Scotcheroos, coffee and sermon prep

Ah…sermon prep time at my favorite location in Jackson ~ Coffee Choices.

Each day at 10:20am I pack up my laptop and sermon prep materials and head downtown.  I walk into Coffee Choices and I feel like Norm walking into Cheers.

O the joy of small town life.

I setup camp and greet my scotcheroo that is waiting for me (See lower left part of photo. I have a standing order every Thursday).  I also order a cup of coffee (of course) and then place my lunch order to be ready at 11am.

Each Thursday ~ the same routine (unless I let Coffee Choices know ahead of time).

Some days it is busy and noisy.
Some days it is quite peaceful (like today).
Whatever the case I don’t care. The Holy Spirit can work in any condition.

If this routine is disrupted, though, I almost panic ~ thrown for a loop.  But the sermon still gets written.  I don’t know how.

(actually I do…refer to my previous Holy Spirit comment).

But what makes Thursday sermon prep so special (outside the Holy Spirit working through me to prepare a message from God to preach to God’s people)  is…well…

…the scotcheroo, the coffee and the Cheers like feeling.

O the joy of small town life.

And now…lunch time 🙂


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.


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?


A concern…please advise

Last Wednesday a parent approached me and asked me if I had heard of Wicca.  I said that I know of it but am not too familiar with it.  I then asked her why she asks and she said that there are students at the high school that are practicing this.

This concerns me.

Since that conversation I have learned that there are middle school students tinkering with this as well.  I am worried that there are students here in Jackson heading down a dark road and I am not sure what to do (other than pray).  I am not all that educated on Wicca.  I did an Internet search and there seems to be a lot of information out there but I don’t know what to trust.  Can anyone help me with a reliable source of information to learn more about Wicca so I can help answer questions and talk with my students? I am also in the process of compiling some scripture to use.  What would you recommend I have on my list?

Please advise.

Thank you.


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…


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!!!”



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!



VBS (Vacation Bible School) is almost upon us here at Salem Lutheran Church.  Our coordinator has been hard at work for a few weeks now.   It is fun to see her excitement and energy as July 20 fast approaches.  And if you want evidence of Emily’s excitement just walk through the lower level of Salem and see the decorations…it looks like a swamp…very fun.  Right now we have 30 pre-school kids registered with more expected to just show up on Monday morning.  I am in charge of the Bible story each day which I am looking forward to with much excitement.

In the afternoons we have a VBS style program (or daycamp) going on for our K – 6 graders with Shetek Lutheran Ministries.  Salem is hosting the pre-school VBS and our ELCA neighbors down the street is hosting the daycamp program.  Daycamp has about 55 kids registered. All in all it is going to be a fun week.

My dream and goal for next year is to get most if not all the churches together in Jackson to put on a VBS program together.  There is so much we can do if we combine our resources, gifts and talents together without having to re-create the wheel (which we seem to be doing this year).  Salem, Our Savior’s and Belmont Lutheran Churches are together this year but I envision a much greater ecumenical partnership in 2010.

So here’s to VBS:  lots of energetic pre-schoolers…cool aid…games outside…crafts…singing…Bible stories…and hopefully some seeds planted.  Thank you to our volunteers, parents, and congregations for your support, time and committment.

So here’s to VBS and the Holy Spirit working in the lives of our kids.

Praise be to God!