Monday, August 31, 2009

Relentless determination

Our new congregation just recently completed a backpack supply drive for CEAP, Anoka County’s community action agency. Last year CEAP collected over 3,000 backpacks with school supplies for children in Anoka County.

I’m proud of our congregation for donating 20 backpacks. I somewhat arbitrarily set this goal for us. I trusted the generosity of the people in our new church. And they came through. We collected 12 backpacks from the children of Vacation Bible School and then the rest came at our event last Wednesday at our proposed new worship space.

Who says a new church can’t do mission in the community?

I’m especially proud of my daughter, Hannah, and her relentless determination in participating in the backpack ministry. Let me brag on her a bit.

The day after I announced the backpack ministry she pleaded with me to go to Target to purchase the backpacks. “We don’t have to do this immediately,” I told her, “The backpack drive doesn’t end for a while.” But she wasn’t deterred. We soon went to Target and purchased not one backpack, but two.

At last Wednesday’s gathering at our proposed new worship space Hannah became interested again in the backpack supply ministry. She heard me say that someone needed to go out and purchase three backpacks (the money for those three backpacks had already been donated) and go through the existing backpacks to ensure that each one had all the supplies that are needed. She volunteered to do that.

So yesterday afternoon she and I finished the backpacks. Hannah went through all of the backpacks to do an inventory of what supplies were lacking. Then we went to Target to purchase the three new backpacks and buy the extra supplies we needed. Then she packed the three new backpacks and added the supplies to the backpacks that needed them.

That was a three hour project. She did it all—with her relentless focus and without complaint. In fact she was dragging me along to finish the project. I’ll admit it—I was a bit tired from leading worship three times yesterday morning and early afternoon—so my enthusiasm was lacking a bit.

So today a proud father gives thanks for the determination of his daughter in sharing backpacks with children who need them. Way to go, Hannah!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Minnesota State Fair

Yesterday my wife, Amy, my daughter, Hannah, and I took our annual trek to the Minnesota State Fair. The fair has become a tradition for our family. Since I met Amy in June 1998 we’ve only missed the fair once.

The Minnesota State Fair is one of the wonderful parts of being in Minnesota. I can’t quite explain this love affair. Jason De Rusha shared some interesting facts last night on his “Good Question” piece,

Why do I love the fair?

Where else could Amy & Hannah insert themselves into Grant Wood’s famous picture?

Where else can I also eat cheese curds, cream puffs, and chocolate cookies without feeling guilty? I expect to eat and gain weight and diet for days after the fair. The new food that I ate was the deep fried green beans. Amy bought them and generously shared a few with me. The cookies are overpriced--$14 for a bucket? I thought about buying a pot roast sundae, but wisdom prevailed.

Where else can I also expect to meet celebrities? We stopped by the WCCO-TV set up at 6:00 and watched Mark Rosen sit himself next to a man with a Brett Favre jersey and then do his sports piece while sitting there. After the news show Amy, Hannah and I got a picture taken with Don Shelby and Chris Shaffer. Hannah liked the picture of Shelby, Shaffer, and the three of us so much that she thought we should send it out as a Christmas card.

Where else can I also buy sand art and snow that practically comes alive when mixed with water? Hannah spent fifteen minutes at a vendor under the grandstand making a picture with sand art. It cost a buck and turned out beautiful. Last year we bought snow that feels like snow when water is added. We sent some to Amy’s son, Drew, while he was in Iraq.

Where else can I also learn about Minnesota history? Yesterday I learned that the grandstand is a hundred years old. We saw pictures of it being constructed.

Where else can I also see a pig being born? I did see that happen on my uncle’s farm when I was a boy, but it’s been a while. It’s not something I need to see too often.

Where else can I also walk with my family while being serenaded by Bonny Raitt. We heard her lovely voice as we walk to the car in the dark of night.

