Roller coasters

The appeal about roller coasters for me is the:
speed
quick turns
anticipatory climbs
sudden drops
and the upside down views.

The feeling of exhilaration is so much fun.  I especially like those roller coasters where you can’t see what is coming next – like Space Mountain at Epcot Center.  That is a fun roller coaster.  It took a lot of convincing from my dad to get me to try it when I was young, but once I did I didn’t want to stop.

Roller coasters are fun.

But when you are on that proverbial life roller coaster then those things that once held appeal for the real thing become heart-wrenching and hard.

I am not a fan of those “roller coasters”.

But praise be to God that I am not riding this one alone.

edh -|—

Claimed

Matthew 22:18-22
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

I share with you the following prayer with the invitation for you to use it as your own today. Dip your finger in some water and make the sign of the cross on your forehead as you say, “I have been seal with the Holy Spirit and MARKED with the cross of Christ forever.”

Almighty and merciful God, through my baptism you
sealed me
marked me
claimed me
and spoke to me: “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and MARKED with the cross of Christ forever.”

Wow God…that is amazing.

When I consider this “marking” I can’t help but think that you claimed me because I am somehow valuable, otherwise why would you claim me?  After all…
I am sinful
I am unfaithful
I am disobedient
I am definitely not worthy

But despite that you have placed a claim on me through baptism.  You have said that I belong to you.  You have comforted me with the gift of life.  You have saved me from this world.  What belongs to Caesar is that which belongs to the world.  What belongs to you is that which you have marked and claimed…  

ME

Thank you, God.  May water be that everlasting reminder of you your:
Love
Faithfulness
Sacrifice
through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Thank you, God that I belong to you.  May your name always be praised.

Amen!

May God bless your day 🙂

edh -|—

Whew…

Yup…I am still here.  This past week has gotten busy…which is normal for this time in December.  Let’s see what we have here: (1) Christmas open house at the parsonage is coming up; (2) along with our Christmas program; (3) Christmas worship services need to be planned; (4) and of course there are board meetings with the synod, Bible camp and congregation; (5) Plus the everyday, normal church “stuff”; and (5) For good measure I have a funeral next week.

Whew…

…But don’t get me wrong…I am not trying to whine and complain; sharing my sob story here.  But it never ceases to amaze me how I forget about the mayhem that always seems to hit this time of the year.  It’s like I get amnesia…and maybe that is a good thing, because if I were to dwell on this craziness all year-long I might have run for the hills a long time ago.  But as it stands, I am still here…and…God continues to be faithful.

I am a little stressed, but I know everything will turn out great.  The Gospel will be preached and the Holy Spirit will do its thing.  And after all…isn’t that the point?  To let go and let God be God.  I think so.

So I am going to get back to my “lazy” afternoon of sitting in my favorite chair; drinking coffee and reading scripture.  A combination that you can never go wrong with.  And oh ya…all that Christmas planning and other “stuff”…it will get done.  To the glory of God.

-edh-

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!!!”

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

-edh-

Storms

I love storms…

…especially if they don’t cause lots of damage and no one gets hurt.   When a good ole fashioned summer thunderstorm rolls in I am all eyes and ears.  One time when I was in seminary, a tornado warning was issued for my area.  People in my dorm were heading downstairs to the storm shelter but I took a detour…I went outside to see if I could see the funnel.  No such luck.  Recently I attended a storm spotters training session lead by a guy from the National Weather Service out of Sioux Falls, SD.  I went not to become a weather spotter, but because I like storms; I want to know what I am looking at.  I learned a lot and plan to attend more spotter training classes to hone my weather knowledge…because I love storms.

Casting Crowns sings a song that my wife and I really like called “Praise You in the Storm”.  Since this is a Christian song they are obviously not talking about a summer thunderstorm, but referring to the ole cliche…”the storms of life”.  We all encounter them but the difference is how we react to them: Do we run and hide; crumble under the pressure; curse the storm (and maybe curse God); or do we look at the storm as something that can build us up.  In the Gospel text for this Sunday (Pentecost 3) from Mark 4:35-41, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus when a nasty storm pops up.  Jesus is sleeping but the disciples are scared silly.  Pushed to their breaking point they wake Jesus up and accuse him of not caring for them.  Jesus rebukes the wind and the storm becomes quiet.  He then says “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

In Job, Job is questioning God about why this suffering has come upon him when God finally speaks up and says “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Etc, etc… Job has no other reply than “I know that you can do all things; no plan of your can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)  The storms of life will not “thwart” any plan that God has and therefore we can have faith and trust that God has still won the day.

How do you respond to “storms”?  Do you run and hide?  Do you crumble under the pressure?  Do you curse God?

OR

Do you “Praise Him in the Storm”?

We can praise God in the storm because God has overcome this world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ FOR YOU and FOR ME.  A mere thunderstorm can never define you.  A tornado can not take away what God has given you.  A hurricane can not have power over God.

God may not take away the storms in your life, but one thing is for sure…God will be with us through the storm; we will never be alone.  When the next storm brews and threatens all you have…give praise to God for the life you have in Jesus Christ and let the world’s storms take their best shot…you already have a home that no thunderstorm can destroy.  For that…I will praise God in the sun, wind, rain, clouds…and…I will praise God in the storm.

Praise be to God…ALWAYS and forever, Amen.

-edh-

God is awesome!

I really want to share with you some details about an encounter with a gentleman (Q) last night, but I can’t because of confidentiality.  But I do want to say that God is awesome and works in wonderful and powerful ways.  I also want to say that I am thankful for the priesthood of all believers because without faithful people living out their faith, this gentleman would not have received the care that he desperately needed…not just last night but for the last couple months.

