Oh Sovereign God. May we see in you the way to eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. May we see hope that is sure and certain. May we know a peace that is beyond all understanding.

Oh Sovereign Lord, I also humbly ask that you may bless the leaders of this land and the leaders around the world as they consider the next steps in this war on terror. I don’t know the answer and therefore I don’t have specific petitions to lift up to you in this regard. So I will simply raise my eyes to heaven and with a heavy sigh utter, “May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. And as you accomplish your will, may we have the faith to say, “Amen” and “Come, Lord Jesus”. And so with heavy hearts we fall into your loving arms and seek a consolation that only you can give. And in the end, may you be glorified throughout all your creation. Oh Sovereign Lord, we worship your holy name through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor (with a heavy heart) -|—

Community — My adoption story

As I reflect on my adoption journey I find myself feeling very thankful for the community of people around us.

Monday night we had an adoption fundraiser at the Pizza Ranch here in Jackson.  The event was called “Tip Night”.  How it works is that my wife and I received a percentage of the proceeds from dine in meals, deliveries and carry out orders starting at 4 pm…and the community turned out.  My wife and I (along with a crew of wonderful friends), cleared off and cleaned tables, visited with people and provided adoption information.  Our case worker was also in attendance helping us.  A huge thank you to everyone who attended and helped us.  Also…a huge thank you to the Pizza Ranch for doing this for us 🙂

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Pizza Ranch manager, Jeff, handing me a check from the sales proceeds.

We received just over $900 from proceeds and “tips” that people gave.  That doesn’t included the money people gave us in the weeks proceeding this event.  In a word…my wife and I were –> Overwhelmed.

Praise be to God!

Ever since we started this adoption process we have received so many well wishes, prayers, financial support and other displays of love.  We have said over and over how blessed we feel to live in such a caring community with such wonderful friends.  The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child“.  Well…we are blessed to be living in this “village”.

And now…we anxiously await the birth of our daughter.

That’s right…a girl…due March 1.  The call could come at any time.  But we also know a lot can happen.  Nothing is final right now.  The one thing we do know is that God is faithful and that God is in control.  If this adoption falls through we will be sad, disappointed, etc…but…we know God will continue to guide us in this process.  In the mean time we pray for this birth mother and her baby.  We pray for her family.  But most of all we pray that God’s will be done and that we may have the eyes of faith to see that because in the end, glorying God is what matters.

Loving God, you have blessed my wife and I with a wonderful family; caring and supportive friends, and a caring and supportive “village”.  Thank you for showing love through all these avenues.  In Jesus name, Amen!

The pastor -|—

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 -|—

Doughnut holes

Today I helped serve doughnut holes.  It was nothing fancy just some regular, sugar and powered sugar doughnut holes.

There was also juice and coffee…and a Kleenex or two (which came in handy).

So what was the occasion?

Today was the first day of school for the Jackson County Central school district.  And we served doughnut holes.

Why?

You see…Riverside Elementary School is right next door to Salem Lutheran Church and the most convenient way that parents can drop off/pick up their kids is via the church parking lot.  Late August through mid-May; five days a week; and twice a day; dozens of cars (lots and lots of people) are coming to our property.  So I challenged the church council last week.

And they stepped forward.

We (Salem members) set up camp in the church parking lot by the sidewalk that leads to the school.  And there were the doughnut holes (and the juice and the coffee).  And…a box of Kleenex (parents…you can probably figure out why).

We welcomed kids and parents with a cheerful smile and a invitation to enjoy a doughnut hole and a beverage before school.
Some happily accepted.
Some didn’t know what to think of us.
Some declined and wished they hadn’t just eaten.
Some wished they hadn’t just stopped for coffee.

And…many smiles were seen.

All in all it was a good morning.  But none of this had anything to do with us.  It was all for the glory of God; to share the love of Christ with people in a practical way.  I know it may sound like I am tooting our own horn here but that’s not what I am doing.  I want to encourage others out there to find creative ways (as this church council did) in sharing the love of Christ with their communities.  After all…being the Church is about going out into the world and telling people about God’s love through Jesus Christ.

We didn’t preach sermons this morning, we just served doughnut holes….with a smile.  Most people can do that without getting too nervous.

How is God calling you to serve in your community?
How is God calling you to share the love of Christ in a practical way?

-edh-

Faster Pastor

Saturday night was a night I will not soon forget.

Here in Jackson, MN we are blessed to have the Jackson Speedway.  Races are a big deal here in town.  On Saturday nights one can hear the races going on…sometimes until 11pm of after. Our mid-summer celebration is called “Race Days”.   But in my five years here I had only been to the races once (now I will be going more often).