Where else can I also go on an art tour? This year we went to the art show first. Hannah got a piece of paper where she answered fill-in-the-blank questions about the art. She was excited.

Where else can I also get all the chocolate milk for $1? Hannah and I are addicted to milk. We might need to join the milk-lovers anonymous support-group.

Where else can I also meet friends from out of town? We met Hannah’s former pediatrician from Rochester and his family. I haven’t seen them in five years. It was fun catching up on their lives and share the new news about our lives.

There is not a single part of the Minnesota State Fair that makes it so special, but all of these events taken together make it worth a yearly trip.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A night of imaginings

Last night twelve adults and four youth gathered at the former Lino Lakes City Hall to look at our proposed new worship space. I believe the facility was brought to us by God. It’s almost perfect for what we need in a first facility—we will not have to set up or break down the sanctuary each week, we can use other rooms during the week, we have access to a kitchen, the folks administrating the building are excited about our presence there, the facility is located on a very well-traveled highway, it’s handicap accessible, and has enough parking. All I can say is, “thank-you, God!”

During our time last night our group enjoyed the facility and imagined how God will use this facility to help deepen a Presbyterian presence in Blaine & Lino Lakes. Barbara Anne Keely gave us a beautiful gift which we will use in our sanctuary.

Our group also spent some time discussing our upcoming Alpha ministry. Starting Wednesday, September 30 we will share a basics of faith course called, Alpha. Alpha is a world-wide course that addresses many of the questions that people have about God. We will have a meal, I will share a talk responding to the question, then we will break into small groups. We’re asking each member of our new community to participate in the “Just bring one campaign.” We’re encouraging everyone to just bring one person who is outside our community to Alpha.

We also had a very fruitful discussion about the future Core Values of Chain of Lakes Church. A Core Value is a principle, standard, or quality that is foundational to our community. In the days ahead it looks like we will gather on two Sunday evenings to decide on four or five Core Values for our community.

I am energized by developing our Core Values. I shared with our group last night that most people in churches never have the opportunity to decide the Core Values of a church. Deciding on our Core Values will influence the character and identity of Chain of Lakes Church for years (perhaps decades) to come. How cool is that!

Finally we celebrated that our faith community gave 20 backpacks with school supplies to CEAP. CEAP gives out thousands of backpacks to children in Anoka County who need them. I arbitrarily set a goal of our community giving 20 backpacks. And we ended up with—20 backpacks. Hmmmm. The Spirit is working. I give thanks for the generosity of the people at Chain of Lakes.

Mostly, the evening was a night of imaginings. We imagined how hundreds of people will be touched by God and our new faith community in this new facility.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy--brief thoughts

" We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make." Ted Kennedy

I always admired Ted Kennedy from afar. If his life was a play it would have had so many different acts that the audience would have been exhausted by its immensity. You can see what I mean by reading these detailed accounts of his life: HgfZorL2ok0rUXfcsUQ&pagewanted=all

Just in doing some brief reading I learned a new term— Rabelaisian figure. Look it up!

I’ve always appreciated the Kennedy family’s dedication to the poor. In my second stint in working for the farm worker movement I encountered this dedication. In the summer of 1988 Cesar Chavez fasted for 36 days to protest the use of pesticides on farm workers. The farm workers encouraged people to organize “fast chains” around the country. I was in seminary in New York City at the time and helped the farm worker office there organize fast chains in Manhatten. We had some events where Courtney & Kerry Kennedy would appear. The media would come and the work of the farm workers was furthered.

It’s interesting to me that one of Ted Kennedy’s best friends was Orrin Hatch. That such a conservative and liberal could be personal friends is encouraging to me. I pray that all of us can have at least one personal friend who disagrees with our political and religious philosophy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gays, Lesbians, & the main-line

This past Sunday I enjoyed a lunch with my aunt and her children after a wonderful worship service at Central Presbyterian in St. Paul. During our lunch my cousin went on a rant about how Brett Favre should have retired years ago and will not help the Vikings. After her rant she waited for me to yell at her for her viewpoint. (I had said earlier that I am in favor of the signing of Favre.) After some silence I said that she can believe what she wants—it makes no difference to me how she views Favre’s return—the beauty of America is we have freedom of speech.

