Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We bought a Zoo

Last night my sister’s family, Hannah and I got out of the house after a day of Christmas celebrating to watch “We bought a zoo.” I had wanted to see the movie last week with Hannah, but she and a friend convinced me to watch latest Chipmunks movie. There is no comparison between the two.

“We bought a zoo” is one of the best family movies I’ve seen. It’s worth watching and discussing with a child.

Some reviewers have righty criticized the movie for its formulaic plot line. Benjamin Mee, played by Matt Damon, tried to escape his grief from the death of his wife and negotiate the challenge of suddenly being a solo parent to two children. He quit his job as an adventure writer and took on the adventure of buying a zoo in the countryside. The zoo is not open and in danger of being closed. The staff of the zoo is overworked, but committed to the zoo’s success of the zoo. Mee’s task is to learn how to run and eventually open the zoo while keeping his family together and not going bankrupt.

The movie was partly based on a book by the same name that took place in England.

The movie clearly plays on the viewers emotions, but I didn’t feel manipulated. Rose, played by Maggie Elzabeth Jones was cute and even joyful as the seven year old daughter of Mee. The number of camera shots that showed how adorable she was bordered on excessive, but her effervescence carried the effort. Mee and Kelly Foster (played by Scarlett Johansson predictably fall for each other. However their relationship developed so slowly so it wasn’t clear at the end of the movie if a permanent romance was in their future.

I enjoy a movie when it takes me out of my life and helps me consider something completely different. I was captivated by the adventure that Mee took in order to rehabilitate the zoo. (It seemed similar to redeveloping a church.) Even though he was ultimately did open the zoo, there were no guarantees during the process that it would work. It was hard work for Mee, and I felt the difficulty of the task. Even if the ending was classic Hollywood, I felt Mee deserved his success. He risked a lot and put in the effort.

Since this clearly was a family movie, the theme fit the genre. As I drove home after the movie I talked with my nephew about the importance of hard work in achieving our dreams. A dream is more than a wish—it’s the culmination of much effort. I felt the challenges and difficulties that Mee experienced. It’s a classic American message, and one that is always worth passing on to future generations.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Everyone in the community is invited to Christmas Eve at Chain of Lakes Church. We will be worshipping at 4:00 p.m. at our Worship Center in Lino Lakes, 1189 Main Street. Child care is available.

We’ve been working for about two months to put together a high quality Christmas Eve worship experience. Pastor Ken Mc Cullen will share a drama, Kellie Burriss will be singing, I will share a sermon, we will enjoy Communion, and we will conclude the service by singing Silent Night by candlelight.

I am especially glad that the first $300 of our offering will go to help low-income kids at Lino Lakes Elementary STEM school. The money will go to provide backpacks of supplies for families who need them. The backpacks will be packed with basic needs supplies like soap, shampoo, crayons, markers, dishwashing liquid, and family games

Mary Beth Higgens—counselor at the school—shared with me how needed these supplies are for kids. Some families weren’t able to participate in a drug awareness poster contest because they don’t have the markers and poster board at home to participate.

I think it’s fabulous that our congregation can support such an important ministry during our Christmas Eve service.

A candle is waiting for you! Please come.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hannah

Eleven years ago today at 10:38 a.m. in Rochester Methodist Hospital God gave Amy and a blessing that we cherish every day.

Happy Birthday, Hannah!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


At our recent “Disciples at Chain of Lakes” orientation I was asked about the characteristics of being Presbyterian. I responded that one reason I’m proud to be a Presbyterian is we celebrate women in leadership. We ordain women to be clergy—now called Teaching Elders; we ordain women to serve on the councils of the church—roles now called Ruling Elders.

I read with interest the recent article in the Star Tribune by Katherine Thomas about women serving as priests in the Catholic Church.
She was responding to an article that the Strib had written about female Catholic priests.

Even though my Catholic friends don’t ordain women to the priesthood I have deep respect for that tradition. My wife is Catholic, and I go to Mass with her almost weekly. I also have deep respect for my friends on the conservative, evangelical side of the religious aisle who don’t believe that women should be ordained.

However, I couldn’t disagree more strongly with their position. God calls women to ordained leadership in the church.

The logic of Thomas in the Strib article was especially specious. She essentially wrote that the church can’t ordain women because it is not true. Since women's ordination is not true, then the church can’t make something happen.

However my friends in the Catholic church aren't following an eternal truth--they've invented this truth. They've come to this conclusion based on their interpretation of the Scriptures and tradition. To say that there is an eternal truth that the church is following is false. Their truth is based on their interpretation.

And I believe their interpretation is wrong. Two weeks ago I gave a sermon on Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary went to great risk to bear Jesus, she traveled with Jesus with when he was older, she was at the foot of the cross (unlike most of the male apostles) when Jesus died, and she helped choose the apostle who replaced Judas. (Acts 1:14).

Mary was not excluded in her service because she was a female. She was a disciple, a minister, a leader. If Mary was physically alive today it seems incomprehensible that she would be excluded from sharing the sacraments with the people.

The women who bore Jesus couldn’t share Jesus?

The Scriptures are clear that God gives a variety of gifts—1 Corinthians 12. These gifts are not apportioned to people based on gender. To exclude women from ordained leadership is to block the working of the Holy Spirit.

I have had the privilege of knowing many female pastors in my career. My sister is a ordained Presbyterian pastor. To think that a group of men could exclude these women from sharing their gifts seems contrary to what God wants in the world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Faith Sharing

This past Sunday I shared a Faith Sharing exercise at Chain of Lakes that worked wonderfully. So wonderful that I want to do it again.

The Faith Sharing exercise helped people develop an understanding of their own journey of faith. Everyone has a story—it’s their journey of faith. Their story is not right or wrong—it’s a story. I believe it’s very important for people to know and be able to articulate the story.

I shared thirteen questions with people. I started off by sharing my story by going through some of the questions. I then broke people up into groups of two and had them share their story with another person. I gave them ten minutes—which was way too short of time. When the ten minutes was up I asked each person to share one thing they learned about the person with whom they were paired.

The sharing was powerful—very powerful. When we were done one person suggested that we include “faith sharing” as a Core Value at Chain of Lakes.

Too often we think Evangelism is about sales. We want to convert someone or get them to come to church. Evangelism can be converting and bringing people to church. But many folks aren’t comfortable in sales and have had bad experiences with people trying to do the “sales” part of Evangelism.

I think Evangelism is about sharing our faith—this starts with knowing our own story. I know that the following questions worked for us at Chain of Lakes this past Sunday.

Faith Sharing
(Sample questions that might help you develop your faith story)

1. What are some of your first remembrances about God?
2. What was church like when you were young?
How many churches did you go to?
What was the church building like?
What was the pastor like?
Did you go to Sunday School? What was that like?
How would you describe your parent's faith?
Did you go through confirmation? What was that like?
Did you participate in church as a teenager? What was that like?

3. What have been some significant events in your life during the past ten years? What role do you believe God played in those events?

4. Describe one or two times in your life when you've felt God's presence?

5. Name some times in your life when you had some tough questions for God. Perhaps you doubted God's existence, were angry with God, or just didn't understand something that had happened.

6. In two or three sentences write about who Jesus is to you?

7. How would you describe your faith today?

8. In what ways would you like to grow in your faith in the next year?

9. What do you like/dislike about Chain of Lakes Church

10. If Jesus walked into this room and asked you to ask him two or three questions, what would be your questions?

11. How is my life different because I follow Jesus Christ?

12. What is God doing right now in my life that is good news?

13. Who are the people who have been important in my faith development?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tangled in the Tinsel

The following is a Press Release that we issued to the media about this wonderful event taking place on Saturday, December 10. I'm very pleased that our new congregation is giving so much to help low-income kids at Lino Lakes Elementary STEM School. This is fabulous!

Chain of Lakes Church, a new Presbyterian church forming in Blaine & Lino Lakes, in cooperation with Homeward Bound Theatre, is presenting “Tangled in the Tinsel” on Saturday, December 10th at 6:30 p.m. The presentation will take place at the Lino Lakes Senior Center, 1189 Main Street in Lino Lakes. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased by calling the Chain of Lakes office, 763-208-8049.

