Saturday, October 31, 2009

My hometown--Worthington, Minnesota

Author Tim O’Brien recently wrote a fascinating article for the Smithsonian magazine about coming to terms with his hometown, Worthington, Minnesota. The article is here:

His words were especially interesting to me because I also grew up in Worthington, Minnesota. I’ve had the opportunity to live in many different places, but Worthington is my home-town.

Almost all of us have a home town; almost all of us have deep opinions about our home town. Sure, some folks move so often that they really don’t have a home town, but most of us do. And coming to terms with our home-town is a significant part of our journeys. Bruce Springstein sang about this. In his article O’Brien also shared how this coming-to-terms process never quite ends.

O’Brien graduated from Worthington High School eighteen years before I did. That time distance was enough for him to experience a much-different Worthington than I did. I never had to talk about the Vietnam War or wonder if I would be drafted. A person who graduated from WHS in 2000 will view Worthington much differently than I did in 1982. My graduating class was almost entirely white. That isn’t the case today. My mom—who still lives in Worthington—has shared with me that almost twenty different languages are spoken in the school system today.

My dad didn’t suffer from alcoholism, so my family didn’t experience the small-town, moral judgment that O’Brien mentioned. Small towns make judgments about their occupants. It’s like being forced to live on the different side of the tracks.

The people of Worthington were good to me. I experienced some success in athletics, music, and was active in my church. In their minds I lived on the right side of the tracks and received the support of the community.

These judgments define small town, Midwestern communities—and we never really escape them.

I could relate to O’Brien’s experience at age 7 of “ice skating in the winter, organized baseball in the summer, a fine old Carnegie library [I experienced a different library], a decent golf course, a Dairy Queen, an outdoor movie theater and a lake clean enough for swimming.” I experienced all of that too. Some of my best memories of Worthington were riding my bicycle to the ball fields every day in the summer to practice and play baseball.

Just this past week I received another coming-to-terms-moment of my hometown. I was helping out in my daughter’s third-grade classroom. I didn’t know the substitute teacher and started a conversation. After I told her I was starting a new Presbyterian church in Blaine/Lino Lakes, she told me that she grew up in a Presbyterian church. “Where,” I asked. “Worthington, Minnesota,” she replied. My jaw must have dropped six inches.

She went on to tell me about attending church at the church building that used to be downtown. I haven’t heard many stories about that place. The Presbyterians built a gigantic, new church building in the 1960’s. That building defined my experience of the church. This teacher was married when the building was new. “It was such a beautiful place,” she told me. “The purple carpet was beautiful, almost perfect for weddings.”

My home church still has that purple carpet. It has partly defined this woman’s view of her hometown. I won’t look at that carpet the same the next time I see it. It’s part of this coming-to-terms process.

I'm traveling to San Clemente, California with five others from Chain of Lakes for a New Church Development Conference. I won't be blogging again until Thursday, November 5.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The start of weekly worship at Chain of Lakes

This past Tuesday night the Steering Committee of Chain of Lakes voted on a proposal for the start of worship for our New Church Development. The proposal that was approved on Tuesday was developed by the worship team at Chain of Lakes. That proposal had been changed from an original idea that the worship team had about starting worship.

The process was healthy. Our worship team developed a proposal, circumstances caused the first proposal to be changed, the final proposal that the Steering Committee approved was modified some more.

The bottom line is we at Chain of Lakes will soon be worshipping together.

At 10:30 a.m. on the first three Sundays in December we are going to have three “Seasonal Celebration” services. These services (and all our future services) will be at our new worship site—the Senior Center in Lino Lakes, 1189 Main Street. These services in December will be planned so that families can worship together. Infant and toddler care will be available, but we want children and youth to worship with their families.

On Thursday, December 24th we will celebrate Christmas Eve by worshipping at 5:30 p.m.

We will continue to worship on Sundays in January. The formats of those services have not been determined yet.

