A Heart of Mixed Emotions

This pastor’s heart is
sad and
happy and
thankful and

Today was the last day of release time; a program where 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are released from school early to attend Bible classes at the church of their choice on Wednesdays. The program runs from mid-September through the Wednesday of Holy Week.

This year I had 22 students; five of which were 5th graders who we sadly said good bye to today. After I held a little “graduation” ceremony where I gave them a “diploma”/certificate we played for a bit outside and then came back inside to wrap things up. At the end I asked the 5th graders to lead the closing prayer. I started and then turned things over to them. What I heard made my heart happy on this sad day. They thanked God for a great year and a fun 3 years. One prayed for the 3rd and 4th graders coming behind them, one even prayed for the homeless. It was such a touching prayer from a group of formerly quiet 3rd graders from a couple years ago.

And so on this sad day my heart was thankful that God gave me the privilege of teaching and growing with this class of kids. My heart is happy that I get to have them in class in the fall as confirmation students; guiding them as they go deeper in their faith. And my heart is hopeful as I reflect on how much they have grown emotionally and in their faith.

Praise be to God!!!

But there is one other little fact that sticks out to me about this class of 5th graders. This class contains the first group of kids that I baptized when I first arrived here nearly 11 years ago; and now they are on the cusp of confirmation. What a joy it has been to watch these kids grow up and I praise God that He has chosen me to stay here this long.

Mixed emotions but all good. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Holy God, you are an awesome God who is up to holy and exciting things. Please continue to use me to guide young people in their faith and continue to guide me through the faith of young people. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The (sad, happy, thankful and hopeful) Pastor -|—

Prayers of a child-like faith

I have been reading a Charles Spurgeon selection titled, The Pastor in Prayer. It is a beautiful selection of prayers that this great 19 century pastor prayed during worship. Some of them long and deep; some of them short and poetic; but all of them straight from the heart of a pastor. Many of them I have had to read and re-read because of his depth of language but also because of the beauty of the soul that is being revealed.

And as I read these prayers, part of me felt guilty about my own prayer life. Mine in comparison seems so shallow and I wonder if I am doing something wrong or holding back in some way. Maybe I need to be more deliberate and write something more fancy and articulate for worship.

But then 22 children convicted me…

These past two weeks, we have been talking about prayer in release time (3rd, 4th and 5th graders). We discussed what prayer is and why we get to do such a wondering thing. I then asked the kids to work on some prayers that I would use in worship on Feb 8. They all seemed really excited that I would use their prayers and they joyfully got to work.

But part of me was nervous about what I would get. Would I have to re-word some prayers for worship?

Not even close.

I read these prayers this morning and compiled them into a series of petitions. I found that the kids had similar concerns on their minds and hearts. But I also found that their child-like faith was anything but childish. They spoke with a depth that came from their heart. And through these prayers I realized that it is not about the structure of sentences employed in a prayer but where the prayers come from.

I pray for those who do not believe in God.

Dear God, please help people who have deadly sicknesses like cancer and Ebola.

Please give us strength, purity and faith.

Thank you for our family and friends and let them know that you love them.

There is nothing wrong with those prayers and it will be my joy and honor to lift these prayers, on behalf of these kids and the rest of the congregation, to God.

So I will continue to read Charles Spurgeon’s prayers in order to challenge me to probe deeper into my faith. I will also seek to nourish a child-like faith that is open and honest with God and doesn’t hold anything back.

What a joy it is to come before the Creator and speak to him as a child does with their Father.

Thank you, dear Lord, for hearing my prayers. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Ministering to children

Gracious God, I have just been struck with the awareness of the awesome responsibility that is looming; children coming to this church building to see you.  Twenty one 3 – 5th graders coming soon;  8 confirmation students later this afternoon and 40 some Wednesday Night Live students tonight.  God…bless everyone of those students that they may see you.  Bless the teachers that will be teaching those students.

Gracious God, I am thankful that you have placed me here in this place.  I am thankful that you have found me worthy to minister to these children.  I am thankful that you walk along side of me during these times.  May you be glorified in my words and actions.  Grant me patience and wisdom as I interact with these great kids.

So…here we go.  Let’s have some fun.


The pastor -|—

Creative cross

This is too cool not to share.

My release time kids were using crayons to write prayers to God and then seal them in an envelope to read later.  After we were done I asked a couple of the kids to round up the crayons and put them away.

This is what I found 🙂

I love it that these kids thought to do this.


But enough said…praise be to God!

edh -|—

Back at it

Wow…where did the summer go?

I have heard that question a number of times this week already.  The start of school has a way of awakening people to the reality of the quick passage of time. It almost feels like school just got out and now the kids are back.