The church is giving one third of the sales of the tickets to help low-income children at Lino Lakes Elementary STEM School.

“We are very excited that in this season we can share a wonderful event that not only will be entertaining to families, but will also help children in poverty,” said Rev. Paul H. Moore, Organizing Pastor for Chain of Lakes Church.

The new congregation has adopted Lino Lakes Elementary STEM School as one of its local ministry focus. They supplied backpacks to the school in September, are raising money for low-income children, and will be sharing a speaker series on family issues in early 2012.

“We are delighted that Chain of Lakes Church has decided to help our school,” said Mary Beth Higgins, school counselor at Lino Lakes Elementary STEM School. “In these days of declining resources for schools, Chain of Lakes Church has helped fill in the gaps for us.”

Homeward Bound Theatre is presenting the comedy sketches. The focus of the arts organization is to share performing arts experiences that promote family values and positive relationships.

“We encourage the community to come out on Saturday, December 10,” said Moore. “Not only will they enjoy a wonderful program, but they will be helping kids at Lino Lakes Elementary STEM School.”

Child care will be provided for the event.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Last night I joined millions of others in America to travel out to participate in Black Friday shopping. My nephews, their Dad, and I have established our own yearly ritual on the day after Thanksgiving. We look at it as a “guy thing," somewhat similar to hunting without the guns. We had gone through the ads sharing the big box specials, knew our route, had a sense of the prey for which we were looking, got a late night nap, and left the house in the dark.

I completely support the workers who have protested the earlier start of Black Friday. I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving because it’s a day to enjoy family, food, and some football. I love Thanksgiving partly because the culture hasn’t taken the holiday to provoke our consumerist urges. The people who have to work on Thanksgiving have no choice, but to leave their families to go to work. I was stunned that the Star Tribune actually wrote an editorial criticizing the workers who protested the earlier start of Black Friday.
Their logic that the workers should just be happy to have a job, so thus shouldn’t protest having to work hours on a national holiday makes no sense. Principles of justice and fairness don’t depend on the unemployment rate.

We left the house at about eleven and found the Wal Mart in Woodbury. The parking lot was almost full. I found a parking spot that probably is used once or twice a year. When I walked a quarter of a mile to the entrance I got in line. The number of people in the store had obviously exceeded the fire marshal’s limit. I waited in line for ten minutes before my daughter, Hannah, and I walked through the doors.

I never could have imagined a store being so packed. We heard that the store was offering waffle makers for $2, but so had many, many others. Many people had televisions in their carts, but Hannah and I were just happy to find an item on our list. The hardest thing for us was to find the check-out line. There were lines everywhere.

We finally found the checkout line. It weaved through the store looking like a caterpillar. After a half hour we purchased our stuff and looked for our next conquest.

Which was Best Buy. It was now after one in the morning. We don’t make it to Woodbury often, so took some wrong turns before we found the parking lot. I drove to the entrance of the store and saw a line at least two hundred yards long. I could do the line once, but not twice.

So on we went to the Target in Hudson. The store was crowded, but not overrun. I wanted to buy a camera that had been advertised for $60. I made it to the electronic desk and shared the serial number of the camera. No such camera. I was offered a camera that was $450. I asked if they had the Target circular that I had seen earlier. They found the circular, but I didn’t find the camera for which I was prowling. The attendant again asked if I wanted to buy a camera that was four bills. I’d come back another time.

I found some stuff and got in another caterpillar line. When our group had made our purchases we celebrated over a warm Target pretzel smothered in butter. It was 2:00 a.m. I don’t know if I could describe the snack as an early breakfast or the celebration of finding our prey.

We stumbled into the house at 3 a.m. I don’t like the rampant consumerism of our country, but I’m not going to be a hermit either. I didn’t purchase any items that I couldn’t have bought at any other time in December. But I do have some stories to share.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A night to remember

Last night the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area squeezed into a room at Presbyterian Homes Boutwells Landing for our November meeting. Many important items of business took place including the passing of next year’s budget and the retirement of three pastors. However my focus for the meeting was completely on the vote the Presbytery took regarding a property purchase for Chain of Lakes Church.

This property purchase was the culmination of a year of work that two separate task forces completed. The task forces were made up of folks from Chain of Lakes and from other Presbyterian churches. Both task forces represented the best of Presbyterian connectionalism. As the Organizing Pastor of of the new church I was very happy that I didn’t have to be the chair or orchestrate the process of either task force.

The property is located on the northern edge of the Lakes Development in Blaine. As I mentioned in a blog last week it is a terrific piece of property. It’s near hundreds of new houses and ideally will have visibility and access to Main Street. No churches have a permanent location within the Lakes Development. I can hardly imagine a better location within our geography for a church.

I was very confident about the vote last night as the hard and difficult work had taken place in the last sixty days. In that time an agreement has been reached with the sellers plus the three committees of the Presbytery (Church Development Team, Board of Trustees and Presbytery Council) had agreed to the terms and financing for the property.

The hard work had been done—last night became a night to remember.

Before the meeting I handed out “I love Chain of Lakes” stickers that Jennifer Huehns, the administrator of Chain of Lakes, made. Enthusiasm was high as I quickly distributed all sixty stickers I had brought. I was very pleased that eleven folks from Chain of Lakes came to the meeting.

The voting for the new property came right before dinner. John Ivers shared some history of the project, I gave a report sharing how we are doing at Chain of Lakes, Dave Nyberg shared a report on how this piece of property will benefit the ministry of our new congregation.

Walter Rockenstein, chair of the Board of Trustees, then led the body through the votes. The Board of Trustees had done an outstanding job of sharing materials which clearly explained what was taking place. After his presentation opportunities for questions were given to the Presbytery. No one had any questions. Knowing the irascible nature of many Presbyterians this was amazing. The first vote to purchase the property was then taken. It was---------------------------UNANIMOUS. The financing plan was then presented and a vote taken. It was also unanimous. The final two votes were easy. A third property task force was established to satisfy the contingencies of the Purchase Agreement and to authorize leaders to sign documents when we close.

The contingencies are significant to the people at Chain of Lakes Church. We want to move the sound barrier on Main and do it in a way that is acceptable to the neighborhood. We also want access to the property off of Main.

Once the votes were taken it was time to celebrate and not be concerned about the heavy lifting that lies ahead. After the Presbytery applauded for the votes, I started singing the Doxology. The people of the Presbytery soon rose and joined in the singing. It was a powerful moment of celebration. I still get chills as I reflect on our offering of praise to God. As a Presbytery we were united in how God had brought us together to take a very significant action which will have a long-lasting impact on the world.

The picture at the top of this blog shares the smiles of the people at Chain of Lakes as we celebrated this gift of property that the Presbytery has given to us.

If the spirit of last night’s Presbytery meeting is any indication, it is very clear that God is not through with the Presbyterian Church. Truly we experienced a night to remember.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Great Day!

Yesterday was a great day in ministry. At Chain of Lakes Church we’re looking at Spiritual Gifts during our stewardship drive this year. In the sermon I talked about taking risks with the gifts we have to love someone. In the story of the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) Jesus applauded risk taking. The first two slaves risked a losing a large amount of money to double what they were given. I talked about how the Presbytery is taking a risk on our congregation in purchasing a 8.89 acre piece of property for us. They are risking that God wants a vibrant, new Presbyterian church in Blaine and Lino Lakes; they are also taking a risk that the people of Chain of Lakes Church want this type of church.

The entire sermon could be seen here: http://blip.tv/chain-of-lakes-church/sharing-our-gifts-in-love-5714222

After worship we enjoyed a wonderful luncheon and program. At the program Dave Nyberg unveiled the world premiere of video he made about Chain of Lakes Church. He interviewed folks who shared how our new congregation has had an impact on their lives. I was especially touched by the interviews with Mary Beth Higgens, counselor at Lino Lakes Elementary, and James Chapman, leader at Manna Market. Both shared that Chain of Lakes helped each of them at important times. We are helping the school with money for kids who aren’t able to purchase milk and helping to sponsor a speaker series next January. Chain of Lakes partnered with two other churches to sponsor a walk for Manna Market last August. The proceeds of the walk helped Manna Market purchase a new van.

