All I Want

Father God,
there is much that I want.
Sometimes my list looks eerily like a letter to Santa.
I want this…
I need this…
I must have this…
All things that I think will make me happy.

But none of them bring you glory.

—————————–
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” 
(Psalm 32:9)
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And then I am quickly reminded of what brings You glory.
You are glorified when I seek to be instructed by You.
You are glorified when what I want is You.
You are glorified when my happiness is wrapped up in You.
You are glorified when I am satisfied in You.

And so I seek instruction from You.
I seek wisdom from You.
I seek to glorify You.

Teach me
Lead me
Show me

And therefore, all I want for Christmas is YOU,
oh God.
All I want for Christmas is YOU.

The (seeking) Pastor -|—

Ramblings of a Listening Disicple

Listening is never easy.
It’s hard work.
It means doing something active.
You can’t be passive and also listen.
It takes focus.
It takes determined attention.

To truly listen is a loving act.

You can hear someone making noise,
but that’s not listening.
You can see someone trying to communicate,
but that’s not listening.
You can be aware of someone trying to transmit data,
but that’s not listening.

Listening is focusing, receiving and processing.
Listening is caring about the communicator.

Listening is hard work,
especially when we are talking about
God.
Listening is scary,
especially when we are talking about
God.
Listening is awesome,
most especially when we are talking about
God.

For when we are listening to God;
when we are receiving from God;
when we are obeying God;
we are participating in God’s most awesome and perfect will.

Listening is still scary but it is also awesome.

Oh God, speak to me.

I’m listening…

The (listening) Pastor -|—

Jesus was homeless

I am still in Branson, MO on family vacation getting some much needed rest.  It has been great to slow down these past couple weeks to recharge the ole battery. But the reason I am writing today is to reflect on something my wife shared with me last night.  She was searching the Internet for various ministries in the Branson area and came across a ministry called “Jesus was homeless” (see http://www.jesuswashomeless.org).

Why do I bring this up?

Well…I am sitting here on the patio at this really nice resort, sipping my diet dew all the while there are homeless people nearby trying to find shelter from the rain that is falling.  We are enjoying time resting, reading, swimming, playing volleyball and eating too much while others struggle to find something to curb their hunger.  Then I saw a quote on the Jesus was Homeless website that read “We worship a homeless man on Sunday but avoid the homeless on Monday”. 

Interesting and true.  It makes me wonder if we should add another “activity” to family vacation. 

What would it look like if when we planned a vacation we checked out local ministries first and arranged to volunteer there at least one day?  How would that change our outlook of vacation and change it’s purpose?  But more importantly…how would it change your outlook on God’s children who can’t enjoy vacations like you and me?

I have never considered that before.  Rest and renewal is important but this life is only temporary. 

Amazing what one thinks about when life slows down.  Maybe I need to find more moments like this to listen to God.

-edh-

Quiet

June has been unusually quiet…

…I guess I shouldn’t say “usually” since most Junes are quiet for me (and for many pastors).  It just means the end of a busy program year (i.e Release Time, Confirmation, Sunday school have ended for the summer).  But for many people things can pick up a bit with youth trips, weddings, VBS, etc.  I guess it is just a different kind of busy; a refreshing one.

In any case…around here things are quiet…for now.  VBS is not until the week of July 19; I don’t have any youth trips planned this summer (having only a couple kids makes youth trips difficult); but I do have3 weddings this summer (2 in June and 1 in July) and 1 in the fall.  It’s going to be “busy” but still quiet around here.

It is also kind of eerie to look out my window and not see kids running around (my window looks out onto the elementary playground).  I have gotten so used to the sound of kids yelling and screaming and running around that it almost feels like I have been “Left Behind” now.  But the reality of school being done will hit me eventually.

So with the quietness I am using my time to refresh and catch up.  Like I mentioned in my last post I have been doing a lot of reading.  I want to read as many books as I can in a variety of subjects this summer.  One starting place…my bookshelf…which contains many books I have purchased but haven’t read yet.  Maybe you can relate…you see a book that you must have so you buy it.  You bring it home and place it on the counter, bookshelf, coffee table or wherever and kind of forget about it.  Then you find another “must have” book so you buy that one.  And the process continues.  Well…I need to stop buying books and read what I got, so that is what I am doing (after I read the book I just bought…I guess I just can’t quit cold turkey).

