One of the things I always remember about my early childhood is how much my dad liked taking the family down to Walk Disney World. I still remember my first time at the park as a young child, it seemed like heaven, moving from one magical ride to another. It was neat to see all these cool things and to see how happy all the family was. I was almost giddy asking my dad what we were going to do next after each ride. Each ride and each experience seemed to build off each other and in the end it was a very magical experience that I will always remember.
This week we talked about transitions, moving from one phase of life to another. It is a great week to talk about this because it is the first week of school. All the kids we know are heading back to school and beginning a new phase of their lives whether it be 4k or their senior year. It will be packed with memories and experiences. One of the things that is common for this time of year is nerviousness. The kids don't know what their new normal is going to look like and so the first days of school can seem very scary to them. I think that is a good metaphor for our lives. Going back to school is a transition time. It is a new beginning while at the same time acknowledging that the last year is gone. All of our lives are made of transitions like being singled to being married; from starting a job, to leaving a job; or living with your parents to owning your own place. If we are honest with ourselves, transitions can be very scary though because we don't know what the new normal will look like. We don't know what is going to happen next which causes our anxiety to peak. In this sense many of us tend to dread transitions. But what would happen knowing that God is with us, if we started to ask with enthusiasm "What is Next?" How would this shape each of these new experiences whether they be good or bad, knowing that God is with us? That when we feel the most nervious, God leans in more closely to comfort us. The Bible reminds us that God is constantly walking by our side day by day. SO the next time you are experiencing a transition, whether it be the first day of school or the last day of work, know that you are not a lone. Our heavenly Father is walking with you, cheering you on all the way. Knowing this what if you looked forward to see "What is Next?". How would that shape your transitions?
I will be the first person to admit that my sense of direction is just plain awful. It seems like I always turn the wrong direction when given a choice. This reminds me of getting lost in Hammond, the town next door to us, when I first came to the church. I have lived in the Twin Cities for at 15 years when I became a pastor, so I got used to seeing churches built in the middle of neighborhoods. So here I was running around all the neighborhoods in Hammond looking for the Lutheran church. I think I went through did about every single neighborhood on the east side of town, when it finally dawned on me that in small town America that churchs tended to be on the main drag and guess where Trinity was...on the main drag. I thought I knew the best way to get there, it turned out that I didn't. I would have done better to use my car's GPS to find Trinity. This week, in service I talked about using a different kind of GPS, God Positioning System. How many of us feel lost in our lives right now? How many of us feel despair? How many of feel us there is no purpose? God's GPS allows us to find our direction and to evenutally our home. The way to get God's GPS started is to key in our destination. We do this by praying to God and asking God to help us with our feelings of being lost. When God's GPS plots the route for us, the next thing which is really hard to do is to put trust in the route that God has for us. How many times do we feel we know the better route than our car's GPS? God's GPS causes us to have trust that God wants the best for us and that God's way is the best way. Finally we need to act and begin to follow the route that is outlined to us on God's GPS. When we do this, our feelings of being lost and despair turn to feelings of hope and purpose. So have you engaged God's GPS? If not, Why not?
I just wanted to let you know I will be back writing my blog again. I was on vacation with my family these past two weeks, which is why I didn't post anything. Our family tradition each summer is to go to a state park and this year, we with went to two Minnesota State parks, Afton and Itasca. At Afton we stayed in their camper cabins, which are basically one room cabins with no running water. So each night before we went to bed we had to walk about 100 feet to the outhouse. It was very beautiful and peaceful, to gaze at the stars. There is no light pollution at the parks and I was amazed at how the sky glitters and shines. It got me thinking about how vast God made the universe. Yet in this vastness of space and time, God still makes it a point to walk with us each and every day. I hadn't felt that close to God in a long while. Walking with the stars and feeling that God was walking beside me as well. What do you need God to walk with you with right now? Is there a time you would like to share about when you felt the peace of God walking with you? Is so, leave it in the comments below.
The week, I had an article in the paper about how we need to love ourselves. Since everybody doesn't get the paper I was going to repost it here. Let me know what you think!
