It happened again, & other musings during the holiday season…

It happened again, just a minute ago. Answered a phone call at work – the caller immediately launched into the story of their current seemingly hopeless life circumstances, & their great need for help. Meaning financial help. After listening for a minute, I answered, “I’m sorry – we don’t have…” The caller interrupted with a string of expletives, a few more choice words, & hung up.

Sigh.

I work as the pastor of a church, & these types of calls (& drop-in visits) are a fact of every day life – even more so during the holiday season. The requests come from people I don’t know & have never met. People in genuine need. Desperate people. They need rent money. Gas money. Food money. Money to get the electricity turned back on. To reactivate their cell phone.

It breaks my heart.

And at the same time I think of the people that we have been able to help… & just about every time (I’d bet 95%,) it has been someone we have at least the beginning of a relationship with – whether it be through church, extended family, &/or the friend of a friend. And that makes me happy, because we can be a part of not only helping someone with a specific need, but also walk through life with them to see them come out the other side.

Until the next drop-in. The next phone call. And the expletives. And nasty words. Accusations of “church corruption” & a “god who doesn’t care about people.” In the role that I serve in, I am often the first line of contact with people requesting financial assistance – & I make the decisions I make based on the policies our church financial council has put into place, an understanding of our current church budget, & what our current financial obligations are. And it tears me up.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine talked to me about the significance of good stewardship – basically acknowledging God as the One who provides all of our needs from HIS resources. A steward doesn’t function with their own resources, but is acting on the behalf of others. And as such, WHAT we do with our finances & resources, individually & as a church, is viewed through the lens of being a good steward – especially since we don’t function with unlimited resources. And that means being willing to say, “No.”


I think about Peter, Jesus’ disciple, when he was standing outside the temple on the way to prayer. A guy who couldn’t walk hit Peter up for money – & Peter didn’t have any. His response was, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have I’ll give you. In Jesus Name, stand up & walk.” (Acts 3:1-7, The Message.)


 

I think about when Jesus’ treacherous disciple, Judas Iscariot, freaked out when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume in preparation for His crucifixion & burial. How he said the perfume should have been sold & the money given to the poor. (The kicker in his case was that, as the keeper of the disciples’ communal purse, he wanted to have access to the money.)

But the point of that story is what Jesus answered him, simply saying, “The poor you will always have with you.” (John 12:1-8, The Message.)

It makes me think that poverty & the poor are by-product of a broken world system, one where the rich get rich, & the poor suffer. That the results of sin in our world put people through hell on earth, where they suffer injustice & lack.


 

So I pray. A lot.  I ask God for clarity & for wisdom – to be able to know who & in what situations we can help. And to keep a soft heart instead of letting it get calloused & crusty… & falling prey to the wrong of lumping those people into a category instead of treating them with the love & compassion that is due to people created in God’s image.

Deutschland #4 & #4.5

Woke up early on Sunday & got ready for church – on a whim, I decided to try to FaceTime theBean (it was midnight at home, so I thought my chances of catching her awake were slim to none.) Imagine my surprise when she answered on the first ring. There’s nothing in the world like the sound & sight of myOne. Our brief connection made the rest of the day seem doable.


After a quick breakfast, we headed out to church. Actually, it was to a regional church service – every 8 weeks or so, the 5 Foursquare churches in the area get together for a joint service. On a rotational basis, each church takes part of the responsibility for elements of the service (kids ministries, hospitality, worship, announcements, preaching/teaching, etc.) The reason behind the get-together is two-fold:

  1. Fellowship & relationship building – there aren’t many Christians in Germany, so opportunities for getting together with other Christians are rare. The kind of encouragement & ‘life boost’ that comes from these get-togethers is huge.
  2. Many of the “free” (non-Catholic/Lutheran) churches in Germany are small – 40 people & under. Partnering with other churches allows them to share resources & do more than they could do if they were organizing a gathering on their own. It’s a cool picture of parts of the body of Christ functioning well for the benefit & growth of the whole body. It really makes the self-focused, “doing church my way for my church’s benefit” that is emerging in the Western Church seem pretty silly, petty, & shallow.