Our Grand Opening worship service will be Sunday, January 31. To use New Church Development language this service will be our launch. We will be doing heavy advertising and marketing for this service. We have a six-week publicity plan that will start soon after the Christmas holidays are finished.

I can’t wait to start weekly worship at Chain of Lakes.

As a pastor I am trained to design, lead, and plan worship. It certainly has been a switch for me to be pastor of a community that doesn’t worship. We had good reasons to wait to start worship until we did—and I encouraged us to wait. I wanted us at Chain of Lakes to first develop some significant parts of our congregational culture before we started weekly worship. But the wait has been challenging. For the past ten weeks I’ve preached or spoke almost every week at a Presbyterian congregation in the area. I’ve enjoyed doing this, but I look forward to designing worship and preaching for the people at Chain of Lakes.

These decisions by our Steering Committee are significant. It’s exciting to take another step towards living out our Purpose Statement at Chain of Lakes Church!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Carleton Football

Ever since I walked onto the practice field in the fall of 1982 I have cheered passionately for Carleton Knights’ football. As a player I gave four years of my life to the team. I played in the era when Carleton transitioned from the Midwest Conference to the M.I.A.C., a difficult switch that caused us to lose many more games than if we hadn’t made the change. Changing conferences changed our expectations—we deemed our 1985 season a success when we won four conference games. That season was a success for me personally as I was one of the captains of the team and achieved All-Conference status. That season also launched a golden era of nine years for Carleton football where we averaged six victories a year, beat St. Olaf every year but one, and won a conference championship.

This past Saturday Amy, Hannah, and I drove to Laird Stadium in Northfield to watch Carleton host the St. Thomas Tommies. My nephew, Adam Henning joined us. He attends St. Thomas, and we are developing a new tradition of watching the Carleton/St. Thomas game every year.

I went to the game thinking that Carleton would get waxed—I put the line at 17 points for St. Thomas. The game didn’t start out well for the Knights as St. Thomas scored on the opening kick-off and then quickly scored again. About halfway through the first quarter we were down 14-0, and I was thinking that St. Thomas might win by forty.

But Carleton didn’t give in. We scored a touchdown and then right after halftime scored another to tie the game. Suddenly the possibility of an upset was dancing in my brain. Kurt Ramler, the Carleton coach, then strategically called an on-side kick. It was a brilliant call and initially it seemed that Carleton had recovered, but somehow St. Thomas was given the ball. I would like to see that play on instant replay.

St. Thomas is one of the best teams in the M.I.A.C. They are well coached and have quality athletes. With the scent of an upset in the air they adjusted by changing quarterbacks and by running the option. Our defense couldn’t tackle the new quarterback and couldn’t defend the option. St. Thomas scored on five straight possessions. Carleton didn’t give up and the game wasn’t lost until the Tommies scored their last touchdown with less than two minutes to play. Final score: St. Thomas 48 Carleton 28.

Football is a game of passion—that’s one reason I loved playing it. Even as a fan my passion can overtake me. Carleton didn’t lose the game because of the officiating, but we had about six judgment calls that went against us. On one fourth down incompletion a St. Thomas defensive back pushed a Knight receiver right in front of the official. It was clearly interference—in my mind. I loudly let the official (who couldn’t hear me) know what I thought of the call. I didn’t use language that would make anyone in my congregation blush, but it’s fair to say the tone of my voice was full of energy. Hannah was taken aback by my sudden expression of fury. Most of the time I am mild-mannered, but as I said football is a game of passion—and I am passionate about Carleton football.

Kurt Ramler has the Knights moving in the right direction. Even without a senior class he put a scare into St. Thomas. Even when the game appeared lost, the Knights didn’t give up. The future is bright for Carleton Knights’ football.
And I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon then attending a game at Laird Stadium.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of Jacob Wetterling's abduction

This past week was the 20th anniversary of the kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling. The local media did a tasteful job of writing about the event.