And…with the “new found” quietness I am doing some listening.  It is too easy to get caught up in all that “must” be done that we can forgot (or just plain fail) to listen to God.  Whatever my case I am taking time to just sit and listen (and “no”…that is not a politically correct way to say that I am being lazy).  When one is (too) busy one has a tendency to rely on ones own strength and energy, but when you sit and listen to God, then comes a powerful reminder that God is God and you don’t go it alone.  My strength is not enough, but God’s strength is more than we will ever need.  Praise be to God for that.

So…I am enjoying my quietness and I hope you find some quietness of your own to enjoy.  If you’re “too busy” force yourself to stop for a well and be quite:
–Read a book outside.

–Go for a walk…alone (without listening to your iPod, etc).

–Go for a bike ride…again…alone.

–Enjoy a cup of cup while watching the birds in your feeder.

–Unashamedly daydream.

–Pray and read your Bible (of course).

–Golf.

–Do whatever calms your spirit.

Enjoy some quietness and listen to the gentle voice of God.  God has much to say to you.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Youth ministry vision

For a couple months now, myself and a couple other people here in Jackson have been talking about the future of youth ministry in Jackson County.  At present, there is only one church in Jackson County that has a youth director (1st Baptist in Jackson) and that person is only part time.  We see a huge mission field that needs to be tapped.

Right now the vision we have been playing with and praying about is to have a ministry set up with a full time person running the ministry.  This ministry would be run and supported by a board of directors (representative of all the churches).  We believe this ministry needs to be located outside of our church buildings and in a neutral location (possibly an old store front downtown).  We have toured other community youth ministry programs to get an idea of what we might be able to do.  We visited The Connection in Canby, MN and the Youth For Christ center in Fairmont, MN.  In the Dawson, MN area there is a rural youth ministry network that just started this past fall called Route 212.  They don’t have a building, but that is something they are praying about.  And I know there is a community youth ministry program/building in Olivia, MN.

Is Jackson next?

The main thing for us (and the other ministries we have looked at) is that this ministry needs to be a Bible based, Christian ministry.  We recognize that our different denominations have various beliefs and practices, but when it comes right down to it, we believe that Jesus Christ is our salvation.  There are many things we can agree upon and we want to celebrate that.

This vision started with Salem and Our Savior’s Lutheran Churches talking about sharing a youth director…now it has grown to this.  So today at 1pm a bunch of us are getting together to pray.  We know that if this is God directed and ordained then we can not fail…but we need to be faithful and listen to God’s voice.  So we are committed to praying about this and listening.  We don’t know how this ministry will look or if we are even called to do this, but one thing I do know…there is a lot of excitement about this among our small group.  Our hope is that, if this is ordained by God, this vision will catch on with others.

So my questions for you are these: Is there anyone out there that has a community youth ministry program in their area?  How is it set up?  What is your experience with it?

Like I said, I don’t know where this will go and there are a lot of questions to be asked and answered, but where ever it does go, it will be all for the glory of God.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Listen!

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.  In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”  (1 Samuel 3:1)  Doesn’t this make you wonder who’s “fault” this is…God’s or the people?  My answer would be the people…not listening.  And even today I think many people could say verse 1 is true today; that the word of the Lord is rare and that there are not many visions.

But I would beg to differ…

…for the word of the Lord is very prevalent.  How often do we pray; asking for something very specific; and then wait for that specific thing?  Then…upon not getting it or not hearing an answer soon enough, we think God is not listening (“The word of the Lord was rare…”).  But is the word of the Lord rare?  NO!

The thing is, sometimes the word from the Lord is “No” or “not now”.  We don’t necessarily like those answers, but a word from the Lord is not rare.  We need to learn to listen and trust that God knows what we need.  We need to learn to shut up and listen for a word from the Lord.  We like to talk to God, but we don’t always like to listen.  I heard a quote one time (I am not sure who said it) that went like this:  “When you speak, you are sharing what you already know.  When you listen, you learn something new.”

