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.