The Star Tribune ran a lengthy story this past Sunday about Aaron Larson, a friend of Jacob Wetterling who was present at the abduction. That link can be found here:

Yesterday the Pioneer Press also ran a lengthy story yesterday. That link can be found here:

This story is one that has reached into the soul of people in Minnesota. Say the name, “Jacob Wetterling,” and most adults 30 and over can have a conversation. I was in California on October 22, 1989—working for the farm workers and most likely reflecting on my own encounter with the Loma Prieta earthquake. I remember at that time some college women from Minnesota who came to do a short internship with the farm workers. On the window of their car they had taped paper signs imploring the public to find Jacob.

On the Jacob Wetterling Resource web site Patty Wetterling said,
“Today people often remark, ‘I know where I was when Jacob was taken. I remember what I was doing or wearing. I remember how it made me feel. I’ve never stopped wondering what happened to that little boy.’ That defining moment in time continues to impact people throughout Minnesota, Jacob’s home state, and in nearly every corner of the world.”

I have never met Patty Wetterling. From afar I’ve always admired her courage and character. She has said over and over and over again that she believes Jacob is still alive. Let’s face it—if most of us were in her shoes we would have given up that dream long ago. She has responded to this tragedy by dedicating her life to keeping kids safe. Just a year after the kidnapping she and her husband formed the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to educate the public about who takes children, how they do it and what each of us can do to stop it.

We live in a culture that encourages grievance. If someone cuts in front of us while driving, we have the right to “send them the bird.” If we are not feeling a hundred percent, it’s understandable if we lash out at our kids. We have a system that justifies our grievances.

Instead of giving into the rage she must have experienced Patty Wetterling and her husband responded in a different way. Their response is a lesson in character for us all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facebook, Social Media, Connection

Yesterday I had an experience where Facebook connected me to a friend whom I haven’t contacted in years. I think the story illustrates how Social Media has connected us at a speed that wouldn’t have happened for me even twelve months ago. Let me share the story.

Tonight I am sharing a talk on prayer at our Alpha gathering. As part of the talk I’m sharing a few significant stories in my own prayer life.

One of the stories happened while I was a Youth Director at First Presbyterian Church in Babylon, New York. As I prepared the talk yesterday afternoon I thought about a few people from that church. I decided to try to find them via the Internet.

That wasn’t hard. I did a Google search for First Presbyterian Church in Babylon. After finding the church’s web site I saw the church had a Facebook page. The first status report on the church’s page was written by one of my friends.

That didn’t take long—ten minutes.

I immediately sent my friend a Facebook Friend request. I thought of some other people I knew from that church. I went through the Facebook friend list of my friend and sent out a Facebook Friend request to another man who I knew in Babylon. That man immediately responded to me. We had conversation yesterday afternoon and last night on my Facebook page and via E-mail on Facebook. I did some of my writing on my I-Phone.

Having this conversation brought back many wonderful memories.

I wonder what my Grandmother Moore would think about this story?

This story illustrates many dimensions of how our ability to connect has changed. I’m still trying to come to understand Facebook and Twitter—and I know many other ways of Social Media connection exist too. I hope and pray that the church and especially Presbyterians are thinking creatively how these mediums can enhance our ministry.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Evangelism at Presbyterian Church of the Way

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach at Presbyterian Church of the Way (PCOTW). They are the closest Presbyterian Church immediately south of Chain of Lakes. Their pastor, Todd Allen, and the leadership at PCOTW have been very supportive of our newly forming congregation. They let me live in their Parish House for almost four months as my family prepared to sell our house in Rochester. Yesterday they dedicated some worship furnishings that they are giving to our congregation when we start worship.

I was especially touched that nine folks from Chain of Lakes joined me at the 11:00 a.m. service.