But my stomach was turned upside down after the video. A woman—who was unchurched three years ago—shared that the video was powerful, but didn’t share the unspoken ways our new congregation has helped people. She said that she receives something from Chain of Lakes that she is not receiving in any part of her life. She said she always leaves our congregation on Sunday in a better place than when she came. Another woman then shared that when her husband was going through a difficult time she was often asked whether she has support from others. She replied that her support is her church—Chain of Lakes Church. Wow!

After worship Amy, Hannah, and I drove down to Plainview, Minnesota for the installation of their new pastor, Rev. John Curtiss. John is going to do a terrific job at Plainview. I felt a little chagrined about coming to the installation service as a former pastor, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to visit with the people who I came to love deeply over sixteen years of ministry. It was a privilege to worship and visit with the people of the church. I don’t have too many opportunities to sit in that sanctuary to worship. This is a place that our congregation built, where I preached at least 600 sermons, a place where I officiated at least 80 funerals, at least that many baptisms, and many weddings. It’s a sacred space to me.

I told John later that there isn’t a place in that building that doesn’t bring at least one story to me. As we were leaving the building I told this to my daughter, Hannah. She pushed back on this statement to ask what memories I had of the door facing the main street. I said that I remembered the many times that I led a casket out of the building and into a waiting hearse.

I am very excited to hear about what God is going to do in that congregation and with their new pastor.

It’s cool that I get paid to have such moving experiences. Could there be a better job than that of a pastor?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Presbytery vote for property

This Tuesday, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area is voting on a Purchase Agreement for a piece of property that will locate Chain of Lakes Church for their future ministry. I am thrilled that this action will be taking place and encourage the Presbytery to vote in favor of the motion.

The property is located at the northern edge of the Lakes Housing Development—adjacent to County Highway 14 (125th Ave NE) in Blaine. The picture above is an aerial view looking north.

Hundreds of houses are near the property. When started the Lakes Housing Development and adjacent developments were the largest housing development in the history of Minnesota. During my first year as an Organizing Pastor I met with a realtor who sold houses in these developments. He shared that when the development is fully built out it will have 10,000 residents and 3,000 housing units. Since that meeting I discovered that over 107,000 people live within five miles of the property and the growth rate within five miles is expected to be 5.55 percent a year until 2015.

I still remember the first time I took my daughter, Hannah, to see the property. As I drove near the property all we could see were houses. She remarked to me, “Daddy, if you had a church here a lot of these people could come to Chain of Lakes.”

For the last year the Property Task Force—a sub-committee of the Church Development Team—has worked to worked to secure a property and develop a finance plan. It has been a treat to work with the group. This group is a demonstration of the power of our Presbyterian connectionalism. The Task Force has been made up of Chain of Lakes people and folks from other Presbyterian churches.

The Property Task Force developed some ways to finance the property that passed through the Board of Trustees, and the Presbytery Council. The Church Development Team is in favor of the Purchase Agreement.

The Property Task Force has made presentations at many Presbytery meetings in 2011. In March three lay folks from Chain of Lakes shared their excitement about our new church; in May Ward Sessing, the chair of the Property Task Force, explained what the Property Task Force was doing; in July a pre-Presbytery gathering was held and then a detailed presentation was shared during the meeting.

Providing a piece of property for a new church is a longstanding tradition within our Presbytery. New Presbyterian churches in Apple Valley, Columbia Heights, north Minneapolis, Rochester, the Philips neighborhood, and Plymouth were given land and also buildings in some cases.

At Chain of Lakes we are encouraging folks to attend the Presbytery meeting on Tuesday to share our excitement about this property purchase.

The Purchase Agreement contains some very reasonable contingencies that we at Chain of Lakes requested. If the Purchase Agreement is approved a team of people will immediately gather to fulfill these contingencies.

The bottom line on the property decision is this—the location is excellent, the price is right, and the folks from Chain of Lakes are excited about this exciting step in their journey of ministry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The story of Brenda

At Chain of Lakes we're focusing on Spiritual Gifts for the next month. We want to create a system where people identify their gifts and then are equipped to use them in At the end of my sermon yesterday I shared the story of Brenda. I'd like everyone reading this blog to reflect on this question, "what would happen to Brenda in your church? Are you willing to re-organize the way you do ministry so that Brenda could live into her dreams?" To watch the sermon go to: http://blip.tv/chain-of-lakes-church/a-vision-for-spiritual-gifts-5690942

Let me wrap up this sermon with a story about Brenda. This isn’t a historically true story. But a story like hers has happened many times in many different churches. Brenda has the spiritual gift of administration. What that means is she has the God-given ability to organize and manage information people, events, and resources to accomplish the objective of a ministry. She also has a deep passion to help kids with autism. She didn’t know that she had the gift of administration.

She moved to a new city. There was a church near her. It was called “Recruitment Presbyterian Church.” She attended one Sunday. When she walked in the door of the church she was greeted warmly. The people of the church were glad to see her. They were generous and kind and engaging. After attending a few Sundays Brenda decided to connect with the congregation.

One Sunday she went to worship and someone made a passionate plea to help with their hospitality ministry. The church needed door greeters. They really needed someone to say “yes.” They didn’t have anyone for the next Sunday and the person doing the announcement said he would be willing to get on his knees so that someone would be a door greeter. Brenda thought—I can do that. So she signed up. She was a door greeter about twice a month.

Often when she would drive home after worship she thought about some of the kids she knew who had autism. Every now and then she wondered if Recruitment Presbyterian Church would start a ministry to help these kids. One day she shared her ideas with some of the good folks at Recruitment Presbyterian Church. They responded by nodding their head and saying “good idea.” They never gave her any direction or ideas about taking the next step.

A while later she was talking to another parent from Recruitment Presbyterian Church about her dream of helping kids with autism and the parent said, “you know, we’re just happy that kids come to Recruitment Presbyterian Church and when they are here that they behave. I don’t think our congregation would know how to handle kids with autism.” When she sat down and reflected on this conversation she thought, “the people are really friendly here, but they just want warm bodies. They don’t want to live out their dreams.”

One Sunday a friend of hers at work invited her to attend Spiritual Gifts Presbyterian Church. She had no reason to attend because she liked Recruitment Presbyterian Church. She said, “yes.” When she came to the door she was greeted by a man who was warm in welcoming her. Later that day the man told her that he had the gift of hospitality and he loved using that gift to greet people. During worship the Lay Leader read a story about Jesus from the Scriptures that opened up the story to her in a new way. She had heard the story many times, but never she had never heard it read in such a compelling way. Her friend told her that people could do readings in worship if they had the gift of teaching. After worship she was amazed at the presentation of the food at fellowship. She had never seen so many different types of food presented in such a beautiful way. Later she found out that people could only serve fellowship if they had the gift of serving.

That week a person shared a coffee mug with her at her door. She enjoyed the two minute conversation with the person. She found out that the person who brought the mug had the gift of evangelism. When she was talking to her co-worker that week she mentioned that people really liked serving at Spiritual Gifts Presbyterian Church. Her co-worker said that the congregation had made a switch a few years earlier to a system of shared ministry. People weren’t recruited anymore. They were encouraged to identify their gifts and then encouraged and supported to use them in order to live out their dreams.

She went back to Spiritual Gifts Presbyterian Church the next Sunday and while she was there she took a Spiritual Gifts inventory. When she did it she discovered she had the gift of administration. She always had thought she had this gift, but now it was confirmed. Later that week someone from Spiritual Gifts church called her. “Could I come over and meet with you,” the person said. “I know you’re not part of our congregation, but I want to encourage you to use your gift of Administration. It doesn’t have to be for our church, but we know that if people use their gifts the world is a better place.”

They made a date for lunch. During the conversation Brenda she shared that she wanted to help kids with autism. “That’s wonderful,” the person said. “It would be a natural for you to use your gifts of administration to help these kids. You could do that in a church or not. With the gift of administration you have the ability to organize a program that would help these kids.”

