Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I started this Memorial Day at the cemetery of the local Catholic Church. Many faithful gathered to celebrate Mass and then watch the local Legion brigade perform a 21-gun salute. I don't believe in perfection, but the weather was almost perfect. Many of us who gathered talked about how we remembered Memorial Days of 45 degrees and rain.

It seemed right to be at a cemetery remembering those who have died in military service for our country.

Memorial Day in America has turned into a potpourri of celebrations. Memorial Day is partly remembering the dead, partly celebrating those who currently serve in the military, partly honoring those who have served in the past, partly the first day of summer, and partly having an extra day away from work (for many but not all) at the end of May.

I don't come from a military background. My dad didn't serve in the military because he was a teacher; my grandfathers didn't serve because they were farmers; I didn't serve because no draft existed. I'm not a pacifist, but I rarely support war. I was against both Gulf Wars and am at best ambivalent about our country's current military trek into Afghanistan.

But despite my views on war, I have deep respect for the people who serve in the military. When I served as the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Plainview, I would love to sit at the homes of the veterans in the congregation and listen to their stories. It was a honor to hear their true tales of heroism and fighting for freedom. Every veteran in our country deserves our thanks and respect.

Even though millions of people today went to a cemetery, our wars have been pushed to the sidelines. My step-son served a 15 month stint in Iraq and currently serves in Okinawa. Add at least a million others stories to his and the impact of military service on families in our country can be appreciated.

But despite this impact our country's two wars don't seem to grab our attention. The days of the entire country mobilizing around a war are gone. We haven't forgotten our two wars, but they aren't the most important issues of our day. Now we send our rightly, well-paid men and women into battle as if war has become an expected part of our culture.

We push our wars to the sidelines at our own peril. When we forget the people who have sacrificed for our freedom, we become soft and narcissistic. As I write this my daughter is playing with the neighborhood children. They are running around in swim suits as all children should on such a beautiful day. Their ability to play in such a care-free way couldn't have happened without the sacrifice of millions of service men and women. For those of us who enjoy a middle class lifestyle, we enjoy what we have because of the bravery of those who serve in the military.

I'll never stop fighting for peace. As I stood silently this morning listening to taps at the local cemetery a white pigeon was released. It flew at least three times in a circle and then flew away. For me its flight was a symbol of peace amidst this day of remembering our country's war dead. We wouldn't have peace in the present without the sacrifice of our country's veterans. We can't have peace in the future without a nation committed to its principles.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why is this taking so long?

When I graduated from High School on June 6, 1982 I was planning on being an Engineer. I enjoyed math and physics at Worthington High School and was interested in continuing down that path. However my first serious Physics class at Carleton College disabused me of my notion of being an Engineer as a career occupation.

I shared that paragraph to state the obvious—I am not an Engineer.

However I do not understand why oil is still leaking in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil first started leaking there on April 20. Why haven’t the best engineering minds in our world been able to figure out how to stop the leaking of oil?

I understand that stopping oil from leaking from 5,000 feet below the surface of the gulf is an engineering challenge. But is this challenge any more complicated than the engineering challenge of drilling an oil well 5,000 feet before the surface? Given the environmental disaster that is taking place, wouldn’t someone have made some contingency plans about what to do if an explosion in the well took place?

My point is not to point fingers at British Petroleum, President Obama, the government, or any other person or corporation involved in this disaster.

However from my far-away vantage point it seems that someone has dropped the ball in solving this very serious problem.

I hope that the “Top Kill” procedure that B.P. has said it will try will work. All I can do is pray daily that something will be done and continue to ask the question, “why.” Why is this taking so long?

Friday, May 21, 2010

BIG day this Sunday

This Sunday is a BIG day at Chain of Lakes. The above flyer shares what we're doing. If you live in the north Metro and want to check out who we are at Chain of Lakes, this Sunday is a good day. Wear comfortable clothes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Recovery Sunday

I still am feeling wowed as I reflect on our Recovery Sunday worship service this past Sunday. This was one of the most powerful worship experiences we’ve had at Chain of Lakes. I am very grateful to Val Owens for all of the work she did in putting this worship experience together. The talk by Margaret Owens, Val’s daughter-in-law, really set the tone for our worship experience. As I shared after her talk, she shared her insides with us—she was authentic. After her talk I shared with the group present that this is the type of people we are going to be—we aren’t going to hide behind our piety. Instead we are going to share ourselves with each other in a very authentic way. Our new Accompanist, Kellie Burriss, did a wonderful job with her solo called “Angel.” At the end of the song I shared with the congregation that we at Chain of Lakes are going to be an angel for the people in the community; my dream is we will be a community where addicts will experience hospitality. I especially appreciated Nancy Amundsen’s (she is a Steering Committee member at Chain of Lakes) talk about the three c’s (Cause, Control, Cure) that she learned in Al-Alanon. When another person is struggling and that person tries to hook us into the problem, we can remember that we didn’t Cause the person’s problem, we can’t Control it, or Cure it.