We live in a culture that has a hard time tolerating disagreement.

For us main-line churches our capacity for tolerating disagreement will partly determine whether we will stay together.

For us main-line churches our knowing how much we have to agree upon will determine whether we will stay together.

I wasn’t surprised by the ELCA vote last week about the ordination of homosexuals and lesbians. I didn’t follow the debate that closely. I’ve been through these debates many times before. I respect the passion of people on both sides of the issue, but there are other issues about which I have much more passion—e.g. poverty, war and peace, cultivating a different type of follower of Jesus Christ, starting new churches.

I was impressed by the acknowledgement of Bishop Mark Hanson before the debate took place that some people were going to leave the Lutheran assembly unhappy. He said that the key piece was how those folks were going to deal with their unhappiness. Now that the vote has taken place those Lutherans who believe that gays & lesbians should not be ordained to the clergy will have to decide how much disagreement they can tolerate.

I lean to the left on the gay/lesbian issue, and I have great respect for people who lean to the right on the issue. I can understand how a person can come to the conclusion that homosexual sexual activity is a sin. I don’t think a person with that viewpoint is necessarily judgmental or homophobic. I certainly can worship with a person with that viewpoint, serve on governing bodies, go on mission trips, pray, and be in community with that person.

A person’s viewpoint on homosexual ordination doesn’t define for me their capacity for faith-based leadership.

One reason I’m proud to be a Presbyterian is we decided a long time ago not to be a subscriptionist denomination. If I was told that I didn’t have the ability to think for myself, I could not stay as a Presbyterian. Sure as an ordained leader I take ordination vows, and I have no problem truthfully affirming those vows. But there is latitude and freedom within our system. I do subscribe to a set of beliefs, but that subscription doesn’t limit my own exploration.

The ability to be in community with each other despite different views has always plagued the church. This morning I read 1 Corinthians 7 in my own personal devotions. Talk about a faith community with different views!

I guess every congregation and person has to decide how much disagreement is too much and how much agreement is needed.

I don’t need a person to agree with me on Brett Favre’s return to the Vikings in order to enjoy a lunch. Just as I don’t need a person to agree with me on the ordination of gays and lesbians in order to work with that person to create the Kingdom of God.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Did God punish the Lutherans through the tornado?

“Because sin is not just breaking the rules,
it is putting yourself in the place of God as
Savior, Lord, and Judge…” (Timothy Keller,
“The Prodigal God," page 43)

Driving to work today I heard a news report about the ELCA convention and the vote they will have this afternoon on gay clergy. That didn’t get my attention. Then I heard a newscaster say that Minneapolis pastor John Piper wrote on his blog that the tornado was sent by God as “a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction.” His point is that God sent the tornado as a sign to the Lutherans not to ordain gay clergy. The blog can be read here:

I don’t get into the habit of personally criticizing other pastors in public. To me clergy and other denominations are family. I believe in family. Let me respond by sticking to theology and asking some questions. The serious theological question is, “Does God punish or even reward us by our actions?”

A couple edgier responses than mine can be found here: and

I can’t help, but turn to Jesus in my response. In at least two different places in the Scriptures Jesus responded to the question of whether our own suffering is given to us by God because of our sins. In John 9:1-5 Jesus was asked if a man who was born blind was born in that condition because he had sinned. Jesus answered directly, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3) Jesus taught his disciples that suffering is not a punishment from God for our sins. Jesus taught his disciples that even though the man was blind, God could be at work through his life.