When she heard that she realized that this was true. Brenda decided to go to the local school and share with the counselor her desire to help these kids. Surprisingly the counselor said that she had been thinking herself about designing a program to help kids with autism, but she needed someone with the gift of Administration. Brenda was awe struck. She had the gift of administration, and she was willing to use it. The counselor knew of a program that they could do, but the problem was they didn’t have a place to hold the program. Brenda responded, “I’m sure that Spiritual Gifts Presbyterian would host this.” She was so excited that she drove immediately over to the church. The pastor just happened to be available. Brenda shared with the pastor that the church had helped her identify Administration as a spiritual gift. That had led her to talk to the counselor about helping kids with autism and now they needed a place to host a program. Would Spiritual Gifts Presbyterian Church do it.

The pastor smiled. Of course they would do it.

Soon Brenda ran an one-day after school program for kids with at Spiritual gifts Presbyterian Church. Her gifts and passions had intersected. The program made a difference.

About two months later someone called her from Recruitment Presbyterian Church. Brenda hadn’t been to worship there for those two months. “We’re filling out the greeter schedule for the next three months,” the person said on the phone. “We have some slots to fill. Would you be a greeter?” Brenda thought to herself. She liked the people at Recruitment Presbyterian Church. She didn’t mind being a greeter; it wasn’t that hard. But she was having such a blast living out her spiritual gifts of administration and living out her dream of helping kids with autism. She felt guilty saying no, but there was no way she could say no to her gifts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Being surprised by God

One of my delights is being surprised by God. This past Sunday was M.E.A. weekend in Minnesota. Traditionally this is a day of low worship attendance in churches as many families are traveling out of town. Amy, Hannah, and I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of M.E.A. weekend visiting with friends in Rochester.

I woke up very early this past Sunday thinking and reflecting on what was going to happen in worship at Chain of Lakes. I wasn’t anticipating a large turnout of people, and I wasn’t anticipating that we would have any first-time guests. But I also know from experience that God frequently will surprise me.

So I prayed the following—“Lord I’m not expecting a large turnout today at Chain of Lakes, and I have no reason to think that we will have any first-time guests, but would you surprise me? This congregation is your congregation, and I’m asking for your Spirit to work in a wonderful way today.”

Wow—was I surprised. We had a higher attendance than our weekly average; much higher than I anticipated. We had two families visit us for the first time. They both came because they found the web site of our congregation—colpres.org. During worship I offered the ritual of anointing. As Kellie Burriss—the Music Director at Chain of Lakes—sang, I invited people to approach me. As this happened I would ask each person if they had a particular prayer request. I would then anoint the person’s forehead with oil and pray with them.

A large number of people came forward to receive anointing. Some were in tears. These were special moments complete with the pregnancy of the Spirit.

Praise God for surprises. No matter what we think will happen in worship or in the church, God is always working in wonderful and surprising ways. I pray that all of us will keep faith in this surprising God.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Speech by Father Joe Keefe

I recently received a speech given by Father Joe Keefe. He was previously the priest at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester. I was so moved by the speech, that I wanted to share it on this blog. Father Keefe is struggling with Lou Gehrig's disease

"One question for people who are not overly distracted is, How do I have eternal life with Jesus and His Body? Or How do I get to heaven. I have discovered something about that question by being sick. And I read over the readings for the coming Sunday about the wedding garment. and the commentary by St. Catherine of Siena says that the wedding garment is poverty, just as I had discovered. So, How did Jesus /Heaven give me that necessary garment and what is poverty?

How did I get poor? My speech got worse in January 2010 and I got some honest feedback that I was not getting better as I thought. I asked the friends on our priest vacation, “How do I know when I should resign?”To sum up their answer, “How about now.” I went to Bishop Quinn “I won't get enough rest if stay pastor of Pax.”
He accepted that and said, “Joe you are still a priest.”

As I went I said to myself “What have you done?” Given up this parish leadership? I had to admit that some of my importance came from being the pastor of Pax. And for sure one source of my importance is knowledge. And the speaking of knowledge. These were going away and I was becoming poor. Next my joy in eating was taken away by weak lips, tongue and swallowing and in September I noticed a a shortness of breath. Another poverty. Now every time I want to contribute I can't. I am a poor child.

Then comes the second Sunday of Lent the Transfiguration. I have never liked to preach on this. But this I time I saw something different because Christ is making me poor. I was attracted to words from heaven,” This is my beloved Son.” not, this is my miracle worker. Not, this my teacher. This is my Son. So am I the beloved son because I am baptized into Him. You and I are beloved sons. For persons that have wedding garments, that is the only source of their importance. I do not give it to myself either. I am poor.

Poverty is not limited to the financial, although I'm getting poorer that way, too, because Medicare is my primary provider now.

It is like Jesus told the Rich young man who went away sad, “get rid of all your sources of importance, be poor, and follow me. Jesus does not play games Either He is the source of your importance or you are on your own and on the road to purifying fire.

Opportunities for being poor:
Last Tuesday morning there were 3 blood draws that didn't work with all the painful poking into my tired veins. Then a call that they couldn't download the talk I wrote that was to be read for me at 90 priests' gathering for my 40th and I said, “no problem, I print another. But all of sudden my printer did not work and my laptop froze. That's an opportunity to be poor, to have the wedding garment.

So having the wedding garment is not protection against mornings like that because He wants to know if I consider Him the only source of my importance, still more, that I am the beloved son in the midst of everything going wrong.

You will be given that garment each day. How do you keep it on each day?

Offering is: I am poor and you God are rich in Love beyond measure so I offer this to you so that I can walk with You.

When I had the Tuesday morning of poverty, I offered continuously. How? I wasn't born yesterday, just seven months ago. So I know Him and and His faithfulness and I offered my anger, sadness, my being overwhelmed. What does He do? He shows possibilities. I had given the talk to a friend and I called that friend who brought the copy to me. The rest of the day of full of grace. The talk was met with a standing ovation by three bishops and all the priests. How lavishly He treats this poor child.

When we went to a lake home near Hayward in late August we forgot my week's supply of daily doses of medicine. I was angry and wanted to throw something. But then the Lord woke me up and said “I am here! Are you?” I said “Yes and I offer this to you.” The first thing I did was to turn to the person that forgot it and say, I forgive you.” He always opens possibilities when you offer. That was just the beginning. Our cell phone would not get a signal. So two trooped out into the twilight and found, on a lonely driveway, two young boys, who let them call on their phones. They called Maureen on her cell phone Sunday night as she and Dave came in the door from the Cities. She called Msgr Don Schmitz, she knew his cell # because he's a friend. Don was coming to Hayward later and waiting for Fr. Fr. Tom Jennings from Luverne who was delayed. Next, Maureen called the Apartments where I live and on this Sunday night got someone, who let her come, they questioned her, and then let her into my apartment to get the medicine. She called Fr. Schmitz back and Maureen and Dave drove to Cannon Falls to hand off the goods to Fr. Schmitz. Fathers Schmitz and Jennings bought the medicine with them. He put every person in place and He gave me Peace, when I would have given myself anxiety.

Do not censor your opportunities for wearing the wedding garment.

Being sad, angry, jealous, lustful, prideful, overwhelmed, not knowing, getting what you wanted and still being restless etc. These are opportunities to realize poverty, how poor I am. Last Tuedsy was St. Francis Day. St Francis was called Il Poverello, The Little Poor One. The church is as certain about his wedding garment as she is about Mary's garment; For she said, “You have looked with favor upon your lowly servant.” Jesus let himself die as only a poor man dies. You can live this way every day, with assurance that you are being saved now, and eternally. Then, and only then, can all the way to heaven be heaven as St. Catherine said.

Thank you all for helping me with your prayers and other ways of caring so I could receive this gift of Lady poverty."