Tim spoke on the 3 marks of a disciple from Mark 3 – emphasizing that disciples have 1) been with Jesus; 2) been sent by Jesus; 3) have lives marked by the power of God as evidenced by declaration of the gospel & overthrow of the kingdom of darkness. He did a great job bringing things into a context that made sense regardless of our nation of origin/language. Made me proud, & I’m loving watching he & his wife Deborah fall in love with the people, church, & nation of Deutschland.

IMG_1557I was whisked away right after church to the house of Julia’s sister, Linda, & her husband Heiko. I haven’t seen them since right before they were married a couple years back, so I really looked forward to catching up with them. They spent the morning prepping a BBQ for us – & goodness, it was tasty. We ate steaks, white sausage, tater salad – German style, cucumber salad, & a kind of meat that came from France that no one really translated. It was French, but even so, it was palatable. Here’s a picture of Heiko & Julia, representing Nevada & the Wolf Pack, surrounded by German flags. I had to tell them to put their index fingers up to make “#1” – because in Germany/most of the rest of the world, they start counting numbers with the thumb being #1. They were happy to look like ‘real Americans.”


IMG_1558We’d barely finished lunch when Linda decided to take us on a brief walk through the forest near their home, overlooking a green, tree-filled valley. Didn’t walk too fast – didn’t want to hurl. It was a beautiful, refreshing walk through the trees – except for the 50 meter section where the midges showed up in force. Mr. Frodo, I feel your pain. I ended up with several bites on my right leg – evidently that one is much tastier than the left.


Unfortunately, I had to leave early from the family dinner to head out. Julia drove me to meet Jochen (the regional leader) & Tim & their families for a dinner in a local biergarten in the village of Ulm. Think Great Basin-Sparks outside sitting area x3 & covered with a well-trimmed & lush grass patio blanket, surrounded by 30 foot tall trees. It was nice. Over the pub-brewed beer, we discussed Foursquare, both the US & Deutsch churches, & went back & forth asking/answering questions… there were a few times as we talked that I could see that some of the political/bureaucratic activities that unfortuntely happen as denominations get larger really struck a nerve, & gave me new & fresh eyes to reconsider what has been our (US) normal for church life.

For the most part, we schemed different ways for an interchange to take place between the US & German churches… & have a couple potential dates on the calendar for next year. We’re meeting to firm them up over dinner tonight.


Got back to the house of Kern in time for a snack – salami, cheeze, pretzel bread, & some vino from a local vintner. One of my highlights from this trip has been time around the tables, both in the kitchen & on the patio, with the Kern family: Klaus, Pia, & dear Julia. They’ve taken great measures to ‘stop life” & make the days I’m here very, very special. Words are inadequate to describe the special, special gift that this has been to me, & I am very, very thankful for this ‘chosen family’ who have become some of ‘my people” on the other side of the world.


The storm hit about 10 p.m. Rain. Thunder & lightning. Wind. Reports of a tornado touchdown in nearby Rammstein. It was hot, humid & loud. Made it very, very hard to sleep. I guess I eventually drifted off around 2:30 a.m., as my last iMessage to theBean was at about 2.


Woke up on Day 5 (4.5 for blog purposes) with a start at 8. FaceTimed theBean again as she was off to bed. Weirdness to be starting & ending our days at exactly opposite times. Winding down while the other is winding up. But the 9 hour time difference is cool too, as it provides a great communication window. This morning, I wished I was home getting ready for sleep in my own bed. And I would have turned on the air. TheBean told me she turned the air off upstairs because she likes to be warm. Evidently, 90 degrees in our room is just about right. No exaggeration, no kidding. That girl.