Our attendance was small on Sunday, but if we consistently worship like this we will grow into living out our Purpose Statement.

We are called to be an authentic, Christian community where:
Strangers become friends
Friends become disciples
Disciples impact the world

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Night to Remember at the State Capitol Building

Amy, Hannah, and I were invited on a wonderful adventure last night that we won’t forget for a very long time.

This year the three of us have started a tradition called Family Fun Night. One of us gets to pick the events of our Friday night and the other two have to participate. Last night Amy had the privilege of choosing our activities. We started out at the Como Park Zoo. Hannah screamed with delight as she went on the rides. We didn’t enjoy too much time there as the park closed at 6:00 p.m.

After Como Park we enjoyed eating at Cheeky Monkey Deli in St. Paul. We were seated right away, the food was tasty, and the service was excellent. After dinner we took a walk down Selby Avenue. We came upon Common Good Books, Garrison Keillor’s book store and spent a half hour there. We bought Hannah a book and I found a book of interviews of Jon Hassler that I plan to purchase in the future

The time was moving close to 8:00 p.m. Amy’s last idea was to drive over to the Capitol building and yell, “pass a budget.” We made the quick jaunt, found a parking spot and walked into the building.

The Legislature wasn’t meeting, but many people were still milling around the place. We were able to walk into the House chambers at the invitation of Ray Vandeever who was working there. We were just about to leave the building when a Security Guard came up to us and asked us if we wanted to go on a tour. It was Family Fun Night—of course, we would go on a tour!!

We didn’t know that this tour was going to take us to the very top of the Capitol Building. John Kaul, a lobbyist at the Capital, was making a documentary about the Capitol Building. Jon, the Security Guard, was taking him and Representative Kim Norton from Rochester on the tour. I became the grip for the tour—so I carried the grip’s equipment.

The tour was more than a tour of the building--it was a tour to the top of the Minnesota State Capitol Building.

I learned a lot about the beautiful structure. I found out that the architect was Cass Gilbert, the building was finished in 1905 after taking 12 years to finish, the cost was 4.5 million in 1905 dollars and 90 million in today’s dollars, and the design was patterned after the United States Capitol. The dome reaches 223 feet above ground. More information about the Capitol is on the Minnesota Historical Society Web Site.

We must have climbed at least three hundred stairs to get to the top of the building. Some of the stair cases were very narrow and required very careful attention. As the grip I carried equipment up all of the stairs.

The view from the top was beautiful. We enjoyed the statue of the four horses plated in gold. The horses represent the four natural elements of the world--air, earth, wind, and fire. The statue was taken down to be cleaned in 1995 and then hoisted up with a crane.

We could see for miles. Last night’s sky combined various hues of blue. We looked south over the River, we looked north past the three radio towers in Shoreview, we could just see the 3M logo on that building in St. Paul, and the downtown Minneapolis skyline.

Just seeing how much fun Jon the Security Guard was having made the evening very special. He was having a blast telling us different features about the Capitol building, sharing different features of the night sky, and telling us to go on the NASA web site so that we could know when to see the Space Shuttle, which just blasted off yesterday.

How many security guards would go up to a couple and their daughter and ask if they wanted to go to the top of the Capitol Building? We were the very fortunate recipients of his hospitality last night.

As we left the Capitol Building and walked down those steps we did yell out “Pass the Budget.”

We experienced a night to remember. As Hannah said as we were driving home, “This was the best Family Fun Night ever!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recovery Sunday at Chain of Lakes

This Sunday we are having our first Annual Recovery Sunday. We have partnered with local A.A. and Al-Anon groups to focus on the issue of Recovery in worship. We will have three different speakers share their stories, and I will speak about Recovery from a faith-based perspective.

I am hopeful that this will become an annual tradition at Chain of Lakes. Throughout my ministry I have encountered many families who have been devastated by addictions—especially addictions to alcohol.

This day originated on a visit I made to Val Owens. She first came to worship at Chain of Lakes at our Grand Opening service. Shortly afterwards I paid a visit to her at her home. During our visit she shared her story of how her husband and sons experienced recovery. She is quite open about what happened and how A.A. and Al-Anon made such a difference in her life.

During that visit she shared with me that if I ever wanted to do something around the issue of Recovery, she would help lead it. Val has taken the lead on our day that we will have this Sunday. She has shared information about Recovery Sunday with many of the A.A. groups in Anoka County.

If you live in the area and would like to hear some powerful stories and learn a bit more about Recovery, please come to worship this Sunday. We worship at the Lino Lakes Senior Center, 1189 Main Street in Lino Lakes. Worship begins at 10:30 a.m.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Visit with my coach, Doug Cushing

I apologize for not writing a blog earlier in the week, but I’m still catching my breath after a whirlwind of a 48 hours. Doug Cushing, has been with me during this time. Our denomination offers a New Church Development coach for pastors of new churches. These coaches have been a pastor of a new church and have received training on how to be a coach. Doug is my coach. He and I talk on the phone at least once a month. We started this coaching relationship in December 2008.