I want to give a big shout of thanks out to these two parishioners but I won’t.  Rather I will give and big shout of thanks and praise out to God for working through these two people to share the Gospel with Q.  I want to say that it was pure chance and dumb luck that they found me last night so I could talk to Q (I was out for a run and hence away from my home and phone).  But I won’t say that…rather I will say that God is awesome and works in wonderful and powerful ways.

I don’t know what is in store for Q but I can rest assured that he will be cared for and love for the rest of his life.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Holy Week stress and an answer to prayer

Holy Week has been a good one for me this year, but there was still some stress for me.  This is an account of one particular stress point and the faithfulness of our awesome God who came through for us.

We have a number of traditions here at Salem Lutheran Church as it pertains to Holy Week; traditions I look forward to.  Here are just a few of them (that relate to my particular stress point this week):

–We have a large rugged cross that stands in the narthex during lent that has a purple cloth draped on it topped with a crown of thorns.

–On Maundy Thursday we strip the altar and bring that rugged cross outside, to the base of the narthex ramp and drape a black cloth over the cross beams.
[A cool story about this from Good Friday.  Our custodian saw a van flying down the street next to the church on Friday.  When the van got to the church and saw the cross at the base of the ramp he slammed on his breaks and came to a screeching halt.  He looked at the cross for a couple moments and then proceeded on his way.  This cross, each year, attracts a lot of attention.]

–On Saturday we bring that rugged cross back inside to prepare it for Easter.  There are rings attached to the cross that hold Easter lilies.  We then staple the palms from Palm Sunday to the cross.  And let me tell you it is quite a sight…as pictured below…

100_0200

…well…here’s where the stress comes in…

…on Wednesday this week my wife and I noticed that the Palm branches from Sunday were dead.  They were dried up and crunchy even though they were still in water.  The problem was that we forgot to cut the ends to allow the branches to soak up the water.  Now what were we to do?  Wednesday was already a stressful day for me and this was the last thing I needed.  One of my deacons came in and cut the ends and put them in water.  We prayed that somehow God would resurrect those palms for Sunday.

On Thursday when I went out to Belmont for Maundy Thursday worship I noticed that Belmont had a bunch of palms that they were no longer needing.

[cue the ligh bulb that popped up over my head]

I asked the ladies of Belmont if Salem could have the palms and they said that would be no problem.  Now we have palms for the cross and our Easter tradition can continue.  An answer to prayer.  Praise be to God!

Now…as I write this, people are up in the sanctuary getting ready for Easter worship.  There are families in the Fellowship Hall preparing for the Easter breakfast.  And I am here finishing this post and soon will be finishing my Easter sermon.  I sit here feeling refreshed from great Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worships.  I sit here feeling hopeful that our amazing God is ever so faithful.  I sit here looking forward to our Easter worship services (as tiring as they will be for me, but I never seem to notice at the time).

God is faithful…not because He “resurrected” some palm branches for us, because…well…just look at the cross.

Have a very blessed Easter Sunday and God bless!

-edh-

Monday morning check in

Summer is unofficially over.  Are we all sad now?  I have mixed feelings about that.  I am sad that the “freedom” that summer brings is gone for 9 months, but I am also excited for things to start up again.  Next week Release Time (grades 3 – 5) begins.  In two weeks, Wednesday Night Live (age 3 – grade 5), 6th grade Bible class and Confirmation (grades seven and eight) begin.  The unofficial end of summer also means I have to re-adjust my routine.  Everything will change next week with the addition of class preparation.  It usually takes me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things, hence, September is usually a busy and stressful (but a good stressful) month for me.  So I am going to prepare my Release Time lesson this week as sort of a practice run before the real thing begins next week.  How are the rest of you viewing September?  Is it stressful, exciting, etc?

LifeLight
The LifeLight Festival was this past weekend.  LifeLight is a free Christian music festival just outside of Sioux Falls, SD at the Wild Water West water park.  I think is it absolutely amazing that they can put on a festival like this and not charge admission.  We were told that it costs about $800,000 to put on LifeLight.  Businesses, churches and other faithful supporters make this weekend possible.  If you haven’t been to LifeLight plan on checking it out sometime.  It is held over Labor Day weekend every year. 

On Friday night of the festival this year the headliner was Switchfoot; Saturday it was Michael W. Smith and Sunday night Casting Crowns closed things out.  On Saturday night the crowd was in excess of 100,000 people.  Standing up and surveying the sea of people definitely made me me feel very small.  Other artists we heard throughout the weekend included: Matthew West, Lincoln Brewster, Sanctus Real, Natalie Grant, Family Force 5, and much more.  It was indeed a very fun weekend.

Rain
Today I am thanking and praising God for rain.  It has been dreadfully dry here for a long time.  When I walked on my grass last night it crunched beneath my feet.  But today I can here a collective “sigh” from all the lawns in town.  And according to radar this rain will last for quite a while.  God is indeed faithful.  We go through these dry spells every year and every year we get nervous and wonder if this is the year we will need to replace the lawn.  But every year God brings the rain to nourish the crops and the grass and everything else.  God proves to be faithful year in and year out.  Maybe one of these years I will learn to trust God.

Heavenly Father, I believe, help my unbelief.  You prove to be faithful yet we worry about tomorrow.  You prove to be loving yet we often fail to show love toward our neighbors.  You prove to be gracious yet we fail to show grace to others.  Thank you God for your Son who died for us despite our shortcomings and rose to New Life so we may live.    Lord God, thank you for your faithfulness, in Christ name we pray, Amen.

Take care and God bless!

-edh-