I just have to share this ESPN story with you.  I saw this last night and I was blown away.  Through this story I was given a dose of hope that there are still honest people with integrity out there…and in the professional sports world.

Basically…a golfer in a playoff calls a 2 stroke penalty on himself that cost him his first PGA tour win (and cost him nearly a half a million dollars).  Had he not said anything, no one would have noticed what he did.  I know I wouldn’t have because I was not aware of this rule.  But for Brain Davis, integrity is something that is ingrained and should not be compromised (even when no one would know the difference).

If I were ever in that situation I hope I would do the same thing.

What do you think of this?


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!



[This was submitted as a letter to the editor of the Jackson County Pilot.  Along with me 4 other pastors and one lay person signed onto this letter.]

What makes a person great?

In a world where many people wear blinders this question is answered in very narrow terms.  For many, greatness is limited to job performance or on the field/court performance (athletic success).  If a person brings in a lot of business, makes a lot of money, wins a lot of games, sells a lot of tickets, puts a lot of butts in the stands, etc, then greatness is measured using those factors.  But I would argue that greatness can not be limited to those narrow confines; rather character HAS to play into the equation.  I say that because character is something that goes with you where ever you go and carries over into everything you do.  Character is what people will remember in the long run.

Recently, here in Jackson, a great volleyball coach died.  Carolyn coached for many years and was respected by many people:  student athletes, parents, fans, and other coaches and players.  She is remembered and respected not just because of the results she brought to the teams she coached (a couple state titles and numerous conference and  sub-section titles) but what she taught her players.  In a recent story in the newspaper it (of course) talked about her statistics a little bit, but the majority of the story was about what she left behind for her girls.  Carolyn was a tough coach and very demanding, but she was respectful and kind.  In the newspaper story many of her former players talked about what she taught them and even called Carolyn their second mom.  What a compliment and testimony to her character.  A “great” coach does not need to swear and berate their players.  A “great” coach sets an example for their players and holds them accountable for their actions on AND off the field/court.  Carolyn did that and that is why she will be remembered as a “great” coach.

I watch stories on ESPN talk about “great” players but then in the next breath it is mentioned that they got arrested for drunk driving or domestic abuse or drug use.  To me that player may be very talented athletically, but they are not a “great” player.  Character has to be taken into consideration because character carries over to EVERY aspect of ones life.  The professional athletes that I most respect are the ones who stay out of trouble, give back to their communities, are not overly cocky, don’t break the rules (i.e. steroids) and are just plain respectful of the sport and other people.  That is a testament to their character.  Whether they produce on the field/court or not I cheer for those athletes and wish them the best.

As a society we need to demand better.  We need to expect “greatness” in EVERY aspect of ones life.  We need to demand more from our coaches and athletes.  And…as a society…we need to expect more from ourselves.  We need to be mindful of our character.  Job performance or athletic success is temporary, but character is forever.  If we don’t teach our kids today that character is important; if we don’t teach our kids to be respectful of authority, I worry about the future.

Take a stand and expect “greatness”…in the FULL sense of the word.



Check out this news story from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune: Click here

Selling alcohol at a youth hockey game seems to be going too far.  Hockey isn’t too big out here in SW MN so maybe I am just “out of it”, but does anyone else see something wrong here?  Do people really need to consume alcohol while watching a bunch of teens play hockey?  What message is being sent to the kids?  What’s next…a beer garden at little league baseball games?

Just me ranting a little.  Have a great day 🙂


Monday morning check in – 02/04/08

She is still hanging in there.  I am blown away each and every day that I do not receive "the phone call".  Grandma’s organs are shutting down/failing and she’s not eating or drinking much, yet she hangs on.  God indeed must have some more work for her to do.  I continue to pray for peace for my grandma and for my family.

The "Big Game"
Apparently there are some copyright laws about using the words "Super Bowl" (I am pretty sure I am not violating any here, but why take the chance).  Apparently the NFL does not make enough money off the "Big Game" so they have to insist that bars and restaurants (and churches) not show the "Big Game" on TVs larger than 55 inches diagonally.  Maybe we should all take a special offering to help support the work of the NFL since they are in such dire straits. (Did I get a little too feisty there?)

The "Big Game"…continued…
But I did watch the game and even hosted a modest "Big Game" party for a few friends.  As much as I enjoy watching football (and playing fantasy football), I am glad the "Big Game" is done.  I got tired of hearing about New England’s pursuit of perfection (as if they would have been "perfect" if they won the "Big Game").  "Perfection" is such a hard work to use in reference to any human achievement.  God is perfect…not creation…and definitely not any sports team no matter the record.

We are currently getting a blast of winter weather.  I went to the gym at 5:45 this morning and when I came out at 6:45am there was about 1/2 inch on the ground.  Now we have a couple inches, but the snow is beginning to taper off.  Apparently the BIG winter storm is fizzling out.  Imagine that.

Mini sermon of the week
"The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home" -St. Augustine-

God bless your day!