There is a lot to learn from God…we just need to listen.

From the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book, hymn #513 “Listen, listen , God is calling, through the Word inviting, offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.

Listen…God is talking to you.

-edh-

My blogging call

Wow…it’s been just over a week since I showed up here.  This has been one of my longest blogging droughts since I started blogging just over 2 years ago.  I am not sure what it is…

Maybe a little writer’s block.
Maybe a little busyness with a few funerals on top of everything else.
Maybe it was me just needing a little break to re-evaluate my call to this blog.

It seems strange to talk about blogging as a call, but I truly believe it is a call.  It’s a call just like anything else…

Being called to be a teacher.
Being called to be a doctor.
Being called to be a garbage collector.
Being called to be a parent.

Not everyone has the desire to write about stuff going on in their little world.  I believe I have been called to this unique ministry and the call is still there.  Sometimes we need to go through periods of time when we test our call; when we question if this is what we are supposed to do.  And if we are truly called to a certain vocation, God will affirm His desire to use you in that vocation.  I am not sure what God’s plan is for me, but I am going to continue to listen and see what that is.

In the mean time…I will continue to write and throw ideas, thoughts and pondering out to you.  I will continue to invite you to comment and share your ideas.  I will continue to be challenged through reading other blogs (which I have been doing through this “drought”).

So with that I need to run and get ready for tonight (Wednesday).  Tonight I am taking a group of 30 people to Sioux Falls to serve at The Banquet; a feeding ministry in Sioux Falls, SD.  I am guessing I will be sharing my experience later on.  But in the mean time you can check out the following links.  One is the website for The Banquet and the other two are previous posts that I have written about experiences at The Banquet…so enjoy and I will see you all very soon.

The Banquet
Website for The Banquet.

The Banquet
This is a blog post I wrote in 2006.

Feelings I won’t describe
This is a blog post I wrote in 2007.

Take care and God bless.

-edh-

Bird man of Jackson

Believe me…I don't embrace this title, but I can't help but chuckle after our little visitor this afternoon…

Connie and I were in the kitchen getting ready do some grilling for supper when I heard a strange noise by our main door (from the kitchen there is a door that leads to three steps that takes you down to a landing.  A left turn takes you outside and a right turn leads you down into the basement).  When I opened the kitchen door to investigate the strange noise…low and behold…there was a bird trying to get out.  Of course my first response was to slam the door to prevent the bird from coming into the main part of the house.  That reaction caused my wife to get a little excited; thinking someone was trying to break into our house to kill us.  But after I assured her that the bird was not going to peck us to death, I entered the landing area to open the outside door.  That, of course, freaked the bird out and it headed downstairs to the basement.  What happened next can only be described as a wild chase trying to convince my feathered visitor that I meant it no harm.  I can't believe it would not trust me.  Eventually I chased it up stairs where Connie had the outside door open and our flying friend found its way to freedom.

[Later that evening]

Connie and I were sitting on the couch watching the news when we started recalling our wild bird adventure.  She then said, "I suppose you have a blog post for tomorrow".  I hadn't really thought about it but now I did.  Later in the evening Connie said, "I think I have an anology for you about the bird.  The bird is like us trying to find our way to freedom and God is trying to guide us to freedom.  Just like the bird who didn't trust you, we often don't trust that God has our best interests at heart.  But all God wants is for us to enjoy freedom…just like what you wanted for that bird.

Wow…I think my wife is on to something here.  I think she should have a blog as well. 

-edh-

Kicked in the butt by God

I got kicked in the butt by God on Monday and let me tell you…God kicked me hard.

On Sunday I preached a sermon about humility and hospitality.  In my discussing of hospitality I mentioned that the definition of hospitality is "welcoming strangers".  If we are only welcoming people we know and/or like, we are not practicing hospitality.  When I said that…I saw a lot of eye brows raise in unison.  We were all being convicted at the same moment.  And it was quite a moment to experience.  Anyway, I encouraged people to be more welcoming to people we would normally not welcome whether it is a stranger off the street or a person that makes your blood boil.

