Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A tribute to Gene Moore

Yesterday my sister and I officiated at the funeral of my uncle Gene Moore in Estherville, Iowa.  I have many wonderful memories of Gene.  The following are edited remarks of the funeral I shared.

I'ts good to be gathered as family and friends to remember Gene and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It's said that sometimes it's these funerals that brings ur together as family.  But we can celebrate that so many famiy and friends came back to remember Gene.  We have many memories.  I've known Gene all my life--and I have lots of stories--many of them I can't share at a church service.

He was born on August 20, 1937 not far from here in Estherville.  His brother Dean came first.  After Dean was born Dorothy said that she was glad that the birth was done.  The doctor informed her that she wasn’t done yet.  Out came Gene—Dean’s womb mate.  They became close for their entire life—along with his three brothers and sister.  They grew up on the home farm.   He gradutated from high school in the mid 50’s.  He rented some land from his dad, Lee and started farming.  He met Ellen and got married on May 19, 1962 in Jackson, Minnesota.           

Gene and Ellen had two boys—Rodney and Roger—both born on April 1—and we had a lot of fun letting them know when we were growing up about being born on April Fool’s Day.  We spent a lot of time together at family gathering.  Picnics on the home farm, picnics at Wolden park; family gatherings during December at someone’s house and then later in Ringsted.            

Our family enjoyed the time we spent on the farm.  My family was the city slickers coming from the metropolis of Worthington, Minnesota.  Gene would always loudly laugh at our ignorance about life on the farm.           

When farming didn’t work out during the farm crisis in the 80’s he and Ellen moved to Nebraska.  At the time there was a movie about the farm crisis starring Jessica Lange.  I remember asking Gene and Ellen if they saw it.  Ellen told me they didn’t need to see it as they lived it.  But life got better and they returned to farming here in northwest Iowa.          

Gene was very attached to his mother, Dorothy.  He and Dean hardly ever missed a midmorning snack at the home place with Dorothy.  They would come in at midmorning to see what their mother had made them.  They would talk loudly and get caught up on the news.  Gene was a tough, burly man who hardly ever cried.   One of the few times I saw him shed tears was at his mothers’ funeral.
One of my favorite stories of Gene is when he had to come to the hospital in Rochester.  My family was living at Rochester at the time.  Somehow Gene had flesh eating gangrene.  He got it on a particular part of the body that is unique to men.  Let’s just say that a male has two of them.  When Gene came to the hospital a doctor told him that because of the gangrene he wouldn’t be able to use one of these two parts of the male anatomy.  “That’s okay,” Gene hollered back in a way that only a Moore could.  With Gene there was frequent hollering.  “I don’t use it anyways.”
Gene was not a religious man, but he was always interested in what I was doing with the church.  He had fun telling me that hell would freeze over before he would be caught going to church on a regular basis.  But he was always interested in what was happening at the Presbyterian Church in Ringsted.  He knew who the pastors were; he knew how well liked or disliked they were.  He paid attention.
When Ellen passed away almost three years ago, Gene lost his will to live.  He had a stroke at a Moore Christmas gathering and then had to go to the nursing home.  It didn’t seem right that this burly, strong man of a farmer had to spend so much time couped up in the nursing home.  The stroke took away some of his mental capacities.  When he passed away last Wednesday, we could all say that it was his time.
God loved Gene with a passion that goes far beyond what we can imagine.  The apostle Paul wrote that nothing can separate us from the love of god.  Nothing.  Not height nor depth nor angels nor anything else in all of creation.  God loved Gene.  When the woman walked to the tomb on Easter morning they were expecting to find a dead body.  When they got to the tomb the angel told them that Jesus was not there—he was risen.  Because of God raised Jesus from dead we have faith that Gene is enjoying his heavenly home.
The task is how will we live in the days ahead.  This is our opportunity to re-commit ourselves to God—to give thanks to God for the everlasting love that we have received and to respond to this love by growing in faith.  Gene would get a kick out of it if all of us committed ourselves to God and the church because of his passing.
Even though it was Gene’s time we’re sad about his departure.  There’s a hole in our life that didn’t exist a week ago.  We have many rich memories and we will carry these memories with us.  It’s up to us as family and friends to stay together.  In the days ahead we can rely on each other and upon the grace of God to wipe away the tears that we have.
The world was a better place because Gene walked the rich soil of northwest Iowa.  Praise God for the life of Gene Moore.  Praise God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

End of the world sermon series

This Sunday, January 20 I am starting a new sermon series called, “Is this the End?”  The end of the world is a topic that has fascinated and frightened humans for centuries.  For the next three weeks we will take a thoughtful look at this topic.  We’re most interested in what Jesus taught his followers.  
This fascination with the end of the world is certainly not something new.  Did you know that 634 years before the birth of Jesus many Romans feared that their city would be destroyed in the 120th year of its founding?  There was a myth that twelve eagles had revealed to Romulus a mystical number representing the lifetime of Rome—some Romans believe that the eagle represented 10 years—thus the city would be destroyed in 120 years.  Panic . 