The track promoter we have has done a phenomenal job this year with a variety of creative promotions.  Saturday night was charity night.  As part of charity night the track sent out vouchers to all the churches to hand out to people.  For every person that bought a ticket and turned in a voucher, that particular church got $5…half the ticket price.  I handed out about 80 vouchers…that’s a good chuck of change for Salem Lutheran Church (if all those people showed up).

One of the feature races on Saturday was the “Faster Pastor” race (that’s right…it is just as it sounds)…and I was in it.  They put seven of us pastors in these hobby stock cars and turned us lose.  And let me tell you…it is quite an experience to be in a powerful piece of machinery like a race car.  I was given a quick orientation on how to drive this car and tips on how to maneuver around the track.  It was a little unnerving though, not being able to turn my head to see who was around me and not having any mirrors.  It was just me and the race car (by the way, we never got over 55 to 60 mph).

We drew numbers for our starting positions and I was fortunate enough to draw #1…the pole position.  I got strpped into my car and started it up.  The roar of the engine was deafening but exhilarating.   After we got out on the track they gave us a few practice laps to get familiar with our car.  I quickly realized that it took some strength to drive these cars and hold them on the turns.  I also quickly realized the feeling of adrenaline coursing through my body…what a rush.  After our practice laps the green flag was waved and off we went.  I hit the gas and felt the power of this car.  I held up in the turns as advised and hit it on the straight aways.  While in turns 3 and 4 on the second to last lap of this 4 lap race I saw my first competitor on my right side…my friend Chris from the Presbyterian Church.  As soon as I rounded turn 4 I hit the gas again and off I went.  I didn’t see Chris again until I got to the pits.

By the way (and I know you are probably curios)…I WON!  I got to go to victory lane; have my picture taken with the checked flag and be interviewed in front of the grandstand.  What an incredible experience.  I will not soon forget this night.  Most little boys dream about being a race car driver (as I did) when they grow up.  For me…this was a chance to fulfill a childhood dream…even if it is the only time I do this (but hopefully this race is an annual event now).

Thank you to the Jackson Speedway…not just for letting us pastors race live out a boyhood dream, but for supporting this community and for supporting the churches.  I am not sure what we are using the money for yet, but I do know that it is going to go to good use…helping others.  Living and serving in a small town definitely has it perks…and this is one of many reasons why I love serving in Jackson.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

The Passion of the Christ

Happy Holy Week!

That almost sounds strange to say, but someone said that to me this morning…so why not?  I know Holy Week is about the last week of Jesus life; about his arrest, trial, beating, crucifixion and death.  But through all of that we get to celebrate his resurrection and the victory Jesus gives us:

Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where O death is thy victory?
Where O death is thy sting?
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the Law;
but thanks be to God for giving us the victory,
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

So…Happy Holy Week…

To kick off Holy Week each year, I have been showing the movie, The Passion of the Christ.  Yesterday marks the fourth year in a row we have done this.  Each year we get new people to come and watch; usually only around 8 to 15 people.  Last night we had 9.  This year I sent an email to the churches in town inviting people to come and of the 9 that came last night 5 were from other churches.  One particular couple stands out though.  I can’t remember their names right now, but the wife is legally blind.  I see this woman around town and have talked to her a few times so I think she can still see a little.  But when I walked into the Fellowship Hall last night I was surprised to see her there with her husband.  After the movie got going they realized that there were subtitles and she could not see well enough to read them.  I started feeling bad for her.  Then I heard something that made me smile and gave me goose bumps…her husband started reading the subtitles and read every single line to her throughout the whole 2 hour plus movie.  Every once in a while he had to describe a scene to her and which character was there and/or speaking.  It was a really amazing display of love AND ministry. There are so many things we take for granted.  The reading of the lines was not at all distracting…actually…it added to the movie for me.

After the movie we had a time of discussion and this woman participated.  She enjoyed the movie and thought is was very moving (even though she can’t see as well as you and I).    In addition to watching the events of Jesus life and death unfold, I got to experience the love of a husband telling the Passion Story to his wife.  I will never forget that night because in a way, I got to experience first hand one way the “passion of Jesus” is displayed and showed to people.  It is one thing to say that Jesus loves you and he died for you, but it quite another to display that love in your life.  This husband did that last night (and I am sure every other day in their lives).

I have seen this movie at least a half a dozen times and each time I get something new out of it.  Last night…I experienced something new…and for that I thank God.

I hope and pray you have a blessed Holy Week as we celebrate the victory won for us through Jesus death and resurrection.  God bless!

-edh-