Do you love yourself? It seems like an odd question at first because we live in a time of the selfie, social media influencers, and where our opinions are king. Looking around the culture it appears that all we do is we love ourselves and nobody else. However, looking just past the trends that we see on Face Book, Twitter and Instagram we see some really hard statistics in recent literature that blows our initial impressions away. Looking at the numbers we see that suicide rates for different age groups have gone through the roof. We also can find out that we are the most depressed and anxiety prone generation that has ever existed in the history of the United States. To add insult to injury we are more polarized and social isolated than ever before. Why? I think it is because we really don’t love ourselves.
When he was asked what were the two biggest laws we should follow. Jesus said this in Matthew 22:37-39 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your should, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Why did Jesus tack on the “as yourself”? I think it is because Jesus knows that if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love other people.
When I talk about loving yourself, I am not talking about the image of your self. I am talking about loving your whole self, warts and all. Do you constantly put yourself down or even worse allow a spouse or partner to do that? Do you give yourself credit for doing things well? Do you ever address your needs or are you always making sure everybody else in your life is taken care of?
God made you and God doesn’t make mistakes. You are a wonderful creation. Jesus reminds us of this fact that we need to love ourselves. God wants us to take care of ourselves; God wants us to know that we matter; and God wants us to empower us to work on those areas of our lives where we struggle. So do you love yourself? If you can’t say “Yes” to this question start thinking about the ways that God is calling you to love yourself. It is only when we truly love ourselves and strive to be a better person that we can begin to fulfill the second command of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves.
One of the things I have been preaching over and over again, is what would your perfect/dream day look like. To honest, I forget what book I was reading where it asked me this question. I thought it was a pretty crazy question to ask. I mean shouldn't I be trudging through my day because I had all of this work to do. After thinking about it for a while a light bulb came on in my brain. I can do my work but I can also do the things that are important to me as well. My exercise schedule has been all over the place for the last couple of months, but I imagine for my dream day that I do my exercise in the mornings. Then especially on the weekends and on my days off, I started putting this practice into place and wow I was starting to get regular exercise in. I started to apply this to other stuff that I have always put off until I "had more time". These things started to happen in my life as well. I started to feel like I was getting more things done...more things done that were really important to my spirit. These last couple of months, this practice of trying to have each day become my dream day has really improved my outlook on my life and my faith. Now I don't always get all the things I want to get done and not every day is a dream day but again, I feel more in touch with God; I feel I have more happiness and I actually look for to each day. So what does your dream day or perfect day look like? What can you do to implement that dream day starting today?
Hi all! So as you got to the webpage you might have noticed some new stuff. A lot of the links have been renamed to fit with our mission statement. I made a new logo for the website as well. Let me know what you think about both of them. One of the things that I think people are going to start to do more and more is to look for spiritual stuff online. I know it might seem silly for a small church like us to begin to embrace all this techonlogical stuff but I really feel this is where God is calling us to go. Why not us, right? I moved the youtube links from under my pastor blog to the online church page and also the one year bible page as well. The other new link that you will find under the online church is our Youtube channel whch will have our church services on it.
So what ther resources would be helpful for you as you look at our website? Are you looking for a daily devotional? Are you looking for a bible study? Are you looking for a place to put up your prayers? Let me know and we can build it together. I hope in the days, weeks, and years to come that our website will help more people learn about their faith as well as encourage others to grow in their faith.
As we think about the future, I also want to be crystal clear in that we are not forgetting our past. One of the things we really have to balance is the new/strange with the old/familiar. I think too many churches think that the old stuff has got to go. I don't believe that, I think it is a merging of the two that is important. This is not easy by a long shot, but it is how we need to tread the waters ahead. So don't worry the Gethsemane that has been a part of your faith journey will still walk with you. There will be changes form time to time but the core of who we are will always remain the same.
One of the questions I always ask pastors, is what books they are reading or what their favorite three books are. Recently talking to Pastor Phil over at CrossRoads church in Woodbury, he turned me onto the book The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. He explained to me, he was using it to figure out how to make worship more memorable. I thought this was pretty telling coming from Pastor Phil because each week they have between 3 to 5 thousand people come to their five church campuses. This book he suggested isn't a church book. It is a book for business. How do you make your busy and customer experience really memorable. There was an example of a hotel in LA that has been reviewed to be one of the top hotels in all of LA. Looking at the hotel it doesn't seem to be anything special, it doens't have a bigger pool than anybody else and their rooms are not very fancy at all. So why are people flocking to come there? It is the experience. For one thing they have a popsicle hotline. So when you call the special red phone in the pool area a staff person asks you want kind of popsicles you want and then brings them to you on a silver platter. Guess how much it costs? It is free!!! It is touches like this that people remember and it is why people come to this hotel in droves and why they rate it so high. So it got me thinking about church. How do we make each worship a good memorable experience for folks. This June we did an experiement where we blocked off the back pews so that people wouldn't sit underneath the balcony. This was good not because they would be closer to service but because underneath the balcony it is hard to hear. I haven't hear too much back from anybody yet as to whether people like it or hate it. So what make worship memorable for you? Leave a comment and let me know. Also on a related note, what was a power moment for you? Why was it powerful? Leave that in the comment as well.