This fascination with the end of the world is in a certain way very funny—but it’s also sad and harmful to the church.  I’ve had people share with me that they were damaged as children by their church because of the church’s insistence that the end of the world was near.  This fascination with the end of the world has caused people outside the church to believe that followers of Jesus Christ are strange.  A person can believe that Jesus is returning and still be a thoughtful follower of Jesus Christ.   

We mailed over 500 cards about this series to people who live near our property.  Would you pray that some will attend worship on Sunday.   

One way you can generate publicity about this sermon series is by going to our congregation’s Facebook page.  People are sharing some questions they would like answered in a sermon on the “End of the World.”  Share a question at: https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/chainoflakeschurch?fref=ts 

If you live in the north Metro I encourage you to come to worship on Sunday.  We will give you the tools to help understand all the “buzz” around the topic of the end of the world.  I can promise that you will learn something new and what you learn will be helpful to your faith.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Twin Cities Area Presbytery meeting, January

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area met for our January meeting this past Saturday at Presbyterian Church of the Master (PCOM) in Coon Rapids.  I live about fifteen minutes from the church, so I enjoyed the shortest drive to a Presbytery meeting that I can remember.
I came early to share information about Chain of Lakes as our new church is a ministry of the Presbytery.  Many people asked me about our Christmas Eve service which we held outdoors.  The service went very well.  We had a hearty group of thirty people sing carols, listen to the Christmas story, hear a story about Christmas from me, and share light.  The video for the service can be found here: http://blip.tv/chain-of-lakes-church/christmas-eve-6487771
We began our time together on Saturday in worship.  A Taize style worship service was offered to God.  I was moved by the large number of votive candles that were set up on the chancel of the sanctuary of PCOM.  We need all the light we can get this time of year!  A highlight of the service for me was hearing John Gay’s (pastor of PCOM) son play the piano for the service.  Not many middle school youth have led music at a Presbytery meeting!
After worship the Officers of the Presbytery shared reports.  I appreciated Barbara Lutter’s remarks about the intentionality of changing Presbytery meetings.  After the long, hot, and cranky meeting in September, the leaders were intentional about making changes.  She said that she had received many constructive E-mails about the change of format.
After the office reports the Presbytery was broken into five conversation groups.  I participated in the Presbytery finances group led by Barbara van Loenen.  She did a terrific job of explaining the Presbytery’s financial position.  She re-iterated the point that Treasurer, Ed Martin, made in his written report that the Presbytery essentially has a revenue problem.  If every church had made their Per Capita payments in 2012 the Presbytery would not have financial troubles.  This problem of Per Capita payments will most likely continue with some large churches within the Presbytery threatening to leave.
I shared that it’s important for the leaders of the Presbytery to articulate a vision for the Presbytery.  One of my personal mottos is “money follows vision.”  If people can articulate what is valuable and important about the ministry of the Presbytery, then it will be easier for churches and even individuals to give.  It’s essential that the Presbytery not impose guilt or shame in their reports regarding financial giving.  We need a “let’s all get in the boat together” approach instead of a “you’re not doing your part” approach. 
I was encouraged to hear Barbara share that this problem is very solvable—I like optimism at Presbytery meetings!
Aft her Committee on Ministry and an enjoyable “Speak Out” time, lunch was served.  I decided to leave early as I had to finish my preparations for worship the next day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reasons to say "Yea God!" at Chain of Lakes Church

Everyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite expressions is “Yea, God!”  2012 was the best year we’ve had at Chain of Lakes. This past Sunday at the Annual meeting I shared four reasons that our new congregation can say “Yea, God!” 
  • New people—many of them young.  We received an influx of young people at Chain of Lakes in 2012.  So much so that we have started a new group called, “Club 20-40.”  The group is meant for people in that age range.  The presence of this group has given our congregation a wonderful sense of energy and vitality.  On Saturday our group went sledding at Como Park.  As I looked around at the group I came to the realization that none of the people who came knew each other a year ago.  They were all strangers—and now had become friends!  There is great potential in this new group.
  • Hiring of Kristel Peters as our Music Director.  After a lot of prayer, God was very good to us in calling Kristel Peters to be our Music Director.  Her story of finding out about the job and then applying could not have been planned by any of us!  Her experience in the church and her relational gifts has led folks to want to share their musical gifts in worship.  In her brief time here she has already started to empower people to be music leaders.  I fully expect that our new congregation will soon have a band who frequently leads worship along with frequent special music.
  • Moving to Da Vinci Academy.  We had hit a plateau while worshipping at the Lino Lakes Senior Center.  That facility was a good choice at the beginning of our journey together, but we weren’t developing there.  Many Sundays I came home from worship thinking that we felt like an old, small, Presbyterian church—exactly the opposite from what a new church should be like.  Thankfully God—and yes, I believe God gave us this opportunity—led us to worship at Da Vinci Academy.  We are closer to our eventual property, we have learned that we can set up and break down every Sunday, we are receiving visitors, and we feel like a new church.
  • The gift of property that the Presbytery of the Twin Cities gave to us.  The property gives us a focus for the future.  We know now the immediate area which we will target.  It’s important for us to remember that the property is a tool to be used to help us live out our Purpose and Core Values. 
Some other “Yea, Gods” for 2012 are the partnership with Lino Lakes Elementary STEM, the amazing stewardship of the congregation, the moving service with the Cameroonian community in November, and the baptisms we celebrated at the end of the year. 
When you are done reading this blog, would you take some time to keep this precious ministry of our new church in your prayers?  Starting a new church from scratch can only be done when we are in tune with what God wants.  God has unbelievable desires for the ministry of Chain of Lakes Church.  Please keep praying to God that these desires will be lived out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A tribute to Carole Lloyd

This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
It’s hard to be happy today as I received word yesterday that Carole Lloyd passed away.  I spent some time re-reading her Caring Bridge site this morning and came across this verse that Carole posted.  She posted it during her difficult journey with brain cancer.  The verse shares her and her husband, Neal’s, abiding faith.  Even though their journey was very difficult, they still had the faith to share joy.    
I got to know Neal and Carole when Neal came to serve First Presbyterian Church in Rochester.   I was serving in Plainview at the time.  Neal was an excellent colleague who did an excellent job at First Church.  Though he is very nice, Neal eschewed “Minnesota Nice.”  If I wanted to know the unvarnished truth about a situation I would contact Neal.  He always shared it with grace, professionalism, and love.
Through Neal I had the privilege of meeting Carole.  I have too many memories of Carole to share in a short blog, but two immediately come to mind.  For some reason they both have to do with job applications.
The first came when we at Plainview were hiring a part-time Christian Educator.  This was a significant step for our congregation, and we were very committed to hiring the right person.  Carole threw her name in the ring as an applicant.  Her experience in the Logos program and experience in the church made her far and away the best candidate.  I was almost giddy at the prospect of working with her. 
Before her interview with the hiring committee she went to the sanctuary to spend some time in prayer.  A few days after the interview she called me to share that she was withdrawing from the position.  She shared that while she was praying she realized she didn’t want to work as hard as the position required.  Her phase of life didn’t match the requirements of the job.
I’ve never been as touched by someone withdrawing from a job.   I was disappointed, but moved by Carole’s prayerful and ultimately wise decision. 
The second came when I was turned down by a job.  I had my heart set on a church and through the interview process had consulted Neal for his sage advice.  One Saturday afternoon I received a rejection letter in the mail.  I was wounded.  I called Neal.  He wasn’t there, but Carole was.  She listened with tender care and pastoral sensitivity.  “It must be hard for you,” she eventually said “because now you have to go back to a place you had left in your heart.” 
Bullseye.  Carol had nailed what I was feeling.  Ultimately I went back with my heart and experienced some significant accomplishments over the next years.  Carole’s words were exactly what I needed to hear at the time.  I know that I am not the only one who has received her prescient words
The last time I saw Carole was when she and Neal came to visit Amy, Hannah, and me in our new home in Blaine.  We sat on our deck and got caught up.  We were all happy to see each other.  Neal and Carole were interested in how Amy and Hannah were adjusting to our new surroundings and were interested in our new church.  They shared how their life in retirement was.
We parted certain that we would see each other soon.  But Carole’s cancer changed that. 
Carole’s Caring Bridge site is a remarkable testimony to her faith.  Despite the severe physical challenges of her affliction with cancer, she responded with the grace, grit, and joy that ultimately defined her.  Those of us who are left are unhappy today, but we know that Carole has left us with joy.