IMG_1563My man bag has died. I bought it 7 years ago in Frankfurt, & it has survived travels all over the world, carrying my lappy, journal, notebook & all my other ‘go-tos’. It has holes in the sides & bottom, & it no longer zips. Therefore, I decided to replace it – Julia took me shopping a couple of places until I picked out the newby. Here it is.

Found out that the store we were shopping in had a familiar name, so I decided to get a pic of the sign with Julia in it. IMG_1565

A successful shopping trip deserves a reward, so Julia & I drove a whole 7 minutes to get out of town & go to McDonalds. It was an experiment really – I wanted to see if the beef in the McDonalds burgers tastes the same as it does at home. Got a McDouble w/extra ketchup. Turns out, they taste totally different. It might be that they use Australian beef here like they do in Eastern Europe. Not sure, but the burger tasted… beefier? More real? Its not like I eat at McDonalds at home very often; more like 2 or 3 times a year. Maybe it was because I was a hungry elf & anything would taste good. It was time well-spent.


Picked up a couple of gifts & then headed to the house to study a bit for next Sunday (I’m preaching in Mainz, Germany at the church of Jan von Wille, a pastor & the national leader of Foursquare Deutschland. I’m doing a variation on the last message I preached at home: We Are On A Mission From God, text John 20:19-22. For the last hour or so, Julia & I have been sitting at the table, not talking, working on our laptops. She’s my kind of people, & I’m so thankful for this wonderful adopted German daughter. Love being her Ami-Papi (the name she gave me, means “American Dad.”) I’ll finish my Monday blog sometime tonight or tomorrow morning, after I live it. :)

I close this blog before I head to take a nap with a picture of the old Man-Bag next to the new one. Distinctly heard the old one say to the new one, “Carry on.”

IMG_1566

 

You didn’t let ME run!

“You didn’t let ME run, Dad.”

TheWeez’s comment took me by surprise. I had no context. “What do you mean Weez?”

“You sat up on the stage today after church, & there were like 100 little kids running crazy all over the church, & you just sat there smiling. And then later on, you pointed out that little kids run & make messes & are loud… & you’re okay with it, because they are also a great sign of life. But you didn’t let ME run!”

Hmmm. She was going back in the archives to the Olden Days. The days before Boys entered her world. Before self-consciousness had struck. Before there was anything else on her agenda for the day except getting where she wanted to go as fast as she could. And what she recalled was that when she was small, like the running mitey-mites that had filled the sanctuary today, I wouldn’t let her run. My daughter.

I remember THAT guy. Sometimes he feels like a completely different person than I was, but then I see that he has scars on his shoulders in the same places I do, & I can remember thinking what he was thinking, & knowing, KNOWING that I KNEW what was most important in life… & kids not running at church, especially my kids, was important. Sigh.

That guy. Uptight. Grumpy. On the edge of angry most of the time. Easily frustrated. Defensive. Insecure. Immature. Trying sooooo hard. Working harder. Faster. Longer. Wearing out. Breaking down. Bottled up. Hurting. Confused. Tired.

He was so hard to be around; I couldn’t stand him. Its even harder to come to grips with when I know that I know that THAT guy was me. He left marks on the psyches of those he loved the most, theBean, Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez. Among others.

What I don’t remember is when that guy left. It seems that he might have lingered, neither here nor there, for quite a while, until finally he was gone, no longer welcome.

“You didn’t let me run, Dad. I just wanted to run,” theWeez said, softer this time. “WHY? Why didn’t you?”

“I’m so sorry Weez. I thought I knew what I was doing, but looking back, I was silly, in the worst grownup kind of churchy silly that I could be. I’m so sorry…” My voice trailed off. My eyes reacted with vigor to the dust-storm that must have just appeared in the room; otherwise, why would my eyes be so clouded…?

“If I had it to do over again, sweetheart, I would let you run. And I would run with you.”

“You would?”

“Yep. I would.”

