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!

Prayer in Weakness

Whatever weakness or vulnerability you are facing, may You know the grace and love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. He will never leave you nor will He desert you, leaving you to deal with your affliction alone. He is faithful and will be your strength. Praise Him in the storm. Praise Him always and forever. Praise Him. Let us pray…

Oh God,
I feel weak and vulnerable, frail and helpless. My strength has been melted away. But, You never promised the easy way in this life, but Jesus did promise to be with us to the very end of the age.
Oh my God,
sustain me in that promise.
For that promise, in the midst of affliction and weakness, is what gives me strength and hope. It cheers my heart when I am down and lifts me up when it feels I am at rock bottom.

May I not forget Your faithfulness.

Though my body feels frail, you are my strength.
Though I feel vulnerable, You are my Helper.
Though I feel useless, Your Spirit still works through me.
Though I feel pain, You are my Comforter.
Though I feel hopeless at times, You never desert me.
Though I feel overwhelmed, You are in complete control.

Oh God, my Father, Sustainer, Good Shepherd, Sovereign God, Lord and my Rock,
I praise You in the storm.
Though the waves are crashing into my boat,
You hold me tight
and will not let me be swept away.
Though the winds are blowing hard against me,
You hold me firm
and have placed me upon the Rock.
And so I beseech You,
Oh my God,
bind Satan that he may not drive me to despair.
Cast him away that my strength is not in fighting him,
but rather,
spent glorifying You,
knowing that my strength is from You.
And so,
as I sit here,
may You be glorified despite and though my weakness,
for You are worthy,
and my Good God almighty.
It is in Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

Faithful God

Below is the article I submitted for publication at The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday. To God be the glory!


Do you remember what life was like one year ago today? Businesses were open at full capacity. Students were learning in a physical classroom and not through a computer screen. We did not have to decide which face mask to wear today. Socially distancing from people was considered rude. Grandpa and grandma did not have to be isolated from the world. The toilet paper aisle in the grocery store was always fully stocked. And the word “pandemic” was associated with the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Just think, a year ago today we knew little about COVID-19 except that there something was out there making people sick. There were no pandemic restrictions and life was moving along smoothly. But within a couple weeks, everything changed as life seemed to come to a screeching halt. We may never be the same again, but maybe that is okay. Maybe things needed to change. But whatever the case, one thing is certain, God has been and always will be faithful.

As I look back on this past year, I see a God who continued to provide for His Church. I see a Church that adapted to circumstances, took advantages of opportunities, and continued to be the Church. I see a Church that was never shut down despite the narrative that the world tells. I see a God who has made us stronger. Many of you have been drawn closer to our Father in heaven. Many of you have developed a deeper faith in Him. Some have drifted away. Some are angry or questioning God. And many are even mocking Christians for continuing to cling to God amid this pandemic.

Yes, life has changed; it has changed a lot of things and people. Just like how 9/11 changed air travel forever, the COVID-19 pandemic will change how we interact with people and/or how we deal with the next virus that comes along. But never forget, through it all, God has been glorified, but that still does not mean we quit praying. Pray, pray, and pray some more that this pandemic ends. But more than that, pray, pray, and pray some more that people come to know God through Jesus Christ. That is why we are here and that is why God has been faithful. Nothing can stop God from advancing His will and purposes. Nothing can shut down the Church. Nothing can destroy the Body of Christ.

One year ago life was different, but that can be said about any time in history. Therefore we take the good with the bad and continue to praise God for His faithfulness. Hang in there! This world is indeed coming to an end, but God’s Kingdom lasts forever. Cling to the truth, that promise, that certainty. And in one year, let’s chat about this again and see where we are. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Benediction ~ Promised Kingdom

Another benediction that I plan to debut on Sunday…

As a pillar of cloud and fire led the Israelites by day and night through the wilderness without fail, may the Holy Spirit guide and bless you in through your wilderness. As their resources and strength never failed know that God will never fail you. As God fought for them, know that God fights for you. As God brought them into the Promised Land, know that through faith in Jesus Christ, you will enter His Promised Kingdom. As God remained faithful to them, Go in peace knowing God will always be faithful to you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