In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus was told about a terrible atrocity. Pilate, a political leader of the time, had taken the blood of some Galileans and mixed it with a religious sacrifice. The story infers that Pilate had the Galileans killed. Jesus asked the question, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?” Jesus then answered his own question, “No.” Then he went on, “I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” Jesus wasn’t saying that the Galileans were killed in a horrible way so that the rest of the world would repent because they were scared to death that their eternal fate would be the same as the Galileans. Did Jesus want people to repent? Absolutely. But suffering wasn’t used by God to orchestrate repentance.

I believe that God can control the weather, but I’m always a bit skeptical of anyone who clearly sees God's actions in weather. While I was serving at my previous church in Plainview I would pray for rain when the farmers got desperate. If we got rain I would give thanks. But I would attribute rain more to weather patterns than to God.

A few years ago, southeastern Minnesota got hit by serious floods. The town of Rushford was hit by 18 inches of rain. After that happened I heard some folks in the congregation I served say (mostly in a joking way) that the people in Rushford must have done something wrong. The week after the storm a weatherman gave a very detailed explanation of what happened in that storm. The explanation satisfied my curiosity of how so much rain could fall on one place. I think the church does better when it sticks to explaining theology and weather forecasters do better when they stick to explaining weather.

Incidentally during those storms on Wednesday four tornadoes hit Minnesota. One tornado crushed the roof of the middle school in North Branch. Does this mean that those middle schoolers were being punished because of their sins? Does the fact that the elementary schools in North Branch didn’t get hit mean that those kids have been following God?

This idea that God rewards or punishes humans based on our actions is dangerous for it puts humans in control of God. Really it turns humans into God.

But I know many people believe that if something terrible happens to them then they must have done something wrong. This belief turns many people away from God and from the church; many people carry the scars of this belief.

I have an out-of-state friend who believes God has punished him for a sin he committed many years ago. He believes that his daughter has been stricken with an illness because of his sin. I agree with the man that he committed a sin, but I’ve shared with him until I’m blue in the face that God has forgiven him. No matter how many times I say this the man still believes that his daughter is sick because of his own sin. He just can’t get out of that foxhole. I pray almost every day that he can.

So, no—I don’t believe the tornado was sent by God to get the attention of the Lutherans. God is a lot smarter than that.

Like Tim Keller—who is as conservative as they come—I believe we walk on dangerous ground when we attempt to be God.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brett Favre

I can be as high brow as anyone, but when I found out that Brett Favre was coming to the Vikings yesterday I paid attention. No, I didn’t get in my car to welcome the (Vikings’ Messiah, Brad Childress’ Savior, washed-up, 39-year old quarterback, Zygi Wolf’s ticket to a new stadium) to Winter Park, but I couldn’t help but go to the Star Tribune web site to get updates, listen to the chatter on KFAN, and watch most of Favre’s press conference during the 6:00 news hour. And I only identify myself as a casual fan!

Yesterday was a day that will get marked on a timeline of significant Minnesota sports events. Hopefully this signing will pay off more like the acquisition of Jack Morris than the trade for Hershel Walker.

I realize that the “Favre-a-palooza”doesn’t interest everyone. Yesterday when I went to my house for lunch and told my daughter, Hannah, that the Vikings signed Brett Favre, she said “who?” My wife, Amy, was more interested in baking cupcakes than talking about future Vikings victories over the cupcakes of the NFC North. I recovered from this apathy by calling my nephew and enjoying some “guy conversation.” And remember—I am only a casual fan!

But I also realize that Vikings’ obsession has landed, and I’m not talking about what landed at the St. Paul Downtown airport yesterday morning. I’m talking about the obsession that Favre’s landing has generated.

And that’s the dilemma for us church, high brows—we want to be in the culture, but not of it. So it’s hard not to be snooty about the whole thing. We can stand back from afar and judge all of those crazies who turned up at Winter Park and secretly wonder why they don’t have that passion for our churches. Or we can enjoy the spectacle and try to learn from it.