She thought for a moment… “Yeah, you probably would.” Big smile.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #7

Woke up around 8:30 to the heavenly smell of coffee & homemade cinnamon rolls; Laura is an amazing cook. Just sayin. Evidently, I’ve taken to saying, “Tasty!” so often in response to our meals that Taylor (6) & Elliot (3) the Dueck’s 2 oldest boys, have started using the word as well. Now just to get Max (2) saying it too…

Sitting around the counter eating, the personalities of the 3 boys come out. Makes me think about how very unique the experience is to be growing up as a pastor’s kid… having people in your home all the time… with church days not just ‘going’ to church but ‘running’ it… I’m reflecting back on my own childhood, growing up ‘in the church,’ & also the experiences of my kids; wondering how & in what ways that has shaped their personalities & life outlook. Note to self.

Different service schedule today at TPLF: 1 song, then some announcements & ‘missions discussion’, followed by the speech – with the last 30 minutes or so being set aside for worship/response. The worship team was led by Kyong-he & Steve G… Kyong-he has got a voice that reminds me a lot of Kate Miner, & she is a very skillful & sensitive worship leader, in that you don’t ever really NOTICE her so much as simply FOLLOW her in worship through songs, spontaneous spoken praise, silence, & celebration. Steve is an Englishman living in Frankfurt, & is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a quick wit & ready story. He’s also incredibly willing to help in whatever way he can, & is a great example of how someone with the gift of evangelism has integrated into the ebb & flow of life in & around TPLF.

Today is the last of a 4 week series on the mission of the church – it’s interesting to me to see that though many things have changed, including the pastor of TPLF, the mission statement hasn’t.

    -Living for Jesus
    -Living for each other
    -Living for Frankfurt
    -Living for Germany & the World

The text I spoke from was Acts 8:26-40, about Philip meeting the Ethiopian eunuch/treasurer on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. If you’re interested in hearing it, you can try to find it here. What really stood out to me about that portion of scripture is that “living for the world…” doesn’t always mean having to go to the far corners of the earth (ironic, I know, as I am writing this from Frankfurt, about 5500 miles from home.) The story of Philip is an example where the world has come to him – & he (Philip) responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit in starting a conversation with a man seeking to know God, & in turn, touches & helps change an entire nation.

To me, it’s not about aiming for greatness, or trying to be significant, let alone famous… its being available to serve, to obey, to be lead in a simple way to do whatever God puts in front of me to do… whether I can see the “WHY” behind it or not. Obedience is better than sacrifice, & the real joy comes from gladly doing the will & purposes of God.

I really enjoyed having the worship/song/reflection portion at the end of the service – it gave a lot of time & possibility for listening & responding to the LORD… & also felt like a ‘good’ fit for the message & the day.

Its always great to be at TPLF & have the opportunity to renew the acquaintance of old friends, & to meet new people. Today was even better – my dear friend Anja came over from Mainz (about 25 miles away,) & Julia, the young woman from Aachen, Germany that lived with us for 6 months,) made the 2-hour trek by with her sister & a friend to be in the service. It’s hard to put into words the response that that kind of love evokes. What special & dear friends.


After church, several of us made our way to a restaurant just around the corner from TPLF – Koriander (formerly Zimt und Koriander – now under new ownership.) I think that they have great pizzas, so that’s what I got – a personal pepperoni & pineapple, complete with a dark Hefeweizen. Mmmm. That should get your mouth watering.

We walked from the restaurant, talking & catching up on the last few months – & navigated the short distance to Eddy & Laura’s house. They were having an ‘open house’ for any who wanted to come by & sample some of Laura’s baked goods & drink some tea or coffee. The house was filled with great smells, peals of laughter, & good talks. Aris & Steve had us all rolling with their witty repartee.

Too soon, it seemed, the afternoon flowed into the evening, & our friends had to make their way home, especially those that had traveled so far. It brought tears to my eyes to say goodbye to my friends, for whom I’m so thankful.