Because so much of my work as a New Church Development involves Evangelism I decided to preach a sermon on Evangelism. In particular I encouraged everyone to have a conversation about God this week with an unchurched person. The entire sermon can be found here:

As I shared in my sermon I think we’ve been conditioned to think that the unchurched don’t like God or are turned off by church. I don’t think that is the case at all. I’ve found the unchurched to be some of the most spiritual people that I’ve met. I know that God is working in their lives. Sometimes the unchurched are just waiting to have a conversation about God. I don’t think there are waiting for someone to be confrontational or offensive to them in the name of God. But I’m absolutely convinced that they are willing to talk to someone who models God’s love in front of them—someone who will display the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Someone who is a Christian who will say, “I really care about you as a person.” I think our approach is everything.

Imagine what would happen if everyone in our congregation looked for opportunities to talk about God with people. I’m not talking about being confrontational or offensive or insulting. I’m talking about approaching people with the attitude of the fruits of the Spirit—love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.

This week I’m going to be especially aware of opportunities to talk about God with others. I don’t know what will happen, but I’m going to trust God that some wonderful experiences will take place.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Debating Society???

One of my desires at Chain of Lakes is to create and develop disciples—people who know God with their mind, love God with their heart, serve God with their feet. Finding a balance among those three is critical.

For the most part I see us Presbyterians as unbalanced among head, heart, and feet. We are very head oriented—and very willing to have debates with other Presbyterians with whom we disagree.

Case in point. In the most October 19th issue of the Presbyterian Outlook is an exchange between Eric Mount and Winfield Casey Jones. The two of them debated some fine points of biblical authority. I found the articles interesting. However, I’ve read so many articles like this in the past 16 years and heard so many speeches like this that I can’t get exercised about either’s position. After reading these articles I came to the conclusion that our denomination has become a debating society. I also wondered--how did this came to be? How did we Presbyterians delude ourselves into thinking that church is a debating society?

Eric Mount’s article can be found here:

Winfield Casey Jones article can be found here:

I would be more impressed if Eric Mount and Winfield Casey Jones committed to praying with each other instead of debating each other’s understanding of biblical authority.

A much better way has to be found. I don’t think the world is sitting around waiting for the results of a Presbyterian debate on biblical authority. In fact I don’t think most people go to church looking for a debate. I think they are thirsting for the living water that Jesus Christ offers.

A better way is found in the same issue of the Outlook. Chris Erdman, pastor of University Church in Fresno, California, shared five practices for the church. He urged the church to: 1) preach the gospel over and over again; 2) return to the life of prayer; 3) pursue purity of the heart; 4) practice a gutsy inner relinquishment; 5) give the Bible freedom to judge us broadly and save us wholly. His article can be found here:

I’m sure that Chris Erdman has opinions on biblical authority and the ordination questions that endlessly swirl around our denomination. But I didn’t detect an ounce of ideological bias in his article. I sense that he wants people (whether they are conservative, moderate, or liberal) to unite around a complete understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

I would love it if the people at Chain of Lakes became known by these five practices.

The world is thirsting for this type of disciple. But as long as we Presbyterians see our church as a debating society, we will continue to struggle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Minnesota Twins, 2009--Yes but ...

I’ve learned in almost 17 years of ministry never to evaluate the church’s ministry based on one worship service. I always look for trends and try to remember the expectations I had at certain dates.

These ideas come in handy when evaluating the Twins’ recent season. Put most simply the season was a success—the Twins won the weakest division in baseball on the 163rd game and were swept in the playoffs by the team with the best regular season record. At a basic level it was a success.

Yes, but push deeper and the results are more confusing.

If someone had said to a Twins' fan on April 6, the first game of the regular season, that the Twins would win the weakest division in baseball on the 163rd game and then be swept in the playoffs by the team with the best regular season record, would you be satisfied? I don’t know.

If someone had said this on Tuesday, July 14th, the day of the All-Star game, would you be satisfied? Probably

If someone had said this in September when they were seven games behind, would you be satisfied? Most definitely

If someone had said this when the Twins were three games out with four games to play, would you be satisfied? Oh yes—you would have thought that the person telling you this was delusional.

