Exciting news!

“Leadership in the small church”

When I heard about the above continuing education opportunity I was intrigued.  I serve two small congregations in SW MN.  So an educational event about leadership in a small congregation sounded good to me.  But then I heard it was at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA.  At that point I lost some enthusiasm.  I mean…that’s a long ways and would be a spendy continuing education trip…something my congregation might not be able to afford (let alone me).  But the title still intrigued me so decided I checked it out…to satisfy my curiosity.  I learned that this opportunity was fully funded by a Lilly Grant (travel, lodging, pulpit supply…everything).  Now my interest was peeked again.  Then I learned that only 25 pastors (and spouses) are selected from across the country.  There was a lengthy application process for me, my spouse and congregation to fill out.  There would be homework before, during and after, but it would be something that would enhance my ministry, offer support for my wife and encourage my congregation.  It seemed like a long shot but we decided to go for it.

And oh by the way…my bishop is the one who put me on to this and encouraged me to go for it.

So I gathered a team from Salem to fill out the church’s part of the application.  I gave Connie her information and I went to work on mine.  We were all very excited but still reserved.  After all…only 25 couples get selected, but what did we have to lose.

I got my stuff turned in by the deadline (Dec. 15, 2009) and we began waiting…and praying.  We would know by sometime in early February.

Well…today is February 1.  The phone rings and on the other end is a woman from Virginia Theological Seminary.  I knew right then and there they probably weren’t calling me to say I did not make it…and I was right.

My wife and I are going to Virginia for the Summer Collegium at Virginia Theological Seminary (check out the link for more information); June 23 – July 1 of this year.  Out of 175 applicants we were one of 25 elected.  PRAISE BE TO GOD!  My wife and I are humbled to be chosen and excited for the opportunity; excited for us and for our congregation.  Now the real work begins.  A packet of information will be coming my way shortly and I am sure you will be hearing much more about this throughout the year.

For right now…Connie and I are super excited and praising God for this opportunity.  I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do with us (and our congregation) through this event.

Praise be to God!

To be continued…


New Year’s Eve 2009

Well…2009 is coming to a close and part of me feels this slight, little tug to write something profound to wrap up 2009; a kind of year-in-review with some final words of wisdom before the onslaught on 2010…

[“Profound”…what in the world is this part of me thinking…”profound”?]

In any case…here is my last post of 2009 (profound or not):

As I write this I am sitting in my most favorite chair in the world (a chair my wife despises…but that story is for another time).  During this time of the year I am on vacation…recovering from a busy Christmas season.  My wife is still working so we generally do not go anywhere, but that is fine…sleeping in and doing absolutely nothing is still good for my soul as I refuel for the drive towards Lent and Easter…after which I will take another vacation (this time getting out of town with my wife).

So as I sit here (refueling in my favorite chair drinking coffee) I find myself reflecting on the past year (funny how that happens when a year or anything comes to an end).  So listed below are my top ten highlights from the past year (in no particular order):

(10)Washington vacation – After Easter my wife and I enjoy heading out to the state of Washington (where I did my internship) and hanging out with friends and seeing the sights.  This year we did a lot of hiking and exploring new things.

(9) Losing 65 pounds – This took place from March through October in an effort to get into better running shape for 2010.  I have maintained my weight since then and am enjoying my new, healthier lifestyle.

(8) “The vote” – This is of course referring to the ELCA Churchwide assembly vote about homosexuality in August.  This is not a “highlight” but it sure is memorable.  It created a lot of discussion and soul-searching to say the least.

(7) Three weddings – Two of these were people from Salem and one couple is a friend of mine and Connie’s.  They were a lot of fun to do and be a part of.

(6) Release Time and confirmation classes – I have some really fun students this year.  They are active and willing to learn.  A highlight within this one is one of my Release Time students reading scripture at the Christmas Eve worship service.  It has been fun watching her grow up over the last few years.

(5) Christmas snow storm (“Winter Storm Eric”) – This was a little annoying but once again memorable.  I think this snow storm will be talked about for a long time.  The highlight here is that this snow storm caused us to slow down and therefore we got a chance to spend more quality time with family; celebrating.

(4) New patio and new bathroom – This was a long time in coming but we barely got these done before the church’s big 125th anniversary celebration (more on that coming later).

(3) Running – This is directly related to my weight lose.  I am training for 2 marathons in 2010, but the highlight here is breaking a 20 minute 5K and breaking 42 minutes for 6 miles…both very exciting for me.

(2) Salem’s 125th anniversary celebration – This was a fun weekend.  A lot of planning went into this and lots of people came out.  Many memories were shared.

(1) Five year anniversary – 2009 was the 5 year anniversary of my ordination and wedding.  The congregation planned a special recognition for me during worship (which I knew was happening but did not know details).  It was a very special time of affirmation for Connie and me.  After worship there was a reception and then after that Connie and I hosted a party for our wedding anniversary with our family; having a renewal of vows for all the couples.  A very fun and memorable day.