The family & I spent a quiet evening with a light supper (tasty!) & now the boys are in bed & I’m trying to catch up on the happenings of the day with news from home & Hillside. When I’m here in Frankfurt, I try to be “HERE”; while at the same time, I dearly miss my wife, my family, friends, & church family.

a night in the forest… or Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #4

Jan picked me up in the early afternoon, & we made our way into the city center of Mainz. After parking & walking for a bit, we decided that it would be a good time for lunch: pizza. There was a place that Jan especially likes, run by an Italian family, that we made our way to – after reading through the menu, I decided I’d get the pizza called, “Der Teufel” (the devil,) which came with pepperoni, red (hot chili) peppers, & pepperoncini. Amazing.

We spent the better part of the afternoon catching up on the happenings in the churches that Jan oversees – especially those that we’d be spending time with over the next days. It was an absolutely beautiful day, with a temperature of about 75, with the slightest of breezes. I enjoyed it even more when I heard that it was snowing & hailing at home. Goodness. It’s April… practically May. This picture is a banner I saw while walking through the narrow streets of Old Mainz. Green Day is coming to Mainz. It is a small world.

No visit to an authentic Italian restaurant is complete without gelato . I chose chocolate & vanilla, covered with chocolate sauce & Schlagsahne (whipped cream,) for brother Ben.


The time came to make our way to Taunusstein, a small town about 30 minutes by car from Mainz. Whenever I ask people to tell me about Taunusstein, they always say, “It’s in the forest.” I can see why. Getting there is like driving Highway 28 from Spooner Summit to North Shore Lake Tahoe; beautiful scenery, fresh mountain air, & trees as far as the eye can see, with the occasional break in the woods that allows glimpses into the valley below. Very nice.

Taunusstein is a town of about 25,000 people – & while it has Catholic & State (Lutheran) churches, there has been no Freikirche (free-church, non-state church of independent or denominational status) there. Ever. (In comparison, Mainz has 7, & Reno alone has at least 250 free-churches.)

About 3 years ago, Jan & the enChristo church decided to partner with some of the people that had been traveling the 30 minutes to their church to see a bible study started, & hopefully, eventually, a church planted.

There’s been a good response in Taunusstein; a good group of people with a wide variety of church backgrounds have begun attending, many of whom have been praying for a free-church to come to their town for years. There’s also been some stops & restarts in the process, & a lot of things to work through, most notably the difficulties that inevitably arise with a group that each comes with their own idea of what this particular free-church could look like. Hearing some of their stories on how they’re attempting to keep Jesus Christ & the cross front & center give me a new appreciation for the need for the Church to focus on the essentials… referencing the Augustine attributed statement:

“In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”


We met first with the appointed leader of the church plant, Curt Staab. He graciously welcomed us into his home & ushered us onto the back patio that his family shares with the other tenants of the ranch style/condo-type housing block. He’d prepared dinner himself, an authentic Bavarian feast: white sausage, kraut-salad, & fresh baked pretzel bread.

Curt & his wife Claudia have been a part of the church plant team since the beginning, & have served as assistants, then leaders of the plant which is still sponsored by & overseen by enChristo & the Foursquare Germany leadership. Curt is a practicing medical doctor in his “day job” & is a humble, dedicated, & faithful man giving his all to see people come to know Jesus & grow in him.


Over dinner, I received my assignment for the night: I’d be addressing a home cell group of about 12-20 people, using the book of Acts as my template, talking through the beginnings of the church, tying it in to what the people in Taunnustein are doing, & also referencing some of my own experiences from church life. Sweet.

I scratched a few notes on a pad, & we drove to the home where the group would be meeting; imagine my surprise, a couple from the Frankfurt area that I’ve known for several years, Speedy & Fema Rakus, happened to be there with their 2 sons. Speedy is in his residency, & recently relocated to Taunusstein… & in turn, joined the church plant. I thanked God for the friendly (& familiar) faces.