If someone had said this when the Twins were entering the bottom of the ninth last Friday, October 9 ahead 3-1, would you have been satisfied? No. At that moment my nephews were already looking ahead to the Twins playing in the American League Championship series.

I would guess that most Twins fans so enjoyed the drama of the season’s last week, that we will think of the season as a success. Most of us will forget that the drama only happened because the Twins failed to deliver on what many fans expected.

So can we be satisfied with wonderful drama that shouldn’t have happened?

Yes, but …

And I think “Yes, but …” describes the Twins’ season.

The Twins have managed to tamper fans’ expectations. Most of us have bought into the Twins’ managements’ argument that because the Twins are a small-market team just making the playoffs is a success. And for the most part these are realistic expectations. Fans in Kansas City would be more than satisfied to trade results with the Twins in 2009.

Yes, but professional sports teams are asked to give championships every now and then to their fans. I can tell you stories about the 1987 and 1991 Twins seasons off the top of my head. I enjoy sharing them. I can hardly remember the years the Twins won Division Championships in the first decade of 2000. The Twins have won five.

So I have to evaluate the Twins’ season as a “Yes, but …” They gave us some wonderful memories. (The 163rd game against the Tigers easily will go on my top five list of memorable Twins’ games.) But we were in the lead in each playoff game against the Yankees and ended up losing.

Yes, but. . .

Monday, October 12, 2009

Drew & Nikki's marriage blessing

This past weekend our family celebrated the blessing of my wife, Amy’s son, Drew and his wife, Nikki’s, marriage at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester. The picture above is of Drew and Amy.

Drew and Nikki were married in February 2008 in a small, private, ceremony in Texas. Drew serves as a medic in the Army and in June of this year completed a year of service in Iraq. This past weekend was an opportunity for family and friends to kick up our heels and celebrate with Drew and Nikki.

The entire weekend went off with hardly a hitch—rare for weddings. The rehearsal was late Friday afternoon, the rehearsal dinner was Friday night, the blessing was early Saturday afternoon, and the reception Saturday night.

Some of my favorite moments were:

Watching my wife Amy’s power point presentation. She put together a presentation that shared through pictures and music some of Drew and Nikki’s life story and shared some significant moments in their relationship. I would guess that Amy spent almost 100 hours on the presentation. One of my favorite parts of the presentation was the very last slide. She put a video clip of Drew’s arrival on leave from Iraq last February. He was walking in the airport arm-in-arm with Nikki, and said, “thanks, momma. My name is Drew, and I’m home.”

Watching our daughter, Hannah, dance. She danced almost every song during the reception Saturday night. We practically had to drag her eight-year old body off the dance floor at 11:30 p.m.

Laughing as Bea Harrington, a close friend of ours from Plainview, tried to take a picture with my I-Phone. After the blessing on Saturday I was taking many pictures and asking others to take pictures. I asked Bea to take a picture of her husband, Kent, and me. Bea couldn’t figure out how to take a picture. I kept telling, Bea, “push the button on the bottom of the camera.” But even though she tried she couldn’t get a picture of Kent and I. The scene was hilarious. I was telling her, “push the button,” and she was giggling as only Bea can. Kent was rolling his eyes as only a husband can. The first picture she took was a headless shot of Kent and me.

Enjoying the conversations I had with Father T, as he is affectionately called. He was the priest at Pax Christi when I first met Amy and officiated at the marriage blessing. He has retired from parish ministry, though he is soon coming out of retirement to help out at a Catholic Church in Rochester. He is an absolute delightful brother in Christ. He’s written a book on marriage. He generously gave me a copy at the reception on Saturday night.

I posted about 40 pictures of the weekend on my Facebook page. If you aren’t a Facebook friend of mine, send me a request.