2009 was indeed an eventful year.  I made healthy changes in my life; had my call here affirmed; celebrated ministry milestones; and continued to enjoy people growing in their faith.  Many other items could have been added to this list…Praise be to God!

So as we close out 2009…blessings to you as you finish off the year and dive into a brand new year.  God has been and always will be faithful.  Hold on to that and enjoy the promises we have from God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let’s see what God will do in 2010…

Happy New Year!


We’re free!

We finally got a path out of the church parking lot and I got my car dug out.  I was starting to get cabin fever being stuck at the house for a couple days.  The only bummer part of this whole thing is that even though we are free they are still not advising travel to Sioux Falls.  My wife and I were hoping to make it to Sioux Falls today to celebrate Christmas with her side of the family.  Everyone is there except for Connie and I.  We are holding out hope now that we will make it there tomorrow after worship.

So even though this snow storm (which I have named “Winter Storm Eric”…I have always wanted a storm named after me) has changed our plans significantly… I am looking at the bright side of things.  Instead of celebrating Christmas over the course of a couple days, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, we get to have a few little celebrations over the course of a week…taking our time to savor the moments.  And isn’t that what we are supposed to do anyway?

So I have one more day to be kind of stuck and then we are off…to celebrate some more…and remember again and again why we have a season such as this.  God sent love to earth in Jesus Christ…the best Christmas gift of all.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Christmas Storm

Wow…it is Christmas afternoon and it is still snowing.  We did have Christmas Eve worship last night at Salem Lutheran Church.  Attendance was down a bit (not surprising) but I was still pleasantly surprised with the turnout.  Christmas Day worship at Belmont was postponed until Sunday.  Hopefully they can dig out in time to have worship then.

So now my wife and I are enjoying the storm.  This morning Connie was shoveling and I was going to go to the fitness center.  I walked outside and looked into the church parking lot (also my driveway) and noticed that the plows have completely blocked the two entrances…we are going nowhere.  Not even our Jeeps will make it through the snow.  Our snow removal guy should be here tomorrow to clear the lot…so in the time being we are snowed in.  Luckily we have plenty of goodies left over from our Christmas open house.

We did get to talk and see Connie’s family this morning via Skype (got to love technology).  Our 4-year-old nephew was having a great time talking with us and seeing us on their computer.  It was really cute.  Hopefully we will get to Sioux Falls on Saturday or whenever South Dakota reopens.

In any case, I hope you all had and are having a very merry and blessed Christmas.  Jesus was born to us and that is an awesome reason to celebrate.  Take care and God bless.


God is good!!!

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!!!”



What a blessing

I feel incredibly blessed…

Yesterday the congregation I serve celebrated the 5 year anniversary of my ordination (which is on July 2).  There was a special recognition of this occasion during worship in addition to a number of other surprises my wife and others cooked up (and let me tell you…as a pastor who is used to leading worship, it was a little uncomfortable not knowing what was going on in worship…but I still really enjoyed and appreciated what they did).  Connie’s very musical family was there to provide special music and brass accompaniment during the hymns and offering.  My mom read scripture and the church presented me with a gift.  After worship there was a cake/coffee reception for me (something the community was invited to, along with worship).  These were all things I was truly unworthy of, but it was nice to experience this affirmation of my call here.  I feel incredibly blessed for God has done amazing things here through all of us.

So many people were involved to help make this a special day and they tried so hard to keep things from me (which was tough considering we live and serve in a small town and small congregation), but they did a great job.  So if you are one of those people reading this…THANK YOU!…yesterday will be a day I will always remember and treasure.  But the main we all need to remember (and something that people highlighted yesterday) is that through it all…in everything that happens good and bad…PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Thank you to Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches and to the community of Jackson.  Connie and I are very happy to be part of these communities.  PRAISE BE TO GOD!


I am ready

It is Monday (or it WAS Monday…since I wrote this yesterday and am finishing this post today) and I am back in the office.   As you know from my last post my wife and I were out in Washington visiting my internship congregation.  It was such a relaxing time…visiting with friends, hiking, shopping, eating AWESOME seafood, gazing at the beautiful scenery and spending time with my wife.  It was just what the doctor ordered.

So now…as I sit here in my office…I am feeling refreshed (never mind feeling overwhelmed yesterday morning trying to catch up); ready to get back into the swing of things:
I am ready to get back to the craft of preaching.

I am ready to write some lesson plans.

I am ready to begin getting caught up with people here.

I am ready to begin planning the end of the program year.

I am ready to lead this congregation once again.

I am ready to breath the air of SW MN once again with a renewed sense of ministry.