We began with a DVD message from my supervisor, Ron (the DVD I showed in church last week.) I was so thankful to have an ice-breaker – an introduction & personal blessing specifically recorded for these meetings we are in, as well as an explanation of what it means to be Foursquare, addressing at the very heart level fleshing out love, acceptance, & forgiveness. It was very well received, & the room noticeably brightened.

Jan was serving as my translator, & I tried to get my brain working on multiple levels – what I was talking about, & also how I was communicating it – aiming to keep it in complete sentences & thoughts for ease of “idea to idea” translation. The main scripture used was Acts 2:42-48 – where in the aftermath of the first church growth ‘explosion’ of 120 – 3000+ people, the apostles, in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, found a way, a flexible though functional structure to make sure each believer was in a place to receive discipleship. As I talked, I was reminded of the great need we have to be in relationship; for the opportunity to be face to face with others on a regular basis in a group small enough to allow intimate & intentional discipleship to take place. I shot up a quick prayer for Hillside & mentally noted to keep praying for the continued development of ‘life giving small missional communities’ (small groups if you want to use a cliche) in our church family.


The time flew by, & illustrations & promptings readily came to mind – we laughed a lot. I’m thankful that some of the things I’ve learned the hard way were able to be used as an example that others might not have to go down the same route I did.

At the end of the talk, there was time for questions… the questions came, haltingly at first. On topics like elders. Leadership. Church structure & church government. Distinctions between elders & leaders (Germans are very, very precise & exact in their definitions.) Differences between the US & German Foursquare structure, bylaws, & government. Prayer.

We prayed together, said our heartfelt goodbyes, & Jan & I slipped out to make the drive back to my host home. Both of us were tired from the long day (& night) & also from sitting & walking in the warm sun for most of the afternoon. Briefly, we talked about our next days agenda, a visit to a town called Bingen, where we’d be spending time with an independent church that is in year 2 of a 3 year process to be adopted as a member church of Foursquare Germany.


Had the good fortune to make it home around midnight, just in time for my schedule & theBean’s to overlap long enough to Skype. Goodness, she has blue eyes. Sigh.


Woke to the sound of my alarm, the 1st time I’d not woken up before it. (In honor of Brintus, I used the Darth Vader music from Star Wars. Starts my day with a smile. Yo B! Thinking of ya!) Staggered to the bathroom to shower & then to the kitchen (with all the appropriate steps in between,) to find that my hosts had laid the table with everything necessary to start the day great. Again! A carafe full of steaming coffee. Mueslix (2 kinds.) Yoghurt. 3 kinds of juice. Dark German bread. Brötchen (little bread rolls.) Ahh. I feel so blessed. Wolfram & Heidi – thank you so much for your hospitality.

On her way out to travel, Heidi came to say goodbye – I’m going to be in another home about 30 minutes away this evening to facilitate my early Friday morning meeting in Gau Algesheim. She said, “Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of what you’re doing. You staying with us allowed me & my husband to be a part of what our church (enChristo) is doing. We’re often so busy with travel & work that we can’t be involved as much as we’d like. Hosting you gave us a chance to be a part of the blessing that you are giving to Germany.”

What an incredible perspective – to be thankful for hosting me? Recognizing that they were getting to partner in the declaration of the gospel Good News. It was a very cool moment that makes me all weepy.

I love my life, & am grateful for the chance meetings that are sign posts declaring God’s goodness, blessing, & care to me & mine.

A Sunday Snow Day, & other musings…

When I went to bed last night, I saw that there was some snow. Checked the local forecast, which happened to call for a rain/snow mixture, tapering off around midnight. Ok. Beings as I usually leave the house around 7:30 to head to church, I mentally figured I’d give myself a couple extra minutes for the morning drive.

Woke up this morning to the surprise of Snow, with a capital S. 9″ to 12″ worth.

Snow like I haven’t seen since the January 2005 blizzard that threw Reno into a 2-week long funk of Snow Days for school-aged kids, & transportation issues galore.

Brother was already on it – he’d been calling & texting the house, trying to awaken me from my slumber. He was wondering – “Are we going to cancel church today?”