The entire weekend was a highlight of this year—which has been full of many.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Welcome, Jennifer!

This week I have had the opportunity to welcome Jennifer Huehns as Chain of Lakes’ new Administrative Assistant. Jennifer’s first day was this past Tuesday. She will be averaging 15 hours of week.

I believe that Jennifer has a call to this position. She shared with me that when she saw an ad in the newspaper advertising this position, she said that we had written out the perfect job for her. At that moment she was transitioning from her work of interior design and looking for something else. And that something else turned out to be us at Chain of Lakes!

The process for hiring an Administrative Assistant turned out a bit longer than I had anticipated. We had an excellent Hiring Committee who was appointed in June by our Steering Committee. That committee (made up of Mary Ann Archer, John Ivers, and me) first met in late July to finalize the job description. In late August we advertised the position in the classified section of some local newspapers. We received over 50 applications. I read every word of every application. Our Hiring Committee winnowed the number of people we were considering to ten in early September. I then conducted then ten phone interviews on the week of September 6th. I then selected three candidates for our Hiring Committee to interview on Saturday, September 19. We ended up interviewing two excellent candidates. Our Hiring Committee was unanimous in our selection of Jennifer.

Jennifer grew up Presbyterian in a small church in Illinois. She has lived in Lino Lakes for the past five years and before that lived seven years in Brooklyn Park. She is married and has a daughter in 9th grade and another daughter in upper elementary. She most recently was the owner and co-founder (with her twin sister who lives in Lino Lakes) of Jennifer Rebecca Designs, an interior decorating company. Jennifer received an Associate Degree with high honors in Business Administration at Rock Valley College in Illinois. She is the team manager for the Centennial Soccer Club and volunteers twice a week at the dance studio in which one of her daughters participates.

Our Hiring Committee found Jennifer to be very personable. We believe that the people in Chain of Lakes and people in the wider community will enjoy getting to know Jennifer and working with her. Her administrative experience will be a big plus to our new church and her design skills are something we need. She is comfortable in all Microsoft programs. She is gifted in coordinating and managing projects.

She started her business from scratch and shared with the Hiring Committee that she enjoys the challenges of starting a new organization

Jennifer and I are still coming up with her schedule. But if people from Chain of Lakes call our office and hear a different voice on the phone, it will be hers.

When I called Jennifer to offer her the job, I shared with her that I hoped that she would work for Chain of Lakes for years to come.

Praise God for the call to work positions!! Welcome, Jennifer to this staff position at Chain of Lakes Church!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Metrodome Magic

Wow. “Metrodome Magic” is a new phrase that has entered the Minnesota lexicon in the past seven days. Even though I don’t believe in magic or even luck, I don’t know how else to explain how the Twins won last night.

The game brought new meaning to heart-stopping. From now on whenever I watch a tense game I’ll compare the drama to last night’s thriller. I thought the Twins would lose when they were down 3-0. Then I thought they would win when they went ahead in the 7th. Then I experienced the heart-stopping zaniness of thinking they had lost it in the 8th, won it in the 8th, lost it in the 9th, won it in the 9th, lost it in the 10th, won it in the 10th, lost it in the 12th, and then VICTORY.

I called my 95 year old grandmother after the game (she’s an avid Twins’ fan and has had heart bypass surgery) partly to see how her heart did.

The game last night was easily the most exciting game I’ve seen the Twins play since the 7th game of the 1991 World Series. The only game that might be comparable was the Twins playoff victory against Oakland.

One note to all fans—I know that the Twins are huge underdogs against the Yankees. But don’t accept a loss before the series even starts. Thinking the Twins could beat the Yankees is not any more improbable than thinking the Twins could beat the Tigers in the 1987 playoffs. Besides, in professional sports no guarantee exists that the Twins will be back in the playoffs any time soon. I’m going into this series thinking that this inexplainable run does not have to end.