Fr. Joe Keefe

October 8-10, 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fun service at Chain of Lakes

St. Francis day (he was the patron saint of animals) was this past Tuesday, October 4. Instead of organizing a separate service at Chain of Lakes we decided to devote an entire worship service to animals, which will be Sunday, October 9. We won’t bless animals, but instead will explore the relationship between God and animals and God and pets. We’re going to have fun answering questions people have about pets, hearing a faith story about a woman’s relationship with her pets, and being blessed by very special music. All are welcome!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Attending Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection

Last week five folks from Chain of Lakes joined me in attending Leadership Institute at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Kansas. This church was started in 1990 has grown to be one of the largest Methodist churches in the country. Every fall they share a Leadership Institute event. Through small classes, large group talks, and worship participants learn how Church of the Resurrection has become so successful. This was the sixth time I’ve attended Leadership Institute, and this was the largest group I’ve taken to the event.

By far the best workshop for me was lead by Martha Grace Reese. She has developed a wonderful process for mainline churches develop the practice of evangelism. I bought all four of her books and look forward to using them at Chain of Lakes. One quote she said that resonated with me is “it’s hard to teach people how to do evangelism if we are not clear on why we do evangelism.” At Chain of Lakes we have done a lot of work on the “hows” of evangelism. We could grow in teaching people the “whys.”

Adam Hamilton once again did an extraordinary job of teaching. He shared five basics that every church needs to get right. He said that the basics are: 1) It’s all about relationships with people; 2) Leaders clarify the purpose; 3) Leaders help churches or ministries to discern God’s vision; 4) Leaders honestly face shortcomings and pursue excellence; 5) Meaningful, moving, well-led worship.

Bill Hybels spoke on Friday morning. He shared five ideas that he would share with church leaders. He imagined himself on his death bed and being asked to share these five. They are: 1) Vision—taking people from here to there; 2) Get the people engaged; 3) make worship memorable; 4) pace yourself for the long haul; 5) pay attention to whispers from God.

The best part of the conference was to listen to the excitement of the folks who attended from Chain of Lakes. They were touched by the ministry and mission of Church of the Resurrection and very interested in taking some ideas back to the north metro for ministry. I’ve shared that I rate a conference a success if one idea is still implemented in six months. I’m hoping and praying that six ideas will be implemented from this conference in March 2012.

Notes from each workshop and plenary session will soon be posted at cor.org.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A tribute to Margie Powell

Our family is mourning the passing of Margie Powell, my Dad’s only sister. In visiting with her last Thursday my sister said Margie wanted to go to sleep like her mother did when she passed away. She did so last weekend after a ten year struggle with cancer.

Her funeral was today at the Methodist church in Terrill, Iowa. I wasn’t able to attend as I’ve been attending a church conference this week with five other people from Chain of Lakes Church.

Margie was the oldest in her family. She enjoyed and endured having five younger brothers. The above picture is with her five brothers. She lived most of her life on farms in northwest Iowa. She helped on the farm when she was growing up and then helped run a farm with her husband, Vern. She taught Home Economics and Art in the local schools and also worked as the school librarian.

Margie had a tremendous work ethic. She helped Vern, with the farm work, especially during planting season. She picked rocks every year. She always had an immaculate house and loved to cook and sew. She sewed clothes for her ten granddaughters. My Dad shared that at the funeral the pastor told about how the chemotherapy affected her hands so that she could not handle sewing very well, especially the small detail work. After the death of Vern, she was the primary care giver for her mother-in-law, Irene Powell. She sometimes read a book in a day.

Despite battling cancer for ten year, being tired because of the treatments and losing her hair many times she hardly ever complained. The chemotherapy affected her ability to ward off infections, and it was an infection which eventually took her life.

My Dad shared with me how Margie accepted responsibility. When she was a high-school senior, her parents took a long trip to Alaska. She was primarily responsible for all the household chores for her five brothers. Her mom and dad could trust her with this responsibility.

Margie was very dedicated to her family. I rarely ever remember attending a family event when she wasn’t present. If anyone in her family needed help, Margie was there. She attended almost every wedding or special celebration of her nephews and nieces. She attended my wedding, ordination and installation services. Our family has many special memories of family gatherings on her farm near Terrill. We all squeezed into her house, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company.

Praise God for the life of Margie Powell!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Diversity Village

Last week I received an E-mail with the following information. I found the information to be so compelling that I decided to share it on this blog.

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:
57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both North and South
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be nonwhite
30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth, and all but 1 would be from the U.S.

80 would live in substandard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rally Day at Chain of Lakes Church

We have a terrific Rally Day scheduled at Chain of Lakes Church for this Sunday, September 18. Rally Day is the day that faith communities come together to launch their fall ministry season. Usually Rally Day is held the Sunday after Labor Day, but our congregation decided to commemorate the ten year anniversary of 9-11 last Sunday. It seemed too much to mix Rally Day with that commemoration.

We have some exciting opportunities for children this Sunday at Rally Day. Bill Eisenmann, a professional story teller, will be with us. During the Time of Children and during Sunday School he will share stories about friendship. After worship the children will enjoy a carnival with a Rocket Bounce House, games and food.

We also have some exciting opportunities for adults this Sunday at Rally Day. I am starting a sermon series called, “Being Friends in a Facebook world.” The sermon will be shared by more than me—a surprise speaker will also share. Jennifer Huehns has created a video of the ministries at Chain of Lakes Church that we will enjoy. On Sunday we will announce two different small group opportunities that we are offering this fall at Chain of lakes.

Everyone at Chain of Lakes is encouraged to bring a friend to worship. Our office mailed 1,000 postcards to a targeted group of people in our area about Rally Day at Chain of Lakes. The front of the post card is the picture at the top of this blog. I’m hopeful to see many new faces at worship.

I can’t think of a better place to be than worship at Chain of Lakes this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. I wish the day and time were here right now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Presbytery meeting, Twin Cities Area Presbytery

Yesterday I left around 1:30 p.m. for the September Presbytery meeting of the Twin Cities Area Presbytery that was held in Austin, Minnesota. This was the second meeting in the row where Presbyterians in the Twin Cities have had the opportunity to travel into the Area. (Still hoping that the name of our Presbytery will be changed.) The day was a beautiful one to be on the road.

I had the privilege of having John Ivers ride with me to the meeting. During Presbytery he shared some personal reflections about his involvement in church development. John has given much of his time during the last decade to church development in our Presbytery. Every new church development and re-development in our Presbytery has been buoyed by his leadership. Chain of Lakes Church would not exist if he hadn’t persevered with the desire he had to see a new Presbyterian church in the north Metro.

When we arrived at the Presbyterian Church in Austin, I quickly found my tablemate, Martha Rockenstein. We've been sharing a table at most of the recent Presbytery meetings. She talks to people about Presbyterian, Christian education materials, and I distribute the most recent newsletter of Chain of Lakes Church. We both enjoyed talking to people as they arrived at the meeting. I was particularly heartened to talk to John Curtiss—the new pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Plainview.

During the meeting the Church Development Team announced that the proposal for property purchase for Chain of Lakes Church has been turned down by the sellers. Many people at the meeting shared their disappointment with me. I responded by saying that I’m not really that disappointed. We have many good properties we are looking at for Chain of Lakes. The negotiations for these properties change almost daily. Saddleback Church—the largest church in America—didn’t have property for the first ten years of their existence. Having property would be a big benefit to the ministry of Chain of Lakes, but I believe it will happen on God’s time. That could take place next month or longer.

The meeting got off track during the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) report. The CPM presented Kerri Allen as ready for ordination. The final step on her ordination process is to be examined by a Presbytery. The CPM proposed that the Presbytery of Chicago (she has a call within that Presbytery) conduct the examination. The Presbytery quickly became bogged down in a debate about whether our Presbytery or the Presbytery of Chicago should conduct her examination.

This is the type of polity question that some people love talking about deep into the night. However most people don’t understand the issues surrounding it and wonder why we tangle ourselves in such debates at Presbytery meetings. I would much rather talk about how to deepen discipleship in our churches or debate how to reduce the poverty rate in our country—which is now 15%. Fortunately (after a barely tolerable amount of debate) the Presbytery voted to let the Presbytery of Chicago conduct Kerri’s examination.