Shaking the cobwebs from my brain, thanking the LORD for a coffee machine that has a Magic Timer that allows it to be set to go off at the Desired Time in the a.m. Looking outside again. Consuming the nectar of the java bean. Watching the Snow fall, with flakes the size of silver dollars. Goodness.

Checked in with a couple of friends to get a report on other parts of the Reno/Sparks metroplex. It was just as bad (good?) all over. Ok. We’re canceling.


When it comes to canceling church, today was a no-brainer. Lots of Snow (with more falling,) little-to-no notice of the storm, messy roads… the only thing that really runs through my brain is, “Can we get the info communicated in time to those that need it?” Between email, Facebook, texting, & the 411 Mass Email Program that Mr. H is masterminding, I think we were able to get the word out.


Sitting inside with a full belly, hot coffee, & myBean, I’m pondering the falling Snow. The accumulated Snow. Thinking back to the last time Hillside canceled church & had a Snow Day. It was the 1st week of January, 2005, & we got absolutely slammed on a Saturday. I can remember struggling for about 30 seconds over the decision. Mostly because of a feeling deep inside that you really CAN’T cancel church. Almost like it was doing something bad.

So I prayed & asked God for clarity – was this sense from Him, or was it not? The gentle encouragement I received quickly was that I was feeling Fear, something that was most definitely NOT coming from Him. Fear of what people might think of me for canceling church. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.

So I rejected the Fear. Smacked it away like it was a ping-pong ball. Said, (out loud even!) “I will NOT be afraid!”

And BOOM! It was outta here.


Not too long after the 2005 Snow Day, I was at a ministerial meeting & the topic turned to the big Snow that we’d recently had. When it came to my turn to talk, I shared that rather than try to ‘have church’ we’d decided to take a Snow Day. Talked about my confrontation with Fear, & how I responded.

One of the guys said that he would never, ever, ever cancel church, no matter what. I asked why, & the answer blew me away: “Because you can’t receive an offering if you cancel church.”

Another guy agreed, & added, “If you lose a Sunday offering, you’ll never get that money, cause it’s not like the people are going to give it the next week…”

Hmmm. So the reason to have church, to not cancel, is so that people can give money? And that if they don’t have the opportunity on that Sunday to give the money, that money is lost?

Ok. That sounded a lot like more Fear to me.

We can talk a great game about God being our provider, & sing the songs, quote the verses, but when confronted with Snow & people missing an offering opportunity, Fear shows up.

I’ve GOTTA believe that God is my Source & my Provider, for everything I need, in every area – & not look to or put my trust in people, offerings, or Publisher’s Clearinghouse, for provision. Because He has promised not to abandon us. Or forsake us. Or forget us. So say BOOM! to the Fear. Booyah. Hope that didn’t end up sounding like a rant. But, goodness!


And the neighbors are out riding their snowmobile down the street. Marvelous. Now THAT brings me joy.


TheWeez is off to Hawaii for 11 days. Lucky girl. Which means we’re down to 2 children. More like 2 mostly grown men. And probably less Taylor Swift playing in the house… One of the results of theWeez leaving is that theBean has gone into cleaning mode… in & around theWeez’s room, the loft area, & the upstairs.

Me? I’m watching the Olympics. Pondering going outside to watch the neighbors some more. Shovel a bit. Thank God for always watching out for me. & enjoy my Snow Day.

An epic trifecta: God, Guinness, & historical-ness…

I’m a ‘fan’ (fully devoted believer & follower) of God. A fan of Guinness. And a fan of history. So when I heard about a book that combined all 3 of those, I was intrigued, especially because it is often assumed that it is impossible for the first 2 (God & Guinness) to be associated at all, a development that seems to have originated with the Temperance Movement of the late 19th century, a subject I’ve written about in some detail HERE.

