All Good Things…

All good things must come to end.

At least that is how the saying goes. And in my case that is true. Today, May 1, is my last Sunday as pastor of Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches. Today I say good bye to 12 amazing years as I grew from a young, inexperienced pastor to (dare I say) a seasoned pastor. Fresh out of seminary, I began serving at Salem one week after graduation. One month later I was married and off and running we went. Who knew (God did I guess) that we would spend the next 12 years of our lives living and serving in this small SW MN community.

And now, God is sending us to the west coast. Well, not exactly the coast but close. We are heading to the Tacoma, Washington area to serve a fairly new congregation as they strive to reach out to their community. We are excited, fearful, optimistic and a whole load of other emotions. It’s hard to leave an area that one has called home for a long time. It’s hard to leave family and friends. It is hard to leave one’s support system, but when God calls, God calls, and so off we go; trusting that God will provide and do some amazing things to show His glory.

Following today, I will have three Sundays off before I preach my first sermon in Puyallup, WA on May 29. Three Sundays off, wow, I just might start peeling my skin off as I have never gone that long without preaching. Maybe it will be a good break but I guess only time will tell. I love what I do and therefore leaving the people here is going to be hard. I am sure many tears will be shed today. So I appeal to God to send His Holy Spirit to give me strength to share the Gospel one more time in corporate worship here. May this be about God and not me. May this be about what God has done here the past 12 years. May this be about God’s faithfulness moving forward. And may this be about worshiping our awesome God and placing our faith in Him to lead us into an unknown future here and a known future with Him through faith in Jesus. God is faithful and God will provide for me and my family as well as the congregations of Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches.

In the mean time, I will continue to write here and look forward to sharing more stories of God faithfulness as we move to a “foreign country”. As God watched over Abraham and Sarah as they moved to a foreign land, I am confident God will do the same for me and my family.

So with that, I sign off on this “Sunday edition” as the pastor of Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches. May God continue to be glorified here, and through all of our lives, always and forever. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

P.S. CORRECTION ~ Not all good things come to an end for God is GOOD. All the time. All the time, God is GOOD 🙂

 

Showing the love of Christ

On August 22, 2011 I wrote a post about a “mission activity” that the council of Salem Lutheran Church did on the first day of school last year.  The post is called Doughnut holes. Click on the link to read about what we did.

Anyway…

The Lutheran magazine did a little story about this mission activity in their “Two Month out” section in the June issue.  Very exciting.  When we planned this mission activity we never thought it would get so much attention.

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

All we wanted to do was welcome kids and parents back to school by showing the love of Christ in a very practical way.

We weren’t trying to recruit.
We weren’t standing on boxes preaching “Repent!”.
We were doing nothing but welcoming people with a smile while serving doughnut holes, juice and coffee (and tissues for parents).

The idea was simple and practical…and a lot of fun.  It was something anyone could do.  We saw many smiles that morning and made our day.  Will we do this again?  Absolutely!  Will we continue to show the love of Christ in a practical way?  I sincerely hope so.

How is God calling you to show His love in a practical way?

edh -|—

That time of the year

Annual meeting day.

Some of you have done the annual meeting thing already this year.  For us (Salem Lutheran Church), this is kind of late but because of some scheduling conflicts we had to push this to today.

Oh well…

Today we are gathering to look back on what we did in 2011:
the financial report will be reviewed,
committee and ministry team reports will be reflected on,
and highlights from the past year will be recognized.

We will also do some looking ahead:
the proposed budget will be introduced and voted on,
we will hear updates on church projects,
and we will look at some goals for the year.

All of this is important…and needs to be done.  But there is another important work that must be done.
–It’s something that shouldn’t be on the agenda because it should be second nature.
–It shouldn’t be something we check off so we can move to the next agenda item.
–It should even be part of the agenda that get approved before we start the meeting.

This important task is something I should not even need to say…but I will.

PRAYER

Some of you may be saying “Well duh…we always open meetings in prayer.  What’s Eric talking about?”  Good…I am glad you do.
–But what if…what if…we opened our meetings in prayer, in communion with God, and just sat in silence (however uncomfortable) – enjoying communion with God – and waited.
–What if, instead of worrying about agenda items (what WE want to do) we instead allowed God to direct our time.
–What if we spent more time discussing mission opportunities than arguing over how much we should spend on certain budget items.
–What if we did the work of God.
–What if… [Me drifting off to ponder…]

Let us pray for direction.
Let us pray for wisdom.
Let us pray for patience.
Let us pray for faith to follow.
Let us pray for strength to do the work that God has given us to do.
Let us pray…

[Pause in silent prayer]

Amen!

God bless your day and your annual meetings as you do the work of God.

edh -|—

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…

-edh-

Christmas snow storm pictures

Ramp to Salem's education wing

Standing in front of garage looking at church parking lot

Entrance to church parking lot...snowed in

Looking out the door of the parsonage

These pictures don’t do this storm justice, but believe me…this is a dozie of a storm.  And now that Christmas services are done I can sit back and enjoy this.