For me, school beginning means that activities at church will be gearing up shortly:
~ On Sept 12 I will be welcoming back my 3 – 5th graders to release time.  Me with 20+ kids…sounds scary but I survived that number last year so I feel ready for them this year.   Bring them on 🙂
~ On Sept 19 we will be welcoming back our Wednesday Night Live (“Sunday school”) kids.  I am not directly involved here but I really enjoy connecting with these kids and their families.
~ On Sept 26 I will be welcoming back my confirmation class along with a couple new students.  Walking with these kids in their faith journey is an incredible privilege.
~ On Oct 3 we will be beginning a Wednesday evening worship opportunity.  I am not quite sure how this will look yet, but I am looking forward to this time.
~ And…the other seasonal activities that take place.

It is always nice to have a “summer break” but I do look forward to the craziness of all the activities that will be starting shortly.  I am looking forward to longer and fuller days. I am looking forward to ministering to the kids.  I am looking forward to teaching again.  Basically…I am looking forward to all that this season will bring.  If I didn’t look forward to this then I would either need to re-examine my call here or my call as a pastor.

Many people in Minnesota enjoy the change of seasons; knowing that a different season will be coming shortly with all its own uniqueness and beauty.  Maybe this ebb and flow of the year is what keeps things fresh and exciting for people.  No matter what profession you are in you need things to be “mixed up” once in a while.  Change can be good and refreshing.

So with that…when May 2013 rolls around I will be ready for a break from THIS season, but when September 2013 arrives…I will be ready and looking forward to that new, different and unique season.  And so on and so on…

You get the point.

But before I jump to far ahead of myself I am going to enjoy the ride that this season will bring; trusting God will give me strength and wisdom.  I can hardly wait to see what God is up to and how God will use the various people involved in this ministry.  In the end, God will be glorified.

So bring on fall 2012…I am ready 🙂

edh -|—

A proud pastor moment

I just have to share this with you because…well…just because.

Today is release time day (Wednesday).  Kids in grades 3 – 5 have the option of being released from school to go to the church of their choice for religious instruction.  I have the privilege of teaching 20 energetic, fun kids.


After a brief check in time I took them outside to play and run around for a few minutes before coming back in for the lesson.  After the kids came back in and settled down into their small groups I told them that I wanted to take some time to pray for a lady of the congregation who was at the doctor to find out about an impending surgery.  I told the kids that I told this lady I would be praying for her during her appointment.  So I asked the kids to pray with me.


Normally during prayer time the kids usually don’t sit still and stay quiet.  I mean, after all, they’re kids.  But as I was praying for this lady…not a peep or a movement.  This was serious and the kids took it that way.

I was so proud of them.

At the end of class I ask who wants to lead the group in prayer and I usually get a bunch of volunteers.  So one of my 5th graders prayed.  She prayed about what they learned in class…and…then she prayed for this lady.  Once again…I was so proud.

I take no credit for this rather I give praise and glory to God for working in the lives of these kids.  My prayer for them is that they take moments to pause during the routine of their lives to pray and that it is OK to pray for people as we feel so moved.  And I hope I continue to do the same thing.

Prayer needs to be the norm and not the exception.
Prayer needs to be commonplace and not weird.
Prayer need to be comfortable and not uncomfortable.

Pray without ceasing; enjoying communion with the God of the universe; knowing that we can lift ANY request to God at ANY time.  God is waiting to hear from you.

Let us pray…

edh -|—

New Year’s Eve 2009

Well…2009 is coming to a close and part of me feels this slight, little tug to write something profound to wrap up 2009; a kind of year-in-review with some final words of wisdom before the onslaught on 2010…

[“Profound”…what in the world is this part of me thinking…”profound”?]

In any case…here is my last post of 2009 (profound or not):

As I write this I am sitting in my most favorite chair in the world (a chair my wife despises…but that story is for another time).  During this time of the year I am on vacation…recovering from a busy Christmas season.  My wife is still working so we generally do not go anywhere, but that is fine…sleeping in and doing absolutely nothing is still good for my soul as I refuel for the drive towards Lent and Easter…after which I will take another vacation (this time getting out of town with my wife).

So as I sit here (refueling in my favorite chair drinking coffee) I find myself reflecting on the past year (funny how that happens when a year or anything comes to an end).  So listed below are my top ten highlights from the past year (in no particular order):

(10)Washington vacation – After Easter my wife and I enjoy heading out to the state of Washington (where I did my internship) and hanging out with friends and seeing the sights.  This year we did a lot of hiking and exploring new things.

(9) Losing 65 pounds – This took place from March through October in an effort to get into better running shape for 2010.  I have maintained my weight since then and am enjoying my new, healthier lifestyle.

(8) “The vote” – This is of course referring to the ELCA Churchwide assembly vote about homosexuality in August.  This is not a “highlight” but it sure is memorable.  It created a lot of discussion and soul-searching to say the least.

(7) Three weddings – Two of these were people from Salem and one couple is a friend of mine and Connie’s.  They were a lot of fun to do and be a part of.

(6) Release Time and confirmation classes – I have some really fun students this year.  They are active and willing to learn.  A highlight within this one is one of my Release Time students reading scripture at the Christmas Eve worship service.  It has been fun watching her grow up over the last few years.