Where’s the forgiveness

I might stir up a hornet’s nets with this post (those who think people should take more of a stand on social issues), but those of you who know me, know that that is not going to bother me.  So here it goes…

A couple weeks ago, Kelly Tilghman from the Golf Channel, made a racially incentive remark concerning Tiger Woods (by the way, Kelly and Tiger are friends — Follow this link for the story).  In talking about Tiger’s dominance on the PGA tour, a reference was made that the only way to stop Tiger was to have the rest of the golfers taker him (Tiger) out back and "lynch him".  Obviously this remark is extremely inappropriate.  No harm or disrespect was meant toward Tiger — it was just a moment of bad judgment.  Kelly later apologized on air and to Tiger personally (an apology that Tiger accepted).  Kelly was then suspended from the air for two weeks and is schedule to return shortly.

But this issue is not over…

Many people (including former football great, Jim Brown) are upset that Tiger has not spoken out more about this racially insensitive comment.  They feel that Tiger needs to take more of a stand on social issues – to which Tiger says he does everyday and that this is a "non-issue" now. 

So here’s my beef:  Kelly said something inappropriate (I don’t condone that) – she apologized to the public (admitting her guilt) – apologized to Tiger personally (an apology that was accepted) – and was punished for her comment – Now people want Tiger to continue to drag this out and make an example of Kelly.  Why?  It’s not like she meant to cause Tiger harm.  It was a very bad mistake – inappropriate and wrong.  And she confessed her guilt (sin).  My question is this:  WHERE IS THE FORGIVENESS?

Like I said, I am not condoning what Kelly said, but is there any need to make this any more an issue than it has already become.  The thing is, society does not like forgiveness when other people are involved.  we have such an over-developed sense of justice that forgiveness gets forgotten – it becomes a "non-issue". Tiger is setting an amazing example for people.  He does not condone Kelly’s comments either, but neither is he carrying a grudge.  Case closed…let’s move on.

I know racism runs wild in our society today.  And I know we need to take a stand against it.  And if Kelly had not apologized or waited a long time then I would be in favor of Tiger speaking out about this.  But let’s not condemn someone for showing forgiveness.

When apartheid ended in South Africa and Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president, he didn’t start preaching that blacks should go and "get justice" by condemning their white oppressors, but rather Mandela preached forgiveness.  He never said that apartheid was O.K., but he did say that if there is going to be any hope for healing, forgiveness needs to be in the picture someplace.  Maybe you can’t snap your fingers and forgive, but at least work your way to the road to forgiveness.

So my message to Jim Brown and others is this:  Through Jesus Christ, God offers forgiveness to all people (even to you and even to Kelly).  Without forgiveness there is not hope of a peaceful society.  Justice must be sought, but hasn’t this issue run it’s course yet?  Please…move towards the road to forgiveness and let’s move on towards being a peaceful and love-filled society.  Tiger is moving in that direction…let’s follow suit.


Reprise: Childlike wonder

Childlike wonder was a post I wrote on June 27, 2006.  June 27 was the day after my first round of golf for that year.  Being a person who loves to golf, that is a very late start date for me, but this year was even later.  This past weekend was my first weekend out and let me tell you, I felt like a little kid golfing with my dad for the first time in a couple years (I didn’t golf with my dad last year).  It was a moment of "childlike wonder" that I haven’t felt for awhile and it is something I don’t want to wait another year to experience.

My dad taught me the game of golf and I have many, many fond memories of my dad and I golfing on various golf courses.  I still remember the lessons he taught me about golf (and life for that matter).  And my dad still knows how to get into my head.  He tried doing that on the ninth hole (of my first round of the year), but this time I was ready.  He said, "You know, you and I are tied".  This use to get to me.  I would dwell on the fact that I have a chance to beat my dad and would usually end up messing a shot or two up and therefore lose to my dad.  On Friday my dad’s ploy did not work.  I cracked off a good drive; stuck my next shot just short of the green; my chip shot stopped just short of the hole and I tapped in for a par — my dad and I tied (we each shot a 44).  You can about imagine the "childlike wonder" I experienced at that moment.

[Side note:  The next day I shot a 43 but my dad shot a 41.  No mind games there, I just fell a little short, but the "childlike wonder" was still there.]

Imagine if we could always have this "childlike wonder" in our faith as well…

The late Michael Yaconelli (founder and former president of Youth Specialties) wrote a book called Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith.  It is a book I have read many times and a book I will be reading again.  Childlike faith is something that too many people grow out of but Mike would argue that childlike faith is something we need to reclaim.  So I commend this book to your reading.  It is short book of 145 pages — a fun and quick read.  But by the way of a short synopsis:  Childlike wonder is like the wonder and fascination of a two year old experiencing a soft and fluffy snow for their very first time.  The experience is so awe inspiring that their senses cannot take everything in fast enough and therefore nearly "short circuits" their brain from information overload.  How much more AWESOME is God. 

The danger for the church is the loss of this "childlike wonder" of God.

Now…imagine how fast and big the church would grow if more people had a "childlike faith"…<pause to ponder and dream>…a "childlike faith" that drove people to pursue God in order to attempt to "take everything in" to a point where our brains (and hearts) would go into overload because of the AWESOME love and grace of God.  Just imagine…

…it is time for me to start reading again.  Take care and God bless.