I enjoyed the wonderful dinner that the saints from the Austin church prepared for us. During dinner I had the privilege of talking to a retired psychologist from that church. After dinner a youth band from the Austin church shared a beautiful song. After singing “Here I Am” John and I left for our two hour sojourn back to the north Metro.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School

No matter if we have children at home or not the first day of school connects all of us. Each of us has a stake in the success of the education of your children and youth.

Our daughter Hannah entered fifth grade this morning. I shared with her what happened on my own first day of school in fifth grade. I remember getting re-acquainted with many of my classmates after going to school in Kansas City. One of my closet friends, Jeff Gravon, gave me an appropriate guys welcome—cuffing me in the back of the head. At the end of the school day my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Basche, was asked if our class would have any homework. Everyone groaned. We then cheered when she said that we wouldn’t have to take anything home.

We had a typical first-day of school in the Moore household. We took pictures of Hannah; she asked us if I was going to take a video—which I’ve done before. We shared other first-day-of-school stories—in particular we laughed about the day when Amy told the bus driver that he had to change the location of the bus stop.

We had typical confusion in our neighborhood. A bus pulled up ten minutes early to the bus stop. I went over to talk to the bus driver. While talking to him he discovered he had the wrong address. That prevent many of the adults of the kids in our neighborhood from wondering if they were late. The bus that finally did pick the kids up was at a different corner from last year and was traveling a different direction. We adults wondered if that would work—change is difficult!

Here’s wishing a wonderful year to all students, teachers, administrators and all others who have devoted their lives to education!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vacation Bible School--and a request to help others

Vacation Bible School is one of my favorite ministries. Even though we are a new church we have already established a tradition of quality Vacation Bible School at Chain of Lakes. We’ve celebrated a wonderful VBS this past week. We’ve averaged 27 children a night—many from outside our congregation. The activities have been very well organized and enjoyed by the children. I’m very impressed by many adults who have spent a lot of time with kids this week. Thank you!! The quality of a children’s ministry depends on the number and commitment of adults to this ministry. One of my ministry philosophies is “the congregation is the youth and children’s minister.” This philosophy has been lived out this week at Chain of Lakes.

Tonight is the last night at Vacation Bible School. If you have a chance, come over to the Senior Center and check it out. You’d be welcome for dinner at 5:30. A special thanks to our Children’s Ministry Director, Joanne Shingledecker, and the Education Team for the excellent work they’ve done to plan Vacation Bible School.

This Sunday the children of Bible School will be sharing their gifts in worship. Our Music Director, Kellie Burriss, has done a wonderful job of preparing the kids to sing on Sunday. The children will be sharing the Scriptures and being ushers and door greeters. The theme of service will be Praise. Sunday will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Children’s Ministry at Chain of Lakes.

As part of Vacation Bible School we’re collecting backpacks for Lino Lakes Elementary. Our goal is to collect 20 backpacks. You can help us!! Go to colpres.org and click on the backpack link. Please bring a backpack or supplies to Vacation Bible School tonight or to worship this Sunday. The backpacks will be delivered to Lino Lakes Elementary next week.

You can view more pictures of Vacation Bible School on my Facebook page. They will soon be loaded onto our web site.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Help

On Thursday night my daughter, Hannah, and I set out to see the movie, “The Smurfs” at the Andover Theater. As we were standing in line I saw that “The Help” was playing at the same time. I read "The Help" with my on-line book club and have wanted to watch it ever since it came out. After seeing the movie was rated PG-13 and being convinced that there weren’t too many inappropriate scenes, I convinced Hannah to watch it with me. The movie was based on a book written by Kathryn Stockett.

As soon as I walked into the theater I noticed that many women were sitting together in groups. Obviously some book clubs were taking a night out to see “The Help” together.

The main plot revolved around the successful attempt by Skeeter to write a book detailing the stories of the African-American servants working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s.

Three women are the primary characters. Skeeter is a young woman who came home to Jackson after graduating from college. She befriends Aibileen, an African-American woman who cleans houses and lovingly cares for the white children of those houses. Aibileen’s best friend is Minny—a more confrontational woman who can’t help but tell her white employers what she thinks of them.

Issues of race, power, sexism and the implications of segregation permeate the “The Help.” The movie shares how each character is marred by the system of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s. Skeeter is treated coldly by her female friends because she’s more interested in being a writer than getting married. Aibileen has always wanted to be more than a maid, but she was born into a family where her grandmother and mother were maids. She writes a hour every night, but it’s almost impossible for her gifts to help her transcend her fate. Minny tells the truth and suffers the consequences from a system that isn’t interested in her views.

My favorite character was Celia—a white woman who lived in the country. She hired Minny after Minny couldn’t keep a job. Celia was shunned by the young woman of Jackson. She needed Minny to teach her how to cook and care for her house. Celia was so scared by her thoughts of how her husband would respond to the hiring of Minny that she kept it a secret.

My heart went out to Celia. She didn’t fit in with a culture that primarily valued women for their ability to keep house and have babies. She wanted to bond with her friends—but they scorned her with an ugliness that can only be called sin

I didn’t need a scorecard to know the heroes and the villains of the movie. This wasn’t a nuanced description of segregation. There was no middle-ground.

I’m glad Hannah watched “The Help” with me. It gave us a chance to leave a world that values Facebook and brand clothes to talk about issues that really matter. There was something at stake in what happened in the movie. Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny didn’t change the world, but they shared stories that illustrated the ugliness of their age. Their courage transcends time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

50 years of marriage

Last weekend my family had the privilege of celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. On August 5, 1961 my dad and mom were married at the Congregational Church in Mantorville, MN. On August 6, 2111, about 175 of us gathered in Geneva Hall of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington, MN to acknowledge and celebrate their last 50 years together.

My sister, Pam, and I started planning the day last January when she and her kids spent a weekend in Blaine. Our hope was to have a party where my parents didn’t have to do much. By May it appeared obvious that this hope wouldn’t be accomplished. When the details seemed to be getting out of control my parents, sister and I gathered in June to make the final preparations. We divided tasks and then watched my mom go to work. Through this experience I re-learned that if my mom wants to organize a party it is going to be big.

Our family is blessed to have enjoyed a number of significant celebrations at our home church. We celebrated my ordination in 1993; we celebrated my sister’s ordination and then her wedding in 1997. This doesn’t include the countless celebrations of church life when we were growing up. The celebration last Saturday was just as much one of the blessings of a church as the blessings of a marriage.

I was overwhelmed by the large number of friends of my parents who attended. I came away from the celebration realizing again that my parents are gifted in developing friends. It was wonderful seeing their friends I hadn’t seen in a long time—people like the Barbers and Dykes and Hudsons and Todds. All were a part of our family’s life when we were growing up. The celebration last Sunday was about my parents wedding, and it was just as much about these friends who were an important part of our family.

The program was supposed to be twenty minutes—but when preachers plan something it always goes long. Pam’s husband, Scott, and my wife, Amy, did a marvelous job of being masters of ceremonies for the program. Though the program lasted 45 minutes, I doubt if anyone was bored---there were too many stories to share.

My sister and I are privileged to have parents who love and like each other so much. My mom and dad do everything together. They are best friends and enjoy being in each others’ presence. I don’t remember my parents ever having a fight in my presence until I was in college.

It’s truly special when a celebration encompasses church, family, friends, and marriage.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beautiful night for a walk for Manna Market!

I’m very proud of our Outreach Team for initiating the idea that turned into a walk for Manna Market which took place last night. We raised $2,540 for Manna Market. We had a beautiful night to walk and the setting was wonderful. One of the Kids Clubs from the area set up carnival games for kids to play. This walk was a partnership between Chain of Lakes Church, St. Joseph of the Lakes Catholic Church, and Church of the Nazarene. We’ll soon have pictures on our web site. If you’d like to see them right now, you can go to my Facebook page.