I’ll admit it—I’d love it if people had this sort of passion about God and the church, specifically the Presbyterian Church. And some do. But I have a feeling that if the people who showed up at Winter Park were praying yesterday they were sharing a word of thanks that Favre had landed. I don’t think John Calvin would have approved of such prayers.

So I’m not going to be snooty. I’m planning on enjoying the spectacle, rooting for the Vikings, and trying to remain a casual fan—while rooting for that elusive Super Bowl victory. And remembering that it’s only sports. It’s only sports, right?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pope Joan

My on-line book club recently read “Pope Joan” written by Donna Woolfolk Cross. The novel is based on the life of Pope Joan, a woman disguised as a man who rose to be the Pope in the 9th century.

Whether the story is true is up to historians to decide. Cross made the case in a afterward about how Pope Joan could have existed. She wrote that the position of the Catholic Church is that the story of Joan is an invention of Protestant reformers eager to expose the corruption of the papacy.

I enjoyed the book for its description of life in the 9th century. Cross skillfully described the misogyny of the age. On the book’s web site ( she wrote more about this:

“Life in the ninth century was especially difficult for women. It was a very misogynistic age. Menstrual blood was believed to turn wine sour, make crops barren, take the edge off steel, make iron rust, and infect dog bites with an incurable poison. With few exceptions, women were treated as perpetual minors, with no legal or property rights. By law, they could be beaten by their husbands. Rape was treated as a form of minor theft. The education of women was discouraged, for a learned woman was considered not only unnatural, but dangerous. The size of a woman's brain and her uterus were believed to be inversely proportionate; the more a woman learned, the less likely she would ever bear children.”

The book is reportedly going to be released as a movie soon. I recommend the book and look forward to seeing the movie.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation Bible School and the importance of children's ministry

Last Thursday we wrapped up two very successful days of Vacation Bible School at Chain of Lakes. On the second day we had 16 children attend Bible School—many more than I expected or anticipated. Our adult leaders did a fantastic job of volunteering and helping.

Our success at Vacation Bible School just reminded me the importance of children in building a faith community. Most parents want ministries for their children—even parents who are not connected to a church. The more we can offer quality ministries for children the better chance we have of developing as faith communities

Our congregation in Plainview started to take off when we got serious about our youth and children’s ministry. Since the church building was located right across the street from the school it seemed natural to me to start an after-school ministry for children. After a lot of conversation we were able to start a Logos ministry. I still remember the first day of Logos in Plainview—eight children showed up. I remember thinking that we worked really hard for eight kids.

But over time that ministry grew. When I left Plainview this past February we had approximately 20 kids in elementary Logos and 20 in Junior & Senior High Logos.

That ministry played an important role in our Building Campaign. When the adults saw kids starting to come to the church building, they got much more serious about renovating the building. We couldn’t have accomplished our re-modeling without the Logos ministry.

Having such a successful Vacation Bible School just fueled my passion even more for Children’s Ministry at Chain of Lakes. Please pray for us as we discern the way to go about this! Don’t hesitate to share your ideas in the comments section of this blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What a night!

I still have a smile on my face as I reflect on the fantastic time we had at Vacation Bible School last night. I think every person who came will say that something special happened. We had an excellent turnout of kids, 13; everything was very well-organized; and everyone enjoyed themselves. As I wrote on my Facebook page it was a night of fun and faith. Thanks to everyone who helped. We are gathering again for Vacation Bible School tonight at 6:00 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church. If you live in the north Metro, come and join us tonight for the last night of Vacation Bible School.

Last night we encouraged everyone present to purchase a backpack with school supplies for kids who need them. I asked the kids how many backpacks with school supplies they thought we could collect. I suggested 20—they suggested many more. My daughter, Hannah, and I purchased a backpack when we first announced this ministry at the picnic at our house a couple weeks ago. After Vacation Bible School last night she pleaded with me to purchase another backpack. So after Vacation Bible School the two of us were the backpack section in Target. Our family is now providing two backpacks.
I do believe that our faith community can provide 20.