So I am reading this book by Tony Morgan called Killing Cockroaches. The book is a collection of blog posts that Tony has done over the years. As I was reading through this week, my eyes were drawn to his blog post entitled "Leadership Lessons I learned from Football". Here are the five things he thought about after going to a Clemson Tiger Football game in Death Valley which is the nickname for their home field.
1. If thousands of people make some noise, it can get pretty loud.
2. People will do some crazy things to worship something they love.
3. When you really believe in something, you'll take a stand.
4. People will put their money where there heart is.
5. When the cause is big enough, people will give their time.
It got me thinking do we ever get excited for God or worship as we do for our favorite professional or college teams? Why or Why not? What would a church look like if it was really loud? Or what if we had face painting before or after service? Sounds crazy? I think Tony brings up a good point, how do we get excited about God and how do we show it? What do you think? What could you do to show how excited you are about your faith?
"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia!" (ELW 369)
1 Christ the Lord is ris'n today; Alleluia!
Christians, hasten on your way; Alleluia!
offer praise with love replete, Alleluia!
at the paschal victim's feet. Alleluia!
2 For the sheep the Lamb has bled, Alleluia!
sinless in the sinner's stead. Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is ris'n on high; Alleluia!
now he lives, no more to die. Alleluia!
3 Christ, the victim undefiled, Alleluia!
God and sinners reconciled, Alleluia!
when contending death and life, Alleluia!
met in strange and awesome strife. Alleluia!
4 Christians, on this holy day, Alleluia!
all your grateful homage pay; Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is ris'n on high; Alleluia!
now he lives, no more to die. Alleluia!
Text: attr. Wipo of Burgundy, d. c. 1050; tr. Jane E. Leeson, 1807-1882, alt.
Listen with the ears of your mind as you read the words of this hymn. What can you hear? I hear trumpets and a booming chorus of people. What do you smell? My nose is filled with the smell of Easter lilies and other fresh flowers. What do you see when you close your eyes? I visualize a brightly lit sanctuary full of people. This song reminds me so much of my experience on Easter morning. I can't help but sing the words as I read the text. This song will forever be ingrained in my being. We all have songs that do this to us--bring us back to a certain time and place.
As Christians, Easter brings us back time and time again to be bathed in Christ's grace. What if the tunes of our lives reflected this amazing gift? Will Easter continue to just be a day, or will it become the heartbeat of our lives?
Alleluia Lord, may we live our lives with the beat of Easter in our hearts, and may our lives be a song of gospel to all we meet. Amen.
Saturday and Sunday for God Pause's Devotion has the writer talk about hymns because hymns are a big part of our Lutheran heritage. The devotional staff gives you a big list of hymns to choose from. So the next two devotions will be how I see these hymns in the lens of Easter.
"Bless the Lord, O My Soul" (WOV 798)
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
bless the Lord, O my soul;
and all that is within me
bless God's holy name.
Text: Psalm 103:1
As we think about how Easter changes how we live in the world, this is a good hymn to memorize because it invites us to see the world in a new way. It invites us to ask some very important questions about how we live our daily lives. What does it mean to bless the Lord? What would it mean to take everything we are, everything we own, and everything we hope to be and use it to respond to the message of Easter? How would our lives be different? How would our world be different?
It might seem like a daunting task at first, but real change is made one small step at a time. I challenge you this week to make one small change that will bring you closer to living out the Easter message. How will you bless the Lord this day?
Awesome God, you have blessed us with so much in our lives. Help us to live with generosity and gratitude so that others may know your grace. Amen.
Pastor Paul. I hope you find these reflections insightful and help you in your faith journey!