-edh-

Christmas Storm

Wow…it is Christmas afternoon and it is still snowing.  We did have Christmas Eve worship last night at Salem Lutheran Church.  Attendance was down a bit (not surprising) but I was still pleasantly surprised with the turnout.  Christmas Day worship at Belmont was postponed until Sunday.  Hopefully they can dig out in time to have worship then.

So now my wife and I are enjoying the storm.  This morning Connie was shoveling and I was going to go to the fitness center.  I walked outside and looked into the church parking lot (also my driveway) and noticed that the plows have completely blocked the two entrances…we are going nowhere.  Not even our Jeeps will make it through the snow.  Our snow removal guy should be here tomorrow to clear the lot…so in the time being we are snowed in.  Luckily we have plenty of goodies left over from our Christmas open house.

We did get to talk and see Connie’s family this morning via Skype (got to love technology).  Our 4-year-old nephew was having a great time talking with us and seeing us on their computer.  It was really cute.  Hopefully we will get to Sioux Falls on Saturday or whenever South Dakota reopens.

In any case, I hope you all had and are having a very merry and blessed Christmas.  Jesus was born to us and that is an awesome reason to celebrate.  Take care and God bless.

-edh-

It WILL happen

This has been a very unusual week for me.

It has not been unusual because it is Christmas but because my thoughts have also included the “storm of the quarter century” (according to the NWS).  The weather experts are talking about 12 to 18 inches of snow for us with 20 inches plus not out of the question.  But to make matters worse we are getting freezing drizzle right now with a possible 1/4 inch of ice before the snow hits.  And then…as to rub salt in the wound…the wind picks up later in the week.  This will be a Christmas to remember in more ways than one.

Now I am left to contemplate how to do Christmas.  My family has already moved our Christmas celebration to New Year’s Eve and I am not sure yet about my wife’s side.  Christmas Eve worship at Salem will be on (since we are in town and I live next door) but Christmas Day out at Belmont might not happen (we might move it to Saturday or Sunday).  I normally get really excited about storms like this; waiting anxiously for it to arrive, but this one is going to be a little annoying.  I feel conflicted…worried…concerned a little…but…

It WILL happen!!!

What WILL happen?  The birth of Jesus will be celebrated…and no winter storm can stop that.

I am sure that Mary and Joseph didn’t plan to celebrate the birth of their son in a barn.
I am sure that the shepherds didn’t plan to leave their flocks to search for a baby that night.
I am sure the magi didn’t plan on making a long, long journey; following a star to find a baby.

But in the end…I bet all these people would say that they had the best day of their lives…celebrating the birth of Jesus in their own way.  Plans were made and plans were changed but worship still happened.

I am not sure what will happen here, but worship will happen, whether I am sitting in the sanctuary of Salem or Belmont Lutheran Church or whether I am sitting in the sanctuary of my own home…worship WILL happen; the birth of Jesus WILL be celebrated.

If you are in the path of this storm: (1) Be careful and be safe and (2) Don’t let the weather dampen your worship and celebration of Jesus birth…no matter if your plans have been changed or not.  Christmas is about God’s love for you and for me and as we hear from the Apostle Paul there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord…not even the “storm of the quarter century“.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

God bless!

-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-

The week in review

<Deep breath>

I have been trying to stop and to that from time to time…stop and take a breath…but it has been tough this week.  Here’s my week in review:

Monday: Relaxing day with a hint of stress and anxiety over what was coming up during the week.

Tuesday: A do-to list that looked a mile long.  I would check one thing off and add two others (one step forward and two back…all day).  But in the end I did get all the Tuesday items checked off plus 3 for later in the week (a minor victory).

Wednesday: A day that was a little more low-keyed (since I got so much done on Tuesday).  Ministerial meeting, out-of-town hospital visit, and council meeting.  All the while overseeing the new patio that is going in at the parsonage next door.

Thursday (today): Plan two worship services for Salem’s 125th anniversary weekend, sermon prep, parents coming through to have lunch with me (I can hardly wait), and an out of town Shetek Lutheran Ministries board meeting this afternoon/tonight.  And sometime today I need to get to a building supply store to buy some retaining block for the patio landscaping.  This should be an interesting day.

Friday: This is supposed to be my day off but I got a feeling it might not be.  At the very least I will sleep in, but beyond that…who knows.  It all depends on today.

Saturday – Sunday: Salem Lutheran Church’s 125th anniversary celebration.  If you hear from me next week it means I survived the weekend.  I am looking forward to the celebration but part of me will be glad when Monday arrives.

Now that you know my calendar for the week I what to share something with you that was written on my Facebook site the other day by a friend and reader of this blog.  He wrote:  “Live within the limits of the day.  God is also the Lord of the undone.”  Thank you, Patrick, this has been helpful this week.

God bless all of you and take care!

-edh-

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!

-edh-