Last night at Vacation Bible School I received a brief vision for what children’s ministry at Chain of Lakes could be. I’m still sorting that out, but am excited about the possibilities.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A day of firsts--Vacation Bible School

Today Chain of Lakes is hosting its first Vacation Bible School. Thanks to the generosity of St. Joseph Catholic Church, who let us use their facility for FREE, we will be meeting there from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, August 12) and tomorrow night.

We’ve worked hard at developing Vacation Bible School. I anticipate that we will have ten to fifteen children attend; we have excellent adult leaders; the details are set. Now is the time to enjoy our experience together.

Youth and children will always be a priority at Chain of Lakes Church. Youth and children are not only the future of the church, they are the presence of the church. While I served at Community Presbyterian in Plainview, we were able to completely overhall and upgrade our youth and children’s ministries. That development brought life to everyone—to the youth and children, to the adults in the church, and to the community. When the people at Community Presbyterian grabbed a hold of a vision of youth and children’s ministry, everything changed in our faith community.

Today is a day of firsts at Chain of Lakes. When I share the story of Chain of Lakes Church I’ll share the excitement of first days—the first day I met with the Steering Committee, the first day we had a small group meet in someone’s home, the first day of our “?Why” series when the host church forgot to unlock the door. In the future I anticipate that I will share what will happen on the first day of ALPHA and, of course, what will happen on the first day of worship.

I’m sure that I will add the first day of Vacation Bible School to this story of first days. I can’t wait to see what happens tonight. Please pray for the adults and children of Chain of Lakes as we gather on the first day of Vacation Bible School.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Leadership Summit

Last Thursday and Friday I attended the Leadership Summit at Eagle Brook Church. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek have shared a leadership conference since 1995 that is now broadcast via video all across the world. Hybels shared at the beginning of his talk this past Thursday that 60,000 people would be attending the conference.

I am a sucker for leadership conferences. I am constantly trying to learn how I can be a better leader in the church and community. I never want to stop growing as a leader. I want to continue to develop the skills that God has given me and then utilize them on behalf of the church. I could spend a day just listening to the videos on the Leadership Summit web site and then pondering them. That site is:

I sat down this morning to type up my notes from the conference—and then realized that I need more time to do this. Later this week I plan on posting my notes to Scribd.

Anyone who wants to get a good summary of the conference can read the Tweets of the conference. Just go onto Twitter and then put in the hashtag, #TLS09. That hashtag (I think this is what it is called) goes into the search box on the right side of Twitter.

Last Friday I wrote about the Presbyterian presence at the Leadership Summit. That is cool.

Today I'm wondering if the Presbyterians could pull off a conference like this.
I'm thinking about the leadership opportunities that our own denomination offers—the PC(USA). Where are the inspirational conferences and events that are encouraging leaders for 21st century, main-line ministry? I know that the PC(USA) just did the Big Tent and APCE is an excellent event. But is it possible for a main-line denomination to offer a leadership event or two that can catalyze us as Presbyterians?

Or am I just a dreamer?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Leadership Summit

Yesterday I attended the Leadership Summit Conference. Since 1995 Willow Creek Church in Chicago has shared a two-day conference on leadership that they now simulcast to churches all across the world. I attended at Eagle Brook Church yesterday along with 1400 other folks. This was the first time I’ve attended Leadership Summit.

Later next week I will post my notes on Scribd about the conference, and I look forward to sharing with folks at Chain of Lakes what I learned. Let me share briefly some impressions.