The book is called, The Search For God & Guinness – a Biography of a Beer That Changed The World,” by Stephen Mansfield. It begins with a series of anecdotes relating specifically to Arthur Guinness, the man that started the Guinness brewery in 1759, & also about the beer he created. It reveals a man (& a company,) committed to God & people. As I go through the book, I may blog some of the stuff that jumps out at me. So far, I’m really impressed at the values & priorities lived out by Arthur Guinness. He vividly illustrated by the way that he lived, worked, & cared for people that ‘the Church’ is not a building; it is a way of life – the Jesus way – loving God & people. He left behind a legacy & a lifetime of evidence that testified of that fact.

I’ve found it a fascinating read from the get-go. My favorite thing so far is from Mansfield’s exploration of the history of beer, & especially how it is tied to a familiar & significant part of the beginning of the United States of America. He cites a couple of primary sources, (meaning that the sources were written by actual Pilgrims who were eyewitnesses to the events recorded. If you’re interested, the sources are: Mourt’s Relation & Of Plymouth Plantation.)

The sources record the first interaction between the occupants of the Mayflower & the Native Americans, a couple of guys that we’ve learned about since Kindergarten, Samoset & Squanto. What I’d never heard about was the details of their first interchange.

In March of 1621 – the Pilgrims, worried about a lack of shelter from the brutal New England weather, as well as waning foodstuffs & a rapidly depleting beer supply, made their way ashore & began the process of establishing their colony. Here’s an excerpt from the book:


On March 16…a tall muscular native strode out from the trees & began to approach. The Pilgrims quickly took their muskets in hand. They were startled, for the man coming toward them was an unsettling sight. He was nearly naked – “Stark naked,” they later said – with only a strand of leather about his waist & fringe about as wide as a man’s hand covering his private parts. he carried a bow & 2 arrows & the Pilgrims noticed that his hair was long in the back but shaved at the front of his head. They had seen nothing like that in England.


As starling as this Indian was to the Pilgrims, it was what happened next that shocked them most of all. The man neared, paused, & then shouted “Welcome!” in clear, perfect English. And then, more astonishing still, he asked – again, flawlessly in the Pilgrims’ own tongue- if they had some beer.


Yes. Beer.

As much as I love historical-ness, I believe I would have paid even better attention if that information had been included in the educational process.

What is Church?

Tomorrow a.m. (tonight for you at 12:35 in the a.m.) I will be facilitating a discussion on the topic: What is Church? The point isn’t to describe the institution so much as the mission – or the reason it exists.

The life context of the 25 attendees is radically different – in age, cultural background, country of origin, life experience, & perspective, so I’m expecting some interesting answers to the above question.

How would you answer it? If that’s not enough to get you blogging, then:

When you think “Church” what comes to mind? Why?

Talk amongst yerselves…

peace to you

had a friend in town for the last few days, Morris Chapman; his visit had been on the books for a while. I invited him to come & spend time with our church family in extended worship. God knew what would be happening the week prior to his visit – I was physically, emotionally, & every other -ally you can think of – spent. Done. Finito. You get the idea.

When Morris started playing, “I Will Restore” (it’s on his mySpace page at the link aboveI felt my insides melting – not a pleasant feeling – I knew that I had to lay down on the floor. The weight of my soul felt like it was pulling me to the ground. I told the Bean that I was going to lay down – don’t know if she understood what I meant,… or where I meant. I just remember hitting the floor & weeping from the bottom of my soles. I thought I had cried my tears already this week; I’d run out a couple of times & had the “dry cry” not to be confused with the “dry heave.” Hurts about the same though.

I sobbed.


After an indefinite period of time, I felt peace. And the raw, exposed nerve of my soul was no longer raw, exposed, & angry to the touch. I was still tired. Bone-weary. But the soul despair, the pain faded & I had peace. The circumstances of the week hadn’t changed, but I had peace. We are still grieving, but I have peace. I could sleep the clock, but I have peace.

Thank you Jesus – to any/all that may be reading this: Peace to you. The peace of Christ to you.