Thursday, May 15, 2014

Amber Leone Murphy to speak at Chain of Lakes Church on Recovery Sunday

I’m super excited that nationally-known speaker Amber Leone Murphy will be at Chain of Lakes Church this Sunday, May 18th as part of the new congregation’s Recovery Sunday.

I’ve gotten to know Amber over the last three months.  She has an amazing story to share about addiction and recovery.  I’ll be interviewing her during worship.

Amber lives in Blaine.  She is a nationally known speaker who has an amazing story from finding freedom from addition.  Murphy runs three web sites.  She’s been featured in the Star Tribune and just finished a national radio tour.

Murphy recently launched her web site, “Can’t Keep a Sober Girl Down,” which focuses on sobriety, the dangers of codependency and the joy of living a passionate life.  In one month her blogs had more than 80,000 page views.

I hope that this interview can share a message of hope and grace with people who hear it.  I know how hard it is for people to escape addiction.  We want to provide a safe place for people to come and learn.”

If you struggle with issues of addiction or codependency, please join us in worship this Sunday.  Chain of Lakes Church worships at Da Vinci Academy—the intersection of Central and 131st Ave.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Twin Cities Area Presbytery. The end is the beginning

Yesterday I attended the May meeting of the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area held at Presbyterian Church of the Way in Shoreview.   I came early as Friends of Chain of Lakes (FOCOL) met before the meeting.  I was very pleased to learn when FOCOL met that six congregations have already signed up to sponsor Sundaes on Wednesday at Chain of Lakes this summer with two other strong possibilities. 

As always I set up a table to share the story of Chain of Lakes—one of the Presbytery’s New Church Developments.  I was joined by Sally Narr and John Ivers.  We talked with people about the new growth our new church has experienced along with sharing many of the children and youth ministries we have planned for this summer.

After the start of the meeting I attended a workshop led by Tim Hart-Anderson and Julie Champ called “The Gospel and Generosity: God loves a Cheerful Giver.”  Tim talked about how our theology of stewardship comes from the fact that God is a generous God.  He shared stories of God’s generosity and how that relates to local congregations when we ask for money.  He spoke about tithing as a spiritual practice and the importance of pastors to tithe. 

He went on to share nine principles in local church financial stewardship.  None of these ideas are really new, but they are so practical that they are worth sharing.  They are: a) relationships matter most of all; b) don’t apologize for asking: the best cause around; c) don’t protect people from their own generosity; don’t say No for them; d) ask: a specific target is best; e) don’t ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself; f) there is always more money in the congregation than you think; g) think big: people like a challenge; h) pastors are like development officers; i) pastors should know who the best prospects are.

The group gathered for the workshop spent a lot of time talking about the importance of not protecting people from their own generosity.  Many times pastors and leaders in the church limit people’s generosity by not thinking big and challenging them.

The heart of the Presbytery meeting was the vote to dismiss Hope Presbyterian Church to ECO (A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians).   This was a final vote held by the Presbytery.  We had already approved in March the general terms of an agreement between Hope and the Presbytery.  The congregation voted on May 4th by a vote of 522-17 to leave for ECO.  All of this information can be found on the Presbytery web site— and the Hope Church web 

The vote and following talks and prayer were done very graciously.  Tim Hart-Anderson, the chair of the Administrative Commission that negotiated an agreement with Hope, started his talk by quoting a poem from TS Eliot, “the end is the beginning.”  The Presbytery voted unanimously in a voice vote without discussion to approve the settlement.  David Lenz, Teaching Elder at Hope, gracefully thanked the Presbytery.  He shared that because of Presbyterian polity he would be renouncing jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church, but he wasn’t renouncing the Presbytery. 

I felt like I was watching a divorce done with beauty and grace.  Nonetheless what happened is painful—it still seems like a divorce.  Even though four other congregations in the Presbytery are exploring a departure, I am praying, perhaps naively, that none do leave.  

During the Speak Out time some folks helped me pass out seeds with the people present.  I shared that the Presbytery is planting new seeds in the ministry of Chain of Lakes Church in Blaine and Lino Lakes.  I hope that everyone who plants their seeds will be reminded of this as their flowers and plants grow.

A lot of significant work was done later, but it felt anti-climatic after the vote on Hope.  I cling to hope that this end will be a new beginning.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ordinary Grace

My on-line book club just finished reading, “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger.  I first saw the book at the library at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, which shows that a role still exists for church libraries.  I chose the book as it combined my favorite themes—mystery, living in Minnesota, and faith.

Frank Drum was looking back at the summer of 1961.  That year he was thirteen.  He lived in the western Minnesota town of New Bremen; his father was a Methodist pastor; the temperature was frequently hot.  And he experienced deaths of five people who he knew.

The narrative brought us through what Frank experienced through each death.  Frank’s father brought theological order to the novel; his mother was the honest one.  When Frank’s sister was murdered, his mother left their home.  She couldn’t bear to hear her husband preach a honest, but sentimental sermon on how he couldn’t give up on God.  She could—she had lost her daughter.  She eventually came back to their family and the church where she was the Music Director.  We’re not sure if she came back to God.

The book appealed to my imagination as I could identify with the setting and the two main characters.  I’ve driven in the towns of western Minnesota, so I could imagine the feeling of place and presence.  I still can remember being 13 during a hot summer.  Frank’s desire to explore and find out for himself what had happened hit home.   And I could relate to Frank’s dad.  As a pastor he was trying to help people around him make sense of what was happening.  My pleasure in reading was further helped with the frequent references to the 1961 Minnesota Twins.

I had some issues with the theology of the book.  The title came from a prayer that Frank’s brother shared at a pivotal moment.  We know of grace as a prayer that can be ordinary, but I don’t think of grace as ordinary.  Krueger mentioned the awful grace of God in a few places.  The events of the novel were certainly awful, but I wouldn’t pair the word with grace.  God didn’t cause the pain in the story, just as God doesn’t cause our own pain. 

The book is worth reading—especially with a group.  Grace is not ordinary, but the story Krueger wrote was extraordinary.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

One way to deal with stress, anxiety, and fear

This past Sunday, May 4, I preached on how to live with stress, anxiety, and fear.  The sermon can be viewed here:

I gave everyone an assignment to do on Tuesday.  I’m asking everyone to repeat the words from Paul at least ten times today.  The words are from his letter to the Philippians.  They are:

“The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:5b-9.

I printed the words out for everyone in worship and encouraged them to carry them with them on Tuesday.  I put the words in my pocket.  Every time I reach into my pocket today, I will say them.

We can’t control the anxieties that come to us; however we can respond to them in a variety of ways.  I believe that we can have experience personal experience because God is near.  We can turn over our worries to God.

Try this experiment today.  I think you’ll have a better day!