--Bill Hybels is a man who is not afraid to innovate. He shared yesterday how our nation’s financial crisis has changed how Willow Creek has done ministry in the past ten months. They have changed the way they have worshipped, and they have changed some strategic priorities of the congregation. Hybels talked about how a crisis can draw something out of people that a period of calm doesn’t. He wasn’t bemoaning the financial crisis, or giving thanks for it. He was sharing how the wider context has influenced the way Willow Creek does ministry.
--I was touched by the number of Presbyterian connections of the speakers. One of the speakers attends Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller is a PCA pastor, one of the speakers grew up in a Presbyterian Church. There was main-line influence all over!
--I was moved by the story that Jessica Jackley shared. She is the co-founder of Kiva. God to to get the full details of Kiva. In a nutshell Kiva does micro-lending. Through Kiva people can lend small amounts of money ($100 or less) over the Internet to entrepreneurs in third-world countries.

Today I will be attending the morning session. I’ll share more details next week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The energy is building

The energy is building for Vacation Bible School at Chain of Lakes Church. Yesterday was my first day back at work after being gone to Texas for five days, and I spent most of it working on Vacation Bible School. I am pleased to say that almost every one of our families in our new church have signed up their children for Vacation Bible School. I don’t ever make promises, but out turnout is looking promising!

We are meeting August 12-13 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lino Lakes. We are offering a meal and a T-Shirt. There is no cost to participating in Vacation Bible School. Children who are age three to fifth grade are welcome to join us. We will have games, crafts, and music. We have an excellent group of adult leaders

When I first came to Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview we had one child who was third grade or less—fewer children than in our current new church. One way we built our children’s ministry was through Vacation Bible School. We offered Bible School and encouraged people in the community to come. Eventually people did come. I think we had 15 kids the first year of our Bible School—towards the end of my tenure at Plainview we would have close to forty children attend.

You can help us publicize Vacation Bible School. Would you send an E-mail to some of your friends who have children inviting them to Vacation Bible School? This is the time of year when parents are looking for events for their children. Even if those kids go to a church, invite the children to attend. We will not be encouraging children who attend another church to come to our church. If you are on Facebook, would you send an invite to friends you have. A woman in our congregation used Facebook to get the word out about our Bible School and we have already received a response back from someone who is interested. Keep spreading the word

And—keep our Vacation Bible School in your prayers.

Vacation Bible School is one of the best ministries a congregation can offer. I can’t wait to see what happens a week from today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Shack

While visiting my step-son and his family in Texas the past five days, I spent some time reading, “The Shack.” I had always intended to read the book, but kept putting it off.

Finally I got to it—and am I glad that I did!

I wasn’t expecting to be touched by the book as deeply as I was. As I was walking through the airport yesterday after arriving back from Texas my wife, Amy, asked me what I thought about the book. “It was fantastic,” I said.

Indeed it was fantastic. I highly recommend it. I enjoyed reading this book as much as any I’ve read in years.

The story is fairly simple. The main character is Mack. During a camping trip two of Mack’s children almost drowned while canoeing. Mack jumped into the water and saved them. While Mack was doing this his youngest daughter, Missy was kidnapped. She was subsequently murdered in a dumpy place called, “The Shack.”

Four years later Mack received a cryptic note in his mailbox inviting him to go to “The Shack.” The note was signed by “Papa,” a term that Mack’s wife used for God. Mack went to the Shack and encountered God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He spent the weekend in conversation with them.

In the book God was a black woman, Jesus was a Mideastern carpenter, and the Holy Spirit was an Asian woman called Sarayu.

Through his conversations Mack was healed from his grief, healed from the scars he carried from being abused by his father, and received a new understanding of God.

The book has become wildly popular. It’s sold over a million copies and as of today is ranked #2 on the New York Times list for paperback trade fiction.
I'm sure that there are theological teachings in the book that will make some people squirm. These teachings didn't bother me as I saw one of the purposes of the book as trying to help people re-establish a relationship to God. Sure--some of the doctrine is a bit squishy. But if the book helps people take God more seriously, I say, "Hallelujah!"

This book would be especially appropriate for people who are skeptical about God and the church. I plan on using the book in our newly forming church and encourage others to do the same.