The idea for the walk originated at the April meeting of our Outreach team. I approached James Chapman about the idea. We sent a letter to many of the local churches. Steve Robach from St. Joseph of the Lakes Catholic Church wanted to help, so the three of us became the organizing committee. I had a blast working with Steve and James. We didn’t have a lot of time to put this walk together, so we were very pleased with the results. We’re already talking about what we learned from our experience and how we can expand it for next year. Without the presence of Chain of Lakes Church this walk for Manna Market would never have taken place.

Way to go Chain of Lakes!! We're starting to make an impact in the world!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Walk for Manna Market

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, August 3 Chain of Lakes Church is partnering with St. Joseph by the Lake Catholic Church and Church of the Nazarene to sponsor a 5K walk for Manna Market. We’re gathering at St. Joseph church at 6:30 p.m. The address is 171 Elm Street in Lino Lakes.

The idea of the walk is simple. We’ve asked people to raise money for Manna Market. Peole who raise $200 or more will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad. Those who raise $50 or more will be entered into a drawing to win an iPod and other prizes.

The point of this blog is to encourage people to come walk tomorrow night. So would you consider coming and walk?

Manna Market is a ministry where low-income people in Anoka County can receive fresh food—vegetables, meat, and fruit. Many food shelves do not offer fresh food. Manna Market does.

I’ve had a blast working with James Chapman (Nazarene Church) and Steve Robach (St. Joseph Church). None of us have any illusions that this walk is going to change the world. But we do think that the partnership we’ve developed can be a model for future partnerships. None of us is working on this walk to help our own organization—we’re doing it to help people who need help.

We already have ideas about how we can expand the walk for next year. But for now—come join us tomorrow night at 6:30! You can help our community and maybe win an iPad!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celebrating differences--in a different way

This last Tuesday night I led the a book discussion on the controversial book called “Love Wins.” We had a large group for a July night in the summer—8 from Chain of Lakes and 5 from Presbyterian Church of the Way. This book has become controversial because the people who disagree with the book freaked out about what was written. Rob Bell asked the question of whether the traditional view of Hell exists—the one where people are tortured for eternity. Because of that some people on the conservative edge want to throw Rob Bell out of their community.

This willingness to throw people out of the community is not specific to conservatives—those on the liberal side do it too.

On Tuesday I shared three traditional views that the church has taught about Hell. Those views are the classic position that people are tortured in Hell forever; the view that people’s bodies and souls are annihilated at death; and the view of Universalism where everyone eventually experiences heaven.

I shared with the group that I would love to be in a church where all three views of Hell were expressed among people AND where the community saw these differences as a strength. My dream is Chain of Lakes will be a group of people who sees differences in theology as something very special—that eventually we have the courage to celebrate differences.

These differences won’t undermine our unity. Instead we see that following Jesus will lead us to different understandings of the Scriptures and our tradition.

If you are reading this and are part of a congregation, let me ask this question, “How deeply does your congregation celebrate different understandings of the gospels?” If people come to different conclusions on an issue, do you see that as a strength, or do you do the classic Minnesota thing and try to ignore these differences—eventually not talking about them.

The world needs a church where we tolerate different views and celebrate them. Look at our world right now. For the last month we’ve had stories every day how the Congress and President can’t sign a deal to extend the debt ceiling. The story everyday is the same. People can’t agree. It’s Groundhog day every day. Same story—different actors.

I don’t know what the people at Chain of Lakes thinks about the current debt crisis. I hope over time that Chain of Lakes Church would be a place where we expected some people to agree with Obama’s plan; and we expected some people to agree with the Senate plan; and we expected some people to agree with the House plan. We didn’t see different views as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength. If we heard a view that was different from our own we would not heap scorn on the person, but instead we would invite the person out to lunch to listen to their views.

I believe that the world is waiting for this type of church.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Love Wins Book Discussion

Staring this Tuesday, July 26 we at Chain of Lakes Church are partnering with Presbyterian Church of the Way in sponsoring a book discussion on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” at Carbone’s Restaurant in Circle Pines. The discussion will take place on the next four Tuesday evenings—7/26, 8/2, 8/9 & 8/16. I’m leading the discussion for three of the four weeks. We’ll meet at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to have a meal beforehand. Carbone’s is an excellent Italian restaurant and is located at 9200 Lexington Ave in Circle Pines.

Bell’s book is the most controversial religious book of the year. By questioning whether Hell exists, he received the wrath from many on the conservative edge of church. The polemic against him was strong and unrelenting.

During this book discussion we are going to try to put this controversy into perspective. People have debated the doctrine of Hell for thousands of year. These arguments aren’t new—but the current passion that people have about them have raised the stakes for what a person is to believe. When we gather we’re going to share light and not heat. We’ll look at what the Bible says about Hell. We’ll look at different views of Hell that the church has held. We’ll encourage people to develop their own perspective on Hell. We’ll do all this while discussing “Love Wins.”

I’m excited about this gathering and encourage people to attend. People don’t need to have read the book before attending the first gathering this Tuesday night. Registration is helpful, but not required. If you know that you are coming, E—mail me at pastor@colpres.org

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Presbyterian partnership

Last night was the first Wednesday night worship service among six north Metro Presbyterian Churches. We gathered at Presbyterian Church of the Way (PCOTW) to worship. We at Chain of Lakes helped co-host the service with PCOTW. Originally we were hoping to have the worship service at the Lino Lakes Senior Center, but it wasn’t available last night.

This worship service is a result of a Presbyterian partnership group that has met for at least a year. Representatives of Chain of Lakes, PCOTW, Arlington Hills, North Como and the Presbyterian Churches in White Bear Lake and North St. Paul have gathered to see if we can partner in effective ways. I haven’t attended the meetings, but have read the minutes. The group is discussing how effective partnership can take place in music sharing, maintenance, technology, administration, procurement, advertising, and social media.

Last night we worshipped together. We picked beauty for the theme of worship. All the songs had the theme of beauty. Kellie Burriss did a terrific job of sharing a solo after the sermon. I shared some reflections in the sermon (which I called a faith story) about the beauty I experienced recently when my family traveled to the Rocky Mountains. The Spirit was wonderfully present during worship. I talked to one worship leader afterwards who shared that it was very nice to attend a service and just worship instead of being a leader.

I don’t know where the Presbyterian partnership will lead, but last night was a very successful start to our common worship. Approximately 70 people attended and people from five of the six churches were there. The service can be viewed at: http://blip.tv/chain-of-lakes-church/presbyterian-partners-beauty-5374311

The next service will be Wednesday, July 27th at North Como Presbyterian at 7:00 p.m. The final Wednesday service will be on Wednesday, August 10th at North Presbyterian Church at 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Road Trip

I have always enjoyed road trips. My parents were both teachers, so when I was a boy our family would frequently go on long road trips in the summer. I remember traveling via car to the West Coast for at two weeks; the summer after my fifth grade year we camped our way to the East Coast and then came back through Canada; on Christmas vacation during college my family drove 40 hours straight from Big Pine Key, Florida to Minnesota. In 1996 a high school friend asked me if I would drive a car from Salem, Oregon to Minneapolis. I flew out to spend a few days with him and then reveled in the three day trip.

My wife, Amy does not match my enthusiasm for road trips. Until this past week our family has never gone on an extended road trip via the car. However when some friends asked me last winter to officiate a wedding in the mountains outside Estes Park, Colorado I couldn’t help but lobby for a road trip. So last Wednesday Amy, Hannah and I loaded in the car for a two-day trip in the car. By road trip standards it wasn’t long—a little over 1,000 miles. But for the three of us this was something new. I had half jokingly asked the congregation at Chain of Lakes to pray for the three of us the Sunday before we left.

We had some normal hiccups on the trip. The first night we were planning on staying with some family in Omaha, Nebraska. I had been warned that the high water there has caused some road closures, but I assumed that detour information would be shared. My naiveté cost us an extra hour of driving. We thought we were caravanning to the wedding in the YMCA camp. We missed the caravan, received incorrect directions and then I drove way too long in the wrong direction. I thought the camp would be just around the corner. Twenty miles later Amy shattered this fantasy. We were a hour late to the wedding; and my guilt was terrible. Fortunately everyone was in good spirits and the wedding went off wonderfully. Now we have a story to share.