He is an invaluable resource to me and to the people at Chain of Lakes. Last November six of us from Chain of Lakes spent a considerable amount of time with Doug at a New Church Development Conference in San Clemente, California.

As part of the coaching contract the coach spends at least once a year on site with the Organizing Pastor. This week was our week to host Doug. This past Tuesday I picked Doug up at the airport, drove him around our target area, helped him lead a meeting prior to our Presbytery meeting, and attended Presbytery. On Wednesday he and I met with our staff, met with our Executive Presbyter, met with my wife, Amy, and met with the Steering Committee at our meeting last evening. Today he met with the Church Development Team from our Presbytery this afternoon. Doug and I had plenty of opportunities to talk about Chain of Lakes Church and to talk about our ministry. He is going to write a report for us sharing his observations on what we’re doing. I’m looking forward to receiving his report and sharing it with the people at Chain of Lakes.

My head is still swimming with all of the ideas that Doug and I discussed during the past 48 hours. I think some significant changes could take place at Chain of Lakes over the next three months. Having a set of outside eyes is invaluable to us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day at Chain of Lakes

This Sunday is a BIG day in the life of Chain of Lakes Church. We have been getting ready for Mother’s Day worship for at least a month. We have a very special day planned. Every woman who attends worship will receive a special flower. My daughter, Hannah, will be singing. The children will share a special prayer with mothers during the Time for Children. We have a special power point presentation on mothers during the offertory; Kellie Burriss, our new Accompanist/Worship Leader will be singing as the presentation is being shared.

I can’t wait to share my sermon on the courage of Hannah. Hannah, and yes our daughter was named after the person in the Bible, displayed tremendous courage—courage as a mother. To get a preview of the sermon look at how Hannah responded to two questions. The first question was when her husband asked her, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8.) By reading the story we can infer Hannah’s answer. The second question is when the priest Eli accused Hannah of being drunk. Hannah is a model of courage.

We have been encouraging people in our congregation to invite friends and family to worship. I am mailing out about 30 invitations myself this week.

If you live in the north metro I encourage you to come join us for worship this Sunday. We worship at the Lino Lakes Senior Center, 1189 Main Street. It is located about a half mile east of the intersection of Lake Drive (#23) and Main.

If you don’t live in the north metro and can’t attend worship, pray for our day.

As I shared with our community via E-mail I can’t wait to see how the Spirit works in worship this Sunday. Having days like this Sunday is the reason I followed the call to become a New Church Development Pastor.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Graham Baird webinar on church growth

This afternoon I participated in a Webinar led by Graham Baird, pastor of Highlands Church in Paso Robles. Highlands is a Presbyterian church that was started four years ago and today has 997 in worship. I enjoyed the webinar and wanted to share the notes that I took.

Notes from Graham Baird Webinar, May 4, 2010

He is pastor of Highlands church in Paso Robles, California

His background
• Campus minister in Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Part of a failed NCD in San Antonio, Texas
• Interim Pastor in Red bluff California

Paso Robles is a town of 26,000. There are 60,000 people in range of the church
47 churches in the town before they started.

Their mission statement—to help dechurched people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ

198 at first worship service
40 the next Sunday
They grew to 3 services plus a midweek service

Today—961 family units
Average attendance—997
4 weekly worship services
3/5 of staff is multicultural
150+ seniors
Median income is 33,000
Many blue collar people

Most important point
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church
Jesus Christ is their senior pastor
Christ makes churches grow

Col 1:15-18
Ephesians 1:22-23
Ephesians 5:29

Curiosity is the best key to church growth
Ten ideas for church growth
1. The leadership has to have a heart for an outsider
Our hearts have to ache for people outside the system
We have to feel a deep need for outsiders
Are we more inclined to spend time with the people we know or the outsiders

2. Create a personality profile of the outsider
They have developed three personality profiles
Paula and Pete Paso (fun and normal)
Napa Ned (looking for meaning)
Gary Golfer (doesn’t want to be judged)

3. Share vision (heart) with the church
Pastor share vision quarterly from the pulpit
They call the messages “Heart of the Highlands message

4. Cultivate “Who Me” leaders at home instead of choose me leaders

5. Share numbers with leaders
They are open with numbers

6. Importance of Personal/Relational Outreach
The personal/relational dynamic is essential for church growth
1) handwritten notes from the pastor and not a form letter
2) call people on Saturday—pastor does. “What can I do to pray for you.” The only question he asks
3. Walk through the pews 20 minutes before worship to greet people

7. Free media resources
Cross example

8. Event focused worship

Ash Wednesday
Manudy Thursday
Mother’s Day
Baptism Sunday
Dad’s day
Hawaiin Shirt Sunday

9. Minimize Presbyterian Name
Saul to Paul. Saul changed it because Saul had baggage. Presbyterian has baggage with community

10..Maximize Presbyterian theology
1% more theory. You don’t have to accept everything. Is there one percent more that you can accept?