I discovered a new way to celebrate after the Twins victory. Many of my Facebook friends were posting comments after the game. I hit the “like” button on every comment that I saw and then enjoyed reading the responses. I know that was nerdy, but screaming at the TV for almost five hours is not rational either. I guess I experienced a “virtual celebration?”

Oh and a note to all Chain of Lakes participants—don’t let the game stop you from attending the first week of Alpha. We’re meeting at 6:00 tonight at the Hampton Inn in Lino Lakes. We’ll give updates on the game at our event. Bring your cell phones and put it on gamecast.

Only in the Metrodome could a game like that be played. Metrodome Magic! Go Twins!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reflections on preaching at the Fall Polity Conference

Yesterday I preached a sermon at the Opening Worship service for our denomination’s Fall Polity Conference, which is put on by our Office of General Assembly. Every year the Stated Clerks of our Presbyteries and others gather for a national conference. Because General Assembly will be held next summer in Minneapolis, this year’s Fall Polity Conference is being held in Minneapolis. Chaz Ruark, the Executive Presbyter of Twin Cities Area Presbytery, asked me to preach at this worship service.

I’ve never had the opportunity to preach at a national conference, so I immediately said yes. When he extended me the invitation Chaz asked me to share hope and energy and not bemoan the problems of the PC(USA). It’s not hard for me to share energy. Sometimes I get so carried away in my presentations that my wife, Amy, rightfully gets on my case. She has told me many times that people aren’t looking for the energizer bunny in a sermon.

My sister, Pam Prouty, is the Stated Clerk of Minnesota Valleys Presbytery. She was able to join me in worship yesterday.

It certainly is a bit intimidating to preach in front a group of national group of Presbyterian leaders (most who don’t know me) in a hotel. So I was a bit nervous. But to be honest I was just as nervous giving my talk last Wednesday night at our Alpha Celebration Dinner. I was a bit nervous when I spoke in front of 45 people last Sunday morning at the Presbyterian Church in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. I’m used to being a bit nervous before I speak.

In the sermon I was trying to stoke the passion in our leaders about the future of our denomination. I also wanted to share a bit about the story of Chain of Lakes Church and I wanted to share my thought on the absolute importance of making and cultivating disciples. If you’d like to read the sermon go here:

I think the sermon went well. I was able to share the thoughts I wanted, I wasn’t too energetic, I got a few laughs, after the sermon a few people shared very positive comments. However, I didn’t get a good sense of the entire group’s response as I didn’t talk to many people in the crowd about the sermon. The next event started immediately after the worship service concluded.

After the sermon I was so focused on what had just happened that I forgot to give the benediction. Thankfully a General Assembly staffer seamlessly filled in for me. Thanks for covering for me!

One more funny story. Grady Parsons, the Stated Clerk of our denomination, made a comment after my sermon that he couldn’t believe I was in high school when “Reunion” happened. “Reunion” was the event when the northern and southern Presbyterian churches came together in 1983. I made a comment in my sermon that many people who are 45 & under don’t know what "Reunion" is; we think it’s something we do with our high school classmates. I gently teased him after the service about this. Many of our Presbyterian leaders (who I admire and respct) still talk about “Reunion.” I can understand and respect that “Reunion” was a significant part of their lives. But “Reunion” happened 26 years ago. I think it’s time to move on.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Inspirational Intersection

This past Wednesday at the Alpha Celebration Dinner I introduced the concept of the Inspirational Intersection.

I came up with this idea when I first saw the movie, “Jerry Maguire.” The movie is known for the phrase “show me the money.” But there’s another scene that made an impact on me. In the movie Jerry Maguire who was played by Tom Cruise. Jerry Maguire set out to start his own sports agent company. Rene Zellweger was his secretary and was going to work for him. The two of them went off to have lunch to talk about their new company. As they were having lunch Jerry Maguire looked at Rene Zellweger and asked her what type of job she wanted. Rene Zellweger looked Jerry Maguire straight in the face and said, “I don’t want a job. I want to be inspired.”