I am ready…

I have talked with people who think vacations are not a priority; that they are a waste of time and money (especially in our struggling economy now days), but I do not regret spending the money I did these past two weeks.  I do not regret it because I feel blessed and since that is the case I need to take care of myself and my wife.  I need to be able to continue the ministry God has given me to do.   And I am ready once again to take on the challenges that are ahead and for that I give thanks and praise to God.

So with that I must move forward…because…I am now ready.

Praise be to God!


Priesthood of all believers

The priesthood of all believers is one of the basic tenants of the Lutheran faith; that we are all ministers; all preachers of the Word of God.  Some people just happen to be called and set apart for this ministry, but it doesn’t mean it is reserved for the clergy alone.

A week or so ago my wife started writing and emailing devotions to her co-workers (and I managed to get on her email list as well…surprise, surprise).  She has been more faithful in writing than I have been at blogging recently (I hope she keeps it up).  Each night she spends about an hour or so in devotions; searching scripture and writing what God places on her heart.  Her devotions are thought provoking and definitely come from God (I keep telling her she need to write a blog, but so far no luck).  Each morning I sign on to my email and there is her devotion for the morning…and she ministers to me.  She says that every once in a while a co-worker will tell her how thankful they are that she does this…but don’t worry…she never let’s those comments go to her head.  She feels so unworthy to be doing this but at the same time she feels that God is placing these devotions on her heart to share.

For me, Connie epitomizes the “priesthood of all believers”.  She saw an opportunity to share Christ at work and she is taking it.  She doesn’t do it for her glory but for Gods.  Allow me to share an excerpt from her devotions for this morning (I do have her permission to share this) that speaks to this very thing…being a minister where ever we are at:

Colossians 3:16-17
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Here again we are commanded to be thankful and give thanks to God.   Do you ever think about your job being an extension of the Lord Jesus?  He just told us it is in this verse.  You are showing Christ when you answer the phone, do some filing, deal with a difficult person, go to a meeting, or go out on a visit.  I remind myself constantly throughout the day that whomever I am dealing with is a child of God.  He created this person and I need to love them, no matter how difficult.  I am thankful for people who have differing personalities because if everyone was like me, we would have way too much chaos in this world!  With Thanksgiving coming tomorrow, I want you to know that my thanks to God include my job and my co-workers.  I feel blessed to be able to share these devotions with you and know we are all focused on the same God everyday.

I am thankful for ministers such as Connie.  We all need to epitomize the phrase “the priesthood of all believers”.  It can’t simply be left up to the clergy.  Look for opportunities to talk about Christ.  Whether it is through an email devotion like Connie is doing or whether it is through how you respond to a “difficult person”.  Each and every person can be a minister/preacher in a variety and a number of ways.  Don’t miss your opportunity.  But what ever you do, do it all for the glory of God; giving thanks and praise to Him.


More Amos…

Greetings and salutations…and welcome to another beautiful day.

For today’s installment/post I would like to introduce you to a guess writer…my wife.  Yesterday I preached on Amos 5:18-24 and upon telling my wife about this she read Amos devotionally for a couple days.  Yesterday, my wife wrote something about Amos that she posted on a discussion forum that we’re involved in with a number of friends of ours.  What is to follow is what she posted (with her permission of course).  I thought she had some great insights on what God is saying to us through Amos and made me think about Amos in a brand new way.  So…here it is.  I will pass on any comments to my wife, Connie:

I wanted to share something with you guys that really struck me last night as I was reading in God’s Word. I was reading in Amos because my hubby preached on the Amos text today, and I decided to just read the whole book.

Then I also was struck by Amos 6:3-6 “Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, who cause the seat of violence to come near; Who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; Who sing idly to the sound of string instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” Now I want to write to you what I read, here is the Connie translation of Amos 6:3-6 “Woe to you who feel that God is not going to return in your lifetime and therefore become complacent in our mission to make disciples, who have allowed a deterioration of Biblical values; who have the fancy houses and sit on the couch watching TV all day, eating the most elegant foods; who sing hymns/songs in church with absolutely no emotion and invent “new ways of worship” rather than focusing on what God has truly given us in worship; who consume alcohol instead of turning to God for guidance or use Bath & Body Works products when Suave brand is just the same, you are not searching for justice in the community or world, but rather search for the best for yourself”. Anyway, here is Amos 8:11&12 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord. But shall not find it”. I was struck by the famine, because I feel that is where some of our churches are headed or are already there. We have our “books of worship” which may contain some scripture, but we are not spending the most time in God’s Word. We don’t always openly talk about God’s Word in our workplaces or our coffee fellowship downtown. We are truly in a famine. When we do talk about God’s Word or guidance, we make it into some “grandiose” language such as “And then the Lord spoketh to me saying” or some other crazy talk. I feel that God came for the people, in their terms, in their language. We the church are in the midst of this famine and if we don’t get going, we are going to dry up!

I especially enjoy the “Connie translation” of Amos 6.

What do you think about this “famine”?