A Great Adventure

Three and a half years ago, You called me to follow You on a great adventure.
I left a land I grew up in (Minnesota) and moved to a new land (Western Washington).
You called me from a congregation that I gave my heart to for 12 years and sent me to a “church in a box” – a people unknown to me.
To say that I was nervous is to put it mildly, but my family and me went and followed You — and You have been faithful.
The call was to help build a church – in more ways than one. In one way I have been doing that for 3 1/2 years, but now You, oh God, are getting all literal on me.
You are now calling me to new territory again: Moving a congregation to a different community and losing our “church in the box” description.
To say that I am nervous is to put it mildly, but I will go and follow You — and I know You will be faithful.
Oh God, as You led Abraham to an unknown territory so lead me.
As you have led this congregation for 10 years, please continue to do so.
I don’t know what I am doing but You know and that is all that matters.
Even though I confess my nervousness here and now, I know You won’t abandon me.
I believe, help my unbelief.
And so, oh God, I give this all to you.
Let us go, once again, on great adventure together.
To You be the glory, oh God, always and forever.
Amen.

Thank You

I cannot see the wind but I feel it on my face.
I cannot see the air but I know it’s necessary to live.
I cannot see nutrients but I know they sustain my body.
I cannot see Your Spirit but I know it gives me Life.
Working behind the scenes.
Working without much notice.
You bless my days.
You bless my days with grace and love.
You bless my life with Your Son.
You give and give,
but yet I don’t thank as I should.
Your blessings come and come,
but I go about my days.
All that You do would be noticed if You stayed Your gracious hand.
Oh Lord, please do not stay Your hand as You should.
Oh Lord, as stand before You as a blessed one.
Oh Lord, thank You.

A Psalm for the Morning

Oh Lord, You are my strength and my song,
You are my salvation.
You cause me to rise in the morning,
and gently lie my head down in the evening;
keeping me throughout the night.
You are my guard on all sides;
defeating those that would oppose You.
Keep me, oh Lord, from straying from You.
Keep me from despair.
Keep me from straying from Your ways.
May I be faithful and obedient.
May I be true and right.
May I know the way You have ordained for my life.
Oh Lord, on my own I am lost.
Lead me, guide me, direct me.
I want to know Your ways.
Oh Lord, You are my strength and my song,
never do I want to leave Your side.
Keep me, this day, and always,
that I may proclaim Your holy name;
that Your glory may shine.

Faithful

Oh God,
Your Word is faithful and true,
Your Word is enduring and timeless,
Your Word is changeless and trustworthy,
You have never failed to follow through.
You have never let me down.
Oh God, so
How could I be so faith-less?
How could I be so trust-less?
How could I be so impatient?
You have never given me reason to doubt You, yet I did.

I confess.
I repent.

Hear my prayer and heal me.
Hear my prayer and strengthen me.
Hear my prayer and empower me.
In Jesus name, forgive me.

And now, oh God…

May I shine a light unto Your faithfulness
for all to see.
May I reflect Your glory,
for all to bask in.
May I proclaim Your love,
for all to know.

Satan wielded his sword against me.
Your sword is stronger for Your Word will never pass away.
May I always trust in Your faithfulness.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—


You Are

You are holy,
we are not.
You are perfect,
we make mistakes.
You are love,
we are anything but that.
You are strong,
we are weak.
You are right,
we are wrong.

We have good intentions,
but Your plans always succeed.
We think we’re in control,
but You sit on the throne.
We try to take control,
but You rule over all.
We look to our knowledge,
but You have all wisdom.
We plot out our course,
but You are the Way.

Oh God,

We fall short.
We hurt one another.
We go astray.
We forget about You

On our own we are lost…

[Father God, in Jesus name, forgive us]
[My child, you are forgiven]

Oh God,

YOU are…

AWESOME!

The Pastor -|—

Doors

Doors open
and
Doors are closed

Sometimes they are slammed shut.
Sometimes they close ever so slowly.
Whatever the case, a closed door signals
mourning
grieving
loss.
A closed door feels so
final
scary
uncertain.
A closed door means we can’t see.
A closed door means we’re
stuck
trapped
confined.

Oh God, I don’t like closed doors
but…

closed doors also signal something

NEW

we just can’t see it
and therefore we need to live by faith.

Oh God,
grant me the faith to trust in you;
to trust that when a door closes
that you’ll open another one.
Grant me the faith to cling to you.
Grant me the patience to wait for the right door to open.

Doors close
and
Doors are opened

My child, I AM the Faithful Doorkeeper

The Pastor -|—