When I saw that scene I wanted to stand up and shout, “that is it. That’s what I want. I want to be inspired.” I saw this movie in December which is the busiest time of the year for pastors. I was worn out by all that was going on at the time. But I bounded out of that movie theatre reaffirmed with what I wanted with my life. I want to be inspired!

Soon after I came up with the idea of the Inspirational Intersection. It’s an intersection of discovering what God wants us to do AND what we want to do. Our task is to discern this place. The Inspirational Intersection is a place of tremendous energy and passion and inspiration.

The Inspirational Intersection is not a place of discovering what God wants us to do, but we don’t. At times it is appropriate to do what God wants us to do even though we don’t want to do it; however if we’re only doing what God wants us to do and we’re not happy, then we turn God into a tyrant. Also our Inspirational Intersection is not doing what we want to do but God doesn’t want us to do. That turns us into God.

We want to discover what God wants us to do AND we want to do.

This intersection is not just a place that we find in our work. We could find our Inspirational Intersection in volunteer work or our family. We could find our Inspirational Intersection through our church work. And our Inspirational Intersection is not just an activity. We could find it through growing in our character—living out the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, gentleness, generosity, and self-control.

Finding our Inspirational Intersection means everything because when we partner with God we discover tremendous energy and passion. We’re excited about what we do. We don’t get deterred by the inevitable obstacles that we face. We enjoy life—even if it is very hard—because we’ve found something that we’re willing to give our lives to.

As I was working on this talk I thought about designing a Lenten series called, “The Inspirational Intersection.” I could preach on this for six weeks and then we at Chain of Lakes could offer corresponding small groups. The objective would be for each participant to identify their own Inspirational Intersection on Easter Sunday.

Imagine what our churches would look like if a majority of our people identified their own Inspirational Intersection and had committed their lives to it. Wow!!

Please share some thoughts in the comments section about the Inspirational Intersection and how churches could help people find this place.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What a night!

What an evening we had at our Alpha Celebration last night! Thirty-eight people attended--twenty-seven adults and eleven youth & children. This turnout of people far exceeded my expectations. I really wasn’t sure how many people would attend, but I sure wasn’t expecting that many. I have a huge smile on my face today.

The Alpha Celebration dinner went very well. Gloria Ivers & Paulette Zvorak along with Gloria’s daughter Karen (and Gloria and Paulette’s husbands) did a fabulous job of preparing and serving the food along with decorating the room. Their hospitality turned a hotel room into a sacred space.

I received many compliments on the talk I gave. Give God for the credit for that. And give my wife, Amy, credit for encouraging (well encouraging might be a bit kind) me not to come across as the energizer bunny in the talk. Or to put it another way—tone it down a bit! Because of her words of wisdom I intended to share my talk in a measured tone. I think it worked.

I was also very heartened at the success many people had in inviting their friends and family members. Five families from Chain of Lakes successfully brought people to the Alpha Celebration Dinner. Many of these new people are not currently connected to a church. I have led “inviting” events for a very long time, and I know from personal experience the challenges of inviting and bringing people to events. I can’t remember a time when I’ve participated in an event where we had such success in inviting.

Which leads me to a final thought—that is, praising God. Over the last seven months of my work at Chain of Lakes I have become convinced that this New Church Development will not take off unless God wants it to take off. Over the last week I have passionately prayed (and asked other people praying for Chain of Lakes) that God would work through this Alpha Celebration Dinner. That prayer was answered. I also prayed that I would meet people at this event whom I had never met before. That prayer was answered too—in a way that surpassed my expectations. Again—Praise God!

We had a group who worked very hard at designing and implementing this Alpha Celebration Dinner. But hard work among a dedicated group working well together doesn’t make an event surpass expectations. Ultimately that is God’s work. So today I am humbled by the work of the Spirit—and thankful for everyone who is praying for Chain of Lakes.