Here comes the kick in the butt…

…On Monday evening my wife and I were grilling.  I was making some breaded chicken on the grill with green beans and broccoli all wrapped in aluminum foil.  The breading is my own creation and I was really looking forward to trying it.  I threw the food on the grill and went inside.  After about 5 minutes the door bell rang.  It was the tall African/American man, LaMar, that I (through the ministerial) gave a night of lodging to the night before.  He told me that his car was dead and could not find anyone (on Labor Day) to fix it.  He asked if he could get another night of lodging.  At this I was a little put out but tried not to show it.  I said "let’s got to my office" (we live right next door to the church).  I called the hotel in town and arranged for another night of lodging and sent him on his way…to walk up the steep hwy 71 hill to the hotel.  I then went back home to check on the food.

After checking the grill I sat outside on the bench with my wife.  Both of us were quiet and I just knew that she was thinking the exact same thing I was thinking…KICK–IN–THE–BUTT…I should have invited LaMar to stay for supper.  After all, that would have been the hospitable thing to do; to "welcome a stranger".  After Connie reminded me of my sermon on Sunday and after I nodded in agreement I drove up to the hotel.  I asked him if would join my wife and I for supper.  He decline because he was washing his shirt and didn’t have anything else to wear. I then offered to bring him something to eat.  He said that would be great.  I got home and cooked him a couple small steaks that I had, some grilled green beans and broccoli, homemade apple pie and some ice cream.

I brought LaMar his food and went home feeling a little better but still felt like a pile of you know what.  I preached a sermon on hospitality and I failed to practice what I preached.  I am not sure if I redeemed myself or not…it didn’t feel like.  But God did convicted me yesterday and rightly so and all I can say is "thank you God…I needed that".

Today (Tuesday) LaMar asked me to drive him 30 miles to Worthington so he could find a job.  On the way we got into a good theological discussion.  He said that he believes that only 20% of people believe in God.  Most of the 80% go to church but do not live it out.  I think LaMar is on to something.  Many Christians talk a "good game" but many more fail to deliver.  It is no wonder that there are people like LaMar out there with a bad view of Christians. 

Today, God taught me a painful lesson but one I will never forget.  We are called to action not just talk.  We are called to welcome "strangers" because that is the essence of the Gospel.  We are called to love all people, not just the ones we know and like.  We are called to leave out comfort zones; "to hate our life" (see Gospel text for this coming Sunday from Luke 15) and serve. 

Thank you God for the swift kick in the butt.  Please forgive me and strengthen my faith to be more obedient.  Please watch over LaMar and bless him.  He has had a hard life so help him find a job and if I am presented another opportunity to help…I will be there with your help.  God…you ARE faithful and you are awesome.  In Christ’s name I pray…Amen!
-edh-

Dangerous Wonder

I just finished the book I spoke about in my last post, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith.  This is about the 6th time I have read this book and each time I highlight something new and make new notes in the margins.  If you want a book that’s not about theology but rather about living this is your book.  It is about breaking the rules and living by the spirit of the law rather than by the letter of the law.  It is about being "reckless" in your faith – reckless in such a way that your faith shines through in helping and serving people rather than through dogma and rules.  It is about being amazed and blown away by the love and grace of God.  Dangerous Wonder shatters the myth that you MUST "color inside the lines" and shows how God encourages and welcomes "outside-the-lines coloring".  This book slapped me in the face with the reality that following Jesus is fun, wild and dangerous; and the only way to grasp that reality is by re-claiming our "childlike faith". 

"Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15)

As I was reading I jotted down some quotes, from the book, that really struck me and I would like to share a couple of them with you.  I am curious how they strike you:

"Predictability and faith cannot coexist…take surprise out of faith and all that is left is dry and dead religion.  Take away mystery from the Gospel and all that is left is frozen and petrified dogma.  Lose your awe of God and you are left with an impotent deity." (pg.28)

"Could it be that one of the significant problems in the church is noise?  Modern faith might be undermined more by activity and noise than by immorality and lack of commitment.  Maybe we have become so active and noisy that we have drowned out the thin silence of God." (pg.81)

Right now I am thinking I need to be a little more "childlike" in my faith.  I need to slow down and focus on listening to the still, small voice of God (the thin silence)…

-edh-