The beauty of the road trip is we see things that we could never imagine. The above picture shares one of the few entertainment options that rests above the Interstate in Kearney, Nebraska. Also on a road trip at a certain point we all have to be in charge of keeping ourselves entertained. Eventually we had no choice but to play a game, engage in conversation, or choose to enjoy the scenery.

There is something uniquely American about taking a road trip over the 4th of July weekend. Doing it with my lovable red heads was priceless.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I'll be on vacation for a while, so will be taking a break from blogging. I anticipate getting back to sharing a blog once or twice a week on the week of July 10th.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Celebrating Reunion at Carleton College

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of celebrating my 25th college reunion at Carleton College. Carleton has always done a terrific job of organizing reunion weekends. They bring back one class every five years to a reunion, so the class of 1986 was joined by the classes of 2006, 2001, 1991, 1981, 1976, 1971, etc. I think that people from the class of 1936 were present.

My reunion experience began when I received a call from a football teammate. I was buying an anniversary card when he called “out of the blue.” I almost didn’t pick up the call as I didn’t recognize the area code. Paul Wetherbee was calling. He wasn’t sure if I remembered him. Remember Paul? He, Paul Liimatta and I anchored the left side of Carleton’s defense for two years. The three of us listed weights and played hand ball together. I’ll never forget #89.

Because of a way-too-busy weekend I was only able to participate on Saturday, one of the three days. Unfortunately the alumni parade was thrown into disarray from a sudden thunderstorm. Most of us abandoned the parade and ran into the Chapel for a ceremony. The class of 1986 sat directly behind the speakers (See above picture). At the ceremony the 25th and 50th anniversary classes presented special financial gifts. The class of 1986 gave $414,000 and the class of 1961 gave 7.1 million. I was astounded at both figures.

I had the opportunity to hear new President Steven G. Poskanzer speak for the first time. I was impressed by his commitment to a Liberal Arts education and the story he shared about his daughter trying to decide on whether to attend Carleton. After her dad was selected as President, she took a trip to Carleton. She queried many of the students about how it would be for her to attend a college where her dad is President. One of the students told her, “no one really cares who the President is!” She is going to be a freshman at Carleton this fall.

One special highlight was attending the C-Club luncheon. At the luncheon five people were inducted into the Carleton athletic Hall of Fame. It was very moving to learn about these five athletes’ stories and to listen to the passion of the people who introduced each inductee.

I had the privilege of connecting with Coach Bob Sullivan—my football coach when I attended Carleton. He took me over to his house and gave me a plaque from my playing days. Just seeing Coach Sullivan was worth in itself the drive to Northfield. He is one of the most optimistic, positive, and hopeful people I’ve ever met. It’s a privilege for me just to spend time with him in a car.

Twenty-five years goes by too fast. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was receiving my diploma on June 6, 1986. I’ll always be grateful that I attended Carleton College. Spending time with some of my classmates this past weekend was a gift that I regret only happens once every five years.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

11 years ago today

Eleven years ago today I had the privilege of giving my life to Amy Moore during our wedding celebration at First Presbyterian Church in Rochester, Minnesota. Last night Amy and I celebrated our anniversary and reminisced about that day.

In our minds we’ve been together for 13 years. I met Amy on the Monday after Father’s Day in June 1998. I fell in love with her immediately—it took her a little longer to be smitten. We were engaged on the Monday after Father’s Day in June 1999, and then were married on the Friday before Father’s Day in June 2000.

This weekend brings back plenty of memories.

Last Thursday night I went to the Twins game with our daughter, Hannah. While there she asked me if her birth was the most important event that has ever happened to me. I told her she was a close second to my meeting and marrying Amy. Without our relationship she would have never come into the world.

On this special day I want to lift up the Scripture from Ruth from which our wedding vows were based.

“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
There will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
And more as well,
If even death parts me from you.” Ruth 1:16-18

My love and fidelity to Amy has never been stronger.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Delivering Welcome Bags

Last night I delivered welcome bags to people who have recently moved into new residences in Blaine & Lino Lakes. This is a new ministry that we developed in 2011 at Chain of Lakes as part of our outreach focus.

The concept is easy to understand. We are like the old Welcome Wagon. We asked local businesses for coupons that we can give to new people. We add information from Chain of Lakes. We put all the information into a blue canvass bag that has the Chain of Lakes logo printed on it.

The purpose of the ministry is two-fold. One is to welcome people who have recently moved into our geographical area. Over time we might put in information from the local cities and school districts. We had a brief conversation with a rep from the local YMCA about putting one of their program guides into the bag. Sharing this information is one way that our congregation can live into our Core Value of Hospitality. We understand this to mean that “we will go out of our way to welcome people as Jesus welcomed them, with an open heart and open arms.”

The second purpose is to share information about Chain of Lakes Church. When people move into a new area they ultimately will make a decision about attending a church. During that decision-making time, we have an opportunity to share information about our congregation. Hopefully someone will come to worship after receiving a welcome bag.

We’ve gotten the names of new residences from the city of Lino Lakes and the Star Tribune Sunday real estate section. One man from Chain of Lakes takes this information and makes a map of where the residence is located. Two lovely women then stuff the bags and put them out for people from Chain of Lakes to distribute.

I decided that I want to distribute five welcome bags each week this summer. I see this as a way to share the importance of this ministry to the rest of our congregation.

Last night was the third time I’ve gone out. The first week no one was home; last week I distributed five bags to people who were home.

It was raining last night, so I felt a bit sheepish about delivering bags. I wrote about my hesitancy on my Facebook page. A long-time friend encouraged me to get out there. So I did. I first delivered two coffee mugs to guests who visited for the first-time this past Sunday. I wrote about our coffee mug ministry in a blog on February 4, 2010.

After delivering the bags I distributed welcome bags. I went to four homes—two people were home. I distributed two bags. I decided not to drop off the bags unless the people are home.

When the person comes to the door, I share that I am with the welcome wagon. I say that I discovered that the person is new to the area and want to welcome them. I give them the bag and say that we want to share coupons from area businesses. I tell them that I’m with Chain of Lakes Church—a new Presbyterian church. The person will usually say thank you or something else. At some point I’ll ask the person when they moved. If the person seems interested in having a conversation I might ask him or her if they have connected to a church. I’ll encourage the person to come to worship at Chain of Lakes and then leave. Most of the conversations take less than three minutes. I have yet to have a negative experience in talking to a person

I make a record of every conversation and share it with the people who are coordinating the ministry. Our goal is to distribute fifty welcome bags each month.

I have no idea if we will receive new guests in worship from this ministry. But I think this ministry is worth a try. Please pray for this new welcome bag ministry at Chain of Lakes. Pray that we can share hospitality with people and that people might “dip their toe in the water” at a worship service at Chain of Lakes Church.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A big thanks on the last day of school

Today is our daughter, Hannah’s, last day of 4th grade. A big thanks to Julie Engelmann and Scott Zachmann for teaching her this year.

I grew up in a household that valued education. My dad taught English at the local community college, and my mom taught kids with learning disabilities in the local elementary school. It was assumed that my sister and I would take our education seriously, do well in school, and go to college.

The climate for education doesn’t seem to be that different than it was a year ago when I wrote a tribute to everyone involve d in education. Budgets are flat; classroom sizes are large; test scores seem to overshadow everything. Everyone has an opinion about education—often negative. Our state politicians haven’t even passed a funding budget this year. I haven’t heard of any momentum to pay back the accounting shift that “borrowed” money in the last budget cycle. Our politicians are “borrowing” money from education to balance their budgets.

I think the last day of school should be a day to make a tribute to everyone involved in education. Just as our country gave a tribute on Memorial Day to our veterans who died, I think our country owes a tribute to everyone who has dedicated their lives to educating children and youth. I don’t think it would be out of line for our communities to gather at our local school with a honor guard and give a rousing ovation for everyone involved in education.

Thank you, teachers, bus drivers, custodians, coaches, para-professionals, administrators, librarians, crossing guards, and everyone else involved in education. Your commitment deserves our thanks. Thank you!