(5) Christmas snow storm (“Winter Storm Eric”) – This was a little annoying but once again memorable.  I think this snow storm will be talked about for a long time.  The highlight here is that this snow storm caused us to slow down and therefore we got a chance to spend more quality time with family; celebrating.

(4) New patio and new bathroom – This was a long time in coming but we barely got these done before the church’s big 125th anniversary celebration (more on that coming later).

(3) Running – This is directly related to my weight lose.  I am training for 2 marathons in 2010, but the highlight here is breaking a 20 minute 5K and breaking 42 minutes for 6 miles…both very exciting for me.

(2) Salem’s 125th anniversary celebration – This was a fun weekend.  A lot of planning went into this and lots of people came out.  Many memories were shared.

(1) Five year anniversary – 2009 was the 5 year anniversary of my ordination and wedding.  The congregation planned a special recognition for me during worship (which I knew was happening but did not know details).  It was a very special time of affirmation for Connie and me.  After worship there was a reception and then after that Connie and I hosted a party for our wedding anniversary with our family; having a renewal of vows for all the couples.  A very fun and memorable day.

2009 was indeed an eventful year.  I made healthy changes in my life; had my call here affirmed; celebrated ministry milestones; and continued to enjoy people growing in their faith.  Many other items could have been added to this list…Praise be to God!

So as we close out 2009…blessings to you as you finish off the year and dive into a brand new year.  God has been and always will be faithful.  Hold on to that and enjoy the promises we have from God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let’s see what God will do in 2010…

Happy New Year!


Inquisitive Release Timers

My Release Time class (grades 3 – 5) can be a little wild, but today was really neat.  We were in the sanctuary talking about worship.  I then asked the kids to sit quietly (which is a tall order I know) and look around.  Notice the stuff in the sanctuary and make mental notes I said.  After about a minute I asked the kids to share their observations.  All 9 hands went in the air as they wanted to ask why certain things were in the sanctuary: “What is that?  What does that mean?  What’s that thing hanging on the wall?” Etc, etc…  As I addressed their questions more hands went up.  I challenged them and forced them to think a little bit.  I think we could still be sitting there if they didn’t have to get back to catch the bus or their ride home.

It was also fun for me to see my 2 third graders come to Release Time clutching their new Bibles they received on Sunday.  They were so proud of them.  One of them asked me if we were going to be using our Bibles today and I said “not today”.  She was bummed.  I guess I know what I am doing next week.

Got to love the curiosity and the inquisitiveness of a child.

Praise be to God!


A change of pace

I have been taking a little break from blogging the last couple days.  This past week has been a whirl wind since “the vote” at the ELCA CWA.  Many of my posts and comments here have dealt with issues from the CWA (Churchwide assembly).  This will continue to be an important topic to think and pray about and discuss…but I need a little break to process.  There are some comments on this blog that I need to attend to and I plan to respond to those early this week…so I thank you for your patience.  I am also working on a plan to meet with parishioners in small groups to listen to their concerns and questions while I share more information about the ELCA.  I have yet to finalize details yet, but when I do I will be sharing this plan with you here.

These next couple weeks may continue to be a whirl wind for me though:
–Salem’s 125th anniversary celebration is just 2 weeks away…with much to do yet.

–Confirmation, release time and Wednesday Night Live is beginning in mid-September.

–My wife and I are in the midst of home remodeling…which we are trying to finish before the 125th anniversary (we are having an open house at the parsonage).

So there’s much to do…and with that probably much to blog about.  But if you see a little dip in postings from the past week you will know why.  As I say every year…September is one of the busiest months of the year for me (next to December and Holy Week/Easter month).

In any case (and as always) I thank you for your comments and for stopping by.  Your presence here is extremely important to me and to others who visit.  Your thoughts and questions cause me (and others) to think.  So thank you and God bless!


Release Time

Here in Jackson, MN we still have Release Time.  Kids in grades 3, 4 and 5 have the option of being “released” from school to head to the church of their choice for Bible classes.  Parents fill out a short form, at the beginning of the school year, telling the school if they want their child “released” and what church they are going to.  This year I have 3 fourth graders and 2 fifth graders.  They are an energetic bunch (one of my fourth graders never and I mean never stopped moving).

Anyway…this first half of the year we are talking about the 10 Commandments and today was Commandment #2…”Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain“.  We discussed names and what it means to honor God’s name.  We talked about swearing and how that effects others.  We closed by talking about forgiveness and that because God forgives us, we ought to honor God by honoring God’s name.

Before the kids were “released” back to school to catch the bus we closed with prayer.  I asked them what they wanted to pray for.  They wanted to thank God for the beautiful day, one asked to pray for her little brother to continue healing and one asked to pray for her kittens.  Then one of them said, “Pray that God forgives us of our sins.”  As a pastor…it’s hard to describe what that means to hear one of your 4th graders say that.

I’m not sure what they are taking away from class today, but it sounds like at least one of them understands that God forgives them through Jesus Christ.  What more can one hope for?